A heart that works!

“A person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.” (Romans 3:28)
Paul writes to Jews who thought God accepted them because of the law.
Just follow the rules and God will be happy; He will see you as righteous.
But Paul challenges this rule-focused righteousness; what about the heart?
God is looking for open hearts (faith), not just good deeds (works).
Paul isn’t saying works don’t matter, but they must come from the heart.
Faith is the driving force, the longing of the sinful soul to know God.
Believers in the bible were usually weak, humble, uncertain sinners.
Like Abraham, they made many mistakes, and yet God accepts them!
They were open to God, aware of their sin, and eager to please Him.
We’ve turned faith into a system of beliefs, a mental response to ideas.
We’ve turned it into a ‘work’, a checklist of beliefs needed to be saved.
I know many people who say they ‘believe’, but seem disengaged from God.
This ‘faith’ is not what Paul has in mind; it is just another empty work.
God knows the heart, whether we really want to know and please Him!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, light a fire in my heart that genuinely wants to know and serve You, a heart that works because it wants to, not just because it has to!

God’s judgment – giving us what we want!

“God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth.” (Romans 2:2)
God is not unfair, mean or extremely picky about our sins and failures.
God knows what is going on in our hearts, the good, the bad and the ugly.
We are harder on other’s sins than our own – but God does’t show favouritism.
God sees all signs of sin like we see all signs of cancer – as alarming.
God is patient with us, but He also gives us plenty of warnings about sin.
God knows whether our hearts are open or closed to goodness.
On judgment day, our true natures will be revealed.
Open humble hearts will seek His mercy, but closed hearts will refuse God.
God does not want anyone to perish, but all who refuse His help will perish!
The good news for all is that Jesus has defeated Satan, sin, death and hell.
He has guaranteed our forgiveness, and given us His Spirit to help us overcome.
With His help, we can begin to live how God made us to live – in love and goodness!
He has done everything needed to help, but He won’t force closed hearts to accept.
If we prefer our sin, He will give us over to it in the end… and all it’s consequences.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me to welcome your diagnosis, and to see sin as the cancer that it is. Help me to want Your love and goodness above all, and grant me the desire of my heart!

King of the world!

THE STORY OF JESUS: John 19:16-27
“It read: Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” (John 19:19)
Pilate is not just shaming Jesus, he is mocking the Jews.
With this message is another message: ‘you Jews are under Rome’s rule!’
‘Your king, your leaders, your people and your land – it belongs to Rome!’
Pilate won’t even change the sign when asked, for he is in charge.
The dramatic irony in all this is that the sign is right.
God is using Pilate and Rome and the Jews to restore His kingdom.
Through the cross and grace, Jesus reclaims the right to rule for God.
It is BECAUSE He chooses to live, love and lead like God, that He dies.
But that very choice also leads to God’s vindication and restoration.
The world may mock Jesus and His followers, but He HAS been crowned as king.
The cross represents God’s coronation of love, goodness, mercy, justice.
Satan, sin, death and hell may mock and ridicule, but they cannot stop it.
All those who stand on the side of goodness and love will rise up to reign.
Because all kings, leaders, peoples, and lands belong to Jesus, King of the World!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, as I consider the rulers of this world, I can say confidently that I am not ashamed to call you King over all.

Vote for Jesus!

THE STORY OF JESUS: John 19:12-16
“We have no king but Caesar.” (John 19:15)
The religious leaders are pledging loyalty to Caesar.
Many religious leaders in Nazi Germany did the same to Hitler.
Are religious leaders loyal to political parties and leaders today?
Who should we as Jesus followers be loyal to?
Christians should be political (i.e. involved in societal concerns).
But should they be loyal to political leaders or parties?
The only ‘prince’ that we can put our confidence in is Jesus.
All other leaders will fail and disappoint.
We should pray for them, but we should avoid adopting their platforms.
‘I have no king (or prime minister, or president) but Jesus’.
I have become very disillusioned by politics and politicians.
Hope for change will not come by campaign promises or majority governments.
We need more Jesus followers living and loving and leading like Jesus.
If you want to effect change in the world, vote for Jesus by following Him!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, forgive us for adopting worldly policies and platforms, while ignoring Your platform. I vote for You!

What kind of leader am I?

THE STORY OF JESUS: John 19:1-11
“You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.” (John 1:11)
In Genesis 1, God (from above) gives humans power over the world.
This is how God set up His creation kingdom: God-like humans ruling for Him.
All humans in some way are authorized and empowered to represent God.
We were made to live WITH God, LIKE God, and FOR God in the world.
The bad news is we have become bad leaders, ruined by sin and death.
The kingdom of light is now a dominion of darkness under corrupt leadership.
God sends Jesus to break this cycle, as a human that beats sin and death.
Jesus was a God-like leader: humble, just, compassionate, selfless.
Yet here He is mocked with purple robes, while Pilate is honoured as ruler.
God sees who the real God-like leaders are, whether they’re honoured or not.
And one day He will hold all of us accountable for how we lived in the world.
Am I a Pilate-like leader – doing what it takes to please myself, or the people?
Or am I a God-like, Jesus-like leader – doing what it takes to please God?
Whoever you are, you represent God – what kind of leader are you?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me to be the kind of leader I want to follow. Help me to be a leader like You!

