Archive for November, 2016

Just an Inkblot

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016

I was a sickly child and spent a lot of time sitting or lying down during my early years. When I got bored—which was pretty often—I would devise ways to entertain myself. I had a pretty vivid imagination, so with my ingenuity, combined with my artistic impulses, I would find designs, shapes, pictures, and the like in anything I looked at. It became a game for myself and later turned into a valuable life skill.

But, at the time, I could find a masterpiece in the ceiling texture, sculptures in the clouds, and mazes on the floor tiles. As an adult, I now enjoy analyzing brain teasers, still find it relaxing to gaze out the window at the passing scenery and see skyscrapers in the clouds, and love analyzing Rorschachs—the infamous inkblots.

Have you ever seen a Rorschach? The goal is to allow the mind to find the common or uncommon in a series of inkblots. All you need is black ink, a white piece of paper, and a little imagination. To me, there are thousands of stories to be told in those inkblots. And, there’s a lot of potential even in a single inkblot.

Every once in a while, I’ll come across someone who just can’t visualize or see anything in these inkblots. When asking others what they can identify in an inkblot, I hear common phrases such as: There’s nothing there, it’s a black blob, or it’s just a smudge of ink.

Just. A limiting word—even worse when used to describe something. I know the inkblot doesn’t look like much, but it is telling a story. There’s something there even if we just can’t see it yet.

Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows (Luke 12:6–7, KJV).

Can your mind even comprehend how large our God is compared to us on Earth? As God fills all time and space, we are barely specks compared to His existence. I wonder if we’re as small as an inkblot in comparison, as I’m sure we share a striking resemblance—we’re small, dark, and a complete mess.

It would be easy for God to look at us and think we’re just an insignificant dot. But, He doesn’t—He sees something more. He sees us as something valuable, and He sees something in us that others don’t always see: what we are and what we will become.

Every day of our life is a Rorschach for God—we look like a blob of black ink, but He sees the real picture. Our lives are telling a story and we’re on a journey God’s already mapped out (Jeremiah 29:11). God has a plan for all of us, and it isn’t wrapped up in just a black smudge of ink.

Because God isn’t convinced that we’re a blob that needs to be erased from the page, can we determine in our hearts today that our lives aren’t inconsequential? That we shouldn’t live by the mantra of just? Ask God today to give you His vision. When He gazes into your life—an inkblot on the page of life—let Him show you what He sees and the story He has for your life. I promise it’s not just an inkblot.

The Responsibility of Reconciliation

Sunday, November 27th, 2016

And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation (II Corinthians 5:18–19, KJV).

God is in the restoration business. God designed a perfect plan for every person and continues to mold us into that perfect outcome. We stray from His mold from time to time, but God is able to restore us because He made us. Because we’re human, we have a tendency to make a mess of our lives. But, God still looks at the mess we make and sees something valuable in us. He thinks we’re worth restoring.

Because we serve a restoring God, the same heart that is in Him to restore people should be in us as well. We are called to take our restoration experiences in God and to reach out to others. God has given us the ministry (the gift) of reconciliation, and in order for us to completely utilize this ministry, we must have a passion for people.

Restoration is needed in the world today. Conflict is as old as the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:12). We need to see the need for reconciliation around us and determine how we can allow God to work through us in the ministry of reconciliation.

Reconciliation Happens When We Value Others the Way God Does

Scripture tells us that God has committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Conflict begins small and transforms into something that can kill instead of restore (Matthew 5:21–22). We need to eliminate conflict in its infant stages, and watch the words that we use. Instead of cutting others down, we need to use our words to restore. If we value others we will lift them up and edify them with our words.

Restoration Happens When We Have a Clear Vision

It’s easy to look at other people’s faults and not have a desire to help them get out of their mess. But, we need to evaluate our own faults first and remember how we used to live and what we used to be before God restored us (Matthew 7:4–5). We must look inward first before we look outward; reflecting on our own lives helps to direct us in aiding other people.

Restoration Happens When Have God’s Picture

We need to see into every circumstance with God’s perspective. There is always a reason behind why we experience what we do in life and the trials we, as well as others, go through. It’s hard for us to understand what we endure, but God wants to restore us in the end (Romans 8:28).

Restoration Happens When We Get the Word Out

We must understand that in order for us to be effective in this ministry, we must reconcile ourselves with anyone we’re in conflict with first before we can be reconciled with God (Matthew 5:23–24). If there is any conflict we must restore it; the responsibility for reconciliation is on us, and us alone.

