Get Wise

“Asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will
through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.”
 (Colossians 1:9)

Reflections:
We are told by Paul that in everything we should present our requests to God. (Philippians 4:6) However prayer should also include our praying for the things that God wants. Some of these are set out for us in the Lord’s Prayer where we can join our desires to those of God.

Now Paul turns his attentions to our individual and corporate growth and maturity – praying that God will fill is with the knowledge of His will – obviously in all things – through our growth in spiritual wisdom and understanding. This comes through the work and enlightenment of the Holy Spirit within us as well as through our growth in knowledge and understanding as we walk with God along the path that He has set for us. The more we know of God and His ways, and the more we get to know Him personally, the deeper will be our understanding of His will and ways in our life situation.

Because we can trust that He is the God of Love we can trust His will and His ways for us. They are designed to draw us closer to Him and into a deeper and more fulfilling relationship.

  • “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18)

The purpose of this prayer of Pauls is not only to bless us but to enable us to more readily and purposefully fulfil the will of God both for us and through us.

  • “And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.” (Colossians 1:10-12)

Response:
We are called to make Paul’s prayer for the Colossians our own prayer for ourselves and our Christian community.

Prayer:

Lord fill me with the knowledge of Your will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding so that I may live a life worthy of You in every way. Amen.

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Check your Vision

“God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles
the glorious riches of this mystery, which is
Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
(Colossians 1:27)

Reflection:
Christian lives can feel less like that of a soaring eagle and more like being constantly attacked by little black crows. They can irritate us, distract us from our identity and purpose, and even make us sound like them with snappy caws! The temptation is to stay on their level and focus on fighting them, instead of rising powerfully to heights that are beyond them.

Of course they will always be around somewhere. However, our calling is not to concentrate on resisting or fighting them, but to look and live above and beyond them – always moving forward, always drawing closer to the Lord, always crowding sin and temptation out of our lives by the presence of God and the goodness, beauty and activity into which He calls us.

The first step is to remember that God is not ‘out there’ somewhere. He is within His sons and daughters. He loves us, draws us and transforms us from the inside. Our salvation, in the form of our Saviour, has come from without and enters into those who receive Him. God the Holy Spirit has come to dwell within us. We are the people of God not just because we follow Him but because He has entered into us and expresses Himself through us.

Being God’s people means that our focus must always be above the things of the world and on the God and Saviour of the world. Look again at the words that Paul uses – “the glorious riches” so different from the vindictive little black shadows that chase us; “Christ in you” – this is God of whom he is talking – His presence might be a mystery but it is certainly a reality; “The hope of glory” – our sure and certain hope is in the reality of this Christ within us.

You don’t become an eagle by fighting the crows. You soar with God to where the little black shadows can’t go. Cleansed by His blood, with His Spirit within you, the presence of God is where you belong. Focus on Him and trust in the certainty of His love, His provision and His protection. Don’t let sin drag you down, but allow God to lift you up. Trust Him, He will do it. Remember always that although we are physically limited there is no limit to the height to which our spirits can go with the Lord.

Response:
Confess sin, and keep pressing into God.

Prayer:

Father, sometimes I feel as if I am dragging myself through the dust and dirt. Please help me to look from myself to You, and allow Your smile and love to lift me up again and again. Amen.

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Choose the right clothes

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved,
clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness,
humility, gentleness and patience.”
(Colossians 3:12)

Reflection:
We are God’s chosen people! We are not beggars tagging along behind His cavalcade, hoping to scavenge some of the left-overs. We are there in the midst of His people, personally selected and called,

  • “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you.”  (John 15:16)
  • “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”   (Romans 8:29-30)

As God’s chosen people, His sons and His daughters, we are “dearly loved”, loved to the full extent of Christ’s enormous sacrifice – and even more if that were possible. There is nothing lacking in God’s great love for us. Having called us to Himself we are made holy by and through our association with Him, and because we are now, spiritually, in Christ and He in us. We have been set apart by God, for God, for eternity. We are His.

Paul urges us to see this more clearly, to recognise and accept our new identity and relationship, and to clothe ourselves accordingly. As we are now a part of Christ, members of His body, we can relate to and more fully acquire the things that characterise Him. So we can reach out, take hold of, and make these characteristics a part of our own lives because they are so much a part of His – “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” They are not to be merely superficial ornaments, like decorations on a Christmas tree, but deeply embedded in our lives. To make the point other translations say,

  • “Put on therefore, as God’s elect, holy and beloved, a heart of compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, longsuffering…” (ASV)
  • “So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline…” (MSG)

Because we are God’s, and may rest secure in that knowledge, we can be less worried about ourselves and more concerned about the lives of others. We have something of great value to share – the love and peace of God Himself, in and through Jesus Christ.

