Supernatural Peace

Read
John 14:23-27
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33 (NIV) 

Reflect 
The opening verses of John 14 are very often read at a funeral. It is a time when people are upset and somewhat disoriented. So, these verses truly bring comfort, especially when the person was a believer and those left behind also believe. But Jesus does go on in this discourse to explain that the truth that underlies those words of comfort. Not only is there great and sure hope for the grieving people and the person who has died but also for all of us who believe are promised the reality of the indwelling Holy Spirit. 

The disciples were extremely anxious. They had been with Jesus for three years, most likely every day. Now he is telling them he is going to leave them. What will they do? Who will lead them? What about the hopes and dreams they all had with Jesus leading the way? 

Jesus assures them, that he would not leave them alone in all this trouble. He would send another teacher, helper, and counselor. The Holy Spirit of God would come to live in their hearts! He would produce in them a beautiful array of spiritual fruit, including a highly prized and needed peace (Gal. 5:22-23). They would become blessed as peacemakers, just as Jesus had taught them earlier (Matt. 5:9). 

Do you have the Lord’s peace in your heart? Are you confident that his comforting care is with you in any conflict? Do you know that in his strength you can be victorious in every struggle and trial? The Bible shows that Jesus’ followers did, when the Spirit was poured out on them (Acts 2:1-4). Remember Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. We too have the Holy Spirit residing within. 

Pray
Lord make aware daily of the presence of your Holy Spirit in my life. Help me to rest in you and allow the Holy Spirit to guide me daily into all truth so I might live a confident and pleasing life for Jesus. Amen. 

Praying Though

Read
Mark 2:1-12
(NIV)
Some men came, bringing to [Jesus] a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Vs. 3

Reflect
Have you ever heard someone say, “You just need to pray through.” I have, on a number of occasions. The context was either a Pentecostal church or Charismatic gathering. It used to bother me a lot, mostly because I never really knew what it meant. I knew it was about praying for something that made complete spiritual sense (usually) but nothing seemed to be moving in the direction we were asking God to move.

Our text today is about bringing a person who was in need of a healing touch from Jesus, but the obstacles were many and there seemed to be no way to get their friend to Jesus. I can only imagine what the others must have thought when one of them came up with the idea to tear a hole in the roof and lower their friend in front of Jesus. But that is exactly what they did. We read of Jesus response. He honoured the faith of the four friends, and he ministered to the man.

There are times when believers are so broken, so stressed, so anxious, feeling too sinful to ever reach out to Jesus. Those are the times that we need our brothers and sisters to pray for us. That is the time when we need to put on our spiritual hard hats and go to work. Sadly, many times we sit and surmise what is spiritually wrong with our friend. What is needed is the willingness to struggle through the spiritual battle ground and find a way to touch the Saviour that loves us so much.

I think this is what it means to “pray through.” When the slugging gets hard, when the answers don’t seem to come, when prayers seem to hit the ceiling and bounce back at us, we do not give up, but keep on praying. When these four friends decided to do what needed to be done and not give up, Jesus honoured them by first forgiving the man’s sins and then he healed the man’s body and as he walked out for all of the people to see, he gave testimony to the person and power of Jesus.

One thing I will not do is make light of people who are called to “pray through.” And when they invite me to join them, I am glad to put my spiritual hard hat on and go to work.

Pray
Lord give me faith to believe and the tenacity to not give up in prayer. Lord count me in to be someone who is willing to pray through and to see your glory revealed to the world. Amen.

Do Not Fear

Read
Isaiah 43:1-2
(NIV)

But now, this is what the Lord says, he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.

Reflect
The simple words of our devotional title are easy to say, but really, they can at times be very hard to follow. There are lots of fears in our world: fear of public speaking, fear of failure, fear of change or of dying. There are more simple fears as well: fear of heights or closed in places or spiders and all sorts of bugs or snakes. Truth be told snakes give me the creeps.

The world can be a scary place and I believe all of us have some kind of fear and those fears are something that we must face.

The Bible tells us, “Do not be afraid.” Again and again we read stories of God coming to his people with comforting and empowering words such as, “do not be afraid. I am with you. I will not forsake you. You are my child.” In the account of Jesus’ resurrection, both the angel at the tomb and Jesus, as the women raced to tell the disciples, begin their conversation with, “Do not be afraid …”

The women’s fear was very real. What they were encountering was a supernatural event. Jesus settles their fear by speaking to them, so they recognize his voice and his words, “Do not be afraid.” The power of the resurrection assures us that the Lord cares for his people and is with them no matter what the situation maybe.

Jesus death, resurrection and ascension assures us that he is always with us through his Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:18-20).  We can have freedom from fear because we are never, ever alone. In God’s presence and strength, we can face whatever comes our way.

Pray
Lord, you are always with us. Remind us of your power and fill us with your courage to face our fears, knowing we are never alone. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Being Kind

Read
Proverbs 12:25 (NIV)
Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.

