Softly, Spoke the River

The Light of Christ


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Christ is Risen!

“Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news:
“I have seen the Lord!”
(John 20:18)

 

Reflection:
Mary’s message was electric with meaning.

Christ was risen – and the Light restored to the world. Christ was risen and was in control. Christ was risen and still revealed Himself to individuals. Christ was risen and His purpose would be completed. Christ was risen and His kingdom would be established, in His Way.

Jesus calls each and every one of us today to come to Him. To come out of the dark tombs in which we find ourselves, away from the graves of love and hope, up from the sepulchres of sadness and despair, deserting the vaults of failure and misery. Not only has His stone been rolled away. The stones of our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual crypts have been removed as well. It is the risen Christ now who calls to us. He calls us to come to Him so that He, and He alone, can give us life – a life that is not found with or through any other person or thing. Whatever our situation He calls us to put our focus and trust in Him, so that He might enter our lives and lead us forward.

We do not seek Christ now at His death. We do not weep at His grave. We find Him in the everyday gardens of our lives, in the rooms in which we live and the roads along which we travel. The risen Christ is with us. We can speak with Him.

Response:
Focus on Him today

Prayer:

Lord, open the eyes of my spirit, more and more and more to Your great and wonderful presence, power and love, In Jesus name. Amen.

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It Is Finished

“When he had received the drink,
Jesus said,
“It is finished”
(John 19:30)

Lent 31

Reflection:
Jesus had seen His mission and ministry through to the end. The Father’s commission and purpose were now fulfilled. He had taken upon Himself the sins of the world and would take them with Him to the grave. The penalty had been paid on our behalf by the only one who could – the spotless and sinless Lamb of God, the Son Himself.

Significantly, now, something had happened. As the end approached it was not an agonising and tragic failure. It was instead a glorious and triumphant victory. The man on the cross was not sinking into oblivion but rising to cross the finishing line. It was in so many ways His finest moment.

‘It is finished’ was not the exhausted mumble of a defeated man but the cry of conquest. Matthew and Mark have it ‘in a loud voice.’ Jesus was not the victim but the conqueror. He had come for a purpose. He had seen that purpose through to the end. He had taken and absorbed both the sin of the world and its consequences. He had suffered for them and had overcome the very powers of evil on the cross. He, the Living Word, had seen the Father’s will through to its final completion which, at last, was now upon Him.

“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 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 55:10-11)

It was finished. In confirmation God Himself tore the heavy curtain of separation in the Temple from top to bottom. It was no longer needed. The way home to God had been opened by Jesus the Son of God, God the Son.

Prayer:

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

(Isaac Watts)

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O How Thirsty

“Later, knowing that all was now completed,
and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled,
Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”
(John 19:28)

Lent 30

Reflection:
There are deepening levels at which this word from the Cross can be heard and understood.

The first is the affirmation of the very real humanity of Jesus. He was not just God in human flesh – He was in fact fully man and knew what it was to be thirsty. After what He had been through, the beatings and loss of blood, and the way in which He had hung naked and for so long under the heat of the sun, it was a natural condition. The person who responded to the need certainly did not find it strange.

Then, there was still something that Jesus wanted to say – something that was important for those around Him, and His Father, to hear. His parched throat was probably closing and needed to be moistened again. Some will know what it is like to be so dry that it is even impossible to swallow.

There is also the sense in which Jesus now wanted to completely drain the cup that His Father had given Him to drink – the one about which He had prayed in Gethsemane,

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me;
yet not my will, but yours be done.”
(Luke 22:42)

Coupled with this would have been the desire that influenced all of Jesus thinking and actions – that His Father be glorified as the one true God, whose righteousness was reflected in the lives of His people. How He longed for that righteousness to be revealed. And He had taught,

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.”

(Matthew 5:6)

And, finally, going to the depths of His being, Jesus would have ‘thirsted’ for the living waters of the Holy Spirit. He had told the woman at the well that,

“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)

That blessing, intimacy and glorious life had been His from before the beginning until His previous agonised cry, as the weight of our sin had taken Him into the desert darkness of separation from God,

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
(Matthew 27:46)

At every level of His being Jesus was thirsty – very, very thirsty – and it was all for our salvation!

Prayer:

O God, create in me an undivided heart for You. Fill me with Your Spirit and pour Your love into me that I may truly love You – for Jesus sake. Amen.

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Such Love

“When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.”
(John 19:26-27)

Lent 28

Reflection:
How easy it is, when we are absorbed in matters of consequence, to forget the needs of those nearest to us. Very often too the calls and demands of others take precedence over those of our own families.

Jesus was not just hanging on the cross, like the two other dying men, waiting to die. He was involved in a battle of immense proportions – on the final outcome of which depended the future of all humankind, past, present and future – and the worst was still to come. In the face of such enormous pain and pressure, with the most terrible consequences if He failed, He still found the time and the love from which to care.

Years before, when His mother and Joseph had taken Him into the Temple to ‘present Him to the Lord’, they were met by a faithful man named Simeon who, after blessing them all, concluded by saying to Mary, “And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” How deep and how excruciating must have been the sword that pierced her now as she stood and watched her son’s continued rejection, humiliation and suffering.

This was one pain of His that she could not make go away. But He, out of the midst of that pain and the particular struggle in which He was involved, reached out to her and provided for her as best He could. His beloved John would look after her for Him.