The Next Step of Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

Turkey Day. Happy Harvest. Cornucopia of Blessings. Gobble ‘til You Wobble. Turkey Tribute. Thanksgiving. Whatever you call the holiday tomorrow, it’s a time of food, friends, family, and giving thanks.

This is a time of year when we’re reminded, almost daily, to be thankful. We normally focus on the natural things we’re blessed with—food, shelter, family, health, jobs, etc. Some do focus on their Spiritual blessings and spend time thanking the Lord for His provision in their life, anointing, Word, Holy Spirit, and the like.

Thanksgiving—the day, action, or otherwise—has become very self-focused. It’s great we’re thankful about elements of our lives and/or what God has blessed us with. But, what do we actually do about it? In reality, what is the true worth of just telling those around us how thankful we are?

And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him (Colossians 3:15–17, KJV).

Scripture tells us to be thankful—but it doesn’t stop there. When we allow God to rule in our hearts and direct our minds to be thankful for what He’s done, is doing, and is going to do, He’s directed us to teach and admonish others to do the same. Then we—as well as those whom we teach—should praise the Lord through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

Being thankful isn’t just about what God is doing for us alone. It’s about expanding and growing that thankfulness in the hearts of others. We are to help those around us lift up praises to the King of kings and the Lord of lords through our testimony and by example.

This Thanksgiving, let’s think about not only why we’re thankful, but how we can share our Thanksgiving with others. Then, let’s take our testimony a step further and pray God opens up an opportunity for us to help someone find a reason to be thankful in their own lives. Seeing a reason to praise is half of what Thanksgiving is all about. And, when you’re done? You both can praise and rejoice together about the goodness and mercy of the Lord. That’s true Thanksgiving.

Be Thankful

Sunday, November 20th, 2016

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations (Psalms 100:4–5, KJV).

True Thanksgiving

Most people do not realize thanksgiving isn’t just a holiday. Thanksgiving was birthed in the Kingdom of God long before the world comprehended the idea. The Psalmist noted thanksgiving was something that happens in our voice, hands, spirit, and our hearts—it’s something that we do in life. We extend thanksgiving to the King of king and Lord of lords; we lift up our voices and cry out to God.

Missing Thanksgiving

In order to understand true thanksgiving, we must understand what it’s not. There’s a story in Scripture that exemplifies the absence of thanksgiving. It’s found in I Samuel 25 and draws our focus to a man named Nabal.

Nabal was a wealthy man. While David was running from Saul, he and his soldiers came upon Nabal. David reached out to this man and enacted the law of hospitality—asking the man to help him and his men (I Samuel 25:5–8). But, Nabal refused and in essence demonstrated a lack of thanksgiving. Because of his unthankfulness, his heart turned to stone, he became paralyzed, and eventually died.

Thanksgiving Cannot Work in a Spirit of Scarcity

Nabal was too worried about his future than to pay attention to what God was trying to do in his present. He did not have a spirit of giving, thankfulness, or abundance—he acted in the exact opposite; in a spirit that did not come from God: the spirit of scarcity.

Scripture tells us God will supply our every need (Philippians 4:19) and is able to pour out abundant blessings in our lives (Ephesians 3:20). But, in everything God does, thanksgiving cannot do a complete work in us if we have a spirit of scarcity.

Thanksgiving works best when we can give to others not because of who they are or what they can do for us, but because of who God is and what God has done for us. When we freely give to others, it generates a spirit of thanksgiving in others (II Corinthians 9:11).

Thanksgiving Cannot Work Where There’s a Gratefulness Gap

Nabal missed the entire point of the blessings in his life. Instead of doing good unto David, he did evil (I Samuel 25:21). Nabal adopted a spirit of entitlement and believed he deserved everything he owned instead of realizing God placed wealth in his life to be passed onto someone else (I Samuel 25:11).

We must remember to be grateful for everything God has blessed us with. We are nothing and have nothing except for God’s provision in our lives. Paul warned Timothy in the last days people would have a spirit of entitlement—an absence of gratefulness. We need to let gratefulness and thankfulness to be dominate in our lives and flow from us as much as it flows to us.

The Gospel of John: Part IV

Thursday, November 17th, 2016

In the Gospel of John, we find a story about a woman caught in the act of adultery. She was taken before Jesus by the scribes and Pharisees, wanting Jesus to accuse her. Jesus writes in the sand and asks for any without sin to cast the first stone at her. The story ends with the woman alone with Jesus—all of her accusers had left—and Jesus gives her instruction to go and sin no more (John 8:1–11).

