Saturday, 31 May 2014

A moment with the Sun

This morning I had a few precious minutes before running the next errand, so I sat in the Winter sun - and it was glorious. As I was soaking up the early morning rays the words of an Old Irish blessing popped into my head. It was as if God was whispering to me and I am grateful for the encouragement. I offer them to you also, in the hope that you too may be blessed.

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Pass this onto someone who may just need a little hope today.

You will note that the title of this post is "a moment with the Sun" ( and that was what I meant), but after writing these thoughts, perhaps the heading should read: "a moment with the Son." 

Living in grace

Thursday, 29 May 2014

No Man's Land - is there such a thing?

OK, this may be simplifying things too much, but it is the easiest way I could communicate this. I believe that we are all given a choice as to whether we want to follow Jesus or not. When we make a choice, we then end up either 'for' God or 'against' God. To take the illustration further, we are either part of God's side or not.

This is not a fickle judgement, but rather a result of a decision we make. Just like, in a battle, we can't fight for the same side - we are either supporters of one side or of the other side. Take your favourite sports team as an example - when you play another team, you support your team through thick and thin - it's a choice we make.

However, many people often choose to live in spiritual "No Man's Land", which has been described as follows:

"No man's land is land that is unoccupied or is under dispute between parties that leave it unoccupied due to fear or uncertainty." 

This may be OK for a while, but this is also dangerous territory. I am not sure that the devil sees 'no man's land' as neutral ground - I think he sees it as a great chance to get some more supporters.

"Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." - 1 Peter 5:8

These are just my thoughts - what do you think?

Living in Grace

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Ascension Day

We don't need the government to give us a Public Holiday in order to celebrate Ascension Day! Sure, it would be nice to have the day off, but I feel that by having to make an "effort" to commemorate this day, we turn Ascension Day into a true holy-day. Churches around the world will mark this occasion by having services at different times in the day, some starting early in the morning, while others (including our community) have services in the evening. If you haven't thought about attending a service, I encourage you to find a local church and attend one of their services.

Ascension Day is the name given to Jesus' Ascension recorded in the book of Acts, chapter 1. For 40 days after his Resurrection, Jesus appeared to his followers teaching them and encouraging them. Ascension day was the moment he left earth, in bodily form, and returned to his Father.

Of course, Jesus never abandoned us, but instead he left us his Spirit - our comforter, advocate, guide and friend. For me, there is an important progression in Jesus life and we can't exclude the Ascension from this list:
...birth, growing up, death, resurrection, ascension (and sending of the Spirit).

Acts 1: 9-11
 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Living in Grace

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Time of testing

When I set an exam paper for my students, it is never my intention to make them fail. I try my best to set a fair paper, that will 'test' what they should know already and to 'examine' how far they have come. I also do all I can to prepare them for the exam, so that they can give their best shot (... if I try and test what they "don't know", then it may just make me look bad in the end:)

So, if God happens to allow me to go through a time of testing, is it because God wants to see me fail or is it that God knows I can come out stronger? I don't believe in a God who sets me up to fail, but I do accept that sometimes I need to go through testing times.

Sadly, many people don't like the times of testing and end up blaming God for their failure - these people often turn their backs on God and walk away from the faith. What is your experience of the spiritual "exam time?"

Luke 8:13 - "Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away."

James 1:3 - "...because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance."

So, my prayer is that your time of testing would produce "Perseverance" and not "Abandonement."

Living in Grace

Monday, 26 May 2014

When being "unwilling" changes your life

Have you ever done something unwillingly, but then been greatly surprised by what you experience? Like perhaps going to an event (...kicking and screaming) and then having your breath taken away by what happens? On the evening of the 24th May 1738, John Wesley was feeling down and disappointed - there we so many things happening in his life that were weighing down on his spirit.

The last thing he felt like was going to Church, but he went unwillingly to a service in Aldersgate street, London. And it was during this service that he encountered God in a powerful way - actually in a life changing way. It was while someone was reading Martin Luther's preface to the book Romans that the Holy Spirit spoke deeply into his heart. This is what he wrote afterwards:

"I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death." - John Wesley

These are my simply reflections on this story:
1. Worship is not about how I feel, but rather about putting myself in the presence of God and His people. If I only go to Church when I feel like it, then I may miss out on the blessing of an encounter with Jesus.
2. When we give Jesus a chance, he can surprise us.
3. Taking our pains and disappointments to God can never be a bad thing.
4. Our experience of God is not just a once off event, but Christ continues to reveal more of his glory to us.
5. Never underestimate the power of God's spirit to renew you and to inspire you for a future task.

