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Monday, February 28, 2011

2/29/11 John 6:41- 51 Grace Sent

41 At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”
43 “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. 44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. 46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. 47 Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

Thoughts: Jesus was saying two important things with the same root.  The root is God's undeserved grace.  The two things are 1) Jesus is sent to us from the Father, and 2) We cannot come on our own- the Father draws us to Himself.  God sees the mess we are in, and at his own expense He comes to aid us in our trouble- sending help in the form of Jesus and pulling us toward Him.  It is not that we are climbing a spiritual ladder to heaven, but our ladder is broken- and God jumps down on our level and draws us up to His level.

Prayer: Thank you for your grace and mercy, Lord.  Apart from you we are nothing.  With you all things are possible.

John Calvin Abridged: The people did not understand because he was they thought he was the Son of Joseph (which was false) and was clothed in human flesh (as he emptied himself for our sakes of his divinity).  We also tend to look on Christ with fleshly eyes- forgetting his power.  Many make up monstrous things about Christ and the church in order to not believe.  He reminds them that it is a gift of God to be able to believe.  Though the Gospel is preached to all, cannot be embraced by all.  All are not drawn, but God bestows this grace on those He has elected. 

Sunday, February 27, 2011

2/28/11 John 6:36- 40 If the Father Gives, We Stay

36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

Thoughts: God is not a fickle giver.  He does not elect some and then unelect them.  His foreknowledge and omniscience allow Him not to have to back track.  It is important to recognize that the Father rescues us- making us a live and allows us to come to Jesus (vs. 37).  Jesus, working with the Father (cooperating with His will vs. 38) , will not drive us away either. He says this a second time in a different way- He will not lose those given to Him.  The Good Shepherd does not allow His own sheep to wander off forever.  We may think that the problems and even death will snatch us away from God, but even death doesn't have the last say. Jesus says He will raise us up on the last day- giving those who believe in Him (which is a gift from God) eternal life.

Prayer: Thank you Lord that your promises are true and believable.  Thank you for your faithfulness, your salvation, and your protection.

John Calvin Commentary Abridged:  If we do not relish the word of God, we should wonder if we are His children.  Those who do not believe are not His own.  Faith is not dependent on human will as if this person or that person may randomly believe.  Rather, "All whom the Father gives Him come to Him."  We can infer from this that all do not come.  We may also infer that God works so efficaciously that those who come do not fall away. 

Personal- please pray for Dr. J. Herbert Nelson as he preaches tonight and tomorrow night at Lake Murray Presbyterian.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

2/27/11- John 6:30-35 Spiritual Enrichment

30 So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.” 35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

Thoughts: Today we begin our Spiritual Enrichment services. It is a time to get a spiritual boost, stretch ourselves a bit, and to grow.  Here Jesus tells us He is the One who really enriches our lives- nourishes us, strengthens us, gives light to our tired eyes.  The other day I watched a video of a starving child in Uganda (thanks Becca Hancock).  The child was totally lethargic- unable to even sit up, until it ate some food.  Within minutes of eating the boy sat up on his own.  So Jesus energizes and satisfies us- giving us the abundant life.

Prayer: Lord, by your grace, give me a steady diet of your presence, your love, your hope.

John Calvin Abridged: The Manna Moses brought did not give them life- but now heavenly life is displayed before them.  The whole world is dead to God- except when Christ quickens it.  When we receive Christ by faith we take the food of eternal life.  To come to Christ and believe mean the same thing.  The eating is the effect of faith, rather than the faith itself (to eat Christ is not the same as having faith).

Friday, February 25, 2011

2/26/11 John 6:28,29 The Work of Belief

28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

(Jesus over Rio de Janero Brazil- Corcobado Hill)

Thoughts: What do we need to do to get on God's side; to make Him happy; to please Him?  It is not doing anything- except believing what is most important.  God has sent not many, but one.  Jesus is God's ambassador, His emmissary and we are called to believe in His message, and to believe in Him.  Jesus came to show us God is love as well as holy.  The Pharisees had no problem believing God is holy, but they had a problem believing God is love.  Jesus healed, helped, encouraged, told us to love both neighbor as well as enemy.  We are called to trust in this message but also trust that Jesus is the guide to God as well as God in the flesh.  Faith is greater than any work.  Faith gives the glory to its object, whereas works bring glory to ourselves.  God deserves the glory- so the greatest work is belief in Jesus.

Prayer: If the owrld tells me not to believe, help me still to believe in you. 

