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Seeking Peace Along a Hard Road

Blessed Father, we desire to break bread with You, to walk with You & enjoy Your company. Make our hearts burn within us as we meet with You, unfolding Your Word in our hearts. Help us to see, hear & gain wisdom. Prepare us for the difficulties & joys of the day, so we may rely on You & give You glory no matter what may come. We seek You out for these blessings of faith & for the sake of Your glory being shown through us.
We pray this in Jesus’ Name, amen.

Luke 24: 13-35
13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

I long for these moments & experiences. As Christians, we long for the Lord’s presence, we desire to walk with Him, listen to Him & experience what these two experienced along the road to Emmaus. There is no greater joy than to be able to give our whole selves over to the will & mystery of the Lord, to be bundled up in His arms & to close out every sound but the sweetness of His voice. Swift & powerful, His tongue comforts & convicts, He cuts to the root of our sin & draws us up into the highest heaven. It is almost indescribable. But we long for these moments. We want every weekend worship gathering to be a place where we meet with Him like this, every moment spent in the Word like this, every encounter with a stranger, friend or family member like this when we share our faith with them.

But we must also be reminded of these two on the road. They were consumed, troubled & sad. They had expectations, desires for redemption & they wanted to see God’s hand move in a mighty & powerful way. And it took Jesus’ presence to bring them comfort. His Words, His presence, His laughter, teaching & prayer to open their eyes to what God had done & was continuing to do.

If we would feel His presence, then we must draw near & listen. We must hear what He says, and leave behind what fills our mind, giving it all over to Him in these moments where we need to draw near. While Jesus spoke, they were silent. They listened. They didn’t interrupt every third word, they weren’t engrossed in another activity. Their focus was undivided & therefore laser focused on everything He had to say. It was time spent just with Jesus. Unrushed, untouched, unadulterated. Just them & just Him.

If we want to feel the comforting presence of Jesus, then we need to give Him our attention. We need to listen & remove distractions. If we are broken & hurting inside, if life’s events are too much to handle & understand, then we need to trust Him with those moments & draw near to Him & Him alone.

Praise God for His Holy Spirit who can & does walk with us, even within us, through these moments of our day-to-day life. What a precious gift to know He is with us, moving, present & speaking to us. We simply need to seek Him out for peace & be still, trusting in His footsteps along the way.

Father, we bless Your holy Name! We praise the movement of Your Word in our hearts!
Teach us to listen & be still. remind us of Your presence & may we feel that sweet stillness in our spirits as we draw near to You along life’s road. Again, we pray in Jesus’ Name, amen.

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Never Alone

Lord, though each of us rises alone to start this new day, bind us to the faith of the saints who have gone before us, and guide us to walk with our brothers and sisters in community. Amen.

John 14:18-31
18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.

25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.

And we hear Jesus continuing on in this truth of His intimate community with God the Father, and our community with Him. This is a great comfort to us, and it is meant to be one. Even people who have full homes, and loving family experience times of loneliness. We all have moments where we feel like it really is just us against the world. And as difficult as it is to think about, even our closest friends and family members will let us down from time to time, even if that was the farthest thing from their heart or intention. This is why our community with Christ and His with the Father is so important. listen to His words again:

Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.

Our love is exhibited by our obedience, His love is exhibited by His presence with us. Sin should divide us, but Jesus has broken down the dividing wall of hostility. His holiness and our sin should have nothing to do with one another, but He has provided the way for us to dwell with Him, and the Father with us through the Holy Spirit. And because of this great act of love, like Jesus says, we obey Him in our love for Him.

This community with God is what brings us peace. Just like Isaiah was given when he stood before the altar of God, we receive the same peace. Just like John was given as he was being shown the new heavens and the new earth. Just like Moses, Elijah and so many other messengers of God were sustained in their hardship by the presence of God, we are given that same peace.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Rest in this knowledge, in this truth of faith, when you are in Christ, you are never alone. Fear is not your master, Jesus will never let you down. Simply trust. Simply rest. Simply know that you are precious to Him, and that He is glorified in you as you walking in that loving obedience to Him, powered by the gift of grace through Christ Jesus.  We are blessed by this hope, and blessed to be a blessing to others as we live in this truth. This is how we walk in confidence in the rhythms of grace, knowing we are never alone.

