In John 16, Jesus emboldens his disciples in his farewell speech by reassuring them with the promise of the Holy Spirit. Now in the seventeenth chapter, Jesus turns his eyes to heaven and prays for his beloved followers. Jesus is passing the torch to the disciples. And you'd better believe that the disciples, who are overhearing the prayer, are listening closely. It reminds me of visits to my grandparent's home as a child. My sister and I were supposed to be tucked into bed, but after a little while, we would silently tiptoe to the staircase and strain to overhear whar out mother was saying about us to our grandmother. Although Jesus prays openly about death is near, the tone of his prayer is almost joyous-he has fulfilled his calling, and the glory of his full return to unity with God as described in John's prologue is near. In this prayer, Jesus blessed his followers by naming their preparation for this moment. The disciples have received Jesus' words, and they are now certain of Jesus' divinity. Jesus prayers for unity among his followers, "so that they may be one, as we are one." The disciples could not have imagined the many streams and rivulets the Jesus movement would split into. Yet, even when John's Gospel is written, probably in the second century, there are already multiple strains: Christians rooted in Judaism and those who, like the community John writes from, have separated from the mother tree to focus on the exclusive priority of Christ. Nor could the disciples have envisioned the global church today and the complexities of church and culture that call us to deeper dialogue and prayer for one another.
Jesus tells His disciples that their love for Him will be shown by their obedience to Him. Jesus will ask the Father to send the Holy Spirit, another Advocate, who will never leave them. The Holy Spirit will lead them into all truth and will never leave them. The world cannot receive the Holy Spirit because it doesn’t want Him. When Jesus is raised, they will know that He and the Father are one. Jesus’ promise is that the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, will come and continue Jesus’ work in His followers. Following Jesus means more than a particular spirituality or religious tradition. The true followers of Jesus are those who obey His commandments. If we say we love Jesus but continue to sin we are deceiving ourselves. Likewise, we cannot claim to have the Holy Spirit if we live unholy lives. To love Jesus is to obey Him.
Robin Graham is the youngest person in history to sail around the world alone. But success didn't come easily for him. He left on his three-year odyssey as a sixteen-year-old boy thrill-seeker. The adventure was like a drug to him. His trip changed something deep inside him. A violent storm almost capsized his little boat, the Dove. In the midst of the torrent, the Dove's mast snapped in two, and Robin barely survived the water-filled tornado. But that wasn't the worst of it. When his boat entered a windless, currentless part of the ocean near the equator, Robion almost went crazy with doubt and despair. At one point, he completely gave up hope that he would ever make it out. He splashed kerosene all over his boat and set it on fire. Fortunately, Robin snapped to his senses and doused the fire before it did serious damage. Three years after his departure, Robin sailed into Los Angeles harbor to cheering crowds, honking cars, and blasting steam whistles. He had made it. And, more importantly, he had wrestled two great enemies- doubt and despair- and found himself stronger as a result.
Sheep can be incredibly smart, For instance, most sheep can distinguish their shepherd's voice from any other voice. A few exceptional sheep can even be taught how to sit like a dog on command. On the other hand, sheep can seem completely brainless. It's not unusual to see sheep trying to walk through a barbed wire fence or casually strolling straight off the edge of a cliff. To make matters worse, where one goes, others tend to follow.
The hardest thing about being a shepherd is keeping the sheep where they should be, Certain sheep seem determined to go where they could be harmed. Modern shepherds use a device called a hobble on sheep's hind legs to keep them from moving freely. Before hobblers were invented, shepherds often broke a sheep's leg to keep it from the danger of wandering away. It was all part of caring for the sheep. Jesus seemed to understand sheep well. He saw His followers, us, as sheep, and himself as our shepherd.
Thoughts: Jesus joined some men who were walking the 7-1/2 miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Not recognizing Jesus, these men were discussing the news that angels had been seen at Jesus’ empty tomb, and these angels said that Jesus was alive.
Beginning with Moses, Jesus explained the scriptures that prophesied the coming of a Savior. Still, none of the men recognized Jesus.
When they sat down to eat supper together, Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them. Then “… their eyes were opened, and they knew him….”
Our sacrament of communion is a sacred reminder of Jesus’ sacrifice for us. “Take, eat, this is my body which is given for you.” “This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
“… he was known to them in breaking of bread.”
Discussion: How often should communion be served?
Activity: Memorize the words from the communion liturgy: “For thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, forgive us all that is past; and grant that we may ever hereafter serve and please thee in newness of life, to the honor and glory of thy name, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Weekly Devotional from Word at Home April 2017
Thoughts: Speeches can be a great show, but most of the time not much comes of them. Speeches are great fro inciting passion or bringing about awareness. But after a while, the words pile up-and piles of words will never magically become action. Jesus was aware of what a mountain of words would stack up to, and that's why He let his actions do the talking. When He rose from the dead, Jesus didn't make a speech to the world or chastise his closest friends who scattered. Instead, He made breakfast for them. This action was a reminder from Jesus that His friends belonged, that they weren't disqualified because they'd made a mistake and that the dream of God's love was still alive-for them and everyone else.
