Blessings in abundance

When was the last time you stopped and went through all the ways you have been blessed by God?

Your answer will provide an indication of the level of gratitude that resides in your heart – or, do you have a demanding heart, one which is always approaching God asking Him to  do (fix/mend/heal) something for you?

The issue with being always focused on our problems is that we then tend to over-emphasise the difficulties in our lives. This pre-occupation with the disasters in our lives cast a dark shadow over our days and we fail to notice those moments when we are blessed by God.  As Selwyn mentions in today’s study, ‘we have a tendency to count the bad things that happen to us rather than the good things’.

He concludes his study with these words: “How does your day begin? With a song of praise and thanksgiving or with a sigh (as you remember all the things you should do) ? If it is with a sigh then you might consider adopting Sir John Templeton’s practice of lying quietly in your bed after you have awakened and thinking of five new ways you have been blessed.”

As I mentioned yesterday, if you are not able to identify any blessings – then close your eyes and look at the cross. The fantastic blessing which flows from Christ’s work on the cross – should open your eyes to all the other blessings that have been given to you by God.

In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 1:3-10 (NIV), we read about God’s amazing blessing for us: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.

With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment – to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.”

Life on this fallen world can be very difficult at times – especially as we get older and our bodies start to wear out; yet, our eyes are fixed on the promises we have in Christ. We know that Jesus is leading us to our promised home, to be with Him in eternal peace and nothing can separate us from His love. His Words are also a wonderful blessing – words, that are given power by His Spirit as an assurance of what He said – is true!

 

Think – and give thanks

Selwyn reminds us that when Jesus was here on earth, He was constantly giving God praise and thanks.

He writes: “When He fed the multitude with five loaves and two fishes He began by giving thanks (John 6:11). At the last supper, as He distributed the broken bread and wine, He gave thanks (Luke 22:17,19). And in John 11:41, we see Him giving thanks to God as He prepares to raise Lazarus from the dead. …

There is never a time in any-one’s life when there is nothing for which to be thankful.”

It doesn’t take much thinking to determine what we should always be thankful for, in John 3:13-18, we are told by Jesus: “No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven – the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

God has made His peace with us – if we believe in Jesus – we can have eternal life and not be condemned to eternal death, which we all deserve. Now, isn’t that something to be thankful for?

The attitude of gratitude

Selwyn now looks at the role praise and thanksgiving plays in our prayer life.

He writes: “In my view worship is adoring God for who He is; thanksgiving and praise involve thanking God for what He does. … Nothing reveals the immaturity of our prayer life more than making our requests to God without remembering to give Him thanks and praise for the things He has already given to us or done for us.”

In his conclusion, Selwyn makes an interesting statement, ‘ … the biggest barricade against depression is a thankful and praising heart.’ What do you think of this view?

Paul’s letter to the Philippians 4:4-9 (NIV): “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthythink about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice.

And the God of peace will be with you.”

These few verses contain some great stuff – what a wonderful picture of a person free from the grip of depression; they rejoice in the Lord, they are gentle and they are not anxious about anything because they have placed their trust in the Lord.  These people are forever thankful for what God has done – especially, what Christ has done on the cross.

Such people dwell on the goodness of God’s creation – they think about what is true, lovely and right. Their minds are full of thanksgiving and praise for what God is doing – there’s no room left in their hearts for negative and depressing thoughts to linger. These people of God, listen to God’s Word and put into practice what they have heard. Is it any wonder then, that the peace of God guards their hearts and minds? These people are not depending on their own strength – they are depending fully on God’s Word.

Is this all too good to be true? Some might say that the reality of this fallen world with its famines, wars, disease, storms and earthquakes means that nobody can escape the anxieties of this age. Yet, the people of God are perhaps more sensitive to life’s difficulties than what the above verses suggest – it is because the peace of God guards their hearts that they are able to better respond with caring love to others who are carrying a heavy load; instead of being overwhelmed by depression and hopelessness. The sadness of this world is strongly felt by us – but it does not linger for long enough to take root and grow into a bitter tree of despair.

Your views?

Priority number 1

I think this is an important issue that Selwyn raises in today’s study.

To maintain the context, I’ll repeat a lot of what he says: “As you meditate with me on this issue of adoration, I wonder if you might be thinking this is something best left to contemplative order of monks – to those who have the time for such things. Possibly some readers – activists perhaps – are thinking: ‘All this is fine, but in a world such as ours we would be better given to social reform or works of charity. This is how we can best glorify God’.”

