Don't Give Up!

Don’t Give Up

Don't Give Up!

My Dear Friends,

So many are giving up and giving in to despondency, discouragement, disappointment and depression. It is evident in their general “I don’t care attitude” resulting from a mistaken belief that what they are doing really doesn’t make any difference in life any way. This sense of failure is often the result of trying and praying only to have their expectations not met.

Life is a journey in which we frequently find ourselves sliding off the paths before us. It would be so easy just to lie there and give up. Many find themselves in situations where fear, failure, and frustration have paralyzed them until they have lost all desire to go on. How we need to hear what Jesus is saying to us at this moment when He says, “Arise, let us go on” (John 14:31).

There are so many things that can cause us to slide off the straight and narrow path of life. We must let Jesus, who has promised “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5), guide and direct us each and every moment. Disappointment, sickness,

or the death of a loved one can cause us to slide off the path of life to the extent that we feel like giving up. As we make this journey, we must never forget we are not alone. The wonders of creation are a constant reminder of God, the Creator who is forever with us. The Bible is the Living Word, which reveals to us a Savior who has promised to never leave us nor forsake us.

Paul, a man whose life was a slippery journey until he came face to face with the Living Christ, declared, “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil. 3: 7, 8).

Knowing about Christ is quite different from knowing Him. There are many great theologians who know a lot about Him but in a time of crisis or personal loss, they totally crumble because they don’t really know Him.

The Prophet Habakkuk, because he really knew the Lord, did not slide off the path of life. He not only declared in Hab.2:4, “The righteous will live by his faith,” but he also went on in chapter 3 verses 17-19 to show us how this is applied in times of difficulty. “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He make my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to go on the heights.”

Knowing God’s grace, love and power manifested through Jesus Christ and the wonders of creation enables us to not only stand firm but go on to new heights. In the Revised Standard Version, Daniel 11:32 states, “The people that know their God shall stand firm and take action.” Instead of slipping and sliding down the road of life, those who know God will stand firm, not paralyzed, by fear or frustration but posed for direct action.

In the book of Daniel we see how Daniel and his three friends, even when moved as captives to a foreign land, did not slip into depression but rose above their circumstances to do a mighty work for God. They prayed trusting God, and were delivered from the fiery furnace, the lion’s den and the tyranny of the age in which they lived. In the midst of adversity Shadrach, Meshach, Abed-nego and Daniel were fully persuaded that God had everything under control.

Psalm 40:1, 2 tells us what it means to know God and to be delivered from the slimy pits that we find ourselves all to frequently sliding into. “I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”

Jesus is our solid rock. As we stand upon His word, He gives us a firm place to stand in this slipping age of greed and corruption.

Psalm 40:3-5 tells us the result of trusting in the Lord. “Blessed is the man (and the woman) who makes the Lord his (or her) trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.”

Knowing God involves first humbling ourselves and honestly admitting how much we need Him and His direction in our daily lives. “This is what the LORD says: “The wise man is not to boast in his wisdom; the strong man is not to boast in his strength; and the rich man is not to boast in his riches. Rather, let the one who boasts, boast in this: that he understands and knows me, for I am the LORD who acts with gracious love, justice, and righteousness in the land. I delight in these things,” declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 9:23 ISV).

God made it possible for us to know Him by sending His Son our Lord Jesus Christ, into the world (John 3:16). For that reason Jesus could declare “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him” (John 14:6, 7).

Knowing the Lord allows us to see ourselves the way God sees us. We believe it when the Bible says, “The Lord is with you O valiant warrior,” (Judges 6:12).

Yes, you may have made mistakes in the past, but thanks be to God who through Jesus provides forgiveness of sins and the hope of a new beginning. It is a new day and God desires to do a new and powerful work in you and through you. Don’t give up. Stand steadfast and stop allowing your weaknesses and insecurities of the past to keep you from the greatness God is calling you to this day.

The Lord has said, “My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness.” Now develop the same attitude that Paul did as he continues in 2 Cor.12:9, “So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through me.”

You don’t have to keep beating up on yourself every time you give in to that nasty habit that you are struggling with. Instead, further surrender that area of your life to Jesus Christ and pray, “Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings” (Ps.17:8).

