I need help

“On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning,
with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast.
Everyone in the camp trembled”
 (Exodus 19:16)

Reflection:
When the Lord descended onto Mount Sinai to meet with Moses He did so in such a way that the people were terrified. They said to Moses,

“Speak to us yourself and we will listen.
But do not have God speak to us or we will die”
(Exodus 20:19)

This response stands in stark contrast to their reaction when the Lord led them out of Egypt.

“By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud
to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire
to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night”

(Exodus 13:21)

In the same way the cloud of the Lord’s presence settled on the Tabernacle.

“On the day the tabernacle, the Tent of the Testimony, was set up,
the cloud covered it. From evening till morning
the cloud above the tabernacle looked like fire”

(Numbers 9:15)

At Sinai they were terrified but at other times the presence of the Lord in the cloud was a comfort and assurance of His presence.  It was also a guide for them as they moved when He moved and stayed when He stayed.

With the whole Christian Church we look ahead to next Sunday when we celebrate the Day of Pentecost. This is the day when the Lord, in fulfilment of His promise, gave to His people the great gift of the Holy Spirit. He came to be not just with us but to live within us, both collectively as the Body of Christ and individually as well.

This is the same God as the majestic and terrifying God of Sinai. However He now chooses to reveal Himself to us in a different way, a way in which He can work within us and through us – transforming us and reaching out to those around us in love, guidance and healing.

The Israelites could not have left Egypt and found their way to the Promised Land by themselves.  So too we cannot find our way out of the bondage of our own lives and into the place that the Lord has prepared for us. We need His help – His involvement, His guidance and His power. With it we need His forgiveness and His healing. This comes through the Holy Spirit who makes our union and relationship with the Lord real, and who gifts, guides and empowers us for the life which God calls us to lead.

Paul puts it clearly for us.

  • “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ” (Romans 8:9)
  • “those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God” (Romans 8:14)
  • “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:16)

Response:
Ask God to help you to open yourself to the Holy Spirit more and more.

Prayer:

Lord God, thank You for the wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit. Please help me to open myself to His presence, guidance and ministry so that He may be released in ever increasing ways in my life and living. Amen.

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What a Blessing

“I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened
in order that you may know ..
the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”
(Ephesians 1:18-19)

Reflection:
Paul’s prayer for us is not that we may know of certain things but that we may know them as true for ourselves. So He prayed that

  • We might know God better
  • We might know the Hope to which God has called us

Now he goes on to pray that we might know

  • The riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints
  • His incomparably great power for us who believe

His inheritance for us is that final inheritance of which the Holy Spirit is the guarantee (v14). Peter describes it as ‘imperishable, undefiled and unfading kept in heaven for you.’ (1 Peter 1:4) Paul also calls it both rich and glorious – finding words to describe that which is beyond our present capacity to see, to hear or to imagine.

As God children we are God’s heirs and fellow heirs with Christ. (Romans 8:17) One day by His grace this inheritance will be ours and it will include everything that God has and has planned and prepared for his beloved children – us. Transformed into the likeness of the Lord Jesus we will be enabled to see and worship God as He really is, in all His glory, majesty, power and love  – and to live in His presence forever, freed from the imperfections, pain and burdens of this fallen life.

Only God’s power can fulfil the expectations which belongs to His call, and bring us safely to the riches of the glory of the final inheritance He will give us. So Paul writes of

  • His incomparably great power for us who believe
  • The working of His mighty strength

The resurrection and the ascension were a decisive demonstration of this divine power. There are two powers man cannot control and which hold him in bondage – death and evil. In Christ God has conquered both – and so is more than able to protect, rescue, liberate and transform us too.

Lord God,
enlighten the eyes of my heart
so that I may know
the riches of our glorious inheritance
in the saints
and Your incomparably great power
for us who believe.

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More Please!

