Today is Life

“I have learned to be content
whatever the circumstances”
(Philippians 4:11)

Reflection:
“I want” gets in the way of “I am.”

We can become so pre-occupied with a vision, a dream or a fantasy that we fail to appreciate our present reality. In doing so we can deny who we are, ignore our present situation and fail to appreciate the people and beauty that is around us.  

Coveting as God refers to it in the Tenth Commandment is not a desire for proper growth and development but a driving greed and lust for something different or for more – whether or not it is properly available. Jesus recognises that the sin is not only in the action of seeking to acquire the object of our desire but in the focussed use of our imagination as well

“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28)

In it all we take our attention off God as God and look instead to a god of pleasure and self-satisfaction. We very often fail to see the real cost to ourselves or to others.

Paul Getty was at one stage the richest man in the world and his books are studied for advice on how to succeed and to acquire wealth. He was totally ‘dedicated to his work’ and wrote that he had led ‘an exciting and rewarding life.’ In an almost throw-away comment he admitted that his (five) marriages had ‘suffered and fallen’ apart.

Response:
Take time to appreciate your blessings of the day – the beauty of creation, the special people, the wonder of life, the love of God Himself. Acknowledge and express it.

Prayer:

Father thank you for my today. In it there is wonder and beauty and love, and such special people. And most of all there is You – ever-present, ever-loving, ever-sustaining. Bless You Lord. Amen.

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Love Five

“God is love.
Whoever lives in love lives in God,
and God in him”
(1 John 4:16)

Reflection:
Core Values in our lives – God, The Word, Prayer, Holy Living and, now, Love.

Love has to be the flame that burns within us, the source that feeds out spirits, minds, deeds and emotions. For God is Love – and if we are in His image then it should be love that characterises us as well. And so Scripture tells us that love is essential to us.

  • “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)
  • “God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Romans 5:5)
  • “`Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it:
  • “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39)
  • “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44)
  • “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34)
  • “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:14)
  • “But the fruit of the Spirit is love..” (Galatians 5:22)

This love is not a product of our own efforts but comes from God and through God. It is a consequence of the love that He has for us and which He has revealed to us.

  • “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19)

We may decide to love because we know that it is right – but it only becomes real and true, and not a legalism, when the love of God flows into us and through us. The greater our awareness of God’s love for us the more we are prepared and enabled to love those people and things that He loves. As we receive the fullness of His blessing for ourselves so it overflows from us – because love cannot be contained. So Paul’s prayer becomes ours as well;

  • “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”  (Ephesians 3:17-19)

Five Core Values for which to pray and keep on praying – through the sunshine and the darkness – and which to allow the Holy Spirit to live out within us and through us as we trust and follow  His guidance.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father as the moon reflects the light and the glory of the sun, so may I shine with Your love and truth in the darkness of the world around me – and may You be honoured and glorified in it all. Amen.

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Holiness Four

“For God did not call us to be impure,
but to live a holy life”
(1 Thessalonians 4:7)

Reflections:
God, God’s Word and Prayer – the three Core Values that we have touched on so far. To them must be added one that clearly follows – Holy Lives. This is emphasised in Scripture a number of times,

  • “I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44)
  • “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1)
  • “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do” (1 Peter 1:15)

Holiness means that we are set apart for God, and not for ourselves or the world – we are God’s people, called to live His way, His truth and His life.

  • “And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:6)
  • “If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord” (Romans 14:8)
  • “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

In terms of the Old Covenant holiness was a requirement for salvation and to remain as God’s chosen people – which the people demonstrated that they were completely unable to live out.

  • “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:5-6)

In terms of the New Covenant holiness is seen as a consequence of our salvation and our new standing as the adopted daughters and sons of God. It reflects what God has already done for us and in us and is evidence of the Holy Spirit living within us – for it is He who produces this fruit. We allow Him to do so by surrendering ourselves to Him, recognising what it is that He is wanting to do in our lives and co-operating with Him. We already know what this is because we have seen something of it in the character of God, the example of the Lord Jesus and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Holiness then is living as the daughters and sons of God in the power of the Holy Spirit whilst still in the midst of a fallen world. There will be many a struggle before we relinquish some of our ingrained habits and desires – but the Holy Spirit will never give in because He will give effect to God’s desire and purpose for us. The sooner the better, for we will then experience more of the fullness of the life that He has for us and experience more of the reality of His great love.

  • “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (2 Peter 1:3-4)

Prayer:

‘Most High and Holy God, enthroned in fire and light, burn away the dross of our lives and kindle in us the fire of Your love, that our lives may reveal the light and life and love we find in Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Amen.

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Prayer Third

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

Reflection:
After God and His Word the next core value of ours must be Prayer – for prayer is our communication with God. Without proper and two-way communication both our prayer life and our daily lives become one-sided and often misguided. If the Incarnation of Jesus Christ has taught us one thing it is that God cares for, and engages with, His people.

We are encouraged in Scripture to pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and about everything (Philippians 4:6). Jesus also taught us to persevere in prayer (Luke 18:1). There will be so much that we want to say to God.

However prayer is not only about our concerns but about God’s desires as well. This comes out clearly in the prayer that Jesus taught His disciples. Very definitely God’s will is placed first and foremost.

