Done with the churchy talk!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Galatians 4-6
“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 6:14)
What do I talk the most about?
Am I focused more on Jesus the His life, death and resurrection?
Or is most of my talk about church, or spiritual practices, or good deeds?
This is especially a struggle for me, in that I work in the church.
There was a time when I spoke mostly about churchy stuff.
I debated church issues and church practices, and had strong opinions.
At one point I crashed spiritually, and realized how empty my faith was.
My issues were different than these Galatians, but I was still sidetracked.
My boasting was not about Jesus, but about being right.
“It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good.” (Galatians 4:18)
Nowadays I find churchy talk tiresome, I want to know and show Jesus.
I want to discover what it means to live by, be led by, the Spirit of Jesus!
I have not figured this out, and I have a long way to go.
But my boast is Jesus, Who loved me and gave Himself for me!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I love to talk with You, and I love to talk about You. Fill me with Your Spirit, so that I may also show You in all I say and do!

Living under Jesus!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Galatians 1-3
“Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.” (Galatians 3:25)
The root meaning of ‘faith’ is confidence, not doctrine or beliefs.
Jesus has come, giving us confidence we are forgiven and accepted by grace.
My confidence with God is not because of all the religious or good things I do.
The Law of Moses was not put in place to help people find peace with God.
The Law was a temporary regulation put in place for a specific time.
Like when a government imposes ‘martial law’ in a dangerous time.
But now that Jesus has come, we are no longer under Moses’s guardianship.
We can learn from the Old Covenant, but we do not live under it.
We are under the Law of Christ, not the Law of Moses (1 Corinthians 9:20-21).
Do you live with confidence in Jesus, even if you still fall short?
I know my sin (as best I can), I hate my sin… but I am still confident.
Because I know Jesus, and I live confidently by faith in Him.
With His help, I aim to produce good fruit, to live like Jesus.
But I am under Jesus, not the Law, and my confidence is in Him!!!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I have been crucified with You and I no longer live, but You live in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by confidence in You, Who loved me and gave Yourself for me.

Baptism moment!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Acts 8:26-40
“The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” (Acts 8:29)
When it comes to sharing my faith, I do not like being pushy.
All my reasons are likely mere excuses, but I still hold back.
But I like how the Spirit simply prompts Philip to go near the man.
Just hang around in places where others are, and let the door open.
The bigger challenge for me is paying attention to these Spirit nudges.
As I sit here in this coffee shop, is the Spirit nudging me?
I don’t have to jump right into a gospel presentation.
Just respond to the person where they’re at, what they’re doing.
Trust that the Spirit that nudged you will also give you a way in.
As a Jesus follower, I am led by the Spirit of Jesus.
He is leading me to places where I can share the love of Jesus.
If I am not looking for them, I will miss these baptism moments.
A baptism moment is when the Lord wants to pour out His grace through us.
Today I will make a point to follow His nudges, and look for the open door.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me to relax and wait for Your nudge. Help me to look for the natural connecting point to speak to others. Help me to trust that if You set me up, You will lead me through!

The Spirit shows up in a special way!

“Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 8:17)
To have the Spirit, and to receive the Spirit, are two sides of the same coin.
The baptism of the Spirit happens to all of us when we’re baptized.
This ‘baptism’ is the filling or flooding of a person with all God’s grace.
We are all filled with the Spirit, but the Spirit works in us in unique ways.
These unique gifts will show themselves visibly, as the Spirit leads.
Some might prophecy, others speak in unknown languages, others be healed, etc.
This special ‘receiving’ is an outworking of being baptized in the Spirit.
And it happens as the situation requires, as the Spirit determines.
We can still pray for people to receive the Spirit in a special way.
For a sick person to be healed, for a sad person to be filled with joy.
For an addicted person to be set free, for a fearful person to become bold.
I’ve prayed for special demonstrations of power, to help, heal or bless someone.
But I can’t control (or buy) it; God decides who, when and how he works!
As you work with someone, pray for them to receive a special Spirit blessing!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, fill me, use me, and demonstrate Your power in the lives of those I seek to help and bless… not for my glory, but that they might know You better!

Sharing Jesus’s love with all!

“Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there.” (Acts 8:5)
In Jesus’s time, there was a real animosity between Jews and Samaritans.
Each thought they were the true religion, and the other a heresy.
Jesus breaks down these barriers, and works and speaks with Samaritans.
And here we see the Spirit leading the first disciples to follow Jesus.
Jesus comes to break down the walls and barriers between us.
“Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian,
slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” (Colossians 3:11)

As Jesus followers, we need to break down the walls that divide us.
The Spirit sends us to everyone to share the love of Jesus.
We show people with our words and actions how God blesses all people.
But our message needs to be grace, not condemnation or judgment.
People are paying closing attention to what we say and do (8:6).
They can tell whether we are for or against them, loving or judging them.
May there be great joy among our neighbors as we share Jesus with them.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me to see people of other ‘groups’ as my brothers and sisters, and to share the love of Jesus with them in words and deeds of grace.