“For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice;
and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings”
(Hosea 6:6 KJV)

Reflection:
 Martin Lloyd-Jones put it like this – ‘Our supreme need is to know God.’ He was clearly not referring to a mere nodding acquaintance but, in view of the intimacy inferred in the word ‘know’, to know God well, to know Him deeply, to know Him truly, to know Him as He is revealed in His Word and, supremely, in and through Jesus Christ. For the Christ Himself said,

“Now this is eternal life:
that they may know you, the only true God,
and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent”
(John 17:3)

Although there is much in creation and in Scripture that can tell us about God the true and personal knowledge of God comes only through revelation. It is only through the witness of the Holy Spirit within us that we receive the full knowledge of the reality and intimacy of our own relationship with the Father – and with His Son and the Holy Spirit Himself.

In his great letter to the Ephesians Paul recognises this and gives us the basis and framework for our own prayers through the prayers that He prayed for us. With slight adjustment we may pray for ourselves as follows:

Almighty God and Glorious Father,
Give me by Your grace
the Spirit of wisdom and revelation
so that I may know You better.

It really needs to be our heart’s prayer every day – for the closer we get to God, the more we begin to identify and find the reality of His glory and love, and the closer we will long to get to Him.

Response:
Write it at the top of your prayer list. Breathe it in and out as you go through the day. Thank Him for the knowledge of Him that you already have.

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New Hearts

“Create in me a pure heart, O God,
 and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”
(Psalm 51:10)

Reflection:

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?
 (Jeremiah 17:9)

David knew only too well how easy it was to follow ‘the devices and desires of our own hearts.’ So he asked the Lord not only for forgiveness but for a new understanding, commitment and strength. In doing so he was praying in line with the Lord’s own wisdom and promise:

  • “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)
  • “He purified their hearts by faith.” (Acts 15:9)
  • “For God is greater than our hearts.” (1 John 3:20)

We cannot love the Lord with all our heart in our own strength. We cannot love our neighbours as ourselves in our own strength. We cannot love one another as Jesus has loved us in our own strength. We cannot love our enemies in our own strength. We cannot obey the Lord’s commands in our own strength. We cannot be holy in our own strength. We are a fallen people – fallen in body, mind and spirit and with hearts focussed on ourselves and the things of this world.

David had it right. Forgiveness by itself is not enough. We need help and we need it in the central depths of our lives. We need God to give us a new heart and a new spirit. A heart filled with His love and a spirit more holy and powerful than the spirit of the fallen world and fallen nature within us. We need to be saved even from ourselves.

And so God has acted. He has given us His heart in Jesus and His Life in His Spirit. They are here for the asking and acceptance.

Response:
Don’t fight sin ans life’s challenges in your own strength. Turn to God and involve Him – as often and as much as it takes.

Prayer:

Father please give me Your Heart and Your Spirit. May they fill my life and set me free to love and live You with joy. Amen.

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Check your thought diet

“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)

Reflection:
If we are to respond positively to the commands to love, then the love needs to start within us. It cannot merely be confined to outward acts – 1 Corinthians 13 warns us of the consequences. Love begins to look out for the positive and beautiful aspects of life and living and focus on them. This is not artificial and an ignoring of the truth, but it is a refusal to merely dwell on weakness and ugliness when it is not helpful. There is beauty all around us, there are fine qualities in many people, including ourselves.

What Paul is really challenging us with is to allow the God-given beauty within us – the new and redeemed us, temples of the lovely Holy Spirit Himself – to begin to surface and take control of our thoughts. To give us a new focus, a fresh awareness, and a different perception of truth. In the process we will find an enhanced perception of the loveliness around us, and within others – even in the midst of the challenges and pain of life. And, if we are really open we may find God showing us things that He finds lovely and that delight Him.

What we feed on will affect the fruit that we produce. To give love, beauty, hope and blessing into the lives of others we must first receive them. No matter how dark the world may seem the light of Christ will always seek to encourage new life and growth.

Response:
There are enough armchair critics.  Check yourself and step out in a new way. This weekend look out for beauty and receive it as a gift.

