John 13: A Glimpse into the Savior’s Heart and Mind

JUDIE PUCKETT|GUEST “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God, and was going back to God, rose from supper” (John 13:3-4a). Astronomy has always fascinated me. I remember being in elementary school when the mobile planetarium visited our class. We would sit in the dark on the floor and gaze up at the night sky, full of brilliant stars, trying to identify different constellations and distant planets. Still today, I will get up at 3:00 a.m., wrap up in lots of blankets, and venture outside to watch a winter meteor shower or catch a glimpse of a solar phenomenon. While all of these wonders always exist in our galaxy, there are only certain times of the year and specific times of the night when we actually get a glimpse of the magnificent. In John 13, the heart and mind of the Magnificent One can be glimpsed. It is a rare treasure when the Holy Spirit allows us to peek into the thoughts of our Savior. Jesus and his disciples are gathered for their last meal together before our Messiah goes to the cross. John tells us that Jesus knows, “…his hour has come to depart out of this world….” Let’s not pass too quickly over this phrase. Jesus is about to be betrayed by a dear friend, abandoned by all His followers, suffer under the hands of ruthless enemies, die a death He doesn’t deserve and be forsaken by His Father. This is a grave moment of deep and isolating sorrow. And yet, despite His own imminent suffering, the heart of Jesus is to move towards, and not away, from His disciples. He prepares to serve them by humbling Himself to the place of the lowest servant and washing their feet. “…Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper…poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet….” Here is where we catch a beautiful glimpse into the heart and mind of our Suffering Servant. The Spirit shows us His thoughts, “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands….” In that moment, Jesus remembers God’s sovereignty. In His suffering and sorrow, God’s control over every detail and facet of creation was at the forefront of His mind. What a reminder for us! Wherever you are today, whether in the midst of broken relationships, deep grief, overwhelming anxiety or an apathy that seems paralyzing, remember God is perfectly sovereign. There is not one tiny detail of your life over which God is not ruling. Every single day of your life has been written in His book before even one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16). Like Jesus, it is good for us to remember our God is the uncontested King. Remember who He is...

John 13: A Glimpse into the Savior’s Heart and Mind2022-05-09T01:06:17+00:00

John 16: From Sorrow To Joy

PEY CHU|GUEST I am a huge fan of modern medicine. My first three children were born in North Carolina with the marvelously numbing help of an epidural. Sure, I felt uncomfortable but I did not feel the excruciating agony of childbirth. This was not the case for baby number four. He was born in East Asia where the epidural was not often administered and so, it did not take. I did not know that birthing a baby was actually supposed to be so painful. At one point, I was so convinced that I was dying in childbirth that I tearfully looked into my husband’s eyes and apologized for dying and leaving him a widower to care for three, possibly four, children. From Sorrow to Joy In his farewell address to his disciples, Jesus compares his impending earthly departure with a woman’s sorrow in labor. This metaphor would not have been a new one to those listening to Jesus. It was used in Old Testament biblical literature to allude to “the birth pains of the Messiah refer[ing] to a period of terrible trouble that must precede the consummation.”Jesus uses this imagery to show his disciples that they were at that point. The misery of Christ’s death would be countered with the bliss of Christ’s resurrection. In the Upper Room Discourse, Jesus has been preparing his disciples for what was about to come. As he looked ahead to his own death, Jesus tells them in John 16 that soon they would not see him. Their sorrow at his departure would be like the pains of childbirth. But their sorrow would not be the end; their sorrow would turn to joy. The intense agony of labor (and their sorrow) would be followed by inexpressible joy just as a woman “no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world” (John 16:21). Jesus follows with, “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:23).

