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

Monday, 30 November 2015

John Day 193 - Am I Peter?

18:8 Jesus answered, “I have told you that I am He. Therefore, if you seek Me, let these go their way,” 9 that the saying might be fulfilled which He spoke, “Of those whom You gave Me I have lost none.”
10 Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus.
11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?”

Normally I don't struggle to identify with Peter. Quick to speak. Slow to think. Always thinking he is right etc... but this night is different perhaps because the scenario is just so hard to wrap my head around.

I try to imagine what is going through his mind at this moment. He was just told maybe an hour ago or two before that he was going to run and deny even knowing Jesus. Now he is right beside Him swinging a sword even though outnumbered and certainly short on weapons compared with the soldiers. Odd though that he hits Malchus in the ear. Did he miss? Did Malchus move just in time? Was Peter going to kill a man right in front of Jesus? A man who was not even a soldier? What was he thinking? Was he thinking? Maybe he was anxious to prove his loyalty? Maybe he simply reacted from fear? Jesus has already "turned himself in". What was he hoping to achieve?

Whatever it was the act demonstrates clearly that Peter was completely on a different page than Jesus. It shows he is still trying to keep Him alive not realizing the time has come for the Lamb to die.

What lessons can we draw from Peter here?
1, It's possible to walking side by side with Jesus and still not have a clue.
2, Personal opinions of how things should be or how things should go die hard, if at all.
3, Personal opinions of how things should be or how things should go can drive us to do really well intentioned but stupid things.
4, Jesus does not need defending. His church does not need defending. Love wins without fighting. Put the sword away.
5, Even when we really mess up because of a lack of understanding or maturity Jesus knows our heart.
6, Jesus has miraculous ways of fixing our mistakes.
7, Think before you speak or pull your sword.

What lessons can we learn from Jesus here? There are many. I am choosing the three that impact me most this morning.
1, Jesus has accepted His mission in life as bitter and unfair as it is. "Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising it's shame..."
We were never asked to love or even like the hand we were dealt. We are only asked to keep our eyes on Home and trust Him in the journey.

2, Jesus loves us enough to correct us when we are wrong, even in public.
3, Jesus loves His enemies so much that He heals one while being falsely accused and betrayed and arrested. What's even more amazing is that He knew his name. God knows my name, and is working on my behalf even when I'm working against Him.

"We love Him because He first loved us."

Sunday, 29 November 2015

John Day 192 - Light In The Darkness

18:4 Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward and said to them, “Whom are you seeking?”

5 They answered Him, “Jesus of Nazareth.”

Jesus said to them, “I am He.” And Judas, who betrayed Him, also stood with them. 6 Now when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

7 Then He asked them again, “Whom are you seeking?”

And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”

8 Jesus answered, “I have told you that I am He. Therefore, if you seek Me, let these go their way,” 9 that the saying might be fulfilled which He spoke, “Of those whom You gave Me I have lost none.”

As I read this I tried to put myself in the "shoes" of each participant. What was it like for Jesus? What was it like for Peter? What was it like for Judas? What was it like for the soldiers? Everyone there knew Jesus personally except for the soldiers. They would only have known Him by rumour or stories. We can't forget that early on in His ministry Jesus healed a Roman centurion's servant. Had that story circulated among the ranks of the military. Did it travel from Capernaum all the way south to Jerusalem? Soldiers are often transferred from one location to another? Is it possible that the same centurion is posted in Jerusalem now? Possible but impossible to know. What we do know is that the fame of Jesus has spread all over and no where is He more talked about or controversial than here in Jerusalem. I wonder how many of the soldiers didn't want this assignment? Again impossible to know but interesting to consider. One thing I am fairly certain of is that no one in that scene expected Jesus to just hand Himself over. The soldiers and officers came with weapons. They expected resistance, bloodshed even.
Yesterday I found myself in the middle of a dispute that ended up having police involvement. I was unsure for a time if fists or even guns would become involved. It was tense. The antagonist in the situation was a lot stronger than any of us but we were more than him in number.

I thought of this scene of Jesus the enemy. He was stronger but outnumbered. They had weapons, He had none. They were filled with fear and uncertainty. He was calm and in complete control. Even as the hunted Jesus was the lead figure. So full of God's peace and presence and character was He, that when He stepped forward into the light of the torches the whole detachment of officers fell back. They literally were overpowered simply by His presence. Light came into the darkness and the darkness could not overcome it.

Here is the truth: Jesus was not taken. Jesus gave Himself. Jesus was never a prisoner in our hands. Jesus was a volunteer taking our place. Jesus was never overpowered. His mere Person was overpowering yet He humbled Himself to be lead away like a criminal.

Here is the scene as described by the prophet Isaiah centuries before:

53:6 "All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He opened not His mouth;
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
So He opened not His mouth."

