JUMP IN!

Part 2

John 21:15-19

‘After they had eaten breakfast, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than the other disciples do?”

Peter answered Him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus told him, “Feed my lambs.”

Jesus asked him again, a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”

Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus told him,  “Take care of my sheep.”

Jesus asked him a third time,  “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

Peter felt sad because Jesus had asked him a third time, “Do you love me?”   So Peter said to him, “Lord, you know everything.  You know that I love you.”

Jesus told him, “Feed my sheep.

Was Peter remembering (was it only a week ago?), sitting at that warming fire outside the place where Jesus was being questioned…beaten…tortured… and his three denials of even knowing Him?  Three questions.  Three lies.  And now, three questions.  And three heartfelt true responses.  A second chance. . .

Then Jesus described some of Peter’s future, including Peter’s death.

(:19) “ After saying this, Jesus told Peter, ‘Follow me!’”

There was no condemnation of Peter’s  failures toward Jesus.  Forgiveness was extended, and another chance was being offered.  Jesus gave Peter an honest glimpse into the future as a true follower of His.  Peter had seen the reality of what it cost Jesus to be fully surrendered to God, and what it would cost him.

The fisherman was going to become a shepherd.  A fisherman does not have to give up his life for the fish.  He just focuses on catching them.  And eating them.  And counting them.  But a shepherd . . . that’s 24/7 and requires  tremendous, thankless dedication, watchfulness, and care.   Within that care comes laying down one’s own life.

Jesus had told Peter, “Don’t be afraid.  From now on you will catch people instead of fish.”

The fisherman did become a shepherd.  His powerful message carried throughout nations then, and continues now.  It did cost Peter everything…even death on a cross.

And this “Ewe” is so very grateful.

 

 JUMP IN!

Note:  The following event took place soon after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, with flashbacks of three years earlier.

 PART 1

“Later, by the Sea of Tiberias, Jesus showed himself again to the disciples. 

This is what happened: 

Simon Peter, Thomas and Nathanael, Zebedee’s sons,

and two other disciples of Jesus were together.

Simon Peter said to the others,

‘I’m going fishing.’”

John 21:1-3

Like any good fisherman, when life gets tough, ya’ jump in the old fishing boat.   It had been an extraordinary, emotional week for Peter and his buddies.   Betrayal, crucifixion, fear, hiding, burial, earthquake, resurrection, forgiveness, . . . Peter had even lopped the ear off of a Roman Guard, which Jesus immediately re-attached.

He just needed to go fishing.

The Sea of Galilee borders many regions.  The shoreline that bordered the big, non-Jewish (Roman/Gentile side) city of Tiberias was called “Sea of Tiberias”, but is still the same body of water known as the Sea of Galilee.  Did Peter head to that Gentile shoreline because it was less associated with the region where he had spent so much time with Jesus?  Too many memories?  Was the Jewish side too likely to pose a run-in with people who would recognize him as being one of Jesus’ inner circle?  Jesus’ crucifixion was still fresh in people’s minds.

We can only imagine the emotional and mental trauma that Jesus’ closest circle of friends had just lived through.  Peter, especially.  He was a “feel-er”….many times letting his heart overrule his head.  Turning to what was most comfortable for him…where he felt most competent – fishing on his lake – made total sense.

So, Jesus met him there.

  • He was waiting with a campfire and cooking a fresh fish breakfast including bread on the side;
  • He had given Peter a great tip of where the fish were biting (netted 153!);
  • He invited the group of guys to share some of their fresh catch with His breakfast spread.

True to form, as soon as Peter realized Who was talking to them from the shoreline, he threw on his coat and jumped into the water, leaving the details of the overflowing boat and fresh fish to his friends.  His priority was getting to Jesus.

Was Peter remembering His first meeting with Jesus…was it only three years ago?! It had been a similar long night of fishing with not one fish to show for it.  There had been a huge crowd of people on the shoreline following this Man…a Teacher…and since Peter’s boat was empty, the Teacher got in, without even asking!  He just shlepped right in and told Peter to back the boat up a bit.  Then He started talking.  And the whole crowd was listening!   Peter had no choice but to listen…he was caught in his own boat.  And besides, everyone was looking at them.  Peter had ended up walking away from it all…the fishing, his boat, life as he’d known it.  Jesus had drawn Peter in, even telling him that He would make him a “fisher of men.”  Peter was “hooked.”   For life.

