August 19, 2017 Shadow-free Living

Today’s readings are Jeremiah 48 – 49, Psalm 67, and I John 1.  We are reading from the New Living Translation.

It’s a shadow-free zone – no shadows, only light.  What he has done for us and what he offers us is a life out of the shadows, a life forgiven and free.  What he offers us is utter confidence that there is nothing lurking, nothing in the corner ready to shift or change, no judgement  in the shadows, ready to pounce.  The light of God’s love covers you, shadow free, and free of charge. You don’t have to earn it or perform for it.  You simply need to believe it and trust him for it.

God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all.  (I Jn 1:5 NLT)

With God, there are no shadows, only light.  This light and love of God is as real as it gets. John has no stronger way of saying it than to tell you that God came in the flesh. He’s telling us: I touched him, I spoke to me, he spoke to me.

….we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. (I Jn 1:1 NLT)

He spoke words of life, and that life was pure light.  There were no shadows of judgement or rejection.  And we can live in that light, without fear – even though we have sin, even though there are shadows lurking within us, even though we are broken.  We can still come into his light, confess our sins, receive forgiveness and healing.  The shadows need not kill us, because his light cleanses and purifies us.  He can do all of this because he took upon himself, on the cross, all the shadows of the world, all the darkness, hatred, fear, and abuse.  He took the things that lurk within us and the things that never should have happened.  He absorbed it all to make room for his light to shine, in our lives and in his coming kingdom – shadow free!

Learn to live more of each day, shadow-free.  Come live in the light and find freedom and forgiveness.  Shadow free living means living within the light of his love.

August 19, 2017 Breakfast and a Word about Love

Today’s readings are Jeremiah 45 – 47, Psalm 105, and John 21.  We are reading from the New Living Translation.

You can’t give what you don’t have and you can’t teach what you don’t know.   Sheep need care, food, love, and protection – but they must have a shepherd to follow, in order to have it. Twice, Peter is told to follow Jesus, because Jesus wants him to know that He is Peter’s Shepherd.  And Peter must have love, care, food, and protection, from his Shepherd, if he is to offer love, care, food, and protection to those God calls him to shepherd.

Peter, I’m your shepherd.  Even though you feel like a total failure, and want to cash it in and return to your old life, you must know that I have made a way for you to come back to my fold. Even though you’re disappointed and disgusted with yourself,

Even though you are realizing that you‘re not the person you thought you were,

Even though you did not stand with me when you thought you would,

Even though your eyes have been opened to who you really are apart from God,

Even though all this is true, I love you, Peter.  

Your love for me should not be based on your performance or your piety towards me.  Your love for me is founded on my love for you, and the grace that is available to you, because of my life given for you.  Peter, that’s why I’m asking you three times, ‘Peter, do you love me?’  You have to know where love comes from, if you want to feed my sheep.  Because you can’t give what you don’t have and you can’t teach what you don’t know.  Peter, come and follow me.  My love, not your performance or piety,  has made a way for you to return to my fold.  You are my lamb, Peter.   I’ve given my life for you.  

Now offer this message to my other lambs – to all those I am calling to follow me.  They’re waking up this morning feeling just like you – feeling like a failure, feeling hopeless, disappointed, and disgusted with themselves. You have a message for them and it’s not, ‘hang your head and go back to fishing and back to work – back to a life without wonder, without vision and without God’,  No, you’re message is:

 You are loved.  Follow me as I follow the Lord.  God has made a way for you to return to the fold.  And he bids us all to come alive and follow him.  

Hear these three questions of love and one giant declaration that YOU ARE LOVED! God has made a way for you to return to him and be a lamb in his fold. You have a message to give to this world that’s waking up today:  

YOU ARE LOVED.  

August 18, 2017 Life Emerges from the Ashes

Today’s readings are from Jeremiah 26, 35 – 36 and John 20.  We are reading from the New Living Translation.

The living Word of God cannot be extinguished.  In Jeremiah we see the pages of God’s Word set on fire by an evil king, and burned up.   But the Word can not be extinguished.  Instead, the Word was re-written with “much more” than was written before.

