Wednesday, July 28, 2010

What’s Your Metaphor? (Matthew 4:18-22)

As their fishing net splashed into the lake, Peter and Andrew heard Jesus call, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” The metaphor fit. Although all disciples essentially would “fish” and help bring people into God’s kingdom, Jesus did not recite the same invitation to each new disciple. Why?

Jesus’ use of the fishing metaphor with Peter and Andrew illustrated how He wanted them to use their existing talents and interests in a new way. They already knew how to fish. They were familiar with techniques and tools of the trade. They enjoyed fishing. Jesus would transform their lives and help them use their abilities and passions to advance His kingdom.

We don’t know everything Jesus said to the other disciples. It’s possible that He shared metaphors with each of them. Imagine Jesus whispering to tax collector Matthew, “You think it’s exciting to make a profit. Follow me and I’ll make you an investor of people. Seeing thousands come into the kingdom will thrill you even more than counting your cash.” Or maybe Jesus said to politically minded Simon the Zealot, “Follow me, and I’ll make you an activist for the greatest cause on earth. Come campaign for me, Simon.”

When Jesus calls you to follow Him, He does not expect you to ignore your passions and abilities. He invites you to maximize them. Jesus promises to take what you are and make you far better than you can ever hope to be. When you follow Him, He’ll transform you. He’ll make you a _________________ for His kingdom. What metaphor might He use to fill in the blank?

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10 NIV).

Copyright © 2010 Sherrie Lorance. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Deep Water (Luke 5:1-11)

Have you ever felt like you were in deep water—overwhelmed by a situation or responsibility that God directed you toward? Deep water was the last place Peter wanted to be. He was about to discover, though, that it could be the very best place.

When Jesus said, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch,” Peter did what humans often do. He focused on what he’d already experienced—and how he’d previously failed. “Master,” Peter said, “we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.” If he’d stopped with the memory of his failure, Peter might have missed the biggest success of his fishing career. But he didn’t stop there. He continued, “But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” And he moved into deep water.

Peter obeyed dutifully, because Jesus asked him to. That’s admirable. But Peter could have obeyed eagerly, in anticipation of what Jesus would do. Jesus’ instructions held a promise: “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Jesus’ instructions always hold a promise. When Jesus calls you to move into a challenging situation, He has a plan for your being there. The plan inevitably involves your good and His glory.

Peter moved into deep water, and Jesus moved fish into Peter’s net—more fish than he’d ever seen at one time! The miracle pointed people to Jesus. And Jesus promoted Peter to a higher task—catching people for God’s kingdom. Deep water may be the last place you want to be, but it may be the best place to experience Jesus’ abundant provision for you and through you.

What deep-water situation is God directing you toward?

Copyright © 2010 Sherrie Lorance. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

When Giving Up Is Good (Exodus 2:1-10)

Some people will do anything to keep from giving up. After all, giving up shows weakness, doesn’t it? Or does it? Sometimes, giving up is the greatest thing you can do. Just ask Jochebed.

When her baby was born, Jochebed and her husband Amram “saw that he was no ordinary child” (Hebrews 11:23). Maybe Moses was especially cute, or maybe his parents sensed a divine call on his life. One thing’s for sure—they did not want to lose him. So they hid him for three months, defying a royal command to kill all baby boys.

As Jochebed nursed Moses and rocked him to sleep, she likely prayed for his safety. She held Moses close to her heart and appealed to the heart of God. But when God put an idea into her mind—a plan that could save Moses’ life—Jochebed risked giving up a big part of her own life. Even though it hurt, Jochebed was willing to give Moses up. She could do it because although she cared deeply about Moses, she did not cling desperately to him. She clung only to God.

The source of Jochebed’s strength is implied in the meaning of her name, “Jehovah is her glory”. Jochebed knew that the greatest joy comes not from clutching good things to ourselves, but from giving everything to God and watching Him use it to draw attention to Himself. Long before “kingdom perspective” was a catchphrase, Jochebed embraced God’s far-reaching plan for His world—a plan that involved her son, a plan that would point all nations toward God’s Son.

Jochebed may have had no idea of the magnitude or specifics of God’s plan. She may not have imagined that her son would be the deliverer who would foreshadow the ultimate Deliverer. She may not have dreamed that Moses would talk face to face with Almighty God, receive the Law and prepare God’s people for the Promised Land. But she did realize that to cling to Moses would not bring ultimate good—for her or for him. To cling to God, though, and to pursue His glory, would bring nothing but good, ultimately.

Jochebed’s greatest legacy is not that she was Moses’ mother, but that she was willing to give up being Moses’ mother. She was willing to embrace God’s plan—whatever it involved. She trusted that God knew what was best, could do what was best and would do what was best. He did! And God’s best was better than Jochebed could have dreamed. It always is.

