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Only One risen Saviuor

Only One risen Saviuor
There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved - Jesus

Friday, 30 October 2015

John Day 162 - Convicted

16:8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; 11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged."

I have been looking forward to writing today since I stopped yesterday. We left off discovering that sin is not believing in/trusting Jesus. All the other bad stuff we do is simply a manifestation of that unbelief. The Spirit of God that Jesus has referred to both as a Comforter and Helper is the one who brings conviction to us about our unbelief.

Today we'll discover two other crucial things the Helper does in our lives. The first is that He convicts us of righteousness because Jesus is no longer here. Why does Jesus put it that way? First of all righteousness is everything that is good, pure, beautiful, and true. For the Jews of that time righteousness was mostly a list of things you did and mostly did not do. Then Jesus showed up and turned the definition of righteousness upside down. A Jew considered it righteous to avoid contact with a leper. Jesus demonstrated that righteousness was reaching out to the lepers. A Jew considered Sabbath a day to avoid work at all costs. Jesus demonstrated that Sabbath was a day to work for our the benefit fellow man when they were in need. A Jew considered it righteous to classify other people as less than themselves. Jesus showed it was righteous to consider everyone better than yourself.

Now Jesus is leaving. The walking, talking, flesh and bones example of what righteousness really is would no longer be with them. In His place the Helper was coming to remind them in every circumstance what righteousness is.

Lastly the Helper was coming to convict us judgment. I love this one. It is so often misunderstood. Jesus leaves no room for misunderstanding though. He said the Helper would convict us of judgment because the ruler of this world is judged. That of course is the devil. See following Jesus puts you on the wrong side of the tracks. The river flows against you. "They will hate you because they hated Me first" is what Jesus said. It is not easy to live against the flow. It is mentally and emotionally exhausting. Living for Jesus impacts every area of our lives. Areas that invite opposition simply by living. This week my sister was bullied and judged and called horrible names simply because she showed compassion. Hate and judgment was the only "acceptable" opinion. Another friend of mine is being judged because her dietary choices don't match the choices of her friends and family. I remember as a kid who didn't eat hot dogs my friend at school told me his dad said if I don't eat pork I will die. Truth is I'm going to die either way but the W.H.O. released the news this week that actually eating pork and processed meats increases significantly your chances of premature death. Not a popular point of view to be sure...

Showing any kind of compassion for Muslims is becoming more and more taboo. Holding the position on Biblical sexuality while loving all people is also increasingly worthy of censure.

The truth is that the fabric of North America is becoming more and more intolerant and hostile to Jesus' ways.

In short living righteously and trusting Him is going to become more difficult as time passes. The Helper has a message for all those feeling the pressure, the loneliness, and the alienation - "The ruler of darkness is already judged. His time is short. The Light wins. Love wins."

Trust Him. Live for Him and like Him. Remember the darkness is soon over. Weeping may last for the night but joy comes in the morning.

This is the 3 part message of the Helper. I hope we're all convicted more with each passing day. 
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Thursday, 29 October 2015

John Day 161 - What Sin Really Is

John 16:5 “But now I go away to Him who sent Me, and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. 8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; 11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged."

There is so much in just these few verses. The eleven are in shock. The Man they have lived with and worked with and learned from for over three years is suddenly leaving. The thought have just that imminent reality has overwhelmed them with sadness and confusion. They haven't even had the presence of mind to ask Him where He is going. Jesus acknowledges their sorrow. The thought that struck me as I read this today was "Is Jesus so much a part of the fabric of my life that if His presence were removed I would be filled with sorrow?"

Then Jesus tells them "It's better for you if I go. My replacement, the Helper is better." I used to be jealous of the disciples. I wanted to walk and talk with Jesus like they had the privilege of doing. Then I grew and came to realize two things. First the physical presence of Jesus alone was not life changing. Many saw Him and interacted with Him and walked away hating Him. The idea I would or could be a better person if I could see Jesus or talk directly with Him is a false assumption. Secondly I realized we're better off now than the disciples were when Jesus was here. Why? Because His presence through His Spirit is infinitely more powerful and intimate. He (the Helper) is always with us. His presence is limited by time or space. Lying in my bed, driving in my car, walking down the road, sitting in a meeting, at all times and in all places He is ever present. Jesus in human form could not do that.

Now Jesus opens to them and to us the three main things the Helper does for us. He convicts us of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment.

Sin = unbelief. At the root of every wrong move we make is a lack of trust. Trace the "why" for every mistake you have made and at the end of the day you will find it was because you didn't believe Jesus. The Helper brings that awareness. He shows me where that root of unbelief is so the next time I face similar pressures I can intelligently choose to believe or not believe. Let me illustrate: Suzie knows the "rule" about sex before marriage. However Johnny makes her so happy and she loves him so much that she can't see any harm in it. They are going to get married anyway. Soon after choosing to sleep with him the relationship goes south and she is left alone with pieces of her she'll never get back. She us devastated and hurt and now feels guilty because she is "ruined". She feels cheap and used even though it was her choice. Gently the Helper comes to her. He helps her see and understand that she didn't break a rule, she broke a trust. She did not trust that Jesus was more concerned about her ultimate happiness than she was. She didn't trust that His path toward that happiness was the best one. She didn't trust that He was only trying to protect her from the pain and shame and emptiness that she was now experiencing. Sin is not doing bad things. Doing bad things is what happens after we choose to sin, after we choose not to trust.

Tomorrow we'll explore the other two areas where the Helper brings light to dark places.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

John Day 160 - No Buyers Remorse

16:1 “These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. 2 They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. 3 And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. 4 But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them.
And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you."

Yesterday Jesus told His eleven that they were to become witnesses. Today as He continues He makes it known that some of His followers will not just be witnesses in how they live but witnesses in how they die. Notice the reason why Jesus is telling them this dark news - so that it doesn't make them stumble.

Generally I find two reactions to the less than sunny news in the Bible. Some focus in on it, amplify it, cause fear with it, and use it as a motivator to get people to "live right" or "be ready". The rest, as a reaction to or defense from this approach simply ignore it all. Of course neither is good. We always tend to extremes it seems.

Jesus is love. Every word and action is motivated by His love. Looking into the future He knows many of them and many more throughout history future will walk a path similar to His own and for the same reason - misguided religious zeal.

Jesus was hated and sent to the cross by the religious zealots. He knew as soon as He was gone the hatred aimed at Him would shift to His eleven and anyone else who joined them.

Jesus warned them because He wanted them to be prepared. Not prepared in the sense that they could do anything to change it or prevent it but prepared mentally and emotionally. He didn't want them caught off guard and blindsided. Being hated and hunted is miserable but being hated and hunted by your own who are supposed to love you and be on your side is emotionally devastating. It's confusing and disorientating and at the end of the day it causes us to doubt God. How can this be? How can He be letting this happen?

For these reasons Jesus peels back the canvas covering their future and gives them a glimpse of what it will be like. The synagogues (churches) will be closed to you. Family and community ties will be severed. It will even come to the place where they will murder you believing they are serving God. The Greek actually says they will consider it an act of worship.

History has been red with the blood of lives cut short by Jews, Christians, and Muslims thinking they were doing God a favour by killing the 'heretics' and 'infidels'. The irony is that in many cases the slain were the true followers of the true God.

Where is the good news in all this? God loves us enough to tell us the whole story. How many times have we been told how great something or someone is only to find out later that was only half (or less) of the story? They call that buyers remorse. Jesus tells it all. He wants us informed and prepared no matter what may come - because He loves us.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

John Days 146 to 159

John Day 146 - Our Box Addiction
25 “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. 28 You have heard Me say to you, ‘I am going away and coming back to you.’ If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, ‘I am going to the Father,’ for My Father is greater than I."
What Jesus is trying to teach here is actually simple. Our need to put things in boxes makes it difficult. Do you remember biology class. Do you remember how they tried to reach us that certain animals go in the mammal box, others go in the amphibian box, others the reptile box, others in the bird box and finally the fish box. Then you learn some creatures like the platypus don't fit in their box very well. And whales aren't a fish either. In fact I gave you five boxes to put all the animals in. Some say there are six. Then you learn there are boxes inside each box and eventually you figure out there are no boxes. We made them up as an attempt to define and classify etc... Sit down with an honest biologist, they will tell you...
This same mind set leads to sayings like "all black people can jump and white guys can't". Or the most common and growing ignorance today "all Middle Eastern people are Muslims and all Muslims are terrorists." Jesus was Middle Eastern. Even the term Middle Eastern is a box that really means nothing. If I were to pull one random person from that region none of my western preconceived ideas might fit him or her.
Now take our addiction to boxes and look at what Jesus has been saying.
Yesterday we read that He was leaving. Then He said He would send the Helper, the Spirit of God, the Comforter, to take His place. Then He said He would come Himself. Then we read about His Father and then in that same breath He said "We will come to you". (He and His Father).
Now today continuing in the same teaching/conversation He says again that the Father will send the Spirit in Jesus' name. To make it all the more colourful He adds at the end that we should be glad Jesus is going to His Father because His Father is greater than He is. Didn't Jesus just finish explaining to Philip that if Philip has seen Jesus he has seen God because They are One?
How are you doing with those boxes. Have you figured out clearly and definitively where God the Father starts and ends, where Jesus starts and ends and where the Spirit starts and ends?
No? Good. That's not the point.
The point is that through the Spirit we get the full power and presence of all three. That's the point.
When Jesus stepped down to become one of us He took on all our limitations. Time and space constrained Him. He had no power except what His Father gave Him. His apparent ability to heal and restore was only made possible by His Father. Jesus said plainly "of Myself I can do nothing." He was as helpless and reliant on God as the disciples were to perform miracles. That is why He said we are better off if He goes. He had become a crutch. People thought they had to occupy the same time and space as Him in order to have God's help. By leaving, that physical literal crutch disappeared. Now the only Help available is the Helper who is available to all people in all places at all times. This Helper is the Father and the Son all wrapped up in One. Nothing is withheld.
Forget the boxes. When speaking of trying to define the three Persons: Father, Son, and Spirit, my favourite author says "on some subjects silence is golden".
Once you leave the boxes out of the picture one clear truth emerges from what Jesus is saying. "When I leave this earth and you can't see Me or touch Me any more you will be better off. I will not leave you alone. We will all come to all of you who want us and believe in us. We will never leave you alone."
Sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking we'd be better off if we could see Him and touch Him. They could back then and most of them wanted Him dead. He didn't fit in their box. Oh how we love our boxes. Oh how they need to be thrown away.
Instead of trying to box Him up, perhaps it's time to allow the Spirit to take our boxes away...

