Thursday, 9 April 2020

26a - Delusions of grandeur

Delusions of Grandeur | Michael Thomas Howard Investigation
We are all a lot like Simon Peter - we have delusions of granduer! We promise much, but end up falling short of our bold promises. We mean well and we desperately want to give our all to Jesus, but in the end our frailties trip us up.

31 On the way, Jesus told them, “Tonight all of you will desert me. For the Scriptures say,
‘God will strike the Shepherd,
    and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’
32 But after I have been raised from the dead, I will go ahead of you to Galilee and meet you there.”
33 Peter declared, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never desert you.”
34 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, Peter—this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.”
35 “No!” Peter insisted. “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!” And all the other disciples vowed the same. (Matthew 26:31-35)

We can't fault Peter for his willingness to try and this is why he is such a beloved disciple for all of us. He keeps stumbling, but then rising again. He makes a mistake, wrestles with his sins, and then comes clean before Jesus. And in seeing the heart of Peter, Jesus loves him and gives him the greatest responsibility of all - carrying the message of Hope to a broken world.

This Holy Week remember that Peter was forgiven for his failings and lauded for his Faith. 

It is not our failings that will turn Jesus away from us, but rather our refusal to to recognise him as our Lord.

Living in Grace
D3LM3

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

25 - Smart or Silly

Poll Of The Week: Smart or dumb? - Kinda Funny Forums
Some of Jesus's teachings are simple to understand, while there are a few that leave us scratching our heads. If you read through Matthew 25, you will notice three classic parables - The first one is about the 10 Young Women (virgins), then Jesus shares about the 3 servants and their bags of gold, followed by a teaching on the final judgement, where there will be a separating of sheep and goats.

In the light of our Lent period coming to an end and the Easter weekend upon us, read these words from Matthew 25:1-13 and see if there is a message for you in this. Ask yourself these questions as you go through it:

1. What does it mean for us to "have extra oil on stand-by?"
2. What makes us "tired" as Christ-followers?
3. Does this parable make God seem unfair to you?

1-5 “God’s kingdom is like ten young virgins who took oil lamps and went out to greet the bridegroom. Five were silly and five were smart. The silly virgins took lamps, but no extra oil. The smart virgins took jars of oil to feed their lamps. The bridegroom didn’t show up when they expected him, and they all fell asleep.
“In the middle of the night someone yelled out, ‘He’s here! The bride-groom’s here! Go out and greet him!’
7-8 “The ten virgins got up and got their lamps ready. The silly virgins said to the smart ones, ‘Our lamps are going out; lend us some of your oil.’
“They answered, ‘There might not be enough to go around; go buy your own.’
10 “They did, but while they were out buying oil, the bridegroom arrived. When everyone who was there to greet him had gone into the wedding feast, the door was locked.
11 “Much later, the other virgins, the silly ones, showed up and knocked on the door, saying, ‘Master, we’re here. Let us in.’
12 “He answered, ‘Do I know you? I don’t think I know you.’
13 “So stay alert. You have no idea when he might arrive.

Living in Grace
D3LM3

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

24 - Is this the end?

When You Don't Expect Him" — Matthew 24:42-44 (What Jesus Did!)

Many people are jumping onto the religious bandwagon at the moment with some predictions of the end of the world, especially in the light of the Corona pandemic. Again, I will not get into that debate at the moment, but I find it interesting, that in the days before he went to the Cross Jesus preached about the end of days. I find these final teachings of Jesus so interesting and challenging.

This is what he told his disciples:

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him." - Matthew 24:42-44

I honestly don't know when the world is going to end, but the one thing I know I can control is how I respond to the Son of God, today. By choosing to receive the gift of grace offer to us through Jesus, we are promised a placed in Christ's kingdom.

C.S. Lewis wrote in "The Case for Christianity" - 
 
"That will not be the time for choosing: it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realised it before or not. Now, today, this moment, is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last forever. We must take it or leave it.”

Living in Grace
D3LM3

Monday, 6 April 2020

23 - Practise what you preach

Quotes about Practice what you preach (34 quotes)
As soon as Jesus entered Jerusalem, he began to speak out more and more against the religiosity of the Teachers of the law, often exposing their faults and false practises. Of course this didn't do anything for his populatity, but Jesus was not worried about winning the award for "most polite Rabbi" of the year. Jesus knew his days were numbered and so he was willing to challenge anyone who was willing to hear the truth:

"Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them." - Matthew 23:1-4

His words in verse 3 are known the world over, albeit in different forms. We have all heard the phrase "practise what you preach" and this is Jesus main argument against the Pharisees. They had lots of good things to say (things that we God-fearing and holy), but they didn't actually live these laws and ideals themselves. That is the tragedy of the whole thing - they were so close to being true disciples, but they refused to do what Jesus had asked of them.

