Spirit of Life – John 15:26-16:15

THE HOLY SPIRIT is the life of God, given to us.

Have you ever had your world shaken when someone left your life? Maybe that person suddenly died, turned away from you, moved away, or divorced you and left you lonely.

Eleven sad disciples felt that way when Jesus told them He was leaving, and challenged them to remain in Him and in His love, even as they remained in a super-hostile world. Jesus didn’t promise His followers thorn-less roses, but He did promise to send help.

Question: “And tell us again just why would You abandon us and leave us in such a situation? We thought we’d be ruling the world with You from Jerusalem by now. Lord, how are we going to tell the world the good news about Your life and Your love if the world hates us?”
Answer: “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth…he will testify about me….It is better for you that I go away, because if I do not go, the Helper will not come to you. But if I do go away, then I will send him to you” (John 15:26, niv; John 16:7, gnt).

Question: “Yes, Lord, but…just how will this Helper You speak of help us down here in the middle of the battle?”

Answer: “He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you” (John 16:14).

Just as blood brings life-giving oxygen to various parts of our bodies, the Helper, the Holy Spirit, brings the words and life of God to our being. Earlier, Jesus said it this way: “Men can only reproduce human life, but the Holy Spirit gives new life from heaven” (John 3:6, tlb).

            Christ-followers have a Helper in a hostile world. The Helper brings a timely word and the precious life of God from heaven to us.


Life challenge: Ask the Helper to bring you new life from heaven today.

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Life Term – John 15:18-25

CHOOSE your terms.

Have you ever signed up for something on line and had them ask you to read the “conditions” and agree to abide by them? The website won’t let you advance unless you agree to their terms.

Did you know God has terms? He has terms for living, and we are studying life by looking through the lenses of Jesus and John.

“If you lived on the world’s terms, the world would love you as one of its own. But since I picked you to live on God’s terms and no longer on the world’s terms, the world is going to hate you” (John 15:19, msg).

How would you like to live on God’s terms? Do those terms appeal to you? What are they? They’re certainly not the world’s terms. Satan, who is called “the god of this world,” convinced Adam and Eve to live on the world’s terms. Every man for himself! Me first! Grab all you can! Go for the gusto! In the Lord’s wilderness temptation, the evil one tried to persuade Jesus to circumvent God’s terms for living. God’s terms can be condensed into one word: Love. To expand that a little: Every man for the other, and all for God.

In college I interviewed a wealthy, top-level executive of Tektronix, Inc. I asked him, “What makes free enterprise run, what is the fuel?” He smiled and said. “Selfishness.” Is it love that makes the world go ‘round? Yes and no. Selfishness, not love, motors the world system. But, love, not selfishness, made Jesus’ world go round.

Just before He left, Jesus said to those He loved, “Remain in me,” (John 15:1-8), “Remain in my love,” (9-17) and “Remain in the world.” (18-25) That third remain stuck in their throats a little. “He’s leaving. We’re staying—stranded here in this hateful, selfish world.”

Jesus wants His disciples in the world, but He doesn’t want world-think in them. The boat is supposed to be in the water, but when the water gets in the boat, we have problems. The Christian is supposed to be in the world, but when….

Here is where eternal life starts, right here, right now. The first part of a Christian’s eternal life begins on this planet. Would you like to live the first part of your eternity on God’s terms? It’s challenging: Live an others-first life in a me-first world.


Life challenge: Look for at least one chance today to live on God’s “you first” terms.


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Give Life, Get Joy – John 15:9-17


GIVE LOVE, give life, get joy.

When the eternal Son of God came to earth He had already decided to give His life in order to kill our death. Fast approaching the day of His death, Jesus urged His disciples to remain in His love by obeying His commandments. His commandments are summed up like this: “Love the Father and love one another just like I did.” The love He spoke of was agape love—undeserved, unconditional love.

