Tag Archives: Jesus

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John 21 – “Coming to the End of Self”

Categories: Glimpses of Christ, Tags: , , , ,

Sometimes Jesus lets us get to the end of ourselves – to the point where we have to admit we have caught nothing, produced and amounted to nothing.

3-crosses-at-left-2READ JOHN 21:1-14

In one of His post resurrection appearances, Jesus came to the disciples after they had done their best and came up empty. They were good fishermen, it’s just that the fish weren’t biting… until Jesus came. He redirects their efforts and their nets could barely hold the catch!

Sometimes Jesus lets us get to the end of ourselves – to the point where we have to admit we have caught nothing, produced and amounted to nothing. He isn’t so interested in adding to our efforts – we could then take credit. He prefers to work through empty and yielded vessels that bring trust to the table and full glory to him. He performs great miracles through these vessels with nothing but childlike trust and sincere faith – attractive qualities to him.

“Lord, we’ve already done that, but because you say to do it, we will…” (Luke 5:5)

This is the posture of humility demonstrated by abandoning one’s perceptions, experiences, tactics, even fatigue, to embrace Jesus’ leadership and execute his sometimes counter-intuitive commands. This is the essence of following him:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight. Don’t be wise in your own eyes fear the Lord and turn from evil (Proverbs 3:5-7)

Litmus test: when we’re not willing to trust him and do what he says… then we may not yet be to the end of ourselves! This means that the old man is alive and well, large and in charge, tipping the hat to Christ but not trusting the heart to him.

Unfortunately for such a person the lessons to bring them to the inevitable reality of their personal inadequacy and His divine sufficiency can be quite painful and debilitating. The sad result can be a life lived in opposition to his purpose while still being aware of his presence  – assenting to his identity but resisting (maybe resenting)  his authority.

In Reflection: I have a ways to go to come to the end of myself. I’m still at the wheel, living under the delusion that I am in control of anything beyond my will. I can almost hear Christ calling to me from the shore (um…shouldn’t He be in the boat?)

Jesus:     “Jonathan, have you caught anything?”

Jon:     Just some minnow, maybe some plankton, I can’t tell. But no, Lord, not a blessed thing except a boatload of frustration and failure!”

Jesus:     “Throw your net on the other side of the boat and you’ll find some.”

Jon:     “Lord, I fished all sides of this boat. Are you saying that I’m not competent?”

Jesus:    “I’m sorry. You’re a fisherman right? And again, exactly how much have you caught?!”

Now, what I do with his last command will affect how I respond to the next one. And if I don’t trust him with what’s happening, odds are good I won’t trust him with what’s coming.

For Peter and me, it’s not about where I’m fishing but how I’m fishing and whose direction I am following. Jesus knows where and when the fish are biting. Following his direction guarantees a maximum catch.

The greater yield for Christ happens when I yield to Christ.

The issue is not the bait on the hook but the hand on the rod. And the results – proportionate to trust – reveal the truth.

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John 20 – “Believing is Seeing”

Categories: Glimpses of Christ, Tags: , , , , ,

Imagine what it must have been like for Thomas to have lived among the others who had seen Jesus. For seven days, as close as he had been with Jesus and the 12, this insider became an outsider.

3-crosses-at-left-2READ JOHN 20:19-31

In His post resurrection appearances, Jesus deals with the disciples’ doubts, fears, and failures by applying His presence, peace, forgiveness and reinstatement to His call. This part of the story highlights the apostle Thomas who did not have the advantage of having the rendezvous with Jesus the other 10 disciples did.

A good friend of mine in my small group raised a great point: imagine what it must have been like for Thomas to have lived among the others who had seen Jesus. For seven days, as close as he had been with Jesus and the 12, this insider became an outsider. He didn’t have the personal encounter that the others had. Considering what that would have done to me, I am not sure that we should ever have attached to this faithful disciple the moniker “doubting”. Though Jesus does confronts this in Thomas,  I believe there is more here than meets our myopic glare.

