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Service Archives > 43 John - Believe:879 - 2009 > Everyone Needs a Faith-Lift!

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Everyone Needs a Faith-Lift! - John 4:43-54

Taught on | Topic: Faith | Keywords: faith, nobleman, prayer

Like any muscle in our physical body, our faith too must be exercised in order for it to develop. Faith is developed in virtually every circumstance in life, but especially in hard times. Peter put it best, "These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold--and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold" (1 Peter 1:7). Let's look at a real-life story of one who came to Jesus in his trial and had his faith lifted to a higher dimension.

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4/18/2010
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Everyone Needs a Faith-Lift!
John 4:43-54
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
Like any muscle in our physical body, our faith too must be exercised in order for it to develop. Faith is developed in virtually every circumstance in life, but especially in hard times. Peter put it best, "These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold--and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold" (1 Peter 1:7). Let's look at a real-life story of one who came to Jesus in his trial and had his faith lifted to a higher dimension.
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43 John - Believe:879 - 2009

43 John - Believe:879 - 2009

"But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name" John 20:31.

Believe:879 is an epic journey through the book of John led by Pastor Skip Heitzig of Calvary of Albuquerque. As we explore each of the 879 verses of this gospel, we'll grow in grace and in our knowledge of Jesus Christ. From His pre-incarnate existence, to His public ministry, through His death and His resurrection we'll traverse familiar territory and embark on new adventures of faith.

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Outline

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  1. Life Can be Hard--It Drives Us to Christ.

  2. Christ Can be Surprising--He Wants Us to Grow.

  3. Faith Can be Weak--It Must be Developed.
    1. Faith in a Power

    2. Faith in a Promise

    3. Faith in a Person

Making It More than a Sermon:
  1. When you were a child, what was the most serious injury or illness you had? How did it happen? What did you learn from it?

  2. Why do think Jesus healed this man's son? What was the result of this healing?

  3. When have you been called to demonstrate your faith most dramatically? How did God work in the situation? What were the results for you personally?

Detailed Notes

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Who was this nobleman? A nobleman is someone who works for a king. The king over the Northern region of Galilee at the time would have been Herod Antipas. This nobleman or court representative went through stages of belief, and from him we learn how God develops faith in us.

  1. Life Can be Hard—It Drives Us to Christ.
    1. The nobleman's son is sick and he is desperate
      1. Traveled 20 miles from Capernaum to Cana
        1. No nobleman living in Capernaum
        2. He is probably from Tiberius
      2. He put his son in a boat and took him to Capernaum looking for Jesus
      3. Left son in Capernaum and went to Cana
    2. Have you been driven to God in a trial?
    3. We go to the Lord in prayer when there is not where else to go
    4. Even unbelievers will go to God when in fear
      1. When storm hits boat Jonah is on - Jonah 1:5
        1. Each praying to their own God
        2. Jonah sleeps, doesn’t pray
        3. Thrown overboard, doesn't pray
        4. Finally in belly of fish, Jonah prays, at end of his rope
    5. Many come to Christ in difficult circumstances - Psalm 119:67
    6. If difficult circumstance drives you closer to Jesus, is it really bad?
    7. Prayer is the gymnasium of the soul
      1. 78% of Americans say they pray once a week
      2. 57% of Americans say they pray every day
      3. Prayers come out of extreme circumstances
  2. Christ Can be Surprising—He Wants Us to Grow.
    1. Jesus says surprising things to people
      1. To the Canaanite woman - "not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the little dogs" Matthew 15:16
      2. To the Man with the withered arm ; "stretch out your hand" Matthew 12:13
        (whenever Jesus gives a command, He gives the power to obey it)
      3. To the Paralytic man in the synagogue "Do you want to be made well?" John 5:6
      4. To Peter "Get behind Me, Satan!" Matthew 16:23
    2. God always answers your prayers, but the answer may be surprising
      1. Yes
      2. No
      3. Wait
    3. "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe" -vs. John 4:48
      1. An arrow of tender rebuke
      2. In Cana the crowds had not made a commitment to Christ, just wanted to see signs.
    4. Do you believe God is in charge?
      1. Are you okay with it when He says "no" or "wait"
      2. God is more interested in your spiritual growth than He is in your physical comfort
      3. God allows hardship 1 Peter 1:7
      4. Greater to pray for pain's conversion then for pain's removal - P. T. Forsyth
  3. Faith Can be Weak—It Must be Developed.
    1. Faith in a Power
      1. Nobleman didn't trust Christ specifically
      2. Didn't care about the source, just wanted his son to be better
      3. Hoped Jesus had the power
      4. Faith is like a muscle, needs exercise
        1. Jesus adds weight - "unless you people see signs"
        2. Jesus adds more weight - "Go your way"
    2. Faith in a Promise
      1. "Your son lives"
      2. How do you treat the Word of God
      3. Must believe His promises
    3. Faith in a Person
      1. Nobleman spent the night in Cana
        1. 20 miles is one day's travel
        2. The next day
      2. He stayed and got a good night's rest

God allows trials. God always answers prayers. God wants you to believe.

Figures referenced: Herod Antipas , P.T. Forsyth
Publications referenced: Newsweek
Cross references: Psalm 119:67; Jonah 1:15; Matthew 12:13; Matthew 15:26; John 5:6; 1 Peter 1:7

