Wednesday 31 January 2018

My Utmost for His Highest

Oswald Chambers is known as an incredible man of God and will long be remembered for his work 'My Utmost for His Highest.' This collection of devotions is still available today, years after Oswald passed away. There is even a digital version if ever you are interested in reading some of his thoughts.

One of the lines in his devotion for today hit home to me and I wanted to share this with you. He writes: "Personal holiness is an effect of redemption, not the cause of it. If we place our faith in human goodness we will go under when testing comes."

Our REDEMPTION (Salvation) should cause us to desire personal holiness, NOT be a goal we strive for after living a holy life. He makes the point that being 'good' is an effort to try and be holy, which in turn leads us to believe we are redeemed by God. Although this seems logical, it goes completely against the Truth of the matter - none of us will EVER be holy enough to enter heaven's gates. We only get to enter in because of what Christ has done for us.

He adds onto this initial thought the tough reality that if we live our lives on human effort, we will 'go under' when the time of testing comes.

Ephesians 1:7 - "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace."

What are your thoughts on this? Love to hear them.

Living in grace

Tuesday 30 January 2018

Cooperate or fight?

"You are blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That's when you discover who you really are, and your place in God's family." - Matthew 5:9 (MSG)

Learning to "cooperate" instead of "compete" is an important life lesson. Parents spend hours and hours trying to instill this notion into their kids, although it seems that some kids never learn that lesson. Looking around at some grown ups, it is hard to actually refer to them as "grown up" at all, because they seem to act more like children :(

Jesus', words in the Beatitudes seek to bring unity in God's family instead of a harmful competition. Working together is much more effective that fighting with one another. Unity is indeed STRENGTH.

"Talent perceives differences; genius, unity." - William Butler Yeats

Living in Grace
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Monday 29 January 2018

No variation and trying to survive a water crisis

Living in the midst of the severe water crisis in Cape Town is certainly getting our family very focused on sparing water and, in a broader sense, is driving many people to their knees. Almost daily the residents of Cape Town hold their breath to find out whether Day Zero is still 12 April or whether it will move. The shifting dates makes people very nervous and has already caused much chaos in supermarkets - most shops have seen unprecedented 'runs' on water supplies.

While we all are trying to make a plan to save water, the shifting of Day Zero reminded me of this reading from James 1, which we shared yesterday.

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.- James 1:17

The ESV says: "...with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change."

I have found this very reassuring and I invite you to hold onto this promise as you go through all your tasks this week. 

Living in Grace

Sunday 28 January 2018

I have often wondered

I have often wondered why James would be so crazy to write these words?: 

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers (sisters), whenever you face trials of many kinds …” – James 1:2-4

Initially I thought James must be a little crazy, but then I began to understand the meaning of the word 'trials.' In the Greek language, the word for trial is ‘peirasmos’, which suggests a difficult situation or a ‘painful pressure.’

And so the implication is not that we are broken by the trials, but rather that they prepare us for something better. In a similar way, when Matric students write their 'Trial' exams, it is not meant to dishearten those students, but rather to prepare them for the real Final exams that are approaching fast.

So, may we find the strength we need to endure the trials that lie in wait, because these occasions are preparing us from something bigger down the line.

Living in Grace

Thursday 25 January 2018

Growing the Fruit

“Mountaintops are for views and inspiration, but fruit is grown in the valleys.” - Billy Graham

I love the joy of climbing to the top of any mountain and then appreciating the view. The views are breath-taking and inspiring. They remind us of how small we are and how AWESOME God is. They show us a different perspective on the world we live in. 

However, despite the brilliance of the view, we realise that we can't stay on top of the mountain - that we need to come back down to reality and the 'ordinary stuff' of life. We also need to remember that crops and vegetation grow better in the valleys, in the places that may not look the best or may even get lots of shade. The FRUIT grows in the valleys!

The same can be said of our spiritual lives - the moments of inspiration keep us going, but the place where we bear the most fruit is in the valley. So, if you find yourself going through a tough time then remember that this may be producing some lasting fruit in your life. 

