Letting it go to God

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

Reflection:
An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth might be good justice but they do not heal and restore relationships. Anger, violence and vengeance may be satisfying to think about but become self-destructive and diminishing. In the end they lock us in a bondage, from which it can be extraordinarily difficult to escape, and affect the lives of all around us.

By comparison forgiveness is healing. It sets us free from spiritual, mental and emotional subjection to the persecutors. It releases us from the anger, fear and desire for vengeance that can oppress and distort our lives and other relationships. It opens the door to healing and to a new life and a new way of living. Jesus first words from the cross were ‘Father forgive them’ – and they set Him free to die as their saviour and not as their victim or opponent.

To forgive is not to say that the hurt and violence do not matter. They matter very much indeed and should not have occurred. However when we forgive we are actually handing the whole matter over to God who will deal with it in His own time and with complete justice. And any retribution involved then comes not from us with our distorting passions but from the God of justice and truth.

“Do not take revenge, my friends,
 but leave room for God’s wrath,
for it is written:
 “It is mine to avenge;
I will repay,”
 says the Lord”
 (Romans 12:19)

Forgiveness may not be easy and may take time and prayer before it is fully released in us – but the healing it brings to us and our lives is a wonderful blessing.

Response:
Who have I not forgiven – including myself. Will I now?

Prayer:

Father please fill me with Your love and help me to forgive – to say the words and to let them so transform the attitude of my heart that the forgiveness will set me free, even if it takes time. Amen.

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Today is Life

“I have learned to be content
whatever the circumstances”
(Philippians 4:11)

Reflection:
“I want” gets in the way of “I am.”

We can become so pre-occupied with a vision, a dream or a fantasy that we fail to appreciate our present reality. In doing so we can deny who we are, ignore our present situation and fail to appreciate the people and beauty that is around us.  

Coveting as God refers to it in the Tenth Commandment is not a desire for proper growth and development but a driving greed and lust for something different or for more – whether or not it is properly available. Jesus recognises that the sin is not only in the action of seeking to acquire the object of our desire but in the focussed use of our imagination as well

“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28)

In it all we take our attention off God as God and look instead to a god of pleasure and self-satisfaction. We very often fail to see the real cost to ourselves or to others.

Paul Getty was at one stage the richest man in the world and his books are studied for advice on how to succeed and to acquire wealth. He was totally ‘dedicated to his work’ and wrote that he had led ‘an exciting and rewarding life.’ In an almost throw-away comment he admitted that his (five) marriages had ‘suffered and fallen’ apart.

Response:
Take time to appreciate your blessings of the day – the beauty of creation, the special people, the wonder of life, the love of God Himself. Acknowledge and express it.

Prayer:

Father thank you for my today. In it there is wonder and beauty and love, and such special people. And most of all there is You – ever-present, ever-loving, ever-sustaining. Bless You Lord. Amen.

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Think Again

“But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother
will be subject to judgment”
(Matthew 5:22)

Reflection:
Often our angry, bitter and vengeful thoughts reveal more about ourselves than the ones they are focussed upon. They may arise because we feel inadequate, insignificant and incapable in the light of what is happening to us or around us. In our minds we can strike back victoriously, and often viciously, establishing our own superiority. It does nothing to improve the situation or any of the relationships.

When we allow ourselves to be angry with someone, and to continue in that way, we damage the relationship even more, harm our relationship with ourselves and create a barrier before the Lord. There can be no proper reconciliation until our anger, or the feelings that give rise to it, have been dealt with and healing has taken place within us. We choose our reactions – and those choices need to be changed, coming instead from a place of healing.

So Jesus teaches

“You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5)

Paul exhorts us to aim for a different thought process,

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things” (Philippians 4:8)

Response:
Where do I feel inadequate and how does it affect my life and reactions?

Prayer:

Lord God, the unloveliness in others reacts against the unloveliness in me and causes such problems. Please bring healing to me, filling me with Your love, and enable me to respond to situations from the security of Your love and not the isolation of my own pain. Amen.

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Make me clean again

“Cleanse me with hyssop,
 and I will be clean;
wash me,
and I will be whiter than snow”
(Psalm 51:7)

Reflection:
Lying in a hospital bed one day I looked up to see two strapping nurses come through the door of my ward. Sensing trouble I asked what they were there for and heard the response, “We have come to wash you.” There was nothing I could do except smile weakly and submit myself to the indignity of it all.

In fact they were very professional and very good – and maintained throughout a conversation with each other that had nothing to do with me. Once they had left I was both very relieved and surprised at how much better I felt to be cleaner.

