Don’t Give Up

“I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me….Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
(Philippians 3:12-14)

Reflection:
We have been called into a special relationship with God – to be His daughters and sons. We are also called to join Christ in His ministry to others and to the world. Paul knew that Jesus had taken hold of him with both aims in mind, and he was not going to give up on either of them. Insofar as Jesus had a purpose for his life he was going to do his best to see that it was completed.

Every athlete, particularly the long distance runners, will know all about the times when it would just be so much easier to give up. Those times when each muscle and every emotion is crying out, ‘no more of this; no more pain, no more loneliness; give up!’ Some carry on though and go through the pain barrier, find a ‘second wind’ and press on to the finishing line. Sometimes they will be out there alone, with no one to support them, but they persevere.

Life, including the Christian life, has many challenges, temptations and trials. However, the Christian has Someone running with them all the time, encouraging them, strengthening them, helping them up when they fall, reminding them of who they are and helping them to keep the goal in mind. You too can press on with Him until the time comes to say with deep satisfaction, “It is finished!”

In the world as it is where many have turned away, many have become luke-warm and many focus only on themselves – press on. Keep your eyes on the Lord, keep in His Way, keep the faith and remain one of His faithful ones’

“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.” (Ephesians 3:16)

Response:
Whatever your pain barrier of the moment – ask God for help, for strength and for encouragement. Keep going with what is right. Trust Him, He will see you through. If in doubt about the direction to take – ask Him, and wait for Him to show you. He will.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, please help me not to give up on you, or on myself. Please continue to call me forward, guide me, strengthen me and encourage me.

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

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Drink Deep

“With joy you will draw water
from the wells of salvation”

(Isaiah 12:3)

 

Reflection:
We so easily look to the world to satisfy our needs and desires. Yet all it has to offer drains away so easily and quickly. As Jesus said to the woman whom He met at the well,

“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
(John 4:13-14)

Eternal life comes from Jesus Christ and is like an ever-flowing stream of living and life-giving and life-enhancing water. Only He can satisfy our spiritual thirst for meaning, wash us clean from the stains of failure, shame and sin and create within us a peace and joy that is not dependent upon the world or other people.

We do not have to search for the ‘wells of salvation’ because as Christians the Holy Spirit lives within us. He is with us all the time – ready and available to be drawn upon and to feed, nourish, cleanse and strengthen us. There is no limit to the quantity or quality of the spiritual water that flows from Him.  Paul paints a lovely picture of it for us when he writes that,

“hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us”
(Romans 5:5)

Just as we need to reach out and take the world’s supply of liquid refreshment so we need to draw the water from the well of the Holy Spirit within us. This can be done by simply pausing wherever we are, drawing quietly aside, and asking Him to pour His life-giving presence into the area of our life that particularly needs it at that moment. Take some ‘deep breaths of Him’ and allow yourself to feel Him settling where you need Him. Repeat as often as necessary and trust Him that He is responding. A regular request for Him to fill, guide and strengthen you at the beginning of every day, and at times of particular challenge, will also help and be a blessing. As we practice this we will begin to discover the joy of God’s presence and response.

Response:
Do it now

Prayer:

Holy Spirit of God please fill and bless me right now, and particularly in the areas where I am afraid, depressed, burdened and lonely. Please guide and strengthen me as I go forward and keep me always close to You. Amen.

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Establishing Priorities

“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,
where moth and rust do not destroy,
and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
(Matthew 6:20)

 

Reflection:
My eldest daughter once brought me a copy of a magazine from my old school. I was sitting there quietly looking at it and saying, “I remember him – and him – and him.” Intrigued, she peered over my shoulder and then cried out, “Mom, Dad’s reading the obituaries!”

I was indeed – and was surprised at how many of my school acquaintances had died at what was a relatively young age. For them the journey of life was over and everything they may have hoped for or achieved or accumulated was left behind them. All that remained was their final meeting with our Lord and God.

