GLEANING from Claudia: Following Jesus – It’s All About Jesus

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READ: John 3:22-36

I admire John the Baptizer. When his disciples come to him concerned that Jesus is baptizing people too and many are going to him, John’s answer is stellar. In a condensed version he simply says, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven.” And “He must become greater; I must become less.” John reminds his followers of the role he was given – the role he had clearly told them about. He also continue to exalt Jesus.

John’s understanding of his identity, his mission and his time is well developed. As Steve and I approach retirement, I respect John’s clarity about his role so much. It really is all about Jesus.

Lord, give me a John heart. Help me always remember that it is all about Jesus. My life, my gifts, my purpose – it is all about Jesus!

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GLEANINGS from Claudia: Following Jesus – No Bigotry Here

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READ: John 3:1-21

“Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council.” This simple sentence holds a world of information. This man who came to Jesus by night was a powerful member of the ruling group in Judaism. The Pharisees tended to be well thought of by the people. They weren’t the wealthy elite, most held day jobs, they were those who had studied and grown into these places of power.

We also know that Jesus had an opinion about the Pharisees. As Jesus’ ministry unfolds we’ll see them as the Jewish group most intent on undermining Jesus’ work and ministry. Jesus calls them hypocrites and abhors the rules this group places upon the people in general. Jesus’ most scathing remarks are reserved for this group.

With these thoughts in my mind, I wonder at Jesus’ interaction with Nicodemus. Why did Nicodemus come to him at night? It might have been fear or pride. But I also wonder if it was discretion? This is early in Jesus’ ministry and perhaps Nicodemus legitimately wants to check Jesus out without inadvertently giving a stamp of approval to the man via a daylight meeting. In any case, he comes and this draws me to Nicodemus.

And I absolutely love it that Jesus doesn’t treat Nicodemus as Jesus’ opinion of the Pharisees might suggest he would. He treats Nicodemus as a seeking, questioning individual. He engages with him intellectually and spiritually. He doesn’t rebuke him or question his motives or put him off. Oh how I want to be like this – not automatically shutting another down because I have an opinion of the ‘group’ of which this individual is a part. And this draws me to Jesus.

One of the greatest and clearest explanations of Jesus’ purpose in coming to the world is presented in this discourse with Nicodemus. Every Sunday School child memorizes John 3:16. And Jesus interjects something that I’m sure caused Nicodemus, the one who came in the dark, to deeply ponder. “This is the verdict (spoken to one who sits on the ruling council): Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” John 3:19-21 No one had likely even hinted to Nicodemus that there was anything of darkness in his life. Jesus invites him to consider his life in light of the Light!

Lord, knowing a group’s heart and teaching and speaking out against evil and wrong is a good thing. Thank You for demonstrating that fact in the way you spoke out against the Pharisees. But Lord, thank You so much for the way you engaged a single member of that same group. Oh to be like You! Give me the heart to see individuals and to listen and to engage and to share. Bless You for showing the way Lord!

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GLEANINGS from Claudia: Following Jesus – Eyes to See

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READ: John 2:12-25

Jesus ministry certainly didn’t begin with a soft launch. Like all observant Jewish men, Jesus goes to Jerusalem for the Passover, one of three feasts that required Jewish men to go up to the temple in Jerusalem. He comes from the recent wedding in Cana where his disciples watched him turn water into wine and, in response, put their faith in him. Now, just days later, Jesus goes crazy in the temple courts! He makes a whip out of cords and drives animals from the area, then overturns tables scattering coins everywhere! He yells at the dove sellers – “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” What a chaotic scene!

His disciples respond from the new place of knowing that rises out of the first miracle. They recall scripture from Psalm 69:9 “Zeal for your house will consume me.” This demonstration of passion seems to be another faith builder for the disciples – at least in looking back. John highlights another place where hindsight makes sense of a situation. When the Jews demand a miraculous sign of Jesus to prove he has the authority to turn the temple courts upside down, he speaks in a veiled fashion of his coming death and resurrection. And John shares that after he was raised from the dead the disciples remembered and believed.

It is interesting to me that we find out in the last paragraph that Jesus did miraculous signs while in Jerusalem for this Passover, and those signs caused many to believe. But John chose to record the clearing of the temple courts and Jesus’ answer to the Jews. These things John records were every bit as indicative of who Jesus is as were the miraculous signs he accomplished.

I think I’m guilty of sometimes seeing only the answers to prayer, the healing and provision, as coming from the hand of the Lord into my life. Perhaps sometimes his work looks more like rebuke or is downright confusing. Oh to have eyes to see, even in the midst!

