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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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Trust, Follow & Rest

May our sitting down & our rising up contribute, Lord, to Your kingdom’s work. Show us Your way, O God, deliver us out of the hand of the enemy and into Your goodness. Amen.

John 14:1-7
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.
In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”

What is the answer to trouble?
Jesus is. Believe in Him.

Where are we headed?
To where Jesus already is. He is preparing a place.

How will we get there?
Through Jesus. He is the Way, the Truth & the Life.

How will we see God?
Look to Jesus, they are One.

How will we live?
Believe in Jesus & do the works He does, asking God’s provision in all things along the way.

Look at the depth Jesus answers within our hearts. We ask ourselves these questions in a variety of ways almost every day. Questions of provision, the direction of our life, of how we will please God, so many different things we could worry about, think about, dwell upon and wrestle with…and what do we hear Jesus saying in response to all these questions? What is His response?

Follow Me.

That’s it. It is that simple to explain. When we can finally let go of self, and find our peace in simply following Jesus, we will find that He is the answer to all the pressing questions of life, the universe and everything. We don’t need to worry, we don’t need to panic, we don’t need to get all wrapped up in the crazy that surrounds us in this broken world. When we are unsure, Jesus says, “Follow Me.” When we don’t know what’s around the next bend, Jesus says, “Follow Me.” Are we catching the message He’s pitching out to us? It’s always going to be the same answer, and it’s the best answer ever. We don’t have to come up with one, we don’t have to spend months on a mountaintop in Tibet chanting “Hey, Macarena” to ourselves over and over again until we achieve personal enlightenment.

Just. Let. Go.
and listen when He says “Follow Me.

Everything after that is butter. Jesus first, Jesus followed. That is the course of our life. Seek Him & the kingdom of God first, and everything else that we truly need will laid out in God’s way in God’s time as God determines we have need of it. This is about faith & trust, yes, but it is also about obedience. Both come when we die to self and listen to His call to “Follow Me.

“The great & firm foundation of the spiritual life is the offering of ourselves to God and being subject to Him in all things. We must completely forget ourselves, so that we regard ourselves as an object which has been sold and over which we no longer have any rights.

We find all our joy in fulfilling God’s pleasure – His happiness, His glory and the fact that He is our great and only delight.

Once we have this foundation, all we need to do is spend our lives rejoicing that God is God and being so wholly abandoned to His will that we are quite indifferent as to what we do and equally indifferent as to what use He makes of our activities.” – Brother Caussade

May our sitting down & our rising up contribute, Lord, to Your kingdom’s work. Show us Your way, O God, deliver us out of the hand of the enemy and into Your goodness. Amen.

Something New Comes From This

Lord Jesus Christ, your blood washes away our sins and reconciles us to You. May we never get used to the wonder of a God who gives His own life for those who are killing Him. Amen.

We are meant for change.
That is the whole plan, that we would be remade in Him. It seems funny how gladly we receive it, and then how strongly we resist Him. It echoes Paul’s question, “What has become of our blessedness?” What changed? How did complacency creep in? What insipid means distracted us, waylaid us and have kept us from being made whole as so deeply desired?

To come to Jesus Christ, who was a man acquainted with sorrow and suffering (Isaiah 53:3), and to receive the offer from Him to be our Master (Colossians 2:6), we must expect suffering and sorrow to be a part of our road (Romans 5:3), too. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father except by Him (John 14:6,) and to then take up our cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24,) we must -know- that the Way which we follow is a path of self-denial (not my will but Yours be done [Matthew 26]) and a pathway of suffering (Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.[Luke 23:34])

But in this suffering we are refined (Malachi 3:3), and we find our blessedness. Where then does our blessedness go in those days where we seek worldly comfort over Christ?

Galatians 4:12-20
12 Brothers, I entreat you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong. 13 You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, 14 and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. 15 What then has become of your blessedness? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me. 16 Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth? 17 They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them. 18 It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you, 19 my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! 20 I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.

May we never trade the work that God desires to do in us for the false and hollow comforts of the world or the wide path (Matthew 7:13.) When we take our eyes off of Jesus, and we begin to look around at the world around us in our journey through it as sojourners, there will be enticements, temptations, and seductive lures that try to drag us from our refining, from our true purpose, as we walk along His Way (1 Peter 2:10-12.) We must abstain from them, not partially, but wholly, following the example of Christ whom we claim (1 John 2:6.)

What God intends for us who follow Christ, is that something new would be born (2 Corinthians 5:17,) released and set loose upon this world. We, the cross-carriers (Mark 8:34,) would walk the path of peace (Luke 1:79,) the narrow road (Matthew 7:13-14), in the footsteps and suffering of Jesus (2 Timothy 2:3,) and preach the Gospel to all creation (Mark 16:15.) For God desires that all should come to Him,  that none of the wicked would perish (Ezekiel 33:11.) That is our Word, that is our work.

There is something new being made in You through Christ. Once you are clothed with Him, the old person has passed away, the new has come, we have been baptized into a death like His (Romans 6:3,) and God makes a new creature of us, He instills a new desire in us, and He perpetuates this desire as we walk a fruitful, faith-filled life, obedient to Him above the desires of the flesh (John 3:36, Acts 5:29, Romans 6:12, Hebrews 5:9.) Call it a sermon of suffering, call it life, call it whatever you will, it is our love song to the world, echoing the chorus sung by our Lord & Master.

