Immanuel

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Law and Grace

“Then Moses said to the people,
 “Commemorate this day, the day you came out of Egypt,
out of the land of slavery,
because the LORD brought you out of it with a mighty hand”
(Exodus 13:3)

Reflection:
The Lord God rescued the Hebrews from their slavery in Egypt and their bondage to Pharaoh. He brought them to Himself at Sinai where He gave them the choice of becoming His special people. From there He led them to the Promised Land – the land He had promised to Abraham, Isaac and to Jacob whom He renamed Israel.

This Exodus from Egypt which commenced the formation of the nation as the people of God prefigures our own spiritual journeys as God calls us out of our human bondage and slavery to sin – into which we were born as the sons and daughters of Adam.

Their passing through the waters of the sea under the pillar of cloud became known as their baptism into Moses, foreshadowing our baptism into Christ by water and the Spirit. In both cases the old life is to be left behind and the new life embraced.

  • “They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (1 Corinthians 10:2)
  • “Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5)

At Sinai the people were given the Law which was to govern their relationship with God and was their contribution to His Covenant.

  • “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:5-6)

Not only were they completely unable to keep the provisions of the Law but we know that we are too. There is no pass mark under the Law other that 100% and only Jesus was able to achieve that. So the Law shows us our weaknesses and prepares us to acknowledge our desperate need for a Saviour. In truth we will never fully appreciate and value Grace until we have battled and fallen before the Law.

  • “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)

Our journey with God, therefor, brings us to a different mountain-top, the one crowned with a cross. And here we meet the end of the Law and the establishment of the New Covenant of Grace. Jesus spells it out for us –

  • “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16)
  • “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God– children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:12-13)
  • Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:29)

And when the Israelites came to the Promised Land for the second time they entered not on the basis of their works but because they believed. And when we turn to the Lord we enter into His salvation not because we have earned it but because we believe in the love and provision and the wonderful grace of our Lord. What an amazing God is this!

Question:

Am I saved only by grace through faith – or am I trying to earn it?

Prayer:

“Lord I believe – help my unbelief.” Amen

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God’s Commitment

“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:
Here is another great and unsolicited promise of God.

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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Love Lavished

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us,
that we should be called children of God!
And that is what we are!”
(1 John 3:1)

 

Reflection:
God has made a covenant with us. No one made Him do it – He committed Himself because He wished to. He reached out because He wanted us – you, and me and them. This was not the craving of acquisition and hoarding – it was and is His great desire founded upon His deep and everlasting love. So powerful is this love that He does two amazing things.

  • He removes the barrier between Him and us in the great sacrifice for sin of Jesus Christ
  • He offers us the freedom to become His sons and daughters – not just second-rate children but ‘co-heirs with Christ’ of all that He has.

It is small wonder then that John, the beloved apostle, should marvel as he does,

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us,
that we should be called children of God!
And that is what we are!”

There can be no possible doubt about this for at the beginning of his gospel John proclaims,

“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God– children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”
(John 1:12-13)

To be a child of God – His son, His daughter – what an amazing privilege, what an unsought and unimaginable blessing, what an enormous and incalculable sacrifice – what love!

Response:
Take time today and through the weekend to contemplate, unpack and savour these great truths for yourself. Begin to own them.

Prayer:

Lord open my spirit and my heart to the wonders of Your great love – for me and for all humankind. Help me “ to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that (I) may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:18-19)

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Add some yeast

“The kingdom of heaven is like yeast
that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour
until it worked all through the dough.”
(Matthew 13:33)

Reflection:
So often Jesus used everyday activities as the source from which He drew His parables.

Bread without yeast can be hard, dry, unappetising and uninteresting. The introduction of yeast makes it soft, porous and spongy, tasty and good to eat. My aunt used to make bread and often when we were at her house there would be a line of small boys waiting to get their hands on thick, warm slices after it came from the oven.

