I need help

“On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning,
with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast.
Everyone in the camp trembled”
 (Exodus 19:16)

Reflection:
When the Lord descended onto Mount Sinai to meet with Moses He did so in such a way that the people were terrified. They said to Moses,

“Speak to us yourself and we will listen.
But do not have God speak to us or we will die”
(Exodus 20:19)

This response stands in stark contrast to their reaction when the Lord led them out of Egypt.

“By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud
to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire
to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night”

(Exodus 13:21)

In the same way the cloud of the Lord’s presence settled on the Tabernacle.

“On the day the tabernacle, the Tent of the Testimony, was set up,
the cloud covered it. From evening till morning
the cloud above the tabernacle looked like fire”

(Numbers 9:15)

At Sinai they were terrified but at other times the presence of the Lord in the cloud was a comfort and assurance of His presence.  It was also a guide for them as they moved when He moved and stayed when He stayed.

With the whole Christian Church we look ahead to next Sunday when we celebrate the Day of Pentecost. This is the day when the Lord, in fulfilment of His promise, gave to His people the great gift of the Holy Spirit. He came to be not just with us but to live within us, both collectively as the Body of Christ and individually as well.

This is the same God as the majestic and terrifying God of Sinai. However He now chooses to reveal Himself to us in a different way, a way in which He can work within us and through us – transforming us and reaching out to those around us in love, guidance and healing.

The Israelites could not have left Egypt and found their way to the Promised Land by themselves.  So too we cannot find our way out of the bondage of our own lives and into the place that the Lord has prepared for us. We need His help – His involvement, His guidance and His power. With it we need His forgiveness and His healing. This comes through the Holy Spirit who makes our union and relationship with the Lord real, and who gifts, guides and empowers us for the life which God calls us to lead.

Paul puts it clearly for us.

  • “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ” (Romans 8:9)
  • “those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God” (Romans 8:14)
  • “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:16)

Response:
Ask God to help you to open yourself to the Holy Spirit more and more.

Prayer:

Lord God, thank You for the wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit. Please help me to open myself to His presence, guidance and ministry so that He may be released in ever increasing ways in my life and living. Amen.

——————

Going Home

“This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven,
will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
(Acts 1:11)

Reflection:
Today the Church celebrates the ascension of Jesus Christ. It completes the journey of salvation that began with the Incarnation – when God in Christ entered into the world in a completely new and significant way. Having fulfilled God’s mission for Him in His death and resurrection Jesus ascension back to heaven and to ‘the right hand of God’ secures and seals for us all that He has done. Augustine put it like this,

“For unless the Saviour had ascended into heaven
His Nativity would have come to nothing
… and His Passion would have borne no fruit for us,
and His most holy Resurrection would have been useless.”

Indeed, if Jesus had not risen from the dead what hope would there be for us? And, likewise, if Jesus had not ‘ascended into heaven’ how could we hope that we would do so one day? Rather we see in the ascension the wonderful fulfilment of God’s promise that,

“so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11)

 The fact that He is now seated at the right hand of God indicates that His work of atonement has been completed. Seated there He continues to intercede for us as well as to prepare a place for us. (John 14:2). With His ascension He also opened the way for the promised Holy Spirit to come in a very real and significant way – which event we celebrate shortly at Pentecost.  And when God decides that the time is right Jesus will return to finally establish the Kingdom of God and for the final judgment.

 If Scripture teaches us one thing it is this – God can be trusted. Again and again He told His people what He would do, and He did it. Many did not live to see the complete fulfilment of His promise but they put their faith in Him – and it was not disappointed.

God has prepared a future and a place for us and it is there that we will find the true completeness, peace and fulfilment that we desire. Indeed it will be far greater and deeper, more beautiful and lovely, and more varied and extensive than we could ever grasp or imagine from where we are today.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”   (1 Corinthians 2:9)

Response:
And so our marching song as we journey onwards is this

Christ has died,
Christ has risen,
Christ will come again.

Prayer:

Lord I believe and trust in You. Please deepen and strengthen this faith in me every day, for Your Name’s sake. Amen.

———————-

You will be ‘very good’

“He who began a good work in you
will carry it on to completion
until the day of Christ Jesus.”
(Philippians 1:6)

Reflection:
Whatever may be happening – or not happening – in your life at the moment one thing is certain. God is at work. What He started in our salvation He will continue developing until it is completed. He will not cease until He can look into us and say with satisfaction “It is very good.”