When the rest of the guys had finished securing the boat and the 153 fish (only a true fisherman would count them out, and writeabout it),  they joined Jesus and Peter at the campfire.  Jesus took the bread . . . and gave it to them.  Then the fish.   Was Peter remembering the last meal they had shared…in that borrowed upper room?  Jesus had taken the Seder bread, broke it, and gave it to them to eat.  But that night He had added something strange:  “This is MY Body, broken for you.  Take.  Eat.  …Remember.”

Only a few hours later Jesus had been “tried”….tortured…. while Peter stayed in the shadows.  He had denied being “with” Jesus three times, saying “No”…. he didn’t know Him.  As the words of his third denial still hung in the night air, the sound of a rooster’s crow broke into the darkness, just as Jesus had said.  

In Jesus’ simple act of serving breakfast to His fishing friends, He was communicating directly to their hearts:

  • “Peace” was between His Heart and theirs;
  • “Forgiveness” for any of the hurtful failures weighing on them for all Jesus had gone through
  • Restored relationship between them.

As far as we know from the records of this story, they had not even verbalized their regrets.   But Jesus was looking at their hearts.

***********************************************

I remember the sick feeling in my stomach as a little girl, any time I had done something wrong.  I wanted to hide.  I wanted to fix it.  I let shame be a cloud hovering over me, not knowing how to get out from under it.   But through the years, I have come to experience the continued kindness of God’s forgiveness, as lived out in all the stories of Jesus.  I don’t head to a fishing boat….but it might be to my garden, or a drive, or shopping, art, or TV.   And though it should come as no surprise, Jesus shows up, acting as if nothing has happened. His undeserved kindness, His goodness, interrupts and draws me back into His Presence.  

May my heart “jump in” to Jesus’ Presence in my life, no matter why I have jumped into my “boat.”  

TO BE CONTINUED….

Gracious Uncertainty

“It does not yet appear what we shall be.”

1 John 3:2

As our whole world walks through an unprecedented experience . . . a global plague, we have been shaken.  It is as if God has pressed a “Pause Button” on life as it was.  Nations, cities, communities, and families have been forced to consider the present and the future, knowing that something has changed “life” as it has been.

We don’t know how the future will look.  We don’t know how life will look.  For people who have chosen to follow God, this is nothing new.  The Bible is filled with the stories of individuals, families, and nations who experienced Divine Disruptions to Life as they had known it.

John wrote out of his first-hand experiences as one of Jesus’ twelve closest followers.  He was an eye-witness to Jesus’ time on earth, and fully qualified to write of it.  He had seen it all, went through the extreme highs and lows of following Jesus on earth, and then carried his experiences through decades after Jesus returned to Heaven.

John’s life ended as a very old man on an island.  Not on a retirement vacation…but in forced exile.  He would have deeply understood “social distancing” and being in “quarantine,”  but not for his benefit nor the benefit of others, nor for a temporary period of time.  He would die there.

Yet, from that place of isolation, he wrote, “See how very much our heavenly Father loves us, for He allows us to be called His children, and we really are!”  and  “This is the message we have heard from the beginning:  We should love one another.”  I John 3:1, 11   And much, much more.

May we use this Time to let go of our “normal,” and let God draw us close.  May we listen to His Words of Love to us and through us…as did John.

***********

When my world “blew up” a few years ago, I experienced major losses… the man I dearly loved was gone, the home we had shared, as well as the work we had birthed and raised together for 35 years.  I  have tasted a bit of what John may have faced (no imprisonment nor forced exile here!).  But the dramatic sense of “being alone” has brought up thoughts and emotions I had never experienced before. 

My setting includes a shoreline of water, and an extremely quiet living quarters.  I think that I can relate much more personally to John now, as years worth of stories, memories, and lessons have the space and time to come to my mind.  I have the quietness to “listen” more, contemplate more, study and write more.  Life has become much more simple and basic. 

