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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My Fruit or God’s?

2016-12-02

“I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you;
I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
(Genesis 12:2-3)

Reflection:
God doesn’t need much. He created everything out of nothing – that is, nothing as we know it existed before His creation. He made man from the dust of the earth. And now He commenced His great plan of salvation by calling out one man. To this man He gave the most remarkable prophetic promise.

Abraham was not a particularly special or gifted or deserving man – nor was he at times very trusting of God. But God knew his heart and knew that Abraham would allow God to work in and through him. Abraham ‘uttered no prophecy, wrote no book, sang no song and gave no laws.’ Yet he alone is spoken of as ‘the father of the faithful’ and as ‘the friend of God.’ It has also been said that he is ‘the only type in Scripture of God the Father.’ Such was his love and faith that he was prepared to sacrifice his God-given son in what was to be a prophetic glimpse into the terrible sacrifice that God Himself would make. He had grown to love and trust God completely.

Note how in the purpose for which Abraham was called everything was focussed on what God would do for him and through him: “I will make you;” “I will bless you;” “I will bless those;” “I will curse;” and as a consequence of which “you will be a blessing” and “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” It was all about the grace of God from start to finish.

Abraham was followed by numbers of other individuals in and through whom God was able to work in wonderful ways as they put their trust in Him. There were Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Elijah, John the Baptist and Mary to name just a few. In all of their lives the focus was on what God was doing and not on their own contributions.

Much of this was picked up by Jesus in His very telling picture and explanation of the Vine. He is the Vine itself and we, His disciples, are His chosen branches. As long as we remain attached to Him His life and power will flow into us and will, in consequence, produce fruit for the benefit of others. The closer and more open our relationship the more He will be enabled to produce ‘much fruit’ both in and through us. The wonder of the grace and glory of God is that others will almost always be able to see far more fruit than we perceive in ourselves. This is how it should be for it is God’s fruit and not ours.

Question:
Who fills my life – God or me?

Response:
It is only God’s fruit that will last

Prayer:

Lord Jesus please help me to draw closer to You, be more open to You and allow You to direct and fill my life. Amen.

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Focussed Living

2016-11-22

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners”
(Isaiah 61:1)

Reflection:
The Holy Spirit came upon Jesus at His baptism for these and other reasons. This being the case we can expect these to be included amongst the reasons for which He comes into our lives – for we are commissioned to continue the ministry of our Lord.

We do not have to search for the broken-hearted, the captives and the prisoners for they are all around us. They are hidden in the lives of those amongst whom we live, work and move. They are there with their silent screams and hidden tears and tortured spirits.

There are many things that have broken and still break our hearts and the hearts of others. There are a number of conditions that hold us and others in some form of captivity – physical, mental, spiritual and emotional. And there are numerous ways in which we and others are imprisoned in a darkness within our spirits – where we are unable to see and receive all the wonder of God’s true reality and love.

This inner healing to those who are spiritually restricted and impoverished comes from God Himself. It comes into our lives and then through us into the lives of others. To the extent that we have known our own spiritual poverty, and have some experience of God’s love, understanding, gentleness and healing as part of our own journey, then we have a blessing that we can share with others – and some understanding of their hidden condition. Very few people are as they appear on the surface and we should allow God to reveal to us something of their truth instead of ignoring it.

Our Saving Lord desires to shine His Light into this darkness and will use us as His instruments. The fruit of the Spirit is the first blessing that we have to offer – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Then there is prayer – a prayer for God’s blessing in their lives.

Response:
Put some of God’s love in an outside pocket of your heart – and silently sow it around you during the day.

Prayer:

Father shine Your light within me, pour Your love into me, and grow Your fruit in me – so that others may see and receive and be blessed. Amen.

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Have you been pruned?

2016-11-18

“He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit,
while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes
so that it will be even more fruitful”

(John 15:2)

Reflection:
Jesus as the Vine submits Himself to the will and ministration of the Gardener, His Father. If a branch is fruitless for any reason it will be cut off. Where a branch is growing strongly and bearing fruit it will be pruned to make it even more fruitful. Here He is describing the growth, development and nurturing of His Body, the Church. It is the Gardener who decides.

Those who have been involved with gardens will understand the process. I enjoy growing fuchsias from slips.  As they grow the ends of the young shoots need to be taken off to get the plant to bush by producing more side shoots. In this way there will be far more flowers on a stronger and more attractive bush.

The same may apply from time to time in our own lives. We may be growing strongly in one direction and suddenly find that the Lord seems to be holding things back. This may be because we are neglecting other areas of our lives. It may also be because He wants us to bear more shoots – for example by involving more people in what He is doing through us. In this way both the ministry and the ministry base may develop.

Our ministry is not our ministry – it belongs to the Lord. And it only thrives where we are drawing on Him for our life and strength. The whole purpose of the Vine – or Body of Christ – is ‘to bear much fruit … fruit that will last.’ It follows that each one of us is also expected to recognise and fulfill our purpose of bearing much fruit – fruit that will have a lasting impact and value.

Note also with the Vine that it is as the life of the Vine flows into the branches that good fruit appears. So with us – it is as the life of the Lord flows into us that His fruit will begin to appear in our lives. The life comes from the Holy Spirit whom God has given to us – ‘The Lord the giver of Life.’ We cannot do God’s works or bear His fruit by ourselves – only by the Spirit whom He gives us.

“Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty” (Zechariah 4:6)

Response:
What needs cutting, pruning and encouragement?

