John chapter 20

“I have seen the Lord!”

“Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.” – Vs 18 ESV

What a dark morning it must have been as Mary Magdalene made her way to the tomb of Jesus. Not only was the sky dark, but everything in her world was darkened by sadness and the painful realization that her teacher and friend, Jesus, was dead. Her hopes in Him as the coming Messiah had given way to disillusionment and despair. Her mind must have been reeling as she tried to grasp what had happened over the last 24 hours. It all began so well, with His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, but somewhere along the way,  it had taken a nasty turn for the worse. He had been arrested, beaten, mocked, falsely accused, and run through a series of trials. And then it had ended with His excruciating death on a cross.

Now as she made her way to the tomb, she had one thing on her mind: the task of anointing Jesus’ body for burial – something they had not been able to do the day before because it was the Sabbath. But when she and the other two women who accompanied her arrived at the tomb, the were shocked to find the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. They immediately ran to tell the disciples. But at this point, she had robbery, not resurrection on her mind. She told them, They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him” (Vs 2 ESV). They all ran back to the scene of the crime. Peter and John entered the tomb, but Mary Magdalene remained outside crying. Could it get any worse than this? Not only was her teacher dead, now His body was gone. Even when she was confronted by the angels and asked the reason for her tears, she could only respond, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him” (Vs 13 ESV). Then she turned and saw the resurrected Lord, but failed to recognize Him. He too asked her why she was crying, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking? (Vs 15 ESV). Assuming Him to be the gardener, she responded, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away” (Vs 15 ESV).

Do you see the irony in this scene? Here was Mary Magdalene, standing in front of her resurrected Lord and Savior, and all she could think about was completing her task of anointing His body for burial. She had come to do something for Him, and was failing to see the magnitude of what He had just done for her. She had become consumed by her circumstances. Everything around her was telling her that all hope was lost. The one on whom she had come to depend was no longer there for her to lean on, learn from, and hope in. She was on her on. This was the man who had given her back her life by casting seven demons out of her. But now He was gone. At least that was her perspective – until He said her name. Then her eyes were opened and she recognized Him. In joy she clung to Him. But Jesus gave her a job to do. And it was different than what she had originally come to do. She wasn’t going to anoint. Instead she was going to announce. She was to tell the disciples the good news of Jesus’ resurrection. And she did, exclaiming, “I have seen the Lord!” (Vs 18 ESV).

“I have seen the Lord!” Isn’t that the news we all should be shouting? Those of us who have found new life in Christ should be telling everyone we meet that we have had a personal encounter with the Lord. We have seen Him. We have experienced Him. Our message of good news should not be academic, but actual. We should be able to say that He is alive and well and active in our lives. But for many of us, we are like Mary Magdalene. We live our lives focused on our circumstances, failing to recognize Him when He does appear. We act as if He is dead and our cause defeated. Our Jesus is a Jesus of the past. He is not alive and influencing our lives today. So instead of announcing Him as the living Lord, we “anoint” Him by paying our last respects. We sing about Him. We study about Him. We read books about Him. We listen to sermons about Him. But we fail to SEE Him. We fail to experience Him as the risen Lord. May we open our eyes and see Jesus standing before us today, so that we may say with Mary, “I have seen the Lord!”

Father, Your Son is alive and well, but I often act as if He is still in the tomb. I can so easily view Him as an historical figure. I can study His life and teachings. I can know all there is to know about Him. But I can fail to see Him and know Him. I can allow my circumstances to convince me that He is no longer with me. But open my eyes to recognize Him as alive and active in my life. He doesn’t need me to anoint Him, but to announce Him. May I be able to shout, “I have seen the Lord!” today. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

John chapter 19

More than a man

“When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man! – Vs 5 NIV

In this chapter we find Jesus in the middle of a succession of trials. Here he is before Pilate. He has been beaten, flogged, spit on, slapped, ridiculed, had a crown of thorns pressed down on his head and been made to wear a robe in mockery of His lofty position as “King of the Jews.” Finding no fault in Jesus, Pilate appeals to the crowd in an attempt to release Jesus. So he presents him to the masses and shouts, “Here is the man!” In Jesus’ current physical state, He had to present a hideous sight – covered in blood, the skin on His back and sides hanging off of Him due to the brutal flogging He had received. His face was most likely swollen and bruised. Blood would have been streaming from the wounds caused by the thorns pressing into His scalp. Perhaps Pilate was attempting to appeal to the mercy of the Jews by showing Jesus in this condition. He was still wearing the royal-colored robe and the “Crown.” How could they fear someone so pitiful? What could He do now to harm them or their precious religious system?

