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An Opportunity at Breakfast

What must it have been like for the disciples when Jesus appeared to them after His resurrection? Their sorrow was immediately replaced with joy and any doubt they had that Jesus was the Savior was erased, but I think they still had questions. Especially Peter.

Peter was one of Jesus’ closest friends. He was zealous and impetuous in his love for Him.
When the soldiers had come for Jesus in the garden Peter was quick to draw his sword in defense. I believe that same zeal and love for Jesus followed him into the courtyard. So did his fear. Perhaps that fear was the reason Peter denied he knew Jesus. Three times Peter denied that he had anything to do with Jesus. Then the rooster crowed.

Peter looked up, into the eyes of Jesus. As the soldiers led Jesus away Peter remembered that Jesus had predicted his denial at supper the night before. He went outside and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:61-62) He didn’t have another opportunity to speak with Jesus before He was crucified. How that scene must have played over and over in Peter’s mind after Jesus was crucified, questioning whether he could ever make things right.

Can you imagine the agony Peter went through? Maybe you can, more than anyone knows. You may not have denied you knew Jesus, but perhaps denied Him the opportunity to work in your life or use you to bless others. Most of us have had times we’ve let God down, and wondered how we could ever make it right. Maybe we’ve stopped praying because we don’t know what to say, don’t think there’s any way we can be close to Him again.

morning

Early one morning after Jesus’ resurrection a few of the disciples were fishing. They returned to shore to find Jesus waiting for them with breakfast. They ate their fill, then Jesus called Peter aside. As they walked, Jesus gave Peter three opportunities to express his love for Jesus, the same number of times he had denied Him. Their relationship was not only restored but Peter was also sent out to care for others and spread the gospel.

Sometimes when I’ve strayed from God’s plan for me I wonder if this is the time He will decide I’ve lost my last chance. Thankfully it never is.  He’s always waiting for me to turn and renew my commitment to serve Him and welcomes me with open arms when I do. Jesus is always waiting for us to come to Him. Let’s renew our commitment to Him today, draw close and ask how He wants to use us to love others.

Blessings and peace on your journey today!
Paula

 

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Does The Doubter Get A Bad Wrap?

After hearing the women’s exciting news of Jesus’ empty tomb I imagine the disciples spent their day in a flurry of activity. Mary said she had seen Him but the others had not. As excited as they were there may have still been a measure of fear that those who hated Jesus might still seek them out and arrest them too. By evening 10 of the 11 remaining disciples were together again behind locked doors.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”  John 20:19-23

Jesus was there in the midst of them! What a sweet time that must have been.

Thomas was missing that night. Yes, that Thomas. When they told him they saw Jesus Thomas replied:

“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were,
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”     John 20:25b

We don’t know why Thomas wasn’t with the other disciples or what caused him to not believe them about Jesus. But this is where I think he gets a bad wrap. Thomas was ‘all in’ when it came to serving Jesus and was very loyal to Him. When Jesus prepared to go back to Jerusalem to raise Lazarus from the dead others tried to discourage Him because of the danger. Thomas was ready to go with Jesus and die with Him if necessary. We don’t know what was going on for Thomas to want to see Jesus for himself. Maybe he was afraid of disappointment…afraid to hope.

How many times do we doubt God?

Do you ever find yourself in a situation you can’t control? Many of us are frustrated by our current circumstances, not knowing when we can be together with loved ones, establish a routine, plan for the future, or even if there will be enough to meet our needs this month. We may doubt that something good can come from this troubling situation. We find ourselves wanting proof, just as Thomas did.

Friends, God makes many promises to us in Scripture. One of them is:

“My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”   Philippians 4:19

God doesn’t say He will pick and choose what needs He will meet. He promises to meet all of them. Maybe God wants to use you today to help meet the needs of another – even from a distance. Pray about it and see what He says.

Doubting is part of our human nature. It takes faith and trust to set doubt aside and believe in the promises God makes to us. When we do we find a blessed peace in the midst of the puzzles life brings to us.

