Clear my darkness

“The light shines in the darkness,
but the darkness has not understood it”
(John 1:5)

Reflection:
In His earthly ministry Jesus was like a light in the darkness. He continues to shine into the world and through the lives of His faithful followers.

The Light is not fluttering feebly like a candle about to go out or a torch where its batteries are exhausted. The full Light of the fullness of Christ is shining from Him. It does not have to be cranked up to a higher pitch.  The problem is the darkness.

The darkness into which this Light shines has not understood it. Alternative translations say that the darkness had not apprehended it, comprehended it, overcome it or put it out. In whatever way the darkness has failed to receive it or react to it the Light is still the same and is still present and shining.

We can sometimes identify those who dwell in the darkness of sin and despair and have failed to recognise and receive the Light. We may also discern that those who reject the Light and argue that it does not exist have failed to extinguish the Light. In both cases the Light shines on unimpaired.

What is not so easy for us to appreciate is that we ourselves have areas of darkness within us where we have not responded adequately to the Light – and been bathed in its healing and life-giving properties. Much of the world in which we live and the context in which we were raised has affected us more than we appreciate. This is one of the reasons why Jesus told us not to be so quickly critical of the speck we see in the eyes of others when we still have a whole plank in our own eyes!

It is important for us to hold on to the fact that the Light of Christ is fully available to those who seek Him and His fullness in their lives. No matter how thick or extensive the darkness may seem at times it will never extinguish or control that Light – for two reasons. One is that Christ Himself is the Light and He has conquered death and the powers of evil. The second is that Christ is God and will simply not allow it.

Therefore the first question for each one of us is whether and to what extent we are walking in the Light and/or in the darkness. We do not have to find the Light – He is there all the time, wanting and waiting to enter more fully into all the rooms and areas of our lives.

Response:
Wherever I am with God I could be much closer

Prayer:

Lord help me to draw closer to You so that You may draw closer to me. May I be more open to You every day. Shine Your Light into me Lord in new ways to illuminate and clear away the cobwebs and the areas of darkness. Amen.

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Light in my life

 “I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life.”
(John 8:12)

Reflection:
This is one of the great “I ams ” of Jesus. It relates directly to the announcement by God of His Name to Moses – “I am.” It is a name that reveals absolute glory, majesty, power and authority. In it God is saying that He is without limit and can reveal Himself however He wishes. And here Jesus refers to Himself as ‘the Light of the world.”

It is significant that as God began to create – as the Holy Spirit was brooding over the darkness – the first thing for which He called was light. And so too in our lives, when darkness settles over the spirits of the individual and the community, our primary need is for the Light. On the one hand this is so that we will recognise the darkness that is stifling and subduing and slowly suffocating the life from us – and also begin to appreciate what it is and from whence it comes. However this is not enough. We also need to ‘see the Light’ that will reveal the way forward, free us from this bondage to decay and allow us to begin to truly live once more.

This solution is not more words, suggestions or encouraging advice. As wise as these may be there are nevertheless many areas and conditions in life from which we cannot or will not escape in our own strength. We all know this. This light that sets us free is in fact a Person – the Person and Presence in our lives and situations of the Lord Jesus Himself. That is why His great call is so encouraging and filled with hope. It is the call, not of a prophet, but of God Himself.

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest”
(Matthew 11:28)

Each one of us will be lugging forward a whole cluster of things that we would rather, or should rather, do without. We will also still be living within a context that did not magically change for the better with the new year. Now is the time to turn to the one Person who not only can make a difference but who says that He will.

He does not say that He will merely tell us what to do. He undertakes to give us ‘rest’. It is His strength that will bring this about – not ours. Our action is to turn to Him and trust in Him.

“This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says:
“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
 in quietness and trust is your strength”
(Isaiah 30:15)

Response:
I need the Lord.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus I need You. I need more of Your Light and Your Life for myself, those I love and my community. I come to You as best I can – and I will keep coming to You throughout the year ahead – looking to You as the Light in my life. Bless me Lord for I sorely need You. Amen.

