Category Archives: John

The Eyes of Anticipation

Do you not say, ‘There are still four months until the harvest’? I tell you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are ripe for harvest.  John 4:35

Are the fields ripe for harvest?  Honestly, I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t believe this much for the city of Auburn.  We moved here 10 years ago, gung ho about helping the small church planting grow, and, although we’ve impacted many people, the church is still small.  It seems like most everyone isn’t really interested.

But yesterday, I watched a video about how one of the scenes in the TV series, “The Chosen” was made.  This series about Jesus and the people around him is one of my favorite shows regarding Jesus!

But back to the video.  In it, the director talks about how they made the scene where Peter and Andrew have been fishing all night and haven’t caught anything, but then cast their nets onto the water on the other side of their boat when Jesus tells them to, and they haul in a heavy, miraculous load of fish.

The director tells a super inspiring story of how, when it came time to film, all of the sources for fish to use in the scene had fallen through.   The only thing left to do was to film a large green mass in the nets, and later rely on the special effects team to create fish where the green mass was.  The director really had to step out on faith.  This was one of the most important scenes in the series, and it needed to have an impact.  He said that even though he would start to freak out, he kept coming back to a feeling of peace, that God would provide.

It turns out that even though the special effects guys assured the director they could do it, they’d never done created this kind of animation before, and everything they tried didn’t work.  It was a case where the film crew had to rely on God to provide the fish, so they could film the scene about how he provided the fish!  At the last minute, one of the tech guys woke up in the middle of the night with an idea how the effect could be generated.  It worked, and the scene is amazing.

What’s wild, is that I’ve experienced the same thing as they did in the video.  I also worked for a Christian TV show, and we often had to rely on prayer when we had no idea how something was going to work out.  We would be a couple days away from deadline, and have no one to film.  We would be set up for a film shoot, and then find out that they’d taken away permission for us to film at a crucial location.  We would have 100% rain forecast on the day that we’d scheduled to shoot. In each of these cases, the executive producer and I would pray, and then go forward believing that God was going to supply what we needed.  And it always came together.

So since I’ve experienced this, why am I not doing it more now?  I’ve forgotten.  I’ve been beaten down by disappointments.

But now I’m excited and energized to get back to practicing this kind of faith.   I want to do what I can, and then trust that God will to provide what I can’t.  I want to give my best to each situation, but also see more that prayer is crucial.

So much of what we do in our days needs God to help it come together.

Jesus told his disciples to open their eyes and see that there were people ready to respond to the message, just as the woman at the well did.  The disciples would have thought that no one was open in Samaria.  They were wrong.

And I’ve been wrong, too.  There are open people in Auburn.  God wants me to open my eyes, pray, and go forward with the anticipating of seeing them.

This is only the beginning.  There are other areas in my life where I can apply this principle.  I’m buidling my coaching business.  I have a health situation that needs to be resolved.  And more.

I want to go forward in anticipation that God will supply in these areas as well.

I pray that you will be inspired to do the same.

“At daybreak I lay my plea before You and wait in expectation.” Ps 5:3

 

 

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Filed under Evangelism, Faith, John, Red Letter

Food They Know Nothing About

invisible food

Meanwhile, the disciples urged Him, “Rabbi, eat something.”

But He told them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”

So the disciples asked one another, “Could someone have brought Him food?”

Jesus explained, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work.  (John 4:31-34)

I’m going to express my thoughts on this red letter passage in a roundabout way, so stay with me.

My friend Marge and I just studied sin, and then the cross, with a friend.  Doing so made me think more about my own sin, and how Jesus died for me personally.  I lose touch with this sometimes.  It’s hard for me to remember the raw hard truth that my sin was, and is, serious enough to put me on “death row,” and Jesus took my place there.

Reading the Old Testament has actually helped me with this.  I’ve been in Numbers, and I see there so many times that the Israelites complained, and how displeased God was when they did so.  I think right now this convicts me about my sin more than anything else.  Because I’ve realized lately how much I complain, have self pity, or just feel discontent.  I could certainly have been one of the ones who was killed in a plague, or bit by a snake as a consequence for their grumbling.

Yet God was ultimately merciful to the Israelites.  At one point he had Moses put a bronze snake on a pole, and everyone who looked at that snake was healed, instead of dying for their sins.  (Numbers 21:9) I can picture myself there with the rest of the Jews, whining and being irate, and then watching in utter horror as the ground became a slithering mass of snakes that were sinking their fangs into people right and left.  I would have been sure that I was doomed, as I saw everyone around me falling to the ground and writhing in death throes. Then, I can imagine the absolute relief I would have when Moses brought out the bronze snake, and I realized that even though I deserved the punishment, God had been gracious and spared me.

