Thought Catching

“We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ”
( 2 Corinthians 10:5)

Reflection:
It struck me early this morning that there are ‘obviously’ two aspects to this word.

The first is that all my thoughts should be held before the Lord to be tested for their truth and whether or not they honour Him. Given that my mind is full of thoughts, worries and responses to feelings and emotions this may seem like an impossible task. And yet as we walk with the Lord much of it happens fairly quickly if we are open to it and to Him. The challenge then becomes one of responding to His correction.

The second is that this must as obviously apply in our Christian community and group situations – as well as, for us, in our work and ministry. The group’s opinion of what is true, relevant and of the Lord should also be tested before Him. Very often we have found that where there is one dissenting voice in a situation the process needs to be slowed down, re-examined and sometimes re-worked until all can say ‘that’s good.’ After all we are called into Christ’s ministry and not He into ours!

As we look at ‘perfecting holiness out of reverence for God’ this all becomes far more important. It is where the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit is so important and such a blessing.

Response:
Be aware of your thoughts – look at some of them with the Lord – persevere

Prayer:

Lord God, I offer my mind and thoughts to You – help me that I too may be transformed by the renewing of my mind, so that its thought may honour and bless You. Amen.

——————-

Cleanse me

“Since we have these promises, dear friends,
let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit,
perfecting holiness out of reverence for God”

( 2 Corinthians 7:1)

Reflection:
Being a Christian is not merely a matter of staying as we were but with a new cloak covering us. It is about a new life that starts within us and develops and influences everything that we are, and think, and say and do. This new life will become apparent to others as well as to us.

As we recognise our new identities as the daughters and sons of God we are called to live out these identities and live up to them. Therefore just as Jesus cleansed the Temple of everything that degraded and shamed it as the Temple of the Living God, so we are to be involved in the same cleansing of our own temples of the Holy Spirit – ourselves. When God calls us to be holy He means also that we become a place suitable for Him to live in.

This cleansing begins as we recognise that the Spirit is within us. As we do so He will begin to draw our attention to the things in our lives that do not honour God. This is not a once off ‘spring cleaning’ but an ongoing process. Some things will be dealt with quickly whilst others may take longer and have deeper roots. As this goes on we will probably also discover attitudes, habits and desires of which we were unaware. This is the Spirit working more deeply and extensively within us. His purpose is not to shame or depress us but to free us from the things that prevent us from more fully entering into this new life that God has for us. He also wishes to take us deeper and deeper into the reality of our new relationship with the Father and with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

This is not a strange new process that God has initiated. He has built the understanding into our lives. For those who are focussed on and committed to a particular goal are generally the ones who will show the most progress. However the good news is that where in our secular lives we may have been unable to find and apply the focus, self-control and energy, we now have in our lives the Holy Spirit of God who is giving us the focus, developing our understanding, and empowering us to press forward, press on and to persevere.

Our reason is not so that we may gain the salvation of God but that we may honour Him in the salvation and new identity that He has given us in His great love. We are in fact seeking to live up to and live out the image of Himself that He has imparted to us.

Response:
I can live more and more as a son/daughter of the Lord God Almighty.

Prayer:

Holy Spirit I want to be more like the Lord Jesus, please help me.  My desire is to have the Father rejoice in my honouring Him. Amen.

——————–

 

 

Forgiven

“But you were washed, you were sanctified,
you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ
and by the Spirit of our God”
(1 Corinthians 6:11)

Reflection:
Paul had just stated that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God. He then listed examples of the things that he classified as wicked and sinful – the type of behaviour that had characterised some of them when they lived outside of the kingdom of God. Then came his great acclamation that ‘this is what some of you were.’ In other words they used to be like this but a radical transformation had taken place in their lives – “you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God”

In some ways this almost seems to be the answer to the great prayer of David when he was convicted by God of his sin with Bathsheba and for arranging for her husband to be killed.

  • ‘Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.’
  • ‘Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.’
  • ‘Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.’

Nothing is worse than the awareness that sin has fastened its claws into us in such a way that we cannot get rid of it, we cannot re-write the past and we are forever stained, contaminated and guilty in the most terrible way. And yet here Paul is crying out for us to be aware of the great redemption open to us through the love and grace of God. For each and every one of us – no matter what we have done or failed to do – may be washed, sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Holy Spirit of God.

It is God Himself setting us free from the spiritual consequences of our past, washing us clean from every stain and setting us on our feet again to live a new and different kind of life with Him. We are called to face in a new direction – focussed on the Lord and not on ourselves. We are urged to flee from all sin and to live lives dedicated to the Lord. We are encouraged – if and when we fall – to ask God for forgiveness and help and to get back on our feet for another go at this new life with Him.

Hold on to the unimaginable truth and wonder of what God has achieved for you and which He seeks to make ever more real in your own life – what Barclay calls ‘this radiant power of Christianity which is triumphantly able to  make all things new’ –

“you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God”

Response:
Reflect on these great truths, asking the Holy Spirit to make them live within you

Prayer:

Holy Spirit, please help me to receive Your great truths, make them live within me in such a way that new light shines into my darkness and sets me free to walk in the light, the life and the love of God. Amen.