Jeremiah 49:4 - "...boast of your valleys so fruitful."

Living in Grace

Wednesday 24 January 2018

3 kinds of trouble

From the title of the blog you may be thinking that I am speaking about my 3 sons - "three kinds of trouble" but I am actually not! I am referring to this quote:
“Never attempt to bear more than one kind of trouble at once. Some people bear three kinds--all they have had, all they have now and all they expect to have.” - Edward Everett Hale. 

Let us learn to deal with the trouble of 'today' only and allow God to help us deal with the past and to prepare for the future.

Matthew 6:34 - Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Living in Grace

Tuesday 23 January 2018

Letting go of the past

I keep writing 2017 instead of 2018. Are you doing the same thing as me? I hope so, as it will make me feel a little better about myself then :) I guess we had 365 days to get used to writing one thing, and now we have to let go of that and remind ourselves to write a new date.

This morning when I did this for the umpteenth time, the thought struck me - "What other things, from my past, am I holding onto? Are these things preventing me from moving forward with God?"

So, I am asking us all the same question today? Are you still living in the past, holding onto past regrets, past hurts, past disappointments, past pain? And if we are answering 'YES' to any of these, then we need to ask the hard question - WHY?!

Do we not trust in the grace of Jesus to cleanse us from our sins, mistakes and regrets? Can Christ not make all things new? Are God's promises to flimsy to sustain us into a new season? I don't think so.

Galatians 5:1 - "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free."

"One more step along the world I go,
One more step along the world I go;
From the old things to the new,
Keep me travelling along with you:
And it's from the old I travel to the new;
Keep me travelling along with you." - Sydney Carter

Living in Grace

Monday 22 January 2018

Mid-course Correction

I have just finished reading a wonderful book by Gordon MacDonald entitled "Mid-Course Correction." As some may assume, it is NOT a book about going through mid-life crisis, but rather a book that reflects on the reality that many people are frustrated in their lives - they feel a sense of having gone down a wrong road or are even asking the question: "Is this all that life has to offer?"

MacDonald quotes the poet Ed Sissman:

"People past forty
Get up nights
Look out at city lights
And wonder why life is so long
And where they made the wrong turn."

Of course, this can happen to any person, not just those in their forties. Young Adults fresh out of school or university ask this question and so do newly retired folk. And when we ask this question, we may have to get to a point of making a 'mid-course Correction.' In other ways, being brave enough to change the direction our spiritual lives are heading in, while we are still trying to survive on a daily basis. It is the mid-course correction that could save our lives!

Proverbs 12:1 - Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid.

Proverbs 15:10 - Stern discipline awaits anyone who leaves the path; the one who hates correction will die.

Living in Grace

Sunday 21 January 2018

A Psalm of Life

If you had to write your own Psalm what would it say? Would it be all neat and precise, or would it count the troubles, heartaches, joys and victories of your life? The following is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's amazing poem entitled "A Psalm of Life." May you read it and enjoy it.

Just out of interest, if there is a line that means something to you, please drop me a message or email and let me know. Be blessed.

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!—
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,—act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o'erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labour and to wait.

Living in Grace

Thursday 18 January 2018

Thinking with your heart

Is it possible to think with your heart? My gut response is NO, but Jesus seems to think so.

"Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts?" - Luke 5:22

So, what does Jesus and Luke mean? Don't we usually 'think' things in our minds? Well, it is perhaps because of the close link between our thought pattern and our actions that Jesus points this out. Our actions begin in our hearts, then go to our minds and finally come out in the open. Jesus cuts to the root cause of all our actions - the 'thoughts of our hearts.'

Is this why Paul went on to say these words:

"Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but be a new and different person with a fresh newness in all you do and think. Then you will learn from your own experience how his ways will really satisfy you." - Romans 12:2 (Living Bible)

Living in Grace

Wednesday 17 January 2018

Birth pains and new beginnings

Our kids started new schools today and there was a great sense of nervousness in our house this morning. If you have ever relocated then you know exactly what was happening in our home - moments of excitement, silence, anxiety, questions and finally moving towards the car for the trip to school.

