My Dad and me

“Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me,
for I have not yet returned to the Father.
Go instead to my brothers and tell them,
`I am returning to my Father and your Father,
to my God and your God.'”

(John 20:17)

Reflection:
There is a most wonderful and meaningful progression in the way that Jesus refers to His disciples. In the story of The Vine we see the first progression when He tells them that

“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15)

Originally they would have been His servants. Now they have been elevated to the position of friends – which would have been very significant and a great honour. But more was to come and this could only happen after He had dealt with their sins on the Cross and brought them into a completely new relationship with God as their eternal Father. Now He could, and indeed did, refer to them as “My brothers”.

This was their, and is now our, true and complete relationship with God. We are His eternal sons and daughters and Jesus is our eternal brother. So complete is this adoption that we have now become joint heirs with Christ of all that God is and has.

“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Romans 8:15-17)

This must affect the way in which we think about God and relate to Him in our thoughts and prayers. I am no longer on the outside – looking hopefully in through the window. I am now forever entitled to be in His presence, freely and welcomed, honoured and blessed. I am the son/daughter of the Living God and His Son is my Brother.

And note that Jesus puts us on the same level as Himself when He refers to “My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.” We are not second class family members we are there at the top with our Lord Jesus – from the moment that we give our lives to Him as our Saviour and Lord.

Response:
Let the truth sink in  – and thank and praise God for the wonder of it.

Prayer:

Father, my Father, my Abba, my Dad – thank You so very much for loving me back into life and bringing me home to You. You are so amazingly wonderful!

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Lord at all times

“At the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth”
(Philippians 2:10)


Reflection:

A great many people battle with invasive thoughts. Appearing to come in from nowhere they are unwelcome and intrude into our prayers and into our lives. They may be angry, fearful, negative, critical, lustful and even insulting to God. No matter how hard we try to ignore them, push them away or concentrate they seem to find a way through. We may end up feeling guilty, angry with ourselves and inadequate as Christians. We may despair of ever overcoming them.

The first step towards healing is to realise that this is a spiritual battle. As such it cannot be fought and won in our own strength of mind – which is what we so often try to do. What we need is the power of the Lord which He makes available to us.

  • “For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” (2 Chronicles 20:15)
  • “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.
    On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” (2 Corinthians 10:4)
  • “and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” (Ephesians 1:19)

The second step is to use the weapons He gives us. It is at the name of Jesus that every knee must bow. Repeating that ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’ is a statement of faith and a statement of His power. When they meet it any foreign spiritual activity must give way.

People have found this to be immediately helpful in two ways. Firstly, when entering into any activity where there has been a problem in the past – such as praying – it helps to start by saying to oneself a number of times, “Jesus Christ is Lord.” Repeat it again if you sense that you are becoming vulnerable or if any unwelcome thoughts come through. The difference it has made has been remarkable – Praise God! Secondly, if you find yourself under attack at any time during the day in any way repeat again “Jesus Christ is Lord” a few times – silently or aloud.

Response:
Use the resources and power that God makes available – don’t try to live without them.

Prayer:

Father thank You so much that You make available to me all that I need for my life with You. Help me to walk in Your love and power and to know the freedom that it brings. Amen.

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Look to Me

“What kind of man is this?
Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
(Matthew 8:27)

 

Reflection:
The disciples had been on an amazing journey with the Lord. They had listened to the awe-inspiring Sermon on the Mount, watched Him cleanse the lepers, heard Him heal the Centurion’s servant from a distance, looked on as he healed Peter’s mother in law, drove out demons and healed the sick.

Now when their boat was in danger of sinking in the storm on the lake He ‘got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.’  If all that had gone before was not surprising enough this display of power and authority stunned them. Amazed they asked,

“What kind of man is this?”

What kind of man is He to us – this ‘Son of God’, ‘Son of Man’, ‘Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’, ‘our great God and Saviour’?

