Archive for December, 2014

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

December 30, 2014

The crescendo of the holiday season’s gift giving is over. No one is talking about giving gifts this soon after Christmas. In most cases, no one is talking about gifts they received this Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanza. It seems that gift giving season is over. This is one of my main gripes about secular Christmas. It is an event rather than a lifestyle, but I digress. Christ was the gift. Christ is the gift, and Christ will be the gift – The Gift that Keeps on Giving.

Undoubtedly, The Gift That Keeps on Giving was first used in commerce to promote “talking machines“, “talking machine records” etc. in 1924, and was registered as a trademark in the United States in 1927. However, that phrase predates the trademark. The phrase has been used to promote appliances, banks, Kodak cameras, and a myriad of other products and services over the past millennium. Today, The Gift That Keeps on Giving is in reference to Christ, His Spirit and His Word.

In contrast, gifts of this world are truly exciting, but once the wrappings have been ripped off and the novelty of the gift has lost its appeal, the gift becomes another utilitarian if not ignored or discarded item. The gift of God never loses its appeal to those who are not perishing. Since Christ is the Word, the Word of God is too The Gift That Keeps on Giving. Today is a classic example. I was reading John 16 again. I have read that many times especially over the past month, but the Word of God is living and powerful.

John 16

25 “Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. 26 In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. 27 No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28 I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.”

29 Then Jesus’ disciples said, “Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. 30 Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.”

31 “Do you now believe?” Jesus replied. 32 “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.

33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

I have read this passage multiple times over the past month, but today, God showed me something new. This is how the Word of God evidences that it is The Gift That Keeps on Giving. God continues to reveal more and more about Himself and us as we dig further into His Word. If we saw ourselves as archeologist and His Word as the dig of our lives, we would always be found searching God’s Word for the smallest of artifacts that give insight into a history we have not known but is a link to our future. I amaze, not flatteringly, myself. I will watch a documentary or a piece of a program about ancient civilizations or how something is made, but I have to carve out special time to dedicate hours to God’s Word.

As I have committed myself to improving my physical health, I, for the second consecutive day, walked several miles. During this walk, I read the Word and commentary about the Word, John 16. There were so many new insights that surfaced that I could not keep an account of them. One was that divine truths are most likely to do good when they are spoken plainly, 1 Cor. 2:4. 30 Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. Verse 30 shows us that the disciples appreciated plain language from Jesus because they clearly understood, so they thought. They felt because of the clear language that they believed. Jesus’ question in verse 31 cast doubt and condemnation on their new-found belief or faith. If that wasn’t clear, Jesus plainly tells them that they would desert Him and each would look out for himself and those whom they valued the most, their family. The disciples would not even be committed to one another initially.

There is so much in this passage. Things I see and do not see, but it is evidence that the Word of God is The Gift That Keeps on Giving. I hope you open His Word today to get a new gift.

What Now since Christmas is Over?

December 27, 2014

What Now since Christmas is Over? That question reflects the sentiments of a world that knows not Jesus. That question is reflective of Christmas as an event without ramifications, eternal ramifications. While business began their holiday sales pitches long before December began, the Christmas purchase campaign was over on Christmas. The new headlines were after-Christmas sales. Others quickly forgot Christmas and were considering what’s the next holiday we are looking toward. All indicates What Now since Christmas is Over?

I have been called a miserly curmudgeon or Scrooge if you will by my students, friends and some family members. I don’t mind because well-intended people have commercialized Christmas adding to those who say What Now since Christmas is Over? I know that I am not perfect. I know that I do not represent Christ well in most situations, but I refuse to be a part of those who see Christmas as an isolated event shrouded in self-consumption or misguided charity. The answer to What Now since Christmas is Over? is what Christ calls us to do everyday – follow Him.

Jesus in Luke 9:22-24, says

“22 And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”

23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.”

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) Since Jesus is the same, He expects us to follow the same expectations. He told His disciples to follow Me. Were we following Jesus in our perspective on Christmas, on our purchases for Christmas, on our parties for Christmas? What Now since Christmas is Over? Follow Jesus.
What Now since Christmas is Over? Let’s follow Jesus.

For to us a Child is born

December 25, 2014

Merry CHRISTmas,
Today, we celebrate the birth of my Savior and Lord. For the past 29 years, He has given me the privilege and the power to walk with Him to enjoy the presence and peace of God, along with an eternal purpose and deep passion for Him and His will. May He truly be the Guest of Honor in our hearts and homes everyday. Let Him rule and reign your life. Hallelujah

Long before Jesus Christ’s incarnation, He gave the prophecy to Isaiah that He would enter the world to atone for man’s sins to bring peace and righteousness to the ones who would receive Him. While I am looking forward to dinner with family and friends because of what Christ’s entry into the world meant, God desires and requires our allegiance daily. He does not want our attention and affection for one day. He wants our lives everyday.

