Tag Archives: Jesus

Jesus wants to destroy your echo chamber [God’s heart for people to find truth, part 5]

30 Nov
Image result for jesus cleansing the temple

In this series of posts on Deuteronomy 18, we’ve been talking about how we need to get out of the echo chambers of life and find the truth in Jesus.

There is an interesting story in John18:33 and following.  Jesus has been arrested, and he was taken to the Roman governor Pilate.  The Jewish leaders accused Jesus of treason against the Roman Empire, saying Jesus called himself a king and thus a challenger to the throne. That would definitely pique Pilate’s interest, and he questions Jesus.  Read John 18:33-38 to see how their discussion goes.

I want to focus on the line where Jesus’ said that he came to testify to the truth, and everyone on the side of truth listens to him. Pilate responds with the question that so many of us are asking: “What is truth?”  It is a question philosophers through the ages have asked, and the answer is not always easy to come by, especially in a world of so much false news. 

But Jesus said that everyone on the side of truth listens to him.  Are you listening to Jesus?  That reminds me of another event in Jesus’ life.

Do you remember the story of Jesus’ Transfiguration?  Jesus took his closest disciples, Peter, James and John, up to a mountain to pray.  There Jesus’ was miraculously changed in appearance, shining bright white.  And guess who shows up?  Elijah and Moses, perhaps the two greatest prophets of Israel. Peter is blown away, of course, and he does what he so often does. He lets his emotion carry him, and he tells Jesus, “Let’s build shelters for you all…” and just then, we read that God the Father, interrupts Peter and says, “This is my beloved son, with him I am well pleased. Listen to him.”

In other words, God is saying, “Peter, be quiet.  Though you have before you Moses and Elijah, listen to Jesus.” We must listen to Jesus. 

We find truth in Jesus.  Christians must make a practice of seeking truth in Jesus.  So let us not engage in detestable practices, trying to gain knowledge and power from them.  Steer clear of them. Instead, listen to Jesus. 

To listen to him we need to spend time with him! Read the four stories of Jesus’ life, The Gospels. Learn from people who are experts on Jesus.

Read books like Philip Yancey’s The Jesus I Never Knew. Jesus is surprising.  Yancey, in that book, talks about how when he started a careful, close study of Jesus, he was shocked at what he learned.  He thought he knew Jesus.  Of course, he knew a lot, but through his study, he learned so much more. He found out that he had viewpoints on Jesus that needed correction. 

Sometimes we need to be put in our place, like God did with Peter, and not assume that we have listened to Jesus.  I can almost guarantee that when you listen to Jesus he will destroy your echo chamber.  Jesus is not conservative, or progressive or liberal.  Jesus, as he said, has a kingdom is not of this world. 

When I was in the Clergy Leadership Program a few years ago, my cohort had pastors from a variety of Christian perspectives.  Lutherans, Catholic,Orthodox, and many others.  We’d get into theological or biblical discussions regularly, and when some of them started talking, I sometimes didn’t have a clue what they were talking about.  I realized that I could live in my own echo chamber.  They knew Jesus in ways I had never heard about, and I was tempted to think that they were wrong!  It was kinda scary.  Being in an echo chamber is so comfortable because you are affirmed all the time, and you don’t have to learn or grow or hear that you might be wrong.  Those other pastors showed me a Jesus I never knew. 

The same thing happens in our local Conestoga Valley Ministerium, when we have Bible study, and I hear what Mennonite or Pentecostal or Brethren pastors have to say.  What I have come to find is that those other perspectives are so good for me.  I don’t always agree, but many times I do, and in fact have learned that my view of Jesus and his Kingdom was shallow, an echo chamber view, and my view needed to be expanded. 

So get out of your echo chamber.  Seek to learn new and different views.  Especially about Jesus.  And find the truth in him alone.  Jesus isn’t going to tell you which political party to follow.  But you can learn about his Kingdom, and you can learn to apply his kingdom principles to all of life. 

Who is THE prophet? [God’s heart for people to find truth, part 4]

29 Nov
Image result for john the baptist pointing to jesus

In part 3 of this series, we met a prophet named John the Baptist in the book of the Bible titled John (though the “John” in that title was a different John!)  In John 1:25, the people question John the Baptist about his ministry.  They wanted to out him as the Messiah (the savior king that God promised to send to Israel), or the reincarnation of one of Israel’s most famous prophets, Elijah, or the fulfillment of the promise in Deuteronomy 18, THE prophet who was to come.  John responds with a resounding “No!” to all these questions.  The people are mystified.  If he is not any of those, why is John the Baptist having a ministry of calling people to repentance through baptism?  His ministry model seems like something that one of those promised leaders would do!  John tells the people that he has a specific role, that he is preparing the way for THE prophet.