“Pause Button-pushing” is often not invited nor wanted in our world.  But when God allows it – especially on a global level, it is extremely likely that His has “pushed it” out of Love, and out of His desire to have our full attention.   

May the people of His Heart, especially, not waste the opportunity He has given us to look into His Face,  His Eyes, and draw closer to His Heart.

 

Friend of the Bridegroom – Part 1

 “The Bride belongs to the Bridegroom.  The friend who attends the Bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the Bridegroom’s voice.”  John 3:28-30

[NOTE: John, one of the 12 disciples chosen by Jesus, described well the key people and roles involved in ancient weddings.  It also gives us an insight into the first “wedding”…in God’s Garden.]

God was the first Wedding Planner.   He created the Garden setting (Perfect!), the Groom (Adam…handsome “model man,” I’m sure, although he was missing a rib), and the Bride (Eve…an absolutely divine creation!)   

It was perfect!

At that moment in Time, God Himself stepped into the role of Friend of the Bridegroom.   In ancient times, this role was very important.  The Friend of the Bridegroom acted as the go-between for the Bridegroom and the Bride.  Plans, details, and any other important communications between the Bridegroom and the Bride were carried out through the Friend of the Bridegroom.  The Bridegroom and the Bride did not have any contact before the wedding.  All information was passed between them by the Friend of the Bridegroom.  He had weighty responsibilities to carry out between the Bridegroom and his Bride, and had to be completely trustworthy.   In that first love story, God conducted the wedding ceremony.

Fast forward in time… God chose a man named Moses to be His Friend.  God had chosen His Bride (the people of God), through whom He would bring the Messiah.  They had been in slavery for 400 years and had lost much as a result.  The generations who had known God were gone.  It was as if God had to press a “re-set” button to prepare His Bride, reminding her of who she was,  Whose she was,  Who God was,  and how to relate to Him as well as to each other.  Their centuries of slavery had changed them.  God had to lay new groundwork for this nation of slaves (His Bride) through whom He would create His Own Nation…a Family.

God chose His “Friend of the Bridegroom”….a man who was of God’s own People, yet had been raised and trained in the most powerful Pharoah’s own home.  His name was Moses.  His leadership and scholastic training was from the best.  Moses had been trained in leadership skills necessary to rule a mighty nation, the mightiest on earth at that time.  Yet Moses had also spent 40 years out in the middle of nowhere “leading” sheep.  It was his time to personally encounter God, and to learn to be a shepherd of “not too bright” sheep.  The drastically different skill sets of an Egyptian Prince and a desert shepherd would all come into play for the mission the Bridegroom (God) had for Moses to carry out for Him.

Once God had His chosen Bride’s full attention, having walked down the aisle of a parted sea,  the Bridegroom was ready to communicate with His Bride about how their life together would work.

Moses (Friend of the Bridegroom) went to meet with Bridegroom, God, on the mountain top, and began writing down what the Groom was laying out as the foundation of their new Family, a chosen nation.  In 400 years of slavery, they had lost much of who they were.

The Friend of  the Groom (Moses) would come down the mountain to relay what the Groom said….how their family would function….how their marriage would work…how they would live together as a Family.  He had written it down….in stone.   The Bridegroom trusted His Friend Moses with this history-making responsibility which was intended to last throughout the entire history of the family/nation  He and His Bride would establish.

The first version did not go so well.   The “document” literally  broke apart.

The Friend of the Groom returned to the mountain top meeting place, and the Groom again dictated to His Friend Moses all the foundational agreements (10 Commandments) that were necessary for this Family to succeed, to last.  No longer slaves, they had to learn how to live in freedom.

They had to learn how to live as a family…and as a nation.

Moses spent a lot of time with The Bridegroom on that mountain top.   He made a lot of trips up and down the mountain on the Groom’s  behalf.   But Moses kept the Bride’s focus on the Groom, not on himself.   He knew that he was in the shadow of the Groom, and his role was to faithfully and truthfully represent the Heart of her Groom, continuing to help her know Him in all of His Truth, Faithfulness and Love.  The Groom had entrusted His Name, His Reputation, and His Heart to His Friend Moses.