Reflect
Do you have someone in your family circle or circle of friends that has a harsh tongue or critical spirit? Sometimes the words that come from that kind of person do not bother us too much, other times they can cut very deeply. Recently I had to sit down with a family member and remind them that they should always be kind.

Proverbs speaks about how a kind word can lift our spirit. If you have a friend who does this for you, or if people have offered a kind word at the right time in your journey, you know the value of this proverb. It is one way in which an anxious heart can lose some weight.

Many of us have been anxious with the onset of COVID-19. I hope that most of us have had the joy of a friend or family member that has spoken a kind word at a difficult or low time. So, here is a question we should all ask ourselves: To whose anxious heart do I listen and can offer a word of encouragement? Am I the person who will go to see how others are doing and feeling? If we all waited for someone else to be that kind of friend, none of us would ever receive the kind word this proverb speaks about.

Here is the interesting thing about being that kind of person. The more we step out to be kind and encourage someone else the more we feel we are doing ministry for Jesus. Even when our hearts are heavy with some of our own concerns, we can lift their spirits and our own when we are involved in ministering hope and joy. Be a kind word in a dark and dreary time in our history.

Pray
Lord thank you for all the times your Holy Spirit has encouraged my heart.
Please help me to offer kindness and encouragement to someone today, in your name. Amen.

Co-Heirs with Jesus

Read
Romans 8:1-17
(NIV)
Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. V.17

Reflect
In a number of African countries adoption is a foreign thought, however, to have a child of my brother or sister living with me is totally normal. One day as I explained the adoption of our children into our family, I learned something about the culture. When I got to the point where I explained that upon our death all of our kids would share equally in whatever meager assets we had remaining, my friend was shocked. He asked for clarification that birth children and adopted children would be sharing equally in the assets. He could not understand that our adopted children would get an equal share even though they were not born to us.

Our text today lets us know that we are heirs of God. Not just part of the makeup of the home but heirs like true family members. How is that possible? Through God’s grace, through the sacrifice of Jesus and through the adoption by the Holy Spirit, we become children of God. As a result of God’s work in our lives we are “heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.”

Imagine for a moment what it is that belongs to God. According to Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”  Jesus, as the one and only Son of God, is the rightful heir and is set to inherit all that belongs to his Father. And, amazingly, because we’re adopted as children of God, we are co-heirs with Christ! This has been God’s plan all along. He knew in advance that we would “be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that (Jesus) might be the firstborn among many brothers and sister.” (Romans 8:29)

Yes, we will also inherit suffering because we follow Jesus, but remember this: “Consider [Jesus] who endured such opposition . . . so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:3). Focusing on Jesus helps us persevere.

Be blessed as you are now and always will be children of God, citizens in the kingdom of heaven and part of His eternal family.

Pray
Help me to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. Thank you for the promises of your word that are so numerous and so amazing. Amen.

Interruption

Read Mark 5:22-42 (NIV)
When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped, and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. Vs. 27-29

Reflect
In the Swahili language the word used for a white person is “Mzungu” which literally means “a person that goes around and around.” I think when the word was established it was a bit of a slur on the pace that white people kept. Westerners are also known as watch people – those who are motivated by the time, rather than being motivated by an event or the meeting of people.

In our world where being busy is held as a place of importance and where we rush from place to place keeping appointments and maximizing our time, interruptions are usually an annoyance.

Jarius was a synagogue leader with a big problem. His daughter was very sick and despite the fact that Jewish leaders were opposed to Jesus’ ministry, here he was asking Jesus to help him. On the way to Jarius’ house Jesus is interrupted by a woman who was also sick, poor, alone and alienated from her community.

The woman driven by her situation and by faith goes into the crowd and touches the hem of Jesus’ cloak. She is immediately healed of her issue and Jesus makes sure to identify her to the community. Jesus calls her “daughter” a term of endearment and by doing so publicly is introducing her back into the community. She was not an interruption, she was a dear lost soul in need of a healing touch, a way back into her community and rest for her weary soul.

The next time an interruption happens in your life look past the immediate circumstances and you may be part of something that God has planned for someone else. What a privilege we have to be part of the work & ministry of Jesus.

Pray
Lord make me able to see you at work, that I might do my part.  Amen.

Common Sense

Read
Romans 12:14-16 (NKJV)
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.

Reflect
My time in Tanzania has given me a love for the peoples of Africa. Having said that, the people I struggle with most in Africa are the self-appointed prophets of God. These people, both men and women, prey on the desperation of their followers. They promise great blessings from God while they are actually stealing the little bit of hard-earned money their followers have in their possession. These prophets strut around like they are to be honoured and praised. They drive off from the meetings in new SUVs and are dressed to the extreme, while their followers continue to struggle in poverty.

