In God’s Name?

THE STORY OF JESUS: Acts 23:12-22
“We have taken a solemn oath not to eat anything until we have killed Paul.” (Acts 23:14)
In the name of the Lord, these men vow to murder Paul.
And the religious leaders join in by being accomplices to the ambush.
How is it that religious people can turn violence into spiritual devotion?
In the name of the Lord, people declare God’s hatred for sinners.
In the name of the Lord, people refuse to serve sinners in their businesses.
In the name of the Lord, people blow themselves up to kill sinners.
Compare this with Jesus, Who represents God’s response to sinners.
He is willing to die to save them, not to kill them.
He refuses to fight against the sinners who resist Him; rather He forgives them.
He gets on His hands and knees and washes the feet of sinners, including Judas.
These men who take the vow show they do not know the heart and mind of God.
The question is, do our actions as Jesus followers compare to Jesus’ actions?
As Jesus followers, Jesus is attached to whatever we say and do.
May our words and actions reflect the heart and mind of God, as seen in Jesus.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, may I reflect You and Your love, and not the self-interest of the world. Forgive us as religious people for doing things in Your Name that give You a bad reputation.

My faith on trial!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Acts 23:6-11
“I stand on trial because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead.” (Acts 23:6)
Is Paul being shrewd, dividing his opponents with the resurrection topic?
It certainly did have that result, but it also reflected Paul’s faith.
Paul knew how important Jesus’s resurrection was (1 Corinthians 15:12-19).
As a Jesus follower, everything for me hinges on Jesus’s death and resurrection too.
His crucifixion shows me the path of humble grace and self-denial – the Jesus Way.
His resurrection shows me how God vindicates those who choose this path.
As we serve (die to self), we are assured of ultimate victory (eternal life).
The world may resist our loving service, but it cannot stop or defeat us.
Even if we are forced to testify in Rome (23:11), we will still overcome!
Even if we die on that path, death cannot hold or stop us.
We believe, we love, we serve… because Jesus died and rose again.
Our trial in this life is because we have – and live – this hope!
Have you committed to living WITH, LIKE and FOR the resurrected Jesus?
You can be assured your faith and labour are not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, my faith in Your death and resurrection – and living WITH, LIKE and FOR You on this path – is on trial every day. Help me to be strong, knowing my faith and labour are not in vain!

Being someone who disciples others

“Being someone who disciples others does not mean that you are perfect, and because of that you show them how to live. It means making yourself available to be observed at all times by your students, showing them what your relationship with Jesus looks like. It means showing them what it looks like to apologize and admit when you are wrong; it means showing them what humility looks like and being willing to become lesser in the eyes of others; it means modelling what healthy conflict and confrontation should look like; it means modelling what my dependency on Jesus looks like and how I aim to make my relationship with him a priority every day.”

(Janelle Sennema, currently serving as team leader with YWAM in the country of Georgia)

I vote for Jesus!

“Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save.” (Psalm 146:3)
Which political system is best for establishing world peace and blessing?
Communism, Socialism, Capitalism, Democracy… Conservatives, Liberals, New Democrats?
Religion doesn’t do much better – Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Atheism?
Every religious leader and politician believes their plan is the best one.
And yet year after year, term after term, decade after decade, we are disappointed.
I do not put much confidence in princes, nor in priests or pastors.
The only person that has my confidence is Jesus – His way appeals to me.
I believe His kingdom policy – love God, love your neighbour – is the best platform.
It puts the burden of responsibility on us, to do what we can to better our world.
If everyone focused on our own integrity and kindness, things would improve.
If the humility and compassion of Jesus was our standard, God’s kingdom would come.
Thankfully, our leaders do not reign forever, but Jesus does!
I vote for Jesus… He is the best leader of all!
But voting is not enough, I need to follow and imitate Him!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, our world is a mess, and we are responsible for it. Thank You for coming to show us the better way, and for guaranteeing that Your kingdom will be established, and will last forever!

Fixing our minds on Jesus!

“Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard.” (2 Peter 3:17)
Peter is warning Jesus followers about false disciples and dangerous times.
I find myself wondering whether we are facing the same dangers.
Are there people secretly introducing destructive heresies among us?
Are we supposed to be suspicious of people who think differently than us?
How do we be on our guard, without living with fear and suspicion?
“I have written you to stimulate you to wholesome thinking.” (2 Peter 3:1)
The best way to defend against unwholesome thinking is with wholesome thinking.
Focus on Jesus, on the character of Jesus, on the goodness of God.
Make every effort to add to our faith goodness, etc. (2 Peter 1:5ff)
The best way to recognize counterfeit money is to be very familiar with real money.
The better we know Jesus, and grow in the grace of Jesus, the better armed we are.
I fear that many Jesus followers live unaware of Satan’s schemes, and their danger.
We should not focus on these, but aware that they are there, we focus on Jesus.
As a Jesus follower, may I keep in step with Jesus, to avoid Satan’s dead ends.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, may I not live in fear, but may I not live in ignorance either. Help me to know You better, that I may recognize the things that are not from You!

Making EVERY effort!!!

