Praying the Message of Jesus

Daily devotions and thoughts from Eugene Peterson

September 1

The Dead Will Hear the Voice 


"It's urgent that you get this right: The time has arrived-I mean right now! -when dead men and women will hear the voice of the Son of God and, hearing, will come alive. Just as the Father has life in himself, he has conferred on the Son life in himself. And he has given him the authority, simply because he is the Son of Man, to decide and carry out matters of Judgment. Don't act so surprised at all this. The time is coming when everyone dead and buried will hear his voice. Those who have lived the right way will walk out into a resurrection Life; those who have lived the wrong way, into a resurrection Judgment." JOHN 5:25-29


The words of Jesus are not pious embroidery for religious pillows. The ministry of Jesus is radical and it is ultimate. It crashes the boundaries of death and summons all to a resurrection.


What happens at resurrection?


I hear thunder in your speech, O God; I see lightning in your acts. Storm through this soul of mine; wake the sleeping parts of me; raise the dead parts of me; stand me on my feet, alert and praising in your presence. Amen. 

September 2

If You Believed Moses ...

 

"I can't do a solitary thing on my own: I listen, then I decide. You can trust my decision because I'm not out to get my own way but only to carry out orders. If I were simply speaking on my own ac­count, it would be an empty, self-serving witness. But an indepen­dent witness confirms me, the most reliable Witness of all. Furthermore, you all saw and heard John, and he gave expert and reliable testimony about me, didn't he? But my purpose is not to get your vote, and not to appeal to mere human testimony. I'm speaking to you this way so that you will be saved. John was a torch, blazing and bright, and you were glad enough to dance for an hour or so in his bright light. But the witness that really con­firms me far exceeds John's witness. It's the work the Father gave me to complete. These very tasks, as I go about completing them, confirm that the Father, in fact, sent me. The Father who sent me, confirmed me. And you missed it. You never hear his voice, you never saw his appearance. There is nothing left in your memory of his Message because you do not take his Messenger seriously. You have your heads in your Bibles constantly because you think you'll find eternal life there. But you miss the forest for the trees. These Scriptures are all about me! And here I am, standing right before you, and you aren't willing to receive from me the life you say you want. I'm not interested in crowd approval. And do you know why? Because I know you and your crowds. I know that love, es­pecially God's love, is not on your working agenda. I came with the authority of my Father, and you either dismiss me or avoid me. If another came, acting self-important, you would welcome him with open arms. How do you expect to get anywhere with God when you spend all your time jockeying for position with each other, ranking your rivals and ignoring God? But don't think I'm going to accuse you before my Father. Moses, in whom you put so much stock. is your accuser. If you believed, really believed, what Moses said, you would believe me. He wrote of me. If you won't take seriously what he wrote, how can I expect you to take seri­ously what/ speak?" JOHN 5:30-47

 

Everything converges to authenticate Jesus as God's Christ: the ministry of John the Baptist (verses 33-35); the "very tasks," which anyone can observe and evaluate (verses 36-38); and the authoritative Scriptures (verses 39-47). The evidence is massive. Those who refuse to believe Jesus refuse on the grounds of sin, not logic.

 

What convinced you to believe in Jesus?

 

So far as I am able, Lord, I want to grasp the grand sweep of your reality and perceive each sharply etched detail of your presence. Use all the evidence-what others say about you, what you say about yourself, what the Scriptures say about you-to both enlarge and sharpen my faith. Amen. 

September 3

Jesus Took the Bread

 

When Jesus looked out and saw that a large crowd had arrived, he said to Philip, "Where can we buy bread to feed these people?" He said this to stretch Philip's faith. He already knew what he was going to do. Philip answered, "Two hundred silver pieces wouldn't be enough to buy bread for each person to get a piece." One of the disciples -it was Andrew. brother to Simon Peter-said, "There's a little boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But that's a drop in the bucket for a crowd like this." Jesus said, "Make the people sit down." There was a nice carpet of green grass in this place. They sat down, about five thousand of them. Then Jesus took the bread and, having given thanks, gave it to those who were seated. He did the same with the fish. All ate as much as they wanted. When the people had eaten their fill, he said to his disciples. "Gather the leftovers so nothing is wasted." They went to work and filled twelve large baskets with leftovers from the five barley loaves. JOHN 6:5-13

 

Jesus' feeding of the five thousand is a sign of both his intention and his ability to provide for us whatever we need. His care is all-inclusive. His power is unrestricted. Body and spirit are equally sustained by his command.

