GLEANINGS from Claudia: Following Jesus – O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus

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“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:14-19

 Holy Saturday. The day that Jesus’ body lay in the grave, but NOT Jesus’ spirit. 1st Peter 3:18-20 tells us Jesus died and then made alive by the Spirit went and preached to the spirits in prison. I don’t pretend to understand this scripture, but I love the picture of our Lord alive and active even while his body lay on cold hard stone. Death could not defeat him.

Today I pondered the love of Jesus, the love that moved him to persevere, to obey even unto death. A love first for the Father and then for us! It can be hard for me to even begin to understand that kind of love. But something caused me to look at his love from the other side, like looking at a photographic negative. Today I was feeling overwhelmed by the immensity of sin and attendant hurt that I see around me. Some of that hurt is the result of sin as it has impacted creation, the natural consequence of the fall. Romans 8:19&20 tells us that even creation is waiting to be liberated from bondage to decay. Some of that hurt is a direct wound from a sin choice and some is collateral damage related to another’s sin choice. In some ways it matters little, sin causes death and deep pain. There are days when the awareness of pain feels like a place of drowning. There is just so much. And if I extrapolate that pain from my little place and time in our world to a whole world throughout all of the years of the whole world, well, I can’t breathe. And this, this incredible, impossible volume of sin and pain and loss and brokenness, this is what Jesus took to the cross. The whole of it. What agony.

This immensity gave me the beginnings of an understanding of his love. His love is big enough to overcome sin. His love is wide enough and long enough and high enough and deep enough to cover not just my sin but all sin, for all the world, for all of time. In him, in this love, I live and move and breathe and have my being. And now with Paul I pray that we might have the power, together, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, to know this love that surpasses knowledge!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth, changeth never, nevermore!
How He watches o’er His loved ones, died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth, watcheth o’er them from the throne!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, love of every love the best!
‘Tis an ocean vast of blessing, ’tis a haven sweet of rest!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, ’tis a heaven of heavens to me;
And it lifts me up to glory, for it lifts me up to Thee!

O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus by Selah

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GLEANINGS from Claudia: Following Jesus – The Resurrection Life

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I’m going to deviate a bit from what I’ve been posting to share that is has been a tough week. There is so much pain happening in the lives of so many that I love. In some situations ongoing pain has reached a fever pitch. In other circumstances buried sin has been brought into the light and the collateral hurt is incredible. And on and on it goes. This pain is invading the lives of people who love the Lord. Honestly, it sucks that we can love and strive to follow Jesus and still fall into incredible, deep, distressing sin that hurts the sinner and devastates those touched by that sin choice. But it happens. I’ve been encouraged in my heart this week to think on those stories of scripture that open closets full of skeletons so that we can see. There is conniving Sarah who thought to push the plan of God by giving her handmaiden to Abraham to beget a child. We all know how well that plan worked! And yet, in the final analysis, God’s plan did come to fruit in the birth of a child to Abraham and Sarah from whom came the lineage of Christ. And then there’s that adulterer and murderer David. Really, as I read his story, there are times I’m so angry at him that I want to hire a hit man (always a good, Godly reaction)! But then, as he repents and seeks God once again God calls David a man after his own heart. My reaction to these graces of God ranges from ‘how could you God, think of all they hurt’ to ‘praise you Lord for amazing grace and that your purposes stand no matter how we muck up’ to ‘there’s grace enough for me’!

All that has gone on this week within the periphery of my personal world has shown me that which took Christ to the cross. All the pain, loss, sin, death that invades our lives was heaped upon Him. He took every bit of it to the cross and in the all-time greatest miracle he left that junk in the grave and rose to a new and eternal life. This week reminds me that if I have strength to lift my eyes even the slightest bit when I’m pressed under the muck of my own or someone else’s sin there is hope. There is Christ. There is resurrection in the footsteps of Jesus.

FOR YOU HAVE DONE IT

Birth begins death
Death births resurrection
Life anew
Life renewed
Death waits
Stalking or pouncing
Announced or rudely crashing

Should I not always sense
The valley of the shadow
For surely I walk in it every day
And yet Your rise from sealed stone
Overcomes dread
I will be dead but I will live
Life will be the final thing

Loss surrounds
Death abounds
Life will rise
Death to life to life to death
To life
Even nature cycles through
As if to prove

Spring rises in me
Life, yes, and heart
Of gratitude that death
Doesn’t end it
You’ve died to overcome
That I might live pain and joy
Following You into life

A prayer for life
When death overwhelms
Loss, pain, sorrow crush
Energy drained
Courage, please
To wait the upward lift
Tenaciously holding to You

For You have done it

 

