The setting in today’s chapter is a meal at the house of a prominent Pharisee, a religious leader of Jesus time. Jesus sat and watched as the guest came in looking for seating in prominent places. They wanted recognition and positions of power with the affluent in the room. It is at this point Jesus tells a parable about a “Great Feast, “ a feast much like the kingdom of God.
A man sent out invitations to a great feast he was giving, but everyone he asked had excuses for why they could not come. So the man told his servant to go and invite the “rejects”, “the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.” (Verse 21) He also instructs the servant to go “to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in…” (verse 23) The man throwing the feast wanted his house to be full. Our loving Heavenly Father is like this man. The invitation to His Heavenly banquet was sent years ago, on a dark night, in a Bethlehem Stable. Jesus came inviting the ones rejected- the poor in spirit; those crippled by fear and pain; those blinded by sin; those lame, unable to stand in His presence. He calls to the “roads and country lanes” ,the out of the way, lonely places, “Come!” He longs for His house to be full!
For this I am so grateful. I am all of the people Jesus invited- I am the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame. I am the one who could not come to the banquet had it not been for Jesus inviting sinners to come!
The first Christmas shows us a glimpse of the God who would go to great lengths to see His house full of guests delighted and fulfilled at His banquet. Our God came to be His invitation, with us- Emmanuel. He prepared the way for us to the banquet by His sacrificially dying on the cross, and victoriously rising from the grave. May we hear the invitation declared to us so many years ago at His birth, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.” Luke 2:14. His favor is upon us! His invitation has been sent! May we drop any excuse for not attending His feast and RSVP with Him replying “Yes! I come!”
As we have seen, Jesus often spoke in parables. Todays reading has a parable that describes God’s heavenly kingdom. Jesus compares it to a mustard seed that is planted in a garden. It grew and grew to be a tree. The birds even found a place to rest in it. (verses 18-20)
God’s Kingdom had what seemed to be a tiny beginning. How could a baby born to a poor couple in an insignificant town two thousand years ago be a King? Not just a king, but THE King of Kings! What are the odds of such a small beginning becoming such a large influence on the world? Pretty slim. Consider the likelihood of the message the King proclaimed throughout His life being proclaimed through centuries. It was not a message of political dominance of His kingdom, or a powerful rebellion to the oppressive Roman government of His time, but a message of spiritual freedom instead, freedom within.
Jesus was right to compare the mustard seed and the tree it produced to His Kingdom and it’s influence. What started in a manger in Bethlehem with His birth, endured a burial (much like a seed) in a borrowed tomb, followed by a resurrection. The plant had come up from the ground. Then 50 days later during the feast of Pentecost the tree’s size multiplied greatly with the coming of the Holy Spirit to dwell in us and fill us to overflowing! (The church was born). That “mustard seed plant” GREW! Now centuries later it still stands growing larger and larger! Against all worldly odds the Kingdom grew and it remains!
But let’s take this down to a smaller scale. Jesus’ Kingdom planted within our hearts can grow and grow as well. Influencing every area of our lives. It brings freedom, joy, peace, hope, and love! The same small “seed” that as a Baby born in Bethlehem has changed our world, can be planted in our hearts changing our lives! May we let the “mustard seed” of the Kingdom be deeply planted within us, and may it grow!
Today’s reading is Luke 7. The people of Jesus time are much like the people of our time. The more they heard about Jesus and saw His mighty deeds, the more hungry they became. They wanted to experience more. Large crowds surrounded Him. Who would not want to be there to see all the wonders He was doing? Verse 21 says Jesus had “cured many diseases, sicknesses, and evil spirits, and gave sight to the blind.” I imagine it would have been incredible to watch Him, even if only from a distance. Then Jesus did what was impossible, He raised the son of a widow from the dead. Verse 16 says, “They were filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us…God has come to help his people.””
The crowds did not get who Jesus was, “God with Us!” But they did know He was like no other. “God had truly came to help his people!”
