Love Lavished on us

“The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly,
along with the faith and love
that are in Christ Jesus.”
(1 Timothy 1:14)

Reflection:
If there are three words that characterize God’s relationship with us they are these – Grace, Faith and Love.

God’s love is the foundation.

“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)

God’s grace is the fruit of His great and boundless love. It is by this grace that our salvation became possible and a living reality in Jesus Christ.

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-24)

God’s faith is His gift to us so that we might believe and be saved into an eternal and living relationship with Him.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

All three are God’s gifts to us and, as Paul says, they are poured out ‘abundantly.’ John puts it slightly differently but uses another word that overflows with meaning.

“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)

The only limit that is placed upon this abundant and lavish outpouring of God’s love is our preparedness to  receive, respond and rejoice in an ever increasing and deepening way. They are not gifts that we receive like medals and pin to the outside of our lives. They are spiritual gifts given by the Holy Spirit to our spirits – there to grow and bear fruit from deep within us, and to influence every aspect and part of our life and living.

But we can restrict and impede their development. We do this by our refusal to respond and by our persistence in focussing on our problems and the pleasures, values and provisions of the world. We do it also by limiting Him to the level of the understandings of our minds. As a result we miss out terribly on the joy and potential of our relationship with the Lord, and on who we could be as His living sons and daughters.

Response:
Ask God in –  practice walking and talking with Him through the days – and breathe in His love

Prayer:

Lord, please help me in allowing You to become a greater part of my life – and my becoming a greater part of Yours. Amen.

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Just Grace

“But he said to me,
“My grace is sufficient for you,
for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
(2 Corinthians 12:9)

Reflection:
All my life I have lived in an environment of work and rewards, failure and consequences. A poor self-image did not help, and left me vulnerable to either fearing the worst or willing to believe the tempter’s whispers that I was not good enough. Any success or popularity surprised me and I could imagine that it would not last. Always there was the thought that I had not done enough to earn or retain God’s love. Sin devastated me – not just because of what it was, but because I felt that I might now be cast off by God. Why should He love me, and continue to love me, when I knew how unlovable I was, and how unworthy.

Slowly I began to learn that it was not all about me. It was about God. It was not a question of what I was like but of what God is like. It was not a test to see how much I loved God, but a revelation of how much He loves me. It was not even a matter of how much I achieved for Him, but of what He can achieve for me and through me and around me. That’s the trouble with insecurity and sin, it makes us the centre. The wonder of love is that someone else is the centre.

God’s grace at work – not telling us that sin does not matter; not telling us that our weaknesses are good. Just loving us, accepting the tiny amount of love for Him and faith that we have, and pouring out His smiling, laughing, thrilling, loving and forgiving Grace all the time. And, calling us always forward and closer to Him into the life that is truly Life, the way that is the only Way, the Truth that is beyond all truths.

Hear these words:

  • “I have loved you with an everlasting love”  (Jer 31:3)
  • “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph 2:10)
  • “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Cor 12:9)
  • Nothing “in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:39)

Response:
Just trust Him – His love, His sacrifice and His grace. Ask Him to help you. Stop looking at yourself – look at Him instead.

Prayer:

Father, Thank You for a love and grace that is beyond understanding. Please help me to allow You to fill me with Your love and grace and to live in their reality. Amen.

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Grace and me

“And the God of all grace,
who called you to his eternal glory in Christ,
after you have suffered a little while,
will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast”

(1 Peter 5:10)

Reflection:
When the truth of this breaks into our lives it is breath-takingly wonderful.

God’s grace is not a weak and temporary thing. It is God’s life-giving love and saving power in action, reaching out to embrace us. It is free, unmerited, unrestricted and unconditional. And it is for me!

It is through God’s grace that we are called into ‘His eternal glory in Christ’. It is His love and power that has made it possible and it is His love and power that will bring it to a perfect fulfilment. It is not even us using His power to bring about this great salvation – it is His power-filled love working on and within us that makes it happen.  Our only contribution is the repentance and acceptance, and then co-operation, that this great love draws out. We are quite unable to achieve anything more no matter how hard we try – as try we will.

So when David had sinned he did not pray that God would help him to try harder in the future. Instead He asked God to do in him that which he knew he could not do in or for Himself.

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10)

This heart-broken prayer is in fact directly in line with what God wishes to do for us.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26)

One thing that suffering can teach us is our helplessness and weakness – including our inability to properly recognise and avoid sin, and the devastating effect it can have in our lives and in our relationship with God, ourselves and others.

Only God is able to transform our lives – to cleanse us and make us ‘strong, firm and steadfast.’ He wants to and He will, for He is both willing and able. And, He is the only one who can do it. However the way He has chosen is to take us on a journey of discovery – and where we are today is a part of that journey. The best is still to come.

  • “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen”( Ephesians 3:20-21)
  • “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6)
  • “And the God of all grace, .. will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast”

Prayer Response:

Forgive me Lord for my efforts to be my own guide and saviour. Please create in me a pure heart, renew my spirit and make me strong, firm and steadfast in You and to Your great honour and glory. Amen.

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Come in!

“Put out into deep water,
and let down the nets for a catch.”
(Luke 5:4)

Reflections:

Jesus had been teaching the people from Simon’s boat. When He had finished He told Simon to move it into deeper water for a catch of fish. The reason was quite simple – you don’t net large schools of big fish in shallow water.

So many people exist in the shallows of life. However Jesus lived a different type of life and called His disciples to follow Him into it.

