E-Message Bible/Commentary

"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." --- Psalm 119:105

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JOHN
It Is Never Too Late To Begin
(Genesis 1:1, John 1:1)

Everything has a beginning except God.  God is eternal. Maybe today is the beginning of a work week or a new project for some.  Yet there are others who say it is too late to start something new whether it is a new career, a new project, or a new business.

It is never to late to begin.  So, take a deep breath and begin something today — a new relationship, a new idea, or an entirely new way of living.
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In The Beginning . . .
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

Beginnings are extremely important.  If you are going to do anything, you first have to begin it. The Bible starts with God. "In the beginning God . . ." A simple, yet profound beginning!  What a good example for us to follow.  We can begin every new project, every job, every assignment with God, committing the whole of it to Him. 

You should establish the habit of beginning everything you do with God.  You can begin each day asking for His guidance.  You can start your work and your play with God.  Let God have preeminence in all your beginnings. Let Him set the tone of your day and enable you to have a continuous sense of His presence and power.
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Only God
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth (Genesis 1:1).  And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (John 1:14a).

There are experts in every field imaginable.  Some people are like geniuses who can solve mathematical problems and create formulas for scientific experiments.  Some people can handle judicial cases with ease.  Some people can negotiate and close business deals as if they were born to do just that.  Some people are great orators and can convince people through flowery words.  Brilliant doctors can provide remedies to ease people's physical pain.

Despite the fact that people can do a multitude of things, there are things that ONLY GOD can do.  ONLY GOD could create a world.  ONLY GOD could create one man (Adam) from which everyone else came.  ONLY GOD could make over 6 billion people and no two are alike not even so-called identical twins. ONLY GOD could put a heart in each of us that is connected to every other heart in the universe. ONLY GOD could blow HIS breath into our body and give us life.  Neither man nor woman could ever do that.

Many things men and women can do and will do, but ONLY GOD could make a world and keep it going.  ONLY GOD could have wrapped HIMSELF in flesh and come to dwell among us to be our example.  ONLY GOD could provide a Saviour for us. ONLY GOD in the person of Jesus could have died on the cross to save the entire world. 

When you think you can do all . . . remember there are some things you just cannot do.  ONLY GOD can do all things.  And He does all things well.
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Logos or Rhema?
In the beginning was the word, and the word was God and the word was with God.  The word became flesh and dwelt among us.  (John 1:1; 14)

Logos (lo'-gos) is a Greek word meaning the divine expression; the communication of the mind of God. It is commonly associated with the written word and the person of Christ Jesus as in the above scripture. Christ, the Logos, was the Word made flesh.

Rhema" (hray'-mah) is Greek meaning the spoken word or the words of Jesus. It is the breath of God which quickens and reveals to us what God is speaking directly to us. Rhema is a statement, command or instruction. The significant differences between logos and rhema is that logos is the WRITTEN word. Rhema is the SPOKEN word of INSTRUCTION. This instruction or command is personal for a specific individual at a specific time. This word will not be appropriate for someone else or even at other times for the designated individual.  A good example is when Jesus spoke a rhema word to Peter to walk on water.  Unless God tells you personally to walk on water, you will surely drown if you do it on your own even though you read that Jesus told Peter to do so. The command to walk on water was a rhema word to Peter at that particular time.

When you read and study your Bible, keep in mind that the Bible was written for to equip, to exhort, to give us principles to live by.  However, we must rightly divide the word of God to understand its proper context.

To understand God's word, attend a Bible believing church where the Word of God is taught.  Grow spiritually by attending Sunday School and Bible Study on a regular basis.
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Jesus: The Light of the World
In him was life, and that life was the light of humanity. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. (John 1:4-5)

Jesus is the light of the world, and he has always been the light of the world.  When he was born the stars shined so brightly, it became day.  When Jesus died on the cross in the afternoon, the day became night.

Jesus is the true light of the world.  When we follow him, we avoid walking blindly and falling into sin.  He lights the path ahead of us so we can see how to live.  He removes all darkness from our lives.  Stop stumbling in the darkness and let Jesus light up YOUR life.
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Only One Way

. . . who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:13)

Have you been born again? How do you know you have been saved, redeemed, converted, regenerated, and can be called a child of God? The above scripture tells us three ways you cannot experience rebirth and only one way that you can.  Reread the scripture and see if you can name the three ways you cannot be born again and the only way you can experience rebirth.

You CANNOT be born again through your natural birth of human parents. Remember the conversation Jesus had with Nicodemus about being born again? (John 3:1-21)

You CANNOT be born again by your own self will. You cannot save yourself.

You CANNOT be born again by the will of others. Thank God for that.  Friends would save friends.  Politics would get involved. The rich would pay for salvation and the world would be more topsy-turvy than it is.

There is only one way to be born again! We must receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, and then we will have the right to be called children of God. Jesus is saying to us, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6).
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Jesus in Entire Bible
In the beginning was the word and the word with God and the word was God.(John 1:1) The word become flesh and dwelt among us. (John 1:14)

Unlike what most people believe, Jesus is seen throughout the entire Bible; not just in the Gospels.  From Genesis to Revelation we witness the promises, the prophecies, and the fulfillment of the Messiah. As early as Genesis 1:26, we see a reference to the triune God when God said "Let US make man in Our image." That included Jesus.  Then in Genesis 3:15 we have the Mother's Promise when God said to the serpent, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel." This is the first prophecy of the Messiah with Satan as His enemy.

Jesus' birthplace of Bethlehem was prophesied in Micah 5:2. The time of His birth was prophesied in Daniel 9:25. Isaiah 7:14 lets us know He would be born of a virgin.  References to His birth, death, resurrection and ascension can be depicted throughout the pages of the entire Bible.  What was prophesied in the Old Testament was fulfilled in the New Testament.  But to know only the Jesus of the New Testament is to limit your knowledge of God's complete plan for humanity.  The birth of Jesus is the mid-point of human history. The culminating event of human history will be His Second Coming.  As we prepare to celebrate His First Advent, let us also prepare our hearts and anticipate with great joy His Second Coming.

"Amen. Come, Lord Jesus" (Revelation 22:20b).
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Go, But You Must Come Back
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us . (John 1:14)  Now I am going to him who sent me...It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. (Acts 16:5-7)

One of the most rewarding pieces of knowledge learned from the Bible is the fact that God sent Jesus to earth to be one of us to save all of us. We needed a Savior that we could identify with and relate to. So God sent His only begotten son (John 3:16). When God sent Jesus onto the earth, He said in essence, "Go, but you must come back."

It was God's design to get His Son upon the earth to do His work, then to get Him off the earth and back to His right hand, and then to send Him back permanently through the Holy Spirit. Having the Holy Spirit is like having Jesus with us in the flesh in all places at all times without being limited to time, space and death. Therefore, it was just as important for God to get Jesus off the earth as it was to bring Him onto the earth.
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The Best Gift Was Wrapped in Flesh
And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. (John 1:14)

All gifts are not wrapped. Some gifts are placed in gift bags that are filled with paper. Some gifts come in envelopes or decorated gift card boxes. Some gifts come wrapped in beautiful seasonal paper with big bows or pretty ribbons.

The greatest gift came wrapped in flesh.

Even though the sign was the babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manager (Luke 2:12), we know that gift had already been wrapped in heaven. God wrapped Himself in flesh and came to earth as the best and most everlasting Christmas gift.  Straight from heaven came a gift so unique that all of us can share it.

God sent this gift wrapped in flesh not just to special people but to ALL people. We just need to receive it, accept it, embrace it and let others know about it. This gift was wrapped in heaven, but God intended it to be unwrapped here on earth.

Among your wrappings and unwrappings this Christmas, remember the gift that was wrapped in flesh.  It is the best gift you will ever receive . . . the gift of Jesus Christ; God wrapped in flesh.

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Favor Upon Favor
For out of His fullness, we all received one grace after another and spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing, and even favor upon favor. (John 1:16 Amplified Version)

Have you ever asked someone, "Will you do me a favor?" What you are asking is, "Will you be kind to me and do this thing for me whether I deserve it or not? God's favor is similar but a thousand times more powerful and a thousand times more available. And guess what? You don't even have to say, "Hey God, will you do me a favor?" If you are a child of God, God's favor is already present in your life according to the following scriptures.
  1. Among the righteous, there is always favor. (Proverbs 14:9)
  2. Favor surrounds the righteous as with a shield. (Psalm 5:11-12)
  3. Favor for God's people is on God's agenda. (Psalm 102:13)
  4. God's favor comes in immeasurable riches. (Ephesians 1:7)
  5. God's favor is available to all. (Acts 4:33)
  6. God's favor results in supernatural  increase and promotion. (Genesis 39:21)
  7. God's favor is given to the righteous in the midst of adversaries. (Exodus 11:3)
  8. God's favor shows up greater when the odds are against it. (Joshua 11:20)
  9. God's favor may be upon those who are least lightly to receive it. (1 Samuel 16:22)
  10. God's favor may be shown through prominence and preferential treatment. (Esther 2:17)
  11. God's favor may show up through the blessings of your enemies and ungodly authorities. (Esther 5:8)
  12. Rules, regulations, and policies might be reversed because of God's favor on you. (Esther 8:5)
  13. God will fight your battles for you... and that's favor. (Psalm 44:3)
  14. God's favor might be big or small to you, but to God all favors are the same. (Genesis 1:1-Revelation 22:21)
Are you in need of God's favor? Guess what? You got it! In fact, you have favor upon favor!
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Point to the Light
It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me. (John 1:27)

These words are from John the Baptizer who was the cousin of Jesus.  John was born BEFORE Jesus and lived his life pointing toward the one who came AFTER him.  Even when Mary visited Elizabeth to tell her that she was with child, John leaped in  Elizabeth's womb.

During John's life he never preached himself, but pointed to the Light who was coming AFTER him.  He baptized with water, but pointed to the One who would baptize with the Holy Spirit.  John's death came BEFORE Jesus. Then Jesus knew His time was approaching to go to the cross.

John pointed to the Light through his birth, life, and death.  John understood thoroughly that while what he was doing was of God, he was not God.  He was merely pointing to the Light . . . Jesus, who is the Light of the world.

When we preach and teach, let's remember we are NOT the Light. We are merely witnesses who are pointing to the Light.
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What Do You Want?"
Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, "What do you want?" (John 1:38)

God promised to give us the desires of our heart. The problem isn't in the act of God's giving. The real problem is that we do not know exactly what we want. Most of the time we think we want something until we get it. Then we are disappointed because it is not what we wanted after all.

If someone asked you, "What do you want?" would you be able to articulate then and there a list of things you want; a list a things you gotta have? Most people would stumble through a list because we have not determined beforehand what it is that we want. Usually what we want is the by-product of what we list. Money is at the top of most lists, but money isn't what we want. If so, why do we get rid of it as soon as we accumulate it; either by buying products or services or giving it away? Therefore, money shouldn't be on anybody's list. Instead, we should list the thing(s) we want that would eventually make us feel better, look better, smell better, drive better, reside better and serve God better.

Determining what we want isn't as easy as one would think. For example, we don't want a big house. We want the feeling we get from having a big house. We don't want a job promotion. We want what goes along with the job promotion: power, prestige, respect, etc.  Once we delight ourselves in the Lord, our focus will be on spiritual things instead of on things that satisfy only temporarily. As soon as we can articulate exactly what we want, God will keep His promise to give us the desires of our heart. (Psalm 37:4 NIV)

Let's meditate on what we want so the next time someone asks us, "What do you want?" we will be able to answer that question immediately.
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Let All The People Say "Amen"
"Verily, verily, I say unto you . . ." (John 1:51)

Amen means "so be it."  It is a Hebrew word meaning  "certainly" or "may it be so."  "Amen" is a solemn word by which a person confirms a statement.  It is usually a response to someone else's statement.  Since Jesus took authority over what he was to say, he said his Amen's at the very beginning of his statements.  Therefore, in his speeches, amen appears not as a closing response but as an opening affirmation of the validity and seriousness of what follows:  "Amen (Truly") I tell you . . ." Matthew 5:18.  In John's gospel the amen that frequently introduces Jesus' speech is doubled:  "Amen, amen (Truly, truly") I say unto you . . ." or "Verily, verily (Very truly, very truly") (John 1:51).

If you have confessed with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead then you are saved (Romans 10:9).  If you sincerely believe this, let all the people respond and say, "Amen!"
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Balanced Living
On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee.  Jesus' mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. (John 2:1-2)

Jesus was on a mission to save the world, the greatest mission in the history of mankind.  Yet he took time to attend a wedding and participate in its festivities.  We may be tempted to think we should not take time out from our "important" work for social occasions.  But maybe these social occasions are part of our mission.  Jesus valued these wedding festivities because they involved people, and Jesus loved to be with people.

Our mission can often be accomplished in joyous times of celebration with others.  Bring balance to your life by bringing Jesus into times of pleasure as well as at church on Sundays.
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When Did It Happen?

His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." (John 2:5)

When we hear certain news, one of the very first questions we ask is "When did it happen?" as if knowing when it happened could change the events in some way.

We read certain stories in the Bible being fully aware of the answer to a problem, but we don't know exactly when the answer came.  For instance, in Luke 17:12-14 Jesus tells the lepers to go show themselves to the priest.  By the time they got to the priest, they were already clean. My question to you is: When did the cleansing take place? When did it happen?
 
Another familiar story is the first miracle of Jesus in John 2:1-11 when He changed water to wine. Jesus told the servants to fill the waterpots to the brim. and draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet. They did so and when the master of the banquet tasted the wine he was amazed that it tasted better than the wine that had run out. My question to you is: When did the water turn to wine? When did it happen?
 
A third example is the story of the woman with the issue of blood. (Mark 5:25-34) When she finally made it through the crowd and touched the hem of Jesus' garment, He told her, "Your faith has healed you." My question to you is: When was she healed? When did it happen?
 
In all of the above examples, we are made aware of the problem or issue. We NEVER see the healing, miracle, or deliverance actually taking place. So my question to you is: When did it happen?
 
Knowing when these things happened gives us a good clue to when they will happen for us.  God is not bound by time. With Him everything happens in time eternal. The lepers were already clean when Jesus said, "Show yourselves to the priest." Showing themselves to the priest was only to validate the healing. The water was already wine when Jesus told the servants to take it to the host. The host drinking it was proof that the miracle had taken place. The woman with the issue of blood was already healed, but the manifestation came when she touched the hem of Jesus' garment.

My question to you is: When will it happen for you? Know that whatever you need to happen has already happened. You only need to listen to Jesus and do whatever He says in order to bring it into existence.
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"It's A Miracle!"
On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee . . . [Jesus changed water to wine.] This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee.  He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him. (John 2:11)

Richard Thomas hosts the popular television show "It's A Miracle" where he narrates the accounts or reported miracles. What he describes are unexplained occurrences that are believed to be supernatural phenomenons. Many miracles go unreported.  How many of your miracles have been reported?  You encounter many miracles daily, but you do not describe them as miracles because they happen so frequently and are taken for granted.

What, then, you might ask are miracles?  Miracles are events that seem to override or contradict the so-called laws of nature.  In the above scripture, Jesus changed water into wine.  He could have just called for wine, and wine would have appeared.  But this was his first miracle because he changed something commonplace (water) into something special (wine). Water is a very commonplace; wine is not.  Therefore, the process was supernatural. Jesus performed many other miracles by taking commonplace things (loaves, fishes) and changing them into something else.

Know that miracles involve inanimate things, while healing involves people.

Richard Thomas is not the only one who can exclaim, "It's A Miracle."  Hundreds of miracles take place daily in our lives. Therefore, we should begin to expect new miracles every day.  Expect God to step in and change things.  He turns darkness into light, sadness into joy, aches into beauty, poverty into riches, desires into manifestations, sickness into health, and failure into success.

EXPECT MANY MIRACLES today!
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From Water to Wine
This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him. (John 2:11)

Most of us know about Jesus' first miracle of changing water to wine, but have you every reflected on the theological as well as the cultural background concerning this first miracle of Jesus? Have you ever wondered why Jesus changed water to wine instead of speaking wine forth or sending the disciples out to buy wine?

This is an eisegesis (not exegesis)* of what I think. I think Mary, the mother of Jesus was similar to our wedding directress. Otherwise, what business was it of hers that the wine had run out? When you go to a wedding reception as an invited guest, do you go in the kitchen to see what has run out? The scripture does say, "Mary was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited" (John 2:1-2). Apparently Mary was there before Jesus and His disciples arrived. When Jesus arrived, Mary told Jesus, "They have no more wine" (John 2:3) Then Mary's last recorded words in the Bible were, "Do whatever he tells you" (John 2:5). Why was this such a great concern to Mary? Maybe she was the wedding directress.

Jewish weddings last longer than Christian weddings. A Jewish wedding last at least a week. The wedding guests had been celebrating by eating and drinking; yet the wedding was not over. It would have been a disgrace to this young couple who were just starting a life together if people found out there was no more wine. Mary recognized this and wanted to spare them from embarrassment because the whole community had gathered and expected to be served since wine symbolizes joy. Mary wanted this couple to share their joy on this special occasion instead of being disgraced and talked about.

Jesus used water because it was a common element. It was available. He told the servants (not disciples) to (1) Fill the 6 stone water jars to the brim with water. This was to eliminate any thought that there were any drops of wine already in the jars. (2) Draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet. They did as they were told. Question: When did the water turn to wine? It turned to wine without notice as commands were being obeyed. The 6 stone water jars contained from 20 to 30 gallons of wine. That's a lot of wine even for a wedding that lasted a week. It goes to show that God is El Shaddai, the God of more than enough.

Just as the miracle of changing water to wine took place in Cana long ago, Jesus is still in the miracle performing business. We need to take heed to Mary's word: "Do whatever he says" in order for miracles to happen as we obey.

*eisegesis means "reading into" the text. *exegesis means "reading from" the text.
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The Night Time is the Right Time
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him." (John 3:1-2)

I have often heard it said that Nicodemus went to Jesus at night because he was ashamed to go in the daytime . . . that he would be embarrass to be seen talking to Jesus. Personally, I don't believe that. I believe he went at night because he was extremely busy during the day since he was a Pharisee and a member of the Jewish ruling council. It is true that daytime conversations with Jesus would have been stirred up an uproar. Since Nicodemus wanted to learn without being antagonized by his fellow Pharisees, he chose the night time as the right time to learn.

I believe Nicodemus went to Jesus at night to have a personal dialogue with Jesus when there would be no distractions. Nicodemus could have the full attention of Jesus and vice versa. Nicodemus had some personal questions to ask Jesus, and he needed to do it while he was alone with Jesus without the crowds or the disciples around. Can you imagine how much Peter would have butted in putting his foot in his mouth?

