‘You’re richer than you think!’

THE STORY OF JESUS: Mark 10:28-31
Will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age…” (Mark 10:30)
This does not make sense if we understand it in terms of worldly gain.
What we gain is a new family, as well all as a new treasure.
Jesus is not promising a changed bank balance.
We need to check our minds and hearts, not out computers, to see this gain.
It requires a new way of thinking, seeing and living to appreciate this.
If we are still attached to worldly values and pleasures, we will not.
Through Jesus we are free from being possessed by people and stuff.
We are able to enjoy things without the need to control or own them.
Every person becomes family, and we see Jesus in all of them.
Every little thing becomes a treaure that we appreciate and thank God for.
And persecution or death cannot rob us of this eternal wealth,
This new perspective is one that I am still working on.
To grow an abundance mindset rooted in God, Jesus and who I am in them.
It really is true, ‘You’re richer than you think!’
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me to see and appreciate treasure in the people and life that I do have, and not get stuck on the things I don’t have or have lost.

The monkey trap!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Mark 10:17-27
“To receive a hundred times as much in this present age.” (Mark 10:30)
What does Jesus mean about receiving one hundred times as much in this age?
How does letting go of treasures (that enslave) us make us rich?
Letting go of family, money, property, reputation for Jesus’s sake?
The only way this works, I think, is how we are free to enjoy everything.
In the beginning God entrusted everything to us, to use and enjoy well.
But we became possessed by what we did not have, and became slaves to it all.
We have lost contentment, the joy of all things, and the blessing of sharing.
Like a monkey trap, we are held by the fruit that we refuse to let go of.
We cling to people and possessions, not realizing how they are enslaving us.
In Jesus, everyone becomes our brother and sister.
In Jesus, all creation is our inheritance, for us to enjoy and share.
We don’t ‘own’ it, nor does it possess us; we are free to enjoy it together.
Jesus offers us a different way of seeing God, ourselves, and everything.
A way of seeing everything and everyone as ours… which makes us rich!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, please release me from my possessions, so that I may enjoy them all!

Meant to be seen and heard!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Mark 10:13-16
“He took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.” (Mark 10:16)
This picture of Jesus appeals to me, welcoming the children.
Too often in my experience of church, children are meant to be seen, not heard.
We force them to be quiet it church so we can concentrate.
Or we give them a children’s moment, then shoo them off to children’s church.
I recall a visiting mom sitting in the very back with her crying child.
A friend sitting next to her was horrified by all the darks looks she got.
The message was clear, your child belongs in the babysit, not here.
This strikes me as the same as the disciples rebuking these parents.
When I imagine God’s family room, I imagine kids being there too.
Running, laughing, playing, making noise and being seen and heard.
They will be part of the moment, and not sent away by adults to the playroom.
The kids and adults will all feel welcome, and blessed, and enjoy each other.
This sounds a lot like ‘messy church’ (see what that is here).
Would you be more like Jesus, or like the disciples, with the kids around?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, forgive us for shooing the kids away. Help us to see how kids are an important part of life in your kingdom! We need them and they need us!

Grace for the broken hearted!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Mark 10:1-12
“It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law.” (Mark 10:5)
According to Jesus, what Moses wrote was not God’s will in the beginning.
Moses makes allowances for hard-hearted sinners by allowing divorce.
This raises the question: how can God’s law not be God’s Law?
This should make us very careful when reading the law of Moses.
The law of Moses was written for a specific time and place and people.
It made allowances for war, slavery, divorce… because of human sin.
But these are not God’s will from the beginning.
Jesus makes it clear here that divorce is not good, not healthy.
Ask any victim of divorce, and they will tell you the same thing.
Divorce rips apart ‘one flesh’, and that always causes pain.
This does not make divorce unforgivable, nor those who divorce guilty sinners.
But it does remind us of the seriousness of a male/female creation covenant.
It should not be entered into lightly, nor ended quickly.
Thankfully, there is grace for victims and initiators of divorce.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, we make life so hard on others, and on ourselves. Thank You for Your patience and grace. Heal our broken hearts, and help us be more patient and gracious in our relationships.

God’s sanctuary in me!

“This is my resting place for ever and ever; here I will sit enthroned.” (Psalm 132:14)
For the Jews before Jesus, the temple was their symbol of hope.
It reminded them of God’s commitment to them – He lived among them.
It reminded them of their glorious past, and David their great ancestor.
Since Jesus’ time, the temple has been replaced.
Jesus Himself is the temple among us – God living with us.
But more than that, we are the temples of God – God living in us.
“You yourselves are God’s temple and God’s Spirit dwells in your midst!” (1 Corinthians 3:16)
As Jesus followers, we pray to God in Jesus’ Name (the Son of David).
We turn to the one within us for mercy, help, strength and support.
We do not need to go anywhere, we can pray in the temple of our heart!
If you do not experience God within you, make this your main desire.
Allow no sleep to your eyes until you find this place for the Lord.
Jesus promises that He and the Father “will come and make our home with them.” (John 14:23)
Are you allowing Jesus and the Father to “sit enthroned” in your heart?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, what an amazing thought, that my heart is the throne room of the God of the Universe, and that my head is adorned with a “radiant crown”. Help me to live accordingly!

Life Lessons with Jesus!

