Positive witnesses!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Matthew 8:28-34
“They pleaded with him to leave.” (Matthew 8:34)
The deceiver does whatever he can to keep us from knowing the truth.
We will be surprised to discover how weak the deceiver actually is.
He specializes in fear and deception, but those are his only powers.
If he can get us to believe in his lies, he will enslave us and ruin our lives.
Like he did Adam and Eve, and these demon-possessed men, and all of us.
Like he did with the townspeople – who believed that Jesus was a threat.
Jesus offers love, life, healing, hope, mercy, grace, blessing… yet so many reject Him.
It is because the deceiver succeeds in poisoning their minds to Jesus.
The same is true for ‘believers’ who have mixed up ideas about Jesus.
When the church misses the point, and commits crimes in Jesus’ name, the deceiver smiles.
So many people today reject Jesus because of His followers, the church.
“And when they saw Him…” (v.34) – this is the problem, they did not really see Him.
We’ve got to fight the deceiver in this, we’ve got to let people see the real Jesus.
We need to offer love, life, healing, hope, mercy, grace, blessing, in Jesus’ Name.
Like the pig-herders, we need to let people know about Jesus.
But our message needs to be positive, not negative…
So that the people will plead for Jesus to come into hearts and lives.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
PRAYER
Lord, may my life, and my words, reflect positively on You. May the truth of You be louder in me than the lies of Satan. May we all experience the blessing that these two men experienced.

We shall be like Him!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Matthew 8:23-27
“What kind of man is this?” (Matthew 8:27)
This was the million dollar question everyone was asking.
He defied all categories and definitions.
Personally I do not think Jesus was a ‘superman’.
Many Christians assume He had His powers because He was God.
But the God-ness of Jesus was fully hidden or restrained.
“Being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” (Philippians 2:6-7)
Jesus was actually fully human, what a NORMAL human being ought to be.
He was as Adam was, as we were meant to be, and as we will one day be again.
God gave authority to Adam and Eve over creation… “even the winds and the waves obey him!” (v.27)
I don’t expect that we will all be snapping our fingers to make creation do our bidding.
This would not be “very good”; we will direct creation in a “very good”, God-like manner.
One day God and humans and creation will live in mutual love, joy and peace.
The creation will not longer groan, but rejoice, because the children of God are revealed! (Romans 8:19-21)
I do not deny the “fully God” nature behind Jesus, but that is not Who we are meant to see.
We are meant to see the “fully human” Jesus, just like us, so that we can become just like Him.
This is why I focus on the Gospels, why most of my attention in this blog is on Jesus.
“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.” (1 John 3:2-3)
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
PRAYER
Lord, You are not some ‘super’ man, You are ‘normal’ man, the way we were meant to be. In You I see my destiny, and it is my desire to be like You!

23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him.
24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping.
25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.
27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

Forgetting the helpless?

THE STORY OF JESUS: Psalm 10
“Do not forget the helpless.” (Psalm 10:12)
I just read Viktor Frankl’s account of life in Nazi concentration camps.
What the guards did to their prisoners… it’s pure evil!
They acted exactly like the ‘wicked’ described in this psalm.
All of us have sin in our hearts, but not all of us give it free reign like this.
All over the world, all through history, there have been victims of this evil.
This psalm expresses the cry, and the hope, of the helpless.
Like Abel’s blood, it cries out to God, in judgment against the wicked (Genesis 4:10).
God will show mercy to the helpless and the humble, through Jesus’ blood (Hebrews 12:24).
Even the wicked can find mercy from God, if they humbly admit their crimes.
Murderers can find pardon if they genuinely repent of their sin.
But as long as anyone rejects God and His mercy, and lets sin reign in their lives…
They are under a curse, and they will be exposed and deposed.
Frankl noticed a change in the Nazi guards behaviour in the last days of the war.
They suddenly realized they were in trouble and tried to be nice to the prisoners.
This was not repentance, it was selfish fear, only for their own skin.
I read this Psalm as an encouragement to the helpless that God will not forget.
I also read it as a challenge to me not to forget the helpless either.
The day of justice is coming, and only the genuinely humble will be lifted up.
Jesus is on the side of the helpless… am I; Jesus hears the cries of victims… do I?
Am I complicit with evil by my inaction?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
PRAYER
Lord, I am not helpless like this, and I am not cruel like this either. But there are helpless people all around me. Help me not to forget the helpless either, help me not to be complicit to evil by inaction.

Holding back on God?

