Week 4 | Day 5

Week 4 | Day 5

The Word and Incarnation

“He was in the world, and the world was created through Him, and yet the world did not recognize Him. (11) He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. (12) But to all who did receive Him, He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name, (13) who were born, not of natural descent, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God. (14) The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (15) (John testified concerning Him and exclaimed, "This was the One of whom I said, 'The One coming after me ranks ahead of me, because He existed before me.'") (16) Indeed, we have all received grace upon grace from His fullness, (17) for the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (18) No one has ever seen God. The One and Only Son, who is Himself God and is at the Father's side – He has revealed Him.” - John 1:10-18

Concept Summary – The God we can hug.

With the recent hurricanes and nature challenges, I have been so encouraged and proud of the response of our church members. They saw the devastations, the Spirit moved on their hearts, and great things followed. Some went down to the areas themselves and pitched in to help, others donated funds and resources to alleviate the suffering of our compatriots. From Puerto Rico to Texas, Jersey had an impact for Christ.

I wonder, though, if the people who made a difference really know why it happened. The verses above, especially verse 16, state that Jesus has revealed God to us. Problems that come up actually are His means to display what God has done with us! As God works His divine magic in our hearts, we change. We actually start thinking and acting in ways that God wants over time. Those who engaged their faith couldn’t disengage their faith; you see, they’d been changed. God’s grace has made a difference in them; they think like He does now.

Ahh, our wonderful God. William Cowper got it right when he penned “God works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform." Perhaps the most dramatic thing God does is wield our hearts to Him over time. We discover as we grow in Bible wisdom that He knows our frailty totally. Jesus can relate to us because He’s been in the trenches with us.

Yet the hopes we have in this life are based on the sure knowledge He is always present. We know and embrace the Father because Jesus has made Him known to us. We know and embrace the Holy Spirit because Jesus has sent Him to be our companion in this life. Jesus reveals God is not far off, but actually inside you and beside you as you read this!

I’m closing on 63 years old right now, and I can say Jesus has been my mainstay as I’ve faced my problems in life. I’ve been changed over time to see that really the only things that matter are the things that matter to Him. I challenge you to read verse 18 above and really chew on it. Hope and grace flourish in the Logos, and He offers His love to you today! If you do, you’ll find He really does all things well!

Week 4 | Day 4

Week 4 | Day 4

The Word and Incarnation

“He was in the world, and the world was created through Him, and yet the world did not recognize Him. (11) He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. (12) But to all who did receive Him, He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name, (13) who were born, not of natural descent, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God. (14) The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (15) (John testified concerning Him and exclaimed, "This was the One of whom I said, 'The One coming after me ranks ahead of me, because He existed before me.'") (16) Indeed, we have all received grace upon grace from His fullness, (17) for the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (18) No one has ever seen God. The One and Only Son, who is Himself God and is at the Father's side – He has revealed Him.” - John 1:10-18 

Concept Summary – The God we can hug.

In a courtroom, there are two kinds of evidence: direct and circumstantial. Circumstantial evidence is evidence that can be inferred from other facts. Like with the resurrection, it can be inferred that Christ rose from the dead because by golly they put a body in the tomb and it’s not there now! Circumstantial evidence isn’t very strong and can be challenged in the courtroom.

Ahh, but direct evidence is another story. Direct evidence includes things like eyewitness testimony, which is much surer to believe than any other kind. Mary Magdalene met the risen Christ and went straightaway to the disciples and told them. It kind of blew their minds, like when have you ever seen a dead man rise? They struggled to believe. Thomas even defiantly stated he would not believe unless he could put his finger in Jesus’ palms and side!

Then came that wonderful day seen in John 20:24-29, when Thomas got his direct evidence. Jesus stood before him and challenged him to put his fingers in His palms and in His side! Thomas didn’t need to do that, seeing Jesus before him he finally got it right when he exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!!”

In the verses above, we have John the Baptist’s direct testimony about the divinity of Jesus. Across the Bible, we have so much evidence supporting that Jesus is God in the flesh. Folks really only have 3 choices they can make about Him. He could be a crook, a madman or who He said He was: the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of all. 

If a crook or charlatan, He had the establishment of the day lined up to expose Him, and they couldn’t do it. Indeed, those sent to arrest Him couldn’t in John 7:46 because they exclaimed, “No man ever spoke like this!” No one could find fault or aberration in Him.

So my friends, that leaves the third option. He said He was God, the passage above says He is God and now it comes to you… What do you say about Jesus? Eternity rests on your answer!

