John 14:22-24, NIV
22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, "But, Lord, why do you
intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?" 23 Jesus
replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father
will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with
him. 24 He who does not love me will not obey my teaching.
These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the
Father who sent me."

December 22, 2011
Judas asked a good question. In order for Jesus to make himself known,
it requires belief and more than that, love. Love is the key, Judas. Jesus
won't make himself known to those who don't love him. Just as the
miracles of Jesus required faith on the part of the petitioner, so now
"seeing" Jesus in spirit requires a relationship of love. It's not that Jesus
did not want to reveal himself to the world, it's that those who do not
believe can not "see" him because seeing him in spirit requires a
commitment to faithful obedience.

Here's a followup question which Judas did not ask: Where does this
faith come from which makes seeing and believing possible? If we
can't see and obey Jesus without love, how is that first spark of
recognition ignited?

I'm thinking back to some of the stories in the Bible wherein individuals
responded to God's claim on their lives. At age seventy-five Abraham
heard a voice so compelling that he followed the instructions to leave
the homeland of his fathers and travel the rest of his life throughout the
length and breadth of what we know today as the country of Israel.

Moses turned aside to watch a burning bush that was not consumed;
out of that bush God spoke with him. In the tragic year that king Uzziah
died, Isaiah saw the Lord "high and lifted up with a train that filled the
temple"; in that dazzling light Isaiah volunteered to do whatever his
Lord asked of him.

Jonah recognized God's voice but ran off in the opposite direction until
his harrowing experience of being swallowed alive by some huge sea
creature; then he changed his tune, was grateful for God's "salvation"
and took his message of repentance and forgiveness of sins to the
people of Nineveh.

Disciples James and John simply responded in the affirmative when
Jesus said to them, "Follow me"; not so simple for them though, it
meant leaving their father and the fishing business. Although Timothy
had a Greek father he had been instructed in the Jewish holy Scriptures
from birth by his mother and grandmother; his life and words live on
today in the Christian Bible because he cast his lot with the apostle
Paul in spreading the love and teachings of Jesus throughout the
Gentile territories of the Roman Empire.

As in all those stories, faith begins whenever we open the door a little
and allow the presence of God to invade our space. Being sensitive
within our spirit to the concept of God, however we define God, seems
to be natural to many people across differing cultures and nationalities.
We want to believe in something better and greater than ourselves,
and open the door to that possibility.

Jesus instructed his disciples to keep on believing in him, and keep on
loving him, after his death. And to obey his teachings. He invites us to
do likewise and gives us the same promise--Our God in heaven will
come and make his home with us.


                                               John 14:25-26, NIV
25 "All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the
Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have
said to you."

December 23, 2011
Here is the teaching of Jesus regarding the Holy Spirit. Given by God
the Father, sent to earth in the name of Jesus the Son, to inhabit or
abide with, humans. A teacher of all things necessary for living a life
pleasing to God. A helper who will remind us, cause us to remember,
everything spoken by Jesus.

Both holy and spirit. Holy because the Counselor pertains to everything
that is God. And spirit because that's the best, maybe the only, way to
be Immanuel--God with us--for everyone, at all times and at the same

Anyone could predict this experiment will have its difficulties. It's not
that hard to believe there was a historical Jesus, and to read his words
and stories and marvel at his wisdom. Many people have no difficulty
believing this world didn't just happen, but had a grand mind, design
and/or purpose which sparked the big bang. These ideas are objective
and general in nature. But when you look at the concept of a Holy Spirit
who abides within us, all objectivity ends. This is personal, and requires
from us a response not only from our head but from our heart and gut.
If/When we keep the Holy Spirit at arms length, we have no Holy Spirit.
It's no wonder Jesus said, "If you love me, you will receive the Spirit."


                                                John 14:27, NIV
27 "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to
you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and
do not be afraid."

December 26, 2011
Once more, Jesus reiterates something he told his disciples many
times before--Don't be afraid. He offers peace instead of fear. As though
we could trade in our fears for peace! Peace is something Jesus
wanted to leave behind for them. A gift for anyone who will receive it.
Maybe in the mind of Jesus, peace was very much associated with
the Holy Spirit abiding within us.

Jesus knew the next dozen hours would be very difficult for these
disciples. Jesus was going to suffer terribly. For the disciples to watch
their beloved Teacher go through this perversion of justice, what could
be more horrible. I can't imagine what it would be like to stand by
helplessly while a loved one was mistreated, brutalized and killed.

Jesus knew death could not separate him from these loyal followers.
They had not yet grasped that idea. Peace is in the larger picture, it
overrides the troubling details. On the other side of this harrowing
ordeal, they would arrive at peace.

Belief is not once and done, it's a continuous process. We have to
believe in the peace of Jesus before we can possess it. Peace is
freedom from fear. It's the legacy of Jesus. Don't be afraid or daunted.
Don't get strangled by the details of any one moment. Here's the
bigger picture: I am going away; I am coming back for you.

We just passed the dark night of the winter solstice. That means we
in the Northeastern part of the United States are on another long,
cold journey toward spring. Each day will be a little longer, until
whoopee, the snow geese will migrate over our heads, the skunk
cabbage will emerge from the frozen ground and the spring bulbs
will awaken. Peace.


                                                 John 14:28-31, NIV
28 "You heard me say, 'I am going away and I am coming back to
you.' If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the
Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now
before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.
30 I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this
world is coming. He has no hold on me, 31 but the world must
learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father
has commanded me. Come now; let us leave."

December 27, 2011
I know you are not happy now, but maybe you could be just a little glad
for me because I'm going home to my Father. Look! This dark night
has a bright side. I'm going to be with my Father, the one who sent me.
When my task is complete, I'm going home. Be happy for me in that.

His Father was King of the Universe. But there was also a prince of
this world. Again the good vs. evil theme. The evil one had no power
over Jesus. The evil one did not take Jesus' life; Jesus gave his life
voluntarily. His life was a gift of love from birth to death.

Jesus links obedience with love. As long as these two are linked, there
can be no oppression. The end result is joy, as followers of Jesus
can attest to.

Chapter 14 is a "trust me" chapter and these are some of the main
          --I will come back some day and take you with me.
          --I and the Father are one; we will be with you always in the spirit.
          --I am the way, continue to live through me.
          --When I leave you for awhile you will continue to do what I did.
          --Ask, and I will do it.
          --Love me.
          --Obey my commands.
          --Know the Spirit living within you.
          --Peace I leave with you.
          --Don't be afraid. Trust me.

When these final instructions were complete, Jesus said one last time,
"Come now." Get up; let us leave. All this transpired at the table in the
upper room which we know as the Last Supper. And so, nourished by
the Passover meal and the conversation around the table, they walked
out into a strange and unfamiliar night. Chapters 15-17 also contain
final words for the disciples. I don't know where that took place?

Even though Jesus told the disciples all this, their faith was still shaken
when he left them. Some of them even went back to where they had
been before they met Jesus, to their old jobs as fishermen.

The idea of loving God may seem to be a natural reaction, or it may
sound bizarre. One old adage says, "Absence makes the heart grow
fonder"; another one suggests, "Out of sight, out of mind." In a lifetime
of religious experience, people move back and forth between similar
poles, between fondness and neglect.

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