Jesus Tells Us the Truth

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” —John 14:6

People turn today to television to hear others’ opinions. That’s such a mystery to me. The newscaster stops after announcing the death of Michael Jackson to ask the proverbial man on the street how he thinks the pop icon died. That man doesn’t know anything more about the situation than I do, and I know nothing that hasn’t been told to me on the news. A woman pours out her heart on one of the TV talk shows, telling the intimate secrets of her relationship with her husband, and then the host turns to the audience and asks their opinion about what the woman should do. Why should this poor, wounded soul care about what John Doe or Jane Smith thinks about her situation? Then there are the fiery political pundits who make a fortune telling those in their own particular political camp what they want to hear. Millions of viewers watch TV every day, listening to the opinions of other people.

When Absolute Truth speaks, it doesn’t matter what someone else’s opinion is. This same Jesus who identified Himself as “the truth” said thirty times in the book of Matthew, “I tell you the truth….” Isn’t He the One to whom we should be listening? Even the experts and our best friends don’t know what He knows about us, our situation, or our future. Shouldn’t we be listening to Him?

Jesus, we acknowledge today that You indeed are the Truth. You know all things. We need to hear Your voice today. We need Your wisdom, Your direction, Your thoughts. Speak to us, O Lord. Amen.

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The Secret to Success is Being in Christ

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” —John 15:4-6

When I went to preach in Atlanta recently, I flew in a plane at thirty-five thousand feet. When my wife and I got on a cruise ship, we went from Florida to the Bahamas. When I am in a car, I can go eighty-five miles per hour, or more if I want. Now, on my own, I can only jump a few feet. On my own, I can’t run anywhere close to eighty-five miles per hour. On my own, I couldn’t begin to swim the distance from Florida to the Bahamas. But inside a plane I can go high, inside a car I can go fast, and inside a ship I can go far.

The secret to success in life is being inside Christ. Whenever we try to do things in ourselves—that is, our own strength, our own effort, our own ingenuity, our own resources—we will find that we fall short, far short. But when we are operating in Christ, we will be amazed at how high, how fast, and how far we can go.

Jesus, we are thankful that You have invited us—even cautioned us—to remain in You. We know our own weaknesses and limits. But, we thank You that as we remain in You, You can do amazing things in and through us. We are excited today, Lord, as we anticipate what great surprises You have in store for us. Our faith is no longer in ourselves, but in You. In Your holy name we pray, Amen.

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If You’re In a Relationship that Has Gone Flat (For Singles)

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,… —Ephesians 3:20

I was in Miami, waiting in the lobby of a four-star resort for the valet to retrieve my rented car so that I could go to South Beach for dinner. After an excessively long delay, the valet came and told me the car had a flat. Already late and not wanting to take any longer than necessary, I told him I would change the tire rather than having to wait for an auto service to come fix it. So I set about to change the tire but soon discovered that the spare tire didn’t fit. Very frustrated by now at the loss of time and the fact that the rental company hadn’t equipped the car properly, I called them to report my predicament. They didn’t do what I expected of them, however. They didn’t come and fix the flat so I could drive that car. Instead, they brought me a sweet, brand new Mustang convertible to replace it!

If you are single and in a relationship that has gone flat because it was a bad fit, don’t keep working on it yourself. Call upon God. He won’t just try to make something work that was never intended to fit. Instead, He will bring you a new relationship that is sweeter and better than the one you were trying to make work.

Wow, God! How many times we have worked and struggled, and spent time trying to get something that was never intended for us in the first place. How many times, we’ve been frustrated and disappointed when something didn’t work out, and all the while, You had something better in store for us. We trust that You know our needs better than we know ourselves, and we believe that You are able to do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” So, God, we leave our greatest needs and our deepest concerns, in Your hands, and we watch in faith to see what You are going to do. In Christ’s name, Amen.

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Don’t Forget Your Supporters

We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
—1 Thessalonians 1:2-3

AT A WASHINGTON STATE HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL game, cheerleader Cali Kaitschmidt got tackled by the team she was there to support. She went to adjust the front of the school banner just as the team came bursting through the back of the banner to run onto the field. The team ran over one of their own supporters because they didn’t see her.