Week 4 | Day 3

Week 4 | Day 3

The Word and Incarnation

“He was in the world, and the world was created through Him, and yet the world did not recognize Him. (11) He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. (12) But to all who did receive Him, He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name, (13) who were born, not of natural descent, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God. (14) The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (15) (John testified concerning Him and exclaimed, "This was the One of whom I said, 'The One coming after me ranks ahead of me, because He existed before me.'") (16) Indeed, we have all received grace upon grace from His fullness, (17) for the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (18) No one has ever seen God. The One and Only Son, who is Himself God and is at the Father's side – He has revealed Him.” - John 1:10-18 

Concept Summary – The God we can hug. 

You know, I kind of feel sorry for Jesus’s earthly brothers and sisters. Can you imagine growing up with literally a perfect brother in the family? His perfection must have been galling as it spotlighted their sinfulness. If you read the gospels closely, you’ll find as Jesus started His ministry they thought He’d finally gone nuts.  

In Mark 3:20-21, we see how they processed their big brother. I find it amazing, though, that even Mary, his mother, sought to have him restrained as you discover reading further in Mark 3:31-35. Funny how the world’s thinking creeps into our minds; even the best of us can get confused.

Ever have something similar happen to you? I accepted Christ while in the Navy, and when I came home on leave I excitedly shared what I’d discovered with my folks. I can still remember my father shaking his head and my mom patting my arm saying, “Don’t worry, it’s just a phase. You’ll grow out of it.”!! That was the first bucket of cold water thrown on me as I shared about Jesus. They so didn’t get it. 

Indeed, though, as time went on its good to discover Jesus’ family got the picture eventually. We see Mary and his brothers gathered in the upper room in Acts 1:14; it’s assumed they were part of the group on the day of Pentecost too!

We even have two books in the Bible that were written by His brothers. The book of James and Jude were written by Jesus’ brothers. Just read how they processed their Big Brother in those books. Jude 25 reads, "to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority before all time, now and forever. Amen." He finally had gotten his Big Brother right!

Have you discovered that the Jesus who was born in a stable is God incarnate yet? It’s a great day when you do. Then you, like James and Jude, will call Him Lord as well!

Week 4 | Day 2

Week 4 | Day 2

The Word and Incarnation

“He was in the world, and the world was created through Him, and yet the world did not recognize Him. (11) He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. (12) But to all who did receive Him, He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name, (13) who were born, not of natural descent, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God. (14) The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (15) (John testified concerning Him and exclaimed, "This was the One of whom I said, 'The One coming after me ranks ahead of me, because He existed before me.'") (16) Indeed, we have all received grace upon grace from His fullness, (17) for the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (18) No one has ever seen God. The One and Only Son, who is Himself God and is at the Father's side – He has revealed Him.” - John 1:10-18  

Concept Summary – The God we can hug.

In Acts 12:5-19, there is an amusing account of answered prayer where we learn Peter could relate to Christ’s not being recognized by those He came to save. To set the stage, the church is enduring another persecution, James the brother of John had been killed and Peter imprisoned, and frankly it didn’t look good for him.

The church then gathered and prayed for Peter. God responded; He sent an angel and sprung Peter from prison! He then went to Mary the mother of John Mark’s home and knocked on the door. Rhoda, who answered the door, got immediately entered into the word of God for eternity as a bit ditzy as she recognized Peter’s voice but dashed to tell others without letting him in. Poor Peter.

Christ is knocking on the doors of your heart too. You recognize His voice just as Rhoda did. Won’t you open the door and let Him in? You’ll be forever glad you did!

Ah, Rhoda, love the girl. Verses 10 and 11 above are so sad. Jesus had been reaching out to Israel through their entire history, yet when He came they didn’t recognize their Messiah. In like manner, He’s reaching out still today to all of us.

But praise God for verse 12! To those of us who do receive Him, we become the children of God, even to those who believe solely on His name. Let me unpack that a little for you. Skip over to John 3 where Jesus is talking with Nicodemus. Nic couldn’t get his mind around what it meant to be born again as we see in John 3:9-16. 

To get the idea across of what saving faith is, Jesus used the example from the Exodus. When Moses raised the bronze serpent up on a pole, all those who believed were healed by looking at it and believing. Same way with salvation, all who believe when viewing Christ on the cross are saved. It just takes simple faith.

Week 4 | Day 1

Week 4 | Day 1

The Word and Incarnation

“He was in the world, and the world was created through Him, and yet the world did not recognize Him. (11) He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. (12) But to all who did receive Him, He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name, (13) who were born, not of natural descent, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God. (14) The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (15) (John testified concerning Him and exclaimed, "This was the One of whom I said, 'The One coming after me ranks ahead of me, because He existed before me.'") (16) Indeed, we have all received grace upon grace from His fullness, (17) for the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (18) No one has ever seen God. The One and Only Son, who is Himself God and is at the Father's side – He has revealed Him.” - John 1:10-18 

Concept Summary – The God we can hug.

