Thursday, 23 March 2017

Smile at Life

"Nothing can resist the person who smiles at life - I don't mean the ironic and disillusioned smile of my grandfather, but the triumphant smile of the person who knows that he will survive, or that at least he will be saved by what seems to be destroying him." - Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Some days we just need to wake up, smile at life and then carry on. As de Chardin suggests - our smile is an acknowledgement that with Christ by our side, we are never defeated! Jesus has saved us and so we live as forgiven people.

Despite what is happening around you, I encourage you to make an attempt to smile - may that smile break into the darkness and remind you that Jesus is always Victorious.

Living in Grace
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Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Focused with reason

When Paul went out to share the Gospel he was incredibly focused. He knew what he wanted, more than anything, was to tell people about the LOVE of Jesus. This moved him to enter into all kinds of places and to mix with a range of non-religious people - his sole purpose in doing this was to bring Jesus to them. However, he never compromised his commitment to Christ and always remain loyal to the Cross.

"I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!" - 1 Corinthians 9 (Message)

God is calling us to enter into the world of "the other", in order that we might bring HOPE to them. It is no longer good enough to sit in church and to invite people into our space, we need to GO into the world and to take Jesus to others.

Living in Grace

Monday, 20 March 2017

Moved with compassion

“Empathy: Your pain in my heart.” - Jess Lair.

When we walk close to the Lord we begin to understand the needs of others in a new way. We move from sympathy to EMPATHY. Allowing the pain of a fellow Christian to enter into our heart, is following in the way of Christ. We may not be able to solve the problem or make the pain go away but we can walk alongside those in need.  

Mark 1:41 - "Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!”

In this week, where we remember 'Human Rights Day' (in South Africa), may we recognise the humanity in all people and be moved to compassion.

Living in Grace

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Prayer for Healing

If you find yourself in a place where you need healing, or someone you love, needs to know the love of Christ, then I invite you to pray this prayer.

"Spirit of the Living Christ,
we thirst for your presence;
the searchings of our mind,
the longings in our heart,
truly, our souls are restless.
Yet you are our healer, 
enlarging our vision
even when we cry in pain;
calming our hearts,
with your gift of inner peace."

Proverbs 3:8 - Then you will have healing for your body and strength for your bones.

Living in Grace

This prayer is part of the worship service that takes place at the Iona chapel service every week. May God use it to bring light into our darkness.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Your confidence

We live in times where some people are extremely arrogant about their ability (even though they don't fulfil their tasks) and others lack confidence in their God-given ability. From the Taize community in France, comes this lovely reflection. It teaches us that the confidence we receive from Christ can transform our lives.

"Come and bathe us in your confidence, Lord, so that even our inner deserts burst into flower."

Acts 4:31 - While they were praying, the place where they were meeting trembled and shook. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak God’s Word with fearless confidence.

May God's confidence fill you with grace and strength.

Living in Grace

Friday, 17 March 2017

A Prayer from Saint Patrick

In order to get into the spirit of celebrating the life of Patrick of Ireland, I am including a few thoughts and prayers from the great man of God. Enjoy them and may God Bless you.

"I bind unto myself today,
the power of God to hold and lead;
his eye to watch, his might to stay,
his ear to harken to my need;
the wisdom of my God to teach,
his hand to guide, his shield to ward,
the word of God to give me speech,
his heavenly host to be my guard."

"Before I was humiliated I was like a stone that lies in deep mud, and he who is mighty came and in his compassion raised me up and exalted me very high and placed me on the top of the wall."

"If I have any worth, it is to live my life for God so as to teach these peoples; even though some of them still look down on me."

"I am certain in my heart that all that I am, I have received from God."

Living in Grace

Before I was humiliated I was like a stone that lies in deep mud, and he who is mighty came and in his compassion raised me up and exalted me very high and placed me on the top of the wall.
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Thursday, 16 March 2017

Old Irish Prayer

There is an old Irish saying/prayer that reflects on the life of St. Columba. It invites us to be HOPE for others in the world around us.

"May God guide you...
To be an isle in the sea,
To be a hill on the shore,
To be a star in the night,
To be a staff for the weak."

I invite all of us to try and be one of these things today. Can we be, for someone else -
An Island of Hope?
A Hill of Refuge?
A Star to guide?
A Rod/staff to lean on?

Psalm 23:4 - "your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me."

