Where do people look for satisfaction or happiness today?
We live in a world which is full of desire but empty of satisfaction!
That’s why the Rolling Stones sang at the heights of the 1960-70s “I can’t get no satisfaction”. That’s why Barack Obama said: “That was the problem with booze and drugs, wasn’t it? At some point they couldn’t stop that ticking sound, the sound of certain emptiness”.
Tonight we’re going to meet a woman, who was unsatisfied and looking for happiness in the wrong places.
John introduces us to her in chapter 4, after Nicodemus is told in chapter 3 about the gift of “eternal life” available in Jesus. The two characters couldn’t be more different: she was a woman in a man’s world. In contrast to the Jewish rabbi, she was a Samaritan - descendants of Jews who mixed with pagan Gentiles – they were despised for having their own Temple and Scriptures. Unlike the self-righteous Pharisee, she lived under a cloud of shame and scandal for her immoral lifestyle. That’s why when Jesus meets her she is at the hottest part of the day, collecting water from the local well alone. All the other women would have been early that morning in the cool, but she is isolated and ostracised from them.
Her daily journey with her water jar is a parable of her life story. She gets thirsty, she goes to the well to fill up her jar, she goes home and enjoys the water which satisfies her thirst… but gradually the jar empties… so she has to return to the well the next day to refill it. She lives in a desert of unsatisfied desires. But when Jesus Christ walks into her life, that is all about to change!
- What does Jeremiah 2:13 reveal about the true reason for her struggle to find satisfaction in life? How does this make sense of the solution that Jesus offers to her in v.13-14, and the question he asks her in v.16-18?
The true problem is spiritual– she has unfulfilled relationships with men – but she really needs a restored relationship with God. St. Augustine explained it this way: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you”.
- In light of her being exposed, why might she ask about Temple and Worship in v.20-22? (Does her response in v.28-29 help?)
“If she had guilt and shame exposed… where could she find atonement for her sins if the Samaritan worship were deficient … if that worship was wrong her hope of atonement is gone” (Noel)
- What do you think it means in v.24-26 that true worship and relationship with God is to be “in Spirit and Truth”? (Where does Jesus fit into it?)
Worship isn’t about place but “in Spirit and Truth”. The invisible God has made Himself known in Jesus Christ, who will pour out His Spirit into our hearts to bring us into relationship with God. Our worship must be in accordance with the truth that God has revealed in Christ and in the Bible (the Samaritans lacked the whole Bible and had cut themselves off from the Messianic line).
- Looking at John 19:28-30 and Revelation 22:1-2, how ultimately will Jesus solve her deepest problem and longings?
Jesus substitutes Himself into her place. Jesus will bring us eternal life in God’s presence in the new creation.
- What can we learn from Jesus’ explanation to the disciples about where He finds His satisfaction in v.31-34?
Jesus’ joy is found in serving His Father and accomplishing His will
TEACHING ON DESIRE
One of the major misconceptions about God is that He does not want us to be happy. People fear that living in God’s ways will frustrate our desires, leaving us feel unhappy and unsatisfied. But at the centre of John’s gospel, Jesus promises to give people “fullness of life” – what this woman lacked.
This was one of the most significant themes in the work of C.S. Lewis, who had an intense life-long interest in the search for happiness.
Our desires are telling us something:
“Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.
It is not wrong to desire to be happy and satisfied:
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
We are relying on the wrong things to be satisfied:
“Human history is the long terrible story of humans trying to find something other than God which will make them happy”
Where can it be found?
“If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire. If you want to be wet, you must get into the water. If you want joy, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them… God Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other… God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because… there is no such thing…”
So God’s holy commands are not there to frustrate our happiness but rather to redirect our paths so we can find both holiness and happiness in Him. Lewis once wrote to a friend, Arthur Greeves who wrestled with lust and same-sex attraction:
“God not only understands but shares the desire which is at the root of all my sin – the desire for complete and ecstatic happiness. He made me for no other purpose than to enjoy it. But He knows, and I do not, how it can be really and permanently attained… I may always feel looking back on any past sin that in the very heart of my evil passion there was something that God approves and wants me to feel not less but more… But the thirst will never be quenched in the way I tried to quench it…”
WE NEVER HAVE TO CHOOSE BETWEEN GOD AND HAPPINESS; only TRUE and FALSE HAPPINESS!
- How can Lewis’ reflections help you see your desires, temptations, in a new light? How could you use them to help a friend who is wrestling with a persistent temptation?
- How can Lewis’ reflections on desire help us in our evangelism in an unsatisfied world?
Jesus is good news:
- In the past: He can remove our sin and shame from seeking satisfaction in the wrong places
- In the present: He can bring us satisfaction in knowing and serving God
- In the future: He will completely satisfy our longings in the new creation
SUMMARY: God has made Himself known in this world in the divine person of His Son, in order to invite us into His family as children
It is said that familiarity breeds contempt – and for some of us, we know a lot about Jesus, and have heard about Him for many years. But that has also meant that we are less excited about the truths about Him, and less fired up in our love for Him, and passion to tell others about Him. It is my hope and prayer that the Holy Spirit will do something about these problems in our lives, as we study John’s gospel this year.
