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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Set Free

“Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic,
“Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”
(Matthew 9:2)

 

Reflection:
Not all paralysis is caused by the sin of the person. However sin can paralyse us in certain ways and in some areas of our lives. Anyone who is in bondage to a way of life, a way of thinking and a way of acting may find themselves unable or unwilling to change into a different and better way.

The first step towards healing is to recognise the problem and the second is to do something about it. Many people would love to be healed but are not really willing to go through the process or to abandon their relationship with the problem itself – which may have become their escape route from emotional pain. Some receive healing but fall back again. They may either give up or go through a period of despair, self-loathing and fear of the displeasure of God before re-trying.

There is absolutely no doubt that God wants us to be set free and is prepared to help us. Jesus first words to the paralysed man are filled with compassion, life and love. He did not belittle or condemn him, but said,

“Take heart, son.”

He then freely forgave him and offered him healing.

“Your sins are forgiven ……
Get up, take your mat and go home.”

The ball was now in the man’s court. He had to respond by getting up off the ground. The story does not go further but, in effect, the man would have to keep doing the same thing every day. He would have to stand up and walk in newness of life. He could no longer rely on others to cart him about or to provide for him. He was free now to live life himself, and to take responsibility for himself, if he would.

For many of us the process is rather like a child learning to walk. We try and fall a number of times before we begin to stay on our feet. Then we can find that not only are we walking in a new way but running and dancing with a wonderful and glorious freedom in areas and ways that we would never have believed to be possible. It is all because of the love of God, the salvation in Jesus and the help of the Holy Spirit.

We need God if we are going to be set free – for our strength and will are often inadequate. We may need others as well – just as this man needed his friends – to help, encourage and support us along the way. We may even need the professional help of those gifted and with experience in our areas. However more than anyone else we need the Lord. The one Who says to us, and does so as many times as is necessary,

“Take heart, your sins are forgiven, get up and walk”

It is His power that enables us to respond to His words.

Response:
Ask God to show you where you may need healing. Ask Him for forgiveness and help. If you fall don’t give up – go back to the Lord!

Prayer:

Lord, please forgive me, heal me and help me. Please renew my vision, strengthen my faith and give me the courage to carry on with You in newness of life. Amen.

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Our Father

“Our Father”
(Matthew 6:9)

Reflection:
The two opening words are very significant. Jesus is giving the prayer to His disciples and not to the general crowds. They were entering into a completely new relationship with Almighty God – a relationship which entitled them to call God “Father” – just as Jesus did! There is only one possible English translation of the word that Jesus used – that conveys its meaning in ordinary use – and that is the intimate term “Daddy.” (Barclay). It has also been said that there is no parallel in the whole of Jewish literature for the application of this word to God. (Jeremias)

  • “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God– children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John 1:12-13)
  • “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but 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)

 Those who believe and receive the Lord Jesus, and consequently receive the presence of the Holy Spirit, are the ones who with full integrity may pray this prayer – using this intimate term Father to address Almighty God, rather than the word that refers to the general fatherhood of God over all of creation. The Bible makes a clear distinction between those who are in such a relationship with God and those who are not. John is full of wonder as he exclaims,

“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! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.”  (1 John 3:1)

 Believers are not to see themselves merely as individuals, but as members of a new and widespread Christian family, with God as the Father of them all – hence the recognition that God is ‘our’ Father and not just ‘my’ Father. He does not belong to me but I belong to him and am in relationship with His other adopted children and His only Son. As Paul tells us,

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.” (Ephesians 3:14-15)

 Although God has such a large family there is no danger of us being overlooked or of our prayers being lost or ignored. Each person is loved fully and completely, no one is unobserved and not one of them is insignificant.

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29-31)

 Response:
Cherish the name Father as you think of God. Say it aloud and pause to wonder at the awesome privilege conferred upon you – to be able to call Almighty God “Father.”

Prayer:

Our Father’, it says so much about You and so much about me as well. Please help me to always cherish and rejoice in our relationship, and may it deepen and grow every day. Amen.

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Just You Lord

“Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.”
(John 4:26)

Reflection:
When the woman decided that Jesus must be a prophet she immediately began to discuss the different mountains on which the Samaritans and the Jews worshipped. Jesus response was to say that the debate about mountains would become irrelevant as people learned to worship God ‘in spirit and truth’.

What Jesus was really doing was teaching that the debate about places and procedures was a superficial matter. There was neither lasting truth there nor one that could satisfy the deep pain of failure, rejection and humiliation that was a part of her everyday life – and of so many other peoples. Taking His example from the well He told her that what she needed was something deeper, more satisfying and wonderfully healing than anything she could think of or do. She needed a long, cool drink of pure, life-giving, thirst-quenching, spirit restoring water of life – the water of the Holy Spirit. This water, which He could give her, would become a fountain within her,

“a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Jesus is trying to get us to see that essentially we do not need more religious practices, we need God; we do not need wider and deeper teachings and debates, and more amazing miracles, we need God; and we do not need to find out which are the most special and anointed places, we need God. This was why He had come.  It was also the basis of the great promise that He would give to His followers – to be with them, and us, always.  This would happen through the Holy Spirit who would come to live within us.

In His first miracle Jesus had changed the water of everyday into Wine. In His meeting with Nicodemus He had introduced Him to the Wind of the Spirit. Now He offers us the Living Water of the Spirit. These vivid teachings are meant to reveal to us the reality of the transforming presence of God available to us.

