Jesus Is With Us Always

1st February

Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given to you. AND BE SURE OF THIS: I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS, EVEN TO THE END OF THE AGE.

Matthew 28:20

What an amazing truth; Jesus the One who conquered death and sin, defeating the grave through His resurrection and the One who ever lives for us, stands by our side, not only in His own victory but stands with YOU for your victory through life’s battles and struggles. Jesus does exactly what He says. You can be assured of that fact! He said He would be handed over and betrayed and He was. He said that if He was destroyed, He would rise again in victory on the third day and He did. He said that He will be with you until the end of the age, and He will. He is truthful to His word and that is exactly why we can rest assured in this truth.

No matter what situation we face or how much the enemy tries to disrupt and destroy our lives, Jesus is above and ever present in our situations and lives. His presence with us in both the good and bad, is the anchor and cornerstone for our own personal lives, so that when tough times come, instead of drawing on our fallible and conditional strength, we draw on His infallible and unconditional love, mercy and strength. In fact, when we reflect on our lives, how often was He with us protecting us, even when we didn’t realise it? Jesus said He would be with you always and He meant it.

Remember, whatever you are facing right now, whether good or bad, whatever the situation,

BE SURE OF THIS: JESUS IS WITH YOU ALWAYS.

The Loving and Compassionate Embrace of Father God

30th , 31st January

So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.

Luke 15:20

How do you think God sees you? Do you think he looks at you and sees a sinful person and is disgusted by the sight of you? Or do you think He sees someone who has been forgiven and whose identity is a ‘child of God’.

The story of the prodigal son is a fantastic illustration of our relationship with God the Father. Let’s explore. As the son approaches the house after returning from his sinful rebellion (and notice the text says a long way off), the father, filled with love and compassion runs towards his son. He then embraces his son and kisses him to show his love and compassion for his son. The father did not stand with arms crossed, with a stern and serious face waiting for his son to beg for his forgiveness. Nor was there any delay is showering his love towards the son. He literally flung himself over his son.

So often we do picture God, sitting on His great throne, with burning eyes of fire, and an angry looking facial expression showing complete disgust and anger at our sin. Then the view of ourself is flat on our face, like a person who is begging for forgiveness, crawling towards the throne of God, knowing we are too sinful to get there. Yet if we look at Jesus’ depiction of the Father in His parable of the prodigal son, we see the opposite picture. A father who is running towards his son, even though his son had just squandered his inheritance.

So it is the same with God our Father. He runs towards us, a sinful people, YET forgiven, accepted and loved by His loving and compassionate heart. Let us not get confused, God does hate sin and His judgement towards sin is just and right. Yet just as the son acknowledged he had done wrong to his father, so it is with us when we repent and acknowledge our wrongdoings.

Imagine this next time you think of God’s throne room; God the Father jumping off His throne, running towards you, picking you up and embracing you with His loving arms: the loving arms of a God that is so in love with His child.

The Wisdom Of Solomon

29th January

Some time later two prostitutes came to the king to have an argument settled. …Then the king said, “Let’s get the facts straight. Both of you claim the living child is yours, and each says that the dead one belongs to the other….!”

1 Kings 3:16-28

(Please read the whole story… )

Soon after God had given Solomon his wisdom, two women came to him to have an argument settled. They both lived in the same house and both conceived children at the same time. In Solomon’s age, it could be assumed that there were no baby cots (except maybe for the rich, and these two women were probably far from that), so the new born babies slept with their mother in the same bed. During the night, sadly, one of the mothers rolled over onto her baby and killed her baby. Yet instead of simply mourning for her child, she deceivingly swapped the deceased child for the living child. Once the mother of the living child woke up, she noticed she had been deceived and that the deceased child was not hers…thus where the argument started.

After a long protest from both sides, Solomon decided that the best way to solve this situation was to cut the baby in half. Of course Solomon had no intention to do this, but rather it was test to see who was the real mother. A real mother definitely would not want to see her baby cut in half. And so, surely enough, the real mother protested to the baby being cut in half, whereas the lying mother agreed to Solomon’s idea. Solomon had seen what he needed to see. He pronounced his wise judgement and said, “do not kill the child but give him to the woman who wants him to live, for she is his mother.”

Solomon’s wise judgement in this situation, exhibited the incredible wisdom God had bestowed upon him. Yet, it is the last verse in this chapter that highlights an even more incredible message. “.. the people were in awe of the king, for they saw the wisdom God had given him for rendering justice.”

Every gift we have been given, is for the glory of God, to bring praise to Him, to bring God’s justice to this earth and so that people might draw closer to Him. May we use our gifts as Solomon did, and may God receive the glory for all good works we do through His strength.

The Smell Of Fresh Bread

28th January

But thank God! He has made us His captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now He uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God….