John tells us Jesus knew ahead of time everything that was going to happen yet He stepped with purpose from the shadows at exactly the right time and said "I Am the One. Let these men go. I Am the One"

Do you see it? Satan is called the accuser. When he comes to accuse us Jesus will step forward and show the scars in his hands and feet and side and declare "I Am the One who paid in full. Let these go free."

Even as He faced imminent torture and death Jesus' first priority was the freedom and safety of His friends.

I can't help but love a Man like Him.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

John Day 191 - Timing

18:1 When Jesus had spoken these words, He went out with His disciples over the Brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which He and His disciples entered. 2 And Judas, who betrayed Him, also knew the place; for Jesus often met there with His disciples. 3 Then Judas, having received a detachment of troops, and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came there with lanterns, torches, and weapons.4 Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward and said to them,“Whom are you seeking?”
5 They answered Him, “Jesus of Nazareth.”
Jesus said to them, “I am He.”

Today we will explore the question of why it was at this moment that Jesus stepped with purpose into the hands of His enemies knowing full well it would end in death. We clearly saw yesterday that it was His purpose but that does not explain the timing. For over 3 years He has been avoiding the attempts to kill Him but on this night He hands Himself over. Why?

There are many reasons I am sure. We will highlight three of them.

1, It was Passover. Many centuries earlier the children of Israel under the leadership of Moses were about to leave Egypt and slavery behind. Nine plagues had already fallen on Egypt and the tenth was imminent. God had warned everyone that this last plague would leave the firstborn of every family dead unless they took the blood of a Lamb and applied the blood to the door frames of their houses. It sounds gruesome and bizarre but sin is gruesome, like the mass shooting in Colorado yesterday. Evil is increasing and we are powerless to stop it. God offers help in our helplessness and back then He offered the help of the blood of a lamb. Of course the blood did nothing. Rather it was the act of listening and following His instructions that demonstrated who believed Him and who did not. That night every first born in a home marked with the blood of a lamb was safe while in every other home they died including the son of the Pharaoh. From then on every year the people of Israel celebrated the Passover (when death passed over them). Now Jesus, the true Lamb of God hands Himself over to have His blood spilled so that death will pass over everyone who believes.

2, Prophetic timing. In the book of Daniel a time line was laid out for the Messiah. From the command to return from Babylon to rebuild the destroyed city of Jerusalem until the end of the era of the nation of Israel as God's special nation would be 70 weeks, or 490 prophetic days which is 490 years. Then Daniel was shown that in the middle of the final week or 7 years of that prophetic time period the Messiah would be cut off but not for Himself. The prophecy is actually more detailed than that predicting the exact time His public ministry would begin, the time He would die, and the time the nation would fully and finally reject Him ending the 490 year prophecy. All of it happened exactly on schedule. In addition Peter asked Jesus once how often people should be forgiven. Jewish tradition said three times. Peter could see Jesus was far more forgiving and asked if it should be seven times. Jesus replied no but 70 x 7 times. Jesus was saying far more than "you should forgive a lot." What He was actually saying was the extent of my forgiveness is on full display in the prophecy of Daniel. I Am the Lamb of God that takes say the sin of the whole world. My forgiveness is limitless.

3, Jesus was the Light of the world. He came to shine a spot light on the true character of God. For that revelation to not be wasted He needed others to continue His mission of making the Father known before He left. The disciples were those "light bearers" which is why He said to them "You are the light of the world". He could not die until they were ready and as we have seen they only figured out Who He was at the last minute. Had Jesus died before this they would not have been ready and the mission would have ended with no one to carry it forward.

Are there more reasons? For sure. The bottom line is that God knows the end from the beginning and His timing is always perfect and He is always in control. Evil can only stretch so far and last so long. It is all under His watchful eye, calculated to bring an end forever to satan's reign of terror.

As the hymn writer so eloquently and profoundly wrote: Farther along we'll know all about it. Farther along we'll understand why. Cheer up my brother. Live in the Son shine. We'll understand it all by and by.

Friday, 27 November 2015

John Day 190 - Living With Purpose

18:1 When Jesus had spoken these words, He went out with His disciples over the Brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which He and His disciples entered. 2 And Judas, who betrayed Him, also knew the place; for Jesus often met there with His disciples. 3 Then Judas, having received a detachment of troops, and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came there with lanterns, torches, and weapons. 4 Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward and said to them, “Whom are you seeking?”
5 They answered Him, “Jesus of Nazareth.”
Jesus said to them, “I am He.”