In the strange world in which we live He has become to some a pale and distant figure, a casual acquaintance, a legalistic judge and a lifeless word. And yet He is a vibrant reality. He is the revelation of the Father, the One through whom all things were made, the bearer of our sins, the risen and ascended Saviour and the King eternal. He is the One –

“God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
(Philippians 2:9-11)

He is the Father’s response and solution to every single situation and condition of humankind – both corporate and individual. It is no wonder that He said Himself,

“Apart from me you can do nothing”
(John 15:5)

Whatever challenge we might be facing or burden we might be carrying or sin we might be battling the Way forward, the Truth that sets us free and the Life that lies ahead is to be found in and through the Lord Jesus and our relationship with Him.

Response:
Honour Him, worship Him, pray to Him, trust Him and obey Him.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus I turn to You in my need and the needs of those dear to me. You alone are everything that I seek and desire. Please help me Lord through Your great love and mighty power and authority. Amen.

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Lift your head

“Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,
 let us throw off everything that hinders
and the sin that so easily entangles,
and let us run with perseverance
the race marked out for us”
(Hebrews 12:1)

Reflection:
We are not alone in this life. We know from His promise that the Lord is with us, and the Holy Spirit within us, at all times. But there are more. There are the living memories of those who before us were faithful witnesses to the truth and glory and salvation of God. Some of them suffered enormously but they held on to their faith and trust in God to the very end.

However it seems that the writer also presents them as being now witnesses to our lives and living. He portrays them as former athletes filling a great stadium and cheering and urging the present athletes on as they strive with every fibre of their being to successfully complete the race for which they have been selected. It is a magnificent picture and one that should fill us with hope, faith and encouragement.

Then of course there are also our fellow athletes. Life is not a competition against them but alongside our fellow believers against the distractions and prejudices and participants in a fallen world. The encouragement we receive along the way from someone running next to us, and the encouragement we can give to others by our words and example, are of inestimable value.

So as you face the future don’t give up or ease off. No matter the dark clouds around you or the sense of isolation that comes and tempts you with hopelessness – keep going. Lift you head to the whispered encouragement of the Lord, turn your ear to the calls of encouragement from Abraham, Joshua and David, Mary, Mary Magdalen and Peter and press on.

There is no going back, your starting point does not exist anymore. You are a pilgrim well into your journey and the goal gets closer every day.

Response:
With God’s help I can

Prayer:

Lord help me to be aware of you as I run my race, to know that You are always with me and that You will give me the strength and encouragement that I need and can pass on to others. Amen.

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Who not What

“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.”

(John 14:6)

Reflection:
Humankind continually searches for new and ultimate truths. The Psalmist recognised this need when he cried,

“Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth” (Psalm 86:11)

Jesus reveals to us that all truth is to be found in Him. He is the source, the revelation, the beginning and the end, and the fullest expression of all that is wonderfully and perfectly true.

As we turn to Jesus today His call to us is still to “Come to Me” and to “Follow Me”, for in doing so “you will see” the truth of who and what He is. It is a call both to listen to His words as well as to listen to what we see in His living and in His life. Our starting point is in the Gospels, as we watch and listen to what He does and what He teaches. With this, however, is the personal invitation to “Come…and..see.” It is as we turn to Him and walk with Him – in prayer, trust and obedience – that we begin to discover the thrilling and chilling reality that we are with God and He is with us…. and ‘it is very good.’ As the Psalmist put it so well,

“Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.”(Psalm 34:8)

As we spend time with Him He will also reveal to us the truth about ourselves, our situations, our own lives and the way forward – as much as we will let Him. He will use these to reveal to us deeper insights into God’s great love for us, for us in our situations and for us despite our situations.

This journeying with God is important because it is on the Way that we find more of His truth and reality and His love and care for us. He is not merely an academic exercise.

Response:
Let the Truth of God meet the truth of you – and rejoice in humble amazement.

Prayer:

Lord I come – please help me to keep very close to You so that I can listen and see and receive all that You have for me right where and how I am today. Amen.

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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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