New Vision

“I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened
 in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you,
the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
and his incomparably great power for us who believe”
(Ephesians 1:18-19)

Reflection:
Paul prays not only that we might all know God better, but that we may know other things too. And for him this knowledge is not only that of understanding but of experience as well.

  • He prays that we will know the hope to which God has called us. This is set out explicitly in the first few verses of the letter. It is a calling into Christ and the blessings God has provided, to holiness and blamelessness, to be adopted as His children, to rejoice in His lavish grace, to know His redemption in and through the Jesus, to receive the mystery of His will for all things under the headship of Christ and to live for His praise and glory.
  • He prays that we may know the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints. This points on to the final inheritance of which the Holy Spirit is the guarantee (14) – and which Peter describes as ‘imperishable,  undefiled and unfading kept in heaven for you’ (1 Peter 1:4) As God’s children we are God’s heirs, and fellow heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). One day by His grace the inheritance will be ours even although exactly what it will be like is beyond our capacity to imagine.
  • He prays also that we may know His incomparably great power for us who believe. If God’s call looks back to the beginning, and God’s ‘inheritance’ looks on to the end, then God’s ‘power’ must surely span the period in between. Only God’s power can fulfil the expectation which belongs to His call and bring us safely to the riches of the glory of the final inheritance He will give us in heaven.

So in terms of Paul’s prayer we may know the great calling upon our lives, the great destiny that awaits us and the divine power that will ensure that God’s will for us will be achieved in all its fullness. It is now that we can trust his word that

“in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28)

Response:
Clarify your focus – on God not on self

Prayer:

Dear Lord may my faith not depend upon my feelings but my feelings come to rest upon my faith – give me this faith please Lord.

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(Acknowledgement to John Stott)

Open My Heart Lord

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the glorious Father,
may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation,
so that you may know him better”
(Ephesians 1:17)

Reflection:
Paul has been talking about our new life in Jesus Christ. He refers to our not being with Christ but, far more intimately, ‘in Christ.’ This expression and variations on it occur 164 times in his letters.

To be in Christ is to become a part of His life and living right where we are, how we are and who we are, at this moment in time – and to continue in that Way. It is to be personally and vitally united to Christ – as branches are to the vine and members to the body. It is to come to know the Lord Jesus as a personal and living reality – and to know that in some mysterious and spiritual way He lives within us. ‘It is this personal relationship with Christ that is the distinctive mark of His authentic followers’ (Stott)

Paul now reveals that a part of his prayers is that God will “give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” This immediately gives us the insight that it should be a part of our own prayers as well. Note that he is not praying that we will know more about God – as in the accumulation of knowledge – but that we will get to know Him more and more as the Person that He is and in so doing deepen our relationship with Him as well as our knowledge of Him.

This knowing God better and knowing more of Him comes not through study alone but through God’s revelation of Himself to us. Elsewhere Paul would write that

  • “You … may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:18)
  • “God (will) fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Colossians 1:9)
  • “your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight” (Philippians 1:9)

 Adolphe Monod wrote that “Philosophy taking man for its centre says know thyself; only the inspired word which proceeds from God has been able to say know God.” That is both our calling and God’s desire for us. He wishes us to have and to enjoy a personal and deepening relationship with Him – both now and throughout eternity. And it is only through coming to know God as our Creator and Redeemer that we have any possibility of really coming to know ourselves – both as we are and as He intends us to be.

Response:
Ask the Lord to reveal Himself to you – and look out for Him in His Word and in your prayer life and living.

Prayer:

Father God, please bless me with Your Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that I may know You better. And please help me to be aware of Your reaching out to me, to recognise it and treasure it, as You draw me into a more meaningful relationship with you. Amen.

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Look beyond me

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.”
(Proverbs 3:5-6)

Reflection:
To ‘lean on our own understanding’ is to limit everything to the level of our perception.  When life is painful we tend to fear that it will always be that way – or even worse.  A good example of this is the account of the Israelites in the desert after the exodus from Egypt. No matter how much God did for them they never trusted Him for the next challenge.

