Sunday, 30 July 2017
But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow-worker and fellow-soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. Phil. 2.25
As Paul describes Epaphroditus, he discloses a host of relationships. To Paul, Epaphroditus is firstly a brother, a close and special relationship. He is also a fellow-worker and a fellow-soldier. In the time that Epaphroditus has been with Paul, they have connected in the bond of brotherhood and they have worked together in the ministry of the gospel and the sustaining of themselves and the ministry.
Paul tells us also that Epaphroditus is the messenger of the Philippians. They sent him specifically to Paul to take care of his needs. This speaks further of relationship, this time between Epaphroditus and the Philippian believers. I’m assuming the faithful at Philippi would have been most careful in appointing a messenger to attend and care for Paul. I see an expression of their trust in Epaphroditus, and an acknowledgment of his ability, his care and his willingness to go to Paul as his brother and work in fellowship with him.
Finally, the fact of the Philippians sending Epaphroditus to Paul indicated the deep and caring relationship that these believers undoubtedly shared with the apostle. I sense a mutual love as Paul earnestly wants to connect with them.
I marvel at the joy of relationships, especially those sweet relationships founded in God.
I thank You for the many relationships I am privileged to enjoy. I ask Your blessing on each one of them, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
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(Search: Peter Francis - "God Talk").
Wednesday, 26 July 2017
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release to oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour." Luke 4.18,19
Jesus declares His anointing. He is anointed by the Spirit of the living God, and He is commissioned for His life's work - preaching the good news of the gospel of salvation to the poor, to all those who need to hear it; proclaiming freedom for prisoners, those locked into bondage and enslavement to unGodly influences; He brings recovery of sight to the blind, and there are many who seem unable to see; He wIll release the oppressed but, I do believe, they need to be willing; He is the positive declaration of the time of the Lord's favour.
And the time is now. All people live in the present. Some may not be able, or willing, to acknowledge this, but the time is now. Today is where I live, and today is the time for me to take hold of my relationship with God and to live it to the full.
There may be people desperate for the healing and release that Jesus, and only Jesus, can bring. Jesus was anointed by God's Holy Spirit to minister to the lost, the suffering, and the broken. Jesus invites me to follow Him. The Holy Spirit who anointed Jesus is there for me also. I have been commissioned into God's service. Let me go forward into today, willing to do whatever my Lord would have me do.
Lord, Mighty God,
I read of Jesus' powerful anointing and I realise there is a need on this earth today just as there was in Jesus' days. Jesus is not here in person today, but I am. And the same Spirit that anointed and led Him is available to me. I come willingly to You to do whatever You would have me do today. Lead me on. Fill me afresh with Your Spirit. Provide me with divine encounters, working in me and through me to achieve what You wish.
May Your name be honoured and glorified in my life today. I pray all thes things in Jesus' powerful name. Amen.
Monday, 24 July 2017
"Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give them - to the Israelites." Joshua 1.2
God is speaking to Joshua. Moses is dead, and Joshua is the person God has appointed to succeed him as leader. Moses' task was to bring the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt. His work was done. Joshua will lead God's people into the Promised Land.
What I receive - loud and clear - from this reflection is that God is in charge. The Israelites didn't always do what was right in God's eyes, yet God did not abandon them. He had a plan for them, and He brought His plan to fulfilment.
I believe that God has a plan for every believer who comes to Him through Jesus. I receive His word from Jeremiah that His plans will prosper and not harm. His plans are for good. I may not always act in compliance with His will; I may not always do what He would have me do; I may not always please or delight Him. Yet the nature of God, and not my nature, determines the outcome of His will in my life.
I suggest that God has a "Promised Land" for every believer. I can co- operate with Him and, like Joshua, respond positively to His leading and His guiding. I may not always get it right, but I can believe that God has only the best for me. I can give myself fully into His care, and I can allow Him to take full control.
I am reminded that You have a plan and purposes for my life. I believe Your plan will continue to unfold for me, for as long as I live. I give myself to the fullness of Your plan for me. I acknowledge that my desire is for You, and not me, to be in control. May Your purposes for me unfold with each passing day. Please have Your way in me and, I say again, don't let me get in the way. Amen.
Sunday, 23 July 2017
"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength." Phil. 4.12,13
When I read through the various writings of Paul, I get an understanding of the variety of experiences that made up his life. He lived well, and he lived not so well. He enjoyed good health, and he suffered sickness and ill health. He experienced times of plenty, and he lived through trials and difficulties. He confesses his times of need and the enjoyment of plenty to the Philippians. And he tells them that he has come to a place of contentment in any and every situation. His situation and circumstances do not determine or dictate his state of well- being. Perhaps they did at one time. They no longer do, for Paul says he has learned the secret of being content. He has come to a place in himself of contentment, a state, I would suggest, of being at peace with whatever the situation is, of knowing that our gracious God will give him all the strength he needs.
