Who is Jesus? I AM Part 7

I am the Resurrection.

Mary and Martha, sisters of Lazarus, were distraught.
They were without hope.
Hope did not come.
They were confused. They did not understand why Jesus had not come.
"He healed the blind man. Couldn't He have saved His friend?"
Their brother Lazarus, who was loved by Jesus, had fallen ill. The sisters sent for Jesus.
They had seen Jesus heal lepers.
He opened the eyes of the blind.
He healed the lame and told them to walk.
He had stopped a woman's bleeding who had suffered 12 years.
These had been strangers.
Surely, Jesus would come to heal a friend.
But, He did not come.
Lazarus died.
It was over.
Hope did not come.
But, Jesus did come. When Jesus heard about Lazarus, He PURPOSELY stayed away for two days. When Jesus knew that Lazarus had died, He tells His disciples that it is now time to go to him. Jesus knows the miracle He will perform.
He chooses His friend to work this last, amazing miracle.
He chooses His friend, to draw many new believers to Him.
"When Jesus arrived, He found out that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Bethany was less than two miles to Jerusalem. Many Jews had come to Mary and Martha to comfort them because their brother was dead. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet Him." John 11:17-20
Listen to the pain in Martha's voice.
"Lord, I know that if You would have been here, my brother would not have died!"

Jesus said to her, " I am the Resurrection and the Life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even if he dies. And those who live and believe in me will never die. Do you believe this?"

Martha affirms that she DOES believe.
Hope DOES come.
Jesus calls Lazarus from the grave.
He who had been dead four days.
Death that had such a stench that Martha balks when Jesus tells her to command the stone to be rolled away.
A man who had been dead walks free from the grave.
Jesus promises us that we, too, will have life instead of death.
We, who were dead in our sin....
have LIFE in the Son.
Jesus can RAISE any dead thing. Nothing is without HOPE.
Is there something dead in your life?
A dream?
A relationship?
Jesus can RESURRECT it.
He can bring life back to anything you are sure is dead.
Martha was sure that her brother was lost to the tomb. That she would not see him until the Last Day when all would be resurrected. She didn't think she would talk to him, eat with him, hold him, see him....
But, HOPE, did come.
And, Lazarus walked free from the grave.
Jesus can do the same for you.
Trust Him.
Trust His words.
I am the Resurrection.
Because of Lazarus, and this miracle, many people come to Jerusalem and are there to experience Holy Week. They want to see Lazarus with their own eyes. What they see is even more amazing. Because of Lazarus, many people come to believe in Jesus.
Jesus can take the dead thing in your life, raise it, and use it to bring many more to Him.
Lord, help me to trust You. Help me to proclaim, believing in full assurance of faith, that You are the Resurrection and the Life. Thank You, Jesus that You bring hope to what I see as hopeless. Praise You, Jesus!

This is part 7 in a series of who Jesus is.... The earlier parts are posted below. Please scroll down. This series

Who Is Jesus? I AM Part 6

I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in Me and My words remain in You, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory that you bear much fruit, showing yourself to be My disciples. John 15:5-8

I am the VINE.

Have you ever thought about this verse? Have you wondered what Jesus meant when He said He was a vine? I love that God’s Word gives us examples from our daily lives that help teach spiritual Truth. When we ponder and visualize the verses, asking God for a spirit of wisdom and understanding, the scriptures come alive, truly teaching us!

What happens when a branch is separated from its vine...its source of life?

When the kids were little, we took our Christmas tree out to the curb, and they wondered why we didn’t just plant the beautiful tree in the back yard. I explained that although the tree still looked green and pretty, it was dead. It had been cut away from “the vine”- or it’s roots- where it gets its nutrients. I explained that the tree wouldn’t grow anymore, no matter how rich the soil was. It was only good to be “picked up, thrown into the fire and burned,” or in our case, picked up by the recycling truck and mulched.

The tree needs to remain in the vine to have life.

We need to remain in our Vine (Jesus) to have life. If we are abiding in an intimate relationship with Him, we will bear much fruit. To be fruitful, flowering, vibrant, ALIVE, we must be connected to the Source of Life….Jesus. We must be drawing on Him to sustain us, to nourish us, to make us flourish.

When we don’t, we will wither.

I can’t rely on myself. I can’t do things in “Tracy strength.” I must depend on Him. I must abide in Him.

When I don’t, I wither.

I received a beautiful bouquet of flowers for my birthday once that were gorgeous. But, they weren’t connected to the vine. They were cut away. And, still they remained vibrant, lovely, pleasing…..

Not one week.

Not two weeks.

Not three weeks.

SIX weeks they remained gorgeous.

But, eventually, they withered. Eventually they died. I had to throw them away.

