Oh for the Love {Easter Week - Day 5}

Please Read: John 21:25

Twenty-One chapters culminate in the gospel of John to tell us that all the amazing things we know about Jesus isn’t even the half of it! 

And John would know.  In the span of 3 years, from his first sighting of Christ, he went from being known as the son of thunder {Mark 3:17} to being known as the disciple whom Jesus loved {John 21:20}. John was at the wedding {John 2:1-11} when Jesus performed His first miracle & John was there until the very end of the cross, when Jesus gave His own mother into John’s care {John 19:25-27}.  John saw people baptized, demons cast out & the feeding thousands out of only enough for a few.  And if seeing were not enough, John was filled with the power of Jesus to be a part of it.  The things he saw Jesus do, not only in the lives of others, but also in his own life, changed his path forever.

John’s inclusion of John 3:16 shows us how much he values this dissertation by Jesus to tell the world that believing the Son of God, the Savior of the world, is the only way to eternal life. 

I love to read the gospels & the book of John is no different.  The miracles, the kindness, the grace, they all stir up the fire in my soul {Hebrews 10:24} that loves everything about this man, Jesus.  But one of my favorite verses comes at the very end of the book that bears John’s name:

And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. {John 21:25}

Oh my goodness, I want to scream & shout hallelujah!

Why does this one little verse excite me so? Because it reaches down deep into my heart, to the places no one can see, where Jesus has done things that no one knows.  How He turned my uncompassionate heart to one of caring, how He took my selfishness & molded it into a place where I try to selflessly imitate Him.  How he pulled me out of darkness.  How He taught me to be a wife & a mother.  How He taught me to look at others through a lens of love. 

Oh I am so far from perfected in these areas, but I see Jesus changing me.  I have gone from being an orphan to calling myself the “daughter whom Jesus loves”. 

Think about it today…. Where has Jesus worked in your life that could never have been changed if it weren’t for the cross?  Ask Him to help you see yourself as the “child that He loves”.

Open Your Eyes {Easter Week - Day 4}

Please Read: Luke 24:13-35

“Mom where is my _________”? You can fill in the blank.  Shoes, keys, uniform, etc. This is a question that arises often in our house.  I yell back the answer of exactly where the missing item is at & then in a few minutes I hear, “it’s not there, I looked”.  Does this scene sound familiar to anyone else?  As soon as I go to the exact place where I said the item would be found, there it is, as plain as day & I say once again to the perplexed child, “you just have to open your eyes”.

Just days after the resurrection there were 2 disciples were walking along the road & Jesus met them & walked with them.  But they didn’t realize it was Jesus! They were discussing all the events of His crucifixion, His seeming resurrection & how they had hoped He would’ve truly been the Savior they were waiting for. 

As Jesus talked to them He recalled for them all of the scriptures regarding the Savior of the world.  These men were intrigued by the knowledge of this stranger.  As they got close to their home, they invited the traveler {Jesus} to come with them for dinner & a place to rest for the night.  When dinner was served Jesus blessed the food & then their eyes were opened.  They realized Jesus had been with them all day. 

They had no idea it was Jesus all along

When we are walking on a road of life, downcast or perplexed, Jesus comes.  He wants to be involved in each moment of our lives.  He has carefully mapped every part of our journey & though things in our lives may seem to be unraveling, He is in the middle of our warped & blinded view. 

If we can just be aware of Him walking beside us & let our hearts be open enough to let Him work, He will reveal Himself to us & our eyes will be opened.  We will see that He is guiding us step-by-step, protecting & equipping.  

Though the eyes of these men were opened by the event of the breaking of bread, the things leading up to their dinner played a part.  Walking with Jesus even in the midst of what was hard & the reciting of all scriptures had to say about Him, had taken root in their hearts before He revealed Himself to them.

In life when we are walking through situations, seemingly without being able to see how it will all work out, we too need to be faithful to walk with Jesus, trusting & letting the word of God take root.  In this we are preparing our hearts for the revealing of Jesus in our situation. 

Think about it today…. Is there a place in your life where you just can’t see how Jesus will show up?  Walk faithfully.  Preparing the soil of your heart with the fullness of scriptures.  Jesus will reveal Himself to you & open your eyes to see Him.

Fear & Great Joy {Easter Week - Day 3}

Please Read: Matthew 28:1-10

Have you ever heard a rumor that you thought sounded way too outlandish to be anywhere close to true?  And think of your reaction when you found out the very story you thought could never be plausible was actually concrete truth.  Maybe you felt disbelief, or fear, or excitement or all of those emotions wrapped into one. 

Now just imagine for a minute the reaction the women had the day they went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body.  They had witnessed a heinous killing of one of their very best friends.  They had witnessed the depth of pain He had suffered at the hands of heartless killers.  They knew He was dead & had been placed in a grave.  The people responsible for His death had placed guards at His grave just to terrify his friends even more.  But these women gathered all the courage they could & went to where He was buried just to be able to have a proper funeral for Him. 

