Your WIll Father

“He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed,
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me;
yet not my will, but yours be done.”
An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.
And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly,
and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground”
(Luke 22:41-44)

Reflection:
Here was the last and greatest temptation of them all.

Everything within Jesus drew back at the contemplation of the horror that lay before Him. It was not just the trial and the false and angry accusations that would be levelled at Him. Nor was it the unspeakable brutality of the flogging and the crucifixion with its naked viciousness and searing agony – with no relief and nowhere to hide. There was more. He would be crushed beneath and drowned in the accumulated sin of the world – past, present and future. As it was poured into Him He would suffocate as the Breath of Life left Him and, for the very first time in His existence, He would be separated from the knowledge and intimacy of His relationship with the Father. Everything within Him would die as He hung wretched and alone under the burning blackness, the hideous humiliation and the scathing abuse of Calvary.

There was only one resource that was still open to Jesus – and He took it. He began to pray Himself out of the situation and to pray His Father God into it. He opened Himself with His anguish to the Father – praying so earnestly and intently that His ‘sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.’ This was not Jacob wrestling with God but the Son of God wrestling with His humanity.

He prayed and He prayed and change began to take place. The human Jesus gave way to God the Almighty as He prayed ‘not my will, but Yours be done.’ And, by the time that He returned to the others, He was at peace and in command of Himself. God’s will had taken precedence and He would walk into it in faith and submission.

Here was the fulfilment of His refusal to accept any of the easy options offered to Him by Satan in the desert. For God to be honoured the process would have to be as faultless as the end result. There are no short cuts. God does not build eternal salvation on faulty foundations. All this Jesus knew and accepted so that God could be truly glorified.

Could I say it too?  “Not my will, but Yours be done”

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(Picture from the Passion of the Christ)

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Body and Blood

“And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it,
and gave it to them, saying,
“This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood,
which is poured out for you”
(Luke 22:19-20)

Reflection:
The history of God’s people is the story of sacrifice.

In Eden an animal was sacrificed so that God could clothe Adam and Eve as He expelled them from the Garden. Prophetically Abraham was instructed to sacrifice his son Isaac only to be stopped by the Lord at the last moment. The lambs were sacrificed to save the Israelites from harm when the angel passed through Egypt to slay all the first-born in the land. And then there were the sacrifices of the desert journey and in the Temple of the Promised Land – sacrifices which had everything to do with the forgiveness of sins.

Not for a moment could anyone seriously believe that the blood of a beast could atone for the sins of the men and women created in the image of God. They were continual reminders that for sins to be forgiven, and the sinner cleansed in a miraculous way, there would need to be some eternally effective and holy sacrifice.

  • “But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:3-4)

The time had arrived. So had the sacrifice.  Here said John the Baptist was the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. This great truth was affirmed by the apostles.

  • “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2)
  • “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5:7)

Here in these pregnant moments, not long before He died, Jesus draws us into the mystery and the actuality of this great act of sacrificial salvation. He gives His body and the pouring out of His blood in a covenant of reality. There is no symbolism on the cross – it is cruel and clear and complete. As we take the bread and wine we accept and associate ourselves with Him in His death. He dies for us. In His death we die to ourselves – putting away the old self.  When He rises again He brings us with Him into the wonder and glory of our redemption as the eternal daughters and sons of the glorious Father.

There can be no greater promise given to us than that sealed by the shedding of the most precious blood of Jesus Christ the Son of God. As we ‘do this in remembrance of me’ we acknowledge, affirm and accept this great sacrifice and confirm that we live in and through and by it.

Thank You Lord Jesus – thank You so very much!

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Foot-washing

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered,
 “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
(John 13:8)

Reflection:
O Lord, how I identify with Peter. How can You possibly kneel before me, reaching out to wash my feet? This is me – the one who is unworthy to undo the strap on Your sandals. I could not even aspire in my imagination to wash Your feet – unless, like the woman we watched, it was with my tears of guilt and shame and sorrow. Even that would be too much for how could I even touch You with such tears. I might only hope with David that they would be stored somewhere in a bottle for You to see one day.

And yet, and yet, I do need to be washed by You – for who else could wash away the sin-shamed stains that so disfigure my spirit? And so I begin to realise that Your washing has to be individual and personal and intimate for these are my sins and I need to be cleansed and set free. Here is the wonder of it all – You have called me individually, Your word has spoken to me in a way that is particular and specific to me and, as an individual, I have responded to You and placed my life in Your hands. It is this You tell me that has cleansed me and made me acceptable to the Father.

But now Lord what is this washing of the feet? It is not the washing of salvation but the cleansing away of the travel stains and dirt picked up on the journey. It is not a washing of the spirit for that You have already done – it is a washing of the soul so that nothing sticks to me that might mar my life and ministry. For once I have been saved I do not need salvation again – just a regular washing by You of the dirt I have picked up, cleansing me and setting me free under the glorious cover of the eternal salvation that You have already conferred upon me.

