Happy Father’s Day

Bless Our Fathers
Heavenly Father,
Today we ask You to bless our earthly fathers
for the many times they reflected the love, strength, generosity, wisdom and mercy that You exemplify in Your relationship with us, Your children.

We honor our fathers for putting our needs above their own convenience and comfort;
for teaching us to show courage and determination in the face of adversity;
for challenging us to move beyond self-limiting boundaries;
for modeling the qualities that would turn us into responsible, principled, caring adults.

Not all our fathers lived up to these ideals.
Give them the grace to acknowledge and learn from their mistakes.
Give us the grace to extend to them the same forgiveness that you offer us all.
Help us to resist the urge to stay stuck in past bitterness,
instead, moving forward with humility and peace of heart.

We ask your blessing on those men who served
as father figures in our lives
when our biological fathers weren’t able to do so.
May the love and selflessness they showed us
be returned to them in all their relationships,
and help them to know that their influence
has changed us for the better.

Give new and future fathers the guidance they need
to raise happy and holy children,
grounded in a love for God and other people –
and remind these fathers that treating their wives
with dignity, compassion and respect is
one of the greatest gifts they can give their children.

We pray that our fathers who have passed into the next life
have been welcomed into Your loving embrace,
and that our family will one be day be reunited in your heavenly kingdom.

In union with St. Joseph,
whom you entrusted with Your Son,
we ask Your generous blessings today and every day.

Amen.

– Tony Rossi

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Restore: Devastating beauty

Devastating beauty

On Friday my hope died.
The sky wept itself dark
the ground broke apart
and all creation cried
for the bloodied innocence
hammered into a tree.

There were whispers
of a torn curtain
but they didn’t reach my ears
or mend my mangled heart
or stem the bitter tears
as we took
the body
down.

On Saturday we grieved,
hiding from the troops
whom we’d once believed
would be overthrown
by the carpenter’s boy,
who had preached
and fed and healed
and was now dead.

But then on Sunday –
the devastating beauty
of that Sunday –
when time and space
were blown out of shape
and angels wrapped in electric grace
rolled the impossible away.

He is not here
they proclaimed
for glory had risen
our failings were forgiven
and the rules of time and space
were rewritten
as an empty tomb declared:
Love is alive.

Gideon Heugh, Tearfund

Good Friday…

What Good Friday Is All About

The great passion of the writer of Hebrews is that we “draw near” to God (Hebrews 4:16, 7:25, 10:22, 11:6). Draw near to his throne to find all the help we need. Draw near to him, confident that he will reward us with all that he is for us in Jesus. And this is clearly what he means in Hebrews 10:22, because verse 19 says that we have confidence “to enter the holy place,” that is, the new heavenly “holy of holies,” like that inner room in the old tabernacle of the Old Testament where the high priest met with God once a year, and where his glory descended on the ark of the covenant.

So the one command, the one exhortation, that we are given in Hebrews 10:19–22 is to draw near to God. The great aim of this writer is that we get near God, that we have fellowship with him, that we not settle for a Christian life at a distance from God, that God not be a distant thought, but a near and present reality, that we experience what the old Puritans called communion with God.

This drawing near is not a physical act. It’s not building a tower of Babel, by your achievements, to get to heaven. It’s not necessarily going into a church building, or walking to an altar at the front. It is an invisible act of the heart. You can do it while standing absolutely still, or while lying in a hospital bed, or while sitting in a pew listening to a sermon.

Drawing near is not moving from one place to another. It is a directing of the heart into the presence of God who is as distant as the holy of holies in heaven, and yet as near as the door of faith. He is commanding us to come, to approach him, to draw near to him.

The Center of the Gospel

In fact, this is the very heart of the entire New Testament gospel, isn’t it? That Christ came into the world to make a way for us to come to God without being consumed in our sin by his holiness.

“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18).
“For through him [Christ] we both have access in one Spirit to the Father” (Ephesians 2:18).
“We also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (Romans 5:11).

This is the center of the gospel—this is what the Garden of Gethsemane and Good Friday are all about—that God has done astonishing and costly things to draw us near. He has sent his Son to suffer and to die so that through him we might draw near. It’s all so that we might draw near. And all of this is for our joy and for his glory.

He does not need us. If we stay away he is not impoverished. He does not need us in order to be happy in the fellowship of the Trinity. But he magnifies his mercy by giving us free access through his Son, in spite of our sin, to the one Reality that can satisfy us completely and forever, namely, himself. “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).

Courtesy of Love to the Uttermost: Holy Week by John Piper.

