The Gospel of John

Prepare the soil of Your Heart

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Prepare, pray, tilling, soil, heart

It is vitally important for ever Christian to grow spiritually. We ought to seek growth in our relationship with God. We do this by preparing the soil of our hearts. That is the theme of this post – prepare the soil of your heart.

God longs for us to prepare our hearts soil, our spiritual soil, so we are receptive to His Word and His plan for our lives so we may bear good fruit.

May your heart become receptive and responsive to the presence, will and love of God as you self-assess your heart and – are open to change – through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Spiritual Soil

22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.Matthew 13:22-23

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The principle of good and bad soil is something Jesus’s followers would, and should, understood well. The difference between having food or going without, having money or not is achieved by planting in good or bad soil. For their agricultural culture it was a matter of survival.

Jesus’s parable might not have as direct a correlation to us, because we aren’t all agriculturally inclined- its principle remains as important. We all have spiritual soil. Through our wellness, mindfulness and condition of our heart we can receive the seed of God’s word which will in turn yield life-giving fruit. Or, we can allow the soil of our hearts to make us unreceptive to the powerful work God in our lives.

Free Will – God’s Will

It’s incredibly important for us to understand that God will never force his desires on us. He will wait patiently—hoping that open our hearts fully to him. He gently shows us his love, whispers his perfect plans to us, and waits for us to trust Him and surrender. With the grace of God, we can prepare the soil of our hearts, living receptively and surrendered to his loving kindness and perfect will. If we will cultivate a willing heart, God will mold and shape us into children free from the cares of the world and empowered to live Christ-like, fruitful lives.

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Take the time to assess your own life. What parts of your heart are hardened to God? Where do you feel unreceptive to his goodness? Where do you need to say yes to God today. God is calling you to a lifestyle of trust and surrender that he might lead you to green pastures and still waters. There is abundant life in store as you cultivate good soil.

May the Holy Spirit help you look honestly at the posture of your heart today as you enter into a time of guided prayer. 

How to Prepare your soil

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1. Take some time to receive God’s presence. 

Open your heart to feel the peace and rest that comes from encountering him.

“My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14

2. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you ways in which you aren’t fully open to God. 

How are you not fully saying yes to God? In what ways are you living your life apart from the leadership and presence of God? Where don’t you fully trust him? Where aren’t you bearing the fruit of the Spirit? 

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

3. Confess those things to God. 

Receive his love and forgiveness as you repent and turn away from hardness of heart. Spend time resting in God’s presence and experiencing the new found peace that comes from having your heart more surrendered and receptive to God.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

Preparing our hearts into good soil is important to do daily. The more often you do it, the more you’ll realise the need to have good soil. Having our hearts fully open to God takes the mundane and makes it wonderful. It takes sunsets, conversations, prayers, work, and church and fills them with life, value, beauty, and joy.

Take what you’ve learned today and continue to put it into practice.

Choose to live a life positioned to receive all that God has in store for you. May your day be marked by the fruit of the Spirit.

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The Gospel of John – The Father and The Son

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Posted by Stephen Baragwanath in The Gospel of John, 0 comments

The Gospel of John – The Father and The Son

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Our journey through the Gospel of John continues a few months later where Jesus is cornered at The Feast of Dedication (Festival of Lights, or Hanukkah), in an noticeable threat, by the same religious leaders He has been castigating for years. In this passage of scripture, Christ lays claim to “The Father and the Son” are one. He echoes the metaphors of sheep and shepherd He employed after giving sight to a blind man. Jesus points out that His teachings and miracles are all consistent with predictions of the Messiah, but these men refuse to accept Him. This culminates in another attempt on Jesus’ life, which He avoids. This is the last time Jesus will publicly teach prior to His crucifixion.

Follow the series on John here

I and the Father Are One – John 10:22-42

22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” 33 The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” 34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— 36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” 39 Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.

40 He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. 41 And many came to him. And they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” 42 And many believed in him there.

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Conflict with Religious Leaders

The general theme of this passage is very much the same as what Jesus discussed earlier in chapter 10. The conversation here is directly inspired by the conflict Jesus created by healing a man born blind (John 9). The hostility of Jesus’ religious critics is becoming more overt and more aggressive. In the verses that follow, they will corner Jesus in a blatantly threatening way, once again attempting to stone Him. This naked violence is one reason Jesus, prior to His arrest, ceased His public preaching and began to focus on preparing the Twelve for what was to come. This encounter marks the last time Jesus will debate these religious leaders prior to His crucifixion.

The colonnade of Solomon is a portico: a roofed outdoor hallway lined with columns. This is on the east side of the temple. The walkway itself was elevated from the surrounding land, and partly walled in. That arrangement is important to the story, given the way Jesus is approached by His critics. Because of the layout, a person walking along this portico had the temple on one side, and either a solid wall or a sheer drop on the other.

According to verse 24, Jesus is “surrounded” by religious leaders. The Greek term used is ekyklōsan, literally translates “to surround, encircle, or encompass.” It’s a term often used to describe the act of siege. In other words, hostile religious leaders are about to “corner” Jesus as He walks in the temple.

