The Seventh Sign – The Raising of Lazarus

The Seventh Sign – The Raising of Lazarus

Home Church Devotional 6/21/2020

These devotionals were written during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic when area churches were not allowed to meet for fear of spreading the coronavirus. They were used in place of a full sermon as my family and I gathered for worship and communion.

When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews were saying, “See how He loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this man also from dying?” So Jesus, again being deeply moved within, came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, “Remove the stone.” Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. “I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me.” When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.” The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus *said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” John 11:33-44 (NASB)

Pain and suffering are part of human life; they are hard to deal with, come unexpectedly and often times, leave us feeling empty and without hope. There is no pain and suffering more difficult to deal with than the loss of a loved one. Whether it be through an accident, a prolonged illness or a sudden and unexpected death, this one hurts deeper and seems to last much, much longer. The issue of pain and suffering is often an argument used against the faith of Christianity. How can a loving God, the argument goes, allow people to suffer so needlessly and so horrifically? At times like these, it is difficult, if not impossible, to provide an answer for someone who is in the midst of this deep and difficult time of suffering.

Lazarus, along with his sisters Mary and Martha, are close friends with Jesus. He has spent much time in their home as He passes through the area of Bethany, across the Jordan. Jesus is alerted to the illness of Lazarus, yet He does not immediately leave for Bethany, instead, He simply states this illness will not end in death. We are about to learn what Jesus already knows. God will be glorified through this death and Jesus will be shown to be, undoubtably, the Son of God. In an interesting twist, the name Lazarus will become more important and take on a deeper meaning in our passage. The name Lazarus means “God is my help” and becomes even more significant as the passage progresses.

In our passage, Jesus has arrived some distance from the family home. Martha is the first to arrive and has a lengthy conversation with Jesus before informing her sister, Mary, that Jesus has arrived. When Mary arrives, with friends and family as well, Mary weeps before Jesus and we see that Jesus is moved by the experience. Earlier in this passage Jesus tells the disciples He was glad that He had not arrived sooner and now, John tells us Jesus is deeply troubled in His spirit. The Greek word for troubled means to be troubled within Himself. We are witnesses to the understanding and compassion of Jesus. The grief of Jesus has gripped Him with intense emotion. Jesus has been deeply moved by Martha, broken with deep sorrow; Mary, gripped with pain and hurt; those who have been affected by the death of Lazarus, the great sorrow and suffering of the family; the tragedy and pain caused by death; and the terrible price He would soon pay to defeat death. Jesus is angry at man’s ultimate enemy – death.

John has built the case that God cares. The Greek concept of God is a God with no emotion or empathy for humanity. But here, standing before the family and friends mourning the death of Lazarus, Jesus shows His compassion, indignation, sorrow and even frustration. Jesus shows His deep emotions and we MUST NEVER be afraid to show our deep emotions to Him. God cares when we hurt; He cares when we suffer; He knows the deep hurt that is caused by death, nit just because He created us but because He gave His Son to die for each of us, to remove sin, grant forgiveness and give eternal life. God truly cares for each of us, individually.

To further emphasize this point, John records for us, in verse 35, perhaps the two most powerful words in all Scripture. Jesus wept. Why? Did not John tell us that Jesus waited for two days before leaving for Bethany? Did not Jesus, Himself say He was glad He was not there to heal Lazarus? I have already mentioned that Jesus said this illness will be for the glory of God and to proclaim Him as the Son of God. But why the delay? There are simple explanations for the delay, mostly concerning logistics, but that is not the point. The point is the compassion and understanding of Jesus. Jesus wept beside those who mourned the death of Lazarus. He wept over the pain and suffering felt by family and friends.

Jesus wept over the sorrow and fate of all humans. Humans were created for life and righteousness, not for sin and death. The tears Jesus shed tells us of His great love for each of us, individually. The heart of Jesus is broken over our sorrow, pain and suffering. And His heart is also broken over our common destiny, death, and the grave. His heart was so broken that He came to earth, as a man, in order to die in our place. It is through His sacrifice, His atoning death and glorious resurrection, that He will defeat our ultimate enemy – death!

And now, as Jesus prepares to pray publicly, before the grave of Lazarus, we find that Jesus has been praying for Lazarus for some time. This was not a public prayer, but a silent request made to God alone. Jesus is confident that the Father hears Him, and He wants us to believe this as well. God does not require that our prayers be loud or filled with repetition; the quiet, simple prayer echoes just as loudly in the Father’s ear. God hears, understands and has compassion in our pain and suffering.

Jesus, once again being deeply moved, calls for the stone to be removed from the tomb. We must take notice that it is a believer, the sister of Lazarus, Martha, who objects to the stone’s removal. Why? Her initial objection is that Lazarus has been dead four days and there will be a stench. Martha is the one who first showed disappointment in Jesus because He had not come in time to keep her brother from dying. Now she is concerned about the smell of death. And she is right, the body would have begun to decompose, but deep inside her objection is rooted in distrust and uneasiness.

Many times, we as believers, simply want to leave things alone, we are happy with the way things are. Martha is unsure if the actions of Jesus are for her best, she is happy knowing that Lazarus has been laid to rest, she does not want the situation to be disturbed or worsened. As believers, many times we want just enough of Jesus to give us comfort, security and ease of life. We want little, if anything, to do with His demands and confrontation of our sin and the death found in this world.

Jesus has challenged Martha, and believers today, to take a leap of faith, an enormous leap of faith. He wants Martha, and us, to conquer our complaining, to set aside our objections and simply rest in Him. Jesus wants us to trust Him, to stop questioning what He has done. He wants us to trust in His judgment and will; to trust His knowledge and understanding; to trust His word and instructions. Jesus wants Martha, and us, to rest in Him, to place an unlimited, resting faith in the Son of God. If we believe and rest in Him, we will see the glory of God; His power, mercy, love and care will be seen on this earth, if we rest in Him!

With a great shout, a shout that demonstrates His power over death, Jesus calls Lazarus to come forth from the grave! In this we see a picture of the coming resurrection of believers, but of importance for us today, we see a picture of the believer being called from death and darkness, into the glorious light of Christ. Jesus alone has the power over death; Jesus alone has the power to call the dead to life; Jesus alone can speak the word over death and the grave. The shout of our Lord demonstrates the enormous power required to defeat death and the power found within Jesus is the power of God Himself!

The power of Christ, this death-defying, death-defeating power calls the dead person to come forth! There is no way any person called out of death by Jesus can remain in death; there is no power to hold them there. Called from death the person is to come out of death immediately, in obedience, perfectly, and visibly. The person called from death has received the personal attention of Jesus. His care and concern, and the thoughtfulness of Christ are fully on display as He commands that Lazarus be set free.

