We Believe

John 16:29-30.

His disciples said unto Him, Lo, now speakest Thou plainly, and speakest no proverb.

Now are we sure that Thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask Thee: by this we believe that Thou camest forth from God.

The disciples still had a way to go before their belief in Jesus was solid, clear, and sustaining. They believed, as we do, based on the knowledge they had. Because Jesus now spoke in plain language, it was easier for them to understand and accept what He was saying.

You may wonder about the graphic I chose today. At first glance, it doesn’t seem related to the verses of this post. But if you think about it just for a few minutes, you will realize that it has everything to do with these words of the disciples to Jesus.

Apparently, there was still doubt, there were still questions, about Jesus. He had told them repeatedly that He and the Father were One; that He came from God. He showed them through miracles, through His behavior, through quoting Old Testament scriptures. You may be thinking, “They must have been pretty dense!” but you have to put yourself in their places, and think about what they were hearing and seeing from their perspectives as good, faithful Jews who were counting on the Law for their salvation. After all, Jesus was not the first to rise up and claim to be the Messiah! He was, however, the first to consistently point to His own coming death and resurrection; the first to perform incredible, unexplainable miracles; the first to NOT claim to be a political leader who would rescue them from Rome.

Belief often comes in stages. As a young child, I believed what I was hearing about Jesus from my parents, Sunday school teachers, and other leaders. It was simple faith, unquestioning. I understood what sin was, and I knew I was a sinner. Accepting Him as my Savior was a simple act of faith and belief, as only a young child can have. I was five. I have never doubted my salvation; I have, however, grown and changed in the manner of my faith. It is deeper now, filled with far more understanding and humility than when I was five. But that isn’t the end of it. My faith will be complete and fulfilled when I see Jesus, and I look forward to that with increasing desire as I grow older.

The disciples were not young children when they began to follow Jesus, but their understanding was incomplete. It grew as they walked and talked with him; it would grow even more as they preached, endured persecution, and died for Him in the coming years.

So. What first comes to mind when YOU think about God?

Home with the Father

John 16:28. “I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.”

The truth of this verse is one of the bedrocks of our faith. It is doctrine, pure, simple, and profound.

I have no words that can make this truth any more clear; I can only affirm my own faith that every word that comes from the mouth of God is pure and true (Matt. 4:4), and that Jesus spoke these words with the authority of the Father because He and the Father are One (John 10:30).

Jesus came into the world through the Father. He performed the work that God had given Him to do. He was now ready to return to the Father.

Have you ever considered the pure joy and anticipation that Jesus was experiencing, knowing that the work had been done and that He was soon going Home?

A blogging friend of mine died last night. He’d survived 24 years with ALS, and in his last post a week or so ago he let us know that his time was drawing very near. He is at this moment rejoicing in heaven with Jesus! He can breathe, move, leap, run–whatever he desires. However, I believe with all my heart that his joy is in seeing the face of Jesus Christ, in Whom he trusted for all those years.

It’s almost in my heart to feel a bit envious, but not really. I wouldn’t have wanted his last 24 years. Neither did he, but his joy, after much suffering, is now full and complete.

Jesus also endured much suffering, and His joy is also complete. He is with the Father.

The Father Himself Loveth You

John 16: 25-27.

These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father.

At that day ye shall ask in My Name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you:

For the Father Himself loveth you, because ye have loved Me, and have believed that I came out from God.

When Jesus said that He had spoken to them in proverbs, the word could just as accurately have been translated as “figurative language.” He had used phrases such as in a little while; He had also used the example of childbirth to describe pain followed by joy.

Now, however, He is telling them that the time has come for Him to speak plainly of the Father; that they could now go to the Father Himself, in Jesus’ Name, and they could do so confidently because of an amazing truth:

The Father loved them, because they loved Jesus, the Son. I John 5:1 says that he who loves the Son also loves the Father, because they are One.

Just Ask

John 16:23-24.

And in that day ye shall ask Me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My Name, He will give it you.

Hitherto have ye asked nothing in My Name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.

In that day would seem, in the context, to refer to His resurrection, when many of the disciples’ questions would finally be answered and their joy would be full in the knowledge of His victory over sin and death. Jesus was saying that they would have no more questions for Him at that time, in their great joy at seeing Him alive.

Then, Jesus went on to teach them that now they could go directly to the Father with their needs, wants, and desires. Since He was the Great High Priest, they could ask the Father anything in the Name of Jesus.

This concept was new for the disciples. Their custom, all their lives, had been to come to the High Priest to offer their sacrifices; they went to God through the human offices of the priests. Now, they didn’t have to do so ever again. They had direct access to the Father through the Son, which is why so many of us today pray “in Jesus’ Name.”

