Do I want to know Jesus like this?

THE STORY OF JESUS: Matthew 27:32-37
“A man from Cyrene named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross” (Matthew 27:32)
I want to be a servant of Jesus, my King.
But do I want to join Him if it means helping Him carry His cross?
Jesus called His disciples to join him in cross-carrying (Matthew 16:24).
For Simon this was literal, and tradition says it was for Peter too, but what about for us?
For Paul, knowing Jesus is more than enjoying the victory of the resurrection.
It also involves sharing in His suffering and death, which leads to resurrection (Philippians 3:10).
We do not save people by our sacrifice, but we point them to Jesus Who did save them!
Do I want to know Jesus like this?
To follow Jesus is more than accepting salvation, it is to join Him in His mission for others.
I have been rescued from a burning building, will I now join with Jesus in rescuing others?
It was Jesus’ willingness to sacrifice Himself that led to His victory over Satan.
This is the King who calls me and invites me to love and serve Him, to join Him in His mission.
But this means sacrifice, giving up my own comfort, time and hope and dreams…
Do I want to know Jesus like this?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me to focus on You, and the people You love, rather than on me and on what I love. I want to know You better!

Could I be like this?

THE STORY OF JESUS: Matthew 27:27-31
“Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. ‘Hail, king of the Jews!'” (Matthew 27:29)
I have a huge sensitivity to suffering.
I can’t see myself doing this — shaming someone, spitting on them, beating them.
What happens to a person to make them capable of this, and could I be like this?
Is there something of nature, and something of nurture in it?
If I was raised (nurtured) in the same context, would I have become what they were?
If I had endured the same experiences, or faced the same challenges or abuses…
Or is there something in me (nature) that would resist this cruel, cowardly behaviour?
I like to think that it’s not in my nature, but that implies that I am better than them.
Is my character is somehow superior or purer than theirs.
As hard as it is, I can’t look at these soldiers and see myself as superior.
Instead I have to focus on Jesus and see how superior He is to me, to us.
That He would willingly step into our cruelty, so that He can help us… help me…
If I knew that I would be mocked, spit on, beaten, would I step in to help?
Could I be like this?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, humble me by the character of these soldiers, and inspire me by Your character. Show me that while I am capable on my own of their cruelty, that I am capable of so much more with Your help!

‘Its going to blow!!!’

“My guilt has become too much for me. It is a load too heavy to carry.” (Psalm 38:4)
David is in a bad place: physically, mentally, emotionally and socially tormented.
He traces the cause to his immoral choices, his doing something that he knows is wrong.
And now he feels the weight of his sin and guilt, and he’s about to blow!
Its like a ‘tractor pull’, where a tractor pulls a trailer with a weight on it.
The weight starts at the back, slowly moves to the front, making it harder to pull.
The longer we carry unconfessed sin and unresolved guilt, the heavier it becomes.
As in a tractor pull, the tractor eventually gets stuck, and sometimes the engine blows up.
I recently read about a murderer on the run for 7 years who finally turned himself in.
The burden and pressure of life on the run became too much to carry.
I think of Judas, who cannot face his shame and regret, and takes his own life (Matthew 27:1-5).
David shows us a better way – not denial or blameshifting, but honesty and repentance.
David recognizes his own fault and runs to the God he has betrayed and pleads for mercy.
I sense the Lord asking me which way I will go: will I try to pull this guilt until I explode?
Or will I turn to God for grace and mercy and help, and allow Him to remove the burden from me?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I hear You saying to me that I need to be honest like this too. Help me to experience the weight of guilt enough to change before my engine blows!

Not safe but good!