And it might make us think that Thomas got a bad wrap.

blessings & peace to you…
Paula

 

 

 

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Easter Sunday ~ Have You Seen Him?

Sabbath was over and the women just had one thing on their minds, to prepare Jesus’ body for a proper burial. They left quietly as the men had finally fallen asleep after hours of discussion, debate and devastating sadness over the loss of their leader and friend. The women were also mourning but right now they had to set their grief aside for this important task.

Chapter 20 of John’s gospel portrays Mary Magdalene’s experience that morning. Mary had gone to the tomb before dawn expecting to contend with a stone at the entrance. Her first surprise was to find the stone moved and the tomb opened. She rushed back to tell Peter and John who returned with her to the tomb. John tells us when he and Peter saw the grave cloths laying inside the empty tomb they remembered Jesus’ words, believed He had risen, and returned to their homes.

Mary stayed at the tomb, weeping. She stooped to look inside and saw two angels. This was more unexpected than the open tomb! The angels questioned why Mary was weeping. As she replied that someone had taken Jesus, her Lord and she didn’t know where He was, she turned and there stood Jesus. Mary didn’t realize it was Him until Jesus spoke her name. Her fear and sadness turned to joy at the sight of her risen Lord. Mary ran to tell the disciples – I have seen Jesus!

Most of us can relate to the emotion Mary Magdalene experienced that morning. Sometimes we can’t see the truth of what’s in front of us for all the feelings inside of us. The confusion and uncertainty we are experiencing clouds our senses to the unexpected answers God has put in front of us.

As we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus today I ask you a simple question. Have you seen Jesus? Can you see His love and grace around you, or are your emotions and sadness clouding your vision? Jesus understands our sadness. He recognizes our disappointment at not celebrating as we would like and being separated from family and friends. He also stands waiting for us to see through our circumstances to experience Him in unexpected ways.  When you pour out your emotions to Jesus with an open heart, asking Him to reveal Himself in a new way, He will. He is waiting to speak His love to your heart and bring joy to your sadness.

My friends, I hope you take some time to see Jesus today, and just as Mary did that resurrection morning, share Him with others. Through prayer, a card in the mail, an e-mail note, or a phone call, or any creative way, don’t allow this day to pass without helping others experience the joy you share with Mary as she ran to tell others – I’ve seen Jesus, and I’ll never be the same again!!

Blessings and peace to you!
Paula

 

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Holy Week Day #7 ~ Sabbath Sorrow

Sabbath arrived full of sorrow and anxiety. Jesus was dead and because the Sabbath arrived shortly after His body was taken down from the cross He wasn’t given a proper burial. The women who loved Jesus had prepared spices and perfumes but then the day of rest arrived. Along with their sorrow, they may have spent Sabbath anxious to return to the tomb and care for His body according to custom.

Scripture doesn’t give us a glimpse into the actions or thoughts of the disciples on Sabbath but it was surely filled with tears and sadness. It is noteworthy that there is not one mention of any hope on that Sabbath. Jesus spoke many times over the years about His death and resurrection, but on that Sabbath no one seemed to remember His words.

Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.”     Luke 18:31-33

It can be easy to look back through history and be critical of the lack of hope and faith shown by Jesus’ disciples, but I’m not sure I would have remembered either in my grief. Jesus’ friends didn’t have the benefit of knowing what would happen the next morning. They forgot the promises Jesus made, and allowed the grave to rob them of their hope, making it a very sorrowful Sabbath.

Maybe that’s the way you’re feeling today. You had plans for this Easter, and staying home, away from loved ones wasn’t part of it. You had looked forward to a celebration with your church family too, loud voices ringing out together, praising the One who rose from the grave. Today those plans seem to be buried in a grave of isolation and sorrow. Those feelings are real, and they are valid, but should not be the end of the story.

