The Coming Year

2017-01-01

“I said to the man
who stood at the gate of the year,
‘Give me a light that I may tread safely
into the unknown.’

And he replied ,
‘Go out into the darkness
and put your hand into the hand of God.
That shall be to you
better than light
and safer than a known way !’

So I went forth
and finding the Hand of God,
trod gladly into the night .
And he led me towards the hills
and the breaking of day in the lone East.”

 

———————

(Minnie Louise Harkins 1875-1957)

May God bless us all throughout 2018 –
and enable us to walk forward with our hands in His,
as He leads, directs and encourages us in
accordance with His promise.
Thank you for your company and support in our journey this past year.
May His Light shine ever stronger for you as you press on with Him.

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My Hope

 

“Those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.”
(Isaiah 40:31)

 

Reflection:
Depression, despair and dread can rob us of strength and the ability to think. They may cause us to withdraw into ourselves. Whilst the support and encouragement of others does comfort and help us they cannot deal with the issues themselves. These are our problems, concerns and weaknesses. They largely remain so unless something happens within us that enables us to confront and deal with them.

The prophet Isaiah is encouraging the people to remember their God, who and what He is and His great love for them. We need to do the same.

He is the all-powerful Creator of all that is, seen and unseen. He knows us intimately – every thought of our minds, every one of our feelings and exactly who we are and why we are as we are. He cares for us and has given all that He is to make it possible for us to know Him and enter into His love and life.

His words are not just superficial helps. They carry with them the power and truth of the One who spoke them – which is why the centurion could say to the Lord Jesus, ‘just say the word and my servant will be healed!” And it is His Spirit at work within us Who brings new life, light and love into the dark areas of our existence.

Our God is a living, loving and life-giving reality.

As we turn to Him, in whatever situation we find ourselves,
He will respond.

As we look to Him for help and guidance
He will respond.

As we hold out our hands to Him
He will respond.

And we will find our strength renewed
because,

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

When our Lord promised to be with us always He did mean always. And whatever the situation is that might be confronting you at the moment He, and He alone, is your way, your truth and your life. He will guide you and see you through every moment of it. Look to Him and hold on to Him.

Response:
Practice being constantly aware of God. Talk to Him. Take ‘deep breaths of Him!’

Prayer:

Father You love me with an everlasting love. Please help me to rely on You in all the circumstances of my life – and to acknowledge Your presence. Amen.

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Our Father

“Our Father”
(Matthew 6:9)

Reflection:
The two opening words are very significant. Jesus is giving the prayer to His disciples and not to the general crowds. They were entering into a completely new relationship with Almighty God – a relationship which entitled them to call God “Father” – just as Jesus did! There is only one possible English translation of the word that Jesus used – that conveys its meaning in ordinary use – and that is the intimate term “Daddy.” (Barclay). It has also been said that there is no parallel in the whole of Jewish literature for the application of this word to God. (Jeremias)

  • “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God– children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John 1:12-13)
  • “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Romans 8:15-16)

 Those who believe and receive the Lord Jesus, and consequently receive the presence of the Holy Spirit, are the ones who with full integrity may pray this prayer – using this intimate term Father to address Almighty God, rather than the word that refers to the general fatherhood of God over all of creation. The Bible makes a clear distinction between those who are in such a relationship with God and those who are not. John is full of wonder as he exclaims,

“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! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.”  (1 John 3:1)

 Believers are not to see themselves merely as individuals, but as members of a new and widespread Christian family, with God as the Father of them all – hence the recognition that God is ‘our’ Father and not just ‘my’ Father. He does not belong to me but I belong to him and am in relationship with His other adopted children and His only Son. As Paul tells us,

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.” (Ephesians 3:14-15)

 Although God has such a large family there is no danger of us being overlooked or of our prayers being lost or ignored. Each person is loved fully and completely, no one is unobserved and not one of them is insignificant.

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29-31)

 Response:
Cherish the name Father as you think of God. Say it aloud and pause to wonder at the awesome privilege conferred upon you – to be able to call Almighty God “Father.”

