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June 18, 2008
Keep Recognizing Jesus

. . . Peter . . . walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid . . . —Matthew 14:29-30The wind really was boisterous and the waves really were high, but Peter didn’t see them at first. He didn’t consider them at all; he simply recognized his Lord, stepped out in recognition of Him, and "walked on the water." Then he began to take those things around him into account, and instantly, down he went. Why couldn’t our Lord have enabled him to walk at the bottom of the waves, as well as on top of them? He could have, yet neither could be done without Peter’s continuing recognition of the Lord Jesus.

We step right out with recognition of God in some things, then self-consideration enters our lives and down we go. If you are truly recognizing your Lord, you have no business being concerned about how and where He engineers your circumstances. The things surrounding you are real, but when you look at them you are immediately overwhelmed, and even unable to recognize Jesus. Then comes His rebuke, ". . . why did you doubt?" ( Matthew 14:31 ). Let your actual circumstances be what they may, but keep recognizing Jesus, maintaining complete reliance upon Him.

If you debate for even one second when God has spoken, it is all over for you. Never start to say, "Well, I wonder if He really did speak to me?" Be reckless immediately— totally unrestrained and willing to risk everything— by casting your all upon Him. You do not know when His voice will come to you, but whenever the realization of God comes, even in the faintest way imaginable, be determined to recklessly abandon yourself, surrendering everything to Him. It is only through abandonment of yourself and your circumstances that you will recognize Him. You will only recognize His voice more clearly through recklessness— being willing to risk your all.

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When we think about the marvel of creation—how God spoke the universe into existence and formed the earth and everything in it—we think most often of Old Testament accounts.

But it is encouraging to examine the New Testament to see how that part of the Bible refers to creation. Here is a look at some key passages:

“I will utter things kept secret from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 13:35). God reveals things to us that He had kept secret since before creation.

“Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34). Before the earth was created, God knew each of us—and He knew our future.

“He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4). Before the work of creation even began, God was aware of each of His eventual children.

These New Testament verses comfort us with the truth that God’s knowledge of us and His eternal mysteries about us point toward His special creation of mankind as described in Genesis. We can do nothing but bow in awe before One whose knowledge and creative ability are eternal in nature and boundless in power. Creation: New Testament style—still another reason to give God praise!



O Lord, how manifold the work
In wisdom wrought by Thee;
The wealth of Thy creative skill
Fills earth and mighty sea. —Anon.

Each person is a unique expression of God’s loving design.
The people of Israel had backslidden, and God wanted Hosea to show them how much that hurt Him. So, in the first few chapters of Hosea, we read a bizarre story: God commanded the prophet to marry a prostitute named Gomer. Put on display as the faithful husband of an unfaithful spouse, Hosea experienced a pain similar to what God felt when Israel was spiritually unfaithful.

As Hosea wrote the ending of his book, he made it clear that despite the pain the people of Israel caused the living God, He still promised healing, forgiveness, and fruitfulness if they would return to Him: “I will heal their backsliding,” He said. “I will love them freely . . . . Those who dwell under his shadow shall return” (Hos. 14:4-7).

Life for the person who turns his back on God is often characterized by guilt and dissatisfaction. The truly born-again believer who has fallen into a lifestyle of sin knows deep down that spiritual unfaithfulness to God takes a toll.

But just as the God of grace offered Israel forgiveness and fruitfulness, even so today He offers restoration to the truly repentant (1 John 1:9). Have you made poor choices that have caused you to slip away? Come back. Repent and seek restored fellowship with the Lord today.



If you’ve rebelled and turned away
From what you know is true,
Turn back to God—He will forgive,
His pardon waits for you. —Sper

It’s not too late to make a fresh start with God.
Several years ago, my husband helped to lead a work crew of high school students on a short-term missions trip to a Christian school in an urban community. Unfortunately, Tom had broken his foot shortly before the trip and was supervising the work from a wheelchair. He was discouraged because he wasn’t able to get around as he had hoped.

While he was working on the ground floor, a few of the girls were painting on the third floor. He could hear them singing praise choruses in harmony as their voices echoed down the wide-open staircases. Song after song ministered to him. “It was the most beautiful sound I’d ever heard,” he told me later. “And it lifted my spirits.”

