Tag Archives: Nicodemus

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – 585 – Jesus Works on the Sabbath!

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups

10/06/16 – 585 – Jesus Works on the Sabbath!

In the story we just completed Jesus publicly declared for the first time that He was the promised Messiah – but not for the last time. I think it’s also critical to note that he did not just make the claim, He proved it over and over by His miraculous works and sinless life. In fact, in many ways I would be hard pressed to say which was more important.

What I mean by that is that at least some of His works can at least be mimicked by magicians, and there were/are plenty of ‘faith healers’ both then and now. But no matter how well they craft their illusions, not one can claim a life without sin. If you doubt me just Google the name of your favorite TV faith healer.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This is where our new story begins:

John 5:1-9

Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie — the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. 5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

 7 “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

 8 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. NIV

The pool at Bethesda was a beautiful place. It was surrounded not only by the collonades (fancy columns), but with a large area around it paved with stone so there’s not just a big muddy area around it. It was likely a ritual bath, or mikvah. It’s ruins were discovered sometime in the 1800’s in what is now the Muslim held area of Jerusalem. There is one other such bath mentioned in scripture both in Isaiah and in John 9:6-9. This was the pool of Siloam, where Jesus healed a blind man.

Interestingly, both of these pools were also similar in that people held a common superstition about them. The belief was that an angel would come to agitate (stir) the water, and “when the waters were stirred” the first person to enter the water would be healed of whatever physical ailment they had.

This is what the paralytic was talking about when he said he had no one to help him. Every day, there would be a crowd of people around the pool waiting for the water to swirl or bubble. What exactly caused this? We don’t know for certain, but these were spring fed pools, and there were gas deposits below ground as well. This man was simply too slow to be the first one in, so his life had become one of simply lying as close as he could to the pool each day, hoping in the superstition and living on the few coins people might have tossed him as they walked past.

I can’t help but think of so many people today who put their hope in things other than God. People who live on welfare or other low income, yet spend a ton every month on lottery tickets hoping they’ll strike it rich. It seems like people will do just about anything to have all their problems solved in one fell swoop, when the reality is there is a God Who would help them through if they would just let Him do it His way rather than theirs. But then, His way may not be to give you the winning Powerball ticket.

Let’s pray today that the Holy Spirit would help us to open our hearts and minds, to see if and where we are placing our trust and hope in things other than Christ. Let’s ask Him to help us to focus all our hope on Him.

By the way, did you notice anything missing in today’s passage? Gold star for you if you did!

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – 584 – Jesus Declares Himself the Messiah

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups

10/03/16 – 582 – Jesus Declares Himself the Messiah

We’re going to step back again to yesterday and revisit the passage we read then.

John 4:21-30

24 “I tell you the truth,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25 I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed — only Naaman the Syrian.”

28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff. 30 But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way. NIV

You may recall we began to discuss why a prophet is not accepted in his hometown. The people were only seeing Jesus as the son of Joseph the carpenter. There may have been jealousy on their part that He had actually become a rabbi! Either way, they didn’t like it. And they certainly didn’t like having it thrown in their faces.

They obviously didn’t care for Jesus’ answer either. He pretty much told them that because of their resistance and stubbornness, God was not going to save them. He pointed out similar situations in the past in which the people had rejected the prophets sent by God, and in so doing rejected God also.

Because of this, even though there was obviously a pressing need, God did not send anyone else to help them. In fact, Jesus pointed out that the only person who got help wasn’t even a Jew – it was Nathan the Syrian who sought out the prophet to find healing for his leprosy! That went over like the proverbial lead balloon.

The crowd drove Jesus out of the synagogue and all to the edge of town, intending to kill Him by throwing him off a cliff. But once again He showed His power by simply walking through the angry mob and disappearing, leaving the people to scratch their heads and wonder what happened.

I think that one of the main things we need to learn from this story is that when God decides to use someone to do His work here on earth, we’d better not ignore that person! It doesn’t matter if we grew up next door to that person, because God can use anyone He wants to, for any purpose.

