Is Gott mit uns?

Image result for gott mit unsTHE STORY OF JESUS: Psalm 14
“God is present in the company of the righteous.” (Psalm 14:5)
This Psalm is not about atheists, but about those who live godless lives.
To be godless is to live as if God doesn’t matter.
They do what they do because no one is watching, no one will stop them.
‘God is not here’, they say, not realizing that God is right there.
God is present with everyone, but He is not supportive of everyone.
When the Nazis said ‘God with us’ (Gott mit uns), they were right and wrong.
God was there, God was watching, but He was not supporting them.
God is WITH (supportive of) those who do what is right, good, loving, just.
God is WITH (supportive of) those who are oppressed, abused, crushed.
But God is not WITH (supportive of) those who are cruel and corrupt – even if they say He is!
“They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.” (Titus 1:16)
Atheists are not just those who deny God, they can be God-believers who defy God’s ways.
There are atheists who pursue righteousness, and believers who pursue unrighteousness.
This ought to make us stop and think, and be careful about saying where God is, or isn’t.
Think about this: is God WITH (supportive of) that atheist serving the poor?
Is God not WITH (supportive of) that Church Elder abusing children?
Jesus shows us that God is not impressed by religious people (those claiming ‘Gott mit uns’).
Notice how much time He spends with sinners and social outcasts, those seen as beyond God.
God is with us (as He is with all people), but are we with Him?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, someone has coined the term ‘Christian Atheists’, those who deny God by their actions. May I not presume upon Your presence unless I choose to actually reflect Your presence in my life!

The seriousness of our calling!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Exodus 29-31
“So I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar and will consecrate Aaron and his sons to serve me as priests.” (Exodus 29:44)
Talk about very elaborate, very gory, very serious consecration details.
Why is God using such strong rituals to set aside the priests and the sanctuary?
In that time and culture, those rituals would have a very profound effect.
We live in a very different time, these rituals would turn off most western people.
But God is working with people who witnessed such rituals in Egypt.
He is also teaching and reshaping a people raised as slaves (social bottom dwellers) for centuries.
If this didn’t teach them the seriousness of their task, nothing would.
Sadly, even after all this, the leaders and people of Israel forgot.
What does it take for us to take our task seriously.
God did not consecrate us with elaborate rituals, but He did with a serious sacrifice.
The cross represents a very gory, very serious consecration for us, for our task.
We are called to love and serve in Jesus’ Name as God’s ambassadors, His priests.
We declare and demonstrate His grace, mercy, peace and love for all the people He died for.
“Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28)
Sadly, even after all this, the leaders and people of the church forget.
Today’s reading challenges us to reconsider the seriousness of our own calling.
To experience again the shock and wonder of God’s sacrifice, and His anointing of us.
“You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10)
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, forgive us for forgetting our high calling and holy purpose. We represent You wherever we go. May we reflect well Your grace, mercy, peace and love!

A holy, happy mystery!

templeTHE STORY OF JESUS: Exodus 25-28
“Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.” (Exodus 25:8)
How can God ‘dwell’ in a man-made sanctuary, no matter how impressive?
This is meant to be a powerful symbol for this newborn nation of slaves.
The awesome Creator God, so beyond us in being and majesty, lives with you.
The details for the building are meant to impress awe in their hearts.
Healthy fear, healthy wonder, so that they don’t begin to view God as domesticated.
The seriousness with which the priests were to serve God also stressed this ‘holiness’.
“Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” (John 14:23)
Through the Spirit, God and Jesus move into our hearts, they dwell in us in loving fellowship.
We are the temples of God, we are the priests of God… the great, awesome, holy God!
This is not intended to frighten us, to make us cower in fear and grovel in servitude.
But we should always remember what an awesome thing it is to live in fellowship with God.
God is not tame, God is not safe, but God is good, and loving, and wants us to love and enjoy Him.
Have we lost our awe and wonder at God, have we domesticated Jesus to ‘our buddy Jesus’?
God is over us, God is with us, God is in us – this is a holy, happy mystery!
Through Jesus He is in us to transform us, to restore us as His holy, happy children!
We must become willing, respectful partners in this process, eager to honor the One that lives in us!
“Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:12-13)
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, that You and God should dwell in me is more awesome than I appreciate. Inspire me with holy love, that I may be a worthy temple for You!