Tonight, as we come to the Prologue, or Introduction, to John’s Gospel – I want to challenge you as you to read this passage, as if you’d never read it before. And do this bible study as if you were a non-Christian coming to learn about Jesus for the very first time. John wants to introduce us to Jesus for the first time tonight and amaze us with Him!
v.1-4: What do we learn from Jesus’ CV about His IDENTITY? How can these verses shape the way you view Jesus?
- “In the beginning was” – Jesus shares in God’s eternal pre-existence. “There never was when he was not” (Athanasius). The echoes of Genesis are unmistakable (“In the beginning… created… light… life”).
- “The Word” – Jesus communicates and reveals the Father’s mind and heart to us
- “was God” – Jesus is one with God, fully divine
- “with God” – Jesus is in intimate relationship with the Father – literally “The Word was face to face with God”
- “all things were created through Him” – Jesus is God the Creator. The seven miraculous signs we will see in John's gospel are the Maker restoring His damaged and defaced masterpiece.
- “In Him was life” – Jesus is the solution to the problem of death in this world
v.5-11: What has God done and what is humanity’s RESPONSE?
- 5-7: Sent His “light” (general revelation in creation) and His “witnesses” (special revelation) to prepare the way and point to the light (John the Baptist represents the last of the OT prophets)
- 9-11: Jesus, the “light” of the world has come – but the “world did not know him” – even His own people in Israel did not recognise Him.
v.12-18: What are the BENEFITS that Jesus makes available?
- 12-13: Jesus extends to us the offer of adoption and inclusion into the family of God as His children, sharing the life with God, is entered into through faith: ”who believed in His name”. The purpose of John’s gospel is to encourage us to enter into this relationship with God through faith in Jesus.
- 14: Jesus became a human being and dwelt among us – showing that there is a way for human beings to walk and live with God again (as it was in the Garden and as it will be in the New Creation), through Himself!
- 17: Jesus brings the offer of the grace of God to us, in fulfillment of all the OT promises of God providing salvation for the world
- 18 Jesus has made the invisible God known, who otherwise is outside of this creation, and shown us what He is like perfectly
“Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are 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 20:30-31). Everything that John has recorded contributes to this purpose. Each passage should be approached asking:
- IDENTITY: What does this teach about Jesus being the Christ, the son of God?
- BENEFITS: What does it mean to have life in belonging to Him?
- RESPONSE: What does a right response of belief in Him look like?
OVERVIEW OF THE PROLOGUE
The way that John has written his introduction (as a chiasm) is meant to draw attention to his three themes of IDENTITY, BENEFITS and RESPONSE
v.1-4: Jesus is God (I)
v.5-8: Witnesses to Jesus: Creation and John the Baptist (I)
v.9-11: Jesus comes and is not recognised by the world (R)
v.12-13: Jesus invites us to become children of God through believing in Him (B)
v.14: Jesus comes and is recognised by the believer (R)
v.15-17: Witnesses to Jesus: John the Baptist and the OT (I)
v.18: Jesus reveals God (I)
A wonderful summary of the implications of this introduction for our understanding of God as human beings:
“For many of us, God is like the Loch Ness Monster. Some people claim to have caught glimpses of him… but all we have to go on are a few grainy pictures that are just enough to keep our hopes up. There’s no proof that it exists… The God of the Bible is not the god within. He is not merely the projection of our hopes and fears. He is the God who is really out there. But he is no Loch Ness Monster. The good news is that God is there and he is not hiding… when it comes to arriving at the truth of what someone might be like, our only hope is for him to come and make himself known to us. John is telling us that that is exactly what has happened… He calls Jesus the Word. He does it to make a point. In the Bible, God’s Word is how he made himself known… John is saying that God has not left us guessing about what he is like. Jesus Christ is the Word that he has spoken…In Jesus we don’t just catch a glimpse of God – see footprints or the flash of a tail – we can look into his face and see God in all his brilliance… Deep down we fear that living for God will make us less human… it turns out that God knows more about being human than I do. And if I knew more of God, I would know more of what it means to be a human… He loves us so much that he comes to us as a man like us – not just to live our life, but to die our death” (Mike Cain)
v.18: In light of all we have been told about Jesus, what do we learn about God the Father? How might this affect the way we relate to Him?
- Jesus has made the heart of God known. We can love Him; we have no reason to fear Him.
- “This truth has major implications for the way we conceive God… God is always Jesus-like. God is Christlike and in Him is no unChristlikeness at all… Jesus Christ was always at the heart of God … there is no God ‘behind the back’ of Christ” (Bruce Milne)
How does the promise of the gospel: “He gave the right to become children of God” (v.12) affect how you think about yourself today?
