Tag Archives: bible

Future-Present Hope

From my devotions this morning… I did not write this. Instead, as happens so often in my devotional time, God had for me exactly what I needed to hear today. I bolded and underlined the sentence that struck right to my heart and filled it with Hope.


John 16:33: “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” (NIV).

You may identify with the concept, “A mother is only as happy as her unhappiest child.” It is hard not to get dragged down by the struggles of your children. Jesus recognized this tendency and offers a solutionÑan eternal perspective. When you are certain about your future, you are better able to face the present. An eternal mindset will help you maintain a hope-filled perspective because our home is not of this world!

When you or your kids are suffering, remember that Christ has conquered the world, and one day we will be with Him. Until then, beware of desiring pleasure on this earth more than Christ. Take comfort in knowing that this life is temporary and let your pain lead you towards dependence on Him.

Remember that your home is not in this world, but in heaven.

Scripture Rush

So last week I stirred up some trouble with what I wrote about John 1:8. Mind you the people who got upset didn’t actually read the whole post so they thought I was saying the exact opposite of what I actually was, but… yeah.

So I’m going through John in The Message. It’s been a few weeks now. I’m on verse 14. I was taught to read allot of scripture. I think it’s good to read scripture. But as I “progressed” and read more and more I actually paid less and less attention to what wa really going on. My focus became reading x amount each day. And if I forgot a day then I’d feel guilty and so I’d double up to get back to where I “should’ve been”. Sure, there were moments where something would strike home. I’d learn something and it’d be a “good day in the Word”. But eventually I got tired of always playing catch up. I got tired of just “pressing through the dry spells”. I started to wonder, what’s the rush?

That’s when I realized… This isn’t a race or a competition. Who cares if Jimmy Christian reads through the Bible 3 times a year. Do I really want his spiritual life anyway? I don’t. I want the life God made ME for. I’m in no rush. Sometimes I’ll read allot. Sometimes I just read a verse. Sometimes I just open the book and sit there. Sometimes I read the same verse I did last time. You know what I found? the lack of competition was freeing to my spirit. And the freer my spirit is, the freer the Spirit seems to move into and through my life.

All the sudden verses I’d read 100 times before and blown by had vast depths of meaning. I read far less words and verses of scripture than I used to. But now I’m finally really reading what the words mean… not just what they say.

It’s taken me awhile and a good amount of work to unlearn what I was taught… the law of how much bible reading is enough or good, the measurement of my relationship with Christ being based on a number of printed translated ancient words read. But it’s been worth the effort. Because now I’m free. I’m finally feel free in Christ. I just went for a week without reading the Bible. Not that Christ wasn’t on my mind or even scripture. They were. But I’ve spent the last week thinking about what one word means. Tabernacled. Now I don’t need to rush off to the next verse lest I fall behind and feel guilty. I’m just camping out on this word for as long as my spirirt tells me I should. And God is showing me a whole new side of scripture… the inside.

Johns and pointer fingers

“Jesus doesn’t impose salvation as a solution; he narrates salvation into being through leisurely conversation, intimate personal relationships, compassionate responses, passionate prayer, and — putting it all together — a sacrificial death. We don’t casually walk away from words like that.”. –Eugene Peterson (Intro to John in Conversations, The Message translation)

Last fall I got on a big John kick. I couldn’t stop reading him. Over and over I kept reading the gospel of John, his epistles, even Revelation a time or two. John is one of my two favorite people in scripture, the other also being named John.

I like John so much because I see so much of his personality come out in his writing. He is who he is. In the beginning he is one of the “Sons of Thunder”. And by the time he’s writing the gospel down he is so humbled by the love of Jesus for himself that he won’t even refer to himself by name, but only as “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. Who was once known as a fighter is now laying his head on another man’s chest as they recline at the table after a big dinner. It’s as if he’s a little kid with his daddy and he thinks his daddy is the biggest and strongest daddy in the whole world and will always take care of him. And what do you know… I think John was right.

There’s this rivalry between John and Peter. You frequently find John poking fun at Peter saying mostly subtle things that no doubt got Peter a bit riled up with his competitive and often Irish-like excitability. All four gospels record Peter’s denial. But John is the only one who also records Jesus reinstating Peter without even an opportunity for an apology from Peter. There may be a friendly rivalry, but there’s no doubt in John’s mind that Peter is the leader after Jesus leaves, not himself.