So, as we edge closer to Easter, I think it is worth asking ourselves the question:

"Do we practise what we preach?"

If we don't do this people will soon see through our masks and disguise.

Living in Grace
D3LM3

Sunday, 5 April 2020

22

Free printable or desktop wallpaper // Matthew 22:37-38 // via ...
Alright my numbering system may seem a little off, but there is some method in my madness. I have been trying to write a brief post on eavh chapter from Matthew's gospel during Lent. We managed to get up to Matthew 21, which was Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, but I didn't want to surge ahead and lose the connection with Jesus' last week on earth.

Matthew saves seven chapters for Jesus' death and resurrection, so we will use these as our reflection over Holy Week. And it is during these days that we note Jesus' powerful teaching on a number of different subjects. For today, we see how he is questioned by many of the religious leaders, all trying to catch him out, but he stumps them with his profound words. In Matthew 22, he says:

"Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22: 34-40)

There are a lot of things we can draw from these verses, but in my opinion the obvious one is this: 
"If we practised these 2 key commandments sincerely we would end up keeping all the other laws and commandments together."

It was Jesus' love for his Father and his love for us that drove him through the last week of his life.

What keeps you moving forward day after day?

Living in Grace
D3LM3

Saturday, 4 April 2020

Celebrating the King

Zephaniah 3:17 — Today's Verse for Wednesday, May 16, 2018
As we celebrate Palm Sunday, let us read some words from Zephaniah who shares a remarkable prophecy of the coming of the Messiah. As you read his words cast your mind on the image of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey. Hosanna in the highest - praise the Lord of lords.

14 Sing, Daughter Zion;
    shout aloud, Israel!
Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,
    Daughter Jerusalem!
15 The Lord has taken away your punishment,
    he has turned back your enemy.
The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you;
    never again will you fear any harm.
16 On that day
    they will say to Jerusalem,
“Do not fear, Zion;
    do not let your hands hang limp.
17 The Lord your God is with you,
    the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.” - Zephaniah 3:14-17

For all of the reasons mentioned by Zephaniah, Jesus comes into our lives this week and invites us to kneel before his throne. What will our response be?

Living in Grace
D3LM3

Friday, 3 April 2020

Lent thoughts

Three Bible Stories That Teach Kids About Lent | Catholic lent, 40 ...
Sometimes one just needs to read the wisdom of those who have progressed a little further down the road of life, love and faith. Enjoy these thoughts as we travel deeper into Lent and closer to the Cross.

“No act of virtue can be great if it is not followed by advantage for others. So, no matter how much time you spend fasting, no matter how much you sleep on a hard floor and eat ashes and sigh continually, if you do no good to others, you do nothing great.” John Chrysostom 

“Lent is a time for discipline, for confession, for honesty, not because God is mean or fault- finding or finger-pointing but because he wants us to know the joy of being cleaned out, ready for all the good things he now has in store.” N.T. Wright  

Jesus -  "Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” (Matthew 9:13)


May you have a blessed day.

Living in Grace
D3LM3

Thursday, 2 April 2020

'Sea of Troubles'

Sea of troubles | Melded Minds
I love the Sea and so you can understand my frustration at being only a few kilometers away from the ocean and yet not being able to get there, or even smell it at this time. Lockdown has forced all of us into new spaces and needing to make sacrifices, although missing the ocean is really not a major crisis compared to the genuine needs of the majority of us.

It was Shakespeare who wrote of a 'sea of troubles' (in Hamlet) and this is pertinent for everyone at this time. One trouble ripples into the next one until we can feel overwhelmed by the vast ocean of trials. However, it is into this sea of trouble that we must remember some of the core promises that come to us in the Scriptures. Where there is a great need, there is always a great God who is willing to step into the void created by our troubles.

Turning to our focal reading for this week we note the following sentiment:

"O Israel, hope in the Lord; for he is loving and kind and comes to us with armloads of salvation. He himself shall ransom Israel from her slavery to sin." - Psalm 130:7-8 (Living Bible)

This picture tells us that where we are (and are found in our sea of troubles), so God is also present. Michael Wilcock writes:  

"With Yahweh are three constant companions, Forgiveness, Covenant Love, and Redemption. Wherever he is, there they too will be found. And the psalmist also is not alone: with him come the rest of his people, for they too may be redeemed..."

When you get a moment read Psalm 130 again and place yourself as the one who writes the Psalm. It is a wonderful way of speaking to God in prayer and remembering God's promise to come to our aid.