Here in the Spirit would be the Wine of fellowship and celebration, the Wind of the life-giving breath of God and the Living Water to cleanse, heal and refresh us with God’s redeeming love and presence – both now and forever.

Everything else points us to God – He is what we need more than anything else. Which is why and how Paul could say with such feeling,

“I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ
and him crucified”

(1 Corinthians 2:2)

Response:
Keep on praying for (more of) the Holy Spirit in your life.

Prayer:

Almighty God and Glorious Father, give me by Your grace the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that I may know You better. Amen.

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Fill my longing

“Jesus answered, “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)

Reflection:
I remember back to when I was in the army. We had been drilling in the hot sun for hours, and I was so thirsty that I fantasised about a glass of water – a pale green glass that my grandmother had – with one or two pieces of ice tinkling at the top. Years later I watched John Mills in the film ‘Ice-Cold In Alex’ doing much the same in his journey across the desert, until he sat at the bar in Alexander with a glass of ice-cold beer in front of him. The audience nearly went mad with frustration as he ran his finger slowly down the dewy exterior of the glass, before eventually picking it up and draining it. Thirst is a powerful feeling, and it keeps coming back.

We are all thirsty people, surrounded by other thirsty people – thirsty for love, for attention, for significance, for power, for wealth, for healing, for escape, for friends, for energy, for self–control, for peace, for happiness, for success, for good looks, for different bodies, for so many things. As with a drink of water, we may be satisfied for a moment but the craving returns, and identifies itself as something deeper. Often it takes more and more to quench it for just a moment.

Jesus talking to the women at the well is referring not only to her physical thirst. He will also see the deeper, spiritual craving within her, which has developed into a despairing ache, as one failed relationship follows another. It seems that she has been rejected also by the local women – and forced to use the well outside of town. She is isolated without and within herself. He offers a ‘living water’ that will reach into the depths of her, satisfy these painful longings and hurts, renew her image and understanding of herself, lead her into an everlasting relationship, and become a spring that wells up within her and flows out to others in blessing. What an amazing picture and prospect! What a thrilling one-on-one encounter.

He is, of course, referring to the Holy Spirit – God Himself – who will take up residence within people and, as the Creator God of Love, bring the love, healing and peace that we crave – no matter what the outward circumstances may be like. This is the peace that passes understanding, the peace that is from God and that only God can bring about. It is peace, in the very depths of our being.

We will not find the love, healing and peace in any other way, nor from any other source. It does not exist and the false substitutes not only do not last but end up making matters worse. It was St Augustine who said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee, O Lord.” He was quite right. Whether we are aware of it, or not, our deep longings and desires are for God, the One who alone can bring the peace and fulfilment that we need.

Response:
Go deeper with God. Ask Him to lead you to Himself, to bless you with the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13), and to begin (re-) filling you with His love, joy and peace. (Gal 5:22). Press on, and don’t settle for false substitutes. Keep looking to Him and trusting Him.

Prayer:

Father, only You know the deep needs and longings within me. Only You can meet them. Please help me to know Your love, to live in Your love…and to know You at an ever- deepening level. In Jesus name, Amen. 

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Your life in me

“I am the vine; you are the branches.
If a man remains in me and I in him,
he will bear much fruit;
apart from me you can do nothing”
(John 15:5)

Reflection:
Time and again I return to Jesus teaching of the Vine. It is the first passage of Scripture that I intentionally studied and it still continues to inspire, refresh and delight me. It is filled with the grace and love of the Lord.

The key to life is our relationship with the Lord Jesus. If we are ‘connected’ to Him then His life flows into us. We also have access to our new identity and to the spiritual blessings that God has given to us in Christ.

As His life impacts ours and His Spirit flows into and through us then He brings transformation and new fruit – different to that which we produced through our old fallen nature. What a joy to know that this fruit is a product of His life touching our lives and not the work of our own stress and strain. His fruit is real and comes from within – it is not a display of glossy and artificial baubles hanging on our exterior like a Christmas tree and hiding the lack of true life inside. And whilst His work in me flourishes best with my prayerful co-operation it remains His work and not mine.

The most important part of our relationship is that I stay close to Him, focussed on Him, loving, listening and responding to Him and trusting Him. His life then flows more freely into mine, His fruit appears and His things happen in and through me.

Response:
“Be still – and know that I am God”

Prayer:

Thank You Lord Jesus for being the Vine to my branch. Thank You for Your life that flows into me, Your Spirit touching mine and Your fruit growing out. Thank You for Your beauty and love, gentleness and power, glory and majesty in me. Amen.

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Lord Jesus

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
(Philippians 2:9-11)

 

Reflection:
The earliest, shortest and simplest of all the Christian creeds are the words “Jesus is Lord.” Those who made this confession in the early church were baptised and welcomed into the Christian community.

Paul also wrote that

  • “if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)
  • “no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:3)

The statement ‘Jesus is Lord’ signifies both a conviction and a commitment on the part of the speaker. The conviction is that Jesus is truly Lord, and Lord of all, and that there is no other. The commitment is that Jesus is and will be Lord in all aspects and dimensions of the speaker’s life.

This is what salvation is all about, and it happens as the Holy Spirit leads us to both the acknowledgement and commitment involved. The rest of our life here is to increasingly reflect and live Jesus as Lord at all times and in all ways – and this not in our own strength but under the guidance and empowerment of the Holy Spirit Himself.

Response:
Look to your life. Ask God to help you in the areas where you still struggle and resist Him.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus You are Lord and always will be. Help me to trust You more completely as the Lord of my Life and to live in Your love and under Your direction. Amen.

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