After Jesus shows up and speaks specifically to Thomas’ demands, Thomas finally proclaims what in his heart He knew to be true but maybe too afraid to admit, that Jesus was indeed, resurrected Lord and God!
Suppose the reason John was inspired to write this was not to spotlight Thomas’ doubts (vs. 20:25), or to resolve the tension with Thomas’ triumphant affirmation of Jesus as God (vs. 20:28), but to feature Jesus’ pronouncement of the significant blessing to all who would believe in him without the benefits or privilege of actually seeing him as did the 11 disciples. Suppose Jesus, looking into the future as only He can, sensitive to those who might feel they were on the outside, or never measure up because they didn’t encounter Christ as the apostles did, established, once and for all, the foundation of his blessing and acceptance for those who would entrust their lives to Him without sight.

There would never be any reason for anyone trumping others because of their visually laying eyes on Jesus, a move that would seem to propel one to superstar status, and imply an inferiority for those who “can only believe” but would never have had actually seen. Seems like we place greater emphasis and prestige to those who have the ‘visions’, and sightings of divine phenomenon. Jesus makes it clear here that those who trust fully and simply embracing and accepting his promise based on his character and teaching are indeed blessed and thoroughly accepted by Christ with ‘superstar’ status!

I recall the story of Jesus healing of the centurion’s servant in Luke 7:1-10. It is one of the few passages where Jesus is described at be astonished by someone’ faith. This centurion didn’t have to have Jesus physically go to where the servant was. Empowered by the Spirit with eyes of faith, this gentile centurion recognized and respected Jesus’ authority in ways that no other Jew Israel did. He accepted Jesus for who He was and what He said He could do. That indeed, is marvel-ous! That kind of faith is also impressive and attractive to Christ. That kind of faith is evidence of an actual encounter that transcends the 5 senses and renders proof unnecessary.

That is where Thomas’ problem lay, and, quite frankly, mine. From time to time we demand God prove Himself and His Word on our terms rather than entrusting ourselves to His words on His terms. We want Him to adjust Himself to us rather than us adjust ourselves to Him. Again, the issue is not Thomas. It is Jesus making sure that it is clear that the kind of faith He prefers from us is the kind of trust that simply accepts Christ as He is without waiting for the kind of proof to accommodate our fears and doubts. For these kind of faith-full followers, Jesus isn’t coming to them. He already arrived.

John 20:30-31 does not celebrate or affirm faith with no facts but faith with no visual sight.

“Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.  But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John 20:30-31

The facts are recorded to facilitate faith. I believe that our brother, Thomas, was an illustration, not the main point. May we brandish the kind of faith that proves Jesus has already arrived and that before we see anything more, our hearts will have already delivered us into the greater depths of knowing Him through greater depths of trusting Him.

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John 14b – “The Home of God in Us”

Categories: Glimpses of Christ, Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Because of Christ and through the indwelling Spirit, the very presence of God, we get divine counsel/comfort, truth, recall of Jesus' teaching, the promise that we will never be abandoned.

3-crosses-at-left-2READ JOHN 14:15-31

The initial precept in Jesus’ teaching here in this passage is the close relationship between love and obedience. This must be recognized as an inescapable priority for us and an appropriate expectation from Christ. If we’re not careful, we can seem to think that Christ is calling for proof, advocating a legalistic, performance based structure to our relationship. It could easily smell like death if we only look at the words. This is why it is so important for us to make sure that the God-Man, Jesus, is the filter through which we interpret His Words. From studying His ministry, His relationships, and His message, it is difficult to understand how anyone could come to the conclusion that Jesus was demanding, “Prove your love to me – obey me!” in a near petulant, tyrannical tone. One needs to look no further than His love and affection for His disciples displayed on this ominous night. Knowing that they would betray, deny, abandon Him, He refuses to speak to them in derisive, judgmental tones. Christ would soon offer His life freely to sinners without first striking a deal with theme. He is the One who instructs us about the quality of our love being expressed out of the character of our obedience.  If He is our Lord, if we have been touched by His love and sacrifice, if we have Him residing in us, then our love will be shown through a lifestyle where obedience is the characteristic mode of our life as an expression of trust and love.