Like the yeast, once it is added to the dough, the Kingdom of God may appear to be invisible. This is particularly true of the world in which we live. However it does not mean that God is inactive. I have been particularly aware recently not only of God at work in my own life but of His involvement and blessings in the lives of others. This is so often the way that He operates. He enters into and transforms the lives of those of His people who are open to it – so that they in turn may bless and influence the lives and situations around them. In this way it becomes visible through its effect.

Just as we have needs – for acknowledgement, encouragement, love, healing, understanding and assistance, to name but a few – so do those around us. We will begin to see it if we look at people instead of past them. We all have within us the ability and capability to spread ‘a bit of yeast’ into someone else’s life every day. In this way the Kingdom begins to spread and grow.

Response:
Let the yeast of God’s love, revealed through His Word and His Spirit, work its transformation in your own life – and through you.

Prayer:

 Lord help me to embrace Your love, soak in Your Word, be enlivened by Your Spirit, and bless those around me.  Amen.

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Light Feet

“The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to go on the heights.”
(Habakkuk 3:19)

Reflection:
Try as we might there are some things that we cannot do – things that are beyond our power and ability. We are mortally human. We are still greatly influenced by the things of the world as well as the actions, reactions and imperfections of others and ourselves. And the peace and joy that come from the world are very fragile and can be shattered within a moment.

The Sovereign Lord is my strength. He is Almighty and none can stand in His way when He chooses to act and to bless. The closer I am to Him the closer He is to me and the more His presence sustains and uplifts me – no matter what the world may be throwing at me at that particular moment. My vulnerability becomes the opportunity for His love and strength to bless me. My aloneness is the gap which opens the way for His presence to become more real and wonderful.

I cannot dance in the spirit unless His Spirit inspires my spirit and gives life and lightness to my feet. Only He can take me to the heights, only in Him am I enabled to mount up on wings like eagles – to soar, even for a moment, up into a new atmosphere, to new heights from which I can gain another perspective, and in which I am strengthened to go back into the valleys again with a new hope, faith and purpose.

God is my everything. In Him I live and move and have my being. He is my life, my light and my love. He is both the healing and the blessing of my yesterdays; He is the strength and the joy of my todays; and He is the hope and the fulfilment of my tomorrows.

And if I allow Him to embrace and feed me in the light I will know that He is still there in the passing darkness.

Response:
Choose to be in God’s presence today and to rest in Him.

Prayer:

Father, help me to draw closer to You so that You can draw closer to me. I put my hope and trust in You. Amen.

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My Dad and me

“Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me,
for I have not yet returned to the Father.
Go instead to my brothers and tell them,
`I am returning to my Father and your Father,
to my God and your God.'”

(John 20:17)

Reflection:
There is a most wonderful and meaningful progression in the way that Jesus refers to His disciples. In the story of The Vine we see the first progression when He tells them that

“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15)

Originally they would have been His servants. Now they have been elevated to the position of friends – which would have been very significant and a great honour. But more was to come and this could only happen after He had dealt with their sins on the Cross and brought them into a completely new relationship with God as their eternal Father. Now He could, and indeed did, refer to them as “My brothers”.

This was their, and is now our, true and complete relationship with God. We are His eternal sons and daughters and Jesus is our eternal brother. So complete is this adoption that we have now become joint heirs with Christ of all that God is and has.

“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Romans 8:15-17)

This must affect the way in which we think about God and relate to Him in our thoughts and prayers. I am no longer on the outside – looking hopefully in through the window. I am now forever entitled to be in His presence, freely and welcomed, honoured and blessed. I am the son/daughter of the Living God and His Son is my Brother.

And note that Jesus puts us on the same level as Himself when He refers to “My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.” We are not second class family members we are there at the top with our Lord Jesus – from the moment that we give our lives to Him as our Saviour and Lord.

Response:
Let the truth sink in  – and thank and praise God for the wonder of it.

Prayer:

Father, my Father, my Abba, my Dad – thank You so very much for loving me back into life and bringing me home to You. You are so amazingly wonderful!

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