The Time Came

“But when the time had fully come,
God sent his Son”
(Galatians 4:4)

Reflection:
It was some 2000 years after God called Abraham and promised to bless all the families of the world through him.  Now, Paul tells us, this was the right time. We do not know the full answer but there are certain factors that made this time suitable from a human perspective.

Firstly, there was a general peace in the Roman empire. The legions were everywhere keeping law and order and protecting travellers both on land and at sea.

Secondly, the common language of the empire was Greek – and the Old Testament in Greek, the Septuagint, was available.

Thirdly, there was an increasing spiritual hunger. The Roman gods had lost their appeal and the so-called mystery religions had a more personal appeal.

Fourthly, there were those who were attracted to the idea of the Jewish God and the high ethical standards that were a part of their faith.

Finally, Caesar had called for a census, and Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem where Jesus was born – just as had been prophesied.

Within this context Paul also was able to minister effectively and during a short period of ten years saw the church established in the four Roman provinces of Galatia, Macedonia, Achaia and Asia.

Certainly God had chosen a good time – and may well have been influential in bringing it about! And how blessed we are that some 2000 years later we can look back on it and enjoy the fullness of its meaning. We are about to celebrate Christmas – not the Christmas of the tubby man in a red suit and a white beard, with too much to eat and drink and expensive present that don’t last. Our celebration is of the appearance amongst us of a Saviour – a baby who grew to be a man, who died upon a cross and brought us the gift of eternal life in the light and love of Almighty God,  our Father in Heaven. This was not Father Christmas but the reality of the Son of God Himself.

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Response:
“I tell you, now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2)

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, enter more fully into my life to rule and reign there in the fullness of your light, life and love. Amen.

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Fruit of Peace

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace ..”
(Galatians 5:22)

 

Reflection:
In worldly terms peace is generally understood as an absence of something – such as hostilities or need. In God’s eyes peace is something that He gives independently of a worldly context.

First and foremost peace describes our new relationship with God. Sin and death have been overthrown and we have been welcomed home as the daughters and sons of God. There is a wonderful love, joy and peace now in our relationship with God. And because this peace flows from Him it cannot be contaminated by the world. Whatever the world throws at us we can trust God to bring us through, and so rest in His peace even in the midst of the storms of life.

Jesus said to His disciples,

  • “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  (John 14:27)

Paul went on to write,

  • “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 4:7)

Nothing is greater than God’s love for us, nothing is greater than the power of God, and God is in absolute control of every single moment and every single aspect of our lives.

  • “And we know 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)
  • “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)

As a child in pain finds comfort, rest and reassurance in the arms of its mother so too we find our peace in the ‘arms of the Lord’ for that is where we belong.

  • “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3)
  • “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Response:
God is with me – and always will be

Prayer:

Father please forgive me for my lack of peace when my word wobbles. Help me to trust You at all times and to know that You will see me through the storms of life. Please bless me with the peace that comes from Your great love for me and Your absolute power and authority. Amen.

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Fruit of Joy

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy,”
(Galatians 5:22)

Reflection:
Joy follows immediately after Love. And it has to because it is a natural spiritual consequence. For once the reality of God’s great, unconditional and never-ending love drops in a blaze of light from our minds into our spirits, and begins to develop there, nothing can halt joy from budding, flowering and bearing fruit. And this is the way God planned it for Jesus told us that,

  • “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:11)

Without love joy is a fleeting sensation that lifts our spirits from time to time but never stays. When we know that we are loved joy is greater and stays longer. When that love is the love of God – a love that is unearned, unconditional and unending – joy is intended to become a permanent part of us.

This joy is not dependent upon worldly success and wealth, upon activity or even enjoyment. It comes with a realisation and acceptance that we have been saved from the separation and degradation of our sin. Not only that but we have been saved into the eternal salvation and fulfilment held out to us through the unconditional and life-giving love of the glorious and mighty Father. A true appreciation of the wonderful love of God for us, individually, leads us into the almost unbelievable joy of our forgiveness, acceptance and new identity in God – our identity as the sons and daughters of the eternal Father.

And the wonderful quality of this joy is that no matter what happens in our world the love of God, and the joy of that love and because of that love, can undergird and strengthen us – for this great and glorious God is ever-present, ever-loving and ever attentive to us.

True joy comes from true love – the knowledge of a true and deep love, and the wonder of loving in return. God’s love brings God’s joy to us. Ours brings joy to Him.

  • “The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”  (Zephaniah 3:17)

Response:
Keep dwelling on God’s love for you – allow it to bless you without making demands of Him

Prayer:

Father, may Your great love reach into the very depths of me, drawing my love to You, and leading me into the joy of our love. Amen.

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Fruit of Love

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love .. “
(Galatians 5:22-23)

 

Reflection:
The fruit of the Spirit is made up of different segments but is one fruit, rather like an orange. Unlike the gifts which are separate, and where different gifts may be given to different people, each believer is intended to have the complete fruit of the Spirit become a reality in his or her life.

