Text: John 5:1-14
Description: What is mercy? Maybe it would be better if I ask, what does mercy look like to you? In Christian circles we often define mercy as when God withholds what we deserve. Webster’s defines mercy as “a compassion shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one’s power. To be lenient or to give compassionate treatment." When I say mercy what comes to your mind? Is mercy when we get off the hook, when we get another chance, when we get our way or could it be that mercy is not about us, but mercy is when God injects His character into our lives, into our world? Our text these last few weeks is overflowing with mercy. It has Jesus moving from an encounter with a Samaritan woman that led to the salvation of her entire city, to an open rebuke of the people of His own country of Galilee because they refused to believe without seeing signs, to the healing of the son of a royal official that led to the salvation of that official and his entire household to Jesus returning to Jerusalem for one of the feasts of the Jews. While Jesus was in Jerusalem He visited a place within the city, near the Sheep Gate called the Pool of Bethesda. Interestingly, Bethesda means “house of mercy”. I don’t believe that anything that God ever does or shows us is coincidental. He is careful with His steps, He orders not just ours but His so that those that are willing to see can see and those that are willing to hear can hear. I believe that every day we are surrounded by parables, events that God is in the middle of to make Himself known and that the Scriptures themselves are a literal allegory, meaning, I believe that the Bible is truth, every story happened exactly as it says they did and the Bible is a picture of who God is, what God desires and who we were created to be. So, when Jesus shows up at the “house of mercy” it is not by chance, it is for the purpose of revealing who mercy is and what mercy does. It’s important that we know how to define mercy because mercy is God’s character, it’s Jesus’ work and it’s our calling. This morning my prayer is that we will allow God to open our hearts to mercy, that we will stop defining it and ask Him to give us His definition and that we will see that if Jesus does it then it is merciful and if Jesus has done it for us then we must be willing to do it for others.
Text: John 5:8-15
Description: Last week we began discussing this passage focusing on the statement we often make, “God is in control”. One of the key verses we use in establishing this statement of God’s control is Romans 8:28. Those of you who hear me often know that I believe strongly that verse 28 should not ever be quoted without verse 29. Without verse 29 we get to define the good God does any way we desire. But when we combine verses 28 and 29 we discover that the good God is doing, the good that He strives to bring out of “all things” is that those saved by His grace would then be transformed into the image of Jesus. To simplify this, God uses every circumstance of our lives to lead us to grace and to make us like Jesus. Our salvation and transformation are the ultimate and eternal will of God and He goes to any and every length possible to bring them about. They are a dual work, we cannot be made like Jesus until we are saved but salvation itself does not transform us it simply puts us back on the wheel to be remade by the Potter. God is in control of making us like Jesus. Another favorite verse quoted in our declaration of God’s control over our lives is Jeremiah 29:11. This verse is like Romans 8:28 in that it is beautiful and declares the love, character and leadership of God, and out of context we can allow it to mean anything we want it to mean but in context it is very purposed and specific. Judah had disobeyed God, disregarded His calls to repentance, persecuted the prophets and then used God’s Word and Name to satisfy their own desires. God had been patient and merciful but then finally, after warning that continued disobedience would lead to judgment, Judah was defeated by Babylon and those who survived the siege were taken into captivity and exiled from their homeland. God had warned that this would happen and even told them that the captivity would be 70 years. Before God said, “I know the plans I have for you”, He had told Judah, that part of His plans, in response to their disobedience, to lead them to repentance and back to transformation, was defeat and exile. God is in control of convicting us of sin, saving us from sin and changing us, transforming us into the image of Jesus. This morning I want us to see that the effort of God, His work in and through our lives, is always about bringing glory to Jesus so that He can bring redemption to men. But this work often must turn over hard places in our hearts, reveal wrong places in our beliefs and even confront stubborn and selfish places in our religion, which is our representation of Him. I pray today that we will be open to the Holy Spirit and the Word of God and allow Him to reveal and remove anything in us that is not from Him so that He can begin changing everything in us until we are like Him.
