Category Archives: Matthew

Wednesday with John — Shared Identity

John 17:20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”  ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
Jesus prays that the truth He’s spoken to “these” He’s kept in the Father’s name will endure for “those who will believe in me through their word.”  He’s giving each of them a part of His own “glory” to unite them with the Father “even as we are one” so “the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”  

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus is asking the Father to grant their shared one-ness to those who “may believe that you have sent me”… in the future. 

What does it say about people?
It’s not unusual that people want to establish their identity with one another.  It’s exactly what Jesus prayed for us.  What is unusual is the ways we’ve chosen to do it.

Is there truth here for me?
Jesus’s trust is complete; that if “these” people [us] can experience that one-ness with each other they will confirm the reality of His ministry to the world.  The Father is going to answer that prayer by choosing to make His followers “perfectly one” in a very distinctly unique way…because of their shared identity with Jesus.

Sunday with John — Separated

John 17:11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 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 ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified[set apart] in truth.  ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
Jesus is guarding all those He keeps in the Father’s name so that while they are in the world His joy might be fulfilled in them.  For our sake He has dedicated Himself to giving us the truth that sanctifies and separates us from influence of the evil one.  

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus is going to His Father.  He has faithfully spoken the Word of truth to those the Father has declared His.

What does it say about people?
This world is a proving ground for the people of Jesus to define their identify in Him as separate from the lie of the evil one who says the world is his.

Is there truth here for me?
The world is not the left-behind place the devil would like us to believe it is.  The Father has never given up control over His creation and His world.  From Day One of Creation, the world was been a place of separation: the light from the darkness, Heaven from earth, land from seas, day from night and man from beasts, “and God saw everything he had made and behold, it was very good.”   But it wasn’t nirvana.  God wasn’t creating a puppet world.  It’s the devil’s lie that in this world we are under his control.  God’s choice for the free “will” of man was to show them the clear separation between the devil’s lie and the truth that Jesus is the way we “also may be sanctified in [His]. truth” because we are “not of the world.”   

Wednesday with John — Exciting

John 17:1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. 6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.”  ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
It’s all BOLD, the circumstances, the content, the intent and the focus.

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus prayed. He’d accomplished His Father’s work on earth and now His glory would once again be displayed in the Father’s presence just as it had been before the world existed.  Jesus was thankful for those the Father had given Him, who’ve received His Words as evidence for them from the true God. 

What does it say about people?
Believers in Christ hold within themselves a part of His shared glory with the Father.

Is there truth here for me?
The disciples have shared life with Jesus in every possible circumstance.  Over time the content of His life has become a real part of their own lives.  That content is now going to reshape the intent and focus for the rest of their own lives.  Jesus has declared these friends are God’s gift to Him and that He is glorified in them.  There’s something familiar about that. What the disciples have experienced in Jesus’s presence is new birth!  They were in the presence of Jesus!  For us that experience is wrapped in the mysterious phrase: “born again.” It’s really hard to try to define “born again” because Jesus is so personal in what He speaks to those to whom He speaks the Father’s truth.  But…now I’m excited because suddenly the familiar has become more real.  Let these things marinate in your heart from this priestly prayer.  Jesus is praying for you! You are God’s gift to Him!  You are part of His glory!  I didn’t restrain my use of exclamation points because I’ve just seen an exciting truth about “born again” that has changed the tense of what I’ve written to “You” into something very personal for me that has simplified my understanding of “born again.” I have been “born again” because “Jesus’s hour has come” in me!!!  

Sunday with John — Direct Access

John 16:25 “I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. 26 In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28 I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”  29 His disciples said, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! 30 Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.” 31 Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe?  32 Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
Jesus knows He’s been the physical connection to the Father’s love for these disciples for the time He’s been with them.  That purpose in His coming has impacted the words He’s chosen and the examples He’s shown them. He’s taught them how to build their own relationship with the Father. Now Jesus has a new urgency; He’s “leaving the world and going to the Father to make sure these friends know His purpose now is to confirm the reality of their direct access to the Father.  The Father’s love for them did not begin with His physical presence nor is it ending with Jesus’s withdrawal from them.  Jesus is “going” to fulfill His promise that direct access has always been the Father’s desire and despite the circumstances He will “overcome the world” and its tribulation to remind them He is the peace of their hearts.

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus has always had direct access to the Father.  The Father’s plan always included Jesus coming into the disciple’s world but now that plan is going to be fulfilled by Him withdrawing from it.  

What does it say about people?
These followers of Jesus aren’t just hearing the words He is telling them now.  They remembering the intimacy they have have shared together with Him and already experiencing the grief of that loss.