You have already cleansed my whole person and now You seek to cleanse me day by day  from the stains that come from life in the world. But still – kneeling before me? Lord what are You doing ….  for this is so personal and intimate, so embarrassing and yet … so gentle and loving and affirming and wonderful …. and You are smiling up at me all the time. I understand now that no one else can do this to me or for me – only You. And this is Your ongoing service of love to me for the rest of my life here.

So I come Lord Jesus – dare I turn away!

There is no one as special and as wonderful as You! I thought I knew it – but again I catch another glimpse beyond the cloud.

Response:
Dare to believe!

Prayer:

Lord Jesus I have believed – but suddenly this goes so much deeper, so wonderfully deeper. Help me to accept Your love. Amen.

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(Picture: Christ washing Peter’s feet – Ford Madox Brown)

Love of God 28

“When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen”
( Luke 19:37)

Reflection:
(For Palm Sunday)

Lord these are special moments to remember. Sunlit times when with other believers we could look at You and sing out Your praises. Each one with a story to tell of love and life and new light. The early days of faith when all was golden and hearts were joy-filled and You were smiling.

Those were wonderful days with You as the centre of our lives. We all loved and liked each other then – well most of the time. There was no need to argue or compete because You really were everything to us – and we shared our wonder and amazement at Your miracles and the new and marvellous things You taught us.

Thank You for those days and memories which we thought would never end – if we thought at all. We needed them just as later disciples do. We would often long to go back there – but there is no going back for You and we were always moving on.

And even there on that Son-blessed hillside things began to change. For, as we came near to the city, Your smile faded and in its place You wept. You wept for the people who couldn’t see and wouldn’t see. You wept for their mindless rejection of You that lay just ahead – and for the terrible times they were soon to endure. You probably wept for us as well. We were all shallow in our golden days – as many are.

But then we too learned to weep – and how we would weep! We wept over You Lord – we wept over ourselves as we discovered things we did not know were there – and we wept over others who couldn’t see and wouldn’t see and sent us away. And yet in the midst of all these tears we discovered something else – something so precious. We discovered more of You. For when we wept You wept with us – but You also smiled. Such a tender, loving and pain-tinged smile over an outstretched arm and an open hand that still bears the marks of a nail.

Yes they were golden days – but we wouldn’t go back now for we have so much more.

Response:
Don’t look back with regret or longing – look ahead to the glory to be revealed

Prayer:

Lord Jesus You never gave up  – help me too to press on knowing that You are here to guide, encourage and support me. Amen.

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Love of God 27

“God has poured out his love into our hearts
 by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”
(Romans 5:5)

 

Reflection:
God’s great desire is that we should all be a people of love. And because God Himself ‘is love’ the main commandments point us in that direction.

  • “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37)
  • “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22:39)
  • “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34)
  • “Love your enemies” (Luke 6:35)

Paul goes on and teaches that without love nothing is achieved or of any value in the sight of God.

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

The only source of this love is God Himself. He is prepared to share the love that is in Him with us –those whom He has in Christ adopted as His daughters and sons. It comes with and through the Holy Spirit whom He has given us. Note how Paul uses the word ‘poured’ to describe the process – not dribbled or dripped or rationed in any way, but POURED. The sense is of the recipient’s heart being absolutely soaked in the love of God – so much so that it leaks out into every part of their life and being.

John sums it up for us as He again says simply,

“We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19)

It is because we have been and are loved by God with this great, free, unmerited, unrestricted and unconditional love that we can begin to love Him and others in a similar way.

Response:
Ask for love and give love in faith – for the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Love

Prayer:

Father please pour Your love into my heart by Your Holy Spirit. Help me to open myself to recognise and receive it and to begin to share it with others even now. Thank You Lord. Amen.

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Love of God 26

 

“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.

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.

Response:
Do it now!

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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Love of God 25

“This is how we know what love is:
Jesus Christ laid down his life for us”
(1 John 3:16)

Reflection:
God is a God of Love.

Jesus spelt it out for us. Firstly He said that,

“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)

Note the important little word ‘so.’ He later taught His disciples that,

“My command is this:
 Love each other as I have loved you.
Greater love has no one than this,
that he lay down his life for his friends”
(John 15:12-13)

Finally the Apostle John re-affirms it.

“This is how we know what love is:
Jesus Christ laid down his life for us”
(1 John 3:16)

We don’t begin to get it by merely reading the words as if they were written in a text book. They need to be contemplated, prayed over, and absorbed until their truth springs into life within us. At the heart of them is the stunning revelation –

“You are far more important to Me then Me.”

Response:
Of whom could I truly say it – and of Whom?

Prayer:

Holy Spirit you are the One who guides us into all truth. Please guide me deeper into the truth of the love of God for me – and guide my spirit into true love for the Father, the Saviour and you the Comforter, as well as those who are a part of my life and living. Amen.

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