What I Saw – October 9, 2018

I met with my pastors’ group for devotions yesterday.  Our text, taken from that days Moravian reading, was John 6:25-42.

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Our devotions leader grabbed the nearest bible, which was a 2011 NIV.

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I immediately saw several things in this passage.  The first was Jesus’ statement that the “work of God” is to believe in Him, the one sent by God.  This is immediately followed by a demand from the crowd for a sign which Jesus ignores.  I believed the reason Jesus ignores that demand is because He has already given them a sign.  He has given them several, in fact.  They have already been given enough to do what they are being asked to do, already been given enough to believe that God loves them.  I thought this was a call for me to “do the work” of believing that God loves me and has accepted me (something which is difficult for me).  This confused the leader at first; when I talked about “doing the work”, he thought I was talking about works or deeds (which, as we all know, are part of the Gospel system).  I explained that I was actually talking about the intellectual/emotional process of overcoming my belief that I am unaccepted/unacceptable and replacing it with the belief that I am accepted/acceptable.  This is a work in the sense that it is hard to do and requires me acting on the “signs” that Jesus has already given.  This idea was confirmed to me by Jesus’ follow-up statement that He will never drive away those God gives to Him, i.e., that I will not be driven away if I come to Him.  This was a great encouragement.

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Another great encouragement, though, was the way Jesus dealt with opposition.  I saw this as well.  I knew Jesus encountered opposition in this text; I learned that my first year of Bible college.  What I noticed this time, though, is that this opposition does not change Jesus or His message.  He does not allow Himself to get dragged into side-arguments (such as the accusation about His earthly parentage) nor does He adjust His gospel in any way.  He continues to proclaim the openness of God and the need to believe in the openness of God despite the crowd which is asking for bread and the Jews who grumbled against Him (we had some question during our time together about whether the crowd and the Jews were the same people or different people).  I take this as a model to follow.  I see that I must not get involved in the many arguments which are always erupting around me but must simply live by and present the good news that Jesus is our acceptor and savior.

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I further saw that Jesus lost by following this tactic.  The majority of the crowd abandoned Him that day, so this can legitimately be called a loss.  However, He won the war.  These people are not highly regarded today; no one is looking at them as a great example; in fact, most of us seem them as shallow and misguided.  Jesus’ truth, though, that He is the one sent by God to accept and save us, is highly regarded.  So Jesus lost the engagement but won the war. This is an encouragement to me as well.

And that’s what I saw in John 6:25-42.

What I Saw – October 3, 2018

I met with my church devotional group Wednesday night. After prayer, we got our scripture passage from the Moravian Daily Text.  It was John 5:1-15.

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Most of the folks there had the NIV (1984).  Since I believe using unfamiliar translations can help us hear God, I choose to read from The Passion Translation:

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I usually ask people what catches their attention in the text; I believe that is an indication of where the Spirit is taking them.  This time, though, I decided to do it the way I do my evening prayers (for which I use the watchword and doctrinal text from the Moravian).  I asked them to finish the statement, “I see that God is…”

One person said they saw that God is compassionate, willing to heal a crippled man.  Another said they saw that God sees and knows people.  Yet another said they saw that Jesus is a healer.  A fourth said they saw that God gives hope in hopeless situations.

This was a great start.  It gave us a “covenant truth”, that is, a truth about who God is.  It is so important to have covenant truths like the.  Covenant truths fuel or drive us for Kingdom truths (truths about what God wants us to do).  We actually see this in this John 5 passage.  Only after healing this man (a covenant action) does Jesus command this man to walk away from sin (a kingdom responsibility).

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It is the same with us.  Covenant truths result in and empower kingdom truths.  While we seem to see kingdom truths easier (most everybody looks at a Bible text and says something like, “Well, God wants me to trust more”), we can’t do them apart from covenant truths.