Before one complains at what we have to do, inventory this passage for what we get. Because of Christ and through the indwelling Spirit, the very presence of God, we get divine counsel/comfort, truth, recall of Jesus’ teaching, the promise that we will never be abandoned. This passage implies Trinitarian Residence: because of Christ, the whole divine family, Father, Son, and Spirit move in to take up residence in us. Here is where the amazing grace shows up.

I think of the plight of the Dalits of India who are considered sub-human by caste and therefore not worth the investment of any of the dignities customary to human beings. In their culture, the gods won’t waste time and energy on them, they are disqualified from public worship in customary temples because they are so far beneath that their worship is ignored. Indeed, they are capable of worshiping the gods. But the Christian God in Christ comes to them and through Christ they are told that not only does God love them but that He, the perfect righteous God of the universe, the God of all gods, desires to reside within them. Thus, in this new relationship, they no longer have to go to temples to worship God, they have become temples of God. Wow! The fact that the Triune God dwells within me says something about this God  I worship and it says something about my value to Him. I am temple of God. The Spirit of God dwells in me. That establishes a new order in me and calls me to a new lifestyle all because of who has made His home in me.

But there is a necessity to clarify the environment. The essence of residence, as Jesus points out, is peace: peace with God and the peace of God, the sense of well-being grounded in our being unconditionally forgiven and loved by God as His beloved children. This peace, with divine grace as its source and energy, is maintained through our submission to His presence. More simply, it is the natural byproduct of life lived in loving obedience to a God of grace and love. The question for the believer, for me, is not did God take up residence in me, but is He at home in me and I in Him? Is there His peace in my/His house? If there isn’t, that may be evidence that something else is interfering with His reign…something has diluted my love for Him and diverted my obedience to Him.

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John 13c – “Love vs. Pride”

Categories: Glimpses of Christ, Tags: , , , , ,

In this final moment with His men, before Christ offers Himself to the darkness in order to liberate mankind from it, His motive of love is the same expectation He lays before His disciples.

3-crosses-at-left-2READ JOHN 13:31-38

The Priority of Love: In this final moment with His men, before Christ offers Himself to the darkness in order to liberate mankind from it, His motive of love is the same expectation He lays before His disciples. He qualifies it in 3 ways:

1. It is a new command, a divine decree that must be obeyed; an edict that given the right moment and opposing forces will go against our natural instinct. It is one we must die to in contrast to preserving our own rights and fallible sense of justice (which usually involves something murderous and destructive). The Commander in Chief issues the order that His army operate in this with right hearts and right responses to each other.

2. It must emulate the quality of Christ’s love. The love expressed between disciples must reflect the purity and power of love Christ offered to them. They would gain a firsthand, front row seat to the depth of that love beginning with the Garden and all the way to Golgotha. That kind of love must leave us all with the sense of futility. You can’t just say “Yes Sir!” to loving like Jesus loves! It takes much more than sinful, fickle, fallible humanity to engender that kind of love. We need not only a divine example, but also divine power to do so, to counteract our natural instinct for self-survival against the supreme example in Christ of self-denying, self-sacrificing love. The Holy Spirit would become absolutely necessary in empowering us to obey this impossible command apart from divine enablement.

3. It reveals our devotion to Christ. This kind of love will be the proof to the world of the reality and supremacy of Christ as our Master and Lord. It may not draw everyone to Christ, but it will declare to the world that we are His disciples and that even the most vitriolic, intractable atheist cannot deny. Our Christ-like love for each other, love that mirrors the beauty of divinity within the horror of hostility, will offer the world an up close and personal revelation of the reality of the living Christ. It will reveal to the world that Jesus, fictional or historical, is alive in those who profess devotion to Him. And this may cause at least the question if not stimulate the personal hunger to be known to and by such a God. The qualifying mark and priority of the disciple of Christ: Christ-like love.

The Fallibility of Pride: We have such good intentions, don’t we? We want to be seen as noble, and upright, and dependable. We fail to realize that unless we are willing to take the deep look into our own caverns, we may miss the fact that we are aiding and abetting the Criminal that will rise to bring us down and bring harm to those we love the most. Such was the case with Peter. I believe he believed what he was saying, but we know he didn’t realize what he was saying.

