Sunday, March 30, 2014

An Invitation to Join Him

The account of Jesus' disciples returning to fishing and then Jesus appearing to them is one I've read often. But, as God does so often, when I read John's account of it recently, God had something to say through the familiar words.

I've summarized the account here, but you can also read it for yourself by clicking here: John 21:1-25.

The scene is familiar. The disciples know Jesus has risen. They've seen Him already. But, they still seem a bit unsure about what they're supposed to do next.

Peter decides to go fishing. Thomas, Nathanael, James, John, and two other disciples decide to join him. They spend the whole night fishing and catch nothing.

In the morning, Jesus is on the shore. He tells them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat and when they do, they catch an abundance of fish. The disciples return to shore and have breakfast on the beach with Jesus.

I've always been struck by how the disciples returned to what they know when they are unsure of what else to do. They returned to their old ways and to what was comfortable and familiar to them.

Learning from the Disciples' Encounter with Jesus

At first glance, it would be easy to get down on the disciples for doing this, and I have in the past. But then I realize just how often I have done the same thing - how often we all have.

Very often after a significant time in our lives of being with Jesus, we simply go back to doing what we have always done. It feels familiar, comfortable, and safe, so we go back to it, because we don't know what else to do.

It's in those moments when Jesus shows up again to remind us that he had something different in mind for us, just like He did for His disciples.

The disciples had spent a night doing what was familiar and safe - but doing in unsuccessfully. After a life-changing encounter with Jesus, it's often unsuccessful for us if we try to go back to what we used to do. Because it's not what we're supposed to be doing anymore.

A Reminder of What we Should be Doing Now

When the disciples are still out unsuccessfully trying to fish, they are met by Jesus. Jesus will meet us in the middle of our unsuccessful attempts to do what we used to do as well.

It's something truly simple. Jesus meets them for breakfast. But I think in that simple act, Jesus reminded them that He had something more for them now.

It's a reminder we often need too, because after the excitement of our life-changing encounter with Jesus wears off, we're tempted to forget about what we're supposed to do and go back to what we used to do.

An Invitation of Significance

When I read of this encounter of Jesus and His disciples, I'm reminded of the significance of what Jesus has invited us into. Jesus' invitation in our lives to join Him means we don't get to go back to what was comfortable and safe. He's invited us into something new and it won't be possible for us to go back and have it be what it once was. And Jesus will show up to remind us of that when we need it - our eyes have to be open to see Him and our ears to hear Him.

In His conversation with Peter during this time, Jesus reminds Peter of what he was called to and reminds him that following his call won't be easy. Jesus indicates what Peter's life would be like and how it will end.

Our Calling

Just because something you fee you've been called to is hard doesn't mean it wasn't from God and we should go back to what is safe, familiar, and comfortable. Jesus' life is an example of a calling that was hard. Here, Jesus tells Peter that his calling will also be hard.

That means our callings may be hard sometimes too, but that doesn't mean we got it wrong and we should go back to what feels familiar, safe, and comfortable.

In those times when what we are called to do after our life-changing encounter with Jesus gets hard, we might be tempted to do back to the familiar place, the safe place, the comfortable place we were in before Jesus called us.

But, we can't go back - it won't be the same. The call we each have will be different. But when it's from God, He will give us what we need to persevere even when it gets difficult. He will show up to remind us of the call on our lives when we need it.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Mighty

Five Minute FridayIt's a few hours early where I am, but it's Friday in other places. Joining in at Lisa-Jo Baker's blog with Five Minute Friday again this week. This week's word is "mighty."

We don't often use the word mighty to describe many things.

Sometimes we sue the word to describe superheroes. We use it to describe trees.

But, we do often use the word mighty to describe God. We serve a mighty God.

I've often wondered what exactly this word means. I had to take a moment and look up what the definition actually is. Mighty means "having, characterized by, or showing superior power or strength; of great size."

That makes sense with what we use it for in general. And it definitely makes sense when we use it as a word to describe God.

God has superior power and strength. That's why we serve Him.

God is great than we could ever imagine. That's why we serve Him.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Life Changing Encounter

Another attempt at a bit of more of a story-type approach to writing here . . .


How am I going to see Him over these crowds? There's no way I can get to the front of the crowd in time to see Jesus before He's gone past. Maybe if I get ahead of Him, I'll be able to get to where I can se Him.

As I ran, I saw a tree that would give me a great view up ahead. It was perfect for climbing and then I could see Him for sure. I climbed the tree in time. I could see Jesus coming now.

