Love Lavished

“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)

 

Reflection:
God has made a covenant with us. No one made Him do it – He committed Himself because He wished to. He reached out because He wanted us – you, and me and them. This was not the craving of acquisition and hoarding – it was and is His great desire founded upon His deep and everlasting love. So powerful is this love that He does two amazing things.

  • He removes the barrier between Him and us in the great sacrifice for sin of Jesus Christ
  • He offers us the freedom to become His sons and daughters – not just second-rate children but ‘co-heirs with Christ’ of all that He has.

It is small wonder then that John, the beloved apostle, should marvel as he does,

“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!”

There can be no possible doubt about this for at the beginning of his gospel John proclaims,

“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)

To be a child of God – His son, His daughter – what an amazing privilege, what an unsought and unimaginable blessing, what an enormous and incalculable sacrifice – what love!

Response:
Take time today and through the weekend to contemplate, unpack and savour these great truths for yourself. Begin to own them.

Prayer:

Lord open my spirit and my heart to the wonders of Your great love – for me and for all humankind. Help me “ to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that (I) may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:18-19)

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Look inwards first

“Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery”
(John 8:4)

 

Reflection:
The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and asked Jesus whether He thought she should be stoned to death as Moses had commanded in the Law.

Jesus knew that no one cared whether the woman lived or died – she was merely a pawn in their efforts to trap Him. Her life was very much in His hands as she stood there in shame and fear, and very alone.

Once again His response stunned and silenced His critics. He did not speak to the woman but addressed her accusers instead. As they pressed Him for an answer He replied,

“If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”  (John 8:7)

Silently they crept away, not daring to claim that they were sinless. Finally, left to Himself with the woman, He addressed her.

“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”  (John 8:10-11)

Having received abuse, condemnation and demands for her death from the religious leaders she received gentleness, forgiveness and life from the Lord Himself– if she would have it.

Perhaps one day she would realise that He had given her life back to her because He had taken her sin, guilt and death into Himself – and would die in her place. He has done the same for each one of us – so we should think twice before we throw accusatory stones at others. God is listening and watching. Indeed He said to us all,

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Luke 6:41)

Response:
Listen to the way you talk and think about others – and learn.

Prayer:

Father thank You for forgiving me – help me not to be judgmental of others. Amen.

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Life Alive

“In him was life”
(John 1:4)

Reflection:
What a simple and yet such a profound statement.

It makes me think of a visit to a local gallery where I came across a life-size sculpture.  It portrayed a man with bowed head, his arms wrapped protectively around his chest and his toes clenched together in pain. He was beautifully formed. Yet for all the power of the message there was nevertheless no life in the man. He stood rooted to the spot, immobile and frozen in a moment in time.

God’s creation is not like that. He did not create us to be lifeless objects. Everything about us and around us speaks of life – and of life in an abundance, variety and beauty that is almost beyond our ability to identify and study. From the vastness of space to the unseen depths of the ocean, with everything in between, God’s creation is not static but alive and in motion. There is life all around us here on earth and this life is a wonderful and precious gift. And it is linked to and finds its source in this Creator of all things.

Where Science is focussed on the ‘How’ and has discovered so many amazing truths – the Bible and the Spirit invite us to discover and meet with the ‘Who’. He is the One by Whom and through Whom all things were made ‘in their vast array.’ He is the One who’s created order lives and is not merely a collection of inanimate objects. He is the One who formed our minds so that we could discover and understand some of the process and marvel and wonder at His greatness and glory. He is the One and Only who is and has the secret of life itself – a life that comes from Him and has its continual source in Him. And He is the One who breathes His own Spirit into our lives so that we may relate to and enter into relationship with Him in a glorious and never-ending journey of completeness, beauty and love.

Response:

Bless You Lord for You are the Lord of Life. Thank You so much that in You and from You we live and move and have our being. Help us to continually marvel at Your gifts of Life and Love and to treasure them. Amen.

