Shouting Silence

“The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.”
(Psalm 19:1-2)

 

Reflection:
I walked outside one night and looked up. It was a cloudless night and, even in our suburb, enough of the sky was visible to make me pause in awe and wonder. The stars shone out from the dark depths of space like diamonds on the deep blue cloak of God. I stood in stillness and let His glory touch me for those precious moments. How great is our God indeed,

 “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made,
their starry host by the breath of his mouth.”

(Psalm 33:6)

It is a mighty and marvellous act of creation – by an almighty, beautiful and loving God. They sing His praises in sounds and words that we cannot hear and reduce us at last to the silence of true worship and adoration. I found myself longing for less of me in my life and more of God – more than I knew I could handle but not more than I could desire. I have a longing sometime to just disappear into His love and glory – like a wave on the beach slips back into the vast and all-embracing ocean.

“As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”

(Psalm 42:1-2)

How much more precious were those moments and the thoughts and feelings that they prompted, than everything that the world has to offer in terms of pleasure, wisdom and achievement. How much more to hold onto in the times of pain, sin and sorrow.

God speaks to us in so many ways, not least in and through our everyday exposure to His creation. It is a message worth perceiving, believing and receiving. It is worth our deepest response.

“O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the works Thy hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.”

Response:
Look, Listen, Worship

Prayer:

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)

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Help Lord

“Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am alone and brought very low.
The sorrows of my heart have increased”
(Psalm 25:16)

Reflection:
Lonely and with an aching heart can be a terrible experience – as even King David discovered. No one to confide in,  and without even adequate words with which to express the empty darkness engulfing us. The hollow chatter of nearby people can make us long to escape – escape to a quiet place in which to hug ourselves and our misery. Or if we are fortunate, into the healing comfort of safe arms, a warm heart and the silent understanding of someone trusted -who seems to whisper that it will be okay.

A little girl of five came to spend the day with me recently. She was trying to recover from a stomach bug that had left her feeling unwell and discontented. During the day as I watched her move sadly away from an activity, I asked her if she wanted a hug. Her response was immediate – and she climbed onto my lap, snuggled against my chest and very soon drifted off to sleep within my warm and encircling arms. It was just what she needed, and had not realised that she wanted.

No matter how ‘big and strong’ we might be, or appear to be, there is still a little child within us. He or she needs from time to time to be able to escape into the comfort and security of our Father’s embrace – and to rest there as He comforts and reassures us. Later, as we return to our own world again, we know that He stays with us.

 “Be still, and know that I am God” of your yesterdays, todays and tomorrows.

Response:
Take time to be quiet with God. Sitting quietly before Him, leaning into His enfolding arms and listening to His love – and whatever else He might communicate. Do it often so that it becomes a part of your life with Him.

Prayer:

Father, I need Your love and reassurance – even as the deer longs for streams of water. Bless me Lord as I sit quietly with You – for I put my trust in You. Amen.

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Smelling Good

“But thanks be to God,
who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ
and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance
of the knowledge of him.”
(2 Corinthians 2:14)

 

Reflection:
Many years ago, as a young teenager, I was out with the rest of the boys in my form on a class picnic. In those days the only odour that meant anything to me was the delicious smell of a Sunday roast drifting out from the kitchen.  However coming down the side of the mountain I encountered a fragrance that stopped me in my tracks. Try as I might I could not find it again but its exquisite beauty was something that I have never forgotten.

Years later when I was reflecting on my journey of faith the Lord brought that incident to mind. He revealed to me that the fragrance was of Him as He passed by me – His intention being that He could later show me that even then He knew me and was calling me to Him.

Whenever I read the verse above I am reminded of that incredibly special moment. It seems to me that as Christians following in the triumphal footsteps of our great Lord we should bring to those around us a sense of that same beauty. There should be something so special attached to us in our being and our journey of life that it causes them to pause and try to identify what it is.

As disciples of our Lord, children of the heavenly Father and temples of the Holy Spirit there is every opportunity for the beauty of the Lord to colour our lives and to shine through them. It is not that we are special – but that the One who is with us and within us is.

Allow yourself to feed on the beauty of the love and grace of our Lord. Be conscious of Him as you live through your days – and seek to do everything as an offering to Him. Wherever possible leave behind you that gracious sense of peace and blessing which comes from our God who is with you.

Response:
Cover your life and your day with prayer – pray a blessing on each person and situation that you encounter, and on everything that you do.

Prayer:

Father how greatly You have blessed me – help me to be a blessing to others as well. Amen.

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Get up again

“Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic,
“Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.
(Matthew 9:2)

 

Reflection:
Not all paralysis is caused by the sin of the person. However sin can paralyse us in certain ways and in some areas of our lives. Anyone who is in bondage to a way of life, a way of thinking and a way of acting may find themselves unable or unwilling to change into a different and better way.

The first step towards healing is to recognise the problem and the second is to do something about it. Many people would love to be healed but are not really willing to go through the process or to abandon their relationship with the problem itself – which may have become their escape route from emotional pain. Some receive healing but fall back again. They may either give up or go through a period of despair, self-loathing and fear of the displeasure of God before re-trying.

There is absolutely no doubt that God wants us to be set free and is prepared to help us. Jesus first words to the paralysed man are filled with compassion, life and love. He did not belittle or condemn him, but said,

“Take heart, son.”

He then freely forgave him and offered him healing.

“Your sins are forgiven …… Get up, take your mat and go home.”

The ball was now in the man’s court. He had to respond by getting up off the ground. The story does not go further but, in effect, the man would have to keep doing the same thing every day. He would have to stand up and walk in newness of life. He could no longer rely on others to cart him about or to provide for him. He was free now to live life himself, and to take responsibility for himself, if he would.

