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Service Archives > 43 John - Believe:879 - 2009 > Lessons From a Picnic

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Lessons From a Picnic - John 6:1-14

Taught on | Topic: Provision | Keywords: miracle, feeding of the 5000, provision, loaves and fishes, Philip, Andrew

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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6/13/2010
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Lessons From a Picnic
John 6:1-14
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
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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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. Problems Don’t Escape God’s View (vv. 1-4)

  2. Perplexities Test Faith in God’s Power (vv. 5-7)

  3. People are Part of God’s Plan (vv. 8-10)

  4. Provision is Abundant in God’s Time (vv. 11-14)

Making it More than a Sermon:
  1. Think of the problems you face today—do you think God knows about them? Does He care about them? What do you honestly think about God’s provision for you?

  2. In what way is Jesus’ question to Philip a test? Why do you think Jesus would want to test His followers? How are we tested today? Did Philip pass the test? Did Andrew?

  3. How would you feel if you knew that your life was being used to further God’s plan?

Detailed Notes

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Jesus provides the biggest meal found anywhere. Five thousand was the count of men only, besides women and children, meaning a free lunch for ten to fifteen thousand. This is a rare. Jesus never gave money and he rarely gave food. The meaning is deeper than a picnic. It is the only miracle Jesus performed recorded in all four gospels.

  1. Problems Don’t Escape God’s View (vv. 1-4)
    1. Time
      1. After these things - meta tauta
      2. "Feast of the Jews"
        1. Passover - 1 year later
        2. Feast of Tabernacles - 6 months later
    2. Soaring Popularity
      1. Crowds saw the signs Jesus performed
      2. Jesus success not gauged by numbers
      3. Jesus did not commit himself to them - John 2:24
      4. Within one year some of these will be shouting, "Crucify Him!"
        1. Those mad or bitter against God have unfulfilled expectations
        2. Follow Jesus on their own terms - See themselves as Lord and Christ as the servant, rather than Christ as Lord and self as the slave
    3. Physical Need
      1. Away from home
      2. Hot, hungry, thirsty
      3. Seeing - theaomai- to notice
      4. We are specially cared for by God - Matthew 6:25-26; Romans 8:32
  2. Perplexities Test Faith in God’s Power (vv. 5-7)
    1. Jesus tests beyond the edge to stretch faith
    2. Asks Philip, but not looking for information
      1. Philip is the hometown guy
      2. Testing Philip
        1. When God does something wonderful He begins with a difficulty; when He does something very wonderful He begins with an impossibility
        2. Will Philip focus on his inadequacy or on God's ability?
        3. Philip failed the test - answers not where, but how much
        4. If Philip couldn't see it, He couldn't believe it
    3. Difficulty must be measured by the capacity of the agent doing the work
  3. People are Part of God’s Plan (vv. 8-10) (boy, Philip, Andrew, disciples)
    1. Andrew
      1. Known as "Simon Peter's brother"
      2. Brought people to Jesus
        1. Simon Peter
        2. Greeks
        3. Boy with the loaves and fish
    2. Boy - John only gospel writer to mention the boy
      1. Insignificant, poor
      2. Pita bread and pickled fish spread
      3. Unknown, unnamed, insignificant does not mean unimportant or useless
      4. Something/someone small, placed in the hands of Jesus, can bless a multitude
    3. Jesus could have performed a miracle without any of these people, but He uses people to perform His work
    4. Don't look at your littleness above His greatness
      1. 5+2= not much
      2. 5+2+Jesus=the sky is the limit
    5. Don't forget to factor in Christ's power when you commit your life into His hands
  4. Provision is Abundant in God’s Time (vv. 11-14)
    1. As much as they wanted
    2. They were filled
    3. Exceedingly, abundantly - Ephesians 3:20
    4. Philip calculated on the bare minimum, Jesus provided the maximum
    5. Gathered up the fragments
      1. 12 disciples, each had a basket
      2. Free lunch and breakfast for his 12
    6. Psalm 37:25
    7. Psalm 23:5
Greek Terms: meta tauta - after these things; theaomai- to notice
Figures Referenced: William Barclay, DL Moody, Edward Kimball, Martin Luther, Philip Melancthon, Billy Graham, Mordecai Ham, Howard Hendricks
Cross References: Psalm 37:25; Psalm 23:5; Matthew 6:25-26; John 2:24; Romans 8:32; Ephesians 3:20

