Bring some Spirit-filled peace into your hectic schedule every weekday morning with this new Daily Devotional.
- Start your day with God
- Renew your spirit
- Refocus your faith
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'And a sword will pierce your very soul.'
One great challenge I hadn’t anticipated ahead of time is the pain of releasing a child into the world. It’s all wonderful offering support, love and protection through their early years. Then, as they grow into an independent, semi-responsible human being, they want to explore life for themselves, stepping ever further from your parental grasp.
'The Lord helps the fallen and lifts those bent beneath their loads.'
The wonderful kernel of reality that lies at the heart of the gospel is God’s abiding forgiveness and acceptance. Carrying a cross, when already weakened by extreme circumstances, is no simple task. Like Jesus, we will falter and stumble under its weight. Most often we then struggle with the reality of that stumble. God, however, gazes upon our steadfastness under extreme duress. Eternity marvels at faithfulness when there appears so little reason for that faith.
'Carrying the cross by himself, he went to the place called Place of the Skull.'
Each one of us is invited to walk a unique path through life. My greatest aspiration is not to mirror a life I choose to recognise as successful, but to take up my own cross and attempt to carry it. As I grew up, the idea that life involved carrying a cross never entered my mind; both because I wasn’t in a Christian family, and because I
'Then Pilate turned Jesus over to them to be crucified.'
For many years my instinctive reaction to being misunderstood was to launch into a robust justification of myself. Not so Jesus. He was despised and rejected and here betrayed and condemned. His close followers abandoned him and he stood alone before the might of the state and religious authorities. I know if it had been a younger me I couldn’t have helped defending myself while angered by the injustice.
'Jesus fully realized all that was going to happen to him, so he stepped forward to meet them.'
It’s seldom I can say I know everything that’s going to happen to me. I remember as a youngster, when I knew I’d done something mischievous yet ultimately wrong, how I did all I could to cover my tracks. I wanted to throw the ‘grown-ups’ off the scent. I became a great avoider not just of consequences but, more worryingly, the harsh realities of life. There are some incoming tides we can’t outrun.
'But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative – that is, the Holy Spirit – he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.'
Here Jesus promises a helper in all of life, the Holy Spirit. As a new Christian I discovered the Spirit for the first time as I was, to use the language of the time, baptised in the Holy Spirit. My introduction to the third person of the Trinity brought my two years of Christian discipleship to life. I found an intimate connection with God that had eluded me to that point. I prayed and developed the ability to distinguish between my emotional responses and the Spirit’s leading. Our meetings were alive as we made space for the Spirit. Our lives were devoted to pursuing the leading of the Spirit.
'When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.'
In facing our mortality, we can address the immediate anxieties our death presents us with. Of all people, we are those who should anticipate dying well. Yet, if death surprises us, as it may, or we fail to give it the attention it deserves, it can come as a shock and be shocking in equal measure. Jesus, although we see his deep humanity in the garden of Gethsemane, knows that he is safe with God. He declares as much to his disciples. The good news is we can be equally assured that in death, as in life, we are in God and God is in us.
'Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.'
The medieval Church developed the practice of [itals]memento mori[end itals], Latin for “remember that you will die”. It may sound macabre, yet this is what Jesus takes a large amount of time explaining to his disciples. None of the benefits of redemption were unlocked until Jesus died, which is perhaps another positive way to look at death. Jesus’ own words remind us of the reality of crucifixion and resurrection as he declares that he has overcome every principality and power that seeks to assert itself against us.
'Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.'
I find “there’s always tomorrow” a comfort. Not because it means avoiding doing today what needs to be done but because it expresses hope, especially when the day has got me down or I’m behaving like a fool. Life throws multiple spanners into the works and some days getting through the next hour is a challenge. As a carer my days could prove isolating and lonely, and then all of life was bleak.
'Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so he can give glory back to you.'
I find myself wondering when precisely Jesus came to terms with his imminent death. Not in some theological manner, but in his humanity. We live in a society that finds it very hard to talk and deal effectively with death. Following the 9/11 assault upon the USA, the popular response was an increased search for personal security. There were also spikes in gambling, drinking and cigarette sales. The human response to mortality is to seek to relieve our fears, rather than face them.