Category Archives: Gospel of John

As Good as His Word

When I watch basketball, mostly what I see are the shots and whether or not they go in.  The rest is a blur.  Players obviously are aware of more, but they too, in the midst of the hustle and bang, can’t really know what’s happening as a whole.  Coaches really “see” the game.  From their vantage point they can see things the players cannot.  From years of training and experience, they understand things about the flow of the game that are invisible to the casual spectator.  Beyond that, they know each of the players’ strengths, weaknesses and habits.  Coaches see what’s going on with  whole different level of understanding.

Jesus “sees” all of reality much more completely and accurately than any of us.  He sees all that is happening and knows all that has happened through the lenses of God the Father.  He understands the big picture as it flows from Creation to Perfection.  He knows all the “players,” our strengths and weaknesses and what has been happening in each of our lives.  How He understands reality therefore, is very different from us folks who can only see for a short time through a very limited knothole in the fence.  The way someone “sees” shapes his mindset and understanding of  reality.  This mindset or frame of reference is what Greek philosophers called one’s “logos.”   Our logos shapes how we understand everything.  You can see why logos gave rise to the word logic.   There is no good English word for logos.  It is most frequently translated as “word.”  Pretty clumsy, that.  “Word” does not come close to the full meaning of logos.  

That’s why this familiar verse is frequently misunderstood:

In the beginning was the Word [logos], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

Instead of thinking, “word,” a combination of letters, think, “mindset” or “understanding of reality.”  And not just any old mindset, but THE mindset, God’s mind  God’s way of understanding reality as it really is.  Jesus, this says, embodies God’s true Logos.  In the beginning, before Creation, Jesus was The Logos.  That is to say, He existed with God in the beginning because He was God in the beginning.

When a coach calls a time out, it’s usually to give the players his perspective on what is happening in the game and instructions on how to adapt.  His logos gives them valuable insight as they head back out to the frantic action of the game.  In Jesus, God has called us to the sidelines.  He says, In all the hubbub of life, you’ve gotten a distorted idea.  I want you to really know what’s happening.  Here is My Son, Who has been with Me since the beginning.  Listen to Him; He knows; He has the right logos.  So much so, He is the Logos.

I give you My Word.

His Own Words

Time Magazine will tell you nobody really knows much about Jesus.  They and other print and broadcast media use skepticism about Jesus to pump up their ratings just before Resurrection Day.  They may not know Who Jesus is, but He does.  Here is some of how He described Himself:

John 6:33-35

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

John 8:12

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 8:23

He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.

John 8:24

I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”

John 8:58

Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” (Note: “I Am” is the Name of God.)

 

John 9:39

Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”

John 10:30

“I and the Father are one.”

John 10:36-38

“…do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

John 14:9

Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 

Mar 14:61 — Mar 14:62

But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

There’s more.  Much more.  But, of course, none of that matters unless you are willing to accept that Jesus wasn’t lying.

Blinders

If you are lost and pull out a map, do you ignore the parts of the map that don’t fit with where you think you are?  Of course not.  If you did, you’d still be lost.  If you are typing in an internet address, do you decide for yourself which letters are really necessary, skipping the others?  Doesn’t work so well, right?

Which parts of the Bible are trustworthy and which parts are not?  The Jesus Seminar presumed to decide that question, as it pertained to the sayings of Jesus.  They black-balled a good portion of the Gospel accounts.  For example, in their lofty wisdom, they declared Jesus never said, “I am the way and the truth and the life…”  On what basis?  They began with the assumption that Jesus would never have referred to Himself.  In other words, they crossed out everything from the Gospels that did not conform to their own ideas.  It is no surprise that the portion of the New Testament they found to be authentic closely resembled their own thinking.  And was very short.

If you come to the Bible unprepared to let it challenge you and change you, it won’t.  If you ignore everything you disagree with, what’s left will simply look a lot like you.  God spoke about that kind of audacity through His prophet, Jeremiah:

“‘How can you say, “We are wise,
for we have the law of the Lord,”
when actually the lying pen of the scribes
has handled it falsely?
The wise will be put to shame;
they will be dismayed and trapped.
Since they have rejected the word of the Lord,
what kind of wisdom do they have?   (Jeremiah 8:8-9)

 

 

 

Three Little Words

Christians are losers.  That’s what I used to think.  Uptight, repressed people, afraid to have fun.  So when my brother tried to tell me about Jesus, my responses were laced with sarcasm and scorn.  Maybe you can relate – either to my attitude or to how my brother must have felt.  If so, spend a moment or two considering an exchange between a man who had just met Jesus and his friend:

45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”  (John 1:45-46)

You’ve seen those signs that proudly announce that this town is the birthplace of some famous person?  Nazareth apparently didn’t have one of those.  But I suppose Nathanael’s snippy response was about more than that.  I suspect at some point Nathanael had been burned by believing something that turned out to be a hoax.  He may well have thrown out that sarcastic remark as a way of defending himself against being fooled again.  That would have been why I said it.  No matter why he said it, it probably put Philip off.  He might have been tempted to say, “Well, just forget it; you’re probably right.”