As the passage continues, we read that John saw Jesus the next day and proclaimed that Jesus was the one he was preparing the nation for.  Some of John’s disciples, then, start following Jesus. Soon more disciples start following Jesus, and one of them, Philip, says in verse 45, to another guy, Nathanael, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the law.”  By saying this, Philip is making a reference to the Prophet Moses referred to in Deuteronomy 18. 

But the references don’t stop there.  In John 5:46 we read Jesus saying the same thing, that the person Moses wrote about in the law was Jesus himself!

In John 6:14, after Jesus’ miraculous feeding of 5000 people with only five small barley loaves and two small fish, the people say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.”

In John 7:40 after a powerful teaching by Jesus, some people in the crowd said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.”  Others said “he is the Christ.”

A few years later, after Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection and ascension back to his father, after the church had first started, we read in Acts 3 that Peter and John healed a man, and Peter started preaching to the crowd.  In verses 22-26 he quotes Deuteronomy 18, where Moses talks about the prophet to come, and Peter says that Jesus was that prophet!

A few more years went by, and the church had grown like crazy in Jerusalem, and the Jewish religious leaders were not happy, feeling threatened by popularity of the Christians.  So they started persecuting the church, and one of the first men they attacked was a guy named Stephen.  In Acts 7, Stephen is standing trial before the high priest, and Stephen tells the story of the nation of Israel, eventually concluding that Jesus was the Messiah, the promised one.  In verse 37 he refers the Old Testament teaching of that promised one, and guess who he quotes?  Moses, in Deuteronomy 18, where Moses says,“God will send you a prophet like me.”

What all this means is that the earliest Christians, and Jesus himself, said that Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of Deuteronomy 18, the promise of a prophet who would come. 

So if Jesus was THE Prophet, what does that matter to us?  As Moses said in Deuteronomy 18, we need to listen to the prophet. Check back in to part 5 of this series, as we will specifically apply this teaching to our lives!

Should Christians have rules for holy living? (how God’s list of clean and unclean foods in Deuteronomy 14 matters to Christians, part 5)

2 Nov
Image result for rules?

What are the rules for holy living?  If you had to list some rules you have heard, what would you write?  Holiness refers to purity, so maybe you would include rules about avoiding putting anything unclean into your body.  Maybe you would include rules about washing, sanitizing, and purifying the water and air.  Toxicity is a popular concept in society, relating not just to the physical elements, but also to relationships.  Holy living might mean we exclude certain toxic people or media. There is much we could potentially include in a list of rules for holy living.  But should we?  As I am writing to Christians, I am especially wondering if God has rules for Christian holy living. 

This post is number 5 of 5 is a series studying Deuteronomy 14:1-21, and we have seen that God the father desired the people of Israel to live a holy life, because he treasures them and has their best interest in mind.  If they followed his way of living, they would look very different from people in neighboring nations.  Deuteronomy 14 was all about how different Israel would look in regard to the food they ate.  But does this matter to Christians?  In part 4, we studied the New Testament passages in which God overturned Israel’s food laws for Christians.  For Christians, all food is clean.  Does that mean Christians no longer need to practice holy living? 

To answer that, let’s take a look at what the New Testament writers tell us.  In Matthew 5:48 Jesus teaches, “Be holy, as your heavenly father is holy.” Here Jesus is quoting the Old Testament passages on which Deuteronomy 14 is based, but he is not saying that holiness in God’s Kingdom must look identical to what holy living looked like for Israel.  We know this from Mark 7, which we reviewed in part 4 of this series, when Jesus himself declares a new way of looking at holy living.  What does this new Christian way of holy living look like?  Thankfully, Jesus’ first followers explain it for us.

The Apostle Paul, for example, applies Jesus’ teaching for us when he writes in Romans 12:1-2:

“Therefore I urge you in view of God’s mercy to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  

Paul, additionally, in Philippians 2:14-15 takes the concept of holiness and combines with our identification as children of God, which we referred to in part 2 of this series:

“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life.”