John 16: From Sorrow To Joy2022-05-04T00:26:24+00:00

A Better Love Song: Suffering and God’s Great Love for Us

BARBARANNE KELLY | CONTRIBUTOR “He loves me. . . he loves me not. He loves me. . . he loves me not” Did you ever play this childhood game? Plucking the petals from a daisy to determine the feelings of a childish sweetheart, the outcome dependent upon whether the flower had an even or odd number of petals. Silly, right? What does the number of petals on any given flower have to do with the intentions of the heart? And yet, is this the narrative that plays in your mind when suffering comes? Do you pluck from the circumstances sent by our heavenly Father to determine whether he loves you? Some circumstances feel loving, others don’t. When he makes you lie down in green pastures and leads you beside still waters (Ps. 23:2), do you sing, “he loves me!”? When he calls you to walk through the valley of the shadow of death (Ps. 23:4), does your heart whisper, “he loves me not”? Suffering forces us to face what we truly believe. Do we believe that God loves us and that he is working all things—even hard things—for our good? When trials come—and they will: disaster, disease, depression, death—which narrative will be our default? When faced with pain, what is the first thought, and then the next, and the next, that enters our minds?

A Better Love Song: Suffering and God’s Great Love for Us2022-05-04T00:31:59+00:00

John 14: A Place for Us

What comes to mind when you think about “home”? For some of us, we might think of the place we grew up— maybe the comfort of our parent’s living room or a grandparent's house. Maybe you think of your home now. Some of us may think of a quiet place of refuge, while others may think of the pitter patter of little feet and the clatter of puppy dog paws. Maybe your home is more empty than you wish. Or maybe your home doesn’t feel like home at all. Whatever your thoughts are of “home,” it is bound to illicit some powerful emotions. Home is so significant that we can trace its origins all the way back to the beginning of creation. God created a “home” for us in the Garden of Eden before He even created Adam and Eve, so I think it stands to reason that home is important to God. It is the place He created for us so that we could dwell in His presence. As much as I wonder what the Garden of Eden was like, I’m often reminded, it is the very place where everything fell apart— the infamous place where Adam and Eve disobeyed God and were banished forever. Fast forward several thousand years later to John 14 and Jesus is preparing the disciples’ hearts for His departure. They have spent roughly three years together doing ministry. The disciples have given up everything to follow Jesus. They have left their families, their jobs, and their homes to be with Him. They have seen Him do miracle after miracle. They have listened for hours on end to Him proclaim that He is indeed the Messiah. And then He tells them he is leaving, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms.”

John 14: A Place for Us2022-05-04T00:36:23+00:00

John 14: Our Heavenly Home

SHARON ROCKWELL|GUEST A favorite in my book collection is one that has no words at all. Artist John S. Goodall’s Above and Below Stairs is a series of water-colored paintings portraying the lives of the privileged in England from the Middle Ages to the early 1900’s. The book must be held horizontally. Each picture covers two full pages, separated by a half page which meshes into the original painting, but when turned, changes the scene from what was happening to the elite to what was happening to the servants and working people in the same time period. The “upstairs” may show a lovely formal banquet, but when covered with the half page, the picture changes to depict the cooks and servants working “below the stairs.” Things have not changed much over the years. There are still some people who are born into luxury. They may live in massive houses with never a financial worry other than how to spend their money. Then there are those who live in modest homes and who sweat and toil to put food on the table and pay the mortgage. Finally, there are people who seem to encounter one significant set-back after another to the point where they wonder how much more they can take. These we may find in a homeless shelter, wondering where their next meal will come from.

John 14: Our Heavenly Home2022-05-04T00:37:49+00:00

John 13: A Glimpse Into the Savior’s Heart and Mind

JUDIE PUCKETT | GUEST “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God, and was going back to God, rose from supper” (John 13:3-4a). Astronomy has always fascinated me. I remember being in elementary school when the mobile planetarium visited our class. We would sit in the dark on the floor and gaze up at the night sky, full of brilliant stars, trying to identify different constellations and distant planets. Still today, I will get up at 3:00 a.m., wrap up in lots of blankets, and venture outside to watch a winter meteor shower or catch a glimpse of a solar phenomenon. While all of these wonders always exist in our galaxy, there are only certain times of the year and specific times of the night when we actually get a glimpse of the magnificent. In John 13, the heart and mind of the Magnificent One can be glimpsed. It is a rare treasure when the Holy Spirit allows us to peek into the thoughts of our Savior. Jesus and his disciples are gathered for their last meal together before our Messiah goes to the cross. John tells us that Jesus knows, “…his hour has come to depart out of this world….” Let’s not pass too quickly over this phrase. Jesus is about to be betrayed by a dear friend, abandoned by all His followers, suffer under the hands of ruthless enemies, die a death He doesn’t deserve and be forsaken by His Father. This is a grave moment of deep and isolating sorrow.

