She had cooties

John 4:9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

She had cooties

For some reason I like to pick the least likely scripture to journal on and write about it.  I mean, who would pick John 4:9.  Well, me I guess.  Here Jesus is at Jacob’s well resting because he is tired.  His disciples have gone to town for a food run.  So here Jesus is, physically worn out and thirsty.  Then she comes along, a Samaritan woman, to draw water from the well to take back to town.  The well is deep of course so you need a bucket and a rope to get the water out.  Jesus doesn’t have that.  So he asks her for a drink.  It doesn’t seem like a big deal, really.  But the truth of the matter is that it was a big deal.

You see, Jesus was a Jew; the woman was a Samaritan.  According to tradition, if a Jew drank out of a Samaritan’s water bucket it would make him ceremonially unclean.  So what, you may say.  What’s the big deal?  Well, being ceremonially unclean was a big deal.  Remember when you were in Kindergarten and kids of the opposite sex were considered ceremonially unclean.  We didn’t call it that, of course.  We called it the cooties.   We were convinced of it too – girls had cooties.  You were not to be touched by one.  So the little girls would chase the boys around trying to touch them or give them a kiss just to gross them out.  Those were good times… okay, I digress.

My point is that just like we were convinced that girls had cooties, the Jews were equally convinced that Samaritans had the spiritual cooties, so to speak.  But Jesus didn’t really care about all that silliness.  He didn’t care about the ceremoniousness of it all (is that even a real word?).  What Jesus cared most about was reaching into her world.  He cared most about a pathway to her heart.  And He was willing to go into her world to get her.  It’s an important picture for us to get, really.  That while we have been “cleaned up” by Jesus, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t get any dirt on our Sunday clothes.   We are called to the lost, the broken, the dirty, to those with spiritual cooties.   I wonder if we would be willing to ask them for a drink?  I wonder if we would be willing to look unclean in order to change their eternity?

Hide-N-Seek with God

John 3:19-20 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.

Hide-N-Seek with God

I don’t think that playing hide-n-seek with God would be fair.  Hiding wouldn’t really be that effective with that whole omnipresent thing He’s got going on.  But maybe because we are afraid of being exposed we attempt to play the game.  So maybe that is why hiding out in the dark seems to work.  After all, playing hide-n-seek in the dark is pretty effective.  It is easy to hide and hard to seek.  The advantage goes to the person hiding.

Here’s the problem with that as mentioned in John 3:19.  There has been a decision made, a verdict so to speak.  That verdict is that light has come into the world.  That light is the light of Christ and it shines on our lives.  There is no hiding from God.  In fact, think of the two year old who is trying to hide from you.  In their mind, if they cover their eyes and face, you can’t see them.  After all, they can’t see you so it must be true.  They think they are invisible.  So here they are with their face in their hands hoping not to be seen.  The problem is that they are standing right there and you can certainly see them!

That’s how it is with us and God.  We stand there with our hands over our faces hoping not to be seen.  Maybe we will be exposed.  Maybe we will be found.  John states in verse 20 that people actually stay in the darkness in order not to be exposed.  They are too ashamed, too prideful, too embarrassed.   And there are things that are kept in darkness, tucked away in the corners of our life, that we are sure we must keep in.  We are sure that we can’t show them to God.  If we all only realized that God takes shame away, not gives it…  If we only realized that God desires to bring light to dark places, not condemn our mistakes…  If we only realized that if we took our hands away from our faces, He would be right there looking at us, ready for us… then I think we would find true freedom, peace, joy, and hope.  How about it – are you ready to be found?

Aw, mom.

John 2:1-5  1 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”  4 “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.”  5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Aw, mom.

You have got to love moms.  Bethany and I like to watch this show, “Cake Boss” on TLC.  It is about this guy named Buddy who runs a family owned bakery that was left to him by his father.  His mom is still around, however. This is an Italian family from New Jersey and they are full of personality.  Buddy is the owner and the boss, but from time to time mom pulls out the, well… mom card.  I remember the time when he was upstairs making a cake and mom comes in, looks at it, and says, “no way.”  She didn’t like it.  It didn’t meet her approval.  He tried to argue with her and tell her it was his bakery but he wasn’t getting anywhere.  He simply got a “I’m the mom and I said.  Don’t talk back to your mother.”  Sheesh, a grown man getting the what-for by his mamma.

As I read this story about Jesus’ first miracle I can’t help but think of poor Buddy. The family is at a wedding and the wine runs out.  Now mom starts thinking.  She has a little secret: her son has the ability to perform miracles.  (I’ve always wondered if He was practicing at home or something. She had to have some evidence that he could pull this off.)  So she tells him, “hey Jesus, do your stuff.”  Awwwww mom, not right now.  It’s not time for this.  It wouldn’t be right. Her response?  She turns to the servants and says, “do what he tells you.”  In other words, “son you are doing this.”  Are you allowed to boss around the Son of God?  Really?  I guess if you are his momma!

