When is an uncomplimentary comment the one I want to hear?

Jesus’ friendship is totally honest but at the same time, totally loving. That’s how we should be with each other.

Image credit: public domain

The Kingdom of God is the key to understanding an apparent paradox

Verse

An open rebuke is better than hidden love! Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.  

Proverbs 27:5-6 NLT

Summary

The most sincere friend we will ever have, is the Lord Jesus – but at the same time, His friendship is of the totally honest kind. Similarly, others that share that same saving relationship with Jesus will be able to relate to us both truthfully and lovingly.

Prayer

Lord, speak into my life and reveal Your kingdom purpose and order to me
as I seek to serve You.

Of course You will need to pull me up,
redirect me and at times confront my proudly-held opinions
but if You are to be my Lord, I will experience Your love in it.

Enable me to be an honest encourager of others,
never seeking to raise my standing by criticism of others,
always aware of Your grace towards me and seeking to pass it on.
In Jesus name, Amen

///////

Link

For a reflection exploring this verse, go over to this page on www.believethegoodnews.com

What is God saying to us through this crisis?

What is God saying to us through this epidemic? He wants our attention; to know that “the Son of God has come, and He has given us understanding so that we can know the true God.”

IT’S TIME TO WORK OUT WHO GOD REALLY IS

Golden sun disappearing to sea off Gower Peninsula, Wales

Verse

And we know that the Son of God has come, and He has given us understanding so that we can know the true God. And now we live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, and He is eternal life.

1 John 5:20 NLT

Summary

Prayer

O God, I thank You so much that You sent Your Son, Jesus,
so that we could know Him,
and through Him know You.

Jesus, I thank You for being the only man who could live a perfect life
and then go to a shameful and horrendous death
to pay the price for my independence and rebellion.
My rebellion is over!

I receive You, Jesus, as my Saviour
and give You charge of my life as my Lord.
I rejoice that my sin and shame is accounted for by You,
I receive Your Holy Spirit and live as a new person
in the freedom You have won for me.

As I accept Your death on my behalf,
receive my life and obedience
as I set out to live for You and with You.
Amen.

Link

For a reflection on this verse, go over to www.believethegoodnews.com

How can I overcome anxiety?

Knowing where our security comes from, and praising God for it, gives us peace.

Illustrative view of how Weobley Castle appeared. Image credit: Ian Greig

I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:12-13 NLT

SUMMARY

Living free from anxiety is about knowing where our security is and where our supply comes from. Too easily we forget, and fail to praise the God who gives us everthing. When we think we’re on our own, He is looking out for us.

PRAYER

Thank You, Lord, that Your provision and protection is sure
in times of plenty and in times of lack.
We thank You for the many safeguards and protections we enjoy,
which previous generations never knew.
We regard every source of provision,
every comfort of life
as coming from You,
every ability we summon up as coming from Christ,
and we honour You as the Giver.
Amen.


For a reflection on this verse, go over to www.believethegoodnews.com

What is an encounter with Jesus about, in a nutshell?

Possibly the most concise statement of what Christian faith is all about

Three monks from Mount St Bernard monastery, Leicestershire
Filmmaker Nick Hamer recently spent three years visiting the monks of Mount St Bernard Monastery, Leicestershire and learning about how they value quietness and listening and reflection — few words, not many. Image credit: Nick Hamer, www.outsidethecityfilm.com.

VERSE

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.

Ephesians 1:7 NIV

SUMMARY

This one short sentence packs in five foundational truths about Jesus’ saving work. (1) Believing in Him, we become joined spiritually to Him and gain new life in Him; (2) the shedding of blood, needed for forgiveness, was a sacrifice Jesus made for us; (3) we don’t have to strive to be forgiven, but through faith receive God’s forgiveness — He loves us! (4) He purchased our freedom, often called redemption.

PRAYER

Lord, even a great many words would not express the magnitude of what You have done for us in Christ Jesus.

May we be people who show our gratitude and share our new life, not in pious words but in ways that touch and bless others.

Thank You so much, Lord Jesus! Amen.

LINK

For a short reflection on this verse (and an interesting story about the monks), go over to www.believethegoodnews.com

How can God help me handle false accusations?

It’s wrong and Scripture forbids it, but we still find ways to murder the reputation of those we don’t like — and it happens to us. Scripture’s promise here is that this strategy of the devil against believers will not prevail — God’s truth will.

Image credit: Joshua Eckstein on Unsplash

But in that coming day no weapon turned against you will succeed. You will silence every voice raised up to accuse you. These benefits are enjoyed by the servants of the LORD; their vindication will come from me. I, the LORD, have spoken!

