Grateful

Our reading is Numbers 11.

Today, we learn about how God was not pleased with some of the Israelites striking them with a plague when they complained about only having manna to eat and no meat. We know from Romans 8:1 that now, “There is no condemnation for those are in Christ Jesus.” However, we see here He does not like ungrateful words and an ungrateful heart and prior to Jesus paying the price for our sins, and He took action against some of them for this.

First, the Israelites complained back in Exodus 16:3 that they had no food to eat and would starve in the desert and would rather be back in slavery after wanting to be freed for years. Now, after God provided them with manna from the sky to eat daily (Exodus 16:4), they have the audacity to complain that they had meat when they were in Egypt and would rather be back in slavery (Numbers 11:4-6 and Numbers 11:18). Really?!

It is easy to be quick to judge the Israelites lack of gratitude, until we take a closer look at our own heart and thoughts. How quickly do we forget about an answered prayer and go on to the next thing or even worse get a prayer answered and say things were better before like the Israelites. We want a change in career..now we’re not happy with our boss and want a new career..or even back to the old one. We pray to have a house to call our own and to stop renting…now we want a bigger house. We are lonely and pray for a relationship or marriage…now we are contemplating a divorce thinking our current marriage can’t be fixed. We pray to have children of our own…now life is just crazy and we never have time for ourselves. We pray for healing from a medical issue…now we complain about the medical bills. I can easily hang my head in guilt over many similar items in my own life.

God makes it very clear that it is absolutely alright to ask God for what you want as Jesus clearly tells us this in Matthew 7:7-11. In fact, He wants us to pour out our hearts to Him and trust and come to Him for what we seek. However, we have to search our heart to find our motivation…is it for His glory or our own? Paul states in 1 Corinthians 6:20, “for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” Jesus also teaches and models for us in Luke 22:42 that it is fine to ask God for what you want as He asks for the burden of the cross to be removed from Him, but He also teaches and models how we should ultimately want God the Father’s will to be done and not our own.

So, how do we improve and soften our heart to have an attitude of gratitude? One thing I’ve found very helpful is to start a journal or notebook to write down each morning 3 things you are thankful for that day. No matter how bad things are we can ultimately find things to be grateful for. I’ve heard it said that it’s impossible to be stressed and be thankful at the same time. Maybe there is also a song or something else which puts your heart and mind in a gracious state? At the end of this post is one that does this for me, Grateful by Elevation Worship.

Ultimately, we go to the living Word in Bible for the best way to do this which we are told in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 which says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” No matter our situation, we all can be thankful that He gave His life on the cross for us and conquered the grave and through admission of our sins and belief in Him we can do the same and spend eternity in Heaven with no pain and problems regardless of what hardships we face today in this short life on Earth.

Behind the Scenes – Genesis 41

Today’s Reading Genesis 41

Good Morning Bible Journal Readers. Happy Tuesday!

Today, as we read through Genesis 41,  it is truly amazing about all the events that take place in this chapter with Joseph.  There are so many moving pieces and ways God is able to show us His presence through it all. Without a faith you may find parts of it hard to believe. As believers though,  In reading this part of Josephs story I can be reassured knowing that God is always at work. Even in my shortcomings, or times that I think I have things in control.  I truly don’t, and need to remind myself, He does. God is  Behind the Scenes…always.  Thankfully, God is always working and directing us closer to Him. Think of Joseph, just in this chapter as he goes from sitting in a jail cell, to interpreting dreams,  to being in charge of Egypt. God always working behind the scenes to make His work move forward.

Genesis 41:16 Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.”

