One, narrow gate

“O LORD …. please grant success
to the journey on which I have come.”
(Genesis 24:42)

Reflection:
Life is a journey – a journey with a beginning, a middle and an end. We had no say in its beginning and have little, if any, say in its certain end. However we do live in a vital part of it – the middle that joins the two.

God initiated our journey. He purposed and planned to give life to each one of us – you and me. We were each a part of His plan from all eternity. He chose to give us life, and chose also where and when that life should begin.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you”(Jeremiah 1:5)

God desires to be a part of our journey. He has not made us and abandoned us – in fact He is with us. We may ignore and forsake Him but He never turns away from us.

  • “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there” (Psalm 139:7-8)
  • “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:8)
  • “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20)

God knows the right way. The ways of the world are not the ways of God. He calls us to a different path, a higher and less obvious way and to the narrow gate that leads to Life. It is the way that He has laid out for us and along which He Himself will guide us.

  • “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it” (Matthew 7:13)
  • “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved” (John 10:9)
  • “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6)

Only God can promise success to our journey of life. The world cannot deliver what it appears to promise. God’s ways and life will deliver what He promises. And, of supreme importance, only God’s Way will lead us home – home to God and the place and life that He has prepared for us.

  • “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10)
  • “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 14:3)

And on this journey the one work to which me must devote our primary effort is this,

  • “Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:29)
  • “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)

Response:
Walk close to the Lord, and in His ways, all day.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus You called us to follow You. Please help me to stay very close to You, to discern Your guidance and to trust and follow Your lead as we journey together. Amen.

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Freely Given

“Be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart;
consider what great things he has done for you”

(1 Samuel 12:24)

Reflection:
If we were not so caught up in the modern attitude of self-absorption we might be able to see more clearly and with far more appreciation.

The essential person within each of us is unique and a gift from God. The created order in which we live is a gift from God. Our ability to see it, and appreciate it, and understand it, and work within and with it are gifts from God. Each one of our senses is a gift from God. Our abilities and talents are gifts from God. Our sensitivities and emotions are gifts from God. Our abilities to know, understand and communicate with each other are gifts from God. Love is a gift from God.

Things like electricity, plumbing, computers, television, smartphones, microwaves, medicines, medical equipment, motor vehicles, aeroplanes, ships and so many other things are gifts from God – built into the created order that He has made available to us.

The sun, the moon and the stars are gifts from God. Birds and bird-song, the fish of the seas and the animals of the earth are gifts from God. Plants, grass and crops are a gift from God. Rain and wind are gifts from God. The seasons are gifts from God. The towering mountains and the shaded valleys, the rivers and the seas, the forests and the plains are gifts from God.

God is a gift from God. Jesus Christ is a gift from God. The Holy Spirit is a gift from God. Our relationship to the Father as His sons and daughters is a gift from God. The Holy Bible is a gift from God. The Cross, the Resurrection, the Ascension and the Second Coming are gifts from God. Salvation is a gift from God.

Response:
“Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.” (1 Chronicles 29:14)

Prayer:

Lord open my eyes that I may see, marvel and be grateful. Amen.

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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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