That bronze snake is a foreshadowing of Christ on the cross.  And as I picture it so clearly, I can see how much the cross saved me, even as the bronze snake saved the Israelites.

What does this have to do with today’s red letter passage?  Well, one way I’ve been working on my disgruntled attitude is to tell God “thank you” for the situations that make me want to grumble or have self pity.  I tell him that I’m grateful to go through each challenge, because they remind me of how much I need God, and that he’s the only one who can truly meet my needs.

They remind me that I have spiritual food to eat that others know nothing about.  And what wonderful food it is!  I should remember this food always. But when life is going well, it’s easy to forget.

I love that Jesus was so much in touch with the spiritual food.  He goes on to describe his sustenance: “My food is to do the will of the Father and to finish his work.”

I’m sure that I don’t fully understand this, but as I get older, I’m understanding it more.  Last week I felt very restless.  I felt so motivated to do something worthwhile with my time, and not just spin my wheels.  And the thing that felt most worthwhile was to do things for God.  I was very grateful that my husband and I rode our bikes on Saturday morning to the local park where they were having a City Market.  We met some great people and had good conversations.  We were outward focused.  It felt so much better than sitting at home.

I know my husband has been feeling this restlessness too lately.  He works all day, and that’s productive.  But he’s been longing to do something more.  So he joined a local organization that helps get people out of poverty, and he’s been volunteering every Tuesday night.  He loves it.

The challenge for us from today’s red letter passage is, first, to seek to have a greater recognition of the spiritual food that’s available to us.  Thanking God in hard times is one way to have this, because it opens our eyes to our spiritual hunger and focuses us on God as the one who satisfies that hunger.

The second challenge for us is to seek to to satisfy our restlessness by doing God’s will and work.  Working at a job is good. Recreation is good.  But our souls long to have purpose.  They long to be lined up with God’s heart.  Doing God’s work is truly food for the soul.

Ah, it makes me sigh when I think about how sometimes I can’t even see my own sin and spiritual poverty, yet Jesus could see the spiritual to the point of filling his soul.

But it also inspires me.  I know that as we learn about Jesus, and the whole Bible, we surely will also understand more about the food that others know nothing about.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. . . Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”  (Matt. 5:3, 6)

Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. (Isa 55:2)

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Filed under John, Red Letter

Jesus is Our Answer

The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When He comes, He will explain everything to us.”

Jesus answered, “I who speak to you am He.”

When Jesus sat down at the well it was noon.  It was hot.  It was deserted.  No one wanted to brave the heat of the day.

Then along came this woman with her jar to get water.  What was she doing there?  It becomes evident that she had a checkered life, and was probably avoiding folks because she knew they would diss her.

Here was a woman who most likely lived in the shadow of fear.  She’d somehow gone through five husbands.  She couldn’t help but worry about what would happen if her current shack up guy left her.  How would she provide for herself?  Life always seemed to let her down, and the next struggle was right around the corner.

Lately, I’m finding that I can relate to this woman.  I’ve realized that I have many more fears than I thought.  I started reading a new book called “Healing of a Wounded Idealist” by Justin and Irene Renton.  One thing the book said that really convicted me is that self pity is a sin that we often don’t see, but that we need to repent of just like we would any other sin.  A way to see if you’re falling into self pity is to see if you complain to yourself, “Why is this happening to me?”  It turns out that I do that a good bit.  I just haven’t been seeing it as self pity.

So anyway, the book says that the way to repent of self pity is to practice being grateful for everything, the good and the bad, as I Thessalonians 5:18 commands.  The way I’m putting this into action is to tell God how I am thankful whenever I think about something that is troubling me.  As I’ve been doing this, I’m seeing that many of my troubling thoughts are fearful ones.  I fear that my health problems will get worse or impede my life style.  I fear the things my husband is going through.  I fear that my children will grow away from me.  I fear that I won’t be able to stay on top of the housework or yard work.  I fear that I won’t be a good friend to others.  I fear change.  I fear that I’m not enough, and I’m letting God down.

What’s cool is that thanking God when I’m fearful really helps!  I don’t fall into self pity as much, and my fears are not as great.  And one of the main reasons this is effective is because I have Christ. With Christ, there are so many more reasons to be faithful and hopeful, instead of fearful.

And that’s what Jesus was saying to the woman at the well.  He told her that he was the Messiah.  What?  He almost never admitted that.  But he did to this woman.  He was letting her know that he was what she was looking for.

