And so we shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ’s full stature.
Ephesians 4:13 GNB
And now, my brothers and sisters, goodbye! Strive for perfection; listen to my appeals; agree with one another; live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.
2 Corinthians 13:11 GNB
Perfection seems so unattainable and yet there is undeniably a sense of dissatisfaction with the current state of myself and the church, God’s people. I find that deeply frustrating yet the Lord keeps reminding me, in many ways, that our lives are not a race where we are trying to get to the end as quickly as possible and our lives are not about ticking off achievements. Maturing is not about “doing” something but “becoming” someone. God is in for the long haul and he will take as long as he needs to bring us to maturity. This process may seem to take too long. Mark Buchanan (author of God Walk: Moving at the Speed of Your Soul) says this:
Think about the slowness, the labouring groaning back-and-forth slowness, of it, the many plodding years, the many lapses and mishaps and detours. It’s taken all this time for you to become even halfway kind or generous or truthful or loving or just. And how many times have you gotten stuck—in resentment, in fear, in scarcity thinking, in apathy?
But Mark goes on to point out that God made humans to grow slowly, in comparison with the rest of the animal kingdom we take a long time to mature. That’s the way God made us. So we can be sure that God is not perturbed by the fact that we take a long time to mature and grow in Christ; I am sure God enjoys the process far more than we do. The expectation to grow is definitely scriptural though so I encourage each of us to continue opening up our hearts to the Lord so that he can cause us to grow. I encourage each of us to keep building each other up so that we do not become discouraged. And let each of us keep focussed on what God is doing rather than on our “light and momentary troubles”. We can be sure that, as the hymn says, ‘God is working his purposes out’.
Prayer: Father, though I often get impatient, I recognise your sovereignty and trust you to fulfill your purposes in me. Jesus, thank you for interceding for me. Holy Spirit please fill me. Amen
For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace,
Romans 8:6 NASB
I have often found myself “fire-fighting”, spending my time dealing with problems and difficulties that just keep flaring up. Whilst I recognise that occasionally it may be necessary to “just get through the day” it is not the kind of life that is offered to us in Scripture. It is not the life that Jesus lived. Jesus was kind and compassionate, powerful and strong. He knew when to say ‘no’ and when to say ‘let’s go’. Why and how? Jesus didn’t get overwhelmed by the multitudes of sick people, nor the thousands who were hungry, nor the argumentative religious folk. He interacted with them all but his focus was clearly on doing his Father’s will. Jesus prioritised spending time with his Father and obeying him. In turn that meant he knew when to heal, when to feed people, when to correct and when to free people.
I have found the way to stop feeling bombarded by difficulties and to live instead a fulfilled life is to focus on bringing heart and mind and soul in line with Jesus. This is not something that happens when we have finished our work, cleaned the house and spent time with our families. It is something that must be the focus of each and every day. It is only through intimate communion with Father, Son and Holy Spirit that we can ever experience the fullness of life that we so desire. Let us not get caught up in the everyday issues, let us rather keep close to Jesus so that our everyday experience is one of life and peace even when life is difficult.
Lord Jesus, I love you and want to know you more. You have given me life and I want to share your life-giving power with others. Please keep me close to you, focussed on your eternal truths and not the distractions of passing troubles. Help me to be diligent and compassionate in my work that I might bring glory to you. Amen
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 2 Corinthians 4:7
God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them and I will be their God and they will be my people.” 2 Corinthians 6:16
Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. 2 Corinthians 7:1
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
Women and men are capable of doing extraordinary things because we are God’s daughters and sons. We are simultaneously lost and marred by a soul crushing disease we know as sin but we are also transcendent chosen vessels carrying the very face of God. R.York Moore
If you know you are called to be holy and powerful just as Jesus was when he lived on this earth then you are in good company. If you also simultaneously know the pull of sin and weakness equally you are not alone. I would encourage you today to not face this dilemma with the intention to try harder and be better but by reminding yourself of your identity as God’s precious child. Your loving Father is always there to help you no matter what you are facing and no matter how badly you have messed up. Don’t try harder, rather draw nearer to our Lord and allow him to work miracles in your heart and soul and mind.