John Day 147 - A Different Kind of Peace
25 “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. 28 You have heard Me say to you, ‘I am going away and coming back to you.’ If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, ‘I am going to the Father,’ for My Father is greater than I.
29 “And now I have told you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me. 31 But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do. Arise, let us go from here."
Peace. It's a great feeling. Deadline met. Peace. Exams finished. Peace. Storm past. Peace. Children sleeping. Peace. Bills paid. Peace. Vacation underway. Peace. Held in the arms of the one we love. Peace. Relaxing under the stars on a quiet, warm summer night. Peace. Alone on a lake with only the sound of the oar in the water. Peace. An all clear from the doctor after the test results come back. Peace.
Peace comes in many ways but none of these are the peace Jesus is speaking of. Peace brought by circumstances can be as fleeting as a warm breeze or shooting star. As quickly as it comes a new circumstance arises to take it away. This week a family here in Alberta lost three of their daughters in a single farming accident. Last night I found out one of my good friends from high school has suddenly lost her husband in a tragic accident leaving her and her three boys alone. Peace shattered.
Jesus says He is offering a different peace than the one the world gives which is brought by circumstances and stolen away again by new ones. What is this peace? As soon as He speaks of it He again says "Let not your heart be troubled neither let it be afraid." Fear, trouble, and peace. They hardly seem to go together. However Jesus is not saying they do. He is saying His peace conquers any circumstances that would cause us to be troubled or afraid. Paul understood this peace. He called it 'the peace that passes understanding'. Shipwrecked. Still at peace. Beaten. Peaceful. Imprisoned falsely. Peace.
Yesterday millions of Canadians watched nervously. My brother in law said it was the most intense game he had ever watched. The Blue Jays had lost the first two games of a 5 game series. Then they won the next two but were losing in the 5th and deciding game. They clawed back to tie the game only to fall behind again. Hearts were troubled. There was no peace. Why? Because the outcome was uncertain and in doubt. That's what drives sports and creates the drama - the uncertainty of the outcome.
Are you seeing it?
Two things brought Jesus peace. One was the peace of knowing despite how awful His circumstances were in the present that He was following the will of His Father. He was exactly where He was supposed to be. The second and ultimate thing that brought Him peace was the knowledge that no matter how bad things got, the end of the Story was certain.
There would have been no drama in the Blue Jays game had the final score been known before the game started. The back and forth of the game would have been endured in perfect peace. The prophet Isaiah says God keeps in perfect peace the one who's mind is stubborn for Him because he/she trusts in Him.
Life can be incredibly cruel and hard and wildly unfair but let me tell you how the Story ends. Jesus wins. Love wins. The outcome is guaranteed.
Peace.
Peace that circumstances can't change.

John Day 148 - I'm Telling You Now
14:29 “And now I have told you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me.31 But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do. Arise, let us go from here."
You may remember that back in chapter 13 Jesus announced at the supper table that one of the Twelve was going to betray Him. They were in shock. They couldn't believe one of them would do such a thing. They couldn't imagine which one of them it would be. Even after Jesus identified Judas they still couldn't believe it. However when Jesus told them what was going to happen He added "I am telling you this now so that when it happens you will know that I Am."
Here at the end of chapter 14 He has been again telling of His imminent departure as well as the soon arrival of the Spirit. At the end of this new teaching He again says "I am telling you before it comes to pass so that when it comes to pass you may believe."
Last week a religious group said the world was going to end. Wednesday, May 7th was the date. We're still here...
Telling the future in advance is called prophecy in the Bible. Many, many, often sincere Christians have had the idea over the centuries since Jesus went back to heaven that the purpose of prophecy is to determine when He will return. The Seventh-day Adventist Church was born out of the rubble of a movement back in the 1800's that thought they had figured out the exact day Jesus was going to return. They had the date correct they just tied it to the wrong event. In addition they and many, many, others have misunderstood the entire purpose of prophecy. God did not give us the book of Revelation or any other prophecies in the Bible so we could determine when Jesus will return. Jesus stated plainly we will never know when and knowing when is of no importance or significance. No one has been or will be lost because they didn't know when He was returning. People will miss out on eternity with Him simply because they did not trust or believe Him. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life."
Trust and believing can be hard. This life can be hard. Things happen that hurt a lot. Things happen that cause us to be disillusioned. We struggle to reconcile an all-powerful God that loves us with the horrors than can and do occur in this world. We need reasons to believe: tangible, undeniable reasons. This is the purpose of prophecy.
"I am telling you (the seemingly unbelievable) now so that when the (unbelievable) happens you will remember that I told you in advance and you will believe that I Am."
Jesus said "In this world you will have trouble, but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world". Contrary to what some teach and often contrary to our own thinking, Jesus never promised life here would be easy. Quite the opposite actually. What He did promise was His presence and guidance and support along the way.
In this up and down journey where the good and the awful both happen, and we are sometimes tempted to believe Heaven has forgotten us we have something to hold onto when nothing else makes sense - prophecy.
No one can explain away prophecy. No one can deny it. An intellectually honest person must confront the reality that God has repeatedly and accurately laid out events yet future with stunning accuracy. How can that be? Because He is God and knows the end from the beginning.
If the same God who read the heart of Judas in advance (and predicted the arrival of the Spirit in advance and laid out the rise and fall of empires way in advance in the book of Daniel etc...) says He will return and take us to be with Him in heaven guess what is going to happen?
"I Am telling you now so that when it comes to pass you may believe..."
Some day the United States of America, the land of the brave and the home of the free will become the exact opposite, using her power to squash freedoms even of her own people. God predicted it in His Word. In fact it is starting to happen already. I am reminding you of it now so that when it comes to pass you will remember and believe Him.
That is the purpose of prophecy.

John Day 149 - The Vine
15:1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples."
We could seriously spend a long time on this teaching for it is deep and layered and has far reaching implications in many directions. Sadly we live in a culture here in North America where we are far removed from nature which makes these simple lessons from Jesus far more cryptic than they should be.
Jesus says "I Am the vine, the tree trunk, the main stalk." All nourishment for the branches comes from the main vine. If the branch gets disconnected from the vine, death follows. If branches are connected to a vine that is either itself sick or not providing adequate nourishment, the vines will be sick or incapable of producing fruit.
There is a saying that "you are what you eat". We literally become our food source. If our food is full of fat we become fat. If our food is diseased or lacks proper nutrition we become weak and/or sick. If our food is vibrant and full of nutrition we become vibrant and healthy.
Just as this is true for our physical bodies so it is true of our minds and characters. Proverbs says that bad company corrupts good character. I grew up in a home where no one swore or used foul language. In my late teens I joined a landscaping crew and they all swore in every sentence, sometimes multiple times per sentence. I was with them 9 hours a day. One day, and I can still remember where I was, I heard their language come out of me. It shocked me. As my favourite author once wrote: "By beholding we become changed".
The good news is that light easily trumps darkness. The only way darkness can prevail is to remove the light. The same is true with plants. A branch connected to an apple tree will always produce apples no matter what kind of trees are planted around it.
We will explore more deeply into this teaching tomorrow but for now the basic question is "Am I connected to Jesus? Am I drawing my nourishment from Him? Is He the source of my soul? Is Light pouring into me with more potency than the darkness around me?
Choose your food wisely. Choose your friends wisely, but most important, choose your Source wisely.

John Day 150 - Pruning
15:1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
Yesterday we started to scratch the surface of Jesus illustration of the vine and the branches and the fruit. I have been in churches all my life and have heard several discussions on this teaching over the years. Part of me wishes I could erase them all from my mind so I could hear it fresh from Jesus without any other voices lending commentary. Today as I read it again I noticed a contextual link I had never seen before. A contextual link is a word a phrase in one passage that ties it to another passage that is close by (in the same context).
You will remember that when Jesus went to wash Peter's feet, he initially refused. Then Jesus declared it was necessary if Peter wanted to remain with Jesus. When Peter thought about being disconnected from Jesus he asked for Jesus to wash his hands and head as well. However Jesus said that wasn't necessary because Peter was clean already, the Twelve were all clean except one of them. By saying that Jesus made it plain He was not talking about physical cleanliness. He was talking about character.
Now in the same evening He brings out this new illustration of the Vine (Himself) and the branches (us). In the middle of the illustration He says "You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you."
John taught us right from the word go that Jesus IS the Word. His very person/character/identity is the Word. Therefore the word He has spoken is the life He has lived. The eleven have embraced Him. What He did they modeled even if it was flawed and fumbling at times. By connecting their lives to His life, His character has flowed from Him into them. He is clean therefore they are clean.
There are two paths we can take in this life. We can live disconnected from the Vine. Judas chose this path in the end. Or we can live connected to the Vine. If we choose to remain connected to Him we will undergo pruning. Pruning is the process of removing any growth from the branches that is not beneficial to the branch, the vine, or the production of abundant, healthy, fruit.
Often we hear people say "God made me this way". This is of course untrue and a misunderstanding of the situation humanity is in. It was never God's design for babies to be born deformed or diseased. It was also not His design for us to have deformed characters. My temper is not beneficial to me (the branch), to Jesus (the vine) or to the production of healthy fruit. To excuse my character flaws with "You'll just have to put up with me because God made me this way" is a denial of both His original plan and His ability to heal and restore (prune).
Gardeners know how necessary pruning is for the production of lots of healthy fruit. God knows how necessary it is for us to undergo His loving but sometimes painful pruning in order to make us the vibrant productive beautiful branches we were meant to be before humanity went tragically off course.
This illustration from Jesus is deeper than we may ever fully grasp but He'll reveal what He can as we're able to comprehend it. See you tomorrow...

