A Taste Of Death

Read:

Mark 5:35-43

Reflect:

“But Jesus  overheard them and said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.” Mark 5:37, NLT

Last year I had a vicarious taste of death when I had to walk through the valley of the shadow of death with my niece. Her husband was critically ill with the Covid 19 virus and the doctors fought desperately for his life in the ICU for three months. God worked through the doctors and nurses in the ICU and our prayers for a miracle of healing were answered. 

Jesus was on the way to heal Jairus daughter when messengers came to tell Jairus that his daughter had died. But it was an opportunity for Jesus to demonstrate his power over life and death. Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.” The people were weeping and wailing and Jesus told them that the child was not dead but only asleep but they laughed at him. 

Jesus then went with the parents and his three disciples into the room where the girl was lying. He held her hand and said to her, “Talitha koum” –  “little girl, I say to you, arise.” The girl arose and walked! Jesus then commanded them not to tell anyone what had happened. It is so easy to encourage a shallow faith in miracles instead of deepening the roots of faith in God.1

The stories of the dead being raised to life in the bible are demonstrations of the reality that death is not the end of life and of the power of God over life and death. Jesus tasted death on the cross to give us life through the power of the resurrection. It is our fear of death that keeps us in slavery to sin and the devil. Jesus conquered death on the cross so that we can live without fear in the face of suffering and death:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?2

In the hospice ministry, I have witnessed the victory over death in many of my patients who looked forward to their lives after death. Unfortunately, modern medicine has given many people the illusion that doctors can save them from death. But resuscitation is different from resurrection. Doctors may win many battles with death but they will always lose the war. It is foolishness to think that we can cheat death:

Therefore, listen to this message from the Lord, you scoffing rulers in Jerusalem. You boast, “We have struck a bargain to cheat death and have a deal to dodge the grave. The coming destruction can never touch us, for we have built a strong refuge made of lies and deception…..

“I will cancel the bargain you made to cheat death, and I will overturn your deal to dodge the grave.”3 

Jesus died a cruel and meaningless death on the cross to reveal the unimaginable love and awesome power of God. Jesus did not die to appease an angry God – the crucifixion reveals the horror of sin and the inhumanity of humankind. Jesus rose from the dead to demonstrate the power of Love and to transform a fear based religious faith to a love empowered spiritual faith. To give us the Holy Spirit so that we are like a signet ring on God’s heart and who have hearts filled with love that is as overpowering as death and a devotion that is as unyielding as the grave.4 

The good news is that death is not the end of life but the beginning of eternal life for “blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”5  And in the Presence of God, there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain for God will wipe every tear from our eyes.6 

The fear of death is the biggest obstacle towards having good care at the end of life. Many patients suffer unnecessary and futile medical procedures to keep death at bay. It is sad that many patients have the misconception that hospice care is about dying peacefully when the mission of hospice care is to provide loving care and to empower patients and their families to live meaningfully everyday for as long as possible. 

There is no resurrection without death. We need to taste “little deaths” each day – to be aware and to surrender our pride, greed, lust, anger, envy and gluttony. To put to death our negative anthropomorphic images of God that keep us from God’s loving embrace. A simple way to do so is through centering prayer – to keep our eyes on the cross of Christ and to let the Holy Spirit search our hearts for any idolatrous tendency and to lead us in the reliable ancient path.7 

“Search me, O God, and know my heart today;
Try me, O Savior, know my thoughts, I pray.
See if there be some wicked way in me;
Cleanse me from ev’ry sin and set me free.”8

Respond:

Lord, help me to taste the “little deaths” each day so that I may live in Your loving embrace.

Reframe:

1.  Why is it important to come to terms with the reality of death?
2.  What is my greatest fear about death? 3. 
What are the “little deaths” that confront me each day?

Song of Praise

Search me, O God

SDG

Notes:

1.  Mark 5:35-43
2.  1 Corinthians 15:54-55, NLT
3.  Isaiah 28:15,18, NLT
4.   Song of Songs, 8:6, GW
5    Revelations 14:13, NLT
6   Revelation 21:4, NLT
7   Psalms 139:24,NET
8   Search Me O God

Life Beyond Death

Read:

Matthew  17:1-13

Reflect:

“But Jesus touched them and said, “Get up, and don’t be afraid!” As they raised their heads, they saw no one but Jesus.” Matthew 17:7-8, GW

How we live our lives on earth in the here and now depends on what we believe about life beyond death. If we believe that there is no life after death, then it is logical to seek to live life to the fullest now by enjoying the pleasures of this world – “let’s eat and drink, for tomorrow we’re going to die!”1 

However, if we believe that there is life beyond death because there is a loving God who created us to be His masterpieces and to be His children, we will see that even the mindset to eat and drink and find satisfaction in our work comes from the hand of God.2  Having lived past my 75th birthday, I have a vested interest to reflect on the existential question, “Is there life beyond death?”