John Calvin Abridged: They were told to not labor for the things of this world.  But they were dull to the fact that faith is a gift from God.  They had spoken of works.  Christ speaks of one work: faith.  All that we undertake without faith is vain and useless; but faith alone is sufficient because this is all that God requires of us. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

2/25/11 John 6:22-27 Bread Christians

22 The next day the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake realized that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with his disciples, but that they had gone away alone. 23 Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.
25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
26 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

(John 6 Lambert Lombard)

Thoughts: Some criticized those who went to church because the church offered them food as "rice Christians."  Jesus criticized these people as "bread Christians" who only sought him out for what He could do for them physically.  In the not too distant past it would be similar to the person who came to church to get business connections.  Today some play to this desire portraying a "Health and wealth gospel"   in an effort to attract people to Christ.  Jesus knew the dangers of this and steered clear of it.  He encouraged the people to not work for the food that will spoil.  People do not live by bread alone, but some are focused only on this kind of bread.

Prayer: Help me, Lord to have a heart for the treasure above than the trinkets here.

John Calvin Commentary Abridged:  They sought in Christ something other than Christ Himself.  They sought Christ for the sake of their bellies and not for the miracles.  He who does not aspire to the kingdom of God, but rests satisfied with the conveniences of the presetn life, seeks nothing else than to filll their belly.  So in our day there are many who would gladly embrace the Gospel if it were free from the bitterness of the cross, and if it brought them nothing but fleshly pleasure in this world.  The object of our desire ought to be directed toward eternal life. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

2/24/11 John 6:16-21 Getting Us to Our Destination

16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, 17 where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. 18 A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” 21 Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.

(Walking on the Water; Ivan Aivozovsky 1888)

Thoughts: The unusual and the spiritual may frighten us.  Jesus calls to those who were frightened at seeing him walk on water by saying, "It is I don't be afraid." When they welcomed Jesus into the boat they reached their destination.   Today we face many storms, and difficult seas.  Economic turmoil, unrest among the nations, unbelief even among God's people.  But if we welcome Jesus into our situation- into our life- our purpose and destination will be achieved. 

Prayer: Come into my heart anew this day.  Calm the storms of my life and in my heart.  Help me to fulfill your purpose and destination for me.

John Calvin Abridged: Christ undoubtedly concealed himself until the crowd had dispersed. The other Evangelists relate that he spent the time away from the disciples in prayer (Mt. 14:23; Mk. 6:46).  Christ's miraculous crossing of the lake is intended to confirm their faith.  Pliny says the sea is six miles wide and sixteen miles long.  When Christ came to them they were in utmost danger.  The Lord allows his people to sometimes face danger in order that they may more plainly recognize him in their deliverance.  The other Evangelists tell us they were seized with fear because they thought he was an apparition.  An apparition may be an imposture from Satan or a bad sign from God.  But when they hear his voice, they obtain peace.  We learn from them that it is in Christ's presence alone that we have abundant cause for confidence.  He not only comforts Him with His Word, but calms the storm as well. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

2/23/11 John 6:12-15 The King who Refused the Crown

12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.
14 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

(Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld 1794-1872)
Thoughts: In the Middle East we see ruler after ruler refuse to give up their crown despite massive protests  Muammar al-Gudaffi is 69 years old and says he will die a martyr and see hundreds killed rather than resign.  In contrast to this is Jesus who was offered a crown after feeding the 5,000.  Jesus refused the crown.  It was a common trick for the Roman Emperors to pacify the people-and keep their crown- by giving out bread.  But Jesus gave out bread not to be crowned as a king for a temporary physical/selfish blessing.  Jesus knew his kingship did not depend on the applause of the people.  He was a king whether any recognized it or not.  Today, in a world of protests and turmoil, it is important to know who is on the throne.

Prayer: Lord, you alone are worthy of pride and honor, yet you refused it.  Help me to see to be more humble and satisfied.  Please lead and guide those who are our leaders. 

John Calvin Commentary Abridged: When they sought to make Christ King, here was some ground for what they did.  But they erred in thinking it was up to them to make Him king.  What kind of kingdom do they plan for him to have? An earthly one. We should learn from this how dangerous it is to follow our own opinion and ideas instead of God's word- for our understanding corrupts anything.  His adversaries tried to extinguish his glory- but the cross was a means to the salvation of the world and his spiritual kingdom.  If He had permitted them to make him king here, then he would have ruined his spiritual kingdom. They tried to make him king by force- that is against his will.  Yet obedience is the first step of true worship. We worship God aright when we receive Him as He presents Himself to us.

