Category Archives: Devotional

John 5:16-18

The Gospel writers made it clear that they believed Jesus to be the Son of God. They also ensured that the reader knew Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. There’s no middle ground. He didn’t claim to be another rabbi or even another prophet. Jesus stated with precise words that He believed Himself to be God in the flesh. 

And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. – John 5:16-18, ESV

He healed the cripple on the Sabbath. Then He ordered the man to get up, take his bedding, and go, for the man had been healed. As a result, Jesus came into conflict with the interpretation of men as to what the Sabbath was for. It wasn’t the former cripple whom the religious leaders were after. Jesus was their target. 

This brought about an opportunity for Jesus to make a claim about Himself. He pointed out that God doesn’t stop working, just because it’s the Sabbath. It’s not like prayers suddenly go unheard and unanswered. The Universe doesn’t stop working and go off kilter every Sabbath day. No, God continues to watch over His creation and exert His will. Jesus pointed out this is the way God is. And then Jesus drew attention to who He was by tying Himself to God by calling God His “Father.”

To us, at first glance that doesn’t mean much. We refer to God the Father all the time. We call Him our Father. But we do these things precisely because Jesus told us to do so. In Jesus’ time, calling God your Father would mean you were the same type as Him. In other words, you were God. The same is true if you used the phrase, “Son of God,” or if you referred to yourself in the same way God did, which is “I AM.” Jesus also did these things. Jesus didn’t leaving room for a mixed interpretation. 

It is left to us to decide whether or not to believe what Jesus said about Himself is true. Until Jesus rose again, this isn’t something His disciples truly understood. After He arose and after He taught them again with the Scriptures did comprehension as to who Jesus was break through. So for us it is logical that this is a point of struggle. After all, God setting aside all rights of His divinity to put Himself into the frail form of one of His creations? How absurd! But this is the claim the Bible makes. And this is where we have to make a choice. Do we believe or don’t we?

In this claim there is no middle ground. There are no shades of gray. Either we believe or we don’t. Either we believe completely or we don’t at all. God doesn’t give us the option of a partial choice. Do you truly believe Jesus is the Son of God? Do you believe He is who He claimed to be, God Himself? If so, you are to worship Him. I am to worship Him. All who believe are to worship Him. We are to glorify Him first. But He is worthy of such worship and glory. For Jesus was God in the flesh, who chose to leave His throne in heaven and offer Himself as a sacrifice for our sins. He did what no other could do: pay the price for our iniquities once and for all. Therefore, let us respond with hearts glad in joy for what He has done for us. 

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John 5:10-15

“We’ve got rules. We can’t do that.” “The church council has met and they’ve decided we can’t have have those people around.” “Choir practice is always Wednesday nights. You can’t move it!” “Our bylaws say…”

So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. – John 5:10-15, ESV

As we looked at yesterday, Jesus healed a crippled man, but He did it on the Sabbath. Then He told the man whom He had healed to pick up his bedding and go. There’s nothing scriptural against such an act. The admonitions which are close, such as in Nehemiah, were intended to keep folks from pushing forth in work 7 days a week when they had a choice. It wasn’t about gathering up your bedding and heading home. However, the Jews in the religious authority had an issue with that. Therefore, they question the healed man. They completely disregard the miracle of his healing. 

The man’s reply was that he was commanded by the person who healed him. He didn’t know Jesus’ name. Stop and think about that. Jesus didn’t perform the miracle for personal publicity. He didn’t know the man beforehand. He didn’t have anything to gain from the man. He simply healed. Jesus did so and nothing He did or say was in violation of the Scriptures. 

Yet, the religious leaders had an issue. They took their own interpretation, their own tradition, and elevated it to the mandatory action. They declared it was for God, for keeping God’s commands. And if you didn’t do what they said was correct, you were wrong. Even if what you did wasn’t against Scripture. 