Prayer: Lord Jesus I want to be like you. I want to do the things you do and speak the words you speak. Holy Spirit come fill me afresh. I choose today to follow your promptings. Father God, I rejoice in your love for me and desire to please you by simply staying close to you today. Yours be the glory, Amen.
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1
I am reading a book called ‘Do Something Beautiful’ by R York Moore. He explores some “firefly ideas” – these are the things where heaven comes down to earth, those things that reveal the glorious nature of God. One of these is embrace – “to be enveloped, to feel the warmth of love, to know at the core of yourself that you are safe and accepted. To embrace the other is to offer these things to another person. Only in the context of relationships can we rightly experience the great firefly idea of embrace, which has the flavour and smell of things like, grace, hope and love.” And my heart cries ‘yes’ embrace is at the heart of the gospel. We are loved, secure and accepted in Jesus and this heals and restores and enables us to grow into all that God has called us to be. We know it is easy to embrace good things and people we love, it is easier to embrace when life is good. It can be terribly difficult to embrace ‘amidst the sorrow of complicated circumstances, social ostracization and the secret fear and hate in our hearts’. Yet the call to embrace, to love and accept and keep safe that which seems unlovely, ugly, hard and different is what we are called to do. As Jesus said there is nothing good about loving those who love us and are lovely – even the ungodly do that. We are called to be like Jesus, to share living water with the Samaritan woman at the well, to eat with the tax collectors and to embrace those who pour expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet. But it is difficult and ‘without the work of Jesus, we get stuck trying really hard’ – what we need is to allow ‘God’s hard work of embrace through Jesus to change us from the inside out’.
And therefore it is my prayer that you know the embrace of God, that you experience his great love for you and are secure in his acceptance of you as you are and his great desire to see you become even more beautiful and Christ-like. I pray also that you might know the embrace of your fellow man, your family and your Christian brothers and sisters. May you find in those relationships grace and love and acceptance. But more than that I pray that as the love of God fills your heart and mind and soul that you will be drawn to embrace those who seem unlovely to you. I pray that you find the Kingdom of God breaking through into your life and the lives of those you encounter as you offer to others the deep love, amazing grace and sure acceptance that you have found in Christ.
You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in their distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat. Isaiah 25:4 NIV
In that day they will say, ‘Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the Lord , we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.’ Isaiah 25:9 NIV
You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Isaiah 26:3 NIV
Yes, Lord , walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts. Isaiah 26:8 NIV
Lord , you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us. Isaiah 26:12 NIV
I would encourage you to read both chapters of Isaiah but I have selected a few verses from chapters 25 and 26 for today. Together they present a picture of trusting and waiting for God because we know God is good and works for our good. He is our peace and our protection and our joy. We often need to trust and wait on God because there is evil and trouble in this world. Sometimes that waiting seems to go on and on and sometimes our trust feels very frail, yet God’s salvation is worth waiting for and God can be trusted to do all that he has promised. Therefore we may need to develop this trust and ability to wait because we/I often find it difficult. We can increase our trust in God by remembering what he has done in the past for ourselves and for others. We can keep trusting God in the small matters until we recognise he can be trusted with all things. As for waiting: we do that in the sure knowledge that God is with us. We are not waiting because he is far away and too busy to help. No, we wait knowing that God has a plan, that his purposes will be fulfilled. He sees all and has power over all. Whatever we must endure whilst we wait will be transformed by God into something for good. Our God can do that!
Prayer: Lord, I choose to trust you and wait for you. In good times, I will celebrate all that you have done for me and speak of your works. In difficult times I will remember your goodness as I cry out to you for help. I will not press ahead with my own plans but will wait until I know the way you want me to go. I will not try to solve my own problems but will ask and wait for your guidance and help. You are good and I am safe on your hands. Thank you. Amen
Be still for the Lord and wait patiently for him…For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land” Psalm 37:7-9
I have been reading a devotional by Andrew Murray on Waiting for God and listening to Robert Morris preach on the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-31). In the parable the younger son wouldn’t wait for his inheritance – he wanted it now. The older son waited bitterly and missed out on the joy of his inheritance. Many scriptures remind us that we, too, are promised an inheritance.