Nicodemus chose the night time as the right time. For it was then that he got a full one-on-one teaching about being born again, eternal life and the Holy Spirit. Nicodemus went on to be a follower of Jesus, and he joined with Joseph of Arimathea in burying Jesus. Nicodemus is a good example for you. If you have been bombarded with different things during the day and have not had time to communicate with Jesus, then the night time is the right time for you.
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One-On-One Conversations
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God." (John 3:1-2) When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, "Will you give me a drink? The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water." (John 4:7, 15)

What do both of these passages have in common? They both are found in the Gospel of John. They both involve Jesus having one-on-one conversations. They both deal with persons from different backgrounds having a need. The first, Nicodemus, a learned Pharisee had a need to know how to be born again. The second, a Samaritan woman had a need but wasn't aware of her need for living water until it was revealed to her through the one-on-one conversation with Jesus.

The best way to go to Jesus is through one-on-one conversations with Him. There we get His undivided attention. We are free to share with Him our intimate thoughts, and He will not ridicule us for having them. Jesus didn't scold Nicodemus for not knowing how to be born again. He was patient with Nicodemus even when Nicodemus asked the question: "How can a man be born when he is old? Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born! "In the wisdom and patience of Jesus, we find answers to our most profound questions.

The Samaritan woman had one thing on her mind: natural water to serve her purposes. After a one-on-one conversation with Jesus, it was revealed that her need was actually a spiritual one: living water. When we have one-on-one conversations with Jesus, we, too, will discover that our most important need is a spiritual one.

Have you had your talk with Jesus today? Have you had a one-on-one conversation with Him? If you can't go to Jesus during the middle of the day like the Samaritan woman did, make sure you talk to Him at night as Nicodemus did. Jesus is available wherever you are whether it is by the well or water cooler; whether it is outside the temple, in the privacy of your own home, or inside your cubicle at work. Jesus is waiting to have that one-on-one conversation with you. Jesus is knocking at the door of your heart (Revelation 3:20). Don't keep Him waiting!

THOUGHT QUESTION FOR REFLECTION: Go back and read the scriptures at the top. Why did Nicodemus address Jesus as "Rabbi" and the Samaritan woman addressed Jesus as "Sir"?
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Jesus: The Master Teacher
He came to Him at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God." (John 3:2)

Teaching is the act of instructing students or imparting knowledge and information. Teaching in the Christian faith was validated by Jesus, who was called "Rabbi" which means teacher. Rabbi is a title of honor and respect given by the Jews to a teacher of the Law. It means "great" or "head." In our day, rabbi means a Jew trained for professional religious leadership. In Jesus' day, the Pharisees loved to be called "Rabbi," but Jesus told His disciples, "Do not be called "Rabbi" for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren." (Matthew 23:7-8)

Jesus was the Master Teacher because as Nicodemus describes Him in the above scripture, Jesus was a teacher who had come from God. So no matter how much we teach, we should use Jesus as our Example. Jesus is the Teacher of all Teachers. Any time we teach and leave Him out, we are teaching in vain. Jesus should be the foundation of all our teachings. Our prayer should be for us to learn to teach with simplicity and clarity the way Jesus taught.  After all, Jesus was the Master Teacher.
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Being Born and Being Born Again
Jesus declared, "No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." (John 3:3)
I once saw a bumper sticker that read, "I don't need to be born again. I was born right the first time."  That person didn't know about the teaching  Nicodemus  received from Jesus in John 3:1-21.  No matter how precious we were as babies, everyone who wants to spend eternity with God MUST be born again. What does it mean to be born and born again?

As Jesus explained to Nicodemus, the first time we were born was a natural birth with blood and water. The second birth was with water and the Spirit. (John 3:5)  The first time we were born with the propensity to sin because of our sinful nature. After we confessed Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, the Holy Spirit came to live within us converting us to live in the Spirit. When we were born the first time, flesh gave way to the flesh. When we were born again, the Spirit gave way to the spirit. (John 3:6) Being born the first time gives us earthly privileges. However, being born again gives us access into the spiritual realm. (Ephesians 1:3-14)

The bumper sticker was WRONG!  Even though we might think we were born right the first time, in order to spend eternity with God we MUST be born again!
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Jesus Was Born So We Could Be Born Again
I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again. (John 3:3)
 
I once saw a bumper sticker that read: "I don't have to be born again because I was born right the first time." According to the Bible, to be saved we must be born again.  The bumper sticker is WRONG; the Bible is RIGHT.
 
The first time we were born, we were born with a sinful nature. That means we all have the propensity to sin. In order to correct this, God sent Jesus to become a ransom as a payment for our sin. Therefore, in order to understand Christmas (Jesus' birth) we must also understand Easter (Jesus' death and
resurrection).  We must understand that when Jesus was born, He displayed His humanity. He became one of us to save all of us.
 
Whenever you think of Jesus' birth, think of your own rebirth. Jesus was born so you could be reborn!
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With the Same Intensity
Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. (John 3:6)

A bumper sticker reads "Not born again; born right the first time." We were NOT born  right the first time. We were born with flesh giving birth to flesh. We were concerned only about pleasures of the flesh: eating, drinking and being merry. We were not born saved. We were born with a sinful nature; therefore, "we must be born again" (John 3:7).

Before you were born again, you did what the world did. You gave in to your sinful nature with great intensity. Now that you are saved (born again, regenerated, converted), the Holy Spirit within you should give birth to your spirit allowing you to do spiritual things. You should have the same intensity for serving God in the spirit as you did for serving the world in the flesh.
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Two Births; One Death
You must be born again. (John 3:7)  He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death. (Revelation 2:11)

The title probably reminds you of an announcement in your local newspaper. Actually, this is a description of a Christian. Every Christian has two births but will experience only one death.  On the other hand, the unsaved experiences one birth and two deaths. The explanation is quite simple.

Everybody's first birth was physical; born of flesh from one's own mother. Flesh gives birth to flesh. In order to understand the things of the Spirit, we must allow the Spirit to give birth to our spirit.  Jesus explained to Nicodemus that "no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." (John 3:3) Every person who has accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord has been born again. Unbelievers have only one birth because they think they were born the right way the first time. They have only the flesh; not the spirit. The flesh can ONLY understand things of the flesh; NEVER the things of the spirit. That's why we have so many conflicts with the unsaved!

Now that you understand the two births of the believer, what about the one death?  According to Revelation 2:11 and 20:6, the believer will not experience the second death. Yes, the believer will die a physical death unless he is alive when the rapture comes. However, the believer will not experience the second death. On the other hand, the unsaved will die twice. First, they will die a physical death unless they are alive when Jesus returns. According to Revelation 20:14 and 21:8, the unsaved will  be "cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death."

In summary, the believer: born twice, dies once; the unbeliever: born once, dies twice. What you do with your life will determine your final destiny to live forever in the bliss of God or to live forever in the lake of fire.
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Five Things We Must Do To Have a Relationship with God

Christians, theologians, seminarians, and many lay people have debates about the Bible, but there are five things on which all will agree we MUST have in order to have a relationship with God.

"Marvel not that I said to you, you MUST be born again" (John 3:7). We MUST be transformed by the Holy Spirit from within.

"He that comes to God MUST believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6).  Every believer MUST believe in the sovereignty and Deity of God.

"They that worship God, MUST worship Him in Spirit and in truth" (John 4:24).  True believers MUST learn to worship God in the Spirit as well as in truth.

In order to grow strong in the Lord, we MUST submit to God in every area of our lives.  "He MUST increase, but I MUST decrease" (John 3:30). We MUST put more emphasis on God's kingdom than on our own achievements.

To maintain a healthy relationship with God, we MUST learn the holy attitude of our accountability to Him.  "For we MUST all appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in His body, according to that he has done whether it be good or bad" (2 Corinthians 5:10). We all MUST give an account and will be rewarded based on how we have lived.
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Gaze Godward!
Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. (John 3:14-15)

Numbers 21:8-9 tells the story of the poisonous snakes that infested the Israelites' camp. God told Moses to make a bronze serpent, attach it to a pole and lift it up in sight of all people. Those who gazed upon it with faith were healed. Those who didn't gaze upon it died. Similarly, Jesus predicted he would be lifted up on a cross and those who looked up to him in faith would be saved from the poison of sin. Looking on the Old Testament serpent with faith is paralleled to looking on the New Testament Christ. The only difference is that the looking on in the Old Testament was done with the physical eyes; while the gazing and believing today is done with the heart.

We must realize and remember that continuously gazing Godward is to be free from sin and death. When we develop the habit of gazing Godward we are ushered into a higher level of spiritual growth. There is no greater joy than to gaze Godward with our heart while attending to earthly affairs. Within our hearts we can enjoy secret communion with God at all times. 

Thought for Today: Gaze Godward!
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Today My Son is 33
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NIV)

As I reflected on the birth of my only son who will be 33 years old at 12:17 p.m. today, I couldn't help from making a connection to the Son of God who died at 33. By the time Jesus was 33, he had not written a book. He had not recorded a gold album. He had not had His own television show. In comparison to most resumes, Jesus would not have been hired for an executive position of a Fortune 500 company.

Since the above things did not happen to make Jesus famous, why then do we make Him an intricate part of our lives? Jesus is considered to be the greatest man who ever lived. He changed the world by His miraculous birth, His extraordinary life, His redemptive death, His powerful resurrection and His amazing ascension. People are still talking about Jesus thousands of years after He left the face of the earth because He impacted the world with His existence. He left us a legacy, the free gift of salvation.

Jesus died at 33 because it was part of God's ultimate plan for us. God made it possible for us to live beyond the age of His only son. Let us honor God and demonstrate our love for Jesus because of Jesus' substitutionary death on the cross. 

I thank God today for the 33 years of His Son's life. I thank God for the 33 years of my own son's life. Connection? I think so!
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God's Best For You (and Me)!
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

God wants His best for us. Yet we settle for second best in many circumstances. In every situation we should ask ourselves the question: "Is this God's best for me?" If you don't think it is God's best, then drop it like a hot potato. If you know a relationship is not God's best for you, let it go! If you know your lifestyle is not God's best for you, change it immediately. If the job you are working on is not God's best for you, change careers even though you might be making a lot of money. If a lower paying position is God's best for you, He will make up the difference.

We often hold onto that which is comfortable and convenient. But is it God's best? Let go of ANYTHING that you believe is against God's will for you.  He gave us His best when He sent His only begotten Son in the world to save us. Now let's continue to accept and enjoy His best for us in all other things.

Review Question:  What should you ask in EVERY situation you encounter?   Answer:  "Is this God's best for me?"
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You Cannot Go Beyond God's Grace
To this John replied, "A man can receive only what is given him from heaven." (John 3:27)

John the Baptist was born to be the forerunner of Jesus and to point others to Jesus. John did nothing more, and John did nothing less. Many have asked the question, "Why didn't John the Baptist become a disciple of Jesus." John explained that God did not call him to become a disciple. While Jesus called others to become His disciples, that was not John's purpose. Had John tried to do so, he would have tried the impossible . . .  to go beyond God's grace.

What is the lesson we learn from John the Baptist? We can receive only what is given us from heaven. We can do only what God has given us the grace to do.  No matter how much we want something or want to do something, we cannot go where God's grace is not sufficient. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

So if you can't get ahead with a task you are pursuing, perhaps it is God telling you that it is not your purpose. It might have been a GOOD idea, but it never was a GOD idea. A God idea always comes with sufficient GRACE to see you through it. Since "God is the author and finisher of our faith," God is not obligated to finish what He never started. (Hebrews 12:2)
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Going to the Well at Odd Times
Jacob's well was there, and Jesus tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. A Samaritan woman came to draw water . . ." (John 4:6-7a)

Many of you have heard the story of the woman at the well who offered Jesus water, and He gave her living water so that she would not thirst again. Some of you focus on the fact that Jesus told her all about herself in reference to her five husbands. Some might focus on the fact that she was alone long enough with Jesus so that they could have a one-on-one conversation with each other. This message focuses on the significance of the time the woman went to the well. The timing is important because it lets us know that we can meet Jesus at odd times. We do not have to wait until 11:00 a.m. on Sundays when we are assembled in our local churches. It is not always necessary to have a crowd around us to spend time with Jesus.  We need His personal attention, and sometimes in order to get that, we need to break traditions and go to the well at odd times just as the Samaritan woman did.

Noon was an odd time because most people went to the well either early in the morning or late in the evening. Noon was the least likely time to run into a crowd because everybody else was indoors avoiding the heat. The Samaritan woman deliberately went at noon to avoid the crowd in spite of the heat.

We need not be in a crowd to have a conversation with Jesus. Sometimes it is more effective to be alone with Jesus so He can tell us all about ourselves. Be willing to go to the well at odd times.
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One-On-One Conversations
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God." (John 3:1-2) When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, "Will you give me a drink? The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water." (John 4:7, 15)

What do both of these passages have in common? They both are found in the Gospel of John. They both involve Jesus having one-on-one conversations. They both deal with persons from different backgrounds having a need. The first, Nicodemus, a learned Pharisee had a need to know how to be born again. The second, a Samaritan woman had a need but wasn't aware of her need for living water until it was revealed to her through the one-on-one conversation with Jesus.

The best way to go to Jesus is through one-on-one conversations with Him. There we get His undivided attention. We are free to share with Him our intimate thoughts, and He will not ridicule us for having them. Jesus didn't scold Nicodemus for not knowing how to be born again. He was patient with Nicodemus even when Nicodemus asked the question: "How can a man be born when he is old? Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born! "In the wisdom and patience of Jesus, we find answers to our most profound questions.

The Samaritan woman had one thing on her mind: natural water to serve her purposes. After a one-on-one conversation with Jesus, it was revealed that her need was actually a spiritual one: living water. When we have one-on-one conversations with Jesus, we, too, will discover that our most important need is a spiritual one.

Have you had your talk with Jesus today? Have you had a one-on-one conversation with Him? If you can't go to Jesus during the middle of the day like the Samaritan woman did, make sure you talk to Him at night as Nicodemus did. Jesus is available wherever you are whether it is by the well or water cooler; whether it is outside the temple, in the privacy of your own home, or inside your cubicle at work. Jesus is waiting to have that one-on-one conversation with you. Jesus is knocking at the door of your heart (Revelation 3:20). Don't keep Him waiting!

THOUGHT QUESTION FOR REFLECTION: Go back and read the scriptures at the top. Why did Nicodemus address Jesus as "Rabbi" and the Samaritan woman addressed Jesus as "Sir"?
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One Reason We Don't Get What We Want
Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water." (John 4:10)

What prompted Jesus to tell the Samaritan woman she should have asked Him for a drink? In John 4:9, the Samaritan woman said to him, "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans).

We have preconceived notions about who can do certain things for us based on who we are and our traditions. We limit our ability to get because we do not go to the proper source. Would you go to a gynecologist for a root canal? Would you go to a dentist for a foot problem? Would you go to a veterinarian for poor eyesight? While these are specialists in their areas of expertise, we would not go to them for certain things we need.

We should go directly to the source after we determine what it is that we need. If it is a worldly matter, go to those humans whom God has entrusted with special gifts and talents. But when it comes to spiritual things, it is good to go to the supplier of living water.
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What Praise Does; What Worship Does
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. (Psalm 150:8)
God is Spirit and His worshippers must worship Him in spirit and truth. (John 4:24)

Too many people still don't understand the value of praise and worship. God wants us to praise Him. God wants us to worship Him. However, there is a difference between the two.

Praise is much more than singing a few songs before a worship service. Praise is much more than people coercing others by saying, "Praise Him." Praise is acknowledging to God and to others who God is (adoration) and what God has done (thanksgiving).  Praise is talking about the awesomeness of God. By the way, the word "awesome" should be reserved for only God. Anything else falls far short of being "awesome." It is true that "when the praises go up, the blessings come down." However, to praise God with only that thought in mind is not genuine praise at all. Praise may be in song or prayer. Praise may be done individually or corporately. Praise may be spontaneous or prearranged.

Worship, on the other hand, is different from praise. Worship is expressing through praise the "worthiness" of God. Worship is honoring God. Worship is revering God. Worship is showing genuine devotion to God.

A dear friend who knows how to praise and worship God, summed it up in a very simple and profound manner when she told me, "Praise is getting God's attention. Worship is getting God's heart." Also, "praise brings God where you are and Worship takes you where He is."

Praise ye the Lord. (Psalms 146-150) Worship God in the beauty of holiness. (Psalm 29:2)
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How to Move From the Natural to the Spiritual
God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth. (John 4:24)

To change your thermostat from hot to cold and from cold to hot, you simply turn a dial. To change your appearance, you put on makeup or take it off. To change your wardrobe, you stop wearing your old clothes and wear new ones. But how do you change from your natural self to the spiritual? How do you change what's going on inside of you? How do you go to a higher level with God? The answer is not as difficult as one might think.

READ AND STUDY YOUR BIBLE DAILY. (2 Timothy 2:15)  If you want to change from doing things your way and begin to do things God's way, you MUST know what God's way is. You find out by reading what's on His mind and what's in His heart. You read His diary and MEDITATE on what He has written therein. (Joshua 1:8)

PRAY WITHOUT CEASING. (1 Thessalonians 5:17) Develop the habit of praying to God. Talk to God about how good He is instead of giving Him a list of things you want. Don't let it be a one-way conversation where you do all the talking. LISTEN to what God has to say to you.

PRAISE GOD. (Psalms 146-150) One of the quickest ways to go from the natural to the spiritual is to praise God. Praise God even when you don't feel like it. There is absolutely no way you can stay in your natural condition when you praise God.

SURRENDER TO GOD. (Luke 22:42) When you give up your will and let the power of God take over, you immediately enter into the spiritual realm. God will not push His way into your life. However, He is standing at the door waiting for you to open it so that He can come in and sup with you. (Revelation 3:20)

Try moving from the natural to the spiritual. Once you have experienced the change, you will forever practice the above disciplines.
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And Miles to Go
Jesus said unto them, "My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work." (John 4:34)

Robert Frost wrote a poem, "Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening," where he listed the many things he had to do and how far he had to travel before he reached his destination. The refrain in the poem, "And miles to go before I sleep" indicated the urgency of Frost's mission.

Jesus had an urgency about His mission. He came to earth to do the will and work of His father. He walked the hills of Judea teaching and preaching the good news. He did what He came to do. That's why on the cross He said, "It is finished!" But before going to the cross He left us a commandment, "Go and preach the good news to everyone in the world" (Mark 16:15).

How urgent do you take this commandment? When was the last time you told someone the good news about the saving power of Jesus Christ? Get busy because there are "miles to go before you sleep."
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Reaping the Spiritual Harvest
Do you not say, 'Four months more and then the harvest'? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. (John 4:35)

Sometimes Christians excuse themselves from witnessing by saying that their family or friends aren't ready to believe.  Jesus, however, makes it clear that around us a continual harvest waits to be reaped.  Don't let Jesus find you making excuses.  Look around your home, your work place, your school, your church, your community.  You will find people ready to hear God's Word.  Are you ready to speak it?
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Leave the Pool of Bethesda
Now there in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie: the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. (John 5:2-5)

After 38 years this invalid's problem had become a way of life. He had no h ope of ever being healed until he met Jesus. He had been told that if someone would put him in the waters when they are supernaturally stirred he would be healed. Jesus did not deal with the water theory at all.  Instead, he simply tells the invalid, "Rise, pick up your bed and walk."  Up until now, the man had been wallowing on his mat waiting for the moving of the waters. Jesus tells him to walk with his mat instead of wallowing on it. In other words, trying to do what everybody else is doing might keep you down and leave you wallowing in your problem. Jesus has a better solution. He tells you to rise and pick up that which keeps you down. You should carry it instead of allowing it to carry you.