But he didn’t.  His response was elegant in it’s simplicity and effectiveness.  He said, “Come and see.”  Check Him out for yourself.  No need to try to prove it to his friend.  All he needed to do was simply invite his friend to come, to come and see.  I’m going to have to remember that.  There have been many times when my response to a sarcastic doubter was to try and prove Who Jesus is.  Perhaps you know that’s a response that rarely works and usually left me feeling frustrated and inadequate.  Philip intuitively knew Jesus could do His own proving, that he, Philip, didn’t need to do that part.  His role was to simply invite his friend.

“Come and see.”

Peace on Earth 3

You are driving your rental through a city you have never been in.  The British lady on the GPS says, “Take the next right hand turn ” but you are pretty sure that where you are going is off to the left, somewhere.  You shut off the GPS and turn left.  Now what?  You think, “I guess I’m on my own here…”   If you have ever been there and done that, you know your stress escalates.  There is no peace at that moment.  It is much more peaceful to simply follow instructions than it is to find your own way.  Despite occasional glimpses of “deja vu,” your future is a place you have never been.

In this third post about finding peace, the kind of peace Jesus said He gives us (John 14:27 – scroll down to read the two previous posts), Jesus models peace that comes from following His GPS (God Positioning System).

30 I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, 31 but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me.
“Come now; let us leave.  (John 14:30-31)

Faith in God does what He says.  So-called faith that does not obey God is not really faith. When you know for sure God has a plan (Peace on Earth 1), He knows what is going to happen and is in control (Peace on Earth 2) it really makes sense to obey Him.  And it brings peace.  Obedience to the instructions and commands of an expert is much more peaceful than guessing what to do on our own.   You want peace?  Act out your faith by doing exactly what God tells you to do.

Jesus taught this same principle:

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:28-30)

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me” means, let me tell you what to do “and you will find rest for your souls.”  You want peace?  Obey Jesus, obey God.  Sounds simplistic but sometimes the things that work best are simple.

Here’s a prayer for all you who read this, that you will enjoy real peace during this Christmas season, and all throughout your life – right here on earth.

Peace on Earth 2

When Jesus offered His peace to His disciples (and by extension to all those who follow Him – John 14:27-31), He made it clear His peace was not what the world calls peace.  The world thinks of peace as a temporary state, free from conflict and strife.  Jesus’ peace is a thorough, unadulterated wellness of soul.  His peace does not protect us from trouble but gives us the equanimity and strength to go through it.

When we experience trouble, our tendency is to focus on “what is happening to me.”  The previous post (you can scroll down to see it below) was about how peace comes when we expand our focus, viewing troubling circumstances from God’s perspective.  Another tendency in times of trouble is to get all stressed out, wondering what will happen to me.   Jesus demonstrates a way around that by what He said next:

29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.  (John 14:29)

Knowing what is about to happen really helps.  One of the most helpful things about Hospice care is their careful and compassionate instruction about the normal progression of death – what will happen to the body at each stage, how it feels and what it means.  Birthing classes serve the same purpose, so a young couple is made aware of what is about to happen, enabling them to go through birth more peacefully.  When we cannot know what is about to happen, it is helpful to know that Someone does.  God knows.  He proved that repeatedly in the Old Testament, particularly with the specific prophecies about the coming of Jesus.  He knows what is coming in your time of trouble.  And He is in control.

16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.  (Psalm 139:16)

He not only know what will happen, but He also knows why.  He knows how He will use your circumstances as He accomplishes His purposes.  We may not completely understand how He knows but knowing that He knows is very helpful in finding peace.  His peace.  Now and here on earth.

Peace on Earth 1

Peace would be easy if we weren’t on earth.  It’s the stuff that happens on earth that destroys our peace.  You are settled in for a “long winter’s nap” and at 2:00 am the phone rings.  There goes peace.  You are ready to go “over the river and through the woods” and you break a timing chain.  Your boss asks you to work overtime.  Your daughter gets strep throat.  And so on.

And yet, it was “on earth” where Jesus said.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  ( John 14:27)

He said those words about giving us peace as a gift, not being troubled or afraid, just moments before His arrest, hours before He was crucified.  He knew it was coming.  So, how did Jesus find peace in an “on earth” moment like that?  How did He have it to give?   How can we find it.  The next few things He said give us insight.  This time let’s look at what He said in verse 28:

 28 “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.  (John 14:28-29)

Instead of focusing on His impending pain and death, Jesus fixed His gaze on the big picture, on how His terrible suffering would be used by God to achieve His purposes.  Like a football player who eagerly runs onto the field, knowing he is about to be clobbered and possibly injured but fixes his mind on the possibility of helping his team win, Jesus suffered the cross “for the joy set before Him.”

