New testament believers!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Acts 10:9-23a
“Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” (Acts 10:15)
This story challenges the way we read the bible today.
The bible contains an old covenant (or testament), and a new.
In the old covenant, God declared certain animals clean or unclean (Leviticus 11).
Now in this vision, God tells Peter that all animals are clean.
This must have been challenging for Peter; it went against his bible.
This is one of many examples where the old covenant no longer applies.
We can’t change God’s revelation, but God can – and did, through Jesus.
Jesus changes everything, including how we read the bible.
The old covenant points us to Jesus, but it no longer binds us.
We can learn from it’s symbols, but we are not bound by it’s precepts.
This does not make us lawless, but it changes which law we submit to.
As a Jesus follower, I take my lead from Jesus, and His law of love.
If we love God and people, we will not murder, steal, lie or cheat.
If we love like Jesus, we will serve and bless others, not hurt them.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, teach me the depth and wonder of Your law of love. Make me a new covenant believer, filled with Your Spirit to fulfill Your law of love!

A heart like Cornelius!?

“Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.”(Acts 10:5)
Cornelius was not a Jew, but he did believe that there was only one God.
He was a Roman centurion, but he was also a humble, generous man.
His understanding of God led him to honour God and serve the poor.
God receives his prayers and deeds as the same as ‘obedience to the Law’.
The Moses Law required sacrifices, but Cornelius did not offer sacrifices.
His heart was open to God, and to people, and God honoured this.
“Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law.” (Romans 2:14)
God was pleased with Cornelius’s heart, not just his deeds.
God sees beyond our words and deeds – both for the churched and the unchurched.
Cornelius reminds us that God sees good soil outside of the church.
And He also knows the bad soil within the church (see Matthew 7:21-23).
As a Jesus follower, I should not ignore how God is at work in the unchurched.
Their words and deeds can also be received as a memorial offering before God.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, it is not whether we ‘belong to church’ that pleases You, but whether our hearts are sincerely open to You and other people. May my heart be sincere like Cornelius’s.

Different tribes, one family!

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1)
In what follows Genesis 3, we see the breakdown of God’s family.
From the division between Adam and Eve, their children, to the division of Babel.
Family breakdown, separating into like-minded tribes that attack others.
God sent Jesus to break down walls of division, and reunite His family.
When the high priest was anointed, the oil settled down onto his robes.
And on to his breastplate, which held the 12 stones for each tribe.
The oil represents the Spirit, spreading God’s blessing over all people.
“For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.” Psalm 133:3)
Unity in God’s family is not a unity of sameness, but unity among differences.
It is not big deal when a like-minded church gets along, this is not spiritual.
It is spiritual, a sign of God’s blessing, when people who disagree are united.
As Jesus followers, we are called to be peace-makers – and this assumes lack of peace.
To love those we disagree with, whose culture or practice or views differ from ours.
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me to seek and celebrate unity and love with those who are different from me. This is the real unity that You love to bless!

Called to better living!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Ephesians 4-6
“Live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” (Ephesians 4:1)
Paul has just described (ch.1-3) the amazing calling we have received.
Saved by grace, and called by grace, we are to live by grace as well.
In these chapters Paul applies grace to all aspects of life.
How we deal with sin, and how we respond to Satan.
And how we relate to all other people – with the love of Jesus!
Paul is very black and white here: sin has no place among us.
We are to set as our example the perfect love and obedience of Christ.
But we must always read these words in connection to God’s grace.
Kindness, compassion and forgiveness are how God relates to us.
And this is how we are to relate to each other (4:32).
All of which suggests that we will fail, and hurt each other.
As a Jesus follower, I am saved by grace and I live by grace.
That grace motivates me to set my sights on living and loving like Jesus!
Do you share Paul’s passion for living a life worthy of that grace?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me to see the ways I am still keeping the bar too low for how I live. Show me where the Enemy is still holding me back, and grant me the grace to break free for You!

Let the truth sink in!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Ephesians 1-3
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” (Ephesians 1:3)
Paul can’t seem to praise God enough, he repeats himself in many ways.
God is the source of every spiritual blessing, and Jesus is the means.
Through Jesus we are forgiven, reconciled, restored and blessed.
This blessing moves from us to others, so that we are reunited.
Now in Christ we are back where we belong, as far as God is concerned.
“Who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing.” (Ephesians 1:3)
Notice though that this blessing is in ‘the heavenly realms’.
It still needs to be worked out here in the earthly realms.
We reign with Christ, but we still wrestle with Satan, sin and death here.
Chapters 1-3 set the stage for Chapters 4-6, which explain how we should live.
Don’t jump too quickly to the next part; we need the first to do the second.
We need to be “rooted and established in love” (3:17) to share it with others.
Until we are filled with “all the fullness of God” (3:19) , we cannot overflow with it.
Try reading these chapters over multiple times, until they really hit home!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me to let the truth sink in. I am rooted and established, I am filled with the fullness of God, I am seated in the heavenly realms… May this wonder work itself out in how I live each day!

