Cut it off.

Mark 9 & Psalm 133

“If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell…” Mark 9:43-47

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never really taken Mark 9 all that seriously. Sure, I understand that Jesus isn’t actually asking us to physically saw off a foot if it causes us to sin. But I believe that He is being far more serious about the importance of cutting sin out of our lives than we think.

In fact, I can’t remember the last time I took a drastic action in order to work to remove sin from my life. Whether it’s pride, selfishness, materialism, or any other struggle of mine, I’ve never realized the importance of focusing hard on getting sin it out of my life. I think what Jesus is saying in Mark 9:43-47 is that if we’re serious about making a change in the sin that’s in our lives, we need to do everything in our power to cut it out- no matter how drastic that might be.

I don’t know what sin you’re particularly struggling with today, or what sin instantly comes to mind when you read this post, but I do know that all sin is equal in the eyes of God… and every sin is a sin worth this strong of an approach as far as its removal.

Not only is it important to make every effort to remove sin from our lives because it brings fuller life, causes us to look more like Jesus, and honors God more, but there’s another major reason we should be getting more serious about removing sin from our life: Those who don’t know Jesus are daily watching how we act and developing an understanding of the character of our God from our actions, words, attitudes, motives, behavior, language, and habits. We are the only examples of Jesus that many people will ever see or encounter, and it is our job to represent Him well. Keeping this truth in mind motivates me to cut sin out of my life like nothing else.

Friends, let’s get serious about our sin and stop pretending that it’s a smaller deal than it is. Let’s balance feeling the guilt that our sin deserves with experiencing the grace that God so freely offers us through Jesus, and take actionable steps today in removing sin from our lives… whatever it takes. Let’s rely on Jesus to do this in us, and not simply focus on trying harder. He’s ready and waiting to help us.

Is Anything Worth More

Today’s reading is Mark 8 and Ps 132

 

This year we have spent quite a bit of time looking at the Gospels and the relationships between Jesus and His disciples. Mark 8 tells us two miracles that Jesus did and it shows us several conversations that Jesus had with His disciples. I’ve had the privilege of writing on both of those miracles and the discussion Jesus and Peter have in this chapter so today I want to concentrate on the last few verses of Mark 8.

Vs38” Calling the crowd to join His disciples, He said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your own soul?”

I think as Christians, we have heard this passage or portions of it, quoted so often we get a little callous to what Jesus was trying to convey to the crowd, His disciples and to us. When this was written, the people it was written to were under Roman rule and the phrase “take up your cross” was common knowledge to all. Everyone knew that death on a cross was the form of execution used by Roman soldiers for dangerous criminals and they knew that a prisoner had to carry his own cross to the place of execution to show submission to Rome’s power. So Jesus was saying to these people, take up your cross and follow Me, meaning, show submission to Me by choosing to follow Me instead of choosing to satisfying yourself. One of the commentaries I looked at said, “Jesus asks us for submission, not self-hatred; He asks us only to lose our self-centered determination to be in charge.” That makes the meaning hit home hard and fast for me. Lose my self-centered determination to be in charge. Isn’t this what we all want, control? Don’t we want to manage our own schedules, set our own priorities, value the people we choose to value, spend our money the way we want to and then fit Jesus into what is left of our life? “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross and follow me.”

Jesus knows we need more convincing…more to think through and consider. “What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” We are so human. It’s all we know. Life on earth is all we have experienced. It’s hard to be human and live for eternity. It requires trust, belief and real relationship with God. We humans have the hardest time grasping that life on earth is temporary. Stuff, position and power are worthless compared to our souls, eternal life with Him. Is anything worth more than your soul? When I am able to get my perspective right on this and give over my desire for control, stuff, position and power to follow God’s plan, God is so gracious. He gifts eternal life plus an abundant and joy filled life here on earth. He loves us so well that eternal life isn’t enough of a gift for Him to give. We matter so much to Him that He wants to help us change and become more like Him while we are on this earth. He gives us part of Himself, to live inside us to guide, teach, convict and grow each of us in His Spirit. So as we close today, I ask you to spend some more time with Jesus question. “Is anything worth more than your own soul?”

