Praise the Lord with every breath!

“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” (Psalm 150:6)
What response will you make to the greatness and goodness of God?
We are all different, and so we will all have different responses.
I am not much of a dancer, but I do play the trumpet, and a pipe (recorder).
But these are just examples, there are many ways to praise the Lord.
With a poem, or a painting, with a song or with a shout.
But even more, we can praise the Lord with all our activities.
With every breath I take, every word I speak, every thought I think.
With every sight I see, every sound I hear, every flavour I taste!
Everything about us is from the Lord, and can be used for the Lord.
The Lord finds joy in our using all His blessings to bless Him and others.
Working with our hands, helping a friend, going for a walk, using a skill.
As I sit here typing on the keyboard, enjoying coffee and music…
I feel the Lord’s pleasure, and offer it all back to Him with gratitude.
Today I want to consciously think about the Lord as I do what I do – praise the Lord!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, every breath I take is from You; may every breath I take be for You. May You be blessed in how I use Your blessings to bless others!

Do we really hate sin?

THE STORY OF JESUS: Revelation 15-16
“Go, pour out the seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth.” (Revelation 16:1)
I am reflecting on ‘God’s wrath’ (thymos: intense, passionate anger).
When describing humans (Galatians 5:20), this word refers to fits of rage.
Does God finally blow His top, lose His cool, and explode in rage?
God’s anger is righteous (or justified) anger.
To understand this, we have to think when anger is justified.
When the weak and helpless are raped, abused, tortured, murdered?
When people are wickedly cruel, violent, deceptive, selfish, immoral.
This is the mess that fills our world, that happens all the time.
If we do not repent – admit the ugliness of such evil – God will punish us.
“Because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.” (Romans 2:5)
These bowls represent God’s stored up – and held back – judgment, giving us time to repent.
“But they refused to repent of what they had done.” (Revelation 16:11)
Do I hate sin, run away from it and run to God for help – this is what He is waiting for!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I admit I don’t hate the poison of sin enough. Help me to see the subtle yet sinister indicators or my selfish heart, and how it hurts you and others.

A defeated enemy!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Revelation 12-14
“He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.” (Revelation 12:12)
When I was a teenager, my neighbour was trying to scare a raccoon with a broom.
She had cornered it, and was waving the broom threateningly towards it.
Cornered, it became vicious, and was a frightening fur ball with fangs.
I pulled her away, and the raccoon waddled away.
The devil is like a cornered raccoon, he knows he is trapped and doomed.
But he is not going down without a fight, and will take as many with him.
Jesus is Lord of all creation, while Satan is a defeated, doomed enemy.
But never underestimate the power of a cornered enemy.
As a Jesus follower, I have a target on me, the enemy wants to bring me down.
These chapters in Revelation show how far the devil will go to do so.
Many Jesus followers will suffer and die, but they will not be defeated.
In the end, the “son of man” will appear to deal with the devil (Revelation 14:14).
Until then, do not ignore the enemy, but do not provoke him either.
Resist the devil by sticking close to Jesus; Jesus will take him down!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I can’t beat the devil, but You can, You have, and You will. Deliver me from the evil one, for Yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory!

God’s hand behind it all!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Acts 27:39-44
“The centurion… kept them from carrying out their plan.” (Acts 27:43)
I love the layers in this chapter of the story.
We have the soldiers preparing to kill the prisoners, including Paul.
We have the centurion wanting to spare Paul’s life – for some reason he liked Paul.
And silently behind it all, we have God, who is at work for His own purpose.
Humans can scheme and maneuver, but they can’t outmaneuver God.
God promised Paul that everyone would be saved from the ship (Acts 27:23-24)
And His promise is fulfilled: “In this way everyone reached land safely.” (Acts 27:44).
Pharaoh wanted to kill all the boys of Israel, but God stops him.
Mordecai wanted to kill all the Jews (Book of Esther), but God stops him.
Herod wanted to kill all the boys, in order to kill Jesus, but God stops him.
Satan, the religious and political leaders want to kill Jesus, but God stops them.
No one and nothing can stop God’s kingdom purpose from being fulfilled.
There are layers to your story too, and mine: God is up to something!
It may not always be what you hoped or planned, but it will always be for the best.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I can think of some personal situations where things did not end up good, at least from my point of view. Help me to cling by faith to Your greater purpose, even when I can’t see it.

Breaking bread in the storm!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Acts 27:27-38
“He took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all.” (Acts 27:35)
Paul breaks bread with the sailors and soldiers, and they are encouraged.
These words sound similar to words used when sharing the Lord’s Supper.
Some would speak against this, since the Lord’s Supper signifies and seals grace.
Without saying how this experience impacted them, it was definitely a grace experience.
Did they have faith in Jesus, as we would understand it.
Probably not, but they were learning the meaning of grace and faith.
I encourage open communion, welcoming anyone who wants to participate.
As the grace bread (manna) was for all, young and old, slave and free…
So this grace bread, received with thanks, was received by all… because of Jesus.
The benefit of such grace – and the Spirit at work i it – needs to be received by faith.
Faith is a response to grace, and I trust that the Spirit was prompting it in the crew.
The Spirit is also prompting us to trust in Him, every time we break bread.
Especially in our storms, when we are losing our courage and our hope.
Today when you break bread, let it encourage you to trust Jesus with your life!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, whenever I eat, I am proclaiming Your life, death and resurrection, and the hope I have in You alone. May I taste Your grace whenever I ‘break bread’ today.

