A witness to fear or to faith?

THE STORY OF JESUS: Mark 5:14-20
“The people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.” (Mark 5:17)
I’ve heard interesting theories as to why the spirits wanted to sent into the pigs.
The reason is obvious: they wanted to scare people away from Jesus.
This is how Satan works, scheming to distract, deceive, discourage and defeat us.
Notice how the pig-tenders respond – they beg Jesus to leave.
Satan creates a group of anti-witnesses, people who speak against Jesus.
But Jesus is not deterred; through grace He creates a witness for Himself.
“Go home to your people and tell them what the Lord has done for you.” (Mark 5:19)
Jesus is working in your life to equip you to witness for Him.
Satan is working in your life to keep you from witnessing for Jesus.
Whose work or influence has the upper hand in your life?
Look at how the enemy uses fear or deception or distraction to hold you back.
Here is a test: how eagerly do I tell others what the Lord has done for me?
If your hesitant to do this, that may be a clue as to whose influence is winning.
As a Jesus follower, don’t give in to Satan’s scare tactics to keep you silent!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, my hesitation reveals to me how I am more influenced by fear than by faith. Help me be bold for You, and to trust Your power over the enemy’s.

Staged or real?

As part of the process of selling our home, our house has been staged. In the above photo you can see part of our staged bedroom. The pictures, chair, wine glasses, blankets, etc… none of this is ours. Our whole house looks and feels so ‘nice’, yet so fake.

I left the closet open for a reason, that IS our stuff, that IS us. We’ve stuffed our reality in the closet, only letting you see what we want you to see.

Can you see where this story is going, what the analogy is for following Jesus? Are we not guilty of staging our own lives, putting on a good show before others. We do not want people to see our real stuff, so we hide that in the closet. Living a staged life, like living in a staged house, is hard and unsatisfying. The truth is not so easily hidden, and eventually people see what you got in the closet.

Jesus came to clean out the closet, to make us clean on the inside. “You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and self-indulgence… First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” (Matthew 23:25-26) Jesus is not looking at my public performance – going to church, giving money, good deeds. He’s not that impressed with my stage show as a minister on Sunday mornings… He’s looking in my closet.

Until we face what we’re hiding in our closets, life will be hard and unsatisfying. When we’re honest about our ‘stuff’, then we can discover the wonder of Jesus’ gracious love. We will also help others to see that they’re no worse than us, and there’s grace for them too! Our world needs more REAL Jesus followers, not more STAGED ones.

Get behind me Satan!

“Come out of this man, you impure spirit!” (Mark 5:9)
Do you believe that there are spirit beings out there, good and bad?
I believe everyone is harassed by evil spirits (as well as helped by good spirits).
We are not helpless, we can resist evil spirits and make them flee (James 4:7).
But if we do not resist them, we open ourselves to their deceits and fears.
God created spirit beings to help us fulfill our God-given purpose.
As messengers of truth, they whisper God’s wisdom and truth into our minds.
But some spirits rebelled, and have become voices of deception and defeat.
They usually work quietly, through people or circumstances or voices in our mind.
This man was so oppressed by these voice, he became possessed by them.
As Jesus followers, we are also oppressed by evil voices (spirits).
These voices hinder or harass us in our desire to serve Jesus.
Wherever we are being distracted or discouraged – this is the enemy at work.
If we give in to these voices, they take over and our lives become unlivable.
As Jesus followers, join with Jesus in commanding evil spirits to leave!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I can see how evil spirits are deceiving, discouraging and distracting me. Help me to see the danger, and to stand up to it, in Your strength.

Only with His help!

When I was a wee child, only just 6 years old, I made a Go-Cart. I had no money, so I put my creativity to work. Using jam jar lids for wheels and nails for axles, I assembled my very own Go-Cart. The idea was brilliant, or so it seemed at the time. Obviously, the whole thing collapsed under my weight, and I had to go back to the drawing board.

This past weekend I celebrated my 51st birthday. My son Nathan (who always loved this story) decided to gift me with a replica Go-Cart. This was how the Go-Cart was SUPPOSED to work… I’ll let you figure out how we made this one to work.

As a Jesus follower, I am still that creative child. I’ve explored many brilliant (and not so brilliant) ways to live the Jesus life. But what I am learning most is that my IDEAS cannot carry the weight of living this life. My strategies and efforts are like jam jar lids, they collapse underneath me. This is exactly what I have discovered through trial and error: unless Jesus and His Spirit lift me and hold me, I will collapse.

Maybe by now you have figured out how I made this Go-Cart work. If not for the solid 2×4 supports hidden beneath it, it too would collapse. Jesus is my solid support hidden beneath me. Only He can make my life as a Jesus follower fruitful. There’s nothing wrong with being creative, and devising ways to grow as a Jesus follower. But through it all, always remember: “Remain in me, as I also remain in you… apart from me you can do nothing..” (John 15:4-5)

Death will be destroyed!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Mark 4:35-43
“Jesus told him, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe.’” (Mark 5:36)
I recently spoke on trusting God through difficulty as a guest pastor.
A man, recently widowed, approached me with tears in his eyes.
‘Your words sounds so good, but it doesn’t work for me!’
His wife had died, and no amount of trust brought her back to life.
What is the good of trusting Jesus if it doesn’t work?
Agreed, if Jesus came to immediately heal and raise everyone, He failed.
If that is what we are believing in Jesus for, we will be disappointed.
But Jesus came to defeat the source of sin, death and hell (Hebrews 2:14-15).
Through this miracle – and the cross – Jesus shows us that He can defeat death.
Jesus defeats death, but it will not be destroyed until the end (1 Corinthians 15:26).
As Jesus followers, we hang on to Jesus until the last day when death is destroyed.
Faith in Jesus works, but it works itself out in time, and awaits His final return.
Sickness and death remain for the time being, but their days are numbered.
Through our tears, we refuse to give in to fear… and we choose to give in to faith!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, the enemy wants me to fear, but You are urging me to faith. I choose faith in You. Thank You for showing us that NOTHING, not even death, can keep us from You.

