There’s a Sea in Galilee

I wish I were better with words.  I’m going to try to convey what’s filling my heart but I know the words will fall short.

For the past six days I have been in Israel with my husband and our dear friends, John and Carla Moore.  The experience has far exceeded my expectations.  I’ve visited Beersheba where Abraham lived and probably received the call to offer up his son.  I’ve stood in the very valley in which David ran to meet Goliath (and even pulled five smooth stones from the same brook he did).  I’ve explored the impressive sites of Masada and Megiddo.  I’ve seen the wildernesses and the Shephelah.  And so much more.

I knew I’d love it all.  I can already tell that I will never read my Bible the same again.  I knew I’d learn more about geography, archaeology, and history.  What I wasn’t expecting was the soul-searching that would accompany it.

I’ve been impressed with the courage, bravery, faith, and trust of God’s people in harsh environments or overwhelming odds.  Would I be brave in the same situation?  Would I trust God when I couldn’t see my way through?  It’s been good, so good, to hold my heart up for examination.

But today was something special.  Today we went to the Sea.  We hiked up a path to the top of Mount Arbel.  There were sheer cliffs along the way.  When we crested the top and took in the view of the Sea of Galilee and its northern shore, it was as if all the noises around me faded away and I could only hear my own breathing.  My heartbeat slowed as it dawned on me what I was actually viewing.

Up to this point, we’ve visited places where great men and women of God have lived out their faith.  Today we came to the place where the Son of God lived out His faith so He could walk with us through ours.  I saw the towns where He taught in the synagogues.  I saw the shoreline where He called His disciples and where He would later have breakfast with them.   I stared at the waves on which He walked and imagined the storms that He calmed.  Jesus taught the Sermon on the Mount here.  He healed here.

As the four of us took it all in, John led us in a verse of “How Great Thou Art.”  Then he prayed a beautiful, heartfelt prayer of praise.  I couldn’t help but think that perhaps Jesus prayed in the very same spot when He would go up on the mount by Himself.  Jesus.  My Jesus.  Today, and the next couple of days, I am walking where He walked.

So many things happened by the Sea on the Sea in the life of Christ.  The same sea is surrounded by bustling and thriving towns today.  The same sea is filled with boats.

I am walking where He walked and in awe of that fact.  But what would He want me to see here?  The Sea?  As impressive as it all is–the cliffs, mountains, villages, and the blue, blue water–there are people all around the Sea who still need to see Jesus in their midst.

Only one place on earth is where Jesus walked but every place on earth is where He wants us to go and tell others about Him.

19961213_10212977045999011_3255008291065720391_n

They Love Me, Too

One thing I love about the Lord’s church is the fact that we are family.  We are brothers and sisters united by the precious blood of Christ.  That means no matter where we go, we can find family.

This past week Neal and I have been with the Hollywood Rd. church of Christ in Houma, LA.  We both feel like we have been among true family and gained true friends.  In the body of Christ, it doesn’t take long to form heart connections!  The Christians here are warm, friendly, and giving.  It is obvious they love being together.  That’s how it’s supposed to be.  Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

It was easy for Neal and I to identify that common love in the church here.  We are Christians coming in among fellow Christians.  But what does the world see?

Tuesday night one of the members brought a guest to the gospel meeting going on this week.  The guest showed up early enough to enjoy the meal we had together first.  What was his impression?  What did his first glimpse of  the Lord’s church reveal?  I am so thankful that we learned the answer to those questions.  Last night we found out that this visitor went to work the next day talking about his experience.  He said, “Those people not only love Jesus, they love me, too.”

A higher compliment to the church here in Houma could not be paid!  Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be?  Isn’t the goal of every church to be so loving that visitors walk away with the impression of being loved? This visitor knew that he was taken in and loved because the Christians here love Jesus.  What’s their secret here?  How did a one-time visit leave such an impression on this man?  I know the answer to that, too, because I saw it unfold.  He was greeted warmly, he was hugged, and he was served.  This visitor knew the Christians here love Jesus because they acted like Jesus.