The greatest evidence of life beyond death is the resurrection of Christ. The gospel of Jesus Christ is rooted in His resurrection. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, we cannot have any victory over sin, death and evil. Our faith is worthless as sin will still have power over us. And as the apostle Paul reminds us, if Christ is our hope only for this life, we deserve more pity than any other people.3

Jesus brought Peter, James and John to a high mountain where they could be alone. There the disciples saw Jesus transfigured in the presence of Moses and Elijah. But Jesus ordered them:

“Don’t tell  anyone what you have seen. Wait until the Son of Man has been brought back to life.” 

The story of the transfiguration of Jesus makes sense only in the light of the resurrection of Christ. It is a dramatic revelation that Moses lives on after death and Elijah was taken up into heaven. Hearing the voice of God was an awesome experience. The disciples were terrified when they heard a voice from a bright cloud telling them, “This is my dearly beloved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.” Then Jesus touched them and said, “Get up, and don’t be afraid!”4

The good news is that Jesus came to show us that God is our Heavenly Father and His greatest joy is in our listening to Christ as our Shepherd of Love. The transfiguration of Jesus points to a spiritual dimension beyond death. If we believe that there is life beyond death, we have to face the reality of heaven and hell. Taoists observe the “Hungry Ghosts Festival” during the seventh month of the lunar year – a time they believe the gates of hell are opened. Christians also believe that hell exists. But we do not have to come before God with the awful fear of an angry Judge but with the awesome fear of God as our loving Heavenly Father. The reality of life beyond death also reminds us that there is a spiritual battle against evil which Jesus has won for us on the cross.

When Jesus reigns as King in our hearts, life on this earth is a foretaste of life after death. God’s Kingdom is seen on earth when the Risen Christ is in our hearts and we are living our lives according to God’s will and not ours. Without Christ, we live like Adam, hiding from God. With Christ, we are restored to an intimate relationship with God through transforming listening conversations. The resurrection of Jesus Christ empowers us to live with hope in this life as we face pain, suffering and loss. 

The most powerful witness of our faith in the Risen Christ is seen in our joy and peace in the midst of our sorrows. Jesus died and rose from the dead so that we are blessed when we feel we have lost what is most precious to us. For only then can we be embraced by the One who is most dear to us..5 Through faith in Christ, the Holy Spirit transforms our grief to the glory of God:

“Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! He is the Father who is compassionate and the God who gives comfort. He comforts us whenever we suffer. That is why whenever other people suffer, we are able to comfort them by using the same comfort we received from God. Because Christ suffered so much for us, we can receive so much comfort from him.”6

As I care for the dying, the nearing death awareness experiences of some of my patients have reinforced my belief that there is life after death. The resurrection of Jesus Christ gives us the hope for a life beyond death –  something we cannot see but we eagerly wait patiently and confidently for it,7 And with this hope we can face the unknown, uncertain and unpredictable future without fear but with faith in our Risen Savior:

“Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living just because He lives”8 

Respond:

Lord, thank You for the power of the resurrection to help me overcome sin, death and evil.

Reframe:

1. How does the belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ help me to face death?
2. How does a belief in life beyond death help us in our grief of losing a loved one?
3. What changes in my life do I need to make if I believe that there is a life beyond death?

Song of Praise

Because He Lives

SDG

Notes:

1  Isaiah 22:13, NLT;  1 Cor 15:32, GW
2  Ecclesiastes  2: 24, NLT
3  1 Corinthians 15:19, GW
4  Matthew 17:1-13, NLT
5. Matthew 5:4, MSG
6. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5, GW
7  Romans 8:25, NLT
8  Because He Lives – Bill Gaither

Dancing With God

Read:

Isaiah 43:1-13

Reflect:

“But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine.” Isaiah 43:1, NKJV

Love has been described by Pierre Teilhard Chardin as the very physical structure of the universe. He saw gravity, atomic bonding, orbits, cycles, photosynthesis, ecosystems, force fields, electromagnetic fields, sexuality, human friendship, animal instinct and evolution as the manifestations of love under different forms.1 Dorothy Day found that love is the only solution to every problem that comes up:

“If we love each other enough, we will bear with each other’s faults and burdens. If we love enough, we are going to light that fire in the hearts of others. And it is love that will burn out the sins and hatreds that sadden us. It is love that will make us want to do great things for each other. No sacrifice and no suffering will then seem too much.”2

Divine love is seen in sacrificial, forgiving and generous human love. And to love another human being in the deepest way possible, we need to be touched by the love of God.3 In the Old Testament, the love of God is often hidden. But we can hear God’s whispers of love through the words of the prophet Isaiah:

“But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine…………….Since you are precious in My sight, you have been honored, and I have loved you. Therefore I will give men for you, and people for your life. Fear not, for I am with you..”4

Jesus is the human incarnation of God’s love. God’s amazing love is revealed when Jesus was crucified on the cross. Jesus died and rose from the dead so that the Holy Spirit can pour God’s love into our hearts.5 It is God’s perfect love that casts out fear.6  In Christ, we can stand firm on the truth that nothing can separate us from the love of God.7 Without Christ, we hide from God like Adam. In Christ, God invites us to live life “as a sacred dance, as an adventure to anticipate, not a peril to avoid.”8 To dance with God is to look for His Presence in the ups and downs of life. We are to keep in step with God’s rhythm – to His heartbeat and not ours.