“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” (Eph.6:14-15).

Stand steadfast as the scriptures say. Don’t give up but remember, “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph.2:10).

You may not feel at this moment that you are God’s workmanship, created in His image. Maybe you even feel trapped in a rut, but there is hope. Christ is risen! Say to yourself at this moment, “God has lifted me out of the horrible pit, and He set my feet upon a rock and put a new song in my mouth” (Psalm 40:2-3).

Let God put a new song of praise in your mouth today and fill your life with hope. He wants you to know He loves you more than you can ever imagine. “For God so loved the world,” (means you and me) “that He gave His only begotten Son. That whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Right now you have a choice for “It shall be done to you according to your faith” (Matt.9:29). If you expect this year defeat, failure and mediocrity, that is what you will get. Or you can remember that it is just as easy to believe God for strength, success and victory, knowing that God has everything under control and that He loves you and wants His best for you.

The reason you can believe God for His best for your life is because you have dedicated your life to Him. You desire to serve Him, reaching out to those in need, sharing His love with others. Take God at His word and make Phil.1:6 personal by declaring, “I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in me will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

When we see that, with each passing day, in spite of the circumstances God is perfecting His work within us, we are free to believe that, “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

When we believe God is working for our good and we know we have been called according to His purpose of sharing His love in word and deed with others, we are free to believe God’s best for our lives. This doesn’t mean we will allow ourselves to be trapped in a greedy materialistic lifestyle, for we know God’s best far exceeds filthy lucre (money) as Jesus referred to it. God’s best frees us to live in His presence, knowing that God is working daily for our good in spite of the circumstances.

When we realize that God is at work in every situation, life becomes an adventure in faith. What is faith? “It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see.”(Heb.11:1)

Now instead of believing the worst, choose to “taste and see that the Lord is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!”(Psalm 34:8)

This past year as New Life Evangelistic Center faced a mountain of financial need, I found myself itemizing these needs on a piece of paper and putting them in my Bible at Phil.4:19 where it says, “My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” When worry and uncertainty would strike, I found myself turning to that passage, knowing that God would meet that need.

Now I want to invite you to join me in accepting Jesus at His Word when He says, “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” (John 14:13, 17) Let us ask Jesus now to work in us to share His love by reopening the 1411 Locust building. Then we could once again provide from that location help for the homeless, food to the hungry, and good news of the eternal life Jesus has provided through His death and resurrection.

Now “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith” (Heb.12:1, 2). Don’t give up. Give God 100% by doing your very best on every job He has given you. Your efforts for good do make a difference. Your labor is not in vain.

At this hour our Lord is telling us, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

Yours in Christ,

Living In The Light

Dear Friends,

When it seems that our world is falling apart, and our dreams are being crushed, it is critical that we pick up our Bibles and look at how God is at work even at those moments when we feel that all is lost. An example of God at work behind the scenes happens to Jacob who, in Genesis 43:6, has the new name of Israel. Yet he declares to his son Judah, “Why did you bring this trouble on me by telling the man you had another brother?” Because Israel was in the dark to what God was doing, he did not have light to see the fact that the man he is referring to is his long lost son, Joseph! Then in verse 14 of the same chapter, he cries out, when he realizes that his other son Benjamin must make the trip to Egypt, “as for me, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved.” Israel is at his lowest point, in darkness, feeling all is lost and yet he is closer then ever to the miracle of coming into the light that his lost son Joseph, who he believes has been murdered, really lives.

If we give in to the despair and hopelessness in moments of darkness, we will never come into the light of the miracle that God has prepared for us. In order for us to come into the light and awareness of God’s miracles in our lives, we must learn to open our hearts and minds to the music of creation that is all around us. We have been placed in the center of this miracle of creation for “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”(Gen. 1:1) The harmony of creation, commonly referred to as the balance of nature, experienced a major disruption when sin entered the world through Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden. In order for us to experience the light of the miraculous in our lives, we must also be in harmony with the light of creation and the light of the Word described in John 1:1-4. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.” Jesus is this Word and light of the world. He declared in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Those walking in darkness see no hope but only despair and loneliness. The miracles of creation can be taking place all around them, but they do not recognize them as such. Everything is formless, empty and filled with the darkness of discouragement and negativism. In Genesis 1:2,3 we read, “now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” For there to be light and order in our lives, we need the Spirit of God to hover over the troubled waters of our lives. Then we need the Word of God to proclaim light and hope in the midst of our darkness and hopelessness.

