God’s sanctuary in me!

“This is my resting place for ever and ever; here I will sit enthroned.” (Psalm 132:14)
For the Jews before Jesus, the temple was their symbol of hope.
It reminded them of God’s commitment to them – He lived among them.
It reminded them of their glorious past, and David their great ancestor.
Since Jesus’ time, the temple has been replaced.
Jesus Himself is the temple among us – God living with us.
But more than that, we are the temples of God – God living in us.
“You yourselves are God’s temple and God’s Spirit dwells in your midst!” (1 Corinthians 3:16)
As Jesus followers, we pray to God in Jesus’ Name (the Son of David).
We turn to the one within us for mercy, help, strength and support.
We do not need to go anywhere, we can pray in the temple of our heart!
If you do not experience God within you, make this your main desire.
Allow no sleep to your eyes until you find this place for the Lord.
Jesus promises that He and the Father “will come and make our home with them.” (John 14:23)
Are you allowing Jesus and the Father to “sit enthroned” in your heart?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, what an amazing thought, that my heart is the throne room of the God of the Universe, and that my head is adorned with a “radiant crown”. Help me to live accordingly!

Life Lessons with Jesus!

“I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw.” (Proverbs 24:32)
As I read this verse, I knew the Lord wanted me to reflect on it.
In the context it is about learning a lesson from a lazy person.
But I sensed the Lord telling me that I can learn lessons all the time.
Time with Jesus in the bible is a great place to ‘apply our hearts’.
Just reading it is not enough, I need to apply it to my own life.
To relate it to my daily experiences or struggles, or what I see in others.
(We used to do this with our kids, turning experiences in ‘life lessons’;
they sang a song when we did this, ‘Life Lessons with Dad/Mom’).
As Jesus followers we need to spend time with Jesus reflecting on life.
Right now I am taking some time apart for personal retreat with Jesus.
I am sensing Jesus gently challenging me about some of my experiences.
How I think about others, how I speak to others, how I manage my time?
What I value most, how fear immobilizes me, other things that hold me back?
Are you spending time with Jesus, learning life lessons with Jesus?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, as I spend some time apart in a personal retreat, may I apply my heart to my life with You, and discover what lessons You want to teach me.

Make me a zealot!?

“Do not let your heart envy sinners…” Proverbs 23:17)
What gets your heart going, what are you passionate about?
This proverb warns about seeting your heart on what others have.
Jealousy, greed, envy, covetousness… how would our economy work otherwise?
This is a warning not to allow our hearts to be sucked in by these.
“But always be zealous for the fear of the Lord.” (Proverbs 23:17)
What if my greatest passion was to know, love and serve God?
If my mind, emotions and will were activated by God and His good purpose?
Jesus spoke of doing God’s will as His food and drink (John 4:34)
He urged His followers to be zealous in pursusing God and His Kingdom.
“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” (Romans 12:11)
Zeal, passion, a heart set on fire for serving the Lord.
It is hard to imagine myself as a zealot this way, it seems extreme.
And yet imagine if we had more extremists for love, than for violence.
What is holding me back from this kind of extreme, zealous devotion?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, even as I pray this, I am hesitant… but I will pray it anyway: make me an zealot, a radical extremist serving You through love for goodness!

Seriously, not literally!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Mark 9:42-50
“Where ‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.’” (Mark 9:48)
Jesus does not use the word ‘hell’ (a later English word), but the word ‘gehenna’.
“Gehenna, or the valley of Hinnom, is an actual valley in the city of Jerusalem. In Israel’s past, it was used as a place of child sacrifice. From the reign of Josiah onward, it was used as a garbage dump where the fires burned the refuse continuously. Jesus used it as an illustration of the final judgment of the wicked.”
In Matthew 18 He uses the word ‘Hades’, the Greek god of the underworld (Matthew 16:18).
Jesus borrows the symbols of the day to describe the final judgement.
If we took Jesus literally, ‘hell’ would be in Israel, and the god Hades would be real.
There doesn’t need to be actual fire (nor an actual millstone) for that judgment to be serious.
I take Jesus’s warnings about the final judgment very seriously.
But I do not let my imagination go too far in describing what it will be like.
Jesus calls us to take our sins seriously now, not to ignore their consequences!
As a Jesus follower, I need to hate sin, what it does to God and others and what it will do to me.
A day will come when it will be too late, and that judgment will be final!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me not to debate the temperature of gehenna. Help me to deal with the sin that You took so seriously, that You died so that I might be rescued and restored.

