Blazing Again – Part V

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“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” (Luke 24:27)

Let’s back up for just a moment this week to try and appreciate the gravity of Jesus preaching Jesus. For some reason—I’m thinking it’s the Holy Spirit—I feel like we really need to internalize this.

As we’re examining this road to Emmaus narrative to see how our Lord leads us to find that fire and life within, we’re inevitably brought to the very crux of the methodology He employs. To ignite us or to reignite us will involve some way, shape or form of Him revealing Himself to us through the written Word, the Bible.

As New Testament disciples of Jesus, we must never graduate from the simplicity of taking time regularly—I recommend daily—to read the Scriptures with a heart of prayerful devotion. This places us near the fire, so to speak, and positions us to get warmer and warmer over time. Eventually our heart is steadily burning with life and passion and our love for Jesus remains hot.

At first, it may seem so simple that it’s not even worth doing, but I want to assure you that spending generous portions of time at the feet of Jesus while studying the Good Book and listening for that quiet voice from above is God’s chosen means to set us and keep us ablaze. It’s this still and hidden place of contemplation where the Spirit reveals God and the unveiling of His goodness, loving kindness and tender mercy invigorates deep places of the soul.

Friend, let’s be reminded that passion for Jesus is not ultimately a festive personality or a burst of excitement at a church service, but a genuine inner fire that steadily burns from that said place of devotion. The more quality time we spend in the presence of the all consuming fire Himself, learning from Him, listening to Him, speaking to Him—the more that place on the inside, our inner man, is truly awakened and alive in God.

Jesus taught that our spiritual life requires the words that come from His mouth as much as our physical body requires nourishing food. I can’t think of a better biblical picture of this than Mary of Bethany who is recorded in the gospels as sitting at the Christ’s feet. She, in turn, heard His word. She positioned herself, she heard, she learned and she, therefore, had life that others didn’t have, namely her sister who served so excessively that she didn’t have time for God.

Let’s be like Mary and allow Jesus the space to teach us and reveal Himself to us day after day. He has so much to share with us. I honestly cannot think of anything more important than taking time to stay current with God. May it be our sacred priority each and every morning, afternoon and night. May this heart, a heart of devotion and willingness to learn each and every day from the greatest Teacher ever, be an unwavering commitment made possible in us by the grace of our God.

I imagine that every time we get alone with God it’s like a a fresh log thrown into the fireplace. If we keep throwing logs on the pile, the flames continue. So let’s keep tossing them in.

As we do, it won’t be long before we’re blazing again.

 

Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash.

If you’ve been blessed by Derek’s blog, resources or ministry, would you prayerfully consider a gift for him and his family? Click here for details on how to make a donation.

 

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Blazing Again – Part IV

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“…we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place.” (Luke 24:21, NIV)

After asking these Emmaus-bound disciples what they were chitchatting about, Jesus begins to purposely work toward the heart of the issue like a squirrel with an acorn. And by the heart of the issue, I mean quite literally why their heart had lost its fire, which is the theme we’ve been exploring in this blog series thus far. These boys’ hearts were going to blaze again, but first the all consuming fire Himself had to clearly show them—as well as us—why their inner man had grown so cold so quickly that they couldn’t even recognize God Himself was talking to them face-to-face.

Jesus asked a few more questions and listened patiently to their perspective. He wanted them to hear them more than He wanted to learn anything more about Himself. And what we see in Cleopas’ reply glares right at us: “What we hoped for didn’t happen. We thought this Jesus guy was the guy, the real Messiah, but it turns out we were wrong. He was just another prophet that could speak well and do miracles, but He wasn’t the true Redeemer. It was nice while it lasted though. I guess we’ll have some neat stories for the grandkids. We’re even considering writing a book about it to make ends meet.”

Well, that’s my silly paraphrase of what was stated, at least. But seriously though, as you carefully read the actual words spoken, there’s a tangible hopelessness enveloping these men like a thick fog on a damp central Illinois morning. They really believed it was going to work out and they really believed it didn’t work out. And it’s at this low point of utter dejection—the point where we would maybe expect a little compassion from God—that Jesus instead comes in hard without mincing a word. He knew they had to hear the actual truth (in love, of course) in order to break free of the bondage of unbelief to move toward that burning reality of radiant faith once more. Unfortunately for their pride, however, it was going to involve a rather large slice of humble pie they would need to savor.

“How foolish” and “slow of heart” where a couple of the phrases that began to pierce through the hardness of these forlorn men. What we see in this sermon is that these two in particular had become hopeless because they didn’t understand particular critical truths of the Scriptures at all—even though they likely thought they did. They were spiritually foolish, deeply unbelieving and had almost no real understanding of God’s ways. They didn’t have a clue that the true Messiah would suffer first and then be glorified. They rode the wave of Jesus’ miracle ministry, and enjoyed fellowship with the inner circle of the revivalists of their day, but they didn’t personally know Him or His Word really at all. Seriously, yikes!

Crazily enough, our pride can be so deceptive that when things go south we’d rather delude ourselves into thinking that God was wrong instead of admitting we were wrong. We get so jumbled up that we actually think we’re the ones who are in the know and Jesus is the uniformed visitor from out of town who needs to be filled in and take our advice. Yeah, double yikes!

