Room for Him?

 

“There was no room for them in the inn”
( Luke 2:7)

Reflection:
In an age when there were no telephones, emails or ordinary mail services Joseph and Mary took their chances with accommodation. And, when they reached their destination of Bethlehem, they found that all the available places had already been taken. There was nothing suitable to be had for a heavily pregnant mother bearing the Son of God and Saviour of the world.

Right from the beginning both Mary and Joseph learned that a close association with the Lord might have many blessings and privileges – but comfort was not necessarily one of them. They had suffered both social and emotional pain and now were met with not only physical discomfort but what might have felt like rejection and a lack of understanding from God.

Jesus confirmed this during His ministry when He told a would-be follower,

“Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests,
but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
(Matthew 8:20)

John the Baptist’s role was ‘to prepare the way for the Lord’ amongst the people to whom He would come. Jesus role was to seek out and save the lost. It was only as He prepared to return to the Father that He spoke of preparing a place for us. Until we reach that place we are on a journey with the Lord – it will not be all ease and comfort.

However there is a key point we need constantly to have at the forefront of our minds. Is there room in my mind, my heart and my spirit, and in my everyday life and living, for the Lord Jesus  – or is He pushed out by the affairs of the world?

Response:
We prepare a place for the Lord whilst He prepares a place for us with the Father.

Prayer:

Lord God, please help me to keep my eyes and attention on You and not just on my own affairs, comforts and pleasures. Amen.

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Road to Bethlehem

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree
 that a census should be taken
of the entire Roman world”
(Luke 2:1)

Reflection:
Caesar Augustus reigned over the Roman empire from 30 BC to AD 14. He decided that a census should be taken throughout his empire. This was not a regular occurrence but the first of its kind – and taxation was probably the reason behind it. The consequence was that people travelled to their own town to register, and this involved Joseph going to Bethlehem, ‘because he was of the house and line of David.’

Joseph did not need to take Mary with him but he obviously decided or agreed to do so. We know that she was in the advanced stages of her pregnancy and he may not have wanted to leave her behind in view of the Lord’s commission to him.

These two men were both involved in Mary’s being in Bethlehem when Jesus was born there – just as the prophet had foretold.

  • But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:2)

Caesar, who would not have known of the prophecy or of Mary and Joseph, issued a decree that had to be obeyed. Joseph, as a husband, took the decision that Mary should accompany him. In this way the prophecy was fulfilled and God’s will achieved.

In just such seemingly unrelated and small details is the hand of God at times to be revealed. He is indeed able to direct the thoughts and decisions of people in order to achieve His will, and He is able to work in all things to the good of those who love Him and who have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28)

Question:
Can I discern the Lord’s working in my life?

Response:
Trust God to guide and lead you in the way that you should go (Psalm 32:8)

Prayer:

Lord please have Your hand on my life so that whether I am aware of it or not I will live and act as You wish, Amen.

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Two Women

“At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.”
(Luke 1:39-41)

Reflection:
God had begun this new part of His salvation plan with two mighty acts – both of which involved women in a special way.

Elizabeth, who had mourned the fact that she could not have a child, and had suffered the social indignity as a result, was delighted to be pregnant – even in her old age. And her son would be the great and promised forerunner of the Lord – one of whom Jesus would say,

“This is the one about whom it is written: “`I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John;”
(Luke 7:27-28)

Elizabeth also had the privilege of meeting the Saviour’s mother, and knowing it at the time. It must have been a very special time that they enjoyed together, after Elizabeth had greeted her,

“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”

Mary was obviously conscious of the great honour that had been bestowed upon her, even although she could not at the time have realised what would be involved, or the pain that she would have to bear when Jesus was into His ministry. The Holy Spirit was clearly inspiring her when she exclaimed,

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me– holy is his name”
(Luke 1:46-49)

Our lives can seem very ordinary to us at times, and we may feel that we are stuck in a physical or social backwater, where some of the blessings that others appear to enjoy have passed us by. We never know when God may come to us, or use us to fulfil a special purpose of His. Our names may, or may not, go down in history as did those of Elizabeth and Mary – but even the smallest stone in a Temple is of great importance, both  to the whole and to the other stones around it. Each is hand-picked by God! – and with a specific purpose in mind.

Response:
Allow God to choose how to use you, and thank Him that He does.