The essence of agape love is putting another person’s well-being higher on your priority list than you put your own happiness. If putting God and others first is rated on a scale of 1-10, then dying in someone’s place is a 9.5, and dying in the place of someone who doesn’t deserve to be loved is a flat out 10. Jesus did that for me, and for you. Then He asked each of us to follow His example and give up our lives in order to help others be more loved and more alive.

There might be two major ways to give up your life for the sake of God or others. One way is all at once, in some form of love-based martyrdom—perhaps rescuing someone at the cost of your own life. The other way is to die one decision at a time, one loving action at time. (Like washing the dishes for Linda, when I’d rather watch a TV program.)

Jesus said that dying for others leads to great joy. I don’t think He felt much joy in Gethsemane, yet the Bible tells that “for the joy set before him he endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2). What joy was that? The joy of pleasing His Father. The joy of providing a way for people like you and me to enter heaven. In the same way, if I sacrifice something I want for the sake of God or others, I bring joy to the Lord—a joy that will boomerang and come back to me.

In John 15, 11 nlt, Jesus says, “I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” Notice how calls the joy His joy. There’s nothing sweeter than His joy becoming my joy, too. That joy is my strength. Laying down my life brings joy to Jesus, to Father God and to me. Eventually, that kind of joy will spill out and splash on everyone.


Life Challenge: Are you willing to watch today for a chance to give someone life and love? If so, expect joy.

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Living Limbs – John 15:1-8



My Grandpa Dixon had a farm with a cherry orchard and an apple orchard. It gave him pleasure to let his kids and grandkids take his tall stepladder and fill buckets with cherries and boxes with apples.

I remember helping Gramps cut off branches. We would prune the apple trees back every few years so they would produce bigger, tastier apples. I also remember cutting a limb off a fruitful cherry tree. The limb harbored a basketball-sized nest of caterpillars, gorging themselves on leaves.

Just recently, I thought of helping Grandpa Dixon prune those trees when I read John 15: “…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” (John 15:1a-2, nlt).

What does Jesus mean when He says “every branch of mine”? Was He talking about the 12 disciples and all who would claim to follow Him through the years? Or was He talking about individual branches or components of each of our lives, some of which may need to be pruned or cut off?

Exactly what kind of fruit is God the Gardener looking for in my life? It surely includes the fruit of the Spirit, detailed by Paul in his letter to the Galatians: “ …Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22b-23a, nlt). That list of character traits sounds a lot like the character of Jesus.

Grandpa expected apples from apple trees and cherries from cherry trees. God expects Christlikeness from followers of Christ. Nothing pleased Gramps more than a bumper crop of cherries and apples—and nothing pleases God more than a bumper crop of Christlikeness from His branches. Remembering that truth reminds me to stay connected to Christ, and to let God remove any caterpillar nests from my limbs. My true disciples produce bountiful harvests. This brings great glory to my Father (John 15:8, tlb).


Life Challenge: Is there anything God would like to prune back or cut off in your life? Let Him. The gain will be more than worth the pain.


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Leave Me Alone – John 14:15-31

COME ALIVE to the Spirit of God today.

“Leave me alone!” I said (or yelled) that a thousand times to my brother and three sisters when I was a kid.

“Don’t leave me alone!” I said that to my dad when I was seven, just as our family walked through the front gates of Disneyland into a giant cloud of strangers. “Stay close to me,” dad said. I obeyed because I didn’t want to be lost in the big D eternally. At that moment, the happiest place on earth looked pretty frightening to me.

When Jesus told His disciples He would be leaving them, they were frightened, too. “Stay close to Me and obey Me” Jesus said, “and I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you…at that moment you will know absolutely that I’m in my Father, and you’re in me, and I’m in you” (John 14:16-17, 20b, niv, msg).

Jesus told His disciples that after He rose from the dead and led the way into a new dimension of aliveness, He would be with them through the Holy Spirit. “Just as the Father was with me and within me through the Holy Spirit, I will be with you and within you through the Holy Spirit. I road tested this thing and it works very well. Mark my words, this is the life!”

