My mind has been very much on the subject of forgiveness and how it can have a profound effect on our lives if we recognise the magnitude of it and the wonder of it.
On Sunday night Andrew was speaking about the woman who loved much because she had been forgiven much (Luke Chapter 7).
I had also been thinking of Paul who, near the end of his life, describes himself as 'the chief of sinners' (1 Timothy 1:15). This was based at least partly on the life he led before he found Christ - when he persecuted the early church relentlessly. But I don't think that Paul spent his life under the burden of the sins he had been guilty of at that time or the burden of his shortcomings at any time that followed. He had found forgiveness. He speaks of ' being a new creature', of 'old things having passed away and all things becoming new'. Paul lived in glorious freedom, the freedom of one who had been forgiven and brought into the abundance of life that Jesus spoke of.
But he never forgot the miracle of it! He never forgot that it was because of the forgiveness of a loving God. And the nearer he came to God through Jesus Christ the more he became aware of the forgiveness that had made this possible. And the more he loved Christ and thrilled in what the saviour had done for him, 'the chief of sinners'.
On Sunday, I was speaking about David, a man after God's own heart. And about the fact that David seemed to have a love for God that was very similar to the love that we feel for Jesus Christ. I have been thinking a bit more about this and have become aware that it was very much connected with the forgiveness for his own personal sins. David knew he was a sinner but he knew that, time and again, he had been forgiven. We know more about his sins and about his seeking - and finding - forgiveness than we do about any other of the great men in the Old Testament. And we sense the depth of his love for God - born out of that forgiveness.
Don't let your sin drive you away from God. Let it drive you TO God. And though Satan meant it for evil, God can turn it to good and make it something that creates in you a well of gratitude and love for the Saviour who brings that forgiveness.
My house will be called a house of prayer. (Mark 11:17)
Not a house of preaching, or of singing, or of fellowship with other believers - but a house of prayer.
These other things are part of the church of Christ and rightly so. In the Old Testament and the New Testament they each had their place. But prayer is given a special place.
The disciples seemed to recognise this when they asked Jesus, 'Teach us how to pray'. Perhaps they had seen the emptiness of much that was called prayer in the lives of the Pharisees and in the synagogues. And perhaps they had seen how often Jesus drew aside to pray alone.
What does prayer mean to us? Sometimes it is a cry of need. Sometimes it is a petition on behalf of others. Sometimes there is an anointing to break through into a new place for yourself or for others. These things are very much part of prayer. But prayer should be a two-way communication. We speak to God, but God wants to speak to us.
We should speak, but we should also listen. Sometimes we will find that He turns us in a different direction - remember Paul, who asked three times that the thorn in his flesh would be removed and then heard God say, 'My grace is sufficient for thee for my strength is made perfect in weakness'. Listening is so important because He knows what we need to hear and He knows when our focus is not where it should be. Let us try to be more tuned to the One to whom we pray, than to the need that we are praying about.
O Thou by whom we come to God,
The Life, the Truth, the Way!
The path of prayer Thyself hast trod,
Lord, teach us how to pray!
Our first concern should be - is it well with my soul?
This is not a selfish attitude. If it is well with your soul you are in a good place and in that place you are able to deepen your relationship with Christ, to be a light in the darkness for others and an anointed vessel who can be useful in the kingdom of God.
Two situations come to mind.
Paul and Silas in prison in Philippi. It would have been easy - and understandable - for them to be discouraged, fearful, worried. Read the story in Acts Chapter 16. But at midnight they were singing praises and God worked a miracle. It was 'well with their souls' even if their circumstances were dark and their future uncertain. Within themselves it was well - and God broke through.
John, on the isle of Patmos. An old man, lonely in exile, cut off from fellowship with other believers. But he tells us - ' I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day' ( Revelation Chapter 1) and there came to him a revelation of Christ such as he had never known before. A revelation that has lived for millions down through the centuries.
