I Believe In Prayer

Praying for Branch County and Beyond

Archive for the month “February, 2015”

The “Ah-Ha” Moment

John 21

After the resurrection, and acting on instructions from Jesus, the apostles returned to their homes in Galilee. For them it was an odd time. They were as certain as they could possibly be that Jesus was alive, but they were uncertain about what to do next. In the midst of that uncertainty, Peter proposed a fishing trip. But the fish weren’t biting, and it was a disappointing night on the lake.

As morning was breaking, the disciples heard a man on shore call out, “Well, boys, didn’t catch anything, did you?” Of course no fisherman likes to be asked a question like that. They just grunted “no.”

Then the man told them to throw out their net on the right side of the boat. They did – perhaps because on that lake people standing on shore could sometimes see shoals of fish that the fisherman couldn’t see. When they followed his directions, they made a huge catch of fish – so many fish that they couldn’t hoist the net over the transom and into the boat.

Everyone sprang into action, pulling the nets, making room in the boat, trying to make sure the net did not open and let the fish escape. They tried hoisting the nets into the boat, but failed, and were now talking about what to do next. While all this was going on, it suddenly dawned on the beloved disciple, whom most scholars take to be John bar Zebedee, that the man on shore was their own Jesus. There was no doubt in his mind. It was an “Ah, ha!” moment.

Everyone else was so excited about the catch that they hardly gave a second thought to the man on shore (which, by the way, happens in churches, too. People can get so caught up in the exciting things that are happening in a church that they almost forget the One behind it all). But when John said to Peter, “It is the Lord,” Peter immediately knew that it was so. Every church needs people like John, people who are quick to recognize the Lord. They are often not the first to act, but they are the first to perceive, the first to recognize that some leading is from the Lord.

But churches also need men women with the spirit of Peter – people of courage and faith, who jump right in whenever they recognize the Lord. Whether you’re a John or a Peter, Jesus’s church has a place for you!


Transforming Truth:

Jesus’s church has a place for you.





My Lord and My God


John 20

The Apostle Thomas was not present when Jesus first appeared to the Twelve. When they told him about him, Thomas refused to believe. His choice of words is very significant. He does not say, “I cannot believe,” but “I will not believe!” There is a world of difference between the two.

Doubt is intellectual in nature. It says “I cannot believe.” But unbelief is spiritual in nature, and it says, “I will not believe.” Doubts are the product of a searching mind, but unbelief is the product of a stubborn heart. Thomas was not trying to rise above his doubts; he was trying to hide behind them. He had been hurt by Jesus’ death, and the way not to be hurt again was to refuse to believe, because belief makes you vulnerable.

Thomas spent the whole of the next week being miserable, while the others were filled with joy. And, I suspect, he was angry at them because they were joyful! That kind of attitude is a dead give- away that what we are dealing with is not simple doubt, but unbelief.

But God is gracious! He let his miserable child fret and grandstand for a week, then he came to him. Sunday had rolled around, and the disciples were again gathered in the upper room. The Passover Feast had ended and they would soon have to return to their homes in Galilee. (Already they had stayed longer than usual.) Perhaps they were wondering what to do next.

I imagine Thomas saying, “Let’s quit playing games. We’ve got to look out for ourselves.” And as he pontificated, there was a sudden change in the room: a sweet sense, gentle but diffused, like a smell. An alteration in the light. The faces of the people to whom he spoke lit up. And he turned, to see . . .

And there he was! Not a phantom, not a vision, but his master, filled and overflowing with life. Again he greeted them with a joy in his voice that set their hearts on fire. Then he looked right at Thomas and said (no doubt with a wry smile), “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Or literally, “Stop being faith-less, and be faith-full.”

The resurrection itself did not take away Thomas’s unbelief. Only meeting the risen savior personally could do that.


Transforming Truth:

Certainty does not lie in our circumstances but in our savior.




