Spiritual Power In Meekness

Read
John 8:1-11
“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” . . . “Neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” Verses 7 & 11 (NIV)

Reflect
Have you ever run into any “power play” Christians? They are never wrong; their view and interpretation of scripture is always the right one and you are an inferior believer because you just don’t get the point they are trying to make. For the most part they are doing these things with a sense of sincerity and truly believing they are right. In our text today the power play is deliberate and has nothing to do with sincerity.

The story appears to have three simple steps. The religious leaders try to trap Jesus as they publicly shame a woman caught in adultery. But instead of falling for their trap, he silences them, and they leave. And then he forgives the woman.

If we look a little deeper, we can see there is more going on. We can even say that this story shows how meekness – that is, gentle, firm strength – is the spiritual power at work and can lead people to change their actions.

The religious leaders are doing more than exercising power plays, they are exercising spiritual abuse, first by shaming the woman and then by trying to undermine the ministry and the credibility of Jesus. Jesus, recognizing their awful abuse of spiritual power, avoids their trap by ignoring them at first.

Then, as they keep badgering, he responds, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone.” It’s as if he is saying, “Your abuse prevents you from receiving God’s grace. Come clean, confess your sin and surrender that godless power, and you too can find life.”

Then he calls the woman to die to her sin as well, and to be invited into true life.

The meek, life-transforming Saviour invites everyone to die and truly live! Who could have known that meekness could be so radically powerful and renewing?

Pray
Lord, open our eyes to reject spiritual power plays that pretends to be holy, so that your true life will shape and guide all we do. Amen

Love Is Service

Read
1 John 3:11-24
Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with ­actions and in truth. Verse 18 (NIV)

Reflect
“Put your money where your mouth is.” I have heard that phrase a number of times in my life. It probably means I stick my nose into places it should not be.  The meaning behind the phrase is that if we believe in something or if we believe something is wrong, we should not just talk or complain about it; we should take action to support the cause or to fix the problem.

This is what the apostle John teaches about love. Love is not some idealistic concept to sit around and talk about but is shown to be real by our actions.

Love can get messy. Love sees the hurt and the brokenness in our world and takes action. Love goes out and serves ­others.

the cross, Jesus took action to show the greatest love of all, he gave up his life for us. And he also instructed his followers to go out and demonstrate sacrificial love for others. The resurrection of Jesus empowers believers with the joy and freedom to live by his love.

God’s love fills us with a desire for honesty, integrity, humility, justice, and respect for all people. Jesus’ resurrection power frees us to go out and share the burdens of people who are suffering, to spend time with people who are lonely, and to seek justice for those who are persecuted and oppressed.

As you celebrate freedom in Christ through the resurrection, let God show you where you can serve and show his love today.

Pray
Lord Jesus, fill us with your love, justice, mercy, and compassion. Give us eyes to see the world as you see it and give us the courage to serve others in your amazing love. Amen.

Ambassadors

Read
2 Corinthians 5:11-21
…. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.  Verses 19b-20 (NIV)

Reflect
An ambassador is an official envoy, a high-ranking diplomat who serves as one nation’s representative to another nation.

The priesthood of all believers means that we are all priests serving in Christ’s kingdom, therefore we are ambassadors.  You represent God. You are an official agent commissioned to bring God’s message of reconciliation to the world.

As Christians, as priests, we are called to use our status to minister to others in a way that leads people to be reconciled with God and with each other. This is an awesome and humbling task.

The world needs ambassadors for Christ today. Our present world seems to dismiss reconciliation and claims that when conflict or tensions arise, they can’t be repaired. So, we live with fractured pieces and ongoing tensions everywhere.

But the Word of God says something different. As priests, we have been given the ministry of reconciliation. We are to bring peace and unity to relationships everywhere.

When we seek peace in our relationships by reconciling one to another, we are being priests. This is needed in this dark and hurting world. To ignore any attempts at reconciliation brings destruction, chaos and even hopelessness.

Are you willing to accept the responsibility of being a reconciler – a priest and ambassador in God’s kingdom? It is a difficult calling, but it comes with the promise of God’s presence and power. Go ahead and give it a try.

Pray
Lord, thank you for using me as your instrument today. May I be an agent of reconciliation as your ambassador in this world. Amen.

Treasure In Clay Jars

Read
2 Corinthians 4
We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  Verse 7 (NIV)

Reflect
I remember so well my favourite professor speaking on this passage. He compared Paul’s analogy to placing a million-dollar diamond in the back of a dump truck to move it from one store to another.

In ancient times there were no banks as we know them. So, people would keep their valuables and treasure hidden, and they would keep them in everyday containers like clay jars, tucked away in a secret place or buried in the ground.

Paul makes good use of the contrast between the clay and the treasure. The cheap, rough, material of a clay jar is totally different from the refined, precious jewels and coins it may contain. And Paul compares the treasure to the precious message of salvation that God calls us to share in Jesus’ name, despite all our earthy weaknesses and sinfulness.