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Love Five

“God is love.
Whoever lives in love lives in God,
and God in him”
(1 John 4:16)

Reflection:
Core Values in our lives – God, The Word, Prayer, Holy Living and, now, Love.

Love has to be the flame that burns within us, the source that feeds out spirits, minds, deeds and emotions. For God is Love – and if we are in His image then it should be love that characterises us as well. And so Scripture tells us that love is essential to us.

  • “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)
  • “God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Romans 5:5)
  • “`Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it:
  • “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39)
  • “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44)
  • “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34)
  • “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:14)
  • “But the fruit of the Spirit is love..” (Galatians 5:22)

This love is not a product of our own efforts but comes from God and through God. It is a consequence of the love that He has for us and which He has revealed to us.

  • “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19)

We may decide to love because we know that it is right – but it only becomes real and true, and not a legalism, when the love of God flows into us and through us. The greater our awareness of God’s love for us the more we are prepared and enabled to love those people and things that He loves. As we receive the fullness of His blessing for ourselves so it overflows from us – because love cannot be contained. So Paul’s prayer becomes ours as well;

  • “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 3:17-19)

Five Core Values for which to pray and keep on praying – through the sunshine and the darkness – and which to allow the Holy Spirit to live out within us and through us as we trust and follow  His guidance.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father as the moon reflects the light and the glory of the sun, so may I shine with Your love and truth in the darkness of the world around me – and may You be honoured and glorified in it all. Amen.

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Holiness Four

“For God did not call us to be impure,
but to live a holy life”
(1 Thessalonians 4:7)

Reflections:
God, God’s Word and Prayer – the three Core Values that we have touched on so far. To them must be added one that clearly follows – Holy Lives. This is emphasised in Scripture a number of times,

  • “I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44)
  • “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1)
  • “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do” (1 Peter 1:15)

Holiness means that we are set apart for God, and not for ourselves or the world – we are God’s people, called to live His way, His truth and His life.

  • “And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:6)
  • “If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord” (Romans 14:8)
  • “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

In terms of the Old Covenant holiness was a requirement for salvation and to remain as God’s chosen people – which the people demonstrated that they were completely unable to live out.

  • “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:5-6)

In terms of the New Covenant holiness is seen as a consequence of our salvation and our new standing as the adopted daughters and sons of God. It reflects what God has already done for us and in us and is evidence of the Holy Spirit living within us – for it is He who produces this fruit. We allow Him to do so by surrendering ourselves to Him, recognising what it is that He is wanting to do in our lives and co-operating with Him. We already know what this is because we have seen something of it in the character of God, the example of the Lord Jesus and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Holiness then is living as the daughters and sons of God in the power of the Holy Spirit whilst still in the midst of a fallen world. There will be many a struggle before we relinquish some of our ingrained habits and desires – but the Holy Spirit will never give in because He will give effect to God’s desire and purpose for us. The sooner the better, for we will then experience more of the fullness of the life that He has for us and experience more of the reality of His great love.

  • “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (2 Peter 1:3-4)

Prayer:

‘Most High and Holy God, enthroned in fire and light, burn away the dross of our lives and kindle in us the fire of Your love, that our lives may reveal the light and life and love we find in Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Amen.

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Prayer Third

“Do not be anxious about anything,
but in everything,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
present your requests to God”
( Philippians 4:6)

Reflection:
After God and His Word the next core value of ours must be Prayer – for prayer is our communication with God. Without proper and two-way communication both our prayer life and our daily lives become one-sided and often misguided. If the Incarnation of Jesus Christ has taught us one thing it is that God cares for, and engages with, His people.

We are encouraged in Scripture to pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and about everything (Philippians 4:6). Jesus also taught us to persevere in prayer (Luke 18:1). There will be so much that we want to say to God.

However prayer is not only about our concerns but about God’s desires as well. This comes out clearly in the prayer that Jesus taught His disciples. Very definitely God’s will is placed first and foremost.

