Everyone loses in snakes and ladders!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Ecclesiastes 1-2
“This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 2:26)
So what ‘wind’ (empty treasure or pleasure) are you chasing after?
You know, the thing that seems so important or wonderful right now.
We invest our time, treasures and talents into that goal or obejective.
But is it really that important, something of lasting value?
Many people live life like a game of snakes and ladders.
Only in this game, both the snakes and ladders are going nowhere.
Will I allow the serpent to bring me down with pride, lust, greed, envy?
Will I spend my whole life climbing ladders that take me up the wrong wall?
This isn’t a game we can win, because it’s not a game we were made to play.
The Lord is using the wise man to make us look at our values and priorities.
Don’t wait until the end of your life to realize you wasted it.
Jesus urges to use our worldly riches to make eternal friends (Luke 16:9).
To invest ourselves in loving and helping others, in making a difference.
When its all been said and done, is my life meaningful or meaningless?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me to see my significance and purpose, and not to fritter away my life and value on things that do not matter, will not last!

Set my heart on fire!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Luke 9:51-56
“Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them ?” (Luke 9:54)
James and John were called the sons of thunder, and we see why (Mark 3:17).
They seemed to have a thirst for power, and for using it (Mark 10:35f).
They were followers of Jesus, yet they did not know the Spirit of Jesus.
Sadly through history the church has been a lot like James and John.
As the church came into power, it used that power to crush their opponents.
This is not unique to the church, it is seen in all humans.
But one would think that being with Jesus would change that.
In fact, this is what should happen, and the whole purpose of Jesus.
Our hearts should be on fire, but not the fire of anger, greed, lust, etc.
Jesus did not come to strike down our enemies, but to crush the enemy in us.
It is our own drive for self, greed, power, revenge, etc. that must die.
Jesus is challenging us to look within at our own impulses and desires.
Does my heart reflect the Jesus Way – of love, joy, peace, grace, mercy?
Am I led more by greed or generosity, lust or love, anger or mercy?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, You rebuke me in love, to expose my selfish impulses and ignite Your loving impulses. Set my heart on fire for Your love!!

See Jesus at work in others too!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Luke 9:46-50
“We tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.” (Luke 9:49)
Here we see the disciples eager to elevate and differentiate themselves.
In order to be greater than others, we must differentiate from others.
My previous church had non-christians supporting our community work.
We were blessing others for Jesus’ sake, and they were helping us.
But they were “not one of us”, maybe we should have refused their help?
The support of non-Christians has nothing to do with ‘being saved’.
Just as our good works have nothing to do with our ‘being saved’ either.
God is at work in us and in them; we are no better, they are no worse.
We can see the help of others as a sign of God’s grace at work in them too.
We need to stop trying to differentiate and elevate ourselves from others.
Jesus has other sheep, not of our flock (John 10:16).
Some non-Christians seem more Christlike than Christians.
I am convinced that this is God at work, and we need to celebrate it!
They are ‘not far from the kingdom’ (Mark 12:34), let’s not push them away!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, it is Your grace alone that produces good in us – and in others. Help us to see signs of good in non-Christians as proof of Your grace at work in them too.

Speaking truth in love

THE STORY OF JESUS: Luke 9:37-45
“You unbelieving and perverse generation…” (Luke 9:41)
Yesterday I spoke about how we are saved to live and love like Jesus.
These words seem to challenge this: am I supposed to talk like this?
Am I expected, and permitted, to call out someone’s perversity?
First, in the context we see that Jesus doesn’t mean moral perversion.
The word for ‘perverse’ literally means to be ‘turned through’.
To be inside out, mixed up, confused, off the path, missing the mark.
Second, it is possible to speak these words with sincere love.
Our problem is that our corrupted love can’t say these words as lovingly.
Jesus asks how long He must put up with their mixed up lack of faith (v.41).
We know the answer; He put up with us to death, He stays with us for ever.
I am not yet able to say these words, but that doesn’t need to be my goal.
My challenge is to love sincerely, to ‘put up’ with people like He did!
My job is not to seek ‘hard words’ or ‘great miracles’, but ‘great love’.
As my love grows, God will lead me to speak and do ‘great things’.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, my harsh words usually comes from a mix of both sincere and selfish love. Help me to see that learning to love precedes speaking the truth in love!

Shrines to our ignorance!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Luke 9:28-36
“He did not know what he was saying.” (Luke 9:33)
Sometime I think this would make a great motto for me as a minister.
Like Peter, I make bold declarations based on what I think I know.
Yes, he said that Jesus was God’s Messiah (Luke 9:18-20).
But he also told Jesus He wasn’t supposed to die (Matthew 16:21-23).
What exactly happened here to Jesus, what does this mean?
Even more, Who exactly is He, and why did He do what He did?
We build shrines to our ideas, and call them doctrines and denominations.
We insist we know what we’re talking about, and that we are right.
We separate ourselves from those who don’t build our shrines with us.
Jesus is way more awesome than any of us can express.
There’s nothing wrong with speaking about Jesus, but do so humbly.
There’s truth in what we say, but also error and misunderstanding.
If this was true for Peter (even after Pentecost), how much more for me.
Our ideas about Jesus do not match the awesomeness of Who He fully is.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, thank You for forgiving Your crucifiers for not knowing what they were doing. Thank You for forgiving me for not knowing what I am saying!

Open up and let Him in!

“Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.” (Psalm 81:10)
“If only” they would do this or that, their life would be so much better.
We can all think of someone to whom this would apply.
All of us make choices that hinder our experience of love, joy and peace.
It saddens God’s heart, because He made us to be full of life!
This psalm reminds us that we are the cause of our lack of fullness.
We readily see how foolish it is to fill ourselves with drugs to find joy.
But what do I open my mouth to, what do I seek to satisfy my heart?
Be honest, your ‘pleasure’ may not be illegal, but it is not good for you.
Buying, thrill seeking, exercise, a sinful indulgence, a lustful look?
People all around us have deep spiritual voids within, hungry for life.
People are making foolish choices – including christians – ruining their lives.
God allows us to seek our foolish pleasures (v.12), to see how empty they are.
Only God can satisy the void within, and He is eager to do it!
He continues to plead with us, ‘open your heart to Me, I will fill it’
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I know what it is to seek empty pleasures. Show me how to seek God first, how to ‘open my mouth’ so that You can fill my heart!

Just enough, Lord!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Proverbs 30-31
“Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.” (Proverbs 30:8)
Our world seems to be divided between those with plenty, and those with nothing.
As a result, some people disown God while others dishonour God (v.9).
Our world is caught in the grip of poverty and riches, and is miserable.
Jesus affirms these words, “give us our daily bread!” (Matthew 6:11)
Where do I fit; relatively speaking, I have riches, not poverty.
As a result, my dependence on the Lord is less that it should be.
We possess so much that our possessions possess us.
We are constantly looking for more, discontent with what we have.
Could we actually survive with ‘just enough to live’?
What do you have in excess: food, clothing, space, ‘things’ for the house?
How much of what you received for ‘christmas’ did you actually need?
How aware am I of those with little or nothing, and do I care?
Is Jesus challenging my worldly spirit by teaching me to pray for ‘daily bread’?
Just enough, no more or no less – that I may own and honour Him.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, the Enemy has succeeded in possessing us with possessions. Our perspective is skewed, and our hearts are empty. Teach me to pray this for real, and to live like I really mean it!

Who is sharpening you?

THE STORY OF JESUS: Proverbs 27-29
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17)
Who in your life sharpens you as a person?
Is there anyone you spend time with that improves your character?
In creation, God saw it was not good for people to be alone (Genesis 2:18).
Yet too many of us live as individuals in isolation.
Jesus trained His disciples to work in pairs (Luke 10:1).
He promised to be with them when they met with others (Matthew 18:20).
The Spirit of Jesus hones and sharpens us, to make us more like Him.
Its too easy to justify thoughts and actions to ourselves.
But do we allow someone else we trust to consider our thoughts and actions?
I believe every Jesus follower would benefit from an accountability partner.
I also believe that Satan does what he can to keep us from this.
Since my recent move, I have not set up a disciple partnership.
This is something I know I need, and benefit from – and will seek it.
Who in your life sharpens you as a person?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, thank You for using others to sharpen me. Lead me to someone that can encourage and challenge me to grow even more!

Bill Hybels on the Gift of Leadership

“I believe that the great tragedy of the church in our time has been its failure to recognize the importance of the spiritual gift of leadership.  It appears to me that only a fraction of pastors worldwide are exercising the spiritual gift of leadership, organizing the church around it, and deploying church members through it.  The results, in terms of church growth and worldwide spiritual impact, are staggering.

We must understand what it means to the kingdom when leadership gifts are not exercised. Hebrews 13:17 reminds church leaders that we “must give an account” for what we do with our leadership gifts.  Obviously there are negative consequences when any spiritual gift is neglected.  Why, then, were those with the leadership gift singled out in this passage?  I believe it’s because the consequences of neglecting the leadership gift are so far-reaching.  When those of us with leadership gifts fail to lead effectively, the entire local church is affected, not to mention the unchurched people in our communities.

The church must come to grips with the fact that the gift of leadership is the catalytic gift that energizes, directs, and empowers all the other gifts.  People with the spiritual gift of leadership are called to nurture an environment where teachers can teach and shepherds can shepherd and administrators can administer.  Without it, the other gifts languish, the church becomes inwardly focused and impotent, and unbelievers end up with a one-way, nonstop ticket to the abyss.  That’s why I underscore again what Paul so passionately said to leaders, “If you have the leadership gift. . . LEAD!”

– Bill Hybels, Courageous Leadership

Living for Jesus, even if it costs us!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Luke 9:21-27
“Whoever loses their life for me will save it.” (Luke 9:24)
Jesus is not asking us to choose death, but to choose Him!
To choose Jesus is to choose everything He stands for.
Life, goodness, justice, mercy, love, joy, peace, etc.
Not just for ourselves, but for everyone!
Following Jesus is like Mother Theresa following compassion.
Or like Martin Luther King Jr. pursuing justice and racial equality.
They did not choose suffering or death, but their choice led to them.
Jesus urges us to stand up for justice, mercy, compassion, etc. with Him.
He has won the war for us, now we fight the good fight with Him.
Is my only motivation for Jesus my own forgiveness and eternal life?
Then I have not understood Jesus, Who lived and died for all!
His cross was a cross for others, not for Himself; our cross is the same.
Do I care for those who suffer, who struggle, who need help or love?
Jesus is calling me to get off the couch, and into the battle: follow Him!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, forgive us for turning the cross into a personal perk, rather than a passionate calling, a life worth living! Help me to live for You, even if that means difficulty… or death!