For many of us the process is rather like a child learning to walk. We try and fall a number of times before we begin to stay on our feet. Then we can find that not only are we walking in a new way but running and dancing with a wonderful and glorious freedom in areas and ways that we would never have believed to be possible. It is all because of the love of God, the salvation in Jesus and the help of the Holy Spirit.

We need God if we are going to be set free – for our strength and will are often inadequate. We may need others as well – just as this man needed his friends – to help, encourage and support us along the way. We may even need the professional help of those gifted and with experience in our areas. However more than anyone else we need the Lord. The one Who says to us, and does so as many times as is necessary,

“Take heart, your sins are forgiven, get up and walk”

It is His power that enables us to respond to His words.

Response:
Ask God to show you where you may need healing. Ask Him for forgiveness and help. If you fall don’t give up – go back to the Lord!

Prayer:

Lord, please forgive me, heal me and help me. Please renew my vision, strengthen my faith and give me the courage to carry on with You in newness of life. Amen.

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See Me there

“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth,
whatever you did for one of the least
of these brothers and sisters of mine,
you did for me”
(Matthew 25:40)

 

Reflection:
Marcus Borg wrote that

“The principal suffering of the poor
is shame and disgrace”

For so many of them everything about their lives speaks of failure and inadequacy. And whilst handouts may alleviate an immediate need it may make them feel even worse about themselves if done dismissively – to get rid of them! It doesn’t do us any good either!

“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 13:3)

On the other hand help, whether short-term or long-term, offered in the right spirit can carry with it the message that they are valuable. Then both the body and the spirit are blessed.

Jesus reminded us that even those who occupy the very lowest rungs on the social ladder are precious in His sight – so precious that He identified Himself with them completely.

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me”
(Matthew 25:35-36)

Not all of the poor are beggars. There are many who are desperately trying to make ends meet, and have little or no room in their lives for anything except worry and fear. If we become aware of them then we could make a difference in their lives – directly or anonymously.

Jesus showed us that He was not just a ‘man for others.’ As Greg Boyle makes clear He was primarily a ‘man with others.’ He did not merely act as their champion, He became one of them – He became the outcast, the homeless, the prisoner and the crucified one. In fact in real terms He became one with me – for without Him I too was an outcast from God, homeless from heaven, a prisoner to sin and with no hope in my life.

Response:
“Love one another as I have loved you”

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, lead me into the love that sees, that cares and that acts –as You have done for me. Amen.

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Trusting God

“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)

 

Reflection:
To ‘lean on our own understanding’ is to limit everything to the level of our perception.  When life is painful we tend to fear that it will always be that way – or even worse.  A good example of this is the account of the Israelites in the desert after the exodus from Egypt. No matter how much God did for them they never trusted Him for the next challenge.

So here we are urged to lift our eyes, to change our focus and enlarge our vision.  The one who loves us and has called us to Himself is the Lord God Almighty. He is the all-powerful one; He is the one who is called ‘Love’; He is the one who at huge personal cost has invited us to become His daughters and His sons; He is the one who in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit has promised to be with us always. He is also the one who in any and every situation and circumstance knows the best way forward –

“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)

In every road on which we find ourselves, in every challenge we face, in every situation that threatens us, in every task we undertake, in every relationship in which we are involved  – in fact ‘in all our ways’ – we need the Lord. Our first step is to acknowledge Him with His love and His power, and then to ask Him for His guidance, help and strength. The answer is then certain – He will become involved and He will take us forward and He will bless us.

The sooner we start involving the Lord in our everyday lives, decisions and responses the more natural it will become if and when things get really challenging.

Response:
Whatever you do, feel or think today – ask the Lord to guide and help you.

Prayer:

Lord God my life is in Your hands and any merits that I might appear to have are in fact Your mercies. Please be with me and guide and help me through the light and the darkness, the days and the nights of my life – and help me to stay very close to You at all times. Amen.

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Holiness

“The place where you are standing
is holy ground”
(Exodus 3:5)

Reflection:
When God called Moses to Him at the burning bush He told him to remove his sandals because he was standing on holy ground. The earth would not have looked any different to Moses, but he obeyed without question knowing himself to be in the presence of God. And there he stood in all his fallenness – which included pride, murder and desertion – and waited on God.

Wherever God chooses to meet with us becomes holy ground – because of His presence that reaches out and embraces us. It is here that He has chosen to engage with us, who we are and as we are, at a specific moment in time that is of His choosing.  Peter in his boat, Matthew in the tax collector’s booth, Zacchaeus up a tree, the adulterous woman in the temple courts, the sinful woman at Jesus feet, the moment in time when we heard and responded to His call – all holy moments in places holy at the time.

And when, at His prompting, we turn to God in sin, shame, need and despair – and He meets us as He will – it becomes a holy moment on holy ground. We often fail to recognise it because we are caught up with ourselves and our need. But He is with us, and we with Him, in a special way.

In fact whenever and wherever we engage with God, and He with us, we enter into a holy place that needs to be acknowledged and respected.  Our equivalent of taking off our shoes would be to separate ourselves for those moments from the things and activities of the world – giving Him our full, humble and undivided attention.

As an exercise – take off your shoes and say the Lord’s Prayer slowly. Feel the ground beneath your feet – recognise God is standing before you. Be still for a few moments.

Response:
Whenever you pray – deliberately recognise the holy presence of God .

Prayer:

Lord God I stand in Your presence on holy ground. I am quiet before You, knowing that You are looking upon me and smiling. It is good. Thank You so much.

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