Cleansed from sin 1

2016.08.29

“But with you there is forgiveness;
therefore you are feared”

  (Psalm 130:4)

Reflection:
In essence sin, in all of its aspects, is directed as an act of rebellion against God. This is stated strongly by both David and Paul.

  • “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (Psalm 51:4)
  • “the sinful mind is hostile to God” (Romans 8:7)

Forgiveness can come only from God and is possible only because God is a God of love and grace.

  • “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. (Exodus 34:6-7)

However the passage continues to say “Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished” which shows that His forgiveness is not indiscriminate. He will not automatically clear everyone who is guilty. There is a need for acknowledgement of sin and penitence from men and women.

  • “And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4)

God’s forgiveness is a gift and not a right. And when He forgives His forgiveness is complete and not partial, temporary or conditional.

  • “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12)
  • “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more” (Isaiah 43:25)
  • “You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19)

Because sin separates us from God, and as forgiveness comes only from and through God, our relationship with Him is all-important.  He needs to be ‘feared’ or held in the highest regard and respect.

  • “But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared” (Psalm 130:4)

Response:
Only God can forgive, cleanse and heal us of the guilt and stain of sin

Prayer:

Father please help me to not take sin lightly, nor Your call to holiness. Help me Lord to repent, confess and turn away from anything that damages my relationship with You. Amen.

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Opening my eyes

2016.08.25

 “Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness”
(1 Chronicles 16:29)

Reflection:
Archbishop William Temple, writing in his Readings from St John’s Gospel, shared some of his insights on worship.  The headings are his.

  • Worship is the submission of all nature to God.” We must journey with Him to the point where we bring everything in and about us into submission to God’s authority and love. Our hopes and fears, our health and well-being, our successes and failures, our world and our families, our beliefs and doubts – everything. Obedience and trust embrace each other.
  • Worship is “the quickening of conscience by His holiness.” As we contemplate and worship Almighty God the comparison between His pure, light-filled ‘otherness’ and our shadowy and compromised reality will become apparent. We acknowledge it before Him in confession and a new focus.
  • Worship is “the nourishment of mind with His truth.” His truth is revealed to us in and through His creation, His word in Scripture, His Living Word Jesus Christ and by His Holy Spirit who witnesses to our spirits and leads us into all truth. Worship feeds our minds with a truth that also reveals the untruths that we have received from the world.
  • Worship is “the purifying of the imagination by His beauty.” Our minds receive, create and carry all sorts of images within them which are fed by our memories and the emotions that they conjure up. The beauty of God is cleansing, compelling and transforming – lifting the spirit away from the things of the world and into the sacred sanctity of wonder, love and praise – leading to light-filled silence and breathless awe.
  • Worship is “the opening of the heart to His love.” The love of God is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom He has given to us. (Romans 5:5) The world makes our hearts calloused and hardened through the fear of rejection and pain. Step by step we must learn to trust and open them to His love – the unconditional fullness of which is revealed in the cross and resurrection.
  • Worship is “the surrender of will to His purpose.” So we begin to understand more fully the beauty and meaning of the prayer that Jesus taught us – “Hallowed be Your Name, Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as in heaven” – and starting with me. It is the only way of Life.

 Response:
We need times of quiet reflection and worship – where we look at God and allow Him to look at us with His eyes of love.

Prayer:

Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name (Psalm 103:1)

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Worth Hoarding

2016.08.24

“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,
where moth and rust do not destroy,
and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
(Matthew 6:20)

Reflection:
Some years ago my eldest daughter brought me a copy of a magazine from my old school. I was sitting there quietly looking at it and saying, “I remember him – and him – and him.” Intrigued, she peered over my shoulder and then cried out, “Mom, Dad’s reading the obituaries!”

I was indeed – and was surprised at how many of my school acquaintances had died at what was a relatively young age. For them the journey of life was over and everything they may have hoped for or achieved or accumulated was left behind them. All that remained was their final meeting with our Lord and God.

