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.
I am so grateful for the family of God. In a culture that idolizes individualism, we are called to be a body, a connected entity made one by Jesus Christ.
In Revelation, the message of the vision of Christ was not written for individuals, but as a word to the church, as the messages to the seven churches (ch. 2-3) demonstrate.
Jesus meets us and grows us in this family, with all its frailties and shortcomings, because that is where His Spirit resides and that is where he can best paint a stunning portrait of his grace.
Jesus turns death into resurrection. We take up our cross to find new life. Today I came across the following quote from Henri Nouwen that ties in nicely with what we've learned from James 1.
"Jesus calls us to recognize that gladness and sadness are never separate, that joy and sorrow really belong together, and that mourning and dancing are part of the same movement. That is why Jesus calls us to be grateful for every moment that we have lived, and to claim our unique journey as God’s way to mold our hearts to greater conformity with God’s own. The cross is the main symbol of our faith, and it invites us to find hope where we see pain, and to reaffirm the resurrection where we see death. The call to be grateful is a call to trust that every moment of our life can be claimed as the way of the cross that leads us to new life." - Henri Nouwen
The wonder of Christmas includes the unexpected aspects of the story of Jesus' birth; that the celestial birth announcement would come to low cast shepherds and not to the priestly establishment; that foreigners, magi, would track his arrival and catch Jerusalem by surprise; that Joseph and Mary and the child would be forced to flee to Egypt in haste. The wonder of wonders remains that God shows his love to us in giving this Indescribable Gift, Christ our Saviour!
As we enter the season of Advent and Christmas, the season of joy, we praise God for his indescribable gift!
I hope these words from Mother Teresa are an encouragement to you:
"The password of the early Christians was joy, so let us still serve the Lord with joy. Joy is love, joy is prayer, joy is strength. God loves a person who gives joyfully, and if you give joyfully you always give more. A joyful heart is the result of a heart burning with love. Works of love are always works of joy. We don’t need to look for happiness: if we have love for others we’ll be given it. It is the gift of God."
The power of forgiveness is remarkable. When we think of the grace we have received from God through his forgiving of our sins, we are left speechless.
Ephesians 1:7 says, "He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins."
Gone are the excuses, the pretense, the masks. We can do nothing to wash away the ugliness of our sins, or even earn our cleansing. But we come in humility to Calvary and we find freedom! We discover that his forgiveness has the power to transform. This Sunday we will look at Psalm 51 where confession is taught and God's forgiveness is celebrated.
The following quote is from musician Rich Mullins, who wrote 'Our God is an Awesome God'.
"I think I would rather live on the verge of falling and let my security be in the all-sufficiency of the grace of God than to live in some pietistic illusion of moral excellence. Not that I don't want to be morally excellent but my faith isn't in the idea that I'm more moral than anybody else. My faith is in the idea that God and His love are greater than whatever sins any of us commit."
Ever feel like your life is so mundane and ordinary, wondering, "Does anyone really notice the things I do?"
Colossians 3:17 says "Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."
May this quote from Mother Teresa encourage you today: "Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies. Nothing is small for our good God, for he is great and we are small. That is why he lowers himself and cares to do small things, in order to offer us an opportunity to show him our love. Since he does them, they are great things, they are infinite. Nothing he does can be small. Again: practice fidelity even in the least things, not for their own sake, but for the sake of what is great – that is, the will of God."
It's good to stand in amazement of God's greatness, majesty, holiness and power. And to think that this same God loves us and pours out his mercy upon us! As Romans 11:33 says, "Oh, how great are God's riches and wisdom and knowledge! It is impossible for us to understand his decisions and his ways!"
For people of faith, to stand in awe of God is to give him glory. All glory to him forever!
Pastor Ward Parkinson