Isaiah 9:6

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

I trust that you have asked Jesus to be your Lord and Savior, so that you can know God and experience His deep love on a personal level. While the eternal destination of our souls is important, it is more important to God that we commune with Him now on our way to an eternal union. God gave us His son. We see a taste of what He is to man in verse 6 above. My pastor, Robert Benson, spoke on it the past few Sundays. If you want to hear more, go to http://www.swcfellowship.com. Look to the right. The sermons should be there. More importantly, you can open God’s Word to hear directly from Him. Luke 2 gives us a great view of my Lord’s incarnation.

For to us a Child is born, the greatest gift ever to be given was/is Jesus. If you have not received that gift, ask God for Him. Ask God to save you from death, the consequences of your sin. Romans 10:9-10 tells us, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

Guest of Honor

December 24, 2014

While having a devotion with my son this morning, I thought this message was very apropos, so I wanted to share it with you. It is from Keys for Kids Ministries. A great cause to support financially.

Guest of Honor

Read: Luke 2:4-17

“We’re still at the mall, Mom,” Dylan said, frustrated. “The car won’t start, and a guy from a garage across the street is working on it now. Dad says we’ll be there as soon as we can, but it’ll be a while. I don’t know what he means, but he said to tell you the show must go on.'”

Mom knew what Dad meant. He was talking about the surprise birthday party they had planned for Dylan. Dad had taken Dylan shopping just to get him out of the house while Mom got things ready. The guests were in the living room now, waiting for him to come home. Mom knew Dad was telling her to go ahead with the games and food.

An hour later, Dylan burst into the house. “Mom,” he called, “we’re home. You’ll never guess . . .”

“Surprise! Surprise!” his friends shouted, interrupting him. They gathered around him, wearing party hats. Dylan was surprised!

“About time you got here,” teased Patrick, one of the guests. “We were about ready to give your birthday presents to somebody else.”

“Uh-uh! They’re Dylan’s,” protested Dylan’s sister, Patti. She slipped her little hand into her big brother’s. “It’s his birfday.”

“It’s okay, Patti. We wouldn’t give his gifts

to anyone else,” Patrick assured her. Grabbing Dylan’s arm, Patrick pulled him over to the couch and pushed him into the cushions. He handed a present to Dylan. “Here, open mine first,” Patrick said. Dylan opened the gifts his friends had brought.

“Glad you finally made it, Dylan” said another friend when it was time for everyone to leave. “Your birthday party just wasn’t right without you.”

After all his guests were gone, Dylan sat down to eat a piece of his birthday cake. “I wish I hadn’t missed the games,” he said, “but at least the car was fixed in time for me to see everyone and open my presents.”

“I’m glad, too,” said Mom. “As Patti says, it’s your birfday,’ and a birthday party without the guest of honor–the birthday person–just isn’t worth much.”

HOW ABOUT YOU?
Is Jesus—the birthday person—honored in your Christmas celebration? Do you truly remember that without Him, there would be no Christmas? In all the excitement of receiving and giving gifts and attending parties, programs, and other Christmas events, don’t forget Jesus. Make Him a part of every Christmas activity you’re involved in. Sometimes you can express your appreciation for Him aloud. At the very least, you can breathe a quiet prayer of thanksgiving for His birth so long ago!

TODAY’S KEY VERSE: Luke 2:7 (KJV)
She (Mary) brought forth her firstborn Son (Jesus), and . . . laid Him in a manger.

*Verse displayed is NKJV

You can listen to here. Click GOH

Jesus Got Slapped

December 23, 2014

Merriam-Webster defines slap as to strike sharply with or as if with the open hand. Wikipedia notes that the purpose of a slap is often to humiliate, more than injure. A “slap in the face” is a common idiom, dating back to the late 1800s, that means to rebuke, rebuff or insult. Jesus Got Slapped. Just imagine God incarnate allowing Himself to be slapped. The creator subjected Himself to His creation. Why? To bring glory and honor to God by atoning for the sins of those who would come to know God through Christ.

John 18

19 Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching.

20 “I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. 21 Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.”

22 When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby slapped him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded.