Simple faith, hope and love!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Acts 9:32-43
“Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.'” (Acts 9:40)
I have prayed for a dead person to come back to life… he didn’t.
How do we read this story (and others like it) today?
‘That was then, Jesus doesn’t do that anymore…’
‘I’m doing it wrong, I need to learn to pray the right way…’
‘My faith is weak, if only I believed I would see dead people raised…’
‘She wasn’t actually dead, she was just near dead…’
‘It never happened, it was just a rumour, or it was FAKE NEWS…’
As a Jesus follower I believe in the possibility of signs and wonders.
To my mind, God is able to heal the paralyzed, and raise the dead.
But I cannot explain how, when, why or why not, at any given time.
I admit that my faith is weak, and that my prayers words are feeble.
But I just keep praying for healing and life-change out of desperation.
My confidence is in Jesus, even if things don’t happen like I want.
I choose to read this story with simple faith, hope and love!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I have not seen dramatic healings or resurrections, but I have experienced You, and that is dramatic enough. I open myself to Your dramatic, life-saving power at work through me!

To kneel and to jump at the same time!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Acts 9:19b-31
“Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit…” (Acts 9:31)
I love the combination of ideas in this verse: fear and encouragement.
This is the difference that knowing Jesus makes.
He shows us that God is still sovereign and holy and mighty.
But He infuses us with love and joy and peace as well.
We still live in the fear of the Lord, but not dread or terror.
“With deepest, tenderest fears”, said Frederick Faber.
Paul must have lived with a constant sense of wonder and awe.
His encounter with Jesus transformed him, his life would never be the same.
Is your sense and experience of God richer, deeper, fuller?
Is your spirit encouraged by His Spirit in the awesomeness of God?
As a Jesus follower, we live in a world filled with God’s glory.
But even more, God’s glory lives in and fills and energizes us.
If I think about it, it makes me want to kneel and jump at the same time!
Jesus changes our experience of God and ourselves – are you feeling it?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I see in You everything that is awesome about God. But I also see everything that is amazing about me as God’s child. Grant me this deep, tender fear, fill me with this love, joy and peace!

When suffering is for the good!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Acts 9:10-19a
“I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” (Acts 9:16)
When I first heard these words, they sounded like a threat.
As if Jesus is saying that Paul deserves (must) suffer for his crimes.
But it is not FOR His crimes that he must suffer, for “FOR my Name”!
As followers of Jesus, we are going against the grain of the world.
In a world of hate, anger and war, we represent love, joy and peace.
We trust in Jesus and in the Jesus Way, and this challenges others.
We must suffer for Jesus’s Name, if we take that Name seriously.
For Ananias to baptize (grace) his enemy is evidence of this radical love.
Am I prepared to love my enemies or bless those who curse me for Jesus?
Suffering is never pleasant, but we do it for those we love all the time.
Jesus has expanded our list of those we love – Him and all people.
For His sake, and for the sake of all sinners, I must love (and suffer).
We should not seek suffering, but neither should we avoid it.
Rather we seek first the kingdom, come what may, with our eyes set on Jesus!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me to keep my focus on loving You and loving like You. I don’t want to suffer, but I do want others to experience Your grace… and those often go together

Hearing Jesus calling!

“They heard the sound but did not see anyone.” (Acts 9:7)
Paul’s experience was different than his companions.
The Lord works differently in each person’s life.
Christians are people who have heard the Lord calling them.
Those around them may sense something, but not know Who it is.
Two people can go through the same crisis, yet only one will meet Jesus in it.
The reason for the difference is because each one of us is a unique child of God.
God does not force us, but customizes His approach to each one of us.
Like a good teacher who knows each student, how each one learns differently.
You can be sure that the Lord is reaching out to you in your life in some way.
I am a Jesus follower because Jesus has ‘spoken’ to my heart.
I have never heard a voice, but I have sensed His presence, His mercy and love.
In my life circumstances and experiences, in moments of conviction and insight.
You may not see or hear what I do, but to me it is real – and life changing.
My prayer is that you will hear Jesus’ voice today, and be changed too!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I know You are speaking to the people I know… but could You speak louder and clearer today, that they may know it is You, and believe!

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!