Then, they heard the news.  Jesus was not there.  He had risen! The angel told them to go tell the news to the rest of their group.  

So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word.” {Matthew 28:8} 

Has the Lord ever asked you to do something that left you feeling full of fear & great joy? 

Two emotions, so completely opposite, yet residing in the same space at one time. 

But what happens next is awesome.  The women did it…they left to tell the others.  Basically they got their “big girl pants” on & went even though they were afraid, but as they went Jesus showed up in their path.  That’s what happens when we obey & trust Him even when we are unsure of exactly how events will unfold.  Jesus shows up & He tells us exactly what He told those women that day. “Jesus met them saying ‘rejoice’ then He said to them ‘do not be afraid’”!

Jesus is so kind to come to them.  He knew they would be extremely fearful for many reasons but because they trusted Him for the unfailing, unfaltering love they had witnessed, Love came to them to calm their fears, so they could move forward in their assignment with great joy.   

The most precious message ever to be delivered was entrusted to humans.  The reason for this is because God wants us to allow Him to work His incomparable power in us.  Often we do not really know how to move forward, but God always knows & if we will trust Him, He will come to us to calm our fears & give us great joy. {2 Corinthians 4:7-15}

Think about it today…. Is there an area of your life where you need Jesus’ power to replace your fear with great joy?  Fall at His feet today & submit your weakness to Him & watch Him give you His resurrection power in its place.

Love's Redemption {Easter Week - Day 2}

Please read: John 21:15-19

One morning my boys were going hunting.  Since they were getting up extremely early to leave in time to be out before sunrise, I decided to get up before they did & make them breakfast.  Since it would be hours before they would have the chance to eat, I knew a nice breakfast would serve them well. 

As I was trying to be ever so quiet in the kitchen, the glass bowl I was going to use to mix the eggs hit the side of the cabinet & shattered.  I tried to quickly & carefully get up all the fragmented glass pieces & finish breakfast.  Days later, my son walked into the kitchen barefooted & stepped on a piece of glass that I had missed.  I had done unintentional harm out of trying to do good. 

Peter had declared his love for Jesus {John 13:37-38} & had clearly stated that he would never deny Christ.  But when tested, he did what he said he would never do.  I feel confident that Peter never meant to cause harm to Jesus but it happened.  Quickly without any time for thought of consequence, Peter denied Christ 3 times. 

From the very moment the last words of denial left his mouth, Peter must’ve been plagued by guilt & surely the enemy came & tormented him to believe that he was no better than the traitor, Judas, who had sold Jesus for just 30 pieces of silver.  Peter had to find some way to comfort himself, so he went back to his old life. 

What was he doing before he met Jesus? 

Fishing.  {Matthew 4:18-19}  Peter knew fully how to fish & he knew fully how to comfort himself with what he knew.  It’s just like an alcoholic going back to drink.  It’s about escaping & hiding from God in the face of our sin.

But in typical fashion of restoring broken hearts, Jesus does not let Peter hide.  Instead He finds Peter & calls forth his destiny to be the rock that the church will be built upon.  Before Peter even re-declares his love & commitment for Jesus, His love is bringing redemption to a deep, self-inflicted wound.  The fact that Jesus asked Peter 3 times to declare his love for Him, isn’t condemnation, but instead redeeming love.  Each denial, restored in the goodness of Christ. 

In those moments, the promise of God to Peter was to be the strength that would carry him, to be his sight & his satisfying sustanence.   Jesus repaired what was broken.

Think about it today….Can you give God every place in your heart that needs to be redeemed?  Give Him your broken.  Let the power of Jesus’ loving redemption sink deep & let Him be your sustaining power.

It is Finished {Easter Week - Day 1}

Please read: John 19:28-37

When my son was 2 years old, we were at a rehearsal dinner for a wedding in which my little man was to be the ring bearer.  Of course he was the cutest thing in the room.  He had been doted upon & treated as royalty by all the friends & family gathered there.  The night was almost over when my little man was standing at the edge of the carpeted doorway, which led to a long marble hallway.  He looked at me with a very mischievous 2-year-old look.  I said, "don’t go down that hallway, stay on this carpet".  He gave that beautiful, glistening hallway one more glance & then he stepped one foot onto the marble while keeping one foot on the carpet & just stood & smiled at me with a sweet little grin. He obeyed his own way, not breaking the rules but not abiding by them either.

My son is a rule bender by nature {I have no idea where he gets this}.  My son & myself are not the only ones who do this.  We are naturally a people who try to look good even in the face of sin.  We think that if we only slightly bend the rules while pointing out how the faults of others are worse than ours, we will still look righteous.

