There is an old hymn that says “The ground is level at the foot of the cross.” This lyric is a great summary of what Paul sets forth in Romans 2. He is writing to a mixed audience of Jews and Gentiles and to them he says there is no partiality on the part of God. Jews do not get a pass on judgment day because of their covenant relationship with God, and the Gentiles don’t get a pass on judgment day because of their lack of having the written law of God. In other words, we are all going to be held accountable to God for our faith, or lack thereof, in Jesus.

This chapter also serves as a call to self-examination and reflection. Paul is calling these people who claim to follow God to examine their own lives before they pass judgment on others. This is a good reminder for us to be evaluating our lives by the Scripture and making sure that we ourselves are not trusting in our own merits for salvation. Do we have our own checklists of “dos and don’ts” that we take pleasure in when we’re checking off the list? Do we tend to pass judgment on others who break our lists of rules? To those of us who do this, Paul is saying look at the cross where the ground is level. We all need Jesus and his righteousness. We bring nothing.

Chapter 15 exposes a problem within Christianity from its inception, namely, adding to the gospel of grace. The main focus of this chapter can be summed up in the words of Peter to the Jewish believers when he told them that all men would be “saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus.” Just as the Jewish Christians were tempted to add circumcision to the gospel of grace, so too we can add our own regulations and practices to the gospel.

In recent months I have reflected on the both the benefits and pitfalls of social media and blogs in particular. While I will be the first to argue for the usefulness of social media and blogs in discipleship, I am also quick to point out that, if we are not thoughtful in how we use these tools, we can place a burden on followers of Jesus. I often read blog articles that are very helpful in their principles but are written in such a way that would make a person feel like a failure as a Christian if they are not putting those principles to practice in the same way as the author. I think we must be careful as we communicate with believers and non-believers alike to not make our practices a part of the gospel. The gospel of Jesus is not a burden. Jesus himself said that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. We can look to the apostles are a great reminder to us: We will all be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus. Nothing more. Nothing less.


In John 18, Judas betrays Jesus and Peter cuts off the ear of the high priest’s slave.  Jesus is arrested and taken before Annas and Caiaphas.  Peter, who had seemed to be so bold by cutting off the ear of the high priest’s slave, now denies Jesus 3 times. Jesus is then led before Pilate, where Pilate tries to get out of making a judgment and instead have the Jews take care of this issue with Jesus.  The Jews show their hand by saying that they are not allowed to put anyone to death. Pilate questions Jesus as to whether He is a King or not.  Jesus says that His Kingdom is not of this world.  Jesus tells Pilate that HE came to testify to the truth and that everyone who is of the truth hears His voice.  Thank You, Lord for the joy it is to hear Your voice through Your Word.  The Jewish people are given an opportunity to choose a prisoner to be set free, they choose the robber – Barabbas, instead of the Savior, Jesus.  The things that stands out to me this morning is Jesus says His Kingdom was not of this world.  As a follower of Jesus, I need to be reminded that Jesus’ Kingdom is not of this world.  Therefore, pursuing the things of this world (power, prestige, position, popularity, etc…) cannot be my goal.  Instead, I must make the building up of His Kingdom, through intention witness, my goal.  Lord, keep me focused on the building up of Your Kingdom.

– Bryan McKenzie

John 17 Reflection

In the previous chapter, Jesus has been speaking intimately to the disciples. He has warned them of the mistreatment that will come to them. He has informed them that he will soon be with them no more. You can imagine the questions that must have raced through their heads – the feelings of sorrow at just the thought of losing Him. Jesus spends some time reassuring them, but then turns to His Father in prayer as He had done so many times before.

Notice Jesus’ prayer in verse 3 – “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

I LOVE THIS! Jesus defines eternal life, not just as some sort of heavenly reward, but as “knowing” Him. This means that if we know Him, eternal life is NOW! It means that “eternal life” also describes the quality of our lives right here in the present. The word “know” also implies a present and ongoing relationship with the only true God and Jesus Christ. THIS IS ETERNAL LIFE!

Friends, if only we “knew” Him more…. if we longed for a deeper relationship with Him…. I wonder how we’d be changed? My suspicion I that as we enter this present “eternal life” by knowing Him, our struggles and pressures might seem much more trivial. Our burdens would become small in light of our relationship with Him. He changes not only our lives after death, but our lives now. As believers, we have already, presently entered eternal life! Let’s live as such! This makes us witnesses too and ultimately brings more glory and honor to Him.

– Steve Corn

In John 16, the first 4 verses are a continuation of chapter 15.  We see a final wrap up of Jesus showing that many of the “leaders” of the day in the synagogues do not know God.  Jesus was warning the disciples that they were going to be persecuted for their faith in Christ, but not to lose heart.

Jesus then told the exciting news of the Holy Spirit  coming!  He knew that the disciples were not happy he told them he was leaving.  In the midst of this, he told the almost unbelievable truth that the Holy Spirit would come, which would be better than having Jesus with them.  That would have been unfathomable for the disciples!  We now understand this is what Jesus meant when he said: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.  He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

That is such great news to hear! What hope we have in the Holy Spirit’s power in our lives! Jesus declares all that is the Father’s is his, and the Holy Spirit will now give it to us.  The disciples were still a bit confused and had questions, but Jesus assures again that the sorrow they feel will be turned to joy!  The sacrifice Christ made, the resurrection of Christ brings more joy now for us than those disciples could even imagine at that time.  Thank our Lord for his sovereignty and understanding to know this and know our need for his sacrifice!

