A Life Worth Living

John 14:12-21

Have you ever been part of something; an organization, a social club, a movement that made your life worth living?

I was 10 years old when I became a member of the Braves Little League Team in my hometown of Mogadore. For three years, I enjoyed the accolades that came as a result of being on the team that won the Little League championship. Three trophies went up on my trophy shelf. After each of those three wins, our coach, John Raddish, would have our team to his farm all-day Saturday for a bbq picnic, horseback riding and swimming in Hills Pond. But the Braves’ Years sadly came to an end when I turned 13.

The next life worth living phenom for me began with the rock and roll movement, accelerated on February 9, 1964, when a guy named Ed Sullivan introduced the Beatles to America and reached its peak with the release of the Abbey Road Album. I can still recall where I was and the circumstances involved in listening to every album from Rubber Soul to Let It Be. And then Randy’s world came crashing down on April 10, 1970 as I was backing out of my parent’s driveway in my ‘67 Firebird Sprint and heard a newsflash on WHLO radio that the Beatles were calling it quits. I couldn’t believe it; THE BEATLE YEARS were over! And part of me wondered if life was even worth living anymore.

I have a strong feeling that the disciples of Jesus felt the same way.

For three years they have been on the ride of their lives. Following Jesus was so exciting that it was the first thought that entered their heads when they awoke and the last before they fell asleep. And even though they had families and jobs and many other responsibilities to attend to, the thing that made life worth living was being a follower of Jesus.

But now as they are wiping off their mouths after Passover dinner Jesus says to them, “See you boys later, I’m out of here, and so sorry, but you guys aren’t coming with Me.” Disillusionment began to ooze from their pores and drip from their noses as now it appeared to them in Chapter 13 that THE JESUS YEARS are about to come to a crashing halt!

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In His Name

John 14:12-17

Anything? Really, Jesus, we can pray for anything?

One day, Johnny told his daddy he’d like to have a baby brother. His dad paused for a moment and then replied, “Johnny, if you pray every day for about three months for a baby brother, I guarantee that God will give you one!”

Johnny responded eagerly to his dad’s challenge and began to pray every night. After a couple of months of praying, he got a little skeptical. So he asked a few older friends what they thought about it and they said, “You just don’t pray for two months and whammo—a new baby brother.” So, Johnny quit praying.

After another month, Johnny’s mother went to the hospital. When she came back home, Johnny’s parents called him into their bedroom. And when his dad pulled back the blanket and there was not one baby brother—but two baby brothers! Johnny’s dad looked down at him and said, “Now aren’t you glad you prayed?” After just a moment’s hesitation, little Johnny looked up at his dad and said, “I am, but aren’t you glad I quit when I did?”

And little Johnny’s faith in prayer was restored.

“You can ask for anything in My name, and I will do it, because the work of the Son brings glory to the Father. Yes, ask anything in my name and I will do it” (John 14:13-14).

Anything? That’s what it says.

And so is this an invitation to pray for a little brother or two? What if instead of a brother, Johnny wanted an iPhone or a hoverboard? What if Daddy thinks it’s time for a new truck; a Dodge Ram with a Hemi and 4-wheel drive, and all the bells and whistles? Why not? He said, “Anything.”

Listen, you and I are Biblically astute enough to know that Jesus is not giving us permission to lift the word ‘anything’ off the page of scripture right out of its Biblical and historical context in order to call upon the name of the Lord for a…….nything?

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Greater Works?

John 14:1-14

Talk about being shocked and surprised by hearing the truth, since it was pastor appreciation month, a young couple in the church invited their pastor over for Sunday dinner. While the lovely couple was in the kitchen preparing the meal, the pastor sat in the living room making small talk with their 7-year-old son, and says to him, “Billy, what are we having for dinner?”

Billy answers, “Well pastor, I’m pretty sure we’re having goat.”

“Goat?” replied the pastor, wondering how the boy had come up with that one. “What makes you think we’re having goat?”