Topic: Faith

Keywords: faith, nobleman, prayer

Transcript

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I've been told by those who have done it that to climb a telephone pole, professionally, requires a lot of faith because they give you special equipment and you have to learn to trust that equipment. A special harness is employed, special shoes with spikes to grab the surface of the pole are also used, and they tell you that you have to learn to trust the equipment and to lean back, lean back into the harness, which is so completely counterintuitive. We, at 40 feet in the air, would never think that we would do this--lean back. It makes more sense to us to grab what is closest to us what we can see. But that would be the worst thing you could do. It typically takes only one splintery slide down a telephone pole before the climber really gets it and that person will soon learn to lay back, lean back, and to trust the equipment. We come to John chapter 4, the end of it, is a story about faith, trust, about a man who has a sick son, asks Jesus to heal his son, the Lord will do that, all the while Jesus is sort of pushing the man backward into the harness to trust Him. Now as it's hard for a telephone pole climber to learn to lay back, I've discovered it's difficult for us to learn to trust the Lord with our lives. It's not what we normally do. We usually say I'll fix this or I'll find somebody who can fix it. I heard about a man at the Grand Canyon, he was too close to the rim, and he fell in and he grabbed a branch toward the top and he's dangling now, hundreds of feet, above the canyon floor. And so he cries out to God and what's interesting is that God spoke to him and said, I'm here. You can trust Me. Just let go! The man, after a tense pause, cocked his head back and said, is there anybody else up there? It's just not typical. It doesn't make sense and we're going to read some things that don't make sense to us in John chapter 4 in the 43rd verse to the end of the chapter, we read this: "Now after the two days He departed from there and went to Galilee. For Jesus Himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his own country. So when He came to Galilee, the Galileans received Him, having seen all the things He did in Jerusalem at the feast; for they also had gone to the feast. So Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and implored Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. Then Jesus said to him, "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe." The nobleman said to Him, "Sir, come down before my child dies!" Jesus said to him, "Go your way; your son lives." So the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way. And as he was now going down, his servants met him and told him, saying, "Your son lives!" Then he inquired of them the hour when he got better. And they said to him, "Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him." So the father knew that it was at the same hour in which Jesus said to him, "Your son lives." And he himself believed, and his whole household. This again is the second sign Jesus did when He had come out of Judea into Galilee." The text tells us that the man was a nobleman. What does that mean? What is a nobleman? Literally it's someone who belongs to a king--a king. He worked for a king. He was in the royal court of a king. So here's the big question: what king was around Galilee at this time? Well the only king that it could be referring to, or this man could be attached to, would be a guy by the name of Herod Antipas. I don't know if you've heard that name but I know you've heard about Herod the Great. Herod the Great was the guy who killed all the babies in Bethlehem. He has died by now but his son, one of them, named Antipas is king over a northern region called Galilee. That is the idea of a nobleman. He belonged to the king. He worked for royalty. He was a court representative. And what we see happening here, and we'll go back over it, is there are stages of belief that this man has. He comes with one stage but he leaves with an entirely different level of faith in Christ. And what I want to do in working through the passage is give you three statements of truth, three truth statements that talk about how God develops faith in us. Number one is something we all know. Life can be hard. It drives us to Christ. This man would not have come to Christ at all unless his son was sick. That's why he came. He goes twenty miles, it's twenty miles from Capernaum to Cana of Galilee, where Jesus is. This guy is desperate. His son, it says, is on his deathbed. Now I want you to sort of get the story here. The man, the nobleman, wasn't from Capernaum. There were no noblemen living in Capernaum 2,000 years ago. This man's home was probably Tiberius because that's where Herod Antipas had his headquarters. So I'll help you get the picture. If my hand were the Sea of Galilee, Tiberius would be right on the knuckle of the thumb, the lower knuckle. It's on the southwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Capernaum is on the northwestern shore. It's about a 13 mile lake. So the man put his son, probably in a boat, and went all the way across to Capernaum looking for Jesus. Why? Because the Bible says Jesus had His headquarters at Capernaum. So he takes him to Capernaum. Gets to Capernaum, there's no Jesus. He's not there. They say, oh, He's gone to Cana of Galilee, twenty miles from Capernaum. Well by this time the nobleman's son is so sick he can't travel so he leaves his son with his servants at Capernaum and he gets on a horse and goes twenty miles to Cana, finds Jesus, and begs Jesus to heal his son by coming with him. Every parent here who has ever seen a son or daughter suffer gets this man's plight, right? If you've ever had a child suffer, you've looked at that child and you've said, gladly I would trade places with my baby. I would take this pain so that he or she could be healed. That's sort of the predicament that this guy is in. By the way, it doesn't matter how old your son or daughter is. As a parent… my son broke his leg three, four weeks ago. He was skateboarding right out here. He's 25 years old. He's married. He has a baby on the way and he's skateboarding. Now I can't talk, I was skateboarding with him when it happened but he broke his leg and just the pain that was on his face when he was on the pavement and then that night in the emergency room and then two surgeries that followed. It was anguishing because I felt so helpless and I was. And so was this man--helpless in seeing his child suffer. Question: how many here, how many of you, have been driven to God in your trial because you had nowhere else to go? Really? That's all? Just wait then. You're life will get you there eventually. What's the first thing you do when you, when you are in a painful situation, a trial? As a Christian, you pray. The first words out of your mouth: Lord! Dear God! When my wife went into surgery this past year for the mass that they removed, I'll never forget the doctor went he came out of surgery took off his surgical mask, looked me in the eyes, and said, it was malignant. When those words hit my ears, my first inclination was Dear Lord. It is the inclination of every person who's a believer. In fact, I would add to that. I know people who aren't believers, who won't talk to God, who never pray, but in a trial they will. You remember the book of Jonah? It's a fascinating story. Jonah flees from God. He's out in a boat, a storm happens, it says and all of the mariners aboard the ship got so scared each one, get this, each one prayed to his own god. That was their first instinct in a storm. Pray to whatever god you believe in. What's interesting about the story is the only person in it who's not praying is? Yeah. Jonah the prophet of God. He's sleeping at the bottom of the boat. They finally wake him up: Dude, we're all praying! We're gonna die! You need to pray to your God! You know what he says? Throw me overboard. I'm not gonna pray. I don't want to talk to God about this--throw me overboard. They throw him overboard. He still doesn't pray. Now eventually he will pray, when he's swallowed up by what I believe was a celadon macrocephales, the scientific term for a giant masticates sperm whale and when Jonah was down in the mouth, quite literally, eventually he said, Dear God! And he started praying. And he was at the end of his rope, he turns to God. We see so many people come to faith in Christ during difficult seasons. A divorce, death in a family, lingering disease, economic fall-out, relational break-up. We see so many people come to faith in Christ. Why is that? It's simple. Life can be hard. It drives us to Jesus Christ like nothing else can. You know David experienced his own trials. Listen to what he wrote in Psalm 119: Before I was afflicted, I went astray but now I keep Your word. Did you get that? Before I was afflicted, I went astray. I kind of did my own thing, God isn't like in my radar screen. Then I got afflicted and now I keep Your word. Pain has a way of doing that. So here's my question: if your hard, dark, painful circumstance that you're facing perhaps even today, if it drives you closer and closer to Jesus, is it really bad? Can we call those things bad? