Saturday, 21 May 2016

Starting again - again

Because of the Lord's great love we are not destroyed, for his compassions never fail; they are new every morning. Lamentations 3:22-23.

I like to get up quite early in the morning. I walk up to the local shops to get my paper, and that stroll is an ideal opportunity to spend a little time with God before the day gets going. It's specially pleasant now that the light mornings have arrived; often the sky is blue and everything is still quiet and peaceful. There is a sense of things being unspoiled. Wouldn't it be good to preserve that until bed-time!

Yes, there is something magical about the beginning of a new day.
And the writer of Lamentations (possibly the prophet Jeremiah, though it’s not certain) celebrates the fact that God's "compassions", his mercies, are "new every morning". Sadly, though, we quickly allow them to get soiled and tainted by the busyness of the day.

When I was a child at school one of the things I liked most was getting a new exercise book. The cover wasn't dog-eared, all the pages were pure white. Everything perfect. And I would think, "Right! that's the way it's going to stay - no scribblings or blottings, no doodles or crossings out - only the very best work..." And it lasted - about two days, if that.

Each day we can start the same way... "I'm not going to get impatient or lose my temper... I won't be lazy or careless... I will resist the temptation to cut corners or allow bad thoughts to slide into my mind..." But by the time it gets to mid-day, sadly, it's probably not like that any more.
Of course, we can easily make excuses for ourselves - we are under pressure, the demands on us are too great - but deep down we know that the fault is ours. We simply haven't grown enough in - what shall I call them? - the Christlike graces.

Can you imagine living a perfect day? A day when you succeed in maintaining that purity of thought, word and deed through all the noises, tensions, frictions, stresses and difficulties? Going to bed at night knowing that you really do have nothing on your conscience? 

An impossible ask? Perhaps. But shouldn’t that be our target? "Be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect," says the Bible: "Be holy...".

Over the course of my life I have known just a few people who seem to succeed in that high aim. Of course, if you were to ask them they would say "No! - if you only knew..." And yet I don't think they are just good actors - let's face it, most of us can spot pretence a mile off. No, they really do reflect that "beauty of Jesus", even if not perfectly, which so easily eludes most of us.

The good news is that the mercies of God are not only "new every morning", but new every minute of every day. The danger is that having blotted our copy book, as we put it, we then give up and say "Oh well, that's it, I've made a mess of things, it's not really worth bothering any more. Another failed day. I mean, I can't be expected to make a new start every five minutes, can I?"

But that's where we are seriously wrong. Yes, we can! All right, the morning only ever comes once a day; but the mercies of God are there for us every minute of every day, if only we will turn to him, make a clean breast of where we have gone wrong, and start all over again. 

Suppose we keep falling down? Well, true, that's not good. But the answer is simple (simple to say, that is, though not of course always simple to do): keep getting up. And that's something that God, in his limitless patience, is always happy to help us do.

God loves new beginnings: a new morning; a new life; a new hope; a new you; a new me. 

Be a new person today!

Lord Jesus, we read that you were in every way tempted as we are, yet without sin. Please help me to keep that high ideal before my eyes every minute of every day, to refuse to settle for second-best, and to look to you again and again for the new strength you always delight to give. Amen.

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