Let it go

2016.01.29

“No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back
is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
(Luke 9:62)

Reflection:
There are some things that might tempt us to look back once we become Christians.

One is the things that we have left behind us. These might be associations, activities and types of behaviour that we enjoyed or allowed at the time. As pleasurable as they might have seemed, if they are not acceptable as part of our Christian lives, they should be avoided at all costs. To dwell upon them is to make us vulnerable.

Something else that might cause us to look back is the guilt associated with some of our past actions and activities. If we have sincerely confessed the sin involved to the Lord, asked Him for His forgiveness and prayed for His help in avoiding such things in the future, then we have to trust Him that He has in fact forgiven us and cleansed us from that sin and the stain upon our lives.

In both cases we need to consciously realise that these are things that belong to the old life that we have left behind us, and that we have no right to drag them along with us into the new. They tend to take our focus off the Lord, which is where it should be, and to act as a hindrance in our lives. In a spiritual sense we are indeed a new creation and should instead be exploring the ‘beauty of holiness’ – this new life and way of living which belongs only to our Lord.

Response:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus – and keep them there, even if you fall.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, please help me to leave the yesterdays of my life behind me and to walk with You through all my todays and into the tomorrow which is quite secure and safe in Your hands. Amen.

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Beauty of Holiness

2016.01.15

“One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple.”
(Psalm 27:4)

Reflection:
Our vision of God defines our lives.

To call God Holy is to say that He is absolutely unique in every way. He cannot be compared to us and we are incapable of understanding or appreciating the full truth of His person and being.

• When we say that He is Light it is a blazing and blinding Light far beyond our ability to perceive and receive. It would blind us.
• When we say that He is Love it is an effort to describe something the height, width, depth and breadth of which is far too great for us to begin to comprehend. It would cause us to explode like a balloon because we are totally unable to absorb or contain it. It has to contain us.
• When we say that He is Pure we attempt to describe a quality more like an all-consuming fire in the presence of which no sin or darkness can exist.
• When we say that He is Almighty we acknowledge that we have almost no idea of His Mind or of the greatness of His Power.

 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

(Isaiah 55:8-9)

Because God is Holy He stands above us in Supreme Majesty, Power, Authority, Righteousness and Love.

This one and only God is also totally committed to us and is at the same time most breath-takingly beautiful.

Response:

“Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name;
worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.”
(Psalm 29:2 KJV)

Prayer:

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.

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Beyond and Within

2016.01.14

“And surely I am with you always,
to the very end of the age.”
(Matthew 28:20)

Reflection:
Our vision of God defines our lives.

On the one hand God is believed to tower above us and all of creation as the Supreme Lord. Whilst He also fills every part of creation with His presence He nevertheless exists beyond it and separate to it. In His sovereignty and holiness He is exalted far above and beyond us in every possible way.

However, on the other hand He is very close. He stoops down to us from His holy and spiritual heights to reveal Himself and make Himself known to us. This desire and revelation on His part finds its greatest expression in the birth, life and ministry of His Son Jesus Christ. He became like us so that He could reveal the truth of God to us – and He would say that “Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father.”

This desire of God to be close to us becomes very personal. The old and new Testaments of the Bible are filled with accounts of the personal dealings that God had with people. The ministry of Jesus Christ Himself was one of continual ministry to individuals. And then, after the Ascension of Christ, His followers received the reality of the promised Holy Spirit who would be not only with them but within them.

As Christians we know that God is Eternal and Almighty – the Supreme Lord and King over everything and everyone. He is also with us always and He is always within us.

Response:
I am never alone – God is with me always

Prayer:

Father God, You are very close to me. Please help me to live in constant awareness of You and Your great love, and to entrust myself to You at all times, Amen.

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True Vision

2015.07.01

“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)

Reflection:
As an older translation of the Bible had it – ‘where there is no vision the people perish.’ At all levels of life we are encouraged to set and work towards goals. The problem with this is that most of the time our vision and goals appear to have more to do with this life than the one to come. And we are surrounded by people whose vision ends with their deaths – and it can be catching.

As much as we are called to work and minister in this life we must never forget that everything about it will one day cease to exist. Everything around us is temporary – it is what we cannot see – the things of the Spirit – that are eternal. Scholars may have something of this understanding when they realise that their time of studies at school and university is not life itself but a preparation for life. Those who get it right aim at being able to leave their institutions and to enter another world.

This life is a preparation for the one to come. It will come, it will be eternal, and it will be glorious and fulfilling beyond our wildest imaginations. That is good news for everyone – those who live in material comfort and very especially the untold millions who at this moment are living in abject poverty, fear and terrible suffering.

This life deserves our best efforts for God and for others – but it is the one to come which should always be in the forefront of our minds. That is our goal, our great desire and our beautiful destination – our Promised Land.

Response:
You know where you are going – don’t stop

Prayer:

Father, thank You so much that we have a glorious destination waiting and prepared for us. Help us to live faithfully today in the great hope and expectation of this eternal tomorrow. Amen.

