I am away for a few days, so there won't be any posts for a while. I am trying to Sabbath from the computer and internet - not sure how I will cope. Pray for me!!
Look forward to sharing some thoughts when I get back.
"Now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." - 1 Corinthians 13:13
Living in Grace,
Wednesday, 23 September 2009
Five years ago we were enjoying a bit of leave at the beach - building up our energy before our second child was due. Little did we know that our holiday would be cut short by a week, as Nathan arrived a month early. Expecting a baby is one thing - but when they decide to arrive early, your stress levels shoot sky-high!
Nathan's first few days of life were traumatic - being premature he had to be in high-care and on oxygen. We couldn't really hold him for days as he was in this special 'machine'. The doctors told us that it was a miracle that he was alive. Our prayer life increased 100-fold in those few days.
I am blessed to say that on the 24th September, our boy turns 5. He is doing great and has not looked back since his initial struggles. He is exactly like his name sake from the Bible - full of courage and adventure; always willing to 'speak out' and certainly has tendencies to ruffle a few feathers. He could yet be a Prophet!
I thank God everyday for my kids and for Kim.
May we all be grateful for the special people in our lives.
Touched by Grace,
"Are you feeling strong?" This is a weird phrase that has crept into our modern language over the years. If you were learning English, you would be forgiven for thinking that it has something to do with physical strength. However, it normally refers to how 'well' we are feeling. Technically, we should ask "Are you feeling well?"
So, let me ask us again - "Are you feeling strong?" No matter your answer, here is a verse which speaks of the promise of Godly strength...
"The Lord gives strength to his people;
The Lord blesses his people with peace." - Psalm 29:11
May you know God's strength and peace today.
Held in the 'strong arms' of Grace,
Tuesday, 22 September 2009
"Change is a constant and an unavoidable part of life." - George Barna
We use the word 'Change' in a lot of different ways today. When we pay for something at the shop we may be lucky to get some 'change'; when we go on holiday, we take a 'change' of clothes with us; if we have a flat tyre, we 'change' that tyre. Change is all around us.
Most of the times we link the concept of 'change' with replacing concepts, ideas, styles and people. If we perceive that they have served their purpose, then we tend to think that they are disposable.
Agreed, there are some things that simply must change (computers, for example), but there are others (like people) that should never be discarded, even if they stubbornly resist change. If I choose to treat people like I would my old 386 computer, then I am heading into dangerous territory.
Jesus believed that everyone had potential and that if given a chance, we could all change for the better. The Rich Young Ruler, the Samaritan Woman, the Leper, and even the Disciples. Jesus gave them all a chance - some accepted his Grace and Mercy and they were changed forever. Others stubbornly resisted and probably lived to regret their actions.
How do you handle change? Being a Christ-follower means that we have to accept that the Holy Spirit wants us to change all the time - God wants us to be shaped into the perfect image he has in mind for us. Resisting God's promptings, means resisting change - we get to choose!
If I look at my life, I can see that I have changed in many ways - yes, I am far from the finished article, so I must brace myself for more change. Change will be hard, but it will be good.
Read what Jesus says about our need to change...
Matthew 18:3 - "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."
Being changed by Grace
Monday, 21 September 2009
What kind of joke is this? Who makes you put something together and then doesn't include every part?
What I didn't tell you yesterday was that when we were putting Nathan's bike together we realised that there was a 'nut' missing from the saddle. At first we looked all over the floor, in the box it came in, under bits of packaging - basically, we looked everywhere. Nothing! So where do you go to find a missing 'nut' - especially when it is late at night? Trouble loomed large...
...thankfully we scratched around in the garage and found a nut on the old saddle. God is good - it was an exact fit! Whew - that was a close call. I was just picturing Nathan riding around the garden on his bike with no saddle - not a cool thing to do on your 5th birthday.
When God shapes us into the people he has in mind, there are no missing pieces. God knows exactly what we need and the Spirit has every 'piece' to make us whole. God doesn't scratch around looking for a 'nut' or 'bolt' to make us the complete article. God has everything in his storehouses.
Psalm 135:7 - "He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth; he sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses."
Made complete by Grace,
Sunday, 20 September 2009
The dreaded words loomed large in front of me ... "Some Assembly Required!" I nearly cried. Why can't you buy a bicycle without having to build the thing yourself? Why do they have to make us pay for the bicycle and then watch us struggle to put the bike together? It is a conspiracy!