Lord, give me eyes to see not only in hindsight, but even in the midst. Give me a heart to trust and respond to Your work in me and around me. I long to glorify Your name!

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GLEANINGS from Claudia: Following Jesus -Trust in God’s Timing

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READ: John 2:1-11

There is so much in this story speaks to me. I love it that Jesus’ first miracle is performed in support of a huge party, a wedding celebration. I ponder the empty jars, re-filled with sweet fresh water that, with a simple unspoken, unknowable command from Jesus, became the best wine ever. It is a mark of God’s work that the only ones who really knew what happened were the kitchen workers, those in the background. And, even though only those in the background knew the genesis of this delicious wine, everyone benefited!

But today what really speaks to me is this ‘in the flesh picture’ of a God who knows, who hears our concerns, and who acts on behalf of those who appeal to Him. As I read this today another passage of scripture came to mind. Take a look at Exodus 3:7-8. This passage comes at a time when Israel was under severe oppression and had been for hundreds of years. Prayers and cries and groans of help were rising to a God who for many years had appeared not to hear. But in this passage God makes it clear that He does hear; He sees; He is concerned; and He comes down to help. Sometimes God’s timing is hard to understand. Sometimes we just need to keep praying and trust – even when the waiting season is filled with pain and hardship.

In the story of water into wine, Jesus seems clear that his ‘time has not yet come.’ But then, in what I see as a great show of compassion, he moves into meeting the need of the wedding party. Had the groom and bride even realized the shortage of wine yet? There is no indication of that. Mary took note and approached her son with the need. “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking, I will hear.” Isaiah 65:24. I had a personal experience of this yesterday when I went late to set up for the Bible study group I lead. I’m under the weather and wasn’t sure where the energy would come from to be ready for the group on time. Two of the Bible study participants showed up a full hour ahead of time and lent a hand. I was so blessed! I didn’t ask – honestly didn’t think to ask – but this felt like an in the flesh experience of Isaiah 65:24. What a blessing from the hand of the Lord and these two sweet women!!

Why do answers sometimes take forever – maybe not even appearing in our lifetime? Why do answers sometimes come before we even know to ask? I can’t begin to understand the mind of God in this. The key thing to know is that God DOES see and hear; His heart is moved, and He does come down to save. We can trust in a God who sees. We can trust in a God who cares. We can wait knowing that we are visible to Him.

Lord, borrowing the words of Psalm 6:9, I declare “The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer.” I know that You hear the articulated cries of my heart and I realize that You hear even the cries of my spirit of which I’m not aware. How I bless You and praise You for Your attentive love. In faith, with deep certainty, I wait on You for Your timing and answers.

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GLEANINGS from Claudia: Following Jesus – Seen by Jesus

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READ: John 1:35-51

“Look, the Lamb of God!” This is the second time John has very clearly identified Jesus as the Lamb of God. What an identity! This name points in a straight line back to Genesis 22:8 where, as they climb the mountain in Moriah to offer a sacrifice at God’s bidding, Abraham answers Isaac’s “…where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham’s response is immediate, certain, unwavering; “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” As John points out God’s lamb, I wonder if he realizes the full import of his words? This day, in this place, Jehovah-Jireh – Lord will Provide, begins the journey of His Lamb to the place of sacrifice.

I love the way Jesus sees people in these verses of scripture. He engages with those who choose to follow him, inviting them on. He speaks truth about who they are that looks beyond that moment of time into a becoming. Simon son of John will be called Cephas or Rock. Nathanael isn’t the prejudiced man who scornfully says “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Instead he is the Israelite in whom there is nothing false. Over and over Jesus invites “Follow me”; “Come and see.”

This man. This God. This Lamb! How I want to follow Him in truth, becoming the one that He already sees me to be!!

Lord, sometimes I perceive the hints of who I am in Your eyes. And sometimes the prejudices and early choices and weak-faithed pieces of who I am seem to predominate. Lord, call my name and my character into me and give me eyes to see and ears to hear. I know You love me and I look to You for who I am.

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GLEANINGS from Claudia: Following Jesus – Week of Prayer and Fasting – Day 7

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This week I’m participating in a Week of Prayer and Fasting at Suburban Church. Suburban joins other area churches that select a week in the month of January to pray and fast before the Lord. This year Suburban’s theme is “Looking to Jesus”. For this week I will share devotional thoughts gleaned from the scripture passages and prayer times our Elders and other prayer leaders will share.