“I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw.” (Proverbs 24:32)
As I read this verse, I knew the Lord wanted me to reflect on it.
In the context it is about learning a lesson from a lazy person.
But I sensed the Lord telling me that I can learn lessons all the time.
Time with Jesus in the bible is a great place to ‘apply our hearts’.
Just reading it is not enough, I need to apply it to my own life.
To relate it to my daily experiences or struggles, or what I see in others.
(We used to do this with our kids, turning experiences in ‘life lessons’;
they sang a song when we did this, ‘Life Lessons with Dad/Mom’).
As Jesus followers we need to spend time with Jesus reflecting on life.
Right now I am taking some time apart for personal retreat with Jesus.
I am sensing Jesus gently challenging me about some of my experiences.
How I think about others, how I speak to others, how I manage my time?
What I value most, how fear immobilizes me, other things that hold me back?
Are you spending time with Jesus, learning life lessons with Jesus?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, as I spend some time apart in a personal retreat, may I apply my heart to my life with You, and discover what lessons You want to teach me.

Make me a zealot!?

“Do not let your heart envy sinners…” Proverbs 23:17)
What gets your heart going, what are you passionate about?
This proverb warns about seeting your heart on what others have.
Jealousy, greed, envy, covetousness… how would our economy work otherwise?
This is a warning not to allow our hearts to be sucked in by these.
“But always be zealous for the fear of the Lord.” (Proverbs 23:17)
What if my greatest passion was to know, love and serve God?
If my mind, emotions and will were activated by God and His good purpose?
Jesus spoke of doing God’s will as His food and drink (John 4:34)
He urged His followers to be zealous in pursusing God and His Kingdom.
“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” (Romans 12:11)
Zeal, passion, a heart set on fire for serving the Lord.
It is hard to imagine myself as a zealot this way, it seems extreme.
And yet imagine if we had more extremists for love, than for violence.
What is holding me back from this kind of extreme, zealous devotion?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, even as I pray this, I am hesitant… but I will pray it anyway: make me an zealot, a radical extremist serving You through love for goodness!

Seriously, not literally!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Mark 9:42-50
“Where ‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.’” (Mark 9:48)
Jesus does not use the word ‘hell’ (a later English word), but the word ‘gehenna’.
“Gehenna, or the valley of Hinnom, is an actual valley in the city of Jerusalem. In Israel’s past, it was used as a place of child sacrifice. From the reign of Josiah onward, it was used as a garbage dump where the fires burned the refuse continuously. Jesus used it as an illustration of the final judgment of the wicked.”
In Matthew 18 He uses the word ‘Hades’, the Greek god of the underworld (Matthew 16:18).
Jesus borrows the symbols of the day to describe the final judgement.
If we took Jesus literally, ‘hell’ would be in Israel, and the god Hades would be real.
There doesn’t need to be actual fire (nor an actual millstone) for that judgment to be serious.
I take Jesus’s warnings about the final judgment very seriously.
But I do not let my imagination go too far in describing what it will be like.
Jesus calls us to take our sins seriously now, not to ignore their consequences!
As a Jesus follower, I need to hate sin, what it does to God and others and what it will do to me.
A day will come when it will be too late, and that judgment will be final!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me not to debate the temperature of gehenna. Help me to deal with the sin that You took so seriously, that You died so that I might be rescued and restored.

Equal partners with Jesus!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Mark 9:38-41
“Anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name will certainly not lose their reward.” (Mark 9:41)
We love to divide people into group: those who are with us, those who are like us.
The disciples wanted to protect their special place with Jesus.
This ‘someone’ was not one of the twelve, he was a second-class disciple.
Jesus ‘drives out’ this spirit of pride and jealousy.
He goes on to show that there are not different classes of good deeds either.
We focus on the great miracle workers, healers or ‘great’ church leaders.
But Jesus says someone who gives a cup of water is just as powerful, just as important.
There are no ‘super-christians’, the ones we set apart and above the others.
We all have our place in the body of Christ, and we all have equal value.
The way we as ‘church’ divide up the family of Jesus is so sad.
Different groups is fine, but we are meant to work together, not to compete.
Different roles, but one is not more important than another.
Let’s start treating the nursery volunteers with the same respect as the elders!
What unites us is our connection to Jesus, no matter who we are, and what we do.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, forgive us for dividing up your body into the ins and outs, the great workers and the ordinary ones. Help us to celebrate You in every person, no matter who they are or what they do!

Who does Jesus celebrate?

THE STORY OF JESUS: Mark 9:33-37
“Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)
Among chickens, there is a pecking order… among humans too.
We want to establish ourselves in a good place, to rise up in the ranks.
There is something normal and healthy in this… God created us to valued.
But the curse of sin has twisted this into a game of ‘king of the hill’.
The disciples of Jesus were playing this game too… is that different today?
Does the church focus on the stars, the celebrities, those who perform well?
Jesus was not a performer, nor did He celebrate the performers.
Jesus did His best to downplay public acclaim, to stay humble and invisible.
And His focus was on the little and invisible people as well.
Children, women, outcasts, ‘sinners’… Jesus celebrated these ones!
These are the ones that Jesus celebrates, that He seeks autographs from…
As Jesus followers, have we set up our own pecking order?
Do we value those with visible gifts and positions more than the invisible ones?
Do we celebrate everyday people in our church, and value their presence?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, how easy it is to slip into the world’s pecking order, and even to build it into the life of Your church. Help me to see the true heroes and stars among us, and help me to be like them, like You!