Strengthened by His Spirit!

THE STORY OF JESUS: 1 Samuel 16-19
“Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul… (1 Samuel 16:14)
There are many references to God’s Spirit in this reading.
The Spirit of the Lord comes powerfully on David (16:13), but departs from Saul (16:14).
The Spirit of God comes on Saul and his men, and they prophesied (19:20,23).
But we also see God sending an evil spirit on Saul (1 Samuel 16:14, also 16:15,23; 18:10; 19:9).
God is not the source of this evil spirit, but He does allow the spirit to work in Saul.
Compare this to how the Spirit of God sends Jesus to be tempted by Satan (Matthew 4:1).
God had been with Saul, but Saul had refused to submit to God, to surrender to His Spirit.
God withdraws His support, and Saul finds himself weak before dark ‘Goliath’ spirits.
The Spirit of the Lord is in us, and we have access to His support and strength.
If we resist the Lord, we also miss out on His support, and become weak and vulnerable.
If we go our own way, rely on our own strength, ‘Goliath’ spirits will soon overcome us.
If I open myself to the Lord, His Spirit will strengthen mine to beat spiritual ‘Goliaths’.
Will I be like David, or will I be like Saul, strong or weak in the Lord?
“Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” (Ephesians 6:10)
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I am reminded how weak and vulnerable I am without Your Spirit. Remind me how You will work powerfully in me IF I walk with You and follow Your lead!

Is anyone else excited?

THE STORY OF JESUS: Matthew 28:1-4
“The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.” (Matthew 28:4)
How would Hollywood portray this scene?
Most depictions of angels are not frightening, not scary for Roman soldiers like this.
Not just like a human being… something to scare them to (almost) death.
Flashing, pulsating, blinding light with subtle human yet non-human qualities!
Why is there an earthquake again, just before a resurrection (Matthew 27:51-52)?
It’s as if the very creation is groaning, as if with (re)birth pangs (Romans 8:22)
Not only the dawn of a day, but of a new reality.
This is one of several epochal events when everything changes.
From creation to the fall, from the fall to Jesus’ resurrection, and then to the last day.
God is reversing the disaster of sin and restoring the dynamism of creation.
Life, hope, joy, blessing, peace, justice, health, wholeness – new creation!
In this moment creation is groaning with anticipation.
In this moment the angels are glowing with excitement.
Is anyone else excited?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, everything changes here. The curse of sin is broken, and Life is restored. May Your resurrection be epochal for me!

Who are the deceived?

THE STORY OF JESUS: Matthew 27:62-66
“His disciples may steal the body and say he has been raised from the dead.” (Matthew 27:64)
How do you fake someone coming back to life, especially when their death was public.
And even if they did make it all up, would it be a lie they’d be willing to die for?
I think of Chuck Colson’s testimony (worked with Nixon during Watergate, served time in jail).
He knew from experience how quickly fellow ‘liars’ buckle under pressure to save themselves.
All of the disciples faced persecution, violence and death for their claims.
Pressure may lead someone to recant on the truth, but to be willing to die for a lie?????
The disciples met the risen Jesus, and it changed their lives!!!!
‘You ask me how I know he lives… He lives within my heart!’
I have also met and experienced the risen Jesus, and He has changed my life.
People may laugh, and accuse me of perpetuating an illusion, or an hoax.
But maybe, as in “The Matrix”, they are living in the illusion, the hoax.
Believing the resurrection is like taking the ‘red pill’, it will open your eyes.
It will not make life easier, and many will turn against you for it.
But the hope of Jesus alive is better than the hopelessness of Jesus dead.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, continue to make Your living presence real to me, especially in times when the illusion of despair tries to suck the life out of my hope.

Risking reputation for Jesus!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Matthew 27:57-61
“Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb.” (Matthew 27:59)
Joseph, a rich and respected man (Mark 15:43), took a huge risk to do what he does.
Essentially he surrenders his reputation and future memory to honour Jesus.
His life memorial (tomb) will forever be associated with Jesus – a religious and political loser.
Most people see Jesus as a loser, a failed messiah, no longer relevant.
Sometimes Jesus followers today may also feel the scorn of identifying with a ‘dead’ messiah.
Why waste our time and our lives on Jesus; Jesus is not real, and the church is a failure.
Like Joseph, we may be viewed as fools who still believe in fairy tales.
Essentially we surrender our reputations and future memory to honour Jesus.
When I think of Who Jesus is, and what He represents, I don’t mind.
Why should we be ashamed to identify with radical grace and love, humility and kindness?
Think of the crazy things people devote their lives to today… and they’re not ashamed!?!?
“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” (Philippians 1:20)
Today again I choose to honour the ‘failed messiah’ and by continuing His work in my body!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, people may mock me for identifying with Your life and love, but I would rather be a fool for You than for all the empty things that everyone else seems to be sacrificing their lives for!

Join the centurion!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Matthew 27:54-56
“Surely he was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:56)
There is something remarkable about Jesus, in life and in death.
Why were so many people impacted by this nobody from Nazareth?
Why did He agitate those in power, and inspire those in poverty?
How did He generate a world-changing movement, considering He died such an ignoble death?
Even Roman guards sensed the supernatural qualities of His life and death.
We need to pay close attention to Jesus, to how He lived and how He died.
I am convinced that Jesus stands apart from every other human that ever lived.
As a Jesus follower, my loyalty is to Jesus first, and only secondarily the church.
If you focus on the church, you will see weakness, failure, hypocrisy, sin.
But the church is NOT the hope of the world, Jesus is, and He is worth knowing.
Don’t let bad experiences with christians hinder you from appreciating Jesus.
Take your eyes away from the religious people at the foot of the cross… look at Jesus!
If we knew the real Jesus, not just the stained glass ‘churchified’ view of Jesus.
If we were impacted by His love, His grace, and His truth, we would join the centurion!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, when I think about You, about how You lived and how You died, I cannot help but declare, truly You are the Son of God!