Seed scattered!

“Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” (Acts 8:4)
The word (message) about Jesus is spreading, despite persecution.
Wherever people go, they talk about what they have seen, heard and believed.
Even though talking would make them targets for people like Saul, they did.
They talked at work, to their neighbours, and to strangers on the road.
Not formal evangelism or gospel campaigns, just sharing their hope with people.
“Unless a seed falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.
But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24)

I believe that God uses the evil plans of His enemies against them.
He turns persecution into opportunities to spread the Jesus word!
Our lives are also opportunities to share our resurrection faith and hope and love.
A co-worker accuses you, a trip to the hospital, a home break-in…
Bad news about someone we love, loss of our job, a scary diagnosis, etc.
Each of these can be opportunities to show others our hope in Jesus.
We are scattered like seed – not always fun – to ‘preach the word wherever I go’.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, in hindsight I see I don’t handle difficulties well. Help me to see life’s challenges not as obstacles but as opportunities. Help me to see Your hand behind them, using them to spread the news… through me!

A still, quiet soul!

“I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.” (Psalm 131:1)
Life and reality are more complicated than we care to admit.
We like to reduce everything – including God – to a formula we can understand.
We are critical when God and things about God don’t make sense to us.
As if our puny minds can fathom the mysteries of the Universe, let alone God.
We have lost our sense of mystery, of wonder, of humility.
I believe that one day when we finally stand before God, we will say what Job said.
“Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.” (Job 42:3)
This is not a bad thing, actually it is the wonderful security of a child in it’s mother’s arms.
The child does not know, let alone understand, what is going on in the world around it.
But one thing it knows, it is safe within the loving arms of it’s loving mother.
I have found it helpful to sit in the quiet and repeat, ‘relax, God has it in hand!’
Or like the psalmist, “be still and know that I am God!” (Psalm 46:10)
As a Jesus follower, I need this reminder to “put my hope in the Lord” (131:3)
When life gets overwhelming, quiet your soul in His arms… He has things under control!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, remind me of this beautiful psalm whenever I get stressed over overwhelmed. Help me to imagine myself as a young child lying safe in Your arms.

Am I eager to strengthen others?

THE STORY OF JESUS: 2 Corinthians 12-13
“Everything we do, dear friends, is for your strengthening.” (2 Corinthians 12:19)
Paul’s relationship with the Corinthian disciples is strained.
They have been bad-mouthing Paul’s weaknesses and failures.
Paul stresses that his mission has always been for their blessing.
Like Jesus, he wants to build up, not tear down (2 Corinthians 13:10).
As a Jesus follower, and a leader, I can test my own calling with these words.
Is my heart, my passion, to build up and bless those I work with?
Paul is learning that even good intentions can be misunderstood.
Do the people I meet and work with sense that I want to build them up too?
Paul was willing to spend/expend himself for this… am I, are you?
Do our words and actions build up co-workers, classmates, neighbours, etc.?
Am I saying things to be liked, to get people to meet my needs?
Am I doing things to manipulate people, or to use them to my advantage?
Test yourself carefully in this; often we are more self-led that we realize.
May my passion be – like Paul, like Jesus – to strengthen and build up others!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, show me times today when I am saying or doing things with selfish motives, instead of for the benefit of others. Help me to shift my words and actions towards strengthening others

Feeling weak?

THE STORY OF JESUS: 2 Corinthians 10-11
“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.” (2 Corinthians 10:4)
The world values strength, charisma, skill, success, money, numbers, etc.
Too often the church plays this game too, trying to put on a good show.
Paul admits that he is a poor speaker, and unimpressive compared to others.
But his strength and power are not in eloquence but in devotion and self-denial.
Like Jesus, he sacrifices himself so that others will benefit and be blessed.
As a pastor, I can relate to the lure of personal ambition and competition.
To lead a church with impressive attendance, worship, preaching, programs…
But these are NOT the weapons that Jesus needs, He needs our love and devotion.
Paul says our weapons have divine power to demolish strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4).
Do I trust that a weak, stumbling message can have a God impact?
Do I trust that my fumbling words can comfort or convict, with His help?
Just showing up, listening, and praying, often feels weak and useless.
But this is where God loves to show up, to do great things through small.
“I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” (2 Corinthians 11:30)
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me not to measure myself with others. To see myself as You see me. And while You’re at it, please show Your power!