10 things I’ve learned about How to Teach Kids about the Lord

Sooo you’re going to teach a Sunday school class, but you feel a little overwhelmed? It’s okay, I’ve got your back. I’ve been teaching kids in church settings and non-church settings about Bible things for over 20 years, and I’m going to give you my 10 best tips. I hope they help! Let’s jump right in.

The first, number one, most important thing to do- is pray. Seriously. I know this sounds elementary, but before I teach any kids, I take time to talk to the Lord myself, and ask him to speak through me, and to give me just the right words. I invite the Holy Spirit to open the ears the child’s heart so that they can know how much the Lord loves them and is calling to them. I sometimes also ask for any lying spirits or strongholds to be shut up so that the child won’t be hindered from hearing the truth! It helps most if you are praying for the lesson while you study or write it, and praying for the child regularly, but I also pray while driving to the meeting, and I pray over the room before the kids get there! Prayer is the MOST IMPORTANT PART. Remember, you are the vessel of the Spirit- but it is the Spirit who does the work! And then… Pray with them! Don’t be shy. Talk to God like you talk to a friend. Show them by example that they can talk to God in imperfect, normal language just like you do.

2. Trust God to use you, just as you are. Don’t beat yourself up about not being smart enough, learned enough, mature enough, or especially- good enough. Most of us were not brought to Christ by perfect, seminary educated theologians. We were won to Christ by the love shown through an ordinary human being! Take a deep breath and give freely, as you have been given. And don’t try to be someone you aren’t! It’s easy to try to emulate someone else’s teaching or speaking style. But you are YOU. Your flavor of speech and manor of dress are okay, and your story and your witness is more powerful than trying to put on a “perfect show.” Be real. You don’t have to reveal every little struggle and doubt you are having, but being honest about your relationship and walk with God helps the kids to see that THEY don’t have to be perfect, either. It helps them to realize, “Hey, if she can follow God, I can too!” And on the contrary- if you seem too perfect, when that child can’t live up to the “perfect” they think you are, they will tend to believe a lie that says that they can never be a Christian like you are. So be yourself.

3. Memory! Okay, here’s the thing. No matter what the occasion you have to minister to kids, use the opportunity to teach them words from Scripture. Even if they forget you, forget the bible story, even if they forget the main point of your lesson and that they ever even came to your class, someday in the future, the Holy Spirit will absolutely pull those memory verses out of their deep memory for them in the future. (Isaiah 55:11) But please, please, please, make it fun, and not a drudgery. Some kids will find it really easy, and some kids will struggle with it a little. Competition and drilling doesn’t work for a lot of kids, but music and teamwork works for almost all of them!

4. Kids can understand more than you think. They think about things like death and heaven and fear and the devil. Don’t try too much to “clean up” bible stories or even your own testimony. We never want to glamorize sin, but honestly? Many children these days have seen murder, adultery, and worse on their TV’s, ipods, and in their own homes. They don’t come to church to hear sweet little stories that sound like nursery rhymes. They want to know if the Bible talks about the important things in life. And it does. So tell them.

5. That being said, kids need words they can understand. A ten cent word that works is better than a ten dollar word they would have to look up in a dictionary. Use simple language as much as possible, even for kids who are “older.” Unchurched kids have no idea what words like “Holy,” “Righteous,” “Sanctified,” “baptized,” and even “sin” mean. You can use them, but ONLY if you explain them clearly in clear language every class period you use them. I assume that if their public school teacher would never say it, they don’t know what it is. Also something to note? Most kids these days are Bible illiterate. You can’t refer Moses, Joshua, the Israelites, or David, and have them know what you’re talking about. You have to start from scratch if you want to tell a narrative from the Bible. ( For instance, to talk about the battle of Jericho, I would say, “Today I’m going to tell you about a group of people who lived a long time ago. God promised them that if they followed him, he would give them a home in a new land. One day, their leader, a man named Joshua…” and then I go on. )

6. Kids understand more than you think when it comes to unspoken communication, too. If you are irritated with them, frustrated with a fellow teacher, or just plain in a bad mood, they know it. The best thing to do is take a deep breath and be honest. Say something like, “Hey guys, I just wanted you to know that I have a headache today. Please bear with me, I am trying my best.” They are usually understanding, and it’s better than having them wonder if it’s them you don’t like.