Ours is a journey into completion, not a once and done event. Jesus gives second birth to those who are dead in sin, but the free gifts of forgiveness and the Holy Spirit do not create perfect Christians. We enter into Christ’s kingdom with old habits, sinful behaviors and painful memories that require gentle and loving removal. It is the command of Jesus that our healing be complete, but we need other believers and the power of Christ to complete the unwrapping. Where do you find yourself in this journey to completion? Have you felt the compassion and understanding of Jesus in your pain and suffering? Perhaps you are feeling them in your current situation?

Whatever you are facing, pain and suffering, stress or strain from life’s difficult experiences, you are not alone. Jesus weeps with you in your pain and suffering. From this passage we can learn that, as Christians, we do not have different life experiences, rather, with Christ we experience life differently. Jesus knows, understands and has compassion on those who have called on His name. Our faith in Him does not keep us from life’s difficult experiences, it provides us with the strength to navigate through them. Whatever you may be experiencing at this moment in life, may you find the compassion of Jesus as He sheds tears of love over your current situation. To the glory of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Sixth Sign – Sight Restored

The Sixth Sign – Sight Restored

Home Church Devotional 6/14/2020

These devotionals were written during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic when area churches were not allowed to meet for fear of spreading the coronavirus. They were used in place of a full sermon as my family and I gathered for worship and communion.

As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.” When He had said this, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes, and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). So, he went away and washed, and came back seeing. Therefore, the neighbors, and those who previously saw him as a beggar, were saying, “Is not this the one who used to sit and beg?” Others were saying, “This is he,” still others were saying, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the one.” So they were saying to him, “How then were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man who is called Jesus made clay, and anointed my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash’; so I went away and washed, and I received sight.” They said to him, “Where is He?” He said, “I do not know.” John 9:1-12 (NASB)

We often take our eyesight for granted. Each morning we awaken to sunshine streaming in through the windows, we recognize our surroundings, we check the alarm clock and a host of other activities in which we use and depend upon our eyesight. Even when night falls, we have nightlights to illuminate the areas we use the most during the night. Our living-rooms and bedrooms have lamps to provide the light needed to see; our kitchens and bathrooms have overhead lighting for the same purpose. But what about those nights when we are plunged into sudden darkness and we stumble around, bumping into furniture or stubbing our toes. Our eyes are open and yet, we cannot see a thing! Now imagine being in darkness for a lifetime. Born blind from birth, living in darkness day after day.

In ancient cultures, the blind really had no choice but to become beggars; the man in our passage was likely begging on the roadside. As Jesus and the disciples pass by this man, it is Jesus that does the “seeing” perhaps even pointing this man out to the disciples and thus, the disciples do the “asking.” There is one question foremost in the minds of the disciples, who sinned? The man or his parents that he was born blind? Who is at fault for this man’s condition? Someone has to take the blame, right?!

In our country we tend to “see” those who are disabled, not that we do anything about, and many times we treat them in ways that emphasize their disability, or we trivialize their disadvantage. For example, many times we treat a blind person as if they cannot hear, so we speak louder as if that will overcome the inability to see. We find the disciples doing this very thing in our passage. Standing before this man they speak as if he is not there and he cannot see or hear them. In our “care” for them we miss the fact that most people appreciate when someone genuinely cares for them, but resent being treated as another case, problem or a curiosity.

The disciples, like most Jews, believed this man was blind because of sin. Many people today also believe that displeasing God leads to punishment, many times in the form of disease or disability. But if suffering always indicates sin, what about children born with defects or disability? Yes, we must be aware and understand that we live in a fallen world and humanity itself has fallen and is filled with a sin nature. But how can we explain someone being born with a disability who has not had the opportunity to commit sin?

The Jewish culture taught and believed that all suffering, whether disease or deformity, came from sin; likewise, all trials and troubles came from sin. But Jesus is about to put a different spin on the issue; this man suffers so God can and will be glorified. We live in a time when all good behavior is not rewarded and all bad behavior is not punished, because of this, innocent people sometimes suffer. If God simply removed suffering every time we asked, we would follow Him for our comfort, not out of devotion and love for Him. Regardless of why we suffer, Jesus has the power to help us in our suffering. When we find ourselves suffering the first thing many of us ask is “Why me?” or “What did I do?” Instead, we should be asking God for strength in our suffering and a new perspective on what is happening.

The disciples are thinking and asking about one thing and one thing only, the cause of this man’s blindness. Jesus will shift their attention away from the cause to the purpose. We too, when facing suffering, should shift our focus from the cause and find out how God can use our circumstances to demonstrate His power. God is not heartless; He did not inflict blindness at this man’s birth, He simply allowed nature to take its course so the man would ultimately bring glory to God. Can God use our suffering for His glory? Does God really work in desperate situations? I’m sure we have all experienced a time when we have done all we can to solve our problem.

We have explored the options, we have exhausted our own resources, we have examined our motives, we have asked for advice and done what was suggested and still find that nothing has changed. We persist in our prayer times, we have asked others to pray with us and for us and yet, there appears to be no answer. The truth is, the answer or solution may never come; our burden or difficult may never be removed, but God is still at work. God may use our experience to encourage others facing the same situation. God may use our suffering to break the hardened heart of another to bring changes to them. God may also use the endurance we show in our suffering, rather than the suffering itself, to encourage others. God is still at work!

Jesus heals this man’s physical disability; He restores his sight that he might see the world around him. But more importantly, Jesus has healed his spiritual blindness as well. This man only knows Jesus as a man at the beginning of this passage, by the end, he will know Him as coming from God. With his spiritual eyes open, healing has come to this man begging on the roadside. His life-long disability, once thought to be the punishment for sin, now brings glory to God the Father.

Are you in the midst of a difficult situation? Are you suffering from a seemingly never-ending circumstance that has proven to be unresolvable? Do you continue to ask, “Why me?” or “What did I do?” Perhaps now is the time to refocus on your circumstances or situation. Maybe it is time to stop asking “Why me?” and ask how your situation or circumstances might bring glory to God. Now is the time to ask for strength to stand and a new perspective to see God working in your desperate situation. May God grant you the strength and endurance to withstand the difficult days and weeks ahead; my you bring glory to God and encouragement to others through your suffering and desperate situations. To the glory of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Fifth Sign – Walking on Water

The Fifth Sign – Walking on Water

Home Church Devotional 6/7/2020

These devotionals were written during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic when area churches were not allowed to meet for fear of spreading the coronavirus. They were used in place of a full sermon as my family and I gathered for worship and communion.

Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, and after getting into a boat, they started to cross the sea to Capernaum. It had already become dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea began to be stirred up because a strong wind was blowing. Then, when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat; and they were frightened. But He said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” So they were willing to receive Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going. John 6:16-21 (NASB)

Fear, as defined by, is a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil or pain, whether real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid; to regard with fear, be afraid of. At one point or another, all of us, men, women and children, will experience fear. It is inevitable in our fallen humanity. We will feel and face fear in our lifetime. Some of this fear will be real fear as we face danger or evil, while other fear will be imagined as we fear the unknown of a financial struggle or difficulty in finding suitable employment. The fear we face in these situations can only be imagined until the outcome has been determined and the fear can, and sometimes does, become real.