Our relationship with Jesus is the same way. When I don’t remain in Him, when I don’t seek after Him with all my heart, when I am depending on myself instead of Him, when my RELATIONSHIP with Him is not healthy, I will wither.

Like the flowers, I may stay beautiful for a while. I may be “OK” for a week….or six weeks….or a year. But, eventually, I will wither. Jesus said in verse 4, “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.” I can’t bear fruit on my own. I must stay connected to Him.

He is my source.

Isn't it amazing that Jesus comforts His disciples right before He goes to the cross, telling them to remain in Him....to allow His Word to remain in them. They are in an olive grove, with vines and branches all around. Jesus points to the branches and the vines and tells them, that HE is the VINE and THEY are the BRANCHES. He then tells when they remain in Him, they will bear much fruit.

Lord, help me to always turn to You as my Source. I want to remain, abide, flow in You and I know then that Your Life flows into me, allowing me to bear fruit. I know when I am disconnected from You I wither. Fill my heart with desire for You, O God!

This is a series I first posted April, 2008. I am re-posting it in honor of Easter. For the first 5 parts, please scroll down...

Who Is Jesus....I AM Part 5

I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when He sees the wolf coming, He abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. John 10:11-13

Jesus says He will lay down His life for us. He shows us the OPPOSITE of who He is by showing us "the hired hand." Jesus will never abandon us. He will stay and fight....fight to the death.

Jesus cares for you. He is willing to give up everything for you. He will never leave. He will never forsake us. Psalm 139 says, "Where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I go to flee from Your Presence? If I go to the heavens, You are there; if I make my bed in the depths, You are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast." We can never escape God's LOVE!

I am the Good Shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me- just as the Father knows me and I know the Father- and I lay down my life for the sheep. John 10:14-15

Jesus echoes Isaiah ("Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name and you are Mine."). He reassures us that He KNOWS us. Psalm 139 says, "O LORD, you have searched me and You know me...You perceive my thoughts from afar...You are familiar with all of my ways. Before a word is on my tongue You know it completely, O LORD...." He knows us completely... And, then Jesus again repeats that He lays down His life for us.

I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to My voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. John 10:16

Oh, how this is THRILLING to me! Jesus is saying that His flock is not just the Jewish people, but that He is including the Gentiles as well! We are all of ONE flock. What a great illustration for us today. We are ONE church, no matter what denomination we are. God is "not willing that one should perish," but everyone be saved.

The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life- only to take it up again. No one takes if from me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I have received from My Father. John 10:17-18

When we think of the Passion of the Christ.....that Jesus was persecuted and sentenced to death....we reflect on His words: " I lay down My life." It is not the Jewish leaders who crucified Jesus. It is not the Roman Governor, Pilate who crucified Jesus. It is not the Roman soldiers who crucified Jesus.

It was me.
It was you.
Jesus WILLINGLY lay down His OWN life for HIS SHEEP. We are His sheep. Jesus died for us...so that we may live.

First posted for an Easter series April 2008. This is part of a series....if you would like to read the first 4 parts, please scroll down or click here and follow links at the end of the post.

Who is Jesus? I AM Part 4

I am the GATE
I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and 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.....
I am the GATE for the sheep; all who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life; and have it to the full.
John 10:1-10
When we think of a gate, we might think of a white picket fence, or even a security gate with a guard that lets in people who have been "cleared." When Jesus talked to people in Bible times, they understood these passages because they were familiar with shepherds and gates. I researched a little and found:

"The gate that Jesus is referring to belongs to the kind of sheep pen that shepherds would use during summer months. The shepherds would stay out in the fields with their sheep for weeks at a time. They would do their best to find good pasture land, and then they would gather some stones to build a make-shift corral that would have one single opening.
Then at night the shepherd would herd his sheep through that opening into the pen. He would then lie down across the opening. The shepherd himself became the gate to the sheep pen.
He was literally the sheep’s protection. He was their security from thieves and robbers who wanted to kill, steal, or destroy the flock." -Bible notes

Wow! What I see is that the shepherd was the PROTECTION for the sheep. He lied across the opening with HIS OWN BODY. If anyone wanted to enter the sheep pen, he had to go through the shepherd first!
I love the illustration that Jesus paints for us here. He is the gate and the only way to get into His Kingdom is through him. Jesus says He is "THE" gate...not "A" gate....
There is only one way into the Kingdom of God...through Jesus.
The shepherd calls each sheep by name and leads them in and out the sheep pen.

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine." Isaiah 43:1
Father God, thank You that You give me eternal life. Thank You that You call me by name. Thank You that I can hear Your voice because I am Yours. Thank You that You protect me. Thank You that I have abundant life here and now. Jesus, You are precious. And, it is in Your Name we pray. Amen.

This is a series I am re-posting on "Who is Jesus" during the Lenten season. Please scroll down for the first 3 parts or click here, here, and here.