Living in Grace

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

My calling, your calling

We catch ourselves often wanting to be someone else. We even begin to think that what they are doing, is perhaps what we should be doing. However, in the end, we will make ourselves frustrated and dissatisfied. Your calling, is not my calling. If I live my life trying to fulfil what God has given you to do, then I am going to become very grumpy.

Listen to the words of one of Mother Theresa's biographers:

"The call to change political structures or seek justice, though recognised as valid, was not hers. Hers was to deal, one by one, with those whose horizons had shrunk to the bowl of rice they craved. Those seeking to understand were put to work because "love was best proved in deeds"..."

So, if you would like a little advice. Stop trying to be someone else. Be yourself. Use your God-given gifts and stop wishing you were someone else.

Psalm 139:14 -  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Living in Grace

Monday, 13 March 2017

Show us

"Show us, good Lord,
how to be frugal, till all are fed;
how to weep, till all can laugh;
how to be meek, till all can stand in pride;
how to mourn, till all are comforted;
how to be restless, till all live in peace;
how to claim less, till all find justice." - Iona Prayer Book

Matthew 5:3-10

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Living in Grace

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Climbing uphill to change the world

They had to do it the hard way. There were going to be no short cuts or easy options. Life was already tough and they knew it. It seemed that all the odds were against them and that they had only just begun the steep climb UPWARDS!

Who am I speaking about? Well, the answer is - Mary, Joseph and Jesus. From their rugged journey back to Bethlehem, to the birth of Jesus in a borrowed stable, as well as the fear of angry Herod. Life was getting harder and harder. However, it was through all of these hardships that this little family began to change the world.

 "On one evening, Joseph, Mary, and the child Jesus step out the front door of their humble dwelling, face the wind, and somehow know that this was just the beginning. Just the three of tehm. Three who would change the world, but who would have to do it CLIMBING UPHILL." - Scot McKnight

Changing the world is never an easy task, but one has to start with the first step.

Know that whatever uphill task you face today, Jesus understands.

Genesis 35:17 -  And as she was having great difficulty in childbirth, the midwife said to her, “Don’t despair, for you have another son.”

Living in Grace

Saturday, 11 March 2017

My faulty Rep

In following on from my last post about Reputation vs Identity, I wanted to add a few things. Isn't it funny how we spend so much time and energy trying to defend, shine up or create our Reputation, and then so little time on discovering WHO WE ARE in the eyes of God.

When we stand before God one day, God is not going to ask our friends or peers to give a glowing report on our Reputation, but rather to ask "Do you know my Son?" God already knows that I have a faulty reputation, because God knows who I am in the darkest shadows on my life. It is because of my sin, that Jesus came to offer me a new identity.

So, here is a challenge for you this Lent period. Try and match your time spent on the internet, with time spent in the Word, prayer or in worship. Allow your identity in Jesus to shape your Reputation, instead of trying to win favour with a worldly Rep.

2 Corinthians 5:17-19 - "Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins."

Living in Grace

Friday, 10 March 2017

Reputation versus Identity

As a society we have become obsessed with 'Reputation' and social media has just added to this whole hype. We can 'make or break' our reputation by posting something dodgy onto one of the social platforms or by speaking out of turn. I confess that on some levels Reputation is important, but it isn't everything. The reason I argue for this is because sometimes 'Reputation' is tainted by others who will do all they can to destroy our reputation - and again social media aids in this process.

Scot McKnight offers us an alternative to REPUTATION and that is the word IDENTITY. In sharing about the story of Jesus' earthly father, Joseph, he writes:

"Joseph learns that who he is before God (his identity) is more important than who he is in the circle of his pious friends (his reputation)."

And this is so TRUE. Who I am in the eyes of Jesus is far more important than who I am in the eyes of the world. It is my IDENTITY in Christ that sets me apart from others and ultimately will be the deciding factor in eternity.

Luke 6:35-36 - “I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never—I promise—regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind.

Living in Grace

Thursday, 9 March 2017

In spite of this....

In Spite of all that is happening around us, we should never give up HOPE. I realise that it is hard, but with the Lord by our side we can always have hope. This is what Ezra wrote:

"But in spite of this there is still HOPE for Israel." - Ezra 10:2

May these words give you strength for today:

In Spite of __________ there is still HOPE for us.

Hold on to Jesus.

Living in Grace

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Where is God hiding?

"I am beginning now to see how radically the character of my spiritual journey will change when I no longer think of God as hiding out and making difficult as possible for me to find him, but, instead, as the one who is looking for me while I am doing the hiding." - Henri Nouwen

If I was asking Henri Nouwen the question - "where is God hiding?" his answer (above) would show me that I am actually the one who does the hiding. It is my skewed understanding that God is trying to avoid me that makes me believe God is hiding from me.

