Stir(red) hearts

Do you experience times when you read something in the bible and it’s like “wow, I never thought much about that before”. I had one of those moments today.

I was reading in the Old Testament about the time the Jewish Exiles were allowed to return to Jerusalem and their homes after spending 70 years in captivity in Babylon with the purpose of rebuilding God’s temple which was the fulfilment of the prophecy given by the Prophet Jeremiah.

The bible simply says “He (God) stirred the heart of Cyrus”.

“In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, the Lord fulfilled the prophecy he had given through Jeremiah. He stirred the heart of Cyrus to put this proclamation in writing and to send it throughout his kingdom: “This is what King Cyrus of Persia says: “The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build him a Temple at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Any of you who are his people may go there for this task. And may the Lord your God be with you!” 2 Chronicles 36:22-23

It was God who stirred the heart of the King, Cyrus to bring His Will to pass and for prophecy to be fulfilled. God planted the seed of the idea into Cyrus. Now Cyrus still had a choice when he felt that stirring. He could have deliberately hardened his heart against it. He could have refused to follow through with what God had planted in his heart as Pharaoh had when it was time for the Egyptians to let Gods people go. God had to show through His miraculous demonstrations of power to Pharaoh that His people were leaving and nothing was going to stop it.

God not only stirred Cyrus’ heart but He also stirred the heart of His people, the leaders and the Priests to respond and want to return to their homeland. Perhaps the people also needed God’s stirring to get them moving. Perhaps some of them had grown comfortable where they were now and accepted this was to be their way of life, their place. God had different ideas. He wanted to bring them back to their inheritance. The land He had promised to their fathers.

Then God stirred the hearts of the priests and Levites and the leaders of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple of the Lord. And all their neighbors assisted by giving them articles of silver and gold, supplies for the journey, and livestock. They gave them many valuable gifts in addition to all the voluntary offerings” Ezra 1:5-6

I believe God is still at work stirring hearts in those in authority over us in these day whether, Kings, Queens, Presidents, government officials, bosses or others. God is also still stirring hearts amongst His people to get us moving and serving and doing in order for His purposes and plans to be fulfilled. He uses His church to show His love, grace and mercy and declare His salvation and power.

As a bird stirs up her nest to get the chicks to leave, I believe God is stirring hearts to move out from the comfort zones and into unfamiliar territory.

Perhaps God has been stirring your heart to lead you into something new. A new journey, a new opportunity or a new mission. Perhaps, you have had prophetic words or a dream from God and God is stirring up other hearts to enable that to come to fulfilment.

Lord stir up our hearts today according to your holy purposes so that your plans may be achieved through us your holy people. Amen 🙏

Feed My lambs, Feed My Sheep

These were the instructions which Jesus gave to his disciple Simon Peter, when he met him again in Galilee after His death and resurrection.

This was the same Simon Peter who had denied knowing Jesus in his time of trial. Jesus had told Peter that he would deny Him but Peter had protested that he was ready to go to prison and even death for Jesus. It wasn’t to be the case, but Jesus knew that.

It must have been really difficult for Simon Peter to face Jesus again after letting him down so badly, to believe that Jesus would still want him, Peter, to be involved in His ministry and to trust him to look after His flock. What a responsibility. What a calling.

Jesus did trust him though. Even when Jesus knew that Simon Peter would deny him, He comforted Peter by telling him that even after his denial Peter would return and be restored to relationship with Him.

Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.’
Luke 22:31-32

Jesus had a task for Peter to do..to strengthen his brothers. The other disciples would need Peter’s support, faith, encouragement and example of humility. I can imagine it was a different Peter who met with his brothers again after his experiences.

I was reminded today of a picture which was shared by a dear brother in Christ at one of our Sunday morning services many years ago. He saw in his vision a long banqueting table. On the table were bowls of soup ready to eat.

The guests at the banquet (members of the church) took their seats facing each other ready to eat. However, when they picked up the spoons they were far too long. It was impossible to get the spoon into the bowl and into their mouths.

Somebody then realised that their spoon could reach the bowl of the person seated opposite them. They started to feed the person opposite them. The others watched their example and started to do the same. Everyone worked together to feed each other.

Jesus has appointed different ministry roles within His church and has equipped His body of believers with every good gift so that His followers can be discipled and fed. Apostles, Prophets, Pastors, Teachers and Evangelists. We have the Holy Scriptures, the Word of God. The Holy Spirit has also come to us. We have the gifts and fruit of the Spirit to help us and to help others.

It’s love for Jesus that is to be the motivation and reason for our service to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Loving obedience to Him our Lord and Master. Jesus asked Peter 3 times if he loved him when He gave him these instructions. Peter replied that Jesus knew that he did love him. Jesus then replied “Feed My Lambs and Feed My Sheep”.

It was Peter’s love for Jesus that was to be the motivation for service. Jesus restored Peter in love and forgiveness so that Peter did not have a wrong understanding and reason to do what Jesus asked. Jesus wasn’t asking Peter to serve him out of duty or penance in mistakenly thinking he had to make it up to Jesus for denying him. A pure love for Jesus will lead to a pure love for the brethren and pure motives for service.

I believe that there are those within the body of Christ who have not taken up their ministry roles or have laid down their roles and gifts for many different reasons. There will be so many different reasons but Jesus knows them all. Jesus wants to restore us just as He restored Peter. There is a way back to Jesus and there is a way forward to serve Jesus in love as He has called us to do.

As Satan wanted to hinder Peter and to sift him like wheat, so satan does not want any of us to take up our God given callings within the body of Christ. Don’t let Satan deceive us or rob us and the body of Christ of our service to each other.