The prophet wrote down, word-for-word, what he was told. He then proclaimed it before the people and the king.  The evil king dissects each passage, from the scroll ,and consigned it to the fire.  The king thought he could stand in judgement over God’s word.  He thought his little fire would put an end to what God was going to do.  But the Word comes back.  It was burned to ashes.   But out of the ashes it emerged, once again, proclaiming again what God would do. And this time, with “much more”.  

He wrote everything that had been on the scroll King Jehoiakim had burned in the fire. Only this time he added much more! (Jer 36:32 NLT)

Our reading in John these last two days tells the same story.  The evil king, Satan, the enemy of our souls,  also wants to put an end to God’s Living Word, by sentencing him to the cross.  But the cross can’t stop God from doing what he intends to do.  In fact, it is on the cross where he accomplishes what he must do, to free us from the judgement that is due us.  

Judgement was written on Jeremiah’s scroll, and consumed by the fire, but it was also resurrected. The scroll was remade, with ‘much more’. So too, with Jesus, God’s judgement was absorbed by Jesus body, the Living Word, as he was lifted upon the cross. That was for me and for you.  He offered himself to the flames of judgement for us. And He was resurrected into new life, so we could have ‘much more’.  

No evil king can stop God from what he intends to do, whether it’s the king of Jeremiah’s day or Satan, who is the god of this world (II Cor 4:4 NLT).  God has chosen to offer up his own life for ours. Jeremiah’s scroll had judgement written on it, and just as the scroll was consumed, the Living Word of God absorbed the fires of judgement, but was resurrected, so that you and I might be raised to new life.  

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (II Cor 5:21 NIV)

He’s come to offer himself, to free us, so that we can enter into his life, through the power of his name.

But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name. (Jn 20:31 NLT)

Fires cannot extinguish God’s word.  Instead, His word emerges from the ashes and brings us new life, life with ‘much more’ than before.  Live in the “much more”.  See what God and rejoice in His love, demonstrated to you each and every day.

August 17, 2017 A Story of Two Cups

Today’s readings are Jeremiah 23, 25 and John 19.  We are reading from the New Living Translation.

There are two cups spoken of in the readings today – one in Jeremiah and one in John.  There are two cups,  but we only have to drink from one. 

Jeremiah is told by God to prohphesy.  God tells him to take a cup – the cup of God’s wrath.  He’s told to take this cup of God’s anger to all nations and make them drink from it.  John talks of the cup of God’s wrath, too.   But the nations don’t have to drink from it.  God’s son will drink from it. The wrath in Jeremiah’s cup is for all the world’s hatred, injustice, evil, brokenness.   Something must be done to make things right.  

But God, in his great love, has given us his Son, and he, willingly, lifts up this cup of wrath and drinks it.  He drains it to the dregs.  He does this so that we might pick up his cup of salvation.  God’s fury was spent on his willing and loving Son, our Saviour King, who came to suffer and die, and give himself as a ransom for our life.  He rested in a tomb – resting from his work –  having reconciled us through his death.  But the story isn’t over.  It doesn’t end here, because Sunday is coming.  On Sunday came another cup – the cup of salvation.  

This second cup is offered to you and me.  In it we are offered life!  We are reconciled by his death – saved by his Life.  That’s where the story begins!  That story gets recreated every day in the lives and imaginations of men and women, boys and girls, all around the world.  It’s a story of two cups:  the cup of God’s wrath and the cup of salvation.  He drinks them both so that we only need to drink one.  Hallelujah.

Lift up that cup, in thanks and praise.  Live in the light of what’s been done for you – and may you know the joy of it!

August 16, 2017 We don’t want Him – and He knows it.

Today’s readings are II Kings 24, Jeremiah 22, Psalm 112, and John 18.  We are reading from the New Living Translation.

We don’t want him! And He knows it.  Even the best of us don’t want him – even someone like Peter.  Instead, we want a revolutionary like Barabbas.  

