Making the Switch

Hey! I have some exciting- slash-sad news!

I’m switching genres.

I just LOVE going through the book of John. It’s doing so much good in my life! But at some point recently I discovered how fun it is to make audio recordings, and specifically- podcasts!

If you haven’t noticed or heard, the first seven posts from the book of John are now available on podcast. And I’ve been continually getting more and more available.

But today I did something totally new- I recorded a podcast with my sister and friend, Natasha Metzler, from natashametzler.com

It’s on the next section of the book of John, chapter 5. And it turned out really cool.

And it just won’t translate into a written post!

I mean, I could try.

But I’m not going to.

Ha!

Instead I’d like to invite you to switch genres with me. Wouldn’t it be nice to turn on a little 10 minute broadcast while you put away that load of laundry you’ve got sitting on the end of your bed?

Head on over to briannasiegrist.podbean.com and you can subscribe there!

You can also probably search for Brianna Siegrist in your podcast app, if you already have one.

The Book of John series will have a new episode every monday, Wednesday, and Friday, as the Lord wills!

I’ll still write on this blog about other things, but to follow the book of John series, you’ll have to make the switch, too.

I hope you do!

Byee

Brianna

briannasiegrist.podbean.com

The book of John (1)

Healed

Today we’re reading in John, chapter 5, starting in verse 2.

Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed.

This is the first instance of healing that we see in the gospel of John. Although earlier than this, the author refers to the “signs” that Jesus was performing, which probably includes healing, this is the first time it’s really spelled out for us.

Jesus is in the city of Jerusalem for a holiday, and there’s this pool. Can I tell you the history of this pool? Okay, so there was a legend in this place that this pool, in the city, was occasionally visited by an angel. No one saw the angel, but the angel would dip down, fly over the water, and the water would ripple. Now the legend also said that whoever was the first one in the water when it was rippling from the angel would be healed.

I don’t know about any of this. Modern, scientific people would say, this is hogwash. An old wives’ tale. Who knows. I do know enough to know that there are things on this earth that we can’t explain, and there are real angels, so who knows.

What we do know is that there was a large group of people who were invalids- or disabled, and because of a lack of medical knowledge and options, this was the most viable option they had. To sit by this pool of water and hope that it rippled, and hope they were the first one in it.

Let’s keep reading:

One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.”

I wonder what this exchange looked like. Why did Jesus choose this one out of so many? Was he more deserving? Did he have greater faith? I don’t know. All we know is that Jesus noticed this one, and and asked him… “Do you want to be healed?”

What does Jesus see when he looks at you? Where are you camped out, trying to get your fix? Can I be really honest? I’d like to tell you about my own infirmity.

I’ve talked before in these posts about my struggle with my weight. But now I want to be really transparent.

For years, my weight has been my biggest failure. And by weight, what I really mean is that my weight is evidence of my biggest failure- in eating, in discipline, in healthy habits.

For twenty years.

In my whole life, whenever I go to the Lord with anything, I almost always come back to the same old questions and cries- what’s wrong with me? Why doesn’t this change? What’s the answer? How do I fix this? Lord, please, fix this..

And I’ve done so many different things to try to address it, as you can imagine. Diet books and apps, workout plans, gym memberships. I’ll admit I’m not as fanatically desperate as other people, and I’ve had little to no result in change in my body.

But I want to tell you about a recent experience I’ve had. It’s so new to me, but it’s my testimony, and I hope it maybe will give you hope. Just like this man at the pool, I feel that the Lord has touched me and I want to tell you my story.

A few years ago, maybe 4 years ago, I was crying out to the Lord, again, about this. I hate this part of myself- lack of control over my eating habits and the effects it has on my body. I was praying, and crying, and saying to him that out of everything in my life, it was the worst thing- It was like a sign to me that nothing in Christianity really had any effect, if it didn’t have an effect on this thing that was the biggest struggle in me. And as I prayed, I remember that I was thinking of the Leper who came to Jesus, and said, “If you’re willing, Lord, make me clean,” and Jesus said, “I am willing. Be clean.” I was reminding the Lord of that story and saying, Lord, I know if you’re willing, I can be healed. I can be changed. I can be free of my addiction to food an walk in newness and wholeness and not be an overeater all the time.

And at that time, I heard the voice of the Lord say, “What do you want?” And I said, “I want to be healed.” And he said, “You have it. You are healed.”

Look what happens in this story:

Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.

And I stood up, that day, my heart light, and was so excited to think… Is it possible? I almost expected to look in the mirror and see a thin person! But I walked away thinking, “Whoa. Am I healed?”

Then for a few days I went around kind of tentatively waiting to see a change in myself. Would I eat differently? Hate fried foods? Would I forget to eat, or suddenly love running?

Days went by and honestly, though I thought I believed what the Lord said, I went right back into my habits. After a few months, I concluded that I heard the Lord wrong.

I went back to my normal routine of overeating punctuated by occasional dieting and crying.

A month ago, I was in church and the subject was “sin and confrontation.” The pastor was talking about sexual sins, and saying, “You are mistaken if you think that one hour of something that displeases the Lord will not affect the other twenty-three hours of your relationship with him.” I’m probably quoting him wrong.

But I looked out the window, and thought to myself, I wonder how much more wonderful my relationship will be once I’m over this habitual sin of overeating!

Instead of feeling condemned, I suddenly just felt excited, thinking about that future day.

The next thing in my head was a thought of a beautiful lady in the church that I know, and the idea that I should have her pray for me.

And then the next thought I had was that no, I wouldn’t. Because how many times have I been vulnerable and hopeful like that, and then been embarrassed in the future when it had done nothing? I immediately could picture a future day, a year or so away, where I was still the same weight and I would run into her and feel foolish for asking her to pray because obviously it had had no good effect.

Anyway, when the service was over, I was playing piano, and worshiping the Lord, and thought again of that day in the future, whether in heaven or on earth, when I would be free of this tangle.

I honestly kept thinking of this: I imagined being set free from heavy chains, them being cut. And I saw them as a pool around my feet. And I imagined my constant overeating as me trying to step out of the chains, and tripping on them and being dragged down by them. As though I wasn’t actually locked into them, but I just couldn’t untangle myself.

And suddenly I knew- that first inspiriation? To humble myself and confess and ask for prayer? That was from the Lord.

And that second thought- of hopelessness and a sad date in the future where nothing good had come- that was from the enemy.

And I got up from the piano and tracked her down.

Friends, I want to tell you. I spoke with her, told her what I was thinking, and asked her to pray. She immediately laid her hand on my shoulder and blessed me. And while she was praying, I heard the voice of the Lord say, “The struggle is over.” And I saw myself stepping out of those chains, FOR GOOD.