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Step Out

2015.04.13

“When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon,
“Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

(Luke 5:4)

Reflections:
Jesus had been teaching the people from Simon’s boat. When He had finished He told Simon to move it into deeper water for a catch of fish. The reason was quite simple – you don’t net large schools of big fish in shallow water.

So many people exist in the shallows of life. Often it is because they feel more in control of their situations there, and unthreatened by challenge and change. However, although their lives may be stable and safe they may also be unstimulating and bland. They may not need God, and sometimes even not want Him, to do anything. Jesus lived a different type of life and called His disciples to follow Him into it. He promised to grow them in new ways – “I will make you..” (Matt 4:19) – He gave them the life-changing empowerment of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2) – and special gifts (1 Cor 12). Clearly they were not going to spend their time in the shallows of life – in fact they would all ‘walk on water’ many times. With them He has a grand purpose and great plans for us all,

“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)

The key is the call of Jesus. He always meets us where we are and then calls us to follow Him into a new way of living, and a better one. We are not all called to be great public figures, but we are all called, in Jesus name, to be involved in blessing someone’s world and to bring change and healing into some situations. The more we follow Him the more we will notice Him at work – and the deeper we allow Him to take us the greater the acts of God that we will see. Jesus is establishing His Kingdom.

There is no greater satisfaction, when you look back over your life, than knowing that you have been allowed to invest it in something that has an eternal significance – and to see something of how the Lord has been at work in, through, around (and in spite of !) you. What a privilege, what a blessing and what an experience. Praise God indeed!

Response:
Where is Jesus calling you to go deeper with Him? Ask Him.

Prayer:

Thank You Lord Jesus for calling me into Your life and purpose. Please help me to follow You and not to linger in the passing shallows of the world. Amen.

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Vision

nature5

“Where there is no vision, the people perish”

(Proverbs 29:18)

Reflection:
When the Israelites reached the borders of the Promised Land for the first time they were intimidated by the reports brought back by the spies. They grumbled and complained, accused the Lord of bringing them from Egypt so that they could be slaughtered here, and suggested they choose another leader who would take them back to Egypt. God was incensed that they should have so easily forgotten His mighty works in bringing them thus far and that they did not trust Him to keep His promise to them. He sentenced them to another 40 years of desert life until almost all the adult men whom had come out of Egypt had died.

The nation had no real vision of God. They did not believe that God could or would handle the problem of the supposedly mighty enemy in front of them. What He had done in the past did not relate to their present. It raises for us the question of our own vision of God both as individuals and as the Church. It is particularly relevant in terms of current world events.

He is the Lord God Almighty, Creator of the heavens and the earth, of all that is seen and unseen. He is the One before Whom every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. He the God of limitless love, lavish grace and endless commitment. He is the One who suffered, died and rose again for my and your and our salvation. He is the Lord Who has promised to be with us always.

Scripture records God’s revelation of Himself to humankind. It contains also His teachings, directions and promises. His creation also speaks to us.

“But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being.” (Romans 1:19-20 ; MSG)

Response:
Develop your personal relationship with God through Scripture and Prayer. Take time to listen in both.

Prayer:

Lord God I long for and seek a closer and more trusting relationship with You. Please guide and help me and reveal Yourself to me more and more. Amen.

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Be Holy

eater lilies4

“Be holy, because I am holy.”

(1 Peter 1:16)

Reflection:

Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and through our faith in Him, we have passed ‘out of darkness into His wonderful light.’ (1 Peter 2:9)

 Both Peter and Paul stress the new life into which we have entered, and urge us to become fully a part of it. It is not the old life dressed in fancy outer garments but a new life from within the very depths of our being. So Peter says to us,

“Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;” (1 Peter 1:13-15)

 There is very definitely a change of mindset involved – a recognition that the person who looks back at us from the mirror is different. New truths need to be recognised and accepted, adopted and lived. New habits need to be formed and old ones discarded. New activities should replace old ones that are no longer suitable and new attitudes embraced and established. All this is not a new legalism by which we earn our salvation but a new way of living because of our salvation. For most people it will not happen overnight but will be a process of development along the new journey that they have commenced with their Lord Jesus. And, as He is holy, we are called to be like Him – different from the world and its ways, people of the new Kingdom, His Kingdom, living up to our new identity in Him. This happens not through our own power but through the inspiration and empowerment of God the Holy Spirit within us.

 Our focus is changing from ourselves to the Lord Jesus, from our wants to His, from our desires to His, from our satisfaction to His, from what pleases us to what pleases Him, from our way of living to His, from the god of ourselves to the one and only, true and eternal God. And, because this is essentially a relationship with the God of love and not a submission to an uncaring dictator, we will find the truth revealed ages ago by the psalmist,

“Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)

 Our holiness is one of love, light and life – in all its truth and beauty – because our God is a God of love, light and life. We are called to be like Him, back to the image of the One in and by whom we were originally created – and of whom we are now a part in Christ.