So here we are urged to lift our eyes, to change our focus and enlarge our vision.  The one who loves us and has called us to Himself is the Lord God Almighty. He is the all-powerful one; He is the one who is called ‘Love’; He is the one who at huge personal cost has invited us to become His daughters and His sons; He is the one who in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit has promised to be with us always. He is also the one who in any and every situation and circumstance knows the best way forward –

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  (Romans 8:28)

In every road on which we find ourselves, in every challenge we face, in every situation that threatens us, in every task we undertake, in every relationship in which we are involved  – in fact ‘in all our ways’ – we need the Lord. Our first step is to acknowledge Him with His love and His power, and then to ask Him for His guidance, help and strength. The answer is then certain – He will become involved and He will take us forward and He will bless us.

The sooner we start with involving the Lord in our everyday lives, decisions and responses the more natural it will become if and when things get really challenging.

Response:
Whatever you do, feel or think today – ask the Lord to guide and help you.

Prayer:

Lord God my life is in Your hands and any merits that I might appear to have are in fact Your mercies. Please be with me and guide and help me through the light and the darkness, the days and the nights of my life – and help me to stay very close to You at all times. Amen.

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He is near

“Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save,
nor his ear too dull to hear”
(Isaiah 59:1)

Reflection:
The reality of the Easter message is that the Lord is neither too weak nor to deaf to hear and respond to our needs. In fact He has come to us not just with His arm and His hand but with His whole being.

The prophet went on to say,

“But your iniquities have separated you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you,
so that he will not hear”
(Isaiah 59:2)

However he had already revealed that God had Himself arranged a solution to the seemingly insurmountable problem of our sin.

“Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed”
(Isaiah 53:4-5)

The reality is that we still sin. However that sin has already been dealt with on the cross by the Lord. This is the reason that John can tell us that,

  • “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9)
  • “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defence -Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2)

Wherever and however we are at this moment the truth is that God is with us. If we feel separated from Him it may be an emotional condition or it may be that there is a sin or sins that are getting in the way. We can ask Him to reveal anything that needs to be confessed or dealt with in our life and then bring it to Him in prayer.

As the cross show clearly shows us, His desire is to forgive and heal us into a new relationship with Him – no matter where we have been in our lives.

Response:
Every day spend a few minutes with the Lord as you ask Him to show you anything that needs to be dealt with from that day. Confess it to Him and allow Him to ‘wash your feet’ of this dirt you have picked up on the day’s journey.

Prayer:

Father as I wash my body of the dirt of the day please help me also to allow You to cleanse me from the spiritual dirt I have picked up as well, in Jesus name, Amen.

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See What You See

“O LORD
Who is like you– majestic in holiness,
awesome in glory, working wonders?”
(Exodus 15:11)

Reflection:
Our vision of God defines our lives.

We can ignore Him, treat Him casually – by paying Him lip-service or turning to Him only when we need help – or we can take Him seriously – to the extent that He becomes our life.

His revelation of Himself through creation, through His history, through His great acts and ultimately through His Son Jesus Christ, is stunning. It is a revelation of awesome power and might, of unbelievable compassion and mercy, of immaculate justice and righteousness, and of breath-taking beauty and love.

If our vision slips then our faith, hope, love and integrity begin to go as well.

In times such as these there is a great need for those whom He has called to Himself to renew their vision, re-establish their foundations, and glory in the wonder of our marvellous God. One of our greatest gifts and weapons is our heart-felt love and worship of this God who is at once Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Response:

“Immortal, Invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, Thy great name we praise.”

Prayer:

Lord God Almighty, keep me conscious of Your glory, honour and power – and of Your great beauty and love. In Jesus Name, Amen.

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Stop Doubting!

“A week later his disciples were in the house again,
and Thomas was with them.
Though the doors were locked,
Jesus came and stood among them and said,
“Peace be with you!”
(John 20:26)

Reflection:
The first time that Jesus appeared to the disciples, after His resurrection, Thomas was not with them.