It is up to us to assess, not to accept blindly anything anyone says using God’s name. There are and will be many false teachers and prophets, and we know that. But in the meantime, let’s pray for the wisdom and discretion to recognize those men and women that are truly sent by god for whatever reason.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – 582 – Jesus Declares Himself the Messiah

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups

09/30/16 – 582 – Jesus Declares Himself the Messiah

Not that anyone should have notice, but I’ve been trying my very best to keep these stories about Jesus in chronological order. That is, in the order they happened, as best as we can determine. This one slipped by me a little bit though, it seems to have taken place just after the wedding at Cana and before He went to Samaria and met the woman at the well.

In the ruins of the town of Capernaum, where this story took place, just a few yards from the house belonging to Peter’s mother-in-law, stands the foundation and several walls of a synagogue built in the Byzantine period about 400 years later. However, it was built on the same model, and on the exact spot where the original stood. It’s just about 4 feet higher than the one in our story.

Still, when you stand where Jesus stood, and read these words of scripture, it’s almost as though you’re hearing them from Christ’s own lips. There is a power like no other that seems to flow from the floor into your body, into your soul. The presence of the Holy Spirit is never more real than when you read these words:

 Luke 4:16-22

 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. 17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

 20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21 and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

 22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.

Here’s the picture. The synagogue would have been filled with people ready to worship. There were gallery benches all around (like bleachers), and on balconies. A large ‘center court’ for standing room only. (Maybe we should have that in our modern churches. Get there late, and you have to stand in the middle, hmmm.) There was a small seat toward one side for the rabbi to sit while he taught.

An attendant would have already chosen the appropriate scroll from a rack near the door, and the rabbi would take it from him. Out of pure joy for the privilege and honor of being the one to read it, the rabbi would often wave it above his head and dance down the aisle, through the crowd, to his seat. Which means folks, that Jesus danced in church! (Shhhhh. It’s OK, as long as we don’t tell the Baptists! Just kidding about the Baptists.)

By the time the teacher spoke, everyone wanted to hear what he had to say! But they didn’t expect this. This passage is a direct prophesy from God, written in the book of Isaiah some 700 years earlier, yet there was Jesus saying it was fulfilled by Him and no one else!

To them, he was just Jesus, Joseph the carpenter’s kid. They had watched Him grow up, or had grown up with Him. They had not yet witnessed many of His miracles as proof, and their memories were that of a normal kid playing normal kid games and helping His dad & mother. (I know – what’s normal about that, right?)

We’ll talk more about this tomorrow, but for today let’s pray that God would grant us the discretion to know when He is speaking to us, no matter what form He chooses to take.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – 581 – Jesus & the Leader’s Son

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups

09/29/16 – 581 – Jesus & the Leader’s Son

After Jesus’ two days with the Samaritans He moved on, continuing His journey back to Galilee. Galilee was not well respected by the Jews, in fact it was commonly called ‘Galilee of the Gentiles’.

John 4:43-45

After the two days he left for Galilee. 44 (Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country.) 45 When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, for they also had been there. NIV

 (This refers back to a passage in John 2:

John 2:23-25

Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. 24 But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. 25 He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man. NIV)

In other words, many Galileans believed in Him, but He knew them too well to believe in them! He knew that when the chips were down, they would leave Him hanging. So why did He return to them? Why set Himself up for more failure? Maybe for that very reason – because they who think they are in a good place in their faith but are not, need Him more than ever.

Verses 46-54

Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.

 48 “Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”

 49 The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”

 50 Jesus replied, “You may go. Your son will live.”

 The man took Jesus at his word and departed. 51 While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. 52 When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “The fever left him yesterday at the seventh hour.”

 53 Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and all his household believed.

 54 This was the second miraculous sign that Jesus performed, having come from Judea to Galilee. NIV

This is one of several times that Jesus healed from a distance, without ever even seeing the person He healed. We don’t know who this “royal official” was, or even what kind of royalty he was (Jew or Gentile). We know he traveled about 20 miles from Capernaum to Cana to get jesus to come, and we know he believed Jesus when he said “You may go. Your son will live”, because he left immediately at about 7 PM instead of waiting till morning when traveling was safest.