Maundy Thursday…

Thursday of the Commandment

Today is Maundy Thursday. The name comes from the Latin mandatum, the first word in the Latin rendering of John 13:34, “A new commandment (mandatum novum) I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” This commandment was given by Jesus on the Thursday before his crucifixion. So Maundy Thursday is the “Thursday of the Commandment.”

This is the commandment: “love one another: just as I have loved you.” But what about Galatians 5:14? “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” If the whole law is fulfilled in “Love your neighbor as yourself,” what more can “Love one another as Christ loved you” add to the fulfillment of the whole law?

I would say that Jesus did not replace or change the commandment, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” He filled it out and gave it clear illustration. He is saying,

Here is what I mean by “as yourself.” Watch me. I mean: Just as you would want someone to set you free from certain death, so you should set them free from certain death. That is how I am now loving you. My suffering and death is what I mean by ‘as yourself.’ You want life. Live to give others life. At any cost.

So John says, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:16). Was Jesus loving us “as he loved himself”? Listen to Ephesians 5:29–30, “No one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.”

In the horrors of his suffering, Christ was sustained “by the joy that was set before him” (Hebrews 12:2). And that joy was the everlasting gladness of his redeemed people, satisfied in the presence of the risen king.

Therefore, let us see the greatest love in action on Maundy Thursday and tomorrow on Good Friday. “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1). He loved us to the uttermost. And let us be so moved by this love that it becomes our own. “He laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” This is the commandment. This is the Thursday.

Courtesy: Love the Uttermost: Holy Week(John Piper)

This touched my Heart…

How to Keep Healthy

  1. Avoid smoking and using tobacco products
  2. Be physically active every day
  3. Eat a heart-healthy diet
  4. Maintain a healthy weight
  5. Manage your blood pressure
  6. Control your total cholesterol
  7. Keep your blood sugar healthy

According to the American Heart Association, these are the seven things that you should do to keep your physical heart healthy.

The human heart weighs less than a pound (450g). It beats 100,000 times a day and over 2.5 billion times in the average lifetime. Your system of blood vessels – arteries, veins and capillaries – is over 60,000 miles long – enough to go around the world more than twice.

This is not just an amazing spectacle; it is the ‘heart’ of human life. Without your heart your body would quickly cease to work. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the Western world.

Jesus spoke a great deal about the heart. The heart is a metaphor for the inner life. The word Jesus used means the seat of the physical, spiritual and mental life. The heart is the centre and the source of the whole inner life – thinking, feeling, and willing.

God is concerned, primarily, about your heart. He wants you to have a healthy heart. He said to Samuel, ‘The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart’ (1 Samuel 16:7).

Even more important than a healthy physical heart is the condition of your spiritual heart. In the passages for today we see five key ways to keep your spiritual heart healthy.

Proverbs 6:20-29
1. Guard your heart
Jesus taught that adultery starts in the heart. He said, ‘I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart’ (Matthew 5:28). His teaching goes back to the book of Proverbs where the writer emphasises the importance of the heart – ‘do not lust in your heart’ (Proverbs 6:25).

He warns of the terrible dangers of adultery. We are dealing with something so powerful it is like a fire. In its right place (just like fire in the fireplace) sex, within marriage, is a source of great blessing.

However, if you allow your sexual desires to go in the wrong direction then it is like fire in your lap: ‘Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife’ (vv.27–29a).

Adultery does not usually just appear from nowhere. The unfaithfulness starts with the heart. This is where we have to exercise self-discipline. Take these words of wisdom and ‘bind them upon your heart’ (v.21).

Lord, help me to take your words and bind them upon my heart. When I walk, may they guide me. When I sleep, may they watch over me. When I awake, may they speak to me. May they be like a lamp and a light keeping me on the way to life. Guard my heart, Lord.

Mark 12:28-44
2. Love Jesus with your whole heart
Mark 12:28–37

There is something delightful about the teaching of Jesus: ‘The large crowd listened to him with delight’ (v.37b). If I were asked to summarise this teaching in one word, I would use the word ‘love’.

When Jesus is asked by a lawyer which of all the commandments is the most important, he replies, ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” The second is this: “Love your neighbour as yourself”’ (vv.30–31). At the centre of the message of Jesus is a love relationship with the Lord your God, which starts with your heart and overflows into a love for other people.

Who is ‘the Lord’? The question underlying all this quizzing of Jesus is, ‘Who does this man think he is?’ In the temple courts, Jesus turns the tables on them by challenging their assumptions about the coming Messiah (‘the Christ’, v.35).

He asks them a question quoting Psalm 110. He challenges the idea that the Christ will simply be a king from David’s line. He will not only be a son of David, he will be David’s Lord (Mark 12:35–37a).