Christ is Coming

Todays Reading Mark 6; Psalms 130

The second week of Advent is upon us.   I am so excited for this time of renewed joy and warmth. My family and I have gotten the tree up, the Advent Calendar is replenished every day, and the presents are being wrapped. The Spirit of Christmas is real and you can sense it in many places. On the radio we hear many songs and see many movies and classics that remind us of the season. The lyrics of one song spells it out so well:

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Toys in every store
But the prettiest sight to see, is the holly that will be
On your own front door

A pair of hop-along boots and a pistol that shoots
Is the wish of Barney and Ben
Dolls that will talk and will go for a walk
Is the hope of Janice and Jen
And Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again

We begin to let our hearts and minds drift from the true meaning and essence of Christmas and the start to redirect our focus to ourselves. In Mark 6, we can see that while in the midst of Christ many of his close people were not able to fully understand the Essence of Christ that that they had in their midst and the ability to comprehend what he brought.

Mark 6: 1-6

Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples.When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.

“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph,[a] Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

How many times have we believers in Christ, not acknowledged the full manifestations of his presence? How many times we seen the miracles that happen in our daily life and not see Christ in them. How many times have we experienced the unimaginable and then question the validity of the Spirit?

We have to be mindful in this time of preparation for the coming Christ because he might have a particular purpose for us and we may not be aware of his presence. Lets look at an example of this in Chapter 6.

Mark 6:45-52

45 Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.

47 Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. 48 He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, 50 because they all saw him and were terrified.

Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”51 Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, 52 for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.

I pray that as we continue through these two weeks of Advent that we will be able to have our hearts be light and warmth by the presence of Christ. Let us not be afraid, if during this time we come into “rocky waters”, let our hope be in him. He who has us ever in his sight and ready to step into the boat at any given time.

As a final thought, a couple of days ago, my son and I were talking about life and then he makes a profound statement for a six-year old. “Dad, did you know that Christmas is Christ-mas. We have to remember that it’s all about Christ.” Wow, my heart is overjoyed that he is allowing God to speak through him. Let us adults also remember that it is not about the presents, cards, parties, cookies, or anything else. Its about Christ. Be Blessed.

Tested To Tears

Have you ever been tested to tears?

Today in Mark 5 we read about 2 individuals who were definitely tested to tears. The first story is of the raising of Jairus’ daughter and the second is the healing of the woman who touched the “hem of Jesus’ garment”. These events show us that Jesus has a tremendous power to heal and even to give life to the dead. They also reveal the important role of faith in giving Jesus the opportunity to work in our lives.

Mark 5:19 says,…“Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you.”

This chapter in Mark speaks to my life in so many ways. I have had the opportunity to experience healing and see how faith gave Jesus the opportunity to work in my life. And because of the verse above, I feel led to share with you a small part of the miraculous story God gave me 15 years ago.

It seems that Jesus never answers our prayers in the way we think would be best. He definitely has His ways and they will be revealed to us in His timing. 20 years ago (wow, where has the time gone?? how can it be 20 years already??) I was experiencing some headaches along with a high level of anxiety. I let this go on for a few years before I really went to a Dr to seek treatment. I had been to the ER one time for a full-blown anxiety attack (beacuse I knew deep down that there was something wrong with me-I was pretty sure I had a brain tumor). But, the Dr assured my husband that I was just having a small nervous break down and if I took some meds for it I would be fine. I struggled through the next 3 years trying to find a balance with my anxiety on my own. I read everything I could to help me alleviate the symptoms. At this time, I had a 1 year old daughter and a 3 year old son. Life was busy with the two littles and I chalked the anxiety up to just trying to survive the day to day life. I remember seeing a commercial about struggling with anxiety and that there was a new medication that could help. My close friends and I chatted about this and I realized that ALL of us were struggling with the same anxious feelings. And, some of them were already taking these anti-anxiety meds. I finally gave in and called the Dr. She wanted to do a quick MRI before chalking it up to anxiety.

Low and behold, within an hour and a half after that MRI, my gut instincts from 3 years ago became reality. The Dr called and told me very bluntly…”You Have A Brain Tumor”.

Here begins the journey that tested me to tears! This brain tumor gave God the opportunity to be MY ALL and ALL. When you have a brain tumor you are pretty much at the mercy of the Dr’s. There is nothing I could do on my own to make it better.

Within 24 hours of that dreaded phone call, the ladies of my small group gathered together. We just sat and went through Bible verses about God’s faithfulness and hope.  I cannot tell you the Life-Giving words that I left my friend’s house with that day. God showed up! I left with PEACE BEYOND UNDERSTANDING that day, and that PEACE stayed with me throughout the whole brain tumor journey of the next 9 months.