What this means is that the principle of holy living does apply to Christians.  Because of who God is, a holy loving father, and because of what he has done, saved us through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, we are to live the way he wants us to live.

Loved children of God, we are to be holy like our heavenly father is holy so that many others can become children of God.

So what do Christian holy lives look like?  If it is not about eating certain foods, what do we actually do?  I am not going to try to come up with “Joel’s rules for holiness”.  Instead I encourage you to read what Jesus himself taught, and as you do, you’ll see that Christian holy living is based in love for God and love for one another.

Love is the basis of holiness.  Children of God, you are loved so deeply by your father, that you are free to live the holy life he wants you to live.  Follow him.  Follow his ways.

I would encourage you to discover that holy life on your own.  First, read the teaching of Jesus in the biblical books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and as you read, even if it takes you months, prayerfully ask God, “Lord, show me how to live a holy life.”  Then keep a notebook along with you, or maybe a note-taking app on your phone, and record every place where Jesus teaches about what a holy life looks like.  Prayerfully ask him to empower you to live that life.  Then think about the followers of Jesus that you know.  Which ones would you say are attempting to live out the way of Jesus and actually doing well at it.  Ask them to help you live that way.  Get their feedback and advice.

Finally if you know now or discover anew that there is something unclean in your life, and God is speaking to you today to change that, surrender it to him, ask him to take it from you, and see what he will do.  He has the power to transform your life.  But perhaps it has been a struggle for you, for months or years, and you need help.  One amazing thing that God does for his children whom he loves is that he places them in church families to help them.  Don’t keep silent about your struggle.  Talk with someone who can help you. And for freedom from some unclean habits, seek out professional help.  Making progress in holy living is possible!

How to grow your love for God, part 4 (why following his commands is not burdensome)

18 Oct
Photo by Austin Scmid on Unsplash

Does following God sometimes feel burdensome to you?  Can it seem like there are so many rules, and your heart and mind are not inclined to follow those rules?  If you’ve ever thought or felt something close to that, you’re not alone.  Many people have wondered why following God’s ways can be so difficult.  Most of know, however, that just because something is hard, it doesn’t mean it is impossible.  Rather it means you might have to invest some energy and sweat into it.  It might be costly.  But will it be worth it?  Following God’s ways raises all these questions.  Keep reading as we conclude our study of Deuteronomy 11 today and tomorrow, examining the ramifications of Moses’ teaching for our lives.  In the previous three posts, we’ve looked at sections 1 through 6 of Deuteronomy 11, seeking a pattern Moses seemed to have utilized each time.

How will Moses wrap this seventh and final section?  Look at verses 26-32. In section 7 the order is reversed from all the previous sections, as the rationale comes first, and the action follows.

So first, why does he want them to do this?  In verses 26-28, he wants them to understand God’s covenant treaty of blessings and curses resulting from their obedience or disobedience of God’s commands.

What is the thing he wants them to do? In verses 29-30, he says they need to proclaim this treaty in a ceremony when they enter the land.  They were to go up to two mountains that faced each other and proclaim the blessings and curses of the treaty, thus reenacting and renewing the treaty, this covenant between the nation and God.  If you read ahead in the book of Joshua, chapter 8, you see they actually perform the ceremony.

Finally, then, we come to verses 31-32 which are a summary of the whole passage: “You are about to enter the land, I am giving you.  Obey my commands.”

Let’s take a step back and look at the whole chapter.  Have you seen the pattern?  Moses tells the people of Israel the same thing seven times in a row: Show that you love God by observing his commands, and he will bless you.  But disobey, and you will be cursed.

Clearly Moses wants the people to pursue the blessings!  He wants them to thoroughly love Yahweh, which they will demonstrate by obeying his commands. He also wants them to make it such a priority, that they teach the next generation to do the same.  It should be an ever-present discussion in their lives, in their homes, in their travels.

We Christians are in a different covenant with God.  Israel had a unique treaty covenant with God that we don’t have.  We have new covenant, written for us in the New Testament.  But there are clearly principles that carry over.

What principles about God’s heart do we see in Deuteronomy 11?  Today we look at the principle that flows from all the sections, and tomorrow we’ll return to that axiom we started the series with: “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

So today we see that God loves his people, provides for his people, and wants to be in relationship with his people.  God makes his commands known, and he asks his people to follow his commands, because he has their best interest in mind.