The invalid unsuccessfully tried to do what others were doing, and 38 years later he was still waiting at the pool. One word from Jesus was all it took for him to walk. It is interesting to note that this man had been in his condition even before Jesus was born.

Trying to do what others do will likely keep you at the Pool of Bethesda. Listen to what Jesus tells you and you will be able to "rise, pick up your bed, and walk away from the Pool at Bethesda.
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Leave the Pool at Bethesda
Now there in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie: the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. (John 5:5)

After 38 years this invalid's problem had become a way of life. He had no hope of ever being healed until he met Jesus. He had been told that if someone would put him in the waters when they are supernaturally stirred he would be healed. Jesus did not deal with the water theory at all.  Instead, he simply tells the invalid, "Rise, pick up your bed and walk."  Up until now, the man had been wallowing on his mat waiting for the moving of the waters based on hearsay. Jesus tells him to walk with his mat instead of wallowing on it. In other words, people's advice might keep you down and leave you wallowing in your problem. Jesus has a better solution. He tells you to rise and pick up that which keeps you paralyzed. You should carry it instead of allowing it to carry you.

The invalid listened to what others told him about the moving of the waters and 38 years later he was still waiting at the pool. One word from Jesus was all it took for him to walk. It is interesting to note that this man had been in his condition even before Jesus was born.

Listen to what people tell you and it is likely that you will always stay down. Listen to what Jesus tells you and you will be able to "rise, pick up your bed, and walk away from the Pool at Bethesda.
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God Commanded It; Jesus Did It!
Then Jesus answered and said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner." (John 5:19)

Some commonly asked questions by those who want to grow closer to God often are: "What is God's will for my life?"  "How do I know what to do?"  "What is the right thing to do in order to serve God better?"  A simple answer is two-fold:  "Do what God commanded, and do what Jesus did!" 

God did not create us and leave us alone to fend for ourselves. He gave us orderly instructions to live by.  The Bible is our manual for living according to God's plan. Jesus came to do the will and work of His Father. Jesus lived as a perfect example for us to imitate. If you really want to grow closer to God and be in His perfect will, then follow Christ, the supreme example. If you want a closer relationship with God, simply do what God commanded and do what Jesus did.
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Reaping the Spiritual Harvest
Do you not say, 'Four months more and then the harvest'? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. (John 4:35)

Sometimes Christians excuse themselves from witnessing by saying that their family or friends aren't ready to believe.  Jesus, however, makes it clear that around us a continual harvest waits to be reaped.  Don't let Jesus find you making excuses.  Look around your home, your work place, your school, your church, your community.  You will find people ready to hear God's Word.  Are you ready to speak it?
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God's Waiting Room
Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had. (John 5:2, 4)

There is a play by Thorton Wilder entitled "The Angel That Troubled the Waters." That little one-act play was based on John 5:1-9. In this contemporary play, included among the characters was a physician who had come to the porch after many years of being in pain. He is standing beside the pool just as the angel is about to stir up the water. The doctor sees the angel and begins to plead with him. He says, "My work grows faint. Heal me. Heal me that I might continue." But the angel says, "Draw back, physician, this moment is not for you. Without your wound where would your power be? It is your compassion that makes you understand those you treat. Draw back, physician because in God's service only the wounded soldiers can serve."

Of course, the doctor was disappointed. He knew he wanted to be healed. He wanted to be released from his pain. He wanted to be happy and carefree. But he was told to draw back from the healing water. He was told to wait on Bethesda's porch. He was a better person with his wounded heart than he would ever have been without the pain. It was his wounds that made him able to identify with other people's pains. It was his scars that enabled him to help people whom no one else could help. It was actually best for him and for those around him if he remained on the porch. He was worth more to the world with his pain than without it.

What is the message from that play? What does the text in John's gospel mean to us today? Just like the porch at Bethesda, your porch is God's waiting room. It is the place where you wait to receive your next assignment with or without the pain. It is the place where you wait for Jesus to either tell you to "Rise, pick up your bed and walk" or it is the place where He tells you to stay for a while; that it is not your turn.

Realize your greatest potential lies in your greatest wounds. We are strengthened when we endure the storms of life. We become better after we overcome our aches, pains, hurts, and disappointments. We are better when we count it ALL joy no matter what we have to go through. We are better when we wait on the porch for God's directions. Until He is ready to heal us, we must wait. The only thing we can do is wait on the porch. It is God's waiting room.

That thorn in Paul's flesh was to stay. As God said to Paul, to that physician, to you, and to me, "My grace is sufficient."
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God Commanded It; Jesus Did It!
Then Jesus answered and said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner." (John 5:19)

Some commonly asked questions by those who want to grow closer to God often are: "What is God's will for my life?"  "How do I know what to do?"  "What is the right thing to do in order to serve God better?"  A simple answer is two-fold:  "Do what God commanded, and do what Jesus did!" 

God did not create us and leave us alone to fend for ourselves. He gave us orderly instructions to live by.  The Bible is our manual for living according to God's plan. Jesus came to do the will and work of His Father. Jesus lived as a perfect example for us to imitate. If you really want to grow closer to God and be in His perfect will, then follow Christ, the supreme example. If you want a closer relationship with God, simply do what God commanded and do what Jesus did.
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Give Jesus Your Lunch
There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. (John 6:9)

How would you respond if you knew Jesus wanted your lunch to feed five thousand men in addition to women and children? Your first reaction might be that it's impossible to feed that many people with your lunch. And besides, you want your own lunch for yourself!

The little boy might have been surprised that his lunch was needed for one of the greatest miracles in the Bible. We can safely assume the little boy was from a poor family based on the lunch he had:  five little hard barley loaves and two pickled herrings. When his mother packed his lunch that morning, he probably exclaimed, "Not again, Mom. Barley loaves and fish again." Little did this little boy know that his lunch would go down in biblical history.

What do you have to offer Jesus? Are you willing to give Him your lunch? Your fried chicken? Your pizza? Your hamburger and French fries? Are you willing to deny yourself so Jesus can provide for others?

No matter how meager or how large your lunch is today, consider giving it to Jesus for the greater good. There are unlimited possibilities when you surrender the little that you have to give Jesus something to work with. The miracles He will perform are much bigger than you or your lunch.
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"Row, Row, Row Your Boat"
When they had rowed three or three and a half miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water. (John 6:19)

Do you remember the lyrics to that little song, "Row, Row, Row Your Boat"? If you can't, don't despair because here they are:
Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.
Now, do you know what those lyrics mean? If not, don't despair because the meaning of each line is herewith explained. The overall meaning of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" is summed up in the fact that life can be lived more peacefully and abundantly when we learn to live in the divine flow that continually guides us toward our ultimate destiny.

We are told three times in line 1 to row, row, row. In other words, sitting in the boat won't work. We have to get busy and row. Notice that you are to row YOUR own boat. Nobody else's...yours and yours alone. That is, if you want to go with the ebb and flow of life. You will never succeed rowing another's boat. Row your own boat.

In line 2, we are told how and where to row. We are to row "gently." Life is gentle and that's the way we should row. We bring some distresses on ourselves when we go against the flow. We are told to go with the flow and row down the stream. Never upstream.

According to line 3, we should be merry as we row. Your attitude and the type of rowing indicate the temperament of the waves. Life is easy and carefree according to line 4 only if we have followed the directions in the previous lines.

This little childhood song gives us the key to being at peace as we journey through life. When we row our boat gently down the stream, we will discover that life is as peaceful when we are awake as it is when we are dreaming.
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Take Jesus Into Your Boat
Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading. (John 6:21)

The disciples went across the lake to Capernaum in a boat. It was evening and it was getting dark. A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. They were in a storm in the middle of the lake, and Jesus was not with them. Therefore, they became terrified. When they recognized Jesus walking on water, they invited Him into the boat with them. IMMEDIATELY the boat reached the shore where they were heading.

What a difference it made when Jesus was in the boat with them. The disciples were no longer afraid, and the boat reached the shore as soon as Jesus got in. 

Are you in the midst of a storm? Invite Jesus into your boat and see how quickly your problems will be solved.
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Soul Food
Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty."  (John 6:35)

Have you ever awakened in the middle of the night thinking you were hungry?  Have you felt an urge for something, but you didn't know what you really wanted? Perhaps you searched the refrigerator hoping you would find a clue to what you wanted to eat lurking someplace in the leftovers.  You closed the refrigerator door because nothing there suited your fancy.  Then you searched the cupboard for crackers, raisins, roasted peanuts, or anything to snack on to ease that empty feeling. Once again, you give up because you found nothing that promised any satisfaction.

And then you realized that the void that needed to be filled was not in your stomach. The emptiness was in your soul.  You didn't need physical food after all.  You needed "soul food."  Jesus is "soul food."  He is the only One who can change your emptiness into fulfillment.  He is the only One who can fill the hole in your soul. He is the only One who promises total satisfaction. 

When Jesus wakes you in the middle of the night, it is not for you to search the refrigerator or the cupboards.  He is calling you unto Himself. Only Jesus can fill you to the brim with the "soul food" you so desperately crave.
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No More Manna
Now the manna ceased on the day after they had eaten the produce of the land; and the children of Israel no longer had manna, but they ate the food of the land of Canaan that year" (Joshua 5:12). And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me shall never hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst. (John 6:35).

Manna is the bread from heaven that the Israelites ate during their 40 years in the wilderness.  God provided food for them as long as they couldn't do it for themselves.  As soon as they entered the Promised Land, the Israelites ate from the produce of the ground and the manna ceased.  The manna ceased for the Israelites when they left the wilderness behind. This marked the end of an era. Being in the Promised Land marked the beginning of a new era.  A transition  had taken place.  We, too, have entered into a new era, a new year, a new century.  We, too, should give up our wilderness mentality and go forth realizing that Jesus is our true bread from heaven.  With Jesus on our side, we will always be in the Promised Land and not the wilderness.

Our forefathers ate manna in the wilderness for their temporary physical needs.  We can feast on Jesus, the Bread of Life for our permanent spiritual needs.  Remember, in 2000, there is "no more manna." Jesus is our Bread of Life!
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Pessimism of Culture
Jesus answered them, "Do not complain among yourselves. (John 6:43)

What is "pessimism of culture"? The word "pessimism" means having a tendency to emphasize adverse aspects, conditions, and possibilities of something." A pessimist is one who expects the worst possible outcome. Pessimists hold true to the concept that reality is essentially evil. This concept doesn't allow room for any goodness at all in the situation. "Pessimism of culture" is an expression that describes one's attitude and view toward his own surroundings. These surroundings include the person's home, church, job, school or community. When a person makes it a habit to talk bad about any of these places, he is demonstrating pessimism of culture.

Instead of speaking evil about your own home environment, take a positive step to work on those areas that bring you grief. Frequently complaining about your church and its leaders is not of God. Instead, ask God how you can help. When you constantly complain about your job, your boss, and your co-workers, you allow the pessimism of culture to spread. Maybe if you stopped complaining, others would stop as well. When you complain about your school, teachers and courses, you hinder your own progress. Abide by the rules, do well, and know that the sooner you do what you are supposed to do, the sooner you will graduate. When you have nothing good to say about your own community, you give way to pessimism of culture.

When you see things are out of order in your culture, don't grumble, mutter, or complain about them. Instead, ask God how you can make a difference. It is amazing that some people see what needs to be done, but they do nothing but complain. Then there are those who see a need and they get busy to fill that need.

Hopefully, you are in the second category.
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Spiritual Strength Requires Spiritual Food
This is the bread which came down from heaven; not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever. (John 6:58)

When the Israelites were in the desert for forty years they were sustained by manna, "bread from heaven." Manna was a temporarily food, but it ceased the day after the Israelites reached the Promised Land because they could plant their own gardens and vineyards (Joshua 5:12). The manna sustained the physical body only for that particular time.

Jesus is more superior to the manna in the wilderness. He is eternal. Jesus gives spiritual strength. And Jesus gives eternal life to all who feeds on Him.  Jesus said, "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on me will live because of me" (John 6:55-57).

Spiritual strength requires spiritual food: Jesus Christ. Want spiritual strength? "Whoever eats his body and drinks his blood abides in him, and he abides in that person." Nothing could be closer or more intimate than that. Accepting Jesus is like taking food into our very being; and Jesus becomes a part of us and strengthens our spiritual being just as food strengthens our physical being.

Spiritual Strength Requires Spiritual Food
"This is the bread which came down from heaven; not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever." (John 6:58)

When the Israelites were in the desert for forty years they were sustained by manna, "bread from heaven." Manna was a temporarily food, but it ceased the day after the Israelites reached the Promised Land because they could plant their own gardens and vineyards (Joshua 5:12). The manna sustained the physical body only for that particular time.

Jesus is more superior to the manna in the wilderness. He is eternal. Jesus gives spiritual strength. And Jesus gives eternal life to all who feeds on Him.  Jesus said, "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on me will live because of me" (John 6:55-57).

Spiritual strength requires spiritual food: Jesus Christ. Want spiritual strength? "Whoever eats his body and drinks his blood abides in him, and he abides in that person." Nothing could be closer or more intimate than that. Accepting Jesus is like taking food into our very being; and Jesus becomes a part of us and strengthens our spiritual being just as food strenghtens our physical being.
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Natural and Spiritual Acts
It is the Spirit that quickens and gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." (John 6:63)

We live in two realms: the natural and the spiritual. What's the difference? The natural realm pertains to the physical, that which is seen, the flesh, the worldly, and the external. The natural realm consists of the things man can do. On the other hand, the spirit realm pertains to the supernatural, that which is unseen, and the divine. The spirit realm consists of things that man cannot do.

We can walk in the blessings of God in the spiritual realm; however, there are some things that must be done in the natural realm first. In other words, we must do our part to prove to God that He can trust us enough to put  His "super" on our "natural" in order for it to become the "supernatural."

What in the natural are you doing to expect a financial breakthrough? What are you doing in the natural to expect complete healing? What are you doing in the natural to warrant being elevated to a spiritual level? God will use us in the spiritual realm only to the degree we have allowed Him to use us in the natural realm.

If you want to walk in the spirit, you first must have walked in obedience in the natural. If you want spiritual blessings, you first must have chosen the path of righteousness.
If you are walking in the spiritual realm today, it is because of some natural act you performed in the past. The natural act you are performing today will result in some spiritual act God will perform for you in the future.
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Recognizing Jesus as Lord
For not even did his brothers believed in him" (John 7:5).  "And Mary Magdalene turned and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. (John 20:14). "But their eyes were kept from recognizing him" (Luke 24:16).

When we read the Bible, we will discover that on numerous occasions the religious leaders and many of the people who came in contact with Jesus did not know he was the Messiah even after He told them.  His disciples doubted it at times.  His own four brothers, including James and Jude did not recognize Jesus to be the Messiah until after His death.  Mary Magdalene talked to Him in the garden after His resurrection but did not recognize Him until He called her name.  The two disciples talked with him as they walked the seven miles to Emmaus. They  recognized Him only when they were eating together and Jesus broke bread in His usual manner.

What would it take for you to recognize that Jesus is Lord?  What simple act or gesture will really prove to you that Jesus is who He said He is . . . the Messiah, the Son of the Living God?  What would it take for you to believe that Jesus came, He died for our sins, God raised Him from the dead; He ascended into heaven and now He sits at the right hand of God making intercessions for us? What would it take for you to believe?
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"What Time Is It?"
Therefore Jesus told them, "The right time for me has not yet come; for you any time is right. (John 7:6)

We wear watches and carry other time pieces to check the time throughout the day. Clocks are on the walls in our offices, in our homes and even in some churches. We keep day planners, calendars, appointment books and Blackberries. That's because we are too time conscious.

People have different views about time. Farmers function by seedtime and harvest. The Greeks in New Testament time saw the future as a cycle. We, as Christians, view time as linear as in yesterday, today and tomorrow. For us, God's creation began time, Jesus' birth was the mid-point, and His return will bring time to an end. Because time is so real to us, we forget that God is not bound by time. Our future is God's present.

The Bible has two views of time . . . "chronos" -- chronological time of days and hours, and "kairos" -- time of opportunity, promise and fulfillment. Both chronos and kairos should be understood together.

So, the next time someone asks you, "What time is it?" give the chronos while smiling to yourself as you think of the kairos knowing that no matter what time it is, it is the time of OPPORTUNITY, PROMISE and FULFILLMENT!
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Knowing The Truth
Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:31-32)

Some people think the emphasis on the above scripture is the "truth" and that it is the "truth" that will set you free.  A close examination of what Jesus said appear in stages. 
  1. Hold to his teaching to really become a disciple.
  2. Then you will know the truth.
  3. And finally the truth will set you free. 
Notice, freedom is not automatic.  It is the result of Jesus' teaching, becoming his disciple, and knowing the truth.  The truth is available to all, but the knowledge of the truth is what will set you free.  Then and only then will you experience total freedom.
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The Truth
And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:32)

What exactly is the truth?  The truth in your mind is what YOU embrace to be real. The truth in your own consciousness might not necessarily be the truth in someone else's consciousness. The prerequisite to being made free by the truth is to know it.  The truth might be the truth, but unless you know it and accept it by faith, the truth will do you no good. The Bible is filled with truths. They are not yours unless they become a part of you. 

There is one truth that all Christians embrace by faith:  Jesus is the way, the truth and the life; no one goes to God except through Jesus (John 14:6).

Know the truth today and be made free!
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How to Prevent Truth Decay
And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free. (John 8:32)

Most of us know how to prevent tooth decay. We brush, floss, and see a dentist regularly. We prevent tooth decay by doing what we can do on our own in addition to seeking the assistance of a professional. That's how you prevent tooth decay. Now how does one prevent truth decay?

Jesus said it best in the above scripture. He did not say the truth will automatically set you free. He said, "And you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free."  Because the scripture begins with the conjunction "and" it lets us know that something else MUST happen before the truth can set you free. What is that something?  John 8:31 says, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples." First, one MUST become a disciple of God, a follower of God, a child of God. Even after that, the truth will not set you free.  You MUST know the truth. The Bible consists of thousands of truths. Will those truths set you free just because they are in the Bible? Absolutely NOT. You MUST know them, embrace them and apply them to your life.

How, then, do you prevent truth decay? Become a disciple and KNOW the truth by studying God's word. Then when you KNOW the truth, you will do the truth and only then will the truth set you free.

