For people who need hope!

“Woe to the city of blood, full of lies, full of plunder, never without victims!” (Nahum 3:1)
Do you remember the stories about life under ISIS control?
Citizens describe it as hellish: beheadings, stonings, forced conversions.
Rape, men forced to fight jihad, young girls forced to marry ISIS soldiers.
Nineveh in ancient Assyria (same area in Iraq)was as brutal as ISIS.
Imagine the joy in those places when news comes of rescuing armies on the way.
“Look, there on the mountains, the feet of one who brings good news!” (Nahum 1:5)
This message of Nahum is a reminder that God WILL always defeat injustice.
Evil may seem to have the upper hand, but it’s days are always numbered.
I read these words as an encouragement to ALL who suffer under evil.
For all who tormented physically or socially or emotionally or spiritually.
I am not suffering like this right now, but I want those who are to know.
God hates evil, injustice, bullying, cruelty, abuse – and will set things right.
Hang on, God will come through, you will survive this.
Nothing can separate you from God’s love!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, may the message of peace be heard. Show me where I can be your messenger of peace today, to encourage someone who is discouraged, to bring hope to the hopeless.

Our gracious and compassionate God!

“I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and
abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.” (Jonah 4:2)

Nineveh is the capitol of Assyria, a occupying nation over Israel.
Jonah hates Assyria (like a Palestinian might hate Israel today).
But God uses fishy means to get him to go to ‘sin city’ with His message.
‘Repent or perish’: when we hear this message, we hear anger and judgment.
But Jonah knows about God’s compassion; he fears God WILL forgive them.
God’s heart is open to all people, no matter how wicked they may be.
God’s concern is not just for people, but even for the animals! (Jonah 4:11)
If knew God like Jonah, would we treat people and creation differently?
All people – even us – are sinners who need God’s mercy and compassion.
God steps into ‘sin city’ Himself as Jesus, not to condemn us but to save us.
He sends us to go to others for Him, calling His children home.
We need God to replace our Jonah eyes, and give us Jesus eyes and tears.
“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them…” (Matthew 9:36)
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me to look at the people I meet today – wherever I am – with Your eyes, with Your compassion and mercy, and with Your desire to somehow help them.

Jesus asks hard questions

THE STORY OF JESUS: John 13:31-38
“Will you really lay down your life for me?” (John 13:38)
When we talk with Jesus, He asks really hard questions.
Peter is talking big about his commitment to Jesus.
Jesus probes deep, ‘do you really love me that much?’ (see John 21:15-19)
Do you experience the Spirit probing your heart like this?
This often happens me when we are singing together in church.
‘This is my desire, to honour You!…’; is it really?
‘How great is our God!…’; so tell me, how is God great to you?
‘I love to tell the story…’; really, why do you never tell others?
I also have it often before or after I preach; my words ring in my own ears.
Jesus is not probing to discourage or defeat us.
Jesus probes so that He can break our self confidence.
Our hope is not in ourselves; we are weak but He is strong.
The only way we can grow in Him is if we first face our weaknesses.
Only the gracious love and support of Jesus can help us overcome our weakness.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I need to admit my struggle, and be real about my need for help. I do not love You as I ought to love You. I do not even want to love You as I ought to love You. But I want to want to love You as I ought to. I need Your help!

On the prowl!

THE STORY OF JESUS: John 13:18-30
“As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.” (John 13:27)
Judas has been struggling; should he stick wtih this lame messiah?
The Pharisees have approached him: betray Jesus for gold.
Judas is conflicted, until Jesus acts like a lowly servant, washing their feet.
He is supposed to be a mighty warrior, not a lame door mat.
Then Jesus all but calls him out, speaking about a betrayer in their midst.
Satan takes this opportunity to push Judas as hard as he can.
All the reasons to leave Jesus flood through Judas’ mind.
And his defences crumble, he gives in to Satan’s lies.
He opens his heart to his negative thinking, and Satan steps in.
Jesus wants to be Lord in our hearts, but Satan does too.
Where are Satan’s negative thoughts weakening my defenses?
Satan wants to bring me down, am I aware of his schemes?
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion
looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm.” (1 Peter 5:8-9)

What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, remind us how the enemy works, not to frighten us but to equip us. Remind us that as long as You are in us, Satan cannot be.

Doing the servant’s job!

THE STORY OF JESUS: John 13:1-17
“Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:17)
Jesus shows us what God is like, and what we were made to be like.
To love those in the world to the end (or to the fullest).
Jesus came to live the Adam life perfectly, and He did.
Satan prompts us to pride, selfishness, greed, deception, etc.
If we do not let Jesus love us, we can have no part with Him.
If we do not join Jesus in His love, we can have no part with Him.
The blessing of God and creation is found in living and loving like God.
Foot washing is not a religious ritual for us to do in church.
It was a common servant job, something no one would prefer to do.
Like doing the dishes, cleaning the toilets, taking out the garbage?
Jesus did the servant’s job, He put the others above Himself.
Being a Jesus follower is about more than being saved.
Being a Jesus follower is about doing what Jesus did.
The key question is whether I love others to the end, to the fullest?
That love will lead to serving others, and to being blessed by God!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I like how You loved me to the end. I’m less keen on doing the same for others. Break my pride, that I may experience the blessing of selfless love.

