Love Lavished on us

“The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly,
along with the faith and love
that are in Christ Jesus.”
(1 Timothy 1:14)

Reflection:
If there are three words that characterize God’s relationship with us they are these – Grace, Faith and Love.

God’s love is the foundation.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

God’s grace is the fruit of His great and boundless love. It is by this grace that our salvation became possible and a living reality in Jesus Christ.

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-24)

God’s faith is His gift to us so that we might believe and be saved into an eternal and living relationship with Him.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

All three are God’s gifts to us and, as Paul says, they are poured out ‘abundantly.’ John puts it slightly differently but uses another word that overflows with meaning.

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1)

The only limit that is placed upon this abundant and lavish outpouring of God’s love is our preparedness to  receive, respond and rejoice in an ever increasing and deepening way. They are not gifts that we receive like medals and pin to the outside of our lives. They are spiritual gifts given by the Holy Spirit to our spirits – there to grow and bear fruit from deep within us, and to influence every aspect and part of our life and living.

But we can restrict and impede their development. We do this by our refusal to respond and by our persistence in focussing on our problems and the pleasures, values and provisions of the world. We do it also by limiting Him to the level of the understandings of our minds. As a result we miss out terribly on the joy and potential of our relationship with the Lord, and on who we could be as His living sons and daughters.

Response:
Ask God in –  practice walking and talking with Him through the days – and breathe in His love

Prayer:

Lord, please help me in allowing You to become a greater part of my life – and my becoming a greater part of Yours. Amen.

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Just Grace

“But he said to me,
“My grace is sufficient for you,
for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
(2 Corinthians 12:9)

Reflection:
All my life I have lived in an environment of work and rewards, failure and consequences. A poor self-image did not help, and left me vulnerable to either fearing the worst or willing to believe the tempter’s whispers that I was not good enough. Any success or popularity surprised me and I could imagine that it would not last. Always there was the thought that I had not done enough to earn or retain God’s love. Sin devastated me – not just because of what it was, but because I felt that I might now be cast off by God. Why should He love me, and continue to love me, when I knew how unlovable I was, and how unworthy.

Slowly I began to learn that it was not all about me. It was about God. It was not a question of what I was like but of what God is like. It was not a test to see how much I loved God, but a revelation of how much He loves me. It was not even a matter of how much I achieved for Him, but of what He can achieve for me and through me and around me. That’s the trouble with insecurity and sin, it makes us the centre. The wonder of love is that someone else is the centre.

God’s grace at work – not telling us that sin does not matter; not telling us that our weaknesses are good. Just loving us, accepting the tiny amount of love for Him and faith that we have, and pouring out His smiling, laughing, thrilling, loving and forgiving Grace all the time. And, calling us always forward and closer to Him into the life that is truly Life, the way that is the only Way, the Truth that is beyond all truths.

Hear these words:

  • “I have loved you with an everlasting love”  (Jer 31:3)
  • “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph 2:10)
  • “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Cor 12:9)
  • Nothing “in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:39)

Response:
Just trust Him – His love, His sacrifice and His grace. Ask Him to help you. Stop looking at yourself – look at Him instead.

Prayer:

Father, Thank You for a love and grace that is beyond understanding. Please help me to allow You to fill me with Your love and grace and to live in their reality. Amen.

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Your life in me

“I am the vine; you are the branches.
If a man remains in me and I in him,
he will bear much fruit;
apart from me you can do nothing”
(John 15:5)

Reflection:
Time and again I return to Jesus teaching of the Vine. It is the first passage of Scripture that I intentionally studied and it still continues to inspire, refresh and delight me. It is filled with the grace and love of the Lord.

The key to life is our relationship with the Lord Jesus. If we are ‘connected’ to Him then His life flows into us. We also have access to our new identity and to the spiritual blessings that God has given to us in Christ.

As His life impacts ours and His Spirit flows into and through us then He brings transformation and new fruit – different to that which we produced through our old fallen nature. What a joy to know that this fruit is a product of His life touching our lives and not the work of our own stress and strain. His fruit is real and comes from within – it is not a display of glossy and artificial baubles hanging on our exterior like a Christmas tree and hiding the lack of true life inside. And whilst His work in me flourishes best with my prayerful co-operation it remains His work and not mine.

The most important part of our relationship is that I stay close to Him, focussed on Him, loving, listening and responding to Him and trusting Him. His life then flows more freely into mine, His fruit appears and His things happen in and through me.

Response:
“Be still – and know that I am God”

Prayer:

Thank You Lord Jesus for being the Vine to my branch. Thank You for Your life that flows into me, Your Spirit touching mine and Your fruit growing out. Thank You for Your beauty and love, gentleness and power, glory and majesty in me. Amen.

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Grace and me

“And the God of all grace,
who called you to his eternal glory in Christ,
after you have suffered a little while,
will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast”

(1 Peter 5:10)

Reflection:
When the truth of this breaks into our lives it is breath-takingly wonderful.

God’s grace is not a weak and temporary thing. It is God’s life-giving love and saving power in action, reaching out to embrace us. It is free, unmerited, unrestricted and unconditional. And it is for me!

