Drink Deep

“With joy you will draw water
from the wells of salvation”

(Isaiah 12:3)

 

Reflection:
We so easily look to the world to satisfy our needs and desires. Yet all it has to offer drains away so easily and quickly. As Jesus said to the woman whom He met at the well,

“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
(John 4:13-14)

Eternal life comes from Jesus Christ and is like an ever-flowing stream of living and life-giving and life-enhancing water. Only He can satisfy our spiritual thirst for meaning, wash us clean from the stains of failure, shame and sin and create within us a peace and joy that is not dependent upon the world or other people.

We do not have to search for the ‘wells of salvation’ because as Christians the Holy Spirit lives within us. He is with us all the time – ready and available to be drawn upon and to feed, nourish, cleanse and strengthen us. There is no limit to the quantity or quality of the spiritual water that flows from Him.  Paul paints a lovely picture of it for us when he writes that,

“hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us”
(Romans 5:5)

Just as we need to reach out and take the world’s supply of liquid refreshment so we need to draw the water from the well of the Holy Spirit within us. This can be done by simply pausing wherever we are, drawing quietly aside, and asking Him to pour His life-giving presence into the area of our life that particularly needs it at that moment. Take some ‘deep breaths of Him’ and allow yourself to feel Him settling where you need Him. Repeat as often as necessary and trust Him that He is responding. A regular request for Him to fill, guide and strengthen you at the beginning of every day, and at times of particular challenge, will also help and be a blessing. As we practice this we will begin to discover the joy of God’s presence and response.

Response:
Do it now

Prayer:

Holy Spirit of God please fill and bless me right now, and particularly in the areas where I am afraid, depressed, burdened and lonely. Please guide and strengthen me as I go forward and keep me always close to You. Amen.

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Real Man

“The Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us”
(John 1:14)

Reflection:
Jesus was both fully God and fully Man.

  • He was born to a human mother through the Holy Spirit
    • Matthew 1:18; Luke 1:35
  • His human ancestry reaches back to David, Abraham and Adam
    • Matthew 1: 1 – 17; Luke 3: 23 – 38
  • He grew and learned as a human, obeying His human parents
    • Luke 2:51-52
  • He grew hungry and needed to eat (Matthew 4:22) and thirsty and in need of drink (John 4:7). He was weary after travelling (John 4:6) and He needed sleep and refreshment (Matthew 8:24).
  • He endured Satan’s temptation
    • Luke 4:1-13
  • He had the normal human emotions of love and compassion (Matthew 9:36), anger (Matthew 21:13, Mark 3:5), He wept (John 11:35) and experienced inner agony (John 12:27).
  • He died and was buried like all humans
    • Luke 23:44-56

It is because Jesus was fully human that He could represent us on the cross and die on our behalf. And it is because of it that He is also enabled to fully understand and sympathise with us, recognise the power of temptation and minister God’s love and mercy to us as the “High Priest forever.”

“For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:16-18)

God is not an impassive observer of our little lives. He became as one of us, associating fully with us in His baptism, walking our roads, breathing our air, working our work, touching our lives and allowing us to touch His. In becoming fully man He becomes more fully real – so that John could write,

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched–this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete” (1 John 1:1-4)

Response:
He knows me because He has been me

Prayer:

Lord Jesus You understand who I am, the way that I feel and the joys and agonies of my life. Please touch my life with Your life and help me to receive all that You are and all that You have done for me. Amen.

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Holy God

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
(Isaiah 6:3)

Reflection:
God is not merely a supreme force. God is a Person whose most identifying characteristic is Love. We were made in His image and something of that remains in us. We are called in the great commandments, in the new commandments of the Lord Jesus and in the identifying characteristic of the Holy Spirit to be a person and a people characterised by love. This means that we will become more like God.

However we must always be aware that God is not like us. For God is Holy. That means that He is totally different to fallen humankind. There is no stain or hint of sin about Him or near Him – in fact He is as far removed from sin as the Sun is different to the flame of a match. Sin cannot exist in His presence. God has said of Himself in comparison to humankind –

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts”
(Isaiah 55:8-9)

This means that God’s Love is Holy. There is nothing selfish, self-centred, conditional or limited about His Love. It is a Love that seeks to give and to bless and to forgive – even at great cost to Himself.