What are your thoughts on this? Drop me a mail if you get a chance.

God bless you

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Coming to the end of myself

It is when we come to the end of ourselves that we discover that God is already there. In fact, God has never been absent, it is just that we haven't recognised his presence or we have been distracted from God's "Immanuel" gift (...God with us).

It is when we get to a place like this, that we need to discern God's call for us to go deeper with him and to leave the safety of what we know. When we leave the earthly things behind we venture into the realm of the Spirit - this is where God can reveal to us the intimacy and dependence of our faith. I was reminded of this tonight as we sang these words in our service:

"Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters, wherever you may call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Saviour." - Hillsong

So coming to the end of yourself may just be the very place we need to be in order to discover that we are at the starting point with God.

May your faith be made stronger today, as you walk in the presence of the Saviour.

Living in Grace

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

What would you do?

In most of my conversations of late, the topic of "busyness" seems to come up. Everyone one of us seems to be too busy. I have never had someone come up to me and say, "please help, I am so bored! I don't know what to do with my time." On the contrary we all want the world to slow down a little - we want to catch our breath for a while. Can you relate to this?

But, here is a question for us to ponder. What would you do with the extra time you had, if life slowed down? Would that free time be swallowed up in other chores, demands, hobbies, work- related stuff? Would you even bother to use some of that free time to spend with God? You see, often we complain that we are too busy to do a devotion or too tired to attend Cell group or Church, but we can't wait until life slows down before we start engaging in our spiritual disciplines. Life won't slow down, but we can carve out times of spiritual oasis NOW - times where we connect with God and enjoy his presence.

So, here is my challenge: before we ask for life to slow down, lets decide how we will best use that time to glorify God and to love others.

Living in Grace

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Prayers for Synod

We are all busy frantically preparing for our District Synod, which will be held at the Seminary, from Thursday. This is a time when Methodists from around the Natal West District gather to worship, pray, deliberate, debate, share and hopefully encourage one another. There are many important items on our agenda, including deciding on who our new Bishop should be.

Please pray for all of us involved in the running and planning of the event, as well as all the decisions and discussions that need to take place.May God be glorified in our gathering.

Thank you for your prayers.

Living in Grace

Monday, 19 May 2014

In the end...

What happens in the end, is really important! This covers all facets of our lives - we must simply avoid making judgements before the 'End' comes. Take as an example, the brilliant victory for the Sharks Rugby team this past weekend. 15 minutes into the game and every Sharks fan started to wonder how much we would lose by? Playing against the Crusaders with 15 men is hard enough, but trying to beat them with 14 is nigh impossible. Needless to say, when the team was reduced to 13 men later on in the game, everyone assumed.....Game Over! However, we now know that somehow the Sharks managed to pull off a miraculous victory - It's written in the history books for all to witness!

So, when Job looked at his dismal life, he was persuaded by his cynical friends to right God off. They told him to pack it all in and to turn is back on God. But Job refused. He knew something that we should all learn - it is not finished until God says so!

"I know that my Redeemer lives and that in the end he will stand upon the earth." - Job 19:25

May this truth fill your heart with gladness and joy. In the end, God is triumphant. God is always the last one standing.

"Everything is alright in the end. If it is not alright, then it is not the end!" - Unknown

Living in Grace

Sunday, 18 May 2014

It's been 20 years!

This morning I had the joy and privilege of preaching at Metro Methodist Church, as part of our Circuit pulpit swap - this is where we preach at other churches around the community. Today was an extra special day for me as it marked 20 years since I preached my first sermon - which also happened to be at Metro Church. I can't believe it has been 20 years already - wow, time has flown by!

I can vaguely remember sweating bullets before that first sermon, practising for hours and not sure how it actually went in the end. Thankfully God was very gracious to me that May Sunday (in 1994) and my 'markers' were also generous enough to let me proceed as a lay preacher. The preaching journey has been a deeply rewarding one and I recognise how much I have changed and grown over the years. I still get nervous before I preach, especially as I realise the great task I have been given - I never want to take this responsibility lightly.

