Fragrant Followers

“But thanks be to God,
who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ
and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance
of the knowledge of him.”
(2 Corinthians 2:14)

 

Reflection:
Many years ago, as a young teenager, I was out with the rest of the boys in my form on a class picnic. In those days the only odour that meant anything to me was the delicious smell of a Sunday roast drifting out from the kitchen.  However coming down the side of the mountain I encountered a fragrance that stopped me in my tracks. Try as I might I could not find it again but its exquisite beauty was something that I have never forgotten.

Years later when I was reflecting on my journey of faith the Lord brought that incident to mind. He revealed to me that the fragrance was of Him as He passed by me – His intention being that He could later show me that even then He knew me and was calling me to Him.

Whenever I read the verse above I am reminded of that incredibly special moment. It seems to me that as Christians following in the triumphal footsteps of our great Lord we should bring to those around us a sense of that same beauty. There should be something so special attached to us in our being and our journey of life that it causes them to pause and try to identify what it is.

As disciples of our Lord, children of the heavenly Father and temples of the Holy Spirit there is every opportunity for the beauty of the Lord to colour our lives and to shine through them. It is not that we are special – but that the One who is with us and within us is.

Allow yourself to feed on the beauty of the love and grace of our Lord. Be conscious of Him as you live through your days – and seek to do everything as an offering to Him. Wherever possible leave behind you that gracious sense of peace and blessing which comes from our God who is with you.

Response:
Cover your life and your day with prayer – pray a blessing on each person and situation that you encounter, and on everything that you do.

Prayer:

Father how greatly You have blessed me – help me to be a blessing to others as well. Amen.

————–

 

Advertisements

Forgiving Others

“But I tell you: Love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you”
(Matthew 5:44)

 Reflection:
Jesus instruction for us to love our enemies is a great challenge. Our normal reaction is to do anything but that. However, His words and life leave us in no doubt.

There are three very good reasons for us to hear what Christ teaches us. Firstly, we were once ourselves “God’s enemies” and He reached out to us in forgiveness and love, so that we could be reconciled to Him and enjoy the blessings of His eternal love. Secondly, God loves the people who might fall into the category of enemy to us and would want us to love them for His sake and out of our love for Him – even if we are offended by their actions.  And thirdly, for as long as we do not forgive the anger and pain live like an open sore within us, eating away at our life and peace and relationship with the Lord. Forgiveness can be a great healing for us as well and sets us free from the influence of the perpetrators.

There will be many who have been terribly hurt or harmed through the violent or careless actions of others. For them forgiving and loving their enemies may be a longer and more difficult road to walk. The most important thing is then to openly acknowledge our emotions and reactions to the Lord. Ask for His healing and strength within to enable us to begin responding more fully to His command. As we do so our own inner healing will begin to be liberated. On this journey of forgiveness it will help if, every time our emotions rebel at the memory, we say deliberately and even out loud “In Jesus Name I forgive ….”

Never think for a moment that in this God is implying that our pain does not matter. It matters to Him very much but He does not want it to cripple and destroy our lives and relationship with Him. When we forgive we are placing the matter back in God’s hands for Him to deal with – which He will.

The best response that we can all make towards our enemies is, as Jesus taught, to pray for them. It is what He did – even from the cross. To pray that God will bless them with love, and healing and truth. Then we need to pray for ourselves, that we will decide to forgive them and, with God’s help, not stoke the fires of hurt and anger within us. We also need the love and healing of our Father – and can ask for it.

Response:
Don’t hold on to hurt. Pray it out. Speak to a counsellor if necessary.

Prayer:

Father You have forgiven me so much, and never stopped loving me. Please help me to be more prepared to forgive and to love others – for the sake of Jesus who died for us all. Amen.

———————–

 

 

Love Lavished

“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)

 

Reflection:
God has made a covenant with us. No one made Him do it – He committed Himself because He wished to. He reached out because He wanted us – you, and me and them. This was not the craving of acquisition and hoarding – it was and is His great desire founded upon His deep and everlasting love. So powerful is this love that He does two amazing things.