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do bad things happen to God's people? I heard one great theologian say well when I meet a good person, I'll let you know why that is. But if it drives us to the Lord then it could be considered good. In fact, I have met people who never talked to God except when they're suffering. God doesn't hear from them. So I can just sort of picture God up in heaven. They're praying and God's saying, oh, it's really good to hear from you again! I haven't heard from you since the last trial you were in! Now that's not to say that you're going through a trial because God wants to hear from you more often or if you're really close to God you won't go through it. That's not it at all. But with some folks, they just need something to get their attention. One of my favorite illustrations is about a farmer who didn't really spend much time thinking about God or spiritual matters. People invited him to church, he didn't care, he never went. He had three sons: Jim, John, and Sam. Sam was the youngest boy. Sam, one day, got bitten by a rattlesnake. They brought in the doctors. Doctors tried everything they could, didn't look very good, situation looked pretty grim. Finally they're at the end of their rope and they called in a pastor. Pastor appraised the situation and prayed a very unique prayer. Let me read it to you: Oh wise and righteous Father, the pastor said, praying over the boy, we thank Thee that in Thy wisdom Thou did send this rattlesnake to bite Sam. He's never been inside the church and it's doubtful that he has in all of this time ever prayed or acknowledged Thy existence. Now we trust that this experience will be a valuable lesson to him and will lead to his genuine repentance and now, O Father, wilt Thou send another rattlesnake to bite Jim? And another to bite John? And another really big one to bite the old man? For years, we have done everything we know to get them to turn to Thee but all in vain. It seems therefore that what all of our combined efforts could not do, this rattlesnake has done. We thus conclude that the only thing that will do this family any real good is a rattlesnake. So Lord send us bigger and better rattlesnakes. Amen. That's quite a prayer, isn't it? Somebody once said prayer is the gymnasium of the soul. So when was the last time you were at the gym and had a really good workout? I read a Newsweek magazine some time ago that revealed that Americans pray, in fact, according to the article, don't know how true it is exactly, 78% of Americans pray once a week. It's a chunk. Same article said 57% claim they pray every day. There's one little section of the article I want to read: "Some of these prayers are borne in extremis, that is, in extreme situations. There are few atheists in cancer wards or in unemployment lines." Why is that? It's simple. Life can be hard! It drives us to Christ. Here's the second statement of truth based on this passage: not only live can be hard, it drives us to Christ, Christ can be surprising. He wants us to grow. When this man finally comes to Jesus, Jesus says something to him that this man did not expect to hear ever from the lips of Jesus, even though he didn't know Jesus all that well, this would be surprising for anyone. Look at verse 48. The man says, my son's at the point of death. "Then Jesus said to him, "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe." Now you know, one of the problems with reading the Bible for many years is that we sort of become numb to its impact. I'd like to nominate this verse as one of the most surprising things Jesus ever said to a person. This is surprising. He did not expect to hear that. He certainly did not want to hear that. In fact, this man might have thought, my son is dying and He said this to me? This Jesus guy is rude! When I read this passage this week, I paused because it stuck out at me and then I started thinking, you know there's a lot of things Jesus said that were surprising. The way He handled people isn't like we would like to think of gentle Jesus, meek and mild, look upon this little child. He just, like, blows doors on all that! He says some pretty surprising things because He's working with people. I'll give you a sample. There was a Canaanite woman that came to Jesus. Her daughter was demon-possessed. Again, very difficult situation. You'd think that Jesus would immediately respond in favor to this woman. And He does answer her prayer but not at first. The woman comes, imploring Jesus to heal her daughter, here's what Jesus said: It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs. Hello! What's up with that statement? That's a surprise, right? There's another statement of Jesus and He's in the synagogue one day and there's a man with a withered arm. It's probably at his side, maybe scrunched up, he was unable to move it. Jesus goes to the man with the withered arm and says, hey--you. Stretch out your arm. Stretch out your arm? Ahh… he can't do that. That's, like, impossible. Now if I were in the synagogue and I overheard this conversation, if I didn't know who Jesus was, I think I'd step in and defend the poor man. I'd say, excuse me, who do You think You are? This guy can't stretch forth his arm! Don't make fun of him! But we discover that whenever Jesus gives a command, even though it's impossible, He'll give the person the power to do what He commanded. We discover that later--but not at first. Or how about the man in John chapter 5, he had a lingering, 38 year disease, he's at the pool of Bethesda, along with a lot of other sick people who want to get well, that's why they're there. Jesus goes up to this man and says, hey, do you want to be made well? Duh! Who doesn't in that place? It's a surprising thing. Or how about to Peter when Peter said that You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God? And he got the answer right and Peter's a friend of Jesus and a follower of Jesus. But then Peter says we're not gonna let You go to Jerusalem because we don't want You to get hurt. And Jesus turns to His friend and says, get behind Me, Satan! You are not thinking like God but you are thinking like man. All very surprising things. Here's what I want to point out. If you're a child of God, He will always answer your prayers. Always! But not like you would expect. He might just surprise you in His answer. It might not always be what you want to hear. For example, you might pray for something and He would say to you, yes, I'll give that to you or I'll do that for you. We like that answer. That's, like, the best answer. But what if God says to you when you ask Him for something, no? And then you go, He didn't answer my prayer! I think no is technically an answer, right? That's an answer. God can I? No! That's an answer. The most frustrating answer, the one we hear a lot and we don't like is this one: wait. Not now. Maybe later. But wait. But Lord this is… Just wait. But Father would You? Wait. Wait. Why would Jesus say those things that I mentioned that He said or say this to this man who has broken-hearted condition comes to Christ and ask that his son be healed? You know why? Because He wants us to grow. Christ can be surprising. He wants us to grow. When He said what He said in verse 48, one commentator calls it an arrow of tender rebuke. Notice that it says He said to the man and then He pluralizes it. "Unless you people," and it's in the plural. And here's why: when Jesus had the conversation with this guy, there was a crowd around Him. They're from Cana of Galilee. What happened in Cana of Galilee? Water was turned to? Wine. That was the buzz in town. The guy who did that is back! More than that, we heard that He did a lot of signs of healing in Jerusalem. Back to verse 43, you'll notice it: "Now after the two days He departed from there and went to Galilee. For Jesus Himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his own country. So when He came to Galilee, the Galileans received Him". Now that doesn't seem to make sense. Here it's saying a prophet doesn't have any honor in his own country so He goes to His own country, Galilee, and they receive Him. But the way they received Him wasn't with deep, heartfelt faith in Him. They simply received Him because they wanted a fireworks show. They wanted another miracle. He turned water into wine, He healed people, what will He do next? It was a shallow faith. It was a sign-based faith. It wasn't a commitment to Christ. They did not care about His message. They did not care about His mission. They only cared about His miracles. And so He says to him about them all, "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe." I have a question for you. Do you believe God is in charge of your life, of your existence? Do you really believe He's in charge? Do you believe that Father knows best? That your Father knows best? He knows the best thing for you? So if you say yes to that and I'm with you, I believe that, too. I'm right there with you. If we believe that, then the next time God says no to you when you want an answer to your prayer or wait to you, are you ok with that? Are you ok with that, if His answer to you is no? Oh, but God! No. But Lord, You don't understand. No. Are you ok with that? You might say well why would God ever say wait to me or why would ever God say ever no to me--I'm His child? Can't I just say I'm a child of God, I claim right now by faith in Jesus' name that I'll be healed? Yes you can. But He might say no. And you know why He'll say no? Write this down. He is more interested in your spiritual growth than He is in your physical comfort. That's why He would say no or why He would say wait. Somebody put it this way: adversity is the diamond dust by which heaven polishes its jewels. That's beautiful. Do you need any polishing in your life? I'll put it another way. Do you have any rough edges in your personality? Are you… maybe not, maybe you're perfect and you really don't need God to do anything deeper than that, if you think that I'll ask that question about you to your wife or your husband or your children. They may have a different answer. Don't we understand that God allows and prescribes hardships because He wants to knock off rough edges? Peter said the trials that you experience are so that your faith, which is of greater worth than gold which perishes, even though it is refined by fire, may be proved genuine. P.T. Forsythe said something that struck me. He said it's a far better and greater thing to pray for pain's conversion than to pray for pain's removal. We usually pray for pain's removal, right? God, please stop this. Don't allow this anymore! Get rid of this pain! But how about something like this: pray for its conversion. Lord, I hate this. I don't like this. This really hurts but I do trust You. I don't know why You're saying no or wait to me. I don't know why You won't just say yes to me. But now show me what it is You want me to learn. And may this be used for Your glory. Here's the third statement of truth based on our text: first is life can be hard, it drives you to Christ, Christ can be surprising, He wants you to grow, here's the third, faith can be weak--it must be developed. The man who came to Jesus had faith. Very weak faith. It was faith in power. Faith in power. Jesus said unless you people see signs and wonders, you won't believe. There's a certain kind of belief that is in the force, you might say. Some generic power. They wouldn't necessarily trust in Christ specifically, but they believed there's a power generically. The cosmic good. The cosmic force. May the force be with you. Here's the problem: with so many people