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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Our Tomorrow will come

“I am the LORD your God,
who has brought you out of the land of Egypt,
out of the house of bondage”
 (Exodus 20:2)

Reflection:
At Mount Sinai God reminded the Israelites that He and He alone is the Lord their God – the One who liberated them from their bondage and slavery in Egypt and brought them through the waters of the sea to Himself. From there He took them into the Promised Land.

This foreshadows the mission of the Messiah about whom the prophet Isaiah was inspired to proclaim about the One to come,

“The LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners” (Isaiah 61:1)

Here was the message of a freedom from the enslavement and suffering in a fallen world that would be brought about by the Christ to come. He would come as the Light of the world, as the Way, the Truth and the Life and as the Good Shepherd.  He would call and gather God’s chosen ones to Himself and lead them out of the world’s darkness, through the dark waters of death and on the other side into the Light and Life and Love of the Lord God Almighty in the place which He Himself has prepared for them.

This same God is the One who has said to us 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)
  • 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)
  • “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:28-29)

As we recognise that God has had this plan for us from the beginning, and that He has revealed His love and commitment to us in so many ways, He urges us to hang on to Him and trust Him for the best – the glorious, eternal and full-hearted living love – is still to come. And it will come.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

And so like the one man next to the Lord on the cross we can hold on just a little longer for we know that in a tomorrow we will be with Him in paradise.

Response:
Keep your eyes on the Lord in the good times and the hard times.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, help me to keep my eyes and heart on You – and not to lose hope or faith, and not to become despondent about myself, but to hold on to Your hand as it holds on to me, even me. Amen.

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God at work in me

“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)

Reflection:
In this short sentence Paul sets out what for him are five unshakeable convictions. As we look at them we can begin to see their importance as foundations to our own believing, thinking and living.

They are:

  • God is at work in our lives – “God works”.

He is not a passive spectator but an actively involved God Almighty, whether or not we perceive it.

He is with us, in us and around us. As we saw yesterday He began a good work in our lives and will carry it on to completion.

  • God works for our good – “God works for the good”.

It is unthinkable that the God who sacrificed His Son for us would then work to harm His people or ignore them. From whatever happens in our lives God is able to bring a blessing.

  • God works in all things – “in all things God works”.

Not just some things but in all things. Even where we get things wrong and fail miserably God will still be at work – not least in encouraging and helping us to get up and have another go at life! And when we sin, and battle with sin, God is still able to use it as an opportunity to work in something valuable that will amaze us – particularly relating to His love for us.

  • God does this for those who love Him – “for the good of those who love Him.”

This love, as Scripture tells us, is expressed in our obedience to Jesus commands (John 14:21). By doing this we open the door for God to express Himself in and through our lives. Where we don’t we keep Him at a distance. God does not wait for perfection on our part – the first stirrings of love and obedience within us draws God closer, seeking to help, strengthen, comfort and bless us.

  • God works His purpose in our lives – “who have been called according to His purpose.”

He has a purpose for us (Ephesians 2:10) and it fits in with His will being done ‘on earth as it is in heaven.’ In His purposes our lives are planned to be significant. For this He gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit and the spiritual gifts that we will need.

 Wherever we happen to be – physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally – God is with us. As we turn to Him in the prayer that acknowledges Him, in the love that seeks to live His way and in the faith that might even be as ‘small as a mustard seed’ we open ourselves to His working in and through us. Whatever may be happening around us God is building something in our lives and the lives of His people. Trust Him!

Response:
Learn the verse and the five convictions. Ask God to help you believe and live their truth.

Prayer:

Father Your word ‘will not return to You empty but will accomplish what You desire and achieve the purpose for which You sent it.’ Help me to take this word of Yours into my life, in Jesus name. Amen.

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Invincible Strength

“In your unfailing love, O Lord,
you lead the people whom you have redeemed.
And by your invincible strength
you will guide them to your holy dwelling”
(Exodus 15:13 CW)

Reflection:
This comes from the song of Moses and Miriam after the Lord had brought the Israelites wonderfully through the parted waters and then drowned the pursuing army of Pharaoh.  As they marvelled at the Lord’s great act of power and salvation they prophesied that He was both willing and able to take them safely into the Promised Land.

As we look back at the history of God in the Old Testament and then at the astonishing act of power and salvation in the resurrection of Jesus Christ their message must strike us with the same force. Our God is both willing and able to take us through the journey of life and death and safely into His Promised Home.

Like the Israelites we will have many challenges and experiences along the way. However there is now nothing in all creation able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:39) On top of this “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”(Romans 8:28)

The important truth for us to remember is that God is in control of our journey. No matter where or how we are at this moment in time He is with us. He will guide and strengthen us as we need it and to the extent that we will allow Him to do so. And He will see us safely home. Our peace and fulfilment may be tasted in this life but it is only a pale foretaste of that which He has in store for us.

Response:
His love for me is unfailing and His strength invincible.

Prayer:

Lord God you are working for good in my life even now. Please help me to trust in Your love and power and to journey faithfully with You. Amen.

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Look beyond me

“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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