But what Pilate didn’t realize was that his words carried far more meaning than he could have ever dreamed. When he shouted, “Here is the man!,” he was unknowingly referencing a Messianic prophesy from the book of Zechariah:

Then say to him, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Behold, a man whose name is Branch, for He will branch out from where He is; and He will build the temple of the LORD.'” – Zechariah 6:12 (NASB)

While in the immediate context, this passage refers to Zerubbabel, it is also a prophetic pronouncement concerning the coming Messiah. He would be a man whose name is Branch. The theme of the branch can be found throughout the Old Testament and is a reference to the Messiah – a role that Jesus Himself fulfilled.

“Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit.” – Isaiah 11:1 (NASB)

“For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty That we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.” – Isaiah 53:2 (NASB)

“In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch of David to spring forth; and He shall execute justice and righteousness on the earth.” – Jeremiah 33:15

The epithet “Branch” (צֶמַח, tsemakh) derives from the verb used here (יִצְמָח, yitsmakh, “will sprout up”) to describe the rise of Jesus, the Messiah. In announcing Jesus as the man, Pilate was unwittingly announcing Jesus the Messiah. Even dressed as He was and in the condition in which He appeared, Jesus was fulfilling prophesy by appearing as the suffering servant. Isaiah 53 prophesies this role for Jesus:

“Though the Lord desired to crush him and make him ill, once restitution is made, he will see descendants and enjoy long life, and the Lord’s purpose will be accomplished through him. Having suffered, he will reflect on his work, he will be satisfied when he understands what he has done. “My servant will acquit many, for he carried their sins. So I will assign him a portion with the multitudes, he will divide the spoils of victory with the powerful, because he willingly submitted to death and was numbered with the rebels, when he lifted up the sin of many and intervened on behalf of the rebels.– Isaiah 53:10-12 (NET)

Jesus was the man. He was the branch. He was the suffering servant who came to give His life on our behalf. As He stood there before Pilate and the hostile Jewish crowd, Jesus appeared as the sacrificial lamb who life was being slowly taken from Him. His death had begun. The cross would only finish what the Roman guards had begun. Everything He had suffered to this point was intended for a convicted criminal. He was already bearing the brunt for our sins. He was suffering on our behalf. He was taking on Himself the penalty intended for me and you. He was the man. The God-man who alone could satisfy the just wrath of God against sin. He carried our sins. He acquitted us of all our transgressions. He was the man who is called the Branch who would bear much fruit. And today, because of what He did, we are the fruit of His faithful obedience.

Father, thank You for Your Son. That He was willing to be the man who alone could satisfy You by paying the penalty for sin. I could never have satisfied Your just demands. But He did. And He did it for me! And to do it He became a man. He became THE man. The only man who could live a sinless life and die a sinner’s death. So that the penalty for sin could be paid for once and for all. Here is the man! Thank You, thank You, thank You!!! Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

John chapter 18

King Jesus

“My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm. – Vs 36 NASB

Ever since the day Jesus had begun His earthly ministry and called His first disciples, His followers had hoped that He was the “coming One,” the Messiah they had long hoped for. For centuries they had been waiting for the arrival of the one who would come as their king and lead them in victory over their enemies. The Messiah for whom they were waiting was going to be a warrior-king. He would defeat the Romans, set His people free, and set up His kingdom on earth, reestablishing the throne of David in Jerusalem. G. N. H. Peters writes, “It is universally admitted by writers of prominence … that the Jews, including the pious, held to a personal coming of the Messiah, the literal restoration of the Davidic throne and kingdom, the personal reign of Messiah on David’s throne, the resultant exaltation of Jerusalem and the Jewish nation, and the fulfilment of the Millennial descriptions of that reign.” The expectation of the disciples was high. They were anticipating that Jesus was going to set up His kingdom here on earth. That is why two of them asked Jesus if they could sit on His left and on His right when He came into power (Mark 10:37). It is also the reason why Peter rebuked Jesus for saying that He was going to Jerusalem to die (Matthew 16:21-23). This news did not fit into Peter’s plans for the Messiah or himself. He was looking for a conquering King, not a suffering servant. The Jews had held onto the promises given to them by God found in the writings of the Old Testament:

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this. – Isaiah 9:6-7

But now, as we approach the last hours of Jesus life, we see that the kingdom He came to establish was quite different than that which the disciples and Jews had anticipated. Jesus clearly saw Himself as a king. He admitted it to Pilate when He said, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (Vs 37 NASB). But He also clarified that His kingdom was NOT going to be an earthly kingdom – at least not yet. “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm” (Vs 36 NASB). Jesus came to establish a spiritual kingdom. He came to reign as king in the lives of those who would be His servants. He would not be recognized as king by His own – the Jews. But He was king nonetheless. And He is king today. He rules and He reigns from heaven. He is Lord of Lord and King of kings. He sits at the right hand of the Father and one day will return to finish what He began. The day is coming when He will establish His throne on earth and rule from Jerusalem.