My friend, I encourage you today to let the promises of Jesus rule over the feelings of sorrow today. The truth is that Jesus rose from His grave and brought eternal life to all who believe in Him. This is true whether or not we celebrate together! Jesus also promised to be with us in our sadness and disappointment. Ask Him to be present with you today, whatever your circumstances. You can be sure He will!

Today I echo these words of Paul for each of you:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.          Romans 15:13 ESV

While the anticipation of Easter is very different this year, the Jesus we celebrate remains the same. Thank Him today, and ask Him to restore your joy in the midst of sorrow.

Blessings and peace to you today!
Paula

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Holy Week Day #6 ~ A Friday Like No Other

It wasn’t long after Jesus submitted to His Father’s will in the garden that night that Judas arrived with the soldiers. The disciples had been asleep and oblivious to the anguish of Jesus as He prayed. They weren’t prepared when Judas arrived with the soldiers and kissed Jesus as one would kiss a friend. Matthew 26:56 tells us the disciples fled when Jesus was arrested. Only John and Peter followed as the soldiers led Jesus away.

Jesus faced several trials that day to decide His fate. Along with the trials came whippings that broke His skin open. The air stung His wounds, but the soldiers kept whipping over and over, until bone and tissue was exposed.

A crown of thorns was pressed into His scalp, burying into His skin for the duration of the day.

His face was continually struck by soldiers’ fists but Jesus never showed anger towards His enemies. He stood there and took it.

Jesus could barely walk – could barely even stand, yet a cross likely weighing over 100 pounds was placed on His back to be carried along the path to Calvary. There His hands and feet were bound and nailed to that cross where He would die, fully human, yet fully divine, accepting the sins of the world, paying the price for our salvation.

On this Good Friday we are also paying a price. While it pales in comparison to what Jesus did on the cross, it is still real…and significant.

Maybe today is a tough day as you contemplate the price you are paying this Easter weekend, wondering how you’ll get through this time. Please remember the price Jesus paid on the cross doesn’t only offer eternal life. It also brings His presence into your life and the offer of peace and joy in the midst of uncertainty. Jesus understands the difficult road you are walking and wants to walk beside you.

Remember that Friday wasn’t the end of the story for Jesus. Two days later He would defeat death as he rose from the grave. Today can be a good Friday too, even if it isn’t the Friday we would choose. Trust Jesus to bring good out of these circumstances, and allow His peace and joy to be part of every minute of your uncertainty. I promise it will make today a Friday like no other.

Blessings and peace to you!
Paula

 

 

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Holy Week Day #5 ~ The Savior Serves

Passover had arrived! It would be a day of preparation for the feast shared by Jesus and the disciples. Only Jesus knew what awaited them by nightfall.

Picture the room where Jesus and His disciples shared the Passover feast. Gathered around a big table, the friends relaxed and enjoyed time to be together as family and indulge in the feast before them. Can you hear the disciples sharing stories as brothers do, comparing notes and ribbing each other for missteps and blunders? The book of Luke tells us the conversation of the disciples escalated to who was the greatest among them. (Luke 22:24) Can you see Jesus watching them, soaking in their brotherhood? I think Jesus treasured these last few moments with those closest to Him, knowing how things were about to change.

In the midst of the revelry Jesus rose from His place at the table, laid aside His outer garments, and tied a towel around His waist. Can you hear the room begin to quiet as they watched, then go silent as He poured water into a basin, knelt before each of the disciples and washed their feet, just as a servant would have done?

feet washing

Let’s take a moment to put this foot washing into context. Did you run barefoot as a kid? I didn’t like shoes – still don’t really, and I welcome any opportunity to go barefoot. I remember my sister and I would come in from outside at the end of a day playing outside and compare how black the bottoms of our feet were. This is what how the feet of the disciples looked. They walked everywhere they went, barefoot or with sandals that gave them protection from the elements of the ground but didn’t keep their feet from being crusted in filth. Washing the feet of guests wasn’t just the role of a servant, but the lowest ranking servant. It was not a job anyone wanted – anyone but Jesus.

