What a Blessing

“I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened
in order that you may know ..
the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”
(Ephesians 1:18-19)

Reflection:
Paul’s prayer for us is not that we may know of certain things but that we may know them as true for ourselves. So He prayed that

  • We might know God better
  • We might know the Hope to which God has called us

Now he goes on to pray that we might know

  • The riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints
  • His incomparably great power for us who believe

His inheritance for us is that final inheritance of which the Holy Spirit is the guarantee (v14). Peter describes it as ‘imperishable, undefiled and unfading kept in heaven for you.’ (1 Peter 1:4) Paul also calls it both rich and glorious – finding words to describe that which is beyond our present capacity to see, to hear or to imagine.

As God children we are God’s heirs and fellow heirs with Christ. (Romans 8:17) One day by His grace this inheritance will be ours and it will include everything that God has and has planned and prepared for his beloved children – us. Transformed into the likeness of the Lord Jesus we will be enabled to see and worship God as He really is, in all His glory, majesty, power and love  – and to live in His presence forever, freed from the imperfections, pain and burdens of this fallen life.

Only God’s power can fulfil the expectations which belongs to His call, and bring us safely to the riches of the glory of the final inheritance He will give us. So Paul writes of

  • His incomparably great power for us who believe
  • The working of His mighty strength

The resurrection and the ascension were a decisive demonstration of this divine power. There are two powers man cannot control and which hold him in bondage – death and evil. In Christ God has conquered both – and so is more than able to protect, rescue, liberate and transform us too.

Lord God,
enlighten the eyes of my heart
so that I may know
the riches of our glorious inheritance
in the saints
and Your incomparably great power
for us who believe.

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Going Home

“This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven,
will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
(Acts 1:11)

Reflection:
Today the Church celebrates the ascension of Jesus Christ. It completes the journey of salvation that began with the Incarnation – when God in Christ entered into the world in a completely new and significant way. Having fulfilled God’s mission for Him in His death and resurrection Jesus ascension back to heaven and to ‘the right hand of God’ secures and seals for us all that He has done. Augustine put it like this,

“For unless the Saviour had ascended into heaven
His Nativity would have come to nothing
… and His Passion would have borne no fruit for us,
and His most holy Resurrection would have been useless.”

Indeed, if Jesus had not risen from the dead what hope would there be for us? And, likewise, if Jesus had not ‘ascended into heaven’ how could we hope that we would do so one day? Rather we see in the ascension the wonderful fulfilment of God’s promise that,

“so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11)

 The fact that He is now seated at the right hand of God indicates that His work of atonement has been completed. Seated there He continues to intercede for us as well as to prepare a place for us. (John 14:2). With His ascension He also opened the way for the promised Holy Spirit to come in a very real and significant way – which event we celebrate shortly at Pentecost.  And when God decides that the time is right Jesus will return to finally establish the Kingdom of God and for the final judgment.

 If Scripture teaches us one thing it is this – God can be trusted. Again and again He told His people what He would do, and He did it. Many did not live to see the complete fulfilment of His promise but they put their faith in Him – and it was not disappointed.

God has prepared a future and a place for us and it is there that we will find the true completeness, peace and fulfilment that we desire. Indeed it will be far greater and deeper, more beautiful and lovely, and more varied and extensive than we could ever grasp or imagine from where we are today.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”   (1 Corinthians 2:9)

Response:
And so our marching song as we journey onwards is this

Christ has died,
Christ has risen,
Christ will come again.

Prayer:

Lord I believe and trust in You. Please deepen and strengthen this faith in me every day, for Your Name’s sake. Amen.

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Hope that lives

“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”
(Ephesians 1:18)

Reflection:
God has called us to something and for something which is rich and varied. These are not merely words written on a page but promises from God for us to know, and in which to believe and place our hope and expectation. For above everything God calls us to Himself in and through the reality of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit – who are real gifts from this real God to us as real people in a real and fallen world.

We are called, for example,

  • “to belong to Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:6)
  • “into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9)
  • to be saints” (Romans 1:7)
  • “to be holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16)
  • “to be free” (Galatians 5:13)
  • “to peace” (Colossians 3:15)
  • “out of darkness into His wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9)

In fact we are called to an altogether new life in which we know, love, obey and serve Christ , enjoy fellowship with Him and with each other, and look beyond our present suffering to the glory which will one day be revealed. This is the hope to which God has called us. Paul prays that our eyes will be opened to know it.

Again if it was important enough for Paul to pray for on our behalf then it should form a part of our own prayers as well. We ask the Lord to turn these words from information into a transformation within us – from wishful thinking into a living hope and faith. We can with assurance pray,

Lord,
Enlighten the eyes of my heart
so that I may know
the Hope
to which
You have called me

Response:
Write this into your prayer diary and make it also a regular and ongoing prayer.

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More Please!

“For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice;
and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings”
(Hosea 6:6 KJV)

Reflection:
 Martin Lloyd-Jones put it like this – ‘Our supreme need is to know God.’ He was clearly not referring to a mere nodding acquaintance but, in view of the intimacy inferred in the word ‘know’, to know God well, to know Him deeply, to know Him truly, to know Him as He is revealed in His Word and, supremely, in and through Jesus Christ. For the Christ Himself said,

“Now this is eternal life:
that they may know you, the only true God,
and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent”
(John 17:3)

Although there is much in creation and in Scripture that can tell us about God the true and personal knowledge of God comes only through revelation. It is only through the witness of the Holy Spirit within us that we receive the full knowledge of the reality and intimacy of our own relationship with the Father – and with His Son and the Holy Spirit Himself.

