Thankful for the cross

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Today we are going to focus specifically on thanking God for the cross. You might find it helpful to get hold of either a picture of a cross or a small physical cross that you can place in front of you to concentrate your thoughts.

Meditation: Start by simply looking at the cross and then think about what Jesus dying on that cross has done for you, for your life, for your everyday ‘going about’. Speak out a few of your thoughts slowly, mulling over the words and truly allowing them to sink in and impact you.

Here are some thoughts you may like to utilise (and personalise) during your meditation:

Whether good, bad, enemies or friends, we each deserved to die as we cannot stand before God in our own righteousness.

And yet, through Christ’s death we are transformed – given a new identity and new standing before God.

We are dressed in Christ’s royal robes rather than our filthy rags.

And we are now free! Free from the clutches of sin and death, free from our enemy’s hold on us.

We can now choose to walk in that close relationship with our loving heavenly Father each moment of every day.

Finish your time of meditation by turning some of the thoughts you had into prayers of thanks to God.

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Costly worship

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Reflections based on Genesis 22:1–18.

‘Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son,
your only son.’

Imagine what is going on between the lines here for a moment. At the start of this passage we are told that God asks Abraham to take his son and sacrifice him on an altar. In the very next verse we are told Abraham set off the following morning, early, to do just that.

I am curious about what must have been going through his head during the night, but what an incredible act of obedience to get up and prepare to do what God has told him to! He doesn’t know that God is going to step in and provide a different object for the offering – even if he does say in faith when Isaac asks him where the lamb is that God would provide (oh how deeply that question must have cut him).

And how must Isaac have felt when his father then bound him to the altar!? He must have thought he was crazy! And yet he then sees how God steps in in his sovereignty and listens as God makes a promise about Abraham’s descendants. Of course, this episode also gives us a beautiful picture of how God would, in the future, give up his own son to death. While he stepped in and saved Isaac from the altar he had to allow his own son to suffer in order to save humankind.

We may never be asked to pay such a high price as Abraham, or indeed be tested as much as he was, but, when we hear God’s clear direction, it is an act of worship to be obedient – whatever the cost. Interestingly, in 2 Samuel 24:24 David says, ‘I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing’. In a way, worship needs a cost – as it then reveals how much God means to us.

Question: When was the last time that you offered God something that cost you greatly in terms of personal sacrifice?

How praise is made possible

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Reflections based on Hebrews 13:11–16

‘Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.’

I believe that this passage is a great reminder of our need for a saviour, and the ultimate sacrifice that he had to pay. Before He came, communion with God was only possible through a hugely complicated set of rules and animal sacrifices. Jesus’ death did away with such rituals and opened up the way to the Father.

Let’s ponder Jesus’ sacrifice a little more. Remember the agonising struggle that He had in Gethsemane when he thought about what was about to happen to him? Take a look at Matthew 26:36–46. ‘My soul is overwhelmed’ seems like a very apt description but somewhat inadequate too! Thinking about His humanity, Jesus must have been petrified at this point and yet He was still able to pray: ‘Yet not as I will, but as you will.’ Wow. But thank goodness He was able to do that, as it is only through what He suffered and endured, and then fought and conquered through His resurrection, that we are able to have a relationship with God. Today we are able to worship God freely, without needing to go through a priest.

While Jesus paid the sacrifice for our sins in a way we are totally incapable of doing for ourselves, God does still ask us for sacrifice. We are told to take up our cross on a daily basis (Luke 9:23). We are also asked to put others before ourselves (Philippians 2:1–4). But when each of these things is done from an attitude of thankfulness and remembrance of what Jesus has done for us, they don’t seem like so much of a sacrifice do they?

Prayer: Thank you Lord for paying the price that I could not for my salvation. Help me to live in the light of what you’ve done, remembering to take up my own personal cross daily as well as put on an attitude of thankfulness and praise.