THE STORY OF JESUS: Exodus 4:18-7:7
“The Lord met Moses and was about to kill him.” (Exodus 4:24)
This section (4:24-26) is a difficult part to read.
Why is the Lord about to kill Moses, and how does circumcising his son help?
If circumcision symbolized their bond with God, was Moses holding back his son?
Was Moses being stubborn, refusing to identify his son with God’s covenant people?
If things went bad for Moses and Israel, at least his son wouldn’t be killed as an Israelite.
Or was Zipporah holding back her son from God?, she doesn’t sound too happy here.
My best guest is that for some reason God has to deal harshly, to make a point.
If Israel is to be saved, Moses has to be all in, he can’t hold back on God.
Do we realize what is at stake in God’s kingdom restoration project?
The cost is high – His own beloved Son – and sin is a serious business.
Look at how Judas Iscariot’s life ended, because he could not let go of his love for money.
Do we hold back on God, do we try to hang on to both salvation and worldliness?
The words of Exodus 4:24 sound stark and harsh, but maybe we need this reminder.
Sin is serious, Satan is sinister, compromise and lukewarmness are deadly.
Am I holding back on God, refusing to leave the bondage of ‘Egypt’?
“And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” (Matthew 5:30)
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
PRAYER
Lord, I didn’t want to deal with this passage, but I am glad I did. Thank You for reminding me how holding back on You is deadly for me and my call to follow You.

I AM everything you need me to be!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Exodus 1:1-4:17
“God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” (Exodus 3:14)
A name is not just a label, it soon becomes an identity.
Everything we know about that something is associated with that name.
One way the Nazis depersonalized their prisoners was by giving them numbers.
Our names come to characterize our personality, our very being.
What kind of name can capture the being and personality of God?
The name God gives is an open-ended name, it can mean many things.
This is important, because God is way more than we realize.
Jesus shows how this name of God expands to mean everything we need God to be:
— I AM the bread of life (John 6:35,48)
— I AM the light of the world (John 8:12, 9:5)
— I AM the door (John 10:9)
— I AM the good shepherd (John 10:11)
— I AM the resurrection and the life (John 11:25)
— I AM the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6)
— I AM the true vine (John 15:1)

If we need light, He is light; if we need a way, He is the door… etc.
For Israel in bondage, God is their Rescuer; for Moses speaking to Pharoah, God is his voice.
And for humanity, trapped by Satan, sin and death, God becomes our human Saviour… Jesus.
And when challenged to explain Himself to the religious leaders, note His response:
“‘Very truly I tell you, before Abraham was born, I am!’ At this, they picked up stones to stone him…” (John 8:58-59)
Jesus is everything you need Him to be too.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
PRAYER
Lord, You are everything I really need. You are God with me, my hope in my battle against Satan, sin and death.

I will follow You… maybe?

followTHE STORY OF JESUS: Matthew 8:18-22
“I will follow you wherever you go.” (Matthew 8:19)
I recall saying things like this many a time in the past.
But apart from emotional times of commitment, have I really followed through?
I often face times when an immediate situation requires of me a difficult choice.
In those moments, the first thought was not, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
When I feel the need to apologize, or forgive, or help someone in need?
When prompted to speak into a difficult situation, or say NO to something I really want.
Am I willing to sacrifice the comforts of a pillow – for Jesus?
Am I willing to affect my relationship with my family – for Jesus?
** (v.21) His father wasn’t dead yet, he was saying ‘let me wait until my dad passes away!’
Jesus is graciously showing us that following Him is not just a profession of faith.
It is a way of life, a way that will often be contrary to personal or public comfort.
Going against the current of self-love will result in discomfort and resistance.
When I think of the many ‘professions of faith’ I witnessed – and my own – I wonder…
Were they just ‘receiving salvation’, or were they accepting a calling, a way of life?
Is ‘faith commitment’ just a password into heaven, or is it a surrender to a new way of living?
Jesus is calling us to follow Him, to live and love like Him, to deny ourselves like Him.
Jesus has saved us from self-love, saved us for sacrificial love!
Think of a specific situation where following Jesus requires a difficult choice for you.
This choice, this challenge, is YOUR unique opportunity to publicly decide for Christ.
Will I choose to follow Jesus, to do what He asks of me, in THIS situation?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
PRAYER
Lord, You are challenging me in these words. I know my ‘comfort pillow’ that I am not willing to give up. Help me to see that this is my real faith commitment, how I respond to this choice!