Now I want to tell you- I believe that when he told me I was healed, long ago, I was actually healed. He changed the part of my heart that was addicted to food. But I didn’t know how to walk into that, I didn’t know what it meant to walk by faith in his word, and I ended up being caught up again in sins that I was actually free from. The chains around my feet.

But this time, I know. When I stepped free- this is the difference. Before, I went out into my life and said to myself, “I wonder how I will do. I wonder if I am really healed.”

This time, I’m going out into my life with a completely different attitude. This time, I’m going out saying “I know I what I will do. I will live like I’m healed.”

This time, I look at my eating opportunities and go into them not as a passive observer, wondering what will happen- but with confidence, saying “I am going to be free. I’m going to eat healthily, because I have been healed and set free.”

My attitude has changed, and my experience, since then, has been evidence to me that I am changed.

I believe that if I had left that prayer with the attitude, “Well, we’ll see what happens,” I would have been caught right back into it. But faith means that I choose to believe. I choose to walk like I believe.

You know, later in this story of Jesus and the invalid, this happens:

Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.”

I can’t stress enough that it was my own sin that got me overweight. Of course there’s all sorts of factors- genetics, environment, emotional habits you learn from your experiences, etc. But I have always been fully aware that it’s my own actions that result in my weight.

So when I read this verse, what Jesus says to the healed man, What I see here is Jesus saying in effect, don’t fall back into your old ways! You have the choice! You can live like you’re healed, and you can go on in wholeness, or you can jump right back into your old life. It’s up to you.

Jesus doesn’t want robots. He gives us a fresh start, he picks us up, sets us on our feet, and says, “Get up. You’re healed.”

But what we do with it is the key. We can take our miracle, and run back to our old ways, and end up worse than we were before. Or we can thank the Lord for our rescue, and then run after him.

It’s our choice.

Where are you at, today? What pool are you sitting beside? What do you want? Stop giving the Lord excuses for why you don’t have it. Instead, look up into the face of the Mercy man, who stops and notices you. What do you want? Ask him for it, and when you hear the voice of the Lord telling you that you have it, believe it. Stand up, walk in it. Praise the Lord for it. And then run from your old ways, so that you don’t get tangled up in your old sins.

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The book of John (1)

If you like this post, you can follow the series! I’m going through the book of John. The lead page is here, or you can subscribe by email. This series is also available as a podcast, just visit briannasiegrist.podbean.com. Bye!

At the Party

((This post is available as a podcast instead! Just click here.))

Hi! You still there and going on? I am!

So it’s funny to keep going through the book, because at a certain point it seems like the message is the same: Jesus is awesome and he wants us to be close to him! I might sound like a broken record, always saying the same thing… Go to Jesus. Seek him, know him. But once you know that’s what you’re supposed to do, what’s the point of reading on? If that’s the point every time?

Well, it’s because the Bible gives us a clear taste of pure truth. And the more we read in it, the more we get a clearer picture of who Jesus is, and what he sounds like. Because you know what? In the world, it’s hazy. It really is. In the very beginning, you’re trying to discern- what is the Lord doing in my life? What is He speaking? What’s his Way? And you listen to different teaching and different advice, and to your own heart… and you can get a really funny picture of who Jesus is that’s not actually him at all. It’s not based on the Truth.
But every time you come back to the Word, and see what it says about him, it refines your view of him to what is actually true. So that when you go out into the world, and you say, “I think the Lord is leading me to do this,” You have a better idea of… if that really is the Lord? Because if you know what he said and did in scripture, then if the “voice of the Lord” is leading you to do something absolutely contradicting the things he said in scripture, you know it’s not the voice of the LORD.

Okay, so let’s keep reading. John chapter Five. This is the English Standard Version.

After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

Okay, let’s stop right there. What does this show us about Jesus? First of all, once again, he’s going to a social gathering. This is still such a huge deal for me. You know, one of the hardest parts of my Christian walk is to take my relationship with Jesus out of the prayer closet and into my social life. When I get with friends, it’s like my consciousness of God and his voice can fly out the window. I’m so socially engaged- testing the emotional temperature of everyone I’m with, loving fun, hating discord, always thinking about the next thing on the list or the next appointment… that my mind almost goes on auto-pilot. And then the next time I’m alone with the Lord, I review the previous 4 hours with people, and I’m like, “Where were you, Lord?!”
It’s like he takes a seat by the window and I just kinda forget he’s there.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’m doing terrible things. I love, love, love people. I really do. I’m always thinking, “How can I encourage them and lead them in the Lord? How can I turn this conversation towards good? Am I being a good example? Am I controlling my temper? Am I not gossiping or complaining?”
I’m constantly trying to reign myself in such a way that when I get back to my prayer closet, I’ll be satisfied, and the Lord will say, “Well done!”

But to be honest… I’m really beginning to question my methods. Sometimes I feel like I’m a horse, running a race, and the gate lifts and I’m off! And when the race is over, I come all foamy back to my trainer…. And the whole time I just completely forget that I have a jockey, a guide, a friend along with me.

Jesus goes to my social gatherings.

He goes with me.

He sends his spirit.
It’s possible to hear his voice in the crowd, it really is, but it’s so unnatural, at least for me. Maybe it’s because I’m sanguine. Maybe it’s easier for others.

I am learning that my time in the Secret Place- my quiet time- my devotions- whatever you want to call it. “Chapel” time- this is what transforms me so that when I go out into public, I’m bearing the fruits of the spirit and not of the flesh. So that I really am pleasing him. I gossip less, I love more. My social interactions really have improved a billion times since ten years ago, and I want to publicly apologize to absolutely everyone who had the tolerance to put up with me. What am I talking about? Not ten years ago. Five, four, even one year ago. Even last week. I hope none of you think that I’m this glorious peaceful person that is just a pleasure to be around. Because I can guarantee you that the people who are in closest life with me could tell you otherwise.

But listen. I am much, much, much better. It makes me so happy. I remember years ago, feeling frustrated and disappointed and angry with myself all the time- because even though I knew I should be peaceful, joyful, encouraging- my mouth should speak blessing and not angry, spiteful things- I so rarely felt like I had any fruit.

But over the years I have been so encouraged that I can be with people and the Lord has trained me and works through me to love others, using my words and my actions and I just LOVE it. It’s so much pleasure to be with people and to know that they’re enjoying their time and being encouraged, and not constantly be having social interactions full of discord and wounds and strife.

So wow, we didn’t get very far in chapter five, did we? But this is such an important part of our lives. What is your social life like? Whether you’re an introvert or extravert, some of the greatest pain in life comes from unsatisfying social interactions. And we all would probably wish we could behave in the best way possible. We all want to hear, “Well done!”

So how do we do this? Two ways: First, get to the Secret Place!! Get there! Make it a priority to meet with God, alone. Talk to him and listen to him- and commit your plans to the Lord. Tell him about your relationships, your wounds, and your sins. Ask his advice, his will, and his blessing.

