The Spirit of God

JOHN 14

John 14 16

Today, we will continue what we started yesterday, what scholars call “The Upper Room Discourse.” Many people believe that the teaching of Jesus from John 13-17 were all taught to the disciples the night before he died. (They were in the upper room of a house, hence the name.) When Jesus speaks, he encourages the disciples to not be troubled. Though he will not be with them in person, he promises something else. What does he promise?
A counselor. (v16) The Spirit of Truth. (v. 17)
Jesus says that the Spirit will come, who will counsel the disciples and guide them into all truth.
What is the Holy Spirit?
This is a question that has perplexed theologians in Churches around the world for quite some time. Jesus says here that he will send the Spirit, and that he will come to be with his disciples. Is he the Spirit? No, because it’s clear in John that there is a difference between Jesus and the Spirit. And that same difference is found in verse 26 in regards to the Spirit and the Father. So the Spirit is something other than the Father and the Son. This have led some to conclude that the Spirit is a distinct person, being, or entity, but this is problematic, because in many ways the Spirit is described in non-personal terms. (Spirit comes from the Greek word πνευμα, meaning wind, breath or spirit.) It is poured out, given, and we are baptized into it. However, at the same time, the Book of Acts, and here in John, Jesus and his early followers listen to the Spirit deciding things and guiding and teaching.
So what is the Spirit? Another name for God or Jesus, or the power of God in action, or even a Person?
I don’t know.
For a long time, the words “I don’t know” made me terribly uncomfortable. They made me feel weak, like I wasn’t living up to my potential. (In truth, being a nerd AND a member of the CoG, I was getting social AND theological pressure to know everything.) However, I’ve come to know that I CAN’T know completely; the language about the Spirit is not about knowing and controlling but about submitting, relating and embracing. When the Spirit guides the disciples in the book of Acts, they submit, not ask what is guiding them. When Paul is encouraging his brothers and sisters to love in Corinth he writes “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” When the Spirit comes, the Spirit is coming from God and in the name of Jesus. Do I trust Jesus enough to allow whatever the Spirit is to effect me in such a way that the Spirit changes me?
As you read this language in John about Spirit and what the Spirit will do, don’t get lost in the weeds asking questions about what the Spirit is. At some point, there can be a time and place for that discussion. But today, right here and now, ask God to send that Spirit in the name of Christ into your life. When Jesus breathed on his disciples (John 20:22) and gave them his Spirit, when fire fell in Acts 2 and they were refilled in Acts 4, those disciples were more concerned about how God was going to help them live tomorrow. If you need the power of God on a Monday morning (or evening or night) what you need is to say with me…
“Lord I don’t know everything, but I know that I need your Spirit.”
And that is a prayer God will answer in the name of Jesus.
-Jake Ballard
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In the Pool of Siloam

John 9

John 9 35 36.png

In John 9, we see the story of Jesus healing the man born blind.  You know the story… Jesus spat on the ground, made some mud, put the mud on the man’s eyes, and had him go wash in the Pool of Siloam.  After the man washed, he could see.

We’re told the story again as he told his neighbors the story.  Then, we’re told again as he told the Pharisees the story.

The Pharisees are so hung up on the fact that Jesus did this on the Sabbath (and therefore broke the law, so therefore he must be a sinner), that they totally miss the magnitude of the miracle.  They were saying Jesus was a sinner, others were saying, “How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?”  So they were divided.

The Pharisees didn’t even believe the man had been blind, so they called his parents to testify that he was their son, and he was born blind.  The Pharisees asked him again how he came to see, since Jesus was clearly a sinner, in their mind.  The man had a great response:  25 He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

The man then scolded the Pharisees for not knowing who Jesus was, since no one had ever opened the eyes of a man born blind.  Clearly Jesus couldn’t do this if he was not from God.  And if they were really God’s representatives, they should know Jesus.

At this, the Pharisees heaped insults on him, and threw him out of the church.