I am also extremely grateful for the many wonderful men and women God has brought across my path over the years. These good people have encouraged me and have inspired me to carry on. I especially remember a phone call I received one Wednesday morning (in 1995), from a retired minister I hardly knew. I was just about to pack it all in, when God prompted this faithful servant to call me - his encouragement literally changed my heart and he convinced me to keep preaching and to trust in God's guidance. I am forever indebted to him.

The following scripture has been one that has meant a lot to me over the years. It speaks of how we need to trust in God's love and guidance and not to rely on our own understanding. God is good and faithful. He will never let us go!

 My son, do not forget my teaching,
    but keep my commands in your heart,
for they will prolong your life many years
    and bring you peace and prosperity.

Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
    bind them around your neck,
    write them on the tablet of your heart.
Then you will win favor and a good name
    in the sight of God and man.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight. - Proverbs 3:1-6

Living in Grace

Friday, 16 May 2014

Where are you planted?

For all you gardeners out there, you can remind us that planting seeds in the right place is crucial. There are some places where we know seeds won't grow at all. Hard soil, too much shade or even direct sunlight can kill any potential growth. We can safely say that "deciding where to plant a seed or tree is an important decision."

So, why do we not translate this mindset into our spiritual lives? The principle is exactly the same when it comes to 'planting' ourselves spiritually. If I plant myself away from the Life-giving Spirit of God, how can I expect to grow and survive? If I choose to try and root myself in 'hard soil' then my growth may be stunted. The following verse gives us an idea of where we can plant ourselves in order to thrive. See what you think:

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
    whose confidence is in him.

They will be like a tree planted by the water
    that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
    its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
    and never fails to bear fruit.” - Jeremiah 17:7-8

Where are you planted at the moment? 

Living in Grace

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Two are better than one!

Taking a reflective look at life, Solomon often refers to life as being 'meaningless'. For someone who had everything at his fingertips, including wealth, women and wisdom, this is quite a stark statement to make - "everything is meaningless!" Yet, despite his negative outlook on many things, Solomon did make a great observation on friendship.

"Two a better than one, because they have a good return for their work;
if one falls down, his friend can help him up,
but pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!" - Ecclesiastes 4:9

So, who is your friend? Who is the one who will help you up when you stumble and fall? Who is the person who helps you achieve a good return in your work? If there is someone who is a 'friend' like this, then why not say a prayer of thanks for them?

Thought: Remember that even when friends may fail us, Jesus remains a loyal friend and companion.

Living in Grace

Tuesday, 13 May 2014


The definition of the word 'sidelined' can be: "to remove from the centre of activity or attention; place in a less influential position." We use this term often in sports jargon, when we speak of a player being sidelined, either because of injury or perhaps not performing so well. We can also use this word to describe how people treat us - we can feel sidelined or removed from their attention. We will all experience being 'sidelined' at some stage in our friendships or communities.

But, how about when we choose to sideline God from our lives? What happens when we 'remove God from the centre of our attention?' Or as the definition implies - we place God in a less influential position? The sad thing is that we end up doing this without even realising that we are doing it. We get busy, we get distracted, we get anxious, we get caught up in other things - and the end result is that suddenly God finds himself removed from our attention.

This happened to King David in a dramatic way. In his prosperity and fame, he took his eyes off the Lord and sidelined him. The end result was tragic - lives were lost and relationships destroyed. David's story serves as a clear reminder that we must avoid sidelining our Lord.

Pray this prayer today:
Lord, forgive me for sidelining you so easily. I don't mean to do this, but the stresses of my life consume me and soon I find that my eyes have been removed from you. You are the One that I need at all times, so please keep reminding me to look to you. Amen.

Living in Grace

Monday, 12 May 2014

A fire and a hammer

We can all picture what a hammer and a fire looks like can't we? But perhaps we should think a little bigger and picture a massive bonfire and huge 24-pound hammer! Both the fire and the hammer could be used in dramatic ways - one to burn a whole lot of things and the other to break down some stubborn rocks or walls.

It is both of these images that Jeremiah presents to us in Jeremiah 23:29
"Is not my word like fire ... and like a hammer that breaks a rock into pieces?"

God's word is usually used to strength and to encourage us, as well as to direct and guide us. However, today we are reminded that God's word is not to be messed with - if God needs to use the word to refine us or chip off the rough edges, then He will do it.

