Check your Vision

“God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles
the glorious riches of this mystery, which is
Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
(Colossians 1:27)

Reflection:
Christian lives can feel less like that of a soaring eagle and more like being constantly attacked by little black crows. They can irritate us, distract us from our identity and purpose, and even make us sound like them with snappy caws! The temptation is to stay on their level and focus on fighting them, instead of rising powerfully to heights that are beyond them.

Of course they will always be around somewhere. However, our calling is not to concentrate on resisting or fighting them, but to look and live above and beyond them – always moving forward, always drawing closer to the Lord, always crowding sin and temptation out of our lives by the presence of God and the goodness, beauty and activity into which He calls us.

The first step is to remember that God is not ‘out there’ somewhere. He is within His sons and daughters. He loves us, draws us and transforms us from the inside. Our salvation, in the form of our Saviour, has come from without and enters into those who receive Him. God the Holy Spirit has come to dwell within us. We are the people of God not just because we follow Him but because He has entered into us and expresses Himself through us.

Being God’s people means that our focus must always be above the things of the world and on the God and Saviour of the world. Look again at the words that Paul uses – “the glorious riches” so different from the vindictive little black shadows that chase us; “Christ in you” – this is God of whom he is talking – His presence might be a mystery but it is certainly a reality; “The hope of glory” – our sure and certain hope is in the reality of this Christ within us.

You don’t become an eagle by fighting the crows. You soar with God to where the little black shadows can’t go. Cleansed by His blood, with His Spirit within you, the presence of God is where you belong. Focus on Him and trust in the certainty of His love, His provision and His protection. Don’t let sin drag you down, but allow God to lift you up. Trust Him, He will do it. Remember always that although we are physically limited there is no limit to the height to which our spirits can go with the Lord.

Response:
Confess sin, and keep pressing into God.

Prayer:

Father, sometimes I feel as if I am dragging myself through the dust and dirt. Please help me to look from myself to You, and allow Your smile and love to lift me up again and again. Amen.

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Choose the right clothes

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved,
clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness,
humility, gentleness and patience.”
(Colossians 3:12)

Reflection:
We are God’s chosen people! We are not beggars tagging along behind His cavalcade, hoping to scavenge some of the left-overs. We are there in the midst of His people, personally selected and called,

  • “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you.”  (John 15:16)
  • “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”   (Romans 8:29-30)

As God’s chosen people, His sons and His daughters, we are “dearly loved”, loved to the full extent of Christ’s enormous sacrifice – and even more if that were possible. There is nothing lacking in God’s great love for us. Having called us to Himself we are made holy by and through our association with Him, and because we are now, spiritually, in Christ and He in us. We have been set apart by God, for God, for eternity. We are His.

Paul urges us to see this more clearly, to recognise and accept our new identity and relationship, and to clothe ourselves accordingly. As we are now a part of Christ, members of His body, we can relate to and more fully acquire the things that characterise Him. So we can reach out, take hold of, and make these characteristics a part of our own lives because they are so much a part of His – “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” They are not to be merely superficial ornaments, like decorations on a Christmas tree, but deeply embedded in our lives. To make the point other translations say,

  • “Put on therefore, as God’s elect, holy and beloved, a heart of compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, longsuffering…” (ASV)
  • “So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline…” (MSG)

Because we are God’s, and may rest secure in that knowledge, we can be less worried about ourselves and more concerned about the lives of others. We have something of great value to share – the love and peace of God Himself, in and through Jesus Christ.

Response:
They are not just words to read but steps to take. Dress yourself properly, and consciously, now and every day. Do not let anyone, or anything, undress you! Not even your own sins or insecurities – they are not you!

Prayer:

Loving Father, please help me to leave behind the garments of insecurity and selfishness, and to put on those of love, peace and blessing – in Jesus name, Amen.

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Living gracefully

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed,
do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
(Colossians 3:17)

Reflection:
Thinking and praying about my sermon for a funeral service I was again reminded of the awesome privilege of being allowed into people lives, and to minister, on such occasions. I was also very aware that what everyone needed was not my ministry but that of the Lord – both through and around me.

