Category Archives: Wednesday

Living Evidence

John 15:7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. [NRSV]

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If you “accept and act in accordance with” Jesus what He says will establish a relationship of life between Himself and you.  What makes that matter is this reality: Jesus IS God.  The first assurance of John 15:7 is when you “abide” with Jesus, God Himself is alive within you and He understands the reality of whatever you ask.  That makes His answer perfect for what He knows you need.  The second assurance is God’s answer comes with a greater blessing “if you abide in” Jesus and let his words “abide in you.”  Your relationship of life with Jesus makes you living evidence of the glory of God. 

True Fruit

John 15:5  I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. [NRSV]

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So far John 15 has been all about repetition.  Over and over these verses have reminded us our purpose is to abide in the “true” vine. [Down through Jewish history the vine became the symbol of Israel. During the Macabees period of history, the symbol of the vine was on the coins of Israel. It was over the main doors of the synagogues. (Antiquities of the Jews by Jewish historian, Josephus (5.5.4)]  The symbol of the vine had become more about the nation than God.  Even the purchase of gold to add a branch or a single grape to those synagogue vines could be considered an act of worship.

It’s easy to be distracted from what “true” worship is and the fruit it’s meant to produce.  Jesus says “Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.”  Jesus’ challenge is to accept this one truth: a relationship to Him is the reality of a connection to God Himself.  He is the only “true” vine and the branches are carefully, and artfully cultivated and pruned to produce the “true” fruit of  worship: “to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” [Westminster]

Can You Believe?

Truth; John 15:3 You have already been cleansed [or pruned] by the word that I have spoken to you. [NRSV]

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Inspiration: Remember the Apostle Peter?  Remember how he protested when Jesus wanted to wash his feet?  Jesus’s response to Peter sounds just like John 15:3 to me – ”you’ve already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you.  

Reality: OK, this is a test!  Get a pencil and paper and write down the first five true things you remember Jesus has spoken personally into your heart.  Write them in the order you remember them without any concern about a timeline.  It doesn’t have to be a complete list and they don’t have to be written as verbatim scripture but they do have to be real to you.  AND THIS IS KEY: don’t go back and edit them in any way as you read them again. [you know it’s me I’m talking to]. The important thing is they ARE written in the order you remember them. 

•Test IS the root word of test meaning “to bear witness.”  Do not confuse this root test with the same word which means examination. It is true that when you take an examination you are a witness for your own knowledge and, unless you cheat, you are showing what you do or don’t know. However, here the word means a solemn telling of the truth of what you know, bearing witness for truth’s sake.
•english-for-students.com/test.html]

You may have already had the experience of writing or giving your testimony.  You know how difficult it is to distill the most important things Jesus has done for you from the many really good things that have happened in your life without turning it into an “I was and now I am” testimony.   I believe the results of your test are listed in the priority of their impact on you specifically.   Can you believe the things you just wrote down are an accurate recounting of Jesus and the Holy Spirit verifying “you have already been cleansed”?   If you can, that belief can make your list the perfect outline that moves what you wrote from that examination kind of “test” to  the root of a new “testimony.”   A testimony that bears witness for truth’s sake to the I AM.  My wish would be that you would use your results and write your own new kind of testimony.

This is my own “unedited” list.  My new testimony is only to show you an example of how effectively it can work.
1.  I have been crucified with Christ.  I have scars but they’re part of the testimony of my healing.
2.  There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus
3.  Jesus will complete the work he’s begun in me
4.  The greatest of these is love
5.  Lord help my heart, soul, mind an strength

Nobody wants to admit their inability to deal with life or being wounded.  Even healing can leave scars.  I want my scars to be changed from something that needs to be hidden to evidence of blessing.  I want to be like Jesus.  I want Him to be the power that allows me to believe and live as if I have “already been cleansed. ”  I want to view those scars as the revelation of a changed heart not a sign of condemnation.  I want to believe my soul has caught a glimpse of promised immortality, my mind has been challenged by the Word of God and I really do have the strength to live by the words Jesus has spoken into my heart – I AM “the word that I have spoken to you.”

Viticulture

John 15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower.”

This is another “new” experience. An offhand idea last Sunday has stuck in my brain.  What if I did a chapter verse by verse?  The sermon series at church was ending with John 14 but John 15 is one of my all time favorite chapters so that’s my choice to begin.

It’s going to be interesting because right off the bat there is a very short statement by Jesus.  The “vinegrower” is depending on the “true vine” to establish the vineyard. The quality of the crop is totally dependent on the ability of the true vine to multiply and reproduce itself while maintaining the exact properties it was chosen for.  

I barely dipped into the vast amount of information on the internet about the development of grapevines over the ages and found something I think strengthens the imagery of Jesus’ claim.  Long before the birth of Christ there are documented efforts of the struggle of vine growers to develop grapevines that were able to reproduce their desirable qualities without continually having to introduce variable characteristics from another vine.  

