A prayer for the bullied!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Psalm 35

“Vindicate me in your righteousness, Lord my God; do not let them gloat over me.” (Psalm 35:27)
Have you ever been betrayed by a friend, have you ever been bullied by your peers?
David feels like garbage, rejected by people he trusted and had been good to.
This psalm is his prayer for vindication, for God to rise up over rejection.
If you cannot relate to what David is saying, try to imagine it.
All over the world there are people feeling this rejection… even those around you.
I just read of a boy with same-sex attraction who took his life because of how his family treated him.
Sin has really messed up our world, and daily the victims pile up all around.
‘Do something God, do not be silent, rise to their defence!’
Jesus stepped into this mess, He too was betrayed by those who He loved.
But sin and Satan did not crush His spirit, He beat them with His goodness and love.
Jesus is our vindication, our hope that we too will lifted up from rejection and oppression.
Without God and Jesus, there is no hope for vindication, no assurance of things being made right.
But God is bigger than rejection; Jesus is bigger than oppression… love triumphs over hate!
Let the bullied be hopeful, and the bullies be humbled: God will set things right in the end!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
PRAYER
Lord, strengthen the bullied with hope and courage. Silence the bullies, make them face the ugliness of their behaviour so that can come to their senses and stop!

More than ever!


THE STORY OF JESUS: Judges 10-12
“Israel was in great distress. Then the Israelites cried out to the Lord, ‘We have sinned.” (Judges 10:9-10)
They say that desperate times call for desperate measures.
The period of the Judges was a desperate time; Israel was struggling to learn how they needed God.
When life was good, they forgot about God and went their own way… until their way crashed.
It was in their distress that they saw their true condition, and their true need for God.
I see this pattern repeated often, in my life and among other christians as well.
When life goes well, we get comfortable and casual in how we live.
When we have no cares, we become careless, and choose dangerous paths away from God.
We neglect prayer, spiritual growth and discipline because life is good, things are fine.
And then life gets hard, and we cry out for God, and wonder why He is not there.
How long will it take for us to learn; no God, no peace; know God, know peace!
Instead of blaming God for being absent, maybe we need to confess that we were absent.
Not all hardship is the direct result of neglecting God, but many times it is.
Don’t just wait for times of distress to cry out to the Lord.
And don’t let good times cause you to forget the Lord – you need Him more than ever!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
PRAYER
Lord, I see this pattern in my own life. I confess it, and I want to change it. Help me to pray harder in good times, that I may be strengthened through the tough times.

How can we forget?


THE STORY OF JESUS: Judges 7-9
“They did not remember the Lord who had rescued them from the hands of all their enemies.” (Judges 8:35)
As a Jesus follower, I believe that Jesus is the hope of the world.
Personally I am aware of the many ways He has helped me, and how He has changed my life.
I’m so thankful how He rescued me from the enemy of my soul, and gives me love, joy, peace…
Jesus with me is all the difference in my life – so how can I forget about Him so often?
Sometimes I am distracted by the blessings themselves, enjoying the gifts more than the Giver.
Sometimes I foolishly rely on myself, as if “my own strength has saved me” (Judges 7:2).
Satan – the defeated enemy – loves to distract me this way, to get me to look away from Jesus.
And then my life begins to reflect the mess of Israel in this period of the Judges.
Look how twisted their story is, whenever they turn away from God, whenever they forget God.
Spiritual amnesia is forgetting our true identity as children of God, saved by Jesus.
Going back to the folly of self-worship: I can do this, it’s all about me, I’ll do it my way!’
We may snicker at how they relied on golden statues, but is our self-worship any better?
We feed our hearts and minds by what we focus on.
Take time today to focus on the blessing of God and Jesus in your life, so you will never forget!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
PRAYER
Lord, I need to remind myself every day – every minute! Make it clear to me how good my life is with You, and how messy and miserable it is when I forget about You!

Looking me in the eyes!


