October 18, 2017 Christ Multiplied

Today’s readings are Job 3 – 4 and Acts 8 – 9.  We are reading from the New Living Translation.

It’s happening. Christ is being multiplied. Enemies and foreigners, the blind and the dead – are all hearing and receiving the message of Christ’s life. His life is being multiplied in the lives of these, and more. Jesus is being multiplied and is spreading out into all the earth – down to Ethiopia, up to Damascus, on to Darsus. The Spirit and the life of Christ is multiplied.

I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels–a plentiful harvest of new lives. (Jn 12:24 NLT)

Jesus is the one that the eunuch read about. He is the one who was lead like a sheep to the slaughter. He is the one whose life was taken as He offered it up. He was that grain of wheat that fell to the ground, on our behalf, out of love for you and me. Because he did this great work, now we see him multiplied into the lives of all people – enemies, foreigners, the blind and the dead – all are being invaded by the Life of Christ. He is making all things new. The world is transforming one life at a time. And this transformation continues on to this day. Christ is being multiplied. The power to experience change is being given to all those who have his life.

Ask God to give you eyes to see and a heart to understand, so that you can be fully alive and available to the life of Christ in you. Ask him to make you a vessel of his life that will bring transformation into the world, even today. May he be multiplied in and through your life as you experience the life of Christ, in you.

October 17, 2017 From Dis-integration to Integrity

Today’s readings are Job 1-2 and Acts 6-7.  We are reading from the New Living Translation.

He’s a man of integrity. That’s what God says about Job.  He’s the finest man in all the earth.  He has an integrated life, a life that makes sense. He is not disintegrated or fragmented.  But how easy it is to be fragmented, chipped away at, torn apart, left in pieces.  Unexplained loss comes into our life when our children are adversely affected, when our body breaks down.  When things on the outside are coming undone, it’s so easy for us to lose heart and abandon THE thing that gives our life integrity and coherence. That “thing” is God. When my own life is falling apart it’s easy to say that God doesn’t make sense.   It’s easy to echo the words of Job’s wife,

“Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die.” (Job 2:9 NLT)

But that’s not what Job does.  Job maintains his integrity.  He maintains a life centered around, and anchored in, his faith in God.  He believes that God IS, and God is GOOD.  Even when his life is fragmenting he believes in God’s goodness.  His Center holds.  He maintains his integrity –  integrated not disintegrated.  He is integrating the good and the bad circumstances in his life, by faith, into the promise of God’s good heart for him.  So he endures.  He sits and waits for God.  He trusts that God will somehow prove himself faithful.  

We’re going to see that Job looked, in faith, to Someone that was to come.  Someone far greater than Job would come into the world and absorb all the loss.  He too, would be pulled apart.  This world would shred him to pieces – disintegrated in front of the world’s very eyes, on the cross. But Jesus would maintain his integrity.  The Center would hold for him.  His life would be pulled apart, but it would also be reintegrated through the power of the resurrection.

He suffered so that we might have a way to be put back together again when life pulls us apart.  We live in a world that is disintegrating, being pulled apart, and where evil is present.  But the One who is far greater than Job, has given us a way, through the power of the resurrection, to live lives of integrity – to have our lives put back together again.  

He absorbed the punishment and death, and was raised up to new life.  Now He offers that new life to the rest of us who are sitting in the ashes of our own lives – in desperate need of Him.  Job’s going to see it and we can see that today, too.  We can trust him, that He is good, and that He is making a way for us to have integrity and be made whole.

May you know and experience the wholeness and integrity that the resurrection life, alone, brings.  This is offered to us through the One who is far greater than Job – our champion, Jesus.  

October 16th, 17 Got Life?

Today’s readings are Malachi 3- 4, Psalm 148, and Acts 5.  We are reading from the New Living Translation.

Jerusalem is burning with a message and these men cannot be stopped. They will declare this message that is burning within them.  It is setting the world ablaze.  Do you know what this message is? It has nothing to do with politics or  personal agendas.  The message is LIFE!  

