Peace be with you

“On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the disciples were together,
with the doors locked for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood among them and said,
“Peace be with you!”
(John 20:19)

 

Reflection:
This really was the peace of God that passes all understanding. And although it was a common greeting of the time no words of Jesus are without meaning and significance. So it has three important elements included in it as He speaks this peace into their lives.

There is Peace between Himself and them. These were the ones who had boasted of being willing to die for Him – but who had fled before the armed guards and the crowd who had arrested Him. Jesus was clearing away the desertion and guilt that would have lain heavily on and between them –and reinstating them into relationship with Him, this time in a deeper, stronger and humbler way.

There is Peace between God and them. Jesus represented the Father and said specifically that those who had seen Him had seen the Father also. Now He makes it quite clear that their relationship with the Father had been restored as well. The sin and guilt of separation that had come about through Adam and been perpetuated by fallen humankind had been dealt with on the Cross. New life was established in the Resurrection.  The way to God was open once more and they were included.

They could now be at peace with themselves. As the daughters and sons of God their individual and corporate identities were established and secured. No matter what the future might hold nothing could separate them from God’s love and presence. The Holy Spirit would affirm them in their identity and develop them in their uniqueness.

They had done nothing to deserve this peace from the Lord, except to love and trust Him. As God blessed Jesus with acknowledgement and affirmation at His Baptism – that is before His ministry commenced – so He now blessed His disciples. He blesses us in the same way too. It is the undeserved, unconditional and unending love and grace of God.

Response:
Believe it and receive it

Prayer:

Lord Jesus I do not deserve such love and blessing, but I cannot deny Your great love and provision for me. Please help me to believe, receive and live in the Peace that You offer to even me right now. Amen.

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Peace

“You will keep in perfect peace
those whose minds are steadfast,
because they trust in you”

(Isaiah 26:3)

Reflection:
In the state of the world in which we live peace is not a natural or normal condition. There is far too much on the personal, national and international stages clamouring for our attention and demanding to be addressed or worried about.

God does not guarantee that there will be peace around us – in fact the Lord tells us that the opposite will often be the case. However God does offer us peace within us – as a gift from Him.

  • “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27)
  • “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7)

The account of Peter walking on the water and then sinking illustrates the point beautifully. As long as his focus and attention was on the Lord he walked over the sea. It was when he took his eyes off Jesus and focussed on the threat of the wind-whipped waves that he began to sink. Jesus did not calm the storm before calling Peter to walk to Him – He came and called Him in the storm, and only calmed everything once they were back in the boat.

So it is with the storms in our own lives. The Lord comes to us and calls to us from within the storm. As we come to Him by focussing our attention on Him (steadfast minds) He walks with us through the storm to wherever He chooses to take us. The peace that He gives us is of His presence and control. As with Peter He will not walk away from us and, even when we think we are sinking, will be there to reach out and support us.

There will be storms – but there will always be the Lord with us in the midst of them.

Response:
If you have a storm in your life ask the Lord to help you to focus on Him and trust Him

Prayer:

Lord Jesus You will never desert me. Please help me to look to You and to trust You at all times – no matter what might be raging around me and even within me at the time. Amen.

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Words of Life

“Open my eyes that I may see
wonderful things in your law”
(Psalm 119:18)

Reflection:
“What about me!” When things get tough and I’m feeling down it is so easy for that cry to rise to my lips.

This morning in my reading it struck me how often some of the kings of Israel would immediately turn to the Lord in a problem. They went to find out what He had to say – and not only to plead for help. Sometimes His response was challenging where they had been guilty of ongoing sin – whilst at others it was encouraging and affirming.

I know for myself that when I have gone seeking Him in prayer and Scripture He invariably responds with a direct word or a biblical passage. Sometimes the response has been immediate whilst at others He has quietly waited until He has brought me to a better spiritual place – often where I am quieter and prepared to listen!

Again and again He has spoken to me through a word that has caught my attention whilst reading. As I have paused, there has come a stillness and quietness within and I have been comforted, encouraged and strengthened by His presence and response.

He does not always remove the problem but the knowledge of His intimate and loving presence has given me peace. And I have walked forward with Him.

Response:
What God wants to say in a situation is more precious than my demands

Prayer:

Father, You are with me always – and You care so much for me and about me. Help me to stay close to You and to trust You with all of me. Amen.

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Everything I need

“My soul finds rest in God alone”
(Psalm 62:1)

 

Reflection:
There are a great many things that attract us in this life. Some of them change as we grow whilst others remain the same. Some are more attractive in the desiring than in the possessing, others turn out to be quite harmful to us and to others, and a few give us continual pleasure and encouragement. There is only one, however, that has the capacity to give us peace, joy and beauty at all times. That one is God.

We were made for God, made with a desire within us that only He can fully meet, made to crave a beauty that only He can reveal,  made with a longing to love and be loved that only He can satisfy. The Great Commandments, and the ones that Jesus gave, should reveal this to us. We are called to love God with every fibre of our being because only that will release and fulfil us, and bring us peace. We are called to love our neighbours because only that will bring satisfaction. We are called to love one another as Christians because through that we will affirm each other in our identities as the children of God. We are called to love our enemies because in this we become like God, and reveal Him.

The beauty of God is the beauty of love, the beauty of His love. It is a love revealed in the magnificence of creation, in the awe of salvation, in the presence of everyday and the promise of eternity. It is the glory of majesty, the laughter of intimacy, the splendour of holiness and the peace of loveliness. In Him we are completed and complete. He is our life from yesterday into tomorrow and forever. In His love we rest and are at peace.

