Luke 24:13- (AMP)
And then, that very day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. And they were talking with each other about all these things which had taken place. While they were talking and discussing it, Jesus Himself came up and began walking with them. But their eyes were [miraculously] prevented from recognizing Him. Then Jesus asked them, “What are you discussing with one another as you walk along?” And they stood still, looking brokenhearted. One of them, named Cleopas, answered Him, “Are you the only stranger visiting Jerusalem who is unaware of the things which have happened here in these [recent] days?” He asked, “What things?” And they replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet powerful in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers handed Him over to be sentenced to death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel and set our nation free. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened. And also some of the women among us shocked us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and they did not find His body. Then they came back, saying that they had even seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive! Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women had said, but they did not see Him.” Then Jesus said to them, “O foolish men, and slow of heart to trust and believe in everything that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and [only then to] enter His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and [throughout] all the [writings of the] prophets, He explained and interpreted for them the things referring to Himself [found] in all the Scriptures.
Then they approached the village where they were going, and He acted as if He were going farther. But they urged Him [not to go on], saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening, and the day has just about ended.” So He went inside to stay with them. And it happened that as He reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. Then their eyes were [suddenly] opened [by God] and they [clearly] recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight.
I have one question after reading this passage of scripture, and you may be asking yourself the same thing. Why did Jesus wait so long to reveal Himself to Cleopas and the disciple? They’re both carrying disappointment. They thought Jesus would be the one to save them, but in lieu of recent events, their confidence is down. Jesus has the perfect opportunity to reveal Himself and ease their fears, but He doesn’t. Instead, He walks them through the Old Testament and shows them that scripture has pointed to the coming of Christ and the need for sacrifice in order to return humanity back to God.
They walk with Jesus and they talk with Jesus, and then they invite Him to dine with them as a guest. Instead of sitting as a guest, Jesus takes over the dinner, grabs the bread and breaks it much like He did days prior. The moment they recognize Him is the moment He disappears.
If Jesus’ goal was to reveal Himself, why didn’t He do it sooner? This question took me down other thought paths. Why is it that sometimes God intentionally withholds the release of an answer to our prayers? Why does God sometimes reveal His plans to us only after He has watched us panic and threaten to walk away? Why does He conceal His identity?
The lesson is that He wants you to know who He is. In so many struggles we face, we can’t figure out why He allows us to go through them. We can’t make sense out of the tension in our lives and discern that God is up in the mix of it all. It’s not until we’re hurt and wonder where God has been in the first place that we realize His place was right alongside us the whole time.
That’s why He had no problem taking over the dinner. It was His intention all along to reveal Himself then. All He needed was an invitation to take over. He shows just how comfortable He is inserted into tension and that He is more pronounced in our lives when we stop expecting Him to be a guest.
We often incorrectly assume that our lives are supposed to be easy, that God makes life easy, that the devil makes life difficult. Here is the revelation: everything that is easy is not because God made it easy. Everything difficult isn’t because the devil made it difficult. Every hard trial is not satanically-induced. Some trials are God-ordained to get you to see today what you could not see before. Tension can be the fertilization of soil that makes one ready to nurture seeds of increased spiritual understanding. Tension and struggle are often gifts from God. In the midst of tension, you can be open to seeing something you did not consider before, much like when Jesus recites scripture to Cleopas and the disciple.
God didn’t choose the easy way when He gave His only son. He could’ve wiped us out, reprogrammed us, and started over. Instead, He risked everything by giving His only son.
Follow the path of God. You might have to risk everything, and it won’t be easy, but it’ll be worth it. Give God the reins. Let Him lead. Surrender to His presence. How disappointing would it be to have Him so close but let Him go because you had to be in charge?
Stop not surrendering to challenges. Stop trying to ignore your tense places. Stop trying to outrun your perplexities. You miss Jesus when nothing is pressuring your life. Sometimes tension is good. It keeps you on the field fighting, pushing and seeking.
Is it time for you to find Jesus in the tension and invite Him to take over?
Romans 8:35-39 (NIV)
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
God knew we would be challenged, persecuted, troubled, embarrassed, harassed, and hurt in this world. He knew the weight of sin. That’s why He sent his son Jesus, to take it on His own shoulders for us. He loved us that much. Yet, He allows us to experience trouble and persecution.
Why? Paul, an apostle and former persecutor of Jews, tells us that it’s the sin of this world that causes death and faith in Christ that gives us life. In Romans 8, Paul gives us a guide to what life is like for those who have this faith. He tells us that those who are called by God will be used for His purpose and all things will work out for their good
Yet, when you’re in the battlefield, it doesn’t always feel that way. You don’t feel like fighting the battles that this world brings. If you’re weary from the good fight, you might want to go read Paul’s speech in Romans 8 again.