There are multiple accounts in the Bible that show the greatness of God’s love for people. Seeing people’s love of God isn’t quite so common. None show the intensity of love between people and God though, as dramatically as the account of Mary Magdalene encountering the risen Christ in the garden.  

Interesting that the very first person Jesus sought out after His resurrection was a grieving woman. Her heart was precious to Him, and the honor of being the first to discover Christ was alive was given to her. If you read John 20:11-18, you can see the account. Jesus reveals Himself to her by calling her name, and she shouts “Teacher!!” and bam. It’s bear hug time! 

MercyMe has a song called “I Can Only Imagine” which you really want to take the time to hear. It talks about the same thing, what happens when we discover Christ face to face. I have a feeling the most common reaction will be like Mary’s. When I see the One who loves me best I think a mutual bear hug is coming! I love the Father, I love the Spirit, but I’m so glad I can hug Jesus.

Again, to get the doctrinal flavor of the passage above you really ought to also read Hebrews 1 and 2. Those chapters put a big magnifying glass on the verses above. One of Jesus’ big roles is to make God real and known to us. Christmas is one of two great Christian holidays, but so many completely miss the significance by chasing gift-giving and partying. Taking Christ out of Christmas is missing the point completely. 

Yet, while man may be fickle, God’s love is always sure. The incarnation, or coming of Christ to be born to us on Earth, is like a diamond shining out God’s great love for us. His birth was just phase one of His journey to the cross to redeem us. The battle for man’s redemption entered the crucial phase with God invading Earth personally with the birth of Jesus Christ.

Interesting isn’t it? It says above that His own people didn’t recognize Him. People still today can gaze at the evidence of Christ and not see Him. But to those who do, and believe in His name for their salvation, they become children of God. Part of the best forever family, and the more we focus on knowing Jesus in real time the more we discover the wonder of knowing God.

Week 3 | Day 5

Week 3 | Day 5

The Word and John

“There was a man sent from God whose name was John. (7) He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that all might believe through him. (8) He was not the light, but he came to testify about the light. (9) The true light that gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” - John 1:6-9

“He must increase, but I must decrease." - John 3:30 

Concept Summary – The second best man who ever lived.

Got a little math insight for your consideration today. In America, according to the 2016 census, there are 326,000,000 Americans. Guess how many of that vast number of folks are veterans? Believe it or not all those people enjoy the blessings of America due to the service of just 21.3 million Veterans. If you do the math, veterans make up only 6% of our population, yet everything rests on them. They fail once, and it’s all over for the other 94%. Winston Churchill said it best when he said, “Never has so much been owed by so many to so few”.

But you know what? Speaking only from my experience, we in the sub community looked at our service as a priceless gift, a privilege even. You see, we knew what we were doing counted. We embraced the price we had to pay each patrol, knowing that our people were safe and our country secure due to our service. All folks who serve others know this truth, that putting our lives at risk for the betterment of others is really just another expression of love.

John the Baptist’s soul is on display in John 3:30 above. It is pure gold. His attitude always embraced his role in the plan of God. It didn’t matter to him that every day after Jesus started His ministry, John’s diminished proportionally. In fact, it was a source of joy to John the Baptist to see it happening. You can read the complete account of his assessment of Jesus in John 3:22-30.

You know, John the Baptist’s comment that He must increase and I must decrease applies to us as well! Every time you give to the church, you diminish and Christ’s work increases. Every time you suffer for associating with Christ’s values, you diminish, yet Christ’s impact increases. It’s a funny thing, but the scars we get as we diminish and Christ increases become our badges of honor, and truly the only things we cherish in our hearts. John the Baptist’s legacy can become ours as we embrace Christ serving others by serving Him.

Week 3 | Day 4

Week 3 | Day 4

The Word and John

“There was a man sent from God whose name was John. (7) He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that all might believe through him. (8) He was not the light, but he came to testify about the light. (9) The true light that gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” - John 1:6-9

“He must increase, but I must decrease." - John 3:30

Concept Summary – The second best man who ever lived.

There’s an old Christian challenge that goes like this: can God hold a man accountable for his sins if he grows up marooned on a desert island with no one ever telling him of Christ? There’s another story of a sailor falling overboard and waking up on a desert island too. As he looked around, the palm trees turned purple! The sand on the beach turned purple too! As he whirled around, he saw the ocean had turned purple! Then, he looked at himself and saw he was purple too! He cried out then, “Oh my gosh, I’ve been marooned!!” Ahh, but I digress.

