1 Peter Ch 4 verse 12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you
The words that jump out at me from this verse are ‘do not be surprised’. In fact what surprises me is the amount of Christians who have the impression that being a follower of Jesus means that everything in the garden will be rosy all the time, and that nothing significant will go wrong. The result is that when things do go wrong their faith is undermined, as they cannot reconcile their perception with reality.
The truth is that bad things happen to good people, and being a Christian is not a vaccine against those bad things. Anyone who has read the Bible should be aware of this, as time and time again God’s people, individually and collectively, found themselves facing desperate situations, and their faith was tested.
Maybe as this verse says, the difficulties we find ourselves in are a test from God, maybe he wants to see how we respond when the painful trial strikes and circumstances are against us? Maybe we should not think of such situations as being strange, but rather as an opportunity to prove our faithfulness, and to grow closer to God, maybe?
It is easy to have faith and to call ourselves followers of Jesus Christ when everything is going well and our lives are blessed, but it something else to trust God and put our faith in him when times are challenging and we feel abandoned. In both Deuteronomy and Hebrews, the scriptures tell us that God ‘will never leave us or forsake us’, whether we sense his presence or not, these words stand true.
Dear Lord Jesus, In the midst of the problems, challenges, disappointments and trials of life, help us to keep our eyes upon you and remain faithful, and not be surprised at the painful trial.
Psalm 18 verse 31 ‘For who is God besides the Lord?’
The previous verse speaks of God as a shield and refuge; the verse after of God giving strength. As we ‘taste and see that the Lord is good’ (Ps 34) we will experience the seasons and times when God surely upholds us and keeps us close when we go through days of uncertainty, loss and sadness. However, my story and I hope yours too, is that He also is there to lift us up, heal our wounds and stir us to go on living to then let His life, light and love shine through for others to see. I cannot imagine facing life’s ups and downs without God’s compassion and strength. When others ask us how we carry on with hope and peace; then we’ll know to share something of our walk with the Saviour.
Jesus, our friend and Redeemer, we pray now for all who are mourning the loss of loved ones, special friends and companions. Thank you for the gift of life which you offer to all as we turn to you.
Ezekiel Ch 36 verses 25 – 26 I will sprinkle clean water upon you and you shall be clean from all your uncleanness and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you and a new spirit I will put within you.
These were words from the prophet Ezekiel to the children of Israel. Words of hope. Words that would come about through Jesus, whose life, death and resurrection and the gift of the Holy Spirit would bring life to all who are thirsty and in need of renewing.
We know we have Jesus in our lives and that he gives us new life, but sometimes we just need to be reminded that he does make us clean from the muck of daily life and that he does give us new life and enable us to walk with him. Those symbols of clean water, new heart, and new spirit I find very inspiring and much needed at this time.
Father God, thank you for those words to the Israelites that foretold the work of Jesus and his saving grace, forgiveness and love and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Give us strength each day to walk with you
1 John Ch 4 verse 18 “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.“
Is it just me, or do you also see the words printed on the front pages of most newspapers as having a judgemental tone? Do you ever find yourself thinking in similar ways to this?
It is so easy to collude with the way of the world, is it not, and get on the bandwagon too? However, the quote above is talking about fear and punishment and that the remedy is love.
These polar opposites are put into context, perhaps if one thinks of their effects. Of course, judging aims to separate us from something we think is unacceptable. It would seem that judgemental thoughts lead one to become fearful – fearful of the ‘other’. Tragically, there have been many societies, to take an extreme example, who have then gone on to commit genocide against the ‘other’, justified by their fears.
Remembering that Jesus came preaching that we love and setting The example of how our Father wishes us to live. Seeing also that He came healing, is it not then obvious that what heals us also unites us?
Lord of love, helps us to see that love is the way, and that if we focus more on love and empathy, we should be able to grow closer to Christ, who to us is the bread of life – eternal life.
Revelation Ch 3 verses 15 – 18 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
These are harsh words that John is told to write to one of the churches in Asia, the Church at Laodicea. He accuses them of being lukewarm and self-satisfied, and that all that has happened is that their wealth has made them blind to their failings, and in reality, they are very needy.
Their own false opinion of themselves has made them odious to God, not because of their blatant sin, but because of their complacency born out of their acquisition of wealth.
This is a warning that is relevant to western Christianity today. A warning that in spite of our material wealth, our fine buildings, position in society and well-educated clergy, we also can be found to be lukewarm and self-satisfied. To another Church John was equally critical, and he accused them of departing from their first love.
Maybe a Church that re-finds its first love, Jesus, and is more aware of its own needs rather than considering the laurels of the past, might be a more effective vehicle in spreading the good news today, and less likely to be spat out as lukewarm and not fit for purpose.
Dear Lord Jesus, open the eyes of our heart that we might see our own failings, individually and collectively, and as lovers of Christ allow you to refine us to serve as your body here on earth.
Revelation Ch 4 Today, prompted by this passage from Revelation, I wonder if we could take time to imagine the throne of God in Heaven. For a moment this will enable us to take our eyes off our present concerns and cares. As we do this, I pray our thoughts and hearts would be lifted to praise the Living God who we are created to worship. I imagine as we do this all those who have died in faith, joining the heavenly host saying: ‘Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.’ (verse 8) May these words from Scripture become our cry of praise. Verse 11 states: ‘You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.’ The more we dwell on the Word of God like this, the more we are drawn to God’s presence and filled to go out and live the day for Him.
Jesus, as we praise you, the Father and the Spirit; may your blessing be upon our homes and your peace be over those we remember in prayer now.
Psalm 19 verses 1-4 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 reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the end of the world.
Over the weekend I watched The Dish and Apollo 11. One is a film about Australia’s Parkes radio telescope and how it was involved in transmitting sound and vision from the first astronauts landing on the moon. The second is a documentary involving incredible enhanced footage of the actual events of the first landing on the moon. Both films are well worth watching.
The footage of the earth and the moon and the landing and ‘the heavens’ inspired wordless wonder. They were indeed proclaiming the glory of the Lord.
While it is good and excellent for us to use our voices and songs to worship God, if you are finding it difficult to praise God then let the universe declare it for you until such time as you feel able to.
We praise you Lord God for creation that declares your praise.