Make your choice

“Jesus looked at him and loved him.
“One thing you lack,” he said.
“Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven.
Then come, follow me.”
(Mark 10:21)

Reflection:
“The God who sees me” sees everything about me – even the things of which I might not be conscious.

The man ran up to Jesus, fell on his knees before Him and asked Him what he must do to inherit eternal life. This tells us something of the urgency and importance of the question that burned within his heart – even although there is a sense that he was caught up in the emotions of the moment. When Jesus referred him to some of the commandments the man responded by saying that he had kept them since he was a boy. It must be noticed however that the commandments Jesus referred to were mainly negative and to which the general response was that ‘I have never done anyone any harm.’ From what followed we can see that Jesus was also questioning him with ‘Yes, but have you ever done anyone any good?’

Obviously touched by the man’s sincerity Jesus ‘looked at him and loved him.’ And, looking into his heart, perceived the one thing that stood between the man and a whole-hearted worship of God. So He told the man to sell his possession and give the proceeds to the poor – in other words to get rid of the idol in his life and make a difference in the lives of others. Then he invited the man to ‘come, follow Me.’

It was obvious that Jesus had put His finger right on the problem for ‘the man went away sad, because he had great wealth.’

On the one hand it is a tragic story. There were many who asked to follow Jesus and were told to stay where they were. Only a few were called to journey with Him – and this man received just such an invitation. In addition there is the lovely and unusual comment that ‘Jesus looked at him and loved him.’ It seems that he could have been very close to the Lord.

The Lord knows of the things in each of our lives that stand in the way of a whole-hearted relationship with Him. He will keep challenging us in these areas because He wants to see us set free to both receive and share the great love that He has for us. The last thing that He would want for any one of us is for us to only know some of His love ‘from a distance.’

Response:
Ask God to open your eyes to the truth of the barriers in your own life – and that He will give you the love and strength to walk away from them into a deeper relationship with Him.

Prayer:

Lord God, please open my eyes to the greatness and wonder of Your love – and to anything in my life that stands as competition. I choose to turn to You more fully – please help me to draw closer and closer. Amen.

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Fill Me

“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 4:14)

Reflection:
‘The God who sees me’ is also the God who sees all about me.

Jesus was waiting for the Samaritan woman at the well outside of the town. Being a town it would have had a well within its boundaries where the women would have gathered to fetch their water and to chat. Given the life that the Samaritan woman had led it is probable that she had been excluded from the society of the other woman, and so chose to visit this isolated well instead.

Without being told Jesus knew that here was a person with five failed marriages behind her and a current partner to whom she was not married. Here was a person empty of all that made life worth living. No female friends, no male friends who would care to be seen with her, no position of respect or acceptance, a history of rejection and exclusion and, therefore, no self-respect. She probably merely existed from day to day and with no light on her horizon other than death itself.

Jesus seeing all this not only astounds her, as a Jew, by talking to her but holds out to her the unbelievable offer of a new life filled with the living water of the Holy Spirit – God Himself. She had done nothing to warrant it and had nothing to offer Him except her dark and lonely emptiness. Yet not only did He change her life but “many of the Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony.” They would go on to tell her that “we know that this man really is the Saviour of the world.”

In just a few moments her life was transformed. There would still be issues that she had to work through and resolve but suddenly a new Light had entered into her. And she, together with the townsfolk, had something new and precious in which they shared and which could change their relationships.

Such is the wonder, the glory and the truth of the grace of God – His life-giving love and saving power in action, freely reaching out to embrace us.

Response:
Ask the Lord into the areas of darkness and emptiness in your own life – and trust Him to respond.

Prayer:

Lord God, please come into these areas of darkness, emptiness and pain in my life – and pour out upon them Your life-giving, life-restoring and life-healing waters of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Always Found

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them.
Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country
and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?”
(Luke 15:4)

Reflection:
‘The God who sees me’ is also the God who sees me when I am not where I should be.