THE STORY OF JESUS: 1 Samuel 4-7
“Who can stand in the presence of the Lord, this holy God?” (1 Samuel 6:20)
God cannot be tamed or used for our purposes.
Israel thought God’s ‘ark’ would guarantee them victory in battle.
The Philistines thought that God’s ‘ark’ would submit to their god.
No one in this story was able to handle God, for God cannot be handled.
God is not our good luck charm, keeping us safe from all harm and danger.
God is not our guarantee of success for all our dreams and ambitions.
Many people treat God like the Israelites and Philistines – for their own interest.
God is restoring His good kingdom, He is not building our kingdoms.
Religion is our attempt to manipulate God, to control God with our behaviour.
In the words of C.S.Lewis, God is not a safe or tame lion, but God is good!
God wants a loving relationship with us, not to be used for our purposes.
Like Jesus, we need to submit our purposes to God’s, to trust God with our lives.
With Jesus, we are able to stand in the presence of this holy God!
Am I submitting my life to God, or expecting God to submit to my life?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, forgive me for thinking that You are the way to get what I want. With You I pray, ‘Not as I want, but Your will be done!’

Faithful in my place!

THE STORY OF JESUS: 1 Samuel 1-3
“I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind.” (1 Samuel 2:35)
This story offers a summary of the story of creation, and our need for Jesus.
God created us to be His priests, His representatives on earth.
But like Hophni and Phinehas, we have failed our responsibilities for selfish gain.
God’s judgment rests on us as well, but also His promise for a faithful priest.
Through history, there have been many faithful servants like Samuel.
But none of us, no matter how ‘holy’ we try to be, measure up to our original nature.
The world was created to be led by God-like faithful priests who obey God’s heart and mind.
“For this reason he had to be made like us, fully human in every way, that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and make atonement for the sins of the people.” (Hebrews 2:17)
Jesus is God’s faithful high priest, He is God’s perfect representative on earth.
In Him God’s kingdom is restored (Genesis 1:26-28), a God-like-human ruling over creation.
Jesus restores our connection to God, so that His word is heard once again (1 Samuel 3:1).
Today’s reading reminds me why we need Jesus… someone to be God’s faithful priest FOR us.
I am encouraged to know that even though I fail, He is faithful in my place!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I am aware of the ways I do not fulfill God’s heart and mind. Thank You for covering for me, and for assuring me of God’s love, forgiveness, acceptance and restoration!

I am response-able!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Matthew 27:20-26
“‘I am innocent of this man’s blood,’ he said. ‘It is your responsibility!'” (Matthew 27:24)
Who is responsible for what happened to Jesus?
In one sense Pilate and the Jewish leaders are responsible, but more importantly we all are.
Each one of us faces the death penalty because we are responsible for our sinful choices.
In a sense we are all responsible for all sin and suffering, for we are part of the problem.
Sin is like pollution in the world; its not ALL my fault, but I am a contributor.
We are not robots, we are not merely victims – we are response-able!
Jesus was not responsible for the mess of the world, but He did accept responsibility for it.
Our ‘Barabbas’ crimes were assigned to Him, and He took our place on the cross.
Jesus didn’t deserve to die; if the wages of sin is death, He didn’t need to be paid.
Like Barabbas, I see Jesus being flogged and think, ‘that should have been me’.
I am forgiven, but I should never forget that every time I sin drives a nail into Jesus’ hands.
I am responsible for sin and death, but now because of His love I am response-able for life.
I need to say NO to the sin that pains my Lord, and YES to the life He died for me to live!
By grace, I am response-able, able with His help to resist sin and restore goodness!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, may the weight and wonder of Your loving sacrifice compel me to hate sin and love goodness and do my best to not wound You anymore by my actions!

The Spirit is already at work!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Matthew 27:11-19
“That innocent man… for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.” (Matthew 27:19)
I find something very encouraging in this story about Pilate’s wife.
She is a Gentile, she has no interest in a Jewish messiah, and yet God speaks to her in a dream.
I understand her suffering not to be God tormenting her, but impressing on her Jesus’ innocence.
God reveals Jesus to her and she can’t get Him out of her mind… and heart?
According to some traditions, she eventually became a Jesus follower.
In the Eastern Orthodox Church she is even recognized as Saint Claudia (or Saint Procula).
True or not, what we see here is how God does not just speak to those who know Him.
I am encouraged to remember that God is speaking to those I know, who do not know Him.
As an interesting parallel, we read how Jesus is speaking to Muslims today through dreams.
The Spirit of Jesus still speaks today, and you don’t have to be a Christian to hear Him.
We also see this when the centurion at the cross affirms Jesus as the Son of God (Matthew 27:54)
This as a huge encouragement as I share my faith: the Spirit is already at work!
Instead of telling someone about Jesus, try asking them what they know about Jesus.
You may discover the Lord has already started the work of opening their hearts and minds to Him!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, forgive me for thinking it is up to me to make someone believe. Thank You for reminding me that You are already witnessing to peoples’ hearts and minds, and I can build on what You are doing in them!

