Seeing God in my story!

“All this was recorded in the book of the annals in the presence of the king.” (Esther 2:23)
This brief moment in the plot seems unimportant, but it is not.
As we shall see, this moment recorded by the king, will come up again in the story.
The story of Esther as a whole has been recorded by the King for a purpose.
But it seems an odd story for the bible, since God is no where mentioned in it.
Why does God inspire its author to record these events, in the way it is written?
My own sense is that this story parallels our stories, all peoples’ stories.
Where God is hidden, not mentioned, and yet at work behind the scenes.
Sometimes it seems like life is a series of random, unfortunate events.
And many today believe that this is all there is; no purpose, no order, no big story.
But I believe that all of history is really His story, and our story.
Our stories are recorded (Psalm 139:16), and every detail serves the master plot.
God is at work behind the scenes, like a stage manager, directing the show.
As a Jesus follower, I believe God’s kingdom is coming, according to God’s plan.
Its written in His book, and as we will see in later chapters, it all fits together.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, my story is part of Your story, which is part of creation’s story, which is part of God’s story. When the plot seems messed up, help me to remember that it all comes together in the end.

Sharing the story of Jesus!

“I too decided to write an orderly account for you.” (Luke 1:3)
I love thinking about Luke, and how he came become a messenger of Jesus.
Luke was a doctor (Colossians 4:14), and a fellow worker with Paul (Philemon 1:24).
When Paul was left alone (and abandoned by Demas), only Luke stay with him (2 Timothy 4:11).
He wrote both this Gospel, and the book of Acts, more than any other NT author.
As a trained physician, he notices more medical details than the other gospel writers.
And here he puts his research skills to use to write an ‘orderly account’.
We don’t know how Luke came to follow Jesus, but he surrenders his skills to the Lord.
Because of Luke, we can “know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1:4)
Each author tells the story through their eyes, as inspired by the Spirit of Jesus.
The fact that Luke was not one of the original 12 encourages me (the same with Paul).
The Lord’s plan from the beginning was to spread His message through multiple generations.
This includes me, this includes you… we all can share Jesus with other Theophilus’s.
How have I experienced Jesus, what has the Lord done for me – this is my testimony.
As I write the story of Jesus with my life, others will follow, and join the team!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, may Your story be evident through me, as I share Your part in my story. May others know You with certainty in their own lives too, so that Your fame may spread
“to the ends of the earth!” (Acts 1:8)

Crush that snake in Jesus’ Name!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Mark 16:15-20
“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” (Mark 16:15)
The good news is NOT just about our being forgiven, it is about our being restored.
Restored as God’s image-bearers, ruling over all creation.
This is the good news that the creation itself longs to hear (Romans 8:19-22).
Everything that the serpent represents – sickness, suffering, bondage – is overturned.
I do not take these words literally – handling snakes or drinking poison.
I see them as tied to the good news for all creation, that Satan and his poison is defeated.
The woman’s seed has crushed the serpent’s head, and we represent Him (Genesis 3:15).
As Jesus’ followers, we take a stand against Satan’s poison, and Jesus helps us win.
When we speak and serve against sickness, suffering, injustice, etc., the serpent is crushed.
These words – whether original or not – are meant to bolster our confidence.
We can resist the devil, and he will flee from us (James 4:7).
Don’t let that serpent make you run; step into those situations of darkness with Jesus!
Grab that snake by the tail and tell him, ‘Jesus won, and I work with Him!’
Take a stand for hope, healing, justice and peace, and Jesus will confirm it for us (v.20)!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, Satan still finds ways to discourage me. And then I hear these words, and I am motivated to resist Satan’s lies and represent Your victory! I step on that snake, in Jesus Name!

Doubt that still sees!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Mark 16:9-14
“Jesus appeared to them (and) rebuked them for their lack of faith.” (Mark 16:14)
Today I sense the Lord asking me about my faith.
Not about the doctrines I claim to believe, but about my confidence in Him.
Here the disciples could not believe the impossible, the unseen.
Like Thomas, “Unless I see… I will not believe.” (John 20:25)
I cannot see Jesus… or God, or Satan, or the kingdom of God.
There are often times when doubts – like gnats – pester my mind.
I refuse to give in to them, but they do undermine my confidence.
These pesky doubts hold me back from living for these beliefs fully.
I believe, and yet I am also aware of unbelief (Mark 9:24).
It is good to know that Jesus first disciples doubted too.
Through today’s reading, I sense Jesus gently challenging my stubborn refusal to trust Him.
But I also sense Him encouraging me that He will “appear” to me one day to remove all doubt.
Even though I struggle to believe fully, He will still appear to me, and then I’ll know!
Like Job, “I will see him with my own eyes. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:27)
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I see how doubt holds me back. But I also see how faith moves me forward. May my faith always be stronger than my doubt. I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief!

The Easter Joke

“Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen!” (Mark 16:6)
By calling this the Easter joke, I’m not saying the resurrection is JUST a joke.
The joke is on Satan, who thought he had won.
Mark seems to end his version of Jesus’ life with a quick ‘punchline’ conclusion.
The extra verses (vv.9-20) were likely added by later readers, to fill out his story.
But for Mark, the resurrection is the plot twist, the turning point of history.
What better ending to the story is this punchline: He is risen!
The resurrection is a surprise that leaves women trembling, bewildered and afraid.
In one sense, we all should be.
For centuries Satan succeeded in defeating every human with sin and death.
But in Jesus, for the first time in history, someone does NOT fall for Satan’s joke.
Instead, the joke is on Satan, who thought he had beaten Jesus too.
Now, because of Jesus, Satan, sin and death and overturned, and we have hope.
I sense the Lord reminding me that the resurrection changes everything.
Today I am being challenged to consider what this punchline means to me!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I’ve heard about the resurrection so much, its lost its effect on me. Help me to feel again the shock, the wonder, and the hilarious impact of Your victory over Satan, sin and death!

