Category Archives: Favourite Posts
Reading: Luke 1
When [Zechariah's] time of service was completed, he returned home. After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favour and taken away my disgrace among the people.” Luke 1:23-25 (NIV)
Luke chapter 1 must be one of the most “feel good” chapters in the Bible. I love the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth.“Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.” Through no fault of her own, Elizabeth lived in disgrace among the people because of her barrenness.
Disgrace: Loss of reputation or respect as a result of a dishonourable action; a person or thing regarded as shameful and unacceptable; loss of honour or esteem; ignominy; shame; public contempt.
How much pain must Elizabeth have carried in her heart, along with her husband Zechariah. Yet the two of them continued to serve God and do their best to please him.
And then, inexplicably and against all the odds, Elizabeth learns she has been chosen to bear a son! He will be called John. “He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.” Elizabeth must have nearly burst with happiness as her “dis-grace” vanished like the morning dew. The “dis-” was gone forever, leaving her to enjoy what God had for her all along – “grace“.
No matter how much “dis-” there has been in my life, whether inflicted by others or the result of my own actions, Jesus has taken it to the Cross. He carried it in his body to the grave and it is gone forever, leaving me to enjoy what God had for me all along – grace.
Grace and disgrace cannot coexist. They are opposites. A person cannot truly experience God's grace – that is, his undeserved favour – and still be weighed down by shame and condemnation. Grace is the antidote to disgrace. The coming of grace is like the rising of the sun, causing disgrace to vanish like the morning dew.
This is my mission as a follower of Jesus – to bring grace. What an exciting and rewarding prospect, to have the Holy Spirit working not just in me but through me to bring the wonderful love and favour of God to all who would receive it.
Father, let me be a channel for your grace! May it flow through me like an ever-increasing river. Help me to use my gifts and to take every opportunity you give me to share your grace, and to bring joy where now there is only despair. I am your servant.
Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10 (NIV)
Reading: Isaiah 60 and 61
I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations. Isaiah 61:10-11 (NIV)
It is God who is the source of all righteousness. He makes it spring up. He speaks and it happens. He creates the conditions which cause righteousness to grow. When I see righteousness in my life, it is evidence that God is at work. The willingness that allows this to happen – even that is a gift from God, and faith, hope and love, those eternal qualities which increasingly characterise my life, they all have their source in God.
So there is no room at all for pride – just gratitude and joy and praise. No wonder that “I delight greatly in the Lord, and that my soul rejoices in my God, for he has clothed me with garments of salvation, and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness.” And if God has clothed me, I can expect to look pretty darn good!
It's Spring! All sorts of plants are popping up in my garden, many of which I haven't even planted! It's the same in me. God is causing righteousness to 'pop up' and grow, in me. I don't need to strain to be righteous. I just need to give the Holy Spirit free reign to do his work in me, and up righteousness comes! It's not my doing. Rather, it's all his – his purpose and his delight. I just need to be willing and obedient, and then I will enjoy the fruit of righteousness in my life. This is what salvation by faith in Jesus is all about.
It is such a privilege Lord to be at the receiving end of your good plans and purposes. May you cause righteousness and praise to spring up in me, and may it be visible to all as a testimony to your goodness and love.
Reading: Mark 14-16
“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ ” Mark 16:6-7 (NIV)
“But go, tell his disciples and Peter…” Peter, who just three days earlier had done what in his mind was unthinkable – he had disowned Jesus, not once but three times, just as Jesus had predicted. How must Peter have felt during those three days, after having so emphatically insisted, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” Mark 14:31 Did he have the courage to even let himself be seen by Jesus as he hung on the cross? I suspect not. He had stepped up to the plate and failed, dismally.
But Jesus knew. He knew Peter's despair and the bitter anguish of his soul, and on the cross Jesus bore in his body not just the failings of Peter, but the failings of us all. Soon, Peter's despair would be replaced by hope, and the angel was there to announce it: “Go, tell his disciples and Peter…” It's OK Peter. You failed and Jesus specifically wants you to know that he still loves you.
In many ways the redemption that Peter subsequently found in Jesus through that failure was the making of the man who would go on to lead the early church and eventually make good on his promise, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.”
In the kingdom of God, failure is not the end. In many ways, it's like a beginning. It's an opportunity for me to stand before God with empty hands and acknowledge once again that he is my everything. It's an opportunity for my heart to be softened and prepared so that hope can spring up afresh and arrogance make way for graciousness.
Lord, you know all too well that I have yet to reach a place of humility like the one Peter found himself in. But I pray that you would continue to perfect holiness in me as I journey with you, and if I meet failure along the way, please help me to grow from the experience, and to pass through it as one who has tasted more deeply the riches of your wonderful kindness and grace.
Reading: Galatians 5:16-26
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)
Fruit doesn't appear instantly like gifts do. It grows. Most fruit starts out as a bud which soon opens into a pretty flower. The flower is only temporary though, and once pollinated, its petals fall and its base begins to swell and grow until eventually it becomes a fully grown fruit. Even then the fruit has to ripen before it is perfect and ready to consume.