Monday, February 21, 2011

2/22/11 John 6:7-10 Bringing it to Jesus

7 Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 9 “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

Inside the Church of the Multitude in Tabgha- traditional site on the Sea of Galilee where 5,000 are fed.

Thoughts: This is similar to Elisha's multiplying of the barley loaves to feed a hundred, or the multiplying of the oil for the widow (both in 2 Kings 4).  Elishah only fed 100 with his twenty barley loaves, while Jesus fed 5,000 with five barley loaves- implying that one greater than Elishah was here.  Andrew had brought Peter to Jesus (John 1:40-42).   Andrew now brings the loaves and fishes to Jesus.  We should follow Andrew's example of bringing people and things to the Lord.  He changes everything, including us. 

Prayer: Take my all, Lord, and use it to multiply your grace.

John Calvin Abridged: Andrew wished to alert Christ of the greatness of the sum of money needed to feed so many, and that they did not have enough to entertain so many.  When Jesus commanded them to sit, they sat showing trust that God will provide.  So we should listen to God and trust in Him even though we walk in darkness as to how God will do it.  Let us learn to not be wise in our own ability, but amidst great confusion, continue to hold to a trust in God's ability to make things prosper, when we follow the guidance of God who doesn't disappoint his own people.  Christ gave thanks giving us an example of thanking God whenever we take food.  The things that God has appointed to us are evidence of his goodness, and we ought to give praise to Him with thanksgiving (1 Tim. 4:14).  Those who swallow food down like brute beasts are guilty of sacrilege.  When the bread grew at Christ's blessing, we are reminded that God blesses our labor when we are servicable to others.  Christ not only bestows spiritual life, but also cares about our physical life. Christ did not provide great delicacies for the people, but those who saw his amazing power here were obliged to find satisfaction with plain barley bread and fish without sauce.  We are so strongly attached to our outward means that it is hard to trust the Providence of God. 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

2/21/11 John 6:1-6 The Crowd Followed Jesus

1 Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), 2 and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. 3 Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. 4 The Jewish Passover Festival was near.
5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

(Feeding of the Multitude- Bernardo Strazzi early 17th century)

Thoughts: Matthew tells us (Mt. 14) the reason why Jesus was crossing the lake.  His cousin John was beheaded, and he was grieving and trying to get away.  There was no vacation here. Yet his concern was for their needs, and that the disciples be taught in this situation.  He did not say, "Let's go farther away before they get here."  He welcomed them and cared for them.  If Jesus was like this in his finite humanity, why do we limit God's care in his eternal, infinite love? 

Prayer: Thank you Lord, for your great care.  Thank you that you cared more for us and our needs than your own.  May I have grace to follow your example.

John Calvin Commentary Abridged:  John usually adds events the other Evangelists omit.  But here he repeats the same event they described for the purpose of transitioning to Christ's sermon which was related to this.  The other Evangelists relate that this happened after John was beheaded.  Christ was hoping to ease Herod's rage by being out of sight-out of mind.  The multitudes were convinced He was the great prophet.  John leaves out that Christ spent part of the day teaching and healing the sick.  The people were so eager to hear and see Christ that they forgot about their practical needs, and followed him out into the wilderness.  We should learn that we should not be easily distracted by our hunger, thirst, or physical needs from the worship of Christ. 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

2/20/11 John 5:45-47 The Law Accuses

45 “But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. 46 If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. 47 But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?”

(Moses- Rembrandt 1659)

Thoughts: Jesus does not have to condemn us- we condemn ourselves.  The reality is the law of life- what works and what doesn't.  The Law of the Old Testament is our convictor.  At the same time, our redemption is found in the Law too.  Sacrifice and forgiveness are built into the system.  Calvin says the Law convicts us but also guides us.  In the end the Law guides us to our need for a Savior, and to listen to what He says.

Prayer: Lord, help me to see my need for you through your Law.

John Calvin Abridged: We can learn from this how to handle obstinant and hardened persons- showing them the judgment seat of God.  The scribes boasted of Moses but were in disobedience to him. So Christ points out that Moses will accuse them.  Moses testifies of Christ because Christ is the end of the Law.  The tabernacles, sacrifices, ceremonies, and patterns all point to Him (as Hebrews and Stephen pointed out).  Christ accomodates his conversation to those who were listening- so he elevates Moses' authority as they respected him. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

2/19/11 John 5:41-44 Seeking God's Glory

41 “I do not accept glory from human beings, 42 but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. 44 How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?