Summary

Murder is abhorrent but we find ways of justifying the murder of a person’s reputation, although strongly condemned by Scripture, from the Ten Commandments to the letters to churches. Scripture’s promise here is that this strategy of the devil against believers will  not prevail — God’s truth will.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, no one knows the pain of betrayal and false accusations like You do. Thank You for believing in me, and being my comfort when others have sought to create discomfort — or worse.

Where I am wrong — show me my fault.

Where others are wrong — show them the truth.

I praise You, Lord of heaven and earth, as the great and good Creator who is over every created thing — including Satan and his accusations.
I praise You that Your truth and Your  justice will prevail, and I trust Your promises. Amen.


For a reflection based on this verse, go over to this page on www.believethegoodnews.com

God loved us first

Mother goose watches over her gosling on Weobley Marsh common.     Image credit: Ian Greig 03412

This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

1 John 4:10 (NIV)

Why should God love me?

“If you really knew me… knew what was in my life behind the front that I put up … If you really knew me (I suppose God knows me like that) you wouldn’t expect God to love me.”

It’s not a real quote but I have heard a version of that comment many times as a pastor.

The way we see ourselves and the way God sees us, are not the same. The way we value ourselves and the way God values us are not the same.

We work on the premise that our relationship with God works like the way we get to know anyone else. God has to get to know us, and hopefully He will see some things He likes and over time, become warm to us.

Wrong. God loved and accepted us first.

He may not love and accept all our attitudes or behaviour… but He created us and sent His Son Jesus to be the “atoning sacrifice”, to pay the high price to make things right for us.

Is this automatic? The fact of God’s love for us is not a maybe — that’s established. What is not automatic is our love for God, and our acceptance of Jesus for who He is. That requires us to make a choice!

We agree with Jesus about who He is and what He has done in our behalf. What He did was costly. Our decision also has a cost to it – the cost of our independence, of giving someone else a higher place in our lives. But now we realise the extent of God’s love for us that was there all along. We just had to make our move, to receive it.

As the Passion Translation puts it:

This is love: He loved us long before we loved Him. It was His love, not ours. He proved it by sending His Son to be the pleasing sacrificial offering to take away our sins.” 1 John‬ ‭4:10‬ ‭TPT‬‬

How real insight comes

Image credit: Ian Greig 03314

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 1:7 NIV

Question and answer

Q. Should  we fear Someone who is love, and who is committed to be merciful in His dealings with us?

A. There is the ‘stab of fear’, like when the tiger in the zoo fastens its eyes on you; and there is the slower apprehension of being momentarily speechless in the presence of greatness, like meeting the Queen.
One stirs you to ‘fight or flight’; the other moves you positively, to deep respect and deference – and a willingness to listen.

SUGGESTED PRAYER

Lord, we worship You.

We bow down before Your majestic presence,
yet You would have us address You as ‘Father’.

We put aside our imagined  knowledge and experience,
and seek Your instruction.

We bring our situation of difficulty which has baffled the  leading minds,
knowing You have wisdom and insight far above our own,
and the grace to impart it to those who listen.

Lead us in Your  way, Lord,
and share with us a glimpse from Your  perspective –
raising our faith to pray in agreement with You,
for Your will to be done.
Amen.


A thought about this verse – possibly controversial, but topical

Real insight page (www.believethegoodnews.com)

God is good

Stourhead       Image credit: Ian Greig 02596

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.
1 Chronicles 16:34 NIV

PRAYER

Whatever I am feeling, Lord, I look to You and see that You are good.

Whatever I have experienced from others, Lord — I look to You and see that You are good.

Whatever the news brings, or the interviewers twist, or the headline spins: Lord, I look to You and see that You are true and You are good.

Whenever negativity creeps into my thoughts, Lord, I look to You and see that You are good.

Bring Your goodness out of me today, that I might be someone’s else good experience.

Amen

Authenticity

Righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit
Image credit: Robert Collins, Unsplash

Romans 14:17-18

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.

PRAYER

Lord, we pray the kingdom of God over [name it] our village and area, a blessing of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

May we see a move of Your Holy Spirit that moves hearts to turn from independence and self-centredness, to Jesus and invite Him in.

May we experience the peace and joy that only He can give us, by softening our hearts.

May others see the difference and be attracted to seek Christ for themselves. Amen.

THOUGHT BEHIND THE PRAYER

Paul was addressing Christians in Rome who made a play of keeping special days and observing fasts and dietary rules — all of which was part of the way of life…

continued
…in a city with as many temples to various deities as our cities have church buildings representing different traditions.

Romans liked to know the rules and found security in following them, and in many ways this has been passed down to us. We like to bring relational faith — difficult to quantify, difficult to define — down to a system of belief.