- We are secure in His love
- We have a certain, meaningful identity that doesn’t depend on anything in us or our circumstances
- We should be thrilled by our privileges: “Eternal life in John is not the Greek idea of the immortality of the individual soul; it is life shared – with God and with the people of God… Eternal life for John is being brought into the divine family… ‘This is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent’ (17:3).” (David Wenham)
What difference could this passage make for your evangelism with your non-Christian friends this term?
- The light of God can penetrate the darkness of our unbelieving friend’s minds and hearts
- We have good news to bring of an invitation into God’s family, because He loves us
- Because Jesus came into this world and into history, we can be sure that the Christian faith is true – it has been witnessed by many
- Praising God for who Jesus is
- Giving thanks for what Jesus has done for us
- Asking God to use us in the lives of non-Christian friends/colleagues/family to help them find out who Jesus is (three names to pray for this term) and respond to Him
"When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread ... Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” ... When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” (John 21). We finish our 20-part series on John's gospel today. As you read John's finale, Peter seems to have gone back to be a fisherman after the resurrection. Perhaps he believes that he has disgraced and disqualified himself from God's service. However, Jesus does the most incredible thing in order to show Peter that God's not finished with him yet. Initially you might just be amazed that Jesus, the King of the Universe, has made breakfast (!) for these guys. Even more-so, Jesus has built this fire because He's recreating the scene when Peter denied and betrayed Jesus around a fire. Then Jesus reverses Peter's three denials with three confessions of his love for Jesus. Each time Jesus commissions Peter to be a shepherd of His people, through caring for them with God's love and leading them with God's word. Satan sought Peter's destruction, Peter sabotaged himself, but Jesus has a way of picking up the broken pieces and restoring His fallen servant. It is so good to know that we have a God of second chances...because I'm in need of continual and constant forgiveness! God is extremely patient and gracious with each of us, so today don't run away or remain far off from Him, rather return in repentance and come close in the faith that Jesus has made you perfectly acceptable.
Praise God Today
: "You Are My Strength When I Am Weak"Pray Today
- For the remaining few nights of Chat65:
- pray for all the different teams and individuals taking part,
- pray for God to be at work in the lives of those who come in (before, during and after!),
- pray for the planning team as they consider the feedback for the future.
- For Karen Clark as she resumed teaching this week and takes up the womens ministry role on September 1st; and for David Nixon as he takes up on the youth and students ministry role. Pray for God to help and use them as a blessing to us all.
"Peter saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself" (John 20:6-7). There are decisive moments in our lives which mark turning points, or comings of age. The day you left high school, the day you got your driver's license, the day you moved into your own place, for some of you the day you got married. These are personally significant moments of transition if life. However, the resurrection is a universally significant moment, the dawning of a new day, the beginning of a new age of history overlapping with the closing scenes of this present evil age. The Great Exchange in Christ's death also effects the Great Transition in Christ's resurrection. We don't yet get to see the risen king Jesus, like the disciples and Thomas did, instead He remains hidden from our eyes. In the same way, we do not yet see the full glory of God's kingdom. Today the kingdom reign of Christ is hidden beneath the cross - it's power is veiled by weakness, suffering and apparent foolishness. We advance God's kingdom by living cross-centred lives, preaching the message of the cross, and being prepared to suffer for Christ. In this new day we await the unveiling, revelation, or glorious appearing of our Saviour when He brings His kingdom in power and glory. He is risen, He is the king, and He make all things right. This is the story that your life is participating in today and in which you can play your part as you live and work for His glory! Please consider signing up to help one of the few remaining nights at Chat65: http://www.carrubbers.org/chat65/
Praise God Today
: "Behold Our God"
- For the Chat65 house musicians as they sing and play several times each night to create a pleasant atmosphere, communicate the gospel musically, and draw in visitors. Pray for God to sustain them through the week and use them.
- For the children and youth returning to school this week, together with the resumption of our childrens and youth ministries this weekend.
- For the Discovery Programme bible studies running on Thursday with guys in the centre city community.
After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst” ... When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit (John 19:28-30). This is the most important message in the world: the living God has come into this world to rescue perishing people, by dying for their sins. We know the Cross as the "Great Exchange". However, it's interesting to notice the Great Reversals that happen at the Cross. When Jesus, the light and life of the world, dies surrounded by darkness. When Jesus, the water and fountain of life, becomes dry and thirsty through the exhausting agony of crucifixion. But this reversal and exchange was necessary. He is only able to satisfy our greatest thirst, reconciling us into a relationship with God the source of life, through these events. And having suffered, He is able to declare: "It is finished" - the work is complete, the debt has been paid in full, the case is closed. Jesus has given everything to save you - He held nothing back. Today our response is to live trusting Him with everything in our lives and living for Him in everything we do. One particular response might be to consider coming out to serve at Chat65 tonight or tomorrow when we are looking very low on the ground!