We don’t want him, he knows it, and yet, he desires us.  He knows we’re incapable –  that the best the flesh can do is manage some kind of revolution or reform.  It’s not capable of living out the truth.  He knows that we are locked in a lie and need the truth that will set us free.  And that’s what he’s come to do.  Even though we don’t want him, he wants us.  We’re like people who’ve cut off each others ears, like Peter chopping off the ear of the servant.  We are unable to hear the message of life, that we so desperately need.  It’s as if we’re in a world full of severed ears, and He’s come to mend and heal them, like he did for the man in the garden.  Our hearts are severed from the truth and he’s come to make them new, completely new – not reformed or adjusted, not through political revolution or religious reformation.  No. He’s come to do something completely out of this world.  He’s come to give us new hearts – hearts that want him and eyes that can see him and their need for life.  He makes our hearts new by the Spirit of Christ himself, in us.  

When that happens:

-when love breaks through 

-when he shows up at night in the garden to mend our ears

-when truth arrives as we warm ourselves by the fire

-when we realize we are not the person we thought we were

-when we betray him and ourselves  

-when the truth of who we really are apart from Christ comes crashing in on us

….something else comes crashing in on us.  

The truth and realization that he loves us just the same, and that he wants us even though we don’t want him – comes crashing in.  When we see that, new life begins.  

We don’t want him, but he has wanted us, and he’s made a way to give us new hearts so that we can see the truth of it.  We can begin to experience something entirely new – not our straining and worn out efforts for reform and revolution, or one more resolution to somehow change.  No.  Now we rest in what he has done for us.  We rest in the light and power of the new heart that has been born in us.  We begin to experience his life right now.  When that happens, a new desire is born in us.  Now we want him, just as he has wanted us.

Reject revolution and reform. Instead, embrace that new heart that’s been given to you, because of what Christ has done.  Live in the power and life of him who is the Truth.

August 15, 2017 Jesus Prays a Blessing Over You

Today’s readings are Jeremiah 18 – 20, Psalm 93, and John 17.  We are reading from the New Living Translation.

Jesus is praying a prayer of blessing for us.  We see this kind of prayer throughout the Bible.  The patriarchs, before they died, would pray a blessing over their children.  Their prayer of blessing was a gift that they wanted to bestow upon each of their children.  It conferred upon them their place, their identity, their inheritance, and their place within the family. Jesus, in John 17, is offering a prayer of blessing  upon those that God has given him, not just the 12 that gathered with him that night, but beyond – even to us. His blessings are being conferred upon us.  They tell us who we are in the family of God, and what our inheritance is as his children.  In verse 8 he gives the message of love and the forgiveness of sins – the message of life in the Son.  The Gospel has been conferred and spoken over us, and is our gift from God.  From this gift flow other gifts like the gift in verse 11, of unity, and protection from this world.  He prays:

Holy Father, you have given me your name; now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are.

He is offering the gift of protection from this world and unity with him and with each other.  In verse 13 he bestows on us the gift of joy:

Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy.

The things he tells us, bestows on us, is joy! And we find what he tells us, in his word.  In verse 14 he says:

I have given them your word.

Christian, in his word we will find his joy!  We will be reminded of who we are in Him, the love that he has bestowed upon us, and the hope that we can carry into each day.  

In verse 19 he says that He has given himself as a sacrifice for us.

And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.

He bestows upon us the gift of His own life, as a sacrifice for our lives, reconciling us to God.  And finally, he has given us the gift of his glory.  Verse 22 says:

I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one.

He’s given us the gift of glory.  Paul tells us that that is Christ IN you.  Christ in you is your hope and  your glory. The blessing of Christ’s abiding presence in you is the Christian life.  And that is the life we can live today.  God’s blessings are poured out and rest upon us: protection, unity, the message of life, joy, his word, his sacrifice FOR us, and his life IN us.  These blessings are an outpouring of God’s love for us.  

Now may your roots grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.  (Eph 3:17-19 NLT)

May your mind be renewed with the knowledge that you have been blessed by a good Father.

August 14th, 17 But, in fact, it is best for you…

Today’s readings are Jeremiah 16 – 17, Psalm 96 and John 16.  We are reading from the New Living Translation.