When I imagine God holding my right hand with His right Hand9, I see God dancing the Cha Cha Cha dance with me. My wife and I cannot dance, but while holidaying on a cruise ship a few years ago, we saw two girls demonstrating the Cha Cha Cha dance. The steps were simple: 

  “Backward, forward, to the right; 
 Forward, backward to the left.” 

The rhythm of the Cha Cha Cha dance helped me to appreciate the devotional disciplines of surrender and self examination. In the first dance step, I take a step backward with the discipline of surrender. Then I take a step forward to God with repentance. With surrender and repentance, I affirm God’s presence with the prayer of the heart, “Jesus Is Lord.” In the second dance step, self-examination is followed by the step of  confession. Through self-examination and confession I commit my life to Jesus as my Shepherd of Love.10

It is so easy for our faith in God to become lukewarm through the deception and distraction of success and activities that keep us busy. We are tempted to think we are rich and have everything we need and don’t need a thing when the truth is that we are spiritually poor, blind and naked.11 We tend to live without God in comfortable times. It is the hard times that lead us to cry out for God’s presence. We need the spiritual disciplines of surrender, repentance, self examination and confession to keep the fire of love burning in our hearts and to remember that it is only by grace that we can do what God has called us to do. 

The resurrection of Christ is the greatest evidence of life after death as well as God’s steadfast love for us. The most powerful witness of our faith in the Risen Christ  is seen in how we face pain, suffering and loss – when we can dance with joy in the face of pain, suffering and loss. Our challenge is to live out the truth of God’s steadfast love as we daily lift our hands and sing of God’s love forever:

“Oh, I feel like dancing
It’s foolishness I know
But when the world has seen the light
They will dance with joy Like we’re dancing now”10

Respond:

Lord, fill me with Your fire of love and lead me to live my life as a sacred dance with You.

Reframe:

1  Why are the disciplines of surrender, repentance, self examination and confession important to prevent my faith from becoming lukewarm?
2. How can I experience God leading me in a sacred dance each day?
3. How does dancing with God help us to know God better and love Him more?

Song of Praise

I Could Sing Of Your Love Forever

SDG

Notes:

1. Pierre Teilhard Chardin, quoted by Richard Rohr in his book, Universal Christ, Chapter 5, Love Is The Meaning.
2. Dorothy Day, in Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation, Love Is The Only Solution, 22 July 2022.
3. Richard Rohr, Universal Christ, Chapter 5, Love is The Meaning
4. Isaiah 43:1,4-5  NKJV
5. Romans 5:5, NKJV
6. 1 John 4:18, NKJV
7. Romans 8:38-39, NLT
8. Steve Harper, Walking In the Light, page 28
9. Isaiah 41:10-13 NKJV
10.Patrick Kee, Living With Our Shepherd Of Love, page 47
11. Revelations 3:14-22, NLT
12. I Could Sing Of Your Love Forever

King Of Hearts

Read:

1 Samuel 12: 13-25

Reflect:

“Don’t be afraid,” Samuel reassured them. “You have certainly done wrong, but make sure now that you worship the Lord with all your heart, and don’t turn your back on him. Don’t go back to worshiping worthless idols that cannot help or rescue you – they are totally useless!” 1 Samuel 12: 20, NLT

Climate change, pandemics and wars are signs that we are living in the end times. The end times do not necessarily mean the end of the physical world but may also refer to the end of world systems like the fall of the Roman Empire. In fact we are living in times that are reminiscent of the times in the New Testament. At that time the Roman Empire lost control of Europe and the people faced wars, climatic changes as well as endemic and epidemic disease.1 In our time, we are seeing the decline of Western capitalism and facing wars and pandemics. 

Such times are also demonstrations of the judgment of God. When we trade the truth of God for a lie and worship the things of the world instead of the Creator of the world, God will allow our foolish thinking to lead us to do things that should never be done.2  God does not need to inflict any punishment on us – He  just simply allow us to suffer the consequences of our foolish actions but He is suffers with us!

This is the important lesson we can learn from the Jews who asked Samuel for a king even though the Lord their God was already their king. God told Samuel to grant them their request although it was a rejection of God as their king.3  The Jews were later terrified when they experienced the Presence of God supernaturally through thunder and rain and were convicted of the wickedness of their request for a king. But Samuel reminded them of God’s faithfulness and warned them to keep away from idolatry:

“Don’t be afraid,” Samuel reassured them. “You have certainly done wrong, but make sure now that you worship the Lord with all your heart, and don’t turn your back on him. Don’t go back to worshiping worthless idols that cannot help or rescue you – they are totally useless!”4 

Our foolish human tendency is to choose to be a slave of sin rather than a servant of God, to be in bondage to sin rather than to be in the freedom of joyful obedience to God.5 As a follower of Christ, we are called to live as citizens of heaven and conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ.6 We are to advance God’s kingdom here on earth with Jesus Christ as King in our hearts.