Topic: Provision

Keywords: miracle, feeding of the 5000, provision, loaves and fishes, Philip, Andrew

Transcript

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I’m gonna show you a picture of the largest sandwich ever made. Look at that thing. That thing was made in Mexico City on April 24th, 2004 and the weight of that sandwich is 6,991 pounds. Brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “Super size me,” doesn’t it? That’s a big sandwich. Just the top slice of bread took 8 men to maneuver it into place. Now that’s a novelty because people really didn’t sit down and eat that thing afterwards. It was just for the Guinness Book of World Records.
We’re about to read the story of a meal that Jesus provided that is the biggest meal found anywhere, certainly in the Scripture. It is typically called the Feeding of the 5,000. But that’s a little bit of a misnomer because Matthew gives us the notation that they were counting that day the men only besides women and children. So there were at least 10, upwards of perhaps 15,000 people and Jesus gave it to them absolutely free. It was a free lunch for those who were in need at the shores of Galilee.
This week I attended a conference, a senior pastor’s conference, in California and I decided to ride my motorcycle there and back and on the way back I stopped in Grants at this little burger joint and as I was walking in the burger joint, I noticed a sign on the door that said, “We no longer accept $50 or $100 bills.” It just sort of struck me—that sign. Because I thought, if I had a $100 bill, I probably wouldn’t be eating in that little burger joint.
But 2,000 years ago, they didn’t care where they were eating because most people were just barely subsisting at a poverty level and to have their needs met in any fashion was seen as a blessing. It’s really a rare exception, the story we read about, it’s rare for this reason. Number one, Jesus never, ever gave money to anyone. Number two, He rarely gave food to people and when He did, this is the occasion.
But it’s much deeper than just a feeding story, a picnic story. In fact, it is the most famous miracle of all of His miracles and it’s recorded in all four Gospels. Did you know it’s the only miracle Jesus performed that is covered by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—all four of them include this miracle?
But I don’t know how many people really get it or understand the real significance of the feeding of the 5 or the 15,000. I think it’s greatly misunderstood. Like the little boy who said my favorite story in the Bible is of the multitude that loaves and fishes. Well they’re not loafing and fishing. They were fed loaves of bread and fish for lunch. But what I want to do this morning is comb through verses 1 through 14 as we look as the story and there are 4 principals based upon the 4 people groups that are here. There’s the crowd, there’s Philip, there’s Andrew, and there’s a little boy.
But I want to give it to you in terms, not of personalities, but principals. There’s 4 big picture principals that all have to do with God’s care, God’s provision, and God’s work. And they’re found also in your outline and they are these. Problems don’t escape God’s view. Second, perplexities test faith in God’s power. Third principal is people are part of God’s plan. And finally, provision is abundant in God’s time. Those are the four principals that emerge from this picnic.
Now before we jump right into the story, I want to sort of let you know that I take it as it is written. I see it as a bona fide miracle. That is John’s point because he’s highlighting who Jesus is, unique from everyone else, that He is God in a human body. But some people amaze me when they write commentaries on this stuff. They feel like they gotta help God out a little bit and rationalize the miracle and say well it probably didn’t really happen that way. The way it really happened, one commentary says, is that everybody really brought their lunch that day but they were selfish, nobody wanted to bring it out and eat it and have to share with anybody and so Jesus saw a little boy with a few loaves and fish and, with that wonderful, warm, Jesus smile, He persuaded the little boy to take his lunch out and share it. And that brought conviction to everybody and so they took their lunch out and they shared it and everybody ate. Seriously. That’s how one person explains it.
