Spirituality

Showdown in the Desert (pt.2)

Lessons from Jesus’ Temptation Yesterday, we looked at Jesus' showdown in the dessert. Today, let's glean a few lessons for our own lives from this story. 1. We are in a spiritual war. We live in a spiritual battle zone between God and Satan, the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness. There is no neutral ground. We will either overcome or be overcome. The battle will intensify as history proceeds from this time until the return of Jesus. Before the world was created, a number of theologians believe that one of God's archangels was cast out of heaven... Read more →


Showdown in the Desert (Pt.1)

Jesus has prepared well for impacting his world through total surrender, a strong relationship with his Father and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. The final aspect of his preparation is a showdown with the devil himself. Immediately after the “mountain-top” experience at his water baptism, Luke describes Jesus as “full of the Spirit”. The Spirit then “led” Jesus into the desert or wilderness (in comparison to the garden paradise where Adam and Eve were tempted). Jesus fasted (ate no food) for 40 days. During these 40 days he was also tempted or tested by the devil. The three specific... Read more →


Jesus' Empowerment by the Spirit

During Jesus' baptism in water, the Spirit of God descended upon him like a dove (Luke 3:22). This implies a sort of “anointing” for ministry. Jesus was “filled with the Spirit” (Luke 4:1) and was then “led by the Spirit” (Luke 4:1) into the wilderness where he overcame the devil and returned in the “power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:14). Jesus lived his life by the Spirit’s power. We too need the power of the Spirit to help us live a life of purpose and impact, an abundant joyful and victorious life. The disciples separated themselves to God, developed a... Read more →


Jesus' Relationship with His Father

As Jesus was being baptised, Luke notes that he was praying or talking to his heavenly Father (Luke 3:21). Throughout his gospel, Luke makes a special emphasis on Jesus’ life of prayer – one of close relationship with his Father (Luke 6:12; 9:18, 29; 11:1; 22:41). After being baptised, the Father spoke to him Jesus and said, “You are my Son, whom I love, with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22). This is probably a private and personal experience between Jesus and the Father. The voice speaks directly to Jesus. Luke does not record any reaction or response from... Read more →


Stories Around the Cross - The Denial

The Denial (Mark 14:27-31, 66-72) The theme of abandonment overshadows many of the Stories Around the Cross. Jesus was abandoned by betrayal (Judas), by indifference (the disciples sleeping three times in Gethsemane), and by denial and desertion (Peter and the Twelve). When Jesus needed them the most, his friends left him alone. They all participated in the supper (Mark 14:23), they all confessed their allegiance (Mark 14:31), and yet they all deserted Jesus (Mark 14:50). Peter is as impetuous as ever – opening his mouth first and thinking afterwards. But he is hard to condemn and impossible to dislike. He... Read more →


The Supper

As we move towards Easter, let's take a look at the supper from Mark 14:12-26. Part of our God-given humanity is the instinct to celebrate significant moments with significant meals (e.g. Christmas, birthdays, weddings, and anniversaries). Sharing a meal bonds a family, a group of friends, a team, a collection of colleagues together. The meal says more than words - about who we are, how we feel about one another, and the hopes and joys we share together. It’s not just about the food; the meal says something, it does something. We become a people who shared that meal together,... Read more →


Is it time to slip away ...

As I read the Gospels, there is a refrain that continues to play throughout the stories of Jesus. Jesus is actually not this ministry machine, who is always teaching, praying, healing and helping people. He regularly slips away ... to be by himself. Matthew 14:13. When Jesus got the news, he slipped away by boat to an out-of-the-way place by himself. MB Matthew 14:23. With the crowd dispersed, he climbed the mountain so he could be by himself and pray. He stayed there alone, late into the night. MB In solitude, we often find perspective for our life, as well... Read more →


Start Small

Some encouraging advice from Jesus today: Matthew 10:41-42. This is a large work I've called you into, but don't be overwhelmed by it. It's best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won't lose out on a thing. The Message Bible Sometimes we can easily get lost in reaching for big dreams and huge visions that we lose the importance of the everday and the ordinary. Jesus wanted his disciples to take the good news of the kingdom... Read more →


The God Who Pays Attention

Jesus tells us that we have a Father who pays attention to our lives - down to the very details. Matthew 10:29-30. God cares what happens to it (a small canary) even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail — even numbering the hairs on your head. Numbering the hairs on our head (an easier task for some of us than others!) is not a statement of God's mathematical prowess but rather of his caring attention to even the minute details of our life. The priestly blessing says this: Numbers 6:24-26.... Read more →


