The power of WE!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Matthew 18:15-20
“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20)
Here Jesus explains how disciples ought to unite together against division.
Make every attempt to restore broken relations, involve the church if needed.
As God’s children, we together share the authority over creation (Genesis 1:26-28).
Together with God and each other, the kingdom comes among us.
I wish I could say that unity and harmony were evident when we come together.
Though at a surface level we have unity, it is very shallow – we hardly know each other.
We have a long way to go to experiencing this fellowship of the Spirit.
Jesus comes to reconcile broken relationships, between God and us and each other.
The next time you gather with other disciples, consider how well you know each other.
Is there someone you have something against, or someone who has something against you?
Is there someone you know little about, and that you’ve never bothered getting to know?
Deeper fellowship with each other is worth pursuing!
For this is how God’s power for good is exercised in the world.
And the world will know we are His disciples, if we love one another.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, may we be more than a shallow group of people that meet in the same place every week. May we become a dynamic, Christ-centered, love-energized fellowship of deeply connected Jesus followers.

Open your heart and let Him in!

“Lift up your heads, you gates, that the King of glory may come in.” (Psalm 24:7)
When God is at the center of our life, all of life and creation fit together wonderfully.
Our problem, then, is that we have evicted God from our lives, and we are now homeless.
God sends Jesus into the world to reclaim His place in our hearts and lives.
Again and again Jesus pleaded with people to open their hearts to Him, to God.
When we do, we discover that He is the King of glory, and knowing Him changes everything.
I will struggle, you will struggle, we all will struggle, so long as God is not our center.
We were made to be God’s temple, our hearts are the gates… will we let Him in.
Our hearts are not pure, our hands are guilty, and yet Jesus steps in.
It was sinners, not holy religious people, that welcomes Jesus into their lives.
And they were transformed – like Zacchaeus, like the sinful woman – by His glory.
Practically speaking, if you want your life to change, if you want to shine with hope…
Then you’ve got to open the gates of your heart and let Him in.
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” (Revelation 3:20)
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I need to live each day in experiential fellowship with You. When You lead my life, Your glory shines in and through me. Today again I open my heart to You!

My refuge!

jesuscrossTHE STORY OF JESUS: Numbers 33-36
“They will be places of refuge from the avenger…” (Numbers 35:12)
The cities of refuge were where the accused could seek protection and mercy.
Justice was the law of the land, and blood vengeance was permissible.
But within that death-cursed context, God provides places of mercy, of hope.
Much of Moses’ Law is hard to swallow for our modern sensitivities.
But again and again, shining out from the darkness, we see traces of the light of grace.
I am so thankful that we are not under the curse of the Law (Galatians 3:10,5:18).
For the traces of light in the Law explode with glory in Jesus, our refuge.
Jesus takes the curse of the Law for us, so that we might be forgiven and set free.
He becomes us, so that He can atone for our guilt (Numbers 35:33)
The Law stands against me, I am guilty and I cannot deny it.
But I can run to Jesus – like the sinful woman (John 8:1-11) – and find refuge in Him.
The stones will not fly, but instead the words, “Neither do I condemn you…”.
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2)
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, You are my refuge from my accuser. I know my guilt, I admit my shame. But I run to You, and here I find mercy. And with Your help, I can “go and sin no more!”

Grace and truth through Jesus!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Numbers 30-32
“Save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.” (Numbers 31:18)
There are parts of the bible that make me cringe.
Like how the father/husband can nullify the woman’s vows.
Or how the soldiers could keep young virgins for plunder.
“This is the word of the Lord?” and “Thanks be to God?”
There are things in the Law of Moses that I do not see as God’s eternal will.
Jesus seemed to think so too, like when He talked about divorce.
“Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.” (Matthew 19:8)
In other words, what Moses wrote re. divorce in the Law was not God’s eternal will.
Whatever I read in the bible I read through the lens of Jesus.
Jesus shows us the heart of the Law, and releases us from the weaknesses of the Law.
“You have heard that it was said… But I tell you…” (Matthew 5:38-39)
Jesus reveals God’s equal love for male and female, young and old, rich and poor.
“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17)
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, reinforce Your grace and truth in our hearts, and set us free from legalism and misreading the bible. Help us to listen to the “But I tell you” parts!

Joining Jesus at Starbucks!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Matthew 18:11-14
“Will he not leave the ninety-nine to look for the one that wandered off?” (18:12)
I recently renewed my commitment to serve Jesus with my life.
This means that His purpose becomes mine, and where He sends me, I go.
The Lord does not usually spell out specifically where and how He wants me to go.
But he has shown me by His example what His values and priorities were.
Jesus loves His disciples for sure, but He has other sheep too, lost sheep.
He came to seek and to save the lost, not just to keep the saved comfortable.
In fact, once saved, He wants the saved to seek and to save the lost too.
Too often churches become places where the saved are served.
Not only pastors, but all Jesus-followers need to head out to Starbucks.
Or wherever the people are who need to experience the life-changing love of Jesus.
If you are a Jesus-follower, where are you looking for those that have wandered?
He hasn’t called us to wait for the lost to come to us – He’s sent us out!
Do I have a heart for the lost and the least, is it reflected in where I spend my time?
Am I too busy with church activity, that I neglect the kingdom mission?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, may we the 99 join You in the places where the lost sheep hang out, and may we rejoice when the lost ones become found! May this be the spirit of our church!!!