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GLEANINGS from Claudia: Following Jesus – When He Saw Their Faith

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READ: Mt. 9:2-8; Mk. 2:1-12; Lk. 5:17-26

What a scene in these passages. Jesus is teaching in a Capernaum home. The crowd is thick, pressing in, listening, attentive. There are those listening with a heart to find error and condemn. There are those listening who drink in Jesus’ teaching as if dying from thirst. And in the middle of this, a noise from above, then debris falling around Jesus and finally, as if delivered by God himself, a paralyzed man is lowered from the ceiling to a place right in front of Jesus. Cirque de Soleil visiting Capernaum! I can’t help but imagine one of my husband Steve’s sermons interrupted by something like this! It would be astounding!

Jesus takes it in stride and addresses the matter of first importance saying, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” I imagine a gasp from the Pharisees and teachers of the law. They are immediately asking themselves who does this man think he is? What blasphemy! And then Jesus asks the question that each of the gospel stories includes “Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Stand up and walk’?” What a question. On one hand, I think – well, yes. Yes it IS easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven’ because no one could actually prove whether or not the sins were forgiven. This side of eternity there isn’t an obvious test for that. But when someone says ‘Stand up and walk’ to a paralytic, the test, the proof of this is immediate. Either that persons stands and walks or they don’t. But in reality, I think it is far, far harder to forgive sins and have them actually washed away than it will ever be to heal. Only God can forgive and blot out sin. At times He grants the power to heal to a physician or even to the course of time. But sins; sins can only be forgiven by God. Honestly, in the case of this paralytic, perhaps everything medically possible had been tried to no avail. Perhaps his healing could come only from God. In which case, there is no easier thing – forgiveness or healing, both could come only from the hand of God. Whatever answer the Pharisees and teachers of the law might have considered, Jesus gives the real answer – the proof of his power as he brings immediate and complete healing to this man he calls friend.

There is another gift in this passage for me. In Luke 5:20 scripture says “When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” This man was much loved. I wonder if his paralysis was a later in life loss? If at one point in time he had worked and played with these friends and they loved him. I wonder if they had turned over every stone trying to find healing for their friend? Whether a late in life loss or a from birth situation, these friends were incredibly determined to bring this man to Jesus. When Jesus calls the paralytic ‘Friend’ it brings tears for me. Jesus was entering into this community of caring. He was one of this band of friends, loving this man, and longing for healing for him. He became the fifth man – the other one to carry the paralytic’s mat. And in doing this he brought a complete healing, body and soul.

I love the way Jesus is stirred by the faith of these friends. I want to be a friend like that.

Lord, Your willingness to enter our lives is an amazing blessing. Thank you that persistent, determined faith blesses you. Thank you that our love for one another draws your favor. Lord, create in us hearts for one another that takes our love and brings it in community to you! Lord, give me a heart that causes you to see my faith as part of a ‘their’ faith community.

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GLEANINGS from Claudia: Following Jesus – Jesus Heals a Leper

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READ: Mt. 8:2-4; Mk. 1:40-45; Luke 5:12-16

Once again I’m impressed by the Lord’s compassion. He has just made it clear to his followers that he wants to move about the countryside teaching – that this is his mission. But on the heels of that decision a leper comes to him with a request. This man’s faith is awesome. He clearly knows what Jesus is capable of and that a healing for him isn’t a matter of Jesus’ ability, but rather of Jesus’ willingness. And he says that with great clarity, “Lord, if you are willing you can make me clean.”

The synoptic gospels all tell this story with great similarity, although the physician Luke offers the extra detail that this man was covered with leprosy. Somehow this request, the appeal to and belief in Jesus’ very clear power, and perhaps an understanding of the man’s open-handed willingness to let Jesus decide his fate, wins Jesus over. All three synoptic gospels give this answer from Jesus, “I am willing, be clean!” Immediately the leprosy leaves this man. What an immense change this healing brings to this man’s life! In an instant he goes from social outcast to renewed membership in the community; from begging to the ability to work; from desperately, meltingly ill to whole and healthy.

