When shame is good

“May all who hate Zion be turned back in shame.” (Psalm 129:5)
For the Jews, the hill called Zion symbolized all God’s promises.
Not only their capitol, it was the city of David their king.
And the location of their temple, where God lived with them.
To hate Zion is to hate God, and to hate all that God represents.
This was no doubt nationalistic pride for the people of Israel.
But how do we read this verse as Jesus followers?
Jesus is our Zion, Who symbolizes all God’s promises for the world.
He is the true heir of David, and the ruler of the world.
He does not represent a worldly kingdom, but the kingdom of God.
God’s kingdom signifies all that is good and right, for all people.
Some things we shouldn’t be ashamed of, but other things we should.
The purpose of shame is to shake and wake us up, to come to our senses.
I don’t wish shame on anyone, but shame may be necessary – for all of us!
After all, shouldn’t someone who hates goodness be ashamed?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, its hard to imagine people opposed to Your goodness and grace. But You faced them too. Some of them were ashamed, and repented. May many more be ashamed, and repent.

Wise words… shorter sermons?

“The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint.” (Proverbs 17:27)
Do we realize how penetrating words can be, how they can heal or hurt?
As one who uses words for a living, I sometimes forget this.
How many people have been blessed by my words without my knowing it?
But the same could be asked for how many people have been hurt.
“The tongue has the power of life and death.” (Proverbs 18:21)
This reminds me of Jesus’ warning about careless words (Matthew 12:36).
As one who likes to be funny, are my attempts at humour risky?
Am I hurting people unintentionally, am I making light of something painful?
I’ve noticed that I tend to say more when I’m less confident of what I want to say.
These scriptures are challenging me to be wise, to speak less and trust more!
“The more the words, the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone?” (Ecclesiastes 6:11)
“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak…” (James 1:19)
This is a good reminder to me, to remember the seriousness of words.
Maybe I shorten my sermons and leave more room for the Spirit to speak.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, You were a master at using words well. Your simple prayer and brief lessons have more power than my lengthy speeches. Help me to trust my words less, and trust Your Spirit more!

He knows my heart!

“All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord.” (Proverbs 16:2)
Just because I think I’m right (short for ‘righteous’), doesn’t mean I am.
Paul thought he was faultless (Philippians 3:4-6), until he met Jesus.
Then he realized thinking he was right didn’t make him innocent (1 Corinthians 4:4).
The Lord sees deeper than we do, into the motives of our heart.
This is becoming more apparent to me as I wrestle with tough issues.
When I am making decisions about things over which others struggle.
I read the bible and carefully discern what others have to say.
I mean well, but that does not make my view right, or someone else’s wrong.
Wisdom compels me to be humble about myself, to avoid destruction (Proverbs 16:18).
I believe in right, wrong, good and evil; I just don’t think I’ve figured it out.
I no longer hold my beliefs with certainty; rather I hold them with humility.
No two Christians around the world have ever agreed on everything.
Thankfully we don’t need to be right to be saved; Jesus took care of that or us.
But we do need to be humble, and God sees into our hearts if we are or not.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, it is not my rightness but Your rightness that counts. I cannot avoid making conclusions and holding positions, but help me to do so in a humble, gracious way.

Just in case you missed it!

“The people ate and were satisfied. About four thousand were present.” (Mark 8:8-9)
Is this just another version of the one time Jesus fed the crowds?
Or did Jesus feed large groups on several occasions.
If He did it more than once, why would they be surprised the second time?
Good question… though never underestimate our ability to not get things.
The bible often tells of people who doubt after seeing multiple miracles.
We’ve become so used to God’s daily care, we don’t even see it anymore.
If something dramatic or different happens, we usually explain it away.
To some extent the skeptics mind is alive and well in all of us.
The Lord often repeates Himself to us, yet we still often forget.
I think of the times He has helped and provided for me.
Jesus followers should live with our eyes open, to see His hand in our life.
With our eyes open, we start to see patterns, we see Him repeating Himself.
Eventually we begin to see that He is with us, working in us and through us.
Pay attention today – you may see the Lord reminding you again!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, so much of what You do for me I take for granted. The food I eat, the resources and opportunities I have, the house I live in, the people in my life. You have multiplied blessings for me… but do I appreciate them?

Maybe Jesus has a reason…

THE STORY OF JESUS: Mark 7:31-37
“Jesus put his fingers in the man’s ears, spit and touched the man’s tongue.” (Mark 7:33)
I don’t know: this what I say when asked, ‘why finger in ear and spit in mouth?’
Aside from being weird and gross, it was also effective, it worked.
Maybe Jesus had a reason for the man or the audience, that we don’t know about.
Maybe Jesus has a reason for how He answers our requests, needs or problems.
Why are some answers direct, indirect or delayed, some weird or even gross?
I don’t know… but maybe Jesus has a reason, a good reason.
His goal is to truly help us, not just give us what we want or like.
Our lives and our attitudes are more complicated than we realize.
In this story, the people were probably also weirded or grossed out…
Until they saw the results, then they admitted ‘He has done everything well’.
I believe that one day we will see and say the same.
We will see the difficult, hard to understand circumstances in our lives.
The fog will clear, we will see the results and say, ‘He has done everything well!’
Until then, I don’t know… but I trust.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I don’t know… but You do. You know things about me that I can’t see, or won’t. Help me to trust You even when what You do is difficult to understand.