Another says that well, Jesus and His disciples had already stored the food in advance in a cave upon this hillside where He brought them. And at just the right time they sort of moved backwards toward the mouth of the cave and there’s a couple disciples in there slipping loaves of bread out to Jesus under His arm and they just kept coming and kept coming. Now, ok, ok, if you want to believe that, but it doesn’t say that, number one, and I think it’s much easier to just believe and say Jesus worked a miracle! And for Him it’s like not a big deal, right, a miracle? It’s just simply enacting a whole higher set of laws than you and I know. I mean, if I look on a tarmac at a 747 airplane, I look at that big, heavy beast and I say gravity says that thing ain’t going anywhere. But if you enact a couple of laws that can supersede the law of gravity, like aerodynamics and propulsion thrust, it’ll supersede even the law of gravity and that heavy beast will fly across the world. And so here is Jesus enacting a set of laws that might be not familiar to us, but certainly He can traffic in them. And He imposes that in human time and space.
So we begin in verse 1 and we go down to verse 14 and we’ll take it principal by principal and here’s the first one: problems don’t escape God’s view. Verse 1: “After these things Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias.” Tiberias is the capital city of the region and it was also called that by the Romans. “Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased. And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples. Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near. Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?”
Now one of the things John is sort of famous for writing in all of his writings is that beginning phrase of chapter 6 verse 1: “After these things”. In Greek: after this. The problem is he doesn’t tell us after what or how long after what. It’s just after this. Now we notice that it’s Passover, a feast of the Jews. In chapter 5, it also says that there was a feast of the Jews and either it was the Feast of Passover, which places this a year after chapter 5, or it’s the Feast of Tabernacles, which would place this 6 months after chapter 5. Either way, you have at least 6 months up to a year time difference between chapter 5 and chapter 6, which helps explain why there are so many people gathered around Jesus because by this time, His popularity is soaring because of the signs, the miracles, the teaching which He had already performed in His earthly ministry.
So there’s a great crowd. But John gives us the notation as to why so many people were following Jesus. Now was this crowd following Jesus because they wanted to hear what Bible study He was teaching or some great truth would fall from His lips or because they just loved Him so much? No. Verse 2 tells us, “because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased.” This is the reason Jesus was never all that excited about crowds. At least He didn’t gauge His ministry success by how many people were following. That was never an issue with Him because way back in chapter 2, when there were also crowds starting to form, and it even says many believed in Him when they saw the miracles that He did, remember what John writes? But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, he said. Did not commit Himself to them because He knew what was in their heart. So likewise, this very crowd is following Jesus for selfish reasons. They don’t care about His words. They simply care about His miracles. They want more miracles. In fact, we don’t have time to look at it today, but toward the end of this chapter, this very crowd, after Jesus begins to speak to them, the Bible tells us that many of them departed and followed Jesus no longer, when they heard what He had to say.
So here is the crowd all excited about the miracles, within 1 year from this Passover, by the next Passover, many people in that crowd will be the very ones shouting, “Crucify Him!” That’s a fickle crowd. William Barclay writes these words: when we want comfort in sorrow, when we want strength in difficulty, when we want peace in turmoil, when we want help when life has gotten us down, there’s no one so wonderful as Jesus. Then we talk to Him and walk with Him and open our hearts to Him but when He comes to us with some stern demand for sacrifice, with some challenge to effort, with the offer of some cross to bear, then we will have nothing to do with Him. When we examine our hearts, it may be that we will find that we, too, love Jesus for what we can get out of Him and when He comes to us with great challenges and demands, we, too, grow lukewarm, even resentful, and hostile to this disturbing and demanding Christ.
Have you ever met a person who’s mad at God? They’re bitter at God? They say, oh yeah, I’ve followed Jesus once, I was into it just like you are, I’ve been into that stuff. But now they’re mad, they’re bitter, because something happened. You can fill in the blank: death of a loved one, lingering disease, loss of a job, whatever. Now they’re bitter; now they’re mad. And you look at that and you go what happened? I’ll tell you exactly what happened. Unfulfilled expectations happened. Unfulfilled expectations. In other words, they were following Jesus on their terms only. If you were to examine carefully, you would find that person holds a theology that says they are lord and Christ is the servant rather than Christ is Lord and I am His slave, I am His servant. They’re people who follow Jesus for fun and profit and it always will affect a crash landing eventually. The crowd, they’re following Jesus.