Is there truth here for me?
I wish John had spelled out the words of those “figures of speech” for His disciples.  They had Jesus Himself speaking to them and yet sometimes they only heard “figures of speech.”  The Bible has given us so many of Jesus’s words that we read and agree with but John has a caution he’s recorded for us: If the most intimate friends of Jesus could be guilty of reducing Jesus’s words to figures of speech how much greater is that a possibility for those of us who only see and hear Jesus through THE Word.  But John has also given us an example from “those” disciples to follow.  It’s an odd one to consider.  I can read what Jesus said… “In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf…”  as a figure of speech and skip right over the truth.  BUT…when I follow the example of those first faithful friends and ask for Jesus to show me the “more” of the Word, my heart hears the truth of Jesus saying; [in that day when you ask in my name you will understand that what you ask prompts the Father’s desire to answer you because I have revealed to you the proof of your direct access to His heart]. ❤️

Wednesday with John – Again

John 16:16 “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” 17 So some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this that he says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?” 18 So they were saying, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” 19 Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. 21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. 23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.  ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
In a little while I’m going away but then again in a little while you’ll see me. Things are going to be different then.  The sorrow you feel now will be forgotten because I am going to the Father.  I know you’ve got questions you want to ask.  The world will enjoy your weeping and lamenting but truly, truly I tell you your sorrow will turn into joy.  I will deliver you with the pains of labor that give birth to a new human being.  Again in a little while, your heart will no longer remember the anguish of your faith becoming your life.  Your heart will rejoice and be full and no one will be able to take that joy from you because you will know the Father has birthed it in you.

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus is going to the Father.  The Father is going to give you answers to whatever you ask in Jesus’s name.

What does it say about people?
We need to learn to trust “whatever” we ask in Jesus name is what prompts the Father’s desire to give us His answer, not that whatever we ask is THE answer.

Is there truth here for me?
Jesus knew the Father’s answer for my deliverance would have to be birthed inside me so my heart could have its questions answered and would be filled enough to recognize Jesus. “A little while” is the lengthy labor of finding the faith in my daily life is really finding Jesus, again, in a little while every day.

Sunday with John — Purpose/Identity

John 16:5 “But now I am going away to the one who sent me; and none of you seems interested in the purpose of my going; none wonders why. 6 Instead you are only filled with sorrow. 7 But the fact of the matter is that it is best for you that I go away, for if I don’t, the Comforter won’t come. If I do, he will—for I will send him to you.  8 “And when he has come he will convince the world of its sin, and of the availability of God’s goodness, and of deliverance from judgment. 9 The world’s sin is unbelief in me; 10 there is righteousness available because I go to the Father and you shall see me no more; 11 there is deliverance from judgment because the prince of this world has already been judged.  12 “Oh, there is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t understand it now. 13 When the Holy Spirit, who is truth, comes, he shall guide you into all truth, for he will not be presenting his own ideas, but will be passing on to you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. 14 He shall praise me and bring me great honor by showing you my glory. 15 All the Father’s glory is mine; this is what I mean when I say that he will show you my glory.  TLB

What is the general theme of the passage?
This small group has been bound together to function as “one” with Jesus in everything they’ve done and everywhere they’ve gone, until now.  Jesus is going away and they are only filled with sorrow.  The “one” that has been their purpose is now going to send a new identity into the world that will ease their sorrow and help them fulfill His purpose for “many” others…a Comforter.  That Spirit of Holiness will convince the world sin is a destructive truth of man but Jesus is God’s truth about righteousness that will separate their identity from the world, relieve the sorrow of their sin and replace it with the shared glory of Jesus and His Father.

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
…it is best for you that I go away, for if I don’t, the [Holy Spirit] won’t come. If I do, he will—for I will send him to you.

What does it say about people?
…none of you seems interested in the purpose of my going; none wonders why. Instead you are only filled with sorrow [but] When the Holy Spirit, who is truth, comes, he shall guide you into all truth,

Is there truth here for me?
Jesus WAS their purpose and now He’s going away.  No wonder they’re filled with sorrow.  How will they identify themselves now?  I was struck by the subtle difference between those two words, purpose and identity, and how similar this moment in those disciple’s lives is to my life as a follower of Christ today.  My relationship with Jesus began with a purpose, to learn to be like Him.  Purpose is like a placeholder but identity is what fills that place.  That’s exactly what Jesus was doing here.  He’d been the placeholder for these chosen men and His purpose had become their own but now it was time for more.  A new Spirit of Holiness that would fill His empty place with their new identity as placeholders for many others to find their identity in Jesus. It’s amazing to think that right from the beginning of creation God’s purpose was that Jesus should live on earth, as a man free of sin, to become my placeholder too.  The “one”  place where even in sorrow I might discover His new identity for me was that I could be a placeholder too.

Wednesday with John — Likeness

John 15:18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’  26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.  ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
Truth is hard to hear.  It evokes a harsh reaction from the world. The world hated Jesus without a cause because He spoke and made them aware of their sin.  How much more will they hate those who Jesus chose to save from their midst.  Jesus sent the Spirit of truth to help us get over ourself and bear witness about Him

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus is well aware that hatred and persecution by the world is part of His identity because He has identified sin by what’s He’s said and done. 

