Labor Pains

In John 16, Jesus is having a tough conversation with His disciples. He is explaining to them that soon He will no longer be with them, but that He is going away. He says things like “But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” and “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.” At this point the disciples are confused and begin to mumble amongst themselves “We’re going to see you no more?” and “It is for our good that you’re going away?” You’re probably thinking the same thing as the disciples. How can it be better if Jesus goes away? How can it be better than Jesus being right there with them? You probably think Jesus has lost his mind.

The disciples thought so too. They were struggling to wrap their minds around what Jesus was saying. They were about to face much pain and sorrow. Jesus knowing this says to them “Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” What Jesus was saying is without pain there is no promise. In other words, pain is an indicator that there is a promise that is about to be birthed in your life. Before your biggest breakthrough you are going to face your biggest burden.

After all this, Jesus ends the chapter by saying “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Jesus wanted the disciples to know “Yeah you’re going to experience pain. But guess what? I’ve overcome it. And there is a promise waiting for you on the other side.” In this world you’re going to have pain come to you but it’s a sign that God is about to birth something through you. Next time you start to experience pain in your life you have two options: You can either be crushed underneath it or you can push your way through it. When that pain comes, you should begin to rejoice because your promise is about to breakthrough on the other side.

  1. What does this passage teach us about God? How does it apply to you?
  2. Are you experiencing pain in different areas of your life?
  3. Stop your crying and start pushing because your promise awaits you on the other side.
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Cut It Out

Jesus starts out the beginning of John 15 with this statement “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.” In other words, whether the things in your life are producing fruit or are not producing fruit, they are going to get cut. They are either going to get cut away or they are going to be cut aside in order to produce more.

The reasons why someone would prune a plant are to remove deadwood, to shape in order to control or direct growth, or to improve or maintain health. The writer of Hebrews says it this way in the beginning of chapter 12 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” Notice how the writer doesn’t just tell us to get rid of the sin in our life but also the weights that we carry around with us that hold us back from running the race at our greatest potential that God has put before us.

It’s easy to allow Jesus to cut away the deadwood in our life that isn’t producing any fruit and that is potentially harmful to our growth and development, but when Jesus starts cutting at things that we hold near and dear to ourselves we tend to give Him some resistance. It’s not that hard to allow Jesus to cut away a habit or an addiction that is slowly eating away at us, but when it comes to something that is producing fruit in our life; we just don’t want to give it up. I believe, because I’ve felt like this too, that we think that when Jesus is cutting the good away in our lives that He is punishing us. We say things like “Oh He is taking that away from me because of what I’ve done in my past” or “That got stripped from my life because I don’t deserve it because of who I am.” The truth is that Jesus is not punishing you, but He is pruning you in order that you will reach the desired potential that He created you for. He is not suffocating you, but He is shaping you into the person He desires for you to become. He is not inhibiting you, but He is improving you so that you can produce everything in your life that He has placed inside of you. Jesus is not trying to take something from you, but He is trying to produce something through you. He is not holding you back, but He is helping you move forward. He is not trying to burden you, but He is wanting to bless you.

  1. What does this passage teach us about God? How does it apply to you?
  2. Do you think that God is punishing you for something you did in your past?
  3. Ask God to open your eyes so that you can see that He doesn’t want something from you but that He wants something for you.

Greater

Steven Furtick’s new book, Greater, finds it’s foundation on John 14:12 where Jesus says “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” Did Jesus say that correctly? Even greater things than what He did? John is probably thinking these same things. At the time John heard Jesus say this he had already seen Jesus turn water into wine, feed the five thousand, heal a paralytic man, open a blind man’s eyes, and raised Lazarus from the dead. How could he really believe what Jesus just said? How can we believe what Jesus said?

This seemingly lucrative statement made by Jesus has been talked about, preached about, and, as we have seen here, even written about. We have a tough time believing what Jesus said because we have a tough time grasping doing anything greater than what Jesus did. We tend to focus too much on the “how” and the “what” instead of concentrating on the “who” and the “why.” What I mean by this is doing greater things than Jesus has nothing to do with who we are, but has everything to do with who He is. Doing greater things than Jesus has nothing to do with believing in ourselves, but has everything to do with believing in Him. Doing greater things than Jesus has nothing to do with what we can do, but has everything to do with what He has done.