So imagine this: A father owns masses of property and a huge business empire and he is a good man who is respected and renowned. His sons are set to inherit all of this. But they must wait – it is not theirs yet. They can enjoy the fruits of that inheritance now (for the father gladly shares it with them and involves them in business affairs) but they cannot have their own way. They cannot order things to their own purposes but must operate according to their father’s wishes. They have not earned this inheritance – it is not their actions that mean they will inherit but rather their relationship with their father.
We are those sons and our Father in heaven gladly shares all that he has with us. Through our relationship with the Lord we receive righteousness, authority and the presence and provision of the Almighty God. We can well afford to wait for our inheritance – and in that period of waiting we can learn much about our Father’s business in order that we will be ready to reign with him.
If you want to read more about our inheritance then look up some of these scriptures (NB. There are a great many more that also speak of our inheritance).
Deuteronomy 18:2; Colossians 1:12, 3:24; Ephesians 1:14; Acts 20:32; Hebrews 9:15; 1 Peter 1:4
My prayer: Father God, thank you for bringing me into your family and enabling me to share in all the blessings associated with that. Thank you for providing for me and thank you for being with me. Please show me how to live and work and love in a way that brings honour to our family name. Teach me how to think and behave, and through your Holy Spirit make me more like you. In Jesus’ name. Amen
“They shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them.” Numbers 6:27
Fear not: I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. Isaiah 43:1
I share the thoughts of Jane L Fryer in the book ‘Be blessed’:
In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘The Scarlet Letter’, Hester Prynne wears a scarlet A as a punishment for having committed adultery. She is marked for life with a mark of shame.
After Cain kills his brother Abel (Genesis 4:1-16) God marks Cain to prevent others from murdering him in vengeance. He is marked for life with a mark of mercy.
We, too, are marked for life. We bear the name of our Lord and we belong to him. We bear a mark of honour. Because this is absolutely true of each of God’s children, we can shine as beacons of hope in our dark world. Wherever we go, we can “be Jesus” to those around us. No doubt we will fail from time to time in showing Christ’s love. We will miss the mark, drop the ball. But even then our Lord will not disown us. He will never disinherit us. He will never stop honouring us, never stop loving us.
That unconditional acceptance, won for us by our Lord Jesus on the cross of Calvary, creates courage in our hearts. It stirs our zeal for the service in which Jesus places us.
Prayer: Jesus, I want the new identity you have given me to energise my love. May others see you in me. Amen
Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.’
“Be bold, be strong for the Lord your God is with you” – are you singing along yet? Joshua is told many times to be strong and courageous, why? I could suggest a few reasons. Firstly, as Moses successor, he had rather large shoes to fill. Secondly, he had a difficult and daunting task ahead of him. Thirdly, he was human! Neither Joshua nor we are not called to be strong because we are all-powerful, mighty people, nor are we called to be courageous because we are tough fearless men and women, rather we are told to be strong and courageous because our Lord – the Almighty, all-powerful God who has control and authority over every created thing – is with us. So we may note 2 things:
- If God is not with you there are a great many reasons and situations that will cause you to realise your weakness and make you afraid and,
- It is through our confidence that God is with us that we can be strong and courageous.
Therefore if you are in the first category of people you would do well to call out to God and ask that he draw near to you – and he will for that is why he sent his Son Jesus to earth, to die and rise again – that we, frail and weak, might come to the almighty powerful holy God and be welcomed. If you are in the second group then it is wise to increase this confidence that God is with you – talk to the Lord and hear his voice, open your eyes and see him, read his Word and learn the promises he has made and the truths he has declared – be assured that God is with you and the natural consequence will be a stronger more courageous you.
Father God, you made a way for me, a weak and sinful person, to come to you. So through faith in Jesus Christ I come. Jesus you promised to always be with me and so I will talk to you and listen to you and look for you today. Holy Spirit my heart is your home. Live in me, make me alert to the opportunities of partnering with you today. Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I receive your wisdom, strength and courage to face the challenges of today for I know you are with me. Amen.
Whilst we are unable to gather together the Leadership Team are providing daily devotions (Monday – Friday).
These often take the form of a verse followed by some thoughts or a challenge concluding with a prayer. We hope they will draw you near to Jesus.