In order for the music of creation to bring peace to our inner being, we need Jesus, the Word of Life, to remove the darkness of sin from us and bring forth the light of His forgiveness. In order for this to happen, we must respond to the movement of the Spirit and repent of our sins and declare in word and deed “Now I Surrender to You, O Lord.” This surrender means that I give God my actions, my words and all that I am and own. I desire for all things to be brought into full harmony with His divine order of creation. As I surrender my life to the Holy Triune God, I desire the same harmony to exist between us that now exists between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In order for this to happen I must let go of my own habitually disordered behavior, along with my runaway passions, desires and emotions. I want the grace of Jesus Christ and His power of forgiveness to turn the power of sin around in my life to the extent that the word “sin” is now spelled “nis” for “now I surrender.” This means that I desire every moment to not do my will, but to surrender my innermost spirit to God’s gentle guiding hands. I make myself vulnerable to His love and peace. I want the false self to pass away and the new self created in Christ to come forth.

I realize that as we live this new life in Christ, many in the world will consider us foolish or even crazy. Leonard Sweet, in his book Jesus Drives Me Crazy, uses the word “nuts” as an acronym for Never Underestimate The Spirit. Let the unbelievers consider us nuts! We have learned to never underestimate the Spirit. As the Holy Spirit works in our lives, we learn that the more status that Jesus has in our lives, the more we find ourselves confronting the status quo. The more Jesus becomes the Prince of Peace, the more we recognize the social injustices and frequently disturb the peace of the rich and powerful.

As we allow the Holy Spirit to hover over our troubled waters and let the Light and Love of Christ enter the darkness, we learn to never underestimate the power of the Spirit. The new knowledge of God’s miracle power at work in our lives enables us to fulfil the purpose to which He has called us. Sometimes we feel like Frodo in the Lord of the Rings, who said he wished the master ring had not been found in his lifetime. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” You and I must also decide. Are we going to live in the light and the harmony of creation or are we going to live in the darkness and hopelessness that our culture of death serves up daily. “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light, because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” (The words of Jesus Christ found in John 3:19-21) When everyone else is living in darkness, the one living in the light of Christ will be considered by the world as being nuts. But if being considered nuts means never underestimating the Spirit, who cares what others think? To never underestimate the Spirit means to be free, as the Spirit of God is free, to do exceeding far beyond what we can even ask or think. After all we are candles lit by the light of God. Now we are told to “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matt.5:16)

We have, through the grace of God manifested through Jesus Christ, come into the light. Now we know that “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man (and woman) availeth much.” (James 5:16) The Word of God not only tells us that the prayers of those abiding in the light and never underestimating the power of the Spirit of God accomplishes much, but it also shows us such. Joshua prayed and the sun stood still. Ninevah’s inhabitants prayed and God reversed His death sentence upon them. Hezekiah prayed and God let him live fifteen years longer. Samson prayed and God restored his lost power. Joseph prayed in prison, was given an interpretation to Pharoah’s dream, was made second in command of Egypt and saved his family from starvation. Daniel prayed and God shut the lion’s mouth. Elisha, Peter and Paul prayed and the dead were raised to life. As you move from darkness and hopelessness into light and life, you will discover you are “more than a conqueror through Him (Jesus) who loves us.” (Romans 8:38) After all, Jesus said in John 12:46, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” As the late Adrian Rogers said, “Never doubt in the dark what God has shown you in the light.”

As we remain in the light, love, and presence of Jesus Christ daily, He promises, “If you remain in Me and my Words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” (John 15:7) That is God’s promise to us at this hour spoken through Jesus who said, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”(Matt.21:22)

Each of us has been given a calling, a purpose in life. It may not appear easy and often we may be tempted to despair. Instead of giving up, give that need to God, Trust Him. Abraham Lincoln once said, “I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to what light I have.” We are to let God’s creative power go to work in your lives as we choose to abide in the Light and Love of Jesus Christ. Don’t take it personal if the world thinks you’re nuts. Just let this reaction spell out for you that you will never underestimate the power of the Spirit. After all, if you are abiding in Christ, remember that greater is He (Jesus) who is abiding in you than he (the devil) who abides in the world.