A desire for integrity!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Matthew 27:6-10
“It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.” (Matthew 27:6)
It is ironic to hear the religious leaders talk about ‘against the law’.
This blood money was the money they paid to have Jesus betrayed.
Their hands are already stained, this act of ‘integrity’ won’t clean that up.
We cannot cover our misdeeds with good deeds, or bury our sin under religious obedience.
Jesus was forever challenging the religious leaders for their hypocrisy.
Their focus was on publicly obeying the laws, while practically disregarding the Law.
Following the rules, but showing little concern for the intent of these rules.
As a Jesus follower, I need to be concerned about inward integrity, not just outward duty.
There’s a big difference between a bridge that LOOKS safe, and a bridge that IS safe.
We need to be concerned about the integrity of the bridge, not just its appearance.
Jesus was not rebuking their flaws, but their refusal to admit them… pretending to be righteous.
As Jesus followers, we need to stop thinking that we are better than others, more righteous.
Instead we need to be honest, we need to admit our flaws, we need to be willing to change.
Our hope is in God’s grace, not in our supposed obedience to the law… He sees right through that.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, You know my structural flaws, You know where I lack integrity. Help me to grow towards greater honesty and greater integrity!

Seized by mercy, not despair

THE STORY OF JESUS: Matthew 27:1-5
“Judas was seized with remorse, ‘I have sinned, for I have betrayed innocent blood.'” (Matthew 27:3-4)
My experience is that this is how one feels after doing something sinful.
Someone once said the Devil speaks in two voices: he entices with sweetness and accuses with shame.
During temptation he plants thoughts that are so appealing, enticing, alluring.
But afterwards you feel sick for what you have done, and the Tempter becomes the Accuser.
How did Adam and Eve feel about the forbidden fruit before they ate it… and after?
From sweetness to shame, from desire to despair.
The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23); this doesn’t just mean that God punishes sinners with death.
Already in that moment of shame, a despair that feels like dying naturally grips the soul.
Judas’ shame and sadness lead to the despair of death, and he takes his own life.
Judas is an example for all of us for what happens when we feed our sinful desires.
I know from experience how the Enemy first tempts, then accuses, and drives to despair.
I sense the Lord urging me to see the ways my sinful attitudes or behaviors are killing me.
As a Jesus follower, I choose to hear Jesus’ voice of mercy, not Satan’s accusations of defeat.
I mess up, I fail, but my Saviour never does, never will… His mercy is forever!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, may I feel remorse, but not get stuck there. Seize my heart with mercy when I see my sin for what it is. May I hear You more than Satan, and hang on to hope!

Seeking the God life!

“Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.” (Psalm 37:3)
This Psalm lays out the contrast between a God-like person, and a God-less person.
Even though for a time selfish, greedy or cruel people may succeed, their doom is certain.
Don’t envy them, hang on to God, make it your priority to do what is right.
Trust that the God-life is the good-life, the only life worth living, the only life that will last.
The thing is, I am not sure I recognize myself in either extreme.
I’m neither devoted to selfish, greedy living nor to selfless, generous living.
I find myself in the middle, generally moving in the right direction but not always.
The Lord is not condemning me nor commending me… He is gently compelling to aim for better.
The goal of this Psalm is to remind us of the true ‘good life’ and to compel us to seek it.
“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)
This is not a way to get your selfish desires fulfilled; such a person is not delighting in the Lord.
Rather, if I want (delight in) the God-life, He will give me the God-life (what I desire).
So many people pursue the good life but never seem to find it.
That’s because only the God-life can give us the good life — life to the full that will never end!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, thank You for restoring me to the God-life, it really is the good life!