In the case of the Lost Sheep He notices who it is that is missing and goes off to see where it is. And, having found it, He brings it back to its proper place with joy in His heart. This is wonderful news for us because, like sheep, we have a tendency to wander off on our own and can end up in strange places. There we may have no sense of how to return and even if such a return is possible.

There is another lovely illustration in Scripture. Jesus on coming to Bethany, after being called back as Lazarus was sick, arrives after his death and burial. He is met by Martha but, we are told, “Mary stayed at home.”  Jesus obviously noticed that the sister who had once sat at His feet was not present for when Martha returned to the house she told Mary that “The Teacher is here and is asking for you.” Whatever it was that had caused Mary to hang back was dealt with and “she got up quickly and went to Him.”

The moment that we are not where we should be in terms of our relationship with the Lord He is immediately aware of it. He sees us where we are – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually – and reaches out to us. This is what Love does!

We may feel lonely and isolated, wretched and despairing, condemned and abandoned – but He is with us. He has already found us and is reaching out to us – because that is what Love does!

And, if we feel that He is not speaking to us at the moment, it is far more likely that we are not listening to Him but are instead listening to ourselves.

Response:
Wherever you are feeling lost or hesitant before the Lord, ask Him to find you and to lead you onward.

Prayer:

Lord God, please come into the dark and lonely areas of my life with Your Light and Love – confirm Your presence to me and lead me forward. Amen.

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He sees me

“She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her:
“You are the God who sees me,”
(Genesis 16:13)

Reflection:
Hagar was Sarai’s Egyptian servant. When Sarah could not fall pregnant she told her husband Abram to “sleep with my maidservant, perhaps I can build a family through her.” Abram did so and Hagar became pregnant. She then began to despise Sarai who treated her so badly that “she fled from her.”

The ‘angel of the Lord’ found her and came to her as she sat near a spring in the desert. He asked her where she had come from and where she was going. When she replied that she had run away he told her to go back to Sarai and then shared with her something of what the Lord would do for her son whom she was to call Ishmael.

Hagar called the Lord “You are the God who sees me.”

It is a wonderfully encouraging episode for us all – and in particular for anyone who feels that like Hagar they are in a lonely and desert period in their life with no one who cares and understands them and their pain.  The truth is that God does care and that He has a plan and purpose for our lives – even when we feel that we are outside of His main plans and purpose.

Hagar could tell Him where she had come from but not where she was going. God then gave her the directions she needed and, to her credit, she heard and obeyed Him. God always has a plan, purpose and direction for our lives.

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

Wherever we are physically, emotionally and spiritually the Lord sees us. He sees us in our completeness, in our yesterdays, our todays and our tomorrows. He sees and knows the lonely outcast in us for whom He cares.  And, He has a word for us – a word of direction and of encouragement – even if it is, like with Hagar – to remain where we have been for the time being.

We will know that He is with us and that our lives and times are within His hands.

Response:
Give the Lord some moments during your day. Tell Him where you are and how you feel. Ask Him for His help, strength and direction. Then spend some moments in a quiet stillness trusting His presence.

Prayer:

Lord God You see me and everything about me. Help me please Lord for I need Your love, Your direction and Your healing in my life. Amen.

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Chosen and Loved

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people,
holy and dearly loved”
(Colossians 3:12-14)

 

Reflection:
The foundation of our new life in Christ is that we are “God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved.”

That truth must lie at the heart of our lives. We are chosen, we are set apart and, of paramount importance, we are dearly loved by the Lord God Almighty Himself.

In this love of God, and within our relationship with Him, is our healing, fulfilment and completion. It is because of this that we can bear with pain, suffering and rejection – and even the hurt caused by other Christians. God, in Christ, is our Life. From this centre we grow and move out in relationship to others and in witness to the world.

Because of our security in God’s great love we can then clothe ourselves with the fruit of His character and change our way of acting and re-acting to others. So the passage continues

“clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

These are not legal requirements but an appropriation and expression of the love and grace of God in which we now live. We will begin to discover that from the love that is deepening within us we will forgive and bless because we want to – not just because we have to. We will have discovered a new depth to love.

