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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Do you believe in Jesus? John Chapter 11 - We can triumph over death!

Happy and Blessed New Year !
I am so comforted by John 11!  When all seems lost...when life is hard...when time seems to have run out...JESUS COMES.  
What a wonderful message for a New Year!  

John 11 -- The dead will rise again!

OH, WOW!  Situations are really cranking up in my Journalist John’s account of Jesus life!
John reminds me so much of a newspaper writer.  He captures conversations and situations with a keen, sharp report in his Book of John.  As a journalist myself, I am so excited to read John's account!

Soooooo..... Here we go.  Be sure to read John Chapter 11!

Remember - in John 10 -- there was our Good Shepherd - The Jews were ready to stone Him.

-- Away He goes to the area where John the Baptist ministered.  Many believed Him there!

But, life goes on and problems are everywhere.

Remember Mary & Martha?  I LOVE their story.  I am so much like Martha.  I run around, worrying, planning, and fussing sometimes!!!!  In Luke, Chapter 10,  Martha was hosting Jesus in her home. Her sister Mary was sitting at Jesus feet listening to every word He had to say.

Needless to say, Martha gets angry at her sister.  She needed help.  She asks Jesus to tell Mary to help her.
Jesus stops and lovingly talks to Martha.  

I have to smile -- I like to think of Jesus putting his hands on my shoulders (like He did Martha!) and saying,  “Laurie, Laurie (Martha, Martha) -- you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed …Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be take away from her.” -- Luke 10 

Mary sat at the feet of Jesus -- Martha served.  Nothing wrong with that, but Martha missed an opportunity to LISTEN!

In John chapter 11, however,  it is some time after that Jesus visit.  A terrible thing has happened.  Mary & Martha’s brother Lazarus has died.

What’s worse, Jesus did not rush to the rescue.  Basically, Jesus let Lazarus die.  BOY - that was confusing to the sisters!

When Jesus finally gets to the sisters, Martha runs up to pour her heart out to her friend:

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.  But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” - John 10:21-22

Martha is desperate here.  She is begging Jesus for help.  Man, I have been there many times! 

 Just check out the following conversation. Jesus words are perfect here:

 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;  and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. 

Do you believe this?”

 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” -- John 11: 25-27

I am so proud -- MARTHA got it right!  She believes in Jesus! She does not know it, but  Lazarus is about to come back from the dead!

NOW --

Do you have a situation you think God is running late on?  Have you asked and asked and not heard an answer?

Is there something dead in your midst and you have given up all hope? Are you hoping the new year will bring the answer you need?

Every person has questions he or she wishes Jesus would move faster to answer -- make things clearer -- take the pain away -- SOLVE THE PROBLEM.

Jesus may be waiting for a reason.

Are you learning to depend on Jesus in the depth of your despair?  Think about it.

Lazarus was dead, smelly and closed off in a tomb.

The girls had cried, grieved and probably given up.

ENTER: Jesus!

Notice the shortest verse in the Bible:

Jesus wept. -- John 11: 35.

You see, Jesus is so connected to us, he grieves with us.  What a beautiful, touching gesture!


Sometimes, we just don’t know what direction Jesus is moving us to … until we get to our destination and look back!

Things may seem dead and without hope, but Jesus is there beside us.  Perhaps He cries when He sees our despair -- BUT He always brings us LIFE -- not death.

I’m glad I’m a Martha who believes.

In spite of my flaws, I see ultimate hope in the RESURRECTION -- THE LIFE :  MY JESUS!

 This is a new year.  This is a new opportunity.  If you have not already done so, I pray you have stopped and asked Jesus to come into your life and take over.  

That, my friends, is truly the beginning of life.

Friday, December 19, 2014

John Chapter 10 - The Good Shepherd is Watching

Happy and Blessed Christmas !  

What a perfect time to study John Chapter 10! Oh, how I love to remember Jesus is my good shepherd! 

I, of course, am a sheep. 

Do you know about sheep? They are dumb. They tend to follow the crowd. Sometimes, when they get near distractions like flowing water or loud sounds,  they panic. Sheep have been know to jump in the rushing water if another sheep jumps. (who doesn’t tend to follow the crowd or give in to temptation?)

Sheep don’t know what they need. They wander aimlessly and can miss the best food and safest place to sleep. Ha!  How much time do I waste "wandering" in my own distracted way????

Enter: The Good Shepherd.

The Good Shepherd guides the sheep. He gently prods them in the right direction. He protects them from wolves. He stays right with the flock.

Guess what? The Shepherd stays so close to the sheep -- the sheep begin to recognize HIS voice only.
They will not follow another.

When the Shepherd brings his flock to a town, there is a gate and corral for all the sheep of several shepherds. The Shepherd coaxes his sheep into the gate. All the flocks go in there together. When the Shepherd comes back ONLY His sheep will follow Him out of the gate .

Are you getting the picture here???? The SHEEP know the Shepherd’s VOICE!

How do the sheep know the Shepherd ?  THEY have spent time with HIM!
The devil will try to get you to follow him…but let’s always listen for the voice of the Shepherd who loves you.

Jesus is the GOOD SHEPHERD.   With this in mind….let’s read about our loving Shepherd:

John 10 
The Good Shepherd and His Sheep 

Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 

Jesus is not only the SHEPHERD. HE is also the GATE to Heaven!

 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 

Please get to know Jesus well. GIVE YOUR LIFE TO HIM. YOU will know HIS voice and follow HIM only.

