Everlasting Arms

“The curtain of the temple was torn in two.
Jesus called out with a loud voice,
 “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
When he had said this, he breathed his last”
(Luke 23:45-46)

Reflection:
The curtain of the Temple was torn in two – from top to bottom. This was the curtain that hid from view and entrance the Holy of Holies – the place where the presence of God dwelt. Only the High Priest was allowed to enter, and then only once a year on the Day of Atonement. Now, finally, the barrier had been removed through the birth, life and death of the Lord Jesus. The way to God was opened for anyone who would enter through faith in Christ.

Jesus then died with the loveliest of prayers on His lips.  Barclay tells us that this prayer from Psalm 31 was taught by Jewish mothers to their children for them to say as they prepared for sleep. Jesus added just one word to it, the word ‘Father.’ And as He sang it out so He sank gratefully into ‘the everlasting arms.’

“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”

Jesus had died.

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He’s done it!

“Jesus said, “It is finished.”
(John 19:30)

Reflection:
Finally it was all over.

Like an exhausted but triumphant long-distance runner Jesus had reached the end of His race. He was breasting through the tape. He had achieved the goal for which He had been sent. He had not given way to temptation, to pain and suffering, to abuse and humiliation. All that He had been given to do and to bear had been achieved – and He had been obedient and faithful to the very end.

Around God the angels must have begun to breathe a sigh of relief and exultation. And we can imagine that there was a quiet smile of love and pride on the still tear-stained face of the Father. For truly,

“You are my Son,
whom I love;
with you I am well pleased.”
(Luke 3:22)

Look at My Son,
Love of My Love,
In whom I delight!

As we look back we can only begin to imagine and grasp just how much hung upon the faithful and persevering achievement of the Man upon the cross. My life and your life and all our lives hung with Him in the balance. For He achieved what none of us could even begin to achieve. And he revealed a love we had not even begun to imagine. And He gained for us a future that was love and light instead of misery and darkness. And as His life ended here ours in eternity really began. For truly

I was there when they crucified my Lord.
I was there when they nailed Him to the tree.
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble,
For I was there when they crucified my Lord.

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Reality

Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly”
(Luke 22:60-62)

Reflection:
Here is Peter again in all his stricken humanity. Finding out that he is not who he thought he was or who he wanted to be. We need to remember though that it was his great heart that had brought him, alone of all the disciples, into that dangerous courtyard where he could sit and watch his Lord.

Just a few hours before he had spoken impulsively, only to be told by Jesus that it was not the truth,

“Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”  (Luke 22:33-34)

Now Jesus words were proved to be true. And in that heart-breaking moment when Jesus turned and looked at him Peter broke down.

How many of us have had grand dreams about ourselves – only to find that they did not come true. How many of us could also lament with Paul,

  • “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)
  • “For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing” (Romans 7:19)

How any of us have dreamed a dream, only to lament in the words of the song,

“Now life has killed the dream I dreamed”

But thank God that the story does not end here.  Peter did not go the way of Lazerus. He did not go away into the black hell of lonely isolation. He waited. And then, just over the hill of Calvary, a new light appeared in his life. The risen Christ sought him and found him, loved him, forgave him and restored him.  Jesus put a new spirit into him, His own Spirit. And Peter went on to live a new life, a fruitful live and a fulfilling life beyond anything that he would ever have imagined as he sat counting fish.

With Jesus new life is always just over the hill. He will meet us there and lead us onwards in His love. For He alone is the Way, the Truth and the Life – and there is no other.

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(Picture: Robert Leinweber)

Healing Tears

2017-01-24

“Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.”
(Matthew 5:4)

Reflection:
The Greek word here translated as ‘mourn’ is said to be the strongest word for mourning in the Greek language. It is used for the mourning of the dead – ‘the passionate lament for one who was loved.’

In this context the beatitude is primarily about the same heart-felt grief of the person who recognises their own sin and unworthiness before God. The ‘passionate lament’ is for the loss of the person who might have been, for the innocence, righteousness and self–respect that has gone together with the opportunities that have been wasted – and for the pain it has caused God. It is ongoing as we battle against sin and our weakness, conceding at times our own utter helplessness and hopelessness. Paul acknowledged and wrestled with this, ending up with the great cry,

“What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24)

If the first beatitude is about confession – admitting our spiritual poverty before God – then this next one is about repentance. It is about a truth that has flooded into the darkness within and revealed for the first time the enormity and horror of sin. In its terrible reality this horror and enormity of sin should break our hearts like nothing else, for no other bereavement is, in itself, able to separate us from God and His Love.

And then, like the sun breaking through from behind the storm clouds, comes the blessed and life-changing Truth – the truth of Jesus our Saviour, Redeemer and Comforter – holding out His hands to welcome, lift and embrace us. And not only the first time! Every time after that when we have fallen, and when all that we can manage is to crawl over to Him and either haul ourselves up by His robes or just lie with our head upon His feet, the same welcome, comfort and assurance is there. That is when we may experience the true joy of which He speaks, and to which Peter refers when he talks of our being filled with an ‘inexpressible and glorious joy.’

