Seek and Find

Luke 19: 10

“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

I am re-reading probably my favorite Christian book of all time, The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri J. M. Nouwen. In chapter 8 the author hits on what I believe is a critical distinction. He writes, “The question is not ‘How am I to find God?’ but ‘How am I to let myself be found by him?’” (Image Books, 1994, P.106) Many of you read my own story recently in a Word of the Day entitled, Lost and Found. About that momentous event in my life I often say, “I chased Him until He found me.” It’s so true. Father wasn’t holding out on me. I needed to lower a couple of walls and I needed to accept Him.

It is so enlightening that we spend so much time and energy talking about judgment when Jesus explicitly said, “I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world,” (John 12: 47). He came to seek and save the lost. He meant us. He isn’t judging us; he is seeking us. We were lost and now we are found. However, that is not the end of the story. We think of this as a salvation message and that is not wrong. It is not the fullness though.

Remember in my story, I was already saved. So, why was God seeking me? He had already found me, right? Not completely. I was saved, spirit filled and going to heaven, none the less, I was separated from Him here on earth. It was not as if I did not know the Father at all. In fact, if you had known me before the fateful trip to Anaheim, you would have said I was a pretty religious person. However, there was much more for the Father and I to share, much more that He wanted with me and for me. It makes me wonder; despite our closeness now, how much more does He still want to give me? Does He still wish to “find” me in new ways or at new levels? Is there more Father?

This is the reality I want us to ponder and question. Though we have come to know the Father, have we really allowed ourselves to be found by Him? Are we allowing Him to speak to us, express Himself to us, love us? Though you may have been saved for fifty years now, I think the need of seeking Him has not lessened. It seems the more of Him we have, the more we can have and even the more He longs to give. The closer we get to Him the more of Him radiates on us. Therefore, my admonition to you is, “Seek and be found.”

Messy Drawers

Matthew 23:27

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.”

This verse reminds me of someone I once knew. His desk was immaculate; no folders, papers or files upon it, contrasted to my own which currently has multiple books, composition books, a calendar, pens (plural), a folder and a pad. I can still see a little of my desk but his showed more wood than anything else and each item; pen cup, etc. was precisely placed. One day, though, I got a glimpse in his desk drawers. It was pandemonium. There was no order whatsoever.

That is the way Jesus saw the Pharisees. They had their public (visible) personas worked out to the last detail. They wore robes, attended the feasts, gave offerings, made their tithes and said their prayers. Inside, though, they were rotten and full of bedlam. Their religion only went skin deep. In the private times of their lives, in their private thoughts and ambitions, they did not serve the Lord God. Religion was, for them, a public expression rather than a private one. This distinction is, of course, of first importance.

Jesus has invited us into the private realm of life. He offers his assistance and presence in our private lives and invites us into the intimacy of his life. Think about the Apostle John reclined on Jesus’ chest. Is this the Lordly relationship the Pharisees sought? No wonder it was hard for them to recognize him as their Messiah. And just think what it would have meant to their existence had they received and accepted him. Walls of isolation and separatism would have to be shattered. Formalism would have to be abandoned. Could a Pharisee transform enough to lay his head on Jesus’ bosom? Could he surrender that much of himself?

Jesus destroyed the protocols becoming a friend and brother. He changed the way we think of ourselves in the larger landscape of “religion.” He is gentle but longs to occupy all the private corners of one’s life. We can appreciate how uncomfortable that might make a person. He didn’t come demanding to be worshiped as a king, though he had that right. He came requiring much more. He asks for our lives; for our lives to be intimately wrapped around his and he offers himself as our lover. Wow! It is a bit much to wrap your head around, but it has the sweetest aroma about it. It calls us forward, even into the uncomfortable.

Runneth Over

Psalm 23: 5 – 6

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. Certainly goodness and faithfulness will follow me all the days of my life, and my dwelling will be in the house of the Lord forever.

Many of you have considered the 23rd Psalm in depth so I don’t want to retrace the same thoughts. None the less, this psalm is popular for good reason. It is packed with good news about our standing with God. I mean, how confident in God’s protection and provision must one be to sit down and have dinner in the midst of enemies?

I really wish, today, to focus on poverty. You can define and categorize poverty as fits your situation. When David wrote about the cup overflowing that means overflowing with friends, finances, health, etc. So, where do you need overflowing provision? It is right here in this psalm.

The language about the overflowing cup stood out to me but so did the idea that goodness and faithfulness are to follow us every day of our lives, every day! How can we be impoverished with those two following along with us daily? The reason these two parts stand out to me is because much of the church likes to enshrine poverty. We even pretend that Jesus was broke which just isn’t true. His garments were so fine that the soldiers gambled over them. You don’t do that over rags. But also, if Father God treated David so magnanimously, would He really let Jesus go around broke and destitute? I mean, really? David’s cup overflowed but Jesus was broke? I don’t buy it.

