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.

Reflections

a change that God Himself brings about.

A reflection on Jeremiah 31:33
“This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

When you read through the Old Testament in the Bible, so much of it is a sad, sad story. We learn about a God who is so good, so faithful and so loving. But of a people who are so faulty, so proud and so sinful. A people who continue to turn away from the loving God who made them – who made them so that they might enjoy relationship with Him.

Even though God continues to preserve and help this wayward people, for the most part we see no change in their attitude, but instead a hardness, a deadness, a continual running to everything and everyone else – other than to the God who continued to provide for them, who continued to lead them, and free them, and love them.

But here we see one of the greatest passages of promise in the entire Bible. God Himself promised in Jeremiah that there would come a day when He would make a new covenant, a new agreement with His people – where He would put His law in their minds and write it on their hearts. Where He will be their God and they will be His people.

This is exactly what God did through Jesus. Jesus, the Son of God came to die on the cross to make this possible. His death and resurrection opened up the way for all those who trust in Him to be forever forgiven and to become God’s very own children, who are given now God’s very own Spirit.

This change that God Himself brings about creates a new person who no longer wants to live how they lived before, but wants to know and please God. Someone who treasures Jesus and delights in Him. Is this to gain merit with God? No!

It is because of all that God has done in Jesus, because we were like sheep going astray, but now we have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls. (1 Peter 2:25).

Reflections

Whoever Believes In Me Shall Never Thirst

A reflection on Psalm 63:1
“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1).

I’m sure there have been times for you as there has been for me when you have been so thirsty there has been nothing else you have been able to think about until you have had something to drink. Whether on a bush walk with the knowledge that it will be 2 hours until you get to some water, or just in the middle of the night waking up thirsty… so thirsty you just have to get up to get a drink.

David in this Psalm uses this image to explain how his soul, that is, his entire being longs to have its thirst quenched not with water but with God Himself. This may seem like a weird way to speak about God, particularly in our culture where most ideas of God seem to be about a distant, removed, or just plain mean god – and that is if the idea of god is even accepted at all!

What is quite extraordinary is the way that Jesus takes this up. He says: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35), and again “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'” (John 7:37-38).

Jesus is God the Son and He is the Only One able to satisfy the need of our souls. He is able to quench our deepest thirst and fill us up with His Spirit in such a way that we will never thirst again but will overflow. Jesus alone can give us all we need forever. Forgiveness of all our sins, peace with God and adoption into God’s family as his very own children.

Jesus paid the cost to eternally quench our thirst by laying down His life on the cross. How will you respond to that?

Reflections

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

A reflection on Isaiah 9:6-7:

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)

Sometimes we might laugh when something we said would happen, actually happens. You might think of a time when you guessed something would take place, or of the shock result of a team losing or winning, or even of the popularity of a certain thing diminishing in the space of a week that you had said would happen. But what we have in the Scriptures is truly astounding…

More than 2500 years before Jesus was born these words were recorded down by the prophet Isaiah. It was foretold to him by God that one would come who would not reign as king for even a century but forevermore. This One to come would not be like any king that had come before. He would not be a tyrant or oppressive to the poor and needy. He would not be greedy and half-hearted and dismissive to the cries of the weak. He would be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

When we read through the New Testament – written after Jesus’ death and resurrection – we learn of Him who fulfilled all these things. The Perfect King. The One who through His death made a way for each person to be brought into the eternal joy of relationship with God Almighty. The One who will one day return in the fullness of His glory to bring all those who are waiting for Him.

For the One who trusts in Jesus, their Saviour and King, there is no need for fear. His Kingdom is an everlasting kingdom that will never come to an end. For those who have found in Jesus full forgiveness and peace with God our end will not be death and punishment, but life and peace for ever in the presence of our King Jesus.

Father, we praise you and thank for Jesus our Prince of Peace. Thank you for Your faithfulness to keep Your promises.

Reflections

Come now, come often, come always to God.

A reflection on Philippians 4:4-7

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7)

If you are human, then you have felt anxious. There so is much to make us anxious. The world around us – with wars, starvation, abuses and neglect. In the lives of those around us – with relationship breakdowns, the people we love struggling, and diseases and death that don’t end. And there is much within ourselves – uncertainly, physical and mental pain or distress, or even the guilt or shame of past mistakes.

The word anxious is derived from the word having the idea ‘to strangle’. Recently I was at a wedding, and my suit was tighter than it is has been in the past 🙂 and I remember thinking that anxiousness feels like this, a squeezing, a choking, an uncomfortable feeling. What is the remedy to anxiousness? How do we escape it? How do we deal with it?

Paul tells us here, the remedy is the peace of God. As we come to God ‘in everything’ – every struggle and temptation, every anxious thought and worry. We come to God by prayer and we plead to Him. We come always with thanksgiving – we remember all His goodness – even when our struggles seem countless. We thank God for life, for friends (even if they be few), and for Christ Jesus – the gift of His Son to forgive all our sins and bring us to God.

We come to God with all our worries, all our fears, all that which is strangling us. We lay it before Him. It is God who gives us His peace – the peace of God – which surpasses all understanding, which guards our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.

So come now, come often, come always to God – the God of peace – and in the midst of all of your anxiousness, find in Him, through Jesus, joy and peace immeasurable.