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 men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. John 1:1-9
Dear Faithful Seed Sowers:
Let’s recap the book of John quickly: in John six Jesus feeds the five thousand and proclaims for the first time that He is the Great I Am by saying, “I Am the Bread of Life.” In Chapter seven Jesus confronts the religious leaders and at the beginning of chapter eight we are told the story of the woman caught in adultery. Then Jesus goes out into the temple courtyard and proclaims “I Am the Light of the World. Here is where we will spend our time today.
I would like to set the scene for you so that you can enter into the story. The Feast of Tabernacles is going on in Jerusalem. This is one of the three, major feasts or festivals held in Jerusalem. There are millions of people who make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the feasts in order to celebrate all that God had done for them in the past. The Feast of Tabernacles was held in the fall and was also called the Feast of Booths. The Hebrew word is “Sukkoth.” The people came to Jerusalem and lived in booths made of tree branches. This was to remind them of how their ancestors’ wandered in the wilderness for forty years. This festival lasted seven days. They told stories of how God provided water from the rock in the desert and of daily manna that fell from heaven. They remembered how God provided a cloud by day to guide them and a fire by night to warm them. Compare these festivals to a sort like our Christmas and our Easter…these were the big, Jewish holidays!
In the midst of this festival Jesus tells the people exactly who He is. On each morning of the day of the festival, the Jews made procession to the pool of Siloam. They drew water out of the pool with their golden pitchers. Then they processed back to the temple area and poured the water from their golden pitchers onto the altar of sacrifice. The people would sing and shout and praise God for God’s provision of water from the rock in wilderness. It was in the midst of the last of these morning processions that John recorded these words, “On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’” John 7:37-38
Jesus tells the crowd gathered that he is the living water. Turn to Him and you will never be thirsty again.
During the Feast, they poured water from the pool of Siloam onto the altar of sacrifice. That was only the first part of the daily celebration. The second part of the daily feast started at dusk, in the court of the women. They lit four, huge candelabras. So brilliant was the light from these candelabras that “there was not a courtyard in Jerusalem that did not reflect their light.”[i]
Think of how we light the torch for the Olympics…same idea! Just imagine how bright and brilliant those candelabras were. The light reminded them of the fire by night that protected them, provided for them, and guided them. The fire would also remind them of the cloud by day that sheltered them from the desert heat (140 degrees).
In the midst of this great Festival, with millions in Jerusalem, Jesus proclaims, “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)
In May 1995, Randy Reid, a 34-year-old construction worker, was welding on top of a nearly completed water tower outside Chicago. According to writer Melissa Ramsdell, Reid unhooked his safety gear to reach for some pipes when a metal cage slipped and bumped the scaffolding he stood on. The scaffolding tipped, and Reid lost his balance. He fell 110 feet, landing face down on a pile of dirt, just missing rocks and construction debris. A fellow worker called 911.
When paramedics arrived, they found Reid conscious, moving, and complaining of a sore back. Apparently, the fall didn’t cost Reid his sense of humor. As paramedics carried him on a backboard to the ambulance, Reid had one request: “Don’t drop me.” (Doctors later said Reid came away from the accident with a bruised lung.)
Sometimes we resemble that construction worker. God protects us from harm of a 110-foot fall and we’re nervous about a three-foot height. The God who saved us from hell, death and the grave can protect us from all the dangers we face this week.[ii]
Jesus stood in the midst of the courtyard of the women and proclaimed “I Am — YAHWEH— I Am the light of the world!”
You don’t have to fear!
You don’t have to worry!
You don’t have to fret!
I Am who I Am and I AM who I always will be and I have heard your cry! I will be who I will be! I will be here to light your path…today, tomorrow…always.
In Psalm 27:1 David the Psalmist says — “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?”
What I am about to share with is true. It sounds crazy but I have a witness–my wife, Jac. In 1994 Jac and I took a trip to a parent event for our eldest daughter’s sorority. Jennifer attended the same college that we did so it was always a good time to return to campus–8 hours away (NMSU now Truman State). We were driving home late at night on the back roads from Kirksville, MO. Way far in the distance we started to see a light in the sky. We wondered if it was a fire or fireworks (it was February). The closer we got, the brighter in the sky it got. It looked like a lit-up cloud. The closer we got to the freeway (I-80), the bigger and brighter the cloud became. We turned onto the freeway and headed east for home. Guess what? That cloud followed us. It didn’t matter if we went 80 mph or 50. It didn’t matter if we stopped for food or gas. We didn’t have our camera and we didn’t have a cell phone. Jac and I were freaked out. The cloud followed us from Cedar Rapids, Iowa to Rochelle, Illinois. As we passed the Rochelle water tower, the cloud stopped and disappeared. We even stopped, turned around and went back over the bridge to the water tower just to make sure! Just a few weeks earlier, the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary had called me to offer me a full scholarship to attend seminary. I was 39 years old and I wanted to go to seminary but I thought I’d wait til the kids all graduated high school and then sell the house and go to seminary. NOPE. God had other plans. I was offered a NEVER HEARD OF FULL SCHOLARSHIP with a commuter room included. We prayed about the offer, talked with the kids (who all said, “GO!”) and I was set to quit the family business in August and go back to get my Masters of Divinity.