Wherever we are, and whatever our involvement, there will probably be someone who looks to us for love and attention. No matter how much they might understand the demands made upon us it might still sadden them when they feel ignored or taken for granted. It might delight and cheer them if we turn to acknowledge them and love them in some way. If Jesus could do it from the cross there is no excuse whatsoever for us. He just cared so much for this ‘dear woman!’ She had been honoured in His birth, He had honoured her in His first miracle and now He honoured her as He died.

Prayer:

Lord God, please help me to show my love to the special people whom You have placed near me. Amen.

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Holding Nothing Back

“Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac,
whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah.
Sacrifice him there”
(Genesis 22:2)

Lent Nine

 

Reflection:
 Isaac was the child of the promise of God. Not only was he born in accordance with God’s undertaking to Abraham and Sarah, but He was the one through whom God’s covenant with Abraham was to to be fulfilled.

 Now God called upon Abraham to take their only son and sacrifice him to God upon one of the mountains. This was unthinkable on three counts – as a parent, because God was against the child sacrifice practiced by other nations and because Isaac was the child through whom God’s promise would be fulfilled. And yet the instruction was obviously very clear.

 However, when the moment of sacrifice arrived God intervened. Abraham was instructed not to proceed but to offer instead the sacrifice provided by God. A ram, caught in the bushes, became the substitute.

 This startling and, to us, strange little story contains important insights. Firstly, and in terms of God’s plans and purpose, a sacrifice was necessary to deal with the sin of the world. However, that sacrifice could not be an imperfect human. Secondly, God would provide a substitute. For the centuries ahead that substitute would be an animal. This would be a continual reminder to God’s people of the sacrifice needed for the forgiveness of sins. They were to discover, though, that the animal was only a temporary offering and that it, too, could not take away the sins of the world. It pointed forward to something else.

 Thirdly, this meant that another sacrifice was needed. This would be one that was perfect in every way and fulfilled all the demands of the law and the justice required by the Almighty and Holy God. God would provide that final substitute – in fact God would be that final substitute and sacrifice. He would become the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. And for Him there would be no intervention or substitute – He was the one, perfect and complete sacrifice.

 God’s holiness and justice, and God’s love and grace, find their complete fulfillment in His inconceivable redeeming sacrifice. God was not playing games but embracing reality for us.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Reflection:
What would I give up for God – What have I ?

Prayer:

Father God, You love me this much. Please help me to believe, trust and live in Your love, for Jesus sake, Amen.

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My True Identity

“To all who received him,
to those who believed in his name,
he gave the right to become children of God”
(John 1:12)

 

Reflection:
We celebrate our human birthdays, acknowledge our human parents and seek our fulfilment in our human situations.

As understandable as these may be there are however other significant celebrations that are applicable to true believers in Jesus Christ. There is the time of our new birth into the eternal family of God, the moment from which we can in all truth acknowledge and rejoice in God as our Father, and the fulfilment that is ours in our new identity and place in the eternal purposes of God.

If these things are true for believers then they are worth having at the forefront of our thoughts and lives, guiding us in our daily living and in the ways in which we respond to situations. If we persist in thinking of ourselves as everyday humans then we will find that we live like them. When we begin to see ourselves as a son or daughter of God it must begin to colour the way we live.

Christianity is not a cloak of respectability that we put on over our old ways of life – it is a new birth into new relationships and a new way of thinking and living. When God calls us to be holy He is drawing our attention to the fact that we are expected to be different to the world around us. In fact we are to be as different as a light shining in the darkness. This is because He is different, and we are now His children and no longer children of the world.

Response:
What does my life say about me?

Prayer:

Lord help me to reflect You into the world – and not to mirror the world to You. Amen.

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The Spirit Within

“And I will ask the Father,
and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you forever–
the Spirit of truth … he lives with you and will be in you”
(John 14:16-17)

 

Reflection:
Before becoming Christians we were guided very much by our own human spirits and the spirit of the fallen world in which we live. We tended to be at the centre of our lives, focussing on our own desires and perceived needs.

In recognising and accepting Jesus, and the forgiveness, salvation and new life that He offers, we receive through Him a new Spirit. This is the Holy Spirit of God who comes to live within us. He has already been operative in our lives because it is only through Him that we can recognise and respond to Jesus Christ.

The Holy Spirit embraces and works with our spirit, bringing the light and life and love of God into our lives. He leads and develops us along new paths and in new ways. These include –

  • He witnesses to our spirits that we are now, in reality, the sons and daughters of Almighty God (Romans 8:16)
  • He leads us into the truth about God, ourselves and the world around us. (John 16:13)
  • He convicts us of the sin and sins in and around our lives (John 16:8)
  • He produces new fruit in our lives – the qualities of God and not of the world (Galatians 5:22)
  • He gives and develops particular gifts within us to equip us in our new ministries (1 Corinthians 12:7-11)
  • He opens us to, and reveals to us, the love of God (Romans 5:5)
  • He works to make us more like the Lord
    • “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

There is a new focus and purpose and meaning in our lives because there is a new person at the centre.  God Himself, filling the empty place that was made for Him alone. From Him comes the peace and joy that are not of this world.

Response:

“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)

Prayer:

“Lord I believe – help my unbelief”
(Mark 9:24)

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