Jesus commands this man to keep silent about the healing and to go to the priest and offer the appropriate sacrifices to prove his healing and for personal cleansing. This was a time-consuming and involved eight day process (Leviticus 14:1-32). But the gospel of Mark tells us clearly that the man instead went out and spread the news creating even more crowds to follow Jesus. This exchange is a bit puzzling to me. Leprosy was a very visible disease in many cases. And visible or covered by clothing, the leper was required to yell out “Unclean! Unclean!” as he moved about on the fringe of society. This man’s healing would’ve been very evident to his community with or without his testimony about it. Even the act of going to the temple to offer the appropriate sacrifices would’ve made his healing obvious. Was Jesus just buying time in his command to the leper? Seeking a bit of space to move on from that area without being pressed by the crowds? Or, was he ensuring that the man would not get so caught up in telling his story that he would forget to follow the process – to fully appropriate the healing and cleansing provided. I’m not sure of the ‘why’ of Jesus statement, but I’m disappointed in the leper’s inability to carry out Jesus’ command. I confess my disappointment is mostly because I see that same inability in me. Jesus did something astounding in answering the cry of the leper. Jesus asked something pretty simple, even if time-consuming, in response. Jesus did something BIG and asked something relatively little. How often do I run, do we run, in a new freedom or healing without taking the time to fully complete the ‘work’ that seals it in us?

Lord, I shudder to see myself in the response of the leper. I know I want to tell everyone everything that you’ve done for me, so I feel fellowship with him. I know I love it when you bring a healing or new freedom to my life. But how often do I tell everyone before it is time for the telling? How often do I choose to tell my story before I’ve let you complete it? Help me listen to you and do the things you ask, even when I’m eager to get on with the ‘new’ you’ve placed before me.

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GLEANINGS from Claudia: Following Jesus – Jesus and Work

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READ: Lk. 5:1-11

I’m retired. What a gift. But I’m not so far into retirement that I’ve forgotten the longing to be productive and to bring blessing to all in my daily world. That longing of my heart hasn’t retired – it is still active every day, so this story of Jesus, the hard-working man Peter, and Peter’s work resonates.

When I step into this story, I picture myself in Peter’s shoes. He has begun to follow Jesus, but at this point he still works at his occupation, fishing. So Peter is a follower by day and a fisherman by night. It is the end of a long session of seeking fish with nothing to show. Peter is likely weary, but working on his nets, an end of the ‘day’ job that has to be done to be ready for his next work day. And here comes Jesus. This man he admires and follows, but in a way that isn’t connected to what brings home the bacon. Jesus knows that putting out from shore a bit in a boat would help amplify his teaching and make him more visible to the crowd. So he asks Peter to take him out a ways in his boat with that end in mind.

I can just imagine a very tired Peter complying – possibly with a sigh of reluctance and exhaustion. This act of obedience was enough, but then, then Jesus says to Peter “Put out into the deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Can’t you just imagine Peter’s response? What he says is “Master, we’ve worked all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” I find myself imagining his heart response … ‘Really? This carpenter is telling me how to fish? We tried this very spot last night and there was NOTHING here! I guess I’ll humor him, but this is craziness!”

And then the outcome – nets newly repaired, but so full they begin to break. They have to signal other boats to come out and help haul in the catch. I love Peter’s response of “Go away from me Lord; I am a sinful man!” I’ve often thought of that as a general statement of truth, because aren’t we all sinful? But lately I’ve come to see his statement as a repenting of his most immediate thoughts about this one who would dare to tell him to put out his net! And then the benediction from Jesus; the closing blessing of this episode “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.”

At the root of it all, whatever our occupation, we really are fishing for people. When I worked for pay and in my capacity as a manager my heart’s desire was to bless people. I wanted them to succeed at their work and for the work to go well, but my heart was that all would thrive and live productive and well provided for lives. This story of Jesus’ heart for Peter and heart for people causes me to want to put my net down into him – into Jesus. I want to ask every day what He has for me to do, to give me guidance about where to put my net. Whether we work for pay in a job or if we are living a life freed from the demands of a paid position, but earnestly want to be a blessing to those we meet, we can seek the Lord’s guidance and know He will answer.

Lord of my life and Lord of my work, this is the day that You have made. You’ve given it to me and today I give it back to you! Use me specific to that which you want to accomplish today. In my job, in my home, in my life show me where to put my nets down that I might bless people!

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GLEANINGS from Claudia: Following Jesus – Jesus and Celebrity

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READ: Mt. 4:13-16; 18-25; 8:14-17; Mk. 1:16-39; Lk. 4:31-44; 5:1-11

I’m thinking these passages will merit more than one post – I’ve been processing them since Wednesday! I can readily picture Jesus ministering in Capernaum. Steve and I had the blessing of visiting Israel a couple of times in the past 15 years. Capernaum and the general area of the Galilee was a huge favorite for me. We visited the ruins of the synagogue there and also what is thought to be Peter’s home and the site of a very early church. The home site sits near the shore of the Sea of Galilee. I remember grilled, open-air windows where breezes and sights and smells of the area permeate the atmosphere. Bougainvillea drapes every wall in Capernaum and smells of hot honeysuckle floated on the breeze. The town of Capernaum is not inhabited today and the ruins are quiet, probably a lot quieter than when Jesus ministered there. But that quiet transported me to a simpler time when the sounds of town would’ve been people’s voices, laughter, perhaps hammering or chiseling, etc., etc. I felt nearest to the reality of the time and place of Jesus in this town and in a quiet boat on the Sea of Galilee.