Two Problems

It may be easy for us to look at this story and think we’d never participate in dragging someone’s sin into the eye of the public. However, there are two concepts within this Scripture setting we must be careful we don’t fall prey to in this life.

Righteousness as a Weapon

The Jewish leaders were trying to use righteousness as a weapon. Our goal in this life should be to preserve holiness and to follow after it. God never intended for His righteousness to be a weapon against humans, but to birth His righteousness in us. If we use godly concepts incorrectly, our aim will not be to conform to the image of Christ, but to destroy others.

Part of the Law

The Jewish leaders were only trying to apply a part of the law to serve their purposes. They were picking and choosing what they wanted to enforce and ignoring what they didn’t want to abide by. For a woman to be accused of adultery, there must have been a man with her. Deuteronomy 22:22 tells us that both the man and woman are guilty—not just one party. But, nowhere in Scripture do we see the man accused. When we follow the law, we must follow all of it. If we offend just a part of the law, we’re guilty of all of it (James 2:10). We should desire to pursue the entire Word of God in our lives.

God’s Writings

This story captures Jesus writing on the sand with His own hand. We don’t know exactly what He’s writing, but it becomes the catalyst for conviction in the hearts of the scribes and Pharisees. Some theologians believe Jesus was writing out the law, others believe He was penning the sins of others, but we’ll never truly know.

We see throughout Scripture when God’s own hand wrote truth into His children’s lives. God’s finger wrote the 10 commandments (Exodus 31:18) and also pronounced judgment on King Belshazzar for misusing the temple instruments in a banquet to idols (Daniel 5:5). But, God also writes His law upon our hearts so that we can live a righteous and holy life in Him (Hebrews 10:16).

Condemnation vs. Conviction

At the end of the story, Jesus instructs the woman to go, but to abstain from sin. He completely restores the woman from all condemnation. There are two concepts called forth in this Scripture setting (John 8:9–10), and it’s hard to tell the difference between the two and how it impacts us in our life.

Condemnation

God didn’t send His son into the world to condemn it, but to save it (John 3:17). Jesus came to buy us back from the punishment of sin as an act of redemption. Condemnation will never come from God—it only comes from Satan, others, or ourselves. This is an experience that will push us away from God and make us feel like there’s no solution to our sinful state. We can be held in bondage by our fears and feelings manifested in condemnation that God never intended for us to experience. We must avoid condemnation and apply the facts in God’s Word.

Conviction

Conviction may not feel good, but it’s something we desperately need in our lives. We only find the word convicted in John 8:9. Convicted means convinced, rebuked, or reproved; these words are many other places throughout Scripture (John 16:8, II Timothy 4:2, Hebrews 12:5, Revelation 3:19, etc.). The reason why God convicts us is because He wants us to repent, turn from sin, and be zealous and passionate about living a life in Him. Conviction must come first before there can be conversion in our life (Romans 3:20). Because conviction comes from God, it doesn’t come with guilt or without solution. Conviction will always pull us closer to God and allows us to walk in freedom of the Spirit.

One or the Other

We will always have condemnation or conviction operating in our life. If we don’t allow God to convict our hearts now, we will live under His condemnation in the end. If we’re not sure what’s in operation in our lives today, we need to do a pulse check—examine the source, examine the feeling, and examine the result. It’s up to each of us to determine what we’re going to pursue after now, conviction or the latter.

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on November 16, 2016

One Thing to Remember

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016

When I was a young girl, my mother would frequently ask me to play outside alongside my sister as our youngest sibling napped in the afternoon. As all parents are well aware, naps are much warranted in the early afternoon and aid in a small segment of sanity during the busy day. With three girls, afternoon naps were absolutely required in our household, and if my youngest sister didn’t get her nap, everyone suffered.

One particular afternoon, my mother hurried us out the front door with a random warning for the day—don’t ring the doorbell. As I was of a mischievous age—what child isn’t—and prone not to listen to my parents, all I wanted to do was ring the doorbell since I had been instructed very severely to abstain.

To make a long story short, during naptime that day, my fingers made contact with the doorbell. Big surprise. My sister awoke screaming from her nap, and my mother materialized via whirlwind in the entryway of the house. When my sister and I were questioned as to which one of us rang the doorbell, I sheepishly pointed my finger and my sister and said, “she did it.”

