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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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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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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Free from me

“I will set out and go back to my father
and say to him:
“Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you”
(Luke 15:18)

Reflection:
Again and again I return to this amazing illustration of the love of God – painted for us by Jesus Himself. This time God surprised me by drawing my attention to the faith of the lost son.

He had done everything possible to alienate himself from his father. He had demanded his inheritance early, thereby indicating that his father was living too long. He had walked away from his father, his family and his home. He had ‘squandered his wealth on wild living’ and ‘with prostitutes’ and had ended up a ragged beggar in the gutter, with nothing to call his own and with no means of supporting himself. Everything had been lost including his social status and self-respect.

 However, there was one precious item that remained – one that only surfaced right at the end. That was his knowledge of his father’s character. And, Jesus tells us, it was ‘when he came to his senses’ that he found it and knew that there was in fact one place to which he could go. He could go home to his father. He believed that his father would not turn him away.

This is the blinding truth that the Lord Jesus holds out to us. Whatever we  have done, wherever we have been, and wherever we find ourselves to be – when the truth hits us that we have got it all so wrong –  there  remains for us always one safe place to which we can turn – we can go home to God our Father. We can return – not to the servant’s quarters – but into the arms that have never been closed to us.

Finally we look away from ourselves and we look at God – and we see – and we find all that we have longed for ….

Response:
Do I need to go home from anywhere?

Prayer:

Help me come Lord Jesus, dare I stay away!

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Come Home

“I have swept away your offenses like a cloud,
your sins like the morning mist.
Return to Me for I have redeemed you”
(Isaiah 44:22)

Reflection:
The wonder of the love and the grace and the glory of God is revealed in many small Scripture verses like this one – and can be so easily missed in our reading.

Here He tells us that His forgiveness – and therefore the complete and absolute forgiveness of our sins – is so certain a reality that He can present it to His people prior to their repentance. Indeed He is presenting it as an inducement for us to repent.

The truth is that God has been seeking after us long before we have sought after Him or even thought of doing so. And whereas our sins hang over us and separate us from Him, His love and power are such that they are no more challenging to Him than a cloud or a morning mist. And like the rising sun He is able to quickly and quietly sweep them away.  We can imagine Him doing so with a wave of His hand or the breath of His mouth.

God had already provided for –and in reality therefore accomplished – the work of redemption before creation. He can now call all His people – including each one of us – to appropriate that redemption for our own lives, and to keep on doing so as the need arises. We do so initially in our turning to the Lord and accepting His offer of salvation as we commit ourselves to Him. We continue to do so as sin arises and troubles us.

  • “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (Ephesians 1:7)
  • “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)

Note John’s use of the word ‘will.’ Confession is our agreeing with God that we have sinned and, at the same time, agreeing that our forgiveness and salvation lie only in Jesus Christ and what He has already accomplished on our behalf. True confession is therefore a statement of faith.

The truth is that God loves us – and wants us – and wants therefore to forgive us. The cost to Him was terrible but the reality of its effectiveness is unlimited and unending. So when we fall and fail God’s invitation to us rings out . And where sin has distracted us from Him He calls us back, and keeps calling us, until we never leave again.

“I have swept away your offenses like a cloud,
your sins like the morning mist.
Return to Me for I have redeemed you”

Response:
Humanly speaking it makes no sense. Spiritually it can be the best news in the world

Prayer:

Thank You my Father – thank You so very much – that indeed nothing can now separate me from You. Help me to believe and to keep on believing. Amen

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Don’t Poison Yourself

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you,
your heavenly Father will also forgive you”
(Matthew 6:14)

Reflection:
Jesus made it quite clear here and in other places that we are to forgive the sins of others. He taught also that if we do not forgive others then the forgiveness of God will not reach us. The reasoning is quite clear – If God has forgiven us everything there is absolutely no justification for us refusing to forgive others – for withholding from them the grace that we have received. To withhold forgiveness is to place a barrier between the Lord and us.

There is also a another very practical reason involved, and that is the consequence of an unforgiving attitude in our own lives. Marianne Williamson has expressed it very clearly,

Unforgiveness is like drinking poison yourself
and waiting for the other person to die.

Unforgiveness is a poison that seeps into our lives and brings with it bitterness, unhealthiness and anger that can end up destroying both us and our lives – and which may have no effect whatsoever upon the person whose actions have given rise to our feelings. To change the picture, a spirit of unforgiveness is like a hook within us which jerks every time we are reminded of the person concerned. Healing will only take place when the hook is removed – and we need to remove it.
To forgive another is not to say that their actions do not matter – sometimes they matter very much indeed. It states instead that we refuse to be their victims as well and to live in suffering. Instead we hand them over to the Lord to Whom they will in due course need to give an account.

It is not always easy, and it may involve prayer, practice and even the counsel of a wise person. It is however a journey to freedom and worth taking.

Response:
Choose to forgive – say it aloud – ask God to make it real within you. If necessary keep doing so until it is complete.

Prayer:

Lord God, You have forgiven me for everything in my life – please help me to forgive those who have offended me, and enable me to live in Your freedom of spirit. Amen.

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