Paul declared that he has learned the secret. I think he goes on to reveal the secret with the words: I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
I do not claim to have endured the experiences that Paul lived through, but I can say that life has had its fill of ups and downs. I now feel the contentment that Paul speaks of. My experience has been greatly influenced by the words of Jesus in respect to the Father when He says: "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matt. 6.33)
As I look to live each day in God, and as I believe He will lead me, always, in the fullness of His will, I can be at peace. I need not struggle or strive, for God is with me. He will lead me, and He will show me the way, as I allow Him. I need nothing else. When I put God first, everything else that I need comes forth. I am content, and I am greatly blessed.
Most Loving God,
I thank You for the life I have in You. I thank You that You have drawn me into this life, and You accompany me through each day of it.
I give this day to You. I look to Your leading, and I expect to enjoy Your presence as we journey together. Lead on! I know that I can do all things in the strength You provide. Thank You. Amen.
Friday, 21 July 2017
Husbands love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. Eph. 5.25-27
The encouragement is to husbands as to how they ought to love their wives, but the revelation that comes to me today is much more about how Jesus loves His body, the church.
A pure God requires a pure partner. The Body of Christ is seen, ultimately, as the Bride for the Bridegroom, Christ. As Christ is pure so must His Body be pure. The church cannot purify itself, it is soiled, stained by sin and incapable of self-healing. Jesus lived on earth as a sinless man. He gave His sinless life in payment for the sins of the soiled Body. In doing so, He makes His bride holy; He renders her radiant, without stain, wrinkle or any blemish whatsoever. Through Him, she is holy - and blameless.
The writer tells me that Jesus cleanses me by washing with water through the word. The Word of God washes me as I give myself to receive it and to seek God's revelation to me of what He might be saying, and how He wants me to understand Him through it.
Scholars have studied the Word through centuries. Much interpretation has been propounded. Insights are presented which could well be helpful, maybe even challenging and equipping. But, I believe, true revelation comes from the Father. He alone can show me what He means in His Word. He can give me, sometimes, the most exciting insights. He can lead me directly to His truth, impact me by it, and lead me to live in it. I love the Word. It is dynamic, living, and life-giving. God cleanses me by His Word. He gives me life. I give Him thanks.
I humbly thank You for the cleansing and purifying I receive through Jesus.
I thank You for the insights You give me through Your Word. I pray that You will continue to speak to me directly, bringing me revelation, sharing something of the secrets of heaven, and of Your divine mysteries. I give myself to hear more and more from You. Speak please, for I want to hear. Thank You. Amen.
Wednesday, 19 July 2017
But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, who he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. Titus 3.4-7
There are many positive descriptions in this short excerpt from Paul's letter to Titus. He describes our fortunate treatment in relationship with God. God reaches out to us in kindness and love. He saved us because of His mercy. We are not saved by any righteous deserving of our own. Indeed, I doubt if we might ever be able to say that we are "deserving" because of any aspect of worth in us. We are saved by the love, kindness and mercy of God alone. He washes us in rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit that He poured out on us through Jesus, justifying us by His grace to become His heirs and to hold the hope of eternal life. These things He did with the utmost generosity. This is our God! His love for us, and all the wonderful qualities that attach to that love, bind us to Him in the sweetest and most wonderful way.
I sense, however, a further learning in these words of Paul. I am mindful of Jesus' words "Come, follow me." Paul has described characteristics of Jesus. I sense Jesus speak to me and say, "Come, follow me. You see how I am, and I invite you to adopt my characteristics for yourself. Take upon you my kindness and love; when you reach out to anyone in my name, do so generously, demonstrating generosity of Spirit in all things. I have extended grace to you, I ask you to do likewise to others."
I am mindful of Your words to me of some years ago to "be gracious". I am not always gracious towards others. Please forgive me. Hear my desire to follow You, to become more like You as I live and reach out to others. I ask for the growing of a generous nature in me. I ask further for daily opportunities to live out of generosity, to reach out to others in all the good qualities that are identified in You. I thank You for every opportunity You afford me. Amen.
Monday, 17 July 2017
"Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.' " Luke 14.28,29
From time to time I see buildings that have begun construction and only gone so far before work is abandoned. Why is this, I wonder? Perhaps the owner changed his mind. Maybe the developer was overly ambitious then was forced to curtail his plans, and surrender his dreams.
Jesus gives the example of one who wishes to build a tower, begins construction, but then runs short of funds to complete the work. He cites another example of a king wishing to go to war with a king having a greater force. He must consider if his lesser force is capable of fighting, and destroying, the greater.
