Just talk about Jesus!

“The Lord confirmed the message… by enabling them to perform signs and wonders.” (Acts 14:3)
Paul is in Iconium (Konya, Turkey) and has an effective time of speaking.
All he does is speak, but the Lord adds miraculous signs to his words.
It is Spirit power, not Paul’s persuasiveness, that leads to many to faith.
I am reminded that my job is to share the message of Jesus.
I don’t need to try to be effective because the effect is not me.
The effect of the Spirit stirs up faith in the great number of Jews.
The effect of the Spirit performs the signs and wonders.
We bring the willing spirit, and the Lord brings the effective Spirit.
Some focus on eloquence, trying too hard to be effective.
Some focus on the dangers of speaking, and hold back from speaking.
Others focus on signs and wonders, hoping to see them more.
Don’t let these things distract – just be open about your experience of Jesus.
And trust the Spirit to do His work, to combine His power with your words.
If your heart is stirred by the message of Jesus, others can be too!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, may You mean more and more to me. May I be more and more bold to share this with others. And may I be more and more trusting that You will confirm my message, and make it effective.

How will this madness end?

“Happy is the person who pays you back according to what you have done to us.” (Psalm 137:8)
This psalm writer is a victim of horrific abuse, dreaming of revenge.
I get the anger, but the imagery of killing babies is sickening.
How could God inspire the psalmist to write these words.
But a bible of sunshine and fluffy white clouds wouldn’t reflect reality.
God isn’t encouraging this, He is showing us what a world of sin is like.
The shock of the cycle of sin and death should make us long for God’s help.
Through Jesus God does help us break this cycle of violence and revenge justice.
Instead of “an eye for an eye”, Jesus offers Himself to die the victim’s death.
God loves the victim and hates injustice and violence and brutality.
But thankfully He doesn’t join in on it; He beats it with love and mercy.
We shouldn’t forget the victims, but neither should we join the cycle of violence.
Revenge won’t help… only God’s way of humble love and mercy can set us free.
“But here is what I tell you. Love your enemies. Pray for those who hurt you. Then you will be children of your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:44-45)
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, when I think of this kind of brutality, I feel sick. You see it first hand every day. Thank You for breaking the cycle of hate and revenge. Help me to love like You love, to live like You live!

A church where this happens!

THE STORY OF JESUS: 1 Thessalonians 4-5
“Encourage one another and build each other up.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
The ‘normal’ way of life in this world is immoral, selfish, godless living.
As a Jesus follower, I am committed to living ‘abnormally’, like Jesus, like God.
Living the Jesus-life ought to make us stand out, to feel out of place.
This can be discouraging and cause some to wonder if their hopes are real or worth it.
Paul reminds us to stay the course, keep living like Jesus in this dark world.
One day, it will all come together; Jesus will establish the new normal – God’s way.
He will gather us together, and we will be with Him forever (4:17)
Until then stay strong, don’t let persecution or hardship or death throw you off.
Don’t focus on the times and dates, focus on living with courage and holiness.
“Encourage one another and build each other up,” find strength together.
‘Church’ is intended to be a mutual support team, to keep each other strong.
I know I need this kind of support, people to remind me that I am not nuts.
If your ‘church’ is not this kind of team, then it’s not what Jesus had in mind.
Is your fellowship of Jesus followers a place where you are encouraged and built up?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, too often ‘church’ becomes another place of distraction and discouragement. In light of all the struggles we face, may we become a place where people are encouraged and built up in our faith, hope and love!

God’s mission is where you are!

“God’s mission of drawing wanderers into his family always takes place in the midst of ordinary places and relationships. This can take just as much energy, finances, and careful planning as a trip across the ocean. In some ways it might be more uncomfortable than sleeping on a dirt floor and eating strange food. Our mission trip started the day we were born; it ends when God calls us home. Our mission with God plays out in how we walk, talk, eat, commute, party, pray, participate, communicate, spend money, make money, and invest our time wherever we are.”

‘Staying Is the New Going: Choosing to Love Where God Places You’ by Alan Briggs.

How we respond to the message!

THE STORY OF JESUS: 1 Thessalonians 1-3
“For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you…” (1 Thessalonians 1:4-5)
Two days ago we saw how we are chosen for a purpose, to be God’s missionaries.
Here Paul affirms how he knows God has chosen the Thessalonians like this (1:4-10).
He knows because of how they responded to the message – with deep conviction.
Paul had seen many people reject his words as just words.
But not here, these people were profoundly impacted and changed.
As a result, people all over the region were talking about it.
In other words, they were chosen, and God was using them as missionaries.
Do you know people who received and embraced God’s message deeply?
They are chosen by God for a purpose, to help other people believe – including us.
I can know I am chosen too… by responding with my whole heart (2 Peter 1:10-11).
God makes us active participants in the free gift of life, in our response.
You need to make a choice too, to respond to what God is saying to you.
His message is the seed, your heart is the soil (Matthew 13:1-9).
If you really want it, you can receive it, for He is working His choice in you!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I can’t explain when and how You work out Your choice in my life. But I do know whether I am open to it or closed. Help the soil of my heart to respond to Your message with joy and impact!