In our passage, the disciples find themselves in a sudden and unexpected terrifying situation. The Sea of Galilee is 650 feet below sea level and 150 feet deep surrounded by hills. This is the perfect set-up for strong storms to develop suddenly and unexpectedly. The winds sweep down across the face of the hills causing the waters to become a raging sea in a matter of moments. To make matters worse, it has grown dark as the sea has begun to rage, tossing the boat around on the waves. Though most of them are seasoned fishermen, the disciples struggle against the storm and after rowing for three of four miles, they find themselves staring at a shadowy figure walking towards them ON the sea!! This is the perfect storm for fear to rear its ugly head and cause doubt within the disciples.

Through this experience of the disciples we learn four things that cause us to experience fear. First, the disciples are caught in the dark. Though they have fished this sea many times, in the sudden darkness with the terrifying storm, things are not quiet what they remember. The disciples are unable to see, compounding the threat, the danger and the emotional stress caused by this sudden and unexpected storm. The darkness of the storm the disciples face is representative of the spiritual darkness those who do not know Jesus face in the sudden storms of life.

Those in spiritual darkness face a great threat because they do not know what lies ahead, trouble, sorrow, difficulties of many types, even loss and death. There is a great threat in facing these difficult times because being in the dark they are caught unprepared. Those in spiritual darkness do not know God and cannot call upon Him for help or to receive strength from Him. There is great emotional stress for those in spiritual darkness that fear will overtake them, filling them with a sense of hopelessness and helplessness. Even those who know the Lord will, at times, feel the fear of the sudden and unexpected storms of life. The disciples were frightened in this sudden storm – they did not expect Jesus to come and they were unprepared for His help.

We forget in the darkness what is so clear in the light. Like the disciples, we depend on tangible evidence more than we should. Our senses, though valuable, have limits. As soon as Jesus left the disciples, they forgot the amazing power He had shown them earlier. We too forget the power of Jesus in our lives when the storms of life erupt. How much of your spiritual life is a series of peak experiences of God’s presence only to be quickly followed by decline? When you cannot FEELGod’s presence, do you assume God is not there and cannot help you? God’s presence and provisions should come as welcome expectation, not a frightening surprise!

The second thing that caused fear for the disciples was being without Jesus. Being without Jesus should cause fear in the hearts of people that do not know Him. Jesus had not yet come to the disciples and they were afraid to face the storm without Him. They realized they did not have His presence and help with them; they were alone to fend for themselves and that was a frightening prospect. The disciples had to rely on their own strength and abilities to save themselves. This gave them reason to fear, they are honest men and they know, deep in their hearts, their strength and ability are limited and will eventually fail them.

It is a fearful thing to walk through this life without Jesus. Those who do not know Jesus as Lord and Savior do not have the promises of Christ’s powerful strength and presence in their lives. They truly must face the storms of life alone, relying on their strengths and abilities to save themselves and in the end, they will fail. For believers, faith is a mindset that EXPECTS God to act. When we act upon this expectation, we can overcome our fears. Even as the disciples watched Jesus feed the five thousand, they could not make the final step of believing He was the Son of God. Had they made that step they would have been amazed to find Jesus walking on the sea. Are you expecting God to work in the storms of your life? Or do you rely on your own strength and abilities that will, eventually, fail?

Thirdly, the disciples were caught in these gale-like winds and sudden, violent storm as they crossed the sea. When they first began their journey conditions were favorable, sunny and pleasant. There was no reason to suspect their journey would be anything but successful! The disciples are confident in there ability as seasoned fishermen and did not expect to encounter any kind of trouble. Even though they did not expect to encounter this sudden, violent storm, the clouds and the wind did, in fact, come, threatening their lives. And so it is with the violent storms we face in life. Trouble, sickness, financial issues and even death come suddenly and without warning. They strike unexpectedly and usually when we are least prepared.

The disciples were not transferring the truths they already knew about Jesus to their own personal lives. They have seen the miracle of turning water to wine, the healing of the lame man, the feeding of the five thousand, and yet they had not made these truths work in their own lives. Even today we do the same thing when we read about Jesus walking on the water and then doubt that Jesus can work in our own lives when grocery money is small or bills are piling up or our health is failing and we cannot see a way out. We must also take the next step and take the faith we find in reading about the power of Jesus and transfer that faith to our own lives. Jesus is not a genie in a bottle, but His power and presence is unmistakable in the life of a believer.

Finally, the disciples are tired and gripped with the sense of impending death. Remember the disciples have been at work dealing with this storm for some time. They have rowed for three to four miles and when they started out it was daylight. It is now dark so, potentially, they have been at work for six to nine hours. The disciples are physically exhausted, they knew they could not prevail against this untamable force of nature. They have lost all hope of surviving and the impending sense of death sets in. When the disciples see Jesus walking on the water, they are terrified, they think it is a ghost, the angel of death perhaps, adding to their fear. The point is this, the storms of life can cause a sense of impending death or can cause fear to strike our hearts.

When we face the sudden and terrifying storms of life, we must not be afraid. When we are faced with spiritual and emotional storms, we too may feel like a boat being tossed about in a big sea. In spite of the sudden and terrifying circumstances that threaten to overtake us, we trust our lives to Jesus for His safe keeping; by this He will give us peace in our storms. Is there a storm you’re in the midst of now? Are you prepared for Jesus to come to you and help you through the storm? Are you acting on your faith and expecting God to come and help you? Or are you stuck in the storm, exhausted and unable to move further? Are you terrified and filled with a sense of impending death and destruction?

Wherever you might be in the storm, Jesus is ready and willing to come to you. But you must first believe that He is the Son of God, the only means of eternal life and trust that He alone has your best in mind for the Father’s glory. Won’t you trust Him in your storm today? To the glory of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Fourth Sign – Feeding the Five Thousand

The Fourth Sign – Feeding the Five Thousand

Home Church Devotional 5/31/2020

These devotionals were written during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic when area churches were not allowed to meet for fear of spreading the coronavirus. They were used in place of a full sermon as my family and I gathered for worship and communion.