7. Because… this is probably the biggest part: Kids want to be loved. Honestly? You can be the coolest, funniest, most entertaining, educated, and prepared teacher out there- but if you don’t love them, they will. not. care. They won’t care! Kids can tell the difference between being loved and being endured. Being tolerated or being celebrated. Kids can see it, and maybe for a little while they might continue to come for the pizza or games, but if they aren’t loved, they will never open up to you- or let you speak into their lives. You can only influence them for the Lord if they feel the love.

8. Relax. Have fun. The curriculum is only a tool. The lesson is only a guideline. Every class you teach is an opportunity, a short window that you have, to look at a child, to ask the Holy Spirit to let you be the Lord Jesus’ hands, heart, and maybe voice to that child. Remember that Jesus blessed the children. So you do the same! If that’s all you do, sometimes that’s all you were called to do that day. Sometimes the most productive teaching sessions are just sitting sessions, where you sit on the rug with them and let them talk, and talk, and talk, and talk… Because you’re teaching them, “You are seen, and loved, and cared about.” You are doing to them what the Lord does for us. And maybe, like we should, they will someday learn to listen to the one who listens to them.

9. The only eternal things are people. A million years from now, those children will still exist, and your building will be only a memory. Remember that when the kids break something or run in the hallway. Rules are great for keeping order, and kids do thrive better in order than chaos. But the rules are for the people’s good. When we value the building over the children, we communicate to the kids that the stones and the carpet are worth more than them. We can always get more stones and carpet. But a lost soul is lost forever.

10. When the Lord calls you to do something, the best feeling you can have is to feel unqualified. Use that feeling to press in to the Lord and ask him to do the work through you. If you feel confident and skilled, you’re likely to lean on your own confidence and skills! The Lord says He lives with the humble and answers the cry of the low. And honestly, I think if you ask him for help with ministering to a young person, that’s one of his favorite prayers to answer. So go ahead- volunteer to teach Sunday School or VBS. Prepare your lessons as diligently as you can- and then the Lord use you- just who you are. I bet he surprises you. I bet you learn more than you end up teaching! I sure have.

Well, that’s my top 10. It’s not exhaustive, but I hope it encouraged you. If you’re reading this, and you have kids in your life that you want to reach for the Lord, I believe the Lord will give you the words and the wisdom you need to do it. Just ask him.

See ya!

Brianna

What the Lord has Done for Me

He has never let me go.

He has never abandoned me.

He has never unjustly chastened me.

He has never been unkind, or vicious, or mean spirited.

He has never withheld his love.

He has never forgotten me.

He has loved me with an everlasting love.

His right hand has led me, even when I pulled away from him.

When I was faithless, He was faithful.

He was my shield and my guard, even when I didn’t see it.

He has answered countless prayers, in ways I didn’t see or understand, but also in miraculous ways that I did see.

He has taught me how good he is.

He has been my comforter.

He has been my friend.

He has been my teacher and counselor.

He has been my encouragement and my buffeter, my stronghold and safe place.

He has redeemed me from the pit of hell. He not only made me, gifted me with life, but then he bought me back when I was lost in sin. He gave his son, he died a painful disgusting, terrible death, so that his blood would pay for my rebellious and selfish and wicked ways.

And after he bought me back, He called me lovely beloved child of God, co-heirs with his perfect, beautiful son. He gave me an inheritance I didn’t deserve. He called me righteous and chosen.

He picked me up, turned me around, set my feet on a solid ground, Hallelujah!

He gave me hope and a future, his plans prospered me and gave me peace.

He set me in a family where I was taught of him and brought to him, and loved and accepted.

He brought me a husband who is faithful and wonderful and fun and forgiving. He gave me a beautiful home in a peaceful nation where I enjoy freedom and prosperity and the luxury of fellowship with other believers, and the chance to choose my days and my ways.