Living in Grace
D3LM3

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Lack of understanding

 Claranet argues lack of understanding remains between business and ...
Do we really understand the things that are happening around us or are we just caught up in our own little worlds? I am not speaking specifically about dealing with Covid-19, but rather about things in general. It is easy to look at the world through our own 'rose-tinted' glasses and not to see from the perspective of others.

Take the reading for today. Jesus has just explained to his disciples that he is on a journey to be 'tortured and crucified' and all they are consumed with is: "Can I be awared the number spot in your kingdom?!"
True, it was actually James and John's mother who asked the question, but it still speaks of an underlying self-centredness. Please read through these words and allow them to add to your personal Lenten journey today:

17-19 Jesus, now well on the way up to Jerusalem, took the Twelve off to the side of the road and said, “Listen to me carefully. We are on our way up to Jerusalem. When we get there, the Son of Man will be betrayed to the religious leaders and scholars. They will sentence him to death. They will then hand him over to the Romans for mockery and torture and crucifixion. On the third day he will be raised up alive.”
20 It was about that time that the mother of the Zebedee brothers came with her two sons and knelt before Jesus with a request.
21 “What do you want?” Jesus asked.
She said, “Give your word that these two sons of mine will be awarded the highest places of honor in your kingdom, one at your right hand, one at your left hand.”
22 Jesus responded, “You have no idea what you’re asking.” And he said to James and John, “Are you capable of drinking the cup that I’m about to drink?”
They said, “Sure, why not?”
23 Jesus said, “Come to think of it, you are going to drink my cup. But as to awarding places of honor, that’s not my business. My Father is taking care of that.” - Matthew 20 (The Message)

Fyodor Dostoyevsky once remarked: "The world says: "You have needs -- satisfy them. You have as much right as the rich and the mighty. Don't hesitate to satisfy your needs; indeed, expand your needs and demand more." This is the worldly doctrine of today. And they believe that this is freedom."

What is Freedom for you?
What does Jesus think of Feedom?

Living in Grace
D3LM3

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Waiting

 How to Trust God When You're Stuck in the Waiting Place - Trending ...
Lent is a time of waiting. A time of expectancy. A period of longing and refining.
If you have given something up for this time period, then perhaps you are longing for Easter to arrive? If you are locked away at the moment, then you are probably longing to get outdoors or to see your friends again.

Waiting does something inside us. It can make us agitated, but it can also transform us. It is a deeply spiritual practise and a gift we should not turn away from.

So, what does waiting do for you?

"I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
    and in his word I put my hope. 

   I wait for the Lord,
    more than watchmen wait for the morning,
    more than watchmen wait for the morning." - Psalm 130:5-6

The Psalmist teaches us that waiting is always better when we can put our Hope in the Lord. I guess waiting is easier when we know that Jesus always shows up.

Living in Grace
D3LM3

Monday, 30 March 2020

Who could Stand?

 Gospel Friday: If God Marked Iniquity, Who Could Stand? - From One ...
As many of us have already noticed there are a myriad of opinions on Covid-19 at the moment and some Christians have added their weight behind God punishing the world for her sins. I will not make any comments on this, except to point out what the lectionary Psalm for this week says:

"If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
    Lord, who could stand?

But with you there is forgiveness,    so that we can, with reverence, serve you." - Psalm 130:3-4

I see this as a clear reminder that if God was in the business of recording my sins, then I would be first in line to receive eternal punishment. And dare I say, you could be standing in the same line with me. Not one of us would stand as being innocent.

However, the Psalmist is quick to point out that with God there is FORGIVENESS and this is the best gift of all. In our season of Lent we should hear the joyful song that offers to fill our hearts with Hope and Awe - "I am a sinner who receives God's amazing grace!" 

From this acknowledgement of Mercy I then choose to live a life of reverence and service to my Saviour.

Question: Does this following verse sound like a God who would delight in destroying people?

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." - John 3:16-17

Prayer: Lord, keep me from pronouncing judgement on other people, lest I implicate myself in these charges. Guide us as we seek to offer your Love and Hope to those who have forgotten you or who are searching for redemption. Amen.


Living in Grace
D3LM3 


"If you, God, kept records on wrongdoings,
    who would stand a chance?
As it turns out, forgiveness is your habit,
    and that’s why you’re worshiped." - The Message

Sunday, 29 March 2020

A new definition of Grace

What Does the Bible Say About Grace? - A Clear Lens

Our world operates on the following system: You do something for me and then you get your reward! You put in your hours at work, then you will get paid.
You put in your miles in training and then you will reap the reward in the marathon.
You study hard and you will get the results.
No effort - no reward.

