Recognize, Realize and Get Ready

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Today’s Reading: Luke Chapter 5

Good morning Bible Journal readers! Today we are studying Luke 5 in our journey through the words of Jesus. I’m loving this scripture today because I feel like we can all find ourselves in these three miracle moments. The first miracle is one that’s familiar. Jesus takes Simon’s boat out into the water while preaching and then casually tells Simon to throw the nets out. Simon sort of rolls his eyes and says “I suppose, because you said so but it probably won’t work because we’ve been throwin’ nets all night and ain’t no fish comin’ up!” Simon shows his obedience to Jesus but it’s clear that he doesn’t believe the outcome will change. Can you see yourself in this moment? Do you sort of use faith as a last resort rather than a first strategy? I feel like I fall into this habit almost daily. We know how this story ends, the nets come up with so many fish that boats nearly sink under the weight of them. Simon is awestruck at this miracle and immediately feels shame:

“Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” Luke 5: 8

Have you ever been blessed by God and felt unworthy? Do you hide from Him because you recognize your sin and don’t want to face judgement? I feel such a connection to Simon Peter in this moment. I remember a time in our life when our son was very sick and his hospital bills were so far beyond our meager capacity. We tried to work extra hours, we tried to negotiate with the hospital to lower the bill, we argued, we cried, but what we didn’t do was pray. Of course, we prayed for our son to get better but we never prayed to God to help us with the financial part of the problem. We were encouraged by some friends and mentors to pray for that specific need and our nets were filled! In fact, they were overflowing. We never even considered that Jesus could or would address that need in our life. If you’ve been a Bible Journal reader or writer for a long time, you know that we experienced that miracle through you.Our Bible Journal family made that happen through the love of Jesus Christ.

God has three requirements for coming to Him:

  • Recognize our own sinfulness
  • Realize we can’t save ourselves
  • Be Ready to leave everything behind and follow Him

In verse 31 Jesus tells the sinners at Matthew’s house:

“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:31

Jesus is talking about recognizing our own sin. Until we examine our hearts and place ourselves in a posture of humility we can’t begin to accept His mercy. Next, we need to realize that we truly can’t save ourselves. Often, despite our best intentions we make errors in judgement or our pride gets in the way of asking for help. Finally, we need to be ready to leave everything else behind including the false God’s we rely upon for protection and follow Him. Levi the tax collector first encounters Jesus while sitting in his tax collecting booth. Jesus implores him to “follow me” and Levi is moved in that moment. He leaves the promise of money, status and power to follow Jesus by faith. I’m not sure that I’d have the strength to do that. If Jesus came to my work place tomorrow and said “follow me” I hope I’d be ready. Today’s scripture has so many examples of Jesus ministering to people in their day to day struggles. I hope that encourages you to pray this week for the little things. Pray for Him to intercede and truly move in your life.

Integrity

Today’s reading is Mark 12.

As we continue to take a close look at the words of Jesus, He tells us here that the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength in Mark 12:30, reaffirming what Moses said in Deuteronomy 6:5 after delivering the Ten Commandments. He then states in Mark 12:31 the second greatest commandment is what some refer to as the “golden rule” which is to love your neighbor like yourself. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that a few verses later in Mark 12:38-40 he calls out the religious scribes who talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk and truly live their lives for God warning of their condemnation. This is a good reminder for all of us to take a look at the true condition of our heart. How do we know the true condition of our heart?

This week our son came home from kindergarten and asked his mom and me if we knew what integrity meant. Taken a little bit back by this from him asking this at a young age we asked, “What is it buddy?” He said, “My teacher says it’s doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” Albert Einstein said there are 5 levels of intelligence in ascending order: smart, intelligent, brilliant, genius, and the highest form which is simple. This is not the textbook definition of integrity, but I believe it’s the simplest and the right one. We should all ponder this question,” What am I doing when no one is watching?” This shows the true condition of our heart. We need to fully examine ourselves to know the condition of our heart which God already knows. As the scribes were doing, any of us can paint a picture we want others to see by writing for devotional like this, serving as an elder or even as a pastor, volunteering, going to church and saying the right things. But, does your heart and follow up actions show you are doing these things for the right reasons? Do you truly love Him? You know. God knows.