I have seen a lot more movies in my lifetime than I probably should have. Many of them end with that feeling of "there is 2 hours I'll never be able to get back." They all sound so good by the description on the back and once in a while they truly are a worthwhile story but too often they disappoint. I grew up a huge fan of the Hardy Boys mystery series. Classic good guys foiling the bad guys. Whether it is a book about the good guys versus the bad guys or a movie, rarely do you see the good guys walk up to the bad guys and say "here I am".

Notice I said rarely
There are times that it happens. Times when the good guys know that based on the circumstances of the conflict surrender is the best option.

Jesus was not caught by the bad guys. He was not trapped. He was not the victim of some masterful plan from which He could not escape. Multiple times prior to this night He had walked away from their attempts to kill Him without any trouble. We're not talking about defenseless pacifist Rabbi who can't run or fight. We're talking about a Man who walks on water, raises the dead, and tells the weather what to do.

But on this night He just walks up to the soldiers with their weapons and torches and says "I'm your guy."

The obvious questions are why and why now and why not before?

Do you remember what Jesus said back in chapter 12 when this evening began? 

“Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour."

There it is again: purpose. Jesus did not come into this world as one of us to be a mighty conqueror in the Hollywood sense and ride off into the sunset with His fair maiden. He was announced by the prophet John the Baptist as the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. Now Isaiah 53 is about to be played out. The Lamb is silently and submissively going to the slaughter not as a victim of evil genius but as Man on a mission.

There is something deeply powerful about knowing, understanding, and living your purpose.

Check out what Revelation says about those who follow Jesus:
"And they overcame him (satan) by the blood of the Lamb (Jesus) and by the word of their testimony (the lives they lived), and they did not love their lives to the death."
In simpler terms they loved God's purpose for their lives more than they loved their own survival.

Look how Hebrews 11 describes the lives of those who lived with the sole purpose of serving God in a world hostile to Him:
11:33 "...who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. 35 Women received their dead raised to life again.
Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. 36 Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tested, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—38 of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.
39 And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, 40 God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us."

Survival is rooted in the belief that this life is all there is. Sacrifice is rooted in the belief that there is far more. Jesus knew that the "far more" all depended on His mission. The bridge from death to life was across His own back. He walked into that garden knowing far more about what was to come than even His enemies did. To turn from this was to turn from the very reason He was here.

Tomorrow we'll explore the why and the timing more. For now I'll leave you with this thought:
It is better to die with purpose than to live without any...

Thursday, 26 November 2015

John Day 189 - What Drives Your Living?

18:1 When Jesus had spoken these words, He went out with His disciples over the Brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which He and His disciples entered. 2 And Judas, who betrayed Him, also knew the place; for Jesus often met there with His disciples. 3 Then Judas, having received a detachment of troops, and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came there with lanterns, torches, and weapons. 4 Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward and said to them, “Whom are you seeking?”

Some would say this is just stupid. People don't and shouldn't willingly walk into a trap but Jesus did. So did Daniel. Then the obvious question is why? Why would an otherwise intelligent person say "If you want to kill Me here I am?"
Why indeed?

There are two basic reasons for living. One is to survive and do our best here and now. The other is to live with purpose for reasons that stretch beyond the here and now. One is instinctual, the other is done with meaning and intention. The will of animals and humans to survive is incredible. To live no matter what is built into us. It takes a lot to destroy that drive to survive. We applaud as heros those find ways to defy the odds and escape imminent death. There is nothing wrong with wanting to live but there is a more powerful way to exist in this world.

Purpose. More powerful than the instinct to survive is a life lived not to survive but to accomplish a set task. Living is great but living with purpose and meaning is far greater. Driven people who live not just to breath but to create and accomplish the seemingly impossible inspire and amaze us. Living with a purpose that transcends our own life is the greatest of all.

Daniel was born like every baby. He was taught about God like billions are. He faced adversity like billions do. Life was not kind to him. His parents were murdered by a zealous regime set on conquering the world. He and many others were captured and taken to the capital city of Babylon at a young age. The intent was to train them to some day return to their homeland as leaders loyal to Babylon. The language was different. The religions were pagan and strange. The customs and food were all unfamiliar. The Bible tells us that from day one in that strange place Daniel purposed in His heart to serve the God of heaven. At that young age in those surreal circumstances he chose his life purpose. 

Fast forward nearly 70 years. Daniel has worked under 4 kings and 2 empires. God has worked amazing miracles for him personally and for his friends. He has seen a tyrant king become a follower of his God. He has seen an empire crumble before his eyes just as a prophet of God said it would. He has been given visions of the future. He has talked with angels. He has lived a life of purpose under God that was both full of trouble and of triumph. Now in his later years but still full of life and energy Daniel is once again being challenged. Jealous colleagues have found a way to kill him by using his loyalty to God against him. All Daniel has to do to escape their plot is either not pray to God or do it in secret for 30 days.