Psalm 119:145-152 // ק Qof // Knowing He’s Near

“145 I call with all my heart; answer me, Lord.I will obey Your statutes.
146 I call to You; save me,
and I will keep Your decrees.
147 I rise before dawn and cry out for help;
I put my hope in Your word.
148 I am awake through each watch of the night
to meditate on Your promise.
149 In keeping with Your faithful love, hear my voice.
Lord, give me life in keeping with Your justice.
150 Those who pursue evil plans come near;
they are far from Your instruction.
151 You are near, Lord,
and all Your commands are true.
152 Long ago I learned from Your decrees
that You have established them forever.”

Psalm 119:145-152

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Read that passage from Psalm 119 again, listening to David’s struggle, desire & his understanding of the reality of God’s presence.

Read it a third time, thinking about the times where you want so badly to know that God is near, what seems to separate you from Him and how He reveals His nearness.

Read it a fourth and final time and make it your own prayer to Him this morning. 

Acts 10:9-16 // Open doors

“9 The next day, as they were traveling and nearing the city, Peter went up to pray on the housetop about noon. 10 Then he became hungry and wanted to eat, but while they were preparing something, he went into a visionary state. 11 He saw heaven opened and an object that resembled a large sheet coming down, being lowered by its four corners to the earth. 12 In it were all the four- footed animals and reptiles of the earth, and the birds of the sky. 13 Then a voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat!”

14 “No, Lord!” Peter said. “For I have never eaten anything common and ritually unclean!”

15 Again, a second time, a voice said to him, “What God has made clean, you must not call common.” 16 This happened three times, and then the object was taken up into heaven.”

Acts 10:9-16

Peter was just being honest & working from his undertanding of God’s expectations, and was following the Law as it was laid out from Moses, who had received it from God. He was trying to be obedient. He was trying to be good & live properly, desiring to honor God in his body. God had given the Israelite people a different diet as a part of their being ‘called out’ from the other nations. They had to wear certain things, do certain things and eat certain things as a part of their national, cultural, spiritual identity. There were certain things that a Jew just did not do, eat or partake in. These are the things that idenitifed them as belonging to God. 

So, when Peter heard, “Get up, kill and eat.” what he heard was “Defy every part of who you are, and leave behind what God has called you to be.” and so his natural response was, “No!” Again, he was trying to be who he thought God wanted him to be. There were rules and expectations, laws, statutes and decrees to follow. They were just as much a part of him as the hair on his head & the toes on his feet.

But God had a plan to open doors for them and to grow His church through them, and that meant that it was time to look beyond just their Jewish neighbors and to expand into the Gentile nations surrounding them. Cornelius had just received a vision to unlock and turn the knob on his side of the door, and now Peter was receiving the vision to unlock & turn the knob on his. God was opening doors.

Again, Peter, being a ‘good Jew’ wouldn’t have even considered going into Cornelius’ house if God hadn’t done this, it was a part of his personal wiring. But God desired for Peter to make a personal connection with Cornelius and his family and that couldn’t happen from being standoff-ish and remaining on the front step. There had to be an open door and a collision between these two cultural worlds. The distinctiveness between the world and those who followed God were not going to be on a racial line anymore, but drawn on a line of love for all and an obedience to the heart & will of God. There was going to be a called-out-ness to them, but not through diet or dress anymore. This was going to be based on the heart, and so for Peter, the one with the barriers, God had to directly address those old habits, teachings and concerns. There was noting really spiritually wrong with not eating pork, iguana or beetle meat. Those animals were not evil or corrupt. Those laws were simply a part of their separated lives, and those doors were opened now.

We have a tendency today to draw lines and close doors that God never desired to be drawn or closed. “I won’t go into that part of town.” or “I don’t associate with those kind of people.” are things that shouldn’t come out of the mouth of a Christian. The only people that we are told to disaccoiate with are those who have been taught & know God’s expectations & have instead chosen to live in defiance of Him, people who are undergoing discipline by the elders of the church. Even then, that is for the purpose of restoration and a desire for them to understand what they are missing and how they have stepped outside of HIs will. But no social group, racial group or any other human separation should keep us from sharing the Gospel with anyone walking this earth. 