How has God done this for you? Let’s take a minute to reflect.  For me, I think about my walk to and into faith. This included God orchestrating a move from one neighborhood to another. At this point I’m approached by a neighbor (Chet & Shannon Bandy)  to attend a service with them and consider joining their small group.  For a second we thoughts to ourselves, with a brand new mortgage, a struggling marriage, and a toddler. and two new jobs. Our ways were not working so well.  Faithfully, God was working behind the scenes. God orchestrated a life long friendship, a small group that I’m humbled to co-lead, an amazing transformation in both of us. God changed a “me first” marriage to a loving “one another”  marriage that now is formed around God and not ourselves.  I couldn’t of planned any of it.  But God can!  God is at work behind the scenes right now in you.  Marriage, friends, jobs, kids, medical situations… you name it.  It may not seem like He is to us at times because we are wanting things according to our plans and our timing.  But when we have faith, and trust in Him, his plans will work out way better than we can ever imagine.  God’s timing is always perfect. 

Proverbs 3:5  Trust in the Lord with all your heart,  and do not lean on your own understanding.   6  In all your ways acknowledge him,  and he will make straight your paths.

What is God orchestrating today? Trust His will! Remember Behind the scenes isn’t usually where we can see it or put our hands on it. Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Final Exam

Today’s reading is Genesis 22.

Starting at the end of Genesis 11 through today’s reading we learn about Abraham’s life. As I reflect on his life told in these chapters, one of my biggest observations is that Abraham consistently heard the Lord speaking to Him, and then He trusted and obeyed. This occurs many times, but we first see it in Genesis 12 when Abraham is living in Haran and God tells him to go from his country and he will make him a great nation and bless him to be a blessing. It is amazing to me that he obeyed for 2 reasons. First, he was already 75 years old and moving back then didn’t just mean calling Two Men and a Truck or hopping in a car! Secondly, Genesis 13:2 tells us he could have been content because he already had much livestock and gold. Often, it’s harder to trust God when you already have everything you need and feel like you have everything to lose and nothing to gain. However, we must continue to stretch ourselves like Abraham did to have faith and trust and obey. Faith is never a “stay’..it’s always a “go.” If you stay, you don’t need faith and you can’t grow to be all God’s called you to be.

Although it may seem like Abraham had everything, the Lord continued to stretch Abraham to trust in Him with faith, and there were challenges. The biggest challenge being Abraham and his wife Sarah’s inability to have a child. However, God kept his promise to Abraham and Sarah that they would have a child, and they did at Abraham’s age 100 and Sarah’s age 90. Now, we see the final exam or test God gives Abraham. God tells Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. Those of us who have children, can you even imagine? Not to mention the fact that Isaac was the miracle son they had waited for. I can’t even imagine what Abraham must have been thinking. We see in verse 22:1, Abraham says, “Here I am.” He does not ignore God when God is asking him to do something He really doesn’t want to do. Some of you may say you have never heard God speak to you. Well, you may not have heard the audible voice of God, but all of us have heard that little voice in our head saying things like call a certain friend, check in with your child, buy that lady’s meal, take that new career path, join a small group, begin going to church again, spend more time with me in the Word or prayer. Do we stop, listen, trust and obey like Abraham? Or do we completely ignore it thinking of all the barriers and go on busily with our day. I have also observed in my life and the life of others that when we spend more time with the Lord in His Word, prayer, and in church He speaks through those mediums giving us clarity as to the right direction and actions to take. Ask yourself, am I even giving myself an opportunity to hear the Lord speak to me in those ways? Then, am I showing faith and taking action with trust and obedience to Him. or am I just going on quickly to the next thing in my day?

We know that God does not let Abraham sacrifice Isaac. Again, the Lord speaks and Isaac says, “Here I am.” God stops Him from doing so as he takes the knife to kill Isaac. God could have asked Abraham to sacrifice his riches or many other things but God knew he truly had Abraham’s heart when Abraham was willing to give up what was most important to Him in Isaac. This was the final exam so to speak. This was the final test for God to see that Abraham truly trusted Him, and that He alone was enough for Abraham. Once Abraham showed Him this, God tells him in Genesis 22:17 he would not only get to keep his 1 son in Isaac, but he would have offspring numbering as many stars in the sky and sand that is on the seashore. As pastor and author Mark Batterson says, “You can’t out give God.”