We have this problem in many churches and para-church organizations today. Rather than seen the Scripture and let it be our guiding document, we too often fall back on man-made rules and traditions. As a result, we miss opportunities to minister in the name of God. We restrict ourselves from joining God in His work, especially when it comes to reaching outside of our comfort zones. We lost out on moments to share Jesus’ love, to build the Kingdom, and to bring God glory. And we hide behind “the rules” when we do so. 

Rules are important. Commands are crucial. After all, if they weren’t, what’s the point of all such commands and instructions in the Bible. However, we must be careful not to let rules other than Scripture prevent us from acting with love, compassion, and kindness. We must be vigilant to not allow man-made rules to get in the way of sharing the Gospel, of ministering to others, of being Jesus’ hands and feet in this world. 

Traditions and procedures and earthly laws are fine and we should respect them, but not at the cost of following Jesus’ example. They should not prevent us from responding to God’s call to serve and love and minister and witness. Should we let those things get in the way and should we not respond, we are in disobedience. Let’s use the real word for that: sin. When we let our rules and ways get in the way of our responding to God, we are in sin. There’s no other way to look at it. 

Let us obey Scripture first. Let us be like Jesus and seek to meet the need before us, even if there are man-made rules and traditions that are in the way. Let us do so in a way which honors God, which points people to Him, which brings Him glory. Let us be Kingdom-minded not only in what we think and say, but also in what we do. 

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John 5:1-3, 5-9

Today’s verses cause me to be sad for two reasons. The first is that there was a place where so many with physical needs gathered together for a sliver of hope but seemingly without help from able-bodied folks around them. The second is that this sliver of hope was based on circumstance not on anything biblical. 

After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath. – John 5:1-3, 5-9, ESV

Note that we see the word multitude. This is the first reason. A lot of invalids gathered around this pool. Society back then wasn’t overly kind to invalids. So they gathered around this pool, hoping for healing. One of the reasons this set of verses makes me sad is that we aren’t a whole lot better as a society today. We have a tendency to forget about folks. Most of us make excuses, myself included, but the reality is that we aren’t aware and active and assisting like we should be. This verse reminds me I need to do a whole lot better. 

Moving on the second reason, verse 4 wasn’t found in the earliest manuscripts of the Gospel of John which we have. Also, it contains words that we don’t find anywhere else in John’s Gospel. Therefore, most modern translations don’t include that verse because it seems to have been added later. It wasn’t part of the original Gospel. Why is this all important? It’s because verse 4 is the one which said an angel came down and stirred the water. It’s part of the same superstition which characterized everyone who gathered around the pool.  

Likely there had been cases where folks felt better when the water rippled. Think about how often that the water would be stirred because of simple causes like the wind blowing. So why did people believe? They believed for the same reason folks continue to pull the lever on the slot machine or play the lottery. Any success reinforces this idea that you have a good chance of winning, even though it’s not true. So they were gathered around, saying to themselves that the water stirring was due to an angel and that they could be healed. What other hope did they have?

This hope wasn’t biblical. We don’t see angels acting in such a haphazard way. The folks gathered around that pool had placed their hope in something that wasn’t true. We see this a lot in society, even in our churches. We must share the truth of Scripture and dispel the myths that have cropped up. By the way, part of these myths is what the Jews had classified what could and couldn’t be done on the Sabbath. 

But these verses also give me hope. They give me hope because of how Jesus acted. He chose a man who had suffered for years, 38 to be exact.Though it was the Sabbath, Jesus didn’t stop from healing the man. The Jewish people at that time would have Jesus was sinning because He did this action on the Sabbath. But that’s not biblical. The prohibition was against work, not helping one another. Jesus stepped in when no one else would. And He responded according to Scripture, not superstition. Jesus answered my two concerns. 

He was the example then and He expects us to be the example now. Our willingness to help, to be there, to be the support line for those in need. In a tangible way, we became God’s miracle. Now we should respond according to Scripture. To be God’s instrument, we would best be useful if we are being obedient. God uses sinners and saints alike. However, if we are saints, we are to be obedient. Obedient not just in responding to the need, but in how we respond. Let us be God’s miracles to the people around us. 