So easy. I mean what is simpler than praying in secret? No one needs to know. However Daniel had a custom that was part of his life of purpose. Surrounded by people who did not know his God, Daniel determined to make Him known by the life he lived. Every morning and every evening at the times appointed by God Daniel would open his window that pointed toward Jerusalem and pray. Some might misunderstand this as showing off. Jesus actually told the religious people of His day to stop praying in the streets and go pray privately in their closets. However Daniel wasn't doing it to show off. He was sharing his faith with people who did not know his God. He wanted them to know the true Source of his kindness, faithfulness, and success. He wanted even his enemies to know that his stellar service record and flawless life were not an accident.

Daniel's life purpose made praying publicly under the threat of death of greater importance than ever. What message would it send if suddenly he withdrew to save his own skin? Daniel's worldview was simple. God had brought him to this moment against incredible odds and it was up to God what should happen next. There would be no hiding for the sake of survival. There would just be living as usual - with purpose.

See you tomorrow when Jesus steps with purpose into the trap Judas has set.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

John Day 188 - The Hour of Prayer

18:1 When Jesus had spoken these words, He went out with His disciples over the Brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which He and His disciples entered. 2 And Judas, who betrayed Him, also knew the place; for Jesus often met there with His disciples.

The Passover meal has ended. All conversation and teaching that followed the meal is over. In reality the public ministry of Jesus is ended. Nothing will ever be as it was again. There are so many Bible events where the crossing of water marked the end of one era and the beginning of another. Rivers and bodies of water of other shapes and configurations of mark borders and divide lands and peoples.

Moses led the nation across a sea to mark their freedom and separation from Egypt. Joshua led them across Jordan into the Promised Land. Perhaps most fitting in relation to this night is when Elijah and Elisha crossed the Jordan. Elijah had mentored Elisha to take over his role as prophet and now Elijah is leaving. The last leg of the journey before Elijah was taken up was passing over the river. Now Jesus leads His eleven across the water marking the end of one era and the beginning of another. Here the 'mantle' passes from Jesus to them. The Teacher is leaving.

Did the disciples understand the significance of what was happening? No but they knew something ominous was about to happen. Their responses to Jesus' words following meal indicate that they are very uneasy and confused by Jesus. He's acting strange and talking in riddles that don't have them feeling warm and fuzzy to say the least.

They cross the water and enter the garden of Gethsemane. This too is reminiscent of an Old Testament story. Judas is heading toward the same garden with the authorities. How did he know where to come? How did he know where Jesus would be?

In the book of Daniel there is a story of betrayal with intent to murder. Daniel is a loyal adviser and high ranking official of King Darius. His counterparts are jealous of him and they hatch a plan to get rid of him. The plan is specifically designed around Daniel's prayer life. They know He is a man of prayer. When the hour of prayer comes for Daniel they know exactly where to find him. Every morning and every evening you could mark time by Daniel's opening window. He never missed. He never skipped. He was never late. He never changed location. Like the rising and setting of the sun Daniel was always found in the same place at the same time for the same reason day after day after day. His enemies knew it and they used it to trap him.

Of course like Jesus, Daniel was not trapped. He knew what they were doing. He knew the trap they had set. He knew they would come. He knelt in the same spot at the same time anyway.

John tells us plainly that Judas knew where to find Jesus because Judas knew His pattern. Jesus came here often, frequently, habitually. When in Jerusalem this was the place of prayer and Jesus never skipped it. He never missed it. He was known by those who knew Him to be in that place at that time for the purpose of prayer.

What is my point? There are two things that struck me profoundly about this. The first is the thought that above everything else Daniel and Jesus were known by their prayer life. Am I? Would those who know me best know where and when to find me? Am I so in love with My Father that I wouldn't miss our times together for anything? Do others know that about me? Could my enemies even plan to intercept me at my place and time of prayer?

Secondly both Daniel and Jesus knew their enemies were coming. The law of survival would dictate that it would be wise to at least change locations. They could have prayed somewhere else and even at a different time to avoid detection. Certainly there is nothing mandated about where or even when we pray. Why did they stay the course? Why did they purposely put themselves in the line of fire? A skeptic would say that what they did was just plain stupid. Was it?

We will explore that and more tomorrow.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

John Day 187 - Love Wins

17:26 "And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”

Jesus declared the essence, the character, the person of God by His life. He is quickly heading toward His final declaration. Notice why He is doing it. "...that the love with which You loved Me may be in them..."

The life Jesus lived made it possible for the love of God to be experienced by the disciples. What kind of love was it? It certainly wasn't the kind that bubbles wrapped Jesus from all harm and trouble. One of the biggest criticisms leveled at God is that if He is so powerful and so loving why is there so much pain and suffering in the world?