As I read this I ask myself, is God enough? Would I give up everything for Him? God may not ask us to give up everything, but I don’t think there is any question He wants our heart..and not just some it…all of it. Lamentations 3:22-23 tells us of His steadfast love and that his mercies are new every morning. In the same way He shows His favor upon us which He doesn’t have to do, we must show our gratitude for his saving grace on the cross through our trust and obedience and giving Him our whole heart today and every day, even in our old age until we leave this Earth, just like Abraham did. He is enough.

Angels We Have Heard..in Brooklyn??

In July of 2017, I had the opportunity to go on a mission trip doing street ministry with Spread Truth. This was something I had never done before and stretched my comfort zone. Our first day was on parks where you are typically approaching people that are seated, and let’s just say the first guy we approached was about as rude and mean as you could be and I thought to myself..”well…it can’t get any worse than that. It can only get better, so let’s move on and go to the next one!” The rest of the day resulted in some great conversations where the Holy Spirit was at work. Day 2 was a different assignment standing on the sidewalks in the streets of Brooklyn as people passed. To say we were off to a rough start was an understatement. For nearly an hour we could not get anyone to even stop to talk to us as they busily hurried to wherever they were headed. We were very discouraged to say the least, and then came a conversation with Thomas King, a name and an interaction I will never forget.

Thomas, who we later would learn was age 93, was standing by a bench, and we approached him to hopefully tell him the Gospel and change his life..instead…he changed ours. He encouraged us immediately and told us to look at the faces of every person that walked by. He said they were all filled with stress, anxiety, and worry…he said, “What they all need is Jesus!” If they would just remember and lean on the words of Isaiah 26:3, they would not be so troubled. He then told us the words of this verse from memory..

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”

Isaiah 26:3

Not only did this emotional pep talk fire us up like a coach before a big game to remind us that people needed what we had and we had to go back out there and push through the rejection, challenges, and disappointments we had experienced and tell them about what they truly needed….which was Jesus, but it was also a great reminder that fear, anxiety, and stress all come from selfish thoughts and concerns about ourselves. 1 John 4:18 tells us, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” When we are focused on Him and his perfect love for us given on the cross and we know His love shown in this way means we will spend eternity in Heaven with Him and that is all that really matters, we will be in “perfect peace” as Isaiah 26:3 says.

It’s hard to describe our feelings as Thomas captured our hearts and minds with his words of wisdom. Sadly though, Thomas told us than many younger than him, including his church, did not listen. He told us he was recently recognized by his church for his years of membership there, but they would not give him the opportunity to speak when he asked. This saddened me because not only did it disappoint Thomas, but his words had so much impact on us that we did not want him to stop speaking and others would be missing out on his wisdom. Job 12:12 says, “Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.”  How many times do we miss out on the opportunity to learn from our elders by not asking them or not listening to them and discounting their credibility which should be gained, not lost, with age?

Hebrews 13:2 reads, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” I don’t know if Thomas was an angel, but I do know that his words cut sharp like a knife at exactly the right time when we needed it and reminded us that what we were doing was not about us and we needed to re-direct our fear to focus on Jesus and His perfect love which every person who walked by needed. As we head into 2019, we hope and pray that it will bring us many blessings, but it will undoubtedly also will bring us challenges. Let’s commit to being prepared to face those trials because our minds will be fixed on Him and His perfect love, and we will trust in Him which will give us “perfect peace.” We have faith He will give us exactly what we need when we need it..just like He gave us Thomas King.

To The Church

Happy Tuesday Bible Journal family!

In Revelation 2 we have hear Jesus speak to John and to four of the seven churches in the province of Asia. The words Jesus speaks to John would be the letters written for the churches then and to all of us as “the Churches” now.

The letters to the churches are of praise and encouragement, but also warnings.  So as you read through Revelation 2, listen to His words and hold onto His promises.

