In case you didn't know, John 15 is where we find the speech Jesus makes about being the vine and God being the true gardener. I'm one of those people that knows the stories of the bible and I know roughly where to find them (Joseph is in Genesis) but when it comes to the new testament I flounder a bit. I know what the bible says, just not where it says it. That is why this study in John has helped me so much! I can associate great teachings with the chapter to find them in. I think this is a big step. It's neat that in my prayers I can now pray actual verses instead of floundering through and making references to stories.
In this reference to vines and branches Jesus wasn't talking about an actual tree. He was talking about his followers. Even the branches that bear fruit will be pruned so as to be more fruitful. Do you know what pruning is? It's cutting parts of a tree off with a sharp implement. I'm not a tree, but I'd have to imagine that having pieces of me cut away would be quite painful. I think that's the point. In the book of Job, Job suffers. A lot. Why? Because he's seen as a righteous man. It's easy to be righteous when everything is going well for you, argues Satan. As a result many, many trials and tribulations happen to Job. I'm not going to spoil it for you, you'll have to read it yourself. I do know that the end result of pruning is that the plant bears more fruit. That means that during trials we turn to God and continue to glorify Him even when things aren't going great for us. It can be hard yet this is done so that we can become more fruitful. We may not know why something is happening for a long time. I have faith that God will use my situations to bring glory to Him and that's all that matters to me.
One of the verses that grabbed my attention was verse thirteen. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends. Jesus knew what was going to happen. He knew that the sentiment he had just shared was going to be carried out by him. That he was going to die for his friends. How many of us, knowing something like this in advance, would be willing to go through with it? I mean, lets face it. Sometimes our friends, well, they don't turn out to be our friends. How many of us have felt the sting of Judas' in our lives? Yet Jesus is willing to go to his death, even for Judas. For people he had never met, but knew the number of hairs on their head.
I know that I have a pretty checkered past. I did some really stupid things in the era of irresponsibility. Sure, I loved it then. Not now though. That's why I volunteer my Thursday evenings to work with the teenagers of my church. I don't want them to make the same decisions I made. I want to help them anyway I can to steer them away from the path I went down and stay true to themselves and to God. Yet even before all of my past Jesus hung on that cross for me. Knowing what choices I would make. Staying in spite of my shortcomings. That is greater love.
Jesus loves us and he appoints us. He wants us to go and share his story. How? By sharing our story. You don't have to know the bible, you just have to know yourself. Jesus came to teach us. To show us the way to interact with each other and the world. He didn't come because we already knew. People will wear you down arguing the bible with you but they can't argue your experience. They can't say you didn't go through something or that your story is fake. Especially if they knew you before you started to follow Jesus. The changes in you will speak more than your words. Set an example with how Jesus changed your life. Jesus finishes in John 15 by talking about how the world hates him. They have seen and yet they have hated both me and my Father (v. 24). I want to live a life that people wonder what's wrong with me. Yesterday I talked about forgiving a man who sexually abused me. Who does that!? A person who wants to walk closer with Jesus and become more like Him. That's who.
Is this something you strive for? What did you take away from John 15?
Do not let your hearts be troubled. That is how John 14 starts. Friends, sometimes it is so easy to let our minds be hurt by the world. We worry. We stew. We formulate ways we would have handled situations better. I have a really bad way of letting things get to me. Add to that that I have been clinically diagnosed with depression and it can be hard to stay afloat. My reaction to big events that upset me is to go have a nap because when I'm sleeping I don't have to think about what's bothering me. It's actually a symptom of depression. Some people choose to drink their problems away, I just sleep. Neither one of these options is following the command in verse 1. If you think about it, it is a command. Don't let things of the world trouble your hearts. Believe in God, believe in Jesus. Cast your cares at the foot of the cross.
This is also the chapter in John where Jesus makes the statement I am the way, the truth and the life (v. 6). Yet even after saying all that he's still met with unbelief. Show us the father, says Philip. We need another miracle, we don't quite believe just yet (opinion, not fact). Do something more for our benefit so that we can see unbelievable things. Isn't that just like us? I know I have this problem. It's like "Ok God, you did a great thing back there, but if you could just do some more, that'd be great." God isn't at our beck and call though and he shouldn't be. What He does is amazing. Look around you and see all the wonderful miracles. For me, it was calling me back, taming my potty mouth and so many other events both before and after he called me. My husband often shares the story of how when we met he had this "just wait and see" feeling about me. (I was an atheist.) Seven years later I did a complete about face. It was nothing short of a "God thing" because there's no way I could have done that on my own.