As I write this, we are talking about repentance as part of our Joshua 24 study and Eastview Church. If we are not living the way we want to live, the great news is at any time we can turn away from sin and run into God’s loving arms. We must acknowledge our sin and specifically and then take action to change what we are doing. The even better news is that 1 John 4:19 tells us He first loved us before we loved Him by giving His life on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. Do you believe this? If so, despite past wrong doings, you can go live your life with integrity for Him today and every day without any guilt of past wrong doing. Is there any greater feeling than that?!

In spirit and in truth

What does it mean to worship in spirit and in truth?

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24)

Today’s reading: John 4

Jesus explained that God is spirit, and the Bible teaches us that Jesus is “the Truth”. The Old Testament has the law, then Jesus Christ gives us grace and truth.

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17)

I think of worshiping in spirit as an emotional state; coming from the heart. Without having emotional investment in the worship, I’m just going through the motions.

Worshiping emotionally with passion but with no truth, I have missed the point. I’m pretty emotional when it comes to viewing a beautiful sunset or eating tacos, but if I worship the sunset or the tacos, my worship is in vain; it is worship without truth.

Two weeks from today we’ll cover John 18 but I wanted to share this verse ahead of time as it ties into today’s theme:

Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world – to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18:37)

I also take this “truth” another way in that when we seek truth, seeking God’s will, seeking to be shown our sins with a repentant heart, we are worshiping in truth, we seek to listen to his voice.

The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” (John 4:25-26)

Had the woman been drinking some of that well water at the moment Jesus proclaimed himself as the messiah, don’t you think she would have spit the water out in a dramatic fashion? In my mind that’s exactly what happened, although I have no proof. Adding this to my list of questions for Jesus.

Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” (John 4:39)

He knows all I’ve ever done, and if I am willing to listen to Him, he’ll tell me all I’ve ever done. At the end of my life he’ll also show me everything I’ve ever done; sins upon sins piled high like a garbage dump outside a big city reeking stench and attracting the lowest of creation. Fortunately along with this embarrassment, my death sentence will be pardoned by the man, the Son who will say “he’s with me”.

Unlike me, Jesus listens unconditionally, and if I confess what he already knows to be true, and I repent in spirit and in truth, he will forgive me of all of my sinful past and present. Focusing on me at the center I see no sin, but with a humbled heart, seeking his truth for earnest repentance, he shows me my many sins. An entangled mess that no man can sort on his own.

Perhaps the reader will believe based upon my testimony, but then come to know him more richly when hearing for himself or herself.

And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” (John 4:41-42)

Call out to him in spirit and in truth; believe because of his word, he will listen and respond, and you will know that he is indeed the Savior of the world.

Repent, Repent, Repent

Todays Reading: Luke 18

This is Lynden; it is a privilege to be writing again this week.  The Spirit has led me to reexamine the concept of repentance. In Luke 18, we are given a beautiful, yet hard illustration of true repentance.

Luke 18: 9-14

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed[a] thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

How many times have we found ourselves as the Pharisee? I know that I have probably several times this past week. It is not malevolent in the intention, but we do look at others and make criticisms about their situation or condition. Sometimes we try to help them out or voice our concerns on them but fail to see how God will work in their life. I have been convicted to constantly look inside myself and reanalyze what purpose does God have for me in this situation. I pray constantly to be an instrument in God’s purpose.

Growing up in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, I had the belief of repentance as something that is done once and you are not ever suppose to change or revert. When you have this idea you start to question your own progress and outlook. You feel that if you fall or “back slide” you cannot get back to the “right” place. You feel that God is going to judge you different and the marks against you will keep adding up. I have new hope and a new growth as I have matured in my Christian journey.

A few reference verses that have ministered to me are:

Matthew 18: 21-22

21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Luke 17: 3-4

Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

Repentance is a constant and dynamic change that allows you to grow in Christ. Repentance is the knowledge that you are not where you are supposes to be, but making the changes and to get to your destination. I realize, I have grown into the Tax Collector, I am forever asking God to have mercy on me and I am not worthy for His blessings.