Now having said that, because that’s what the text says, the great thing I want you to notice is they have a physical need. They’re out away from really any of the towns. They’re out on the shores of Galilee, in a very rural environment. There’s thousands upon thousands of them. It says it’s around Passover time, Galilee’s below sea level and it really heats up by Passover. So they’re hot, they’re hungry, they’re thirsty, and Jesus notices that and He’s about to fix that. He’s about to tend to the need. Problems don’t escape God’s view. Verse 5: “Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?”
Now it says He saw them. He was seeing them come. The word seeing is the Greek word theaomy. We get the word theatre from it. It’s the idea of sitting at a place for a prolonged period of time and looking in one direction. So the word meant to notice, to take notice of, to really study hard and get an assessment of what was going on. Jesus saw them coming. And knowing the needs of the human body, that we require replenishment and refreshment. He was there to meet that need and, in a moment, we’ll read He gives them a meal. That’s the great point I want you to notice this morning is that when it comes to problems, they don’t escape God’s view. And if you’re a child of God, and most of you are, you’re in a very special place of care by God.
Even Jesus, when He gave the Sermon on the Mount, He made special notation that the Father in heaven notices human need and cares for us. Let me remind you of it. It’s in Matthew chapter 6 verse 25, Jesus speaking, therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, what you will drink, or about your body what you will put on, is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? So even Jesus makes mention of the basic needs of the body—food and clothing and shelter. Then He goes on, look at the birds of the air. For they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? You ever seen a bird worry? Do you ever think of a time when you saw a bird in your backyard with its beak in its little arm going, how am I gonna pay the rent on the nest this week, man, this is tough? Did you ever, ever see that? What are they doing? They’re chirping, singing. They never, ever give it a thought. Ok, now here’s what I want you to connect. Jesus uses specific language. He said look at the birds of the air yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Not their heavenly Father. God isn’t the birds’ heavenly Father. He’s their Creator. But He’s your heavenly Father. So you get the implication. If your heavenly Father is caring about birds, won’t your heavenly Father care about you as His son or daughter? No bird was ever created in the image of God. No bird is ever recreated in salvation in the image of Christ. No bird is ever promised heaven and eternal life.
If you’re God’s child you are—special care is given. Paul amplifies that in Romans chapter 8: He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also along with Him graciously give us all things? I’ve always been fond of a truth expressed in a great little poem about two birds having a conversation. It goes something like this: said the robin to the sparrow, friend, I’d surely like to know why these anxious human beings rush about and worry so. Said the sparrow to the robin, friend, I think that it must be that they have no heavenly Father such as cares for you and me. Jesus, God, notices our problems. That’s the first great principal. Problems don’t escape God’s view.
Here’s the second: perplexities test faith in God’s power. Don’t you notice in life, as you follow Christ, that you go through tests? Just a word up if you don’t. They come all the time. And what I notice about God testing our faith is that He seems to test it beyond the very edge of it. Now just at our limit, He just sort of moves the marker just a little further than we’re presently believing. And why does He do that? To stretch us, to grow us, so that we kind of overcome that and we learn a lesson and the next time He moves the bar a little bit further and so here, beyond the limits of Philip’s own faith, Jesus sets a test.
Let’s look at it. Verse 5 again: “Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” Now He’s not asking that because He’s looking for information. Because notice what it says in verse 6: “But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. Philip answered Him,” I love this guy, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.” Wow.
