Get it right

“Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the LORD and shun evil.”
(Proverbs 3:7)

Reflection:
The only one with complete knowledge and total understanding is God. He is also the only one who has total and absolute power and authority.

As Christians therefore our starting point must always be with God and in our having a very healthy respect for Him. As the Psalmist says,

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10)

It follows then that whatever the Lord says needs to be taken seriously. What He calls evil is, therefore, evil and should be shunned. What He calls good is good, and should be embraced. God does not adjust His opinions and values on the basis of our debates, desires and decrees. The Gospels and Epistles have some very clear teaching on Christian living to which we need to adapt our living. They are there for our guidance and to prevent us from falling into the trap of our own reasoning and desires.

The Message puts it very helpfully his way.

“Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to GOD! Run from evil!”

Response:
Do a faith check this weekend to see where you might be casual, ignorant or worldly in your attitude to life and to the Lord.

Prayer:

Holy Spirit please lead me deeper into the truth – and draw me closer to the Lord in thought, word and deed. Amen.

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Treasures on Loan

“For by him all things were created:
things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible,
whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities;
all things were created by him and for him”
(Colossians 1:16)

 

Reflection:
All things were created By Him and for Him. He made everything that has been made – and it belongs to Him. That is important for us to remember when we seek either consciously or unconsciously to claim anything as ‘mine’ – including material possessions as well as spiritual gifts and talents. David had it right when he acknowledged,

“For all things come from you,
and of your own have we given you”
(I Chronicles 29:14 ESV)

The Lord has created not only the natural world as we know it – the visible – but the spiritual world as well – the invisible. In these worlds He also made structure and rules for their security and good order, as well as for our security, order and well-being. If we operate within the structure then good will follow – but if we choose to ignore it then we find the reality of the ‘law’ and the consequences.

An example is the law of gravity. If we ignore the directions and walk off the edge of a mountain then we discover both the law and the consequence of ignoring it. In the same way if we ignore the command not to steal we will likely discover why it exists and what breaking it can do to our relationships with God, others and ourselves.

God made what was ‘very good’ and specifically designed and intended as a blessing. We cannot complain if our contrary actions bring different results.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time”
(Ecclesiastes 3:11)

God gave directions suitable for His creation and for those to whom He gave it. Neither as the fallen nor as the redeemed should we hope for blessing if we ignore them. But if we live as He intended then there will be blessing.

“The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever.
The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous.
They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.
By them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.” 
(Psalm 19:7-11)

Response:
Which commands do I keep and which do I ignore?

Prayer:

Lord You are God and Your Ways have to be the best. In fact in the Lord Jesus we see the Way, the Truth and the Life. Help me Lord to commit myself to You and in faith to walk in Your ways. Amen.

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In Christ Alone

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form”
(Colossians 2:8-9)

Reflection:
The world is full of theories, philosophies, and get-rich-schemes – and the world is not in a good place. The people of the world are poverty stricken – physically, mentally and emotionally. Fantasy and escapism, through sport and entertainment, sex, drugs and alcohol are huge attractions – but they don’t last. Again and again the world persists in believing the lies of the devil, with which he distracted Eve and Adam originally – that to ignore and disobey God would set us free and make us like Him. They didn’t, and they don’t. They still lead to death – physically, emotionally and spiritually. 2000 years after Christ died on the cross for us, the world still wants to do everything ‘my way.’

But as Christ Himself told us,

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

Human wisdom and ideas will never come up with a plan or scheme that will compete with or replace the will and purpose of God. It will never invent anything that will give all people the potential of peace and everlasting life in the love of God. Only God, our Creator, Redeemer and almighty Father, is able to do so – and He has done it.

  • “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
  • “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” (John 15:13-14)

There is only one way to peace and salvation, one truth in which to believe, and one life that is eternal – and it is all Christ. He has proved His love by His death, proved His power by His resurrection and proved His commitment by the Holy Spirit whom He has given us. The ways of the world just cannot compare or compete with our Saviour, Redeemer and Friend.

Response:
Soak yourself in the Gospels – and what they reveal of God.

Prayer:

Father Almighty, by Your Holy Spirit, please lead me into the Truth, and open the eyes of my understanding, through Jesus Christ, Amen.

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Uncover your treasure

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field.
When a man found it, he hid it again,
and then in his joy went and sold all he had
and bought that field”
(Matthew 13:44)

Reflection:
Hidden somewhere in the darkness of a fallen world is a glorious treasure. He knows that it is there and He knows that He wants it – but to all intents and purposes it is dead and buried to Him. Separated from the Vine of Life it has withered and died – but still He wants it for He knows that He can cleanse it, heal it, and give it new life as He restores it to its place in Him.

So He came to seek and to find, to save and to redeem, to restore and to cherish, to transform with a new Spirit into a new Life and Love. And He found it – and having found it He gave everything that He had so that He might own and possess it. He gave His life, He gave His future and He gave His divine inheritance.

We are that treasure – individually and collectively. We are His beloved, created to be like Him and for Him. We are the children of the Father, the bride of the Son and the temples of the Holy Spirit. We are the focus of His love, the recipients of His grace and the reflection of His beauty. And if we have not yet seen it in ourselves it is because we have yet to truly see it in Him for we can only love because He first loved us. He can only be our treasure when we have discovered that we are His. We can only seek first the kingdom of God when we appreciate that He has first sought and found us.