Text: John 4:54-5:15
Description: What do you think when you hear the words, “God is in control”? I’m going to start out today by being totally honest, I don’t like the saying. To me, it’s become something we say when we don’t know what else to say. It’s not about faith as much as it is about resignation, it’s like we shrug our shoulders and say, “God is in control”. It’s like “everything happens for a reason” or “it must have been God’s will”, they are words we use to end conversations about situations we don’t like or understand. When we really think about it, these saying are not compassionate to the suffering, faith-filled to the wavering or loving to the lost; they don’t reach out and draw others in, they tend to shut down questions and push away doubters. Now, I don’t want to suggest that God is not “in control” but I want us to carefully examine what He’s in control of, what it means for Him to hold us in His hands and how our faith in Him flows from the realization that He has first put His faith in us. Last week we talked about expectations, how we sometimes expect of God more than we surrender to God. We are committed to what we believe He should do rather than being surrendered to the truth that He is love and His actions are always good. Today I want us to see that our expectations influence our beliefs, we believe in God according to what we expect from God. The difficulty is that if our expectations are man-made rather than God-breathed, then our beliefs will be more about who we want God to be than who God says He is. My prayer today is first and foremost that I won’t cause any of you to be offended, but that together, by the Holy Spirit’s help and the Word of God’s guidance, we will discover that God’s control is over His eternal plan for Jesus’ glory, our adoption and the world’s redemption. He holds our hearts tightly but our time loosely. Yes, He orders our steps but not like a micro-manager that must have things His way. He leads us through the valley of the shadow of death, He sets a table before us in the presence of our enemies, He fills our nets when they have been empty, He makes us lie down in green pastures and He leads us next to still waters because in everything He does He is doing the work of restoring our souls. God is in control of leading us to Jesus, saving us through Jesus and then using us to bring glory to Jesus. God is in control, today I hope we realize that we cannot and should not try to control God.
Text: John 4:43-54
Description: Have you ever felt like there was something in your way? An obstacle that was keeping you from getting to where you wanted to go or becoming what you wanted to be? Sometimes we are fully aware of the thing in the way and feel like we spend our lives crashing into it just to see if it will budge. Sometimes we are avoiding the thing in the way and we spend all our energy trying to get around it, not wanting to have to address that issue and hoping that we can get to where we need to be without having to deal with our obstacle. At other times, we can’t see the obstacle, we aren’t aware of what it is or where it is but we can feel that we need to move, we just don’t know how. These obstacles range from comical to heart-wrenching, from foolish to overwhelming, from real to perceived. An obstacle is anything that is in the way of where we need to go and what we need to be. Some of us sit here today and we face real obstacles, hindrances to the path that we believe that God has created us for and set us on. We might be identifying our obstacles as education, finances, health, grief, bad decisions of our past, incompatibility of our spouse, disengagement of our children, brokenness created or caused by others or even God’s work in our lives being different than we thought, hoped or prayed that it would be. Those are all real things and I don’t want to discount any of them, but what if the true obstacles, the actual things keeping us from knowing who God is, trusting what God says and going where God goes, are all wrapped up inside of us and not somehow binding us from the outside? What if the greatest test of our faith is the shattering of our expectations? What if the honor that God desires is found more in surrender to His heart than commitment to His work? What if we, what we want, what we think, what we believe and what we always have thought, are the obstacle? I pray today that we will move with Jesus from Samaria to Galilee and that we will let Him continue to search our hearts, offend our senses and possibly even rebuke our expectations so that He can teach us how to honor Him and build in us faith that doesn’t just believe but faith that obeys and follows Him.
Text: John 4:27-42
Description: Have you ever been afraid that you were going to miss it? I get calls from people every week that just want some assurance that they have not missed it, are not missing it or won’t miss it. For some reason, we have come to believe that the movements, intentions and desires of God are easy to overlook, that they flash for a moment so only those who are always paying attention get to see them or are so difficult to decipher that you could be staring at God’s will and not know it. David said, “The LORD is my Shepherd”. The job of the shepherd is to lead the sheep not to teach them how to get to the next pasture on their own, he watches closely to protect the flock from enemies that try to sneak in and to find and return members of the flock that wander away. It is not up to the sheep to figure out the way, that’s the shepherd’s job. The sheep are only supposed keep their eyes on the shepherd, follow him closely and listen to him carefully. The shepherd is not trying to raise up sheep that don’t need him, he’s working to raise up sheep that trust him, that depend upon him, that follow him and that know that he loves them and will lay down his life for them. This morning we are going to again contrast the woman at the well and the disciples, a woman who met Jesus and immediately left all she had to share His heart with others and a group of men who met Jesus and often pushed for Him to lead them where they wanted to go. Today I will contend that none of us will miss God’s will because He will always carefully and patiently make it known, but some of us will reject God’s will because we have not yet let go of our expectations of Him, His kingdom, ourselves or even the church. I pray that the Holy Spirit will remind us of the words and character of Jesus and show us that there is a significant difference between being unable to determine God’s will and being unwilling to walk in it.
