Faithful Ones

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“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
(Matthew 5:10)

 

Reflection:
At first this seems out of place amongst the other characteristics that Jesus envisions in the Christian:

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
  • Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
  • Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
  • Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
  • Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
  • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

The first seven are those qualities that grow from within. This new one is something that is imposed from without. It is worth noticing in this regard that the first and the eighth beatitude both contain the same promise – ‘for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ It was as if Jesus were keen to impress upon His disciples that membership of the kingdom was of prime importance – a truth He would more clearly state towards the end of the Sermon,

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

The Christians, if they are to be persecuted at all, should suffer it not because of their own sins or shortcomings but ‘because of righteousness’ – the righteousness for which they hunger and thirst. That means that they will live to a different standard and with different values to the rest of the world. Like Christ who is their model and example the light of their lives and living will show up the darkness and difference in the world around them – and may cause a reaction.

The Christian filled with the Spirit of God cannot be luke-warm about his or her faith and relationship with Christ. Such will be the impact of that revelation and relationship that their lives will be transformed. They will increasingly see their own natural spiritual poverty, they will mourn over their sins and shortcomings – and the sin and suffering that they see around them – they will have no place in their lives for pride, arrogance or self-satisfaction and so will not look down upon others, they will long passionately for God’s love, life, healing and right rule to be released into the world, and they will increasingly have mercy on those who sin and suffer, and themselves seek to be undivided in their relationship with, and attitude and response to, God.

Although it may seem daunting to the Christian persecution is not something that they deliberately seek. If and when it happens they have the great promise of Jesus to be with them and the empowering and inspiring presence of the Holy Spirit within. Such may their awareness of them both grow at the time that, like the apostles before them, they come to rejoice that they have been counted worthy to suffer ‘on My account.’

“The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” (Acts 5:41)

Response:
May God be glorified in me and through me. Do not fear – you will always receive what you need from God.

Prayer:

Dear Lord, please help me to be Your disciple and the reflection of Your great Light. Amen.

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Faith Prayer

2017-02-27

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

 

Reflection:
Years ago when I was praying one morning the Lord suddenly interrupted me with the words,

“Do not come to me as a beggar, come as a son!”

Apart from startling me His words gave me a lot to think about. A beggar pleads – hoping to persuade. A son asks – confident in a positive response. A beggar does not know what he may or may not request. A son does because He knows his Father.

God has given us a number of promises. One of these is,

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go”

When we are in need of direction we can ask the Lord for guidance because of His promise. As His children we can keep on praying until we receive the answer – but not as one begging and trying to stir the Lord into action. After our initial request our prayer can change from asking to believing, for now it is not a question of ‘If’ but ‘When’. Something like this,

Father, you have promised to instruct and teach me in the way that I should go (or act or respond in these circumstances). Help me to recognise and receive Your guidance as it comes.

It keeps the prayer alive – which is good for a number of reasons. It is also a statement of faith to the Lord and a reminder to ourselves. Then we watch and wait for the answer – through Scripture, in a word, through a new understanding, a word of advice etc.

Another promise of God’s is that,

“in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”
(Romans 8:28)

Here again we need to ask God to do so in some of the situations that worry us. Then we should look to change our request to a positive affirmation. For example,

Lord You have promised to work for our good in all things. As You work a blessing through this situation open my/our eyes to see Your hand at work.

Finally, try praying the other side of the Lord’s Prayer as well, such as,

  • Lord I believe that somehow Your will is being done in me and in my times – please help me to be a part of it.
  • Lord Jesus I believe that behind all this Your Kingdom is being established in a glorious way – help me to be a part of it
  • Lord God Almighty I believe that Your name will be universally honoured above all other names – help me to be one who does so now.

Prayer:

Lord help me to look for You in all the areas that cause me to fret and, holding them and myself before You, trust that You are with me. Amen.

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Make peace

2017-02-24

“Blessed are the peacemakers,
 for they will be called sons of God.”
(Matthew 5:9)

Reflection:
Peace is central to the message of the Gospels and to the revelation of God. God is seen as a God of peace and the giver of peace. Jesus is referred to as the Prince of Peace, the one who would ‘proclaim peace to the nations’ and who promised His peace to His disciples. And as Paul taught

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”
(Romans 5:1)

 With Jesus therefore as the great Peace-maker in reconciling us to God it is no wonder that peace-making should be an important part of the new Christian character. Scripture makes it clear to us.

  • “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness” (Galatians 5:22)
  • “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.”  (Colossians 3:15)
  •  “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”  (Romans 12:18)

 In the letter to Timothy Paul links peace, amongst others, with a pure heart – one which is single or undivided – that is, totally focussed on and committed to God and not at war within itself with competing desires and loyalties.