Jesus said, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Matthew 8:20 (NIV). Jesus was not about pomp and ceremony. His attention was fixed on bringing spiritual life and health to as many people as he could. His disciples understood the calling to follow Jesus involved also adopting the same lifestyle and spirit that Jesus displayed.

The apostle Paul was a prominent Jewish leader before becoming a follower of Jesus. He knew what it was to have power, privilege and perks that came with his position.  Now that he was a follower of Jesus, he understood that the lifestyle of a follower is one of simplicity, kindness and humility. Paul reminds all of us that we do not stand alone or separate. We are a community of people, God’s people, and how we live, and act will speak to who and what we are as a community.

The great joy of being in a community is that we are supported and share together in the good times and the difficult times. In these days of “lock down” and virus fears, remember that you never stand alone. Jesus promises to be with us always, but so too does the rest of our faith community. We are one in Christ and stand together as one.

Pray
Lord help me to be a good witness to the world in the way that I live and help me to know and to be a good supporter to my brothers and sisters in Christ. Amen.

Peace of God

Read
Philippians 4:3-7

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Reflect
I am sure that many people have lost much during this economic shut down, some have lost their jobs or at least the opportunity to work. Not only is there worry about staying clear of the virus, but there is the real fear of losing so much that has been earned and worked to acquire. Interestingly the people I have talked to, speak of a peace that they believe comes directly from God.

“The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,” writes the apostle Paul, “will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” v.7 (NKJV) To say the peace of God surpasses all understanding reveals that we can’t explain it, but we can experience it as He guards our hearts and minds.

Believers in Jesus can have peace in the midst of uncertainties because we have the assurance that our heavenly Father loves His children and cares for our needs (Matt. 6:25-34). We can bring all our concerns to Him with an attitude of thankfulness, trusting Him to meet our needs and give us peace (Phil. 4:6-7).

Our peace comes from the confidence that the Lord loves us, and He is in control. He alone provides the comfort that settles our nerves, fills our minds with hope, and allows us to relax even in the midst of changes and challenges.

Pray
Lord cause my heart to trust in you and to believe your word. “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3 (NIV) Amen.

Believe the Word of God

Read
2 Peter 1:16; 19-21
(NIV)
For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Reflect
Have you done online ordering yet? How do you decide what you can trust? You can read reviews online but who placed them there?  Was it friends of the seller? Was it the owner of the business? You just don’t really know.

Peter was an eyewitness to the glory of Jesus, and he wanted you to know that you could trust him when he wrote about it. After all, he saw what he saw, and he wrote precisely what he saw. But he also wanted you to know that you could trust everything written in the Bible, not just what he wrote. So, he tried to explain what it was like to write with the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Can you imagine what it must have been like to write down your words and realize that every word was being verified by the Holy Spirit. It must have been an amazing and powerful experience for Peter. So, Peter urges us, and all who read the scriptures, that we would do well to pay attention to the Word of God! Make no mistake the Word of God is true in all of its content.

The Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is your Saviour. The Bible says so, and that news brings light to every part of your life.

Pray
Holy Spirit, thank you for speaking directly to me in the words of the Bible. Thank you for your truth.  Amen.

Set High on a Rock

Read
Psalm 27:5 (NIV)
For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling, he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.

Reflect
In my only visit to Sudan we came face to face with the tension that then existed between North and South Sudan. At the checkpoint crossing, the dividing line between north & south, there were three successive stops. Each one had several uniformed, rifle carrying soldiers with very stern faces and they asked many questions in an unknown language. Having an experienced driver and guide gave us a sense that we would make it through, even though the situation felt very uncomfortable.

Psalm 27 shows the psalmist to be in a life-threatening situation. Terrible things were happening all around him, yet his request is to simply dwell with God and enjoy the beauty of the Lord. After expressing that desire, the psalm continues to assure the reader that God will provide the best protection: shelter, safety and a view of the surrounding area.

It is interesting to see the wording of verse 5. The psalmist writes that he will be hidden in the shelter of God’s sacred tent and at the same time to be set high upon a rock. Those seem like contradictory positions. One is to conceal and keep safe the other is to be exposed to the open and seemingly vulnerable. In this situation God gives the gift of perspective. Being high on a rock one can see approaching danger and is not caught off guard. At the same time God provides shelter to make the psalmist less vulnerable to his enemies.

We may be somewhat vulnerable, but we do have medical and scientific experts guiding our decisions, so we are less vulnerable. Greater than that, however, is the reality that we have God on our side who will hide us in his sacred tent. Take heart, God is on your side and he will protect you. Desire to dwell with God and rest in the beauty of the Lord.

While our circumstances may not change, it is possible for God to put our feet on solid ground so that even while danger surrounds us, our perspective is grounded and firm. In that place we can “Be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

Pray
Lord keep in the shelter of your sacred tent and set my feel high on the rock, Jesus. Allow me to be strong in Jesus and wait upon him.   Amen