For the Christian, every moment, every deed and every relationship – no matter how casual – is a ministry opportunity. It is an opportunity for us to show how intentionally we live for the Lord and, therefore, do our best as if it were an offering to Him. It is also an opportunity for Him to reach from us into the lives and needs, very often hidden, of those around us. To do something in Jesus name is to do it on His behalf and in His way, and in the belief that the Holy Spirit will guide, empower and bless it and the people involved.

Paul highlights this when he says, “whatever you do…do it all in the name of the Lord ..” He does not use words lightly, so his “whatever” means whatever and his “all” means all – not just funerals. It is very challenging to think through and yet, if our love for the Lord is real, then it should be a far more natural approach. It is also one way of showing our understanding of what He has done for us, and our appreciation of the tremendous sacrifice that was involved.

So, from washing dishes to leading the affairs of state,

“whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Response:
Examine today and plan tomorrow with this in mind.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, You have done so much to glorify God and to bless me. Please help me to live as a blessing to You and to others, Amen.  

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Uncover your treasure

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field.
When a man found it, he hid it again,
and then in his joy went and sold all he had
and bought that field”
(Matthew 13:44)

Reflection:
Hidden somewhere in the darkness of a fallen world is a glorious treasure. He knows that it is there and He knows that He wants it – but to all intents and purposes it is dead and buried to Him. Separated from the Vine of Life it has withered and died – but still He wants it for He knows that He can cleanse it, heal it, and give it new life as He restores it to its place in Him.

So He came to seek and to find, to save and to redeem, to restore and to cherish, to transform with a new Spirit into a new Life and Love. And He found it – and having found it He gave everything that He had so that He might own and possess it. He gave His life, He gave His future and He gave His divine inheritance.

We are that treasure – individually and collectively. We are His beloved, created to be like Him and for Him. We are the children of the Father, the bride of the Son and the temples of the Holy Spirit. We are the focus of His love, the recipients of His grace and the reflection of His beauty. And if we have not yet seen it in ourselves it is because we have yet to truly see it in Him for we can only love because He first loved us. He can only be our treasure when we have discovered that we are His. We can only seek first the kingdom of God when we appreciate that He has first sought and found us.

Having discovered this for himself Paul would first exclaim and then pray,

  • “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ .. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection” (Philippians 3:8-10)
  • “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:14-19)

You are not what the world makes you – in Christ you are a child of the Most High God.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine”

(Isaiah 43:1)

Response:
Buried within you is a great truth. Dwell on God’s love and word – until it resonates within you.

Prayer:

Father I so want to know more of Your love and light and life – help me please to receive what You have for me and to treasure it even as You treasure me. Amen.

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My True Value

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls.
When he found one of great value,
he went away and sold everything he had and bought it”

(Matthew 13:45-46)

 

Reflection:
Jesus portrays Himself as another searcher. Here He wants us to see three things.

One is that we are, individually and together, the pearl of great value. To have this pearl He is prepared to give everything that He has, even – as we know – His own life. We need to reflect on our value in His eyes, as He sees us not just as we are now but as we can and will be when transformed by His love and care. Indeed He might well ask, ‘When will you begin to believe how much I love you – and how precious you are to Me?”

Another insight is gained when we consider the parable from the point of view of ourselves as the searcher. What am I looking for in my life – in what am I investing my time, effort and wealth? It is not necessarily answered by what we would say but in the way we live and what it reveals about our ‘treasures.’  The contents of our homes, the things we wear, the cars we drive, the work we do and the hours we spend on work and other activities tell a real story of the person involved and of our priorities. To what end are we devoting our life?

The third insight is gained when we look at the people around us. Each one of them is pursuing something – whether they have consciously identified it or not. What would it take for them to be able to identify and if necessary realign their focus whilst they can? There is the devastating story of the man who said that he had spent all his life striving to get to the top of the ladder – only to eventually find that it was leaning against the wrong wall!  Do they see anything different in me?