One of the verses that I really liked was You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it (v. 14). I don't take this as an invitation to ask for everything. I think it's cool that Jesus intercedes for us with God. When we ask in his name it's like adding that final bam to our prayer. Thanks God for all you do, please bless so and so, please do this, please do that - In the name of Jesus. Boom! Amen, so be it. Jesus cares about what occupies our hearts. Maybe it's a mission trip to another country, or help in your own home with your kids. Jesus sees it all and he knows what your heart song is. All you have to do is ask in his name. Now don't get me wrong. We may ask, but the answer may be no or not now. I think that God wants us in certain places before granting our prayers. Diamonds need pressure to materialize. Sand needs heat to become glass. We need shaping to become more like Jesus and isn't that what we, as Christians, are really striving for?
The last part of John 14 is speaking about the Holy Spirit. I think it's interesting that Jesus actually references the fact that the world doesn't know the Holy Spirit. It makes sense doesn't it? A lot of people don't understand how followers of Jesus can withstand some trials and still have hope. Sometimes people come to Jesus because they see something in their friend and they want it. I want to be the type of person that's like that. I want people to look at me and think - I want what she has. That doesn't mean losing myself completely, just smoothing some of the rough parts. The Holy Spirit is in us to convict us. Have you every experienced that? Sometimes it's like a punch in the gut. Sometimes it's bringing someone from your past back into your life so that you can process bad emotions and offer forgiveness.
That happened to me. When I was 12 my grandfather's best friend "noticed" me. One evening at their house my grandfather left the room and his friend saw the opportunity and took it. It didn't last long, but I was violated and I knew what happened was wrong. Fast forward about 16=17 years and I walked into my church and right into the same man. He was over 90 years old now, but for me, the time hadn't passed. The emotions were still there and still raw. I went straight to my pastor with what had happened. Not just for me, for the young girls of the church. I didn't want this man to have the opportunity with them that he'd had with me. My pastor told me I had 2 choices; I could forgive as Jesus forgave me which would be great. Or I could not offer forgiveness, which was completely acceptable given what happened between us. After 8 months I went to see the man, with my pastor at my side, and offered him forgiveness. Not only that, I had made a forgiveness shawl especially for him as a token of my forgiveness. The next night he called my pastor to come back to see him and recommitted himself to Jesus. The man passed away a few months ago. I'm so happy I had the opportunity to offer my forgiveness.
God has a way of working everything in our life for His glory. Even the bad things. That's when God is truly glorified.
How has the Holy Spirit worked in your life lately? What did you think of John 14 - any favourite passages? Share them in the comments.
I really feel like at the beginning of this challenge I pulled out of the gate and was away to the races. I read every morning, put a lot of effort into it and made time at night to share my reflections for the day. Then around day 11 it's almost like the enemy crept into my life and started telling me a lie. "You don't need to read that every day. You can get by without it." It's small steps away from the plan. I decided I wasn't going to wake up before the kids. One small step. I could do it a little later in the morning. Another small step. I didn't need to set time aside at night. Yet another small step. All of a sudden I wasn't doing the reading in the morning OR my post at night and the enemy was smiling looking at how easy it was to make me change my actions.
As a result of all of that I set my alarm this morning, again. When it went off I turned it off because it had done what I wanted it to do. I wasn't out of bed, but I was awake. When my husbands alarm went off half an hour later I was roused again. (I'm a bit of wake-up-in-phases kind of person.) I was much more alert and told him I'd be getting up in about 15 minutes. Forty minutes later I woke up and was late. How typical! True to the beginning of this challenge, I was up with my kids. But today I did something a little different, I took my bible with me on my way out the door. I also carry one in my lunch pail, but I really feel connected to this one and wanted to continue my challenge with it. Plus, different versions. I know it shouldn't make a big deal, but it kind of does. Also, my bible is a journaling bible, see my last post. I left a little early this morning so that I could read chapter 13 in the car before I went into work. Let me tell you, it made a huge difference in my outlook for the day. I was friendly and happy. I said good morning and didn't brood at my computer. It was great. I almost felt like more a team member today. It was awesome.
