bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, Jesus Follower, Uncategorized

Amazing Presence

As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.

He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

“What things?” he asked.

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but 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. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”

He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”

Luke 24:16-26

Depending on how Messianic scholars classify the prophesies in the Old Testament about the coming of Jesus, you will find between 200 and more than 400 statements about the Son of God becoming a man to teach us and be our ultimate sacrifice.  Given that information, which was taught throughout the Jewish faith, you have to wonder why anyone at the time of Jesus’ death didn’t understand what was going on.  It shouldn’t have been a surprise that He would also be resurrected.  Yet disciple after disciple, woman and man, we see either their disbelief or shocking amazement when Jesus stood with them after His death.

But we can’t be too hard on those people of old.  I mean we have 1,000s of years of Bible study, the hindsight of the entire New Testament, and more Bible scholars and preachers than we could ever count explaining the connections and the truths of this amazing story.  And yet so many of us, even Christians, have a hard time truly accepting that Jesus is with us, even today.  He stands in front of us with an open hand almost pleading with us to surrender and follow Him.  He stands next to us, holding our hand, as we take scary, daring steps of faith.  And He stands watch over us guiding and protecting us.  When we fully accept that Jesus is our Lord and Savior, we can feel His constant, amazing presence.

I heard a sermon the other day by Joyce Meyer called, “What is Faith?”  In it she encourages those whose families are grown and left the nest, who have lost spouses, who feel as though no one loves them, to grasp on to the knowledge that Jesus is ever-present in our lives.  He is with us when we go to the grocery store.  He is with us when we sit and watch a sunset.  He is with us when we lie down, alone, in our beds.  

I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

John 18:22-23

When we read the verses today in Luke 24, we might gloss over the fact that Jesus had already died.  What happened on that road to Emmaus could have just as easily been written today.  There was nothing special about the two men to which Jesus appeared.  They are you and me.  We can leave church or a Bible study waxing philosophical about the amazing presence of Jesus “way back when” and completely miss that He is walking right there with us!  

I once heard a woman in a Bible study say to the group, “How come God doesn’t talk to us like He did in the Bible?”  I found it fascinating that this person has somehow missed the prolific authors who have received urgings and messages from the Holy Spirit.  She somehow has ignored all the testimonials she has heard in church from people who have been miraculously saved.  She somehow missed my own telling, to that very group, of my Jesus vision.

“Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.” 

John 4:48

Are you ignoring Jesus’ amazing, constant presence?  Has he walked along with you, sat at your dinner table and you didn’t acknowledge it was Him?  Are you looking for a burning bush outside your door to speak in a Charlton Heston-esque voice to make decisions for you?  I’m not saying that won’t happen but Jesus’ character is a lot more quiet and gentle.  He wants you to have the “ah ha moment” like the men in our story today.  He leads you, tiny step by step to clearing the mud from your eyes and ears.  And if you will only accept the burning bush as “proof” of His presence you will surely miss Him along the path.

bible study, Christian, christian encouragement, Uncategorized

His Amazing Covenant

I’m currently doing two different Bible studies – one that focuses on 1 & 2 Kings and another that accounts Jesus’ last words in John.  What strikes me about both is that as God’s children, we always seem to fail.  We fail and we fail and we fail, yet He forgives and forgives and forgives.  How amazing is that?  

This week, I asked my BSGs (Bible Study Girls) a question: “Does God punish us?”  It led to a great discussion and a lot of contemplation.  The Old Testament is full of quite a lot of “punishment.”  We often see kings’ children die because of the “evil they did in the eyes of the Lord.” (1 Kings 15:34; 1 Kings 16:2, 7, 19, 26 and 31)  I mean, they just couldn’t seem to figure out this whole obedience to God thing.  Most notably, King Zimri (1 Kings 16: 15-20) was so tainted by greed and power that his reign only last seven days before he died in a fire as consequence of his own sin. All the droughts, wars, disease and more – were all signs of a nation enthralled by the flesh rather than God’s authority and power. 

These Old Testament stories often leave a bad taste in both the Christian and non-Christian’s mouth. At the surface, they paint God’s wrath in vivid colors and appall those who can’t grasp why God would let such terrible things happen to his chosen nation. The reality is, God is wrathful – and we mustn’t forget that. But He is also a loving God whose plan was always Jesus, from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21. With that truth, we can re-read the story of the seven plagues, the 40 years in the wilderness and the tragedies of King David and know that God works all things for our good and His Glory – because of Jesus. At the center of this undeserving covenant we gain through Jesus is a desire for obedience and faithfulness to God’s Word BECAUSE we know the amazing sacrifice that was made for us on the cross. Amidst this, there is grace – so much grace. For God still knows that all of His children have fallen short of His glory, and will continue to fall short until we are joined in heaven one day. His plan has always been of love and forgiveness.  And that’s pretty amazing.

So, my BSGs and I  came to the conclusion that yes, there are consequences for sin and we will most likely always be hanging on tight to a pendulum that is constantly swinging between faith and doubt, but amidst that, we must trust that His plan is better and good, and right. 

Besides, how often do we look in judgment at the disobedient child in the grocery store or in a restaurant and mutter to ourselves “Looks like that child needs some discipline.” Yet, we scoff and “find it hard to believe” in a God who disciplines His children – for their good and His Glory. We must find comfort in knowing we have a Father who loves us so much that he disciplines us. 

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. 

Hebrews 12:11

I, for one am thankful to now be living under the loving discipline of a perfect Father. Knowing what it is like to live without an earthly one and living a majority of my life outside of God’s will, fulfilling the desires of my flesh – I am utterly grateful and amazed to have a God who cares for my heart and soul. I struggle to control situations, control those around me and those I love. When I realize that this control stems from a lack of trust in the love of my heavenly Father, I begin to loosen my grip and experience true freedom. God’s power to overwhelm me with His love is amazing. His forgiveness for me is amazing. His grace for me is amazing. 

Once I started truly studying the Word of God, and Jesus’ teachings, in the Bible I realized how loving, how amazing the character of God is.  He always has our best interest in mind.  He is always leading us to something better.  He never gives up on us, no matter how many times we give up on Him. Jesus’ lineage, as seen in Matthew 1, is made up of a bunch of people just like us. People who have failed God. People like King David who is the textbook example of a sinner, yet He is a sinner whose household was redeemed because of Jesus.

Nevertheless, for David’s sake the Lord his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, setting up his son after him, and establishing Jerusalem.

1 Kings 15:4

So today, as we enter a tumultuous, unnerving time in the United States, I challenge you to join me in finding amazement in God each day. From now until the end of November, check back every day for encouragement and guidance through the scripture as we visit several examples of how Jesus left those around him amazed.

Although we may lack faith or struggle to believe that His plans for our world are good, we must remember the plan God had for the early nation of Israel. The first part of that redemption has already been fulfilled, now we must wait expectantly for the amazing work He has in store. 

bible study, Christian, Christian Church, christian encouragement, Uncategorized

His Amazing Ways

We read throughout the gospels of how amazed or astonished the people were who experienced Jesus’ miracles and teachings during His short physical tenure here among us. But just because He isn’t physically here doesn’t mean He fails to do amazing things every day in our lives.

Join me and my special guest, my daughter Madison Dooley, as we spend the month of November joining those people of old in our amazement of Jesus. From His youth to His death, from His healings to His admonishments, and His teachings to His loving moments with His disciples we will see how Jesus continues His amazing work to this very day.

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