“The night is nearly over, the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”(Romans 13:12-14) Living in the light results in change in the way we act and live. It also awakens us to the fact that living in the light is not an isolated experience, but it involves us in the community of the light of fellow believers. “But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin.”(1 John 1:7) The reason for the light in this dark culture of death is the shed blood of Jesus Christ, which removes the darkness of sin because of the purification that it provides for believers. Receivers of this purification of sin are now called, “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.”(1 Peter 2:9)

The question for each of us is: now how are going to live the rest of our lives? Are we going to strive to live in the light of Jesus Christ, and let His light shine in us and through us or are we going to give into sin and temptation and dwell in the darkness? As the choice is made, remember the result of living in the darkness of sin, “for the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”(Roman 6:23)

Let us now choose to live in the light that Jesus provides for He is the gift of God who provides eternal life.

Yours in Christ,
Larry Rice

Living in the Light of the Gospel of John – John –  10, 11, 12

Living in the Light of the Gospel of John – John – 10, 11, 12

Tonight as I was feeding the sheep I couldn’t help but think how similar we as human beings are to these sheep. Four of the eves had gotten into the pen where we store the extra vales of hay. As I opened the gate to chase these four out about twenty-five more rushed in. After getting them all out I watched them for a while. One of the baby lambs kept getting separated from its mother. Over and over it would cry, as the mother kept reassuring it that she was nearby. As I watched these sheep I began to reflect on how we are often like them in our relationship to God. If we are not rushing into places we don’t belong then we are always crying out in fear that somehow He has left us alone in this hostile world. That is why John 10, where Jesus declares in verse 11 “I am the Good Shepherd” is so important. As I read chapter 10 along with John 11, I receive so much hope as Jesus declares, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die.”(John 11:25 NIV) What hope this provides both now and for all eternity. But this isn’t just a promise for the future. Jesus makes a special promise to us now in the midst of our dark uncertainties, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in Me should stay in darkness.”(John 12:46)

As we desire to get a better understanding of what it means to have Jesus as our Good Shepherd lets take a closer look at John 10. There we see Jesus describing the sheep pens where the sheep would go at night for protection. Often these sheep would mix with other sheep and would be separated as they responded to the voice of their shepherd. “When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.”(John 10:4 NIV) In this chapter Jesus is contrasting Himself with the Jewish leaders. They are the thieves, strangers and robbers who are blind and misleading the children of Israel while Jesus declares, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before Me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through Me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.”(John 10:7-9 NIV) Jesus is not only the good shepherd as verse 11 points out, He is also the gate. In John 14:6 He says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Going through Jesus, the gate provides us with both salvation and the substance (“find pasture”) necessary for daily living.

As we encounter trials, tribulations, disappointments, and uncertainties on daily bases, we must remember, “a thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I (Jesus) came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.”(John 10:10 The Message Bible) The devil, the world and the flesh (our sinful nature) tries to do everything it can to rob us of the wonderful life God has intended for each and every one of us. I know when I dwell on the results of the thief and don’t believe in the goodness and grace of God, despair can over takes me. I must not only recognize the pain in this world but also focus on the beauty and blessings that God has provided in abundance in so many different ways.

In both John 10:11 and John 10:14, Jesus declares that He is the Good Shepherd. He doesn’t run off like the hired hands do, but instead lays down His life for the sheep. Also He knows His sheep personally and Jesus is the fulfillment of Ezekiel 34:23 where the Sovereign Lord declares, “I will place over them one shepherd.” Jesus is the Good Shepherd who gave His life for you and me in order that our sins may be paid for through His blood on the cross. Not only did He die for our sins but He knows us, our needs, hurts, and pains and cares for us personally. Now we must develop the habit of prayer as we follow Jesus our Good Shepherd “Base your happiness on your hope in Christ. When trials come endure them patiently; steadfastly maintain the habit of prayer.”(Romans 12:12 Phillips translation) In addition to talking to Jesus our Good Shepherd daily through prayer we must read the word the revealed counsel of God (the Bible) and apply it to our daily lives. “Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in a mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like. But whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God-the free life-even out of the corner of his eye, and sticks with it, is no distracted scatterbrain but a man or woman of action. That person will find delight and affirmation in the action.”(James 1:22-26 The Message Bible)

