Seeing the goodness of God!

“Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see it…” (Psalm 86:17)
I believe that there is a God, and that God is good.
Though I cannot see God, I see signs of God all around me.
That’s not all I see; I also see signs of evil and misery.
Many times I feel like David in this Psalm – ‘do something good, God!!!’
I share David’s belief that God is ultimately compassionate and gracious.
Slow to anger, and overflowing in love and faithfulness (v.15).
Honestly, I have to believe this, otherwise I’m not sure I could go on.
Although I see evil, I choose to focus on God and good and hope.
And I keep praying, like David, to see signs of goodness.
Sometimes I’m praying for God to do something good.
Other times I’m praying for eyes to see it, because the signs are there.
Acts of kindness, miracles, friends that care, unpexpected gifts.
I want to see it, but I want others to see it too, even ‘enemies’.
If all of us would focus on seeing and being good, our world would change!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help us to focus on whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — on anything that is excellent or praiseworthy – so that we may see You!

Here am I, cleanse me!

“The voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8)
Isaiah is being asked to be God’s messenger, to announce God’s judgment.
This is not a good job with benefits.
Who wants to preach against their own people, their own ‘church’?
Jesus had this same job, and it didn’t go well for Him either.
I have sensed for some time that the church needs to be preached against.
By this I mean the church in general, in my experience here in the west.
We have majored in minors, and ignored the things that matter to God.
We’ve grown comfortable with wealth and ease, and use our faith to justify it.
“And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8)
Before I can say this, I need to say ‘Here I am, cleanse me!’
Like Isaiah, I am a man of unclean lips, my own faith is compromised.
I’ve grown up in this ‘churchy’ culture, its as much a part of me.
If I am not following God’s heart, I cannot judge others who are not.
Jesus speaks TO me before He speaks THROUGH me.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, keep me humble and open to hearing Your gentle rebuke, so that I may take steps towards living and speaking for You!

Do we share God’s priorities?

“Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed…” (Isaiah 1:17)
According to Isaiah, God is not very happy with His followers.
His old covenant followers were going through the motions of religion.
They offered plenty of sacrifices, and observed holy days.
They prayed and offered incense in the temple, but God was not impressed.
Jesus, like Isaiah, challenges the religious leaders of His day.
They too are very religious, but have missed God’s real concern.
Jesus shows us what God really cares about – justice, compassion.
Helping the hungry, thirsty, strangers, sick, imprisoned (Matthew 25:35-36).
As followers of Jesus, we also risk missing the point.
History shows how often we forget justice, mercy, grace, compassion.
This passage shows how bad this, and how it puts us outside of God’s grace.
God wants to treat us as white as snow, but we need to get out of the muck.
Is my faith more than religion, does it express deep love for God and people?
Are we just GOING to church, or are we BEING the church?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, too often we forget what following You is all about. Shake us up, wake us up, and help us get on board for Your purpose in the world.

Unhelpful witnesses for Jesus

THE STORY OF JESUS: Luke 11:45-54
“You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.” (Luke 11:52)
What a sad commentary on the church then, and now.
The church – God’s family – was and is blessed to be a blessing.
We are welcomed by grace, and are to welcome others by that same grace.
Too often God’s people have hindered the struggling and seeking.
The history of the church is filled with many sad and horrible moments.
People have been judged, shamed, abused, pressured, shunned, killed.
By their actions, many ‘witnesses’ showed they did not truly know God’s grace.
These words may hurt our feelings (v.45), but they need to be heard.
Am I helping or hindering people from knowing God’s grace in Jesus?
“In every way… make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.” (Titus 2:10)
Do I make it hard or easy for others to believe in Jesus?
Do people see me and feel drawn to Jesus, or repulsed by Him?
Am I critical, negative, dour, or spiritually unattractive?
Have I entered the grace of God, so that it shows through me to others?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, forgive me for standing in the way of others knowing and experiencing You. May we as Your church be attractive, not repulsive, for You!

The darkness within

THE STORY OF JESUS: Luke 11:37-44
“Inside you are full of greed and wickedness.” (Luke 11:39)
Religious washing, like wearing a suit to church, doesn’t change the inside.
God knows what is inside of me, and wants to work on my here.
My outward appearance and my public role or persona are not the real ME.
God sees my character, my inner self, and what that is like.
Am I greedy or generous, forgiving or resentful, mean or kind?
The Spirit is working on my inner self, developing the character of Jesus.
This is not easy work, because there is a dark side within me.
It is not pleasant to face the thoughts and feelings that live in me.
Jesus is challenging the most religious people of His day.
How might He challenge us as christians today?
Notice how Jesus makes generosity the character test.
“Be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.” (Luke 11:41)
Our generosity – or lack of it – reveals the true nature of our heart.
What does my generosity say about my heart, my life, my religion?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, You are not intending to go easy here. You are exposing the true extent of our selfishness. Help me to admit this, and help me to want to change!

His light shining in me?