If tomorrow, you meet a homosexual, gluttonous member of ISIS who is a habitual liar and gossip…they need to hear about Jesus & God’s redeeming grace through Him. Even if that person represents everything that you cannot stand, whatever their combination of sins may be, there cannot be a locked door in the way that you have set up. God desires that they would have their hearts changed and that they would follow Him. He deisres to give them His mercy and grace and to offer them forgiveness…and He wants to communcate that through you and through me. If we are going to GoLove people, this cannot just be a mental acknowledgement that this needs to be done, but we must take it to heart and live it out personally. God has opened the doors for the Gospel message to spread to anyone and everyone, it is not for us to close them because we are uncomfortable. We must trust in His heart and do as He says. We cannot refuse for someone else what we have been afforded in Christ. That is not our desicion to make. The doors are open. W emust scatter seed and live in obedience to out Master’s call. 

  

Numbers 11 // Pouring out His Spirit

“25 Then the Lord descended in the cloud and spoke to him. He took some of the Spirit that was on Moses and placed the Spirit on the 70 elders. As the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied, but they never did it again. 26 Two men had remained in the camp, one named Eldad and the other Medad; the Spirit rested on them — they were among those listed, but had not gone out to the tent — and they prophesied in the camp. 27 A young man ran and reported to Moses, Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.
28 Joshua son of Nun, assistant to Moses since his youth, responded, “Moses, my lord, stop them!”
29 But Moses asked him, “Are you jealous on my account? If only all the Lords people were prophets and the Lord would place His Spirit on them!” 30 Then Moses returned to the camp along with the elders of Israel.”
Numbers 11:25-30

Moses was unique in God’s workings. There is no equivalent among the leaders of men or Israel like him. His relationship with God, the situations he led the people through, and the trials that he faced for the sake of God are astonishing. But even Moses knew that the arrangement they lived in under God at those times could be better. He looked forward to a relationship for the people that would rival his own relationship with God, and even more so. He didn’t see His position as something so cheap as to be grasped at and hoarded, as if he could pile up accolades for himself. Instead, he wanted for the people of Israel what he had with God, this intimate, deep relationship, where the Holy Spirit of God would flow through, not just him, but all God’s people. And this is precisely what has happened under the new covenant in Christ.

When Jesus told His disciples that they would be better off with the Spirit, the Comforter/Counselor, they probably had a difficult time believing this. They liked seeing Jesus, eating next to Jesus, hearing His voice in their ears, and having His hand placed on their shoulder. He was tangible. That is a calling back to Eden, and we all long for that relationship with God again. But Jesus wasn’t just sending them platitudes here, they would actually be better off with the Holy Spirit. God wouldn’t just be next to them, like the people experienced in the desert with God’s pillar of fire and cloud guiding them, but like Moses, they would experience God’s indwelling presence on a daily basis. And this is no small thing. This is mystery, that the infinite God of the Universe would deign to place Himself in us, to move through us, and to see His will accomplished directly in us, is an unfathomable mystery. This is what Moses wanted, this is why he had no problem with Eldad and Medad prophesying in the camp. It’s not that they were elders of the people that made this acceptable, it is the fact that God was obviously at work through them that made it acceptable. Moses had no need to feel jealous because God was at work in someone else. He desired that above all else.

What would stop the complaining in the camp? What would stop the incessant troubles and arguments? That God would indwell His people, and that they would be willing to be led by Him to accomplish His good will and His good purposeses. That the Holy Spirit would fill them all and have His way in the camp and in their homes and hearts. That God would not just dwell among His people, but in His people…that would thrill Moses to no end, and so he looked forward to that time.

And in Christ, we have that indwelling of the Holy Spirit to GoLove as God has commanded and commissioned us to do. It is up to us to listen and answer that call, it will not be forced, but it is such a marvelous thing, I don’t know why anyone would want to miss out on it.

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