“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life…” (2 Peter 1:3)
We were made – and saved – to live God-like (godly) lives (Genesis 1:26-28).
God equipped us with His Spirit to fully equip us for living with, like and for Him.
The fall into sin ruined our relationship with God, and removed His Spirit.
Jesus has restored us to God, and God’s Spirit to us.
Therefore we have everything we need to live God-like (godly) lives.
Everything… that means I am lacking NOTHING to live the life God wants me to live.
“Through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (2 Peter 1:3)
We have this through our relationship with Jesus, God with us.
As we abide/remain in Him, we are able to produce the fruit (life) God desires (John 15:1-8).
I have everything I need from God, but am I giving everything for God?
“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith…” (2 Peter 1:5)
The only thing I may be lacking is the effort, and the desire that produces it.
Do I WANT to live a godly life, am I making every effort to live like God?
If I am not changing where God wants me to change… its not God’s fault!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I have what I need to make the changes in my life You are prompting me to make. Help me to do my part by making every effort!

Our leaders need grace and mercy!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Acts 22:30 – 23:5
“For it is written: ‘Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people.’” (Acts 23:5)
Jesus followers should not be disrespectful, they should speak the truth in love.
If Paul was disrespectful for calling the high priest a ‘whitewashed wall’, what about Jesus?
Jesus called Pharisees “whitewashed tombs full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” (Matthew 23:27-28)
I am convinced that as harsh as these words sound, they were filled with grace.
He is speaking to their hearts, not judging them but calling them back to God.
The high priest was wrong about Paul, but Paul still needed to show respect.
“Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” (Romans 13:7)
Many of our rulers today are hard to respect, especially some.
But we owe them respect as human beings, as well as for their office and calling.
They will be held accountable, but we will not be the judges.
We can speak the truth, but be sure it is true, and say it with grace.
Our hope should not be their shame, but their salvation.
They especially need grace and mercy, for they will be judged more strictly.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, may I be respectful to the police, to politicians, and to our government leaders, even when they are wrong. May they see in me a better example of how one ought to deal with disagreement and differences.

Kingdom citizenship for all!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Acts 22:22-29
“Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been found guilty?” (Acts 22:25)
Paul is a Roman citizen; I am a Canadian citizen.
In this world, citizenship has its perks and pitfalls.
Right now I would not want to be a Greek citizen.
Paul claims the advantages of being a Roman citizen, the right to a fair trial.
I benefit from many Canadian rights, like health care, education, the right to a fair trial.
These rights help maintain order and well-being, though sadly many lack them.
Some are born into it; others desperately want it, even pay huge costs to get it.
Such rights ought to be tied to being human, not just for some countries.
We are all citizens of creation, God’s children, deserving a right to a fair trial.
God is in the process of restoring these full rights, which were lost in the rebellion.
Though I thankful for Canadian citizenship, I am more thankful for God citizenship.
“Our citizenship is in heaven… we eagerly await a Savior from there.” (Philippians 3:20)
In God’s kingdom, EVERYONE benefits from human or creation rights.
May God’s kingdom come, that all may enjoy the rights of creation citizenship!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I am thankful for my rights and freedoms here in Canada. But many people do not share them. May Your kingdom come, and may all people experience the rights and freedoms of being Your children – no matter who, no matter where.

Witness to grace!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Acts 22:6-21
“You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard.” (Acts 22:15)
My experience of Jesus is changing me, and I am not afraid to admit it.
In fact, I want others to know that they can experience this life change also.
Jesus doesn’t make me better than others; He humbles me and shows me my weakness.
I am a struggling sinner in need of Jesus’s help, just like everyone else.
Every day I sense Jesus helping me, gently rebuking, guiding and strengthening me.
And always loving me, renewing forgiveness and His commitment to help me grow.
It is not church or religion that I want to witness to, it is Jesus.
Like Paul, I am sent to people to show them Who Jesus is, what Jesus does.
For the Jews, the Gentiles were looked down on, unworthy, beyond God’s grace.
Jesus sends Paul to people like this, so that they too can know His grace and love.
Do people see and hear Jesus’ life-transforming grace and humility through me?
Or do they feel condemned, judged, looked down on, unloved, unworthy.
Our world needs more of Jesus, not more of religion.
May my life be a witness to the amazing mercy and grace of Jesus!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I am a sinner like everyone else, and yet You love me. You do not give up on me. May my life be an example of Your amazing grace, so that everyone can be blessed through knowing You.

Radical grace!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Acts 21:37 – 22:5
“I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death.” (Acts 22:4)
Paul was a fanatic and a terrorist, killing people in the name of God.
There were families of his victims who lived with the consequences.
No doubt people then struggled with anger and unforgiveness too.
It strikes me here for the first time what this meant for the early church.
Imagine a known terrorist – an ISIS soldier – converting and joining our church.
Known for killing christians, he has a Jesus encounter and changes.
How easily would we welcome him in our church – would we trust him?
And imagine how other ISIS supporters would feel, and would respond?
This is not an exact parallel, but it does make me think about grace.
“I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:16)
Paul is an example that even terrorists and murderers can be forgiven and restored.
The challenge for us as Jesus followers is to extend the same grace.
Try to imagine other examples of ‘worst of sinners’ being welcomed into your church.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me to look deep into my own feelings about sinners, both before and after they convert. Help me to see that they need grace too, just like Paul… just like me.