 

What material difference does Jesus make in your life?

 

In the meals I eat today, O God, I will receive your gifts. My food is evidence of what you make and what you give. Thank you for bread and fish, in Jesus' name. Amen. 

September 4

Food That Sticks With You

 

In the evening his disciples went down to the sea, got in the boat, and headed back across the water to Capernaum. It had grown quite dark and Jesus had not yet returned. A huge wind blew up, churning the sea. They were maybe three or four miles out when they saw Jesus walking on the sea, quite near the boat. They were scared senseless, but he reassured them, "It's me. It's all right. Don't be afraid." ... When [the crowd] found him back across the sea, they said, "Rabbi, when did you get here?" Jesus answered, "You've come looking for me not because you saw God in my actions but because I fed you, filled your stomachs -and for free. Don't waste your energy striving for perishable food like that. Work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides. He and what he does are guaranteed by God the Father to last." To that they said, "Well, what do we do then to get in on God's works?" Jesus said, "Throw your lot in with the One that God has s·ent. That kind of a commitment gets you in on God's works." JOHN 6:16-20, 25-29

 

We can work for trivial ends or eternal ends. We can labor for that which passes away or for that which lasts forever. Ir is not a question of whether we work or not-we must work in either case-the question is, "For whom will we work?"

 

For whom do you work?

 

I put myself under your orders today, Lord Jesus. As I go to work, let me do everything in obedience to you and for the glory of your name, knowing that nothing is too slight or out of the way to be used to your glory. Amen. 

September 5

Bread from Heaven

 

They waffled: "Why don't you give us a clue about who you are, just a hint of what's going on? When we see what's up, we'll commit ourselves. Show us what you can do. Moses fed our ancestors with bread in the desert. It says so in the Scriptures: 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat."' Jesus responded, "The real significance of that Scripture is not that Moses gave you bread from heaven but that my Father is right now offering you bread from heaven, the real bread. The Bread of God came down out of heaven and is giving life to the world." They jumped at that: "Master, give us this bread, now and forever!" JOHN 6:30-34

 

The people were right in connecting the manna in the wilderness with the feeding of the five thousand. But they were wrong in stopping there; by so doing they were missing the profound provisions by God to satisfy their soul's hunger.

 

What is the real bread Jesus was referring to?

 

God, I know that my entire life is surrounded by your providence and upheld by your mercy. I thank you for all that you give me, bread from the bakery and bread from heaven, satisfying my body and my spirit. Amen. 

September 6

I Am the Bread of Life

 

Jesus said, "I am the Bread of Life. The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more, ever. I have told you this explicitly because even though you have seen me in action, you don't really believe me. Every person the Father gives me eventually comes running to me. And once that person is with me, I hold on and don't let go. I came down from heaven not to follow my own whim but to accomplish the will of the One who sent me. This, in a nutshell, is that will: that everything handed over to me by the Father be completed-not a single detail missed-and at the wrap-up of time I have everything and everyone put together, upright and whole. This is what my Father wants: that anyone who sees the Son and trusts who he is and what he does and then aligns with him will enter real life, eternal life. My part is to put them on their feet alive and whole at the completion of time." John 6:35-40

 

Jesus is our staple product. Received into our lives, like bread, he is the basic stuff of life for us. In him the essential needs of the day are satisfied and the central purposes in eternity are fulfilled.

 

How is Jesus like bread?

 

"Break Thou the bread of life, dear Lord, to me, as Thou didst break the loaves beside the sea; beyond the sacred page I seek Thee, Lord; my spirit pants for Thee, O Living Word!" Amen. 

September 7

Don't Bicker

 

At this, because he said, "I am the Bread that came down from heaven," the Jews started arguing over him: "Isn't this the son of Joseph? Don't we know his father? Don't we know his mother? How can he now say, 'I came down out of heaven' and expect anyone to believe him?" Jesus said, "Don't bicker among yourselves over me. You're not in charge here. The Father who sent me is in charge. He draws people to me-that's the only way you'll ever come. Only then do I do my work, putting people together, setting them on their feet, ready for the End. This is what the prophets meant when they wrote, 'And then they will all be personally taught by God.' Anyone who has spent any time at all listening to the Father, really listening and therefore learning, comes to me to be taught personally-to see it with his own eyes, hear it with his own ears, from me, since I have it firsthand from the Father. No one has seen the Father except the One who has his Being alongside the Father-and you can see me." John 6:41-46

 

The conventional imagination reeled and rocked under the impact ofJesus' claim. The proclamation that God was actually present among them was staggering-and they staggered.

