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Quarantine Devotions Part IX

Here is the latest devotion from Pastor May:

 John 21:15-25

 I remember the school spelling bee, when I was in grade school.  I had won the class bee, and had therefore earned the right to represent the fifth grade in the gymnasium.  I made it through the first round.  My second word came, and I was given my word:  announce.  I left off one of the first ‘n’s…  I was so confident.  I was so certain I would at least make it to the round with the hard words.  And I was disappointed.  It wasn’t just about my classmates (though that was part of it); I was just so surprised myself.

 Have you ever failed.  And not just any failure.  Have you ever failed at something you were supposed to be good at?  I’m talking about a shocking failure.

 As we read this passage, we remember Simon Peter’s last conversation in the presence of Jesus.  Somewhere in the vicinity of his Teacher (for we are told that Jesus turned and looked right at him), Simon Peter rejected Jesus.  “I don’t know the man.”  This happened not once, but three specific times.  Three times he fails… and all within earshot of Jesus.

 And in this reading we have the Savior.  He just announced his presence by another miracle: granting a boatload of fish to the fishermen.  Three times he asks Peter a question.  Three!  And three times Peter gets to affirm, with absolute confidence, that he loves Jesus so much!

 God did not send Jesus to make a church out of those who would follow him perfectly.  Those aren’t the kinds of people He has to work with!  But those are the kinds of people He cleans up, picks up, strengthens, and encourages for His work.

 God gets our minds off us, and whatever we might be going through, and onto His Son.  When we really fail… when we really blow it, God has one important reminder for us.  Jesus.  And when we remember Jesus, we remember all of the living, suffering, dying, rising, and ascending that he did.  He accomplished our salvation.  God is the Author of our faith; He’s the one who creates it in our hearts.  He’s the one who perfects it in us.  You never fall so far that you’re out of his reach.

 Dear Jesus, in the face of all that this world throws my way, may I always remember you as the source of my life and strength.  May I exult in all you have done… and find ways to tell your story to others.  Amen.

Quarantine Devotions Part VIII

Pastor’s Devotion…

 

John 21:1-14

 

This isn’t the first time the disciples caught a lot of fish.  This isn’t even the first miraculous time.  Luke 5 describes the first time this happened to these fishermen.  Several men, none of whom knew Jesus very well (if at all) had been out fishing (unsuccessfully) all night.  As they pull in, they get close enough to see a gathering of townspeople.  They surround a teacher to the point that he can’t actually speak to them all.  Using the natural acoustics of the lake, he slips into a boat, and asks one of the fishermen to take him out.  When he’s done teaching, he tells them to go out farther and let the nets down.  The exhausted fishermen eventually agree (they’re in the boat anyway) and the nets fill with so many fish that they call their partners over to help.

 

Peter is so stunned that he falls to bottom of the boat.  This was significant enough that Peter could offer no explanation.  Something truly important was happening.  And it caused Peter to come face to face with the fact that he was unworthy… he was undeserving… he was a sinner.  And all the teacher has to say is, “Come with me Peter… and I will make you a fisher of men.”

 

And here he returns.  Near the end of his time with them.  After their adventures and trials.  A man on the short.  A boatload of fish.  And maybe John’s head snaps up with a smirk…  in recognition.  I know who it is.  And Peter dives in.  The one on shore is the one who creates our faith.  He’s the one who re-creates our faith.  He’s the one who knows us.  These men were fishermen… and he got their attention.  He knew what they needed and he provided it.  And, more than anything else, we all needed salvation.  We all needed life.  And he gave it to us.

 

Maybe he gets our attention in new and wild ways.  Maybe he uses the ways he has previously used before.  Maybe he cracks a stone heart in a dramatic, lightning-bolt way.  Maybe he prompts our hands to pick up a Bible or devotion booklet for the first time (or the first time in a longtime).  Maybe his Spirit gets us really thinking about what we use to so regularly have available (week-in and week-out) at his Supper.  And he stirs our hearts and minds to remember, I know who he is…

 

Dear Savior, may I never forget  you, even as you have never forgotten me.  May I always remember, with wonder, all you continue to provide… continue to give to me… every day.  Amen.

 

Quarantine Devotions Part VII

Pastor May’s Devotion for you…

 Matthew 26:57-68

                 Jesus stands before a crowd of men… men determined to condemn him.  Previous passages have made it clear that they have been seeking the death of Jesus for some time.  Here, verse 59 says it plainly.  And verse 60 shows the lengths to which some of them would go to see it done.  In John 11, Caiaphas made it clear that Jesus should die, before things got out of hand and Rome cracked down on the Jews.  He said it would be better that one man die for the people.