Moses remained the faithful Friend of the Groom for the rest of his life.  He represented The Groom well.  Moses led the Bride to the Land that was to be her Home…the Home she would share with her Groom.

At last, Moses stood at the Doorstep of that Home, the Land of Israel, and watched the Bride walk through the Door with her Groom.

Then Moses rested.

 

 

Where’s MY  tent?

“He moved on to the hills east of Bethel,

and he put up his tent

—with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east.

He also built an altar to the Lord there and worshiped the Lord.”     

Genesis 12:8

 Abraham was on the move.  That’s just part of living in a tent!  There’s a whole culture tied to tent-living:  Moving often, a sense of “temporary” to life, a sense of vulnerability to elements of nature as well as to the people who may cross your path.  It’s the typical housing of shepherds, herdsmen, and people who enjoy “camping” in the heart of nature.

But as Abraham journeyed into the new world of following God, he had to continually make adjustments….he was perpetually in a learning mode.

This time, he was settling into a region where he’d not been before,  among a people and culture that was not his own.

The details of places named in Bible stories are significant, though we in 2020 rarely catch the significance of those details.  Yet the details are there for a reason:

Bethel:  One side of where Abraham set up his tent-home.  Bet= house  El= of God

Ai:    On the other side of him, representing things of the world, but apart from God

Abraham set up his tent between the two places.  Then he built an altar, where he would worship the One God he followed.  He would make sacrifices on that altar as a regular act of worship.

Isn’t it similar to the place in this world where we live?   We live out our ‘tent’ lives between the God Who has come to us and drawn us to Himself, but always in sight of this earthly world which demands that our attention be drawn away from God.  Both are in our sights, and we daily have to determine which we will be drawn to….belong to.  Our ‘tent’ is to be held loosely…tents are not permanent.

Altars are built of rocks.  They are meant to last.  They’re not disposable nor dispensable.  Altars stand as reminders of Who we worship…Whose we are.  And long after we’re gone, the altar of our worship stands, a testament of the One Who called us and made us His Own in this world.

So….. where is your tent?

Things That Tick God Off

[The Lord Invites Israel to Turn Away from Sin ]

 “Wash yourselves!

Become clean!

 Get your evil deeds out of My sight.

Stop doing evil.

 Learn to do good.

Seek justice.

Arrest oppressors.

Defend orphans.

 Plead the case of widows.”  

Is 1:16-17

Wow!!  Although the note before these verses calls this an invitation, I read it as a strong challenge!  I think the Writer…the Lord (via Isaiah)…sounds pretty ticked!   There is strong emotion in his words.

He begins with the challenging list that speaks to the reader’s own personal condition…sin!  It’s a short list of heart issues…attitudes….things hidden in our own hearts, but blatently clear to God.  He hates sin.  It ruins us, ruins our relationship with Him, and wreaks havoc on the  people in our lives.

It’s as if God is taking our faces in His Hands….”Look at Me!  Listen!!”  These commands have to do with our own choices. . . things we need to do ourselves.  I hear passion and emotion in His heart towards this pointed list.

Then, there comes a short list of behaviors that should be outcomes of the work we need to do in our own hearts and attitudes.  They have been placed in a catagory that focuses on “others.”

Seek Justice:

  • Arrest oppressors
  • Defend Orphans
  • Plead the case of widows

Justice involves setting the “wrong”….right.   The three examples listed are such a common part of life in our world.  These are not descriptions of people in a certain part of a city, or some other country……they’re often right in our own neighborhoods and circles of relationship.

Arrest oppressors:   Oppression involves using power to push others down.  Vulernable people are easy to see.  And it’s a fair assumption that those in a position of greater strength or power in the life of “the weaker” have used that strength or power to push someone else down….or out.  Whether it’s a matter of oppressing someone’s  life circumstances, or their emotional vulnerability,  their financial poverty, physical or mental limitations, or tough circumstances of life that have put them in a place of weakness, the people who take advantage of that become “oppressors.”  The implication in this verse is that there may have even been illegal actions that have pushed those who are already “down” even further down.  Arresting means putting a stop to what is going on….perhaps even legally.   God’s heart is always soft towards those in vulnerable, weakened, broken conditions.  His Heart is for the humble….humbled.  Shouldn’t ours be as well?

