Monday, April 30, 2012

Monday, April 30th

Today's passage from the Chronological Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Psalm 102-104
Today's scripture focus is John 12:1-11

1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
 4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” 6 He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
   7 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
 9 Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him.

This is the last week of Jesus' life on earth and, knowing the Pharisees want to kill him, He returns to Bethany, putting the wheels in motion for His death.

He returns to a party held in His honour, for raising Lazarus from the dead.  What a party that must have been!  And Mary gave Jesus an extraordinary gift - perfume that probably cost about $25,000 or more, an expression of extravagant, limitless love!

In the words of John Piper (emphasis in original)....
It is a beautiful thing when the worth of Jesus and the love of his followers match—when the value of his perfections and the intensity of our affections correspond.

So true, isn't it? A beautiful thing indeed.

But Judas doesn't see it that way and he objects under the guise of concern for the poor.  So Jesus bluntly tells him to leave her alone.  And He gives 3 reasons for that - because the opportunity to worship Jesus in this way on earth would not last forever, because the ability and opportunity to care for the poor would always be there and if that was Judas' actual concern Mary's actions would not hinder that, and because He wanted Mary (and other true believers) to not lose the wonder of the Resurrection and the Life in the next week when that would be sorely tested as they watched their Lord tortured and crucified.

if any voice tells you to moderate our love for Jesus, do not listen. Let your affections for Jesus be lavish.
If any voice tempts you to want to be rich in money, do not listen. Jesus is your riches, and all that money can buy cannot compare to him.
If any voice tells you that his death is anything less than the triumph over death, do not listen. He is the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in him, though he die, yet shall he live. And whoever lives and believes in him shall never die.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: John 12:12-19
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: 2 Samuel 5:1-10, 1 Chronicles 11-12

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sunday, April 29th

Today's passage from the Chronological Bible In a Year Reading Plan is  1 Chronicles 7-10
Today's scripture focus is  John 11:45-57

45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.
   “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”
 49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”
 51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. 53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life.
 54 Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the Jews. Instead he withdrew to a region near the desert, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples.
 55 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. 56 They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple area they asked one another, “What do you think? Isn’t he coming to the Feast at all?” 57 But the chief priests and Pharisees had given orders that if anyone found out where Jesus was, he should report it so that they might arrest him.

The Pharisees reaction to this miracle of miracles is rather crazy.  They don't deny the miracle - that would be ludicrous.  It was a very public miracle.  Everybody knew Lazarus was actually dead.  And everyone could see that he was now alive.  They couldn't deny the miracle so instead, they deny Jesus, which is even more ridiculous.  

The key to that is really in v40 from yesterday.  Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”

If you believed.  Similar to that verse back in John 7:17 If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.

If we're closed minded, no miracle will teach us anything.  We cannot be convinced of something we don't want to be convinced of.  But when we're willing to be open to what God is going to show us, if our motives are pure and honest - He will honour that and He will show us the truth and we will see His glory.

I also find v50 interesting, because that's exactly what Jesus did for us on the cross - Jesus took the punishment for the whole nation (the whole world!) and died in our place.  Prophetic words from an unbeliever - it's amazing how God can use anyone to accomplish His purposes.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: John 12:1-11
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Psalm 102-104

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Saturday, April 28th

Today's passage from the Chronological Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Psalm 81, 88, 92-93
Today's scripture focus is John 11:38-44

 38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said.
   “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
 40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”
 41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
 43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
   Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

In yesterday's passage Jesus claimed to be the Resurrection and the Life - and now He proves it.

He raises a man from the dead, not just recently dead, but a man who had already begun to decompose.  Not that raising a man who had just recently died would be easy either, but this is another miracle in itself.  Skin, bones, blood - everything would need to be made new in order for Lazarus to become alive after being dead for days.

And if Jesus can do that for Lazarus - He can do that for us too.

But He waited.  He waited a long time - in the eyes of Mary & Martha and all those watching.  Why didn't He come sooner and heal Lazarus before he died?

Because Lazarus needed to die, and needed to be dead for a few days in order for Jesus to show His resurrection power.

We need to trust in God's power.  We need to trust in God's will.  We need to trust in God's timing.  Even when we can't understand it and have no idea why something is (or is not) happening.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: John 11:45-57
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: 1 Chronicles 7-10

Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday, April 27th

Today's passage from the Chronological Bible In a Year Reading Plan is 1 Chronicles 6.
Today's scripture focus is John 11:17-37.