Bougainvillea in Capernaum

With all of these memories, I can picture the chaos of Jesus’ ministry in Capernaum. So many people have begun to follow him. And as he ministers healing from sickness and new freedom to those from whom he expels demons, his popularity grows. One passage that especially ministers to me is the story of Jesus going off to a solitary place to pray in Mark 1:35 and Luke 4:42. People are clamoring for him to the degree that the story in Mark says Simon and his companions went to find him and tell him that everyone is looking for him. Once again I see Jesus’ firm grounding in his mission as he replies “Let us go somewhere else – to the nearby villages – so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” I can’t help but think back to the temptations in the wilderness and that siren call to immediate celebrity and recognition that Satan offered him. Jesus made it clear at that point that he listened to and served God only. And in the face of increasing celebrity and increasing demands for healing, he goes in solitary prayer to the God he serves and then returns with clarity about what to do next.

What a model for the life that wants to serve God and serve God only. No matter what or who is clamoring for my attention, I want to do that which God has for me to do.

Lord, thank You for this demonstration of the primacy and power of prayer. You saw such need all around you and when the needy saw your power to help, that needy clamoring increased exponentially. Thank You for prayer that led to strategy that protected the mission of God that you came to fulfill. Lord, daily remind me to say to you “Speak Lord, Your servant is listening!”

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GLEANINGS from Claudia: Following Jesus – Back to Galilee

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READ: Mt. 4:12, 17; Mk 1:14-15; Lk. 3:19-20; 4:14-15; Jn. 4:1-54

Jesus heads toward his home region today. What drives this decision? He is certainly aware of the controversy his baptizing (or as John clarifies, the baptizing his disciples are doing) has brought to John’s disciples. And then John is put into prison for his bold rebuke of Herod’s lifestyle choices. Tensions run high on all sides as Jesus makes his way to Galilee. There is a deliberateness in this move and he goes preaching “The time has come! The Kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Jesus is on mission, choosing to go the most direct route to Galilee, usually about a 2 ½ day trip through Samaria. To me this feels like a trip up I-5 from Eugene to the outskirts of Portland, a trip of about 70 miles. I take I-5 when my purpose is in Portland, perhaps a trip to the airport, and my strategy is to get there as fast as possible. But Jesus makes a significant stop in the heart of Samaria at a little town called Sychar. This isn’t a quick rest stop just outside of the destination. Instead, Jesus ‘sees’ a woman there. With the eyes of the God who sees, He notes a woman alone at the well at an unusual hour and doesn’t just think “Hmmmm, that’s unusual”, instead he enters into her life, her heart and her need. He engages with her in such a way that what might have been a one or two hour stop for sustenance and rest becomes an additional two day’s sojourn to teach and encourage not just this woman, but the whole town that ultimately comes out to see him.

For me, this is one of the most amazing and encouraging stories of Jesus’ heart and purpose in all the gospels. This woman is less than a nothing in the culture and economy of the time. She is notorious in her town, but not in a good way. As she comes to the well, I can hear the music “I Will Survive” in the background. She is doing everything she knows simply to maintain life in her situation. And then this man, to whom she should have been invisible, sees her, speaks to her and offers her living water! Wow!

Once again I see the heart of God visible in the flesh. I see the same God who ‘saw’ Hagar in the desert, who ‘saw’ Naomi and Ruth in deadly circumstances. Jesus puts into the flesh the Hesed love of God that translates into kindness and compassion and he does this for a woman. I want to stand and cheer and praise God for this story of God’s heart for women!

And then, in a final beautiful encouragement to us all, Jesus schools his disciples when they puzzle among themselves about what has transpired. In the context of this story, of this time of teaching a whole town, Jesus speaks the phrase we so often quote to support mission efforts, “Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” John 4:35 With open eyes Jesus saw the ripe need of this woman and step by step moved into loving and teaching her and then her community, reaping a rich, rich kingdom harvest. Oh to be like Thee!

Lord, once again You blow me away with Your ability to see and love and reap a rich harvest in another’s life. Jesus, oh how I want to ‘see’ like You do! You’ve given me the words of life! You’ve given me such abundance of living water. Now give me eyes to see those around me who are hungry and thirsty and ready. Give me such a heart that I can stop my agenda dead and spend time and listen and share with those who are ready!

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