June 9 – Looking For Truth in The Only Right Place

2 Chronicles 32-33 John 18:19-40

“Pilate said, ‘So you are a king!’ Jesus answered, ‘You are the one saying I am a king. This is why I was born and came into the world: to tell people the truth. And everyone who belongs to the truth listens to me.’ Pilate said, ‘What is truth?’” (John 18:37-38a)

Pilate was in a tough situation. The political and religious leaders were foaming at the mouth about how he had to crucify Jesus, and Jesus wasn’t talking. When He did talk, it was cryptic. I believe that Pilate came to the conclusion that the only thing Jesus was guilty of was insanity and he didn’t want to execute someone for being insane. He found different ways to let Jesus go, but the Pharisees and Sadducees fought against them all. Then Pilate decided to make one last attempt with Jesus and the word games continued. “My kingdom’s not of this world” “So You’re a king?” “You said it, not me. I just came to speak truth.” Then Pilate scoffed at Jesus, asking a question that’s bedeviled philosophers for ages: “What is truth?”

Pilate asked that question dismissively. Although he pleaded with Jesus later seeking one last way to prevent the crucifixion, he was done with Jesus. He didn’t want to execute an innocent man, but just as the Jews sought to execute Jesus because it was better for one man to die so that the nation would continue, he would rather see one man die than lose his position of power. The result was that he asked the wrong question. What he should have asked was “Who is truth?” Too many people want to know the answer to “what is truth?” and their searches have brought us to a world where some think it’s ok for everyone to have their own version of truth. The more important question, “who is truth?” leads us in our search for God. There are many false gods and idols in the world. Our country has freedom of religion and we allow people to talk about and worship any god or idol and follow just about any religion. The ultimate questions are “Is there one truth?” and if so, “Who is truth?” I believe that there is one truth. That means that some people are wrong, and others are right. I believe that Jesus alone is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” There is no other. That means that I believe that anyone who doesn’t know Jesus is following a false way. That’s why I proclaim Him here and in other areas of my life. I have many friends who don’t know the truth. I have many friends who are following a false way. I don’t just tolerate them, though, I love them. I hope I love them as Jesus would love them. My goal isn’t to win arguments with people who don’t know the Truth; my goal is to speak Truth to their hearts.

Lord, You alone are the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Help me to share You with others that they might know You as I know You.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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June 8 – Where There’s His Will, There Should We Pray

2 Chronicles 30-31 John 18:1-18

“Simon Peter, who had a sword, pulled it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put your sword back. Shouldn’t I drink the cup the Father gave me?’” (John 18:10-11 NCV)

It’s easy to understand Peter sometimes. He was probably smarting from the rebuke Jesus gave him when He said that Peter would deny Him three times. All the disciples felt the tension in the air. Peter brought a sword with him, and as they walked into the garden, he realized why. The Jewish leaders came with guards and soldiers to arrest Jesus and Peter wasn’t going to have that! He pulled out his weapon and swung at the first person he saw. Malchus, the servant of the high priest, was the unlucky recipient of Peter’s wild swing, as Peter got an earful. Then, in a second stinging rebuke, instead of praise from Jesus for his bravery, Jesus told him to put the sword away. Peter didn’t understand that this was all part of the plan God had to bring redemption, and so he fought against it. Jesus let him know that God had this all under control.

I wonder how often we pray for and ask prayer for situations and our prayer contradicts God’s plan for us? I remember praying for people with what seemed like perfectly reasonable requests only to see that prayer not answered the way I expected it to be. Then, a few months down the road, the reasons that the prayer got a different answer became obvious. God had a different plan and if He had said “yes” to my prayer, that would have gone against His plan. Jesus reminded Peter that God’s plan was the important thing and that He was allowing these men to arrest Him as part of that plan. In an interesting side note, Luke records Jesus as restoring the servant’s ear. (Talk about loving your enemies.) Too often, we focus our prayers on our desires, maybe even our needs, without determining what God wants. If we are his disciples, then our first need in life is to be like Him and do His will. Jesus, knowing His death on the cross was coming prayed for that cup to be taken away, but ended with “nevertheless, not my will, but Yours be done.” If we want to grow deeper in our prayer life, the key to that will come when we start seeking God’s will before we think about making our prayer list. Once we understand God’s plan, then we can pray more intelligently and not end up praying against His will.

