Reflections

In trouble… trust in God.

A reflection on John 14:1-6

1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2 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. 3 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. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me.

Jesus’ disciples have much reason to feel troubled. He has just previously told them that one of them would betray him and the lead disciple (Simon Peter) has just promised to lay down his life for him but Jesus has corrected him to inform him that Peter will instead deny his master three times. The disciples not only here have great reason to have hearts that are troubled but soon they will have even more: Jesus, their leader will be crucified on the cross. In fact Jesus goes on to tell them: “I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.” (John 16:20)

What is the remedy for a troubled heart?…

‘Trust in God, trust also in Me’ Jesus says. It is trust in God.

For the one who has placed their trust in Jesus’ death for their sins, and so follows Jesus as King – there is every reason for trust in God. Because Jesus tells his followers here that he is going to prepare a place for us. An eternal dwelling! In the Father’s house!

But in our trouble we may ask ‘Lord… how can we know the way to this eternal home?’ And Jesus answers us and he did them… ‘I AM the WAY and the TRUTH and the LIFE’

Through Jesus alone you and I can have certain hope and eternal peace in our hearts because in trouble we can know that we will be in our Father’s house forever because of Him.

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Reflections

How are you responding to Jesus?

A reflection on Matthew 21-23
The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest!”
… “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, `Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'” (Matthew 21:9; 23:37-39)

There were so many different responses to Jesus. Amazement, praise, glory, anger, hatred and disbelief. I wonder how have you responded? And more importantly, how are you responding to Jesus today?

He claimed to be the Son of God. He claimed to be the One who could forgive sins, and free those enslaved, and bring eternal life to the dead.

It is not enough to answer that we like Jesus, or that we are fond of Him – if that is all – we may as well be indifferent or opposed. As C. S. Lewis so helpfully put it:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.

That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell.

You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher.

He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

How have you responded to Jesus? And more importantly, how are you responding to Jesus today? If He is King and God then He has earned your all, the whole shebang, your everything. How are you responding to Him…

Reflections

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him.

A reflection on Psalm 62

1 My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. 2 He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I shall never be shaken.
5
Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. 6 He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I shall not be shaken. 7 My salvation and my honour depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge 8 Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. (Psalm 62:1-2; 5-8)

You can probably recall times of great tiredness… maybe a new born baby, maybe night shift work or a time of sleeplessness that left you… well.. very tired…

But there is a restlessness of soul also. It was St Augustine who said: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.”

Here the Psalmist says that he finds rest in God alone, his salvation comes from Him. Later he says ‘find rest, o my soul, in God alone’ – I love the interaction he has with his own soul. Find rest my soul! Find your rest in God!

The problem is that we look for rest and satisfaction in all the wrong places… in work, in money, in possessions, even in people but they can never give us what only God can – rest for our souls.

He gives us this rest in Jesus – who is our Eternal Rest. Those who put their souls hope in Him will find a Rock, a Fortress, a Refuge that will never fail them. A God who we can as the Psalmist says “pour out our hearts to”.

This God is One Whom His people can trust, and never be shaken. Suffering will come, hardships… yes… but even  death itself will only bring God’s people entry into His everlasting joy and rest.

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him.

 

God's Love

I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

A reflection on Matthew 18:1-4
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’

In response to the disciples question ‘who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ Jesus as usual flips everything upside down and inside out. He takes a child and tells the disciples that unless that ‘turn and become like children’… they ‘will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’ Almost: Forget about whose the greatest! With attitudes like that you won’t even enter! In fact, let me tell you about greatness in the upside down, inside out kingdom – humility.

Humble yourself like this child! That is, realise your need, your lack, your dependence and forget your pride, knowledge and seeming control and power and realise as children that you are totally dependent, totally needy, and totally lost without God. God gives grace to the humble but He opposes the proud. Humble yourself or be opposed!

We live in a world that is opposite and upside down to this. We are taught to admire the successful and self-willed person, that we can do anything through our own power and determination. The truth of the Scriptures though is that we are weak, that we are in great need, that we have hearts, minds, and wills set against God and His reign over us.

Jesus teaches the disciples here what we all need to learn, and re-learn and then learn again… Humility. To realise that we need God. We are totally dependent upon Him. He holds our lives in His hands. Every breath we breathe is because He allows it and sustains us. And this incredibly powerful God sent His Son in loving mercy so that as children through faith in Jesus we can today be called children of God. Wow!

