God’s Strength

“I can do everything
through Him who gives me strength”
(Philippians 4:13)

Reflection:
Towards the end of a journey that incorporated many trials and much temptation, suffering and rejection, Paul could say with confidence that, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” (Philippians 4:11) This had come about because of his faith and trust in Christ, and the knowledge of the God who was with him at all times. He was certain that God would never abandon him or lose control of his situations. This was the peace that passes understanding. He was in God’s hands and nothing could snatch him away from God’s great hold on him – whatever the world might do.

Now in prison he could affirm that he had been, and was still, able to do everything that God wanted of him – whatever that might be and whatever challenges that might lead him into. God was with him and would give him whatever was needed in a particular situation – wisdom, words, faith, courage, perseverance.

As you and I look ahead these words come to us, both to inspire us and to build our faith. Whatever the trials and challenges are that we might face, we can meet them, live through them and come through them in the strength and with the help that God will give us. In anything and everything, from the traffic, to health and work, family and relationship issues, to failures and financial difficulties, to insecurities, rejection and abuse, national and international turmoil, God is with us. Whatever else He might do, He will strengthen and guide us as we look to and trust in Him.

Response:
Give God your situation and the road ahead. Pray particularly for the difficulties that you foresee and the people involved. Ask God for guidance, strength and an awareness of His presence. Keep praying and listening. Memorize and keep saying today’s scripture.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, please help me to face every day in the confidence that, with Your help, I can face and do all the things that You want me to. Please help me to commit everything to You and to seek Your guidance and strength. Thank You for always being with me. Amen.

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Live Life!

“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.”
(1 John 3:2-3)

 

Reflection:
We are not just lifeless pieces of clay in the process of transformation. In fact we have a part to play in which we both co-operate with and facilitate the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit.

The Christians who have focussed their hope and expectation on the glorious return of Christ will want to both prepare for it and move towards it. Our desire should increasingly be to purify ourselves – to leave the sin and depravity of the world behind – and become more and more like Christ. This is our response to the love that God has lavished upon us in Christ and to our eternal salvation and life. It is both gratitude and an awareness of the need to honour God in the way we live out our new life. Although only His blood “purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7) we play our part in purifying ourselves from its influence.

  • “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)
  • “Keep yourself pure.” (1 Timothy 5:22)
  • “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:7-8)
  • “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.” (1 Peter 1:22)

Peter gives us a wonderful hint here, that a key part of this journey involves the move from selfishness to selflessness.

As the moon is glorious when it fully reflects the sun and is not partly hidden by the earth, so are we when the Son is more fully revealed in us.

Response:
Ask God where you need to start and step up from there.

Prayer:

Father, please help me to truly desire to become more and more like Jesus. Please continue to pour Your love into my heart by the Holy Spirit. (Romans 5:5). In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

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My Hiding Place

“I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge”
(Psalm 73:28)

Reflection:
We cannot earn God’s love. It is His free gift to us to be accepted and trusted.

He does have certain expectations of us but He also is well aware of our weaknesses and frailty. As the Psalmist put it,

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13-14)

We do well to remember these things when our personal world trembles and threatens to fall apart. Sometimes it will be through no fault of our own but very often we will be well aware of our own contribution through what we have done or failed to do. Then too as we discover our own lack of victorious faith as Christians.

In what seems to be a desolate darkness we may feel as if we have nowhere to turn except inwards and downwards – and certainly with no right to ask for help from Him. And yet even when we feel that we have failed Him and ourselves again and again He stands firmly in front of us – and what seems at first to be confrontation turns out to be rescue.

There have been times in my life when I have not felt either worthy of Him or ready even for His expressed love. All I have longed for has been to be in His presence and to rest there whilst I ‘lick my wounds’ and allow some recovery to happen. In an extension of the picture of the desperate woman who reached out to touch the hem of Jesus robe I have wanted to lift that hem, crawl beneath it like a wounded puppy and lie there hidden in the awareness of His silent, allowing and accepting presence. And His quiet stillness has worked its own healing and restoration within me until I am ready to look at Him and talk with Him again. Again and again I have discovered that  – even when I am not even convinced of my own sincerity –

“A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17)

The Lord is indeed our refuge and our ‘hiding place’ – even when we need to hide from ourselves!