“This, then, is how you should pray:
“`Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”
(Matthew 6:9-10)

Our prayer life becomes far more dynamic if we are also praying the prayers that God would want us to – that intentionally align themselves with His will and purpose. For this to happen we needs must ask Him what He would wish us to pray, and then listen for His response. It may take practice but as we persevere we will learn to recognise the ways in which He talks to us.

We are told that

“Christ Jesus … is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Romans 8:34)

This is very inspirational and encouraging – and how wonderful to align our prayers with His. They will be the love-filled prayers that God desires to answer because they will be the best for us and our situations. Some of them will surprise us.

And for those instances where, for whatever reason, we do not know how to pray then we can do so in the Spirit – either in tongues or by holding the situation wordlessly before God as our spirit communicates with His – silently or through our tears and anguish.

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will” (Romans 8:26-27)

Prayer is far more than sending texts off into the blue. It is at the heart of a living relationship with the Living God, and one of the most vital and valuable activities in which we can engage – even at the initial level described here. Given the opportunity God will take us far deeper.

Prayer:

Holy Spirit please enter into my prayers – guide me, and help me to listen for, and to recognise, the voice of God in the way that He chooses to communicate with me. Amen.

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Word Second

“Jesus answered, “It is written:
`Man does not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes
from the mouth of God”
(Matthew 4:4)

Reflection:
Our primary value must be God. However, hard on its heels must be what God says to us – so our next Core Value would be the Word of God. In fact Jesus tells us that true life is only sustained by our recognising, receiving and responding to all of God’s revelation to us.

God has spoken to humankind in two major ways.

There is His creation

  • “since 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, so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20)

There is the Bible – a record of God’s revelation of Himself, His will and His purpose for humankind. It contains also His directives and information concerning our lives and relationship with Him as His daughters and sons through Jesus Christ.

  • “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
  • “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105)
  • “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven” (Hebrews 1:1-3)

If our first core value is to worship God at all times in thought, word and deed, then our next is to soak ourselves in the knowledge and understanding of His Word – allowing it to form and inform us and to guide our everyday lives. This is where the Holy Spirit is of such importance for it is He who gives us the wonderful insights and deep understandings that we need.  A revelation of the majesty, glory and love of our great and glorious God Almighty.

Prayer:

Lord God help me to get my priorities right – to worship You and to feed on Your Word. May Your Holy Spirit bless, guide and feed me and continuously pour Your love into my heart. Amen.

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God First

Jesus answered, “It is written:
`Worship the Lord your God
and serve Him only”
(Luke 4:8)

Reflection:
 We need core values by which we live our lives – values that are different from those of the world. Jesus established some of His during the temptations after His baptism. Others appeared during His ministry.

Our primary value must be God – revealed to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This keeps being emphasised throughout Scripture,

  • “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”  (Matthew 22:37)
  • “You shall have no other gods before Me”  (Exodus 20:3)
  • “No one can serve two masters … You cannot serve both God and Money”  (Matthew 6:24)

To worship God is not to merely say the words but to live it out in our lives.

  • “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)
  • “Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:29)
  • “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:1-2)
  • “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men .. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23-24)

God is to be first and foremost in our lives.  God is to be present in, and the focus of, all that we think and say and do. God is to be the One whom we trust for all that we need at all times and in all situations. God is to be the object of our deepest love, highest honour and most reverent adoration.

It doesn’t happen overnight. In fact it cannot happen at all without the guidance, strength and blessing of the Holy Spirit Himself. However, as under His inspiration we set the sights of our lives upon the Lord, He will take us on a journey towards the fulfilment of God’s desires for us. On it God will begin to wean us away from the things of the world and the flesh and to purify us in such a way that His love may be poured into us without impediment.

Prayer:

‘Most High and Holy God, enthroned in fire and light, burn away the dross of our lives and kindle in us the fire of Your love, that our lives may reveal the light and life and love we find in Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Amen.

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Keep going

“Therefore, since we are surrounded
by such a great cloud of witnesses,
let us throw off everything that hinders
and the sin that so easily entangles,
and let us run with perseverance
the race marked out for us”
(Hebrews 12:1)

 

Reflection:
Firstly, there are spectators. There to watch, to support, to encourage and to applaud, they are keenly interested in and supportive of our Christian lives and ministries. This should also make us pause if we are tempted into something which is unhealthy, unhelpful and unholy!

Secondly, there is the training involved. We cannot possibly merely drift along in the great race of the Christian life. Like all serious athletes we should be looking at a regular and healthy balance in our life-style as well as discarding surplus weights and activities. Some of these may not be wrong in themselves but may hinder us in our particular journey. Others may well be directly detrimental to our spiritual and physical lives and efforts. Through it all we are expected to practice our own particular ‘disciplines’ or gifts and be aware and concerned about our fellow travellers.

Thirdly, there is the finishing line. The race of life is all about how and where we are going. This involves recognising and avoiding distractions and keeping our focus and attention on the Lord at all times so that we continually end up in the right place at the right time.

    “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:2-3)

It is small wonder the fruit of the Spirit includes self-control. If we are to run our particular race faithfully and to the end – there to receive not just the applause of the spectators but the ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’ from a smiling Lord Jesus – we will need the self-discipline required to make the journey less of a trial and more of a joy.

Response:
I have been chosen – let me own and finish my race

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, You have chosen me to be a member of Your team. Help me to run my part of the race faithfully, and with commitment and self-control, living at all times to Your honour and glory. Amen.

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