This is the ancient equivalent of a crowd of schoolyard bullies surrounding a victim, pushing them against the wall in a hallway.

This time though, the Religious Leaders came prepared – these men brought rocks, in advance, and with murderous intent. In this incident, Jesus is not simply being challenged. He’s being threatened.

The challenge laid out to Jesus here, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” must be read in the context that these leaders had already made up their minds – they wanted to Jesus. It is almost a dare for Jesus to repeat His prior claims. So Jesus obliges.

In my Father’s name

A recurring theme in Jesus’ conversations with His critics is that they are being unyielding. Jesus’ life and teachings align perfectly with the Scriptures these men know all too well—but they refuse to accept Him. An intent to disbelieve, not a lack of knowledge, is their problem. Others have seen Jesus’ miracles, and have properly interpreted them as signs that He is divinely empowered. The men who threaten Him now, however, have proven they’re opposed to God by crediting Jesus’ miracles to Satan (Mark 3:22).

Jesus will continue to answer in verse 26 by reiterating the first of His three shepherding-related analogies from this chapter. This puts His answer in plain terms: I already told you who I was, but you’re not going to listen.

Jesus reiterates a point he made for these men a few months prior: they don’t hear His voice because they are not His “sheep” (John 10:1–6). Like sheep, which only recognise the voice of their particular master, these men are practically deaf to the voice of God.

Jesus’ voice is God’s voice (John 10:30); if you don’t hear the voice of God, it means you’re not part of His “flock.”

Jesus makes this statement under dire circumstances. His critics have trapped Him in a corner of the temple and in typical fashion, Jesus not only responds with brave truth, He continues, as shown in the following verses 28-29, culminating in a statement that seems almost deliberately intended to enrage His critics.

All the evidence and reason in the world won’t make the slightest difference to someone committed to disbelief.

The Good Shepherd

Jesus expands on the metaphors He used earlier in this chapter. Jesus explained that those who are His are like sheep—they only respond to the voice of their own shepherd. How a person reacts to Jesus proves whether they are, or are not, part of His flock. Jesus also claims to be like the single opening in a sheep pen: “the door” which was the only means of finding rescue from danger – Salvation. He also proclaimed Himself the “Good Shepherd,” contrasts with selfish leaders like those He speaks with, and spoke of His willingness to die for the sake of those who are His (John 10:10–14). Rather than simply repeat His claims, Jesus is expounding on them.

This statement is a crucial part of our understanding of the Gospel. Jesus has already made it clear that there are only two categories of people, spiritually speaking: those who are “in,” and those who are “out.” These two groups are separated by Jesus Christ, who is “the door.” Those who belong to Christ are safe from being taken away, as a wolf might grab a sheep in the wild.

Those who are part of Jesus’ flock cannot be taken away.

I and the Father are One

Here, faced with a hostile crowd, in tight quarters, with men armed for violence, Jesus connects those dots without the slightest hint of subtlety: “I and the Father are one.” Part of the meaning of this statement is lost in translation from Greek to English. Jesus uses the neutered form of the Greek word for “one” here, implying that they are “unity.” Rather than saying that Jesus and God are the same person, Jesus is claiming that He and God are unified as one, a partial explanation of the Trinity.

Unsurprisingly, this tips the mob’s anger over the top, and they start another attempt to assassinate Jesus.

Prepared for stoning

The next verse says they “picked up stones,” the implication is not that they reached down, at that precise moment, to find rocks. This encounter is well inside the temple grounds, and nowhere near easy access to the surrounding terrain. Stones suitable for an attack like this were not simply laying around the temple within reach. In other words, these men brought the rocks with them when they first surrounded Jesus. The Greek grammar involved here is not specific about “when” the act happened, only that it happened. In short, John is saying these men “had picked up” stones, anticipating violence. Jesus has given them all they need to justify following through on their threats.

As has happened in the past, however, Jesus will put His attackers in an awkward spot by forcing them to justify their actions. Then, without much explanation at all, He will manage to escape this seemingly impossible situation.

I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?

Jesus question here is meant for effect: Jesus has already pointed out that His miracles should convince onlookers that He has divine approval (John 5:36; 10:25). Despite this, these men still object, since the signs didn’t agree with their preferred theology (John 10:33).

“Preferred theology” is largely responsible for how distorted the true Gospel message become

Though the men claim Jesus is blaspheming, and is a liar, Jesus challenges them to explain the miracles that He’s done. The mob ignores the real point of the question and simply state the obvious: a charge of blasphemy. Jesus’ response is to challenge whether they ought to be interpreting His words as blasphemy in the first place. What comes next is Jesus using ancient debate techniques—turning the tables on these masters of Old Testament law.