After these things Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (or Tiberias). A large crowd followed Him, because they saw the signs which He was performing on those who were sick. Then Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat down with His disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was near. Therefore Jesus, lifting up His eyes and seeing that a large crowd was coming to Him, *said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?” This He was saying to test him, for He Himself knew what He was intending to do. Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little.” One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, *said to Him, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these for so many people?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. Jesus then took the loaves, and having given thanks, He distributed to those who were seated; likewise also of the fish as much as they wanted. When they were filled, He *said to His disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost.” So they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. Therefore when the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”John 6:1-14 (NASB)

Hunger. We all feel it. We all experience it. It is truly the one universal experience shared by all living creatures. Men, women and children all experience hunger. All animals experience hunger. Even plant life experiences hunger. Hunger tells us when it is time to find food. Food that will provide energy to sustain us through our daily chores. Food that feeds our bodies to remain strong and healthy. Food the sustainer of our physical body. We feel hunger in stages; the first stage is to feel a little hungry. This is the empty stomach feeling we have in the morning as our body begins to awaken. The next stage we experience is the very hungry stage where our stomachs are growling, and we may be experiencing a slight headache.

If ignored long enough, we enter the third stage of hunger where we are uncomfortably hungry. Here we experience that light-headed feeling that warns us of growing hunger. It is at this stage we also become irritable and grumpy. In today’s language we call this being hangry. Finally, we enter the fourth and most critical stage – starvation. Here we are ravenous and seek to empty the fridge at all cost. Our bodies are beyond fatigued, in fact we have no energy and our body simply wants to lie down. We also experience shakiness and weakness. Hunger works the other way too we can experience stages of fullness when we have ample food available. We can be satisfied, being able to eat more but knowing we shouldn’t. We can reach the stage of being full, here our stomachs are stretched to the point of being slightly uncomfortable. And finally, we come to the stage where we are full to the point of extreme discomfort, think of the Thanksgiving or Christmas Day dinner table!

Like our physical hunger, our spiritual hunger goes through stages as well. Within these stages our faith goes through periods of growth and changes as well. These stages can be seen in the crowd, the disciples and Jesus, Himself. In the first stage of our spiritual hunger we are looking for wisdom and may even have a zeal for more understanding. The crowds in this passage have been following Jesus for several days because they have seen the signs He has performed. Our faith at this point is a materialistic faith. The crowd wants signs to believe that Jesus is the Messiah. Many times, as people are coming to faith, they demand a sign from God, so they know He is real or is talking to them or working on their behalf. These signs most usually come in the form of a material blessing.

The next stage of our spiritual hunger we begin to earnestly seek knowledge and ask for understanding. At this point our faith may be tested to strengthen us and prepare us for the coming journey. Here we have a pessimistic faith, a faith that has forgotten the past glory of God; a faith that fails to think of the power of God. As believers that are still learning and growing, we may think the problem is bigger than God’s power or that God’s power will fail, and our faith will be weakened. A pessimistic faith gives thanks to God for what one has, be it money, food, clothes, health or material things, but does not trust God for the miraculous; this is a faith that looks to others instead of God. This faith is seen in Philip and his trust in money and material resources rather than the power of Christ.

The third stage of our spiritual hunger we study to pursue wisdom and search diligently for wisdom. Here we have an optimistic but questioning faith. This faith lays what it has before the Lord regardless of how little might be offered. This is seen in Peter in our passage. He brings the five loaves and two fishes and lays them before the Lord. At the same time the questioning portion of his faith appears doubting what he has offered is enough. This faith often will deteriorate into complaining about the problem; becoming anxious about the little it has to offer; grumbling over the small amount of provisions and complaining about the quality of the provision.

Finally, we come to the final stage of our spiritual hunger, this is where we understand the meaning of the fear of God and have knowledge of the Holy One. We have a deep respect for God, His position and His power. Our faith is a positive, unswerving faith. This is seen in Jesus as He tests His disciples and performs the miracle of feeding the five thousand on the hill side. This faith offers what it has, does what it can do and then trusts in God to do the rest. All we can do is simply offer what we have in our hands. Our needs can only be met if we offer what we have.

So, where do you find yourself in terms of spiritual hunger? Are you in the first stage listening for the wisdom of God, having a zeal for more understanding? Are you stuck in a materialistic faith that seeks signs, many in the form of material blessings? Or have you moved into the second stage of spiritual hunger, earnestly seeking knowledge and asking for understanding? Is your faith pessimistic having faith in money and other people rather than trusting God to provide? Perhaps you are in the third stage of spiritual hunger, studying to pursue wisdom and searching diligently for wisdom? Your faith is optimistic but questioning. You have laid what you have before the Lord but now you fear what you have to offer isn’t enough. Are you complaining about your problem or doubting what you have is enough?

Maybe you have reached the zenith of faith having an understanding of the fear of God and a knowledge of the Holy One. Your faith is positive and unswerving; you have laid what you have before God, done all that you can do and now you are trusting in God to do the rest. If you have reached this point of faith, praise the Lord! Take what you have learned and chare this with those who are stuck in the first three stages. Regardless of the stage you are currently in, God is with you and working for your benefit and His glory. Lay what you have before the Lord, do what you can and then watch God do the rest. This is not as simple as letting go and letting God. This takes work on our part, trust, faith and, above all, patience.

May God find you resting in His provisions, watching as He works in and through you. To the glory of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Third Sign – Healing at Bethesda

The Third Sign – The Healing at Bethesda

Home Church Devotional 5/24/2020

These devotionals were written during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic when area churches were not allowed to meet for fear of spreading the coronavirus. They were used in place of a full sermon as my family and I gathered for worship and communion.After these things there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, [waiting for the moving of the waters; for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.] A man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He *said to him, “Do you wish to get well?” The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.” Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk. Now it was the Sabbath on that day.John 5:1-9 (NASB)

God helps those who help themselves. Right? Isn’t that what we have always been taught? Always heard? How many times have you told a friend or family member this very thing? Maybe if we do something, anything, it will inspire God to see our struggle and make things right for us. Right now. We won’t ask for help, but we know that if we are helping ourselves, God will see and give us what we truly want and rightfully deserve. There is only one small problem with this thinking. That isn’t what the Bible says. It is NOT God’s word at all. We are told to throw all of our cares and anxiety on God, not work to get God’s attention and THEN He will help us.

We encounter Jesus as He walks into the midst of a multitude of those who are lame, blind, crippled and injured. They have gathered at the sheep pool used to water and tend the sheep herds. The five porticoes make for a very large, covered area providing shade and relief from the heat of the day. It is here that Jesus encounters a man who has been ill for thirty-eight years. This is a gathering place for human suffering, and like the others who have gathered here this man has come to the one place that holds hope for healing. Jesus now walks among them as One who offers healing that goes beyond the physical needs of those disabled. Jesus, of course, knowing all things, knows this man’s suffering and how long he has suffered.

This mans need is a long-standing need, one that has overshadowed him for thirty-eight years. In a very basic sense, we all suffer from some long-standing need from our past, from the hurt and mistakes we made. But, for some, their experience with this shadow is particularly dark and overwhelming. Do you have as shadow hanging over you that is particularly dark and overwhelming? Is there a mistake from the past that still accuses you in the dark of the night? Is there some hurt that will not heal? People everywhere are grasping for something to help through their daily lives. Are you searching and grasping for something, anything to help you make it through another day?