Having discovered this for himself Paul would first exclaim and then pray,

  • “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ .. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection” (Philippians 3:8-10)
  • “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:14-19)

You are not what the world makes you – in Christ you are a child of the Most High God.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine”

(Isaiah 43:1)

Response:
Buried within you is a great truth. Dwell on God’s love and word – until it resonates within you.

Prayer:

Father I so want to know more of Your love and light and life – help me please to receive what You have for me and to treasure it even as You treasure me. Amen.

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Power for me

“For the message of the cross is foolishness
to those who are perishing,
 but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
(1 Corinthians 1:18)

Reflection:
There are many kinds of power visible in the world today. Some of it is used for good and some for evil purposes, some to build up and some to break down, some to heal and some to hurt. None of it can compare with the power of the Lord either to create or to re-create.

The greatest expression of God’s power is not in the wonder of creation, as awe-inspiring as it is. It is in the salvation that He has worked for us. Only He is able to transform a broken, sinful and sin ravaged life into one that is rich and full, made to be like that of Christ himself. Only He can take the pale shadow of our lives and bring us into the wonderful completeness that was His original vision for us. Only the power of God can promise and guarantee eternal life that death cannot harm. Only the power of God flows from a heart so filled with love that there is no power in existence that can stand against it or diffuse it. This is the power, about which Paul rejoices when he says,

  • “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” (Ephesians 1:18-19)
  • “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:16-21)

That power is present in our lives even now, working to transform us and build us towards the fullness of that wonderful new creation that is ours in Christ. It is there to help us up again when we fall, to sustain us for the journey ahead, to enable us to cope with the pressures of life, and to do the work to which He guides us. And all the while He is leading us into a deeper awareness and appreciation of His love.

“It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16)

Paul was enabled to then say,

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

Response:
Take a moment to acknowledge and receive it in your spirit.

Prayer:

Father when I am weak then You are strong. May Your strength be the blessing in my life. Please help me to know and receive it. Amen.

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God’s Blessings

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us in the heavenly realms
with every spiritual blessing in Christ”
(Ephesians 1:3)

Reflection:
As we look back on the wonder of Good Friday and Easter it is good to remind ourselves of some of the great blessings that God has brought about for us. As we do so we need to remember that what happened was not just a piece of grand drama but something that has a real and eternal impact on our lives, starting right now.

Paul cannot be clearer as he tells us that God has blessed us in these ways – and that as we join our lives to the Lord they become a reality for us. This was God’s choice and plan from before the creation of the world and He ensured that His purpose was fulfilled in these great events. So we find that in Christ we receive,

  • Redemption and the forgiveness of sins (1:7)
  • Adoption as the sons and daughters of God (1:5)
  • The presence, seal and guarantee within us of the Holy Spirit (1:13)
  • Holiness and blamelessness in God’s eyes (1:4)
  • God’s love in all its fullness (1:4)
  • The lavish riches of God’s glorious grace (1:5 & 8)
  • The understanding of God’s will, purpose and plan which He is working out (1:11)
    • To bring all things in heaven and on earth under the headship of Christ (1:10)
  • The recognition of our purpose which is to live to the praise of the glory of God (1:12)

God is giving us what we did not have and could not achieve by ourselves. These are not words to be read and forgotten but to be pondered on, prayed over and possessed for ourselves in quiet moments – until they ignite with meaning and reality.

It is small wonder therefore that Paul would go on himself to pray that we might appreciate to the fullest possible extent the implications of these blessings – desiring that we may not just know of them but instead know their truth for ourselves.

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints and his incomparably great power for us who believe” (Ephesians 1:17-19)

Response:
Treasure these words through the days ahead, asking God to bless you with their reality for you.

Prayer:

Open my eyes please Lord to the wonder of Your truth and love revealed through our Lord Jesus. Amen.

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Key Question

“The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death”
 (Matthew 26:59)

Reflection:
Surely this is one of the most damming sentences in Scripture. The religious leaders, responsible for the spiritual welfare of God’s chosen people, were seeking lies – or ‘alternative facts’ – which they could then use as a reason for having Jesus executed. It is small wonder that He had exclaimed earlier,

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness”  (Matthew 23:27-28)

And surely that is one of the most terrible judgements that could be handed down from God to the shepherds of His flock.

Jesus did not have much to say to them because He knew what they were after. It was not the truth but an excuse to have Him crucified. So even when He was asked to comment on some of the allegations made against Him He remained silent. It was only when the high priest called on Him to respond to his direct question that He answered.

“But Jesus remained silent. The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Matthew 26:63-64)

This was what the high priest was looking for – not because it was the truth or something definite that they could debate with Him. It was a blasphemy deserving of death – unless of course it was true. That however did not cross their minds – notwithstanding His teaching and His miracles.

They were unanimous in their judgement.

“”He is worthy of death,” they answered. Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him and said, “Prophesy to us, Christ. Who hit you?”  (Matthew 26:66-68)

And when they had finished with the Son of God they bound him and led Him to the governor, Pontius Pilate. How do I treat Him?

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(Picture: Gerrit van Honthorst – National Gallery)