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Always Loved

“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love.”
(1 John 4:16)

Reflection:
John says of God’s children that we both “know and rely on the love God has for us.” This means that it has become more than just news. It is now real and personal, recognised and believed, received and trusted. God’s intention that we know it for ourselves is beautifully underlined in Paul’s great and glorious prayer:

“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 3:16-19)

It may seem to us that love that can be switched on and off by others to indicate approval and displeasure. This is very manipulative and many children and adults live extremely insecure lives as a result. God’s love is not like this, because He is not like that. It is vital that, as the children of God, we know that we can always rely on God’s love for us. That means that when we flounder, fail or sin He does not stalk off in a frozen huff. Instead He holds out His hand to us – to raise us up, receive our admission, convey His forgiveness and lead us forward again.

How do we get to know and rely upon this love? We cannot manufacture it for it comes only from God Himself.

  • “God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (Romans 5:5)
  • “But the fruit of the Spirit is love…” (Galatians 5:22)

We will only know the love of God if the presence of God is within us. Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would come and be in us. Paul prays that “Christ may dwell in your hearts.” They are both referring to an intimate and complete relationship with God – not one in which we remain in control of our lives and treat God as a consultant or a ‘medic on call’. The less of our lives we give to God the less of His life and love we will enjoy. The more that God is allowed full access within us, and to our lives, the more He will be allowed and enabled to pour His love into us in all its fullness.

Response:
At this very moment Jesus will be knocking (Rev 3:20) on the rooms in your life into which He has not had full access before. Kneel before Him, invite Him into every single part and aspect of your life, ask Him to be your Saviour and Lord in the fullest sense, and to lead you in His Way, His Truth and His Life. Then personalise Paul’s prayer above to yourself and pray it regularly. God bless you.

Prayer:

Father help me always to remember that You are love and that You love me totally and unconditionally. Please come into every part of my life, pouring Your love into my heart, and helping me to believe, receive and live in it. 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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Waiting for You

“So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar,
near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph.
Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus,
tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well.
It was about the sixth hour.
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water,
Jesus said to her,
“Will you give me a drink?”

(John 4:5-8)

Reflection:
In his poem on the sinking of the Titanic, Thomas Hardy wrote,

“And as the smart ship grew
In stature, grace, and hue,
In shadowy silent distance grew the Iceberg too.”

Then they both slipped from their moorings and set out for their unplanned meeting in the cold dark waters of the North Atlantic Ocean. The date is fixed in history – 15 April 1912. Death was waiting for them.

Some 20 centuries earlier two very different babies entered the world and set off on their own journeys of life. These journeys too would have, at least for the one, an unplanned and unexpected meeting, this time in the lonely area surrounding a well in Samaria. As different as the ship and the iceberg, the Jewish Rabbi and the immoral Samaritan woman would never have been scheduled to meet. But, also like the ship and the iceberg, they did. Here too was death, for the old woman died – but a new one was born. For this time Life had been waiting and Life had the victory.

It is glorious to realise that as she wandered in forlorn isolation from the town in which she lived, coming to a lonely well because, very likely, the town’s women did not want her at the town well, Jesus was waiting for her. It is stunning to think that everything in her life, all her failures and rejections, had led her to this place where the Christ was looking for her. He was there not to hand out judgement but to give her instead the gift of new life – His life for hers. Love, Life and Grace awaited her and He started by asking her for a drink!

For each one of us reading this there will have been at least one time in our lives when our paths crossed with the Saviour. We may have recognised and turned to Him or failed to recognise Him. We might have recognised Him and walked away or have drifted away from Him later. Wherever we happen to be He still waits for us in our everyday routines – including the places where we try and satisfy a thirst that won’t go away. An aching longing that is not only physical but spiritual and emotional as well.

He is there waiting for us, waiting for the time when we will hear Him and respond. Waiting and longing for the opportunity to save us from the coils of death that we have produced, and to give us the Life that He has gained for us. Waiting even for those who are right next to Him to turn and draw even closer.

“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)

Response:

And I come, O Jesus;
Dare I turn away?

No! Thy love hath conquered,
And I come today.

Bringing all my burdens,
Sorrow, sin, and care,
At Thy feet I lay them
And I leave them there.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus please help me to draw closer to You and to allow You to love me into the fullness of life. Amen.

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