Preventing truth decay is easy when you read, study and apply God's word. "For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth." (2 Corinthians 13:8) Jesus said, "I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life." (John 14:6). If your path is crooked, choose Jesus. He is the way. If your life consists of lies, choose Jesus. He is the truth. If your life is empty and void of spiritual rest, choose Jesus. He is the life.
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The Sad Thing About Being in Bondage
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:32)

Bondage takes many forms, and nine out of every ten people are in bondage. Look around you at nine other people. Nine of you are carrying some type of baggage and/or in so much bondage you can barely function.

The sad thing about being in bondage is that you don't realize you are in it until you begin to get out of it. Each one of the nine people mentioned above will definitely deny being in bondage.

One way to deal with bondage is to acknowledge that you are in bondage. Then take immediate steps to get out. Most of us don't take this step. Another way to deal with bondage is to take note when God begins to show you some things you were too blind to see. According to the above scripture, only the truth will set you free. God will move you from a situation long enough so you can take a step back and look at the situation with new lenses. God will even begin to separate you from your family and friends so He can show you the truth.

God wants us to be free . . . free to worship, free to praise, free to be more intimate with Him. He gives us the opportunity to do it on our own. But when we don't, He shakes us up to wake us up to serve Him. And we can't do that while we are in bondage.

It is worthwhile to pay attention to the signs around you. Has your focus changed? Is there a definite shift in what gives you joy? Has God moved you away from certain people? Has God moved certain people away from you? Then you are on your way out of bondage, but you will not realize how deep you were in it until you get out of it.

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:32)
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Real Freedom
If the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed. (John 8:36)

Knowing Jesus is real freedom.  Jesus Himself is the Truth that sets us free.  He is the source of truth, the perfect standard of what is right.  He shows us clearly the way to eternal life with God.  Jesus does not give us freedom to do what we want, but He gives us freedom to follow God.  As we seek to serve God, Jesus' perfect truth frees us to be all that God meant us to be. 

Be liberated right now. Follow Jesus and enjoy real freedom!
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 Free!
If the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed. (John 8:36)

How do you know when you are totally free?  Sometimes we encounter problems for so long that when they are finally solved, we still hang on to the same attitude we had when we were going through our problems.  That is because we don't realize that we are FREE.  Like a caged bird, we concentrate on our confinement moreso than on the door that has been opened to set us free.  That opened door to our freedom is JESUS. Knowing Jesus is knowing real freedom.  Jesus Himself is the truth that sets us free.  He is not only the source of truth, but according to John 14:6, Jesus said, "I am the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE. 

Celebrate your freedom today by acknowledging that Jesus has already set you free!
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Free Indeed!
If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36)

How do you know you are really free? Knowing Jesus is knowing real freedom.  Jesus Himself is the truth that sets us free. He is the source of truth, the perfect standard by which we should live.  If we are following someone else's example, we are not free. If we are living in the shadow of someone else, we are not free. Jesus came to set us all free and not to be enslaved by others and in bondage because of our own sin.  Sin enslaves us, controls us, dominates us, and keeps us away from the freedom of being in Christ.

Knowing Jesus is freedom from the power of sin and death. Jesus took care of that when He died on the cross and was resurrected from the dead. Let His dying not be in vain. Enjoy total freedom today by following and obeying the One who set us free. Then, we will be free indeed.
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What It Means to Be Free
Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed. (John 8:36)

Many of us profess to be free, but are we really free? Freedom is defined as the absence of force or constraint in a choice or action.  Some people define freedom as having the ability to do and go as they please. This might be a rude awakening to some, but unless God sets you free, you will never be completely free. Only God can set you free because only God has absolute freedom. In other words, a person who is bound himself cannot set another person free.  Even you can't set yourself free because you are controlled by outside influences. God is not controlled or influenced by anything or anyone other than Himself.

In the spiritual realm, Jesus taught, "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:32) Does that mean your freedom is proportioned to the truth you know? Could that be the reason you are not experiencing true freedom? Know the truth and be set free.

While we can never be completely free, we can, however, experience a measure of freedom in different areas of our lives. We can never be totally free because even when we have been set free from sin we become a slave to righteousness and to the things of God. (Romans 6:18-22)

Enjoy the measure of freedom that you possess this Independence Day.  Keep in mind, however, that true freedom is not being independent but dependent on the only one who has absolute freedom...the God of our fathers.
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Invisible Bars
"So if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed." (John 8:36)

Some people are imprisoned. They see the bars that lock them in. They see the chains around their waists, on their wrists and on their ankles. Some people are imprisoned; however, they can't see what locks them in because they are imprisoned by invisible bars. What are invisible bars?  

Invisible bars are those imaginary situations that keep people locked in their own little world. Invisible bars prevent people from taking advantage of their God given rights and privileges. Invisible bars keep people from using the power and authority that were given to them as part of their salvation package. Many people are imprisoned by invisible bars.
 
God doesn't want us to be imprisoned by invisible bars. God wants us to be free in Him. The only way we can be free is to accept His Son as our Savior and Lord. Jesus' crucifixion on the cross broke every barrier that might keep us behind invisible bars. He paid the price for our freedom so we can live a liberated life. We were captives before Jesus' death on the cross. We were slaves to sin before Jesus' burial. We were in bondage before Jesus' resurrection. Thanks be to God that Jesus' work of redemption has set us free! "So if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed." (John 8:36)
 
Rid yourself of invisible bars. Be free today!

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"The Devil IS a Liar!"
You are from your father the devil, and you choose to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44)

The above scripture is the only one in the entire Bible that refers to the devil as a liar. How many times have you heard people emphasize: "The devil IS a liar!" If you have been saying it yourself, you might want to reconsider after reading this message.

"The devil IS a liar!" seems to be on people's lips these days when things do not work out in their favor. Saying "The devil IS a liar!" every time something goes wrong is senseless and a waste of breath. It doesn't keep the devil away from you because you say, "The devil IS a liar!" Most people who quote this do not know it is only part of a scripture. And besides, they quote it out of context. Jesus was talking to the Pharisees when He compared them to the devil.

It is no doubt that the devil is a liar, and he definitely deals in deceit. However, by merely saying it doesn't keep the devil away from you. It doesn't faze the devil in any way to hear you call him a liar. There is only one way to guarantee that the devil will leave you for a season. And that is to do what Jesus did. What did Jesus do?

Jesus quoted the scriptures that were relevant to His situation by saying, "It is written..." (Matthew 4:4, 6, 7). We must do the same. We, too, must attack the devil with the word of God and not use a catch-all statement taken out of context that describes his characteristic of being a liar.

Stop wasting your breath by making an affirmative statement about the devil. Rather than emphasizing what the devil is, apply God's word to your situation instead. That's where the power is.
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Take Care of My Eyes
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. (John 9:1)

A story is told of a young woman who had been blind from birth. While everyone else shunned her, a young man befriended her, and they became extremely close. He was gentle, compassionate, and loving. One day while spending hours together on her front porch swinging, chatting, laughing and singing, the young woman stopped and in a sincere voice said, "Oh, I wish I could see. Then I would marry you."

Shortly thereafter, a miracle happened. The young woman received eye implants and she could see for the first time in her life. As usual, the young couple sat on the front porch, swinging, chatting, laughing and singing. As before, the young woman stopped abruptly and began to speak. "Now that I can see, I do not want to be with you anymore because you are blind." The young man was speechless but left immediately.

For months the young man was lonely and heart broken. He felt rejected; yet he missed the young woman. Finally, he called her and said politely, "I respect your opinion not to have anything else to do with me now that you can see. I have only one request. Please take care of my eyes."

Too often we stay with people when we are down and out, helpless and hopeless, blind and cannot see. But as soon as we get on our feet, get our strength back and become self-sufficient, we forget about and even reject those who have been with us through thick and thin. We forget the people who motivated us, inspired us, gave us advice and shared our dreams. We forget those who were role models, companions and confidants.  Many times we succeed in life because someone else neglected themselves to give us exactly what we needed.

Let's remember those who have given us their eyes . . . their ears . . . their hands . . . their feet . . . and their heart.
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Four Different Reactions
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. (John 9:1-3)

Four different groups of people had four different reactions to the healing of the man born blind.
  1. The man's neighbors revealed surprise and skepticism..."Isn't this the same man who used to sit and beg?" No, he only looks like him."
  2. The Pharisees showed disbelief and prejudice..."This man [Jesus] is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath."
  3. The parents believed but kept quiet for fear of excommunication out of the synagogue ..."We know he is our son, and we know he was born blind. But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don't know."
  4. The healed man showed consistent, growing faith..."One thing I do know, I was blind but now I see!" Then the man said, "Lord, I believe," and he worshiped him.
How do people react when God has been displayed in your life? How do you react?
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So That God's Power Can Be Shown
Jesus answered, "It is not this man's sin or his parents' sin that made him be blind. This man was born blind so that God's power could be shown in him." (John 9:3)

A common belief in Jewish culture was that calamity or suffering was the result of some great sin. Some people still believe that. A close study of this passage will show that Jesus used this man's suffering to teach about faith and glorifying God. We live in a fallen world where good people do suffer. If God took suffering away whenever we asked, we could follow Him for comfort and convenience, not out of love and devotion.

When you suffer or have a setback in your life, it is so that God's power can be shown to you and to others through that experience. In the midst of your suffering, it might be difficult to comprehend, but good things do come out of suffering. It might be a valuable lesson or a changed heart. Jesus explained it best: "This happened so that God's power can be shown in you."
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The Time is Now!
Jesus said, "I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night comes when no one can work" (John 9:4). 

The time is now to do those things you have been putting off for months or even years.  Some of you have many unfinished projects that you are waiting until the right time to complete.  Some of you have several things you have started, and for some reason or another you have procrastinated year after year after year.  One thing about procrastination is that the longer you put things off, the easier it is to continue putting things off.

The time is now while God's presence and anointing are upon you. He encourages you to "be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go" (Joshua 1:9).

The longest trip begins with a single step.  Your most challenging project begins with making small steps toward its completion.  He who put that dream or vision in your consciousness is God Almighty. Since God is the One who gave you that idea or dream, He also equips you to go forth with that dream.   Right now the light is green. Soon it will change to yellow and then red. The time will not always be  appropriate or sanctioned by God.  Stop hesitating . . . for the time is NOW!
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Ask God For Daily Assignments
He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. (John 10:3-4)

When you have a big decision to make, are you already tuned in to God for His guidance? Already being tuned in to God with daily assignments will help you when you have to make big decisions. How do you stay tuned in to God for His help in ALL decisions? The answer is quite simple. Start each day by asking God for an assignment. Stay in prayer until He gives you one. Then carry it out. This will keep you tuned in to God's will so that when you need guidance on specific decisions, you will be able to readily hear His voice. This simple routine will give you practice in recognizing and responding to God's voice.

If you have a favorite radio station, you probably keep the dial set to that station even when the radio is off. Whenever you turn your radio on, the dial is already set. There is no fiddling with the dial to find the station. So it is with being tuned in to God. You ask God for daily assignments so that when you need Him for the big assignments, you do not have to fiddle around trying to find God or wonder if that's His voice that you hear.

Get into the habit of asking God for a daily assignment. Then carry it out. The more practice you have in recognizing God's voice in the smaller assignments, the quicker you will recognize God's voice in the bigger assignments.

Go ahead and ask God for your daily assignment right now!
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Not Knowing What You Have
I have come that you will have life and have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)

Have you heard the story about a little old woman who saved all her life to go on a cruise to the Caribbean? The day finally came when she boarded the ship to fulfill her dream. The ship was at sea for seven days stopping at various ports. When the ship returned and the captain was shaking hands with everyone as they exited, he recognized the little old lady whom he had not seen since she boarded the ship seven days ago.

"Mrs. X," the captain said, "I'm afraid I did not see you at any of the meals, breakfast, lunch or dinner or any snacks in between. I didn't see you when we went out for a Caribbean feast on our arrival. I looked for you at the Captain's Ball where we had a magnificent banquet prepared for all our passengers. I guess it just was so many people, Mrs. X that I didn't see you. Thank you for traveling with us and I hope you had a great time. By the way, Mrs. X where were you on all those occasion?" A frail little old lady looked up as if suffering from malnutrition and feebly said, "I was in my cabin the whole time eating the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I had packed until they ran out the third day. It took all my money to pay for my cruise; therefore, I had no money left for food. Neither did I have money left over to attend any of the activities."

What a sad story! If you have confessed Jesus as your Savior and Lord you are entitled to ALL the blessings associated with being a child of God. The woman did not know that the scrumptious food and the activities were included with the purchase of her ticket she paid for. Jesus paid it all for us with His Blood. The benefits are for us to enjoy.

Enough said!
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Don't Limit God
I am come that you may have life and have it more abundantly.  (John 10:10)

God is our source and resource for everything.  And He wants us to be blessed with the best of everything.  Whatever God does, He does it in a big way.  Remember the first miracle of Jesus when He changed the six (6) barrels containing 30 gallons of  water into wine?  Now what wedding party can drink 180 gallons of good wine after the regular wine ran out? God is El-Shaddai, the God of more than enough.  Remember when in the wilderness Jesus changed a little boy's happy meal consisting of five barley loaves and two small fish into an all-you-can-eat fish dinner for the multitude?  There were twelve baskets of fragments left over after all 5,000 men (besides women and children) were fed (John 6:13).

Let's not limit God. Superabundance is available to all who believe that God can do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us (Ephesians 3:20).
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The Total Package
I have come that you will have life and have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)

Have you heard the story about a little old woman who saved all her life to go on a cruise to the Caribbean? The day finally came when she boarded the ship to fulfill her dream. The ship was at sea for seven days stopping at various ports. When the ship returned and the captain was shaking hands with everyone as they exited, he recognized the little old lady whom he had not seen since
she boarded the ship seven days ago.

“Mrs. X,” the captain said, “I’m afraid I did not see you at any of the meals, breakfast, lunch or dinner or any snacks in between. I didn’t see you when we went out for a Caribbean feast on our arrival. I looked for you at the Captain’s Ball where we had a magnificent banquet prepared for all our passengers. I didn’t see you at your assigned table at any of the three main seven-course meals we served each day. I never saw you around the snack area that was supplied with fresh fruit and other food items the passengers requested. I guess it was just so many people, Mrs. X that I didn’t see you. Thank you for traveling with us, and I hope you had a great time. By the way, Mrs. X where were you on all those occasion?” The frail little old lady looked up as if suffering from malnutrition and feebly said, “I was in my cabin the whole time eating the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I had packed until they ran out the third day. It took all my money to pay for my cruise; therefore, I had no money left for food. Neither did I have money left over to attend any of the activities.”

What a sad story! But some of you are living just like that little old lady. You don’t know that when you were saved, God gave you the total package of salvation. You starve yourself because you do not get filled on the Bread of Life and drink that Living Water. You don’t get involved in activities with other Christians because you want to keep your secrets safe. You don’t know all you have in Christ because you have not read God’s promises in the Bible. Surely, if this little old lady had read the itinerary and brochures, and fellowshipped with others, she would have experienced all that was available.

If you have confessed Jesus as your Savior and Lord you are entitled to ALL the blessings associated with being a child of God. The woman did not know that the scrumptious food and the activities were included with the purchase of her ticket. Jesus paid it all for us with His Blood. The total package including all the benefits are for us to enjoy.

Think of this story the next time you deny yourself the benefits of the total package.
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A More Abundant Life
I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (John 10:10b)

I received a card in the mail yesterday bearing the above scripture. The scripture was surrounded by butterflies. Quite lovely indeed! What was so fascinating about the scripture is that it is the same scripture I have been meditating on for the last few months. I quoted that scripture in my last two sermons, and it always come up in my prayers. The personal inscription in the card read: "Keep up the good work for the Lord!" What is God telling me through this scripture and that personal exhortation?

John 10:10 goes deeper than most people think. Actually Jesus says in the complete scripture, "The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy, but I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." While we want to think this scripture promises us material things, it doesn't!

In order to understand and get the most out of John 10:10, we need to know its context. John 10 is about sheep and the shepherd. The thief in John 10:10 is the one who comes only to steal, kill and destroy the sheep. In contrast, Jesus is the one who has come to give life in a superabundant manner.

Life is the theme in John 10:10; not material possessions. This scripture promises a superior, superabundant spiritual life that is empowered by the indwelling of Jesus Christ. John 10:10 promises an abundant spiritual life, not physical abundance. To focus on acquiring more stuff and material things trivializes the profound depth of John 10:10 . . . Life more abundantly!
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Follow The Leader
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:27)  

As children most of us played a game called "Follow the Leader."  As adults we still follow the leader, but it should be no game.  We should follow those who have something to offer; something to share; something to impart into your lives.  The Bible says "iron sharpens irons" (Proverbs 27:17). Christians should become sharper just by being around other Christians. Christians should be like burning logs in a fireplace.  When one log is burning out and losing its spark, it should be able to just roll over and be ignited by the other logs that are burning . . . that is IF they are burning . . .IF they are on fire themselves.

Make sure the One you are following has something to offer. Make sure the company you keep is able to keep you in times of needs. The surest way is to follow Jesus Christ who is the perfect example of all that we need or could ever want.
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Three Voices: Which One Are You Hearing?
Jesus said "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me" (John 10:27)

We hear three voices talking to us at all times: God's, Satan's and our own. Many times we don't recognize the correct voice; so we do not act appropriately.
 
We can know if we are truly hearing God's voice if we spend quality time daily in prayer and Bible study. As we spend intimate time with God, the easier it will be to recognize His voice. God speaks to us primarily through the Bible, but we can sometimes also hear His voice in our consciences, through circumstances, and through other people.  
 
We can recognize when it's Satan voice if we are told to do something that doesn't line up with the Word of God.   Satan will steer us in the wrong direction usually in a quick and easy manner before we have time to think things through. We should rebuke the voice of Satan no matter how appealing the situation sounds.
 
We know it's our own voice when it is self-gratifying and doesn't help anyone except ourselves. Our voice says, "I," "me," "my," and "myself." To test whether it is your voice or not, ask yourself these questions:
1. Will what I am about to do bring glory to God?
2. Will what I am about to do help or hurt others?
3. Will what I am about to do be a good legacy?
 
Know the voices you hear. Is it God's voice? Is it Satan's voice? Is it your own voice?

