Hope that lives

“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”
(Ephesians 1:18)

Reflection:
God has called us to something and for something which is rich and varied. These are not merely words written on a page but promises from God for us to know, and in which to believe and place our hope and expectation. For above everything God calls us to Himself in and through the reality of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit – who are real gifts from this real God to us as real people in a real and fallen world.

We are called, for example,

  • “to belong to Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:6)
  • “into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9)
  • to be saints” (Romans 1:7)
  • “to be holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16)
  • “to be free” (Galatians 5:13)
  • “to peace” (Colossians 3:15)
  • “out of darkness into His wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9)

In fact we are called to an altogether new life in which we know, love, obey and serve Christ , enjoy fellowship with Him and with each other, and look beyond our present suffering to the glory which will one day be revealed. This is the hope to which God has called us. Paul prays that our eyes will be opened to know it.

Again if it was important enough for Paul to pray for on our behalf then it should form a part of our own prayers as well. We ask the Lord to turn these words from information into a transformation within us – from wishful thinking into a living hope and faith. We can with assurance pray,

Lord,
Enlighten the eyes of my heart
so that I may know
the Hope
to which
You have called me

Response:
Write this into your prayer diary and make it also a regular and ongoing prayer.

———————-

More Please!

“For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice;
and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings”
(Hosea 6:6 KJV)

Reflection:
 Martin Lloyd-Jones put it like this – ‘Our supreme need is to know God.’ He was clearly not referring to a mere nodding acquaintance but, in view of the intimacy inferred in the word ‘know’, to know God well, to know Him deeply, to know Him truly, to know Him as He is revealed in His Word and, supremely, in and through Jesus Christ. For the Christ Himself said,

“Now this is eternal life:
that they may know you, the only true God,
and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent”
(John 17:3)

Although there is much in creation and in Scripture that can tell us about God the true and personal knowledge of God comes only through revelation. It is only through the witness of the Holy Spirit within us that we receive the full knowledge of the reality and intimacy of our own relationship with the Father – and with His Son and the Holy Spirit Himself.

In his great letter to the Ephesians Paul recognises this and gives us the basis and framework for our own prayers through the prayers that He prayed for us. With slight adjustment we may pray for ourselves as follows:

Almighty God and Glorious Father,
Give me by Your grace
the Spirit of wisdom and revelation
so that I may know You better.

It really needs to be our heart’s prayer every day – for the closer we get to God, the more we begin to identify and find the reality of His glory and love, and the closer we will long to get to Him.

Response:
Write it at the top of your prayer list. Breathe it in and out as you go through the day. Thank Him for the knowledge of Him that you already have.

———————–

Priority 101

“I urge, then, first of all,
that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving
be made for everyone
— for kings and all those in authority,
that we may live peaceful and quiet lives
in all godliness and holiness.”

(Timothy 2:1-2)

Reflection:
Whatever the reason for the world being in the state that it is, there is an enormous burden of responsibility resting upon the shoulders of the present national leaders. From global warming to fragile economies to internal unrest and ongoing wars, coupled with a seeming deterioration in honesty and integrity, nothing appears to be simple. For better or for worse these are the men and women who will influence the lives of millions over the next few years.

It is no wonder that Paul calls us to prayer, and to pray specifically for ‘all those in authority. The reason is simple, so that we all ‘may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.’ We know what they need – God’s help and direction, whether they are aware of it or not. Solomon prayed for wisdom so that he might govern and lead God’s people properly. His prayer pleased God who not only gave him such wisdom but many other blessings as well.

It is easy to bemoan the current state of affairs and to criticize the people in power. But, whether that criticism is justified or not, it will not change anything. Prayer might.

God has invited and instructed us to pray. The epistles call upon us to pray. Prayer asks God to be involved and to bring His will and wisdom to bear. Prayer tells God, and reminds us, that we need Him. Scripture records many instances where God has heard and responded to the prayers of His people. The world really needs it now – particularly as God seems to have been increasingly side-lined.

As Christians we are called to pray, and to pray intentionally that God’s will is done. We must not stop until it is.

Response:
Focus on some key leaders in your nation and church and pray for them every day – morning, noon and night. Pray that God will guide and lead them. Pray that they become believers. Ask others to join you.

Prayer:

Father, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven – in me, in my church, and in the leaders in our land. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

———————

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.

————————– 

New Vision

“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)

Reflection:
Paul prays not only that we might all know God better, but that we may know other things too. And for him this knowledge is not only that of understanding but of experience as well.