Thoughts: Jesus was not trying to win an argument- seeking human glory.  He knew that he could prove every point with great reasoning, and even miracles- but if they did not have the love of God in their hearts they would not have ears to hear.  Jesus is God's glory made flesh.  But they were not seeking God's glory, but the glory of others.  Peer pressure may keep us from seeking God.  But deep in our hearts we are drawn to seek the applause of heaven more than the applause of others.  
Prayer: May I seek your glory and accept you more than seeking the glory of others and their acceptance.

John Calvin Abridged: Jesus was saying he did not care for the glory of the people, and it does not make him uneasy to be despised.  The malignity of the whole world does not take away from who He is or His high rank.  We should, by this example, at least be guarded to not be excited to anger when we are despised by others.  Christ says they do not love God because no one can love God who does not admire Him or submit to His authority.  So Moses tells us the summary of the law is to love God with all our heart, soul, and strength (Dt. 6:5). When He says He comes in the Father's name, He means that not only has the Father sent Him, but the Father has commissioned Him.  "If someone comes in his own name"- When we do not love or obey God we open ourselves up to follow false teachers or prophets.  Moses indicates that when false teachers come, it is a test to see if we love God or not (Dt. 13:3).  "How can you believe?"  This is a remarkable passage that indicates that the gates of heaven are shut against those who are too preoccupied with the things of this world.  There is no other way for people to be prepared to receive the gospel than to withdraw from the love of the world and look to God alone.  For us to seek glory from God alone, we should be overwhelmed with the shame of our sin, and flee to the undeserved mercy of God.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

2/18/11 John 5:31-40 A Testimony to Jesus

31 “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. 32 There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is true.  33 “You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. 34 Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. 35 John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light.
     36 “I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, 38 nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. 39 You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

Thoughts: Jesus did not testify to himself, but he left two to testify: John the Baptist and God (through His works).  John the Baptist was compared by Jesus to a lamp.  Lamps have limited fuel, and eventually burn out.  Though lamps are limited, they still show the way.  The Father testifies to Christ by the miracles that He did.  But Jesus also points out that the Scriptures testify of him as well.  Jesus notes that the scriptures tell us how to get life, and that life is found in the messiah's sacrifice, yet the people refuse to come to Christ. 

Prayer: Lord, help me to hear the testimony.  Give me ears to hear your Spirit testifying through scripture. 

John Calvin Abridged: God's testimony is always true, but Jesus did not use his own testimony.  He used John's testimony though that was extra.  He calls John a lamp to which they chose to be blind.  The Father's witness is found in Moses and the Prophets.  Christ cannot be known in any other way than the Scriptures.  Christ indicates their problem was that they were not looking into it deeply enough.  They will not come to the One who offers life because of their malice and stubborness. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

2/17/11 John 5:25-30 Christ the Judge

25 Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.  28 “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. 30 By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.

(Christ the Judge- Fra Angelico 1447)

Thoughts: Jesus is the giver of life, and we are judged by how we respond to Him.  If we see Jesus as a friend and someone to be followed then we are walking in the way of life.  If we see Jesus as our enemy, and the one to be avoided, then we are on the way to death. 

Prayer: Lord, may I be found on your side, in your way. 

John Calvin Abridged: Christ repeats in three different ways that he is given dominion (authority, life, and judgment).  Judgment here means rule or government.  He is appointed as the Son to be the Author of life.  The dead in graves includes (by synedoche) those who are dead spiritually.  The voice of the Son means the sound of the trumpet (Mt. 24:31; 1 Cor. 15:52). 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

2/16/11 John 5:24 Eternal LIfe Now

24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. (John 5:24)

(San Francisco Bridge in fog- we are crossed over from death to life)

Thoughts: This is one of the great verses in scripture.  It gives hope, it gives strength, and it gives assurance.  It tells us eternal life begins not after we die- but right now "Has eternal life" not "will have."  It tells how we might obtain this- by hearing and believing.  Once we hear and believe we actually cross over now from the way of death and judgment to the way of life and hope.  The cross over does not begin when we die- but begins now- when we hear and believe- life changes now- hope begins now- forgiveness starts bearing fruit now- peace gives us a foretaste now. 

Prayer: Thank you for the assurance that we can have eternal life now. 

