How Could You Lose Jesus?

Luke 2:41-50 (New Living Translation)

Jesus Speaks with the Teachers

41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. 42 When Jesus was twelve years old, they attended the festival as usual. 43 After the celebration was over, they started home to Nazareth, but Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents didn’t miss him at first, 44 because they assumed he was among the other travelers. But when he didn’t show up that evening, they started looking for him among their relatives and friends.

45 When they couldn’t find him, they went back to Jerusalem to search for him there. 46 Three days later they finally discovered him in the Temple, sitting among the religious teachers, listening to them and asking questions. 47 All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.

48 His parents didn’t know what to think. “Son,” his mother said to him, “why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.”

49 “But why did you need to search?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?”[a] 50 But they didn’t understand what he meant.

As I read through this familiar passage this morning the first thing I thought was, “How could Joseph and Mary have lost Jesus?”  I can’t imagine going a whole day’s journey before realizing my child wasn’t along for the ride.  But you know things were different then than now.  They travelled in big family groups and everyone looked after everyone else’s children much more so than we do now.   But a whole day –  Really?  We once lost my son Jerry in a Wal-Mart for about five minuets when he was little and I almost blew a fuse before we found him. 

Then I think about how the author of Luke came to include this story in his writing.  It must have been told by Jesus to some of his disciples and relayed to others in order to reach the writer.  Why would Jesus feel it was important to share this?  I think there is a deeper meaning here that we can learn something from.

Joseph and Mary lost Jesus, but really Jesus was never lost.  The reality was that Joseph and Mary had left Jesus behind and went their own way, and when they realized that they were moving on without him, they went back and found him in the temple, the house of God. 

How many times have we left Jesus behind and went our own way without him?  Some of us (myself included) have left him behind for much longer than a day.  But the good news is that we know where to find Jesus, “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

If you’ve been moving along your spiritual journey without Jesus, maybe now is the time to turn around and find him again.  You know He isn’t lost, you are the one who has moved away from him.  Come back to The Father’s house and reconnect with Your Savior.

If you do not currently have a home church I invite you to join us at Chapel Hill UMC, if you are not within range of us find a good fellowship of faith, love and grace, a place where you feel welcomed and accepted, a place where you can encounter God and get back on the right spiritual path today.

Prayer: 

Lord, please help me to always stay focused on you during my spiritual journey and if ever I find myself walking away grant me the wisdom and resolve to turn around and come back to you.

Love Michael

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Jesus Feels Your Pain

Scripture: John 11:

32When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34“Where have you laid him?” he asked.
      “Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

35Jesus wept.

Today’s Devotion

Observation:  When we are hurting, God hurts along with us.  It may not be for the same reason as we hurt, but He hurts even more than we do because His love for us is perfect.

Application:  What is God doing when life takes a turn for the worst?  I believe that God is never far away from us, we may feel that we don’t have a strong connection with Him sometimes, but it is not because He has moved, we are the ones who move away from Him.  In the scripture above we find the shortest verse in the Bible, verse 35 of John 11 is only comprised of two simple words, but those words show us so much of Christ’s compassion and humanity.  Jesus wept.  And the question that you have to ask is, Why?  The Jews thought it was because He loved Lazarus so much, but that isn’t right.  Jesus did love Lazarus, but it was not because of Lazarus’ condition that made him weep, it was “I think” because Jesus felt empathy for Mary and Martha. 

I’ve probably mentioned before that funerals are very tough for me.  I always feel like I’ve left a little part of myself behind when I am called to do a funeral. I don’t feel that way because I am concerned about the person who has passed away, it’s because of the bitter pain that the family and loved ones feel at their loss.  I am certain that we do not vanish, we don’t just go away and cease to exist, we move on in a better, more powerful form that isn’t as vulnerable to everything our body of flesh is now.  As a minister one of the things I’m expected to do in a funeral service is to stand beside the coffin as the family passes by for the last time.  For me this is the hardest part because it is there that the strongest feelings of loss hit those who love the deceased the most. 

