Opportunities to shine for God!

THE STORY OF JESUS: John 11:1-10
“It is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4)
Jesus knows Who He is, as God’s messiah sent to restore God’s kingdom.
Everything happening around Him is set up by God to reveal His identity.
Deep down He trusts God to use this Lazarus occasion to do that too.
Jesus describes the way He lives as ‘walking in the daylight’.
Darkness and light are used symbolically here.
Jesus is not worried because He is determined to do what is right (light).
People usually do bad things in the dark, in the shadows, in the late hours.
Jesus is not hiding Himself, He does what He does for everyone to see.
And this is how He is glorified: people see His goodness and marvel.
God put us here to be like bright lights that bring goodness and love.
Do we know who we are as God’s much loved, forgiven and restored children?
Let’s not hide it or brag about it, let’s live it and let God shine through it.
God is setting us up today for good; take the opportunity to shine with His love!
All that happens today is an opportunity to show who He is, and who we are!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me to live in such a way that people are drawn to Your goodness. Let people praise You because of me today!

The cornerstone of my hope!

“Better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans.” (Psalm 118:8)
How confident are you in the government right now?
How about the education system, or doctors, or lawyers, or the police?
Is human nature or goodness a reliable source of confidence and hope?
Humans are the cause of all the world problems, and this includes us.
Like pollution in the world, we are all contributors to the problem of sin.
Despite promises from politicians, we usually find their words unreliable.
BECAUSE we cannot trust in humans, because humans do not trust in God.
We need Jesus, His way of self-denying love is the only reliable foundation.
If we loved God and people LIKE Jesus did, our world would be very different.
Jesus’ message is my political, social platform, as weak as it sounds.
It doesn’t answer all our questions, but it guides us in how we answer them.
When in doubt, follow the way of self-denial, humility, grace, mercy.
Jesus chose this path and was rejected for it – we probably will be too, but…
“The (message) the builders rejected has become the cornerstone!” (Psalm 118:22)
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I choose to put my hope in You, not in our worlds professionals and intelligentsia or power brokers. The human way will let us down, but Your way is my cornerstone!

God’s love seems reckless (but its not!)

“My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused.” (Hosea 11:8)
Hosea is calling the people to rethink their lives, to change their hearts.
He reminds them how God changes His heart, from judgment to mercy.
What drives God is love for His children; will His children change for love?
Hosea makes it clear that He has very good reason to let go of His children.
But God’s Father heart hangs on, despite their terrible behaviour.
Some have called this the ‘reckless’ love of God.
Its seems wrong to say God is reckless, but His love for us sure looks like it.
This reveals the tension we find in genuine parental love.
Even parents of terrible people still love the child they gave birth to.
They hate, hate, hate their ways, and desperately wish for them to change.
This is God to us, and Jesus’ coming shows us how far He will go.
“While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
God’s compassion is still roused for us, even though we do terrible things.
His hope is that His mercy will change our hearts, and bring us back to Him!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, my heart needs more softening, and today’s insight into Your heart is a good reminder. Help me to feel Your deep, deep hate for sin, and Your even deeper love for me!

The things we love are killing us!

“Their sins engulf them.” (Hosea 7:2)
What does it mean to be engulfed by my sin?
Sin is any thought or behaviour that is not God-like… i.e. good!
Like deception, selfishness, cruelty, greed, lust, anger, bitterness.
Have you ever seen someone totally wrapped up in these things?
It seems to me we are getting ourselves deeper and deeper into trouble.
Brene Brown makes a comment about our generation here in the west.
We’re the most indebted, overweight, addicted and medicated generation ever!
There is a mental health crisis, but we’re clueless as to why.
We assume chemicals and medications can fix us; they only mask the problem.
Something is wrong in the world, yet we ignore or deny the spiritual part of it.
“Despite all this (we do) not return to the Lord or search for him.” (Hosea 7:10)
Hosea’s words address the problem among God’s people, i.e. in the church!
Sadly the church is caught up in this too, we are as engulfed by sin as the rest.
I sense the Lord speaking to me today: where is sin engulfing you???
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I sense the tendrils of being lukewarm, worldly in my desires, selfish with my blessings, and distracted by unhealthy, unhelpful desires. May I be engulfed by You, and not by these things!

Connecting people with Jesus!

THE STORY OF JESUS: John 10:40-42
“And in that place many believed in Jesus.” (John 10:42)
I would love to see this myself – many people believing in Jesus.
Sometimes I wonder why we do not see this as much in our tradition.
I have friends from other traditions who see people coming to Jesus all the time.
In our tradition we have the usual crew of youth doing profession of faith.
This is great, but why do we see this, but not people outside the church.
(The rare exception is someone who marries into the church).
With youth in the church, and those who marry in, they are connected.
When we gather at church we speak about believing in Jesus.
Maybe our problem is that we’re not connecting with people outside the church.
And if we do, we do not speak about our relationship with Jesus.
People need to see and hear in us that Jesus is important.
My friends from other traditions do talk about Jesus outside the church.
In this passage Jesus went to where the people were, and connected with them.
Maybe we need to get Jesus out of our church, and into our community?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, its easy to talk about You at church, everyone expects it. Help me – help us to bring You with us outside of the church (in word and deed), so that they can believe in Him too!/em>

Can we be gods in this world?