But Covid-19 is teaching us all something different. It is teaching us to understand GRACE in a different light. It is not anything new, but it is certainly urging us to relook at the way we treat each other and how we give to others.
Do I only give love to those who offer me something first?
Do I support you, because you support me?
Do I only call you once you have made the first move?

The initial spark for this post came from the contact we had with the lovely lady who helps us in our home. She only comes to work every second week, but we know that she depends on that daily wage so so much. When we offered to pay her for 'not coming to work' she seemed surprised at first, but extremely grateful. I am sure she was deeply anxious about feeding her family at this time and we were able to help her in a real way.

I share this not to try and look good, but to say how this little incident taught me more about GRACE than I realised. God doesn't love me because I have been good. Nor does God promise us his peace once we have put in some effort or ticked a bunch of religious boxes.
God loves me....full stop!
And it is in this overwhelming love that God desires to woo me back to himself.

Grace is God's gift to us and not my reward for being holy - and this makes all the difference. Grace is always undeserved favour given to us by God.

Ephesians 2:8-9 - For it is by God's grace that you have been saved through faith. It is not the result of your own efforts, but God's gift, so that no one can boast about it.

Living in Grace
D3LM3

Saturday, 28 March 2020

21 - A prayer from the gut

February 17, 2019 | “Psalms of Ascents: Hope” • Psalm 130 
 
"From the depths of my despair I call to you, Lord.
Hear my cry, O Lord; listen to my call for help!" - Psalm 130:1-2

This is the Psalm set for this weekend and it couldn't be more fitting for what we are experiencing at the moment. The people of Israel were going through their own sufferings and turmoil, but they knew where to turn in their crisis. 

The thing I love about this Psalm (along with all the rest) is that they are so honest. There seems to be no time to waste on saying the right formal things, just simply pouring out their hearts to God. These kind of prayers are the most effective and I know that God hears us when our words come from deep in our guts. 

Friends, let us not worry about whether our prayers during the Covid-19 pandemic are eloquent or spiritual enough. Lent teaches us that we come to Jesus as we are - no pretense - just as his beloved children!

Prayer for today: 
Lord, during this time of unprecedented struggle and crisis all over the world, we come to you in deep humility and beg you to hear our prayer. We are calling for help and direction. Please don't let our despair get the better of us - we turn to you for help and hope. Lord, we believe you can do miracles in our time, so please come to our rescue. Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Living in Grace
D3LM3

Friday, 27 March 2020

Sabbath - Lenten reflection

Why rest is essential to achieve entrepreneurial success and ...
Sometimes it is all about timing or as we like to call it "God-incidence."
I happen to be re-reading an incredible book called An Altar in the World (Barbara Brown Taylor) and on Day 1 of our Lockdown I started at the chapter entitled 'The practise of saying No.'

I am probably not going to do justice to her incredible wisdom, but I just love the way that Barbara shares her thoughts on Sabbath and entering into a time of Rest. Here are a few of her words:

"Sabbath is not only God's gift to those who have voices to say how tired they are; Sabbath is also God's gift to the tired fields, the tired vines, the tired land..."

"Sabbath is the great equalizer, the great reminder that we do not live on the earth but in it, and that everything we do under the warming tent of this planet's atmosphere affects all who are woven into this web with us."

"On this day we shall not do, but be.
We are to walk the path of our humanity, no longer ride unseeing through a world we do not touch and only vaguely sense.
No longer can we tear the world apart to make our fire..."

And then she shares the familiar words from Jesus in Matthew 6:

"Look at the birds! They don’t worry about what to eat—they don’t need to sow or reap or store up food—for your heavenly Father feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than they are. 27 Will all your worries add a single moment to your life?"

Enjoy your rest during this time of Lockdown and pray for those who still have to work in order to keep us safe. 

Living in Grace
D3LM3


Thursday, 26 March 2020

Message for Lockdown

Image result for Lockdown
I write these words two hours before our family, along with millions of fellow South Africans move into uncharted territory as we start our 21 day period of Lockdown. The world has changed so rapidly in the last month, that I doubt I even need to explain the term 'Lockdown' to anyone. The new normal for everyone on our planet includes new words such as, 'social'distancing', 'flattening the curve' and of course 'Lockdown.'

There have been so many good quotes, wise sayings, video's and even songs written in preparation for this event, that I almost felt I didn't need to add to their collective wisdom. However, I have noticed a few things of late and so wanted to add a few thoughts to the mix. Here goes...

...Some people are behaving as if they have been possessed and this is not a good sign (we haven't even started three weeks of Lockdown yet!). Just wait until you see me in 3 weeks, especially after trying to keep a 9 month old puppy in Lockdown - I will certainly look a lot less saintly.