The Bible doesn’t waste it’s analogies.  Jesus could claim He was the “true vine” because He was the complete and accurate reflection of his Father who perfectly reproduces that same unique likeness within His followers.

Think, Hear, Remember

NIV Hebrews 3
• 1…think carefully about this Jesus whom we declare to be God’s messenger and High Priest…
• 7 That is why the Holy Spirit says, “Today when you hear his voice, 8 don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled, when they tested me in the wilderness…
• 15 Remember what it says: “Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled.”

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There’s a mystery involved in hearing the unspoken Word of this book we call our Bible.  We know the mystery involves our training to recognize guidance and respond to Word that can speak truth into the human heart.  “There is a beautiful story in the Old Testament where the prophet stands at the mouth of a cave and the Lord is passing. There is thunder, and the Lord is not in the thunder. There is an earthquake, and the Lord is not in the earthquake. There is fire, and the Lord is not in the fire. Then there is a still, small voice, and the Lord is in that voice. (See 1 Kings 19: 11–13.)” Intro to Following Jesus [Finding Our Way Home in an Age of Anxiety] by Henri Nouwen 

OK, it’s the Holy Spirit…√.  Do you imagine the writer of Hebrews was just casually writing “think carefully about this Jesus” or “today when you hear his voice” or “remember?”  The answer of course is no!  The Holy Spirit is the vital voice that teaches us to consciously respond to that mystery.  The “gentle whisper” that happens “today” when you allow Jesus to teach you is the Holy Spirit speaking the reality of the Word within you despite the noise of the world around you.  

The passage from 1 Kings ends with the question of the day.  “And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.  Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here Elijah [insert your name here]?”  I hope your answer is thinking, hearing and remembering.

Rest

NIV Hebrews 4:1 Therefore, since the promise of entering his REST still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. 2 For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed. 3 Now we who have believed enter that REST, just as God has said, “So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my REST.’”  And yet his works have been finished since the creation of the world. 4 For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: “On the seventh day God RESTed from all his works.” 5 And again in the passage above he says, “They shall never enter my REST.”  6 Therefore since it still remains for some to enter that REST, and since those who formerly had the good news proclaimed to them did not go in because of their disobedience, 7 God again set a certain day, calling it “Today.” This he did when a long time later he spoke through David, as in the passage already quoted: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”

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Rest is apparently something more than lack of activity.  That’s a good thing to know because lack of activity often seems impossible.  There are schedules to keep, projects that need doing, places to be and people to care for.  One of the first questions I asked as I began to write was why?  Why did God sound so peevish when he said  “So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest’” and then He even repeated it?

I looked at all the modifier words and phrases for “rest” in the 11 times it’s mentioned in the 16 verses of this chapter and here’s something I found that’s worth noting.  I’ve been looking at ”rest” as a break from activity when in reality every single mention of rest in Hebrews 4 indicates it’s God’s rest, not mine that’s involved.  God swears on an oath He will jealously guard the heart, soul, mind and strength of  “we who have believed” and entered the rest He’s completed for them.  The reality is God’s rest ”still remains for some to enter.“ In that rest lies His peace, His promises and the priceless value of ”the good news proclaimed to us.”

“God keeps renewing the promise and setting the date as today, just as he did in David’s psalm, centuries later than the original invitation: Today, please listen, don’t turn a deaf ear . . .[v6-7 MSG]” 

 

 

True North

Hebrews 6:1 So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start again with the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds and placing our faith in God. 2 You don’t need further instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And so, God willing, we will move forward to further understanding.

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A very important concept of faith every believer has to learn is renewal is not repetition.  Surely that’s the beginning of a whole new direction that leads us to “become mature in our understanding.”  Maturity and understanding have their ups and downs but God has a plan for that.  He’s built that plan into us with this expectation: redemption through Jesus has made possible a consistent sense of direction through the moral compass of the Holy Spirit.  

Welcome to my spiritual science lesson.  A compass has a small magnetic pin suspended inside it’s casing so that it’s free to move and respond to true north.  In between that magnetic pin and true north lies a magnetic field that is impacted by local disturbances.  Those dips and undulations can affect the compass needle’s ability to point to true north.  Users of a navigational compass have charts that help them recalibrate their compass as needed to compensate for those variations in the magnetic field and keep them heading in the desired direction. Does this sound at all familiar to you?  

God is true north.  The Holy Spirit is the small magnetic pin. We are the casing.  Faith is our compass. The inconsistent magnetic field is our world.  The local disturbances are the up and down experiences of life.  God’s Word is the chart that recalibrates  those up and down experiences  as needed to keep us heading in the desired direction.  “And so, God willing, we will move forward to further understanding.”