I need help

“On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning,
with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast.
Everyone in the camp trembled”
 (Exodus 19:16)

Reflection:
When the Lord descended onto Mount Sinai to meet with Moses He did so in such a way that the people were terrified. They said to Moses,

“Speak to us yourself and we will listen.
But do not have God speak to us or we will die”
(Exodus 20:19)

This response stands in stark contrast to their reaction when the Lord led them out of Egypt.

“By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud
to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire
to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night”

(Exodus 13:21)

In the same way the cloud of the Lord’s presence settled on the Tabernacle.

“On the day the tabernacle, the Tent of the Testimony, was set up,
the cloud covered it. From evening till morning
the cloud above the tabernacle looked like fire”

(Numbers 9:15)

At Sinai they were terrified but at other times the presence of the Lord in the cloud was a comfort and assurance of His presence.  It was also a guide for them as they moved when He moved and stayed when He stayed.

With the whole Christian Church we look ahead to next Sunday when we celebrate the Day of Pentecost. This is the day when the Lord, in fulfilment of His promise, gave to His people the great gift of the Holy Spirit. He came to be not just with us but to live within us, both collectively as the Body of Christ and individually as well.

This is the same God as the majestic and terrifying God of Sinai. However He now chooses to reveal Himself to us in a different way, a way in which He can work within us and through us – transforming us and reaching out to those around us in love, guidance and healing.

The Israelites could not have left Egypt and found their way to the Promised Land by themselves.  So too we cannot find our way out of the bondage of our own lives and into the place that the Lord has prepared for us. We need His help – His involvement, His guidance and His power. With it we need His forgiveness and His healing. This comes through the Holy Spirit who makes our union and relationship with the Lord real, and who gifts, guides and empowers us for the life which God calls us to lead.

Paul puts it clearly for us.

  • “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ” (Romans 8:9)
  • “those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God” (Romans 8:14)
  • “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:16)

Response:
Ask God to help you to open yourself to the Holy Spirit more and more.

Prayer:

Lord God, thank You for the wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit. Please help me to open myself to His presence, guidance and ministry so that He may be released in ever increasing ways in my life and living. Amen.

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What a Blessing

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

Reflection:
Paul’s prayer for us is not that we may know of certain things but that we may know them as true for ourselves. So He prayed that

  • We might know God better
  • We might know the Hope to which God has called us

Now he goes on to pray that we might know

  • The riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints
  • His incomparably great power for us who believe

His inheritance for us is that final inheritance of which the Holy Spirit is the guarantee (v14). Peter describes it as ‘imperishable, undefiled and unfading kept in heaven for you.’ (1 Peter 1:4) Paul also calls it both rich and glorious – finding words to describe that which is beyond our present capacity to see, to hear or to imagine.

As God children we are God’s heirs and fellow heirs with Christ. (Romans 8:17) One day by His grace this inheritance will be ours and it will include everything that God has and has planned and prepared for his beloved children – us. Transformed into the likeness of the Lord Jesus we will be enabled to see and worship God as He really is, in all His glory, majesty, power and love  – and to live in His presence forever, freed from the imperfections, pain and burdens of this fallen life.

Only God’s power can fulfil the expectations which belongs to His call, and bring us safely to the riches of the glory of the final inheritance He will give us. So Paul writes of

  • His incomparably great power for us who believe
  • The working of His mighty strength

The resurrection and the ascension were a decisive demonstration of this divine power. There are two powers man cannot control and which hold him in bondage – death and evil. In Christ God has conquered both – and so is more than able to protect, rescue, liberate and transform us too.

Lord God,
enlighten the eyes of my heart
so that I may know
the riches of our glorious inheritance
in the saints
and Your incomparably great power
for us who believe.

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Going Home

“This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven,
will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
(Acts 1:11)

Reflection:
Today the Church celebrates the ascension of Jesus Christ. It completes the journey of salvation that began with the Incarnation – when God in Christ entered into the world in a completely new and significant way. Having fulfilled God’s mission for Him in His death and resurrection Jesus ascension back to heaven and to ‘the right hand of God’ secures and seals for us all that He has done. Augustine put it like this,

“For unless the Saviour had ascended into heaven
His Nativity would have come to nothing
… and His Passion would have borne no fruit for us,
and His most holy Resurrection would have been useless.”

Indeed, if Jesus had not risen from the dead what hope would there be for us? And, likewise, if Jesus had not ‘ascended into heaven’ how could we hope that we would do so one day? Rather we see in the ascension the wonderful fulfilment of God’s promise that,

“so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11)

 The fact that He is now seated at the right hand of God indicates that His work of atonement has been completed. Seated there He continues to intercede for us as well as to prepare a place for us. (John 14:2). With His ascension He also opened the way for the promised Holy Spirit to come in a very real and significant way – which event we celebrate shortly at Pentecost.  And when God decides that the time is right Jesus will return to finally establish the Kingdom of God and for the final judgment.

 If Scripture teaches us one thing it is this – God can be trusted. Again and again He told His people what He would do, and He did it. Many did not live to see the complete fulfilment of His promise but they put their faith in Him – and it was not disappointed.

God has prepared a future and a place for us and it is there that we will find the true completeness, peace and fulfilment that we desire. Indeed it will be far greater and deeper, more beautiful and lovely, and more varied and extensive than we could ever grasp or imagine from where we are today.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”   (1 Corinthians 2:9)

Response:
And so our marching song as we journey onwards is this

Christ has died,
Christ has risen,
Christ will come again.