His faith was confirmed when he found that his son was not merely improving, but completely healed at the same time that Jesus had said it to Him! I guess we really have to commend this person when we see that he believed in Jesus even though he had not seen the miraculous works performed. In verse 48 the Lord confirmed for us that this culture was a ‘show me’ culture, they wanted to see to believe, only then would they give their confidence.

How often did Christ teach us that same lesson – that those who believe even though thy have NOT seen are much more blessed. He knows how much more difficult that is for us. Then again, He surrounds us with miracles each and every day, so that not one of us can say, “I’ve never seen one.” I know I’ve said it before, but pull out a picture book of the anatomy of the human hand, then tell me how that happened by accident.

Let’s make our prayer today one of gratitude. Thank God for all He has done and the miracles He continues to do for us to watch and enjoy, and believe.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – 580 – Jesus & the Woman at the Well

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups

09/28/16 – 580 – Jesus & the Woman at the Well

Once again I find I owe an apology for being sporadic in delivering these devotions to you. I really am trying to get them back to a daily basis. Please bear with me as I work through my obstacles and get things back on track. Thanks. Oh, by the way, a few prayers would be nice too. Anyway…

We left Jesus and the disciples waiting at the well while the Samaritans came from town to see and hear Him, following the woman’s testimony that He was the Messiah. Remember the reason He was alone with the woman in the first place was that His disciples had gone into town to get food.

John 4:31-38

31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”

 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”

 33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”

 (Just like the Samaritan woman, the disciples were still thinking in terms of the physical, not the spiritual.)

 34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”

This is one of those ‘hard sayings of the Bible’ that people talk about. It’s hard not so much because it’s difficult to understand, but because it’s difficult to accept. At least it is for us, in this contemporary culture of entitlement.

Not only are we taught that we deserve to reap what we worked for, we are also taught that we deserve what we did not work for, and not in a good way as Jesus was saying. Notice He said ‘One sows and another reaps’. Nowadays we don’t want to sow or reap – we just want the benefits handed to us. We certainly don’t want to do the hard work and have someone else ‘get the credit’ for what we have done.

Which is strange when you think about what Jesus is talking about, which is witnessing. We say that we are not the ones who change hearts, only the Holy Spirit can do that. That’s true. Yet we still seem to want ‘credit’ for the number of people that are in heaven because we brought them! So what is Jesus really saying in this passage? That it is all of us, working together as God leads us that will make for a great harvest, which in turn will nourish us! “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” It’s not about you or me.

Verses 39-41

39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers. NIV

I love the last verse – what it says, and what it does not say. For those two days, they were listening. How often when He preached to the Jews, were they arguing instead?

Let’s make our prayer today a prayer for humility, that we might listen like the Samaritans, and be humble enough to work as God directs – whether reaping or sowing – even if we never see the fruit of our labor until we are with Him in heaven.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – 579 – Jesus & the Woman at the Well

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups

09/26/16 – 579 – Jesus & the Woman at the Well

Why was the woman so easily convinced that Jesus was a prophet? One reason was what He said to her a few verses earlier:

John 4:16-18

He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

 17 “I have no husband,” she replied.

 Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” NIV

There is the simple ‘wow’ factor here. How could this complete stranger have known about her past if He were not a prophet or clairvoyant of some kind? But He was talking like a rabbi, not a seer. Does God still work like this in anyone’s life today?

I believe He does – except that when it happens, even we Christians don’t always give Him the credit He deserves. We just say we were ‘convicted’, and/or get mad at the preacher. Unbelievers chalk it up to some kind of parlor trick or even their own guilty conscience. But this woman, not a Jew but a Samaritan, was a believer.

John 4:25-30

The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

26 Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.”

 27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”

 28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him. NIV

This is one extremely significant passage, especially verse 26. Why? It is the only place in scripture that Jesus directly, in so many words tells us that He is the Messiah. Think about that for a while.

Finally the disciples returned, and were surprised – which is no surprise to us! The only thing that is a little surprising is that for once they kept quiet, choosing not to put feet in mouths.