Lord, reveal Yourself and Your will to me today. Let me know what Your desire is and help me to fulfill that desire.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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June 7 – Unity in God Because of the Love of God

2 Chronicles 28-29 John 17

“I have given these people the glory that you gave me so that they can be one, just as you and I are one. I will be in them and you will be in me so that they will be completely one. Then the world will know that you sent me and that you loved them just as much as you loved me.” (John 17:22-23 NCV)

John 17 is the final time of prayer that Jesus spent with His disciples. As you read this prayer one message becomes clear: Jesus wants His disciples to have the same unity with God the Father that He has had. He also wants us to be in unity with each other. Jesus wanted us to be united so much that He gave us His glory: His magnificence, His renown, His honor. His goal was that we would be one in the same way that He and the Father were one.

Sadly, we misunderstand the idea of unity. We confuse it with uniformity and decide that if someone doesn’t do things the way we do, or believe exactly the same way way we do, that they aren’t real followers of Jesus. The church, instead of embracing the unity of purpose that comes from the love of God, has seized on our differences and splintered over issues that aren’t eternally important. Good teams aren’t based on every member doing the same thing, but on every member doing their own job. A wide receiver running a route for a long pass play is just as important for the success of a running play as the guard blocking at the line. The key to success for Christians is that we’re obedient to God’s call on our lives and that we love each other, including those brothers and sisters who might believe a bit differently, with the love of God. Our goal, our mission from Jesus Himself is to make disciples. Let’s work together in the unity that comes from the love and grace of God to make disciple.

Lord, I pray what Jesus prayed: that we would be one just as the Son and the Father are one. Forgive me where I’ve been divisive in my relationships with my brothers and sisters. Remind me of Your call on my life and the purpose You’ve given to all of Your people.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved

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June 6 – Are We In Enough Trouble Yet?

2 Chronicles 25-27 John 16

“I told you these things so that you can have peace in me. In this world you will have trouble, but be brave! I have defeated the world.” (John 16:33 NCV)

One of the promises of Jesus that we don’t like is that we’ll have trouble in this world. We want to get along with everyone. We want people to like us. We want to be invited to hang out with the guys, or the girls, and spend carefree, good times with our friends and relatives. If we stay committed to our relationship with Jesus, though, we’re going to find ourselves in trouble. We’ll be in trouble because the ways of the world are not the ways of Jesus. The world looks out for number one (themselves), Jesus seeks out the least of these. The world seeks the best place, Jesus tells us to take the lowest place. The world seeks honor, Jesus seeks service. Jesus never tells us to avoid trouble, He encourages us to be brave in the face of it. Our courage comes not from our own ability, though, it comes because He has faced the worst the world has to offer and emerged victorious.

One of my common reactions when people ask me how I’m doing, or even more specifically, “are you staying out of trouble?” is to say that I’m staying in trouble. It would be nice if I could say I started doing that for spiritual reasons, but honestly, I started saying that for contrarian reasons. People don’t expect that, and they laugh. They may wish me luck getting out of trouble. As I think about it, maybe that answer is a better answer than I originally thought. Maybe my problem isn’t that I’m in trouble too often, it’s that I’m not in trouble, the right kind of trouble, often enough. It’s too easy for me to go along to get along with the world. I agree with injustice because of I’m silent when I should speak. I miss opportunities to be silent by joining a chorus speaking out in way that’s contrary to God’s plan. I shrink from confrontation when I should be bold in proclaiming righteousness. I cause controversy and hurt when I don’t choose my words carefully. In short, I’m willing to do what the world expects me, and everyone else, to do so that I can avoid getting into trouble. One of my favorite quotes from a professor ever is that “the problem with Christians is that no one wants to kill them anymore.” We need to stir the pot in a way that honors God. Scared to do that? Join the club, then take heart that Jesus has defeated the world.