Jesus approaches this man and reaches out to help him. “Do you wish to get well?” Seems like a silly question to ask someone who has been ill for thirty-eight years…right? But this question shows that Jesus will not force Himself on anyone, He ask permission before intervening in anyone’s life and it gives the man an opportunity to confess his need for help. But there is something else at play here as well. In some cases, beggars have carved out a nice living for themselves. Being cured might cause more issues than spending the day begging because of an illness. Being cured has implications. In this case a long-standing way of life built around an infirmity.

We must all face this question from Jesus. Are we ready to face the implications – repenting of sins made in the past and a new commitment to Jesus? We may not like the way Jesus begins to purge our lives of those things we think we need or want. We may not like when He points out sinful habits and actions. We may not like when He cleanses our lives of friendships and other toxic relationships. We may not be prepared to be called out publicly to make a stand for Jesus. And yet these are just the things we may face when we come to Jesus for healing that goes beyond our physical need.

In this case, the man confesses his need for hep in a complaint. “I have no one to put me in the pool…” His hope for healing is caught behind his helplessness of getting into the water. We too must confess our dependency and decide if we want Jesus to heal us. Jesus offers more than a minor healing – He offers transformation! It is only when we admit our need that we receive the miracle of salvation and eternal life. Jesus knows your helplessness. He knows your need. Jesus has the power to bring not only healing but transformation. In this case, the man does not know he is healed until he obeys Jesus and stands, taking his pallet and walked away.

No one has to continue on and on through life just as they have always been. You do not need to continue enslaved to the sin and corruption. You do not need to carry the desperate needs of the world alone. You can experience the healing power of Jesus Christ, the power to change your life and make you into a new person. All you have to do is one simple thing: believe the Word of Jesus Christ enough to obey, doing exactly what Jesus says. It is a clear fact: if we believe Him, we obey Him; if we do not believe Him, we do not obey Him. To be made whole and changed into a new person—a new person who is freed from the sin and desperate needs of this corruptible world—we have to believe Him enough to obey Him.

Jesus is standing among those who are desperate and need healing, but He will not force Himself into your life. He will always ask permission before He intervenes in your life. May today be the day you allow Him to bring, not only healing, but transformation. To the glory of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Second Sign – Healing the Royal Officials Son

The Second Sign – Healing the Royal Officials Son

Home Church Devotional 5/17/2020

These devotionals were written during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic when area churches were not allowed to meet for fear of spreading the coronavirus. They were used in place of a full sermon as my family and I gathered for worship and communion.

So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household. This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.John 4:46-54 (ESV)

We have all heard or perhaps even said “Desperate times call for desperate measures.” When things begin to spiral out of control, we get desperate. When money is running out and bills are over-powering us, we get desperate. When our cupboards are bare and our bellies are empty, we get desperate. When illness strikes and medicine doesn’t seem to work, we get desperate. When our children are sick and we feel helpless, we get desperate. And so, we find ourselves this morning facing an illness, the illness of a child. The father of this child is a high ranking official, most likely in king Herod’s court. But this story really isn’t about the illness or the child. It is about the desperation and faith of a father. Faith that progresses through several stages in this encounter with Jesus.

Most people do not truly understand what biblical faith is, they think it is something we feel, an emotion. But genuine faith is far more than a feeling; genuine faith moves us to action, to serve and to do for others; it moves us to obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ. The first stage of faith we see is a beginning faith, this comes from a desperate need, the illness of his child. Scripture says the child was at the point of death. Every person has their needs confront them at some point in time, for some it is a daily confrontation. At some point a severe need will arise and confront us head on! It may be an accident, an illness, a disease or the death of someone near to us. It does not matter what our station in life might be, needs arise and confront us.

This father, this desperate father, heard about Jesus and that He had come to Galilee; this desperate father listened to what he heard. He easily could have turned a deaf ear, or think himself to important, or consider the message foolish or he could have mocked Jesus. Instead, he sought out Jesus to heal his son before it was to late. Facing this disaster of life, he comes to Jesus, the only person he has heard might be able to help his son. There is a price to pay for coming to Jesus. He had to leave the side of his dying son knowing he would be gone for a time. This father had to make a day’s journey just to reach Jesus, but he kept his eyes fixed on Jesus, his only hope, showing his genuine faith.

This man did not let his lofty position keep him from Jesus; he did not wrap himself is pride or let what others might say about him keep him from coming to Jesus. He swallowed his pride, confessed his need before everyone, including those who would ridicule him and went to Jesus. Has your need pushed you to the point of desperation? Have you come to the point where you are ready to swallow your pride? Are you ready to turn a deaf ear to the thing’s others might say about you and seek Jesus, your only true hope? Upon finding Jesus he asked for help in healing his son. In the Greek the word for asked is much stronger, it is more like this father was begging Jesus for help in healing his son. The Greek also indicates that this is a continuous action, he kept on begging Jesus, he would not relent until his son was healed.

This is the second stage of faith for this father, a persistent faith. When Jesus did not immediately respond to his request, he did not back down, he did not stop, he continued to beg Jesus to help his son. Jesus, of course, knows all things, including what is in the heart of this desperate father. If Jesus would heal his son, he would believe. But Jesus wanted more for this father; Jesus wanted this man to realize His word was enough. Belief in His word is what would secure and assure an answer to his request. The power of Christ is available to this desperate father if he would just believe in Jesus. Belief must precede signs and wonders.

We now come to the third and perhaps hardest stage of faith, the trusting, obedient, working faith. When Jesus gave this father His word, the father believed. Without seeing his son healed, he believed. His faith was proven by his obedience to the command of Jesus to return to Capernaum. The response of Jesus to this desperate father was simple, five words simple. “Go; your son will live.” Simple yet forceful. And yet, the father believed without actually seeing that his son had been healed. The obedience of this father showed instantaneous faith and action; he believed immediately, and he turned immediately, heading home to see his son. Simply stated, he acted in faith. Both faith and obedience are necessary to receive the promise and help of Jesus. So, which are you lacking? Faith? Or obedience? Most of us lack the obedience part. It is hard to be obedient, especially growing up in a country that treasures its freedoms and independence. There is no real faith apart from obedience and action; our faith is proved by our actions, not our words.

This brings us to the fourth stage in this father’s faith – a confirming faith. As the father is making his way home, he is met by his servants with the news that his son is alive. This father was in the act of obedience – obeying the command of Christ to return home – when he received the news that his prayers had been answered. Once again, it is the father’s believing the promise of Jesus and obeying His command that brought the blessing. We must understand that both belief and obedience are essential. The father asked what time his son was healed, seeking to confirm that it was not a natural healing but a supernatural miracle. He is reaching for a stronger faith in Jesus; he is so filled with joy and thankfulness that he wanted to believe in Jesus more and more.