When I joined the Boys’ Brigade in my youth I was imbued with the objective of the Brigade –  the advancement of God’s Kingdom among boys and the promotion of the habits of obedience, reverence, discipline and self respect. These habits are still relevant in my old age. To do so, I need to read Scripture not for information but for spiritual formation – to rewire my mind with the promises of God so that I can confront my worries and doubts with the hope and peace of God. It is not reading the bible to know about God but reading the bible as the sharpest two-edged sword to expose my innermost thoughts and desires.7

In silence and solitude we enthrone Jesus as our Suffering King, our Servant King and our Shepherd King in our hearts. We wait in silence and solitude to create a spiritual space for the Holy Spirit and breathe in the oxygen of God’s love into our minds so that the Spirit can have more of our hearts. 

Through centering prayer, we wait to hear the voice of our Shepherd of Love in the silence of our hearts. As our eyes are opened to the evils lurking deep within our hearts, we can breathe out the carbon dioxide of our sins. We are then prepared to taste the goodness and wonder of God’s Word with our minds as we practice lectio divina. As we spend time with our Shepherd of Love, we will smell like His sheep and smell others as sheep and not goats. Then we can touch others with God’s love as well as be touched by God’s love through others.

Let us deepen our roots to have a steadfast faith in God by waiting in confident hope and putting our trust in God’s faithful love. Let us lift up our eyes to the cross of Christ and remember that Jesus Christ has won the victory over sin and evil on the cross. Let us fight the lies of this world by enthroning Jesus Christ King of our hearts as we sing:

“So let us learn how to serve
And in our lives enthrone Him; 
Each other’s needs to prefer
For it is Christ we’re serving 

This is our God, the Servant King 
He calls us now to follow Him 
To bring our lives as a daily offering 
Of worship to the Servant King8

Response:

Lord, be enthroned as the Servant King in our hearts that Your love may overflow in our lives.

Reframe:

1.  What are the desires and beliefs that keep me from enthroning Christ in my heart?
2.  What is occupying the throne of our hearts?
3. How am I living my life differently with Jesus as King of my heart?

Song of Praise

The Servant King

Notes:

1. Fall of the Western Roman Empire, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fall_of_the_Western_Roman_Empire
2. Romans 1:21-32, NLT
3. 1 Samuel 8:4-9. 
4. 1 Samuel 12: 20
5. Nehemiah 9:17
6. Philippians 1:27
7. Hebrews 4:12, NLT
8. The Servant King, Graham Kendrick

War Of Thoughts

Read

Joshua 8:1-8

Reflect:

“Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid or discouraged. Take all your fighting men and attack Ai, for I have given you the king of Ai, his people, his town, and his land.” Joshua 8:1

Following Jesus is more than a journey or lifestyle – there are evil forces that seek to draw us away from the Kingdom of heaven – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.1 We need to fight a war on lies as false narratives about reality seek to wreak havoc in our souls.2 There is an invisible but real intelligence that is at war with God and all that is good, beautiful and true.3 We have to put on God’s armor to stand firm against all strategies of the devil:

“For you are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”4

The stories of war in the Old Testament point to the reality of spiritual warfare and the judgment of God. Such stories were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us and to give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.5 The stories of the conquests of Jericho and Ai reveal the reality and grievous consequences of the sin of greed. Like the Covid 19 virus, greed is extremely infectious and lethal to our souls. There is a battle in our hearts between the love of money and the love for God. The love of money is the cause of much suffering in our world. It is the love of God that brings great joy to the world.

To see the darkness in the stories of the Old Testament we need the light of the New Testament. Unfortunately, instead of feeling broken hearted, as God is, by human perversity, we are blinded by our fear of God’s judgment. We see God’s anger as vindictive rather than compassionate.6 The light of Christ in the New Testament shines into the darkness in the human heart recorded in the Old Testament so that we can see and understand God’s judgment as restoration and not retribution. Like Joshua we are called not to be afraid or discouraged for we will have victory over all the enemies of our souls:

“Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid or discouraged. Take all your fighting men and attack Ai, for I have given you the king of Ai, his people, his town, and his land.”7

There is a spiritual battle for our thoughts between our “Critical Parent” ego state and the Holy Spirit.  Our “Critical Parent” condemns and leads us to hide from God as Adam and Eve did. When our minds are filled with blame and shame, we are unable to come boldly to God’s throne of grace to receive His mercy. We are enslaved by thoughts that flow from fears of God’s punishment for disobedience. But the Holy Spirit convicts us to draw us to the cross of Christ so that our hearts can be filled with the love of God.8 We are set free from the deceptions of the evil one so that we can have transforming loving conversations with God.

Through prayer we can take our thoughts captive to Christ so that the mind of Christ will be formed in us.9 Our hearts will then be filled by the Spirit with discerning love to counter the deception of half truths that we are bombarded with each day.  As human beings, we are being spiritually formed every day by the choices we make and our responses to the problems we face. To be a better person or a bitter person. To be an optimist or a pessimist. To be joyful or to be depressed. 