Ironic, that the gospel writer records Peter referring to Christ as “Lord” in this. Peter basically tells the Lord…that He is wrong! (Luke 22:31-33; Mark 14:27-31; Matthew 26:31-35) This is the evidence of the presence of the Criminal who operates like a computer virus attaching itself to normal functions but corrupting processes while masquerading as native, innate elements. Allowed to exist, it spreads its corruption until the host is completely compromised and the system operates more like the virus in opposition to its original design.

Peter has continued to give room and board to his pride. By not taking Jesus as seriously as he should have, in presenting himself as utterly dependable and unflagging in loyalty rather than asking for help and strength, he made the mistake so many of us do: to believe more in ourselves than in Christ. This is where Christ is betrayed, disowned, and abandoned. This fallibility of pride leaves us vulnerable to our own destruction and the exposure of our true character in stark contrast to the character of Christ.

Tragically, the persistence of pride will find us always in opposition to Jesus and unable to carry out His commands, even the command to love as He did. What is demanded and required is the crucifixion of pride and the necessary reesurrection of His divine life within us. Apart from Him, the moment will inevitably come where we will disclose our true allegiance to our true master: ourselves. Apart from Christ, Peter did. Apart from Christ, so do we!

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John 13b – “Dining with Darkness and Light”

Categories: Glimpses of Christ, Tags: , , , , , , ,

Sitting at the table with love and light incarnate was darkness in conflict. Judas had already been prompted to betray the Lord.

3-crosses-at-left-2

READ JOHN 13:18-30

The Darkness: Sitting at the table with love and light incarnate was darkness in conflict. Judas had already been prompted to betray the Lord. (I say “the” Lord because Judas could never claim Christ as “his” Lord personally based on what Christ knew of him as quoted in John 6:64, 70; 13:10-11) Judas had tasted the fruits of fellowship with Christ (Hebrews 6:4-6) but had not given himself to Christ. This is not the condition of a free agent but of prey. A man can never exist apart from allegiance to either Christ or the anti-Christ in whatever form that takes.

Judas had occupied the seat of honor at the table, on the left hand of Christ, had his belly full of the ancient Passover meal and the new Passover communion, his feet washed by the Servant Master, Jesus, and yet he remained unswayed to abandon his destructive course of action. It is when Christ offers the bread to Judas that there is clarity and his journey to the dark side was complete: the darkness had finally moved in to where it was already welcome.

Oh to have a special prescription of glasses with the ability to view spiritual and non-spiritual activity simultaneously – to be able to see Jesus extend grace in this choice morsel of bread, watch Judas extend his hand to accept the bread but not the grace; and then to watch in the moment the transfer of food occurs to see satan or his minions enter into Judas and fully establish their fortress from which they could operate with no more conflict! I remember watching the demons drag of Carl in the movie “Ghost” and see a similar scene here except here, Judas opens the door and welcomes them in.

Then when Judas goes out, John adds, “…and it was night” Judas is in His natural element for that supernatural element is now personified in Judas…as natural. His going out is also his walking away from Christ and running to his true master with conviction and loyalty.

The Light: Look again at Jesus in 13:21. He is troubled in spirit. No doubt this is due to what He must face, the agony of body and soul. But do you suppose that part of His anguish here deals with what He knows will happen to Judas? Throughout this entire meal the Light never flickers, never wanes, but burns steady and bright – so bright against the backdrop of demonic treachery from a “friend” of Christ.

Who in their right mind would not choose to consider their life under the control of One who, as God, would still hold out an invitation to a child of satan to come in from the darkness? Who would not desire to consider the transfer of allegiance from satan to a Savior of such love and grace as to offer hope at the same moment that a demonic partnership was being struck?