This brings us to the fifth and final stage of the father’s faith – a witnessing faith. Scripture tells us that after receiving the news of his sons healing, the man believed – and his household with him. The entire household, family members and servants as well, believed in Jesus Christ. Why? How? Because this father, so filled with the joy of having his son returned to him and thankfulness for the miracle healing, told everyone about his experience. It was his personal witness, someone the family and servants knew and trusted, telling them of the promise of Jesus and their obedience in following Jesus, that led them to salvation. Witnessing was not easy for this man, just as it is not easy for many of us, for many different reasons.

This man was an official, most likely in king Herod’s court. He moved through the halls of a corrupt government, among immoral officials. He would be facing ridicule and persecution; he might have to face the loss of his position and even the loss of his life. Yet none of these potential consequences prevented him from sharing his faith, a witnessing faith. He loved Jesus and what Jesus had done for him and he wanted everyone to know about the salvation found only in Christ Jesus.There are several things we must grasp whether you are just beginning to seek Jesus or if you have known Him for many years. These are crucial lessons for us in the day and age in which we live. First, we must understand that the Lord responds to our faith. Signs and wonders are not as important as believing in Jesus. We must remember that belief must come before seeing. There are people’s lives at stake, and they must first believe to be saved. Secondly, we must persist in prayer until the Lord answers. Persistence is absolutely necessary in securing the Lord’s help. In our persistence we show that we recognize and acknowledge our need and that we truly believe that God can and will help us. Finally, each of us has relationships with people we love and influence. How can we NOT want to share with those we love – family, friends and coworkers – about the glorious gift of eternal life found in Christ Jesus? Here is the challenge for every believer today, taking personal responsibility for the souls of those we love and doing everything we can to reach them with the gospel message to rescue them from hell.

So, where do you see yourself in these stages of faith? Are you just beginning to develop your faith? Or have you reached the zenith of faith? Perhaps you are somewhere in the middle. Regardless of where you are in your faith journey, if you have a need, whether it be a simple pray request, a struggle of faith or meeting Jesus for the first time, please feel free to reach out and we will be glad to help you in any way we can. Time is short, there is no better time than now to meet the One who provides eternal life for those who receive Him and believe in His name. Amen.

The First Sign – Turning Water to Wine

The First Sign – Turning Water to Wine

Home Church Devotional 5/10/2020

These devotionals were written during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic when area churches were not allowed to meet for fear of spreading the coronavirus. They were used in place of a full sermon as my family and I gathered for worship and communion.

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him. John 2:1-11 (ESV)

We are in the time of year considered by many to be the wedding time of year. Late spring and summer are the chosen time of many couples to stand before God, family and friends and declare their undying love for one another. Before they can declare their undying love however, there is much that must be done. Planning and preparations must be done to ensure a memorable time for both bride and groom and their respective families. The last thing one wants on their wedding day is for something to go wrong or to be forgotten. The planning is exhausting for the couple and the families. Little things become big problems, little details slip through the cracks, big problems seem insurmountable and the list goes on and on. In our passage this morning we find just the situation no one wants to face. The potential for embarrassment and ridicule.

Jesus and His disciples have been invited to attend a wedding in the village of Cana, located in Galilee. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is also in attendance, though it appears she has an important role in the wedding. The family has run out of wine. Perhaps Mary is simply a concerned friend but whatever the case may be, this is a serious issue. Weddings in ancient Israel were quite different than weddings as we know them. The ceremony and wedding feast would take place on the same evening. Following the ceremony, the couple was then paraded through the streets of town to their home. This usually took place at night. Flaming torches were used and the longest route to the home was taken to attract more attention and to allow the community more time to join in the joyful event.

Weddings in Israel would be celebrated for as long as a week! The wedding celebration was known for its happy, festive spirit that swept through the gathering community and surrounded the newly married couple. During the weeklong celebration the couple would continue to wear their wedding garments, usually a gown and robe, as they entertained their guests. The entire community was expected to participate and celebrate with the newlywed couple and their newfound happiness. It is into this background that Jesus and the disciples are thrust into the foreground as Mary comes with her news the wine has run out. Imagine the potential disaster facing this family and newlywed couple.

In this passage we have a contrast of concerns: Mary has a social concern, the wine is already gone, and the celebration has just begun; while Jesus has a deeper concern, the spiritual needs for people. Mary’s concern is a legitimate concern, good, germ-free drinking water was scarce in the Middle East and wine was used as a substitute. Without wine the situation would affect everyone at the celebration. The couple and family would be faced with the shame of running out of wine and without wine the joyful spirit of the guests would be dampened. And with her role in the wedding, Mary to would face same and ridicule.

Jesus, however, sees a unique opportunity to begin to familiarize His mother with the truth of who He was: the Son of God who had entered the world for a particular moment of time, His death on the cross. At the very beginning of His ministry Jesus began to teach everyone, beginning with the one closest to His heart, His mother, about His divine purpose. The response of Jesus is very telling, “My hour has not yet come.” He is the Son of God and His mission has to do with God and the things of the Spirit, not with His mother Mary and her social concerns, earthly possessions and material things. Speaking plainly, they have nothing in common.

Mary’s concern is a picture of the social concerns of people even in our time. People are concerned with health, comfort, having plenty, peace under their own terms and justice that meets their idea of what is just. Jesus, on the other hand, is concerned with life, assurance, fulfillment, love and completeness. What people fail to see in our time is that ALL of this is possible through Jesus Christ. Meeting the physical and material needs of people is not enough; Christ meets the deeper needs of all people.

Jesus reveals His power by turning ordinary water, kept in jars used for ceremonial washing, into wine, but no ordinary wine, this is the best wine of the celebration! What’s more only the disciples and the servants know where this wine has come from. The process, though simple, is astonishing. Jesus gives the command to prepare the water by filling the jars to the brim, leaving no room to think wine had been added to the jars. Then comes the more difficult part of this simple procedure, the obedience of the servants to draw water from the jars and serve it to the master of the feast. In tasting the wine, the master declares it to be the best wine of the celebration!

So, what is there for today’s believer in this passage? First, only in Jesus can we have ALL of our needs met; not just the physical and material needs, though they may not always be as we want them, but our spiritual needs as well. Through Christ we have redemption, made whole and complete before God the Father. Secondly, we must first be obedient to Jesus in ALL things. We cannot pick and choose which commands we will obey; we cannot follow Jesus part time or when it “feels right.” Obedience is a full-time requirement for following Jesus. Thirdly, pictured here is the joy of eternal life found in Christ alone. We are the body of Christ and we make up the bride of Christ. In Revelation 19: 7 – 10, we read of the marriage supper of the Lamb. The bride of Christ, believers today, are gathered together to be joined in marriage to the bridegroom, the Lamb, Jesus Christ the Son of God.

