John 5:16 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him. 17 Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” 18 For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
19 Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. 21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.
24″I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. 25 I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.
28 “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. 30By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.
The truth is a strange phenomenon. Take the truth of God, for instance. The truth is that God exists. If we do not accept the truth of His existence, neither the truth nor His existence is changed. He still exists and that is the truth.
In this passage, Jesus tells the truth of who He is and why He has come. To some, the truth was like a soothing balm, to others it was iodine poured into an open wound.
The Jews who did not believe began by faulting Jesus for healing on the Sabbath, because He was breaking the Jewish Law. Then, they were offended because Jesus said His Father was working even to this day, and therefore, so was He. Jesus came not to do His own works but the works of God, who sent Him. “How can this be?” they must have thought. How can Jesus call God His Father? Is this heresy or is it truth?
Have you ever anticipated something, perhaps a vacation destination, but when you finally arrived it was not all you had hope it would be? I think this is the predicament in which the Jewish leaders found themselves. They knew the Scripture, they knew Isaiah had foretold a Messiah, they saw it in the Psalms, yet when He came He was not what they expected.
If only they had believed in spirit and in truth. If only they had the faith to bridge the gap of disbelief. If only they could have walked across the bridge from death to life.
Have you heard the truth? Do you have the faith to believe the truth? A man who brought his son possessed by an evil spirit to the disciples for healing left in the same predicament in which he arrived–his son was not healed. When he reported this to Jesus, Jesus answered by saying they were an unbelieving generation. The man answered, “I believe, help thou mine unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)
We are each given a measure of faith to help us believe. If your faith is not strong enough, ask for more. If that faith is still not strong enough, ask for yet more. God is not some cruel jokester dangling eternal life in front of us, always just out of reach. God is a loving father and Jesus is His son, and we must only ask and salvation is ours, we must only believe and we have crossed over the bridge from eternal damnation to eternal life. Ask…believe…live. Live in belief, live in faith, live into your salvation each and every day. In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Father God, our faith comes through You and is strengthened by You. May we live out our faith each and every day. May our faith, like the tiny mustard seed, be planted, watered, tended to, and grow to mountain moving faith. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Hebrews 12:1-13 (NRSV) Chapter 12
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
5 And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as children—
“My child, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
or lose heart when you are punished by him;
6 for the Lord disciplines those whom he loves,
and chastises every child whom he accepts.”
7 Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline? 8 If you do not have that discipline in which all children share, then you are illegitimate and not his children. 9 Moreover, we had human parents to discipline us, and we respected them. Should we not be even more willing to be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share his holiness. 11 Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.
We have reached the end of the first week of 2019, and it occurred to me that if we continue to live this year with the same habits and activities as in previous years, nothing much will change. So, I thought we might seek guidance from this letter to the Hebrews as we embark on this new year.
It is not unusual in the New Testament to see the writers use an analogy of a physical race to explain a spiritual race. The readers of these letters were well acquainted with games for which one had to prepare if one expected to win.
For a physical race, the contestant was accustomed to removing anything that would weigh him down. In watching Track and Field events today, we see runners with short, light-weight clothing, shoes that likewise weigh a few ounces, with some competitors even shaving their bodies, hoping to “shave” time off of their race.
In running the race we call life, we could take some lessons from these contestants. First, to be successful we must be prepared. Just as we must cast aside anything that would slow us down in a physical race, success in the spiritual realm dictates that we do the same. We must turn away from sin and habits that would slow us down and look to Jesus, the One who gave us our faith and will help us to complete our faith. I love the spiritual aspect of these verses, as we are reminded that the people who have gone before us are now cheering us on!
Secondly, we must understand there is a discipline in anything that is done well. To succeed as an athlete, we must train our bodies. To reach a high plane spiritually, we must discipline our minds and our hearts. What if we decided that 2019 would be different that any previous year? What if we determined to be not just a people who accepted Jesus when we were eight years old, and then lived life as though being a Christ follower did not matter, but instead we made a commitment to live out our salvation each and every day?
