Random Ramblings: December 31, 2016

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Last day of the year; New Year’s Eve is tonight… how quickly the years fly by!

I was thinking the other day that it’s amazing how small things appear once they are over like, say… Christmas. A week ago there were things that seemed so important, and by Tuesday the whole thing seemed ho-hum. There was so much build up, so much hype, so critical that everything turn out perfect, and once it’s over, it’s just a mess to clean up. Oh yes, we place a great deal of import on all of the things that really aren’t that important.

Can the same be true of a year? Can the same be true of a life?

I’ll have to get back to you on that!

What I can be sure of is that a new year is about to begin, a blank canvass ready to be painted; it may turn out well, it may not. Yet what is really of importance is probably the one thing we aren’t thinking about on this occasion and that isn’t where we’re going tonight or tomorrow or what’s for dinner or what to do for a hangover… it’s where are we going with Jesus. Long after our annual celebrations have been forgotten, our relationship with Him will have benefits and consequences that are eternal; I hope we don’t ever forget that, even for a moment.

Here’s wishing you a very happy and blessed New Year, one filled with the hope that only comes from Jesus Christ, one that is fruitful and a treasure for all of our hearts as we place ourselves in the bounds of His everlasting love.

 

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“In Between” Week

I hope everyone had a blessed Christmas, I sure did.

Thank you to everyone who has sent holiday greetings, I really appreciate all of them, and I am reminded how lucky I am to have the most awesome readers on WordPress; Thank you!

I find myself taking a little time off from the computer, emails, texts… It’s a nice little break to relax and attend to a few other things around the house, so I hope you’ll forgive me not posting much this week. I’ll be running a Photo of the Week later today, and I’ll pick up posting with a Random Rambling on Saturday.

In the meantime, I’m hoping everyone has a wonderful week, rich in the blessings of Christ and loved ones.

“I Am He”

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John 18:1-11

This text is not actually one of the seven “I Am” statements of John’s Gospel, but it does make an interesting study nonetheless. It takes place in the Garden of Gethsemane after the Last Supper at the time when Jesus was arrested. In short, Jesus and the remaining disciples had gone to the Garden to pray when Judas came to them with a detachment of troops to arrest Jesus. It is Jesus‟ response to their arrival that contains the statement we will look at today.

1: Here we set the scene: they left the upper room and crossed the Kidron Valley, which is more of a ravine than a valley, with a creek that runs through it separating the Temple Mount from the Mount of Olives. It is an area where there are many olive trees, and it is one of these groves that they entered, one known to us as the “Garden of Gethsemane.”

2-3: Judas leads a group into the garden to arrest Jesus; but what kind of group was this? There was a detachment of troops and officials from the Temple. First, the troops: The NIV says a “detachment” of troops, taken from the Greek word speira which is the word for “cohort”. A cohort of troops means 1/10 of a Roman Legion, or a detachment of 600 Romans soldiers. While this seems amazing, the Romans were not people who liked to fight fair battles, and could be consistent with that policy. An even more interesting question arises if this is true: How involved were the Romans in the plot to kill Jesus? The group of “officials” is most likely Temple police, armed as well. One thing seems to emerge early on in this story; the arresting officials seem more worried about their safety than Jesus is about His.

4-6: Jesus makes no attempt to hide from this force, but rather speaks first, asking who they are after… as if He didn’t already know that. Notice here who is in command of the situation: Jesus, not the military. Note also that John makes no reference to Judas kissing Jesus or any of that sort of thing, although His proximity to Jesus is noted. Rather John portrays the command of Jesus, which is entirely consistent with John’s overall demonstration of the spiritual authority of Jesus throughout his Gospel. When the men respond that they are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus relies: “I am he”. (Literally in the Greek, “I am”. In so doing, we have the Son of God stating His real name: I AM.

The result of this statement is dramatic: hundreds of armed men, including some of the best military in the world fall to the ground. This is what happens when the force of men (and demons) comes into direct attack against the authority of God.

7-9: In spite of what has just happened, Jesus is determined to be arrested. His concern is not for His own escape, but for the safety of His disciples, which makes perfect sense considering the role that God had planned for them in the coming weeks and years.

10-11: Gotta love Peter! In his brashness, he nearly fouls Jesus’ arrest, but Jesus still in command of the situation, stills His follower and is taken into custody so that He might do his Father’s will.

My Christmas Wish

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Merry Christmas to each and every one of you who drop in and read this blog from time to time.

May God richly bless you and your loved ones today, and every day throughout the coming year as you serve His will in your lives.