                 In this passage, the logic of these men is clear… even if it is a bit circular.  In their minds, only three things matter:  a. We know God doesn’t have a son.  b. This man claims to be God’s Son.  c. Therefore, he’s a liar (because God doesn’t have a son.).  When Jesus finally tells them who he is (and even adds what that’s going to look like someday!), they tear their robes in anger.  And the high priest says, “Why do we even need to hear any more?”  He came face to face with the Messiah of God… and rejected him.

                 And the rejections continue to this day.  “People don’t rise from the dead.  The Bible and Christians claim Jesus rose from the dead.  Therefore, they are liars (because people don’t rise from the dead).”  We as sinful human beings have gotten quite skilled at justifying and rationalizing what we want to believe deep down.

 So we might try to debate (Someone could argue that just because we haven’t seen a man rise from the dead, it doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen.).  But it proves unconvincing.  Because Sin is so much more than just the “things we do wrong;” it’s a condition… a state we find ourselves in.   And it gets into our emotions, our DNA, our minds and bodies.  Even our logic has been tainted by the stain of sin.  And we all find ourselves in the exact same boat.

 The truth is this: only Jesus’ power can overcome such rejection.  While we turn our backs on Him, he spins us back around.  While we leave, he chases.  And when we run toward death… he dies in our place.  So that we will live with him forever.

 Lord Jesus, that you for your cracking my heart of stone.  Keep me safe in your promises, and use me to bring your hope to all of those hearts of stone around me.  Amen.

Quarantine Devotions Part VI

From Pastor May:

 Matthew 16: 1-12

                 I went to an ice cream place in a town where I previously lived.  I went there once, and only once.  It was really popular where I was living (though, like with Imo’s pizza, a few people had some strong feelings the other way…).  To be fair, I probably asked for the wrong thing… or I simply ordered it wrong.  But I asked for mint ice cream.  I also wanted crushed Oreos.  And I wanted some chocolate syrup.  To my horror, I witnessed the undeserved beating of a perfectly good dessert.  The rubber-looking ice cream was (literally) slapped onto the counter.  The perfectly-crushed cookies were shoved into the ice cream and pummeled into black dust.  Then, the syrup was added.  It was not drizzled into the cup, on top of everything.  No, it was deep-tissue-massaged into the rest of the mixture.  The whole mess was flopped into a bowl and I was cheerfully handed a slimy, cold blob.

                 Mint ice cream: my hands-down favorite.  Oreo cookies: great!  Chocolate syrup: one of God’s reminders that heaven is coming.  Mushed and blended all together into a uniform ball: not so very appetizing. 

                 In these verses, Jesus reminds his followers that evil influences are kind of like that.  Like yeast, the false teachings of the Pharisees threatened to work their way into everything that God’s people believed.  As the dough was kneaded and the baking process continued, their evil would become worked into the whole.  And we too, if we’re not careful, find ourselves under the sway of rejecting influences.  Some are subtle… a comment here and there.  Some are more overt… actual verbal (or physical) attacks against people who talk about a faith in Jesus.  But all are capable working their way into our hearts and minds, changing the way we think, until we’ve stumbled into doubting Jesus and what he has done.

 When Christ came into this world, he directly defeated everything separating us from God.  Because of his blood, his Spirit takes hold of us, cleans us up, and removes even the smallest contamination.  And, of course, God’s Word can help as well.  The more we read His Word, the more we hear His promises.  When we spend time with Him, we remember constantly all that Jesus’ death and resurrection did for us!

 Dear Jesus, forgive me.  Wash me and make me clean, for the stain is too much for me.  Keep me firm in my trust in you.  And help me share my hope with others.  In your name I pray.  Amen.

Quarantine Devotions Part V

From, Pastor May:

 1 Kings 18:16-40

                Elijah’s question in verse 21 gets right to the heart of the matter, “How long will you waver between two opinions?  If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”  First there’s the simple logic of the question.  After all, why try to ride two horses at once?  But then there’s the underlying problem.  The people weren’t really trying to ride two horses… they had rejected God.  After all, God did say, “No other gods.”  But the people wanted a god they could understand… a god who was more like them.

                 The people eventually accept his logic and Elijah even gives Baal the advantage: four hundred and fifty… to one.  And what zeal those “prophets” throw into their worship and praise!  What energy they pour into their request.  Verses 26-29 describes calling and shouting, dancing and leaping, and even cutting and slashing.  These people were willing to shed their blood in order to get their god’s attention.  By the end of the day, the prophets of Baal were a frantic, bloody, delirious mess.  And “ there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.” 