Response:
Look to the Lord, not to yourself

 Prayer:

Jesus, be the centre
Be my source, be my light
Jesus

Jesus, be the centre
Be my hope, be my song
Jesus

(Chorus)

Be the fire in my heart
Be the wind in these sails
Be the reason that I live
Jesus, Jesus

(Vineyard)

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Anchored in Christ

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.
It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain,
where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf.”
(Hebrews 6:19-20)

 

Reflection:
In the ancient world the anchor was the symbol of hope. Wisdom, great-heartedness and courage were seen as anchors that few storms could shake. However the writer to the Hebrews insists that the Christian possesses the strongest anchor as the greatest hope in the world.

Our hope is in Jesus Christ. In Him it is now anchored in the very presence of God Himself.

In the Temple the Holy of Holies was the most sacred place of all. It was here that God was believed to dwell. Separated from the remainder of the Temple by a heavy curtain only the High Priest was allowed to enter. This was once a year on the Day of Atonement. Now, the writer tells us, Jesus has entered into that Holy Presence on our behalf. In doing so He has opened the way to God for every man at any time. No barrier now separates us from the Almighty Father. It was torn apart as Jesus died on the Cross.

Jesus is our immovable anchor in the presence of God Himself. We are bound to Him by the unbreakable rope of faith. Jesus is also the anchor in our spirits. Here the love and acceptance of God is eternally secured within us through the Holy Spirit.

Although we are called to a new way of life and living we no longer have to strive for acceptance. As Christians we belong. We may enter into the presence of God, into His heart of love, into His arms of acceptance, whenever we wish. Which is why He can say to us,

“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength.”

(Isaiah 30:15)

Response:
Put your faith and trust in our great Lord. Imagine the unbreakable bond that secures you to Him, and Him to you.

Prayer:

O Yes Lord Jesus! I believe – help my unbelief. Thank You so much that nothing “in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39) Amen.

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Hope

 

“Those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.”
(Isaiah 40:31)

 

Reflection:
Depression, despair and dread can rob us of strength and the ability to think. They may cause us to withdraw into ourselves. Whilst the support and encouragement of others does comfort and help us they cannot deal with the issues themselves. These are our problems, concerns and weaknesses. They largely remain so unless something happens within us that enables us to confront and deal with them.

The prophet Isaiah is encouraging the people to remember their God, who and what He is and His great love for them. We need to do the same.

He is the all-powerful Creator of all that is, seen and unseen. He knows us intimately – every thought of our minds, every one of our feelings and exactly who we are and why we are as we are. He cares for us and has given all that He is to make it possible for us to know Him and enter into His love and life.

His words are not just superficial helps. They carry with them the power and truth of the One who spoke them – which is why the centurion could say to the Lord Jesus, ‘just say the word and my servant will be healed!” And it is His Spirit at work within us Who brings new life, light and love into the dark areas of our existence.

Our God is a living, loving and life-giving reality.

As we turn to Him, in whatever situation we find ourselves,
He will respond.

As we look to Him for help and guidance
He will respond.

As we hold out our hands to Him
He will respond.

And we will find our strength renewed
because,

“The LORD is my strength and my song;
he has become my salvation.”
(Psalm 118:14)

When our Lord promised to be with us always He did mean always. And whatever the situation is that might be confronting you at the moment He, and He alone, is your way, your truth and your life. He will guide you and see you through every moment of it. Look to Him and hold on to Him.

Response:
Practice being constantly aware of God. Talk to Him. Take ‘deep breaths of Him!’

Prayer:

Father You love me with an everlasting love. Please help me to rely on You in all the circumstances of my life – and to acknowledge Your presence. Amen.

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For You Lord

“Isn’t this the carpenter?”
(Mark 6:3)

 

Reflection:
There is something both simple and wonderful in the picture of the Son of God working with wood in the carpenter’s shop – to see Him holding something that He had made, or repaired, up to the light and saying to Himself with a quiet smile, “That’s good, very good.” It would be difficult to imagine Him turning out anything that was shoddy or designed to last only for a short period. This was the Man who had eternity as His focus, this is the maker of the world – and the One who washed feet.

