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.
“39 When daylight came, they did not recognize the land but sighted a bay with a beach. They planned to run the ship ashore if they could. 40 After casting off the anchors, they left them in the sea, at the same time loosening the ropes that held the rudders. Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and headed for the beach. 41 But they struck a sandbar and ran the ship aground. The bow jammed fast and remained immovable, while the stern began to break up by the pounding of the waves.
42 The soldiers plan was to kill the prisoners so that no one could swim away and escape. 43 But the centurion kept them from carrying out their plan because he wanted to save Paul, so he ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. 44 The rest were to follow, some on planks and some on debris from the ship. In this way, everyone safely reached the shore.”
All of Acts chapter 27 is devoted to the sailing between Judea & Italy. So much time is covered, so many days of tedium are passed by in just a few verses. It is clear that this is an unpleasant journey, and that God has given Paul a kind guardian to watch over him as he completes this dangerous trip. The circumstances were unfortunate, the timing of the trip was poor, the conditions were less than ideal and this could have definitely been a cause for complaining. But listening to Luke recount what happened, including the shipwreck, we don’t hear any tones of discontent, there is no frustration or anger.
We all have seasons of life where we experience difficulty, wheer situations are less than ideal. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, we all know that life isn’t a series of cupcakes and roses. Life is difficult. But even in the midst of difficulty, we have the opportunity to live out the hope that we have in Jesus Christ. because of the goodness of God, we have a Comforter in His Holy Spirit that serves as aour guard and guide through these rough patches, nom atter how difficult or long lasting they might be. Paul & Luke knew that God as with them as they waited out those long days at sea. They knew that God was with them as they bounced from ship to ship at the discretion of another man. They knew that Jesus’ promise to be with them always was still good as the weather turned and the ship was buffetted by the waves. They were able to rest in the goodness & mercy of God as they swam to shore, having just been spared from death twice in the same occasion.
We cannot get hung up in pity parties. We cannot look at only ourselves or our own strength in the midst of difficult days. God has given us a great blessing. He has promised us His peace. He is faithful, He is compassionate & He will carry us through these difficult stretches of life. We simply need to trust Him and lay our pain, sorrow, worries and frustrations at His feet. He is more than capable of carrying whatever we find ourselves too weak to manage.
I am immediately reminded of this passage from Paul’s 2nd letter to the church in Corinth:
2 Corinthians 12:9-10
“But He said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. 10 So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures, because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
When we are in the midst of difficulty, God’s strength shines through. It is obvious what we struggle with and how difficult things are, and it is doubly noticeable when God is glorified by getting us through those times. Those are the occasions where people come and ask where or how we had the strength to move forward in the midst of such extreme difficulties. Give God glory & step out of His way. Let Him be glorified in your weaknesses. Seek Him out & then rest in Him as He guides your steps, moment by moment, day by day through the darkest valleys and into His marvelous light. In this example, we can still GoLove others, mirroring the heart of Christ who was strong for us as we lay dead in our sins.
Have faith. God is good.
“24 As he was making his defense this way, Festus exclaimed in a loud voice, ‘You’re out of your mind, Paul! Too much study is driving you mad!’
25 But Paul replied, ‘I’m not out of my mind, most excellent Festus. On the contrary, I’m speaking words of truth and good judgment. 26 For the king knows about these matters. It is to him I am actually speaking boldly. For I am convinced that none of these things escapes his notice, since this was not done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you believe.’
28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘Are you going to persuade me to become a Christian so easily?’
29 ‘I wish before God,’ replied Paul, ‘that whether easily or with difficulty, not only you but all who listen to me today might become as I am — except for these chains.’
30 So the king, the governor, Bernice, and those sitting with them got up, 31 and when they had left they talked with each other and said, ‘This man is doing nothing that deserves death or chains.’
32 Then Agrippa said to Festus, ‘This man could have been released if he had not appealed to Caesar.'”
Read verse 29 again:
‘I wish before God,’ replied Paul, ‘that whether easily or with difficulty, not only you but all who listen to me today might become as I am — except for these chains.’
The chains, being jailed…that was secondary to what was happening for Paul. He had audience with people who did not know Jesus, and so he was going to do whatever he could to share the Good News of the Gospel with them. He wanted them to see and understand the hope that he had in Christ. His heart was going out for them, he was concerned for their salvation, and his personal situation did not play into consideration.