John Day 151 - Does God Cut People Off?
15:1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples."
Pruning. The act of cutting away anything that is either not beneficial or not productive. On Sabbath we had children's church and we talked about David and Goliath and the fact David as a young person knew what the adults had forgotten - God can do anything. However there is a part of that story that is rarely talked about. David ends up at the battle because he is bring supplies for his brothers and something for the king. Supplies for an army that for 40 days has been consuming supplies but doing nothing. Paralyzed with fear they have just sat there day after day. Consuming but not producing they needed to be pruned. An army that won't fight is hardly an army.
God prunes in two ways. The productive branches are pruned of any non beneficial growth so that they can produce even more. The unproductive branches are cut off altogether. Seems harsh, mean even. Why does God cut anyone off. Doesn't He love us? What does He want from us? What is this fruit?
I told you there are many layers and the lessons run deep. Notice the cut off branches wither. Withering is a process that takes time. When you go to the flower shop to buy flowers for your wife (hint hint) they have all been cut off from the vine yet are beautiful. The withering process is not yet even apparent but it is happening. We place them in water and even give them food to try and mimic the feeding, life giving power of the plant. This slows down the withering but does not stop it. There is no denying that being cut off is a death sentence.
Let's review again. There are two kinds of pruning, two kinds of "cutting off". One leads to abundance and vibrancy and one leads to death. God does both.
However why does He do both? It makes sense that He would do cutting that brings more life but why would He cut to kill? Well what kind of branch does He cut? The kind that is not producing anything. Think about it. Is an apple tree that does not produce apples an apple tree? Is a restaurant that doesn't produce food a restaurant? Is a school that doesn't educate really a school? A school of fish perhaps smile emoticon
Now when Jesus came He announced that He had come to seek and save the lost - literally the "cut off" ones. See being cut off is not the same as being destroyed. It does not mean death necessarily.
Remember the story of the prodigal son? He was not interested in producing. He only wanted to consume. He told his father that was all he wanted. His father sent him off (cut him off) with all the resources that were his (the sap he had already taken from the vine). The son lived on those until there was almost nothing left. He was almost dead from starvation. It was at that moment when he remembered how good it was to be attached to the vine. He had the overwhelming desire to reattach to his father. In gardening (horticulture) it's called being grafted back in. He even wanted to be grafted in a servant. Servants are productive.
Are you seeing it?
The Father only cuts off the branches who want to be cut off and He does it in the hope it will create a thirst in them to return and fulfill the beautiful purpose they were intended to have all along.
So deep. See you tomorrow!

John Day 152 - Who Cuts Us Off and Then What?
15:5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples."
It's amazing how many times a person can read the same thing and keep finding new insights. The illustration starts out simple. He is the source and when we're connected to Him we inevitably produce what He is. We simply become conduits of Him. Then Jesus says that without Him and without this connection to Him we can't produce any fruit at all. All w have to do is go for a walk in the forest to see what disconnected branches produce. That part of the illustration is pretty simple and straightforward.
Then Jesus talks about what happens with the branches (people) who do not want to remain connected to Him. Notice the disconnecting part is not done by Him. He only describes what happens to the branches who disconnect of their own choosing. He says they are cast out as a branch. Don't miss that part. Jesus is saying "When you chose to leave Me I let you go and you were in good condition. I did not empty your accounts or freeze them. I didn't hide your keys or slash your tires. You wanted to leave so I gave you your full inheritance and set you free."
The only 'punishment' for choosing to leave is leaving. God adds no other penalty. No other penalty is necessary. The instant the severing takes place the slow, subtle withering begins to take place. It is inevitable.
As a pastor I have observed marriages crash. In most cases failed marriages have one thing in common: neglect. They didn't transform from wedded bliss into "irreconcilable" differences over one event. It was a slow process of disconnecting until one day there was just no connection left. Plants require care. Without it they die.
Notice too in Jesus' illustration that it isn't branches that are gathered to be burned, it is sticks; completely withered sticks. Not a trace of any hope of new life. No grafting in is possible. They are not burned as punishment or torture. There is nothing to torture or kill. Death has long occurred.
Last month we cut some trees for fire wood. We looked for dead trees. We did not want living ones. We were not out to kill. We were out to repurpose what was already dead.
God is not even interested in that. He has one purpose and one only. That is to bring revival to those who are dying and new life to those who are dead. Notice it is not Him who gathers the withered sticks to burn them. Tomorrow we'll take a quick stroll out of John to see what the rest of the Bible has to say about God's plans for dead branches bound for the fire...

John Day 153 - "Only YOU Know..."
15:5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples."
Yesterday I said we'd take a quick journey out of John to see what else the Bible has to say about dried and withered people being rescued and infused with new life from the Vine. Here we go:
Zechariah 3:1 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him. 2 And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?”
3 Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the Angel.
4 Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, “Take away the filthy garments from him.” And to him He said, “See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes.”
5 And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.”
So they put a clean turban on his head, and they put the clothes on him. And the Angel of the Lord stood by.
6 Then the Angel of the Lord admonished Joshua, saying, 7 “Thus says the Lord of hosts:
‘If you will walk in My ways,
And if you will keep My command,
Then you shall also judge My house,
And likewise have charge of My courts;
I will give you places to walk
Among these who stand here.
8 ‘Hear, O Joshua, the high priest,
You and your companions who sit before you,
For they are a wondrous sign;
For behold, I am bringing forth My Servant the BRANCH.
9 ... Says the Lord of hosts,
‘And I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.
10 In that day,’ says the Lord of hosts,
‘Everyone will invite his neighbour
Under his vine and under his fig tree.’”
Without getting too complicated Joshua is a mess. He had become disconnected from the Vine and was withered badly. Satan was ready to claim victory over him. What does God do? He rescues him. He grafts him back in. How does God describe what Joshua now is? "A brand (dry stick) plucked (rescued) from the fire (his seemingly guaranteed fate)
Then after rebuking Satan he turns to Joshua and says "If you will walk with Me and follow My instructions..." (stay connected).
Then God announces that Jesus is coming. He is referred to as the branch but that is a lousy translation. It is literally shoot or sprout or new plant. It parallels Isaiah 53 that describes Jesus as a shoot sprouting up out of dry ground. Another allusion of Hope springing up in a hopeless situation.
Then in Ezekiel 37 God takes Ezekiel to a valley that is filled with dry bones. The Bible describes them as very dry. Withered. Disconnected from life for a long time. Apparently hopeless and good for nothing but to be burned. God asks Ezekiel if the bones can live again. With humility and wisdom Ezekiel says "only You know." Then God does the impossible. He instructs Ezekiel to preach life to the bones. Ezekiel is connected to the Vine so he follows the instructions and that valley of bones becomes a living vibrant mass of humanity.
What is the message for us in all of this? Don't judge withered sticks. Not the one in your mirror or the ones in your home, across the street, in your workplace, school, church, community, or any where else. Speak life and hope no matter their condition. Feed your own soul on life and hope. If God can rescue sticks bound for the fire and apparently fully in Satan's grasp, who are we to write anyone off. Dry bones are not hopeless bones because we serve a God who can do anything we permit Him to do, anything we believe He can do, especially the impossible. If you don't yet believe this at least be like Ezekiel and say "only You know..."

