Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Are you spiritually confused?

Today's REAP Readings: Jer 52; Rev 1; Psalm 143, 144

LORD, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy;in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief. Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you. The enemy pursues me, he crushes me to the ground; he makes me dwell in the darkness like those long dead. So my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed. I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done. I spread out my hands to you; I thirst for you like a parched land. Answer me quickly, LORD; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit. Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. Rescue me from my enemies, LORD, for I hide myself in you.Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground. For your name’s sake, LORD, preserve my life; in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble. In your unfailing love, silence my enemies; destroy all my foes, for I am your servant. {Psalm 143}
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I've never been particularly gifted at prayer and there's certainly been times when I felt I just didn't have the right "Biblical" language to express my prayer in front of others.
Often felt a little foolish in this area of the Christian life...
But over the years and more recently this year my prayer life has changed, it's becoming much more personal, much deeper and a large part of that I believe is due to digging into God's word, taking time out to listen to the heartfelt prayers of David, Paul and others in the Scriptures and using them as a model for my own prayer life. But also just enjoying the time out to reflect on the Scriptures has opened my eyes to the fact that there are so many that haven't tasted the living word yet, that don't know Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, that don't have a living, breathing relationship with their Creator and it burns the depths of my heart because I long for their eyes to see what I see. 
In a random (or not so random) conversation with a man on the street today that was trying to sell me something. I asked him whether he was a Christian like me, his response "I'm very spiritually confused at the moment".
And really isn't this the case for many?
And yet listen to David's prayer, he is someone that most definitely is not "spiritually confused", he knows without doubt that the God he pleads for mercy before is faithful and righteous. David has witnessed the works of God. He longs to be close again, for the morning to come and bring a reminder of God's unfailing love. He takes refuge in his Saviour, he prays "Teach me to do your will", "lead me" "preserve my life".
David trusts in the LORD, he understands he is sinful and in need for forgiveness, he longs to be restored to God,  he desires to live and serve Him alone, he desires to walk the way of the LORD.
If you're feeling "spiritually confused" today or just lacking the motivation to pray. Take a moment to reflect on David's prayer and claim it as your own.
And please pray for Tim, a lovely young man who's day most certainly lifted as I shared the solution to all our environmental problems "Jesus", in exchange for becoming a Greenpeace supporter!
Want to get more spiritual clarity? Come and REAP with us!

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Suffer well

Todays REAP Readings: Habakkuk 1-3, Philippians 1

(Reap excerpt)
 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me. {Phil 1:19-26}

In today's New Testament REAP readings, Paul takes us back to a time when Jesus's very disciples are facing intense persecution, Paul himself is imprisoned. Yet he writes with such passion and love for his brothers and sisters in Philippi. He begins by thanking them, not complaining about his situation not asking for them to come and rescue him. No he prays that they will 'abound in even more love, more knowledge and depth of insight', able to discern what is best and pure and blameless (1:9-11).

He is praying that they will come to full Christian maturity.

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Then we read on and learn that something is happening to Paul, but it has worked to advance the gospel (v12). You see people are hearing that Paul has been put in chains for being a Christian and because of this other Christians are rising up to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly (v14).

And look at Paul's response to being imprisoned

"I eagerly expect and hope that I will no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether my life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain" (vv20-21)

This is the response of a Christian that is well on the way to becoming the 'fullness' of Christ. He has learnt to trust by completely placing his life in hands of Christ. He is teaching them how to suffer well for Christ, how to suffer in such a way that Christ is magnified, that His gospel goes out and reaches the lost.

For many of our brothers and sisters around the world, some that are facing homelessness, poverty, even death for their faith, this letter will no doubt be of great encouragement to them and a great hope that their suffering will shine a light on the work of Christ and will encourage other Christians to rise up and courageously and fearlessly speak the word of God.

And if we're not impacted by hearing of our fellow brothers and sisters suffering, then there's a problem.

There's a spiritual problem..

If we don't feel the sufferings of those that are suffering, there's a problem.

If we're not completely impacted by seeing a suffering Christ on a cross, there's a problem.

There's a problem when we see suffering as a curse or an inconvenience or a problem to be overcome instead of an opportunity to suffer well, to suffer joyfully, to suffer for Him.

May we continue to grow in the way we love and care for those that are suffering for Christ, may we continue to trust that the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ will give us the courage to suffer well so that Christ is proclaimed even in the darkest of times.