“Christ conquered death bringing new life to all” or “New life dims the Cross”
“Christ conquered death bringing new life to all” or “New life dims the Cross”
This morning I went for a wander through the woods, no map, no compass, no satnav only the sun to tell me in which direction was south. With Epiphany coming, my wanderings made me think of the three Kings, they had only nature to aid their travel. The sun by day and stars by night, one particular star.
They did what was expected of anyone, the tale was of the birth of a king so they went to a palace. Only to find they were in the wrong place, a king did live there but the one they were looking for. This king was threatened by the news that a new king had been born. So the King’s bid him farewell,but not before they had agreed to return and share where the new king was to be found.
The King’s set of following the star, they had faith that they would find the King. In faith they found him,lying in a simple manger not in a golden crib in a palace.
Do you follow the Star, what means of navigation do you use, your bible, your prayers.
Thank goodness the kings took note of the dream they all had to return their home land by a different. Their faith shone through, does yours?
And my walk, I got home safely and saw some beautiful sights which I share below.
Wonderful Advent Reflections written by a friend, they are so good I just had to share them
Advent reflections based on everyday objects.
Jo Neary, Advent 2015
Advent 1: a bunch of keys – hope
Jeremiah 33: 14-16, Luke 21:25-36
The keys we use every day unlock and lock our houses keep them and us safe. In prison the keys held by the wardens control the freedom of those locked inside. The “key to something” is the best or only way to achieve something.
In the prophecy of Jeremiah 33:14-16 we hear how God will fulfil the promise made to Israel that they will be redeemed, that a new shoot will spring up, that the key to redemption and freedom is the justice and righteousness that Jesus will bring. In Luke 21:25-36 we are reminded that the Kingdom of God breaking through on earth will bring huge change, we should expect that change to come and expect God to act in the world. The key to change in the world is Jesus and his Kingdom.
When you unlock your doors, pray that your heart will be unlocked to see the justice of Jesus at work in the world now. What can we do to live justly in the world today? When you lock your doors at night, pray for those who are not free and for those who are imprisoned. Come Lord Jesus.
Advent 2: a phone – God’s message to the world
Malachi 3:1-4, Luke 3:1-6
A phone means we can contact help when we need it. A phone helps us keep in touch with loved ones. A phone can send a message, a photo, a video and connect us to the rest of the world.
In Malachi we hear that God’s messenger comes to prepare the way for the Lord’s arrival. We are reminded that when the Lord comes there will be consequences, his presence will purify and refine the world. The message in Luke is to get ready, to make our paths straight, to smooth out the rough bits, broadcast to the world that God is coming.
What message about God might we be able to tell in our lives? How can we share something about Jesus with whoever we speak to regularly on the phone? What blessing or prayer could you write in a letter or Christmas card this year? Come Lord Jesus.
Advent 3: a glass of water – John the Baptist
Zephaniah 3: 14-20, Philippians 4:4-7, Luke 3:7-18
When we turn on the tap fresh water gushes out. Water to wash in, to clean things, to satisfy our thirst, to refresh our gardens. Water sustains life. What sustains us?
In Philippians we are reminded that instead of worrying we must pray. Connection with God through prayer sustains our Christian journey and refreshes us. In Luke we hear how John baptised with water, encouraging people to say sorry for all they have done wrong. Jesus will baptise us with the Holy Spirit: we are forgiven and receive new life in Christ. The Holy Spirit is God at work in our lives today.
Pour a glass of water and give thanks for the clean water that we have access to. Pray for the whole world to have access to clean water. Drink the water and feel refreshed. Reflect on the things in your life you would like to be washed clean, say sorry for the things that are wrong. Drink again and know you are forgiven. What is God calling you to now?
Come Lord Jesus.
Advent 4: a towel – Mary
Micah 5:2-5a, Luke 1:39-45
A towel dries us after a bath, wipes our hands in the kitchen, mops up spills and even wraps up a new born baby.
Micah hints at the birth that is to come, the hard work and labour that will bring forth the shepherd for the flock. Luke reminds us of the Holy Spirit at work in both Elizabeth and Mary and the way God uses his lowly servant Mary to fulfil his plan to fill the hungry, to scatter the proud and redeem his people.
For many people around the world a hot shower and a clean towel is just something to hope for. As we use our towel today pray for those who are longing for safety and security: Lord lift up the lowly. Think of a new born baby, wrapped securely in a towel and held tightly by his mother: the hope of new life is the hope that Jesus brings to his world. What do you hope for the world? Come, Lord Jesus.