Jesus found the man, and asked him if he believed in the Son of Man?  (This was a favorite title Jesus used of himself.)  I love the exchange that followed:  36 “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”

37 Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”

38 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

This man recognized the amazing transformation Jesus made on his life, he believed, and worshiped Jesus.

For those of us who were born and raised in the church, it’s sometimes hard to recognize the amazing transformation Jesus has made (or should have made) in our lives.  We don’t necessarily acknowledge that “I once was blind, but now I see.”  And how often are we overwhelmed and say, “Lord, I believe” and worship him?

The Pharisees, even though they knew what to look for in a Messiah, were blind to who Jesus was, despite amazing miracles.

So who are you most like in this story?  The man born blind, or the Pharisees?

If you haven’t yet received Jesus as your Lord and Savior, ask him today, “tell me so that I may believe.”  And for the rest of us, today is a good day to focus on Jesus, say, “Lord, I believe”, and worship him.

–Steve Mattison

 

The Harvest

John 4 36

John 4

Hi everyone!

I hope you were able to find another person to discuss some of yesterday’s questions and got to think deeper about our passage.  Let’s get started on today!

Thought #1 – Vs. 1-25: Like most of the gospel stories, you are probably pretty familiar with this passage of Jesus revealing himself for the first time to a Samaritan woman.  There are a few things that go in this story that are worth taking note of: women usually did not get water at the hottest part of the day, and the fact that a Samaritan woman was there, plus the fact that we see she had multiple relationships that may not have been approved of most likely means she was an outcast within her community.  Beyond that, she was a she.  As a man in the culture at that time, Jesus really wasn’t expected to have a conversation with her.  The significance of this is that Jesus told her that he was the Messiah first, despite her social status.  This represents how Jesus came for all people, not just the Jews and not just those who were already considered righteous.  He came for the outcasts like this woman and gave them an equal opportunity at what he is providing.  I think it’s important to note here that the woman believed that a Messiah was coming and recognized his importance (vs. 25) before experiencing Jesus.  The first step is knowing, and then experiencing.  People won’t be able to experience God’s power, or at least not recognize that it is from God, if they don’t first know.  Our job as believers is to make sure people know about God’s power, not make them experience it.

Thought #2 – Vs. 34-38: The fields are ripe for harvest!!  Jesus is telling his disciples to get out there and go get it!  He’s already done the hard work; the salvation is ripe for the pickin’ (because that’s definitely something that people say…).  BUT, we still must go out and pick the field, friends.  It’s already there, ready to go, ready to bless us, but without that process of accepting it, it doesn’t do anything for us.  A lot of you have probably already “picked the field” for yourself.  You’ve accepted that free gift and that’s amazing!!  But you also have the opportunity to share that gift with others.  Remember, our job is to simply share and make sure people know about this endless field we have to pick from.  Our job isn’t to force people to take this gift, but to show them how we genuinely love and appreciate it!  Who do you see in your life that needs a guide to this field full of salvation?  Are you going to share with them the endless gift you’ve also received?

Thought #3 – Vs. 39-53: People believe and come to know Christ when he is shared with them.  Without hearing of him first, the many Samaritans that became believers would not have let Jesus into their homes to speak to them (vs. 41).  Without first hearing of Jesus’ miracle, the royal official never would have asked him to heal his son, which ultimately led to an entire household of believers (vs. 53).  If these people had not first heard about who Jesus was and what he could do, they never would have had the opportunity to experience him the way they did.  We have to first share Christ before people can truly experience him.  Those who have already experienced him have a duty to continue to spread their own experiences with Christ so that others may have the same opportunities.  The Samaritan woman was not of high standing, yet she was able to share her experience with Christ and because of that brought many more Samaritans to believe as well.  The royal official was in a place of high standing and shared his experience with Christ and because of that brought many more people to believe.  You can be in any position and still spread the message of Christ successfully.  Remember, how can people truly experience Christ if they don’t first know about him?