There are times when we cannot cleanse ourselves – and that is particularly true when there is some sin that has left us feeling soiled and stained. It is then that we almost desperately need God to come and cleanse us – not casually whilst talking of something else –but purposefully and with focussed attention. This is what David had in mind when after the realisation of his sins with and because of Bathsheba he cried out to God,

“Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”

There is a cleansing that can only come from God. That is it necessary is underlined by Jesus who said,

“Unless I wash you,
you have no part with me.”

(John 13:8)

That it is freely available to the repentant sinner is made clear by John,

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” 
(1 John 1:9)

All of us have sins that we need to bring to the Lord – for forgiveness, cleansing and healing. And having done so we should ensure that we also take time to forgive ourselves. For who are we to remain in judgement of ourselves when the Lord of the Cross has set us free!

Response:
Don’t delay – do it know. Ask the Holy Spirit to witness God’s forgiveness to your spirit.

Prayer:

Father God I confess  to You that I have sinned in these ways …… . Please forgive me, cleanse me of the sin and stain, heal me of the weaknesses and strengthen me against the temptations, in Jesus name. Amen.

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Walk the Light

“The darkness is passing
and the true light is already shining”
(1 John 2:8)

Reflection:
At the beginning of his Gospel John wrote that ‘the true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.’ Now he says quite clearly and with absolute certainty that

“the true light is already shining”

This is of enormous importance and significance to us. The Light which is Jesus Christ is here, in our darkness, burning with an inextinguishable flame and bringing the light of truth, revelation, life and hope into the lives of people who are able to see and receive it. Because He is here with His Light shining two things are happening to the darkness.

Firstly the darkness is beginning to pass. Take note of that tiny word ‘is’. It is not ‘might’ or ‘maybe’ but ‘is’. By virtue of the Light that has come amongst us the darkness has begun to give way. And the more brightly the Light is enabled to shine the more the darkness will have to retreat. This is both a physical law and a spiritual one.

Secondly, the Light enables us to see the darkness more clearly. We will both perceive that it is darkness and realise the nature of it. Whilst we might fear that the darkness is increasing it may also be true that we are enabled to see and recognise this darkness more clearly – which means that the Light is shining with increasing strength and clarity. What before was hidden is now progressively being revealed in greater detail. God is at work.

Whatever the state of your world hold onto the truth that the true light is already shining there. God is with us, and always will be.

Response:
The Light of Christ is in my world – let me see and walk in His Light.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus thank You that Your light is revealing the darkness in me and around me. Please help me to surrender my darkness to You and to avoid the darkness of the world – and please shine Your light through my thoughts, words and deeds.  Amen.

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Comes the Dawn

“By the tender mercy of our God
    the dawn from on high will break upon us”
(Luke 1:78 NRSV)

Reflection:
There is nothing quite like the birth of a new day. Where I live it is a lovely process for the sun does not suddenly leap into the sky but announces its arrival through a gentle lifting of the light. The quality of the darkness changes. Black becomes grey before the first touches of colour bless the drifting clouds. And the birds! Unseen they herald this new dawn. Small bulbuls lift their heads to pour from tiny throats the most glorious and liquid songs of praise to our God. Weavers chatter amongst themselves and the crested barbet worships in long and breathless arias of love.  These are holy moments indeed. And they call us to rise from our slumbers. Not with minds restless and cluttered with the uncompleted and unfulfilled remnants of yesterday – but open and eager for the light and love and life-inspired opportunities that await us, with all their potential and possibility. This is not an old day recycled but a new day to be lived and blessed.

Our Lord Jesus so often comes into our lives as He came into the world. He came slowly and in small beginnings, not striding through the heavens in glorious and terrifying majesty. He came to love and win our love through gentleness, tenderness and compassion – with heart and arms open to the ragged and tattered and soiled souls that were drawn to Him.  And so He begins to reach into our spirits like the first beginnings of the dawn, touching lonely and desolate darkness with the first touches of light and the first hints of new life.

By the grace of God a new day keeps dawning. By His grace the dawn of His love keeps appearing outside of the windows of our spirits. By the grace of God there are sights and sounds and scents that make us pause with a wistful hope. It is the Lord – looking and longing and loving as He seeks to awaken us and attract us to step out with Him into this new dawn of life.

We are not called to be yesterday’s sadness but todays blessing and tomorrows hope. In our own strength this might seem so impossible. However, as we takes deep breaths of the Holy Spirit who is God’s great gift to us, we are reminded that nothing is impossible for this God of ours – not even us! He comes to us like the rising sun,

“to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
(Luke 1:79)

Response:
Wherever and however I am He calls me to look forward and to build life with Him

Prayer:

Lord help me to be aware of You in the deep dark areas of my life – and to open myself to Your love, light and life in quiet trust. Amen.

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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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