Priority 101

“I urge, then, first of all,
that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving
be made for everyone
— for kings and all those in authority,
that we may live peaceful and quiet lives
in all godliness and holiness.”

(Timothy 2:1-2)

Reflection:
Whatever the reason for the world being in the state that it is, there is an enormous burden of responsibility resting upon the shoulders of the present national leaders. From global warming to fragile economies to internal unrest and ongoing wars, coupled with a seeming deterioration in honesty and integrity, nothing appears to be simple. For better or for worse these are the men and women who will influence the lives of millions over the next few years.

It is no wonder that Paul calls us to prayer, and to pray specifically for ‘all those in authority. The reason is simple, so that we all ‘may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.’ We know what they need – God’s help and direction, whether they are aware of it or not. Solomon prayed for wisdom so that he might govern and lead God’s people properly. His prayer pleased God who not only gave him such wisdom but many other blessings as well.

It is easy to bemoan the current state of affairs and to criticize the people in power. But, whether that criticism is justified or not, it will not change anything. Prayer might.

God has invited and instructed us to pray. The epistles call upon us to pray. Prayer asks God to be involved and to bring His will and wisdom to bear. Prayer tells God, and reminds us, that we need Him. Scripture records many instances where God has heard and responded to the prayers of His people. The world really needs it now – particularly as God seems to have been increasingly side-lined.

As Christians we are called to pray, and to pray intentionally that God’s will is done. We must not stop until it is.

Response:
Focus on some key leaders in your nation and church and pray for them every day – morning, noon and night. Pray that God will guide and lead them. Pray that they become believers. Ask others to join you.

Prayer:

Father, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven – in me, in my church, and in the leaders in our land. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

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A new day will dawn

“Now if we are children, then we are heirs
–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ”
 (Romans 8:17)

Reflection:
The glorious truth about our salvation is that we do not become ‘poor relations’ in our new identity as the sons and daughters of God. We become His heirs – in fact co-heirs with His great Son, the Lord Jesus.

This is beautifully illustrated by Jesus Himself in the account of the Prodigal Son. When the son returns to the Father in the rags of failure and rejection the Father calls for him to be re-clothed in the ‘best robe’.  That would be the Father’s own most special robe that He was giving to His son. It would also be a sign to everyone around that he had been completely accepted and restored.

Our inheritance will be to participate in and enjoy fully everything that belongs to the Father – all that He has and all that He will have, all that He has created and all that He will create, and all that is being prepared for us.

  • “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2)
  • “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)

We do not know the detail and extent of it all – we do know however that it will be a place and time of wonderful completeness, unending joy, perfect peace and glorious love. And we will forever be an integral part of all that the Father is doing.

No matter what our experiences in this life – the joys and pain, the successes and failures, the acceptance and rejection, the moral heights and the sin-obsessed depths, the laughter and the desolation – one thing is certain. As the children of God we have a glorious inheritance in Jesus Christ – and it begins right now as we accept and lay hold of the wonder of our new relationship with the Lord. For many it has been, and will be,  the great truth onto which they hold in the darkness.

Response:
Where we will be is better than where we are. The way we will be is better than the way we are.

Prayer:

Father thank you so much for Your great love that reaches down for us into the darkest depths – so that You can raise us to You in the highest heights. I hold on to You Lord. Amen.

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God at work in me

“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)

Reflection:
In this short sentence Paul sets out what for him are five unshakeable convictions. As we look at them we can begin to see their importance as foundations to our own believing, thinking and living.

They are:

  • God is at work in our lives – “God works”.

He is not a passive spectator but an actively involved God Almighty, whether or not we perceive it.

He is with us, in us and around us. As we saw yesterday He began a good work in our lives and will carry it on to completion.

  • God works for our good – “God works for the good”.

It is unthinkable that the God who sacrificed His Son for us would then work to harm His people or ignore them. From whatever happens in our lives God is able to bring a blessing.

  • God works in all things – “in all things God works”.

Not just some things but in all things. Even where we get things wrong and fail miserably God will still be at work – not least in encouraging and helping us to get up and have another go at life! And when we sin, and battle with sin, God is still able to use it as an opportunity to work in something valuable that will amaze us – particularly relating to His love for us.

  • God does this for those who love Him – “for the good of those who love Him.”

This love, as Scripture tells us, is expressed in our obedience to Jesus commands (John 14:21). By doing this we open the door for God to express Himself in and through our lives. Where we don’t we keep Him at a distance. God does not wait for perfection on our part – the first stirrings of love and obedience within us draws God closer, seeking to help, strengthen, comfort and bless us.

  • God works His purpose in our lives – “who have been called according to His purpose.”

He has a purpose for us (Ephesians 2:10) and it fits in with His will being done ‘on earth as it is in heaven.’ In His purposes our lives are planned to be significant. For this He gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit and the spiritual gifts that we will need.

 Wherever we happen to be – physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally – God is with us. As we turn to Him in the prayer that acknowledges Him, in the love that seeks to live His way and in the faith that might even be as ‘small as a mustard seed’ we open ourselves to His working in and through us. Whatever may be happening around us God is building something in our lives and the lives of His people. Trust Him!

Response:
Learn the verse and the five convictions. Ask God to help you believe and live their truth.