The fact that the woman left her water jar is important as well. Put yourself in her place for a moment. You live in a desert; your only source of water is the community well. In order to survive, you must be able to carry and keep a supply of water for yourself and your family. Your only vessel with which to do that is a clay jar. The local Pier 1 is still under construction, so it’s not like you can run down there and just buy another one. She would not have left behind something so important unless she

  1. felt it was safe and
  2. was really excited and in a hurry

The excitement of a new believer is often contagious. I can picture her running back to town to tell everyone and get back before this great man has a chance to disappear! She probably made sure that a few key people knew about it and the word was spreading before she turned around and went back to the well herself.

What a powerful lesson she teaches us on witnessing! Why is it that we have such a hard time sharing our faith, especially here in the US? In so many parts of the world, sharing the Christian faith will get you tortured and killed. Here the worst that might happen is that someone might claim to be ‘offended’, or be insulting.

But do you know what? Those people need to know Jesus too. They at least need the chance to see His love at work – in you. So many persecutors have been saved because the people they were persecuting simply acted like Christ as best they could, then allowed Him to work through them.

I’d say that’s a good prayer for today, wouldn’t you? Wherever you are at in conflict with another, whether at work, home, or church, become Christ to them. Forgive them. Treat them like the lost children that they are. Do everything you can to bring them home. If you cannot, let the Holy Spirit work through you. How, you ask? Simply surrender.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – 578 – Jesus & the Woman at the Well

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups

09/24/16 – 577 – Jesus & the Woman at the Well

This is where we left Jesus and his new student yesterday:

John 4:23-24

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

Even after she heard Jesus talk about the living water that took away thirst forever, the Samaritan woman was thinking in material terms. She took the word ‘water’ to mean the liquid that she had to draw from the community well every day. Jesus’ response was to steer her thinking toward the spiritual.

The current way of the culture was for the Jews to look down on the Samaritans as somehow being a lesser people – a people of mixed (and therefore contaminated) blood. The only proper place to worship Yahweh was at the temple in Jerusalem. This was not just a tradition, it came straight from Moses:

Deuteronomy 12:11-14

Then to the place the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name—there you are to bring everything I command you: your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, and all the choice possessions you have vowed to the Lord. 12 And there rejoice before the Lord your God—you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites from your towns who have no allotment or inheritance of their own. 13 Be careful not to sacrifice your burnt offerings anywhere you please. 14 Offer them only at the place the Lord will choose in one of your tribes, and there observe everything I command you.

 The problem was that the temple was off limits to Samaritans. Probably for that reason, the Samaritans came to believe that they should worship on what was probably Mount Gerizem, the mountain where it was believed that Abraham went to sacrifice his son Isaac.

I wonder what she thought when Jesus basically told her ‘pretty soon it won’t matter’. In fact – the time has already come! “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.”

Before she has a chance to ask, He gave the answer to the big question – why? “God is spirit.”

 Why is it that when we think of ourselves as being created in the image of God, we so often think (again) of a physical image, as though God were a physical humanoid being with 2 arms, 2 legs, a torso and a head? If God is a spirit, wouldn’t it make more sense that we are created in His spiritual image rather than a physical one? And if that is true, doesn’t it also follow that our spirit would be the part of our being that is truly important?

What Jesus was saying is that it’s time to stop focusing on the physical, the material world and start fixing our gaze on the spiritual realms – the kingdom of God. And the ‘truth’ part? Simple.

There is just no way to fake it. We cannot sneak into heaven, or get in on a technicality. We cannot simply pay lip service to a God who knows our heart, and expect Him to be satisfied. Either we truly love Him, or we don’t. Either we mean what we say and do in worship of Him, or we don’t.

Let’s pray today that when God examines our hearts, He will find it pleasing and pure, and our love for Him true.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – 577 – Jesus & the Woman at the Well

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups

09/23/16 – 577 – Jesus & the Woman at the Well

So Jesus offered the Samaritan woman something she had never heard of – a kind of water that quenched one’s thirst forever! Maybe it was the way He was dressed, or the way His Spirit came through, but she seemed to have no trouble accepting His word that such a thing was possible. Yesterday we said that maybe her acceptance of Him came so easily because of the way He accepted her. There’s some food for thought, isn’t it? Especially if we put it in the context of reaching out to someone who doesn’t know Christ.

