God’s Voice of Reassurance

•February 19, 2021 • Leave a Comment

This was written for our Circuit Daily Devotions, part of the online ministry. For those who prefer to watch and hear it is available here:

This is the written text for those who prefer to read:

In today’s reading, right at the beginning of Lent, we have Jesus speaking about what he knows will be the inevitable conclusion.

John 12:27-36a

Jesus Speaks about His Death

27 “Now my heart is troubled—and what shall I say? Shall I say, ‘Father, do not let this hour come upon me’? But that is why I came—so that I might go through this hour of suffering. 28 Father, bring glory to your name!”

Then a voice spoke from heaven, “I have brought glory to it, and I will do so again.”

29 The crowd standing there heard the voice, and some of them said it was thunder, while others said, “An angel spoke to him!”

30 But Jesus said to them, “It was not for my sake that this voice spoke, but for yours. 31 Now is the time for this world to be judged; now the ruler of this world will be overthrown. 32 When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to me.” (33 In saying this he indicated the kind of death he was going to suffer.)

34 The crowd answered, “Our Law tells us that the Messiah will live forever. How, then, can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?”

35 Jesus answered, “The light will be among you a little longer. Continue on your way while you have the light, so that the darkness will not come upon you; for the one who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. 36 Believe in the light, then, while you have it, so that you will be the people of the light.”

The Unbelief of the People

After Jesus said this, he went off and hid himself from them.

This passage begins quite openly with the humanity of Jesus.  Jesus is troubled.  He knows what is coming, and he does not want it to happen.  But he knows that is his mission, that he is going to have to suffer and God’s glory will be shown. 

It can be easy to think Jesus went along quite happily with everything that happened to him in Holy Week and on Good Friday, that his ultimate call sat easily with him. 

Image result for jesus in garden of gethsemane

Though in the Garden of Gethsemane he called out to God – it says that grief and anguish came over him and the sorrow almost crushed him, in body and spirit.  This journey was not easy for Jesus, yet he pressed on.  I am sure he could have just disappeared if he wanted to, run away, evaded the ultimate sacrifice, his destiny; but he didn’t. 

At this point, God speaks to him reassuringly: you are doing a good job, glory has already been brought to me, and it will be again, it is an ongoing thing.

The voice was not just for Jesus, for his reassurance and comfort, but for all those around, those watching.  God has been, is being, and will continue to be glorified.

Jesus knows what is going to happen to him, and he knows what will happen because of it.

And he calls on them to believe in him, to live by the light that he shows, because living in darkness is not a good way to be.  The light that Jesus shows, is God’s way of living, the best way, the God way.  Jesus has embodied that so that all that see may be able to know and seek to live it for themselves.

Image result for what about me

And what about us?  Does it make you feel any different about Jesus’ death knowing that knew what was coming and was troubled by it?  Do we hear God’s voice of reassurance?  Does it give extra impetus to live by the light that Jesus shows? 

I think there is a really important  point here of being willing to say at times that we are afraid, even of God’s call – that it is ok to be terrified and overwhelmed of what you are being asked to do.

And what if we know God is asking something of us that scares us, makes us quake at our knees?  Can we take strength from Jesus’ journey to the cross?  Can we hear God’s reassurance to us that God is being glorified in what happens?  Can we know God’s promise of his presence with us?

This Lent, perhaps we can hear God calling anew, or reassuring us on the path we are already on.  Let us walk in his light, his strength, his promise into all he is calling us to.

Thank you Lord
for the humanity of Jesus
for his sharing his fears
and anguish.

Thank you for your reassurance,
for Jesus
and for us.

May we pick up on that strength
and walk in your ways
in confidence of you.

Today’s song suggestion is Will You Come and Follow Me, God’s invitation to journey with him – scary, full of trepidation, but God working in and through us. 

Thank you for beginning the journey through Lent with me this week.  I hope it has been useful and pray God’s blessing on you as you continue the journey.

