An ask & an offer

In light of all of the current societal chaos, and my first two star book review, I have a request and an offer. For those of you who have read my book, can I please ask a favor: would you consider leaving a review on Amazon or Good Reads? Second, in light of people being stuck at home, I am offering my four books for almost $15 off of the price you would pay on Amazon— just $25. Watch the video to find out more.

John 14:2

“In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?-John 14:2

The disciples were filled with confusion and fear. These restless young men had made a life with him. He was their stabilizing force and their solid rock. In response to their disorientation, Jesus offered a calming presence. After telling them not to be afraid, he said that his Father’s house is filled with many rooms. He wanted him to know that they would always have a place with him.

As a child, I remember hearing this verse and thinking that Jesus and the Father lived in a huge mansion and I wondered where it was located. I focused on the incidentals rather than the main thing. What does the mansion look like? How big will my room be? Will I have to share my room? How far down the hall will God be? How about my friends and family?

I still think a lot about incidentals. I wonder who will I meet in heaven and whether there will be bacon. Even as an adult, I miss the point. Heaven is not about what, but who, is there. In heaven, our greatest gift will be dwelling with the Trinity forever.

When Jesus told the disciples that his Father’s house had many rooms and that he was going to prepare a place, he wasn’t talking about making up the beds. He wanted them to feel secure in their belonging with him.

In the depth of our souls, many of us harbor fears that we don’t belong anywhere. We go through our lives wearing different masks, trying to cast the right image so that we might fit in, but just like the disciples, Jesus looks at each of us and says, “Don’t worry. You belong.”

Jesus, if I am honest, I fear rejection, abandonment, and having no place to call home. I fear not belonging. Help me to know the truth that one day, I will dwell with you in your kingdom and that right now, your Spirit dwells in me. Amen.

John 13:37-38

Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly I say to you, the rooster will not crow three times till you have denied me three times.”–John 13:37-38

When I read Peter’s words here, I wonder what was stirring in his soul. The first thing I imagine was fear. Peter was afraid of losing his best friend. He was confused because he did not know exactly what was happening, so he asked Jesus if he could come along. They’d been through a lot together. Peter gave three years of his life to following this man, his closest ally. He offered a courageous response to suggest that he would never leave Jesus’s side.

“I will lay down my life for you.” Was this irony? Divine foreshadowing? Peter was saying that he was willing to die for Jesus, which was the only thing he could not do. He needed Jesus to lay down his life for him. It was only Jesus—perfect in life and perfect in death—who was able to truly lay down his life for another. It says in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that “He became sin, who knew no sin, so that in him, we might become the righteousness of God.”

But Jesus did not simply tell Peter, “No, you cannot come.” He told him that by morning, Peter would deny him three times. Peter was his most loyal disciple and one of his dearest friends, yet he was still a human who was susceptible to human frailties and inconsistencies.

Like Peter despite our greatest intentions, we lack the capacity to love perfectly. We are fickle, fragile, frail creatures, yet thanks be to God, we are loved by the one who has no shadow of inconsistency.

Jesus, I am like Peter. I confidently promise to give my life wholly to your cause, and yet I can barely make it past breakfast before I have denied you three times. Forgive my frailty and let me lean once again upon your Spirit, who dwells in me. Amen.

John 13:36

Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, but you will follow me afterward.” -John 13:36

Jesus had given his disciples his crucial command, to love as he loved. He wanted them to practice love after he left. Peter was not trying work out the nuances of Jesus’s command; he was worried about where his friend was going. Peter could not have cared less about theology at the moment, he cared that his friend was leaving. Jesus was not an abstract concept to Peter; he was flesh and blood. Jesus was Peter’s best friend.

Without giving away the next several hours completely, Jesus told Peter, “I have to go this alone my friend. As hard as it is to understand, I must go by myself.” Like Peter, I think we can miss the importance of isolation to Jesus’s mission. He would go to the cross feeling isolated from his friends and his Father. As excruciating as the cross was physically, the relational isolation would be far worse.

Jesus also knew that Peter would spend his life for the sake of the kingdom, not yet, but after. Jesus called his followers to come after him regardless of what pain the journey would bring. For some, it was martyrdom; for some it was rejection.

We each must grapple with the interplay between right understanding and right relationship. It can be good for us to understand theological nuances, but we cannot dissociate theology from our relationship with him.

Jesus, your words in John’s gospel are so powerful. You called us to lives of love with your words, yet by your life and death, you also showed us how to love. Help us to listen to you and love like you. Amen.

John 13:35

“By this, all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”-John 13:35

Verse 35 is continuation of verse 34. Francis Schaeffer wrote some of the most amazing pages about these two verses in The Mark of the Christian (1970). Following Jesus, Schaeffer said how we carry out Jesus’s commandment is the key criterion by which the world may know what Christianity is all about.

We often assume that people make their determinations about the truth of the faith based upon well-reasoned apologetics, culturally relevant messages, or great facilities (or shabby facilities). We stress secondary issues and we miss the main point.

These other considerations are not unimportant, but that they are not ultimate. Every person desires to be loved and accepted. They don’t principally desire wealth or emotional highs. What they want to know is that they are valued and that they belong.

Jesus told his disciples, “Look…you have seen how I have lived my life. I have loved the unlovable. I have healed the broken. I have crossed cultural lines, even with those most people consider morally deplorable. That included some of you. I have sought to serve rather than be served. Do that yourselves and when people are able to see the love that you offer, walls will come down.”

Jesus called us to his way of living, asking us to love recklessly, move toward other people we would otherwise hate, worry less about offending religious people, and think more about being his hands and feet.

Jesus, you have called us to a radical journey. What you are asking us to do runs contrary to the culture and it runs contrary to the church. Teach us to love as you love and to serve as you serve, all to the glory of the Father. Amen.