Some things I made note of in chapter 13 was the last part of the first verse. He loved them to the end. It's talking about Passover and how Jesus knew that he was going to be killed. To show his love he washed his disciples feet. If you think about it, feet were how most people got around in those days. They were dusty, dirty, calloused. Definitely not the cleanest part of a person's body. This was a job that was left to the servants to do when guests arrived in someone's house. When Jesus reaches Peter, Peter is shocked by his actions. "What are you doing?! You can't wash my feet!" (paraphrase) He didn't want Jesus to stoop to the level of servant and wash his feet. Jesus answers with something that I have never given much thought to before - unless I wash you, you have no part with me (v. 8). I wrote next to this line, Jesus needs to cleanse us.
To cleanse someone.... what does that mean? Well, when I give my kids a bath I wash behind their ears and in their belly buttons and the bottoms of their feet. When my kids wash themselves they wash the areas that they can see; arms, legs, stomach. If we are going to be cleansed by Jesus it means he needs to clean all the parts of our lives, not just the "church" parts. I was talking about this early with the youth group (high school aged teens). Being a Christian doesn't mean we act "like we should" on Sunday morning and Thursday night. We are called to be living sacrifices to God. Our body is a temple for the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:1-2). My Pastor refers to that as a "backpack Christian". You carry Jesus around but you only take him out on certain days or in certain situations. That's not what Jesus wants. He wants those areas of our lives we sometimes don't want to admit to. The "you can clean this part of my life, but stay away from the part where I go to the casino" or "you can have my Sunday mornings and maybe one night a week, but don't show up at my workplace". That's not what being cleansed by Jesus means. It means showing all the really dirty parts of your life so that he can purify you and change that area to make you a better person.
Reading on I made a note in the column, two lines, two words each: humble yourself, serve others. If we are able to humble ourselves and go out in humility then we can truly glorify God. Sometimes what God convicts you to do is really out of your comfort zone and you really have to humble yourself. For instance, last summer I got into a very heated discussion with my dad's fiancée. Words were said, tempers were lost. It was bad. I was a bad person at that moment. Ever since then there have been little nudges from the Holy Spirit to make amends. "I don't want to", I thought. "She hurt my feelings." God is so much greater than hurt feelings. This past Sunday the sermon was on unity and it was like a dagger in the heart of my conviction. I was not being obedient to God. I was not reaching out in humility to apologize for my actions. So I did. I reached out. Not because I wanted the glory. Not to say I was the better person or I was right/wrong. But to be obedient to the Holy Spirit. Who knows what my actions will generate but I know in my heart that I did the will of God. I humbled myself. It took a lot, but I did.
This leads into my last takeaway from John 13. Jesus has told the disciples that he will be betrayed by Judas. That he is going away and where he's going they can't come. His final command is this: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another (v. 34). Let's take a closer look at this command. As I have loved you. Even when you sent the children away from my object lesson, I loved you. Even when you asked all the wrong questions, I loved you. Even when you really didn't get it and I had to explain it over and over and over again, I loved you. Even when you betray me for silver, I will love you. Even when you will deny me three times, I will love you. Even when, even when, even when, I loved you. Even when we walk away from God and he has to call us back, he loves us. Even if we're still hanging on to pride, he loves us. Even when we do something horribly terrible, he loves us. That's how we're supposed to love one another. My pastor said it really well last Sunday. Get over yourself. Yep, that's just about right. We are called to love. one. another.
What's super cool about this verse is that he said everyone will know you are my disciples. I do not consider myself a disciple. I'm not even close to being a disciple. That title is held for people like Luke and John. Not Andrea. But that's what Jesus is saying. If I love others, the way that Jesus loves me, then they will know I am his disciple. What does that mean? For me it means humbling myself, serving others, being obedient to God and loving one another. Even the man who yelled at me one day while I was at work. It's harder than it sounds but friends, it's so worth it.
What did you think of John 13? What verses jumped out at you and how can you apply them to your life?
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.
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.