And the second is this: Remember that you are not alone when you’re with people. When you’re working, mothering, dating, serving, or being served. Jesus sent you a constant Teacher. You don’t have to run on auto-pilot, just reacting to every situation and words that are tossed your way. You can be still, and know that He is God, even in the midst of the most boisterous crowd.If you practice hearing his voice in private, you can sit in the midst of a conversation and practice stilling yourself and hearing his voice in public, too. And then it won’t be like me- running off like mad and doing your best, and feeling alone and crazy. You’ll be aware of your constant friend.

Because Jesus goes with you.

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The book of John (1)If this was good for you, there’s more! Click here to go to the lead page for the whole book of John. Or subscribe by email!

In my Weakness

Jesus, what a wonderful teacher. Jesus, what a wonderful friend. Jesus, what a miraculous healer. Jesus, who else are you?

 

I love to know you, Jesus. I want my study to reveal you to me and to everyone who reads this.

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Let’s keep going.

In the last chapter of John, it reads:

 

At the end of the two days, Jesus went on to Galilee. He himself had said that a prophet is not honored in his own hometown. Yet the Galileans welcomed him, for they had been in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration and had seen everything he did there.

 

This is so interesting- a prophet is not honored in his own hometown. This seems logical. If you’re something special, often the people that know you best know the human side of you and it makes the extraordinary less interesting to them. Especially if the human side of you is something they really disdain or dislike. An actor might go away to Hollywood and be adored, but his hometown remembers a whiny boy who never did his share of the work.

And yet, for Jesus this is not true. It says the Galileans welcomed him, because they saw the miraculous things he did… and presumably they heard the things he taught. Did they also remember his years of living in the middle of them? If they did, nothing about his life or character made them turn their noses up.

 

I think about this in my own life. I want so much, as I’ve said so many times before, for the people around me to know the hope that I know. I want to share the light and the the peace that I’ve found. But if the people that I rub elbows with see a life in me that is nothing worth admiring, why would they listen to anything I have to share?

 

As he traveled through Galilee, he came to Cana, where he had turned the water into wine. There was a government official in nearby Capernaum whose son was very sick. When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and begged Jesus to come to Capernaum to heal his son, who was about to die.
Jesus asked, “Will you never believe in me unless you see miraculous signs and wonders?”
The official pleaded, “Lord, please come now before my little boy dies.”
Then Jesus told him, “Go back home. Your son will live!” And the man believed what Jesus said and started home.
While the man was on his way, some of his servants met him with the news that his son was alive and well. He asked them when the boy had begun to get better, and they replied, “Yesterday afternoon at one o’clock his fever suddenly disappeared!” Then the father realized that that was the very time Jesus had told him, “Your son will live.” And he and his entire household believed in Jesus. This was the second miraculous sign Jesus did in Galilee after coming from Judea.

So Cana again. First, the water into wine. And now this. Isn’t it interesting, what he says before he performs the miracle? It seems like a reprimand.

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“Will you never believe in me unless you see miraculous signs and wonders?”

 

But look what he does afterwards- he performs the miraculous sign and wonder. He points out our weakness, but he also provides for it.

 

He cares about our worries. This reminds me also of a verse in Philippians:

 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.

 

Who does Jesus prove to be in this passage?

 

One who meets us, fallible and weak, and hears our worries, and takes care of them.

 

What are your weak areas these days? Where do you need him? This the point of Christianity: that the parts of our lives that are the messiest and the ugliest and the weakest, these are the places he looks right at, and brings hope and healing and answers to.

 

There is always an answer in Christ. Always. He always has the answer… and do you know what? He will always answer you when you call.

 

The whole, entire, point of being a Christian is to know Jesus- and the way we know him is that we search him out, like this official did. We find him and we beg- “Jesus, I need you.” And when we’re at his feet, when we call his name, he looks down, and he sees our weakness, and he meets us in our needs.


This is who Jesus is. In fact, in the book of 2 Corinthians, Paul talks about how he loves his weaknesses, because that’s where Jesus is showed to be his strongest. Here is is from the Voice.

 

So ask me about my thorn, inquire about my weaknesses, and I will gladly go on and on—I would rather stake my claim in these and have the power of the Anointed One at home within me. I am at peace and even take pleasure in any weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and afflictions for the sake of the Anointed because when I am at my weakest, He makes me strong.

 

This is such a strange concept for me. Remember at the beginning of this entry, where I said how I wanted my life to not have things in it that were “less than admirable?”

There’s this funny double-thing in Christianity. On the one hand, when we belong to Jesus, it’s supposed to help! To make things better! And so we tend to hide the things that are ugly and messy. We try to present a tidy picture to the world, because… why? Sometimes it’s because we are ashamed of ourselves, but other times it’s just because we want to glorify the Lord! No use whining about our troubles, if it means that we’re saying Jesus is less powerful. Right?

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But the strange thing, to me, is that we can have ugly places, still, in our lives, that everyone else can see. People know if you still have an anger problem or you flirt too much or you eat too much or you don’t pay your bills. You can paint a pretty good picture, but not to everyone, all the time.

 

And so what does this verse tell us? This verse tells us that we should be TAKING our problems, all the time, to Jesus, and letting him be the Lord and the solution of our lives. And when things are messy, if things look ugly, we shouldn’t be pretending, we should be trusting. We shouldn’t whine that the Lord isn’t taking care of things, we should ask the Lord and then speak in faith.

“The Lord is working on that in my life. And I know it will get better, and let me tell you what he’s already done…”

That should be our stance. We should boast in our weakness. Because when we freely admit our humanity, when we recognize in humility where we need the Lord, both to the Lord, and also to others, that’s where they see that they can have their needs met.

 

Jesus, what a wonderful teacher. Jesus, what a wonderful friend. Jesus, what a miraculous healer. Jesus, who knows my weaknesses and meets my needs. Jesus is the best.

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The book of John (1)If you want to read more, this is part of a series going through the book of John! Just click here.

Know Him

 

It’s been four chapters now, looking through and finding out about who Jesus really is. Did you ever read this passage, from later in John:

 

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know[b]my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

 

The whole point of this whole study is to really examine who Jesus was, what he did, what he’s like, and what he said… because by knowing Him, we know God. And that’s the whole point, isn’t it? Later, in John 17, when Jesus is praying for us, he says,

“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

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This is eternal life: not that we know of God, but that we really, truly, know him in our lives. We know what he looks like and what he’s doing, and what he sounds like. We have a true, intimate friendship.

So what is he like so far?

 

And that’s just the first four chapters out of twenty-one chapters in John! This is just a drop in the bucket, describing the beautiful qualities and characteristics of our Lord.