 

What Scripture does Jesus quote?

 

I bring such small-minded and cramped ideas to my encounters with you, Lord. And you come to me filling the air with a vast love and an immense grace! Stretch my mind to take in all that you are; enlarge my spirit to respond to all that you give, in Jesus Christ. Amen. 

September 8

Down out of Heaven

 

"I'm telling you the most solemn and sober truth now: Whoever believes in me has real life, eternal life. I am the Bread of Life. Your ancestors ate the manna bread in the desert and died. But now here is Bread that truly comes down out of heaven. Anyone eating this Bread will not die, ever. I am the Bread-living Bread!-who came down out of heaven. Anyone who eats this Bread will live-and forever! The Bread that I present to the world so that it can eat and live is myself, this flesh-and-blood self." John 6:47-51

 

Life comes from above-not from around and not from within. Eternal salvation is a gift from God, not an accumulation of human virtue. We get what we need eternally by opening ourselves to God and receiving what he gives in Christ, not by trying to make it on our own.

 

What happened in the desert?

 

Dear Lord God, I don't want to live on the memory of old miracles, but expe­rience fresh ones in faith. Draw me into the fullness of this day's grace in which you have new things to do in and through me, in Jesus. Amen. 

September 9

How ... ?

 

At this, the Jews started fighting among themselves: "How can this man serve up his flesh for a meal?" But Jesus didn't give an inch. "Only insofar as you eat and drink flesh and blood, the flesh and blood of the Son of Man, do you have life within you. The one who brings a hearty appetite to this eating and drinking has eternal life and will be fit and ready for the Final Day. My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. By eating my flesh and drinking my blood you enter into me and I into you. In the same way that the fully alive Father sent me here and I live because of him, so the one who makes a meal of me lives because of me. This is the Bread from heaven. Your ancestors ate bread and later died. Whoever eats this Bread will live always." He said these things while teaching in the meeting place in Capernaum.  John 6:52-59

 

Jesus does not answer questions, he asks them. He is not a puzzle for us to figure out, but the very life of God in the form we can receive it. Coming to Jesus is not entering a classroom but sitting down at a banquet.

 

Do your questions ever get in the way of your faith?

 

Father, your gifts are beyond my understanding; your life exceeds my ability to explain it. But explanations are not what I really want anyway. What I really want are deepened capacities to receive and enjoy, through Jesus Christ. Amen. 

September 10

Tough Teaching

 

Many among his disciples heard this and said, "This is tough teaching, too tough to swallow." Jesus sensed that his disciples were having a hard time with this and said, "Does this throw you completely? What would happen if you saw the Son of Man ascending to where he came from? The Spirit can make life. Sheer muscle and willpower don't make anything happen. Every word I've spoken to you is a Spirit-word, and so it is life-making. But some of you are resisting, refusing to have any part in this." (Jesus knew from the start that some weren't going to risk themselves with him. He knew also who would betray him.) He went on to say, "This is why I told you earlier that no one is capable of coming to me on his own. You get to me only as a gift from the Father." John 6:60-65

 

The difficulty is not in what we must do, but what we must not do-namely, attempt to be gods or goddesses on our own. It is a lovely ambition and hard to give up. But until we do we cannot accept Christ as Lord and Savior.

 

Why do some still refuse to surrender?

 

Lord, you dash my fondest dreams-dreams of being in control of my life, dreams of controlling others. Then you give something far better-the vision of your Lordship and redemption. Banish unbelief from my heart and grant, in your mercy, faith. Amen. 

September 11

Do You Also Want to Leave?

 

After this a lot of his disciples left. They no longer wanted to be associated with him. Then Jesus gave the Twelve their chance: "Do you also want to leave?" Peter replied, "Master, to whom would we go? You have the words of real life, eternal life. We've already committed ourselves, confident that you are the Holy One of God." Jesus responded, "Haven't I handpicked you, the Twelve? Still, one of you is a devil!" He was referring to Judas, son of Simon Iscariot. This man-one from the Twelve!-was even then getting ready to betray him. JOHN 6:66-71

 

Jesus trusts us with the big eternity-shaping decisions. He will not force us into virtue; he will not compel faith; he will not coerce us into discipleship. Following Jesus is a true and deep act of freedom.