But an angel of the Lord came at night, opened the gates of the jail, and brought them out. Then he told them, “Go to the Temple and give the people this message of life!”  (Acts 5:19-20)

That’s it.  It’s that simple.  That is the Gospel – the Good News!  It’s life here and life now, not just a ticket to heaven in the sweet by and by.  It’s not about the Sadducees versus the Pharisees or the left versus the right. It’s this simple – it’s life.  That is so good because that is what we need and long for.  We can spend so much of our time and energy on things that are far from life – that diminish us and take away from us.  Focussing only on our past, our failures, our messed up relationships, our controlling fears – robs life from us.  But the angel reminds them clearly – as he reminds us, that the message is so simple.  Go tell them in the temple, that there is life.  That’s the message.  Jesus came to give us life, and life abundant.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (Jn 10:10 ESV)

How do you get this life?  Luke tells us plainly:

And every day, in the Temple and from house to house, they continued to teach and preach this message: “Jesus is the Messiah.” (Acts 5:42 NLT)

Jesus is the Messiah – the One who has delivered us from death so that we can have life!  He offers us forgiveness, hope, courage, strength, and life – here, now, today.  

Do you want life today?  Turn your heart to Jesus.  Let him speak hope, courage, and forgiveness into your heart today.  He is the message.  Jesus the Messiah has come to give you life.  May His life be fully formed in you. (Gal 4:19)

October 15, 2017 God Hasn’t Stopped Shaking Things Up

Today’s readings are Nehemiah 13, Malachi 1- 2, and Acts 4.  We are reading from the New Living Translation.

There’s a whole lot of shaking going on. Peter and John are back after being interrogated, denounced and told to stop teaching in the name of Jesus.  They had to stand before their ‘betters’ and give an account for their words, and the miraculous sign that had been performed through them, by the power of the Holy Spirit.  

When they come back to their friends we’re told that the room shook. As they were praying the room shook.

After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.  Then they preached the word of God with boldness.  (Acts 4:31 NLT)

They were praying for boldness in proclaiming Christ crucified and resurrected.  They were praying for the with-God life, here and now – that God’s kingdom would be known and experienced by many.  The room shook!  And God hasn’t stopped shaking things up.  

Wherever the Spirit of God is, things get stirred up. Hearts are rehabilitated, minds are renewed, priorities are reassessed, refocused, and redirected away from self and on to others.  Boldness, selflessness, and generosity begin to flow from God’s people.   And it’s all happening through the Spirit’s enabling.  

We are about to head into a new season, Thanksgiving and Christmas. This is a great season to retune our own hearts to seek the Spirit’s enabling in our lives.  This is a time to become bold, more selfless, and more generous – heralds of the hope of the resurrection and the promise of the with-God life now.  The message of this season is – Joy to the world, the Lord is come – Peace on earth, good will toward men –  Emmanuel, God with us.  These are such beautiful phrases that have been drained of their power, because they haven’t been embodied by God’s people through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Maybe, as we look to this season, we will find ourselves praying and asking God for boldness, selflessness and generosity.  Maybe God will shake things up in our own lives. Maybe he will shake things up in the lives of those around us, as we humble ourselves and pray and ask for the Spirit’s boldness,  like the Believers here in Acts 4 did.

Lord, give us boldness, selflessness and generosity.  Shake things up in our lives that we might experience you, your love and your power, in a whole new way.

October 14, 2017 Come Walk Through the Beautiful Gate

Today’s readings are Nehemiah 11-12, Psalm 1, and Acts 3.  We are reading through the New Living Translation.

Peter says, I’ll give you what I have.  (Acts 3:6  NLT).  What is it that Peter has, that this man, lame from birth, needs? The lame man expects so little but he’s going to get far more than he ever thought.  Luke tells us that  Peter shares his faith in the One who forgives sins. Peter demonstrates his faith in the One who sees our inability to walk beyond the Beautiful gate, into God’s life.  Over and over the lame man has been placed at the Beautiful Gate, but he is never able to enter beyond, into that temple area – that place where God and Life is.  Instead, he sits outside the gate and waits, and begs,  and expects so little.  And then Peter arrives – but it’s not just Peter who is there, but Christ in Peter.  And Jesus, through Peter, sees the man – this man who is about to go beyond the gate Beautiful, and into Life.  Peter looks at him and says,

I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have.  In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!” (Acts 3:6 NLT)

We’re told that as Peter helped him up, his muscles in his ankles and his legs were restored and he got up and leapt and danced and sang out praises to God.  He went through the gate and into the Temple.  He was standing upright – made new.  His friends couldn’t get him through the gate. Moses and the Prophets couldn’t either.  