 Defend orphans:  We do not have “orphanages” in our American world, but we still have orphans.  Broken families are everywhere.  Children abandoned by a parent, or parents, are often put into a legal system that allows for moving children from home to home.  Millions of children have lived with no sense of stability, safety, emotional attachment or commitment from either their birth parents nor the temporary care of others who may or may not have a love or commitment to the child in their care.   God’s Word often specifies His Heart for orphans….He

cares for them.  He sees them, and looks to us to get involved in such a way that we add to their sense of being safein this dangerous world.  The Bible often refers to God as “FATHER”

because we ALL need a father.

Plead the case of widows:   Widows in ancient times stood a good chance of losing everything if their husband died.  They became terribly vulnerable.  Having lost a husband, they also lost their sense of safety…protection…having that husband who had stood between them and the things of this world that would hurt them.  They had no voice.  They were “easy targets” for those who would use them for their own benefit.  Without the one who had been their protector, the widow now takes the brunt of what this world throws at women who have lost so much, on so many levels.  No matter how strong the widow, when the “two” becomes “one”, life is forever changed.  It is often still true today.  A wife who loses her husband experiences repercussions that continue for the rest of her life.

For God to name these two specific catagories of human reality through Isaiah, matters.  His Words are strong.  This isn’t a suggestion.  His challenge began with heart issues, but ended with practical action.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHILDLIKE

“Ask and you will receive.

Search and you will find.

Knock, and the door will be opened for you.

Everyone who asks will receive.

The one who searches will find,

And for the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Mtt.7:7-8

It helped me to rearrange the order of these six lines a little, connecting the lines that applied to each other….

“Ask and you will receive.

(Everyone who asks will receive.)

Search, and you will find.

(The one who searches will find,)

Knock, and the door will be opened for you.

(and for the one who knocks, the door will be opened.)

Mtt.7:7-8

I love the way that each instruction that Jesus gave to us (bold lines above), was followed with the assurance of what God’s response would be.  The statement following each instruction puts more strength behind the words, and more clarity of what God will do in response to our ask…..our search….our knock.

What if I don’t ask?    What if I don’t search?   What if I never knock on that door?   God’s clear responses listed here are firm statements.  There is such reassurance concerning His reaction to our various human movements toward Him.  It’s childlike….simple….human….everyday kind of engagement with God.

I remember when I was about 3 years old, my mom was lying on the couch holding her hand over her ear.  She was in a lot of pain, and I had not seen her like that before.  I went close to her and asked why she was crying.  She said, “Oh!  Mommy’s ear hurts so much! . . . Would you pray for it?”    Without hesitation, I put my little hand on her ear and said, “Jesus, please make Mama’s ear stop hurting.”   I don’t think I even said, “Amen.”   Within a minute, my mom said, with dismay, “Honey!!  The pain is all gone!   It’s gone!”

I think we make our interactions with God far more complicated than necessary.  The Bible talks about childlike faith.  Children interact with Him with such simplicity….a purity of belief.  They have not yet learned to view life with mistrust.

May we learn from them…and give the children in our lives no reason to learn to distrust……

 

Learning to Initiate

“Ask, and you will receive.

Search, and you will find.

Knock, and the door will be opened for you.

 Everyone who asks will receive.

The one who searches will find,

and for the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”    

Matt. 7:7-8

I am not an initiator.  Unfortunately, I have lived my life with an underlying sense of not wanting to “be a bother.”   I know I have missed out on a lot of life because of that underlying belief.

But this verse is one that gives me courage.  It challenges any thoughts of “being a bother” to God.  He challenges me….us…..to interact with Him with determination….by choice….by His Invitation.   I hear that Invitation in these Words.  ASK.  SEARCH.  KNOCK.   There’s no shadow of asking us to step into the background from Him.  No sense that He sees us as “a bother.”

I remember as a little girl, seeing things I would have liked, but my own insecurities held me back from asking and receiving.  I missed out on a lot because of that underlying fear of “bothering” anybody.