John Day 154 - What's Love Got To Do With It?
15:9 “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.
11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends."
Jesus begins to unpackage His metaphor of the vine and the branches. He reveals what life sustaining power courses through the vine and into the branches. The nutrient is love. If we remain in His love we will produce much fruit. He says we remain in His love by keeping commandments. Immediately for religious people that can mean a multitude of things depending on the specific brand of religion. Sounds complicated right? Jesus seemed to anticipate the confusion and went right to the point: love.
"This is My commandment: That you love one another as I have loved you".
First this means that we must first experience His love. How can we love others as He has loved us unless we have first been loved by Him?
Sadly we too often pass on what religion has peddled as His love. These things include behaviour modification, list keeping, judging, policing, demanding, expecting, prejudice, guilt tripping, shaming, even shunning... and there is more too as you well know. Take those things which are far too common among religious people and then try and harmonize them with Jesus.
Without getting too personal we only have to observe the state of religion in Jesus' time to see the ugly truth: Church mandated racial profiling. Church defined class system. Church upheld gender discrimination. Church expulsion for anyone who disagreed as we saw in John 9 with the blind man. I could go on but the negativity is dragging me down...
Into this toxic mess stepped Jesus. He made disciples out of commoners, the uneducated, a tax collector, a political zealot, and an assorted collection of misfits. He welcomed women into His entourage even though the culture of gender oppression prevented them from overt leadership. He crossed visible and invisible borders to love the "unlovable" and help those any "proper" person would purposely pass by.
Last night I sat through the retelling of the personal experiences of Eva Olsson who was a Jew at the wrong time and in the wrong place. Only her and her sister survived the Holocaust only to be divided after by a religious chasm love refused to cross. After the war Eva married a Swedish Christian and her sister disowned her still to this day.
Who would Jesus disown?
The metaphor makes it clear that the branch decides to remain or disconnect and that others desire to cast those disconnected branches in the fire. Jesus is a gatherer. He grafts. He connects. He goes in search of. He loves not because He must but because He IS love. Love is not something He does when circumstances demand it. Love is what He is. When you cut Him, He bleeds love. When you xray Him you discover He is full of love. DNA samples all come back with the same result. Love, love, love.
We're not talking cheap, fuzzy, wishy-washy love. We're talking ‘take a bullet for your worst enemy’ kind of love.
As we peer into John 15 and try and grasp the situation and live in that moment, we're not just talking about a love the eleven didn't fully replicate. We're talking about a shocking, radical love they couldn't fully grasp. Looking into His character was like coming from a dark basement at midnight and stepping into the noon day sun in a world blanketed with fresh white snow. It was blinding and confusing and almost impossible to grasp. He was a once a king and a servant. He was a Jewish Messiah and a healer of Canaanites, demoniacs, and a friend of prostitutes and lepers. He lived with no possessions and shunned fame yet had the power to tell the weather what to do and raise dead people to life. He was an enigma. He confused them day after day but they stayed. He presented a constant contradiction between the religion of their upbringing and His unorthodox ways yet they stayed. He cost them their business's and everything that was stable and normal and familiar but they stayed. Why? Because His love drew them like an irresistible magnet. Deep inside them they knew His ways were better and they longed to be with Him and like Him.
"Remain in Me and love as I have loved you..."
It sounds so simple. Why is it so seemingly elusive? "You will search for Me and find Me when you search with all of your heart."
Sooner or later to grasp something new we must let go of what we currently hold...

John Day 155 - Joy
15:11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.
There are many different varieties of maple trees. The best kind of course is the sugar maple. I grew up on a farm and we had 500 maple trees that we tapped every spring, using the sap to make maple syrup. All deciduous trees go dormant in the winter and then come to life again in the spring as the energizing sap flows from the roots up through the trunk and out to the branches. Any branch that is connected to this life giving sap will produce. It's inevitable. Jesus says He is our source. He is the one who makes us come alive and produce. Yesterday we learned that one of the things that flows from Him into us if we remain connected is His love. Today we're discovering that isn't the only "sap" we get. With His love comes His joy.
It's fascinating to me that one of the main reasons people disconnect from Jesus is the pursuit of freedom and happiness. The younger son in Luke 15 wanted to take what was his and leave his father to pursue freedom and happiness. The very fact he wanted to leave with the substance of his father is telling. The father grants his request because one thing God will never take from us is our freedom.
How long he was gone we don't know. Some figure out quicker than others that the neon lights that promise happiness away from the Source of true joy are empty lies and false advertising.
However my burden this morning as I read about the Joy Jesus wants for us is not for those who seek joy elsewhere. Seekers are always moving until they find that for which they seek and Jesus is the only source of true lasting joy.
What concerns me most having grown up in a church more worried about the rules of religion than the Person of Jesus are those who believe they are connected but have no joy.
The truth, the TRUTH is that being connected to Jesus makes Joy and Love inevitable. It is a joy so deep that it makes innocent men sing while shackled to prison walls. It is a Joy that sees beyond any attempt to kill our Joy. True Joy is a by product of true Love. A person who knows that they are loved cannot have their joy taken away.
Too often religion makes God's love conditional on our performance. The underlying and soul crushing, joy stealing message is that He only loves you when you are doing right. Since we're never truly doing right we're always doubtful of His love which steals our Joy and we live in perpetual insecurity and fear. We end up being the son who stayed on the farm but saw his father as a slave driver and his brother as competition. No love. No joy. No connection.
If you do not know you are loved always and if you don't have a deep abiding joy that no immediate circumstance can alter, the reality is you are not connected. How do you get connected? Discover Jesus the Person. Be willing to release everything you think you know about Him and just discover Him as He is revealed in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Sometimes the greatest barrier between us and Him is what we think we know about Him...

John Day 156 - Slave, Servant, or Friend
15:12 "This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. 17 These things I command you, that you love one another."
Again Jesus repeats what His commandment is and again adds the qualifier. To just tell them to love based on what the world calls love would be pretty weak and nearly meaningless. However He doesn't just say "love each other". He says "love each other the same way I have loved you."
Love each other in such a way that you care more about the well being of the other than you care about your own. Love each other so much that you speak the truth when it would be much easier to say nothing. Love when they are unloveable. Love when they disappoint you and stab you in the back. Love because only love awakens love. Love until it costs you everything.
"Greater love has no man than this, that he lays down his life for his friends."
The truth is that these men have not yet experienced the full force of the love Jesus is talking about. We'll get there soon enough. I want to end today with this almost cryptic thing Jesus says. "I no longer call you servants... but friends."
There are three levels of relationship in the Bible that are talked about repeatedly. The first level is a slave/master relationship. In this relationship one is owned by the other and must do whatever the master says. It is a relationship of bondage. How bad/difficult this relationship is depends on the character of the master. No one desires to be a slave. Everyone in slavery seeks freedom. We were designed for freedom. Ironically though, many, like the older son in Luke 15 see God as a slave master and themselves as in bondage. This prevents any kind of truly meaningful relationship.
The next level is servant and master. This relationship is much like that of a slave with the huge difference of being by choice. If I get a job it's an act of free will. By doing so I place myself under the boss as his servant to do his bidding. I may not want to do everything that is asked of me but am obligated to do it by the very nature of the relationship. The other great difference is that I expect and he has the obligation to compensate for my servitude.
The disciples saw themselves as the servants of Jesus. They chose to follow Him of their own free will and they expected compensation. One day they asked Him point blank what they were going to receive as a reward for their devoted service.
The relationship between a servant and master is better than a slave and master even though the function is nearly identical. The reason is because of freedom of choice. However this relationship too has unhealthy limitations. The master is seen as someone to exploit. He has something the servant wants and they only chose to be in the relationship to get it.
Now Jesus says something strange in this passage. He says "You didn't choose Me. I chose you."
Often a master hires a servant to fill a need he has. What does Jesus need from these men? What can they do for Him that He can't do Himself?
Exactly - nothing. The truth is that these men didn't originally choose Jesus. They chose to pursue what they thought they could get from Him. Jesus on the other hand chose them. Now as He nears the end of His mission and the end of the relationship as it has been, He reveals what’s been truth for Him all along. "I didn't hire you as servants. I don't want you as My servants. I don't want to be your Master. I want us to be friends."
Friends. The highest level of relationship in the Bible. It is a relationship of equality. It is a relationship of self-sacrifice rather than mutual exploitation. The truth is we have all had and may still have 'friends' who really are exploiters. They have no interest in the relationship other than what they can get out of you. Jesus was the opposite with His Twelve that have now become eleven. For Him it was all about what He could pour into them. He loved them. He chose them. He was building them. His fulfillment, His reward was in their success. "Love as I have loved you..."
Sadly these men were raised with a view of God that was somewhere in between slave and servant with Him as the demanding Master and if you got it right you might get a reward.
The truth is His love for us began before we ever gave Him a positive or negative thought.
"I no longer call you servants, I call you friends".
How do you see Him? What status or category is your relationship with Him? I know too many escaped slaves and it breaks my heart...

John Day 157 - Who is "The World"?
15:18 “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you."
A truth came home to me with nearly wrecking ball force yesterday. Mentally I am still reeling. I can't stop thinking about it. In church I shared this quote: Being in a church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.
Then I was at my sister's house later and someone sent me a news story. I literally verified the story across three different credible sources before I would accept that it wasn't some sick joke.
In upstate New York at a church ironically called 'Word of Life' a pastor and the parents and others beat their 19 year old son to death and also beat but did not kill their 17 year old son. They beat them all night long until dawn at the church. The weapon was a double folded belt. The emergency department at the hospital said it looked like he had been shot. Their "crime"? They didn't want to go to church any more...
In Luke chapter 4 it says the church people came to Jesus bringing their sick and that he cast demons out of many of them. Demons in church people. If ever there was a clear cut case of demon possessed church people it was this week in upstate NY.
Why do I bring this up? Because Jesus makes reference to "the world" hating Him and by association hating His followers. I want to make it clear that Jesus' greatest haters were devout religious people. People claiming God following status while in their hearts and minds lived demons. When Jesus refers to "the world" He is not making a blanket statement about non church people. It is not a box into which He is lumping all those who aren't on a religious membership list. Rather He is referring to all those who have fallen for the lies and the value system of the prince of this world, the prince of darkness. You won't recognize them by their affiliations necessarily. You can't identify them in any surface way. Rather you'll know them by how they relate to others, especially those who disagree with them.
Jesus has repeatedly told His remaining eleven that the world will know they are His by how they love, not by the titles they carry or their religious affiliations. Love is what set Jesus apart. Love that reached out to lepers. Love that prayed for His enemies. Love that told the truth even when it was really hard to do so. Love that valued and protected the vulnerable in society. Love that saw no race or colour or religion.
You can attend church as often as you like and even call your church the Word of Life but they will know that we are Christians by our love. Love so powerful that it actually awakens hate in those who have sold out to darkness.
Love values freedom above everything. Love never forces. Two sons asked for freedom. It cost one his life and sent the other to the hospital.
"They will hate you if you love what I love because they hated Me from the start."

