Set free

“He went out and cried and cried and cried”
(Luke 22:62 MSG)

Reflection:
This has to be one of the most heart-rending moments in Scripture.

The big, bold and impulsive Peter had boasted of loving the Lord enough to die for Him. And now merely a few hours later, when Jesus was alone and could have done with a friend, he had denied knowing Him three times. After the third occasion Jesus turned and looked at him and Peter knew that the Lord was aware of what had happened, just as He had foretold it.

In that terrible moment Peter would have felt the full impact of His betrayal. He had broken relationship with his beloved Lord and Master, he had turned away from the Messiah, the Son of God, and therefore from God Himself. He was worse than Adam, worse even than Judas, for he had no excuse to offer. In his mind he would have revealed himself to himself and others as a nothing, a loud-mouthed imposter with whom no one would wish to associate. He had lost his self-respect, dignity and privileged position of leadership – in fact he had lost everything. There was no turning back, so in self-loathing he wept in despairing desolation.

“He went out and cried and cried and cried”

I am reminded of King David’s great cry of anguish to the Lord as he looked into himself and saw the horror of the sin of which he was guilty – and knew that he could not live with it.

  • “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (Psalm 51:4)
  • “Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:2)
  • “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7)

And God does. He forgave and cleansed David and still referred to him as a man after His own heart. And although Peter did not then know it Jesus was to forgive and heal him, and was to restore him to his position of leadership in the Church.

God forgives because He loves us enough to want to – not because He is unwilling. Let Him forgive you too.

Response:
No sin is too desperate for Him to forgive and cleanse.

Prayer:

Lord please help me to bring my sin and despair to You and not to hold on to them. Amen.

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(Photo (c) Catherine Bondonno)

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Come in!

“Put out into deep water,
and let down the nets for a catch.”
(Luke 5:4)

Reflections:

Jesus had been teaching the people from Simon’s boat. When He had finished He told Simon to move it into deeper water for a catch of fish. The reason was quite simple – you don’t net large schools of big fish in shallow water.

So many people exist in the shallows of life. However Jesus lived a different type of life and called His disciples to follow Him into it.

He promised to grow them in new ways – “I will make you..” (Matthew 4:19); He gave them the life-changing empowerment of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2);  and He provided them with special gifts (1 Corinthians 12). Clearly they were not going to spend their time ankle-deep in life – in fact they would all ‘walk on water’ many times. He also has a grand purpose and great plans for each of us,

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)

The key is the call of Jesus. He always meets us where we are and then calls us to follow Him into a new way of living, and a better one.  We are not all expected to be great public figures, but we are all intended to be involved in blessing someone’s world and in bringing change and healing into some situations. The more we follow Him the more we will notice Him at work – and the deeper we allow Him to take us the greater the acts of God that we will see. Jesus is establishing His Kingdom.

There is no greater satisfaction, when you look back over your life, than knowing that you have been allowed to invest it in something significant – and in ways that has been a blessing to others. To catch a glimpse of how the Lord has been at work in, through, around (and in spite of !) us is humbling and wonderful. What a privilege, what a blessing and what an experience. Praise God indeed!

Response:
Where is Jesus calling you to go deeper with Him? Ask Him.

Prayer:

Thank You Lord Jesus for calling me into Your life and purpose. Please help me to follow You and not to linger in the passing shallows of the world. Amen.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Words from God

“The seed is the word of God”
(Luke 8:11)

Reflection:
The parable of the sower is one of such amazing good news. To see it we must make it personal.

Jesus is the Sower – He is also the one who said that He would be with us always. The field that belongs to Him is the world but, making it personal, it is our particular world. It is into our personal lives that He is sowing His seed – day in and day out, sunshine and rain, daylight and night-time. As the Word and Revelation of God He is speaking to us one way or the other all the time. And into every area of our lives.

He speaks into the hard and insensitive areas of our lives. And although His words might quickly disappear and have no apparent effect they are nevertheless there in our history. One day we might remember them in awe.

He speaks into the shallow areas of our lives – where the boulders of sin and selfishness sit firmly entrenched. And although His words attract us they cannot establish themselves because our desires are elsewhere. But they are there – and one day we will remember in awe.

He sows His word into the frantic and stressful areas of our lives – where there is so much clamouring for our attention. However the urgent calls of the world distract us and we fail to remember them amongst the weeds. But they are there even although choked out for the time being. One day we will notice them and remember in awe.

And of course He continues also to sow into any areas where we will notice, receive and attend to His word and presence now.

God is sowing into our lives every moment of every day. And this without our specific intention or invitation, but just because He is God and through His great love for each one of us. He sows through the wonder of His creation – if we would pause to look and listen. He sows through His Scriptures – if we would pause to read and reflect. He sows into our prayer life – if we choose to include Him. He sows though the good times and the hard times, the joy and the pain, the busyness and the quiet, the social pleasures and the lonely times.

God sows because He cares and longs to produce blessing in our lives.

Response:
Keep asking God what He is saying to you – He knows what you need to hear.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus You are speaking and teaching into my life. Please help me to practice being aware of You,  to still myself to listen for Your word, to recognise and receive Your word, and to trust and respond to Your word. Amen.

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Who Cares?

“Go and do likewise.”
(Luke 10:37)

Reflection:
A teacher of the law had tried to test Jesus with the question, “Who is my neighbour?” In response Jesus had told the story of The Good Samaritan where a man on his way to Jericho had been attacked by robbers and left bleeding and naked on the road. A priest and a Levite had come along and both had ignored him. Instead it was a despised Samaritan who stopped and helped the man.

Jesus point was that our neighbour is anyone we meet along the road of life – and the commandment is that we should love them as we love ourselves.

The Lord revealed an important truth to me recently after hearing a sermon on this parable. It was this –

“It is far easier to be the one who helps than the one who needs help.”

It is worth bearing this in mind as we come across people who are in need of assistance.  Not only may they not have the ability to help themselves at that point but they may also be suffering the pain and indignities of their situation. In addition they might be only too aware of the good people who ignore then because they do not wish to become involved or socially contaminated in any way. We would not wish to change places with them.

Response:
Be grateful for being able to help others in some way

Prayer:

Lord, please help me to do what I need to with a generous heart and a willing spirit. Amen.

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