Into today’s wilderness with Jesus!

“At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness.” (Mark 1:12)
As a Jesus follower, we share in God’s promise that we are His child, whom He loves.
The Spirit of God and Jesus is in/with us, and we belong to Him.
But this does not mean that life is always sweet and easy.
Here we see that Jesus is sent directly into a wilderness experience.
‘Wilderness’ is the result of turning away from God, and His garden paradise.
Our world is a wilderness, a place of tempting and testing, challenge and difficulty.
It is a wild place (with the wild animals), but God’s angels are there too.
For God does not abandon us in these places, but is available to help us.
Jesus is sent to the wilderness so He can prove His loyalty to God.
This is the first of a series of tests, where Satan tries to break Jesus.
Jesus resists the devil, and beats Him; He now helps us to do the same.
As a Jesus follower, I am God’s child, I have God’s Spirit, and the angels help me.
As I go into the wilderness today, will I resist Satan and stay loyal to God?
By myself I cannot beat Satan, but I am not by myself… if I choose to walk with Jesus!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, You walked this path for me, and beat Satan for me. Help me to walk this path with You, so I can beat him too!

Meeting Jesus where???

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘prepare the way for the Lord.'” (Mark 1:3)
Mark starts his biography of Jesus when His ministry begins, as an adult.
John the Baptist is the unusual fanfare that announces the coming Messiah.
To prepare for God’s coming, people need to repent.
This act of repentance was extreme: being baptized by a madman in the wilderness.
There is an important message in this.
For us to benefit from God’s help, we need to come to the end of ourselves.
We need to admit our desperate need, and humbly open ourselves to God.
When we do this, then God will unleash His Spirit on us.
And an inward, powerful transformation will result (not just a symbolic washing).
God does not want religious rituals or traditions, He wants sincere heart change.
God will meet us in the wilderness (symbol of brokenness and transformation).
If I really want to know Jesus, then I need to be willing to go there.
I sense the Lord challenging us to meet Him in humility, honesty and desperation.
That will mark the beginning of the good news in our lives too.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, this IS good news. When I admit my desperate need for help, You will personally meet me there (through Jesus) and help me with real, life-changing power.

Keep looking up!

“Woe to me that I live among the tents of Kedar!” (Psalm 120:5)
A ‘song of ascents’ was sung by pilgrims on the upward roads to Jerusalem.
As they ascended, they lifted their hearts and voices to the Lord.
In this song they lament that where they live people do not honour God.
Where they live through the week is not very spiritual or positive.
Going to temple they ask God to help them be strong and stand firm.
“I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war.” (Psalm 120:7)
Can you relate, you want to be a good influence at work or school…
But it’s hard to follow Jesus when everyone else isn’t.
Jesus does not take us out of the world, but He does help us live in it.
We don’t go up to the temple to pray; we are the temple, we can pray everywhere!
When life is an upward journey, and when the world makes it hard, call on the Lord!
We can pray that the Lord would ‘save us’ from the negative influences around us.
To keep us strong in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc…
Make this your daily prayer, your daily song, on your upward journey to glory!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me to keep looking up when those around me keep dragging me down. Help me to lift them up too!

Summer 2019 Bible Readings

I finished my three year schedule for bible readings. My plan is to start again from the beginning in September. I hope to invite others to commit with me to reading through the bible at that time. Until then, I will reflect on Psalms 120-131, the opening chapters of Mark, and the book of Proverbs this summer.

The end… and the beginning!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Revelation 21-22
“It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.” (Revelation 21:6)
This is not just the end of one story, but the beginning of another one.
God was there at the beginning (Genesis 1:1), and will be there at the end.
And at that point we will begin the story God created us for.
“No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.” (Revelation 22:3-5)
The kingdom of Genesis 1, where humanity reigns on God’s behalf, is restored.
Jesus is the Adam that refuses to bow to Satan, and therefore reclaims the throne.
He is the faithful Offspring, bruised but not crushed, crushing the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15).
This Story is an epic adventure, the ultimate triumph of good over evil.
And through it all, from beginning to end, is God.
And every letter in this story, from alpha to omega, spells the name of Jesus.
And like every good story, the ending is a new beginning: ‘They all lived happily ever after!’
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, we are still in this story, and there are many moments when we fear or despair the outcome. Remind me that You are the Author, and Your story has a happy ending!

Look to the dawn!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Revelation 17-20
“There before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True.” (Revelation 19:11)
Imagine all these visions going through your head.
Without a program, it’s hard to keep straight who is who, and what is what.
After a while I lose track of the details and just see the big picture.
What stands out in my mind is the picture of the rider on the white horse.
It reminds me of the scene in the Lord of the Rings movie ‘The Two Towers’.
The war at Helm’s Deep is at it’s worse, defeat is in the air, but then dawn arrives.
And with it, Gandalf and the armies of Rohan, and the tide of war changes.
Good triumphs over evil, the demons of Saruman are defeated, and the people rejoice.
John has seen the vision, but he is still a prisoner on the Isle of Patmos.
But this vision is intended to inspire, encourage, to not give up.
No matter how dark things get, how wicked the kings and lord of this world may be…
There is one King over all kings, one Lord over all lords.
He is Faithful and True, and He will set things right, and ultimately crush the serpent.
Let this image of the Rider on the White Horse inspire you, when you are feeling crushed.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, it has been a long time since this vision was given. I’m sure I can speak for many many people right now who are saying, ‘come quickly, Lord Jesus!’

