Who Do You Say I Am? 5

John 15:5

One of the ornamental trees we planted a few years back had a large portion broken away by the wind. Driving past with the mower on another occasion caught a branch and pulled it away further from the main part of the tree. Now, that section of the tree is dead, the leaves brown, the branches brittle.

Without being connected to the root system of the tree those branches could not survive.

In John’s version of the Last Supper Jesus presents the disciples with a clear image of who he is and how these devoted followers relate to him. To what does Jesus compare himself? To what does he compare the disciples? How does a believer bear fruit? What happens if a person is not rooted in Jesus?

Just as the vine is strong and a provider of the nourishment the branches require, Jesus is the base of our strength. He provides spiritual food for our souls, spiritual energy to do what is right and holy. The branches of a plant are meant to grow out from the main vine, reaching to distant places, creating good things on their own. Yet they maintain that connection to the vine.

We too are called to reach out into the world and bring forth good things, acts of kindness and love and mercy. But our actions are not done on our own nor are they based in our own motivation and understanding. We must remain connected to Jesus, keeping our souls and minds rooted in Christ’s goodness.

This simple image creates a clear picture for those who follow Christ. He is the vine and all who obey his teachings and emulate his life are like the branches. If we can remain connected to Jesus, keep him as a centerpiece to who we are and what we do, we can bear fruit – that is, we can do good things that bring honor to God.

Jesus is the source of that ability to do good and right things. Jesus is the source of strength that can help us weather the difficulties and challenges of life. Living on our own, disconnected from the goodness that is Jesus, we can accomplish nothing. Removing ourselves from this source of strength and spiritual sustenance will leave us as dried up and useless branches, unable to accomplish the good we are called to produce.

Who do you say Jesus is? Is he the vine in your spiritual life which allows you to bear good fruit?

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you remain rooted in Jesus?

Who Do You Say I Am? 4

Jeremiah 29:13

“You can’t find it by standing there looking.” This is something we have said on many occasions to our children when they were looking for something that was missing – homework assignments, lost shoes, misplaced books and so on. There have been so many times that our children’s “search” was little more than their standing in a room staring at all the clutter.

If you truly want to find something that you have lost you have to invest some effort in the search. You have to apply yourself to the task of searching.

Today’s reading is a single sentence from a letter that Jeremiah sent to the exiles from Israel. He was reminding them that they should not stray from God even though they were in a foreign land. What promise does God offer? What do they need to do to get that promise?

Although we may not be in exile from our home country, we may feel that we are not as close to God as we could be. We may be dedicated Christians who attend worship on a regular basis, but we still may not know Jesus as we should.
But we cannot find Jesus by waiting. We cannot build a deeper relationship with Christ by going about our daily lives hoping that the Almighty will break in with signs and wonders. To learn more about Jesus we can’t always expect others to bring us that knowledge.

We must remember that God wants a relationship with us. God desires us to be with Him and in many ways the Lord seeks us out. But He also asks that we seek for Him. We must put forth some effort to learn and understand who God truly is.

And if we desire a relationship with Jesus Christ, we must seek him out as well. We must make an effort to learn the teachings of Jesus. We must take the time to be in communion with the Christ, studying the Scripture to uncover who Jesus truly is. We must move the clutter of our lives and the obstacles of our fears or indifference. We must remove those things that block our true vision – myths and legends and false teachings – to find the true nature of Jesus.
We can seek and find the Lord. He is waiting for us to find Him. He wants us to find Him. But we are called to seek Him with all of our heart.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What can you do to seek the Lord?

Who Do You Say I Am? 3

Psalm 27:4

Do you remember when romance was new? Do you remember the first time you met someone whose company you thoroughly enjoyed? Do you remember when you started a job that you really liked? What about your first car or a new home?

When you first meet someone you truly care about and who is fun to be around, you may find yourself thinking of that person constantly. You may wish the day would never end. When you buy a new car you may not be content looking at it parked in your driveway, so you take it on a long drive to enjoy the feel of it.

There is an excitement and thrill about a good relationship that has just begun. What desires are expressed by the psalmist in this verse? Do you identify with this attitude? Is this how you might describe your feelings toward God? Jesus?
Although love may not fade, the giddy desire to be in another person’s presence may begin to subside in time. You may grow comfortable with the relationship and begin to take things for granted. New jobs can be exciting and challenging, but often grow into something familiar and “old hat.”