I don’t know why I seek approval from the world, Lord, when I have Your love to watch over and guide me. Let me be so in tune with you that I get in trouble with the world’s standards. Help me to live in the victory that You secured when You defeated the world.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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June 5 – God Chose Us Because of Who He Is

2 Chronicles 23-24 John 15

“You did not choose me; I chose you. And I gave you this work: to go and produce fruit, fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you anything you ask for in my name. This is my command: Love each other.” (John 15:16-17 NCV)

There is no greater mystery in my understanding of God’s ways than that of faith. How is it we come to faith. Why is it that I’ve been blessed with even a small amount of faith in Jesus when others who are much better people than me have no faith in Him? How is it that the Resurrection seems completely logical to me and the only way to explain what happened back in those days, while others refuse to consider the idea? Perhaps the only way to explain it is in the story of the person who explained how she and her husband got married. “I chased him and chased him until he caught me.” That’s the picture I get in my mind when Jesus says that He chose us. Lest we get big-headed about Jesus choosing us, remember that God has a way of choosing the most broken, the hurting, the least significant in the eyes of the world. He takes the kids picked last for their Little League teams and wins the World Series.

The problem with people who are chosen is that we seem to think that there’s some special quality in us that made God choose us. When Paul describes how and why God chose us in Corinthians (1 Corinthians 1:26-31), it should give us a chance to pause. Perhaps instead of gloating about how wonderful we are that God chose us, we can reflect on His amazing grace in choosing us. He chose us with a purpose. We are to produce fruit. We’re to share the gospel so that others will know that God will choose them. We’re to teach the ways of God to produce the highest quality fruit. And God chooses us not because of our excellence, but because His excellence can be seen in us. Notice the prayer promise here. Many treat it as an open purchase order to ask God for material blessings. It works, in their minds, because they add the phrase “In Jesus’s name” at the end, and those magical words force God to answer the prayer. Nothing could be further from the truth. Asking in Jesus’s name is asking in the character and manner Jesus would ask. Jesus would ask for the souls of people who need Him. Jesus would ask, and in fact He gives it to us as a command, that we love each other. As God’s chosen people, let’s do what God asks: produce fruit, pray for others as Jesus would, and love each other.

Lord, continue to remind me that You chose me because of who You are, not who I was. Work in me to help me produce fruit in keeping with Your name and Your love.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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June 4 – When We’re With Him

2 Chronicles 21-22 John 14

“There are many rooms in my Father’s house; I would not tell you this if it were not true. I am going there to prepare a place for you. After I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me so that you may be where I am.” (John 14:2-3 NCV)

It’s interesting how often we hear people talk about mansions, our rooms even, in heaven. These verses are used to justify those conversations, and often, the size, quality, or beauty of the mansion/room is based on the good that we did on earth. In other words, works. Then, having begun by taking this verse literally, they double down by imagining Jesus as a maid, getting the room ready, or a Realtor doing the final make ready on a mansion He just sold. I think those view show a misunderstanding of this verse. I see this passage as reminding us that Jesus is preparing our place in heaven (the Father’s house) by going to the cross to take away our sins. Houses and rooms are places of rest and safety. We can relax and rest there. I don’t think we’ll need to do that in Heaven, based on the few glimpses we have of Heaven in the Bible.

The problem with people getting so wrapped up in their heavenly address is that they forget that their permanent address can be with God because of the sacrifice that Jesus made. From the minute Judas left the room at the Last Supper, Jesus focused on the cross. When Jesus talked about preparing a place, He was talking about His upcoming death on the cross. It was there that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins and prepared Heaven for us. It ain’t about the house, the mansion, or the rooms, it’s all about being made righteous so that we can have a relationship with the Father. In all the discussion about where we’ll live in Heaven, or who we’ll see in Heaven, Jesus reminds us again and again that it’s about His presence. Even after talking about the houses/mansions/rooms (depending on your translation) He reminds us that He’s taking us back to be with Him. All the cares of this world will melt, when we’re with Him. All the desires for wealth, honor, and importance will disappear, when we’re with Him. Nothing we value in this life will seem worthy of our thoughts, when we’re with Him.

Lord, the glory of Heaven is that we are with You. It begins when we enter into Your grace here on earth. We know that now we see through a glass darkly, but then we’ll be with You, in person. Let me live in the joy of Heaven here on earth and do it in a way that causes others to want to follow You.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved..

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June 3 – It Turns Out, All You Need is to Love

2 Chronicles 19-20 John 13:21-38

“I give you a new command: Love each other. You must love each other as I have loved you. All people will know that you are my followers if you love each other.” (John 13:34-35 NCV)

Judas had left the building on his demonic mission to betray Jesus. Jesus took the time to teach the disciples the only test for orthodoxy that He left them, which was also the only way to survive the coming days. We’re called to love each other. We get caught up in the doctrinal discussions about how wet we get when we baptize, as well as how we get wet; we fight about what happens when we celebrate the Last Supper when we take the Lord’s Supper, er, Holy Communion, er, the Eucharist, er, did I miss a name for that? Jesus’s point here is clear. If we want others to know that we’re His followers, we’ll love His other followers no matter how “wrong” they are, and they’ll love us no matter how wrong we are.

