Check your thought diet

“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)

Reflection:
If we are to respond positively to the commands to love, then the love needs to start within us. It cannot merely be confined to outward acts – 1 Corinthians 13 warns us of the consequences. Love begins to look out for the positive and beautiful aspects of life and living and focus on them. This is not artificial and an ignoring of the truth, but it is a refusal to merely dwell on weakness and ugliness when it is not helpful. There is beauty all around us, there are fine qualities in many people, including ourselves.

What Paul is really challenging us with is to allow the God-given beauty within us – the new and redeemed us, temples of the lovely Holy Spirit Himself – to begin to surface and take control of our thoughts. To give us a new focus, a fresh awareness, and a different perception of truth. In the process we will find an enhanced perception of the loveliness around us, and within others – even in the midst of the challenges and pain of life. And, if we are really open we may find God showing us things that He finds lovely and that delight Him.

What we feed on will affect the fruit that we produce. To give love, beauty, hope and blessing into the lives of others we must first receive them. No matter how dark the world may seem the light of Christ will always seek to encourage new life and growth.

Response:
There are enough armchair critics.  Check yourself and step out in a new way. This weekend look out for beauty and receive it as a gift.

Prayer:

Father, show me the beauty and the loveliness around me – and the things that are noble and praiseworthy – and help me to be blessed by them. In Jesus name, 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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Everyday Prayer

2017-01-16

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
present your requests to God”
(Philippians 4:6)

Reflection:
This is the starting point for all prayer. Dom Chapman puts it this way,

“Pray as you can, not as you can’t”

We do not have to sort ourselves out before we pray. Nor do we need to compose good literary and theological prayers. In prayer we open our hearts to God and pour out to Him all that is within.

We all have a tangled mass of motives. Some will be good, some not so good and some even frightening! However, and this is important, just as by God’s grace we can live imperfectly, so by His grace we can pray imperfectly as well. God receives us as we are and our prayers just as they are.

That does not mean that He will agree with all that we say or grant all our requests. However He will hear and receive them and allow the conversation to start and proceed from there. He will not ignore us, shout us down or belittle us.

As we continue and grow in relationship with Him our prayers will change. We will find great comfort in being able to tell the Lord exactly how we feel about ourselves, Him or anyone or anything else. We may no longer ask Him to ‘slaughter our enemies’ but rather to love and heal them!  This change will happen not because we have become more theologically correct but because we are being transformed by the love and presence of God. (Many of our motives will still continue to be mixed)

This Simple Prayer is all about everyday people bringing everyday concerns to a loving and caring Father. Jesus opened this door for us when He taught us to pray for our ‘daily bread’ – that is for all the things that we need and which feed and heal us in body, mind and spirit.

C.S. Lewis wrote, ‘Lay before Him what is in us, not what ought to be in us.” So begin where you are.  That is the only place where God can bless you – for that is the only place where you are.

Response:
Take time now to tell God how you are and how you feel

Prayer:

Father You are here with me – and it is so good to know that you watch and hear and understand me. There are times when I feel so inadequate and unattractive as a person. Thank You for loving and accepting and cherishing me just as I am right now. Amen.

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(Photo: (c) Catherine Bondonno)

God at Work

2016-11-23

“It is God who works in you to will and to act
according to his good purpose”
(Philippians 2:13)

Reflection:
The full extent of the love and grace and majesty of God is awe-inspiring.

He has a purpose and plan for His creation which very much includes us. He has been working towards the fulfillment of this plan from the beginning and has elected to do so by involving the people whom He has chosen. Notwithstanding the fact that they – and we – have at times gone horribly astray and got things terribly wrong He has nevertheless worked in them for good.

As He calls us into relationship with Him we become an active part of the outworking of His purpose. To enable us to take our proper place He gives us, through the Holy Spirit, the particular gifts that we will need and that He wants to see at work in our situations. These are not haphazard but carefully chosen and endowed. With them, and also through the Holy Spirit, He gives us the guidance and strength we need to be a part of His ministry.

Because we remain a work in progress we very often continue to get things wrong and to complicate everything with our own desires and agendas – both individually and corporately and as the Church. But God – our loving, forgiving and  patient God – keeps on working with us and is able in time to change our wills and the Church’s will, and to re-direct our actions and the Church’s actions, until His purpose has been achieved.

And because it is God’s purpose that is being worked out we have the confidence of knowing that is will be achieved in all its fullness. Whether through our obstinacies or inadequacies, or through the active opposition of others, there is no obstruction of barrier that will fatally impede of impair this work.

