The free flow of blessing!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Luke 18:15-17
“Bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them.” (Luke 18:16)
So what exactly happened when Jesus placed His hands on them?
In Mark 10:16 we read that Jesus blessed the children in His arms.
Did this blessing give these babies an advantage over other un-blessed babies?
My guess is that Jesus announced the same blessing He offered to all.
The same blessing announced in the gospel, the same blessing received in baptism.
He blessed them with every spiritual blessing He had at His disposal (Ephesians 1:3).
He extended to them God’s grace, mercy, peace, joy and love!
And like everyone else, that blessing still had to be received.
Like the generously scattered seed, the full blessing was scattered everywhere.
But some soils received the seed blessing, while others did not (Matthew 13:1-9).
If we have ears to hear, and hearts to receive, we will experience His blessing too.
It is not the hands of Jesus, nor the waters of baptism, that create this blessing.
It is God’s heart using any means to get the message through: you are blessed!
Do I see Jesus standing over me, generously blessing me from God’s heart?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, every baby, every adult, every human, stands under the generous flow of God’s blessing through You. Yet so many of us refuse to receive it, to enjoy it, to live from it!

Honest to God!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Luke 18:9-14
“Those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:13)
Take a moment to think about your particular weaknesses.
What sin issues do you struggle with?
Do you tend to think of your issues as not as bad as others?
Or do you see yourself as no worse than others?
As long as we only compare ourselves to others, we will not understand sin.
We need to see our moral weaknesses and sins in light of God’s will for us.
We need to see ourselves in contrast to who we should be.
To humble myself is not to demean myself, to make me worse than I am.
Rather to humble myself is to see myself as I really am.
If we did this, we would have no time to be critical of others.
No matter what your sins are, my sins are my issue, and they’re bad enough.
We all need to reach this point where we are honest before God.
Only then will we discover the wonder of God’s gracious welcome.
Only then will we experience God exalting us, despite our sin.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, You know my sin more than anyone else. My subtle pride, my lack of love, my selfish bias, my lukewarmness to You, my distracted heart. And this is what I see, You see so much more. Have mercy on me, a sinner.

Desperately hanging on!

“A parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” (Luke 18:1)
Faith does not let go, even if its hard to hang on.
Jesus knows that life can be hard, and that God often waits to respond.
He knows this from personal experience.
But He also shows us through His experience how to hang on to God.
This parable may seem odd, comparing God to an unjust judge.
But He is using an extreme contrast to make a point: HOW MUCH MORE!
If even an unjust judge will respond, how much more the God of justice!
This woman has no other options; if the judge does not help her, no one can.
We are in the same boat; if God does not help us, no one else can.
These words are for those who struggle, for those whose faith is tested.
You are not alone, and you are not without hope… hang on!
I find this kind of desperate faith more real, more inspiring, than easy faith.
Jesus is both warning me about trouble, and urging me to hang on to God!
Will Jesus find me hanging on to Him in faith when He comes again?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, thank You for inspiring followers that cling to You through hardship and struggle. They help me to pray and not give up!

When evil is purged from this world!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Luke 17:26-37
“Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.” (Luke 17:35)
Jesus is warning about the day when God’s judgment is unleashed.
He has been holding back the floodwaters of judgment, but they will be released.
Not because God wants us to perish, but because we chose to unleash it.
It is our sin, not God’s anger, that leads to the final judgment.
As in the days of Noah, only the righteous will remain.
As in the days of Lot, only the righteous will survive.
Some people see these verses as about a rapture (see 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
But who are the ones that are taken away – not the righteous.
These verses describe how God cleanses the world of unrighteousness.
Those who refuse to let go of selfishness, greed, lust, hate, violence arrogance.
For now we live side by side, and our world is filled with sin and misery.
But the time is coming when He will “take away” the bad, and restore the good.
Jesus saves us from sin and misery, and invites us to join Him in grace and goodness.
These words urge us to choose wisely: God’s goodness, or sin that ruins everything.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I hate sin, but my heart goes out to sinners. Purge this world from sin, but pour out Your grace on sinners, that they may see their need for You.

Jesus over anxiety!