But the real question is whether or not Jesus is king in my life today. Does He rule and reign over the affairs of my life? Or like the Jews of Jesus’ day, am I guilty of anticipating a different kind of king? Was I looking for a king who would do what I wanted? Was I anticipating a king who would give me a life free from pain, sorrow, opposition, and struggles? At this point, Jesus’ kingdom is a spiritual one. He rules in the lives of men and women. His kingdom is not of this earth. One day it will be. But for now, it is a kingdom that has a spiritual dimension. As a believer, I am a citizen of that kingdom. But do I obey its King? Do I allow Him to rule in my life every day? What about you? Is Jesus King in your life today? Read the following message given by Dr. S. M. Lockeridge. It could inspire you to let Him reign in your life.

My King was born King. The Bible says He’s a Seven Way King. He’s the King of the Jews – that’s an Ethnic King. He’s the King of Israel – that’s a National King. He’s the King of righteousness. He’s the King of the ages. He’s the King of Heaven. He’s the King of glory. He’s the King of kings and He is the Lord of lords. Now that’s my King.

Well, I wonder if you know Him. Do you know Him? Don’t try to mislead me. Do you know my King? David said the Heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork. My King is the only one of whom there are no means of measure that can define His limitless love. No far seeing telescope can bring into visibility the coastline of the shore of His supplies. No barriers can hinder Him from pouring out His blessing.

He’s enduringly strong. He’s entirely sincere. He’s eternally steadfast. He’s immortally graceful. He’s imperially powerful. He’s impartially merciful. That’s my King. He’s God’s Son. He’s the sinner’s saviour. He’s the centerpiece of civilization. He stands alone in Himself. He’s honest. He’s unique. He’s unparalleled. He’s unprecedented. He’s supreme. He’s pre-eminent. He’s the grandest idea in literature. He’s the highest personality in philosophy. He’s the supreme problem in higher criticism. He’s the fundamental doctrine of historic theology. He’s the carnal necessity of spiritual religion. That’s my King.

He’s the miracle of the age. He’s the superlative of everything good that you choose to call Him. He’s the only one able to supply all our needs simultaneously. He supplies strength for the weak. He’s available for the tempted and the tried. He sympathizes and He saves. He’s the Almighty God who guides and keeps all his people. He heals the sick. He cleanses the lepers. He forgives sinners. He discharged debtors. He delivers the captives. He defends the feeble. He blesses the young. He serves the unfortunate. He regards the aged. He rewards the diligent and He beautifies the meek. That’s my King.

Do you know Him? Well, my King is a King of knowledge. He’s the wellspring of wisdom. He’s the doorway of deliverance. He’s the pathway of peace. He’s the roadway of righteousness. He’s the highway of holiness. He’s the gateway of glory. He’s the master of the mighty. He’s the captain of the conquerors. He’s the head of the heroes. He’s the leader of the legislatures. He’s the overseer of the overcomers. He’s the governor of governors. He’s the prince of princes. He’s the King of kings and He’s the Lord of lords. That’s my King.

His office is manifold. His promise is sure. His light is matchless. His goodness is limitless. His mercy is everlasting. His love never changes. His Word is enough. His grace is sufficient. His reign is righteous. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. I wish I could describe Him to you . . . but He’s indescribable. That’s my King. He’s incomprehensible, He’s invincible, and He is irresistible.

I’m coming to tell you this, that the heavens of heavens can’t contain Him, let alone some man explain Him. You can’t get Him out of your mind. You can’t get Him off of your hands. You can’t outlive Him and you can’t live without Him. The Pharisees couldn’t stand Him, but they found out they couldn’t stop Him. Pilate couldn’t find any fault in Him. The witnesses couldn’t get their testimonies to agree about Him. Herod couldn’t kill Him. Death couldn’t handle Him and the grave couldn’t hold Him. That’s my King.

He always has been and He always will be. I’m talking about the fact that He had no predecessor and He’ll have no successor. There’s nobody before Him and there’ll be nobody after Him. You can’t impeach Him and He’s not going to resign. That’s my King! That’s my King!

Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory. Well, all the power belongs to my King. We’re around here talking about black power and white power and green power, but in the end all that matters is God’s power. Thine is the power. Yeah. And the glory. We try to get prestige and honor and glory for ourselves, but the glory is all His. Yes. Thine is the Kingdom and the power and glory, forever and ever and ever and ever. How long is that? Forever and ever and ever and ever. . . And when you get through with all of the ever’s, then . . .Amen!

