Held Fast

2016.04.29

“Fight the good fight of the faith.
Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called ”
(1 Timothy 6:12)

Reflection:
We face challenges on two fronts. One is the public front of proclaiming and living out our faith, living new and committed lives within the sight of those around us, some of whom may be either cynical or actively opposed. The great temptation is to keep our faith secret and hidden and so avoid any confrontations or embarrassments.

The private challenge is dealing with the fears, attitudes and temptations that seem to flood our lives, sometimes taking us by surprise. We can begin to doubt our faith, integrity and sincerity and, if we are not careful, descend into a pit of hopelessness as we lose faith in ourselves!

On both these fronts, and indeed in every aspect of our lives, we need to realise that we are under attack. The enemy of God is opposed to both Him and His people and will do what He can to trip or sidetrack us. As he did with Eve he will seek to remove our eyes from God and re-focus them on ourselves. Another prime example is when Peter was walking on the water towards Jesus. He was fine whilst his focus was on Jesus. He began to sink when he looked instead at the mountainous waves and allowed the fear inside him to well up.

Peter and Paul knew the reality of spiritual warfare and tell us,

  • “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)
  • “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Romans 7:15)

Do not lose heart because of your sins and shortcomings. Keep your eyes on the Lord, keep your faith in Him, continually bring your fears and failures to Him and trust Him to cleanse, strengthen and protect you at all times. Accept His forgiveness and help! Having died for you He has not now lost interest in you or become an impartial spectator. He is still totally committed to your salvation and new life and will help you onwards into it. ‘Take hold of the eternal life’ that is Jesus and never let go of Him. His love and grace are far larger and more powerful than any deficiencies and weaknesses of yours. And when you feel that your grip is weakening remember,

“Let me no more my comfort draw
From my frail hold on Thee;
In this alone rejoice with awe –
Thy mighty grasp on me!”

 

Response:
Trust God at all times – even when you fail or fall.

Prayer:

Father, please help me never to lose faith in You and in Your great love. And when I fail help me not to become a bundle of misery but to get up and carry on with You, Amen.

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Remember me

2016.04.28

“According to Your love remember me”
(Psalm 25:7)

Reflection:
When we are down – feeling lost, lonely, sick, a failure, inadequate, whatever it may be – it is so easy to transfer our feeling of remoteness on to God. It is also easy to imagine that he looks at us in the same way that we look at ourselves – with disgust, despair, frustration, anger or shame. But this is, unintentionally, to make Him in our image when He is not like us at all.

David picks this up. He asks God to remember and love him the way God is and not the way David is. There is a huge difference. God’s is a love that is higher, wider, deeper, and greater than any love that we could imagine. It is a love that has given everything for us, even God Himself.

The closest we might get to this is to see or experience it in the love of a parent for a child – which might continue in the face of rejection and failure. The parent loves because of the love in the parent, not because of the love in the child, or displayed in the child’s actions. God loves us because of the love in God. In fact the best single word that John could find to describe God was that ‘God is Love.’

God does not love us because we are worthy. He loves us because He is God, and because of the love that is within Him –a glorious, abundant, overflowing, creative, life-giving, forgiving, cleansing, never-ending, sacrificial and holy Love.

 So David prays

 “Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways;
  According to Your love remember me.”

This is replicated in the prayer of the thief dying next to Jesus on a cross. In asking Jesus to “Remember me” he is praying that the Lord will do so out of His sacrificial love and not for the sins that had brought the other to judgement and to death.

When we need to we too can ask God to remember us, to consider and deal with us, out of His love and not in terms of our lack of love or faithfulness.

“According to Your love remember me”

 We know that He will.

Response:
Dare to believe and accept it!

Prayer:

Father, please help me to accept the way that You see me from Your love, and not to think it is the gloomy way that I sometimes see myself. Amen

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God of Hope

2016.04.27

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him,
so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”
(Romans 15:13)

 

Reflection:
Jesus in His great teaching in the Sermon on the Mount explains that the Kingdom of God is more important than such worldly desires as food and clothing. So He exhorts us to,

  “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33)

Paul repeats this and takes it further in defining the Kingdom – describing objective states, namely ‘justification through Christ, peace with God and rejoicing in hope of God’s glory, of which the Holy Spirit Himself is the pledge and foretaste.’