God hates abuse of any kind!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Matthew 18:1-9
“If anyone causes one of these little ones — those who believe in me — to stumble…” (Matthew 18:6)
I recently watched a YouTube channel that exposed adults luring young teens for sex.
It was disturbing to watch, and also to see their shame when caught.
There was no mercy, the video was posted, the police were notified, they were trapped.
The police warn against this practice, that it can be dangerous.
But the disgust that this raises reflects the disgust of Jesus in these verses.
God is very, very angry about those who use and abuse the weak for personal pleasure.
It is in light of THIS that Jesus speaks about the millstone around the neck.
The Greek word behind ‘to stumble’ is literally ‘to trap them’ like animals.
Jesus is giving a huge warning to pedophiles and child abusers – judgment day will not be pleasant.
God’s mercy does not excuse sin, making it OK if we harm others.
God demands that we repent, that we actually hate – loathe – our wicked practices.
Jesus’ horrible death symbolizes the horror of all sins of victimization.
Let no one claim that God is soft on sin, or that His forgiveness is cheap.
He will deal harshly with all who do not seriously repent of their sin and seek His mercy.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me to understand the gravity of sin, how hurtful it is to others. Help me to see that grace is not cheap, and repentance is not trivial.

Being political like Jesus!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Matthew 17:24-27
“But so that we may not cause offense…” (Matthew 17:27)
This must have been tough for Jesus – paying taxes to Caesar, and to the corrupt religious leaders.
The temple tax was not used for ‘a house of prayer’, but for ‘a den of robbers’ (Matthew 21:13).
Yet Jesus submits to the existing authorities, He does not promote rebellion.
As Christians, we have to stop playing politics as the world plays politics.
Jesus warns us against giving offense to the proper authorities; Peter agrees and urges respect!
“Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2:17)
Our way of shining as Christians is not by playing politics, but by doing good.
What if the energy used by Christians on Facebook taking political potshots went into doing good?
Instead of joining in political ‘biting and devouring’, let’s use our freedom to bless each another.
We pay taxes to show the world what good citizenship looks like, whether we agree with them or not.
We practice justice, mercy and compassion to show the government what true leadership looks like.
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” (Galatians 5:13-15)
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, forgive us when we join in the world’s political games and schemes. May Your followers show up on their knees in service, not just at the polls in protest.

Mustard seeds like me!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Matthew 17:14-21
“Because you have so little faith.” (Matthew 17:20)
I have a confession to make… my faith is not very strong.
If all we need to move mountains is a mustard seed faith, then my faith is a quark (look it up).
This is not something I am proud of, but I don’t want to deny it either.
I’ve had people rebuke me for it, saying that I cannot please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6).
But I never said I had NO faith, just that I had a really really small faith.
In this instance, the disciples failed to do what they done on other occasions (heal someone).
Their problem was “Because you have so little faith!”, and this makes me feel a little better.
They were WITH Jesus, they had seen Him do great miracles, and had performed some themselves.
Their faith was still little… and yet He worked with them, and encouraged them with God’s love.
To all who like me admit your faith has a long way to go, a long way to grow, take heart!
Even I have the potential, with my tiny tiny mustard seed faith, to do the impossible with God.
I will fail, I will miss opportunities, but He will keep putting up with me, to the very end!
Because in the end, my hope is not in the size of my faith but in the size of my God.
Little faith plus big God equals immeasurably more than all I ask or imagine!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I say it not because I always believe it, but because You said it: Nothing will be impossible for me, when my little faith is supported by Your great love!

I need Your discipline!

“Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)
I could spend time on every part of this psalm, there’s so much here.
And yet my heart gets caught on the rod and staff.
Used for prodding, pulling, or gently punishing if needed.
Yet there is comfort every time God’s gentle rod of direction correction is applied.
Imagine if God didn’t care, imagine if He let me do stupid things.
Sometimes discipline is withheld for love… but is that really love?
When I need to be warned or motivated, or when I need to be aware of consequences?
I don’t like having my sins and flaws revealed, it is humbling for sure.
But I would like even less if God did and said nothing, and let me crash without warning.
God loves me, and He hates seeing me go through the valley of the shadow of death.
He especially hates seeing me foolishly choose that path, and does His best to warn me.
Is God warning you, is God trying to keep you from making a foolish decision?
Do you feel a prompting or a prodding, a persistent feeling to stop, to reconsider?
Being warned or punished isn’t pleasant, but at least He cares enough to warn us when we need it!!!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, thank You for Your gentle rod and staff. I know I don’t always pay attention, but I’m starting to realize the ‘pain’ I receive from You is nothing compared to the pain that awaits me when I go my own way.