Faith under attack!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Mark 13:14-23
“So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time.” (Mark 13:23)
Jesus speaks like a prophet, using strong language to make a point.
Like a prophet, He also blends immediate and ultimate events, for dramatic effect.
He is referring to BOTH the imminent destruction of Jerusalem (70 AD) and the last days.
He borrows words from Daniel (Daniel 9:27; 11:31; 12:11) to describe the warning signs.
The ‘abomination that causes desolation’ refers to enemies profaning their holy place.
Like when Antiochus Epiphanes offered pig flesh on an altar to Zeus in the temple (167 BC).
Be assured, when your enemies get bold enough to attack your faith – bad days are coming.
The days around the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 were indeed terrible (read more here).
Jesus is preparing His disciples for terrible days to come.
He assures them of survival (v.20) but gives no guarantee against suffering.
The enemy will throw every trick in the book at us, to bring us down.
But if we are on guard, if arm ourselves in the Lord, we will be able to stand firm.
However Satan attacks your faith (subtle or severe), “be on your guard” and “stand firm!”
As Jesus followers, our strength is in our relationship to Jesus — hang on to Him!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, the enemy is shrewd, and I can be stupid. Increase my sense of urgency for the battle, that I may increase my guard against the enemies schemes.

Spirit-powered witnesses!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Mark 13:9-13
“And the gospel must first be preached to all nations.” (Mark 13:10)
Apparently Jesus needs us for a job: to let people know the good news.
Jesus’ followers (not just ministers) are sent to share the kingdom message.
The Lord uses our presence in this dark world to spread the word.
Our job is not to convert or convince, our job is to witness.
He will speak through us, His Spirit will do the converting and convincing.
“It is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 13:11)
Think about the people you speak with today, no matter who they are.
Consider how Jesus’ message of love, joy and peace could help them.
Grace, mercy, forgiveness, hope, comfort, strength… who DOESN’T need this.
Our world is screwed up big time, but Jesus has beaten the devil.
There is strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow!
Allow the Spirit to bring strength and hope through your words and actions.
Offer words and acts of kindness energized by the Spirit, and see what happens!
Persevere, even if it gets hard: Jesus guarantees His Spirit will work through us!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me to see the kingdom impact of words and deeds of love and mercy. Your Spirit will take the message to all people, if I surrender my hands and mouth to You!

Building what endures!

“Do you see all these great buildings, every one will be thrown down.” (Mark 13:3)
These were the first words I thought of on September 11, 2001.
I don’t mean that God was punishing the US, or the people in the towers.
But our grand buildings often represent pride and self-confidence, our own version of Babel.
“What magnificent buildings”, but God sees beneath and behind them to the heart.
He sees the greed and injustice that often build these temples to human pride.
God is not impressed with our buildings or numbers, programs or events.
He sees the people, both inside and outside the buildings.
He is impressed by – or not – the hearts of each person He sees.
Think of all that you have ‘built’ in your life – homes, jobs, savings, possessions.
Do you think God is as impressed by them as you are?
Are those ‘things’ truly helping you build God’s kingdom, or getting in the way?
Have you invested as much (or better, more!) into building your character and calling?
As a Jesus follower, I need to evaluate my priorities and values… do they impress the Lord?
Am I using all that I am, all that I have, to make God’s kingdom impressive?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, You have not called me to build programs, institutions, not even the ‘church’. You have called me to BE a disciple, and to MAKE disciples. May this become my legacy, a legacy that endures!

Hope for the oppressed!

“Then it will be known to the ends of the earth that God rules!” (Psalm 59:13)
This song reminds me of the slave songs (‘negro spirituals’).
They had no protection or hope (humanly speaking) and endured unspeakable horror.
Their only hope was to escape from this life…
‘Swing low, sweet chariot, gonna come and bring me home!’
David prays for protection (“refuge”) and justice (“show no mercy”).
From where I sit, I cannot relate to David’s cry, nor to the slave songs.
But their spirit of hope despite terrible circumstances inspires me.
All through history victims of cruelty and injustice have cried out to God.
David doesn’t just want revenge, he wants the world to know there IS a God (v.11,13)!
Jesus came to remind us that there is a God, a God of justice and mercy!
Jesus demonstrated the love of God, through compassion for the oppressed.
Jesus demonstrated the love of God, through rebuke of the oppressors.
Jesus demonstrated the love of God, dying for sin to rescue us all from Satan’s grip!
If only the world knew THIS God, cruelty and oppression would end!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, show Yourself to those who are oppressed, that they may be strengthened. Show Yourself to those who oppress, that they may be humbled!

The sin of pride!

THE STORY OF JESUS: 2 Chronicles 25-28
“After Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall.” (2 Chronicles 26:16)
Have you known of Christian leaders whose success went to their heads?
One that I know very well – myself – has struggled with this.
But before you look down on me, its probably true for yo as well.
We all tend to be deceived by our abilities and accomplishments.
I’ve seen God work through me as I’ve served with the church.
At first I was so aware of my inadequacy and need for God.
But with success, I gained confidence but lost my sense of dependence.
I did things expecting good results, without relying on the Lord.
There are many areas of life where we all do this.
Pride goes before the fall; it did in Genesis 3, and it does in my life.
Satan encourages it, getting me to look away from God to my own self.
But Jesus models true humanity, true humility, true submission to God.
Though “being in very nature God… He made himself nothing” (Philippians 2:6-7).
Today I am reminded of the sin of pride, and the call to be like Jesus – not Uzziah.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, as I begin this new ministry, I sense my weakness and dependence. May I not forget this. I pray for success in Your kingdom, but not for me, for You! May it not go to my head!

Finally a good king!!!