He gave me three beautiful and intelligent and compassionate children, and the fun of spending every day with them.

He gave me a thousand beautiful people to surround me, and fill my life with conversation and laughter and beauty and support and adventures in music and art and hiking and swimming and bonfires and food and warm affection.

He gave me every beautiful thing on this earth for my enjoyment- mountains and sunsets and rainbows and ballet and puppies and the Caribbean waters and the dark woods of Alaska and the happy tulips in spring. And then he gave me his word- to guide me to what is best, to warn me of what is wrong, to lead me in the way everlasting.

He gives me each new morning, like a little gift, unwrapped, a new chance to find more of Him, and how wonderful He is, and how wonderful it is to walk after him, to search for him and find him like a hidden treasure.

He gave me the heritage of thousand upon thousands of righteous ones, a bright cloud of witnesses, who have already gone before me and danced out lives of faith, full of pain and glory and joy and sorrow, and he gave me the blessing of their testimony- written and spoken and sung, all of us like the blind feeling the elephant, and describing to each other a bit of the Lord that we are experiencing, so that only together we can get a glimpse of the Great, Glorious, wonderful God that He is!

He gave me a future- an eternity of further up and further in, where each day is a new beginning of the bright, great joy it will be to know Him, really know Him, the way He knows us.

And he knows me, He really knows me. He sees to the depth of my heart, and He loves me. He sees where I stumble, where I fall, and he lifts me up, and tenderly nurses my wounds, and he makes all things work for my good, and he goes ahead of me and prepares my way, and he doesn’t scold me over my failures, but overwhelms me with his generous grace. He genuinely cares for me, and wants to see me succeed- to become just as his Son is- fully loved and fully loving. He is not slow to forgive, He is not lax in his provision for me. He is abundant, overflowing, He is good, always.

There is a lot more. But do you know what? He would do the same for you, if you want.

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. 

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.

 

Answers

John, Chapter Three. Let’s read out of the New King James Version this time.

There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.  This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”
Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

 

Okay. Hold up. He starts in by saying, listen. You’re from God.

 

And right away, before he says anything else, Jesus interrupts.

 

“Unless you’re born again, you can’t see the kingdom of God.”

 

Did he ask about the kingdom of heaven? Is that what he was asking?

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I guess I have to assume that’s what Nicodemus’ deep question was, because that’s what Jesus answered. He just cut right to the point.

 

Jesus does that with me a lot, too. I guess that’s what I want him to do. When I go to a bible study or prayer meeting or church service, I want to hear truth that meets the questions in my heart- the questions and hurts that I’m actually battling. Far too often I go and hear good advice, or doctrine, or pleasant words or sometimes correcting rebuke- but it is so rarely meeting me at the point I’m actually at.

 

But Jesus isn’t like that. Jesus looks at us and knows, right away, what our questions and struggles are.

 

You know, for most of my life I’ve been reading the bible, and reading Christian books, and listening to Christian radio, and most every time I’m listening, I’ve usually got some question or burden on me, and most every time I’m listening- I’m looking for answers. And most of the time, I am the sort of person who keeps pushing until I find the answer.

 

But I think that lots of times people come to the church, or open their bible to study, and the message doesn’t meet them where they are at, and so they shut the book or turn off the preacher, and sadly, give up.

 

Are you like this? Do you try to do devotions, but nothing makes sense, and you don’t know how to make it have any application to your life? Do you go to church but the sermons go over your head, or worse, make you feel farther from God?

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I have to tell you- unfortunately, this is not unusual. For hundreds, even thousands of years, people have had questions, and they go to the church, and sometimes it helps. For me, it has helped. I’ve found the Answer I’ve been looking for.

But for other people, it doesn’t help. They come in and drift out, or worse, they come in and are chased out, and leave thinking the church, and therefore God, are lies and liars.

 

Even in Jesus’ day.

 

Look at Nicodemus. He was a leader in the church, although it wasn’t called the church back then. But it was a leader of God’s people, and he was among those who were supposed to teach the people good things, and lead them to God. And yet, when Jesus came, the Son of God, performing miracles, even though he said “We know you are from God,” implying that the other religious rulers knew it, too, he went to him alone, at night. Secretly. The rest of them didn’t want to go. This is not good! This means that the God’s people didn’t want God! And it also means that they probably were no help to the people. 