I lied. And, it has been a lie that has been the most memorable for my family through the years. While I confessed later, this sin haunted my memory years later.

Some time ago, I shared in a blog post had I had a bit of a lying problem as a child, and this was one lie that would live in infamy, never to be forgotten. Or, so I believed.

I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins (Isaiah 43:25, KJV).

Have you ever made a mistake, never to escape your memory? Something you’ve done that’s so terrible you would give anything to go back in time and change it?

When I began my walk with Christ, I repented for everything I had ever done—including ringing that doorbell and lying about it all those years ago. Jesus was merciful and forgave me of my sins—every one I had committed from the beginning of time, and all that I would commit far into the future. The same holds true for all who repent of their sins and seek a life in Christ Jesus.

Although God is the wisest and knowledgeable of us all, being the Creator of everything, I have one claim God can’t even make. One source of knowledge He doesn’t have. That, dear reader is my doorbell lie.

God allows us to remember our mistakes, our sins, so we learn and don’t make them ever again. While we reflect upon our sins, He’s promised to forget them. He’s washed every sin stain away with His precious blood, so our past is without blemish.

For God, the ringing doorbell is not even a distant memory in His ears; it’s silenced forever. My doorbell perjury has been forgotten as far as the east is from the west (Psalms 103:12). But, for a time, the bell—the lie—still rung in my ears.

We all walk around daily knowing things God doesn’t know: the sins of our past. But, we should rejoice in knowing there isn’t a sin too great that God can’t forgive and forget. Instead of remembering our failures—the things God doesn’t remember—let’s focus on what’s really on God’s mind. Our future.

Bound to be Free

Sunday, November 13th, 2016

As we honor the Veterans of our country, and the countless wars they’ve fought in and prevailed, there is still yet another war waging in the present that our service men and women cannot fight in the physical realm. This war cannot be fought by physical means. This war is the constant battle over the hearts and minds of mankind—the war of souls. This is why Paul admonished Timothy to be a good soldier (II Timothy 2:3); to never stop fighting to live for Jesus Christ.

With all the freedom afforded to us today, there is still an enormous amount of bondage in our lives. People are imprisoned due to a plethora of ailments, and these bondages keep us from being what God desires for us to be. The root of bondage is found in the spirits that control us.

In Scripture, we read about a man with an unclean spirit who did whatever he wanted. No man could control him and no power could bind him (Mark 5:2–5). Although the man had external freedom, he left every encounter the same because he was bound internally. When Jesus arrived on the scene, the man ran to Him (Mark 5:6) because he knew the Lord could help Him. He knew that an encounter with Jesus would leave him forever changed—not just on the outside, but on the inside as well.

Even with a legion of demons inside, the man still had strength to come to Jesus (Mark 5:9) and to worship Him (Mark 5:6). There is only 1 way to receive freedom in this life—we must worship the Lord and come into Him. Scripture tells us God inhabits the praises of His people (Psalms 22:3), and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (II Corinthians 3:17)!

When we surrender our lives to the Lord, He has free reign to move in our lives—to overcome any situation and to conquer every enemy. When the man came to the Lord, the devils inside of him knew they could not win any fight. The devils pleaded with Jesus that He not torment them (Mark 5:7), but to send them into the swine (Mark 5:10). There isn’t any situation God has to labor over—there is nothing impossible for God (Luke 1:37). Freedom from bondage in Jesus is just that simple.

People think freedom is the ability to do what they want when they want to do it. But, sometimes our freedom of choice doesn’t bring freedom into our lives. Many of our choices bring us to places of bondage, and this bondage isn’t something we can escape on our own. Scripture warns us when we make the wrong choices, we find ourselves in the bondage of sin. Sin isn’t a verb, but a master (John 8:34). But, Jesus has come to set us free from our bondage and to give us live (John 8:36).

The freedom we have on the outside can be quickly taken away, but the freedom the Lord gives us cannot be taken away from anyone or anything. When we get ahold of this freedom, and comprehend it in our hearts, we must share it with the world (Mark 5:19). The testimony of the Lord’s compassion on our life may help someone else in bondage and lead them to true freedom.

Dealing with Difficult People

Thursday, November 10th, 2016

Living today involves dealing with people—difficult people. This is why Paul wrote to the Philippian church; to teach them about the culture of the world compared to the culture of Christ, especially in the realm of relationships.