John 13: A Glimpse Into the Savior’s Heart and Mind2022-05-04T00:44:21+00:00

Letting Go of My Mother and Friend

PATSY KUIPERS|GUEST God blessed me with the gift of a godly mother, a blessing that would impact my life in innumerable ways over the six decades we shared. Raised as an only child after my baby sister passed away, my bond with Mom was strong and multi-faceted. She could be a firm disciplinarian, but she was also my best friend and closest confidant. When my 39-year-old husband, Ray, passed away suddenly, Mom and Dad moved to Georgia to help me and my then 7- and 10-year-old daughters navigate life without our beloved husband and father. In the ensuing 24 years, my daughters, son-in-law, and three grandchildren also benefitted from her selfless, unconditional love and unwavering faith. I couldn’t imagine life without her. As a child, I would sometimes hope we’d die together in an accident of some sort. Little did I know then that a day would come when I’d sit by her hospital bed and plead with the Lord to take her Home. But it did. Role Reversal Unlike my husband’s sudden, unexpected loss, I lost Mom bit by bit over the last few years of her life. Tiny but determined, she continued to take care of her home and loved ones even as arthritis and osteoporosis took a greater and greater toll on her physically. Then came some red-flag moments signaling a decline in her mental abilities— her request for help balancing her checkbook even though she’d worked in banking for years, the inability to successfully bake a cake she’d made countless times over 50 years. Those moments alarmed and saddened me. Gradually, our roles shifted as I assumed more caregiving activities. Mom would often tell others, “I don’t know what I’d do without Patsy. She’s the mother now.” Or she’d tell me, “Thank you for your help. I can’t ever repay you.” I’d remind her, every time, of the years she’d invested in my children and me, lavishing so much love and care on us, and that if we were keeping accounts, I’d be the one forever in her debt. Bound by love, we knew there was no record-keeping between us. Yet, there was a growing sense of sorrow as we experienced our changing roles and limits on what we could do together...

Letting Go of My Mother and Friend2022-05-04T23:24:06+00:00

Embracing Diversity in the Body of Christ

JESSICA ROAN|GUEST One of my favorite hobbies is hiking. The cool mountain air, the refreshing scent of pine, the sound of rushing water from a mountain stream, the exhilaration of reaching the summit—nothing is quite like it. This year, with so many activities shut down, our family even tried our hands (or feet) at winter hiking and found it to be a surprisingly peaceful way to experience God’s creation. This spring, however, I was introduced to another new hiking experience. After a lifetime of hiking in the Rockies and Yellowstone, I had an opportunity to hike in a new environment, the desert. I’ll admit, I was somewhat biased. After all, while the mountains were equally as beautiful and rugged, they were speckled not with pine trees but tall shade-less cacti. Instead of scurrying squirrels, stealth geckos silently darted in and out from among the rocks, and the only water was the in the bottles we carried. It was in many ways a foreign experience, but my boys still climbed rocks, and the treeless landscape made the vast views spectacular. After a few different desert hikes, while a little sunburnt, I had a new appreciation for my favorite hobby in a new context. Just like doing an activity in a new environment, confronting the issue of diversity in the body of Christ can be an uncomfortable activity. Different buildings (or none at all), music, worship styles, prayers, congregants, school choices, and political leanings are just a few of the challenges that can make us feel uneasy. While diversity is a “hot button” issue in secular society, it is not one we, as believers are at liberty to ignore. Consider the following: Heaven will be filled with different music, languages, customs, etc. The book of Revelation mentions “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne…” (7:9) as a result of the command to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19). Heaven will house people with whom we’ve disagreed on secondary matters. In Romans 14, Paul addressed such disagreements: “One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables…” (14:2). He emphasized the importance of their unity and appealed to their common faith in the Lord, … “we belong to the Lord” (v.8). Heaven will host many ability levels and talents. As 1 Corinthians 12 relates, “As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty. . . .God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another” (12:20-25)...