John Day 158 - False Expectations
15:20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21 But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 He who hates Me hates My Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father. 25 But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’"
As both a human being and a pastor who works closely with others often at difficult points in their lives I have come to realize that much of our angst in life is often a result of unmet expectations. Young couples get disillusioned because they thought their honeymoon would last forever and then real life got in the way. Young parents get disillusioned because parenting is harder and more complex than they expected. Seniors get disillusioned because as one of them told me "There is nothing golden about the golden years." Truth be told at some points along life's journey we all get taken aback because something didn't turn out the way we imagined that it would.
Jesus loved His eleven and He loves us too. He was preparing them for reality and by extension preparing us too. Following Him is no cake walk. It's not a series of miraculous events and adoring crowds. With the good comes the dark side. Hatred, opposition, attacks, etc... and the worst and hardest part is that it actually comes too often from those who should be walking with you.
Never lose sight of the fact that Jesus' greatest opposition (by far) was from those who were supposed to be on His side. Priests who served in His temple were seeking to discredit Him. Synagogue rulers were trying to kill Him. Those trained and tasked to uphold the laws of God called Him a law breaker. Even His own mother and brothers and sisters were questioning His views and actions.
Why? Jesus states it plainly. "They hate Me because they don't know Him who sent Me."
Never assume that overtly religious people know God.
I came across a verse in Jeremiah that is forever etched in my memory. Just one simple yet revealing statement:
Jeremiah 2:8 "Those who handle My law do not know Me".
There is nothing more dark and dangerous than people who have religious passion without an intimate knowledge of the character of God. Jesus suffered terribly at the hands of people like that and if we follow Him expect to be hurt by people who should be the last ones to hurt you. Jesus wants you to know this reality so that your expectations can be adjusted accordingly.
Someday we're going Home but in the meantime we live in hostile territory.

John Day 159 - Witnesses
15:26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning."
Testify, bear witness: these are terms that have a different meaning in our culture. They evoke images of court rooms and a person being questioned by a lawyer about what they saw or what they know about the case at hand. In short it's all about words spoken and information provided.
When Jesus speaks here about testifying and bearing witness it has nothing to do with a court room and almost nothing to do with words or information. One of my favourite chapters in the entire Bible is Hebrews 11. It is often called the faith chapter or even the Hall of Faith. It begins with Abel's faithfulness and traces down through the famous men and women of history who believed God and lived lives that demonstrated that belief. The Bible refers to them as witnesses. Not once does their witness have anything to do with words spoken. Their lives were their witness. Abel demonstrated his belief in God by doing as God asked him to do. Enoch the same. Noah didn't demonstrate his belief that the world was going to flood by making impassioned speeches or taking flyers door to door or going on the radio. He demonstrated his faith in God by building a boat.
Jesus promised here before His death that after He was gone the Spirit of Truth would come and He would testify of the Father and as a result of His presence the disciples would become witnesses. See the Spirit of God is the Person of God living in His believers. The lives themselves become the witnesses. They become an undeniable case study in the character and reality of God. People can't ignore such evidence. They may turn from it, reject it, even deny and discredit it but they can't ignore it.
When we get into the book of Acts we'll see how powerfully true this promise made by Jesus came to be a reality. We will see that the witness of the followers of Jesus could not be ignored. We will also see that we're lacking that kind of witness today. It speaks to branches that are disconnected and withering. I need look no further than a mirror to see how much we lack that vital connection. I am not discouraged though. I know He is working to bring Life back into these bones.
"I believe Lord, help my unbelief."



John Days 131 to 145

John Day 131 - You Can't Get 'More Married'
13:10 Jesus said to him, "He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet but is otherwise completely clean and you are clean but not all of you." 11 For He knew who would betray Him, therefore He said "you are not all clean".
We hinted at this yesterday but today we're going all the way to the only conclusion possible. When you choose Jesus you are clean. When you get married you are married. You can't get more married and you can't get more clean. You may "step in it" in your marriage and you may need to "wash each others feet" but you are no less married at any point or any more married at any point. Marriage will deepen and grow and go through a variety of seasons and changes but it's all marriage. The only alternative to marriage is divorce.
Judas is about to divorce Jesus. He has already made the arrangements. Peter and the others are about to fail Jesus. We'll come to all that. I only bring it up to contrast the difference between divorce and "stepping in it". One is a premeditated deliberate choice to sever a relationship. The other is a mistake made that is afterwards deeply regretted.
I remember when I was a teen my cousin asked our teacher at church if he would not go to heaven if Jesus came after he had done something wrong but before he had asked for forgiveness.
Jesus is not Santa Claus. He is not checking His list to find a loophole so He doesn't have to give you your "present". Religion fueled by our guilt laden nature has made God out to be some furrow browed judge anxious to catch you in some wrong act so He can scratch your name from the invitation list.
Jesus said "you are clean." "Stepping in it" does not change that fact. Peter argued with Jesus but he was still clean. Peter argued with the others about who was the greatest. Still clean. Peter refused to take up the basin and the towel. Still clean. Peter is about to "step in it" on a monumental scale. Still clean.
Remember religion is about what we do for God but the Truth is about what the Man who is the Truth has done and is doing and will continue to do for us.
Rev. 1:5 - He loved us and He washed us...
"What I am doing now you don't understand but you will after..." - Jesus
God calls all of this Good News for a reason.

John Day 132 - Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?
13:12 "So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am.14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them."
Last week we talked about Jesus' motive for washing their feet. Now He explains it plainly. "I am your Lord and Master and if I being in this position have washed your feet than you are not "too high" to be a servant either."
The lesson is deep and profound and goes far beyond washing feet or even serving others. Jesus is the Creator of our world. John makes that plain from the very beginning of his account. Jesus is also God. John makes that plain too.
The Twelve any others who choose to follow Him are to walk in His footsteps. We are to expect nothing more or less than the experiences He lived through. Think about that...
One of the most common questions I get asked is "Why do bad things happen to good people?"
We have this built in sense of justice. If someone is messing around with fire and gets burned we trace cause to effect and we have no issue with the fact the person got burned. We may feel badly but our sense of justice is not affected nor is our picture of God being good and loving called into question.
However if someone who is good and kind is walking down the street just as a gas line breaks causing a fireball explosion which leaves them scarred for life with debilitating 3rd degree burns we suddenly question everything. From Alzheimers to babies born with cancer it just seems the world is out of whack and if there is a God He is asleep at the wheel.
However this sense of justice and fairness we have could only be justified if there was an example somewhere of it playing out that way in our world. Surely if we were to choose a man that had the right to expect only good in life in proportion to His own goodness it would be Jesus right? A person who lived only for the benefit of others, denying Himself even the most basic essentials like a home and a bed of His own should be deserving of what in some circles is called 'good karma'.
Let's put His life to the test. In an extremely conservative and judgmental religious culture He was born to a teen mother and an unknown father. He grew up in a town that was considered the armpit of the nation. His mom and stepdad were poor. His younger siblings were not nice to Him. The religious world into which He was born was hostile to Him. Somewhere along the way the only father He knew died. As He was growing up His mother's story about His miraculous birth in combination with His study of the Scriptures and His communication with His heavenly Father brought Him to the realization of Who He really was and what His life mission was. He would never marry. No one would ever truly understand Him. He would never own anything or lead any kind of normal life. He was opposed and ridiculed and laughed at by people who were supposed to be supportive. His own mother questioned the path His life was taking. His siblings alienated Him. As He began His life mission His followers constantly questioned Him and at times openly opposed Him. On top of all this His life was headed straight for a Roman cross where He would die alone, abandoned by His closest friends, and almost entirely misunderstood.
Hardly sounds fair or just.
He said things like "They hate Me and they will hate you too." He said "You must take up your cross every day and follow Me." He said "In this world you will have trouble but be of good cheer because I have overcome the world."
There is nothing wrong with our sense of justice and fairness. It is the way things should be. However this planet is in the grip of war and things are not as they are supposed to be... not yet. And while the war is raging we cannot logically expect justice and fairness if the One who made everything experienced what He experienced. We are not greater than our Master.
The amazing thing is that even though He is greater, He has taken the brunt of the injustice because He loves us.

John Day 133 - Change: impossible?
13:17 "If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them." - Jesus
Context is important. It's a drum I beat often. In the context of chapter 13 Jesus is saying "I have lead you into servant leadership. Servant leadership is a blessing. True joy comes from bringing joy to others."
Then He concludes with one sentence that is more powerful than volumes of self help books or how to books etc...
The principle extracted from that one sentence and applied to all areas of life is at once painfully simple and shockingly serious. The blessing does not come from knowing, it comes from applying the knowledge through action.
Knowing the importance of proper hydration will not hydrate my body. Knowing how much water/fluids I need daily will not hydrate me. Knowing what things are healthy to put in my body and what things are not will not affect my body in any way.
I grew up in a religious culture and a society bent on acquiring knowledge. Education and information were and are highly valued in both spheres. Yet in spite of all the accumulated knowledge on health within my church there are still many suffering from poor health. With all the talk about the dangers of drinking and driving in the media and through our school systems etc... drunk drivers are still taking lives.
Why? Because the blessing that comes from knowledge is only received by those who put the knowledge into action.
Simple but not easy. Habits run deep. Pride runs deeper. Change is impossible.
Impossible?
Yes impossible.
"Can an Ethiopian change his skin or a leopard his spots? Than can you do good who are accustomed to do evil?" - God
Until we face the reality of our impossible situation we will never be in a position to comprehend or receive what Jesus came to offer. Our knowledge will never move to action in any lasting way. Follow the Story. It's about to get intense.
See you tomorrow...