For Nathan's birthday we decided to buy him a new bicycle and the only one we found (that suited him) needed some assembly. In the end we managed to put it all together without to many headaches and I felt proud of my skills. Nathan has ridden the bike and it has not fallen apart yet - hallelujah!
Being a Christian is sometimes like receiving a gift that has the words 'Some Assembly Required' on the side of the box. When we choose to follow Christ we are not the finished article yet and we need to allow the Spirit to work in us - making us into the image of Christ. If we resist God's work then we run the risk of being put together the wrong way.
God knows how we will work best - we must trust the master craftsman.
Ephesians 2:22 - "And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit."
Grace changes us,
Friday, 18 September 2009
Thursday, 17 September 2009
Not, it's not what you think! I am not suggesting that we go and fill our cups with the water from Durban beaches and swig away. Who does that anyway?
I use the concept of drinking sea water (which is gross, by the way), in light of this quote from Gene Edwards:
"The Christian life is first, having the highest life in you. Secondly, living by means of that life. That makes all other offers taste like sea water." (The Highest Life)
Jesus said that he had come to 'give us life' (John 10:10) - all other offers, should taste like sea water, in comparison. However, there are many people that seem to enjoy drinking sea water. What about us?
How is a glass of ice cold sea water sounding to you?
You can count me out...
Grace upon grace,
P.S. If you are finding these thoughts helpful please invite your friends to sign up to the blogposts or forward it onto them. Thanks.
Wednesday, 16 September 2009
"No matter how much work a man can do, no matter how engaging his personality may be, he will not advance far in business if he cannot work through others." - John Craig.
The same applies in the Church - we call it the 'Body of Christ.'
The same applies in the Community - we call it 'Ubuntu.'
The same applies in Cyberspace - we call them 'friends' or 'followers.'
I am about to test this theory as we embark upon D-day for the Methodist Church's Annual Conference in Pietermaritzburg. 18 months of planning has brought us to this day. We will see how well we can rely on one another to have fulfilled our various functions, for the success of the Conference. I will keep you posted!
Living in Grace,
Tuesday, 15 September 2009
There is a saying that goes something like this - "You are what you think!" Have you heard it before? I know that there is plenty of pop-psychology out there, and most of it is pretty dodgy. However, it is a biblical notion that our minds impact our actions. Read Philippians 4:8 if you have a chance.
Anyway, this morning I read 2 Corinthians 10:5,
"...bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ."
This speaks of our choice to harness our thoughts and to allow them to honour Christ. If we control our negative and sinful thoughts, then it helps us to live in obedience to Christ.
So, what are we thinking about? Are our thoughts glorifying Christ or are we allowing them to get out of control. We have the choice to harness them!
Changed by Grace,
Monday, 14 September 2009
Okay, I confess, I am finding the Silkworm season a little crazy this year. When the little critters spun their cocoons last year we made the mistake of not tossing the boxes and so 4 weeks ago when the silkworms started popping out en-mass we knew that trouble was brewing.
The boys are loving having hundreds of silkworms - but we are not so chuffed. Anyway, we are trying to teach them to 'give generously' and at any opportunity we are encouraging them to give the silkworms away. Other school parents are looking at us with angry glances and we can read their minds....'Don't you dare!' is normally what we see written on their faces.
Anyway, we are now down to 2 boxes and hopefully we will 'bless' some other families with a few silkworms this week. By the way, the advert in the Witness newspaper selling silkworms for 50cents each was NOT from us. Man, I wish I had thought of that, before the market got saturated with worms.
All I can do now is to sing the old hymn:
"All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small.
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all."
Indeed, God made them all - but why he made so many silkworms I will never know.
Grace and peace to you.
P.S. FREE OFFER - if you are looking for Silkworms, you can have as many as you like - they are for FREE! Please call.
Sunday, 13 September 2009
I have been doing a lot of thinking over the past week or so and in these times of reflection I have realised that it was 20 years ago (September 1989) that I made my public commitment to Jesus Christ at our Confirmation Service. That day was special for all of us, but I knew then that Jesus would be 'my everything.' I am grateful for God's patience in dealing with me and His incredible Grace. I am praying that the next 20 years of being a "Christ-follower" will be as adventurous as the last.
