The True St. Francis of Assisi

I am enjoying extensive study of St. Francis of Assisi (ll81-1826), because I believe that he reveals the  best pattern of church healing and renewal, as well as the way to healing of the nations. Few would deny that the church needs healing and renewal, and no one can deny that the nations need great healing.

If you are interested in learning more about this man who was called a “saint” by the ordinary people of Italy long before he was pronounced a saint by the church, I would recommend two books. Of course there are many good books about him, but you may want to begin by reading what he said in his own words, written by him. Francis of Assisi: The Essential Writings, translated by Jon M. Sweeney. In addition, G. K. Chesterton’s St. Francis of Assisi will help you understand the rationale of how Francis lived and spoke, and his importance today.

Contrary to popular belief, St. Francis did not write the prayer, “Lord, Make Me An Instrument of Your Peace.” It was not written until the early 1900’s. But it does summarize his life very well.

One thing St. Francis did write was An Admonition of Virtue and Vice. Here it is:

“Where there is charity (love) and wisdom, there will be no fear or ignorance.

Where there is patience and humility, there will not be anger or indignation.

Where there is poverty (chosen as a lifestyle) and joy, there will be no greed or materialism.

Where there is quiet and contemplation, there will not be anxiety or restlessness.

Where there is the fear of the Lord to guard our home, no enemy will be able to enter.

Where there is mercy and discretion, there will no longer be extravagance or stubbornness.”

May the Lord bless you today.

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Resurrection Morning

This is a beautiful poem by the French poet Paul Claudel.  A wonderful reading for early Resurrection Morning.

Resurrection Morning

“Let us lie still with our eyes closed a moment

before dawn breaks

on the day of Resurrection.

It is yet night, but already someone is stirring

in two or three houses in Jerusalem.

Lamps are being lit,

and women are hurriedly dressing and combing their hair.

The Sabbath is over, and one incomparable star irradiates

the upturned face of our first Sunday.

The shoemaker’s cock prepares to take up the challenge flung at him by his friend on the other side of the Cedron [Kidron].

It is no longer Passover; it is Easter!

Look, listen: in the Hebraic stillness there takes place,

at the joining of three roads,

a meeting of veiled women who exchange questions in hushed voices,

‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the door of the tomb?’ (Mark 16:3) Who will take it away?”

The very fragrance they bear provides the answer.

It is this irresistible quality of hope in their hearts,

this emanation of mysterious ingredients prepared in the bosom of the night by the very hands of the dawn.

Stored up for centuries, slowly expanding,

this sacred chemistry that just now rose from sleep advances to triumph over death.


Paul Claudel (†1955) was a poet, a playwright, a diplomat, and a member of the French Academy. He was a devout Christian.

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The Church: Jesus Christ’s Body

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Reading the Gospel of John (11)

Reading the Gospel of John (11)                                                                                                    Day Eleven

[If you have been reading this blog while studying the Gospel of John, you may have noticed that this 11th reading was missing. Here it is, with my apologies for failing to include it in its proper sequence.]

Jesus Heals A Man Born Blind (John 9:1-41)

 John chapter 9 continues Jesus’ emphasis on light by working a miracle to show that He is the Light of the world. Remember, all miracles are signs pointing to a truth about God. Whenever we see or experience a miracle, our first question should be, “What does this teach me about Jesus, about the nature and character of God?” Of course, Jesus did not work these miracles merely to teach about God; He healed the sick, turned water into wine, and fed the hungry because He cared for them and wanted to restore them to their rightful dignity in God. Miracles are a sign of God’s great love.

The Blindness of Jesus’ Disciples

 Jesus’ disciples are certain that the man is blind because of some sin. Was it the man’s parents’ sin that caused him to be blind? Or was it because of the man’s own sin that caused his blindness? It was neither, replied Jesus; it was so that God’s glory could be revealed, that His nature be manifest. We are born into a sinful world, and suffering is the result of sin. Nevertheless, we cannot trace sickness to sin; we should not attempt to do so.