that believe in some generic spiritual force, they don't care about the source of the force. They don't care about the source. This man didn't care about the source: I just want my son healed. I don't care who does it. I don't care how it happens. I just want my son better. That's faith in power. That's why the man came to Jesus. He heard there's a miracle worker! There's a magician! He can do tricks! He makes wine out of water! He didn't know Jesus any more than that. I heard about a man who was in battle in a foxhole, bullets were flying around him, he had his buddies in the foxhole with him, and this soldier had around his neck on the necklace a cross, a Star of David, a crescent moon, that's Islam, a Buddha, and a rabbit's foot--all on the same necklace. One of the soldiers said, what exactly do you believe? And the guy said, I don't know but in my position, I can't afford to make anybody mad. I just sort of believe in it all. I hope I get it right somewhere along the line. That's where this nobleman started: faith in a greater power that he hopes Jesus has. So Jesus gives him a faith lift. He lifts his faith from that level of trust in power to a higher level. And that's why He gives the man the answer He does in verse 48. Jesus said to him, unless you people see signs and wonders, you won't believe. I'll tell you what it's like. Faith is like a muscle. If you don't exercise a muscle, it gets flabby. If you don't exercise faith, it gets flabby. If you want strong faith, you need pressure against it. So here is a man, he comes to Jesus, he has faith enough to say my son's dying, help! So he can bench press that. So Jesus slaps more weight on it. Unless you people see signs and wonders, you won't believe--more weight. Now the guy didn't say, You're right, ok, I'll go away. He comes right back and he bench presses that and he says, please, please, come and heal him. Come with me. And so Jesus adds more weight to him in developing his faith. Look at what He says, again it's surprising, verse 50: "Jesus said to him, "Go your way; your son lives." So the man believed," look at this, "the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way." Did you notice that the man asked Jesus to come down with him to Capernaum and Jesus says, go. The man says come and Jesus says, uh-uh. I'm not coming anywhere. You go--away. Go your way because your son lives. Why didn't Jesus just go with the guy? That's what he wanted. That's what a lot of us expect Jesus should do. Just go with them! Do him a favor--heal his son! No, He didn't go with him. you know why? That would be too easy. This man's faith wouldn't grow at all. See, he was a nobleman. He's used to giving orders and people responding to his requests. Jesus says, uh-uh. I'm gonna give you a command. I'm gonna exercise My authority and see what you do with My command. Go your way! And then a promise is attached to it: your son is alive. He lives. Let's see what he does with that. How do you treat the Word of God, the promise of God? When you come across in your Bible a very specific promise about God taking care of your life, do you just go, ok, that's all I need, I can rest right there, take that to the bank? I had the Lord spank me pretty hard in this one a number of times. But one that really comes to mind: I was in college. My funds were really low and I just thought, God wasn't taking care of me like He should. I was pouting all week long. I had run out of food. This is what I had left: a jar of peanut butter and a spoon. That was my meal and then my next meal and my next… till it was gone. God, You don't take care of me! And I've been reading the Bible, I read all about His promises, I just didn't see it. End of the week, you know what I got in the mail? A check from the IRS. It was my tax refund. I shot out of my chair so excited that God… that a check was coming my way. And it was like the Lord tapped my heart and said, you didn't get that excited Monday when you read My Word and I gave you a promise that I would never leave you or forsake you. You didn't jump up. You've been moping around all week long with your face in the peanut butter. Now you get a check from the IRS and you're so excited? Well, yeah, it's a government check, Lord. You can trust the government, they said they're gonna come through with this. You get the drift. I was ready the trust Uncle Sam's promise that I would get money rather than God's promise that He would take care of me. Faith in power or faith in the promise that He will never leave you or forsake you? Here's the, here's the third level and we'll close with this: faith in a Person. Now watch this. There's three times the word believe is mentioned in this, in this section. Number one is believing in wonders and signs, power. The next is believing His Word. But watch this. Verse 51: "And as he was now going down, his servants met him and told him, saying, "Your son lives!" Then he inquired of them the hour when he got better. And they said to him, "Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him." So the father knew that it was at the same hour in which Jesus said to him, "Your son lives." And he himself believed, and his whole household. This again is the second sign Jesus did when He had come out of Judea into Galilee." Do you get this picture? Here's this nobleman. He has traveled twenty miles to see Jesus. Didn't get what he wanted to hear. Jesus finally says go your way. Now the man goes back how many miles? Twenty miles from Cana to Capernaum with nothing to hold onto except a promise that his son was alive. And he goes. And he goes and he hears what he hears. Your son is alive. But there's a word that jumps out. it arrested me and I just can't let it go. It's the word yesterday. When did this happen and they said, "Yesterday at the seventh hour". Now the Jewish reckoning of time begins early in the morning, a twelve-hour count to the sunset of the day. So the seventh hour, by the best scholars that I read, was one o'clock in the afternoon. Do you know what that means? That means when Jesus said to the father, your son is alive, at one in the afternoon, he stayed in Cana until the next day. He spent the night in Cana. He didn't go back home to go to Capernaum until the next day. Now it's twenty miles, a horse packed down with goods can travel at a good speed, twenty miles a day, take a couple hours to get there by horseback. Why didn't the guy get on the horse and book it to Capernaum as soon as he heard it? I can't answer that but I can say this: he really must have believed what Jesus said when He said your son is alive. It's like, ok, I believe that. I'm gonna get a good night's rest and I'll hit the trail in the morning. When he got there the next day, they said it was at one o'clock yesterday, which is exactly the time Jesus said what He said. And notice, he himself believed and his household. Now the word believe means to believe personally in Jesus. That's why some modern translations like the New Living Translation say, and he and his entire household believed in Jesus. That's a different kind of faith. First was faith in a generic power. Second was faith in the promise. This is faith in the Person of Jesus Christ. They believed in Him. Here's the lessons I want you to go home with. God allows trials. He allows trials. If you're a Christian, you're going to have trials. Please never say to anybody else or let people say to you, well if you just become a Christian, all of the problems you have, like little birdies, just fly away because you're God's child. Blech! That's just so not true. You have them and when they come, they will drive you to Christ. Second lesson: God will always answer your prayers not just exactly how you want them answered. And if you wonder why, and you're like me and you want to mope in the peanut butter, it's because your faith grows best in the dark. It doesn't grow in the light. It doesn't grow when everything's perfect and everything works out just like you planned it--doesn't require any faith. Your faith grows best in the dark when you can't see God but you cling to Him. Here's the third lesson: God wants you to believe. That's the theme of the book. That's the reason John wrote it. That's why it's mentioned three times in this paragraph. Believe, believe, believe! God wants you to believe, but not just to believe in belief, to have faith in faith. A lot of people say oh they have faith in whatever they're into, they just really are sincere. He wants you to have faith specifically in Jesus Christ personally. That, that it would be that you would lean your life back completely into His care. That's where He wants to take you and He is committed to that process. There was woman who was dying. She was on her deathbed, very poor, she lived in the fifth story of a beat-up tenement apartment building. She had a friend who would visit her frequently. On one particular day this friend decided to bring one of her friends who was very wealthy and had never been to that part of town ever. So she took her into the apartment complex and this wealthy woman was stunned by what she smelled and what she saw. It was so run-down. There was no elevator. They walked up the steps. On the first level, the wealthy woman said, this is horrible! This place is filthy! And her friend who brought her said, don't worry, it's better higher up. So they climbed to the second floor and the wealthy woman said, this looks worse than the first floor! And her friend said, it's ok, it's better higher up. They finally go all the way to the fifth floor. It is not better physically. There's a woman dying in her bed. It's clean, the apartment is, but dimly lit and very poor and stark. The wealthy woman is just overcome with what she sees and she rushes over to the woman in the deathbed and says to her, I'm so sorry you have to be in this kind of a place going through what you're going through. And the woman in the deathbed smiled and said, but it's better higher up. And then she understood what that other friend was saying all along. It's not about what level of the apartment building you are on or what is your view out the window, it is what is your view of life because you're so close to God that you rise above all of the things that happen to every person. And that is the trials and suffering of life. It's better higher up. That's faith. That's leaning back instead of grabbing the pole because you can see it. That's where He wants to take us.