“Last week, I heard Dad say to Mom, ‘Might as well have that old goat for dinner next Sunday as any other day.’”

I imagine that Jesus’ disciples were almost as shocked when Jesus said to them, “The truth is, anyone who believes in Me will do the same works I have done, and even GREATER WORKS, because I am going to be with the Father” (John 14:12).

“I tell you the truth” (John 14:12).

Other translations bring out what the New Living Translation lacks: the solemn significance of this statement. The NASB renders this “Truly, truly, I say unto you.” The King James has “Verily, verily, I say unto you.” In the original Aramaic Jesus spoke, “Amen, amen, I say unto you.” One of my favorite commentators says this phrase can best be understood as, “I most solemnly assure you.” 1

Perhaps we’re not far off in thinking Jesus is saying here, “I am Lord of heaven and earth, and I approve this message.”

Leon Morris, in his commentary on the gospel of John, tells us that this holy formula “marks the words as being uttered not only before men and women, but more importantly before God, who is thus invited to bring them to pass.” 2

Bring what to pass? The GREATER WORKS, that’s what!

“The truth is, anyone who believes in Me will do the same works I have done, and even GREATER WORKS, because I am going to be with the Father” (John 14:12).

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God the Father

John 14:6-11

St Peter stood at the pearly gates, waiting for incoming. He saw Jesus walking by and caught his attention. “Jesus could you man the gate while I go on an errand?”
“Okay,” replied Jesus, “what do I have to do?”
“Just find out about the people who arrive. Ask about their background, their family, and their lives. Then decide if they deserve entry into heaven.”
“Sounds easy enough; I think I can handle that okay.”
The first person to approach the gates was a wrinkled old man. Jesus summoned him to the examination table and sat across from him. He peered at the old man and asked, “What was it you did for a living?”
The old man replied. “I was a carpenter.”
Jesus remembered his own earthly existence and leaned forward, and said, “So was my dad; did you have any family?”
“Yes, I had a son, but I lost him.”
Jesus leaned forward some more, “You lost your son? Can you tell me about him?”
“Well, he had holes in his hands and feet.”
Jesus leaned forward even more and whispered, “FATHER?”
The old man leaned forward and whispered, “PINOCCHIO?”

In John 14:8 we have one of the biggest asks in the Bible: “Lord, show us the Father and we will be satisfied” (John 14:8).

To see the Father?! He might as well be asking to see the dark side of the moon! Who does Philip think he is making such an enormous and brave request?

I am sure he was aware that the Old Testament indicated it was a risky venture to actually see God. In Exodus 33, Moses makes a Philip like request: “Show me Your glorious presence” (Exodus 33:18). And God says, “No one can see My face and live” (33:20).

Is Philip being brave or is he just plain stupid?

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Home for Troubled Hearts

John 14:1-6

As we come to John 14, we come to one of the most beloved chapters in the Bible. Right up there with Psalm 23, Luke 15, and Romans 8, many Christians say that their favorite chapter in all of the scriptures is the one we are going to be contemplating over the next several weeks.

The reason for this becomes obvious as we read the headings that various translations of the Bible precede this chapter with: “Jesus Comforts His Disciples,” “Comfort for Troubled Hearts,” and “Hope for Troubled Hearts.” It’s obvious that these captions come from the first verse of the chapter: “Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled” (John 14:1).

Now, it’s no wonder their hearts are troubled. To fully appreciate why, we need to take a peek at the preceding chapter where Jesus is speaking:

Dear children, I will be with you only a little longer. And as I told the Jewish leaders, you will search for me, but you can’t come where I am going. So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” [Peter isn’t interested in talking about loving one another, he’s more interested in Jesus going away, so] Simon Peter asked, “Lord, where are you going?” And Jesus replied, “You can’t go with me now, but you will follow me later.” “But why can’t I come now, Lord?” he asked. “I’m ready to die for you.” Jesus answered, “Die for me? I tell you the truth, Peter—before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me (John 13:33-38).