17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem,19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
 21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
 24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
 27 “Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”
 28 And after she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.
 32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34“Where have you laid him?” he asked.
   “Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
 35 Jesus wept.
 36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

John MacArthur has a beautiful sermon about this passage.  And just like Miriam said yesterday, it's so easy to miss some of these things when we look at the entire story, already knowing how it ends.  It's so hard to read it as though we're reading it for the first time.

MacArthur shows us that Jesus coming to raise Lazarus from the dead is a bit of an allegory about Him coming to earth to deal with death for our sakes.

Jesus comes, humbly.  He didn't have to come to Mary and Martha - He was busy and had things to do.  He didn't have to come to earth either.  But we needed Him to come, to deal with death.  And so He comes.

And when He comes, He reveals the truth.  He is the resurrection and the life.  Now.  Not just later, at the end of time.  Now.  Do we trust Him now?  With both our big problems and little problems?  We believe He's coming back, but do we believe He's watching over us now?  We can because He is.

And the choice we have to make is whether or not to believe Him.  Faith is up to us.  Jesus gave us the invitation - Do you believe this?

Belief doesn't mean there will be no doubt.  Martha believed, but she also doubted (she thought Jesus' power was only good while Lazarus was just sick, not dead, and she thought Jesus' resurrection power was good at the end of time, not now).  We are still human, and Satan is still at work.  But we can bring our doubts to Jesus and He will reveal His truth to us when we are genuinely seeking Him with honest motives.  And then we need to trust in the One we say we believe.

And all of this - the reason He comes, the reason He humbled himself, the reason He extends the invitation to believe - is because of love.

He demonstrates His human love by weeping for Lazarus. Even though He knew He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, and that soon all those tears would turn to rejoicing, still He weeps.  Why?  Why bother allowing Himself to feel that pain?

Because He wanted to feel every pain you've ever felt. He wanted to know that pain that you knew when you stood beside the grave of that one you loved more than any other person in the world, or that one that you loved with a love that couldn't be expressed, and you watched that casket and you felt that pain and you felt that emptiness in your soul. And Jesus could say, "I know, I know." He wanted to feel everything you've ever felt....

It wasn't a professional cry and it wasn't a sentimental cry, it was was tears that were spontaneously the expression of love that couldn't be held back. He just burst into silent tears. Not mourner's tears, but tears of love that couldn't be held back even by the Son of God. And, friends, those tears have been for all ages a testimony to the humanity of Jesus, haven't they? Cried two other times, once over Jerusalem, once in the garden. They weren't sentimental tears, they were the silent trickle of tears that course down cheeks that are flushed with love and drop to a chest that is heaving with sighs of sorrow. And it shocks me; it just shocks me to see Him weeping like that because I know He knows He's going to raise Lazarus.
But you know something? He is caught in human suffering. You see it? He is trapped by sorrow. He was a man of sorrows and what? Acquainted with grief. He was absolutely trapped in the sorrow of the moment. And because He was so human, He couldn't relinquish that. I'll tell you, that thrills my heart because I know He understands grief.

He knows, dear friend, He knows.  He allowed Himself to experience the depth of grief that you and I will feel in this sin-infested world, because He loves us.  He loves us.

But there is hope.  Because He is resurrection.  He is life.  And He extends the invitation to you - do you believe this?

Tomorrow's scripture focus: John 11:38-44
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Psalm 81, 88, 92-93

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Thursday, April 26 ~ Miriam

Today's passage from the Chronological Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Psalm 73, 77-78.
Today's scripture focus is John 11:1-16.

1 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
 4 When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” 5Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.
 7 Then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
 8 “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?”
 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world’s light. 10 It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light.”
 11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”
 12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.
 14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
 16 Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

Of course, I've read this passage many times.  I'm sure most of us have.  But it is interesting to me the things I noticed today when we are reading only this portion of the story, and not the rest, the part of the story that contains the miracle, that we will be reading tomorrow.  Perhaps I've noticed them before, but failed to really TAKE NOTE because then we go on to read about the miraculous raising of Lazarus from the dead and we forget all about what led up to it.  Other than the fact that Jesus waited and let Lazarus die on purpose before going to help.  We know it was for the ultimate glory of God and so it stands out as a remarkable example of the difference between our timing and God's timing.