Copyright © 2010 Sherrie Lorance. All rights reserved.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Would You Eat THAT? (I Kings 17:1-6)

The “raven room service” God provided for Elijah probably caused Elijah to feel heartened and humbled at the same time. By ordering ravens to bring Elijah breakfast and supper every day, God demonstrated His sovereignty over nature and His care for His servant. Meals in Bills may not have been what Elijah had in mind, though, especially when the bills belonged to ravens—birds that mainly eat dead and putrefying flesh. God had declared ravens unclean, abominable, detestable for Jews (Leviticus 11:13). Sure, Elijah was grateful for the blessing of food, but he had to be pretty hungry to eat bread and meat covered in raven germs. Maybe that was the point. Maybe Elijah’s hunger prepared Him to receive God’s help—in God’s way.

As long as we’re full of ourselves—full of our wisdom, our abilities, our plans—we’re unlikely to receive what God graciously offers. But when we reach the end of ourselves, when we realize that we are empty and powerless, we’ll recognize God’s provision for what it is—our only hope, our only life. God makes us hungry; then He feeds us with the Bread of Life—with Christ Himself.

Like the ravens, Christ was cursed. God’s law declared, “Anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse” (Deuteronomy 21:23). Yet God turned the curse of the cross into a blessing. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13).

Cursed birds brought life to Elijah; cursed Christ brings life to all who receive Him. Have you been hungry enough to receive Him? Are you hungry enough to feed on Him every day? If you’re hungry for Him, He’ll fill you with Himself (Matthew 5:6). It’s an all-you-can-eat buffet. How hungry are you?

Copyright © 2010 Sherrie Lorance. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Whose Psalm Is It, Anyway?

Psalm 23 should not be called simply “a psalm of David”. Yes, he did write it, and it does illustrate his experience with the divine shepherd. But if we have the same shepherd David had, it can be our psalm, too. So . . . do we have the same shepherd?

We say, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,” but sometimes we envision a different shepherd than the one whom David praised. Sometimes we think of the Lord not as the Good Shepherd, but as the Good Enough Shepherd.

Unlike David’s picture of himself as a beloved sheep who has no worries because his shepherd provides the very best of everything and gives him more than he needs, we sometimes see ourselves as scraggly strays on the outskirts of the flock. We know that the shepherd will provide for our needs, but we subconsciously interpret that to mean, “He will give me enough to get by. He’ll ration out blessings, giving me just enough to sustain me.”

Jesus invites us to experience the same shepherd-sheep relationship that David enjoyed. Jesus identifies Himself as the Good Shepherd, and each believer as a beloved sheep whom He will protect at the cost of His life. He offers us not just enough to get by, but says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10 NIV). Life to the full—to the maximum—the “good life” with the Good Shepherd—that’s what Jesus offers us!

Our Good Shepherd cares for us out of delight, not duty. He gives us not rationed blessings, but so many we can’t hold them, not “treats” to reward us for good behavior, but a feast—just because we’re His. He gives us not only His abundant provisions, but His abiding presence as well. He does not simply put up with us. He wants us. He loves us.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd, not the Good Enough Shepherd. He offers you the opportunity to call David’s psalm your psalm. Will you do it?

“Because the Lord is my Shepherd, I have everything I need!” (Psalms 23:1 TLB).

“You prepare a feast for me . . . my cup overflows with blessings” (Psalms 23:5 NLT).

“You give me more than I can hold” (Psalms 23:5 ICB).

Copyright © 2010 Sherrie Lorance. All rights reserved.

Monday, July 5, 2010

A Test of Faith (Acts 12:1-19)

After “earnestly praying” for Peter to be released from prison, why did the church struggle to believe God’s answer when Peter knocked at the door? After all, many people at the prayer meeting had witnessed Jesus’ resurrection—and an empty jail cell is nothing compared to an empty tomb. Perhaps they hesitated to believe the news of Peter’s release because between Jesus’ resurrection and Peter’s incarceration had come James’ execution. Their faith was being tested.

Unexpected tragedy will test our faith. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If something we considered valuable were actually a worthless counterfeit, wouldn’t we want to know? If our faith is phony—based on positive thinking, emotionalism, or confidence in getting our way (instead of confidence in God Himself)—it’s good for us to find that out. Nothing reveals the true nature of faith like severe trials. And nothing engenders and strengthens true faith like experiencing God’s provision in the midst of our trials.

New Testament believers who celebrated Peter’s rescue and grieved James’ death had much in common with their Old Testament counterparts. Some “escaped the edge of the sword,” some “were put to death by the sword,” but “these were all commended for their faith”
(Hebrews 11:34-39 NIV). We can relate, too. Sometimes God provides what we need to escape suffering; sometimes He provides what we need to endure it. But always, always, He provides. When our faith rests in God’s faithfulness, and not in what He’ll do to prove it, our faith will pass the test—any test.

“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world”  (1 Peter 1:6-7, NLT).

Copyright © 2010 Sherrie Lorance. All rights reserved.

Welcome to My Blog!

Thank you for stopping by. I’ll be posting content weekly—some new material and some that I wrote as part of a curriculum-writing project. (Thank you, Jayne George, for granting permission to post those devotions here.) I welcome your comments!