Even that new car or new house that you pledge to take car of so that it is always nice may eventually show signs of neglect.
Unfortunately, so many people have the same thing happen with their relationship with Jesus. The thought of God’s love and mercy, the thought that Christ loved us so much that he gave himself completely for us can make our souls soar with joy. But often, in time, we begin to take Jesus for granted. We know he is there for us. We acknowledge him each day, but our relationship might grow stale.

Our desire to know Jesus better, to understand him more, to be in his presence should never wane or fade. It needs to be made new again each day. Like the psalmist, we need to seek him in his temple – wherever that temple might be.

Seek to know Jesus more and more every day. Seek to be in his presence every hour. Spend time gazing upon the beauty of the Lord so that your relationship with the Savior may be always fresh and exciting, lifting the soul to new heights of joy.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of your life?

Who Do You Say I Am? 2

Matthew 16:13-17

The famous quote from Romeo and Juliet, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” comes to mind as I think of today’s reading. What is meant by this familiar adage? It is not the name that determines who a person is, it is the qualities and behavior of that person which determines the true essence of a person.

Jesus is asking his disciples if anyone has determined the true essence of who he is. Why do you think John, Elijah, Jeremiah and other prophets come to the minds of those people? How does Jesus narrow the focus? How did Peter know what to say?

The issue of true qualities has arisen on several occasions in our household lately. There are people in the lives of our children who bear the title “teacher,” yet their skills and behavior seem to contradict that calling. There are others we know who bear the title “reverend,” yet their actions and attitudes seem to contradict that label. Some people have the title of “husband” or “wife,” but they do not seem to take that duty to heart.

Jesus could earn the title of “prophet” or “teacher” because of what he did. He brought social wrongs to the attention of the public. He offered instruction on how to live life properly. He confronted hypocrisy and offered solace to the needy.

But he was and is far greater than a mere prophet or teacher. We saw in John 14:6 that Jesus is the way to know God, the Father. And being this way to the Father, Jesus is also our Savior.

Peter was able to recognize that Jesus was “the Christ” – the chosen or anointed one – “the Son of the living God.” And how did he know this? Through the enlightenment of God, the Father. Peter’s soul sought the Lord. His spirit drew close to the Holy Spirit of God, and Peter spent time in the presence of Christ.

In so doing, he became aware of who Jesus really is. He could see beyond the superficial impressions that most people had – that Jesus was a prophet and teacher. He could see him as truly the Son of God.

We are called to seek the Holy Spirit, to draw near to God, the Father, and to spend time in the presence of Christ. In that way we can see the true qualities of the man we know as “Jesus.”

DAILY CHALLENGE: Who do you say Jesus is?

Who Do You Say I Am? 1

Bren, Alex, James, Mary Louise, Peggy, Nancy, Deanna, Roger, Rhonda, Scott, Steve and Chris.  We've since added Jack, Ellie and Joshua!

John 14:4-9

When our children were very young we had a difficult time explaining family relations to them. They had trouble understanding that I was their father, but also their uncle’s brother and their grandmother’s son. They could not accept the fact that I could be more than one person – in a sense – other than who I was to them.

A similar attitude can come up with our perception of Jesus. Each of us may see him as one person and have difficulty accepting that Jesus can be described in other terms as well. For the next few weeks we will be in pursuit of who Jesus really is.

In today’s passage Jesus is offering comfort to his disciples, explaining that he will be going away but there is no need for them to be distressed. He is indicating that he will soon be crucified, but the resurrection will follow.

What does Jesus claim the disciples know? What does Thomas claim? How does Jesus describe himself? What does Jesus say about himself and God, the Father?

The question of who Jesus is, is answered by Jesus himself. One aspect of Christ is that he is the way – the way we are able to gain eternal life. He is the truth. Through Jesus we can know what is right and holy and good. And Jesus is the life. Through him we can experience a rich and wonderful life.

Jesus makes it plain that there is no other way to inherit eternal life except through our belief in him. We must accept Jesus as Christ and Savior to be welcomed into the everlasting presence of God.

But we also learn that Jesus is the image of God. If we know Jesus then we know what God is like. Through the life and teaching of Christ we can see that God, the Father, is loving, compassionate, and merciful, and we can see that God desires us to be in relationship with him.

As we pursue who Jesus truly is we can see that he is the same as God, the Father. Through Jesus we can see our heavenly Father more clearly.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How would you describe Jesus?