It also means that God’s Righteousness is Holy. He can never be swayed or bribed or influenced away from what is right. Which is why His forgiveness could only be achieved by His taking into Himself the sin of all humankind and suffering the consequences Himself.

Also God’s faithfulness is Holy. Having committed Himself He will not withdraw from or forsake what He has undertaken nor will He turn away from His daughters and sons. It is due to that faithfulness that He has not, and will not, take back from us His great gift of the freedom of choice given to us in the beginning. But He has also not abandoned us to the consequences of our actions.

God’s justice is Holy. When He calls on us to forgive it is not to infer that the sin and pain are inconsequential. On the contrary He has told us that “I will repay.” We forgive the sins of others because God will hold them to account. And should He forgive them it is because He has taken their sins with Him to the cross as well as ours.

God’s mercy is Holy. He loves and forgives and heals and supports and transforms and understands at a level that we cannot begin to recognise or understand. And, when we sin again and crawl back to Him again, His Spirit whispers to ours “My grace is sufficient for you.”

God is Holy – and through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit He invites us to become a part of His holiness, beginning now and stretching through the limitless reaches of eternity.

“And we .. are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit”
(2 Corinthians 3:18)

Response:
Receive and lay your fourth foundation stone for the year – God is Holy and is transforming me.

Prayer:

Lord God, make me holy even as You are holy. Amen.

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Mary and Elizabeth

“At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.”
(Luke 1:39-41)

Reflection:
God had begun this new part of His salvation plan with two mighty acts – both of which involved women in a special way.

Elizabeth, who had mourned the fact that she could not have a child, and had suffered the social indignity as a result, was delighted to be pregnant – even in her old age. And her son would be the great and promised forerunner of the Lord – one of whom Jesus would say,

“This is the one about whom it is written: “`I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John;”
(Luke 7:27-28)

Elizabeth also had the privilege of meeting the Saviour’s mother, and knowing it at the time. It must have been a very special time that they enjoyed together, after Elizabeth had greeted her,

“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”

Mary was obviously conscious of the great honour that had been bestowed upon her, even although she could not at the time have realised what would be involved, or the pain that she would have to bear when Jesus was into His ministry. The Holy Spirit was clearly inspiring her when she exclaimed,

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me– holy is his name”

(Luke 1:46-49)

Our lives can seem very ordinary to us at times, and we may feel that we are stuck in a physical or social backwater, where some of the blessings that others appear to enjoy have passed us by. We never know when God may come to us, or use us to fulfil a special purpose of His. Our names may, or may not, go down in history as did those of Elizabeth and Mary – but even the smallest stone in a Temple is of great importance, both  to the whole and to the other stones around it. Each is hand-picked by God! – and with a specific purpose in mind.

Response:
Allow God to choose how to use you, and thank Him that He does.

Prayer:

Father, thank You that You do know the hearts and longings of Your people, and that You do, indeed, have a special purpose and plan for each one of us. May Your will be done in me also. Amen.

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Life eternal

“I am the resurrection and the life.
He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;
and whoever lives and believes in me will never die”
(John 11:25-26)

Reflection:
This is one of the key statements made by our Lord Jesus. Our hope of any resurrection and of eternal life with God is in Jesus Christ and comes from Him. It rests in no one and in nothing else. No quality of life can earn it – and once received no one is able to remove it.

He revealed His authority over death in His resurrection of Lazarus and others. Their gift of life was, at that stage, only temporary for Jesus had not yet completed His mission. His great and life-giving expression of His power for the resurrection to eternal life came in His own resurrection from the dead. Here the power of death was defeated as He rose never to die again.

