I recently spent two weeks in the Arab world with team members (i.e. friends) and family. I enjoy these infrequent (but only for now!) in-person visits. Face-to-face conversations are so much better than Facebook likes, Instagram hearts, or WhatsApp texts. My time there was good for all of me: body, mind, heart, and spirit.
I came home and resumed my daily routine, which this year includes abiding time with Oswald Chambers. No offense to the author and editor of Live Dead Joy, but I needed something “new” this year. Of course, my copy of My Utmost for His Highest is far from new; it is proving to be fresh, though.
On the day of my return, I opened My Utmost and read the opening verse, “Lovest thou Me?” And I automatically answered with Peter’s words: “Yes, You know that I love You.” Then I read the devotional. And then I read the passage (John 21:15–19). And then I thought, “Do I actually love You? That question really hurts, Jesus.”
“Lovest thou Me?” That question cuts to the core. It backs you into a corner. It stops and makes you think.
I had just returned from a part of the world where five times a day a call to prayer rings in the ears of hundreds of millions of people—the majority being unaware of the deceit spoken over their lives in those moments. I had just stood on hill overlooking Cairo when that call went out. It was one of those moments when the saddest sound I know grabbed my heart and squeezed hard, and all I could was turn my heart to the Spirit and send my plea to Jesus for the lost of that city.
A week later I was home and faced with the question, “Lovest thou Me?” Yes, of course. I just returned from the Middle East and North Africa where I prayed that Muslims would know Jesus. It’s pretty obvious that I’m in this with You, Jesus.
There is no possibility of being sentimental with the Lord’s question; you cannot say nice things when the Lord speaks directly to you.
~ Oswald Chambers
“That’s not what I’m asking. I’m asking, ‘Do. You. Love. Me? Do you? Love Me?’”
He had me. Backed into the corner. All I could do was cry and say and sing, “Jesus, I love you.”
Next day, I sit in my chair and open My Utmost. March 2 entry, entitled “Have you felt the hurt of the Lord?” Verse for the day: “Jesus said unto him a third time, ‘Lovest thou Me?’”
Ugh. Come on. Like Peter, I was grieved to hear this question again.
I read the devotional. I read the passage, again. And then I let Jesus ask me the question, “Lovest thou Me?” I felt less like a cornered animal this time. The question cut through me, but with Peter and Oswald, I answered in amazement and wonder, “Jesus, You know everything. You know that I love You.” His question cuts past every concern, delusion, lie, every answer, every doubt, every excuse. It pushed past every part of me to get me to this core question. “You literally know everything about me, and yet You still want me. You know that I love You.”
Peter was beginning to discover how much he did love the Lord, that there was no one in heaven above or upon earth beneath beside Jesus Christ; but he did not know it until the probing, hurting questions of the Lord came. The Lord’s questions always reveal me to myself.
~ Oswald Chambers
I stood in awe and amazement of Jesus. I need that question. And I realize I do love Him. And He loves me.
Next day, sit down, pick up book, and turn to March 3. John 21:17, “Feed My sheep.”
Whew. Got through the question.
But the conversation doesn’t stop at the question and the confession. Once you confess this love for Jesus, He asks you to spend it out.
What kind of oneness had Jesus Christ with the Father? Such a oneness that the Father sent Him down here to be spent for us, and He says, “As the Father hath sent Me, even so send I you.”
~ Oswald Chambers
With Peter’s confession, “Jesus, You know everything,” Jesus says, “Feed My sheep. Spend that love out for Me. Spend it out.” Then Jesus lays it out for Peter, “You will, in fact, be led out, tied up and carried to some place you do not want to go.” Peter, you are now living dead. Peter offers no declaration of courage (Matt. 26:33–35), just confession of love. Jesus gives him a task to spend it out until death.
On March 4, My Utmost moved to another passage and I took this face-to-face conversation with me:
“Jackie, do you love Me?” He asks.
“Yes, You know everything. You know I love You,” I answer in awe.
“Spend it out.”