The life of Jesus answers that question. The love and power of God were not used to shield Him from pain and suffering but rather to send Him headfirst into it. Think about it: Born under a death threat that lead to an indiscriminate killing spree. Forced to become a refugee in Egypt. Returns home after a regime change. All the while his father Joseph isn't really His father and everyone knows it. His mother is an assumed adulteress and He is a presumed bastard. He has siblings. We are not certain if they are older or younger but we do know they appear to be against Him. He is raised in Nazareth which by all accounts is the armpit (or worse) of the nation. His family is poor as evidenced by the meager offering of doves by his parents in the temple. This was the least amount that could be given as an offering and signified poverty.

That's just His childhood and growing up years. As an adult coming into the public spotlight He was railed against and literally followed by the religious leaders. They repeatedly tried to trick Him and twist His words and misrepresent Him, much like a political campaign these days only far worse. When those tactics failed they attempted to kill Him on several occasions. He was laughed at, argued with, and doubted by His own family, even His mother. They even tried to kill Him in His own home town. He never owned anything of significance and spent His three and a half years in ministry homeless.

All of this was the reward for being true and honest with everyone always. He had no skeletons to hide in His closet. There were no scandals to smear across the headlines. Every day He served, helped, healed, taught, and/or traveled to where He was needed next. His own 'loyal' disciples often questioned Him and sometimes flat out argued with Him. And we haven't even arrived at the cross yet...

Great life.

Then Jesus prays "I have declared Your name and will declare it so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them..."

Excuse me? At first glance I would say that if the love of God in a person's life leads to that I'd rather go without...

All through John we have been talking about blindness, about not being able to see even when our eyes are open and looking. Love is perhaps our greatest blind spot. We see love as getting, as receiving, as happiness and roses. Our love stories always end with everyone happily riding off into a blissful life presumably filled with only good things.

Then we come to Remembrance Day/Memorial day and we pause to honour and remember heroes - men who crawled around in the mud in foreign countries on their bellies while bullets and bombs flew around like sparklers on a birthday cake. We honour them as heroes because they were willing to endure and in many cases die so that others could have what an enemy would love to steal from them.

You see human war is but a tiny representation of a much larger reality. There is a cosmic madman who has this world hostage. The constant turmoil we see and blame on God is only a result of our being in the clutches of an unseen enemy. We're in the darkness and don't even know it and fighting against the One who loves us enough to do something about it.

Jesus prayer ends with the plea of a dying Man seeking back up. Until now He has fought alone. The Twelve were with Him physically and certainly they loved Him but they were clueless as to His real mission. He had fought alone and His fight was soon over. He was praying that His last declaration of the love of His Father would ignite in them the desire to be last instead of first. That the flip would switch in their hearts and the love that lays everything down for the sake of others would grip them as it had gripped Him.

Greater love has no man than this, but to lay his life down for his friends.

All this time we thought love was getting when really it's giving. All this time we have kicked and screamed at an apparently absent and indifferent God because we aren't getting enough when the truth is that He has already given Everything. His prayer now is that we'll see and follow.

I would rather suffer than watch my children suffer so really in all of this Who is suffering the most? War is ugly but Love Wins!!!

Monday, 23 November 2015

John Day 186 - With Him?

17:24 “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. 26 And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”

Do you remember way back when Jesus met Nicodemus at night? Do you remember the conversation they had? Do you remember that Jesus told him "Unless you are born again you cannot see the kingdom"? There are other times Jesus used this phrase and all point to the same truth. It all fits the entire message John is conveying as well.

Confused yet?

Look what Jesus says to His Father. "I want the ones you have given (the eleven) Me to be with Me where I Am."

Really? Aren't they all together in the same place at that very moment?

Now look at the reason why Jesus desires to have them 'be where He is': so they can behold the glory God has given Him.

He goes on to say "they know that You sent Me". He transitions from talking about them being where He is and seeing His glory to talking about what they know so far. Then He ends with talking about His love being displayed so they it can be in them.

Are you seeing it? Jesus was never referring to a physical location when He requested that they be where He is. We have an expression in English for when someone is explaining something to someone else. They will at times stop and ask "Are you with me?" This is never a question of about physical location. It's a question of being in the same mental space. It's a question about an alignment of thought.

The disciples have grasped that Jesus came from His They still have not grasped the extent of His mission or the nature of His kingdom. They are not "with Him". In fact when they scatter physically and 'abandon' Him it is only a manifestation of what was already true. They weren't in the same place. When John the Baptist declared "Behold the Lamb" they heard the words but missed the concept. When Jesus said "you are ever seeing but not perceiving and hearing but not hearing" they missed it. When Jesus said "Greater love has no man than this but to lay down His life for Hid friends" and then went on to say "I no longer call you servants but friends" they missed it.