I somewhat feel I can relate to Jairus and the woman in Mark 5 in that they were at the end of their rope. Jairus had a daughter on her death bed and the woman had been hemorrhaging for 12 years! They were both fully aware of their needs and were desperate. But, they both fully believed that Jesus could bring healing.

But, neither Jairus nor the woman got exactly what they wanted.

Jairus knew that Jesus could heal his daughter, but Jesus did not act as fast as he had wanted him to and he received word that his daughter had died in the waiting. His friends tried to tell him to give up on Jesus, his daughter was already dead. But Jesus tells Jairus in verse 36, “Do not fear, only believe.” To Jairus’ credit he did just that and he and Jesus walked the rest of the way to his house. When they arrived Jesus gave the young girl life again.

The woman believed that Jesus could heal her if she could only touch him and then quietly slip away, she did not want to make a scene. As soon as she touched him, Jesus stopped and wanted to know Who touched Him. The woman then had to step forward and acknowledge that it was she who touched him. She could not blend away in the crowd without first sharing her entire story with Jesus and to the whole crowd.

My story is right in line with these two from the Bible. My journey did not go exactly how I wanted it to. God had bigger plans and a purpose through my suffering. From the moment I felt the peace of God wash through me, I knew He was going to take care of me. It was in His hands. Little did I know that when I went in for my first exploratory surgery I would find out I was pregnant. What?!?!?! How could I be pregnant? I had a brain tumor! Only God.

You guys, there are far too many miracles and answers to prayers during my 9 month journey of brain tumor and baby to name them all. But, the biggest miracle was that on February 13, 2001, the Neurosurgeon removed a tumor the size of a lemon from my cerebellum while I was 13 weeks pregnant. The tumor was benign and the baby in my belly was still alive. Yes, I will omit the struggles and day to day challenges of having a 12 inch incision in the back of my head, not being able to take certain medications because of being pregnant, and taking care of my 2 littles once I got home. Only God provided for EVERY need through this entire journey! I thankfully kept a journal and have documented every answered prayer that took place. And then, on August 5, 2002 our surprise miracle baby was born healthy as can be!

Jesus knew how the events of Jairus, the woman, and myself would transpire and unfold. Jesus was in control of each situation. None of us knew how things would turn out.

God does not answer our prayers in the way we think would be best. God acts in accordance with His will, not with our wishes and desires. However, just like in these stories, we find that when God does act, it is usually much more powerful and beautiful than what we had imagined it would be.

When you are tested to tears remember that God’s timing is best and He will be glorified. And remember, that Mark 5:19 tells us to …TELL WHAT THE LORD HAS DONE FOR US!!

To God be the glory in each of our lives and the stories He tells through us of his Love and Faithfulness!!!

The Parable of the Sower, Soils

Today’s reading:  Mark 4, Psalm 128

As I studied Mark 4 this week, I found myself in familiar territory.  I’ve read these parables and stories about Jesus and his followers many times.  Even so, I was still struggling with what the message of this post should be.  I went to my Life Application Study Bible (Tyndale House), as I often do, for help.  There I found a few good reminders about Jesus’ use of parables.

  • Using familiar subjects to teach spiritual truths required Jesus’ listeners to engage their hearts and minds to understand the story. This engagement made the message meaningful to those who were open to learning. To those whose hearts and minds were closed, the message remained hidden.
  • Jesus’ parables generally had one main point. When reading them today, we must be careful NOT to go beyond what message Jesus intended to teach with the story.

So there I sat with Mark 4. Were my heart and mind engaged?  Was I open to learning?  I worked on…  The chapter begins with the Parable of the Sower, or the Parable of the Soils, as it is identified in my Bible.  Verses 3-8 tell the story, then verses 15-20 provide the interpretation.  Jesus said, the farmer is the one who brings God’s message to others, while the seed represents those who hear the message.  He went on to explain the four different types of soil on which the seeds may fall:

  • Hard soil – those who hear God’s message, but Satan lures them away before they accept it.
  • Rocky soil – those who joyfully receive God’s message, but don’t grow deep roots. When they run into persecution, they fall away.
  • Thorny soil – those who hear and accept God’s message, but the pull of earthly desires keeps them from maturing and producing fruit.
  • Good soil – those who hear and accept God’s message, then multiply and yield a great harvest for God’s kingdom.