How precious are the “wonderful words of life,” the message of forgiveness through God’s love and grace, the news of Jesus’ victory over death, and the promise of our own resurrection! There is no truth so precious as the gospel of Christ!

Often, however, we get discouraged in our own weakness. Even if we are not persecuted or imprisoned for our faith like Paul was, we can understand the feeling of being “hard pressed on every side.” Until the day we are called into eternal glory, we must not lose heart. Till then, let this be our motto: “We also believe and therefore we speak.” Let us not lapse into silence. The same grace that forgave our sin carries us on, through life, so that light may shine out of darkness.

Pray Lord Jesus, you give us the precious words of life. As we follow you, teach us how to live each day in the boundless grace of God. In your name we pray. Amen.

Inheritance

Read
Psalm 136
Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.
Trouble pursues the sinner, but the righteous are rewarded with good things.
A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous.  Proverbs 13:20-22 (NIV)

Reflect
I have never had the misfortune of working through a will that was being contested. For that I am truly grateful.  

Lawyers are often needed when a large inheritance is being divided – even when stated in a legal will. Without that framework, the people in some families would tear each other apart over the money or things they expect to get as their entitlement.

Inheritance issues can be controversial, but, in the Bible, inheritance is also a great example of a good gift: it’s given by grace – not earned. It is a gift received from the God who loves us and gives us good gifts from above. Psalm 136 celebrates the way God gave the promised land to Israel “as an inheritance.” Again, and again the refrain echoes, “His love endures forever.” As history shows, Israel had done nothing to earn that inheritance. God was creating a new nation that would bless all nations by providing a Saviour.

In the New Testament, Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). And 1 Peter 1:4 describes salvation as “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.”

What a heavenly treasure we have in Christ! All by grace, through faith!

Pray
Thank you, Lord, that you are our inheritance, and that to know you, and the Son whom you sent, is eternal life, greater than all and every earthly treasure! Amen!

In The Grasp Of His Love

Read
Romans 8:31-39
(nothing in all creation) will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Verse 39 (NIV)

Reflect
While in Tanzania I was witness to a trial held by a neighbourhood group that had the authority to bring guilty people to trial in the nearby city. Using “switch sticks” on people’s bare backs and the bottoms of their feet, they were beaten until the desired answer was given. When I walked away from that event, I said to myself; “I would confess to almost anything to have that beating stop.” My pastor friend who was there and had been falsely accused of theft told me he had already felt the pain of the switch. Then he said nothing would ever make him tell a lie and disgrace Jesus.

In this passage Paul was naming some of the hardships he had faced and then he declares to his own soul, and to ours, “No, not persecution. No, not famine. No, not that, or that, or that, will be able to separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Why? Because God’s love is unshakeable, and God gives us the strength not only to face but also to conquer the enemy’s attacks. How? Through the finished work of Christ’s victorious death and resurrection.

Paul says neither the present nor the future will threaten our confidence in God’s loving grip on us. When my mother was given the news, she had only two weeks to live, she did not shed a tear. She knew that at the end of this life there was a glorious new beginning that would last through eternity. No, not even death could separate her from the love of God, rather death would usher her into the presence of the Saviour she loved.

Is there anything in your life that feels too overwhelming to handle? The power of the living, loving God guarantees a strong grip on you as you face your hardship head-on. Never give up.

Pray
Lord, we are weak, but you are strong. When the troubles of life pummel us, help us to find comfort in your love that never lets go. Help us to keep looking to you. In Jesus, Amen.

Who Is Not Here?

Read
Luke 14:15-24
Even so, the body is not made up of one part but of many. 1 Corinthians 12:14 (NIV)

Reflect
I have been in pastoral work for about 25 years. One disappointment that has remained with me is the fact that truly multi-racial congregations are very few and far between. I understand that ethnic and cultural backgrounds hold to different traditions and expressions of worship. I also understand that feeling comfortable in worship seems to be a highly valued piece of our worship. I just wanted to believe that we would be enriched by a wide diversity of peoples and cultural expressions.

Having said my mind above, there are still many, many like us, who do not attend church for one reason or another. Some people don’t attend church because they sense they are different from everyone else who attends church. Others don’t come because people in the church do not welcome them. If a church really wants to reflect the body of Christ, which is made up of many parts, they need to ask themselves regularly, “Who is not here?”

About 20 percent of the population have disabilities; but do 20 percent of the people at your church have visible or “invisible” disabilities? Do people who have been in prison feel welcome? People from a variety of social classes? Single adults? Poor people? Rich people?

In Jesus’ parable, the servants are sent out to “compel” people to come. God calls us to do the same in our churches. We must work to welcome people who feel that they don’t fit. We need to consider how we might need to change our relationships, our ways of interacting, our worship, so that people who are typically excluded will find they are welcome and needed by our churches.

Every church excludes people. Whom is your church excluding, and what changes do you need to make so that they will feel welcome? How can your church actively invite people who are not attending? A good start is to make friends with people and then invite your friends to come with you.

Pray
Lord Jesus, you welcomed people who were looked down upon by society. In the same way, teach me to welcome people much different from my “own kind” into my life and my church. In your name, Amen.