                 The people of Israel had long ago rejected a God Who was not like them.  Elijah highlights it in his taunting, “Shout louder.”  He just can’t hear you, he’s lost in thought, he’s gone on a trip, in the other room, he’s sleeping, he’s busy with someone who really got his attention… so they even go so far as to have their own blood pouring down their bodies.  Zeal and energy do not change the nature of what we are pursuing.  If it’s not God, no amount of dedication will make it any less… an idol.

                 Fortunately for us, God is not like we are.  His love is so much better than ours.  We have His complete and total attention at all times.  We don’t have to shout, we don’t have to dance.  He never leaves (for even a moment).  His only recorded trip is when God the Son entered this world as one of us.  And you don’t have to shed your blood to win over his heart, though he certainly wasn’t above shedding his blood to win yours.  The God who was rejected never… rejects us.  That’s a love worth shouting and dancing about!

                 Dear Jesus, help me battle the temptation to look for what I need anywhere besides you.  Thank you for your faithfulness to me.  May I proclaim that faithfulness to others.  Amen.

Quarantine Devotions Part IV

From Pastor May:

 Read Numbers 22:21-33

                As the Israelites drew ever closer to the Promised Land, King Balak of Moab grew increasingly nervous at the size of Israel.  He wanted them gone, but did not think his nation of Moab was strong enough to defeat them.  He sent for a famous pagan “seer” to put a curse on the nation of Israel.  This seer, Balaam eventually set out to perform his service to King Balak.  On the way, this “spiritual advisor” proves just how blind he is in spiritual matters.  He is surprised at the strange behavior of his donkey, a beast of burden who proves himself to be far wiser than his human master.

                The disciples who had been traveling with Jesus could claim much spiritual insight, especially in comparison to the Pharisees they had encountered.  But even Peter took offense to some of Jesus’ talk.  And their Teacher, on one occasion, told them to get out of the way, to make room for the simple children to get closer to him… trust like a child.

                And so we too can find ourselves blindly moving right past the truth.  We assume we have it all figured out, that God fits neatly into the box we place Him in… that He exists to take care of those problems we have… that we know how He operates.  This leads to anger at God, whenever He seems to be doing something we don’t understand.

                Jesus brings us to a different place.  He takes some (not all) of the mystery out of who God is.  If we want to know if God loves us, we look to the Savior who would die for us.  Is God on our side?  Hear Jesus’ promises of the Spirit in our lives.  Like His little children… trusting their Father… we know we can trust Him because of Who He is.  And we know He will bring us safely home to Him.

                Dear Father, thank You for showing Your love… in Your Son, and all he did for me.  May I rest in the knowledge of Your unfailing faithfulness.  Amen.

Quarantine Devotions Part III

From Pastor May:

 

Hebrews 2

               

I was a fairly new driver.  I felt something  roll against my foot.  I glanced down, grabbed the water bottle, glanced up… AND SLAMMED THE BREAKS!  Too late.  I struck the car in front of me, which then struck the car in front of them.  I had my first accident.  I got out, hands shaking.  A woman got out of her car and, visibly angered, said, “Well, should we call the police?”

 

An older gentlemen got out of his car.  After checking to see if we were all alright, and seeing that the damage was quite minor, he said, “Since everybody’s okay, let’s just exchange information.”  Looking at me, he smiled sympathetically and asked, “First accident?”  When I burst out into the most sincere apology of my life, he held up a hand and said, “Hey, don’t worry.  I know you didn’t do it on purpose, that’s why they’re called accidents, right?”  He winked, “And this isn’t a bad first one…”  That man remembered being in my place… and I never forgot it.

 

This chapter reminds us that Jesus became one of us, literally standing in our place.  And his time on earth was not complete until he suffered… in fact, the author of Hebrews talks about his time being perfected through suffering.  Humankind had lost the image of God, and Jesus came to restore it… to intercede with the Father on our behalf.  To do that, he had to become one of us… right down to the pain and death.  Jesus identified with us on the deepest level of what it means to struggle – to suffer – through this life.  And in doing so, he paid the price for our sins.  But his work didn’t end there; Hebrews reminds us that he became our sympathetic high priest.

 

That means that the one who is talking to the Father on our behalf is someone who has been there… and still walks with us.  As we go through our own trials and sufferings here in this life, we remember the one who walks with us.  When the Son of God became incarnate, it was our flesh he took on.  It’s our humanity which he still carries with him… so that humanity would be redeemed.  Our Savior loved us enough to join us… that we might join him, forever.

 

Gracious Heavenly Father, we know how easy it is to get focused on our own lives, on our own experiences.  We thank You for sending Your Son into this world… into our lives.  By the power of Your Spirit turn our hearts and minds outward to the situations of others.  May we never be afraid to suffer with one another, as that is what You would have us do.  It is what Your Son did for us.  I ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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