Jesus’ message here was all about the soil, and how it represented the condition of our hearts, right? Our hearts clearly need to be like the good soil in order to be pleasing to God.  Seems pretty straight forward, but therein was my struggle.  Do the four types of soil represent four different types of people, some are pleasing to God and others are not?  Does this mean some receive salvation and some do not?  Perhaps our hearts may have represented a different type of soil at different times of our life.  If this is the case, is it possible to lose our salvation?   I wonder if different types of soil may even be present in our hearts at the same time.  Do you find yourself more open to apply God’s calling in some parts of your life than others?  For example, do you easily respond to God’s call to worship him and fellowship with other believers, but at the same time you struggle to sacrificially give of your time and money in service for his kingdom?  Hmmm… If the only type of soil pleasing to God is the good soil, how will any of us ever measure up?  Does salvation require a heart of 100% pure, good soil all of the time?  Maybe this parable isn’t as straightforward as I originally thought.

As I continued to study, the light bulb finally came on…  Jesus’ message in the Parable of the Soils isn’t really about the soil at all.  Rather, the Parable of the Sower is truly about the Sower!  See, left to our own devices, our hearts will never be 100% pure, good soil.  Even so, God continues to lavishly scatter the seeds of his gospel message on our unworthy souls.  Our only hope is Jesus Christ, our Savior.  His sacrifice on the cross paid the price for our sins.  It is only through him we can ever measure up to God’s standards.

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:7-9).

 

Unless the Lord builds the house

Our family is six months into a pending move to Italy. On the surface, one could say we’ve made no progress toward this move. There have been tears of joy and tears of sadness. There are hundreds of unanswered questions, but God continues to prove faithful, and he will never fail us.

God is showing us that our efforts, no matter how clever, unless they are in His will, they are in vain.

Unless the Lord builds the house,
    those who build it labor in vain. (Psalm 127:1a)

The beautiful thing is that God has shown his mighty hand from the very beginning, and shown us several areas where our plans would have been devastating. This journey has frequently brought the temptation to put our trust in ourselves. I’d like to say we’ve been 100% faithful at every step however we’re human thus prone to the sin of thinking our ways are better.

With all of our ideas, grand plans, desired timing and frustration, as we relinquish all things to Him, we feel our house becoming stronger on a daily basis. The road has definitely been weary, but I can say I’m thankful for this desert because of what God has done, is doing, and whatever it is he will do.

We are all being prepared for something. Today in this metaphorical desert we wait, but we do not wait alone.

Regardless of any of these outcomes, there is only one name we can call to, one name above all, and that is Jesus Christ. No amount of money, no scheme of mankind, no amount of power, nor sheer will can ever replace his completed work on the cross as a replacement for our sin along with His defeat of death through his resurrection as our hope for eternal life. Cling to this truth in all things my friends. May God reveal himself to us today in unforeseen circumstances and may we give him all the thanks, praise, and glory.

Today’s reading links: Mark 3 & Psalm 127

The Importance of Rest

My wife and I are full-time wedding photographers. We shoot about 30 weddings a year and all those weddings are fit into about 8 months of the year. I like to think of us as squirrels, we work our tails off all spring, summer, and fall and then have a more relaxing work schedule during the winter. This basically means that during the busy season we are working anywhere from 50-70 hours a week and during the slow season we work 40-45 hours a week. It seems like a lot at points, but thankfully we both do it together so it never seems so bad.

I am going to talk about Mark Chapter 2, specifically where it talks about Sabbaths.

23 One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” 25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: 26 how he entered the house of God, in the time of[d] Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” 27 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

When we first started working together, we only worked. Any money that came in, we saved and we NEVER rested. After a year of that, we were both grumps so we had to change something. This year we decided to take Sunday’s off, which means no shooting at all. That was challenging at first because everyone wants to do their engagement shoot on the weekends. Turns out, everyone can find time to do their engagement pictures during the week so we were able to have our Sundays.

 

We needed that day of rest because we aren’t meant to go nonstop all of the time. Even God rested. The passage above doesn’t talk about the benefits of taking a Sabbath; it just explains that taking Sabbaths are not law. If each day seems like a whirlwind and you feel like pulling your hair out, I think its safe to say you need some rest. Set some goals for 2018 to always rest on certain days or at certain times. You will see a huge difference in your daily life.

