Gift of Joy

“May your saints sing for joy….
her saints will ever sing for joy”
(Psalm 132:9-16)

Reflection:
The psalmist prays that the saints of God will ‘sing for joy’ – and records the Lord’s commitment that this will be so.

This then takes us to the teaching of the Lord Jesus who said that

“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you
and that your joy may be complete”
(John 15:11)

The joy to which the Lord refers is that which He has in His relationship with the Father and now that we also may have, may know and may enjoy.

We do not see much true joy around us at the moment. Our lives become coloured by the state of the world at large and of our own personal world which may be very challenging and difficult.

The true riches that have been given to us, and the one unceasing source of joy, are to be found in our relationship with God. He is the Almighty Father of ‘unfailing love’ and ‘invincible strength’ who has committed Himself to us in this world and the next. Our journey is secure because He is with us and our destination guaranteed because He is taking us there.

To find and know His joy in the midst of the challenges of our present journey is not the result of more learning but comes from seeking to develop our own personal relationship with Him. It comes from opening our hearts to Him in prayer and giving Him time and opportunity to speak to us through His Word and His Spirit. It comes from consciously putting our faith and trust in Him and keeping it there. It comes from trusting His love and His grace at all times. In other words – we walk closely and intimately with Him and in doing so discover the joy that He brings to our lives. It is lovely and informative to see how David did this and recorded it in his Psalms.

Response:
Talk – Read – Listen – Trust

Prayer:

Lord I long to relax into the peace and security of Your love for me. Please help me to seek a closer relationship with You. Amen.

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With all your heart

“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)

 

Reflection:
To ‘lean on our own understanding’ is to limit everything to the level of our perception.  When life is painful we tend to fear that it will always be that way – or even worse.  A good example of this is the account of the Israelites in the desert after the exodus from Egypt. No matter how much God did for them they never trusted Him for the next challenge.

So here we are urged to lift our eyes, to change our focus and enlarge our vision.  The one who loves us and has called us to Himself is the Lord God Almighty. He is the all-powerful one; He is the one who is called ‘Love’; He is the one who at huge personal cost has invited us to become His daughters and His sons; He is the one who in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit has promised to be with us always. He is also the one who in any and every situation and circumstance knows the best way forward –

“And we know 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)

In every road on which we find ourselves, in every challenge we face, in every situation that threatens us, in every task we undertake, in every relationship in which we are involved  – in fact ‘in all our ways’ – we need the Lord. Our first step is to acknowledge Him with His love and His power, and then to ask Him for His guidance, help and strength. The answer is then certain – He will become involved and He will take us forward and He will bless us.

The sooner we start with involving the Lord in our everyday lives, decisions and responses the more natural it will become if and when things get really challenging.

Response:
Whatever you do, feel or think today – ask the Lord to guide and help you.

Prayer:

Lord God my life is in Your hands and any merits that I might appear to have are in fact Your mercies. Please be with me and guide and help me through the light and the darkness, the days and the nights of my life – and help me to stay very close to You at all times. Amen.

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Held Fast

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.
It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain,
where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf.”
(Hebrews 6:19-20)

 

Reflection:
In the ancient world the anchor was the symbol of hope. Wisdom, great-heartedness and courage were seen as anchors that few storms could shake. However the writer to the Hebrews insists that the Christian possesses the strongest anchor as the greatest hope in the world.

Our hope is in Jesus Christ. In Him it is now anchored in the very presence of God Himself.

In the Temple the Holy of Holies was the most sacred place of all. It was here that God was believed to dwell. Separated from the remainder of the Temple by a heavy curtain only the High Priest was allowed to enter. This was once a year on the Day of Atonement. Now, the writer tells us, Jesus has entered into that Holy Presence on our behalf. In doing so He has opened the way to God for every man at any time. No barrier now separates us from the Almighty Father. It was torn apart as Jesus died on the Cross.

Jesus is our immovable anchor in the presence of God Himself. We are bound to Him by the unbreakable rope of faith. Jesus is also the anchor in our spirits. Here the love and acceptance of God is eternally secured within us through the Holy Spirit.

Although we are called to a new way of life and living we no longer have to strive for acceptance. As Christians we belong. We may enter into the presence of God, into His heart of love, into His arms of acceptance, whenever we wish. Which is why He can say to us,

“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength.”

(Isaiah 30:15)

Response:
Put your faith and trust in our great Lord. Imagine the unbreakable bond that secures you to Him, and Him to you.

Prayer:

O Yes Lord Jesus! I believe – help my unbelief. Thank You so much that 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) Amen.

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My Lord

“But what about you?” he asked.
“Who do you say I am?”
(Matthew 16:15)

 

Reflection:
Jesus had asked His disciples “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They responded that some said He was John the Baptist come back to life, others that He was Elijah and still others that He was Jeremiah or one of the prophets. No one was clear as to His real identity – except the spirits that He cast out of people.

Now Jesus asked them the key question, challenging them to make up their own minds about Him. They may well have been silent for a while as they waited for someone else to make the first commitment. Unsurprisingly it was Peter who spoke first, with an answer that Jesus told Him was not of man but a revelation of God.

