Take it personally!

“As they talked and discussed these things with each other,
Jesus himself came up and walked along with them”
(Luke 24:15)

Reflection:
On the day of the Resurrection two of the disciples were walking away from Jerusalem and towards the village of Emmaus – a journey of about seven miles. They were discussing ‘everything that had happened’ including the accounts of the empty tomb and the women’s report of ‘a vision of angels, who said He was alive.’ As they proceeded on their way ‘Jesus came up and walked along with them.’

How easy it is to be aware of great events and fail to appreciate their personal significance. Jesus ministry and death were important enough to occupy their thoughts and discussion. They were aware of the empty tomb and the angels report that He was alive. Yet they still walked away from the centre, presumably back to their homes, not appreciating the possible impact upon their lives of one of the most significant events in history. And, when Jesus appeared and walked with them, they did not recognise Him. It was only after He had been revealed to them that they could not wait to return to the others in Jerusalem, bursting with the good news.

We can fall into the same trap and fail to recognise the importance of a personal relationship with the Lord, the personal significance of His life, death and resurrection and the personal reality of His presence in our lives.

The wonder of it is that the risen Jesus comes to find us with the purpose of revealing Himself to us – even when we are walking in the wrong direction.

Response:
Jesus is right with you – be aware of Him.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus please help me to be aware of the reality of Your presence – and not to treat You as an object of interest. 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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Today You will be with Me

“Today you will be with me in paradise.”
(Luke 23:43)

Reflection:
Some of the most beautiful and significant words that could be spoken to anyone. And how very special they were when spoken to a man dying for his sins.

Both the criminal and Jesus were looking beyond their present circumstances, beyond the pain and the slowly approaching death. They were moving away from the crowds into another space. And here Jesus could promise the man not just a relief from pain, nor a misty vision of some lovely garden, but the incredible promise that they would be together. Nor was the promise for some unknown date in the future with all the years of darkness still to pass. This was a promise not for tomorrow but for ‘Today’.

It was as if Jesus were saying to the man that as death claimed him in this world Life would open out before him in the world to come – and Jesus would be there with him to carry him through and into His eternal presence. We are not told of the man’s response, but Peter Marshall interprets it like this.

“Jesus, His face drawn with suffering, but His voice still kind, answered:
“This very day when this pain is over, we shall be together … thou and I … in Paradise.”
And the man, comforted, set his lips to endure to the end.”

He might well not have understood what was going to happen or what it would be like. However the promise that he would be with the Lord, wherever He was, was more than He could have expected or imagined.

What amazing grace! And what a beautiful promise for you and for me to hold on to when our time comes.

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(Picture: Artist Unknown)

Clean at last

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered,
 “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
(John 13:8)

Reflection:
O Lord, how I identify with Peter. How can You possibly kneel before me, reaching out to wash my feet? This is me – the one who is unworthy to undo the strap on Your sandals. I could not even aspire in my imagination to wash Your feet – unless, like the woman we watched, it was with my tears of guilt and shame and sorrow. Even that would be too much for how could I even touch You with such tears. I might only hope with David that they would be stored somewhere in a bottle for You to see one day.

And yet, and yet, I do need to be washed by You – for who else could wash away the sin-shamed stains that so disfigure my spirit? And so I begin to realise that Your washing has to be individual and personal and intimate for these are my sins and I need to be cleansed and set free. Here is the wonder of it all – You have called me individually, Your word has spoken to me in a way that is particular and specific to me and, as an individual, I have responded to You and placed my life in Your hands. It is this You tell me that, through the Cross, has cleansed me and made me acceptable to the Father.

But now Lord what is this washing of the feet? It is not the washing of salvation but the cleansing away of the travel stains and dirt picked up on the journey. It is not a washing of the spirit for that You have already done – it is a washing of the soul so that nothing sticks to me that might mar my life and ministry. For once I have been saved I do not need salvation again – just a regular washing away by You of the grime I have picked up, cleansing me and setting me free under the glorious cover of the eternal salvation that You have already conferred upon me.

You have already cleansed my whole person and now You seek to cleanse me day by day  from the stains that come from life in the world. But still – kneeling before me? Lord what are You doing ….  for this is so personal and intimate, so embarrassing and yet … so gentle and loving and affirming and wonderful …. and You are smiling up at me all the time. I understand now that no one else can do this to me or for me – only You. And this is Your ongoing service of love to me for the rest of my life here.