Like a surgeon’s knife

THE STORY OF JESUS: Mark 7:24-30
“It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” (Mark 7:27)
Jesus is visiting Tyre, a non-Jewish area.
But why does He call this woman a ‘dog’… not a very Jesus-like thing to say?
He knows how the Canaanites and Jews felt about each other.
It might be the same attitude found between Jews and Palestinians today.
Jesus knows how this woman thinks of Jews, and He throws that back at her.
He knows her heart, and cuts deep with surgical knife into her unhealthy attitude.
“It is from a person’s heart that malice, slander and arrogance come…” (Mark 7:21-22)
The woman knows it too, and her heart is humbled.
Jesus loves her; He heals her daughter, but also the attitude of her heart.
Jesus speaks personally to each one of us, addressing our issues and sins.
As a Jesus follower, this passage is meant to speak to me, to expose my attitudes.
Is the Spirit challenging how I think about people of other faiths, cultures, lifestyles?
Am I demeaning others by labelling them, treating them as less than God’s children?
Does my heart need to be humbled, to see that I am not better than others?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, You are speaking to my heart, gently but firmly calling me to repent too. Help me to see that when Your words are sharp, they are a surgeon’s knife, cutting away something unhealthy.

Think about it!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Mark 7:14-23
“’Are you so dull?’ he asked. ‘Don’t you see that…'” (Mark 7:18)
Here we see the problem with translation.
The actual word describes not being able to understand, or figure things out.
The words ‘are you so dull’ carry a connotation that does not sound like Jesus.
(But maybe that is my translation problem, maybe I want to shape it my way?)
Knowing Who Jesus is, how He came, suffered and died for us, shapes how I hear it.
Seeing how Jesus related to the poor, weak, sinners and the sick does as well.
Jesus is not the type to diminish a person’s value, though he does challenge us.
I hear Jesus saying to me as well, ‘can’t you figure things out?’
In other words, ‘think about it, think it through, you can see it if you try!’
Our problem is not that we can’t think, but too often we don’t think.
Maybe the disciples were becoming too passive in their learning.
They were becoming too dependent on Jesus to do the thinking for them.
This happens in church too, where we rely on someone to interpret the bible for us.
Jesus is inviting us to think with him, to seek and find understanding with His help.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I need to think my life through, especially some attitudes and behaviours that are not helpful, but still seem to undermine my life. Help me not to be ‘so dull’.

The Jesus Way of blessing!

“Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him.” (Psalm 128:1)
God is the center of all life, all reality.
God made us free to choose, to partner with Him in ruling the world.
But our choices need to be wise, to line up with the way things work.
God’s character, God’s goodness, are written into the very dna of all reality.
In our sinful broken world, sin has disrupted God’s harmony and peace.
Because of sin, we all experience some suffering in this life.
But we can start to realign our lives to God by choosing wisely now.
The best way to move towards happiness or blessing… is God’s way.
Jesus has shown us what God-like living looks like: living to bless others!
He has warned us that it will likely lead to hardship in this life.
But ultimately it will lead to restoration and blessing for many!
Following God may not be easy, but its better than any other way!
As a Jesus follower, I want to choose Jesus’s way to being blessed.
By living my life for being a blessing to others.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me to trust that following Your way of blessing others will ultimately lead to my being blessed as well.

Humble my opinions!

“Wisdom’s instruction is to fear the Lord, and humility comes before honor.” (Proverbs 15:33)
After years of trying to figure things out, I’ve learned that I can’t.
Many of the things I thought I was certain about, I no long hold with confidence.
Its not that I have given in to doubt and unbelief; I trust Jesus more than ever.
But that is the thing; I don’t trust my beliefs, I trust Jesus’s grace!
The greatest lesson in life is humility, and a healthy respect (fear) for God.
This is not about cowering before a scary God, but loving respect and submission.
I am nothing compared to God, my opinions and beliefs are a house built on sand.
We can be very arrogant about our thoughts and beliefs and opinions.
As if we see things better than others, that our perspective sees the whole picture.
I have come to a place where I realize how fragile and flawed my understanding is.
If I want to be wise, the best thing to do is not think too highly of myself and my opinions.
When I finally stand before Jesus on the last day, my hope will not be in my beliefs.
My acceptance with God will not be because I was right… but because Jesus is right.
Orthodoxy (right doctrine) does not save us, but a right (humble) heart!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, You have been gently breaking down my system of beliefs, and building up my faith. Thank You that I am saved by Your love and grace, and not by being right!

A heart at peace gives life!

“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” (Proverbs 14:30)
Today there were many proverbs I wanted to reflect on.
What struck me about this one is that it seems to speak to a deeper issue.
This proverbs says ‘envy’ rots the bones, but there are many other things too.
Whatever grips our hearts (greed, pride, anger, revenge, lust) does the same.
It is our restless or empty hearts that get us into trouble.
If only our hearts were at peace, we could enjoy life.
Our heart issues even affect our health, and can shorten our lives.
I can relate to this restless heart syndrome.
There are times when I just can’t relax, yet nothing seems to calm me.
At these times, prayer and bible reading do not always help.
Sometimes it takes the discipline of just sitting still, despite the angst.
Breathing deep, exhaling my restless spirit, inhaling God’s life-giving Spirit.
Refusing the ‘envy’ (or other desire) that I reach for for relief.
Hanging on to the Lord for dear life, for that heart at peace in Him.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I have experienced this heart at peace, and while it lasts it is great. Help me to hang on when my restless heart agitates me to look for relief elsewhere.