Around 30 years before, when Jesus was just a baby in Mary’s womb, John the Baptist’s Dad, Zechariah declared similar words of prophecy about Jesus “He has raised up a horn of salvation for us…salvation from our enemies…to rescue us from the hand of our enemies and to enable us to serve Him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.”(Luke 1: 68-75)
“God had come to help His people” this is the whole point of Christmas. Jesus came to help us, because we CANNOT help ourselves! Our enemies, whether they be sins, addictions, hurts, wounds, etc. are much bigger than our ability to save ourselves. We need a Savior! Jesus had come to help His people. And He still comes to us in our point of need to help His people today! He longs for us to surrender to Him, and to no longer follow Him from a distance only observing His awesome power. He came so we could know Him and the power of His resurrection! That is the whole point of His life here on earth! From a manger in Bethlehem, to a cross on Golgotha’s Hill, to an empty borrowed tomb, Our God, Jesus has come to “help His people!” And Praise God, we can know this help He brings into our lives!
I went to college at Mizzou. That seems like the appropriate thing to do for a Missouri Girl. Back in the 80’s MU was known as a party campus to the kids in my high school. As a young lover of Jesus, my motivation to go there was definitely not to party, I wanted to be a light and witness to my generation.
One thing I loved about the campus at Mizzou was the A.P. Green Chapel, next to Memorial Union. It was like a small candle flickering light on a campus with so much darkness in it. I would go there frequently to pray and read my Bible. It was in that chapel during one of my times of prayer that I wrote this poem.
Let me see the world as You see it. With the compassion of the Cross That's a heart of Love that breaks For the dying of the lost. Let me cry as You cried and Break me as You were broke Make my heart like Your heart And let me wear Your yoke.
Let me be as You are Full of love and kind, Gentle and compassionate, Sweet as the New Wine.
Let me see the world as You see it, Through the eyes of the cross. Willing to give my all for You So others won't be lost. (originally written January 21,1990)
This morning as I started my time in prayer memories of that chapel and a young, wholly devoted heart that I had started to flow through my mind. I know that at that time if God would have told me to pack up my bags and head to the corners of the earth, I would have. I wanted to do whatever He wanted no matter what the cost. Over 30 years have went by since I sat in that chapel writing those words. I’ve had my times of living a life for God that I felt like I was red hot on fire and then lukewarm since then. I have often wondered If I heard God say, ” Pack up everything and go,” would I be willing to obey like my younger heart would have? Then I thought of the poem above that my younger heart wrote during a time of prayer.
Things haven’t really changed much since that day. The world I live in is still dark and full of death and destruction. Just this week two shootings have occurred in my country for no real reason except evil in the hearts of mankind. However, I know the remedy, Jesus. It seems like all that I can do is like a tiny band aid on a gaping wound.
In Isaiah 6 the prophet Isaiah saw a vision of the Lord. His way of going about life was wrecked by what He saw. He saw a God who was so holy, glorious, and awesome in power, that all he could think of is how sinfully human he was. But he also heard the voice of God asking, “Who will go for Us?” Sitting there realizing how unqualified he was he replied, “Here am I. Send me!” Sitting in the presence of Jesus has that effect on a person. Seeing what Isaiah saw, a God who is so much bigger than us and yet so loving and so kind, I also can hear His voice calling to me. “Who will go for Us?” Although I have no idea what that will mean for me, may my heart say as Isaiah’s did, “Here am I. Send me!”
As it usually does during my times of contemplation, I come across a song that stirs within me. The lyrics of this song are so powerful. May it be my prayer. May it be the prayer of all of us.
God has given us so much to be thankful for this season. Let us purpose in our hearts to not only give thanks, but give ourselves to Him fully! Taking the remedy to our brokenness to the world around us! Come Lord Jesus!
“Therefore since we have such a hope, we are very bold.” 2 Corinthians 3:12
Our God is soooo good! I have been contemplating the goodness of God lately. Something that in my 40 years of walking with Him I have never done. I’m not sure why not, but here we are… I have been awed by a definition I heard of love in a class I am taking, “Living Life Live” at WOW- Women on Wednesday. “Love always wants the very best, the most excellent, and the most profitable for another to benefit them for their own sake.” In other words since God is love, He wants the most excellent, the most profitable, the most beneficial for me. Mind blown. Especially if for some reason you have lived your life with a distorted image of God, looking at Him as a taskmaster of sorts. One who demands work from us in exchange for His blessing that He occasionally doles out to keep us plodding along like a donkey following a carrot on a stick so it will pull a cart. Not so with our Loving Heavenly Father who has set His affections on us and gives so many rich gifts of love, joy, and peace to the heart who is open to receive.