Hospitality

Read
Genesis 18:1-8
Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 1 Peter 4:9 (NIV)

Reflect
The first team that I took to Tanzania were surprised at the hospitality of the local people in the village of Igoma. We were there for two full weeks and had the joy of working together to help build the clinic building for the church. But what was astonishing to most was that these people scurried around on departure day to be sure everyone was leaving with a gift. People who had next to nothing, lived in mud huts and lived from day to day and depended on the grace of God to sustain them wanted to be sure that we felt appreciated and loved. So, we were blessed with a gift to remember the friends we had for a short time, but brothers and sisters we have for eternity.

One author writes: “In many parts of North America, hospitality has become rather anemic. It often amounts to little more than a coffee gathering among friends. It’s more common to see “hospitality” advertised by restaurants, hotels, and resorts that try to snag my dollar when I’m on vacation.” I agree with him.

The hospitality of the Scriptures is not a welcome based on how much cash (or plastic) you have in your wallet to pay for a room and a meal. It’s not even confined to people who are “like us.” The hospitality Scripture speaks of is typically focused on people different from us.

Many of us have a certain fear of strangers. We’re intimidated by people who dress, eat, and talk differently than we do. But biblical hospitality looks beyond differences to see similarities – to recognize others as fellow image bearers of God. The hospitality of scripture is an act of welcoming grace – and participates in the very dynamic of the character of Jesus Christ. We would do well to remember the cliché of a few years ago: “What Would Jesus Do.”

One day Sarah and Abraham welcomed visitors who were actually the Lord and his angels. Whom in your community do you need to welcome in the name of our Lord? You may be surprised by who you showed hospitality (Hebrews 13:2).

Pray
Father, grant us the grace to overcome our fears and welcome people who need hospitality, that we may share the love we have received from you. In Jesus name, Amen.

The Necessity Of Touch

Read
Revelation 1:17-18
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. (NIV)

Reflect
Compassionate ministry calls for the necessity of touch. A hand on a shoulder or holding someone’s hand while they work through a difficulty in their life or while the Holy Spirit convicts of sin is a sign that you care and want to be of assistance. Of course, in our present culture we need to be sure we ask for permission to touch.

Throughout his teaching ministry, Jesus gained a reputation for reaching out and touching people. When people with leprosy cried out to be healed, Jesus touched them. He touched the eyes of people who were blind. Touch was an integral component to Jesus’ healing ministry.

We see the gift of Jesus’ touch in this passage of Revelation as well. John fell at Jesus’ feet – as though he were dead – because he could not remain standing in the Lord’s presence. Jesus responded to John’s fear by reaching out, placing his right hand on him – a gentle touch, and saying, “Do not be afraid.”

What a calming touch Jesus provided! What powerful words of assurance he spoke! This story does more than just provide a picture of what happened to John on the island of Patmos when he stood face to face with Jesus. This reveals who Jesus is as the ascended and exalted Son of God: Jesus is the Lord of love and compassion. Just as when Jesus came to bring the good news of the kingdom of God (Mark 1:14-34), touch is central to his healing ministry.

I believe that the Spirit of God invites us to see ourselves in this picture. Jesus reaches out to us. He puts his right hand on us, in a world of uncertainty, and says these powerful words to us: “Do not be afraid.”  May we be comforted today by Jesus’ touch, his words of ­assurance, and his presence that removes our fear.

Pray
Lord Jesus, when we feel overwhelmed or alone or in need of healing might we feel your touch. Lead us more and more into the embrace of your loving touch. Amen.

Now I See

Read
John 9
Whether he (Jesus) is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”                                                                                                            Verse 25 (NIV)

Reflect
I can remember a number of times when one of my kids finally caught on to a concept that had alluded them. As we worked through the issue, slowly the light began to dawn and then finally in a shout of victory came: “I get it, I get it!” or “Now I See!”

A man blind from birth met Jesus. This story shows us that there is a difference between seeing physically with your eyes and seeing the truth – knowing the truth – clearly with your mind. The man blind from birth could only see after Jesus gave him the ability to see, both physically and spiritually. But the Pharisees, who could see physically all their lives, still couldn’t see the truth. They still couldn’t understand who Jesus was or what he was doing.

It’s not that the man blind from birth understood everything about Jesus. He answered many of the Pharisees’ questions about Jesus by saying, “I don’t know.” For people who follow Jesus today, that’s often true as well. There are some things about Jesus that we know for certain, and there are other things about Jesus that remain a mystery to us.

But just like this man in John 9, we can know with certainty what Jesus does in our lives. We can know the truth about how Jesus forgives our sins. We can know the truth about how Jesus gives us a new life and a new beginning. We can know the truth about hope for the ­future. Because of the ­promises in the Bible and because of the change Jesus makes in our lives, we can know the truth about our Saviour, Jesus. This is something we can see clearly, no matter what our physical sight is like!

Pray
Lord there are so many things that we still do not know or understand about you and your ways. Help us to see clearly what you can do in our lives through Jesus Christ. Amen.