As we pray and read the Word of God resulting in the opening our lives, minds and spirits to the Living Lord Jesus Christ we will begin to clearly recognize His voice. He has promised, “My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of My hand.”(John 10:27,28) What a wonderful thing it is to know that Jesus is hanging on to us. You never see the sheep holding on to the shepherd. The shepherd holds on to the sheep, and no one can snatch us out of His hand. What assurance does this give you at this time? How does Jesus declare His divinity in verse 30 and what reaction does He get from the Jews? In what way does Jesus respond to their accusations?

What wonderful unbroken communion Jesus has with the Father. “That you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.”(John 11:38 NIV) Jesus didn’t act unless He saw His Father act. He enjoyed an unbroken deep relationship with God, the Father. If we are going to be like Jesus we must strive to do the same thing. Jesus was so in tune with the Father that He could declare, “I am in the Father and the Father is in Me.”(John 14:11 New Revised Standard Version) Earlier Jesus has declared, “I am the Good Shepherd; I know My sheep and My sheep know Me-just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father,”(John 10:14,15 NIV) Jesus doesn’t get all upset when He hears Lazarus is sick. Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”(John 11:4 NIV) Oh how we need to seek God in order that we may get to know Him in this way.

Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, but oddly, when He heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed on where He was for two more days.”(John 11:5,6 The Message Bible) It doesn’t make sense. When there is a need, in this case it is Lazarus who is sick, why would Jesus wait for two days? Martha even raises the issue in verse 21 when she says, “Master, if you’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.”(TMB) In other words, “why did you wait Jesus, why didn’t you act sooner,” For five months now I have been asking Jesus to meet a need in my life. I have prayed and have asked others to join me in prayer, yet I have not witnessed a resurrection yet in that area. It is so hard to wait. As I have waited I have been reminded of Gen.18:25(b) where it says, “shall not the judge of the earth do right.” If only I could do something but God is using this to show me that he alone is in control. As a result I can only wait and pray knowing that He is in control and will make the right move at the right moment. Many also told Jesus in John 11:32, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”(NIV) Jesus waited because He was about to do a miracle much greater than they had ever witnessed.

The right time arrives and Jesus declares, “Lazarus died. And I am glad for your sakes that I wasn’t there. You’re about to be given new grounds for believing. Now let’s go to him.”(John 11:14 The Message Bible) The bigger and the more impossible the situation is the greater God will be glorified when the miracle takes place. Even though Martha had stated that if Jesus had come earlier our brother may not have died, she affirmed her faith by declaring,” (John11:22 NIV)

In John 11:25,26 Jesus declares, “I am, right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in Me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing in Me does not ultimately die at all. Do you believe this.”(The Message Bible) How are you going to answer Jesus? If you do believe this how is it making a difference in your life? We see the communion between Jesus the Son of God and His Father God as Jesus thanks Him for leaving Him and then asks for His direct intervention so “that they may believe that you sent Me.”(verse 42) “Then He shouted, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ And he came out a cadaver, wrapped
from head to toe, and with a handkerchief over his face. Jesus told them. ‘Unwrap him and let him loose.’(John 11:43, 44)

The impossible has happened. A miracle has taken place. Death the ultimate destroyer as a result of sin has been conquered. As a result many put their faith in Jesus while the religious establishment plot to kill Him. Now six days before the Passover Jesus comes to a dinner given in His honor by Mary, Martha and Lazarus. During the dinner Mary takes an expensive perfume, pours it on Jesus feet and wipes them with her hair. What an example of how the spirit represented by the perfume desires to flow through our lives anointing the one who gave His life for us. Such an anointing takes place as we offer Christ a sacrifice of praise in not only word but also deed. As this takes place there are always critics like Judas who want to use the poor to line their our pockets. He complains that this oil was being wasted and should have been sold and the money given to the poor. The fact is Judas could care less for the poor. “He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as a keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.”(John 12:6 NIV) Jesus reminds us we have the poor with us always and have opportunities to help them. The question is how many will? The crowds grow as many hear of the resurrection of Lazarus. As this happens the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well as
Jesus because many were putting their faith in Him.