Child of God, is it well with your soul? Your first responsibility is to make sure there is no cloud between you and your Saviour - and if there is a cloud, to turn your eyes to the One who can remove every cloud. If the cloud is there because of your own wrongdoing, He can cleanse and heal you. If it is caused by circumstances not of your own making or your own wrongdoing, He can make a way through, as he did for Paul, Silas and John and for countless others in the Scriptures and down through the centuries. Look to Him until the joy of your salvation returns and you walk in fellowship with Him.
I have asked Kathleen to do the blog for today as, for a good number of years now, she has taken the Easter Sunday morning service in Falkirk for those who can't manage to join the main Conference service in Greenock. I'm sure you will be blessed and fed as you read what she has posted.
With love from Jennifer
Verses to think about: Matthew 27:45 / John 19:30 / Hebrews 10:19-22
“He is dying, and He is taking the light with Him”.
These unforgettable words from Dorothy L. Sayers’ play ‘The Man Born to be King’ paint on a desolate canvas the Light of the World being swallowed up in the darkness of the Divine judgement of sin. On the cross of Jesus, the wrath of God unrelentingly poured down on the sinless One in whom He delighted.
“For God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that we could be made right with God”. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
As the One who was The Light was dying, the midday sun at its zenith was shrouded over in the ensuing darkness. A strange unease and disquiet surely rose up amongst the watchers who had gathered to witness the death of ‘The King of the Jews’. Then suddenly, that first loud, piercing cry from out of the darkness, saying “My God, My God why have You forsaken Me".
The agony of separation from The Father. The unspeakable pain of the absence of God.
How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
as wounds which mar The Chosen One
bring many sons to glory.
But now the atonement completed, for the joy that was set before Him having endured the cross, the Lord Jesus gathered all His strength and uttered His victory cry: these immortal words, “It is finished!" (John 10:18) “No-one takes my life from me, I lay it down by myself.”
Lifted up was He to die,
“IT IS FINISHED!” was His cry;
Now in heaven exalted high;
Hallelujah! what a Saviour!
Evidence of the acceptance of God in the price Jesus paid for our sin came as light returned and the Holy of Holies was revealed. The cries from the cross effecting that which with man was not possible — a new and living way opened up by the tearing of the curtain from top to bottom.
Josephus, the early Jewish historian, writes that the curtain was 30 ft wide, 30 ft high, as thick as a man’s hand, and that horses pulling against each other could not tear it apart. Yet the curtain was torn. God Himself removed the barriers by providing a spotless sacrificial Lamb.
“And all this is a gift from God, who brought us back to Himself through Christ... for God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.”
(2 Corinthians 5:18)
No more veil! God bids me enter. The old covenant no longer necessary. The torn curtain now reveals the ever and only one meeting place with God - that is the cross. The day of grace has come.
Please click on this link to listen to Crown Him with Many Crowns, sung by Robin Mark.
Was there ever a Saturday like that Saturday ?
Jesus was dead - cruelly, viciously put to death on the Friday. The crowds had watched and jeered. Some of His followers had watched - we know that John, his mother Mary and some of the women were there.
And now on the Saturday, what was left? - a horror of the past few days; the death of all their hopes; the new life they had found- shaken to its foundations; confusion; fear of the future. And, above all, the loss of the one they loved more than any other. He was the One who had calmed every storm for them and had met every need. Now He was no more. A dark, dark day.
But there was another picture they could not see at that time.
When Jesus died He cried out, "It is finished!" What did they think that meant? It must have seemed that He meant that it was over.
But we, who live after the resurrection, know that it meant something very different. He meant, " It is accomplished! It is completed'". And when He died He went down into death not as other men had gone, but as the One who breaks the power of death, the power of hell and of the grave!
On that Saturday, if they could only have seen what was happening in the spiritual world but had not yet broken into the natural world! That was to come on the Sunday.
