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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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Upon Hearing An Elk Bugle

“So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord.” (Hosea 6:3)

I heard an elk bugling in the Aspens. It was such an otherworldly sound that I thought, how can this be real? I’m not a dramatic person, and I say this in all seriousness: my life was changed. How can I say I’ve lived, almost 60 years if my birth certificate is right, and I’ve never heard an elk bugle?  Like the grinch, I think my heart grew 3 sizes!

I grew up in Houston, a metroplex of hot cement and urban sprawl. My childhood playground boasted a hot metal slide and a chain-link fence. I know how to navigate city streets. But a forest of Aspens and a cold mountain stream are foreign to me. It’s a shockingly different world when one can hear an elk bugle, or an owl, bigger than my dog, hooting at dusk, or see a lanky legged moose slowly grazing nearby.

God often speaks to me through moments in nature. When that elk bugle screamed through the woods, the hair on my neck stood up and instantly I understood: just as I’ve never experienced this sound before in all my days, I’ve also never experienced much of the spiritual realm that God wants to reveal. I’ve walked with God—passionately, intentionally—for 44 years my friends, but to be blunt, I don’t know jacksquat about the Kingdom and Power of Christ! I’ve never seen an angel but the Bible clearly states their existence. I’ve never raised anyone from the dead although it happens throughout the world today. Jesus said that we would do greater works than He did (see John 14:12) yet healing, miracles, and prophetic words are more the exception in my week than the norm.

The instant I heard the elk bugle in the aspens, I realized how little I know of the spirit realm.  I cried out to God saying, Lord forgive me for being content with merely attending church and leading a little Bible study. Forgive my arrogance that I think I know my way around Christianity and around YOU! God, You are infinitely more than I can think or imagine. You operate in a realm that I’ve only seen tiny glimpses of, and You have more power, more glory than I can even dream of!

And here’s what’s funny and beautiful about the Lord: He saidI know, come on! Come on! My friends, God LONGS for us to press in. He longs to astound us, surprise us, delight us with His more. More wonder, more power, more glory and revelation. It is exactly as Jesus stated: “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” (John 16:12)

I hear some of you agonizing, “How? How do we press in, Margaret?” Rend your heart, not your garments. (See Joel 2:13) Get with God in an honest and real way, without a time limit. If you have people in your life saying, “naw, you’re fine where you’re at; just study harder, pray longer, go to church,” OMG get away from those people and find believers that press in through worship, that heal the sick, and brag on God’s goodness every day! Get with people who have God stories from THIS week, not just 20 years ago!

For too long I sat in a community that complained of rarely hearing God speak. Now I’m in community with people who cannot CONTAIN all the miracles and revelation Holy Spirit is releasing! God says, Come on! Come on, let’s go!

What do YOU say?

Learn more ways to press in to the presence of God with Gracious Living, creating a culture of honor, love, and compassion anywhere books are sold. Go to www.MargaretAllen.org/Mondays to sign up to receive this blog each week.