 The peace-making to which Jesus refers would have three aspects. The first would be to do nothing to disturb our new relationship with God, but rather to honour and seek its development through our love and obedience. The second would be to live in harmony with ourselves – trusting God for His love, wisdom and salvation and, as best we can, allowing Him to develop us as people pure in heart, undivided in our loyalty to Him. The third would be in relation to those around us – both Christian and others.

 It is important to recall Jesus directives to us – to love God, to love our neighbour, to love one another and to love our enemies. These commands relate not only to our actions but our thoughts as well. We have to be careful how we think of others, speak of others and act towards others – or fail to act. Nothing can disturb our own peace quite as easily as someone else’s comments or deeds – and we may find that not only have we descended back to the level of the world but we have done so with great passion and enthusiasm! The way up again can be very humbling and painful. Peace-making starts within our hearts and minds and these have to be right themselves.

 The progression of the Beatitudes themselves is so informative. The poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful and now – in its deliberate place – the peacemakers. Having learned to see ourselves in a completely new way we can now look at others and seek not their destruction but their peace – with God, with themselves and with each other.

 Whilst peace will not always be possible in all circumstances, and within and between all people, we are nevertheless to see it as a priority. There will be many times where we can make a positive contribution and be led by the Spirit into creative ways and methods of preserving and promoting peace. The starting point may often stem from the peace and love that others may perceive in us.

Response:
If this is what God wants then this is what I must let Him make of me.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace, bless me please with Your peace and help me to become more of a peace-sharer and peacemaker – for Your sake. Amen.

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My Guide

2017-02-23

“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes,
he will guide you into all truth ..
 and he will tell you what is yet to come”
(John 16:13)

Reflection:
There is only one person who knows and understands everything about the past, all that will take place in the future, all that is happening in the present and everything about us. He also is ensuring that His plan and purpose continues to unfold despite the best efforts of others to frustrate it.

We need Him to bring His light of revelation into our own lives and situations. He will reveal to us our own great needs and the ways in which these are best addressed – to enable us to have the relationships and live the lives that are most fruitful and blessed. He will point us to and draw us into an ever-deepening relationship with Jesus Christ Himself and, through Him, to the glorious and loving Father.

It is He who will discern the gifts and ministries that He needs us to have and equip and empower us for these. He will also provide the opportunities for us to exercise them with Him. These are ‘the good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do.’ And He is the One who will reveal to us the hints of what is to come where it would be helpful to Him and to us to have this information.  This revelation will have more to do with the establishment of the Kingdom of God and the needs of people than the ups and downs of the Stock Market!

We may look around us in bewilderment and concern at many of the things that are taking place in our societies and across the world. Many of the works of ‘the world the flesh and the devil’ are disturbingly evident and uncomfortable. They need to be recognised for what they are and held before the Lord for His intervention.

In the face of such things the revelation that we continually need to embrace is that,

“the One who is in you is greater
than the one who is in the world.”
(1 John 4:4)

This Holy Spirit of whom Jesus was talking has already come, and He is with us and in us today. He is both our guarantee of our redeemed relationship with God and our eternal salvation, as well as our strength and inspiration for the present and the future. If He indeed is closer to us ‘than breathing, and nearer than hands and feet’ (Tennyson) then that closeness should be embraced and enjoyed.

Response:
Be still, listen for His word in Scripture and in quietness – and talk to Him.

Prayer:

Holy Spirit I turn to You, to acknowledge You within me and to enjoy Your presence. Bless me Lord and open me to Your love, Your truth and Your will, in Jesus name. Amen.

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There is a Plan

2017-02-22

“But they soon forgot what he had done
and did not wait for his plan to unfold”
(Psalm 106:13)

Reflection:
Again and again the Israelites were criticised for grumbling and complaining when their lives became uncomfortable. Forgetting the great acts of the Lord in setting them free from the brutal bondage of Egypt and miraculously providing for them they drove Moses to distraction. He acted rashly and in consequence was banned from leading them into the Promised Land.

We may find it easy to be critical of them as we read these accounts. Yet so often we can fall into the same trap. Forgetting the great salvation of God in Jesus Christ, overlooking His promises and His history of faithfulness, compassion and love we find it easy to despair and complain when our own lives become uncomfortable.

God did not promise us comfort. However He did promise to be with us. And the peace that He offers us, the peace that passes understanding, is a spiritual peace that is a comfort to our minds and hearts even in the midst of personal and social pressures. It is the peace of God and not the peace of the fallen world. It comes from a trust in God and not a hope in the world.

