Reflection for Fri 3 Jul

One of my daily readings yesterday was entitled “Boundaries for Blessing”. It caught my eye, as much of what we are doing in church recently has been about seeking God’s blessing.

So just based on that title, what springs to your mind? What are the boundaries for God’s blessing?
Here are the sort of things that occurred to me, off the top of my head –

– Listening to God. Discerning what he is telling us to do, rather than just my latest, best idea.
– And related to that, we’ve used the metaphor, of surfing the wave, getting in his slipstream. Seeing where God’s Spirit is blessing, working, moving; and going there, doing that.
– Taking God seriously, giving him time, putting him first, following him.
– Obedience, living in a way that pleases him.
– Relating well with, loving others. You may have noticed in my recent reflections that I have been thinking a lot about agape love.

Well, I am sure you can correct my thoughts, and add some of your own!

This particular daily reading was based on the law, the 10 commandments. It presented them not so much as rules to restrict us, but boundaries for our relating with God and with each other, and thereby enabling and facilitating those relationships.

This is relevant to our new Sunday series launching this week: – “God wants to know you – The story of God and us”. The Bible is the story of how God wants to know us, draw close to us, befriend us.
From Genesis to Revelation, the story is of a God who wants us to know him, to love him, to be restored to him. A story that is told through his interactions with a chosen people, not as an exclusive relationship, but as a model. And the Bible describes this model for us. We too, then, can follow this way, be his chosen people, and come to know him. From the story of the garden of Eden, through the calling of the patriarchs, the exodus, the exile, the Messiah Jesus, the cross, eternity; the aim is for God to dwell with humanity.

God wants to know you. God wants to bless you. Boundaries are not there to spoil things; they are there to enable our relationship with God, and so to bless us.

God bless you
Jonathan

Reflection for Wed 24 Jun

The reflection today comes from David Wheeler. Thank you David!

A father was working in the garden one day when his little boy came and asked him if he could help. Being a wise father he thought “what can I give him to do that will, at the same time, teach him something?”.
“Take this sieve to the water butt and fill it and bring it to me” he said. The little boy ran off, pleased to be of help. After three attempts to fill the sieve he came back to his father and sorrowfully reported that he couldn’t fill the sieve.
“Ah,” said his father, “but see how clean it is!”.

Some of us may be developing memories like sieves but don’t worry!
Jesus said to his disciples, in John 15 v 3 “Now you are clean through the Word which I have spoken to you “.

This is not a new message, In Psalm 119 v 9 the Psalmist asks, rhetorically, “How can a young man cleanse his way?”. And also gives us the answer, “By taking heed according to Your Word.”.

We should not underestimate the cleansing power of the Word of God.

My memory is nothing like it was. But not to worry, the point of Bible reading is not (no longer) primarily to remember as much of it as we can but to keep ourselves clean; and of course this is not referring to outward cleanliness but to the cleanliness of our hearts which God requires.

In another place the Psalmist tells us to hide God’s Word in our hearts so that we might not sin against Him. How much more glorifying to God it is if what comes out of our hearts is rooted in His Word which is hidden there, than so much of what our hearts generate if left to themselves.

So the lesson for me in all this is keep on with the reading of God’s Word, especially the Words of Jesus which keep us clean, even if I can’t remember it all.

God bless
Jonathan

Reflection for Fri 19 Jun

Friendship (Part 2)

Hi everyone,
I thought today, I would continue with my reflection on friendship (see last Friday’s reflection). As humans, as Christians, as the Community Church, friendship and love is so important!
Last week, I started with the question – How much do you love your friends? How far would you go for them? Would you be prepared to die for them?

Well, a swift Greek lesson based on John 15 will reveal the “stretch goal” for us –
The Greek word translated friend in this chapter is philo. And so one might presume that the word used for loving our friends would be phileo: friendship love – love and affection between close friends. But the word actually used here is much stronger; it is agape: the highest form of love. I just love that word – “agape”. It is sometimes referred to as divine love. It is unconditional, self-sacrificing, self-giving love. A love we routinely think of as being from God to us, (and more challengingly, from us to God.) But PLEASE NOTE WE ARE ALSO CALLED TO LOVE OUR FRIENDS WITH THIS HIGHEST FORM OF LOVE – AGAPE.
We are called to love our friends with the same kind of unconditional love as God loves us with; as Jesus loves us with. Do you love your friends with agape love? Do you love any of them like that? Are you loved like that by your friends?
John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you”

That call to agape love reveals something about the kind of friends we should choose, the kind of love we should look for, and the kind of love we should give. So choose your friends wisely! And once you have found good friends like this, treasure them, nurture them, love them, agape them!
AND LISTEN TO THEM. LET THEM HELP SHAPE YOU AND YOUR LIFE! GROW TOGETHER!

What sort of friends, what sort of attributes? Well, again we looked at that last week. I said – “the following attributes we would look for in friendship – Loyalty, standing by one another, to be able to say and hear – “I believe in you”. Sacrificial love, to give as well as receive. To prefer the other, not only in it for what we can get out of it. To speak truth to each other, not in order to undermine or tear down, but in order to build up. To hurt, and cry and rejoice with one another. To listen to each other.”

Do your friends tear you down or build you up? What kind of friends should you keep? The kind who bring out the best in you, who lift you up, who encourage you, and make you a better person.
And that means letting them speak truth to you. When that comes from agape you can accept it, receive it, learn from it, grow from it. If it comes from somewhere else, somewhere more self-centred, more competitive, well ……..

And the friend who is perfectly like this, is God himself. – God has chosen you, he calls you friend, not servant. John 15:15 “ I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” He loves you with agape love.
“What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear. What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer! (…) Are we weak and heavy laden, Cumbered with a load of care? Precious Saviour, still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer”

As we noted last week, this sort of friendship requires openness. God wants to love and comfort you, but also to speak truth to you, enable you to transform and grow. He loves you too much to leave you as you are!

And what about being open with God who is your friend? Unlike any other friend, God already knows you through and through, he knows everything about you.
How does that make you feel? Does it make you hold back?
Don’t! – God is a true friend, true agape. Some of the things he says to you may be difficult, but it always comes from absolute love. He always wants the best for you, and he knows how to get there. You just need to accept, to allow him.

My friends, God loves you! He loves you so, so much. You need not fear. God is the one who loves you! Jesus is the one who did indeed give up his life for his friends (even before they were friends). He chose you as a friend. He loves you that much, agape love. He actually did die for you. He is SO good for you.

BUT what about your part? – God has chosen us to be his friend, but we are called to be his friend too. Do you choose him as a friend? Do you love him with agape love? Would you die for him, as he has died for you? When he rose from the dead, he met Peter, who had denied him. And the burning question, the most important thing for Jesus to ask Peter was “Peter, do you agape me?” Peter struggled to affirm this, and replied “I do phileo” you. After repeated attempts to push Peter to take a further step, Jesus met Peter where he was and asked “Peter, do you phileo me?” I am sure as Peter went on, he could indeed have answered “yes, I agape you.” Certainly it seems likely he had agape love for Jesus when (as is likely) he was martyred.
Maybe that change took place at Pentecost? For it is the Holy Spirit in us who transforms us.

So, one last time – Do you agape Jesus? Do you agape your friends?
Not sure? – Then ask the Holy Spirit to help you, to work agape love within you. For it is he who can change you. And may he do the same for me also!

God bless you, my friends
Jonathan