This leads me to the verse above: “We have such a hope…” hope- the confident expectation of Good. Our God is the God of Hope- when we trust Him and believe Him He pours out a confident expectation of GOOD- Hope because all His ways are GOOD toward us, EVERY single one! He never acts as the false gods of ancient times did. They were known for manipulating their subjects, punishing harshly for any misstep or act that displeased them. Their ways were not able to be known because they simply cared only for themselves.
Our God is good! And He is our hope, confident expectation of Good, because Good is the essence of who He is. This goodness makes us “bold”- free from timidity, confident, brave! We are told in the word we can approach God boldly because of what Jesus did for us on the cross. We can be confident of His heart towards us, because it is filled with His great love. And Our God is always good!
I’ve been asking the Holy Spirit to fill me with Boldness the past few months: Boldness to obey God fully, boldness to say whatever He places in my spirit to say, boldness to do whatever He asks.
Yesterday I was in a break out session at the Inspire Women’s Retreat and this verse was one of a section of scriptures being discussed. It stood out in my heart as I heard it read: God’s hope- my understanding of just how GOOD He is and expectation of that GOODNESS to be poured out in my life moves me. It makes me free, free from timidity and fear. It makes me BOLD! It makes me willing to go wherever God leads me, to do whatever He asks. Because I am living a life close to Him, basking in His goodness. I am anticipating with hope His love has gone before me, goes behind me, and is in me. It makes me unable to fail! That Hope truly does make me bold!
Every once in a while, a memory of hard, traumatic, unexplainable events of the past will raise its ugly head inside of me. It tends to rock me to the core. Sometimes taking a while to get my mind off of it.
Today I was reading in Luke 24:1-12. It is the account of Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary Mother of James going to the tomb of Jesus to put burial spices on His body. They find He isn’t there. Suddenly, Angels appear and one says “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” This phrase resounds in my heart today. The women had seen some of the most traumatic events of a brutal death of a loved one. They surely were processing what had happened trying to make sense. But they were instructed that there wasn’t anything there for them in the dead things of the past. Jesus was living! He wasn’t in the past He has risen!
Whatever we have walked through that was hard, painful, and death to us is not where Jesus is. He has risen!! He is not in the dead things of the past. He is alive now and forever more!
The song “I Will Rise” by Bethel has been on my play list this week. This morning has been a morning that I have it on repeat. It speaks of what I read in Luke.
“Beyond the burial, there's a resurrection Your will be done in me Oh-oh, Let my roots go deep And I will rise, I will rise He holds the time that I will rise”
Jesus calls us out of our graves of the past to stand in the present with Him! “I will Rise! God through my life be lifted high!” We have no time to be looking intently into the graves of our lives! Jesus is not there! The living life of Christ cannot be found in the graves of failure and pain! He is risen and we are seated with Him in the heavenly places of His victorious Kingdom! I will rise! Let Jesus rise in me!
This morning I was thinking about desperation for God. How I lack it. I am the queen of trying to do things in my life all by myself and leaving all the “Big Stuff” to God.
The story of the woman with the issue of blood in the Bible came to my heart. How she saw her desperate situation and knew if she could only reach out to Jesus and just touch His robe she would be whole.
She could of just lived her life with the problem she had and tried to work things out to the best of her ability (i.e. coped). Life never would have been what it was meant to be for her. She had the desperation for more, for more of Jesus. I need that kind of desperation. The kind that will press through a crowd of life’s busy circumstances, and will reach out a hand just to grab hold of Jesus. It’s the only way I’ll ever be what I was created to be: Whole In Jesus.
Desperation for Jesus (7/20/2010)
So much crowds around me That keeps You and me apart. So many thoughts and feelings Deep inside my heart.
I know if I can just reach out. Your healing touch is there. If I can only grasp your robe. You will meet me here.
I take my heart and I reach out. I'm crying out for grace. My heart desires more of You. Please look upon my face.