Embracing Diversity in the Body of Christ2022-05-04T23:16:28+00:00

On Possessions, Contentment, and Eternity

Early in the pandemic lockdown, I was determined to be productive. Like many of my friends, I used some of my new-found time to do deep house cleaning including purging things that tend to collect in every available closet, shelf, and drawer. Before long, my Tupperware was properly matched with lids and arranged by size. The junk drawer was decluttered. Clothes were tried on to see if they “sparked joy” a la Marie Kondo. Then came the big stuff. Stuff that has not been used in years but somehow, I haven’t wanted to let go. The waffle maker that would have to be dusted to be used. Shoes that once matched an outfit no longer in style. Books I enjoyed but will not reread. Finally, the attic! Holiday decorations so abundant that every year I have to decide which items I will display because they all can’t be used at the same time. It became clear that I am clinging to too much stuff! Not that I am not grateful. In fact, I am very thankful for the abundance that I enjoy. But during this period of self-quarantining, I am haunted by the role these possessions have in my life. This was on my mind when, during a morning devotion, I read Matt 6:19-21 through this new lens. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Ouch! Have I been busy “laying up treasures on earth?” I don’t want my mind and heart to be so obsessed with the physical things in my life that I lose sight of eternal treasures...

On Possessions, Contentment, and Eternity2022-05-04T23:46:58+00:00

When a Tree Falls: God’s Faithfulness in Trials

In September of 2019 I embarked on a journey along with my husband. He walked 1,300 miles from Pittsburgh, PA to Orlando, Florida; I biked 310 miles from Pittsburgh, PA to Washington, DC. My husband loves doing crazy things and for some reason, I typically come alongside him! An Unexpected Obstacle For the first 310 miles of his “walk” I biked “with” him, although 98% of the time I was alone on the trail. He would get up each morning and begin his day on the trail while I drove 20-25 miles ahead to a trailhead, where I would park my car unload my bike and all the gear, get on my bike and ride back toward him, typically about 11 or 12 miles. Then once we met up, I would bike ahead of him his last 11 or 12 miles for the day, waiting for him every 5 miles until we reached the car. We would then set up camp and sleep until morning. We repeated this daily until we reached Washington, DC. (At this point our friend supported him with an RV and I drove to Florida to await his arrival 55 days later.) I consider myself a “brave chicken.” I typically think of everything that could possibly go wrong with a plan, but I tell myself that if I don’t do “it” I will miss out, so I push through with my chicken heart and my brave soul! This usually consists of a lot of research, planning, and even more prayer. But sometimes, even with all the research, planning, and prayer, the unexpected arises. And on this journey, it came about on Day Two. I was about 6 miles into my morning ride heading toward my husband, when I encountered a huge tree that had fallen on the trail. There was no way around it, over it, or under it. My only option was to go through it, carrying my gear laden bike. I had to lift it over part of the tree while ducking under a huge branch. There was also a tangled mess of vines I had to precariously walk through while I was climbing, carrying, and ducking!! God’s Faithfulness Through Trials Once I got through this obstacle, I took a break to reflect a bit on the scene. I was instantly reminded of my life—a life that has been filled with many unexpected tragic events that can seem overwhelming if I dwell on them too much. It made me consider the truth that in each of these events, there was no way around, over, or under, only through them. And it was through those situations that God refined me. His plans for each of these tragedies in my life drew me closer to Him in ways that on my own I could never have handled. Even in the events that occurred prior to my salvation, He used to prepare me to trust Him....

When a Tree Falls: God’s Faithfulness in Trials2022-05-05T00:32:59+00:00
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