“This, then, is how you should pray:
“`Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”
(Matthew 6:9-10)

Our prayer life becomes far more dynamic if we are also praying the prayers that God would want us to – that intentionally align themselves with His will and purpose. For this to happen we needs must ask Him what He would wish us to pray, and then listen for His response. It may take practice but as we persevere we will learn to recognise the ways in which He talks to us.

We are told that

“Christ Jesus … is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Romans 8:34)

This is very inspirational and encouraging – and how wonderful to align our prayers with His. They will be the love-filled prayers that God desires to answer because they will be the best for us and our situations. Some of them will surprise us.

And for those instances where, for whatever reason, we do not know how to pray then we can do so in the Spirit – either in tongues or by holding the situation wordlessly before God as our spirit communicates with His – silently or through our tears and anguish.

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will” (Romans 8:26-27)

Prayer is far more than sending texts off into the blue. It is at the heart of a living relationship with the Living God, and one of the most vital and valuable activities in which we can engage – even at the initial level described here. Given the opportunity God will take us far deeper.

Prayer:

Holy Spirit please enter into my prayers – guide me, and help me to listen for, and to recognise, the voice of God in the way that He chooses to communicate with me. Amen.

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Word Second

“Jesus answered, “It is written:
`Man does not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes
from the mouth of God”
(Matthew 4:4)

Reflection:
Our primary value must be God. However, hard on its heels must be what God says to us – so our next Core Value would be the Word of God. In fact Jesus tells us that true life is only sustained by our recognising, receiving and responding to all of God’s revelation to us.

God has spoken to humankind in two major ways.

There is His creation

  • “since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20)

There is the Bible – a record of God’s revelation of Himself, His will and His purpose for humankind. It contains also His directives and information concerning our lives and relationship with Him as His daughters and sons through Jesus Christ.

  • “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
  • “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105)
  • “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven” (Hebrews 1:1-3)

If our first core value is to worship God at all times in thought, word and deed, then our next is to soak ourselves in the knowledge and understanding of His Word – allowing it to form and inform us and to guide our everyday lives. This is where the Holy Spirit is of such importance for it is He who gives us the wonderful insights and deep understandings that we need.  A revelation of the majesty, glory and love of our great and glorious God Almighty.

Prayer:

Lord God help me to get my priorities right – to worship You and to feed on Your Word. May Your Holy Spirit bless, guide and feed me and continuously pour Your love into my heart. Amen.

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God First

Jesus answered, “It is written:
`Worship the Lord your God
and serve Him only”
(Luke 4:8)

Reflection:
 We need core values by which we live our lives – values that are different from those of the world. Jesus established some of His during the temptations after His baptism. Others appeared during His ministry.

Our primary value must be God – revealed to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This keeps being emphasised throughout Scripture,

  • “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”  (Matthew 22:37)
  • “You shall have no other gods before Me”  (Exodus 20:3)
  • “No one can serve two masters … You cannot serve both God and Money”  (Matthew 6:24)

To worship God is not to merely say the words but to live it out in our lives.

  • “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)
  • “Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:29)
  • “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:1-2)
  • “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men .. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23-24)

God is to be first and foremost in our lives.  God is to be present in, and the focus of, all that we think and say and do. God is to be the One whom we trust for all that we need at all times and in all situations. God is to be the object of our deepest love, highest honour and most reverent adoration.

It doesn’t happen overnight. In fact it cannot happen at all without the guidance, strength and blessing of the Holy Spirit Himself. However, as under His inspiration we set the sights of our lives upon the Lord, He will take us on a journey towards the fulfilment of God’s desires for us. On it God will begin to wean us away from the things of the world and the flesh and to purify us in such a way that His love may be poured into us without impediment.

Prayer:

‘Most High and Holy God, enthroned in fire and light, burn away the dross of our lives and kindle in us the fire of Your love, that our lives may reveal the light and life and love we find in Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Amen.

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