Let's hold God's word with respect and honour. It is life-changing.

Living in Grace

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Mary's Song

On this Mother's Day I feel that is fitting that we hear some words from Jesus' mother, Mary. Mary knew the joy and immense privilege of carrying the Son of God in her womb - for 9 months she contemplated what Jesus would look like, how he would speak, and whether he would make friends with the other kids. I am sure that she reflected on the same things that many modern mothers feel about their children. However, in the end she was able to sing this song:

 "My soul glorifies the Lord
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49     for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
    holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.” - Luke 1:46-55

May you come to understand the mercy of Jesus today. (v.50)

Living in Grace

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Speaking a blessing

It is easy to say things to each other without realising the impact of our words. But, wouldn't it be awesome to intentionally speak a blessing over the lives of people that we know and love. A blessing is really wanting the best for someone else and I think our communities would be better off if more of us started thinking of others. 

In some of our churches we speak the following words on a weekly basis. These words are a powerful blessing and I pray that we recognise the gift they can be to someone else.
“May the Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”2 Corinthians 13:14

So why don't we start today - speak a blessing over your family, friends and community and see what difference it can make.

Be blessed and Live in God's Grace

Thursday, 8 May 2014

When I am weak, then I am strong

"That is why for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." - 2 Corinthians 12:10

This passage has always intrigued me. How easy was it for Paul to write, "... I delight in hardships... in difficulties... ?" I mean, who actually likes going through times of trial and pain? I am yet to meet someone who thinks these things are nice.

Perhaps it is the collective years of wisdom that reminds Paul that when we are at our weakest, God's power has the perfect chance to shine the strongest. God's presence in our lives can turn any weakness into a strength.

Thank you Lord for standing alongside us, even when we are weak. Your strength makes me strong!

Living in Grace

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Power in the small

"Who dares despise the day of small things...?" - Zechariah 4:10

It is easy for the strong to despise the impact of the weak or for the Big to laugh at the puny attempts of the small. We all know that we should never judge something on it's size alone. The Bible has been reminding us of this for generation after generation, but we still fall into the trap of doing this.

Goliath, the giant, laughed at the boy David - yet we all know who won in the end?
Gideon only had a tiny army, but he still defeated the vast numbers of the Amalekites.
The widows offering was "a mite", yet Jesus praised her for the significance of that offering.
Jesus gathered just 12 men together to change the world - that may have seemed a small group of disciples, but you wouldn't be reading this post if it weren't for them.

We should never put our faith in things only because they look bigger and stronger than something else. God can always reverse the odds!

Remember that no matter how small or insignificant you feel, God can use you.

Living in Grace

P.S. - On this theme, I have experienced first hand the impact of something tiny this week. I contracted Tick-Bite Fever last week and didn't even know the tick had bitten me....until it was too late. One small creature has brought me to my knees in the matter of days... that is power!

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Great timing

One of the Bible sites I use has a verse of the day and when I noticed what today's verse was, I was amazed. This is the same verse that is used during the successful 'Transformation Prayer Days' and it was also used during the 1994 elections.

"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14

Being a Christ-follower in a time of political indecision and upheaval is not easy. It is tempting to get onto the 'soap-box' and have an opinion on everything. However, in the end, it is only God who can steer us safely through strife and difficulty. May we heed the call to seek God's face and pray for peaceful elections.

Living in Grace

Saturday, 3 May 2014

God won't let you slip

In a world where people push to get ahead of everyone else, even if it means stepping all over each other, it is nice to be reminded that God doesn't want us to stumble. God is the one who wants to stop us from slipping/stumbling and he wants us to finish the race we have started. It is Good News that God has our back and that God encourages us to persevere in our faith.

"To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen." - Jude 24-25

May we walk securely today, knowing that God delights in helping us along the way.

Living in Grace

Friday, 2 May 2014

Just the tonic

Even when we are not feeling great, God's word is still faithful and true. Take a look at this portion from Psalm 32. It could be just the tonic for your spirit today.

Psalm 32:7-8
"You are my hiding place;
    you will protect me from trouble
    and surround me with songs of deliverance.

 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
    I will counsel you with my loving eye on you."

The Psalms are a great tonic for us - the speak directly into our Spirits.

Living in Grace