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

John chapter 17

Sacrificed for our sanctification

“And I give myself entirely to you so they also might be entirely yours. – Vs 19 NLT

This is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible because it is a prayer of Jesus that He prayed on our behalf. It is just hours before is arrest, trials, and crucifixion, yet He stops to talk to His Father and lift up His disciples and all those who would believe in Him because of their words. That includes me and you. He prays that we would know the Father and Himself as the sent one, the crucified sacrificial Lamb of God. In fact, that is Jesus’ definition of what it means to be saved. This is not just an intellectual knowledge, but an intimate, personal knowledge that should grow over time. The word Jesus used was actually a Jewish idiom referring to sexual intimacy between a man and a woman. Jesus is asking that we might experience eternal life which is a close, intimate, personal knowledge of God and His Son. And that knowledge will grow deeper over time. Jesus also asked the Father to protect us from the enemy during our time here on earth. He didn’t ask God to take us out of the world, but to leave us here, even though, as His followers, we are no longer a part of this world. He left us here to carry on His mission. He was actually sending us out into the world (Vs 18). Because of that, He asks the Father to set them apart in the truth of His word. We, like the disciples, have heard the truth. In fact, Jesus prayed, “I have passed on to them the words you gave me; and they accepted them and know that I came from you, and they believe you sent me” (Vs 8 NLT). Jesus had told them the truth about who He was, where He had come from, what was going to happen to Him, and where He was going. He had told them the truth about the Holy Spirit to come and the role they were to play after He was gone. Everything God had said regarding Jesus in His word, which at that time was the Old Testament, had been and would be proven true in Jesus. So He asks that the Father would dedicate them for service according to that truth. And that applies to us as well.

But everything that Jesus asked the Father to do would only be possible if Jesus did what He came to do. And that is what verse 19 talks about. Jesus tells His Father that He is setting Himself apart or dedicating Himself for the sake of His followers. Like a lamb that is dedicated or set apart for sacrifice, Jesus is consecrating Himself for death on the cross. He is willingly putting His life on the line so that we might have eternal life. Jesus didn’t just ask the Father to do all these things for us at no cost to Himself. He laid it all on the line. He sacrificed Himself on our behalf. Listen to what He says: “I give myself entirely to you so they also might be entirely yours” (Vs 19). Everything Jesus prayed was possible ONLY if Jesus accomplished what He was sent to do. His death was the key. And He did it for our sake – on our behalf. Why? So that we might be truly sanctified. His death made possible our dedication. His sacrifice made possible our sanctification. What Jesus did on the cross is what sets us apart. His death is what gave us life. He paid the debt we owed so that we might be reconciled or restored to a right relationship with God. We are now set apart and dedicated to Him. We have been bought at a high price. Paul tells us just that in 1 Corinthians 6:20: “For God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body” (NLT). He reminds us later in the same letter: “God purchased you at a high price. Don’t be enslaved by the world” (1 Corinthians 7:23 NLT). Jesus set Himself apart for death so that we might be set apart to God. To honor God with our bodies and to never again allow ourselves to go back into slavery to the world. We are no longer of this world (Vs 14). Instead, we have been sent by Christ into the world to carry on His work (Vs 18). We have been set apart and dedicated for that purpose. And He payed for it with His life.

Father, You sent your Son to die on my behalf. He dedicated Himself for that purpose. And because He did, I am set apart and dedicated to You. He bought Me our of slavery to sin and dedicated me to You. I am no longer mine. I belong to You. May I live like it. Forgive me for failing to glorify You in my body like I should. I tend to want to glorify me. Forgive me for allowing myself to fall back into slavery to this world. I allow it to capture me with its pleasures and false promises. But I am no longer of this world. I have been sent into it as an ambassador or representative of Christ. Show me how to live out that reality every day. I belong to You. May I live like it every day of my life.  Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

John chapter 16

I have overcome the world!

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. – Vs 33 NLT

In this chapter we have Jesus sharing some heavy and somewhat confusing news with His disciples. It is clear from the passage that they are having a hard time tracking with Him. They even say, “And what does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand” (Vs 18 NLT). Jesus has good news and bad news for them. The bad news is that the hour is coming when they will be considered outcasts from the synagogue. They’ll be excommunicated and unable to worship as they have all their lives. On top of that, they will be killed and those who do it will think they are doing God a favor. The good news is that Jesus assures them He is sending them a “helper.” They don’t know it yet, but this is a reference to the coming of the Holy Spirit. “And when he comes, he will convince the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment” (Vs 8 NLT). Jesus assures them that, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not be presenting his own ideas; he will be telling you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future” (Vs 13 NLT).

Then Jesus really confuses things by telling them, In just a little while I will be gone, and you won’t see me anymore. Then, just a little while after that, you will see me again” (Vs 16 NLT). He also tells them that the coming events will leave them weeping and mourning while the world rejoices, but their grief will turn to joy. He is clearly foreshadowing His crucifixion and death, as well as His resurrection. Finally, He tells them that because of what He is about to go through, they will have new power available to them. They will be able to pray in the authority of His name and receive whatever they ask for. They will have direct access to the Father because of what Jesus is about to accomplish on their behalf. While Jesus is going to be leaving them and returning to the Father, His departure will provide them with a reconciled or renewed relationship with the Father.