Sometimes we, church people, put such a high value on poverty that we say we are suffering for Christ or make up other such excuses. It is hard to bless God’s kids when you’re busy being broke. And Lord forbid we actually cause the cups of our pastors to overflow.

I think we need a shake-up from the neck up. We need to revise our thinking and revamp our vision of Christianity. We need to change our image of who God is and what He wants for us. He isn’t destitute so why should His kids be? Cups running over in every area of life, that is a vision I can sink my faith into.

Shepherd

Psalm 23: 1 – 4

The Lord is my shepherd, I will not be in need. He lets me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for the sake of His name. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

Yesterday in our discussion of Psalm 138 I mentioned that I was reminded of Psalm 23 so I thought we should have a look at it. Many of you know this psalm from the King James Bible which is poetic and lovely, but it is good for us to look at a variety of versions. This is the New American Standard.

So, I want to use your imagination again today. Picture yourself as a little lamb with Jesus as your shepherd. The first thing represented is provision. The Lord provides for you. You have everything you need. Then we see him leading you to a place of comfort and peace. Here you can lie down and not worry. The pastures are green, ripe with nutritious food and a comfortable place to sleep. There is a bubbling brook there with sweet, clear water, no raging rivers to ford, just a pleasant sound to lull you into peaceful slumber. Of course, this is restorative. He wants you to lie down and rest your mind and body. He is standing guard so that you do not have to worry. Be at peace and rest.

Jesus has a stake in all this. Not only does he love you. Not only did the Father give him charge over you but also, his name is at stake. He leads you in right paths to protect and bless you but if he didn’t, his name would be smeared, his lordship tarnished. He has a duty to lead in right paths. If you stumble and fall off the edge of a narrow trail, his name is besmirched. So, he keeps his little ones from harm.

Lastly, and this reflects back to yesterday, we can be in the midst of trouble, in the very valley of death and yet have no fear. We think of the rod as a disciplinary tool. Jesus thinks of it as a protection tool. The staff and rod show their first use when a ravenous wolf appears. You may be threatened by the wolf but then you see the shepherd’s crook flash from the corner of your eye and the wolf scurry for cover. He also uses his rod and staff to guide you so that you are kept to the safe path. Remember, he is leading us all to fertile fields with creeks of refreshing water. If you stray from the correct path, you will not arrive at Eden. Therefore, Jesus uses his staff to guide you, keeping you on the fruitful path. The path is narrow which leads to the land of plenty, so he is vigilant to guide you with the rod and staff so that you do not stray and find yourself in a thicket.

So much of what Jesus does in our lives is directly spoken to by this psalm. He is obligated, by God Himself, to guide us, to lead us in the way we should go. His rod and staff comfort us because our confidence is boosted and worry eradicated as we perceive the protective guard rails he establishes for us. The moment we begin to wander in the wrong direction he nudges us back in the right direction. He is constantly trying to direct us. Only stupid sheep ignore their shepherd. Ignoring his voice leads to being lost, lonely and without provision. Seek him, yes, but seek also his instruction and guidance. Daily listen to his direction for you.

I hope you were able to enjoy your visual journey as a lamb. Perhaps you added your own images.  It is a good visualization to play with. As you wander, visually, with Jesus, you see the care with which he guards his beloved.

Safe Passage

Psalm 138: 7

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; You will reach out with Your hand . . . and Your right hand will save me.

This reminds me of the Twenty-third Psalm. Even as we find ourselves surrounded by trouble, we can rest in confidence knowing the Father’s hand is nearby. As I ponder this verse, I also find myself thinking of Isaiah 30: 21, “Your ears will hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left.” One of the ways the Lord saves us is by speaking to us and warning us from paths of danger. During the bombing of the train in England and the 9/11 bombings in the US, multiple reports emerged from people saying they just had a feeling to get off a stop earlier than normal or not to go to work that day. Our Father guides in the way to go, steering us from trouble.

Sometimes, though, it is hard to get out of the path of danger, as has been the case for the last twelve months. Still, your Father is there with you to guide and protect you. He may give you instructions or ideas that keep you safe. It is imperative that we continue to grow in our ability to hear His voice because one thing is sure, there will always be trouble. Jesus said so. In these days it seems the trouble is increasing exponentially so we need Him close, more now than ever before.

He has not abandoned His people. Even as we look back over the last twelve months and the horrible suffering and loss, we can know that our Father was with us. He is with us now and that confidence in His attendance helps guide us deeper into His presence. As we continue to passionately seek Him, we will get better and better at hearing His voice and recognizing His touch.