But do you know what? It isn’t enough to see these things, to have heard them, to memorize them, to learn them. It’s not enough. Because the truth is, as you read over that list above, or skimmed over it, you probably did not see anything on that list that surprised you. If you have attended church, read the bible, or been a christian for any length of time, all of these things on this list are elementary facts about the Lord Jesus.

So the question isn’t really, do you know these things?

The question is, do you know Him?

Because it’s one thing to say, “God is good,” and it’s quite another to say, “God is good to me.”  It’s one thing to say, “Jesus is worthy to be worshipped,” and it’s a very different thing to actually worship him.

The question is, how do you take these facts and actually let them affect your life. How do you take what you know about Jesus and turn it into actually knowing Him, for yourself?know3

 

I’m going to tell you how I do it. 

In the morning, when I first start to wake up, I speak to the Lord. It’s not usually the same words every day, but it’s the same prayer.

Lord, I need you today. Father, I want to know you. Be near to me, meet me. Be in charge. Lead me and let me get closer to you. I’m anxious about ___, please give me an answer and strength and let me please you in that situation. Oh, Lord, let me know you. Speak to me, Lord. I love you so much, you’re everything. Please keep me from getting distracted or tempted away from you.”

 

It’s not all of those thoughts everyday. But that is my heart’s cry.

I get up, I go about my day. Often my mind is flooded with lists of things I need to do and relationships that I’m struggling with and worries of the day. Sometimes I’m excited about what the day will bring, sometimes I’m full of dread. I’m a very normal, moody woman. I’m not perfect, I’m not even great. I would give myself a C grade in life and with my attitude.

But this is how it works: Sometime, hopefully early in the day, I will open the Word of God. I read from a reading plan, or from something I’m studying. I have several non-fiction teaching books, I might read from one or all of them. I have podcasts and sometimes youtube videos of teaching and sermons. I try to take in good teaching and learning from several sources. I believe that we study the word and learn from other people not because that’s the only way to know the Lord, but because it validates or corrects the things I’m learning about the Lord. Thank God, there are believers all around this beautiful planet that are learning to know Him and teaching other people about him!

I homeschool my kids. It’s my primary job. It often takes most of my thought life and energy. I don’t know what your job is, but in homeschooling my kids, there are times of joy and times of stress and struggle. This is how I know the Lord during that time: I go to him with my struggles. I ask him for answers and seek him about the things that are problems. I try to please him with the work I do, and let it be an offering to him. I try to do my work in a way that will bring him honor and so that he will say, “Well done!” It’s hard to remember that he’s my boss, and not the state, who dictates my subjects and standards. He’s the One I’m working for.

I also have housekeeping, family relationships, teaching commitments, and sometimes farm errands to do. In those things, also, I try to do everything that I know the Lord has assigned me to do- and go to him when something is a problem, or making me anxious. To know him in a specific situation, what that means to me looks like this. I’m going to describe a hypothetical situation that is very, very realistic in my life: 

Let’s say that my daughter has a toothache. She’s crying. My initial thoughts and feelings might be panic and angst, because I hate seeing my daughter in pain. To be very, very honest, I would also have irritation and frustration, because I’m thinking about my day’s’ plans that will probably need to change to accommodate this new situation. I also immediately will start to try to solve the problem. Advil? Call the dentist? Do I have a vehicle and time to squeeze in a visit? How much will it cost? Would it be wiser to use a natural, homeopathic remedy? All these thoughts are running through my mind. I may, probably, react to some or all of them in incorrect ways. I might feel frustrated and do something really dumb, like slam a book down. It might happen that my sympathy for her is the first thing I react in, by hugging her and immediately getting her Tylenol. But usually, after my initial reaction, (which I will admit to you is often the wrong thing,) I will think to myself a truthful thought: “God is in control.” Or maybe, “He has all the answers, and all the power. He sees my problems, and he cares.” At that point, I can keep choosing to let my emotions reign or I can quiet myself and listen to the truth. If I listen to the truth, I might hug my daughter, pray for her, and ask the Lord to give me wisdom to take care of the problem in His way. I might pray for him to relieve her pain, to miraculously heal her. I will probably pray that I will be able to manage all the things on my plate, the budget, and also take care of her pain in a way that works out well for everything.

At that point, when I’ve remembered the truth, and chosen it, I will often feel convicted of my incorrect actions and how it may have hurt someone around me. I’ll apologize for slamming the book, or yelling, or whatever foolish and hurtful thing I did. And at that point, I try to walk in the truth. I try to turn away from my initial feelings and make decisions based on the truth. If I can’t figure out exactly what step to take that would be based on truth, I often will ask someone who I trust, and who also walks in truth. Like my husband. It’s not often enough that I quiet myself and hear the Lord, and do what His voice tells me. I still am learning, and it’s easy for me when things are stressful to doubt what he’s telling me or to second guess His voice. So it’s helpful to get counsel from other people in my life.

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Now this is a hypothetical situation, but it’s very, very very real for my life.

Here’s what the coolest thing is, though. The more I align my life and my actions with these truths, the more I try to follow after this way instead of my emotions, the more I see his will worked out in my life. The more I see that things work out for my good, that God has answers for my life and my ways and my needs and my deepest desires. The more I really, truly, experientially know that God is good.

But in order to have these truths come up and to hear them stronger than lies and emotions and fears, the more I have to study them and learn. It goes hand in hand.

This is how I live in abundant life. And as you read through my scenario there, you might think to yourself, Boy, it would be so much better if her initial reaction was to trust, instead of initially losing her temper. I agree!!! And to be honest, I am ashamed to even write that down. But let me tell you, fifteen years ago, that period of time in my life between my initial reaction and choosing to submit to God was maybe 3 days. And then, the more I know the Lord and practice going his way, the time in between shrunk to 2 days, and then 1 day, and then 3 hours, and and then 1 hour. And so to me, it’s so nice seeing it happen in shorter and shorter lengths of time. I look forward to the day when my obedience to the voice of truth is so instantaneous that there’s no gap. But maybe that will only happen in heaven. We’ll see!

I think that this is how Jesus lived: He instantaneously did the right thing. He was tempted in every way, but immediately chose what was right. This is how he showed us the Father, and this is how we see Christ: We let his life live out in us, by obeying the truth we know about Him. And then, not only do we see him in our lives, but everyone who looks at us sees him, too.

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The book of John (1)I hope this study is blessing you. It’s part of a study going through the book of John. If you’d like to know more, just click here.

 

Come and See

We are almost done with this fascinating conversation between Jesus and the unnamed woman at the well in Samaria. Let’s keep reading in John, chapter 4 verse 27. This is the New Living Translation. 

Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked to find him talking to a woman, but none of them had the nerve to ask, “What do you want with her?” or “Why are you talking to her?”  The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone, “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?”  So the people came streaming from the village to see him.

