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Follow Jesus

two people sitting beside each other
 
40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ)…

43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”   John 1:40-41, 43-46

It didn’t take long to start multiplying disciples of Jesus.  Andrew told his brother Peter, and Philip found his friend Nathanael. 

That’s how it works in the Kingdom.  News of the Messiah passes from brother to brother and friend to friend. 

At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work.

Too often news of the Messiah gets bottled up inside of His followers.  It’s too awkward to talk to your brother about Jesus.  I mean, he has to make his own decisions in life, right?  And it could ruin my relationship with my buddy if I start becoming the “religious guy.”  Isn’t it better to just live out my faith and let him see it?

Instead of multiplying disciples, we multiply excuses.

Perhaps we need to be reminded of just how awesome Jesus truly is.  Fully and completely God, yet so humble that He came to this world to be just like one of us.  Perfect and righteous in every way, yet willing to be treated – and even executed – like a common criminal.  Forgiving and loving always.  Understanding and patient…the list goes on and on.

When Nathanael objected to Philip’s invitation about Jesus by saying, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip simply said, “Come and see.”

There will always be objections to Jesus.  But in the end, all we can do is say, “Come and see.”  And when someone comes and sees Jesus, some amazing things happen. 

Heavenly Father, You have called us to follow Jesus and to invite others to follow Jesus.  Forgive us for the missed opportunities.  Make us to be like Philip, inviting others to come and see Your Son, that they too might be blessed by everything that Jesus is for us: Lord, Savior, Friend.  In His name, Amen. 

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An Antidote to Loneliness: Keeping Company with Ourselves

man wearing white dress shirt near sea
 
Know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him. Be agitated, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. (Psalm 4:3-4)

How are you doing, really? When was the last time you sat with that question? How long has it been since you wrestled with your internal state.

There are plenty of reasons to be agitated. There are plenty of things that might have us worked up. Often, our internal dialogue is stifled by the very situations that we need to process. A recent breakup, a loss of a loved one, an argument with a co-worker, uncertainty in how to be present for people: we need to work through our feelings so that we can properly respond.

Psalm 4 encourages us to keep company with ourselves. This is one of the great gifts of prayer, that we can sit not only with God, but that God works as a mediator even for our own thoughts and feelings. The Lord hears when we call, and the Lord calls us to sit down, calm down, and pray. Time to work through what we are going through.

Let me ask again: What are you wrestling with today? How are you really doing? Maybe you feel like David, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me” (Psalm 51:3). It might be uncomfortable, but God is with you. Jesus is keeping you company as you dive into the deep issues of the heart. It is hard work: “The purpose of a man’s heart is deep waters, but a man of understanding will draw it out” (Prov. 20:5).

Spend some time keeping company with yourself. Jesus wants you to know yourself, to love yourself. Well, to be fair, he actually says, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” but doesn’t that require us to love and know ourselves? Jesus loves you and redeems you. No matter how daunting it may sound, search out your heart, ponder in your own bed, and work alongside God to draw out the deep waters within yourself.

Prayer: Lord God, we know you are with us, and you are keeping us company. Foster within us a spirit of discernment and openness, that we might sit with ourselves and come to peace with who you have made us to be and what you have called us to do. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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The Lamb

white lamb on green grassland during daytime
 
29 The next day John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.”  John 1:29-31

A lion, maybe.  That makes more sense, doesn’t it?  “Look, the lion of God that takes away the sin of the world!”  Yeah, that’s it.  A lion.  After all, a lion is strong.  A lion is powerful.  A lion dominates.

But, a lamb?

Sort of a pathetic image, isn’t it?  A lamb?  What can a lamb do?  What animal can a lamb defeat?  What strength does a lamb show?

“Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth.”  Isaiah 53:7

Where is strength in a lamb?

The strength is in sacrifice.  In a willingness to be sacrificed.  And that’s what Jesus came to do, to be a lamb for us.  His strength is in His willingness to be sacrificed for us.

In the Passover, the lamb gave up his life and blood so the people can be saved.  Jesus does the same thing.  In his perfect weakness, he delivers the strength of forgiveness, life and salvation that cannot be taken away from us.

Rejoice today and every day that You have a God who willingly humbled Himself to be a lamb led to the slaughter for you.  Never will you be called to pay the price for your sin.  It’s already been paid for.  By the Lamb.  “Look, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world!”