Praise God Today: "Jesus, Saviour of the World"
- For Andris and the Puppet Team as they minister to families in Inverbervie on Thursday.
- For God to be at work in the hearts and minds of all those who have attended Chat65 these last 2 weeks.
- For Pauline Scott as she prepares to travel back from Liberia due to the outbreak of Ebola in west africa.
- For more people to sign up to serve at Chat65 on Wednesday and Thursday evening: www.carrubbers.org/chat65
Late that night Jesus leads the disciples into deadly danger. Gethsemane is a walled garden with limited escape options and the worst thing is that Judas knows it. Judas, at this point under the influence of Satan, leads a small army of Roman soldiers from the nearby Antonia fortress at the behest of the high priest. They come carrying torches and weapons - the world has come to make war against and destroy Jesus...and Jesus has led His friends right into the trap. He knew of course...so what is He doing? He is bringing them to see Him stop and knock-down an army of darkness with the words: "I am He". He is bringing them to experience physical deliverance as He hands Himself over to the army, on the condition that His disciples are allowed to flee. John adds the explanation: "This was to fulfill the word that He had spoken: 'Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one'" (John 18:9).
Jesus teaches us a vivid lesson here, that when God's people are facing the very worst that the darkness can throw at them, God is still able to deliver them - sometimes physically but always spiritually. No power of hell, no scheme of man can ever pluck us from His hand! This is our assurance and certainty in Christ: "nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:39)
. But also hear these immensely helpful words:
"What is the New Testament way of obtaining certainty [assurance of salvation]? First of all, the objective belief of the facts concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. If you are uncertain, if you are unhappy, the first thing is to look at the Lord Jesus Christ. If you look at yourselves and nothing else you will see nothing but sin and blackness. No man can be sure by looking at his own heart. Look unto the Lord, look at the Son of God dying for yours sins. Be objective - look out to Him, look away to Him from despair or sin. He came, not for the righteous, but for the sinners, not for the guiltless but for the guilty. He has died for sinners; therefore, if you see your sins, look unto Him, start with Him, be objective" (Martyn Lloyd-Jones).
Praise God Today
: "Blessed Assurance" Pray Today
- For the host, speakers and interviewees this week at Chat65 as they seek to witness to the saving reality of God in their lives and to proclaim the saving work of God in history to those listening.
- For the street team as they seek to engage with passers by and invite them into Chat65 - pray for their encouragement as they meet mixed reactions.
"I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5)
. When we were in Romania last month I was asked to preach at an outdoor evangelistic service under the largest grape vine canopy I have ever seen. Hilariously, the vine dripped water on my forehead, bible and notes throughout the talk and made me think about this passage. Jesus uses this image of the vine to describe the relationship His followers are to continue to have with Him as they go about their ministry for Him. In the OT the image of the vine was used for Israel and also came to be associated with the temple. However, Jesus says here that He is the true vine, He is the true Israel of God, and only those who abide in relationship with Him will be fruitful. Then He finishes saying: "By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples" (15:8)
. So often our temptation is to rush straight into doing the work that needs to be done, rather than abiding and letting God work in our being to make us useable in His service. It is out of our abiding in Christ (our being in relationship with Him as a child of God) that all of our growing and working (our working out the implications of being a child of the king) should flow. As Trevor Gould said on Friday night: "the plant doesn't think about having to produce fruit, that happens naturally as it conducts the sap from the roots grounded deep in nourishing water". However, if we don't first abide in Christ then we cannot produce real fruit - as Wayne said yesterday, it'll only be plastic!
- For our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world as they suffer on account of their faith in Christ. Pray for their endurance in the face of danger, encouragement and assurance of God's promises.
- For those in our church family who are struggling right now with health difficulties, anxieties, hard circumstances, or the consequences of sin - pray for them to find help as they abide in Christ.
- For the Cafe during the day and Chat65 in the evening as we seek to reach and bless those visiting the city during the festival.
"I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:3). We've all had the experience of being lost and wondering how to find where we want to get to. Thankfully we've got our electronic gadgets these days so that it's made even easier.
Jesus has gathered together the disciples for one last conference, when He reveals that the time has come for Him to die and thereafter to return to His Father in heaven. They want to know how it is they will find Him again, how they will find a way through this world to get to the next, where the many rooms of the Father's house await. What direction should they take? What landmarks should they look out for? Jesus doesn't say: 'In 200 meters, turn right...'. Jesus says just keep close to me, because I will get you there. Jesus says that He is the true way that leads to life everlasting, safe in the Father's house of blessing. Jesus says that He will not lead us astray, nor lead us to a dead end. Rather it as we follow Him, He will truly lead us into fullness of life.
So often we don't know what to do when making decisions - we want to be in God's will and don't want to be out of His will. But as we walk in love with Him, obeying His commandments (which set out the boundaries) then within that place He gives us the choice of what we want to do. Like a father taking his child to the park, so long as they remain within the fences, he doesn't mind whether they play on the swings or see-saws, then they are within his love and are to enjoy his goodness. Today Jesus is the direction you're looking for and He will get you to the destination that far exceeds your greatest dreams.