Back to our challenge, can God hold a man accountable who never hears a Christian message? Look very closely at verse 9 above. Not only is it a thrilling truth that Jesus gives light to everyone, i.e., makes His appeal clear to all, but also it’s a chilling indictment that all are without excuse. God is shouting to us with His love all the time, in lots of ways. We can choose to reject Him, but we can never choose to ignore Him.

Growing up in a non-church-going family, I remember thinking about God the first time after viewing the Charlie Brown Christmas special. As Linus was reading about the Lord’s birth, I remember thinking about that. Later on as a young sailor, some Christians irritated me by talking all the time about Christ, so I stole one of their cartoon booklets. It was a Chick Publication called “This is your life!” and later that night I read it and bingo, God drew me to Himself! Lots of ways God worms into our souls.

In Romans 1:19-20, we see God uses nature sometimes to jumpstart our hearts in thinking about Him. But if you want to see God clearly, examine Jesus. He’s the true light; revealing God to us completely as we see in Hebrews 1:1-3. 

So what do you think about Jesus? What’s your response to His claims on your life? Our joy will become complete as we diminish and He ascends to His rightful throne in our lives. Verse 9 tells us He’s talking… are you listening?

Week 3 | Day 3

Week 3 | Day 3

The Word and John

“There was a man sent from God whose name was John. (7) He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that all might believe through him. (8) He was not the light, but he came to testify about the light. (9) The true light that gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” - John 1:6-9

“He must increase, but I must decrease." - John 3:30

Concept Summary – The second best man who ever lived.

It’s an old axiom in the military that tacticians win battles, but logisticians win wars. It’s not enough to get your people into the firefight, you also have to feed them, supply them with all the ammunitions and resources they need to “prosecute the war." That takes specialized people.

There are two tiers of people in the military: the officers and the enlisted men. My father and brothers went the officer route; I went the enlisted one. They learned the disciplines of the tactician and logistician, I learned how to take their orders and make them reality. Each of us had his own calling, and I like to think I made my officers look good. If they ever messed up, then my blood would forever haunt them. If I messed up I’d just meet the Lord!

If you read the Bible closely, you’ll find there’s lots of folks whose lives and roles were planned out for them before they came into the world. Isaac, Ishmael, Solomon, Josiah and even a foreign king, Cyrus were named by God before they were ever born.

In the verses above, we learn that John the Baptist was prepositioned by God to shake Israel’s soul before the coming of the Messiah, too. In Luke 3:2-6, you can even see when God’s trigger sparked John’s soul to put him on the path to his destiny. Essentially, he played the role of a witness, reminding Israel that her Messiah was coming and to get their hearts right before they met Him. You can even see what he said in Luke 3:3-6. It’s pretty much the same message all evangelists bring.

You might be surprised to learn that Jesus is still setting special people aside for His purposes. In Ephesians 4:11-12 you’ll find our pastors and teachers are actually gifted to us. Frankly my friend, if you read Psalm 136:16 closely you’ll find out He’s designed you for His purposes, too. You have a destiny and a role in His plan that only you can perform! No other joy will be as great as knowing you’re pleasing God as you serve others by serving Him!

Week 3 | Day 2

Week 3 | Day 2

The Word and John

“There was a man sent from God whose name was John. (7) He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that all might believe through him. (8) He was not the light, but he came to testify about the light. (9) The true light that gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” - John 1:6-9

“He must increase, but I must decrease." - John 3:30

Concept Summary – The second best man who ever lived.

I don’t know about your kitchen, but in mine there are plates and then there are plates. Up on the top shelf in a special place is the “good china." We only used them for family get-togethers or when a special friend was visiting. It wasn’t to impress them or anything; it was to show honor to them, to show them they were special to us.

From time to time I would cook (either order out or microwave) for my wife. One day, she called from work saying she’d be late and I jumped on the opportunity. Mashed potatoes, green beans, and hamburger cooked just the way she liked them. All on the good china with candles lit and her favorite music playing met her when she finally got home.

And what did she do? I thought I’d messed up when she started crying. The hug that followed next told me it testified truly to her. The food was good too!

John the Baptist was a class act, through and through. If you read the Bible descriptions of him, he comes across kind of scary. In Matthew 3:4, we get a description of him of wearing a camel hair garment with a leather girdle, whose diet was locusts and honey. He must have been an arresting sight.

His message to Israel was blunt. He offered a baptism for repentance for sins at the River Jordan, and he warned folks that God’s Messiah was coming, that if they knew what was good for them they’d get their hearts in order before He got there. He became the media sensation of his time; from the common soldier to Pharisaic rulers, John’s message galvanized the country. God had sent the good china in the form of His messenger.