The reality that these travelers didn’t connect to, and that we don’t often connect to, is that God’s ways involve suffering before glory. Humility before honor. Down before up. Trial before triumph. Death before resurrection. Pruning before growth. This is how it is across the board and there are no exceptions among the beloved. When we think we’re the exception, we get that generous dish of fresh heaven-baked humble pie. Jesus sits right there at the table with us with a happy smile on His face and watches us eat every last little crumb. Chef Jesus knows full well that the nutritional value of this special kind of dessert is critical to our long term spiritual health and produces in us the best kind of heartburn. Then and only then, after we eat His special pastry, does He move on to the next message we need to hear.

Friends, what I’m getting to is this: let’s be those who are humble enough to receive Jesus’ evaluation of our life, whatever it may be. If He says we’re foolish and unbelieving, we simply need to say, “Yes, sir.” The longer we argue with Him about how dedicated we’ve been and all we’ve done for Him, the longer we delay getting back to that place of being spiritually alive. Jesus evaluates us with a truthful accuracy more precise than any laser known to modern science. His eyes see all the way through every thought, motive, attitude and desire. Truly, He knows what we believe and who we really are.

We should rejoice when He tells us what He sees. We should consider it a priceless gift. We should trust His goodness knowing He only tells us these things in order to remove what’s getting in the way of the sincere Christlike love He died on the cross for us to possess. We should believe He’s setting us up to blaze again with a blessed holy fire upon our hearts. Because in His mind, brothers and sisters, it’s the only way to live—to live with holy passion for Him. And when we realize He’s always shepherding us to this end, and when we realize He’s doing it for both our good and His glory, we’re much less prone to resist it and much more motivated to welcome it.

The wonderful news is that the road to Emmaus story doesn’t end right at this point of corrective reproof. This was probably the toughest part on the path, but it’s a journey of increasing joy from here on out. Next week we’ll see how things unfolded after this difficult message Jesus shared. We’ll see what happens when we graciously receive the hard word and how it sets us up to fellowship with Him in ways we couldn’t have ever imagined. Jesus was about to open their eyes, blow their minds and set them on a brand new course.

This brand new course was going to change the course of many others too—including the Eleven, who were desperately needing fresh encouragement and a true word from God.

 

Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash.

If you’ve been blessed by Derek’s blog, resources or ministry, would you prayerfully consider a gift for him and his family? Click here for details on how to make a donation.

God Calls The Whole Family

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“Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man.” (Luke 17:26, NIV)

The God of Noah calls the whole family—not just dad and not just mom. Not just the smart kid and not just the gifted kid—nope, He calls the whole crazy bunch. Though everyone’s responsibilities undoubtedly all looked very different throughout that fateful ark assembly project, Noah and his wife, their three sons and their respective daughters-in-law—eight in total—were all an integral part of building what God was building in their generation.

And it’s no different today in our 21st century generation. Ministry looks different these days, but God is not different. Mankind has progressed technologically, but the unchanging God has never had to progress, because nothing can be added to perfection.

When God’s grace and calling find a modern Noah-like visionary leader in our day and age of vocational or marketplace ministry, the whole family is included in that grace and calling. In the case of the real Noah, he was the one who received the divine warning from God, but he also knew intuitively that the mission included everyone. Yes, it’s worth repeating, God’s heart is for the whole family! And when each member of the bunch bears some form of meaningful and age-appropriate responsibility in that specific family calling, they feel included and significant, as they should.

I believe one of the worst things a Noah-like ministry leader can do is fail to engage the rest of the family in real and tangible ways. When ministry is a dad thing or a mom thing, but not a family thing, it’s not what God fully intended. On a personal level, I bring my kiddos to many prayer meetings each week at the house of prayer ministry I lead. They pray on the microphone, practice on instruments, hand out my teaching notes, run the camera, and on and on. My wife leads during prayer meetings, speaks during our services, creates teaching documents, engages visitors, and on and on.

Otherwise, how could I expect other whole families to jump on board if my whole family doesn’t? It’s not only unwise to presume only one member or small part of the family is called—I think it’s actually unbiblical. Again, the roles will certainly be different, and definitely shift over time, but even the littlest lamb in the fold is to be included and trained up in the family gig.

No matter what you’re calling looks like right now, pray for God’s perspective and ask for the wisdom to include everyone in some way, shape or form. In doing so, you’re not only sharing the load, developing meaningful bonds and creating healthy ministry experiences, you’re also giving witness to God’s design of ministry, which is to do things in loving unity instead of isolated separation. Among other things, you’re also setting in motion a leadership succession process involving the most trusted of individuals whom you’ve invested in more than any other—your own children.

That’s not to say that every child is supposed to walk in dad’s or mom’s footsteps, but for those who are, they’ve been given specific hands-on training their whole life and are set up wonderfully to excel when God calls them to their special purpose in His time. And for those little ones who are eventually called to do something entirely different have lost nothing and gained everything. The sovereign God chose that season of their youth as the training grounds for them to succeed in their life calling and He always chooses the right training grounds.

So much more could be said on this topic, but for the sake of time and space let’s simply remember that we who follow Jesus also serve the God of Noah, the God who calls the whole family. As challenging as it may be at first, let’s find a way to do things together with our spouse and children. Let’s trust that as we do, the spirit of unity between spouse and kiddos will give honor to our heavenly Father and give witness to other members of His extended family—our brothers and sisters in Christ—of the great and mighty things that are possible when we do ministry together in love.

 

Image of “Noah’s Ark” (1846) by American folk painter Edward Hicks used with permission per Wikipedia’s terms of use.

If you’ve been blessed by Derek’s blog, resources or ministry, would you prayerfully consider a gift for him and his family? Click here for details on how to make a donation.

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