Too comfortable in the world?

THE STORY OF JESUS: Luke 6:24-26
“Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.” (Luke 6:25)
These blessings and woes of Jesus are ‘wisdom sayings’.
Wisdom sayings present ideas in stark black and white to make a point.
Jesus isn’t condemning those who are well fed (or rich, etc).
But He is stressing the danger of being comfortable in this life.
How can we be comfortable in this world, when so much is wrong.
Jesus followers feel with God the pain and suffering of this world.
Jesus came to bring comfort, not to be comfortable.
The same is true for us; woe to us if we are blind to the world’s need.
Having food is not a sin, but selfishly keeping it to ourselves is.
I sense the Lord challenging me to rethink how I think about my ‘blessings’.
Am I more focused on being comfortable, or bringing comfort?
Am I using more than I need, while others have less than they need?
Looking at these lists (vv.20-26), I definitely fit more in the 2nd one.
As unpleasant as it is, I need to consider whether this ‘woe’ is for me…
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, set me free from the charity mindset, where a few cans for the Food Bank will suffice. Help me to feed others well, and not just be well fed.

The poor are blessed!?

THE STORY OF JESUS: Luke 6:17-23
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. (Luke 6:20)
What usually comes to mind when someone says, ‘I’m blessed’?
We use these words to describe all our positive blessings.
When life – our children, or finances, or health, or situation – is good.
Jesus does not speak this way, which ought to make us think.
Jesus says the poor, hungry, sad or bullied are the blessed ones.
It seems that God is especially close to people like this.
So close that they can be considered more blessed than others.
Can you imagine saying ‘I’m blessed’ the next time you are struggling?
Maybe our physical ‘blessings’ are not so much blessings afterall.
Such ‘blessings’ can often distract us from God, or make us forget Him.
What about my struggles, are they actually bringing me closer to God?
Is it possible that the real blessing is how God is at work in me?
Helping me, pruning me, stretching me, strengthening me.
God with me, no matter what I’m going through, THIS is being ‘blessed’!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I do not want to struggle, but neither do I want to be deceived by worldly comforts. I want to know the blessing of being close to You, no matter what I am going through!

What keeps me awake praying?

THE STORY OF JESUS: Luke 6:12-16
“Jesus spent the night praying to God.” (Luke 6:12)
When is the last time you spent a long time praying for something.
Was it a big decision or major crisis that led you to pray like this?
Jesus is on a mission from God, and He is picking His successors.
This was a very important decision for His mission.
I’m convinced He didn’t just get a list of names from God.
He wrestled it through with God, He prayed through each candidate.
He knew how they would struggle, suffer and die for joining Him.
The key thing I want to highlight is how seriously He took His mission.
Are we as eager and active in pursuing our kingdom purpose?
Is it the things of God or the things of ME that keep me awake praying?
Following Jesus is a mission, a calling, not a key to get what I want.
Our calling is also very serious, God has a lot invested in us, for us!
Maybe you’re not sure what your mission is, what God wants you to do.
Is THIS the first thing we should spend a long time praying about?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I have not wrestled in prayer like this for my kingdom mission. Help me to see that my calling is as serious, and as dependent on God for help!

When faith in God is attacked!

“They burned every place where God was worshiped…” (Psalm 74:8)
I’ve watched debates where the Atheist walk all over the Christian.
It can be very difficult to hang on to faith when the attacks come.
In Psalm 74 it went further; God attackers were killing believers.
The nation of Israel was devastated, and believers were deseprate.
Why God was letting this happen, when would God step in to help?
There are “no signs from God” (v.9), begging the question, is He there?
“But God is my king” (v.12) Asaph declares, despite this defeat.
This is our hope too, when faith in God is under attack.
And when the church seems to shrink, or implode on itself.
The failure of the church is not the failure of God.
God remains king, God remains God; atheists cannot change that.
Jesus’ followers have been under attack for centuries, and they remain!
We need to stay true to Jesus, to His way, and to His God and ours.
Stand firm in faith, hope and love, for He will come through in the end!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I cling to faith despite all that has happened against it. But please, show Yourself soon, for the sake of those who are dying for You!

