Our Need For Approval

Our need for approval is a core, essential aspect of our humanity and it helps form the attachment bonds which shape the trajectory of our lives. Jesus, who comes in the name of the Father lives rooted in the essence of who the Father is. He is a living demonstration of a life immersed in his own belovedness. Until we know the deep, deep love of God we will compare, compete and rank ourselves and others. How can we understands these abrupt words of Jesus apart from knowing the unconditional love of his Father? Today's text is given in two different versions. Immerse yourself in the crowd of hearers and notice where the Word comes alive for you.

John 5:41-47 (NLT)
“Your approval means nothing to me, 42 because I know you don’t have God’s love within you. 43 For I have come to you in my Father’s name, and you have rejected me. Yet if others come in their own name, you gladly welcome them. 44 No wonder you can’t believe! For you gladly honor each other, but you don’t care about the honor that comes from the one who alone is God.
45 “Yet it isn’t I who will accuse you before the Father. Moses will accuse you! Yes, Moses, in whom you put your hopes. 46 If you really believed Moses, you would believe me, because he wrote about me. 47 But since you don’t believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?”

John 5:41-47 (MSG)
“I’m not interested in crowd approval. And do you know why? Because I know you and your crowds. I know that love, especially God’s love, is not on your working agenda. I came with the authority of my Father, and you either dismiss me or avoid me. If another came, acting self-important, you would welcome him with open arms. How do you expect to get anywhere with God when you spend all your time jockeying for position with each other, ranking your rivals and ignoring God?
45-47 “But don’t think I’m going to accuse you before my Father. Moses, in whom you put so much stock, is your accuser. If you believed, really believed, what Moses said, you would believe me. He wrote of me. If you won’t take seriously what he wrote, how can I expect you to take seriously what I speak?”

For Reflection and Prayer:
Was there a word, phrase or image which caught your attention you as you listened to or slowly read the text? Quietly reflect on it in your prayer with Jesus. Journal your conversation.

Is there a particular feeling you experience as you reflect on these words? Ask Jesus about it in your prayer.

Consider who has crossed your path in this last while. Reflect on the type of welcome you gave another and/or the type of welcome you received. What do you notice? Where have you observed Christ in that interaction? Talk with him about what you noticed.

Savor any consoling words or pictures as you quietly rest in God.

Finding Home

Years ago, God used a friend to open my eyes to the story of Moses and the Burning Bush in an entirely new way. As Moses observed a strange sight and moved towards the bush which would not burn up, God invited Moses to take off his sandals for where he was standing was holy ground (Exodus 3). In the culture of the Hebrew people, known for their hospitality to strangers, taking off one's shoes was a sign of being welcomed home. God extends that same hospitality to Moses, calling him by name and essentially saying, "you are welcomed to be at home with me". Moses responds with reverence, fear and by hiding his face. What a picture of our own response to God's invitations!

Consider this story as you pray with Psalm 84. What is it like to find your home with God? God bids you, "come, you are welcome home with me".

Psalm 84 (NIV)

1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
    LORD Almighty!
2 My soul yearns, even faints,
    for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh cry out
    for the living God.
3 Even the sparrow has found a home,
    and the swallow a nest for herself,
    where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
    LORD Almighty, my King and my God.
4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
    they are ever praising you.
5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
    whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
6 As they pass through the Valley of Baka,
    they make it a place of springs;
    the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength,
    till each appears before God in Zion.
8 Hear my prayer, LORD God Almighty;
    listen to me, God of Jacob.
9 Look on our shield, O God;
    look with favor on your anointed one.
10 Better is one day in your courts
    than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
    than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
    the LORD bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
    from those whose walk is blameless.
12 LORD Almighty,
    blessed is the one who trusts in you.


For Reflection and Prayer:

What word, a phrase, image, or feeling caught your attention as you listened? Bring it into your prayer.

Where or when do you feel most at home with God and with yourself? What do you notice? What draws you away from home with God?

Reflect on a season where God has led you into a desert like valley. How did God sustain you then? If you are in such a season now, how is God strengthening, refreshing and renewing you in it?

Do you ever feel like God withholds from you? Journal about it and bring it before God. How does God respond?

Welcoming the Child Among Us

We all long to be welcomed, to sense that our presence is wanted, valued and esteemed. Our core identity is formed in the safe embrace and in being truly seen and greeted by the loving eyes of parents and elders. This form of hospitality is the extension of God's hospitality towards us. One again, Jesus invites us to return to the basics, the essence of why he came - to welcome all his children, that they may find and make their home in him. Experience afresh, Jesus welcoming you home to him. When you are ready, he will show you how to notice and welcome the child in your midst. 

Mark 9:33-37 (NLT)
After they arrived at Capernaum and settled in a house, Jesus asked his disciples, “What were you discussing out on the road?” 34 But they didn’t answer, because they had been arguing about which of them was the greatest. 35 He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.”

36 Then he put a little child among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me.”

For Reflection and Prayer:
What phrase or word spoke to you as you listened/read?

How does Jesus call you to be a servant to everyone else?

Who are the "little children" in your life?

Think back to a time when you experienced a sincerely warm welcome. What made it so memorable for you?

Perhaps you want to be the child who is held in Jesus' arms. Meet him there in your prayer.

What do you want to say to Jesus in response to this text?