I may be wrong!

“The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.” (Proverbs 12:15)
This verse stood out to me today, warning me about when I feel right.
There are things that I feel right about… but am I?
The religious leaders were convinced they were right as they challenged Jesus.
They did not, and would not listen, which is a sign of folly.
As Jesus followers, we face many questions and challenges each day.
We need to be discerning and cautious, always willing to learn.
Even when we do decide on a response, that does not make us right.
We live by faith, not by being right; we trust Jesus for grace and correction.
As I face a challenging question, am I seeking advice?
Advice from the Lord (through scripture), and from others.
Discerning the spirits with the Spirit, especially my own heart.
Being humble about my thoughts, and always open to being wrong.
You may feel right about something right now, but you could be wrong.
Hold those ideas loosely, always ready for Jesus to change your mind!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I have changed my mind on many things through the years. But that does not make me right or wrong. I trust Your rightness, not mine, and choose to be open to Your advice!

Liking… but not listening?

THE STORY OF JESUS: Mark 6:14-29
“Knowing him to be a righteous and holy man.” (Mark 6:20)
Herod was intrigued by John, even if he did not like being challenged by him.
He could sense the goodness in John, and was drawn to how he spoke.
I have heard the same attitude about Jesus from people.
Most people affirm that Jesus was a good (righteous) man, with a good message.
But to listen to what He says is too hard, it challenges our own hearts.
The message of Jesus is both comforting and challenging.
It inspires hope, but it also exposes hypocrisy and selfishness.
He exposes the unhealthy loves, values and behaviours that hold us back.
He asks us to sacrifice things that are not good for us.
As a Jesus follower, I can easily affirm that He is a righteous and holy man.
His message seems right and good to me, and is what our world needs.
But I also admit that He says hard things to me, things I don’t want to deal with.
I don’t want to be a ‘fair weather’ follower like Herod, liking but not listening.
Where is Jesus challenging something in my life, and how am I responding?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, Your message is not just to make me feel better; You challenge me to help me, to set me free from the things that are hurting me. I want listen to You Voice, not shut it down!

He sends me too!

“To send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits.” (Mark 6:7)
I am trying to put myself in the shoes of these first disciples.
They had been with Jesus, and witnessed the amazing things He said and did.
Now He is pushing them out in teams of two to do the same things He did.
He authorizes them, that is, He shares His Spirit authority from God with them.
The disciples were ordinary people, they were not trained for this.
But they had the backing of Jesus, Who was backed by the Spirit of God.
And it worked, they had success in the villages, people repented and were healed!
Jesus has authorized us with the Spirit of God to go on His behalf too.
Our confidence is not in our training, or money, or programs, or numbers.
Ordinary people like you and me inviting people to change their minds about Jesus.
Ordinary people like you and me praying for people experiencing hardship or struggle.
This reading is encouraging me as a Jesus follower, to remind me of how He sends me too.
I can speak, I can pray, and I can trust the Spirit to work through me too.
It is not my job to convert or heal – just share and pray – the Spirit will do the rest.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, thank You for the gentle encouragement not to hesitate to go and speak and pray for You. Remind me of this story when I get nervous about speaking to others about You.

Missing out?

“He could not do any miracles there…” (Mark 6:5)
Imagine a new cure has been discovered for a terrible illness.
But some people are skeptical; they refuse the treatment and stay sick.
Doctors will not be able to heal these people because of their lack of faith.
Wouldn’t this be frustrating, wouldn’t this be sad?
Many people were drawn to Jesus, but some were skeptical too.
How could such an ‘ordinary’ guy have such extraordinary power?
Today people are skeptical of Jesus for different reasons.
The frustrating thing is that people remain stuck, troubled and hopeless.
Even worse, they seek other ‘bad news’ answers that only make life worse.
Jesus is offering God’s free welcome, free forgiveness, free hope.
He can free us from chains (spiritual, mental, emotional, physical) holding us back.
He will set us free from the ‘dark voices’ that plague our minds and feelings.
But we have to trust Him; if we don’t let Him, He can’t help us either.
Jesus wants to help you; do you want Him to help you?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, sometimes I wonder if I am missing out on the MORE that You want to do in/through me. Has my experience of You become so ‘ordinary’ that You can’t perform miracles in my life?

Don’t be afraid

THE STORY OF JESUS: Mark 5:35-43
“Jesus told him, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe.’” (Mark 5:36)
What does Jesus mean when He says to this man, ‘don’t be afraid’?
His daughter is dead, his heart is melting in grief and sorrow!?
I hear Jesus saying ‘don’t give in to your despair, trust me on this one!’
Fear, grief, despair, sorrow, these are natural in our broken, messed up world.
Satan knows how to yank our chain, to agitate us with fear.
I admit that I am sometimes agitated, and it takes real effort to ‘not be afraid’.
If I consider the many horrors of death that others experience, I tremble.
But Jesus speaks to this family in the despair, I trust He will speak to me too.
In fact, in many other times of fear I have heard His whisper of courage.
Jesus does not raise up every person who dies, or heal all sick people.
But this miracle reminds us of His victory over sin, sickness, death and hell.
In the midst of crisis, darkness or despair, we can hear Him gently say.
“In this world you will have trouble. Take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Whether grieving or dying, listen for Jesus whispering, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe.’
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, thank You that it is not the strength of my faith but the strength of Your love that will carry us through!

