God of the underdog!

“He raises the poor from the dust.” (Psalm 113:7)
Where do the world’s underdogs turn to for hope?
Political and religious power are usually in the hands of the few.
They use their powers for themselves, neglecting or abusing those below.
This is natural – darwinian – the way things are if you do not believe in God.
The Jews were underdogs, and they trusted in the God of the underdogs.
Not that their God was weak – enthroned on high, exalted over the nations.
But THIS ‘top dog’ (no disrespect) chooses not to use His power FOR Himself.
Notice how this psalm describes the way God uses His exalted position.
Raises the poor, lifts the needy, helps the childless woman.
Any idea of God as distant, uncaring, overbearing, or stern is inaccurate.
The God that surrounds and sustains all reality is a God of mercy and love.
Some may prefer their darwinian worldview (if they’re not on the bottom).
But I prefer the God-of-the-underdog worldview.
I stand with all underdogs, hoping in the underdog Jesus, Who is now the ‘top dog’!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, Your heart goes out to all those who are at the bottom, to lift them up. Help me to see this for myself. Help me also to see this for others, and to stand with them!

Me… a holy temple?

THE STORY OF JESUS: Ezekiel 40-42
“To separate the holy from the common.” (Ezekiel 42:20)
I have to admit, I lost interest in the dimensions of this temple.
No doubt the Jews loved to imagine its perfect layout and design.
The vision was meant to inspire them that one day, things would be restored.
But this verse jumped out at me, “to separate the holy from the common.”
Does God see this world as separated into holy and common (profane, unholy)?
Isn’t all the world holy to God… or at least it was at first.
When humanity ruined this world in sin, it became unholy.
God set up a foothold in Abraham’s family, symbolized by the temple.
But as long as the curtain hung before the ark, there was a separation.
Through Jesus God has torn the curtain, and removed the separating wall.
Now, in Christ, all of creation is sacred, and no temple is needed.
For we are the temple of God, perfect in layout and design.
Jesus has reunited the heavenly temple (God’s presence) with creation.
We can now imagine ourselves as God’s perfect temple, being restored!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I am not yet a perfect temple. But You are restoring me, making me holy, a place where God can live again. May this vision inspire me, as I await Your full restoration.

Breathing life into me!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Ezekiel 37-39
“I will put my Spirit in you and you will live.” (Ezekiel 37:14)
The big story of the bible shows us how God restores his messed-up family.
From Adam and Eve, to the last person before Jesus’ return, we all need help.
From OT Israel through the NT Church, we all fall far short.
Though God allows us to suffer consequences, He does not abandon us.
In one sense, we are all these bones, under the curse of death.
We severed our connection to God, and the breath of life (Genesis 2:7).
We are animated by a different spirit – the spirit of self, greed, anger.
Consider how humans ‘free’ from God are experiencing life – we’re dying!
Killing each other, killing ourselves, sick and plagued by despair.
God records what happened to Israel to remind us all about life and death.
God sends Jesus to show us what life can be like, with God.
Jesus sends God’s life-giving Spirit to all who will receive Him.
The Spirit of Jesus can animate you, and give you a new and better life.
Life on the inside, God life overflowing in me – this is what I want!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I have tasted this deadness, and I see it in many people around me. Breathe Your life in me, and breathe Your life through me, that others may come alive in You too!

For or against Jesus?

THE STORY OF JESUS: John 6:66-71
“Yet one of you is a devil (a slanderer)!” (John 6:70)
It became clear to Judas that Jesus was not his kind of messiah.
Judas wanted be there when the messiah trounced the Romans.
He was looking for a royal position, and royal wealth.
Judas was the treasurer of their group, and he would steal money (John 12:6).
He thought he was getting away with it, but Jesus knew.
Jesus also knew that Judas was murmuring against Him.
He was saying accusatory, even slanderous things, against Jesus.
This is what the adjective ‘diabolos’ really means, “a slanderer”.
Jesus is not calling Judas Satan, but does say that he is doing his work.
He said the same thing about the religious leaders (John 8:44).
When I lie, or cheat, or gossip, or mock, I am doing diabolical things.
Taking a stand for Jesus also means taking a stand against the devil’s works.
Do I long to be like Jesus… do I hate when I do things like Satan?
Either we are for Jesus, or against Jesus… which way shall I lean?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I hate the thought that being selfish, greedy, unfair, critical, makes me like the devil. I want to follow You, not Satan. To be for You, not against You!

Spirit-filled words of Jesus!

THE STORY OF JESUS: John 6:60-65
“The words I have spoken to you, they are full of the Spirit and life.” (John 6:63)
The words of Jesus are not always easy to understand.
Many times for myself I have to ponder them for a while.
Sometimes I find their meaning, sometimes I’m not so sure.
But every time I come back to them, I find something more.
The words of Jesus are Spirit-empowered, life-giving words.
The Spirit works through them, and breathes life into the listener.
It was not just about bread, or eating flesh, that Jesus spoke of.
He speaks to our hearts, He pays attention to what lives within us.
He challenges, He convicts, He opens eyes, He draws back to God.
I think back to when God’s Spirit breathed life into Adam (Genesis 2:7).
Every time I listen to Jesus, I feel that same Spirit breathing into me.
Feeding me with love, joy, peace, hope, strength – Spirit and life!
It makes me wonder why some christians don’t ‘eat’ the words of Jesus.
Spend time with Jesus, ask Him to feed you His Spirit and life!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, breathe on me breath of God, fill me with life anew, that I may love what Thou dost love, and do what Thou wouldst do.

