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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With you always

“The one who is in you is greater
than the one who is in the world.”
(1 John 4:4)

Reflection:
Jesus Christ has not left us alone. He has sent to us the Holy Spirit Himself.

This is the same Holy Spirit Who was involved in creation, Who brought about the baby Son of God within Mary, Who came upon and into Jesus at His Baptism, Who formed the Christian Church and transformed the lives of the disciples on the Day of Pentecost. He is the same Holy Spirit promised to all believers (note the word all). In fact you cannot be a child of God without the Holy Spirit.

We face many challenges in our lives, every day. Generally, the world in which we live is tense and stress-filled. Not only marriages but all relationships are under pressure, many people are finding it increasingly difficult to either maintain a standard of living, or to just survive. Numbers are not sure how they will be able to cope. Every day seems to bring news of fresh tragedies, disasters, corruption, violence and pain. In our own strength it is possible to despair, and to join the millions who seek relief in escapist activities and fantasies.

But God! God is alive and active. And the same God who did the amazing things recorded in Scripture– the God of ‘the mighty hand and the outstretched arm’ – is the God who is with His sons and daughters right now; invisible but real. In these times, more than ever, He is not only who and what we need, He is the One for whom our spirits long and without whom they will not be comforted or satisfied. Whether or not He changes our situations He will reach out to change us within our situations.

Jesus invitation should to ring in our ears as a clarion call. Are you battling in some way? Then,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  (Matthew 11:28)

In fact, this is more than an invitation, it is a firm directive! And the promise is definite, “I will give you rest!” The Shepherd wishes to be involved in the challenges facing His sheep. The Saviour and Lord wishes to be involved in the pain and suffering of His people. If He does not take it away He will take us through, and enable us to find relief and blessing on the way. Remember – the way that things are today is not the way they will be forever.

Jesus is the Way – that means that He is going somewhere and taking us with Him – and nothing can stop Him!

Response:

Take action:

  1. Remind yourself that God is with you – breathe Him in.
  2. Ask Him to calm and help you.
  3. Read or say Psalm 23 slowly.
  4. Pray the Lord’s Prayer slowly.
  5. Take another step forward.
  6. Talk to Him all the time

Prayer:

Father I need help. Please help me. Please comfort me, encourage me, strengthen me and increase my faith in You. Amen.

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(Picture © Catherine Bondonno)

Power for me

“For the message of the cross is foolishness
to those who are perishing,
 but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
(1 Corinthians 1:18)

Reflection:
There are many kinds of power visible in the world today. Some of it is used for good and some for evil purposes, some to build up and some to break down, some to heal and some to hurt. None of it can compare with the power of the Lord either to create or to re-create.

The greatest expression of God’s power is not in the wonder of creation, as awe-inspiring as it is. It is in the salvation that He has worked for us. Only He is able to transform a broken, sinful and sin ravaged life into one that is rich and full, made to be like that of Christ himself. Only He can take the pale shadow of our lives and bring us into the wonderful completeness that was His original vision for us. Only the power of God can promise and guarantee eternal life that death cannot harm. Only the power of God flows from a heart so filled with love that there is no power in existence that can stand against it or diffuse it. This is the power, about which Paul rejoices when he says,

  • “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” (Ephesians 1:18-19)
  • “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:16-21)

That power is present in our lives even now, working to transform us and build us towards the fullness of that wonderful new creation that is ours in Christ. It is there to help us up again when we fall, to sustain us for the journey ahead, to enable us to cope with the pressures of life, and to do the work to which He guides us. And all the while He is leading us into a deeper awareness and appreciation of His love.

“It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16)

Paul was enabled to then say,

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

Response:
Take a moment to acknowledge and receive it in your spirit.

Prayer:

Father when I am weak then You are strong. May Your strength be the blessing in my life. Please help me to know and receive it. Amen.