So, John’s message rings out to us today too. God’s serious about how you respond to Him! Judgment is coming! Are you ready to meet your maker?

Week 3 | Day 1

Week 3 | Day 1

The Word and John

“There was a man sent from God whose name was John. (7) He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that all might believe through him. (8) He was not the light, but he came to testify about the light. (9) The true light that gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” - John 1:6-9   

“He must increase, but I must decrease." - John 3:30 

Concept Summary – The second best man who ever lived.

The press, God bless them, were just as vitriolic and rumor-mongering during the Civil War as they are today. Two great Union generals felt the wrath of the press, and it came to a head after the Battle of Shiloh. The press went after General Grant, spreading a rumor that the first day’s disaster was due to his drunkenness. Previously, they’d been after General Sherman and actually accused him of insanity. Grant had stood by Sherman during that time and gave him command of a division to show his faith in him.

Sherman rallied to his friends’ defense in spite of the fact that associating with Grant put his own career in danger. These are his words: “He stood by me when I was crazy and I stood by him when he was drunk; and now, sir, we stand by each other always.” Their friendship, forged through great trial, made them an unbreakable team. Together, this winning team went on for three more years to win the war for the Union.

While Jesus and John the Baptist were actually cousins in the flesh (you can read about them in Luke 2), there’s a giant chasm separating them. John the Baptist knew his role from God was to act as a witness for Jesus, to act as a messenger introducing and preparing Israel to meet their divine King. He reveals his heart in the words of John 3:30 above; he never forgot that it was his joy to promote his Lord at every opportunity. Even to the diminishing of his ministry. 

Further on in John 1, we can actually see John the Baptist promoting Christ to his followers. He sees Jesus approaching and tells Andrew and the apostle John, “Behold the Lamb of God!” They promptly left the Baptist and joined Christ, becoming part of His early team. The apostle John, who’s writing the account, even tells us it happened early in the morning.

Just as it was John the Baptist’s joy to introduce his followers to his King, we have the same opportunity this Christmas! When we gather with family and friends to celebrate the day, there’s no greater gift we can give them than to bring them all to “Behold the Lamb of God!” Start praying for God to work the soil of their hearts today!

 

Week 2 | Day 5

Week 2 | Day 5

The Word and Creation

“All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. (4) In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. (5) That light shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not overcome it.” - John 1:3-5  

Concept Summary – Our invisible God makes everything visible.     

One of the scariest things that’s ever happened to me occurred when I was on the USS Simon Bolivar during my one Pacific patrol. At the time, we were cruising at a moderate depth, and suddenly there was an electrical failure and the lights went out. I can’t describe how dark it became; it was total darkness. I literally couldn’t see my hand right in front of my face, and for a time I experienced what it must be like to be blind.

Then, in multiple places in every compartment, these battery driven lights called Battle Lanterns sparked to life and presto, we could respond to the causality as we were shortly back in business. Sub life is best described as long periods of boredom peppered with periods of intense fright!

Physicists describe light as both a small particle of energy and as a wave motion of energy at the same time. When something gains energy, it throws off photons in proportion to that energy. Turn an oven’s burner on sometime and watch it glow to redness kind of thing. Describing darkness is a totally different matter. You know, we scientists can describe it, but we’re really not sure what darkness is. Best description of darkness I’ve heard is that it’s the absence of light. 

Where light is absent, darkness prevails. Thankfully, our passage for today shows us that the light of Christ is eternal, nothing can ever turn it off!

You can read about Josiah in 2 Kings 22-23 and the discovery of the book of the law that was discovered in the remains of the old temple. Prior to its discovery, the Bible in Israel had been eradicated. Pogroms across time always try to stamp out God’s light, but they never succeed. Like a sand castle trying to stop the sea, satan’s attempts at attacking the light are always futile.

The darkness is actually attacking you, too. From time to time you’ll see the Bible attacked on CNN or its power and authenticity mocked. There is a deliberate smear campaign orchestrated by our enemies to attempt to separate us from God. The tyranny of our busyness, the lure of our lusts, and the pull of our culture all attempt to hinder Christ’s light from shining in our lives. 

Yet, when we believed in Jesus’ work to save us, we gained a divine helper. Within us is God Himself in the form of the Holy Spirit teaching us about Christ. We have Jesus Himself advocating for us in Heaven when we sin. We have confidence in the Father’s plan for our lives as well. Nothing can stop the light of God from shining in our hearts! Get close to Him today!

Week 2 | Day 4

Week 2 | Day 4

The Word and Creation

“All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. (4) In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. (5) That light shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not overcome it.” - John 1:3-5  

Concept Summary – Our invisible God makes everything visible.