Just Answer The Question

John 19:11

The setting of this passage is interesting because of the lack of reaction Jesus gives to Pilate after the question he asked in John 19:9 (NIV). “Where did you come from?” There was no time for Jesus to be thinking of an answer if He was going to somehow get out of this situation. Jesus is standing in that moment with nothing coming from His mouth.

Any leader in this moment had to have a lot on his mind and a small amount of anxiety would certainly be expectable, even in Pilate’s position. There was an angry mob was at the steps wanting this Jesus to be hung on a cross, his wife had a disturbing dream the previous night about this man (Matthew 27:19), and there was a group of religious leaders wanting nothing less than a painful death for Jesus. Throughout the text, it is clear that Pilate was pulling for the innocence of Jesus, but it was never up to him to make the decision about how and when Jesus would die.

How often do we try and push things in the direction we want them to go when we feel pressure from all directions? Whether it is with education, careers, children, and even the friends we choose to communicate with. Pilate was in this situation with Jesus when he asked Him the question stated above. His reaction is like a lot of people when an answer to a pressing question does not come in the time people feel it should. Pilate becomes agitated and asks another question in John 19:10 (NIV). “Don’t you realize I have the power either to free you or to crucify you?”

So often, we are in the place of Pilate with our questions sent to God. When the answers do not come on our timetable, we try and do it ourselves. Jesus answers the question from Pilate and our frustrations at the same time when he spoke the words found in John 19:11. The answers never come from our minds and we can never take credit. Pilate had no power over Jesus and we are powerless since everything we have comes from above.


Transforming Truth:

“You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above” (John 19:11)




No Place To Hide

John 18

When Governor Pilate finally passes judgment, it is not on Jesus but on himself. Whenever anyone stands before Jesus, his or her true self is bound to come to light. Pilate was a self-centered man who cared more about his own skin than about anything else. Before his officials that may not have been evident. Before the other Roman prefects, he just blended in. Even before the Emperor, it might not have shown. But before Jesus, what he really was could not help but show.

Pilate had tried to avoid Jesus. First he said, “I am not a Jew; I am not part of your religion.” But that made no difference at all. Jesus is bigger than religion. He then said, “Truth – who cares about abstract stuff like that? It’s real life that matters right now.” But real life had brought him face to face with Christ.

He tried a third time to escape having to deal with Jesus. He told the Jewish rulers: “I find no basis for a charge against him. But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release the ‘king of the Jews’?”

Pilate knew that declaring Jesus innocent and releasing him outright would infuriate the Jewish aristocracy. So he tried to let Jesus go as part of the prisoner release program. That would effectively declare Jesus guilty, which might satisfy the Jewish leaders, and at the same time set Jesus free and avoid a wrongful conviction.

But there was no escape for Pilate – or for us. We can say, “Jesus doesn’t have anything to do with me.” But we have something to do with him: “Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” We can say, “But I’m not really religious.” There is no escape there; he is bigger than religion. We can say, “He is for other people, not me.” But whether you think he is right for you or not makes absolutely no difference. You are for him! You were made by him and for him and, whether you like it or not, you are his by right. You cannot escape him that way.

There is only one place you can escape him: we call it hell. It is available, if you so choose. But why not choose life instead, life as it was meant to be? You can make that choice, by turning from the things you know are wrong, trusting yourself to God and acknowledging Jesus as your master.


Transforming Truth:

There is no escaping Jesus!




Christ’s Million To One Prayer

John 17

The prayer of Jesus scripted in John 17, traditionally known as “Jesus’ high priestly prayer,” stands as the pivotal highpoint of John’s Gospel about Jesus. In this prayer, Jesus looks back in this culminating prayer and reviews the work of God which has been fulfilled through him previously, all to God’s glory. At the same time, Jesus also looks ahead as the One on the verge of laying down his life willingly to complete God’s actions through him gloriously for all time. So Jesus’ prayer to the Father in John 17 connects past and future in one climatic present moment. Furthermore, in the complete fullness of this petition, Jesus brings all of us as the faith community—past, present, and future—into the prayer as well, praying for our connection with God the Father through God the Son. This connection is for one purpose, according to Jesus, that we may all be one, united whole with the result that we serve as witnesses to unbelievers about God’s love.

