When things don’t go well

‘…make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.’ Psalm 80.3

Life does not always go well and things happen that confuse us and hurt us.  How are we meant to pray in such circumstances?  One aspect of intercession that is often lost is reminding God of his word and pleading his promises before him.

In this psalm things are evidently not going well, but three times in these nineteen verses, the writer (Asaph) uses the same phrase: ‘…make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.’  This has its root in the blessing that God himself commanded the Israelites to use in Number 6.25.  Asaph clearly felt that this was not happening, so kept reminding God of his word and his promise.

Many times we may feel that things are not happening as God wants them to happen.  Of course, we need to find out what God may be saying to us in these circumstances, but it is also good to plead God’s word before him and begin to take a stand on the promises he has given.  He may well take us to new places, and show us where else to stand but beginning with his promises is an excellent place to start.

Whenever you read the Bible, get into the habit of looking out for God’s promises, maybe even making a note of them, and then you will be in a position to use them in your prayers.

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Living eternal life now

23october‘Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called’ 1 Timothy 6.12

This verse is very powerful and challenging.  It lays out a gift that God has given to us and also sets out our responsibility; we are to take hold of what we have been given.

We have been given eternal life. This is not simply the promise of life after death – although that is actually quite a promise!  It is also about the eternal life of God that he lays out for us.  Another way of looking at this is to think of it in terms of God’s kingdom; the kingdom about which we are encouraged to pray, ‘your kingdom come’.

In this verse, Paul adds that our responsibility is not just to wait for the kingdom, or to pray that it might come one day, but actually to take hold of it.  Perhaps the first implication of this is that we begin to see the possibilities of what God could do in the situations around us.  All too often we accept and endure the bad things without taking seriously the possibility that God may not want them to happen, and that he might have other hopes and dreams.

To take hold of eternal life is to begin to recognise the potential of what God could do, and then to use it to focus our prayers, our attitudes and our faith.  God has released his kingdom and what we do about it is up to us.

As you face a particular situation in your life, what does it mean for you to take hold of the eternal life of God in that situation?

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Our value to God

22october“And how much more valuable you are than birds!” Luke 12.24

Our value to God shines through the pages of the Bible.  The care that God took over creation, the individuals he raised up to call people back to him and the love for us that was demonstrated in the giving of Jesus are impossible to miss.  Many people know all this, but their real question is – but what about me?  Am I really of value to God?

People can argue about this until they are blue in the face!  However, it is the work of the Holy Spirit to write these truths in our hearts and we need to give him the space to speak to us, and then co-operate with what he does.  Simply set aside a short time of quiet when you can ask Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, to reveal your value to him.  Be aware of any thought that comes to you – it may be in the form of a picture or a verse from the Bible.  Write down anything that comes and then choose to believe it.

God is longing for you to accept his love for many reasons: he knows how this will bless you personally, what joy it will bring to him, and the way it will affect how you are with other people.  So choose to believe that you are far “more valuable than birds!”

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You have crossed over

“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” John 5.24

Crossing over from death to life sounds so dramatic!  We often hear people sharing their experiences of God and as we listen to their stories and note the faith that seems to flow from them, it is easy to see how they live a different life.  They have truly passed from death to life.  However, is this true of you?  What if you have never had a similar experience?

The criterion for crossing from “death to life” has nothing to do with any experiences but rather it is this: have you heard the words of Jesus speaking to you and do you believe that he was sent by the Father for you?  The answer to this is probably ‘Yes . . . but!’  Most of us do believe, but we also waver from time to time and it is easy to begin to think that because we waver perhaps we don’t qualify.

It is interesting to note the language that Jesus used: we have crossed over.  It is not that we are straddling the border line wavering between the two possibilities, but we have actually crossed over; the change has been made.

The implication of this is that when you face situations that cause you anxiety or when you are uncertain of the presence of God within you – in other words, when your feelings are attacking your faith – you can come back to the truth of these words: ‘I have crossed from death to life’.  They are a reminder of who is there for you and what resources are available.


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God has come back

‘When God heard them, he was furious; he rejected Israel completely.’ Psalm 78.59

The disobedience of the Israelites and their subsequent rejection by God is a tragic story.  It happened many years ago, but it is sometimes tempting to think that we are similarly rejected and far from his favour.

There is a beautiful sentence in The Message translation of Luke 7.16, which says: “God is back, looking to the needs of his people!”  This is the glorious truth – God has come back to us, through Jesus; he has not rejected us and he is aware of our needs.  This is not to say that looking after our needs is God’s sole concern, but in his desire to reveal the Fathers heart and to reflect him fully, Jesus demonstrated God’s transforming power in the lives of many people.