It is very easy to get caught up with our wants and needs, our passions and fears, our occupations and past-times, our treasures and joys, and all the things into which the world tries to seduce us. No matter how important they are now, and how necessary and worth-while they may seem, they have one great thing in common – they will all be left behind us when we go. Some of them may even have been lost, stolen or turned to ashes before then.

Jesus encourages us to keep a proper balance and not to become obsessed with the things of this world, nor to strive to obtain, experience, accumulate and hoard its treasures. There are other things, He tells us, which have a greater and eternal value – things that cannot be measured in monetary or emotional terms.

Essentially our one and only treasure – incorruptible, unstealable and unbreakable – is Jesus Himself. He is our Life. He is our Righteousness. His is the Relationship which makes us known to God as His eternal sons and daughters. If Jesus is our supreme treasure everything else will begin to fall into place. If He is not we may well be serving something other than Him.

We cannot take anything with us when, sooner or later, we leave this world and go onto the next. All we will have is what we have become in our relationship with the Lord and the fruit developed in us by the Holy Spirit.

Live for the Lord – He is our Way, our Truth and our Life. He is our Light, our Love and our Joy. He is our Beauty and our Peace. He is our Purpose and our Fulfillment. He is our Today and our Eternal Tomorrow. He is our God, our Saviour and our Friend. He is our Everything.

Response:
Keep responding to His call. Never give up no matter how many times you fall. Trust Him always.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, in the midst of the worries, concerns and temptations of this life, please help me to trust and focus on  You in all things and at all times. Amen.

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Draw the Water

2016.08.23

“With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation”
(Isaiah 12:3)

Reflection:
We so easily look to the world to satisfy our needs and desires. Yet all it has to offer drains away so easily and quickly. As Jesus said to the woman whom He met at the well,

“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  (John 4:13-14)

Eternal life comes from Jesus Christ and is like an ever-flowing stream of living and life-giving and life-enhancing water. Only He can satisfy our spiritual thirst for meaning, wash us clean from the stains of failure, shame and sin and create within us a peace and joy that is not dependent upon the world or other people.

We do not have to search for the ‘wells of salvation’ because the Holy Spirit lives within us as Christians. He is with us all the time – ready and available to be drawn upon and to feed, nourish, cleanse and strengthen us. There is no limit to the quantity or quality of the spiritual water that flows from Him. And Paul paints a lovely picture of it for us when he writes that,

“hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us”  (Romans 5:5)

Just as we need to reach out and take the world’s supply of liquid refreshment so we need to draw the water from the well of the Holy Spirit within us. This can be done by simply pausing wherever we are, drawing quietly aside, and asking Him to pour His life-giving presence into the area of our life that particularly needs it at that moment. Take some ‘deep breaths of Him’ and allow yourself to feel Him settling where you need Him. Repeat as often as necessary and trust Him that He is responding. A regular request for Him to fill, guide and strengthen you at the beginning of every day, and at times of particular challenge, will also help and be a blessing. As we practice this we will begin to discover the joy of God’s presence and response.

Response:
Do it now

Prayer:

Holy Spirit of God please fill and bless me right now, and particularly in the areas where I am afraid, depressed, burdened and lonely. Please guide and strengthen me as I go forward and keep me always close to You. Amen.

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Involve God

2016.08.22
“Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”
(1 Peter 5:7)

Reflection:
Christians are not just ordinary people – even if they once were. They are now extraordinary and need to see themselves in a new light.

We are not called to some spiritual mediocrity or to a sense that God is not that concerned about us or our condition. On the contrary the Bible makes it clear that God knows us intimately and that through Christ He wants to extend His authority over every part of our lives. That is not to make us unwilling puppets but willing and trusting expressions of His great love.

No part of our lives and being are omitted – nothing is outside of His concern. Indeed, because sin has affected and discoloured every area of life, and of our lives, His great desire is to remove that stain everywhere. He is not just a God of our Sundays but of our every moment. He is not only concerned about our Sunday liturgies but about every second and aspect of our daily lives. He is not a God of compartments but of everywhere and everything.

Our (re-) starting point is to remind ourselves of this. Then, using the picture of our lives as the houses in which we live, to keep inviting Him into each and every room, even the ones we keep most tightly closed because of the darkness, pain or fear within them. As we do we can ask Him – the Lord who died and rose again for us – to fill them with His Light, Life and Love, and to cleanse and heal them and make them a part of His eternal Kingdom.