My contribution might seem to be completely insignificant and not worth the effort. However in God’s eyes it is of great value – which is why He built it and me into His great vision and design. And this is true of each and every me who reads this.

Response:
I have a significant purpose in this life – and an eternal position in the next

Prayer:

Lord God You have called me – help me please to will and to act according to Your good purpose. Amen.

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Reclaiming Your Mind

2016.08.10

“At the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth”

(Philippians 2:10)

Reflection:
A great many people battle with invasive thoughts. Appearing to come in from nowhere they are unwelcome and intrude into our prayers and into our lives. They may be angry, fearful, negative, critical, lustful and even insulting to God. No matter how hard we try to ignore them, push them away or concentrate they seem to find a way through. We may end up feeling guilty, angry with ourselves and inadequate as Christians. We may despair of ever overcoming them.

The first step towards healing is to realise that this is a spiritual battle. As such it cannot be fought and won in our own strength of mind – which is what we so often try to do. What we need is the power of the Lord which He makes available to us.

  • For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” (2 Chronicles 20:15)
  • The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.
    On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.”
    (2 Corinthians 10:4)
  • “and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” (Ephesians 1:19)

The second step is to use the weapons He gives us. It is at the name of Jesus that every knee must bow. Repeating that ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’ is a statement of faith and a statement of His power. When they meet it any foreign spiritual activity must give way.

People have found this to be immediately helpful in two ways. Firstly, when entering into any activity where there has been a problem in the past – such as praying – it helps to start by saying to oneself a number of times, “Jesus Christ is Lord.” Repeat it again if you sense that you are becoming vulnerable or if any unwelcome thoughts come through. The difference it has made has been remarkable – Praise God! Secondly, if you find yourself under attack at any time during the day in any way repeat again “Jesus Christ is Lord” a few times – silently or aloud.

Response:
Use the resources and power that God makes available – don’t try to live without them. Trust Him.

Prayer:

Father thank You so much that You make available to me all that I need for my life with You. Help me to walk in Your love and power and to know the freedom that it brings. Amen.

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Hidden Strength

2016.07.06

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

Reflection:
Paul was writing from a Roman prison, as he drew toward the end of a life on earth that had been anything but uneventful. From His meeting with the Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus until now he had sought to live, proclaim and teach Jesus as Lord.

In the course of his journey with Christ he had been flogged, stoned, shipwrecked, bitten by a poisonous snake, imprisoned, abused and vilified, and he was now in prison again. He had known the loneliness of his missionary journeys, the rejection of his message and the imperfections of his companions – as well as his own.

And yet at this stage he 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 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, and 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. Memorise 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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(Photo: (c) Catherine Bondonno)

Who I am

2016.07.04

“But our citizenship is in heaven.
And we eagerly await a Saviour from there,
the Lord Jesus Christ”
(Philippians 3:20)

Reflection:
Jonathan Sacks makes the statement in his book, Not in God’s Name, that ‘the twenty-first century has left us with a maximum of choice and a minimum of meaning.’ He goes on to state that ‘the most fundamental of human needs (is) the search for identity.’ The world around us is filled with people seeking or attempting to establish an identity in many different ways, including corruption and violence.

Jesus meets this very great need in His life and death and in His teachings and ministry. And it is small wonder that He drew to Himself so many of the lost, lonely and marginalised of society – those who no longer were found to be acceptable or included – whose lives had lost value and meaning. No one and nothing else has anything of lasting value to offer.

Consider these statements:

  • “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
  • “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
  • “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God”  (John 1:12)
  • “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:16)

Here is an identity beyond and above all others that we might have or to which we might aspire. Through faith in Jesus Christ we become the daughters and sons of the Lord God Almighty. This is an eternal and intimate relationship which nothing and no one can reverse or destroy. No matter what upheavals there may be in the world, our nation, community or personal and family life that identity, once established, is eternal.

  • “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
  • “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:2-3)

In the Lord Jesus Christ we have the certain promise, underlined by the gift and witness of the Holy Spirit in our lives, that through faith in Him we become and are for eternity the sons and daughters of the living God, our beloved Father. Our response is to accept and own that gift and promise. It gives us our true and eternal identity.

Response:
I belong to God – He will never lose me or let go of me.

Prayer:

Lord God Almighty, You are my Father and I am Your child in Jesus Christ. Please help me to accept and own that wonderful gift of my new and eternal identity, and in it to be at peace. Amen.

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