When we hear the label “commands”, that loving relationship and God’s desire for our best interest can get lost in the supposed negativity of command language.  We can think that his commands are burdensome, and oftentimes make no sense, or seem outdated.  We can lose any semblance of seeing how his commands are in our best interest.

But Deuteronomy 11 reminds us that God’s heart for his commands is not that he would be some kind of dictator with ridiculous or oppressive rules, but God’s heart for his commands is human flourishing.  I encourage you to skim through this chapter again.  What do we see over and over and over?  God wants his people to be cared for, provided for, to have food and land and protection.  And he himself wants to be intimately involved in providing that.  God wants them to flourish.  That kind of abundance is at the heart of his reason for giving his commands.

Jesus reflects on this in John 15:15-21.  You might pause and read that.

The context is a close, loving relationship between God and his people.  He is not some distant ruler who makes proclamations from on high, and then never visits you to learn how you are actually doing.  How many of you work for companies whose decisions from corporate affect you every day, but they are distant, maybe even headquartered in another country?  In politics we say, “Harrisburg did this or that.  Washington is doing this or that.”  Those seats of power seem distant, disconnected, and it makes us grumpy when the decisions that happen there affect us negatively.

God is different.  God is close. He is right there in the land, in their midst, affecting things. He has always been right there. We Christians know this as well, as our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and so Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6, “Honor God with your body.”  We see, therefore, the same kind of principle in the New Testament.  God has our best interest in mind.  When we obey his commands, we show we love him, and we find that his commands are not burdensome! 

When you start to change and your friends don’t like it

30 Aug

Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash

Have you ever gone through a life change, and that change affected your friendships?

You know who your real friends are when you start changing.

Perhaps you believe new things, or maybe you have shed a long-held belief, and your friends are pushing back.  It could be that you have stopped doing something that you and your friends regularly enjoyed, and they are disappointed, even angry with you.

As Peter continues teaching in 1 Peter 4:1-6, he describes how the people he is writing to started following the way of Jesus, and as they moved away from the self-destructive patterns of their old friends, those old friends were not happy.  In fact, Peter says in verse 4, “they heap abuse you.”

“Abuse” is actually the word “blaspheme”, which means “to speak against someone in such a way as to harm or injure his or her reputation.” (Louw & Nida)

What Peter is describing could be the persecution those early Christians were facing.

So Peter goes on in verses 5-6 saying that those old friends will have to give account to God for their behavior. Then Peter makes a most interesting statement.  He says this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead.  Wait?  What?  The gospel is preached to dead people?

No.  Not at all.

Let’s examine this a bit further.

Peter uses the specific words, “preach the gospel.”  What is this gospel?  Gospel is simply a word that means “good news.” What good news?  Last week we looked at how Peter described the good news in 3:18 when he said that Jesus died for our sin, to bring us to God.  That is some good news, that people who are separated from God can now be with him.

But that is not the only good news in The Good News.  God’s good news is that he is doing a work of rectification, which is a big fancy word that means “making things right.”  God wants to set things right in the world.

As Peter has been teaching in this passage, God wants things to be right in our lives.  God wants us to move away from self-destructive sinful desires, and pursue his new way.

God’s Good News is not just a transformation of individual people.  God also wants to set the world right.  And so his good news is good news for all people, all creation.  Where there is injustice of all kinds, God wants to set things right.

That good news is what Peter says, “was preached to those who are now dead.”  “Was preached” is something that happened in the past.  Peter is talking about a preaching that occurred in the past.  Not present preaching, not future preaching.  Also, the word “now” is not in the Greek.  That has been added to help us understand the intent of Peter’s flow of thought.  He is talking about preaching that happened in the past, and some of the people who heard that preaching have now passed away.  They were alive when they heard the preaching.  They are dead now.  More than likely they had become Christians while they were still living, after they heard the preaching.

What does this all mean for those Christians reading this letter who are still alive and facing abuse from their friends?  While they faced criticism when they stopped their wild living and chose to follow the way of Christ, they can take great comfort that they are now living according to God’s way.

It is precisely at this juncture that some Christians have misunderstood what it means to live according to God’s way in our lives now.

I will never forget my visit to the Ephrata Cloister.  They wanted to remove themselves from the world, so they could not be negatively impacted by it.  It seemed like they wanted to live God’s way.  Except that Jesus specifically prayed in John 17 that God would not remove his followers from the world, but that God would keep them safe in the midst of it.