If you enjoy these posts more of my work is available in my books

Hope in Clay Pots

•February 18, 2021 • Leave a Comment

This was written for our Circuit Daily Devotions which appear Monday to Friday as part of the online ministry. If you would prefer to watch and listen to them they are available here:

This is the written version for those who find that more helpful:

Today’s suggested reading talks about our hope, our hope in God.  Not like Moses, who when he approached God his face was bright with God’s presence, but which very quickly faded when he left that presence. 

Not like the people whose minds were closed to God and God’s revelation. We are people who are joined by Christ.  The presence of Jesus is with us.  We can know what God is saying – and respond to that.  We are called to reflect that. 

I’ve added a couple of verses on the end.  Seeing the title of Chapter 4, Spiritual Treasure in Clay Pots, led me on to one of my favourite bible passages, so I have added on verses 7-11.  In the context of Lent it seems to help – it certainly offers me hope (and shows I do actually refer to Paul’s writings on the odd occasion!)

2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2, 7-11

12 Because we have this hope, we are very bold. 13 We are not like Moses, who had to put a veil over his face so that the people of Israel would not see the brightness fade and disappear. 14 Their minds, indeed, were closed; and to this very day their minds are covered with the same veil as they read the books of the old covenant. The veil is removed only when a person is joined to Christ. 15 Even today, whenever they read the Law of Moses, the veil still covers their minds. 16 But it can be removed, as the scripture says about Moses: “His veil was removed when he turned to the Lord.”17 Now, “the Lord” in this passage is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is present, there is freedom. 18 All of us, then, reflect the glory of the Lord with uncovered faces; and that same glory, coming from the Lord, who is the Spirit, transforms us into his likeness in an ever greater degree of glory.

Spiritual Treasure in Clay Pots

God in his mercy has given us this work to do, and so we do not become discouraged. We put aside all secret and shameful deeds; we do not act with deceit, nor do we falsify the word of God. In the full light of truth we live in God’s sight and try to commend ourselves to everyone’s good conscience.

Yet we who have this spiritual treasure are like common clay pots, in order to show that the supreme power belongs to God, not to us. We are often troubled, but not crushed; sometimes in doubt, but never in despair; there are many enemies, but we are never without a friend; and though badly hurt at times, we are not destroyed. 10 At all times we carry in our mortal bodies the death of Jesus, so that his life also may be seen in our bodies.

What a privilege to have the promise of Jesus’ presence within us.  And where that presence is, there is peace.  That is such a precious promise to us.  How much more special to know that it is a treasure is even in “common clay pots”.  If the spiritual reality check of our lives leaves us feeling less than glorious, or realising that we are just a common pot, nothing special – God’s treasure is still in us. 

It does not matter is we feel common or broken, God is still there, still in us still working through us.  Common clay pots are not useless, but very much useful and how God works.  God does not need fancy ceramics, or valuable pottery.  God is not looking for a Clarice Cliff or a piece of fine Minton china.  God is with us and can use us, as we are.  God works his beauty within us, whatever the container looks like.

I enjoy watching The Great Pottery Throwdown on tv, but it breaks my heart when the judges crush the ones they do not think meet up to scratch and throw them in their bucket.  Wonky for them is not good enough.

Fortunately for me, and maybe you, God thinks otherwise.  It is not about me, but what God can do in and through me.

In the immortal, and beautiful word of Leonard Cohen in his song Anthem,

“There is a crack, a crack in everything,
That’s how the light gets in”   **

I love that song, and it sustained me through a time when life was anything but beautiful.  We do not have to be pristine for God to use us – and indeed perhaps being a little bit cracked or broken makes us all the more useful.

We may be troubled, in doubt or despair – but not destroyed.  God in Jesus is still within us, however frail it appears our vessels are.  And I for one am very grateful for that.

Thank you Lord
for our hope
– hope found in you.

Thank you that you live within us,
however we feel.
Even,
or perhaps especially,
when we are troubled,
in despair,
doubting
or broken.

Thank you
that I am enough,
whether fine bone china,
ornately decorated porcelain
or common clay,
even if it is cracked.

May I reflect your glory
in my life.