 

The reason why people ran to Jesus and followed him and looked for him at night was because Jesus met their heart’s cries. He had the word from God for them, directly, exactly what they were hungry for. The religious rulers obviously weren’t doing that, or people wouldn’t have been so hungry for it. 

And do you know what? The religious rulers of the day didn’t like it. They were against Jesus, and in turn, he was against them. He spoke most harshly towards those were supposed to be his biggest leaders. They were religious, but they were not on God’s side. They were no longer doing the work of God’s people- teaching the people good things, and leading them to God. 

 

Some people draw the conclusion that all religion is wrong. I don’t. Jesus himself said he would “build his church.” And God Almighty ordained the priests of the temple. I am not a religious anarchist.

But I do think that too often our religion, our organized and traditional methods of finding the Lord can get stale and rote and stop meeting people where they need to be met.

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The solution is clear- we have to meet Jesus ourselves, not just go to the church or Christian books or Christian music or Christian this or that.  Whether we are on the outside of the church, or whether we are leaders. We have to not lose touch with him. We have to go, like Nicodemus did. 

We have to go, and find him ourselves, and ask him our questions. Or just go, and say anything- and let him answer the questions we don’t ask.

What are you doing tonight? Because you can go and find him. You’ve got things in your heart, I know, that bother you and plague you and stress you out, and he has answers. 

answers 4The book of John (1)

This post is part of a continuing series covering the book of John, bit by bit. You can follow by subscribing above, or you can go to the lead page and take it at your own pace.

 

Cana

John chapter two starts the stories. They’re both easier to read and more difficult to interpret. It’s easy to take a statement like, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth,” and make a doctrine out of it. But when you read the stories of what happened, it’s more difficult. The first two stories that John lists here in chapter are extremely difficult. First, Jesus changes water into wine. And second, he makes a whip and drives people out of the temple.

We don’t usually take these actions and make a direct doctrine. “…We should all change water into wine.” “…We should all braid cords into whips for important times of… driving people places.” Well, someone somewhere has made those statements. But not usually.

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Instead, traditionally, we take these stories and try to find broad themes and meanings behind them, and apply those to our lives.

But that’s where it gets tricky. Everyone who reads a story has their own point of view when they read it, and so we see things in the story that others may not notice. This can be good and bad.

On the one hand, the more you read the bible, the more you see new things and learn more about this God who is beyond understanding, but whom we try to know more and more. When you read and study with other people, you hear things you never thought before and learn things you’ve never considered.

On the other hand, sometimes people’s interpretations and conclusions are just wrong.

Sometimes, even yours.

In particular, it’s interesting that we all usually have some preconceived notion of right and wrong, and Who God is, and what He’s like, and when we come to the bible, unfortunately, we often filter the story to fit  what we already believe.

THIS IS THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF WHAT WE SHOULD DO.

Because listen! The BIBLE tells the truth about God! We shouldn’t try to fit the Scriptures to our ideas… we should and let them re-shape and refine and just plain CORRECT what we think about God!

Okay. So are you ready? We’re going to read about Jesus changing water into wine. We are going to Cana, in Galilee, to see what the Mercy Man was up to.  John chapter 2, verse 1.

 

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.

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(Wait, real quick:  Jesus’ mother, of course, is Mary, who is not mentioned by name in this gospel so far. There’s no mention of Joseph, and in case you’re wondering, there’s some speculation that he must have died by this time. Jesus is about 30 years old when this story starts, by the way. Let’s go on.)

Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Dear Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”

Okay, just THINK for a minute about all that this tells about who Jesus is, and what he’s like. Remember that we’re going through to find out what who the Mercy Man is, and we want to let what the Bible says outweigh what we think we know about him. So let’s make a list of what this story would tell us about him if we didn’t know anything else about him. 