God doesn’t want us to escape from the world.  We can obey God while still living in the world.  The issue is not so much about figuring out what God’s will is for the myriad choices of living in the world.  Such as, can followers of Jesus watch movies or TV shows or play video games with certain ratings?  Can followers of Jesus wear certain kinds of swimwear?

Instead Peter is saying, start from a place where you stop indulging in evil human desires, and start following God’s desires for your life!

Certainly there are times when a follower of Jesus needs to stop or decrease a friendship because that friendship is a negative influence that the follower of Jesus cannot handle.  But in most cases, we followers of Jesus can stop indulging in evil human desires while at the same time maintaining genuine friendships with people who are not following Jesus.

So as we think about what Peter has talked about in 1 Peter 4:1-6, how about you?  Do you love God?

Are you living according to human desires, or according to God’s desires?

Have you armed yourself with the same attitude as Jesus, that no matter what goes on in your life, you are committed to do the will of God!

If you are like most of us, you have some of both.  You want to obey God, but you also find yourself giving in to evil human desires sometimes as well.

What patterns or habits do you need to change in order to live a life that is line with the way of God?

I encourage you to do what has often been called “soul-searching”.  Today is the day, Peter is saying, for us to stop or to begin to learn to stop following evil human desires, and today is the day to start growing our love for God that we might follow his desires for our lives.  He wants to change us into people that are different, and that might be hard for some of our friends and family to accept.  But God wants to change us into people that obey his desires for our lives, and that is the best way to live.

Christians, has Jesus transformed your life? Here’s how you can tell.

29 Aug

Photo by Matt Botsford on Unsplash

A question for any of you who consider yourselves Christians, followers of Jesus: would you say that Jesus has transformed your life?

Yesterday we saw that Jesus transformed Peter’s life.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Peter has that memory in mind as he continues his teaching in 1 Peter 4:1-6.  In verse 3 he builds on what he has already said in verses 1-2.  To review, Peter has taught that through suffering you are learning to be done with sin.  He says that Christians can choose to no longer live for evil human desires, and thus live for God’s desires, for God’s will.

Now in verse 3, I hear Peter saying: “Frankly, don’t you think you have lived a really sinful life long enough?”  In other words he is saying to them, “You have spent enough time in the past following evil human desires.  Keep following Jesus.”

Peter wants them to take a step back and review their life.  Apparently some of them had really lived it up in the past.  What Peter describes here is some risky behavior.  There is no self-control in this.

The scholars tell us Peter is referring to “drinking parties involving unrestrained indulgence in alcoholic beverages and accompanying immoral behavior.” (Louw & Nida) This is out of control stuff where you are risking your health on a regular basis.  In 2018, it would like getting high on heroine, sleeping around with anyone, getting drunk on a regular basis, and then driving vehicles drunk.  It is very selfish, wasteful, and irresponsible.

Maybe you’ve experienced some of that lifestyle yourself.  Maybe you know people who have.  Maybe your sinful behavior was rebellion in other ways.  Maybe there is some rebellion still going on in your life?

In what area of your life are you lacking self-control?  Is it your mind, mouth, attitude, money, time spent on TV, social media, video games, food, and you know God would say, “Follow me”?

Peter is saying to these Christians and to us that it is time to be done with that old life.

And that is exactly what happened!  Look at verse 4.

Peter reviews their spiritual story.  There was a change.  The people who were formerly partying it up had made a change. They had started following Christ, and they are living the new way of his Kingdom, or at least they are trying to.  The way of Christ is a way of self-control.  Think fruit of the Spirit growing in you and flowing through you.  Love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control.  The new way is exact opposite of the way they used to be.  Where there was lust, there is now love.  Where there was anger and rage, there is now joy, peace, and gentleness, kindness.  Where there was rebellion and fighting, there is now patience and self-control.

Peter is talking to people who actually went through these changes.  So why would he need to warn them, if they had already made the change?

It could be that Peter knows how difficult persecution can be.  Especially when your friends are involved.  And that’s what we we’re going to talk about tomorrow.

The one crucial step that must come before doing God’s will

28 Aug

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

What is the will of God?

Yesterday we looked at the surprising weapon Christians are to arm themselves with: the attitude of Jesus, which was an attitude of following the will of God for his life no matter what.  As we continue studying 1 Peter 4:1-6, Peter goes on to say in verse 2 that we Christians will no longer live for evil human desires, but rather we live for the will of God.

