The Living Word: Walking In The Light

Walking In The Light

John 11:1-16

An artist once drew a picture of a dreary, wintry twilight, The trees were heavily laden with snow, and a dark house, lonely and desolate, stood bleakly in the midst of the storm. It was a sad picture.

Then, with a quick stroke of yellow crayon, the artist put a light in one window. The effect was magical. The entire scene was transformed into a vision of comfort and cheer. The light of Christ is the determinative factor that brought hope, joy, and peace to this dark world.

How to Walk in Christ’s Light:

* A Timely Reminder ~ John 11:1-4

  • setup – Jesus hears of Lazarus’ sickness
  • 4 Jesus reminds: sometimes things we hate lead to God’s glory

* We Hurry To Worry ~ John 11:5-10

  • 5/6 reminder: love doesn’t always equal urgency, and urgency doesn’t always equal love
  • 7/8 we don’t know the reason why Jesus didn’t hurry back; disciples thought it was reasonable precaution?
  • 9/10 Jesus tells his followers: don’t worry about the time- We walk when it’s appropriate to walk;
  • a Commentary says: “…there is no danger yet, for the day – His day – is not yet over; and suggests also that danger need not be dreaded by those who follow Him on His appointed way.”

* But Trust Is a Must ~ John 11:11-16

  • 11 Jesus tells them He will bring Lazarus “out of sleep”
  • 12 they don’t get it; because it’s not NORMAL for someone to be brought back from death, so they went with the easiest understanding
  • 14/15 “that you may believe”- they already believed, but be drawn further into faith, to trust Him more (Tis’ So Sweet To Trust: “o for grace to trust Him more”)
  • 16 disciples are thinking they’re headed towards death (vs 8), but they’re really headed toward Resurrection!

How often do we get it wrong? How often do we live in faithless fear rather than asking to trust Jesus more, even in circumstances over which we no control? Don’t focus on fear: follow God in faith!

The Living Word: The Gate of Grace

The Gate of Grace

John 10:1-6; 19-21

Costco is currently requiring people to wear masks to enter their store: this is NOT a violation of rights, but an UPHOLDING of rights, because Costco gets to determine what conditions exist for their own business. One can’t shop without a membership; can’t shop without shoes: and nobody bats an eye. But add masks to the mix, and people lose their minds! WHO GETS TO CONTROL ACCESS?

The Approach Determines The Access

* An Open Heart Sees An Open Gate ~ John 10:1-6

  • 1 This is a follow-up from 9:28-29; Pharisees THINK they are the shepherd; Jesus knows better
  • 2 a shepherd enters WITH the sheep; he is among them
  • 3 Always remember: God knows us BY NAME: we’re not just a mass of creatures to Him
  • 4 great comfort to me: 1) ALL his own, 2) HE goes ahead, 3) we know His voice
  • 6 they don’t understand because THEY AREN’T LISTENING

* A Closed Mind Only Sees A Closed Gate ~ John 10:19-21

  • 19 “these words” all Jesus said in chp 9&10; “I am the Gate”, “I am the Good Shepherd”
  • 20 Raving: how can a man be a gate? They don’t get it because they’re unwilling to PONDER what He means
  • 21 Those who SEE what Jesus is DOING in the lives of people can understand

cf Ezekiel 34:11: “‘For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. 12As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. 13I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. 14I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. 15I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign LORD. 16I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.

God does all this THROUGH JESUS – JESUS is the GATE, the ENTRY POINT into the Kingdom of God: no Jesus, no entry!

The Living Word: What Can’t You See

What Can’t You See

John 9:12-41

There are at least three kinds of blind spots: the physical blind spot~ where the optic nerve enters the back of the eye; the angular blind spot~ where certain angles can’t be seen (like in a car); and the psychological blind spot~ attitudes or biases that are present in our personality that we can’t see ourselves. As we read today’s Scripture, let’s ask ourselves: who’s REALLY blind here?

Sometimes, What ISN’T Seen Is

* The Fallout ~ (verses 12-17)

: the Pharisees heard this man was blind, but can’t accept his account that Jesus is sent by God (He does religious things they can’t do)

  • 16 caught in a dilemma: either miracles are from God, or not – but then how can this miracle be true?