When I read through this chapter and even when first writing up this devotional I was not expecting it to turn into a message about spreading the gospel.  But the more I spent on this, the more this idea continued to come to me… so at some point I decided that maybe I was supposed to share it! Hopefully this is what you needed to hear or be reminded of today, even if you didn’t realize it either!

Have a good rest of your day!

~Sarah

Reflecting on John 3

John 3

John 3 17 (1)

Hi there!

Today’s chapter could take an entire week of devotionals if you ask me!  I highly recommend having a Bible in front of you when going through today’s post.  Because of how much I found within this chapter we are going to have a slightly different format today… I am going to give the verse and then give the reflection question without too much of my own words to add to it.  Take today to really pause and think about your own thoughts instead of just mine, and I will do my best to take a backseat and be more of a guide than a driver.

 

 

Vs 3-8: How does this idea of being born again through baptism play into your life?  If baptism is a decision you have already made, are you still reflecting that “rebirth” in your life?  If you have not made that commitment, how do Jesus’ words impact your expectations for salvation?

Vs. 11-12: Do you fall into the category of those who hear of the amazing things God can do, and yet still do not believe that He can do them?  Do you think you’re missing out on some of the things God has because you don’t accept the “basic” or “earthly” teaching?

Vs. 16: We all know this verse well, but take a few moments longer to stop and think about what it means without just speeding through it.  It’s a popular verse for a reason!  What meaning does it hold for you?

Vs. 17-18: According to these verses, think about the purpose for Jesus in the world.  How can you take and apply that into your own life and relationships?  Does this change how you want to interact with the people that you are surrounded by?

Vs. 19-21: Are there any things in your life you are leaving in the dark?  Why?  What does it mean for you to be vulnerable and seen plainly in the sight of God?  How does that make you feel when reflecting on your own life?

Vs. 26-30:  John very easily could have taken a lot more credit and gained a large following for himself here.  How does his response of becoming less so that Jesus can become greater and sacrificing his own personal status relate to your life?  Is giving God the credit or putting other people’s missions/needs ahead of your own something that comes naturally?  We can all guess what the answer here should be, but it’s much harder to act on that and make a change in our own life.

Vs. 33-34: The “it” here is referring to Jesus’ testimony.  Now that we are in the time post-resurrection, do you feel people, believers specifically, still struggle to accept the truths that Jesus preached?  Go beyond just what Jesus preached about the Kingdom, and think about what he has said about who God is, or what He has done, etc… If people do not accept Jesus’ testimony, what does that mean about their relationship with God?

Vs. 36: This verse is very similar to verse 18, so clearly the message is important!  When an author repeats an idea it usually means to take special note of it.  Why would the author repeat an idea like this?  Is it a theme you see extending beyond just the book of John?  How do you feel your life reflects the truths in this verse?

I hope some of these questions made you think a little bit longer today!  I encourage you to discuss these ideas with others and get their perspective on it as well.  If you can’t find anyone… I’d be happy to share some of the answers and ideas I have floating around in my head.  In my opinion, these kinds of things are always better when you have the opportunity to talk with another believer!

Have a fantastic rest of your day!

~Sarah

 

At the Wedding

John 2

John 2 5

Good morning everyone!  (Or afternoon, or evening, depending on when you get to this!)  Let’s take a look at John 2, a much easier chapter to dig into compared to yesterday’s in my opinion…