The next day the crowd gathers as Jesus comes into Jerusalem. Shouting their hosannas they wave palm branches. Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey fulfilling Zech.9:9. After the celebration Jesus declares, “Time’s up. The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.”(John 12:23-25 The Message Bible) Not only is Jesus speaking of His coming death and resurrection but is challenging each of us to die to ourselves and start engaging in a reckless love that helps others who are hurting and in need.

Jesus clearly speaks of His death in verse 32 when He says, “When I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”(NIV) Now Jesus challenges each of us not to walk and live in the darkness of fear. Instead He says, “Walk by the light you have so darkness doesn’t destroy you. If you walk in darkness, you don’t know where you’re going. As you have the light, believe in the light. Then the light will be within you, and shining through your lives. You’ll be children of light.”(John 12:35,36 TMB) Unless we walk in the light of the love of Christ daily we will be like the people Isaiah spoke of in Isaiah 6:10 and Jesus quotes in John 12:40, “He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn-and I would heal them.”(NIV)

We must stay in God’s Word daily so that the world does not blind us to the reality of His love. Jesus has promised, “I am Light that has come into the world so that all who believe in Me won’t have to stay any longer in the dark.”(John 12:46 The Message Bible) Let us believe Him even at this period of darkness when those who don’t believe try to make wrong look right and right wrong. The only way we know the difference is by remaining in the light of the Scriptures and trusting Jesus our Lord and Savior.

This week please join me in studying John 13, 14,15. As we study these dynamic chapters let us not only be hearers of the Word but doers also. This involves believing the Words of Jesus and living our lives in His light and love.

Larry Rice

Living In the Light of the Gospel of John – John 7 – 9

Living In the Light of the Gospel of John – John 7 – 9

I’m sure you have felt the pressure. Sometime its harder than at other times. Often there are so many demands and then there are those internal struggles as well. We cry out for God to help us with a certain problem but we don’t see an immediate answer. The temptation is to give up. In John 6:60-69 we see many who were following Jesus did give up. Jesus declared in verses 63, 64, “The Spirit gives life, the flesh counts for nothing. The Words I have spoken to you are Spirit and they are Life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.”(NIV) If we honestly look at the facts much of our struggle is a result of our determination to do it our way. This means we are desiring to live in the flesh. Jesus says, “the flesh counts for nothing.” That means we must realize “the Spirit gives Life.” As we realize that “God is Love” and that He cares deeply for us we are free to submit to His will and let His Spirit give us life. This involves believing and trusting. Those that don’t do this will give up and go back to the sin Jesus delivered them from. We read in verse 66, “From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.” In response Jesus asked a question that He could direct at each of us. “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Before you answer perhaps you should take a look at Simon Peter’s response found in John 6:68, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the Words of Eternal Life.”(NIV) Yes, if you are going to leave, where do you plan to go and how do you plan to stay out of the same mess you found yourself in before? Believers know they have only one choice and that is to remain faithful to the Living Lord. That means realizing not only that Jesus “has the Words of Eternal Life” but also letting those words guide, strengthen and invigorate us each and every day. For this reason we continue to desire to live in the Light of Jesus Christ as we study John 7, 8, 9.

Remember the Gospel of John was “written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”(John 20:31NIV) Life, that’s what the children of Israel desired as they left the slavery of Egypt for the Promised Land. Their unbelief kept them wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. Now Jesus, John records, has come to take us to the Promised Land of Life in His name if we will believe. This is illustrated by Jesus during the Jewish Feast of the Tabernacles described in John 7. “With the Feast already half over, Jesus showed up in the Temple, teaching. The Jews were impressed, but puzzled: ‘How does He know so much without being schooled?’” (John 7:14,15 The Message Bible) When Jesus directly answers their question in John 8:57,58 we see their response. “Believe Me,” said Jesus, ‘I AM Who I AM long before Abraham was anything.’ That did it-pushed them over the edge. They picked up rocks to throw at Him. But Jesus slipped away, getting out of the Temple.(The Message Bible)