Response:
They are not just words to read but steps to take. Dress yourself properly, and consciously, now and every day. Do not let anyone, or anything, undress you! Not even your own sins or insecurities – they are not you!

Prayer:

Loving Father, please help me to leave behind the garments of insecurity and selfishness, and to put on those of love, peace and blessing – in Jesus name, Amen.

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Uncover your treasure

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field.
When a man found it, he hid it again,
and then in his joy went and sold all he had
and bought that field”
(Matthew 13:44)

Reflection:
Hidden somewhere in the darkness of a fallen world is a glorious treasure. He knows that it is there and He knows that He wants it – but to all intents and purposes it is dead and buried to Him. Separated from the Vine of Life it has withered and died – but still He wants it for He knows that He can cleanse it, heal it, and give it new life as He restores it to its place in Him.

So He came to seek and to find, to save and to redeem, to restore and to cherish, to transform with a new Spirit into a new Life and Love. And He found it – and having found it He gave everything that He had so that He might own and possess it. He gave His life, He gave His future and He gave His divine inheritance.

We are that treasure – individually and collectively. We are His beloved, created to be like Him and for Him. We are the children of the Father, the bride of the Son and the temples of the Holy Spirit. We are the focus of His love, the recipients of His grace and the reflection of His beauty. And if we have not yet seen it in ourselves it is because we have yet to truly see it in Him for we can only love because He first loved us. He can only be our treasure when we have discovered that we are His. We can only seek first the kingdom of God when we appreciate that He has first sought and found us.

Having discovered this for himself Paul would first exclaim and then pray,

  • “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ .. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection” (Philippians 3:8-10)
  • “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:14-19)

You are not what the world makes you – in Christ you are a child of the Most High God.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine”

(Isaiah 43:1)

Response:
Buried within you is a great truth. Dwell on God’s love and word – until it resonates within you.

Prayer:

Father I so want to know more of Your love and light and life – help me please to receive what You have for me and to treasure it even as You treasure me. Amen.

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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.

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(Photo: (c) Catherine Bondonno)

Strength from God

“Sing for joy to God our strength;
shout aloud to the God of Jacob!”
(Psalm 81:1)

Reflection:
Many years ago God led me to the first verse of Psalm 18,

“I love you, O LORD, my strength.” (Psalm 18:1)

In doing so He showed me so clearly that any strength, ability, gift, knowledge or understanding that I had came from Him. I became deeply aware that I had nothing of value to offer the world or the people around me except that which was of Him. It was a humbling and rewarding moment.

Over the years He has also shown me that quite apart from the things that He has given me, and the fruit that He has allowed to blossom in and through my life, I have not the ability in my own strength to live the life to which He has called me. I cannot love Him, or all the others, on my own. I cannot ‘be holy’ in my own strength. I cannot overcome sin and temptation by myself. And, like Paul, I know what it is to bemoan the difference between the life of my vision and the life of reality.

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Romans 7:15)

Paul goes on, as He searches out the solution, and cries out in an agony of joy,

“What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25)

As the Psalmist tells us on a number of occasions, ‘God is our strength’ and it is

“in him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)

Our life is not all about us. It is, in fact, all about God and the part that He plays in it. We will be tempted and distracted from the truth wherever possible, and may fall and fail on numerous occasions, but the salvation will never be in us, it will always be with God – in and through the wonderful sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It is through Him as well that God the Holy Spirit comes to live within us, and to be our strength and guide. Without Him our life is like a deflated balloon. With Him it becomes lighter, more attractive and filled with possibility.

God is our strength and our eternal salvation. The new life to which we are called can only be lived in His strength. Our response in times of inadequacy, fear, darkness, sadness or despair is to turn to Him and to ask Him for His help. When we sin our response should not be to hide but to run to Him for the forgiveness and help that we need – even if it is again and again. There may be times when we think that our Christian life is a fraud and a hopeless endeavour – we must to turn to Him for the comfort, assurance and help that we require. He is our strength.

And so the Psalmist encourages us to ‘sing for joy to God our strength’ because His strength has and will carry us through, on the foundation of His great and unconquerable love. God is your salvation and your strength. Always.

Response:
Speak aloud to God your thanks and praise and enjoyment of His love and creation

Prayer:

Father forgive me for the times that I become miserably self-absorbed. Lift my eyes to Your face, my heart with Your heart, and my spirit with Your Spirit. Amen.

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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.

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