Colossians 3 reminds us, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (v.16). Not only were those teenage girls giving sweet praise to God, they were ministering to a co-worker.

Whatever you’re doing today, cultivate an attitude of praise. Whether it is through song or conversation, let your joy in the Lord reverberate to others. You never know who you might encourage.



Our words of praise and songs of joy
Can be a welcomed gift
To those who need encouragement—
Whose spirits need a lift. —Sper

Hope can be ignited by a spark of encouragement
Because I am not a “fix it” kind of guy, I had to call a friend who is a great handyman to make some repairs in my home recently. He came over, and I gave him my list. But to my surprise, he told me I would be doing the repairs myself! He modeled for me how to do it, instructed me along the way, and stayed with me. I followed his example and successfully made the repairs. This modeling seems close to what Jesus did when He called His first disciples.

When Jesus called those men to follow Him, He wanted them to be with Him and to teach the good news of the kingdom of God (Mark 1:14,39; 6:12). The first job would require being under the immediate super-vision of Jesus—learning His words and interpretation of the Scriptures and watching His behavior. For the second task, Jesus sent them out to preach (Mark 3:14-15)—saying what He said and doing what He did. As they carried out these tasks, they were to be dependent on Jesus.

Today, Jesus is still calling His followers to this simple, yet powerful process of discipleship—being with Him, following His instructions, and living His example. Are you one who is dependent on Him as you’re following Him today?



For Further Study
For help in drawing near to the Lord to learn from Him,
read the online resource Keeping Our Appointments
With God at www.discoveryseries.org/q0718

Discipleship is relational and experiential
Remember when phones were for making phone calls? With the advent of the smart phone, what was once a way to talk to someone has become a storehouse of data. Add cell-phone applications (computer programs) to that, and you can read sports reports, play games, plan trips, find an apartment—or any of well over 100,000 other tasks available with an “app.”

That’s pretty amazing, but the “apps” for phones are nothing compared with the kind of “apps” Scripture gives us. The “applications” of the Bible are direct notes from God telling us how to apply the truth of His Word to all of life.

Take Philippians 2, for instance: The unity app (2:2), the humility app (2:3), the no-grumbling app (2:14), the shine-as-lights app (2:15). Or look at the apps of Ephesians 5: The imitate-God app (5:1), the walk-in-love app (5:2), the purity app (5:3), the tongue app (5:4). And the book of Proverbs? It’s teeming with applications.

You don’t have to wait for someone to offer these on the Internet. Just open the Bible and see the hundreds of ways to apply Scripture in your life. Got a question about the Christian life? Search the Bible. The answers are there, waiting to be discovered.



Cling to the Bible; this jewel and treasure
Brings life eternal and saves fallen man;
Surely its value no mortal can measure;
Seek for its blessing, O soul, while you can. —Smith

The Bible has treasures of wisdom for you—read it and apply it!
Many churches celebrate the first Sunday in October as World Communion Sunday. It is a time to observe the Lord’s Supper with a special awareness of celebrating together with our brothers and sisters in Christ around the globe. On this day, being with a community of believers has become very meaningful to me.

One year, however, I found myself in an airport with a long flight ahead and no opportunity to attend church on that day. Sitting alone, I read the Gospel accounts of the Last Supper, along with the passages describing Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion. Then from 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, I pondered the words so often read at communion services: “The Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread . . .” (v.23). With some common elements to represent the bread and the cup, I observed the Lord’s death for us, feeling a deep kinship with those followers of Christ in many places who are unable or forbidden to gather with others in worship.

Whatever your location and circumstances today, may you find joy and strength in remembering the Lord’s sacrifice on the cross. “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (v.26).



When Christians join in blessed fellowship
Commemorating Jesus’ sacrifice,
They sense a common bond of unity
Because for every race He paid the price. —Hess

Celebrating Christ together brings strength and joy
People who are trying to be friendly sometimes ask, “Are you keeping busy?” The question seems harmless, but in my mind it carries a subtle message. Beneath the surface is a test of personal value. If I can’t rattle off a list of things I have to do, I feel as if I’m admitting that I’m not worth much.