Peter seizes this opportunity to speak to the crowd of onlookers.  He urges them not to look at him and John.  He tells the crowds,

And why stare at us as though we had made this man walk by our own power or godliness? (Acts 3:12 NLT).

He wants them to know that it was done through the power of the resurrected Christ, the Messiah.  Jesus is the one that made the lame man walk and He’s the one that takes us beyond the gate Beautiful and into Life.  He’s the only one who can do that for all of us who are stuck at the gate.  Moses and the Prophets couldn’t do it.  They were just pointing to the One who would come – the one who would speak his Life into us.  He alone can restore us so that we can walk upright, and enter into the presence of God, leaping, shouting and praising God for the Life he alone gives.

There’s only one Person that can take us beyond the Gate Beautiful and into Life. That is Jesus Christ of Nazareth.  He comes to each and every one one of us today –  to those areas in our life where we fail to stand.   He comes and sees us, and speaks his life into us, inviting us to stand up and walk with him into the Temple.  His Presence is a place of life, where we are made new.

Let the abiding life of Christ lift you up and take you beyond the gates and into Life.

October 13th, 17 Overwhelming Victory is Ours

Today’s readings are Nehemiah 9 – 10 and Acts 2.  We are reading from the New Living Translation.

It’s finally happened.  A nuclear explosion has gone off, of immeasurable proportions.  Jesus has succeeded in everything he set out to do.   And he will continue to succeed in restoring his kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven. He will succeed in the same way that he succeeded in the life of Peter, James, John, Andrew, Philip Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas,  James – son of Alphaeus, Thaddeus, Simon the Zealot, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salame, Bartimeus, and all those who called out to him for mercy.  

He will succeed through the miracle of the new birth, by reinhabiting men and women – human beings – created to be vessels of God’s presence.  He will continue transforming people from the inside out – one person after another.

Resurrection life is here and it’s now. As he inhabits individuals with himself, a chain reaction happens, of exponential proportions, and the kingdom advances and grows.  One hundred and twenty people jammed into an upper room, once cowering and afraid, were united with dunamis power! And people from all over the world began hearing and understanding.  Their hearts were transformed and set free and forgiveness was offered to all. That reaction continues.   It hasn’t stopped since this moment Luke is describing here.

It continues on and people all over the world are responding to the message and person of Christ. Resurrection life is now offered to all  – to whoever believes, repents and surrenders their life to Jesus.  There is power, life and forgiveness available to all.  It’s moving out into highways and byways.  It’s reaching people of every nation, tongue, tribe, and language.  Operation World has said that the fastest growing church in the world is in Iran and Afghanistan.  Unheard of numbers of Muslims are coming to Christ. The message is being multiplied.  The gospel message is going forward because Jesus has succeeded. He has triumphed over death and the grave. And there’s nothing in this world that can stop Him.  Overwhelming victory is His – and ours – through him.  

What an amazing story, and beginning this is.  But it’s only the beginning.  He’s still at work.  He is using his Word each day  to finish the work in our lives that he has faithfully begun.  It’s a journey of renewal, restoration, and rehabilitation of hearts and minds, as just one more follower at a time begins to experiencing the with-God life, now.   

Walk in the light of what Jesus has done. He has succeeded for you.  May you experience more and more, the overwhelming victory that is yours in Christ.  

October 12, 2017 Lost and Found

Today’s readings are Nehemiah 7 – 8 and Acts 1.  We are reading from the New Living Translation.

Over the years that I’ve pastored, many people have come up to me after church and asked if the church has a lost and found. I’ve lost my Bible and am wondering if it’s in the lost and found.