  • He has a mother.
  • He’s invited to weddings, and he goes.
  • He’s living life. This tells us he’s not some a mystical god who floats on purple clouds. He’s very aware of normal life, because we see right here that he lived it.
  • His mother goes to him with a problem. Hm. This is interesting.
  • Here’s another interesting thing: She talks to him quite normally. Though he’s the Son of God, she doesn’t use any fancy language.
  • He, also, responds to her normally, with kind affection. Some translations leave out the “Dear,” and it sounds really harsh and demeaning. But I don’t think that is the correct tone to read it in at all. It was definitely “dear woman.”
  • It’s also interesting that she goes to him and doesn’t wait for him to notice.

 

Let’s hang out on that one for a few minutes. Now, we can’t take everything the characters in the bible do and say, “This is in the bible, so it must be right.” Not even Mary. The only person in the BIble, the only person in history, who did EVERYTHING right, was Jesus. So we can’t build a doctrine that says, “Mary went to Jesus and didn’t wait for him to notice, so we must always go to Jesus and not wait for him.” That doesn’t work. Instead, we just look at it and say, “That’s what she did. Should she have done this? Would I have done it like this?”

Anyway, okay. So here Mary comes with a problem. The wine is gone. The wine. Wow. What a controversial story to start out. If you had never heard this story before, you might think that Jesus would say some pithy proverb about how people shouldn’t drink so much, it’s not wise. But that’s not what happens. What happens is that he says,

“Why are you telling me about this? It’s not my time yet.”

This is a very interesting answer. This whole interaction shows so many things. First, it shows that Mary believed that Jesus was capable of doing something about the problem.  I’m guessing she wasn’t expecting him to run to the market for more. Yet there is no other record in this gospel or any in our bible that says there was any other miracle before this, so how did she know he would be able to solve this problem?

The second thing that it shows is that Mary believed that Jesus would WANT to do something about this problem. She knew he would care. How did she know this?

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I think the answer to both of these questions is because she knew Him. For thirty years, she had known Him. She went to him with a problem that she knew he could solve, and would solve, because after 30 years of knowing him, she knew what he was capable of, and what his character was.

This is so cool to me. We already know, from just this tiny conversation, so much about Jesus. We know that his mother related to him in a way that she knew- He can solve problems and he WANTS to solve problems. He cares, and he has power.

Wow.

Okay, but that’s not even all.

The really fascinating thing to me is that Jesus initially says no.

Not no, directly, but come on. “Why are you asking me? It’s not my time yet,” is very, very, much, “NO.”

And yet… And yet.

Mary said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

For thirty years and nine months, since the angel told Mary she would bear the Son of God, Mary has been anxiously waiting for Him to fulfill his purpose. For thirty years.

And up until now, how many times has he said, “My time has not yet come?”

Why does he say that anyway?

It’s because he is following God, his Father, He is leaning on the leading of the Spirit, and up until now, He has not heard the word, “It’s time.”

God’s time is perfect, we know this. Many, many times, we hear people tell us when things are waiting or delayed… “God’s time! All in His time.” It’s almost a doctrine. God’s timing. We shouldn’t push or press, God will do things in his time. When we don’t understand, well, “it’s just not God’s time.” It’s used to comfort people with unanswered prayers, it’s used to console ourselves when we are disappointed. “God’s Time” is something that we don’t understand and we can’t do anything about, right? That’s what we’re taught, that’s what we believe.

But this story flies in the face of that.

Mary said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Mary directly hears the voice of God telling her, “It’s not my time yet,” and she turns around and says, “Get ready,” and you know what happens. He performs a miracle.

Mary knows him, knows his character, knows his capabilities, knows him intimately, and that changes everything. 

Build your theology on that. Take your old ideas of “God’s timing,” set them next to that, and compare them. Does your doctrine align with what the Word says He does? Does your idea of how God acts compare to what this story says?  

If not, what are you going to do about it?

I’ve already written so many words here, and the story isn’t over. But you just consider that for a little while, okay? And come back and we can read the rest of the story later.

In God’s time. 😉

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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 follow along, you can subscribe or head to the lead page and go at your own pace. Just click here.

Strange Things

The end of the first Chapter of John. We’re in the last few verses, numbers 49-51.

Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

 

What a strange verse. Actually, what a strange chapter altogether. Let’s list some of the strangest things we’ve seen. 

  1. Jesus being the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
  2. The Holy Spirit descending from heaven like a Dove.
  3. The whole “word became flesh” thing. Actually, Jesus being the Word.
  4. Jesus being the Son of God.
  5. The Messiah. (What even is that?)

 

Okay, let’s acknowledge right away that this is a spiritual book, and it’s a completely different book than the modern absolutely non-spiritual texts that we read all the time. I mean, we live in the early 21st century. As it’s been said, we are modern, scientific people. We deal in observable, provable facts. We want scientific reasons to back up the things we believe. And now here we have a book, the Bible, full of fantastical, inexplicable, strange phrases and words, and they say, “You have to have faith to believe.”

So strange.

But let’s consider a few things. First of all, let’s acknowledge that we are spiritual beings. You know it. You know that there is a You that is more than your body, because you are not a purely physical creature. You know that there is more to you than just your mind, because you can still exist when your mind is injured or affected by a drug. You know you have experiences that are unexplained by physical reasons. Why literature makes you cry and music makes you dance and you want to hug your grandmother. These things are emotional and often irrational. But there is more to you than just emotions.

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There is more to everything, in fact. Those who want to deny that there is a God often want to postulate that the world is a purely physical thing. That nothing exists that cannot be seen.

This is such a pale, sad state of denial. There are things that cannot be seen, and still exist. Love. Hope. Adventure. Despair.

There is more.

If you want to think there is nothing more, I am very sorry for you. I agree that the physical world is beautiful and magnificent and beyond our understanding, and that if we studied for a billion years there would still be more things to learn about it. It’s enough, if it was all there was. I’m not complaining. I love the physical world. I love the galaxies and the deep sea and photons and microbes, I love algebra and geometry and classic sculpture. I am very appreciative of it. It’s wonderful. But the delectable treats in a French bakery do not mean anything for the existence of Thai cuisine. And the phenomenon of the physical reality does not preclude the existence of the spiritual.

 

There is a spiritual world. And what’s more, we live in it and we can know of it, and it is wonderful.  

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The physical is experienced simply, frankly, with our senses. The spiritual is experienced rarely by our senses, and more often in other ways. Here’s the thing. In Western society, we place a lot of value on what we can see and touch and prove. In many ways, we say they are the only real things. But the spiritual things… They’re real, too, only they’re not as tangible as the blocks we’re used to playing with. 

The things of the spirit are like a series of riddles. And unfortunately, in order to ease our discomfort, we Westerners just decide to write off these things. We say there is no spiritual side, or we discount it very much. Some people are so uncomfortable with intangible things that they even discount emotions… actually, any abstract things. Art, music, love, honor… these things get pushed back into closets and the television gets turned up, because they’re too strange to look at, let alone consider. Instead, we talk about the price of meat and the rain and the new tires on the car.

I think that other cultures do it better in some ways- they don’t shut out the spiritual experiences, they don’t hush up talk about dreams or ghosts or strange voices.

There are downsides, of course, to opening yourself widely to all spiritual experiences. There are evil things out there, you know. 

But they acknowledge that the spiritual exists, and what’s more, they acknowledge that it’s difficult to understand.

Maybe that’s the hurdle with us, we don’t want to look stupid.

 

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As we look through this spiritual book from God, you might feel stupid sometimes. Things get confusing and weird. There’s language about circumcision and sacrifice and blood and the spirit and the Bride of Christ and angels ascending and descending on the Son of God, there are all these weird things that don’t make sense and are completely out of the realm of the things you’re reading about on Facebook and the things in Target and the things that you hear at work. 

And that’s okay.

It is completely okay to pick up this book, this book from God, and have it be foreign and strange and weird, and to feel out of your element. To feel small. It’s okay. 

 The truth is, the more you read, the more you will understand why Jesus is the lamb of God, slain from the foundations of the world. The more you will get references, like inside jokes that are not jokes at all, but beautiful and solemn and sweet, and like honey to your soul.

