Seeing and seeking the Jesus dream!

“Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1)
As a Jesus follower, I see in Him a vision of our ideal future.
How He related to God, to people, and to world… this is how we were meant to be.
This is how God is making us to be again, through Jesus, by the Spirit.
I am confident, and eager, for the reality of the kingdom, as seen in Jesus.
I cannot get there myself, I do not know the way, and I can’t make it happen.
But I am confident in Jesus, that He is the way, the truth and the life.
He is the way, He knows the way, He shows the way, He makes the way for us.
These OT believers did not fully know where it was all leading.
But they trusted God that it would be better than their world currently was.
As Jesus followers, we believe the same; even when this world is so messed up.
We cling to the vision of a world of love, joy, peace, blessing for all!
We join with Jesus by faith in living this way now, in anticipation.
I show my faith in God’s better world by striving with His help to live that way now.
Am I confident and assured that the Jesus vision is real… am I living for it?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I long for life as You lived it, and for a world that reflects this kind of love. Strengthen my faith in this vision, and my eagerness to live that way today!

Religious violence?

THE STORY OF JESUS: Acts 19:23-31
“They were furious and began shouting: ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!’” (Acts 19:28)
How do we respond when people belittle or dishonour what we believe?
Do we feel threatened, do we become defensive, do we become negative or aggressive?
If we truly think that what we believe is true, we should not feel threatened.
These men cannot change the truth of Jesus, even in their fury and aggression.
Some religious groups respond to ‘blasphemy’ with fury and violence.
It seems to me that this exposes their beliefs as false, if they have to defend them.
You don’t have to defend a lion; just let it go, and watch it defend itself.
We don’t have to defend Jesus against critics; let Him free and He will defend Himself.
The way of Jesus challenges us to respond differently when we face differences.
“Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:28)
This is not just academic; how should christians respond to the Sri Lanka tragedy?
As a Jesus follower, I need to respond to opposition and violence like Jesus did.
Fury and violence are not the Jesus Way, but grace and mercy and blessing are.
We cannot overcome evil with evil, but we can overcome it with good (Romans 12:21)!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me to resist anger, defensiveness and violence when I hear people attack or mock You or Your Church. Help me to love more, bless more, forgive more… like You did!

The power of Jesus’s word!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Acts 19:13-22
“Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” (Acts 19:15)
Jesus holds all authority over all creation, given to Him by God.
The Spirit of God works with/for Jesus, fulfilling His will and purpose.
Those who surrender to Jesus and His message are filled with His Spirit.
Our strength is in our relationship to Jesus, and our living for Him.
The sons of Sceva tried to use Jesus’s Name as a magic talisman.
But they did not know Jesus, Jesus did not know them, nor did these demons.
Using Jesus’s Name, or quoting a bible, or belonging to a church…
These do not give us spiritual power – only a relationship with Jesus does.
Jesus is not a means to an end, to whatever perk or blessing we may want.
The message of Jesus is about emptying oneself of power and self-interest.
It leads to humility, repentance, self-denial, change of direction.
Is your relationship with Jesus changing you, like it did the Ephesians?
Is the message of Jesus spreading and growing in and through me?
“In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.” (Acts 19:20)
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I want to know You better, and I want Your message to change me more. May Your word have this kind of power and impact in my life!

Kingdom handkerchiefs and aprons!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Acts 19:8-12
“Arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God.” (Acts 19:8)
The kingdom of God… we hardly ever talk about it as christians.
We talk about church, worship, being saved, programs, buildings, etc.
But the heart of Paul’s message, and Jesus’ message, was the kingdom of God.
“The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:14-15)
This was Jesus’s big news, how God is restoring His creation kingdom.
But we’re distracted by lesser things like handkerchiefs and aprons that heal (19:12).
Maybe we don’t see as many miracles because we’re not focused on the kingdom.
The kingdom isn’t about miracles, but lifting the curse and restoring paradise for all.
If we seek this, God will back us up with miracles to confirm our message.
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)
Join with Jesus in His kingdom mission, and He will back you up with kingdom power!
Use your handkerchief to bless, your apron to serve; and wait to see what He does!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, this world is not the way it should be. I know many people who are experiencing some aspect of the curse. Use my helpful handkerchief to heal, and my servants apron to bless.

Not me, but Christ in me!

“On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 19:5)
Paul asks what kind of baptism these believers received.
Theirs was a baptism of repentance, not a baptism of faith in Jesus.
The issue was not the baptism itself, but what the baptism was into.
Like a bath, baptism in molasses is very different from baptism in water.
Both are baptisms… but what are they into, and what do they result in?
Repentance is something we do, but Jesus is someone we receive.
These disciples made a personal commitment, which depends on their effort.
Our relationship with God is a covenant, a two way partnership.
It begins with God’s gift (Jesus, grace), to which we respond by faith.
The full meaning of baptism is God’s giving in grace, and our receiving in faith.
That faith will include repentance, but repentance is not the first or main thing.
Receiving Jesus and receiving the Spirit are the same thing; they change us!
It is the fruit of the Spirit, not the fruit of self-effort, that we look for.
Is your relationship rooted in Jesus, or in your own effort and commitment?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me to look for signs of Your Spirit leading, prompting, challenging and encouraging me, and help me to respond by keeping in step with Your Spirit.