  • He removes the barrier between Him and us in the great sacrifice for sin of Jesus Christ
  • He offers us the freedom to become His sons and daughters – not just second-rate children but ‘co-heirs with Christ’ of all that He has.

It is small wonder then that John, the beloved apostle, should marvel as he does,

“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!”

There can be no possible doubt about this for at the beginning of his gospel John proclaims,

“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)

To be a child of God – His son, His daughter – what an amazing privilege, what an unsought and unimaginable blessing, what an enormous and incalculable sacrifice – what love!

Response:
Take time today and through the weekend to contemplate, unpack and savour these great truths for yourself. Begin to own them.

Prayer:

Lord open my spirit and my heart to the wonders of Your great love – for me and for all humankind. Help me “ to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that (I) may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:18-19)

—————————-

 

Set Free

“Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic,
“Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”
(Matthew 9:2)

 

Reflection:
Not all paralysis is caused by the sin of the person. However sin can paralyse us in certain ways and in some areas of our lives. Anyone who is in bondage to a way of life, a way of thinking and a way of acting may find themselves unable or unwilling to change into a different and better way.

The first step towards healing is to recognise the problem and the second is to do something about it. Many people would love to be healed but are not really willing to go through the process or to abandon their relationship with the problem itself – which may have become their escape route from emotional pain. Some receive healing but fall back again. They may either give up or go through a period of despair, self-loathing and fear of the displeasure of God before re-trying.

There is absolutely no doubt that God wants us to be set free and is prepared to help us. Jesus first words to the paralysed man are filled with compassion, life and love. He did not belittle or condemn him, but said,

“Take heart, son.”

He then freely forgave him and offered him healing.

“Your sins are forgiven ……
Get up, take your mat and go home.”

The ball was now in the man’s court. He had to respond by getting up off the ground. The story does not go further but, in effect, the man would have to keep doing the same thing every day. He would have to stand up and walk in newness of life. He could no longer rely on others to cart him about or to provide for him. He was free now to live life himself, and to take responsibility for himself, if he would.

For many of us the process is rather like a child learning to walk. We try and fall a number of times before we begin to stay on our feet. Then we can find that not only are we walking in a new way but running and dancing with a wonderful and glorious freedom in areas and ways that we would never have believed to be possible. It is all because of the love of God, the salvation in Jesus and the help of the Holy Spirit.

We need God if we are going to be set free – for our strength and will are often inadequate. We may need others as well – just as this man needed his friends – to help, encourage and support us along the way. We may even need the professional help of those gifted and with experience in our areas. However more than anyone else we need the Lord. The one Who says to us, and does so as many times as is necessary,

“Take heart, your sins are forgiven, get up and walk”

It is His power that enables us to respond to His words.

Response:
Ask God to show you where you may need healing. Ask Him for forgiveness and help. If you fall don’t give up – go back to the Lord!

Prayer:

Lord, please forgive me, heal me and help me. Please renew my vision, strengthen my faith and give me the courage to carry on with You in newness of life. Amen.

——————-

 

The Complete Prayer

The Lord's Prayer

Reflection:
The Lord’s Prayer, taught by Jesus to His disciples, is not the only prayer that we can pray to God. Jesus Himself prayed in different ways and with different words on occasion. We can see this in His great prayer recorded in John 17, as well as in His heartfelt prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane just before His arrest, trial and crucifixion.

However, in its pattern and content it is the most complete prayer possible, and helps us to keep our focus and balance. It prevents us from becoming totally self–centred and crisis pray-ers. It is addressed to the Father and the first three requests focus on Him – His honour, His kingdom and His will and purpose. Only then do we turn to the specifics of our own situations and our general and particular needs.