Here are two Scriptures that have meant something to me over the years:
2 Corinthians 5:17 - Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! Behold, the old is gone and the new is come.
Ezekiel 36:26 - I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
Thankful for Christ's Amazing Grace,
Saturday, 12 September 2009
"God doesn't always lift people out of the situation, but He comes into the situation. He doesn't pluck them out of the darkness, He becomes the light in the darkness." - Patricia St.John
Jesus is our Immanuel - 'God with us!'
May Grace hold you in the midst of the challenges you face,
Friday, 11 September 2009
There have been many inspiring prayers written over the years, but I would love to hear which prayers are meaningful for you. The Serenity Prayer still ranks as one of my best - simple, but profound...
"God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference."
If you have a moment forward me your thoughts on your best prayers.
Living in Grace,
Lord, we pray for the families of the innocent victims of 9/11. We also pray for the families of innocent men, women and children killed in America's war on Terror. Lord, war is so senseless. Teach us to build bridges through love, rather than seeking revenge. Jesus, we long for your peace. Amen.
Thursday, 10 September 2009
Indulge me for a second...
...one of the reasons why I will continue to feel the 'after-shock' of Barry's death for years to come, is because of how much he inspired me.
When he was studying at PMB varsity and we were in the young adults group at Metro Methodist together, he challenged me in my understanding of Scripture and my relationship with Jesus. Barry and I started a 'game' (remember Barry's competitive nature) - we called it the B & D challenge! How it worked was that every time we saw each other on campus, we would get a turn to give each other a challenging Scripture verse. We only gave a hint as to where it came from or part of the verse and if the other person got it right, they got a point and so on. If we didn't know it then we had to go and read it up in the Bible.
Part of my love for the Scriptures grew out of this silly game - I was always trying to catch Barry out (and he was trying to do the same). In a pre-Google and pre-Biblegateway age, looking up passages on a daily basis was a good discipline. We found some really interesting verses!
Barry, we miss you dude. We miss your laugh, your crazy ideas, your deep faith, your passion for Jesus, your love for the broken, your music gift. We just simply miss you.
Oh and Barry, here is my last B & D challenge for you... what does Revelation 21:4 say? May you find this to be true.
Peace to you, my friend. Strength to Elaine and the rest of the family.
Living in Grace,
P.S. - I came across this new song by Steve Curtis Chapman today. Apparently he wrote it after the tragic death of his daughter. Cry away.
When it comes to dealing with Unanswered prayers, we mustn't feel alone. Countless believers struggle with this on a daily basis, but there were also many Biblical characters who had to come to terms with prayers that were never answered.
Here are just a few:
Moses, David, Job, Jonah, Elijah, Habakkuk, Jeremiah, Paul and even Jesus himself.
After Paul pleaded 3 times for God to remove the 'thorn' in his flesh (and God didn't), Paul wrote these words...
"But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." - 2 Corinthians 12:9
Sometimes that's all we are left with - God's sufficient Grace. Not an answer to our pleas, but plenty of Grace.
Jesus' prayer for Unity amongst believers (John 17) is one of those prayers that is still to be answered completely. Although, this may seem a little depressing, it can be a sign of hope. It offers us a hope that some of our 'Unanswered Prayers' may still be answered one day.
In the end, Prayer is a mystery. In fact, God is a Mystery. That is why Job said:
• Job 11:7 - Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty?
Comforted by Grace,
Wednesday, 9 September 2009
God is interested in our lives. God is wanting to communicate with us. The Spirit of God is alive and guiding us into all truth. If you are not convinced read this...
On Sunday I preached on 'Prayer Dilemmas' and dealing with Unanswered Prayers. I had no real answers, just a few thoughts and scriptures. Anyway, on Monday morning, a friend sent me his devotion for that day and guess what - it was on Unanswered Prayers. Coincidence? I think not. This is what it said...
September 7, 2009
READ: Luke 7:1-10
[Jesus said], “I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” —Luke 7:9
An explanation we often hear for “unanswered” prayers is that we don’t have enough faith. But Jesus said in Luke 17:6 that if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we can command a mulberry tree to be uprooted and planted in the sea and it will obey us. In other words, the effectiveness of our prayers depends not on how much faith we have but on whether we even have faith.Luke tells of a Roman centurion with “great faith” (7:9). His faith was expressed first as an appeal to Jesus to heal his dying servant. Then it was expressed as an acknowledgment that Jesus could heal his servant anytime, anywhere. The centurion did not ask Jesus to do things his way.