Relax

Today, some words from Jesus as recorded in Matthew 6:31-34 (Message Bible translation). What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up... Read more →


An Invitation

John tells us that when Philip and Nathanel met Jesus he gave them an invitation - "Come and see" (John 1:39). Jesus does not offer them an argument but an opportunity to enter into a daily relationship with him. Here are some more profound comments from Jesus: Matthew 11:27. The Father has given me all these things to do and say. This is a unique Father-Son operation, coming out of Father and Son intimacies and knowledge. No one knows the Son the way the Father does, nor the Father the way the Son does. But I'm not keeping it to... Read more →


The Power of a Clear Conscience

The apostle Paul spoke a lot about a 'clear conscience' back in the first century. Here are two examples: "Friends, I've lived with a clear conscience before God all my life, up to this very moment." Acts 23:1. MB "I always try to maintain a clear conscience before God and all people." Acts 24:16. NLT "The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith." 1 Timothy 1:5. NLT "Cling to your faith in Christ, and keep your conscience clear. For some people have... Read more →


Calm

One day, when Jesus and his disciples were in a boat on the Sea of Galilee a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking over the boat. Jesus was asleep. Matthew tells the rest of the story this way, in his Gospel (Matthew 8:25-26): The disciples went and woke him (Jesus), shouting, "Lord, save us! We're going to drown!" Jesus responded, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm. There are many 'storms' in our world today - political storms, racial... Read more →


They Sailed On

Each time I read the Gospels, I never fail to see something new about Jesus and the way he brought transformation to people who he came in contact with. After Jesus calmed the storm, he said to his disciples, "Why can't you trust me?" (Luke 8:25. Message Bible) That's a good question to consider after God brings you through a tough time. Luke goes on to say: Luke 8:26-27. They sailed on to the country of the Gerasenes, directly opposite Galilee. As he stepped out onto land, a madman from town met him; he was a victim of demons. He... Read more →


Fuel - Focus - Faith

At our staff prayer meeting a few weeks back I was prompted to think and pray about three things as we began a new term of ministry: Fuel, Focus and Faith. Fuel In Ephesians 5:18-20, the apostle Paul tells us to, "Be continually filled with the Holy Spirit." Like a vehicle whose petrol tank gradually moves towards empty and like a technological device whose battery gradually dies down, we too have limited capacity and energy. It is vital that we stop and fuel - allowing ourselves to draw on the un-ending strength God provides. See also Renewing Your Energy Focus... Read more →


Lessons from Jesus on Prayer (Pt.2)

Yesterday, we looked at the prayer Jesus taught his disciples. Before teaching that pattern or pathway for prayer, Jesus gave these important instructions: Matthew 6:1-8. When you pray, don't be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. When you pray, don't babble on and... Read more →


Lessons from Jesus on Prayer (Pt.1)

Jesus taught his disciples how to pray. Matthew records his teaching like this ... Matthew 6:9-15. Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don't let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to... Read more →


A Light in the Darkness

Are you afraid of the dark? When I was a kid, I sure was! We lived in Portland, Oregon in this old 4-story house. Often at night I’d hear footsteps coming up the stairs, getting faster and heavier with each thump … only to discover it was my heart beating. Around this time, a friend and I went to a movie that we thought was a drama only to discover it was a horror flick. We ended up sleeping on the floor of my parent's room for a few days. As a result, I had to sleep with a light... Read more →


The Blessing of Giving

Right now our church is engaging in what we are calling The Story Building Project. This is an opportunity to invest in creating more space and newer environments where stories can be told and lives can be transformed by God's love. God's Perspective on Generous Giving What does God think about all this? Paul quotes Jesus as saying, “It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).” Jesus is saying that when we give – whether it be time, energy, service, encouragement, resource, or whatever – there is an even greater blessing than when we are on the... Read more →


Learning to Live in the Present Moment with a Greater Awareness of God

A classic Christian book on spirituality is The Practice of the Presence of God, which is a book of collected teachings of Brother Lawrence (born Nicholas Herman), a 17th-century Carmelite monk. The basic theme of the book is the development of an awareness of the presence of God in daily life. More recently, pastor and theologian Gregory Boyd has written a very helpful book entitleded Present Perfect: Finding God in the Now. He looks at and builds on the work of three authors on this topic: Brother Lawrence, Jean-Pierre de Causade and Frank Laubach. An appendix includes a helpful outline... Read more →