When You Turn Back

Did you ever notice when Jesus met the disciples on the seashore with a breakfast of grilled fish which he cooked for them after his resurrection, he called Peter Simon?

Jesus didn’t call the apostle Peter, the rock; the name Christ gave him. Instead, Jesus called the apostle by his birth name. I hadn’t paid much attention to that detail until I prepared this month’s Easter posts.

Also, I love the fact Jesus didn’t say if you turn back. No. Jesus said when you turn back.

Thank you, Jesus, he tells us the same.

It’s not one strike and we’re out. Not even three strikes and we’re out. Jesus tells us after we fail, after we fall, when we turn back to him his grace is sufficient. His sacrifice is sufficient. He is sufficient.

Do you think when Peter heard Jesus call him Simon, it was similar to the feeling we get when our parents call us by our first AND middle names? Maybe.

Jesus spoke Simon’s name twice. He needed Simon Peter’s full attention. The words Jesus spoke were extremely important. Especially given Peter’s previous denial as the Lamb of God awaited crucifixion.

Yes. Jesus named Simon the rock, however, Peter needed to understand in addition to his strong side, Peter also had a vulnerable side. Just like the rest of the disciples. Just like the rest of us. Every single one of our strengths can be turned into our weaknesses. Those are the areas where Satan shows up. He takes the good and twists it into something bad.

Peter felt confident he would never forsake Christ. Satan took that confidence and twisted it into self-pride. That prideful spirit allowed Peter to care more about protecting himself, and what others thought of him, than he cared about protecting Jesus.

Each of Christ’s disciples have a vulnerable side, a target Satan intends to penetrate to destroy our testimony about who Christ the Risen Savior is. It is a target Satan can only attack with God’s permission. A target of temptation Jesus prays we will withstand  through the power of the Holy Spirit in those who belong to him.

Peter’s story didn’t end when he denied Jesus around a fire the night Christ was betrayed. After he repented, turned back, and set out to proclaim Christ and him crucified, Simon Peter preached a sermon during Pentecost that saw thousands confess Jesus as Lord. And that was just the beginning.

Like Peter there are times we fail. We deny we ever knew Jesus through our careless words and actions. Jesus knows the outcome before Satan even draws back his bow and sends fiery darts our direction.

Like Peter, when we fall we have a choice.

Will we let our failure define us, give up, and walk away? Or will we acknowledge our fall, get back up, repent, and when we turn back, strengthen those around us?

Who knows? But one thing is sure. Whatever we do after we fall is just as important as what we did before we fell.

Grace. God’s grace. Grace that is greater than all our sins.

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Simon, Simon! Listen! Satan has received permission to test all of you, to separate the good from the bad, as a farmer separates the wheat from the chaff. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith will not fail. And when you turn back to me, you must strengthen your brothers. Luke 22:31-32 (GNT)

I wish you well.

Sandy

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You can find my April Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

A Somber Celebration

When the hour for the Passover meal came, Jesus and his apostles reclined on cushions around a low table. Although usually a joyous occasion, this Passover meal would be a somber celebration. It would be a time of revelation, new covenant, and request for remembrance.

Jesus told the twelve he eagerly desired to eat this meal with them before he suffered. His statement held both an eagerness in eating the meal and a sense of finality. Once again he told the disciples, his closest companions, his time of suffering neared. Jesus told them there would be a time when he would eat with them again.

Later.

When the kingdom of God came.

While offering the final cup of the Passover meal, Christ told his followers the cup was a new covenant in his blood poured out for them. It was a new agreement between God and his people. This covenant was superior to the covenant under the law handed down to Moses.

As soon as Jesus offered the bread and cup to his disciples, he revealed a traitor was in their midst. He knew Satan would enter the one who walked with Jesus for the past three years. Jesus knew the plot would unfold quickly in the Garden of Gethsemane. He knew whose hand would receive blood-money from the high priest. Jesus knew who would betray him with a kiss.

While Jesus knew all this, the disciples wondered who the betrayer could be. Jesus prepared the disciples for what would soon take place that evening and the next day, yet they didn’t understand the gravity of his words. Instead, in their need to prove they weren’t the betrayer, they argued over who was the most loyal. Who was the greatest.

Jesus reminded his disciples they were not to be like those in the world who boast and try to outdo each other. He told them the greatest should be like the one who serves. He reminded them greatness in God’s kingdom is found in serving others instead of serving self. As an example, the Son of God stooped to wash the feet of men.

Jesus reminds us the same thing today. We are not to be like the world, boasting and trying to outdo each other. We are to be like Christ. Humbly serving others with a heart like his.