John Calvin Abridged: Here is described the way to honor God so that no one may think that it consists soleley in outward performance.  Life is found by hearing and by hearing he means faith as he says shortly thereafter.  But faith has its seat not in our ears but in our heart.  By faith we are reconciled to God, acquitted of the condemnation of death, given the Holy Spirit and clothed with heavenly righteousness.  Shall not come into Condemnation- reminds us that we all are worthy of condemnation but there is a conditional acquittal.  Our happiness lies in the forgiveness of our sins.  We begin to live when God is reconciled to us; and how will God love us if He does not pardon us? Hath passed- the incorruptible seed of glory abides in us by hope.  Though life has only begun in us.  Christ declares that we are so certain of obtaining life that we ought not to fear death as we are united to the One who is the inexhaustible fountain of life.

Monday, February 14, 2011

2/15/11- John 5:19- 23 A Test of Honor

19 Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. 21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.

(Litmus Test- to tell if something is really a base or an acid)

Thoughts: Jesus claims divinity in several ways: 1) with the title "Son" (cf. Daniel 7 where "son"= messiah).  He claims divinity as 2) the giver of life.  In the Old Testament only God can kill and make alive (Deut. 32:39; 1 Sam. 2:6; 2 Kgs. 5:6).  In the Gospel of John- Jesus makes people alive now- giving them the abundnat life now (10:10).  He claims to 3) be the Judge (vs. 22).  Only the Righteous God can truly judge what is right or wrong, good or bad.  Only the watchmaker is best equipped to  tell whether the watch is working correctly.  He claims 4) to receive honor.  To not honor the Son is not to honor the Father- as not honoring the Prince means not honoring the power or authority of the King.  The Son gives life, judgment, and honor- so our test is whether we honor, follow, and give our lives to Him. 

Prayer: May I honor you, Jesus, as my Lord.  May my life as well as my words bring you honor.

John Calvin Commentary Abridged: We know that Christ was chosen, that the whole love of God might dwell in him, and might flow from him to us as from a full fountain.  Jesus then claims to be the author of life.  Christ found us dead, and gives us life now.  God not only raises us, but restors us (quickens) to life.  The Father governs the world in the person of the Son.  It is not that the Father sits in heaven with nothing to do.  Rather, He works in and through the Son, as the Son is the image of the invisible God.  The Father wishes to be acknowledged and worshipped (ie. honored) through the Son. the one who forms a conception of God without Christ takes away the half of him.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

2/14/11- John 13:34,35 The New Command

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Thoughts: In what sense was this new?  The Old Testament commands us to love our neighbor.  Jesus had certainly said that we should love one another before.  But it is new in that He asks us to love as He loved us.  How do you tell where the Church exists?  Is it where doctrine is perfect, or debate goes our way?  As Fredrikson says "The distinguishing mark of discipleship is not programs and signs, wonders or eloquence or ecclesiastical power, but Christ's love in us that allows us to love one another."  On Valentine's Day- we should remember our greatest example of human love is Jesus Christ who sacrificed his pride, his property, his comfort, his life for the good of the Church- for our good.  Christ reminds us that human love is not all about what we can get, but what we can give. 

Prayer: Help me, Lord, to love others on this day of love, because you have shown me the way to love others. 

John Calvin Abridged:  Christ calls this a new commandment because new commandments are easily remembered for their novelty.  So Christ was asking his disciples to remember the command to love as if it were newly made.  We may not be able to fully love as Christ loved, but we ought to still aim at this great goal of loving as He did.   Whoever wants to be a disciple and to be acknowledge such by God, let them pursue love of other believers with great diligence. 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

2/13/11- John 5:16-18 God still hears

 16 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. 17 In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” 18 For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

Thoughts: Barclay says that even carrying a pin in your robe on the Sabbath was a sin to them.  They even argued about whether a person should wear artificial teeth or a wooden leg on the Sabbath.  Jesus loosened their concept by reminding them that God is still on the throne- even on the Sabbath.  God rested from creation on the seventh day- but his governing and sustaining action goes on.  When Jesus said, "I too am working", he was equivocating his work with God's- a claim to divinity.  His calling God His Father (not "our Father"), also put Jesus in a special relationship with God.  We should admire Jesus for standing up for who He is - for our own good. 

Prayer: May I remember you are open for business 24-7 Lord.  You hear my prayers and offer your help.

John Calvin Abridged: Jesus did not say that the Sabbath Law is only temporary and no longer applies.  Christ implies that the holy rest which is enjoined is not violated when we do the work of God.  Jesus claims his Divinity when He speaks of working the works of God.  When it says He came from heaven it reminds us of why He came to earth. 

Friday, February 11, 2011

2/12/11 John 5:9b-15 Who Makes Us Well

The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, 10 and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.” 11 But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ” 12 So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?” 13 The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. 14 Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well.