Personal ease, an easy walk? These are not guaranteed. Jesus has promised to help us through every hardship, but we must keep our focus on Him. It’s not about making everything comfortable for us, but having us in a place where we are needed to do the Gospel work. Ease and comfort are not factors that determine whether or not we do what is required of us. If they were, there would never even be one permenant gathering of belivers. We would get upset with each other and scatter to the wind. Instead, we focus on Christ, not seeking excuses, and we do the work together, the work laid out for us in the Gospel.
If Paul was a consumer, he would be dissatisfied, but as a disciple he was simply doing what his Master asked of him. It could have been easier, yes. He could have settled down in Ephesus and had a fulfilling ministry, sure, but that wasn’t what God wanted of him. And so he did what was required, he pressed on through the difficulty, God giving him strength to do so.
As we do the work of Christ, answering the call to GoLove others, we have to remember that the work laid out before us is so much more important than our ‘feeling’ comfortable. We must seek our joy in Him, not in situations. We must find our joy in Him, not seeking out what the flesh calls ‘happiness.’ Ministry, our walk as Christians, is not about what is easiest, it is about what is required of us as disciples of Jesus. So, stick with it, power through in His Name and be faithful as Christ has been faithful for you, God getting the glory and giving you the strength to do so through His Holy Spirit.
“81 I long for Your salvation;
I put my hope in Your word.
82 My eyes grow weary
looking for what You have promised;
I ask, “When will You comfort me?”
83 Though I have become like a wineskin dried by smoke,
I do not forget Your statutes.
84 How many days must Your servant wait?
When will You execute judgment on my persecutors?
85 The arrogant have dug pits for me;
they violate Your instruction.
86 All Your commands are true;
people persecute me with lies — help me!
87 They almost ended my life on earth,
but I did not abandon Your precepts.
88 Give me life in accordance with Your faithful love,
and I will obey the decree You have spoken.”
A smoke dried wineskin is brittle and past its usefulness. David is feeling spent and useless, ready to break. We all experience times like this, where we don’t feel like we have anything left in us. One more hit will shatter us. DAvid feels the weight of the world pressing down on his shoulders, he longs for the intervention of God.
I often tell people that there is great value in getting familiar with the psalms because David is very expressive about the things he is experienceing, and his reliance on God is our example for what we should do as well when (not if) we experience similar situations.
Re-read this portion of Psalm 119 again. Listen to David’s heart and think through times in your life that felt similar.
Read it a third time, and think about what God has done to help rescue you.
Read it a fourth time, and give God praise for His faithful love!
“51 You stiff- necked people with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are always resisting the Holy Spirit; as your ancestors did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They even killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become. 53 You received the law under the direction of angels and yet have not kept it.”
54 When they heard these things, they were enraged in their hearts and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, filled by the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven. He saw God’s glory, with Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, 56 “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”
57 Then they screamed at the top of their voices, covered their ears, and together rushed against him. 58 They threw him out of the city and began to stone him. And the witnesses laid their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 They were stoning Stephen as he called out: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” 60 Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin!” And saying this, he fell asleep.”
This is the end of Stephen’s sermon, but not the end of his witness. A Christian life, well lived, leaves a legacy in the faith…and Stephen did just that. His boldness was not for his own glory, but sparked by the Holy Spirit in Him for the glory of God. His passion for the truth of the Gospel drove him to speak truths that were difficult for people to hear. He obviously didn’t sugar-coat anything, but laid out the raw facts of what had happened between the people and God over the years and their treatment of His one and only annointed, Jesus Christ.
Their reaction to his message mirrors exactly what he claimed of their fathers & ancestors. Nobody likes being called ‘betrayers & murderers’ but Stephen was speaking firmly and directly to a group of very hard hearts. Soft pedaling around with pretty words and overly kind analogies wouldn’t have made any headway either. This type of direct speech was necessary, even if it was unlikely to garner any results. But there was at least one heart present that would be changed by Christ. Saul’s presence at the martyrdom of Stephen must have replayed in his heart and mind later in life as the Apostle Paul. All the murderous threats, all the beatings and imprisonments that he committed, supposedly in the Name and will of God, culmintaed in acts like this.
As we GoLove people for the sake of Christ, we must know and realize that we will definitely encounter hearts like hard-pack soil. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t still try to scatter some seed. It’s not easy work to share with resistant hearts, but we are better off taking the time to share the truth at least once with people while we have the opportunity to do so. We have the knowledge, and the faith, and so we also harbor the responsibility and have accountability to God Himself to do so. No Christian is exempt from evangelism. No Christian is given a free-pass out of sharing the truth of the Gospel message, and we cannot pretend that silence is a viable option. in 1 Peter, we are reminded that suffering for the sake of the Gospel is to be counted as an honor. Paul & Silas sang hymns as they were jailed for their faith. Peter and John rejoiced after being flogged because they had been counted worthy of suffering for the Name.