“Be holy, because I am holy.”

Response:

Let this be your vision and your joy – to be prayed through and lived for the Lord.

Prayer:

Holy Spirit, please help me to live as a son/daughter of God, step by step, day by day – to His glory. Amen.

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Living Hope

Clouds1

“Set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

(1 Peter 1:13)

Reflection:

From childhood we know what it is like to look ahead to something with anticipation and delight. The days can seem to drag until the birthday, holiday or other special occasion arrives – or the studies or other periods of training are over. Although it does us no good to dream away the intervening days, months or years still our focus and goal is on something beyond them.

 So it is with our lives as Christians. These days in which we live are important to us and for us but they are not the sum total of our lives. We are intent on, and journeying towards, another destination and life. That is one in which for the very first time in our existence we will be fully and truly our God-given selves, complete in every way, in a full and intimate relationship with our glorious Father and God, and in a life in which

  • “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  (Revelation 21:4)
  • “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 some this present life will seem too short for all the things they wish to do. For others it will appear too agonisingly long. However, to all of us Christ comes as the light of God in this world and as the foretaste of the full light to be revealed in the one to come. He calls us to join Him in the journey home – a home with Him in which both the joys and pains of this world will disappear into insignificance in the eternal life and love that we will enjoy with Him when His true glory is finally and fully revealed.

Response;

Keep your eyes always on the Lord – He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus I come to You to stay with You and to follow You. Please give me the love, trust, strength and courage I may need  – and  bring me safely home . Amen.

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God’s Clothes

Lent 5

“And the Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.”

(Genesis 3:21)

Reflection:

Adam and Eve had been placed in the Garden of Eden with, it seems, one restriction. That highlights the fact that, as humans, we were given the gift of choice – something that has never been taken away from us.

Whether, ‘To obey or not to obey,’ or ‘To be or not to be,’ the choice is still ours. Adam and Eve made the wrong choice –which amounted to a rejection of God’s character- and were banished. We will never understand what seems to be the severity of that judgment until we are able to appreciate something of the holiness and absolute purity of God. God told Moses that no one could look at His face and live. We must not fall into the modern and comfortable trap of thinking that sin is naughtiness, and can be dealt with by a slap on the wrist or an hour in the corner. ‘The wages of sin is death’ (Romans 6:23). Sin brings death to relationships – with God, others and ourselves – and ends in an eternal separation from God. Unless, that is, God does something about it. He is the only one who can.

We find a hint of it here. God does not just throw them out of the garden, physically and spiritually naked and vulnerable. He does something. He clothes them Himself with garments which He has made. It is interesting that they are made of skin. Was this the first sacrifice, made so that man and woman could live? If so, it is possible to imagine that the first animal killed was a lamb, and that the humans were clothed in the skin of the lamb. This would point towards the day when help would come from the ‘Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,’ and when we would be clothed with the righteousness (the right with God-ness] of Christ Himself. That righteousness would then make healing possible in our relationships with ourselves and others as well.

A key truth for us is that when we lose our vision of God, we lose our vision of everything else as well – both good and evil – and of our value as humans.

 Prayer:

Lord God, thank You for the freedom of choice that you have given me. Help me to honour You in the way that I exercise it, and increase in me an understanding of Your glory. Amen.

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Great is Your Love

“For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies.”

(Psalm 57:10)

Reflection:

David is on the run from King Saul and, in the midst of asking God for help, he reminds himself, and God, of His great love. He envisages the extent of this love as reaching from the earth into the heavens themselves, that is as far as the eye could see or the mind imagine.

It is one thing to believe that God loves us when our lives are comfortable and well. It is another to hold to this belief when things are not going well and our very existence seems to be threatened. Yet, it is in this latter state that we really need the certainty of that love.

 David’s reference to God’s faithfulness is linked to his focus on God’s love. The covenants instituted by God were brought into being because of His love, so were the promises made to David as well as his anointing as the future king. As God’s faithfulness is based on His love David sees it as just as great – “reaching to the skies.”

 Because of this certainty that God is a God of love, and that He is faithful, David puts his trust in God and focuses his mind on Him, saying that “my heart is steadfast O God, my heart is steadfast.” (v7). He looks from the fears and dangers to God, and keeps his attention there.

 It is a remarkable Psalm written in the midst of potential “disaster” (v1) and one from which we have so much to learn. Whatever the situation that faces us, God is a God of love and faithfulness. He may, or may not, change the situation but, as we look to Him, He will be with us to guide, strengthen, and encourage us all the time and all the way through. Because He is a God of such great love He could not possibly do less for those who have put their hope in Him.

 So David concludes in praise,

“Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.”  (Psalm 57:11)

Response:

Read the gospels with God’s love in mind. Mark the references and examples.

Prayer:

Almighty Father, please help me to acknowledge and receive your love, and to put my trust in You always. Amen.

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