It is very easy to get caught up with our wants and needs, our passions and fears, our occupations and past-times, our treasures and joys, and all the things into which the world tries to seduce us. No matter how important they are now, and how necessary and worth-while they may seem, they have one great thing in common – they will all be left behind us when we go. Some of them may even have been lost, stolen or turned to ashes before then.

Jesus encourages us to keep a proper balance and not to become obsessed with the things of this world, nor to strive to obtain, experience, accumulate and hoard its treasures. There are other things, He tells us, which have a greater and eternal value – things that cannot be measured in monetary or emotional terms.

Essentially our one and only treasure – incorruptible, unstealable and unbreakable – is Jesus Himself. He is our Life. He is our Righteousness. His is the Relationship which makes us known to God as His eternal sons and daughters. If Jesus is our supreme treasure everything else will begin to fall into place. If He is not we may well be serving something other than Him.

We cannot take anything with us when, sooner or later, we leave this world and go onto the next. All we will have is what we have become in our relationship with the Lord and the fruit developed in us by the Holy Spirit.

Live for the Lord – He is our Way, our Truth and our Life. He is our Light, our Love and our Joy. He is our Beauty and our Peace. He is our Purpose and our Fulfillment. He is our Today and our Eternal Tomorrow. He is our God, our Saviour and our Friend. He is our Everything.

Response:
Keep responding to His call. Never give up no matter how many times you fall. Trust Him always.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, in the midst of the worries, concerns and temptations of this life, please help me to focus on You in all things and at all times. Amen.

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The Right Way

“I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me”
(John 14:6)

Reflection:
Jesus is the only way to God the Father. He was quite clear about this.

  • “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6)

The full implications of that statement might surprise us. However, what is clear is that without the ministry, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ no one in all of creation would be able to enter into the presence of God and enjoy eternal life with Him. The way to God that was closed through sin would remain closed for all eternity.

Not only has Jesus opened the way to God once again but He and He alone is that Way – as well as being all the Truth that we will ever need and the Life for which we long.

  • “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6)

This is highlighted elsewhere in Scripture as it shows very clearly that our salvation is through faith in the Lord Jesus and not though any efforts of our own.

  • “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16)
  • Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God– children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:12-13)
  • Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”(John 6:29)

The work that God sent His Son – the Word made flesh – to do was completed during His earthly ministry.

  • “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)
  • “Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:30)

Jesus Christ is our life, our new life and our eternal life.

  • “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men” (John 1:1-4)
  • “The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)
  • “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25-26)
  • “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)

Prayer Response:

Lord Jesus, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”  (Mark 9:24) – and to live in belief every day. Amen.

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My Lord and My God

“In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God”
(John 1:1)

Reflection:
Jesus Christ is God. He is not a man or an angel with extraordinary powers. He is God. Scripture is clear on it and so was He.

  • “We wait for the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13)
  • “Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20)
  • “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1)
  • “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Philippians 2:6-7)

Jesus Christ Himself was clear about it.

  • “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30)
  • “The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied” (Matthew 26:63-64)
    • The religious leaders understood quite clearly that Jesus was claiming equality with God. To do so was considered blasphemy and was punishable with death.

Jesus Christ exercised the authority and prerogatives and power that are God’s alone.

  • He forgave sins on His own authority –
    • “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….” He said to the paralytic, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” (Mark 2:10-11)
  • He raised the dead
    • “Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”(\John 11:43)
  • He demonstrated His power over nature
    • He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm” (Mark 4:39)
    • He turned water into wine (John 2:7-11)

Jesus Christ was in all ways and at all times fully God – however He became also fully man as we shall see. For today we acknowledge that He is in truth God and, as His name Immanuel reveals, He is “God with us” This is the wonder of the Incarnation.  This Jesus Christ who came to seek, to save and to give us new and eternal life is indeed God.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16)

Response:
My Saviour is “My Lord and my God!”(John 20:28)

Prayer:

Lord Jesus as I acknowledge Your humanity help me to acknowledge too Your divinity and to be silent in wonder, love and praise. Amen.

