Eager to change?

THE STORY OF JESUS: Luke 3:10-20
“What should we do then?” the crowd asked.” (Luke 3:10)
John is speaking to those he baptized, challenging them to change.
Two questions come up: how do we change, and how can we change.
To the first question John speaks into their lives personally.
What does it mean for the wealthy, for tax collectors, for soldiers.
We can also apply this life change to our own life circumstances.
As teachers, as parents, as employees, as investers, as factory workers.
The other question is critical too: how can we change like this?
“He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Luke 3:16)
Water baptism does not change us, the Spirit of Jesus does!
Having been baptized, I am assured that the Spirit of Jesus is in me.
“I can do all things through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)
The Spirit helps me to apply God’s grace to the details of my life.
And the Spirit helps me to change, working with me to live like Jesus.
Am I eager to know how to live differently, and am I seeking His help to do it?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I cannot change myself. But with Your help I can change. Help me to want to know how to change, and help me to change!

Life beyond baptism!

“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” (Luke 3:8)
Did John say this to them before they were baptized, or after?
I always assumed it was before, but what if it was after?
In my experience, we say this to people before they’re baptized.
But baptism symbolizes God’s grace BEFORE we produce the fruit.
In fact, apart from our union with Christ, we cannot produce fruit.
It seems to me that baptism ought to be an easy step to take.
Like babies, we are helpless on our own, we cannot produce fruit by ourselves.
Baptism is the beginning of a life journey of changing with Jesus.
We did not need to prove ourselves to God in order to be baptized.
But now that we are, we have no excuses for not changing with Him.
In Christ, we have everything we need for life and godliness (see 2 Peter 1).
And if we are not increasing in such fruit, we have forgotten God’s free grace.
Baptism reminds us we are God’s children, not the serpent’s brood.
With Jesus’ help, I can change… will I?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I belong to You, not Satan. Your Spirit is in me, and is greater than the spirit of darkness. Help me to tap Your root in me, to produce Your fruit in me!

Any time now, Lord!!!

“I am poor and needy; come quickly to me, O God.” (Psalm 70:5)
Though I am not going through the same issue, I can relate.
As a deeply relfective person, I am painfully aware of my weaknesses.
And Satan loves to magnify these, to ruin me with them.
I feel what David feels about the way Satan toys with me.
I’m not one to blame Satan, or to claim he made me do things.
For me, Satan is the negative and deceiving voice in my life.
Distracting me with temptation, discouraging me with fear.
He’s good at what he does, and I fall for it often.
I never go a day without these internal mind and heart battles.
I follow Jesus because I know I need His help.
And I know that He has beaten Satan for me, once and for all!
But I do wish that He would hurry up and step in.
I probably need to learn patience… but I want Him to hurry.
Is it OK for me to say with David, “hasten, come quickly, do not delay”?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, right now I am feeling the effects of the battle. Please step in… sooner rather than later!

Take heart, and hang on!

“I will wait for my renewal to come.” (Job 14:14)
Job sees everything that happens as directed by God (14:5).
Ultimately Job expects that God will renew him (14:14-17).
But in the meantime, our days are few and full of trouble (14:1).
Will we still trust God, in light of this?
People usually assume that if God is good, life here must be good.
God is supposed to protect us, keep us safe and successful.
If we live good lives, we will not suffer (Job’s friends).
Job sees it otherwise; this life is hard, but it will end well.
No matter what happens in this life, Job will cling to God.
This kind of dogged faith – desperate, wrestling – is what God honours.
We live in a sin-messed world of our own making.
God is directing the chaos we unleashed for our ultimate renewal.
The ride is rough, because of the path we have chosen.
But the destination is assured with God… wait for it!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, in this world we do have trouble. But I can take heart… for You have and You will overcome this world!

Easy for me to say!?

“Those who are at ease have contempt for misfortune.”
Zophar put Job in his place; he suffered because he sinned… period.
Sad to say, I was once like Zophar, a voice of heartless ‘truth’.
But as Job states, I was “at ease”, preaching from my ivory tower.
Too many of us show contempt for others with our religious views.
“To God belong understanding” (v.13), not to us and our doctrines.
Thankfully, the Lord has toppled much of my religious smugness (not all).
I am much more aware that what I say is often “easy for me to say”.
Gone are the days for me when everything was simply black and white.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe in absolute truth.
I just know that none of us knows this truth absolutely.
He has taught me to struggle, listen and learn with those who struggle.
He has shown me that they have insight and wisdom as well.
Together as friends we struggle and learn about God’s truth.
And thankfully, He struggles with us, and walks with us to the other side!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, forgive me for pontificating about peoples’ struggles. Expose my remaining religious smugness, and help me to be the friend You are to me!

What motivates me?