New beginnings can be tough. They can move us way beyond the comfort of the 'ordinary' and the 'usual status quo.' However, they can also teach us many things and fill us with new possibilities and joy.

In fact, this whole experience reminds me of 'birth pains' (not that I had to go through them personally, but I watched Kim go through the pains :). The joy of new birth is always preceded by pain, anxiety, worry, questions, excitement and finally that moment when all the action starts.

That fragile moment that separates pre-birth from birth; or from pre-change to change, is the occasion for FAITH. Moving from one place to the other, with no certainty of the outcome, is definitely an act of TRUST. It is all about believing that God has your back and that God will make a way.

Don't be afraid to go through 'birth pains', especially when we can trust in the grace of God.

Hebrews 11:8 - "By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going."

Living in Grace

Tuesday 16 January 2018

Hand upon you

"You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me." - Psalm 139:5

This verse was part of our readings on Sunday and it brings such a vivid word picture to mind. It is made all the clearer when you read this insight from Robert Alter, who says that this verse should rather say ... “You set your palm upon me". Of course in Hebrew culture the significance of blessing was very huge and the act of laying a palm on the head of someone else spoke of grace and mercy. It was a great sign of blessing. 

And so, as we go about our daily tasks, let us remember that our Lord chooses to lay his palm upon our heads in a sign of peace and love. He desires to bless us and not to curse us.  The additional statement that reminds us that God 'hems us in' then doesn't seem to be as scary - it is news of God's favour - the ultimate Good News.

"To give someone a blessing is the most significant affirmation we can offer." - Henri Nouwen

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Living in Grace

Monday 15 January 2018

The Return

"The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told." - Luke 2:20

As scholars, teachers and students prepare to return back to new routines and school years, it is important to reflect on what has happened over the Advent season. The events of the Incarnation change us completely and so our 'RETURN' to our normal lives should always be with different purpose and different attitudes.

If we notice the way the Shepherds returned back to their daily tasks we see that they did so with praise and thankfulness in their hearts. The long awaited Saviour had come and they had been part of the miracle. The things they witnessed had even surpassed the hopes and dreams they had held. God was present with them and life would be filled with renewed hope.

As you return to old and new routines, remember the joy of Christ and that the advent words of HOPE, PEACE, LOVE and JOY are forever with us.

Living in Grace

Sunday 14 January 2018


Often we deal in "maybes".
Maybe this will happen.
Or maybe the outcome will be like that.
Maybe they will call.
Maybe the weather will change.

There is not much certainty surrounding our daily lives, and that is why we need to have FAITH. Not just having faith, for the sake of convenience, but FAITH in the person of Jesus. Faith that despite all the 'maybes' that God still has our lives in the palm of his hand and that God cares for us.

Matthew 15:28 - Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.

"Life itself has much to do with maybes, and human life at large has everything to do with them. So far as man stands for anything, and is productive or originative at all, his entire vital function may be said to have to deal with maybes. Not a victory is gained, not a deed of faithfulness or courage is done, except upon a maybe; not a service, not a sally of generosity, not a scientific exploration or experiment or text-book, that may not be a mistake. It is only by risking our persons from one hour to another that we live at all. And often enough our faith beforehand in an uncertified result is the only thing that makes the result come true." - William James

Living in Grace

Saturday 13 January 2018

Nothing to fight for?

There is always something worth living for - to fight for! In fact, there are numerous things that people are also willing to die for! The tragedy is when we have neither. We then find ourselves floating along in a state of uncertainty and hopelessness.

Jesus had something to live for - that was to reveal the FATHER'S LOVE to all people.
And of course, Jesus had something to die for - it was to make the Father's Love available to all who would believe.

Romans 5:6-8 - "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

And so what about you and I? Do we have something to live for? Or to die for?

“When I go up there, which is my intention, the Big Judge will say to me, Where are your wounds? and if I say I haven’t any, he will say, Was there nothing to fight for? I couldn’t face that question." - Alan Paton in (Ah, But Your Land Is Beautiful)

Living in Grace