At this point, the disciples still believed the rabbinic teaching that all sickness is due to some sin. Even they are blind to the mystery of God’s Kingdom. They do not yet understand the new Kingdom that Jesus brought to the world; they still consider everything that happens to be the result of human cause and effect. Jesus wants them to know and believe that they no longer are bound to hopeless acceptance of things as they are. A New Age has dawned upon the world, the Kingdom of Light, and Jesus wants His disciples to become faithful workers in His Kingdom.

At this point, Jesus has only a few weeks left to live in the world. Daylight is disappearing and night is coming. He is pleading with them to become agents of light. Jesus wants desperately not only to instill in them His vision and compassion for people in darkness, but also to create in them a sense of urgency. We must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. (John 9:4)

Jesus sent the man to wash in the pool of Siloam (which means “sent”). It is possible that the water for this pool came from Hezekiah’s tunnel, which gave life when the city was besieged. (2 Chronicles 32) When the man returned, he “came back seeing.”

The Blindness of the Religious Leaders

The issue here in chapter 9 is legalism. Jesus deliberately healed this man on the Sabbath. The Pharisees questioned the man, asking four times “how” this miracle happened. They had no compassion on the man; they did not care that he was healed. They were interested only in whether Jesus worked or not on the Sabbath. They missed the point that this healing was an act of the grace of God! The man’s parents washed their hands of the whole matter, out of fear of the Pharisees. They still believed that the Pharisees “held the keys to the Kingdom.”

The New Evangelist

 In contrast to the Pharisees and Sadducees, the blind man who regained his sight now becomes a great evangelist for Jesus, even before he fully realizes who Jesus is. He walks in the light both physically and spiritually. He testifies to the Pharisees that Jesus healed him, and that Jesus is a prophet and a good man. When they continued to ask him how Jesus healed them, he issued an invitation to them: Do you also want to become His disciple?

John 9:30-34 The Pharisees told the man to give glory to God. “We know that this man is a sinner.” In essence, they were saying that sickness couldn’t be healed until sins are forgiven. So the formerly blind man used their own theology against them and agreed with them by saying, “We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, God listens to him.” He agreed with them that if Jesus were not from God, He could do nothing. So Jesus must be a good man. This was his argument.

What do teachers and overseers of the law do when they are confronted with such truth as this man was speaking? They cast him out!

The Man Comes to Full Faith (John 9:35-38)

 Jesus asks the man if he believes in the Son of Man. The man does not know who the Son of Man is, so he asked him who he is. Then Jesus reveals Himself to the man.

Lord, I believe. And he worshiped Jesus. He leaves a life of total darkness and now begins his walk in the Great Light.

The Pharisees ask Jesus a question. (John 9:39-41)

 The Pharisees asked Jesus if they also were blind. His answer was that if they were blind, they would not be guilty. But because they say, “We see,” their guilt remains.

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Reading the Gospel of John (14)

Reading the Gospel of John (14)                                                                                                     Day Fourteen

John Chapter 12

John chapter 12 describes the end of Jesus’ public ministry. It begins with Mary anointing Jesus’ feet for His burial and the Jewish leaders’ plot to kill Lazarus because of the power of his testimony. Jesus enters Jerusalem for the final time, surrounded by crowds who continued to bear witness to Jesus’ last miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead.

An important part of this chapter is John’s analysis of the Jewish leaders’ unbelief (John 12:27-43). Many Jews were leaving their religion and believing in Jesus; even many of the religious leaders believed in Him, but they could not publicly confess their faith because of fear of the Pharisees. At the same time, unbelief continued to grow, and John explains their unbelief as Jesus ends His public ministry.

Mary Anoints Jesus at Bethany (John 12:1-8)

The time is six days before the Passover. Jesus has come to Bethany, to the home of Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead, and his sisters, Mary and Martha.