“When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” (Psalm 94:19)
More and more I hear about people that struggle with anxiety.
I would say for myself that I experience a mild grade anxiety.
It is not debilitating, but it is always there under the surface.
The psalmist describes what causes him anxiety: wickedness in the world.
What causes you anxiety: health, family, money, relationships, danger, abuse?
My guess is that behind it all, there is some level of sin or badness.
Not necessarily in me, but something not right in the world that causes anxiety.
What hope do we have against sin and evil, apart from God?
Jesus took on the root of evil – satan, sin, death – and won!
Trouble still occurs in our world, but Jesus has overcome the world.
Many things still cause fear and anxiety, but Jesus can help with all of them.
Focus your heart and mind on Jesus, and let His consolation give you joy.
No, it will not remove evil from the world, or from your life.
But it will remind you that no matter how bad evil gets, it cannot beat Jesus!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, it is not easy to choose You over anxiety. But it is even harder to give in to anxiety – then there’s no hope. I choose You over anxiety!

From death to life!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Isaiah 57-59
“The righteous are taken away to be spared from evil.” (Isaiah 57:1)
When someone dies, we naturally assume it is negative.
Which I get, from our point of view it definitely is negative.
Here we see Isaiah saying that God was providing for ‘mercy death’.
“They find rest as they lie in death.” (Isaiah 57:2)
Think of when millions have died as victims of war or natural disaster.
Could we see their deaths as a mercy killing, a finding rest?
Though death itself is a curse, God directs that curse towards His blessing.
It was mercy that had Jesus die at such a young age, mercy for us!
Like Jesus, we live for a purpose, but when our work is done, we’re done.
Some have shorter or harder tasks than others, but we all eventually graduate.
When I think of people who died early, I wonder what evil they were spared from?
I think about the rest they’ve found, and how God has used their death to bring life.
I am not saying that I wish for death; what I wish for is LIFE – no more suffering!
Life in this world leads to suffering and death; but suffering and death lead to life!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, in a sense death is a mercy for us all, whenever it comes. Life in this world is not the way it is supposed to be, but one day it will be. Help me to live today for that day, so when my work is done I may enter it!

Seeing Jesus! (#2)

“For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ (Matthew 25:42-45)

Seeking God’s ways!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Isaiah 54-56
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.” (Isaiah 55:8)
This verse is often quoted to explain the mystery of God’s ways.
But the context suggests that it explains the wrongness of our ways.
It follows a call for sinners to forsake their thoughts and ways (v.7).
It is not the mystery of God’s ways, but of our ways, that is in view here.
Our ways include selfishness, greed, lust, violence, deception, etc.
The fruit of our spirit is hate, sorrow, war, impatience, cruelty, and so on.
God is not like this, this is not the fruit of His Spirit.
As Jesus followers we have responded to God’s thoughts and ways.
We love, admire, appreciate and desire to know and live the Jesus Way.
For the Jesus Way is the God Way, which ought to be the human way.
Isaiah is calling people back to God and to God’s dream for this world.
Jesus calls us to the same kingdom dream, and make it possible for us.
Where are my thoughts and ways not like God’s, where do I need to change?
Am I actively pursuing God’s ways, or drifting in my own preferred ways?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me to see that my thoughts and ways are ruining my life, and others. Help me to see the way You’ve opened for us – the better way, the only way to satisfying life!

It starts within me!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Luke 17:20-25
“T kingdom of God is in your midst (literally, within you).” (Luke 17:21)
God’s kingdom doesn’t start as a worldly kingdom, nor a future kingdom.
It is first of all a heart kingdom, a response of the heart to the king.
Genesis 1-2 describes God’s kingdom as He created it to be.
God appointed God-like humans as rulers over this world on His behalf.
But Adam and Eve ceased to be God-like, and messed up God’s kingdom.
Under sinful humanity, God’s kingdom became a dominion of darkness.
Jesus comes as a God-like human to resist Satan and stay true to God.
Jesus saves us by beating Satan, sin and death and reclaiming Adam’s throne.
Jesus is the new Adam, and He is ruling this world in a God-like way.
He extends God’s kingdom rule by growing it in our hearts and lives.
We receive God’s kingdom rule by surrendering our hearts to Jesus.
Every surrendered heart is more territory for Jesus to rule through.
Every day I make choices that help or hinder God’s kingdom.
If I want to see His kingdom come, I need to work with Jesus on my own life.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, You have established the kingdom for us, but we need to be active partners in working it out in our hearts and lives. Help me to see that every day I help or hinder Your kingdom by how I live.