* The Fact-check ~ (verses 18-23)

: the Pharisees can’t accept his testimony, so they want to discredit him as a person (if they accept it, then Jesus IS from God and they’re in trouble)

  • 18 easy answer: he wasn’t really blind! Fake news!
  • 19/21 troublesome testimony: he really WAS blind, and he really CAN see

* The Frustration ~ (verses 24-34)

: the facts check out; the testimony is sound; they have no logical reason to disbelieve, so they retreat into fear and frustration

  • 24 they hold to their belief regardless of evidence “this man is a sinner”
  • 28/9 THEY ARE RIGHT no matter what facts are found
  • 33 the reasonable conclusion
  • 34 the rejection of reason

* Final Faith ~ (verses 35-41)

: the previously blind man can now see Jesus, and connects his previous experience with Jesus at work.

  • 35/8 Jesus asks: “do you trust Me?” HE STILL ASKS THIS OF US

Is our hindsight leading us to faith as well?

The Living Word: Words in the Dust

Words in the Dust

John 8:1-11

Today, we’re in John 8, passing over chapters 6 & 7. What we’ve skipped: miracles: feed 5000, walk on water; teachings: Bread of Life, words of eternal life, river of living water; and settings: Feast of Booths (not My time)

Important to note: this section of Scripture isn’t in all ancient manuscripts: since it seems to have more in common with the tone of Luke’s writing’s than John’s, it seems reasonable to view it as a commentary from Luke later inserted into John. And since neither the Early Church fathers nor the Reformers rejected it, we’ll take a closer look.

People use three types of excuses when guilty of wrongdoing. The first is outright denial. The second is the “It’s not my fault” excuse. The third form of excuse is the “I did it, but “ approach.

Caught In Our Sin, We Are Either

* Looking for a Loophole ~ John 8:1-6a

  • 1/2 setting: right after Sukkot/Festival of Booths (Sept/Oct), about the dependence of the People of Israel on the will of God: DOING God’s will is on everyone’s mind at this time
  • 3 interesting to me: it takes 2 (where’s the man?); THEY BREAK THE LAW: she was supposed to be brought to trial (Numbers 5)
  • 4/5 they’re not interested in upholding the Law: Jesus already chewed them out for this in John 7:17-19
  • 6a they’re so invested in trying to trap Jesus into breaking the Law that they do it themselves! They are ANGRY at Jesus’ accusation that they don’t keep the Law… so they’re trying to prove that Jesus won’t either

~ OR ~

* Living in the Lord’s Love ~ John 8:6b-11

  • 6b/8 Jesus seems to make reference to a well known Jewish commentary on Numbers: “if you’ve gone whoring, the bitter waters won’t try your wives”
  • 9 Jesus specifically UPHOLDS the Law, as the men realize they are unable to PROVE their own innocence using the same Law that condemns the woman
  • 10/11 Where are the accusers? Gone. Jesus doesn’t ACCUSE us: He holds us accountable to live in HIS HOLINESS

We cannot “manage” our own sin; it’s wages are DEATH. If we want LIFE, we have to live according to HIS Word, and not our own.

The Living Word: Missing the Message

Missing the Message

John 5:37-47

As I was creating a “teaser” to encourage people to join me on Wednesday night’s Bible Study, I specifically said “We’ll be looking at a guy that God knocks off his horse”, referring to Saul meeting Jesus.

The problem? The Bible NEVER SAYS that. I concluded that Saul was riding a horse, but I assumed a horse-not-in-evidence. The text NEVER SAYS there was a horse… in other words, I leaned on my own understanding instead of actually paying attention to what the Word said. I’m not alone…

Some People Miss God’s Message Because

* Hard Hearts Are Empty ~ John 5:37-42

  • 37 Jesus continues: the Father testifies about Me
  • 38 AND YOU MISS IT; if you don’t believe Jesus, you don’t believe God; not Pastor Ed’s opinion, but Jesus’ words!
  • 39 Study of Scripture itself is NOT life-giving; the Scriptures only POINT to Jesus, they aren’t holy by themselves
  • 40 we have to COME TO JESUS FOR LIFE
  • 41/42 it’s more than praising Jesus; it’s about having Him take up residence IN us: it’s about surrender

