Jesus is the life-changer!!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Luke 19:1-10
“Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” (Luke 19:5)
Zacchaeus thought he was checking Jesus out; now Jesus takes charge.
In a sense, Jesus steps in to his life uninvited – “I must stay at your house!”
Little did Zacchaeus know that morning how Jesus would turn his life upside down.
I have heard stories about this, testimonies of people like Zacchaeus.
One story was of a fierce LGBTQ advocate doing research on the religious right.
She interviewed a pastor, which turned into an ongoing relationship.
Somehow, she had a dramatic conversion, and is now an advocate for Jesus!
Little did she know that morning how Jesus would turn her life upside down.
Jesus is the main ‘ingredient’ in our evangelism; just talk about Jesus.
When Jesus enters the picture, He can take things in surprising ways.
I once read a book on evangelism that said, ‘just introduce them to Jesus!’
Jesus is real, and He has the knowledge and skill to change peoples lives.
I have no complicated method or technique for evangelism; I just talk about Jesus.
Jesus will find a way to enter that persons heart, and turn their life right-side up!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me to have more confidence in You, and not feel it is up to me to change people.

I want to see Jesus!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Luke 18:35-43
“When all the people saw it, they also praised God.” (Luke 18:43)
This blind man wasn’t the only one whose eyes were opened.
The same group that tried to silence the blind man now see this healing.
They did not understand – could not see – that this was what Jesus was about.
Even after all this time with Jesus, they were still blind to who Jesus was.
The blind man on the other hand could see Jesus better than they did.
I often wonder whether many christians today are blind to who Jesus is.
We spend our time thinking and talking about Jesus, but we do not share His values.
We see Jesus as our Jesus, and make it hard for others to reach Him.
I talk about Jesus all the time, not because I think I see Him better.
For me it is because I sense that I don’t see Him, that I don’t get Him.
By immersing myself in Jesus, and not giving up, I feel like this blind man.
“Lord, I want to see You!”, is what I am eagerly pursuing.
And though its not immediate, I do feel that I am slowly seeing Him better.
May all our eyes be opened more to Jesus, and may we praise God as a result!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I want to see You! Open my eyes to Who You are, that I may love and praise You more!

Still do not know…

THE STORY OF JESUS: Luke 18:31-34
“They did not know what he was talking about.” (Luke 18:34)
The Jews understood that a messiah was coming.
They did not comprehend that their messiah would die.
They expected victory, not defeat; a crown, not a cross.
Even after several years with Jesus, the disciples still did not understand.
I am comforted by their ignorance (from Latin, to not know), but also humbled.
Do I think that I understand any better why Jesus had to die?
I am reading a book that is showing me new depths of meaning to Jesus’ dying.
This is not the place to explain it, but it reminds me to stay humble.
I’m certain we still do not know what He is talking about.
Jesus does not reject His disciples for their ignorance, He keeps teaching them.
As long as they are willing to listen and learn, eventually they will learn more.
The same applies for us: we should not retreat to our present ideas and stay closed.
I will continue to read this book prayerfully, open to learning more.
A disciple (student) never knows it all, and must keep on learning to the very end.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, thank You for stretching my mind and inviting me to look further into the mysteries that I will never be able to fully figure out.

I am a camel!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Luke 18:18-30
“When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy.” (Luke 18:23)
Would you rather have many people thankful in heaven for how you blessed them?
Or fewer people thankful because you kept most of your wealth for yourself.
To use most of your money for yourself, or to use most of it for others?
In this story Jesus is revealing my heart, my deeper love.
To be honest, I have a hard time being generous with others.
Don’t get me wrong, I give a percentage of my wealth… but that is the problem.
My wealth… my assumption that it is mostly mine to spend on myself.
Like this rich man, I am trying to find the formula for faith and finances.
How much do I have to do, how much do I have to give, how much is enough?
Jesus rejects the ‘how much is enough’ focus, because that focus is selfish.
“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle…” (Luke 18:25)
I admit that what Jesus says is very hard for me, and I am wrestling with it.
The Lord is working on my heart, challenging my priorities and loves, but I am slow.
Unlike this man, I will not walk away from Jesus… but I do feel like a camel.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, thank You that it is possible for me to be saved too. Keep on challenging me with the joy of the kingdom, until I care more for blessing others than for blessing myself.

Worship starts with God

“At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!'” (Luke 1:39-45)

When I grew up in church, I was taught that God was the starting point of the worship. Our gatherings began with God’s invitation (call to worship) to which we responded with silent prayer. God announced His blessing to which we responded with an AMEN and a praise song. The rest of the service went on like that: God speaks, we respond.

