Jesus is Looking for You

Luke 5

In this time of year, the wider church celebrates Lent. In this period leading up to Easter, we take time to examine ourselves, our sins, our motives, our hearts and souls, and recognize that it was for our sins that Christ died, not only to free us but to change us. While the reading in Numbers is very important, and I am glad you are reading the Old Testament, I want us to focus on Christ this week and his life as portrayed by Luke. 

There are two stories in Luke 5 to which I want you to pay particular attention. Let’s look first at Luke 5:1-11. Jesus is already an established teacher, a rabbi, and has a ministry going. He is probably on the lookout for disciples. Disciples were usually chosen from a core group of aspiring, promising young men. They would have excelled at learning the language, would be able to read the Torah, memorize the Torah, study and debate the Torah. In the learning institutions, those who were not promising, or who had to work with their parents to feed the family, were sent home to learn the family trade. So Jesus meets up with a guy named Simon. We might recognize him more from his nickname, Peter. Simon is a fisherman, who has his lot in life, knows what his station is. He KNOWS he’s not meant to be a rabbi’s disciple. He KNOWS he wasn’t smart enough or rich enough to make the cut. But Jesus isn’t looking for the richest or the smartest. Jesus says “cast out your net” and Simon says “because you say so.” They’d been fishing all night. They ain’t got nuthin’, as we say in the South. (SC represent) These good ol’ country boys know what they are doing, but Simon likes Jesus, trusts him, and does what he says. 

And that is what Jesus is looking for. 

And there is a miracle.

So many fish the nets tore, and the ships sank, and it took two crews. 

That’s a lotta fish. 


Simon, James, and John were all amazed and astonished, and Jesus said “You will now fish for people.”

And they pulled up their boats. 

Left everything. 

And followed him. 


Later on in the chapter, we read about Levi the tax collector. We may know him better by the name Matthew, who we think is the same guy. Now tax collectors were hated. Jews despised by their brothers and sisters because they were thought of as traitors. They were Jews, collecting money from other Jews for Rome, the occupying military force. To get rich, they would overcharge the Jews and keep the rest, which was legal, but tantamount to stealing. And this traitorous thief is sitting in his tax booth. Jesus sees this guy and says two words to him : “Follow me”


Levi followed him. 

Left everything. 

Right there in the booth. 

Levi is amazed and astonished that a holy rabbi would look for him, would choose him to follow, would send him out to work. 


A whole lotta tax collectors and sinners heard this good news that God’s kingdom was open to them. Jesus said that he came to call the sick, and heal them.  He healed the sick there that night, and it was miraculous. 

Jesus is looking for you. 

He is seeking those who will listen, whether it is to let down a net or to let down your guard. The call will always be “Follow me.” If you listen, he will accept you.  We know we aren’t rich enough. He KNOWS we are. (Colossians 1:27) We know we aren’t smart enough. He KNOWS we are. (1 Corinthians 1:25) We know we aren’t good enough. He KNOWS we are. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
He says to you today: “Follow me.” Pull up the boat, get out of the booth. Leave EVERYTHING behind. And follow him. 

-Jake Ballard

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at BibleGateway.com – Numbers 29-30 and Luke 5

Numbers 27-28, Luke 4

As the book of Numbers draws to a close, Moses begins to make preparation for his death. God tells him he will not enter the Promised Land with the Israelites, but he will be able to see it before the Israelites enter in. Moses is (very understandably) concerned for the Israelite people. He has had to intercede for them and guide them away from idolatrous actions again and again. In Numbers 27, Moses passes on the leadership torch to Joshua so that the Israelites will not be like a “sheep without a shepherd” (Numb. 27:17). Joshua would become the next leader who would guide, command, and take care of the Israelite people as they enter into the land of Canaan. 

