John the mystic

Mystic – A person who seeks by contemplation and self-surrender to obtain unity with or absorption into the Deity or the absolute, or who believes in the spiritual apprehension of truths that are beyond the intellect.

I’m not sure if, according to this definition, we can rightly call John a mystic for in his gospel and his letters he balances contemplation with the need to demonstrate our love for Jesus with our love for one another. John also clearly believes that we can know spiritual truths above and beyond our human intellect but we should test what we receive in the spirit. Yet we can also say that self-surrender and unity with God are key themes in John’s teaching. Does any of this help us? There are two things I would like us to dwell on: self-surrender and knowing the truth.

Self-surrender is essential in our relationship with God. God will not make us bow the knee until Jesus returns – at that point every knee shall now. But presently, it is clearly a choice, we must choose to surrender/submit to God’s will just as Jesus did in the garden of Gethsemane. This is not achieved through yoga-like practices or meditation, nor self-flagellation or physically denying ourselves. Self-surrender comes through a determined will and humble spirit, we set our faces like flint and walk to the cross no matter how painful because we understand that life is found on the other side. Silence, fasting and spiritual experiences (like speaking in tongues or receiving visions), as well as serving others, remembering scripture and standing firm in faith can all be used to help us become one with our heavenly father. However self-surrender and unity with God are a matter of the heart not outward performance and as such these things are tools not fool-proof methods. This is what John writes

And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments. If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did. Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment for you; rather it is an old one you have had from the very beginning. This old commandment—to love one another—is the same message you heard before. Yet it is also new. Jesus lived the truth of this commandment, and you also are living it. For the darkness is disappearing, and the true light is already shining. 1 John 2:3‭-‬8 NLT

‬ Self-surrender is not about denying ourselves; it is about obeying God. When your will is the same as God’s then there is no conflict, but where we think and act differently from Jesus we must learn to “surrender” our will and desires and submit to his commands.

John quotes large speeches of Jesus in his gospel and our next verses come from when Jesus was teaching his disciples about being united with him (e.g. he is the vine, we are the branches, we are to ask in his name and to love one another as he loves us). In these verse Jesus tells us truth is revealed by the Holy Spirit. We also learn that as the Father has given to Jesus, Jesus gives to the Spirit and the Spirit gives to us. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you and to reveal spiritual truths to you. Spend time contemplating on the verses quoted, mull them over, if you can read different translations. Ask the Holy Spirit what he wants to make known to you. You are already united with Jesus through faith and baptism but let us seek a deeper stronger unity as we surrender to the Holy Spirit moment by moment. Let the Holy Spirit be your teacher.

‘I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.’ John 16:12‭-‬15 NIVUK‬

May this song be our prayer https://youtu.be/SW8EA7DEQ2M

Peter’s Passion


So imagine the scene: you, an accomplished fisherman, are out on the sea during the night – a very stormy night. The wind is strong and the waves are high but you have been through this before; they do not overly alarm you. However the sight of someone walking towards you does! People do not walk on water so this must be a ghost – perfectly rational response totally deserving of a scream or two. Then the ghost says “Be of good cheer. It is I. Do not be afraid.” What do you say to that?
Well, Peter says, “If it is you Lord, bid me come to you on the water.”
Ok, so this could definitely qualify as a “big mouth” moment, speaking too soon without thinking through the consequences but it equally shows the passion of Peter. One definition of passion is “an intense desire or enthusiasm for something”. Peter has enthusiasm in abundance, he is keen to get involved and do something, he was almost always the first disciple to step up and try something new. Just read through the beginning chapters of Acts – it’s all Peter. He’s out there preaching and healing in Jesus’ name no matter the consequences. I confess I do not have such enthusiasm and passion for stepping up and doing something. I’d much rather watch and wait and only get involved when I have a sense of the situation. No matter, we are all different. Nowhere in scripture are we all exhorted to be like Peter and rush into something, nor are we told to refrain from doing so. My passion for reading and music means I could spend all day doing those things, but not everybody shares that passion. And that’s ok because in scripture it is all about Jesus’ passion. It is about what Christ did for us. It is about Christ’s intense love for us and our response to that love.
Lord, there are times when my passions are in danger of blinding me to what you are doing. Sometimes my desires take over and even passion for something good can be a hindrance to your work in me. Jesus, please help me to keep my eyes fixed on you and not get caught up in my own plans. Holy Spirit will you keep developing in me a greater passion for the Kingdom of God and for King Jesus. Amen

Matthew 14:22-32 MEV
22 Then Jesus commanded His disciples to get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. 23 When He sent the crowds away, He went up into a mountain by Himself to pray. And when evening came, He was there alone. 24 But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was turbulent.
25 During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a spirit.” And they cried out in fear.
27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer. It is I. Do not be afraid.”
28 Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, bid me come to You on the water.”
29 He said, “Come.”
And when Peter got out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
31 Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.