We certainly need Him walking alongside us day by day and, fortunately, He has promised to do just that. You have His word that He will save you in the midst trouble. It is a promise upon which you can rely. Never tempt the Lord your God by putting yourself in harm’s way. Do not fail to listen to His wisdom for you. It might mean walking home by a different route or any number of seemingly small details, but His hand is there to guide and save you. Bless His name for His good promises and mighty hand.

Thirty-Seven

Mark 15: 46

Joseph bought a linen cloth, took Him down, wrapped Him in the linen cloth, and laid Him in a tomb which had been cut out in the rock; and he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.

In the attitude of seeking the Lord and reaffirming my devotion to Him, I have been thinking of Easter differently. As we near the Easter celebration I am pondering my life on this side of the grave but with a view from the other side. Here is what I mean by that.

Imagine yourself standing before the tomb in which Jesus would later be laid. Perhaps you are one of his disciples and you know what is about to occur. See yourself standing there, looking at Jesus’ burial chamber knowing his dead body will soon lie there. What emotions rise up in you? What does devotion and seeking him mean from that side of the grave when you have the knowledge of what will occur? In other words, what would the idea of devotion and dedication mean to you if I could, right this moment, transport you to the tomb which received Jesus while at the same time translate you to mere days before his crucifixion? If I could send you back with all your present knowledge, to stand before Jesus’ grave, what would that feel like?

I am asking myself if my devotion to him would be changed in an instant. Would I burst into tears knowing about the cross or would I shout praises thinking of his resurrection? Perhaps I would run through the town desperately seeking him. I sorta think my reaction would be the latter. I think I would be frantic to find him. Now here is the question I am asking myself as I face the cross, “Why am I not seeking him as desperately right now?” Easter is 37 days away, by my reckoning. The cross and the tomb loom before me. The truth of his resurrection burns in my bones. I am faced with his coming torture, death, burial and eventual victorious resurrection. It is fresh and new, not 2000 years old. I am facing that reality now. Why don’t I shout, sing, cry, pray or praise? Why am I not moved to great acts of seeking him?

This is one devotional where I will ask you not to imitate me. Be more devout in your search for his heart. Chase him down in the streets and demand his attention. Go with him, following every step he takes. Listen to every word he speaks and cherish each one as a precious pearl.

Thirty-seven days. On this side of history, we know what the next thirty-seven days would mean in the life of Christ. I guess the question is, what do those thirty-seven days mean to our lives?

Encouraged

Luke 18: 1

Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not become discouraged.

This is a good passage of scripture and an important one. Jesus was teaching his disciples about prayer. There is the appearance of two ideas in this verse: prayer and discouragement. I would like to unify those two ideas today and I believe Jesus will agree with this take on his teachings. Clearly one idea is that we ought to pray. The second admonition is, do not become discouraged. I would like to suggest the two are related.

Many of you know that I am the administrator of a prayer team. Our pray-ers are the most tremendous group of people and I am so proud to be associated with them. They move mountains and I do not say that lightly. We have, however, lost a few people for whom we prayed. I am not saying God didn’t answer our prayer. That is a whole other topic, but how can we know if the person chose to move to heaven. Regardless, it is certainly a challenge carrying prayer requests to God because, in truth, you carry them for a moment. We have gotten emotionally involved with the people represented by those requests. No one ever knows how concerned this group of dedicated people is about the people on the prayer list. They truly care. Can you imagine carrying so many intense problems? It would break us if not for the care of the Lord.

One of the prayer warriors communicated to me how the prayer we send up for others sustains us. It is not as if our glass becomes half empty and the Lord refills it. Every time we pray, He is overflowing our cup. I do not wish to convey that praying for others is burdensome. Instead, I wish to tell you that prayer is a revitalizing tonic. And, not only intercessory prayer like this. I believe that prayer, itself, is healing for the soul, and rejuvenation for the body. We are told time and again to pray, even to pray unceasingly. I believe the reason we should pray, the reason we are encouraged over and over to pray is because there is life and healing in prayer. But then, of course there is. When we talk with God, we connect with Him. Those lines of communication always carry life and light in them. Jesus is the light and the life so when we connect our spirits to his through prayer, his substance travels across those lines.

Here is what I am trying to say, prayer keeps you from being discouraged. There is encouragement is the substance of time spent in prayer. It is good for your soul when you pray, even if you are praying for someone else, perhaps even more so. I, like Paul, want you to pray frequently because I know you will feel better. Spiritual and emotional energy will be restored to you. I want you to pray because it is good for you and I believe that is part of what Jesus wished for you to glean from this passage. When you read the parable which follows, I think you will see how praying keeps you built up and confident. It helps you to keep believing. It will help your body, your mind, and your spirit. Pray because it is good for you and makes you feel good. Pray and be encouraged.

And by the way, send your prayer requests to Ivey Ministries Prayer Requests by clicking here.