I'm tired of doing things my way. Because my way doesn't work. I stretch my hand towards you. You're there. You heal all that hurts.
I grew up in a small southern Missouri town near Montauk State Park, a state park known for trout fishing. Opening day of Trout Season, March 1st was almost like a holiday in our area. Kids were known to skip school so they could be on the river, pole in hand, listening for the early morning whistle blow that signaled the day of trout fishing had begun. I didn’t go much, but some in my family did. Then I met my husband and we married. He took to the whole trout fishing scene and became pretty proficient in catching his limit of trout, almost every time. That is not easy. I could fish for hours and catch none….. Years went by, camping at another state park for trout fishing became a yearly, if not more occurrence. It was nice. We had a pull behind camper. I would sleep in with the kids, he would go fishing. I would hang out, relax, do some school work with them, since we tended to camp during the school year, perks of Homeschooling… Then the camper was sold, the kids grew up, and my husband needed a fishing buddy. So my love for trout fishing began.
One of the things about catching trout that still stumps me to this day, is they are incredibly smart. They can see the line, if too thick, the hook if too big, and they will NOT bite on it. You use a very light weight line and a very small hook considering the size of fish you will reel in.
This morning the image of a large trout being reeled in on a small hook has been floating around in my mind. I’ve seen it lots of times as I’ve stood with waders on, in the stream. Fish in one hand, my other hand free to remove the tiny hook from its mouth. How I ever got it into my net on such a small device eludes me. It probably amazes the trout as well. One chomp at an alluring fly and it’s a done deal, with the right skills, he becomes mine.
There is a parallel between the trout on a hook and the thought life I have struggled with for years. But finally, something has clicked inside of me that has “unhooked me” in my mind, and all I can do is praise the God who sets me free.
I’m pretty sure any person who struggles with trauma-based anxiety will identify with this pattern in your mind. A thought of an event or situation of the past comes to mind, a trauma. Then the thought, “uh oh… I thought the thought. I remembered the event. I prayed about that memory. I asked God to take it away, but here it is. I must not have experienced the healing God promises. What can I do to set myself free?” So, YOU fight to not think about it anymore: Distract, medicate, meditate, self-help techniques galore, the list goes on… That is the equivalent to a large trout hooked on a tiny hook. That trout will FIGHT to not be reeled in. All the while digging the hook deeper into its lip.
Yesterday, the Bible study group I go to, “Women on Wednesdays” had a workshop on Emotional Woundedness. They invited the Reginal director for Center for Women’s Ministries to lead it. There was something talked about during the workshop that has “unhooked” me, “Holy Forgetfulness”. God must have been trying to get my attention, because not only did it come up during the workshop, the topic was brought up in church on Sunday by a guest speaker for Spring Revival, and it also came up on a teaching I watched online by Robert Morris. In fact, a quote from Robert Morris’ teaching was posted in my Facebook feed. “Holy forgetfulness doesn’t mean we won’t have the memory anymore; it means we won’t have the stress and pain associated with the memory.” I would venture to say God has been trying to get my attention. It hit me… Memories of painful events don’t just vanish. They happened. But fighting the memory by trying to forget will only “set the hook” worse. God has “unhooked” me! Satan wants to drag up the chains, the handcuffs, the prison cell bars, from the recesses of my mind and say, “Yep, they are still there…” But the fact of the matter is NOT that all those things have existed as a part of my story. The FACT is I am not in them anymore! The pain they caused me has been healed. I am free! Jesus, the healer and the source of freedom, has unhooked me! That memory that I have tried so hard to forget needs to only be filed away under the label, “YOU ARE FREE!” and each time it may come up, the label clearly displayed. Because that memory has no hold on me!
David of the Bible spent many years as a shepherd before He became King. During His years as a shepherd, he experienced God’s supernatural help in battles with enemies against his sheep and most famously a Philistine Giant. In 1 Samuel 17:24 he recounts how “The Lord who rescued him from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue him from the hand of this Philistine (giant).” as a young man he tells Saul he will not only fight the Giant, who intimidated the entire Israelite army, but defeat him. He did experience that victory. Later, through a series of events, he was anointed King over Israel. 2 Samuel 5:17-25 gives the account of how the Philistines found out David was no longer just a shepherd and a mighty warrior; he had become King of Israel. They decided to pursue him with “full force”. After hearing about this, David went down to the stronghold, a mountain area in the desert of Judah that he had used before when defending himself. It was there that David asked God, “Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you deliver them into my hands?” God told him to “Go” and David defeated the Philistines there at “Baal Perazim”.