Unified Relationships

Paul noted while each relationship we’ll encounter in life will have its share of difficulties, we must live peaceably with all men (Romans 12:18). A major cause of unhappiness in this life is strained relationships. Therefore, strong and unified relationships are the key ingredients for success and fulfillment in our natural and spiritual lives (Ecclesiastes 4:9–12).

We struggle to get along with others because everyone is different—there is great diversity. However, when we live for Christ, we’re called to abandon our values, characteristics, and ideologies, and adopt those of Christ. We should determine what’s not like Christ in our lives and get rid of it! This will help our relationships with other people—even the difficult ones.

5 Causes of Conflict

We reduce conflict and increase cooperation with others when we learn how to adopt everything in Jesus—being like-minded, having the same love, and being of one accord and mind (Philippians 2:2).

There are 5 enemies of the unity we’re supposed to pursue in our walk with Christ. Our goal should be to overcome them and see stronger relationships as a result.

Diffuse Competition

Comparison is a dangerous concept. We are to do nothing in strife (Philippians 2:3). Competition has no place in the church as we are all on the same team and in the same family. When there is disunity and conflict in the church, comparison can be the root cause along with competing desires. We must ensure that we’ve adopted Christ’s mindset and seek after His will and not our own (James 4:1–3). Our motives need to be correct!

Delete Conceit

We struggle with pride often in life. But, instead of desiring for others to see us, we should want others to see Jesus inside of us. Nothing should be done in vanity or personal desire (Philippians 2:3). Scripture notes how pride needs to be eliminated from our lives or it will cause destruction (Proverbs 8:13; 16:18; 29:23). Pride’s root cause is found in our hearts—our heart must be cleaned and aligned with Christ if we are to live peaceably with others (Mark 7:21–22). We are nothing without Christ in our lives (Galatians 6:3).

Decrease Criticism

Criticisms are meant to pull others down. Scripture calls us to consider others first and to lift them up (Philippians 2:3). In short, we are to be humble. Humility is not thinking less of ourselves, but to cease focus on any part of ourselves. When we’ve failed to understand humility, we have a tendency to focus on the flaws of others and think that we’re better. Our focus should never be on other’s faults or to assume a judgmental mindset (James 4:11–12). If we fail to value people the way God does, we’ll see conflict in our relationships.

Demonstrate Consideration

We should never be focused on our own needs and our own desires, but on meeting the needs of others (Philippians 2:4). Scripture tells us to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), and we cannot effectively do this if our eyes (scope) is on ourselves! If we look at what others are facing we can see where God wants us to help and to minister. We cannot be insensitive to the needs of other people.

Develop Christ-Likeness

We are called to develop a life that’s like Christ. The mind that was in Jesus Christ should also be in us (Philippians 2:6). Jesus stripped Himself of every privilege owed to Him and assumed the guise of a servant. (Philippians 2:7–8). Jesus refused to demand any right and determined not to declare every person wrong, even though he had every right! Christ chose to love and to be a servant to all. Our goal should be to act like Jesus in every situation and in every relationship.

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on November 9, 2016

The Right Conditions

Wednesday, November 9th, 2016

Do you know someone who is a procrastinator? Someone who always has a reason why they haven’t started something yet? I’ve known a few procrastinators in my day—they have every excuse in the book. Some excuses are downright hilarious, some worrisome, and some saddening.

One common reason people procrastinate is because they’re waiting for the right timing—the right conditions. If they reach the right age, if their finances are in the right order, if they have enough capacity in their life… There seems to be endless criteria they’re waiting to be met before they take action.

When people procrastinate, they miss countless opportunities and regret it for the rest of their lives—they fail to restore a relationship, take advantage of a job offer, develop personal skills, pursue an advanced degree, or other innumerable opportunities. Procrastination causes people to forego seeing something great happen in their lives or even in someone else’s life.

He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap (Ecclesiastes 11:4, KJV).

God warns us about procrastination—waiting for the right conditions to take action. Whether or not we feel we “fit the bill” of a procrastinator in everyday life, most of us assume this identity in our relationship with God.

At one point or another, the Lord has spoken to each of us and given us a directive He wants us to carry out. But, instead of being obedient, we procrastinate—we wait to do what God has told us to do.

We hesitate, fail to act, and have a drawer full of lame excuses as to why we wait. We feel we aren’t worthy to be used, are scared about what others will think about us, or don’t think have the ability to do what God has put upon our hearts. We sit with these directions and wait—wait until it’s too late and we miss our opportunity.