What if when someone cuts us off in traffic we say, “God bless you,” and really mean it? What if we can ignore mean spirited comments made toward us or about us? What if we remember those gone before who finished their race and we decide to complete ours with the same grace and dignity they displayed? What if we consider all that Jesus did for each of us before we say an unkind word?
There is a new movement in the United States called, “WWRBGD.” Or, what would Ruth Bader Ginsberg do? God forbid!
I have nothing against Justice Ginsberg and holding her up as a role model is perfectly acceptable. But will asking the question, “What would Ruth Bader Ginsburg do?” really enable me to live out my Christian faith in a manner pleasing to God? Such action reminds me of Looney Tunes and Elmer Fudd as he proclaimed about Bugs Bunny, “Cwazy Wabbit!” Have we become so enamored of living, breathing human beings that we have traded our love and admiration of God for people whose bodies will one day turn to dust? Cwazy Humans!
Our scripture today ends by encouraging us to lift up drooping hands and strengthen weak knees. How do we accomplish this? We praise the God of the Universe with hands held high, and kneel before Him with humility. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Father God, as we bow before You we ask that you would strengthen our hearts and our resolve, that from this day forward we would purpose to change our outcome by changing our input, and that we would cease following earthly leaders to take up our cross and follow Jesus. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Isaiah 40:28-31 (NRSV) 28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
and strengthens the powerless.
30 Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will fall exhausted;
31 but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.
It is December 30, 2018, and as this year draws to an end we begin to wonder what the new year will bring.
In today’s scripture, the prophet Isaiah was speaking to a people who had been in captivity for around 70 years. Some of those orginally taken from their homeland had died, others were born into captivity, but almost all had given up the hope of ever returning to their homeland.
Yet, God offers hope through His words to Isaiah. He reminds the people Who God is. He is the Everlasting, the Creator of all the earth, and not only does He not grow weary, but He gives strength to those who have reached the point of exhaustion. How do we receive the strength needed for every situation? We wait upon the Lord Who will renew our strength.
Wait. For many of us, waiting is one of the hardest things we can do. We wait for the birth of a new baby, and our anticipation is almost more than we can bear. We wait to hear whether our jobs will remain secure, we wait to hear what the doctor says about our test, and now we are waiting to see what the new year brings.
May I share with you that waiting upon God is the best way to approach whatever lies ahead? Many of us have the wrong idea about waiting. We see waiting as sitting passively until something happens. Not so! When we wait upon God there is a hope, an expectation, because God’s promises will always be fulfilled!
Let us purpose in our hearts today that as the new year begins, we will look forward to God renewing our strength, and we will walk in His might, His power, and His grace. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Father God, today is a day of expectation. May we live in Your Word and by Your Word as we say goodbye to 2018 and welcome 2019 with hope. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Isaiah 9:2-7 (NRSV) 2 The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
on them light has shined.
3 You have multiplied the nation,
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as people exult when dividing plunder.
4 For the yoke of their burden,
and the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
5 For all the boots of the tramping warriors
and all the garments rolled in blood
shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
6 For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onward and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
It scarcely seems possible, but we are just five days away from celebrating Christmas. In the midst of our preparations, I would ask that we take a moment to prepare our hearts for the real Christmas, and few verses carry the meaning of Christmas like Isaiah 9.
The prophet Isaiah gives us a glimpse of the coming King, and he reminds the Jewish people that not only had they lived in the darkness of being held captive in a foreign land, but their souls had grown dark. God’s chosen people needed the light that can only come from the Son of the Living God.
“And He is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.” At a time when life seemed hopeless for the children of God, Jesus came and nothing has ever been the same.
Is the world still filled with darkness? Undoubtedly it is, yet because of Jesus we have a blessed hope that His light can overcome the darkness. Because of Jesus we can be assured that our circumstances do not have to destroy us. Because of Jesus we understand that the miracle of Christmas is still alive.
As we count down the days and the hours to December 25, may we take time to focus on the reason for the season, and may we continue to look forward to His return. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Father God, help us to put aside some time each day to spend time with You, to remember that Christmas was when the light came into the world, and that light has never been diminished. In Jesus’ name, Amen.