Prayer:

Lord Jesus may Your life flow ever more strongly into me through the Holy Spirit whom You have given me – and may the fruit that I bear be of You and not of me. Amen.

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Share your beauty

2016-09-22

“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit,
showing yourselves to be my disciples”
(John 15:8)

Reflection:
Spring is all around me. Whilst the daffodils are fading the azaleas are in glorious bloom. The silver birches, white stinkwood and fig trees that I can see from my window are clothed in bright new greenery. The pruned back hydrangeas are surging upward and outward and the quiet lilies are producing their first buds. The roses that looked gnarled and barren for months are on the point of bursting into the full flush of their first abundant display –as flower girls in front of the breath-taking beauty of the bride of the garden – the white may.  All this reminds me that our God is a God of beauty, abundance and wonderful generosity.

These lovely plants are doing just what they were created to do, bearing abundant fruit to the glory of their Creator and the blessing of those around them. It always strikes me that nature produces her fruit for others whilst humans tend to produce their fruit for themselves.

Obviously we earn our living from the use of the gifts that God has given to us. However we do need to be generous in our use of these gifts and the proceeds that come to us from their use. The Israelites were specifically instructed not to be too zealous in collecting the harvest but to leave some for the poor who came to glean what was left behind. King David also had this to say on the subject.

  • “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand” (1 Chronicles 29:14 NIV)
  • “But me–who am I, and who are these my people, that we should presume to be giving something to you? Everything comes from you; all we’re doing is giving back what we’ve been given from your generous hand” (1 Chronicles 29:14 MSG)

Being generous with the goodness in our lives is not only about money. There is a generosity of spirit, a generosity with care, concern and compassion, a generosity with encouragement, understanding and patience, a generosity with prayer, with time and with specific talents.

I sometimes wonder what I would be like if I were a plant. Perhaps covered in lovely and fragrant blooms and fruit all the year round – or maybe a gnarled, twisted and unlovely thorn bush – or something in-between depending on my circumstances or mood. How would someone draw me – or you?

Response:
God has placed love and generosity in your heart. Set it free (-er)

The beauty that people will remember is not of form but of spirit.

Prayer:

Father You are beautiful beyond description and too marvellous for words. Please help me to be more like You and to gladden the hearts of those around me. Amen.

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Worth Hoarding

2016.08.24

“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,
where moth and rust do not destroy,
and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
(Matthew 6:20)

Reflection:
Some years ago my eldest daughter brought me a copy of a magazine from my old school. I was sitting there quietly looking at it and saying, “I remember him – and him – and him.” Intrigued, she peered over my shoulder and then cried out, “Mom, Dad’s reading the obituaries!”

I was indeed – and was surprised at how many of my school acquaintances had died at what was a relatively young age. For them the journey of life was over and everything they may have hoped for or achieved or accumulated was left behind them. All that remained was their final meeting with our Lord and God.

It is very easy to get caught up with our wants and needs, our passions and fears, our occupations and past-times, our treasures and joys, and all the things into which the world tries to seduce us. No matter how important they are now, and how necessary and worth-while they may seem, they have one great thing in common – they will all be left behind us when we go. Some of them may even have been lost, stolen or turned to ashes before then.

Jesus encourages us to keep a proper balance and not to become obsessed with the things of this world, nor to strive to obtain, experience, accumulate and hoard its treasures. There are other things, He tells us, which have a greater and eternal value – things that cannot be measured in monetary or emotional terms.

Essentially our one and only treasure – incorruptible, unstealable and unbreakable – is Jesus Himself. He is our Life. He is our Righteousness. His is the Relationship which makes us known to God as His eternal sons and daughters. If Jesus is our supreme treasure everything else will begin to fall into place. If He is not we may well be serving something other than Him.

We cannot take anything with us when, sooner or later, we leave this world and go onto the next. All we will have is what we have become in our relationship with the Lord and the fruit developed in us by the Holy Spirit.

Live for the Lord – He is our Way, our Truth and our Life. He is our Light, our Love and our Joy. He is our Beauty and our Peace. He is our Purpose and our Fulfillment. He is our Today and our Eternal Tomorrow. He is our God, our Saviour and our Friend. He is our Everything.

Response:
Keep responding to His call. Never give up no matter how many times you fall. Trust Him always.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, in the midst of the worries, concerns and temptations of this life, please help me to trust and focus on  You in all things and at all times. Amen.

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Never take them off

2015.07.14

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.”

(Proverbs 3:3)

Reflection:
The ‘Wisdom of Proverbs’ is that if any qualities characterise our lives and living they should be those of love and faithfulness.

They are so precious that we should bind them around our necks as royal garments and inscribe them deep into our hearts from which they will be sent out again with every heartbeat. They should be evident as we approach people, experienced in our dealings with them and remembered after we have left. And every commitment we make, task we undertake and product that we produce should be representative of such qualities.

These two great words, love and faithfulness, can easily be seen to hold within them the qualities to be seen in the fruit of the Spirit, described by Paul. As the Spirit’s fruit they are, therefore, the qualities to be found in God Himself. Certainly we can see them in the Jesus of the Gospels.

“the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

If a moment’s reflection shows us just how rare they are in the world today it should also reveal to us how much they are needed.

Response:
Pray for them and seek to live them out this week. Write them in your diaries and elsewhere to remind you.

Prayer

Lord God, just as You have been so loving and faithful in Your relationship with me, please help me to be loving and faithful towards You and others, in all that I think and say and do. Amen.

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