Only God knows all things!

“One who has perfect knowledge is with you.” (Job 36:4)
Who is this Elihu, that he claims to have perfect knowledge?
As I read through what he said, I wondered whether it was God speaking.
Was God using Elihu – this unknown stranger – to challenge him?
Much of what he says sounds like what God will say (ch.38-41).
Yet some of it also sounds like Job’s friends, whom God denounces (42:7).
Jesus could have claimed perfect knowledge, but He didn’t (Matthew 24:36).
Jesus admitted there were things He did not know.
As wise as Elihu is, he has become arrogant in his own thoughts.
I’m reminded again how we need to be humble when we talk about God.
As Jesus followers, we are not better or wiser than others.
It is our admission of weakness and limitation that qualifies us.
Our confidence is in Jesus, not in our doctrines or theologies.
I know why I believe what I believe, but I can’t tell you I’m right.
Only God has “perfect knowledge”, and I trust that He is with me!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, grant me the wisdom to know how little I know, and how much depend on Your grace.

Greater than we know!

“For God is greater than any mortal.” (Job 33:12)
In all these speeches, this idea is what comes out again and again.
No matter how hard we try, we cannot reduce God to a system of thought.
God is greater than any of us, and greater than any of our minds.
All our best attempts to explain God’s ways with ‘theology’ fail.
God is not irrational, God is supra-rational – above and beyond our reason.
The rationalism of the enlightenment led us to reduce everything to science.
But ‘science’ speaks to what we know, and there is so much we do not know.
It takes humility to admit this, and this is what this book is getting at.
We should always hold our attempts to explain God with humility.
Our greatest statements of faith, doctrines and confessions all fall short.
God is greater than any mortal, including the greatest theologians.
One day when we stand before God, we will all see how little we knew.
We will also see that God’s grace and love will overcome our inadequacies.
As Jesus followers, we rest in the mystery and wonder of God’s grace.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I cannot fathom the greatness of God. But through all the mystery and wonder and uncertainty, I cling to the greatness of Your grace and love.

Love more demanding than law!

“Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil?” (Luke 6:9)
Often the focus of a law is on what you cannot do.
There are laws against being bad, but what about laws for being good?
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day only saw what God’s laws were against.
Don’t do this, don’t do that… and you will be a good person.
But stopping the bad doesn’t make us good; God wants good behaviour.
Doing good, saving life, helping the weak, standing up for justice.
The purpose of God’s law was to point us towards loving God and people.
Sabbath laws were meant to protect labourers and slaves from overwork.
They were meant to create space for personal and family well-being.
Jesus comes to show us what God-like living looks like.
It is not sombre, restrictive, full of negative rules and warnings.
It is all about doing good, blessing others, increasing love, joy, peace…
This way of life is more fulfilling than focusing on the negative.
This is “life to the full” or “eternal life” – the life we were made for!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me to see that You want more than just to stop negative behaviour, You demand good behaviour.

Are you enjoying the better wine?

THE STORY OF JESUS: Luke 5:33-39
“No one after drinking old wine wants the new for ‘The old is better.’” (Luke 5:38)
The issue in this section is the matter of fasting.
To fast is a religious act, an act of devotion or piety.
‘Religion’ is how people act out their relationship to God.
Ever since the Fall, we have been performing religious acts.
Jesus came to restore our relationship to God, not our religion.
God wants to walk with us, not watch us perform religious acts.
God wants to enjoy the creation with us, not be locked up in a temple.
‘Religion’ is the old wineskin, fellowship with the Father is the old wine.
Jesus calls this old wine new because it is new to us – but it goes way back.
We talk to God, not just ‘pray’; we worship God, not just ‘go to church’.
We serve the poor, not just ‘give alms’.
We offer our hearts and lives, not just ‘ritual sacrifices’.
This is not ‘religion’, it is relationship, and it is better!
The only ‘religious’ duty we have is to love and obey God’s call to love!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, teach me the full meaning of love, and help me to love God and people like this. I don’t want ‘religion’, I want a loving relationship!