My story!

“Give thanks to the Lord… Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story…” (Psalm 107:2)
We’re urged to share our God stories, how God helped, rescued or restored us.
God’s grace isn’t just for ministers or theologians, it is part of everyday life.
How has God helped, rescued, saved or restored you?
For me it is God’s forgiveness, patience and kindness despite my slowness.
I have not had traumatic life experiences, mine has been a slow, easy journey.
But that slow, easy journey has made me slow to learn, and easy to settle.
I don’t envy people’s dramatic testimonies, but I do envy their deep faith and joy.
My story is still my story, and in the end it will be all about God’s grace.
I still have issues in my life I need to deal with, but God gives me hope.
For me the greatest bless is how the Lord walks with me through these issues.
Through journaling and prayer, He regularly encourages or warns me.
Despite my weaknesses and failures, He sticks with me and draws me onward.
He assures me that He began my journey, He will see it through to completion.
This is why I thank the Lord: He really is good, and His love does last forever!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, thank You for Your faithful love throughout my journey. My story is not dramatic, but it is real, and it is mine. Remind me to tell my story too!

The seriousness of sin!

“Parents will eat their children, and children will eat their parents.” (Ezekiel 5:10)
I do not see God as making these things happen, but letting them happen.
God warns His people constantly not to live in depraved, violent ways.
Now Israel is facing another depraved nation, bent on conquest.
They will be under siege, and will become desperately hungry, even eating human flesh.
Where can the people turn, if they turned their backs on God.
They are getting exactly what they wanted – life without God.
And they are discovering – as we all do – that it is not so pleasant.
These words are a reminder to me of where sin, unchecked, will lead.
Today we see other examples of this: how sin leads to horrible results.
God is not mean, God is not vengeful; God wants to spare us these horrors.
But if we persist, He will let us go to have what we want, and see for ourselves.
I can’t imagine getting to the point of eating my own kids… but it has happened.
Or people raping or abusing or torturing their own kids… but it happens.
Selfish sinful nature is a messy, miserable path… we need to run away from it!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me to remember the seriousness of sin. That a small compromise here can lead to a major crisis there. Help me to heed Your warnings, rather than learning our lessons the hard way.

We have seen His glory!

“This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.” (Ezekiel 1:28)
What Ezekiel sees is not actually God, but God’s way of showing Himself.
How do we describe God, what image or vision could capture His awesomeness.
The various symbols in this vision of God have a profound meaning.
Together they express a God that cannot be comprehended.
At best, what Ezekiel saw was the ‘appearance’ of the ‘likeness’ of the ‘glory’.
In other words, these words only give us a hint of the awesomeness of God.
Jesus is also “the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.”
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
Ezekiel is called to a challenging task, but this God stands with Him.
We are also called to a similar task, and this God stands with us too.
We have seen His glory, and this glory is in us and with us.
The power and authority of God, seen in Jesus, and given to us in the Spirit.
As Jesus followers we live and serve in the strength of our vision of the Lord!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me to see You standing over me, with me, and in me. Help me to represent my vision of You, so that others may see the glory of God as seen in You!

Come, and you will see!

THE STORY OF JESUS: John 1:35-42
“‘Come,’ he replied, ‘and you will see.'” (John 1:39)
One thing I notice about Jesus is that He doesn’t make it easy.
He doesn’t smother these eager potential disciples.
He doesn’t win them over with charm and wisdom.
He invites them to keep checking Him out, to keep following.
Andrew spent the day with Jesus (v.39), and became convinced.
Discovering Jesus is not something that we do before we follow Him.
We get to know Jesus as we follow Him, as we experience life with Him.
For many this is frustrating; we want Jesus to prove Himself first.
If we want to know Jesus, we have to spend time with Him.
Jesus is invisible to us, but He is still here with us.
What if we spent the day with Him, as we go through our day?
What if we reached out to Him in prayer, and allowed Him to be involved.
His Spirit will speak to us, will warn or encourage or direct us.
But if we don’t first come to Him, we will not see it.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, unless I include You in my day, I will not see You in my day. Help me to see that I need to come to You if I want to experience You.

Once for all!!!

THE STORY OF JESUS: John 1:29-34
“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)
For Jews, the sacrificed lamb was a very important symbol for their faith.
It reminded them of God’s grace, how He released them from their sin and guilt.
But the repeated sacrifices never succeeded in ending sin and guilt.
Yet there was hope, inspired by Isaiah, that the messiah would end sin once for all.
“He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)
“He has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.” (Hebrews 9:26)

John declares that Jesus is this messiah, this final sacrificial lamb!
Jesus has died: the penalty (guilt) of sin has been paid.
Jesus has risen: the power (grip) of sin has been broken.
We still sin, but with the Spirit’s help we can change, we can grow, we can improve!
We are not doomed, we have His strength and promise to aid us in our struggle with sin.
Do you live as if Jesus has released you from the guilt and grip of sin?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, though I still fight sin in my life, it no longer dooms me. I have hope and strength everyday to resist sin, choose goodness, and gradually become more and more like You!

I am not the messiah!

