Such Peace

2016.03.31

“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

(John 20:19)

Reflection:

The disciples, without Thomas, were afraid and behind locked doors. Having seen Jesus arrested, tortured and crucified, having themselves fled, they had been living with fear and huge uncertainty for days. Now they had heard that Jesus had risen. This might well have added to their torment.  Where was He, and what would His attitude be towards them – especially in view of their actions?

There are few mental torments greater than those that concern our having failed someone important in our lives, and in a major way. The agony of waiting for the impending confrontation, heightened by our racing imaginations, can tear us apart. We cannot bear the thought of being sent away in despair and humiliation – of being not good enough, having failed to live up to expectations, especially when the person concerned is the Messiah! They would have heard the terrifying teaching that one day the Messiah might well say to certain people,

“I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:23)

Suddenly Jesus was there standing amongst them – notwithstanding the locked doors. We do not know all that He said to them, or what they said to Him. But the words that are recorded tell us all that we need to know both for that meeting and for our own lives.

“Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you!”  (John 20:21)

This really was the peace of God that passes all understanding. It is a peace that has absolutely nothing to do with our deserving or earning it, or of the situation in which we find ourselves – but everything to do with the love, grace and power of our great Father and most wonderful Saviour. The text records that they ‘were overjoyed’ to see Him. It shows us that his love for them and acceptance of them was complete.

We all face fears that we have let Jesus down, that we do not live up to the standards that we believe He requires of us, and that we are like timid mice in the face of the increasing darkness of the world. All of that may be true. However, the most important truth for us to grasp and absorb is this – Jesus love for us is total and unconditional. He is completely committed to us and the work to which He has called us. When we fall or fail, or even think that we have, He is there with us to forgive, heal, empower and raise us up so that we can step out again with Him on the The Road of Love – the Way of Christ. He will work in all things for good and will never leave us or let us be taken from Him. Once we are His we are His forever. We do need to believe it.

Response:

Pray for a deeper belief and trust in the love of God for you.

Prayer:

Holy Spirit, please continue to pour the love of God into my heart –and help me to know it and trust it above everything else in the world. Amen.

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Do you love Me?

2016.03.30

“When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”

(John 21:15-17)

Reflection:

Jesus never gave up on Peter, even with His foreknowledge of the denial. For Jesus both knew where Peter’s heart was, and also the potential of the man once the Holy Spirit was in his life. Unlike so many humans who judge Jesus did not base His opinion on one moment in time. He took a far longer and deeper view, influenced also by His insights into the heart of the person concerned. Like the potter Jesus understood and accepted that true craftsmanship took time and the preparedness to deal with any faults that might appear in the process. Jesus remained committed to Peter.

With incredible grace and love Jesus is described as raising Peter from the depths of sin and despair and entrusting him with a new life and purpose within His kingdom ministry. Where Peter might not have been surprised to have found himself discarded he instead found himself forgiven, accepted and included. He was not asked to promise any great commitment or results – there was only one question that Jesus wanted him to answer for both of them – “Do you love Me.?” Of all the questions that He might have asked this was the one that Peter could answer honestly and completely – for He knew that Jesus already knew the truth – “Yes Lord, You know that I love You.” It was all that Jesus wanted and needed. And the thrice repeated question and answer dealt with the three earlier denials.

All of us will, to a greater or lesser extent, experience failure and unfaithfulness in our lives – to ourselves, to others and especially to the Lord. The wonder of our relationship with our Lord Jesus is that He is always there with us, urging us to get up again, leading and empowering us through the Holy Spirit, and encouraging us to have another go at life. This is the life He has for us, in His way and with the revelation of His truth. He is the God of life, the resurrected life, and it all starts and continues with love – His love for us and ours for Him.

Response:

Today He holds His hand out to each one of us, inviting us to leave the past behind and to enter into a deeper life with Him – the God of the resurrected life.

Prayer:

Thank You Lord Jesus for Your death and resurrection for me. Please help me to love You more and more and in that love to walk with You into the life that You have prepared for me – both here and in eternity – trusting You for all that I need. Amen.

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Jesus Came

2016.03.29

“As they talked and discussed these things with each other,
Jesus himself came up and walked along with them”
Luke 24:15)

Reflection:

On the day of the Resurrection two of the disciples were walking away from Jerusalem and towards the village of Emmaus – a journey of about seven miles. They were discussing ‘everything that had happened’ including the accounts of the empty tomb and the women’s report of ‘a vision of angels, who said He was alive.’ As they proceeded on their way ‘Jesus came up and walked along with them.’

How easy it is to be aware of great events and fail to appreciate their personal significance. Jesus ministry and death were important enough to occupy their thoughts and discussion. They were aware of the empty tomb and the angels report that He was alive. Yet they still walked away from the centre, presumably back to their homes, not appreciating the possible impact upon their lives of one of the most significant events in history. And, when Jesus appeared and walked with them, they did not recognise Him. It was only after He had been revealed to them that they could not wait to return to the others in Jerusalem, bursting with the good news.