7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’

To the Church in Ephesus

  • He is our right hand that holds it all in His hands. v.1
  • He knows our actions and our deeds. v.2
  • He understands our perseverance.v.3
  • He reminds us to repent when we have fallen. v.5

To the Church in Smyrna

  • He is the First and the Last v.8
  • He knows our pain and needs. v.9
  • He reminds us the devil will test us, still be faithful to receive your victor’s crown. v.10

To the Church in Pergamum

  • He holds a sharp double-edged sword. v.12 (Hebrews 4:12)
  • He will provide manna v.17
  • He will provide a white stone with a new name on it. v.17

To the Church in Thyatira

  • He knows our deeds, love, and faith, our service and perseverance. v.19
  • He gives us time to repent, are you willing?
  • If we don’t repent, we will suffer. v.22
  • I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works.  v. 23

Jesus is reminding us that He truly knows us. (Romans 8:27-37)  He knows what is said and done in the dark and what is in the light. (Luke 12:3)  That judgment will be passed and He gives us the opportunity to repent and turn to Him. (John 9:39 and Matthew 4:17)

To each church and to each of us Jesus says, Whoever has ears let them hear.  Do you hear Jesus speaking to you today? Listen close, He knows what we go through every day, He is here for us, waiting. All we need to do is listen.

Dear God,

Thank you for your words that we are able to apply to our hearts each day.  God, we know you are with us always and know every detail of our being.  Help us to listen and obey your words. That in this wonderful Christmas season we remember and focus on your ultimate sacrifice of sending your own son Jesus to live a perfect life and ultimately die for our sins.  The sins we all like to hide away, let us bring them to the light and repent.   God I’m sorry when I lose faith, I’m sorry when I don’t listen.  Search my help and reveal to me all that you desire and help me to live not by my will, but yours.  Help me to open my ears, and hear your loving voice today.  We love you.

Amen

 

 

 

 

 

What Could Be Better?

A few years ago, my daughter Gracie received a gift card for her birthday, and she knew EXACTLY what she planned to purchase. She had her sights set on a deluxe Lego set that would bring the Frozen castle to life. When we got to the toy store, they were completely sold out. And the sets they did have were half the size of the one she wanted, but not half the cost. I laid out her options: order the set she wanted online and wait 3-5 business days OR get one of the smaller sets that she could take home and play with that same day.

She really didn’t take much time deciding – she chose to wait. She wanted the bigger and better set and was willing to wait it out.

This choice, while small in the grand scheme of things, was huge in her world. This was one of those milestone moments that showed her maturity. And truth be told, I didn’t see it coming. I fully expected her to want the immediate, the now, the joy of a new toy in the moment. She really blew me away that day, and I can vividly remember my heart swelling – my five year old is practicing good decision making, good self-control. Good stewardship. She understood the pros and cons, and even with something small like Legos, she made a big decision.

As we approach John 16, Jesus didn’t give the disciples any choices. He laid out what’s coming for Him, and what that means for them. They don’t get it, and I don’t think they want to get it. Jesus proactively answers the questions they’re all thinking, but aren’t asking out loud – He is so good to us! If the disciples were given a choice, my guess is they would choose to have Jesus stay with them in the flesh. I am sure I would have too.

As Jesus continues with His farewell + next steps, He lets them know He will send someone EVEN BETTER for them! And if you’re anything like me, your eyebrows raise at verse 7 when Jesus outlines all of this – I mean, WHAT could be better than having Jesus with us, sitting next to us, right here, right now?!

My longing for Jesus to return leaves me with some questions:

  • Am I fully aware and tuned in to the Holy Spirit that is here, NOW, and LIVING inside of me?
  • Do I trust Jesus completely, and fully believe Him that it’s to my advantage that He goes for awhile, and the Holy Spirit is in His place?
  • How am I a witness to the Holy Spirit’s power in this world? Guiding, convicting the world of sin, and glorifying Jesus?
  • Is the fruit of the Spirit, that’s living in me, evident in my life?

Gracie was able to see that waiting for the deluxe Lego set that she wanted would be better.

Am I able to see that having the Holy Spirit live inside of me, is better right now than having Jesus walk beside me? And if so, am I relying on His power in my life – the same power that rose Jesus from the dead?

Hills and Valleys

Today’s reading is Luke 8.