John 13:34

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, so you also are to love one another.” -John 13:34

Even now, as Jesus felt the shadow of the cross shadow darkening, he continued to instruct his disciples in how to live as citizen of his kingdom. Remember, Jesus is not only our Savior, but teacher. John 13:34 captures the heart of Jesus regarding how to live.

Jesus gave them a “new” commandment: to love one another as he loved them, yet the command to love was not new, but ancient. In the Law of Moses (see Lev. 19), the Israelites were commanded to love their neighbors as themselves. So what could Jesus have meant by calling this a new command?

It seems the difference is in understanding how Jesus loved. First, he was largely indifferent to the divisions the religious leaders were so committed to highlighting. The scribes and Pharisees believed there were good people (them) and bad people (i.e., non-observant Jews, Gentiles, the infirm, women). Jesus loved those who didn’t fit the religious mold. His love was all inclusive.

His love also turned roles upside down. The economy of the kingdom of God was not give to get, but one built on true service by putting oneself lower. He called them to deny themselves by making much of others, practicing radical other-centeredness.

We are also called to his other-centered economy. He asks us to love the unlovable, to cross the borders of our comfort zone, and become conduits of his ever flowing river of love.

Jesus, the command to love is the heart of your message, the absolute center of what you have called me to do yet I still live in sinful, self-centered ways. Forgive me for my selfishness, and by your Spirit, enable me to grow in love in ways that would not be possible apart from your power in me. Amen.

John 13:33

Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.'”-John 13:33

Jesus continued preparing his disciples for the days ahead. He told the men, “In this I am glorified by my Father.” In other words, what is happening is a big deal. In fact, the next few days would be the biggest deal of all time. Jesus would willingly go to his brutal torture, cruel death, and a descent into hell. What was his hell? Separation from the Father.

He knew he had to go alone, but he also knew the confusion that awaited his disciples. He used a term of endearment, calling them “little children.” He recognized the childlike innocence in his disciples. He knew that they were going to be afraid and confused and that they would long for comfort, his comfort. If you have ever seen the image of a young boy, trying to be brave as his daddy goes off to war, I think you have the right image. Jesus was saying to each of them, “Buddy, I have to go away. You cannot come, but I’ll be back soon.”

Jesus knows that our deepest longing is to be with him. He knows that we can be scared and lonely. He knows that humanity was separated from him, which is why he went to the cross, where his friends could not come along, so that he might make a way for us to be with him eternally.  

Jesus, Fears are often treated by well-meaning Christians as indicating a lack of faith. But you know me, Jesus. You know that without you, I am afraid and confused, even when I try to act brave. Help me to bring my childlike fears to you, as you embrace me tightly in your love. Amen.

John 13:31-32

When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once.”-John 13:31-32

The word glorify appears five times in these two verses. Jesus did not want his followers to miss what he was saying. But do we understand what glorify means? Many of us have heard that word but never really given much thought to what it means. Glory can have multiple meanings—splendor, magnificence, radiance, worth, or light. To “glorify” is to assign glory to another. Jesus was saying that what was happening would highlight the magnificence of the Father, and the Father in turn would ascribe infinite worth to the Son and his work on the cross.

I think John intentionally contrasted the end of verse 30 (and it was night) by repeating “glorify” five times. He wanted to remind his readers that in spite of darkness, the light of Jesus prevailed. He is the light in the darkness, and darkness would not overcome him (see Jn. 1:5).

Jesus, when everything around us seems impossibly dark and when we do not know where to look for hope, you shine a light. Let us behold the radiance of your beauty even in darkness so that we might behold your glory forevermore. Amen.

John 13:30

So after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.–John 13:30

Every time I read the phrase, “and it was night,” my skin tingles.  It is ominous.  It conveys the sense that there is no turning back. It is no mere proclamation of the setting sun, but it heralded the eve of the darkest day in history. Good Friday.

This band of brothers, so closely tied together, was fracturing. Judas had left. Jesus was troubled. The others were confused and fearful, trying to recall their interactions with Judas, hunting for clues. They were trying to remember everything Jesus had said, again hoping for hints.

Night is confusion. Night is darkness. Night is fear. In the opening paragraphs of this epistle, John identified Jesus as the light of the world. Light is hope; darkness is hopeless.

You may know the night too. When the doctor calls you personally and says, “It’s cancer,” it’s night. When your child, whom you have poured your heart and soul and guts into, whom you have prayed for and protected, has decided that Jesus isn’t really her thing, it’s night. When you’ve saved your money, little by little, trying to be a good steward, and you get a call from the IRS saying that they want to go over your most recent tax returns, it’s night.

Darkness comes to everyone. Life is not always how we want it to be. But even in our darkest nights, Jesus is still light.

Jesus, I cannot imagine what you were feeling that night. Were you afraid? Were you angry? Regardless, you did not leave your friends. Help me to remember that even in the darkest times, you are light. Amen.

John 13:28-29

Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the money bag, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor.-John 13:28-29

There was still an air of mystery around the table. When Jesus had spoken of betrayal, Peter and John asked for clarification, yet none of them seemed to realize the treason Judas was committing. Judas was betraying Jesus to his death and some of them thought he was instructing him to go grocery shopping.

We so often fail to see what is truly happening. We miss the cosmic significance of actions, instead focusing on the mundane and trivial. People may be in places of intense sorrow, but we tell them to just “cheer up” because Jesus loves them. They may be suffering the ravages of abuse, but we tell them to put on a happy face.

Jesus, open our eyes to see the gravity of what takes place around us, not so that we become weighed down with guilt or sorrow, but so that we can rightly cling to the hope of your redemption. Amen.