Show me my life’s end!

“Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days…” (Psalm 39:4)
This psalm speaks to the real struggle we all face as we consider the brevity of life.
The psalmist is getting old, and is increasingly feeling the burden of life.
Life is short; it doesn’t seem that way when we’re young, but more so as we get older.
It seems like yesterday that I was in high school, anticipating my life adventures.
Now I am over 50, and everything seems a blur… where has the time gone?
We are all getting older, our bodies don’t work as well as they used to.
Many are discovering that the golden years are not so golden after all.
As a Jesus follower, I can see my life as a part of God’s kingdom purpose.
My burdens and struggles, my diminishing time and strength are not the last word.
“Though outwardly wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day. Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow… this is how we hang on through old age!
With David we entrust our lives to the Lord and say, “my hope is in the Lord!” (Psalm 39:7)
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, remind me that the brevity of this life is just one chapter. The next chapter will endure for eternity!

God’s tears

THE STORY OF JESUS: 1 Samuel 12-15
“Samuel mourned for him, and the Lord regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel.” (1 Samuel 15:35)
Can you imagine what it is to make God cry?
The word translated ‘regret’ speaks of deep sorrow and pain.
This verse recalls how God felt about how human sin ruined creation.
“The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.” (Genesis 6:5-6)
God is deeply troubled at human sin because He loves us, and wants the best for us.
God hates all suffering in the world, and it saddens Him deeply when we are the cause of it.
Mel Gibson’s The Passion was a disturbing movie, but one scene touched me deeply.
As Jesus dies, the scene moves up into heaven and turns into a tear, which drops beside Jesus’ body.
Do we really grasp how deep God’s pain is when His appointed leaders go against His heart.
At the same time, do we grasp God’s deep joy when finally Jesus comes, a man after His heart.
“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17)
Jesus is cause for deep joy, even tears of joy, for in Him we see God’s deep heart of love!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I am so glad that You came. To see You express God’s heart of grace, mercy, peace and love. Thank You for being a King after God’s heart, and mine!

The king we need!

THE STORY OF JESUS: 1 Samuel 8-11
“Listen to them and give them a king.” (1 Samuel 8:21)
Someone once said, ‘be careful what you ask for, you just might get it!’
Not everything we ask for from God is good for us.
Sometimes God says ‘no’, but here we see God giving them what they want.
And time will prove Samuel’s warnings correct (1 Samuel 8:10-18).
God created us to be partners, not puppets (Genesis 1:26-28).
The problem is that this allows us the freedom to make foolish choices.
Who or what have we surrendered ourselves to, that now hold us bondage?
Insisting on what we want may feel good in the moment, but it cannot last.
Without God as our leader, we become slaves to lesser things that ruin us.
God sends Jesus to reclaim our hearts, to offer us a way back to Him.
He meets us in our folly by giving us the king we need, not the king we want.
Jesus breaks free from Satan’s grip, and restores God’s authority on earth.
But we must still choose; we are partners not puppets.
He is waiting for us to ask Him to be our king, the kind of king we really need!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, thank You for being the king we need. Your leadership is good, even though it goes against what my foolish heart wants. I choose You as my king!

Never forsaken!!!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Matthew 27:45-53
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)
At this precise moment, we are standing at the center of human history.
Think of the fall into sin (Genesis 3) as a high speed shift from ‘Drive’ to ‘Reverse’.
Here we are witnessing a high speed shift into ‘Drive’ again.
Jesus is receiving the curse of sin (Genesis 2:17), even though He does not deserve it.
These are real words, not a hollow bible study quote of the Jewish bible.
What was supposed to happen to Adam, Eve and all of us, happens here to Jesus.
All the powers of darkness descend upon Jesus, and God does nothing to stop it.
Darkness, earthquake, bodies rising… these are dramatic signs of a world-changing moment.
And with the tearing of the curtain, the division between God and humanity is finally, fully removed!
I may feel deserted, I may face disappointment with God, but it will never be like this.
In fact, because Jesus was separated from God’s love, NOTHING can separate me from God’s love!
Satan is defeated, the curse is reversed, death is beaten and humanity is restored.
Because of Jesus, God’s kingdom is being restored, and I am secure in Jesus.
Because of Jesus, I can say with absolute certainty, ‘My God, my God, You will never forsake me!’
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, thank You for taking the curse for me, for showing me how far You will go for me. Thank You that You will never desert me!

In the same way as Jesus?

THE STORY OF JESUS: Matthew 27:38-44
“In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him.” (Matthew 27:41)
Matthew shows how religious leaders are no better than the rebels, mocking “in the same way” (v.44).
They belittle His faith in God, but they only reveal their own bankrupt faith.
Does my faith in God and Jesus change the way I treat others?
Do I look down on some people “in the same way”?
Jesus does not treat people “in the same way” as the world.
He offered love and not scorn, He blessed those who cursed Him.
From sexual sinners to traitors, from Roman occupiers to spiritual heretics.
From the rebels to Romans and the self-righteous, He pleaded for forgiveness, not revenge.
Our world does not treat the ‘other’ very well… how do I treat them?
I sense the Lord challenging to consider how I think or speak about ‘others’.
How do I think or speak about native Americans, about south Asians, about homosexuals?
About single parents, about Mormons, about Muslims, about Jews, about politicians?
About lawyers, about environmentalists, about rednecks, about Americans, about Republicans…
May my “in the same way” refer to Jesus’ love, and not to the worlds cruelty!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, You chose to identify with us in our guilt and shame, not to judge us… and certainly not to mock is. Help me to love in the same way!