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

Response:
Don’t stay as you are – ask God to heal, help and hold you.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus you stand and knock at all the doors in my life. Please come in and fill them with Your light, life and love. Amen.

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Isn’t He Beautiful!

2016.08.19

“In him we were also chosen, having been predestined
according to the plan of him who works out everything
in conformity with the purpose of his will,
in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ,
might be for the praise of his glory”

( Ephesians 1:11-12)

Reflection:
Three times within the space of eight verses Paul uses similar words to denote our purpose before God – the purpose for which we were predestined and chosen.

  • He predestined us to be adopted as His children “to the praise of His glorious grace” (6)
  • We were chosen and predestined that we “might be for the praise of His glory” (12)
  • We received the Holy Spirit as the mark that we were God’s possession “to the praise of His glory” (14)

The glory of God is His revelation of Himself in His glorious majesty, breath-taking splendour, blinding purity, absolute power and overwhelming love. The glory of His grace is His self—disclosure of the most heart-rending and amazing grace. Therefore for us to live to the praise of His glory and His grace is to worship Him ourselves with increasing wonder, delight, awe, humility, obedience and love and also to be the vehicles through whom others catch sight of Him and turn to Him in praise and trust themselves.

This is what Jesus would have had in mind when He taught His disciples that

“You are the light of the world … let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16)

It is what God had in mind for the first people whom He chose.

  • “the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise” (Isaiah 43:21)
  • “For as a belt is bound around a man’s waist, so I bound the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah to me,’ declares the LORD, `to be my people for my renown and praise and honour. But they have not listened” (Jeremiah 13:11)

It is still God’s purpose and the reason that Jesus Commissioned His people before His ascension.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

This will of God that we should live to the praise of His glory is not to indulge Himself with pleasure. It is because He is so wonderful, so beautiful, so glorious, so gracious, so majestic, so creative, so forgiving and so powerful that He desires with all His being for us to know and enjoy Him in all His fullness. He would do anything to achieve this – and has done so. For us to now withhold it from others would be a terrible act of selfishness and deprivation, and the opposite of what he had in mind.

Response:
I have a treasure that needs to be shared

Prayer:

Lord God, so fill me with the wonder and love of You that I desire to share it with others. May they see something of You in the way that I live and speak and desire to know more. Amen.

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God’s Power

2016.08.18

“I pray also that the eyes of your heart
may be enlightened in order that you may know ..
His incomparably great power for us who believe”
 (Ephesians 1:18-19)

Reflection:
God’s power mentioned here relates to the period between our original call and our enjoyment of our full and final inheritance in the Lord. In other words it covers the ‘now’ period of our lives. For only God’s supreme power can fulfil the expectations of His call on our lives and ensure our safe arrival in His presence to participate in the glory and life that He has prepared for us.

The greatest revelation and demonstration of this power and its extent is revealed to us in the resurrection from the dead of the Lord Jesus and His exaltation and enthronement at the right hand of God.

  • “That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,
  • far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.
  • And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body” (Ephesians 1:18-23)

There are two forces which man cannot control and which hold him in bondage – death and evil. However in and through Jesus Christ God has shown His power and supremacy in conquering both, and given us the assurance that He can and will do so for us as well. It is for this reason that Jesus said and Paul rejoiced,

  • “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28)
  • “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39)

This same power, and the power that we know Jesus exercised whilst on earth, is obviously still at God’s command. He can exercise it whenever and however He chooses. He will choose to do so in and through our lives and ministries as well.  And, as the angel said to Mary, “nothing is impossible with God.” This means that we should be focussed and prayerful in asking God to exercise His will and power in, through and around us – from personal situations to great international ones. For our God is a Mighty and Loving God.

Response:
Lord I believe and trust in You – help my unbelief

Prayer:

Lord God, help me to draw ever closer to You, to trust fully in You mighty power and unstoppable love, and to pray for Your healing in the life and lives around me. Amen.

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