Listening to the doctor!

THE STORY OF JESUS: John 12:44-50
“If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person.
For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.” (John 12:47)

We all hear the reminders about healthy weight, healthy diet and exercise.
When my doctor reminds me of this, he is not judging me.
His words could lead to healthier, happier living, if I would pay attention.
Soon reminders become warnings… then it will be too late.
Jesus speaks words of life and truth and hope and healing.
Make sure you are living healthy lives, not only physically by spiritually.
Jesus is not judging us, He is lovingly reminding us, he is gently warning us.
What do we do with His message; what do I do with my doctor’s message?
If I don’t sense the seriousness of what they say, I won’t act on it.
It often takes a dramatic experience to open our eyes.
Really, if I am honest, it is foolish to ignore the words of my doctor.
I have no one to blame but myself if that physical/spiritual crisis occurs.
Is it any less foolish to ignore the words of Jesus, of our God Who loves us?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, this passage makes me wonder why I do not take You – and my doctor – more seriously. Thank You for not judging me, but loving me enough to tell me the facts of life.

To love and to live wisdom!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Psalm 119:49-72
“I have considered my ways and turned my steps to your (wisdom).” (Psalm 119:59)
As I read this Psalm I replace ‘law’ words (decree, statute) with ‘wisdom’.
Behind God’s laws there is a wisdom for life, a better way of living.
This kind of wisdom comes to those who think carefully about their ways.
Do we really consider our ways, our lives, and their consequences?
Too often we do what feels right in the moment, or what makes us feel good.
God’s Spirit urges us to think carefully about how we live.
God’s warnings about sexual immorality, theft, covetousness, deception…
God’s appeals for honesty, humility, generosity, mercy, justice, compassion…
These are not just rules, they are wise ways to live, for the good of all.
Our world is experiencing the consequence of foolish living.
Our priorities, values, attitudes and actions are having bad results.
Wisdom calls for rethinking – the root meaning of repent – how we live.
As Jesus followers we ought to be showing this way of wisdom.
For that to happen, we need the heart and passion of this psalm.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, our world needs Your way and wisdom. You have sent us into the world to show Your way and wisdom. May we passionately love and live Your way and wisdom, as this Psalm suggests.

The kind of life God wants to plant!

“I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted!” (Amos 9:15)
In the beginning, God put humans in a good place, never to be uprooted.
It was not God that caused us to be uprooted, homeless wanderers in the land.
Since then God’s dream has been to re-establish His “very good” kingdom.
God uses Israel to start the process, but they do not live up to the challenge.
They follow Adam and Eve’s example, and surrender themselves to evil.
Every warning goes unheeded, and humanity sinks lower and lower in depravity.
God cannot, and will not, allow sin and immorality to be established.
But neither will God fully give up on His plan for us, and creation.
He will restore His garden, and He will plant His family in it again.
Jesus is the first God-like human to refuse sin and Satan.
Jesus is planted on earth, and nothing – not even death – can uproot Him.
As Jesus followers, we trust in Jesus to plant us too.
As Jesus followers, we join Jesus in planting goodness in the land.
Am I living the kind of life God wants to plant, or uproot?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, You have saved me from selfish living. You have called me to selfless living. Help me to do more than just stop sinning; help me to flourish with goodness and blessing!

Leaving a bad taste!

“You have turned justice into poison.” (Amos 6:12)
How does justice become a poison?
When the courts become political, and the judges self-serving.
The poor and oppressed distrust the courts and the authorities.
“(You have turned) the fruit of righteousness into bitterness.” (Amos 6:12)
How does righteousness become bitterness?
When the righteous become proud, judgmental and condemning.
The common people and other ‘sinners’ turn away from God and faith.
Some would say this about politics and religion today.
People are disillusioned by both government and church.
As Jesus followers, we need to beware of politics and religion.
The poor and oppressed, the common and other ‘sinners’ were drawn to Jesus.
He blessed the poor and ‘sinners’, and called His disciples to do the same.
Throughout the ages God’s people have forgotten their calling.
Are we poisoning justice, and making righteousness bitter?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, do people experience us as fair and good? Do others taste Your goodness through me, or am I leaving a bad taste in their mouths?

Your face might freeze that way!

THE STORY OF JESUS: John 12:37-43
“He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts.” (John 12:40)
This is a quote from Isaiah 6:10, when Isaiah was sent on a mission.
Isaiah must tell Israel that God will ‘harden’ them in their stubbornness.
Since they refuse to repent and believe, God let’s them have their own way.
Jesus has this same mission, since He’s dealing with the same stubbornness.
Parents may warn a scowling child, ‘your face might freeze that way’.
This verse warns those who resist God, ‘your heart might freeze that way’.
God is not being mean, God gives people what they adamantly want and choose.
But what of those who want to believe but fear what others say (vv.42-43)?
This is hard place to be, at odds with both Jesus and those you fear.
You are happy where you are, but afraid of where you want to be.
It’s not for me to judge their faith or criticize their fear.
God is gracious, He continues to reach out to us, to draw us over to Him.
But eventually He takes the hint, and accepts our rejection, and lets us go.
Am I hesitating or refusing God somehow: ‘Be careful, you might freeze that way’.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, show me where I’m holding back and help me cross the line. I don’t want to get stuck where I don’t want to be.