Because I believe the woman was truly seeking.  She said that the Messiah, when he came, would explain all things.  That meant that she wanted some answers!  Maybe she wanted to know why her life was so hard.  Maybe she wanted to know why God allowed the Romans to make life difficult for everyone.  Surely she wanted to know who was right, the Jews or the Samaritans!

But the thing is, she wanted answers, and Jesus told her that he was the penultimate answer.

Thank you, God, that Jesus is the Messiah, the answer.  Thank you for the times that I feel like I’m not enough, because it reminds me that Christ’s grace is sufficient.  Thank you that I have physical ailments, because it’s an opportunity for Christ to be glorified as I cling to him.  Thank you for relationship struggles, because it reminds me to get my emotional needs met in Christ.

Yesterday, I went to see a surgeon in Macon for a second opinion on whether I needed surgery on a benign breast lump.  He said I didn’t, but then he found a new breast lump that concerned him.  Yikes, I wasn’t ready for that!  I could feel the tears welling up.  Having Christ with me helped me so much with not giving way to fear.  I was able to be cheerful through a quick ultrasound, and I was told that there was nothing to worry about.

Let’s remember what it means to us Christ is the Messiah.  He is the answer.  He can calm every fear.

Ken and I BBQ

Ken and I having BBQ after the appointment.

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Filed under John, Red Letter

The Sweet Connection

“God is Spirit, and His worshipers must worship Him in spirit and in truth.”  John 4:24

God is Spirit.  That says it all.  He’s a powerful, invisible entity.  He’s characteristics like love, goodness, wisdom and holiness.  He can’t be contained by space or time.

Jesus says that the way we must worship God is with the part of us that is spirit.  It makes perfect sense.  That inner thing we have that is intangible and dynamic must reach out to connect with like.  It’s what our spirit was made for, and longs for.

And when our spirit connects with God the Spirit, that’s when the magic happens. You know, for so long I’ve felt discouraged in my ability to be like Christ.  I’ve been sure he wants to call me out for a hypocrite.  I’m sure he thinks, “I did it, so you can do it.”  But often I can’t do it, or I don’t want to.  It is very obvious to me that I don’t have Christ’s heart or stamina.

But lately I’ve singing and praising God more.  As as I have, I’ve felt that sweet connection with the Spirit more.  It’s so positive and good.

And it makes me want the sweetness more.  I find myself wanting to read the Bible more, just to be in the spiritual, not to get something out of it.  Because that’s usually how I approach my Bible study, like I’m going to dig and find treasures.  This is great, but it’s different than just being with the Spirit.

I also find that I can take the blissful connection I feel in singing, and extend it into my daily walk.  I can come back to it when I start to feel troubled.

This reminds me that our daily life is to be a constant worship to the Lord.

  • Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship.” Romans 12:1 
  • “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise, the fruit of lips that confess His name.” Hebrews 13:15

I’m only scratching the surface, but I’m seeing real changes in my heart.  Before, I really wanted to watch television or read books in my free time.  I knew it was an escape for me, a way to get away from the stress of the world.  I knew it would be better to go to God with my stress.  But I often couldn’t figure out how to want to make this happen.  The next time I was tired and used up, I would go to television again.

But now, I’ve found that sweet place of both rest and inspiration, and it’s something I want to do instead.  My desire to watch television has actually decreased.  Now, as I cook dinner, I put on praise music and pray for all kinds of things.  It’s one of my happy times, instead of one of my times of just pushing through.

I say all of this to say that I am feeling now like it is possible to be more like Jesus.  He not only meditated on the Word, he not only prayed, but he worshipped in spirit and truth.  When he went to a quiet place to pray, I think he deepened his sweet connection with God.  And then he stayed in that zone throughout the day.  He didn’t just think of the truth and do right.  He spent time with the Spirit, and that helped him to want to do right.

You know, in my marriage, I can be all about what my husband should be doing for me.  He should help around the house more.  He should pay more attention to me and my needs.  And so on.  But when I think of how much I love him, and just give to him out of that love, it’s so much better.  The other concerns melt away.

That’s the same way I think it is with our relationship with God.  We can pray all the time out of our needs and what we think we need from God.  And, of course, he does want us to come to him with our needs.  But our relationship also needs to be spent in loving him and giving to him.  That’s when it all comes together for us.  That’s when our heart feels full.

Our love needs to connect to his love, our spirit with his.