Luke 4 describes the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Moses had spent years building up trust and confidence from the Israelite people, and Joshua benefited from that. He was able to build on the legacy of leadership that Moses left behind. Unlike Joshua, Jesus had to start from square one when building confidence and trust with the Jewish people. We see him begin this process in Luke 4. After the temptations in the wilderness, he begins preaching in the synagogues. At one point, he reads a passage from Isaiah that begins with “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because he has anointed me to…” and then lists out all the actions the God has sent him to do (Luke 4:18). Jesus did not have a Moses that told all the Jewish people to listen and follow after him. But, Jesus had something better to establish his authority. Not only did God speak over him after he was baptized, “This is my beloved Son. I take delight in him!” (Luke 3:22). He also had all of the Old Testament scriptures that spoke about him! 

Even so, the Jewish people did not accept him as a leader, because he challenged the way that he led and thought about the world. Just like the leadership example set by Moses, Jesus knew that the Jewish people needed someone to guide them, protect them, and care for them. They needed a shepherd. But, being led by a shepherd sometimes includes being corrected by a shepherd. The Jewish people, especially those in positions of power, were resistant to this. In fact, this section of Luke ends with the Jewish people doing this: “They got up, drove Him out of town, and brought Him to the edge of the hill, intending to hurl Him over a cliff” (Luke 4:29). 

Jesus is the “good shepherd” (John 10:14). His sheep “follow him because they recognize his voice” (John 10:4). When Jesus is leading us, do we follow? Are we resistant and stubborn to correction, choosing to go our own way? Or do we trust that our good shepherd will guide us on the right paths? How do we view Jesus’ leadership? 

My prayer is that we will trust in Jesus as our good shepherd. That his leading, both in guiding and correcting, will be a “comfort” to us as he lets us “lie down in green pastures,” leads us “beside quiet waters,” and “renews our life” (Ps. 23:1-4). 

~ Stephanie Schlegel

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: 1 Chronicles 19-20 and Proverbs 26.

Numbers 25-26, Luke 3

Almost 40 years had passed, and the Israelites were nearing the time when they would enter into the Promised Land. A generation had died in the wilderness because they failed to trust that God would guide them, protect them, and give them the good things he had promised. God had used the Israelites’ wilderness wanderings to teach them about his holiness and to teach them to trust in him more. However, not all of the Israelites were sanctified through this time. 

In Numbers 25, the Israelites are staying in the country of Moab. Because of intermarriage and lack of loyalty, they turn away from God and begin to worship Baal, a pagan god. Leading the way in this idolatry are several leaders of the people. God sends a terrible plague among the people that eventually killed 24,000 people and orders Moses to strike the idolatrous leaders down. So, Moses and Aaron’s great-grandson, Phinehas, gather the people together. The people are in mourning for the loved ones they lost in the plague, and all gathered together at the tabernacle, they are mourning in supposed repentance. However, Phinehas sees one of the Israelites blatantly bring a Moab woman into the tent of meeting! While the people are weeping in repentance, this person acts in a way that would indicate that he was not repentant at all. He was going to continue in his sin. The repentance was only caused by the negative experiences the Israelites faced, but it wasn’t true, heart-changing repentance that would cause them to change their actions. 

Phinehas, in a zealous passion, takes a spear and kills both the man and the woman who are doing this. Because of that harsh measure, the plague stops and God promises the priesthood would continue with Phinehas for generations. This seems like a brutal action. But, the reason why God praised Phinehas for doing it was because this action shows (1) Phinehas understood the concept of the holiness of God and his tabernacle and (2) Phinehas recognized how sin has to be stopped so it won’t continue to do its damage. Sin spreads like a plague, which, once it gets started, is very difficult to eradicate. If we recognize the importance of holiness and trying ourselves to live a lifestyle of holiness, we cannot continue to allow sin to spread in our lives. We have to be willing to act zealously to snuff it out. 

In Luke 3, we read about the ministry of John the Baptist in his own wilderness. He cries out to the people to ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near!’ He urges those who come out to see him to “produce fruits consistent with repentance” because “every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire” (Luke 3:8-9). Recognition of the severity of sin and true repentance from that sin are crucial to producing good fruit. If we do not recognize and repent from sin, we will not produce good fruit. We will not live lives that glorify God. 

Evaluate your life. Is it characterized by a right understanding of sin? Of an understanding of the importance of holiness? What about true repentance and good fruit? As John and Jesus said, “Repent! The Kingdom of Heaven is near!”