Healing presence!

healingTHE STORY OF JESUS: Matthew 8:14-17
“‘He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.'”(Matthew 8:17, Isaiah 53:4)
Our world is soul-sick, we are infected to the very core of our being.
This soul sickness has many symptoms: mental, social, physical, emotional, etc.
Billions and billions of dollars are spent to try to find cures… but we’re still sick.
We’re combatting the symptoms, while ignoring the root cause.
Jesus comes to address the root cause, our alienation from God.
In Jesus, God steps into our soul-sick world, endures our sickness in order to restore our souls.
With a touch, we discover that we are not alone, without God, without hope.
With a word, we experience relief and release from the symptoms, and the sickness.
Our spirits are released from the dark spirits that burden and abuse us.
Healing is the result of a restored connection with God through Jesus.
What good is physical healing or health, when our hearts are still sick?
To be loved is more important than to be healed; in fact healing without love is not healing.
Jesus calls us not just to heal people, but to love people – the healing will follow.
To go to people in their soul sick conditions, and ‘touch’ them with God’s love.
Read here how the early Christians spread the healing of love through horrible plagues.
We see the symptoms of soul-sickness all around us today: mental, social, physical, emotional, etc.
Are we stepping in, or stepping way; are we connecting with them in love, or avoiding contact?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
PRAYER
Lord, You have carried me in my soul-sickness, You are healing me with love and hope. Help me to join You on the front-lines of misery, to extent Your healing presence.

This is surprising grace!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Matthew 8:5-13
“But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside…” (Matthew 8:12)
We need to let the shock of these words sink in.
Imagine if Jesus said many members of the church would be thrown outside.
The ones we expect to be in are not, and the ones we expect to be out are not.
As Christians we often speak about those who are saved, and those who are not.
We ‘judge’ people based on how they measure up to our standards of faith.
How could a Roman centurion – the equivalent of a Nazi soldier in Poland in WW2 – be welcomed?
By what we see, by how we measure, we’re pretty sure we know who is in and out.
This is not arbitrary, its not that God will punish the good and embrace the wicked.
But what God measures, how God sees us, is based on inward truth, not just outward form.
My theory is that we are going to be in for a big surprise.
It is not for us to declare whether someone – of any faith, religion or reputation – is saved or not.
We are saved (forgiven and restored) by grace, and God’s grace is more generous than ours.
He sees the mustard seeds of faith, ones that are too small for us to discern.
For me, it seems better to speak of ‘the loved’ rather than ‘the saved’.
We don’t know who is saved, but we do know who is loved – everyone.
“Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.” (Matthew 8:8)
No one deserves Jesus’ mercy, no one ‘is good enough’ for God.
Only when we recognize this, that we ALL depend on God’s mercy and grace, will we be admissible.
May we all reach this place of humility and honesty.
And may we all see that we are all equally invited to God’s feast – by grace alone!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
PRAYER
Lord, Your mercy is amazing, its shocking. Forgive me for seeing some people as beyond Your grace. Help me to see myself as equal to all people in need of Your forgiveness and love.

Its not about miracles!

miracles

THE STORY OF JESUS: Matthew 8:1-4
“See that you don’t tell anyone.” (Matthew 8:4)
Why does Jesus try to keep His healing activity undercover?
I wonder if it’s because healing is NOT the reason for His mission.
Sure it will be a result of His mission, but it is not what He came to do.
Jesus does not want His work sidelined by a focus on healing.
He can heal, and He does, but they serve as signs and wonders to His identity.
He is God’s promised Messiah, come to defeat Satan and restore humanity and God’s kingdom.
Believe in the Messiah, not just the miracles!
They are signs, which point to something – Someone – beyond themselves.
It seems to me that people may be more interested in the gift than the Giver.
People clamor for miracles, but seem to be using the Messiah to that end.
Not everyone is healed, not everyone has their circumstances changed.
But everyone can know Jesus, everyone can experience strength, hope, peace and love!
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:12-13)
If you only believe in Jesus for miracles, you will be disappointed.
Jesus didn’t come to perform signs for us, but to set us free through His life, death and resurrection!
“Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:22-24)
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
PRAYER
Lord, knowing You is enough. Knowing Your strength, Your victory, Your love is the real wonder. Help me not to be silent about You, but to tell everyone about You!

Good news for the oppressed!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Psalm 9
“The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.” (Psalm 9:9)
In our world, the rich keep getting richer and the poor poorer.
The ‘little people’ bear the brunt of suffering, hardship, abuse, injustice.
But the God Israel believes in is the God of the underdog, the little people.
And He was NOT just Israel’s God, but the only God for the whole world.
And this God – the only God there is – stands with the oppressed.
It doesn’t take long listening to Jesus to see hear this message loud and clear.
In fact, the good news is God’s message of hope for the underdogs of the world!
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)
If this is what Jesus was anointed to do, how can His followers do any less?
Is the church (the community of Jesus followers) extending this good news message to the world today?
Is the church a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.
History shows that this has not always been the case… how about now?
Who are the oppressed and needy around us that need to experience this good news?
God will never forget the needy (v.18), are we remembering them?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
PRAYER
Lord, You have a special place in Your heart for the oppressed. May Your heart shape our hearts, so that we become known as good news people for those who really need it!