Praise God Today: "He Leadeth Me"
- For Heather Packwood's mother, as she's unwell in hospital, and for Steve as he returns from a very busy season of ministry - for them all to know God's help and healing hand in these days.
- For James Macdonnell out in Nigeria as the recording of Luke's gospel in Pongu begins this week. Pray for his encouragement and protection during these significant days in his ministry there.
- For the new teams coming on for week 2 of Chat65 to know God's enabling and enthusiasm for being coworkers with God in the gospel.
Jesus said to her, “Your brother [Lazarus] will rise again.”
Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. (John 11:23-26).
Standing at the graveside of someone you love as their coffin is lowered into the ground is one of the saddest experiences we can go through. However, through the death and resurrection of Jesus we have living-proof that there is life-after-death available to those who trust in Christ. But that eternal life begins now before we die! The Jews all believed in the future resurrection and kingdom age at the end of history...but they had not anticipated that the resurrection of Jesus would mark in the middle of history the initial beginnings of that future kingdom age. Jesus offers eternal life, newness of life, and fullness of life that begins now and that gets infinitely better beyond this life. The resurrection power of Jesus and Spirit that raised Christ from the dead is present in us, which gives us a whole new perspective on how we perceive this world and life. We have something to live-for-now-before-life-after-death: Jesus and His glory!
Praise God Today: "Glorious Day"
- For the street team's encouragement and enabling at Chat65 as they meet people and seek to invite them into the event to hear the gospel.
- For God to be working in the hearts of those who have already heard the gospel this week at Buckstone, through the UBM outreach, the Puppet shows and Chat65.
- For Simon, Annika and Karis Flanagan: "Many of you were praying for us on Monday past as we met with the surgeon. Sorry we haven't written about it yet, the truth is that we don't know any more as to when the operation will be. The meeting was basically to let us know all the things that could go wrong during the operation! He did say the surgeon that will do the op is fully booked for the next two weeks but he will try to get us in as soon after that as possible. We were also put on the "last minute" list so if a child were unable to have their op for any reason we could be called to go in within 24 hours."
"The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep" (John 10:10-11).
Whether you're a countryside person or a city person will affect how well these words of Jesus resonate with you. Many of us don't see or spend time around sheep very often. Sheep aren't very clever creatures and need a lot of looking after. They aren't able to find good grass to eat on their own, they cannot find their way to water alone, and they are very good at wandering off to get lost in the hills. So if you were a sheep, your life depended on you having a good shepherd, who would look after you and lead you well. Therefore, it is very humbling for us in the contemporary, industrialized, educated and wealthy western world to be compared with sheep by God. But Jesus tells us that we are like sheep as we wander around this world, looking for something to fill and satisfy us, following many different false shepherds who say "Follow me and you'll be happy," "Follow me and you'll find success," etc. Sadly they will lead us only to emptiness and sometimes ruin - they are thieves not shepherds. But Jesus says that He is the Good Shepherd, one who genuinely cares for His sheep. He will not lead you out into the dry empty desert to devour you, but rather to the bountiful Promised Land to truly satisfy you. So much does He love His flock, that He would give His life to save them from danger. When attacking wolves and lions came to attack the flock, Jesus is the shepherd who would sacrifice Himself into their vicious jaws and claws, so that the sheep can escape. That's what the Cross is all about and why we have reason to celebrate His love today.
Praise God Today: "May I Never Lose The Wonder Of The Cross"
- For Simon, Annika and Karis as they await the date for the corrective open heart surgery in the forthcoming weeks.
- For all the children up at Buckstone as they learn about the Cross on Wednesday morning
- For brothers and sisters in Iraq who are enduring horrendous persecution at the present time.
- For all the outreach teams mid-week through Chat65, Buckstone, Puppets and UBM to keep going strong in God's strength and to be encouraged as they see God at work.
"But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice...I am the door of the sheep" (10:2-4,7). There are many influences who want to tell us how we should live and ask us to place our trust in them. However, politicians don't know your name; nor do the celebrities; nor the makers of the television adverts. But there is someone who knows us all. In ancient times a village would have had a large sheep pen into which all the local farmers would place their sheep for safe keeping. Then the shepherd of a particular flock would come along to take the sheep out for feeding. Out of the mixture of flocks, he would be able to identify exactly which were his sheep and call them out, because he knew them. Jesus draws on this image to say that He is the God who loves us, demonstrated in the fact that He knows us as individuals, he knows your name. As one writer says:
"I know you. When you were being formed in your mother's womb, I knew you. When you took your first steps, my eyes were on you. I remember your first day at school. When your parents split up, I was there. When your father died, I was there with you. In your teenage years when nobody else understand what you were going through, I know just how much it hurt. I know your sorrows, and I know your joys. I know how much music means to you. I know your hopes and dreams. I know how they treat you at work - I have heard what they say too. I know who you really are".
