Ones Who Feel Worthless

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. Luke 15:3-5

Do I value the things Jesus values? Do I love those whom Jesus loves? I can answer too quickly and say, ‘But, of course!’   But, really?

In this parable, the one of great value is the one who has strayed the farthest from home, the odd one of the hundred, the one no one is looking for. Quickly forgotten, he is left to question his own value as, over time, he realizes that no one is pursuing him. What an awful discovery as he looks over his shoulder and dreams of unconditional love calling his name from behind. How devastating to realize that the ninety-nine are happy without him. When he has depleted all his resources and realizes he has lost his way, how will he find his way back?

Jesus’ heart is for the one so far from the fold. Our Savior goes to any length to look for him in order to pick him up, embrace him closely, and carry him home.

It is easy for us to value the Christian-looking people. They are respectable in appearance. The one farthest from Christ can be one who repels us. Tattoos, piercings, Goth style clothing, a past that makes us blush, and language that downright intimidates, can send us trying to evangelize anyone but them. But these are the ones for whom Jesus came looking.

The heart of God is one that seeks ~ not waits ~ for sinners to come home. God sent Jesus to ‘seek and to save’ those who are lost. Is this how I feel about those far away from Christ? They need arms to carry them home. They need to discover that they are being sought after. If I don’t go looking, they will assume that God is no more interested than I since I call myself a Christian. I teach others how to perceive God and that is a sobering reality.

Who has wandered from the fold that has all but been forgotten? Is anyone looking for them? Can it be you? Will it be me?

A compassionate search party. Make us one as Your church. In Jesus’ name, Amen

The Freedom Of Pouring Out One’s Soul

While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death.  Hebrews 5:7

How many people exist with whom you can speak freely – without a filter? With whom can you pour out your heart and know that divine wisdom is hearing it, filtering it, and responding to it? Precious few. To speak freely is a gift rarely experienced.

‘Pouring out’ in Hebrew means what it portrays. To empty oneself of something. I’ve been surprised just how often this phrase is used in scripture.

  • Consider the night Jesus was betrayed. He left three of His disciples to pray and watch as He poured out His heart before God.
  • A dependent prayer is described as the ‘pouring out of one’s soul’.
  • God also says that ‘He pours out His wrath’. That’s sobering.
  • And how about this? God says that He will ‘pour out His Spirit on the house of David’ and they will finally be able to see ‘whom they have pierced and weep bitterly.’ Zech 12:10

Do I feel free to pour out my heart freely to God.  Or do I feel I have to weigh my words with Him and phrase everything just right?  Do I sit on my anger and try to pretend I don’t have any? Is prayer a time when I can truly empty the contents of my soul and know I have placed my heart in safe hands? God extends this kind of freedom to me and I’m held safely in perfect Love.

I am riveted on the beauty of two things; 1.) Lifting my heart to God, tipping it, and pouring out the contents. And, 2) envisioning the effects of Him pouring out His Spirit upon me.  This is certainly where Jesus got His strength on the night of His arrest.  He poured out His anguish and God poured out His strength upon Him for His final hour.

Both are beautiful. While I would certainly feel better having poured out my soul, the benefits would be miniscule in comparison to what would happen if God poured out the power of His Spirit on me. Nothing in my world would stay the same.

Pour out Your Spirit upon me today. Let me see Your glory. Touch my lips so that I can pour out words that will transform something mundane into something divine. In Jesus’ name, Amen

Why Is It So Hard To Just Say It?

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets. “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16:13-16

Confession can easily get stuck in my throat. Jesus wanted a confession from Peter ~ especially after the erroneous confessions of other Jewish people. He knew Peter’s heart but perhaps Peter needed to draw a line in the sand of truth for his own sake.

I remember the scripture, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9  Without audible confession, there is serious doubt as to someone’s standing with God. My willingness to align puts my new-found faith in cement. Proclaiming my love and allegiance to Jesus when keeping company with Jesus-haters makes me an enemy.

This is the same tension the prophets felt when God told them to take His message to people who were usually stiff-necked and closeminded. Oh, what a job they had! Some of them questioned God out of their inadequacy and fear. Jonah ran away from his assignment until the chastening was worse than the calling. Jeremiah said, “If I say I’ll never mention the Lord or speak in his name, his word burns in my heart like a fire. It’s like a fire in my bones! I am worn out trying to hold it in! I can’t do it! Jeremiah 20:9 I’m chuckling as I read this, not because I think it’s funny but only because I’ve lived it. God gives the message and the mandate. I belong to Him and He is my King. Yet going where I’m called and opening my mouth to say what His servants down through the ages have proclaimed takes supernatural courage. Yes, the message shook up the world and brought revival but it also made the message bearers public enemies. What will be the result for me, for you? We don’t know. And so, my prayer is this ~

I’m yours. When I open my mouth, fill it and help me stand on my feet. Amen

Before It Happens, What Will You Say?

Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous. Psalm 118:14

Will you do what King David repeatedly practiced?  He lived in the future tense.  He said, “I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart; I will tell of all Thy wonders.  I will be glad and exult in Thee; I will sing praise to Thy name, O most High.”  Psalm 9

The life of faith is to confidently anticipate God’s grace for what you will need today.  Later, when the pressure of making tough choices overwhelms you, God’s Spirit will have gone ahead of you.  His voice will be heard in the stillness to help you stand and make solid decisions.  So declare Psalm 9 now.  Ahead of the battle.  Ahead of His provision.  He holds Himself responsible to meet your needs.