Let me ask a stupid question: is there any Christian around who doesn’t know what Jesus said here? Is there any Christian who doesn’t understand that Jesus called us to love others who’ve made the commitment to follow Him? There are some people who claim to be Christians who spend their whole lives attacking other Christians for being wrong. Sometimes they form themselves into little enclaves to keep the world, and other Christians out because we’re wrong. And here’s where it gets theologically dicey: those folks claim to love Jesus, but they hate other brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus would say they weren’t His true followers, based on His verse. Does that give those of us who love all the other followers of Christ the ability to hate, or attack them? I think the answer for us becomes clear when we realize how much Jesus loved those who hated Him. My call is to love the errant brother or sister. My call is to show them what the love of God really looks like so that they can examine their own beliefs and turn from the way of hate and join in loving other followers of Jesus as we show the world the same love that Jesus showed them also. It’s a simple process: we love other believers. If we aren’t sure whether or not they’re believers in Christ we still love them because our ultimate call is to love people in the world just as God loved them anyway. If you’re not sure how to react in a given situation, especially when people do wrong to you, try loving them like Jesus did. You won’t ever go wrong doing that.

Lord, how easy it is to hate those who claim to follow You, but don’t do it right, in my eyes. How easy it is to hate those who are evil, forgetting that there, but for Your grace, go I. Help me to love as You love. Help me to love my errant brothers and sisters. Help me to love those who hate me because I follow You.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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June 2 – Recognizing the Value and Worth of All People

2 Chronicles 17-18 John 13:1-20

“If I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash each other’s feet. I did this as an example so that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, a servant is not greater than his master. A messenger is not greater than the one who sent him.” (John 13:14-16 NCV)

There are some jobs that are beneath common dignity. Let’s face it. Back in the days when Jesus walked the earth, He, and just about everyone else, wore sandals. People’s feet would get dusty, disgusting even, and one thing they looked forward to was the slave cleaning their feet when they came in from the streets. Only, this was the Last Supper. While this was usually the job of the lowest of the slaves, there were no slaves to handle the job on this night. While everyone else waited around for someone else to do the job, Jesus did it. Then, in the awkward silence that followed, He taught them the important truth that if we’re followers of Christ, we’ll worry less about our dignity and more about making sure the job gets done. Demanding dignity and honor above another is another way of saying that others are beneath us. Jesus reminded us in this situation that we’re to honor and give dignity to others, recognizing who they are as human beings in the sight of God.

Our world has forgotten this message about the dignity and worth of all people. We get into religious discussions about our differences, and the people who are wrong (defined as having different beliefs than I do) are treated disrespectfully. In political debates, the worst thing you can call anyone is a label that’s opposite to the label you may identify as. No Republican can say “Democrat” without a sneer in their voice, and no Democrat can say “Republican” without that same sneer. Other views are to be attacked instead of listened to. We no longer want actual debates, we want echo chambers where everyone agrees with us. When we treat other people as lesser beings for whatever reason: religion, politics, skin color, gender, etc., we show that we don’t understand what Jesus did here. We don’t wash the feet of others so much anymore, but we need to be willing to treat all people with dignity and respect. We must realize that every job is important in God’s eyes and be willing to do what’s necessary to serve others. As followers of Christ, we weren’t called to positions of high honor. We were called to serve the Master. We are not greater than our master; we are not greater than the one who sent us.

Lord, help me to see others as You do. Help me to recognize the worth that they have in Your heart and value them like You do. Remind me that there is no greater job than doing what You call me to do – even if it seems like the lowest job on earth.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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June 1 – Whatcha Worrying About?

