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Amazement Continued

“And they were amazed at His teaching” (Luke 4:32)

Amazement often describes how people reacted to Jesus in the Bible, but it rarely describes the modern Christian today. Why are we often not in awe of Jesus in our life today? Sometimes I’ve wondered if our experience within the church walls have dulled our sense of wonder. We don’t leave Jesus much room to wow us when the sermons must land on the precise cue of the music. And often I’ve noticed our “praise” songs have little to do with Jesus and a lot to do with how hard we have tried.

But if we study the Jesus of scripture, we discover surprise and wonder. The crowd was amazed at His authority in teaching. (Luke 4:32) They were amazed at the way He talked about government. (Matthew 22:22) They were amazed at the way He connected with women (John 4:27) and of course people were amazed by His miracles of healing and provision. (Mark 5:42)

I want to focus on just one of those stories that wowed me recently: In Luke 5 we read a story where a professional fisherman (Simon Peter) has worked all night but come out empty-handed. We can pause there and acknowledge we all share a similar experience, not necessarily in fishing but in life. We’ve worked hard for four years to get a degree and then not been able to find a good job. We’ve labored patiently over children and marriages only to have our personal lives spin out of control. We have scrimped and saved to afford a better life only to have it torn away through a wicked and unjust world. It is surely a place of vulnerability to come up empty where we have worked hard and invested much of our energy. 

Peter, a fisherman, caught no fish.  Jesus, a spiritual leader, told him to try the net on the other side of the boat. We can just feel the patience dripping from Peter’s voice as he tells Jesus, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” Peter thinks he knows what he’s doing, so, he agrees to pacify Jesus to check the box of teachability.  Sometimes we actually feel noble about our sacrifice and serving as we patiently explain to God our situation. Peter did this, and we all know how the story plays out: so many fish swam into the nets that the nets are breaking and two boats can’t contain it all.

Peter’s response is what grabs me by the throat. There’s not a hallelujah brother let’s just praise the Lordresponse. There’s the horrible realization as Peter fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” (Luke 5:8) Peter realized in the glorious presence of God Almighty, he was not enough. Even in his area of strength and expertise, Peter had the shocking realization that he couldn’t control outcomes. “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” I love that Jesus answers his despair with comfort and with purpose: “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” (Luke 5:10)

Maybe we don’t experience the same awe and wonder because we still think we are pretty good fishermen. What I mean is that maybe we haven’t had that horrible realization that causes us to crumble at His feet and cry out I’m not worthy, God! We insulate our experiences with God so that we aren’t frightened or feel bad. We sing nice little songs that end right on time so that we can go have a nice lunch. And be nice people.

Here’s what I pray for me and for you:  one, that we would be absolutely wrecked by the goodness of God in our lives, and two, our humility about it and gratitude toward Jesus would be the first thing anyone notices. I’m not ashamed to admit that God has been ridiculously good to me even though I have not deserved it one bit. “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)

Let’s share the amazing goodness of Jesus with our world this week. Let your awe and wonder of Him be known! Check out www.MargaretAllen.org for resources and to sign up for the blog every Monday.

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Good Friends

“No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” John 15:15

Do we consider ourselves friends of Christ? Honestly, sometimes it’s easier to just be a servant! We secretly attempt to compartmentalize our faith by choosing to “serve” at strategic junctures while keeping some parts of our heart separate, private. And even while Christ deserves obedience, what He has called us to is actual friendship. This friendship is a little key that opens the big doors of blessing from God.

When we consider friendship with Christ as the overarching principle of being a Christian, then the underlying character traits make sense. Stay with me: last week we saw that humility and worship were ways of partnering with God to unlock the doors to a full life. If I am truly focused on being a close friend with Christ, humility is a natural response! Worship makes total sense. If I am vulnerable and transparent before the Lord, seeking to be His friend, then a hunger for righteousness is completely in line. Gratitude isn’t so much a practice as it is a natural outflow of my friendship with our loving Savior.

This week I’ve reflected on my friendship with God. I’ve asked Him how we could be closer. I’ve also asked if there were thoughts or behaviors that initiated distance rather than intimacy. I have discovered over and over that distance is my choice and not His. But when Jesus said, “I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you,” He was establishing His desire for closeness and communication.

Think about your friendship with God this week. Do the things that good friends do: spend time together, share your heart with honesty and vulnerability, laugh, sing, cry. Give honor and credit. Be grateful. Value what He values. Ask questions.

May the joy and peace that uniquely belongs to Christ, fill you to overflowing this week. May this key of friendship with Christ open beautiful doors of blessing in your life.

Check out my book, Gracious Living, creating a culture of honor, love, and compassion. Read it on your own or go through it with friends. I enjoy zoom calls with groups that are reading through Gracious Living together and discovering such joy in the journey. Check out my website for more at http://www.MargaretAllen.org