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“And it came to pass that, as the people pressed upon Hin to hear the word of God, He stood by the lake of Gennesaret and saw two ships standing by the lake, but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets.” Luke 5:1-2

I’ve read the story of Peter and how he fished all night and came up empty handed, as many of you have. Today, however, I learned something that I’ve overlooked before. In verse one, Scripture tells us that the crowds were pressing upon Jesus trying to hear Him teach. What jumped off the page for me today was that, in spite of the masses clamoring for His attention, Jesus saw Peter and the other fisherman. No doubt the crowds were loud and pulling Him from every direction, but He still saw Peter. It’s so easy for us to think that in the billions of people on this earth, God doesn’t notice us. We can think we are so ordinary that He pays us no mind. We can think that He has so many more important things to attend to that He doesn’t have time to be concerned with our problems. However, Peter was just an ordinary fisherman who probably had no idea that he, as he washed his nets, caught the attention of the One who was about to change his life in ways that he couldn’t even fathom. Peter had to be exhausted, dirty, smelly, frustrated, disappointed, and most likely a little angry after the night he had just had. After all, fishing provided his livelihood, so coming up empty handed was not going to bring him in any money. He was definitely not at his best moment when he caught the eye of Jesus. We aren’t unlike Peter. We, too, have caught the eye of the Savior when we are not at our best. We have been knee deep in the muck of our own sin with no way of escaping when we caught His eye. And He saw us! Us at our worst didn’t even phase Him. He came right on over and pulled us out of the muck and set us on solid ground and from that moment forward, He changed our lives in ways we couldn’t even fathom. Beloved, no matter what your situation is, He sees you today and every day!

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“God always has a higher purpose in mind than just keeping us happy.”

The quote above was in my devotional a few days ago. I think we all can get caught up in the idea that if things are going our way and we are happy, God must be blessing us, but when everything is falling apart and we are struggling, He must not be blessing us. We fall for the lie when Satan whispers on our ear, “God is supposed to love you, but He doesn’t even care that you’re going through these difficulties. He doesn’t care about your happiness. He doesn’t care that you’re hurting!” We’ve all been there, drowning in the wave of self pity. We’ve all questioned where God is when our world is falling apart and we wonder if our happiness is important to Him at all. And the answer is both yes and no. God does care about every detail of our lives, and He does care about our happiness, but what she is more concerned about than our happiness is how are we progressing  in our walk with Him and how is our transformation into His image coming along. He would rather us walk through the fire than through a bed of sunshine and roses if it means that we come out on the other side looking more like Him. He would rather gonwith us through the deepest valley of despair than to have us stand on the mountaintop of victory without Him. He would rather have us sitting in a pool of our own tears at His feet than to see us rejoicing over what will  eventually leave us unfulfilled. God isn’t in the business of making us happy…He’s in the business of seeing us conformed into His image so that we may carry out the plans He has for us.

“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His image with ever increasing glory which comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18

My husband and I took two of our grandsons to the zoo today. On our way there, we passed by a car accident that had just happened on the opposite side of the road. I told my 4 year old grandson we needed to pray and ask God to help the people who had been in the wreck. In his most serious voice he said, “Nana, Jesus saves people and then they are okay.” That precious little boy doesn’t have a clue that he just said the most truthful statement of all time. “Yes, Buddy, you’re right! Jesus does save people and then they are okay.” I replied. All day his statement has stuck with me. If only everyone knew this truth for themselves! We tend to make it so much more complicated than it has to be. We add to many rules to follow, too many do this and don’t do that’s, and we make something simple so hard. It’s probably why Jesus said we needed to come to Him as the litttlw children do. In their simplicity, they know way more than we do.