Does it ever shock you how much worry and how little faith the disciples often have have during their time with Jesus? They worry about having enough food for the crowds of people and themselves multiple times, they are scared when Jesus walks on water thinking He is a ghost, most run away in terror when he’s captured by the authorities, and here in Luke 8 they are scared during the storm before Jesus calms it. In Luke 8:25, Jesus even directly says to them, “Where is your faith?”

A great brother in Christ and myself were just discussing the importance of being humbled through challenges, disappointments, and perceived failures (at the time) in life. Let me be clear these things are never fun. I don’t like them for myself, and I don’t wish these shortcomings on anyone. However, when we observe things closely we can often find that when we don’t face challenges we can become distant from God, not giving the glory to Him and not being a servant leader for Him and to those around us. How many times do we see celebrities and the greatest athletes making poor choices in actions and words that are all about them? I believe it’s often because they have not been humbled to realize that while they have likely worked hard to get to where they are, they would not have accomplished what they have without the people around them, the organization they are within, or even the time they were born and live in (Malcolm Gladwell talks about this in his book Outliers). They often don’t give others credit for the help they received and first and foremost to the One who put those people around them, to the One who put them within that organization/sport/profession, and to the One who brought them into the world at this perfect time to accomplish what they have. They don’t feel like they “need” God.

On the flip side of this, we read later in Luke 8:43 where a woman who had a bleeding issue for twelve years who could not be healed by any physicians went to Jesus believing she could be healed if just touched His clothing which she did. She was humbled by her sickness. She had nowhere else to turn but to Him. Jesus says to her in Luke 8:48, “Daughter, your faith has made you well, go in peace.” Check out James 1:2-4 and James 1:12 for how trials help us grow and shape us into the person He wants us to become. James 1:6 specifically says, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of seas that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” What a great example she was of having faith without doubting! Is God not giving you what you want right now? Are you being humbled right now through challenges? What is God trying to teach you in this season of life? Are you FULLY relying on Him, trusting in Him, and believing in Him to bring you through these challenges? Or would He say to you like He did to the disciples in Luke 8:25, “Where is your faith?”

In closely observing this occurrence of Jesus calming the storm, I find it interesting that Jesus is the one that suggests they get into the boat to go to the other side of the lake. Yet, He doesn’t say why, nor does it say what they did when they arrived after the storm. In fact, it just says in Luke 8:26 they sailed to Gerasenes. Did Jesus have them go out into the boat just so they could see His miraculous powers to calm the storm so they would grow in their faith and trust in Him? Although the disciples lacked faith often during their time with Jesus, this time of growth helped them become so unbelievably complete in their faith and trust in God that 11 of the 12 (Judas Iscariot not in the 12) of them were killed for their faith later. They went from running away in fear when He was captured and killed to risking it all for Him shortly thereafter. They became perfect and complete in their faith through all these trials lacking nothing and spreading the Good News to others so that you and I would know it today. There is no doubt they are being greatly rewarded in Heaven.

Let us pray the following prayer…

“Lord God, in times of challenges and valleys let me raise my eyes to You, the One who sees me there and will bring me out. Please help me to be perfect and complete in my faith and trust in You, lacking nothing. When I’m on the mountaintops, let me give You all the praise and glory knowing that You are the source of all good things. You are the God of hills and valleys. Please help me remember Your words that those who want to be first shall be last by living my life as servant leader to You and others around me. Thank You for modeling this through Your death on the cross so that I am forgiven for my many shortcomings and can live with You in eternity. I love you. Amen.”

 

Feeding the Multitudes

Mark 8 opens with the miracle of Jesus Feeding the Multitudes of people with just some loaves and fish. Back in the days of Sunday School flannelgraph lessons, I never knew there were two separate events of this miracle! Jesus fed thousands – TWICE!

All four gospels record the Feeding of the 5,000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish, near Bethsaida (Matthew 14:13-21Mark 6:31-44Luke 9:12-17John 6:1-14).

Then in Mark and Matthew the second miracle of Feeding the Multitudes was recorded – 4,000 people fed with 7 loaves and 3 fish ( Matthew 15:32-39 and Mark 8:1-9).