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17)

Now he explains that it is through faith (as you trust in Him) that this joy and peace grow within us – and his desire is that we should be filled with both, to the point of overflowing.

Our God is a God of hope. He is our hope for today, tomorrow and throughout eternity. Everything that we need, desire and would perceive as blessing, beyond the greatest reaches of our imaginations, finds its root and fruit in Him. He gives us hope because He is who He is – a God of Love.  He gives us Life through the death and resurrection of His Son. He gives us peace and joy through the Holy Spirit within us. All of these are of God and come from God and grow and develop within us as we learn to live and trust in Him at all times and in all circumstances.

We have this certainty, in spite of the dark clouds that might appear and surround us from time to time. Because of this ‘certain hope’ we may know a joy and a peace that come from the knowledge that He is all-powerful and will work out His perfect will for us and for all His children.

If our focus is on the comforts and desires of this life then our joy and peace may disappear in an instant.  If our focus is on God and on His Love and His Way then we may know a joy and peace starting now and developing into forever. Our hope then is not on health, wealth and the government – but on the Lord of Love, Life and Light, on His invincible strength and unfailing love.

Response:

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Saviour”( Habakkuk 3:17-18)

Prayer:

Lord God, may Your majesty, power and love be so real to me that I can and will keep my focus and faith on You at all times. Amen.

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Bow Down

2016.04.26

“I will bow down towards Your holy temple
in awe of You”
(Psalm 5:7)

Reflection:
For all our intimacy with God Scripture frequently reminds us that we should not treat Him lightly or casually. David picks this up when he speaks of bowing down in awe of the Lord.

God is a living Person. He is the Lord God Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth and all that is. He is described as being so holy and glorious that no one can see His face and live. His power and authority are absolute and, as He put it very simply,

“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
(Romans 9:15)

David also says,

“If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness;
therefore you are feared.”
(Psalm 130:3-4)

Isaiah’s reaction to his vision of the Lord was not one of joy but of horror. For having seen something of God’s glory he also perceived more of his own fallenness and sinfulness.

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined!
For I am a man of unclean lips,
and I live among a people of unclean lips,
and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”
(Isaiah 6:5)

And then the Bible tells us how there will be other such times.

  • “Men will flee to caves in the rocks and to holes in the ground from dread of the LORD and the splendour of his majesty, when he rises to shake the earth.” (Isaiah 2:19)
  • Then “`they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!”‘  (Luke 23:30)
  • “They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!” (Revelation 6:16)

Our God of love is at the same time a God of terrifying holiness, absolute majesty, blazing glory and supreme power.

Response:

“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”(Revelation 4:11)

Prayer:

“Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendour, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.” (1 Chronicles 29:11)

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Always Welcome

2016.04.25

“But as for me,
through the greatness of Your mercy,
I will come into Your house”
(Psalm 5:7)

Reflection:
I live in an area of high walls and security fences. And the greater and grander the home and property the more security there is. It is almost impossible for unknown and unexpected visitors to gain access. This has naturally made it very difficult for the beggars who mostly make contact with a disembodied voice that cannot be influenced or manipulated.

When it comes to the Lord’s house – the place of His presence – we have no bells to ring, no appeals to present and no servants to impress. As His children the door is always open to us, we are always recognised, expected and welcome. This is where we now belong and our home will never disappear, become too full or be closed and aloof.

This was not always the case. It took a mighty intention, an eternal plan and a mind-numbing act for God to righteously deal with the rebellion that had caused the gates of his presence to slam shut. And it came to be because of one great and glorious truth – God’s unlimited and unshakeable love.

It is indeed through the greatness of God’s mercy that we may enter into His house. It is a privilege without comparison, a treasure that cannot be valued and a blessing that can never be earned. It brings with it not just the right of access but the permanency of residence and the eternal inheritance of all that is His – shared with and by His Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Whatever pain or pleasure this world may bring to us will at some time disappear. That which comes to us through our relationship with the Lord we may begin to enjoy now – and will live and explore throughout His eternity.

Response:

Think on these things

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, I cannot yet begin to appreciate all that You have done for me and have in store for me – although one day I will. Thank You for the great love that has brought me into Your presence and please help me to grasp and appreciate more of it every day. Amen.