Faith has been described as “trusting God’s heart and trusting God’s power.” Some prayers that seem to go unanswered are simply instances in which God has lovingly overruled our wishes. He knows that what we have asked for is not best. Or it may be that our timing is not His timing, or He has some far greater purpose in mind. Let us remember, even Jesus prayed to His heavenly Father, “Nevertheless not My will, but Yours” (Luke 22:42).
Do we have the centurion’s great faith—a faith that trusts God to do His work, in His way? —C. P. Hia
Unanswered prayers are answered still
As part of God’s great master plan;
They help to carry out His will
To demonstrate God’s love for man. —D. De Haan
God’s answers are wiser than our prayers.
God is present in our midst.
Living in Grace,
P.S. I went to my friends funeral today. Barry was an awesome man and I am privileged to have called him my friend. I will write a few thoughts about this tomorrow - my heart is too sore today.
Tuesday, 8 September 2009
It is easy to conclude that God answers prayers, but often with 'baffling unpredictability' (as Ronald Goetz puts it). We wrestle with this, but hopefully we don't lose faith when our prayers are left unanswered.
The challenge for all of us is that sometimes God expects us to partner with him in answering prayers. Yancey writes:
"In answering prayers, God normally relies on human agents."
So, when the persistent widow eventually got her bread at midnight (Luke 11), was it God who answered her prayer or her friend? Well, both actually. The friend needed to be God's partner in physically giving over the bread. Of course we believe that God could have made the bread appear from 'heaven' (as God did with the Manna in the desert), but this time God relied on a 'human agent' to help. The same applies to the widow in Luke 18.
Is there a prayer that God wants us to partner him in answering? It is a scary thought, but God will help us in all that we need.
Grace and peace,
Monday, 7 September 2009
We are often left scratching our heads when some of our prayers only seem to encourage silence from heaven. We know that God does hear our prayers, as often they are answered. However, when we get 'no reply' we become perplexed.
Garth Brooks (yes, the country singer) sings a song called 'Thank God for unanswered prayers!' He recounts in the song, how he used to plead with God to melt the heart of his high school sweetheart. He was gutted when this never happened. However, when he saw how his 'sweetheart' turned out later in life, he was grateful that God hadn’t answered his prayers. That’s why he wrote the words,
“Just because he doesn’t answer, doesn’t mean he doesn’t care. Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.” – Garth Brooks
We will never fathom the mystery of unanswered prayer, but we must get to a place of being 'at peace' with God's decision.
Rest in God's Grace,
P.S. The photo is for all of you Country Music fans!
Sunday, 6 September 2009
How many of your prayers have gone unanswered?
Philip Yancey writes - "Unanswered prayer poses an especially serious threat to the faith of trusting children." This is so true. It is one of the biggest dilemmas we face as the children of God - why are some of our prayers answered and others not?
We are going to be taking a look at this over the next few days. I can not promise easy answers - just some challenging thoughts. We all need to wrestle with this dilemma.
Here is a good place to start... Jesus said, "You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it." (John 14:14) Did he mean that?
Another day of Grace,
Saturday, 5 September 2009
How often have you heard the phrase 'Life is like that?' What does that really mean in any case? Well, here is my brief attempt to put it into words...
...We spent a wonderful day at Greg and Bronwyn's wedding today. It was such a 'love-filled' and peaceful day - a great celebration. After the tragic news of Barry's death on Thursday, today has been a like a ray of hope - a small clearing in the mist.
One reflects that 'Life is like that' sometimes - we have moments of complete pain and despair, followed by gifts of celebration and joy. We don't always get to choose when and how they impact our lives, but we have to embrace all of life.
Jesus enjoyed a wedding at Cana (John 2) and then straight after that he was distraught at the shambles in the temple. His joy turned quickly to anger. A few days later he was interacting with religious people like Nicodemus and then he was healing loads of sick people. Life was like that - for Jesus!
How has 'Life' been treating you lately?
Remember to hold onto the Grace of Jesus.
