Right under our nose!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Matthew 13:44-46
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field.” (Matthew 13:44)
The kingdom of God – God’s version of this world, as it ought to be – is a buried treasure.
We walk over it, we pass it by, without even realizing it.
Its all around us, but we do not realize it.
But the moment we find it, we KNOW we have found a treasure.
There is nothing as precious, nothing worth pursuing, than life as God meant it to be.
We’re all running around looking for treasure, but we’re not finding it.
We buy, we experience, we study, we achieve, we accumulate… but we do not find joy.
In our lack of joy, we keep looking everywhere, and its right here before us, hidden.
Paradise did not leave us, we were expelled from it (Genesis 3:22-24).
But remains hidden or buried among us, waiting to be discovered and enjoyed.
Practically speaking, that means surrendering our lives to God and Jesus.
Submitting to God’s way of being and doing – living God-like lives.
We were made for love, joy, peace, patience, kindness goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
These are not painful requirements for God, they are the essence of life to the full.
If only we truly found the treasure of life with/like/for God…
We would give up everything to keep it, and keep living it.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, we still haven’t found what we’re looking for… because we’re looking for love in all the wrong places. Open our eyes to see the treasure right before us, waiting to be discovered and enjoyed!

Uproot the weeds NOW!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Matthew 13:36-43
“Will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.” (Matthew 13:41)
The disciples have ears that are hungry to hear, so they press Jesus to explain.
Jesus answers plainly: the field is the world, good seed are people of the kingdom, etc.
The punchline of this story, a day is coming when the Lord will clean up His kingdom.
We’re not there yet, we are still in the days before the harvest.
What do we do with a message like this, what is the point, or the lesson.
Jesus doesn’t say, but the meaning is plain, and if we have ears to hear, we will hear.
If someone warns us a plane will crash, the point is ‘don’t go on that plane!’
Even if they don’t say it, that point is obvious, right?
Jesus is warning us about our relationship to sin and evil.
If we get comfortable with sin – greed, selfishness, anger, cruelty, lust, etc – we’re hopping on the plane.
God made us to shine like Him in His kingdom, not to darken it with ‘dirty deeds’.
What are the attitudes and behaviours in your life that are unlike God, unlike Jesus?
If you can’t think of any, then you really don’t know God or Jesus.
Be specific, don’t just admit in a generic way ‘I’m not perfect’ or ‘I’ve sinned’.
A day is coming when the angels will come looking for the weeds in His garden, to uproot them.
We can uproot them NOW by confession, and working with His help to change them.
Daily tending the garden of our heart, with the help of the gardener, we can produce good fruit.
Grace will cover our imperfections if we receive it; it will also help us change, if we want to.
With His help, we will more and more “shine like the Son in the kingdom of the Father!”
Will we have ears to hear this parable, and open our hearts to His forgiveness and weed-killing power?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, this is a moment of conviction for me. I need to more beyond generalities, and confess my specific weeds, and work with You to uproot them. Your grace is all I need to succeed, and shine!

Mustard seed confidence!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Matthew 13:31-35
“I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.” (Matthew 13:35)
As I understand it, the kingdom of God is THIS world under God-like human rulers.
This is how God set up His creation kingdom at “the creation of the world”.
But since we were ejected from paradise, it has been hidden to us.
To us, God’s kingdom looks small, like a mustard seed… but one day, what a tree!
To us, God’s kingdom looks weak, like a tiny bit of yeast… but one, what a loaf!
One day we will rest in God’s garden again, like birds in the mustard tree.
One day we will sit at God’s table again, a table filled with baked delights.
If we look around us, we do not see a mighty kingdom, or quickly expanding kingdom.
But the reality of God’s kingdom is all around us, hidden from human experience.
Until Jesus came; He is the new Adam, the God-like Son of God that rejects the serpent’s lies.
Jesus has reclaimed Adam’s place, and now is officially in charge of heaven and earth.
He reigns in the heavenly realms OVER the spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 1:20; 6:20).
And we have been blessed in the heavenly realms, seated with Him over evil (Ephesians 1:3, 2:6).
Who is in charge of this world… not Satan, but Jesus, and we reign Him.
Genesis 1:26-28 has been restored, and God’s kingdom is all around us.
We see it by faith, though it remains hidden to others, clouded by sin and confusion.
We see the tiny seeds growing, we see the tiny yeast spreading.
And one day, every eye will see, and every tongue will confess… the kingdom of our God.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me to focus on the little signs that point to the great truth. Every act of kindness and mercy, every sign of healing and hope, every captive soul released, every broken person restored… Your kingdom comes!!!