Jesus gives a beauty and a dignity to all kinds of labour – a mother caring for her child, a gardener working with flowers and plants, an architect designing a building, the man who lays the bricks, a grandmother sweeping a station platform, a student puzzling over her textbooks, a window cleaner  and a father washing the dishes. Whatever there is to be done can be made into something special, and completed with the words ‘that’s good!” It becomes an offering to God.

Whatever we are called to do today can be done as an offering to God. And if we feel that it is useless or beneath us let us prove faithful in these things and trust our God of grace and love for the future. As He tells us through the Psalmist,

“Trust in the LORD and do good; ….
 Delight yourself in the LORD
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.
Be still before the LORD
and wait patiently for him;”

(Psalm 37:3-7)

Response:
I do it for God

Prayer:

Father, please help me to make everything I do an offering to You. Amen.

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(Background Picture – Holman Hunt- The shadow of death – Manchester Art Gallery)

He Cares

 

2016.08.22
“Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”
(1 Peter 5:7)

Reflection:
Christians are not just ordinary people – even if they once were. They are now extraordinary and need to see themselves in a new light.

We are not called to some spiritual mediocrity or to a sense that God is not that concerned about us or our condition. On the contrary the Bible makes it clear that God knows us intimately and that through Christ He wants to extend His authority over every part of our lives. That is not to make us unwilling puppets but willing and trusting expressions of His great love.

No part of our lives and being are omitted – nothing is outside of His concern. Indeed, because sin has affected and discoloured every area of life, and of our lives, His great desire is to remove that stain everywhere. He is not just a God of our Sundays but of our every moment. He is not only concerned about our Sunday liturgies but about every second and aspect of our daily lives. He is not a God of compartments but of everywhere and everything.

Our (re-) starting point is to remind ourselves of this. Then, using the picture of our lives as the houses in which we live, to keep inviting Him into each and every room, even the ones we keep most tightly closed because of the darkness, pain or fear within them. As we do we can ask Him – the Lord who died and rose again for us – to fill them with His Light, Life and Love, and to cleanse and heal them and make them a part of His eternal Kingdom.

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

Response:
Don’t stay as you are – ask God to heal, help and hold you.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus you stand and knock at all the doors in my life. Please come in and fill them with Your light, life and love. Amen.

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Heavenly Fragrance

“But thanks be to God,
who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ
and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance
of the knowledge of him.”
(2 Corinthians 2:14)

 

Reflection:
Many years ago, as a young teenager, I was out with the rest of the boys in my form on a class picnic. In those days the only odour that meant anything to me was the delicious smell of a Sunday roast drifting out from the kitchen.  However coming down the side of the mountain I encountered a fragrance that stopped me in my tracks. Try as I might I could not find it again but its exquisite beauty was something that I have never forgotten.

Years later when I was reflecting on my journey of faith the Lord brought that incident to mind. He revealed to me that the fragrance was of Him as He passed by me – His intention being that He could later show me that even then He knew me and was calling me to Him.

Whenever I read the verse above I am reminded of that incredibly special moment. It seems to me that as Christians following in the triumphal footsteps of our great Lord we should bring to those around us a sense of that same beauty. There should be something so special attached to us in our being and our journey of life that it causes them to pause and try to identify what it is.

As disciples of our Lord, children of the heavenly Father and temples of the Holy Spirit there is every opportunity for the beauty of the Lord to colour our lives and to shine through them. It is not that we are special – but that the One who is with us and within us is.

Allow yourself to feed on the beauty of the love and grace of our Lord. Be conscious of Him as you live through your days – and seek to do everything as an offering to Him. Wherever possible leave behind you that gracious sense of peace and blessing which comes from our God who is with you.

Response:
Cover your life and your day with prayer – pray a blessing on each person and situation that you encounter, and on everything that you do.

Prayer:

Father how greatly You have blessed me – help me to be a blessing to others as well. Amen.

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