Prayer:

Our Father’, it says so much about You and so much about me as well. Please help me to always cherish and rejoice in our relationship, and may it deepen and grow every day. Amen.

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You will be ‘very good’

“He who began a good work in you
will carry it on to completion
until the day of Christ Jesus.”
(Philippians 1:6)

Reflection:
Whatever may be happening – or not happening – in your life at the moment one thing is certain. God is at work. What He started in our salvation He will continue developing until it is completed. He will not cease until He can look into us and say with satisfaction “It is very good.”

The true quality of our life is not measured by what is happening around us or to us. It is what is happening within us that is vital. We will not always be aware of it – and sometimes will feel that we are not making progress. But that itself is an indication that God is at work and has effected some change within. As uncomfortable as it might be it is a step forward. He will be preparing the next one for us, and us for it.

In our life there will be some easy paths and some difficult challenges. All will lead us onwards and will be used by God to build us and to grow us in our relationship with and trust of Him. To trust in the Lord is to trust Him with every aspect of our lives all the time.

“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)

In many ways we are still spiritual infants. Like a good parent God will guide us forward into and through the different stages of growth and development. He will be with us in all the times of success and failure, sickness and health, sadness and joy, despair and faith.  Having called us He will never desert us – even when we prove difficult! He has invested Himself in us, nothing can separate us from Him and His love, and He will work in all things for good in our lives as His children.

He is with you now. Hold on to Him, persevere with Him and trust Him in all things.

Response:
Trust is a decision, take it. A mustard seed of faith is enough for a great God.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, thank You so much for what You have already done in my life, and for Your most wonderful sacrifice on the cross. Please help me to trust You more and more – knowing that You have not finished Your work in me yet, but that You will. Amen.

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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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It could be me

2016.07.12

“Go and do likewise.”
(Luke 10:37)

Reflection:
A teacher of the law had tried to test Jesus with the question, “Who is my neighbour?” In response Jesus had told the story of The Good Samaritan where a man on his way to Jericho had been attacked by robbers and left bleeding and naked on the road. A priest and a Levite had come along and both had ignored him. Instead it was a despised Samaritan who stopped and helped the man.

Jesus point was that our neighbour is anyone we meet along the road of life – and the commandment is that we should love them as we love ourselves.

The Lord revealed an important truth to me recently after hearing a sermon on this parable. It was this –

“It is far easier to be the one who helps than the one who needs help.”

It is worth bearing this in mind as we come across people who are in need of assistance.  Not only may they not have the ability to help themselves at that point but may also be suffering the pain and indignities of their situation. We would not wish to change places with them.

Response:
Be grateful for being the one able to help

Prayer:

Lord, please help me to do what I need to with a generous heart and a willing spirit. Amen.

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More Salt

2016.06.27

“You are the salt of the earth”
(Matthew 5:13)

Reflection:
So many foods taste that much better after the application of some salt. Tomato wedges, hard-boiled eggs and soups – to name only three – are just not the same without salt. Very often in the home or eating out we will hear the request, “Please pass the salt.”

One of the meanings that Jesus wishes us to understand in His teaching is that Christians are to be like salt in the lives of those around them – adding flavour to their lives, helping release and bring out the flavour in their lives and helping people to find purpose and quality in their lives. So many lives could do with more salt!

The world seems to embrace the attitude ‘take as much as you can, wherever you can, for as long as you can’ without being too concerned about the effect that this has on others. Jesus approach was patently different – He came to serve, not to be served by the world. Wherever we find Him in the Gospels someone is normally being helped in some way – even on the cross.

Wherever we are we can add flavour to somebody’s life – by being more friendly, more considerate, more helpful, more interested, more understanding and less hasty, critical and judgemental. It does make a difference, even if we do not see it at the time. And in a strange way, as we become saltier, more people will be attracted to us and want some of our salt in their lives.

Response:
Be intentional – Pass the salt around

Prayer:

Lord as I have received Your Salt in my life help me to spread some of it in the lives of those around me. Amen.

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(Image: preachersinstitute)