  • He prays that we will know the hope to which God has called us. This is set out explicitly in the first few verses of the letter. It is a calling into Christ and the blessings God has provided, to holiness and blamelessness, to be adopted as His children, to rejoice in His lavish grace, to know His redemption in and through the Jesus, to receive the mystery of His will for all things under the headship of Christ and to live for His praise and glory.
  • He prays that we may know the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints. This points on to the final inheritance of which the Holy Spirit is the guarantee (14) – and which Peter describes as ‘imperishable,  undefiled and unfading kept in heaven for you’ (1 Peter 1:4) As God’s children we are God’s heirs, and fellow heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). One day by His grace the inheritance will be ours even although exactly what it will be like is beyond our capacity to imagine.
  • He prays also that we may know His incomparably great power for us who believe. If God’s call looks back to the beginning, and God’s ‘inheritance’ looks on to the end, then God’s ‘power’ must surely span the period in between. Only God’s power can fulfil the expectation which belongs to His call and bring us safely to the riches of the glory of the final inheritance He will give us in heaven.

So in terms of Paul’s prayer we may know the great calling upon our lives, the great destiny that awaits us and the divine power that will ensure that God’s will for us will be achieved in all its fullness. It is now that we can trust his word 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)

Response:
Clarify your focus – on God not on self

Prayer:

Dear Lord may my faith not depend upon my feelings but my feelings come to rest upon my faith – give me this faith please Lord.

———————-

(Acknowledgement to John Stott)

Jesus .. remember me

“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
Then he said,

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth,
today you will be with me in paradise.”
(Luke 23:39-43)

Reflection:
More abuse was directed at the Lord. This time it came from one of the criminals crucified next to Him. How interesting that he knew enough to refer to Jesus as ‘the Christ’ and to infer that this Christ was to be a Saviour. How tragic that having come so close to Him he was still an eternity away.

In contrast the other man rebuked him, showing that he too knew enough to know that this Jesus ‘has done nothing wrong.’ And, acknowledging his own guilt and the justice of his sentence, he turned to the Lord and said one of the simplest and most profound prayers.

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

It is stunning in its truth and beauty. There was no attempt to excuse his past life or deeds – no referral to some good deed – no appeal for mercy because of his extreme suffering – no eloquent or passionate speech or motivation. There was just a very simple request, glorious in hope and faith in view of the fact that it was directed towards a dying man. And Jesus response is also simple, straightforward and breath-takingly wonderful.

“I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

All this took place above the level of the crowds, the soldiers and the religious leaders. It was above the world that had rejected them both, for different reasons, but its impact was immediate and eternal. Here was a man whose destiny from the beginning of time was to die with the Lord Jesus Christ and then to live with Him forever. And yet if his name had been called out instead of Barabbas he would have at that moment been rejoicing that he was not on the cross next to Jesus the Christ.

How great and mysterious and wonderful is the grace and provision of God.

———————-

(Picture: Artist unknown)

Forgive You

“Jesus said, “Father, forgive them,
for they do not know what they are doing”
(Luke 23:34)

Reflection:
There was only one person there who knew the truth of what was happening – and that was Jesus Himself.

There were others who should have known, but they either could not or would not acknowledge the truth. How could they have stood there and acknowledged that this man on the cross before them – whom many had had a hand in putting there – was in fact the eternal Son of God and the long-awaited Messiah? Yet Jesus had warned them in His parable of the Tenants.

  • “Then the owner of the vineyard said, `What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.” (Luke 20:13)
  • “But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. `This is the heir,’ they said. `Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.” (Luke 20:14)
  • “The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them.” (Luke 20:19)

Then there were the others –the crowd, the soldiers, even His family and disciples – who were not fully aware of what was happening in front of them. And so it fell to Jesus to say something into the situation, and His words are remarkable. No anger at the blindness and callousness of the authority figures, no rebuke for the fickleness of the crowds, no startling miracle or revelation to humiliate His accusers – just these simple words coming as a desperate appeal from His breaking heart of love. He asked His Father to forgive them just as He obviously already had.

“Father, forgive them,
for they do not know what they are doing”

And none of us really know what it is that we do when we sin – when we choose ourselves above Him – when we choose our way instead of His – when we choose our pleasure and security over His will and trust in Him.

And still that remarkable prayer echoes down the corridors of history and hangs over each one of our lives today in such a loving and gracious blessing for,

  • “He is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:25)
  • “If anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defence–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (1 John 2:1)

How truly blessed we are.

———————–

(Picture: Christ of Saint John of the Cross – Salvador Dali –
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow)