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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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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One, narrow gate

“O LORD …. please grant success
to the journey on which I have come.”
(Genesis 24:42)

Reflection:
Life is a journey – a journey with a beginning, a middle and an end. We had no say in its beginning and have little, if any, say in its certain end. However we do live in a vital part of it – the middle that joins the two.

God initiated our journey. He purposed and planned to give life to each one of us – you and me. We were each a part of His plan from all eternity. He chose to give us life, and chose also where and when that life should begin.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you”(Jeremiah 1:5)

God desires to be a part of our journey. He has not made us and abandoned us – in fact He is with us. We may ignore and forsake Him but He never turns away from us.

  • “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there” (Psalm 139:7-8)
  • “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:8)
  • “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20)

God knows the right way. The ways of the world are not the ways of God. He calls us to a different path, a higher and less obvious way and to the narrow gate that leads to Life. It is the way that He has laid out for us and along which He Himself will guide us.

  • “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it” (Matthew 7:13)
  • “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved” (John 10:9)
  • “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6)

Only God can promise success to our journey of life. The world cannot deliver what it appears to promise. God’s ways and life will deliver what He promises. And, of supreme importance, only God’s Way will lead us home – home to God and the place and life that He has prepared for us.

  • “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10)
  • “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:3)

And on this journey the one work to which me must devote our primary effort is this,

  • “Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:29)
  • “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)

Response:
Walk close to the Lord, and in His ways, all day.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus You called us to follow You. Please help me to stay very close to You, to discern Your guidance and to trust and follow Your lead as we journey together. Amen.

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Keep shining

“Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net
that was let down into the lake
and caught all kinds of fish.”
(Matthew 13:47)

 

Reflection:
Jesus compared this story, which has the fishermen throwing away the bad fish, to the end of the age. This is when the angels would come ‘and separate the wicked from the righteous.” His point is that this separation takes place at the end. Until then the good and the bad, the righteous and the unrighteous, the believers and the unbelievers are all together.  

It would be so good at one level if we could bring about that separation now. However we are not given that option. Instead we are left with two challenges.

The first is to live out our new life whilst still surrounded by the old. We are different now as the sons and daughters of God and His treasured possession. We are called to be holy and to minister to the Lord God Almighty. We are the ones who are now the light of the world and called to make a difference in the world around us. God has given us His Spirit and directions and looks to us to acknowledge and respond to them both.

The second challenge is not to allow ourselves to be contaminated and dragged back into the darkness of the world. It is so easy to be influenced by all that goes on around us, to begin to see it as the norm and to soak in the opinions and morality amongst which we live. Our mission and ministry is to bring light into the world not to let its darkness quench our light, and life and love.

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
(1 Peter 2:9)

We need to note that God’s Kingdom net at this stage surrounds everyone. Everyone has been embraced by the salvation that is in Christ Jesus and may accept and respond to it. However some will not and will remain in the interior darkness of a fallen world with all the consequences.

Response:
Acknowledge and be aware of God’s presence all the time. Offer Him all that you are and do.

Prayer:

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer” Amen.  (Psalm 19:14).

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Add some yeast

“The kingdom of heaven is like yeast
that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour
until it worked all through the dough.”
(Matthew 13:33)

Reflection:
So often Jesus used everyday activities as the source from which He drew His parables.

Bread without yeast can be hard, dry, unappetising and uninteresting. The introduction of yeast makes it soft, porous and spongy, tasty and good to eat. My aunt used to make bread and often when we were at her house there would be a line of small boys waiting to get their hands on thick, warm slices after it came from the oven.

Like the yeast, once it is added to the dough, the Kingdom of God may appear to be invisible. This is particularly true of the world in which we live. However it does not mean that God is inactive. I have been particularly aware recently not only of God at work in my own life but of His involvement and blessings in the lives of others. This is so often the way that He operates. He enters into and transforms the lives of those of His people who are open to it – so that they in turn may bless and influence the lives and situations around them. In this way it becomes visible through its effect.

Just as we have needs – for acknowledgement, encouragement, love, healing, understanding and assistance, to name but a few – so do those around us. We will begin to see it if we look at people instead of past them. We all have within us the ability and capability to spread ‘a bit of yeast’ into someone else’s life every day. In this way the Kingdom begins to spread and grow.

Response:
Let the yeast of God’s love, revealed through His Word and His Spirit, work its transformation in your own life – and through you.

Prayer:

 Lord help me to embrace Your love, soak in Your Word, be enlivened by Your Spirit, and bless those around me.  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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