Such Blessings

“Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed?
Where are the other nine?
Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”
(Luke 17:17-18)

Reflection:
Whenever I read this account I am convicted of how very much I take for granted.

Jesus has just healed 10 lepers. He sent them off to show themselves to the priest to be declared healed and able to take their place in society again. As they went, the record tells us, ‘they were cleansed.” The effect on them must have been remarkable – for they were healed not only physically but of their being social outcasts, having only other diseased people as there companions and friends.

One of them returned to Jesus ‘praising God in a loud voice’ and ‘threw himself at Jesus feet and thanked Him.’ Looking at him, a Samaritan, Jesus asked the question – “Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” By implication most, if not all, of the others had been Israelites. The sadness was that as much as they may have rejoiced in their healing they ignored the One who had healed them and given them back the gift of life and living.

Every day is a day of the wonder and grace of God. Each one is an occasion when we may look for Him and find Him in new ways. Each moment offers us the opportunity to return our thoughts to Him and to speak to Him of our lives and His love. And there is so much for which to thank Him – from the wonder of our minds and bodies to the awesome extent, detail and beauty of His creation, from the ongoing blessing of His forgiveness, cleansing and healing of our spirits to the people who have been and are a blessing in our lives.

Response:
Take a moment now to thank God for something or someone who has blessed you – and maybe to thank them as well.

Prayer:

Thank You Father for the life You have given me, for my new life in Jesus Christ, and for the countless ways in which You have reached out to me in love and blessing. Thank You so very much. Amen

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Words of Life

“Open my eyes that I may see
wonderful things in your law”
(Psalm 119:18)

Reflection:
“What about me!” When things get tough and I’m feeling down it is so easy for that cry to rise to my lips.

This morning in my reading it struck me how often some of the kings of Israel would immediately turn to the Lord in a problem. They went to find out what He had to say – and not only to plead for help. Sometimes His response was challenging where they had been guilty of ongoing sin – whilst at others it was encouraging and affirming.

I know for myself that when I have gone seeking Him in prayer and Scripture He invariably responds with a direct word or a biblical passage. Sometimes the response has been immediate whilst at others He has quietly waited until He has brought me to a better spiritual place – often where I am quieter and prepared to listen!

Again and again He has spoken to me through a word that has caught my attention whilst reading. As I have paused, there has come a stillness and quietness within and I have been comforted, encouraged and strengthened by His presence and response.

He does not always remove the problem but the knowledge of His intimate and loving presence has given me peace. And I have walked forward with Him.

Response:
What God wants to say in a situation is more precious than my demands

Prayer:

Father, You are with me always – and You care so much for me and about me. Help me to stay close to You and to trust You with all of me. Amen.

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I am His

“But as for me, through the greatness of Your mercy,
I will come into Your house;
I will bow down towards Your holy temple
in awe of You”
 (Psalm 5:7)

Reflection:
Every now and then I am struck anew by the amazing privilege of God in my life. This verse did it again for me this morning.

Who am I that I should be so privileged as to know of God and to know Him in my life? I am aware of Him in the day and in the night-time. I see His hand and His love in the glory of creation – the majestic display of the setting sun, the soft splendour of its rising, and the silent, stately beauty of the moon. I hear His love and praise in the liquid songs of the early morning birds, the haunting cry of the fish eagle and the gentle whisper of the wind amongst the leaves. I see His joy in the laughter of a child and the song of a mother – and I feel His pain in their rejection and abuse.

And, although I am surrounded by people who deny Him, reject Him or take Him for granted, I know that He listens when I speak, talks to me when I listen and answers my prayers – some times with quiet, ‘little’ miracles of grace and glory.

And then when I read that He chose me before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight, and that in love He predestined me to be adopted as His son so that I might be for the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1: 4, 5, 12) it is beyond anything I can understand. I shake my head in wonder and amazement – and feel tears of gratitude well up within me.

I know where my journey is going and where it will end. In some strange and mysterious way I am already there. In my spirit I enter freely and unashamedly into the house of the Lord – where I belong. And I kneel before Him in humble gratitude, love and worship.

Response:
Wherever you are, and however you are, today let Him remind you that as His beloved child He is with you now and forever.

Prayer:

Thank you Lord God, my Holy Father, for Your great love, mercy and grace towards me. Thank You for reaching out to touch me, love me and draw me to Yourself. Help me please to believe in and know Your love, and to trust Your love forever. Amen.

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Listen for Him

“Let me hear of Your loving kindness in the morning,
for in You I put my trust”
(Psalm 143:8)

Reflection:
On Monday I went for blood tests for a condition that had all the possibilities of turning out to be very nasty. The results were due the next day but were delayed until Wednesday morning. On Tuesday night whilst praying these words from the psalm reached out to me in a special way,

“Let me hear of Your loving kindness in the morning,
for in You I put my trust”

They seemed to reach into my spirit where I embraced them and held on to them. In the morning, despite the occasional twinge of anxiety from which I chose to turn away, they remained with me. And eventually the news came that there was in all probability no condition that could not treated with medicines. Praise God indeed – or with a bit more enthusiasm, “Yay God!”

It is so special when God gives us a word, speaking into our situations. It underlines the importance of being close to Him, open to Him and in conversation with Him. This God of everlasting love is concerned about us as individuals and so often has a word for us of ‘strength, encouragement and comfort.’ (1 Corinthians 14:3) And the word that we have in Scripture is still a living word which He uses to speak to us and into our situations today.

