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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Thought Catching

“We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ”
( 2 Corinthians 10:5)

Reflection:
It struck me early this morning that there are ‘obviously’ two aspects to this word.

The first is that all my thoughts should be held before the Lord to be tested for their truth and whether or not they honour Him. Given that my mind is full of thoughts, worries and responses to feelings and emotions this may seem like an impossible task. And yet as we walk with the Lord much of it happens fairly quickly if we are open to it and to Him. The challenge then becomes one of responding to His correction.

The second is that this must as obviously apply in our Christian community and group situations – as well as, for us, in our work and ministry. The group’s opinion of what is true, relevant and of the Lord should also be tested before Him. Very often we have found that where there is one dissenting voice in a situation the process needs to be slowed down, re-examined and sometimes re-worked until all can say ‘that’s good.’ After all we are called into Christ’s ministry and not He into ours!

As we look at ‘perfecting holiness out of reverence for God’ this all becomes far more important. It is where the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit is so important and such a blessing.

Response:
Be aware of your thoughts – look at some of them with the Lord – persevere

Prayer:

Lord God, I offer my mind and thoughts to You – help me that I too may be transformed by the renewing of my mind, so that its thought may honour and bless You. Amen.

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Cleanse me

“Since we have these promises, dear friends,
let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit,
perfecting holiness out of reverence for God”

( 2 Corinthians 7:1)

Reflection:
Being a Christian is not merely a matter of staying as we were but with a new cloak covering us. It is about a new life that starts within us and develops and influences everything that we are, and think, and say and do. This new life will become apparent to others as well as to us.

As we recognise our new identities as the daughters and sons of God we are called to live out these identities and live up to them. Therefore just as Jesus cleansed the Temple of everything that degraded and shamed it as the Temple of the Living God, so we are to be involved in the same cleansing of our own temples of the Holy Spirit – ourselves. When God calls us to be holy He means also that we become a place suitable for Him to live in.

This cleansing begins as we recognise that the Spirit is within us. As we do so He will begin to draw our attention to the things in our lives that do not honour God. This is not a once off ‘spring cleaning’ but an ongoing process. Some things will be dealt with quickly whilst others may take longer and have deeper roots. As this goes on we will probably also discover attitudes, habits and desires of which we were unaware. This is the Spirit working more deeply and extensively within us. His purpose is not to shame or depress us but to free us from the things that prevent us from more fully entering into this new life that God has for us. He also wishes to take us deeper and deeper into the reality of our new relationship with the Father and with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

This is not a strange new process that God has initiated. He has built the understanding into our lives. For those who are focussed on and committed to a particular goal are generally the ones who will show the most progress. However the good news is that where in our secular lives we may have been unable to find and apply the focus, self-control and energy, we now have in our lives the Holy Spirit of God who is giving us the focus, developing our understanding, and empowering us to press forward, press on and to persevere.

Our reason is not so that we may gain the salvation of God but that we may honour Him in the salvation and new identity that He has given us in His great love. We are in fact seeking to live up to and live out the image of Himself that He has imparted to us.

Response:
I can live more and more as a son/daughter of the Lord God Almighty.

Prayer:

Holy Spirit I want to be more like the Lord Jesus, please help me.  My desire is to have the Father rejoice in my honouring Him. Amen.

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Our Tomorrow will come

“I am the LORD your God,
who has brought you out of the land of Egypt,
out of the house of bondage”
 (Exodus 20:2)

Reflection:
At Mount Sinai God reminded the Israelites that He and He alone is the Lord their God – the One who liberated them from their bondage and slavery in Egypt and brought them through the waters of the sea to Himself. From there He took them into the Promised Land.

This foreshadows the mission of the Messiah about whom the prophet Isaiah was inspired to proclaim about the One to come,

“The LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners” (Isaiah 61:1)

Here was the message of a freedom from the enslavement and suffering in a fallen world that would be brought about by the Christ to come. He would come as the Light of the world, as the Way, the Truth and the Life and as the Good Shepherd.  He would call and gather God’s chosen ones to Himself and lead them out of the world’s darkness, through the dark waters of death and on the other side into the Light and Life and Love of the Lord God Almighty in the place which He Himself has prepared for them.