Stephen’s example is a reminder to us that we are not to hold our lives so dear as to ignore the calling put on them. We are Christians first and foremost. We do not seek comfort, but the salvation of souls. Time is of the essence, opportunites should not be allowed to slip by. As we GoLove, we find that that love does things, it moves and speaks through us & we must absolutely own it as a first priority. A passionless Christian is probably just someone wearing a mask crying, “Lord, Lord.” It’s not a fun thing to say, but the salvation working in us changes us, and someone who claims Christ, but remains unchanged has likely developed a loose allegiance to an idea, desiring a savior, but not submitting to His Lordship.
Stephen submitted to the uttermost. He wasn’t extraordinary, just first in a long line of devoted hearts. If our discipleship doesn’t bring us to uncomfortable places and times, then we need to seriously reevaluate what we say we believe and come humbly to Christ, ready to submit our whole selves to Him.
“16 Then the soldiers led Him away into the courtyard (that is, headquarters) and called the whole company together. 17 They dressed Him in a purple robe, twisted together a crown of thorns, and put it on Him. 18 And they began to salute Him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 19 They kept hitting Him on the head with a reed and spitting on Him. Getting down on their knees, they were paying Him homage. 20 When they had mocked Him, they stripped Him of the purple robe, put His clothes on Him, and led Him out to crucify Him.”
There are plenty of people who claim to understand or faith. They say they know all about Jesus, all about God, all about the church and then offer their excuses why it’s not for them. They claim to know the Bible, they may have even been to church a few times. But for whatever reason they have never really investigated the truth. They never really considered in their hearts the things of God.
Usually, it is because the truth has hit a little too close to the vest for them, they do not want to look at themselves in the light of Scripture. They don’t want someone telling them what to do and what not to do, and so it is easier to mock, revile and make fun of the faith. Keeping Jesus at an arms length, canging the subject, and acting foolish when confronted keeps you from having to have serious conversations about deep things. It ‘protects’ you from personal evaluation and a weighing of your life’s efforts and errors.
These Roman soldiers had their own understanding of life and death, good and bad, power and authority. They had been witness to the ministry of Jesus, but it was contained within a religion that ‘wasn’t for them’ and so they ignored it and pushed Him aside. They convinced themselves that He must be some kind of huckster, some kind of sham. And so they gladly took to Him as if He was. No reverence, no respect, just base behavior and mockery.
As we GoLove in Jesus’ precious Name, we are going to encounter people whose only response is juvenile nonsense. They lash out, they poke fun, they refuse to engage their minds. Rather than consider eternity, consequences and matters of the heart, they push away everything that threatens their false façade. Only when life gets to be too much to bear, usually in the face of the death of a loved one, do they open their hearts and minds to the options and opinions of faith.
In those moments we must be grace and love for them. We must speak clearly from the Word of God to help them see His face, to hear His voice. We must turn up the compassion as strongly as they pushed away reason, and present the will head of God to meet them in that moment and to heal their wounds. It will not be an easy process, but haven’t seen many other opportunities to break through the walls of people like this. There is an element of ‘heaping burning coals’ here, we kill them with kindness and mercy on the midst of their pain. Their hard-packed hearts have cracks and fissures that will allow a seed to be planted in those moments and we help cultivate the soil of their hearts.
GoLove even the obnoxious mockers when you are given those precious opportunities. Let God do the talking by preparing your heart in defense of the truth and through concerted prayer ahead of time.
“1 Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. 2 And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them:
3 “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. 6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”
9 And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Every time we read this parable, we are in a season where we need to determine what soil our hearts are made from. We cannot read over this, call it ‘familiar’ or ‘old hat’ and forget to apply the parable to ourselves. “Am I being pliable for the sake of God? Am I seeking Him out? Am I consumed with worldly things? Am I being choked by weeds? Where am I? What is the condition of my heart?”
We need to have ears to hear, not just intellects to acknowledge. It is not enough to look at Scripture and say “Yes, I understand that.” We must seek God’s wisdom for application. Honestly, my heart is pretty rocky today. I have a lot going on in my mind and in my heart that I need to give over to God, but the stubbornness of my sin is putting up a pretty good fight right now. I am trying not to be hard hearted right now, and honestly, it’s been a bit of a battle. I am getting tired of seeing people let the enemy win in their lives, to see fickle, petty hearts at work rather than the glory of God in their lives. I cannot change their minds. I cannot take away the fear or jealousy or whatever it is they’re dealing with, but I can be sick and tired of the enemy having footholds in people’s lives. And so my heart is on the defensive…and that makes it really difficult to be open to listen and be ready to receive.