Samuel the prophet

1 Samuel 9:5-10:13. 1 Samuel 19:24
Saul is looking for some missing donkeys and after a fruitless search the boy with him suggests going to the “seer” or prophet. The boy says (V6) there is a man of God in this town; he is a man held in honour. Whatever he says always comes true”. That is high praise indeed and a sign that Samuel’s dedication to God has resulted in a reputation for knowing and speaking God’s will. Maybe you know the story and are aware that God has already told Samuel that he was going to meet Saul and that he was to anoint him ruler over Israel. God tells Samuel to tell Saul that the donkeys have been safely found and sets about honouring him with a meal and a bed for the night. The next morning Samuel tells Saul what to expect including whom he will meet and what they will say and what he should do. All of Samuel’s prophecies are accurate and 1 Samuel 10:9 says all these signs were fulfilled that day.
Samuel has developed into a well-respected prophet, one who accurately hears from God and tells and obeys what he hears. I want to compare this to Saul’s experience of prophecy, for twice in 1 Samuel people exclaim” is Saul also among the prophets?” (10:11 & 19:24). For Saul the Holy Spirit comes upon him, possessing him, and under that overwhelming influence of the Holy Spirit Saul prophesies within a group of prophets. Saul only prophesies in a group and when the Holy Spirit is working in a very powerful way. In contrast Samuel’s prophecies seem to stem from a place of deep communion with God. Samuel spent a lot of time listening to God seeking his will and God chose to tell Samuel what was going to happen and what he should do. We might say one came from an external influence of the Holy Spirit and one from an internal influence of the Holy Spirit.
Similar situations can still arise today. There are some who can speak God’s Word, pray prophetically or foretell future events only when they are in a group who are under a powerful anointing of the Holy Spirit and there are those who have cultivated a deep and intimate relationship with God and can speak his Word and know and share his will at any time. I pray that we are seeking to be the latter kind. People who know God well and are open to receiving his prophetic word at any time. Let’s start today in committing to spending time alone with God to know him better. Choose a portion of time, whether it be 5mins or 50mins and be still. Simply inviting God to speak. If your mind wanders just repeat the invitation for God to speak. Do this every day or as often as you can. God is very willing to speak with us. As Lynette pointed out yesterday, we need to learn to listen.
Father, thank you for speaking through prophets like Samuel, for speaking through your Son Jesus and through the Holy Spirit. Unblock my ears and help me to hear your word so that I might know you better and more faithfully speak of you with others. Be glorified in my life, Lord. Amen

Saul’s mistake

1Samuel 15

17 Samuel said, “Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. 18 And he sent you on a mission, saying, ‘Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; wage war against them until you have wiped them out.’ 19 Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?”

20 “But I did obey the Lord,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the Lord assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. 21 The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal.”

22 But Samuel replied:

“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination,
and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
he has rejected you as king.”

OK, so this is one of my LEAST favourite passages in the Bible, partly because it is just too close to home. I shudder to think of how many times I have not done what God has said, been arrogant or rebellious.

This incident was the final straw that saw the anointing Holy Spirit of God move from Saul to David. Yet we know that David had his own streak of rebellion. Why did God forgive David and not Saul?

The clue, I think, is in Psalm 51, after David’s terrible sin, when he prayed, “Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm 51:11). Saul’s request for forgiveness was megre and we know after this he went from bad to worse. But David’s repentance was genuine and wholehearted.

Whatever is true of us today, let us not hesitate to throw ourselves on God’s mercy, for in Jesus He can and will.


Peter

David said to God, ‘Was it not I who ordered the fighting men to be counted? I, the shepherd, have sinned and done wrong. These are but sheep. What have they done? Lord my God, let your hand fall on me and my family, but do not let this plague remain on your people.’