Am I open to the truth?

THE STORY OF JESUS: John 18:28-40
“Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” (John 18:37)
Pilate is trying to figure out the truth about Jesus.
But when Jesus speaks truthfully, he does not like what he hears.
He may ask “what is truth?” but what he really wants is “what is convenient!”
I know someone who has concluded that there is no God.
This after years of believing, and even experiencing God, by their own admission.
It is no coincidence that this corresponds with a change in lifestyle.
Without belief in God, he is free to live freely, without conscience in the way.
Jesus speaks a challenging truth, unsettling truth that challenges the heart.
Open-minded people feel the truth of Jesus’ words (even Pilate can’t fault Him).
They may not like it, but they sense the rightness of His teachings.
Sadly, people prefer an ‘Barabbas’ life over a humble, healing servant king.
People prefer the ‘free’ life of self rather than the hard truth of Jesus.
Truth does not go away, and eventually even those who deny it will see it.
The truth may not be convenient or comfortable, but it will set us free.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, Your truth may not be easy or convenient, but it is liberating and life-changing, for those who accept it. Better a servant to the King than a slave to a fool.

Hope despite harm?

“The Lord will keep you from all harm.” (Psalm 121:7)
But as I read the psalm, I always feel a hesitation as I read some words.
He will keep us from all harm, He will not let our foot slip?
What happens when we do slip, what happens when we do experience harm?
Someone shared in church how God saved them from a terrible head-on collision.
But someone was there whose husband died in a terrible head-on collision.
So how did “keeping from all harm” work for them?
In one sense these words are NOT true; we do slip and suffer harm.
In what sense are these words true?
In an ultimate sense, the enemy will NOT be able to beat completely.
He can’t make us slip into destruction nor cause us irreparable harm.
We live in a sin-cursed world, and the enemy is looking to take us down.
But do not fear; keep looking up, for God will not let him win.
That woman’s husband was not defeated by the enemy, nor harmed beyond hope.
Neither will we be, for our help comes from the Lord!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, the enemy wants me to think that he is winning, and that my slipping and suffering are proof of that. Help me to lift up my eyes to You, especially when I am slipping and suffering, and to trust that You will save me from the enemy’s attacks.

Who moved?

“Return to me, and I will return to you.” (Malachi 3:6)
Many people are disappointed in their relationship with God.
God seems distant, unresponsive, uninvolved in the struggles of their lives.
Sometimes – not always – it can be because we are holding back from God.
This is what Malachi is pointing out, that they are only half-hearted towards God.
They go through the motions, but their hearts are not in it.
They cut corners, look for shortcuts, seek to do ‘just enough’ but no more.
“When you bring injured, lame or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?” says the Lord.” (Malachi 1:13)
God wants full and sincere devotion, and He offers that same devotion to us.
God is neither stingy nor stubborn, He wants a two-way love relationship.
A question to ask ourselves when God seems far away is… who moved?
I know for myself that there are many times when I am not giving my all.
In those moments, God pleads, “Return to me, and I will return to you.” (Malachi 3:6)
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, You are worth knowing and loving and serving… with all my heart. You have so much more in mind for me, if only I was open to it.

Focusing on God’s power and purpose!

“And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.” (Haggai 2:5)
Haggai describes a revival among God’s people.
God has challenged their focus on their own homes and dreams.
Their spirits have been stirred for God’s kingdom agenda.
But the results are disappointing: this temple is nothing like the first one.
God urges them to be encouraged, to stay strong, for He is with them.
Our focus is not a building, we focus on God’s dream for people and the world!
Our call to to reclaim and rebuild peoples’ lives into new lives in Christ.
We are making disciples, not constructing buildings or programs or services!
When we focus on the results, we can get discouraged.
But when we focus on our spiritual potential, we can be encouraged.
Our potential is the reality and possibility of God’s Spirit working through us.
We need a revival in passion for God’s mission, for making disciples!
And we need a revival in confidence in God’s Spirit, whatever the results!
God’s Spirit IS working to make disciples… are we working with Him?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, we need a revival in passion for you mission, and in confidence in Your Spirit. Stir our hearts in love, and strengthen them in faith, whatever the results!

The sound of mercy!

THE STORY OF JESUS: John 18:25-27
“Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow.” (John 18:27)
Included in this story about Jesus is this moment of Peter’s failure.
If one so close to Jesus can buckle under pressure, I am encouraged.
Though I’ve never denied Jesus like this, I’ve never been threatened either.
For Peter, the rooster crow would have been the haunting sound of failure.
Every morning when the rooster crowed, he was reminded how he denied Jesus.
“His compassions never fail, they are new every morning!” (Lamentations 3:22-23)
Until that morning when Peter hears from the women… Jesus is alive!
And then that morning, when Peter meets Jesus, and is forgiven (John 21:15-19).
When the rooster crows for you, do you awake in hope or despair?
Are you only aware of your failure, or do you feel God’s mercy?
Do you awake alone, or do you awake with Jesus, and with His assurance.
Keep your eyes on Jesus, and keep listening for the sound of His grace.
Focus on the horizon, and not on darkness, and wait for the crow of mercy!
“Until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts!” (2 Peter 1:19)
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I know that I have failed, many times and many ways. Thank You that I can wake up every morning to the sound of Your mercy.