We must make sure we are seeing the supporters in our lives. Unfortunately, we tend to overlook those who are closest to us—those who are our greatest blessings. We don’t intend to ignore them, take them for granted, or even push them out of the way as we rush onto the field to provide care and ministry to others. But we somehow no longer see them as we once did. We have forgotten their love, their works of kindness, and their enduring faithfulness to us. Let’s remember and thank God for our supporters.

Father, we have allowed ourselves to get so caught up in ourselves—and even in what You are doing in our lives—that we have pushed aside or pushed down those who are always there for us. God, we think of our spouse, friend, child, pastor, teacher, supervisor, coworker—that person who encourages and supports us. Even before we ask, he or she anticipates our needs and stands ready to help. Forgive us for taking that individual for granted. We pause today to remember what a gift he or she is to us, and we say thank You. Help us to begin anew to show this one how much he or she means to us. Amen.

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Husbands, Get Full at Home

The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife.
—1 Corinthians 7:4

My wife is an excellent homemaker and a great cook. There have been times when she has prepared a four-course meal for me, and then I have had to leave to go to a meeting right after eating. On my way to the meeting, I may pass by a whole bunch of restaurants—really good restaurants that could normally tempt me—but I don’t even think about stopping because I’m already full.

Husbands, take your fill at home. No matter how appetizing something looks, if your wife isn’t the one serving it, consider it as poison because Proverbs 5:5 says of an adulteress that “her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave.” And wives, remember that if a man’s needs are met at home, he won’t consider stopping anywhere else along the way. A woman who thinks of sex as a means of manipulation, something she can withhold to get her own way, is a foolish woman. From five-star restaurants to fast food drive-ins, there are a lot of places available to get hungry diners to stop and eat.

God, help us remember that sex is a precious gift from You; let us never treat it as something cheap that we can handle as we please. Let us remember that our bodies belong not only to ourselves but also to the spouse with whom we are in a lifelong covenant. Let us find pleasure in seeing that person satisfied, and help us to love one another even as Christ loves the church. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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We DON’T Have the Right to Remain Silent

He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy. —Proverbs 28:13

I’ve seen enough movies to know about the Miranda rights. In movies and on TV, when a police officer arrests someone, the officer must read the Miranda rights to the one under arrest: “You have the right to remain silent. If you give up the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you desire an attorney and cannot afford one, an attorney will be obtained for you before police questioning.” People don’t have to say anything because they have a right to remain silent, but everything they do say can and will be held against them in a court of law.

We don’t live in a court of law; instead, we live in the kingdom of God. In that kingdom, the opposite is true. We do not have a right to remain silent, and what we don’t say can and will be held against us. It is only by confessing our sins that we can find forgiveness for those sins.

God, thank You that we live in the kingdom of a God who is Love, and that You desire fellowship and a relationship with us. God, thank You for offering us mercy and grace in exchange for the confession of our sins. Thank You that You do not use our confessions to imprison us but to free us. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

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Christians Off-track

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.
—2 Corinthians 2:14

MY WIFE SHARON WAS TALKING ON THE phone with me while she was at a car wash. Suddenly, she stopped talking to me and started talking to someone else. I asked, “What’s going on there?” She explained, “Well, I’m at a car wash, and they just brought this certificate over and told me that if I come back in thirty minutes, they’ll wash my car for free. They apologized and said there’s something wrong with the car wash, so they can’t let anybody in right now.” Recognizing how unusual this was, I was curious about what caused the delay. She said, “I can look inside the car wash and see that there is a car there that is off-track.” I asked, “Sharon, are you trying to tell me that there is a line of dirty cars trying to get in, but they can’t get in because somebody who is already in there is off-track?”

That’s what’s wrong with some of our churches. There are a lot of dirty people outside wanting to come in, but there are too many people already inside who are off-track. Too many of us on the inside are living defeated Christian lives. We must understand that we are part of the “triumphal procession” (the parade of victors) only when we are “in Christ”— looking to Him, depending on Him, and living for Him. When we are in Christ, we are not victims; we are victors!