Who Is Jesus? I AM Part 3

I AM the Way....

One night at Bible Study, our group of women were answering the question from our study, "Briefly describe when you first accepted Christ. How sure were you of what you believed at that moment?" Christine brought up the discussion on this topic. She shared that she never had a "moment." She always knew God and loved God, but didn't have a time she could answer the question. A wise woman at our study encouraged Christine to take that "moment." As she explained, we can grow up knowing about God, even professing love, but we want to commit our lives to Him. We want to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. We want to make that profession of ourselves to Him.

I shared that I grew up in the Church. I was baptized and confirmed (this is an act in the Lutheran faith that 8th grade students make after going through 2-3 years of religious training- it is "confirming your infant baptism and proclaiming faith in Jesus"). I said my prayers. I knew about God. I loved God. But, it wasn't until I was about 30 that I made Jesus Christ the Lord of my life. It was through a Bible Study that talked about having a relationship with Jesus and freedom from strongholds that introduced me to Jesus Christ- my PERSONAL Savior, Redeemer, Lord.

For me, this was my "moment." And, how sure was I of what I believed? I knew that I knew that I knew that I knew Jesus Christ died for me, set me free from the bondage of sin and death, gave me a new life, a new hope, an inheritance yet to come in Heaven and abundant LIFE here on earth.
I knew that my life was FOREVER changed.

We encouraged Christine to have a "chat" with God on her 20 minute car ride home. Through the course of the conversation, I had likened our "moment" to a wedding- when we make a commitment to Jesus, giving our lives to Him. This was Christine's email the next morning:

For those of you who were not at the study last night, we talked about knowing when we first had a relationship with Jesus. I had a hard time figuring it out, because I never really had "a day" when I knew like others have had.

Those of you there last night, thank you so much for your encouragement.


All the way home in my car. I cried almost the whole way, I was so moved by simply saying out loud to God that I want to commit my life to Him. I had no idea I would feel that way. Tracy, your analogy to a wedding day says it all.

I was almost nervous starting out, like having cold feet or something. But by the end I knew I was entering the best relationship of my life. As I started praying and talking to God, the words just flowed. I just knew He was there, in my car, in my heart, surrounding me. And you know what else? It was as if I could feel you all praying for me.

I am so blessed for all of you, really, really, really! You all were so non-judgmental last night and I am so blessed to have you all in my life. Thank you for your encouragement! How awesome of a gift is that??!! I couldn't ask for better people to take this journey with.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

In Christ's presence,

Isn't God AMAZING, AWESOME, INCREDIBLE??? And, the most wonderful thing is Christine's signature: In Christ's presence. She is EXPERIENCING His presence so much so that she felt compelled to put it as her signature! Praise God!

Jesus said in John 14:6, "I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." A relationship with Christ Jesus is the only WAY to have a relationship with God. Through His Blood, by His sacrifice, and in the power of His Name, we come into the presence of the Living God. There is no other way. Jesus is the Truth. There is no other Truth. Jesus is LIFE. There are no words to explain the LIFE you experience when you make Jesus the Lord of your life. Even the words in "Amazing Grace"are inadequate, but the best I can do- I was lost, but now found, blind, but now I see.

There is nothing you can do to earn your way to the Father. Jesus has done it for you already.

Have you had your "moment?" It is never too late. Have a moment right now. It is simple. It is easy. Jesus is waiting for you with arms open wide. Simply talk to Him. Tell Him that you love Him. Tell Him that you desire a relationship with Him. Tell Him that you know you need Him- that you are desperate for Him. Tell Him that you are a sinner in need of a Savior. Tell Him that want a relationship with Him. He loves you.

He wants a relationship with you even more. He wants a moment with you.

(This is series of "I AM" posts republished from 2008.)

Who Is Jesus? I AM Part 2

I AM the Light of the World-
Jesus said, "I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." -John 8:12

Have you ever walked in darkness? Stumbled around in the pitch black? It is hard to walk in darkness. When the power goes out and there is no light, you find yourself groping around in what was once familiar places, sometimes to stub your toe on chair you have sat in a million times. What is even worse is when you find yourself in an UNFAMILIAR place in the dark. It can be very scary. It is easy to lose your footing, easy to lose your way. Have you ever been driving when it has gotten so dark that even your headlights aren't enough light to navigate with confidence through unfamiliar territory?

Jesus says that we don't have to stumble, we don't have to fall. We don't have to fear the darkness. We don't have to lose our footing or our confidence. He is the LIGHT. He will shine in our darkness. He is like a lighthouse pointing the way, the direction for us to go.

Have you ever been in such a terrible situation, going through such difficult circumstances that it feels like darkness is surrounding you, engulfing you? Do you feel hopeless in your darkness? Jesus wants to shine through that darkness. Psalm 139 says, "even the darkness will not be dark to you (God); the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you." No darkness can hold God in- even the darkness becomes like day. God's light shines in the darkness. God will make the darkest night, the most hopeless of circumstances shine like day.