So, the ultimate prayer of Christ as seen in the Gospel of John is that God’s people would be united as one. Does this anticipated unity so greatly desired by Jesus mean that we all must be, or should be, the same? No, and a world of God-given diversity demonstrates God’s creative will of advancing uniqueness. Indeed, our unity must arise from our diversity, and this powerful prayer of Jesus bolsters that pursuit of union and oneness in every way, as we seek to become one in God, one with Christ, and one with each another. There are and have been millions upon millions of unique believers, with millions more to come, we trust, yet all of us are one in the Lord, when Jesus’ prayer comes true.

Thank God for displays of unity in the Lord, at whatever level, around the world and especially in our community (that’s a good word), being seen in particular right now through these Bold Faith Initiatives. May we always pray like Jesus for unity, praying for one another and building each other up as Christ’s Body, the church, so that the world may believe. May we even continue to be an answer to Jesus’ prayer for oneness, all in witness to the reality of God’s love working among us and all to the glory of God’s purposes of mercy and grace, justice and peace worked out though us as we live and love together.


Transforming Truth:

Our unity is the answer to Jesus’s prayer.




He Has Been Through A Lot Worse Than This

John 16:33

We have been through a lot worse than this!”

This is a common line in television and movies that lets the audience know that things are going to be rough, but the intrepid heroes are more than equal to the task at hand. It relies on the notion that we can overcome any obstacle that is smaller than an obstacle that we have overcome before. This might be true, if trouble always came at us when we were well rested, refreshed and ready for anything. But it doesn’t. In fact, trouble often finds us when we are at our worst.

If we had to take an honest look at what we have been through, we would notice that we have failed to live as God commands way more than we have succeeded. If we were to truly use our own history as a guide for what we can overcome, we would crumble under the slightest temptation, as we have so many times before.

But take heart! God has promised that He will only see His Son when He looks at those who call Him Lord. Jesus has never once failed or given in to temptation. He has been through everything that you have ever struggled with and overcome it. You don’t have to worry about the world being too big for you, because Jesus has overcome the world for you. When you are faced with temptation, and struggling with the world around you, remember that Jesus has already been through worse, and through Him, you will have peace.


Transforming Truth:

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart!

I have overcome the world. (John 16:33b)




The Spirit of Truth

John 15:26

This particular chapter is one of the most loved ones in the New Testament because you can feel the passion of Jesus as He speaks to the disciples (and to us) from the heart. Jesus knows that His time on the Earth was coming to a close and the mission is being passed on to those who would follow in His steps.

The whole chapter is about joining in the adventure of faith in Christ by going out into this fallen world and making a difference. While we know that we are not saved by works, the passion that God places within our hearts at salvation compels us to be active in how we live as a reflection of Him. Remember 2/3 of God is “GO”! Verse 8 tells us that the Father is glorified by our fruitful Christianity and that has to be the center of who we are as a believer, to love back on the one who loves us. We have such a short time in this life that prepares us for the eternity to come that we have to be intentional in how we live.

So, how do you accomplish such a thing when there are millions of ways to fulfill it? God made it so simple for us when He said in verse 26, That Jesus would send the Spirit of Truth from the Father to show us what our specific role is in this great adventure. God made each one of us on purpose – for a purpose and No one is exempt from it either! In order to accomplish this connection with this SPIRIT OF TRUTH you have to shift from trying to connect mentally with Him to connecting on a heart level, (your human spirit). The Spirit bears witness with our spirit (Rom 8:16) not our reasoning mind. This is crucial because not everything God reveals to us passes through the filter of our mental reasoning well, since it appears contrary to common sense.

When truth tells us to love the unlovable, to walk across the room and share our faith with a stranger, or to give the tithe and offerings so we will be blessed to be a blessing, our minds tend to resist this. Trust in Him for His Truth will always set you free because His ways are higher than our ways and He always has your back.