So, depending upon your perspective, the events of our world seem to be suggesting that things are falling apart; for the believer today, however, things are simply falling into place. In Christ Jesus we have assurance of our salvation, assurance of our wholeness and completeness, assurance of our fulfillment and assurance of the love, mercy and grace of God the Father. If you are viewing this video or reading this note and do not know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior; if you do not have the assurances mentioned here, today is the perfect time to receive Him and believe in His name. Please, feel free to reach out and we will be happy to introduce you to Christ Jesus. Amen.

“I Am the True Vine”

“I Am the True Vine”

Home Church Devotional 5/3/2020

These devotionals were written during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic when area churches were not allowed to meet for fear of spreading the coronavirus. They were used in place of a full sermon as my family and I gathered for worship and communion.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” John 15:1-8 (ESV)

It happens every year. In fact, it is one of the first signs that spring is approaching. It starts with an extension ladder propped against a tree. Then branches of all sizes fall to the ground around the tree. Some look perfectly normal while others are obviously dead or deformed. Its pruning time in Northern Indiana and Southwest Lower Michigan; the time of year when the gardener comes out to prune the trees and grape vines to prepare them for another growing season. By the time the gardener has finished his work the trees will be much healthier, though to the naked eye it appears to be smaller, maybe even sickly. But the gardener is wise and knows that without the needed pruning the overgrowth of branches will deplete the much need nutrients and the fruit at harvest will suffer greatly.

As we begin our look at the final “I Am” statement of Jesus it is spring time here, the spring rains have begun to fall, robins have returned, the grass is green, flowers and plants are pushing their way back to the warming sunlight and yes, the trees are in bloom. Jesus and the disciples have left the Upper Room following their final Passover meal with Jesus. They have been walking and talking as they approach the Mount of Olives. It is here, among the olive trees and grape vines that Jesus makes this “I Am” statement. Perhaps there is an olive or grape press nearby, perhaps a breeze has rustled the branches in the olive trees. Whatever the trigger, Jesus turns His attention to the familiar image of the grape vine, the vineyard and the branches.

Jesus begins by explaining the relationship between Himself, the Father and people. Jesus is the True Vine, not a false or counterfeit vine. In fact, He stand in opposition to the false, deceitful vine, the pretenders. God the Father is the vinedresser or the gardener. He is the One who carefully planted the vineyard, waters and feeds the Vine. He is he One who cares for, looks after, and watches over the Vine and the branches. The branches are mankind, all people. We are all judged on the basis of how we relate to the Vine. We are either attached or unattached; fruitful or unfruitful.

Many branches are unfruitful and consequently they are removed, taken away. These unfruitful branches, were at one time, attached to Jesus, but they bear no fruit. There was a time when they began to bud and sprout, they grew into branches. They listened to Jesus and the gospel; they opened their ears; they made a profession of faith in Jesus; they were even baptized and seemed capable of bearing fruit. However, they did not bear fruit. They are “in” the vine, but they simply bear no fruit. How can this be?

There are three characteristics of the unfruitful branch we need to be aware of; (1) unfruitful branches do not relate enough to Jesus. They do not draw enough of their nutrition from Jesus to sustain life, to become fruit bearing branches and to continue in the Vine; (2) unfruitful branches are not genuine enough to bear fruit. Their profession is more profession than possession, more pretending than being, more deception than truth and more counterfeit than real; and (3) unfruitful branches become apostate and deserters – these are men and women who will abandon the faith. These are the branches that are removed and taken away and a severe warning to every branch “in” the Vine to make sure their profession is genuine.

Jesus goes on to state that even the fruitful branches are pruned. All bad spots, useless buds, misdirected shoots and discolored leaves are pruned off. Every believer has areas and things that must be cleaned away and cleared up. The areas of thought, service, attitude, motive, commitment and behavior are but a few of these areas we must seek the Gardeners pruning to remain fruitful believers. This pruning is for one reason alone, to become more fruitful. It is not for punishment or to hurt or damage the branch, it is simply to produce more fruit.

There are three ways believers, or branches, are pruned to remain fruitful believers. First, the branches are pruned by the Word; the Word of God refines us by purging away all the dross, or imperfections, and contamination, pollution and dirt that clings to us. Secondly, branches are pruned by the mirror of the Word of God. When we look at the Word of God, we see a reflection of both ourselves and our shortcomings and of Christ and His perfection. The Word of God forces us to measure ourselves against Christ. Finally, branches are pruned by abiding, or remining in, Jesus. This can mean two things: first it could be a promise where we are cleansed by our position or being in Christ; second, it could mean a command where we are cleansed by continuing to remain in Christ and by remining faithful to Christ.Jesus goes on to talk about the unattached branches as well. Who are these unattached branches? What does it mean to be unattached to Christ? What will happen to the unattached branch?

The unattached branch is outside of Christ and off by itself, not abiding in the Vine and not attached to the Vine. This is the branch that buds off another branch but has no direct attachment to the vine. This branch could be suspended in mid air or lying on the ground without any attachment to the vine – it is lifeless! This is a picture of the carnal Christian who claims to know Jesus as Lord and Savior and yet is firmly attached to the world and material goods and possessions. They have no real attachment to Christ and are doomed to failure by seeking life outside of Christ Jesus.The unattached branch can bear no fruit, not real and lasting fruit that is acceptable or pleasing to God; this branch does not understand the nature of bearing fruit in life, the fact is they can do nothing – they cannot live and they cannot produce life – outside of Christ. This is true for all believers as well. We are nothing without Christ. The unattached branch will be gathered to wither and be thrown into the fire. The Greek for thrown into means to be disposed of or to be discarded. Simply put, God abandons the unattached branch. The unattached branch is cast out and left to itself to do as it chooses.

As our world continues to pull further and further away from God and the last days begin to fall into place, now is the time to make certain you are found attached to the True Vine – Christ Jesus. By abiding in Christ and bearing fruit we are able to partake of the promise Jesus makes to the attached branches – “whatever you wish…it will be done for you.” By this we will prove to be disciples of Jesus and bring glory to the Father. So, its springtime. A time of growth, a time of pruning. Ask yourself if there is an area of your life that needs to be pruned by the Gardener. Is there something keeping you from bearing fruit and glorifying the Father? AS the time for gathering and casting the lifeless and fruitless branches approaches may we all be found attached to the True Vine. Amen.

“I Am the Way and the Truth and the Life”

“I Am the Way and the Truth and the Life”

Home Church Devotional 4/26/2020

These devotionals were written during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic when area churches were not allowed to meet for fear of spreading the coronavirus. They were used in place of a full sermon as my family and I gathered for worship and communion.

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” John 14:5-8 (ESV)

Our passage comes right after Jesus has once again told His disciples that He would be leaving them to return to His Father in heaven. This is not a new revelation to the disciples though they certainly act as if they had not heard the news before. There are seven times in John’s gospel alone where Jesus has told the disciples He would be returning to the Father. It should be clear by tis point but the disciples still do not fully understand this teaching of Jesus. Thomas shows this by the statement and question that begin our passage. “We do not know where…How can we know…?”