The more you read, the more the Spirit of the Living God, who raised Christ from the dead, will whisper inside of your heart and help you to see with your spiritual eyes, and hear with your spiritual ears, until the spiritual is as real to you as the physical, until heaven is your home and earth is where you’re passing through.

This might sound exciting to you- or scary. But I want to tell you that if you believe, you will see great things. You will see angels ascending and descending on the Son of God, and you might even learn what that means.

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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 follow along, you can subscribe or head to the lead pageand go at your own pace. Just click here

 

Follow Me.

John 1:40-50. Let’s read this whole part.
One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).
The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.”

So much here! First of all, let’s talk about what Jesus did. Remember, we are here to know the Mercy Man. 

First, Jesus sees Simon and gives him a new name. Then, he sees Philip and says, “Follow me!” Then Nathanael. Jesus looks at him and sees him- really sees him. He tells him where he is physically, and he tells him what’s in his deepest heart.

Whoa.

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This is so beautiful. Do you realize that this is what happens to us? When we come to Jesus, he looks at us and knows us completely- inside and out- and loves us.

He knows our past, he knows our failures, he knows even the terrible things of us- and He gives us a new name, and he says, “Follow me!”

Amazing.

But how does he do this? How you do know it’s for you? Wasn’t it just for these special men? The chosen ones?

 

No. You are a chosen one, beloved, if you have chosen him.follow 2

 

 

You see, later in the gospel there is a verse that says, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” There is a whole discussion in theology about who is chosen and there’s plenty of very smart people who can argue both sides about whether we choose God or he chooses us. But suffice it to say that you, right now, saying “I choose God,” is a sign that He has chosen you.

Some people can be fatalistic. They say, “Well, I’m probably not one of God’s, he chooses anyway, what can I do?”

This is a silly way. It’s like hanging back at the end of the line, and saying, “What’s the use trying to get in?” When the person at the gate wants to let anyone in.

 

You are chosen, you are called, and I know this because he calls to everyone, and if you are hearing him, and hope is springing in your heart that you WANT to be called, than I know it’s you he’s calling.

 

He’s calling you, and He sees you, and he knows you, and He loves you.

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He sees where you are right now, and he has good plans for you, and good work for you to do, and besides that- a reward. A good reward.

 

And that part about a new name? That wasn’t just for Simon. He looked at Simon, which means, “listen,” and called him Peter, which means, “Rock.” Jesus looked at Simon and basically said, “I know your future, and I have plans for you, and they’re good.” He looked at what Peter was created to be and called Him to it, and he does the same for you.

 

He looks right at you, and says,

“Follow me.”

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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 follow along, you can subscribe or head to the lead page and go at your own pace. Just click here

What are you looking for?

 

Going on in the book of John, chapter 1, we are in verse 35.

The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”  The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “Where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.

Here is John the Baptist, again, with two of his disciples. And this is where the author John makes his entrance, only without being named. He is one of the two disciples. The other’s name is Andrew. John, the Author, is relaying information only he or Andrew could have known- that John the Baptist said this about Jesus.

And then John the author and Andrew both leave John the Baptist and follow Jesus.

Do you think this was hard for John? If it was, he knew it was right. He knew he was there to prepare the hearts for Christ. I don’t think John was perfect, he might have been disappointed or sad to see followers go. It’s never easy to watch people leave, it feels like rejection. But sometimes you have to let people go so they can find Jesus for themselves, and not just follow you.

At any rate, when they caught up to Jesus, he turned and looked at them, and asked them a fascinating question.

“What are you seeking?”

Some translations say it other ways. “What are you looking for?” “What do you want?”

But Jesus looked at them, saw them coming after him, and asked it.

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You’re going after Jesus right now- by reading this, by reading the book of John- you’re following on his trail. And I think that Jesus does the same thing with you. He knows you’re there, and he turns, looks you in the face, and asks,

“What are you looking for?”

Why do you go after Jesus? Why wonder at all about God? Why seek Him? Why do you care? What is in your heart that you think he will meet?

