Choose the right clothes

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved,
clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness,
humility, gentleness and patience.”
(Colossians 3:12)

Reflection:
We are God’s chosen people! We are not beggars tagging along behind His cavalcade, hoping to scavenge some of the left-overs. We are there in the midst of His people, personally selected and called,

  • “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you.”  (John 15:16)
  • “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”   (Romans 8:29-30)

As God’s chosen people, His sons and His daughters, we are “dearly loved”, loved to the full extent of Christ’s enormous sacrifice – and even more if that were possible. There is nothing lacking in God’s great love for us. Having called us to Himself we are made holy by and through our association with Him, and because we are now, spiritually, in Christ and He in us. We have been set apart by God, for God, for eternity. We are His.

Paul urges us to see this more clearly, to recognise and accept our new identity and relationship, and to clothe ourselves accordingly. As we are now a part of Christ, members of His body, we can relate to and more fully acquire the things that characterise Him. So we can reach out, take hold of, and make these characteristics a part of our own lives because they are so much a part of His – “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” They are not to be merely superficial ornaments, like decorations on a Christmas tree, but deeply embedded in our lives. To make the point other translations say,

  • “Put on therefore, as God’s elect, holy and beloved, a heart of compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, longsuffering…” (ASV)
  • “So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline…” (MSG)

Because we are God’s, and may rest secure in that knowledge, we can be less worried about ourselves and more concerned about the lives of others. We have something of great value to share – the love and peace of God Himself, in and through Jesus Christ.

Response:
They are not just words to read but steps to take. Dress yourself properly, and consciously, now and every day. Do not let anyone, or anything, undress you! Not even your own sins or insecurities – they are not you!

Prayer:

Loving Father, please help me to leave behind the garments of insecurity and selfishness, and to put on those of love, peace and blessing – in Jesus name, Amen.

————————–

 

Living gracefully

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed,
do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
(Colossians 3:17)

Reflection:
Thinking and praying about my sermon for a funeral service I was again reminded of the awesome privilege of being allowed into people lives, and to minister, on such occasions. I was also very aware that what everyone needed was not my ministry but that of the Lord – both through and around me.

For the Christian, every moment, every deed and every relationship – no matter how casual – is a ministry opportunity. It is an opportunity for us to show how intentionally we live for the Lord and, therefore, do our best as if it were an offering to Him. It is also an opportunity for Him to reach from us into the lives and needs, very often hidden, of those around us. To do something in Jesus name is to do it on His behalf and in His way, and in the belief that the Holy Spirit will guide, empower and bless it and the people involved.

Paul highlights this when he says, “whatever you do…do it all in the name of the Lord ..” He does not use words lightly, so his “whatever” means whatever and his “all” means all – not just funerals. It is very challenging to think through and yet, if our love for the Lord is real, then it should be a far more natural approach. It is also one way of showing our understanding of what He has done for us, and our appreciation of the tremendous sacrifice that was involved.

So, from washing dishes to leading the affairs of state,

“whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Response:
Examine today and plan tomorrow with this in mind.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, You have done so much to glorify God and to bless me. Please help me to live as a blessing to You and to others, Amen.  

————————–

Uncover your treasure

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field.
When a man found it, he hid it again,
and then in his joy went and sold all he had
and bought that field”
(Matthew 13:44)

Reflection:
Hidden somewhere in the darkness of a fallen world is a glorious treasure. He knows that it is there and He knows that He wants it – but to all intents and purposes it is dead and buried to Him. Separated from the Vine of Life it has withered and died – but still He wants it for He knows that He can cleanse it, heal it, and give it new life as He restores it to its place in Him.

So He came to seek and to find, to save and to redeem, to restore and to cherish, to transform with a new Spirit into a new Life and Love. And He found it – and having found it He gave everything that He had so that He might own and possess it. He gave His life, He gave His future and He gave His divine inheritance.

We are that treasure – individually and collectively. We are His beloved, created to be like Him and for Him. We are the children of the Father, the bride of the Son and the temples of the Holy Spirit. We are the focus of His love, the recipients of His grace and the reflection of His beauty. And if we have not yet seen it in ourselves it is because we have yet to truly see it in Him for we can only love because He first loved us. He can only be our treasure when we have discovered that we are His. We can only seek first the kingdom of God when we appreciate that He has first sought and found us.

Having discovered this for himself Paul would first exclaim and then pray,

  • “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ .. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection” (Philippians 3:8-10)
  • “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 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 3:14-19)

You are not what the world makes you – in Christ you are a child of the Most High God.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine”

(Isaiah 43:1)

Response:
Buried within you is a great truth. Dwell on God’s love and word – until it resonates within you.

Prayer:

Father I so want to know more of Your love and light and life – help me please to receive what You have for me and to treasure it even as You treasure me. Amen.

——————–

Home Awaits

“I will set out and go back to my father and say to him:
 Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you”
(Luke 15:18)

 

Reflection:
We may call Jesus Saviour and Lord but that does not mean that all areas of our lives are in submission to Him. This becomes a process that takes place over time as we journey with Him. We may be aware of some of these areas whilst others may appear on the way and take us by surprise. As long as they remain independent they will hinder our life with the Lord and prevent us from enjoying the fullness of the life that He has for us.

The prodigal son’s whole life had imploded on him and this is what eventually brought him to his senses. In his spiritual shame and isolation he did the only thing left open to him – he went home. There to his astonishment and delight he was welcomed, embraced and celebrated. The healing had begun.

