Do you love Me? ….Feed My sheep (John 21:16).
When our oldest son was little, he stood on a chair looking out the back door window, shouting in his best two-year-old televangelist voice to our dog, “Shane on the hill, do you know Jesus?”
My first thought was, “Where did that come from?” Our church didn’t preach like that, and we rarely watched TV.
Jesus asked this same question to Peter—three times. The third time really grieved Peter because, even though he screwed up a number of times with his hot temper and his multiple denials of even knowing Jesus, he felt that deep in his heart he did love Jesus. And Jesus “knowest all things.”
In English, we use the same word to describe everything from our pleasure with a great taco to the intense stirring in our heart for our newborn. As I read this passage, I feel the Lord is asking us to examine the depths of our heart.
Like Peter, I mess up… hourly. My choices are often the comfortable ones, rather than the risky ones that leave me vulnerable and require trust. In actions, I often choose the sheep I want to feed, and those I judge and dismiss. And my thoughts aren’t always overflowing with love either.
But the Lord does know all things. And He may have to remind us with this question over and over and over again of what we should be doing, and thinking, and being, so that we can honestly answer, “You know that I love You.”
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding (Prov. 3:5).
I recently read a devotional by Oswald Chambers and, with one word, he really challenged my thinking and fine-tuned my understanding concerning this familiar scripture. He said, “…lean not on your own ‘righteous’ understanding.” Well, we know that worldly thinking is sometimes unscriptural, and we know this applies to carnal perceptions for sure. But have you ever considered that our understanding could be upright and scriptural, but still not be what God had planned at that moment?
This may be a simplistic example, but it helped me to grasp the concept. Once, while preparing for company (you know what that’s like), I asked one of my children to empty the dishwasher. When I came home, the dishwasher was still full, but the house was picked-up. Well, that was a very good and much appreciated help, but my immediate need required full use of the kitchen. Likewise, our service, even if it is righteous and scriptural, may not further God’s plan.
And sometimes the good gets in the way of the best. We may choose a direction to go or a service to do that may be really worthwhile. We may even pray for God to bless our efforts, when in fact, He may have an even better plan. That’s why we’re told to seek His righteousness, and in all our ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct our paths.
Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word (Ps 119:37).
At this time in my life, my time is much more flexible. I find myself often praying for God to guide me and show me His will for the day. God does not reveal His will for our lives from beginning to end, and there are very good reasons for this. His plans for each of us are so tremendous that it may scare us because we haven’t grown to that point yet. Or it may be the opposite; we may get so excited that we jump ahead of God when we, or the time, are not ripe. Another very important reason is that we need to learn to trust—trust Him as He shows us the way to go—one.step.at.a.time.
This is why reading the word and loading our hearts with His principles is so vital. As our hearts are being filled with truth and love, our decisions and actions have a much better chance of being righteous. Psalm 119 tells us that the word illuminates our path and that we can stay on the right path by heeding it.
But the verse that stood out to me today is Psalm 119:37–Turn my eyes away from worthless things. This certainly doesn’t mean that we’re destined to a somber life. Quite the opposite! But many things that the world has to offer are shallow, just a veneer. We’ve all heard about people chasing power, fame and wealth and acquiring all that the world has to offer except the joy and peace that comes only from following the word.
Those worthless things are so enticing, and before we know it, we are lured and ensnared, but never satisfied. Jesus used some pretty strong words when He said that if our eye causes us to sin, pluck it out. The prayer in this verse makes it easier—Turn my eyes away from worthless things; help me not even to notice nor acknowledge them.
Even when I’m old and gray…let me proclaim your power to the next generation, your mighty miracles to all who came after me (Ps 71:18).
One of our most important jobs in this life is to pass on HIS story, the message of truth of the mighty power and saving grace of Christ Jesus, to the next generation.
When my children left home for college, marriage, or life on their own, I gave much thought as to whether or not we had prepared them enough—would they eat too many fast foods because they couldn’t cook, or mix whites with their jeans, or balance a checkbook, or, or, or.
Really they could survive in the world without knowing all these skills as long as they know who to go to. What better go-to person than the Creator, the One who designed the world, and the One who formed each unique person. He is there for the major hurdles, and He is there for the little things too.
In the Old Testament, God’s people built altars so that when their children inquired about them, they could tell the story of how God worked in their lives. I have seen Him work miraculously in my own life, especially in regard to His perfect timing, and I have never met a believer who doesn’t have a personal story.
Sharing our own stories of God’s miracles is really giving the next generation a gift much better than the heftiest trust fund—it’s sharing hope.
Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him (Ps 34:8)
The word “taste” appears a few times in connection with the goodness of God in both the Old and New Testaments. God’s choice of words is never random, but each is meaningful and carefully chosen.
As I thought about this, I concluded that our sense of taste is the most complicated. It works in connection with other senses including smell– aroma and also touch–texture. Though we may try, a taste is most difficult to explain in words. It can only be described by comparing it to another taste–like chicken (sorry, I couldn’t help myself). So it is with the goodness of God. There is no comparison; it must be discovered, experienced, and acknowledged.
God’s goodness is complete—totally satisfying, sufficient to meet our every need.
The challenge isn’t going back for a second helping, but to park there and bask in the Lord’s provision as this verse concludes, blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
A short time ago, the message at our church impacted me so much that even though I may not do it justice in these few words, I would be remiss for not sharing and will prayerfully try.
Although God’s word never goes out and returns void, I chose a verse that even non-believers can quote. John 3:16 is so commonly used, the depths of its meaning has been lost.
How many of us as loving parents would choose to suffer pain, emotional hurt, or even death rather than see our child experience it? The anguish suffered by that parent is often more excruciating than the physical pain.
Our loving Father gave us His most precious, precious gift. His only be-loved Son was sent from a heavenly paradise to live on earth for the sole purpose of assuming our sins on His perfect humanity in order to pay the penalty for what we did. As a parent, the depths of His pain would have to be immeasurably greater than if the Father could do it Himself.
And then, because God cannot be in the presence of sin, the already grieving Father had to turn away from the Son. Many parents cannot even leave a child’s hospital bed to eat or sleep, but the Father, who is the very definition of love, had to for a time abandon the Son. He could not complete His purpose if “the cup passed” from Him.
Can there be any greater love than to give His Son–His dearly loved child?
The depths of this love story can only be matched by the joyous ending. Sin and eternal death are defeated. We are redeemed by the most costly price imaginable—the Father’s love.