Jesus great teaching on life was that we should not have the things of this world as our priority for, after all, they will have no value when we leave it. Instead, He says,

  • “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”  (Matthew 6:19-21)
  • “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well”  (Matthew 6:33)

Response:
Live for eternity – and let your life be a witness to others

Prayer:

Forgive me Lord where I focus on myself and this life and become careless of others and the next life. Help me please to have my heart where the true treasure lies – and not to miss out through being world-wise. Amen.

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Home Awaits

“I will set out and go back to my father and say to him:
 Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you”
(Luke 15:18)

 

Reflection:
We may call Jesus Saviour and Lord but that does not mean that all areas of our lives are in submission to Him. This becomes a process that takes place over time as we journey with Him. We may be aware of some of these areas whilst others may appear on the way and take us by surprise. As long as they remain independent they will hinder our life with the Lord and prevent us from enjoying the fullness of the life that He has for us.

The prodigal son’s whole life had imploded on him and this is what eventually brought him to his senses. In his spiritual shame and isolation he did the only thing left open to him – he went home. There to his astonishment and delight he was welcomed, embraced and celebrated. The healing had begun.

When we realise that there are parts of our own lives that are distant from the Lord the most important response is for us to pick them up and take them back to God. This is where they belong and this is where the healing and restoration can happen. The longer we try and cope or fix them by ourselves the more difficult it may become.  As we take them to God we meet His love, His acceptance of us, His embracing and supporting arms, and His strength and help.

It might happen that in parts of our lives we keep wandering off again – pursuing some pleasure or giving in to some weakness. If this is the case and as soon as we are aware of it we need to go back with it to the Lord and ask Him for His forgiveness, healing and strength. Keep going home until you never leave again. This is not an invitation to become casual in our life with the Lord but an acknowledgement that some battles are harder and longer than others, for a whole variety of reasons.

Your home is in the Lord. Your forgiveness and healing is in the Lord. Your life and fulfilment is in the Lord. Bring all of yourself to Him all of the time – He will never reject you.

And now realise too that you are surrounded by people whose lives, or a part of whose lives, are distant from God. Some of them will feel isolated from Him whilst others will have no sense of Him at all. Inside each one of them somewhere is a lonely son or daughter who also needs love and encouragement as well as help. It might be that you are their only link at this time. Ask God to point out to you the one/s He wishes to reach and start by holding them faithfully in your prayers – asking for God’s light and blessing in their lives.

Response:
Have I any desert areas? Take them to the Lord now.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus I come to You as I am and ask You particularly to forgive, heal and set me free in these  areas of my life ……  Please accept them and bring them under Your Lordship and authority, for Your glory.  Amen.

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Found it!

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbours together and says, `Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
(Luke 15:8-10)

Reflection:
A great Jewish scholar reportedly said that the one absolutely new thing which Jesus taught people about God was that He actually searched for people. (William Barclay). And we see it so clearly in these two parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin.

It may be that this coin was one of ten that made up the woman’s wedding headdress and would be almost the equivalent of a wedding ring. To lose one would be like losing a diamond today from such a ring and the missing jewel would be a constant source of shame and pain.

There are similar examples in Scripture. On Aaron’s priestly breastplate there were twelve precious stones, each one engraved with the name of one of the twelve tribes. If one had been lost it would have been seen as a disaster. Much later Paul talks of the Thessalonians as being the crown in which he will glory in the presence of the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 2:19) If they were lost to the Lord Paul would have almost felt as if his value had disappeared.

Not only does God search for people but He values them as highly as a woman does her wedding ring, a high priest one of the twelve tribe he represents before the Lord, and an apostle his crowning achievement.

As we begin to recognise our great worth in the eyes of God so it should open our eyes to the value in His sight of those around us. They might seem to us, at best, like unpolished stones living dull, empty and valueless lives – but what a difference if they were properly cut and polished so that their potential beauty and value could shine forth. And that again is where we come in. As we discover our own true worth before the Lord can we fail to help others to discern the beauty and value they thought had been lost and to find it also in God?

Response:
Look for the beauty and potential in others – and encourage it.

Prayer:

Lord You are enabling me to find my true life and fulfilment in You – please help me to be a blessing to others in the same way. Amen.

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