Signs of the kingdom!

hopeTHE STORY OF JESUS: Matthew 11:1-6
“Go back and report to John what you hear and see.” (Matthew 11:4)
The Jews believed that God would send a Messiah to restore creation.
The Messiah would reverse the curse and restore the kingdom of God.
The effects of sin – blindness, lameness, death, poverty – would be made right.
Those living in the darkness of despair would see the light of hope.
Grace, mercy, peace, faith, hope, love, this is what the Messiah would bring.
John has seen the “deeds of the Messiah”, and yet he is in prison.
As God’s prophet, he had hoped things might have been better for him under the Messiah.
Jesus’ response is to direct his attention to what He (Jesus) is doing.
‘Don’t allow your circumstances to blind you to what is happening all around you!’
How many people today also cannot see Jesus’ light because all they see is their darkness.
The signs of Jesus are meant to inspire hope, to encourage those living in darkness.
Though it’s hard, try not to allow your own ‘prison walls’ to keep you from seeing signs of hope.
The war is not over, suffering continues, but the Enemy is on the run, and the victory is coming.
Every testimony of hope, of healing, of justice, of mercy is a sign that the Messiah is at work.
God’s kingdom IS being restored, even if it hasn’t come fully in your own life yet.
Look beyond your own ‘prison walls’, and see Jesus, and the signs of His coming!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, please give extra strength to those who are burdened by darkness, that they may hang on to You in hope, and not stumble away from You.

Ambassadors for God and Jesus!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Matthew 10:40-42
“Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and… the one who sent me.” (Matthew 10:40)
God created us to re-present Him, to be ‘like God’ in the world, to the world.
When we live like God (ie good, loving, merciful, faithful, etc), we reflect God.
Anyone who welcomes this goodness, even if they don’t know God, welcome God.
Even if they offer kindness to a disciple of Jesus, they will be rewarded by God.
The assumption here is that the disciple is indeed reflecting God and Jesus.
When Haitian slaves rebelled against their ‘Christian’ rulers, they weren’t rejecting God.
They were rejecting those who enslaved, abused, and murdered them, servants of Satan.
Can we blame them that they also rejected the God they claimed to represent?
Our response to justice or injustice reveals the inclination of our heart.
If we respond well to a servant of light, we show the light in our own heart.
If we reject a servant of darkness, we also show the light in our heart.
We are sent by God to bring His light (love, goodness) into the world.
We are sent to draw people back to Him, through repentance, faith and obedience.
As they see His light shining in us, they will either be drawn to it, or resist it.
How people respond to that light exposes the inclination of the heart within.
God will reward those who are open to the light.
Even those who may not know God, or Jesus, but see their goodness in us!
‘With great power comes great responsibility!’
May people be drawn to the light in us!
May people not reject God or Jesus because of the darkness in us!
“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” (2 Corinthians 5:20)
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, what an honor and responsibility to be Your ambassador, Your representative in the world. I cannot shine without Your help, I need Your Spirit, Your help.

The meaning of taking a stand!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Matthew 10:32-39
“For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father…'” (Matthew 10:35)
Jesus came to displace the dominion of darkness with the kingdom of light.
He stands against hate, murder, rape, injustice, violence, deceit, crime, etc.
He stands with the poor, the weak, the oppressed, the abuse, the tortured, etc.
He comes to restore life, hope, peace, joy, health, goodness… the kingdom of God.
Is it any wonder then that when He comes, people take up the sword against Him.
This is a social, political, religious revolution, turning things right-side up.
Jesus demands that people take a stand – for or against these things.
And to refuse to take a stand is itself a stand, a position for evil.
If someone is being raped, there’s no difference between doing nothing and approving it.
Believing in Jesus is not just a ‘religious’ belief, disconnected from life.
It is eagerly affirming His role as Messiah, and His work against darkness.
To stand with Jesus against these things will turn people – even family – against us.
This is not nice, but standing silent or supportive to evil is worse.
We may gain ‘life’ for the short term, but we will lose it in the end.
Taking a stand for Jesus means way more than just a profession of faith.
It means taking a stand for God, for goodness, for God’s way over sin’s way.
This will not make us popular…
“Whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39)
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, forgive us for turning Your message and mission into a faith statement, instead of into the life commitment that it is. Help us to seek first Your kingdom and righteousness, and not just our own spot in ‘heaven’.