(Questions of Pharisees and Herodians- James Tissot)

Thoughts: "God doesn't work that way!"  That was the attitude of the leaders of the people of God.  But the wind blows where it will- and God's Spirit works in ways we don't always expect.  Some people have such a milktoast image of Jesus that they also just gloss over verse 14b "Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you."  There are worse things than physical lameness, and that is spiritual and eternal sickness.  We should not think that repentance (stopping sinning and turning toward God) is not necessary.  Repentance and humility before God and according to His Word are of utmost importance  Those who teach that it is not need to hear Christ's words.  Christ makes us well in his timing and way. 

Prayer: Give me grace O Lord to perceive your hand at work, and to come humbly before you in repentance

John Calvin Abridged: While bearing burdens is forbidden on the Sabbath, Christ Himself allowed the man to bear it.  We should be careful therefore to avoid rash judgments until the reason behind the action is fully known. The cure of this man cannot be fully ascribed to his faith- as he does not acknowledge the Physician.  However, He did follow Jesus' command to pick up his mat so there was some measure of faith there. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

2/11/13 John 5:7-9 Moving By Faith

7 “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” 8 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

(Healing at Bethesda- Bartolome Esteban Murillo 1667-70)

Thoughts: The cure did not happen as the invalid thought.  The invalid was still frustrated, feeling he was stuck in a never ending problem.  Jesus called him to do the unthinkable by faith.  The man tried, and found that he could.  It is the same with us.  The world will tell us we are inadequate, not good enough.  But Jesus tells us to not be paralyzed but move forward. 

Prayer:  Help me to move forward in life by faith in you.  Keep me from being paralyzed by my own inabilities and inadequacies. 

John Calvin Abridged: The man does what any of us would do: limit the abilities of God to his own thoughts.  This example should teach us patience as thirty-eight years is a long time.  Let us, then, bear with patience the problems we have.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

2/10/11 John 5:1-6 Do you Want to Get Well?

1 Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. [4] 5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

(Carl Bloch 1883 Healing at Pool of Bethsaida)

Thoughts: There are many who like attention when they are sick.  There are some who are sick so long, they don't want to face the change of getting well.  There are many studies on prison recidivism (people going back to prison), indicating some just get used to the lifestyle and don't want to change.  "Cool Hand Luke" with Paul Newman is a classic example.  John says in a more general way, "People loved darkness rather than light" (3:19).  It is a hard to choose to live a better life, a Christian life.  There is something innate in us that keeps us from wanting what is right and good.  Many become very good at making up excuses, reasons, whole philosophies why we should not even try to follow Christ, or reach out to Him for help.  The first step of salvation and of healing is wanting God's help above our status quo of spiritual sickness. 

Prayer:  Lord, give me the grace and strength to want to get well for your glory.

John Calvin Commentary Abridged: Christ probably came at Pentecost to be subject to the Law in order to redeem us from the Law.  Bethesda's pool is called the sheep market because the sheep who were to be sacrificed were taken there.  Diseased people probably begged around the pool as people bought sheep and then went to the Temple.  It was a sad spectable to see so many lame, blind, and withered- those who could not be helped by human aid alone.  The Evangelist notes how long the man was sick to assure us of the reality of the miracle.  The man limits the assistance of God according to his own thinking by saying he had no person to help him down.  Yet God's goodness, often hidden from us, goes beyond the narrow limits of our faith.  Let us not be discouraged by the tediousness of the continuation of our afflictions.  God is a wonderful deliverer who can instantly remove our obstacles.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

2/9/11 John 4:46-54 Taking Jesus at His Word

And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.  48 “Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”  49 The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50 “Go,” Jesus replied, “your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed. 51 While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. 52 When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “Yesterday, at one in the afternoon, the fever left him.” 53 Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and his whole household believed.  54 This was the second sign Jesus performed after coming from Judea to Galilee.

(Healing of Centurion's Servant Paolo Veronese 1528- 1588)

Thoughts: This is similar to the story of the centurion in Matthew 8:5-13- where the centurion in Capernaum asks for his servant to be healed and Jesus heals him at a distance, with the centurion believing in Jesus' authority to heal.  Jesus' authority to command at a distance stands in contrast to the authority of Ben Ali in Tunisia or Hasni Mubarak in Egypt who commanded the people to get off the street, but more came.  When God speaks, things happen.  God says, "Let there be light!" and there was light. Jesus says, "Be still!" and the wind and the waves stop. He says, "Lazarus come out!"  And the dead man rises.  In John, the Word of God is tied to the power of God- which is found in the power of Jesus and His Word as well.  The implication is plain- we should, like this royal official (and the centurion of Matthew) take Jesus at His Word, for it is powerful.