Jac and I often talk about this crazy cloud. One thing for sure, Jesus is the light of the world! In the end, I think I’ve decided that this was my Gideon’s fleece of a sort; a sort of “ENTER THE PROMISED LAND OF SEMINARY, DAVE!” In five months, I will celebrate my 25th anniversary of ordained ministry. Sometimes the ways of God are so far above my own–it’s just time to go take a tylenol and lay down to recover!
Are you afraid today?
Do you think that God has forgotten you?
Are you in a dark place in your life?
Have you fallen 110 feet and don’t think you’ll be able to get up?
The Good News is that God is with us!
God protects us. When Jesus told the people in the middle of that courtyard, “I AM the light of the world” they immediately envisioned God creating Light and separating darkness. They immediately envisioned a cloud of light by day and a cloud of fire by night. Protected from the desert heat, and the freezing nights—Jesus is saying He is the light that will protect us from the darkness.
COUNT ON IT! Our God is greater than our darkness.
See you Sunday!
God loves you and so do I,
Dear Faithful Seed Sowers:
It is our prayer here at The Seed that we all come to know the love of God, grow in the grace of Jesus Christ, go in the power of the Holy Spirit sowing seeds of faith in our families, neighborhoods, work places and everywhere we go. TIME IS SHORT. Let’s live our faith today and every day.
If you were able to read last week’s Seed of Faith, you heard that sometimes Jesus sends us into the storms of life and even as we enter the storm, Jesus sees us. We are sent and seen by our Lord and Savior.
The “So What” questions last week were —
So What? How about you? Are you currently in a storm?
JESUS SENDS YOU INTO THE STORMS OF LIFE.
JESUS SEES YOU IN THE STORMS OF OUR LIFE.
Keep looking up and trusting Jesus.
Today we conclude our study of this passage above.
Take heart—JESUS SENDS YOU INTO THE STORMS OF YOUR LIFE…And…JESUS SEES YOU IN THE STORMS OF YOUR LIFE.
We are ready to continue! Point 3: JESUS STILLS THE STORM OR HE STILLS US IN THE STORM.
JESUS STILLS THE STORM
Here comes the miracle. Jesus comes walking on the water. Now remember the waves are three feet tall. The lake is not calm. Jesus is not only a miracle winemaker! Jesus is not only a healer! Jesus is now a wave-walker, death defeater! (And it only gets better and better!)
We just went to our grandchildren’s league finals track meet. We watched them run, jump, and throw. What amazing athletic talent it takes to compete in the various running and field events. I thought wrestling was hard. I read the other day that you would have to sprint sixty-seven miles an hour to actually to walk on water. Did you hear that? 67 MPH. “The fastest recorded foot speed is 27.79 miles an hour, by Jamaican Olympic Gold Medalist Usain Bolt. Reaching sixty-seven miles an hour would require fifteen more times the energy than the human body is capable of expending.”[i]
Jesus now walks up alongside the boat and says to the disciples, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.” John 6:20-21
The Greek for “It is I” is “ego eimi.” Which translated is “I Am”, “I am the alpha and the omega. I am the beginning and the end. I am the first and the last. I am the same yesterday, today, tomorrow, and forever. I am in the burning bush, I am in the fiery furnace with you, I am in the lion’s den with you, I am with you when you are swallowed by a big fish or facing a giant like Goliath. I am with you as you cross your Red Sea or Jordan River. I Am who I am! Do not be afraid!”
Our son had a football coach who would always tell the boys when the game was getting difficult — “I do not care how rough the waters are, just bring the ship home.” The waters were rough for the disciples, but with Jesus’ help, the storm was stilled and they could bring the ship home.
In an instant the disciples’ attitude changed 180 degrees from frightened and fearful to faithful disciples again. A moment before, they had feared for their lives. Then they heard the voice of Christ. Note that he did not say, “Don’t be afraid” before he said, “It is I.” When we focus upon Christ, we begin to find and receive his help. I love that Jesus appeared in the middle of the worst of the storm. And, true to fashion, GOD SPEAKS into the chaos once again. (Why not let God speak into your chaos? Just sayin’.)