Still, she had a rather simplistic interpretation of what the Lord was saying. She was obviously not thinking yet in spiritual terms, but material.

John 4:15

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

Jesus was a great teacher. He would show her, but in a way that she would never forget.

Verses 16-20

16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

 17 “I have no husband,” she replied.

 Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

 19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

So much happened in such a short exchange! First, Jesus gave her a chance to walk away. She could easily have said ‘Sure, I’ll get him and be right back’, and just never returned. Had she done that, she would have been no different from many of those we know today. You know, the ones we invite to church and always promise to come, but always seem to have a last-minute excuse? I know that none of us would ever…

To her credit, she did nothing like that. She faced the truth squarely, and used the opportunity to ask this prophet what was to her a very important question. Or maybe, as some commentators have said, she just wanted to change the subject! Still, Jesus used her question to teach us all a great lesson.

 Verses 21-24

21 Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” NIV

This lesson deserves more space and time than we have room for today, so we’ll pick up here tomorrow. In the meantime, Let’s pray for the Spirit to help us to open our minds and hearts to a complete understanding of what it means to worship Him “in spirit and in truth.”

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – 576 – Jesus & the Woman at the Well

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups

09/21/16 – 576 – Jesus & the Woman at the Well

Yesterday we read about Jesus breaking the ice (and along with it a couple of strong social taboos) by asking a <gasp> Samaritan woman for a drink of water! Let’s pick up by re-reading the last few verses:

John 4:7-9

7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) NIV

You’d think we’d learn, wouldn’t you? After all, Jesus gave us this and so many other examples. To me, the saddest thing is not even that people thought like that before Jesus came to earth, but that by and large we have never changed.

I would daresay that if we picked about any culture at any time in the last 2000 years, we would find a culture, or at least a group of people within it, that looked with prejudice upon another. I’m not sure why this is, but if I had to guess, I’d say it was related to the very source of our sin nature – that same self-centeredness that caused Adam and Eve to feel that they were justified in their desire to be like the God Who created them.

It seems to me that if we want to feel better about ourselves, we have 2 basic choices. We can

  1. Become better people or
  2. Do our best to keep other people down, so we look like we’re better without actually having to do the hard work

Unfortunately, all too often we seem to pick option 2. Too bad it doesn’t work. If anything, it just succeeds in keeping everyone from becoming the people that we were meant to be.

Then Jesus really goes beyond the boundaries of accepted behavior. He actually has an entire conversation with her – and offers her a chance at eternal life!

Verses 10-15

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

 11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?”

 13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” NIV

Isn’t it amazing how this simple Samaritan woman was so willing to accept Jesus’ word? She couldn’t have been completely ignorant, as she knew enough about her heritage to ask about Jacob. Yet she believed Him when so many of His fellow Jews refused to – even when faced with undeniable evidence (like miracles). Hmmm. I wonder if her acceptance of Him could have had anything to do with His acceptance of her.

Let’s pray today that the Holy Spirit would convict us – give us that tap on the shoulder when our thoughts or speech turn toward the condescending, or prejudice against others simply because they are different. Ask Him to help us to become the person that we were created to be – the image of God Himself. The image of love.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – 575 – Jesus & the Woman at the Well

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups

09/20/16 – 575 – Jesus & the Woman at the Well

Once again I find I owe you all an apology for missing the last couple of days. I have no excuses that I can share here, other than to say that life just got kind of overwhelming again, to the point where when I woke early to write as I normally do, I was simply too tired to stay awake or finish a thought, let alone an entire article. But God is working, so I’m giving it my best. I would appreciate your prayers, though. Anyway…

Have you ever thought about which Bible stories are your favorites? Do you prefer stories from the Old Testament or the New? Stories about Jesus or the old ‘heroes of the faith’ like Abraham and Moses? Mysteries or love stories? Do you like stories of Jesus’ miracles more, or maybe prophesies?