Nehemiah is describing for us one of the most egregious occasions of someone losing the Bible, that there ever was. The Jews were in exile for 70 years and during that time the public reading of the Bible had been lost to them. It was this Bible that told the people who they were. It described to them their unique identity as those who are chosen by God. It was their story of their place in God’s life. It was the story of God’s love and faithfulness towards them. Being without it was something like the horrific story we sometimes hear, of a child who has been kidnapped and is missing for years and years. Then, when finally found, they are given a letter from their parents who have been looking for them. It’s a love letter. It’s a letter of how the parents have longed for them, and have never stopped seeking their lost and stolen child. The parents are telling the child that they did all they could, night and day, never stopping, always looking for their lost and loved child.

The Israelites were weeping because they were reading this love letter. They were seeing God as their loving parent, always seeking to find his lost child. They were weeping because they had never heard these words before. They never knew that they were so loved. They were also weeping because now they knew who they were. Having been kidnapped and gone for so long, it was easy to forget who they were. But now they are hearing for the first time that they are loved, they are God’s beloved, they are his chosen. God had been working, longing for, and never ceasing in his pursuit of their hearts. They were lost but now they’re found. This is why Nehemiah says,

Don’t mourn or weep on such a day as this! For today is a sacred day before the Lord your God” (Neh 8:9 NLT)

This is a day when we celebrate, because that which was lost has now been found. That which was dead has now been brought back to life. That sounds familiar doesn’t it? That sounds like the Gospel. That sounds like the story of a loving redemptive God who searches and finds. Whether it’s a wayward son or a wayward people, he will find us. There may be a time of weeping but there will also be a time to party.

My prayer is that you would look into the Word and realize who you are. God has longed for you and sought you, with all his heart. He has made you his own. May each day be a celebration of the God who Finds. That will be your joy.

Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength! (Neh 8:10 NLT)

October 11, 2017 See Jesus’ Heart of Love for You.

Today’s readings are Nehemiah 5 – 6, Psalm 146, and Luke 24.  We are reading from the New Living Translation.

When God breaks bread the Scriptures are opened. Jesus opens the minds of these two travellers from Emmaus. He enables them to understand the Scriptures. Unbeknownst to them, Jesus is walking them through the writings of Moses and the Prophets, explaining how Christ’s story is woven in and through every page. He accompanies this with the breaking of bread and the partaking of fish. And now, in light of the resurrection, he reveals himself as King and Messiah. He’s given them a portal through which to see the kingdom of God. Everything is coming into focus. Now they understand the message that’s been given to them. It’s a message of forgiveness for all those who believe, and power to live as children of God. The Gospel message is now fully known – fully accessible to all who will believe. It’s a message of forgiveness of sins.

As we come to the Word of God, we break it open, partaking of it like bread. God makes himself known to us. He demonstrates to us that we are loved and forgiven. He has given us power, by the abiding presence of his Spirit, to live His life now. He lives his life through us –

…Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Col 1:27 NLT)

This is the Gospel message that we are taking into all the world. It’s transforming people all over the world, every day. This can come home to us whether we are hiding in an upper room or walking on a long, lonely road. Christ can appear to us and break the Bread open for us. We can see from the Scriptures that he is with us – that he is ours and that we are his.

My prayer is that you will see him on the road that lies before you, as the bread of life is broken open each day. May you experience his power, forgiveness and transforming love.

October 10, 2017 Look to the Cross

Today’s readings are Nehemiah 3 – 4 and Luke 23.  We are reading from the New Living Translation.

So many characters are flooding the scene:  Pilate, Herod, Barnabas, grief-stricken women, the mob, thieves, Simon the cross-bearer, and soldiers at the foot of the cross.  Luke floods this scene with everyone, except his followers – his disciples.  They are conspicuously absent from Luke’s story.  But in their absence, emerge other unlikely characters, others who would seem to see through the horrors of this Friday, to something good. Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus, and a group of women, would come.  These three emerge in the absence even as the disciples fail to.  Many failed to see, in the cross, anything good.  All they could see was their loss – the loss of their aspirations, ambitions, their power, and position.  They viewed the cross through their own eyes and not through the Scriptures or the words of Jesus, himself.  Jesus had told them repeatedly, the things that were about to happen to him.  