Additional Messages in this Series

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10/25/2009
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Believe:879
John 20:30-31
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Is your faith in need of bolstering? Do you find yourself saying "Help my unbelief?" The book of John presents a unique, up close and personal look at the life of Christ, focusing on Jesus as God Incarnate. As we dive into a thorough study of each of John's 879 verses, we'll walk with disciples who were eyewitnesses of His ministry, His death, and His resurrection, and we'll experience abundant life in His name.
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11/1/2009
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The World's Most Important Word
John 1:1-5
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It may be difficult to say what the most important word is in any language, but not for the Apostle John. He begins his gospel with the identification of Jesus as, "The Word." Starting with the very beginning of beginnings, John shows us the fundamental truths about the Jesus that he writes about in the rest of this book. The language is simple and unmistakable and yet the truths presented are deep and extremely profound. Let's see how John presents Jesus and Who Jesus is according to one who was closest to Him.
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11/15/2009
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Step Into Son-Light
John 1:6-13
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I love early mornings when sunlight first comes up over the eastern sky. But if you’ve ever had the experience of the sun suddenly shining into your eyes (like when you turn westward while the sun is going down), it's not so pleasant. Most people wince when light is shined in their eyes. Jesus is presented here as being "the light of men" and "shining in darkness". But the world cries out, "Turn off that light!" How can Jesus enlighten your life and how will you respond to Him?
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11/22/2009
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One of a Kind!
John 1:14-18
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It is a mistake to think of Jesus as "one among many" options in the pantheon of deities. He is unique, matchless, unrivaled, singular, and incomparable. From His birth to His Resurrection, there is no one who even comes close to the majestic Christ. Jesus was One-Of-A-Kind! Let’s consider four distinct ways that Jesus was unique and what these mean to us today.
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12/6/2009
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The Greatest Man Meets the Greatest Lamb
John 1:19-34
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Everyone is good at something, maybe even great at something. Maybe you're a great artist or a great mom or even a great leader. Jesus said that John the Baptizer was the greatest man who had ever lived (Matt. 11:11). But John knew Jesus to be the greatest One ever—past, present and future - the Sacrificial Lamb sent to remove sin. Today we discover from John the Baptist how to witness for Christ and we look at the identity and the activity of this most unusual man.
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12/13/2009
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Are You a Follower-Really?
John 1:35-42
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You can't make it through much of the Bible without coming to the word Disciple. Just the four Gospels alone use this term 228 times. Basically a disciple is the follower of a teacher: one who observes, learns, and practices what the teacher shares. We now come to the first time John uses this term in his book. So today we assess ourselves by asking, "Are YOU a follower?" Lets look at five characteristics of the first disciples of Jesus and see if they’re reflected in our lives.
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1/3/2010
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Finding the God Who Found You
John 1:43-51
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When the first disciples encountered Jesus, they chose to follow Him--only to discover that they had already been chosen by Him! Without getting drowned in that theological tide pool, let's consider and marvel at how both of these realities work together. The Bible teaches that God sovereignly elects people for salvation while at the same time teaches our responsibility to believe in Christ. Let’s see how both Philip and Nathanael encountered Jesus for the first time.
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1/10/2010
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The Wedding Guest
John 2:1-12
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How cool (and also potentially scary) would it be to have Jesus as a guest at your own wedding! The unnamed couple at the village wedding of Cana had that privilege. Jesus was the wedding guest who brought the best gift. His first miraculous sign was performed while celebrating that marriage. But far more than just attending a nuptial party, Jesus demonstrated who He was in relation to four entities: His mother, the moment, a miracle, and His men.
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1/17/2010
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Trouble in the Temple
John 2:13-22
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A hymn by Charles Wesley begins, "Gentle Jesus, meek and mild, look upon a little child..." It’s a beautiful song with a beautiful thought. However, Jesus is anything but gentle and mild in John chapter two. Here in the temple at Jerusalem, He displays His righteous anger as He overturns tables and beats the religious businesspeople with whips! But Jesus was using this trouble in the temple to predict a greater sign—the triumph of His own physical temple—His bodily resurrection!
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1/24/2010
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Uncommitted!
John 2:23-25
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These three verses are some of the most unusual in the New Testament. They describe a scene in the life of Jesus that explains His popularity and fame. The response of people to the miracles of Jesus is understandable. What is not readily understandable is Jesus' response to the interested and excited crowd. Though they believed in Him, He was not too energized over their kind of faith. Understanding this will help us to understand Jesus and His mission.
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1/31/2010
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Nick at Nite!
John 3:1-8
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The meeting of Jesus and Nicodemus at night is one of the most famous and compelling stories in Scripture. This man's inner curiosity and spiritual thirst drove him to want to know more. What he heard puzzled and astonished him, but he heard from Jesus' own lips the only way to be saved. Jesus' words here divide all of humanity into two groups: those who are born again and those who are not.
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2/7/2010
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Extreme Makeover: Soul Edition!
John 3:9-21
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For years ABC has aired two different versions of a show called Extreme Makeover. One is a total body makeover designed to enhance the physical beauty of a selected individual. The other is a Home Edition that rebuilds or adds to a struggling family's residence. But only Jesus can give the soul a makeover; only Jesus can ready a person for eternity. Here Jesus answers Nicodemus' question of how a person can have the New Life that comes from the New Birth.
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2/14/2010
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God's Valentine
John 3:16
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Today we take a look at the Bible's most famous verse and probe its depth while preparing to take the Lord's Supper together. Though most everyone knows this verse, John 3:16 is much more than just a slogan; it is a summary statement of God's love through Jesus Christ. This single verse of scripture gives us the salient truths of God's plan of salvation in abridged form. Let's consider God's great plan for us as we unpack it phrase by phrase.
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2/21/2010
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To Grow Up, You Must Grow Down!
John 3:22-30
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"They that know God will be humble, and they that know themselves cannot be proud!" That's what British Puritan John Flavel once said. And that’s how John the Baptist once lived! John the Baptist and his followers provide some great applicational fodder for how Christians should get along and humble themselves before one another and God. For any Christian believer who wants to spiritually grow up and grow strong, he must first grow down.
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2/28/2010
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The Nail Everything Hangs On
John 3:31-36
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Imagine if everything you valued was in a sack, hanging on the wall from one nail. It surely must be a strong nail, or you're lost! If life could all be boiled down to one thing or one word or one most important principle, what would it be? What is the irreducible minimum for everything and everyone? John answers that here, saying that Jesus Christ is the nail that everything hangs on. He determined what has been and what will be. Thus our knowledge of Him and relationship to Him is paramount above everything else.
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3/7/2010
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Refreshment!
John 4:1-14
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You know the feeling of swallowing ice-cold water on a hot day or after a savory meal—it's refreshing! That cool, invigorating sip revitalizes you from the inside out and makes you say, "Ahh!" Well, that experience is not limited to the physical realm, but is even more satisfying in the spiritual realm when dealing with Living Water. Jesus came to give thirst-quenching spiritual life to every parched soul on the planet. When was the last time you drank deeply?
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3/14/2010
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How to Lead People to Water
John 4:10-30
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The world is thirsty and doesn't even know it, or won't admit it, or will look to be satisfied by everything else but Jesus Christ. So your job and mine is to lead them to water (living water, that is). Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman illustrates perhaps the best approach for personal evangelism to be found anywhere. Leading someone to the place of spiritual satisfaction is a process that rests upon two pillars—the pillar of attitude and the pillar of approach:
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3/21/2010
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What God Really Wants
John 4:20-24
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Worship conferences, worship seminars and worship experiences abound within the landscape of the American church, but in all these there's something that seems to be always lacking—worship is confined to the activity of singing songs. When the subject is brought up in this chapter, Jesus talks plainly and openly about true worship: what it is and what it isn't. Let's explore these few verses to discover what God is seeking after and how to be part of fulfilling that.
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3/28/2010
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Spiritual Farming 101
John 4:28-42
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Farmers live for the harvest season--a time when their crops are taken in and profits are made. But crops don’t grow on their own. Seeds must be sown and plants must be garnered by a whole group of active farm workers. God is the head Farmer and we are His farmhands, all working together to produce a bumper-crop of people who believe that Jesus is the Savior--Are you in?
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4/25/2010
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Healing Misery with Mercy
John 5:1-16
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One of Jesus' most distinguishing characteristics in His earthly ministry was His mercy toward people who were hurting. This is not astonishing, for the prophet Micah announced that "God delights in mercy" (Micah 7:18). Jesus standing among the squalid misery of sickness and hopelessness while at a feast in Jerusalem is a perfect setting to show how Christians can show mercy to a world in misery. But be warned: not everyone will be sympathetic to your cause!
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5/23/2010
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Like Father, Like Son
John 5:16-24
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The most important question you could ever ask is not, "Who am I?" but rather, "Who is Christ?" That was the supreme question Jesus presented to His disciples when He said, "Who do you say that I am?" (Matthew 16:15). Jesus made the most astonishing claim ever when He confronted the Jewish leaders of Jerusalem here in John 5. What do these claims have to do with us today? Absolutely everything!
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5/30/2010
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Everyone Lives Forever
John 5:25-29
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My mom used to wake me up early every morning with her sweet voice saying, "Rise and Shine!" It took a few times but I eventually got up out of bed. As Jesus declares that He will be in charge of the future judgment, He too will usher the call to everyone who has died to "Rise up!" But not everyone will rise up to shine; some will rise up to suffer. Let’s consider three inevitable and unalterable truths about the future for all of us: We will all die, we will all be judged, and we will all rise again to live forever... but where?
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6/6/2010
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Why Should You Believe?
John 5:30-47
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The theme of John's gospel is "believe." The whole reason he wrote this book is so that people who read it will believe in Jesus (see John 20:31). But why should they believe? And even more applicable, why should we believe? After all, the events of the New Testament are over 2,000 years removed from us today. Jesus' confrontation with the religious leaders in John 5 tells us why we should believe. Like a skilled lawyer, Jesus calls upon four witnesses to testify to His claims and these four give the reasons for our believing in Jesus Christ.
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6/13/2010
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Lessons From a Picnic