It was to be a long week before his opportunity came, a week in which he might well have felt himself to be rather an outcast. He might have also wondered whether he had forever missed his opportunity. But such was the love and grace of Jesus that He presented Thomas with an occasion in which he could see and feel the reality for himself. Thomas was convinced,

“Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:27-28)

It is always hard for us when others appear to have had dramatic personal experiences of God, or of something miraculous happening in their lives, or of God speaking to them in clear and certain ways – and we don’t. We might also feel like outcasts, excluded from God’s ‘inner circle’, and just not good enough. We can so easily give up or resign ourselves to living on the fringes of Christianity, as second class citizens – tolerated but not loved.

Nothing could be further from the truth! Jesus did make Himself real to Thomas. Thomas was convinced and acknowledged the reality of Jesus person, resurrection and divinity. Jesus would not want any of His disciples, then or now, to be less certain than this. He did, however, indicate that not everyone would have the same visual experience.

“Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

There are more ways of ‘seeing’ Jesus than with our eyes. He can reveal Himself to us in many ways. His intention always, though, as it was with Thomas, is that it should be in a way that is meaningful to us. He really does want us to believe and not to doubt. He wishes to establish a personal relationship with each one of His people one in which it is true that ‘My sheep know My voice.”

One of the ministries of the Holy Spirit is to make Jesus real to us. As we soak prayerfully in the Scriptures, open ourselves in prayer, and seek to live His way that will happen. And, of course, we should pray that Jesus will become more real to us – not in terms of a blinding and frightening revelation such as happened to Paul, but in a quiet and deepening inner knowledge that He is indeed both with us and within us – always.

Response:
Trust the word and ask the Holy Spirit to give it life within you.

Prayer:

Come Lord Jesus and live within me, all of me – and help me to know and respond to You. Amen.

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(Picture: Easter Lily)

God’s Peace

“On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the disciples were together,
with the doors locked for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood among them and said,
“Peace be with you!”

(John 20:19)

Reflection:
The disciples were afraid and behind locked doors. Having seen Jesus arrested, tortured and crucified, having themselves fled, they had been living with fear and huge uncertainty for days. Now they had heard that Jesus had risen. This might well have added to their torment.  Where was He, and what would His attitude be towards them – especially in view of their actions?

There are few mental torments greater than those that concern our having failed someone important in our lives, and in a major way. The agony of waiting for the impending confrontation, heightened by our racing imaginations, can tear us apart. We cannot bear the thought of being sent away in despair and humiliation – of being not good enough, having failed to live up to expectations, especially when the person concerned is the Messiah! They would have heard the terrifying teaching that one day the Messiah might well say to certain people,

“I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:23)

Suddenly Jesus was there standing amongst them – notwithstanding the locked doors. We do not know all that He said to them, or what they said to Him. But the words that are recorded tell us all that we need to know both for that meeting and for our own lives.

“Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you!”  (John 20:21)

This really was the peace of God that passes all understanding. It is a peace that has absolutely nothing to do with our deserving or earning it, or of the situation in which we find ourselves – but everything to do with the love, grace and power of our great Father and most wonderful Saviour. The text records that they ‘were overjoyed’ to see Him. It shows us that his love for them and acceptance of them was complete.

We all face fears that we have let Jesus down, that we do not live up to the standards that we believe He requires of us, and that we are like timid mice in the face of the increasing darkness of the world. All of that may be true. However, the most important truth for us to grasp and absorb is this – Jesus love for us is total and unconditional. He is completely committed to us and the work to which He has called us. When we fall or fail, or even think that we have, He is there with us to forgive, heal, empower and raise us up so that we can step out again with Him on the The Road of Love – the Way of Christ. He will work in all things for good and will never leave us or let us be taken from Him. Once we are His we are His forever. We do need to believe it.

Response:
Pray for a deeper belief and trust in the love of God for you.

Prayer:

Holy Spirit, please continue to pour the love of God into my heart –and help me to know it and trust it above everything else in the world. Amen.

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