I hope I remember this for a long time.  I am so convicted by this simple experience.  I am challenged to do my part in my home church to make visitors feel loved.

What impression are people left with when they visit your home congregation?  How do you make them feel?  May we all do our part to make sure others “know we are Christians by our love.”

Those people not only love Jesus, they love me, too.

11960026_10207496776727033_3472147600209190240_n

David & Kathy Jones, a couple who lives out the love of Christ here in Houma, LA!

 

 

 

Revive Me #51–Spend Time on the Mountain

Revive Me, Week 51– A Year of Growing Stronger in the Lord

Spend Time on the Mountain

Moses went up Mount Sinai to receive the testimony of God and then “went down to the people to tell them” (Ex. 19:20-25).  Jesus “went up on the mountain and…opened His mouth and began to teach” (Matt. 5:1,2).  He took what Moses had shared and elevated it.  He made it a matter of the heart (5:21,22, 31,32, etc.).  What Jesus taught is easy, except for when it’s hard.

The “Sermon on the Mount” is a familiar text.  And yet there are moments when I realize I haven’t spent enough time on the mountain.  Jesus said, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (5:20).  The scribes and Pharisees knew the law and they looked the part.  They were seen as religious leaders.  But they had a heart problem.  They liked to tell other people what to do while not practicing it themselves (Matt. 23).

I can talk about the command to forgive but what about when someone really hurts me?  I can say gossip is wrong but what about when my loose lips blurt out something that never should’ve been shared?  What if a sister wrongs me and I go to her one-on-one and she humbly apologizes, but I still feel angry and keep thinking of more things to say to put her in her place?  What then?  Well, I need to spend more time on the mountain.

  • Be gentle, merciful, a peacemaker (5:5-9).
  • Turn the other cheek (5:39).
  • Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (5:44).
  • Don’t just love those who love you (5:46).
  • Forgive others (6:14,15).
  • Do not worry about your life (6:25).
  • Don’t judge others harshly while overlooking your own faults (7:1-5).

What Jesus taught is easy, except for when it’s hard.  Does my righteousness surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees if I’m not practicing these in my own life?

Jesus said there would be those who stand before Him and say, “Look at all the religious things I did!”  But because they ignored the will of the Father, He will say to them, “I never knew you” (7:21-23).

“When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed…[and He] came down from the mountain.”

(Matt. 7:28-8:1)

Suggestions for the Week:

  1.  Read the Sermon on the Mount every day this week (Matthew 5-7).
  2.  Underline or highlight anything Jesus taught on the mountain that you personally struggle with.
  3. Pray for God to give you the humility to see your own “logs” and the strength to remove them (Matt. 7:1-5).

297846_2417238348492_1040068479_n

Revive Me #41–Know the Lord

Revive Me, Week 41–A Year of Growing Stronger in the Lord

Know the Lord

Jesus said the “great and foremost commandment” is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37).  If we love the Lord, we will obey His commandments (John 14:15) and our actions will be saturated by that love (1 John 3:18).  But how can we love Him if we don’t know Him?  How can our children love Him if they don’t know Him?

To know the Lord, spend time in the gospel of John.  John shows us who Jesus is:

  • He is the Word (read 1:1)
  • He is the Life (read 1:3,4)
  • He is the Light (read 1:6-9)

“He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.  He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him” (1:10).  To know Christ, then, is to receive Him.

  1.  To know the Lord, receive Him as the Word (12:48-50).

He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day.  For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak.  I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.”

2.  To know the Lord, receive Him as the Life (11:25,26).

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?'”

