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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Certain Truth

2017-02-08

“He will be the sure foundation for your times,
a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge;
the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure”
(Isaiah 33:6)

Reflection:
Uncertainty is all around us. It can be seen between nations and within nations.  It appears at all levels of society and across all aspects of life from economic affairs to climate change to personal standards of morality.  There is no one who is seen to speak the relevant words of truth with clarity, integrity and acceptance. On the contrary we are often faced with lies, corruption and political expediency.

Pilate asked of Jesus, “What is truth?”  Jesus did not reply for the answer was staring Pilate straight in the face if He would but see it – or Him. For as Jesus had already taught His disciples, “I am .. the Truth” In fact He said, ‘I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.”(John 14:6) All and everything that we need is found in Him.

Now look again at Isaiah’s prophecy.

  • He is the sure foundation
  • For our times
  • A rich store of salvation – and wisdom – and knowledge

Here is exactly what we need in these times of uncertainty and social, national and international upheaval. And the glory of it is that the answer is not to be found in an impersonal statement of a truth but in a Person. What is more this particular Person has already demonstrated both His great love and His absolute power and authority in the realms of human life and spiritual life.

How then do we tap into this treasure? The Lord Himself has given us the answer through His prophet.

“the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure”

Fear in this case does not mean terror. It is the total recognition and acceptance of the Majesty, Power, Authority and Holiness of the Lord God Almighty. It is that which brings us to our knees before Him in submission, worship and obedience. This is what the Psalmist meant when he wrote,

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10)

Jesus Christ is our Truth in these times. He is the Rock of our salvation on whom we are, through faith, building our spiritual lives and eternal hope. Nothing can move it or separate us from this Rock, no matter how vicious or desperate the storms of life may prove to be.

“The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock” (Matthew 7:25)

In Him we will begin to find the wisdom and knowledge with which to deal with our personal and public lives and to help and strengthen others too. Much of it will be to trust in Him for the areas that are beyond our control, strength and ability. For

“This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15)

Response:

“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)

Prayer:

Lord God I do believe and trust in You. Please help me to really do so at all times particularly when I begin to wobble and feel insecure and very lonely. Amen.

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Let Him love you

2017-01-27

“The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”
(Zephaniah 3:17)

Reflection:
I remember very clearly God showing me something one day when my granddaughter came to play. Actually she came mainly to sleep, until hunger pains awoke her. She was 8 weeks old and my job was to keep her asleep until it was the right time for her to wake up! I held her in my arms as I mulled what I was doing on the computer, and spent quite a lot of the time watching her face, and the movements of her hands and arms. She stirred at one stage and lay looking at me, so I talked to her and even ‘sang’ softly. She just lay and listened. After a while I played her Susan Boyle’s lovely version of ‘Silent Night’ which is on my computer, and she drifted quietly off again. They were precious moments – almost an hour of them. In a way I was also taking great delight in her, quieting her with my love and rejoicing over her with singing.

We don’t often think of God doing such things with us – treating us as His beloved children – and yet they are both hinted at and referred to in Scripture. The whole Bible is an account of God’s great love, and His continual reaching out for a relationship with the people He formed to be His own. The life and message of Jesus is one of wonderful love, compassion and ministry, and His interaction with people in need is heart-warming.

If I, as a human father and grandfather can enjoy such moments with my daughters and granddaughters then it is an indication of the love and intimacy which our heavenly Father wishes to have with His children. He said to me once, commenting on the actions of my own daughters, “Your children don’t have to ask your permission to sit on your lap, and lean against your heart. They know that is where they belong and it is, therefore, their right. Just so, My children belong on My lap, leaning against My heart and with My arms around them.”

As grown men and women we can look upon such things as childish – and yet so many of us long spiritually for just such moments of love, intimacy and comfort.

  • “Come to Me” says Jesus, “all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
  • And God also says, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 40:10) – your God and God of all the situations in your life.

Response:
Ponder and pray these three Scriptures, until they become a part of your belief and relationship with our wonderful Father. Trust Him and His breathtaking love.

Prayer:

Father God, please help me to let You love me, to trust Your love and to rest in Your love. In Jesus Name, Amen.

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Think first

2016-11-24

“Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam;
so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out”
(Proverbs 17:14)

Reflection:
It only takes a word – a momentary impulse – an emotional reaction – a thoughtless remark. And like many things they can never be withdrawn or erased. There are no delete or rewind buttons on our mouths. And the flood and counter-flood that result can be beyond expectation or understanding.

Words and actions come from somewhere – as do responses. We might find that all sorts of thoughts and emotions have been stirring within us and building up behind a fragile partition for some time. Hurt, anger, and feelings of inadequacy are just three of the raw areas within us that make us ultra-sensitive to ourselves and very insensitive to others at the same time.

With good reason Jesus directs us towards the law of love – to love God, to love one another and to love our neighbours and our enemies. The Holy Spirit is focussed on the state of our hearts and Paul advises us to be careful about our thoughts. Then James puts it very bluntly.

  • “God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Romans 5:5)
  • “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)
  • “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless” (James 1:26)

If a dispute arises we need to remember that it is not always useful or necessary for us to be proved right, or even to vindicate ourselves – particularly at the time. Being ‘dead right’ is a small consolation if a relationship has ceased to exist or a family life has been blown apart.

Our words and actions should be aimed at building up and not breaking down. James again speaks very clearly.

“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (James 1:19-20)

Response:
Keep the floodgates closed

Prayer:

Lord please fill me with Your love and with the fruit of the Holy Spirit and help me to build good relationships and not bruise or destroy them. Amen.

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