Today let us rejoice in our redeeming God.
We live in a world that believes in self-actualization: that your life's goal is to discover the 'real you' on the inside and let that pure 'human spirit' shine for all to see.
The reality is that in sin we are broken and need saving and redeeming.
English journalist, Malcolm Muggeridge, stated that “the depravity of man is at once the most empirically verifiable reality, but at the same time most intellectually resisted fact.”
Only Jesus can take brokenness and make it whole, make it free, and make it beautiful.
We often hear how hard it can be to respond with forgiveness when wronged. Yet we are called to it nonetheless. What we don't hear about as often is the power that lies within this act of forgiveness. The triumph of Jesus over evil is shared with us as we forgive others as we have been forgiven by God.
The following was found written on a wrapping paper at Ravensbruck concentration camp in WW2:
"Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all the suffering they have inflicted upon us. Remember rather the fruits we brought, thanks to this suffering: our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, the courage, the generosity, the greatness of heart that has grown out of this. And when they come to judgment, let all the fruits we have borne be their forgiveness."
Here are some wise words from Charles Haddon Spurgeon. His words, originally spoken 150 years ago, are very applicable today.
“We wrestle not with flesh and blood. Christians are not at war with any people who walk the earth. We are at war with infidelity, but the infidel people we love and pray for; we are at war with heresy, but we have no enmity against heretics; we are opposed to, and cry war to the death with, everything that opposes God and his truth, but towards every human being we would still endeavor to carry out the holy maxim, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” The Christian soldier has no gun and no sword, for Christians do not fight with flesh and blood. It is with “spiritual wickedness in high places” that we fight, and with other principalities and powers than with those that sit on thrones and hold scepters in their hands."
The following quote is from Jean Vanier, a great Canadian Christian leader from times past who exemplified compassion and service in the name of Christ.
"Welcoming is not just something that happens as people cross the threshold. It is an attitude; it is the constant openness of the heart; it is saying to people every morning and at every moment, “come in”; it is giving them space; it is listening to them attentively. To welcome means listening a great deal to people and then discerning the truth with them."
Let us keep this spirit of welcome alive in us day to day.
As Christians we are called to love others genuinely, sincerely. This always involves a certain level of risk. Consider the following from C.S. Lewis, and show some love today:
"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one...Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is hell."
As we look forward to worshiping together this Good Friday, here are some thoughts about the Cross from Philip Yancey. We will be celebrating the Lord's Table together as part of our service.
"The image Jesus left with the world, the cross, the most common image in the Christian religion, is proof that God cares about our suffering and pain. He died of it. Today the image is coated with gold and worn around the necks of beautiful girls, a symbol of how far we can stray from the reality of history. But it stands, unique among all religions of the world. Many of them have gods. But only one has a God who cared enough to become a man and to die."
In this season of the cross, here are some words of deep truth from Evelyn Underhill:
"To look at the Crucifix and then to look at our own hearts; to test by the cross the quality of our love – if we do that honestly and unflinchingly we don’t need any other self-examination. The lash, the crown of thorns, the mockery, the stripping, the nails – It is no use to talk in a large vague way about the love of God; here is its point of insertion in the world."
Happy new year to all!
As we enter into 2018 let's seek to walk closer to Jesus day by day. I was encouraged in this direction through a devotional today from Charles Spurgeon:
"If you are a child of God, you will seek your Father's face and live in your Father's love. Pray that this year you may be holy, humble, zealous, and patient. Pray for a closer communion with Christ. Enter into his banqueting-house of love more often. Pray that you may be an example and a blessing to others and that you may live more to the glory of your Master."
In honour of last week's home going of Billy Graham, here's a quote from him to spark you day:
"Only God can give us a selfless love for others, as the Holy Spirit changes us from within. This is one reason we must receive Christ, for apart from His Spirit we can never be freed from the chains of selfishness, jealousy, and indifference. Will others see Christ's love in your life today?"
Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Today we focus afresh on what it means to follow Christ in his steps to Calvary. The love and grace that are bound up in the Cross are the gifts of God meeting my greatest need. That love also then becomes my greatest pursuit.
Lord, lest I forget, lead me to Calvary.
Pastor Ward Parkinson