John (the disciple) actually framed his entire gospel to reflect the reality that we see but don't see. He used the analogy of light and darkness. Jesus is the Light but we are in the dark and so accustomed to the dark that His light is more blinding than revealing. In the dark you can have your eyes wide open and see nothing. In the dark you can learn to navigate around objects and through buildings yet have no knowledge of your surroundings. To go from complete darkness to bright light is literally painful and it requires time to adjust. The darker the darkness was and the brighter the light is the longer it takes to adjust.

Jesus is praying for His eleven to be able to adjust to His light so they can see as He sees. Specifically He wants them to "see" His glory. He wants them to see that losing is winning and dying is living. He wants them to see that the complete surrender of me is the path into His kingdom. He wants me to see that in His kingdom the greatest honour is bestowed on those who are "the least".

Several years ago our church had a small set of offices in China. The gospel work they were doing was in secret and illegal. One day the authorities came and raided the place. The only believer who stood unflinching for Jesus in the face of the communist authorities was the humble unassuming janitor who happened to be there cleaning at the time. She saw His glory and no need to fear them.

If only we could see as He sees. Are you with me?

Sunday, 22 November 2015

John Day 185 - Glory and Oneness

17:22 And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: 23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.

Glory - a revelation of God's character. It's not to be quickly passed by that there is a tight link between God's character and oneness. Unbreakable bonds, whether it be between friends, a married couple, or any other bond between people, you will find common factors at the root of all healthy relationships. There is a saying that circulates on Facebook and I've seen it in other places too. "A true friend is someone who knows all your faults and loves you anyway."

Love that is conditional is not love. There are many who argue about God and His love and whether it is conditional or not. Here is the truth. The giving of Jesus to us was an undeniable proclamation of God's unconditional love. Jesus didn't come for some, He came for all. God so loved the world... has no limits or conditions. Jesus' interactions with people from every walk of life and across borders etc... showed His love had no limits or restrictions.

So what's with all the conditions? The conditions without exception lie with us. God so loved the world... that whoever (again no limits) believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. Even an atheist will admit the end of this life is death. God is not saying "love me or die". He is saying "I am offering you an alternative because I love you. It is yours for the choosing. The cost is all mine and the benefit is all yours."

The condition is if we want it or not. Love never forces. Freedom is an inseparable component of love. Anyone who restricts it in any way does not love you.

Now back to glory and oneness. Being one with someone can only occur to the degree that the elements of God's character are present in the relationship. This is a universal truth that cannot be changed. Two atheists can have a healthy relationship only if the elements of God's character are present in the relationship.

Bold ideas to be sure but truth nonetheless. Think about it. The only one of the Twelve who left did so of His own choosing. He decides the character of God was not for him and the kingdom of God was not a place he wanted to be. Jesus extended love and mercy and suffered long with Judas. He was stealing money and Jesus did not expose him. He was planting seeds of doubt and discontent and Jesus did not stop him. In fact what happened in Judas is exactly what happened in Satan. Slowly discontent and selfishness were cultivated and coddled until he could no longer abide in the presence of Jesus.

That's definitely not the choice God wants us to make but His love leaves us free to choose and our choices create the future conditions we will experience as a result. I am free to be selfish and arrogant and use people for my own purposes but the resulting conditions will be loneliness, misery, and an inability to trust or be trusted.

Glory embraced produces oneness with God and with others. Glory rejected produces the opposite and the choice lies with us.

The world is right to scratch their heads when they look at the "people of God" and see the traits of Satan.

My favourite author wrote: "When the character of Christ is fully reflected in His people He will come and claim them as His own." This reality will occur. To be a part of it or apart from it remains with us.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

John Day 184 - Jesus Prays For Us

17:20 “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: 23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me."

Jesus has prayed for the eleven, now He turns to the rest of us. Jesus invested Himself in these men. He showed them things and told them things that no one else saw or heard. One Seed became eleven seeds. Those eleven seeds became millions of seeds as they shared not only what they knew but more importantly what they had become through their connection with Jesus.

As the book of Acts unfolds we get front row seats to the explosive growth of those who chose to follow Him through the living witness of Peter, James, John and all the rest.

Now Jesus begins to pray for these new believers and by extension is praying for us. What request does He make? What does He want for us? What is His dream for those who choose Him?

It sounds pretty basic what He says. He wants us to be one just as He and His Father are one. He also says why He wants that for us. He wants our lives to be a witness so that the world will believe in Him. He wants a chain reaction of living witnesses who in their living are undeniable proof of the reality of God.

What does this oneness look like? What exactly is Jesus praying for?