The true quality of our life is not measured by what is happening around us or to us. It is what is happening within us that is vital. We will not always be aware of it – and sometimes will feel that we are not making progress. But that itself is an indication that God is at work and has effected some change within. As uncomfortable as it might be it is a step forward. He will be preparing the next one for us, and us for it.

In our life there will be some easy paths and some difficult challenges. All will lead us onwards and will be used by God to build us and to grow us in our relationship with and trust of Him. To trust in the Lord is to trust Him with every aspect of our lives all the time.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
(Proverbs 3:5-6)

In many ways we are still spiritual infants. Like a good parent God will guide us forward into and through the different stages of growth and development. He will be with us in all the times of success and failure, sickness and health, sadness and joy, despair and faith.  Having called us He will never desert us – even when we prove difficult! He has invested Himself in us, nothing can separate us from Him and His love, and He will work in all things for good in our lives as His children.

He is with you now. Hold on to Him, persevere with Him and trust Him in all things.

Response:
Trust is a decision, take it. A mustard seed of faith is enough for a great God.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, thank You so much for what You have already done in my life, and for Your most wonderful sacrifice on the cross. Please help me to trust You more and more – knowing that You have not finished Your work in me yet, but that You will. Amen.

—————-

With you always

“The one who is in you is greater
than the one who is in the world.”
(1 John 4:4)

Reflection:
Jesus Christ has not left us alone. He has sent to us the Holy Spirit Himself.

This is the same Holy Spirit Who was involved in creation, Who brought about the baby Son of God within Mary, Who came upon and into Jesus at His Baptism, Who formed the Christian Church and transformed the lives of the disciples on the Day of Pentecost. He is the same Holy Spirit promised to all believers (note the word all). In fact you cannot be a child of God without the Holy Spirit.

We face many challenges in our lives, every day. Generally, the world in which we live is tense and stress-filled. Not only marriages but all relationships are under pressure, many people are finding it increasingly difficult to either maintain a standard of living, or to just survive. Numbers are not sure how they will be able to cope. Every day seems to bring news of fresh tragedies, disasters, corruption, violence and pain. In our own strength it is possible to despair, and to join the millions who seek relief in escapist activities and fantasies.

But God! God is alive and active. And the same God who did the amazing things recorded in Scripture– the God of ‘the mighty hand and the outstretched arm’ – is the God who is with His sons and daughters right now; invisible but real. In these times, more than ever, He is not only who and what we need, He is the One for whom our spirits long and without whom they will not be comforted or satisfied. Whether or not He changes our situations He will reach out to change us within our situations.

Jesus invitation should to ring in our ears as a clarion call. Are you battling in some way? Then,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  (Matthew 11:28)

In fact, this is more than an invitation, it is a firm directive! And the promise is definite, “I will give you rest!” The Shepherd wishes to be involved in the challenges facing His sheep. The Saviour and Lord wishes to be involved in the pain and suffering of His people. If He does not take it away He will take us through, and enable us to find relief and blessing on the way. Remember – the way that things are today is not the way they will be forever.

Jesus is the Way – that means that He is going somewhere and taking us with Him – and nothing can stop Him!

Response:

Take action:

  1. Remind yourself that God is with you – breathe Him in.
  2. Ask Him to calm and help you.
  3. Read or say Psalm 23 slowly.
  4. Pray the Lord’s Prayer slowly.
  5. Take another step forward.
  6. Talk to Him all the time

Prayer:

Father I need help. Please help me. Please comfort me, encourage me, strengthen me and increase my faith in You. Amen.

————–

(Picture © Catherine Bondonno)

Limitless Grace

“I always thank God for you because of his grace
given you in Christ Jesus.”
(1 Corinthians 1:4)

Reflection:
Our relationship with God is all about reality. It is based on His reality and the fact that He has intervened in our reality – the reality of our everyday lives, as well as the reality of our past and our future. Whilst the world offers us concepts, philosophies and ultimate loneliness and death, God offers us truth, personal relationship with Him, and eternal life and healing. Where the world tells us what we must do, God shows us what He has done. Where the world will sell to us, God gives to us freely. Where the world gives no visible proof, God gives us His Son. Where the world offers no guarantees God sends His Spirit to live within us. Whereas the world ultimately discards us, God promises us resurrection and life.

The wonder of our relationship with God is that everything that He has done for us, and that He offers us, is done out of His great and unlimited love.