The coming of the Holy Spirit would help them understand their new access to the Father through the Son. The Spirit would teach them how to pray, with Jesus as the Mediator between God and Man, with no human mediator needed.

Until that point, the disciples had asked nothing of the Father in Jesus’ Name. Now, He encouraged them to ask in His Name, and promised that they would receive answers to their prayers, and that they would have great joy in doing so.

John 17, the next chapter, will teach us a great deal about real prayer–truly, the Lord’s Prayer, in a completely different sense than the “Our Father” pattern that Jesus had offered them earlier.

Sunday Morning Coffee: Oil in my Lamp

The first day of winter was Dec. 21.

Growing up most of my early years in Minnesota, I always wondered about that. Winter often started in early November, and at least by Thanksgiving. You didn’t run outside for very long without coat, hat, scarf, mittens, and two pairs of jeans–and boots. Back in the day, they were rubber boots you wore over your shoes, with “fur” trim around the top, and they zipped up the front.

Anyway, Christmas day here started quite warm, a little damp, and a bit windy. By the time we were ready to drive home, the temperature had plummeted about 30 degrees, it was VERY windy, and we had some of the stinging tiny little snow granules that never stick, but they tell you more is coming!

We’ve had mild winters for the last 3-4 years, with very little snow. Some people say that means we’re in for a lot more this year. We’ll see.

Terry keeps a very close eye on our oil-burning stove that sits in front of the fireplace in our living room, but he’s been involved with some other projects that distracted him. We ran out of oil yesterday, and the house was cold! Now, I like sleeping in a cold room, with my weighted blanket and a comforter piled on top of me. But I don’t enjoy being in a cold house, all for the want of some oil.

I couldn’t help wondering what it’s going to be like if Mr. Biden keeps his promise to shut down the fossil fuel industry in America. What will we have to pay to keep our houses warm? Ours is just a small house, really, and we usually keep the doors to the bedrooms closed during the cold weather. In any event, I’m wondering if I’m going to be wearing multiple layers of clothing inside the house this winter, and I really feel for those who live in houses that are not well-insulated or have high ceilings and older windows. We’re all going to be wearing sweaters and sweatshirts and quilted flannel!

Oil has always been an important commodity. From earliest times, it has been used for light and cooking. Scented oils have had a very high value and were available only to the wealthy.

Matthew 25 tells us the story of the ten young women who were waiting for a wedding to commence. They carried lamps that were filled with oil, probably olive oil. There were wicks in the lamps, and the oil was consumed as the wicks were burned. Those who had not thought to bring extra oil were considered foolish. But those who had a vessel filled with extra oil were wise, and were allowed in to attend the wedding.

The picture is simple: We are the lamps, useless until we are filled with oil. The Holy Spirit is the oil, which gives off a pleasant odor. The Holy Spirit in us helps shed the light of salvation and God’s love to those around us. The light comes from the oil-soaked wick, which is our testimony, through the Holy Spirit, to those around us. In order for our lamps to continue to burn, we need to have access to the Holy Spirit; that access is gained through obedience to the Father, expressed so clearly by Jesus. Being filled with the oil of the Holy Spirit is not automatic at salvation. Our obedience determines how full our lamps are, and how brightly they will burn.

Do you remember singing “Give Me Oil in My Lamp, Keep me Burning”? I do, but I never understood what it really meant. There is an important lesson for kids, and for everyone, really, if the meaning is taught clearly along with the song. If we want to burn brightly for the Lord, we need to be obedient to His Word. Being obedient will keep the oil of the Holy Spirit refreshed in our lamps, and our lights will burn clearly.

Merry Christmas!

I’m giving myself a couple of days off, so will pick up in the book of John again after Christmas.

You know, we can hardly think of the birth of Jesus without also thinking of His death and resurrection. The whole story is one of great love, sacrifice, suffering, and triumph–not just for Him, but for us as well.

If you are not sure you know you are born again and on your way to heaven, I urge you to read John’s gospel. The whole story is there.

I’m praying that you all manage to put aside all the negativity and anger this year has engendered as you take time out to enjoy this holiday and the reason behind it. Here’s a lovely song to help you get into the spirit of Christmas.

After Travail Comes Joy

John 16:21-22.

A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.

And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.

After the pain comes peace, joy, and anticipation. If course not all births have such good outcomes, and there is great emotional disappointment, pain and loss. But there won’t be any sorrow when Jesus returns. It will be all joy, and even the memories of sorrow will be removed.