Imagine Jesus, physically with you today.  Imagine what a day like that would look like.  Imagine Jesus waking with you, starting into the day with you. Perhaps you share a cup of coffee before you head out to the car, and the commute, and into your day. He joins you at your desk or workplace.  He’s sitting at the table, across from you, at lunch as you share a meal together. You’re sharing your day with Jesus – and it’s a day without judgement or condemnation.  It’s just a day in each others presence. Imagine a day like that.  Wouldn’t that be something? How could anything be better than that?  That’s what these boys, the disciples, experienced for three years.  They were with him, day in and day out. It’s hard to imagine anything better than that.  But here, in John 16, he tells them that he has to go.  He has to leave them because there’s something better.  In John 16: 7 he says:

But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you.

But first he has to go to the Father, he tells us.  And the route to the Father is through the cross.  It’s at the cross that He makes righteousness available to all who will believe in Him.  He makes us right with God, for life, right here, right now.  He’s saying that It’s best if He goes away, so that He can do all of that for us.  It’s hard to imagine things being any better than Jesus being with us, day in and day out.  But that was only true for the twelve.  But by leaving, He was doing the ‘best thing’.  Others would come to discover the life and righteousness that comes through following and living in him.  It’s best, he says, because when I go away,  I will multiply my life into the lives of many many others.  My presence will be multiplied through the advocate, abiding in all those who believe.

The presence of Christ in us – this, Jesus says, is best.  The presence of Christ is with you today, whether you’re in Cincinnati, Ohio, or Somerset, NJ, Perth, Australia, or San Paulo, Brazil. Christ is being multiplied in all those who  are believing and trusting in Him at this very moment.  

Jesus came from the Father, into the world, and returned to the Father.  But he did what was best.  He sent the Advocate – the spirit of Christ – to come and abide in you, and that makes all the difference.  Through this Advocate, you can begin to experience hope like you’ve never had it before.  You can begin to experience Christ in you, your hope and glory.  Jesus says it’s best that it is this way.  

You can really imagine today, that Christ is with you, as you get up, drink your coffee, head on out for the commute, work at your desk, break bread at lunch, and return home in the evening. In all the things that go on from morning til night, imagine that Christ is with you, because it’s true!  

Christ has multiplied.  He has come to live and dwell in us.  And we can begin to experience the joy of it, right now.  Live in this ‘best thing’  with anticipation and joy for what God is going to do.

August 13, 2017 Where are You Making Your Home?

Today’s readings are Jeremiah 13 – 15 and John 15.  We are reading from the New Living Translation.

Where’s your home?  I’m not talking about a city or a country.  Those things can change.  I’m talking about where you park your soul.  Where do you reside?  Where’s your abode? Jesus says he wants you to make your home with him.  Home is not a set of doctrines, traditions, or sentimental memories of time gone by.  He wants you to make your home with him.  He says that there is a direct correlation between making your home with him and abiding or remaining in His Word.  He says to abide in Him and abide in His Word.  He wants you to make your home in His Word.  And don’t forget that it’s a good word – it’s the Gospel   It’s not a condemning word.  It’s a word of Grace.  It  welcomes the tired, the exhausted,  the bruised,  the disappointed, and those burdened with shame and regret. It’s a healing word that says the pressure is off.  Jesus says, Come home to me and make yourself at home in my word.  

This directly corresponds to remaining and abiding in his love.  When you‘ve made yourself at home in his good loving word, you, in turn, will have love to offer others.  You can’t give what you don’t have.  But if you have made your home in him and his loving gracious word, then you will have something to offer this broken, tired, and exhausted world.  You’ll be able to offer Jesus’ love – His Gospel.  And that will bear fruit!  You will be shaped by his love, and his word, and made new.  

Make your home where he is.  Show up every day and learn to remain in his loving Word.  And then sit back and see what happens.  Keep your eye out for the fruit that comes of abiding in Him.

August 12, 2017 Come, Let’s be Going

Today’s readings are Jeremiah 10-12 and John 14.  We are reading from the New Living Translation.

Jesus parting words in chapter 14 are  Come, let’s be going.  These are such practical words, nothing obtuse, no great mystery.  He’s simply telling them, You, follow me now.