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We see, once again, how odd it is to everyone that Jesus is talking to a woman, and a Samaritan. We in this modern era just can’t fully understand how monumental, how extraordinary, and how beautiful this was.

We also the woman excitedly going back to share the news with everyone in her village… and knowing that she’s been married five times, and is unmarried now, it’s the more interesting that she seems to have no embarrassment or hesitation to proclaim, “He told me everything I did!” I wonder about this. I wonder if I could do the same thing.

I suppose I can say it like this, “This is amazing! Jesus knows every little part of the inside of me, the dirty, the hidden, the secret… and he still accepts and loves me, and chooses me and works through me! This is the good news!” I can say that without actually having to tell the whole world all the sordid details of my inner being.

Not that I should try to hide them. But I think that there’s a difference between being honest and being lurid. I think that we should be willing to share the details, to humble ourselves to admit our darkest sins, if it will help and encourage someone else. But there’s no need to talk about what happened in the past just for shock value.

Once, I heard the testimony in church of a young man. He was telling everyone the story of how the Lord had worked in his life. But to him, the biggest sin and failure was his struggles with sexual drive as a teenager. And as he told the testimony to the congregation, in his desire to be honest and transparent, he told several intimate details that were definitely uncomfortable for the ladies, the children, and especially my young daughters. It wasn’t the end of the world, and when I remember it, it’s with compassion and respect for the humble spirit that he had. But I think that when we speak, we can be honest, but we can also be wise. Not every detail is fitting for the occasion and the audience.

Let’s go on.  

Meanwhile, the disciples were urging Jesus, “Rabbi, eat something.”
But Jesus replied, “I have a kind of food you know nothing about.”
“Did someone bring him food while we were gone?” the disciples asked each other.
Then Jesus explained: “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work.  

The Lord has brought this passage to me recently about my own habits… About how my overeating habits are usually due to me not being focused on the work the Lord is giving me. It’s so easy to get distracted with anything else in life other than our life work. If your primary job right now is your children, it’s easy to get distracted with facebook or lularoe. If your primary job is writing, it’s easy to get distracted with commenting on blogs or reading books. If your primary job is to teach, or build, or find a cure for diabetes, it’s easy to get distracted with Netflix or an upcoming triathlon or deep cleaning your closet or going on a bus trip to Manhattan… It’s so easy to distract yourself and pacify yourself.

Especially when your life work is frustrating, feels futile, hard, discouraging.

Or when you don’t know what your life work is.

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I’m not saying you have to have one job, for your whole life. There might be seasons where your focus is your three little kids, and then other seasons where your focus is building a business. But whatever you’re called to, by the Lord, we should work willingly and diligently.

This is what Jesus did. Look! At age 30, he comes onto the scene. We don’t know, really, what he did before that. His father, Joseph, was a carpenter, as it says in Matthew 13. I’ve heard it explained like this: Jesus was probably working as a carpenter with Joseph. At some point, Joseph died, and Jesus stopped doing Carpentry in Nazareth, and moved to Capernaum. At that point, his work became traveling through the land, teaching the people about God the Father, healing the sick, casting out demons, and doing good works. At the end of about 3 years of this, his work changed, and he went to Jerusalem, and died there. That was his work. Then, for 3 days, his work was to bring the captive faithful out of Sheol to the Father, and then return.

His work changed as time went on. Some speculate that Joseph had to die, because Jesus had to shift allegiance from his earthly father to his heavenly Father, and as a Jewish male, he would have been in submission to his earthly father as long as he was alive. I don’t know. Maybe. It sounds like a reasonable suggestion. But at any rate, here is Jesus doing the work his heavenly Father has given him- teaching the good news of God to the people.

 

You know the saying, ‘Four months between planting and harvest.’ But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest. The harvesters are paid good wages, and the fruit they harvest is people brought to eternal life. What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike! You know the saying, ‘One plants and another harvests.’ And it’s true. I sent you to harvest where you didn’t plant; others had already done the work, and now you will get to gather the harvest.”

This is what I’ve been thinking about so much lately. This is the work my mind is fixed on. The harvest is plenty. You know, in another gospel, Jesus says,

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

I feel a strong pull on my heart when I hear this verse. I feel like everywhere I look, I see people who seem sad, empty, lost, and just wanting something.

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In the gospel of Matthew, it says,

When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

I think the Lord has been giving me more of his heart lately. I just am so grateful for the tender peace that the Lord has given me, that it makes me want it so much for other people. I don’t know, all the time, how to help people to find this awesome love that I’ve found. But the more I find how much he loves me, the more I am willing to do anything he asks me to do to reach others. I want to be a laborer in the harvest. I want to do the work of God. I don’t want to pacify myself with food or sitcoms, I want to be about my Father’s business.

I want to compel you the way the Samaritan woman did, when she ran into her town- to go hear the Mercy Man for yourself. I want to beg you to come, see, could he be the answer for your heartache and pain?

Read what happens next:

Many Samaritans from the village believed in Jesus because the woman had said, “He told me everything I ever did!” When they came out to see him, they begged him to stay in their village. So he stayed for two days,  long enough for many more to hear his message and believe. Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not just because of what you told us, but because we have heard him ourselves. Now we know that he is indeed the Savior of the world.”

I want this for you- to believe not just because of what I tell you, but because you hear him yourself. So go to him. Open the scripture for yourself, sit and let his Voice speak to you- hear the call of the Mercy Man, because he loves you so much.

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The book of John (1)This post is part of a series going through the book of John. If you’d like to start at the beginning, just click here!

Springs of Living Water

Reading from the Voice translation, I’m still working through this conversation between Jesus and the woman at the well. It’s so rich, there’s so many things that we can learn. Let’s read in John, chapter 4.

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In a small Samaritan town known as Sychar, Jesus and His entourage stopped to rest at the historic well that Jacob gave his son Joseph. It was about noon when Jesus found a spot to sit close to the well while the disciples ventured off to find provisions. From His vantage, He watched as a Samaritan woman approached to draw some water. Unexpectedly He spoke to her.
Jesus: Would you draw water, and give Me a drink?
Woman: I cannot believe that You, a Jew, would associate with me, a Samaritan woman; much less ask me to give You a drink.
Jews, you see, have no dealings with Samaritans.
Jesus: You don’t know the gift of God or who is asking you for a drink of this water from Jacob’s well. Because if you did, you would have asked Him for something greater; and He would have given you the living water.
Woman: Sir, You sit by this deep well a thirsty man without a bucket in sight. Where does this living water come from? Are You claiming superiority to our father Jacob who labored long and hard to dig and maintain this well so that he could share clean water with his sons, grandchildren, and cattle?
Jesus: Drink this water, and your thirst is quenched only for a moment. You must return to this well again and again. I offer water that will become a wellspring within you that gives life throughout eternity. You will never be thirsty again.