Jesus really knows us and cares for us, and so alone can be trusted - far more than any stranger!
Praise God Today: "You Know Me"
- For Sarah Mason as she heads out to South Africa to work with WEC among underprivileged children throughout August.
- For Samuel and Naomi Scott as they get legally married today and have their wedding ceremony on Sunday.
- For those being interviewed each night at Chat65 to know God's help as they think on their feet and seek to articulate clear answers which share their story and make such of the story of Jesus which has changed their lives.
"...I am the light of the world" (John 9:5). It's often hard for us to see the stars at night because of all the light pollution. The Edinburgh Observatory used to be on Calton Hill in the city centre, then it moved out to Blackford Hill on the south-edge, but due to the growth of the city it then moved out to Hawaii! They didn't have that problem in Jesus' day, when at was night it was completely dark. You could get lost, injured or attacked in the dark. Darkness was oppressive and scary, so it's no wonder it became associated with evil. Jesus met a man who had been born blind, he had only ever known darkness as his world. But Jesus was to change all that as a sign revealing who He really was and what He had come to do. In the miracle, Jesus re-enacted the story of creation. He used his own saliva together with the dry dust to make mud, which He then placed on the man's blind eyes. This echoes how God first created us out of the dust of the earth. Jesus then restored the man's sight to show that in Him God was doing a work of new creation, literally regenerating (re-genesis-ing) all that had been broken by evil, bringing light into peoples' darkness. Jesus today is no longer in the world but is still it's light - the world is not in complete darkness, because He's sent us into the world to be mirrors and reflectors of His light to those in need. This week we're praying for and working towards seeing God open blind eyes, and do a work of regeneration in peoples' hearts as we share with them the message of light and life in Christ.
Praise God Today: "Light of the World"
- For the Buckstone Holiday Club this week as 55 children explore how Jesus is the king of the world and wants to be their king.
- For the Families Outreach this week through the Puppet shows in the mornings and afternoons - pray for Andris' team as they perform and share the gospel.
- For the UBM street outreach happening each afternoon on the Royal Mile.
- For Josh Morris and Jonny Scott up in Shetland on the sports camp sharing the gospel with young people.
- For the Latvia team's safe journey home later on Monday.
- For the very first night of Chat65 as all the teams get a feel for how the new programme runs, and that people would begin to come into the event.
- For the Langlands' as they head over to Skye to begin new life and work.
'On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit' (John 7:37-39). Yesterday marked 100 years since the start of the First World War - remembering our past is important, if for no other reason that we learn its lessons. Every year the Jews celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles, remembering how God guided, protected and provided for them through the Wilderness. On the last day of the feast they would go up to the temple, the place where the presence of God dwelt among His people (like He did in the pillar of cloud and fire, and in the tabernacle tent), and pour out water. It seems that at this moment, Jesus stood up and spoke to the assembled crowds of the entire nation. Jesus claims at all of our desires will find their fulfillment in Him. He claims that He will fill us - not a hand-full, or a cup-full that will need replenishing but a river-full. Imagine a river - it is always flowing, never-ceasing. Furthermore, in the OT prophets this river of living water always spoke of God bringing healing and restoration to His people and His world in the new age of the kingdom. Jesus is saying that with His arrival and when His Spirit arrives, that new age has begun to be present within those who trust in Him. The source of wholeness, fullness and completeness is in our communion with God Himself - this is why drawing nearer and closer to Him can only be good for us! This is why we should seek to drink deeply from the fountain of Jesus and His Word.
Praise God Today: "There is a Fountain"
- For our spiritual development as a congregation of people who are growing in their love for Christ and obedience to His will.
- For our church cleaner, Michael, who is moving up to Shetland for work and into a whole new situation. Pray for God to watch over him.
- For the Puppets ministry as they get ready for their morning and afternoon outreach programme next week, and the Chat65 teams as they ready for the evening programme over the next fortnight.
I've enjoyed the film "Cloudy With A Chance Of Meat-Balls" which imagines what might happen if you had a machine that could make any food you wanted out of clouds - basically it results in madness. The way we relate to food today is very different to in Jesus' day when you had to work for a whole day to put enough food on the table for your family that night, and there was no guarantee where tomorrow's food was going to come from. Bread was a matter of life and death - without it you died! So when Jesus fed five thousand people with a few loaves and fish, it made the headlines and made Him very popular for all the wrong reasons. The peoples' minds were on their stomachs, not on God. So Jesus told them: "the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world...I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst...this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day" (6:33,35,39-40). He reminds them of the Israelites in the Wilderness given the manna (bread) from heaven to keep them alive until they reached the Promised Land. Jesus says if we receive Him, then we have found the ultimate answer to life and death. And He promises that if we have Him now then we will have life forever, because He will not fail to bring us to the Promised Land, the new creation. We need to come to Jesus, trusting in Him, feeding on Him (following the metaphor) in order to benefit from Him and His gift of life now and forever - because food is only any good if you eat it. Your life depends on Jesus on your journey from here to eternity, just as it does on food and water! Don't just leave Him in the bread-bin today.