But does God determine our value by how busy we are? Does He calculate our worth by how much we accomplish? Does He reward us for living on the edge of exhaustion and not taking care of ourselves?

One of the first verses I learned as a child was Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” It didn’t mean much to me at the time because I didn’t understand weariness. But now that I’m older, I feel the temptation to keep pace with the world so I won’t be left behind.

But followers of Jesus don’t have to live like that. Not only has He released us from slavery to sin but also from the bondage of having to prove our worth.

Accomplishing a lot for God may make us feel important, but what makes us important to God is what we allow Him to accomplish in us—conforming us into the image of His Son (Rom. 8:28-30).



Christ never asks of us such busy labor
As leaves no time for resting at His feet;
The waiting attitude of expectation
He often counts as service most complete. —Anon.

Our value is not measured by what we do for God but by what He has done in us.
On a recent radio program, the hosts spoke with a “crisis management” expert about how a celebrity can recover from a public relations disaster. This specialist said one of the keys was to build strong allies who can help the star rehabilitate his or her image. In other words, it is vital when in trouble to get the right help.

That is wise counsel, for at the heart of all crisis management is recognizing that we can’t accomplish everything on our own. Some challenges are too big. Some mountains are too high. In our own seasons of crisis, it is critical that we have help. That’s why it’s comforting to know that we have the strongest ally possible.

King David knew about that ally. In Psalm 18:6, he affirmed, “In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried out to my God; He heard my voice from His temple, and my cry came before Him, even to His ears.” There is no greater help in our time of need than God. He alone can carry us through the trials and crises of life, and we have His word that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5).

When crisis hits, we don’t have to stand alone. We have the right help. We can depend on God to be the greatest ally we could ever know. Lean on Him.



When a crisis looms before you,
Don’t face it on your own;
Seek advice from godly counsel,
And take it to God’s throne. —Sper

Our greatest hope here below is to get help from God above
In his book The First Man, James Hansen chronicles Neil Armstrong’s flight to the moon. The author explains how each astronaut was asked to fill out a report upon completion of the flight. The report listed how they traveled from Houston, Texas, to Cape Kennedy, Florida, to the Moon, to the Pacific Ocean, to Hawaii, and returned to Houston, Texas. What a list of destinations!

There is another itinerary that outshines any trip ever taken. Imagine this itinerary of our Savior, Jesus Christ: Place of origin—the heavenly places; Initial destination—Bethlehem; Mode of travel—the virgin birth; Reason for travel—the redemption of sinners; Return destination—the right hand of the Father.

Philippians 2:5-11 eloquently describes Christ’s coming to earth to provide our redemption. One Bible commentator considers this passage a hymn of praise to the glory of the Suffering Servant who became exalted for His obedience: “Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, . . . humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death . . . . Therefore God also has highly exalted Him” (vv.5-9).

Our Lord’s extraordinary itinerary of redemption should fill our hearts with gratitude and praise!



Our gracious redemption was carefully planned,
The gulf between heaven and earth has been spanned,
The portals are open, the passage is free,
Oh, wondrous salvation, it’s even for me! —Johnson

God broke into human history to offer us the gift of eternal life
The waves of Lake Michigan were high and splashing onto the pier one day as I followed a young family out to a lighthouse. I overheard the young girl say to her father: “Daddy, please walk alongside me and hold my hand at this scary part.”

Sometimes life can be scary for us too: Loss of loved ones. Financial woes. Health problems. As we carry these heavy burdens and cares, we long for a strong hand to hold ours to keep us steady and secure.

When Joshua took over the leadership of Israel, Moses reminded him of God’s help in tough times. In the difficult days to come, Joshua would need to remember to trust God and His promises. Moses said, “The Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed” (Deut. 31:8).

Isaiah 41:13 encourages us with these words from God: “I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’ ” When life gets scary, God is with us, we can hold His strong hand.

This song by Lowell Alexander reminds us of God’s presence: “You will face mountains so steep, deserts so long, and valleys so deep. Sometimes the journey’s gentle, sometimes the cold winds blow. But I want you to remember, I want you to know you will never walk alone. . . . Jesus will be right beside you all the way.” He’ll walk alongside us and hold our hand at the “scary” parts.



Fears flee in the light of God’s presence

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