John 6:1-14
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This story ranks in the "top ten" of the most famous miracles of Jesus Christ. In fact this is the most famous of all His miracles as it alone is recorded by all four gospel accounts. But this is far more than a Sunday school tale. This extraordinary picnic was not just a free meal for five thousand folks; it provided lessons for both ancient and modern disciples. Here are four profound truths that emerge from this lakeside lunch.
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6/20/2010
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What Storm Goers Need to Know
John 6:15-21
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Have you ever been on the ocean in a raging storm? If so, you know that a well-trained crew follows an immediate protocol until the storm is over. Their knowledge and experience about violent weather are invaluable for those who want to survive. Using the story of Jesus walking on the waves to His disciples, let’s discover a few things about the stormy trials of life.
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7/4/2010
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The Right Thing, The Wrong Way
John 6:22-29
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Our text reads that crowds of people came "seeking Jesus." That sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? And yet Jesus challenges them as to their motive because they were seeking Him (the right thing) in order to satisfy themselves only (the wrong motive). Let’s consider three monumental truths about how people interact with spiritual things in general and Jesus Christ in particular. Let’s also reconsider the starting point for anyone who wants anything to do with Christ.
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7/11/2010
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Wonder Bread!
John 6:30-50
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The Hostess Company has for years advertised that its Wonder bread "helps build strong bodies 12 ways" and that just two slices has the calcium of eight ounces of milk and the fiber of 100% whole wheat. Wow! The crowd that Jesus was speaking to would have loved that! But our Lord presents something to them far greater than what they were wanting. He knew what they needed.
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7/18/2010
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Plain Truths About the Bread of Life
John 6:51-71
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Mark Twain once remarked that "A lie can travel halfway around the world while truth is still lacing up its boots!" This section of John's Gospel has generated much confusion and misunderstanding. Even Jesus' original audience had trouble understanding His meaning, and when they did, they found the truth was difficult to bear. These "hard truths," however, are "the words of eternal life" (v. 68). Let's look at these four realities today.
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8/1/2010
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Seeing Jesus Through the Fog
John 7:1-13
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There was always a fog surrounding Jesus! It was a fog of uncertainty, of unbelief, and of conflicting opinion. He was misunderstood about both His mission and His message. His friends, His family, and His foes were often bewildered about who He was and what He was doing. That remains true even today. But in this passage our view becomes clearer. Jesus had clearly defined objectives that He reveals here and they are extremely practical for us today.
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8/8/2010
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Follow Jesus But Don't Be Religious
John 7:14-24
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Jesus clashed with religious leaders more than any other group of people. He went against their spiritual grain and challenged their legalistic ideas. Christ made it clear that He hadn’t come to establish a new religion but rather to show the way to God His Father. He didn’t give people another “system of beliefs and practices”; instead He said that He Himself was the way, truth, and life. In this public confrontation, we learn how to follow Christ in truth and not be religious.
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8/15/2010
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Standing by a Waterfall (Dying of Thirst)
John 7:25-53
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All the diverse and assorted experiences offered by this world can never satisfy the deepest longing of the human soul. What we really want isn't what we really need. The rest of John chapter 7 illustrates this truth. In the midst of a crowd of people clamoring for deep spiritual satisfaction stands the only One who can provide it. He offers them the drink that really satisfies and all but a few refuse it, preferring rather to die of thirst. How painfully ironic!
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8/22/2010
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Scribbling on the Ground
John 8:1-11
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Can you imagine what a surviving copy of Jesus' autograph would be worth today? Or what about a letter to His disciples? The fact is, there is no existing document or copy of anything Jesus ever wrote. We only have this story of Him scribbling something in transient dust on the Temple stones. Though John doesn't tell what Jesus wrote that day, his account does reveal a lot about Jesus Himself and how He interacted with three different kinds of folks.
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8/29/2010
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Blinded by the Light
John 8:12-20
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When the sun shines right in your eyes, your immediate inclination is to squint, turn away, or put sunglasses on. Light can be blinding! Though light penetrates our world, providing illumination and energy for our very existence, big doses of it can be difficult to handle. That's true spiritually as well. Jesus, by His teaching and work, illuminated this world darkened by sin. Some rejoiced in that light, able to see where they were going. But others, who'd been so accustomed to spiritual darkness, could only wince when Jesus was around.
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9/5/2010
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The Worst Way & Best Way to Die
John 8:21-30
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One person put it this way, "Death is the big flaw. Sometimes we can postpone it, lessen its physical pains, deny its existence—but we can't escape it!" Since that is universally true, why don't people take death seriously enough to plan for it? While we are alive in this world, everyone should be thinking more about the next. But what's the best (and worst) way to die?
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9/19/2010
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The Best Way & Worst Way to Live
John 8:31-36
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Everyone has an opinion on what "The Good Life" is. For some, it's financial independence. For others, it’s autonomy from government control. For still others, it’s the ability to do whatever you want whenever you feel like it. Jesus offers a different kind of freedom and a better brand of life. Here Jesus tells us what the best way to live really is: It’s the freedom to be a genuine disciple. And He tells us what the worst way to live really is: It’s the slavery of a sinful lifestyle. Today consider how free you really are and what areas of life you may still be in bondage to.
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9/26/2010
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The Devil's DNA
John 8:37-47
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Your body has 100 trillion cells. Inside each one is a nucleus and in each nucleus are DNA molecules. DNA is like an instruction manual for life with densely coded information telling each cell what to do. A simple paternity test would prove that my father was really my father. Here Jesus gives His audience a spiritual paternity test that reveals their spiritual father to be the devil himself. No matter what your physical ancestry, you can always tell one's spiritual heritage.
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10/3/2010
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Who IS This Guy?
John 8:48-59
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Jesus had friends and He had enemies. But besides those, He also had some "frenemies" (enemies who pretended to be friends). To this crowd who at first pretended to believe (v. 31) Jesus is both confrontational and controversial. This paragraph highlights three possible identities of Jesus: two of them were his enemies' accusations and one was Jesus' own claim.
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10/10/2010
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Life Hurts! Where's God?
John 9:1-12
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"Why is there so much pain in the world?" is the most frequently asked question ever! We hate it when we, or those we love, are in pain. Today we see Jesus confront a hurting world. As we do, consider these words by Elizabeth Elliot (whose husband was murdered): "If God is in charge and loves us, then whatever is given is subject to His control and is meant ultimately for our joy."
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10/17/2010
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The Truth About Your Neighbors
John 9:13-34
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Those of us who are Christians live in a sea of unbelievers who work with us, live next to us, shop where we shop, and send their kids to the same schools. Some have a mild case of unbelief disguised by religious practices. Others are more demonstrable in their agnosticism or atheism. Let's watch a local Jerusalem neighborhood struggle against faith in spite of clear evidence.
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10/24/2010
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Got Any Blind Spots?
John 9:35-41
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When you drive, you encounter "blind spots"—it could be part of your own car or it could be a tree that hides traffic on the other side. Those blind spots hinder both progress and ultimately, safety. When Jesus healed a blind man in Jerusalem, the same man was also healed of his spiritual blindness. But others who thought their spiritual perception was keen were as blind as a bat! As we consider this story, can you think of any blind spots in your spiritual journey?
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10/31/2010
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The Good Shepherd (and a bunch of happy sheep!)
John 10:1-10
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This is one of the most beloved passages to be found anywhere in Scripture. But it's not a stand-alone passage: The healing of the blind man in chapter 9 was more than a miracle. It was part of the process of Jesus forming His flock. The leadership had cast the healed man out of the synagogue. Jesus found him, accepted him, saved him, and placed him in His own fold.
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11/21/2010
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What's So Great About the Good Shepherd?
John 10:11-21
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"What's so great about being a Christian?" some people ask. The answer lies in the kind of care, provision, and protection we get from Jesus Christ, our Shepherd. Have you ever stopped to make a list of the benefits that are yours as a follower of Christ? Consider this short list of advantages that you, as a child of God, have. When was the last time you thanked Him for being your Shepherd? This would be a great week to do that!
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12/5/2010
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To BElieve or Not to BElieve...
John 10:22-42
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"In all unbelief there are two things: a good opinion of one's self and a bad opinion about God."— Horatius Bonar. It's true, isn't it? Humanism is man-centered and rejects God's existence or His relevance. But Jesus appealed to two things: the plain evidence of His supernatural works and the testimony of those who witnessed them. Jesus here asserts His deity, and the reaction is predictable—some believed while others did not believe. Which camp do you fall into?
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1/9/2011
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The Great Physician's Patient Dies
John 11:1-16
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When a doctor loses a patient on the operating table, there is a deep sense of remorse and sadness in the surgical theater. Doctors are trained to save lives but sometimes even the best trained physicians are unable to control complications that lead to death. But here we discover that Christ, the Great Physician, not only knows that His patient is sick--He allows him to die! Here are three principles about Divine Medicine that we can all learn.
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1/16/2011
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A Tale of Two Sisters
John 11:17-32
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In 1859 Charles Dickens wrote his famous work, A Tale of Two Cities, set in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution. The story before us is set in Bethany near Jerusalem and highlights the personal relationship that two sisters had with Jesus Christ. Their broken hearts provide an excellent platform to consider how Christ deals with people in grief and loss. Let's actively probe not only their responses but ours to the incredible promise Jesus makes.
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1/23/2011
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The Strangest Funeral Ever
John 11:33-44
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According to one source, there are approximately 2 million funerals in America per year, which means that about 5,479 funerals take place every single day! Most of those funerals are pretty typical: a formal service followed by an interment. But the funeral service we're looking at was really different--and not just because of a resurrection. Here Jesus does three things that are pretty normal for most people at a funeral, but strikingly odd for Jesus.
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1/30/2011
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What to Do with Jesus?
John 11:45-57
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Any lawyer can tell you that whenever the star witness is a resurrected corpse, you have a pretty good case! But Lazarus being alive from the dead doesn’t seem to persuade everyone. And so the big issue becomes what shall we do with Jesus? The decisions made here set the clock in motion for an impending hate crime—the crucifixion of Christ. But from heaven’s vantage point, this is all part of God’s plan for redemption. Let’s see the responses and how we can make a difference.
