Letting it go to God

“But I tell you:
 Love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you”
(Matthew 5:44)

Reflection:
An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth might be good justice but they do not heal and restore relationships. Anger, violence and vengeance may be satisfying to think about but become self-destructive and diminishing. In the end they lock us in a bondage, from which it can be extraordinarily difficult to escape, and affect the lives of all around us.

By comparison forgiveness is healing. It sets us free from spiritual, mental and emotional subjection to the persecutors. It releases us from the anger, fear and desire for vengeance that can oppress and distort our lives and other relationships. It opens the door to healing and to a new life and a new way of living. Jesus first words from the cross were ‘Father forgive them’ – and they set Him free to die as their saviour and not as their victim or opponent.

To forgive is not to say that the hurt and violence do not matter. They matter very much indeed and should not have occurred. However when we forgive we are actually handing the whole matter over to God who will deal with it in His own time and with complete justice. And any retribution involved then comes not from us with our distorting passions but from the God of justice and truth.

“Do not take revenge, my friends,
 but leave room for God’s wrath,
for it is written:
 “It is mine to avenge;
I will repay,”
 says the Lord”
 (Romans 12:19)

Forgiveness may not be easy and may take time and prayer before it is fully released in us – but the healing it brings to us and our lives is a wonderful blessing.

Response:
Who have I not forgiven – including myself. Will I now?

Prayer:

Father please fill me with Your love and help me to forgive – to say the words and to let them so transform the attitude of my heart that the forgiveness will set me free, even if it takes time. Amen.

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Today is Life

“I have learned to be content
whatever the circumstances”
(Philippians 4:11)

Reflection:
“I want” gets in the way of “I am.”

We can become so pre-occupied with a vision, a dream or a fantasy that we fail to appreciate our present reality. In doing so we can deny who we are, ignore our present situation and fail to appreciate the people and beauty that is around us.  

Coveting as God refers to it in the Tenth Commandment is not a desire for proper growth and development but a driving greed and lust for something different or for more – whether or not it is properly available. Jesus recognises that the sin is not only in the action of seeking to acquire the object of our desire but in the focussed use of our imagination as well

“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28)

In it all we take our attention off God as God and look instead to a god of pleasure and self-satisfaction. We very often fail to see the real cost to ourselves or to others.

Paul Getty was at one stage the richest man in the world and his books are studied for advice on how to succeed and to acquire wealth. He was totally ‘dedicated to his work’ and wrote that he had led ‘an exciting and rewarding life.’ In an almost throw-away comment he admitted that his (five) marriages had ‘suffered and fallen’ apart.

Response:
Take time to appreciate your blessings of the day – the beauty of creation, the special people, the wonder of life, the love of God Himself. Acknowledge and express it.

Prayer:

Father thank you for my today. In it there is wonder and beauty and love, and such special people. And most of all there is You – ever-present, ever-loving, ever-sustaining. Bless You Lord. Amen.

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Think Again

“But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother
will be subject to judgment”
(Matthew 5:22)

Reflection:
Often our angry, bitter and vengeful thoughts reveal more about ourselves than the ones they are focussed upon. They may arise because we feel inadequate, insignificant and incapable in the light of what is happening to us or around us. In our minds we can strike back victoriously, and often viciously, establishing our own superiority. It does nothing to improve the situation or any of the relationships.

When we allow ourselves to be angry with someone, and to continue in that way, we damage the relationship even more, harm our relationship with ourselves and create a barrier before the Lord. There can be no proper reconciliation until our anger, or the feelings that give rise to it, have been dealt with and healing has taken place within us. We choose our reactions – and those choices need to be changed, coming instead from a place of healing.

So Jesus teaches

“You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5)

Paul exhorts us to aim for a different thought process,

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things” (Philippians 4:8)

Response:
Where do I feel inadequate and how does it affect my life and reactions?

Prayer:

Lord God, the unloveliness in others reacts against the unloveliness in me and causes such problems. Please bring healing to me, filling me with Your love, and enable me to respond to situations from the security of Your love and not the isolation of my own pain. Amen.

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Comes the Dawn

“By the tender mercy of our God
    the dawn from on high will break upon us”
(Luke 1:78 NRSV)

Reflection:
There is nothing quite like the birth of a new day. Where I live it is a lovely process for the sun does not suddenly leap into the sky but announces its arrival through a gentle lifting of the light. The quality of the darkness changes. Black becomes grey before the first touches of colour bless the drifting clouds. And the birds! Unseen they herald this new dawn. Small bulbuls lift their heads to pour from tiny throats the most glorious and liquid songs of praise to our God. Weavers chatter amongst themselves and the crested barbet worships in long and breathless arias of love.  These are holy moments indeed. And they call us to rise from our slumbers. Not with minds restless and cluttered with the uncompleted and unfulfilled remnants of yesterday – but open and eager for the light and love and life-inspired opportunities that await us, with all their potential and possibility. This is not an old day recycled but a new day to be lived and blessed.

Our Lord Jesus so often comes into our lives as He came into the world. He came slowly and in small beginnings, not striding through the heavens in glorious and terrifying majesty. He came to love and win our love through gentleness, tenderness and compassion – with heart and arms open to the ragged and tattered and soiled souls that were drawn to Him.  And so He begins to reach into our spirits like the first beginnings of the dawn, touching lonely and desolate darkness with the first touches of light and the first hints of new life.