When people get married we say that two become one. We use visual symbols like two candles to light one larger candle or mixing two colours of sand together. We say they are one and we draw up legal documents and we make incredibly vast and comprehensive promises. However many of these couples do not become one. Often sooner and sometimes later they decide they just can't be together any more. They decide they aren't really one after all. For some it happens shockingly fast. For example Britney Spears first marriage ended after 55 hours. Some marriages seem fine until a major test or life changing event occurs. Statistics say only 10% of marriages survive the loss of a child.

Jesus is not speaking of a temporary oneness. He is not speaking of a oneness that can be here today and broken tomorrow. He is speaking of a bond so real that there is no possibility of creating two from it. The eleven were all in. They had left everything and changed everything in their lives so that they could be with Jesus. We'll even see as we go forward that their denial of Him was actually caused by their love for Him.

People love true stories of romance because each contains the promise or at least the hope that such love can exist.

The love Jesus had for His Father and for us was limitless. It was self denying and self sacrificing. His prayer was that that love be replicated in us. He did not want self sacrificing love to end with Him. He knew the only antidote to the fear, insecurity, anger, and hate in the world was self denying love.

I sense that more every day the world is in need of such love. I am strengthened by the fact Jesus prayed for it to be a reality because He also said whatever we ask for in prayer that is in harmony with the character of God will be given. It was given to the eleven and it has been alive in every age.

"Father answer His prayer again - in us!"

Friday, 20 November 2015

John Day 183 - Deep and Wide

17:17 "Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth."

I am not even sure what the correct word is to describe the insights I am being given by going through the gospel of John so slowly and allowing my understanding of it to slowly build as the stories unfold in their order. I have always hammered on the drum of studying the Bible in context but this kind of slow walk through verse by verse is even more powerful than studying a single verse or idea in the context of the verses around it. I believe the reason is because the true context for any verse or story in John's gospel is the entire gospel. It all serves to tell one story. The story is that Jesus is the word or the revelation of God. Seeing Jesus in action is to both observe and understand the character of His Father. As much as it is true that Jesus came to die on the cross it is more than that. That crowning act of His mission here was only the climax of what He had been doing all along. It was the final and fullest demonstration of the heart of God. That's why in the famous verse John 3:16, Jesus frames His sacrifice as a revelation of the love of His Father: "For God so loved that He gave..."

Here in His prayer to His Father He uses three key words: sanctify, truth, and word.
Sanctify: 37 (hagiázō) means "to make holy, consecrate, sanctify; to dedicate, separate"
Truth: 225 (aletheia) truth, but not merely truth as spoken; truth of idea, reality, sincerity, truth in the moral sphere, divine truth revealed to man, straightforwardness.
Word: 3056 (logos) a word, speech, divine utterance, analogy.

Now that we have all that background let's put the puzzle pieces in order and create the picture John wants us to see.

Jesus was made a man like us in every way. He set aside His 'Godness' and became fully human.
That's why He said "Apart from My Father I can do nothing." Jesus became one of us yet was set apart from us for a holy purpose. All through the Old Testament there were countless examples of ordinary people and things being set apart from all their identical counterparts for a specific purpose. The cups spoken of in Daniel that were taken from the temple in Jerusalem and brought to Babylon were not special because of their materials or design. They were special for the sole reason that they were set aside and designated for the unique purpose of being used in the Temple. Think of it this way. They were not chosen from among other cups because of anything special about them. They became special because they were chosen for the Temple. Their association with the Temple gave them a value and sacredness they did not have within themselves.

Samson was set apart even before his birth yet Samson was just like everyone else. God had a unique purpose for his life even though Samson was not unique in and of himself. He was set apart.

In just a few words Jesus describes His own role in the world and the role of the eleven. Jesus was a human set apart (sanctified) by truth, by the revelation of what God is actually like. No more shadows. No more pillars of cloud or fire. No more distant voice booming from the heavens or from a mountain top. No more speaking through men to describe Himself. Jesus was not sent to describe God with words. His life was the Word. The disciples were not won over or convinced or changed by the words of Jesus. Rather they were astounded, impacted, shaken, rewired, and set on a new path by His life. He was the Word.

There is but one final scene to be lived to seal the picture of God's heart. That is why Jesus said "I sanctify Myself that they may be sanctified..." They will only become to the degree that He is a revelation of what becoming looks like. He is the pattern. If He stops short than their development will also stop short. If He does not complete the mission for which He was set apart than neither can they become everything they were meant to become.

Do you see it? Jesus was sent into the world as God in human form. His life was the exact representation of God's character. The cross was the final chapter and if avoided we would never have seen God as He really is. The disciples would never have been given the picture that was necessary to propel them into their special calling after Jesus returned to heaven.

So deep, so wide. It stretches the mind in ways no other Story can.

Jesus set apart (sanctified) to be the Word that tells the Truth about God to a human race drowning in half truths and lies. He became so we can become...

