Recently I picked up a journaling bible for myself because I love to jot things down and underline. I chose the NIV Beautiful Word Bible. NIV (New International Version) is the version that we use at my church and I just find it easier to follow along in the readings etc. when I'm reading from the same version. I have a couple other versions but always find myself going back to the one that I know. I remember when I first became a Christian and was writing in my bible I read a comment on a blog or something like that saying if you have a friend that underlines in their bible like you, then you've found something special. Some people don't like to mark in their bible. My husband has a beautiful red letter bible that he reads and knows that he won't ever make a mark in. To me, it's a reflection of who I am. Want to know what I'm like? Look in my bible, see what I've underlined or referenced. It's like a catalogue of me. Something I hope my kids can turn to when I'm gone to get a reminder of who I was.
Why am I starting with this? Chapter 12 had be writing, underlining and referencing all through it. John really got me thinking with this chapter and I loved it! I started right at the beginning too. Yesterday I wrote about Martha, Mary and Lazarus. I mentioned that I got mixed up in the events that happened between Mary, Jesus and a bottle of perfume. I thought it happened before Lazarus and I was wrong, at least where the book of John is concerned. Actually it happens right at the beginning of John 12. Jesus is eating at a dinner that is being held in his honour and Mary pours a whole pint of nard (perfume) onto his feet and wipes them with her hair.
A couple things to mention. People did not eat then like we do now - at a table, in a seated position. They actually lounged on couches around a table. So it's not as weird a situation as it may sound. I always thought she was on the floor, under the table cleaning his feet. Context, dear friends, makes all the difference. Another note I made was regarding Mary's hair. In today's lifestyle it's not such a big deal to have your hair showing. In fact, some people take a great deal of time getting their hair just right. However, during the time of Jesus, especially among the Jewish people, women were to wear veils covering their head. Not only did Mary show her hair, she would have had to remove the veil to wipe Jesus' feet. This next sentence is my opinion and not a fact. Perhaps his acceptance of her offering was another way Jesus was showed that He was greater than the Law the Pharisees clung to so much.
In this passage Judas makes the comment that the nard is worth a year's wages and should be given to the poor. A valid idea for sure, except that Judas was the money holder and according to John, a thief. Did Jesus know? Of course! He tells Judas to leave Mary alone and that the nard was meant for his burial. Basically it was yet another prediction of his coming death. At the hands of Judas, no less.
It's in John 12 that we see Jesus come back to Jerusalem, riding on a donkey with the crowds cheering Hosanna! It's where we derive Palm Sunday from. When (in our church) the kids are given palm leaves and walk through the aisles of the church as an example of our acknowledgement of this amazing day. He came humbly to his people. People of the time didn't know him as a great king or mighty warrior. Of course now we know the truth but isn't hindsight always 20/20? The same could be said of his disciples. They didn't understand what was happening on that day until after Jesus was glorified.
Something that caught my eye in chapter 12 and I underlined was verse 25. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. This can be cross referenced with Luke 9:25. This passage shows the direct battle between the flesh and the Spirit. So many times we fall to earthly things to fulfill us but if we rely on God, and rebuke the temptations of the flesh we can have eternal life.
Another amazing thing about this chapter is that we hear God speak! God spoke to Jesus from the heavens! Imagine what that would have been like. Some people believed it, some people just thought it was thunder. I can't even comprehend what it would have been like to be in that group of people when that happened. Would I believe? I'd like to think I would have. It's just such an awesome thought. To be there and hear God's voice audibly. How cool would that have been? Jesus tells the crowd that the voice was for their benefit and not his. He already knew what was going to happen. He didn't need to hear God's voice. He was one with God and had been there before the Word was the Word.
At the end of chapter 12 we read about the differing beliefs among the people and the leaders. Yet even the leaders were afraid of the Pharisees and being put out of the synagogue so they kept quiet. They loved human praise, more than praise from God (v. 43). It's so true of so many people today. We quietly keep our beliefs to ourselves for fear of rejection. I, myself, can be blamed for that. Recently I started a new job. I didn't know a lot of the girls but I knew one because she is the sister of a friend from church. I wanted to make a "good impression" so I didn't say much in the beginning. (She is not a Christian.) It's been 3 weeks nd I've gradually said a few things and people know now, which I'm glad about. I mean, being a part of the church is such a huge part of my life. To me though, it takes more than that. Yes it's amazing to spread the Good News, I'm all for doing that. But to me, I want to see faith in action. Then one day, my pastor challenged that with a simple saying that I have now made the background for my cell phone. The true test of faith is not in our actions, but in our reactions. That has stuck with me and it's a saying that I am now using with my daughter. Acting like a Christian is one thing. A lot of people can act. When things get hard, when life throws a curve or when someone challenges you, that's when our actions really show our faith.
