Have you ever made a conscientious decision to disobey God? I have. Have you ever made a choice to go and do things your way instead of His? I have. Have you ever found yourself sitting with Him after you have done one or both of these things feeling unworthy or unloveable? I have.
In today’s chapter Peter is sitting with Jesus face to face next to a breakfast that Jesus had prepared for him and the other disciples who were with Peter. Jesus always has His way of speaking to our hearts. “Simon son of John (Peter’s given name) do you love me?” Three times He asks Peter this question. Each time replying “Feed my lambs”, “Feed my sheep.” Ending the third time with “Follow me.”
I believe Jesus did this once for each time Peter denied Jesus as He was watching Jesus be tried and led to crucifixion. Jesus did not look at Peter and say, “You know Peter… you are a failure. I have no use for you.” He instead told Him to care for God’s flock, His church, and to follow Jesus for the rest of his days.
I stand in the same place as Peter faced with my willful choices to sin. I know the places it has led me. I know the pain of failure. Yet Jesus calls to me as well. In fact, we all do this. He wants us to let Him pick us up set us firmly on His rock and to use the things meant to destroy us to proclaim Jesus as Victor over all! Feed Jesus’s sheep with the truth of the Word and Follow Him!
Side note- Peter did just what Jesus said. He preached at Pentecost and 3000 Believed in Jesus! Think of what Jesus can do through you when you answer the question, “___________ do you love me?”
“And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” John 20:22 ESV
Death could not hold Jesus! This chapter records many accounts of the resurrected Jesus appearing to the disciples. Historical texts of that time written by the Jewish historian Josephus confirm the resurrection to be true. The evidence of the resurrection occurring is overwhelming. It is truth that we can build our lives upon! Our Lord Jesus is alive!
What strikes me in this chapter is how real the encounters the disciples had with the resurrected Jesus were. Disheartened, frightened, unbelieving, misunderstanding, unconvinced, disciples are the very ones Jesus came to after His resurrection. He came to them so they could live in peace, without doubt, believing. Not only did He appear to them, He restored! Jesus set right all that was wrong when sin entered our world.
Jesus breathed on them saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” The breath of God breathed on man, sounds familiar doesn’t it? Genesis 2:7 speaks of the other time God breathed on man with the breath of life.
“then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” Genesis 2:7 ESV
Of all creation only one creature received God’s breath, the breath of life, mankind. Sin had brought death at the fall of man. But our resurrected Jesus has defeated death and once again God breaths His life into us! When we receive Jesus as our resurrected Lord, Jesus breaths on us as well. His Holy Spirit enters us, His life, His breath!
The resurrection of Jesus assured us that we are no longer subjected to the separation that we all experience by death. Because God— Jesus has breathed, the life giving breath of the Holy Spirit, on us once more !
At the height of the struggle I had with anxiety, verses 4-5 spoke to me.
“To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”” John 10:3-5 ESV
Anxiety, among many other voices, cry out for our attention, but Jesus assures us that as His sheep we know HIS voice! If we really stop and listen, we can hear that voice. All the other voices shouting at us for His attention are only thieves and strangers. We as His sheep follow His voice alone.
Do not be distracted by all the shouting of lies in your ears! The truth is, when you are in Jesus, you know His voice. If you listen, you will hear it. Follow that voice! It leads to the one who tenderly cares for all our needs, our Good Shepherd.
“Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed.” John 5:19-20 NIV
The Gospels (Matthew, Mark,Luke, and John) are the accounts of Jesus’ life on earth. They are so important for us to get into our hearts and our minds. The reason is that Jesus came to show us the way to God the Father. He came so we could have relationship with the Father. When we look at Jesus we see the Father because as John 5:19-20 says Jesus only does what He sees the Father doing. Jesus and the Father are one. That can be hard to wrap your mind around, but it is a wonderful truth.
So many times our view of God is skewed by the worlds opinion, bad experiences with religious people, or even the actions of our own earthly fathers. But God the Father wants us to know Him as He is. When we see Jesus reach out to an outcast, that is what our Heavenly Father does. When we see Jesus heal the broken, that is what our Heavenly Father does. When we see Jesus give out of His great love, that is what our Heavenly Father does!
“In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.”” John 5:17 NIV
Jesus did so many amazing things as He walked the earth 2000 years ago and He has assured us that we will see greater things than these. That is because our Heavenly Father is still at work! (Verse 17) We can have hope, a confident expectation of good because Jesus has shown us the Father! As Jesus ways are alway loving and good towards us, we know that is exactly what our Heavenly Father does!
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!