Prayer:

Father, show me the beauty and the loveliness around me – and the things that are noble and praiseworthy – and help me to be blessed by them. In Jesus name, Amen.

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A new day will dawn

“Now if we are children, then we are heirs
–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ”
 (Romans 8:17)

Reflection:
The glorious truth about our salvation is that we do not become ‘poor relations’ in our new identity as the sons and daughters of God. We become His heirs – in fact co-heirs with His great Son, the Lord Jesus.

This is beautifully illustrated by Jesus Himself in the account of the Prodigal Son. When the son returns to the Father in the rags of failure and rejection the Father calls for him to be re-clothed in the ‘best robe’.  That would be the Father’s own most special robe that He was giving to His son. It would also be a sign to everyone around that he had been completely accepted and restored.

Our inheritance will be to participate in and enjoy fully everything that belongs to the Father – all that He has and all that He will have, all that He has created and all that He will create, and all that is being prepared for us.

  • “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2)
  • “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”  (1 Corinthians 2:9)

We do not know the detail and extent of it all – we do know however that it will be a place and time of wonderful completeness, unending joy, perfect peace and glorious love. And we will forever be an integral part of all that the Father is doing.

No matter what our experiences in this life – the joys and pain, the successes and failures, the acceptance and rejection, the moral heights and the sin-obsessed depths, the laughter and the desolation – one thing is certain. As the children of God we have a glorious inheritance in Jesus Christ – and it begins right now as we accept and lay hold of the wonder of our new relationship with the Lord. For many it has been, and will be,  the great truth onto which they hold in the darkness.

Response:
Where we will be is better than where we are. The way we will be is better than the way we are.

Prayer:

Father thank you so much for Your great love that reaches down for us into the darkest depths – so that You can raise us to You in the highest heights. I hold on to You Lord. Amen.

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God at work in me

“And we know that in all things
God works for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose.”
(Romans 8:28)

Reflection:
In this short sentence Paul sets out what for him are five unshakeable convictions. As we look at them we can begin to see their importance as foundations to our own believing, thinking and living.

They are:

  • God is at work in our lives – “God works”.

He is not a passive spectator but an actively involved God Almighty, whether or not we perceive it.

He is with us, in us and around us. As we saw yesterday He began a good work in our lives and will carry it on to completion.

  • God works for our good – “God works for the good”.

It is unthinkable that the God who sacrificed His Son for us would then work to harm His people or ignore them. From whatever happens in our lives God is able to bring a blessing.

  • God works in all things – “in all things God works”.

Not just some things but in all things. Even where we get things wrong and fail miserably God will still be at work – not least in encouraging and helping us to get up and have another go at life! And when we sin, and battle with sin, God is still able to use it as an opportunity to work in something valuable that will amaze us – particularly relating to His love for us.

  • God does this for those who love Him – “for the good of those who love Him.”

This love, as Scripture tells us, is expressed in our obedience to Jesus commands (John 14:21). By doing this we open the door for God to express Himself in and through our lives. Where we don’t we keep Him at a distance. God does not wait for perfection on our part – the first stirrings of love and obedience within us draws God closer, seeking to help, strengthen, comfort and bless us.

  • God works His purpose in our lives – “who have been called according to His purpose.”

He has a purpose for us (Ephesians 2:10) and it fits in with His will being done ‘on earth as it is in heaven.’ In His purposes our lives are planned to be significant. For this He gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit and the spiritual gifts that we will need.

 Wherever we happen to be – physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally – God is with us. As we turn to Him in the prayer that acknowledges Him, in the love that seeks to live His way and in the faith that might even be as ‘small as a mustard seed’ we open ourselves to His working in and through us. Whatever may be happening around us God is building something in our lives and the lives of His people. Trust Him!

Response:
Learn the verse and the five convictions. Ask God to help you believe and live their truth.

Prayer:

Father Your word ‘will not return to You empty but will accomplish what You desire and achieve the purpose for which You sent it.’ Help me to take this word of Yours into my life, in Jesus name. Amen.

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