He gives us great victories!

victoryTHE STORY OF JESUS: Psalm 18
“He gives his king great victories; he shows unfailing love to his anointed, to David and to his descendants forever.” (Psalm 18:50)
This is a song of extremes.
God rescues David by shaking up the whole earth (vv.7-15)
David is helped because he is innocent, guiltless (vv.20-24)
David totally smashes his enemies into dust (vv.37-45)
But when we see the context, we see what kind of song this is.
This is the jubilation at the END of a time of serious conflict.
David is now victorious, and thanking God for anointing and helping him.
We also have times when God has helped us that we are extremely happy.
We see our troubles in a whole new light, we see God’s hand through it all.
David’s actual life was not so black and white, God did not always show up in power.
David was not always innocent, nor did he always crush his enemies.
We experience the same; God does not always show up, and we are not always blameless
But if we look at life and history from a different vantage point…
How we see God on Good Friday, and how we see God on Resurrection Sunday.
How we see God now in our struggles, how we will see God on the last day.
Jesus shows us how God works for us in the extremes.
And one day, when we see everything, we will praise Him in the extremes.
It may not look like it now, but God IS at work in extreme ways to help us.
Though we may not feel it, God sees us a perfected in Christ, innocent by grace.
Though it may not be happening yet, God will soon crush Satan under our feet.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Even though our battle is not done yet (neither was David’s) we can praise God.
He gives us great victories, He shows unfailing love to us, his anointed in Christ!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, remind me of this heavenly perspective on my own life, and the world. You are the expression of God’s extreme love, and my assurance that I will be victorious in You!

So many laws… HELP!!!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Leviticus 18-20
“Keep all my decrees and all my laws and follow them. I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:37)
A variety of laws on many different issues, though mostly regarding sex.
Some laws make sense, some don’t; some seem irrelevant and some universal.
But which is which, and who decides?
Are we bound by all of these laws, some of these laws, or none of them?
Are we bound by every OT Law, except those explicitly reversed by Jesus or the Apostles.
Are we not bound by any OT Law, except those explicitly affirmed by Jesus and the Apostles.
Some say Jesus fulfilled the old covenant law, and we are no longer bound by it… period.
This is a bigger issue than I can deal with here.
The problem is that we all seem to pick and choose, and each justifies their choice.
There are definitely laws here that I do not observe, as well as laws I am uncomfortable with.
As a Jesus follower, I am not under the law, but I am under the Law of Christ (1 Corinthians 9:20-21).
One thing for sure, Jesus affirmed the law of love OVER every other law (not instead of).
Whether or not we agree on a particular law, we MUST love each other from the heart.
We will disagree with others on what laws they do and do not keep.
One day God will make it clear to us, and He will also reveal our own hearts to us.
He will reveal whether we were cherry picking the laws we liked, or genuinely submitting to Him.
Discerning God’s will in the many OT laws is complicated and challenging…
But no matter how we differ or disagree, may we agree on – and keep – the law of love!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, You were not soft on sin, but neither were you hard on sinners. Remind me daily that my hope is in Your mercy, and not in my perfect record of keeping Your laws.

Life is precious!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Leviticus 16-17
For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.” (Leviticus 17:11)
God makes us alive by His Spirit; blood keeps us alive, giving our body what we need to survive.
God is impressing on His people that life is precious.
The pagan practices (like sacrifices to goat idols, 17:7) involves drinking blood.
No humans could be sacrificed, and ONLY the prescribed animal sacrifices were permitted.
We receive life from God, and we owe our lives to God.
The once-a-year atonement sacrifices showed the people that He would take care of their sin and guilt.
Remember, it is sin that causes all the bloodshed in our world, for it cheapens life.
The few sacrifices that were allowed were designed to impress on people that life is a gift.
When we see the death of Jesus, we see both the preciousness of life, and the sacrifice of love.
The animal sacrifices did not really change our sinful condition; they were signs pointing to God.
Jesus – God with us – changes our sinful condition, through the covenant of His blood.
“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28)
When we ‘drink’ Jesus’ blood in communion, we are not being morbid or celebrating death.
We are recognizing and valuing the precious gift of life, for us and for all people.
And we are honouring the loving sacrifice of Jesus life for us, the ultimate gift of life for us.
The day of atonement and the blood regulations can still remind us of God’s grace to us.
But these symbols are only pale shadows of the greatest sign of all – Jesus’ life for us!
May we continue to honour His blood, His life, is love – and all life in Him.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, forgive us for neglecting the gift of life – including the unborn. Help us to see each person as a precious, much loved, gift of God.