What’s the point in all of this, you are wondering?  I am wondering that too – just kidding.  What I notice in this passage is simply the humanity of Jesus.  Because so often when I think about this Jesus who healed the lame, gave sight to the blind, was beaten and bruised and nailed to a cross… I think about a superhuman; I think of him as the Son of God.  But he did all those things as a human, just like me.  He felt the pain as much as I would have.  He required as much faith as I would to pray over a blind man and see him healed.  He was human.  Jesus really was human, just like us.  Now think about his life through those terms for a minute, not as the Son of God, but as the son of Mary who made him change water into wine.

That’s not all!

Welcome to the blog.  Being in the Word daily is an important part of the Christian walk. Each day, I am going to read a chapter in the Bible and write an entry from a verse or a section of verses.  I would encourage you to write your own journals as well.  Pick a verse that jumps out at you and write some thoughts on it.   My personal strategy is reading a chapter a day AND journaling Monday-Friday.  Saturday is a review day where I go over what I have journaled and Sunday is a day to gather with other believers to worship.  The purpose of this blog is to have a venue for discussing the Word (feel free to comment and add your own thoughts).  I won’t be trying to capture a whole section of scripture each day, but rather share what has jumped out at me.  So let’s dive in together into the book of John, chapter 1.

John 1:44-51  44 Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. 45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”  46 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip.  47 When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.”  48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”  49 Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” 50 Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that.” 51 He then added, “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

That’s not all!

This first chapter of John tells us about the beginning of the work of Jesus.  It actually starts with the work He began in creating the world, but then goes into the practical earth-walking ministry.  Here we see the first disciples being called and discovering that Jesus is the promised Messiah.  The section of this chapter that jumped out to me was the calling of Nathaniel.  Philip finds his buddy Nathaniel and tells him that he has found the ONE prophesied about in scripture.  He tells him that Jesus is the real deal.  Nathaniel isn’t so sure about this and decides he is going to have to see for himself.  Funny thing happens when he meets Jesus: Jesus knows something about him that he shouldn’t know.  It isn’t  anything bad, it’s just that Jesus wasn’t there when he was under the fig tree and Jesus wasn’t there when Philip called him.   But somehow Jesus “saw” him.  Somehow Jesus knew him.  Nothing like a supernatural omniscient statement like that to send chills running up your spine.  And that was enough for Nathaniel.  He was sold.

It is a beautiful picture, really, that is reflective of our salvation.  Like Nathaniel, we come to the realization that Jesus is the saving one.  We get to this place that we acknowledge Him as our Lord and Savior.  We are floored that He knows us, our every thought and our every need, and it drives us to follow Him.  And like Nathaniel that seems like enough.  It seems like we would be content just following Him and spending eternity with Him.  But Jesus had much more in mind for Nathaniel, you and me.  He says back to Nathaniel, “you think that’s something, that I saw you under a fig tree… just wait for what I have in store for you.  There’s greater things than that coming in your life!  You are going to see heaven opened and angels at work. Oh Nathaniel, there is much more.”

That is when this realization hit me: I think Jesus would say the same to us.  We come to Him, grateful for the salvation that He has offered us.  We embrace His grace and say yes to His ways.  We commit to follow Him.  But Jesus would say to us, “I have even more for you.”  He would desire to open up the heavens and pour out His Spirit on us.  He would desire to pour out his blessing on our lives.  He would desire that we are set free from the things that keep us in bondage and from our past.  He has for us, more than a mere conversion, but a life altering transformation!  I think that is what He was saying to Nathaniel, that following Him would be marked by things unimaginable.  And I wonder  sometimes if we stopped short in this relationship with Jesus at the place of conversion.  Because like He told Nathaniel, I have so much more in store for you on this journey with me.  Be prepared for ALL of me and ALL that comes with me.

Calcium or Coke?

Jude 1:20 But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.

Calcium or Coke?

A no brainer question: What would be better to build stronger bones – calcium or a can of coke?  Now I have heard that if you put a tooth in a glass of coke it will eventually dissolve it.  Now that is really gross and probably a good reason to cut back on it.  Calcium on the other hand builds strong bones – at least that’s what Wikipedia says. I think Dr. Munson told me that too, and I believe him.  My point here, is that some things cause decay and some things cause strength.

