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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Be Peace

2017-02-24

“Blessed are the peacemakers,
 for they will be called sons of God.”
(Matthew 5:9)

Reflection:
Peace is central to the message of the Gospels and to the revelation of God. God is seen as a God of peace and the giver of peace. Jesus is referred to as the Prince of Peace, the one who would ‘proclaim peace to the nations’ and who promised His peace to His disciples. And as Paul taught

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”
(Romans 5:1)

 With Jesus therefore as the great Peace-maker in reconciling us to God it is no wonder that peace-making should be an important part of the new Christian character. Scripture makes it clear to us.

  • “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness” (Galatians 5:22)
  • “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.”  (Colossians 3:15)
  •  “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”  (Romans 12:18)

 In the letter to Timothy Paul links peace, amongst others, with a pure heart – one which is single or undivided – that is, totally focussed on and committed to God and not at war within itself with competing desires and loyalties.

 The peace-making to which Jesus refers would have three aspects. The first would be to do nothing to disturb our new relationship with God, but rather to honour and seek its development through our love and obedience. The second would be to live in harmony with ourselves – trusting God for His love, wisdom and salvation and, as best we can, allowing Him to develop us as people pure in heart, undivided in our loyalty to Him. The third would be in relation to those around us – both Christian and others.

 It is important to recall Jesus directives to us – to love God, to love our neighbour, to love one another and to love our enemies. These commands relate not only to our actions but our thoughts as well. We have to be careful how we think of others, speak of others and act towards others – or fail to act. Nothing can disturb our own peace quite as easily as someone else’s comments or deeds – and we may find that not only have we descended back to the level of the world but we have done so with great passion and enthusiasm! The way up again can be very humbling and painful. Peace-making starts within our hearts and minds and these have to be right themselves.

 The progression of the Beatitudes themselves is so informative. The poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful and now – in its deliberate place – the peacemakers. Having learned to see ourselves in a completely new way we can now look at others and seek not their destruction but their peace – with God, with themselves and with each other.

 Whilst peace will not always be possible in all circumstances, and within and between all people, we are nevertheless to see it as a priority. There will be many times where we can make a positive contribution and be led by the Spirit into creative ways and methods of preserving and promoting peace. The starting point may often stem from the peace and love that others may perceive in us.

Response:
If this is what God wants then this is what I must let Him make of me.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace, bless me please with Your peace and help me to become more of a peace-sharer and peacemaker – for Your sake. Amen.

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Single-hearted

2017-02-21

“Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.”
(Matthew 5:8)

Reflection:
The heart, in Scripture, was seen as the centre of the personality. It was the centre of everyone’s being and the source of every activity – whether mental, physical or emotional. Man’s troubles were seen to stem from this centre.

“The heart [is] deceitful above all [things], and desperately wicked: who can know it?  (Jeremiah 17:9.KJV)

Jesus criticised the Pharisees accusing them of being ceremonially clean externally but with unclean hearts, full of extortion and wickedness. He compared then to ‘white-washed tombs’- good looking on the outside but filled with death within. Luther, commenting on this beatitude, said that in fact it did not matter if men such as labourers and blacksmiths were clothed in dirt as those who pondered God’s word and obeyed it would be ‘pure in heart’ in His eyes.

However, in its context within the Sermon on the Mount, and with reference to the rest of Scripture, it seems that Jesus would have had more in mind. Without excluding the inward and moral aspects of it He would be referring also to the whole question of their relationship with God. Professor Tasker has explained it as ‘the single-minded, who are free from the tyranny of a divided self.’ This would relate also to Jesus later comment that a person cannot serve two masters,

“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Matthew 6:24)

The single-hearted person is seen as being ‘utterly sincere’ in his whole relationship with and commitment to God. His heart will be totally focussed on and devoted to God. So David would pray,

  • “Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.” (Psalm 86:11-12)
  • “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)

It also explains the first Great Commandment which calls us to love God ‘with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ Another way of putting it would be to say with every fibre of your being.

Clearly this is beyond both our honest will and our own ability. However, by the grace of God, we have divine help in the form of the Holy Spirit. As we look increasingly towards God for help and open ourselves to Him, the Spirit is enabled to work.

  • “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)
  • “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:13)

Here at the central point of the Beatitudes we find this vital and telling truth. It reminds us that we cannot afford to be casual about our relationship with God, nor can we afford to be casual about our attitude to sin in our lives. In His love He has dealt with our sin. By His grace we have His Holy Spirit to transform us from within. New life with God is ours for the living – how can we hold back!

Response:
Turn everyday to God and ask for help.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, I want to give you an undivided heart and to live in and from Your love. Please help me every day to draw closer to You in all ways. Amen.

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