John Day 134 - Love Gives Every Opportunity
13:18 “I do not speak concerning all of you. I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me.’ 19 Now I tell you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe that I am He. 20 Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.”
21 When Jesus had said these things, He was troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.” 22 Then the disciples looked at one another, perplexed about whom He spoke.
23 Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. 24 Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask who it was of whom He spoke.
25 Then, leaning back on Jesus’ breast, he said to Him, “Lord, who is it?”
26 Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it.” And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. 27 Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.” 28 But no one at the table knew for what reason He said this to him. 29 For some thought, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus had said to him, “Buy those things we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor.
30 Having received the piece of bread, he then went out immediately. And it was night.
The intensity is building. What intensity? The intensity of revelation of His love. We talk a lot about love. We love our car and our new shows. We love one girl today and another tomorrow. You get the picture. God's love is not left hanging as an undefined word that may mean vastly different things to different people. Love is an action word and Jesus is about to demonstrate His love in actions.
Today the spotlight is on Judas. You can search the four gospels backwards and forwards. You won't find anywhere where Jesus called Judas to follow Him as His disciple. What you will find is a singular instance where a man came and volunteered to be His disciple. That man was Judas. Jesus knew his heart. He read his motives. He knew how the story would end yet He allowed him to be part of the Twelve.
At this point you might be wondering what that has to do with love. Unselfish love allows opportunity. It makes room on the roster for a kid who desperately wants to play but isn't very good.
When I was 15 our small town organized a junior softball team for the first time. My old hockey coach came to the farm to ask me if I would play. I was called. That felt pretty special. It was a coed team and let's just say we had a broad range of skill levels. The season was 12 games plus the playoffs. We lost our first 6 games in a row. Inbetween the 6th and 7th game one of my best friends died. When the 7th game came it was a cold rainy miserable day. The weather reflected my mood. The other team (the best team in the league) wanted to know if we just wanted to forfeit. We declined. My friend would never have forfeited and he would never be able to play again rain or shine so we were going to play. We won the game. We won the next game. We won all 6 of our remaining games and made the playoffs. When the first playoff game came someone on our team suggested sitting the weaker players to give us a better chance to win. The coach asked us what we thought about that idea. Another player stood and said "No way. We got this far together and we're sticking together until the end."
That settled it even though not everyone agreed. We won that game and every game after. The team of misfits that lost their first 6 games in a row never lost another.
What I remember and cherish from that season is that love won. I remember the look in the eyes of one of the girls when it was suggested we sit the weaker players. She obviously felt she would be one of the cast offs. I also remember her face when we decided to stick together.
That meant more to me than the trophy we won later.
Love gives opportunity even when not deserved.
Never will Judas be able to say "I would have been loyal if Jesus had given me a legitimate opportunity." Jesus gave him full privileges as one of the Twelve even though He always knew. He even knelt and washed his feet while the silver coins Judas received to sell Him out were already in his pouch.
Judas was given every opportunity because that is what love does.
More on Judas and the love of God tomorrow...

John Day 135 - It Was Night
13:26 Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it.” And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. 27 Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.” 28 But no one at the table knew for what reason He said this to him. 29 For some thought, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus had said to him, “Buy those things we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor.
30 Having received the piece of bread, he then went out immediately. And it was night.
Satan entered him... and it was night.
Jesus is the Light that lights every man that comes into the world.
Night and day. Light and darkness. Good and evil. So very opposite. You would think it would be simple to distinguish between the two.
Consider these insights from the book 'Desire of Ages':
"Christ’s discourse in the synagogue concerning the bread of life was the turning point in the history of Judas. He heard the words, “Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, you have no life in you.” John 6:53. He saw that Christ was offering spiritual rather than worldly good. He regarded himself as farsighted, and thought he could see that Jesus would have no honor, and that He could bestow no high position upon His followers. He determined not to unite himself so closely to Christ but that he could draw away. He would watch. And he did watch.
From that time he expressed doubts that confused the disciples. He introduced controversies and misleading sentiments, repeating the arguments urged by the scribes and Pharisees against the claims of Christ. All the little and large troubles and crosses, the difficulties and the apparent hindrances to the advancement of the gospel, Judas interpreted as evidences against its truthfulness. He would introduce texts of Scripture that had no connection with the truths Christ was presenting. These texts, separated from their connection, perplexed the disciples, and increased the discouragement that was constantly pressing upon them. Yet all this was done by Judas in such a way as to make it appear that he was conscientious. And while the disciples were searching for evidence to confirm the words of the Great Teacher, Judas would lead them almost imperceptibly on another track. Thus in a very religious, and apparently wise, way he was presenting matters in a different light from that in which Jesus had given them, and attaching to His words a meaning that He had not conveyed. His suggestions were constantly exciting an ambitious desire for temporal preferment, and thus turning the disciples from the important things they should have considered. The dissension as to which of them should be greatest was generally excited by Judas.
When Jesus presented to the rich young ruler the condition of discipleship, Judas was displeased. He thought that a mistake had been made. If such men as this ruler could be connected with the believers, they would help sustain Christ’s cause. If Judas were only received as a counselor, he thought, he could suggest many plans for the advantage of the little church. His principles and methods would differ somewhat from Christ’s, but in these things he thought himself wiser than Christ."
With that glimpse into the dynamics among the Twelve consider day and night. They are different and opposite except at dawn and dusk when the two merge. Think about it. When Jesus came into the lives of these twelve men they were largely living in the dark. Even at night the moon reflects the light of the sun. Our eyes adjust to the poor lighting and we can function even if not nearly as well. Day does not come at once. The sun rises and as it does the shadows of night flee away.
As these twelve walked in the Light that Jesus was, new ideas began to take shape that challenged old ones. A transformation of character was taking place.
We have language around this theme. When we get a "bright" idea we say "Then it 'dawned' on me". When we don't understand something or we missed it we say "Boy I was in the dark on that one."
Judas saw the light but recoiled from it. He decided he preferred the darkness and even though he felt love for Jesus and was drawn to Him in the end he decided to embrace the greed and selfish ambition that was familiar to him.
When I pause and read between the lines I can feel the struggle at the table that night. The coins are in his pouch but can he really go through with it? He could take them back. Will Jesus wash his feet? Doesn't He know? Shouldn't He know if He is the One?
Then Jesus is suddenly there, right in front of him. Their eyes meet. The look on His face is one of pain and sorrow yet there is a love in His eyes Judas has never seen anywhere else. He knows. It's written all over His face. "Why is He washing my feet if He knows? Why does He love me still if He knows? This is why I can't be part of this any more. This is why I have to do this. He is a weak sentimental fool. He'll never succeed. He doesn't know how to succeed. If only He would have listened to me. I could have made Him great."
Suddenly his thoughts are interrupted by Jesus placing bread in his hands. He knew what he had to do. It was time.
Satan entered him... and it was night.
On Thursday a man with no criminal record who seemed to be just one of us finally succumbed to the darkness. His night killed 9 others and wounded several more physically and countless others mentally and emotionally. That's how the darkness is. No man is an island.
Now why did Jesus say "do it quickly"?
See you tomorrow...

John Day 136 - He's off the Script Isn't He?
Then Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.” 28 But no one at the table knew for what reason He said this to him...
13:31 So, when he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him. 32 If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him immediately. 33 Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come,’ so now I say to you. 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Let's not lose the context. Judas has just left the room. Jesus told him to go quickly? Is Jesus encouraging Judas? Is Jesus setting up His own death? Is Judas a mere puppet in a master plan?
Some would say yes. However notice what Jesus said: "What YOU do, do quickly". The Greek word for do can be best understood as make, construct, or manufacture. In other words "What you are making, make quickly or what you are constructing, construct quickly" etc...
Just get it over with. Rip the bandage off fast. Sign the papers. Close the deal. Stop prolonging the agony.
The eleven are clueless, even after Jesus gives him the bread indicating he is the betrayer. They can't process it. How could the most intelligent and capable of them be the one to turn against Jesus?
Now that we have that awful and confusing scene in our minds Jesus looks them each in the eye and begins to speak.
"This is the moment" He says. "Now the universe will see My character (glory).
Way back in Exodus Moses asked if he could see God's glory. What did Moses see while he was sheltered in the cleft of the Rock (Jesus)?
“The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, 7 keeping mercy for thousands of generations, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.”
Moses didn't see some “thing” when he asked to see God's glory. He saw some “One”. More than seeing someone, he saw the essence of that Someone. Character. God's wealth, God's essence, God's indescribable glory is His character. Moses caught a glimpse. Jesus is about to put on a fireworks display that will reverberate throughout the universe. Angels will see a depth of His glory never yet known. The glory of the Father revealed in the Son, the glory of the Son revealed by the Father. Already the fireworks have begun. They began 3 decades earlier when the Prince of Peace consented and the Father permitted for Him to born among us, born in poverty and discomfort, almost on the side of the road. Born into questionable, even scandalous circumstances. Born with no fanfare from men. Born in the darkness, yet the first ray of Light shone on a nearby hill to humble shepherds. It shone in a light that looked like a star but was really a host of angels announcing His arrival. The light grew brighter when at 12 He began to stump the teachers with His vast knowledge of the Scriptures. It was His first of many visits to His Father's House of Prayer for all nations that in the darkness had become a den of prejudice and greed.
The light increased when John the Baptist began announcing His arrival - "The Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world."
Then He came out of the artisan shop and stepped into the waters of baptism. A dove came down. A voice from heaven spoke "This is My beloved Son in Whom I Am well pleased. Listen to Him."
The light is increasing. Miracles begin to happen. The greedy money changers and corrupted priests are driven from the Temple. Jesus is saying things no one has ever heard. People who have rarely or never been to a synagogue are flocking to hear Him. He preaches in the synagogues, in fields, on hillsides, on the beach. He touches lepers. He talks to women. He crosses borders Jews don't cross. He does things "good Jews" don't do, won't do, and don't believe should be done. The light is getting so bright that it's hurting their eyes. Some turn away in fear and confusion. They are used to such dim lighting. It's too much to take in. He eats with tax collectors and prostitutes. He heals heathens.
Yet compared to the Light that is about to shine these are just the first tame fireworks. There have been some bright ones, even some loud and fancy ones but nothing will compare to what is about to happen.
The eleven remaining men are confused. Nothing is going as they planned it. This was not what they were taught about the Messiah on their mother's knee or in Sabbath school.
Then to make matters worse He says "I'm leaving very soon and you can't come with Me..."
See you tomorrow as both the Light and the confusion intensify...