God’s kingdom seed!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Mark 4:30-34
“It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth.” (Mark 4:31)
The message of Jesus seems weak and insignificant.
Love, humility, self-sacrifice, forgiveness – can that really change the world?
The dominion of darkness seems so strong, it even seems to be winning.
Often many christians seem more awed or troubled by the dominion of darkness.
But God stands behind Jesus’ message, and that gives it weight.
I think of Gamaliel’s words who warned against persecuting the early church.
“Leave these men alone! Let them go! If their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” (Acts 5:38-39)
History shows how this tiny seed has blossomed into the largest of all religions.
All over the world people find shelter and protection in Jesus’ many branches.
This message would be hard for the disciples to imagine – they are so few, so weak!
But God’s seed in Jesus – the weak path of grace – will transform our world!
God’s grace kingdom is growing, and many people are blessed in it’s branches.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, remind me of the strength of Your kingdom when I am overwhelmed by the extent of darkness. May Your kingdom come, Your will be done!

Be still and know that Jesus is God!

“Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
If you do not feel this peace, try repeating these words.
Our world may be falling apart, and nations be in crisis, but God is still in charge.
Because God is here, the world will not collapse, He will help those who look to Him.
To defy God is like defying the sun: accept it or not, you need it.
God is the centre of our existence, everything depends on our relationship to Him.
God is not an enemy, God is not a cruel Being; God wants to bless and benefit us.
Allow God to be the centre of your life… Your safety, your strength, your help.
Jesus followers trust that Jesus is exalted to the very end (Matthew 28:18-20).
Through all your storms and crises, cling to Jesus and know that He clings to you.
Don’t let Satan trick you into focusing on the waves, and making you sink.
Look up to the One that walks on the waves, and He will lead you through!
Rest, relax, breathe deep and repeat these words whether you feel it or not.
Be still and know, be still and know, be still and know…
He is with me, He is for me, He will help me!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, You still whisper ‘be still! You are God, You are good, You are exalted in the earth, and I will be exalted with You!

Angry love?

THE STORY OF JESUS: 1 Kings 9-11
“The Lord was angry because his heart had turned away from the Lord.” (1 Kings 11:9)
In his wisdom and power, the Enemy found Solomon’s weakness… and exploited it.
Solomon gave in to women and detestable idol worship (including child sacrifice).
God wasn’t being petty or jealous, He was concerned for His people’s well-being.
Sometimes people depict God’s anger as violent and vengeful rage.
But we need to remember that God is – always is – love (1 John 4:8).
As a parent, I can relate to love that gets angry, but still remains full of love.
And think of all that God endures from us, His children… look at our world!?!
Love does not rule out anger, but it does rule out violent, vengeful rage.
God withdraws His support, and that is what leads to Solomon’s downfall.
Paul describes this as “giving us over” to the evil we prefer (see Romans 1:18-32).
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…” (John 3:16)
God not only “gives us over” to the sin we choose, He also gives over Himself to us.
God allows us to see the horror of our sin, that we might seek the wonder of mercy!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, if we really knew the horror of sin, we would understand Your loving anger. Help us to appreciate how serious sin is without surrendering to it, so that we will surrender ourselves to Your love and mercy.

God lives where???

“But will God really dwell on earth?” (1 Kings 8:27)
God – the awesome, uncontainable Creator – wants to live with you and me!
The temple was meant to symbolize God’s greatness AND goodness.
It showed that God wanted to live with them, to be at home among us.
Don’t get stuck on the symbol, look at its meaning!!!!
God wants a personal relationship, He wants to love us and be loved by us.
He doesn’t care about our temples or our sacrifices, He cares about us!
Sadly, often His followers forget and focus more on the religious symbols.
Ultimately He becomes human in Jesus, to show us what He really wants.
Yes, God really will dwell on earth, with us.
As followers of Jesus, our greatest joy is to live in fellowship with God.
“You are God’s temple, God’s Spirit dwells in your midst!” (1 Corinthians 3:16)
Have you opened your heart to God and Jesus?
Has the glory of God and Jesus (the Spirit) filled you, His real temple?
Yes, God really will dwell with you and me, but will we let Him?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, forgive me for admiring the religious symbols more than the spiritual reality. May the awesomeness of You living in me so fill me that others sense Your glory through me.

“All by itself” (i.e. God)!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Mark 4:26-29
“All by itself the soil produces grain…” (Mark 4:28)
Jesus is still explaining how things work with God’s kingdom.
It begins from the heart (the soil), where the seed begins to grow.
When the seed (the grace of Jesus) and the soil (the heart) mix, things happen.
“All by itself” points to the fact that spiritual growth is a work of the Spirit.
The farmer does not make the seed grow; she has done her part planting the seed.
We work so hard to grow churches, expand ministries and to make disciples.
But if focus on spreading Jesus message and love, the Spirit will do His work.
For neither plant life nor faith life truly happen “all by itself”…
It is “all by God-self”, He is the one that helps us become who we were made to be!
As Jesus followers, we trust His Spirit to be the power in our witness and work.
This is very encouraging, it takes the pressure off of us to make things happen.
As I serve, as I share, as I care, as I witness, Jesus wins over His own audience.
We do not know HOW God does what we He, we just know that He does.
Our job is to love and serve and share and care, and He will produce the results!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, its not up to me to change the world. Help me to trust the power of Your love, to be gracious and merciful as You are, and trust that “all by itself” it will grow in the world!.