Hear the Call

2015.12.31

“When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

(Matthew 2:13-15)

Reflection:
Over a thousand years had passed since God had called His people out of Egypt. They had originally been brought there by Jacob’s son Joseph to escape the famine that was devastating the surrounding lands. After some four hundred years God then led them away from what had become a place of bondage and persecution, through the waters of the sea, into the desert and the place of commitment, and onwards to the Promised Land.

Now He instructed another Joseph to care for His son by taking him to Egypt. This was in order to protect Jesus from the murderous activities of Herod. Once the danger was past God would call Him out of Egypt again. The prophecy through Hosea which reflected the Exodus would reach its fulfilment in the person of the Son of God Himself. In due course Jesus also would pass through the waters of baptism, into the desert of temptation and commitment, and onwards towards the ‘Promised Land’ on the other side of the cross. He was opening the Way for us.

We too find ourselves in a ‘foreign land’ from which God calls us. With Him we embark upon a new journey as He leads us away from the bondages of a fallen world, through the waters of baptism, into a new place of commitment and onwards to the Promised Land of our eternal home with Him. Spiritually we may enter into His heart immediately although it often takes time and experience for us to fully believe and become secure there. In other ways the journey home lasts a life-time but the end is always secure as we travel on with Him.

Response:
Hear the call. Stay on the journey for the coming year.

Prayer:

Lord help me to stay close to You – and please bring me back when I stray. Amen.

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(Artist – Bartolome Esteban Murillo  – Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI, USA)

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Handle with care

2015.12.30

“When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under.”
(Matthew 2:16)

Reflection:
Children were always very precious to Jesus. He would not let them be kept away from Him but insisted that they be allowed free access to Him.

“When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.” (Mark 10:14-16)

He would have known how some of them had suffered as Herod tried to eliminate Him. Indeed it had been prophesied through Jeremiah,

“This is what the LORD says: “A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more.” (Jeremiah 31:15)

Children have continued to be brutalized down through the ages. It continues as modern-day Herod’s use, abuse and destroy them. Let us never for a moment think that God is unmoved and uncaring. Not one of them has been or will be forgotten – neither will their suffering or those who caused it. God is both loving and just.

Response:
Treasure and pray for the children around you – and for those whose suffering is reported. Pray too for the healing of our society.

Prayer:

Father forgive us all for the abuse of the children whom You love so much. Protect them Lord and help us to do the same. Amen.

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Another Way

2015.12.29

“they returned to their country by another route.”
(Matthew 2:12)

Reflection:
The Magi had come a long way to seek out and find “the one who has been born king of the Jews.” Having found Him and worshipped Him they turned their steps homeward. However, after being warned in a dream to avoid Herod, they travelled ‘by another route.’

Like these men the ‘road’ by which we find Jesus will not be that on which we stay or which we then use to return home again. He not only gives us new life, He also calls us into a new way of living. Even although our context may remain the same the way in which we live it out will change if our involvement with Him is real. His Way is a different way to the way of the world.

This is borne out in His great calls to us – ‘Come to Me,’ ‘Follow Me,’ ‘Remain in Me.’ And when He refers to Himself as the Way, the Truth and the Life He is clearly distancing Himself and His values from those of the world in which He lived and we live.

Through the Psalmist God promises that

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you and watch over you.”
(Psalm 32:8)

We seek a deeper and more meaningful relationship with Him, listening to His word and open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. He will show us both the way to go and the way in which to go – that is the direction our lives should take and the way we should live them. He will keep doing so. What is more He will be with us every step of the Way.

Response:
Read the Word, Pray it into life, hold and live what God reveals.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus please help me in this coming year to draw closer to You and adapt my life and living to Your Way. Amen.

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Let’s go and see

2015.12.28

“When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.”
(Luke 2:15-16)

Reflection:
After they had heard the good news from the angels the first thing that the shepherds did was to go looking for Jesus – for the person of whom they had been told. Later on, when Jesus ministry had begun, there were others who did much the same thing. Whether because of a physical or spiritual need they went to the person Himself.

In His dealings with the religious leaders of the day Jesus criticised them for failing to do just this.

“You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5:39-40)

As important as the Scriptures are, and they are extremely important to us, they are no substitute for God Himself, for the Word made flesh, for Jesus the real and living person. He is the one through whom everything was created; He is the one who died for us; He is the one who was resurrected and ascended into heaven to the right hand of the Father; and He is the one who will come again to fetch the believers and to judge all people, both those alive at the time and all who have died.

The Scriptures point us always to the Lord Himself, and they are always to be seen in relation to Him and not as an end in themselves. There is only one Way, one Truth and one Life and that is Jesus Himself. Through the Scriptures, through prayer and though obedience to His words we seek Him and Him only.