John Day 137 - Oh!?.... OHHH!?!?!?!!!
13:33 "Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come,’ so now I say to you. 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Jesus is about to begin His farewell speech. He opens with a seemingly mundane almost meaningless command. "After I'm gone I want you to love each other." Even more strange is that he prefaces the statement by saying "I have a new commandment for you."
We like new rules. He has their attention. He had more questions about rules over the last 3.5 years than about anything else. Rules create a new rung on the ladder as we work our way into God's favour. Religious people love rules.
So they hear He has this new rule and their waiting to find out what it is. Maybe a day a week to fast until He returns? He had said the reason they weren't fasting now was because He was still with them so maybe that's what it was. Or maybe the new rule was that they weren't to argue any more about who was the greatest given their humiliating lesson in servant leadership as He washed their feet.
But before they had time to hatch too many theories He came right out with it. "I want you to love each other."
Love as a commandment? And what's new about that? Moses gave that command way back in Leviticus. Several times in my life I've been asked why Jesus called this a new commandment. It's a legitimate question. At first glance it doesn't make any sense to call it new. It's more like "Let me remind you of a really old commandment..."
However the truth is that this commandment is new. Very new. Shiny new. Why? Because of what Jesus said next. "As I have loved you."
See love is pretty vague. We all 'love' but our definitions vary. Our boundaries and limits vary. Some of us love based on colour, religion, nationality, even gender. Some of us love until... some of us love if... some of us love when... some of us treat love like a barter system: "I will do this for you if you do this for me."
The culture the disciples grew up in was very careful about who got any love. It was rationed out very sparingly and specifically as if there was an extreme shortage. However Jesus was very detailed about this "new commandment". There was not a lot of wiggle room. He very clearly and concisely defined the kind of love He was looking for: My kind. Love like I have loved you.
"But Jesus do I have to love people I don't agree with?"
"Did I love you when you didn't agree with Me?"
"Jesus do I have to love foreigners?"
"I crossed the universe to come and love you. I don't see borders."
"Jesus do I have to love those who oppose me?"
"You have opposed My mission from the beginning..."
"Jesus what about people who don't believe in You?"
"Have you always believed in Me? Did it stop Me from loving you?"
"Jesus do I have to...?"
"Love like I have loved. In all ways towards all people. Just do as I have done for you. When people see that kind of love in you they will know that you are Mine."
And the most amazing part is they have only seen glimpses of His love. The best is yet to come...
See you tomorrow...

John Day 139 - What Is He Doing?
14:1 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many places to stay; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also."
A few years ago I was driving in the car when Nathaniel (our son) asked what was taking Jesus so long. I asked him what he meant. Turns out he was referring to these verses. He couldn't understand why it was taking Jesus so long to prepare places for us to stay.
His question got me thinking and the thinking has led to a book that is about half finished. What is taking so long? The first thing I noticed when I went back over these verses is that whatever Jesus is doing it has nothing to with building mansions or houses or even rooms. Jesus plainly says that the places to stay are already there. The physical accommodations have been there all along. "In my Father’s house ARE many mansions/rooms/places to stay etc..." In fact the Greek word (verb) used for 'are' is the same one for "I Am". It indicates limitlessness. Limitless in time and space. There has always been lots of places and there always will be.
There is no mistaking the fact that whatever Jesus is doing it has nothing to with building structures or interior decorating.
I can't tell you today what He is doing. That would take far too long. What I can tell you is that the Word of God is deep and wide and what often appears simple on the surface (Jesus is building our mansions or preparing our rooms) is actually something else entirely.
Remember the disciples and everyone else thought Jesus was here to build a kingdom like the kingdoms on earth when really He came to put love back in our hearts, a love we had never seen before. A Love that is determined to win us back.
I can give you a hint. The Bible says God is the same yesterday, today, and forevermore so what He is doing now has something to do with what He was doing here 2000 years ago. It has something to do with love.
"Jesus is not slow in keeping His promises. He is longsuffering, not wanting anyone to perish."
See you tomorrow...

John Day 140 - Teachable Moments
14 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And where I go you know, and the way you know.”
5 Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?”
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."
7 “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.”
8 Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.”
9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. 11 Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves."
Teachable moments. They happen at different times for different reasons. A young guy has a flat tire and doesn't know how to change it. He calls his dad and his dad talks him through it. His dad had already taught him how to do it but his son was not really paying attention. In the back of his mind he didn't really believe he would ever need to know how to change a tire. Now the need is right in front of him and he's ready to learn. It's a teachable moment.
The disciples were not always paying full attention when Jesus talked to them. Often they didn't even agree with what He was saying. But this night was different. There was an urgency in the air. Jesus was leaving them. They didn't know where He was going or even why He was going. All they knew was that they didn't want Him to go or they wanted to follow Him. After all that's what they always did. Even the threat of being stoned to death didn't keep them from following Him back to Jerusalem. Now He was leaving and all they wanted to know was where He was going.
To make matters worse Jesus told them "You know where I'm going and you know the way."
Thomas argues. "How can we know how to get where you are going when we don't know where you are going?"
To this Jesus replies "I Am the Way..."
Clearly two different languages are being spoken here but Jesus has to use this teachable moment when He has their full attention to drive home a truth they haven't yet grasped. Even if they do not fully "get it" in the moment they will remember His words and piece it together later by the teaching of the Spirit of God who is about to come in full power.
The eleven are thinking literally. Jesus is not. Two different languages. The eleven were expecting an earthly king and kingdom. Jesus came to set up His reign in the human heart. The disciples were thinking of a literal destination and a literal road to get there when Jesus announced His departure. Jesus was speaking of the path of God's will. He was about to embark on the final phase of His mission. He was about to reveal the full character of God. He was about to display His glory. It was a journey He must make alone. It was a journey they would each take later at different times and in different ways.
Already they had started the journey. They knew the way. Peter, Andrew, James and John began the journey when they left their fishing boats to follow Jesus. Matthew began when he left his tax booth. Nathaniel began the day his private prayers were interrupted by the announcement the Messiah had been found and he was called to follow him.
Jesus journey had begun in eternity past. The journey, the path, the Way, is to follow the Shepherd. Jesus is following His Father and coming to the end of this phase of His journey. They can't join Him now because it's not their time yet.
Verse 7 is the pivotal teaching. He begins with "If you had known Me..." and then ends with "From now on you do know Me..."
What Jesus began by washing their feet is about to explode and they will know Him in a way they have never known Him before.
See the journey is not to learn information or master religion. It's not to find some secret that no one else knows that will "get you in". The journey is to know Him, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent.
Sometimes we wonder why trouble or tension comes into our lives. Sometimes it is to create teachable moments.
"Philip you know God because you know Me. Our hearts are exactly the same and that's all that matters..."

John Day 141 - Say What?
14:12 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. 13 And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask anything in My name, I will do it."
Most assuredly: The strongest statement of something being true that the Greek language allows for.
Once upon a time, long, long ago, in a land far, far away I was the pastor of a church. That church had an outspoken member who was convinced and then tried to convince everyone else that no prayer was valid unless it ended with "in Jesus name I pray, amen". If anyone in the church prayed publicly and left off that "all important" ending he would speak to them directly about it. Every. Time.
Some may know of whom I speak and let me say right away I am not attacking the man, but I am going to deconstruct and expose the thinking behind his theory. Thinking he himself may not have fully been aware of.
You see truth is only beneficial if we understand it. Jesus made an amazing promise here in this passage. Staggering actually. He said anything we ask in His name we will receive. Anything. He also said anyone who believes in Him and works in His name will do greater things than He did.
Greater than Jesus? The Man who walked on water, sent his disciple to catch a fish with money in it's mouth, felt the touch of a single person in a crowd where many were pressing against Him, controlled the weather, escaped murderous mobs undetected, stumped the smartest religious men and law makers, and that is just the small stuff. He healed diseases of any and every kind and raised the dead to life.
Then He, with the strongest language possible said his eleven would do greater things. Greater. In His Name.
Clearly there are two possible issues here (at least). We don't know what 'greater' means and/or we don't know what 'in His name' means. I suggest both are true.
For the man who created the world we inhabit and every creature on it, walking on water is literally child's play. So is healing the bodies He designed. For a Man who understood that love is 'the thing', the greatest act possible has nothing to do with weather manipulation or catching massive loads of fish. The greatest act possible is to turn a heart of hurt and hate into a heart of love and compassion. In heaven's eyes this is the greatest act of all. "There is more joy in heaven over one sinner that turns around..."
The disciples dedicated the rest of their lives to turning sinners toward the Light. Yeah they did some miracles too but it was changed hearts that was the "greater work" as people began to realize who He was and gave their lives to Him.
Now back to that far away land where "in His name" or "in Jesus name" became the all important conclusion to any legitimate prayer.
The truth is "in His name" means "in His character". It means anyone who acts as He would act or asks for what He would ask for will receive what they asked for.
When I first came to Grande Prairie I told the church over a 3 week series of sermons that we're all pagans. Some didn't like it understandably. I don't like it either but it is the truth. See the root of paganism is the belief you can live any way you want and still get what you want from God or the gods or whatever that person worships by giving them what they want or following their system. Witches make potions and/or cast spells by following a very specific recipe or chant or process. Is that an extreme example? Sure it is. A much more subtle but very much the same system is a religious idea or practice used to essentially force God to do what we want. It may be counting rosary beads to exact forgiveness from an angry, reluctant God. It may be adhering to a specific set of beliefs. It may be accomplishing religious pilgrimages or doing great acts of service to buy God's favour or secure a place in heaven. Or it may be praying in a certain pattern or ending with a magical key phrase to get what we want.
In reality it makes God a puppet or an instrument. Pull the strings or play the strings just right and His power becomes subject to our demands. This is anything but truth.
Jesus is love and everything He does is motivated by love. Anyone who loves as He loves has the full support of all heavens resources. This is what it means to ask in His Name.
More on this tomorrow...