Mary’s devotion to Jesus gives her deep insight into His passion and the meaning of His impending crucifixion. Jesus is not only preparing to appear before the high priest and Pilate; He is ready now to appear before the judgment throne of God, to bear the sins of the world.

Notice the great expense of Mary’s offering and Judas’ response. Mark in his Gospel brings out the deep meaning more than John. Read Mark 14:6-9 and see how Jesus interprets Mary’s anointing.

What is the motive behind Judas’ outrage at this anointing? Remember that he controls the moneybag.

How does this anointing show Jesus that His Father is in total control?

The Plot to Kill Lazarus (John 12:9-11)

Consider the reasons the Jews have decided that they must kill Lazarus.

Jesus Enters Jerusalem In Triumph (John 12:12-19)

Large crowds have gathered to welcome Jesus, believing that the King of the Jews has arrived. They are familiar with Psalm 118, and they welcome Jesus with the words of this psalm. They cry out, “Hosanna!” which means, “give salvation now.”

But the crowds are excited not because of their personal faith in Jesus, but because they believe that their nationalistic hopes are being fulfilled. They may have been thinking of the prophecy in Zephaniah 3:14-20. Jesus rides on a donkey, which causes them to question His kingship. Perhaps Jesus wants them to remember, later after His crucifixion, the words of Zephaniah

The Holy Spirit leads the Pharisees to make a prophecy that went far beyond their own understanding. Look, the world has gone after Him! Consider why the Spirit had them say this, and the great meaning of their confession.

Greeks seek Jesus (John 12:20-36)

Notices the way the Greeks are able to approach Jesus, through Philip and then through Andrew. Consider the way they expressed their desire. The whole world already is beginning to seek Jesus, fulfilling the Pharisee’s unwitting prediction.

Think about Jesus’ response when Philip and Andrew introduced the Greeks. Notice that Jesus is becoming more radical and absolute in His demands to those who wish to follow Him. Yet He gives a great promise to those who will give up everything and serve Him. What is it? (John 12:26)

Jesus begins to pray to His Father in the presence of the crowds, and His Father answers Him. Jesus tells the crowd that God spoke aloud for their benefit, not for His.

Jesus now gives His final promise and warning (John 12:31-36)

What does Jesus say about judgment of this world? What does He promise to do for “all people”? How will He do it?

What is His final warning to the people who continue to question Him? (John 12:35-36)

John’s Analysis of the Jews’ Unbelief (John 12:37-50)

After Jesus had spoken the words to the crowd, He departed and hid Himself from them. (John 12:37)

Two signs in this chapter have pointed to the fact that the Gospel goes beyond Judaism. First, the Pharisees themselves prophesied, “the world has gone after Him!” (John 12:19) Then, some Greeks came saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus!” (John 12:20-21)

Yet the Jewish people as a whole did not believe in Him. John analyzes their unbelief. The problem is a paradox: God’s divine sovereignty and man’s freedom.

Jesus was indeed the Jewish Messiah, but the Jewish leaders did not receive Him. You may wish to refer again to the Prologue to understand more fully. The Greek connecting words help us to understand John’s argument. John’s argument is that because the Jewish leaders did not believe, they ultimately could not believe.

John 12:37 — There was overwhelming evidence both in the number and quality of Jesus’ signs. These signs were done publicly, so their unbelief was not the result of the lack of evidence.

The Greek connecting word is important here. de (even though) . . . yet they still did not believe. The Greek verb is the imperfect tense, which means, “They continued to not believe.”

John 12:38 — so that the prophecy of Isaiah might be fulfilled.” The connecting word is hina . . . and it can mean either “so that,” or “in order that” . . . it can also mean “with the result that” they could not believe.

John 12:39 — Another connecting word is dia touto . . . “therefore”, or “for this reason” they could not believe.  

If we connect John 12:37 with John 12:39, John is telling us in 12:37 that the Jewish religious leaders refused to believe in spite of the great amount of evidence. Their unbelief was a matter of the will. John is telling us that we have the freedom to believe or not to believe.

