Aiming low, and reaching it!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Ezekiel 22-24
“I tried to cleanse you but you would not be cleansed from your impurity.” (Ezekiel 24:13)
In these chapters of wrath and judgment, God is not being petty or mean.
Ch.21 describes how corrupt the leaders had become (22:25-29).
God constantly tried to help them, to keep them from ruining themselves.
But like foolish prostitutes, they sold themselves cheaply, and lost their lives.
My life may not be exactly like Israel’s in these chapters.
But God is constantly trying to help me, to keep me from ruining myself.
As a Jesus follower, do I really want to be LIKE Jesus?
Is the Jesus Way of living my goal in life, am I really aiming for it?
Or am I aiming low, and ending up as low as my goals?
I was made for so much more, yet I often settle for less than the best.
My weaknesses are different from yours, but I do have them, and so do you.
Satan is also constantly working to tempt, trick, distract, deceive and ruin us.
God is trying to cleanse us through Jesus, by the Spirit… if we let Him.
Where are you allowing lesser loves and lower behaviors bring you down?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, You want so much more for me than I presently know. Forgive me for settling for less than LIFE to the full. Forgive me for being content with lukewarm faith, hope and love.

Small steps of compromise!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Ezekiel 19-21
“We want to be like the nations, like the peoples of the world.” (Ezekiel 20:32)
As Jesus followers, we always face the temptation to be like the world.
When we see others enjoying themselves, we are drawn by illusion of happiness.
The problem is, the life of self only offers brief pleasure, but does not endure.
Along with the thrills, the life of self also slowly but surely kills.
Jesus reminds us that we are in the world, but not of the world (John 17:16).
Yet the pull of the world is strong, and many Jesus followers falter.
Paul laments, “Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me.” (2 Timothy 4:10)
Israel got sucked into cruel, immoral idol worship, and was ruined for it.
They danced with the devil – as the saying goes – and the devil changed them.
Where am I compromising my identify, character and calling?
How is love of pleasure, wealth, power, things or comfort weakening me?
Everyday the enemy looks for ways to water down my devotion.
And like Israel, or Demas, love for the world entices me away from Jesus.
If I DON’T think this is happening to me, then I am most vulnerable of all!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I am not tempted to leave You, but I am often distracted from You. Help me to see that falling away consists of many small and seemingly insignificant steps and compromises.

Doing what Jesus says!

“Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?” (John 5:12)
A Jesus follower takes their direction from Jesus.
Jesus has rescued and restored us, and we are devoted to what He says.
Sometimes He may ask us to do things that others question?
‘You want to give how much to that cause?’
‘You want to forgive that person?’
‘You want to dedicate your life to that calling?’
‘You don’t want to join us in doing this fun thing?’
There are many examples of things we do (or don’t do) because of Jesus.
But who is this Jesus, that we listen to what He says?
Like this man, we may not be able to fully articulate an answer.
Scholars, scientists, theologians and skeptics may mock our words.
But we have experienced the life-changing blessing of Jesus.
We have experienced the blessing of life in Him, and we want to walk in it.
Are you a Jesus-follower, and can you relate to doing what He asks you to?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, what You say is not easy, and may provoke others around us. But I have experienced the blessing of what You said and did, and I want to share that blessing to others.

More than just a miracle man!

THE STORY OF JESUS: John 4:43-54
“Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will never believe.” (John 4:48)
Jesus is challenging “you people” because of their miracle-focused faith.
To them, Jesus was a miracle man… it was all about the miracles.
I have met christians who seem to focus on the miracles all the time too.
For Jesus the miracles were not what mattered.
They served a purpose, but often they also got in the way.
People were drawn more to the perks of Jesus, than the purpose of Jesus.
Jesus did not come to perform miracles, or to serve our needs or wants.
Jesus came to rescue humanity from sin’s curse, and restore creation for us.
It was not a miracle that saved us, but Jesus selfless love and sacrifice.
It was Jesus’ living and loving for God, whether or not miracles occurred.
As Jesus followers, we work from and for love and justice and compassion.
God may bless our efforts with miracles – He often does.
But we are called to believe and follow Jesus for Who He is and what He did…
Whether or not a miracle occurs.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me to focus on love, and to trust that as I do, You will do the miraculous work of blessing and changing lives.

Just get them talking!

THE STORY OF JESUS: John 4:39-42
“We no longer believe just because of what you said…” (John 4:42)
I recall a book on evangelism with the basic message, ‘just get them talking’.
The goal is not to talk with people, but to get people to talk to Jesus themselves.
As they pray, the Lord relates to them, and they experience Him for themselves.
“We have heard for ourselves, this man really is the Saviour of the world.” (John 4:42)
The Samaritan woman was not trained to be an evangelist – she barely knew Jesus.
But she pointed them to Jesus, and they experienced Him themselves.
For us, since Jesus is not with us physically, people need to talk to Him by prayer.
This is not less real, less powerful – in fact Jesus says it’s better (John 16:7).
Their prayer only needs to be simple and sincere – God knows their heart.
Don’t just introduce people to Jesus by talking to them about Jesus.
Suggest that they talk to God or Jesus themselves.
Lead them in a simple prayer (make sure you keep it simple too).
Trust that the Spirit of Jesus will stir in them, if they do.
Then they can know for themselves that He is their Saviour too.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, this reminds me that my best witness is helping people experience You for themselves. Help me to practice and model simple, sincere prayer, to show others they can do it too!