Using a checklist with God?

I don’t recommend this, but some people like to use a checklist when it comes to measuring themselves and others. They point out how others are ‘living in sin’ because of a particular sin on God’s list. But do they really want to relate to God based on a checkist?

Below is a list someone made of 1050 commands (imperative statements) from the New Testament. Check out this list if you think you want to relate to God based on this list. Again, I don’t recommend it, because I guarantee you will fail.

“For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” (Galatians 3:10)

“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” (James 2:10)

But maybe by looking at this list you will realize how futile it is to measure ourselves and others by a list. Much better to admit our failure, and come to God in humility and honesty, trusting Him for His mercy and grace to help us change, one step at a time.

1050 NT Commands

Seeing Jesus through tears!

“Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.” (Psalm 126:5)
The things that normally cause tears are wrong, bad, unfair or hurtful.
There’s something wrong if we don’t weep at injustice, grief or tragedy.
Tears are universal, a natural response to our messed up world.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)
Tears are not weakness, they are indications of deep strength and goodness.
Our inborn awareness that we were made for more than this.
We should weep for death, sickness, war, rape, violence, abuse, bullying etc.
We should hate the things that hurt anyone, and long for God’s better future.
Tears are not wasted; like seed they’re planted and one day will bloom.
We still weep for what is wrong, but through our tears we see Jesus…
Jesus has defeated the Enemy and the overcome the curse.
Jesus has reclaimed the throne, and is making things ‘very good’ again.
As a Jesus follower, I keep looking up, even when things are sad.
One day, there will be no more tears, thanks to Jesus!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, You are working to restore all things, to make all things ‘very good’ again. Until then I will still hate what is bad, but I will not despair. For You have overcome the world!

Where does this path lead?

“No harm overtakes the righteous, but the wicked have their fill of trouble.” (Proverbs 12:21)
Many of the proverbs speak in extremes and ultimates… no harm for the righteous?
We just know from experience – and centuries of history – this is not true.
But the teacher here is highlighting something that is often true.
Those who pick a risky path will more likely find trouble than those who don’t.
Sometimes when I watch the news an innocent bystander is hurt or killed.
Which shows that this proverb isn’t always true in our daily experience.
But often the person hurt or killed is ‘known to the police’.
They may have been part of a gang, or caught up in drugs, or some other crime.
They were walking on troubled paths, and finding their fill of trouble.
Pursuing a right path will not guarantee that we will experience no harm.
But pursuing a bad path will definitely increase our exposure to trouble and harm.
In this life, the good and the bad experience both comfort and pain.
But God (and time) will sort this out, and each path will find its eventual destiny.
“In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality.” (Proverbs 12:28)
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me to see the direction where each path (choice, decision) can lead, and to choose wisely. Help me to trust You and persevere when harm does come my way.

The fruit of life on my branches!

“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life….” (Proverbs 11:30)
This chapter often refers to the righteous, or the upright.
This does not mean the perfectly sinless person, the full meaning of ‘righteous’.
It refers to those who ‘seek good’ (v.27), who strive to do what is good and right.
Their intentions are good, even if not all their actions are.
This is as good as we can get on this side of Genesis 3.
We have lost access to the tree of life (Genesis 3:22-24).
But with Jesus’s forgiveness and help, we are able to overcome evil with good.
What this pre-Jesus proverb hinted at is now even more possible for us.
The Spirit of Jesus helps us produce good fruit: love, joy peace, etc (Galatians 5:22-23).
By our Jesus-inspired, Spirit-enabled expression of goodness, we bring life to others.
We can be a tree of life to someone else, so that they can taste God’s goodness.
If I make the effort, I will be productive in being more and more ‘righteous’.
If I seek this (genuinely desire and pursue it), the Spirit will work through me!
How will I bring goodness to someone else today; how can I bless someone else?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, may my words and actions today allow someone else to taste Your goodness. I want to help You make this world ‘very good’ again!

Weak faith is strong enough!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Mark 5:21-34
“Daughter, your faith has healed you.” (Mark 5:34)
What did Jesus mean by “your faith”?
In my church experience, it meant ‘your agreement to the doctrines of the church’.
If you could agree with a list of creeds and confessions, you had “faith”.
But in my experience, many people with this “faith” struggle to trust God.
I do not see this woman as having accurate beliefs, leading to her healing.
My sense is that she is desperate, and is hoping against hope for healing.
She does not know about trinity or incarnation or atonement or predestination.
She knows about suffering, and she knows that people are being healed by Jesus.
And so she reaches out, with a faith no greater than a mustard seed, and it is enough.
The faith that saves us is not a complete and accurate doctrinal position.
It is a posture of humble and desperate need, reaching out in uncertain hope.
It is not the strength of faith, but the act of faith that reaches and receives.
Do not beat yourself up if your faith is not strong, or if you struggle with doubt.
With whatever you’ve got, hang on to Jesus in desperate hope; your faith will help you!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, my faith is small, but Your love is great. My grip is weak, but Yours is strong. My hope is in You, and not in my faith. Thank You that this is enough.