* Blind Minds Are Stuck ~ John 5:43-47

  • 43 Why did they not accept Jesus? OPINION: I think they had such a specific idea about what God was SUPPOSED to be, that when Jesus didn’t fit THEIR IDEAL, they rejected Him
  • 44 they were willing to listen to others… but not to God. TO WHOM ARE WE LISTENING?
  • 45 The hyper-religious are judged by their own system EVEN STILL
  • 46 cf. Deuteronomy 18:15-18 (read below)
  • 47 Notice: Moses said “a prophet like **me**” NOT “a prophet like **you**” – the hyper-religious wanted someone just like themselves; instead, they rejected Jesus because He was like Moses

15The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him. 16For this is what you asked of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the LORD our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.” 17The LORD said to me: “What they say is good. 18I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him.

How often do we resist what God is leading us to do because it doesn’t fit in with our preconceived ideas about how WE think things are supposed to work?

Hungry Eyes, Thirsty Hearts by Farrell & Farrell

Lyrics here:

Blinded Eyes by Petra

Lyrics here:

The Living Word: Hearing Voices

Hearing Voices

John 5:25-36

Last week, we had service online… but no one could hear me for the first TEN MINUTES! I was speaking, but no one could understand, because my voice wasn’t being heard. The problem? A switch in the computer I forgot to set.

Here’s the truth of it: Jesus is STILL SPEAKING TO US TODAY… but how many people aren’t hearing His voice? Is there a switch of which they’re not aware?

We Can Hear Jesus’ Call Because He Has

* The Life To Speak ~ John 5:25-29

  • 25 notice Jesus’ self-referral SON OF GOD; those who hear (not ALL, but some)
  • 26 a statement of equality: God IS Life – so is Jesus
  • 27 Son of God AND Son of Man: THAT is why Jesus can judge; He’s the perfect bridge between God & humanity (cf Hebrews)

* The Right To Speak ~ John 5:30-36

  • 30/1 reminder: Jesus is saying this to those who wanted to KILL Him: His answer – I’m doing this on God’s behalf
  • 32 who’s the testifier? The Father, or John?
  • 33/35 Jesus talks about John’s witness, and doesn’t discount it…
  • 36 …but points out specifically that the testifier in v32 is GREATER than John – the Father Himself.

Jesus is doing the work that the Father gives Him to do, and that shows that the Father has chosen Him.

Now consider that Jesus has given US work to do (to share in the Father’s work) – that shows that Christ has chosen US. And here’s the challenge: are you actually DOING the work God has given us all to do? (Matthew 28:19-20)

The Living Word: Walking And Working

Walking And Working

John 5:1-18

Sometimes it’s tough to stand alone.

When all his teammates fouled out of the game, high school basketball player Pat McGee finished the game for his school alone–and won! This happened in 1937 at St. Peter’s High School.  (Bore No More, M. & A. Nappa, Group Publications)

Sometimes it’s tough to stand alone… but it can be worth it.

Even In Our Current Situation, We Can

* Face Our Frustrations Together ~ John 5:1-9a

  • 1/5 the context
  • 6 Why would Jesus ask this? To get the man to THINK about his situation
  • 7 notice: the man can’t get in ALONE; he needs HELP – WHAT ARE YOU NEED HELP WITH THAT YOU’RE FACING ALONE?
  • 8/9a Jesus heals this man, and the man responds in obedience

* Find Our Field ~ John 5:9b-18

  • 9/11 some will always be upset with Jesus at work
  • 12/13(&15/16) notice the healed man didn’t know MUCH about Jesus, but believed Him anyway
  • 14 Jesus FOUND him – that means He was searching to give the warning; not all sickness is due to sin, but THIS man’s was;
  • 17 God is at work every day; Jesus joins Him
  • 18 the religious leaders are upset because Jesus isn’t conforming to their ideas of what God is about; THIS STILL HAPPENS


I know it feels incredibly difficult to “be” the church when we can’t be together. But the image I want us all to remember is the first Resurrection Sunday morning: just a couple of women with heavy hearts and embalming spices showed up at the Master’s tomb to prepare Him for His final resting. Instead, they arrived at an Empty Tomb and heard the most stirring news ever: He Is Risen! And while I may not be able to hear you respond, I know that you’re saying along with me: He Is Risen Indeed!

Pastor Ed Backell

Flickr Photos

Pastoral Tweets

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 230 other followers

%d bloggers like this: