Being thankful

“He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him” – Luke 17:16

The story of the ten lepers in Luke 17 is well known. All of them receive healing from Jesus, one of them comes back to give thanks. It is interesting that all ten of them are physically healed but to the one who comes back Jesus says “your faith has made you well” (The Greek word is ‘saved’). It seems that they all got something, but the one who came back got even more, perhaps the thing he got that the other missed out on was relationship with Jesus.

We are probably not very good at giving thanks to God. We are quick enough to call to him when we are in need, but slow to give thanks when we receive his help. It is not that God needs our thanks – or that he keeps a tally of those who write thank you letters and those who do not. But perhaps he enjoys our thanksgiving because he knows that it actually blesses us. We receive more by thanksgiving, we enter a little bit more into that relationship that he gave everything to establish.

Call to mind something which you have seen as God’s particular blessing to you. Sit with him and share what it meant to you. Let his gift to you turn to thanks, and the deepening of relationship with him.

 

The Praying Jesus

“He always lives to intercede for them.” – Hebrews 7:25

There are times when prayer seems to flow, and times when it is like talking to a brick wall! That is probably the experience of most people. Whatever our particular struggle with prayer at this time – this staggering fact about prayer sheds a new light on everything. Jesus is praying for us. Whether we are praying or not – he is, whether prayer seems exciting or turgid – the most intimate conversation between Jesus and the Father is going on and we are the subject of that conversation. But what is he praying for?

Jesus is both enthroned in heaven and dwelling in us through his Holy Spirit. Our bodies house his presence. Can we therefore catch the whisper of his intercession.

It is as simple as this. Begin by dwelling on the Fathers love for you, then ask Jesus what is his intercession for you today. The answer may come in a variety of ways, thoughts, words, pictures, bible verses – but pay attention to whatever comes spontaneously into your mind as you ask that question. Write it down and ponder it as his prayer for you today.

Remember, remember . . .

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.” – Psalm 81:10

The encouragement for us as we seek to balance the presence of the living God within us with the often very real needs that we have, is to look back and remember the good things that God has done, and apply that memory to the present and the future. All too often we remember the things that we wish God had done and apply that disappointment to the days ahead.

What this verse encourages us to do is to look further back. Look to the stunning truths of our faith and apply them to our needs today. For this psalmist, the truth upon which he encourages reflection is the deliverance from slavery. For Christians today, it is the ‘Christ event’. From the love of God for us, Jesus came, utterly giving himself for our total transformation, salvation and that through the Holy Spirit he dwells within us. If that is true, then what does that say about our needs today?

The tragedy would be to forget what he has done, and fail to apply it to our lives. How tragic to have it said of us as the psalm says, that so much was offered to us – ‘but my people would not listen to me’ (v11).

Relationship with God

“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. ‘” – Luke 15:31

The Father in the story of the Prodigal Son is so kind to both of his sons. To the one who returns from a wayward life there is a welcome back to the family home, and to the resentful older brother, an assurance of continuing love.

The older brother had seen his life at home in terms of hard work and servitude, that was probably at the heart of his resentful attitude to his returning younger brother. These beautiful words from the Father are aimed to change his perspective on his life.

Relationship with God is about his presence with is, not about what we are slavishly meant to do for him, and the words that follow remind us that God has given us everything in Jesus – if we could but open ourselves up to receive. The Christian life is more about receiving than earning what has been freely given.

Take a minute to hear the Father speaking these words to you – we are always with him and everything he has is ours. As you let those words fill you, what do they do for you, how would you respond?

Where are the blessings?

“I have delivered Jericho into your hands . . . March around the city.” – Joshua 6: 2-3

God gives the Israelites the city of Jericho, but he doesn’t just open the gates and cause all the people inside to surrender, the Israelites have to co-operate, and march round the city for seven days.

The Bible says that God has given us so much – but where is it? Paul says that God has blessed in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1: 3). So how do we get these blessings?

Perhaps like the Israelites we have to co-operate with the process. What we need to do is to stick close to Jesus. He said: ‘Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me (John 15: 4). Fruit is not something that the branch decides to grow any more than the Israelites drew up their own plan to take Jericho. Fruit is the natural consequence of a branch staying attached to a healthy tree – the energy is not in the bearing fruit, the energy is in staying attached.

Take a minute soon to sit quietly, and slowly and deliberately say the name ‘Jesus’. Do that a few times and by that simple action find yourself attached to him. Come back to that simple action throughout the day – find yourself dwelling in him.

When things don’t go well

“Make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.” – Psalm 80:3

Life does not always go well, 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 in the politeness of much church prayer is that of reminding God of his word and pleading his promises before him.

In this psalm – evidently things are not going well, but 3 times in these 19 verses , the writer (Asaph) uses a phrase that has its root in the blessing that God himself commanded to be used in Number 6:25 – namely that the Lord would make his face shine upon his people.  Asaph clearly feels that this is not happening, and keeps 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 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.

Why not me?

“A woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all.” – Luke 13: 11

In this beautiful healing story – Jesus stands on the side of freedom. He describes this act of healing as a setting someone free. When the synagogue ruler encourages folk not to seek healing on the Sabbath, Jesus goes against him – implying that every day is a day for God to bring freedom.

If Jesus firmly stands for freedom. and if he came to bring freedom, then what would he love to bring to our lives. Sometimes we get so used to the wounds, burdens and sicknesses that we bear, that it never occurs to us to seek freedom from them.

As Jesus looks at our lives, what would he make of the things that we carry around with us? What is it that stops us bringing those things to him?

Perhaps it is a lack of conviction that he wants to do anything about it? Perhaps it is fear in case nothing happens? Perhaps we simply do not know what to do?

Whatever we feel, a good place to begin is to read the Gospel stories of Jesus healing those who were sick, and ask this question – “why couldn’t it happen to me?”