But Jesus’ last statement in this chapter is the most impactful one. He tells His disciples that “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows” (Vs 33 NLT). He basically assure them that the days ahead will not be easy ones – even after His resurrection. Yes, they will have access to the Father. Yes, they will have a divine Helper in the form of the Holy Spirit. Yes, they will be able to ask the Father for anything they need in Jesus’ name. But they will experience extreme pressure. That is what the Greek word used here for trials and sorrows means. It refers to “oppression, affliction, tribulation, and distress.” They are going to face some difficult days ahead. It is not going to be easy. And the book of Acts chronicles exactly what Jesus is prophesying. The apostle Paul testified to the reality of Jesus’ statement in his letter to the Romans: “Even the Scriptures say, ‘For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.’ No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us” (Romans 8:36-37 NLT). John also testified to the truth of Jesus’ statement. “For every child of God defeats this evil world by trusting Christ to give the victory. And the ones who win this battle against the world are the ones who believe that Jesus is the Son of God” (1 John 5:4-5 NLT).

Jesus has overcome the world. Even though He had not yet died or been resurrected, Jesus confidently asserted that what He was about to do was as good as done. He was going to finish what He had come to do. And He did. He overcame the world. And because of that we can have the same confidence that Paul and John had. Overwhelming victory is our through Christ. We can win the battle against the world because we believe that Jesus is the Son of God. We can win. It is going to be hard, but we can win! We WILL win, because He has already won.

Father, I want to live with a sense of victory, not defeat. I want to live as an overcomer, not an underdog. Keep me focused on the words of Jesus. He has overcome the world. He has won the victory. It is just a matter of time before He sets everything right, but it WILL happen. Help me not to lose sight of that reality. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

John chapter 15

What do you wish for?

“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. – Vs 7 NASB

Ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you. I have always struggled with this verse. It’s a promise from Christ Himself, but I have rarely seen it become a reality in my life. I know the problem is not with Christ or His Word, so it begs the question, “Why don’t I seem to get whatever I wish?” About two years ago, while on a missions trip to Ethiopia, I had the opportunity to teach this chapter to about 160 pastors and church leaders. It was in studying for that lesson that the real message of this verse jumped out at me. I discovered that it had very little to do with what I wish. At least not with the kinds of things that I tend to wish for. The secret to understanding this promise is to keep it in its context. But like a lot of other passages in Scripture, we tend to lift it out of its context, and when we do, we lose its real meaning.

Jesus starts out chapter seven using the metaphor of vines, branches, and the vinedresser. It is an agricultural metaphor that his listeners would have easily understood. The real point of the metaphor seems to be about fruit bearing or fruitfulness. In the first 10 verses, Jesus uses the terms “bear fruit” and “bear more fruit” six different times. The clear purpose of a vine is to bear fruit. It is the reason a vinedresser plants the vine in the first place. When he places the vine in the ground, his expectation is that it bear fruit. In verse seven, Jesus says, “…ask whatever you wish.” That word means “have in mind, intend” or “desire, wish, take delight in, have pleasure.” Think about it. What does the vinedresser have in mind or intend when he plants the vine? Fruit. And the more, the better. If the vine could intelligently think, what would its greatest desire be? To produce fruit and a lot of it? The vine wouldn’t desire something else. It wouldn’t want to be the wood used to build a yacht or a throne. It would take delight in doing what it was intended to do. And in doing so, it would bring pleasure to the vinedresser. The same thing holds true for the branches. Their greatest desire or wish would be for fruitfulness. They would want, desire, wish, and take delight in doing what they were created to do.

But what is Jesus really talking about here? His followers. He is giving us a parable or story that helps us better understand our role in His kingdom work. God is the vinedresser, and He “planted” His Son on this earth to bear fruit. We are the branches. We are attached to and abide in the vine, and have the power and resources of Christ Himself flowing through us. As a result, we produce fruit. So when Jesus said, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you,” He is still talking about fruitfulness. What is the greatest wish or desire of the vinedresser? Fruitfulness. What is the greatest wish or desire of the vine? Fruitfulness. What should be the greatest wish or desire of the branch? Fruitfulness. We should want nothing more than to be fruit bearers. That should be my greatest wish or desire. It should bring me pleasure to bear fruit for the Father as Jesus produces it through me. This isn’t about me getting whatever I want, but about my life being used by God to produce what HE wants. Fruit. Just look at verse eight: “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.” I glorify God when my life produces fruit. Why? Because it is clear that He has produced it in me. When a winery produces abundant grapes, you don’t praise the vine or the branches, you praise the keeper of the winery. The same is true in our lives. When our lives produce fruit, God gets the glory. Because He is the one who made it possible. So when Jesus says,  “ask whatever you wish.” He isn’t telling us we have a blank check and can write it for whatever we want. He is saying that our desires are going to change. What we ask for is going to radically change the more we abide in Him. As the life of Christ flows through our life, we will see our desires change. What used to bring us pleasure no longer will. Instead we will find that we want what He wants. We will desire what He desires. And what does He desire? Fruitfulness.