 

What is the difference between Peter and Judas?

 

Lord Jesus Christ, keep me from wandering, from turning back, from quitting By your grace I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward-to Jesus" (Philippians 3:14). Amen. 

September 12

His Brothers Didn't Believe

 

Later Jesus was going about his business in Galilee. He didn't want to travel in Judea because the Jews there were looking for a chance to kill him. It was near the time of Tabernacles, a feast observed annually by the Jews. His brothers said, "Why don't you leave here and go up to the Feast so your disciples can get a good look at the works you do? No one who intends to be publicly known does everything behind the scenes. If you're serious about what you are doing, come out in the open and show the world." His brothers were pushing him like this because they didn't believe in him either. Jesus came back at them, "Don't crowd me. This isn't my time. It's your time-it's always your time; you have nothing to lose. The world has nothing against you, but it's up in arms against me. It's against me because I expose the evil behind its pretensions. You go ahead, go up to the Feast. Don't wait for me. I'm not ready. It's not the right time for me." He said this and stayed on in Galilee. JOHN 7:1-9

 

Unbelief is impatient with God's ways. The counsel of Jesus' brothers stemmed not from their trust in him but from their doubts about him. But Jesus will not be hurried, and he will not be pushed.

 

What kind of feast was Tabernacles? 

 

Do it your way, Jesus, and in your time. Give me the gift of patience to wait, the gift of courage to persevere, and the gift of faith to believe that you do all things right. Amen. 

September 13

I Didn't Make This Up

 

But later, after his family had gone up to the Feast, he also went. But he kept out of the way, careful not to draw attention to him­self. The Jews were already out looking for him, asking around, "Where is that man?" There was a lot of contentious talk about him circulating through the crowds. Some were saying, "He's a good man." But others said, "Not so. He's selling snake oil." This kind of talk went on in guarded whispers because of the intimidat­ing Jewish leaders. With the Feast already half over, Jesus showed up in the Temple, teaching. The Jews were impressed, but puzzled: "How does he know so much without being schooled?" Jesus said, "I didn't make this up. What I teach comes from the One who sent me. Anyone who wants to do his will can test this teaching and know whether it's from God or whether I'm making it up. A person making things up tries to make himself look good. But someone trying to honor the one who sent him sticks to the facts and doesn't tamper with reality. It was Moses, wasn't it, who gave you God's Law? But none of you are living it. So why are you try­ing to kill me?" The crowd said, "You're crazy! Who's trying to kill you? You're demon-possessed." Jesus said, "I did one miraculous thing a few months ago, and you're still standing around getting all upset, wondering what I'm up to. Moses prescribed circumci­sion -originally it came not from Moses but from his ances­tors -and so you circumcise a man, dealing with one part of his body, even if it's the Sabbath. You do this in order to preserve one item in the Law of Moses. So why are you upset with me because I made a man's whole body well on the Sabbath? Don't be nitpick­ers; use your head-and heart!-to discern what is right, to test what is authentically right." JOHN 1:10-24 

 

The authority that everyone senses in Jesus' teaching is unaccountable in terms of human learning. He does not speak about God, giving second­hand information or leading an academic discussion; he speaks firsthand, confronting people with the personal will of God.

 

What healing did Jesus refer to?

 

Lord Jesus, draw me out of the crowd of spectators into the band of disciples, that I would not be among those who marvel and argue and discuss, but among those who listen and obey and believe. Amen. 

September 14

I Come from Him

 

That's when some of the people of Jerusalem said, "Isn't this the one they were out to kill? And here he is out in the open, saying whatever he pleases, and no one is stopping him. Could it be that the rulers know that he is, in fact, the Messiah? And yet we know where this man came from. The Messiah is going to come out of nowhere. Nobody is going to know where he comes from." That provoked Jesus, who was teaching in the Temple, to cry out, "Yes, you think you know me and where I'm from, but that's not where I'm from. I didn't set myself up in business. My true origin is in the One who sent me, and you don't know him at all. I come from him-that's how I know him. He sent me here." They were looking for a way to arrest him, but not a hand was laid on him because it wasn't yet God's time. Many from the crowd committed them­selves in faith to him, saying, "Will the Messiah, when he comes, provide better or more convincing evidence than this?" John 7:25-31

 

Jesus cannot be understood or explained in terms of his family life or his hometown origins. He can only be accounted for in terms of God's eternal plan of salvation and his gracious will to incarnation.