Out of my prison!

“Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name.” (Psalm 142:7)
Is there a prison that you need to be set free from?
I don’t mean an actual prison, but a metaphorical prison.
A relationship or an addiction that is destructive?
A physical or mental health condition that is debilitating?
I have found that my own mind can be a prison I can’t escape from.
When circular thinking keeps drawing me back to hopelessness.
Or negative thinking, or unhelpful, unhealthy distractions.
When we feel trapped – because of ourselves or others, we are desperate.
Can you relate to David’s desperation in your own way?
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” (John 14:1)
As a Jesus follower, I see in God and Jesus the hope and help I need.
When I pray through my journal, they guide me out of my hopeless thoughts.
When I rest in God, I find the prison walls receding, and hope growing.
I personally praise God for the way He helps me out of my ‘prison’.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, my ‘prison’ may seem strange to others, but it is very real to me. Thank You for meeting me here, and helping me find the way out!

To use my freedom well!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Hebrews 9-10
“Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9:22)
As a Jesus follower, I need to take very seriously.
Every selfish thought, word and deed contributes to the misery of our world.
The wage of sin is death; death was the curse for turning away from God.
The phrase “shedding of blood” is another way of saying death or dying.
Sin leads to death, the death penalty is hanging over all our heads.
We cannot be released (forgiven, set free) from this unless we die.
As a Jesus follower, I believe God became human to rescue me from the curse of sin.
By His “shedding of blood”, the death penalty has been fulfilled.
I have been crucified with Christ by trusting in Him (Galatians 2:20).
My sin is punished, I am forgiven and set free; I am God’s child!
This is my confidence, and why I stand near to God with hope and love.
Free from the need to earn God’s mercy, I can now share God’s mercy.
Saved from the guilt and grip selfishness, I am free to love and bless.
Set free for “love and good deeds” (10:24), the new me I was saved to be!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, You have set me free from the penalty and power of sin. May I use my freedom well, to share with others the same love and mercy that You have shown to me.

The best lawyer in the world!

“Because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood.” (Hebrews 7:24)
Imagine having the world’s best lawyer always in your service.
They would be your advocate in every situation you found yourself in.
They would always defend you, and would know the law perfectly.
And they were not charging you, they did their work ‘pro bono’.
Jesus is our Advocate, and He cannot be beaten.
Satan tried, and failed; Jesus overcame the curse, and is in charge.
Jesus belongs to me, and I belong to Jesus – the same is true for you.
This does not mean we are innocent, nor that we can get away with anything.
If we keep on sinning, we are crucifying our Advocate again (Hebrews 6:4-8).
But the good news is that our success does not depend on our goodness.
We are urged to do our best, to be devoted to doing what is good.
But our failures will not be held against us, because our Lawyer has it covered.
With Jesus as our anchor, we are secured for eternity (Hebrews 6:19).
As a Jesus follower, I can hang on, because I know Who is hanging on to me!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I have been losing hope because of the mess in our world, as well as the mess in me. Help me to hang on to You, the One that cannot be defeated, my perfect Lawyer and Friend.

If it is God’s will!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Acts 18:18-28
“He promised, ‘I will come back if it is God’s will.'” (Acts 18:21)
As a Jesus follower, I can trust the Lord to guide me.
The Lord knows things that I don’t, and He has His plans for me as well.
I have my own thoughts and plans, but they are not certain, nor always the best.
Like Paul, I can have my hopes, and even make promises.
But my plans are always contingent on the Lord’s plans for me.
This is not just something to admit, it is something to be encouraged by.
Do I trust that the Lord’s plans overall are better than my own?
That what the Lord does through me and my circumstances is ‘very good’.
The problem is that what is good for the kingdom is not always good for me.
Paul eventually ends up in prison in Rome, and dying there.
This is not good for Paul, but it is good for the kingdom.
“What has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.” (Philippians 1:12)
“Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” (Philippians 1:20)

In the end I can trust God’s will for me, and what He will do through my life.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, if it is Your will, I will do the things I’ve planned for today. Help me to trust that if it doesn’t work out that way, You have something better in mind.

Speaking about Jesus, with Jesus!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Acts 18:9-17
“Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent.” (Acts 18:9)
As a Jesus follower, I enjoy speaking about Jesus.
Not being preachy, but sharing with those who are open.
My one hesitation – or fear – is talking about Jesus unasked.
Is it fear of rejection, or fear of being viewed as a religious nut?
“For I am with you…” (Acts 18:10) – can I count on this too?
Do I sense that the Lord is at work around me, also in who I meet each day?
The Lord is setting me up each day to share Him with others.
Every conversation can be an opportunity, if I listen and look for it.
Not everyone will accept it, but that is not my issue.
Some will, and these ones would miss out if I remained silent.
I don’t have to say much, even just saying the Name of Jesus has power.
Like a Trojan horse, Jesus’s Name slipped in can breach the defenses.
I am encouraged to resist my fears, and to see the Lord at work around me!
Focus on Jesus with me, as I speak with others about Him.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, when I focus on my fears, I sink. When I focus on You, the possibilities increase. I choose to focus on You!