Then as we lift our heads again, we look out into the world with new eyes and see and weep also for the sin, pain and suffering that we find there – and turn to God on its behalf. Jesus wept over Jerusalem – the city whose people rejected Him and brought destruction and devastation upon themselves – and He cried out to God on behalf of those who nailed Him to the cross. Ezra wept, confessed and threw himself down before the house of the Lord, and the false teachers in the churches brought tears to Paul’s eyes. There is so much that should bring tears to our eyes, mourning to our hearts and prayers to our lips in a world that seems intent on racing into darkness.

There is only one way to turn. That is towards the loving, beautiful and gracious Lord who is already reaching out for us. Today and tomorrow, and the days that follow, our comfort is to be found in Him, and in Him alone. For us and for our sins we may find the immediate and close forgiveness and consolation of the Lord. For His Church in this world there is both the promise of His presence and the blessed hope of His coming again in all His glory. For the world there is the assurance that our prayers do make a difference. Thank You Jesus!

Response:
Sin is not just naughty – it is a heart-piercing slap in the face to God.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, forgive me and forgive this world – save me and save this world – open my eyes to Your truth, and open the eyes of this world. Amen.

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The Time is Now

2016-12-23

“But when the time had fully come,
God sent his Son”
(Galatians 4:4)

Reflection:
It was some 2000 years after God called Abraham and promised through him to bless all the families of the world.  Now, Paul tells us, this was the right time. We do not know the full answer but there are certain factors that made this time suitable from a human perspective.

Firstly, there was a general peace in the Roman empire. The legions were everywhere keeping law and order and protecting travellers both on land and at sea.

Secondly, the common language of the empire was Greek – and the Old Testament in Greek, the Septuagint, was available.

Thirdly, there was an increasing spiritual hunger. The Roman gods had lost their attraction and the so-called mystery religions had a more personal appeal.

Finally, there were the outsiders who were attracted to the idea of the Jewish God and the high ethical standards that were a part of their faith.

Within this context Paul was able to minister effectively and during a short period of ten years was able to see the church established in the four Roman provinces of Galatia, Macedonia, Achaia and Asia.

Certainly God had chosen a good time – and may even have been influential in bringing it about! And how blessed we are that some 2000 years later we can look back on it and enjoy the fullness of its meaning.

Question:
Has the Lord become fully a part of my life?

Response:
“I tell you, now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation”  ( 2 Corinthians 6:2)

Prayer:

Today Lord Jesus, enter more fully into my life to rule and reign there in the fullness of your light, life and love. Amen.

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Coming King

2016-12-08

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor,
Mighty God, Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.
(Isaiah 9:6)

Reflection:
The Messiah would be a descendant of Eve, of the line of Abraham, a prophet like Moses who saw God ‘face to face,’ and also a king like David whom God referred to as ‘a man after His own heart’ (1 Samuel 13:14).

David was the greatest of the kings of Israel. After him, with a few exceptions, the kings became corrupt and the nation suffered. It was eventually carried off into exile. However the coming Kingdom of God would be different.

God’s Kingdom would be righteous and the Messiah would rule with justice.

“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land” (Jeremiah 23:5)

God’s Kingdom would be peaceful. David’s kingdom had known seemingly endless wars but God chose as David’s successor his son Solomon whose name means peace or peaceable. He was the one whom God chose to build His temple and God gave him peace from his enemies.

“But you will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest, and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side. His name will be Solomon, and I will grant Israel peace and quiet during his reign. He is the one who will build a house for my Name. He will be my son, and I will be his father. And I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever” (1 Chronicles 22:9-10)

God’s Kingdom would be stable and would last forever.

“Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations” (Psalm 145:13)

God’s Kingdom would know no boundaries.

“He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth” (Zechariah 9:10)

The Kingdom of God would be a glorious kingdom because of the nature and character of the Lord Himself – His supreme majesty, authority, power, righteousness, faithfulness and love.

“God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honour and might forever. Amen” (1 Timothy 6:15-16)

Question:
Has my will bowed to the Lord’s?

Response:
There cannot be two Kings

Prayer:

Lord may Your Kingdom come in me and on earth even as it is in heaven, Amen.

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Tomorrows News Yesterday

2016-12-05

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.”
(Genesis 3:15)

Reflection:
Immediately after the sin and fall of Adam and Eve came God’s great announcement.  He would save sinners through a descendant of the very person by whom sin had entered into the world. And as sin had entered through Eve – with Adam looking on – so salvation would enter through another woman – with her husband looking on.

With this prophecy God also made it clear that He had established a reciprocal enmity between Eve’s descendants and principalities and powers of evil. There can therefore never be any question of a compromise or acceptable relationship with evil.  And although this feud would be relentless it would only last for a certain period. For the time would come when the prophesied Saviour would fully and finally crush the head of the ‘serpent’ and destroy him forever.

Now that God, through the death and resurrection and ascension of Christ has ‘placed all things under His feet’ (Ephesians 1:22) we can look forward with confidence to the final destruction of all that is evil.

 “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Romans 16:20)

All the evil that we see and sense around us and even within us will not exist forever. There will come a time when it will be extinguished and its influence disappear. This would be established through the One who was to be born of a woman who was a descendant of the first woman herself.

Question:
Have I confidence in God’s plan –because I have confidence in God?

Response:
God’s word will achieve its purpose – His Word will achieve His purpose.

Prayer:

Lord God You have promised us a full and eternal deliverance from evil. Even now Father deliver us from evil – the evil around us and the evil which attacks us individually. In Jesus Name. Amen.

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