 

What signs had Jesus done?

 

Lead me deep into the sources of faith, O God. Take me beneath the surface so that I may see and understand the great and invisible foundation realities in your will and love. Amen. 

September 15

What Is He Talking About?

 

The Pharisees, alarmed at this seditious undertow going through the crowd, teamed up with the high priests and sent their police to arrest him. Jesus rebuffed them: "I am with you only a short time. Then I go on to the One who sent me. You will look for me, but you won't find me. Where I am, you can't come." The Jews put their heads together. "Where do you think he is going that we won't be able to find him? Do you think he is about to travel to the Greek world to teach the Jews? What is he talking about, anyway: 'You will look for me, but you won't find me,' and 'Where I am, you can't come'?" JOHN 7:32-36

 

Hostile opposition and skeptical rejection prevent understanding. Those who resist Jesus misunderstand Jesus. Faith, on the other hand, opens up the understanding, while obedience clarifies the revelation.

 

Why were the Pharisees alarmed?

 

I want a better understanding of your will for me, Lord; I want more light on your ways in my life. Direct me into the acts of obedience and the affirmations of faith that will show me what you are doing, in Jesus Christ. Amen. 

September 16

Split in the Crowd

 

On the final and climactic day of the Feast, Jesus took his stand. He cried out, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes in me this way, just as the Scripture says." (He said this in regard to the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were about to receive. The Spirit had not yet been given because Jesus had not yet been glorified.) Those in the crowd who heard these words were saying, "This has to be the Prophet." Others said, "He is the Messiah!" But others were saying, "The Messiah doesn't come from Galilee, does he? Don't the Scriptures tell us that the Messiah comes from David's line and from Bethlehem, David's village?" So there was a split in the crowd over him. Some went so far as wanting to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him. JOHN 7:37-44

 

In their disagreement they agreed on one thing: Jesus was highly signifi­cant. He was either the best they had met, bringing to completion all God's ways with them, or he was a most dangerous impostor, who would, if permitted, lead people astray from God. No one dismissed him as a trifle.

 

Do you take Jesus seriously?

 

Father, keep my attention on the center-on eternal matters of creation and salvation, on the great realities of grace and truth, on the concerns for forgiveness and reconciliation, on decisions of faith-on Christ, in whose name I pray. Amen. 

September 17

Caught in the Act

 

The religion scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone and said, "Teacher, this woman was caught red­handed in the act of adultery. Moses, in the Law, gives orders to stone such persons. What do you say?" They were trying to trap him into saying something incriminating so they could bring charges against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the dirt. They kept at him, badgering him. He straightened up and said, "The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone." Bending down again, he wrote some more in the dirt. Hearing that, they walked away, one after another, beginning with the oldest. The woman was left alone. Jesus stood up and spoke to her. "Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?" "No one, Master." "Neither do I," said Jesus. "Go on your way. From now on, don't sin." JOHN 8:3-11

 

Jesus takes sin more seriously than anyone, but he responds to it differently than most. He does not condemn, rejecting the sinner; he does not condone, ignoring the sin. He forgives.

 

Compare this with Romans 8:1.

 

Released from the tyranny of condemnation - by critics and by conscience - I find all things new, O Lord. Instill now strong habits of virtue in place of the sins to which I have become accustomed. Amen. 

September 18

I Am the World's


Light Jesus once again addressed them: "I am the world's Light. No one who follows me stumbles around in the darkness. I provide plenty of light to live in." JOHN 5:12


Light, God's creative work on the first day (see Genesis 1:3), is basic: It warms and illuminates. Jesus is light in this original sense-the condition for beginning life and the energy for continuing life.


Compare this with John 1:1-9.


"O gladsome light, O grace of God the Father's face, th 'eternal splendor wear­ing; celestial, holy, blest, our Saviour Jesus Christ, joyful in Thine appear­ing. " Amen. 

September 19

The Testimony of Two

 

The Pharisees objected, "All we have is your word on this. We need more than this to go on." Jesus replied, "You're right that you only have my word. But you can depend on it being true. I know where I've come from and where I go next. You don't know where I'm from or where I'm headed. You decide according to what you can see and touch. I don't make judgments like that. But even if I did, my judgment would be true because I wouldn't make it out of the narrowness of my experience but in the largeness of the One who sent me, the Father. That fulfills the conditions set down in God's Law: that you can count on the testimony of two witnesses. And that is what you have: You have my word and you have the word of the Father who sent me." JOHN 8:13-18

 

Jesus' critics were tangled up in questions of procedure, anxious over the technicalities of the messianic evidence. But these questions cannot be decided by courtroom cross-examination: On their knees, in prayer to the Father, they would have realized the truth of Jesus' words and acts.