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Journey of Life

2016.04.22

“This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven,
will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
(Acts 1:11)

 

Reflection:
If Scripture teaches us one thing it is this – God can be trusted. Again and again He told His people of what He would do, and He did it. Many did not live to see the complete fulfilment of His promise through them but they put their faith in Him – and it was not disappointed.

Life as we know it now will pass away. So we should not expect it to give us everything that we would like. Indeed it cannot meet our deepest and greatest longings because we yearn for something far greater and more satisfying.

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God”   (Psalm 42:1)

God has prepared a future and a place for us and it is there that we will find the true completeness, peace and fulfilment that we desire. Indeed it will be far greater and deeper, more beautiful and lovely, and more varied and extensive than we could ever grasp or imagine from where we are today.

“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)

For as long as we are on this part of the journey there will still be hardships and challenges, sickness and suffering, failure and frustration – for the world in which we live is a fallen world. Our calling here is to trust in the Lord – who has promised to be with us always and who will bless and strengthen us along the way – and to live faithfully to Him. He will also use these opportunities to reveal more of Himself to us and to help us to know and live in the peace that He along can bring. However it is in the age to come that

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  (Revelation 21:4)

Response:
And so our marching song as we journey onward is this

Christ has died,
Christ has risen,
Christ will come again.

Prayer:

O loving Christ.
rescue us from foolish passion
and still the storms of our self-will;
and, as You are our anchor in this life,
so bring us to the haven
You have prepared for us;
for Your mercy’s sake.
Amen.

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Rely on God’s Love

2016.04.21

“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love.”
(1 John 4:16)

Reflection:
John says of God’s children that we both “know and rely on the love God has for us.” This means that it has become more than just news. It is now real and personal, recognised and believed, received and trusted. God’s intention that we know it for ourselves is beautifully underlined in Paul’s great and glorious prayer:

“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 3:16-19)

(This passage alone needs constant prayer, reflection and appropriation!)

It may seem to us that love that can be switched on and off by others to indicate approval and displeasure. This is very manipulative and many children and adults live extremely insecure lives as a result. God’s love is not like this, because He is not like that. It is vital that, as the children of God, we know that we can always rely on God’s love for us. That means that when we flounder, fail or sin He does not stalk off in a frozen huff. Instead He holds out His hand to us – to raise us up, receive our admission, convey His forgiveness and lead us forward again.

How do we get to know and rely upon this love? We cannot manufacture it for it comes only from God Himself.

  • “God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (Romans 5:5)
  • “But the fruit of the Spirit is love…” (Galatians 5:22)

We will only know the love of God if the presence of God is within us. Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would come and be in us. Paul prays that “Christ may dwell in your hearts.” They are both referring to an intimate and complete relationship with God – not one in which we remain in control of our lives and treat God as a consultant or a ‘medic on call’. The less of our lives we give to God the less of His life and love we will enjoy. The more that God is allowed full access within us, and to our lives, the more He will be allowed and enabled to pour His love into us in all its fullness.

At this very moment Jesus will be knocking (Rev 3:20) on the rooms in your life into which He has not had full access before. Kneel before Him, invite Him into every single part and aspect of your life, ask Him to be your Saviour and Lord in the fullest sense, and to lead you in His Way, His Truth and His Life. Then personalise Paul’s prayer above to yourself and pray it regularly. God bless you.

Response:
Do it now!

Prayer:

Father help me always to remember that You are love and that You love me totally and unconditionally. Please come into every part of my life, pouring Your love into my heart, and helping me to believe, receive and live in it. Amen.

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Prayer Priorities

2016.04.20

“They all joined together constantly in prayer”
(Acts 1:14)

Reflection:
Luke records that the early church occupied much of the time before Pentecost in both praise and prayer – in the Temple and in their homes.

  • “they stayed continually at the temple, praising God” (Luke 24:53)
  • “They all joined together constantly in prayer” (Acts 1:14)

Jesus Himself spent much time in prayer seeking the honour and will of God the Father. The clearest example of this is His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane where He strove to confirm God’s will and to bring Himself into submission to it. He also made it clear to His followers that He only did the things God told Him to do and spoke the words given to Him by God. These would have been the fruit of hours of prayer and communion with God. It is no surprise then to find this same focus and priority revealed in the prayer that Jesus taught His disciples and which has come down to us. It sets the foundation for us before we get into endless lists of needs and wants that can so easily become the centre of our own prayers.