Prayer: Give me grace, O Lord, to take you at your Word- acting on what you have said in scripture.

John Calvin Commentary Abridged: This was probably a royal official of Herod's court.  He believed that the life of his son was wrapped up in a single word of Christ.  We should learn from this that God's power is available whenever He promises us something. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

2/8/11 John 4:43-46 A Welcoming People

43 After the two days he left for Galilee. 44 (Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country.) 45 When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, for they also had been there. 46 Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine.

Thoughts: Luke records that early in his ministry Jesus went to Nazareth but was rejected there by Jesus' own towns people and distant relatives.  They even threatened to throw him off the cliff. John does not mention his going to Nazareth (not far from Cana)- perhaps on purpose.  John says little about Nazareth except quoting Nathanael who says, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"  Thomas Wolfe (speaking of Asheville, NC) said, "You can never go home again." The Galileans as a whole welcomed Jesus, but Jesus was not honored in his own town.  Jesus once said, "Whoever welcomes you welcomes me."  We are called to be a welcoming people in the name of the Lord.

Prayer: Help, me Lord to welcome others- especially those who come in your name.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

2/7/11 John 4:39- 42 The Gospel Offered to All

39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.  42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

(Sychar or Shechem location of Jacob's Well where Jesus stayed for two days, and many believed).

Thoughts: There is an innocense and excitement about a new believer's sharing their faith.  This woman was excited that the Jewish Messiah was also her Messiah.  Christ is not just for the Jews but for all people.  This is a breaking down of racial and prejudicial barriers.  There were many invitations offered here.  Jesus offered living water to the woman;  The woman offered her new-found faith to her people; The people of Samaria offered for Jesus to stay; Jesus offered all of them his teaching.  As Christians we are asked to go into all the world and offer the gospel-  baptizing and making disciples.  Jesus is the Savior for all people.

Prayer: Thank you for offering yourself for me, Lord.  Help me to offer your good news to others.  Give me that opportunity this week.

John Calvin Abridged: Christ's example of staying tells us that we ought not to refrain from working when we have the power to advance the kingdom of God.  Jesus made clear to them his teaching that He was the Savior of the world.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

2/6/11- John 4:33-38- Souperbowl Sunday

33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”
34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”

Thoughts: One in four children in America are in a food insecure situation.  We are still well fed compared to the rest of the world where one person dies every three seconds from hunger-related diseases.  As the price of gas goes up, the price of food goes up as well for the hungry.  Today is Souperbowl of Caring Sunday.  It is a way to remember the hungry in America, and give to those who are in need.  This offering was started by Brad Smith, now pastor of Eastminster Presbyterian in Columbia, SC- former associate pastor of Spring Valley Presbyterian- where the offering started.  Over $50 million dollars and 23 million pounds of food have been donated since 1993 when it first began.  Jesus said his food is to do the will of Him who sent Him.  Life is more than physical food.  But when we are fed spiritually, we also wish to help people physically.  Jesus was concerned with the souls of people primarily.  But he also healed the sick to show us that God also cares for our bodies.  Twice Jesus fed the multitudes (5,000 and 4,000).  The feeding of the 5,000 is the only miracle recorded in all four gospels.  Jesus turned water into a chance to reach a woman with living water.  He turned hunger into helping the disciples focus on the spiritually hungry Samaritans around them.  Physical and spiritual hunger and thirst are entertwined.

Prayer: Lord, may my food be to do your will.  Help me to understand your will about the hungry in this world, and take one small step toward doing something in your name.

John Calvin Commentary Abridged: Christ's main desire is to finish the work of the Father, and even then it was ripe for execution.  We care much about the future of our physical needs, but do not look down the road at our spiritual needs.  We should not seek to get credit for work, but throw our efforts in for the greater good. 

Friday, February 4, 2011

2/5/11 John 4:27-34 Seeing Beyond the Physical

27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” 28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.  31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”  33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?” 34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.

(Annibale Carracci 1593  Milan)

Thoughts: The woman had tried to steer Jesus away from the spiritual and back to the physical- water' drawing cup; Jews vs. Samaritans; Mt. Gerazim.  Jesus had pushed her spiritual button.  Now, the disciples come back wanting Jesus to not talk to the woman, and to eat something.  But his food was spiritual.  The woman was telling everyone about Jesus.  When our eyes are open to see beyond what our eyes can see physically, then we should tell others what we experienced.  I once was blind but now I see.