The work of the Holy Spirit in my life is the same. The fruit is really his fruit, but I get to bear it and thereby share in the blessing of that fruit. This requires my full cooperation, and a willingness to submit to the Spirit and join with him in his work. Much fruit may be born along the way as I walk with him, but the choicest fruit will be that which has had a lifetime to mature and ripen, perfected perhaps by suffering, and ultimately bringing glory to God through Jesus whose perfect sacrifice made it all possible.
My father died this week at the age of 85. As a boy he committed his life to Jesus, and he loved and served God unswervingly all his life. Every year when I was growing up, he used to buy boxes and boxes of fresh fruit in season – apricots, plums, peaches, pears, nectarines and more. When the fruit was ripe to perfection, he would preserve it in big jars and fill our cupboards with fruit for the year ahead.
On reflection, it seems to me that his life too was characterised by fruit, of two types. The first was fruit born by him as he faithfully used his gifts and his time to serve and bless others in all sorts of ways. The second was fruit born in him, those 'character' fruit described in Galatians 5:22 which over the course of his life developed and matured, and were finally ripened to near perfection.
Perhaps the two types of fruit are one and the same, with the former being simply the natural expression of the latter. Both are evidence of a life well spent – a life committed to Jesus and yielded to the Spirit – and the fruit of his life will be enjoyed forever.
Thank you Lord Jesus for the kindness and love that you have shown to my family. I thank you for the life of my father, and for the legacy that he has passed down to his children. May good fruit continue to fill our cupboards and overflow in expressions of thankfulness and praise to you.
Reading: Exodus 39:1-32
The craftsmen made beautiful sacred garments of blue, purple, and scarlet cloth—clothing for Aaron to wear while ministering in the Holy Place, just as the Lord had commanded Moses. Exodus 39:1 (NLT)
Nothing unholy can stand in the presence of our holy God. In order to serve in God's presence, Aaron needed to be made holy; “sanctified” or set apart for holy service. Sacrifices needed to be made on his behalf. Not only that, Aaron's garments needed to be made holy by the appropriate ceremony and sacrifice. In keeping with that need for holiness, the garments were crafted from the finest fabric, colourful and richly adorned to reflect the beauty that holiness brings.
I too need to be adorned in holiness if am to enter the presence of my holy God. My old clothes are spoiled by sin and shame. Fortunately, I have some new ones! I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness. Isaiah 61:10
My new clothes come to me at great price. For Jesus, who bought them for me, was stripped of his at the cross, his garments of holiness replaced by my filthy rags in the sight of both God and man, so that I might be dressed and ready to be welcomed into the very presence of God.
I find it interesting that although his seamless “woven in one piece” undergarment was stripped from him, it was considered too valuable to be cut in pieces: “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.” John 19:24a In the same way, Jesus' own holiness was not blemished or tainted at the cross. Rather, it became a precious gift, one that has somehow made its way into my hands, and into the hands of all who would humble themselves to receive it.
Thank you Jesus for your incredible gift of holiness, for these precious clothes which now adorn me and qualify me to come into the presence of God my Father. Help me Jesus to wear them as they should be worn, to live in holiness and to carry myself in such a way that the giver of that holiness is recognised, praised and acknowledged as the source of everything that is holy and good.
Reading: Exodus 33
The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” Exodus 33:14-16 (NIV)
The thing that distinguished the people of Israel from all the other people on the face of the earth was that God was with them. “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” The same is true of me, and of God's people today. His Presence is with me. I am not a lone man crying out to a distant God. I live in his Presence. His Presence lives in me. His goodness and mercy is with me every single day of my life. And having come in to the very Presence of God, the thought of his absence makes me absolutely desperate to stay in this wonderful place in which I find myself.
After going to the tent of meeting, “Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.” I don't want to leave either. Can I just stay here, Lord? “Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.” Holy Spirit, I long for you to be constantly present in my conscious thoughts. I want to stay in that place of obedience, with heart wide open, enjoying the closeness of spirit that comes when everything that is within me is laid wide open before you.
Take me deeper Father into your presence. Please allow me to know your goodness and your holiness and majesty more than I have known before. I want to draw nearer to you, and be able to just stay in that wonderfully privileged place – your very Presence.
Reading: Exodus 23-24
“Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest and the slave born in your household, and the alien as well, may be refreshed. Exodus 23:12 (NIV)
God is concerned with our well-being, and so he commanded the Israelites to have rest and refreshment. This was to be for everyone, even animals, and even the ground. In addition to a weekly rest, three times a year there were festivals which had the dual role of focusing the people on God and giving them a holiday. The sabbaths and the festivals therefore provided for physical, mental and spiritual refreshment.
Refresh; to breathe; passively, to be breathed upon, i.e. (figuratively) refreshed (as if by a current of air)
Refreshment should be a natural part of my life, a cycle, like a clock consisting of many cogs, some small, some large, and a very few larger still. As time ticks by, each cog goes through its cycle, pausing for a second to rest between each movement, or for a minute, or maybe for an hour. This is the way God plans for me to work and rest. Every part of me needs to be regularly refreshed – the physical, the mental and the spiritual. For true refreshment, all three need my disciplined attention.
Thank you Lord for the opportunity to rest. Thank you for the refreshment that comes from your Word, and the opportunity to pause and enjoy spending time with you. Here I am Lord, to unwind, to worship and to drink from your spring of living water. To breathe, and be breathed upon.