 

Why all the hostility?

 

Father in heaven, I thank you far the convincing clarity of your Christ. Help me this day to pay attention to what is right before my eyes, and so learn your truth and receive by faith the gift of eternal life in Jesus Christ. Amen. 

September 20

If You Knew Me

 

They said, "Where is this so-called Father of yours?" Jesus said, "You're looking right at me and you don't see me. How do you expect to see the Father? If you knew me, you would at the same time know the Father." He gave this speech in the Treasury while teaching in the Temple. No one arrested him because his time wasn't yet up. JOHN 8:19-20

 

Much religious talk is a form of unbelief. These Pharisees were not trying to discover the truth in Jesus. Their questions were not a quest for salva­tion. If they had been seriously interested in the location of the Father, they would have recognized his presence in Jesus.

 

Do you ever ask questions in order to avoid the truth?

 

Lord, use the questions I raise about you to lead me directly and quickly into your presence, for it is not answers about you that I want but fellowship with you, in and through Jesus Christ. Amen. 

September 21

Who Are You?

 

Then he went over the same ground again. "I'm leaving and you are going to look for me, but you're missing God in this and are headed for a dead end. There is no way you can come with me." The Jews said, "So, is he going to kill himself? Is that what he means by 'You can't come with me'?" ... They said to him, "Just who are you anyway?" Jesus said, "What I've said from the start. I have so many things to say that concern you, judgments to make that affect you, but if you don't accept the trustworthiness of the One who commanded my words and acts, none of it matters. That is who you are questioning- not me but the One who sent me." They still didn't get it, didn't realize that he was referring to the Father. So Jesus tried again. "When you raise up the Son of Man, then you wili know who I am - that I'm not making this up, but speaking only what the Father taught me. The One who sent me stays with me. He doesn't abandon me. He sees how much joy I take in pleasing him." JOHN 8:21-22, 25-29

 

Truth, the reality that is at the basis of all appearance, comes not so much by means of our intellect as through our obedience- "living out what I tell you" (John 8:31)-in personal relationship with Jesus. We find it not by reading books or by working in laboratories, but in following Jesus.

 

In what ways are you not free? 

 

Free me, 0 Christ, from superstitions that confuse my mind, from misinfor­mation that diverts me from obedience, from ignorance that pretends to be faith so that I may run unfettered in the way of your commandments. Amen. 

September 22

Free Through and Through

 

Then Jesus turned to the Jews who had claimed to believe in him. "If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples for sure. Then you will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will free you." Surprised, they said, "But we're descendants of Abraham. We've never been slaves to anyone. How can you say, 'The truth will free you'?" Jesus said, "I tell you most solemnly that anyone who chooses a life of sin is trapped in a dead-end life and is, in fact, a slave. A slave is a transient, who can't come and go at will. The Son, though, has an established position, the run of the house. So if the Son sets you free, you are free through and through. I know you are Abraham's descendants. But I also know that you are trying to kill me because my message hasn't yet penetrated your thick skulls. I'm talking about things I have seen while keeping company with the Father, and you just go on doing what you have heard from your father." John 8:30-31

 

Sin promises what it cannot deliver: It promises freedom, a life of self-will unencumbered by God's will; it promises a future, a life of fulfillment, where personal desires are indulged and satisfied. Bur the promises are lies. Only God can provide freedom and a future for us.

 

Do you feel free?

 

"Make me a captive, Lord, and then I shalt be free; force me to render up my sword, and I sha!L conqueror be." Amen.

September 23

The Liar

 

They were indignant. "Our father is Abraham!" Jesus said, "If you were Abraham's children, you would have been doing the things Abraham did. And yet here you are trying to kill me, a man who has spoken to you the truth he got straight from God! Abraham never did that sort of thing. You persist in repeating the works of your father." They said, "We're not bastards. We have a legitimate father: the one and only God." "If God were your father," said Jesus, "you would love me, for I came from God and arrived here. I didn't come on my own. He sent me. Why can't you understand one word I say? Here's why: You can't handle it. You're from your father, the Devil, and all you want to do is please him. He was a killer from the very start. He couldn't stand the truth because there wasn't a shred of truth in him. When the Liar speaks, he makes it up out of his lying nature and fills the world with lies. I arrive on the scene, tell you the plain truth, and you refuse to have a thing to do with me." JOHN 8:39-45

 

All the original and true relationships-with Abraham as our father in faith, with God as our father in love-are distorted by sin. We need super­natural help from the very start to recognize and respond to the truth in Jesus Christ.