 

Stay warm and have a great Thursday!

How He Loves Us

Good Morning Everyone,  Welcome to the first full week of December.  I pray the week has started off well and yesterday you found opportunities Jillian challenged us with to stay attuned and cast your net when opportunities arose.

Today’s Reading: Psalm 124, Intro to Mark

What a perfectly timed way to wrap up the 2017 year. As we prepare for our reading through the gospel of Mark I think it’s a great way to finish up the year. We will read through the many miracles witnessed and recorded.  A young John Mark wasn’t a disciple, but he accompanied Paul on his first mission and had a front row seat to many of miracles Jesus performed.

According to the Tyndale Life Application Bible the four major themes in Mark is the knowing that our Lord Jesus was Real, Focus on Servanthood, Sharing His many Miracles, and our Command to Spreading the Gospel.  I can’t think of a better time of the year to dig back into these themes and not only reflect on them, but live them out.

Our first focus is on Jesus. We know and are thankful for Jesus being born for us.  In a few weeks we will celebrate this birth. We will read in Mark how our true God doesn’t only live in heaven, He came in the person of Jesus.  That will be the true meaning of Christmas that we celebrate.  Jesus is the son of God, Eternal King, King of Glory, Lord of Lords, who rules over all who commit into His care. Luke 1:32-33 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

Jesus came to serve.  Jesus came and told others about His Father and doing whatever He could to serve others.  He provided for people then, He provides for us now.  The ultimately act of service was shown by giving His life for the sacrifice for our sins. The example of Jesus provides His living word as the example we need to live out ours.  Serve God and serve others. Serving others is not focused on power, money, or positon. It shouldn’t be based on our motives, but based on our of love for our Eternal Father.

Mark will share many miracles as we read, share, and apply these miracles to our lives. We were reminded yesterday how we should step back and think of the miracles God has provided in our lives.  We remember that without these obstacles, we may never see the miracles.  The miracles we read, see, and are part of help us to realize, understand, believe, and have faith that our Jesus is God and He changes lives.  He has changed ours. That in these dark moments He is our light and peace.  Mighty Miracles have happened, they will continue to happen when you trust in the Lord.

Share the Good News of Jesus. His word crosses any barrier and is the hope for us all.  As we enter into Christmas, a perfect window opens to share an amazing story of Joy, Hope, Peace, Miracles, and Love.  That as we serve others and put them in front of ourselves, our only answer is Jesus.  We have this love stronger and greater for a Father that was born for us.  He reigned and set the perfect example of how we should be.  That Jesus was put on this Earth to live and show a perfect love.  That ultimately on His own accord died.  So we could have a eternal life with Him.

Love so amazing.  Have a great Tuesday.  I’m sure you have seen miracles unfold already this week.  Recognize and Praise Him! Each day we get closer to Christmas share this great news of our Lord Jesus.  Let others know about a relationship that will change their life and how it has changed yours. Serve others out of love. Make others wonder why or how is it that Christians can have so much love doing things for others? Jesus showed us a perfect example of how we should treat everyone. Continue to make Jesus your focus and not get caught up in holiday season challenge of trying to do everything.

Keep a focus on what Christmas is all about and Who we celebrate. Remember Proverbs 16:9. In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.

He will provide everything you need this season. Trust God to supply all needs!

Lastly, show Love in all we do. Let’s not have our circumstances or other people influence the love we can show out of our hearts.  If you need a little extra boost write 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 on a notecard and keep it on you for those urgent reminders of this love we should show all.

1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Have a great day! I love you!

David Crowder – How He Loves Me

Cast Your Net

Today’s Reading: John 21, Psalm 123

“Just as the day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to the, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So, they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” John 21: 4-7

In today’s reading we hear this story of Jesus’ third appearance to his disciples after his resurrection. It’s striking that again, despite witnessing his miracles, Simon Peter and the other men do not recognize Jesus for who he really is. After an evening and the following morning of empty nets, Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathanael and the sons of Zebedee return to shore empty handed. There stands Jesus. He instructs them to go back out into the Sea of Galilee and again cast their nets but this time on the other side of the boat. Of course, the net is filled to the brim with fish! It is then that they realize the man on the shore is indeed the Christ, their Risen Lord.