Text: John 4:27-32
Description: Have you ever been afraid to ask a question? We’ve all heard the saying “there are no dumb questions” and yet, we are often afraid to ask. Sometimes we believe that we should already know, sometimes we are sure that everyone else knows, sometimes we just hope that we will figure it out before we have to ask. For some reason, we are quick to give answers but slow to ask questions. In today’s passage, we get to see the stark difference between two different people, the woman at the well who asked questions freely and the disciples who held their questions in. One person had her life changed and heart opened while the other group tried to simply keep things moving and lead Jesus to their assumed and desired destination. Questions create opportunity for change, they present a humility that is willing to learn and they create an atmosphere for transformation. Not every question has an answer but I believe that every question deserves discussion, every question can lead to conversation and largely it is conversation that opens our hearts and minds to redemption. The Scriptures are filled with people who were not afraid to ask questions and when they asked they didn’t simply get answers, they were introduced to the depths of God’s loving character. Whether it was Moses asking who he should tell the Israelites sent him, David asking God, ‘How Long’, Job asking questions out of the depths of his grief and pain, John the Baptist asking simply if Jesus was “the One” or the woman at the well asking how it was that Jesus, a Jew, asked for water from her, a Samaritan woman, each person that was willing to ask a question had an encounter with God. Today I don’t know if we will discover answers but I pray that we will surrender to not just the need for questions but the freedom to ask our questions. I pray that we will come to believe that God’s presence is not only a safe place for those who are sure but it is also the refuge for all those who are ready and willing to begin asking.
Text: John 4:19-26
Description: The voice of God has tremendous power. The creation account in Genesis 1 teaches us that “God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” Everything God made was made by His voice, He spoke and things that did not previously exist suddenly existed. And on the final day of creation, God did not simply speak man into existence, He had a conversation. The Father, the Son and the Spirit together, said “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness”. The creation of man wasn’t as simple as the creation of all the other things. God expressed His purpose and plan for man in the conversation that led to His creation, “let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” The Godhead discussed our creation, planned our creation and expressed purpose for our creation. We were created in, from and for conversation. Fast forward from Genesis 1 to John 4. Jesus had to go through Samaria, weary Himself to the point of thirst so that He could sit down at a well and have a conversation with a woman that was more weary in her spirit than He was in His body. Jesus’ request for water was an invitation to conversation but how did it turn into a teaching on worship? In one conversation Jesus confronted the culture of racial prejudice, disrupted this woman’s thinking about herself and others, revisited her rejection and offered her uncompromised acceptance—what does any of it have to do with worship? We hear the word worship and we immediately think of music, of the songs we sing together on Sunday’s and privately in our homes and cars. We think of worship as our experience with and response to the presence of God. Depending upon our background we can think of worship in many different forms but for us the definition and idea of worship has become our musical response to what God has done and our request for Him to do more. This morning as we close out this passage of Scripture I pray that we will see that everything that Jesus talked to this woman about is intertwined in worship. For her to be free to worship in Spirit and in truth, the culture of racial inequality would have to be exposed and dealt with, her incomplete understanding about herself, others around her and God’s nature and character would have to be disrupted and transformed, her rejection that had largely formed her identity would have to be revisited and her complete acceptance by God would have to be embraced. I pray that we will begin to see that worship is not when we sing to get God to move, it’s when we hear God speak and we lower our defenses and fears and we join Him in the conversation that we were created from and created for.