 

Never be thirsty again. What kind of thirst is He talking about? He’s not talking about a physical thirst, I assume. God doesn’t pretend that our physical needs will ever disappear this side of heaven.

So what kind of thirst?

That aching, longing, lonely feeling inside.

 

Woman: Please, Sir, give me some of this water, so I’ll never be thirsty and never again have to make the trip to this well.
Jesus: Then bring your husband to Me.
Woman: I do not have a husband.
Jesus: Technically you are telling the truth. But you have had five husbands and are currently living with a man you are not married to.

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What was this woman’s thirst? To be loved, to be known. To be cared for and committed to. Do you know that in that day, women could not divorce men, but men could divorce women?

Jesus was not pointing out her sin, he was pointing out her pain.

 

Where is your pain?

My pain is in my failure. I look in the mirror and see it in my overweight body, I see it in my low bank balance, in my pile of unfolded laundry, in my children who are not olympians or spelling bee champs. I see it in my sluggish ways and in my selfish attitudes. I see so clearly what could be if only… if only I were something better than what I am.

 

Yet he says I will never thirst again.

 

“I offer water that will become a wellspring within you that gives life throughout eternity. You will never be thirsty again.”

 

“Why are you thirsty again, Brianna?” I hear the gentle voice of my Lord. “Drink deep from the well.”

 

What is the truth? He doesn’t require perfection of me. He doesn’t even require success. He offers me water for my thirsty soul. He says, Sit at my feet, while I make your enemies your footstool.

Not enemies like people who are against me. 

Real enemies- pain, suffering, failure, sin, death.  

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He says, My yoke is easy and my burden is light.

He says, Ask and I’ll give the nations to you.

He says, Let me see your deepest longing, let me meet it, and fill it, until it’s running over, spilling out, splashing hope and joy onto everyone you meet.

 

He says, There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.

Woman: Sir, it is obvious to me that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped here on this mountain, but Your people say that Jerusalem is the only place for all to worship. Which is it?
Jesus: Woman, I tell you that neither is so. Believe this: a new day is coming—in fact, it’s already here—when the importance will not be placed on the time and place of worship but on the truthful hearts of worshipers. You worship what you don’t know while we worship what we do know, for God’s salvation is coming through the Jews. The Father is spirit, and He is seeking followers whose worship is sourced in truth and deeply spiritual as well. Regardless of whether you are in Jerusalem or on this mountain, if you do not seek the Father, then you do not worship.
Woman: These mysteries will be made clear by He who is promised, the Anointed One.
Jesus: The Anointed is speaking to you. I am the One you have been looking for.

Jesus. He’s the One I’ve been looking for.

 

This woman is me- hurting, skeptical, going about her day with deep historical theological wrestlings- and Jesus meets her and says, “I’m the One you’ve been looking for.”

 

Drink deep from the well.

 

This is my drink: To remember the truth. To remember the voice of the Lord in the dry and thirsty places of my life. To let the wellspring of life bubble up out of me until I’m full up and saturated and overflowing. To hear the voice of truth and believe it, when the world around me looks dark and depressing and discouraging. This is why I need never be thirsty: The well is in me. The Wellspring of life, the fountain, is in me, is churning and splashing with hope and joy, how can I be thirsty?

Drink deep, O My soul, bless the Lord, my Savior and My God. He is the One I’ve been looking for.

springs4.jpgThis post is part of an ongoing series The book of John (1)going through the book of John in order to find Jesus. Want to come along? Start at the lead page or subscribe by email above!

 

From Samaria

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?”

This is from John, chapter 4, verses 7-10.

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Before we go on, I’d love to give you a few cultural background tips to help you understand what’s going on a little more. First of all, Samaria. It says “Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.” Let’s review that a little bit.

A long time before this, Abraham is the Father of the Jewish nation. The Lord promises him a land of his own, for his descendants. The land is the land of Canaan. Years go by, and Abraham’s descendants grow numerous, and they have a long story in which the Lord really does give them the land. But one of the things the Lord tells the children of Abraham, Isaac (his son) and Jacob, (his grandson, also named Israel,) Is that they are a set-apart people. God warns them and says, “Don’t intermarry with other people groups. Stay separate. Be my people.”

And for hundreds of years, the children of Israel have a problem with that command. The constantly mingle with and marry other races and religions, and that’s not the real problem… the real problem is that they take on the gods of those nations.

And they are punished. The Lord lets them reap destruction and violence and all sorts of evils, because they just won’t obey.

Now, at some point in this long 2,000 year history of the Israelites, they are taken away to live in Assyria. Well, most of them. The poorest of them are left in the land, and the king also re-populates Canaan with non-Israelites, who intermarry with these leftover Israelites. There’s a strange story you can read in 2 Kings about 17 how these people are settling in the area of Samaria, north of Jerusalem, but they keep getting attacked by lions. So they send a message to the King of Assyria, their king, and say, “Hey. Tell us about the gods who rule this land, because we must not be worshipping them and they’re mad at us.” So this foreign king researches a little bit, and he finds a priest of the Israelites, and sends him down to teach them “how to worship the god of the land.”

Okay, the chapter goes on to say that they do. They follow his instructions. And unknowingly, they start worshipping the One True God, and the lions stop. But it also says that they won’t give up their other gods. They just add them in all together.

Fast forward. Years later in the story, some Israelites from the tribe of Judah come home and start trying to rebuild the fallen Jerusalem. At that time, the people of Samaria come down and say to them, “Let us help you! We also worship your god.” But the Israelites reply to them, “Go away from us, we want nothing to do with you.” And at that point, The Hebrews and the Samaritans become enemies. In fact, the good leaders of the Israelites even violently prevent their people from mingling with these non-kosher neighbors. They remind the people, “This is what got us into trouble in the first place!!” You can read all this in the book of Ezra and Nehemiah.

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But back to First Century Samaria. Jesus is a descendant of these Israelite people. He’s a Jewish Rabbi, and the custom of a Rabbi was to be even more holy that just the regular Israelites.  And holy, to the Israelites, means, “set apart.” Set apart from whom? Samaritans, for sure, and also- women. 

And yet here is Jesus, sitting by a well, and asking her for a drink.

There have been many things said about how phenomenal this is. How magnanimous of Jesus to talk to a Samaritan, and a woman. If you are a woman in a western society, you can’t fully grasp just how meaningful this is.

When I was a little girl, my great-grandmother had a photo album full of her travel photos. She had been all over. But what fascinated me the most was photos of her next to the Great Pyramids, and the Giant Sphinx. I asked her about them and wanted to hear about what it was like there. She waved me off. Of all the stories she would tell me, she only said, “I will never go back to the Middle East. They treat women like dogs. We paid a lot of money to stay at the nicest places and eat at the best restaurants. And the waiters won’t even look at you. They say to the man, ‘What do you want to order for her?’” She was completely disgusted.