You see that last phrase Jesus says, “because I am going to the Father,” that we seem to overlook because we are so focused on the “greater things than Jesus” part, is the very reason why Jesus said what He did. You see, when Jesus went to the Father, He sent us the Holy Spirit. Now this probably means nothing to you if you don’t know that while Jesus was here on earth He was the only one filled with the Holy Spirit. This meant that Jesus could only be at one place at one time. This meant that His healing power could only be wherever He was. This meant that He could only open the eyes of the blind that were where He was. This meant that His resurrection power could only be wherever He was. But now, because of what took place in Acts 2, His healing power goes wherever you and I go. Because Jesus went to the Father and sent us the Holy Spirit, His resurrection power goes wherever you and I go.

You see instead of being with us, Jesus is inside of us. Instead of only being able to be in one place at one time, He can now be wherever we go. Instead of only being in one part of the world, Jesus can now be spread all over the world. You and I carry Jesus wherever we go, and because of that, we can do all the things that Jesus did and even Greater.

  1. What does this passage teach us about God? How does it apply to you?
  2. Are you seeing the greater that Jesus was talking about here in John 14 in your life?
  3. Remember that the greater things has nothing to do with who you are but has everything to do with who Jesus is.

Humble Pie

I’m from Boston and I love sports. So I love every sport that has to do with Boston. I lived from the age of 12 to 25 about 5 minutes from Gillete Field, formerly called Foxboro Stadium, where the New England Patriots play. Back in the early 2000’s when the Patriots won 3 Superbowls, they had a saying that circulated around the lockeroom. The phrase that you could commonly hear the players say was “Humble Pie.” This referred to the attitude that each individual on the Patriots carried themselves by. It meant that they would stay humble in victory and graceful in defeat. It meant that each individual would put aside their own agenda for the agenda of the team. That they would sacrifice their own personal goals for the collective goal of the team. That they would lay down their own selfish ambition for the good will of everyone else on the team.

In John 13, we see Jesus take on this same attitude. This is what John writes in the beginning of the chapter “When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:12-17 NIV) Earlier in the book of John Jesus said that He did not come to be served but to serve and here in chapter 13 He is demonstrating for the disciples exactly what He meant. And I believe He drove His point home. Jesus knew that the way to gain access to a person’s heart is through humbly serving them. Can you believe the Creator humbled Himself to wash the feet of the creation? The same hands that created the disciples feet were the same hands that washed them.

This act that Jesus performed here in John is totally counter cultural to our world today. It is expected for the employee to serve the employer not the other way around. The student is supposed to glean from the teacher not the teacher listen to the student.

What would happen in our world today if we would serve each other? What impact would we have on the individuals around us if we ate our portion of humble pie?

  1. What does this passage teach us about God? How does it apply to you?
  2. What opportunities in your life do you have to serve others?
  3. Take on the attitude that Jesus did today!

Exceeding Expectation

Have you ever expected someone to do something when you wanted it done, where you wanted it done, or how you wanted it done and they didn’t meet your expectations? When your expectations are not met that is when disappointment sets in. When someone you thought would come through for you doesn’t, you feel let down. On the other hand when someone exceeds your expectations, you are ecstatic. You are blown away that the person went above and beyond what you expected them to do. You are somewhat shocked.

John paints a picture of this very scenario in chapter 11 of his gospel. Mary and Martha have sent word to Jesus that their brother, Lazarus, is sick. They write “Lord, the one you love is sick.” They expect Jesus to stop whatever He is doing and rush to heal Lazarus of his sickness. But that is not what Jesus does. In fact He does the complete opposite. John tells us “So when He heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed where He was two more days.” What? This is absurd. Why would Jesus stay where He was instead of rushing to Lazarus’ aide? I believe it’s because Jesus wanted to do so much more than what Mary and Martha expected Him to do. We find out later on in the story that is exactly what Jesus did. Instead of healing Lazarus like Mary and Martha expected Him to do, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Mary and Martha were expecting to see a resuscitation, but Jesus wanted to perform a resurrection.