We can fall into the same trap and fail to recognise the importance of a personal relationship with the Lord, the personal significance of His life, death and resurrection and the personal reality of His presence in our lives.

The wonder of it is that the risen Jesus comes to find us with the purpose of revealing Himself to us – even when we are walking in the wrong direction.

Response:

Jesus is right with you – be aware of Him.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus please help me to be aware of the reality of Your presence – and not to treat You as an object of interest. Amen.

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Christ is Risen

2016.03.26

“I have seen the Lord!”
(John 20:18)

Reflection:

Mary Magdalene’s breathless and breathtaking revelation to the disciples was beyond imagination. Suddenly the cross and the grave were to become not huge symbols of sadness and defeat but essential milestones on Jesus journey to glory. We are not called to always remember Him as a twisted, bleeding body on a cross, nor as an invisible sadness behind a gravestone. Instead there is now an empty tomb – and we are called to engage with Him as the glorious living victor over sin, death and evil.

Jesus had once called Lazarus out from the tomb and into life, and told those with Him to remove the grave clothes, setting him free from the embrace of death. Now He was calling His disciples out of the death they had suffered through His death, away from a fixation on His grave, out of the spiritual and emotional wrappings of grief and into the new life that He had prepared and won for them. As important as His death was, and still is for us, it is only fully understood in the context of His resurrection. He died for our sins and to remove the barrier between us and God – and rose to give us life.

Jesus calls each and every one of us today to come to Him. To come out of the dark tombs in which we find ourselves, away from the graves of love and hope, up from the sepulchres of sadness and sin, deserting the vaults of failure and despair. Not only has His stone been rolled away. The stones of our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual crypts have been removed as well. It is the risen Christ now who calls to us. He does not call us to leave our prisons behind us to seek a new existence, He calls us to come to Him so that He, and He alone, can give us life – a life that is not found with or through any other person or thing.

We do not seek Christ now at His death. We do not weep at His grave. We find Him in the everyday gardens of our lives, in the rooms in which we live, in the labour of our hands and the roads along which we travel. Christ is with us always.

Response:

Here I come Lord Jesus – keep me close by Your side and let me look only to You for my life.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, a new journey has begun in Your death and resurrection. Help me to live out the freedom of Your forgiveness, the beauty of Your light and the depths of Your love – to the wonder of Your glory. Amen.

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Finished

2015.04.03

“When he had received the drink, Jesus said,
“It is finished.”

(John 19:30)

Reflection:

Jesus had seen His mission and ministry through to the end. The Father’s commission and purpose were now fulfilled. He had taken upon Himself the sins of the world and would take them with Him to the grave. The penalty had been paid on our behalf by the only one who could – the spotless and sinless Lamb of God, the Son Himself.

Significantly, now, something had happened. As the end approached it was not an agonising and tragic failure. It was instead a glorious and triumphant victory. The man on the cross was not sinking into oblivion but rising to cross the finishing line. It was in so many ways His finest moment.

‘It is finished’ was not the exhausted mumble of a defeated man but the cry of conquest. Matthew and Mark have it ‘in a loud voice.’ Jesus was not the victim but the conqueror. He had come for a purpose. He had seen that purpose through to the end. He had taken and absorbed both the sin of the world and its consequences. He had suffered for them and had overcome the very powers of evil on the cross. He, the Living Word, had seen the Father’s will through to its final completion which, at last, was now upon Him.

“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)

It was finished. In confirmation God Himself tore the heavy curtain of separation in the Temple in two from top to bottom. It was no longer needed. The way home to God had been opened by Jesus the Son of God, God the Son.

Finally,

“Jesus called out with a loud voice,
“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” 

When he had said this, he breathed his last.”
(Luke 23:46)

Prayer:

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were an offering far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

(Isaac Watts)

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Thirsty!

2015.04.02

“Later, knowing that all was now completed,
and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled,
Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”

(John 19:28)

Reflection:
There are deepening levels at which this word from the Cross can be heard and understood.

The first is the affirmation of the very real humanity of Jesus. He was not just God in human flesh – He was in fact fully man and, therefore, knew what it was to be thirsty. After what He had been through, the beatings and loss of blood, and the way in which He had hung naked and for so long under the heat of the sun, it was a natural condition. The person who responded to the need certainly did not find it strange.

Then, there was still something that Jesus wanted to say – something that was important for both those around Him and His Father to hear. His parched throat was probably closing and needed to be moistened again. Some will know what it is like to be so dry that it is even impossible to swallow.

There is also the sense in which Jesus now wanted to completely drain the cup that His Father had given Him to drink – the one about which He had prayed in Gethsemane,

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)

Coupled with this would have been the desire that influenced all of Jesus thinking and actions – that His Father be glorified as the one true God, whose righteousness was reflected in the lives of His people. How He longed for that righteousness to be revealed. And He had taught,

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6)

And, finally, going to the depths of His being, Jesus would have ‘thirsted’ for the living waters of the Holy Spirit. He had told the woman at the well that,

“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  (John 4:13-14)

That blessing, intimacy and glorious life had been His from before the beginning until His previous agonised cry, as the weight of our sin had crushed Him and taken Him into the desert darkness of separation from God,

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  (Matthew 27:46)

At every level of His being Jesus was thirsty – very, very thirsty – and it was all for our salvation!