However, I want to look at verse 16 for a minute.  I never really took much note of that verse before.  Basically, the disciples are assuming that when they go back to Judea, Jesus will be killed.  One way or another, whether he is stoned or what have you, the Jews will kill him.  Jesus then says that there are 12 hrs of daylight, meaning, according to John MacArthur, that his time on earth has been set out by God.  He will have the certain amount of time prescribed by God and no one, not the disciples nor the Jews nor anyone else, will make that time any longer or shorter, regardless of where they go or who is there and wants him dead.  So Thomas says, effectively, "Well, if Jesus wants to get himself killed, then I guess we'll all go too."  This is what John MacArthur says about Thomas in this message:

Verse 16, "Then said Thomas who was called Didymus," and that means "twin." He was a twin. "Then said Thomas who was called Didymus, unto his fellow disciples, Let us also go that we may die with Him." See. He's going to go back to Jerusalem, we might as well go. You know ... it's really kind of an interesting thing. I really admire his love. I can't say much for his faith. He...his love was so strong he was willing to die for Jesus and his faith was so weak he knew he would. You know. Great devotion and great despondency at the same time. Big love, little faith, see.
Well, before you knock his faith, just see if you can match his love. He was saying, we can't let our Savior die by Himself, let's go die with Him. Now that's love, that's love. Before you criticize his lack of faith, see if you can match his love. He loved Jesus.
You say, "Well, when they did crucify Jesus, Thomas didn't die with Him." No, he scattered like the rest of them, but he sure had good intentions. And you know something? Later on he did die for Christ. History tells us he was a martyr. He did die for Jesus if not with Him. No, I really can't say too much for his faith, but I certainly can say something for his love. He was willing to go right back into the teeth of the hostility, into the seething unrest.
You know, I don't know about me and I don't know about you, about whether we'd be willing to die for Christ. But the sad part of it is most of us haven't even been willing to live for Him. You know that? Most of us live for ourselves, for our own goals, our own pleasure, our own material possessions, our awn money, our own desires, our own physical cravings‑whether it's sex, or food, or whatever else it may be‑we live for ourselves. Friends, that is as remote as it can possibly be from dying with Jesus, or for Jesus. That's the antithesis. Thomas says let's go the with Him. We say let's live for ourselves. And we claim to be Christians. And we knock Thomas's faith when our love can't even scratch his.

OUCH.  Anyone else wincing right now?  I know I am.  I'm trying and I think I've been getting better at it, but let's face it... there is quite a bit of time in my day where I'm pursuing my own interests without giving much thought as to whether I'm living for Him or not.  How about you?

Tomorrow's scripture focus:  John 11:17-37.
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage:  1 Chronicles 6.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tuesday, April 24th

Today's passage from the Chronological Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Psalm 43-45, 49, 84-85, 87
Today's scripture focus is John 10:1-21

 1 “I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. 3 The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them.
 7 Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
   11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
   14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
 19 At these words the Jews were again divided. 20 Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?”
 21 But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

There's no gap between the end of chapter 9 and this chapter, so it's obvious that the thieves and robbers are the Pharisees.  And Jesus is the shepherd of the sheep and also the gate itself.  No one comes to the Father but through Jesus.  He is the way, the truth and the life.  Not a way, the way.

Something I learned from Ray Vander Laan's lectures (see the Follow the Rabbi links in sidebar)....
The sheep truly know the voice of their shepherd.  And they will listen to no one else.  In fact, if the shepherd (and usually, actually, it's a shepherdess) dies, the slaughter the flock, because they won't follow or obey anyone else.

This is so meaningful to me in so many ways....
First of all - that's how we need to be, as sheep.  We need to be so in tune to the voice of our Shepherd that we listen to no other voice.  No other voice should be enticing to us, no other voice should lead us astray. No other voice should deceive or mislead us because we will recognize it for the cheap imitation and false impersonation that it is.

Also, the fact that Jesus lay down His life and took it up again is important.  First because it was another of His many claims to be God. Anyone can lay down His life - but no one can make himself un-dead.  Except God.

But it's also important because of the fact about sheep and their shepherd.  If Jesus died, His sheep would be scattered and useless with their Shepherd.  He needed to be raised to life so that we could continue to follow Him.

Isn't that an even more beautiful analogy, with that cultural understanding?  I love it!

Tomorrow's scripture focus: John 10:22-42
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: 1 Chronicles 3-5

Monday, April 23, 2012

Monday, April 23rd

Today's passage from the Chronological Bible In a Year Reading Plan is 1 Chronicles 1-2
Today's scripture focus is John 9:35-49

 35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
 36 “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”
 37 Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”
 38 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.
 39 Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”
 40 Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?”
 41 Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.