This love of God is not revealed only in words, it is revealed in the gift and sacrifice of His Son on our behalf. There could be no greater gift or example of the love that God has for us. And, because it is only through the grace of God, flowing from this love that we have a future and a hope, Jesus Christ stands also as the revelation of this grace. We become personal recipients of that grace as we believe and trust in HIm. We receive not only God’s love but the salvation and ever-present relationship with Him that flows from it.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God”  (Ephesians 2:8)

From beginning to end the reality of God, and the relationship that we can have with Him, is revealed and assured in the reality of Jesus Christ who entered into the reality of human life to bring to it a new and eternal reality with God.

Response:
Consider the reality of the cross. God speaks through it to each one personally.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, help me to look not to myself but to You, and to continually receive the wonder of God’s grace and love. Amen.

——————–

God’s Blessings

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us in the heavenly realms
with every spiritual blessing in Christ”
(Ephesians 1:3)

Reflection:
As we look back on the wonder of Good Friday and Easter it is good to remind ourselves of some of the great blessings that God has brought about for us. As we do so we need to remember that what happened was not just a piece of grand drama but something that has a real and eternal impact on our lives, starting right now.

Paul cannot be clearer as he tells us that God has blessed us in these ways – and that as we join our lives to the Lord they become a reality for us. This was God’s choice and plan from before the creation of the world and He ensured that His purpose was fulfilled in these great events. So we find that in Christ we receive,

  • Redemption and the forgiveness of sins (1:7)
  • Adoption as the sons and daughters of God (1:5)
  • The presence, seal and guarantee within us of the Holy Spirit (1:13)
  • Holiness and blamelessness in God’s eyes (1:4)
  • God’s love in all its fullness (1:4)
  • The lavish riches of God’s glorious grace (1:5 & 8)
  • The understanding of God’s will, purpose and plan which He is working out (1:11)
    • To bring all things in heaven and on earth under the headship of Christ (1:10)
  • The recognition of our purpose which is to live to the praise of the glory of God (1:12)

God is giving us what we did not have and could not achieve by ourselves. These are not words to be read and forgotten but to be pondered on, prayed over and possessed for ourselves in quiet moments – until they ignite with meaning and reality.

It is small wonder therefore that Paul would go on himself to pray that we might appreciate to the fullest possible extent the implications of these blessings – desiring that we may not just know of them but instead know their truth for ourselves.

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints and his incomparably great power for us who believe” (Ephesians 1:17-19)

Response:
Treasure these words through the days ahead, asking God to bless you with their reality for you.

Prayer:

Open my eyes please Lord to the wonder of Your truth and love revealed through our Lord Jesus. Amen.

————————-

Precious Lives

untitled-picture

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
(Matthew 5:10)

Reflection:
At first this seems out of place amongst the other characteristics that Jesus envisions in the Christian:

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
  • Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
  • Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
  • Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
  • Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
  • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

The first seven are those qualities that grow from within. This new one is something that is imposed from without. It is worth noticing in this regard that the first and the eighth beatitude both contain the same promise – ‘for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ It was as if Jesus were keen to impress upon His disciples that membership of the kingdom was of prime importance – a truth He would more clearly state towards the end of the Sermon,

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  (Matthew 6:33)

The Christians, if they are to be persecuted at all, should suffer it not because of their own sins or shortcomings but ‘because of righteousness’ – the righteousness for which they hunger and thirst. That means that they will live to a different standard and with different values to the rest of the world. Like Christ who is their model and example the light of their lives and living will show up the darkness and difference in the world around them – and may cause a reaction.

The Christian filled with the Spirit of God cannot be luke-warm about his or her faith and relationship with Christ. Such will be the impact of that revelation and relationship that their lives will be transformed. They will increasingly see their own natural spiritual poverty, they will mourn over their sins and shortcomings – and the sin and suffering that they see around them – they will have no place in their lives for pride, arrogance or self-satisfaction and so will not look down upon others, they will long passionately for God’s love, life, healing and right rule to be released into the world, and they will increasingly have mercy on those who sin and suffer, and themselves seek to be undivided in their relationship with, and attitude and response to, God.

Although it may seem daunting to the Christian persecution is not something that they deliberately seek. If and when it happens they have the great promise of Jesus to be with them and the empowering and inspiring presence of the Holy Spirit within. Such may their awareness of them both grow at the time that, like the apostles before them, they come to rejoice that they have been counted worthy to suffer ‘on My account.’

“The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” (Acts 5:41)

Response:
May God be glorified in me and through me. Do not fear – you will always receive what you need from God.

Prayer:

Dear Lord, please help me to be Your disciple and the reflection of Your great Light. Amen.

————————