Faith Lived

2016-09-30

“I write these things to you who believe
in the name of the Son of God
so that you may know that you have eternal life”
(1 John 5:13)

Reflection:
Those who have been born again of God are those who believe in Him, obey Him, and love both Him and His people.

This is important for us to know of ourselves, of other individuals and groups calling themselves Christian, as well as of those who hold themselves out as teachers of the faith. John lays down three yardsticks to enable us to discern true and false teachers and also true Christian believers.

Firstly, they must believe in the incarnation – which acknowledges the real humanity of Jesus and His real deity as God’s Son.

  • “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God” (1 John 4:2)
  • “Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist–he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:22-23)

Secondly, they must live out their obedience to the commands of God.

  • “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands” (1 John 2:3)
  • “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me” (John 14:21)

Thirdly, they must be a loving part of the Christian community.

  • “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death” (1 John 3:14)
  • “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12)

Response:
My faith is not a vague hopefulness – but built on solid foundations.

Prayer:

Father God, please help me to acknowledge by faith my belief in You, to live in tune with Your commands and to relate to my brothers and sisters in love and grace. Amen.

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Freely, Freely

2016-09-29

“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care,
serving as overseers–not because you must,
 but because you are willing, as God wants you to be;
not greedy for money, but eager to serve”
(1 Peter 5:2)

Reflection:
Each one of us is, to a greater or lesser extent, called to act as a Christian shepherd to someone else, or to a group. Jesus as the Good Shepherd gives us the model of someone who knows, leads, calls, loves, searches for and feeds His sheep – and who even lays down His life for them.

Peter emphasises for us two particularl qualities of a ‘good shepherd.’

Firstly, it must be voluntary. An unwilling shepherd will never be truly effective. His or her labour will be a burden instead of something they undertake happily and that attitude will colour their ‘work’ and communicate itself to others.

Secondly, it must not be seen as a way of accumulating wealth. The ministry of the Gospel is not a product that we market and sell but something we seek to share as freely as we received it.

Then also our whole attitude in ministry must be one of gracious humility. Like Jesus we are called to serve and not to be served. Our ministry is to be a life-giving, life-changing and life-enhancing blessing to others with the glory attaching to God and not to ourselves. As the prayer says it ‘my ministries are God’s mercies.’

Response:
Keep asking God to pour out His love into your heart by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given you  (Romans 5:5)

Prayer:

Father God, please fill me continuously with Your love and help me to release that love towards others freely and without seeking any reward. Amen.

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Hang on to this

2016-09-28

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree,
so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness;
by his wounds you have been healed”
(1 Peter 2:24)

Reflection:
When Jesus first taught His disciples that He must suffer and die it was Peter who, having just acknowledged Him as the Messiah, disputed with Him. He could not get his mind around the idea of a suffering Messiah. Now that same Peter, ‘contradicting his own contradiction’, focuses on that suffering.

He and others are quite clear about this.

  • “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24)
  • “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us” ( 2 Corinthians 5:21)
  • “He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself” (Hebrews 7:27)
  • “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18)

Normally it is the one who offends who is guilty and bears the penalty. However here, through His great love, God has provided a substitute – One who takes into Himself and upon Himself, both the guilt and the sentence, ’for the wages of sin is death.’ (Romans 6:23)

What is more He did not die only to secure our forgiveness but, as Peter goes on to say, He died to secure for us our holiness as well. Through faith in Him we are set free from our sin, relieved of the spiritual penalty, adopted by God as His children, and given a righteousness before God that we could never have otherwise achieved.

This all happened ‘through his wounds’, the wounds that brought about His death. For the Cross is not a small piece of attractive jewellery. It is forever a large, rough, wooden instrument of vicious and vile death. And this Cross is forever stained with the precious blood of the glorious Son of God – blood from the torn flesh on His back, blood from His hands and feet, and blood from the cruel crown whose thorns had been pressed deeply into His head.

Here was the body and blood of which He had spoken at the Last supper. The body that bore the punishment and the blood that washed away the sins of the world. There is no Christianity without the Cross.

Response:
On that Cross He died for me …. and for ‘you’

Prayer:

‘Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast
save in the death of Christ, my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them through his blood.’

(Isaac Watts)

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Faith Alive

2016-09-27

“Show me your faith without deeds,
and I will show you my faith by what I do”
(James 2:18)

Reflection:
Paul teaches very clearly that,

 “a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law” (Romans 3:28)

James emphasises that this faith is not an inactive state but very much a way of life and living. So he would write that,

 “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17)

So whilst we cannot earn our salvation through works but may receive it only by faith, the evidence of that faith is revealed in our changed lives. We live them out in obedience to the commands and directives of the Lord.

“Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith” (Romans 1:5)

Both Paul and James are in agreement that authentic faith is a living faith that works.

  • “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love”  ( Galatians 5:6)
  • “I will show you my faith by what I do” (James 2:18)

As John Stott comments “we cannot be saved by works, yet we cannot be saved without them.” What we do is the evidence of our salvation. Jesus put it this way,

“If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15)

Salvation is not a cloak that we put on over our old way of life and living. It is living in a new and different way as a response to God’s boundless love revealed most fully in His great sacrifice.

Response:
How is my faith revealed?

Prayer:

Lord help me to live my faith as a response to Your great love, and to seek to walk in Your ways throughout my life – showing my love for You and those around me. Amen.