In the desert (my second family), it is not culturally common for people to “ask”….even tho’ as refugees, they have great needs.  It’s almost like a guessing game to catch the very tiny hints of the needs they keep hidden from guests and friends.  Yet, I think that most friends and guests would be very happy to be asked to step into their need.  So often those needs are hidden, and the opportunity to help is lost.

In this passage, God (Who knows EVERYTHING already) still encourages us to ASK….SEARCH…..KNOCK.  There’s something in our own hearts that causes us to hold back in our approach to the God Who created and loves us.  HE knows exactly what “that” is, and wants us to get past it.  Some wrong perception or belief about God Himself makes us hesitate or refuse to directly approach and interact with Him in honesty and confidence in His Love for us.

What is “that thing” in your heart?

God invites you to step past it, come to Him,

and ask, . . . search . . . and knock.    

He is patiently waiting.

Watching the Hand

“Behold,

As the eyes of servants look unto

The hand of their masters,

So our eyes wait upon

The Lord our God.”

Ps .123:2

Have you ever been in a room with Royalty?   Or a high-level leader?  A respected person with power?   Familiar imagery  is that of the “Leader” or “Master” surrounded by other people who are there just to provide whatever may be requested by the most important one in the room.

I had never caught this detail before:  “…eyes…look to the hand of their master.”  It may be a slight movement that activates the response of the watching servant.  If the servant is not paying attention to his master’s hand, he loses trust of his master.  He/she is more preoccupied with other things going on in the room, or in his own mind.  The initial message is non-verbal…just a move of the hand.  It is wordless communication which has been learned through experience.

I imagine it requires great focus for a servant to keep his eyes on the hand of his Master.  He needs to be in the room.  He/she needs to block out all the distractions going on around him/her, though significant they may be.  When the hand moves, the response must come.  Focus on that hand could affect trust, necessary actions, relationship and confidence.    It means that everything else going on in the room becomes secondary.  Everything else in the life of that servant takes a step back from the priority of watching that hand and responding appropriately.

Whoever we are, if we have become servants to our Master, “the Lord our God”, we need to follow this example in the Psalms.    Am I available?  Am I paying attention?   Am I willing to respond?  What are my distractions?  What has my higher focus?  Are my eyes on Him to the point that I would even notice that His Hand has moved… signaling something to me without words?

His Hand carries deep scars.   For me.  For you.  Out of Love that is far beyond human capacity. If I focus on His Hand, whatever He does with it, it embodies the Greatest Love, and Highest Calling.

Life Numbers

“Teach us

to number each of our days

so that we may grow in wisdom.”  

Psalm 90:12

Lists have become very important to me.  I forget things!   Rather than considering it part of aging, I prefer to think of it as my brain moving closer to its saturation point.  There’s just too much up there!!

So, lists have become a daily activity.  And I try to prioritize my lists. . . most important and time-sensitive are nearest the top.  Top priority is #1. Anything without a number just naturally slides down the list…to the side…perhaps is completely lost in the shuffle.  But I also tend to prioritize according to my own preferences, comfort level, and capabilities.

In this Psalm, we read this request for God’s help in prioritizing our time on this earth.  Prioritizing our days on this planet.  Each day matters to Him.  He said that He had numbered our days.  But in this verse, the writer asks for His help in learning how to number our own days.  Numbering forces us to consider one thing at a time.  We have to see each day as one, rather than a vague blur of days sliding into each other.

What priorities has God set for our days, and to what do we need to give our best energies?  His Perspective is all-knowing. . . beginning to end.  We only see “now”  and “past,” with only limited understanding of those days.

But God knows exactly how many days we have, and how He has woven our lives…our days…into His Plan.  His priorities for our time on this earth are most likely quite different from our perspective on our priorities.

To learn from Him what He prioritizes for how we live out our days will always be best.  Wisest.  Most useful to furthering His Purposes on this planet.  Each day at a time.  Rather than thinking of our lives in terms of life seasons, or years, or as one long blur of time, let’s think of LIFE as one day at a time, knowing that God not only gives us each day, but He has a Plan that includes us, each day at a time.  He has numbered our days.  May we look to Him for how to use each one.