2 Corinthians 2:14-15a

Have you ever experienced the smell of freshly baked bread? There is nothing like it. It conjures up so many feeling of both nostalgia (remembering the good times you had eating freshly baked bread), and an overwhelming mouth-watering sensation that slowly leads your hand into your wallet, reaching for your money, to buy the bread and satisfy your cravings. On the contrary, have you ever tasted bread that is stale or that has not been touched for a few weeks? It’s dry, tasteless and dull. Moreover, it would probably make you sick. Now, picture our lives as the same.

Paul describes our journey with Christ as a triumphal procession, whereby everywhere we go, we spread the goodness of both the knowledge of God and the evidence of Him in our lives like a sweet perfume or fragrance. Much like the freshly baked bread illustration, we too can have that affect on people. People can become so hungry for God, so thirsty for His words, by the fragrance we give off.

Yet so often we live on yesterday blessings. We celebrate God’s goodness for yesterday and don’t allow ourselves to get excited about what God wants to do today in our lives. Sometimes we can get so consumed in yesterday’s blessings that we become like stale bread, tasteless, dull and inedible. Our challenge is to be filled daily with more of the Holy Spirit, more of the knowledge of God’s love for us and His world and ask the Lord, what is my ‘today’s blessing?’ Praise God that His mercies are new every morning.

May you be a sweet smelling fragrance to God and to others. May your light shine before men, that the Father may be glorified. May you live in ‘today’s blessings’!

Remain In My Love

27th January

 

I have loved you even as the Father has loved Me. Remain in My love……..I have told you these things so that you will be filled with My joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is My commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.

John 15:9, 11-12

Here is a good way to start your day, by reading Jesus’ words in John 15 v 9 “I have loved you even as the Father has loved Me!!!” In fact so great is that news, that even Jesus Himself said that, because of that knowledge, we will be filled with great joy…. Wait there’s more; not only filled with joy, but that we will overflow with joy. That is incredible. If Jesus says that the knowledge of Him loving us will fill us with overflowing joy, then surely that is something we should be excited about. Moreover, it is most definitely something we need to keep reminding ourselves of when we walk through dark valleys in our lives, and when we feel so distant and so far from Him. We must remind ourselves that the Creator of the universe loves US.

That knowledge is enough to bring a smile to anyone’s day…Yet there is more. Our relationship status with the Creator of the universe is not just someone who is loved, but also, we are known as His friends. Verse 14 tells us this, “You are my friends if you do what I command.” Well, what does Jesus command? The answer is found in today’s key verse….This is My commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.” Our commandment is to love others with the same love we have been loved with. That means first, we must know how much God loves us, second, accept His love, third, love yourself (not in vanity but in knowing who God has made you to be) and finally, loving others with the same love God loves us with.

Finally, to top it all off, Jesus says that it is He who chose us. He loved us first. He loved us while we were still sinners. And yet He still chose to lay His life down for us. Today, know this, you are loved by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. You are His friend. May that knowledge fill your hearts with overflowing joy.

The True Vine

26th January

Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing.

John 15:5

Jesus significantly uses the analogy of a tree and fruit to symbolise our relationship with God and the fruit we bear as a result of being ‘connected’ to the source. As we discussed yesterday, being filled with the Spirit is key to producing God like fruit. In addition, being connected to the source of all life, Almighty God, gives us all the nutrients we need to also bear fruit, and in doing so, bring glory to His Name, to all who are receivers of the God-like fruit we are bearing.

Jesus warns us of the importance of staying connected to the Father. He simply states thata branch cannot produce fruit if it severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in Me.It is an obvious example yet the simplicity of it can often lead to complacency in understanding it. The question we must ask ourselves is, how do we stay connected to the vine (God the Father)? The answer, by obeying God’s commandments. His commandments are simply to love Him and love others with the same love He loves us with.

In fact, verse 10 tells us that “when you obey My (Jesus’) commandments, you remain in My (Jesus’) love…”. So, the simple starting point to living a life bearing God-like fruit is to accept God’s unconditional love and to obey His commandments of loving Him and loving others. This keeps us connected to the source of love, which in turn allows us to bear God-like fruit in our lives. It is then that God the Father is glorified through our lives. Moreover, it is the Holy Spirit that leads us to love, to obey God and stay connected to the source.

Living In The Spirit: Producing His Fruit

25th January

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Galatians 5:23-24

When you plant a seed, you expect the fruit of that seed to be what you planted right? It would be pretty shocking if you planted a tomato plant and an apple tree starting growing. You would feel deceived by the packet and probably by the person/shop that sold it you. So it is the same with our lives. Our packet may be labelled ‘Christian’ but if we live according to the desires of our sinful nature, we will constantly be scattering fleshly seeds which in turn will bear fleshly fruit, (full list found in verses 19-21).