THE STORY OF JESUS: John 1:19-28
“He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.” (John 1:20)
John knew who he was, and who he was not.
As helpers of Jesus, we need to remember who we are, and who we’re not.
I am God’s child, I am Christ’s brother, I am filled with the Spirit of Jesus.
I am a Jesus follower, a witness to the Messiah, a worker for the kingdom.
But I am not the messiah.
Some people develop a savior complex for those they are trying to help.
They place expectations on themselves, and struggle to fulfill them.
They feel excessive responsibility for others, and take it as their own failure.
Or they encourage those they’re helping to rely too much on them.
I am not able to save a life, I am not able to fix the problem of sin.
I am a witness, I point to Jesus, I trust the Spirit to work through me.
I am not the messiah, people need to hope in Jesus, not in me.
I baptize with water, but Jesus baptizes with the Spirit!
Our job is to introduce them to Jesus, so they can reach out to Him!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I am not You, but I can represent You to others. Help me not to stand in Your way, but to help people see You, that they may know and rely on You!

Moving into my heart!

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” (John 1:14)
Can you think of a ‘bad’ neighborhood near you?
A less than desirable area where you’d prefer not to live?
Jesus moved into a less than desirable neighborhood.
He moved in with us.
Humanity has turned God’s paradise into Satan’s garbage dump.
We have exchanged God’s glory for shame, misery, cruelty, darkness.
Our world is unsafe, and no amount of laws can make it better.
The problem is within us, we have lost our creation identity.
But God comes to us in Jesus, when we refuse to come to Him.
God knows the mess or struggle or weakness you are in.
God wants us back as His children; He comes to us in Jesus to do that.
We see God’s glory humbled in Jesus, dying so that we might be restored.
Restored as God’s children, as Jesus’ brothers and sisters.
Jesus wants to make His dwelling with you; will you let Him in?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I cannot clean up my heart for You, I need Your help. Thank You for coming into my life, for restoring me as God’s child, and helping me shine with God’s glory!

His love endures forever!

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever” (Psalm 106:1)
His love endures forever, that is, He never stops loving us!
Even when we mess up, even when we go astray, even when we hurt Him.
The psalmist reflects on their story as a nation… its not pretty.
How many times did they turn away from God and find themselves in trouble.
Maybe you can relate to this as well.
Think back on your life, on the mistakes and foolish choices you made.
Times when we do things our own way, then find ourselves in trouble.
At those times can we still turn back to God and ask for help?
The whole story of the bible assures us that we can always come back.
In Eden God came looking for us when we gave in to Satan’s lies.
When the prodigal son comes to his senses, the father eagerly welcomes him.
Reminding himself of the goodness and love of God, the psalmist prays this prayer.
He admits their folly and sin, then pleads for God to forgive and help them.
You can do this too, and so can I, “for His love endures forever!”
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, You never stop loving me. You do not like what I do, and you let me follow my foolish inclinations. But You’re always ready to restore me, to help me, because You are good, and Your loves endures forever!

‘Restore them too, Lord!’

THE STORY OF JESUS: Lamentations 4-5
“Restore us to yourself, Lord, that we may return.” (Lamentations 5:21)
Personally I have not experienced this kind of horrible suffering.
But this kind of suffering is happening all over the world, all the time.
We should not just feel bad when we suffer, we should feel bad for all misery.
For every abuse victim, for every starving or dying person.
Salvation is not just about me being forgiven and assured of eternal life.
If we have a trace of humanity in us, we will agonize for others too.
Our hearts will break for the things that break Your heart, Lord.
We will desperately long for Your kingdom, so that everyone can know it.
Our world needs to be restored, and we need God’s help to restore it.
We read Lamentations not to feel good, but to be challenged and motivated.
As Jesus-followers, our hearts are triggered by misery and suffering.
Like Jesus, we see the sheep wandering without a shepherd, and offer ourselves.
If the only reason I am christian is for myself, I’ve missed the point.
May my heart be activated to seek and pursue restoration from God for all!!!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, if I am only concerned about my own salvation, then I have yet to be saved from the selfishness of sin. Break my heart for the things that break Yours!

Compassion = ‘to suffer with’

THE STORY OF JESUS: Lamentations 1-3
“For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone.” (Lamentations 3:33)
It is not pleasant to imagine the horrible things described here.
What makes it harder is that God is viewed as the cause (not blame) for it.
“The Lord is like an enemy; he has swallowed up Israel.” (Lamentations 2:5)
But the author also recognizes that God’s heart is not behind it.
God does not willingly allow suffering, but sometimes He has no choice.
When we keep stubbornly running away, sometimes He reluctantly lets us.
Our world is the mess it is because God allows us the freedom to choose.
God is not punishing us, He is showing us what life is like without Him.
As long as sin remains in the world, suffering will remain in the world.
But God’s heart breaks as it does, and He joins us in our misery.
“His compassions never fail. They are new every morning! (Lamentations 3:22)
The root meaning of the word compassion is ‘to suffer with’.
Jesus suffered with and for us to break the grip of sin and suffering.
We may be suffering now, but God suffers with us, He will help us through it.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I’d prefer that You would end suffering, but that is not how it works. Help us feel Your presence through the darkness and Your strength through suffering.