By the grace of God a new day keeps dawning. By His grace the dawn of His love keeps appearing outside of the windows of our spirits. By the grace of God there are sights and sounds and scents that make us pause with a wistful hope. It is the Lord – looking and longing and loving as He seeks to awaken us and attract us to step out with Him into this new dawn of life.

We are not called to be yesterday’s sadness but todays blessing and tomorrows hope. In our own strength this might seem so impossible. However, as we takes deep breaths of the Holy Spirit who is God’s great gift to us, we are reminded that nothing is impossible for this God of ours – not even us! He comes to us like the rising sun,

“to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
(Luke 1:79)

Response:
Wherever and however I am He calls me to look forward and to build life with Him

Prayer:

Lord help me to be aware of You in the deep dark areas of my life – and to open myself to Your love, light and life in quiet trust. Amen.

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Love Five

“God is love.
Whoever lives in love lives in God,
and God in him”
(1 John 4:16)

Reflection:
Core Values in our lives – God, The Word, Prayer, Holy Living and, now, Love.

Love has to be the flame that burns within us, the source that feeds out spirits, minds, deeds and emotions. For God is Love – and if we are in His image then it should be love that characterises us as well. And so Scripture tells us that love is essential to us.

  • “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)
  • “God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Romans 5:5)
  • “`Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it:
  • “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39)
  • “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44)
  • “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34)
  • “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:14)
  • “But the fruit of the Spirit is love..” (Galatians 5:22)

This love is not a product of our own efforts but comes from God and through God. It is a consequence of the love that He has for us and which He has revealed to us.

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

We may decide to love because we know that it is right – but it only becomes real and true, and not a legalism, when the love of God flows into us and through us. The greater our awareness of God’s love for us the more we are prepared and enabled to love those people and things that He loves. As we receive the fullness of His blessing for ourselves so it overflows from us – because love cannot be contained. So Paul’s prayer becomes ours as well;

  • “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 3:17-19)

Five Core Values for which to pray and keep on praying – through the sunshine and the darkness – and which to allow the Holy Spirit to live out within us and through us as we trust and follow  His guidance.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father as the moon reflects the light and the glory of the sun, so may I shine with Your love and truth in the darkness of the world around me – and may You be honoured and glorified in it all. Amen.

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God First

Jesus answered, “It is written:
`Worship the Lord your God
and serve Him only”
(Luke 4:8)

Reflection:
 We need core values by which we live our lives – values that are different from those of the world. Jesus established some of His during the temptations after His baptism. Others appeared during His ministry.

Our primary value must be God – revealed to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This keeps being emphasised throughout Scripture,

  • “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”  (Matthew 22:37)
  • “You shall have no other gods before Me”  (Exodus 20:3)
  • “No one can serve two masters … You cannot serve both God and Money”  (Matthew 6:24)

To worship God is not to merely say the words but to live it out in our lives.

  • “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)
  • “Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:29)
  • “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:1-2)
  • “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men .. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23-24)

God is to be first and foremost in our lives.  God is to be present in, and the focus of, all that we think and say and do. God is to be the One whom we trust for all that we need at all times and in all situations. God is to be the object of our deepest love, highest honour and most reverent adoration.

It doesn’t happen overnight. In fact it cannot happen at all without the guidance, strength and blessing of the Holy Spirit Himself. However, as under His inspiration we set the sights of our lives upon the Lord, He will take us on a journey towards the fulfilment of God’s desires for us. On it God will begin to wean us away from the things of the world and the flesh and to purify us in such a way that His love may be poured into us without impediment.

Prayer:

‘Most High and Holy God, enthroned in fire and light, burn away the dross of our lives and kindle in us the fire of Your love, that our lives may reveal the light and life and love we find in Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Amen.

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Free from me

“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:
Again and again I return to this amazing illustration of the love of God – painted for us by Jesus Himself. This time God surprised me by drawing my attention to the faith of the lost son.

He had done everything possible to alienate himself from his father. He had demanded his inheritance early, thereby indicating that his father was living too long. He had walked away from his father, his family and his home. He had ‘squandered his wealth on wild living’ and ‘with prostitutes’ and had ended up a ragged beggar in the gutter, with nothing to call his own and with no means of supporting himself. Everything had been lost including his social status and self-respect.

 However, there was one precious item that remained – one that only surfaced right at the end. That was his knowledge of his father’s character. And, Jesus tells us, it was ‘when he came to his senses’ that he found it and knew that there was in fact one place to which he could go. He could go home to his father. He believed that his father would not turn him away.

This is the blinding truth that the Lord Jesus holds out to us. Whatever we  have done, wherever we have been, and wherever we find ourselves to be – when the truth hits us that we have got it all so wrong –  there  remains for us always one safe place to which we can turn – we can go home to God our Father. We can return – not to the servant’s quarters – but into the arms that have never been closed to us.

Finally we look away from ourselves and we look at God – and we see – and we find all that we have longed for ….

Response:
Do I need to go home from anywhere?

Prayer:

Help me come Lord Jesus, dare I stay away!

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