And here’s one more thing to think about regarding fruitfulness. The fruit is NOT for you. I used to think that I was the key beneficiary of the fruit in my life, but if you stick with the metaphor, you realize that the fruit is produced for others, not for me. I am not the beneficiary. An apple tree does not eat the fruit it produces. Others do. So when I allow God to produce fruit through me, it is those around me who benefit. They are blessed. They get to enjoy what God has produced through me. So they benefit from my love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control. But I don’t go away empty handed. Jesus tells us in verse 11: “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” What is the joy that Jesus has that He wants to fill us with? To do the will of His Father. To produce fruit. When we see our lives producing fruit and benefiting those around us, we WILL have joy. Because we will know that we are doing what we were made to do. We are being used by God. And who could wish for anything more?

Father, make it my greatest wish to bear fruit for You! Continue to change my desires to match Yours. I want to want what You want. I want to be fruitful. So that my joy may be full. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

John chapter 14

He loved to death

“I don’t have much more time to talk to you, because the prince of this world approaches. He has no power over me, but I will do what the Father requires of me, so that the world will know that I love the Father. – Vs 30-31 NLT

Time was running out. Jesus’ days on this earth were numbered and He knew that His death was fast approaching. So He tried to encourage His disciples. He told them that He was going to prepare a place for them (Vs 3). He reminded them that He was the way to that place (Vs 6). He reassured them that He and the Father were one, and that by knowing and believing in Him, they would know the Father (Vs 10-11). He encouraged them that even though He was leaving, they would do even greater works than He had done (Vs 12), and that whatever they asked God for in Jesus’ name, He would guarantee that they got it (Vs 13-14). He told them that even though He was leaving, He would not leave them alone, but would give them another Helper – the Holy Spirit – who would guide them, teach them, and supernaturally bring to their minds all that Jesus had taught them (Vs 16-17, 26). He reminded them that the best expression of their love for Him was to obey all that He had said and taught them (Vs 21, 23). Then to calm their fears and to give them confidence to face what was coming, He assured them that He was going to give them His peace – in the form of the Holy Spirit (Vs 27).

But one of the most fascinating things Jesus said to the disciples was His statement regarding the coming of the enemy. Jesus said, “I don’t have much more time to talk to you, because the prince of this world approaches. He has no power over me” (Vs 30). The Message paraphrases verse 30 this way, “I’ll not be talking with you much more like this because the chief of this godless world is about to attack. But don’t worry – he has nothing on me, no claim on me.” Jesus was letting them know that He was about to be betrayed into the hands of enemies and Satan was behind the whole thing. But He was also letting them know that what was about to happen was all under HIS control not Satans. What Jesus was about to do, He was doing willingly! And not only that, He was doing it as an expression of His love to His Father! Look at what He said earlier in the book of John:

The Father loves me because I lay down my life that I may have it back again. No one can take my life from me. I lay down my life voluntarily. For I have the right to lay it down when I want to and also the power to take it again. For my Father has given me this command.” – John 10:17-18 NLT

Satan was not in control of the situation, Jesus was. Satan was not taking Jesus’ life. Jesus was willingly laying His life on the line in obedience to the command of His Father. And in doing so, it was the greatest expression of His love for His Father. Jesus’ death was a demonstration or proof of His love for the Father. And it was a demonstration or proof of the Father’s love for us. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 NASB).

Jesus literally loved His Father to death. Paul tells us, “Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8 NASB). Jesus loved His Father enough to obey Him – even though it meant giving His life and dying a criminal’s death on a cross. He did what His Father commanded Him to do. That makes what Jesus says in verses 21 and 23 that much more impactful. “Those who obey my commandments are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them, and I will love them. And I will reveal myself to each one of them … All those who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and live with them.” Jesus could say this because He was about to do it. He modeled it. His greatest expression of love for His Father was to obey His Father’s command to sacrifice His own life on our behalf. So what makes me think that I can say that I love Jesus but can refuse to obey what He has commanded me to do? Obedience to His commands is the greatest expression of my love for Him. Am I willing to love Him to death?

Father, You showed Your love for me by sending Your Son to die in my place. And Jesus showed His love for You by doing just that. He obeyed, even though it cost Him His life and separated Him from You for the first time in all eternity. But that demonstration of His love for You made salvation possible for me. And allowed me to enjoy Your love for me. Thank You both. Now may I learn to obey You more – even if it costs me everything! Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

John chapter 13

That God Be Glorified

“The time has come for me, the Son of Man, to enter into my glory, and God will receive glory because of all that happens to me. – Vs 31 NLT

Have you ever wondered why God allows suffering and heartache in your life? I have. I look at those times and wonder what in the world God could be thinking. Why would He allow me to have to go through a time of difficulty or testing? He could prevent it. He could stop it. He could change it. But sometimes He doesn’t. Why? Then I read this chapter and I hear Jesus say, “The time has come for me, the Son of Man, to enter into my glory, and God will receive glory because of all that happens to me.” Do you hear what Jesus is saying? God is going to be glorified by ALL that happens to Him. And what is about to happen to Him? His arrest and trials. His abuse at the hands of the Jews. His scourging and humiliation at the hands of the Romans. His brutal crucifixion and ultimate death. And Jesus is saying that God will receive glory because of all that happens to Him! God was going to receive glory not only through Jesus’ resurrection, but through His crucifixion as well.

