Let it go

2016.01.29

“No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back
is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
(Luke 9:62)

Reflection:
There are some things that might tempt us to look back once we become Christians.

One is the things that we have left behind us. These might be associations, activities and types of behaviour that we enjoyed or allowed at the time. As pleasurable as they might have seemed, if they are not acceptable as part of our Christian lives, they should be avoided at all costs. To dwell upon them is to make us vulnerable.

Something else that might cause us to look back is the guilt associated with some of our past actions and activities. If we have sincerely confessed the sin involved to the Lord, asked Him for His forgiveness and prayed for His help in avoiding such things in the future, then we have to trust Him that He has in fact forgiven us and cleansed us from that sin and the stain upon our lives.

In both cases we need to consciously realise that these are things that belong to the old life that we have left behind us, and that we have no right to drag them along with us into the new. They tend to take our focus off the Lord, which is where it should be, and to act as a hindrance in our lives. In a spiritual sense we are indeed a new creation and should instead be exploring the ‘beauty of holiness’ – this new life and way of living which belongs only to our Lord.

Response:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus – and keep them there, even if you fall.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, please help me to leave the yesterdays of my life behind me and to walk with You through all my todays and into the tomorrow which is quite secure and safe in Your hands. Amen.

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Choose Life

2016.01.28

“He said to another man, “Follow me.”
But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
(Luke 9:59)

Reflection:
It is not easy to get our priorities right – particularly in a world which shouts so loudly at us with its needs, challenges, opportunities and temptations.

On the face of it the man’s response is so normal and socially acceptable. Yet Jesus is clearly saying that when His call to us comes nothing, and absolutely nothing, must be allowed to stand in our way, distract or delay us. At such a moment He is not dealing with worldly order and acceptable behaviour but with eternal life and eternal consequences. There is no comparison with the enormous privilege of being called by our Lord and God to live and travel with Him – trusting Him that both the moment of the call and the consequences are a part of His divine will and understanding.

The urgent message is ‘Don’t miss out!” Which is why elsewhere He would teach us to be radical in getting rid of anything in our lives that would stand between us and Him.

“If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” (Matthew 5:29-30)

If there is any attachment in our lives that is causing us to hang back from the Lord then we face a choice. We cannot have both if our relationship with Him is to be what He desires and one that which will bring us joy and blessing.

Response:
Make the choice today – then ask the Lord for the love and strength to live it out.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus I do want You to be first and foremost in my life. Help me to walk away from the things that would separate us and instead look and cling only to You. Amen.

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What do you say?

2016.01.27

“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 – 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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Home with God

2016.01.26

“My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word
and put it into practice.”
(Luke 8:21)

Reflection:
When I was young Sundays were one of the most special days of the week. On that day our wider family would gather at our home for the day. Morning tea would be followed by a Sunday roast and delicious pudding. Then after a couple of hours of reading, chatting and snoozing afternoon tea with scones and cake would round off the day before everyone went back to their homes. There was a wonderful sense of family.

Not everyone has had that same privilege, and biological families have not all been happy places. So when Jesus makes a statement like this we need to look into it. In essence He is saying that our true family, our eternal family of which God is the Father and He our elder brother, is made up of those who have become a part of God’s new life and are seeking to live accordingly. In our local context that should refer to the worshipping members of our church community. This should be where we truly belong.

As we begin to grasp this then Sundays become not the day on which we ‘go to church’ – but the day on which we ‘go home.’ We go to the local expression of ‘our Father’s house’ to meet with Him and other members of the family. It becomes our weekly celebration of love and enjoyment of our Lord and each other – a true Sabbath.

Response:
Be a ‘home-goer’ and a ‘home-welcomer’

Prayer:

Father please bless my church community, making me and others more welcoming and loving. Amen.

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Trust Me

2016.01.25

“One day Jesus said to his disciples,
“Let’s go over to the other side of the lake.
” So they got into a boat and set out”
(Luke 8:22)

Reflection:
It is always important to listen carefully to what the Lord is saying. Here He did not say that they should go into the middle of the lake and drown. His intention was clearly that they should all reach the other side.

He also did not say that there would be no storms. In fact two storms arose. The exterior one threatened to swamp the boat and the interior one blew away their peace. When these two storms met each other they cried out to Jesus that they were ‘going to drown.’

When Jesus asked them ‘where is your faith?’ He was referring to the storms that had risen within them. He restored their peace by stilling the outer storm. However His example, and His intention for us, is that through our trust in Him and His word we will not give way to inner storms when the exterior ones arise around us.

He does not promise us that there will be no storms in our lives, but He does promise to be with us ‘always’ and to bring us safely home to the Father. We are called to focus on Him.

“Be still, and know that I am God”
(Psalm 46:10)

Response:
Whatever your storms ask the Lord to deal first with the ones within you – helping you to trust Him to see you through.

Prayer:

Lord You promised us the gift of peace. Grant me Your peace in these storms in my life, drawing me ever closer to You. Amen.

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Soil of Life

2016.01.22

“Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.” When he said this, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
(Luke 8:8)

Reflection:
There are few things more satisfying to a gardener than to plant the summer annuals and to be rewarded with masses of vibrantly colourful blooms. I have one particular bed which is doing just the opposite. The seedlings have limped along, hardly growing, and produced only the occasional flower. A recent addition of fertiliser has resulted in a small spurt but has not made a significant difference. The soil is just not right.