There’s more to this attitude than just ignoring. In a culture that treats women like a second-class citizen, the most honorable men won’t look at you. But the ones less honorable are worse. They will look at you like something for their consumption. Like meat.

Women in this culture are carefully guarded by the men who care about them, because these men know- women are not safe in a culture like this. They aren’t treasured, honored, respected, or people outside of their family. They are seen as something to be used and taken, and only interacted with for the benefit of the man.

 

This is how this woman probably experiences life. In fact, later in the story we find out she has had five husbands, and the one she’s living with is not her husband. Probably out of his choice.

Do you think she expects a Jewish holy man to speak to her? Kindly??

Or want to share a drinking vessel of hers? 

 

And so she answers,

“How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

 

He asks her for a drink, and she basically throws back 400 years of history in his face. She brings out her hurts, her ill-treatments, her wounds, and his part in them, and slaps him with them. 

But this, see this: If you knew who it is that you are interacting with, you could ask him and he would give you living water.

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Jesus is interacting with you. Every moment, every day, he is there, presenting you with opportunities to interact with him and hear him and listen to him. All day. Every day. And you go about your business, you have tasks to do and things on your mind. The Samaritan woman has a huge back story. Drawing water alone in the middle of the day, most likely to avoid the women of the town- because they likely look down on her. Not only that, she has more than 400 years of history on her mind, and questions about theology and her and her people’s ill-treatment, and prophesy of things to come. Her mind is a tangle of questions and heartache, and here, she meets the One Who can give her Living Water.

 

Will she recognize him?

Will she notice how tender He is towards her?

 

Will you?

Jesus doesn’t ignore her, or treat her like dirt. He asks her for a drink, yes, but he doesn’t demand it from her. In fact, he’s willing to share her cup.

When you go about your business today, and the Lord speaks to you, will you recognize his voice? 

When he asks for a cup of cool water, will you brush him off, or will you bend down and ruffle his hair as he drinks?

Do the wounds of your life, does your back story leave you with a chip on your shoulder? Do you expect to hear the voice of the Lord as a demanding One that brings up 400 years of your sins and lays more burden on you?

Lay down your theological wrestlings and come to him like a little child. He meets her right where she is, and he wants to give her the living water. 

Expect him to love you and meet you, right in the middle of your day. Don’t throw back in his face 400 years of what you consider ill-treatment. Just listen, and ask him, and let him give you the water you need. 

 

He doesn’t throw your sins in your face. He doesn’t avoid looking at you to talk to someone else. He doesn’t want to use and abuse you, or put heavy loads on you.

 

He doesn’t deal with you according to the history of your nation, your family, or even yourself. He just comes to you, person to person, and asks you to meet him for a drink.

 

And do you know why? Because he loves you. Later in the book of Acts, he’s called “The Author of our Souls.” He truly is intimately acquainted with our grief and heartaches, he understands all the backstory of our lives and theological questions. But he is a Person, a real person, and he meets us right in the middle of where we are, because he loves us and wants to quench our thirsty souls.

But when he comes, we often miss him- we walk right by opportunities to hear him and meet him, because our minds are on other things.

So watch, today. Wait for him by the side of the well, and linger over the dishes. He’ll meet you today. Watch and listen.

 

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The book of John (1)This post is part of an ongoing series traveling through the book of John to meet the Mercy Man. If you’d like to follow along, you can subscribe by email or go to the lead page and follow at your own pace. Just click here. 

Weary

John chapter 4.

Jesus and his disciples, at least some of them, are moving on. Jesus has things to do. John the Baptist has mostly receded into the background, and John the author has changed allegiances.

Let’s see where they are.

He (Jesus) left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.

Samaria. What an awful place to be. At least, if you’re a Jewish person in the first century. Samaria was bad side of town. Samaria was where the dogs lived, where the ones you spit on live. You go around Samaria, you don’t linger. There’s nothing valuable there.

But Jesus had to go through Samaria.

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Where do you have to go through? As you pursue this life, this calling, you’ve got some ugly places to travel through. Flat tires, divorce, root canals, or kidney stones. Bankruptcy, lost children… chemo or pink slips or rejection. There’s no rest for the weary, is there?

Jesus was wearied from his journey, you know.

There’s a reference in Christianity: We go from glory to glory. Sometimes it’s used incorrectly. It doesn’t mean, we flit from one perfect day, from one victory, directly into another. Wouldn’t that be fun?

But glory to glory is from 2 Corinthians, a letter from Paul to the Corinthian church. He’s referring to us gazing at the Lord, and being changed to look like him. You know that’s the goal, right? That when we look at the Lord, we look more like him. We are changed, from glory to Glory. Let me show you the verse. This is out of the King James Version.

But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

So glory to glory. Not, we hop from mountaintop to mountaintop, no.

Real life isn’t like that. Real life has valleys and pits and swamps and detours and night time in between the mountaintops.

Jesus was wearied from the journey.

Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.  A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”

The sixth hour, by the time-keeping methods we think John used, probably meant about noon. They live in the middle east, and he sits by a well. He’s been teaching, leading, organizing, and traveling through rocky, desert-like ground. And it’s high noon.

And he needs a drink.

Jesus was human. He was weary. The Mercy man knows mercy because he knows what it’s like to be in need.

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Are you weary on your journey? There is no condemnation in needing rest and food. The Mercy man knows when you’re going through difficult and ugly places.

Sit awhile, and drink from the well. Let him restore the nourishment you need.

I was weary this morning. This weekend I had a beautiful time of prayer and intercession and connection with some of my favorite people, and I bore a lot of the responsibility and burden for it to go well. I mean by choice I bore it. I just cared so much, and I pressed in for spiritual release and protection and prayed intently for the time. It went well, and I loved it. 

But today, at home, I was exhausted.

It was tempting to sleep in, veg out in front of the TV,  eat something delicious, and to feel completely, utterly, condemned. 

I kept re-hashing everything I did wrong. I kept hearing lies that sounded really, really true, about how much I failed and how silly I was to think I had accomplished something. And how terrible, terrible of a job I did. 

I don’t need to go into detail. I tried to keep it under control. I hate half delicious, half healthy. I slept some, I did watch a movie with my son.

But the condemnation was the worst.

I was weary from the journey, and the enemy just wanted to kick me while I was down. I think this is pretty normal.

But do you know what Jesus did when He was weary?

He sat down by the well, and asked for a drink of water.

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Are you weary on your journey? Do you know what the Lord of Heaven says?

“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

We have to go to the Source when we’re weary. We can rest our physical bodies, yes, but Netflix doesn’t recharge us. He does. The enemy wants to take us from the mountain to the pit, to add insult to injury, to starve us as well as beat us. But there is shelter, there is water, there is life if we want it!