It is through God’s grace that we are called into ‘His eternal glory in Christ’. It is His love and power that has made it possible and it is His love and power that will bring it to a perfect fulfilment. It is not even us using His power to bring about this great salvation – it is His power-filled love working on and within us that makes it happen.  Our only contribution is the repentance and acceptance, and then co-operation, that this great love draws out. We are quite unable to achieve anything more no matter how hard we try – as try we will.

So when David had sinned he did not pray that God would help him to try harder in the future. Instead He asked God to do in him that which he knew he could not do in or for Himself.

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10)

This heart-broken prayer is in fact directly in line with what God wishes to do for us.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26)

One thing that suffering can teach us is our helplessness and weakness – including our inability to properly recognise and avoid sin, and the devastating effect it can have in our lives and in our relationship with God, ourselves and others.

Only God is able to transform our lives – to cleanse us and make us ‘strong, firm and steadfast.’ He wants to and He will, for He is both willing and able. And, He is the only one who can do it. However the way He has chosen is to take us on a journey of discovery – and where we are today is a part of that journey. The best is still to come.

  • “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen”( Ephesians 3:20-21)
  • “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6)
  • “And the God of all grace, .. will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast”

Prayer Response:

Forgive me Lord for my efforts to be my own guide and saviour. Please create in me a pure heart, renew my spirit and make me strong, firm and steadfast in You and to Your great honour and glory. Amen.

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Set free

“He went out and cried and cried and cried”
(Luke 22:62 MSG)

Reflection:
This has to be one of the most heart-rending moments in Scripture.

The big, bold and impulsive Peter had boasted of loving the Lord enough to die for Him. And now merely a few hours later, when Jesus was alone and could have done with a friend, he had denied knowing Him three times. After the third occasion Jesus turned and looked at him and Peter knew that the Lord was aware of what had happened, just as He had foretold it.

In that terrible moment Peter would have felt the full impact of His betrayal. He had broken relationship with his beloved Lord and Master, he had turned away from the Messiah, the Son of God, and therefore from God Himself. He was worse than Adam, worse even than Judas, for he had no excuse to offer. In his mind he would have revealed himself to himself and others as a nothing, a loud-mouthed imposter with whom no one would wish to associate. He had lost his self-respect, dignity and privileged position of leadership – in fact he had lost everything. There was no turning back, so in self-loathing he wept in despairing desolation.

“He went out and cried and cried and cried”

I am reminded of King David’s great cry of anguish to the Lord as he looked into himself and saw the horror of the sin of which he was guilty – and knew that he could not live with it.

  • “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (Psalm 51:4)
  • “Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:2)
  • “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7)

And God does. He forgave and cleansed David and still referred to him as a man after His own heart. And although Peter did not then know it Jesus was to forgive and heal him, and was to restore him to his position of leadership in the Church.

God forgives because He loves us enough to want to – not because He is unwilling. Let Him forgive you too.

Response:
No sin is too desperate for Him to forgive and cleanse.

Prayer:

Lord please help me to bring my sin and despair to You and not to hold on to them. Amen.

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(Photo (c) Catherine Bondonno)

Lord Jesus

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
(Philippians 2:9-11)

 

Reflection:
The earliest, shortest and simplest of all the Christian creeds are the words “Jesus is Lord.” Those who made this confession in the early church were baptised and welcomed into the Christian community.

Paul also wrote that

  • “if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)
  • “no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:3)

The statement ‘Jesus is Lord’ signifies both a conviction and a commitment on the part of the speaker. The conviction is that Jesus is truly Lord, and Lord of all, and that there is no other. The commitment is that Jesus is and will be Lord in all aspects and dimensions of the speaker’s life.

This is what salvation is all about, and it happens as the Holy Spirit leads us to both the acknowledgement and commitment involved. The rest of our life here is to increasingly reflect and live Jesus as Lord at all times and in all ways – and this not in our own strength but under the guidance and empowerment of the Holy Spirit Himself.

Response:
Look to your life. Ask God to help you in the areas where you still struggle and resist Him.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus You are Lord and always will be. Help me to trust You more completely as the Lord of my Life and to live in Your love and under Your direction. Amen.

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My Saviour Lord

 

“The LORD is my strength and my song;
he has become my salvation.”
(Psalm 118:14)

 

Reflection:
 ‘He has become my salvation.’  This Lord, who is at once Father, Son and Holy Spirit is not one who merely watches from a distance but is the God who has come to us – to seek us, find us, help us and lead us home through His awesome death and resurrection. Every good thing promised and prophesied in the Bible has found its truth and completion in the Lord Jesus – and through the Cross.

He has sought, called and embraced each one of His beloved in His eternal love. Once we have given ourselves back to Him no one and nothing can ever separate us. His great promise, fulfilled in the gift of the Holy Spirit, is to be with us always – in our good times and our bad times – and wherever we may be on our journey.

  • “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
  • “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)
  • “To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy– to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.” (Jude 1:24-25)

Response:

He is my strength for life and for living.
He is my song of delight and of witness.
He is my present and my eternal salvation.
He is my Lord, my King and my God –

and my great Love.

 I love you, O Lord ..
my strength, my song
and my salvation.

Prayer:

Thank You Lord – so very much. Amen.

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