When God sows the seed of His light, life and love into the soil of our lives it needs to be nurtured. The quality of its acceptance and its living conditions are important if it is to thrive and blossom. We need to,

• Recognise it – as Almighty God’s communication to us, individually and together.
• Cherish it – to protect it from getting lost
• Feed it – with the water of our thoughts and prayers
• Support it – as it grows within us
• Give it space – to spread and grow in us
• Feed on it – its beauty and importance
• Absorb it – into our lives and living.
• Depend upon it – for our guidance and values
• Share it – with others.

God’s Word is incredibly powerful. However its true power to transform, nourish and enliven our lives is affected by the way in which we receive, nurture and relate to it.

Response:
Read it – Pray it – Learn it – Live it

Prayer:

Father we know that “man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” (Deuteronomy 8:3) Help us please to feed on every word that You have given to us, including the Living Word of Jesus Christ Himself. Amen.

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Choose Wisely

2016.01.21

“The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.”
(Luke 8:14)

Reflection:
Life can become cluttered – and so can our minds and hearts.

We may receive the Word of God as one amongst the profusion of words, impressions and other things that flood our lives every day – all clamouring for our attention. We may pride ourselves on keeping an open mind without realising that very often there are then no filters or values in place to guard and guide us. We may end up not only unable to differentiate between the godly and the worldly but at the mercy of the latest and the loudest. In the end business, pleasure and wealth become the thorns that push aside and choke our spiritual lives.

If our relationship with the Lord is to prosper and deepen then He needs to be given both space and priority. We should be listening to Him before we listen to the world or even to ourselves.
As Jesus said,

“Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” (Matthew 4:4)

The Word of God enables us to live wisely in the clutter of the world.

Response:
Make space for reading Scripture

Prayer:

Father thank You for Your Word – please help me to read it, treasure it and be formed through it. Amen.

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Go Deep

2016.01.20

“Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away”
(Luke 8:13)

Reflection:
Sometimes the rocks are visible and sometimes not. Nevertheless the result can be similar. The young plants wither because they cannot establish their roots and get proper access to what they need.

The way we receive the Word of God is all important. Some give it no importance at all – it never penetrates their defences and lives. They have closed minds to the glory of God and hard hearts to anything other than their own priorities.

Others receive it at a very shallow level. It can be very easy to become excited by the Word in congenial surroundings and coupled with emotional praise and worship. However when those times are over and our real world re-asserts itself so much of our enthusiasm can disappear. “When the fierce glare of the sun (temptation and persecution) beats upon them, their spiritual life shrivels up.”

The problem is not that the Word of God is less powerful than the rock – it is just not given a chance. In the desert God told Moses to speak to the rock and ‘it will pour out its water.’ However Moses disobeyed Him and struck the rock instead, which he had done before. For not trusting and obeying God he was then prohibited from entering the Promised Land.

God’s Word is powerful. Received reverently, treasured prayerfully and lived faithfully it is life-changing and life-giving.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24)

Response:
‘God said it – I believe it – that settles it’ (Smith Wigglesworth)

Prayer:

Lord soften my heart, open my mind and let Your Word live within me. Amen.

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It’s So Hard

2016.01.19

“Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.”
(Luke 8:12)

Reflection:
No matter how trampled and hard and busy is the path – or road – the Lord still sows the seed of His word there. However, it can be less easily discerned and more readily overlooked or ignored. It may become trampled underfoot or kicked aside until it disappears from sight, or even avoided.

We all have hard places in our lives. Hardened by sin, calloused by pain and abuse, avoided because of challenge and fear, darkened through selfishness and rejection, neglected and unwatered by love. They can spoil our relationship with ourselves, with others and with the Lord – and drag us away from what God is wanting to do in us and with us.

Because these areas are a part of our lives they too need transformation and renewal. They are not beyond the Lord’s concern or capabilities – and His great desire is to bring light, love and healing into these areas as well. By removing the hardness and darkness He will also remove the poisonous effect they will be having elsewhere.

Ask God for His Light – to show you the areas of concern. Ask God for His Love – to soften and prepare the ‘ground’. Ask God for His Word to guide and direct you. Ask God for His Spirit to heal and transform you and to keep you from falling back again.

Response:
Trust the Lord with all of you – He does want the best for you

Prayer:

Father, please shine Your Light into my life and help me to lay before You the bits that have become trampled on and hard. Soak them, cleanse them and replant them with Your Love. In Jesus Name. Amen.

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The Ceaseless Word

2016.01.18

“A sower went out to sow his seed”
(Luke 8:5 KJV)

Reflection:
Jesus reveals some deep truths in this well-known parable.

The Sower is the Lord Himself. The field is the world – the world of the individual, the world of the community and the world of the nations. The seed He tells us is ‘the word of God.’- which we know to be vital, dynamic and life-giving.

“Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” (Matthew 4:4)
• “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11)

The first thing that we notice is that the Sower is sowing everywhere. He does not miss out any part of the ‘field’ – no matter how unattractive or unsuitable it may appear. He wants His life-changing seed to go everywhere, and so that is where He scatters it. Hard paths, rocky places, thorny areas and well-prepared ground – He does not avoid or exclude any of it.

Today He is still at work sowing this important seed in the world. The fact that we cannot see its fruit, or that it is not welcomed, does not mean that it is not there. He is also sowing the seed in our own individual and personal lives and situations. It is there in the good places and in the calloused, cluttered and painful areas. It is pertinent to us and our situations. We have only to recognise, receive and respond to it.

God is not silent. He speaks through His Word in the Bible, through the glorious message of creation, through His Spirit within us, through the situations in which we find ourselves and through the ministry of others. He speaks also through our silent awareness of His presence.

Response:
Practice pausing to pray, look, see and listen.

Prayer:

Lord God please help me to believe and trust in Your presence and to look and listen for Your still small voice of love. Amen.

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