Transforming Truth:

Live by His truth and enjoy the adventure!





John 14

It is the night before the crucifixion and Jesus has been pouring out his soul to his disciples. The truth is slowly – very slowly – dawning on them that the future they have been envisioning is not going to materialize.

He has just told them that their relationship with him is about to undergo a radical transformation. He will soon go to the Father and they will be left to do the works that he has been doing. As they get ready to embark on this new adventure, He makes them a promise (verse 13): “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” Then follows verse 15: “If you love me, you will obey my commands.”

There is a reciprocity here that we ought not to miss: Our master lovingly gives us what we ask, as we lovingly obey what he commands. He cannot safely give us what we ask until we can gladly give him what he commands. When we can, our lives will be filled with extraordinary answers to prayer. Some people will call them coincidences; we will know that they are tokens of love. And what we see here, perhaps more clearly than in any other passage, is that the life God desires for us is all about love: love for him; love for others.

Jesus makes that abundantly clear. We see it in verse 15: “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” But don’t stop there: for emphasis, Jesus restates his theme in verse 21: “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.” But twice is not enough. Verse 23: “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.” And if the point has sunk in yet, verse 24: “He who does not love me will not obey my teaching.” This life is about love.


Transforming Truth:

The life God desires for us is all about love.




The Ultimate Truth That Transforms

John 13:34, 35

John 13:34, 35 proclaims “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

You have to love this command from Jesus to every believer. It clarifies our purpose on this side of heaven like no other. In these few words we have been handed our greatest challenge because it runs completely contrary to our human nature. Living in a fallen world that is getting darker by the day we have learned to be on guard and think in a more protective way due to the growing darkness in the hearts of man. If we are not careful we will retreat into what we believe is a place of relative safety that actually puts us at the greatest peril.

Remember that in the days this gospel was written it was a far more evil time than what we will probably ever see. Death was everywhere and this new religion called Christianity was held in much suspicion by the pagans which held the power of physical life and death over everyone.

So, what was the secret to the power of the early Christians that caused their faith to prevail over the rest of the world’s beliefs? It was love, risky, bold, fearless love that loved the unlovable no matter what. Let’s face it, the deck was impossibly stacked against them to even survive let alone to thrive. They chose to let go of their fears and passionately love and change the world one heart at a time.

So, the question remains for every believer from then to now…what are you doing with this amazing gift? Are you content to hide it altogether, to give it out only to those who will love you back, or is it a gift that allows you to see and act in this fallen world just like Jesus did?

This love will turn you into a radical Jesus-person who lives for one thing alone, to touch at least just one more hurting heart today in this dark world with LOVE. Truly this is the only life that is worthy of the sacrifice that Jesus made to rescue our souls from destruction and to give us an unspeakable joy.


Transforming Truth:

Spread the love of God through your life but

only use words when necessary.” (Mother Teresa)




The Praise That Comes From God

John 12:42-43

The Pharisees were known for their desire to see the kingdom of God come with power. They believed that if God saw the zeal of their piety and the seriousness of their purity, he would conquer their enemies and bring his kingdom on earth. But when Jesus rode into the city of Jerusalem on a donkey, proclaiming that the kingdom and rule of God had now arrived through him, the sincerity of their desire was put to the test. Some of the leaders of the people believed in Jesus and his message, but because the majority of the Pharisees hated him, they were afraid to admit their faith in him. John tells us that their desire for the acceptance and praise of men overrode their desire for the praise of God.

A desire for the praise of men kept these leaders from experiencing God’s kingdom, the very thing for which they had been hoping. They preferred to keep their positions of leadership and power rather than see Jesus crowned as king. Does a desire for the praise and recognition of other people keep you from gaining God’s praise and experiencing the power of his kingdom in your life?

When a runner competes in the 500-yard dash, he is too tired to run in another race. Likewise, when a man runs after the praise of men, he can’t also devote his focus and energy to gaining the glory of God. Which race are you running? “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:1).


Transforming Truth:

If you run after men’s admiration, you’ll miss the praise of God.




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