John tells us that the result of their refusal to believe was that they could not believe. John is telling us that unbelief is not an intellectual or metaphysical impossibility. It is a problem of the will. Man is free to choose, but God remains sovereign.

The Jewish religious leaders persisted in their unbelief. They would not believe. But they came to a point where they could not believe.

Have you met people like this, who refuse to believe for so long that eventually they are unable to believe even though they want to do so? What can you say to them to give them hope?

Isaiah understood this (Isaiah 6:10) Paul also understood this truth. (Acts 28:26-27)

This may be why the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre remarked that “hell is a sign of how free we really are!” God finally gives His “awful permission” to our choice.

Jesus public ministry is now ended. John closes this section by re-affirming the truth that Jesus Christ came into the world not to condemn the world but to save the world.

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Reading the Gospel of John (13)

Reading the Gospel of John (13)                                                                                                     Day Thirteen

The Raising of Lazarus (John 11:1-57)

Chapter 11 contains the last of Jesus’ signs, or miracles. The Jewish leaders have already decided to kill Jesus, so it is fitting that His last miracle is to raise Lazarus from the dead. This miracles reveals that life has come in the Kingdom of God.

Lazarus’ Death (John 11:1-16)

Jesus frequently visited the home of His friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus, in Bethany. Jesus loved Lazarus and his two sisters. This is the first time in this Gospel that John uses the words agape and philia when speaking of Jesus. Jesus loved Lazarus with unconditional love and also brotherly love as a friend. He cared about family life, as His first and last miracles reveal. His first miracle, at the wedding in Cana, blessed the new family God was creating. His last miracle occurs as the family prepares for the funeral of Lazarus. He blesses this family.

When Jesus hears that Lazarus is ill, He replies that this sickness “does not lead unto death,” but that it is for the glory of God. Lazarus did die, but death did not have the last word. Jesus knew that Lazarus had died, but He stayed two days longer where He was, to make it clear that Lazarus was actually dead, and that He — Jesus — is the one who conquers the last enemy, death.

Jesus and Martha (John 11:17-27)

Jesus meets both Martha and Mary, each one individually. As you read this, try to place yourself inside the minds of these two sisters, and notice how Jesus relates to them. Try to avoid the “over-simplification” of thinking that Martha was just a work-oriented person and Mary a people-oriented person. Both of them loved Jesus and people, and both of them ministered, although in different ways.

Jesus pronounces His 5th “I AM” statement to Martha, when she says that she knows Lazarus will rise again on the last day. But she finds little comfort even though she believes it. Jesus replies, I am the resurrection and the life. All who believe in Jesus shall never die. This means that fellowship with Christ is participating in God’s life that finds its deepest meaning in triumph over death.

William Temple expressed it this way: “Your friend is alive now; for in Me he touched the life of God which is eternal; in Me, he had already risen before his body perished.”

Martha finished her conversation with Jesus by her own confession of faith: Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.

Jesus and Mary (John 11:28-37)

Note that Martha speaks of Jesus as “the Teacher” when she tells her that Jesus is calling for her. We remember how Mary would sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to His teaching. (Luke 10:39)

Jesus is not able to meet Mary alone, however, because the friends who had come to comfort her followed her into the house. She said the same thing as Martha had said, that if Jesus had been there her brother would not have died.

Mary fell at Jesus’ feet and wept. Her Jewish friends wept with her. Jesus Himself, when He saw that they were weeping, also wept. Jesus was deeply moved in spirit and greatly troubled; He wept over the destruction of death that held the whole world captive.

Jesus’ Four Commands (John 11:34-44)

Jesus spoke four commands to bring Lazarus back to life. Notice that He includes the whole community present there to complete the restoration of Lazarus. These four commands are very powerful, and teach us how we also may become involved in restoring new life to people who are dead in their sins, or who have for some reason lost hope in life.

