Tuesday 30 September 2014

It's not inside, it's on TOP!

Do you remember the TV advert from the 1980's, that had the catch phrase:
"It's not inside, it's on top!?"

Can you remember what that advert was actually advertising? (if you can't remember scroll down to the end of the post to see what it was :)

Anyway, that old advert popped into my mind when I read this quote from C.S. Lewis:

 "A proud person is always looking down on people and things; and of course, as long as you are looking down, you can't see something that is above you."

Sometimes the issues and problems we are facing at the moment, make us drop our heads a little. We get a little down in the dumps and start to feel overwhelmed. If this relates to you today then can I invite you to 'look above you' - lift your head in prayer and ask God to guide you through this difficult time.

Job 22:26 - “Then you will take delight in the Almighty and look up to God.

Living in Grace

P.S. - The answer is "Cremora" and the advert came out first in the 1980's.

Monday 29 September 2014

What's in your fridge?

Have you ever caught yourself (or another family member) standing with the fridge door open, peering inside? When you ask them "what are you looking for", they don't have a reasonable answer. Their answer is something like:

"Mmmmh, I just don't know! I am hungry, but I don't know what I am hungry for!"

There are many of us who are standing at the "fridge door" of our spiritual lives, sensing that we are hungry for something, but we just don't have a clue what will satisfy our hunger. I would like to suggest that we are not really looking for 'something' to satisfy our hunger, but that we are rather looking for 'someone.'

In my opinion that someone is Jesus Christ. You are welcome to disagree with me, but that is my experience. I am not speaking about finding the answer in 'religion', because that too is empty and hollow. I am talking about putting my trust in the person of Jesus Christ. In committing to a personal relationship with the Living God.

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” (John 4:13-15)

Don't spend too long peering into the "fridge" - the answer you are looking for may be staring you right in the face!

Living in Grace

Sunday 28 September 2014

The power of accountability

I am not sure if it is just because I am a competitive person or whether it is because of the brilliance of the idea, but I am so enjoying using the "Nike Running App". How is works is that you download the Application (App) onto your phone and then you get some friends to do the same on their phones. Then every time you go for a run/walk, the App records your run and the time it took you to do your exercise. You can then keep tabs on your friends and they can do the same for you. You can even set challenges for each other, which is a wonderful way of spurring each other on.

I think that in our Christian lives we need people to keep us accountable to the "spiritual exercises" we should be doing. This shouldn't be done to brag about what we are doing, but rather as a means to hold each other accountable to our disciplines of faith. You see I think we become slack in our faith, too easily and we can hide our true "spiritual exercises" from one another. If I knew that you were going to hold me accountable for my daily devotions, prayer times, worship, giving and service, then I may be more committed to doing it.

So, here is the big question. Who is keeping you accountable in your spiritual journey? Do even feel that you are OK without someone in your life urging you forward? I strongly believe that when we go it alone, then we end up in dangerous territory. There is immense power in accountability.

Practical exercise: Try and find a person, group or even an App to keep you moving forward in your faith. Spiritual exercise is even more important than physical exercise!

Hebrews 4:13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.

Living in Grace

Saturday 27 September 2014

The hard things of Ministry

Today I experienced one of the tough things of ministry - doing a memorial service for a tiny baby. Man it was hard! There are no adequate words at a time like this and so all we can offer the family is the love and support they desperately need.

Of course, one asks questions of God at a time like this, but I am not sure that the answers are always easy to comprehend. I found a helpful word from Eugene Peterson, which may offer you some comfort in your own struggles. He uses the illustration of God 'kneeling' in our midst - of God getting down into our messy world and being with is in the midst of our pain and sorrow.

"God gets down on his knees among us; gets on our level and shares himself with us. He does not reside far off and send diplomatic messages, he kneels among us. That posture is characteristic of God." - Eugene Peterson

"He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not also with him freely give us all things?” - Romans 8:32.

Remember that God kneels with us in every thing.

Living in Grace

Friday 26 September 2014

Stop and think!

Often we end up running from one thing to the next. We think that if we run harder, do more things, work longer hours, then we will be more successful. However, I think we have all learnt that this is not necessarily true. We may be more exhausted, but we can't always claim to have been more productive.