So let’s work on worshipping in spirit and truth.  Let’s find ways of deepening the sweet connection.  It’s not going to be easy.  Each of us probably has something different that creates the magic for us.  Music may work, but one person likes one song, and another person relates to a different one.  (I’ll put some of my favorite songs below.)  Some of us connect when we’re out in nature.

The point is that we want to be honest and vulnerable with our inner selves, and let that part of us reach out for God.  And then, we want to focus on giving to him, praising him, instead of our needs.

Because God doesn’t just want our obedience.

He wants the sweet fellowship with us.  He wants our hearts and our devotion.

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Filed under Beauty of God, John, Praise, Red Letter

Searching and Finding

You worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.  But a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father is seeking such as these to worship Him. John 4:22-23

Do we ever think of God actually looking for something, of him seeking?  It’s not a picture we contemplate frequently.  The illustration that best conveys it I think is in this verse, “For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”  (II Chronicles 16:9)  God’s eyes are actively searching, looking at each person all over the world.

And today’s red letter passage says that one thing God is looking for is people who will worship him in spirit and truth.  Jesus is saying that all through the ages, God has wanted this, and now the time has come when it can come to fruition in a greater way than ever before.

What does it mean to worship in spirit?  On one hand, it means worshipping with the Spirit that is in us.  In Ephesians 5:12, we are told to sing and make music to God in our hearts right after we are told to be filled with the Spirit.

On the other hand, it means worshipping with our spirit.  What is our spirit?  I love this definition that was in one of the commentaries on this passage: “Our spirit is the part of us that was made in the image of God.  It is the place where we were made to commune with God.”  (Ellicott’s Commentary)

Our spirit is the part of us that longs to be connected with the Creator.  It’s the part of us that can’t deny that there’s something greater, the part that longs for meaning.  It sees the splendor of nature and looks for the divine.

Worshipping with our spirit is the act of reaching out with all that is in us towards the Lord.  And as we do, we connect, and feel that we are finally where we’re supposed to be.  It reminds me of the verse in I Peter 2:25, “For ‘you were like sheep going astray,’ but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” 

In a very real way, since the days of Adam and Eve, our spirits have been wandering.  But now we can find the lovely comfort of being in our Father’s presence, right where we’ve always belonged.

And then what does it mean to worship in truth?  I think we have to look at the beginning of today’s passage, where it says, “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.”  Jesus was speaking to a Samaritan woman, and he was reminding her that the Jews had the truth.  As they went their own way, the Samaritans had fallen into doctrinal error.

Jesus was saying that God’s eyes are ranging over the earth, looking for those who will reach out wholeheartedly to connect with him, and also act wholeheartedly according to his word.

The woman at the well is thirsty, both physically and spiritually, and Jesus is saying that God is looking for those who are thirsty.

More than that, he’s saying that the only way to truly quench the thirst is to do it God’s way.  Going our own way will never satisfy.

Yesterday, my friend Marge and I studied the Bible with a young woman.  What was so encouraging about the study was that we had a deep talk together.  We talked about our marriages. We were real about our bad attitudes that messed us up.  It felt so healing to recognize the inner gunk, and work towards making it better.

How often are we real about what’s going on inside?  That’s the way to find depth of our inner thirst.

Then our spirit can reach out for the water that will satisfy.  As we connect, our spirits will soar more and more away from the inner gunk of life.

And we will recognize that our own best efforts have messed us up.

We will realize, as never before, that we want to worship in spirit and in truth.

God’s eyes searches because he wants to bring us back to himself, where we belong.  He is completely happy to have us with him.  We are completely happy to be there.

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Filed under John, Red Letter, Spirit

The Lifeline of His Presence

“Believe Me, woman,” Jesus replied, “a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.”  John 4:21

The book of Exodus has pages and pages of instructions on how to build the tabernacle, the place where God would reside, and the Israelites would come to be with him.  It wasn’t just something slapped together.  Every detail was carefully planned and executed.

tabernacle2

Later in history, the Israelites would build a more permanent dwelling for God — the temple.  This would be even more elaborate and detailed.

temple

From looking at the tabernacle and the temple, we can see that having a physical place where people could go to be with God was a huge deal.