  • Hallowed be Your Name
  • Your kingdom come
  • Your will be done

The priority is clear. And it captures so simply and with such clarity all that is most needed in our lives and in our worlds today.

Response:
To honour the Lord with the obedience that comes from faith.

Prayer:

Father Almighty please help me to honour Your Name in my heart and mind and with my lips and actions. Help me to long for Your kingdom to come fully in my life, and increasingly be prepared to seek and submit myself to Your will in every way. Amen.

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Allow Forgiveness

2016.04.19

“In him we have redemption through his blood,
the forgiveness of sins,
in accordance with the riches of God’s grace”
 (Ephesians 1:7)

Reflection:
You are not too sinful to be forgiven.

John the Baptist’s father prophesied that John would go before the Lord to give His people the ‘knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of all their sins.’ John called Jesus, ‘The Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.’ Jesus died so that we might be forgiven – and the beloved disciple John wrote that ‘He appeared so that He might take away our sins.’ Therefore,

“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)

Note that John says He will, not that He might! And when Peter asked Him how often he was to forgive a brother who sinned against him Jesus reply indicated that there was no limit. That is the standard that He applies Himself for limits have to do with laws and legalism not with love and grace.

If we have sinned we need to recognise it and confess it to the Lord simply and without excuse. Then we need to open ourselves to accept and be cleansed by His love and forgiveness. Quite often it is at this point that we battle the most. We feel that we do not deserve such love, cleansing and forgiveness and so we wallow in our shame and guilt. Certainly we must not take sin lightly – and the agony of it can remind us of just how deeply it affects us. However, more powerful, more effective and more deeply rooted than sin is the love and forgiveness of the Lord. It is there to set us free, to liberate us to stand up and walk on again – not as shameful sinners but as the blessed redeemed.

It is the focus on self that causes us to sin. We must ensure that the focus on self does not keep us way from receiving God’s forgiveness and cleansing. Now more than ever we need to look away from ourselves to Him – and to walk forward in humble praise of His wonderful love and grace.

Response:
Run to the Lord for cleansing – don’t hide in the forest with your fig leaves!

Prayer:

Lord I have sinned and fallen short of Your glory – but You have died and risen again to restore to me the joy of Life. Amen.

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Be Encouraged

2016.04.18

“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father,
who loved us and by his grace gave us
eternal encouragement and good hope,
encourage your hearts and strengthen you
in every good deed and word.”

(2 Thessalonians 2:16-17)

Reflection:
Paul never thought that God was a disinterested spectator in the affairs of the world, of His Church and of His people individually. His learning and his experience taught him otherwise. His encounter with the living Jesus, his experience of the Holy Spirit and the way God opened his eyes to the Scriptures convinced him of God’s presence, purpose and commitment. He lived his life accordingly.

Christian life and ministry can, at times, be very lonely and insecure. We may wonder where God is and if what we are about has any significance or value in the greater scale of things. We need to remember that Jesus gave His life, and His ongoing commitment, to the people who would believe in Him and continue His work and ministry. Every aspect of it, whether thought, word or deed is of importance and, if of God, contributes towards the building and extension of His Kingdom. Each one of us does indeed have a Circle of Influence, far wider in today’s world than we would at first imagine. God encourages us to use that influence to bless others and bring glory to Him.

If God desires something to happen, whether on an international or personal front, then He will support and empower it. If God wishes you or me to lead a particular type of life – a holy life – then He will support, empower and encourage it. Because He wants us to reflect Him in our world He will inspire and strengthen us. He will also stand with us when the enemy attacks us and attempts to scare us into inactivity or lead us astray. He will be both our strength and our refuge.

Jesus great promise is to be with us always. He undertook also that the Holy Spirit would be within us and be the one to  bring God’s love into our hearts. We are not alone – God is at work within and around us even when we are blind to His presence.

Response:

Remind yourself of Jesus’ presence. Involve Him in everything.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus do help me to remember that  You are with me always. Please help me to acknowledge You and  to think, speak and act in ways that honour You – and strengthen and encourage me every step of the Way. Amen

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