I believe that there are many of us reading this blog today who need to make a conscious effort to "STOP" and sharpen the axe. We are chopping away at the life, but we are wasting energy by using a blunt axe.

"Give me 6 hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first 4 hours sharpening the axe." - Abraham Lincoln

Read Ecclesiastes 10:10 from these different versions of the Bible:

"A dull ax requires great strength; be wise and sharpen the blade." - The Living Bible

"Using a dull ax requires great strength, so sharpen the blade.
That’s the value of wisdom; 
it helps you succeed." - New Living Translation

"Remember: The duller the ax the harder the work; Use your head: The more brains, the less muscle." - The Message

Worth pausing for a moment and reflecting on this today?

Living in Grace

Thursday 25 September 2014

Listening versus hearing

I had an album playing on my phone this morning when suddenly I noticed a song that seemed new. It struck me as being odd, because I had "heard" this album a few times before, but had never noticed this particular song. Then it struck me - we are often hearing things, but we seldom listen to what is being said.

You may be wondering if there is actually a difference between 'hearing' and 'listening' - I think there is a massive difference. And auditory neuroscientist, Seth S. Horowitz, would agree with me. He argues that the difference between the two lies in one thing - attention. Hearing is a 'passive' thing and our brain/ears can hear many things during the day, but 'listening' is an active exercise that requires focus. This explains why many of us men can "hear" the instruction to stop shouting at the Referee on the TV, but we choose not to listen :)

So, in terms of our spiritual lives, the challenge lies in not just hearing God's word or the promptings of the Spirit, but to actually pay attention to what is being said - that is true listening.

Luke 8:18 -  “So pay attention to how you hear. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what they think they understand will be taken away from them.”

1 Samuel 3:10 - And the Lord came and called as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel replied, “Speak, your servant is listening.”

 Luke 10:39 -  Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught.

Take some time out today to LISTEN to the voice of God.

Living in Grace

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Left or Right?

I was reading through Ecclesiastes this morning when I came across an interesting concept. Solomon speaks of our hearts inclining to either the left or right hand side:

"The heart of the wise inclines to the right,
but the heart of the fool to the left." - Ecclesiastes 10:2

So which way is your heart leaning today? Left or Right?

He adds a further point later in the same chapter:
"Words from a wise man's mouth are gracious, but a fool is consumed by his own lips." (v.12)

 Deciding whether we are foolish or wise is not as simple as it seems. Perhaps the best way to get an honest answer is to ask your loved ones :)

“Christ never meant that we were to remain children in intelligence: on the contrary. He told us to be not only 'as harmless as doves', but also 'as wise as serpents'. He wants a child's heart, but a grown-up's head. He wants us to be simple, single-minded, affectionate, and teachable, as good children are; but He also wants every bit of intelligence we have to be alert at its job, and in first-class fighting trim.” - C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Living in Grace

Monday 22 September 2014

Fantastic prayer to share...

"Help me Lord, to remember that religion is not to be confined to the church, or closet, 
nor exercised only in prayer and meditation, but that everywhere I am in thy presence.
So may my every word and action have a moral content...
May all the happenings of my life prove useful and beneficial to me.
May all things instruct me and afford me an opportunity of exercising some virtue 
and daily learning and growing toward thy likeness. Amen." - Susanna Wesley

I love these words. They speak to me of an incredible depth of faith and of a broader understanding of following Jesus. Too often we fall into the trap of thinking that faith is only played out during a church service or at a bible study. We believe that the rest of the week is time to do "life" and that we can look forward to our "religious moment" on a Sunday.

God is interested in every part of our lives and God wants us to allow His spirit to permeate our daily living.

2 Corinthians 2:14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.

Worth thinking about and even worth praying Susanna's prayer!

Living in Grace

Sunday 21 September 2014

Rebuilding Walls

Visiting Castles and ruined Abbey’s always leaves me with more questions than answers. I love the fact that I have the privilege of standing on a piece of ground that has previously had knights, kings, servants and commoners all walking over it. It blows my mind. But, I always feel that I want to ask these historical people a million questions – what was life really like? What did you do for recreation? What was the food like? How did you cope without the internet? 
Seriously though, when I see these former Landmarks in ruin I like to remember the story of Nehemiah. It broke his heart to see his home city broken and in ruins. He was moved to rebuild the city and the walls, thus bringing a nation back together again. Nehemiah had been given a mandate from the Lord and he was willing to do all he could to restore the city to its former glory days.