Today’s song suggestion is Leonard Cohen’s Anthem – let it feed your soul.  If that is not your thing there is a link to a video I found with a story about a cracked jar and one that to all intents and purposes was perfect – and the difference they made. 

**as an aside, although Leonard Cohen rarely explained his songs, he did speak on this one:

That is the background of the whole record, I mean if you have to come up with a philosophical ground, that is “Ring the bells that still can ring.” It’s no excuse… the dismal situation.. and the future is no excuse for an abdication of your own personal responsibilities towards yourself and your job and your love. “Ring the bells that still can ring”: they’re few and far between but you can find them. “Forget your perfect offering”, that is the hang-up, that you’re gonna work this thing out. Because we confuse this idea and we’ve forgotten the central myth of our culture which is the expulsion from the garden of Eden. This situation does not admit of solution or perfection. This is not the place where you make things perfect, neither in your marriage, nor in your work, nor anything, nor your love of God, nor your love of family or country. The thing is imperfect. And worse, there is a crack in everything that you can put together, physical objects, mental objects, constructions of any kind. But that’s where the light gets in, and that’s where the resurrection is and that’s where the return, that’s where the repentance is. It is with the confrontation, with the brokenness of things.
–  from Diamonds in the Line HT https://gerryco23.wordpress.com/2008/12/18/leonard-cohens-anthem/

If you enjoy these posts more of my work is available in my books

Ash Wednesday

•February 17, 2021 • 1 Comment

This was written for our Circuit Daily Devotions which appear Monday to Friday as part of the online ministry. If you would prefer to watch and listen to them they are available here:

This is the written version for those who find that more helpful:

Today, Ash Wednesday, I am going to offer a structure, a format, to spend time with God, examining our lives and offering it before God.  I wrote it a few years ago, readers of this blog will have read it before and it can be found in my Lent book, but I wanted to offer it here, verbalised for you.

During the times of reflection there will be some photos on the screen that are of the most amazing sculpture called Christ, Table and Ashes by Graca Pereira Coutinho, that we discovered in an art gallery in Calheta, Madiera.  We were only in there because the weather was so awful, but the installation has stayed with me ever since.

Ash Wednesday is a time for reflection, for confession, for honesty before God.  It is an opportunity also to seek God’s forgiveness – and receive it, deep into our heart and mind; to know that those things that trouble us, and those we are barely aware of but affect us deeply, can be dealt with by God; and to receive his peace.

Ashes are a way to show sorrow, a physical sign of an inner reality.

Ashes mark penitence and mourning, an acknowledgement of and sorrow at our wrongdoing.

Daniel 9:2-4 (CEV)

Daniel Prays for the People

1-2 Daniel wrote:

Some years later, Darius the Mede, who was the son of Xerxes, had become king of Babylonia. And during his first year as king, I found out from studying the writings of the prophets that the Lord had said to Jeremiah, “Jerusalem will lie in ruins for seventy years.” 3-4 Then, to show my sorrow, I went without eating and dressed in sackcloth and sat in ashes. I confessed my sins and earnestly prayed to the Lord my God:

Our Lord, you are a great and fearsome God, and you faithfully keep your agreement with those who love and obey you.

We go through life.  We think we’re doing ok – not a bad job all things considered.  That’s often the case and that is to be celebrated.  There are other times when we don’t even have time to stop and think about it.  When we are busy just surviving, getting to the next thing, trying to hold everything together.

But sometimes we are pulled up short. Perhaps this year has given us more opportunity to stop and reflect, to stand back and evaluate our lives.  Or maybe if you are a key worker it has just been non-stop and you need nothing more than the opportunity to stop, stand back and reflect.  Sometimes in our lives, we realise we have got something badly wrong, or just a little bit wrong, and we have to stop and think.  We need to apologise, put right what we have got wrong and receive forgiveness.  Often the hardest person to forgive is ourselves.

Ash Wednesday is a day set aside, a specific opportunity to do that thinking.  To take the time to purposely reflect before God on the reality that is our life.  What is good, what we would be better without, and where God is in all that.