I find I like the ones that hold the surprises, especially where Jesus is concerned. And He had plenty. But my absolute favorites are the ones that had the Jews standing on their heads – so to speak. Why? Because we Christians can be so much like them. We so often get to thinking that we’re the only ones going to heaven – that we Nazarenes (or Baptists or Catholics or Lutherans or whatever) have found the ‘secret’, and we’re the only ones that are going to get in.

But then along came Jesus, doing unheard-of things. Crazy stuff, like talking to a Samaritan woman at a well, and telling her she could actually be saved. Then preaching the same thing to a crowd of her friends! He’d do other wild stuff too, like sending His disciples to preach and minister to the gentiles while at the same time telling some of the Jews that they were NOT going to be saved. This was not what He was supposed to say! What was He thinkin’?

John 4:1-9

The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John, 2 although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. 3 When the Lord learned of this, he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

 4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour.

 7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) NIV

Samaritans were a mixed bag. They were the progeny those Jewish men who had disobeyed God and married outsiders. Because they were considered to be ‘children of sin’, most self-respecting Jews would have nothing to do with them.

But like I said, Jesus was different. He simply didn’t go along with the crowd – unless they were right, And that wasn’t very often. Let’s pray today for that same softened spirit of discernment, wisdom and love when it comes to our dealings with other people – people who are not like us.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – 574 – Jesus & Nicodemus

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups

09/17/16 – 574 – Jesus & Nicodemus

You may remember yesterday, we ended with Jesus chastising Nicodemus for not knowing the things he should have as a teacher when He spoke about being ‘born again”. He went on:

John 3:11-21

11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

Notice that little verse in the middle of all that? Verse 3:16. The verse to beat all verses. The one most loved, and (I think) most often quoted. It’s that little verse that tells us why. Why we were created, why we were saved. Just because He loved us so much. Let’s read it one more time, eh?

 John 3:16

 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

But then, doesn’t the rest of the passage speak volumes also? In spite of the fact that many people will deny knowledge that whatever they are doing is wrong, Jesus is saying that people know when they are doing wrong – that’s why they try to hide it.

Living a life of sin is very tiring, Trust me, I speak from experience. Not only do you have to remember all the lies you told to cover up your actions, you have to remember what you said to who!Let’s make it our prayer today that God would help us bring all our sins out into the light where wecan deal with them and be rid of them.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups – 573 – Jesus & Nicodemus

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups

09/16/16 – 573 – Jesus & Nicodemus

There’s one big word we toss around in Christian circles that most of us like just fine when it’s directed at someone else – but not when it’s pointed at us. That word is ‘accountability’. People back in Jesus time didn’t like it either – especially when it was Jesus who was using it. In any of its forms.

The concept Jesus used was actually pretty simple. If you say you know what you’re talking about, you’d better know what you’re talking about. The Pharisees were a group we hear about often in the New Testament. Why? Because they were supposed to be the guys who knew the scriptures.

They were the community leaders. They were the ones who stood up in public and prayed loudly to thank God that He had not made them like other men (sinners), women or dogs. They were the ones that were always asking Jesus ‘trick’ questions, trying to get Him to trip up. One of these Pharisees was a man named Nicodemus a real big shot…

John 3:1-10

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things?

 And, that was usually how things turned out when someone tried to trip up Jesus using the Bible. I truly wish that we could see the look on Nicodemus’ face, hear the tone of his voice as he asked these questions. Was he seriously trying to understand? Was he sneering, asking more for the benefit of the people around them, thinking that Jesus would wind up looking foolish?

Jesus certainly didn’t wasn’t pulling any punches. He held Nicodemus accountable right there in front of everyone for not only already knowing but understanding these things!

To his credit, Nicodemus may have been really seeking to learn. He came to Jesus “at night”. He also turned out not to be such a bad guy later on, but we’ll get to the that tomorrow. For today, let’s pray that God would always hold us accountable for what we’re supposed to know, because it is the only way we can come to reach our full potential as His disciples.