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Chris (email link at the bottom of each page)

Speak the truth in love

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Matthew 18:15–20
 
We do not have to learn how to sin and to hurt other people.  For most of us, the ability comes all too naturally.  The number of ways that we can sin against others and they can sin against us is so great that a web of suffering is created.  Yet we are called to live in the world relating to one another as brothers and sisters. There is plenty of opportunity for disharmony.  Jesus knew this and gave practical advice on how to resolve conflict and maintain discipline in the church.

Firstly, he tells us to deal with problems individually if possible.  This course of action could be described as ‘speaking the truth in love’.  But there are pitfalls even at this stage.  Resentments that we harbour against others may be due more to our pride, jealousy and sensitivity than to the faults of others.  Sometimes we can find ourselves being irritated easily.  It is said that we should make a list of things about other people that irritate us and then study that list, because it contains all the features in our own character that we most despise about ourselves.  Still, other people do sometimes hurt us, and the remedy that Jesus prescribes is not a display of intimidating anger or an attempt to manipulate or retaliate, but simply to speak the truth.

Next, Jesus describes situations where the offender is unrepentant.  Once again it is the truth, supported by witnesses, that underpins the course of action to be taken.  If the offender is ultimately recalcitrant, he or she is to be shunned as if a ‘tax collector’.

Finally, Jesus makes promises that speak of his closeness to his disciples through the ages.  Any group of people meeting together in his name have the assurance that God will listen to and grant their requests.  And Jesus himself will be present among them.  It is a truth that we should remember when we struggle, as we may so often, with distractions in prayer and feel that our prayers go unheard by a God who seems to be far away from us.  The Lord is always with us.  He is always listening.

Lord, you call as to love one another.  Help me to be more aware of my own faults than those of others.  But give me the courage and the love to speak the truth to others when I need to do so.

Chris
 

 

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The Holy Spirit opens our hearts

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Matthew 12:38-42
 
Jonah and the Whale
 
Despite Jesus’ many miracles the Pharisees wanted to see more. But Jesus was having none of it and promised that the only other sign that would be given to them would be the sign of Jonah. The prophet Jonah was called by God to preach a message of repentance to the Gentiles of Nineveh (located in modern-day northern Iraq). 

In the bright constellation of Old Testament prophets Jonah shines (or not) as the most reluctant prophet. He disobediently ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish by boat. The Lord then sent a severe storm that caused the crew of the ship to fear for their lives. Jonah was soon thrown overboard and swallowed by a great fish, in whose belly he remained for ‘three days and three nights’ (Jon. 1:15-17).  After the three-day period, the Lord caused the great fish to vomit Jonah out onto dry land on. 2‘10). 

Chastened and humbled, Jonah delivered his message of repentance and conversion, and the Nineties responded favourably. In similar vein the Gentile Queen of Sheba went to great lengths (and miles) to hear the wisdom of Solomon and was very impressed (1 Kgs. 10-1—13).

Jesus pointed to these examples to highlight how the Spirit had opened the hearts of Gentiles to God’s message, but now, when one greater than Jonah or Moses — greater because they pointed to him — was among them, the religious authorities had hardened their hearts. 

The message of repentance and conversion is foundational to our faith. The Spirit always leads us towards the grace of repentance because it brings us into a human-divine reality: God is holy and we are sinners. We tend to think of this admission or confession as a sign of weakness but it is the very opposite: when we confess our sins, admit our fault and throw ourselves on God’s mercy, we receive every spiritual grace and blessing.

Lord have mercy upon me a sinner; wash away my iniquity and cleanse me of my sin.

Chris
 
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Have Mercy on me, O God

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Snow-capped mountains and green fields with sheep and Psalm 51 v12
 
 
 
PSALMS 51 (NIVUK)
 
1  Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
 
2  Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
 
3  For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
 
4  Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
 
5  Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
 
6  Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
 
7  Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
 
8  Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
 
9  Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.
 