Something I just noticed now (and maybe you've all noticed already and I'm the only slow one) but I find it awesomely ironic that God uses the healing of a physically blind man to expose spiritually blind men.

And the man who has first received his physical sight because of Jesus, now receives spiritually sight as well.  He receives this sight as a gift of divine origin (God initiated it, Jesus found him), through faith, as he recognizes Jesus is God and, as a result, worships Him.

And what's amazing is that this blind man, stood up for Jesus, stood up for the truth (in yesterday's passage) before he knew who He was!  And it cost him everything.

MacArthur (emphasis mine)...
"Boy, does that put most Christians to shame." We who have received the full revelation of who Christ is, who know every single thing about Him, who have received all of His blessings and all of His mercies and all of the things that He could give us, we have totally revelation, we have so-called total commitment to Christ and yet we aren't even willing to make such an uncompromising stand that it would cost us something. And this blind man was when he didn't even know that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. I like him because he doesn't compromise. I like him because he's got some character. He's got some courage. And even though he doesn't understand all of who Christ is, he is willing to pay whatever cost there has to be paid to be fair and to be true to the one who gave him his sight. Boy, there's no place for compromise in the life of a place at all for compromise with the world. How can I expect God to honor me if I dishonor Him?

Spiritual blindness, on the other hand, results in judgment, refuses to admit that it is blind, and so refuses the sight that is offered, and results in doom.

There's only two choices.

Are we willing, not only to be people who see spiritually, but who are courageous enough to make an uncompromising stand for the one we say we believe in?

Tomorrow's scripture focus: John 10:1-21
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Psalm 43-45, 49, 84-85, 87

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sunday, April 22nd

Today's passage from the Chronological Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Psalm 6, 8-10, 14, 16, 19, 21
Today's scripture focus is John 9:13-34

13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. 14 Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. 15 Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.”
 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”
   But others asked, “How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?” So they were divided.
 17 Finally they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.”
   The man replied, “He is a prophet.”
 18 The Jews still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. 19 “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?”
 20 “We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. 21 But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for already the Jews had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ would be put out of the synagogue. 23 That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
 24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.”
 25 He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”
 26 Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”
 27 He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?”
 28 Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! 29 We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”
 30 The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will. 32 Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”
 34 To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.

This is a demonstration of complete willful, purposeful, unbelief - with no intention to even try to believe.

Willful unbelief sets false standard (Jesus broke the Sabbath - at least, their twisted and legalistic view of what the Sabbath should be - so He can't be from God), always demands more evidence and yet never has enough, does biased researched that's totally subjective, it rejects the facts, and it's totally egocentric.

They weren't looking for the truth. They were looking to justify their own pre-determined version of the truth.  It doesn't matter how much evidence they are shown that 4+4=8, they're insisting it's 9 and nothing will convince them otherwise.

And the blind man's parents give in to cowardice and fear, and not only do they not stand up for their son, they lie about his healing.  How sad.

And when, despite his poor parental examples, the blind man not only stands up for Jesus to the Pharisees, he uses their own type of argument in an effort to convince them (God doesn't listen to sinners, since God listened and healed through Jesus, Jesus must be from God).

And they throw him out of the synagogue.

Jesus confronted their unbelief, and they rejected Him.
The blind man stood up for the truth, and they rejected Him too.

Do not be discouraged when you are rejected for speaking the truth. You are not responsible for people's response.  But you are responsible to speak the truth.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: John 9:35-49
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage:  1 Chronicles 1-2

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Saturday, April 21- by Pamela

Today's passage from the Chronological Bible In a Year Reading Plan is 2 Samuel 1-4
Today's scripture focus is John 9:1-12

Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind
 1 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”   3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
 6 Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7 “Go,”he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
 8 His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some claimed that he was.
   Others said, “No, he only looks like him.”
   But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”
 10 “How then were your eyes opened?” they demanded.
 11 He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.”
 12 “Where is this man?” they asked him.
   “I don’t know,” he said.

Three things stood out from today's passage:

1. Trouble in our lives is not punishment for sin.

The disciples (and I think we often do to a point too!) wondered if experiencing trouble was a punishment for sin. The book of Job clearly illustrates this link as Job's friends repeatedly ask Job to repent because they firmly believed that there must be a reason for his misfortune. It's hard to understand why bad things happen to "good" people-miscarriage, divorce, sickness, etc. Our human brain likes to pair consequence with reaction and often there is a huge discrepancy between the two.