Our thought patterns determine our habits and our habits determine our lifestyle. Our negative thoughts become strongholds of evil to keep us away from the love of God. As a follower of Christ, we have a choice – to be formed in our spirits or inner persons into the image of Jesus or to be deformed into the image of the devil.10 

Bad thoughts, wrong thoughts lead to evil actions. Gluttony for knowledge leads to fake news, false gospels and false teachers.  Our thirst for wisdom can only be quenched by seeking Christ to give us the springs of living waters through prayer.11 And true prayer is the fruit of silence and solitude. It is only through prayer that we can live a life of worship that is rooted in a total dependence of God that frees us from the sins of pride, greed and lust. It is only through returning to and resting in God that we will find strength in quietness and confidence12 as we pray:

“Lead me, Lord, lead me in thy righteousness,
make thy way plain before my face.
For it is thou, Lord, thou, Lord only,
that makest me dwell in safety.13

 Response:

Lord, fill my heart with discerning love so that I will not fall prey to the deceptive half truths of the world.

Reframe:

1.  How does my relationship with God affect how I feel about God’s judgment for sin?
2.  What are the wrong beliefs and false teachings that keep me away from God’s love?
3.  How can I be led by the  Lord in His righteousness each day?

SDG

Notes:

1  I John 2:16, NKJV
2. John Mark Comer, Live No Lies, page xx
3. Ibid, page 20
4  Ephesians 6:12, NLT
5. Romans 15:4 
6. Isaiah 54:7-8, NLT
7. Joshua 8:1
8. Romans 5:1-5, NLT
9.  2 Corinthians 10:5 
10. John Mark Comer, Live No Lies, pg 73, 88
11. John 4:1-14; 7:37-39,NLT
12. Isaiah 30:15, NLT
13. Samuel S. Wesley, Lead me Lord, Lead me In Thy Righteousness

Love Sees , Fear Blinds 

Read: 

Isaiah 41:11-20

Reflect:

“I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand and say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid; I will help you.”  Don’t be afraid, Jacob, you worm. You people of Israel, I will help you.” declares the Lord, your Defender, the Holy One of Israel.” Isaiah 41:13-14, GW

Where there is no hell, we will not long for heaven. Our longing for heaven is the expression of our hunger for the love that lies deep within our hearts. Our hearts are restless till they find their rest in God.1 When for me to live is everything else but God, death will be hell when I die and lose everything that is dear to me. It is only when for me to live is Christ, that to die is gain.2

Pseudo-evangelism, according to Oswald Chambers, makes an enormous blunder when it insists on conviction of sin as the first step to Jesus Christ.3 Evangelism is sharing the love of God that is revealed by Jesus Christ. Jesus came to restore our identity as the children of God. Love sees the horror of sin that keeps us from the love of God. Fear blinds us to the love of God as His children:

‘See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him.”4 

We are to love God not because we are afraid of going to hell but in response to His amazing love that is revealed by the cross of Christ. In fact, we are living in hell on earth when we are living without God. That is why we pray for God’s Kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.5 

The story of the Jews is a revelation of how terrible they can be even after they had been chosen to be a people filled with the wonder of God and to live in the Kingdom of God here and now. In a time when they felt God’s wrath and judgment for their sins, God gave them His message of comforting love:

“I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand and say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid; I will help you.”  Don’t be afraid, Jacob, you worm. You people of Israel, I will help you.” declares the Lord, your Defender, the Holy One of Israel.”6

It is only with God’s love, revealed by the cross of Christ, that we can see our new identity as the children of God. Love sees the truth of God’s judgment. Fear blinds us to God’s love. Love sees God’s discipline. Fear fills us with the fear of God’s punishment. Jesus did not come to condemn us for rebellion but to redeem us from our slavery to sin that keeps us in rebellion. It is only when we are abiding in God’s love that we can love and not fear God’s commandments. And we have the wonderful promise that God holds our right hand with His right hand.

We cannot see God when we “tie God up in His laws and in denominational doctrines and orders of services.”7 We need to see the Bible as an invitation to see with a new set of eyes instead of making the Bible into “a bunch of ideas – about which we can be right or wrong.”8

Without love, we feel like a lowly worm or a fragile insect.9 But with God’s love, we can see ourselves as a caterpillar that will be transformed into a butterfly. In the meantime, we can dance with God for He holds our right hand with His right Hand as we sing:

“The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.”10

Response:

Lord, lead me with Your chains of Love so that I will be driven by my fears.

Reframe:

1   What are the fears that blind me to the blessings of God?
2   How can I see God’s extraordinary love  in the ordinary events of my life? 3   How can I live with a sense of wonder of being in God’s Kingdom?