THE STORY OF JESUS: John 10:31-39
“Is it not written in your Law, “I have said you are ‘gods'”” (John 10:34)
By calling God His Father, the Jews want to stone Jesus for blasphemy.
Jesus quotes Psalm 82:6, which addresses those whom God calls ‘gods’.
Apparently even God, according to Psalm 82:6, is willing to share the god title.
To be clear, neither God nor the scriptures say that we ARE God.
But we should not ignore the high value God places on us, His image bearers.
To be God’s children, in His image, is to be as God in the world.
(See Exodus 4:16,7:1, where Moses is said to be as God to Aaron and Pharoah).
As God’s children, we represent God to the world, as ‘gods’ in this world.
Jesus describes His relationship as “the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” (v.38)
Personally, I see this as an Adam statement, what Adam could have said as well.
He’s not saying He IS God, but one in identity, character and purpose with God.
This is not blasphemy, this is humbly accepting God’s high value placed on us.
It’s also a huge responsibility: we are ‘gods’ in the world but we have messed up.
Thankfully Jesus came to restore us, and God’s kingdom, by being Adam for us!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I am Your brother, and I am God’s son. This ought to shock me, and to shake me out of my careless living. Help me to live into, and up to, my identity and responsibility in the world!

Safe in the hands of God!

THE STORY OF JESUS: John 10:22-30
“I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30)
Debates have raged through the centuries about this.
How can the eternal God and a human being be one.
The bible teaches that there is only one God (Romans 3:30, Ephesians 4:6)
It teaches a special link between God and Jesus (1 Corinthians 8:6).
Jesus as the Word of God made flesh, to live among us (John 1:1,14)
Jesus as the fullness of God in human form (Colossians 1:19, 2:9-10)
Or as Jesus says it here, the other hand of God.
I do not pretend to understand HOW this works, I just accept it.
I believe it experientially, by resting in their two hands!
In Jesus we see the hand of God reaching down to us, to help us.
Jesus is the other hand of God – in Their two hands, we are secure.
Don’t get bogged down into trying to explain it, allow yourself to experience it.
“No one will snatch them out of my hand…
No one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” (John 10:28-29)

What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, with You and God by my side, I am secure. Nothing can separate me from Your loving hands.

a good news parable (by me)

Many years ago (2007), I wrote this “good news parable” to try to communicate why the message of Jesus is good news to me, and to everyone. I posted it then, and thought I would post it again…

The kingdom of heaven is like…

A man who left his wife for a younger mistress. Driven by his passions and pleasures, his mistress eventually left him for someone else, and his life began to fall apart. Soon he was living on the streets, a shell of the man he once was.

Back at her home, the wife still loved her husband. She saw what had become of him, and had compassion on him. She made a decision to forgive him and to reach out to him in love, in the hopes of rescuing him and bringing him home.

She went to the dangerous streets, and finally found him. In fear and shame he pulled back from her. But she reached out to him and touched him (dirty and smelly as he was) and told him of her love, and her desire to bring him home. Continue reading ‘a good news parable (by me)’ »

Good leadership?

THE STORY OF JESUS: John 10:11-21
“The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)
As a leader in a church, I often focus on different aspects of leadership.
Casting vision, mobilizing believers, setting S.M.A.R.T. goals for success.
Providing inspirational, helpful leadership through challenging situations.
But Jesus reminds me of another important aspect of a good leader (shepherd).
Jesus here refers to Ezekiel’s prophecies, about leaders who look out for themselves.
“Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves!” (Ezekiel 34:2)
Self-serving leaders who look out primarily for their own interests.
But Ezekiel also promises that one day God Himself will come for His sheep.
“I will search for the lost and bring back the strays.
I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak.” (Ezekiel 34:15)

I believe that Jesus is the one Ezekiel is talking about.
Jesus is a good shepherd, the kind of leader our world needs.
Not only do I look to Him as my Leader (Lord), I want to be a good leader like Him!
As a shepherd (leader, teacher, parent, manager, boss, etc.) who is your role model?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me to see that the way I ‘lead’ others matters. It is bad leadership at all levels that ruins our world, we need Your good leadership to save it. Help me to seek AND follow Your leadership.

All nations under God!

“Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples.” (Psalm 117:1)
There is a God, but this God does not belong to just a few people.
God is the God of all nations and all peoples.
Our religions attempt to describe God, but they do not confine God.
All nations and all peoples have reasons to praise God.
EVERYONE can praise Him for His great love and enduring faithfulness.
There is not a different God for every religion and culture.
There’s only one God, and each religion is an attempt to describe this God.
And they all get it wrong in many ways… including Christianity.
The only One to describe and embody God in a helpful, accurate way, is Jesus.
Jesus is the living embodiment of God’s great love and enduring faithfulness.
And not just for the ‘in’ people, but for all people.
Rich and poor, strong and weak, Jew and non-Jew… all nations and all peoples.
God so loved all nations and all peoples that he gave Jesus, for ‘whoever believes!’
Our witness to Jesus should lead all races to praise Jesus, and not exclude them!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, Your love for ALL nations is great, Your faithfulness for all peoples endures forever. Forgive us for not loving all nations and all peoples. Make Your family one! All nations under God.