Wait! Why is He stopping here? And now He noticed me and is looking up at me.

"Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today."

He said my name. Is He really talking to me? Does He know who I am? Why would He want to stay at my home?

But He is still standing there, waiting for my response. I climbed down from the tree and welcomed Him. This was so much more than I ever imagined. I had just wanted to see Him and now He was coming to stay at my house - He had noticed me.

Jesus doesn't seem to be concerned about the whispers of the others around us either. He's focussed on me, as if I'm the only person there.

Something about Him is different than anyone else I've ever encountered. I can't stay the same after this. It's just not possible.

I have to make right all the wrong I've done. I'll give half my possessions to the poor. I'll pay back all those I have wronged - more than I took from them. That's the only response to His love for me and compassion on me.


The story of Zacchaeus the tax collector, found in Luke 19:1-10.

I heard this story often in Sunday school as a kid. We even had a song we sang about this story. And in the familiarity of, I've always missed the significance of it.

Zacchaeus was a tax collector. A Jew who worked for the Romans who were oppressing them. He was seen as a traitor to his people. He made his money by collecting more from his fellow Jews than he had to. Other Jews, especially religious leaders, wanted nothing to do with him.

But Jesus chose Zacchaeus out of the crowds of more socially and religiously acceptable people around him. Zacchaeus had just been looking for a way to see Jesus. He hadn't been expecting Jesus to single him out and ask to stay at his place.

But Jesus' ministry was all about breaking the religious and social walls down. Jesus saw beyond the outward appearance and actions, to the heart of Zacchaeus. And Jesus knew it was open to change.

That's what Jesus is all about . . . heart change. He's not after our actions and appearances looking right if our heart isn't also changed.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Gratitude for Healing

Luke 17:11-19 is another account of Jesus healing people in need.

This time, He heals ten men with leprosy. The difference this time is the recording that one of the ten returned to thank Jesus . . . and the one who returned was a Samaritan.

Jesus acknowledged the gratitude of the man He healed. He praised the man for coming back in gratitude.

When I read this account, I'm reminded of the importance of gratitude for what God has done in our lives. It should be a regular practice in life. For the little things and the big things.

Gratitude should become a regular part of our lives - an everyday part. It doesn't replace anything else in our walk with God, but it's an important part.

What has God done in your life recently? Have you thanked Him for it?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Time Away

"Very early in the morning while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed." (Mark 1:35)

This is just one example of many times in the Gospels we read of Jesus taking time to get away and spend time with His Father. It was a regular practice for Him. Jesus deemed it to be important to set aside time to talk to the Father.

It's a simple truth . . .

. . . If Jesus thought it was important to spend regular time with the Father when He walked on earth, then that's probably an indication that we should as well. If we're being transformed to be more and more in the image of God as we follow Him, then it makes sense that we make our priorities the same as the ones Jesus had when He was on earth.

I'll be the last one to tell you when you need to spend time with God. I'm also not one to tell you exactly what that time should look like. But, I will say that you need to have that time with God on a regular basis. The part about spending time with God isn't an option for those who claim to follow Him.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Pursuing Healing

Matthew 9:27-30 records Jesus healing people - something that was a regular part of His ministry when He was on earth.

As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed Him, calling out, "have mercy on us, Son of David!"
When He had gone indoors, the blind men came to Him, and He asked them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?"
"Yes, Lord," they replied.
Then He touched their eyes and said, "According to your faith, let it be done to you"; and their sight was restored.

There's a few things that jump out to me from this story. It's always been one of my favourites.

I've always been encouraged by the boldness of these un-named blind men. They followed Jesus crying out for mercy. They wanted to see and they knew Jesus could make that happen, so they pursued Him for that healing.

That's an example we can follow. Pursuing Jesus for healing - not giving up on seeking Him for it. These men followed Him until they had the chance to ask Him.

They cried out for Jesus to have mercy on them and heal them. They knew that the healing was all about Jesus choosing to take an interest in them.

These two blind men had faith that Jesus could heal them. When Jesus asked them if they believed He could heal them, they were sure. They wouldn't have so boldly pursued Jesus if they didn't believe He could heal them.

These blind men had faith that they were willing to act on it. It wasn't just something they knew in their heads. It was something they believed to the core of who they were.

Their belief that was deep enough for them to act on, is an example we should want to follow in our lives. That's the kind of belief we're called to have. A belief that goes to the core of who we are and influences how we act.