In other words, we like to make a religion out of it.

Gaining and maintaining a relationship with God is, in the first place, costly. Nobody finds sacrificing their independence an easy write-off. And keeping up that relationship needs ongoing investment! A routine that involves certain prescribed actions — and where we can judge how well we and others are ticking the boxes — is much easier. All we need is genuine faith in Jesus — giving Him our trust. Humanly, faith in Jesus alone does not seem enough. We feel the need to add our own effort.

But Paul discounts attainments ‘earned’ through lifestyle and points to the evidence of new life that comes through character and joy.

It’s not anything we do that produced that. It’s what we allow the Holy Spirit to do. Our efforts are like us denying that the grace of God can only be received and never earned. The whole point of God’s grace is that there is nothing good we can do which counts.

When God’s Spirit is free to do His work in us — the work He can do and which we cannot do — the joy and peace we have will be evident to all. And depending on our lifestyle before, our being right with God may strike others as a remarkable change!


Reaching higher rather than reacting from within

Bristol: Edward Colston statue being toppled by protestors.
Image credit: The Times

“Three things will last forever — faith, hope, and love — and the greatest of these is love.”
‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

PRAYER

LORD God, at this time of tension and demonstration, we pray that we might all renounce racial inequality and injustice. May we learn from our history as it stands. Forgive us our historic sins.

We pray for growing awareness of who Jesus is and what He has done that we could never earn. May faith in Him rise.

May the hope of having confidence in Your rule and reign be our motivation. We call down Your blessing of love and forbearance and unity.

Lord, hear our prayer and heal our land. Amen.

A THOUGHT BEHIND THE PRAYER

TIMES of great pressure bring out the best and the worst in us…

Read more

Rioting, racism and toppling statues are embarrassing examples of the worst. But the present pandemic has also caused people to reach beyond themselves to find the real strength that sustains and endures.

Pau wrote these words in the context of a growing city church that had become rather over-engaged with spiritual gifts. These were spiritual qualities of the kind that can be demonstrated. Prophetic words of knowledge or the wisdom for acting on them, the gift of special faith, an unlearned inspired prayer language — these are all God-given and evident, highly useful and valuable at a specific time. But they are situational and for the moment, rather than the “will last forever” quality he flags up.

A record of attitudes we have learned to reform

At times of pressure we can respond within ourselves, in an emotionally driven way. The anger over police brutality is real enough and any Christian would have deep misgivings about the source of Edward Colston’s philanthropy. His statue is part of Bristol’s history, and records his using wealth for the benefit of the city of Bristol. It also stands as a record of attitudes we have learned to reform and reasons we now deplore the practices of Colston’s time..

The angry actions of crowds against this and other statues, like the Baden-Powell statue in Bournemouth looking out to Brownsea Island where the Scout movement started, looks not so much like a demonstration against racism as a desire to remove history — rather than learn from it. That looks less like protest, and more like people finding an avenue for taking out their frustrations.

Look to the eternal strengths of faith, hope and love

Paul says, look to the eternal strengths of faith, hope and love. Far from being abstract, each of these describes an indispensable aspect of our relationship with God.

Faith believes who God is, almighty and majestic — and the epitome of goodness. So to lament, and even protest about, injustice makes little sense without a perspective of what God’s kingdom order looks like, which will be based on how He is Himself. And then the effective protest might be to God in His goodness, recognising that He is the One who sees and acts, although we need to be willing to be directed as part of the answer to the prayer, e.g. through reforming politics.

Hope is close to trust in the relationship because it is the sense of a confident expectation based on God’s nature, how He has acted in the past and what He has said for all time. This may also focus into a ‘now’ word as He speaks to us today. Hope is more than an aspiration, it is a sense of assurance that God, who we know, will come through in the right way and the best timing.

Love transforms… into a joyful response to the immense and unconditional love of God

Love is what defines the essential character of the relationship. Love is what transforms a sense of solemn religious obedience and obligation to God — the poverty, chastity and obedience of medieval Christianity – into a joyful response to the immense and unconditional love of God. This comes through a heart change, not intellectual understanding, and it happens when we exercise faith to believe who Jesus is and what He has done for us, with hope’s confident expectation that He will count us in His gift of salvation. This invites the Holy Spirit to change our heart and rekindle it, repairing the connection with God’s care and love we call fellowship that Adam carelessly broke right at the beginning times1.

Responding to frustration by reaching higher, into God’s goodness, is responding to Him as He has created us to do, rather than the response of how we have become, selfish and independent – and angry. A noisy protest and token damage changes nothing, and highlights history rather than changing it.

Reaching into God is finding the power that brings real change, both for us and for our broken world.

  1. Genesis 3 []