THE STORY OF JESUS: Matthew 26:17-30
“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28)
In a blood covenant, a person uses their own blood guarantee their promise and commitment.
In the Jewish Passover, a lamb was killed and its blood painted on the door post.
Because of the blood, the angel of death passed over these homes, already seeing the symbol of death.
Jesus uses the bread and wine, part of the Passover celebration, to symbolize His own death.
Because of His death, the judgment of death “passes over” us, since we are forgiven.
One thing that jumps out at me here is Jesus’ amazing kindness despite betrayal and rejection.
Jesus looks each one in the eye, and even says that He knows one of them will betray Him.
But He still invites them to eat with Him; He still wants to be in covenant with them.
He even washes their feet like a servant to show them how much He loves them (John 13:1ff).
Jesus knows how I betray Him, but He still ‘pays the price’ to be in relationship with me.
Imagine Jesus looking into your heart, into your life, into you eyes… He sees and knows it all!
Hear Him say, ‘Yes, I know, you will betray me…’
‘But still I invite you to eat with me, for my blood is poured out for the forgiveness of your sins!’
Even now Jesus is looking me in the eyes with knowing, forgiving love; how will I respond?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
PRAYER
Lord, I see You looking at me with love in Your eyes, and gently penetrating my heart… May I not resist Your love like Judas did.

“Was it really worth it?”


THE STORY OF JESUS: Matthew 26:14-16
“From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.” (Matthew 26:16)
Judas has a money issue: as Jesus’ treasurer he would dip into the funds for himself (John 12:6).
For Judas, this waste of costly perfume is the last straw.
How happy he could be with 30 silver coins: buy a field, grow crops, be content for the rest of his life!
And so Judas exchanges the treasure of God for some pocket change.
Judas was so close to Jesus, and yet he did not see the treasure that was before him.
How many church-goers are in the same camp, more focused on themselves than on Jesus.
Sunday after Sunday they hear about Jesus, they even sing songs and contribute money.
With all the talk about comfort and blessing, Jesus seems to be more of a means to an end.
This is a betrayal of Jesus too, a twisting of selfish grace into selfish gain.
What good is it if someone gains the whole world but loses his very self? (Luke 9:25)
Money, sex, power, pleasure, possessions, success, fame…
What ‘bait’ does Satan use in my life to get my eyes off of Jesus?
What am I selling my soul for, what am I betraying Jesus for?
One day we may find ourselves asking with regret, ‘was it really worth it?’
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
PRAYER
Lord, show me how my selfish desires are hurting me, You and others. Show me the ‘coin’ that I am betraying You for.

Jesus AND the poor


THE STORY OF JESUS: Matthew 26:6-13
“The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.” (Matthew 26:11)
What moved this sinful woman to make this huge sacrifice for Jesus?
For the first time in her life, someone loved her as a person, not just as an object of desire.
Her sacrifice is an act of deep love and gratitude, not just religious duty.
Jesus honours her sacrifice, even though His disciples think it is a waste of money.
Jesus is not saying that we may ignore the poor if we are ‘doing it for Jesus’.
This is not a justification for building a mega-cathedral in Calcutta (the poorest of cities).
Our expressions of love for Jesus will automatically benefit the poor as well.
His death and resurrection opens the way for a lifetime of loving and blessing the poor.
As we saw in chapter 25, love for Jesus and the poor go hand in hand, to love one is to love the other.
Some Christians use this line (poor always with you) to justify limits to our compassion.
But this reveals more of their own hearts than Jesus’ heart.
We love because He first loved us; we grace others because He first graced us.
Jesus knows our heart, He knows whether we are sacrificing out of deep love, or religious duty.
May my devotion to Jesus demonstrate my love for Him AND for the poor!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
PRAYER
Lord, this poor woman loved You because of Your amazing compassion for her. May I be moved by the same love, and may it overflow in loving all people.