We know this is two separate accounts because later in Mark, verses 18-20, Jesus reminds the disciples of the two different accounts and questions why they’d be worried about having something to eat when they just witnessed these two miracles.

Have you heard of the book or seen the quote “All I Ever Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”? Well… I’d like to think that it’s really “All I Ever Need to Know I Learned in Sunday School”! So much of my adult experiences can be traced back to some of the true stories we learned in Sunday School. The Parting of the Red Sea… Danial and the Lion’s Den… David and Goliath… Feeding the 5,000.

This one is especially close to my heart, because God has continued to be so faithful in meeting my needs – making something out of nothing, when I least expect it.

Miracles of supplication and abundance have been in my life since I can remember: food on our table, a roof over our head, and clothes on our back, even when times were bleak (by western standards). I have continued to see this through adolescence, as a young adult, and as a wife and mom. These miracles have no bounds, covering me physically, spiritually, and emotionally. It’s no coincidence that in each stage of life I’ve been blessed by spiritual mentors and discipleship. People caring for me as an “angel unaware” (Heb 13:2), at times, taking me by the hand and showing me the way.  Giving grace when it wasn’t deserved. Sharing their abundance when they had nothing to gain from me. Praying on my behalf.

I witnessed miracles as a kid, with my parents sharing their little loaves and fish and God making it more than enough. There was an old school bus they acquired in the 80s – my mom would make these massive pots of beef vegetable soup in the winter and load it onto the back of the bus. We would run it in downtown Dayton, heat it up and the homeless would get warm and have a bowl of soup. My siblings and I would tell bible stories and sing songs to the homeless people. I was seven and we were one paycheck away from being homeless ourselves. We always had enough soup and our bus never ran out of gas, it would run on fumes much longer than it should have!

In recent years there have been countless situations where God was there, turning loaves and fish into more than enough. When I left my corporate career after 13+ years, we had no idea how we would makes ends meet and manage the debt we would incur. We felt a strong leading to make this change, but financially could not make the numbers work.  And mirroring the loaves + fish, God stepped in and turned the single income household into more than enough. Only by this miracle did we not go in the red. Every month we were astounded at how the numbers worked out. True miracles, not luck or coincidences. The biggest miracle in this, is that we did not change our giving habits!

The Feeding of the Multitudes was a HUGE testimony to the thousands… but imagine the little boy that shared his food. How much more did this mean to him, seeing Jesus use his willing heart for others? Can you imagine the testimony he had for the rest of his life?

Each year our church takes up a special collection designed to expand ministry across the globe.  Each year Tim and I pray for unexpected funds to come in that month, with the intent of giving whatever that surprise is. Every single year, a large amount comes in, completely out of the blue.  An overpayment from something from years before… a surprise bonus not at normal timing, etc. Each year it’s become a fun game to see where the money will come from that special month and what we will be able to give. I share all of this purely as a testimony of God’s faithfulness and not in the least from our doing.

Whether it’s sharing and serving in our circle, or way out of our circle, God has a plan to use what He has given us. What loaves and fish do you have?

Do you have a life experience that God intends to be shared with someone walking thru the very same thing? Do you have a heart for prayer and can be a warrior for someone else’s battle? What purpose does God have for the talents He has given you? Maybe you have one of those smiles that light up a room, desperately needed in dark place today. If you are reading this and feel like you don’t have much to share, let me encourage you – YOU DO! Do you think the little boy thought he had a purpose on that day, or that his little lunch would make a huge difference? Seek the Lord and ask Him to show you what things He has given you that are intended for His kingdom.

God, you are the perfect provider, and your timing and ways are far beyond ours. Help us to trust You more and open our hearts and hands to be used miraculously for your kingdom. Give us a heart for stewardship with all the talents and blessings you’ve given each of us. Forgive us for doubting Your provision (just like the disciples) and thanks for the reminders of your faithfulness in the past. Amen.