“I lay down my life–only to take it up again.” (John 10:17)

Those who are united with Him by faith in His death and resurrection have nothing to fear from the death that lies in front of everyone. It is merely a door through which we pass with Him into the new life that He has promised us. So Paul could say,

“I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” (Philippians 1:23)

The love and power of God – the eternal Father, the glorious Son and the life-giving Spirit – is such that nothing and no one can stand in the way of its expression. God is so Almighty that it is both unthinkable and impossible for His commitment and promises to fail. His will has been expressed and it will be done. He has committed Himself to it and to us. And He has founded it upon the great sacrifice and resurrection of His Son. Paul expresses it this way.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

We need to remember too that His promise of life is not only for some future date but for our present lives as well. So many people are living within their own darkness and exist where there appears to be no light or life. Jesus speaks into these situations as well. As He did when He walked amongst us He is able to bring a resurrection life into these areas too. His ‘Come to Me’ means bring your life to Me now so that I may bring Mine to you.

Response:
Ask God to bring His life into yours wherever and however you are – and keep asking and believing

Prayer:

Lord God, You are my strength and my song, and You have become my salvation. Please come with Your light and life into the dark and lost areas of my life so that I too may find new life in You. Amen.

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Fill My Emptiness

“Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.
Indeed, the water I give him will become in him
a spring of water welling up to eternal life”
(John 4:14)

Reflection:
‘The God who sees me’ is also the God who sees all about me.

Jesus was waiting for the Samaritan woman at the well outside of the town. Being a town it would have had a well within its boundaries where the women would have gathered to fetch their water and to chat. Given the life that the Samaritan woman had led it is probable that she had been excluded from the society of the other woman, and so chose to visit this isolated well instead.

Without being told Jesus knew that here was a person with five failed marriages behind her and a current partner to whom she was not married. Here was a person empty of all that made life worth living. No female friends, no male friends who would care to be seen with her, no position of respect or acceptance, a history of rejection and exclusion and, therefore, no self-respect. She probably merely existed from day to day and with no light on her horizon other than death itself.

Jesus seeing all this not only astounds her, as a Jew, by talking to her but holds out to her the unbelievable offer of a new life filled with the living water of the Holy Spirit – God Himself. She had done nothing to warrant it and had nothing to offer Him except her dark and lonely emptiness. Yet not only did He change her life but “many of the Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony.” They would go on to tell her that “we know that this man really is the Saviour of the world.”

In just a few moments her life was transformed. There would still be issues that she had to work through and resolve but suddenly a new Light had entered into her. And she, together with the townsfolk, had something new and precious in which they shared and which could change their relationships.

Such is the wonder, the glory and the truth of the grace of God – His life-giving love and saving power in action, freely reaching out to embrace us.

Response:
Ask the Lord into the areas of darkness and emptiness in your own life – and trust Him to respond.

Prayer:

Lord God, please come into these areas of darkness, emptiness and pain in my life – and pour out upon them Your life-giving, life-restoring and life-healing waters of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Fragrant Followers

“But thanks be to God,
who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ
and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance
of the knowledge of him.”
(2 Corinthians 2:14)

 

Reflection:
Many years ago, as a young teenager, I was out with the rest of the boys in my form on a class picnic. In those days the only odour that meant anything to me was the delicious smell of a Sunday roast drifting out from the kitchen.  However coming down the side of the mountain I encountered a fragrance that stopped me in my tracks. Try as I might I could not find it again but its exquisite beauty was something that I have never forgotten.

Years later when I was reflecting on my journey of faith the Lord brought that incident to mind. He revealed to me that the fragrance was of Him as He passed by me – His intention being that He could later show me that even then He knew me and was calling me to Him.

Whenever I read the verse above I am reminded of that incredibly special moment. It seems to me that as Christians following in the triumphal footsteps of our great Lord we should bring to those around us a sense of that same beauty. There should be something so special attached to us in our being and our journey of life that it causes them to pause and try to identify what it is.

As disciples of our Lord, children of the heavenly Father and temples of the Holy Spirit there is every opportunity for the beauty of the Lord to colour our lives and to shine through them. It is not that we are special – but that the One who is with us and within us is.

Allow yourself to feed on the beauty of the love and grace of our Lord. Be conscious of Him as you live through your days – and seek to do everything as an offering to Him. Wherever possible leave behind you that gracious sense of peace and blessing which comes from our God who is with you.

Response:
Cover your life and your day with prayer – pray a blessing on each person and situation that you encounter, and on everything that you do.

Prayer:

Father how greatly You have blessed me – help me to be a blessing to others as well. Amen.

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