See What You See

“O LORD
Who is like you– majestic in holiness,
awesome in glory, working wonders?”
(Exodus 15:11)

Reflection:
Our vision of God defines our lives.

We can ignore Him, treat Him casually – by paying Him lip-service or turning to Him only when we need help – or we can take Him seriously – to the extent that He becomes our life.

His revelation of Himself through creation, through His history, through His great acts and ultimately through His Son Jesus Christ, is stunning. It is a revelation of awesome power and might, of unbelievable compassion and mercy, of immaculate justice and righteousness, and of breath-taking beauty and love.

If our vision slips then our faith, hope, love and integrity begin to go as well.

In times such as these there is a great need for those whom He has called to Himself to renew their vision, re-establish their foundations, and glory in the wonder of our marvellous God. One of our greatest gifts and weapons is our heart-felt love and worship of this God who is at once Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Response:

“Immortal, Invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, Thy great name we praise.”

Prayer:

Lord God Almighty, keep me conscious of Your glory, honour and power – and of Your great beauty and love. In Jesus Name, Amen.

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Stop Doubting!

“A week later his disciples were in the house again,
and Thomas was with them.
Though the doors were locked,
Jesus came and stood among them and said,
“Peace be with you!”
(John 20:26)

Reflection:
The first time that Jesus appeared to the disciples, after His resurrection, Thomas was not with them.

It was to be a long week before his opportunity came, a week in which he might well have felt himself to be rather an outcast. He might have also wondered whether he had forever missed his opportunity. But such was the love and grace of Jesus that He presented Thomas with an occasion in which he could see and feel the reality for himself. Thomas was convinced,

“Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:27-28)

It is always hard for us when others appear to have had dramatic personal experiences of God, or of something miraculous happening in their lives, or of God speaking to them in clear and certain ways – and we don’t. We might also feel like outcasts, excluded from God’s ‘inner circle’, and just not good enough. We can so easily give up or resign ourselves to living on the fringes of Christianity, as second class citizens – tolerated but not loved.

Nothing could be further from the truth! Jesus did make Himself real to Thomas. Thomas was convinced and acknowledged the reality of Jesus person, resurrection and divinity. Jesus would not want any of His disciples, then or now, to be less certain than this. He did, however, indicate that not everyone would have the same visual experience.

“Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

There are more ways of ‘seeing’ Jesus than with our eyes. He can reveal Himself to us in many ways. His intention always, though, as it was with Thomas, is that it should be in a way that is meaningful to us. He really does want us to believe and not to doubt. He wishes to establish a personal relationship with each one of His people one in which it is true that ‘My sheep know My voice.”

One of the ministries of the Holy Spirit is to make Jesus real to us. As we soak prayerfully in the Scriptures, open ourselves in prayer, and seek to live His way that will happen. And, of course, we should pray that Jesus will become more real to us – not in terms of a blinding and frightening revelation such as happened to Paul, but in a quiet and deepening inner knowledge that He is indeed both with us and within us – always.

Response:
Trust the word and ask the Holy Spirit to give it life within you.

Prayer:

Come Lord Jesus and live within me, all of me – and help me to know and respond to You. Amen.

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(Picture: Easter Lily)

God’s Peace

“On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the disciples were together,
with the doors locked for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood among them and said,
“Peace be with you!”

(John 20:19)

Reflection:
The disciples were afraid and behind locked doors. Having seen Jesus arrested, tortured and crucified, having themselves fled, they had been living with fear and huge uncertainty for days. Now they had heard that Jesus had risen. This might well have added to their torment.  Where was He, and what would His attitude be towards them – especially in view of their actions?

There are few mental torments greater than those that concern our having failed someone important in our lives, and in a major way. The agony of waiting for the impending confrontation, heightened by our racing imaginations, can tear us apart. We cannot bear the thought of being sent away in despair and humiliation – of being not good enough, having failed to live up to expectations, especially when the person concerned is the Messiah! They would have heard the terrifying teaching that one day the Messiah might well say to certain people,

“I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:23)

Suddenly Jesus was there standing amongst them – notwithstanding the locked doors. We do not know all that He said to them, or what they said to Him. But the words that are recorded tell us all that we need to know both for that meeting and for our own lives.

“Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you!”  (John 20:21)

This really was the peace of God that passes all understanding. It is a peace that has absolutely nothing to do with our deserving or earning it, or of the situation in which we find ourselves – but everything to do with the love, grace and power of our great Father and most wonderful Saviour. The text records that they ‘were overjoyed’ to see Him. It shows us that his love for them and acceptance of them was complete.

We all face fears that we have let Jesus down, that we do not live up to the standards that we believe He requires of us, and that we are like timid mice in the face of the increasing darkness of the world. All of that may be true. However, the most important truth for us to grasp and absorb is this – Jesus love for us is total and unconditional. He is completely committed to us and the work to which He has called us. When we fall or fail, or even think that we have, He is there with us to forgive, heal, empower and raise us up so that we can step out again with Him on the The Road of Love – the Way of Christ. He will work in all things for good and will never leave us or let us be taken from Him. Once we are His we are His forever. We do need to believe it.

Response:
Pray for a deeper belief and trust in the love of God for you.

Prayer:

Holy Spirit, please continue to pour the love of God into my heart –and help me to know it and trust it above everything else in the world. Amen.