In his great letter to the Ephesians Paul recognises this and gives us the basis and framework for our own prayers through the prayers that He prayed for us. With slight adjustment we may pray for ourselves as follows:

Almighty God and Glorious Father,
Give me by Your grace
the Spirit of wisdom and revelation
so that I may know You better.

It really needs to be our heart’s prayer every day – for the closer we get to God, the more we begin to identify and find the reality of His glory and love, and the closer we will long to get to Him.

Response:
Write it at the top of your prayer list. Breathe it in and out as you go through the day. Thank Him for the knowledge of Him that you already have.

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Check your thought diet

“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)

Reflection:
If we are to respond positively to the commands to love, then the love needs to start within us. It cannot merely be confined to outward acts – 1 Corinthians 13 warns us of the consequences. Love begins to look out for the positive and beautiful aspects of life and living and focus on them. This is not artificial and an ignoring of the truth, but it is a refusal to merely dwell on weakness and ugliness when it is not helpful. There is beauty all around us, there are fine qualities in many people, including ourselves.

What Paul is really challenging us with is to allow the God-given beauty within us – the new and redeemed us, temples of the lovely Holy Spirit Himself – to begin to surface and take control of our thoughts. To give us a new focus, a fresh awareness, and a different perception of truth. In the process we will find an enhanced perception of the loveliness around us, and within others – even in the midst of the challenges and pain of life. And, if we are really open we may find God showing us things that He finds lovely and that delight Him.

What we feed on will affect the fruit that we produce. To give love, beauty, hope and blessing into the lives of others we must first receive them. No matter how dark the world may seem the light of Christ will always seek to encourage new life and growth.

Response:
There are enough armchair critics.  Check yourself and step out in a new way. This weekend look out for beauty and receive it as a gift.

Prayer:

Father, show me the beauty and the loveliness around me – and the things that are noble and praiseworthy – and help me to be blessed by them. In Jesus name, Amen.

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Priority 101

“I urge, then, first of all,
that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving
be made for everyone
— for kings and all those in authority,
that we may live peaceful and quiet lives
in all godliness and holiness.”

(Timothy 2:1-2)

Reflection:
Whatever the reason for the world being in the state that it is, there is an enormous burden of responsibility resting upon the shoulders of the present national leaders. From global warming to fragile economies to internal unrest and ongoing wars, coupled with a seeming deterioration in honesty and integrity, nothing appears to be simple. For better or for worse these are the men and women who will influence the lives of millions over the next few years.

It is no wonder that Paul calls us to prayer, and to pray specifically for ‘all those in authority. The reason is simple, so that we all ‘may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.’ We know what they need – God’s help and direction, whether they are aware of it or not. Solomon prayed for wisdom so that he might govern and lead God’s people properly. His prayer pleased God who not only gave him such wisdom but many other blessings as well.

It is easy to bemoan the current state of affairs and to criticize the people in power. But, whether that criticism is justified or not, it will not change anything. Prayer might.

God has invited and instructed us to pray. The epistles call upon us to pray. Prayer asks God to be involved and to bring His will and wisdom to bear. Prayer tells God, and reminds us, that we need Him. Scripture records many instances where God has heard and responded to the prayers of His people. The world really needs it now – particularly as God seems to have been increasingly side-lined.

As Christians we are called to pray, and to pray intentionally that God’s will is done. We must not stop until it is.

Response:
Focus on some key leaders in your nation and church and pray for them every day – morning, noon and night. Pray that God will guide and lead them. Pray that they become believers. Ask others to join you.

Prayer:

Father, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven – in me, in my church, and in the leaders in our land. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

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A new day will dawn

“Now if we are children, then we are heirs
–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ”
 (Romans 8:17)

Reflection:
The glorious truth about our salvation is that we do not become ‘poor relations’ in our new identity as the sons and daughters of God. We become His heirs – in fact co-heirs with His great Son, the Lord Jesus.

This is beautifully illustrated by Jesus Himself in the account of the Prodigal Son. When the son returns to the Father in the rags of failure and rejection the Father calls for him to be re-clothed in the ‘best robe’.  That would be the Father’s own most special robe that He was giving to His son. It would also be a sign to everyone around that he had been completely accepted and restored.

Our inheritance will be to participate in and enjoy fully everything that belongs to the Father – all that He has and all that He will have, all that He has created and all that He will create, and all that is being prepared for us.

  • “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2)
  • “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”  (1 Corinthians 2:9)

We do not know the detail and extent of it all – we do know however that it will be a place and time of wonderful completeness, unending joy, perfect peace and glorious love. And we will forever be an integral part of all that the Father is doing.

No matter what our experiences in this life – the joys and pain, the successes and failures, the acceptance and rejection, the moral heights and the sin-obsessed depths, the laughter and the desolation – one thing is certain. As the children of God we have a glorious inheritance in Jesus Christ – and it begins right now as we accept and lay hold of the wonder of our new relationship with the Lord. For many it has been, and will be,  the great truth onto which they hold in the darkness.

Response:
Where we will be is better than where we are. The way we will be is better than the way we are.

Prayer:

Father thank you so much for Your great love that reaches down for us into the darkest depths – so that You can raise us to You in the highest heights. I hold on to You Lord. Amen.

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