Science fairs are almost completely dead in Ohio; it’s a rare school today that has them. Why? Because honestly, they are a ton of work! The major thing against you is inertia. You need to get the administration to get the gym scheduled, the fair is usually in February but the smart teacher gets it on the Calendar in August. So much work and praying to do!

Then you face the inertia of the kids. By encouraging and urging, sometimes with a lot of chocolate, you have to get them started and excited to do it. It usually took one week per teaching month of preparation to get them ready for the event. Oh, and during this time you’re showing the parents how to help their kids, too, dealing with teaching them how to help and not how to do the project for their kids. 

The darkness always pushes back. So many people don’t want the inconvenience. It’s a lot like swimming upstream against a strong current to pull these off successfully. But ahh, the results!  Science fair projects become a learning adventure to the kids. They find they actually can problem solve a project, and that prepares their minds for the real world to come. It benefits them in so many ways. Real science is teaching kids how to think, not how to memorize.

And then there’s the day of destiny, the science fair itself. After preparing the judges to be the kid’s cheerleaders, off they’d go and magic happens. Then, on the night of the fair you have your awards assembly. I can remember my most successful fair experience: about a thousand folks in the gym all hanging on my every word. Laughing at my jokes, cheering for the kids, it was awesome. Then, after it was over a lady sent her little boy over to me on the stage. He whispered, “Mr. Casner?” And I bent down, smiled and said “Yes?” To which he replied, “Your fly is down…”    

Ahh, science fairs. The darkness has almost prevailed against them, but with a good school you can still find them.

Today, our spotlight is focused on verse 5. Take a second and read it above again. There’s so much going on it that verse. Again, the knowledge of a little Greek is a good thing to get the understanding of John’s point. The word "light" is phaino, and it’s in the present tense. Meaning this: not only is Christ shining the light of life now, but He always has been, and always will be the light of God. Like a lighthouse in the mist, Jesus shines the light of life 24/7; all we need, all the time, across all of time.

Interesting enough, in Matthew 10:27, this light that shines in our souls should be what we shout from the rooftops. Jesus expects us to share the light He shares with us to others! Remember as the light transforms us in love, we get to share the wonder of Christ with others! The light never stops reflecting in our lives to our friends, families and culture.

So, the trick to discovering God is to embrace Christ. Everything we know about God comes from our relationship with Him.  Remember Jesus’ answer to Phillip in John 14:8-10? Jesus is the light of life, if you’ve seen Him you’ve seen the Father. Light and life are found in Him alone. Come to Christ and receive them both in full!

Week 2 | Day 3

Week 2 | Day 3

The Word and Creation

“All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. (4) In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. (5) That light shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not overcome it.” - John 1:3-5

Concept Summary – Our invisible God makes everything visible.     

If you want to have some real fun some time, get a baby and get in his/her face and smile at them. Usually they smile back and their eyes sparkle, unless you’re like me and the baby you pick up takes that moment to have a blowout, but that’s another story. Funny that everyone else’s eyes sparkled at my distress as the baby let me know he wasn’t happy!

On the opposite side of life, have you ever looked in the eyes of someone who’s died? I have. The light is out. Gone. Totally different experience. When the life leaves you can always tell. We say the person is deceased, but the reality is that they really are still alive but the life has left the body and is now somewhere else.

According to Jesus’ parable of Lazarus and the rich man, both guys died and both ended up in different places, Lazarus in paradise and the rich man in torment. You see, everyone is really an eternal being, the only difference between us is whether or not we accept Christ’s work on the cross to save us. Jesus is the source of all life and nothing can destroy His life in us.

Yesterday, we looked at verse 3 above. Today our focus will be on verse 4. They really should be read together, because John is drawing what we call in the sciences a Venn diagram. He’s comparing the differences and similarities between Jesus creating the physical universe in verse 3 with His spiritual creativeness in verse 4. 

Our Lord is the sole creator of both the physical and spiritual universes, yet each creative act is different in fundamental ways. Verse 4 is actually talking about Jesus having the answer for our hopeless condition (life) and offering it to all mankind (His life was the light of men). He’s the spiritual light, the answer to the chasm that exists between sinful man and our holy God. 

Another way to look at verse 4 is to see it in a larger explanation, namely the most famous verse in the Bible! In John 3:16 all the parts of verse 4 are here. God the Father sent Jesus, source of our salvation, that if we believe in Him, He bestows everlasting life. Jesus is life incarnate and has the Light (answer) that all men need.

So, how does this verse affect us? His life energizes us and He has the light we need. Salvation is in Christ alone, accept nothing else. Ha, notice our works aren’t mentioned at all? Nothing we do opens heaven’s door; only Jesus is the answer we need!