A older and wiser friend once told me, as I expressed a litany of fears about the future, that ‘faith’ can be defined as ‘joyful confidence.’  It is a confidence that God will be there and will do what I cannot anticipate.

For all my unfulfilled longings, I sing songs of anticipated victory, Lord.  Amen

Asking For a Sign

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” Jesus replied, “A wicked and adulterous generation demands a sign.  Matthew 12:38-39

Most anytime a believer talks about asking God for a sign, it is inferred that signs are unpleasing to God.  Yet, most every Biblical covenant has been confirmed by some visual symbol.  The Abrahamic covenant included circumcision, the Mosaic covenant had the Sabbath, and the new covenant had the Lord’s Supper.  God made a covenant with Noah by setting a rainbow in the clouds.

So what about Jesus words in Matthew where he says that only an evil and adulterous generations seeks for a sign?  Just after, He called them wicked and perverse.  But that whole account was characterized by rebellion and unbelief.  Jesus was the sign but they rejected Him.  In their denial of the truth, they asked for another sign.  This was an affront to God the Father.

If I love Christ and walk obediently in His ways, I will encounter times when I’ve prayed about a critical decision but am just unsure which way to go.  In that instance, I ask for a sign, or a series of signposts, where God shows me that I’m on the right, or wrong, path.  My experience is that He is very eager to give markers.  He wants me to get it right.  He applauds my obedience and celebrates that I care about making a righteous decision.

  You are a good Father and You constantly show me the way.  Thank you.  Amen

Eating and Drinking Spiritually

Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.  For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.  John 6:53,55

Jesus is not talking to the Pharisees about really eating His flesh and drinking His blood.  The sacrament of communion had not even been instituted yet.  Jesus was speaking about taking in His words in every way possible internally.  He told the people in another sermon that He ‘was the living bread that had come down out of heaven.’ And in yet another scene, ‘man doesn’t live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’

I am drawn toward the mystical.  If I can take communion, eat the bread and drink the wine, and really think that I am ingesting Christ somehow, I will choose to experience that rather than engage in the daily discipline and privilege of embracing His words, exploring what they mean, and and then applying them.  savorThis is the hard work of the Gospel.  Paul said, “We are in the process of being saved” (I Cor.1:18).   Though positionally secure as far as heaven is concerned, I must be about a daily salvation of my own flesh, submitting my thoughts and behaviors to the loving Spirit of God inside.  He is passionate about continual sanctification; a permanent spiritual makeover.

I can also believe that communion is just a time to remember, an isolated event where I eat the bread, remember His death and say, “Thank you!” If that is all it is to me, if my life isn’t engaged with Him when the communion service is long over, the ritual has been to little avail.  I am not more holy because I took it.  I am not saved by it nor in better standing with God because I took it.  The rite of communion is meant to be a part of my overall discipleship experience.

If Jesus were here in person this morning, if I were literally sitting at His feet like Mary and feasting on every Word He speaks to me, and if I then got up to live in the truth He  shared with me, I would be ‘eating the flesh of the Son of Man and drinking His blood’.  The Spirit would have been breathing over me as I took them in, savored them, and then infused me with the grace to apply them.  I am never more alive than when I stand in His promises.  I am never more in peril than when I hear, sift everything according to what I like and don’t like, and then cast the distasteful words aside because they threaten to cramp my lifestyle.

Next time I take communion, I will remember this.  I will say to You, “I eat of You now, Lord.  I remember Your death that brought me life.  I will eat of You tomorrow too,  for You are my daily bread.”  Amen

Breathe

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.  Matthew 10:34

All over the world, Christians are suffering for their faith.  I hear from some via email because they receive this daily devotional.  I often sit at my desk, read their stories, and tearfully ask God to give them strength in the fire.

Oppressors don’t have to be soldiers beating down their door in order to take them away to be killed or tortured. The ones who persecute can be family members, fellow employees, and even children who strain against a parent’s obedience to Jesus.

Jesus said that He came not to bring peace but a sword.  Devotion to Him will create chasms in some relationships.  These words from Jesus can feel shocking if I cling exclusively to other verses about Jesus being the Prince of Peace.  Are these principles contradictory?  Not at all.  Jesus is Peace and He will bring peace to those in disharmony when they seek His face and embrace His truth in unity.  But there are just as many times when following Christ offends those closest to me.  When that happens, I suffer for righteousness sake and Jesus’ words are an clarifying for me.

This devotional reaches out to you today if you are one who suffers in any way because you love Jesus and are unapologetic when you declare that you are His disciple.  When the fire of love and devotion cause you to walk upstream against those around you, know that Jesus sees you and will reward you.  As a wife, you may suffer the scorn and ridicule of an unbelieving husband.  As a husband, you may experience the cold shoulder of a wife who wishes your values were more temporal.  As a child, you may feel disowned because your passion for Jesus alters the future your parents desire for you.  As an employee, you feel excluded by everyone around you who are all too willing to play corporate politics.  As a pastor, you feel that your job is in jeopardy because the majority of your congregation wants feel-good-messages rather than solid Bible teaching.  If you live wearing your power lightly, dispense with the guilt.  Even Jesus’ love just repels those who are spiritually blind.

Breathe deeply as the Spirit breathes over you today.  Do it, not once, but as a way of life.  Make your momentary prayer, “Have mercy on me.  Give me Your grace.”

I can so often look to those who suffer more than me and minimize my own needs.  Jesus, I come to you today; aching, needing Your touch.  Amen