Speak Life

“Let your conversation be always full of grace,
seasoned with salt,
so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
(Colossians 4:6)

Reflection:
We have something so valuable to contribute when we are with others. As people of grace, loved, called and saved by the Lord, we can share aspects of His love and beauty with them.

There is no call for us to enter into conversations of destructive gossip or negativity. With the salvation and hope that we have in Jesus Christ we are the ones to share hope, affirmation and understanding instead.  We have been accepted by God, we do not therefore have to look for acceptance from others by joining them in what they are doing.

As the light of the world and the salt of the earth our contribution in any situation should be positive and uplifting, particularly in what we say and the way in which we say it. Accordingly we must be very careful to avoid deliberate, or careless, criticism or slander of anyone else. Bad language, swearing and blasphemy should not be a part of our speech on any occasion, no matter how great the provocation. If any of this is happening around us, and we do not feel able to challenge it, then we need to consider walking away from it. Failing even that, we can keep silent and pray!

Throughout the day most of us will meet with a variety of people. Some we will know well, others casually and some will be strangers to us. In every case there is the opportunity, in the way that we speak and in what we say, to leave a positive impression. It is often so easy to bring a smile to someone’s face by a deliberate appreciation of something that they have done, even by an acknowledgement of their name and presence. And remember that if someone is angry or critical towards us, either with or without cause, there is no reason for us to become angry and abusive in return. We can choose our response remembering that,

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)

If we set out in the morning with the intention of speaking love and encouragement into people’s lives, we will end the day having made a marked difference in many of them. For some it may have completely transformed their day and attitude. Not a bad result!

Response:
Just do it!

Prayer:

Father, I know what a difference it makes in my life to receive affirmation, encouragement and compliments. Help me to be a Love-giver into the lives of those around me – for Jesus sake, Amen.

—————-

Living gracefully

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed,
do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
(Colossians 3:17)

Reflection:
Thinking and praying about my sermon for a funeral service I was again reminded of the awesome privilege of being allowed into people lives, and to minister, on such occasions. I was also very aware that what everyone needed was not my ministry but that of the Lord – both through and around me.

For the Christian, every moment, every deed and every relationship – no matter how casual – is a ministry opportunity. It is an opportunity for us to show how intentionally we live for the Lord and, therefore, do our best as if it were an offering to Him. It is also an opportunity for Him to reach from us into the lives and needs, very often hidden, of those around us. To do something in Jesus name is to do it on His behalf and in His way, and in the belief that the Holy Spirit will guide, empower and bless it and the people involved.

Paul highlights this when he says, “whatever you do…do it all in the name of the Lord ..” He does not use words lightly, so his “whatever” means whatever and his “all” means all – not just funerals. It is very challenging to think through and yet, if our love for the Lord is real, then it should be a far more natural approach. It is also one way of showing our understanding of what He has done for us, and our appreciation of the tremendous sacrifice that was involved.

So, from washing dishes to leading the affairs of state,

“whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Response:
Examine today and plan tomorrow with this in mind.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, You have done so much to glorify God and to bless me. Please help me to live as a blessing to You and to others, Amen.  

————————–

Listen for Him

“Let me hear of Your loving kindness in the morning,
for in You I put my trust”
(Psalm 143:8)

Reflection:
On Monday I went for blood tests for a condition that had all the possibilities of turning out to be very nasty. The results were due the next day but were delayed until Wednesday morning. On Tuesday night whilst praying these words from the psalm reached out to me in a special way,

“Let me hear of Your loving kindness in the morning,
for in You I put my trust”

They seemed to reach into my spirit where I embraced them and held on to them. In the morning, despite the occasional twinge of anxiety from which I chose to turn away, they remained with me. And eventually the news came that there was in all probability no condition that could not treated with medicines. Praise God indeed – or with a bit more enthusiasm, “Yay God!”