Question: why did Jesus, of all the disciples, ask this question to Philip? Well I can’t be sure but I have a guess. We read in John chapter 1 that Philip was from the town of Bethsaida Julius, a little town on the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. And here it says Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, or Sea of Tiberias. So Jesus and His disciples are now in the very place that Philip grew up in, near his hometown. If anyone would know what resources are available, it would be the local kid. So hey Philip, you’re from around here, where on earth is there a bakery big enough to feed this crowd? Now it says He said that to test him. And here’s the point: Jesus was asking this to Philip as a test, presenting to him what you and I would consider an impossible situation. This is impossible on a human level. There’s not a place around here that can accommodate these people.
Somebody once said when God is gonna do something wonderful, He begins with a difficulty. And when He’s gonna do something very wonderful, He begins with an impossibility. This is very wonderful and this is absolutely impossible. So here’s the test: will Philip focus on his inadequacy or will Philip focus on My ability? Philip! Where do we buy bread? He says well, you know what? Two hundred denarii won’t cut it.
Question: did Philip pass the test or fail the test? You’re not answering. So I’ll answer: I think he failed the test. He failed the test. It wasn’t that he, you know, he’ll get demoted in heaven or anything, it was just sort of, He’s trying to stretch his faith here a little bit and he comes up with this answer, two hundred denarii. Philip had a calculator for a brain. Everything had to be figured out before he could believe in it. So you can just picture Philip. He actually came up with a number! He’s saying ok, there’s 5, 10, 15, 20, 100, there’s a couple thousand, maybe more, ok, and he comes up with this two hundred denarii. What does that mean? Well one denarius was what you would pay a day laborer for a day’s work. So two hundred denarii’s like eight months’ wage. So let’s just assign a figure of $10,000. So Jesus asks him a question, Philip doesn’t answer the question Jesus asks him, he kind of goes to a whole different conversation. The question is where. He’s all about how much. Hey, where do we buy bread? $10,000 won’t cut it! Not gonna happen! This is an impossible situation. Now let me give you a little insight into Philip’s character—it’ll help. Philip is the guy who, later on, will say, Jesus, just show us the Father and that’s all we need. That’ll be sufficient. We’ll be happy. Duh. Yeah. I mean, who wouldn’t be happy with that? Just show us God the Father! We’ll be happy from then on. So you see Philip was the guy who had to see everything. If he didn’t see it, he’s pessimistic. If he can’t figure it out in his own mind and apply the math and ok, well I can see how this would work, ok now I have faith. It doesn’t take any faith if you can figure it out. and so here is the test and Philip failed it. Men, this is the reason why your wives have more faith to pray for a broken car than you do. Honey, I’m just gonna pray that God will fix your car. Why bother? I know what’s wrong with it. Your prayers on earth isn’t gonna fix it. They don’t know it like you know it. They just have faith in God and so often they’ll answer that simple prayer of faith, won’t He? Well, here is Philip. He’s a calculating pessimist.
I heard about two neighbors. One was an optimist, always joyful, always trusting God, smile on his face, believed the best. But his neighbor, both of them were farmers, his neighbor was a pessimist. Woke up every morning with a sigh. Maybe you know somebody like that. Maybe you are somebody like that. So one morning the sun was shining and the optimist got up and he said what a beautiful, bright, sunny day God has given us! And his neighbor said, yeah, that sun keeps shining it’ll scorch all of our crops. Next day it rained. And the optimist, true to form, said, what a gift God is giving us to water our crops and give them a drink. And the pessimist said, the rain doesn’t stop, it’s gonna wash all our crops away. And so this went on like all the time. One day the optimist decided to give the ultimate test to the pessimist, take him duck hunting. He had something in mind. There they were out on the boat with their shotguns, ducks flew up, they pulled the trigger, shot a couple ducks, they fell into the water and the optimist couldn’t wait. He smiled and twinkle in his eye said to his dog, go get ‘em! His dog gets out of the boat, walks on the water, gets the ducks and brings them back again walking on the water. And the optimist smiles and goes, what do you think of that? And the pessimist said, oh, your dog can’t swim, can he? That’s a pessimist. When two pessimists meet at a party they don’t shake hands, they just shake heads. That’s Philip.