See you tomorrow 
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Thursday, 19 November 2015

John Day 182 - Not With The Crowd

17:14 "I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth."

"I have given them Your word" means Jesus has given the disciples heaven's perspective. Every time Jesus demonstrated the heart of God by helping someone that the culture and religious leaders forbade, the disciples stayed with Him. When He crossed the border into Samaria and spoke to the woman who was an outcast even among her own people they stayed with Him. When He turned over the tables in the temple defying both the corruption and authority of the priesthood they stayed with Him. Day by day and act by act He was putting heaven's perspective in their hearts. Eventually it got so bad that they couldn't stay in Jerusalem because the leaders wanted Jesus dead. Still they stayed with Him.

This past week the French authorities have been conducting raids. They have been arresting not only any suspected terrorists but anyone and everyone who has connections to them. It makes sense to be hated for committing such terrible atrocities and it makes sense to speak with anyone and everyone connected to them in an effort to gain as much information as possible.

However Jesus never killed anyone. He in fact did the opposite. He brought life back to dead people. Jesus never hurt anyone. He healed sick people. Jesus never hated anyone. He brought love and hope to those alienated and cast off by their own. So why was Jesus on the most wanted list? Why was He hunted? Why were his disciples hated just by being connected with Him?

These past few days in Canada, a place of peace, freedom, openness, and multiculturalism innocent Muslims, mostly lone women have been insulted, attacked, and mistreated here on Canadian soil by fellow Canadians. Why? Guilty by association. What did these women do wrong? Nothing.

Human nature really makes me sad some days. We react without thinking. We judge without knowledge. We harm without realizing we are becoming what we proclaim to hate.

Why was Jesus so hated for being so good? Because He refused to conform to the norms that governed the culture and religion of the day. He refused to see certain people as less. He refused to allow borders, or colours, or history, or gender, or even religion to affect the value of a person. It was His non conformity that made Him hated. Nothing more and nothing less.

In a world increasingly giving in to fear and hatred prepare to suffer if you do not conform to group thinking. Keep loving no matter what. Keep treating every living soul as equal. Keep mercy and justice for all alive and well in your heart and in your actions. In two simple yet profound words: Follow Jesus.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

John Day 181 - The Joy of Jesus?

17:12 "While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves."
Today Jesus continues praying for His disciples. Yesterday He asked that they may become One in character with Himself and God the Father. Today He is asking that they might have His joy in themselves. This request really hit me today for two reasons. The first is that Jesus didn't seem all that joy filled when He was here. The second reason is because I haven't been all that joy filled myself lately.
First let's look at Jesus. He didn't seem very joyful when Satan was attacking Him in the wilderness with his temptations. He didn't seem very joyful when He walked into the temple to find it full of animals and money changers. He didn't seem very joyful when a man with a withered hand came into a synagogue one Sabbath morning and was treated like a leper. In fact it says Jesus looked at the congregation in anger. He never seemed very joy filled when His disciples showed a lack of faith on multiple occasions. He certainly didn't seem too full of joy at the tomb of Lazarus. I could go on but I think we get the point.
Lately, and especially since Friday, I have been less than joy filled. As I watch the media and society drawing lines and dividing over racial lines, political lines, religious lines, sexual lines, etc... and see the resulting vitriol and hatred being spewed often by both sides I see little reason for joy. It appears we on a crash course with some kind of hate inspired showdown.
It's in this frame of mind that I came to this passage this morning where Jesus is asking His Father to give His eleven His joy. Really? What joy is He talking about?
Then it hit me. Jesus was not talking about happiness or joy created by our immediate circumstances. It was just the opposite. He well knew their immediate future was about to get worse not better. He knew their moments of happiness created by life's moments would be few and far between. It was precisely because of that reality that He made this seemingly odd request. He knew they would need a joy that had a much deeper source than every day events.
Here is the illustration God gave me this morning. So far this fall we have had little rain and little snow. Typically this is the wettest time of the year here. If things persist as they are the surface of the ground will be dry next summer. Maybe even a drought. But guess what? Even if the surface gets very dry we will have water. Why? Because the source of our water is deep down below the surface where it is little affected by what happens far above on the surface.
Jesus had a joy so deep in His heart that even though sometimes He seemed less than joyful, none of those surface moments could really impact His joy. It had a deeper source. In His heart He knew who He was, where He had come from, where He was going, and what His mission would accomplish. He knew even though His own disciples would not always do the right thing or make Him proud or bring Him glory in every moment, ultimately they would be His forever. He revealed the true deep source of His joy when He said "You will deny but don't let your heart be troubled. In My Father’s house are many rooms. I am going to prepare a place for you... that where I am you will be also."
Jesus always kept His eye on the finish line and we must keep our eyes on Him. That is the source of the unshakeable joy He wants us to have.