May His work in you be great, and His work through you be greater, and may the day come when you will hear Him say to you:

“Well done good and faithful servant.”

The True Vine

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John 15:1-17

In this section Jesus uses the analogy of a vine. In those times, wine making was a hugely important undertaking; one that most people would know something about. It involves a great deal of pruning in order to produce a crop of grapes, rather than a crop of branches, as the vine tends to grab territory. By pruning the branches, the vine will produce much more fruit. This analogy contains the following elements:

Element Vineyard Function Represents Function to the Christian
Vine Give life to the branches Jesus Brings and sustains life to disciples
Branches Bearing fruit Jesus’ disciples Carry on the ministry of Jesus by bearing His love
Gardener Prunes the branches to encourage fruit growth God the Father Judges and cleanses the community of believers

 

1-4: Jesus sets forth His analogy in this section. He indicates that the Father will do the pruning so that branches that bear no fruit will be eliminated and those that do bear fruit will bear even more. All of this is contingent on the branches remaining in the vine; Jesus. Being Jesus’ disciple requires that we remain in Him and that we grow in Him, otherwise we will be cut off.

5-8: This paragraph speaks to the necessity of spiritual growth for the Christian. We cannot bear fruit for Christ if we are apart from Him. Anyone who has had the experience of neglecting their relationship with Christ can tell you that nothing seemed to go right for them during this process. Trying to live apart from Christ, or at least neglecting the need to grow in Him results in all kinds of problems; marriage problems, personal problems, family problems and so on… It is as though we are branches that are cut off from the main vine; we just wither. However if we remain in Him, He will sustain us and answer our prayers giving us even more growth.

9-14: Jesus now tells us how to remain in Him: obey His commands! Think about it, how can you claim to love Jesus and follow Him if you neglect or disregard His commands? His greatest commend is that we love one another as He loved us. Remember that His love was not about His feelings, but was expressed in service and sacrifice. Do we serve and sacrifice for one another? The result of this will be joy, not heavy obligation.

15-17: In this fascinating passage, Jesus tells us that as His disciples, we move on from just being His servant to becoming His friend. This is because a servant just serves, but when we grow into discipleship we have learned all that He has to teach us; we now would know the Master’s business. Thus, we have graduated from the status of a mere servant to a “friend”. Of course the question is: Have we done enough growing yet? For most of us the answer would be that we still have a long way to go: Remain in Him and love one another!

A New Covenant

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Jeremiah 31:31-37

Jeremiah has set out a picture of trouble ahead. He has cited curse after curse from the Old Covenant that God will invoke against Israel and Judah because of their unbelief that resulted in broken commands. In chapters 30-33 Jeremiah tells of a new age that would follow; hope for the future after the disaster of the present. We pick up the story in 30:31 where he tells of the new covenant that God has planned for His people.

God had been a husband to Israel, and Israel had been unfaithful to God; shattering their covenant obligations. God’s people would be newly united under a new and different covenant; one in which His laws would be written not on tablets of stone, but upon their very hearts. They would be moved not by outward regulations, but instead by inward motivations to do right by God. They would come into relationship with God not by accident of birth, but by a desire to be His people. These would come to know Him because He had forgiven their sins, as opposed to those in the past who had only known of Him. They would not be taught about God, for they would know God in relationship.

Beginning with verse 35, we see that the very God who has established the laws of nature would be as reliable in keeping His promises as are those natural laws of His creation. God would remain faithful to the “descendants of Israel” just as surely as the sun will shine. The only question that remains is: Who are those descendants?

New Testament parallels

Jesus, in Matthew 21:43-44 told the Jews that the kingdom would be taken away from them for their unbelief. Paul, in Galatians 6:16 refers to the church as “the Israel of God” and Peter in 1 Peter 2:9 “…a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession”.

Hebrews 8-10 deals with the Apostolic Doctrine of Two Covenants. Chapter 8 in particular is interesting for our study today. Consider 8:6 ff. Here we see our Jeremiah passage quoted (Heb. 8:8-12). The author’s comments are instructive: The New Covenant is superior to the old and founded on better promises. (8:6) Something was “wrong” with the Old Covenant (8:7) God found fault with the people and foretold of a new covenant (8:7) Of course the thing wrong with the Old Covenant was that the people did not keep it. The Old Covenant is “obsolete” (8:13 and will soon disappear. In truth, it disappeared in less than a decade (70 AD) after Hebrews was written, and God’s promise for redemption was fulfilled.