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From darkness to Light

“I have seen the Lord!”
(John 20:18)

Reflection:
Mary Magdalene’s breathless and breathtaking revelation to the disciples was beyond imagination. Suddenly the cross and the grave were to become not huge symbols of sadness and defeat but essential milestones on Jesus journey to glory. We are not called to always remember Him as a twisted, bleeding body on a cross, nor as an invisible sadness behind a gravestone. Instead there is now an empty tomb – and we are called to engage with Him as the glorious living victor over sin, death and evil.

Jesus had once called Lazarus out from the tomb and into life, and told those with Him to remove the grave clothes, setting him free from the embrace of death. Now He was calling His disciples out of the death they had suffered through His death, away from a fixation on His grave, out of the spiritual and emotional wrappings of grief and into the new life that He had prepared and won for them. As important as His death was, and still is for us, it is only fully understood in the context of His resurrection. He died for our sins and to remove the barrier between us and God – and rose to give us life.

Jesus calls each and every one of us today to come to Him. To come out of the dark tombs in which we find ourselves, away from the graves of love and hope, up from the sepulchres of sadness and sin, deserting the vaults of failure and despair. Not only has His stone been rolled away. The stones of our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual crypts have been removed as well. It is the risen Christ now who calls to us. He does not call us to leave our prisons behind us to seek a new existence, He calls us to come to Him so that He, and He alone, can give us life – a life that is not found with or through any other person or thing.

We do not seek Christ now at His death. We do not weep at His grave. We find Him in the everyday gardens of our lives, in the rooms in which we live and the roads along which we travel. Christ is with us always.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, a new journey has begun in Your death and resurrection. Help me to live out the freedom of Your forgiveness, the beauty of Your light and the depths of Your love – to the wonder of Your glory. Amen.

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He’s done it!

“Jesus said, “It is finished.”
(John 19:30)

Reflection:
Finally it was all over.

Like an exhausted but triumphant long-distance runner Jesus had reached the end of His race. He was breasting through the tape. He had achieved the goal for which He had been sent. He had not given way to temptation, to pain and suffering, to abuse and humiliation. All that He had been given to do and to bear had been achieved – and He had been obedient and faithful to the very end.

Around God the angels must have begun to breathe a sigh of relief and exultation. And we can imagine that there was a quiet smile of love and pride on the still tear-stained face of the Father. For truly,

“You are my Son,
whom I love;
with you I am well pleased.”
(Luke 3:22)

Look at My Son,
Love of My Love,
In whom I delight!

As we look back we can only begin to imagine and grasp just how much hung upon the faithful and persevering achievement of the Man upon the cross. My life and your life and all our lives hung with Him in the balance. For He achieved what none of us could even begin to achieve. And he revealed a love we had not even begun to imagine. And He gained for us a future that was love and light instead of misery and darkness. And as His life ended here ours in eternity really began. For truly

I was there when they crucified my Lord.
I was there when they nailed Him to the tree.
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble,
For I was there when they crucified my Lord.

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O God – where are You?

“About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice,
“Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”–which means,
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
(Matthew 27:46)

Reflection:
It had happened. For the first time ever Jesus knew what it was to be separated from God. He had taken onto Himself and into Himself the sins of the whole world – past, present and future.

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us”
 (2 Corinthians 5:21)

God was not just on the other side of a barrier – He had disappeared. Jesus great cry of abandonment –prefigured in Psalm 22 – would have echoed throughout the whole of creation. And unsaid but inferred the next verse would hang in the air,

“O my God, I cry out …
but You do not answer”

We have to let our imaginations discern the truth that the heart of God Himself was in agony at this time – sustained only by His great love for His Son and for you and for me and for us.

As we look in horror and awe at the figure on the cross – straining against the nails, the pain and the suffocation – we begin to see more of the truth. The darkness upon Him and within Him is our darkness. The fingers of death reaching out and grasping Him is our death. The sin that has invaded Him and which burdens Him is our sin. In the flickering light His body seems almost to disappear and to be replaced by a list of our sin and sins. There they are – the sins of yesterday, the sins of today and – O no! – the sins of tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

He is forsaken and I am set free.

When I survey the wondrous cross
on which the Prince of glory died,
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast
save in the death of Christ, my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them through his blood.

See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were an offering far too small.
Love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.

(Isaac Watts)

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It was Night

“It was now about the sixth hour,
and darkness came over the whole land
until the ninth hour,
for the sun stopped shining”
( Luke 23:44-45)

Reflection:
And now as events built towards a climax – and the death of the Son of God was near – creation was affected.

Darkness covered the land. This was highly unusual for midday. To be mentioned like this it must have been a deep and obscuring darkness, as if the blackness of a moonless night was imminent. Not only was the sun obscured but it seemed as if it was no longer giving off light. A chill would have been felt in the air as the temperature fell suddenly. People probably begun to hurry home in fear and in case a violent storm was approaching.

Jesus would have been almost alone now – except for the soldiers, His mother and close followers, His companions on their crosses, and perhaps a few others. As the Light of the world Himself began to flicker towards extinction so the light in the world seemed to do the same.

A terrible silence must have been heard and felt in heaven as the angels watched in horror. And no one would have wanted or dared to look into the face of the Father, watching the darkness of sin separate Him from His beloved Son. This suffocating blanket of sin was falling onto Jesus, being absorbed into Jesus – a darkness where there was no light, no hope and, very soon, no life.

Voluntarily and obediently, in terrible and agonising isolation, Jesus was dying under the weight and horror of it all.

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