Of course, works of charity etc – in themselves, are not the best way to glorify God. I can’t understand how anyone could reach this position if they have taken into their heart all of what the Bible says about God.

We cannot truly love another unless we first love God. To be very clear about this issue – I’m using the word ‘love’, in the same way as the Greek word ‘agape’ is used – I’m not referring to the other forms of love which can only be expressed appropriately when included under the umbrella of ‘agape’, the perfect love of God. To love God above all other creation – is the highest priority, how could it be any different?

Selwyn goes onto say: “Work for God is important, but I stress again that the most effective service for God is accomplished by those who know Him intimately. … Contemplation of God and nearness to Him enables Him to direct His willing servant to the tasks that He wants done. … Adoration disinfects us from egoism (Henri Bremond).”

If we don’t have God as the highest priority – we run the risk of putting ourselves or others as the highest priority – this risk is often seen when we do works of charity etc, with the aim (sometimes unconsciously) to produce a feeling of self-satisfaction by doing ‘good’.

Deuteronomy 10:12-13 (NIV): “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?”

Now – let me say once again; ‘why is it critical to have the love of God as our highest priority?  It is our loving contemplation of God and nearness to Him that enables Him to direct His willing servant to the tasks that He wants done!

Any comments?

Growing in holiness

I’ve not much to say about today’s study.

Perhaps, this is the key point: “Many writers have concluded that the holiness of past saints was something they received rather than something they achieved (by their own efforts). The saints set their eyes upon Jesus. They gazed on God in love and longing and the Holy Spirit did the rest.” (It’s part of the Spirit’s work – to transform us into the likeness of Jesus – this is the only way to true holiness.)

Selwyn’s conclusion repeats the message: “The more we focus on Him the more His love and power penetrates to the core of our personality. We gaze, He invades.”

 

Quiet contemplation

Selwyn mentions in today’s study, about the time (2 Corinthians 12:1-10) the Apostle Paul was taken up to the third heaven (see note below).  He speculates that Paul may have been engaged in the adoration of God, just prior to this event.

[Note: Jewish cosmology at that time, could be described along these lines: 1st heaven – the blue sky where birds fly; the second heaven was comprised of water, imagine an up-turned colander that separated the sky from the water  – and the rain would fall to earth through the holes; however, people with an up-to-date view of science tend to think of the second heaven as space where solar systems etc are located. The third heaven is where God abodes – and Paul identifies this place as Paradise. There is some literature which mentions seven heavens – in such cases, the seven is often used in a symbolic sense. The other curious thing is that most translations have Paul being taken ‘up‘ to Paradise, whereas it’s probably more accurate to say, ‘taken away to’. ]

Personally, I don’t think it’s useful to speculate about this type of issue. In a general sense – there can be a number of situations where our souls are filled with a peace and an elation that we could never imagine – but they all have one thing in-common, an acute awareness of the presence of God.

The prayer for today, in a way – is a good summary: “Gracious and loving Father, help us each one to see the spiritual value that can be gained by quiet contemplation of You, and help us rearrange our priorities to this end. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

 

 

Seeing His glory

I like today’s verses, especially the following, John 17:20-24 (NIV), Jesus is praying for all believers: “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.

May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.”

It’s God’s desire that we be with Him in heaven and for us to be able to see His glory.

I found this bit in today’s study to be challenging: ” … if you glance at the Lord sideways then that is the image that will be reflected in your soul. If you look at Him full in the face (and by that I mean contemplating Him, spending time with Him, adoring Him) then a stronger and more complete image of Him will be reflected in your life.”

Perhaps, there are some who are thinking that there isn’t enough spare time in the day to spend time doing ‘nothing’, but just quietly sitting in the presence of our Lord. It’s really a question of your eternal priorities, Matthew 21:21-22 (NIV): ‘Another disciple said to Jesus, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”  But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

You can put the priorities of this world first, including the important ones like family and friends; or, you can put the eternal priority first – following Jesus – one, is temporary – the other is forever. If, your first love is Jesus then all the other necessities of eternal life are maintained by God’s love – even during the most difficult times when all of this earth’s material comforts are lost (like Job).

Your view?