Philip is calculating need and cost, need and cost, need and cost. Here’s where he made a mistake. He actually made a mistake in his calculations. He calculated need and cost and he didn’t factor in Jesus next to the need and the cost. That’s the wrong—that’s the mistake in calculating. And here’s why: difficulty must always be measured by the capacity of the agent doing the work. So for Philip this is impossible. For Andrew, Peter, John—it’s all impossible. But factor in Jesus and now difficulty must be measured by the capacity of the agent doing the work.
Now you might want to defend Philip because you weren’t ready to say that he failed. And you might want to say well Philip had an excuse. He didn’t know what Jesus was gonna do! I would disagree with that. Philip was there when Jesus turned the water into what? Wine. Now that’s pretty cool. That should be, like, wow. That’s pretty cool! Philip was there when Jesus healed the nobleman’s son. That was pretty cool. Philip was there when all those miracles happened in John chapters 2 and 3 in Jerusalem that Nicodemus made note of. And Philip was there when the man at the pool of Bethesda, 38 year lingering disease, was healed. But he didn’t calculate it here. Here’s what his answer should’ve been. When Jesus said, Philip! Where can we buy bread? He should’ve turned to Jesus and said, Jesus, there ain’t a bakery big enough to do it. But You don’t need one. I’ve been watching You. In fact, You rather like these impossible situations so I can’t wait to see what You’re gonna pull off. That would’ve been a pass for the test. Philip, however, is focusing on inadequacy—not Christ’s ability.
Here’s the third great lesson from this picnic lunch: people are part of God’s plan. Now this is a story about people. There’s a crowd of people. There’s Philip. There’s Andrew. There’s a little boy. And all of them will be used by Christ. The boy, Philip, Andrew, all of the disciples to distribute the meal. And so the point that comes to mind is that people are part of God’s plan. Let’s look at verse 8. “One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, “There is a lad [little boy] here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?” He’ll show them in a minute what they are among so many. “Then Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” In other words, get them ready for a meal. “Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.”
There’s two more people that are introduced. Andrew, an apostle of Christ, and this little boy. Now Andrew, what do you know about Andrew? Now you’re probably, if you’ve been a Christian long, you’re thinking really hard, you’re going, Andrew, huh. That’s a tough one. Andrew. What’s he known for? Can you think of any book that Andrew wrote in the New Testament? None! The gospel according to Andrew—not there. Uh, Andrew’s epistle to the Romans—not there. Can you think of any great sermon that Andrew preached? He might have but it’s not recorded.
Now you know what he’s known for? Being Simon Peter’s brother. Got any younger, you grew up with older brothers or sisters, and you can relate. I was. I can relate immediately. Look at verse 8: “One of His disciples,” even John has to write it, “Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother”. Because otherwise you’d go, who? But now you go, oh! See I grew up with that. Oh! You’re Rick’s little brother. Yeah. Oh! You’re Jim’s kid brother. Bob’s little brother. See I was number four. I had three older brothers. I walked in their shadow. That’s what Andrew is known for: he’s absolutely an unknown apostle and many would consider insignificant.
But let me tell you what he is known for. He’s known for the guy that brought people to Jesus. It was Andrew that brought Peter, his brother, to Jesus. It was Andrew that, later on in chapter 12, will bring a group of Greeks that are seeking to have an audience with Jesus, he’ll connect them. Andrew will bring them to Jesus. He’s the guy who brings the kid with the loaves and fish to Jesus. So he’s the guy bringing people to Christ. And so I say thank God for all of the Andrews, whether they’re known or not, but they’re always connecting people with the guy who can fix things. Those are Andrews.