—————-

 

Spiritual Gifts

“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.”
(1 Corinthians 12:7-11)

Reflection:
The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was a reality. This was the being ‘clothed with power,’ for which Jesus had told His disciples to wait, before embarking on the Great Commission. This empowerment was not just of the spirit, mind and body – they were empowered with specific gifts which they were to use in the course of their ministry, and to make them effective in the building of the Kingdom.

Paul’s teaching, now, is very specific.

  • The appearance of the Holy Spirit is to be real for each Christian.
  • The Spirit gives a variety of gifts – some of which are mentioned here.
  • The Spirit gives one or more of these gifts to each Christian.

No believer is excluded. The Holy Spirit, with a specific gift, comes to each one. And each includes you, just as it includes me. Whatever else we may have to offer God, the ministry in which He wishes us to be involved will be based upon the gift that the Holy Spirit gives to us. This is God knowing what has to be done, choosing His team, and equipping them with what they will need. And the gift that the Spirit gives to us is the one that He will empower and bless. It may, or may not, be an extension of a talent that we have.

If we are going to be effective in our place in the ‘Body of Christ’ – where all should be working in harmony with each other and towards the same end – then we need to identify and become experienced in the use of our particular gift/s. We will, in all probability, find it in the area for which we have, or are developing, a God-given ability or passion as opposed to a self-centred desire. It is important to ask God to help us to identify it, and also to seek the prayer and discernment of mature Christians whom we trust. Its focus will be to bring glory to God and achieve His purposes.

It is our very great privilege and honour to have been chosen, and called, into the salvation of Jesus Christ and into the ministry of the Holy Spirit, as the daughters and sons of the Eternal and Almighty God.

Response:
Determine to increasingly  live out your new life and ministry to God’s glory, under the direction and empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

Prayer:

Lord God, please help me to know my spiritual gifts and to use them in love for Your glory and the blessing of others. Amen.

————–

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.

——————–

Limitless Grace

“I always thank God for you because of his grace
given you in Christ Jesus.”
(1 Corinthians 1:4)

Reflection:
Our relationship with God is all about reality. It is based on His reality and the fact that He has intervened in our reality – the reality of our everyday lives, as well as the reality of our past and our future. Whilst the world offers us concepts, philosophies and ultimate loneliness and death, God offers us truth, personal relationship with Him, and eternal life and healing. Where the world tells us what we must do, God shows us what He has done. Where the world will sell to us, God gives to us freely. Where the world gives no visible proof, God gives us His Son. Where the world offers no guarantees God sends His Spirit to live within us. Whereas the world ultimately discards us, God promises us resurrection and life.

The wonder of our relationship with God is that everything that He has done for us, and that He offers us, is done out of His great and unlimited love.

This love of God is not revealed only in words, it is revealed in the gift and sacrifice of His Son on our behalf. There could be no greater gift or example of the love that God has for us. And, because it is only through the grace of God, flowing from this love that we have a future and a hope, Jesus Christ stands also as the revelation of this grace. We become personal recipients of that grace as we believe and trust in HIm. We receive not only God’s love but the salvation and ever-present relationship with Him that flows from it.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God”  (Ephesians 2:8)

From beginning to end the reality of God, and the relationship that we can have with Him, is revealed and assured in the reality of Jesus Christ who entered into the reality of human life to bring to it a new and eternal reality with God.

Response:
Consider the reality of the cross. God speaks through it to each one personally.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, help me to look not to myself but to You, and to continually receive the wonder of God’s grace and love. Amen.

——————–

Power for me

“For the message of the cross is foolishness
to those who are perishing,
 but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
(1 Corinthians 1:18)

Reflection:
There are many kinds of power visible in the world today. Some of it is used for good and some for evil purposes, some to build up and some to break down, some to heal and some to hurt. None of it can compare with the power of the Lord either to create or to re-create.

The greatest expression of God’s power is not in the wonder of creation, as awe-inspiring as it is. It is in the salvation that He has worked for us. Only He is able to transform a broken, sinful and sin ravaged life into one that is rich and full, made to be like that of Christ himself. Only He can take the pale shadow of our lives and bring us into the wonderful completeness that was His original vision for us. Only the power of God can promise and guarantee eternal life that death cannot harm. Only the power of God flows from a heart so filled with love that there is no power in existence that can stand against it or diffuse it. This is the power, about which Paul rejoices when he says,

  • “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, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” (Ephesians 1:18-19)
  • “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. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:16-21)

That power is present in our lives even now, working to transform us and build us towards the fullness of that wonderful new creation that is ours in Christ. It is there to help us up again when we fall, to sustain us for the journey ahead, to enable us to cope with the pressures of life, and to do the work to which He guides us. And all the while He is leading us into a deeper awareness and appreciation of His love.

“It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16)

Paul was enabled to then say,

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength”  (Philippians 4:13)

Response:
Take a moment to acknowledge and receive it in your spirit.

Prayer:

Father when I am weak then You are strong. May Your strength be the blessing in my life. Please help me to know and receive it. Amen.

————————