My joy and delight?

THE STORY OF JESUS: John 6:52-59
“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.” (John 6:56)
These words of Jesus are difficult for many to swallow.
According to Jewish tradition, the manna symbolized the Torah.
As the people lived on manna, Jews were to live on the ‘word of God’.
Jesus is contrasting Himself with the Torah here, as He does elsewhere.
He is using ‘eating’ and ‘drinking’ to symbolize taking in God’s message.
Unless we devour God’s message in Jesus, we will not have life in us.
“When your words came, I ate them… my joy and my heart’s delight.” (Jeremiah 15:16)
The message of Jesus is food for the soul, it speaks to our deepest needs.
Yet in my experience many christians do not devour Jesus’ message.
They love the psalms, and pick ‘life verses’ here and there.
But they do not walk with Jesus through the gospels, to learn as His students.
As a Jesus follower, Jesus’ words are my joy and delight.
I don’t always understand them, but then I ‘dig in’ until I do.
Are you actually spending time listening to Jesus, and learning from Him?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, You have the words of life. Help me to keep coming back for more, and to keep chewing and drinking what You say, until I taste the rich meaning You have for me!

Seeking God seeking me!

THE STORY OF JESUS: John 6:41-51
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them.” (John 6:44)
God is actively seeking everyone (Acts 17:26-27).
We do not find God, God finds us; we do not discover life, we receive it.
Religion is our attempt to find God; Jesus is God’s finding us.
Every religion is a response to the God that seeks us.
God is the initiator, God is the Mover, and we respond.
God is at work in all our lives, showing us how we need Him, His help, His LIFE.
I grew up singing this hymn: ‘I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew…
He moved my soul to seek him, seeking me.’
When we find ourselves thinking of God, it’s because God is thinking of us.
Everything that happens is in some way God’s attempt to draw us back.
“So that we would seek him and reach out for him and find Him.” (Acts 17:27)
When we find ourselves reaching out to God, it’s because He’s reaching out to us.
The question is, when He comes knocking, will we open the door?
Or when He offers us the Bread of Life, will we accept it?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, its not just up to me to find You. You are already drawing me back to You. Open my eyes to see You reaching for me. Open my heart to reach back for You!

Pursuing and finding goodness!

“Good will come to those who are generous.” (Psalm 112:5)
“The longings of the wicked will come to nothing.” (Psalm 112:10)

We get what we seek: pursue good, and we find it… pursue bad, and…
This song celebrates those who long for goodness, for everyone.
They are generous, honest, fair, compassionate, reliable.
Everyone around them benefits: their families, their neighbours, even strangers.
Their legacy endures beyond the grave, and in the end they will be honoured.
God is close to those who pursue goodness.
And though God is not far from those who pursue badness…
He cannot, He does not, He will not support or bless them.
God through Jesus comes to save us from bad living, to make us like this Psalm.
God’s Spirit is actively working to produce this goodness in us.
To be “a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” (Titus 2:14)
But we need to welcome it, embrace it, live it, to be in step with His Spirit.
If we resist it, we are resisting God, and will find our longings unfulfilled.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I want to be like this Psalm. I want to be like You. Help me today to actively put this eagerness into action.

Both sheep and shepherd!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Ezekiel 34-36
“I myself will search for my sheep and look after them.” (Ezekiel 34:11)
Ever since humans ruined God’s ‘very good’ world, God has been at work.
Through Abraham God set up nation as a base for restoring creation.
But Abraham’s heirs did not cooperate, and they continued to sow badness.
Here God promises to step in Himself to rescue and restore His sheep.
We are God’s sheep, but we are also God’s shepherds.
We are responsible to care for God’s ‘very good’ world.
But instead we have ruled “harshly and brutally” (34:4).
God knows and feels the pain of His harshly ruled creation.
God grieves the misery experienced by His sin-cursed children.
Because we have failed, God steps in Himself… through Jesus.
“I am the good shepherd!” (John 10:11)
Jesus lays down His life for the sheep, to rescue and restore God’s creation.
As sheep we have been rescued; as shepherds we have been recommissioned.
Are we with Jesus, are we receiving AND reflecting His care in our lives?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, You became a sheep like us, so that You could be our shepherd. Thank You for rescuing me as Your sheep. Thank You for restoring me as Your shepherd!

Beyond hearing sermons!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Ezekiel 31-33
“My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to hear your words.
But they do not put them into practice.” (Ezekiel 33:31)

Ezekiel preaches against the nations (ch.31-33), but also to his own people (ch.33).
Here God warns that they love to listen, but not to respond to the message.
Sometimes I wonder about the many messages we listen to as christians?
Week after week, year after year, sermon after sermon… but what happens?
I am guilty of this too – I may read the bible a lot, but what do I do with it?
Jesus told His disciples to teach others to obey, not just hear or believe!
Do sermons even encourage action, do they help people act on what they hear?
The goal is not to have (or hear) great messages, it is to DO what Jesus says.
Jesus has set us free from the penalty and power of sin.
His Spirit is in us to help us work out this salvation in our lives.
But it requires “every effort” (2 Peter 1:5ff) from us to practice what we hear.
How did the last message I gave encourage people to do what Jesus commanded?
How did the last message I heard challenge or change my behaviours?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I need to make following You very practical in my life. What is one thing I need to work on right now in my life where I am being challenged to change. Am I determined to put it in to practice?