Unbelief had robbed those that Jesus was trying to help experience life, from receiving that life, love and light that He had come to share. He was trying to help them understand the real meaning of the Feast of Tabernacles. This feast was to be a feast of great joy to celebrate Israel’s deliverance out of Egypt. It involved the blowing of trumpets, the offering of seventy bulls and the pouring out of water in the Temple. During this festival the inner court was illuminated with a lighted torch parade. This was a symbol of the pillar of fire that guided the children of Israel by night as they went through the wilderness. In John 8:12 Jesus declared, “I AM the Light of the world.” Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the Light of Life.”(NIV)

The Festival of the Tabernacles lasted 8 days. Leviticus 23:36. says, “ on the eighth day hold a sacred assemble and present an offering made to the Lord by fire.” When the people thanked God at the celebration of Tabernacles for all the fruits of the past year they did not forget His gift of rain. The gift of water had gone forth centuries before in the words of the prophet, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters;”(Is.55:1 NIV). Now Jesus was repeating this in reference to Himself. “Then, on the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and cried aloud: ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me; whoever believes in Me, let him drink.’ As Scripture says, ‘Streams of living water shall flow out from within him.’ He was speaking of the Spirit which believers in Him would receive later; for the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet been glorified.”(John 7:37-39 New English Bible) Jesus was the fulfillment of Isaiah 12:3 which declares, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”(NIV)

As we study John 7 and 8 we see that the tension is building between Jesus and the religious establishment. “So the people were in two minds about Him-some of them wanted to arrest Him, but so far no one laid hands on Him. Then the officers returned to the Pharisees and Chief priests, who said to them, ‘Why haven’t you brought Him?’ ‘No man ever spoke like that!’ they replied. ‘Has He pulled the wool over your eyes, too?’ retorted the Pharisees.’”(John 7:43-47 Phillips Translation)

It was the Pharisees who were the ones with the wool pulled over their eyes. They were so blinded that all they could think about was carrying out the law regardless of who was destroyed. Jesus on the other hand was concerned about restoration. When a woman was caught in the act of adultery the Pharisees believed stoning her was the answer.(John 8:4,5) “They were trying to trap Him (Jesus) into saying something incriminating so they could bring charges against Him. Jesus bent down and wrote with His finger in the dirt. They kept at Him, badgering Him. He straightened up and said, ‘the sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone.’ Bending down again, He wrote some more in the dirt. Hearing that, they walked away, one after another, beginning with the oldest. The woman was left alone. Jesus stood up and spoke to her. ‘Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?’’ ‘No one, Master.’ “Neither do I,’ said Jesus. ‘Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.’(John 8:6-11 The Message Bible)

Talk about light in a dark hopeless situation. Jesus showed He was a God of mercy not one determined to kill with a death penalty. Do you ever wonder what Jesus wrote on that ground? Turning to Jeremiah 17:13 we read, “O Lord, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from Me shall be written in the earth.”(King James Version) Perhaps He was writing the names and the sins of those who wanted to kill that woman. Jesus was casting light on their dark hidden sins. After all, secret sin on earth is open scandal in heaven. “Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.”(Psalm 90:8 KJV)

Following the example of casting light in dark hopeless areas of the human heart Jesus declares, “I AM the Light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the Light of Life,” What Jesus is telling you and me right now in the midst of our questions for the future is, why settle for speculation when you can have revelation.

Jesus is the Great I AM. In Exodus 3:14 God declares “I AM That I AM” Now Jesus says, “I AM the Light of the world.”(John 8:12) In John 6:35 He declared, “I am the Bread of Life.” He also states, “I am the Door”(John 10:9), I am the Resurrection and the Life”(John 11:25), “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life “(John 14:6), and “I am the Vine, you are the branches.”(John 15:5)

Here Jesus declares, “I AM the Light of the world.” He has just exposed the sins of the Scribes and Pharisees. Just like a light turned on in a dark room they run like roaches and rats. Light exposes the darkness of sin which causes sinners either to run or repent. In 1 John 1:5,6 we read, “God is Light; in Him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with Him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.”(NIV)