God has an overall purpose and plan. He will work it out and accomplish it in His power and in His time.

  • “And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment–to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” (Ephesians 1:9-11)

He also has a plan and a purpose for each person and group.

  • “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10)

We do not have faith in what is but in the God who is. He knows where He is going and will take us with Him.  Our calling is to put our hope and trust in Him and to get on with what He has given us to do in our contexts. It is often a challenge but then faith is a challenge for it is needed when it is needed.

Response:

  • “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Prayer:

Father God help me to trust You for today and tomorrow and to seek to do Your will in my spot of earth. Amen.

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Pure in heart

2017-02-21

“Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.”
(Matthew 5:8)

Reflection:
The heart, in Scripture, was seen as the centre of the personality. It was the centre of everyone’s being and the source of every activity – whether mental, physical or emotional. Man’s troubles were seen to stem from this centre.

“The heart [is] deceitful above all [things], and desperately wicked: who can know it?  (Jeremiah 17:9.KJV)

Jesus criticised the Pharisees accusing them of being ceremonially clean externally but with unclean hearts, full of extortion and wickedness. He compared then to ‘white-washed tombs’- good looking on the outside but filled with death within. Luther, commenting on this beatitude, said that in fact it did not matter if men such as labourers and blacksmiths were clothed in dirt as those who pondered God’s word and obeyed it would be ‘pure in heart’ in His eyes.

However, in its context within the Sermon on the Mount, and with reference to the rest of Scripture, it seems that Jesus would have had more in mind. Without excluding the inward and moral aspects of it He would be referring also to the whole question of their relationship with God. Professor Tasker has explained it as ‘the single-minded, who are free from the tyranny of a divided self.’ This would relate also to Jesus later comment that a person cannot serve two masters,

“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Matthew 6:24)

The single-hearted person is seen as being ‘utterly sincere’ in his whole relationship with and commitment to God. His heart will be totally focussed on and devoted to God. So David would pray,

  • “Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.” (Psalm 86:11-12)
  • “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)

It also explains the first Great Commandment which calls us to love God ‘with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ Another way of putting it would be to say with every fibre of your being.

Clearly this is beyond both our honest will and our own ability. However, by the grace of God, we have divine help in the form of the Holy Spirit. As we look increasingly towards God for help and open ourselves to Him, the Spirit is enabled to work.

  • “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)
  • “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:13)

Here at the central point of the Beatitudes we find this vital and telling truth. It reminds us that we cannot afford to be casual about our relationship with God, nor can we afford to be casual about our attitude to sin in our lives. In His love He has dealt with our sin. By His grace we have His Holy Spirit to transform us from within. New life with God is ours for the living – how can we hold back!

Response:
Turn everyday to God and ask for help.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, I want to give you an undivided heart and to live in and from Your love. Please help me every day to draw closer to You in all ways. Amen.

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Lord have mercy

2017-02-20

“But the tax collector stood at a distance.
He would not even look up to heaven,
but beat his breast and said,
`God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
(Luke 18:13)

Reflection:
There is nothing to be proud of in sin. Nor may it be treated lightly. Scripture is quite clear that sin is a grievous and separating offence against God. It is only through the love that is fixed in the holiness of God that sin can be forgiven.

Apart from Jesus Christ there has been, and there is, no one who does not sin each and every day of their lives. The tax collector was perfectly correct when He felt himself to be unworthy of approaching God. He stood at a distance and, beating himself upon the breast – over the heart – said, “God have mercy on me, a sinner.” He showed both an understanding of sin and a heart-felt response to its consequences.

By the grace of God He allows us to see and to feel the pain of sin, and to know its separating consequences as it comes between us and Him as well as between us and our true selves. This allows us to look at Him with awe and wonder as He reminds us that, as Christians, that terrible separation has been done away with by the Lord Jesus in His death and resurrection.

“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1)

The psalmist teaches us that our confession of sin is not merely a clinical acknowledgement of having slipped up but something far more significant. It should in fact at times bring us to tears, or close to tears, as we see our own failures in the light of God as well as the horror resulting from the sin around us.

 “a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17)

A broken and contrite heart is the true response to sin. This should bring us to the Lord in heartfelt sorrow and in tearful wonder that He, our great and most holy God, has provided a way for us to be forgiven and redeemed – because He loves us so much .

Response:
Don’t put up with sin in your life. Ask God every day to reveal it and help you to confess and turn away from it.

Prayer:

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

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Which Wolf Wins

2017-02-17

“The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.”
(Luke 6:45)

 

Reflection:
A man was trying to explain good and evil to his grandson. He told him that they were like two wolves fighting inside a person. When the boy asked him which wolf won he responded, “The one you feed!”