This pattern is, I believe, rooted in both creation and in our own DNA. This world, and humans, were designed to respond to God’s gracious self-disclosure. As we experience God’s greatness or goodness, that experience provokes a response within us: wow, thank You, awesome, yikes, oh my, etc. Continue reading ‘Worship starts with God’ »

Hardened heart?

“Today, if only you would hear his voice, do not harden your hearts!” (Psalm 95:8)
This psalm is calling for a response from us when we experience God.
God is always speaking and working in and around us, yet we often miss it.
Many of us will sit in church today, many of us will hear His Voice.
Yet how many will listen AND respond, and do something with what we hear?
God speaks to us for our good, to show us the better way.
His wisdom leads to life, His way is the way to love, joy, peace, etc.
Jesus came in person to show us God’s Way, and to urge us to join Him in it.
We love to sing songs like this, but singing about God is not what He wants.
He is calling us to “obey everything He commanded” (Matthew 28:19)
We do not need to obey perfectly in order to be saved – Jesus took care of that.
But God does want us to want to do good, to strive with His help to obey.
Grace will help us, if we receive His grace and work with it!
Everyday by grace He is guiding us, warning us, encouraging us…
But are we listening, are we responding, are we obeying?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, Your rest is the natural result of choosing Your way. We will not find Your rest if we choose to go in the opposite direction. Help me to do more than hear Your Voice, help me to heed it!

God will help!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Isaiah 64-66
“You come to the help of those who gladly do right.” (Isaiah 64:5)
I believe in an all-powerful, all-knowing and everywhere present God.
This God is great and good, to the infinite power!
God is always on the side of good, and is always working for the good.
This God supports those who gladly want to do what is right and good.
This gives me hope when I see how messed up our world is.
We sense the difference between good and evil, and we long for the good.
Yet we don’t always choose the good, and compromise it for selfish reasons.
If there were no God, there would be no hope of good triumphing.
If God were not good, there would be no hope of good triumphing.
But if God is good, there is hope that good will triumph.
These visions of a new creation inspire me to believe a better future is coming.
No more war, violence, injustice, poverty, abuse, inequality, hate, sickness.
This hope inspires me to keep working with Jesus to do what is right and good.
This hope inspires me that He will help us make all things “very good” again!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, some people reject You because of all the evil in the world. I cling to You because of all the evil in the world. And because of You, I trust that one day You will help us make all things good again!

Making the kingdom attractive!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Isaiah 60-63
“Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” (Isaiah 60:3)
To get these words, we have to recall the context in which they were spoken.
Israel was a mess, of the 12 tribes only ‘the Jews’ (Judah) remained.
The glory days of the past were a dream, God’s promise to David seemed lost.
Yet Isaiah dreams of a day when God will set everything straight for His people.
Oppression, violence, abuse, enslavement, injustice, crime will all be ended.
God’s people will shine like a bright light, and others will be drawn to them.
The day is coming when everyone will want to be a part of God’s family.
Everyone will desire His kingdom of love, joy, peace, etc.
Right now that seems a dream too, people are not eagerly coming to church.
Maybe in part because the church does not seem to be shining too brightly.
But when Jesus followers shine with the love of Jesus, people are drawn in.
God still promises a day when people will see the light, and come to it.
In order to see this dream come true, we need to start living the dream.
As we shine with love, joy, peace, etc, Jesus is attracting people to God!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me to see that I can help or hinder making your kingdom attractive to others. Let there be love, joy and peace on earth, and let it begin with me!

The free flow of blessing!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Luke 18:15-17
“Bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them.” (Luke 18:16)
So what exactly happened when Jesus placed His hands on them?
In Mark 10:16 we read that Jesus blessed the children in His arms.
Did this blessing give these babies an advantage over other un-blessed babies?
My guess is that Jesus announced the same blessing He offered to all.
The same blessing announced in the gospel, the same blessing received in baptism.
He blessed them with every spiritual blessing He had at His disposal (Ephesians 1:3).
He extended to them God’s grace, mercy, peace, joy and love!
And like everyone else, that blessing still had to be received.
Like the generously scattered seed, the full blessing was scattered everywhere.
But some soils received the seed blessing, while others did not (Matthew 13:1-9).
If we have ears to hear, and hearts to receive, we will experience His blessing too.
It is not the hands of Jesus, nor the waters of baptism, that create this blessing.
It is God’s heart using any means to get the message through: you are blessed!
Do I see Jesus standing over me, generously blessing me from God’s heart?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, every baby, every adult, every human, stands under the generous flow of God’s blessing through You. Yet so many of us refuse to receive it, to enjoy it, to live from it!