1 Chronicles 21:17 NIVUK

2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21 tell the story of how David took a census of the fighting men in Israel and Judah and the subsequent punishment. The story has several interesting elements that raise questions like:
Who incited David to sin? 1 Samuel 24:1 says the Lord, 1 Chronicles 21:1 says Satan.
What was so wrong about taking a census? Commentators generally agree it was to do with pride and trust; David wanted to see how mighty HIS army was because he was trusting it’s military might rather than knowing they were all God’s people and it was God who fought for them. Whatever the “fault” it is clear from both accounts that Joab knew it was wrong and he challenged David over it.
Why was such a severe punishment inflicted? None of the three options (famine, fighting or plague) were a “good” option; they would all incur great cost. The only sure thing was that punishment was coming.
It is likely that this is not the first example you think of if someone asked you to name something David did wrong. Certainly David’s adultery and subsequent killing of Uriah would probably come to mind. You may even consider his various faults in his relationship with his son Absalom. There is enough in scripture to leave us in no doubt that David was not perfect and was guilty of great wrong. Yet I chose this example because it helpfully shows us the way David responds when confronted with his own sin, and it is an example we can all follow.
1. David is “guilt-stricken” (1 Samuel 24:10) and acknowledges that he has sinned. There are no excuses, denials or blame. David accepts that he chose to sin. We also must admit to our own sin, without making excuses or blaming someone else or the circumstances. We choose to sin and when we acknowledge this we are on the path to forgiveness and freedom.
2. David falls on God’s mercy. He does not run from God or attempt to hide from him. David comes to the Lord and admits he has sinned and ask for mercy and forgiveness. We, too, must learn to do likewise. (And the best thing is you can be sure God will have mercy and God will forgive you. Scripture promises us God’s forgiveness when we repent)
3. David responds with worship. Having received God’s mercy (note this doesn’t mean a lack or consequences or punishment) David builds an altar and makes sacrifices to worship the Lord. David’s worship is costly and public and like him, we too are called to respond to the mercy and forgiveness we receive from the Lord with public and costly worship. We are not to make token gestures but to lay down our whole lives in worship before the one who has shown us great mercy.

I hope that none of us commit adultery or murder or fail our families but I suspect we are all guilty of pride and placing trust somewhere other than in the Lord. In many ways it really doesn’t matter what our sin is, it is the very act of sinning (doing what we know to be wrong, or failing to do what we know to be right) that grieves our Lord. All sin needs to be acknowledged and repented of, it is always wise to run to the Lord, rather than from him, when we recognise our sin and our response to forgiveness for sins should always be worship. Let’s seek to be a group of people who are quick to acknowledge and repent of sin, let us encourage each other to be quick to seek the mercy of God when we sin and let us rejoice and celebrate over the forgiveness we have received. Our God is good.

Exodus 33:12‭-‬23 NIV

Moses said to the Lord , ‘You have been telling me, “Lead these people,” but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, “I know you by name and you have found favour with me.” If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favour with you. Remember that this nation is your people.’ The Lord replied, ‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’ Then Moses said to him, ‘If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?’ And the Lord said to Moses, ‘I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.’ Then Moses said, ‘Now show me your glory.’ And the Lord said, ‘I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord , in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,’ he said, ‘you cannot see my face, for no-one may see me and live.’ Then the Lord said, ‘There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.’



Moses meets with God; that alone seems incredible but perhaps more so when you consider how many times and in how many ways Moses did so. For Moses, meeting God meant:
going up a rugged mountain, covered in a dark cloud in a storm of thunder and lightening (exodus 20:16),
Going up that mountain with other leaders and having a meal together after seeing the Lord on a pavement of brilliant sapphire stones (exodus 24:9-11),
Returning up the mountain alone into what appeared to be raging fire and staying there 40 days(exodus 24:17-18),
Only to return immediately to intercede for the sinful people (exodus 32:31),
Exodus 34:29-35 tells how Moses face would glow after being in the presence of God and so he would wear a veil when returning to camp,
The ‘tent of meeting’ is then established and each time Moses meets God there a pillar of cloud would appear and the people would stand and worship. Many translations describe the Lord as speaking face to face with Moses as a man speaks to his friend (exodus 33:9-11),
And it is in this context that we find the scripture quoted above takes place. Moses meets face to face with God, as a friend (or one who has found favour) and he asks to see God’s glory.
It strikes me that in all these encounters Moses shows boldness/courage, intimacy/openness when he meets with God and the result is that he is changed (his face glows and his willingness to lead and intercede grows). How awesome that these things can be true for us today because of Jesus Christ. Hebrews 4:16 invites us to boldly approach the throne of God, Jesus says ask for anything in my name (John 16:23),Paul writes that God longs to do far more than we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). Are these not an invitation to be incredibly bold when we meet with God.
Jesus says we are now called friends of God (John 15:15), John writes that through Jesus we become children of God (John 1:12) and throughout scripture we and God’s people are referred to as the beloved of God. Are these not good reasons to come and be completely open and honest before God about our feelings, our fears and our dreams?
And for us also, we will find that as we meet with God we are changed. Paul writes that we are like mirrors reflecting the glory of God (2 Corinthians 3:18). We are wonderfully changed as we spend more and more time in the presence of the Lord and we don’t even have to climb a mountain to do so!

