Welcoming the Kingdom

‘Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and illness among the people.’ Matthew 4.23

We would all agree that Jesus could do anything – after all, the Bible does say that he is the Son of God.  But would he do it?

When that sort of attitude goes through our minds, it is an indication that we are setting our sights too low.  We are looking at the individual problems in our life and wondering whether God would ever want to tackle them.  Then another thought often follows – that maybe this particular issue is good for us, excellent for character building!  Pretty soon we have talked ourselves out of the probability of God acting in our lives at all.

This verse gives the work of Jesus a new perspective – it is all about the kingdom of God; Jesus re-establishing the rule and will of God upon this broken world.  In 1 John 3.8, the Bible states that Jesus came ‘to destroy the devil’s work.’ Is it possible that we have started to assume that some things are from God, when actually Jesus came to take them away?  Of course God can, and will, use any circumstances to reveal his love and glory, but is he having to do this because we are not willing or too frightened to ask him to take away the things that have been sown into our lives that give him no pleasure at all?

Read one of the healing stories in the Gospels and ask yourself this question: “If Jesus came to take things away from those people, what does he want to take away from my life?”

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Growing in trust

‘Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.’ Psalm 20.7

We trust in God!  Of course we do – or at least we say we do!  However, if we are honest it’s more likely that we trust in God and in other things as well.  This is not necessarily bad, but it’s worth a moment of honesty to work out exactly what we do put our trust in, and what is the scale of our trust in them.

It’s likely that our security is in many things, one of which is God.  The key question is this: just how far down the list does our security and trust in God come?  Perhaps it is a little further down than we thought it would be.  If this is the case, what can be done about it?

Perhaps a first step is to give thanks for all the things in life that bring blessing to us.  Giving thanks for something seems to bring it under the touch of God.  Paul wrote this in 1 Timothy 4.4-5: ‘… nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.’  In other words, when we are able to genuinely give thanks to God for something, we place it in his hands and begin to see it as a blessing to us from God, rather than something distinct from him.

The more you can regard every good thing in your life as a gift from God, then the more you can develop your trust in him and know that he has indeed provided for you in the past and will do so in the future. Why not begin to give him thanks right now?

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The constant presence of God

‘…you are familiar with all my ways.’ Psalm 139.3

Logically this is true: since God sees everything that goes on, he must be familiar with all our ways.  Yet when David spoke these words, he was not simply making a truthful statement but was approaching the love of God with wonder.  The theme of this psalm is that God sees us through and through; he always has and he always will, and nothing he sees will drive him away from us.  He will always be with us.

There may have been times in your life when you wandered away from God.  In fact, you may well relate to the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15 and remember a time when you somehow became separated from the life with God that you once knew.  In the parable the shepherd goes in search of the missing sheep, but in this psalm the truth is expressed slightly differently.  The message it contains is that we can never escape from God in the first place.  Actually the parable and the psalm are expressing something very similar; we belong to God and he will not let go of us.

Coming back to God is not a matter of us searching for him, but rather about us turning back to the one who never left us in the first place.  He is familiar with all our ways and although he may not approve of some of them, he will never leave us because of them.

At this very moment God is with you, and since he knows everything about you there is no reason not to be honest with him. What do you want to say to him?

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Being in God’s presence

‘Let the light of your face shine on us.’ Psalm 4.6

Many people pray; far more than the number who go to church or admit to having any kind of relationship with God.  This verse brings prayer right back to a relationship, rather than simply a focus on need.

Letting the light of God’s face shine upon us is such a visual image.  It is really a way of asking for a sense of his presence upon us.  However, asking God for his presence is actually more of an invitation to us rather than to him.  It is an encouragement for us to step into the reality of what is already available – the wonder of knowing that God is with us.

It is this that is likely to distinguish those who have a relationship with God and others who only pray in an emergency or as an act of superstition.  We step into God’s presence because we have a relationship with him, and no matter whether or not our prayers are answered exactly as we hope, the very act of stepping into his presence is in itself of benefit and a blessing to us.

Take a moment right now to recollect the truth that God’s presence is with you.  Where is he right now?  How does his presence change your situation?

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In awe of God’s love and power

‘The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life’ Proverbs 14.27

It is so easy to panic when we read about ‘the fear of the Lord’.  How can being frightened of God lead to anything positive?  For the sake of simplicity let’s interpret ‘the fear of the Lord’ as something like ‘awe’.  When we are in awe of God everything can change.

Standing before God with awe really can be like a fountain of life, because so often it is the effect upon us of other people or circumstances that robs us of our enjoyment of life.  We can feel powerless as people or events play an overwhelming role in our lives.

When we come before God with a sense of awe this all changes, because we find ourselves standing before one who really is a greater power than anything else that we can even perceive.  To stand before God with awe is to stand before the one who is revealed to us within the pages of the Bible – and to do this is to begin to appreciate just how powerful he is, how much we are loved and the vastness of what he has done for us and will do for us out of that love.

Take a moment right now to hold before you a sense of the sheer power of God and his love for you.  Then bring to him those things that can so easily rob you of the joy he wants for you.

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A daily privilege

‘Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.’ Psalm 1.1-2

It is very interesting to note who is regarded with honour.  Sometimes it is those who have achieved great things – whether making a new discovery or by some sporting prowess – whilst at other times it is people who seem to devote their days to bringing a better life to others.  These opening verses of the very first psalm gives us a glimpse of who is honoured by God – those who give time to him each day.

You may not manage to spend hours with him or even find such times totally fulfilling and intimate, but what is important is that you come back to God with a sense of stepping into his love every day.  If you have failed or sinned, you can still return to his love that was demonstrated on the cross when Jesus died for your sins.  If you feel that everyone else is achieving far more than you, come back to the individual and personal love of God for you in the knowledge that he does not wish you were anyone else.  If your day is fraught and busy, remember to turn to the one who is with you all day long and is longing for you to turn to him.

Whatever your day holds for you, and no matter what happened yesterday, come back to the wonder of the one who loves you to turn to him.

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Being Filled

‘– that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.’ Ephesians 3.19

If we all sat down and thought about how we could be filled with the fullness of God, we would probably come up with a variety of suggestions.  Some of them would undoubtedly involve us giving up a lot of things that we enjoy, working tirelessly for some great charitable works or going off to live the life of a hermit for many years!

However, Paul would have none of this; in fact, he says that the way to be filled to the measure with God is to grow in our awareness of his love and to receive more of it.  Trying to find the fullness of God by any other means is likely to make us resentful and worn out!

Being filled with the love of God may indeed lead us to change the way we love and to engage with people’s needs in a different way, but this is really the consequence of being filled with the fullness of God rather than the route to finding it.

It can be tempting to think that it is purely self-indulgent to rest in and explore God’s love – but this really is not the case. Exploring his love is about connecting yourself to his heart so that you can be filled with him.

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