It is so special when God gives us a word, speaking into our situations. It underlines the importance of being close to Him, open to Him and in conversation with Him. This God of everlasting love is concerned about us as individuals and so often has a word for us of ‘strength, encouragement and comfort.’ (1 Corinthians 14:3) And the word that we have in Scripture is still a living word which He uses to speak to us and into our situations today.

Response:
Involve God in conversation about Your affairs and read His word expectantly.

Prayer:

Help me to be open to You Lord, to be alive to the possibility of Your speaking to me and to hear You when You do. Amen.

—————-

(Photo: (c) Catherine Bondonno)

Love and Faithfulness

“It is good to praise the LORD
and make music to your name, O Most High,
to proclaim your love in the morning
and your faithfulness at night”
(Psalm 92:1-2)

Reflection:
The Psalms are full of wonderful and helpful insights. Here David shows us how to set up our days – every day.

The morning, before we begin our day, is the time to remind ourselves of God’s great love for us. This is His constant and saving love which undergirds the promise of Jesus to be with us always, through the Holy Spirit. Every moment of the day and in every situation and circumstance the Lord will be with us. And whether we get things right or whether we make mistakes, whether we end up with singing success or bruised and battered, His love will enfold us and never desert us. And it is His love that has given us the wonder of the created order with all its beauty and potential.

Then when evening comes it is the opportunity for us to acknowledge the faithfulness of God – for He will indeed have been with us no matter what has happened during our day. To Him we may come with our joy and thanks, our confession and pain. He will have been there, He will still be with us and He will stay with us during the night. And it is His faithfulness that ensures that the laws of His creation continue to operate as He intended.

His love is constant. His faithfulness unwavering. His presence eternal. This is our God.

Response:
Acknowledge and thank Him.

Prayer:

Lord God thank You so much for Your ever-present love and Your unflinching faithfulness. They make my day content. Amen.

——————–

Life in the Spirit

“Be filled with the Spirit”
(Ephesians 5:18)

 

Reflection:
Pentecost is essentially about life. It is not just about the same old person with a new opportunity. It is all about a new person commencing a new life with a new focus and a new life force within them – that of God Himself.

Jesus spoke about our being born again of the Holy Spirit. He taught that the Holy Spirit would live within us in an intimacy of relationship beyond that which was possible with Jesus in His earthly ministry. He explained too that when the Holy Spirit came He would bring to God’s people a new strength – a new power – that they had not enjoyed before.

The absolute importance of the Holy Spirit in our lives is put very clearly by Paul.

  • “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ” (Romans 8:9)
  • “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” (Romans 8:15-16)

It is the Holy Spirit who brings us to the Lord Jesus, who opens our understanding to the forgiveness and salvation to be found only in the Lord Jesus, who guides us to open our lives to the Lord and who then helps us to live out the life that God has purposed and planned for us.

We cannot ask the Holy Spirit to come into our lives to co-exist with the life of the world which is already there. We are asking Him to come in to be the Lord and Master of our lives and to show us how to live, equip us for that life and give us the strength and faith to live it. We also ask Him to identify, cleanse and heal us of any evil and its consequences that He finds there. It is all a part of His establishing His complete Lordship in and over our lives and clearing us out and cleansing us for the new life God has given us. The Holy Spirit does not come to help us to live our lives but to help us to live the life God has planned and prepared for us.

This Life in the Spirit is a life of following Christ and that is what’s vital. Any experience of being baptized in the Spirit and of our own Pentecost is an important beginning but not an end in itself. Different people will have different experiences at different times for a whole variety of reasons – including the fact that God treats each of us as an individual and not part of a mass production line. Our greatest danger will be that we ignore the Holy Spirit or relapse into our old default setting of the way of the world – trying to live in our own strength, slowly closing in on ourselves and losing contact with the Spirit.

Because we are human, and because all this is a process that having begun continues for the rest of our lives we will need to keep turning to God for a ‘fill up’ or fresh release of the Holy Spirit – because on the one hand we ‘leak’ and on the other we cannot avoid becoming clogged now and then by the dirt of the world in which we live. We will need forgiveness when, not if, we sin, and healing of the pains and hurts that we will encounter on the journey. However ‘in Christ’ and with the Holy Spirit our end is certain and secure and no one can change that.