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2/6/2011
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A Meal to Reveal the Heart
John 12:1-11
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If you were to step into the home of Simon at Bethany (Mark 14:3) on that night, you would've seen Jesus and His disciples along with Lazarus and His two sisters reclining at a low table for a meal in honor of Christ. But if you were to step into the hearts of those people, you would discover they were all very different from each other. Those inside the house and outside represent the gamut of feelings about Jesus—from adoring love to intense hatred. What a complicated meal!
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2/13/2011
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A Day, a Donkey, a Deliverer, and a Decision
John 12:12-19
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2000 years ago, on the final Sunday of Jesus’ earthly life before His crucifixion, He did the most unusual thing—He sat on a donkey and was carried into the city of Jerusalem in parade fashion. This formal presentation of Him as Deliverer was both profound and predicted. What’s the significance of such an act as this? What overarching principles emerge for us today? We’ll dig in and discover them, but today you’ve got to write them down yourself:
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2/20/2011
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Living the Right Life
John 12:20-26
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If this sermon was a book and I wanted to sell lots of copies, the title would cause it to fail. Now if it were entitled "Living the High Life" or "Living the Successful Life," then I may have a winner. But many have lived with both success and riches who didn't live right! So what is the right life? Or to frame it with a better question: What kind of life is most pleasing to God? Through a series of paradoxes, John gives us the answer—it wasn't the answer most people are looking for!
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2/27/2011
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Cross-Culture
John 12:27-36
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The term cross-culture emerges from the social sciences and typically refers to interaction of one culture or language with another. But that's not how I'm using it today. I'm thinking of it in the biblical sense, the salvation sense. Jesus' whole life was immersed in the culture of the cross and He referred to His impending death on the cross as "His hour." Let's consider today the culture of the cross of Christ: what it meant to Jesus personally and the world ultimately.
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3/6/2011
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Believe It or Not!
John 12:37-50
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Most of you reading this are believers. Some are not. Both are dangerous positions to take but for different reasons—vastly different reasons! This paragraph in John's Gospel is the summary of all that has been written, from chapters 1 through 13. It reviews the two different responses people have to Jesus and then gives us Jesus' own synopsis on faith and unbelief. Today you will be able to understand the real differences and consequences of faith and unbelief.
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3/13/2011
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A Night Unforgettable
John 13:1-5
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Some days are frozen in time because of the magnitude of an event. You will always remember September 11, 2001 and where you were when the towers fell. The night America bombed Baghdad or the night John Lennon was murdered may be permanent memories captured in your mind. This was the final night Jesus spent with His own disciples and it would be unforgettable. Let’s discover how what seem like ordinary moments can be extraordinary appointments.
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3/20/2011
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Basin Theology 101
John 13:6-17
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At the final Passover meal that Jesus shared with His closest friends, He gave new meaning to the bread and wine, using them to point to His upcoming sacrificial death on the cross. Today we share Communion as a church family and reflect on that meal, as well as the lessons Jesus was teaching His first followers. After dinner Jesus took a basin of water and began to wash the feet of his students and taught them life principles about stooping, cleansing and serving.
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3/27/2011
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Betrayed!
John 13:18-30
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Relationships can withstand an enormous amount of pressure, but betrayal is sure to end most. The old English word means to hand over or to deliver. Think of it: while Jesus was about to deliver the world from sin and its destruction, Judas was about to deliver the Savior over to His enemies. If you've ever felt betrayed by someone, this study will have special application to you.
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4/10/2011
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A Brand New Way of Life!
John 13:31-35
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To follow Jesus is to have a brand new way of life. When these twelve men sitting around the dinner table started hanging around Jesus, they had no idea just how new and different their lives would become. At this final meal on that last night, they were still learning just how new their lives should be. (Jesus can still teach old dogs new tricks!) As present-day followers of Christ, let’s consider three aspects of life that become new once we become His disciples.
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4/17/2011
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F.A.Q.
John 13:36-38
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An old Persian Proverb reads, "It's harder to ask a sensible question than to supply a sensible answer." Many times our questions to God are reactive—based on a sort of knee-jerk reaction to painful circumstances. Peter asked Jesus two questions of this sort. But whenever we ask God questions we must hang around to get the supplied answers. The questions Peter asked are similar to ones we frequently ask. Let's consider and apply Jesus' outstanding answer
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5/1/2011
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A Theology for Messy Lives
John 14:1-6
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Life can be pretty messy sometimes: plans fail, people leave, money diminishes, and taxes rise. There are plenty of reasons to be troubled these days but there are better reasons not to be! Life was about to get real messy for those disciples around that Jerusalem dinner table. At times like that, there are some basic instructions we need to fall back on so our hearts inside us won't be swallowed up by the mess around us.
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5/8/2011
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How Can I Know God?
John 14:7-11
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What a thought—that a mere human can know God! The agnostic asserts this is impossible. The atheist insists that the very idea is an arrogant and purely metaphysical pursuit. But one of the reasons Jesus came was to reveal God's character and nature clearly and perfectly! Let's consider two roadblocks to knowing God and four resources that help us know Him better.
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5/29/2011
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Privileges of God's Employees
John 14:12-14
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Most companies have benefits for employees: things like overtime pay, health insurance, and sick pay. In 2 Corinthians 6:1, Paul calls us "workers together with Him" (NLT renders it "God's partners"). We have been called to a high and lofty task—to be His representatives here on earth. You might say we're part of the "family business." So what has God called us to do? And how has He provided for us in terms of resources? In short, what are the benefits of being God's employees?
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6/5/2011
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Four Part Harmony
John 14:15-18
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Some of the best moments on American Idol aren't the solo performances, but when all the singers join together and blend their voices in harmony. There's nothing sweeter than well-trained voices blended together in first, thirds, and fifths. Spiritual harmony is much the same—when believers blend with the triune Godhead there is an alignment that results in a deep sense of fulfillment. And what is the note we are to sing in this spiritual song? It is the note of loving obedience!
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6/12/2011
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Promises, Promises!
John 14:19-26
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Someone once mused, "Promises may get friends, but it's performance that keeps them." No wonder God has so many friends! He makes promises and keeps them. On this final night that Jesus spent with His friends, as both sorrow and confusion assailed them, Jesus made several promises that would sustain them in the days, months, and years ahead. What about you? Will you dare to trust the promises of God? It's the only way to see if they really work.
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6/26/2011
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Peace Where You Least Expect It
John 14:27-31
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On countless American gravestones this epitaph could be written: Hurried, Worried, Buried. What a sad way to live! Fear, anxiety, and distress have literally become part of our national culture. Odd, isn't it? Though we have such abundance in this country, most don't experience abundant life—especially as Jesus described it. Sure, everyone has his or her share of trouble and anxieties, but let's consider one of the greatest gifts Jesus gives to followers—the gift of peace!
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7/3/2011
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Life-Lessons from Grape-Growers - Part 1
John 15:1-7
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My parents grew grapes on their little plot of land in Southern California. There weren't many, but enough for me to know that getting fruit at harvest depended on three things: the solid connection of branch to vine, the vigilant care of the workers, and the consistency of those things over time. Jesus, walking with the disciples toward the Garden of Gethsemane, gives life lessons to His men using the familiar example of growing grapes. With that analogy in mind, let's consider the three ways our relationship to God is described by Jesus.
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7/10/2011
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Life-Lessons From Grape-Growers - Part 2
John 15:8-11
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As we grow older, we mature. In our spiritual lives we should become spiritually mature. The Bible calls it being fruitful. Spiritual fruit is the indication that we're truly connected to Christ. But there are others, as we'll see today. Last week we examined how the relationship with Christ is described (Connected to Christ, Cared for by the Father, and Consistent Over Time). Today let's consider how this relationship is demonstrated. When we're rightly connected to God we'll be:
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7/17/2011
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What a Friend We Have in Jesus
John 15:12-17
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We can get through almost anything in life with friends to share our sorrow and divide our grief. A Chinese word for friend is peng-yu and it has a much fuller meaning than in English. It means "one who brings completion and sums up beauty." The ancient Hebrews saw true friendship as an ideal to pursue and a blessing to enjoy. In these final moments with His followers, Jesus uses a most tender term for their relationship—they were friends! What does that friendship look like?
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7/24/2011
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Why Does Everyone Hate Me?
John 15:18-25
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There is a flipside to being a friend of Jesus. That's true of any friendship. Whenever you ally yourself and make friends with someone, you will incur some enemies because of it. Likewise, some who don't like Jesus won't like us either—and we discover there are quite a few who don't! Let's find out why, and how we can raise our heads high and prevail.
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7/31/2011
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Two Thirds Is Not Enough
John 15:26-16:15
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We love God the Father who created us and God the Son who redeemed us, but what about the Holy Spirit? We hear His name a lot, but who is He? What exactly does He do? What does He want from us? The Holy Spirit is the "quiet One," active in the life of believers but sometimes not acknowledged as being vital. Oswald Chambers noted, "The Holy Spirit cannot be located as a guest in a house. He invades everything!" Today, we consider Him and His role in our lives.
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8/7/2011
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The Holy Hound of Heaven
John 16:5-11
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Having understood Who the Holy Spirit is (Person not just power; Deity not just dignitary) we now find out what He does in the world of unbelieving people. Since the greatest gift God ever gave to the world was His only Son (John 3:16) it stands to reason that the greatest sin one can commit is to reject the Son (John 16:9). How does the Holy Spirit both sentence the world as prosecutor and lead people away from judgment? And what role do we play in all of this?
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8/14/2011
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When Sorrow Turns to Joy
John 16:16-22
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The flamboyant baseball-legend-turned-preacher Billy Sunday stated, "If you have no joy in your religion, there's a leak in your Christianity somewhere!" That's not to say that life is all laughs. Hardly! Jesus anticipated His followers' deep sorrow. He predicted it. But He also assured them that their experience of sadness would be eclipsed by a greater experience of lasting joy.
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8/21/2011
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How to Send Knee-Mail