And so I must repent.
I want to.
I need to.
But I don’t have the strength on my own.
And so I must come to surrender first. If I want my heart to be soil that is productive, then I must have a heart that can be torn open like fresh soil, turned over, pliable and fertile because the Spirit has been given the opportunity to water, and the Word has had opportunity to feed.
I am going to be doing _a lot_ of praying this week. Offering up myself, offering up these individuals and families, making phone calls, sending emails and setting up appointments. I can fight the good fight and not have a hard heart at the same time, and I need to let God do that work in me so that I am thoroughly equipped.
I suggest you do the same & please join me in mine.
“1 The Reubenites and Gadites had a very large number of livestock. When they surveyed the lands of Jazer and Gilead, they saw that the region was a good one for livestock. 2 So the Gadites and Reubenites came to Moses, Eleazar the priest, and the leaders of the community and said: 3 ‘The territory of Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam, Nebo, and Beon, 4 which the Lord struck down before the community of Israel, is good land for livestock, and your servants own livestock.’ 5 They said, ‘If we have found favor in your sight, let this land be given to your servants as a possession. Don’t make us cross the Jordan.’
6 But Moses asked the Gadites and Reubenites, ‘Should your brothers go to war while you stay here?'”
Can there be two things that will please God, yet one is less desired? It seems that is the case here with these three tribes in Numbers 32. God had something already planned for them, something already allotted as inheritance in the Promised Land, but they saw something they thought was worth having ‘now’ and asked about being given that instead. And since they agreed to go ahead and fight with the rest of their brothers before permanently settling in this different inheritance, it was allowed.
This seems like a diminished faith, or a weariness that led to a diminished desire and subsequently led to content ten with less than what God wanted for His people. God allowed them to remain there, but they had to know that they were settling for less, and that they would still have to struggle for it like everyone else.
I do not understand churches that operate this way, churches that look at their situation and say, “This is good enough.” and then choose to stagnate. They determine that it is going to be too much work, too much commitment, to move forward into anything different, and so they just stall out where they are. Sure God allows it, and there will be good done, but so often it could have been better, but we chose less instead.
As we look at the commissioning that Christ has given us to GoLove others, making disciples that make disciples, I cannot comprehend a desire to stall out, to grow content, and to say ‘Good enough.’ It doesn’t make sense to me. Will there be work? Sure! Is it going to be easy? Most likely not. But most things worth having have to be worked for, struggled after and are hard fought. But if God is leading that effort, then it is the work that should be done, the ‘good fight’ as it were, and it will all be worth every effort that He guides us through, but only if it is His will and He is our guide. If it is just a human effort and human desire, it will fall flat every time. God’s glory is our goal as we work and strive for what He has guided us toward.
“Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts. Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.”
1 Corinthians 7:17-20 NIV
When the Israelites moved into the promised land, the tribes were given land assignments. God wanted them in certain places for His own reasons. Why was Simeon surrounded by Judah? Why were Issachar, Zebulun and Naphtali given such smaller tracts up north next to each other? I honestly don’t know, but God has his reasons then and we know He has His reasons now.
Paul is talking more about relationships in this chapter, but he also touches on slavery. There are many times in life where we want to ask God why He has us where He does in a certain time. We may be working under a horrible boss, we may be neighbors with people we just can’t relate to. We may be working with people who test our patience and challenge our faith on a daily basis, or we may be somewhere that it is easy to share our faith and proclaim Christ.
But whatever the reason, God has a plan for us where we are to live and act and serve as His ambassador. In chapter 7, Paul gives permission for unbelieving spouses to leave, but He also admonishes believing spouses that their presence in the unbelievers life may well be the influence that brings them to Christ. He encourages slaves to find their freedom if they can, but he also encourages them to live as Christ where they are, and that encouragement come through to us today, too.
God doesn’t operate without purpose or a plan. He knows what He is doing. It is ours to trust Him and do the best with the situation we find ourselves in each day. Running may be our gut impulse, but staying may better serve God. To truly lay down our lives, our supposed ‘rights’ and spend our days in an active attempt to GoLove others for His sake? We never know what all. God can accomplish if we take our eyes off of ourselves and serve where we are despite the hardships. It will definitely grow our character and our trust in Him. Seek God’s guidance before taking hasty action. Pray for patience and peace. You never know how He is going to use you.