In writing this post I had an epiphany, the main people that were part of the “Twelve” are fishermen. The main tool that a fisherman uses is the boat. If you have ever had any experience using a sailboat or canoe, you know that you cannot go from point A to point B in a single “straight” line. You plot a course then you sail for awhile, then you realign yourself and course correct and then sail a little bit more, and then you course correct again then you repeat. Finally you arrive at your destination. If you were able to map out your traveled course you would find that you had a zigzag pattern over the water, but you are at the planned final destination. It is awesome how God uses the fisherman as an example for repentance; they knew that to get across the water you have to make constant corrections (repentance) to make it to the final destination. As it is state in the text, you cannot change once, or seven times, but as many as it takes to make it to the final destination.

Heavenly Father, continue to guide us on our journey. We will fall and drift off course, please me merciful to us as we are all sinners and need guidance daily. Amen

Past, Present, and Future

This week we were asked to reflect on our:

I was________.

I am__________.

Today’s Reading Link:Exodus 40; John 19; Proverbs 16; Philippians 3

I do not consider that I have made it on my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining toward what lies ahead. I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14

I know something about each and everyone one of us. Guess? We are all different. You are a masterpiece! There is no one in the world like you. We all have a different set of fingerprints. This unique and humbling information is also accurate for our lives. For myself,  I truly wished I would’ve been in the word more earlier in my life, but I wasn’t.  I also understand now that God has a divine plan for everyone and everything.  As we recently come off the official celebration of Jesus’s resurrection I reflect also on our past, present, and future in Him. I love thinking of what Jillian said yesterday as starting my New Year in Christ.  I’m excited for it! I love this opportunity to be in the Word with others daily. God knows our past and He plans our future.

For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you. To give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

Past: Often we can catch ourselves trying to compare, copy, or just want things that others have.  This can include a certain lifestyle, relationship, and of course physical or material things.  This was definitely evident for me growing up. An upbringing that included much adversity in home dynamics and living in poverty to our American standards.  I would do anything to get or make others believe that I had some kind of perfect life.  Acting in one way where on the inside there was an insecure kid who would try to impress others through lies. I was truly selfish in all things doing whatever to look and act a certain way no matter who was hurt. It was all about me.  This was all the center of my world and God wasn’t visible in any of it, and it showed.  We tend to want what someone else has or the next best thing. Not until some rock bottom experiences did I realize I needed to have a closer relationship with God.  I wasn’t able to do any of it.

God grabbed a hold of my heart and put some brothers and sisters in Christ in my life. I started to give more of my own life and desires to Him. So we press on knowing that Christ has made us his own and that is his desire for us.In order to receive this life you need to repent and open your eyes, answer the door, let Him into your heart. Repentance can be a momentary confession but is a lifelong process.

  • The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, Acts 17:30 (We could dwell on the past and point fingers but we realize that isn’t the answer, Jesus is.)
  •  If anyone would come after me , let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but lose his life for my life, will save it. Luke 9:23-24

Present: We live in tension between who we have been and who we want to be. Faith in God allows us to let go and look forward to what he wants us to become. Not to hang onto our past, but grow in the knowing of God and a building of your relationship with Him. We have been forgiven, so we can look forward to a more purpose guided life with God. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us

Future: God knows our final plans but in doing God’s will along the way our efforts in this partnership need to center on Him and not ourselves. We need to use our minds and heart. As we live for him, pray for guidance as you plan, and act in faith when working your plan.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. Proverbs 16:9

What’s your:

I was________?    

I am_________? 

Dear God,

I was selfish now I am changed while still a work in progress.  Thank you for the change in my life. Please continue encourage us to  put our Faith in you and not ourselves. Release us from the weight of our past and allow us to focus on our eternity with you.  We don’t deserve the sacrifice you made for us but we know you are a loving God who gives grace.  You know our past, you know or future.  I pray you keep us attentive to your lifeline in your Word that  you have provided and remembering the perfect example of your son Jesus. We lift this day up to you.  Let Your will be done.