All of them, to be sure, Peter the most, but all of them are befuddled and bewildered and suffering from what psychologists would call today ‘separation anxiety;’ that is being separated from someone you have come to love. They have all left their lives in Galilee to be with the most amazing and marvelous person they have ever encountered. Now He says, “I am going away, and sorry but you guys can’t come along.”

Peter speaks for them all as he expresses his desire to remain with Jesus: “Why can’t I go? I’ll do anything if you’ll let me come with You. Can’t you see that I am so devoted to You, totally sold out that I am ready to give my life for You and Your cause.”

“Oh yeah, Peter, will you really lay down your life for me? The truth is, in less than 12 hours you will deny you even know Me.”

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Sabbath Rest

Deuteronomy 5:1-5, 12-15
Mark 2:23-28

Is it safe for me to assume that all of us knows what it’s like to ride a bicycle? Can I also assume that there was a time when your bike tires were a little low? You ever wonder where that air went. You know you didn’t let it out; it just went, somewhere, somehow. And so you had to get out a hand pump and re-inflate them? And if we didn’t want to take the time or energy to do so we soon discovered that it takes more exertion to pedal with low air pressure.

Life can be like a low bike tire. We don’t purposefully take air out … it just sort of leaves. Rough day at work? Hissssssssssss (that’s the sound of air leaking). Have to work overtime? Hissssssssssss. Too many e-mails to answer? Hissssssssssss. Too much information overload. Hissssssssssss. And just as it’s harder to pedal with flat tires, it’s not as easy to live well when air leaks out of our lives.

Modern life just has a way of deflating us, of sucking the air out of life.

For many, OUR WORK is sucking the life out of us.

Americans are working longer weeks than ever. “The Center for American Progress reports that 86% of men and 67% of women now work more than 40 hours a week. Add to that how many check work e-mail at home and over the weekend and it’s not hard to imagine the toll this takes on family and one’s personal life. Working overtime is associated with poorer perceived general health, increased injury rates, more illnesses, and increased mortality. Two recent studies have linked long work hours to a higher risk of depression. We are skipping vacations to boot. After 10 years of service, the average German gets 20 days of paid vacation, the English, 28, and the Finns, 30, Americans, 15. And we’re not even taking them. 1

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Raggedness to Righteousness

Jeremiah 23:5-8
Matthew 1:18-23
Romans 4:1-5

Have you noticed that with the passing of the years we are urged to purchase ever more extravagant, and therefore, expensive Christmas gifts? Can anyone remember a time when you would turn on the television and be encouraged to buy a woman an item of clothing or a hairdryer, and a drill or set of sockets for the man of the house? Now we see that commercial where the husband brings his wife out of the house to see two brand new $30,000 his and hers full-size pick-up trucks sitting there with Christmas bows attached.

Which brings up the question: ‘What is the greatest Christmas gift you have ever received?’ And how do you measure it as the greatest gift? By its monetary or sentimental value?

I know a pastor who was leading a Christmas celebration at a nursing home and asked the residents to share their greatest Christmas gift. After all who wanted to share theirs, he told about his greatest Christmas gift that he received when he was seven years old. Early on Christmas Eve, his mother took him and his brother out for a treat. It was her way of getting both of them out of their 5th-floor apartment in the Bronx so their father could prepare for later on. As they climbed the stairs back to the apartment, the shrill sound of a whistle filled the hallway. “What was that and where did it come from?” he asked his brother. Their pace quickened and a second burst of the whistle could be heard. They burst into the apartment and there was their father playing engineer with the biggest Lionel train they had ever laid their eyes on. It was magnificent, so unexpected, so wonderful! 50 years later, that pastor still has that train set and cherishes it more than any other material gift he has ever received.