He promised to grow them in new ways – “I will make you..” (Matthew 4:19); He gave them the life-changing empowerment of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2);  and He provided them with special gifts (1 Corinthians 12). Clearly they were not going to spend their time ankle-deep in life – in fact they would all ‘walk on water’ many times. He also has a grand purpose and great plans for each of us,

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)

The key is the call of Jesus. He always meets us where we are and then calls us to follow Him into a new way of living, and a better one.  We are not all expected to be great public figures, but we are all intended to be involved in blessing someone’s world and in bringing change and healing into some situations. The more we follow Him the more we will notice Him at work – and the deeper we allow Him to take us the greater the acts of God that we will see. Jesus is establishing His Kingdom.

There is no greater satisfaction, when you look back over your life, than knowing that you have been allowed to invest it in something significant – and in ways that has been a blessing to others. To catch a glimpse of how the Lord has been at work in, through, around (and in spite of !) us is humbling and wonderful. What a privilege, what a blessing and what an experience. Praise God indeed!

Response:
Where is Jesus calling you to go deeper with Him? Ask Him.

Prayer:

Thank You Lord Jesus for calling me into Your life and purpose. Please help me to follow You and not to linger in the passing shallows of the world. Amen.

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Lift your hearts

“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father,
who loved us and by his grace gave us
eternal encouragement and good hope,
encourage your hearts and strengthen you
in every good deed and word.”

(2 Thessalonians 2:16-17)

Reflection:
Paul never thought that God was a disinterested spectator in the affairs of the world, of His Church and of His people individually. His learning and his experience taught him otherwise. His encounter with the living Jesus, his experience of the Holy Spirit and the way God opened his eyes to the Scriptures convinced him of God’s presence, purpose and commitment. He lived his life accordingly.

Christian life and ministry can, at times, be very lonely and insecure. We may wonder where God is and if what we are about has any significance or value in the greater scale of things. We need to remember that Jesus gave His life, and His ongoing commitment, to the people who would believe in Him and continue His work and ministry. Every aspect of it, whether thought, word or deed is of importance and, if of God, contributes towards the building and extension of His Kingdom. Each one of us does indeed have a Circle of Influence, far wider in today’s world than we would at first imagine. God encourages us to use that influence to bless others and bring glory to Him.

If God desires something to happen, whether on an international or personal front, then He will support and empower it. If God wishes you or me to lead a particular type of life – a holy life – then He will support, empower and encourage it. Because He wants us to reflect Him in our world He will inspire and strengthen us. He will also stand with us when the enemy attacks us and attempts to scare us into inactivity or lead us astray. He will be both our strength and our refuge.

Jesus great promise is to be with us always. He undertook also that the Holy Spirit would be within us and be the one to  bring God’s love into our hearts. We are not alone – God is at work within and around us even when we are blind to His presence.

Response:

Remind yourself of Jesus’ presence. Involve Him in everything.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus do help me to remember that  You are with me always. Please help me to acknowledge You and  to think, speak and act in ways that honour You – and strengthen and encourage me every step of the Way. Amen

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Read Me

“You show that you are a letter from Christ,
the result of our ministry,
written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God,
not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”
(2 Corinthians 3:3)

 

Reflection:
 I really miss getting hand-written letters. There was something very personal and warm about them – far more so than with much of today’s instant mail.

 How wonderful it is that God did not send out impersonal tweets, texts or bulk mail when He had something important to say. He spoke directly, He spoke through the prophets and He has spoken most revealingly through His Son. Even Scripture as the divinely inspired written record is filled with carefully chosen words and descriptions – all designed to help reveal to us more of the Lord Jesus and to point us to Him.

He speaks also through us. We become His letters – living messages that can be seen, examined and spoken to. His message is not written on the cold screen of the latest tablet with all of its high definition and artificial colour, but on the living and pulsating hearts of His people. He who said that if we had seen Him we had seen the Father would want to say of us that if people wished to see Him they should look at us! With His light within us we become ‘the light of the world!’ We are called to be living and speaking witnesses of His Way, Truth and Life.

People read us all day and every day. We leave an impression on everyone – like footprints in the sand. We affect them. And a part of the good news is the fact that the message of God’s perfect love and grace is carried within the visibly imperfect envelopes of our lives. If God loves us then He can love anyone.

Response:
Tread with love through the lives of others today.

Prayer:

Lord write Your message on my heart – and may it be the only one that shines out from me. Amen.

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Lavish Love

“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her?
She has done a beautiful thing to me.”
(Mark 14:6)

Reflection:

A woman had just anointed Jesus with extremely expensive perfume. Some of those present – probably all men – were indignant, called it a waste and said that it could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor. They rebuked her harshly. Jesus intervened and told them not to bother her for what she had done to Him was a ‘beautiful thing.’ He continued,

“I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” (Mark 14:9)

How easy it is to become conceptual and legalistic – and to forget that love lies at the very heart of our relationship with God and each other. True love can be very extravagant and seemingly wasteful as John reminds us,

  • “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,” (John 3:16)
  • “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)

God’s example is of a ‘lavish love’ that does not hold back but expresses itself wonderfully. The woman had clearly been deeply touched by this love and was responding in the most expressive way that she could. This was not the love of obedience but the overflowing love from a grateful heart. It clearly touched Jesus deeply. So significant did He find it that He promised, and ensured, that it would continue to be told wherever the gospel was preached.

But there was something more. Although the woman would have been unaware of it Jesus saw in her actions an anointing of Him in preparation for His burial that lay just ahead. He had been blessed by love just before He was deserted, rejected and abused. And such was the power of the perfume that it was probably still noticeable when He was nailed to the cross.

Response:
Could you do a beautiful thing for the Lord today – or for someone He cares about?.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, forgive me for always wanting something from You. Touch my heart with Your love so that I too may wish to love You back unreservedly. Amen.

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