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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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Garment of Praise

On the morning of New Year’s Eve I nestled into my comfy couch with a Bible and a delicious cup of hot coffee. Before reading, I took one quick scroll through Insta stories and my eye caught on a scripture that a young friend of mine posted (Thanks Sam!) And just like that–no gif, no emoji, just a plain screen with a verse on it, God captured my attention. I read Isaiah 61, the verses that Jesus quoted when He first announced His ministry:

“He sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”

I’m pierced by the phrase “garment of praise.” As I sat with my coffee, I felt God state matter-of-factly, Maggie you need a new garment.  My breath caught in my throat. Yes? Garments can be taken off or on and I guess somewhere in 2020 I took off that lovely garment of praise and put on one of low-key sadness. It wasn’t like a heavy coat of depression, but it was more like an undershirt. I wore it under a jacket at the beach or sweats at home. I wore it while we played cards during the holiday and while I cooked our meals. Can anyone relate to this? Like a low-grade fever, sadness doesn’t stop one from working and going about the day. But it does flatten our response to life. Perhaps it insulates us from anxiety but it also dampens our joy. And I don’t know about you, but I was made for joy!

So, I got up off the couch and imagined Jesus standing there with a beautiful garment of praise. Would you like to do the same? As we turn with our back to Him and slip one arm into the sleeve and then the other, He bestows on us what He promised: a garment of praise. Will you accept it? Wear it? Admire it in the mirror? (Yes, praise does look good on you!) Wear His garment of praise in the car, at the beach, while you cook. Declare God’s goodness as you go to sleep and when you awake. 

After Jesus read Isaiah 61, He said, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled” and He sat down. (Luke 4:21) Think about it: He heals our broken hearts, proclaims freedom from oppression, and comforts us. He gives beauty instead of ashes, joy instead of mourning, and praise instead of despair! Jesus acknowledged the heaviness this life can bring and He declared Himself as the remedy.

Just four days into 2021 I have already won in the difficult choice to put on His garment of praise when my mind, will, and emotions screamed despair. Can I just tell you how good that felt? Come on! We are made to wear His praise. Here’s my prayer: God, we praise Your holy Name. From the rising of the sun to the setting of the same God’s Name is to be praised. For breath in our body and strength in our bones, we give You thanks. In every trial and every comfort, we give You praise, O God for You are good and Your love endures forever! Thank You Lord for giving us a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

Dear friend, if you are desiring spiritual growth, please go through my book with a friend! You can find Gracious Living, creating a culture of honor, love, and compassion at www.MargaretAllen.org or anywhere books are sold. If you want to get this blog emailed to you each week, go to my website and sign up at the bottom of Monday’s with Margaret.