Prayer:

O God, create in me an undivided heart for You. Fill me with Your Spirit and pour Your love into me that I may truly love You – for Jesus sake. Amen.

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Forsaken

2015.04.01

“From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”–which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
(Matthew 27:45-46)

Reflection:
It didn’t get worse than this. For the very first time in His existence – both as Divine and human – Jesus was separated from God. The darkness that came over the land would have been as nothing compared to that which had appeared within Him. Such was the effect upon Jesus that it tore this cry from the very depths of His spirit. Jesus had taken our sin upon Himself.

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

It was our sin that came between God and Him and brought about this terrible separation. As ‘the wages of sin is death’ so sin brought death to that relationship and consequently death to the human Jesus as well. In terms of His own illustration the branch had been cut off from the Vine. Jesus experienced the deepest and blackest spiritual hell so that we would not have to.

Steadily, and seemingly without end, the sin and sin guilt would have poured upon Him. The sin of Adam and Eve, of Cain, of the people of the flood, of the bondage in Egypt and the unfaithful years in the desert, the sin of David and Bathsheba, the repeated idolatries and adulteries of God’s chosen people, the sin of the Great Wars of the 20th century, the Holocaust, the genocides, the apartheids, the abortions, and all the other sin and sins of the countless individuals from the beginning to the end, and of all the nations and even the churches as well. He would have sunk beneath the weight of sin without number or end, and been spiritually suffocated by the rising tide of thick and impenetrable darkness.

Alone, lonely and desolate, Jesus hung there. Lacerated within and without, flooded with darkness, pinned to the Cross not by nails but by agonising love, Jesus hung on to set us free.

There was no other good enough
To pay the price of sin;
He only could unlock the gate
Of heaven, and let us in.

(C.F.Alexander)

Prayer:

Open my eyes Lord, I want to see Jesus……

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I Promise You

2016.03.22

“Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
(Luke 23:43)

Reflection:                                                                                          

What a very strange thing for one dying man to say to another! It was strange enough that the criminal next to Him had asked Jesus to “remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” Stranger still was the response from a man Himself not far from death! Within a few hours they were both dead – yet Jesus rose from that death in power and glory and suddenly His promise to the dying person next to Him takes on a new significance.

The love and grace of God is revealed in a new and breathtaking way. After a life that appears to have been socially and morally unacceptable a crucified man’s dying acknowledgement of the Lord took him from eternal darkness into eternal life with the Lord who told him, “ Today you will be with Me in paradise.” Not some time in the future but that same day.

No conditions were placed upon him, no formal act of repentance was required, no further discussion or teaching were necessary. A very simple appeal, containing within it an acknowledgement of Jesus, and a faith that was probably not much bigger than a mustard seed, brought about an immediate and heart-warming reply. It brings out so clearly the wonderful truth and simplicity of Jesus great teaching,

“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)

Most of us do have longer to live than that man. And so we would need to look at the ways in which our lives should respond to the love and grace of God. Yet there is a simple truth that we need to accept. Our righteousness with God – that is being made right with God – depends not on us but on Jesus. This is what the Cross was and is all about. We accept it and then respond.

“Jesus remember me” – “I promise you.” Does it get clearer and simpler than that? As simple as sincerely saying “Jesus, please be my Saviour and my Lord” – and then following Him.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, please help me to always acknowledge You as my Saviour and Lord – and may my life reflect this relationship. Amen.

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Father Forgive

2014.04.14

“Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
(Luke 23:34)

Reflection:
Naked He came into the world and naked He would leave it. But Oh the glory and honour and majesty and grace with which Jesus was clothed then and forever.

The world mocked and laughed at Him, scourged and spat upon Him, rejected and crucified Him. Yet His first words, after the brutal nails and tearing pain of the cross, summed up His ministry as it embraced the soldiers, religious leaders and the shouting crowd,

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Quietly and without fanfare He took into Himself the sins of those around Him and the sins of the whole world – all the sin and sins of those who had been, those who were then, and those who were to come. Reaching down the pathway of the centuries His words, His life, His death and the resurrection to come, embrace you and embrace me and reach lovingly beyond us.

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us,” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

When we turn and fall into sin – whether once or again and again and again – our sin, by the wonderful grace of God, is already on the cross where it has been fully dealt with by Jesus. We can cringe alone in wretched fear and shame. But, gloriously instead, we are welcome now to approach and kneel before the Father. There, with deeply saddened heart, we are able to confess and both ask for and receive His cleansing and liberating forgiveness and strengthening help.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

Such love is beyond our understanding, but not beyond our knowing.

“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)

However, as we have been loved and forgiven – so do we need to love and forgive! It may not be quick or easy but God will help us get there.

Response:
Where sin seeks to separate me from the Father, His love draws me to Him.
Read John chapters 16-21 this week.

Prayer:

Help me Lord God to trust and accept Your love – from which nothing is able to separate me. And also help me not to withhold it from others. Amen.

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