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
(Matthew 16:16)

Human categories and interpretations are inadequate and incomplete when they attempt to describe Jesus Christ. The human mind cannot by itself reach to the heights required. For each of us the discovery of Jesus Christ has to be a personal discovery revealed to us by God. It can never be the acquired second-hand for then it will never live within us. To know about Jesus is insufficient, we are called to, and given the opportunity of, knowing Him for ourselves. Then instead of passing on what others think we can give a personal verdict as Peter did.

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

And, as the fullness of His identity blossomed within them,

“they worshipped him”
(Luke 24:52)

Response:
Wherever we are our vision is incomplete, and too much of it is in our own image – ask the Lord to bring you deeper and closer.

Prayer:

Lord, open my eyes and understanding increasingly to the wonderful reality of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. Amen.

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Good Living

“Mark a life of discipline and live wisely;
don’t squander your precious life”
(Proverbs 8:33 MSG)

Reflection:
I was very struck by these words this morning. As I reflected on them so I was reminded that life is precious. My life is precious. The minutes and hours go by in a steady pace and, once having passed, there is no bringing them back again or changing the way in which we filled or did not fill them.

Each one of us lives in a different context and with different pressures, challenges, burdens and opportunities. It does not help us to moan about our situations, to wish that we were like somebody else, or to pass the time with private day-dreams. At this moment in time we are who we are in a very real situation and in very real relationships.

It is also not merely a question of filling our time with activities or passing pleasures. Somehow these things often provide us with only a temporary satisfaction or sense of achievement. Often they leave us with an urgent need for more.

“The psalmist underlines our deepest need for us when he exclaims,

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God”  (Psalm 42:1)

In turn Jesus answer Him when He calls out,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”  (Matthew 11:28)

This rest that He talks about is not primarily a rest for our bodies or minds. It is the deep rest of the spirit that transforms everything else. It is the rest of being in His presence, trusting His love and depending upon His power to carry us through the hills and valleys of life and bring us safely home again. It is the belief that no matter how we see things at any moment in time He will achieve His purpose in and through us and make good our short-comings.

Then, as we let go of the pressure to make our lives count in terms of the world’s ways, we can focus instead on how God may be wanting us to live, and on what He may be calling us to do, right where we are and how we are. He invariably amazes us with what He can do with us, in us and through us when we let Him in more intentionally.

Response:
Spend time with God- He is with you right now. Talk to Him about you and give Him space to talk to you about Himself.

Prayer:

Dear Father, forgive me for my deep yearnings and dissatisfactions with myself and my life and living. Help me to find my purpose and value not in worldly achievements and involvements but in You and in the things that You have prepared for me. Amen.

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My Service

“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength,
that he considered me faithful,
appointing me to his service”
(1 Timothy 1:12)

Reflection:
It is a sobering thought that in calling and appointing us God considers us faithful – faithful to Him and to the particular ministry and mission to which He has called us and in which we will serve Him.

Notwithstanding his past God had now entrusted Paul with a new focus, way of life and ministry – and he trusted Paul to live it out. It is not that God left Paul to get on with it but He also gave to Paul the strength that he would need. In fact what was happening was that God was confident that He could carry out through Paul His plan and purpose and that Paul would be faithful enough to co-operate with and trust Him.

What God did with Paul and the others He does also with us – whether he calls us onto the international and public stage or the local and private one.  Our response is to have faith in Him and to be faithful to Him.

By ourselves no person “is good enough, or strong enough, or pure enough, or wise enough to be the servant of Christ. But, if they will give themselves to Christ, they will go, not in their own strength, but in the strength of their Lord.” (Barclay)

With Paul then we can indeed say that,

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

Response:
God will give me the strength today to deal with His purposes today

Prayer:

Lord I am weak – in body, mind and spirit – but You are strong and invincible. Help me to trust You for my today and tomorrows and allow You to work Your will in, through and around me. Amen.

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Live Out Today

“The LORD had said to Abram,
 “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household
and go to the land I will show you”
(Genesis 12:1)

 

Reflection:
There are two incidents in the life of Abraham that are of significance to each one of us today.

The first is God’s call. Essentially God was calling him to leave his past behind him and to travel with God to a place that God would reveal. It is very similar to Jesus call of His first disciples.

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)

We all have a past that we carry with us. It will contain successes and failures, pain and joy, hopes and fears. Jesus calls us into a life which is focussed on Him. It is a new life and not to be crippled by the things of the past. It is a life in which He forgives and heals us of the burdens of the past and opens to us the potential of the present and the future.

The second is God’s call to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. This was the more startling because Isaac was the child of promise. It was to be through Isaac that God’s promises to Abraham were to be fulfilled and the future nations blessed for all eternity.

In both cases God’s challenge to Abraham and to us is to let go of the shadow of the past (which we cannot change) and the vision of the future (which we cannot bring about) and to live only for God each day. Jesus put it like this,

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, `What shall we eat?’ or `What shall we drink?’ or `What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own”  (Matthew 6:25-34)

He is not suggesting that we be lazy or careless but that we get our focus right and then live accordingly with God instead of for ourselves.

Response:
Who is really my priority?

Prayer:

Lord I know the truth and the Truth – please help me to surrender my past into Your forgiveness and my future into Your provision and live with You today. Amen.

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