We have found favour with God through Jesus Christ and God invites us to draw near. I look forward to seeing our faces glow as we each do this more and more.


From Jan for Good Friday

Matthew 27 v 31 They took Jesus away to be crucified. Keith Getty and Stuart give us a moving account of just what that meant.Oh to see the dawn of the darkest day Christ on the road to Calvary tried by sinful men, torn and beaten, then nailed to a cross of wood. Oh to see the pain written on your face, bearing the awsome weight of sin, every bitter thought, every evil deed crowning your bloodstained brow. Now the daylight flees Now the ground beneath quakes as its maker bows His head.curtain torn in two , dead are raised to life , ”Finished” the victory cry. Oh, to see my name written in the wounds , for through your suffering I am free, Death is crushed to death. Life is mine to live. Won through your selfless love. This the power of the cross,Son of God -slain for us What a love! What a cost! We stand forgiven at the cross .

Fiona



Thursday 1st April



When I survey the wondrous cross

On which the Prince of glory died,

My richest gain I count but loss,

And pour contempt on all my pride.



Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God,

All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.



See from His head, His hands, His feet,

Sorrow and love flow mingled down;
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?



Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were an offering far too small,

Love so amazing, so divine,

Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Isaac Watts


Isaac Watts’ hymn needs no introduction or explanation. Read each verse slowly and reflect on it as a poem rather than singing it and missing the depth of its meaning.

From Dennis

Journey to the cross

“The Spirit compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness, where he was tempted by Satan for forty days.
He was out among the wild animals and the angels took care of him.” Mark 1 verses 12 & 13.

Jesus’ ministry began in the wilderness.
This was not a comfortable retreat or rest; from the
An opportunity to get away from all the stress.
No – this was a preparation for the ultimate test.

Forty days and forty nights to contemplate and pray.
Three years of ministry ahead before that fateful day.

What kind of Messiah did they expect? Would they understand?
Could he select twelve disciples and unite them into a band
That would form the church to bear his name?
To bring hope to the world after that day of shame?

Often, in those three years, Jesus would go away
To isolated spots, alone, to pray.
He did so three times on the night of his arrest,
In the garden of Gethsemane.
Obeying the will of his Father, acknowledging He knew best,
He died for you and me.

Good Friday? Or bad? Nailed to a cross of wood;
Our Saviour crucified!
Yet on the third day He rose, as He said He would;
Jesus alive – even though He had died!
Victory from the jaws of defeat,
A reminder to the disciples of all that He said;
They must now spread the gospel complete –
Death overcome – God’s kingdom lies ahead.

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
Mark 8 verse 34.

Each year we have Lent
Forty days leading up to the Easter event.
Forty days for us to contemplate and pray.
What are you contemplating and praying about today?

Today’s Easter thought (from Peter).”Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28)It is such a simple truth, and we all know it, that Jesus is GOD. From Sunday school onwards, when we struggle with the awkward language of the Trinity and say that we believe in “God and Jesus and stuff”, until now, we often don’t quite exclaim the fullest extent of Jesus’ identity.Every religion and cult in the world, if they acknowledge Jesus at all, will somehow demote Him, saying, “He’s a prophet/a good Man/religious teacher/god or god-like being.” But that’s like introducing Lynette, saying, “This is Lynette, she is my colleague”. She is that, but much more than that, she is my wife! To say anything else would dishonour her.The point is this: Acts 20:28 shows, almost in passing, that divine and amazing truth we celebrate at Easter, that it was GOD who went to the cross for us, it was GOD who shed His own blood for us. To have blood, of course, He had to become human. But Jesus, as 100% human and 100% God, gave His life for us.”And can it be that I should gain,An interest in my Saviour’s blood?Died He for me who caused His pain,For me, who Him to death pursued?Amazing love, how can it be,That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?”‘Tis mystery all, the immortal dies, who can extol His strange designs. In vain the firstborn seraph tries to sound the depths of love divine! Tis mercy all, let earth adore, let angels’ minds inquire no more.” (C. Wesley, And Can It Be)