Tag Archives: Faith

Wednesday with John — Gathered In

John 11:45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, 46 but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. 53 So from that day on they made plans to put him to death. ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
There are two damming verses in this passage for those chief priests and Pharisees.  Verse 47 is not about the people impacted by Jesus’s “many signs” but that those miracles have narrowed the Pharisees focus to themselves and a different set of personal pronouns; “we and our” in Verse 48. They have forgotten what their God-given purpose IS.  No longer are they maintaining God’s place and God’s nation for God’s purpose.  They think the real threat to their future is Jesus, not that God remembers His plan.

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
God never forgets His purpose is Jesus, “and not for the nation only.”  Jesus’s death IS the miracle of life that will display His purpose “to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad” throughout history.

What does it say about people?
God will reveal His truth even in the perverted context of man’s reasoning and the human tendency to focus on “we and our” instead of God and Jesus.

Is there truth here for me?
Many of those same people who “had seen what he [Jesus] did, believed in him, but some of them went to the Pharisees” and told them what Jesus had done.  They’d all seen Lazarus come out of the tomb with their own eyes but now they’ve separated into two groups.  I know there were other miracles where life was restored but the truth here seems particularly clear; “resurrection” is the dramatic separation between those who believe and those who need an expert to validate what they believe.  Resurrection is how God has gathered in His children to validate their faith and make it personal!

Wednesday with John – Clay

John 9:1 As he passed by, he saw a man blind from his birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 As he said this, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man’s eyes with the clay, 7 saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Silo′am” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. 8 The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar, said, “Is not this the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some said, “It is he”; others said, “No, but he is like him.” He said, “I am the man.” 10 They said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Silo′am and wash’; so I went and washed and received my sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.” ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
Jesus and His disciples spot a blind man, begging. Interesting that “in passing” turns into interaction that tells us so much more than the story of a man blind from birth.  The next interesting thing is the natural response of the disciples; why?  Why is he blind?  Is it punishment for sin?  Whose sin?  Jesus uses the most basic example of God’s creative power to give sight to a man who has lived in darkness since birth and show us the basic creative power of God can still work miracles.

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
“As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world…It was not that this man sinned, or his parents.”  The reality is this man’s blindness is only a symptom of the effects of that long ago “original” sin. Jesus is going to remove that symptom using what seems like the same material of mankind’s creation. “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being”…so “the works of God might be made manifest in him.”

What does it say about people?
The nature of sin’s hangover is right there in the disciples question to Jesus: “who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  Jesus gave this blind man physical evidence of the miracle to come, on his own body.  “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Silo′am and wash’; so I went and washed and received my sight.”    

Is there truth here for me?
Jesus urges His disciples, “work the works of him who sent me, while it is day” …even if you don’t “see” the final outcome.  This blind man’s first contact with Jesus is an odd anointing of clay and spit followed by being sent away to wash in the same pool of water used every day during the Feast of Tabernacles, the “living water” that represents the “pouring out of the Spirit” in relation to the coming of Messiah.  The reality of the first “light” of faith for this blind man is that he goes.  He goes even though he can’t see the one who is preparing him to be healed nor understand the method that is being used…and then He sees Jesus!

a Genesis 2:7

Wednesday with John + The Locus

John 3:22-30 NIV

Jesus and his disciples
spent some time
and baptized.
John also was baptizing
This was before John was put in prison
An argument developed
over the matter of ceremonial washing.
They came to John and said
the one you testified about
is baptizing,everyone is going to him.
John replied, “A person can receive only
what is given them from heaven.
I am not the Messiah
The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him,
That joy is mine,
He must become greater; I must become less.

• What is the general theme of the passage?
This is the same desert place where Jesus’s triumphed over His own temptations. That fact, and this place has now become the meaningful locus of the ministry of these two cousins that begins to merge their parallel tracks into the Cross of Christ.  There is some competitive controversy brewing between John’s disciples and a certain Jew[?].  Was baptism a process for purification by the symbolic removal of things determined by a set of rules that made you unclean OR was it an action of repentance with sincere regret and remorse for the unclean things only the heart knew?  John clearly settles the controversy with his own recognition of the greatness of Christ and His joy that he’s been given his role as the friend who attends the bridegroom.

• What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Spirit?) It’s year one of both Jesus’s and John’s ministry.  Jesus has been baptized by John who identified Him as the one sent from God.  Jesus has been through the preparation of His own temptations. Peter, Andrew, Philip and Nathanael have been called, the water has been turned into wine, the temple has been cleared and Jesus has begun his ministry of transforming faith from a corporate expression of worship to a personal one with a nighttime conversation with Nicodemus. 

• What does it say about people?
Human nature is competitive and competition can breed controversy.  The desire to control circumstances of obedience and observance happens because of the parallel tracks of faith and personal behavior. 

• Is there truth here for me?
Reading about Judea being the place Jesus returned after His own temptations made me think about my own baptism.  I was about 12, but it was a meaningless process until I met Jesus twenty-one years later. That was my own time in the desert of temptations that made me realize life is like parallel tracks for many of us who know there IS a God but that’s about it!  I knew enough to want to try to keep those two tracks somewhat parallel but still didn’t recognize that was my desert until the action of a repentant heart revealed there was more to life than  being “not Godless, but not Godly either.” That’s when my two parallel lines began to merge into the locus that looks more and more like a Cross to me.