What a contrast to the conversation about which disciple was most important! Jesus wanted to show His love for them and demonstrate again that loving others is about serving and putting others first, not being great in the eyes of others.

Later that night, Jesus demonstrated a different type of servant-hood as He knelt in the Garden of Gethsemane. Matthew tells us as Jesus spoke with His Father His heart was “sorrowful, even to death”. (Matt. 26:38) Remember Jesus was fully human. What thoughts would be going through your mind if you knew you were facing what the next 24 hours would bring to Jesus? How would you feel? Would you beg and plead for mercy, asking for pardon? Jesus did.

“My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me;
nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”             Matthew 26:39

Our sin keeps us from God, and from spending eternity in His perfect Heaven. Jesus knew the only solution for this was for Him to be the sacrifice for us. He lived a perfect, sinless life and His death could atone for the sins that keep us away. He was willing to pay the price, but still asked if there was another way. For me it can be easy to forget or gloss over how impossibly painful all of this was for Jesus.

When Jesus confirmed there was no other way, He rose, went into the garden, woke His disciples and humbly walked into the Father’s plan. In the next 24 hours Jesus would give up His position and power and serve His Father, and us by giving His life for ours.

I don’t think any of us wants to be in the situation we find ourselves this day. We don’t want to be social distancing, hearing about sickness and death, wondering when things will return to some sort of normal. We don’t like the uncertainty and want it all to be different. Those feelings are natural, and God expects us to go through all sorts of emotions. The question is whether we have considered what God wants to do in and through us during this time. Have we stopped whining and complaining long enough to approach God as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane, committing to His will, not our own? Are we giving our time to Him to serve Him and others in any way we can, or are we going through this time kicking and screaming, pouting because we can’t have what we want?

Jesus displayed a servant’s heart throughout His time on earth, but never more than this day. What an example He was of seeing beyond circumstances to God’s desires and bowing Himself to God’s will. As we go through this day, let’s find ways to thank Jesus for His sacrifice by finding ways to serve God and others.

Blessings and peace to you today!
Paula

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Holy Week Day #4 ~ Betrayal & Regret

Scripture is unclear about what Jesus did on Wednesday of Holy Week. He likely spent all or part of the day teaching in the temple, but however He spent it I believe there was one thing that weighed on His mind.

Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.                                                                                    Matthew 26:14-16 ESV

Judas thought he went to the chief priests in secret, but Jesus knew what he was doing. Those actions would set in motion two days of anguish for Jesus, but ultimately the salvation of the world. Jesus also knew what his actions meant for Judas’ eternity, and that may have saddened Jesus even more than His impending suffering and death.

The betrayal of Jesus by Judas led to arrest and then crucifixion, but I’m not sure Judas knew it was going that far. We can’t know for certain, but I think Judas had a lot of anger and jealousy inside of him and acted impulsively. We do know Judas later regretted his actions and tried to undo what he had done. (see Matthew 27:3-5)

erasing regrets

If only Judas had gone to Jesus instead of back to the priests. Judas didn’t realize that just as the actions of Joseph’s brothers in the Old Testament led to their own salvation from starving to death, the actions of Judas led to the salvation of the world. If Judas had gone to Jesus he might have heard the words of Joseph spoke to his brothers long ago. Jesus was ready to forgive Judas, but never had the opportunity.

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.      Genesis 50:20

We might have more time on our hands during this stay-at-home time, including more time to think. If that thinking leads you to regretting words spoken or regretable actions of the past, please know that you can erase that regret. Begin by spending time with the Lord in prayer and confession. Then accept the forgiveness He offers. Allow it to sink deep inside of you and comfort you like a balm.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.         1 John 1:9

Jesus loves you and is waiting for you to come to Him, accept forgiveness and give you peace. It might be hard to believe, but it’s true. What do you have to lose, except pain and regret?! Take it to Jesus and leave it at His feet.

This Easter could bring peace and joy like you’ve never experienced. Please take some time today to take your pain and regret to Jesus and let Him replace them with peace that passes understanding!

Blessings and peace to you!
Paula