We now know that Jesus is ‘the Lord’. The command to love the Lord with all your heart is a command to love Jesus with all your heart. Make this the number one priority of your life.

Jesus is concerned, not with legalistic literalism, but with the spirit of the law. He is concerned not with outward appearances but with the heart.

3. Focus on your heart
Mark 12:38–40

Speaking for myself, I find that hypocrisy is always a danger in my own life. It is a temptation to be concerned about position, platforms, titles and honours. And we have to be careful about praying prayers to impress, rather than from the heart.

Jesus criticises the leaders of his day because their hearts are not right. They are far more concerned about outward appearances than about their own hearts. He says, ‘They love to walk around in academic gowns, preening in the radiance of public flattery, basking in prominent positions, sitting at the head table at every church function. And all the time they are exploiting the weak and helpless. The longer their prayers, the worse they get’ (vv.38–40, MSG).

All the things mentioned indicate their love of being shown deference and of receiving honour from other people. But God is not concerned about status and ‘show’ (v.40). He is concerned about our hearts.

4. Give from your heart
Mark 12:41–44

Jesus is not concerned about the size of your wallet. He is concerned about the size of your heart.

Jesus challenged the conventional assumption that large gifts are worth more to God than small ones. He encourages us that it is not only the rich who can please God through their giving – the poor can do so as well. He challenges the rich that it is not enough simply to give sums that greatly surpass that of the poor. Jesus was looking for generous and sacrificial hearts.

What we give, and the way in which we give, reflects our hearts. Jesus does not actually criticise the rich people who throw in large amounts of money. But he does say that the poor widow who gives ‘two very small copper coins, worth only a few pence’ (v.42) has put in more than all the others.

Jesus sees her heart and the fact that ‘this poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together. All the others gave what they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford – she gave her all’ (vv.43–44, MSG). Others look at the outward appearance; Jesus looks at the heart. It is not the amount, but the attitude of the heart that matters to God.

Lord, help me to love you with all of my heart and with all of my soul and with all of my mind and with all of my strength. Forgive me for the times that I have been concerned about status or show, and help me to focus not on outward appearance but on the heart. Lord, help me to be generous and sacrificial in my giving. Give me a generous heart.

Leviticus 13:1-59
5. Keep your heart holy
The Old Testament laws covered every aspect of life, including cleanliness, health and hygiene. As a result, we read a great deal in the Old Testament about the kinds of regulations set out in this chapter, in addition to all the burnt offerings and sacrifices. These rules and regulations were all concerned with holiness though, and their motivation was supposed to stem from a desire to please and emulate God (Leviticus 11:44). In other words, the outward rituals were supposed to reflect the inner attitudes of the heart.

At the time of Jesus, many of the teachers were putting the emphasis in the wrong place. They thought that holiness could be attained simply by obeying a whole lot of rules that concerned outward behaviour and actions, rather than heartfelt obedience towards God.

Jesus pointed out that there is something far more important than all of this. As we see in today’s New Testament passage, ‘To love [God] with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices’ (Mark 12:33). Holiness is not a matter of outward appearance. It is a matter of the heart.

Lord, help me to guard my heart from spiritual heart disease. May we be a community of love – loving you and loving one another. Please fill my heart today with your Holy Spirit and keep my heart holy and healthy.

Pippa Adds
Mark 12:31

Jesus said ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ (Mark 12:31).
How do I look after myself? I think pretty well!

Verse of the Day
‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’ (Mark 12:30).

References
American Heart Association, ‘Life’s Simple 7’, http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/My-Life-Check—Lifes-Simple-7_UCM_471453_Article.jsp#.VqvcnbSp8Rk [Last accessed January 2016]

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Dust…

We are of the dust,
Grounded in dark soil
And the quaking of a new world;
Sighed into being by a greater wonder.

We are of the dust,
Murky and awkward
And entirely, astonishingly sacred,
Sanctified by a love beyond our wildest dreams.

We are of the dust
Yet filled with shimmering glory;
Intoxicating holiness not just pouring from heaven,
But rising up through our dirt-covered roots.

Gideon Heugh, Tearfund

Love Matters…

Good Morning ☀😊☀

“Love is a strong force — a great good in every way; it alone can make our burdens light, and alone it bears in equal balance what is pleasing and displeasing. It carries a burden and does not feel it; it makes all that is bitter taste sweet. Nothing is sweeter than love, nothing higher, nothing stronger, nothing larger, nothing more joyful, nothing fuller, nothing better in heaven or on earth; for love is born of God and can find its rest only in God above all He has created.”
(Thomas à Kempis, An Excerpt From The Imitation of Christ)

#LoveMatters

Have a great day 🙏🏽😉🙏🏽