What does it say about people?
Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’

Is there truth here for me?
”Likeness” to Jesus is a critical element of Christian belief.  It’s difficult to read that being like Jesus may well include the hatred and persecution of the world. It’s difficult to be confronted with the reality that if they persecuted the perfect Jesus, they will also persecute me if that “likeness” begins to show.  Self-protection is the last barrier the Spirit of truth has to remove so when I “bear witness” to Jesus my words reveal “a servant is not greater than [her] master,” both to the world…and to myself.

Sunday with John — Clearly Defined

John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.  ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
My serious directive for you is that you feel for others the same intense, deep affection I have for you.  That is the sacrifice of your life that matters to me.  I want you to have this guiding principle to share in your relationships.  I don’t need a person who just responds to my authority and doesn’t understand what I’m doing.  I want someone who shares with others the bond of mutual affection they have with me.  I picked you as the best alternative for this time and place to carry the weight of that growth because growth is the result that reproduces my love in you. The Father’s answers will be given to you to the same extent you call on Him acting in accordance with me!  This authoritative order will become more natural as the Father’s answers start to reproduce the same intense feeling of deep affection I have for you in your own shared relationships.

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
All that I have heard from my Father and I have made known to you.  I chose you for a purpose.

What does it say about people?
You did not choose me.

Is there truth here for me?
Today my general theme of these verses was clearly defined using dictionary definitions.
Commandment — serious directive of a guiding principle
Love — an intense feeling of deep affection
Servant — a person who performs duties for others
Master — one having authority over another
Friends — someone with whom one has a bond of mutual affection
Chose — picked out the best alternative
Appointed — designated time or place
Bear — carry the weight, support
Fruit — result of growth that can reproduce the source
Abide — act in accordance with
Ask — to call on for an answer
Command — give an authoritative order.
So — to the same extent
One Another — shared relationship

Wednesday with John – Either/Or

John 15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 ABIDE in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it ABIDEs in the vine, neither can you, unless you ABIDE in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever ABIDEs in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not ABIDE in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you ABIDE in me, and my words ABIDE in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. ABIDE in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will ABIDE in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and ABIDE in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
The source of Spiritual growth and fruit is dependent on the connection to Jesus and that the Father is maintaining the vineyard.  We are the branches, pruned by the activity of Jesus in our lives through the Word.  The branches attached to the vine are sustained by it and kept clean by the pruning so their growth can produce fruit able to reproduce the source.  “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus is the true vine and [His] Father is the vinedresser.  The Father is glorified by the growth that proves the life of the branch is its relationship to Jesus.  Jesus’s joy comes from abiding in His Father’s commandments so He can share that joy with us.

What does it say about people?
Pruning happens in life with or without the vine. Abiding is a choice.

Is there truth here for me?
ABIDE
is an action word with two definitions.  Either I choose a) to accept or act in accordance with what it says OR b) I can’t abide or tolerate what it says.  Firstly in only 6 verses the word ABIDE appears 10 times.  Secondly the sing-song rhythm of all those “abides” made it easy for me to slide right over them as if abiding was a “given” because Jesus said “Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.”   It wasn’t until I re-read the verses using the Either/Or choice I realized all that repetition is more than a gentle reminder.  There’s an urgency to that word.   To “ABIDE” in Jesus is a choice in life you repeatedly have to make if you’re going to survive the pruning.

Sunday with John — God’s Own Memories

John 14: 25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here. ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
“The ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me…I do as the Father has commanded me…Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid…”. I’ve left my peace with you so after I have gone to the Father you will remember I said ‘I am going away, and I will come to you’…The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” and you will rejoice!

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
The Father is sending the Helper in Jesus’s name. Jesus loves the Father and obeys Him because the Father is greater. The Helper is a teacher and a reminder of all Jesus demonstrated about loving the Father. 

What does it say about people?
Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Is there truth here for me?
The day-to-day world is broken by dull memories of the intimacy people once had with the Father. Time and distance from that long-ago original home have erased much of the awareness of that intimacy.  But God’s heart has remained faithful and He still remembers the past!  It was God’s own memories of that lost intimacy that sent Jesus in the flesh to demonstrate how to live that perfect relationship with the Father day-to-day.  It’s was God’s own memories of that lost intimacy that brought Jesus to the moment of knowing His death would restore  what His life could not.  It was God’s own memories of that lost intimacy that sent an internal Helper, a Holy Spirit in Jesus’s name to teach dull hearts “all things” about how the Father would insure their future.  It’s interesting to consider that I am here this Sunday to write, remember and rejoice with you because of the completed plan that began with God’s own memories of our lost intimacy with Him.