I love that Jesus teaches us that He is the Light of the world right after the passage of the sinful woman. It means even more in this context. This woman had been walking in darkness, bond by sin, hopeless....But, Jesus frees her, forgives her, redeems her, takes away her shame, and shines Light into her darkness, empowering HER to walk in the Light, free from the darkness.

There is freedom and power in Christ.

In John 8, Jesus is in the temple teaching. There are people all around- the crowd is huge. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. These men had caught her in the very ACT of adultery. They had pulled her out of bed, naked. Can you imagine? She is caught in the very act of sin. There is no excuse, there is no rationalizing. There is no glimmer of innocence. She is laid bare, naked, guilty. These men drag her to the temple, maybe still naked, or barely clothed, where she is faced with this huge crowd.
Imagine that you are her. Look around. You see people you know all around you- your friends, your family, your neighbors. You see the merchants you barter with every week. You see the women you draw water from the well with everyday. You STAND before the seated crowd, humiliated. You see the eyes all around you, judging you, condemning you. You are guilty. You are caught. There are no excuses, no explanations. How can there be? You are guilty. The law demands your death.

The Pharisees say, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” These men do not care about the woman, but are trying to trick Jesus.

But, what does Jesus say? Does He condemn her to death? Does He call for the punishment she(and we) deserve? What does Jesus do? Is He going to stone her? (Does He condemn US?)

In verse 6, it says, “Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.” Can you imagine how angry the Pharisees are getting by now? What is Jesus doing? Why is He writing on the ground? They keep questioning Him, they keep demanding Him to answer. Jesus finally straightens up as says, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” And, then, he stoops down and writes again on the ground.

The Bible says, “At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first.” I think of this, and I realize, the older I get, the more I see my need for a Savior. The older ones see their sin, they realize they are NOT without sin and they leave first. Soon, the younger ones follow until only Jesus and the woman are left.

Look very closely at this passage.
Who is the ONLY one without sin?
It is Jesus.
Who is the ONLY who could cast the first stone?
It is Jesus.
Only Jesus, perfect and without sin would have the right to condemn her. But, what does the Bible say in John 3:17? Jesus came into the world, not to condemn it, but to save it through Him. Jesus has the right to condemn her, but watch what He does.

First, He straightens up, I think , so He can look into her face, into her eyes. Psalm 34:5 says, “Those who look to Him are radiant, their faces are never covered with shame.” I believe He wanted to take away her shame. He wanted to look full in her face, making her face radiant. And, Beloved, He wants us to look into His face, radiant, never covered with shame.

Jesus says to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She answers, “No one, sir.” And then, Jesus says, “Then neither do I condemn you.” Jesus is saying to you, “Neither do I condemn you.” Look into His face. There is the face of your Savior. He is perfect, He is sinless. He is God, but His desire is to save you, not condemn you. Jesus forgives.

I am sure this woman felt so grateful that her sin was forgiven, and she probably was so surprised to even be alive. But, I wonder if she also worried about what she would do next . She had just been publicly humiliated. Talk about airing your dirty laundry. Her circumstances seemed very hopeless. But, she stays right there in front of Jesus. She knows that He has something she needs. As they are together, I imagine Jesus looking right into her face.

Notice what He says next to her. Jesus tells her, “Go and sin no more. Leave your life of sin.” Many of us read these words as a harsh warning. “You better not do this again! You better not mess up. You better be good or tomorrow you are going to end up on the rock pile.”

But, that is not the joy of redemption! Jesus is saying, “Go- you are free. You are not in bondage to sin. YOU ARE NOT IN BONDAGE TO YOUR PAST. You do not have to be a slave, with a chain around your neck.” He is empowering her to walk as a new creation- fully righteous- fully clean- a daughter, a bride of the King.

How do I know that that is what Jesus means? Look at the very next thing that Jesus teaches us in John 8:12. His very NEXT WORDS ARE: “I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk again in darkness, but will have the light of life.”Whew! Don’t you know how much that meant to the people hearing that? They had just seen what happened. They saw with their own eyes what Jesus had just done for this sinful woman. He had saved her and now He extends it to all- telling all of us that we will never walk again in darkness! Do you see the connection to what Jesus had just done, and now what He promises to all? Salvation is so much more than going to heaven when we die- although THAT IN AND OF ITSELF IS GLORIOUS AND WORTH ACCEPTING OUR SAVIOR- but, it is also about living in His saving grace and freedom here on earth! Jesus wants to release us from bondage, depression, fear, doubt, mediocrity…

Jesus, thank you for being our Light. I praise you. I worship you. I follow you.
(First posted 4/08)