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

Christianity is at heart a relationship. As with all important relationships it needs to grow and deepen all the time.

Response:
Ask the Holy Spirit now and in the coming year to reveal more of the Lord Jesus to you as you read, prayer and live.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, help me to continually seek and find more of You. Amen

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He is Here

2015.12.25

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.”
(Luke 2:8-14)

Reflection:
The Gospel was first preached to the shepherds out in the fields – and not to the hustling and bustling crowds in the town. Those who first heard it were associated by name and occupation with the Good Shepherd who had just been born. The setting was where
‘The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (Psalm 19:1)

In the midst of the darkness suddenly there was light! How can we imagine the scene, or the emotions that it raised within them? A night in which they probably sat under an awe-inspiring canopy of sparkling stars – with perhaps a full moon casting darkening shadows and bathing the hillsides and flocks in a mystical light. A silent and holy night which caused them to talk in soft voices – and not just because of the settling sheep. Something was strangely and wonderfully different.

Then ‘an angel of the Lord appeared to them!’ Eight little words that describe the indescribable. What was he like – we don’t know. Probably he dazzled them with a blazing light that made him stand out against the half-lit night. And then, he spoke! The first four words were used quite often by angels and by Jesus. Whether or not they calmed the shepherds we are not told. But immediately the angel went on to give them the news of the most remarkable and exciting event that had ever happened in the history of the world and of its relationship with its Creator.

The long awaited and prophesied Saviour had appeared, born a baby and laid in a simple animal feeding trough. Christ the Lord, the Messiah, had been born. And, as we know, the Son of God had come into the world which He had made to die for the salvation of humankind.

The message of the angel was followed by a sudden explosion of sound and light as the heavenly host surged out from a heaven that could not contain their worship and praise of God. They honoured the God of glory in what would have been pure and glorious worship, which no man had ever heard or been caught up in before.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.”

And then they were gone. The town and the world went about its normal business but a man and a woman, a small flock of shepherds, and some lonely travellers who would follow a bright star through the dark night, knew that something very special had happened.

“Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”

Response:
Tonight take time to allow the Holy Spirit to lead you away from the noisy, money-spinning, false colours of the world – out into the fields of your imagination where you can join a few shepherds. Watch and wait with them, and then journey into a quiet stable to meet a watchful man, a woman full of wonder, and a child on whom your future rests.

Prayer:

Touch me Lord that I might see, trust, believe, rejoice and worship. Amen.

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He’s Coming

2015.12.24

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us”
(John 1:14)

Reflection:
God’s Word is a revelation of God. When He speaks He reveals Himself – His being, His will and His power. It is a revelation of total majesty, absolute holiness and astounding beauty. We have also come to understand it as a revelation of astonishing love.

Now that Word of God, that expression of Himself, is taking on a completely new dimension. The Word is becoming flesh, ‘being made in human likeness.’ (Philippians 2:7) And in that form and expression He is coming to live amongst humankind.

This is the greatest wonder of them all. That God should ‘become flesh and dwell among us’ – that He should enter into our earthly life as one like us – that He should become as one of us so that we might become one with Him.

Just ‘one more sleep’ and the baby would begin to stir and make His way into the world. Holy Love would reach out to comfort and embrace Mary and strengthen Joseph. And the heavenly host could be imagined holding their breath as they waited for this holy moment.

Response:
Walk these last hours, conscious of the unfolding revelation of God’s great love.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, whilst so many fail to see, help me to watch and wait in wonder. Amen.

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The Coming One

2015.12.23

“I will come again”
(John 14:3 KJV)

Reflection:
Our celebration of Christmas is at once a looking back to an historic event as well as a looking ahead to a definite reality.

The Christ who entered the world as a baby born in a manger is the Christ who will come again in all His glory. There will be a wonderful revelation of the full majesty, beauty, power and authority of the eternal Son of God.

Evil and darkness, suffering and tears, will be no more and, as Christians, we will enter fully and finally into the new life that He has prepared for us. We will be gloriously complete in every way, lacking nothing, in the joyous fullness of our relationship with God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Jesus became one of us in our world so that we could become one with Him in His. He was to give His life for us so that He could give His life to us.

We can know the beginnings of that life now – but we can have absolutely no conception of the awesome and thrilling wonder of what it will be. For as humans we have not begun to grasp the holy and majestic reality of God. And what is more

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”  (1 Corinthians 2:9)

Response:
Take time to sit silently and allow the truth of Christmas to wash into you.

Prayer:

Holy Father, thank you for the wonder of the birth of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Please help me to absorb more of the wonder and truth of it for me. Amen.

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Light Coming

2015.12.21

“In him was life, and that life was the light of men.”
(John 1:4)

Reflection:
The first words spoken by God into creation were “Let there be light.” (Genesis 1:3). Life began.
Now the Word spoken into the darkness of the sin-separated world – the Word that became flesh – was Light. New life began.

“The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.” (John 1:9)

Jesus is “the Light of the World.” (John 8:12). Without Him there is nothing but downward spiralling chaos. With Him there is everything – there is Life with its beauty, hope and joy.

Jesus is the Light that reveals. He reveals the darkness. He shines in the darkness illuminating everything and dispatching the dark to the edges of existence. He reveals what is good, pure, and holy – all that flourishes in His Light. He shows what is shameful and destructive – all that hides away from the Light and flourishes where it cannot be seen for what it is.

Jesus is the Light of revelation. He is the revelation of the Truth, the Beauty, the Love and the Grace of God. He is the revelation of Forgiveness and Cleansing, Hope and Healing, Relationship and Restoration, Life and Eternity. He is the Creative Majesty, the Laughing Intimacy and the Gentle Compassion of God. We need look no further,

“Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9)

Jesus is the Light of Direction. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. In Him is the only sure and certain Way to God, to the Truth and to Life itself. He is all and everything that we need and can desire. He is the Way to live out the Way of the Journey. He is the complete Truth and the expression of that Truth. And He is the Source and Sustainer of Life and the expression of everything that Life is meant to be.

Jesus is the Light of Certainty. He is the Light over the gate that is the entrance into the Kingdom of God. He is also the Gate itself (John 10:9). He is our focus, our destination and our sure and certain reward.

“In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 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 14:2-3)

The great and glorious truth that still thrills and delights the hearts of His people is about to be celebrated,

“The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.” (John 1:9)

Reflection:
Look to the Light – and not the darkness

Prayer:

O Come Lord Jesus.

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Source of Life

2015.12.18

“In him was life”
(John 1:4)

Reflection:
We are surrounded by life. There is life in the trees and flowers, the animals and birds, the fish and mammals. We know the difference between something that is alive and something that has died – just as we know the difference between a person who lives and a person who has died. Life, that which caused them to live, had left them. Life in any form is a very special gift and one that could be taken away at any moment – in one way or another.

The gift of life comes from God. God is seen breathing ‘the breath of life’ into the first man and as cutting off life in the Flood. Our lives and our life are in His hand. John tells us that Jesus is the source of this life – and Jesus Himself taught that He is ‘the Life’ (John 14:6). All true life is drawn from Him and there is no life – eternal or otherwise – without Him. This is vividly portrayed in the picture of the Vine (John 15). Whilst we are a part of Jesus the Vine we draw our life from Him. If we should choose to leave, or be cut off from, the Vine we would begin to shrivel and die.

His entry into the world is celebrated at Christmas because He came to restore to us the possibility of eternal life. This is the life that God originally intended us to have with Him and which was terminated when we were ‘cut off’ from Him through sin. From that moment humans began to shrivel and die and there was nothing that we could do to reverse the process. Our new and eternal life is found in Jesus and founded upon His great sacrifice upon the cross. It is only as we become a part of Him that this life becomes a part of our lives with all the promise and hope that comes with it.

The Child of Bethlehem is worshipped and adored, and His birth celebrated, because He is our life now – and our life though all eternity. There is no life without Him. He showed that by giving His life for us!

Response:
Jesus is Life – our life – our eternal life.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus I place my life, with its yesterdays, todays and tomorrows in Your hands. I trust You to make me a part of Your life forever. Amen.

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My Silent Night

2015.12.17

“For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given”

(Isaiah 9:6)

Reflection:
The waiting was almost over. It would have been a long journey for Mary and Joseph. Now within the next few days they would see the son who was both Mary’s child and the Son of God. It was one thing to have the life within her – it would be completely different for both of them to hold the living reality in their arms.

Out on the hillsides around the town the shepherds were unaware of the event about to take place, and of their own part in it. Life went on as usual – just sheep, sheep and more sheep. In the town itself there were the crowds milling about as they prepared for the census ordered by Caesar. No other king was on their radar. Most of them would go home again unaware of just how close they had been to the Son of God – even if they did hear the stories to be told by the shepherds. They would have missed something so special.

Pause tonight, or in the early hours of the morning. Look out of your window into the darkened heavens. Be still for a while in your own silent night and listen to the faint echoes of history. Somewhere tonight a child is born. Somewhere tonight a saddened soul holds out desperate arms towards a Saviour and is found. Somewhere tonight someone may hear the faint murmur of the angel’s song again – and let it settle quietly within. Somewhere tonight someone will be wrapped in love in the speaking silence of God’s presence. Somewhere tonight there is a blessing for someone who does watch and wait – quietly, trustingly and peacefully.

Prayer:

Lord I enter into Your stillness – please enter into mine. Amen.

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