It's been 12 "days" now. Unfortunately, I missed a few. When I reflect back on when I started and now I can honestly say that I see changes. I have been pondering a lot of what I've read. I think it has helped me a lot when I felt especially alone at work and feel like I don't belong. I'm also increasing my knowledge of Bible. I'm becoming versed in more scripture, which is cool. I know that the woman at the well happens in John 4 without having to look anymore. (I still made sure so as not to sound like an idiot, but I was right.) I've also found a lot of verses that I really like. For instance- He must become greater, I must become less (John 3:30). I miss the readings on the days when I can't get to them and I'm honestly really happy about that. It means that I'm actually in the process of creating this habit. Also when I'm listening to sermons, or taking part in Youth Group I can actually use this new habit help link the two.
Are you ready for a challenge? Try taking this one and see how it changes your patterns. Let me know what you think in the comments.
Oh my goodness! Don't look at the dates for this post and last post! Oh shoot, you likely did now. I have to say that the days got away from me. We have been extremely busy over the last few days and, honestly, I stopped my morning readings. You know what? It mattered! I didn't have anything biblical to ponder and apply to my day. That mattered to me.
I actually read John 11 on the proper day, but then I ended up reading it over a couple times since writing this post. This chapter introduces us (in the book of John, anyway) to Mary and Martha. Two sisters that come up a lot in Christian conversation. Although I didn't know that the whole sitting at Jesus' feet happens in John 12. I thought I had just missed it. You'll hear more about that in my next post. Without further ado, let's meet Mary, Martha and their brother Lazarus.
To set the stage Mary and Martha have sent Jesus a letter saying that their brother is sick. Jesus comments to his disciples that the sickness that Lazarus has won't result in death (it did) and that it would be used for God's glory (it was) then he waits for 2 days to go. To be fair, the Pharisees were on the lookout for Jesus by this time. They didn't like him a whole lot because of all the healings he had been completing. This was only going to get worse for Jesus.
When he reaches Judea he's met by Martha. She's the "gotta do something" sister. She isn't content to just sit around, she likes to keep busy. She likes to get things done. When she hears that Jesus is coming she goes out to meet him. Not only to meet him but to say some pretty heavy things - If you had been here, my brother wouldn't have died. That's a lot to hurl at someone. I get it though. So many times as a Christian we just expect God to heal our earthly bodies. We often say "If you're God, then why?" Why do people suffer? Why are kids starving? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why are there people who are so bad?
I wish I had answers for you. I don't. I'm not even going to attempt them. But I was you once. Why was my mom so sick? Why did she have to die? The answers to my questions came a year after when I gave my heart to Jesus. My mom suffered so that through her passing I could find my way back to Jesus. She wasn't healed here on earth, but her heavenly body is whole and perfect and now I will be reunited with her in God's time.
Back to Lazarus... I got a little off track, my apologies. When Jesus arrives Lazarus has been in the tomb for 4 days. This is before the time of preservation and embalming so you can bet that when Martha objects because of the odour she does so with good reason. This doesn't phase Jesus. Once the stone is rolled away he simply calls to Lazarus to come out... and he does! As a result of this many people believed in Jesus. As a result of that, Jesus became even more unpopular with the Pharisees and they gave the order to have Jesus arrested if he was seen at the Passover.
Apart from Mary and Martha and their impact on my walk I didn't really underline anything in this chapter. It's amazing that Lazarus was completely healed, even from death. We've read about Jesus bringing a young child back to life and numerous healings. This is amazing in that he did it in the middle of so many people.
I actually read the passage before I went into work this morning. I was sitting in my car just before 8:30 and I knew I wanted to read it before going into work. That is my ultimate goal. To read the passage before I begin the strenuous parts of my day. That way, if and when the day hits a rough patch maybe I'll remember to go back to earlier reading and glean something from it.
