Thursday, September 29, 2016

John 14:15-21

John 14:15-21
Contemporary English Version (CEV)

  The Holy Spirit is a tough one for us.  How exactly do you describe it?  You can't see it or touch it, but it conveys the presence of God and guides us as Christians.  Though God is not physically present with us, the Holy Spirit is with us to remind us how God is near and will never leave nor forsake you.  The Holy Spirit is a constant presence in our lives, and yet it can be so difficult to grasp the reality.
  It's like explaining salt in food -- we often can't see it (unless you're eating in a Southern restaurant), but it's presence can certainly be sensed, sometimes stronger than others, and once you grow accustomed to it, you notice when it's not there.  Living near the ocean, salt can get into everything, and it can be felt in the air.  In the same way, when we abide with the Spirit year after year, it is part of our everyday life, and others can notice that there is something different about us. But try explaining salt and what it tastes like to someone who has never had it -- it's a hard concept to explain.
  God is always present, and God always loves you.  So often that is communicated through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.  May we make room in our days to let the Holy Spirit lead us.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

John 14:8-14

John 14:8-14
Contemporary English Version (CEV)

  I think Jesus understands how hard it is to believe.  The disciples, the ones spending every day of three years with him, they're struggling to grasp how Jesus can be God.  Jesus is understandably patient and loving, trying to help them believe.  He tells them to trust in his word, and if his word isn't enough, he points to his actions.  Jesus is urging us to trust in him -- remember, his goal is not to lose a single sheep.
  And then he promises something amazing -- that the disciples will do even greater things.  He paints them a picture of an amazing future, and then reminds them that it will all be for the Father's glory.
  When you and I get discouraged, our vision tends to narrow to the immediate.  When I have a tough day at work and get home late, I get down and think it's always going to be like this.  When I get sick, I wonder if I'll always get healthy.  When I'm sad, I forget that I'll ever be happy again.
  Jesus, however, points to the long-term.  He tells us the amazing things that await us.  He reminds us of the glory of God that is in store in the future.  He reminds us that he is building us up for the future, for God's future, and that future is worth the wait.  In the darkest of nights, Jesus orients us towards the coming dawn.
  So be patient as you struggle with questions, with life.  Jesus has come for us, and he longs for us to grow into the future God has in store for us.  May the body of Christ surround you and remind you of that each and every day.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

John 14:1-7

John 14:1-7
Contemporary English Version (CEV)

  When Jesus leaves, he tells us what he will be doing until his return -- preparing a place for us.  He's not idly waiting for us to save the world.  He's not watching the debate thinking about how it might affect his places.  He's not twiddling his thumbs because he got distracted on the way back from the fridge.
  No, Jesus is actively at work, preparing a place for us.  He's thinking of you -- and he has promised to bring you back with him when he returns.
  Now, we have a lot of questions about what this return will look like and what it's going to be like after death.  To all of those questions, Jesus offers an answer:  Himself.  He is the way, the truth and the life.  To every question we have, he is the answer.  When we're uncertain about exactly what it means for God to love us and assure us a community in life and a life beyond death, we look to Christ.  We look to the example he set in his life, we study his teaching and his selfless death, and we wonder at the power of the resurrection to conquer death.
  When we are afraid, the way is to remember his promise to always be with us.
  When we are joyous, the truth is that our joy is a glimpse of the heavenly kingdom.
  When we are uncertain, the answer is to trust in God and take small steps, guided by the Holy Spirit    When we are facing death, the life is to trust in the God who has pierced the veil of death and points to the life on the other side
  In all of life, Christ is big enough and powerful enough to walk with us through each and every moment.  He is our everything.

Monday, September 26, 2016

John 13:31-38

John 13:31-38
Contemporary English Version (CEV) 

 It sounds so good for Peter:  I would die for you!  He probably means it when he says it, too.  He loves Jesus and has followed him everywhere for the past three years.  He will do whatever... but when the time comes for him to be tested, we know how the story goes -- he falters.  He means well when he says it, but he just doesn't have the strength to follow through.
  In the same way, we mean well when we make intentions and promises to God to grow in discipleship.  We mean well when we say it.  We want it to be true.  But when the time comes to step up and do it, we often find excuses, or we duck.  Sometimes there are things that come up, but other times we just find things to distract us.  It's hard to be faithful in a distracting world.
  And so there is a balance.  Where our sin leads us to falter, there is grace.  There is the unconditional love of God that promises to forgive us even as we fall short, even as we often deny Christ through our words and deeds.  God knows us and loves us just the same.
  At the same time, we are continuously called into the deeper waters of discipleship, called to have a looser hold on the things of this world and a stronger hold on Christ.  We are called to re-commit ourselves daily to Christ, no matter how challenging it may be.  We do this not out of guilt, but out of gratitude.