“So we rebuilt the wall ...for the people worked with all their heart.” – Nehemiah 4:6

What parts of our lives or communities may need rebuilding? Are we willing to be the ones to start the process? Just asking?

Living in grace,

Friday 19 September 2014

No excuses

We find it so easy to come up with reasons as to why we don't want to do things, but perhaps we need to be challenged to leave our excuses behind. Many of us will end up living which too much regret if we don't stop making poor excuses for things. I think this is especially true in the arena's of our faith.

We say things like, "I am too tired to pray" or "I am too busy to attend church or cell group". We excuse our behaviour because we say, "I am only human!"
Sure, these may all be true, but we should be wary of using them as excuses.

Every time a Biblical character made an excuse God challenged them to "go a little further" and to stop making excuses.

Luke 14:18 -  “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’

"I never gave or took any excuses." - Florence Nightingale

Romans 1:20 - "For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse."

Living in Grace

Thursday 18 September 2014

The last straw!

I am sure that you have come across the following saying before:
"The last straw!"
It implies the last of a number of disappointments or difficult times that ultimately lead us to a final loss of patience, temper, trust, or even hope. 
This saying is taken from another saying, "The straw that broke the camels back." Which is an interesting one indeed. It begs the question:

How much does the straw weigh? Considering that Camels can bear loads of up to 600 Kg's, this 'straw' would have to just put enough extra weight on the poor Camel so that his back breaks. I know that it is just a saying, but it is a powerful thought indeed.

So, I want to ask you another tough question: How much are you carrying at the moment? Do you feel like you can't handle anything else happening in your life? What happens if that 'final straw' is place on your shoulders today - will you also break?

May we learn to offload as much as we can. May we trust Jesus to bear our burdens with us.

Just saying....

Psalm 68:19 - "Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens."

Living in Grace

Wednesday 17 September 2014

The power of a Bread Tag

We always seem to be drawn to the powerful, the mighty, the Celebrity - we forget the transformational effect of the small things in our world. Take for example the humble bread tag. A few years ago Mary Honeybun, a pensioner, decided to start collecting these lightweight tags, with the purpose of selling the 'high density polystyrene' for cash. This money was then used to buy wheelchairs for disable folk. It sounds like a ridiculous plan at first, but it has worked. You can see the proof of her work on this website.

I am proud to mentioned that people from our community managed to collect 300 kilograms of bread tags recently and they have gone to help in this cause. We should never underestimate the power to make a difference. We may feel tiny and insignificant, but God can use all things and people for his glory.
"Great things are done by a series of small things brought together." -Vincent Van Gogh

 Luke 16:10 - “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.

Living in Grace

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Which Scorecard?

Seeing the beauty and giftedness in everyone is hard. Our modern society only values certain things and certain people. We keep "score" on things like: bank balance, cars, houses, clothes, investments, facebook friends, degrees, positions and so on, but we fail to see the 'awesomeness' in people that don't meet these requirements.

As Christ-followers we are called to live 'counter- culture' and so we need to be reminded of how Jesus sees us. He doesn't care about how we score on the things I have just mentioned - He cares how we love each other and how we respond to his grace. Christ asks us to have an eye for the broken, lost, hurting, lonely and 'ordinary' amongst us.

William Wilberforce puts it far more eloquently:

“We have different forms assigned to us in the school of life, different gifts imparted. All is not attractive that is good. Iron is useful, though it does not sparkle like the diamond. Gold has not the fragrance of a flower. So different persons have various modes of excellence, and we must have an eye to all.”

Never compare yourself with others using worldly standards - these merits will all fade away. Instead seek to live according to God's 'score card!' That's what will count in the end.

Romans 4:6-7 (Message)
David confirms this way of looking at it, saying that the one who trusts God to do the putting-everything-right without insisting on having a say in it is one fortunate man: Fortunate those whose crimes are carted off, whose sins are wiped clean from the slate. Fortunate the person against whom the Lord does not keep score.

Living in Grace