3.  To know the Lord, receive Him as the Light (8:12).

“Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”

Spend time in John this week and get reacquainted with your Lord.  Get to know Him as:

  • the Miracle Worker, when He turned the water to wine (ch. 2)
  • the Healer, when He cured the nobleman’s son, the paralytic, and the blind man (ch. 4,5,9)
  • the Provider, when He fed the 5,000 (ch. 6)
  • the Bread of Life (6:36) and the Living Water (7:37,38)
  • the Supreme Being, when He walked on water and stopped the wind (ch. 6)
  • the Compassionate One, when He wept for those He loved (ch. 11)
  • the Conqueror of Death, when He raised Lazarus and Himself from the grave (ch. 11,20)
  • the Humble Servant, when He washed His disciples feet (ch. 13)
  • the Interceder, when He prayed to the Father on our behalf (ch. 17)
  • the Sacrificial Lamb, when He gave His life for all mankind (ch. 19)

To know Him is to love Him!

Suggestions for the Week:

  1.  Read through the gospel of John this week.
  2.  List each of the descriptions of Jesus above (Miracle Worker, Healer, etc.) and write down why that should grow your love for Him and how that knowledge impacts you personally.
  3.  Focus on making sure your children/ grandchildren know the Lord.  Share those amazing accounts with them this week in your devotional times.
  4.  So many around us have never met the Lord.  Introduce a neighbor, friend, or coworker to Jesus this week by sharing something you read in John.
  5.  Choose one verse in John to memorize this week.

Read it.  Memorize it.  Live it.

erpknowchrist

Bing image

 

Let the Beauty of Jesus Be Seen in Me

Yesterday was my birthday (yay!).  For me, birthdays are a day of self-reflection.  Have I grown?  When I think back over the past year, are there more or less moments I’m not proud of?

“Let the Beauty of Jesus Be Seen In Me” is a hymn written by Tom M. Jones.  This song was led at a ladies’ retreat a couple of weeks ago, and the words have been rolling around in my head ever since.  The message really struck a chord with me this time.  I’ve decided that this song will be my theme for this next year of my life.

Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me,
All His wonderful passion and purity.
May His Spirit divine all my being refine
Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.

Claiming to be a Christian is one thing–living it out is quite another.  The fact that I follow Christ should be seen by others without my having to announce it (or post it on Facebook).  As the verse says, this takes refining by setting my mind on the things of the Spirit (Rom. 8:5-14).  If I walk by the Spirit, I will reflect the purity of Christ instead of giving in to my own weaknesses (Gal. 5:16).

When your burden is heavy and hard to bear
When your neighbors refuse all your load to share
When you’re feeling so blue, Don’t know just what to do
Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in you.

I think the nature of our burdens and the sources of our blues change as we age.  Do we ever get to the point where we don’t suffer from time to time?  Not on this side of Heaven (Rev. 21:1-4).  Whether I’m experiencing trials, struggling with inadequacy, or just plain feeling sorry for myself, may I have the wisdom and grace to act like a woman blessed anyway.

When somebody has been so unkind to you,
Some word spoken that pierces you through and through.
Think how He was beguiled, spat upon and reviled,
Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in you

It’s easy to be warm and friendly to warm and friendly people.  Jesus commands that I be warm and friendly even to those who have been unkind to me personally (Matt. 5:38-48).  When I want to defend myself or offer the cold shoulder, I must remember that the only way to share the beauty of Jesus is to instead offer love, goodness, and prayers.

From the dawn of the morning till close of day,
In example in deeds and in all you say,
Lay your gifts at His feet, ever strive to keep sweet
Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in you.

This last verse is the true challenge for me.  It reminds me to be Christ-like 24/7, not just when I feel like it.  This beauty must be shared with my very own family, with every member of the body of Christ, and with every neighbor, co-worker, or community member.  In every word or deed, even when I’m tired, cross, overwhelmed, rushed, distracted, or stressed, I must “ever strive to keep sweet.”  The motivation is a good one, though–it’s a gift I’m laying at His feet.  It is all for the glory of God (Matt. 5:16). If my own glory becomes my motivation, I’ll need to go back and focus on the refining mentioned in the first verse of the song.