So I come Lord Jesus – dare I turn away!

There is no one as special and as wonderful as You! I thought I knew it – but again I catch another glimpse beyond the cloud.

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(Picture: Christ washing Peter’s feet – Ford Madox Brown)

Single-hearted

2017-02-21

“Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.”
(Matthew 5:8)

Reflection:
The heart, in Scripture, was seen as the centre of the personality. It was the centre of everyone’s being and the source of every activity – whether mental, physical or emotional. Man’s troubles were seen to stem from this centre.

“The heart [is] deceitful above all [things], and desperately wicked: who can know it?  (Jeremiah 17:9.KJV)

Jesus criticised the Pharisees accusing them of being ceremonially clean externally but with unclean hearts, full of extortion and wickedness. He compared then to ‘white-washed tombs’- good looking on the outside but filled with death within. Luther, commenting on this beatitude, said that in fact it did not matter if men such as labourers and blacksmiths were clothed in dirt as those who pondered God’s word and obeyed it would be ‘pure in heart’ in His eyes.

However, in its context within the Sermon on the Mount, and with reference to the rest of Scripture, it seems that Jesus would have had more in mind. Without excluding the inward and moral aspects of it He would be referring also to the whole question of their relationship with God. Professor Tasker has explained it as ‘the single-minded, who are free from the tyranny of a divided self.’ This would relate also to Jesus later comment that a person cannot serve two masters,

“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Matthew 6:24)

The single-hearted person is seen as being ‘utterly sincere’ in his whole relationship with and commitment to God. His heart will be totally focussed on and devoted to God. So David would pray,

  • “Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.” (Psalm 86:11-12)
  • “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)

It also explains the first Great Commandment which calls us to love God ‘with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ Another way of putting it would be to say with every fibre of your being.

Clearly this is beyond both our honest will and our own ability. However, by the grace of God, we have divine help in the form of the Holy Spirit. As we look increasingly towards God for help and open ourselves to Him, the Spirit is enabled to work.

  • “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)
  • “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:13)

Here at the central point of the Beatitudes we find this vital and telling truth. It reminds us that we cannot afford to be casual about our relationship with God, nor can we afford to be casual about our attitude to sin in our lives. In His love He has dealt with our sin. By His grace we have His Holy Spirit to transform us from within. New life with God is ours for the living – how can we hold back!

Response:
Turn everyday to God and ask for help.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, I want to give you an undivided heart and to live in and from Your love. Please help me every day to draw closer to You in all ways. Amen.

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God have mercy

2017-02-20

“But the tax collector stood at a distance.
He would not even look up to heaven,
but beat his breast and said,
`God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
(Luke 18:13)

Reflection:
There is nothing to be proud of in sin. Nor may it be treated lightly. Scripture is quite clear that sin is a grievous and separating offence against God. It is only through the love that is fixed in the holiness of God that sin can be forgiven.

Apart from Jesus Christ there has been, and there is, no one who does not sin each and every day of their lives. The tax collector was perfectly correct when He felt himself to be unworthy of approaching God. He stood at a distance and, beating himself upon the breast – over the heart – said, “God have mercy on me, a sinner.” He showed both an understanding of sin and a heart-felt response to its consequences.

By the grace of God He allows us to see and to feel the pain of sin, and to know its separating consequences as it comes between us and Him as well as between us and our true selves. This allows us to look at Him with awe and wonder as He reminds us that, as Christians, that terrible separation has been done away with by the Lord Jesus in His death and resurrection.

“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1)

The psalmist teaches us that our confession of sin is not merely a clinical acknowledgement of having slipped up but something far more significant. It should in fact at times bring us to tears, or close to tears, as we see our own failures in the light of God as well as the horror resulting from the sin around us.

 “a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17)

A broken and contrite heart is the true response to sin. This should bring us to the Lord in heartfelt sorrow and in tearful wonder that He, our great and most holy God, has provided a way for us to be forgiven and redeemed – because He loves us so much .

Response:
Don’t put up with sin in your life. Ask God every day to reveal it and help you to confess and turn away from it.

Prayer:

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

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