Learning to Live Alone

John 1:1 In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.  2 He existed in the beginning with God.  3 God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.  4 The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.  5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. [NLT]

It’s almost a month since my husband was killed.  I have been so blessed and comforted by my family.  They have buffered the reality of my loss with their presence.   They’ve flown in from around the country to help me navigate the unthinkable reality of death with the basics of life; food, activity and the practical and legal details that are now a part of my life.  What was previously “normal” activity has now become a reminder of being alone but they have been the hands-on proof of God’s assurance that is not the case.  One by one they’ve returned to their own homes and this week I finally have to face learning to live alone in mine.

It’s scary because I’ve realized I have never actually lived “alone” before.  I moved from my parents home to my marital home nearly 63 years ago.  I chose this book of John to read and ponder in these next weeks because it was important to my husband and the book of John is where my life of faith began long ago.  I wasn’t physically alone then, but it was the place I first read the words that revealed Jesus gives life that spans all time, circumstances and relationships.  What was true then is still truth now. “The Word already existed…with God… The Word gave life to everything…and the darkness can never extinguish it.”  

The Third Chapter – James

James 3:13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. [ESV]


GK Chesterton said “A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed.”  I don’t know if he had meekness in mind when he penned that sentence but it seems like the reality that explains the “meekness of wisdom.”  My heart longs for absolutes based on God’s Word but I am not immune to the paradox Chesterton referenced.  My absolutes are just that – “my” absolutes.  They comfort me in a world of division, and hostility where even another believer’s faith can feel like a weapon of attack unless I agree with their absolutes.  That’s when the “meekness of wisdom” reminds me “the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” 

I’ve learned a lot over 40+ years as a believer in Jesus Christ but my faith is still just a small glimpse into the mind of God.  That glimpse has only become faith because of my confidence in Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  I don’t know it all, but the grace of Jesus has made certain that what I don’t know will not separate me from the Sovereign God who really does.  Some may doubt everything else I know but I have no doubt about that at all!

Remember Matthew 5:5? “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”  The “meekness of wisdom” for today might read ‘Blessed are those who don’t know it all but know the one who does, for the promises of their inheritance begin right here where they live now. Absolutely!’

The Third Chapter – Mark

3:1 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. 2 And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” 4 And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6 The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.  


This story seems odd to me.  Why was the man with the withered hand there on the Sabbath?   Had he just gone to the synagogue because it was the expected thing to attend?  Did he know Jesus would be there?  Did he want to hear what Jesus had to say?   Did he hope for healing?  He must have known of the hostility the silent group of Pharisees had toward Jesus.  He cetrtainly knew that healing on that day would be breaking the law even before he heard Jesus say “stretch out your hand” 
– Lesson 1: It takes faith to even consider there might be answers to your questions but from that faith comes the courage it takes to be willing to reach out to Jesus when you hear him speak.

Healing may have happened in a miraculous moment but the destruction of Jesus required a plan, and thankfully for us, even evil plans require time.  The Pharisees chose to leave the synagogue determined to use their spiritual power along with the political power of the Herodians to destroy Jesus…but God had a different plan so Jesus could continue his ministry
– Lesson 2: God can,and will, even use evil men and the time they spend planning destruction.   Jesus has the power of God that redeems men and their misspent time.  Through Jesus, evil will be overcome with good that accomplishes God’s plan for a future and a hope for us.


EPH 4:26 “In your anger do not sin.” Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. ESV

One easy response to conflict and anger is the the ostrich effect: a cognitive bias that causes people to avoid information that they perceive as potentially unpleasant. 

The ostrich effect may be comfortable but it has no power to make things right.  Anger is uncomfortable but it’s powerful and often feels right.  Don’t miss the reality this Scripture warns us of; “In your anger do not sin.”   Your personal faith is the power over those emotions of anger and conflict.  “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” and give “the devil a foothold.”  He plans to steal the power of your faith in the darkness.

Dear Friend,

1 Peter 5:8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. NIV


Dear Friend,
Be alert and watchful, of sober mind and spirit.  The devil is not an adversary content with luring you into sin but one who is intent on your complete destruction.  All my children are united in this struggle at this time of suffering…but I am the God of all grace who has called you beyond death to eternal glory with me.  I’ve given you faith to make you strong beyond your own ability to stand firm and resist.  I myself will support and strengthen you and make it happen.  Stay in toucha.

a A composite of ESV, NIV, NLT and NASB versions


John 15:16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.  [NRSV]


“Bear fruit, fruit that will last” is the curious qualification for the “whatever” in the response “SO…the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.” I’ve spent hours and typed many paragraphs these last few days trying to explain to myself what that specific “fruit that will last” is because it’s so important to that “whatever.”  

In the end I’ve discovered to bear “fruit that will last” is something far simpler and more personal and it’s my tie-in to Advent.  Jesus is our  gift of faith.   “Bear” usually implies the power to sustain without flinching or breaking and faith is the only “fruit that will last” long enough to make “whatever” a reality in our life.

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.


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.”