God’s agenda and ours


THE STORY OF JESUS: Matthew 26:1-5
“They schemed to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him.” (Matthew 26:4)
Here we have an anticipation of what is to come, from two different perspectives.
Jesus has a sense of destiny, what He must do to maximize God’s purpose.
The religious leaders have a sense of selfishness, what they must do to minimize trouble.
Jesus is thinking about God’s agenda, the religious leaders have their own agenda in mind.
Whose agenda do I have in mind?
Am I doing what I do each day to preserve and protect myself?
Or am I focused on doing what advances God’s purpose?
Is my goal to be comfortable, safe, for my own ambition, then I am not following Jesus.
Jesus not only speaks about His own cross, but urges us to take up our cross too.
The cross symbolizes dying to selfish ambition.
Am I giving up myself for God and others, am I living eager to bless and help others?
The Lord is challenging me on my agenda, on how I plan my days, and my life.
Jesus was prepared to take up His cross for me, am I prepared to take up my cross for Him?
Or will I be like the religious leaders, doing whatever it takes to cover my butt?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
PRAYER
Lord, I want to be like You, but if I’m honest I often behave more like the religious leaders, doing whatever I must to keep my life safe, comfortable.

Free samples!


THE STORY OF JESUS: Psalm 34
“Taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Psalm 34:8)
Life in this world is hard because of sin and suffering.
David’s life was not easy, and yet he somehow found a way to hope, to rejoice.
Whenever things went sour, he reminded himself of the sweetness of God.
Try it, taste it, and you will see that it is good.
Satan continues to entice us to eat forbidden fruit.
But all the treasures and pleasures of this world without God will make us sick.
They may taste sweet, but they will turn sour.
Following Jesus seems sour at first, but its sweetness increases with time.
We may have to deny ourselves now, but we will be blessed in the long run.
As a Jesus follower, I need to return to God’s table every day.
I need to remind myself of all the blessings that I do experience from Him.
The more we savor the flavor of God’s grace, the more satisfied we will be.
And we will have an easier time convincing others to ‘taste and see’…
If they sense in us that we are feasting on the goodness of God.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
PRAYER
Lord, help me to slow down and appreciate every taste of Your goodness. Help me to see these as free samples of the feast that is being prepared!

Pardon me, my Lord!


THE STORY OF JESUS: Judges 4-6
“Pardon me, my lord, but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?” (Judges 6:13)
Good question Gideon, if God is with us, then why so much suffering?
The bigger story of Judges shows that God is with them, but cannot support them.
How can God support their immoral, selfish, harmful behaviour, as practiced in Baal worship?
“Pardon me, my lord, but how can I save Israel?” (Judges 6:15)
Good question Gideon, many Jesus followers struggle with how God can use them.
We are so few, so small, so weak, in comparison to the powers of sin in the world.
In addition we are no better than others, we are as much a part of the problem of sin.
How can God use imperfect inadequate workers to do His work, to build His kingdom?
In fact it is because God pardons us that He is with us, and does use us.
It is God’s grace, and not our greatness, that gives us hope and strength.
Jesus – God with us – suffers and dies to set us free and restore us as His kingdom servants.
Jesus takes a motley crew of sinners, calls them His disciples, and sends them into the world.
He is still doing that today – we are modern day Gideon’s and Deborah’s.
Jesus is with me, and He will use me… will I humbly admit my weakness and offer myself to Him?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
PRAYER
Lord, thank You that despite the mess of our world, and the mess of my life, You still stand by me and will use me to fulfill Your gracious plan. You have pardoned me, my Lord!

This is a test!


THE STORY OF JESUS: Judges 1-3
“I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the Lord.” (Judges 2:22)
God wants us to enjoy life to the full, but the poison of sin undermines that life.
To establish a kingdom of hope, God’s people need to take a firm stand against sin and evil.
The book of Judges describes what happens when they make compromises with temptation.
From the beginning, the Deceiver has been enticing us to forget God and go our own way.
In a sense, we all find a tree with forbidden fruit in the garden of our life.
Your specific test will be different than mine, but the same temptation is behind it.
‘Forget God, forget God’s way, everyone’s doing it, try it you’ll like it, it will be worth it!’
But now as then the result of giving in is the same: life becomes unbearable.
The word for ‘test’ and ‘tempt’ is the same, yet they are very different.
The difference lies in the motive of the tester or tempter.
God tests us to make us stronger, the Deceiver tempts us to make us fail.
The same situation is both a test from God, and a temptation from Satan.
As Jesus followers we need to maintain our connection to God to overcome sin.
God will help us resist and reject temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13)… will we pass the test?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
PRAYER
Lord, help me to recognize the seductive lies of the enemy, and to refuse them. Lead me not into temptation, and deliver me from evil. I need Your help!