This same God is the One who has said to us 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)
  • nothing “in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:39)
  • “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:28-29)

As we recognise that God has had this plan for us from the beginning, and that He has revealed His love and commitment to us in so many ways, He urges us to hang on to Him and trust Him for the best – the glorious, eternal and full-hearted living love – is still to come. And it will come.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

And so like the one man next to the Lord on the cross we can hold on just a little longer for we know that in a tomorrow we will be with Him in paradise.

Response:
Keep your eyes on the Lord in the good times and the hard times.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, help me to keep my eyes and heart on You – and not to lose hope or faith, and not to become despondent about myself, but to hold on to Your hand as it holds on to me, even me. Amen.

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Going Home

“This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven,
will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
(Acts 1:11)

Reflection:
Today the Church celebrates the ascension of Jesus Christ. It completes the journey of salvation that began with the Incarnation – when God in Christ entered into the world in a completely new and significant way. Having fulfilled God’s mission for Him in His death and resurrection Jesus ascension back to heaven and to ‘the right hand of God’ secures and seals for us all that He has done. Augustine put it like this,

“For unless the Saviour had ascended into heaven
His Nativity would have come to nothing
… and His Passion would have borne no fruit for us,
and His most holy Resurrection would have been useless.”

Indeed, if Jesus had not risen from the dead what hope would there be for us? And, likewise, if Jesus had not ‘ascended into heaven’ how could we hope that we would do so one day? Rather we see in the ascension the wonderful fulfilment of God’s promise that,

“so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11)

 The fact that He is now seated at the right hand of God indicates that His work of atonement has been completed. Seated there He continues to intercede for us as well as to prepare a place for us. (John 14:2). With His ascension He also opened the way for the promised Holy Spirit to come in a very real and significant way – which event we celebrate shortly at Pentecost.  And when God decides that the time is right Jesus will return to finally establish the Kingdom of God and for the final judgment.

 If Scripture teaches us one thing it is this – God can be trusted. Again and again He told His people what He would do, and He did it. Many did not live to see the complete fulfilment of His promise but they put their faith in Him – and it was not disappointed.

God has prepared a future and a place for us and it is there that we will find the true completeness, peace and fulfilment that we desire. Indeed it will be far greater and deeper, more beautiful and lovely, and more varied and extensive than we could ever grasp or imagine from where we are today.

“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)

Response:
And so our marching song as we journey onwards is this

Christ has died,
Christ has risen,
Christ will come again.

Prayer:

Lord I believe and trust in You. Please deepen and strengthen this faith in me every day, for Your Name’s sake. Amen.

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You will be ‘very good’

“He who began a good work in you
will carry it on to completion
until the day of Christ Jesus.”
(Philippians 1:6)

Reflection:
Whatever may be happening – or not happening – in your life at the moment one thing is certain. God is at work. What He started in our salvation He will continue developing until it is completed. He will not cease until He can look into us and say with satisfaction “It is very good.”

The true quality of our life is not measured by what is happening around us or to us. It is what is happening within us that is vital. We will not always be aware of it – and sometimes will feel that we are not making progress. But that itself is an indication that God is at work and has effected some change within. As uncomfortable as it might be it is a step forward. He will be preparing the next one for us, and us for it.

In our life there will be some easy paths and some difficult challenges. All will lead us onwards and will be used by God to build us and to grow us in our relationship with and trust of Him. To trust in the Lord is to trust Him with every aspect of our lives all the time.

“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)

In many ways we are still spiritual infants. Like a good parent God will guide us forward into and through the different stages of growth and development. He will be with us in all the times of success and failure, sickness and health, sadness and joy, despair and faith.  Having called us He will never desert us – even when we prove difficult! He has invested Himself in us, nothing can separate us from Him and His love, and He will work in all things for good in our lives as His children.

He is with you now. Hold on to Him, persevere with Him and trust Him in all things.

Response:
Trust is a decision, take it. A mustard seed of faith is enough for a great God.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, thank You so much for what You have already done in my life, and for Your most wonderful sacrifice on the cross. Please help me to trust You more and more – knowing that You have not finished Your work in me yet, but that You will. Amen.

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