Bright star-maker God,
travel with us
shine into our dark corners
lead us into ways of justice
warm us with joy and wonder
bring us to new birth. Ruth Burgess
This morning I took an assembly at my local primary school, the subject was the festival of All Saints. I did a ppt talking about various saints. but it was the ensuing discussion on heaven and where it is.
I asked the question” where do you think have is”
the answers ” in space” “amongst the clouds” ” the here and now” no one came up with the answer I thought may appear and that was a sweet shop !!
But why not a sweet shop.
We have many people in our lives who are or have been special to us. Life one big sweet shop, catering for all types of taste. Sadly some taste bitter, a bit like some people in life but some are sweet and enjoyable and become favourites. We welcome them with joy and each time we join with them we are happy and fullfilled.
the next question was
“Where do they sleep” so I asked ,”where do you think”
“In bed on a cloud” what a wonderful thought.
I had this mental picture of all the saints in bed with name tags, just like the seven dwarfs. My mum and dad together, side by side.
A joyous thought.
So what are you thoughts on heaven?
Answers on a postcard…………………..
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. 14But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. 15Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 16For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. 17But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. 18And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for* those who make peace.
4Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? 2You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet* something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures.
7Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
I had an encounter with the devil this week, don’t be worried. He was crouched at the feet of a bishop in a stain glass window at St Andrews church in West Stafford, Dorset. I think it was the first time I’ve actually seen the devil depicted in a stained glass window.It was most opportune as the epistle this morning talks about the devil.
James warns us of the power of the devil this morning, how the devil sneaks in in a quiet way. James suggest in v 14-16
“But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth.
Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish.
For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind.
And in the gospel this morning we hear of to disciples arguing with one another as to who was the greatest. Not really an attribute that Jesus would expect to hear from one of his disciples. Would James consider they were thinking in earthly terms and not in heavenly terms, I think so So does the devil exist., is the devil trying to come between us and our faith.
C.S Lewis wrote about the Devil in his humorous fiction ‘The Screwtape Letters’.These letters consist of imaginary letters from a senior devil to a junior devil, instructing him how to tempt a young man away from Christianity. Eventually they fail, and are consumed with wrath as their intended victim passes triumphantly into heaven.
But in the course of the book we learn about what we’re up against if we wish to remain strong in our face and resist the call of atheism.
It is a hilariously funny book yet; like all best humour it makes a serious point. Many of its readers have laughed at the jokes but have they ever ask themselves whether they believe that the devil exists or not.
Some Christians will dismiss the question as decided already. Jesus believed in devils they answer, so we have no right to do disagree with him. They point to passages in Matthews Gospel, where Jesus meets to men that are possessed by demons and begins the task of casting them out. The Bible tells us that Jesus spoke to the Demons, even if it was only one word GO !!
This proves some say that devils are real.
But others will reply there is no scientific proof that Demons exist.
Whereas it has been shown over and over again and when identical symptoms to those of the so-called demoniacs are treated as a physical physiological illness they can be killed.
If Jesus had said, you are suffering from a psychosomatic illness nobody would have understood. Whereas if he used the language and terminology which the patient knew it will be effective in ridding him of his belief that he was incurable and allow the idea that God loved him to have its therapeutic effect.
In the forward of ‘The Screwtape letters’ Lewis said that if asked whether he believed in the devil, with a capital D, he would reply No if you meant a, power opposite and equal to God existing in its own right from eternity. ‘God has no opposites’ he wrote. But he did believe that some angels had rejected God, and become his enemies.
It is quite proper to call these fallen Angels Devils with a smaller D. But Satan their leader is the opposite of the Archangel Michael, not of God.This belief is not essential to his faith, wrote CS Lewis, but he will hold to it until someone can prove it to be untrue – and it is much harder to prove that anything does not exist than to prove it does.
The 19th century French poet Charles Baudelaire was saying the same thing when he wrote
‘ My dear brothers, never forget when you hear people praise the progress of the Enlightenment, that the devil’s best trick it Is to persuade you that he doesn’t exist’
James remind us in v17-18 that the wisdom we need comes from above.
‘But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.’
And in v7 he tells how we should do it
‘Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded’.
We need to be on our guard for the devil slips in so quietly and we allow it by thinking of earthly matters and no heavenly matters.
I have loved Paul’s letter to the Ephesians over the past few weeks.
This letter although written for new Christians converts in Ephesus, is so relevant for us today. The reading today talks of using our time wisely, not wasting it. It advises that we make sure we are spending it doing a God would have us do.
So busyness for busyness sake is out.
We mustn’t feel that we HAVE to be doing all the time, because in always DOING ,how are we to discern how God have us spend our time.
In church this morning we sand “Be still for the presence of the Lord”. The Lord wishes us to allow ourselves to be still, to rest in his presence, to hear him, be at one with him.