Feeding the soul

THE STORY OF JESUS: John 4:27-38
“My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” (John 4:34)
Sometimes I am so focused on a task that I forget to eat.
Though I am hungry at the end of it, if it goes well I am still deeply satisfied.
I hear Jesus expressing His deep satisfaction at the results of His work day.
Crowds from the Samaritan town, thanks to the Samaritan woman’s witness.
People finding hope and strength in God through Him – this feeds His heart!
It is not easy work, it can be frustrating, but it is very fulfilling in the end.
To visit the sick, to help someone who struggles, to point someone to God.
To give hope to a hopeless person, to share food with someone who is hungry.
To host an event that helps people learn and change their lives for the better.
This is VERY fulfilling, it feeds the soul like self-focused labor does not, cannot.
A Jesus follower is not just satisfied with ‘doing a job’.
Their love for God, Jesus and the kingdom prompts them to do something satisfying.
Are you feeding your soul with work that matters, for God, for good?
Or are you slowly starving yourself on meaningless, me-focused living.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, thank You for feeding my soul through the conversations and connections that result when I am pursuing them for You.

Do something, Lord!

“Arise, Lord! Deliver me, my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked.” (Psalm 3:7)

In 1946, one year after WW2 ended, concentration camp survivor Corrie Ten Boom went to Germany to speak about Jesus. During the war Corrie and her family had set up their home as a ‘hiding place’ for Jews, resistance workers and others hiding from the Germans. In 1944 a neighbour reported them to the authorities, and her entire family was arrested. Her father died 10 days later, while she and her sister were sent to Ravensbruck, a work camp for women. The conditions were terrible, and many women died under the brutality of the guards, including her older sister Betsie. Amazingly, fifteen days later she was released, though this was a clerical error. One week later all the women her age were sent to the gas chambers.

In 1946, at this gathering in Germany, she spoke on the grace of God and the love of Jesus. When she was done, a man approached her, a man she recognized. He was one of the guards who had been especially harsh toward her sister, Betsie. He told her that he was now a christian, and experienced God’s forgiveness. But he wanted forgiveness from someone he had wronged, so he held out his hand to her and asked her to forgive him.

Imagine the deep pain and emotion and anger boiling within her as she came face to face with the man that had brutalized her much-loved sister, under whom she had died. What would you do? What would you say? Continue reading ‘Do something, Lord!’ »

Reversing the curse with Jesus!

“While they curse, may you bless.” (Psalm 109:28)
David has been cruelly treated, betrayed, hurt… by a friend.
I can sympathize with David, I can see myself praying the same way.
He pleads for God’s blessing for himself to overrule their cursing.
But He also prays for God’s curse to rest on them.
Jesus was cruelly treated, betrayed, hurt… by a friend (Luke 22:48)
But Jesus does not curse people back, He blesses them (Luke 23:34)
Though God inspires David to be honest about it, to express his heart to God…
Cursing is not the way to overcome evil.
It is not enough to rehearse the curse, we need to reverse the curse!
When we curse back, we become like them; when we bless back, we become like God.
Our world today is filled with anger and cursing, and it is only magnifying.
God sends Jesus into the world to break the cycle; He sends us for this too!
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” (Romans 12:14)
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)

What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, my heart is angry to extremists, and the violence they commit. Help me to love them, to pray for their conversion, and to desire their release from anger, violence and cruelty.

God wants us to live!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Ezekiel 16-18
“I take no pleasure in the death of anyone… Repent and live!” (Ezekiel 18:32)
Ezekiel tells two parables – about a woman’s rise and fall, and about a cedar branch.
Through these stories, he is inspired to explain to Israel their troubles.
Like the woman, God gave them everything to succeed in life.
Like the cedar shoot, God planted them in a place where they could survive.
It was their foolish, selfish, immoral choices that God them into trouble.
Their sin was killing them, not God’s punishment.
God ‘gives them over’ (Romans 1:24-32) to their sinful desires, and suffering.
It is our own choice – “The one who sins is the one who will die.” (Ezekiel 18:20).
God does not want us to suffer, God does not want us to die!
God does not want “anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
But will we come to our senses (Luke 15:17), will we change our ways?
Where is God frustrated with me because of my unwise, selfish or immoral ways?
In the end, we get what we choose… so why not choose well, why not choose life?
God wants you to live, and to enjoy LIFE to the full… do you?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, thank You for challenging me to rethink my ways. Help me to be specific in naming the foolish things I am doing, and to change my direction with Your help!

Speaking with before speaking for Jesus!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Ezekiel 13-15
“Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing!” (Ezekiel 13:3)
Ezekiel warns prophets, the spokespeople for God (preachers, evangelists).
Those in the religious community who supposedly say what God is saying.
In this case, they follow their own spirit, for they have seen nothing (from God).
In the church today the power and influence of its preachers is huge.
On the radio, TV and internet, and in churches, there are MANY ‘prophets’.
This is especially relevant to me, as I am one of these ‘prophets’.
James warns us that “we who teach will be judged more strictly.” (James 3:1)
When I speak, is my message from my own spirit and mind?
How can I know for sure, and can I presume to be more faithful than others?
When we speak about God to others, are we just spewing out our own opinions?
We all must speak with humility when we speak about God and Jesus.
Too many of us do not spend enough time WITH the Lord to know what He thinks.
Unless we spend time WITH the Lord, we will not be able to speak LIKE or FOR the Lord.
This calls for deep humility and deep sincerity in our relationship with Jesus.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I am challenged by today’s words. Though all Jesus followers speak for You, I recognize that I have a role in the church which makes my words more influential. May I yield my spirit to You, and may my tongue speak in living echoes of Your voice!