God, thank You that You desire for us to live victorious Christian lives. You desire for us to live moment by moment in Christ. It is when we live in anything or anyone other than Christ that we find we are no longer victorious. Other things and other people cannot do for us what Christ can do. Help us to check ourselves in this moment and to renew our relationship in Him. We pray in His name, Amen.

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The Kind of Church Jesus Gets Tired Of

Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “`My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.’
—Matthew 21:12-13

THERE WAS NOTHING WRONG WITH EXCHANGING MONEY. Jerusalem was home to the temple of God, so people from all over the known world came there for a holy pilgrimage. Places were set up in the temple where people could exchange their foreign money for local currency so that they could give an offering. There was nothing wrong with selling doves because these travelers had to buy doves to offer as a sacrifice. There was something wrong, however, when the sellers took advantage of the worshipers.

Jesus gets frustrated with the same thing that frustrates us. There’s something wrong if only two or three people are benefiting from the sacrifices. There is something wrong when somebody preaches about prosperity, but he is the only one who is prospering. Jesus gets frustrated if a ministry is expensive but not extensive, if a fortune that comes from many pockets is funneled into one pocket. Jesus is tired of a church that has had a building program for twenty-five years, but the people giving have never seen a building. It’s about integrity, honesty, and accountability.

God, help us each to know that we are responsible and accountable to You for what we do in the house of God. Let our integrity match Your expectations. Let us be so open and honest that any persons doubting us would themselves be embarrassed when the truth is revealed. Let us remember that what we do as Christians reflects upon You, and help us always to reflect You as we know You to be—holy, righteous, and true. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Attend Church to be an Effective Christian

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. —Hebrews 10:25 (KJV)

As is true of most adults in our country, I own a car. It is my car. I can drive it anywhere I please. This car is a car whether I am driving it in Indiana or in Wisconsin. It is a car whether it is parked on a deserted road or moving in the midst of traffic on an L.A. freeway. It is a car whether it is bright, shiny, and clean or whether it is dusty and dirty from the roads it has traveled. It is a car whether it is on a mountain top or down in a valley.

Some people say, “I don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.” That’s true, and it’s also true that my car doesn’t have to go to a gas station to be a car. But if it’s going to run effectively and get me to my destination, every once in a while I have to pull in and get it refilled. The church is where we get what we need to be effective in this world.

God, help us not to think we can keep running and serving without going to church. It is in church, among Your people, that we can get a message that will speak to us. That is where we can simply worship You, where You can minister to us away from the hustle and bustle of life, and where You can fill us afresh with Your Holy Spirit so that we can go back into the fray with something fresh to offer. Help us not to neglect being among your people in church. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen. 

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Recycled Because of Jesus

Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. —Hebrews 10:22

We were doing a forty-day fast at our church, and I had been drinking nothing but water and pure juices. I was looking on one of the juice bottles and saw that it said, “Recycled Bottle.” It was almost as if the bottle began testifying to me that it was a recycled bottle. So I said to the bottle, “Okay, go ahead and give me your testimony,” The bottle said to me, “Jeffrey Johnson, just because I’m meeting your needs at this moment doesn’t mean that I’ve always been just like this. No, at one point in time, somebody used me and then discarded me, treated me like trash, set me down, and walked away from me. But then someone else came along, saw me, and treated me like treasure. He picked me up and took me to a recycling center where they washed and purified me. They melted me down and reshaped my life. Then they filled me all over again, and here I am meeting your needs while you are trying to get closer to God.”

That’s what it’s like for the life of a believer. What people see today isn’t the way it has always been. Just because we look clean, filled, and refreshed today doesn’t mean we’ve never been used, never been mistreated, never been treated like trash. But Jesus came along and found us. He reached down and picked us up. He brought us into the church, which is the recycling center. There, He cleaned us up, filled us up, and made us usable for His service.

God, some of us have been so mistreated and abused in this world that it is almost impossible for us to imagine a different life. But, God, today we dare to believe You. Today we bring what little bit of faith we have, and we place ourselves in Your hands. We trust You now to cleanse us, mold us, fill us, and use us in Your kingdom and for Your glory. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

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