Have you ever felt that God is hiding from you? If yes, then perhaps read the quote again and reflect on this verse for a while.

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

Living in Grace

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Embracing the stories of others

"As an expression of loving God and loving others, a spiritually formed person embraces the stories of others who love Jesus." - Scot McKnight

I found this quote deeply profound because it challenges me to love others, especially those "others" who love Jesus. It is a call not just to love others, but to also listen to their stories. In fact, it is probably best to listen to the stories of the "other" first - this usually opens the heart to love them more sincerely.

It is easier to ignore someone when you don't know their "story", but it is compelling for us to care for people when we know something of their story.

What do you think?

James 1:19 -  My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry

Living in Grace

Take care

"God has created a world in which we are the ones who care for one another. To put it another way, God cares for us, THROUGH one another." - James Bryan Smith (Embracing God)

I found this quote challenging today. It is not anything new, but it is hard to live out in our daily lives. We get to show people that God has not forgotten them, but simply showing them love and care. Our act of love/care/mercy will show others that God still CARES!

John 21:16 - Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

Living in Grace

Monday, 6 March 2017

Sacred love

"Sacred love once learned .... converts acts of sin to acts of love." - Scot McKnight

In retelling the story of Zacchaeus, Scot McKnight reminds us that when the "sacred love" of Christ enters into our world, we are changed forever. The acts of sin, that once we found so easy to live with, now become harder for us. In this process we are moved to practise acts of love instead. (One can read Zacchaeus' story in Luke 19.)

May the Spirit of Christ moves us all to acts of love during this period of Lent.

"One new perception,
one fresh thought,
one act of surrender,
one change of heart,
one leap of faith,
can change your life forever." - Robert Holden

Living in Grace

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Conform to what?

Richard Foster recounts how his prayer life changed dramatically when he learned to pray "so that my experience conformed to the words of Jesus rather than trying to make his words conform to my impoverished experience."

This is very true. How often do I try and get Jesus to change in order to fit into my will and purposes instead of allowing His truth, love, mercy and will change my life?

Matthew 6:9-13 - “The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this: Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are. Set the world right; Do what’s best— as above, so below. Keep us alive with three square meals. Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. You’re in charge! You can do anything you want! You’re ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes.

Living in Grace


Saturday, 4 March 2017

Between the Dust

During our Ash Wednesday service I was struck by some of the words we use. We speak about coming from the 'Dust', which is a reference to the creation account in Genesis 3:19, and then we acknowledge that we will all return to the 'Dust' one day. The words I often recite in a memorial service are, "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust", which recognise this reality.

However, what I was arrested by this week, was the question: "What am I doing between the DUST?" In other words, how am I living my life between the two moments of birth and death. 'Between the Dust' is a remarkable gift from our Creator - we need to do all we can to honour that gift and to bring glory to Jesus.

For me, it ultimately means 'LIVING IN GRACE'.
What about you?


Friday, 3 March 2017

Breath Prayers

An ancient spiritual practise is to use a "Breath Prayer" many times in the day. This simple technique is very different from a long period of prayer, or even our quick prayers before we have a meal. A Breath Prayer is usually a sentence that we pray during the day in order to remind us of God's presence and of some crucial spiritual truth.

Here are a few examples to experiment with during the course of the next week:

"Thank you Lord for loving me."

"Jesus, you are my refuge and strength."

"O Lord, may your will be done in my life."

"Jesus, be the centre of my world."

We can actually make up as many as we like, or even use short verses from the Bible to inspire us to pray - the only thing that is necessary is to pray as often as we can. In this way, we sense the Spirit of God as close to us as possible.

May you experience the richness of God's love today.

Living in Grace

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Recenter everything

In his wonderful book "The Jesus Creed", Scot McKnight, mentions how our encounter with Jesus can end up 'recentering everything.' It is my prayer that this season of Lent would be a moment for us all to recenter, refocus, remember, renew.

Are you doing something intentional about going deeper with Christ this Lent or are you just going through the motions? I have found that I need to prepare myself for this spiritual adventure, as the rest of life readily threatens to rob me of this encounter with Christ.

"A scribe asks Jesus about the essence of spiritual formation, and Jesus gives him an old answer with a revolutionary twist: Love God and Love others, and love God by following me. The scribe realises that he will need to recenter everything." - S. McKnight

Ephesians 4:24 - "And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you."

Living in Grace