Do you have a belief in your life that Jesus can heal you that causes to boldly pursue Him for it?

The truth is that Jesus is always capable of healing, but we don't always see the results we expect. We don't always get our sight restored, like the blind men did here. But, even then, we still need to choose to boldly pursue Jesus for healing. It might be difficult to keep seeking in those times, but that is what we called to do to exercise faith like the blind men in the story.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Desperate for Healing

A bit of a change from my usual writing style . . . an attempt at a bit of story writing . . .


"Who touched my clothes?"

The moment I touched just the corner of His cloak I knew I was healed. Somehow He knew it too. And now, He wanted to know who it was who had touched Him.

There's no way I could say it was me. Everyone know my issue. I shouldn't have even made my way into the crowd that day. I was unclean . . . isolated . . . alone.

Maybe if I just keep quiet and slip away, He'll forget about it and move on. Decide it was just the crowds of people pressing in around Him.

"Who touched Me?"

He asked again. He's not giving up on finding this out. His eyes are searching the crowd. I try to avoid making eye contact with Him.

It doesn't seem like He's going to give up on finding this person. I guess I have to admit it was me.

Terrified, I admit that it was me. I can feel the glares of those around me as I step forward. I shouldn't have been among them. I made them all unclean by daring to come to touch Him.

I expect judgement . . . condemnation. That's what I'm used to receiving. But not from Him. He looks at me with compassion.

I told Him everything. About what made me unclean - all the details - and how just touching the corner of His cloak had healed me.

"Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering."

No judgement. No scorn. No shame.

Just love. Compassion. Everything I hadn't felt in twelve years, He restored in moments.

I had become so desperate for healing that I didn't care about the cost anymore. I was going to pursue Him so I could be healed. There was nothing that could hold me back any longer. That's why I broke the rules. I didn't care anymore about the rules. I just wanted to be healed, and when I touched His cloak I was.


I've read the story of Jesus healing the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years many time. Three of the gospels record it - Matthew 9:20-22, Mark 5:24-34, and Luke 8:43-48. Until I realized how desperate the woman would  have been to do what she did, I didn't get the significance of Jesus calling her out.

This woman broke all of the cultural rules when she did this. She was the desperate to get to Jesus.

Jesus knew who she was. He was God. He didn't ask the question because He didn't know. He wanted the woman to speak up. In identifying her to the crowd around Him, Jesus was making it clear that no one is an outcast or has reason to live in shame in His kingdom. We can bring all our mess and pain to Him and He heals it and restores us to full life in His family.

The woman would never be the same again. And we won't be either if we bring our pain and our mess to Jesus for Him to heal.

But I don't think that anyone in that crowd would have been the same again if they had really been paying attention to what was going on. Jesus made it okay to admit our pain and mess so He can heal it. And He wants to restore the full life to us that He created us for.

And those stories of healing are then for us to share with others. To remind them of the hope that comes when we take our mess, our pain, our shame to Jesus and allow Him to heal it. Our desperation for healing, produces stories that show the truth of what God's kingdom is all about.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Two Simple Words that Changed Lives

"Follow me."

Two simple words are how Scripture tells us Jesus called those who would become Him disciples. And it seems as if those two simple words were enough.

In Matthew 4, we read where Jesus called Simon and Andrew, along with James and John. "At once they left their nets and followed Him." (Matthew 4:20) - that was the response of Simon and Andrew. James and John had the same response. Matthew 4:22 says, "immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Him." Later, in Matthew 9, we see Jesus calling Matthew to follow Him, and that he "got up and followed Him." (Matthew 9:9).

These men, who would become Jesus' disciples, didn't finish what they were doing first or wait for a more convenient time. When Jesus called them to follow Him, they for up right away and followed Him. They left behind what they had been doing to follow Him. And they continued to follow Him, even when the teaching was hard and the lifestyle took its toll.

As I reflected on the immediacy of the obedience of these men, I'm challenged in my own life. What is my usual response when Jesus calls me to follow Him somewhere? Do I get up and follow right away? Or do I look for excuses to put it off or not do it at all?

I want to be someone who follows Jesus right away when He wants me to go somewhere, but the truth is often I hesitate - especially if it doesn't look like the easy way. But, I've also discovered that the more I get up and follow in obedience right away, the easier it becomes next time.