Being the prayer that Jesus gave us it is therefore, unquestionably, a prayer that God would want to hear and to answer. It is also a prayer to use when in doubt about what to ask of God, and it can be adapted to any situation and circumstance. For example, when praying for a person (including yourself) it can be used as follows:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name – in Joe
Your Kingdom come, – in Joe
your will be done, – in Joe
on earth as in heaven
Give (Joe) today (his) daily bread.
Forgive (Joe his) sins,
as (Joe) forgives those who sin against (him).
Lead (Joe) not into temptation,
but deliver (Joe) from evil.
For the kingdom,
the power and the glory are yours.
Now and for ever.
Amen

 

  It is a wonderful prayer for parents to use for their children, and god-parents for their god-children. It can be used for people, churches, institutions, cities and countries. In its unadapted form it should be the prayer of every church and every Christian believer both morning and evening –at least.

Response:
Pray it meaningfully – focussing intentionally on a different request every day, to deepen your awareness and understanding. Savour it and enjoy it’s completeness.

Prayer:

Lord, please help me to live Your prayer. Amen.

 ——————–

 

Yours is the Glory

“For yours is the kingdom, the power
and the glory, forever.
Amen.”

Reflection:
This ending appears to have been added to the Lord’s Prayer at a later stage. It is such a glorious acknowledgement of God that it has remained.

It summarises the great words of praise attributed to King David.

“David praised the LORD in the presence of the whole assembly, saying, “Praise be to you, O LORD, God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendour, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honour come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.”
(1 Chronicles 29:10-13)

Above everything else we are reminded that

  • The Lord God Almighty is the one and only supreme ruler – there is no other
  • All power belongs to God. No one and nothing can stand in the way of His will
  • To God alone belongs all and any honour and glory – it is so great and overwhelming that all must bow before Him in awe and worship.

“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:1-8)

We must never forget the glory and holiness of  our Lord God, the Almighty and Everlasting One.

Response:
Worship God by word and life for the wonder and glory that is His.

Prayer:

Heavenly God, Creator and Sustainer, Redeemer and Saviour, Father and Friend, open my eyes to more of the Truth that is You – and draw me deeper and deeper into Your love and service. Amen.

—————————–

 

Deliver us!

“Lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.”
 (Matthew 6:13)

Reflection:
There is an acknowledgement in this prayer, given to us by Jesus, that evil is a reality – and that it stems from the ‘evil one’ himself. Fallen humankind has become very open to temptation whilst the way of the Lord is to resist it because we have a different and higher vision. On the road of Life along which the Lord will lead us we will encounter many trials and temptations. He does not cause them – in fact many will be of our own making – but can use them to strengthen and teach us as well as show us more of His love, power and faithfulness. The prayer commences with an acknowledgement of our weakness in asking that He leads us along paths where the temptations will not be too great for us in our present state of life and faith.

 Jesus experienced for Himself the reality of the devil’s attacks in the temptations that He underwent in the desert at the beginning of His ministry. He also faced them during His ministry as they came through others and as He prayed and suffered in Gethsemane. He confronted their reality too in people from whom He cast out evil spirits.

 Scripture gives us one of the reasons for Jesus coming to earth,

 “He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” (1 John 3:8)

 The early church warned believers to be aware of the devil.

  •  “Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” (Ephesians 6:11)
  • “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” (1 Peter 5:8-9)

 The Christian is drawn into the conflict that exists as the devil tries to inflict harm on God by attacking His people and leading them astray – not only into obvious sins but also into doubt and confusion.

 As believers we are equipped with the Bible – the Word of God – which we should know so well that we will immediately recognise what is counterfeit or contrary to its teachings and revelation. We have been blessed with the Holy Spirit of God Who lives within us. We believe in the Messiah Who has defeated the enemy and will come again to finally destroy him. We are thus enabled to Recognise that the devil is at work in the world, to Refuse to accept the thoughts that he gives us, and to Resist his efforts to draw us off the Way of God.

 In our own power we are not up to it. But in the faith and power of God we can stand firm. If and when we do fall we must remember that Jesus stoops beside us – not to belittle us as we lie face down in the mud but, even at that very moment, to deliver us from evil, to encourage us, and help us to stand again and ‘have another go at Life!’

 Praise be to our glorious, loving and gracious Saviour!

Response:
 Never give up believing and trusting in Jesus our Saviour.

Prayer:

Father, deliver me from evil – today, tomorrow and every day – when I stand and when I fall; for Jesus sake. Amen.

 ———————-—