 

Week 2 | Day 2

Week 2 | Day 2

The Word and Creation

“All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. (4) In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. (5) That light shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not overcome it.” - John 1:3-5  

Concept Summary – Our invisible God makes everything visible.     

As a former Science teacher, from time to time the curriculum or kid’s questions would wander to evolution. What Christians sometimes forget is satan’s pattern is to introduce error with a touch of truth. The arguments go usually from “since this is true” then something else that’s wrong must be true too. He’s been pushing that route since suggesting margarine is butter.

With evolution, parts of the general theory are actually demonstrable and spot on. For example, natural selection is real. Life adapts to its surroundings. Here in Ohio, if you want an example think of coyotes. Before 1984 they weren’t here. Their range expanded into Ohio as the temperatures have gradually become a bit warmer. Adaptation is real. 

Where the theory of evolution hits a brick wall, though, is when it tries to explain the presence of life as a result of natural processes. The demonstrable 2nd law of Thermodynamics, or Entropy, shows that everything is going from order to disorder. Things aren’t getting better, everything decays. Life doesn’t come from non-life. Rudolf Virchow got a lot of things wrong, but he understood life processes when he said, “life comes from life.”  Huh, the chicken really did come first!

Take a moment and re-read John 1:3 above. In that verse, the apostle John documents that Jesus is the creator and source of everything. Paul parrots John when he breaks out in worship of Jesus in Romans 11:36. He states, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.” Perhaps the same Holy Spirit was whispering in their ears. Make no mistake; Jesus is the member of the Godhead who did the creating. 

Do you know it’s one of satan’s deals to masquerade as Creator? In 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10, he makes lying signs and false wonders in order to deceive the lost. But he can only mimic God. Only Jesus can truly create. The best way to perceive a counterfeit is to know the real thing well. All of reality is Jesus’ creation!

So how does this affect you? Pray to Him! Knowing Jesus is the creator of everything means He’s the ultimate power in the Universe! He can and wants to help us. Literally both in the Bible and today, He moves heaven and earth in response to our prayers. If you want to see this personally in your life, ask Him to replace your old “stony heart” with a new one sensitive to His will. You’ll be amazed; He’s creating wonders out of people all the time!

Week 2 | Day 1

Week 2 | Day 1

The Word and Creation

“All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created.  (4) In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.  (5) That light shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not overcome it.” - John 1:3-5  

Concept Summary – Our invisible God makes everything visible.

Got into a spirited (Spirited?) discussion in my Grow Group one day. I mentioned that 2 years before my wife was struck with her fatal illness we’d made out a Living Trust. In it, we both had it recorded that in the event of our individual deaths, it was our wish to be cremated. Wow, with the mention of cremation, the class fireworks started!

I discovered to my surprise that a section of the class didn’t understand how God has made us. Right now, we’re two parts eternal and one part recyclable. Our souls and spirit are eternal; they’re the part that God made that is essentially “us." Our bodies, however, are a one shot deal that once the soul/spirit leave them they essentially get recycled. As Pastor John Hays has taught, we’re getting a really great replacement soon!

I mentioned that being a sailor, those of us who get our bodies “consigned to the deep” aren’t lost forever. Neither are those soldiers who get blown up or those marines that somehow end up in Michigan. (Marines in my experience have a lousy sense of direction. Takes the Navy to get them anywhere.) Bodies are kind of irrelevant.

Like the verses say above, the part of us that’s eternal was crafted by Jesus Himself. Our lives come from His, He’s the source of all life!

 

Oh my there is so much in these verses! They start with displaying Jesus as the sole creator of everything created and end with a triumphant shout that nothing can hold His light back. In the middle is something wonderful, that if you can see the truth hidden there, it is a massively great thing. Jesus is the light of men, the source of our life and the revealer of God. 

Let me unpack that for you. Ever talk to an unsaved person about some truth from the Bible and have them respond, “I just don’t see it?” Unregenerate people have a dead human spirit. Without being born again, they really can’t perceive spiritual truths. When we believe our human spirit is born again and suddenly we can see God acting in our lives! His light shines in our lives and we live in His spotlight for all eternity from that point on. Blind once, seeing now!

So, light and life are found in Christ alone. Remember the verses above when you talk to Jesus in prayer. His light surrounds us and guides us ever closer to Himself as we walk with Him on this journey we call life. 

Week 1 | Day 5

Week 1 | Day 5

The Word and God

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (2) He was with God in the beginning.” - John 1:1-2 

Concept Summary – Our visible invisible God.