Like us, the disciples are thinking in terms of this world—time and space. So, going must mean physically moving from one place to another. The response of Jesus shows that the destination is not a physical place but a person, the Father, and that the way to that destination is yet another person, the Son. Once again, the disciples have mistaken Jesus for a worldly Messiah, thinking nothing of the spiritual realm that Jesus talks about. They are looking for a kingdom of an earthly nature and their reaction to Jesus going clearly indicates they are still thinking of the earthly. Before we judge the disciple though, we must take a look at ourselves and remember we are just as bad. We seek after earthly power, position and wealth; we look for pomp and circumstance in our achievements; we gather possessions at an alarming rate to satisfy a need within ourselves. No, we are no better than the disciples!

Jesus replies with “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” Jesus is the only Way to the Father; Jesus is the only Truth, or reality, of all God’s promises; and Jesus is the Life as he joins his divine life to ours, both now and eternally. Jesus is the way that leads to the truth and life. Jesus is our Mediator with the Father for no man can reach God unless he approaches the Father first through the Son, Jesus Christ. It is only through Jesus and His sacrificial work on the cross that we can stand justified and sanctified before the Father. Our redemption is secured by no other name or means, Jesus is the Mediator between sinful people and a holy God.

Jesus the Way. There is a difference between pointing the way to a particular place and taking someone by the hand and leading them there. The person who guides another person to their destination literally becomes the way themselves. Jesus Christ not only points out and tells a person how to walk through life and how to reach God, He personally shows people the way. Therefore, He Himself is the Way. Jesus the Truth. There is a difference between telling someone about the truth and living the truth before them. The one who lives the truth literally becomes the truth.

There are three ways that Jesus is the Truth. First, Jesus Christ is the Embodiment of truth. He is the picture of truth. God not only talks to man about Himself, God shows man what He is like in revealing Himself in the person of Jesus Christ. Man can look at Jesus Christ and see a perfect picture of the truth of God. Second, Jesus Christ is the Communicator of truth. He Himself—His Person and His Life—makes things perfectly clear. He reveals the ultimate source and meaning and end of all things. He reveals the truth of all mankind and of the world surrounding mankind. He shows man the right way to the truth, and He enables people to choose the right way to the truth. Third, Jesus Christ is the Liberatorof truth. He sets people free from the great gulf, the separation which exists between mankind and God, between people and their world, and between all people. He sets people free from the frustrations which they constantly experience. He frees people from the fears and weaknesses and defects that plague them. Jesus Christ is the only lasting Liberator on earth.

Finally, Jesus the Life; there is a difference between telling someone about life and actually living life. The one who lives is the one who possesses life, and the more perfect one lives, the more life one possesses. Jesus Christ lived perfectly; therefore, He possesses life perfectly. He is the Life: the very embodiment, energy, force, and source of life itself. He is the Creator, Sustainer and Giver of life. John records these words in the first chapter of his gospel account: “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”(John 1:3 (ESV) Paul continues this theme in the letter to the Colossians church: “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” (Colossians 1:16 (ESV)

Our world has been turned upside down. Doubt fear and anxiety fill our everyday lives. But one thing remains certain and will never change. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, now and forever more. Amen.

“I Am the Resurrection and the Life”


Home Church Devotional 4/19/2020

These devotionals were written during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic when area churches were not allowed to meet for fear of spreading the coronavirus. They were used in place of a full sermon as my family and I gathered for worship and communion.

Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” John 11:17-27 (ESV)

Our passage opens with Jesus finding out that Lazarus has been in the tomb for four days. Why does John include this bit of information in his gospel account? It was the common belief among ancient Israel that the spirit of a person lingered for three days, waiting for a chance to reenter the body. After three days the body would lose its color and the spirit was locked out. By waiting Jesus is removing any doubt tied to the ancient superstition; the body had been dead and buried four days. As He nears Bethany, Jesus stays outside of town, perhaps avoiding those who opposed Him or the crowds following Him ay have been large and overwhelming for the small suburb of Jerusalem. The energetic Martha is the first to reach Jesus and immediately expresses her heartfelt disappointment at the lose of her brother.

Martha begins to show us something of her faith, an immature faith at this point. Her statement is very telling, “Lord, if You had been here…” Martha has enough faith in Jesus to believe He could heal and keep her brother from dying. The faith Martha is showing here is a complaining faith, but she did not believe to the point where she was resting in faith. Martha does not believe with an unlimited and resting faith; she simply is not entrusting the matter entirely into the hands of Jesus. She tries to make amends for her complaining faith by confessing her faith in Jesus. “Lord, I know You can do anything…I know God will give You” She is still limiting the powers of Jesus even within her confession. She has, effectively, kept Jesus at a level below God.

Martha moves from her complaining faith to a limiting faith before coming to a fundamental faith. When Jesus says her brother will rise again, she confesses her belief that he will rise again in the last days. She cannot grasp that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life Himself! Jesus is making a startling declaration, her brother would rise from the dead, but Martha understood Jesus in light of her fundamental faith, a faith that said the resurrection was far away in the future. A fundamental faith is essential for all believers. We must first believe the truths of the faith, but a fundamental faith is not all there is to faith and our life in Christ. Jesus came that we might have life and have it abundantly. We need a living faith. A faith that is alive and vibrant; a faith that is dynamic and moving; a faith that is conscious and acting; a faith that that is communicated and fellowshipping with other believers.

Jesus provides comfort, not only to Martha, but all believers of all time, when He states, “I Am the Resurrection and the Life.” Notice that Jesus does not say “I GIVEresurrection and life, but rather He says, “I AM the Resurrection and Life.” Jesus is declaring He is the very essence, the very being, the power and the energy of life! This means that everything – humans, plants, animals – all of life – exists only because of and by the will and power of Jesus. “All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.” (John 1: 3) Because He is the power and energy of life, Jesus is the source of all life. Lazarus is dead, now in the tomb four days; if a dead person wishes to live again, only the source of life can bring them to life once again.

Knowing that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life means three things for the believer; (1) Jesus is alive, living before us in the person of His Holy Spirit. He is in us and around us; our faith is living and alive because we are in constant contact with Jesus. (2) it means that when our believing loved ones die, they are alive with Jesus in heaven. This is Paul’s great teaching in 2 Corinthians 5:8; when the body dies our spirits depart and return immediately to the Lord. (3) it means that because Jesus is alive our resurrection and glorified bodies are assured. This is not just thee resurrection we celebrated last week on Resurrection Sunday; no, this resurrection is the Lord staking His claim to those who believe in His name as the Son of God, the Giver and Maker of all life. Without Him, we have no life in us and no life to look forward to beyond our days on this earth.