When we realise that there are parts of our own lives that are distant from the Lord the most important response is for us to pick them up and take them back to God. This is where they belong and this is where the healing and restoration can happen. The longer we try and cope or fix them by ourselves the more difficult it may become.  As we take them to God we meet His love, His acceptance of us, His embracing and supporting arms, and His strength and help.

It might happen that in parts of our lives we keep wandering off again – pursuing some pleasure or giving in to some weakness. If this is the case and as soon as we are aware of it we need to go back with it to the Lord and ask Him for His forgiveness, healing and strength. Keep going home until you never leave again. This is not an invitation to become casual in our life with the Lord but an acknowledgement that some battles are harder and longer than others, for a whole variety of reasons.

Your home is in the Lord. Your forgiveness and healing is in the Lord. Your life and fulfilment is in the Lord. Bring all of yourself to Him all of the time – He will never reject you.

And now realise too that you are surrounded by people whose lives, or a part of whose lives, are distant from God. Some of them will feel isolated from Him whilst others will have no sense of Him at all. Inside each one of them somewhere is a lonely son or daughter who also needs love and encouragement as well as help. It might be that you are their only link at this time. Ask God to point out to you the one/s He wishes to reach and start by holding them faithfully in your prayers – asking for God’s light and blessing in their lives.

Response:
Have I any desert areas? Take them to the Lord now.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus I come to You as I am and ask You particularly to forgive, heal and set me free in these  areas of my life ……  Please accept them and bring them under Your Lordship and authority, for Your glory.  Amen.

———————-

 

Found it!

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbours together and says, `Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
(Luke 15:8-10)

Reflection:
A great Jewish scholar reportedly said that the one absolutely new thing which Jesus taught people about God was that He actually searched for people. (William Barclay). And we see it so clearly in these two parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin.

It may be that this coin was one of ten that made up the woman’s wedding headdress and would be almost the equivalent of a wedding ring. To lose one would be like losing a diamond today from such a ring and the missing jewel would be a constant source of shame and pain.

There are similar examples in Scripture. On Aaron’s priestly breastplate there were twelve precious stones, each one engraved with the name of one of the twelve tribes. If one had been lost it would have been seen as a disaster. Much later Paul talks of the Thessalonians as being the crown in which he will glory in the presence of the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 2:19) If they were lost to the Lord Paul would have almost felt as if his value had disappeared.

Not only does God search for people but He values them as highly as a woman does her wedding ring, a high priest one of the twelve tribe he represents before the Lord, and an apostle his crowning achievement.

As we begin to recognise our great worth in the eyes of God so it should open our eyes to the value in His sight of those around us. They might seem to us, at best, like unpolished stones living dull, empty and valueless lives – but what a difference if they were properly cut and polished so that their potential beauty and value could shine forth. And that again is where we come in. As we discover our own true worth before the Lord can we fail to help others to discern the beauty and value they thought had been lost and to find it also in God?

Response:
Look for the beauty and potential in others – and encourage it.

Prayer:

Lord You are enabling me to find my true life and fulfilment in You – please help me to be a blessing to others in the same way. Amen.

——————

Here’s another!

“Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbours together and says, `Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”
(Luke 15:3-7)

Reflection:
The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were very critical of Jesus association with those whom they deemed to be sinners. Their regulations laid down that they were to have no dealings with such people. In fact, according to William Barclay, the strict Jews had the view that ‘there will be joy in heaven over one sinner who is obliterated before God.’

Jesus view was diametrically opposed to this – and in fact He would teach that

“the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”
(Luke 19:10)

This is borne out in the parable where Jesus shows that He will track down the lost – seeking to find them and to bring them safely back to their home and relationship with God. And, in each case, He tells us there will be great ‘rejoicing in heaven.’ This gives us another indication of just how special we are to God! This Jesus is with us always through the Holy Spirit and, if we do go astray, will come after us to find and recover us.

This then also tells us something of what our own attitude should be to those around us. For we are surrounded by people, so many of whom are lost in terms of their relationship with God and drifting further and further away. They may be alive to the world but they are actually dead to God. Our calling also, in terms of the Great Commission, to seek and to save what is lost.

Response:
Ask God to show you whom He is pointing you towards. Start by praying for them each day – praying that God will touch them in a way that will open them to Him.

Prayer:

Lord God thank You so much that You tracked me down and saved me. Please help  me to be a part of Your reaching out to those around me – and show me who it is for whom I should pray. Amen.

————————

Listen for Him

“Let me hear of Your loving kindness in the morning,
for in You I put my trust”
(Psalm 143:8)

Reflection:
On Monday I went for blood tests for a condition that had all the possibilities of turning out to be very nasty. The results were due the next day but were delayed until Wednesday morning. On Tuesday night whilst praying these words from the psalm reached out to me in a special way,

“Let me hear of Your loving kindness in the morning,
for in You I put my trust”

They seemed to reach into my spirit where I embraced them and held on to them. In the morning, despite the occasional twinge of anxiety from which I chose to turn away, they remained with me. And eventually the news came that there was in all probability no condition that could not treated with medicines. Praise God indeed – or with a bit more enthusiasm, “Yay God!”

It is so special when God gives us a word, speaking into our situations. It underlines the importance of being close to Him, open to Him and in conversation with Him. This God of everlasting love is concerned about us as individuals and so often has a word for us of ‘strength, encouragement and comfort.’ (1 Corinthians 14:3) And the word that we have in Scripture is still a living word which He uses to speak to us and into our situations today.

Response:
Involve God in conversation about Your affairs and read His word expectantly.

Prayer:

Help me to be open to You Lord, to be alive to the possibility of Your speaking to me and to hear You when You do. Amen.

—————-

(Photo: (c) Catherine Bondonno)