Reflection on Matthew 10:37-42

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Scripture

Whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”

Observation

Jesus demands a dedication stronger than love for our parents or children. We must take up a cross and follow Him. To find your life is to lose it, and to lose your life in him is to find it.

To welcome a disciple is to welcome Jesus. Even a cup of water to His disciples brings a reward.

Application

When our relationships get in the way of eternal life with Christ, we have to be prepared to let them go for His sake. Love for Jesus must be even greater than our love for family.

We even have to give up our life for Christ. To take up a cross is to walk towards certain death.

Everything- my possessions, my dreams, my family, my life- has to come under the lordship of Christ. He, and He alone, must determine all that I do. Anything that gets in the way of my total surrender to Christ must go.

Does that mean I stop loving my family? Of course not! It does mean that there is a higher love, a higher calling, that must take precedence.

Prayer

Lord your love for me means everything. Help me to put you first today. Amen.

Christians, Drugs, Alcohol and Coffee

I was shocked to get this answer from a guy on a mission team when I asked him how he had slept: “Not too well. I normally smoke some weed at night to help me calm down.” His pastor assured me that he is receiving prayer and help to deal with this addiction, so, like all of us, he is a work in progress.

Apart from the fact that marijuana is illegal here, this raises all sorts of questions for me about our attitude to drugs. By drugs I mean any chemical other than food or prescription drugs used to change our state of mind. There are a whole lot of grey areas here, such as anti-depressants which are a boon to people struggling with chemical imbalances but can become over-prescribed to medicate sadness.

Let’s look at some common examples:

  • the use of weed to help with sleep
  • needing a glass of wine or beer (or two or three glasses) after work to relax
  • taking “uppers” to help with long work hours
  • needing the cup of coffee to get started in the morning
  • smoking

Caffeine, for most of us, is harmless. It stimulates the body a little bit and doesn’t have any long term effects on the body. However it is being used in larger quantities in so-called energy drinks and in many soft drinks. If you regularly “need” caffeine to keep going then there is a problem. If you need coffee before you can face humanity in the morning there is an addiction issue.

Christ came to set us free from every bondage. I like tea and coffee, and I used to drink wine some times. I have never been addicted to any of these things. If I were to start to depend on them to make me feel good, then I would no longer be free. When we depend on anything other than Christ, we are in captivity.

Paul writes in Galatians 5:1:

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

To say that I need anything other than Christ is idolatry. We are saying that God doesn’t really meet our needs, and we will only be happy if we have something in addition to what He gives us in Christ. This of course is the original temptation in the Garden of Eden. Eve didn’t really believe that God had given her all that she needed and much more. We often don’t really believe God’s word either.

Modern idolatry takes all kinds of forms- sex, possessions, sports, entertainment, drugs. In each from there is an element of placing something at the centre of our desires (that’s what worship really means) that is not God. To be dependent on drugs is to bow down to an idol.

Addiction, particularly to drugs which alter our state of mind, is a gateway for spiritual bondage. There is a spirit of addiction which keeps us dependent. If you open your spirit to an evil spirit, there is no room for the Holy Spirit. We are each meant to be a temple of the Holy Spirit, so no unclean thing should be allowed access.

Relying on chemicals, whether legal or not, inhaled, injected, eaten or drunk, holds us back from maturity. We are looking to them and not to Christ for our fulfilment.

If you are struggling with any addiction  and you are a follower of Jesus, then you need to repent, ask for grace to overcome and seek help from trusted people. The Lord has the strength to overcome this in you.

Reflection on Romans 6:12-23

Scripture

No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness.

Observation
We have died in Christ and therefore sin no longer has dominion. We must not make our bodies instruments of sin.
We were once slaves of sin, but in Christ we are now slaves to righteousness. When we were slaves to sin, there was no advantage or benefit, but now we are slaves to righteousness we gain holiness.
Sin pays its wages in the form of death, but God’s free gift in Christ is eternal life.

Application
We have freedom in Christ to sin or not sin. Previously we had no choice at all, but now we have the grace to live holy lives.
Sin holds its false rewards. It tantalises us to draw us in. But the real payment with sin is death and separation from God.
Why would we choose sin when there is so much to lose? Knowing that we have the choice and the help of the Holy Spirit to choose life makes it possible to escape sin’s clutches.

Prayer
Father you know the sins that continue to entangle me. Please give me the grace to break free and to walk in your righteousness. Amen.