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John 4:49-54

Within the Church we often advise each other to turn things over to God. What this usually means is we start telling everyone that we are leaving whatever it is in God’s hands, but we are still worrying and fretting over it. We are still trying to solve it or make it better. We say we’ve left it in God’s hands, but the reality is we never let go of whatever it is we are claiming to have turned over. 

The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household. This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee. – John 4:49-54, ESV

Remember that official who came to Jesus? He had to travel to meet up with Jesus. The man’s intent was to find Jesus and bring the Lord back to his household. However, Jesus told the official that his son was going to live. In short, Jesus was telling the man that there was no reason for Jesus to go anywhere. The official believed Jesus. We don’t see any more pleading. We don’t see any hand-wringing. We are simply told the man believed and headed home. 

The official had turned the matter over to Jesus. If Jesus said it was done, that’s all he needed to hear. Armed with those words, the man headed back home. On the way back, he received excellent news: his son was on the road to recovery. Inquiring further, the official learned that the moment his son’s fever broke was the moment he trusted Jesus. He had turned the matter over to God and accepted the outcome and God had answered. In this case, God answered in the way the official had requested: his son recovered. 

For us, the lesson here is that when we turn something over to God, we have to let it go completely. We have to trust and believe that God is going to take the best course of action. God is going to work out the details. In short, we have to believe God is going to answer our prayers. Saying we’ve turned something over and then continuing to try and solve it on our own means we don’t trust that God will answer. Or we don’t trust that He will act in the best way. Our actions say that we don’t trust God. There’s no way around this. 

If something is truly bothering us, I know it’s hard to let it go. Most of us struggle with this. I know I do. However, God repeatedly counsels us not to worry, but to turn to Him and let Him share our burdens. We have to try and obey. We can even pray for help being obedient in turning things over to Him. We can pray for Him to help us believe and trust in Him more. 

In closing, keep in mind that turning something over doesn’t absolve us of further action. God may lead us to do something about whatever it is that’s bothering us. This isn’t a “fire and forget” type of thing. In the official’s case there wasn’t anything left for him to do other than trust. However, our given situation may mean we have a lot to do. Turning something over to God means we yield the problem completely over to Him and trust and follow in His Lordship over us. As a good Lord He may have instructions for us. We must believe and trust in those instructions and act according. There’s a lot of believing and trusting in all of this, isn’t there? But that’s what it means to turn something over to the Lord. 

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John 4:46-48

What is our faith based on? This was something people struggled with in Jesus’ time. Many had to have signs in order to believe. In reality they weren’t believing so much in God as they were the miracles. Times haven’t changed. 

So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” – John 4:46-48, ESV

I’m reminded of a famous person who once said he left the Church because he wasn’t seeing the miracles described in the Bible. He wasn’t seeing people come back to life. He wasn’t seeing people healed of blindness or crippled limbs simply by a pastor asking God for healing. Basically, without the miracles, he didn’t have faith.

This was the problem Jesus was confronting. It took a lot for the official to reach out to Jesus. Jesus’ miracles were becoming known at that point, but so was His contention with the Sanhedrin and the Pharisees. For the official, asking for Jesus’ help was a big political risk. Wasn’t this enough for Jesus? By Jesus’ response, it wasn’t. It wasn’t enough to believe in the miracles. One had to believe in the God who delivered the miracles, whether the miracles happened or not, whether the person (Jesus) was there or not. This is where the official struggled. 

Jesus’ words caused a crisis of faith. It forced the official to consider who or what he truly believed in. In this case, as we will look at tomorrow, he chose to believe that God could deliver because He was God. As a result, God delivered the miracle. 

However, God doesn’t always deliver the miracle. Our faith in God has to be able to handle that. God’s miracles are to glorify Him. They testify to who He is. They don’t just get handed out to satisfy our whims and desires, no matter how noble those may be. We have to go back to the example set by Daniel’s companions, Shadrach, Meshaq, and Abednego, who proclaimed that God could deliver them, but even if He didn’t, that didn’t change the fact that He was God. 