What is the will of God?

Here is what the will of God is not: Peter is not talking about some special plan that God has for our future.

Very simply, living for God’s will is doing what God says.  Another great word for this is obedience.  We followers of Jesus are committed to obeying God, and Peter says that means that we no longer obey evil human desires.  What are evil human desires?

Another way to translate the words “evil human desires” is the word “lust.”  The scholars tell us that the word Peter used means “to strongly desire to have what belongs to someone else, and/or to engage in an activity which is morally wrong.” (Louw & Nida)

When you put verses 1 and 2 together, Peter is saying that through the suffering he mentioned in verse 1, disciples of Jesus are no longer living for selfish human desires, but we are to live for the will of God, which means we obey his desire for our lives.

This the key to living as followers of Jesus: we live to obey the will of God! To obey God’s desires.

To understand this further, Peter uses the word “Flesh” multiple times in these few verses.  In the NIV you see it as the word “body” and as “earthly life”.  What Peter is talking about is that there are so many desires that our flesh has.  But so far in verses 1-2 Peter has been saying that when we experience suffering in our flesh, it really puts things into perspective, and sinful desires pale in comparison.  Thus followers of Jesus make it our focus to live according to God’s will and desires for us.

Let’s talk more about living for God’s will.  It is such a foundational concept to Christianity.

But how to we follow God’s will?  It can feel a bit forced.  Peter is saying, “Do God’s will.” Or, “Just obey.” Is that all there is to it?  Just obey.  Can we just choose to obey?  Is it that easy?

Maybe you have a personality where if God says it, then you are good to go with obeying it, period.  No questions.  You are okay with it.  And you genuinely seek to obey.

But there are others of you who have a different personality or approach.  You hear, “do God’s will,” and you know that it is a good thing, but you are wondering, why should we obey God?  Or is that all there is to it? Is there a reason for it? Can’t God tell us more about this?

I would suggest that there is more.  And that Peter knows there is more.  And that Jesus taught that there is more.  And this is what is more: obeying God’s will is intended to flow from a heart of love for God.

When we love someone, we are inclined to respect them, serve them, treat them well, help them.  God doesn’t want us to obey him begrudgingly because he is the supreme power of the universe, and we are his creatures.  As if God is some dictator.  Or a master with slaves.  God wants us to do his will out of love for him. He wants to be in a real loving relationship with us.

I wonder, do you love him?

Of course we would say “yes” to that.  But perhaps we say, “Yes, I love God” too quickly, without examining our hearts and minds.

I use some phone apps to guide me in reading scripture and praying.  One is from the Book of Common Prayer, and it has morning, evening and night prayer services that you can read through and pray.  It includes plenty of Scripture and the Lord’s Prayer, other written prayers, spaces for silence and your own prayer requests as well.  One of the written prayers that is in there every single day always gets me thinking:

“As we rejoice in the gift of this new day, so may the light of your presence, O God, set our hearts on fire with love for you, now and forever, amen.”

And then yesterday, another app I use had this prayer,

“Dear Lord, instill in my heart the desire to know and love you more.”

In a week when I was thinking about a passage that emphasizes obeying God, these two prayers hit me hard.  Do I love God?  Of course, I love God.  But really, do I love God?

I thought of Peter, not long after Jesus was arrested and taken away.  That evening, Peter is following from a distance, watching, fear rising in his heart, as they put Jesus on trial.  Then Peter is spotted, and pointed out as one who had been with Jesus.  Peter allows fear to overtake him, and he denies knowing Jesus, once, twice, three times.  Vehemently Peter denies knowing Jesus.

Then the rooster crows, and Jesus looks out across the way, locking eyes with Peter.  Peter, who had only hours before made bold claims about dying for Jesus, now has denied him. He flees the scene, weeping bitter tears.  But a few days later, Jesus rises from the dead, and Peter is a changed man.

Jesus reinstates him, saying Peter, “Do you love me?”  Three times, one for each denial.  And each time Peter says “I love you.”

This is a different Peter now.  Having acted out of fear instead of love, Peter is now set on a trajectory of loving Jesus that will carry on for the rest of his life.

Jesus transformed his life. Jesus wants to do the same in your life.  He wants to restore a loving relationship between you and him.  He is not a taskmaster forcing you to do his will.  Instead, he wants you to know, out of mutual love for one another, that loving him leads to obeying him which is the best possible way to live.