Here in Jude, he calls us to build ourselves up in our most holy faith.  How do you do that?  What would be considered a spiritual calcium and what would be the can of coke?  Let’s start with the decay.  Doubt, compromise, and sin are just a few.  How about not spending any time investing in your relationship with Jesus?  Lack of building will always lead to decay.

But let’s not focus too much on what we shouldn’t do, but what we should do.  We can start with what Jude states here: pray in the Holy Spirit.  That definitely builds your faith!  So we should be doing it more.  Often, in fact.  And there are plenty of other things we can do to build our most holy faith.  We can spend our time thinking on things of God and not things of this world.  We can set our dreams on the things above and not things below.  We can pray, we can worship, we can encourage one another.  The bottom line is this: we won’t just grow in our faith by default.  There needs to be an action involved.  There is effort on our part.

Today, I would be curious to have your input.  What are some ways that we can build ourselves up in our faith.  Feel free to comment below and we can all learn from one another.  Have an awesome weekend – I will be praying about where to start back into the Word on Monday!

I made it in the book!

3 John 1:9 I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us.

I made it in the book!

Remember back to the days of junior high and high school when the annual yearbook was a big deal.  Everyone wants to make it in the yearbook.  I’m not talking about your class picture.  No, I’m talking about making it into the candid section or the sports section or maybe even some pictures from a school dance.  Yes, everyone wants to make it in the book.  After all, if you make it in the book you have arrived; you must be popular.  Oh to return to the days when the biggest crisis in life was whether or not we made it in the book!

But what if you made it in the book in a way that you didn’t expect.  Imagine a fresh yearbook in your hand.  You start tearing through the pages looking for your face everywhere possible.  You scan every picture with detail and then you see it: the page where people are elected most likely to succeed and stuff like that.  Your face – you made it!  But wait! What does that say?  Biggest jerk?  Biggest loser?  Oh no, I made the book but now I will be known for all time as the biggest jerk in the school.

Welcome to the life of Diotrephes here in third John.  Could you imagine  having your name written down for all time as the guy who loves to be first and ruins the church rather than builds it up?  That kind of thing stays with you… for eternity.  Were his eyes so stuck on himself that he missed the greater work that God was doing in the church?  Was he so intent on his personal success that he ended up creating a high ranking social club rather than the church of Jesus Christ.  Can you hear Jesus now? “Get behind me Satan!”

I wonder  where I would make it in the book.  Would I be on the pages of great faith like Abraham or would I be on the pages of rebuke like Diotrephes.  I do know this: we will one day give an account when we stand before our Lord and Savior.  I wonder what that day was like for Diotrephes?   I am sure of this, today is the day that I can write my eternity on the pages of God’s book.  Today is the day that I can decide to be a builder of others rather than a consumer of self.  Today is the day that I can part ways with Diotrephes.  While he may have won the biggest jerk award, I think I’ll keep trying for the most likely to succeed one.

The Lego Snatcher

2 John 1:8 Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully.

The Lego Snatcher

My kids love to build with legos.  They build all kinds of things – houses, spaceships, towers, towns, etc. etc.  These little plastic blocks become masterpieces.  Yes, masterpieces that must go on display at times.  I often get asked, “Dad can I save this one?”  And we save them for a few days on a shelf or a table.  But sometimes their precious little almost-two-year-old sister comes along and really wants to play with their creation.  OH, the dreaded lego snatcher!  It is in those sometimes that they wished they had put their creation on a higher shelf.  It is those sometimes that they lose what they had worked so hard to create.  Now they will defend what they made, don’t get me wrong.  I have seen them rush over and  quickly snatch their spaceship our of little sister’s hands.

Losing what you work for is disheartening really, isn’t it?  Losing ground on something you put effort into is really frustrating and discouraging.  What about the steps of faith we have taken or the growth in our walk with the Lord?  There are times in our life when we take giant leaps forward in our walk with him.  There are times that we are growing and learning like crazy.  Those are exciting times and we need more of them.  In fact moving forward all the time is the best defense from losing what you have gained.

Then there are those times when doubt tries to make its way in.  Those are the times when the enemy tries to steal the glory of God from your life. What is our response to that?  Do we sit back and watch the enemy dismantle a miracle of God in our life?  Do we let him convince him that God isn’t really for us?  Hey now, if God is for us who can be against us?  No one!  We need to learn to be resilient in our walk and in the guarding of our walk. It will require us to watch out as John puts here in verse 8.  We need to be alert and not let the enemy steal from us.  We need to fix our minds on things above and not things below.  We need to stand firm and when we have done everything else, stand.  Stand in the face of doubt.  Stand in the face of discouragement.  Stand in the face of lies and deceit.  And most of all, don’t lose what you worked so hard for.  Keep your walk with Christ moving forward!