Text: John 4:19-26
Description: How does a request for water turn into a revelation of the Messiah? How does confronting culture become healing rejection? How does disrupting understanding open the door for establishing worship? How does Jesus lead an outcast of her community to become a trusted voice for eternity? Jesus told Zacchaeus that the Son of Man came to seek and save that which is lost. Seeking is all about knowledge and timing, knowledge of that which you seek and the proper timing of when what is being sought after can rightly be found. Jesus didn’t just happen to be thirsty when a woman with a water jug showed up, Jesus had to go through Samaria because the Father was drawing this woman to Jesus at the same time that He was sending Jesus to this woman. God is not just aware of what we go through, He is acquainted with our grief, He is in the midst of our trials and close at hand in our suffering. He is not watching over us He is walking with us, He is seeking not to find out where we are, but searching for the moments in which He can show us who He is and that He is now and has always been near. Today we get to see all the rejection of this woman’s life converge upon all the acceptance of God the Father. In a matter of minutes, she went from the object of her towns gossip to the first person entrusted with heaven’s greatest news. She went to the well a misfit and left a missionary, she came broken and left bold. This morning I pray that we will learn with the woman at the well that each of us has been created for worship and that we will discover that true worship begins with the revelation that we have always been wanted and then, it culminates when we become witnesses to the others that our Father wants.
Text: John 4:15-26
Description: Last week we saw how Jesus met the woman, at the well, in her brokenness. He was not there to expose her sins, but to reveal the broken places of her heart so that He could bring healing. He wanted her to know that her story mattered to Him. He wanted this woman, who had faced constant rejection, to know that she was known and loved by Him. That mattered to Him. Jesus knew her heart and when He told her to “go get your husband” He was not saying I need you to acknowledge how sinful you are; He was saying I need you to know how gracious I desire to be. When Jesus calls her out, He is calling out her brokenness, not her sinfulness. John 3:16 shows us God’s character and what we find out is that Jesus was not sent because of our sinfulness, but because of God’s great love which means that when Jesus came, He do not come to point out our sin, but to reveal God’s love. There is a difference. To see your sin and not know God’s love is to be condemned. To see God’s love and in it recognize our sin, is to have an opportunity for redemption. It is not about getting people to see their sin so that they can then see God, but about people seeing God and then recognizing their sin. Jesus came to this woman and told her to go get her husband, not to harm her, but to show her grace and mercy. He had a conversation with her so that she could come to know Him and know that she could trust Him with her story, her heart. This morning I pray that we would see that God cares about our stories, not just about our circumstances. And that we would see that our job is to reveal how good God is, not how wrong men are. We have a God who seeks after us. We are trying to get people to embrace God, when He is trying to embrace them. He seeks us out in the midst of everything. Circumstances do not change His character. God only reveals what He wants to heal and we cannot be redeemed unless we deal with what is hidden.
Text: John 4:10-26
Description: Last Sunday Kevin Flowers said, “Peace is a place where there is no confusion.” I’ve thought about that statement a lot this week. I think most of us want peace to be a place where there is no opposition, no dysfunction, no disagreement and no difficulty, but what if peace has more to do with what’s going on in us than what’s going on around us? What if peace’s presence or absence in our lives has nothing to do with our spouse, our children, our job, our debt, our health, our government or our culture, what if peace is completely centered on the condition of our heart and our confidence in the commitment of our Father? “Peace is a place where there is no confusion.” Today we are going to see that the conversation between Jesus and the woman at the well took a turn after He had promised that “whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” Up until that moment this woman had asked questions and made objections to everything Jesus had said. And then the conversation changed. In these next verses, we get to see why Jesus “had to” go through Samaria. He heard her questions and endured her objections, but now He was going to show her that He knew her heart and He was going to show her His. The purpose of conversation is not simply to hear and be heard, it is to connect, to go deeper than the surface, to open our hearts and to receive the heart of another. Jesus made Himself vulnerable to her so that she could learn that it was safe to become vulnerable to Him. This morning I pray that we will hear Jesus’ heart and that we will freely trust Him with ours, that we will discover along with the woman at the well, that the pathway to peace often requires that God lead us to revisit our pain, not to remind us of where we’ve gone wrong but to deliver us from the confusion that has been caused by rejection.