God's Love

Forgiveness is based not on other people’s worthiness to receive it, but on the basis of God’s forgiveness of our insurmountable debt.

A reading and reflection on Matthew 18:21-36
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. 23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

26 “The servant fell on his knees before him. `Be patient with me,’ he begged, `and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go. 28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow-servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. `Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. 29 “His fellow-servant fell to his knees and begged him, `Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ 30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.

 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. 32 “Then the master called the servant in. `You wicked servant,’ he said, `I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow-servant just as I had on you?’

 34 In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. 35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”

Forgiveness is based not on other people’s worthiness to receive it, but on the basis of God’s forgiveness of our insurmountable debt.

Our debt against God is unpayable by us, it is beyond imagination – but that debt in Christ is cancelled for those who trust in Him. He has paid for it all. Completely, finally, and forever.

We do not understand fully the forgiveness we have received by God Most High if we fail to forgive others who sin against us – at times in extremely horrible ways. Either we have failed to grasp the magnitude of our debt against God that has been forgiven, or we have failed to have ever experienced His forgiveness.

We, I, must look to the forgiveness I have received by God the Father through the Son to be able to (by the power of the Spirit) forgive and forgive and forgive just as God in Christ forgive me.

God's Love

God’s Word brings us wisdom, joy and light.

Reflection on Psalm 19
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.

When we went to New Zealand last year there were such amazing places to see, incredible mountains and valleys, rivers and countryside. In fact you don’t need to go far to look out at creation and see God’s handiwork, just outside. Even in our city like, light polluted sky we behold marvelous stars, incredible sunsets and awe inspiring rainbows.

It is of course easy to allow these ‘common’ sights we see to stop causing us to marvel. But even to gaze at the beauty in animals and each other – marred as it is – is a wonderful thing. The God of creation has not hidden Himself. And in fact He has done far more than that…

Psalm 19 goes on to talk about how God’s Word brings us wisdom, joy and light. How His Word is pure and righteous, the satisfaction the Psalmist says that it brings is ‘more precious than gold’ and ‘sweeter than honey’ straight from the honeycomb.

It is God’s creation that leaves all people without excuse but to know that there is a God (Romans 1:20), but it is God’s Word that tells us of the God who sent His only Son, Jesus Christ to save all people by His death on the cross for our sins.

God’s Word the Bible reveals who the Creator is. I hope that this year is for you and for me, a year of getting to know this God better and better. A year of coming to know more and more the joy, forgiveness and peace that only He can bring us.

Reflections

Come, let us return to the LORD… Let us press on to know Him.

Reflection on Hosea 6:1-4
“Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. 2 After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. 3 Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.” 4 What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away.”

As another Christmas draws near there can be mixed emotions that draw near along with it. We may feel all that needs to be done and the stress with that. We may see all the constant Christmas stuff everywhere and be a bit… well annoyed! We may feel those we miss, those we wish we could be with at Christmas, those we love.

As we read the book of Hosea in the Bible we see a picture of the people of Israel who were unfaithful. They left behind the God who had made them, the One who had rescued them. They worshiped the things they made. They worshiped things. And they forgot God, they left Him behind. They valued the gifts and not the Giver.

Here is an invitation for us this Christmas: “Come, let us return to the LORD… “let us press on to know the Him.” He is the One we have be made for. We will not find lasting satisfaction in this world. Even the best Christmas day with all those we love and cherish, even the best food and the greatest gifts will not satisfy us because we were made for so much more.

We were made to know the One who made us. The real tragedy this Christmas would be to let another year go by without pursing knowing God Almighty, without enjoying Him above all things. The One who has made us, the One who has drawn near to us in Jesus. The baby boy who was born 2000 years ago, was the Eternal Son sent to save us. Sent to bring us back into relationship with God.

My prayer for you this Christmas is that you would be surprised with the joy that only knowing God can bring – that only having forgiveness and friendship with God through Jesus can bring – lasting joy. Joy that no sadness can fully remove because it is a joy that is not based on our health, it is a joy that is not based on our circumstances, or even on how our Christmas goes – who might be there or who might be missing…

But it is joy that is based on God Himself – who not only calls us to come back to Him, to know Him, but who also makes the way back to Him possible through Jesus. This is a joy my friends that you can know today that will last into eternity. A joy inexpressible and full of glory.

Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” – 1 Peter 1:8-9

 

 

Reflections

Living with Jesus as our King is not a chore but the path to true joy and eternal pleasure in God’s kingdom.

A reflection on Philippians 4:8

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”

There is a lot of junk out there! You don’t have to do much to be exposed to a lot junk. You only have to turn on the television, or put on the radio or even just walk through the streets to hear and to see a lot of junk.

The world Paul lived in 2000 years ago was in many ways no different. Different junk, but junk none the less. There are so many things in our world, in our lives that are false, immoral, impure, and just plain wrong in the sight of God – and it is easy to get caught up in these things that are not helpful for us to think about or give our time too.

Paul here in this passage gives the followers of Jesus not a list of do’s and don’ts as much as an encouragement to focus on what is best and worth our time – what will be of benefit. The psalmist writes: ‘Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.’ (Psalm 119:37).

God’s people are encouraged here to think about, to meditate on, that which is excellent and praiseworthy. God’s word teaches us what that is. A problem sometimes is that we can think about God like an overprotective parent who doesn’t want his children to do anything ‘fun’.

God is in reality though, a loving Father who can see the cliff edges and calls out to his children ‘watch out!’ The pitfalls of sin and trouble are still out there for those who follow Jesus, calling out daily for our attention and energy. But here we have a picture of God who cares about us so much that He encourages us to focus on things that in fact will bless us, will bless others and will glorify Him.

Living with Jesus as our King is not a chore but the path to true joy and eternal pleasure in God’s kingdom. 

Reflections

It is only in God’s perfect love that we see how we are to live a life of love.

A reflection on James 1:19-20
“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”

God’s word is constantly wise and true. I am sure if you are anything like me there are many times in your life (maybe often) when you have wished that you hadn’t said what you did say, that you have regretted speaking or when you have not taken the time to listen and so you have failed to show love or misunderstood what someone was saying.

It is the same with anger; we are so easily not slow to become angry but quick to do so. People say something that sets us off and we are not slow but move towards anger. James here tells us that this kind of anger ‘does not bring about the righteous life that God desires’.

The truth is that God wants His people to live differently. When someone places their trust in Jesus’ death for their sins and follows after Him as their King they are empowered by God’s Holy Spirit to live differently, to say ‘no’ to how they used to live and to say ‘yes’ to Jesus.

For God’s children we are called to reflect our Father in heaven, with calmness, with patience and deep love that listens and seeks to understand others. We seek to listen well and to speak ‘only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.’

Of course we fail in this every day, but we continue to look to Jesus for forgiveness and to seek it out from others and to pursue more and more by God’s power to reflect Jesus to those around us.

It is only in God’s perfect love that we see how we are to live a life of love.

Reflections

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is in Him.

A reflection on Psalm 62
“For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.” (Psalm 62:1-2)

We do not live in a world or a culture of silence, of waiting, of dependence on God. We live in a world and culture of the have it now and today, of busyness and panic that can leave us frazzled, hurried, hasty and anxious…

There are times when there is so much going on, so much happening (or maybe even so little), times when our circumstances seem to control our emotional and mental reality and we are left overwhelmed, anxious, frustrated or resigned to the situation and we can give up hope…

I love this Psalm. It is our remedy. Verses 5-8 say: “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.”

How often I need to hear these words, how often we each need to hear them. The psalmist here (as at other times), speaks to himself. ‘O my soul, wait in silence!’ He reminds himself of the truth: ‘my hope is from God. He only is my rock and my salvation!’

You may be facing something difficult. It may be that you don’t know how you can go on, or what will happen next.

Or it might be just a sense of anxiousness and feeling overwhelmed by circumstances… Whatever it is I pray this Psalm will remind you that God is a Rock to his people, a Fortress who you can pour out your heart to.

Take some time to stop, to rest, to meditate on who this God is. Mighty to save, the God who loves you so much that He sent Jesus to rescue you from your sin and brokenness, and bring you and me into relationship with Him, as our Father in heaven. Stop, and wait in silence on God.

He never fails those who trust in Him. Never.