 

How is Abraham your father?

 

God, I will not rely on my own understanding or trust in my own good inten­tions. Reveal your truth to me in Jesus and move me to faith by your Spirit so that I may live truly and freely. Amen. 

September 24

Why Don't You Believe Me?

 

"Can any one of you convict me of a single misleading word, a single sinful act? But if I'm telling the truth, why don't you believe me? Anyone on God's side listens to God's words. This is why you're not listening- because you're not on God's side." John 8:46-47

 

The act of unbelief is not, as so many seem to think, a matter of an over­active, skeptical intellect. It is a stubborn and irrational act of will-a refusal to be in relationship with God.

 

What grounds did the Jews have for their unbelief?

 

You have assembled all the materials in creation to show your purposes, O God. You have revealed your very heart of love in Jesus to convince me of your goodness. All truth witnesses to you and all goodness Leads to you. Hallelujah! Amen. 

September 25

God Intends Something Glorious


The Jews then said, "That clinches it. We were right all along when we called you a Samaritan and said you were crazy-demon-possessed!" Jesus said, "I'm not crazy. I simply honor my Father, while you dishonor me. I am not trying to get anything for myself. God intends something gloriously grand here and is making the decisions that will bring it about. I say this with ab­solute confidence. If you practice what I'm telling you, you'll never have to look death in the face." At this point the Jews said, "Now we know you're crazy. Abraham died. The prophets died. And you show up saying, 'If you practice what I'm telling you, you'll never have to face death, not even a taste.' Are you greater than Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you think you are!" Jesus said, "If I turned the spotlight on myself, it wouldn't amount to anything. But my Father, the same One you say is your Father, put me here at this time and place of splen­dor. You haven't recognized him in this. But I have. If I, in false modesty, said I didn't know what was going on, I would be as much of a liar as you are. But I do know, and I am doing what he says. Abraham - your 'father' - with jubilant faith looked down the corridors of history and saw my day coming. He saw it and cheered.'' The Jews said, "You're not even fifty years old - and Abraham saw you?" "Believe me," said Jesus, "/ am who I am long before Abraham was anything.'' That did it-pushed them over the edge. They picked up rocks to throw at him. But Jesus slipped away, getting out of the Temple. JOHN 8:48-59 


Jesus meets us, even when we are rude, where we are; but he will not cut down the garment of God's glory to fit our emaciated and underweight expectations. We are going to have to change, acquiring an appetite for a living God and a zest for eternity.


What don't you understand about Jesus?


Lord, I'm beginning to realize the way you work: You come to my level and attend to my difficulties so that I might come up to your level and share your glory. Thank you for your patience in starting with me where I am and your perseverance in taking me to where you are. Amen. 

September 26

Who Sinned?

 

Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked, "Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?" Jesus said, "You're asking the wrong question. You're looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines. When night falls, the workday is over. For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world's Light." JOHN 9:1-5 

 

Will we look on people in need-the ill and unfortunate-with accusing blame or with expectant hope? Are we interested in subjecting them to a moral dissection or in holding them up to the light of God's glory?

 

Note the similarities with John 1:4 and 8:12.

 

Lord Jesus, root out from my spirit the morbid curiosity that wants to pry into all the details of my neighbors' troubles, and replace it with a zestful interest in the glorious ways that you save and heal. Amen. 