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Invincible Strength

“In your unfailing love, O Lord,
you lead the people whom you have redeemed.
And by your invincible strength
you will guide them to your holy dwelling”
(Exodus 15:13 CW)

Reflection:
This comes from the song of Moses and Miriam after the Lord had brought the Israelites wonderfully through the parted waters and then drowned the pursuing army of Pharaoh.  As they marvelled at the Lord’s great act of power and salvation they prophesied that He was both willing and able to take them safely into the Promised Land.

As we look back at the history of God in the Old Testament and then at the astonishing act of power and salvation in the resurrection of Jesus Christ their message must strike us with the same force. Our God is both willing and able to take us through the journey of life and death and safely into His Promised Home.

Like the Israelites we will have many challenges and experiences along the way. However there is now nothing in all creation able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:39) On top of this “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”(Romans 8:28)

The important truth for us to remember is that God is in control of our journey. No matter where or how we are at this moment in time He is with us. He will guide and strengthen us as we need it and to the extent that we will allow Him to do so. And He will see us safely home. Our peace and fulfilment may be tasted in this life but it is only a pale foretaste of that which He has in store for us.

Response:
His love for me is unfailing and His strength invincible.

Prayer:

Lord God you are working for good in my life even now. Please help me to trust in Your love and power and to journey faithfully with You. Amen.

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Make Ready

“Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.”
 (Luke 3:4)

Reflection:
It was in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar that John the Baptist appeared in the country around the Jordan – preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. He was the one prophesied by Isaiah who would come to prepare the way for the Lord. In a sense the Christian Church has now taken over that role as it prepares for the second coming of our Lord – this time in all His glory.

The Church is made up of individual Christians and so the role of the Preparer of the Way is now a part of each of our ministries. This is confirmed in the Great Commissions as we read them in the Gospels of Matthew, Luke and John. Our ministry fields are the contexts in which we live, work and play. In one sense it is the reason for our being there – God has been at work without our being aware of it.

Our ministry of preparing the way for the Lord has a number of facets to it. One would be the way that we live and perform our duties. Another would be the ways in which we relate and speak to people. Still another would be the way in which we cope with pressure, trauma and tragedy – whether in our own lives or in the lives of those around us. Do we, in these ways, reveal a relationship with and trust in God.

A significant manner in which we can prepare the way for the Lord is in prayer. The situations which are a part of our everyday lives have within them people who need the Lord, or more of the Lord, in their lives – whether they are aware of it or not. In our homes, during our travelling, at work or anywhere else, we can pray for the Lord to reach out and touch these individual people in a special way. It is something that everyone can do, and keep on doing. As we look around with more awareness we will also begin to pick up the silent ways in which people reveal their need – and we can respond by holding them up to God.

Prayer is one of the most important gifts that we have been given, and it is meant to be used to the full.

Response:
Prepare people for the Lord’s coming by firstly praying for them.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, thank You that You are coming again in glory. Please help me faithfully to hold those You have given me, and those You point out to me, in prayer for You. And thank You for those who have prayed for me. Amen.

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Everlasting Arms

“The curtain of the temple was torn in two.
Jesus called out with a loud voice,
 “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
When he had said this, he breathed his last”
(Luke 23:45-46)

Reflection:
The curtain of the Temple was torn in two – from top to bottom. This was the curtain that hid from view and entrance the Holy of Holies – the place where the presence of God dwelt. Only the High Priest was allowed to enter, and then only once a year on the Day of Atonement. Now, finally, the barrier had been removed through the birth, life and death of the Lord Jesus. The way to God was opened for anyone who would enter through faith in Christ.

Jesus then died with the loveliest of prayers on His lips.  Barclay tells us that this prayer from Psalm 31 was taught by Jewish mothers to their children for them to say as they prepared for sleep. Jesus added just one word to it, the word ‘Father.’ And as He sang it out so He sank gratefully into ‘the everlasting arms.’

“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”

Jesus had died.

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