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Sunday, June 29, 2014

He Said it with Flowers

bouquetGive, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Luke 6:38

Jesus said it and it's true. When you give away, you get back. This has happened to me numerous times. But I've been challenged afresh about my giving in terms of where my treasure is.  

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matt 6:19-21

We only have a limited time, here on earth, to store up treasure in heaven. So we need to take every opportunity to do so.  

To Give
On Sunday afternoon, I was speaking in an inner city church with a tiny congregation. Because this message of treasure is consuming my thoughts at the moment, I decided to make it the subject of my message, using Matthew 14:44-46. At the end, as they always do when I visit this fellowship, they gave me the flowers that had been on the platform at the front of the church.

Normally the street outside is empty when I leave, but this Sunday there was a young woman walking past. I had the overwhelming urge to give her the flowers. Her face lit up and she hugged me. Then she told me she was on the way to visit her sister and would give the flowers to her. I got such a thrill from doing that, I felt I'd had my reward.  

To Receive
I then went on to sit in the congregation of another church which I often go to on a Sunday evening. The message was almost exactly the one I had given that afternoon using the same passage from the Bible.

At the end the minister came over to me for a chat and, for no particular reason that I could see, gave me some flowers, even more beautiful (being my favourite colour) than those I'd given away just a few hours earlier.  

Using the Right Measure
There have been times when I have given with the wrong motives. I have begun to learn that the way God measures His giving back to us is related not so much to what we give but how we give. If I give reluctantly or out of a sense of duty or compulsion, why should I expect a blessing? But if I give joyfully, joy will be measured back to me, because, God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor 9:7)

Does God keep His word? Yes, He does. And He says it with flowers.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Grace of God - a Gift

blue-gift-box-illustrationIt is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.
Ephesians 2:8

Grace is one of those biblical concepts which we often find we have a somewhat woolly understanding of. We have a feeling we know approximately what it means but please don't ask us to define it.

When I try to explain it to others I often introduce it this way:
  • Justice is when God gives us what we deserve
  • Mercy is when God doesn't give us what we deserve
  • Grace is when God gives us what we don't deserve
I find that a very helpful introduction, but it's still not a definition.

In the verse above the Greek word behind "grace" is charis which means "gift". It is the same word used in 1 Corinthians when Paul talks about the gifts of the Holy Spirit - prophecy, speaking in tongues and so on.

So, grace is simply a gift. But in the New Testament it is often applied, as it is in the verse above, to a specific gift - the gift to us of salvation through the death of Jesus on the cross.

This is why some people use the phrase, God's Riches At Christ's Expense, to define "grace" and I intend to meditate on this and unpack it in the next few posts of Prayer College.

But, before we look further at "grace", you may have noticed the the English word "gift" also appears in the verse above. Here the underlying Greek word is doron which is an offering. Salvation is indeed a grace, a gift of God, but not everyone receives it. God offers it freely but we have to accept what He is offering to us.

Have you personally grasped the gift of salvation or have you left God holding it in His hands, offering it to you?

Saturday, January 04, 2014

My Chief Complaint

Angry man There are certain things in this world which seem almost completely incomprehensible, which stir up in us feelings of irritation and anger.

Perhaps I've just become a grumpy old woman, but I wonder why people who are paid to do a job can't do it right, or why cyclists ride in the dark with no lights, or why the England batsmen in the current Ashes series don't simply stay in. Bring back pride in a job well done, common sense and Geoffrey Boycott.

But these complaints are trivial compared to my utter frustration at myself as I echo the words of the 18th Century hymn writer, William Cowper:

Lord, it is my chief complaint 
That my love is weak and faint

How can it be that, given the immense love of God, demonstrated in Jesus' death on the cross which saves me from damnation, I find it so hard to love Him in return? Why do I find it so easy to abandon the time I should be spending with Him? Why do I become bored in church? Why, oh why do I run from Him instead of towards Him?

As I've wrestled and argued with myself about these things I've been reminded of the words of the apostle John:

We love because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19 

Love begets love. Perhaps my love grows weak and faint when I fail to recognise the love of God for me. Focussing on my failure to love God takes my eyes from gazing on Him and puts them firmly on myself. I forget that apart from Jesus I can do nothing. I make myself and my actions more important than God.

That is I-dolatry.

The resolution to this must be to reflect more on God's overwhelming love for me, the love which He lavishes on all of us (1 John 3:1).