 

Numbers 34 // God’s plans, God’s way

Numbers 34:1-2
Boundaries of the Promised Land
“1 The Lord spoke to Moses, 2 Command the Israelites and say to them: When you enter the land of Canaan, it will be allotted to you as an inheritance with these borders:”

Numbers 34:16-18
Leaders for Distributing the Land
“16 The Lord spoke to Moses, 17 These are the names of the men who are to distribute the land as an inheritance for you: Eleazar the priest and Joshua son of Nun. 18 Take one leader from each tribe to distribute the land.”

The ‘Land Rush’ or ‘Land Run’ of the late 1880’s/ early 1890’s was an almost chaotic grab at property by settlers in the United States. The government at the time decided to ‘open up’ previously unavailable lands for settling, and while people had to pay the government for the properties they acquired, there was still a lot of previously claimed land (by the native tribes) that was sold to these new settlers. The tribal groups were supposed to get their share of the profits, but more likely they would have liked to have retained their lands. It’s a decision that would not go over well today.

This distribution of land to the 12 tribes of Israel was nothing like this chaotic attempt to promote settlement and expansion. Instead, God had His will at work in laying out borders ahead of time, assigning sections of land to the tribes according to their size and needs, and also as judgment on those people groups who were living in the land when the Israelites arrived. They had all had 40 years to see what God was up to and seek Him out, but they maintained their rebellion and sin and rather than seeking God out, they fought against Him instead. This was not some idealized sense of ‘manifest destiny’ and greed that drove the people of God. It was His will, His plan and it would be worked out in His way.

And so, when we read these passages of Scripture as Christ followers, we need to remember and understand that God has a set will, a set desire for how He wants things to be. He doesn’t bend and adjust to us, we bow to Him. He is righteous, sovereign and just. His plan and His ways are perfect. And if His desire is that His people, the Bride of Christ, would go and make disciples that make disciples, then that should be our primary concern, because that is His will, His plan and His way. We don’t want to stand with those who oppose Him, but rather rejoice with those who live, act and move according to His good purposes.

James 2 // God does things differently

“1 My brothers, do not show favoritism as you hold on to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. 2 For example, a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and a poor man dressed in dirty clothes also comes in. 3 If you look with favor on the man wearing the fine clothes and say, ‘Sit here in a good place,’ and yet you say to the poor man, ‘Stand over there,’ or, ‘Sit here on the floor by my footstool,’ 4 haven’t you discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
5 Listen, my dear brothers: Didn’t God choose the poor in this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that He has promised to those who love Him? 6 Yet you dishonored that poor man. Don’t the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? 7 Don’t they blaspheme the noble name that was pronounced over you at your baptism?
8 Indeed, if you keep the royal law prescribed in the Scripture, Love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well.”
James 2:1-8

I don’t know how many times I need to be taught this lesson, but God tends to like doing things in a way that does not reflect my expectations. I have publicly confessed my own lack of faith and imagination before, and I have had to admit to myself that the plans I make are only good insomuch as they mesh up with the plans already made by God. Preference of persons is simply a marker of misunderstanding in our hearts. As Christians, we are to have no preferences, but we are all probably guilty of some, one way or the other.

Where my mind lingers in this passage this morning is that God so often does what I do not expect, or He works in a way that I am not prepared for or in timing that, yet again, blows my min, and it looks like he’s doing that again, right now. And so we are left looking at Him, and I want to say He smiles about this, when His children are surprised by His goodness and grace. When we discover things like James lays out in this passage, He smiles as we discover more and more of His heart. When we see Him working, not understanding, and finally have that moment where the puzzle pieces start falling together, and we have that ‘AHA!’ moment and our faith solidifies in front of us…I imagine He has to laugh and smile again as our simplicity is wowed yet again by His generosity, goodness and love. Like a parent watching their toddler open a gift, and seeing them discover that the box was just as fun as the thing inside, God must delight in His children when we glorify Him and are wowed by Him.

The heart of God is, on the whole, incomprehensible to us. But we do get glimpses, images, pictures of who He is and those moments of realization are moments to glory in Him. The rich and poor both have His attention, equally, because both have their struggles. And so God destroys a convention we hold naturally with an attitude of love and compassion. One group is not better than the other. While they may struggle with finances, the meek inherit the earth, the poor are ‘rich in faith’ and have greater opportunity to live a life of trust in Him. The rich struggle with their wealth, and it is harder to depend on God when you seem to have things together on your own (so you think.) And so God shows us over and over that the way we would be naturally inclined to think things work, is usually not the way they do. He surprises us. He wows us. And the continual revealing of His love His disciples were confounded when Jesus told them it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven. That still holds true today.

So, as we GoLove people for the sake of Christ today, and in the days to come, open your hearts and minds to the reality of how God usually works, and set your conventions aside. Remember that He does not work according to human standards or even according to our understanding. Period. He does things His way because His way is good. His way is righteous. His way leads our hearts and minds to holiness and it points toward Him that He would be glorified. So, show no preference in your evangelistic efforts. Expect great things from God, and yet do not expect them in the way your human nature tells you to expect them. Listen to the Spirit and the Word and the will of the Father becomes easier to discern. GoLove.

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