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How to Know You Are Hearing From God
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:37)

We hear many voices telling us what to do and what not to do. Wouldn't it be wonderful to know for sure if it's God's voice? Here are ten questions to ask to determine if it is God's voice, Satan's voice or your own voice you are hearing.
  1. Is what you hear CONSISTENT with the word of God? God will NEVER go against His own word.
  2. Is it in CONFLICTwith the world's standard? What God says is often in conflict with human reasoning.
  3. Is it CLASHING with your fleshly desires?   God will not tell you something for instant gratification of the flesh. God speaks for the building up of the spirit. Satan cares nothing about your spirit.
  4. Will this CHALLENGEyour faith? God is in the faith-challenging business. He is concerned about stretching your faith.
  5. Does what you hear give you COURAGE to do what is right? Satan gives us easy things to do which involves little or no courage.
  6. Are you CONCERNED about the feelings of others? When God is speaking, He is going to cause you to think of others. Satan says not to care about the impact your decision has on others.
  7. Are CONSEQUENCES considered for the future? God speaks with a bigger picture in mind. Satan says do it now, enjoy it now and don't worry about future consequences.
  8. Are you seeking COUNSEL from godly people? Evaluate the lifestyle of those who advise you.
  9. Will this decision CONTRIBUTE to your spiritual growth? God will never tell you to do something that will set you back spiritually.
  10. Is there a CALMNESS in your spirit when you hear this voice? Is there peace that surpasses all understanding? God is about peace and harmony. Satan is about chaos, division and destruction.
When you love God with your whole heart and have a personal ongoing intimate relationship with Him, then you CAN know when God is speaking to you. These questions will help identify God's voice. Once you know you are hearing God's voice, then act accordingly.
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Do You Believe This?
Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this"  (John 11:25-26) 

Jesus deliberately delayed going to see Lazarus when he was sick. Let's listen to the dialogue between Jesus and Martha when He arrived after Lazarus had been died four days. Martha said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."  Jesus said to Martha, "Your brother will rise again." Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on  the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die." Then Jesus asked a question that all of us will have to answer: "Do you believe this?" 

Let our answer be her answer: "Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world." (John 11:23-27)
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Jesus Wept
Jesus wept.  (John 11:35)

"Jesus wept" is the shortest recorded verse in the Bible. Most of us learned that short verse when we were children. However, we probably didn't know exactly why Jesus wept.

Jesus wept on two occasions in the Bible. And neither time did He weep for Himself. Even the agony of the cross didn't cause Him to shed tears for Himself. He wept over the conditions of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). And He wept just before He raised Lazarus from the dead. (John 11:35)

Jesus wept for the same reason on both occasions. He wept over Jerusalem because God's own people could not comprehend the Light that was among them. He did not weep over Lazarus but over the people gathered around the tomb who did not understand that Jesus was the resurrection and the life. (John 11:25)

There is an important reason the Bible says, "Jesus wept" instead of saying He "cried," or "sobbed." The Greek word used in John 11:35 is different from the same verb used in other places even when Jesus wept over Jerusalem. The word here means "a quiet shedding of tears while grieving." Jesus wept is in contrast to the loud wailing and cries of the crowd. (Some of them were paid mourners who were doing it for the money).

We know Jesus did not weep over the death of Lazarus for three reasons. #1 He had waited four days to get to Lazarus. #2 He had just said He was the resurrection and the life. #3 He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead. So if Jesus was not weeping over his friend Lazarus, then why did He weep?

Jesus wept because everyone around the tomb (the disciples, the religious leaders, his friends Mary and Martha, the paid mourners) were focusing more on the death of Lazarus than on the life of Jesus. Throughout the scene, they told Jesus the story of Lazarus' sickness and his death. They were eager to show Jesus the tomb. Instead of believing in Jesus, they were blinded by death.

Are you putting too much emphasis on dead situations rather than on Jesus, the resurrection and the life? Are you blinded by something that is causing Jesus to weep over you?
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Real Men Do Weep
Jesus wept.  (John 11:35)

 

People who say real men don't weep are definitely wrong and don't know the Bible. Hundreds of times  throughout the Bible we find real men weeping. When wise Solomon said, "There is a time to weep" (Ecclesiastes 3:4) he did not exclude men. Real men do weep. 

Abraham, the Father of Many Nations, wasn't ashamed to weep. That's why his sons, Jacob and Esau didn't hesitate to weep when they met after a long absence. Joseph wept when he was reunited with his brothers. Saul, the first king of Israel wept. David wept. Hezekiah wept. Nehemiah wept. Job wept. Jeremiah earned the title of "Weeping Prophet" because he wept all the way through the entire book of Lamentations. Peter wept. And if you think real men don't weep, read the shortest, but most touching verse in the Bible consisting of just two words: "Jesus wept." (John 11:35)

Real mean do weep. And when they do, it illustrates their tender hearts. It illustrates their passion and compassion. When real men weep, it expresses an emotion and is evident of a baptism of their soul. 

So, let's not frown upon men who weep. In fact, let's rejoice that God has softened their hearts in a way that results in tears. Their weeping may endure for a night, and that night might be the longest night of their lives, but the bottom line is that real men do weep!

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When the Community Cooperates
Take away the stone, he said. (John 11:38)

Jesus' friend, Lazarus, was sick and Jesus deliberately did not go to see him. In fact, Lazarus was dead for four days before Jesus showed up. Is that any way to treat a friend? Not by our standards, but Jesus had something greater in mind.

When Jesus arrived he asked the question, "Where have you laid him?"  (John 11:34)  Jesus knew the answer, but he asked the question to awaken expectation, to encourage faith, and to get the community's cooperation. So the mourners led Jesus to the grave. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. The next step in the raising of Lazarus was Jesus saying, "Take away the stone." (John 11:39) Notice Lazarus was already dead; therefore, he couldn't remove the stone from his own grave. Jesus could have removed the stone Himself by speaking to it, but He chose again to solicit the help of the community.

The stone was removed, and Jesus did what only Jesus could do. He cried out in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth!" (John 11:43) Lazarus came out, his hands and feet wrapped in strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Then Jesus asked the community to do what Lazarus couldn't do and Jesus wouldn't do. "Loose him and let him go." (John 11:44)

Notice only Jesus could have raised Lazarus from the dead. The community couldn't do it. But in this passage, three things the community could do.
  1. Lead Jesus to the grave. 
  2. Remove the stone.
  3. Loose him by taking the strips of lines from Lazarus' hands and feet and the cloth from around his face.

Jesus is the only one who can save men who are dead because of their sins and trespasses. He calls them forth, but it is the community's responsibility to remove the stone, unwind the grave clothes and free those who are in bondage. Begin to help those in your midst who are dead and still wearing grave clothes. They, too, can be loosed and set free.

Remember, Jesus saves. The community of faith should do the rest.
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Six Days Before Easter
 Leave her alone, Jesus replied. "It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me. (John 12:7-8)

Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at his friends' house in Bethany where a dinner was given in Jesus' honor.  Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of expensive perfume,  poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair. Judas Iscariot complained asking, "Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year's wages."  He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

Martha served as she was accustomed to doing.  Mary worshipped Jesus as she had done before.  She has always chosen the better part by sitting at the FEET of Jesus. Today she anoints His FEET with an expensive oil worth a year's wages.  It was a beautiful act of worship, and it was for Jesus alone.  It was not for the kingdom, nor the poor, nor for the good of anyone else, but for Jesus alone.  Mary demonstrated a pure act of love, devotion and worship.

As you continue the journey with Jesus this Holy Week, ask yourself, "What can I do today purely for Jesus?"  "What can I do without selfish motives just for Jesus?"  What can I do today for Jesus no matter what it costs?"  "What can I do for Jesus even though others' reaction will be like Judas?" Be like Mary, choose the better part. Demonstrate a pure act of worship.
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Mission or Agenda?
The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. (John 12:12)

On Palm Sunday people lined the streets, waving palms as Jesus entered Jerusalem. It was the first-century equivalent of our ticker-tape parades for heroes down the streets of New York City except Jesus rode in on a colt to fulfill the scriptures as recorded in Zechariah 9:9.

Jesus' popularity "at that particular time" was at an all-time high. His teaching had astonishing power. Jesus had changed people's hearts and healed them physically. He had even raised Lazarus from the dead. By far, Jesus was one of the most popular people in the entire Middle East; that is, at that particular time.

But everyone who lined the streets had a different reason for waving those palms. Some were political activists; they had heard that Jesus had supernatural power, and they wanted Him to use it to free Israel from Roman oppression. Others had loved ones who were sick or dying. They waved branches, hoping for physical healing. Some were onlookers, merely looking for something to do, while others were genuine followers who wished Jesus would establish Himself as an earthly king. Jesus was the only one in the parade who knew the real reason He was going to Jerusalem. Jesus was going to Jerusalem to die. Jesus had a mission while everyone else had an agenda.

What's your reason for following Jesus and waving your palm leaves? Are you on a mission, or do you merely have an agenda?
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Key Elements From Rev. Bernice King's Message At Her Mother's Funeral
Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. (John 12:24)

As I watched and listened to Rev. Bernice King, the youngest daughter of Coretta Scott King, give the message at her mother's funeral, these are some of the key elements that impressed me. Rev. Bernice King said she preferred not calling it a eulogy.

During her speech, Rev. King mentioned twice that eight is the number of new beginnings when she said her mother began moaning at the eight o'clock hour. And her mother went through three days of wrestling with God. She pointed out that her mother did not die from the stroke but from ovarian cancer. She used the word "cancer" to illustrate the condition of this world; that it too is been destroyed by cancer. She used her mother's cancer in the reproductive organs to illustrate the cancer of this world that is hindering growth and development and the impact it has on the whole body.

She pointed out that people had said that if Mrs. King had had conventional treatment in a conventional place she would have lived. Rev. King said that when it is your time to die, it is your time to die. Additionally, she said that the place where her mother was when she died points toward something globally rather than just nationally.

She gave a theological reason why the funeral was held at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. Rev. King explained that many thought it should have been at Ebenezer where her father, grandfather, and great grandfather once preached and where Mrs. King was a board member. However, God ordained it to be at New Birth. She followed up by saying her mother's death will be a "new birth for many things." She admonished the world to begin birthing those things in them that have not been allowed to live and grow.

I believe the most profound key element in the message was based on the above scripture. In order for greater things to happen, something has to die. In conclusion, Rev. King said now that her mother has died, it would be interesting to see what is going to be birthed from her death.

Perhaps Rev. King's message at her mother's funeral will awaken us to the point that a "new birth" will take place within us.
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Dying in Order to Live
I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. (John 12:24)

The Bible is full of paradoxes; that is, seemingly contradictory statements. The above scripture tells us that in order to live, we must die. In order to live a God ordained life, we must give up the life we now live. We must die to self in order to produce. A kernel outside the ground will always remain a single kernel . . . nothing more, nothing less. However, if it is planted in the soil, it dies. When it dies, it produces many seeds which grow into a harvest.

Jesus spoke the above words when some Greeks requested to see Him. Jesus suspected their desire to see Him was motivated by intellectual curiosity rather than spiritual hunger. However, Jesus' teaching pointed toward His own death and resurrection.

Jesus teaches us clearly the principle of fruitfulness by the irony of death itself. The world thinks in order to live, one must live. But the truth is, in order to live, we must die.
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Holy Paradoxes
I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:24-25)

A paradox is a statement that appears to contradict itself. It seems to be contrary to common sense even though the statement may be true. Many holy paradoxes appear in the Bible. One must have spiritual eyes in order to see them and spiritual ears in order to hear and understand their meanings.

For example, we must die in order to live. Why can't we just live without the dying part? According to God's word, we must die to self. We must give up our lives in order to have God living inside of us. Like a kernel of wheat, we are useless unless we die. If we love our life, we must lose it. To serve God fully we must forego worldly things and count all things loss for Christ. 

Another holy paradox is: "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up" (James 4:10). We must go down in order to go up. In other words, we must go DOWN the UP elevator. 

The holy paradox that really seems to contradict itself is this next one. "Give, and it will be given to you..." (Luke 6:38). While you already have it, why can't you just keep it? God's order doesn't work that way. We must give in order to receive. Then those who receive must give. That's God's cycle. In order to receive, we MUST give and it will be given back to us. If we keep tight fists, nothing will come in and nothing will go out.

God's order contains "holy paradoxes." While they appear to contradict themselves and are contrary to common sense, they are true in the spiritual sense. So, if you want to live with God, die to self. If you want to be elevated to a higher level, humble yourself and see how quickly you will be lifted up. Try giving and see how the windows of heaven will open and pour out a blessing that you will not have room enough for it (Malachi 3:10).
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Reach Out
I have come as light into the world, that everyone who believes in Me may not remain in darkness. (John 12:46)

Jesus had performed many miracles, but most people still didn't believe him.  Likewise, many today won't believe despite all God does. Don't be discouraged if your witness for Christ doesn't turn as many to him as you would like.  Your job is to continue as a faithful witness.  You are not responsible for the decisions of others, but simply to reach out to them.  Don't hesitate to tell others about Christ because you fear that some will not believe you.  At the same time, don't expect a unanimously positive response to your witnessing.  Even if only a few believe, it's worth the effort.
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"Maundy" Thursday
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  (John 13:34)

Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday, comes three days before Easter Sunday. It commemorates two events of Jesus' last week on earth: washing the feet of His disciples, and sharing the Last Supper with them. The name "Maundy" probably comes from the Latin word "mandatum" or "commandment."  It also has reference to the French word, "mande," meaning "command" or "mandate." It refers to the last words Jesus gave His disciples in the above scripture.

The washing of the disciples' feet was a visible token of Christian brotherly love. Because Jesus told his disciples to eat the bread and drink the cup until He returns, we celebrate Holy Communion or The Lord's Supper.  We do this in remembrance of Jesus by looking back to the cross and remembering Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Resurrection Day.  We also look forward to His Second Coming when we will no longer celebrate with the symbols of bread and wine because Jesus Himself will be with us.
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Maundy Thursday
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. (John 13:34)

"Maundy" comes from the Latin word "mandatum" which means "commandment." Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday is the day before Jesus' crucifixion. On this day, Jesus had His Last Supper with His disciples and commanded them to love one another as He had loved them.

Several other things happened on Maundy Thursday.:
  1. Jesus washed the disciples' feet. This symbolized his servanthood. He came to serve instead of being served.
  2. Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper. Holy Communion is a reminder that just as physical food and drink nourish our physical bodies, Jesus' death and resurrection give eternal life to our spirit. Jesus commanded us to eat the bread symbolizing His broken body and drink the wine symbolizing His shed blood as often as we can in remembrance of Him.
  3. Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. He said, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want." (Matthew 26:39)
  4. Judas, one of Jesus' disciples, betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver (the going rate for a slave at that time).
  5. Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane and was arrested there. (Revelation: Your place of prayer might also be the place of your pain and betrayal). 
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Preventing Heart Trouble
Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God; believe also in me. (John 14:1)

The heart is such a small organ; yet if it isn't functioning properly, the entire body is affected. The heart is what pumps blood to all parts of the body since blood is our lifeline. When your heart stops beating, you die. The heart is fragile and should be gently cared for.

The Bible has a broader meaning of the heart. The heart is more than an organ that pumps blood throughout the body. The heart is that which is central to the total person and affects the entire personality. The heart can be pure or evil; sincere or hard; good or bad. The heart can be joyful or sad, broken or troubled. How then can the heart be protected from being troubled?

In the one verse above, Jesus gives the answer. First of all, He says, "Let NOT your heart be troubled."  In essence, guard your heart from those things that will upset you and cause you to become troubled. Don't allow your heart to be troubled even though things are not always the way you want them to be. How can you let your heart not be troubled? If you want a protective covering around your heart at all times, believe in God and believe also in His Son." That's how to prevent your heart from being troubled!
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A Floor Plan of Heaven
In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you. (John 14:1)

Every building has a floor plan to show where you are and directions to where you need to go. Even shopping malls have floor plans. Floor plans keep us from going in the wrong direction. Since heaven is a place, it also has a floor plan. Heaven is real. It is not a mystical illusion or spiritual mirage. It is not a condition, concept or figure of speech. Jesus said He was going to prepare a place, a real place: Heaven.

So, what's the floor plan of heaven? According to Revelation 21 and 22, heaven is described as a city big enough to hold all God's people. This city is approximately 1500 miles on each side (a perfect cube). The walls are of jasper and the foundations garnished with precious stones. Each of the 12 gates is made of a single pearl. The gates are in all 4 directions, and they are never shut. The streets are of pure gold, like transparent glass. No temple is needed in the heavenly city because God's presence will be everywhere. The city has no need of the sun or the moon for the glory of God will lighten it. There is no night in heaven. There is a river of water, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb down the middle of the street of the city. On each side of the river stands the tree of life bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month.

This is just a bird's eye view of the floor plan of heaven according to the Bible. In order to go on a more extensive guided tour, you must be born again. You are invited to make heaven your home. Isn't heaven the place you would like to spend eternity? If so, make Jesus Christ your Lord and Savior today.
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When It's Not Easy To Trust God
Do not let your heart be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. (John 14:1 NIV)

You know in your mind that God can be trusted, yet sometimes you feel God is too far away. Sometimes you feel God has left you alone and doesn't care about you. To make matters worse, you believe God has everyone on His mind except you.  What do you do when you face troubling times and it's not easy to trust God?"

When the disciples had a hard time trusting, Jesus told them what He is telling you today, "Do not let your heart be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me." (John 14:1) Trusting God is easy when you do not trust in other things. Psalm 44:6 tells you not to trust in your bow or sword because God will give you victory over enemies. Psalm 49:12-13 tell you not to trust in your riches or your own strength. Micah 7:5 tells you not to put trust in your neighbor [because he might borrow  your lawn mower and not return it]. Proverbs 3:5-6 tell you how and why you should trust God: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths."

Trust is tested and proven by the choices we make. We can choose to let our heart be troubled, or we can choose to trust God. What happens when you trust God? "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him." (Romans 15:13) What will God do for you when you trust Him? "I will save you; you will not fall by the sword but will escape with your life, because you trust in me, declares the Lord." (Jeremiah 39:18)

When it is not easy to trust God, know that "The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him." (Nahum 1:7)
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Having A Mansion Mentality
In my Father's house, there are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you. (John 14:2 KJV)

The word "mansions" in the above scripture is found in the King James Version of the Bible. However, other versions replace the word "mansions" with "dwelling places," "houses," or "rooms." We shouldn't think there will be literal mansions in heaven. John uses this figure of speech to indicate unlimited space. Notice that just before Jesus left earth, He promised that He was going to prepare a place for us. In other words, our mansions are ready for us when we get to heaven.

While many of us are sure about our mansion in heaven, we might not be as sure about our mansion on earth because we do not have a mansion mentality.  A few days ago when a maintenance person came to my apartment to do a minor repair, he looked around and saw all the work I was doing for the kingdom of God. He said, "You should be living in a mansion." Admittedly, I didn't have a mansion mentality until it was brought to my attention. I never thought of living in a mansion on earth because I was waiting for the mansion prepared for me in heaven.

Also in the Book of John, Jesus tells us that "I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly." (John 10:10) This means we don't have to settle for less than what God wants to give us while we are here on earth. We shouldn't have a "making ends meet" mentality. Instead, God wants us to start having "a mansion mentality."

I have admitted I didn't have a mansion mentality until now. I know I am not the only one. So, join me in expecting all that God has for us. "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." (Matthew 7:7) And that door could be in your mansion.