SDG

Notes:
1.  St Augustine’s Confessions
2.  Philippians 1:21, NKJV
3. Oswald Chambers, Hope, A Holy Promise devotional, day 13
4.  1 John 3:1, NLT
5.  Matthew 5:6, 9-10
6.  Isaiah 41: 13-14, GW
7.  Oswald Chambers, Hope, A Holy Promise devotional, day 14
8.  Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations, June 30th 2022
9.  Isaiah 41:14, MSG
10. The Love Of God, Frederick M. Lehman

The Secret Of Happiness:

Read:

Luke 12:22-32

Reflect:

“So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.” Luke 12:32, NLT

How on earth can we be happy in an unhappy world? We have been deceived into thinking that material success will bring happiness. But the sad reality is that money and success often leads to pride, greed, and envy that generates more stress, unhappiness and meaninglessness. It is foolish and futile to chase after success to seek happiness. Fear of failure, fear of missing out and fear of death will keep us from the joys of living. True success comes from happiness rooted in the love of God. 

Happiness is found in the kingdom of heaven where we can have Transforming Listening Conversations with God, free from a fearful and slavish obedience to a set of rules. Jesus taught us to pray for God’s Kingdom to come on earth.1 He gave us the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven in the Beatitudes2. The greatest secret is that we can live in heaven here and now when our minds are rewired and our hearts changed by the Holy Spirit.

We need a radical change in how we see God’s relationship with us, our relationship with God and our relationship with one another. Jesus came to open our eyes to God’s mysterious plan that the Holy Spirit is in us to empower us to fulfill God’s will in our lives. We are to set our sights on the realities of heaven. God is our loving Heavenly Father whose greatest happiness is to give us the Kingdom of Heaven:

“So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.”3

Jesus came to set us free from the fear of death and suffering.4 God wants us to live in the joy of His Presence, Providence and Power for everything in life. Like a loving father, God wants us to live with intentional intimacy with Him in His Kingdom as this gives Him great happiness. The Beatitudes are the “be-attitudes” of a poverty of spirit, a spirit of mourning, a spirit of humility, a hunger and thirst for righteousness, a forgiving spirit, a pure mind, a peaceful heart and a spirit of perseverance. We need these “be-attitudes” to overcome the sins of lust, anger, pride, gluttony, greed, envy and acedia that draws us away from God’s grace and disfigures the image of God in us. 

The daily doses of bad news of war, pandemics and rising petrol prices are but alarm bells warning us of the folly and futility of a life without the love of God. The good news is that God’s goodness and unfailing love pursues us5 when we rest in Him – we do not have to chase after happiness! We need to wake up to the truth that we are living in the hell of our own thoughts6 which blind and deafen us to the awesome thoughts of God that are way beyond our human understanding.7 God wants us to know the great secret that Christ lives in us and we have the blessed assurance of sharing his riches and glory in heaven.8 

We need to be like children and babies singing songs of praise9 to lead us to the Rock that is higher than our problems so that we can stand on the precious truth that God’s ways are beyond our understanding and imagination.10 Faith is not blind when our vision is focused on the realities of God’s Kingdom. Through centering prayer, we can grow in awareness of our selfish thoughts, worldly thoughts and sinful thoughts and replace them with godly thoughts. We can detoxify our hearts by choosing to think about things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely and admirable.11 We can choose not to waste time with the fake news in the social media but to feed on God’s Word each day as we sing:

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God
And His righteousness
And all these things shall be added unto you
Allelu, alleluia

Man does not live by bread alone
But by every word
That proceeds from the mouth of God
Allelu, alleluia.”12

Respond:

Lord, help me to seek Your Kingdom to find real happiness. 

Reframe:

1.  What are the fears in life that I need to face?
2.  How am I seeking happiness in life?
3.  What does it mean to live in the Kingdom of Heaven in the here and now?

Song of Praise

Seek Ye First

SDG

Notes:

1.  Matthew 6:10
2.  Matthew 5:1-12, EASY
3.  Luke 12:32, NLT
4.  Hebrews 2:14-15, NLT
5.  Psalms 23:6, NLT
6.  Romans 1:28-32, NLT
7.  Isaiah 55:8, NLT
8.  Colossians 1:27, NLT
9.  Psalms 8:2, ERV
10.  Isaiah 55:8, NLT
11. Philippians 4:8, NLT
12.  Seek Ye First, Maranatha! Singers

The Beatitudes:

‘Happy are the people who know that they need God very much. The kingdom of heaven belongs to people like that. 

Happy are the people who are sad now. God will come near to help them. 

Happy are the people who are kind. The whole earth will belong to them. 

Happy are the people who want to obey God, as much as they want to eat food. God will give to them everything that they need. 

Happy are the people who help other people and who forgive them. God will forgive people like that. 

Happy are the people who have only good thoughts. They will come near to God and see him. 

Happy are the people who bring people together to be friends. God will call them his children. 

Happy are the people who do what is right but other people hurt them because of it. The kingdom of heaven belongs to people like that.”

Matthew 5:3‭-‬10 EASY

Transforming Listening Conversations (T.L.C.) With God

Read:

Isaiah 44:1-8

Reflect:

“Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.” Isaiah 44:8, ESV

The compassionate loving presence of God is beyond human understanding – He is our compassionate Father, our Shepherd of Love and our Divine Lover.  God’s amazing “chesed”1 is seen in all the encounters of the people of Israel with God as recorded in the Old Testament. The story of the Jews is a revelation of the absolute depravity and deceitfulness of our sinful human nature as well as the steadfast love and patience of our Heavenly Father. 