Equal partners with Jesus!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Mark 9:38-41
“Anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name will certainly not lose their reward.” (Mark 9:41)
We love to divide people into group: those who are with us, those who are like us.
The disciples wanted to protect their special place with Jesus.
This ‘someone’ was not one of the twelve, he was a second-class disciple.
Jesus ‘drives out’ this spirit of pride and jealousy.
He goes on to show that there are not different classes of good deeds either.
We focus on the great miracle workers, healers or ‘great’ church leaders.
But Jesus says someone who gives a cup of water is just as powerful, just as important.
There are no ‘super-christians’, the ones we set apart and above the others.
We all have our place in the body of Christ, and we all have equal value.
The way we as ‘church’ divide up the family of Jesus is so sad.
Different groups is fine, but we are meant to work together, not to compete.
Different roles, but one is not more important than another.
Let’s start treating the nursery volunteers with the same respect as the elders!
What unites us is our connection to Jesus, no matter who we are, and what we do.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, forgive us for dividing up your body into the ins and outs, the great workers and the ordinary ones. Help us to celebrate You in every person, no matter who they are or what they do!

Who does Jesus celebrate?

THE STORY OF JESUS: Mark 9:33-37
“Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)
Among chickens, there is a pecking order… among humans too.
We want to establish ourselves in a good place, to rise up in the ranks.
There is something normal and healthy in this… God created us to valued.
But the curse of sin has twisted this into a game of ‘king of the hill’.
The disciples of Jesus were playing this game too… is that different today?
Does the church focus on the stars, the celebrities, those who perform well?
Jesus was not a performer, nor did He celebrate the performers.
Jesus did His best to downplay public acclaim, to stay humble and invisible.
And His focus was on the little and invisible people as well.
Children, women, outcasts, ‘sinners’… Jesus celebrated these ones!
These are the ones that Jesus celebrates, that He seeks autographs from…
As Jesus followers, have we set up our own pecking order?
Do we value those with visible gifts and positions more than the invisible ones?
Do we celebrate everyday people in our church, and value their presence?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, how easy it is to slip into the world’s pecking order, and even to build it into the life of Your church. Help me to see the true heroes and stars among us, and help me to be like them, like You!

Still lots of questions

THE STORY OF JESUS: Mark 9:30-32
“They did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.” (Mark 9:32)
If Jesus was the clearest revelation of God (Hebrews 1:1-2), why couldn’t they understand?
We’re so familiar with Jesus’s death and resurrection, we don’t wonder enough.
We’ve come up with our theological answers and explain it away quite simply.
I think too simply, too simplistically, and not humbly enough!
As a Jesus follower, I still have a sense of shock and wonder at the message of Jesus.
There is still much I believe in a fuzzy sense, not fully understanding it all.
And that is OK; afterall we are talking about the mystery and wonder of God.
The disciples had 3 years of private tutoring, and still didn’t understand.
I have been trained in the bible for over 50 years, you would think I get it by now.
Actually, for many years I thought I DID get it, but the Lord has been humbling me.
Much of what I thought I understood with certainty, I now hold with gentle faith.
But one difference is that I am not afraid to ask Jesus about it.
I spend a lot of time praying through what I believe, asking for greater insight and faith.
Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t understand, and don’t be afraid to ask Him about it!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, thank You for patiently working with a slow student like me. And thank You for the ways I am still learning and growing and understanding You in a new and refreshing ways!

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.

To do or not to do… something

“If you falter in a time of trouble, how small is your strength!” (Proverbs 24:10-11)
The point in this verse is to not stand by and do nothing when someone is in need.
Do something, help those who are dying, speak up for the abused, stand with the bullied.
I found this list of stories of people who refused to help…
These stories are sad… but do I hold back, or act as if it has “nothing to do with me”?
A quote by Martin Niemoller, a pastor in Nazi Germany, is striking:
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Or Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
The issue is not whether we do everything, but if we do something… or nothing.
As a Jesus follower, I am called to step in to help others with, like and for Jesus.
God made us to be His hands and feet, and He knows if we care enough to help or not.
“If you say, ‘But we knew nothing,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?” (Proverbs 24:12)
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I do not need to beat Satan’s lies – You did that for me. All that You ask is that I pursue love and right living to the best of my ability, with Your help. You will take care of the rest!

The path to life, prosperity and honor?

“Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.” (Proverbs 21:21)
Jesus pursued righteousness and love – what did He find?
That depends on WHEN we’re looking in His life.
For His life on earth, He did not find life, prosperity and honor.
But after His death, God found Him and turned things around.
Jesus is alive, all creation belongs to Him, honored over all!
God created us all for life, prosperity and honor.
God’s heart breaks for all people who suffer without these.
Trapped within Satan’s lies, God sent Jesus to break Satan’s grip.
Satan could not redirect Jesus away from righteousness and love.
Jesus’ success is humanity’s success, for a human now rules over Satan.
We stand with Him, and share in that victory, if we pursue it too.
To love people and to do what is right – even if we do it poorly.
Jesus took care of the perfection, all He wants from us is the intention.
Are we truly, honestly pursuing His kingdom, His righteousness?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I do not need to beat Satan’s lies – You did that for me. All that You ask is that I pursue love and right living to the best of my ability, with Your help. You will take care of the rest!