The tension builds. Some believe, others don’t. “To the Jews who had believed Him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to My teaching, you are really My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’”(John 8:31) NIV) Jesus goes on and explains why we can’t give up and give in to sin. “I tell you most solemnly that anyone who chooses a life of sin is trapped in a dead-end life and is, in fact, a slave. A slave is a transient, who can’t come and go at will. The Son, though, has an established position, the run of the house. So if the Son sets you free, you are free through and through.’”(John 8:34-36 The Message Bible)

Do you believe this? Remember faith alone saves, but faith is not alone. It is accompanied by obedience. Faith without works is dead,” Are you going to continue to follow Jesus, live by faith and walk in the light of His Word? Jesus tells us in John 8:51, “I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps My Word, he will never see death.”(NIV) Do you believe this? If so how are you keeping His Word and how is it changing your life?

Those who do not live in the light that Jesus provides are actually enemies of the cross of Christ, who are dwelling in darkness. They are spiritually blind. “Jesus said, ‘For judgment I came into the world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.’”(John 9:39 Revised Standard Version)

John 9 is the chapter where Jesus demonstrates as He heals a man who was born blind that He is also the healer of spiritual blindness. When the disciples see the blind man all they can think of asking is “who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?”(John 9:2 NIV) After all hasn’t Jesus been talking about light exposing sin? Here was someone who was blind so the disciples jump to the conclusion somebody must have sinned. Listen to what Jesus said in response. “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. We need to be energetically at work for the One whom sent Me here working while the sunshines. When night falls the workday is over. For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I AM the world’s Light”(John 9:3-5TMB)

Jesus goes on and proves He is the Light of the world as “He spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. ‘Go,’ He told him, ‘wash in the Pool of Siloam’ (this word means sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.”(John 9:6,7)

Right now you may be hurting. Remember regardless of the reasons for our suffering Jesus has the power to help us to deal with it. When your suffering, instead of asking, “why O Lord” ask Him to give you strength and a clearer perspective on what is happening, and how you can grow closer to Him through it.

The religious establishment once again misses out on the miracle because of their legalistic hang-ups. Jesus had healed the blind man on the Sabbath. That is all the Pharisees could focus on. As his parents back down in fear from these power brokers, the man who was healed boldly stands up to them and because of such a stand he is thrown out. “Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and went and found him. He asked him, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?” The man said, ‘Point him out to me, Sir, so I can believe in Him,’ Jesus said, ‘You’re looking right at Him. Don’t you recognize My voice?’ ‘Master, I believe,’ the man said, and worshipped Him. Jesus then said, ‘I came into the world to bring everything into the clear light of the day, making all the distinctions clear, so that those who have never seen will see, and those who have made a great pretense of seeing will be exposed as blind.’ Some Pharisees overhead Him and said, ‘Does that mean you’re calling us blind?’ Jesus said, ‘If you were really blind, you would be blameless, but since you claim to see everything so well, you’re accountable for every fault and failure.”’(John 9:35-41 The Message Bible)

In the midst of all the pressure, tension, uncertainty and seemingly hopelessness may we pray, “Lord Jesus help me to see in the midst of all this darkness. You said you ‘came into the world to bring everything into the clear light of the day.’ Now please Lord Jesus let the light of hope come into my confused mind and soul. May I see that you are Lord of all and have promised to never leave me nor forsake me. Also, my Lord Jesus please show me those areas of my life where I am really blinded by pride, self-righteousness and self- centeredness. As you told the Pharisees if I ‘claim to see everything so well,’ I’m ‘accountable for every fault and failure.’ I confess Master of my life and soul, I am blind in so many areas and need your divine light. Please heal O Lord and as you heal me may I have the faith to follow you in obedience and service.”

Now is the time for us to let the Light of God’s Love shine without our hearts. Rejoice you are not alone. God loves you and has a special plan for your life. May we continue to work together in the Light of His Will, reaching out in word and deed to those in need. This week please join me in reading John 10, 11, 12. As you read, ask the Holy Spirit to open the Scriptures to you in order that you may see the Love, and Lordship of Jesus Christ like never before.

Larry Rice