I had four healthy babies, four normal pregnancies and deliveries, so I can easily identify with this example that Jesus used. The labor is hard, the pain is overwhelming; but after the delivery, the joy is intense. So it will be for the disciples until they see Jesus again. So it will be for us when we see Him. The longer I live, the more I look forward to the day when He comes to take His saints to heaven! There will be “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (I Peter 1:8).

And the best part? It will be permanent. No one can take that joy from us, ever.

Sorrow Becomes Joy

John 16:19-20.

Now Jesus knew that they were desirous to ask Him, and said unto them, Do ye enquire among yourselves of that I said, A little while, and ye shall not see Me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see Me?

Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.

Jesus, knowing His disciples’ questions, broke into their conversation. “Do you have something you need to ask Me? Are you confused by My words, ‘For a little while you won’t see Me, but then a little while and you’ll see Me again?’ I understand your confusion.

“The thing is, you are going to be extremely sorrowful very soon; but I will turn your sorrow into joy.”

Have you ever wondered what it must have been like for the disciples to watch what happened to their beloved Master? The farce of the trial, the insults, the mockery, the physical beating, the scourging, the crucifixion–it must have all seemed to go on endlessly. They stood helpless to do anything, knowing that the mercy of Rome was non-existent. They all feared for their own lives; they were not ready to die, and they didn’t know it, but they had not yet fulfilled the work that God had appointed to them.

So, they would grieve. They were sorrowful over the death of Jesus. It wasn’t long, though, before that sorrow was not replaced with joy, but was actually turned into joy as they witnessed the return of Jesus from the tomb. That particular joy could not have existed as it did without their having witnessed His death.

Great sorrow became great joy. The example Jesus used next is one nearly all of us can understand.

Sunday Morning Coffee: We Got Snow!

Predictions early in the week were dire. We could expect to be buried under a storm coming from the Northwest. We could get anywhere between 12-18.” Everyone went bonkers on Tuesday. I had gone to get a haircut, and decided to stop at the local big box store on my way home. Not for milk and bread, but some other mundane grocery needs and a prescription for my husband. I wasn’t even thinking about the coming storm.

Seems everyone else was, though. When I made my way to the checkout lanes, the lines were unbelievable. There must have a been a couple hundred people standing in various lines, many of them backed up into the aisles. I chose one where I didn’t see anyone with a cart piled to the rafters, I had my Kindle with me (I always toss it into my purse when there’s a chance I may have to wait, but I didn’t expect to have to use it on Tuesday) and I read way more than I expected to. Not a bit surprising? Someone ahead of the rest of us seemed to be having trouble with a credit card or some other payment problem, so we waited. And waited. I was very thankful that there were no screaming toddlers anywhere nearby.

Everyone was patient. No one was angry, cursing, or creating an issue. My cashier agreed that her work had been non-stop for her whole shift so far, which at that point had been five hours. As I put my bags in my cart, I thanked her and wished her a merry Christmas. As I put my wallet back in my purse, she said, “Thanks for that. Not many people are willing to say it.”

My word. Not that it came as a surprise to me, but I don’t remember ever saying Merry Christmas to anyone and getting a negative response. It may have happened, but I truly don’t remember.

Anyway, we ended up getting maybe four inches of the white stuff. No big deal for us, but farther north they got a lot more. I don’t envy those who have had so much to dig out of their driveways and sidewalks.

It’s beautiful when it’s falling, the big fat snowflakes. It’s still pretty the next morning, before plows and cars and salt trucks start making inroads. So sparkling white that I needed my sunglasses. I’m seeing white from a whole new perspective since I had my cataracts removed.

If you’ve been with me for any length of time, you know that there’s almost always a song in my mind as I write. At this moment, it’s the old hymn Whiter Than Snow.

A Little While

John 16:17-18.

Then said some of His disciples among themselves, What is this that He saith unto us, A little while, and ye shall not see Me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see Me: and, Because I go to the Father?

They said therefore, What is this that He saith, A little while? we cannot tell what He saith.

I’m imagining that, just like some classroom students, these disciples whispered among themselves, thinking the Teacher wouldn’t notice. They said, “What’s He talking about? A little while, another little while? We’ll see Him, we won’t, then we will? I don’t get it!”

Of course they didn’t get it. They didn’t know He was speaking of the here and now right along with the future, as if they were one and the same. We DO know that, and we still have trouble separating the one from the other because we are so dependent upon time. Minutes, hours, days. A little while means in a minute, which in our own vernacular can mean literally a minute up to when I’m ready! Tell a child to wait a little while, and he’ll be back in less than an eye blink because that WAS a little while.

The disciples were ordinary men who became extraordinary, just beginning to grow in their faith and understand that Jesus was not limited in any way, especially by time. We have a much greater understanding than they did, but we still have trouble with the concept of not being bound by time.