23 “If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” 24 Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

 Jesus Got Slapped because the man felt that Jesus was speaking to an important official disrespectfully. Never mind that the man was challenging God in the flesh. I just had a conversation with my son about how eternal that man’s sorrow must be. When was the last time you slapped Jesus? We slap Jesus every time we think that someone, including yourself, or something is more important than He. As we do, Jesus ceases to have first priority in our lives or He continues to not have top priority in our lives. Either way we slice it, Jesus is not given His rightful place in our lives when we slap Him. Now, how do you think Jesus will respond when the time of grace elapses from taking all of our slaps and insults? The Word tells us “41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.Matthew 13:41-43 When Jesus weeds, will you be with Him or away from Him? If you spent your life slapping Jesus, you will be away from Him where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

While those are figurative slaps for us, have we really considered that when we reject Him, His will or His way that it is a slap in the face. Jesus left glory, became a man, subjected himself to that which He created to bring salvation to man. When we ignore His sacrifice, it is a slap in the face. When we do, it can be said that Jesus Got Slapped. Is that how you want to live your life? If not, surrender to Jesus and follow Him.

Peter’s Denials

December 20, 2014

In life, we love to look for those whom we can diminish or reduce people’s value to make us look better. We do it all the time because of flaws in our self-concept. We want to make ourselves look better at the expense of another. In fact, we want the other to look worse than what we proclaim ourselves to be. We desire to elevate ourselves beyond our true nature or characteristics. This is not any more true than in Peter’s Denials.

As evidenced in John 18, Peter’s Denials are often viewed as a failure on Peter’s part, and in many ways, he did fail. Why? Just as it was with Judas, Peter’s Denials are the fulfillment of a prophecy. Jesus prophesied or foretold of Judas’ betrayal. Similarly in John 13, Jesus foretold of Peter’s Denials Listen to what Jesus said, “37 Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38 Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!” Jesus told Peter that he would disown Him three times.

John 18

15 Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, 16 but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the servant girl on duty there and brought Peter in.

17 “You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” she asked Peter. He replied, “I am not.”

18 It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself….

25 Meanwhile, Simon Peter was still standing there warming himself. So they asked him, “You aren’t one of his disciples too, are you?”

He denied it, saying, “I am not.”

26 One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?” 27 Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow.

Both Judas’ betrayals and Peter’s Denials are symbolic of our failures to Jesus Christ. Ironically, the accounts of Judas and Peter lie in the same chapter. We are no different from either of them. Left unto ourselves, our lives are exchanges of moments where we are either betraying Him or denying Jesus. In either case, Jesus is not Lord of our lives because we refuse to surrender our wills unto Him.

We are like Judas and Peter. We become self-centered and allow our concern for self to subjugate Christ’s rule and reign in our lives. Peter’s Denials are our denials. Peter’s refusal to be associated with Christ are our dissociations. Survey your day yesterday. I am sure that you will find multiple instances where you thought, said or did things that are contrary to the expectations outlined in the Word of God. I am sure you denied Christ preeminence in your life. Why am I so sure? The Word of God says so.

The Lord looks down from heaven
    on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand,
    any who seek God.
All have turned away, all have become corrupt;
    there is no one who does good,
    not even one.

Peter’s Denials are our denials. Conversely, Peter’s restoration and redemption are ours too. Christ’s statement to Peter is His statement to us “Then he said to him, Follow me!” Let’s follow Him.

My Inheritance: I Am Rich Beyond Measure

December 18, 2014

There are many economies that are failing. Since January, Russia’s Ruble has lost approximately 42% of its value, but I have a currency that never loses its value. As I have watched all that is going on in this world this morning, I became overjoyed. I became overjoyed because I struck it rich. I became overjoyed with God’s blessings on my wife, children, family, friends and the body of Christ. I became overjoyed with the hope that I have in Christ. I became overjoyed with the blessings I have in Christ. I became overjoyed with the rich inheritance I have in Christ. While I am not rich in the world’s eyes, I have an inheritance in Christ that has made me rich beyond measure – My Inheritance: I Am Rich Beyond Measure.

I am so rich that I cannot count it all nor can I begin to explain it all, but let me start with Wisdom’s Call in Proverbs 8

17 I love those who love me,
    and those who seek me find me.
18 With me are riches and honor,
    enduring wealth and prosperity.
19 My fruit is better than fine gold;
    what I yield surpasses choice silver.
20 I walk in the way of righteousness,
    along the paths of justice,
21 bestowing a rich inheritance on those who love me
    and making their treasuries full.

In Christ, God has given us so much wisdom and other treasures that cannot be purchased with human currency. 1 Corinthians 1 says,

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
    the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

Did you hear that? I am in Christ because I have believed that He is the Son of God who came into this world to atone for my sin bridging the gulf between God and me because of my sin. He offers me peace with God and eternal life. I have the wisdom of God through Christ. I have righteous, holy and redeemed in Christ who is My Inheritance: I Am Rich Beyond Measure.