2 Chronicles 15-16 John 12:27-50

“But many believed in Jesus, even many of the leaders. But because of the Pharisees, they did not say they believed in him for fear they would be put out of the synagogue. They loved praise from people It’s more than praise from God.” (John 12:42-43 NCV)

Jesus created tension in Jerusalem. He taught and predicted some amazing things. He sparred with the Pharisees and they did what most people do when they’re losing arguments. They blocked Him on all social media and they attacked His disciples and would-be followers. Perhaps that’s a bit modern. They wouldn’t let Jesus go into the synagogues and they threatened to kick anyone out of the synagogue who might follow Him. The synagogue was where you talked with other Jews. I would guess business would be conducted in the synagogues. Religious instruction happened there. If there was anything the Jews wanted to avoid, it was being kicked out of the synagogue. The Pharisees kept “their” people in line with threats like that and personal attacks on Jesus and anyone who followed Him.

It’s easy to look back at those early “would-be” disciples and wonder how they could let a little fear keep them from proclaiming the truth when they knew it; imagine what they could say about us after 2000 years and experiencing the resurrection. Think about the opportunities we have to share the gospel: opportunities lost because we worry about what the other person will think about us. We, and I’m including myself in this group, will talk about sports results, the stock market, politics, and just about anything else other than the most important things in the world – a relationship with Jesus Christ. We probably won’t get put out of the church for talking about Jesus, but we may get ridiculed at work. In some cases, family may shun you if you talk about Jesus. You may not get invited to go to the “cool” parties or hang with the “cool” people. Paul understood that feeling, but he had the right attitude about that problem: “Those things were important to me, but now I think they are worth nothing because of Christ. Not only those things, but I think that all things are worth nothing compared with the greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of him, I have lost all those things, and now I know they are worthless trash. This allows me to have Christ.” (Philippians 3:7-8 NCV) Do you want the friendships and applause of this world, or do you want to follow Christ? The answer to that should guide how you work and talk with others.

Oh Lord, give me the courage to speak to others about You. Help me to stop worrying about what others may think and focus on pleasing You.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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May 31 – The Most Important Choice of All

2 Chronicles 13-14 John 12:1-26

“Jesus found a colt and sat on it. This was as the Scripture says, ‘Don’t be afraid, people of Jerusalem! Your king is coming, sitting on the colt of a donkey.’ Zechariah 9:9” (John 12:14-15 NCV)

The time had come for the beginning of the end. Jesus had gone to Bethany and brought Lazarus back from the dead, which put a target on His head as well as Lazarus’s. He’d been anointed for His burial, sparking a confrontation with Judas where we learned that Judas was an embezzler. The end began with a bang, though as Jesus deliberately fulfilled this prophecy from Zechariah. He arranged to get a donkey so that He could ride into Jerusalem as the prophecy foretold. That might cause a problem with some people today, who’d want to meet Him at the airport, but Jesus rode the donkey into Jerusalem to fulfill this prophecy. I don’t recall any other mention in the Bible of Jesus traveling by donkey or any other animal.

To use a modern saying, Jesus lived rent free in the Pharisees’ heads. They were obsessed with getting rid of the threat that Jesus posed. They wanted people to tell them what Jesus had done. They worked on getting anyone who followed Jesus out of the synagogues. Now, the greatest threat of all was looming. The infatuation that people had with Jesus would bring the wrath of Rome on them for what would be the final time. Then, Jesus deliberately fulfilled the prophecy about the Messiah coming into Jerusalem on a donkey and the crowds rejoiced. The Pharisees went into panic mode in their quest to execute Jesus. Ultimately, there was a choice to make: people could choose to follow the Pharisees, or they could choose to follow Jesus. Following the Pharisees seemed like the safe way because it would maintain the status quo. Maybe the Jews weren’t too happy with the Romans, but, if I can use the expression without sounding blasphemous, better the devil you know than the one you don’t. Those who followed Jesus knew that there might be a price to pay, but they also believed that He was a prophet of God. They feared Rome, but they feared God more. We have a similar choice today. We can choose to follow Jesus, or we can choose what seems to be the safe way and follow society. Those who sought safety in Jerusalem, saw its destruction less than forty years later. Those who followed Jesus faced death but found out that Jesus was so much more than a prophet. Their end was not destruction, though, their end was eternal life. Those who follow Jesus today can be assured of eternal life no matter what society does with them. Those who follow the way of the world, will go the way of the world in the age to come – and it won’t be pretty. As for me and my house, we choose to serve the Lord.

Lord, the most important choice that people will ever have is whether or not to follow You. Thank You for leading me to follow You. Thank You for keeping me in Your love.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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