Finally,  Jesus speaks pretty straight forward when he tells them he has come from the Father.  The Father will love them because they loved Jesus. He continues this discussion until he says “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart;  I have overcome the world.”  Glory to God!  He has overcome the world!  He has won.  We have hope.  We know the final score!



In John 15,  Jesus speaks of Himself as the true vine and teaches that all those who are rightly related to Him are branches that will bear fruit.  Those who do not bear fruit are not rightly related to Jesus through faith and are cast away.  The fruit is the proof of a person’s right relationship with Jesus.  Jesus calls the disciples to love each other and reminds them that He chose them to bear fruit. Although the disciples’ relationship to each other will be characterized by love, their relationship with the world will be characterized by hate, as the world will hate them.  He reminds them that they will be able to testify of Him in this hate filled world, because He is sending the Holy Spirit to live in them.  The thing that sticks out to me is Jesus’ promise to those who abide in Him and His words – “If you abide in Me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”  The only way to abide in Jesus is through faith and the only way for his words to abide in His people is by reading, studying, memorizing and applying them.  When His word abides in His people, then their requests will be according to His will and will be granted.  Lord, help me to daily abide in You and your words abide in me, so that I will ask only according to Your will and bring You glory.

– Bryan McKenzie

In chapters 12 and 13, Jesus has just told the disciples that he will soon go to the cross. He has also foretold Peter’s denial. The disciples are a little confused and fearful. What is to become of Christ and his teaching? Is he not going to restore the kingdom to Israel? 

In chapter 14, Jesus gives them hope and assurance. Knowing his disciples are about to enter into persecution and trials, Jesus points out two things which should bring them, and us, great comfort. 

First, he gives them the hope of heaven. One of the most important doctrines for believers in Jesus to understand is that of heaven. Christ tells his disciples and us that he is going to prepare a place for us and that he will come back for us. When we are faced with trials, persecution, and suffering, Jesus intends for our knowledge of our future home to bring endurance, patience, and comfort. However, knowing that we would not be able to endure alone, he points to the second truth: he is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. 

Though he is leaving his disciples, Jesus lets them know that he is not leaving them. In John 14, Jesus teaches his followers about the Trinity. He explains the importance of knowing that he, the Father, and the Holy Spirit are one. Why is this important? Jesus is telling them, though he is leaving them, he is not leaving them alone. No longer will they have God beside them, they will have God in them through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. 

The encouragement of Christ to his disciples is still in effect for us today. When faced with trials, suffering, and persecution, we can know that this is not the end. Christ will return and make all things new and until he does, we have the Holy Spirit living in us for our hope, comfort, and strength.

In John 13, during the Last Passover over meal and the first Lord’s Supper – Jesus washed the disciples feet, which foreshadowed His selfless death He would soon undergo. He calls them to follow His example of selfless service, He points out to John that Judas will betray Him, He calls the disciples to show the world that they are His followers by loving each other as He has loved them and Jesus prophecies that Peter will deny Him 3 times.   The thing that sticks out to me this morning is Jesus’ command that the disciples love each other as He has loved them and the promise that follows that – “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  The standard by which they and all Christians after them are to love each other is – “as I (Jesus) have loved you.”  How did Jesus love them?  He placed their need for salvation from sin before His own life – HE was selfless, as just illustrated by His washing their feet (a job for the lowest slave).  This is not natural for mankind, without a heart change.  Only through the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit can followers of Jesus love as HE has loved (selflessly).  However, when this does happen it is a sure sign to the world that we have been changed from the inside out.  Father, by Your grace may I always be empowered by the Holy Spirit living in me to love as Jesus loved, so that others will know that I am Your disciple.

– Bryan McKenzie

In John 12, Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume and Judas took offense at this, but Jesus says she has done a good thing in preparing Him for His death. Jesus enters Jerusalem to a crowd of people shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.”  Of course, they thought HE was coming to defeat the Romans at this time. The Pharisees become even more hateful toward Jesus and many Greeks wish to meet Jesus. Jesus explains how important His death is my using the illustration of a grain of wheat needing to die and go into the ground before it can bear fruit. Jesus once again explains that He will die and His death is essential for people to have life. He calls Himself the light again and says that all who believe in Him will not remain in darkness.  The thing that sticks out to me is verse 37, “But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him.”  This reminds me that believing is not just a mere understanding of some facts about Jesus, but a complete embracing of Him as Savior and Lord.  This kind of belief must be awakened by the Holy Spirit.  Lord, help me be faithful to share the message of Salvation through faith in Jesus and trust You to work in people’s hearts.

– Bryan McKenzie

In John 11, Jesus found out that His good friend, Lazarus, was sick.  Jesus purposely waits 2 days before beginning the journey to Bethany.  When He arrives, Lazarus had been dead for 4 days.  Martha says that if Jesus would have been there Lazarus would not have died.  Jesus says to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will never die.” Jesus then heals Lazarus and many of the Jews believed in Him, but other went to the Pharisees to report what He did.  The Pharisees made a plan to kill Jesus.  The thing that sticks out to me this morning is when the Pharisees heard about Jesus raising Lazarus they said, “What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs.  If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” The Pharisees were not concerned about what God was doing, but instead they were fearful of losing their positions and power.  They were self seeking and self worshippers, therefore they feared man rather than God.  Lord, may I always be a true worshipper of You and be focused on Your Plan and Your glory and not my own.

– Bryan McKenzie