Response:
Learn to take refuge in the Lord  – He will always be there for us.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, thank You for coming to seek me and to find me. Thank You too for Your promise that nothing can separate me from Your love. Help me Lord to trust Your love and to never fail to seek and find it when I am in need. Amen.

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Be Godly

“Train yourself to be godly”
(1 Timothy 4:7)

Reflection:
Generally we do not grow up as Godly people. We may be raised and trained to behave within the boundaries of ‘common decency’ but that does not make us Godly – no matter how closely some of those values might relate to Scriptural standards. Even then amongst them all we will be amazed at how many of the principles and ways of the world have become a part of our lives and living, together with what Paul has just referred to as ‘godless myths and old wives tales.’

Godly living means looking for the commands and teachings of God, Jesus and the apostles in Scripture and intentionally seeking to make them a foundational part of our values and practices. It would include looking at the example of Jesus Himself and seeking to live after that model – for to be Godly is to be like God. In essence therefore everything that we think and say and do should increasingly be to God’s pleasure and glory.

We see the importance of this as we recognise that we are no longer children of the world but the daughters and sons of God Himself. Whilst salvation can be an immediate transformation our different way of life has to be learned and lived, consciously and purposefully, until it becomes a natural expression of our new and God-given identity. The closer we draw to the Lord Himself the more natural and inspired this will become – although there will still be some inward battles where we need to pray and keep on praying for the help and strengthening of the Holy Spirit.

Like Paul we know that we have

‘not .. already been made perfect, but I press on.’

Response:
Sanctification is a life-long journey. Take another step today.

Prayer:

Lord God help me to desire to be more like You and not to slumber in the ways of the world around me. Please inspire and strengthen me every day and protect me from falling back again. Amen.

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This saved me

“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you
except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”
(1 Corinthians 2:2)

Reflection:
In the early stages of my then new journey with Christ I encountered a very real period of darkness. My beliefs, and even the Scriptures themselves, were attacked by others. They took it upon themselves to show me where both I and the Bible were wrong. I did not know enough to debate with them, even although something within me said that they were incorrect. I felt myself foundering, as if my ship of faith had sunk, and I was drifting alone in a sea of doubt.

It was then that I ‘remembered’ this statement of Paul’s. I can so clearly recall thinking that if it was good enough for Paul then it was good enough for me. This Jesus who had died on the cross for us would not let me drown. The picture that formed in my mind was of these words painted on a red and white life belt – the sort that hung on passenger liners. I mentally hooked my one arm through it, grasped my wrist with the other hand, and determined to hold on to this Scripture until God did something. I allowed myself to float along spiritually – just waiting. I did not think about the issues that had been raised, I just focussed on this one verse, waited and trusted. I kept attending church, and ceased having conversation with the people who sought to torpedo my faith.

Nothing dramatic happened but, as the weeks and months went by, I felt as if in a real way the ‘ocean floor’ was rising to meet me. The water was getting shallower and shallower and, one day, I knew that I had walked out of the sea of doubt. I was safe again on firm ground. The Jesus Christ who was crucified for me had brought me through the darkness, loneliness and confusion, to the simplicity of it all – Jesus Christ, my Saviour and Lord. He was my sure foundation and belief. It was not just knowing about Him, but getting to know Him, that brought light, life and love. He was with me.

I came to realise too that I could look at Scripture in a new way – from His side, instead of from the side of men.

He had rebuked the people when He said,

“You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”  (John 5:39-40)

It was not their study that was wrong. It was that they had stopped short by focussing only on the words, and not on the God who gave the words. And they missed out on Him who was now come as the Living Word. This is always the first, and most important, step – to come into a relationship with the Living Christ. The vital Scriptures, which point to Him, then become alive in a new and vibrant way, as the Emmaus disciples found.