What made this intimate union possible was the Lord’s death on the cross. In just a little while the world will no longer see me, but you’re going to see me because I am alive and you’re about to come alive (John 14:19, msg). Because He came alive after being dead, we can do the same.

So Jesus sent the Spirit to help us by showing us how to do it.


Life Challenge: Invite the Holy Spirit to help you come alive today. Make a mental note to request the same thing from Him at least two more times today.

a Some early manuscripts and is

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Heart Trouble – John 14:1-14


ASK JESUS to lead you to life.

Bearing down on the completion of His mission, Jesus spoke to His disciples about going to a special place that could only be reached a certain way. Thomas panicked.  “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” (John 14:5).

Imagine yourself in your car in a large, unfamiliar city at twilight. You’re following a city-dweller friend to his apartment, and you stay right on his tail because if you lose him, you’re lost. Just then your dad, sitting in the back seat of your car, has a heart attack. You know there is a hospital somewhere nearby, so you honk at your buddy and he pulls over. You yell, “I think Dad is having a heart attack! Show me the way to the hospital!” In that moment, your friend actually becomes “the way” to the hospital for you.

For those wanting to go to the special place Jesus talked about, He is not only the life of that place, He is the way to that place.

Thomas felt like Jesus ran a yellow light and left the disciples stranded at the intersection facing a red light. Fortunately for the disciples, Jesus pulled over and waited on the side of the road until the light changed. He waited because, like your friend from the city, He is the way to the place of life.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

If you prize life and pursue life, there is a place you want to reach and a way you need to go. Stay close to Jesus. If you do, you will always be moving toward the place where He shares eternal life with the Father. That place where you’re headed is the very essence of ultimate, indestructible aliveness. And when you finally arrive you’ll see that Jesus is not only the way to get there, He is also the Life you receive when you get there. He is both the journey and the destination. He is zoe life.


Life Question: Is there any area of your life where you need to follow Jesus more closely? How can you do that?

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The Night – John 13:18-38

GOD IS THERE in your darkest night.

So Judas left at once, going out into the night (John 13:30, nlt).

And what a night it was. For Jesus, the twelve, and especially for Judas. Hellish darkness eclipsed his soul that night.

Earlier in this book I described a dark Halloween night when I was 16. A couple of delinquent friends and I had loaded the back of a Toyota pickup with basketball sized pumpkins in various stages of rotting. We drove around town throwing them onto porches of innocent victims and watching them explode when they hit the deck.

At one house, five seconds after the bomb exploded, a burly man ran out the front door, screaming. I took off at a full sprint around his house and through his back yard. All of a sudden everything turned upside down. I ran full speed into a neck-high clothesline in the dark. I’m glad the police didn’t catch us. I can just see someone watching a police lineup and saying, “It was the guy with the red horizontal line on the front of his neck.” In retrospect, it’s only God’s grace that I didn’t break my neck.

Evil comes alive at night. Darkness conceals. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, approximately two-thirds (63.2 percent) of rapes and sexual assaults occur at night and 71 percent of motor vehicle thefts.

Yes, night conceals. But night also reveals.

The extent of Judas’s corruption would be revealed before the next sunrise. Peter, who had promised to stand with Jesus no matter what, would be revealed as a nocturnal braggart. On that night, and three days later, God’s heart would be revealed through Jesus like never before. Because God works the night shift, [i] the same darkness that concealed man’s evil revealed God’s love.

When he [Judas] had left, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is seen for who he is, and God seen for who he is in him” (John 13:31, msg). That night in the upper room in Gethsemane, God would be clearly revealed for who He was and is—Love. Jesus went to the cross because Jesus is love personified.


Life Question: What dark night have you experienced, physically or spiritually? In hindsight, can you see that God was at work in your darkness?


[i] My friend, the late Ron Mehl, wrote a wonderful book called, God Works the Night Shift.