You’re a conqueror because of the love Christ has for you. That’s worth jumping out of bed for every day. Grab that sword of truth (Ephesians 6) and get ready to face your day.
It’s easy to say it, but it’s not easy to do it, especially when you consider the words of people— said to you and about you. Still, even here God has a battle plan for you. A plan for you to conquer persecution and trouble with your faith.
James, who was Jesus’ half-brother and initially was quite doubtful of his brother’s mission (John 7), may have picked up where Paul left off in his powerful speech. His entire letter is more of a playbook on how to live this Christian life. In it, he addresses persecution and trials as a means of how we get closer to God. He writes: “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12, NIV).
He even tells us how to deal with this challenge of words—ours and the ones others use against us. He covers all the bases with how to handle God’s Word, your words, and others’ words when it comes to all situations—especially trials.
Here’s what he writes: “Understand this, my beloved brothers and sisters. Let everyone be quick to hear [be a careful, thoughtful listener], slow to speak [a speaker of carefully chosen words and] slow to anger [patient, reflective, forgiving]” (James 1:19, AMP).
Why does God allow persecution? Persecution and trials contribute to your walk toward holiness. Trials prove your faith, prune the defects from your human heart, strengthen your relationship with the Lord, and prepare you for His great plan for your life.
So, when you’re in a trial, scripture gives you some instructions that help you accomplish this game plan:
1. Listen to what God’s Word is telling you about your need for this trial.
Listen to how God intends to shape you in and through it. What are the revelations that shall come from it? What about your character is it challenging? Which of God’s promises is it revealing? What of your behavior is it calling for you to alter?
2. Listen to others and recognize that they are experiencing trials too.
Listen for common ground so you can say “me too” and share the power of the Gospel in your trials. Finding common ground in trials can be life-giving to a hurting soul and a blessing to the one who comforts.
3. Listen with God’s filter on your mind. Don’t take the words of others to heart. Don’t allow anger to block your faith.
When conversations heat up and words become weapons, you don’t have to participate in the anger. You are not responsible for the anger of another person. You are responsible for your response. Scripture tells us to be “patient, reflective, forgiving” in our response to others.
Yet, that’s REALLY hard to do. But there’s a secret to it. Listen for the voice of God in what they are saying. What is He asking you to do in this trial?
4. Remember the game plan—prove, prune, strengthen, prepare.
God is allowing these trials because He’s proving your faith. He’s addressing your defects and He wants you lacking nothing with regard to what He wants to do with your life.
Don’t get angry, because you’re listening for the voice of God in what’s being said to you. You’re listening for God’s intent rather than another person’s intentions.
Now, go be a conqueror!
James 1:1-8 (AMP)
James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve [Hebrew] tribes [scattered abroad among the Gentiles] in the dispersion: Greetings (rejoice)!
Consider it nothing but joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you fall into various trials. Be assured that the testing of your faith [through experience] produces endurance [leading to spiritual maturity, and inner peace]. And let endurance have its perfect result and do a thorough work, so that you may be perfect and completely developed [in your faith], lacking in nothing.
If any of you lacks wisdom [to guide him through a decision or circumstance], he is to ask of [our benevolent] God, who gives to everyone generously and without rebuke or blame, and it will be given to him. But he must ask [for wisdom] in faith, without doubting [God’s willingness to help], for the one who doubts is like a billowing surge of the sea that is blown about and tossed by the wind. For such a person ought not to think or expect that he will receive anything [at all] from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable and restless in all his ways [in everything he thinks, feels, or decides].
How many times have you said a prayer, but doubted God’s ability to answer that prayer? Be honest.
You know God has good intentions for your life, but do you still recognize that when you’re undergoing trials? In this passage, James is teaching the tribes that difficult, uncertain times are faith conditioning times. Uncertain times are the times you grow and come closer to God’s purpose for your life.
You have no choice but to pray, recognizing His sovereign providence and knowing that there is no challenging time stronger than Him. James says it’s okay to ask God for clarity regarding why He is making you walk in this season. However, the one condition He puts on it is this: don’t pray because of the pressure. Pray because of your faith. Pray confidently because you want God more than anything else. That’s what it means to be single-minded.
Doubled-minded people don’t get answers to their prayers. Double-minded people are hesitant, dubious, unstable. You can’t be of two minds. You can’t ask God to open a door for you while standing there wondering if He’ll be able to do it. When your faith is divided, you give up your confidence in God.