Thought #1 – Vs. 1-12:  The author here writes about Jesus’ first miracle; turning water into wine at a wedding.  We’re all probably relatively familiar with this passage, and most are probably aware that when Jesus answers his mother with “Woman” it does not mean disrespect in Greek like it might in today’s world (and if not, now you know!).  There is so much in this little story that we don’t know, such as who was getting married, why Jesus and his mother were attending, what the reactions were of the people who saw Jesus perform his first miracle, etc.  Despite reading this multiple times, I did find something new to think about this time through.  This time I saw that Mary already had faith in Jesus’ abilities before he had proven anything to her.  While we also don’t know much about Mary, we can pick up a few characteristics or insights into her life from the little we read.  For example, Mary’s faith has always relied on the idea about not needing to see to believe.  She has always had a deep trust in God, and in His power, and isn’t afraid to boldly ask for a miracle, at least according to what we can read in the Bible.  She has probably experienced God’s power in the most personal way of any human on earth, and I think it shows.  In this story, she doesn’t even really acknowledge Jesus’ response, but simply tells the servants to obey him.  What a mom thing to do… give a direction and not listen for any ifs, ands, or buts about it!  Mary knew what Jesus could accomplish before even seeing it happen, she had no doubts in God’s power that was within Jesus.  We are lucky enough to live in the present day where we have very easy access to a Bible that lays out all the miraculous things done in the past by Jesus.  I think we take that for granted!  I know in my own life I do not always fully trust in God or in His power to work in my life, yet I have 66 books’ worth of examples of how He has already done amazing things with that power!  How can you shape your faith to be a bit more like Mary’s – trusting God’s power to do the work needed even if we can’t see the outcome yet?

Thought #2 – Vs. 13-23:  I love this story about Jesus clearing out the Temple.  Maybe it’s because I’m a fan of people getting in trouble when I know they are doing wrong… I was definitely that kid in elementary school that ratted out any misbehavior immediately.  But beyond that, I think this story also makes for some great analogies and comes up with a lot of good thoughts!  In this story we see Jesus experiencing what can be termed a “righteous anger” towards the people who have dirtied the Temple.  He wasn’t just freaking out, or getting angry with people for messing up, he was upset that they were tarnishing the Temple of God in such a public way.  They knew very well what that Temple was for, and yet they chose to set up shop for a personal gain that did nothing for them in the long-run.  So Jesus clears them out in a very active way!  Later on we see Jesus compare this Temple to himself (vs. 21) and that got me thinking about how our bodies as temples for God sometimes need a good clearing out.  I’m not talking about a juice cleanse or anything like that, but I’m talking about an active removal of the things that aren’t supposed to be there.  This can be a wide variety of things… fear, sin, poisonous habits or relationships, you name it.  Sometimes we need to experience that same righteous anger in order to be motivated to clear out our life and get back on track with God.  Do you see any areas of your life that you feel need to be cleared out so you can be back on track with God?  What are you doing, or what can you do, to actively clean yourself out?

I hope our questions for today bring about some quality reflection time!  I know they got me thinking!

~Sarah

Dig Deep

John 1

John1 29

Hello again!  This week we will be going into the slightly-confusing-at-first-glance book of John.  My hope is that you either find something new from my thoughts today or are just reminded of the truth you already know!

Thought #1 – Vs. 1 – 18: Do you ever want to find the person that wrote this book and say, “You know, you could have written this much more clearly for us and a lot of doctrinal debates would be very different…”?  Because I sure do.  But then again, much of the confusion that comes from this chapter surrounds translation issues and reading out of context, which I’ve noticed our world today does quite often.  To truly get at what the author of this book is trying to say, it is critical to go back to the first translations.  When looking at verse 1, we see “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  And thus starts many doctrinal debates right with that tiny little word ‘was’.  But if we go back to the Greek, we see that the “Word” here is ‘Logos’, a Greek word meaning “plan.”  That little translational difference dramatically changes how people may interpret this first verse.  This entire book is such a great reminder to always dig a little bit deeper.  As someone who is part of the COG faith, I’ll be honest in saying it can sometimes get tiring to feel like I constantly need to defend my beliefs.  And sometimes it’s a little scary because I’m afraid I’ll be proven wrong.  Over the past two years or so, I have been very motivated to dig for truth in Scripture.  At first, it was a little nerve-wracking and truthfully just plain exhausting.  But as I continually found passages of Scripture that aligned with what I believed to be true, I found such joy in the process of digging!  It was so encouraging and grew my faith as I grew in confidence of the God that I believe in.  When having discussions with other Christians with different perspectives, it is important to come with an open mind and heart.  It’s also important to be comfortable answering difficult questions with “I’d like to look into that more, can I get back to you?”  Don’t rush the process, detectives don’t solve a case in a day!  Sometimes after difficult conversations with others I would find myself praying later that day for wisdom in how to respond, and BOOM, someone somewhere would lead me straight to a Scriptural reference or two to help.  You will find an answer if you’re willing to DIG.  Have you become tired or afraid of defending your beliefs?  Have confidence in our God; find joy in the process of digging into Scripture with an open mind to seek truth!