READ: James 1:17; Deuteronomy 32:1-4

Celebrate! Today marks the end of Suburban’s Week of Prayer and Fasting. For me personally the week was good, but not in an earth-shaking way. I think what I most see in this week is the faithfulness of God as he continues his work in me, in Suburban, in our community, and in our world. He brought me to repentance in this week, but in a way that highlights that repentance and the ongoing work of transforming me into the image of His Son is a sweet and normative thing. I don’t need to run from this in fear, rather I can embrace it, scorning the momentary shame and receiving the joy of this work in my life.

Today’s devotional by Vern McDonald is the perfect end to this week. God is immutable. There is no shadow of changing in him. The scripture that really spoke to me is from Deuteronomy 32:1-4. In this scripture a deeply loved leader stands before his people aware that change is coming. Moses’ time of leading the people was very nearly over. Moses’ knew it and the people knew it too. And guess what? So did God! And on this day recorded in scripture Moses stood before the people and declared “I will proclaim the name of the Lord. Oh, praise the greatness of our God! He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.” Deut. 32:3&4. Over 3,000 years have passed, but today Steve and any other of the Lord’s Pastors could stand before the people of God and proclaim exactly the same thing. God has not changed!

The scriptural record reveals a God whose heart is to be in relationship with man. Over the years of time God has clearly and powerfully worked through his Word; through his Son’s life, death and resurrection; and through varied and many anointed leaders to communicate his deep, deep passion for us! Certainly in our time and our place he will continue to do this very thing. I started the Week of Prayer and Fasting eager to see God’s work in Suburban and anticipating what that will be in our next season. It seems impossible, but I end this week even more excited and ready for what is next! God is at work, just as he always has been. Greater things are yet to come and we all get to be a part of those greater things!

Cheryl Black wrote at the end of the booklet encouraging us to praise God! What a fitting way to the end this week and to live out every single day of our life! Praise Him! Praise Him! He is a good, good Father and he desires relationship with every individual one of us and every beautiful group of us!

Lord, Truly You are the Rock! You are faithful, never changing, ever loving us. You’ve revealed yourself to us and called us to hear your voice. You’ve given us your Word and promised that it will not return to you empty, but will achieve that for which you’ve sent it. Lord, I praise You for your consistent, merciful love. I praise You that you are a merciful, loving and just God. I depend upon this!

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GLEANINGS from Claudia: Following Jesus – Week of Prayer and Fasting Day 6

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This week I’m participating in a Week of Prayer and Fasting at Suburban Church. Suburban joins other area churches that select a week in the month of January to pray and fast before the Lord. This year Suburban’s theme is “Looking to Jesus”. For this week I will share devotional thoughts gleaned from the scripture passages and prayer times our Elders and other prayer leaders will share.

READ: Romans 8:28-30

Today we had no together morning or evening prayer time. I both missed being with other believers to pray and so enjoyed being back in my quiet corner to meet the Lord on my own. Today’s devotional thought was provided by Clint Zlatnik and focused on the sovereignty of God. Clint chose Romans 8:28 as the focus thought for this characteristic of God. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

It was a good thought to begin this day. For several weeks now I’ve looked forward to this weekend because I knew that my daughter Kristin and my granddaughter Helen were coming to Corvallis. One of Helen’s Christmas presents was getting to come to an Oregon State University Women’s Gymnastics meet and today is the day! Unfortunately last Thursday evening Helen began running a fever of just over 102. We all waited and hoped that it would be a brief blip that would still allow them to come on Friday. Friday came and went with no improvement, so we held our breaths for Saturday. But, alas, today brought Saturday and Helen is still miserable and still running a fever. This trip was simply not to be. It seems even more mournful when we remember that Helen had perfect attendance at school last year and was never ill enough to miss anything! But this year, this particular weekend, so eagerly longed for and planned for, Helen is sick. Bummer!

Disappointed Helen  Disappointed Helen

This is a small thing in both the eternal scheme of things and in light of the major life disappointments I’ve faced in the past and that sweet, young Helen is likely to face in the future. My prayer for Helen today is that somehow through this small thing she is learning resilience and maybe even how to make a lemon into lemonade! I hope that as she faces her day and her disappointment just a bit more of the image of Jesus is formed in her. My prayer is that God will comfort her and show her himself in this disappointing day.

Lord, thank You for this small thing that I’m guessing feels big in Helen’s life. Thank You for parents who love Helen and will help her overcome disappointment. Thank You for being the God whose love purposes salvation in Christ for all who believe and then the beauty of being conformed to the image of Christ. May these things be first in Helen’s life; may this truth be the source of life even in disappointment! Thank You Lord!

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