THE STORY OF JESUS: Luke 11:33-36
“See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness.” (Luke 11:35)
Jesus uses the image of light to distinguish good from evil.
My mind goes back to when God created light, and it was good.
Although darkness is good for sleeping, it’s hard to live in darkness.
Can you sense what Jesus means by being light within, rather than darkness?
I have occasional days when I feel dark within, an oppressive spirit.
Sometimes it is circumstantial – I’m tired, or something bad happened.
But sometimes it comes out of nowhere – as if I am under attack.
Both times it takes effort to look for light, to feel light within.
At other times, I feel the light within, and it shines out of me.
Jesus brings light to darkened souls, bringing love, joy, hope, peace.
Darkened people were drawn to Jesus, and many glowed because of Him.
How about you, are you sensing the light of Jesus glowing in you?
Or do you find yourself more often dark within, discouraged or defeated.
Jesus is urging you to consider whether you are light or dark within.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I have had periods of darkness, but I am sensing light within at this time. Help me not to put that light out by looking away from You.

Responding to His greatness!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Luke 11:29-32
“Something greater than Solomon is here.” (Luke 11:31)
We just looked at the “Song of Songs”, which is a love story about Solomon.
I noted that Jesus’ love for us is much greater than Solomon’s love.
The same is true for Solomon’s wisdom, Jesus surpasses him by far!
Is there any other ‘great person’ that we would set up to Jesus?
Peter, Paul, Luther, Calvin, Wilberforce, Ghandi, Mother Theresa, MLK?
The greatest of human beings – great as they are – cannot compare.
None of them beat Satan or sin, and many of them credited Jesus.
Even Ghandi, a Hindu, recognized the greatness of Jesus.
But do we really admit and honour this surpassing greatness of Jesus?
Do we really treat His wisdom as smart, worth following?
Do we really trust His victory over Satan, and let go of fear?
Do we really respect His authority, and submit to His will?
Jesus has given us enough signs to show us He is the greatest!
Does how I live and follow Him reflect that I agree with Him?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, the Queen of Sheba responded to Solomon’s wisdom, the people of Nineveh responded to Jonah’s warning. Why am I so slow to respond to Your wisdom, and Your warnings?

God is always ready to forgive!

“Will you be angry with us forever?” (Psalm 85:5)
What happens when a disciple of Jesus messes up, or turns aside.
Have we blown our chance with God, is there no room for mercy?
This psalm expresses this prayer for mercy after a disciple has sinned.
They are struggling because of bad choices, and feel God’s displeasure.
Yes, there is room for mercy, yes there is hope for revival.
Jesus commanded forgiveness seventy times seven (Matthew 18:21-22).
But He does not ask of us, what He does not first give to us.
We are graced, we are forgiven, even when we blow it big time.
If we come to Him knowing our sin and shame, He does not ignore us.
He has already forgiven us, but we need to repent to receive it.
“The Lord will indeed give what is good” (v.12), will we accept it?
If you are feeling like you’ve wandered from God, know that He is waiting.
Like the father of the prodigal, He is waiting for you to look to Him.
The moment you turn to Him, He runs to you with love, forgiveness and joy.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, why do so many people see You as harsh or unforgiving. Renew how we know You, so that we can always feel welcome to come back to You, no matter what.

I am my beloved’s!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Song of Songs 5-8
“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” (Song of Songs 6:3)
To be honest, today I feel like I am stretching.
I’m supposed to hear God through this, but its not happening.
It is a beautiful love drama, a BC version of a romance.
Imagine this, written on papyrus, with a Harlequin Romance cover.
Paul likens our relationship with Jesus to a marriage. (Ephesians 5:25-32)
This idea is also in the Jewish bible, where it is applied to Israel.
But there it has more to do with Israel’s unworthiness as a partner.
As when God speaks of divorcing His bride (Jeremiah 3:8).
Or when God tells Hosea to marry a prostitute (Hosea 1:2ff).
This book (Song of Songs) describes the beauty of the lover and the loved.
But God does not love us because we are so lovely.
God loves us because we are His children, messed up as we are.
God ties Himself to us, as in marriage, for better or worse.
By grace we may say, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine!”
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, thank You for loving me despite my less than beautiful soul. Thank You for vowing to make me Yours to the very end. I am Yours and You are mine!

A better love story!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Song of Songs 1-4
“It is Solomon’s carriage, escorted by sixty warriors, the noblest of Israel.” (Song of Songs 3:7?)
Some see this book as an allegory, about how God loves His people.
Some see this book as a love story inspired by God, an ode to marriage!
Personally, I am not sure how I see this story, and I rarely look at it.
I can’t see it as an ode to marriage (Solomon had 300 wives, 700 concubines).
He was a king in Jesus’ family tree, so that does connect Him to Jesus.
But not as an example of a good king, or a good and loving husband.
I see in this story the tension between love and lust, good and evil.
We catch a glimpse of what ought to be, but far from what it ought to be.
Is this not what we see in our own lives, both glory and tragedy?
In this sense, we can look through this tainted love to God’s pure love.
We can lament the brokenness of love as we know it, yet hope for better.
We see Jesus, son of Solomon, not riding in a carriage, but on a donkey.
Not pompously riding in to add another mistress to his harem.
But a humble king, willing to die to set the sin and sex slaves free!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, thank You that You are not like Solomon. And thank You that I may love You for setting me free from the bondage of sin and sex-messed love.