“For I resolved to know nothing …. except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”

Response:
Wherever you are in life, look to Jesus and ask Him to help you to draw closer to Him.

“Come near to God and he will come near to you.”  (James 4:8)

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, in the darkness of this world, which so affects me, please shine Your light, life and love into me, so that I may know You, love You and follow You more nearly. Amen.

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“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord,
continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him,
strengthened in the faith as you were taught,
and overflowing with thankfulness.”
(Colossians 2:6-7)

Reflection:
There came a point in our life’s journey where our path intersected with that of Christ Jesus, and we responded to His call to come to Him and follow Him.

 Now we are called to remain with Him, all the time. Our relationship is to be so close that spiritually He is in us and we are in Him. So Paul directs us to ‘continue to live in Him’ – in this very close and personal relationship. He goes on to relate it to being ‘rooted’ in Christ. This reminds us of Jesus story of the Vine – with Him as the Vine and us as the branches. The only way in which we can receive the new life-giving sustenance is through Him, The only way in which we can bear abundant and Godly fruit is through the power and creativity that flows from Him. The extent of the life that flows from Him to us is dependent upon the quality of our relationship with Him – the larger the join of the branch to the vine the more that flows into it. It is from Christ that we receive our spiritual strength and deepening faith – not from ourselves or from others. He, and He alone, is “the Life” (John 14:6).

What a wonderful privilege it is to have been called by Christ from darkness into light, from judgement into salvation, from separation into this glorious relationship as the sons/daughters of the Lord God Almighty. We can only be eternally and deeply thankful and grateful that we are no longer the ‘enemies of God’ but are now His ‘treasured possession’ in whom He ‘delights.’

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name;
you are mine”
(Isaiah 43:1)

Response:
Thank God – and spend a moment dwelling on these wonderful truths.

Prayer:

Holy Spirit, please deepen my faith and help me to appreciate the wonderful privilege of being an eternal child of God. Amen

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One more step forwards

“being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might
so that you may have great endurance and patience”
(Colossians 1:11)

Reflection:
Paul prays that through God’s power we may have “great endurance and patience.”

If we are to live a life worthy of God then we must be prepared for all stages of the journey, some of which will be more challenging than others. There are two aspects to bear in mind as we look at such a life. The one is doing the things that the Lord wishes us to do, and the other is avoiding the things that the Lord does not want us to do. Both involve endurance and patience – sometimes great chunks of it!

To live out the Lord’s commands to love and to serve, after the model of Jesus, is not easy. There will be days when we want to withdraw from such ministry, to avoid the needy person lying in our path, to lay down our responsibilities, and to focus instead on our own sores, needs and sensitivities.

There will also be times when we get tired of avoiding temptations, when we try to rationalise our desires and weaknesses and to take the easy escape route from our pressures just one more time. The call to be holy by avoiding certain things can seem too much of a burden and a bother – and it is easier to give in and to deal with any guilt or shame later. After all, “everyone else” seems to do it!

Much of the Christian life can be similar to a journey through desert lands – where the scenery does not change much, the dryness wells up within us, and the appeal of the wayside attractions grows greater. However, our journey is forever forward, it is going somewhere and, whether we are aware of it or not, it is sowing and watering the areas through which we travel – for better or for worse. We need endurance and patience as we continue to do the things we know God wishes us to do – and to avoid what He wants us to avoid – trusting Him that there is good reason for it all, and that He will bring good fruit out of it, both for us and for others, in terms of His kingdom.

Don’t give up or give in. Keep going, He is with you and is at work within and around you. He is faithful. He provides endurance and patience, particularly to those who ask.

Response:
Our lives are lived for God, not ourselves.

Payer:

Father please strengthen me when the journey gets dry and dreary, and my strength both to do and to avoid begins to fail. Please know my heart that I do wish to be the person whom You desire. Amen.

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