Prayer:

Father, thank You that You do know the hearts and longings of Your people, and that You do, indeed, have a special purpose and plan for each one of us. May Your will be done in me also. Amen.

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The Dream

“An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
(Matthew 1:20-21)

 

Reflection:
In all that God was doing He did not for a moment forget a man called Joseph, whose life also was to be changed forever. When he found out that Mary was pregnant Joseph could have publicly broken off the proposed marriage and exposed Mary not only to shame and ridicule but to the harsh provisions of the law. Because he did not want to do this he considered divorcing her quietly.

It was probably too much to expect that Joseph would unquestioningly accept Mary’s account of what had happened. It had never occurred before in the history of the world and would undoubtedly never happen again. He must have been bitterly disappointed and hurt at what he saw to be a terrible betrayal of their relationship and a rejection of their planned future.

God did not hold this against him but instead sent an angel to him in a dream. So vivid was the experience and so real the message that Joseph, on waking, seems not to have hesitated but to have believed and obeyed God immediately. We can read these words very easily – but perhaps need to ask ourselves what sort of a dream would cause us to both change our minds and our planned course of action so dramatically. The question would arise again when we ask what sort of a dream would cause us to wake the next morning and immediately set about taking our family to live in Egypt – as Joseph was to do later.

God was working powerfully and specifically, and was ensuring that His word was received, understood and obeyed. He had also chosen His man very carefully. Joseph and Abraham are just two examples of people who heard and obeyed the word of God. The fruit of their obedience would turn out to be far greater and more important than they could have imagined at the time. Each one of us is also called to the same commitment and obedience. We may not all receive such startling and consequential messages but there is more than enough of God’s direction in the Gospels and Epistles for us to be getting on with in our daily lives.

He does call each of us to a particular ministry and work and equips us with specific gifts suitable for this ministry. We too will find our fulfilment and joy in doing what God calls us to do, and not in asking Him to help us in what we might want to do! The ministry starts right where we are, with our accepting and trusting God’s call and word.

Question:
How open are we to God’s call on our lives?

Response:
What will be my legacy?

Prayer:

Father it is difficult to say at times but – Your will be done on earth (in my life) as it is in heaven, Amen.

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Mary

“In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth,
a town in Galilee,
to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph,
a descendant of David.
The virgin’s name was Mary”

(Luke 1:26-27)

Reflection:
After four hundred years of silence God spoke twice within the space of a few months. The first was to Zechariah and the second to Mary. In both cases the message was delivered not by a prophet but by the angel Gabriel – underlining its huge importance and implication. They both concerned the birth of a child – firstly John the Baptist and then Jesus.

The message to Mary contained three important elements.  Firstly ‘you are to give Him the name Jesus’ – which indicated that His mission would be to save.

Secondly, ‘He will be great’ – for He would also be called ‘the Son of the Most High.’ – This was an acknowledged messianic title and Mary would have understood it that way.

Thirdly, ‘He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; His kingdom will never end.’ –  Here was a fulfillment of prophecy.

Gabriel painted for Mary a picture of a child who would be Saviour, Son of God and King – three stunning titles. Mary was both ‘greatly troubled’ and obviously mystified by the message that Gabriel delivered – and would have been overawed when He explained further,

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God … For nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:35-37)

Both from the message and the manner of His conception Mary would have known that this would be no normal child.

We can only imagine what it must have been like for her to come through such an experience, to face up to telling Joseph – her husband to be – and see his initial hurting reaction , and to inform her family as well. And then, when she had the time to let it sink in and  to reflect on it all, to come to terms with the growing realisation and understanding that for all eternity she would be the Mother of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The challenge to us to not just to believe in this marvellous happening some two thousand years ago. It is also to realise that as Jesus was born through Mary into her world by the Holy Spirit, so He should be born through us into our own worlds by that same Holy Spirit. Our ministry is to allow Him to make Himself real through us.

Question:
Can I give the same answer that Mary gave?

Response:
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38)

Prayer:

Lord You have chosen to come and live within me. Please help me to believe and know that reality – and to allow You to shine through me into the world in which I live. Amen.

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Going Home

“In my Father’s house are many rooms;
if it were not so, I would have told you.
I am going there to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you,
 I will come back and take you to be with me
that you also may be where I am”
 (John 14:2-3)

Reflection:
The Lord Jesus is not only ministering His blessing into our lives and needs today. He is also preparing for our eternal future with Him.