But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 

Be sure to ask yourself -- Is this from Jesus or my own selfish desire? The devil will tempt you with your own bent toward selfishness!

 Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them. 
Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 
All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them.  I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; 

The devil has come to steal and kill -- steal innocence, steal joy, steal love, family, homes and he will ultimately KILL your ability to think outside of your selfish desires. Look how we kill babies -- Why ?
Look how we destroy marriages through divorce - why?
The devil loves to steal and kill -- Ask Jesus.

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. 

Thank you, Jesus, for LIFE!

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 

Thank you, Jesus, for dying for us! 

The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 

You might follow someone or something else temporarily. Watch out! That person or thing will NOT protect you from harm !

 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—  just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.  I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” 

Jesus has just told us how He will die for us. He knows YOU so intimately -- He LOVES you so completely. He will never leave you. He died for YOU.

The Jews who heard these words were again divided. Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?”  But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” 

Then came the Festival of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” 

Again -- I love the way John captures this dialog among the Pharisees and the Jews. They are still clueless. They want PROOF.

 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 

Jesus just gave the Pharisees the salvation message!

When I teach children about Jesus' message of salvation, I make a fist and ask them to pry it open.  They can not open my fist. I tell them "Jesus holds you and no one can take you from HIS hand once you have given your life to HIM -- truly, completely -- surrendered."

I and the Father are one.” 

HERE is yet another statement where Jesus says HE is GOD.

When others say Jesus was just a good guy, but not God, you can say, “Jesus was either a liar, a lunatic or LORD.” You have to decide.

Jesus said He was GOD.

Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” 

The guys want to get rid of Jesus! He is a TRUE threat to their position in society!

“We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” 
Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods”? If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside—  what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’?  Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.”  Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp. 

Again, Jesus says He is God!

Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days. There he stayed, and many people came to him. They said, “Though John never performed a sign, all that John said about this man was true.”  And in that place many believed in Jesus. 

OH, how wonderful to believe in Jesus and know the Good Shepherd is watching out for me!

Today, may you know that peace as you walk through this tough world. 
You have a shepherd who wants to lead you. 

PLEASE - listen to His voice! 

Have a wondrous, wonderful, grace-filled Christmas !  Remember to follow Jesus beside the swift waters of this world! 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

John Chapter 9...I once was blind...but now I see the LIGHT!

Let’s look in to John, Chapter 9.  At the beginning of November, I would not have related much to the blind guy and the spiritual journey brought by bad things
…Three surgeries and many treatments later, I’m noticing God’s speaks through hardship. 

John 9 is so rich with imagery!

Check out John chapter 9 - do some reading and come back to chat! 

FIRST -- We’ve got a blind guy -- blind since birth.   The blind guy asks for nothing, but Jesus sees his need.

The disciples, like most of us, wonder why God would let this bad thing happen.  I like Jesus’ answer.  Sometimes, pain comes to demonstrate a greater glory.

I can’t count the number of times I have been inspired by watching folks walk through tough things with Jesus.

Why does God allow certain things to happen?

SO THE LIGHT CAN SHINE!  See what Jesus says:

3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 

5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Jesus is the light of the world!  Some people don’t like that light because it exposes a dark side of their lives.

Other people, like the blind guy, are ready for the LIGHT (Jesus).  Did you notice he says nothing as Jesus basically puts spit and mud on his eyes?

Boy, that is TRUST!

The beggar - the blind guy -- does what Jesus says.  He then becomes, whether he likes it or not, the center of a HUGE controversy involving very powerful people.

Again, I LOVE the dialog of John!  The banter of the “Holier than thou” Pharisees and leaders is so REAL!

They critique Jesus again.  They nag at the (formerly) blind guy.  All of a sudden, this nobody, this uneducated beggar, makes a profound statement.  This is a great example of how we can share our own testimony:

“I was blind but now I see!”  John 9: 25

He goes on to boldly speak to the leaders:

30 The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. 32 Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

Wow -- It’s amazing what can happen when Jesus takes hold of a common man.  I also think it is neat -- Jesus chose the man -- the man did not choose Jesus.

Hmmm -- Once he was chosen, however, the blind guy stuck it out. -- He accepted what Jesus had to offer and then he told others.

What did this get him ?  Persecution from the Jewish Leaders.  The leaders threw him out.

Can you imagine how the blind guy felt at that point?  In a matter of moments, he has gone from unnoticeable beggar to a man who is the center of attention.  Then he gets persecuted for telling the truth and tossed out the temple door!

---Pretty discouraging!  BUT --  JESUS is on the other side of the door!!!!

Have you ever felt like YOU are “kicked out” ?  Look around.  Jesus is outside the door.

35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”
37 Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”
38 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

WOOOOHOOOO!  SAVED in one fell swoop!  All that spit and mud and aggravation really paid off!  Jesus sought him out!

Is Jesus seeking you out?  Is He asking you to endure some discomfort in order to show just how brightly HIS light can shine in this world?

You can be a child of light or you can be like the Pharisees and cling to your darkness (and, by the way, also cling to your prestige, position, power, history, image, job etc…)

Here’s what Jesus says to that:

39 Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”  40 Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?”41 Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.

 Man -- I do not want to be the one whose guilt remains!!!!!  I don’t want to be blind to what Jesus offers.  I need forgiveness.  I need to see Jesus on the other side of the door of rejection, pain, disappointment and sorrow.

I want to accept what Jesus has to give me and not worry about the persecution.

JOHN 9 is soooo COOOOOL!

I want to see the LIGHT!