God has always made people His inheritance. He promised that to Abram in Genesis 12. I am one of those whom God promised Abram. In Christ, I have received the inheritance and riches the Word of God spoke of long ago.

I prayed to the Lord and said, “Sovereign Lord, do not destroy your people, your own inheritance that you redeemed by your great power and brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand.
But they are your people, your inheritance that you brought out by your great power and your outstretched arm.”
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people he chose for his inheritance.
The blameless spend their days under the Lord’s care, and their inheritance will endure forever.
You gave abundant showers, O God; you refreshed your weary inheritance.
Wealth and riches are in their houses, and their righteousness endures forever.
I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches.
Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor.
With me are riches and honor, enduring wealth and prosperity.
A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.

Humility is the fear of the Lord; its wages are riches and honor and life.
A faithful person will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished.
He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.
For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him,
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!
Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have begun to reign—and that without us! How I wish that you really had begun to reign so that we also might reign with you! In Context
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
I am rich! I conclude and confirm My Inheritance: I Am Rich Beyond Measure. with a passage referenced in 1 Corinthians 1:30 – Jeremiah 9:23-24

23 This is what the Lord says:

“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
    or the strong boast of their strength
    or the rich boast of their riches,
24 but let the one who boasts boast about this:
    that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
    justice and righteousness on earth,
    for in these I delight,”
declares the Lord.

Hallelujah – My Inheritance: I Am Rich Beyond Measure. It is in my God that I make my boast all day long, and I will praise His name forever. Yes.

I Am He

December 17, 2014

The book of John contains Jesus’ 7 I AM Statements. They are proclamations by Jesus of His personage. While Jesus is much more than those seven statements or all that is contained in the Word of God, it gives us insight into who He is especially in reference to His deity. We need to know that He is God. We need to know that He is the Bread of Life, the Light of the World, the Door, the Good Shepherd, the Resurrection and Life, the Way the Truth and the Life, the True Vine. As we look back into John 18, Jesus uses that familiar phrase once more – I Am He.

In this instance, Jesus has been betrayed. Judas brought “a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.” They came to arrest Jesus and to bring Him to trial for claiming to be God. That was against their law. Imagine that. Imagine the Creator subjecting Himself to His creation. Imagine you giving your child, whom you did not create, your nephew, niece or some other person complete control over you to seemingly decide your death. We could not do it, but Jesus did it to redeem the called to God.

Let’s listen to the interaction and the reaction to the power of God. John 18

Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.

Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?”

“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.

“I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?”

“Jesus of Nazareth,” they said.

Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.”

Guided by Judas, the detachment of soldiers and officials came armed to apprehend Jesus. They came armed expecting a fight once they found Him. The irony is that Jesus did not wait. He went to them out in the open not shrouded by anyone or anything in the garden. He did it for several reasons. First about His life, Jesus tells us in John 10:18 “ No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”they apparently did not know how to identify Jesus.” No one had to forcibly take Jesus. He offered Himself to those whom He knew came to get Him. Next, Jesus tells us in the passage that He went out to meet them to protect his disciples i.e. so none would be lost except the one slated for destruction. They came with arms. Jesus came with weapons not of this world. He came with the power of God. He had the power to lay down His life and to take it back up (rise again). Jesus always followed the will of the Father and always protected His disciples (John 17:12).

When Jesus “went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?” “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. I am he,” Jesus said. When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.” When I first read that they fell to the ground, I was like what. What kind of response was that? As I considered that, it revealed the power to which Jesus possesses. It is a power that armed men fell to the ground when Jesus merely told them I Am He. I Am is the declaration of God. Jesus professed being God. To us, that isn’t such a big statement, but for those in the time, those words meant more to them. Regardless of the connotation to us, we all know that armed men falling to the ground from the words of an unarmed man is not the norm.

What causes that? It is the power of God. The disciples soon learned what He was and the power He possessed. We have the Word of God to fast forward our knowledge and understanding. Jesus, through His Word, is still proclaiming I Am He to those who are seeking for the Savior and Lord. Just as He did then, He also does now for all who are seeking. They soldiers and officials were not looking for the Messiah just as many today are not looking for the Savior and Lord. Despite that, Jesus declares I Am He. Wrapped up in the description of Jesus of Nazareth is the fulfillment of prophecy. We even see it from an evil spirit in Mark 1:24.