We create a space for change in our lives when we put down the megaphones, stop shouting at everybody else, and show up for our own faith. No heart can be transformed by a bunch of words. Change comes from belonging, and belonging is born out of being with others. But it can't stop there. Belonging without doing feels like a clique. It feels empty. Whether we're invited onto the stage or posting on a Facebook account, we're tempted to think that our words equate to real change. That' s just the first step. Let your lives spring into action, and let what comes of that do the talking.
Instead of telling someone what we think or believ- or telling them what they should think or believe-what if we just ate a meal with them? It sounds insignificant at first, but it's not. Love in action has the power many of us haven't tapped into. Maybe you're bummed to hear this, but a casserole or a bag of In-N-Out burgers sat more than any five sermons on how Jesus loved us.
Discussion: Who do you need to (virtually or post-quarantine)change your approach with and just sit down for a meal?
Activity: Pick one of the people you just mentioned and be intentional about how you minster to them!!
Weekly Devotional from Live in Grace, Walk in Love by Bob Goff
Thoughts: I couldn’t sleep that night. In the early morning darkness, I got up, dressed, and then hurried to Jesus’ tomb. I knew a huge stone had been rolled against the opening of the tomb, and I had heard soldiers were posted outside the tomb. Probably, I couldn’t even get near the tomb, but I felt compelled to go there. I needed to be close to Jesus’ poor lacerated body. But when I came near enough to see, the stone had been rolled away. And there were no soldiers. The stillness was absolute. No early birds chirped; no rabbits slipped through the dewy grass. I was alone in the darkness, and I was afraid.
Discussion: Why did Mary Magdalene go to Jesus’ tomb alone?
Activity: Send an Easter card with a hand-written note to someone who lives alone.
Weekly Devotional from March 2016 Word at Hom
Scripture: Matthew 21:1-11
Thoughts: This is such a familiar text and provides great detail for creating a movie in your mind of Jesus’ humble and yet triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The King of Kings has arrived on a donkey, fulfilling the prophecy. Those along the path recognize and accept him, and they offer branches and cloaks to ease his way. Jesus, who went through most of his life without fanfare, follows the description of the prophecy and makes clear to all that he has arrived. Those who know him, praise him and those who don’t are aware enough to ask “Who is this?”
Discussion: Knowing the ending of this story, what do you think you would say to Jesus as he entered Jerusalem? Are you prepared to shout praises for Jesus as his followers did on Palm Sunday, and then stick by those praises and not desert him in times of controversy or strife?
Activity: Read Zechariah 9:9 in which Zechariah foretells the coming of Christ the Savior and the glories of his final kingdom and then read Matthew 21 1-11. Open your heart and mind in preparation for passionate praises for our Lord and Savior this Palm Sunday.
Thoughts: Jesus knew his friend Lazarus was deathly ill. Jesus also knew what no one else did: God would raise Lazarus from his grave. Still, Lazarus’s sisters were pleading with Jesus to come and heal their brother. Instead, he waited till Lazarus died. Why? To show God’s power over death.
Lazarus probably didn’t appreciate Jesus’ delayed arrival. With his life slipping away, Lazarus may have wondered, “Where is Jesus? Why doesn’t he come?” But Jesus’ mission was not about his friends’ timeline. It was about God’s. The Lord’s timing is always right. And here, to demonstrate his dominance over death, Jesus waited till everyone could be absolutely sure that Lazarus was dead.
Now, Jesus’ intentional delay does not mean he was insensitive to grief. He too “was deeply moved in spirit and troubled,” and he wept. While people then and now may reason that he wept because of Lazarus, it was surely even deeper than that. Jesus wept because death is still our enemy. Far from being insensitive about death, Jesus came to take on the curse of death for us. And his purpose in all of this was God’s glory, so that we might believe in God and in his power, through Jesus, to cancel our sin and give us new life forever in his presence.
Thoughts: God loves a cheerful Giver. Imagine that: our Father loves when we give to Him. All parents love gifts their children give to them, even thought parents likely provided the means to make the purchase. I think I have paid for most of the gifts my children have give me. But, then again, God has also provided the means for everything I have given to Him. A cheerful giver does not give out of obligation or duty, but voluntarily as he purposes in his heart. Giving to God funds the wok of the gospel at home through His church, and helps to care for those in need. A cheerful giver is loved by God and loves to give to God. How joyful is it to know you rally cannot out give God. God loves to give. He has promised the giver will be provided sufficiency in all things and abundance for every good work. There is no remorse in giving to God because when you give you receive more than you give.
Discussion: How can we cheerfully give to God in ways besides our tithes & offerings?
Activity: Pray with me: Lord, thank You for giving to me so lavishly. Thank you for allowing me to give to You and invest in Your Kingdom. I ask you to grow my generosity so I may put to death covetousness, greed, and jealousy. Lord, please open the windows of heaven and fill me with the blessings of Your lavish generosity. Amen.
Weekly Devotional from Touched by Truth Daily Devotional, by Scott Yirka, Hivernia Baptist Church, Fleming Island Fl.
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