Response:
One Lord of my life

Prayer:

Father thank You for the wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit please come and fill my life – cleanse me and set me free from the sins and stains of the past and bring me into the fullness of the life that You have for me in Jesus Christ my Lord and Saviour. Amen.

———————-

Forgiven for yesterday, today and tomorrow

“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.”
(Colossians 2:13-14)

Reflection:
Paul has a way with words! There was a time when we were both dead and dying because of sin and our sins. Like the uncircumcised person we were spiritually unclean and seen to be outside the provisions and scope of the covenant. There was nothing we could do to alter this state – it was as if we carried within us a written conviction and sentence of death. Then God did something – Jesus Christ came and took into Himself our sin, our sins and our conviction and sentence, and went to death on our behalf. The sentence has been paid and, when accepted, our sins can no longer be held against us in God’s judgement court – “He forgave all our sins.”

As believers we no longer live under the law, we live in the grace of God – we live in forgiveness as those who have been forgiven, even in advance. Instead of facing death we have entered into life. That is not a mandate for us to live carelessly or to indulge ourselves in sin – that can never be acceptable when we look at the terrible cost to God of our forgiveness. It does, however, mean that when we do sin we can go to the Father and ask for forgiveness, a forgiveness that has already been achieved for us. But let us never forget that it is ‘the blood of Jesus’ that ‘purifies us from all sin,’

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:7-9)

Although this amazing grace is extended and available to all people it is not a blanket provision acquired by all. It is a gift to be recognised, accepted, treasured and received. Those who reject the gift, reject God. Those who reject God reject the gift. Those who believe and put their faith and trust in the Saviour enter into the grace and love of God, as His sons and daughters, for eternity.

As believing Christians, no matter how difficult we find it to live pure and holy and faithful lives, the grace of God and the blood of Jesus have purified and continue to purify us. When we live in the grace of God we live in forgiveness, and in the new life and relationship that He has given to us. How wonderful is that! Learn to live in it every day – you are made right with God!

Response:
Acknowledge and accept the truth.

Prayer:

Thank You so much Father for Your wonderful love and grace. Please help me to believe, accept and live in it every day – for Jesus sake, Amen.

————————–

Limitless Grace

“I always thank God for you because of his grace
given you in Christ Jesus.”
(1 Corinthians 1:4)

Reflection:
Our relationship with God is all about reality. It is based on His reality and the fact that He has intervened in our reality – the reality of our everyday lives, as well as the reality of our past and our future. Whilst the world offers us concepts, philosophies and ultimate loneliness and death, God offers us truth, personal relationship with Him, and eternal life and healing. Where the world tells us what we must do, God shows us what He has done. Where the world will sell to us, God gives to us freely. Where the world gives no visible proof, God gives us His Son. Where the world offers no guarantees God sends His Spirit to live within us. Whereas the world ultimately discards us, God promises us resurrection and life.

The wonder of our relationship with God is that everything that He has done for us, and that He offers us, is done out of His great and unlimited love.

This love of God is not revealed only in words, it is revealed in the gift and sacrifice of His Son on our behalf. There could be no greater gift or example of the love that God has for us. And, because it is only through the grace of God, flowing from this love that we have a future and a hope, Jesus Christ stands also as the revelation of this grace. We become personal recipients of that grace as we believe and trust in HIm. We receive not only God’s love but the salvation and ever-present relationship with Him that flows from it.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God”  (Ephesians 2:8)

From beginning to end the reality of God, and the relationship that we can have with Him, is revealed and assured in the reality of Jesus Christ who entered into the reality of human life to bring to it a new and eternal reality with God.

Response:
Consider the reality of the cross. God speaks through it to each one personally.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, help me to look not to myself but to You, and to continually receive the wonder of God’s grace and love. Amen.

——————–