Where have you laid him?

Identify the problem. What is the cause? What is the situation? Bring the problem to the light so that it can be dealt with.

Take away the stone!

For Lazarus it was the stone of death. For others, it may be the stone of anxiety, worry, depression, or resentment and unforgiveness. There would an odor of death, because Lazarus had been dead for four days. It can be unpleasant for a person to open himself so that the root problem of spiritual death can be dealt with.

Lazarus, come out!

Jesus is the one who commands the dead to come to life. We can only prepare people to hear His voice. The voice of the Lord awakens the dead, and raises them up. It must be obeyed! Jesus speaks — the almighty voice of God Himself — and the dead body obeys!

Unbind him, and let him go!

 Jesus works the miracle, but He asks for their help in full restoration. Lazarus rose from the dead, but he is not yet ready to return home. His friends need to remove the smelly clothes of death from him and welcome him back to life!

This speaks of the need for shepherds in the Body of Christ. People who care for others, who meet the needs of one another, even the physical and worldly needs, as well as their spiritual needs.

Jesus completes Lazarus’ resurrection with a prayer of thanksgiving to God, from whom all life comes and to whom all life returns.

The Result (John 11:45-57)

We have seen thus far in our study of the Gospel of John that there always were those who believed in Jesus because of His miracles and teaching; but always the Jewish religious leaders continued to grow more hostile in their attitudes toward Jesus.

Some of the Jewish people who had come to comfort Mary and Martha received salvation that day. Others left and reported everything to the religious authorities.

The Chief Priests and the Pharisees

 Until now, the Pharisees have “defended the faith” by opposing Jesus and plotting to kill Jesus. But now the Chief Priests take the lead. The raising of Lazarus is so astounding that they are afraid of a revolt by the crowds. This would mean that they would lose their “holy positions” as well as their national existence.

A better way? Caiaphas, whose turn it was to be the representative high priest that year, gives the solution: One man should die in place of all the people.

Ironically, at a later time when John wrote this Gospel, this prophecy had already been fulfilled. The Romans had taken over their nation completely. Jerusalem was in ruins. Some have even said that the destruction of the city was due to the blindness regarding its true destiny; and this blindness led to the rejection of Christ. Jesus Himself said, as He wept over Jerusalem, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.” (Luke 19:42) You did not know the time of your visitation! (Luke 19:44)

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Reading the Gospel of John (12)

Reading the Gospel of John (12)                                                                                                     Day Twelve

The Good Shepherd (John 10)

 This chapter is the most important teaching of the Bible on Jesus, the Good Shepherd. Before beginning your study of Jesus as the Shepherd, it would be good to read through some of the Old and New Testament passages about the shepherd.

Scriptures Related to John chapter 10

Read the following passages and makes notes on the content.

Psalm 23:1-6

Psalm 78:52-55 — The Lord was the Shepherd who led His people through the Red Sea. The Lord then gave them shepherds to lead them.

Psalm 77:20 and Psalm 78:70-72

Jeremiah 23:1-8

Ezekiel 34:1-31 — Notice in verses 11-16 some things that God will do as Shepherd, and you will discover some things we as human shepherds should do.

Zechariah 11:4-17 — Notice in verse 16 the 4 things the false shepherds do not do; reverse these, and you will discover 4 things a shepherd should do.

Micah 4:6-8

1 Peter 5:1-4

Hebrews 13:20-21 — This is one of the greatest benedictions in Scripture. Ask the Shepherd to speak to you how He wishes to work in you, and how He wishes to equip you to be His shepherd for others.

The Feast of Dedication

 Jesus made this claim to be the Good Shepherd during the Feast of Dedication. This feast was held each year to celebrate the rededication of the Temple after it was cleansed and restored by Judas Maccabaeus. (Daniel 7 describes the desecration of the Temple.) During this feast they read from Ezekiel 34 where God displays His anger at the “shepherds” of His flock. The title shepherd was given to the religious and political leaders of Israel.