There once was a king who offered a prize to the artist who would paint the best picture of peace. Paintings arrived from all over—everyone wanted the prize! The day came to announce the winner. The king uncovered picture after picture: A calm lake, an ocean sunset, a flock of sheep on a grassy hill, blue sky with fluffy clouds, a lake with majestic mountains in the background. The king uncovered the last picture: Rugged mountains, angry sky, it was raining and lightning. A waterfall tumbled down the cliff. It did not look peaceful but looked cold and penetrating. Deep in the painting was a little bird in a nest on the branch of a tree. The branch was leaning over the tumultuous waterfall. Yet there, in the midst of all the turbulence, sat the mother bird on her nest—in perfect peace.
Remember this, if Jesus sent you (or allowed you to be sent), Jesus sees you, and Jesus will either STILL the storm or Jesus will still YOU– like the mother bird in her nest; safely hidden from the storm raging around her.
Best news for last: POINT FOUR: JESUS SAVES!
Missionary pilot Forrest Zander shared some of his experiences in a book titled, “His Faithfulness Reaches to the Skies.” On one occasion, Zander and his copilot were crossing the Andes Mountains in Colombia, crossing at 16,000 feet, which they were wearing their oxygen masks. As he watched the fuel gauges, he was alarmed to see the needles going down much faster than expected. There was a problem somewhere, and Zander still had the last three ranges of the Andes to cross. He needed to refuel, but where? No commercial airport was near, and alternate airstrips were rare. Having cleared the highest mountain peaks and passed the foothills on the eastern side, Zander quickly descended to preserve fuel and looked for a place to land. Then he spotted an airstrip right at the foot of the mountains. But what about fuel? Would they have any? Circling the airstrip, he saw containers of aviation-grade fuel guarded by a contingent of armed soldier. Drug dealers used the airstrip. Zander had no choice but to land, and he was immediately surrounded by guards with their guns. When he explained the problem, the commander offered to give him the fuel, but as he refueled, a black storm cloud approached. The entire group of missionaries and soldiers fled to a protected area. It was a perfect setup. As the rain pattered and poured on the roof, Zander read to the men from his Spanish Bible, shared the Gospel with them, and left the Bible for them to study.
Zander wrote, “Then joyfully, we departed, realizing again that our times are in the Lord’s hands. Sometimes delays and problems as His way of opening doors to new opportunities to love people and serve Him.”
I remember my first call as a new pastor in a rural church in Missouri. The call to the church was a tough call. It is a long story for another day. After being in the ministry for a year, I was at my breaking point and ready to throw in the towel. I said to myself, “I gave up everything to follow you God and this is it?” I was in the middle of the lake trying to row the ship home. It was dark. It was one of the darkest times I have ever experienced. I was sure that I was failure and that my boat of ministry was going to sink.
My wife and I went to Silver Dollar City in Branson to get away from everything one Sunday night. We were walking out of the park that night and we noticed people going in. Where were they going? Hundreds of people were exiting the park, yet hundreds were heading back in. We stopped a few people and asked them where they were going. They told us that every Sunday night they hold a concert outside and this night it was group by the name of “Third Day.” To be honest with you, I had never heard of the group, but we did not want to go home. I said to Jac, “Let’s go!” That was my introduction to Third Day. That was a life changing night. At the end of the concert, Max Powell, the lead singer asked everyone to sit down. He gave a Gospel message. “Some of you are going through tough times. I want you to have hope in Jesus. We’re going to sing a song called, ‘My Hope Is You.'” He told us to sit and not to stand until we really believed that our Hope is Jesus. Jac jumped up pretty early. I sat there thinking about how dark this church storm was, how difficult it was, and how God had seemingly forgotten me. I listened to the words and began to cry. I finally stood and said to God, MY HOPE IS YOU.
Here is a YouTube link for song MY HOPE IS YOU by Third Day.
I do not know where you are. You might be on the sunny side of the beach. If you are, ENJOY. DRINK IT ALL IN! Because we all go through storms but if you’re in the sunshine–live it up!
You might be in the middle of the lake and the waves are crashing and wind is blowing. You might be sitting in the dark and it seems to be getting darker.
Remember Jesus sends you; Jesus sees you, Jesus stills either you or your storm, and Jesus saves.
From that dark storm of my first call, I took a second call to a place I said I’d never be sent. (Don’t do that. God hears. I believe he said, “Pastor Dave? California. Check.”) Listen, I have spent 19 of my 24 years here in California. It is my call. It is where I fit. It is where I belong. Through the storm I have come to understand how wide, how deep, how long and how high is the love of Christ…for me…for you..for the world.
Whatever storms you face, the great I AM is with you. Go listen to the song and sit until you know that you know: MY HOPE IS YOU.
Just have to say in closing: row, row, row YOUR boat! Jesus sends, sees, stills, and saves; yesterday, today and tomorrow–and forever and ever. TRUST Him.
See you Sunday!
God loves you and so do I,