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Holy God

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
(Isaiah 6:3)

Reflection:
God is not merely a supreme force. God is a Person whose most identifying characteristic is Love. We were made in His image and something of that remains in us. We are called in the great commandments, in the new commandments of the Lord Jesus and in the identifying characteristic of the Holy Spirit to be a person and a people characterised by love. This means that we will become more like God.

However we must always be aware that God is not like us. For God is Holy. That means that He is totally different to fallen humankind. There is no stain or hint of sin about Him or near Him – in fact He is as far removed from sin as the Sun is different to the flame of a match. Sin cannot exist in His presence. God has said of Himself in comparison to humankind –

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts”
(Isaiah 55:8-9)

This means that God’s Love is Holy. There is nothing selfish, self-centred, conditional or limited about His Love. It is a Love that seeks to give and to bless and to forgive – even at great cost to Himself.

It also means that God’s Righteousness is Holy. He can never be swayed or bribed or influenced away from what is right. Which is why His forgiveness could only be achieved by His taking into Himself the sin of all humankind and suffering the consequences Himself.

Also God’s faithfulness is Holy. Having committed Himself He will not withdraw from or forsake what He has undertaken nor will He turn away from His daughters and sons. It is due to that faithfulness that He has not, and will not, take back from us His great gift of the freedom of choice given to us in the beginning. But He has also not abandoned us to the consequences of our actions.

God’s justice is Holy. When He calls on us to forgive it is not to infer that the sin and pain are inconsequential. On the contrary He has told us that “I will repay.” We forgive the sins of others because God will hold them to account. And should He forgive them it is because He has taken their sins with Him to the cross as well as ours.

God’s mercy is Holy. He loves and forgives and heals and supports and transforms and understands at a level that we cannot begin to recognise or understand. And, when we sin again and crawl back to Him again, His Spirit whispers to ours “My grace is sufficient for you.”

God is Holy – and through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit He invites us to become a part of His holiness, beginning now and stretching through the limitless reaches of eternity.

“And we .. are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit”
(2 Corinthians 3:18)

Response:
Receive and lay your fourth foundation stone for the year – God is Holy and is transforming me.

Prayer:

Lord God, make me holy even as You are holy. Amen.

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Almighty Father

“What may be known about God is plain to them,
because God has made it plain to them.
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities
–his eternal power and divine nature–
have been clearly seen,
being understood from what has been made”
(Romans 1:19-20)

Reflection:
God is omnipotent – His power is unlimited and eternal. We see something of it in the glory and extent of His creation and in the power that has sustained and developed it over the ages. He is able to do whatever He wishes in order to achieve His will and purpose, no matter what the circumstances at the time – as Scripture records. And as the Angel Gabriel said to Mary,

“Nothing is impossible with God” 
(Luke 1:37)

God is omnipresent – He is fully present everywhere.  He is not spread out over His creation so that parts of Him are in different places. All of Him is present everywhere all the time – with all of His supreme glory, authority and power.

God is omniscient – He is all-wise and all-knowing. He has a perfect awareness of everything that has happened, is happening and will happen everywhere, in heaven, upon earth and throughout His vast creation. He knows the full details of every person’s life – who they are, why they are, how they are, what they are, what they have done, are doing and will do – as well as every thought of yesterday, today and tomorrow and what has given rise to such thoughts. He knows and understands each and every one of us fully and completely.

“O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD”
(Psalm 139:1-4)

God has a plan and a purpose for His creation and His people. He has been and is at work in history, in ways we may not see or understand, to accomplish His purposes. Because He has allowed us, and respects our, free will we are not His slaves or puppets – rather He invites us to be a part of the journey with Him. The fact that history is filled with tragedy and trauma is an indication of how that free-will has often been exercised. However He is still supremely God and will ensure that indeed His will will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

This is the God who has invited us to call Him Father as we become His daughters and sons – and the One who has promised 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)

Response:
Receive and lay your third foundation stone for the year – God is able to look after me

Prayer:

Father Almighty, forgive me for the times when I doubt Your love and commitment to me. Please help me to entrust myself into the fullness of Your loving care and protection. Amen.

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