Just as the defining aspect of God’s character is that “God is love”, so we would expect that it would also become the one thing that stands out most in our new and God-given identity. This is highlighted by the fact that the two Great Commandments, and the new commandments given by Jesus to His disciples, have love as their foundation.

We cannot create love within ourselves, certainly not of the depth, height, width and breadth of God’s love. So, God has given us the gift of the Holy Spirit to transform our lives. One of His primary ministries is to develop within us, and to show through us, the great love of God.

“because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (Romans 5:5)

Note that it is not just love that is poured into our hearts, but “His Love” – God’s love. We receive God’s love for ourselves as well as the love of God for others. And, just as a tree or vine bears fruit that is seen by and is received by others, so our fruit is expected to be perceived by and become a blessing to others. This was the model of Jesus and is to be ours as well. He made that clear when He told us to be the light of the world.

“In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:16)

The first step is to believe in God’s love.  The second is to receive God’s love.  The third is to conceive God’s love for others.  The final step is to deliver His love around us. All of this is the work of the Holy Spirit as we allow Him to move and work within us. And it should become the most remarkable quality of any group or gathering of Christians.

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)

Response:
The love is there – ask God to develop and increase it – and practice living it.

Prayer:

Father, please fill me with Your love and let me become more of a person of love. Amen.

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Spirit Life

“So I say live by the Spirit
 and you will not gratify
the desires of the sinful nature”
(Galatians 5:16)

Reflection:
A new journey begins when as believers we acknowledge the presence of the Holy Spirit within us. He will start to lead us away from sin – firstly by drawing our attention to it and them by beginning to convict us of its presence in our lives. By the grace of God He does not overwhelm us immediately with the sum total of it all, but rather begins to peel away the layers one by one. We may well experience some form of internal warfare that will surprise us – for we remain human surrounded by all the fleshly desires, temptations and weakness of the world. He will work to set us free and to empower us to overcome and avoid them – but we will need to co-operate and to walk with Him. This in itself will be a challenge at times for we may find to our distress that our wills are weak and we are inclined to stray.  It will mean that we need to continually return to Him to allow Him to pick us up, heal and cleanse us, and lead us onwards.

He offers us His gifts, power and guidance and expects us to follow Him – remember He is God and knows the way and the ways that are best for us in our situations. One of His gifts is to produce in us the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. He does so because they are the characteristics of the Father – in whose image we are being re-formed – and because we need them as we live and minister in a world which does not reveal them naturally.

It is a life-long journey of co-operation. He does not overwhelm and force Himself on us. Neither can we produce the fruit by ourselves. As we allow Him to work in us and respond to His guidance He will produce the fruit that we bear. We show our faith in Him by beginning to pray for and live these qualities in our everyday lives, believing that He is indeed forming them within us.

Response:
I believe that I am increasingly becoming a person of love …

Prayer:

Holy Spirit I ask and invite You to continue your healing and life-giving work within me, and pray that You will help me to recognise and respond to Your direction. Amen

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Love of God 22

“The fruit of the Spirit is love,
joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”
(Galatians 5:22-23)

Reflection:
God is a God of Love.

This being the case we would expect that the main characteristic of Jesus Christ would be love. We become united to Him in our new birth as Christians and so, using His illustration of being the Vine and we the branches, we would understand that it would also be love that flowed into us from Him.

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another”  (John 13:35)

This is confirmed in the gift of the Holy Spirit where the first segment of the fruit that He produces in us is also that important one of love. It is also the gift of God that He pours into our hearts.

“God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us”  (Romans 5:5)

The first step is to believe in God’s love.  The second is to receive God’s love.  The third is to conceive God’s love for others.  The final step is to deliver His love around us. All of this is the work of the Holy Spirit as we allow Him to move and work within us.

Response:

“We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19)

Prayer:

“I pray that out of His glorious riches (God) may strengthen (me) with power through His Spirit in (my) inner being, so that Christ may dwell in (my) heart through faith. And I pray that .., being rooted and established in love, (I) 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 (I) may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:16-19)

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God of Love 21

 

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live,
but Christ lives in me.
The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God,
who loved me and gave himself for me”
(Galatians 2:20)

Reflection:
God is a God of Love.

And this verse is the most beautiful and clear description of what it is to be a Christian.

  • I have been crucified with Christ – the old me, in bondage under the burden of the law, has gone
  • Christ lives in me – He has entered into and taken possession of His precious property
  • Now I live by faith in the Son of God – He who loved me and gave Himself for me

All this is a continuation of Paul’s opening statements where he says that

“The Lord Jesus Christ gave Himself for our sins
to rescue us from the present evil age,
according to the will of our God and Father”

(Galatians 1:4)

It was always God’s will that we be rescued. It was always God’s will and decision that He would rescue us Himself.  And it was God’s all-surpassing love that made it possible and turned it into a reality in Jesus Christ.

There was no merit in us that drove Him to it. There is no merit in us that keeps our place secure. It is all bound up in the love of God revealed and expressed in Jesus Christ. We are called to put our trust in Him and to keep it there.

“Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
(John 6:28-29)

Response:
I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me

Prayer:

Lord I do believe! Help my unbelief.  (Mark 9:24)

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