Jesus’ persistence with love and light gives hope to us all that there is no sin too bad or strong that will cause the divine light of grace to ever be extinguished (John 1:5). The door will never be closed to the Father’s home in this age of grace. We must deliberately, defiantly, walk away from His grace and in this our destiny is sealed. Yet none can accuse Jesus of withdrawal. That Light, so committed to the perfect will of God enough to tell Judas, “What you are about to do, do quickly”, is the same Light so perfect in love that it would offer grace at the last moment. As the light fades from Judas’ life, like the light of a candle that one blows on to extinguish, in contrast, the Light of Christ burns brightly and reminds us that there is a God greater than the darkness around and within us. There is a God who still offers the most heinous of sinners the way home.

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John 12b – “The Procession of Joy”

Categories: Glimpses of Christ, Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Jesus knew the nature of the crowd. This was the same kind of crowd that witnessed His miracles at the beginning of His ministry 3 years prior in Jerusalem.

3-crosses-at-left-2

READ JOHN 12:12-19

Jesus knew the nature of the crowd. This was the same kind of crowd that witnessed His miracles at the beginning of His ministry 3 years prior in Jerusalem (John 2:23-25). In those 3 years, those people hadn’t changed but, thank God, neither had Christ. He knew what they were capable of for He knew their (our/my) nature. And yet…He still came. He knew within 4-5 days, this warm, hospitable crowd would become an angry, condemning mob. And yet…He still came. He knew that though He was now being led in praise and honor into Jerusalem, carried on a donkey, hailed as the instrument of blessing, that by the end of the week he would be dragged out of Jerusalem as “the goat”, forced to carry the instrument of His own death…and yet, He still came. He looked into their eyes and saw wonder, joy, curiosity knowing that by the end of the week those eyes would project hatred, hostility and condemnation…and yet He still came.

And…He still comes! Because His love for us is based on His nature to love and His perfect submission to the perfect will of a God who loves us enough…to still come! As the song says, “He looked beyond my fault and saw my need”. Praise be to God!

Vs. 19 “Every party loves a pooper” and there they are, in the background, the Party Poopers, the Frozen Chosen, the Elder Brothers, the Prefects of Piety, the Holy Critics – The Pharisees! They were indignant to people going to Jesus, they were hostile to Jesus coming to them. It is amazing and alarming how resistance to God can come from the people of God and for such “good” reasons. We must ever be vigilant as to how we judge people’s fervor and passion for Christ on the basis of our preferred methods and slanted expectations. We will find ourselves not merely in opposition to pure devotion to Christ in others but also to Christ, Himself.

In the background of devotion to Christ, many times, can also be found contempt for Him as well. The miracle is how God uses the contempt of hostile humanity as a canvas to display the magnificence of His grace and truth without compromising His commitment to be Himself or our “freedom” to be ourselves.

Praise God that in spite of an unwilling, inhospitable, hostile, resistant humanity, this God still comes!

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John 12a – “The Anointing”

Categories: Glimpses of Christ, Tags: , , , , , , , ,

In a sense, Mary was doing for Jesus what God would be doing with Jesus.

3-crosses-at-left-2READ JOHN 12:1-11

What loomed on the horizon was the ultimate pouring out of one’s life, the supreme demonstration of selfless love that would bring peace to the world, healing to the nations, Spirit life to mankind. It would also be to God a sweet smelling, perfect, approved, sufficient, sacrifice. In a sense, Mary was doing FOR Jesus what God would be doing WITH Jesus. She anointed Him with perfume, “liquid love”, the fluid of her devotion. God would do the same in “anointing” the world with the blood of His Son. She poured out all her precious perfume – God would completely pour out His Son, Jesus. It is so fitting that such an expression and experience of unhindered, extravagant love would be used by God as a powerful symbol to prepare Christ for His passion, and to also inspire our passion for Christ.

The ugly “other side”, which always seems to dwell alongside evil, is that in the same moment that extravagant love is being expressed, the polar opposite and demonic perversion of love: miserly, self-centered, murderous, hostility to God which would, by necessity and nature, scheme to rob, malign, corrupt, murder and eliminate that love. The love of Judas and the chief priests stands in stark contrast to the love of Mary and Jesus. Where Mary and Jesus sought to demonstrate love and life, their counterparts sought to destroy it and replace it with death disguised as religion.

And this is how the week begins!