How do you usually respond when Jesus calls you to follow Him somewhere?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Shoulder to Shoulder

". . . serve Him shoulder to shoulder." -Zephaniah 3:9

I was looking for another verse when those words jumped off the page at me. I continued what I was doing, but these words wouldn't leave my mind. I had to come back to them and take a closer look.

Restoration to What it Should Have Been

Those are just the last handful of words in Zephaniah 3:9. The title in my Bible right above the verse is "Restoration of Israel's Remnant." Zephaniah was a prophet to the nation of Judah during the reign of King Josiah. In 2 Kings 22-23, we can see that Josiah was a king who followed God.

Zephaniah was prophesying under the reign of a king who bringing the people back in line with God's commands. He spoke about God restoring His people and what that would look like.

In Zephaniah's prophecy about the remnant being restored, he speaks of the people serving God shoulder to shoulder. All ages, all walks of life serving God together. The life of God's people was a communal life. They all lived together and did life together.

It's For Us Too

Serving God shoulder to shoulder . . . What a beautiful picture! A picture of how it should have always been. And a declaration of what God had in store.

That picture isn't just one for the remnant of Israel that would be restored, it's a picture that should be reality for those of us who serve Christ today. We should be serving Christ shoulder to shoulder. Working together.

We weren't called to do anything in the life of serving Christ by ourselves. We were called to do it in community. Standing shoulder to shoulder.

Jesus did His earthly ministry in community. He travelled and taught and did His miracles with His disciples. When He sent His followers out to minister, He sent them in pairs. When we read of the early church, we read of people travelling together as they shared the message. And when they arrived somewhere they sought out the local believers to work alongside them.

The Old Testament is also filled with examples of people who served God shoulder to shoulder, rather than going it alone. Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon, and others . . . they all had people who they served with, who they turned to for advice.

It doesn't mean any of these examples (except for Christ) did it perfectly or that there weren't problems that arose from this way of serving Christ. But, it was seen as so important, they would work through any problems that came up.

That means we need to do the same today. We need to be serving Christ shoulder to shoulder with others who are serving Christ. Serving Christ in our lives could be in some sort of ministry role or in our everyday lives as we work and interact with people around us.

Part of a Church

If we're going to serve Christ shoulder to shoulder then we have to be a part of a body of believers. We have to have a church that we're a part of. I know some of you may not like that I said that, but I believe it's true.

I'm not going to tell you exactly what a church should look like, but it needs to be more than just your friends who talk like you, think like you, act like you. We need friends, but a church should be more than that. Without interacting with people who are different than us, we'll miss out on many opportunities to grow and change in the ways God wants us to.

The church - the local church you are a part of - should be a group of people who don't all look, talk, act, or think alike who are seeking to serve Christ with their whole lives shoulder to shoulder.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Rebuilding & Restoring

The last part of Isaiah 61:1-4 speaks of what we will be called and what our lives will be about if we allow Jesus to do the work of bringing freedom and healing in our lives.

          They will be called oaks of righteousness,
                    a planting of the Lord
                    for the display of His splendor.
          They will rebuild ancient ruins
                    and restore the places long devastated;
          they will renew ruined cities
                     that have been devastated for generations. (vs. 3-4)

When we allow God to do what the whole passage we've been looking at for these posts, we become people who are pointing out how great God is in our lives. We show off God's greatness and power by the lives we live of walking out the freedom and healing He brings us.

God came to do this work in our lives so that He can do the restoring and rebuilding He wants to. God's desire is that every area our enemy has damaged and destroyed would be restored and rebuilt to the glory of God.

Are there areas of your life where you need to allow God to begin to restore what has been stolen by our enemy?

Are there areas of your life where you need to allow God to begin to rebuild what has been damaged and left in ruins by the lies of our enemy?

Will you allow God into those areas, and listen to His truth, so He can begin to do that work in your life?

You can find the previous posts in this series here:
Message of Freedom
Broken-hearted Captives Freed
The Year of the Lord's Favour
The Better Way

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Better Way

I love that God's Word contains so much stuff that is applicable to our lives today. Wherever we turn in it, there is something for us to learn from it. Isaiah 61:1-4 is a passage full of amazing truths about Jesus's ministry in our lives.

"to comfort all who mourn and to provide for those who grieve in Zion" (vs. 2-3)

God is the greatest Comforter. He can ultimately provide the greatest comfort in the midst of anything that happens in our lives. Paul tells us this in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. God is the God of comfort in the midst of trials. God will provide what we need to get through when we are in the midst of hard times.