You will be so much closer to your destination if you stop being double-minded and trust in God and His plan. Your disciplined offering is an offering of spiritual single-mindedness. In fact, become so focused on God that you are monomaniacal. Become a maniac for God—a spiritual maniac. Be a maniac when it comes to prayer. Pray, and if nothing changes, do it again, then again. Stand at God’s door unafraid to say, “Hey, it’s me again.”
Melba Pattillo, notable for being a member of the Little Rock Nine, a group of nine students in Little Rock, Arkansas who were among the first African American students to desegregate a local school, wrote a book called I Will Not Fear. In the first chapter, she describes her birth. Anticipating it was going to be a difficult birth—as Melba was nine pounds and her mother was petite—her equally petite grandmother trekked through the winter storm to the local hospital to request her daughter be admitted. The hospital supervisor told her she could not have a room in the hospital, but could go down the hall to the janitor’s closet, and her daughter could give birth there. The supervisor reasoned that if it was rumored that one African American woman had been given a room, other African Americans would come down to the hospital requesting the same thing, and the hospital didn’t want them to come in and stink up the place.
After thirty hours of labor, Melba had to be removed with forceps, which caused an infection on her head. Her temperature skyrocketed, and she was close to dying. Her grandmother says that all she had at that time to lean on was prayer. She was a maniac in prayer, so much so that the kind janitor heard her in the closet praying. He told her that she should wash Melba with Epsom salt; he’d overheard the doctor tell the nurse to do that, but the nurse had yet to come down the hall. Melba’s grandmother went to the store, began washing Melba’s head with Epsom salt, and Melba survived. Melba says she’s alive because she had a grandmother who wouldn’t stop praying, and a janitor who wouldn’t stop sweeping—an angel with a broom.
I think we could all learn a lesson from Melba’s grandmother. You must have the same mind and spirit that God does about your trials. Since God believes the pressure in your current season is working to mature your faith and contribute to your purpose, you must believe the same!
Exodus 20:25 (ESV)
If you make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stones, for if you wield your tool on it you profane it.
Today’s focus scripture follows a transition in the nation of Israel—from God showing up and showing out to save and protect His people to what God expects from His people.
He’s just released the Ten Commandments to Israel, and now He’s laying out His expectations for their worship and sacrifices. And in His perfect way, God is offering another protection for His people.
His commandments for His altar are to remind Israel what His presence means, what He has done for them, and what He expects from His people. We’re shifting from the mighty acts of deliverance from Egypt to the expectations of a holy people.
As a good Father, God knows what lies ahead for Israel as they walk from oppression in Egypt into the freedom of the Promised Land. He knows the sinful heart of His people and knows that they will use their God-given gifts or tools—intelligence, passions, desires—to manipulate His will to fit theirs. So, He’s warning them that their intelligence is no match for His.
He’s also helping us see our role in His plan. He knows that as His children learn of their intelligence and gifts from Him, they may use it for selfish ambition. He knows Israel will be tempted to trim the stone (God’s will) for their own purposes. He knows that His children will “polish” His Word to fit their own desires.
So, God warns them that the altar represents how this relationship works. He says, “You don’t carve my stone; my stone shapes the way you think.”
God is holy and just and the blessing in this warning is that He’s designed you to be the carved stone. He’s given you unfinished gifts—intelligence, passions, desires—as part of His plan for you. He dreamed you up and placed you in your mother’s womb, so He gets some say in your life.
When we attempt to cut God out of our lives or to shape His Word and will to fit our plans and schemes, we “profane the stone.” We forget or ignore the One who made us and saved us.
A real problem in modern society is that we do this all the time with the Gospel—the Good News God gave His people to spread His Word and will. Human wisdom delights in trimming and arranging the Gospel to fit a narrative. We say, “The Bible is old, so it needs to be ‘updated’ or ‘polished.’” But when we do this, we take away the blessing that is God’s Word and will. It’s a gift He gives us to hewn us to be more like Him—holy and righteous.
However, the good news for today is that even when we’ve tried our own way, God has mercy on us. When we stand at the altar of Jesus Christ, we’ve already tried our own way. We realize that it doesn’t work. We recognize that we can’t do this life without Him. There’s a God-sized hole in our hearts of stone that only Jesus can fill.
And when we realize that we can see the blessings of God’s warning about the altar. Here’s what you can do with this message:
1. Let God’s presence (the unhewn stone) change you. Don’t try to handle God. Let Him handle you. He is the only answer to the problems in your life.