There is a cosmic drama that transcends human life. Spiritual formation, according to John Mark Comer, is the process by which we are formed in our spirits or inner persons, into the image of Jesus by the Holy Spirit. However, there are forces of evil  that seek to deform us into the image of the devil through isolation and lies.2 We have a choice between life and death, between blessings and curses.3

We are living in a fallen world that is in darkness, filled with sorrow and suffering. Like Job, we battle with thoughts of meaninglessness, doubts and anger. Faith in God’s compassionate loving kindness is eroded when we are afflicted by loss, pain and suffering:

“Why wasn’t I born dead? Why didn’t I die as I came from the womb? Why was I laid on my mother’s lap? Why did she nurse me at her breasts? Had I died at birth, I would now be at peace. I would be asleep and at rest.”4 

Jesus came to show us the power and love of God as he suffered and died on the cross. He rose from the dead to empower us to become the children of God who can have transforming, listening conversations with God. To be witnesses of God’s redeeming love to restore a broken world:

“Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.”5

The prophet Isaiah encouraged the people of Israel in their suffering with God’s promise of the Holy Spirit:

“Thus says the Lord who made you, who formed you from the womb and will help you: Fear not, O Jacob my servant, Jeshurun whom I have chosen. For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.”6 

This was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, when the Jews from every nation under heaven, gathered together in Jerusalem, were filled with the Holy Spirit.7 The good news is that by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can live the kind of life to prove that God has called us.8 

Our calling is to live in the Kingdom of Heaven here and now so that God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven. A simple way to do so is to open our hearts and minds to the Holy Spirit through solitude and silence. As we do so, prayer and bible meditation become transforming listening conversations (T.L.C.) with God. Then we will do everything with the love of God and for God. 

“Speak, O Lord, as we come to You
To receive the food of Your Holy Word.
Take Your truth, plant it deep in us;
Shape and fashion us in Your likeness,
That the light of Christ might be seen today
In our acts of love and our deeds of faith.
Speak, O Lord, and fulfill in us
All Your purposes for Your glory.9

Respond:

Lord, help me to listen to Your Living Word so that I can have T.L.C. with You.

Reframe:

1.  How is God speaking to me each day?
2. What is God revealing to me through His Living Word?
3. How can I live to prove God’s calling for my life?  

Song of Praise:

Speak, O Lord

SDG

Notes:

1.  Chesed is the Hebrew word that means kindness or love between people, specifically of the devotional piety of people towards God as well as the love or mercy of God towards humanity. It reminds me that the love of God is not a feeling but is seen through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
2.  John Mark Comer, Live No Lies, 2021, page 73
3. Deuteronomy 30:19, NLT
4. Job 3:11-13 NLT.
5.  Isaiah 44:8, ESV
6.  Isaiah 44:2-3, ESV
7. Acts: 2:1-6, NLT
8. Ephesians 4:1, GW
9. Speak, O Lord, Keith Getty/Stuart Townend

Feeding On The Living Word

Read:

Joshua 1:1-9

Reflect:

“Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is my command – be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:8-9. NLT

We need spiritual food to grow spiritually. When Jesus was in the wilderness, he resisted the temptation to turn stones into bread with the truth that people do not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.1 This was the truth that Moses taught the people of Israel when they were led through the wilderness for forty years and were fed with manna. They were to be dependent on God’s Presence so that they will not fall into idolatry.2  

After the death of Moses, God commanded Joshua to meditate on the Covenant of the Law that had been given to the people of Israel through Moses so that they will be in God’s Presence and not be afraid or discouraged. They had been chosen to conquer the Promised Land to establish the reign of God here on earth:

“Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is my command – be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”3

The practice of meditating on God’s Word changes our relationship with God from a transactional relationship for blessings into a transformational relationship to become new creations and the masterpieces of God’s love. The bible is not a book of rules we are to obey – it is the spiritual food to nurture our relationship with God. We need to hunger and thirst for righteousness to have a good appetite for God’s Word.4 Like a baby, we have to grow up spiritually before we can digest the solid food of God’s Word: 

“You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know who to do what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.”5

The bible is God’s living word to teach us how to live in God’s Presence. For the word of God is alive and powerful like a sharp two-edged sword. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.6 God’s Word teach us what is true, show us what is wrong in our lives, correct us when we are wrong and teach us to do what is right so that we are prepared and equipped to do every good work.7 

A worker in a research office found that an expensive technical book he had borrowed from his professor was missing. He then remembered the story of Elisha and the floating ax head. He decided to pray that he would be led to remember where he had misplaced the book or that the book be returned if someone else had taken the book. About ten days later, the book showed up on the professor’s desk. He was encouraged by his answered prayer and shared the truth that God’s concern for us is beyond measure.8 I was reminded of the power of God’s Word to help us grow in our faith that God cares for all the mundane things in our lives.