Jesus lived to glorify His Father. In everything He did. Every act, every deed, every thought, every circumstance of His life brought glory to God. Because He lived in constant obedience to God. His godly reaction to even ungodly circumstances brought glory to God. His godly and obedient submission to His Father’s will, even when it was not ideal or pleasurable, brought glory to God. You see, we somehow think that God can only be glorified through the good times. We fail to realize that we bring Him glory when we acknowledge Him even in the bad times. When we trust Him when things look dark and bleak, He receives glory. When we praise Him, even when things look bad, we give Him glory. It is our lives that bring Him glory, not just our words. It is our responses to life that bring Him glory, not just our religious observances. Jesus knew that what He was about to go through, and it was going to be worse than anything any one of us has ever been or ever will go through, was going to bring glory and honor to His heavenly Father. Why? Because His faithful obedience was going to show the world the amazing love of God. What does John 3:16 tell us? “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (NIV). In Romans 5:8 Paul tells us, “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (NLT).

God was going to be glorified by Jesus’ obedience. God was going to be glorified in the suffering and death of Jesus. His life and subsequent death would glorify God. So could God be glorified in my sufferings? Could God be glorified in the struggles of my life? Over in 1 Corinthians 6:20, Paul tells the Corinthian Christians, “For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (NASB). What was that price? The death of Jesus Christ. With the death of His own Son, God purchased us out of slavery to sin. He redeemed us off of the slave market and set us free. So what does Paul say we should do? Glorify God with our bodies. Jesus glorified God with His body. Should we do no less? And how do we do that? By accepting from the Father what He allows into our life. By trusting His love and mercy. By not leaning on our own understanding, but instead, resting on His promises. God wants to use you to bring glory to Himself. But He is most glorified when I am most satisfied with Him. And I show my satisfaction in Him when I trust Him – with everything that happens to me – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Father, I want my life to glorify You today. Forgive me for constantly complaining about the circumstances of my life and failing to realize that You know exactly what you are doing. May I continue to trust You more and more because You are trustworthy. Help me to see that You are using every event in my life as an opportunity to glorify You. To show the world that You are powerful, faithful, loving, and trustworthy. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

John chapter 12

You’re killing me!

“When all the people heard of Jesus’ arrival, they flocked to see him and also to see Lazarus, the man Jesus had raised from the dead. Then the leading priests decided to kill Lazarus, too.” – Vs 9-10 NLT

I love the Pharisees. Not in an admirable way, but in a kind of rubber-necking-wreck-on-the-side-of-the-highway kind of way. There’s just something about them that intrigues and attracts me. Maybe it’s because I see a lot of myself in them. In this story in chapter 11 of John, I find it quite humorous that their solution to the presence of Lazarus, this guy that Jesus miraculously raised from the dead, is to kill him. Think about it. Is that not a really bad solution to their problem? I mean, I understand that it was a real hassle having this guy walking around telling people that he had once been dead but now was alive all because of Jesus. Sure, his story of resucitation  from death to life was causing a lot of people to become followers of Jesus, but does killing him really makes sense? Is that the best solution you can come up with? After all, Jesus JUST raised him from the DEAD! Couldn’t He do it again?

But isn’t that the way men think? Rather than see the miraculous nature of what Christ had done as living proof of who He claimed to be, they would rather just destroy the evidence. Which is why I think Jesus warned us that the world would hate us. “The world would love you if you belonged to it, but you don’t. I chose you to come out of the world, and so it hates you” (John 15:9 NLT). The world hates the message and the messengers. It hates what and who we stand for. So its only solution is to destroy us. But Jesus told us, “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill you. They can only kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). The Psalmist reminds us, “In God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Psalms 56:11 NASB). They could have killed Lazarus, but Jesus could have just brought him back to life. I am not saying He would have, but He could have. And even if Jesus chose not to, the death of Lazarus would not have been the end. Jesus came to give abundant life now, but eternal life forever. That’s why death is not a dead end. For those who believe in Christ, it is just the beginning. In fact, Jesus says just a few verses later, “Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who despise their life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:25 NLT). Jesus’ healing of Lazarus wasn’t about restoring physical life on this earth, but to prove that Jesus was the Messiah and had the power and authority to promise eternal life. The Pharisees didn’t know what to do with Jesus or His miracles. They didn’t know what to do with Lazarus. The best they could come up with was to kill him. But he had been dead before. He would live to die again. But he would rise again. Just like we all will. But the next time it would not be to more of the same kind of life he had come to know, but to a new life altogether. Eternal life. Free from sin, sickness, and death.