I love that Jesus says "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life." How often has a time of despair helped someone draw closer to God and be an example to them in a way that would have been impossible without the tragedy. I think about the story of Candace Derksen and what an impact that the Derksen family has been able to have because of their choices in the midst of Candace's story. When we experience trouble, it is not the result of our sin but it is an opportunity for God to remind us to lean on him.

2. Likewise, good things in our life is not a reward.

We are sinners and don't deserve anything. Yet, while we were still sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). We didn't deserve the gift of salvation-we didn't even really ask for it, even though we needed it- and God gave it to us anyway. It is by faith and not the result of works (Ephesians 2:8-9) and just because we are followers of Christ, it does not mean that we will be rewarded with good things.

The blind beggar man does not ask for his eye sight from Jesus but he has faith to obey Jesus' words to go and wash in the pool and his faith heals. Nothing the man did or said could have given him the gift of sight. It was only by the grace of God and his gift of sight which allowed him to work in the man's life and share Jesus with others. His story, shared to everyone who asked, was able to touch the lives of everyone who heard it and believed.

3. We are quick to forget and move on when things are good.

This blind man had been made to see and when people asked where was the man who had healed him, he responded: “I don’t know”. We can lean on God and his promises during the tough times. We can even understand and in our hearts believe that all good things work together for good to those who love Him (Romans 8:28) but it is so easy to lose sight of God when it's over. When the storm has passed, when the crisis is averted, when the problem is solved it is easy to forget the master behind the plan and say "I don't know" when the good times come.

Sometimes it's helpful to be reminded that good and bad things in our life are not reactions to our choices but to the plan and design that God has for our lives. We can't see into the future, we can't see how this is all going to work out, and we can't know what path we need to be on to make God's plan happen. We just need to have faith:

       Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
                                  Hebrews 11:1

God has been working on me and reminding me about waiting on His timing and learning about being patient. Yesterday I received an answer to a prayer that was weighing heavy on my heart. I know above all things that I am unworthy of so many of the blessings God has bestowed on me. I also know that every good and perfect gift comes from above (James 1:17) and that even though I do not deserve it, God chooses to bless me with more than I could ever imagine.

Tomorrow's scripture focusJohn 9:13-34
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Ps 6/8-10/14/16/19/21

Friday, April 20, 2012

Friday, April 20th

Today's passage from the Chronological Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Psalm 121, 123-125 & 128-130.
Today's scripture focus is John 8:48-59.

48 The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?”
   49 “I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. 50 I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”
 52 At this the Jews exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that if anyone keeps your word, he will never taste death. 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”
 54 Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. 55 Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and keep his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”
 57 “You are not yet fifty years old,” the Jews said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”
   58 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” 59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.

The Pharisees (and others who willfully chose to be ignorant and disbelieve) first tried to trap Jesus with the woman caught in adultery - either He would deny Mosaic law and alienate the Jews, or He would uphold it which would lead to them stoning her and then Roman law would arrest and execute Jesus.  They tried to trap Him and instead they walked away in cowardice and conviction.

They tried to discredit Him by saying He had no witnesses to support His claims. Jesus told them He didn't need witnesses, and that He knew God innately, but that He and God were His witnesses.

They asked Him where His Father was and He basically told them they wouldn't recognize Him if He stood right in front of them.  Which He did.  And they didn't.

Then He said He was going somewhere they couldn't come. Which they misinterpreted to mean He was going to commit suicide and go to Hades and they'd never go there.  Jesus told them they were from Hades and they'll go there again.

They claimed their freedom because they were Abraham's seed.  Jesus said they weren't free, they were slaves to sin.

They claimed Abraham as their patriarch and God as their Father.  Jesus said their father was the devil.

John MacArthur....
Every time they had taken a stand, Jesus had destroyed it. And He sums it up in verse 47 by saying, "You're not of're not of God, you don't know God and you're not the true spiritual seed of Abraham either." Their two big securities...we know God and we're of Abraham. Jesus shot both of them down. He laid them stark naked. They had no defenses. They had nothing left, nothing to say.

At this point things had deteriorated so that there were really only 2 choices.  And indifference isn't one of them.  The choices would be either belief or fury.

 the hearing of the good news of Jesus Christ and His persistent relentless claims either brings repentance and faith or it brings hardness and bitterness. And may I say to you with love in my heart and with seriousness in my mind, that if you have been saying no to Jesus Christ for very long, your indifference may one day turn into bitterness and hardness and you will be doomed because you have crystalized your attitudes and they cannot be changed. And at that point Jesus will no longer even be appealing to you, He will be repulsive to you.