Greatly Distressed

Matthew 17

A couple of weeks ago, I began asking people if it were a full moon outside.  It was my sarcastic way of downplaying the distress in my life.  To be distressed, according to google, is to experience anxiety, sorrow or pain.  But, distress is more than that.  In fact, Marriam-Webster (by the way in our world that is all things Google, we lose some richness from our lives – use other sources for information occasionally) adds that distress is a state of danger or desperate need.  Distress, in my life, shows up when the things that I put my hope in, the things that I trust my future with, don’t perform the way that I expect them to.  The disciples experienced this too.

As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were greatly distressed. Matthew 17:22-23

Do you see it?  At this point, the disciples had given up their entire lives for Jesus.  Their careers, family life, money, everything.  The only comfort and security they know is Jesus.  What does he do?  He tells them that he is going away.  Worse than that, he is going to die.    They knew that they found the very best thing to live for and now it is going away.  It could never be replaced.  No relationship, no job, no wealth could give them hope.  The result?  Distress – agony, anguish, tribulation, excruciation, torment and torture.

As I consider the disciples’ lost hope, I see that distress reveals much about our own lives.  Chiefly, distress in our lives exposes the object of our affection. Some of us, put our hope in people, maybe a spouse.  Many choose the organization that we work for.   When these let us down, or they change course, our future looks different than what we originally chose.  We find distress.  Do not, for a second, think that distress is a bad thing.  I think Jesus allowed, even wanted his disciples to experience it.  Why?  Because it caused them to reevaluate.  It caused them to clarify why they were following him and was it worth continuing.

History shows that the disciples continued to choose Jesus, despite their distress and the uncertainty of his future.  In him, they found life, abundantly.  That abundant life continued even after his death.  Today, we get that same benefit.  In fact, he promises that he will be with us “even to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20).  Because of that eternal promise, we never have to experience distress.   When we do, our hope is in the wrong place.

 

Known

Today’s reading is Matthew 16.

In verse 7, we read the disciples are concerned because they have no bread to eat. Jesus follows up saying in verse 8, “O you of little faith..” reminding them that not only did he just feed 5,000 with 5 loaves in Matthew 15, but that he also fed 4,000 on 7 loaves in Matthew 14 and they even had leftovers both times! It is very easy to judge the disciples wondering how they could quickly forget the miracles He just performed?! However, when I take a step back and reflect, I realize I do the same thing all the time. Within a matter of weeks, days, and even hours it’s easy to forget the miracles recently performed in our lives. It’s the cancer diagnosis that could have been much worse, the accident that could have been fatal but wasn’t, and the job that could have been lost but was saved which are quickly forgotten, and we are on to worrying about the next thing. Instead, we should constantly be thanking Him, trusting Him, and giving Him the praise and glory knowing He has the whole world in His hands.

Despite our failures, imperfections, and lack of faith, God Has big plans for us. Jesus knew in verse 22 Peter would rebuke Him saying that Jesus’ words predicting His crucifixion were not true, and He knew Peter would later deny Him 3 times after He was arrested. Yet prior to these events and knowing Peter would fail, Jesus calls him by the name Cephas meaning rock, and He tells him He will build his church through Peter and give him the keys of the kingdom of Heaven. Peter doesn’t sound like much of a rock to me…does he to you? But, like I tell my kids every night before I tuck them in, God loves you and has big plans for you. Not only has He made us righteous and perfect before God through His blood (Romans 5:1), but despite our sinful actions, trials, and doubts, He will do in amazing things in your life as He did with Peter. Isn’t it crazy to think of the fact that He knows you will mess up as He knew Peter would, yet He is still planning big things for your future with and through you? But, He is. That’s grace. That’s love. Nearly every “hero” in the Bible was a messed up sinner, David, Moses, Paul, and Jonah just to name a few. However, God not only fully redeemed them through His blood, but he also redeemed them through their actions later in their life. Whatever sin you have going on in your life and whatever mistakes you have made and will make, God’s plans for you and His saving grace on the cross are bigger. This new Tauren Wells song Known says it perfectly…

“…You won’t let go no matter what I do

And it’s not one or the other

It’s hard truth and ridiculous grace

To be known fully known and loved by You

I’m fully known and loved by You…”