Response:
Do not settle for the artificial decorations – seek and find the One true Gift.

Prayer:

Father, please draw me to You and into the wonder of Your great love. Open the eyes of my heart and my spirit and fill them with love. In Jesus name, Amen.

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United in God

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit
through the bond of peace”
(Ephesians 4:3)

Reflection:
Our relationship with God was fractured at the fall – and so were our relationships with creation and with one another. Jesus Christ came to make it possible for these relationships to be restored through His death and resurrection. And what He made possible is given effect by the Holy Spirit who comes to live within us and to minister to us at that level.

He draws us into the ‘body of Christ’ where the Lord Himself is the Head and we are the members. These members are then in a close and living relationship with both the Lord as Head and with each other. Any disunity amongst the members would grieve the Head and would be disastrous to the proper functioning of the body itself.

“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13)

As Christians we have one Lord, Jesus Christ, one Spirit of God who lives and ministers within us, and one God and Father of us all. Jesus prayed that we should be brought into the unity that exists between He and His Father and it is the Spirit who works to give effect to that prayer.

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:20-23)

It is this unity, which could only be brought about by God, which is supposed to be a witness to the world of God’s love and redemption in Jesus Christ.

As we recognise these truths we begin to see that the problems in the world may not only be because of those who do not know Jesus Christ as Lord. It is also clear that the Body is not functioning as it should  – and it is certainly not presenting a unified face of love and of truth to the world. Until the world begins to see God in us it may not bother to look for Him anywhere else.

Response:
Where am I in disunity with other Christians and within myself?

Prayer:

Father God, please forgive me for the things within me that destroy my peace and cause me to withdraw from others. Please heal me and draw me closer to You so that I may be more of a point of love and healing in my context. Amen.

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God’s Peace

“On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the disciples were together,
with the doors locked for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood among them and said,
“Peace be with you!”

(John 20:19)

Reflection:
The disciples were afraid and behind locked doors. Having seen Jesus arrested, tortured and crucified, having themselves fled, they had been living with fear and huge uncertainty for days. Now they had heard that Jesus had risen. This might well have added to their torment.  Where was He, and what would His attitude be towards them – especially in view of their actions?

There are few mental torments greater than those that concern our having failed someone important in our lives, and in a major way. The agony of waiting for the impending confrontation, heightened by our racing imaginations, can tear us apart. We cannot bear the thought of being sent away in despair and humiliation – of being not good enough, having failed to live up to expectations, especially when the person concerned is the Messiah! They would have heard the terrifying teaching that one day the Messiah might well say to certain people,

“I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:23)

Suddenly Jesus was there standing amongst them – notwithstanding the locked doors. We do not know all that He said to them, or what they said to Him. But the words that are recorded tell us all that we need to know both for that meeting and for our own lives.

“Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you!”  (John 20:21)

This really was the peace of God that passes all understanding. It is a peace that has absolutely nothing to do with our deserving or earning it, or of the situation in which we find ourselves – but everything to do with the love, grace and power of our great Father and most wonderful Saviour. The text records that they ‘were overjoyed’ to see Him. It shows us that his love for them and acceptance of them was complete.

We all face fears that we have let Jesus down, that we do not live up to the standards that we believe He requires of us, and that we are like timid mice in the face of the increasing darkness of the world. All of that may be true. However, the most important truth for us to grasp and absorb is this – Jesus love for us is total and unconditional. He is completely committed to us and the work to which He has called us. When we fall or fail, or even think that we have, He is there with us to forgive, heal, empower and raise us up so that we can step out again with Him on the The Road of Love – the Way of Christ. He will work in all things for good and will never leave us or let us be taken from Him. Once we are His we are His forever. We do need to believe it.

Response:
Pray for a deeper belief and trust in the love of God for you.

Prayer:

Holy Spirit, please continue to pour the love of God into my heart –and help me to know it and trust it above everything else in the world. Amen.

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From darkness to Light

“I have seen the Lord!”
(John 20:18)

Reflection:
Mary Magdalene’s breathless and breathtaking revelation to the disciples was beyond imagination. Suddenly the cross and the grave were to become not huge symbols of sadness and defeat but essential milestones on Jesus journey to glory. We are not called to always remember Him as a twisted, bleeding body on a cross, nor as an invisible sadness behind a gravestone. Instead there is now an empty tomb – and we are called to engage with Him as the glorious living victor over sin, death and evil.

Jesus had once called Lazarus out from the tomb and into life, and told those with Him to remove the grave clothes, setting him free from the embrace of death. Now He was calling His disciples out of the death they had suffered through His death, away from a fixation on His grave, out of the spiritual and emotional wrappings of grief and into the new life that He had prepared and won for them. As important as His death was, and still is for us, it is only fully understood in the context of His resurrection. He died for our sins and to remove the barrier between us and God – and rose to give us life.

Jesus calls each and every one of us today to come to Him. To come out of the dark tombs in which we find ourselves, away from the graves of love and hope, up from the sepulchres of sadness and sin, deserting the vaults of failure and despair. Not only has His stone been rolled away. The stones of our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual crypts have been removed as well. It is the risen Christ now who calls to us. He does not call us to leave our prisons behind us to seek a new existence, He calls us to come to Him so that He, and He alone, can give us life – a life that is not found with or through any other person or thing.

We do not seek Christ now at His death. We do not weep at His grave. We find Him in the everyday gardens of our lives, in the rooms in which we live and the roads along which we travel. Christ is with us always.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, a new journey has begun in Your death and resurrection. Help me to live out the freedom of Your forgiveness, the beauty of Your light and the depths of Your love – to the wonder of Your glory. Amen.

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