Thought #2 – Vs. 46-51: Jesus is a little sassy, and I love it.  In these verses Nathanael has no faith that Jesus is the true Messiah.  When he does believe, Jesus basically tells him, “Oh my friend, you haven’t seen anything yet.  I’m just getting started.”  I wish that I could have been there to witness that!  It would’ve been a perfect “oooooh snap” moment.  The best part is, Jesus has every right to say these things!  He is the true Messiah, and he was about to do some absolutely amazing things that would radically change the entire world FOREVER.  We are right in the midst of the Easter season, and these verses come at a great time to remind us of Jesus’ life and ministry on earth.  I can’t even imagine being alive during Jesus’ time on earth and how COOL that must have been!  To witness miracles, to witness him simply being the promised one that I had been hearing about probably since I was born!  And he was just getting started!  I wonder if Jesus’ followers at that time were just as confident as he was when speaking to Nathanael, or if there was still some hesitation and doubt.  As we prepare for the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, pause and reflect for a moment.  How do you react when faced with doubt about truths within Scripture?  Do you stand up with confidence as Jesus did, or do you question like Nathanael first did?

Thanks for sticking with me during this longer post!  I look forward to continuing John with you in the next few days.

~Sarah Blanchard

    

An Extraordinary Testimony

1 John 1

1 John 1 3

The day Jesus called, John was likely living a day just like any other day. John, his father and his brother went to work just like any other day. They started completing their job just like any other day. And they threw their fishing nets into the sea just like any other day.

Then Jesus called.

In a moment’s notice, John left everything he had and followed Jesus simply because Jesus called John and his brother on just another day.

Jesus said come, so they went. That’s it. No flashing lights, no miraculous signs, nothing out of the ordinary. With just one simple sentence, they dropped their nets to follow Jesus. I don’t know about you but just by reading that, I’d say his testimony in Matthew 4:21-22 seems pretty boring.

John’s testimony seemed boring until I realized John’s life changed completely. He was offered immortality in paradise. Who could pass that up? All John had to do was believe to gain immortality.

This brings us to 1 John 1. The first three verses are simply saying that John was there with Jesus. He heard Jesus speak. He saw Jesus perform miracles. He experienced the power of Jesus Christ. John was there. That is no ordinary testimony.

Sometimes in life, I convince myself that my testimony is pretty boring. If you’re like me, you sometimes think that your testimony is typical. Whether that is because you grew up in the church or were engulfed in the easily entangling sin, our individual testimonies don’t seem exciting enough or even Christian enough in our own minds.

The thing is our testimonies showcase the reason we believe: the reason why Jesus is real to us. Our testimonies provide proof that our lives were changed. Our testimonies are never ordinary testimonies. Our unique experiences, stories, and lives show how great of an impact Jesus still has today on this beautifully ordinary day.

When someone asks you how you can believe in someone who died over 2,000 years ago, recount your testimony, tell that Jesus is alive and continuing to work in miraculous ways. Because Jesus is there with you, changing your individual life every step of the way. Yours is no ordinary testimony.          
– Madison Cisler                      

 

(Thank you to Madison Cisler for writing this week. Madison is a student at Atlanta Bible College.  She will be writing on the books of 1st, 2nd & 3rd John.  Look for great devotions this week!)