In case you haven't notice today I decided to include something a little different. At the top right corner of this post is a video of a shepherd calling his sheep. John 10 talks all about Jesus being a good shepherd. (Imagine that, they're connected!) He basically starts oft by saying that the Pharisees are like thieves and robbers because they were trying to get in the sheep pen over the wall and not through the gate. It goes back to yesterday when Jesus said that they were religiously blind because the only knew the Law and they didn't act the way God had intended them to. What I got from this is that he was saying, you're trying to pretend to be a shepherd. You think you're calling the sheep, but really you're coming at it from a totally wrong way and as a result you're actions are stealing away the honorable actions that God intended. Eeek! That's a bold statement. Good thing they didn't understand what he meant!
Jesus then goes on to say that he is the gate keeper. History lesson! Back in that time sheep were kept in enclosures that were built but didn't actually have a gate. The shepherd would lay where the gate would be and as a result the sheep wouldn't get by him and he could notice any coming threats. Not only that, he says that the sheep know the shepherds voice and come when he calls. That's why I love the video. It's such a great illustration of the sheep coming to the shepherd. Even through all the fog they still followed his voice. I can't take credit for finding this video though. It was used during a church service to describe the exact thing that I'm talking about in this post. So we already know Jesus and when he calls us back we respond by running to him. Just like the one little sheep though, we can still have a lot to learn before we come directly to him. Not all our paths lead directly to Jesus. Sometimes we stray and that's when we realize our need for our shepherd to care for us. During those moments is when we feel him calling us not because he wants to scold us but because he wants to lift us up and help us.
I believe that there is a direct correlation between John 10 and Psalm 23:
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along right paths for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
The shepherd takes care of his sheep. He wants what's best for them because they are his livelihood. He guides them and keeps them safe from harm. He takes them to food and helps them to remain calm when things seem scary. With their shepherd the sheep feel safe. They feel comfortable. They keep returning to him when he calls.
This morning I woke up and read John 9. In the quiet of the morning. Can you believe that?!?! My kids slept in. Seriously?! I give up trying to get up before them and then it just happens naturally. Sometimes you just have to learn to let it go and things happen without all the effort. I was thinking about it this morning in the car on the way to work though. What if the reason that my kids kept waking up before me was so that they could see me actively reading my bible? I mean it certainly seems like a "God thing". It's important that we model for our kids what we'd like them to be like. Maybe it wasn't a coincidence at all. Mind you, I hadn't finished the reading when my husband was getting them up for school so they still saw me reading my bible. There's meaning in there somewhere, I'm sure of it.
John 9 is almost like a Cole's Notes on spiritual blindness. It begins with Jesus healing the man who was blind from birth. My favourite part of this encounter was the disciples asking if it was the man's fault of the fault of his parents that he was born blind. This is a Moses' Law thing. You know, for every sin the father makes I'll revisit it on his children. It was popular belief from the Old Testament, which is the only testament the people of the time had to go on. Jesus sets them straight though. It's neither the son's sin nor the father's. (Huh??) It actually happened to show the good works of God. Think about this in modern times. I'm going to use a personal example. I was an atheist from early teens to about 27-28 years old. My mom passed away when I was 27, but not before 10 long months of suffering while she waited for a liver transplant. Did she do something wrong? Did her parents do something wrong? No. She suffered to show the good works of God. How can I say that? Because it was a year after she passed away that I became a Christian. I saw her in her weakest state and I still wanted what she had. Assurance. If that hadn't happened in my life, I may not be the follower of Jesus that I am today. I may not be using my experiences with depression, organ donation and other aspects of my life to help people in the same situation I was in. If it wasn't for her suffering, passing and my subsequent depression, I never would have hit rock bottom in my life the way I did at that time. Do you know who's with you at rock bottom? Jesus. And he wants to help you too! I was blind, but now I see. I didn't know God, but now I do.
Back to John 9. Jesus uses this analogy of blindness when he's speaking about the Pharisees. Sometimes we think we know all there is to know about something and become "experts" on the whole thing. That can actually work against us because we become so prideful about what we know that when something real and genuine comes along related to our own knowledge we may overlook it. Are ya pickin' up what I'm puttin' down here? The Pharisees knew the Old Testament like the back of their hand. They knew the Law like I know the spelling of Mississippi. Backwards and forwards. They could quote anything from it and they could hold everyone accountable for their cleanliness based on it. These guys were "The Guys" of Law knowledge during the times. People feared them because they didn't want to be cast out of the synagogue. Much like the blind man's parents. Yet, when the Messiah comes they are so prideful they don't even recognize him. In fact, they persecute him. They were spiritually blind. You see, there is a difference between knowing all the verses and being able to recite the bible, but until you live it and your actions prove it, you're spiritually blind too. The Pharisees may have known it, but they were so nit picky on the rules it blinded them.