And we can find peace through that attitude as well.  God uses our suffering to reveal the beauty and strength of having His life within us.  He does not waste any of it.  If we can consider our circumstances “on earth” from a heavenly perspective, like Jesus we can find peace in the midst of troubling events.

More, next time.

Unwrap Music

The mysterious thing about gift wrapping paper is it slows time to a crawl.  After I wrap a gift, I can hardly wait, and frequently fail to wait, until the moment the gift is first unwrapped.  The more special the gift, the slower goes the time.  It’s not just me, it’s a rule, a law of physics.  Which means angels in heaven must have had a very hard time waiting for Jesus to be “unwrapped.”

Think about it from their perspective:  In heaven, you hear about God’s plan to have His Son become a human and be born on earth.  Earth is a sphere that spins around some tiny speck of light way out in the universe.  Humans are creatures God made to live on that sphere.  And Almighty God has decided to send His Son there as a human! You can hardly imagine it, let alone understand it.  More amazing than if the Orkin man decided to become a termite.  And after Jesus has been “wrapped” in Mary, so to speak, imagine the gathering anticipation for the reveal.  Imagine how slowly those nine months would pass, worse than waiting at the DMV.  And how excited you would be to witness this miracle.  You would be ready to explode!

So now, God comes and says, “We’re getting a choir together to celebrate it when Jesus is born.  What do you think, would you be interested?”  “Are You kidding?  Of course I’m interested; I can’t wait!”  And after Gabriel is done setting the stage for the shepherds and gives the cue to the angelic choir director, how enthusiastic would your singing be?  This is probably a vast understatement:

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”  (Luke 2:13-14)

Jesus is going to come again, this time not as a baby but as the King of Kings!  Time is creeping at an agonizing pace.  But, as we wait, you don’t have to try to contain your excitement.  You can get ready to pump your fist and sing!

Finding Joy

When you see the word “Joy!” on Christmas cards and decorations, do you flinch?  Do you ask, “Where’s the joy?”  So many do at this time of year.  Does holiday joy seem artificial, forced and frantic?  So many activities of the season hold the promise of joy but leave us feeling empty.

There is a reliable solution. But it’s not just for Christmas.  It is a prescription for joy that lasts beyond the season, revealed in this teaching of Jesus:

9As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (John 15:9-12)

Love is a primary ingredient, necessary for sustained joy.  If you know in your bones you are truly and unconditionally loved, it changes your mood from the bottom up.  Joy becomes possible despite circumstances that would otherwise sap it.  So Jesus begins His lesson with a reminder that you are loved by God – really!  The love Jesus extends to us is the same as the love God the Father extends to Him.  How much does The Father in Heaven, the One Who is love, love His One and Only Son?  That’s how much you are loved.   Really understanding that is step one.

Step two is learning to experience that constant love.  Jesus says if you keep His commands, you will “remain” in His love.  The word, remain, means to make your home in or dwell in the experience of His love as a constant reality.  Note that He did NOT say He wouldn’t love you if you didn’t do what He said.  He said you wouldn’t “remain” in the experience of being loved.  His love does not change based on what you do, your ability to experience this love changes.  Love must be known, it must feel real and deep in order to produce joy.  If you want to experience the love God has for you, get in step with how Jesus instructed us to live.

Jesus told us this for two astounding reasons.  He wants our joy to actually be His joy.   And, He wants for us to have joy that is complete.   Unadulterated.  Not faked for the season but bubbling up from within our souls in a sustained way.  That’s my wish for you, too.

“Joy to the World, the Lord is come…”

Square Bidness

Square bidness.  Translation?  I am telling you the absolute truth.  I learned that expression from New York slum street kids back in the 60’s.  Don’t know if they still say it, but God does.  Check this out:

18 For this is what the Lord says—
he who created the heavens,
he is God;
he who fashioned and made the earth,
he founded it;
he did not create it to be empty,
but formed it to be inhabited
he says:
“I am the Lord,
and there is no other.
19 I have not spoken in secret,
from somewhere in a land of darkness;
I have not said to Jacob’s descendants,
‘Seek me in vain.’
I, the Lord, speak the truth;
I declare what is right.  (Isaiah 45:18-19)

Sometimes I underline or highlight the main ideas in long Bible sentences, as I have done above.  That’s so I can hang on the main thrust of what is written.  In this passage, the main idea is that God, the only One Who is real, made the earth to be inhabited by us and has clearly told us in His Word how to find Him.  If we seek Him, He said, it won’t be in vain.

Think about how much effort around the world goes into the pursuit of God, most of it in vain because the method of seeking has been designed by what people have imagined would work.  But God said, “Look, if you want to truly find me you have to seek in the way I have clearly told you.  It’s not some secret knowledge but is clearly laid out in My Word.  Seek Me in that true way and it won’t be in vain.”

And Jesus added,

45 It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. 46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. 47 Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life.”  (John 6:45-48)

Square bidness.