~ Stephanie Schlegel

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: 1 Chronicles 19-20 and Proverbs 26.

Numbers 21-22, Luke 1

The Israelites’ wilderness wanderings continue in Numbers 21-22. Even though they had chosen not to enter the Promised Land because of their perceived battles, the battles came to them in the wilderness. They faced the kingdoms of Edom, Arad, Amorites, and Ammonites. In all of these battles, the outcome of the standoff was based not in the strength of the Israelite people, but in the amount of trust they had in God. 

The Israelites were a stubborn people though. They had a tendency to forget the lessons they had just learned. In Numbers 21, they had just shown their trust in God when they defeated the king of Arad. But, in verse 4, they began to grumble and complain against God, asking why they had come out of Egypt to the wilderness. This is a recurring pattern with the Israelites. When they face difficult circumstances, they begin to complain. God always responds strongly to their complaints – sometimes strikingly so. It makes him incredibly angry each and every time they begin to act in this way. In this instance, he sent poisonous snakes among the people. At other times, he sent plagues, fire, or disease – anything to show his displeasure. 

We know that this action – the complaining and grumbling against God’s ordained path – causes God anger. But, as I am reading through the book of Numbers, it’s hard for me to really rectify the description of this wrathful, vengeful God and the God of the New Testament who sent his son to wipe away all sins. Why did it make God this angry? Is it really that bad to complain? 

To answer this question, we can turn to the other passage that we were looking at today: Luke 1. This is the story of the pregnancy announcements of both John the Baptist and Jesus – both of which happened before they got pregnant! John the Baptist parents were Zechariah and Elizabeth, another Levite from the line of Aaron. Zechariah was chosen to serve in the temple, a once in a lifetime opportunity for him, when an angel of the Lord appeared and told him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. There will be joy and delight for you” (Luke 1:13-14). After this, I would imagine that Zechariah would be jumping for joy – the desires of his heart, his deepest prayer, had been answered! But, that’s not the picture that we get. Zechariah responds, “How can I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well along in years” (Luke 1:18). Zechariah’s prayers were answered, but he wanted proof. He wanted God to prove himself to Zechariah. It seemed like an angel of the Lord appearing to Zechariah just wasn’t enough for him. 

In both the Israelites’ and Zechariah’s situation (as well as the situation with Balaam and his donkey in Numbers 22), they wanted God to prove himself to be God. The previous faithfulness God had shown them wasn’t enough; they wanted God to prove himself to be big enough and powerful enough in that moment for them to trust him. But – I don’t think, for any of these people, anything that God could have done in that moment would truly have caused them to trust him more. It wasn’t on God to prove himself to them. For the Israelites, he caused the plagues in Egypt, split the Red Sea, routed whole armies. For Zechariah, he sent a messenger to talk to him face to face and tell him that his greatest desire was answered. They had already received their signs. It was the people’s responsibility to soften their hearts enough to trust in God. They needed to believe that God was who he said he was and would do what he said he would do. 

We are required to trust in the same way. God has done tremendously more than we have ever deserved. He is currently doing more in our lives than we could ever hope for. It is our responsibility to trust him to be God. We just have to follow in obedience to him.

~ Stephanie Schlegel

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: 1 Chronicles 19-20 and Proverbs 26.

Numbers 19-20, Psalm 51-52

Moses and the Israelites’ wilderness wanderings continue on in Numbers 19-20. In previous chapters as we’ve seen, God faithfully shows up for Moses, choosing him and the Levites as the priesthood to be the leaders and go-betweens between God and the Israelite people. In Numbers 20, Moses has to deal with the Israelites’ rebellious spirit again. They came fighting against Moses saying, “If only we had perished when our brothers perished before the Lord. Why have you brought the Lord’s assembly into this wilderness for us and our livestock to die here? Why have you led us up from Egypt to bring us to this evil place? It’s not a place of grain, figs, vines, and pomegranates, and there is no water to drink!” (Numb. 20:3-5).