Right here, right now – praise!!!

“Where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy.” (Psalm 65:8)
Every moment and every location has God all over it.
Jesus came to reconnect us to God, to knowing and being with God… always.
With Jesus, I can experience loving fellowship with God as my Father… everywhere.
David observes that every aspect of time and space reveals God’s glory.
I’ve read this before, I’ve also sung it before… but do I experience it?
Is God calling forth songs of joy in me right now, in the coffee shop?
Actually, He is, because He has led me to this place and passage right now.
This moment, this space, is a holy moment and space, filled with God.
As a Jesus follower I notice how Jesus relates to God – at all times.
Whether He is in the temple or the wilderness, He is with God.
From early in the morning, and all through the night, He enjoys His Father.
He understood that His life – beginning to end – was cloaked in God’s love.
This is what I want, to enjoy God everywhere and always, in every situation.
I can start right now – when morning gilds the skies!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, right here, right now, I am resting in the sense of God’s presence and love. I am surrounded and supported. Nothing can separate me from Your love!

Grace better than violence!

“I beat some of the men and pulled out their hair.” (Nehemiah 13:25)
Nehemiah resorts to violence to smarten the people up.
But does it work; does physical discipline root out bad behaviour?
Violence cannot cure the heart; nor can it establish God’s kingdom.
Not even Jesus could fix the temple through forcefully cleansing it.
Through Jesus, God shows us what it takes to overcome evil.
Jesus uses grace, mercy, love, self-denial, compassion to beat evil.
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)
In the end, Jesus was consumed by His zeal for God (John 2:17).
By His being ‘beaten’, He broke the grip of sin, violence and death.
He turned the tables on Satan by NOT responding to evil with more evil.
Jesus models the revolution of grace He speaks of in Matthew 5-7.
THIS is how we are saved, and to THIS we are called!
As a Jesus follower, am I committed to pursuing the kingdom THIS way?
This is how God’s kingdom comes: by grace, not violence!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, the kind of leadership I need to provide is not a strong hand, but a servant’s hand. Help me not to beat Your followers, but to bless them with grace towards You!

The sound of rejoicing!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Nehemiah 11-12
“The sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away. (Nehemiah 12:43)
Have you ever heard the “sound of rejoicing” like this?
When’s the last time you experienced the sound of believers rejoicing?
Not just an amplified sound system, not just a large group singing.
I’m thinking of a truly joy-filled, full throttle praising?
When the joy in the Lord within cannot be contained.
True joy is not something that we can fake or make happen.
It is the result of the Spirit impressing God’s love and grace in my heart.
To have the “sound of rejoicing”, we need to experience joy within.
It won’t help to argue about worship styles, songs, instruments, etc.
Joy is the fruit of knowing God and Jesus within, and then any style will do.
Joyful worship starts inside of me, it can’t be found in a liturgy.
How has the greatness or goodness of God caused my heart to move this week?
Is my heart stirring with gratitude, or my eyes with tears?
I sense the Lord asking me, ‘am I experiencing the joy of the Lord within?’
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I’m not content with worship music, songs or instruments. Inflame such a joy within my heart that any music, song or instrument will do!

Is this how I am known?

THE STORY OF JESUS: Mark 15:42-47
“Joseph… who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God.” (Mark 15:43)
Mark describes this Joseph as one waiting for the kingdom of God.
Many Jews trusted that God would one day restore His people as a mighty kingdom.
Joseph had hoped Jesus was the one, but now his hopes are dashed.
He is burying his hopes with the body of Jesus, maybe questioning his kingdom hope.
Will God’s kingdom ever come, will the Empire ever be beaten?
What happens when our hope in Jesus is undermined by our messed up world.
When evil seems to succeed, when those who hope in Jesus seem to struggle.
Can I really believe that God’s better world is coming, through Jesus?
That good with triumph, that injustice, sin and suffering will end?
After centuries of waiting, am I starting to lose my hope?
No, Jesus beats sin and death, He has taken back Adam’s throne from Satan.
As Jesus followers, we bury evil with grace, we build the kingdom with love.
Not just waiting for the kingdom, we are living it by faith in Jesus!
Am I known as one that is waiting for – living for – the kingdom of God?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, may how I live reflect the hope that love and goodness triumph in You. May people experience Your better world, Your better way, through me!

Me, a righteous son?

THE STORY OF JESUS: Mark 15:38-41
“Surely this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39)
This non Jewish soldier sees something God-like in Jesus.
We assume he means that Jesus is divine, but is this what he’s saying?
Consider Luke’s version, “Surely this was a righteous man.” (Luke 23:47)
My sense is that these phrases mean the same thing.
The phrase ‘son of God’ means one like God, with God’s character.
The same phrase is used of Adam in Jesus’ genealogy. (Luke 3:38)
In other words, this phrase describes humanity as we ought to be.
We were created to be “like God” as His image-bearers (children).
We were made to live, to love, to be like Jesus, like Adam, like God!
Jesus deserved this title of rightouesness, but what about me?
Jesus becomes a faithful Adam for me, to beat Satan and sin for me.
Jesus reclaims Adam’s throne for me, and restores me to God.
Now by grace God looks at me and says, “Surely this man is a son of God!”
I am God’s child, and so are you… because Jesus made it possible for us!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, thanks to You I am accepted as God’s righteous son. Help me with Your Spirit to reflect Your God-like character, and so be the me You saved me to be!