After reading today’s text a few times, I’m struck by a few things. First, the notion that the disciples returned to the sea at Jesus’ order despite not knowing who he really was. The second is the mere fact that this is the third time he had appeared to him and still they didn’t recognize him until after he had performed a miracle. This got me thinking about how often we as Christians miss those moments in which Jesus simply shows up for us. How often he is standing on the shore giving us the roadmap for success, but we mistake him for just another guy on the beach. Those of you that attend Eastview Christian Church may have heard Mike preach this Sunday on the importance of remembering the miracles that God performs in your life. How often Sunday morning tears and pleas turn into Monday morning miracles. And yet by the following week we’ve forgotten what He’s done for us and more importantly failed to spread the good news of God’s grace.

When I place myself in Simon Peter’s shoes, I too would jump out of the boat when I realized my mistake! How do I act in the moment when Jesus calls me to be a disciple and cast my net yet again? Following the call of Jesus means putting your net back into the sea even when you’ve had no success and you’ve grown weary. Even when we don’t feel like reaching out to that co-worker and sharing the message of hope or when we just don’t want to forgive and mend a relationship…Jesus is on the shore asking us to cast that net one more time. My prayer for this Christmas season is that we may be present enough to look for signs of Jesus on our shore and follow him. The miracle of Christ’s birth is upon us. Can we recognize Him when he comes?

I pray that we each find the time to put Jesus Christ into our lives this week. That we are attuned to His presence in the coming days. I pray for you to cast your net in faith this week. Peace.

Peace

Today’s reading:  Psalm 122, John 20

I spent this week in Columbus, OH on business. Because it really doesn’t save time to fly, and since it is a lot less expensive, I just picked up a company car and drove the 5.5 hours.  For some reason this week, I found the drive to and from Columbus very nostalgic.  It was either the Christmas music to which I was listening or simply the power of suggestion (as I smiled when I saw the I75 sign for Toledo, OH), but it brought back memories of driving to my Grandpa and Grandma York’s house in Toledo for Christmas when I was a little girl.

Back in the mid-1970’s I don’t remember having anything but a radio in the car. We probably listened to it quite a bit, but I mostly remembering singing on long car rides.  As preacher’s kids, my sister and I grew up in church.  Hymns, Christmas carols and praise & worship songs were about the only songs to which we knew all the words (we also knew the words to The Gambler by Kenny Rogers, but that is a story of stern motherly discipline for another time).  We sang our hearts out on those rides.

As I read Psalm 122 this week, it made me think of singing songs on the way to Grandpa and Grandma York’s house at Christmas. Psalms 120-134 are referred to as Songs of Ascent.  These were songs of praise and worship to God sung by Jews who were walking to Jerusalem for annual Jewish festivals.  The city of Jerusalem sits on a high hill.  No matter where you’re coming from, you have to travel uphill to get there, thus the name Songs of Ascent.

Psalm 122:6-9 talks about peace. Very fitting for a time of year when it is common to hear the word peace or phase peace on earth.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels.”
For the sake of my family and friends,
I will say, “Peace be within you.”
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your prosperity
(Psalm 122:6-9).

Vocabulary.com defines peace as a stress-free state that comes when there’s no fighting or war; everything co-existing in perfect harmony and freedom.  I’d say this is a pretty common understanding of the word “peace” in the 21st century. The peace about which the Jews were singing in Psalm 122, however, was much more than just the absence of conflict.  According to the Life Application Study Bible (Tyndale House), the Jews were singing about a peace that brought completeness, health, justice, prosperity and protection.  This isn’t a peace this world can provide, but one that can only come from faith in God.  This peace is the confident assurance that God works all things together according to his divine plan; a comfort that he has every situation under control.

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week we read through John 14- 17. These three chapters are often referred to as Jesus’ Farewell Discourse – his guidance to the eleven disciples (sans Judas) after the last supper, before his crucifixion.  Jesus was trying to prepare them for life without him.  The disciples still didn’t completely understand his plan, and it was causing them anxiety.  Think about it.  These eleven men left everything to follow Jesus, and now he was talking about leaving.  How could they be at peace?  Can you identify with their fear and unrest?  Jesus comforted the disciples with these words:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

“You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me. Rise, let us go from here (John 14:27-31).

Do you see Jesus’ words of peace? – “…for the prince of this world is coming…he has no hold over me…”  Knowing that Jesus has all power over Satan is the source of our confident assurance.  Jesus is our peace.