“But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 19:14

I learned something new about zebras a few days ago. I’ve known for a long time that they have unique stripe patterns, much like humans have unique fingerprints. However, I didn’t know that when a zebra is born, its mother takes it away from the herd for several days so that the baby can just spend time with its mother. During this time of isolation, the baby becomes so familiar with its mother’s pattern of stripes that it can always recognize her, even in a herd of hundreds of zebras. After it’s time of isolation, the baby is brought back into the herd, but will never be confused about who its mother is because it will always recognize her stripes. As I heard that information, two things came to mind. One is that God is so amazing! He has fashioned zebras to be uniquely individual, but has also given them the instincts to help their young recognize them. I think that is so cool! Secondly, I thought about our Father and how we need times of isolation apart from the world with just Him so we can learn His “stripe” pattern. We need to spend time alone with Him so we get to know Him intimately…so intimately that when we are surrounded by the world, we immediately recognize Him. Just as the baby zebra runs to its mother when it needs something or when danger lurks near, we need to run to our Father when we need something or when danger lurks near. And there is something so wonderful about our Father’s stripes – they are stripes that bring healing to us. There is nothing that ails us that He cannot heal. There is no wound too deep that He cannot take care of. There is no hurt so strong that He cannot soothe it. Our Father wants us to spend time alone with Him because He knows that we need it. He knows that it is in the up close and personal time with Him that we learn to recognize Him so that we will always be able to run to Him. He knows every detail about us, and He wants us to know Him in the same way.

“…by His stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5

“But He said to them, ‘How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” Mark 6:38

Most of us are familiar with the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 with only a few five loaves and two fish. We know that Jesus took their very little and turned it in to way more than enough. We know that everyone present witnessed a miracle that day. We understand that He can do wonders beyond our wildest imagination. What we may skip right over is that they already had what they needed for the miracle to take place. Jesus asked what they had and then immediately told them to go and see. I wonder if He told them to go and see because they were a lot like most of us…we are so focused on what we don’t have (or what we think we don’t have) that we don’t even bother to look and see what we do have. We can think what we have is so small that it can’t possibly make a difference, and in our hands, it can’t! But in the hands of Jesus, our tiny offering can multiply into a miracle of gigantic proportions. The disciples brought what they had and Jesus    did the rest! The same is true today…when  we bring what we have, Jesus will do the rest!

“Fervant love expressed itself both in words and deeds. Therefore, genuinely love other people. Give yourself away to them in such a manner that they will truly experience the unconditional love of God.”

These words were in my devotional that I read today. As I read them, I could t help but think about the fact that the Christmas season is upon us. In the coming weeks, many of us will be searching for gifts to put under our Christmas tree for our loved ones. We can spend a lot of time, effort, and money acquring that “perfect” gift for someone. We want to give our family and friends something they will treasure, something they will appreciate, and something that will remind them how much they mean to us. As I read the words above, it occurred to me that the most valuable thing I can give to someone else is genuine love because in giving them genuine love, I am giving them an example of what they have in Jesus Christ, and He is truly the greatest gift of all. Our love is expressed to others through our words and deeds. Just being a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, an encourager when the going gets tough, a cheerleader, and a smile when the rest of the world is glaring can make such a huge difference in the lives of others. Showing love does not have to be time consuming or break the bank in order to affect people. Sometimes the smallest gestures…things that seem so insignificant to us, may yield the greatest results. We just have to be willing to give of ourselves and leave the rest up to God. He can take a little and do mighty things!

“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35

Scripture tells us that loving one another is the way people will be able to tell we are His disciples. It’s kinda scary to think about what they see when we don’t love one another, isn’t it? As we get ready to wrap the presents to place under the tree, let’s all make sure we include the gift of genuine love as well. It will by far be the best gift under the tree!

 

A couple of months ago, I started a Bible study for women in my home.  We have been talking about being “women of legacy” and how to live our lives in such a godly way that others cannot help but be brought closer to Christ because of us…not just in our lifetime, but even long after we are gone.  Tonight, I want to challenge you to think about your own life and what type of legacy you are living right now.  How are your choices, your attitudes, your actions, your words, and your lifestyle shaping and molding the legacy you want to leave behind when you are gone?  Are you investing in things that are eternal or in things that will fade away?  Are you exemplifying the love of Christ in all that you do?  Do others look at you and know that Jesus is the most important thing in the world to you?  Are you living in such a way that others are pointed in His direction?  When I first started preparing for the Bible study, I thought long and hard about the legacy that I am living out and the consequences that legacy may have on others.  I had to really think about what I want to leave behind to those God has entrusted me with.  I had to ask myself the same hard questions I asked you.  I’ll be honest…I didn’t like some of the answers I came up with.  In so many ways, I can get caught up with the things of this world and forget what is truly important.  During our first night of study, I asked everyone this question: if you could only leave one thing behind, what would it be? For me, my answer is Jesus.  If I can leave nothing but Jesus, then I have left everything!

“We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever.  The goal is to create something that will.”  Chuck Palahnuik

If you leave Jesus behind, you have left something that will truly last forever.

 

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