The way we did devotions this night made the covenant truths more obvious.  I then asked everyone what kingdom truths they thought the Spirit was leading them to via these covenant truths.  Some had immediate answers.  Others needed to think about it a little bit.  I won’t say what those truths were or weren’t either way, as that is their business.  But I will say it was good!

That’s what I (or we) saw on Wednesday, October 3.  Join us on November 7th when we will see more!

What I Saw – September 18, 2018

I met with my Tuesday morning pastors’ group for devotions today.  The Moravian Daily Text gave us John 1:1-13, which we read in the NASB.

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I find it difficult to hear God in texts that are too familiar.  I keep seeing the doctrines my Bible college professors taught me to see there.  This time, though, we all heard some significant things.

One of our group heard the term “creation” from verse 3.  That verse talks about Jesus’ participation in the creation of the world.  He understood from this that he is a creation of God, and thus must be loved by God since creators typically love their creations.

Another heard the term “testify” in verse 6.  She said that we have been called to testify to Jesus just as John did.  This idea was actually on my mind, too, as I had seen this commercial on TV while eating my breakfast:

She also connected this passage to the UP-IN-OUT triangle: verses 1-5 being UP, 7-8 being OUT, and 9-13 being IN.  She felt God was calling her to more OUT.

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At first, I just got a general vibe from this text that what God is offering me/calling me to is more than doctrines and beliefs and “going to Heaven when I die”.  I got the vibe that this is actually a story or a relationship.  As we continued to talk, though (and that’s why doing devotions in a group is so valuable), I realized that a finer point on this idea is that I am God’s child (verse 12) and that I can “rest” in being God’s child.  I don’t have to exhaust myself trying to earn some sort of status, as many people both outside and inside the church are doing.  I already have the greatest status there is, child of the Father King, and I can rest in that.  God is inviting me to rest in that, actually, inviting me to turn away from a lifestyle of competition and exertion that is destroying me.  It is an invitation I happily accept.

And that’s what I saw in our devotions today.

This Will Not End In Death

I have a mentor, an older man who helps me in the life of The Faith.  I have a couple mentors, actually.  One of them came to see me today.  We spent about a hour and a half talking about various aspects of the life of faith, some of which were challenging but all of which were inspiring and encouraging.  Perhaps the most inspiriting and encouraging was the way he walked me through John 11, the account of Lazarus’ resurrection.

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I was familiar with that story, of course, having covered it at least once in Bible college and heard numerous messages on it in church.  But my mentor showed me things in that story I had never seen before.  The most significant of those is Jesus’ opening words in the story.

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This sickness will not end in death, Jesus says.  He tells His disciples right from the start that Lazarus’ sickness (and, by extension, everything connected to it, including Jesus’ return to Judea) will not result in death (again by extension, death for anyone).  What then follows is what would be called “the debate” in a story or screenplay (according to Blake Snyder, the debate is what ends the first act of a story).

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The disciples debate Jesus on this point, certain that a return to Judea will indeed result in Jesus’ death as well as their own.  Jesus continues to assert that it will not result in death.  He even asserts this after Lazarus has died.  Finally, Thomas agrees to go to Judea with Him (and apparently persuades the others to go also) even though he is still sure doing so will result in all their deaths (my mentor called this “pessimistic yet courageous faith”, which I said pretty much describes my faith).

Their going to Judea did not result in their deaths, though.  Instead, it resulted in their witnessing one of the greatest of Jesus’ miracles, their witnessing what Jesus called glory.  As Jesus said at the beginning, the event did not end in death.  They did not die.  They apparently were never in danger of dying.

In the same way, Jesus is asking me to do things.  He is leading me into new and sometimes scary territories.  And He is telling me that it will not result in death, no matter how much it might look or seem like it will.  He is telling me it will result in glory.  This story is The Story; the beats in this story line up with and reflect the beats of The Story.  This is happening in my life right now.  It is probably happening in yours as well.  If it isn’t, it soon will.   May we believe what Jesus is telling us.  May we understand and be convinced of the fact that death is not and never will be our fate.  May we understand that we are headed not for death but for glory.

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