This argument started off intellectual and as they were defeated it moved to emotional, then verbal abuse, then physical violence.

But the reason Jesus pushes them so far is because He loves them.

He can't offer them the miracle cure of salvation if they don't realize they have the disease of sin!  And it's love that tries again and again to make them see it.

And they called Him a demon possessed Samaritan.  A Samaritan was the very worst thing they could call Him, the most despised people they knew.  Plus demon possessed.

Can you even imagine how that would sound and feel from Jesus' perspective?  From God the Father's perspective?!  They're calling God the Devil!  It's shocking!  They actually believe the exact opposite of the truth.

MacArthur makes a great illustration about what Jesus means when He says that if we obey and live in His Word we will never see death.

Obviously there's the spiritual element to it.  We'll never die spiritually.  We'll never experience eternal separation from God.

But it's even true physically!

Yes, there will be a moment when our physical bodies die.  But we won't experience it. Similar to when we sleep.  We don't experience sleep.  We lie down in bed and the next thing we know we're awake!  We sleep, yet we don't experience it.  Yeah, we dream.  But we don't experience sleep as a passage of time or awareness of it.

And some day when you fall asleep in Jesus, you'll experience life over here and eternal life over there, and not experience in the middle. I believe to fall asleep in the arms of Jesus Christ is to wake in immortality with nothing in between....If you're already a believer, you're already experiencing eternal life. You'll go so fast pass death, it will happen in such a flash of a split second that you won't even know it. It will be like the Rapture is, in the twinkling of an that in His presence. There's no lingering state in between. Absent from the body (snap) what?...present with the Lord. Jesus simply says, "You know Me and you keep My words, and you'll blaze pass death so fast it's a non-experience."

I thought that was a great illustration!

Tomorrow's scripture focus: John 9:1-12
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: 2 Samuel 1-4

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Thursday, April 19 ~ Miriam

Today's passage from the Chronological Bible In a Year Reading Plan is 1 Samuel 28-31; Psalm 18.
Today's scripture focus is John 8:31-47.

The Children of Abraham
 31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
 33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants[a] and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”
 34 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you do what you have heard from your father.[b]
 39 “Abraham is our father,” they answered.
   “If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would[c] do the things Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41 You are doing the things your own father does.”
   “We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”
The Children of the Devil
 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

Apparently, according to a message by John Piper that I was just reading, there are quite a few people who feel that the gospel of John misquotes or outright makes up things that Jesus said (or allegedly said).  These people feel that John (or perhaps some other author, since they can't even agree that it was John who wrote this) was stirring up further problems between the Jews and the Christians with the things he has Jesus saying in this passage.  Basically, they say that the passage is anti-Semitic.  I don't see it that way.  There are things in the passage directed primarily at the Jewish people, it's true, insofar as they are talking  in part of the passage about being Abraham's children.  However, the portion that talks about being the children of the devil is applicable to Jews and Gentiles alike, so I'm not sure why scholars are so adamant that this passage is directed at the Jewish people, therefore Jesus wouldn't have said it, therefore John (or someone else) made it up.  Perhaps they have nothing better to contemplate.  Anyway, a small portion of the message by John Piper says this:

Paul teaches plainly that all unbelievers are in the sway of the devil: "The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers" (2 Corinthians 4:4). And all unbelievers—including all of us before we were rescued by pure grace—are "children of wrath" and "dead in our trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:3–4). The New Testament as a whole, not just John's Gospel, sees in the ongoing resistance to Jesus, whether in Jew or Gentile, the deadness and blindness of sin and the accompanying work of Satan. John 8 is not unique. We need to see that this criticism of John's Gospel is far more radical than it may seem. It is a deep opposition, not to one imbalanced writer, but to the pervasive diagnosis of the human problem in the New Testament. The Gospel of John is not an imbalanced distortion of Jesus. What is said of Jews in John 8 is true of me and you and all people apart from sovereign grace. 

So, yes, Jewish leaders are called sons of the devil in John 8. But woe to us Gentiles if we read this and do not see the tragedy of unbelief rather than the bitterness of anti-Semitism. Jesus is not addressing a Jewish problem, but a human problem. Woe to us if we do not see the Son of God at work like a doctor, diagnosing and exposing the horrific nature of ourdisease and our enemy—and offering himself as the one cure in the world, even to those whom he knows will kill him. Verse 36: "If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed."   (emphasis mine)

Happy Thursday!

Tomorrow's scripture focus:  John 8:48-59.
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage:  Psalm 121, 123-125 & 128-130.