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Listen and live

2016-09-26png

“Do not merely listen to the word,
and so deceive yourselves.
 Do what it says”
(James 1:22)

Reflection:
Any serious reading of the Scriptures as God’s Word must lead us to the realisation that it guides us to three great truths. The truth about God, the truth about ourselves and the truth about living Godly lives. It will also show us how these three truths are further revealed in and through Jesus Christ who is Himself the Truth (John 14:6)

James in the first chapter of his letter warns us three times about being deceived. (16, 22, 26). He teaches us that it is by paying close attention to the Word of God that we will be enabled to identify and avoid deception. This is particularly important when we live in an age which seems to recognise opinions and fails to see deceptions, and which places great store on information and not transformation.

The first step is to be attentive in listening to and hearing God speak through His Word. In saying that we should all be quick to listen (v19) he is recognising a very common human failing. Generally speaking people are not good listeners and are inclined to make premature responses – yet listening carefully and respectfully to others is at the heart of good and harmonious relationships. In listening for God and to God we need to listen to all that He says and not only the passages that make us feel good. If we do listen prayerfully we will find that this Word does speak to us and into our current lives and situations in many ways. His voice speaks through His Word.

“Bless the Lord, you His angels,
Who excel in strength, who do His word,
Heeding the voice of His word”
(Psalm 103:20 NKJV)

This leads us to the second step which is responding in obedience to His Word. As. we read and reflect we will discover that God is showing us who and what we are as well as revealing to us who and what we could and therefore should be with Him. To make this future possible Jesus has dealt with our past on the Cross and God has given us His Spirit to guide, equip and empower us for the journey ahead.

Response:
What is God showing me today?

Prayer:

Lord God please help me to hear Your voice speaking to me through Your Word – and to receive it and respond to it as You love, encourage and guide me forward in Your Way. Amen.

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Ignore the crows

2016-09-23

“God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles
the glorious riches of this mystery, which is
Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
(Colossians 1:27)

Reflection:
Christian lives can feel less like that of a soaring eagle and more like being constantly attacked by little black crows. They can irritate us, distract us from our identity and purpose, and even make us sound like them with snappy caws! The temptation is to stay on their level and focus on fighting them, instead of rising powerfully to heights that are beyond them.

Of course they will always be around somewhere. However, our calling is not to concentrate on resisting or fighting them, but to look and live above and beyond them – always moving forward, always drawing closer to the Lord, always crowding sin and temptation out of our lives by the presence of God and the goodness, beauty and activity into which He calls us.

The first step is to remember that God is not ‘out there’ somewhere. He is within His sons and daughters. He loves us, draws us and transforms us from the inside. Our salvation, in the form of our Saviour, has come from without and enters into those who receive Him. God the Holy Spirit has come to dwell within us. We are the people of God not just because we follow Him but because He has entered into us and expresses Himself through us.

Being God’s people means that our focus must always be above the things of the world and on the God and Saviour of the world. Look again at the words that Paul uses – “the glorious riches” so different from the vindictive little black shadows that chase us; “Christ in you” – this is God of whom he is talking – His presence might be a mystery but it is certainly a reality; “The hope of glory” – our sure and certain hope is in the reality of this Christ within us.

You don’t become an eagle by fighting the crows. You soar with God to where the little black shadows can’t go. Cleansed by His blood, with His Spirit within you, the presence of God is where you belong. Focus on Him and trust in the certainty of His love, His provision and His protection. Don’t let sin drag you down, but allow God to lift you up. Trust Him, He will do it. Remember always that although we are physically limited there is no limit to the heights to which our spirits can go with the Lord.

Response:
Confess sin, and keep pressing into God.

Prayer:

Father, sometimes I feel as if I am dragging myself through the dust and dirt. Please help me to look from myself to You, and allow Your smile and love to lift me up again and again. Amen.

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Share your beauty

2016-09-22

“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit,
showing yourselves to be my disciples”
(John 15:8)

Reflection:
Spring is all around me. Whilst the daffodils are fading the azaleas are in glorious bloom. The silver birches, white stinkwood and fig trees that I can see from my window are clothed in bright new greenery. The pruned back hydrangeas are surging upward and outward and the quiet lilies are producing their first buds. The roses that looked gnarled and barren for months are on the point of bursting into the full flush of their first abundant display –as flower girls in front of the breath-taking beauty of the bride of the garden – the white may.  All this reminds me that our God is a God of beauty, abundance and wonderful generosity.

These lovely plants are doing just what they were created to do, bearing abundant fruit to the glory of their Creator and the blessing of those around them. It always strikes me that nature produces her fruit for others whilst humans tend to produce their fruit for themselves.

Obviously we earn our living from the use of the gifts that God has given to us. However we do need to be generous in our use of these gifts and the proceeds that come to us from their use. The Israelites were specifically instructed not to be too zealous in collecting the harvest but to leave some for the poor who came to glean what was left behind. King David also had this to say on the subject.

  • “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand” (1 Chronicles 29:14 NIV)
  • “But me–who am I, and who are these my people, that we should presume to be giving something to you? Everything comes from you; all we’re doing is giving back what we’ve been given from your generous hand” (1 Chronicles 29:14 MSG)

Being generous with the goodness in our lives is not only about money. There is a generosity of spirit, a generosity with care, concern and compassion, a generosity with encouragement, understanding and patience, a generosity with prayer, with time and with specific talents.

I sometimes wonder what I would be like if I were a plant. Perhaps covered in lovely and fragrant blooms and fruit all the year round – or maybe a gnarled, twisted and unlovely thorn bush – or something in-between depending on my circumstances or mood. How would someone draw me – or you?

Response:
God has placed love and generosity in your heart. Set it free (-er)

The beauty that people will remember is not of form but of spirit.

Prayer:

Father You are beautiful beyond description and too marvellous for words. Please help me to be more like You and to gladden the hearts of those around me. Amen.

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