Remember that as Jesus speaks these words, the Jewish leaders, who are the current false shepherds, are listening to Him speak. Also present and listening carefully are the common people, the poor, abused and sick sheep of God’s fold. But the people are blinded by the deception of their leaders. Jewish patriotism was very high at this time, and people were eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come. But to come as a shepherd . . .?

Leadership Models

The Bible speaks of leaders in many ways. In the Church there are teachers, encouragers, prophets, evangelists, pastors and other leadership functions. But the two models of leadership that God wants for His Church are servant and shepherd. Isaiah expresses the servant model most clearly in his teaching of the Suffering Servant. But the “face” of the servant is seen as a shepherd. God is searching today for servants and shepherds to lead His Church in these turbulent yet exciting times. Jesus came to earth not just as the leader of the Jewish nation, but as the leader of the whole world. Today He is searching for leaders — servant shepherds — who will walk with Him.

Two “I AM” Statements

Notice the two “I AM” statements in verses 7 and 11.

What is Jesus claiming for Himself in these statements?

I AM the Door of the Sheep (John 10:7)

Jesus is the Way into the Kingdom of God. John 14:6 is clear, I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. Jesus is the one who determines who enters His Kingdom.

 The sheep go in and out of the door, following their shepherd. What is the special relationship between Jesus and His sheep, as told in John 10:4-6?

See also John 10:27.

Can all Christians know and hear God’s voice? Is there a method (or methods) that one must learn in order to hear God’s voice? Why do you think many Christians struggle over the problem of “hearing God’s voice?” Are they taught to struggle by false shepherds?

What is the secret of hearing Jesus speak to us? What is the greatest requirement?

What is the promise to those who enter the sheepfold by Jesus, the Door of the sheep? See John 10:3-4, 9-10, 15, 28-29. As you read through these verses and this chapter, make a list of the promises you receive by entering into the “Door of Life” through Jesus, the Good Shepherd.

I AM the Good Shepherd (John 10:11)

 Jesus came to earth as the Good Shepherd, the Servant Leader.

Read through John 10 once again, and at the same time read through Psalm 23. Write a brief confession of what it means that Jesus is the Good Shepherd, both for you and for the whole world; consider sharing this with others with whom you study and also with others around you who are anxiously waiting for a shepherd.

The Larger Sheepfold (John 10:16)

 Jesus tells us in John 10:16 that He has other sheep “that are not of this fold.” See Ezekiel 34:11-13, Isaiah 56:8, Matthew 8:11-12, Ephesians 1:7-10 and Ephesians 2:13-18.

[A cross-reference Bible is one of the greatest tools for Bible study. Remember that Scripture interprets Scripture.]

What have you learned from reading these other Scripture passages about Jesus’ sheep “who are not of this fold?”

Describe the “Universal Church.” What does this tell you about how we must become shepherds (“under-shepherds” of the Great Shepherd) not only for those nearby but also for the whole world?

Consider again the meaning of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Spend some time thinking about your own mission in life.

Jesus prepares for His final clash with the Jewish leaders. (John 10:30-42)

Jesus’ statement in John 10:30 – I and the Father are one — caused the Jews to immediately try to stone Him. Jesus is ready to make His final clash with the Jewish religious establishment. He now goes back across the Jordan River to the place where John had baptized Him.

At the same time His enemies were seeking to kill Him, many people continued to come to Jesus, and many believed in Him. They said, John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true! (John 10:41)

Before Jesus makes His final onslaught on evil, He goes back to rededicate Himself to the mission on which He set out at His baptism. His enemies are more viciously opposing Him, but His believers continue to increase.

Could we not say the same thing today, that Jesus’ enemies are increasing their attacks, but His believers and followers are increasing day by day?

Do we not all have to “start over” now and then, to rekindle our initial commitment and recapture our original enthusiasm? Perhaps this study of the Gospel of John can be a “new beginning” for all of us.

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