Another faithful Christian had been studying and reflecting on God’s Word and was struggling to understand what was happening when her health declined in the prime of her life. As she continued to meditate on God’s word and to pray for healing, she saw the dry grass withered by the heat of an unforgiving sun turn into vibrant green grass when the rains came during her bus rides to work. She was encouraged to wait with hope on the Lord.9 Indeed, adversities in life, big or small, become compost for our faith in God’s steadfast love. 

Jesus Christ is the Living Word that is sweeter than honey,10 a lamp for my feet and a Light for my path.11 As I prepare to journey into a new season of life, I wait in hope and with hope by feeding on God’s Living Word through prayer and meditation so that I will understand God’s ways. As God’s Word becomes alive in me I will not be afraid to face the challenges that await me in each new season of life.

“When I feel afraid and I think I’ve lost my way
Still You’re there right beside me
Nothing will I fear as long as You are near
Please be near me to the end”12

Respond:

Lord, help me to feed on Your Living Word by being still as I wait for Your Spirit to lead me into Your truths.

Reframe:

1.  Is there a sin in the Egypt of my life I need to confess?
2.  Is there a promise in the Wilderness of my life I need to receive?
3.  Is there a commandment in the Promised Land of my life I need to obey?
4.  Is there a warning in the Babylon of my life I need to take heed of?

Song of Praise:

Thy Word by Amy Grant & Michael W. Smith

SDG

Notes:

1.  Matthew 4:4
2.  Deut 8:1-20, NLT
3.  Joshua 1:8-9, NLT
4.  Matthew 5:6, MSG
5. Hebrews 5:12-14, NLT
6.  Hebrews 4:12, NLT
7.  2 Timothy 3:16-17, NLT,
8. The Upper Room Devotional, Beyond Measure, Saturday, 11 June 2022 9.  The Upper Room Devotional, Wait For The Lord, Sunday, 12 June 2022 10.  Psalms 119:103
11.  Psalms 119:105
12.  Thy Word by Amy Grant & Michael W. Smith

Waking Up

Read:

Deuteronomy 31:1-27

Reflect:

“So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic  before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:6, NLT

We are facing a bleak future filled with gloom and doom. It is depressing to read the bad news of the Ukraine war, Covid 19 pandemic and climate change. A friend lamented the sad reality that as we get older and older, we collect more fears rather than shedding fears as we gain experience in our journey through life. We begin to fear more with more life experiences. She found it hard to overcome her fears when she sees a future lined with scary things which she can’t handle. Her fears are real and can be debilitating and depressing indeed. Our fears are but a wake up call to come to our senses and to turn back to God like the prodigal son. We need to face the foolishness of living a life separated from God:

“It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us.”1 

Like the alcoholic addict, we need to acknowledge that we are powerless and helpless over sin. We need the grace of God to wake us up from our spiritual slumber of unbelief.2  We can choose to use our fears to drive us to God’s loving embrace so that the joy of the Lord is our strength.3 To do so, we need to understand the wrath and judgment of God. Just before he died, Moses predicted that after his death, the people of Israel will become utterly corrupt and turn from the way he had commanded them to follow and disaster would come down upon them.4 Moses himself was also told that he would not lead the Jews into the Promised Land. In spite of such a dismal and depressing picture of the future, Moses exhorted the people of Israel to stand on God’s promises of His Presence, Providence and Protection:

“The Lord will hand over to you the people who live there, and you must deal with them as I have commanded you. So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”5 

Moses reminded the Jews that God had chosen them to be His special people. They had been called to walk in God’s ways, keep His statutes, His commandments, and His judgments and to obey His voice so that God’s will would be done on earth and the world can see heaven here on earth when they live under God’s reign in the Promised Land.6 God’s judgment and wrath is directed towards the eradication of sin and evil that draws us away from the love of God. God does not want anyone to be destroyed but wants everyone to repent.7

The history of the disobedience and idolatry of the Jews is a grim revelation of the consequences of choosing to live without the Presence, Providence and Protection of God. It is to convict us of our idolatrous and disobedient hearts and our need for repentance – to hunger and thirst for righteousness deep within our hearts – to change from living a self absorbed and self reliant life to a God centered and God dependent life. 

Repentance is choosing to “get out of the sick and stupid culture”8 of a godless and dying world and to hunger and thirst for the Kingdom of God. Repentance is waking up to the amazing grace of God and changing the way I live. My heart is prone to wander from God when pride, greed and lust reigns within me. I need the Holy Spirit to bind my wandering heart to Christ.

“Let thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love,
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.”9

Respond:

Lord, help me to inspire as well as to live a life of repentance.

Reframe:

1. How can my fears draw me closer to the love of God?
2. What does the history of the Jews teach me about sin and the judgment and wrath of God?
3. Why is it important to live a life of repentance?

Song of Praise:

Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing

Notes:

1. Ephesians 2:1-3, MSG
2. Ephesians 5;14, NLT
3. Nehemiah 8:10
4. Deuteronomy 31:29
5. Deuteronomy 31:5-6
6. Deuteronomy 27:9-10
7. 2 Peter 3:9
8. Acts 2:40, MSG.
9. Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing, Robert Robinson