No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.
On a recent trip to the Shenandoah National Park we were on a ranger guided tour of the Big Meadow. While the ranger was telling us about all the plants in the meadow I looked over on the hill and there was this tree. It was beautiful against the blue sky and white, fluffy clouds. We continued the tour but I just couldn’t quit looking at the tree. It was drawing me to it. As soon as the ranger led tour was over I headed up the hill to the tree. I just stood there grateful to get to see this piece of God’s beauty.
Jesus is like this. He draws us to him; to his beauty; to his great love for us. The more we look at him the more we want to walk with him. The more we walk with him the more we experience his love and the more we are drawn to him, to the wide open spaces of his love.
Draw us closer to you each day. As we walk closer to you make our lives reflect your love and draw others to you.
Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn't he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’
Since we retired my husband and I have taken two long road trips. Before we left we made sure that we had the maps that we needed, both print and digital, to keep from getting lost. There were a few times when we were a little unsure about which way to go and those maps came in handy. It is a scary thing to be lost on a scenic highway far away from any town and few cars. We will all travel down dark, difficult, scary roads at some time during our lives where it can be easy to get lost. God’s word is a map and resource to keep us on the road, but we have way more than that. We have a Savior who looks for us.
Bring us back when we wander away from you and get lost. Thank you for seeking and finding us.
Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn't she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Yellow lady slippers are a rare find in the Smokies. I remember how excited I was the first time I found them a couple of years ago. So this year when it came time for them to bloom again I was so hoping that no one would have poached them and that they would still be where I found them. There was great relief and joy when I saw them again last spring. They are such beautiful and unusual flowers. I was filled with great joy. I was so happy that I think I must have taken a hundred pictures. I just wanted to sit there and look at them in all their beauty. I was so excited at finding them that I stopped every hiker walking by and showed them where to look. I wanted others to have that joy of seeing them.
This passage reminds me to remember the joy I had the first time and the last time I found the lady slippers. I think about a God who looks hard for us every time we are lost and then rejoices over finding us. Not only does he rejoice but his angels rejoice with him. And like the women who calls her friends and asks them to rejoice with her over the lost coin, God calls us also to rejoice when someone who is lost is found and to welcome them into our community.
Lord God Who Searches
Thank you for finding us when we are lost. Teach us to rejoice like you do when someone is found. Help us to welcome them with great joy for we were once lost too.
Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
The sun burst through the clouds and the camera makes its rays look like a crown, the crown of our mighty God who created the mountains. Instead of bowing down to the mighty God, King eternal, too many times we make things kings that aren’t worthy of honor and glory. We need to ask ourselves each day are we bowing down to the one true King or to one we have made ourselves. We will only find peace and security when we bow down to the one true King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God.
We bow today to you and seek to bring you honor and glory with our lives.
Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love. It is as none other than Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus— that I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.
When I come to take a picture of a flower I must decide where and how much of the flower to put in focus. I can choose to keep the whole image sharp and clear or I can choose to keep only a small part of the flower in focus with a smooth out of focus background. Where I put the focus changes the image and message I convey with my photograph. We also make decisions about where to put our focus in our everyday lives. Will we focus on what is ours or will we focus on serving others?
In his letter to Philemon, Paul was asking Philemon to make a choice about where he would put his focus. Paul is writing not only to seek to reconcile two dear friends who are at odds with one another but also teach a Christian community how to live a life of reconciliation; to learn where to put their focus. You see, Philemon was a wealthy man, wealthy enough to provide a place for the church of Colosse to meet in his home. He was known for his love and faithfulness to Christ. Now Paul was asking him where to focus. Was he going to focus on what was due him by Onesimus, his slave who had not only run away from him but had probably stolen from him as well? Or was he going to focus on Onesimus and forgive him; not only to forgive him but to accept him back as more than his slave but his brother? We don’t know what choice Philemon made. We only know that the choice wasn’t easy. I think that Christ also asks us to make this choice each day. Where will you focus? The place you choose will change the whole picture you make with your life.
Show us where to put our focus this day so that we can reflect your love to all around us. And if there is someone we need to forgive and accept back as our brother or sister in Christ, give us the courage to do so.
You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
As you travel to Cades Cove on Little River Road you drive uphill through the mountains. Then, just before you get to the cove, you begin a downhill descent. At the entrance to the cove this beautiful valley opens out before you. You are surrounded by mountains, hemmed in by beauty. I imagine what it must have been like to live in the John Oliver cabin, nestled up next to the mountain with the valley before you and the mountains in the distance. I never tire of going to the cove. I can’t really explain the feeling of peace that comes over me, especially when I am there in the early morning.
I believe that when we come to worship our God and open our hearts to him we can have that same unexplainable feeling of being hemmed in. In God’s presence we can safely lay bare our hearts for he knows everything about us, yet still loves us. Like the psalmist it is too much for us to understand or explain the freedom and peace that comes from being hemmed in.
We open our hearts to you. Show us the path that you would have us walk and hem us in with your love.
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