If you love people, it’s hard not to feel that pain yourself and shed a tear or two.  Many funerals that I’ve performed have been for people who I really didn’t know very well, and sometimes I didn’t know them at all.  As the family passes by the casket for the last time and their emotions are the strongest I’ve often shed tears myself.  I’m not crying for the person in the casket though, because I feel that they are with God.  The tears are emphatic for the family and the pain they are going through. 

I think this is where we find Jesus in our scripture, even though He knew that He was about to make everything alright, he wept because he felt the pain that Mary and Martha felt.  I also believe this is where Jesus is with us when we are suffering, when we are in pain or when we are mourning the loss of someone dear to us.  He is there with us feeling the pain and shedding tears right by our side.  Jesus doesn’t suffer with us in the same way as we do because He is able to see the whole story whereas we are only reading one page at a time, but He suffers with us because He loves us and feels our pain.

It also brings to mind a scripture I used in my sermon this past Sunday

Romans 8:17 (New International Version)

17Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Part of our spiritual journey is suffering, we may not like that but it is what it is, we suffer with Christ and we also share in His glory, and I think it works the other way around to, He shares in our suffering and rejoices with us in our glories.

Prayer: Lord Jesus,

Thank you for sharing in all the experiences I have in life.  Thank you for crying with me and laughing with me.  Thank you for sending your comfort and strength when I don’t have any of my own.  Help me to be there for others who are not able to feel the presence of Your Spirit as you give peace that is beyond that which is available to the world.  Help me share Your love with those around me who so desperately need it.

Love Michael

We ALL Work For The Big Guy

Scripture: Habakkuk 1

5 “Look at the nations and watch—
       and be utterly amazed.
       For I am going to do something in your days
       that you would not believe,
       even if you were told.

6 I am raising up the Babylonians, [a]
       that ruthless and impetuous people,
       who sweep across the whole earth
       to seize dwelling places not their own.

7 They are a feared and dreaded people;
       they are a law to themselves
       and promote their own honor.

Observation: Even those who are living their lives without any regard for God are still working for Him.

Application:  This is sometimes a difficult subject to nail down, but I am convinced that whether we acknowledge it or not, we are all working for God.  This however doesn’t mean that the whole world is saved, I am not talking about Universalism.  I am simply pointing out that God uses the whole of His creation to accomplish His purposes.  In the scripture above from Habakkuk God is using a nation of “ruthless and impetuous” people to punish His Children, but just because the Babylonians don’t know that they are being used by God in this way doesn’t make that fact any less real.

Not long ago I came into contact with an old friend whom I hadn’t spoken with in over twenty years.   I mentioned that I had been in the ministry for thirteen years and he replied “I’m glad to hear that you’re working for The Big Guy!”  So I thought of that when I read this scripture this morning.  The Babylonians were working for “The Big Guy” when they conquered Israel. 

Perhaps a separation of terminology would be helpful here.  The journey (life) is not a choice, it’s mandatory, but the route you take is one that you decide for yourself, and your eventual destination depends upon your path.  There are two paths you can go by, there are two choices that we can make (actually there are much more than two but we will confine it to two for the purpose of this point).  You can go down the path of the servant in which you lovingly serve The Lord with all your Heart, or you can go down the path of the slave in which you struggle against God’s plan for you.  In both cases you are working for The Lord, the servant is rewarded, the slave is not.

Rom 8:28  And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

If ALL things are working together for good to them that love God, I want to be on the side that things are working for, don’t you?  I hope that you know which path you are on today, and I hope that you are leading and encouraging your loved ones to join you on that path. 

May God Bless You!

Prayer: Heavenly Father,

I love you!  Thank you for working all things together for good for me.  Help me to be a loving servant and to reach out to others and show them the way to enter into a relationship of love with you.

Love Michael