Body and soul, in life and in death!

hairnumberedTHE STORY OF JESUS: Matthew 10:26-31
“And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” (Matthew 10:30)
In my family of origin, early balding was an issue.
For some reason, I held on to my hair covering, while my brothers didn’t.
I joked it was because I was a minister, my boss had my hairs numbered.
But Jesus is not promising a way to avoid hardship… or hair loss.
The sparrows are numbered, yet they fall to the ground.
Jesus’ point is that no matter what happens, the Father has it in hand.
We will struggle, we will even fall at times, but never by mistake or surprise.
God never exclaims ‘oops!’ or ‘oh no!’ or ‘never saw that coming!’
God has granted us our freedom, even the freedom to be foolish or evil.
But he has not fully released us to our own devices; He retains control for goodness sake.
As we strive to live and love for King and kingdom, He will help us, and use us, for good.
Our successes, but also our trials, even our deaths, will serve His kingdom purpose.
He is working to fully restore us, body and soul.
The only ones who need fear crisis and death are those who reject His gift of life and love.
We have nothing to fear; we belong to God body and soul, in life and in death!
As the Heidelberg Catechism puts it…

What is your only comfort in life and death?
That I am not my own,
but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death,
to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ.
He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,
and has set me free from all the power of the devil.
He also preserves me in such a way
that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head;
indeed, all things must work together for my salvation.
Therefore, by his Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life
and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for him

What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, may this comfort inspire me with hope and boldness, that I make confidently show and share the goodness of Your kingdom life and love!

The right side of you ‘But!’

Image result for choose hopeTHE STORY OF JESUS: Psalm 13
“But I trust in your unfailing love…” (Psalm 13)
This one word ‘but’ is the critical turning point in this song.
The author is genuinely troubled, feeling abandoned and unloved.
Their mind is a battleground of fear, doubt, sorrow and despair – they feel defeated.
They are desperate, they feel like dying – ever felt that way?
In my mind battles, either I give in to negative thinking, or somehow refuse it.
The word ‘but’ is this persons attempt to direct their thinking to hope.
They do not deny their situation… BUT I will trust, I will rejoice, I will sing!
Our soul will follow our minds; if our minds end in down position, our whole being will follow.
Consider these two sentences:
— ‘The Lord has been good to me… BUT I HAVE SORROW IN MY HEART!
— ‘I have sorrow in my heart… BUT THE LORD HAS BEEN GOOD TO ME!
If the negative tone follows the BUT, that’s where I soul stays.
Pay attention to your thoughts, where are they dwelling?
Listen to your conversations, where are they focusing?
This is a battle, it is spiritual warfare, and the enemy wants you to end with despair.
Take up the sword of hope and slay the beast of defeat and despair.
We all fall on our butts in life, but choose to land on the right side of your ‘but’.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I can relate to these mind battles, I go through them all the time. I know the struggle will continue, BUT I WILL TRUST YOU, I WILL OVERCOME, FOR YOU HAVE BEEN GOOD TO ME!

Loving a troubled foster child

sinmanagementTHE STORY OF JESUS: Exodus 22-24
“Do not let them live in your land or they will cause you to sin against me, because the worship of their gods will certainly be a snare to you.” (Exodus 23:33)
Why does God appear so stern and strict, a consuming fire?
To my sensitive ears, this God sounds angry, harsh and violent…
One thing to consider is the context, the times and practices of that day.
Imagine a foster child who had trauma in his birth family and has social and behavioral issues.
As the foster parent, you need to be both extremely loving and extremely strict.
To protect them, you will need to impose restrictions, curfews, and consequences for disobedience.
If others happen to witness your discipline, they might accuse you of being overly harsh.
Israel was that traumatized, abused foster child, with behavioral and social issues.
For centuries in Egypt they were treated as worthless, subjected to cruel, immoral behavior.
The land of Canaan had horrible cultural and religious practices (sexual depravity, child sacrifice).
To train and protect this new nation, God needed to establish discipline into their ways.
This infant nation was at serious risk from its surroundings, they needed a firm hand.
God imposed the Law as a “guardian” (Galatians 3:23f) to manage sin until He could heal their heart.
The Old Covenant was a temporary stage of discipline, part of the overall healing process.
It was enough to manage behavior, but not enough to heal or change their hearts.
This is why Jesus came: “For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.” (Romans 8:3)
The “blood of the new covenant” (Exodus 24:8, Luke 22:20) brings healing, heart transformation.
We are no longer under these old regulations, which served their purpose in their time.
“So the Law (of Moses) was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.” (Galatians 3:24-25)
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I need more than a strong discipline, I need a strong deliverer. Help me by Your Spirit in my heart to navigate the pitfalls and dangers of my own present context.