Prayer:

Father Your word ‘will not return to You empty but will accomplish what You desire and achieve the purpose for which You sent it.’ Help me to take this word of Yours into my life, in Jesus name. 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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Share a Smile

“Remember this:
Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly,
and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.”
(2 Corinthians 9:6)

Reflection:
We are sowing all the time. At every moment and in every situation we are distributing something into our contexts and into the lives of others. It flows from our expressions, our words, our attitudes, our actions and our reactions. There is not one of us, whether introvert or extrovert, of whom this is not true.

As we realise this we come to see also that we have a choice with regard to what is sown. It can be positive or negative, helpful or unhelpful, encouraging or discouraging, up-building or degrading. We also have a choice as to how much we sow – minute quantities, sparingly or lavishly – and whether we so do willingly or unwillingly.

Years ago as I walked past the public Library gardens on my way to work I often met a man walking across my path. He was a fairly large man with a round and generally smiling face and, as he walked, he sang out loud in a resonating bass voice. I did not understand the words which were not in English but the song, and the beaming joy with which it was sung, was a wonderful blessing bringing smiles to the faces of almost everyone who met him. What a gift it was!

We all have within us the ability and the wherewithal to sow some blessing and encouragement into the lives of those around us. In a world in which the focus is turning increasingly inwards all it takes is the decision to be aware of others and – even for a day – to decide to seek ways of giving a blessing rather than looking for one ourselves. The wonderful thing is that so often sowing kindness brings it back again in some way – even in an immediate smile on the face of the recipient.

Cultivate the habit of sowing love, light and life in your situation. It can change lives – including your own.

Response:
Look – listen to the expressions of others – do something.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus You blessed the lives of so many people. Help me to do the same and to be excited about it. Amen.

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Forgiven for yesterday, today and tomorrow

“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.”
(Colossians 2:13-14)

Reflection:
Paul has a way with words! There was a time when we were both dead and dying because of sin and our sins. Like the uncircumcised person we were spiritually unclean and seen to be outside the provisions and scope of the covenant. There was nothing we could do to alter this state – it was as if we carried within us a written conviction and sentence of death. Then God did something – Jesus Christ came and took into Himself our sin, our sins and our conviction and sentence, and went to death on our behalf. The sentence has been paid and, when accepted, our sins can no longer be held against us in God’s judgement court – “He forgave all our sins.”

As believers we no longer live under the law, we live in the grace of God – we live in forgiveness as those who have been forgiven, even in advance. Instead of facing death we have entered into life. That is not a mandate for us to live carelessly or to indulge ourselves in sin – that can never be acceptable when we look at the terrible cost to God of our forgiveness. It does, however, mean that when we do sin we can go to the Father and ask for forgiveness, a forgiveness that has already been achieved for us. But let us never forget that it is ‘the blood of Jesus’ that ‘purifies us from all sin,’

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 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 1:7-9)

Although this amazing grace is extended and available to all people it is not a blanket provision acquired by all. It is a gift to be recognised, accepted, treasured and received. Those who reject the gift, reject God. Those who reject God reject the gift. Those who believe and put their faith and trust in the Saviour enter into the grace and love of God, as His sons and daughters, for eternity.

As believing Christians, no matter how difficult we find it to live pure and holy and faithful lives, the grace of God and the blood of Jesus have purified and continue to purify us. When we live in the grace of God we live in forgiveness, and in the new life and relationship that He has given to us. How wonderful is that! Learn to live in it every day – you are made right with God!

Response:
Acknowledge and accept the truth.

Prayer:

Thank You so much Father for Your wonderful love and grace. Please help me to believe, accept and live in it every day – for Jesus sake, Amen.

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Bless You

“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult,
but with blessing,
 because to this you were called
so that you may inherit a blessing.”
(1 Peter 3:9)

Reflection:
There is something in us that wants to rise up and strike back when we are hurt or offended. It can churn within us and stimulate our imaginations and actions. Long after the incident has happened it can still rankle, stirring up visions of retaliation and imaginary conversations in which we are the victors. 

Then Jesus appears with a different model and teaching. He tells us to forgive, not to judge, to love our enemies, to turn the other cheek, to give. He even sets the standard at the level of God’s forgiveness and indicates that if we set a different level it can act as a barrier to our receiving from God. He takes His own teaching to the cross where He prays repeatedly for those who are crucifying Him, ‘Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Lk 23:34)

Peter is picking up on that, having himself experienced the fullness of Christ’s forgiveness after the agony of his betrayal. Instead of being castigated, and cast off, he was forgiven and reinstated. Not only was he healed and restored, but he was taken to another level of love and acceptance in the process.

Just as Christ came to reconcile us to the Father, so He has given to us the ministry of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18). An important aspect of this ministry will be found in our attitude and reaction to other people. We are called to repay insult and evil with a blessing – in fact, in all things to bless and at all times to be a blessing. On occasion it may be extremely difficult – and we may need to own the pain inside us as our pain and not seek to inflict it back onto the other. Vengeance belongs to God not to us.

We are the Good News people, and it is possible because we have been blessed. The more we understand and receive the blessing and love of God, the more we will be free to pass it on to others. Having the security of God’s love and blessing we will not need to seek it from anyone else. This was the security that Jesus had and which was affirmed at His baptism.

“You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”(Luke 3:22)

It is also the blessing that we have – if we will believe it!

Response:
Ask God to make you aware of His blessing in your life. Look to where you need to bless others, especially those close to you.

Prayer:

Father, Please help me to be a blessing this week – in all that I think and say and do. Amen.

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