I love that he ends on such a pedestrian, common, plain command, to come and follow him.   Because the beginning of this chapter is anything but.  Earlier in the chapter he is telling his disciples exactly who he is.  He begins to reveal to them perhaps the deepest mysteries of the Trinity:  that he is in the Father and the Father is in him.  And that the Holy Spirit will come when he is no longer here, and be the Advocate.   We will live in the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit will live in us.  Amazing mysteries are being explained here.  And it’s no wonder that Thomas and Philip are scratching their heads.  They’re wondering:  Lord, we don’t know where you’re going…. if you would just show us the Father,  and maybe slow down, and explain things a little better to us, we wouldn’t be worried.  We wouldn’t be anxious.  But Jesus simply says to them, Come let’s be going. It’s as if he’s saying, I’ll explain this to you and later you’ll understand. Later you’ll remember these words that I’ve spoken to you.  But right now you need to come and go with me.  

And isn’t that just like our life of faith?   There’s  so much we don’t understand, so much that we want further explanation and greater clarity on. And yet, the command that comes to us, by the abiding Spirit’s presence within us, is Come, let’s be going.  In effect, he’s saying,  Come, follow me.

What does our obedience and loyalty and love to this King of ours boil down to?  Basically, loving him boils down to following him when we hear him say, Come, let’s be going.  If we follow him,  we will experience his peace of mind and heart. In obedience, we find strength, joy, and confidence. In our obedience we experience the gifts that he has for us in this life.  We experience the Way the Truth and the Life.  All of this comes when we respond to His call to Come, let’s be going.

Heed His words to Come, let’s be going.  Follow him today. Hear his words to you, and respond to his presence in your life.   Rest in him and know His peace, confidence and joy for you.  Hear him say, Come let’s be going.  Let’s get on with it and move forward. Let’s face this day together.

August 11th, 17 Washed Clean

Today’s reading are Jeremiah 7 – 9 and John 13.  We are reading from the New Living Translation.

You have to get washed and He has to wash you.  You have to humbly accept Jesus’ care over your life, as he washes your feet. If you don’t, Jesus says, you’re going to miss him.  You’re not going to get him. There’s a difference between union and communion.  Peter and the Twelve were united with Christ. They were one with Christ.  But, just like you and I, their feet got dirty because they were walking in a fallen, broken, and dirty world. Journeying through this life takes a toll on us and our souls need to be drawn in, over and over again, to our  life with him. We need to be realigned, renewed, refreshed.  We need to be washed clean and come into communion with him again. So Jesus insists on cleaning our feet,.  When he cleans our feet he is reminding us of who we are in Him. You are my son.  You are my daughter, You are one with me.  Jesus insists on caring for us throughout our lives – washing our feet, cleansing us, reminding us of his intimate care and grace, and offering it to us each day.

It’s a humiliating thing for someone to wash our feet but our souls are in need of the humbling reality of Christ serving us in this most intimate of ways.  Our pride, like Peter’s,  wants to rise up and demand otherwise.  You will never ever wash my feet! (Jn 13:8 NLT) The flesh always refuses to be clean.  But the presence of Christ humbles us and teaches us that we need Jesus to cleanse and care for us throughout our lives. We need him and we are one with him.  

Today he continues to wash us, even through his word, through what we’re doing right now.  You may not have noticed this, but while we were hearing the word today, something else was happening.  Christ was washing our feet.  Ephesians 5:25 says,

For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.

He’s washing our feet as we listen to and respond to his word each day.  Jesus says to you what he said to Peter, Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. (Jn13:10 NIV)  The water of his Word, washing our feet, is going to be a part of our life together, from here on out.  

Don’t let your pride and flesh stand in the way of Christ serving you in this most humbling of ways.  Next time you come to the Word envision Jesus – the creator of all things – washing your feet! Let it be a reminder that you are one with Christ and that you need him to renew, restore, clean you , and that you are loved.  And let that love move beyond you and into the world, to others – so that you can love the way he loved and serve the way he served, and be free.   You walk in a world where your feet get dirty and you need him every day, to make you clean.  Receive the cleansing love of Christ today.