Let's have a mansion mentality!
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Living Together as a Family
In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. (John 14:2 NRSV)

Since we share the same father, we are all family. It is odd that as a family here on earth we don't get along well with one another. In heaven there is one house with many dwelling places. We will have roommates and neighbors in heaven. We might as well get used to living together as a family.

There seems to be many reality shows on television these days where we see people living under the same roof but constantly getting on one another's nerves. A person might bond with some and shun others. The reality shows do come to an end and people go their separate ways. However, we will live in heaven together forever and ever. And we will not be able to go our separate ways. So we might as well get used to living together as a family.

While we don't all have the same interests or personalities, we need to make it a point to love and get along with others. Who knows . . . the person you can't stand here on earth just might be your roommate or neighbor in heaven.

Let's live together as a family!
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Reservations Required
In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (John 14:2)

Have you ever planned a vacation or some other trip without making reservations first?  If you didn't plan in advance, you probably encountered all sorts of problems and inconveniences.  On the other hand, if you have made airline reservation, your ticket will be waiting for you at the airport, and you are guaranteed to have a reserved seat.  When you arrive at your destination, a hotel room is prepared and waiting for you.

This world is not our home.  We need to make reservations for some other place after leaving the world.   It is true that Jesus has prepared a place for us, but we need to make reservations for our eternal rest.  We do that by accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior; by studying and obeying God's Word; by following in Jesus' footsteps; by forgiving and loving our neighbor; by praying, praising and worshipping God.

Make your reservations today.  Be sure you have a place of eternal rest when you leave this world.
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The Way to Go
You know the way to the place where I am going. (John 14:4)

This is one of the most basic and important affirmations in the entire Bible.  Jesus assured his disciples that he had prepared a place for them.  Not only did Jesus assure them that they knew the way, Jesus explained how they could get to where he was going.  Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). 

We can go only through Jesus to the Father because Jesus is both God and man.  By uniting our lives with Jesus,  we are united with God.  Trust Jesus to take you to the Father, and all the benefits of being God's child will be yours.
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"I AM . . ."
And God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." (Exodus 3:14)  Jesus answered, "I AM the way and the truth and the life." (John 14:6)

In the above scriptures God said who He was.  Jesus also said who He was.  Both of them used the state of being verb "AM."  Whenever you say, "I AM . . ." you give power to whatever follows.  Therefore, we should be extremely careful what follows our "I AM's."  If you say, "I am stupid" that is extremely what you will become.  If you say, "I am sick" then expect to become sick.  "Death and life are in the power of the tongue" (Proverbs 18:21).
 
Be mindful of how you describe yourself.  Jesus never said anything negative about Himself. He never described Himself.  Whenever He was challenged about His identity,  He said, "I AM the light of the world . . ., "I AM the one sent by My Father," "I AM the bread of life." etc.   We should follow the example of Jesus and counteract any negative description about us by speaking a positive.  What are you saying about yourself?  Make it a habit to say who you are and not who you are not.
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The Way of Life
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."  (John 14:6)

The above scripture is the response Jesus gave to doubting Thomas when Thomas said to Him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" The answer Jesus gave Thomas applies to everyone.

Jesus did not talk about just "a way" or just "any way." He talked about THE WAY. There is only one way to get to God and that is through the blood of Jesus Christ. When traveling you might take a different route occasionally, and you will arrive at the same destination. There aren't different routes getting to the Father. There is only one way . . . through Jesus Christ.

When listening to others talk, the truth is embellished and some lies might be told. Jesus doesn't have to stretch the truth or lie to get His point across because Jesus is THE TRUTH. 

How we live our lives is based on the direct proportion to how much we love Jesus. Jesus should be the center of our lives because He is THE LIFE.

In summary, as THE WAY, Jesus is our path to the Father. As THE TRUTH, Jesus is the sum total of all of God's promises. As THE LIFE, Jesus joins His divine life to ours, both now and eternally.
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Do You Live By Facts or Truths?
Jesus said unto him, "I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life." (John 14:6)

There is a difference between facts and truths. Facts are more worldly, while truths are more spiritual. For every fact in the dictionary or encyclopedia, there is a corresponding truth in God's word. A good rule of thumb to distinguish the difference between a fact and a truth is to determine who said it. The fact is you say you feel alone. The truth is God said He will never leave you nor forsake you. The fact is your doctor says you have a terrible disease. The truth is Jesus said by His stripes you are healed. The fact is the economists say gas prices are still rising. The truth is God said He will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory.

We are more at peace when we live by truths instead of living by facts. However, it is unwise to ignore facts. We should know what truth corresponds to each fact. So, the next time you hear someone say, "The fact of the matter is . . . " you can emphatically say, "The truth of the matter is.
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A Different Fast
The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does the works. (John 14:10)

Many of you might think a fast is the act of abstaining only from food. There are other things one could abstain from such as sex, television, or talking. Actually, abstaining from talking is one of the most powerful of the fasts. Abstaining from talking is also one of the hardest to undertake. It takes a special type of person to keep a vow of silence.

A different kind of fast is fasting from your own thoughts and opinions to allow the thoughts of God to direct your every move. If you refrain from your own thoughts, you can hear God much better. Some of us are so busy telling others what we think and trying to prove our point that we ignore what God has already settled in the Bible. There is no need to argue about what God has already said. We can't get Him to change His mind. How about changing ours?

Opinionated people have made idols of their own opinions. All idolatry is sin. God is not impressed with our opinions. He is impressed when we think and talk about HIS word; not our own. Jesus is our example. From the above scripture, we learn that Jesus did not speak on His own authority. He spoke on the authority of His Father. We should do likewise.  

Let's stop crowding out God's thoughts. Let's make room for them by going on a different fast. Let's fast from our own thoughts and opinions.
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You May Ask for Anything
You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. (John 14:14)

When Jesus says we can ask for anything, we must remember that our asking must be in His name, that is, according to God's character and will.  God will not grant requests contrary to His nature or His will, and we cannot use His name as a magic formula to fulfill our selfish desires. 

If we are sincerely following God and seeking to do His will, then our requests will be in line with what He wants, and He will grant them.
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Another Comforter
If you love me, obey me; and I will ask the Father and he will give you another Comforter, and he will never leave you.  He is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit who leads into all truth. (John 14:15-16)

Jesus was soon going to leave the disciples, but he would not leave them comfortless. The Counselor, the Spirit of God himself, would come to care for and guide them.  The Holy Spirit is the very presence of God within us and all believers, helping us live as God wants and building Christ's church on earth.  By faith we can recognize and appreciate the Spirit's power each day.
  • The Holy Spirit is God living in and among those who believe.
  • The Holy Spirit is at work in believers.
  • The Holy Spirit empowers believers.
  • The Holy Spirit is present in times of hardship.
  • The Holy Spirit helps us worship God.
  • The Holy Spirit transforms us from within.
  • The Holy Spirit works in every part of our life.
  • The Holy Spirit helps us remember and understand the Bible.
  • The Holy Spirit gives us peace.
Make an inventory of how the Holy Spirit is working in your life..
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 Counselor: The Only Title Shared by the Godhead
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. (John 14:16 RSV)

The Godhead, the Triune God, The Trinity all mean God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit coexisting in divine unity. Three Persons areworking together in separate roles. Each esteems and defers to the other. God the Father gives all authority to the Son and bears witness to Him (John 8:18). At Jesus’ baptism and on the Mount Transfiguration, God displays His glory on Jesus. “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 2:17; Matthew 17:5). Time and time again Jesus acknowledges God. The Son claims nothing for Himself. Instead He gives all glory to His Father who has sent Him (John 12:49-50). Just before Jesus ascended He promised to send “another Counselor” who would continue His work but would not be limited by space (Jerusalem) and time (33 years). (John 14:16 RSV). The Father points to the Son; the Son points to the Father; and both the Father and Son point to the Holy Spirit, who in turn, points to both the Father and the Son.

Many titles refer to God exclusively: Creator, Father, I AM, Jehovah, Yahweh, Shepherd, etc. Many titles refer to Jesus exclusively: Alpha, Omega, Rose of Sharon, Lily of the Valley, The Way, The Bread of Life, etc. Many titles refer to the Holy Spirit exclusively: Holy Ghost, Spirit, Paraclete, Comforter,
etc. However COUNSELOR is the only title in the Bible that all three Persons of the Godhead share.

Psalm 73:24 refers to God as Counselor. In Isaiah 9:6 Jesus is prophesied to come as the Wonderful Counselor. In John 14:16 Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as “another Counselor.”

A comforter or counselor is one who provides help for the helpless and the hopeless. If you are suffering from bouts of depression, grief, or inner turmoil of any kind, you may seek counseling from one or all three Persons of the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
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Working Together
God said about Jesus: "That's my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17). Jesus said about God: "The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do" (John 5:19). Jesus said about the Holy Spirit: "And I will pray to the Father, and He will give you another Comforter" (John 14:16).

These scriptures clearly illustrate the working together of the trinity. Although the word "trinity" is not mentioned, the "trinitarian concept" is prominent throughout the Bible. Tertullian, an African, coined the word at the beginning of the third century. His revelation involves a threefoldness of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 
 
A most descriptive characteristic of the persons of the triune God is that all three work together. God the Father gives all authority to the Son and bears witness to Him, and the Son does the same for His Father (John 8:18). Yet the Son claims nothing for Himself. He gives all glory to the Father who sent Him (John 14:49-50). Therefore, the Father points to the Son; the Son points the Father; Father and Son defer to the Holy Spirit, who in turn, defers to the Father and Son. They are all working together . . . and they are all working together on our behalf!

The triune family is God's revelation of Himself as the ultimate truth about how we are to live. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit co-exist and work together in harmony. God wants all families of the earth to adopt this same pattern: biological families, church familes, and workplace families.  This will happen only when all members of families acknowledge that everything originates in the Father, is expressed by the Son, and energized by the Holy Spirit. All three persons of the Trinity are working together.
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An Inside Job
If you love me, obey me; and I will ask the Father and he will give you another Comforter, and he will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit who leads into all truth. The world at large cannot receive him, for it isn't looking for him and doesn't recognize him. But you do, for he lives with you now and some day shall be in you. (John 14:15-17)

The Holy Spirit transforms us from within. At the time of the above scripture, Jesus was soon going to leave the disciples, but he still would remain with them. How could that be? How could Jesus leave the disciples; yet still be with them? In our logical minds, this would be utterly impossible. The Comforter, the Holy Spirit Himself, would come after Jesus was gone to care for and guide the disciples just as the human Jesus did. The power of the Holy Spirit would not be human as Jesus was. The Holy Spirit would transform the disciples from within.

That transforming power is within every Christian today. The Holy Spirit is the very presence of God helping us live as God wants us to. No matter what our external circumstances are, the regenerating power of the Spirit is within us working things out for our own good.
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Not An "It"
The world cannot receive HIM, because it neither sees HIM nor knows HIM...for HE dwells with you and will be in you." (John14:17)

In the above scripture, the Holy Spirit is clearly referred to as "him" and "he." Why, then do people refer to the Holy Spirit as an "it"?  The Holy Spirit is the third PERSON of the Trinity, and not an "it." The Holy Spirit is a spirit, not an "it." To put it more simply, if you are ever going to fully experience the PERSON of the Holy Spirit, you must recognize and respond in a like manner.

The Holy Spirit never should be confused with a "force" as in some space movies. The Holy Spirit is more than some glorified energy causing things to happen. The Holy Spirit is our Comforter, our Enabler, and our Guide. The Holy Spirit is too close to us and too much a part of us to be seen directly. He is closer to us than we are to ourselves. He is the one through whom all else is seen in a new light.

People who chase after an "it" will receive only what an "it" can do. But those who know the Holy Spirit as a Person will experience a powerful PERSONal relationship. Therefore, step number 1 is to recognize, call and respond to the Holy Spirit as a person and not an "it."
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Not Comfortless
I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.(John 14:18)

Adversity is unavoidable.  There is absolutely nothing you can do to prevent it from happening.  It happens to the best of us and to the rest of us as well.  Adversity shows itself in various forms: a divorce;  the loss of a job; a house burned down; a run-away child; terminal illness; or a loved one has just died.  The list is endless. When adversity strikes, our response to it is the key to overcoming it.

Adversity can be handled by looking at it from God’s perspective and by taking Him at His word when He said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Also, focus on God and  allow Him to get the glory even in adversity because no matter how bad things seem to be, something good always come out of it.  It just takes spiritual eyes to recognize it.

No matter what form your adversity might be in today, know that God is with you, and He will not leave you comfortless.
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A Permanent Teacher
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. (John 14:26)

Has it ever dawned on you that you are taught something everyday? From the time you are born until you die, you learn something either by hearing, doing or observing. Learning takes place in all areas of your life and not only in a classroom. Even hard hearted people who refuse to embrace the institution of learning pick up something along the way.

It is good news to know that those of us who are saved have a permanent teacher living within us. That teacher is the Holy Spirit whose main role is to teach us, lead us and to guide us into all truth. The Holy Spirit teaches Christians the deep things of God (I Corinthians 2:10-12) and the mysteries of Christ (Ephesians 3:3-5).

Jesus promised He would send the Holy Spirit to teach us all things. Jesus kept His promise. So let us be good students of the permanent teacher who  lives within us. (John 14:17)
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Perfect Peace
I am leaving you with a gift: peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn't fragile like the peace the world gives. So don't be troubled or afraid. (John 14:27)

Perfect peace is more than the absence of conflict. Perfect peace suggests wholeness, completeness, health, justice, prosperity, security and protection. The world cannot provide this peace. Real peace comes from faith in God because God alone embodies all the characteristics of peace. To find peace of mind and peace with others, you must first find peace with God.

Unlike worldly peace, the peace of God is lasting. It is confident assurance in any circumstance.  With the peace of God we have no need to fear the present or the future.  The perfect peace of God moves in our hearts to restrain the hostile forces of sin, fear, uncertainty, doubt and other negative forces at war within us.

If you are seeking real peace, seek God first!
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How to Experience Real Peace
I am leaving you with a gift . . . peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn't fragile like the world gives. So don't be troubled or afraid. (John 14:27)

Peace is much more than the absence of conflict. Real peace comes when a person feels complete, whole, healthy, protected, secure and loved. If any one these attributes is missing, peace is likely to be missing as well. Real peace can never come from relying on family, friends, and the world. They may disappoint you at some time in your life. How do you experience real peace? Real peace comes from faith in God because He alone embodies all the characteristics of peace at all times.

Therefore, in order to find peace with yourself and with others, you must first find peace with God. How do you experience real peace with God?
  • Rest in God's sovereignty.
  • Be assured that God is in control and He rules the world. 
  • Welcome peace to calm your internal conflicts.
  • Sin, fear, uncertainty, worry, doubt, and numerous other forces at war within you don't stand a chance when you focus on the peace of God.
  • Reconcile yourself with God for continual peace. This is accomplished through the saving power of Jesus Christ.
If there is no peace in your life, invite the Prince of Peace to come in and give you that peace that only He can give as a result of Jesus' death on the cross.
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The Blessings of Brokenness
He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. (John 15:2)

To say, "The Blessings of Brokenness" seems to be contradictory. "Blessings" and "Brokenness" don't seem to go together. Rather, they seem to be the exact opposite. "Brokenness" means to be crushed, shattered, pruned, cut, or torn apart. Brokenness is often accompanied by emptiness because what was in us has been forced out of us. Ironically, our brokenness comes at a time when we least expect it because while we think we are already doing a good work, God wants us to do a greater work. Therefore, He takes us through a period of brokenness so He can deposit more in us through our cracks and gaps.

When we are broken, we are in the perfect position to experience God's greatest blessings. We should desire brokenness because blessings follow brokenness when we allow God to complete His work in us. However, if we try to stop or prolong the process, we are left broken without blessings. The space between brokenness and blessings is an awful position to be in. So, desire the completed phase of brokenness.

No one enjoys being broken, but that's the only way for growth to take place. Let's face brokenness with faith, and submit to God during this period and be open to what God is replacing in us after we have been broken and drained.

Let's ask God to reveal to us the lesson we are supposed to learn through our brokenness. And then let's be prepared to receive the blessings that He promised us through our broken and contrite spirit. (Psalm 51:17)

Are you broken? Expect blessings to follow!
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Being Fruitful
He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does not bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. (John 15:2)

The more you contemplate God's word, the more you will see how God makes connections. There are many references to fruit throughout the Bible. In the Garden of Eden, the first man and first woman were told not to eat the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Then God told them to be fruitful and multiply.

Paul tells us about the fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5:22-33. And John 15 is about being fruitful. Jesus says, "I am the vine, and my Father is the gardener." We must stay attached to Jesus, the vine. Then God, the gardener, will  tend to us and prune us to bear fruit.

There are four types of fruit bearing categories in John 15, and all of us fit into one of those categories.
1.  No fruit 
2.  Fruit
3.  More fruit
4.  Abiding fruit (or fruit that remains)
Identify which category you are in today; then aspire to move to the next level. Keep in mind that a vine that bears no fruit is worthless. It withers and should be thrown away or picked up and thrown into the fire and burned. (John 15:6)

Being fruitful is a true sign of our service to God. By our fruit we will be recognized as laborers of the harvest. (Matthew 7:20)
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Try A Different Method
He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. (John 15:2)

You have heard it said, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try, again." While this is good advice, here is something you might want to consider as well. "If at first you don't succeed, try, try, again using a different method." If you do the same thing the same way you have always done it, then you are likely to get the same results you have always gotten.

When should you try a different method? You should try a different method when the method you are using doesn't work. You should try a different method when you continue to get the same unwanted results. You should try a different method when you get negative results. You should try a different method when you hurt others instead of helping them. You should try a different method when there is no evidence of growth or production in what you are doing.

God gives us a chance to try a different method to bear fruit on our own, but if we don't, He Himself will prune us.  According to the above scripture, He will cut off every branch of our lives that does not bear fruit. In those areas that are producing some fruit, He will prune to bear more fruit.

If what you are doing is not producing enough fruit to satisfy God, try, try again, but try using a different method.
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Stay Connected
Abide in me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can you, except you abide in me.  (John 15:4)

No matter how many aspirins you put in that lovely vase of roses you have received from someone special, those roses will die after a few days. They will die even though they are long-stemmed and were quite expensive.  They will die because they have been cut off from their main source.  A vine broken from its original lifeline will not survive.

So it is with us.  We are dead if we are not connected to the One who gave us life.  We are spiritually dead unless we have a personal relationship with the One who created us, provides for us and sent His son into the world to atone for our sins.  If you want to thrive, grow, blossom, bloom and produce fruit . . . Stay Connected.  If you want to experience all that God has for you . . . Stay Connected.  If you want to LIVE and NOT DIE . . . Stay Connected!
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Your Heart's True Home
Abide in me, and I in you. (John 15:4)

Most of us love to take trips. Some of us love traveling more than others. However, no matter how much or how little we travel, we also love to return home. We love to return to our own beds and our own bathrooms. We might visit other places for a certain period of time, but it is always good to return home to what is comfortable and familiar.