Most of us have heard of Dwight Lyman Moody, the great preacher of Chicago. Oh, yeah, D.L. Moody! But how many of us think of Kimbell? You go, Kimbell? Yeah. Kimbell was the guy who witnessed to Moody in a shoe store and led him to Christ. He was the connector. He was the Andrew. We’ve all heard of Martin Luther. But how many of us immediately think of Phillip Melanchthon. You go, who? Only the guy who taught theology to Martin Luther, encouraged him to write, translate the New Testament from its original language. Billy Graham, the world has heard of Billy Graham, but how many know about Mordecai Hamm? That was the evangelist preaching in a tent in the 1930s when young, 16-year-old Billy Graham heard the gospel and walked forward. These are the Andrews that connect men and women to Christ.
And then notice there’s the boy. Now what’s his name? We don’t know, right? We don’t know and we’ll never know till we get to heaven. He’s not mentioned. In fact, John, out of the four Gospels, is the only writer who mentions there was a boy! Matthew, Mark, and Luke just say there were loaves and fish. There’s no mention at all of a boy whatsoever. So he was like a lot of kids that day on the slope: insignificant, poor. You say, poor? How do you know he’s poor? Well he brought barley loaves.
Now I want to clear something up in your mind. You’re thinking, that poor little kid lugging around big loaves of bread and fish. No. A loaf of bread was the size of a pancake. You know what pita bread is. A little, flat pita bread, five of those, made out of barley. Barley is the grain for the very poor and the fish, don’t think of big catfish, big salmon. Now the word in Greek is pickled fish. Little sardines about that big. In fact, what it was was like a relish. It was a spread that you’d put on the bread just to give it some flavor. That’s what he had. Now I can just picture him at home that morning. He’s gonna go out and play and there’s a big crowd and his mom goes, honey, just a minute, you can’t go out without your lunch! She’s making the lunch. She had no clue that that little lunch would feed so many people. And that little boy would never forget it.
Here’s the big point: unknown, unnamed, insignificant does not mean unimportant or useless. That’s the big point. Something really little or insignificant or someone small and insignificant, when placed in the hands of Jesus Christ, can bless multitudes of people. Question: could Jesus have performed this miracle without the boy? Could He have performed the miracle without Andrew? Could He have performed the miracle without any of the disciples distributing it? Absolutely. He could’ve gone like this! An In-N-Out burger instantly plopped in everybody’s lap. Burger, fries, Coke—everything. But it didn’t happen that way and the point is He uses people to do His work. He uses people.
Now I don’t know but perhaps some of you have been thinking of your life lately and you kinda got down into the doldrums and you’re going, you know, I’m really not all that gifted and all that talented and I don’t have that much to offer. My response to that, with all due respect, is how dare you look at your littleness above His greatness? The issue isn’t what you have to offer. The issue is when you place yourself in His hands, what He can do. Now here’s the mathematics of a miracle. 5+2. 5 loaves and 2 fish equals? Not much. But 5+2+Jesus Christ? The sky’s the limit. You place that in His hands and He does this. So never forget to factor in the unmitigated power of Christ when you commit your life into His hands what He can do with you. So problems don’t escape God’s view, perplexities test faith in God’s power, people are part of God’s plan.
Here’s the fourth and final lesson from this picnic: provision is abundant in God’s time. You know the story but let’s read it. Verse 11: “Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks,” now He must have done that publicly so if you’re ever wondering, should I pray when I eat at a restaurant, He gave thanks, “He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted.” And notice this: “So when they were filled”. They were filled. This was an abundant provision. “He said to His disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.” Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”
Boy this is just like the Lord, isn’t it? Not only does He do a miracle, but it’s exceedingly, abundantly above what anybody can ask or think. Ok. So go back for a moment and remember how Philip was calculating, right? Remember he goes, ok, 5, 10, 100… 200… $10,000! Philip was calculating on the bare minimum. Verse 7 it says that every one of them may have a? A little. I’m figuring on what it takes to just give everybody a bite. Compare that with verse 11: they had as much as they wanted. He calculated on the minimum. Jesus provided the maximum. Can’t you just see Philip’s face? When somebody goes, hey Philip! Bring me some more bread and fish. I still am hungry. Uhh… ok. Abundant provision.