The people of Jesus’ day were no different.  They had become so legalistic about their religion that they could commit sin & condemn others in the very same breath.  The religious rules of the leaders were burdensome.  We can’t even begin to imagine how very deep the liturgical roots ran into their souls, though even today man-made rules about salvation enslave many to believe it is based on performance rather than grace.

When Jesus died on the cross, the leaders of the time were adamant that His body be taken down before sunset.   The leaders needed Jesus down off of the cross before the upcoming Passover so they could keep the law that criminals were not allowed to hang on a cross overnight.  {Deuteronomy 21:22-23}  It is ironic that the same people who deliberately sent Him to the cross, would want to abide by such strict rules all in the same day.

The problem with them keeping this law in order to be able to perform Passover rituals is that Jesus had already died & before He died, He declared, “It is finished”. 

Jesus did what the law never could

Jesus’ death on the cross-unraveled the binding laws.  His deliverance liberated our bondage.  Though the resurrection is where our power resides, Jesus’ dying on the cross finished the work God had sent Him to do ~ which in turn means our working for God’s acceptance ended that day.  Because of His resurrection we stand fully right with God.  Jesus took our wrongs upon Himself so that we could be fully transformed with Him & take on His righteousness. 

The world tries to make us believe the crucifixion is about rules we must obey to be accepted when in reality the crucifixion & the resurrection are about love & grace.

Think about it today….God looks upon you as a sweet child who He loves with all the fullness of His love for Christ, let that sink in today.  As you walk & live through whatever your realities are, know that the reality of the cross means that you are fully free & forgiven.  It means that God loves & accepts you.  You do not have to strive for His love.

He loves me, He loves me not...

God’s love never fails ~ Psalm 136 {CEV}

I remember as a little girl how I loved to pick flowers & play the game “he loves me, he loves me not”.  You know the one where you pick a petal & say “he loves me”, then on the next petal you say “he loves me not”, and so it goes until all the petals are gone.  The problem happened when I seemed to always get to the last petal with the words “he loves me not”.  Though it was just a silly game, it always ended with a small sadness in the depth of my soul & the feeling that I was unloved. 

When I grew up, I realized I was carrying this game in my heart and I was playing it with God.   As a child I was taught that grace, not works, keeps us in relationship with God but somehow through all the religious rhetoric I had come to believe that being a “good girl” meant if I did something that frustrated or angered God, then I fell out the reach of His love for a time until I could do something good again.   This way of thinking places the responsibility on me to make sure our relationship {mine & God’s} is in right standing by my behavior, when the fact is, it is His behavior, His character that keeps our relationship in tact. {Colossians 1:17}

God’s love for me depends on His perfection, not mine. 

His love never fails.  Even when I fail, God in His character cannot.  He can’t stop loving me because He is love.  He can’t be mad at me because I am His own.  He can’t leave me because He promised not to & He never breaks His promises.

Of course, because we love Him we want to do right but too often we let our hearts be tied to our performance instead of to His.  Jesus came & died & rose again so that we could forever be in uninhibited relationship with God.  Nothing we do can change that.  But we are taught all our lives that if we “do good” or “behave” we will earn the love of others. 

Then one day I read this verse:

Absolutely nothing can get between us & God’s love because of the way that Jesus has embraced us {Romans 8:39 MSG}

Nothing.  Not my bad choices, not my failures, not even those sins that keep creeping up even when I determine to “get it right next time”.   

These are some things I remind myself of as I walk freely in God’s love:

God loves me because Christ was condemned for my sin ~ None of us are immune to sin.  At some point in life we all mess up.  We are in fact weak humans, however God never fails & turning to Him for strength will eventually lead to successes in His power.  We need to ask Him to show us how to grow & live a life free of condemnation.  Condemnation never comes from God.  He does not condemn the one He has already set free.  Satan is the accuser & he schemes against the children of God.  {Romans 8:1, 2 Corinthians 2:11}

God’s grace is big enough for my sin ~  Believing that I somehow have to earn back God’s favor after a failure is really just pride welling up in my heart.  Sometimes the thought that I still have to be a “good girl” in order for my daddy to forget what I did creeps into my head.  However, He “remembers our sins no more”.  It’s that simple.  Ask & forgiveness is granted.  Just like an earthly parent is moved to compassion for their children, our heavenly Father can’t help but be tender when He looks at His children.  His grace covers a multitude of sins & there is nothing we can do, or not do, to change that.  {John 1:16, Hebrews 8:12}

God’s love for me is positional not conditional ~  Because I am a child of God, I am in a position to be loved.  Because Jesus Christ resides in me, God views me as His own just as He views Jesus.  There is nothing that can change that; I cannot take off the blood of Christ that has washed me clean.  When we look in a mirror we should not see our own reflection but that of Christ.  {Romans 5:8-9, Galatians 2:20}

Do you embrace God’s unconditional love for you?  Is there an area where you need to accept God’s unconditional love & stop trying to earn it?  His love for you isn’t based on your performance; it is based on Christ’s.