  • “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2)
  • “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)

There will come a time when the Lord will put an end to time and history as we know and experience it now. He will come again in His eternal power and glory to finally establish His rule and authority, do away with all evil, and usher in the new age which He has planned.

  • “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 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 21:1-4)

We live in the in-between times – after the Lord’s first coming and before His promised second coming.

  • “After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? 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 1:9-11)

We do not know when this will happen. It could take place during our life-time or in the years to come. However of one thing we can be sure – it will take place. Until it does we are called to live for the Lord in faith and trust, honouring Him in all we think and say and do. We are on a journey with a Divine presence and a Divine destination. And it is all centred on Christ, the wonder of whose human birth we are about to celebrate.

Response:

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18)

Prayer:

Bless me Lord with faith in You and the future that You have planned for me and for all believers. Amen.

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One Truth Only

 

“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.
 No one comes to the Father except through me”
(John 14:6)

Reflection:
“What is truth?” Pilate asked Jesus. We might well hear that question being asked today.

One recent headline stated that ‘We are not living in a ‘post-truth’ world, we are living lies.’ Another tells us that a prominent politician is known for the lies that he tells. A further article states that a purpose of some international activity is not to promote an alternative truth but to so confuse us that we are not able to identify truth at all. Add to this the different beliefs and philosophies that are current and many will end up thinking that the only truth is that there is no truth.

Jesus didn’t answer Pilate’s question with words but with a definitive action. He walked into a suffering and death that He could have avoided. In so doing He underlined with His blood the revelation that He had given to His disciples – making it stand out in a way that could not be missed.

“I am the way and the truth and the life”

In a world on the verge of darkness He proclaimed Himself as the way forward. In a time when power was the ultimate authority He revealed Himself as the truth that would live through death and into eternity. In an age when life was cheap He stood out as the one and only life-giver and life-sustainer. And when they closed the door on His life in this world He opened the door into life in the next.

Truth is not a statement but a Person. We find the truth about ourselves and the truth about the way forward and the truth concerning the questions of life in Him – and Him alone. Anything else is a passing shadow.

Where others tell us what to believe – He asks us to ‘believe in Me’. Where others direct us along human paths He calls us to ‘follow Me.’ And where others tells us to grin and bear it – He invites us to ‘come to Me.”  These truths are not for this life only for in the same breath He tells us that

“No one comes to the Father except through me”

Jesus Christ is our Way through this life and our Way to the Father. He is the Truth about this life and of the life to come. And He is Life itself – the wonderful gift of eternal life that begins in this life and carries on into the endless future in the creative and glorious love of God.

As we reflect on His truth and truths under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and build them into our individual and corporate lives, we will begin to see His hand at work – for these are the ways that God will bless.

“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.
Then you will know the truth,
and the truth will set you free.”
(John 8:31-32)

Response:
What is truth? – “I AM!”

Prayer:

Lord Jesus please take my hand – and in every situation of my life lead me along Your Way through Your Truth and into Your Life without end. Amen.

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I Believe

“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)

Reflection:
Consider these three key statements.

  • “whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”  (John 3:16)
  • “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God”  (John 1:12)
  • “Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”  (John 6:29)

It is important to note that we are not told to believe about Jesus but to go much further – to believe in Him. We can believe about something without it impacting our lives. To believe in something – or in this case someone – is to have it as a central core and foundation of our lives. James made this clear when he wrote that even the demons believed about God.

“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that–and shudder” (James 2:19)

When we celebrate the birth of Christ at this time of the year it is not because it is fun – nor is it because it is a great historical event – nor even because it gives us pleasure, like the warmth of the sun after a cold night. We celebrate the birth of the Saviour of the World, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, the One who is to die in our place and who rises again to give us new and eternal life. Our lives are to be so closely bound up in and interwoven with Him that His life becomes our life and ours an expression of His.

We are not asked to admire Him as some rare creation preserved and seen through the protective barrier of a glass cage – nor are we to get excited about Him as if he were a great entertainer performing for our delight and amazement on a distant stage. Instead we are expected to come to Him, to engage with Him, to open our live to Him and to invite and allow Him into every part of us – giving to Him the authority to do whatever He wishes and trusting Him that it will all be for the best.