Then verse 12, as they gather up the fragments, and they gathered up twelve baskets, so what is this all about? Keep Galilee Clean campaign? No. It’s about economy. Why twelve baskets? Now I’ve read books where commentaries, commentators get very eloquent, pages are filled with the meaning of the twelve baskets and the twelve tribes of Israel, they try to make a correlation. I think it’s much simpler than that. How many people were gathering up the fragments? How many disciples were there? 12. Each of them had a basket, all Jewish males 2,000 years ago carried a basket to keep their stuff in it, their bag. And they filled it up with stuff—with food. There were 12 baskets that remained. In other words, Jesus not only provided free lunch for everybody that day, but breakfast for His 12 for the next day. An abundant provision. God provides and provision is always abundant in God’s time. That doesn’t mean you’re gonna eat gourmet food every day. This was simply barley and fish. But they were all filled. God will provide.
There’s two passages from the Psalms that came to my mind. I want to share them with you. Both are written by David, both written by David when he was older, he had learned a few things in life. Psalm 37 David said, once I was young, now I am old, but I have never seen the godly forsaken nor have I seen their children begging for bread. A beautiful promise. The second one is Psalm 23—his famous psalm. Here’s part of it: You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies, my cup runneth over. Can’t you just picture a host pouring drink for the guest and it just goes to the top and just overflows? I do that as a joke sometimes with my friends, pouring water in a restaurant, just keep pouring and keep pouring. But the symbolism behind that is it’s an abundant provision. My cup runneth over!
Now I know a lot of people who just don’t view their life that way. Like the pessimistic farmer they would say, my cup leaketh under! And that is because it seems that we write our miseries in marble and we write His mercies in sand. We so quickly forget His goodness. Our conversation so quickly tend toward complaining rather than thanksgiving.
Let me tell you a story of one that didn’t as I close. Howard Hendricks wrote in a book, it was the very first book sent to me by the Billy Graham Association when I was a brand-new Christian. Howard Hendricks wrote a book on love and in there he writes the story about a family in Dallas, Texas, had fallen on hard times, mom and dad and four kids. One of their boys named Timmy, as they would gather together for family devotion, they’d pray every single night as a family, and one night Timmy said, Mom and Dad? Do you think Jesus would mind if I asked Him for a shirt? I just want a shirt. And Dad said, nope, I don’t think Jesus would mind at all, Timmy, in fact, let’s write it down in our little prayer journal: one shirt for Timmy. And then he wrote: size 7. They got together and prayed every night, every week, for months. No shirt for months. Then one Saturday, a Christian businessman in Dallas, a clothier called, Mom picked up the phone and the businessman said, Ma’am? I’m going through our July clearance and I know that you have a bunch of boys there and I’m just wondering if you could use anything. I have some shirts. She said, could I ask what size? He said I have size 7. How many? She said. He said, Get this. I have 12. 12 shirts. That night when the family got together to pray and Timmy was starting to pray for his shirt, Dad interrupted and said to him, you don’t have to pray, God provided. He did? Just then his little brother was all on cue, his little brother comes and brings one shirt all wrapped up, puts it on the table for Timmy. And his eyes got as big as saucers. I’ll let Howard Hendricks tell the rest of the story: He piled all twelve shirts on the table one after the other and Timmy now thinks God is going into the shirt business. But you know? There’s a little kid in Dallas, Texas today named Timothy who believes there’s a God in heaven interested enough in his needs to provide little boys with shirts.
What problems do you face? What perplexities are you facing? What impossibilities are in your life? God’s gonna use it. Moreover, God’s gonna use you in it. There’s gonna be other people that are gonna hear your story as you tell them in days and ages to come.

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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4/18/2010
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Everyone Needs a Faith-Lift!
John 4:43-54
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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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4/25/2010
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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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6/20/2010
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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.