What do you do when you’re going through hard places? When your soul is weary, when your body needs rest?

Jesus is the Source of our strength. He’s the water for our souls, He’s the quencher of our thirst. Yes, we need to refresh our bodies. Sleep and water and vitamin C and even massages and vacations all have their place.

But when your soul is weary, in hard places and rough terrain, where are you drinking? Are you drinking from dirty wells, or hunting in the fridge for strong drink? Are you feeding your soul on gossip or worldly pleasures? Are you getting your nourishment from places where there is none?

Why don’t you go to Him, instead? Let him bathe your weary heart and give rest to your aching spirit.

I’m going to Him, won’t you come, too?

weary4The book of John (1)

This post is part of an ongoing series covering the book of John. You can follow by email, or you can go to the lead page and go at your own pace. Just click here. 

Friction

Remember, why are we going through the book of John? To find out who Jesus is. To see Him, to see what the scripture actually says. To take our ideas of Who Jesus is, and compare them, and let our false ideas fall away. Let’s go on.

 

John chapter 3, beginning in verse 22. John the Baptist is coming back into the story.

 

After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized (for John had not yet been put in prison).
Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification. And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.”

 

Okay. So Jesus has disciples, and one of them, we know, is the man who wrote this gospel. John the author. And John the author used to be a disciple of John the Baptist. So Jesus takes his disciples and is teaching and going around and baptizing people, and yet John the Baptist is still doing this.

And then an antagonist, (it just says, “a Jew,” which, actually, they all were,) comes and gets into an argument and THEN he tries to get John the Baptist burned up because Jesus is also baptizing, and moreover, John’s disciples are leaving and going to Jesus.  Among them, John the author, who is telling this story.

 

What do you expect to happen? If this happened in a modern church, what would you expect to happen? You would expect John the Baptist to trash talk Jesus.

How many times has someone left a group for another congregation, and people shake their heads or speak cutting words? It’s because we are all out to build our own following, and if someone isn’t with us, we’re against them.

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But this isn’t what John the Baptist does. Listen to what he says.  

 

John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.
He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all.”  

 

He humbly recognizes that Jesus is greater. In fact, he goes on to complete defend Jesus- and to make it clear that he backs everything Jesus says.

 

“He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”

 

And then see what happens:

 

“Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee.”

 

What does Jesus do? He mercifully changes things so that his servant, John, is not dishonored any longer.

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I know I’ve said before that the only perfect person in the bible is Jesus, and we have to weigh the actions and words of all the other people. But here, John gives us an excellent example to follow. Actually, they both do.

 

Especially those of us who want to be teachers.

 

Look back at the first statement John makes- “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.”

 

This is interesting. If we, who love the word and love to teach it, have received knowledge, insight, or wisdom, we ought to remember that it all comes from heaven. It’s all from God. We know and understand nothing on our own. So when we teach, we are only passing on what we have received ourselves, undeservedly.

 

And so, if another teaches more or even better, instead of being envious of their ministry, following, gifts, or publishing contract, we should acknowledge that they, like us, are only passing on the gifts from heaven they received. We shouldn’t discredit them or down talk them. We shouldn’t try to build our reputation by putting down another’s.

This reminds me of 1 Corinthians, chapter 1, beginning in verse 10. Let’s read it in the Voice translation.

 

My brothers and sisters, I urge you by the name of our Lord Jesus, the Anointed, to come together in agreement. Do not allow anything or anyone to create division among you. Instead, be restored, completely fastened together with one mind and shared judgment.  I have heard troubling reports from Chloe’s people that you, my siblings, are consumed by fighting and petty disagreements.
What I have heard is that each of you is taking sides, saying, “I am with Paul,” or “I am with Apollos,” or “I am with Cephas,” or “I am with the Anointed One.”  Has the Anointed One been split up into many small pieces? Do you think Paul was crucified for you? Were you ceremonially washed through baptism into the name of Paul? Absolutely not!
Now I am thankful that I baptized only Crispus and Gaius,  so none of you can falsely declare you were baptized in my name.  (Now wait, as I think about it, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; if there are others in your community whom I baptized, I cannot recall at this moment.)
The mission given to me by the Anointed One is not about baptism, but about preaching good news. The point is not to impress others by spinning an eloquent, intellectual argument; that type of rhetorical showboating would only nullify the cross of the Anointed.

 

And this is the message to all of the teachers in the church- to come together in agreement. To not allow anything or anyone to create division among us. To be restored, completely fastened together with one mind and shared judgement.

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It’s interesting here that Paul talks about baptism, and how he did not baptise much. And remember above, that is says, Jesus himself did not baptize, but his disciples did it. It was for the same reason, I believe, that Jesus did not. So that no one would be able to assert his importance over another. “I was baptized by Pastor Big Wig of the Great City Church.” “…Oh yeah? I was baptized by Jesus himself.”

No, but we are all baptized, humbly, by the person who came before us in the church.

In fact, this is how we receive so much- through humility and teachability, by learning from those who have gone before us.

 

And so if we are lacking in revelation and understanding, we should not puff ourselves up and tear others down. We should humble ourselves, and learn, and seek the Lord.

And then let it be true of us what John said-

“The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.”

I’m not going to lie, it’s not easy to do. I write and teach and want to share the good things God has given me, and it’s hard to be passed over or ignored, or to feel put aside. It’s not wrong to have a yearning to use our gifts, or to teach the things we’ve learned.

But I have to watch carefully that in my desire to do this, I’m not pushing for the sake of my own fame, or glorifying in my own success. When I write, or sing, or create, or teach, and it goes well, it’s exhilarating, it is.

 

But I am learning more and more  the idea of using these things to please the Lord- and sometimes that means my gifts are not noticed or valued by the world. When that happens, it’s easy to look at others and be envious of their large platforms and ministries.

I have always wanted to be liked, I want so much to be affirmed and valued and praised. But I want my heart to be so turned towards the Lord that I delight in his affirmation and praise, and I can give and teach to one or thousands, and either way, I am satisfied.

I’m not there. I want to see a post go viral, of course. I want to sing and have audiences want to listen. And there are times when the Lord asks me to do things that I’m loathe to do because I’m afraid of what people will think.

But when I see this in the scripture, how John humbled himself, and in return Jesus mercifully made the situation less awkward and painful, It makes me trust him more. It makes me feel more willing to do some of these things that I’m scared of doing.

I want to fix my eyes on Him, the author and finisher of my faith. I want to do like Jesus says to Peter at the end of this book- to stop thinking about others and just remember that Jesus says, “What’s that to you, even if I were to let him live forever? You follow me.

That’s how to avoid friction. We all just keep going towards Him, right?

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The book of John (1)This post is part of an ongoing series going through the book of John. You can subscribe by email using the link on this page, or you can browse by passage at the lead page. Just click here.