We feed ourselves daily on a large variety of news, views and impressions. Much of what we take in relates to alarming and sensational happenings and the achievements, disasters and lifestyles of public figures. Our values can be diluted and our opinions re-formed by the world in which we live, the views we hear and the shows that we watch. Many people become cynical, depressed and afraid and they express it knowingly and unknowingly.

As Christians we must ensure that we are feeding ourselves on the truths of God. His revelations of Himself, His teachings and the accounts of His dealings with His people are vital to our growth and faith. It is not enough to listen to the odd sermon. We should be grounded in and familiar with at least the gospels, the letters of the New Testament and the Psalms as well. God’s word is still a living word and speaks into our situations. We need His teaching and insights to counter the diet served up by the world. They are not just words on a page but God speaking into our hearts, minds and spirits and into our situations.

Feed on the Scriptures. Pray and think them through. Make a Treasure Chest for yourself of God’s guidelines, promises and truths. They form the foundations of our faith, built upon the rock of Christ Himself and sustained and enlivened by the Holy Spirit.

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35)

Response:
Start now to deepen your relationship with our Lord – it is eternal.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus please help me to become more of a person steeped in Your Word. May it feed my heart and mind and direct my thoughts, words and deeds. Amen.

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Spiritual Gifts

2017-02-16

“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.”
(1 Corinthians 12:7-11)

Reflection:
Paul’s teaching, now, is very specific.

  • The appearance of the Holy Spirit is to be real for each Christian.
  • The Spirit gives a variety of gifts – some of which are mentioned here.
  • The Spirit gives one or more of these gifts to each Christian.

No believer is excluded. The Holy Spirit, with a specific gift, comes to each one. And each includes you, just as it includes me. Whatever else we may have to offer God, the ministry in which He wishes us to be involved will be based upon the gift that the Holy Spirit gives to us. This is God knowing what has to be done, choosing His team, and equipping them with what they will need. And the gift that the Spirit gives to us is the one that He will empower and bless. It may, or may not, be an extension of a talent that we have.

If we are going to be effective in our place in the ‘Body of Christ’ – where all should be working in harmony with each other and towards the same end – then we need to identify and become experienced in the use of our particular gift/s. We will, in all probability, find it in the area for which we have, or are developing, a God-given ability or passion as opposed to a self-centred desire. It is important to ask God to help you to identify it, and also to seek the prayer and discernment of mature Christians whom you trust. Its focus will be to bring glory to God and achieve His purposes.

You, and I, are so privileged to have been chosen, and called, into the salvation of Jesus Christ and into the ministry of the Holy Spirit, as the daughters and sons of the Eternal and Almighty God.

Response:
Determine to live out your new life and ministry to God’s glory, under the direction and empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

Prayer:

Lord God, please help me to identify my spiritual gifts and to use them in love for Your glory and the blessing of others. Amen.

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Come and worship!

2017-02-15

“Where morning dawns and evening fades
you call forth songs of joy”
(Psalm 65:8)

Reflection:
I have loved and still love God’s great gifts of morning and evening, sunrise and sunset, dawn and dusk. And I understand fully the translation which proclaims,

“The gates of the morning and evening
sing Your praise.”

I have been fortunate enough to know times when I could sleep next to the ocean with curtains wide. And, as the sun began to show its golden rim above the distant horizon, I have sprung from my bed and gone out to greet the dawn.  There with the surging and whispering sea I have welcomed the morning with wonder and praise. Every part of me has thrilled to the sense of God as He has ushered in another opportunity to know and enjoy His love and life.

At other times I have stood knee-deep in the swirling surf and watched in awe as the sun went down in a sky-wide blaze of glorious colour. And as I gazed in speechless and almost tearful wonder the Artist produced another range of colours from His palette. With gentle hand and loving touch He painted the silent clouds again and again with ever-softening hues – turning often to watch my face and smile.

Eugene Peterson translates it like this.

Dawn and dusk take turns
calling ‘come and worship’

It is a message for all to see and hear – if only we will. For a glorious moment it lifts our eyes and our spirits from the obsessions, the pain and the burdens of the moment. It offers us an injection of cleansing beauty, of enlightening truth and of blessed hope. It’s a space in which to pause and say’, ‘Of course; Thank You,’ and to be still. For silence also is praise to You, our great God of love.

Response:
Make time to look and wonder at the God of creation.

Prayer:

Lord help me to hear the voice of Your creation as it reaches out to me in love and blessing. Amen.

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