Yet if we live in the Holy Spirit and by His guiding, we will produce fruit in accordance with His nature. Think about Jesus. His roots were firmly planted in the Father and He truly produced Godly fruit. He was kind, loving and patient will all He met, even the marginalised of society. He was faithful, full of goodness, joy and peace. He was so gentle, taking our burdens and carrying them on the cross for us. Finally, when He was tempted by the enemy, He stood firm and showed self-control to overcome the enemy’s lies. Jesus is still all those things today.

That same Spirit, is the Spirit that lives in us; The person of the Holy Spirit. He lives to guide and lead us and to produce fruit in accordance to God’s nature. Notice that verse 22 doesn’t say that these fruit are something we can produce on our own, but rather it is the Holy Spirit’s indwelling in our hearts and lives that produces these fruit. May we be daily, consciously asking for more of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Not just an infilling but an overflowing of Him in all we do. May the seeds we sow, bear good fruit.

Living In The Spirit

23rd -24th January

Weekend Edition

So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.

Galatians 5:16-17

So often we fight to live righteously because we want to obey God’s commands and keep holy. Yet Paul writes in verse 4 of chapter 5 that, “.. if you are trying to make yourself right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace.” These may seem like strong words, but the context of this verse is a people group (the church in Galatia), trying to please God by obeying Moses’ law, rather than relying on the grace of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit. We too can fall into this bracket when we tirelessly try to uphold the law, even with our best intentions. Yet even our best intentions will fall short because our motives are in “doing” rather than “being led”.

Simply put, the way to live righteously before God, is not to get caught up in trying to keep God’s commandments, but rather by being led by the Holy Spirit. Let us be clear, that it is in surrendering to the Holy Spirit’s leading in our lives that we can have victory over our sinful nature’s cravings, as He leads us to righteous living, rather than we trying to live righteously. It is only when we fully submit to the Holy Spirit’s leading in our lives, that we can be free of “doing” and “religious works”, and be” fully alive in the grace of Jesus. The weight of trying to gain God’s favour by the obeying His law is lifted and we are set free to fully live liberated lives.

If we know that there is nothing we can do that will make God love us more, and nothing we can do that will make God love us less, then we will gladly rejoice in the Holy Spirit’s leading in our lives, and can be free of our sinful nature’s cravings. Yes, there will always be a spiritual battle going on, but rather than trying to win it, we just need to rely on the Holy Spirit to lead us closer to God and further away from fleshly desires.

He Is Faithful and Just

22nd January

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9

There are no truer words than these written by John in his letter to the believers. Simply put, when we ask God for His forgiveness through Jesus, we are forgiven, because God is great, full of grace and mercy and He is faithful. Moreover, He does not just forgive our sins but cleanses from all the guilt and condemnation that comes with it. It is like every time we ask God for forgiveness, He gives us another chance and washes our account clean. What grace!

Sometimes, we may still have to face the consequences of our actions, but even there, God is pouring His grace over us, to restore what was broken and damaged and to lift us up out of the holes we may have dug ourselves into.

Today’s encouragement is to simply believe, that if you have confessed your sins to Almighty God with a true and honest heart, then you are forgiven. Period. Trust that a great exchange took place – your sin at the foot of the cross exchanged for forgiveness by Jesus’ atoning sacrifice. It is through Jesus’ sacrifice that we find our forgiveness. You don’t have to stay in the condemnation of your sin, but can be free; Free to live fully for Christ. Free to not have to carry your sinful baggage around with you. Free from condemnation and guilt. It is God’s promise. He is faithful to forgive and also to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Rise up from the ashes. Take courage. You are a forgiven child of God. Your identity is in Christ, and not in what sin and the enemy has labelled you to be.

Run The Race With Patience

21st January

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting Him, He endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now He is seated in the place of honour beside God’s throne

Hebrews 12:1-2

Usain Bolt can take pride that he is the recorded fastest man on this earth. He trained hard, most probably sacrificed many things, all for the sake of perfecting his sport and becoming the world’s best champion. Did you know that we too are in a race, the race of life. Yet this is not a race that needs to be won, in terms of finishing the fastest. This race is won with patience, integrity and God-like living. Our training is imitating Christ in all we do, exercising spiritually (praying, worshipping and reading His word), sacrificing the empty pleasures of sin and living for Jesus wherever we are.

The most comforting thing, is that we can all be winners and be crowned champions. Moreover, when we feel like giving up we can look to those who have gone before us as our inspiration, ‘the Hero’s of faith mentioned in Hebrews, chapter 11; a people who were just like us, warts and all, yet persevered to the very end. Yet above all else, we can look to Jesus, who came to this earth, ran the race of life and completed it with excellence. He know sits championing us on, encouraging us along the way and being our best supporter.

Wherever you are, re-focus on Jesus, fix your eyes on Him and press on. If you have fallen, get back up. In addition, if there is something that is causing you to stumble, get rid of it. Give it to Jesus. May we all run together, encouraging one another, keeping our eyes on the Author and Finisher of life itself; For what joy awaits those who finish well.