"to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes" (vs. 3)

God takes what is a mess and destroyed in our lives and makes it into something beautiful. It's God's specialty.

When God does this in our lives, it is an incredible gift from Him. A gift that He bestows on us when we are least deserving of it.

"the oil of joy instead of mourning" (vs. 3)

God wants us to have true joy in our lives. He wants to replace our mourning with His joy. His joy isn't dependent on circumstances, but is in the midst of whatever is happening.

It's not about being happy. It's about a joy that goes beyond what is happening. It's a joy that comes from knowing God and the freedom that He brings, not what life is like in the moment.

"a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair" (vs. 3)

Praising God is the ultimate antidote to despair in our lives. God wants to give us the ability to choose to praise Him in the midst of everything in life. When we choose to praise Him, that is when we discover the joy that is not dependent on circumstances, but that comes from our relationship with Him.

This part of Isaiah 61:1-4 paints a beautiful picture of what it looks like to have allowed Jesus to bind up broken hearts and bring us freedom from our captivity.

Previous posts in this series:
Message of Freedom
Broken-hearted Captives Freed
The Year of the Lord's Favour

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Year of the Lord's Favour

The next part of Isaiah 61:1-4 is half what sounds like good news and half what doesn't. The first part is great, but the second part sounds potentially scary.

"to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour" (vs. 2)

I like this. I can live life in this.

God has won! We can declare Jesus' victory over sin and death on the cross! This victory means that God's blessings are poured out into the lives of those who choose to follow Him - although those blessing may not always look the way we think they should.

In the Old Testament, the year of the Lord's favour was also known as the Year of Jubilee. A time every 50 years when all Israelites who had become slaves would be set free and all land that had been sold to pay a debt would be returned to its original owners. Debts were completely forgiven.

This is exactly what Jesus did for us on the cross. He forgave all our debts and restored to us what was ours in the beginning.

"and the day of vengeance for our God" (vs. 2)

It's tempting to skip this point. We don't like to talk about this aspect of God's character. But it goes hand-in-hand with Jesus' victory over sin and death on the cross.

In that moment, Satan's power was destroyed. And he will be ultimately defeated when Jesus comes again. Jesus' entire life and ministry pointed to God's ultimate win.

This really is the hope of what Jesus came to earth for. Jesus came to bring God's ultimate victory - to reconcile us to God and restore our relationship with Him.

The first two posts in this series can be found here:
Message of Freedom
Broken-hearted Captives Freed

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Broken-hearted Captives Freed

This post is a continuation of a previous one on Isaiah 61:1-4. There is just so much in these verses, that it takes time to dig into them.

"to bind up the broken-hearted" (vs. 1)

It seems like the pain from having our hearts broken is a given in life. Not just the pain of a romantic relationship breaking up.
  • The pain of any relationship ending.
  • The pain of life not working out how we wanted.
  • The pain of disappointment.
  • The pain of life throwing some sort of challenge at you that isn't pleasant.
  • The pain of someone doing or saying something to hurt you.
Life on earth breaks our hearts . . . often. We all get that.

When our hearts are broken, we have two choices about what we can do. The first choice we can make is to build a wall of protection around our broken hearts. We keep people out so they can't hurt us. We work hard at not getting emotionally involved with people or events to protect our hearts . . . or, at least, we think we're protecting ourselves. That becomes a lonely and isolated way to live.

Or, we can choose to allow Jesus to do exactly what this verse says He came to do . . . bind up our broken-hearts. We can take the pieces of our hearts to Jesus and allow Him to put the broken pieces back together. It is what He came to do and He will, if we let Him.

Have you taken Jesus the pieces of your broken heart so He can bind it back together?

What is keeping you from allowing Jesus to bind up your broken heart?

Will you let Him today?

"to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners" (vs. 1)

God wants His people to live in freedom and in the light. However, we have an enemy who desires to keep us in captivity and in the dark. Jesus came to bring us freedom and the light of the truth in our lives.

This is where we have to do something. Jesus declares it and He removes that which was holding us captives. But then we have to get up and walk. Jesus opens the prison doors that have kept us in captivity and breaks the chains, but we have to get up and walk out of the prison cell into the light.

Are there areas of your life where you need to allow Jesus to bring the freedom that comes from the light of the truth?

Will you let Him today?

Are there areas of your life where Jesus has freed you and not you need to get up and walk out of that prison cell?

Will you do that today?

To read the first post on this passage, click here.