If we wait too long, we won’t reap God’s blessings and see a miracle manifested. Sometimes God wants to use us to perform a miracle and be a blessing for someone else, or He simply wants to move in our own lives. We wait too often for the right conditions instead of taking action in God’s time, in God’s conditions.

It’s time to put away the mindset of procrastination—time to move when God tells us to move. We need to be obedient to God’s call. If we make ourselves available, and move regardless of whether we see rain clouds, whether we’re walking through a valley, or whether we feel like we’re alone, we’ll see God move in a mighty way. We’ll see the miracle we’ve been praying for, a soul saved, or a mighty blessing. We’ll reap because we sowed; we’ll reap because we sowed in God’s conditions.

What are you waiting for?

We Need to Repent

Sunday, November 6th, 2016

God established the Tabernacle as a pattern for our lifestyle, worship, and ability to enter into His presence. The outer court of the Tabernacle housed the largest piece of furniture: The Brazen Altar. This altar was for sacrifice. Without sacrifice, one could not enter into the Tabernacle, nor into the most holy place. We cannot come into God’s presence with sin in our lives; therefore, we must die out and repent at the altar of sacrifice.

Scripture tells us not to cover our sins, but to confess and forsake them (Proverbs 28:13). Repentance paves the way for the Lord to come into our lives and do a work. John the Baptist preached this same message before Jesus Christ arrived (Mark 1:3).

If we do not repent, we will surely perish (Luke 13:5). We need to prepare ourselves for Christ’s return, and the way to do this is the same way we prepared for His first coming. We need to repent. The Lord is delaying His return because He’s waiting for us to get right (II Peter 3:9). He’s waiting for us to lay aside our sin, turn away from our wicked ways, seek His face, and allow Him to do a work.

God is calling us to a place of repentance in this hour. He has sent forth preachers to deliver a message of repentance in love (II Corinthians 7:8–9). We may not like the message shared, but we must hear the heeded warning to repent. We need to listen to the report that will save our lives.

In Scripture, we read about the woman caught in the act of adultery who was taken to Jesus to face judgment (John 8:1–11). Jesus asked for whoever was without sin to cast the first stone. Starting with the eldest, ending with the last, all realized none were without sin; all needed to repent (John 8:9). We are no different than the adulterous woman—we all need to repent. We need to be ready to confess and forsake our sins. We need to become clean and broken in the presence of the Lord.

The Gospel of John: Part III

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

The discovery of John’s Gospel continues this week. We’ve noted how John doesn’t provide basic accounts of events the way other Gospels do. This week we’ll focus on the story at the Pool of Bethesda. John writes not just about a man being healed, but strives to convey a deeper meaning.

The Pool of Bethesda

The account of the man being healed at the Pool of Bethesda is found in John 5:1–14. People came to this pool for help because once a year, an angel of the Lord would come down and trouble the water. The first person who entered the troubled waters were healed. Because only one person could be healed, most of the people who came to the Pool seeking a healing left unchanged. This story shows that Jesus shows up, and changes the course of history. He heals a man who’s waited by the Pool all his life, and he didn’t have to get into the Pool to receive his healing.

Lessons in the Pool

We Guard Our Firsts

The only way people could receive a healing was to be the first one in the water when it started moving. We have this mentality today—the concept of being first. We want to have the ideal situation first before everything can be right in our life. But, in this story, Jesus negates the idea of being first. The man by the Pool had been lame for 38 years (John 5:5) and walked away with a healing (John 5:9). The first shall be last in the kingdom of God, and the last will be first (Matthew 20:16). We cannot live a life of competition in the church and in God’s kingdom.

We Come When We Need Help

John mentions the variety of people who sought help at the Pool: blind, halt, and withered (John 5:3). Each of these “classifications” exemplify different types of people who seek help from God:

  • Blind—People who don’t necessarily see things like everyone else. The Greek word typhlōn means someone of self-conceit, high-minded, and proud
  • Lame (Halt)—People who know what’s right but they feel powerless to do anything. The Greek word chōlōn means crippled, withered, and lame
  • Withered—People who believe they don’t possess any ability and won’t get any better. The Greek word xéros means dry, shrunken, wasted, being scorched from extreme heat

The Pool represented one way to help all of these people who didn’t possess the ability to help themselves; they were powerless to change their lives. They came to the Pool because they knew they needed help and wanted to be changed. Jesus is available for each of us today who want help and desire to walk away from an encounter with Him completely changed.