Response:
Involve God in conversation about Your affairs and read His word expectantly.

Prayer:

Help me to be open to You Lord, to be alive to the possibility of Your speaking to me and to hear You when You do. Amen.

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(Photo: (c) Catherine Bondonno)

Strength from God

“Sing for joy to God our strength;
shout aloud to the God of Jacob!”
(Psalm 81:1)

Reflection:
Many years ago God led me to the first verse of Psalm 18,

“I love you, O LORD, my strength.” (Psalm 18:1)

In doing so He showed me so clearly that any strength, ability, gift, knowledge or understanding that I had came from Him. I became deeply aware that I had nothing of value to offer the world or the people around me except that which was of Him. It was a humbling and rewarding moment.

Over the years He has also shown me that quite apart from the things that He has given me, and the fruit that He has allowed to blossom in and through my life, I have not the ability in my own strength to live the life to which He has called me. I cannot love Him, or all the others, on my own. I cannot ‘be holy’ in my own strength. I cannot overcome sin and temptation by myself. And, like Paul, I know what it is to bemoan the difference between the life of my vision and the life of reality.

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Romans 7:15)

Paul goes on, as He searches out the solution, and cries out in an agony of joy,

“What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25)

As the Psalmist tells us on a number of occasions, ‘God is our strength’ and it is

“in him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)

Our life is not all about us. It is, in fact, all about God and the part that He plays in it. We will be tempted and distracted from the truth wherever possible, and may fall and fail on numerous occasions, but the salvation will never be in us, it will always be with God – in and through the wonderful sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It is through Him as well that God the Holy Spirit comes to live within us, and to be our strength and guide. Without Him our life is like a deflated balloon. With Him it becomes lighter, more attractive and filled with possibility.

God is our strength and our eternal salvation. The new life to which we are called can only be lived in His strength. Our response in times of inadequacy, fear, darkness, sadness or despair is to turn to Him and to ask Him for His help. When we sin our response should not be to hide but to run to Him for the forgiveness and help that we need – even if it is again and again. There may be times when we think that our Christian life is a fraud and a hopeless endeavour – we must to turn to Him for the comfort, assurance and help that we require. He is our strength.

And so the Psalmist encourages us to ‘sing for joy to God our strength’ because His strength has and will carry us through, on the foundation of His great and unconquerable love. God is your salvation and your strength. Always.

Response:
Speak aloud to God your thanks and praise and enjoyment of His love and creation

Prayer:

Father forgive me for the times that I become miserably self-absorbed. Lift my eyes to Your face, my heart with Your heart, and my spirit with Your Spirit. Amen.

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Everything I need

“My soul finds rest in God alone”
(Psalm 62:1)

 

Reflection:
There are a great many things that attract us in this life. Some of them change as we grow whilst others remain the same. Some are more attractive in the desiring than in the possessing, others turn out to be quite harmful to us and to others, and a few give us continual pleasure and encouragement. There is only one, however, that has the capacity to give us peace, joy and beauty at all times. That one is God.

We were made for God, made with a desire within us that only He can fully meet, made to crave a beauty that only He can reveal,  made with a longing to love and be loved that only He can satisfy. The Great Commandments, and the ones that Jesus gave, should reveal this to us. We are called to love God with every fibre of our being because only that will release and fulfil us, and bring us peace. We are called to love our neighbours because only that will bring satisfaction. We are called to love one another as Christians because through that we will affirm each other in our identities as the children of God. We are called to love our enemies because in this we become like God, and reveal Him.

The beauty of God is the beauty of love, the beauty of His love. It is a love revealed in the magnificence of creation, in the awe of salvation, in the presence of everyday and the promise of eternity. It is the glory of majesty, the laughter of intimacy, the splendour of holiness and the peace of loveliness. In Him we are completed and complete. He is our life from yesterday into tomorrow and forever. In His love we rest and are at peace.

Response:
Do not settle for the artificial decorations – seek and find the One true Gift.

Prayer:

Father, please draw me to You and into the wonder of Your great love. Open the eyes of my heart and my spirit and fill them with love. In Jesus name, Amen.

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Love and Faithfulness

“It is good to praise the LORD
and make music to your name, O Most High,
to proclaim your love in the morning
and your faithfulness at night”
(Psalm 92:1-2)

Reflection:
The Psalms are full of wonderful and helpful insights. Here David shows us how to set up our days – every day.

The morning, before we begin our day, is the time to remind ourselves of God’s great love for us. This is His constant and saving love which undergirds the promise of Jesus to be with us always, through the Holy Spirit. Every moment of the day and in every situation and circumstance the Lord will be with us. And whether we get things right or whether we make mistakes, whether we end up with singing success or bruised and battered, His love will enfold us and never desert us. And it is His love that has given us the wonder of the created order with all its beauty and potential.

Then when evening comes it is the opportunity for us to acknowledge the faithfulness of God – for He will indeed have been with us no matter what has happened during our day. To Him we may come with our joy and thanks, our confession and pain. He will have been there, He will still be with us and He will stay with us during the night. And it is His faithfulness that ensures that the laws of His creation continue to operate as He intended.

His love is constant. His faithfulness unwavering. His presence eternal. This is our God.

Response:
Acknowledge and thank Him.

Prayer:

Lord God thank You so much for Your ever-present love and Your unflinching faithfulness. They make my day content. Amen.

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