THE STORY OF JESUS: 2 Chronicles 21-24
“He had promised to maintain a lamp for him and his descendants forever.” (2 Chronicles 21:7)
This book is like a spiritual soap opera, with multiple plot twists and turns.
But two lines of thought continue through the plot.
God’s people keep messing up, and God hangs in there, despite their betrayal.
For God is determined to keep His promise to David: to keep his throne alive forever!
Jesus is David’s heir, but He breaks the chain of sin and death.
He shines out as more than a lamp, He is a light to the world.
He models God-like love and leadership, He is an ‘Adam’ after God’s own heart.
Satan tricks and trips up every other son of David, but not this one.
Jesus refuses Satan’s lies, stays true to God to the bitter end, and overcomes.
Jesus, son of David, Abraham, and Adam, is on the throne again (Luke 3:23-38).
Despite the ongoing soap opera of human unfaithfulness, the light still shines!
Like Jehoida, we stand with the true king against the evil ruler (Satan).
As Jesus followers, we stand with Jesus and declare, ‘long live the king!’
We join with Jesus in refusing Satan and choosing to live with, like and for God!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, You are our only hope in this dark, messed up world. I pledge myself to You as Saviour and Lord. I stand against the evil in our world and declare, ‘Love live the true king!’

Invisible saints among sinners!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Mark 12:38-44
“This poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.” (Mark 12:43)
Who are the well known christians of our day?
Who do people throng to see or hear, or to get an autograph from?
Our world has its celebrities, but so does the church!
But who does God celebrate, who does Jesus pay special attention to?
In this reading Jesus contrasts the religious leaders with this poor widow.
We notice the leaders, but Jesus notices the ones no one else sees.
We notice the pastors, the gifted musicians, the great teachers, the active members.
But do we miss how God is at work in those who don’t stand out or measure up?
Worse, do we write them off as less committed, less valuable to the church?
Every member of God’s family matters to Jesus, He sees their hearts and lives.
He sees through the showy side of faith, to what really lives in the heart.
He calls ‘saints’ the ones the church does not; He sees me, even if no one else does.
As I’ve come to know struggling sinners in the church, I’ve discovered secret saints.
Despite less than showy success, there is a hidden holiness that is easily missed.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, as I begin work in a new community, help me to see and celebrate the quiet, invisible saints among the sinners… the ones You see and know and love!

Reading the bible with Jesus!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Mark 12:35-37
“The Lord said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand!'” (Mark 12:36)
In this story, Jesus is not showing off His bible skills for His audience.
Jesus is using the scriptures the way they’re supposed to be used.
“The Scriptures testify about me yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5:39-40)
It is through our relationship with Jesus, not with the bible, that we are saved.
Jesus uses the scriptures to teach us by His Spirit, but He is the focus.
Through conversational dialogue with Jesus in scripture, the Spirit teaches me.
What matters for me is spending time with Jesus, not just with the bible.
We were not made to live by a book, but with the Lord.
Our bible reading needs to be an encounter with Jesus, through His Spirit.
Do you pray as you read, talking it through with Jesus, seeking His heart and mind?
Do you focus on lessons that make you more like Jesus?
Too often Christians focus on picky details and technical distinctions.
We strain out the gnat, while we swallow the camel (i.e. miss the main point).
The Lord is saying to me, ‘sit with Me, and I will restore you to God’s right hand!’
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me to keep my time on this blog as personal time with You, allowing Your Spirit to teach and shape me more and more like You.

Getting closer than close!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Mark 12:28-34
“You are not far from the kingdom of God.” (Mark 12:34)
The kingdom of God is when God-like rulers care for the world in love (Genesis 1).
If all humans loved God and others, we would experience God’s kingdom on earth.
But this is the big IF, and the reason our world is so messed up.
This Law teacher seems to get it, that God-like love is the key.
He is so close to the kingdom and yet not in it… why?
Because knowing it is not what we need, we need to live it!
Satan has succeeded in blinding us into bondage, keeping us from true love.
No matter how close we get to loving God and others, we still fall short.
This is why Jesus came, to live in love FOR US, so that we can be set free.
Satan failed to trick Jesus; Jesus wins back Adam’s throne!
Once again a God-like human – Jesus – is in charge, and love wins.
Without Jesus we can only get close to the kingdom; with Jesus we can enter!
I am in the kingdom NOW, not because I am so loving but because I am in Jesus.
As His follower, He is training me to in love again, the way I was made to live!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, You are in charge and Satan is beaten. Help me to live on Your side, and to work with You to make this world a loving place again!

Humble theology

THE STORY OF JESUS: Mark 12:18-27
“You are badly mistaken!” (Mark 12:27)
I have to admit, this story of Jesus has always confused me.
Isn’t marriage a part of God’s original creation design?
And does Jesus mean that we will become angels, no longer human?
But neither of these are Jesus’ main points; His main point is in the last verse.
The Sadducees were limiting what God could do based on their flawed thinking.
They were deciding truth based on what they saw and knew in this cursed life.
We need to be very careful with our ‘logical’ speculations and interpretations.
What Jesus says here about marriage angels may not fit with my theology.
But then my theology, not what Jesus says, is the problem.
God is greater than our systematic theologies, no matter how ‘bible-based’ they are.
Too often we speak with a certainty about our beliefs that humility cannot support.
I am NOT convinced that my reformed theology is all right.
I hold my beliefs loosely, unaware of how or where I may be “badly mistaken”.
But my confidence is in Jesus, not in my beliefs… I am saved by grace, not orthodoxy.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I imagine I am badly mistaken about a lot of things. Thank You that my hope does not lie in our getting things right, but in You making me right!