John Day 142 - 'Unanswered' Prayer
14:13 "And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask anything in My name, I will do it."
God is not a puppet. God is not a genie in a bottle.
There are some in the Christian world who teach that if your prayers are not answered it's because you don't truly believe. This is not true.
The problem is not our faith because if we had none we wouldn't be praying at all and any faith is enough because Jesus said faith as tiny as a mustard seed could move mountains. Faith is not the inhibitor.
The real problem is that we don't understand what prayer is and how it works. Even the phrase "how it works" is both misleading and indicative of the problem. Prayer is not a mechanism. It's not a trigger. It's not a mystery that when solved makes God your "slave".
We could spend the next several hours going over 'unanswered prayers' in the Bible prayed by believing men and women. I call them unanswered not because they weren't answered but because they weren't answered in the way or at the time that matched the request.
Abraham and Sarah prayed for a child for 25 years after God has promised them one. That doesn't even count the years prior to that. The baby did come but after much heartache and after both of them had given up.
So then if believing people pray prayers that are in line with God's will and character (which is what "in My name" means) and get no apparent answer, what did Jesus mean when He said "ask anything and I'll do it."?
We could talk about Jonah's 'unanswered prayer' but that's too easy. We could talk about Paul’s unanswered prayer' too but since we're followers of Jesus why not talk about His 'unanswered prayer'. Jesus? He prayed and God didn't answer? Yes. More than once actually but let's talk about the big one. Jesus is facing death. He prays three times. "Father if it is possible let this cup pass from Me." Jesus does not want to face the cross. He pleads to be released from the excruciating pain of both carrying our guilt and being separated from His Father. I submit to you Jesus was more desperate about this request than any we have made. However you will note that Jesus prayed with a conditional clause. "If it is possible...". True prayer never boxes God in a corner. Jesus never forced His own will on His Father. He made His heart known yet left the decision to Dad.
Jesus is our example. He said "pray in My name". "Pray as I would pray". We're not praying to a genie. We're praying to our Father who loves us more than we love ourselves and knows the full story. Sometimes it appears that He answers immediately. Sometimes years and decades pass. Sometimes it appears He never answered at all. Eternity will tell the story and we'll thank Him for doing what was best rather than what we asked.
Make your heart known to God and then trust Him that He's doing what is best which might be far better than what you asked. This is what it means to pray like Jesus. I guarantee you Jesus is eternally grateful that God did not take that bitter cup from Him.

John Day 143 - Keeping His Commandments
14:15 “If you love Me you will keep My commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you."
Our church divides the year into 4 quarters and we study a different book or theme from the Bible for each quarter. This quarter we're studying Jeremiah and I came across a light bulb statement in Jeremiah 2:8 that ties to what Jesus is saying here in John. Here it is:
The priests did not say, ‘Where is the Lord?’
And those who handle the law did not know Me;
The rulers also transgressed against Me;
The prophets prophesied by Baal,
And walked after things that do not profit.
Pretty significant problem when those leading the religious world have no connection to the God they profess to be teaching about. Talk about confusion and misrepresentation.
John 14:15 says literally in the Greek "If you keep on loving Me you will keep the fully intended purpose of My commandments." Or put another way: "You will always guard the end goal of My commandments."
Once the religious teachers (who handled the law but did not know the Author) came to Jesus trying to trick Him. Their question was "Which is the greatest commandment in the law?"
Jesus replied "Love the Lord your God with all your mind, heart, soul, and strength. The second is like it. Love your neighbours as yourself."
Love is the law. Jesus' response was unexpected. They did not see the law as love because they didn't know the Author. This lead to another question: "Who is my neighbour?"
The question itself betrays the fact they didn't know God. They had carefully categorized people. Different people had different value and some were neighbours and some were not. God has no such system. He has no favourites. Jesus demonstrated this over and over by crossing borders, both visible and invisible. He healed everyone in need regardless of class, colour, nationality, gender, or religion. Had these teachers of the law known the Author they would have known the law was love and that it applied equally to everyone.
By washing their feet Jesus had demonstrated class eliminating love. Now He says to them "If you continue to love Me as I have loved you, My law of love will play out through you just as I designed it to. And I will send you a Helper and He will lead you deeper and higher and wider into My love."
We'll talk more about this Helper tomorrow...

John Day 144 - Don't Settle
"And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you."
Today I'm not interested in defining the distinctions or roles or identities of God thr Father, Jesus, and the Spirit. I have had such discussions and also studied deeply on my own. I am coming to the conclusion that it ends up being a search for what isn't there. Philip wanted to see God and Jesus basically said "I'm right here Philip". Now Jesus is saying He is leaving and the Spirit is coming to take His place. However His last comment is "I will not leave you alone, I will come to you." Mind bending. Jesus is leaving but Jesus is staying just in another way. He won't be visibly walking the dusty roads of Galilee or teaching in the Temple. He won't be touching blind eyes in a way that we can see or speaking audibly in a way that all can hear.
The point of this promise from Jesus to those who are seeking to follow Him is not about identifying the details of how or who or what. The point is that we won't be left alone.
When Jesus was baptized God spoke from heaven. Some heard what He said while others only heard what sounded like thunder. One voice, one sound, yet some heard words while others heard thunder. Now Jesus is saying that when He returns to them in the form of the Spirit of truth, some will be able to receive Him and some will not. This seems odd yet when we think about it the same was true when Jesus walked this earth. Some were open to Him while others were closed up like a vault. One God. Two reactions. Two kinds of people.
Now I want to focus in on an intriguing thing Jesus said to them. He said "He dwells with you, but He will be in you." A change is coming. God's Spirit has always been present with humanity. He is that inner voice that some follow and others try to silence. However God's Spirit is about to do something He has never been able to do. He I'd going to inhabit men and women. It's a truth I believe we have lost sight of. We have settled for ab experience with God that dare I say is an old testament experience. We cry out to Him when we are in trouble but then keep Him on the outside. We want His help but not His presence. The truth is that before the cross this deeper experience was not available to humanity. This is why Jesus said we would do greater things than He did. The cross would release a new dimension of connection between heaven and earth that was never possible before.
He is with you but He will be in you.
This truth was foreshadowed in the Old Testament when the presence of God manifested by the cloud and pillar of fire went from being with them to dwelling in their midst in the Most Holy Place of the Sanctuary. This was only possible once the work of building the Sanctuary was complete. Jesus is the True Sanctuary and when His mission was complete a new closeness with heaven was unlocked.
When we finish the gospel of John we'll move right on to Acts and see what this new reality looked like. We'll also discover we've been settling for far less than God has for us. Some day their experience of the Spirit of truth living in them will be repeated just as God's presence entered the temple again in when Solomon's temple was completed.
He is with you but He will be in you.
Don't settle for less...
You will search for Me and you will find Me when you search with all your heart!

John Day 145 - 'Keep' His Commandments
19 “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. 20 At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. 21 He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”
22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?”
23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. 24 He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me."
Jesus came and lived among us as one of us but did so with the character of His Father inside Him. It made Him radically different from us. He didn't seek position or applause, wealth or fame. He didn't favour some over others. He didn't base His decisions on popular opinion or on what He thought would get Him ahead. He was not arrogant or proud yet He was not weak or indecisive. Most of all everything He did was driven by selfless love.
Now as He is about to complete His mission He is telling His disciples that after He leaves He will only be known and experienced by some and not by all. There were two disciples named Judas, one has already left to betray Him. Now the other asks an obvious question. "Jesus if you are going to show Yourself again why to only us and not the world?"
Jesus' answer is deep. He was not saying He would only manifest Himself to the eleven. He was broadly dividing humanity into two groups. One group that embraces His word and the rest who reject it.
In fact, if you go back a couple of verses He talks about those who keep His commandments. We automatically assume this to be a behaviour statement. However the Greek word is defined as "keep, guard, watch over".
The truth is the law of God is a definition of both His character and how His government operates. That unchangeable law is constantly under attack. It is constantly being twisted and misrepresented. Religion has been and still is too often a haven for hatred, prejudice, bigotry, racism, nationalism, sexism, and division. As Jeremiah spoke about yesterday, too often those who handle His law do not know Him. His law becomes an ugly hammer held in the grip of hating hands.
The true nature of those who are His are those who guard and watch over His commandments. They keep or preserve the true meaning. These are the ones to whom Jesus will manifest Himself. When religion had become a house of hate and horrors in the dark ages Jesus manifested Himself to Martin Luther and others like him. Men who saw in the law the character of God and at the same time a church empty of it. These men rose up and spoke and lived with power.
In our day hatred is again rising. With it will rise the opposite. Men and women who will shine in the darkness because they have guarded the true meaning of His Word. They will be a light in the darkness. Jesus will manifest Himself to them and through them.

Love wins.