We’re Healed When We Want It

Jesus asked the man if he wanted to be healed (John 5:6). Jesus basically wanted to know if the man was serious about getting well. But, the man had an excuse (John 5:7)—a reason why he couldn’t be healed—and didn’t answer, “yes, I want to be healed!”

The man’s problem was not his lameness; his problem was his focus. Most of the time, our condition in life is not our issue. We just need to shift our focus on the Healer and not our “problem.” We need to choose life in Jesus (Deuteronomy 30:19) and not our circumstance.

We Need to Demonstrate Power Over Our “Bed”

Jesus didn’t tell the man he was healed, but to “take up [his] bed, and walk” (John 5:8, KJV). Jesus wanted a visible demonstration of power over what used to support the man in his brokenness. The man was able to pick up his bed and have dominion over it, instead of it ruling his life.

We all have a tendency to build in a support system into our lives that excuse our behavior in God. But, we need to determine what we’re serving and what we’re allowing to keep us in our current condition. Whatever our heart serves, this is the bed we lay in. Jesus has given us power to rise up and take control and power over our “beds.” God’s authority releases us to walk in His victory.

We Live for God or Face a Worse Thing

After the man had been healed, Jesus came to find the man and told him to, “…sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee” (John 5:14, KJV). When the Lord is gracious and merciful enough to heal of us our issue, we cannot return to it. If we start acting like we have an issue, or choose to lay back down in our bed, God will pour out a worse circumstance in our life. We cannot choose to re-identify with the past or listen to the devil that we aren’t healed. When Jesus touches our lives, we’re changed, and we need to stay that way.


Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on November 2, 2016

The Cave Experience

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

God has amazing structures all throughout His creation. Such constructs are not just limited to above the ground, but below as well. We can identify these formations as none other than caves. Caves are magnificent and curious structures—large and small, outfitted with stalagmites and stalactites; some have bodies of waters flowing through them, and most have various creatures inhabiting their walls.

Some people make it a life’s pursuit to seek out and discover all the caves of the world. They voluntarily set foot in numerous caverns, and have quite unique and different cave experiences with each exploration.

But, even with all the distinct caves through the world, there are many with similar features. Most are cold, wet, and dark. Without artificial light and a heat source, these caves are slightly unpleasant to inhabit. If exploring, one may desire to have a shorter search session and rendezvous back to the surface (or cave entrance) sooner rather than later. It’s undesirable to stay in the cave for a long period of time.

On earth, if desired, we can choose to have any cave experience we want. And, we can come and go as we please. We’re not required to spend an allotted time in any cave—especially those that are cold, wet, and dark.

But, all of our life’s cave experiences are not going to be terminated when we get a little uncomfortable. In our walk with God, we may be led into a few cave experiences that are slightly unpleasant. Regardless of how much we’d like to leave, God wants us to stay there for just a little while. God has a reason for our cave experiences.

We can see the purpose of a disagreeable cave experience in Scripture when we read the story of Lazarus.

Lazarus fell ill, died, and was buried in a cave (John 11:38). Before Jesus arrived, Lazarus was in the cave 4 days (John 11:39). The rate at which Lazarus’ body began to decay increased the longer he stayed in the cave—Martha even noted he started to stink because he’d been in the cave for so long! But, there was a reason for this cave experience.

If Lazarus hadn’t died, he wouldn’t have been placed in a cave. If he wasn’t in the cave, Jesus couldn’t have called him to come forth and arise from the dead (John 11:43). There was a miracle in store for Lazarus in his cave, but he had to endure the cave experience for a time before God could perform a work.

In our lives today, the reason why God wants us to undergo some unpleasant cave experiences is to allow Him to work a miracle in our lives. Unless we have our cave experiences—and stay a while in the dark, in the cold, and in the wet environment—God can’t manifest a supernatural move in our lives.

Many times, we’re so eager to get out of the cave we fail to see its purpose. We become so displeased with how we feel in the moment, we don’t see the larger picture of what God is trying to do in our cave.

We’re all going to have a cave experience if we choose to live for God—it’s unavoidable. But, it’s up to each of us in what will happen in our cave experience; what we’ll allow God to do. Will we be too busy trying to exit the cave or will we endure the cave experience to see the miracle? I encourage all of us today to surrender to the cave experience God want us to have today, and see what’s in store inside.