He gives us permission to” NOT BE BUSY” but WE have to give ourselves that permission.
Ephesians 5,15-20 (Message Bible)
Don’t waste your time on useless work, mere busywork, the barren pursuits of darkness. Expose these things for the sham they are. It’s a scandal when people waste their lives on things they must do in the darkness where no one will see. Rip the cover off those frauds and see how attractive they look in the light of Christ.
Wake up from your sleep,
Climb out of your coffins;
Christ will show you the light!
So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times! Don’t live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants.
Don’t drink too much wine. That cheapens your life. Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of him. Sing hymns instead of drinking songs! Sing songs from your heart to Christ. Sing praises over everything, any excuse for a song to God the Father in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ.
The God of Glory
I sit in peace by the river,taking time to reflect on your world .
The silence only broken by the sound of birds
And The the rustle of leaves as the wind gently blows.
My mind fills with wonder and amazement
Thoughts of your gift, your world,
that you freely gave to us your adopted chosen ones
A world created for us out of love.
A butterfly flies past, so small ,so delicate , so colourful
A dragon fly with wings of lace, skims across the river
The golden silence is no more
A plane flies overhead, then is gone and silence returns.
The plane brings with it the realisation,
That whilst you made this world perfect,
We, your chosen have made it imperfect.
The knowledge you have gifted us had been used for good and evil.
Man has moved from you in pursuit of their own needs and not the needs of other.
Forgive us Lord.
Show us how you would have us put this right, enabling us to return to you.
With peace of heart and mind, safe in the knowledge of your enduring love.
Silence is returned.
To silence of mind, silence of heart safe in the knowledge that your love is enduring.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love”.
Love is there any word that is more casually use in the English language Think of all the ways you can say you love someone will something I love my husband I love my children, I love to view out of my window and on the other occasion you meet a friend and you might say I love your shoes “where did you get them”.
I Have quoted many different contexts where the word love is used, so how many different types of love do you think there can be.
CS Lewis talks about love in his book ‘The Four Loves’
It is interesting the order he places the four in.
The first love he describes is affection. A mutual love between a parent and child, the first love we experience after birth, a need love and a giving love.
The next is friendship, a love freely chosen. They are not compelled into it by our own emotional and physical needs. There is a saying which I am sure you are all familiar with,you can choose your friends but not your relatives. How many times did you fall out with friends when you started school.
The next is romance, a coming together, a love that maybe started with friendship , moved deeper to affection, a complete giving of oneself to another.
And finally Agape-God ,love freely given asking for nothing in return and regardless of the circumstance.
A love that is inclusive as we hear in our first reading. This love is not for certain people, this love is for all.
But what about the other words
As the father has loved me so I have loved you now abide in my love.
Does it mean that Christ might stop loving us if we do not abide in his love,we do not wish to stay in his love, but decide to move away from his love and closeness, maybe thinking the grass is greener on the other side. Think of the prodigal son he went off because he thought the grass is greener, the son deprived himself of his fathers love and only later after a time in self-imposed hardship did he return to his father. His father who had never ceased to love his son, Abiding in Christ means we do is he would wish we keep his commands Jesus is here if you obey my commands, you will remain in my love.
So what happens if we don’t do this then we disobey and remove ourselves from the flow of the holy spirit this love is irrevocably linked with obedience really Love God we will want to follow his ways which is why it is important to have this personal relationship and for that relationship to grow.
V 12 and Gives us the command, my command is this Love each other as I have loved you. That’s a high standard of love as I have loved you how does Jesus love you he loved you before you loved him. He loved us enough to give himself totally sacrificially for us.
We may think “how can I possibly love as Jesus loved’, he tells us we can only do it if we abide in his love. If we walk in partnership, if we remain and live in obedience with the one we love.
It only is in this kind of relationship and fellowship our prayers actually mean something. John 15’7 if you remain in me and my words remaining you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given to him
Today is rogation Sunday, the word rogation come from the latin Rogare “to ask’ and in v 17 we read “what ever you ask the father in my name he will give you’
We are only going to find our God wants from us if we ask him it is through the spirit that is within us that God is able to speak to us. It is when we develop a relationship with our risen Lord that we can be changed. We have been chosen by Christ to bear his fruit, fruit that will last.
v16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.
Jesus telling to do one thing in this passage; just a connected with him, delivering fellowship with him to draw life and strength from him,obey him and depend on him. And abide in him.
We have a choice something we can do or not do
We can do it if we do as he says
If we abide in him
If we do as he commands and love one another
If we remember he choose us and not the other way round.
If we remember he loves us whoever and wherever we are.