Lovers of Old Testament Law

The real point of Jesus’ question is that He has performed miracles—why, then, do these men insist that He’s wicked? Or blaspheming? Shouldn’t they be recognising His authority, instead? The mob responds by ignoring—or missing—the point Jesus makes. Instead, they give the shallowest view of what Jesus said: that He’s a human being insulting God by claiming to be His equal. Jesus responda with a brilliant use of their own tactics. Religious leaders of that day would often debate Scripture in much the same way as modern politicians: with an emphasis on technicalities, obscure details, and other confusing points. Jesus turns that upside down, using it as a way to further condemn their rejection of His gospel.

Jesus answered them, ‘Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are ‘gods”?”. Jesus engages in an abbreviated form of debate used by the Religious leaders to prove that, even by their own standards, they’re being hypocrites. Jesus cites Psalm 82:6. A reference to the Old Testament grounds His claim in something these men claim to take seriously: the Word of God. Jesus will compare the words of the Old Testament to the claim these men now claim is blasphemous. It’s important to note that Jesus isn’t making a blanket defense of all claims related to God. Rather, He’ll once again point to all of the ways in which He fulfills the role of Messiah.

Jesus’ point is not that humans are divine, but that those who are divinely enabled to perform the will of God are, in a poetic form, referred to as “gods” in Scripture. As this retort continues, Jesus will point out that He has been proven by powerful evidence. His claim to truth is much stronger than that of anyone else. His works—His miracles—should be absolute proof that He is sent by God. As such, charges of blasphemy against Jesus in this case fall short.

Jesus also makes a point of rejecting the suggestion that the Word of God can be “broken.” By this, Jesus means that the verses He quoted could not be dismissed as an error. They could not be written off as a mistake—this is the doctrine of inerrancy, which says that Scripture is perfectly accurate in everything it intends to say. Jesus, in this moment, not only implies inerrancy, He grounds His argument in it.

Jesus adds more fuel to the fire by making a statement His critics are sure to despise: claiming co-unity with God the Father.

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Stronger – part 5

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God desires for you and me to become stronger. Stronger emotionally, in faith, in love and stronger in the sense that we rest on His sufficient grace.

Stronger, Stronger – part 2, Stronger – part 3, Stronger – part 4

Today, I will continue to talk about how to become stronger, for His Glory and to help fulfill His purposes in our lives.

Photo by Petr Ganaj on Pexels.com
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Endurance

What is the nicest compliment you have ever received? Handsome, smart, cool guy, calm under pressure, caring, beautiful? What about, ‘consistent’ or ‘enduring’? Probably not words that come to mind immediately when thinking of been complimented.

If you were to describe someone you might use the words, interesting, exciting, quiet, fun to be around. But we would rarely use words like ‘consistent’ or ‘enduring’.

Upon reflection, one of the greatest qualities you will need if you want to become stronger is not found in your looks or in your talent, but in your endurance. Our walk with Jesus would be better summarised as more of a marathon than a 100m sprint. And like all good marathon runners it will require your endurance and consistency to finish the race.

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Perhaps your greatest challenge in life will not be chaos or uncertainty but your consistency. 

Endurance is what we need to last in the process. It is endurance that provides patience during a storm, and it is endurance that will keep you steady when you would rather quit. God’s desire is to empower you to endure to the end.

13 But the one who endures to the end will be savedMatthew 24:13 ESV

Here are 3 ways you can Gloriously Endure:

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1. Be the architect of your atmosphere

To get from your now to your future will require your endurance on the journey. But God will allow us to choose what the atmosphere of that journey will be like. We have the power to choose an adventurous journey, an ordinary one or a joyful one.

What atmosphere will you choose?

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2. Pray for stronger shoulders instead of lighter burdens

We have all had times when it is difficult to endure. It would be far easier to give in when things are tough, or to choose an easier option when facing difficult seasons. But what if in those times of difficulty God was actually providing an opportunity for us to become stronger?

Think about these prayers, which will make you stronger? And, which prayer will leave you in lack?

‘Lord give me more money’ or ‘Lord teach me how to multiply the finances I have.’

‘Lord I need a holiday’ or ‘God you are my portion and my strength help me focus on the things I need to accomplish today.’

It would be far easier to pray away the opportunities that God is giving us, but instead how much more fruitful would we be if we prayed for the strength to see us through? Strength that is lifetime lasting and not short-term like money or a holiday.

Where in your life do you need to embrace what God is doing in you?

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3. Be planted and stay planted

One of the greatest ways we can endure is to be planted and to stay planted. Planted where, you might ask? In the house of the Lord.

We all need a Church community where we can grow, serve and be challenged.

Yet often the reason this is not true for many is usually because of bitterness, un-forgiveness, or a misunderstanding between people within the Church. And the problem with this is that carrying these things always holds us back.

So ask yourself:

1. Do I need to find a new Church where I can truly grow?

2. Is this a storm that I am going through and I need to Stay Planted?

Pray:  Father, I thank You that it is your desire to strengthen me in every area of my life, help me to put into practice the things I have learnt, and help me to follow you all the days of my life. In Jesus name, Amen

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Posted by Stephen Baragwanath in The Gospel of John, 0 comments