Spread the good word!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Acts 13:49-52
“The word of the Lord spread through the whole region.” (Acts 13:49)
How well do you know the word of the Lord?
If you are like most christians, you think I mean the bible.
But you can know the bible inside out, and not know the word of the Lord.
For the word of the Lord is the message of good news about Jesus.
It was not the bible that was spreading throughout the region.
There were few OT manuscripts available, and no bibles as we know them.
But people were hearing about, and talking about, Jesus!
How well do you know Jesus, and are you spreading news about Him?
You can use the bible to help you talk about Jesus.
But knowing and speaking about Jesus is what matters most.
People need Jesus – not church, not the bible, not your doctrines.
We’ve been spreading too much religion and church, not enough Jesus.
If people knew who Jesus really was, I think more people would accept Him.
There would be more joy and Holy Spirit if Jesus was our message (13:52).
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, knowing You gives me a sense of love and joy and peace that helps me navigate life with faith, hope and love. Help me spread the word, that others may share in this joy!

Chosen… for a purpose!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Acts 13:42-48
“All who were appointed for eternal life believed.” (Acts 13:48)
In Romans 11 Paul explains how God uses Jewish unbelief to reach the Gentiles.
He explains that it is because of their unbelief,not God’s rejection; and this can change.
“Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! … If they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.” Romans 11:11,20)
Calvinists see this ‘appointing’ as God eternally choosing some, and rejecting others.
I see it as God directing human affairs for His purpose of salvation.
God is directing our times and places SO THAT people will seek Him (Acts 17:26-27).
God appointed those who responded so that others could be saved as well.
Election is not God rejecting some, but God choosing some – for a purpose.
God wants everyone to be saved, and He times some ‘salvations’ to help others.
If we believe, God has appointed us to help others believe… this is our mission.
If someone rejects Jesus, this does not mean they are not ‘appointed’.
God is still working in them, and He is using you to draw them.
I’ve been appointed for eternal life… to help others receive eternal life.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me not to get lost in the mystery of God’s sovereign purpose, that I forget why You have called and chosen me to follow You. I am called for a purpose, may I be faithful to that calling!

Living with the hope of life!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Acts 13:32-41
“God raised him from the dead so that he will never be subject to decay.” (Acts 13:34)
‘Change and decay in all around I see’ (from the hymn, Abide With Me).
This is why Paul sees the resurrection of Jesus as the good news.
Humanity, and all creation, is under the curse of ‘change and decay’.
Even in the womb the process of decay and death is at work in us.
It is our disconnect with God that results in our doom.
And creation itself is groaning under our curse, also subject to decay.
Tragedies, disasters and atrocities plague us, and our world.
Though Jesus is subject to all of these, He does not sin.
And His goodness triumphs over Satan, sin and the curse of decay and death.
Because He does not sin, death has no hold on Him, and He breaks free.
Because of Jesus, humanity can break free from the curse of sin and death.
Because Jesus is alive, and is not subject to decay, we can be too.
Believe it or not, we are released, forgiven, set free… if we receive it!?
Are you choosing to live in the hope of life, or are you under the curse of death?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, Your resurrection gives me hope that no matter how bad things get, the hope of life still stands. I choose to live in this hope of life!

To make us into little Christs!

“The Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose. It is even doubtful, you know, whether the whole universe was created for any other purpose.”

(C.S.Lewis, Mere Christianity)

Would I recognize Jesus?

THE STORY OF JESUS: Acts 13:26-31
“The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus…” (Acts 13:27)
This ought to shock us, how could God’s people not recognize the messiah?
The one that they had been waiting centuries for, waiting desperately.
Their whole history was moving towards this great moment, and they didn’t see it.
This is like saying the church today wouldn’t recognize Jesus…
There is a story about Jesus meeting a homeless man outside a church.
‘Don’t worry’, he says, ‘they won’t let me in either.’
Would our church leaders (local or denominational) recognize Jesus?
Would His message fit into our confessions, or would we challenge His heresies.
If this sounds far fetched, this is exactly what happened to Jesus.
This challenge applies to me too. would I recognize and welcome Jesus?
I’m a religious leader, and I would like to think that I would welcome Him.
As a Jesus follower, I need to make sure I know what Jesus is like.
The more time I spend with Him, the more likely I will recognize Him.
I need to spend my time WITH Him, to grow LIKE Him, to live FOR Him.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I want to recognize and welcome You. Expose my wrong ideas about You, and shape me by Your Spirit to be more and more like You.