My wonderful wife used to read books about math for entertainment. Really. Do you know what the Goldbach Conjecture is? She did. She told me one time it’s a mathematical statement about number theory that says "Every even integer greater than 2 can be expressed as the sum of two primes" which has never been proven. To which I replied, “yes, dear.” 

She used to work on it. She’d be scribbling away in her notebook trying to come up with a proof or just to explore it a bit and I’d just wonder at her. She used to say things like "Math is beautiful" to which I’d respond “you are too!” and she’d stick her tongue out at me. As my degree is in the Earth Sciences, I understand numbers to a point, but she left me in the dust. It takes a very special type of person to explore deep math concepts.

Did you know discovering Jesus doesn’t just rest on your smarts? Yes, we do have to exercise faith and dive into reading the Bible, but it’s a bit more wonderful than that. You see, one of the reasons Christ had to die was that it allowed Him to send the Holy Spirit into our hearts. You can read about it in John 16:4-15, He’s called the Counselor or Spirit of Truth. The Spirit’s job? To make the scripture come alive to us. You try, He teaches, you understand, and then you respond.

 

There is an incredible truth in 1 Corinthians 2:10-16. While Jesus is the Word, God in human flesh, and the revealer of God, by ourselves we simply don’t get Him. It takes divine help to discover divine truths. The Holy Spirit’s job is to develop Christ’s truths in our minds. He convicts us of our bad behavior, He instructs us in righteous living, and He reveals divine truths to us. Want to get to know about Jesus? Ask God to have the Spirit craft the answers you need in your mind.

Understanding Jesus comes as we immerse ourselves in the Bible and the Spirit makes it work. Though, after you learn a big question comes: "So what?" How do I relate to what the Spirit has taught me? I always call the second step in growing in Christ the magic step. It’s basically this: Do you believe it? IF you do, then you change your life to be in tune with God’s design. IF you don’t, then it’s fluff. In one ear and out the other and does you no good. You can read about this process in James 1:22-25 if you wish, it’s quite real.

So, the Word came and we are equipped with divine help to understand Him. Do you really want to know Him? Jesus asked a man one time if he really wanted healed, and left the miracle up to him. Right now, Jesus is asking you the same question. As you try, He teaches, you understand and then you respond.

Week 1 | Day 4

Week 1 | Day 4

His message is grace from start to finish

Week 1 | Day 3

Week 1 | Day 3

The Word and God

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  (2) He was with God in the beginning.” - John 1:1-2 

Concept Summary – Our visible invisible God.

One of the frustrating things about serving in submarines is that it’s not called Silent Service for naught. Almost everything we did was classified, and frankly, we can’t tell people about it. Wait for a good Tom Clancy sub movie if you really want a glimpse of our fun. There’s another reason, though, that telling others about our adventures is difficult: because folks really can’t relate. The only ones who can are those who lived the life too. They can relate because they’ve been there. They’ve experienced the agonies and the triumphs too.

One of the most fantastic aspects of Christ that we learn from the verses above is that they relate Him to the dimension of time. We live in the eternal “now."  Right now, you’re older than when you first read this… and now you’re older still! Time rules us with a tight grip, always progressing, never stationary. (Unless you fall off a building or something. I hear folks see their whole lives flash by them as they fall… but I digress.)

Jesus exists outside of time is what the verses above describe. Time actually is one of His creations. As God, Jesus being eternal is one of the big lessons above. And the gospel of John starts out with His timelessness and then describes what happened when He stepped into time, for us.

 

There actually are a few places in the Bible where God has drawn back the curtain of eternity and given us glimpses of what They did before creation was ever created. One of those places is theologically called “the council before creation,” and it’s seen in Ephesians 1:3-6. We discover that we were the focus of God’s attention before anything physical was ever made. Wrap your mind around that one for a bit. 

The Father in that passage is introduced as the great planner. He’s behind the plan of redemption that Jesus followed to save us. It says that the Father predestined those of us who believe to be saved through Christ to Himself. All the agony that Jesus had to experience to satisfy the eternal wrath of God for our sins was planned out by the Father and joyfully embraced by the Son to save us before the world was ever made. That’s what they talked about "in the beginning."

This knowledge really helps me as I face the challenges of living for Jesus today. Every challenge we face, Jesus has the answers. You see, They’ve experienced the agonies and the triumphs too.  They’re timeless…

Week 1 | Day 2

Week 1 | Day 2

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  (2) He was with God in the beginning.” - John 1:1-2 

Week 1 | Day 1

Week 1 | Day 1

He’s alive within us now, and we live by faith in Him, growing to understand Him more every day. Our lives are adventures in grace as our love for Him grows in proportion to our understanding of Him who loves us best!