We do the same thing in our lives. We expect God to do one thing when He wants to do something so much greater. Paul tells us in Ephesians 3:20 that God can do, and wants to do, so much more than we could even ask or imagine. I heard someone say “God will either give you what you want or something greater.” God wants to go above and beyond what we want Him to do. He wants to do something so much greater than what we think He should do. He wants to exceed our expectations. When we expect a healing, He wants to raise us from the dead. When we expect a resuscitation, He wants to perform a resurrection. He doesn’t just want to meet our expectations; He wants to blow them out of the water. He wants to turn our expectation into a declaration of His glory. He wants to take our expectation and make a proclamation of His power. He wants to take our good and give us His greater.

  1. What does this passage teach us about God? How does it apply to you?
  2. Are you expecting God to do one thing in your life when He wants to something so much greater?
  3. Let God turn your resuscitation into a resurrection today!

Conversation or Conversion

Have you ever found yourself at work, school, the grocery store, or your neighborhood having a conversation with someone who you knew God was urging you to tell them about Jesus? You find it easy to talk to them about the news, politics, the weather, or even sports. But when it comes to the subject of Jesus, you find it immensely tough to bring it up in the conversation. Why is that? Why is it easy to have a conversation about the weather but tough to share the gospel in an attempt for a conversion?

We see here in John 9, that 2,000 years ago the disciples struggled with the same exact thing. Earlier in John they saw Jesus turn water into wine, a Samaritan woman’s life changed, heal a man who was paralyzed for 38 years, and feed 5,000 people with a boy’s “Happy Meal.” Now they come across a man who was born blind and all they want to have is a conversation with Jesus about why this man was born blind. They are standing with the very person who can do something about this man’s condition and all they are concerned with is talking about the situation. They are so consumed with having a conversation about the man instead of introducing him to the only One that can convert his blindness into sight.

So many people today are walking around blinded by false hope. We have the truth that can open their eyes. We have what the world needs to heal their condition. Jesus opened blind eyes 2,000 years ago and He still opens blind eyes today.

  1. What does this passage teach us about God? How does it apply to you?
  2. Who is it in your life that you know that needs Jesus to open their eyes?
  3. Pray that God gives you the boldness to move from having a conversation to initiating a conversion.

 

Chains

Have you ever felt like you were being held captive? That you were bound in chains and you couldn’t get free? It seems like everywhere you turn you are trapped and can’t escape. Nothing you tend to do sets you free or breaks the chains that are holding you back. You’re trapped in your nine to five. You’re financially in bondage. You’re enslaved to an addiction. Some of you reading this are held captive by your past. You never seem to experience true freedom. Once you shake yourself free of one thing, immediately, here comes the next thing to trap you in.

So what do you do? Well in John 8, Jesus tells us two things that can give us true freedom.

1) The truth will set you free.

Jesus says in John 8:32 “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (NIV) This is where we go wrong so many times. We believe that the truth itself will set us free. But the truth alone by itself does us no good if we don’t know it. You have to know the truth and then it will set you free. Otherwise, you will be walking around in ignorance, being held captive, because you have no knowledge of the truth that can set you free. Not knowing the truth is like walking around your house in the dark. Most of the time, you will wind up hitting your leg, banging your knee, or worse stubbing your toe on something because you can’t see where you’re going. You end up causing yourself some pain when, if you turned on the light, you could have seen the furniture and easily avoided bumping into it. Life is the same way. If you don’t know the truth, you are walking around in the dark susceptible to things that you could otherwise easily avoid. So don’t go through life aimlessly anymore. Know the truth, and the truth you know, will set you free.

2) The Son will set you free.

A few verses later in John 8, Jesus says “So is the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36 NIV) In other words, true freedom comes through Jesus and Him alone. Other things may bring you temporary satisfaction, but only Jesus can give you eternal joy. Other things may promise to set you free, but only Jesus can break the chains that bind you. Other things may offer you a get out of jail free card, but only Jesus can give you the key to unlock the prison that you’re in. When Jesus sets you free, nothing can ever hold you back. Let Jesus set you free today!

  1. What does this passage teach us about God? How does it apply to you?
  2. Where in your life have you been walking around in the dark?
  3. Pray and ask Jesus to set you free eternally.

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