As Jesus approached the end of his earthly ministry and looked to the future, he had every expectation that a similar transforming power would be available to the church.  In John 14.12, he proclaims that “whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing…”  Far from these works ending with the death of Jesus, his departure would actually be the reason for such works continuing.  Jesus went on to say, “…they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”

If you find yourself in moments of desperation, it certainly does not mean that God has rejected you.  In fact he is perfectly aware of you and all you are going through, and thanks to Jesus he has provided the means of bringing you the transforming help you need.

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It’s meant to be good news!

‘After this, Jesus travelled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God.’ Luke 8.1

The kingdom is meant to be good news – but is this true for us?  So often our faith appears to come down to what we should not do, negative commandments and the discipline of the Lord.  Where is the good news?

As we read through more of chapter 8, the good news seems to be, at least in part, the transforming presence of Jesus with people.  We read of Jesus stilling a storm, lifting chronic oppression from a man, healing a woman who had been suffering for twelve years and giving a family back their daughter whom he had raised from the dead.  This is all very good news!

Spend a few moments in the presence of Jesus, and ask yourself this question – “Where is he for me right now?”  As you become aware of him with you, speak to him about the transforming touch you need upon your life, and remember that his presence brings good news.

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Love in action

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.’ Deuteronomy 6.5

Whenever love is mentioned in the Bible, it is never simply a nice feeling.  Love is primarily an action.  It is God’s love for us that led him to send Jesus (John 3.16) and it was the love of Jesus that led him to give himself fully for us (Galatians 2.20).  Similarly, our love for God is not something that we express primarily in feelings, but rather in action.

So how can we express our love for him?  The way we do this may well vary on different occasions.  Honouring him with all our heart may seem particularly appropriate in some circumstances, whereas at other times trust is the key issue or on occasions the need to surrender to him.

As you face the day ahead, how are you going to express your love for him?  There may be moments coming up that you know will be testing or a challenge.  At these times how will you express your love for him and how will your love be defined?  To ponder these questions before today’s challenges arise will give you a more specific idea of your needs, so will shape your prayers about the day ahead.

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What do we do about Jesus?

“…she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.” Luke 7.44

There are no rules or regulations about how to come to Jesus.  This chapter in Luke’s Gospel contains stories about two different people and their reactions to him – and they couldn’t be more different!

The Centurion couldn’t even contemplate being in the presence of Jesus.  Such was his sense of unworthiness that he sent others to make his request to Jesus.  Yet a little later in the chapter, a woman anointed Jesus.  She couldn’t get close enough; washing his feet with her tears and drying them with her hair.

Which reaction is the more appropriate?  Surely both are correct responses because their actions flowed naturally out of their hearts.  An inappropriate reaction would be to adopt a casual ‘take it or leave it’ approach.

As you encounter Jesus – whether it is in a Bible story, through the longings he puts in your heart, or through some other experience of him – don’t treat him casually.  Choose to react from your heart and make some response to the one who is revealing himself to you.

“If what I believe is true
what would my heart have me do?”

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What is planted within you?

‘…humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.’ James 1.21

The word ‘save’ has various meanings.  Sometimes it is about our eternal salvation, at one point in the Gospels it refers to healing and in this instance it probably refers to getting us out of various holes in which we find ourselves!  The way the phrase is worded has much to say to us.

First, we are to have an attitude of humility. This is about recognising that we are unable to help ourselves – if we could then we probably would have done so by now!  We cannot do it so we need someone else to step into our lives.

The second interesting point is that not only can God save us, but he has already planted something into our lives that can grow into something wonderful.  What he has planted is his ‘word’.  There are two ways we can take this.

It could refer to the whole truth contained in the Bible which is life changing for us all.  The very fact that God loves us, gave Jesus for us, that we stand before him clean and forgiven, and that he has put his Spirit within us, is indeed life-changing.  As we face life’s challenges, we need to do so with the reality of these truths alive within us.

Having the word of God planted within us also means that when we are in a hole, of whatever sort, God has already planted some promise or truth within us that we can turn to as the means of finding help.  Perhaps right now there is something that is a burden to you?  As you think about it, what promise from the Bible occurs to you or what truth comes to mind?  Accept this promise and apply it to your situation – and then see how it affects the way you approach your day.

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‘Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit’ Luke 4.14

In Luke’s Gospel, we read of Jesus being tempted in the desert and then starting his ministry.  There is a strong link between his yielding to God in the temptations and the flow of power in his ministry.

Similarly in Deuteronomy 11.8, the Israelites were told to be obedient to God so that they would have the strength to enter the Promised Land.  Again, yielding to God led to a flow of his power.

So what should we yield to?  Is it simply a matter of us obeying the Ten Commandments and other instructions in the Bible and then seeing what God does through us – or is there more?

One of the most important things that we need to yield to is the truth of God’s actual presence within us.  So often we face situations, opportunities or temptations with an overwhelming sense that we are unable to do what we should.  At times like this, his presence can be life-changing.

By taking time every day to remind yourself of the truth of God’s presence within you, you are far more likely to call this to mind when you are next faced with an opportunity to draw on his presence in your life.

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