So let’s take that time.

Burning,
cleansing God,
I come before you today;
I want to take this time
to remember,
to honestly recall,
to examine my life
in your presence;
to ask my self
if I live up to all you ask of me,
day by day,
heartbeat by heartbeat,
in every corner of my life.

We know the Ten Commandments:

Exodus 20:1-17 (CEV)

The Ten Commandments

20 God said to the people of Israel:

I am the Lord your God, the one who brought you out of Egypt where you were slaves.

Do not worship any god except me.

Do not make idols that look like anything in the sky or on earth or in the ocean under the earth. Don’t bow down and worship idols. I am the Lord your God, and I demand all your love. If you reject me, I will punish your families for three or four generations. But if you love me and obey my laws, I will be kind to your families for thousands of generations.

Do not misuse my name. I am the Lord your God, and I will punish anyone who misuses my name.

Remember that the Sabbath Day belongs to me. You have six days when you can do your work, 10 but the seventh day of each week belongs to me, your God. No one is to work on that day—not you, your children, your slaves, your animals, or the foreigners who live in your towns. 11 In six days I made the sky, the earth, the oceans, and everything in them, but on the seventh day I rested. That’s why I made the Sabbath a special day that belongs to me.

12 Respect your father and your mother, and you will live a long time in the land I am giving you.

13 Do not murder.

14 Be faithful in marriage.

15 Do not steal.

16 Do not tell lies about others.

17 Do not want anything that belongs to someone else. Don’t want anyone’s house, wife or husband, slaves, oxen, donkeys or anything else.

Read them slowly, thinking not just about the letter of them, but the spirit too.

Talk honestly to God about where you are with them and with him.  How have I lived out what God wants me to do?  How have I shown love, his love and mine, to those around me?  Not just the lovely people, but those that I struggle with too?

Do not worship any god except me.

I worship God, but are there other gods in my life?  Things I do rather than spend time with God or do what God requires of me?  Are there things I put in God’s place?

Do not misuse my name

Am I free and easy with God’s name?  Do I do or say things that make me sound like I am closer to God than I am; or when I use his name to validate what I say, when it is actually my opinion that I have to say?

Remember that the Sabbath Day belongs to me

Do I make space, real space, for God, for myself and for those I love?  Or am I busy cramming my life with things that don’t really matter?

Respect your father and your mother

Do I truly respect those that I should?  Those who have experience and wisdom that I don’t?  Those who have sacrificed much for me and cared for me?

Do not murder

Of course I’ve never murdered anyone, but have I done and said things that have made people die on the inside?  Have I wished ill of people?

Be faithful in marriage

Am I faithful?  Do I always give the honour that is due?  Am I focussed, or do other things distract me?

Do not steal

I may not commit robbery, but do I look for short-cuts, loopholes or the cheapest rather than the best way?  Do I take others time, take them and all they offer for granted?  Am I looking for an easy ride through life, or willing to give as much as I get?

Do not tell lies about others

Am I honest in character?  Do I stretch the truth when it suits me?  Avoid the question?

Do not want anything that belongs to someone else

Am I easily jealous, wanting what others have?  Thinking it will answer my problems?

There is so much I do that I shouldn’t do, and so little I do that I should…

Lord,
I come before you
in penitence,
to say that I am truly sorry.

My life is not what you would have it be,
I have not lived as the person you called me to be,
I have got some things very wrong.

As I think of the ashes,
the dirt and the dust,
I see the darkness in my life;

Forgive me,
I pray.

In the traditional words of ashing:

Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.

Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ.

Thank you
that you promise forgiveness
and give it freely.

This day may I go,
marked by you,
forgiven,
restored
and free

in and through
your love

Todays song suggestion is Dust We Are and Shall Return by The Brilliance

If you want to talk to someone after listening to this, please do find someone – a Minister, a trusted friend.  Know that you are forgiven and free by all that God in Jesus offers.

Be blessed this day and may the peace of God be with you.

If you enjoy these posts more of my work is available in my books

 
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