2. Accept God’s carving of your heart. God is going to ask you to look at different perspectives and to make radical changes to your life. Jesus asked His disciples to walk away from their lives at great sacrifice, but He gave a greater sacrifice. The jagged edges of His presence in your life aren’t to harm you but to bless you.
3. Stand by what the altar means. The apostle Paul wrote, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, then to the Greek. For the Gospel reveals the righteousness of God that comes by faith from start to finish” (Romans 1:16-17, NIV). God’s asking us to do something bold—to proclaim Him, to follow Him, to live for Him. He requires us to look at life from different angles and to make decisions that seem unnatural. When our desires don’t match God’s will, He asks for our obedience; but with that comes “the righteousness by faith from start to finish.”
Luke 5:27-32 (AMP)
After this Jesus went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi (Matthew) sitting at the tax booth; and He said to him, “Follow Me [as My disciple, accepting Me as your Master and Teacher and walking the same path of life that I walk].” And he left everything behind and got up and began to follow Jesus [as His disciple].
Levi (Matthew) gave a great banquet for Him at his house; and there was a large crowd of tax collectors and others who were reclining at the table with them. The Pharisees and their scribes [seeing those with whom He was associating] began murmuring in discontent to His disciples, asking, “Why are you eating and drinking with the tax collectors and sinners [including non-observant Jews]?” And Jesus replied to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but [only] those who are sick. I did not come to call the [self-proclaimed] righteous [who see no need to repent], but sinners to repentance [to change their old way of thinking, to turn from sin and to seek God and His righteousness].”
Matthew possesses one of the best qualities in ministry. In my estimation, it is second only to faith itself. He develops a passion that Jesus knows will make him a great vessel for kingdom effectiveness.
What is passion? Let’s define passion as the capacity or the Christ-provided privilege to feel so strongly about something/someone that you are willing to leave everything in pursuit of it or in pursuit of Him. When considering passions, we need to remember two things:
1. Passion is produced by God providing grace to edit one’s “life script.”
2. Passion is produced when the Lord taps into our “secret desperations.”
In Luke Chapter 5, Jesus walks right up to Matthew and offers him a chance to change his life and follow Jesus. Without a second thought, without asking others for advice, he takes that opportunity to have his passion transformed. Jesus knows that Matthew’s passion is fixed to the very fabric of his being. He just needs his vision expanded, mistakes outlived, loyalties redirected, mind transformed, and tools resharpened. Matthew closes up shop, leaves, and starts following Jesus. Then, he coordinates a banquet, and invites the collectors to come meet Jesus. It’s that passion to take it one step further that makes Matthew a worthy choice.
What in your relationship with God are you passionate about? Find it, pray to discover it, ask God to discern it, and stop ignoring it. Everything He wants to do for your life is connected to your passion. When you find your sense of passion, you won’t feel like you’re wasting time. It will make hard work manageable. Don’t settle for good as long as great is out there.
Don’t ask God to take your passion—ask Him to transform it. Just like He transformed Matthew’s passion and Apostle Paul’s passion, He can transform yours. He doesn’t care about your previous mistakes and sins. In fact, the Bible can be summed up in one big human announcement:
Child of God, it’s not too late to edit a script gone bad.
How you are living now is not how you have to live forever. What has been does not have to be. Following Jesus does not give you the privilege to go back to Chapter 1 and start over. It gives you the privilege to start a new chapter and move from there. If you don’t like how any of the previous chapters were written, decide that you’re going to write a better second half because your story isn’t over. Yes, it may include chapters you don’t want included, but it’s your story. All of it serves to make you who you have become. Own it—the good, the bad, the ugly.
Start right now. Start editing from the place you are in at this very moment. Don’t rewrite what you have lived through. Turn the page, redirect your passion, and make your story from this point forward read better than the story that has previously been told.
Edit your script. God’s grace has allowed you to do so.
Jesus may have to tap our secret desperations to produce passion; it’s how He helped Matthew. It’s how He can help you too. Maybe you want to transfer your passions, but a flurry of excuses prevents you from changing—the pay is too much, the power is too addicting, the position is too addicting, too many compromises and promises have been made. Don’t give up your secret aspirations. Don’t sit in the same place day after day and wish it were different. Jesus is the way out of a stuck, trapped life. He will keep the promises He has made to you. Don’t become frustrated because your urgency doesn’t align with His timing.
It’s time to decide: are you going to let your story end, or are you and God going to write the rest of it? I promise if you and God write the rest of your story together, the next chapter will read:
And your later days shall be greater than your former days.
Well done, good and faithful servant…