I also feel like John really gets the idea or the picture of the Kingdom of Heaven more than the other writers. He’s very poetic which reminds me of the way Jesus often taught. He’s also always talking about this dynamic of light and life and love and Jesus and word and truth. It’s like there’s this deeper meaning to all of these words or images that can only be seen in the dynamic of all of them being present together and often interchangable. The Kingdom is not easily explained, but he paints these brushstrokes as he draws the picture of what the Kingdom looks like as it walks the earth and rebuilds through resurrection, both here and now and somehow in eternity at the same time.

I never really got off my John kick. I just got distracted sometime in the summer and stopped reading the Bible altogether. So when a friend asked me some questions about John and asked me if I’d help them find some answers, I was glad to jump back in. I’d been needing a bit of a push.

I decided to start reading John in the Message. I was about to start reading it a few months ago when I got distracted by sin. I really think that there is evil in the world and I think that evil is what distracted me from reading it before. So it seemed like a good place to start again. I read the introduction to the gospel of John written by Eugene Peterson. I’ve learned to always read introductions. It ends with the quote above. As soon as I read it, I knew this was going to be a good ride.

After reading the opening poem in John I was struck hard with a simple little verse I’d read a hundred times before and blazed right over. John 1:8 “John was not himself the Light; he was there to show the way to the Light.” Or as it reads in the NIV, “He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.”

Here was John the Baptist’s purpose. Not to be Jesus; only to point the way to Jesus. I think it’s my purpose too. Often I want to and try to “be Jesus” to someone. But it’s not my job to be him. Which is good because I pretty well suck at it. It’s just my job to point at him. That pointing is sometimes with words, sometimes actions and sometimes just with my finger. This is a good thing because pointing is something I can usually handle. I mean, even when I’ve fallen flat on my face, screwed everything else up and brought everything down on top of myself, I can still lift a hand and point a finger in the direction eveything should’ve gone, but didn’t. That’s a reassuring thought. It’s a bit lighter of a burden to carry than to be Jesus who is God. I think Jesus once said something about a lighter burden too. Funny how long I’ve spent carrying (or trying to carry and failing and kicking myself for failing and trying again) a heavy burden after being told I didn’t need to.

God, I want to stop trying to be you and screwing it up and hating myself for it. In the words of the Fresh Prince of Belair, “You be you and I’ll be me.” Help me to just show love and point. Pointing is easier, lighter. I can handle a life of pointing. You handle the rest.

God is love.

Ok, it’s 3:15 am when I’m writing this. If this note is less than coherent that is why. 

There is a verse that been shaping me allot these days… “God is love.” (1 John 4:8) Check the context around that. There is no qualifier. Keep in mind, John is writing this. He always refers to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved. Why do they say that is? It’s because he’s the one who got it. He understood more clearly the love of God than the others.

“God is love.” This is the same as “God = love” or “love = God”. We’re called to be salt and light. Salt isn’t salt because it’s salty. Salt isn’t salty… it’s just salt. That’s what it is. It can’t help but be anything other than what it is. If you take the salt out of salt, there is nothing left. It is the same with light. Light isn’t bright or dark. Light is light. Something may be bright or dark because of the amount of light, but light is only ever and always light. The same is with God. God is love. It is all and only what he ever is. You could say God hates sin. But it’s more like what is not a part of him; what is outside of him, which is therefore outside of love. We think of hate as an action or a proactive verb. It is the same way we think of sin as an action or even sinner as a person. And yet this is incorrect. Hate is the void left in the absence of love. The same way that darkness is not a thing, but the absence of light. Cold is not a thing, but the absence of heat. Hate, hell, evil… these are what happens in the absence of God; of love. The real definition of sin is simply anything that is apart from God or God’s will. You could talk about it in regards to either a person or an action. In either case, it is something not of God and therefore separate from God. It is something or someone missing God; missing love.

So God is our answer. Love is our answer. How do we witness to the hurting? How do we witness to the broken? Our brother? Someone who is a homosexual? How do we reflect God to each other? The answers are all the same. We have to look to Jesus, the purest and final revealing of God that we have ever gotten. What does he tells us? What does he show us? How did he witness to them? It was with love. His anger only ever came out towards the religious. It was not the irreligious. It was not the hurting or the confused or the sinners. To them he gave love. He showed love. He showed God.

How loving is God? God is love. He just is. He isn’t ever anything else. 

1 John 4:7-10
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
(Our shortcomings of God, our times or actions apart from God/God’s will.)