Is it questions? Is it enlightenment and personal development? Is it the mysteries of the universe? The meaning of life? Do you go after him for comfort and acceptance, for something to ease the pain of life?

Already in my writing I’ve begged you to come after him with promises. I’ve told you of the hope I’ve found in Him… has this caught your ear at all? Before you read any further, sit back, close yourself from my words, and answer this yourself.

What are you looking for?

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The disciples do not answer directly. I think, if I understand the historical context at all, that these were looking for the Messiah, the Christ, as John the Baptist said, “The lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” Many have postulated that the disciples were a group of revolutionaries who were looking for a leader to overthrow their occupying government- the Romans. Others have said that they were looking for the heir to David’s throne- a Hebrew King who would bring peace to their nation.

But I think it’s interesting that John the Baptist preached a repentance of sins, and then when he told his two disciples that this man “took away the sins of the world,” the two disciples immediately turned to follow him. This suggests to me that these two, at least, John and Andrew, were concerned with their sins. And this is as it should be.

 

We have to have a knowledge of our sins before we can come to him, really. Or at least, when we look at Jesus, and his role as the lamb of God, we need to stop and search ourselves and our position regarding sin.

You know, sin is the wicked thing we inherit since the Garden of Eden. It is not just a word that is a noun, meaning a wicked deed that is done, it is an abstract thing that is stuck to us, deep inside of us, that causes us to do those wicked things.

Sin is nebulous. It is both evil and lack of good. It is both hatred and withholding of love. It is both violent and stingy. Sin is falling short of God’s perfection. He is loving and kind and good to everyone, and whenever we aren’t, we show our sin.

 

I’ve heard people say that because there is goodness in people, that there can’t be sin. I’ve also heard people say that there’s no possible way to be good without God. I don’t know that either of these are true. I think that there is a measure of goodness in all of us while we are here on earth, because we are God’s creation. We were intended to belong to Him, and he put good gifts in all of us. It is not that we do good that proves that we are without sin, but that we cannot NOT do wrong that proves there is sin in us.

 

It’s true, this sin is what makes us human. None of us are perfect. At least, on this side of the Garden. And you might say, “I’m not that bad.” You might think that compared to some, you’re mostly a saint.

And this is where Jesus looks at you and says, “What do you want?”

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If you come to Jesus because you’re curious, but you’re satisfied with yourself, and the world around you, and you see nothing you want that you cannot get yourself, you will likely meet him and walk away.

There is a story in the bible of a man coming to Jesus, and asking him, “How do I live forever?”

It’s a funny question. No one can live forever. But this man, who the bible calls “rich, young, and a ruler,” was looking for something. He had riches, he had youth, and he had position. What more can you want in life? Maybe love or meaning… perhaps he had those. But he was still unsatisfied. Maybe he feared death. Maybe he had recently had a brush with it. At any rate, he wants to know, “Jesus, what do I have to do to have eternal life?”

I think that deep inside, he could still see that something was missing. Riches, youth, position and honor didn’t do it.

I’ve heard that there is a high rate of depression and suicide attempts in lottery winners, because the money reveals that the problems in their lives were more than just money problems. Maybe this is what the rich young ruler was experiencing. Money didn’t solve everything.

If you come to Jesus, knowing that you’re seeking something- knowing that on your own, you aren’t enough, you will find the answer to what your heart wants.

He is the ultimate satisfier of needs. He is the author and finisher of you, his creation. He is the lover of your soul.

John and Andrew answer his question strangely. They don’t answer it at all. They just ask, “Teacher, where are you staying?”

And Jesus replies, “Come and see.” Then see what happens.

So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ).

 

I think that what happened was that they followed him, and when they were with him, they found the answer to the questions in their hearts.

John, the Author, doesn’t say what happened that day. He doesn’t tell about their conversation or what happened at all back at the house, where he was staying. But at the end of the day, he goes and finds his brother, and says this telling thing: We have found the Messiah.

As in- we have found what we’ve been looking for.

This is what happens. We go after Him who created our hearts, and we find what our hearts want the most.

So… what are you looking for?

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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 follow along, you can subscribe or head to the lead page and go at your own pace. Just click here