Praise God Today: "Bread of Heaven, Feed Me Now and Evermore"
- Pray for those suffering and under threat in Africa from the ebola virus outbreak - especially pray for Dr Kent Brantly and Nurse Nancy Writebol who work with SIM in Liberia who have been infected.
- For Adrian and Heather Holdsworth in camps ministry over in southern Ireland this week, teaching teens the gospel in a 90% culturally catholic country.
- For the team going to be working at Buckstone next week at the holiday club as they get ready for the young people.
And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working. This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God" (5:16-17). So far in John's gospel things have been going well for Jesus, however that is all about to change. The opposition began with His betrayal by a man, whom had just been healed. For 38 years he had been crippled and life had passed him by. He was desperate for a miracle, so sat day after day by a pool where it was said he could be healed if an angel came to the water. Jesus healed him, but later told him: "sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you" (v.14). We can gauge from his reaction that he was not happy to be told this, because he went immediately to rat on Jesus to the Pharisees. You see people are happy with the idea of Jesus making their lives better, but don't want Him to then tell them how to live. There's something in each of us that wants to enjoy the benefits of God's kingdom, while remaining on the throne of our lives in our own little kingdoms. However, Jesus' response to the Pharisees reminds us that He has the authority to not only restore our lives but also reorder our life-choices. The Jews accepted that the only person who could work on the sabbath was God in sustaining creation, and Jesus says that He is simply doing His Father's work in restoring creation. He is saying: I am God the king. He's the boss. The challenge for us is to bow the knee to Him, to seek first His kingdom (not our own) and to do so joyfully knowing that His ways are better than ours!
Praise God Today: "Crown Him"
- For God to be continuing to work in the lives of the many hundreds of international students reached last month by EIO, causing the seeds of truth to grow and bringing other Christians into their lives.
- For the cafe team as they ramp up their engagement with the local community during the height of the tourist season and have the front doors each day and people out on the street inviting customers in.
- For the set-up, music, technical teams as they move up a gear to finish off preparations for Chat65 starting in 8 days time! Pray for endurance and encouragement.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father...But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him" (John 4:21,23). Do you prefer Apple, Microsoft (or for the techies: Linux)? In a vague way that's the kind of debate between the Jews and Samaritans, their religious temple which was a corruption of the original hebrew system. The woman wants to know which is the best, to which Jesus replies that there is no longer a need for the shadows when the reality has come. Jesus is the greater temple, He represents all it pointed to. In Him heaven and earth come together; He is where people can come to meet God; He is the one who makes atonement and provides forgiveness for sins. Those who accept Him and trust Him are those who worship in spirit and truth. But there is also a future day when all the world will be flooded with the immanent presence of God, as the water fills the sea, and everything will be made holy to Him. Until that day we live and work today in this world as worshippers who present our bodies as "living sacrifices" to God in all we do (Romans 12:2). For the Christian there is no such thing as 'ordinary life,' as all of our life is to be sanctified and presented to God as our spiritual worship.
Praise God Today: "Let My Life Song Sing To You"
- For Karen Clark and her family as they bury her grandfather on Friday and for help as she gives the eulogy during the service.
- For the Latvia team as they fly out early on Friday morning for a week of camp ministry with the Kingdons.
- For our childrens and youth ministry teams as they prepare for a new term of evangelism and discipleship.
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life" (John 4:13-14). They were both out of place: a woman out alone at the hottest part of the day doing heavy carrying work; and a Jew in the land of their enemies, the Samaritans. Yet Jesus has come out of his way to make time for this woman that no one else had time for. He asks to have a drink with her, showing her that He accepted her, even though He knows why everyone else rejects her for her scandalous past. She has sought to satisfy her thirst, her desires, in relationships with many men, however none of them have satisfied. Jesus recognises that her water jug and daily trip to the well symbolises her life. She fills up her jug with this water but then it becomes empty, so she was come back the next day looking for something more to fill her up. Like her we all sense our emptiness and need for something to truly and fully satisfy us in the deepest ways, but we look in the wrong places falling into sin and shame. Only in relationship with God and delighting in all His goodness to us in Christ can we be made full. Although we have all turned to our own muddy water from broken sewers (idols) that cannot satisfy, Jesus has come to restore us to God, the stream of pure water, who alone can fill us up (Jeremiah 2:13). In all your thirsts and desires today make sure you come to the fountain of life in prayer.
Praise God Today: "All Who Are Thirsty".
- For all those seeking to make use of the opportunities of the Commonwealth Games to engage people with the gospel, pointing them to the good God who created sport as one of His good gifts to enjoy.