I don’t have to give in to the weeds!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Matthew 13:24-30
“No… you may uproot the wheat with them.” (Matthew 13:29)
The kingdom of God/heaven is this world, as originally created by God.
We know the story from Genesis 1-3 how the Enemy sows weeds of selfishness.
But God does not give us up on, He doesn’t kill us to start over.
God knows that goodness remains and will wait for the harvest to separate good from evil.
We live in a weed-infested world because God gives us a chance to show our hearts.
Will we cling to wheat of goodness, or will we surrender to the weed of selfishness.
We cannot defeat the Enemy – Jesus came to do that for us.
But with God’s help, we can refuse to be defeated by the Enemy.
We can devote ourselves, with the Spirit’s help, to producing good fruit.
Life is hard in this weed-infested world, but it cannot stop us from striving to do good.
Our challenge, and the invitation of God, is to overcome evil with good.
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:14-21)
Everyday we face this choice: will we be overcome by evil, or will we overcome evil with good?
Jesus beat Satan by His goodness, He will help us overcome evil as well!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me to refuse the weeds in my life, and be the kind of wheat You created and saved me to be!

Good soil?

soilTHE STORY OF JESUS: Matthew 13:18-23
“Good soil… produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” (Matthew 13:23)
The point of planting seed is producing a crop.
Jesus often explains that the crop God desires is goodness, love, mercy, justice.
Also known as the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)
This is what believing in Jesus ought to produce in us, what God is looking for.
This is what Jesus defeated Satan for, and restored God’s Spirit for.
In Jesus we have “everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (2 Peter 1:3)
The lack of a crop is not because of deficiency in the seed.
Many Christians fill their minds with ‘knowledge’, but knowledge itself is not enough.
Satan knows what we know (and more), and yet produces no crop.
To understand the message is to act on it, to put it into practice.
I do not understand ‘love your neighbor’ until I start loving them actively.
Satan finds ways to distract, discourage and defeat us, to keep us from understanding.
So many people Sunday after Sunday hear the message, but do they understand it?
That is, is it making a fruit difference, is the seed growing into changed living?
We have “everything we need” to produce a crop – in the seed, in Jesus, in the Spirit.
All this has been freely offered by grace, ours for the embracing and experiencing.
But are our hearts good soil, are we embracing Jesus and His message actively?
With longing?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I don’t know everything, and what I do know I know imperfectly. But I know enough to put it into practice. Help me to stop just thinking, and start living the good news!


Ears that long to hear!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Matthew 13:10-17
“Many… people longed to see what you see but did not see it…” (Matthew 13:17)
Jesus identifies the key to faith: longing.
To seek and desire with intensity, to desperately want something.
Faith is more than agreeing with the mind, it is seeking with the heart.
All that is required is a ‘mustard seed’ of longing faith, and God will speak.
Those who have this longing, who seek with sincerity, will find, will receive.
Jesus’ teachings are not complicated, but they do take effort to grasp.
His parables are designed to separate those who want to know, and those who don’t.
Sunday after Sunday we come to church, but are we eagerly seeking truth?
If the sermon does not help, do we dig into the passage themselves to find the meaning?
Are we listening Monday to Saturday, discerning what God is saying through the text?
I sometimes feel that ‘sermons’ as we know them actually hinder us from hearing.
It is the minister who has wrestled with the scripture, the people get the finished product.
They passively listen and watch, then judge what they hear… ‘Good sermon pastor!’
These words from Ezekiel often come to mind when I think of church:
“My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to hear your words, but they do not put them into practice. Their mouths speak of love, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice. (Ezekiel 33:31-32)
As a disciple of Jesus, am I hungering for God’s truth, not just for a ‘good sermon’?
As a follower of Jesus, am I actively applying God’s truth to my life… putting it into practice?
Whether a sermon is good or not, God is speaking; are we listening?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, if we live not by bread alone but by the word of God, how many of us are starving ourselves? How many of us blame the preacher, when it is our own lack of longing to hear You?