I always find it such a shame when someone claims to be a Christian yet their actions don't send that vibe at all. Like the person who goes to church on Sunday but passes judgement on Monday. Judgement is a hard thing to understand. I know that the bible tells us not to judge the world by our standards and yet that happens all the time. We are to be lights like Jesus, pointing towards him through our love of others. Unfortunately a lot of times that's not the case. That's the very reason why a lot of people refer to Christians as hypocrites. Well, that's safe to say about any group. There are radicals in every group that take some aspect of their unity to the extremes. As for myself, I just want people to know Jesus through my story. I want to help others the way Jesus helped me. It may be a little light, but I'm gonna shine it baby!
What did you take away from John 9?
shhhh, today's reading starts with another one of my favourite stories. Although it's not included in some versions of John 8 (my section is italicized to show this) it's found in other Gospels in the bible so there's cross references. It begins with Jesus teaching at the temple and then the Pharisees march in with a woman they just "happened" to catch in adultery. They are clearly trying to catch Jesus in a trap so they can arrest him. Nice try guys, but did you really think this was going to work out for you? I love how Jesus handles this whole situation. While they question what should happen to this woman (according to the Law she should be stoned to death) Jesus squats down and starts writing in the sand at his feet. My first thought... what's he writing?? Wouldn't it be neat to be one of the people sitting around listening to Jesus teach and then see this whole thing go down and know what he was writing? Was it a picture? Was it a teaching plan? Maybe it was the word forgiveness. Who knows. I just wish I did. After Jesus says that the one without sin can cast the first stone (and the leaders leave one at a time starting with the oldest) he basically pardons the woman and tells her to go and leave her life of sin. All in front of the group of people he had been teaching!! Woohoo! Go Jesus!
Do you understand the significance of this? The one without sin is the one who gives forgiveness. Not only that he makes the Pharisees look like idiots in front of a group of people while doing so. As if that' isn't enough, he goes on teaching like he wasn't even interrupted. Like these so called "leaders" aren't worth the words they speak, and honestly they aren't. The Pharisees are so ingrained in their "Law" they're looking past the very person who is the foretold Messiah.
Most of this chapter is the Jesus speaking about how he has come from the Father and will ascend again to Him as a result of their actions. I can understand how that may be confusing for them. It would be hard for me to understand if someone said that to me too. I can see them being all like, how do you know what's going to happen? Everyone knows they're going to die, but to predict it like Jesus does would be very unsettling.
Lastly in this chapter Jesus begins comparing his story with that of Abraham's. Jesus states that Abraham is their father but that they just imitate him. My favourite part is when he tells them that they're nothing like Abraham (their father), they are imitators because Abraham would have been glad to see him come. He even goes so far as to say that Abraham saw that day, and he was glad. After he said this people started to pick up stones. He had touched a nerve. He had said something that, while true, was just something that wasn't said. Once again though, Jesus slipped away and wasn't stoned because it wasn't his time.
I like that Jesus pushes boundaries. I feel as though if I did that I wouldn't slip away so easily. I guess that's the benefit of being the Son of God. You know what's coming. Sometimes it's so easy to say we trust in God and pray prayers, but when push comes to shove... are we ready to follow in his footsteps? Are we ready to put ourselves into places where we might be killed for what we're saying? Are we ready to go places that we don't feel comfortable in and place our trust wholly in Jesus?
That is the challenge at the end of this chapter and the end of the post. Do you accept? Here's something that may help you out.
In case you're wondering, I gave up trying to wake up before my kids. If it happens, that's great. Otherwise my main goal is to read the next chapter. I love learning and relearning a lot stories. I like how it's making me ponder things and write about them. It has been enlightening to me so far. I'm certainly enjoying the challenge. So much so, that I'm actually trying to figure out which book to do next. Do you have a suggestion? Leave it in the comments for me.
You know the saying, the grass is always greener on the other side? This is my attempt to find greener grass right where I am in my life.
BTW - I'm the one on the right, just in case you didn't already know that.