In the Bible names have meaning. “Baal Perazim” means “The Lord who breaks out- Breaks through”. After his victory David said, “The Lord has broken out against my enemies before me.” 2 Samuels 5: 20. The Lord of the Breakthrough!
Last weekend I attended “Ashes to Beauty- Women’s Encounter” sponsored by Encounter Ministries. It was “Awesome!” and that is an understatement. 48 hours of testimony, teaching, worship, and prayer for issues that women battle. Everything from Repentance from our sins, receiving forgiveness, forgiveness for self or past hurts, to how-to live-in victory in everyday life as a woman of God.
One of the songs played during the sessions for worship has touched me deeply and has been stirring around inside my heart, “Breakthrough” by Chris McClarney.
Many of those who attended last weekend, came from situations that needed exactly what the words of this song speak to. They were surrounded by problems too big for them to solve, drowning under the weight of it all, but instead of running to the one who is the answer to their problems and very capable of removing the heavy weight they had been carrying, they had chosen to run after all the solutions the world offers: unbiblical sex, pornography, drugs, alcohol, ungodly relationships, etc. Finding themselves struggling with the results of those choices: addictions, anxiety, depression, suicidal ideations, etc. FAR from the peace that God wants to offer as we hide away in His stronghold, seeking Him. This was exemplified in the account of David I described above. David, being a man after God’s own heart, knew where to go when surrounded by situations bigger than Him, “The Full Force of the Philistine Army” that had it out for him because of Him already having taken out their Champion, Goliath. David was their #1 target. We God’s beloved, made in His image, are also the #1 target of the Enemy of God, Satan. We would do well to follow David’s example: Run to our stronghold, God himself, Seek HIs direction, and Act only on what we are told to do. Totally depending on God’s Omnipotence, the all-powerful Defender and the God who fights for Us! He alone has the power to “Breakthrough” situations that are harder than stone, to free us.
A few weeks ago, my husband was telling me about nuclear submarines in the arctic region. They can run for days far beneath the hardened layers of ice. But at the right time, they are able to surface, breaking through the ice to accomplish what needs to be done. I spent time this morning watching videos of this. It’s pretty cool. Nothing but snow and Ice and suddenly the top of the submarine appears and grows in size until it is the entire length of the submarine. One video showed this, then a hatch opened and out climbed a sailor to stand on the once, impenetrable ice. We are like that sailor. We may have spent days, weeks, months, years underneath something so hard and cold, nothing seems to be able to bring us above it. But hold on. God has the power to “Break us through” the cold layers of hurt, disappointment, poor choices, etc. Our God is as David knew him so long ago, “Baal Perazim”- The Lord of the Breakthrough!! He will not allow us to live out our lives covered over. As we trust Him, seek His face, we will find ourselves standing on top of what once covered us, proclaiming the Goodness of our God who give us the Breakthrough!
Good Friday is here! Reflecting on what Jesus did on the cross becomes the focus of this day. Where would I be had Good Friday never happened? No hope, Fear, Torment… Lost. The truth of the matter is it was my rebellion, my choices, my sin that Jesus took upon himself on the cross. He essentially did the equivalent of running into a burning building and pulling me out at the cost of His own precious life. All this so I could be free and experience His love. He is just that Good!
Finally Free- (originally written 3/4/2007)
I know where I come from.
I know You are the Holy One
With sin filled heart I spat in your face.
I am nothing apart from your grace.
Your nail scarred feet ran to rescue me.
Your blood stained hands reached out to me.
From the fire you have pulled me.
Oh what I owe is too much to see.
Your arms of love surround me.
And draw me to the side pierced for me.
You saved me
I am finally free!
May I kiss the hand of the one who saved me.
With grateful tears may I wash your feet.
I long to gaze in your beautiful face.
I am grateful for your grace.
Your arms of love surround me.
And draw me to the side pierced for me.
You saved me
I am finally free!