- For the Puppet Ministry Team as they prepare for a busy programme over the summer of communicating the gospel to children and parents.
- For persecuted brothers and sisters in Iraq as they suffer in the midst of the recent ISIS takeover of many towns.
It's usually not a positive or hopeful thing when you're told: "That will require a miracle" - but that's the sense of Jesus' words to Nicodemus. Nicodemus wants to know how he can be assured a place in God's coming kingdom, he wants to check that's he's on the right track, doing all the right things under the Law. However, Jesus floors him by saying: "Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God" (3:3). Nicodemus is a good guy, but he's not good enough. He needs a miracle - the change needed in His heart is so great it's akin to being born again! Nicodemus is helpless and hopeless; just like the Israelites were in the wilderness being attacked by the snakes (3:13-15). The snakes were God's judgement on their sin, and when bitten they would die. They were helpless until Moses set up the bronze serpent on the pole, and in their helpless dying state they could only look to God's provision for rescue. Jesus says that Moses and the lifting up of the serpent on the pole pointed to Him, who would be lifted up on a Cross of wood to provide rescue for helpless and hopeless people like Nicodemus. We need a saviour and the wonderful news is that God is merciful towards sinners, as He is willing to save those who look to Him: "For God so loved the world that He gave us His son, so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (3:16). We need a miracle and God is able to do the miracle in our hearts by His Spirit sent by Jesus to give us new hearts: "born of the water and the Spirit" (3:5) referring to "I will sprinkle clean water on you and you shall be clean...and I will give you a new heart and a new spirit I will put in you" (Ezekiel 36:25-26).
Praise God Today: "Jesus My Only Hope"
- For Karen Clark: "Would appreciate your prayers on Friday for the family as my grandpa passed away a couple of days ago and Friday will be his funeral... Several members of the family are not saved or have turned away from their faith. I'm doing a eulogy so wisdom to say something appropriate while giving God glory".
- For those away on vacation presently to know a time of rest and refreshing physically and spiritually as they enjoy God's good gifts and time with Him.
- For the preparations for the Buckstone SU Holiday Club and for the 50 children signed up for God to be working in their hearts, readying them for all they will learn and experience about Jesus the King.
It's a joy in our church family to be celebrating the engagements and anticipating the weddings of many people in recent days. For the hebrew people the "Big Day' was actually the "Big Week". While attending a week of wedding festivities, Jesus learns that the hosts have failed to provide enough wine - an egregious and shameful failure of hospitality - and he is asked to help. There are two things to notice, firstly Jesus asks: "Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come" (2:4). This language ("the hour") often refers to the great events of salvation history which Jesus will enact in His death and resurrection. Jesus says it's not yet His time to prepare and host a great wedding banquet - He has not yet given His life to redeem His bride. That is the great celebration that we look forward to today, when we are together with Him who loved us forever. Secondly, Jesus acts: "Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now" (2:10). Jesus' first sign of turning some 180 gallons of water into wine (that's almost 4000 glasses of wine) is all about pointing to the future. The new wine was a symbol in the prophets of the new life that people could enjoy in God's coming kingdom. Jesus says that with Him that kingdom has arrived in part, even though the consummation of that kingdom awaits a still future hour. There is a new life to participate in, to celebrate and to enjoy with Him - but with Jesus He always saves the best until last!
- For the evangelistic and discipleship work taking place at the Edinburgh Sports Plus Camps this week.
- For those involved in summer missions at Keswick, Beach Missions, Faith Mission camps, and overseas (Latvia) at the moment.
- For the various workplace ministries and workers who are working for God and witnessing to Christ today.
The second most important question ever asked in human history (after: Is there any God out there?) is: what is He like? John begins his gospel echoing the book of Genesis, telling us about the God who made the world and everything...everyone in it. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...All things were made through him...in Him was life, and the life was the light of men" (1:1-4). We don't see it in the english but it says that the Word was face to face with God - so within God there is some sort of relationship between persons. So this almighty creator God is a being of love and intimacy. But then comes the great climax: "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory...no one has ever seen God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known" (1:14,18). God has become like us and has moved into our neighbourhood to introduce himself to us in a way we can understand. He has a face and a name - He is a personal God. You can see exactly who God is, what God is like, and learn what God thinks as you pay careful attention to Jesus. God is not a recluse, He wants to be known. God is not selfish, He lives to give Himself in relationship to His Son and to His creations. This is the God whom we are now sent to represent and point to as His people. Seek His face today and see His smile for you in Christ.
- For those who continue to deal with health struggles to know the comforting, sustaining and helping presence of God and His promises in their lives today.
- For the EIO outreach ministry as it enters into its fourth and final week, for energy and enthusiasm for the team, as well as continued interest among the international community.
- For the Chat65 preparations as they musicians rehearse, the catering plans are made, the building transformation takes place, the gospel talks and interviews are prepared, and people sign up to serve and help each night. Pray for God to do a new thing in our midst that raises His fame in our city.