In that other world there was a turning of the tables, there was a breaking of power in the stronghold of Satan, there was deliverance for the captives! We read in Matthew's gospel that at the moment He died -
The curtain in the sanctuary of the temple was torn in two from the top to the bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead. They left the cemetery after Jesus' resurrection, went into the holy city of Jerusalem and appeared to many.
I don't claim to understand all that is in these verses, but one thing is clear - something cataclysmic was happening! His death was not an end and a defeat. There was a release of power - it was a victory!
And on the Sunday, that truth began to break into the natural world, into this world, and the power of it never left the disciples through all of a lifetime!
What should we learn from this? And learn not simply in our minds, but deep down in our spirits. It is totally different and life-changing when you learn something in your spirit.
We can learn that Jesus Christ is Conqueror! No matter how dark the circumstances in your own life or in the global situation we face today, He is Lord and we look for the manifestation of His power and His glory.
He has conquered. The last enemy is death and He has conquered it. And He is the conqueror of every dark thought within you, of every circumstance that would seek to break you. Jesus is stronger than all that can come against us. Let us turn our eyes to Him and wait with anticipation for the resurrection morning, when the darkness is past and the Sun of Righteousness arises with healing in His wings!
The morning is coming!
For many years, whenever I thought of the waters of Jordan 'backing up' I had a picture of a dry road across to the other side with the waters very far away. But that may not be the true picture. And it certainly wasn't the picture on the earlier occasion when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea. They crossed 'with walls of water on each side'.
Sometimes God does not remove the danger but makes it possible for us to 'walk through'.
As ever, the safe passage comes when we don't focus on the water that could come crashing down and destroy, but we focus on the Ark. That Ark was firmly placed in the centre of the river bed and was not removed until they were safely over.
I'm reminded of a sermon I heard as a young person, and I've never forgotten it. ( It was actually preached by the pastor of Janette's church and she remembers it too - I think he must have preached it more than once!!). The verse was 'And it came to pass'.
The speaker divided what he had to say into two parts:
Firstly, when the Bible says 'it came to pass' it assures us that what God promises, what He plans and purposes will indeed happen.
His second part was more unusual - he spoke of things that came for a season, and then they passed. This season that we are in will pass but, please God, it will leave us chastened, changed and more in tune with Him than we were before.
Keep your eyes on the Ark!
"When ye see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God and the priests and the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place and go after it. Yet there shall be a space between you and it...come not near unto it that ye may know the way by which ye must go, for ye have not passed this way before." (Joshua 3:3-4)
It was a new era for the Israelites. They were about to cross Jordan after years of wandering in the wilderness.
It was new territory, they had not come this way before. There were thousands of them and no doubt there were many mixed emotions - fear, excitement, anticipation. But there was a clear instruction - don't be distracted by your emotions, don't be taken up with the people around you and what they are feeling or saying - keep your eyes on the Ark.
The Ark foreshadows Christ Himself . Inside it there were three things - the Law (the Ten Commandments), speaking of the holiness of God; the manna, speaking of the bread of life ; Aaron's rod, speaking of the miracle working power of God. And on top of the Ark there was the mercy seat - the place where we are accepted by God. All of it points to Jesus, and our salvation. The Israelites were told, 'Keep you eyes on the Ark and you will find the way through '.
Just after this, the Ark was taken down into the river Jordan - read the rest of chapter 3. The waters parted and they crossed over.
The crossing of Jordan is often seen as a picture of crossing over from this life into eternity, and the one who opens the way and gives a safe passage is Christ. Keep your eyes on the Ark and a safe passage is assured.
But while we are still in this life difficulties face us, difficulties we have not faced before and the answer is the same - keep your eyes on The Ark - on Christ Himself - and there will be a way through. He is very near, very accessible in these troubled times.
If you seek him, you will find him if you search for him with all your heart. (Paraphrase of Jeremiah 29:13)
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