September 27

The Pool of Siloam

 

He said this and then spit in the dust, made a clay paste with the saliva, rubbed the paste on the blind man's eyes, and said, "Go, wash at the Pool of Siloam" (Siloam means "Sent"). The man went and washed - and saw .... They marched the man to the Pharisees. This day when Jesus made the paste and healed his blindness was the Sabbath. The Pharisees grilled him again on how he had come to see. He said, "He put a clay paste on my eyes, and I washed, and now I see." Some of the Pharisees said, "Obviously, this man can't be from God. He doesn't keep the Sabbath." Others countered, "How can a bad man do miraculous, God-revealing things like this?" There was a split in their ranks. They came back at the blind man, "You're the expert. He opened your eyes. What do you say about him?" He said, "He is a prophet." The Jews didn't be­lieve it, didn't believe the man was blind to begin with. So they called the parents of the man now bright-eyed with sight. They asked them, "Is this your son, the one you say was born blind? So how is it that he now sees?" His parents said, "We know he is our son, and we know he was born blind. But we don't know how he came to see - haven't a clue about who opened his eyes. Why don't you ask him? He's a grown man and can speak for himself." (His parents were talking like this because they were intimidated by the Jewish leaders, who had already decided that anyone who took a stand that this was the Messiah would be kicked out of the meeting place. That's why his parents said, "Ask him. He's a grown man.") They called the man back a second time - the man who had been blind - and told him, "Give credit to God. We know this man is an imposter." He replied, "I know nothing about that one way or the other. But I know one thing for sure: I was blind ... I now see." They said, "What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?" "I've told you over and over and you haven't listened. Why do you want to hear it again? Are you so eager to become his disciples?" With that they jumped all over him. "You might be a disciple of that man, but we're disciples of Moses. We know for sure that God spoke to Moses, but we have no idea where this man even comes from." The man replied, "This is amazing! You claim to know nothing about him, but the fact is, he opened my eyes! It's well known that God isn't at the beck and call of sinners, but listens carefully to anyone who lives in reverence and does his will. That someone opened the eyes of a man born blind has never been heard of-ever. If this man didn't come from God, he wouldn't be able to do anything." They said, "You're nothing but dirt! How dare you take that tone with us!" Then they threw him out in the street. JOHN 9:6-7, 13-34

 

In obeying the directions ofJesus, the man experienced the light of Jesus. ''All right knowledge of God is born of obedience.'' Jesus is not a theory about light; he is light whom we experience by submitting to his touch and responding to his commands.

 

Do you know where the pool of Siloam is?

 

Touch me, command me, send me, Lord Jesus. Lead me out of the long night of my sin into the bright day of your salvation that I would live in your light and by your light. Amen. 

September 28

And He Worshiped Him

 

Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and went and found him. He asked him, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" The man said, "Point him out to me, sir, so that I can believe in him." Jesus said, "You're looking right at him. Don't you recognize my voice?" "Master, I believe," the man said, and worshiped him. John 9:35-38

 

Excommunicated from the synagogue because of Christ, the man is now drawn into deep communion with God through Christ. His belief was not an item of information to which he gave assent, but a personal relationship to which he made a courageous commitment.

 

What is the relation between belief and worship?

 

I thank you, dear heavenly Father, for the work of Jesus: for the light he sheds on my way; for the ability he gives me to see the next step. As I follow in faith, lead me step by step into your fullness. Amen. 

September 29

You're Calling Us Blind?

 

Jesus then said, "I came into the world to bring everything into the clear light of day, making all the distinctions clear, so that those who have never seen will see, and those who have made a great pretense of seeing will be exposed as blind." Some Pharisees overheard him and said, "Does that mean you're calling us blind?" Jesus said, "If you were really blind, you would be blameless, but since you claim to see everything so well, you're accountable for every fault and failure." JOHN 9:39-41

 

Jesus is the light. In his presence, even the worst instance of blindness (the man born blind) is able to see; apart from his presence, even the best instance of enlightenment (the Pharisee) cannot see a thing.

 

How were the Pharisees blind?

 

"O God of Light, Thy Word, a lamp unfailing, shines through the darkness of our earthly way, o'er fear and doubt, o'er black despair prevailing, guiding our steps to Thine eternal day. " Amen. 

September 30

A Sheep Rustler!


"Let me set this before you as plainly as I can. If a person climbs over or through the fence of a sheep pen instead of going through the gate, you know he's up to no good -a sheep rustler! The shepherd walks right up to the gate. The gatekeeper opens the gate to him and the sheep recognize his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out." JOHN 10:1-3


There is an immense amount of theft and violence in religion. Certain unscrupulous people, making concern for souls a pretext, pose as messen­gers of God but treat people as plunder, using them to get rich or to become powerful.


Have you ever been misled by a religious leader?


You have instructed me, Lord, to test the spirits. Sharpen my awareness of truth; give me wisdom to discern the falsehood that hides behind poses of piety and the mendacity that dresses in a cloak of religion. Amen.