Our physical bodies have a place to call home. Did you know that your heart has a true home? You may take it places and it will be satisfied temporarily, but after a while it yearns to return to its true home. Where, then, is your heart's true home?

Your heart's true home is with God. Your heart might find pleasure, peace, and joy in people, places and things only for a short period of time, but eventually your heart longs to return to its very own resting place. Abiding in God is where your heart belongs.

As believers in Christ, our heart's dwelling place, our heart's true home is with God.  If your heart is restless, perhaps it is because it has not found its true home.
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It's So Easy to Love You
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love. (John 15:9)

Have you ever tried to love someone, but because of that person's adverse actions toward you, it was so hard to love him or her? Yes, it is extremely difficult to love someone who mistreats you and does all kinds of evil against you. It is difficult to love selfish people who use you for their own personal gain and satisfaction. However, one of Jesus' last commandments was: "Love one another as I have loved you." (John 15:12) It is hard loving others sometimes, but it should always be easy to love Jesus.

We sing a praise song at our church that is so easy to learn. The song is "It's So Easy to Love You." As we sang it and entered into praise yesterday, I couldn't help from thinking how easy it is to love Jesus. Why? Because He is wonderful. He is marvelous. He is glorious. He is my Friend. And those are the only words in the song.

"It's so easy to love you (repeat 3x). You are wonderful.
It's so easy to love you (repeat 3x). You are marvelous.
It's so easy to love you (repeat 3x). You are glorious.
It's so easy to love you (repeat 3x). You are my Friend." - [End of Song]

Even after the song was over, I kept singing in my heart...

It's so easy to love you because you first loved me.
It's so easy to love you because saving souls was your life's mission.
It's so easy to love you because you died to set me free.
It's so easy to love you because you are the best friend I could have or ever expect to have.
It's so easy to love you because you yourself said, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:18-19).

Who couldn't love a Savior like that? Yes, it's so easy to love YOU...it's so easy to love YOU, Jesus!
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That Unspeakable Joy
I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete." (John 15:11)

The difference between happiness and joy is that happiness depends on what is happening around you at a particular time.  You can be happy one moment, but if your circumstances change, so does your state of happiness.  Happiness is temporal and is the result of externals.

Joy depends not on what is happening around you but is the direct result of what is going on inside of you.  Joy is internal and even though your circumstances might not bring you happiness, you can still experience joy.

Have a joyous day no matter what happens!
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Love Is A Unifying Force
This is my commandment: "Love one another as I have loved you." (John 15:12)

Love is a command. The commandment to love others comes from the Old Testament (Leviticus 19:18) and from the New Testament because Jesus interpreted it in a new way (John 13:34-35). Love is not only expressed by showing respect; it is also expressed through self-sacrifice and servanthood (John 15:13). In fact, love is reaching beyond friends to enemies.

Love should be the unifying force and the identifying mark of the Christian community. Love is the key to walking in the light because we cannot grow spiritually while we hate others. Our growing relationship with God will result in growing relationships with others.  Let us love one another as Christ has loved us.
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Greater Love
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)

We are to love others as Jesus loved us.  He loved us enough to give His life for us.  We may never have to actually give our lives in exchange for someone, but there are other ways to "lay down our life" for our friends.  We practice sacrificial love when we couple sympathy with compassion, when we give without expecting something in return, when we do for others without keeping score, when we listen with an attentive ear without criticisms or judgment. 

Laying down one's life for a friend is putting aside those mundane things to help a friend in need.  Finally, laying down one's life for a friend is always being there to offer support, to exhort, to edify and to comfort.
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Love Each Other
This is my command:  Love each other. (John 15:17)

We are to love each other as Jesus loved us, and He loved us enough to give His life for us. We may not have to die for someone, but there are ways to practice sacrificial love: listening, helping, encouraging, giving. Think of someone in particular who needs this kind of love today. Give all the love you can, and then try to give a little more.

As Christians, we get so much hatred from the world.  Why should we get it from each other as well?  We should receive love and support from each other.  We should love each other, and God will give us the strength to do it.
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Love Is Not Always A Straight Line
These things I command you, that you love one another. (John 15:17)

One of the last commandments Jesus left us was for us to love one another. But what if you can't love everybody? What if you can't love the unloveable? What if you can't love the one who hurt you deeply? What if you can't love the person who stood in the way of your getting a promotion? What if you can't love the teacher who kept your child back in third grade? What if you can't love that drunk driver who killed your child? When Jesus said love one another, He meant those people as well.

How do we love one another?  We can love one another by first loving God. We can love others through the heart of God. Sometimes it is hard to love one another horizontally.  But it is easy to love one another vertically by loving God first, and allowing that love to bounce back down on the one you thought you couldn't love. Love doesn't have to be in a straight line. Love one another through the eyes of God. See in one another what God sees. This method works wonders for forgiveness as well.
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Fruit That Lasts
Jesus said, "I chose you. And I gave you this work: to go and produce fruit, fruit that will last." (John 15:16)

You have probably achieved a great deal in your life. But where is the fruit from your labor? What do you have to show for being 40, 50 or even 60 years old? What do you have to show that you have worked on the same job for 20 or 30 years? A plaque, a gold watch, a framed certificate on your wall? When you received those items, they made you feel good for that particular time, but are those items the eternal fruit Jesus was talking about? Is that the fruit that will last? Absolutely not!

As you are fully aware, fruits such as apples, oranges, pears and especially bananas have a very short life span. You buy the greenest bananas you can find and by the time you get home, they have already begun to turn yellow. If you do not eat them soon, they will turn brown and rot. What, then, is fruit that will last?

The above scripture tells us that God gave us a work to do: to go and produce fruit, fruit that will last. He did not mean we should all be farmers. He meant that since we are the apple of God's eye, (Proverbs 7:2) we should go and plant seeds that will produce fruit in others. When we scatter seeds of love, joy, and peace into the lives of others, they will bear fruit, and then they will scatter seeds into the lives of others. And the cycle continues.

Scatter some seeds today into the life of someone. Help God's orchard grow with fruit that will last.
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He Chose Me
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit; fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. (John 15:16)

Do you remember the children's game where every child wanted to be chosen to be "It"? Do you remember when you were in high school and you wanted to be chosen for class president? Do you remember in college when you wanted to be chosen homecoming queen or the best player on the football team? Do you remember when you were one of several people applying for the same job and you wanted to be chosen? Throughout our lives we want to be chosen for something. However, all of us cannot be chosen if only one slot is available.

Perhaps you were the one left out of many of the aforementioned activities. Don't despair. Know that you have been chosen for the best activity there is: salvation. Salvation is one activity where more than one can be chosen. In fact, Jesus came that all would be chosen.

Forget about those times when you were left out. Look at yourself in the mirror and exclaim in your highest voice, "God chose me!" Yes, God chose you to be all you can be. He chose you to do all you can do. So what's stopping you?
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Fruit That Lasts
I appointed you to go into the world and bear fruit, fruit that will last.  (John 15:16).

How many times, especially during the summer, have you bought fruit from the grocery store or farmer's market only to have it go bad in a few days? You might have bought bananas that were green, but as soon as you got them home, they had turned yellow. You might have bought pears that were hard but had softened by the time you took them out of the bag. Natural fruit isn't made to last very long without spoiling, rotting or decaying.

But what about spiritual fruit? In this chapter about the vine, we are told that we should bear fruit. If we are not bearing fruit, we will be pruned to do so. If we are already bearing fruit, we will be pruned to bear more fruit. If we are already bearing more fruit, we will be pruned to bear much fruit. (John 15:1-2) Fruit in this sense is a metaphor for what is seen in us. Paul called it the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance. (Galatians 5:22-23) What did Jesus mean in John 15:16 when He said we should bear fruit that will last?

John 15 is a progressive passage. It starts off with Jesus explaining how abiding in the vine will produce fruit. By the end of the chapter, Jesus is saying He chose us so we may bear fruit that will last. He chose us so we will bring someone else into the family of God so they, too, will bear fruit. Fruit on the shelves in the grocery stores or on our tables will not last. However, fruit produced in each of God's children has no expiration date. It will last!

Natural fruit is temporary. Spiritual fruit is perpetual. The fruit that you buy must be eaten soon or it will decay. The spiritual fruit that you implant in others will last and last and last.

Since you have been chosen, prove God's selection was worthwhile. Go forth and bear fruit, fruit that will last through others.

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Love Each Other
This is my command:  Love each other. (John 15:17)

We are to love each other as Jesus loved us, and He loved us enough to give His life for us. We may not have to die for someone, but there are ways to practice sacrificial love: listening, helping, encouraging, giving. Think of someone in particular who needs this kind of love today. Give all the love you can, and then try to give a little more.

As Christians, we get so much hatred from the world.  Why should we get it from each other as well?  We should receive love and support from each other.  We should love each other, and God will give us the strength to do it.
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Things You Need to Know When You Face Adversity
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (John 15:13)

All of us have faced adversity, trouble, trials and tribulations at some points in our lives. And if we keep living, we will face them again. There are many ways to shortened your days of adversity. One major way is to adjust your attitude about what is happening to  you. Yes, it's so easy to get depressed and cry, "Woe is me!" No one is asking you to deny the reality of your trouble, but to constantly focus on it gives it power over you. So, accept your problem as real, but don't give it power.

Also, know that your problem is temporary. That too, shall pass! In the midst of your trouble, know that the Holy Spirit can still fill you with joy and peace. No one is saying that your attitude and state of mind should be proportional to your problem. Keep smiling and having hope in the midst of your trouble. Draw upon your reserved faith that you stored up in the good times.

In summary, you need to know two things that will help you during your time of trouble: know that your problem is real, and know that it will not last forever.
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Love Is Not Always A Straight Line
These things I command you, that you love one another. (John 15:17)

One of the last commandments Jesus left us was for us to love one another. But what if you can't love everybody? What if you can't love the unloveable? What if you can't love the one who hurt you deeply? What if you can't love the person who stood in the way of your getting a promotion? What if you can't love the teacher who kept your child back in third grade? What if you can't love that drunk driver who killed your child? When Jesus said love one another, He meant those people as well.

How do we love one another?  We can love one another by first loving God. We can love others through the heart of God. Sometimes it is hard to love one another horizontally.  But it is easy to love one another vertically by loving God first, and allowing that love to bounce back down on the one you thought you couldn't love. Love doesn't have to be in a straight line. Love one another through the eyes of God. See in one another what God sees. This method works wonders for forgiveness as well.
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When It Hurts
I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. (John 16:20; 22)

Pain is not always avoidable. Trials, hurt, and suffering might be a part of God's plan for believers. Experiencing problems and persecutions can build character (James 1:2-4), patience (Romans 5:3-5), and sensitivity toward others who also face the same trouble that you do (2 Corinthians 1:3-7). Problems are unavoidable for God's people. They might be strengthening you to handle bigger problems later. Your troubles may be a sign of effective Christian living.

When it hurts, remember there is joy beyond the suffering. When you focus on what is happening at the moment, you only magnify the problem and give it power. When you see beyond the problem, you minimize the problem and rob it of its power. Suffering, hurt or pain may not to be enjoyed while you are going through it.  Know that it will not last forever, and joy and peace will again be present after the pain.

Jesus suffered on the cross. He was buried, but on the third day He was resurrected from the dead. Because joy did follow the pain and suffering of Jesus, it will with us as well.  Remember this . . . when it hurts!
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The Miracle of Birth
A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time her come; but when the baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. (John 16:21)

The Bible describes a woman's period of labor as a time of pain and anguish because of the curse placed on women as a result of the sin in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:16). The psalmists also describe child birth as a symbol of pain and suffering (Psalm 48:6). However, the miracle of birth is a time of joy and celebration because "a human being has been born into the world." (John 16:21)

Rejoice with me today because of the birth of my second grandson. Here are the particulars:
Name: Makai Lewis
(He was conceived in Hawaii where there are only two directions: "toward the sea" or "toward the mountain." "Makai" means "toward the sea."
(Traditionally, there are no middle names for boys in the Lewis family).
Date of Birth: Wednesday, July 14, 2004, 11:26 a.m.
Weight: 9 pounds 1 ounce
Length: 19  3/4 inches
Parents: Aaron and Terri Lewis
Brother: Aaron Lewis, Jr. "AJ" (3  1/2 years old)
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Why We Pray "In the Name of Jesus
Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. (John 16:24)

Why do we pray to God but in the name of Jesus? Most prayers end with that familiar double prepositional phrase . . . "in the name of Jesus" for good reasons. We pray in the name of Jesus because we are praying in the fullness of all that Jesus is. To pray in the name of Jesus is to pray in accordance with the nature and character of Jesus. As Christians, we have been given complete authority to use His name.
To pray in the name of Jesus means to pray remembering all the great work Jesus accomplished in His life, by His death, through His resurrection, and by His continual reign on the right hand of God the Father.

To pray in the name of Jesus is to pray in the awareness that our prayers are worthless apart from Jesus' atoning grace and mercy. It means to appeal to the blood of Christ as the source of power for the life of prayer.  Jesus' name stands for authority and power opposed to our complete helplessness and hopelessness. 

To pray in the name of Jesus means that we recognize our prayers cannot penetrate the heart of God unless they are prayed to the Father, in the name of Jesus, with the help of the Holy Spirit. The triune God is at work throughout the prayer process.

Merely tacking on Jesus' name at the end of a prayer has no meaning unless our prayers line up with the word of God. It is Christ Himself, not merely the sound of His name, who gives our prayers power.
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Salvation: Not Too Close To Call
And this is the way to have eternal life: by knowing you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth. (John 17:3)

If you have every watched election results, you are probably familiar with certain phrases that newscasters and political historians used over and over again. Such phrases included but were not limited to the following: "razor thin," "threading the needle," "history on hold," and "fuzzy math." But the phrase that was mostly used in Election 2000 was "too close to call" in reference to the close race between the two presidential candidates. At one time speculations were that Al Gore would win, and there was no way for George W. Bush to win. Even with the charting and "magic board" the tables were turned later and then the prediction was that George W. Bush had won. Later, Al Gore called George W. Bush back and Gore, who had called the Texas governor to congratulate him after television networks declared Bush the winner, called him back an hour later and retracted his concession when Bush's lead in Florida evaporated and the state became "too close to call."

All that happened last night, and we still awoke this morning without a new president. But thanks be to God that we still awoke this morning with God on our side. Salvation isn't "too close to call." Salvation is a sure thing. Salvation isn't on again, off again. Salvation isn't for you this hour and taken away from you the next hour. No magic boards are needed. No predictions are needed. We don't have to thread any needles. Our salvation isn't razor thin. And, believe me, there is "no fuzzy math." You plus Jesus equals salvation. Salvation isn't too close to call. All you have to do is call on the name of the Lord. Confess your sins, believe in Jesus Christ and  and receive salvation. It's as simple as that.
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Finished Works; Finished Work; Greater Works
I have glorified you on the earth. I have finished the work which you have given me to do. (John 17:4)

At Christmastime, we focus on Jesus as a baby because that's when we celebrate the birth of Jesus. At Eastertime, we focus on Jesus as the crucified man and the resurrected Savior because that's when we celebrate the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. But how do we focus on Jesus in the meantime and in the between time? Other than these two holidays, how do you see Jesus?

We ought to see Jesus along with His finished works that include His teaching, preaching and healing. If we neglect to do that, we will be tempted to ask the same question that John the Baptist asked: "Are you the one to come, or do we look for another?" (Matthew 11:3, Luke 7:19)

When we say, "Finished Works" we are referring to the deeds Jesus did before He went to the cross. However, when we say, "Finished Work," we are referring to the work of atonement or redemption for the human race which Jesus completed by His death on the cross. That's why Jesus could say, "It (singular) is finished." (John 19:30) In other words, His finished works led to His finished work.

Both are important to remember: the finished works that Jesus did on earth and the finished work He did on the cross. Both are important as we allow Jesus to be our example. He left us a mandate: Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. (John 14:12) Jesus did not mean we would out-perform his miraculous works. Rather, He was promising a worldwide ministry because of the coming of the Holy Spirit. Through the growth of the church, the scope of Jesus' finished works should be greater works, but we will never be capable of doing the finished work like Jesus did on the cross.

Hopefully, this has explained all three: finished works, finished work and greater works.
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Profitable But Not Permissible
I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. (John 17:4)

Yesterday's message was "Permissible But Not Profitable." (See 1 Corinthians 6:12) Today's message is the reverse: "Profitable But Not Permissible."

Some jobs are profitable that are not permissible according to the word of God. Many people have said, "It doesn't matter what you do as long as you make money." That's not true. It does matter to God how you make money. Everything you do should bring glory to God...including what you do for a living.

CASES IN POINT: Prostitutes make money. Is prostitution a sin according to the word of God? Certainly! Drug dealers make money and lots of it. Is dealing drugs permissible according to God? Certainly not! Some people cash in on the lotteries. It is profitable, but it is not permissible by God's standards.

Think twice about accepting a job that pays big bucks but doesn't line up with the word of God. It might be profitable, but not permissible.

At the end of your life be able to say like Jesus,
"I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do."

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Our Three Enemies
They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. (John 17:6)

No matter who you are or where you are, we all have the same three enemies.

  1. The devil opposes God and tempts God's people. Even though he was defeated at the cross, the devil still has power to influence men to do evil. The devil is our enemy. How do you combat this enemy? Submit yourself to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee. (James 4:7)
  2. The world is our enemy. The world tends to lead us into sin involving the world system, evil companions, pleasures, fashions, and fads. It is extremely dangerous to walk hand in hand with the world. We shouldn't allow the world to pull us down to its level. How do we combat this enemy? Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. (1 John 2:15)
  3. Our own flesh is our enemy. Our old nature cannot please God. Even though we are saved, we have a traitor living within us. The flesh is fighting against the Spirit, and the Spirit is fighting against the flesh. (Galatians 5:17)  How do we combat this enemy? Keep the body under subjection and crucify the flesh. (1 Corinthians 9:27)

So, those are our three enemies: the devil, the world and our flesh. Since we know the enemies' tactics, we can defeat them if we obey the above scriptures.

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Mix, But Don't Blend
I do not pray that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by your truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. (John 17:15-18).

Have you ever mixed two ingredients together and the two mixtures blended so well that neither of the ingredients stood out? In fact, the blending of the two ingredients took on an entirely different product altogether. Or have you ever mixed two ingredients and one ingredient dominated and overpowered the other?

God wants us to be in the world but not of the world. In other words, we are to mix together to help unbelievers find Christ. However, God does not want us to blend in. There is a difference between mixing and blending. Perhaps that explains why you have both a mixer and a blender in your kitchen. So, what's the difference between mixing and blending?  Good question...

A mixture is a combination of different kinds. For instance, eggs, butter, flour, and sugar are individual ingredients. They are separate but equal in their original state. To blend is to combine all the ingredients together so well that the eggs in the cake are no longer eggs. The butter in the cake is no longer butter. The flour in the cake is no longer flour. The sugar in the cake is no longer sugar. They have lost their own identity and neither one stands out since they have been mixed and blended. Because of the blending, the separate constituents cannot be distinguished.