10  Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
 
11  Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
 
12  Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
 
13  Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
so that sinners will turn back to you.
 
14  Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
you who are God my Saviour,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
 
15  Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
 
16  You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
 
17  My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.
 
18  May it please you to prosper Zion,
to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
 
19  Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,
in burnt offerings offered whole;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.
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Repentance to Bring Blessing

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Hosea 14: 2-10

 

"The Lord says this: Israel, come back to the Lord your God; your iniquity was the cause of your downfall.  Provide yourself with words and come back to the Lord.  Say to him, ‘Take all iniquity away so that we may have happiness again and offer you our words of praise. 

"Assyria cannot save us, we will not ride horses any more, or say, “Our God!” to what our own hands have made, for you are the one in whom orphans find compassion’ – I will heal their disloyalty, I will love them with all my heart, for my anger has turned from them. 

"I will fall like dew on Israel.  He shall bloom like the lily, and thrust out roots like the poplar, his shoots will spread far; he will have the beauty of the olive and the fragrance of Lebanon. 

"They will come back to live in my shade; they will grow corn that flourishes, they will cultivate vines as renowned as the wine of Helbon.  What has Ephraim to do with idols any more when it is I who hear his prayer and care for him? 

"I am like a cypress ever green; all your fruitfulness comes from me.  Let the wise man understand these words.  Let the intelligent man grasp their meaning. 

"For the ways of the Lord are straight, and virtuous men walk in them, but sinners stumble."

 

When our will is weak, when our thinking is confused, and when our conscience is burdened with a load of guilt, we must remember that God cares for us continually; His compassion never fails.

When our shortcomings and our awareness of our sins overcome us, God’s compassion never fails.

Chris

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Repent

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Matthew 4:12-23
 
Jesus’s initial preaching began in the same way as the ministry of John the Baptist: with a simple proclamation about the need for conversion and change, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” (v.17)
 
God created us with a gift of free will.  This why repentance is so vital.  God will assist us with grace but respects our free will and our ability to choose and decide about whether to sin or not to sin, to turn back to God or to remain in our rebellion.
 
Once we repent, once we turn back to God, once we take that first step, we open ourselves to the healing mercy of God.
 
Repentance will always be the key that unlocks the door to the royal road, the highway of holiness and the way of the Spirit.
 
Lord, thank you for the gift of repentance, the chance to change, turn over a new leaf, and renounce ways of thinking and acting that harm me.
 
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The Good News

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Mark 1:14-20
 
From the beginning of Mark’s Gospel we are introduced to the ideas of repentance, belief and good news.
 
The gospel, literally “good news”, is that God became man to save and resuce us because we could not save ourselves from sin, death and the power of evil.
 
The Good News is that God loves us and revealed that love to us by sending Jesus, his only son and the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, to die on the cross and to rise again on the third day.
 
The Good News is that our sins are forgiven, our lives are wiped clean by the blood of Jesus, and we are reconciled with God the Father, restored as his sons and daughters, blessed with a new dignity, purpose and hope.
 
The Good News is that we have received the Holy Spirit; we are a new creation.
 
Lord, teach me to be a witness of your grace and of the joy of heartfelt repentance, and in turn lead others to know deeply and personally your mercy and forgiveness.
 
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Come, Lord Jesus, come

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Luke 21:20-28
 
We need to take Scriptures like today’s reading very seriously.  The same Luke who recorded the beauty of the nativity also gave us today’s apocalyptic vision of the end of the world.
 
Jesus warns that these events will cause the faith of many to be shaken.  But in warning of these events, his purpose is to assure his disciples that they are part of God’s overarching plan for the world.  When they see these cataclysmic events taking place, they will know that his plan is being fulfilled and that Jesus will soon return.  
 
Jesus wants us to be assured that God is in control and that his purpose is being fulfilled.
 
Lord, renew in me a firm faith in your second coming and teach me to pray for it with all my heart, soul and strength.
 
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