Prayer:

Lord I believe and trust in You. Please deepen and strengthen this faith in me every day, for Your Name’s sake. Amen.

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Hope that lives

“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”
(Ephesians 1:18)

Reflection:
God has called us to something and for something which is rich and varied. These are not merely words written on a page but promises from God for us to know, and in which to believe and place our hope and expectation. For above everything God calls us to Himself in and through the reality of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit – who are real gifts from this real God to us as real people in a real and fallen world.

We are called, for example,

  • “to belong to Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:6)
  • “into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9)
  • to be saints” (Romans 1:7)
  • “to be holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16)
  • “to be free” (Galatians 5:13)
  • “to peace” (Colossians 3:15)
  • “out of darkness into His wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9)

In fact we are called to an altogether new life in which we know, love, obey and serve Christ , enjoy fellowship with Him and with each other, and look beyond our present suffering to the glory which will one day be revealed. This is the hope to which God has called us. Paul prays that our eyes will be opened to know it.

Again if it was important enough for Paul to pray for on our behalf then it should form a part of our own prayers as well. We ask the Lord to turn these words from information into a transformation within us – from wishful thinking into a living hope and faith. We can with assurance pray,

Lord,
Enlighten the eyes of my heart
so that I may know
the Hope
to which
You have called me

Response:
Write this into your prayer diary and make it also a regular and ongoing prayer.

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More Please!

“For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice;
and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings”
(Hosea 6:6 KJV)

Reflection:
 Martin Lloyd-Jones put it like this – ‘Our supreme need is to know God.’ He was clearly not referring to a mere nodding acquaintance but, in view of the intimacy inferred in the word ‘know’, to know God well, to know Him deeply, to know Him truly, to know Him as He is revealed in His Word and, supremely, in and through Jesus Christ. For the Christ Himself said,

“Now this is eternal life:
that they may know you, the only true God,
and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent”
(John 17:3)

Although there is much in creation and in Scripture that can tell us about God the true and personal knowledge of God comes only through revelation. It is only through the witness of the Holy Spirit within us that we receive the full knowledge of the reality and intimacy of our own relationship with the Father – and with His Son and the Holy Spirit Himself.

In his great letter to the Ephesians Paul recognises this and gives us the basis and framework for our own prayers through the prayers that He prayed for us. With slight adjustment we may pray for ourselves as follows:

Almighty God and Glorious Father,
Give me by Your grace
the Spirit of wisdom and revelation
so that I may know You better.

It really needs to be our heart’s prayer every day – for the closer we get to God, the more we begin to identify and find the reality of His glory and love, and the closer we will long to get to Him.

Response:
Write it at the top of your prayer list. Breathe it in and out as you go through the day. Thank Him for the knowledge of Him that you already have.

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New Hearts

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

Reflection:

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?
 (Jeremiah 17:9)

David knew only too well how easy it was to follow ‘the devices and desires of our own hearts.’ So he asked the Lord not only for forgiveness but for a new understanding, commitment and strength. In doing so he was praying in line with the Lord’s own wisdom and promise:

  • “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)
  • “He purified their hearts by faith.” (Acts 15:9)
  • “For God is greater than our hearts.” (1 John 3:20)

We cannot love the Lord with all our heart in our own strength. We cannot love our neighbours as ourselves in our own strength. We cannot love one another as Jesus has loved us in our own strength. We cannot love our enemies in our own strength. We cannot obey the Lord’s commands in our own strength. We cannot be holy in our own strength. We are a fallen people – fallen in body, mind and spirit and with hearts focussed on ourselves and the things of this world.

David had it right. Forgiveness by itself is not enough. We need help and we need it in the central depths of our lives. We need God to give us a new heart and a new spirit. A heart filled with His love and a spirit more holy and powerful than the spirit of the fallen world and fallen nature within us. We need to be saved even from ourselves.

And so God has acted. He has given us His heart in Jesus and His Life in His Spirit. They are here for the asking and acceptance.

Response:
Don’t fight sin ans life’s challenges in your own strength. Turn to God and involve Him – as often and as much as it takes.

Prayer:

Father please give me Your Heart and Your Spirit. May they fill my life and set me free to love and live You with joy. Amen.

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Check your thought diet

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”
(Philippians 4:8)

Reflection:
If we are to respond positively to the commands to love, then the love needs to start within us. It cannot merely be confined to outward acts – 1 Corinthians 13 warns us of the consequences. Love begins to look out for the positive and beautiful aspects of life and living and focus on them. This is not artificial and an ignoring of the truth, but it is a refusal to merely dwell on weakness and ugliness when it is not helpful. There is beauty all around us, there are fine qualities in many people, including ourselves.

What Paul is really challenging us with is to allow the God-given beauty within us – the new and redeemed us, temples of the lovely Holy Spirit Himself – to begin to surface and take control of our thoughts. To give us a new focus, a fresh awareness, and a different perception of truth. In the process we will find an enhanced perception of the loveliness around us, and within others – even in the midst of the challenges and pain of life. And, if we are really open we may find God showing us things that He finds lovely and that delight Him.

What we feed on will affect the fruit that we produce. To give love, beauty, hope and blessing into the lives of others we must first receive them. No matter how dark the world may seem the light of Christ will always seek to encourage new life and growth.

Response:
There are enough armchair critics.  Check yourself and step out in a new way. This weekend look out for beauty and receive it as a gift.

Prayer:

Father, show me the beauty and the loveliness around me – and the things that are noble and praiseworthy – and help me to be blessed by them. In Jesus name, Amen.

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