Reflections

The sin of Un-thankfulness.

A reflection on Romans 1:18-21
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness, because what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes– his eternal power and divine nature– have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give him thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts and their senseless hearts were darkened.”

I find this passage of Scripture so helpful in a world that constantly says “there is no God” – words spoken by the fool the Psalmist tells us (Psalm 14).

Here we are reminded that God has not left us without evidence of Himself. His invisible attributes, eternal power and divine nature are in fact ‘clearly seen’ in what He has made.

But something that I have especially found helpful from this passage is one of the many pictures it gives us on what sin is. When you ask a High School Scripture class what sin is or ask a group of people, a lot of time people will give a list of things that are sin: lying, murder, stealing, adultery etc.

These are sins yes – but there is a picture here that we don’t often think about in our world as a concrete example of sin and that is the sin of unthankfulness. The lack of thanksgiving to God seen not just in the denial of His existence but by the worship of everything else in His place and by the giving of thanks to everything else other than Him.

If you are wondering what God’s will for your life is: ‘what does God want me to do?’, ‘How does He want me to live?’

Well, His Word tells us: “Always rejoice, constantly pray, in everything give thanks. For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

Under the category of ungodliness and unrighteousness are lives that do not stop to thank God, people who do not acknowledge the place that God’s Son King Jesus is to have in our lives. This is the great sin of unthankfulness.

The truth is, when we see the mercy and love of God for us in Jesus – when we stop and really take that in – we cannot grasp that truth and not be filled with thankfulness to God.

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (Psalm 118).

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Reflections

Captivated by His glory

A reflection on Acts 7:55-60
“… Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.

What allows someone who is being stoned to death to cry out in prayer ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them’? What fills someone with such selfless focus and love for those who are bringing about their death?

Surely it is what Stephen knew to be true and what he saw. “Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God…’ He was given a vision of the glory of God.

I think something we learn from Stephen here is that this life is not everything, but the glory of God that awaits followers of Jesus allows us to show mercy to those who wrong us.

We can forgive and be gracious to others because through Stephen’s experience we are drawn into behold something of the glory of God also.

The glory of God, his wonder, his awe, his power, his love, his greatness, his beauty. We see Stephen’s response to this vision was one of joy and delight that allowed his concern not to be to save his physical life but to care for the spiritual lives of those attacking him.

He wanted them to come to experience the transformation that he had experienced through Jesus death and resurrection to forgive his sins and grant him everlasting life.

And, what is so cool is that we see his prayer answered. We are told a man named Saul is here giving approval to Stephen’s death. God answers Stephen’s prayer for the mercy of his killers in the most remarkable way.

Jesus will transform this Saul and send him “to open… eyes, so that [people] may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God… receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in [Jesus”].

When were caught up in God’s beauty and power we see things differently, as He sees them. When were captivated by His glory we live for His purposes and experience joy that goes beyond what we could imagine.

Reflections

‘…he who is humble and contrite in spirit’

A reflection on Isaiah 66:1-2
“This is what the LORD says: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be? 2 Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?” declares the LORD. “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.”

Doesn’t God value the things we so often do not value?
If you want to do well in our world it is often one’s pride in self and one’s importance that will get us ‘higher up the food chain’.
It is often the ability to assert ourselves and emphasize all our abilities and skills and importance that will impress others and get us the job or position of esteem. We don’t often value humility, contrition, let alone God’s word.

But here, that is exactly what God values: humility.
A true estimation of one’s self. Realising that we are created in the image of God but that He is the one it is all about – not us. Realising we only truly find ourselves – find who we were made to be –  in relationship to Him.

In fact, the greatest human example we have was the perfectly humble one – the incarnate Son of God who, “being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6-8).

And it is this Jesus that his followers are told to have the same attitude as. He who had no sin, but chose to pay for ours.  We need to therefore be aware of our sin, humble before God – knowing He knows all our dark secrets, our most shameful missteps and still He says to us in Jesus:
come to Me.

Find forgiveness, find peace, find eternal life in Christ.
How can we not tremble at God’s word, the Almighty Creator who knows the depths of our wrongdoing and yet in Jesus He comes with love and mercy and offers us forgiveness and grace.

How can we not tremble at this God, and humbly worship Him, knowing His great love in Christ that covers all our sin? Come, come and enjoy His love both now and forever.

Reflections

I AM the True Vine… apart from Me you can do nothing.

A reflection on John 15:1-5 

Jesus said to his disciples: 1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

You don’t have to be a gardener to know that branches separated from the vine – from the source of nourishment – the don’t last long. And all they are good for is to be picked up and thrown into the fire. Jesus (as He does often) makes an astounding claim here: I AM the True Vine.

 Jesus tells his disciples what he is telling all those who want to follow him: stay connected to me or wither. You will not flourish outside of relationship to me. ‘Remain in me’, abide, continue in me, just as a branch needs to remain connected to the vine or it will not produce its fruit so you need to remain connected to me.

Jesus disciples would face very soon after these words Jesus’ departure – his death and resurrection, but then after a little while with the Risen Jesus – he would leave them. And here is a reminder for them that trust in him, and reliance upon him and his power within them (through the Spirit he would give them) must be their focus.

God does ‘prune’ us, but it is so that we will ‘be even more fruitful’. God has not left us alone, but through his Spirit and his word we are able to stay connected to Jesus our King and so bear fruit in our lives that brings glory to our Father in heaven.

Don’t look within for fruit to grow, look to Jesus!