Even though God continued to provide for the Israelites time and time again, the Israelites had yet to learn to trust in him. They questioned God’s purpose for them and even stated that they wished they had died with the Israelites who had been killed in the plague after Korah’s rebellion. One rebellion had just been resolved with the blossoming of Aaron’s branch, but the people were again questioning Moses’ leadership because of their circumstances in the wilderness. 

Moses responds as he normally does – by falling face down before God to beg God for help. God responds to Moses and Aaron and gives them specific instructions to follow: take your staff and speak to a rock. Then, water will flow out. However, Moses, heated in the moment, rashly gathers the assembly and says to them, “Listen, you rebels! Must we bring water out of this rock for you?” Then, he struck the rock twice and water gushed out (Numb. 20:9-11). In this pivotal moment of Moses’ leadership, he does not respond with level-headed humility. Instead, he responds rebelliously towards God because of his frustration with the people. By forcefully striking the rock and saying that it was him – Moses – who brought the water out, he took the glory away from God and placed it on himself. Moses decided that he was going to be the one to save the Israelites, and he forcefully showed them what he could do. 

I totally can identify and sympathize with Moses in this moment. He loved God. He loved the people. And, he truly wanted what was best for the people. But, he got frustrated. He was tired and probably thirsty. He was overwhelmed. Because of this, he made a mistake with dire consequences; he would not lead the people into the promised land. He got caught up in the feelings of the moment, the seeming impossibility of shepherding the Israelite people into a trusting, righteous way of living and into the promised land. When he looked at his situation, he may have felt trapped, may have felt hopeless, or may have just felt mad. The one thing he forgot to do was to view those feelings in light of the character of God. He forgot to trust in who God was – to remember that despite what the Israelites were saying, God was always in Moses’ corner. 

We all have times where the circumstances we are in cause us to be blinded by the feelings we have. We may feel stuck, tired, hopeless, mad. Maybe we feel like we just want to hit something. Or we just want to give up. But remember – God is in our corner. When we face those difficult times, we can trust that he will always come through. 

~ Stephanie Schlegel

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: 1 Chronicles 19-20 and Proverbs 26.

Seek!

Jer 29 13

“For I know the plans that I have for you, declares YHWH, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” – Jeremiah 29:11-13

 

Most Christians, myself included, are eager for God’s blessings, assistance, and attentiveness to our needs. We crave to know our Creator in an intimate way and desire that He listens to our prayers. However, we often forget that there needs to be effort on our part as well. In the same way that a relationship with a spouse is a 2-way street, requiring effort from both members of the relationship, so we are expected to put some effort into our relationship with our Heavenly Father. We are told, clear as day, that we will only achieve that intimate relationship with God when we “seek after Him with all of our heart”.

 

When I was growing up, I often went to church services and programs, but never put any effort into developing my faith. I assumed that, because Jesus died for my sins, that I wasn’t expected to do anything else. I told myself, “God knows I’m just young and dumb. He will forgive me”, without ever considering how much I personally needed to change and seek after Him. It took a dramatic act of God to get my attention and drive me to look deeper into my relationship with Him. Fortunately, God led me to Atlanta Bible College, where I was able to pursue Him intentionally and with great vigor. It was during this time that I truly felt that my relationship with Him had really  begun.

 

While not everybody’s story is the same as mine, the same command from God applies to all of us: “Seek me”. We need to be intentionally developing our relationship further with our Father if we expect Him to do the same for us. So, as we begin a new year and a new decade, I want you to consider the following questions:

 

  1. How is my relationship with God and Jesus currently?
  2. How much effort am I putting into that relationship?
  3. What can I do to develop that relationship further this year?

 

May you be blessed as you seek after your Heavenly Father in 2020!

-Talon Paul

 

One way to be Seeking God in 2020 is to commit to daily being in His Word – a most wonderful place to find Him!  Come join us on a chronological Bible reading plan!  Print out the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan and start reading on January 1.  Subscribe to be a follower at the SeekGrowLove.com site and you will receive daily email devotions based on that day’s reading.  Come Seek Him!  You won’t be disappointed when He shows Himself to you.  It’s well worth the effort!   And, change a life by inviting a friend to seek with you.                                         – Marcia Railton, Editor