Jesus uses both examples to alert us to the reality of "counting the cost" if we decide to follow Him. There will surely be a cost, and we must be both aware of it and willing to pay it.
Jesus suggests that anyone following Him must "hate" parents, spouse, children and siblings, and even his own life, to be His disciple. I do not believe He intends "hate" as in despise or disown but, rather, that we must love Him more, indeed more than anyone or anything else. He also stipulates that we must "carry our cross" to follow Him.
The Christian life will not necessarily be trouble free. We may well face trial, even persecution in the name of Jesus. After all, we follow one who was persecuted to the extreme of a grisly death. I pray that I may not be called to the ultimate of martyrdom. But I also pray for God to lead me through this life's journey in His way and His will and to give me the strength and enabling I need to honour Him as I go.
I am reminded that the Christian life may not be easy. I am committed to the Christian way. I ask You to show me that way, to guide me in the way You would have me go, to strengthen and equip me for all that lies ahead, and to accompany me every glorious step of the way. Thank You. Amen.
Sunday, 16 July 2017
One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. There in front of him was a man suffering from dropsy. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?" But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him away.
It seems to me that Jesus often got into trouble with the religious "experts" when it came to how best serve the Lord's Sabbath. God had instructed through Moses, "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy." (Exod. 20.8) He instructed that all work should be done in six days, and the seventh to be a day of rest, with no work.
The Pharisees and other leaders had turned the Sabbath into a religious bondage. So many rules and regulations governed the behaviour of the people - but not always the behaviour of those who made and enforced the rules!
Jesus brought a more Godly observance to the Sabbath. I believe He showed how the Sabbath day of rest was meant to be lived. And I see life as the essence of the Sabbath - life in God, a life of rest in God, and in the fullness of all the life that God gives. The Sabbath is for enjoying God, and enjoying the whole of His creation.
Down through the centuries, religious leaders, often self-appointed, have sought to impose a set of rules and regulations concerning Sabbath behaviour. This practice is, likely, as rife today as ever it was. How sad it is that we miss the point - as we are often likely to do when we presume interpretation of God's words to us!
Through the account in Luke, Jesus shows us how to live out God's Sabbath. Why, oh why, don't we then just "get on with it"!
Lord, Mighty God, and Loving Father,
I grieve at how we so often mis-interpret Your will and Your ways for us. I believe we do so in the case of the Sabbath when we seek to impose restrictions that often deny the true intent of Your covenant with us.
I pray for enlightenment, all over this world, to the true practice of Sabbath rest. Our Lord Jesus showed us how we may live in honouring You and in harmony with Your ways for us. May we receive further revelation from You concerning Sabbath rest and other practices You would have us bring into greater alignment with Your will.
Show us please, and make the way for us to follow. Amen.
Friday, 14 July 2017
They said to me, "Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire." Neh. 1.3
Nehemiah was in captivity in Susa. He was cupbearer to the king, I believe an esteemed position. His beloved Jerusalem was in ruins. One of his brothers, Hanani, came to Susa with some other men from Judah. Their news to Nehemiah was not encouraging. Nehemiah was devastated: When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven (v4). Nehemiah pleaded before God on behalf of the sinning Israelites. He asked God to give him favour with the king.
The king spoke with Nehemiah. Nehemiah asked God to give him the right answers for the king. When Nehemiah explained his concern for Jerusalem, the king released him to return to Jerusalem, with others, and to rebuild the city. In time, and with many hindrances to contend with, Nehemiah achieved his goal. He prayed through every step of the process.
It is only a matter of days since I was in my beloved Assisi. There I was reminded of the remarkable story of Francis whose work for God began when he heard Jesus say to him, "Rebuild my house." At the time Francis was in the derelict chapel of San Damiano. He first thought Jesus was asking him to rebuild San Damiano. He did so, together with several other ruined churches. Francis started by rebuilding churches, by the time he died he had rebuilt "the Church".
I can say that God has rebuilt my life. Since I responded to His invitation my life has changed completely. I have also seen other lives rebuilt by God. In some cases God had graciously involved me in the process.
And so, today, as I reflect on things past, I give myself, willingly, to the future. God has made me. I am His. Whatever He will of me in the future, I am willing.
I thank You for this insight into rebuilding. I thank You for Nehemiah's work of restoration in Jerusalem. I thank You for Francis and the rebuilding of Your church in the Middle Ages. I thank You for the rebuilding You have done in me, and how You have used me in the rebuilding of other lives.
I give myself willingly to the ongoing journey. May the rebuilding continue - in myself and in others. Hallelujah! Amen.