THE STORY OF JESUS: Luke 2:41-52
“Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49)
Somehow as a boy, Jesus had a clear sense of God’s calling for His life.
His motivating drive was to serve His Father.
This is what guided His decisions and actions all through life.
What do I wake up every morning, determined to be and to do?
Some people know this very clearly, but many are vague on this.
A vague purpose is as dangerous as a wrong purpose.
I sense Jesus challenging me to revisit my sense of life purpose.
Am I determined to follow and serve Jesus, to join Him in His mission?
Is this my guiding motive as I go through each day?
What if someone asked me for a one sentence summary of my life purpose?
Recently the Lord has helped me clarify my sense of purpose…
To grow as a follower of Jesus, and to help others do the same!
It starts with me, “growing in wisdom” (v.52) before I try to share it.
How about you, what is your guiding motive or life mission?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, renew my motivation for God, the kingdom, and You, to see that there is nothing better to live for.

Piercing goodness!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Luke 2:33-40
“And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:35)
Jesus birth was not all sweetness and joy for Joseph and Mary.
The goodness of Jesus would be difficult to live with.
His goodness stands out in contrast to our own sin.
Hearts will be challenged; open hearts will humbled.
But closed hearts will become angry, and violent.
No doubt Jesus’ goodness provoked Mary’s heart too.
As Jesus followers, our hearts have been pierced as well.
Being with Jesus has a way of exposing sin in us.
We love what we see in Him, and we hate what we see in us.
As hard as this piercing conviction is, we should not resist it.
For there is healing and hope in His piercing goodness.
Only He can cut away the sin that ruins us, and set us free!
This is the “redemption of Jerusalem” (v.38) , to be rescued from sin.
If I want to be free, I need to open myself to His piercing goodness.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, where am I feeling convicted today? Help me to be receive Your piercing conviction, to allow You to expose and root out the selfish love of my own heart.

Can you see Him?

THE STORY OF JESUS: Luke 2:25-32
“For my eyes have seen your salvation…” (Luke 2:30)
Unlike Simeon, I cannot see my salvation with my physical eyes.
But I have been “moved by the Spirit” to see it by faith.
How do I explain it: I sense it, I feel it, I know it deep inside.
Whenever I see Jesus in my mind, I am also moved to praise God.
When I see Jesus in His humble love and gracious kindness.
When I see Jesus patiently loving and serving His disciples.
When I see Jesus being tortured and crucified for no reason.
When I see Jesus alive, smiling and accepting me as His friend.
Consolation fills me, and I am encouraged, energized, hopeful!
Jesus is presented “in the sight of all nations”.
Everyone can see what I see, and experience what I experience.
It does take the eyes of faith, being moved by the Spirit.
For me, thinking about Jesus is life transforming.
Like Simeon, I am moved to joy and praise, as I hold Jesus in my heart.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, when I think about You, I am moved by Your Spirit. May this joy, hope and peace energize me for today. May others see Jesus today too!

No more cleansing rituals!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Luke 2:21-24
“The purification rites required by the Law of Moses.” (Luke 2:22)
So how do we feel forgiven, how do we become certain of God’s love?
When you feel dirty, do you perform certain cleansing acts?
In those times, do you feel God’s love, or do you feel condemnation?
The rituals in Moses Law did not DO anything they just reminded.
The purification rites then (or baptism today) did not purify anyone.
They pointed to the impossibility of getting clean, and our need for help.
Jesus was purified and baptized as a Jew, but He did not need them.
Jesus was without sin; He remained clean when when Satan tempted Him.
God looked at Him (after baptism) and affirmed His favour and love.
“Born under the law, to redeem those under the law.” (Galatians 4:5)
Through Jesus, God sees us as forgiven, free and restored to life!
Jesus, not baptism or cleansing rituals, assure us of God’s love.
Our challenge is to believe it, to embrace it, and to enjoy it as truth.
Today I am encouraged to celebrate my new identity, without the need for rituals.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me to enjoy Your forgiveness, freedom and full life which are mine to receive and enjoy without duty or obligation.

Renew my passion!

“For zeal for your house consumes me.” (Psalm 69:9)
David’s heart was on fire for God, even if it meant suffering.
His zeal was for building, maintaining and protecting God’s temple.
The temple represented God living with, at home with, His people.
In its time, it served as a reminder of God’s desire for all creation.
Through Jesus, God steps into the world to be with us.
Jesus reveals God’s zeal for us, His house.
John quotes this psalm to describe Jesus’ actions in the temple (John 2:17).
But it was not just for the building, it was for the people!
“My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” (Mark 11:17)
Do I share this passion for God and for His family?
Am I devoting myself to building, maintaining and protecting God’s family?
My zeal is not for the church as a building, for the church as a people.
And not just those ‘in church’, but the WHOLE family, “for all nations”?
Jesus has this passion for me; do I share this passion for Him, with Him?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, renew my passion for all people, that they may know Your passion for them.