Heavenly Father, You sent Your Son in perfect humility and weakness as a lamb of sacrifice.  We praise and thank You for Your gift, and we ask that You always point us to Jesus on the cross as the reminder of our full and complete forgiveness. Make us like John the Baptist, always pointing others to the Lamb.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 


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An Antidote to Loneliness: Keeping Company with God

woman standing on vast desert under golden hour
 
O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar… Where shall I go from Your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? [Psalm 139:1-2,7]

These are lonely times, aren’t they? We can be connected with hundreds of people online, but we might not even see one person’s face. We are keeping our distance from people to avoid the spread of a pandemic. We are missing weddings and the births of grandchildren. We are missing parades and concerts. But most of all, we are missing relationships. And whether or not this leads us to fear or anxiety, it is most certainly leading us to loneliness.

Loneliness is a very real part of our human experience. Feeling like no one is there for us, or no one cares about us, or no one would miss us if we were gone. It can even feel like God himself is distant from us. The psalmist summarizes this for us in Psalm 13:1, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” This kind of loneliness is overwhelming and can be devastating to our souls.
I believe the antidote we have is prayer. Prayer is keeping company, first and foremost with God. As the Psalmist makes clear in Psalm 139, even if we feel like God has forgotten us, we know that there is nowhere we can go from God’s Spirit or presence. God knows us intimately, and God is always there for us.

Even after our loneliest, we have company. Even when we are all alone, abandoned, or neglected, we have the Spirit of Jesus. God is searching your heart and mind. God is hearing your thoughts and prayers. When we turn to God, we can be certain God has been waiting all along, keeping company with us even in the silence of our loneliness.

There was only one person ever abandoned by God. For a few hours, on a wooden cross on a cloudy hill, Jesus was suspended between heaven and earth. Jesus put loneliness to death in that place, and he forever forged the bond between God and his people.

Keep company with God today. Pray to him and turn to the One who will never leave you nor forsake you!

Prayer: Lord God, even when we don’t feel it, you are there. Even when we don’t believe it or see it, you are there. We cannot ever leave your presence. We are always known by you! What great news this is. Help us to be satisfied in your presence, and to keep company with you all the days of our lives. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

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All Things?

boy reading Holy Bible while lying on bed

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[h] for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. [Romans 8:28-29]

“I’ll take it all!” Could you imagine driving up to a drive-thru at your favorite to-go restaurant and uttering those words? There are many good reasons never to do something like that, cholesterol the chief among them. You’d never be able to eat it all, and even if you could, there are probably some things you would never order. That fish sandwich? No thanks. Fake apple pie? Not for me.

There are things we would probably rather leave behind in ourselves, too. (And let’s not even talk about the things we wish could change in others…) Maybe we’d want to change our nose or how tall we are, but all the things on the inside are calling out even more to us. The pride or insecurity, the anger or quietness, the weaknesses or inability to deal with the faults of others… And if we wouldn’t change part of who we are, we would change things that have happened to us. We’d want things to go differently. We would never want to lose that loved one, or take that job, or move to that place, or… fill in the blank. We would never say, “I’ll take it all!” about ourselves.

But that’s exactly what Romans 8:28 is saying to us. God has a purpose for all things in our lives. And God’s purposes are all good. What a contradiction in our hearts and minds! How does that even make sense, all these things we want to change and God is working them together for good? All things… Nothing is outside the scope of God’s plan and God’s grace.

Take a moment and think about all the things you’d like to change about yourself or your life. Those things specifically were put there for God’s purposes. And God’s plan for us might be most clearly seen in the things we would never choose for ourselves.

God knew you before you came into being. And God planned out your life. He called you, made you holy and righteous in Christ, and God will glorify you in the light of Christ. And whether or not you want to say it, God does. “I’ll take it all!” God wants all of you. God loves all of you. God has good plans for all of you.

The question for us, then, is not what should we try to get rid of in ourselves, but rather, What is God doing with all those things we don’t want in ourselves or our lives? What a wonderful question to take to our Lord.

Dear God, we experience a lot of things we would never want to. We know You are in control of all things, but when it is something we are going through, it can be hard to trust. Help us, dear Lord, as followers of Jesus, accept all things from Your hand. Help us to see You working all things together for good. And bring us at last into Your eternal glory. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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