In three days, people all over the globe will open millions of gifts. Some of them will be greatly prized and appreciated by the recipients. However; many will be the wrong size, or the wrong color, or the wrong item and thus will begin the annual migration of gift receivers returning to stores to exchange or return their undesired gifts.

The good news is there is a gift that is perfect in every way for it will never wear out, never break or need repairing or replacing or repurchasing! It is a gift that is appropriate for anyone from grandmas and grandpas to small children and everyone in between. It makes no difference if it’s a boy or girl, man or woman. I am speaking today about THE GIFT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS!

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Christmas Was Made for Times Such as These

Isaiah 8:20 – 9:26-7
John 1:1-5
I Peter 1:3-9

During World War II, a woman named Anne took her two little children to Texas to be with her parents over Christmas because her husband was stationed in Europe. As they prepared for Christmas by putting up a Christmas tree and lights, they almost put aside the worry of the war. Then one week before Christmas they got that dreaded knock on the door and the terrible news that her husband had been killed. She had to tell her children their daddy wouldn’t be coming for Christmas ever. And then Anne went upstairs threw herself on her bed and began to weep. Her mother and father debated and finally decided it would be best to take down the Christmas tree, lights and the other decorations. But when Anne finally came out of her room a couple of hours later, she asked, “Why did you guys put Christmas away?”

Her mother said, “Anne, we’re all so broken-hearted, your father and I decided this is no time for Christmas.”

And Anne said, “Oh, no mother, please put the tree and lights back up again, Christmas was made for times such as these.”

Indeed, Christmas was made for times such as these, for with the coming of Christ, a new hope was born. A new hope that is rooted in the 5th verse of John’s magnificent prologue “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it” (John 1:5).

Don’t you love how the Bible is so honest, it doesn’t sugar coat life; it acknowledges darkness.

Even in the midst of that first Christmas; it tells of a man who lost his ability to speak when he didn’t believe the angel who told him his “mature” wife was with child. It tells of a humble carpenter who nearly put his betrothed away because she was with child he did not father. It tells of a pregnant woman almost to full-term making a laborious journey to register for a census in Bethlehem. It tells of a mad king killing infants two years old and under in order to protect his throne.

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Left Behind? May It Never Be!

Matthew 24

Before I had made a faith decision for Christ, I had a dream of being left behind. In my dream, I dreamed I had awakened, I got up out of bed, noticing that my wife had already gotten up. I walked down the hall peeking in the bedrooms, no kids in sight. They must be in the living room watching television; but no, nobody in the living room, this was strange I wonder where they are. In the dining room, no; kitchen, no. In the garage; both cars were there, so where were they? The house was quiet and felt eerily empty.

And then I heard a faint noise, seemed to be coming from outside in the backyard. Went to the patio doors hoping to get a glimpse of someone in my family. And there they were, but they were in a line with other people; dressed in blue robes, moving slowly forward, holding candles and singing. Instinctively I somehow knew that they were going to be with God, and I was not. And I just wanted to be with them, so I ran down the steps of the deck and began to run across the yard to join them, but was stopped in my tracks by an invisible barrier that prevented me from joining them in their pilgrimage. And I started to yell, “Hey, wait for me, I want to go with you!” But they didn’t seem to hear me, so I started screaming, “Wait for me!” However, the barrier that was preventing me from going to them was also apparently a sound barrier. Something inside told me that was the last time I was going to see them and I watched helplessly as they moved on and disappeared out of my sight. The strangest thing about that dream was I was a professing atheist at the time and yet I knew that they had gone to be with the Lord while I had been left behind.

Matthew 24 is one of several Bible passages that clue us in to the fact that somehow, someway, someday the Lord Jesus is going to make another grand entrance.

It’s one of the four traditional themes of advent; last week Proclamation; next week, Hope, the Sunday before Christmas, Love, and today Preparation. Preparation for the first and second coming of Christ.

When was the last time you thought about, or anyone reminded you about the Second coming of Christ? In the midst of all our Christmas preparations, that aspect of Christmas often is forgotten.

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