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.

When tradition gets in the way

“Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down.” (Mark 7:13)
What place should tradition have in our following Jesus?
Tradition is the faith and practice of Jesus followers before us.
“Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.”
We learn from those who have believed before us, but we are not bound by it.
And we should be very careful when that tradition shapes how we hear God in scripture.
The cry of the Reformation was ‘sola sciptura’, only scripture, not tradition.
I belong to a church with roots in the reformation, and we still say ‘sola scriptura’.
But it is striking to me how much tradition plays a role in how we do things.
Many times when I am questioned about something, it is more about ‘tradition’.
How the church (believers in the past) taught things, how the church did things.
I should be open to learning from the church, but I must submit to God’s Voice in scripture.
I know there is danger in straying from tradition; but there is danger the other way too.
My hope is that people will know scripture better than our traditions.
That together we will be like the Bereans, testing what we hear with Scripture.
Otherwise we may be nullifying God’s message by our own traditions.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me to learn from others – both those living today and those who lived in the past. But help me to submit to You, and listen to Your Voice!

Still reaching out to Jesus!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Mark 6:53-56
“All who touched (even the edge of his cloak) were healed.” (Mark 6:56)
As a Jesus follower, I believe the stories about how Jesus healed people.
But one challenge to my faith is that I do not see healings like this today.
Don’t get me wrong, I hear stories about healing, and I believe it happens.
But not everyone is healed; many people who reach out to Him remain sick.
Some say that signs do not always occur, only when God wants to make a point.
Some say the problem is our lack of faith, God can’t help those who don’t believe.
Others say the healing does happen in some form, we just don’t see it.
These answers are academic, they don’t help when your sickness is not healed.
This is a real challenge, and people have given up on God and Jesus because of it.
I still hang on to Jesus because I have more with Him than without Him.
I can say honestly that He helps me always, even if He does not heal me always.
One day I will ask Jesus why healings didn’t happen in the same way in my life.
But until that day, I will keep reaching out to Jesus, to get whatever help I can.
Some may see this as weak, but in fact reaching out to Jesus makes me stronger!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, thank You for helping me in so many ways. Please show those who struggle with sickness that You are helping them too. May they find more with You than without You!

Going deeper with God!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Mark 6:45-52
“After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.” (Mark 6:46)
We were made to live in close fellowship with God… like Jesus.
We were also made to live in authority over creation, not in fear of it.
Living independently of God, creation becomes a threat and we live in fear.
But with God, we can overcome mountains and walk on stormy waters.
Is this just figurative, or is this for real?
We can’t know for sure what life will be in the restored creation.
But I do believe it will be beyond our present experience, and awesome.
In the meantime, we approach our challenges with faith in God.
But this faith is more than a ‘belief system’, it is a relationship.
The source of Jesus’ strength was His close fellowship with God.
God wants us to want Him, not just the things we can get from Him.
As a Jesus follower, I need to meet God on the mountainside too.
He will enable me to traverse high mountains and stormy seas.
Today I sense the Lord inviting me to deepen my prayer life.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I’m sensing the shallowness of my prayer life. You are inspiring me to go deeper, that I may climb higher and move more confidently in life.

His compassion for me, through me!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Mark 6:30-44
“When Jesus saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them.” (Mark 6:34)
Jesus is concerned for his disciples, and invites them to a quiet time of retreat.
Jesus is concerned for the desperate, and teaches them about God’s kingdom.
Jesus is concerned for you, for me, and for all people.
He is inviting you to experience God’s mercy, grace, hope and blessing.
God sent Jesus into the world to restore the lost and to heal the broken.
God sent Jesus to lift up the humbled and to stand up for the oppressed.
If only we could grasp how deep and how far His love goes.
By His Spirit, He is still teaching us many things… are we hearing Him?
Do you sense His deep compassion for you, and for ALL people?
God hates sin, and He must condemn it; but He does not want to condemn us.
Through Jesus, see and hear the heart of God reaching out to you, and all people!
As a Jesus follower, you have been taught about God’s amazing grace.
If we have experienced God’s mercy and love, how can we not share it with others?
Today when you see others, will His compassion for them show through you?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, thank You that first and foremost I am loved and forgiven and restored – totally undeserved. Help me by Your Spirit to love others because You first loved me.

Partners with God

“Unless the Lord builds… the builders labor in vain… (Psalm 127:1)
What if my house or city falls, if I don’t have kids, or can’t sleep?
Does this mean God is not for me, God is not blessing me?
Or if my church is not growing, is it because God is not with us?
For me this Psalm is not a judgment psalm, but an encouragement psalm.
‘Trust in Me, rely on Me, and your efforts won’t be in vain!’
‘You cannot do life on your own, you need My presence and support.’
I have tried planning, scheming and building church in my own strength.
I can relate to the ‘in vain’, working hard yet stressed and sleepless.
“If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit;
Apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

We were made to live and work in partnership with God.
Jesus comes to renew this partnership, so that we can be fruitful!
As a Jesus follower I am developing followers of Jesus WITH Jesus.
He uses my weak and flawed efforts to build His house – I am blessed!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, You have promised to build Your church, and that Satan would not overcome it. Working with You is not in vain!

Walking with Jesus!

“Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” (Proverbs 13:20)
As as follower of Jesus, I am eager to walk with Jesus, in His wisdom.
Even though He is not visible to me, I can ‘see’ and ‘hear’ Him through the Gospel stories.
The more time I think about and reflect on His ways, the more ingrained they become.
This proverb challenges us to consider who we walk with.
Who are the people, or what are the ways, that most impact you?
I work with a lot of people, but I do not walk with all of them.
That is, I do not make them my ideal, how I want to live.
There are a few people that I especially look up to, for how they live.
But what appeals to me is how like Jesus they seem to me.
The wisdom of Jesus, how He viewed, prioritized and practiced life, is my ideal.
This is hard, because it led Him to be resisted, and eventually killed.
I do not want this part, but I am compelled by the wisdom of His way.
When I fall short of it (and I often do), it feels wrong and I see how it causes harm.
I want to walk with Jesus, because I want to become wise like Him!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, if we are known by the company we keep, I want to be known by You. ‘Oh Master, let me walk with Thee, in lowly paths of service free!’