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“But here at this table, sitting among us as a friend, is the man who will betray me. I must die. It is part of God’s plan. But, oh, the horror awaiting that man who betrays me.”

Then the disciples wondered among themselves which of them would ever do such a thing. Luke 22:21-23 (TLB)

I wish you well.

Sandy

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You can find my March Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

Jesus is Our Living Hope

by Sandy Kirby Quandt

Hallelujah, Jesus Christ is our Living Hope.

The Lion of Judah roared mightily that Resurrection Day so long ago, and his victorious voice continues to speak to all with ears to hear.

He set us free. He broke every chain that bound us to the evil one.

Jesus is the Victor. The Mighty Warrior. The Conqueror. He defeated Satan, hell, sin, and death.

Jesus Christ is the One in whom our hope is found.

He sits at the right hand of his Father in heaven, waiting for the day he returns for his Bride, the Church. On that day, Christ will take those who confess their hope, trust, and allegiance to the King of kings and LORD of Lords with him to their eternal home in heaven.

Christ is risen. He is risen indeed.

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Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.” Matthew 28:5-7 (NLT)

I wish you well.

Sandy

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Pause for Poetry — We Come Before You, Jesus

Welcome to Pause for Poetry, featuring a poem written by my writer-friend, Frances Gregory Pasch.

We Come Before You, Jesus

We come before you, Jesus,

In humble adoration.

We ask that You will lead us…

A complex, confused nation.

We pray that You’ll be at our side

As each new step we take.

If we’ll walk hand and hand with You…

We will make less mistakes.

You are our refuge and our strength,

Creator of all things.

We’re blessed to have You in our lives…

Our Savior—King of Kings.

Frances Gregory Pasch’s devotions and poems have been published hundreds of times in devotional booklets, magazines, and Sunday school papers since 1985. Her writing has also appeared in several dozen compilations. Her book, Double Vision: Seeing God in Everyday Life Through Devotions and Poetry is available on Amazon. Frances has been leading a women’s Christian writers group since 1991 and makes her own holiday greeting cards incorporating her poetry. She and her husband, Jim, have been married since 1958. They have five sons and nine grandchildren. Contact her at http://www.francesgregorypasch.com.

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I wish you well.

Sandy

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Sunday Scriptures — Gifts Fit For A King

by Sandy Kirby Quandt

Although many nativity scenes place the Wise Men and their gifts at the manger where Christ was born, Jesus was probably one or two years old when the Wise Men found him. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were no longer in the manger. They were living in a house in Bethlehem.

The Bible doesn’t tell us much about these men, only that they knew the Old Testament prophesies and followed the heavenly star traveling from the east toward Bethlehem. We sing “We Three Kings”, but just because someone penned a song about three kings does not mean there were three wise men, or that they were kings.

We do know from the scriptures they presented Jesus with gifts fit for a king. Gold. Incense. Myrrh. These gifts were not second-hand leftovers. These gifts came at a cost to the giver. The journey to Bethlehem itself cost time, resources, and effort. These were all valuable commodities the men were willing to pay. Because, after all, their gifts were given in honor of the newly born King.

In the Wise Men’s story I find it interesting they did not go back to the earthly ruler, Herod, with news of Jesus’ location. After being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they listened to the True Ruler of Heaven and Earth, and returned home a different way. They obeyed God instead of man. How refreshing.

What gifts fit for a King will we offer Jesus to honor him and show our gratitude for what he has done for us? Maybe the best gift we can give is our self.

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Herod secretly called in the wise men and asked them when they had first seen the star. He told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, let me know. I want to go and worship him too.”

The wise men listened to what the king said and then left. And the star they had seen in the east went on ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. They were thrilled and excited to see the star.

 When the men went into the house and saw the child with Mary, his mother, they knelt down and worshiped him. They took out their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh and gave them to him.  Later they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, and they went back home by another road. Matthew 2:7-12 (CEV)

I wish you well.

Sandy

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The Shadow of the Cross at Christmas

by Sandy Kirby Quandt

Christmastime makes it really difficult for me to keep secrets. And I’m not fond of secrets.

When I was a child, the suspense of not knowing what was in the packages with my name on them was torturous. Absolute torture. Because of that, more times than not I surreptitiously lifted the cellophane tape off one end of my brightly colored presents and peeked inside.

After years of practice, I became an expert at unwrapping the package without damaging the paper, sneaking a peek, replacing the tape, and acting surprised on Christmas morning.

