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Tag: book of john

Old Hope for the New Year

by Mike McKinniss

I’ve got babies on the brain. My wife and I are expecting the arrival of our first—any day now!—and the occasion has propelled my mind, quite naturally, to new beginnings. During the Advent season, it was a new and wonderful experience to be anticipating the birth of our own daughter while we read the stories of our savior’s arrival. Now, I don’t expect our little girl to be the world’s redeemer, but we’re excited, nonetheless.

In the process, I landed for a time on a passage occasionally associated with Christmas, though it doesn’t highlight the nativity. It’s John’s prologue:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (Jn 1:1-5, NIV).

In the beginning. Made. Life. Light. Darkness.

We’ve heard these words before. They’re words borrowed from the very first pages of the Bible. (Go ahead and read Genesis 1:1–2:3 to get the full context.) It’s a funny thing for John to begin his story about Jesus by first reminding us of creation. What’s he trying to do?

What John and his original audience would have known—and we might not—is that the Christ-child entered a world predominated by darkness. Jesus was born to Jewish parents in the heart of Palestine, maybe a year or two on either side of what we would now call year one. At the time, Jesus’ countrymen were weary. For 700 years (700!), this once noble people had been toiling under foreign oppression. Their latest overlords, the Romans, were among the most brutal, at one time (not long after Jesus’ resurrection) publicly executing so many Jews on crosses, they ran out of wood. Many of Jesus’ contemporaries were enslaved by crippling debt. Where could they look for relief?

It was as Isaiah had predicted several generations earlier: “See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples” (Isa. 60:2a, NIV).

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More of Him AND More of Me?

by Mike McKinniss

When in my early twenties, I did as all good Christian young adults do and sacrificed a few summers working at a Christian summer camp. Each year as a staff we would put our heads together and cook up a theme verse we thought might be appropriate as a banner over our ten-week stint.

One year we were rather excited to have landed on John 3:30, wherein John the Baptist reflects on Jesus’ arrival on the Judean scene: “He must become greater; I must become less” (NIV).

We were giving each other high fives over it. “Yeah! This is what it’s all about! More of Jesus; less of us!” We thought we’d really landed on a juicy bit of theology, and we were eager to slap it on the sweatshirts we were soon to commission—because what’s a summer camp experience with apparel to commemorate it?

I’ve since come to think we were mistaken.

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God’s Pretty Good at Taking Care of You

by Mike McKinniss

SheepI am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  John 10:11

I doubt other people have this issue, when it comes to dealing with God, but I disagree with him a lot.  I have, from time to time, gotten the distinct sense that the Lord wants me to do something for someone else (it’s always for someone else), like praying for them or meeting a need of theirs or acknowledging their presence.  And I typically respond by informing him: “But I don’t want to do that, God.”

I’ve got my reasons, whatever the circumstance.  I’m not ready for that.  I’m not spiritual enough.  That’s not my personality.  That’s too scary.  That’s too risky.  That’s going to cost me too much.

Ultimately, though, I’ve really only got one reason: me.  Really, I just want what I think is best, or, barring the best, I just want what will make me comfortable.  I’m concerned about my stuff, not theirs.  In short, I basically only want to think about myself.

For whatever reason, though, it doesn’t seem that God is all that interested in my comfort.  And so we argue.

It is in these times that I tend to forget an important fact: God is for me.  He’s not interested in abusing me.  He’s not interested in misleading me.  He’s not interested in holding me back.  He has been, after all, best exemplified by the good shepherd who cares for his sheep (John 10:1-18).

God is supremely interested in my well being.  You can distort that statement in all sorts of ways (and it has been), but the truth of the matter is that God has the best in mind for each of us.  I like the way a colleague of mine puts it: “God always has your highest and best purposes at heart.”

It is this simple yet profound fact that I’ve typically forgotten when I get into these arguments with the Lord.  “You want me to do what?  But I don’t want to do that.”

And God’s all, “Yes, but I think you’re forgetting something.”

“I doubt it.”

“Ahem, I want the best for you.  And I know everything.  So if I think you should do this, then…”

Ensue sheepishness.

The point is that God is deeply concerned for me.  He wants what is best for me at all times.  And it turns out he’s pretty good at taking care of my concerns.  But if I focus my energy on myself, I can actually block the Lord from caring for me.

Rather (and this is only very slowly dawning on me), it turns out that when I concentrate my attention on others, the Lord is suddenly freed to meet my needs as well.

It’s an odd paradox, but it seems the truth is that I’m in the best shape when I’m caring about other people because it gives the Lord access to fill me, which, of course, he does better than I ever could.

To learn more about Mike, please visit our contributors page. 

Run from the Wrong Battle

by mandyade

Boxer of Quirinal via Wikimedia Commons

Boxer of Quirinal via Wikimedia Commons

His sheep follow Him because they know His voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice. John 10:4b-5

Do you receive criticism from your own head? We have a Good Shepard who feeds us life with His own hand; anything that comes from His hand is good for us to receive. But there is a stranger who tries to feed us with junk; if we receive his lies they will poison us.

As a minister I would often experience accusations in my mind after ministry. At first I would think about them and try to take them apart to figure them out. I would get into a spiral dive with my thinking and my attempts to free myself would entangle me more. What I was doing was engaging in a fight that I wasn’t called to fight. As I grow I am learning to run from the wrong battle.

Not every enemy that comes looking for a fight is worthy of our time and attention. There are many battles not intended for us to engage in. We don’t have to dissect the enemy’s weapons to win; all we need to do is resist him. “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

“Resist” means push back and say “NO.” We say “NO” by:

  1. Ignoring and not giving time or attention to lies.
  2. Intentionally receiving truth from Jesus hand.

My friend had a mysterious dream: She dreamt that she was innocently drawn to look into some shadows, out of these shadows came ugly creatures to harass her. A dark table appeared with food and the host invited her to come to the table. He said, “Now that I’ve whet your appetite…”

The mystery of the dream was that she did not have an appetite for the creatures or the meal. God used the dream to show her that her constant introspection was harassing her and the more she engaged in “innocent” thinking the more she was compelled to go deeper. Though she didn’t like the thoughts, she had an appetite to go there with her mind. Her attention to lies created an appetite for them. She realized she needed to leave the battle and start receiving only what the Shepherd says. The Shepherd’s truth would win the battle for her.

The food that the Shepherd feeds us with is the most potent weapon against lies or bad thinking. When we receive truth from Him our battles are won without the big fight that we expect.

It’s important where we feed:

  1. Feed on the truth that God says about you. His truth is always encouraging and full of hope. Worldly sorrow will lead to hopelessness and death (2 Corinthians 7:10).
  2. Spit out self-consciousness. Under the Law of Moses the people were constantly sin-conscious, under the new law we are intended to be conscious of God’s gift of righteousness to us. We mirror the image we focus on.
  3. Spit out devil-consciousness. We win when we are feeding on what Jesus is saying and doing- not when we are feeding on what the enemy is saying or doing. Resist the enemy by ignoring lies (not giving them time and attention) and focusing on truth (giving time and attention to what God says).

To learn more about Mandy, please visit our Contributors Page.

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