While we should mix with the world, we should not blend in so well that our beliefs and standards are compromised. There should be something about us that stands out. We should stand out when the dirty jokes are told at the office. (And certainly, we should not be the one telling them). We should stand out when the invitations are given to join the gambling pools. We should stand out when everybody else is reading fortune cookies, the horoscopes and tarot cards.

Remember, it is all right to mix. However, as Christians it is NOT all right to blend in. We are in the world but not of the world. We are called to be separate from the world.
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Acting Christian is Not Optional
I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the word may  believe that you have sent me. (John 17:20-21)

A banner in front of a retirement community in my neighborhood reads: "Acting senior is optional." In other words, there are enough activities available to choose from to keep everyone busy and young at heart. That is good advertisement for that senior community. For us, acting Christian is not optional.

If something is optional, people have the right or power to choose. They are permitted to either take it or leave it. Even though God gave us freewill, there are some things in Christianity that are just not optional.

Since we are believers in Jesus Christ, we should trust Him so much that we are willing to transfer total control of our lives out of our own hands and into Jesus' hands. Therefore, acting Christian is not optional. Jesus prayed a fervent prayer for us in John 17:20-26 that we would believe in Him so much that our choice would be the choice He has for us.

Acting Christian is not optional. Let's take the path God marked out for us before the foundation of the world. (Hebrews 12:1)
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God's Glory
Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see the glory, the glory you have given be because you loved me before the creation of the world. (John 17:24)

We use such expressions as "Glory to God" and "To God be the glory." What is God's glory?

The word "glory" having three different meanings is in the Bible about 350 times. The first two meanings pertain to God's character; however, the third meaning has something to do with us.

God's glory is synonymous with His magnificence, splendor, beauty, and perfection. God's glory describes God's dignity, honor, wisdom, majesty, and His unquestionable justice in all His dealings with His creation. All credit for all things is to the glory of God. To God alone belongs all glory. Remember, we fall short of God's glory. (Romans 3:23)

In the Old Testament, God's glory was a visible presence such as the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night as the Israelites traveled in the wilderness. (Exodus 13:21) In the New Testament, God's glory was shown through Jesus Christ. (Luke 9:29-32; John 2:11). Today, God's glory should show through His followers. (John 17:5-6; 22-24)

The last meaning of glory used in the Bible pertains to our praise. When we audibly praise God, we are giving Him the glory He so richly deserves.

When we put all the meanings together, "God's glory" simply means #1 God's magnificence, beauty, and perfection (which we will always fall short of); #2 God's visible presence through His mighty acts; and #3 our audibly praise to the glorious one.
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Jesus' Prayer List
And I have declared to them your name, and will declare it, that the love with which you loved me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17:26)
How many times have you asked someone to pray for you? How many times have people asked you to pray for them? How many times has someone said, "Put me on your prayer list"? People might have said to you: "God told me to pray for you!"  Yes, it is good to be on someone's prayer list. The greatest news of all is that we are all on Jesus' prayer list.

John 17 is divided into three distinct sections. Jesus knew His hour had come so His prayer list included (1) prayer for Himself; (2) prayer for His disciples; and (3) prayer for all believers.

Jesus prayed for Himself: "Glorify your Son, that your Son also may glorify you." (John 17:1)

Jesus prayed for His disciples: "Sanctify them by your truth. Your word is truth." (John 17:17)

Jesus prayed for all believers: "I pray that ALL may be ONE, as you Father, are in me and I in you; that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that you sent me." (John 17:21)

Isn't it amazing that Jesus didn't pray that we become successful or to accumulate material gains? Instead, we are on Jesus' Prayer List  because He wants us to be ONE. Jesus' prayed for complete unity among believers.

When you think no one has prayed for you, remember you are on Jesus' Prayer List. When you sing the song, "Somebody Prayed for Me," make sure you include a stanza about Jesus. "Jesus prayed for me; He had me on His mind. He took the time and prayed for me . . ."
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Near the Cross
Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister,  Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, "Woman, here is your son." Then he said to the disciple, "Here is your mother." (John 19:25-26)

As we travel on our spiritual journey we need to go near the cross and reflect on what happened there and how Jesus' death on the cross has affected our own lives. We need to become part of the group beneath the cross looking up to where our Savior lay bear.

Jesus gave direct instruction to two of the people near the cross: his mother and the disciples whom he loved.

If you were in that group, what instruction would Jesus give you? Would you be obedient to do as he instructs?
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The Word of Victory
"It is finished." (John 19:30)

This is the sixth of seven sayings of Jesus from the cross. The word "finished" shows clearly that Jesus' victory had been achieved. It carries the idea of perfection or fulfillment. God's plan of salvation had been accomplished through Jesus' sacrifice on the cross.

Until this time a complicated system of sacrifices of animals had to be atonement for sins. But people continued to sin, so Jesus became the final and ultimate sacrifice.  The word "finished" is the same as "paid in full." Jesus came to finish God's work of salvation, to pay the full penalty for our sins.  With His death, the complex sacrificial system ended because Jesus took all sin upon Himself.  Those who believe in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus can live eternally with God.
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How Many Disciples?
Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews.  He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. (John 19:38-39)

How many disciples did Jesus have? Most of you would say twelve. And that would be partially correct. Jesus CALLED twelve disciples to work closely with him. But Jesus had many other disciples. A disciple is one who is a student, a learner, or pupil.  As you can see in the above scripture, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were disciples of Jesus.  Mary Magdalene and many of the women were also disciples. They were with Jesus at the cross and discovered the empty tomb when all the "called" disciples had dispersed.

There are two distinct characteristics of a disciple. (1) To follow Jesus and do what He did; and (2) To believe what Jesus taught and obey his word. Based on these two characteristics, can you truthfully say you are a disciple of Jesus?
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Recognizing Jesus as Lord
For not even did his brothers believed in him" (John 7:5).  "And Mary Magdalene turned and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. (John 20:14). "But their eyes were kept from recognizing him" (Luke 24:16).

When we read the Bible, we will discover that on numerous occasions the religious leaders and many of the people who came in contact with Jesus did not know he was the Messiah even after He told them.  His disciples doubted it at times.  His own four brothers, including James and Jude did not recognize Jesus to be the Messiah until after His death.  Mary Magdalene talked to Him in the garden after His resurrection but did not recognize Him until He called her name.  The two disciples talked with him as they walked the seven miles to Emmaus. They  recognized Him only when they were eating together and Jesus broke bread in His usual manner.

What would it take for you to recognize that Jesus is Lord?  What simple act or gesture will really prove to you that Jesus is who He said He is . . . the Messiah, the Son of the Living God?  What would it take for you to believe that Jesus came, He died for our sins, God raised Him from the dead; He ascended into heaven and now He sits at the right hand of God making intercessions for us? What would it take for you to believe?
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The Folded Napkin
Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus' head, The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. (John 20:6-7)

The arrangement of the linen and the folded napkin shows that the Lord's departure from the tomb was orderly and unhurried. Simon Peter knew what those items meant. They pointed to evidence of Jesus' resurrection.

LaShay Childs, a student in my New Testament class, shared an interesting story last night about "the folded napkin."  She said she had read that it was a custom for a king to signal his servants when he was eating. This he did without saying a word. If he had finished, he would throw down his napkin crumpled and wrinkled. However, if he had not finished but was merely taking a break, he would fold his napkin indicating that the meal was not over.

Jesus left behind "the folded napkin" as a signal for us to continue serving.  Dedicated servants know that the meal isn't over yet! That's why we continue to serve!
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Recognizing Jesus as Lord
For not even did his brothers believed in him" (John 7:5).  And Mary Magdalene turned and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus (John 20:14). But their eyes were kept from recognizing him" (Luke 24:16).

When we read the Bible, we will discover that on numerous occasions the religious leaders and many of the people who came in contact with Jesus did not know he was the Messiah even after He told them.  His disciples doubted it at times.  His own four brothers, including James and Jude did not recognize Jesus to be the Messiah until after His death.  Mary Magdalene talked to Him in the garden after His resurrection but did not recognize Him until He called her name.  The two disciples talked with him as they walked the seven miles to Emmaus. They  recognized Him only when they were eating together and Jesus broke bread in His usual manner.

What would it take for you to recognize that Jesus is Lord?  What simple act or gesture will really prove to you that Jesus is who He said He is . . . the Messiah, the Son of the Living God?  What would it take for you to believe that Jesus came, He died for our sins, God raised Him from the dead; He ascended into heaven and now He sits at the right hand of God making intercessions for us? What would it take for you to believe?
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Which Mary?
Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" Jesus said to her, "Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father." (John 20:16-17)

Jesus was talking to which Mary in the above scripture? There are six women named "Mary" in the Bible. "Mary, the mother of Jesus." We say "The Virgin Mary" because Mary had other sons and daughters after Jesus, and she was no longer a virgin. Mary, the mother of Jesus was highly favored among women, and her name was always mentioned first when she was with a group of women.

When Mary, the mother of Jesus was not in the group, the first name mentioned was always Mary Magdalene. Actually, Magdalene was not her name, but since this Mary was from Magda, it was used to distinquish her from the other Marys. Mary Madgalene was close to Jesus after he cast seven demons out of her. He supported His ministry and was always with Him. She witnessed most of the events surrounding his crucifixion. She was the first one to see Him after His resurrection. In the garden, Jesus talked to her and told her to go and tell the others that He was alive.

Mary of Bethany along with her sister Martha and brother Lazarus were close friends of Jesus. Mary is the one who chose the better part when Jesus visited. While Martha was busy in the kitchen, Mary sat at Jesus' feet. 

Another Mary was the mother of the disciple James and Joses. Yet, another Mary was the mother of John Mark who is the writer of the Gospel of Mark. And finally, Mary of Rome is the one Paul greeted in Romans 16:6 with his salutation: "Greet Mary, who labored much for us."
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An Ascension And An Assignment
Jesus saith unto her, "Touch me not; for I have not yet ascended to my Father; but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend to my Father, and your Father, and to my God, and your God." (John 20:17)

What we have in the above scripture is clearly an ascension for Jesus and an assignment for Mary Magdalene.

When Mary saw the resurrected Jesus in the garden, she thought He was the gardener until Jesus spoke her name. When she recognized His voice, she knew it was the voice that had taught her so many things. That's why she responded with the one word, "Rabboni " which means Teacher. Mary had been so thankful for the things Jesus had done for her that it is no wonder she wanted to touch Him, to hug Him, and to cling to Him. Had Jesus allowed that, she would have delayed Him. Two things were to take place immediately: an ascension and an assignment.

Jesus told Mary to go to His brothers and tell them He had risen just as He said He would. Also, He was returning to His Father. This is the first time in the gospels where Jesus called His disciples "brothers." His resurrection had established a new relationship. Also, Jesus told Mary that He was going to His Father and her Father. Again, this is an establishment of a new relationship. That's what Jesus' resurrection did for us as well. His Father became our Father, and His God became our God.

Jesus' ascension and Mary's assignment paved the way for us to continue telling the good news. Because of Jesus' ascension, like Mary Magdalene we have an assignment to tell others the good news of the saving power of Jesus Christ. When is the last time you completed such an assignment?
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"Don't Touch Me" . . . "Touch Me"
Jesus said to Mary Magdalene: "Do not touch me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father." (John 20:17) . . . Then he said to Thomas: "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side." (John 20:27)

After Jesus' resurrection, Mary Magdalene saw him but thought He was the gardener. After Jesus called her name, she knew it was her beloved friend and teacher who had cast seven demons out of her and for that she was so thankful. She had supported His ministry and followed Him from that day on. In fact, every time the women followers of Jesus are listed in the Bible with the exception of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene's name is always the first in the list.

But on that morning when Mary Madgalene was heart broken over the death of his Lord and then discovered He was alive, she did a natural thing. She reached out to touch Him; to cleave to Him. But Jesus stopped her. He was emphatic! He said, "Do not touch me, for I have not yet returned to my Father."

In just ten verses later, Jesus is telling Thomas to touch him; to put his finger in the nail prints in His hands. He even told Thomas to put his hand in His side. Jesus wanted Thomas to touch Him.

Was Jesus playing favorites? Did Jesus forget He told Mary Magdalene NOT TO TOUCH Him when she was willing to; yet He told Thomas TO TOUCH Him when He was hesitant to do so? Was Jesus using a double standard?  No, Jesus had good reasons for making His statements: "Don't touch me" (to Mary) and "Touch me" (to Thomas).

Jesus met Mary in the garden BEFORE He had returned to His Father.  When He had the conversation with doubting Thomas in the upper room, it was AFTER He had returned to His Father and was back on earth for 40 days before ascending to His Father where He is today at the right hand of God.

No, Jesus was not wishy-washy when He said, "Don't touch me" and then "Touch me." The context of the two incidents were entirely different.
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Stop Doubting and Believe
"Stop doubting and believe." (John 20:27c)

Thomas was not present when Jesus appeared to the disciples in the locked room after Jesus' resurrection. Jesus showed them evidence of His resurrection: the nail marks in His hands and the pierced hole in His side. When the disciples told Thomas what had happened, Thomas did not believe. He said unless he saw the same things, he would not believe.

Thomas was with the disciples when Jesus appeared again. This time Jesus invited Thomas to see the nail marks in His hand and put his finger in the hole where the nails were, and put his hand into his side. Then Jesus gave this imperative: "Stop doubting and believe."

Without having to do what Jesus invited him to do, Thomas exclaimed, "My Lord and my God." (John 20:28). We thank God for Thomas because he represents the modern day believer. We thank God for Thomas because Jesus told Thomas something that applies to us. Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (John 20:29)

None of us have seen Jesus. Yet we believe. Therefore, we are blessed! Thanks, Thomas for questioning Jesus!
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Cast Your Net On The Other Side
Cast your net on the right side of the boat and you will find a catch.  When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. (John 21:6)

Sometimes we spend precious time fishing on the wrong side of the boat.  We do things that we think are good ideas, but they are not GOD ideas. And we do not reap any benefits.  When we obey the commandments of God and follow the examples of Jesus, we will receive so much that we will be unable to haul the net in because of the many blessings.
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Transfer of Skills
  Cast the net on the right side of the boat . . . (John 21:6)
How many times have you read in the Bible where people were on their jobs when God stopped them in their tracks and called them into full time ministry? What were Peter, John and James doing when Jesus said, "Follow me, and I'll make you fishers of men?"  (Matthew 4:19) They were working. Yes, they were making a living for their families by fishing. God transferred their skills.

What was Moses doing when God called him through the burning bush? Moses was at work. He was on the backside of the mountain in Midian shepherding Jethro's sheep. (Exodus 3:4) Then God put him in charge of shepherding two million people by leading them through the Red Sea and through the desert. God transferred Moses' skills.

What was Abraham doing when God stopped him and told him to get out of his country? (Genesis 12:1) Abraham was a herdsman tending his flock. God transferred Abraham's skills and his faith and made him the Father of Many Nations (flocks).

What was Margaret Minnicks doing when God called her to teach His word? She was teaching English and computer courses at a community college. That particular semester she had more classes than usual. In fact, the classes were overlapping with her teaching two different courses during the same period. While at the peak of her teaching career, God specifically told her to give it up. He instructed her to cast her net on the other side of the desk. In other words, become a student instead of a teacher. Knowing it was God speaking, she went to seminary to specialize in biblical studies and graduated four years later with two master degrees. Then God put her back in the classroom as a religion teacher. Talk about the transfer of skills!

What skills do you possess that can be transferred for kingdom building? Are you diligent enough in your present position to let God know you can be trusted to work for Him?
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Breakfast on the Beach
Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." None of the disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. (John 21:12-13)

Many of us have heard of being served "breakfast in bed." After His resurrection, Jesus treated His disciples to "breakfast on the beach." The disciples were back in Jerusalem at their old job of fishing. They were exhausted and discouraged because they had fished all night and caught nothing. Then a man called from the shore to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. It must have been an anointed suggestion because the disciples knew the best time for fishing was at night. Also, if they hadn't caught fish on one side of the boat, why would they be able to catch fish on the other side? Nevertheless, the disciples took the advice of the stranger on the shore, and instantly their nets were filled with 153 fish. This turned out to be the most productive day of all their fishing nights! When they came ashore, they discovered the man with the great advice was Jesus. Jesus then treated them to "breakfast on the beach" consisting of bread and fish that He had miraculously caught. This was the last time the disciples saw any miracles of Jesus or ate with Him. The next time they eat with Him will not be "breakfast on the beach." It will be at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. And we have all been invited! (Revelation 19:6-8)
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A Lesson In Love
So when they had dined, Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, do you love [agapao] me more than these? He said unto him, Yea, Lord; you know that I love [phileo] you. (John 21:15)

Three Greek words for love are used in scripture: agapo, phileo, and storge.  Apagao is God's love. Phileo is the kind of love that finds some value or intrinsic worth in someone or something, so that a strong affection for the object is expressed.  These two kinds of love are contrasted in the above scripture between Jesus and Peter.

Our English language has only one word for "love."  When we talk about love, however, the context of our conversation helps others to identify which "love" we mean.

There are actually four types of love; the Bible speaks of the first three.
Agageo: God's love.
(Phileo: having a strong "friendly" brotherly type of affection for someone or something. Philadelphia (from Phileo) is the city of brotherly love. 
Storge: speaks of familial love, a love of family.  "Be kindly affectioned [storge] one to another. (Romans 12:10). 
Eros: (from which we get the term erotic love) is the kind of love that wants to possess someone, to manipulate them, and to use them for one's own pleasure.

Yes, there are four kinds of love. See how many of them you can identify operating in your life today.
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Do You Love Me?
The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my sheep. (John 21:17)

Do you find it strange that the One who is love Himself asked the question, "Do you love me?" Do you find it strange that the One who is the embodiment of love wondered if He was loved by one of His disciples. Not only once, but three times Jesus asked Peter, "Do you love me?" Three times Peter answered that he loved Jesus. In the original Greek, we see that each time Peter answered Jesus with a different type of love. We are not privileged to that information when we read it in our English Bibles.

The first two times Jesus asked Peter the question, "Do you love me?" Peter answered, "Lord, you know I love you. Peter was saying, Lord, you know I have brotherly, earthly love for you. The third time Jesus asked Peter, "Do you love me?" He used a Greek word to suggest an evaluation was needed. In other words, Jesus asked Peter, "Do you love me as much as you think you do?" Then it seems as out of the blue, Jesus went from asking the question about love to talking about sheep. What's the connection between love and sheep? Jesus indicated to Peter that merely saying he loved Him was not enough. Jesus was telling Peter "show Me you love Me by loving what I love . . . Feed my sheep."

Jesus is asking us, "Do you love me as much as you think you do?" If we say we love Jesus, then we need to show it. Love always manifest itself in action. The true test of our love for Jesus is to love what Jesus loved...His sheep.
 

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