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Achilles Heel


John 13:6-17

LET GOD SHOW YOU where you are vulnerable.

Standing at the threshold of His death, Jesus knelt and served His disciples, humbly washing their toes, soles, ankles, heels and…their Achilles tendons.

In Greek mythology, a woman named Thetis took her young son Achilles by the ankles and dipped him upside down in the magical River Styx. The water of the Styx gave him Superman-like invulnerability. But Thetis didn’t baptize Achilles completely. His heels remained dry. Achilles grew up to be a great warrior, but one day a poisonous arrow launched by an enemy hit him in his heel and killed him.

Twelve disciples with twenty-four heels were present in the upper room at the last supper. When the twelve saw Jesus do what a lowly servant normally did, the cat got their tongues. All except Peter, who put his foot in his mouth. “No way Lord.”

Jesus gave Peter no choice, so he asked Jesus to pour the whole bucket of water on his head. “You’ve already showered,” Jesus said, “when you listened to My teachings and let My words wash your mind. Just let Me get this smudge on your heel.”

Even Superman was vulnerable—to Kryptonite. And the Lord’s men were vulnerable, too. First, they had a tendency to not do what they knew they should do. “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (John 13:17). “Serve others,” Jesus said. They knew they should, but there is a vast Grand Canyon between knowing and doing. Second, they had a tendency to project their expectations onto God. “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me” (John 13:8).

There was some poisoned thinking in Peter’s mind. Indeed, in all of their minds. Moments before, they had been arguing about who would be vice president in the Lord’s cabinet. Surely God would do it their way. “God is pretty wild, but I think we can train Him and bring Him into line.” Not so! The real and living God is not a manageable deity.

Our great vulnerability, I believe, lies in knowing what is right but not doing it—or maybe in expecting God to do things the way we think He should. Either way, such wrong thoughts about God lead us into wrong and destructive paths in our lives.

You might call it our Achilles heel.


Life Question: What is your primary Achilles heel? Discuss it with God.

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Think – John 13:1-5

BE CAREFUL TO THINK like Jesus, not like Judas.

On the threshold of His arrest and crucifixion, Jesus shared a Passover supper with the twelve. During the course of that meal, He demonstrated the depth and longevity of His love for them by washing their feet in humble service. During supper the devil had already suggested to Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, that this was the night to carry out his plan to betray Jesus (John 13:2, tlb).

Judas sat on the devilish suggestion like a mother robin sits on an egg. That night in the Upper Room, Life and death dined together. Jesus and Judas both had plans to carry out; Jesus had a plan for giving life, and Judas had a plan for taking it away. If Judas were to write a book, it might be called The Devil Driven Life.

After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him (John 14:5). Jesus was foot-washing; Judas was back-stabbing. Jesus washed dusty, stinky “world-think” from the feet of His disciples. I wonder if He scrubbed Judas extra hard?

What an amazing scene! The Creator washing the feet of His creation. What glory! What majesty! When did I get immunized to the shocking beauty of divine redemption?

I asked on Facebook what my friends thought of when they heard the words “Jesus and Judas,” and received a number of interesting answers. Good and bad. Sweet and sour. Life and death. Light and dark. Lover and deceiver. Grace and greed. Smart and dumber.

This account brings so many questions to my mind. When did Judas start thinking wrong? When did he start living wrong? Did he repent before he committed suicide? And then this question: Do I ever think like Judas? A lot or a little?

In response to my Jesus and Judas question, my friend Nita answered, “I think of the fight within each of us. I want to be more of Jesus, less of Judas.” Me too, because how you think determines how you live and how you die.


Life Challenge: Jesus and Judas demonstrated grace and greed. Monitor your thoughts today. Are you thinking like Jesus or Judas?

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I’m back!!!

My little poem:

I’ve been hacked,
But now I’m back,
Back on track,

Watch for a fresh new blog TOMORROW!

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