John 16:23-28
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Today you can be anywhere in the world and send or receive messages digitally via email. Sending email has eclipsed traditional mail for years now. Sending knee-mail is similar (you can be anywhere)—but with better results! You don't need wifi or a modem; you don't need an electronic device or a computer. Before Jesus left His disciples, He wanted them to get "online" with the Father and stay connected through the simple yet powerful means of prayer.
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9/4/2011
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I've Fallen, but I CAN Get Up!
John 16:29-33
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I would rather fail in a cause that will ultimately succeed than to succeed in a cause that will ultimately fail! So said President Woodrow Wilson. Our Lord knows us better than we know ourselves and is not surprised by our weaknesses. We all fall and fail, even though we may commit to standing strong. What can we learn about ourselves and our God in such valleys? Even more, what kind of restoration can we hope for after our bout with failure?
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9/18/2011
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Holy Eavesdropping
John 17:1
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Imagine if you could sit and listen to Jesus talking to His Father—what would Jesus say to Him? In this prayer (which comprises all of John 17) we step onto holy ground. His instruction to His followers is now over. His preparation of them is done. He now turns His attention heavenward to talk directly to His Father about Himself, about His disciples, and about His future church. This prayer is unique for four reasons:
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9/25/2011
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The Gifts That Keep On Giving
John 17:1-5
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It's possible to give without loving but it's impossible to love without giving— Richard Braunstein. Part of God's nature is that He shows His love by His generous gifts. "For God so loved the world that He gave..." (John 3: 16). Here, in the opening lines of Jesus' prayer to His Father, He requests a gift from His Father and acknowledges three other gifts—two given to the Son by the Father, and one given by the Son to us. These are the gifts that keep on giving!
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10/2/2011
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How Followers Are Formed
John 17:6-10
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Okay, so which is it? Did I choose God or did God choose me? Perspective is everything! If you look at it from the divine viewpoint, you'll say God chose. If you're looking at it from a human viewpoint, you'll say we do the choosing. But why can't both be true? I suppose you can sit around, scratch your head, and try to ponder such imponderables, or you can sigh happily and say with a grateful heart, "I'm elated that He chose me!" But you should also ask yourself another question while you're at it—What am I going to do about it now?
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10/9/2011
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Missionaries or Monasteries?
John 17:11-19
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How can you leave your mark on the world? Most everyone wants to be remembered for some contribution made to society. Well, Jesus wants us to do that, too. In fact, He prays for that. God wants you to make an imprint on life's road so people will say, "Hey look! God's kids were here!" We can't do that by isolating ourselves. We have marching orders!
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10/23/2011
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Listen Up! Jesus is Praying—for YOU!
John 17:20-26
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What's God's general will for you? Look no further than this text! Now as we listen to Jesus pray for us, we also find what our priorities in life are to be. These words are the "Last Will and Testament" of Jesus Christ. So pay close attention and you'll get it right from the heart of Jesus Himself.
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10/30/2011
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I've Got It Under Control
John 18:1-11
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Sometimes life appears to be spinning out of control. Events happen we didn't plan for, people do things we didn't expect, we find ourselves in places we never thought we'd be in. But though you can't always control what happens to you, you are responsible for what happens in you (attitudes and responses). What do we really believe about God's authority and power in our lives? Is there ever a time when God can't say, "I've got it under control"?
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11/20/2011
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The Darkest Night!
John 18:12-27
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On a dark spring night in Jerusalem, it seemed everyone was against Jesus Christ. The religious system had long been opposed to and jealous of His burgeoning ministry. The mock trial designed to get rid of Jesus was only going through the technical motions to achieve their end. And Peter, Jesus' closest friend, was in a downward process of disassociating himself from Him. But in the midst of the darkest night, the sunrise of God's grace was beginning to shine!
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1/8/2012
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A King, a Kingdom, and a Courtroom
John 18:28-40
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What kind of a King is Jesus, and what is the nature of His Kingdom? And what does it mean to pray, "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done"? These are the questions faced in the text before us. As Jesus nears the cross, a nation denies His reign over them, while a Roman ruler questions Him and then cynically admits his own confusion and despair.
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1/22/2012
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How Do You Handle Jesus?
John 19:1-16
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Pontius Pilate was like every other person who has ever lived. The fundamental question of his life was, "What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?" (Matthew 27:22). Everyone has to deal with Jesus, to decide about Him and His claims. In one setting, we can see how one man (Pilate) was influenced to deal with Jesus in three different ways. These three ways are how many people today still choose to deal with Jesus Christ.
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1/29/2012
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Execution of a King
John 19:17-22
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Regicide is the official word used for the execution of a king. Most countries reserve the stiffest of punishments for subjects or assassins who would kill their royalty. John records the execution of the King of kings on a Roman cross outside the city of Jerusalem. But the rest of Scripture reveals that it was more than an execution; it was sacrifice that brought salvation. The next few weeks, we will consider the cross in depth and what it means for the world and for us.
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2/5/2012
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The Cross on the Billboard of Eternity
John 19:23-24
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Did you know that the cross of Christ was always God's plan from the very beginning? It wasn't a reaction to mankind's rejection of His Son, nor was it an accommodation to a Roman and Jewish miscarriage of justice. It was according to "the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:23). Today we will take a journey back and connect the dots of God's unfolding plan of the cross throughout the ages.
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2/12/2012
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How to Love Your Mother
John 19:25-27
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A mother's love for her children is distinctive and irreplaceable. To watch a child suffer is crushing and almost intolerable for any mom. In this touching scene revealed in three verses, we not only see Mary, the mother of Jesus, at the foot of her Son's cross, we also learn how Jesus cared for His mother. Even from His place of extreme suffering, Jesus was thinking of others and His love for Mary is noteworthy for us.
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2/19/2012
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iThirst
John 19:28-29
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The world is filled with Apple's i-technology, which delivers on its promise to make connectivity and information readily accessible. But there is a deeper need within everyone, a thirst to be right with God, that no app or gadget can fulfill. How ironic that Jesus, the great Thirst-Quencher, would Himself be thirsty. It was part of the great exchange—His temporary thirst enabled yours to be quenched eternally!
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2/26/2012
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It's Done!
John 19:30
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While Jesus was doing His greatest work, He uttered His greatest words! Through the excruciating pain of a tormenting death, Jesus gave the most meaningful statements worthy of careful consideration. John records three of Jesus' seven statements uttered while on the cross. The sixth—and perhaps the most hopeful—is the one we consider today.
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3/4/2012
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Death Under Control
John 19:31-37
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Watching someone you love die is always a heart-wrenching experience, especially when the victim experiences great suffering. For the apostle John, the death of Jesus was likewise difficult-but he saw a glimmer of hope, a silver lining in the dark clouds of death. This death was long ago anticipated and was being carefully monitored from the control center of heaven. Today we see why that's important.
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3/11/2012
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Disciples on the Graveyard Shift
John 19:38-42
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You can find an unending supply of books, pamphlets, and articles on discipleship in Christian churches and bookstores. Many of them will be predictably regimented and conventional, giving solid biblical references and calling Christians to ardently follow Christ—all great stuff. But not everyone's spiritual journey is identical. Some disciples are unexpected, and so is their story. Here are two disciples of Jesus who've been in the background and now step forward to care for the body of Christ after His death. Let's allow their story to inspire us.
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3/18/2012
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A Not-Quite-Empty Tomb
John 20:1-10
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There was a lot of confusion happening on the first Easter morning. The resurrection had happened but it was neither expected nor accepted by all at first. Mary Magdalene ran to tell the disciples what she saw, and they ran to check out her report. What they saw was compelling evidence of a resurrection, but only one of them really connected all the dots. Let's see why.
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3/25/2012
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Hope Rekindled
John 20:11-18
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When people grieve, they usually run the gamut of the emotional spectrum, from denial to bargaining to despair to anger to eventually hope. Mary Magdalene was in hopeless despair as she stood weeping by the grave of Jesus. The resurrected Christ deals tenderly with this woman as he reveals Himself to her and conveys hope for her future. Let's glean some principles for dealing with brokenhearted people.
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4/1/2012
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From Closed Doors to the Open Road
John 20:19-23
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Our relationship with Jesus isn't a secret to be hoarded; it is a story to be heralded! The disciples were seated behind closed doors (sounds like a lot of churches). Jesus wanted them out, giving away what they had been given. Let's see how these early followers went from panic to peace, from perplexity to purpose, and from protection to power. It's a great journey. Are you up for it?
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4/8/2012
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Rise Up!
John 20:24-31
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The apostle Thomas has been noted for his skeptical attitude. In fact, we refer to a skeptic as a "doubting Thomas." In this message from John 20, we consider four ways Thomas was able to rise up from doubt and become a joyful follower of Jesus.
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4/15/2012
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Gone Fishing! (Relating to a Risen & Returning Lord)
John 21:1-14
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I am not a great fisherman. I don't do it often and when I catch something, it's pure luck! My dad was the opposite—he loved it and was great at it. At least seven of Jesus' disciples were fishermen and here we see them plying their trade after the resurrection. Some beautiful lessons can be discovered about how to live while we wait for Jesus to come back for us.
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4/22/2012
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I Failed! Now What?
John 21:15-19
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One of life's harshest realities is failure. The very sound of the word seems harsh to our sensibilities. We even harbor the age-old axiom, "Failure is not an option!" But failure is an option; in fact, it's a certainty. But discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping-stones to victory. In a post-resurrection interview, Jesus restores Peter with a fresh commission. If you have failed in your spiritual experience (and who hasn't), these principles will inspire.
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4/29/2012
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Final Instructions
John 21:20-25
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As John closes off his singular testimony of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, he features some closing words of Jesus and Peter about himself (John). These final sentences provide some instructions for us as we await Christ's return. How should we live in light of who Jesus is, what Jesus did, and when Jesus will return?
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There are 95 additional messages in this series.