When I clandestinely unwrapped my Christmas presents, if there was a toy inside, whoopee! If there was a necessary sweater, or more knee socks, well …

As an adult, I have the same problem. Only in reverse.

I get so excited about what I’ve bought Pilot, I can’t wait for him to open it. To help him figure out the gift I give him hints. Sometimes, he won’t play along.

When I think about it, I wonder if God felt the same excitement and anticipation I feel at Christmas when he prepared to send his Gift of Love to our broken world. All through the Bible God gives us hints as to what was to come. The shadow of the cross. Sometimes his clues were ignored, and the people and wouldn’t play along, but that didn’t take away the gift.

God’s prophets spoke of a Messiah. Shepherd. Cornerstone. One from the house of Jesse. One from the line of David whose kingdom would never end. A Savior. Immanuel. God with us. These words hold joy and excitement.

Unlike the words in Isaiah 53:5. Words like pierced, crushed, punishment, wounds.

That’s when I understand the shadow of the cross of Calvary hung over the joyful gift of a baby in a manger in Bethlehem.

And I cry.

When I set up our manger scene for Christmas, I place  a cross with a crown of thorns next to it.

Lest I get caught up in the presents, the baking, the decorations, and the carols, I need a reminder in front of me. Perhaps you do as well.

Christmas is about much more than a baby, gifts, and family. Christmas is about the cross. It’s about the sacrifice, the suffering, and the Savior who died and rose again so we might live.

Don’t get me wrong, I still get excited about the gifts under the tree. But it’s the gift that hung on a tree, that really matters.

What do you think?

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But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5 (GNT)

I wish you well,

Sandy

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Sunday Scriptures – Where Have You Put Him?

 

by Sandy Kirby Quandt

Where have you put him?

That’s the question Mary Magdalene asked when she saw the empty tomb where the body of her Lord was placed three short days earlier.

We can ask ourselves the same question Mary asked. Where have we put him?

Is Christ at the center of our life, or have we shuffled him off to a corner somewhere and forgotten him, until we need something?

Do we seek out Jesus first thing in the morning the way Mary did? Or do days, weeks, months pass before we even give him a second thought?

Do we long to see our Savior’s face and glorify him? Does he fill our days with the joy only he can give? Do we live to serve him and him alone?

When people look at us and ask, “Where have you put him?” can they see Jesus living in and through us?

Are our lives a testimony to the truth our Redeemer forever lives? And because our Redeemer lives, we can too.

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Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been taken away from the entrance. She went running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

Then Peter and the other disciple went to the tomb. The two of them were running, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and saw the linen cloths, but he did not go in. Behind him came Simon Peter, and he went straight into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there and the cloth which had been around Jesus’ head. It was not lying with the linen cloths but was rolled up by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in; he saw and believed. (They still did not understand the scripture which said that he must rise from death.)

John 20:1-9 (NCV)

I wish you well.

Sandy

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Jesus is the Way Truth and Life

Decades ago, I drove from my home in the Maryland suburbs of DC to the suburbs of Virginia, on the opposite side of the Potomac River. The occasion was a cousin’s bridal shower.

Since I’d never been to the home where the shower was held, I was nervous about the drive.

The shower was lovely. The food, wonderful. The company, charming. Yet, in the back of my mind hung the dread of the return drive home.

After hugs made the rounds, I got into my car. I headed north. Then I hit a bridge I did not recall crossing. Because of the traffic, I was hemmed in, and had no choice but to veer east.

Almost immediately, I knew I was not where I should be. I was in the SE section of Washington, DC, when I should have been headed NW.

Oy, vey!

This was in the dark ages before cell phones to call someone for directions. But, I did call on Someone.

I called on God, and prayed like crazy for him to show me the way home. Some landmark. Some divine intervention. Some something.

And there it was.

Peeking above the horizon to my left. The dome of the US Capitol building. Hallelujah, praise the LORD!

If I kept the Capitol in my sights, I would be able to wind my way through DC toward it. If I just kept my eyes on that building, I knew I could find my way home from there.

Before long, I was in Maryland, my Maryland.

Big sigh of relief.

As I’ve mentioned before, I usually have a pretty good sense of direction, which proved beneficial.

So, I’m thinking … what should we do when we find ourselves lost spiritually? Headed the wrong direction? In a place we have no business being?

Keep our eyes on Jesus. He’s the landmark. The beacon. The road map we need to get us safely home.

Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. No one can get to heaven except through believing he is God’s Only Son who came to earth to live as all men do, die a horrific death on a cross, pay the debt we owe but could never pay, rise from the grave and ascend to heaven to prepare a place for us to live with him eternally, and claim Christ as Lord.