What is your faith in? When God doesn’t act in the way you desire, when He doesn’t answer prayer in the way you want, is your faith okay with that? Is He still Lord over you? If the unthinkable happens in your life and great tragedy visits you, will He still be the one you turn to, the one you trust above all else? Or can your faith be shaken? Admittedly, we don’t truly know the answer if we don’t experience such an event. But we can certainly question ourselves, examine the details of our faith, and pursue God first and foremost. He wants believers in Him, not His miracles. 

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John 4:43-45

Ever felt like you couldn’t go “home” again? Home could be an actual home. It could also be a job, a group, a location, or even a particular church. For Jesus, it was his hometown of Nazareth. 

After the two days he departed for Galilee. For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown. So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast. For they too had gone to the feast.  – John 4:43-45, ESV

After two days with the Samaritans, it was time to move on. He went back to the region of Galilee but not back to Nazareth. We are told why: He wasn’t respected there. He couldn’t go home again. 

Jesus wasn’t the cause of the alienation. That didn’t matter because the separation was real. There have been times in my life where I felt I couldn’t go back to something or somewhere. Likely you have, too. It’s hard, especially if the reason for the separation isn’t our fault. The good news for us is that Jesus understands that feeling. He can empathize with it because He dealt with it. 

We are reminded over and over again that Jesus faced every temptation that we face, that He was fully human as well as fully divine. He can empathize with us because He has shared the lows: poverty, betrayal, hatred, racism, injustice, and much more. Therefore, when we turn to Him in prayer over any of these things for which we hurt, we don’t have to explain. He understands. 

Stop and meditate on that for a moment. Even when it seems like no one else gets it, Jesus always does. Therefore, we can pour out our hearts to Him. We can express the rawness of our pain. And we can receive the kind of comfort that only comes from sharing with someone who has been through the same sort of thing. We get all of that with Jesus. How often we forget this. 

So if you’re hurting, especially if you’re facing a situation where you feel like you can’t go “home,” seek Jesus in prayer. Let go of the pain and give it to Him. Allow Him to be your comfort. Allow Him to be the one who helps you in your time of trouble. The Bible reminds us that God wants to be there for us in times like these. It’s not Him that keeps us apart. It is us. But we can also choose to seek after Him, to go to Him with broken hearts for Him to mend. After all, this is the sort of thing He did with the Samaritan woman. He mended her broken spirit, the one that kept trying to find love by pursuing different men. Whatever our hurts are, Jesus can help us mend them. 

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John 4:39-42

Her life was a broken record of failed relationships. She was shunned within her own village. This was saying something considering her people were considered half-breeds who worshipped God incorrectly. Her classification within society was one of the shunned even within the ranks of the shunned. Yet God chose her as His messenger. 

Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” – John 4:39-42, ESV

The woman Jesus met at the well went back to her village and told them what she had heard and seen. She wasn’t a trained evangelist. She wasn’t an educated minister. No one would have picked her to teach Sunday school or to lead any sort of ministry. She was a sinner, one who was in the midst of her sin until she met Jesus. Yet she was the messenger and her impact was enormous. Through her words, many Samaritans heard enough to believe. They asked Jesus to stay longer. This permitted Him to share more, bringing even more people to faith. 

We are to grow in faith. We are to grow in knowledge of Scripture and of God. We aren’t supposed to continue drinking milk but move on to more solid spiritual food. However, wherever we are on that growth scale, we can be used by God. The Samaritan was a new convert. She wasn’t trained. She hadn’t attended an evangelism course. Yet she was effective. She was effective because God worked through her. Therefore, we can be just as useful. 

Don’t doubt God. If God calls you to reach out to someone, trust that He will do what needs to be done. Don’t let your inexperience be a stumbling block to responding to God’s call. God can use us where we are if we are willing. We just have to be willing. He will do the rest. 

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