Jesus is the fulfillment of prophecy when He said I Am He. Choose Jesus, and choose life. For He declared,“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;” John 11:25

We Reach for Crowns, but Run from Crosses

December 14, 2014

Peace and comfort is what we all seek. No matter our geography, we all want peace and comfort. As I sit in my home, I look at all the comforts of life I desire. First, I feel the warmth of the heater. Well, it’s not that those things are wrong, but sometimes they are barriers to growth and development. In the flesh, our focus is on us, on that which makes us look or feel good not on that which makes us good. We Reach for Crowns, but Run from Crosses, but not so with our LORD. The opposite is true. He reached for His cross and not His crown. Let’s peer into John 18 to see this.

“When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and he and his disciples went into it.

Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.

Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?

“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.

I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?”

“Jesus of Nazareth,” they said.

Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.””

First, this portion of text begins with Jesus completing His prayers. We under-estimate the need for prayer in our lives. It is an under utilized and necessary practice and tool in our lives; yet, Jesus, who was God incarnate, modeled for us how we should face adversity and hardship, trials and tribulations, betrayals and denials by those whom we love. It was not just for this moment, but it was a regular practice of Jesus’. His betrayer, Judas, knew exactly where Jesus went to prepare.

Jesus’ prayer and knowledge prepared Him for what was about to happen. Remember John 13, that is where Jesus told Judas “What you are about to do, do quickly.” Instead of serving Himself, He was serving His God and Father. Like Jesus, we should seek to serve our God and Father, but We Reach for Crowns, but Run from Crosses. 

Jesus evidences His deity by demonstrating that He knew (v4) all that was going to happen. Jesus knew the cross was coming, but He did not shrink back from it. In fact, the text tells us that He “went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?”” Jesus reached for His cross but not His crown. How do we know? Again, the text tells us. “Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?” “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.” When Jesus made another I AM declaration power from that declaration resulted in his pursuers, who were armed, to fall to the ground. We will address that power another day. Today, we want to focus on how contrary Jesus is to our actions as We Reach for Crowns, but Run from Crosses. Jesus could have chosen to destroy those coming to carry Him to the cross. He did not. Jesus, long before the cross, counted the cost of redeeming man by giving up His crown and His life. He willingly did so. John 10:18 “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.”

We run away from trials and hardship. We run to comfort and convenience. We Reach for Crowns, but Run from Crosses. As believers in Christ Jesus, our actions must be different. Philippians 2 tells us “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

Jesus did not reach for His crown. He reached for His cross. He was not selfish but selfless. We are told if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ…be like-minded. If you call Christ Lord and Savior, you can no longer position yourself selfishly – We Reach for Crowns, but Run from Crosses, we must reach for Christ who considered Himself less than what He was to accomplish God’s will. Our lives are not our own. We must see life as Paul exhorts in Galatians 2:20 “20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” For the believer, our lives cannot be consumed with reaching for crowns, the convenient and comfortable, without being willing to reach for the crosses, selfless moments where we endure hardships and trials. After all, Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23 Be blessed.

What’s In a Name?

December 12, 2014

As I contemplated what to write about this morning, I asked the Father again to speak to me. What spoke to me was Jesus’ Words in John 17 about His name. What’s In a Name? That questions is answered in part in John 17. The world is replete with examples about whats in a name. There are websites and philosophies dedicated to telling people what their name means. Famed sociologist Henry Louis Gates Jr. has a series, Finding Your Roots, on PBS about What’s In a Name?

In a writing about one episode, Dr. Gates states “I always ask a guest what it is they would most like to learn about their roots. In Geoffrey Canada’s, case, he said that he knows nothing about his father’s line and this lack of knowledge has haunted him for most of his life. Tomorrow, I have the extraordinary pleasure of being able to give him this gift: the knowledge of his father’s ancestors, back into the deep recesses of slavery, and possibly beyond. He will learn that his name is not his ancestor’s original name, though it is close. And that his ancestors even took a third name before settling on “Canada.””

In regards to the inquiry or impact about What’s In a Name?, Shakespeare wrote

“‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.” (2.2.38-49)

Even I have posted a number of times about the word name. Once again, I do so today. What’s In a Name? In John 17, Jesus shares with us an important fact about His name.

“After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:

“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

“I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.

We see Jesus’ commentary on What’s In a Name? in verses 11 and 12. There is power in His name. There is unity or oneness in His name. There is protection and safety in His name. Have you called on the name of God, the name of Jesus to protect and keep you? Have you called on the name of Jesus to save you? What’s In a Name? Everything you need for life eternal. There is no denying that names make a difference in this world, but there is no greater name than Jesus. Matthew 1:21 “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Jesus’ name is a name that you should know, call upon, and trust in. What’s In a Name? Your protection, safety and salvation. Could it be any greater than that? Call upon His name.