To the Jews, the location of the temple was also important.  It was in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah.  The last temple was destroyed in 70 AD, but modern Jews still consider the area of Mount Moriah, the temple mount, to be sacred.  At this point, a Muslim shrine, the Dome of the Rock, is built on its location.  Jews are allowed to visit certain parts of the area, although some traditional Jews will not walk on the temple mount, because they don’t want to unintentially enter the holiest of holies.

temple mount

But Jesus was talking to a Samaritan woman, who worshipped God, not in Jerusalem, but at Mount Gerizim.  Why the difference in places of worship?  When the northern kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrians in 721 BC, some of the Israelites were taken away into captivity, and some stayed behind.  Those who stayed  intermarried with Gentiles, and produced a new race of people: the Samaritans.  Samaritans believe that the true place to worship God is not Jerusalem, but on Mount Garizim, where Abraham was going to sacrifice Isaac.  This has been such a strong point of contention that if a Samaritan converts to Judaism, they can be required to refute Mount Garizim as the center of worship.

mount gerizim

So we can see why it was such an epic statement that Jesus said that the time was coming when the center of worship would be neither in Samaria, nor in Jerusalem. Everyone was extremely focused on where they could go to be in God’s presence.  And Jesus was saying that they wouldn’t have to go to one place or another any longer.

He was saying that they would have the Spirit, and God would actually reside with them.

That is incredible.  If it meant a lot to the Jews and the Samaritans to have a place to physically be with God, how much more can it mean to us today to carry this place around with us?

It can make all the difference in our lives.

I love this passage David Takle wrote in “Forming: A Work of Grace,” “My first step in being connected to God is to believe with all my heart that He really is as close as my next breath, that He permeates the membranes of my body and exists in and between every cell of every part of me.”

It’s so true.  We need God’s presence.  Realizing that we have it is the first step in connecting with him on a deeper level.

I’ve been having trouble lately with waking up in the middle of the night and feeling very negative.  I can’t seem to find even one positive thought.  God’s love seems so unreal.  After studying out today’s passage, I began to just try to believe that God is with me in these dark times.  I found that I could do that, and it helped.  Then, I could remember that it makes God’s heart happy to be with me, and that he was genuinely concerned about the struggle I was going through.  I prayed that he would show me a way to get back to sleep, and he did.

Being in God’s presence is the foundation of everything we need as a Christian.

This past weekend, I worshipped at the North River Church of Christ in Atlanta and our old friend Travis Hawkins was preaching.  He reminded us of how Moses said to God, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.”  Ex 33:15

travis preaching

How can we go out or do anything without God?  Whatever we’re going through spiritually, the starting place is to believe that he is truly with us.

Today, let’s all make the belief that God is with us our lifeline.

It was vital to the Jews.  It was vital to the Samaritans.  It is vital to us.

 

 

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Jesus Knows Our “Five Husbands”

The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water so that I will not get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

Jesus told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

“I have no husband,” the woman replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are correct to say that you have no husband.  In fact, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. You have spoken truthfully.”  John 4:15-18

Jesus got right to the heart of the matter.  I think he named the biggest symptom of this woman’s “thirst.”   She’d had five husbands.  Maybe she had terrible fortune, and they all died or divorced her.  But I think it’s more likely that she kept looking for a man who could fill that deep feeling of inadequacy in her, and none of them could.

I think she was left in a place in a place of broken dreams, where she hooked up with yet another man out of her longing to find love and affirmation, but all she got was someone who wouldn’t even commit to her.

I read something today in a book that really struck my heart, “How many of us ever felt entirely safe in the cave of another human being?”  We so often don’t feel safe.  We have trust issues.  We expect that we will get hurt.  We’re anticipating that life will let us down.

So to me, it was huge it was that Jesus brought this up, this source of pain and disillusionment. It’s something many of us can relate to.

What would Jesus bring up if he saw me?  A couple of days ago I was meeting with a friend at a coffee shop.  We were talking about our lives, and there was a man sitting close to us who surely could overhear our conversation.  I couldn’t help but wonder if he was listening.  And as I talked to my friend, I confess that my pride started getting in there, and I was thinking how good the advice I offered and my Christian walk sounded to the man.  What puffery!

I think Jesus would say to me at that time, “Girl, don’t even go there.  I’ve got your number.  I know what’s behind all your sounding good.”

He would tell me that he knew my “five husbands,” that he knew all my efforts at performance and success that came from my deep longing for affirmation, that he knew all of the ways that I don’t look so good, that he knew the place I’d gotten myself in.

You know, in life coaching, they are always teaching us to go deeper.  We don’t settle for the surface conversation.  We seek the “ouch,” the thing that’s behind what someone is saying.  Because when that is identified, the person can see it and move forward.

So I’m glad that I can admit my brokenness to Jesus.  He already knows it.  I don’t have to look good.

And when I’m at my wits end because I can’t fix things, and I’ve already gone through five “husbands,” it’s the most comforting thing ever to know that he came to be the only way to make things better.

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Filed under Healing, John