When we fail to see through the eyes of Scripture and the words of Jesus, all we will see is loss.  When we view the suffering of God, or even our own suffering, through our own eyes, and not through the Scriptures, we will inevitably cower away, just like they did, in fear and self-pity.  We will be be conspicuously absent from what God is seeking to show and give us.  

These three were drawn to the cross.  Even though they didn’t fully understand its significance  they still came.  They stood before Him on the cross, and they bore witness to the love of God – a love that declares forgiveness.  Because these three remained at the cross when others turned away, they were given the awesome honor of honoring the body of Christ in his death.  They took his body down, wrapped it in linen cloth and lovingly placed it in a tomb.  That honor would result in a first row seat in the resurrection life that would soon be offered to all who were willing to come to the cross.  Forgiveness and Life would be offered to all who would view the sufferings of Christ through the Scriptures and not just through their own eyes.  

Surrounding the cross are a flood of this world’s characters:  the pious, the rabble, those that take a look and then run away, and even those who we think ought to be there but are not.  We are all confronted and given an opportunity to view, through the Scriptures, this cross and this Man.  We are invited to receive His love.  It is offered to all who are willing to come and be forgiven –  to all who receive His words spoken over their lives.  They are the same words He spoke on the cross, Father, forgive them. (Lk 23:34 NLT)

If we look at the cross through the Scripture we will see something good happening on that Good Friday.  We will see what God is up to.  We will hear what Nicodemus heard.  Years before, Nicodemus had gone to see Jesus in the dark of night.   Jesus told him,

And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life. (Jn 3:14-15 NLT)

Maybe it was these words that ran through Nicodemus’ mind when he saw Jesus on the cross.  Maybe it was Nicodemus who was one of the first to truly be born again.  

Look at the cross through the Scriptures, like Nicodemus, and Joseph of Arimathea, and the women who faithfully served him. Look at your own sufferings in light of the Scriptures, the resurrection and in light of what God has given to us, in Christ.  As you do this, you’ll have a first-row seat in resurrection life, and you will know His love.  

October 9, 2017 Here to Serve

Today’s readings are Nehemiah 1-2, Psalm 133, and Luke 22.  We are reading from the New Living Translation.

The religious leaders that had gathered around Jesus were right.  They had heard what he said, and they didn’t need any more witnesses.  

“Why do we need other witnesses?” they said. “We ourselves heard him say it.” (Lk 22:71 NLT)

He was who he said he was.  But what and who he said he was, wasn’t what the religious leaders, Judas, Peter, or any of us really wanted.  Jesus couldn’t have made it any more clear.  Jesus said, I’m a king who has come to serve at the table, not to be served.  

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mk 10:45 NLT)

He said, if you want to be great in my kingdom, than you have to serve, and not just lord it over other people, like the kings of this world do.

But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, (Mk 10:43 NLT)

He couldn’t have been more clear.  But what he said, we don’t really desire, because our kingdoms run on a whole different eco system.  We want to find our significance through our power, possessions, and position in life.  We want to succeed by becoming the greatest, not by becoming the least.  

God’s kingdom is not like ours. And as followers in his kingdom, we are to be servants, like Him.  But Jesus has prayed for us, just as he prayed for Peter.  Like Peter, we have the best intentions – but we lack the power to live as real servants of the King.  Like Peter, we say, we’ll go to the ends of the earth, we will do what we say, we’ll be the most loyal and devoted, but in the end we lack the power to live as servants of the king. But Jesus says this:  

But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.” (Lk 22:31 NLT)

I’ve prayed for you, that once you have been sifted, you will repent.  You’ll come to the end of yourself, and then you will strengthen your brothers by serving them, and showing them what it is to be a servant king in my kingdom.  You’ll strengthen them by offering them my strength, in and through you – you becoming less, me becoming more, in you.  

After we repent, may God grant us a new desire, to be those who come to serve, recognizing that He is great and that his greatness is best known through our weakness.

“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness. (II Cor 12:9 NLT)

May God’s prayer be fully realized in our lives. Even though we are like Peter in so many ways, may we be how Peter was in the end, a servant of King Jesus – a citizen of the kingdom of Heaven.