Renewing our passion for Jesus!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Acts 28:23-31
“He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 28:31)
The hope of God’s better world, as seen in the life and love of Jesus.
This is the message of Paul, and it is the message I want to preach too.
Notice, nothing about Christianity or the Church… these are not the good news.
I am increasingly convinced that the message of the church has gotten off track.
Our gospel is too cloaked in trappings of church and christianity.
Our gospel is too narrowly defined as personal forgiveness and a future home in heaven.
We speak more about moral issues and politics than about Jesus, and the way of Jesus.
We are known more for what we are against, not what we are for.
The church in the west is slowly dying; the Lord is growing the gospel elsewhere (v.28).
What the church needs is more of Jesus, more of the kingdom of God.
Not just the doctrines but the radical, practical life transformation they point to.
I remain confident in the kingdom of God, and in Jesus Christ as Lord.
But the church needs to recenter itself on the radical, gracious, humble Jesus.
May we show and share this Jesus “with all boldness and without hindrance!” (Acts 28:31)
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, light the fire in our hearts for KNOWING You and SHOWING You. Set us free from the chains of religion and tradition and culture, and release us in the power of Your Spirit, for You and Your kingdom!

Chain of hope!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Acts 28:17-22
“It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.” (Acts 28:20)
The people of Israel were a people of hope.
From their origins as oppressed slaves, they hoped for freedom, land, peace and prosperity.
They had moments they were close, but again and again it slipped from their hands.
Yet they trusted God’s promise, that ONE DAY a Messiah would come to set things right.
Paul believes that Jesus is the fulfillment of all Israel’s hope.
Jesus is the appointed and anointed King, come to restore God’s kingdom.
What Paul doesn’t mention is that it was Israel’s leaders that put him in chains.
The people of the promise fail to see the fulfillment of that promise.
As Jesus followers we are now bearers of hope and the promise.
But are we truly a people of hope, and is the world experiencing hope through us?
Or are we chaining this hope, keeping it to ourselves, or keeping other’s out?
We are not promoters of religion, or church, or our own denominational beliefs.
We are part of God’s hope-chain, promoting Jesus as the anchor of hope!
Am I a chain that holds hope back, or a chain that links people to hope?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, may I be a link in the chain of hope that ties everything and everyone together in You!

An encouraging grace community!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Acts 28:11-16
“At the sight of these people Paul thanked God and was encouraged.” (Acts 28:15)
To follow Jesus is not an easy path, it has many challenges.
But meeting with other Jesus followers is very encouraging.
To know that we are not alone, that others believe like us.
Paul is refreshed by meeting with the believers in Rome (see Romans 15:23-24, 31-32).
This makes me wonder about times when I meet with other Jesus followers.
Is it refreshing, is it enjoyable, are we mutually encouraging?
Sometimes yes, when the conversation is uplifting and hopeful.
But sometimes no… when the conversation is negative or critical.
I am aware of some road bumps and potholes the church is facing.
Conversations turn to debates, criticism, differences of opinion, and warnings.
Satan loves to stir the pot, to get Jesus followers off the path.
Now more than ever we need to make sure our times together are encouraging.
The path is hard, but Jesus is still Lord, and grace is still operative.
Since we are saved by grace, let us encourage one another with grace… we need it.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help us as a church to grow as a grace community, where we can refresh and encourage one another, especially when the enemy is working to divide and discourage us.

Whether healing happens or not… Jesus!!!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Acts 28:1-10
“Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him.” (Acts 28:8)
Been there, done that… well most of that anyway.
I’ve gone in to see sick people, prayed and laid my hands on them.
But to the best of my knowledge, there were no miracles of healing.
Not sure what point I am making by this, just honestly facing the passage.
It does make it hard to keep on speaking about the miracles of Jesus.
I believe them, I pray for them, but I have not seen them firsthand.
Though many people have told me about other miracle stories.
The Deceiver does use this to cause me to question, and doubt.
Is it a failure on my part – not enough faith, unhelpful prayer, unconfessed sin?
Or maybe it’s God’s timing and purpose, God has other plans?
Either way, my sense of Jesus is that His mercy trumps my inability and failure.
Unlike Paul, people don’t mistake me for a god, and that is OK.
It is my inability and failure that qualify me to speak about the mercy of Jesus.
I proclaim Jesus, not myself, “He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30)
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I am Your servant, weak and flawed. Use me to demonstrate Your mercy, use me (like Paul) to help others see that God is God, not me. That Jesus is great, not me.