An aura of grace!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Acts 27:13-26
“God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.” (Acts 27:24)
I picked this verse because I want to explore how God’s blessing spreads.
God’s plans for Paul meant that those who were with him were safe as well.
God’s grace in one person’s life has an overflow impact on those around them.
One persons story adds a chapter to other peoples’ stories.
As a Jesus follower, God’s grace is at work in me, and through me.
In me, God is changing me to be more like Jesus – and that affects others.
Others benefit when I am more patient, generous, kind, merciful, self-controlled.
This works for positive experiences (like this story), but even in negative stories.
God’s grace showing through Jesus on the cross impacted the soldier watching it all.
Imagine a ‘grace aura’ surrounding you as you go through each day.
That ‘aura’, or the presence of the Spirit, is graciously touching others too.
You may not know about it, but because of God at work in you, others will be saved.
You may be just one small part of their story, but you are a part of it.
‘So keep up your courage, have faith in God that grace will happen!’ (Acts 27:25)
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, this is a nice thought, to think that You are graciously impacting the many people I come in contact with every day. This encourages me to embrace grace even more!

The source of all kindness!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Acts 27:1-12
“Julius, in kindness to Paul, allowed him to go to his friends…” (Acts 27:3)
Paul is a prisoner, being taken to face charges before Caesar in Rome.
This centurion is a servant of Rome, loyal to Caesar, yet he is not evil.
Paul was blessed by his act of kindness.
Kindness is not restricted to those who know and love God.
Sin affects all of us alike, but there remain signs of goodness.
In all people there are indications that we are children of God.
Muslims, Atheists, Jews, Christians, Prostitutes, Gang Members, etc.
As Paul says, non-Jews have signs of God’s law written on their hearts (Romans 2:14-15).
Our world is filled with bad news, but there are still signs of good news to be seen.
The Spirit of God is working out His kindness in others, whether they believe or not.
He causes His goodness to shine on them, and through them, because He still loves them.
“He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good.” (Matthew 5:45)
Today I will look for evidence of God’s sunshine in people other than Christians.
I will be encouraged that He is not done with them yet, nor should I be.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me to look for, and appreciate, how Your blessing shines through others. May all believers and unbelievers come to see You as the source of all light.

A different kind of sword!

“The praise of God be in their mouths and a double-edged sword in their hands.” (Psalm 149:6)
Well I felt good about this psalm until I got to the end.
Praise in my mouth, and a sword in my hand… to inflict vengeance?
At the time, this is how things were done, and God had not stepped in yet.
But now in Jesus God has stepped in, and He has inflicted His own vengeance.
Through Jesus, and not in the way you might expect.
God’s vengeance is not violent, but self-sacrificial, through love and mercy.
God does not attack the wicked, He allows the wicked to attack Him.
And as a result, He overcomes evil with goodness, for good will always win.
In the moment it doesn’t look like it, but ultimately good always wins.
As Jesus followers, we have praise in our mouths but a different kind of sword.
Our doubled-edged sword is the message and method of Jesus: grace!
We join with Jesus in praising God by blessing and serving our enemies.
We overcome evil with kindness, mercy, generosity, patience, love.
This is the new song we sing, and we want to teach the world to sing too!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me to join You in defeating evil with goodness. May this message always be in my mouth, and may this ‘sword’ always be in my hand!

Fulfilling my mission!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Revelation 9-11
“When they have finished their testimony, the beast will overpower and kill them.” (Revelation 11:7)
I can’t explain many of the details in these chapters.
Suffice it to say that this world is, and will be, filled with horrible violence and misery.
But through it all, God will maintain His witnesses in the world.
The two witnesses (v.3) may be specific people, but they also represent all believers.
We have been sent as lambs among wolves to point people to God and Jesus (Luke 10:3).
We speak as strangers and outcasts (clothed in sackcloth) for a set time (1260 days).
We have God’s power, backing us and protecting us to fulfill our mission (v.5-6).
When our mission is done, the beast will take us down (v.7), but too late.
We are absolutely immortal while God has a purpose for us in this world.
It is not easy pointing people to God and Jesus, they tend to get defensive or abusive.
But as we speak humbly, and in love, and show it in our actions, Jesus is working.
And when we are done, He will take us to be with Him (v.11), alive and free forever!
As a Jesus follower, I have a mission and a purpose, and the Enemy cannot stop me.
Since I am alive today, today is another day for me to witness to God and Jesus!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, today is another day to live WITH, LIKE, and FOR You. Help me to trust that no one can stop me from fulfilling my mission for You… except me, if I refuse to do it.

Marked with a seal!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Revelation 6-8
“Until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.” (Revelation 7:3)
John is given these visions while he is exiled on the prison island of Patmos.
These visions are for the churches, to encourage them to stand strong through trials.
Think of these visions as comic book drawings of world events.
Each scene unfolds the theme visually: Jesus, the lamb-like King, is in charge.
Every crisis, injustice and tragedy is a part of the demolition of evil.
It is not easy, and you will suffer, and eventually die… but you are sealed.
You are sealed, you have God’s mark on you, nothing can separate you from God’s love.
The book of revelation is not meant to be read as a detailed plan of what will happen.
These are visions, dramatic word pictures meant to make a point: Jesus is in charge!
The sealed are the fullness of all God’s people, before and after Jesus.
The 12 tribes of Israel, the followers of the 12 apostles, x10, x10,x10.
From every nation, tribe, people and language, more than can be counted.
On this side of Jesus’s return it may look like good is losing, and evil winning.
But hang in there; you are sealed, and will one day stand with Jesus, in glory!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, right now it does seem that evil has the upper hand. But I choose to persevere in faith, hope and love. Help those going through more hardship than me!