Prayer: Lord, May my food be to do your will this day.

John Calvin Abridged: The disciples' affront was because of their Master's honor.  Yet they forget that they themselves were not people of note deserving to be with the Savior.  The woman left her pitcher in a hurry to run off to tell others about Christ.  Jesus ate later, and allows us to eat and drink. But his point (in saying "My food is to do the will of Him..."), is one of focus and pointing out the importance of doing God's will even above eating. 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

2/4/11- John 4:25-26 Believing in the One with the Answers

25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

(Woman at the Well- Alonso Cano 1601-1667)

Thoughts: Her image of the Messiah was right.  She was longing for the Messiah to come to answer the questions.  Jesus was explaining that both Mt. Gerazim (where the Samaritan Temple was) and Mt. Moriah (where the Jewish Temple was) would be gone.  But such an unbelievable thought was hard to understand.  That the Messiah was standing there before her at the well was an unbelievable thought as well.  Yet, the next thing we see were the disciples returning, and the woman telling others that this might be the Messiah (the Christ).  Believers do not have all the answers, but we do know who does.  We should long for Christ to come and answer us.  In our day, many have questions and give up- fueled by their past and immorality.  Here was a woman with a darkly checkered past, but who did not give up on God- or believing He had the answer.

Prayer: Lord, may I find grace to believe that you have the answers for my need.  May my sin not blind me to faith in you.

John Calvin Abridged:  Christ had said a big change was coming.  Perhaps the woman was thinking the Messiah would restore all things when He came. Her statement implies three things 1) The Law was not perfect (and did not answer all questions); 2) She expects the Messiah to interpret the Father; and 3) The Messiah's teaching is perfect and we need nothing else.  We would do well to imitate this woman who was content to listen to the Messiah's teaching- not adding anything else to it. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

2/3/11 John 4:20-24 Worship in Spirit and Truth

20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

(Woman at the Well Carl Henry Bloch)

Thoughts: Worship is not a matter of place, but always a matter of the heart and of worshipping the right God.  The Temple in Jerusalem and the Samaritan Temple would soon be destroyed (70 AD).  Samaritan worship had major elements of truth in it, but also had ideas brought in by the gods of the people who were replanted in the area (Babylon, Cuthah, Ava, Hamath, Sepharvaim 2 Kgs 17:24,29-33).  2 Kiings 17:33 says this biting statement: "They worshipped the Lord, but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought."  Syncretism is a danger of a time when people elecate tolerance over truth, as in our day.  The other danger is not worshipping at all.  People are fooling themselves who say they are worshipping God on the lake while fishing, or on the golf course making a put.  Those who say it doesn't matter where or how you worship are missing the mark.  But those who narrow their worship beyond the prescriptions of the Bible are also taking away from worship.  The worship wars today are about styles of music.  Ironically, scripture doesn't prescribe any particular style- but is open to hymns, tunes, and spiritual songs.  Worship is gathering in truth and in spirit.

Prayer: Help me, O Lord, to give my heart to you.  Let me not be consumed with style as much as I am consumed with you.

John Calvin Abridged: "You worship what you do not know"- This is worthy of remembering and teaches us that we should not do anything at worship randomly or rashly: because unless there is knowledge it is not God we worship but worship idols.  All good intentions are struck by this sentence-as by a thunderbolt, for apart from the expressed Word of God-guided by our own opinion- we err.  What does it mean to worship God in spirit and truth?  It means to lay aside all the entanglements of old ceremonies and retain what is spiritual in the worship of God. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

2/2/11- John 4:16-19 Who Do You Call?

16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” 17 “I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” 19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet.

Thoughts: The sad thing is the woman has no one to call.  Today many are like this woman, who went from one partner to the next and are really left with no one to trust or call.  Deep inside she was thirsting for a deeper relationship with someone who was faithful to her and who really loved her.  In the end, the best spouse, the best partner will disappoint us.  But God will never disappoint us.  We cannot nor should we put a person or a relationship in the place of God.  Apparently this woman had, and the consequences one to call.  God is the One on whom we can always call. 

Prayer: Lord, when I call to you, you will answer me.  When I seek you, you will find me. 

John Calvin Abridged: When the woman mocked Christ, he replied by convicting her of her sin.  When people try to ignore Christ, they may not be able to come to Him unless they meditate on and are convicted of their sin. The fruit of Christ's reproof was her recognition of him as a prophet.