Recently I ran across the lyrics to a song that has really meant a lot to me. I catch myself listening to it throughout the day, even at night as I am going to sleep. Check out the lyrics and see if they are not an encouragement to you.

It is not death to die
To leave this weary road
And join the saints who dwell on high
Who’ve found their home with God
It is not death to close
The eyes long dimmed by tears
And wake in joy before Your throne
Delivered from our fears

O Jesus, conquering the grave
Your precious blood has power to save
Those who trust in You
Will in Your mercy find
That it is not death to die

It is not death to fling
Aside this earthly dust
And rise with strong and noble wing
To live among the just
It is not death to hear
The key unlock the door
That sets us free from mortal years
To praise You evermore

O Jesus, conquering the grave
Your precious blood has power to save
Those who trust in You
Will in Your mercy find
That it is not death to die

© 2008 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)

It is not death to die. It is to live!

Father, give me a boldness to face death fearlessly. Remind me constantly that I have nothing to fear from death or from men. They can only kill me, but you have already given me new life. It is not death to die. Help me believe that. They can kill the messenger, but not the message of hope that is found in the Gospel. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

John chapter 11

See the glory of God

“And again Jesus was deeply troubled. Then they came to the grave. It was a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. ‘Roll the stone aside,’ Jesus told them.” – Vs 38-39 NLT

In all the times I have read this story, I never made the connection between the death of Lazarus and the death of Jesus that was coming just a short time later. I also never thought about how this event must have gone through the minds of the disciples when there were told that the tomb of Jesus was empty. Did they recall this day? Did they remember that Lazarus had been dead four days but was able to walk out of his own grave? Like so many of the events in the Scriptures, this was just a glimpse into what was to come.

When Jesus arrived at Bethany, His friend Lazarus was dead and buried. But Jesus knew this. He had delayed His arrival for just this purpose. He was going to use this as an opportunity to glorify God and validate His position as the Messiah. The atmosphere in Bethany was dark and gloomy. The cries of mourners filled the air. Hope had given way to despair. Any anticipation of Jesus healing Lazarus from his sickness had faded when Lazarus breathed his last breath. It was over. Even Jesus was too late. Both Mary and Martha confronted Jesus with the words, “Lord, if You had been here my brother would not have died!” They both believed that Jesus could have healed Lazarus. But death was final. Their brother was gone. Yet Jesus responded, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die like everyone else, will live again. They are given eternal life for believing in me and will never perish. Do you believe this, Martha?” (Vs 25-26 NLT).

When they arrive at the tomb, they find a cave with the entrance covered by a stone. Sound familiar? Jesus commands them to remove the stone. Sound familiar? The women don’t expect to find anything inside but a dead and decaying body? Sound familiar? But what does Jesus say to them? “Didn’t I tell you that you will see God’s glory if you believe?” (Vs 40 NLT). So they remove the stone and Jesus calls out “Lazarus, come out!” And then John records, “The man who had died came forth” (Vs 44 NASB). Sound familiar?

This whole event was a precursor to the one coming up in just a few days. Jesus was going to die. He was going to be buried. He was going to be placed in a grave. His death would be mourned by His followers. It would be accompanied by despair and a loss of hope. His death would carry with it an air of defeat and finality. His grave would have a stone rolled in front of it. Yet, that stone too would be rolled away. His tomb would be found empty. Because He is the resurrection and the life. But do we believe? Mary, Martha, and the disciples had seen Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead. But what did they do when Jesus died? They despaired. They gave up hope. They doubted. They failed to believe. The women went to the tomb to anoint a dead body, not to look for a risen Lord. The disciples were in hiding. But Jesus was alive! He had conquered death and the grave. He had paid the penalty for sin. He had satisfied the just demands of a holy, righteous God. And He had glorified God through His life, His death, and His resurrection. But do you believe?

“Did I not say to you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?” Do you believe in Him today? Is He big enough for your problems? If He great enough for your defeats and despair today? If Jesus alive and well in your life today? He wants you to see the glory of God in your life today. He wants to prove Himself as the resurrection and the life even today. He can bring joy out of despair and victory out of defeat. He can bring life where there appears to be nothing but death. He can restore. He can revive. He can give life. Do you believe that today? If so, you will see the glory of God.

Father, I want to see your Glory in my life today. But I know I have to believe that nothing is too great for Your Son. I don’t have a problem believing in the reality of eternal life, but I sometimes struggle believing that Jesus can give me abundant life here and now. I doubt and despair. But Jesus is the resurrection and the life. He wants me to believe. He wants to show me the glory of God. May that happen in my life today. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men