In other words we are asked to place our full trust and faith in Him – believing in Him to such an extent that we can surrender our past to Him, live our present with Him, and entrust our future to Him, no matter what may be happening in our world at the time and in the world around us.

Response:
Faith is a decision and not a feeling. And so the great Creed begins with  “I believe in God …”

Prayer:

Lord Jesus I do believe in You – help me to believe in You at all times and in all situations no matter how I may feel at the time. Amen.

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Resurrection

“I am the resurrection and the life.
He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;
and whoever lives and believes in me will never die”
(John 11:25-26)

Reflection:
This is one of the key statements made by our Lord Jesus. Our hope of any resurrection and of eternal life with God is in Jesus Christ and comes from Him. It rests in no one and in nothing else. No quality of life can earn it – and once received no one is able to remove it.

He revealed His authority over death in His resurrection of Lazarus and others. Their gift of life was, at that stage, only temporary for Jesus had not yet completed His mission. His great and life-giving expression of His power for the resurrection to eternal life came in His own resurrection from the dead. Here the power of death was defeated as He rose never to die again.

“I lay down my life–only to take it up again.” (John 10:17)

Those who are united with Him by faith in His death and resurrection have nothing to fear from the death that lies in front of everyone. It is merely a door through which we pass with Him into the new life that He has promised us. So Paul could say,

“I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” (Philippians 1:23)

The love and power of God – the eternal Father, the glorious Son and the life-giving Spirit – is such that nothing and no one can stand in the way of its expression. God is so Almighty that it is both unthinkable and impossible for His commitment and promises to fail. His will has been expressed and it will be done. He has committed Himself to it and to us. And He has founded it upon the great sacrifice and resurrection of His Son. Paul expresses it this way.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

We need to remember too that His promise of life is not only for some future date but for our present lives as well. So many people are living within their own darkness and exist where there appears to be no light or life. Jesus speaks into these situations as well. As He did when He walked amongst us He is able to bring a resurrection life into these areas too. His ‘Come to Me’ means bring your life to Me now so that I may bring Mine to you.

Response:
Ask God to bring His life into yours wherever and however you are – and keep asking and believing

Prayer:

Lord God, You are my strength and my song, and You have become my salvation. Please come with Your light and life into the dark and lost areas of my life so that I too may find new life in You. Amen.

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One Offering

“But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed”
(Isaiah 53:5)

Reflection:
From the beginning, and throughout the history of Israel, God has made it clear that our salvation cannot be achieved through our own work and efforts but only through the sacrifice of another.

As Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden and from God’s presence an animal was sacrificed so that God could clothe them for their future life. God’s covenant with Abraham was sealed with a sacrifice. God’s call for Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac pointed towards the time when, on the same mountain, God would sacrifice His own Son. The Exodus from Egypt began with the sacrifice of lambs, whose blood painted on the door-frames of their dwellings ensured that the angel would pass over the Hebrews when he moved through Egypt bringing death to the firstborn sons.

The life of the Israelites in their journeys to the Promised Land and in their time there was marked with regular sacrificial offerings as prescribed by God. And finally there was the time when Jesus – identified by the Baptist as the true Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world –sacrificed Himself on our behalf. He did this to achieve for us what otherwise would have been completely impossible – cleansing us from our sins and guilt and presenting us faultless before God.

The animals affirmed the need for sacrifice.  Once the real sacrifice – that of Jesus – had taken place – no further sacrifice was required. His was and is ‘the one full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world.’

God clothed Adam and Eve in the skins of the slain animal for their life in this world. Jacob was clothed in the skins of animals to appear to be Esau so that he could receive Isaac’s blessing of the first-born. Now through faith we are clothed in the reality of Jesus Christ so that we may in all honesty and truth enter into the presence of God and receive His love and blessings as co-heirs with Jesus Christ Himself.

  • “Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (Romans 13:14)
  • “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:16-17)

As we move to celebrate Christmas we celebrate the birth of the Saviour of the World without Whom there would be no salvation, not future and no hope. With Him there is Light and Love and Life.

Response:
Our salvation is a precious gift – treasure every moment of it with our Lord

Prayer:

Thank You Father for giving us Your Son – thank You Lord Jesus for giving us Your life, now and forever, Amen.

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