Reflection on Genesis 21:1-21

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Scripture

Come lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand for I will make a great nation of him.”

Observation

Sarah bears a son for Abraham in their old age. Isaac grows and Sarah becomes jealous of Hagar and Ishmael. She demands that Abraham sends them away. Abraham is reluctant to do this, but God tells him not to be worried. Although Isaac is the child of promise, Ishmael will also father a nation.

Abraham sends Hagar and Ishmael away with some food and water. They wander in the wilderness near Beersheba. When the water is gone, Hagar places Ishmael under a bush and goes some distance away. God opens her eyes to see a well.

God is with the boy and he grows up in the wilderness.

Application

Sometimes we act outside of God’s perfect will. Abraham had tried to make God’s promises come true by sleeping with his wife’s servant. Trouble arose later but it didn’t mean that God would wash his hands of Ishmael.

God keeps His promises to us despite our sinfulness.

He also brings unexpected blessings out of our mistakes. That’s not to say that there are no consequences- Ishmael’s descendants continue to fight against Isaac’s to this day.

God takes our high points of faith and our monumental catastrophic failings and weaves them together to achieve His purposes.

Our sins don’t have the last word.

Prayer

Thank you Lord for the story of Ishmael and your provision for him in the desert. Please help me to be faithful to you all the time, and when I fall redeem my mistakes and forgive my sin. Amen.

Today’s Sermon

 

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The sermon for June 15th 2014 is now available on the New Life web-site.

In this sermon, which is based on 1 Corinthians 12:12-31, I talk about the unity in the Body of Christ.

Click here to listen.

Margaret Baxter’s sermon from the 8th June is also available here.

Reflection on Matthew 28:16-20

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Scripture

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations.”

Observation

The eleven disciples go to Galilee to the place Jesus had directed them. He appears, and they worship, though some doubt.

Jesus tells them He has been given all authority and therefore they must go and make disciples of all nations. They are to baptise them and teach them to obey everything He has commanded.

Application

Of the eleven apostles, the ones closest to Jesus, some initially doubted the resurrection. It was too big for hem to get their heads around.

Jesus ignores their doubt and tells them to get on with the job- making disciples of all nations.

All of us doubt at times. The critical thing is to move onwards, to keep following even in periods when it doesn’t make sense.. The fog will lift and we will see Christ again.

The awesome task of making disciples will not end until the end of the age. Wherever the Lord plants us, we are to look for opportunities to preach the gospel and train up those who seek to follow Jesus.

Prayer

Help me Lord to invest my life in disciple making. Show me who to share with and how to do this. Amen.

Reflection on 2 Corinthians 13:1-13

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Scripture

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

Observation

Paul will be coming to Corinth for the third time, and he warns them he will not be lenient with the people who continue to live in persistent sin.

Christ is not weak in dealing with sin. Although He was crucified in weakness, He now lives in the power of God.

We must test ourselves to see whether we are living in faith. We must examine ourselves to see if Christ is in us and that we are living in the truth.

Finally Paul encourages the Corinthians to love one another and live in peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with them.

Application

It is very easy to fall prey to deception, to think we are doing well when we are not. Sin creeps in so easily.

We need to regularly ask ourselves, “Am I really living in Christ, and He in me?”

Our hearts and minds must continue to be open to correction by the Holy Spirit so that sin, wrong motives and the tricks of the enemy can be rooted out. Only then can we walk in the full measure of the Holy Spirit.

Prayer

Holy Spirit come and examine my heart. Reveal to me anything that is not of you and give me grace to get rid of it. Amen.

Reflection on Genesis 1:1-2:4

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Scripture

God saw everything he had made and it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Observation

In the beginning is God, and He commences His work of creation. What starts off as being formless and chaotic becomes ordered and productive.

Over a period of six days, by His creative word, God commands all things into existence, including people.

God’s verdict at the end of His work is that it is very good.

Finally God rests, and in doing so, He creates the Sabbath.

Application

At the heart of all creation is the hallmark of a God who is good. The creation which God makes is very good, although after sin enters the world chaos once again threatens to engulf God’s world.

Everything that is not the Lord is created by Him, and is therefore less than Him. We are a part of His creation and so we are not gods even if we sometimes think we are. The gods which people worship are also less than God- whether we think of creation, idols or crystals. These things are all subject to the God who reigns over all things.

Prayer

Father, you made all things in six days, and you continue to hold all things together. Please help me to give you true worship and surrender myself to you. Amen.