Clinging to Grace,
Friday, 4 September 2009
I am not sure if you have ever felt that your prayers were just 'bouncing' off the ceilings of heaven? Or if you have made the space and time to pray and then nothing has come out of your mouth? It happens to me sometimes. It is happening now!
However, I am learning that God is deeply aware of all of our emotions and thoughts. Our 'failure' in prayer is not actually failure. In fact, it is often when we have rated our prayers as 'unsuccessful' that God has truly heard us. C.S. Lewis agrees:
"I have a notion that what seem our worst prayers may really be, in God's eyes, our best. Those, I mean, which are least supported by devotional feeling and contend with the greatest disinclination. For these, perhaps, being nearly all will, come from a deeper level than feeling."
"To you I call, O Lord my Rock; do not turn a deaf ear to me.
For if you remain silent, I will be like those who have gone down to the pit.
Hear my cry for mercy, as I call to you for help." - Psalm 28:1-2
Thursday, 3 September 2009
I lost a friend today. I have no words, few prayers and a million memories. Barry Marshall you will be remembered as father, husband, friend, genuine Christ-follower, minister and musician. You helped shape my faith in more ways than I can explain. My head is spinning with the news. May Jesus hold your family close in these dark days.
Friends, forgive my lack of creativity. Please put prayer into practise and pray for Barry's young family. He was 37 and he leaves behind Elaine and two small kids.
“If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves.” (Message) - Romans 8:26-27
Wrestling with why?
When last did you hear a Church Bell ring?
When last did you hear your cell-phone ring?
In medieval times Church bells would ring during the day and people would be reminded to STOP and pray. As Yancey says, "It forced people to remember God."
Well, we don't live in places where Church bells remind us to pray anymore, but I think it would be great to be 'interrupted' every now and again.
Our lives are so busy with work, studies, family, stress and other things that we need to be reminded that God is in our midst. It's interesting that we allow our cell-phones, radio's, TV's, internet and people to interrupt us, but we find ways to ignore the Spirit's invitation to prayer.
Why don't you set your cell-phone alarm for a random time today and when it goes off stop for a few seconds and pray? This would be a great interruption!
"Devote yourselves to prayer..." - 1 Corinthians 7:5
Grace to you,
Wednesday, 2 September 2009
Have you ever tried learning a foreign language? I have - it was tough! I wouldn't say that 'languages' are my strongest point, but when we travelled through Europe a few years ago, we tried to learn a little French. We listened to 'French lessons' as we travelled from town to town, experimenting with a few rough phrases when we could. Most people appreciated our efforts, although we knew that we really 'sucked' at French. In the end, we knew enough to get us the basics - food, accomodation, fuel and ICE CREAM!
If you ask me to remember those phrases now, I sadly confess that I remember very little. But, then again, I haven't practised for 8 years - I have had no need to. I have quickly forgotten my embarrasment, my awkwardness and my frustration at not being 'fluent in French.'
Prayer is very much the same as learning a foreign language, except God is more forgiving at our feeble attempts. God doesn't laugh at our mistakes, nor does the Spirit leave us fumbling for words. God just longs for us to 'keep company' with him in prayer.
Even if we feel that we can't speak God's language, we must remember that God can speak and understand us - that's all we need! Of course we must continue to be faithful in prayer and the more we exercise this discipline the more confident we will feel.
Reflect on these quotes today:
“If you want to pray better, you must pray more.” – Mother Teresa
“The only fatal mistake is to stop praying and not begin again.” – Philip Yancey
By the way, if you can speak another language please let me know - I am curious!
Grace is Enough,
Tuesday, 1 September 2009
Philip Yancey notes that many newcomers to prayer often wonder if they are 'doing it right?' Somewhere along the line we perceive that our prayers are not good enough or that we should be praying in a different way. Whilst, we should always be open to growing in our prayer life, we should not be too hard on ourselves. As soon as we start to doubt the way we prayer, it could lead to disillusionment.
Robert Bondi says, "If you are praying, you are already "doing it right.""
If Jesus invites us to come to him as a child, then I believe this applies to my prayers too. Kids don't stress about 'how it sounds,' they just speak! I encourage us all to ease off on the guilt of 'am I doing it right' and to enjoy the freedom of being able to take everything to the Lord in prayer.
Learning the language of prayer,