Just as my fears subsided when I kept my eyes on the Capitol building all those many years ago, our fears subside when we keep our eyes on Jesus.

No matter where we end up in life, we’ll be fine if we keep our eyes on Jesus. He’s the way, truth, and life that can take us safely home.

Have you ever been lost while driving in unknown territory? What helped you find your way home?

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Thomas said to Jesus, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going. So how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. The only way to the Father is through me.” John 14: 5-6 (NCV)

I wish you well,

Sandy

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Sunday Scriptures — Share the Gospel of Who Jesus Is

by Sandy Kirby Quandt

At the time of Jesus’ birth the Pharisees; Jewish religious leaders of the day, had specific rules for staying “clean”. Never enter the home of a Gentile, never dine with sinners, perform no work on the Sabbath, wash your hands seven times before eating …

Well. I definitely would not have been clean according to the Pharisees’ rules. I’m a Gentile. Being a sinner myself, I’ve dined with sinners. I’ve had to work on Sundays. And although I always wash my hands before eating, I’m not obsessive about it.

It pleases me to know Jesus, King of kings and Lord of lords, Christ, Messiah, Savior, Redeemer did not follow the Pharisees’ rules, either.

Jesus went out of his way to go into Gentile territory and involve himself in the lives of Gentiles and share the Gospel of who he is. He once praised a Roman centurion for having more faith than anyone in Israel. That included the religious leaders.

Jesus spent time talking with a Samaritan woman, even though the thought of the day was Jews did not associate with Samaritans. Not only was this person a Samaritan, she was a woman. The horror! (The Pharisees should have checked into Jesus’ genealogy for the number of women who were not Jews, yet their names are still recorded in the Bible.)

Before the Risen Christ returned to his Father in heaven, Jesus told his disciples to go into ALL the world and share the gospel to EVERYONE in Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. No one was to be rejected or eliminated from the Good News of salvation through Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. No one.

Before the apostle Paul; that Pharisee of the Pharisees, saw the light – literally – he thanked God daily he was not a Gentile, slave, or woman. Yet, after his conversion, Paul became the disciple who shared the Gospel to the Gentile world. The man who once was grateful not to be a Gentile, slave or woman declared There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

We are all one in Christ. We are not separated into boxes or labels of people. We are simply people Christ died to save. Christ died for EVERYONE. It is by his grace we are saved through our faith in the power of his blood and resurrection.

Since someone was willing to share the Gospel with us at some point in our lives, shouldn’t we do the same, no matter who they are, what they look like, or where they live?

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In Christ, there is no difference between Jew and Greek, slave and free person, male and female. You are all the same in Christ Jesus.Galatians 3:28 (NCV)

Happy New Year, everybody! May 2017 be your best year, yet.

I wish you well.

Sandy

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God’s Indescribable Gift

by Sandy Kirby Quandt

Of all the gifts I’ve received one stands out—maybe because it was unexpected, unusually wrapped, and something I’d never seen before.

My father had a whimsy about him. At a time when money was tight and the gifts my parents gave were utilitarian, my father found a way to give me a special gift I needed.

One Christmas morning I stared at an enormous industrial-sized buff-colored bag leaning next to our tree. The bag was almost as tall as I was. There was no name on the bag. It could have been for any of us.

After all the gifts were opened except for the gigantic bag, I asked who it was for.

When my father said it was mine, I rushed to the bag. Expecting to find a gigantic doll house or super sized doll, I ripped at the staples that held the bag closed.

But the bag wasn’t heavy enough to hold a doll house or large doll.

Not knowing what was inside, I stuck my hand in as far as it could go and found nothing.

I laid the bag on the floor, crawled inside, and bumped into something furry. Which caused me to scream.

When my father picked up the bag and turned it over, the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen fell out: a large black and brown fake-fur hat with pompoms at the end of the ties that would hold the hat on.

Thinking about God’s indescribable gift our heavenly Father gave the world more than 2,000 years ago, some might say that although the Messiah’s birth had been predicted, it was still unexpected. Because of the unusual way God wrapped his Gift, some found it difficult to accept. Nothing like God’s gift of his Son had been seen before.

Yet this special Gift was needed.

 

To receive the unexpected and much needed gift my father gave me, I had to look beyond its unusual wrapping, open it, accept it, and put it on.

Just as with my furry hat, we have to open God’s indescribable gift, accept it, and put it on before it becomes ours.

Have you ever been surprised by a gift wrapped in an unusual package?

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Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!  2 Corinthians 9:15 (NIV)

I wish you well.

Sandy

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