I understand that people respond to crises differently, but there are some selfish people in the world at the moment.  Please let us not be "those people." This time of crisis is impacting all of us and we all need to come together to support one another. My actions may not seem harmful to others on the surface, but this virus has already taught us that it only takes one person to infect hundreds of other people.

Be kind to yourself and to those who are closest to you. None of us has experienced this before, so we don't have a blue print to work from. Kindness will go a long way to make this time bearable for all of us.

Let us be grateful for the fact that we have modern technology and so we can still be in contact with those we love. Let us use this technology to our advantage and to reveal God's love to a world looking for answers.

I am always weary of taking scripture verses out of their original context, but I think these words found in John 20 can speak into our times: "Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” - John 20:26

Friends, our time in Lockdown is not a time where Christ will be "locked out" of our lives. Just as the disciples were scared in the days after Jesus crucifixion, so we may be a little afraid at this time. Let us not allow fear to grab hold of us, but rather to trust that Jesus comes into the midst of our fears and closed doors.

On a personal note, I don't know what the next 21 days will hold for everyone, but for me I certainly hope that it will include some of the following:

Creating memories with my family
Reflecting on my relationship with Jesus
Redefining my dreams and goals
Catching up on odd jobs around the house
Continuing to work and do ministry (albeit in a different way)
Reading new books
Running around the house 5000 times in order to try and keep up my training
Being present with my kids and Kim
Keeping contact with friends
Remembering those in need and helping where we can
Etc
Etc

May God bless us all during these interesting days and please remember this:

“What God has planned for people who love him is more than eyes have seen or ears have heard. It has never even entered our minds!” (CEV - 1 Corinthians 2:9)

Living in Grace
D3LM3


Wednesday, 25 March 2020

20 - Lord, have mercy

 Image result for Matthew 20, Lord have mercy
I believe it is vital for us to remain focused on the mercy and grace of Jesus during these unprecedented times. Our liturgical season of Lent teaches us to remember our sins, our brokenness and human frailty, BUT also to know that we are Redeemed and Rescued by God. There is a clear shifted from death to life; pain to healing; sin to salvation. 

In our reflection in Matthew today we see the blind men begging Jesus for mercy and even as they call out to him others are trying to shut them up. Let us be reassured that Jesus hears our calls for mercy at this time. 

29 As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. 30 Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”
31 The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”
32 Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
33 “Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.”
34 Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him." - Matthew 20:29-34

Perhaps the request of the blind men could be our spiritual question too?
Lord please open our eyes in these days to see as you would see and to love like you loved.

Living in Grace
D3LM3

Monday, 23 March 2020

19 - Possible?

Image result for Matthew 19:26 
 
How often have we casually commented: "All things are possible" and not really believed it?

In the times we find ourselves at the moment, today's words of Jesus come to offer us more hope than ever before. With God ALL things are possible.
For me, this means that if we humble ourselves before our Lord and seek his face, I believe God will lead us to answers and solutions on how to deal with Covid-19. What seems impossible now, can come to pass with the mighty hand of God.

Coming to the end of 'myself' and my own resources is not necessarily a bad thing if it teaches me to fully lean into the power of Jesus.

26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
27 Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”
28 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first." - Matthew 19:26-30

Let us not lose hope.


Living in Grace
D3LM3

Sunday, 22 March 2020

18 - Greatness Redefined

Image result for MAtthew 18:3
The moment Jesus preached his revolutionary ideas people began to look at things in a completely new light. Greatness had always been reserved for the rich and famous, but now Jesus was suggesting that in His kingdom greatness belonged to children and the 'least' of all people. This must have been a huge paradigm shift for all people to come to terms with.

Matthew 18:1-5 - "At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

I wonder if one of the "gifts" Covid-19 is giving the world is to rethink all the things that we thought were important and to recapture the ideals of Jesus. This virus is not a respecter of wealth or language or education - we are all susceptible to its dangers.

1 Peter 5:6 - Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

Living in Grace
D3LM3

Saturday, 21 March 2020

Sunday services

We are not going to be having Sunday Services as we normally do, but you are welcome to go to the website to watch a message which I have prepared for each of us. Hope you find it helpful at this time of great trial. Sermon notes are also provided.

Stay strong in the Lord.

http://www.fhmc.co.za/

Living in Grace
D3LM3

Friday, 20 March 2020

17 - The importance of touch

Image result for MAtthew 17:7
Our language has evolved over many thousands of years and now we have a few word for our vocab - "social distancing." In order not to spread any germs and the Covid-19 virus to anyone else, we are all encouraged to keep our distance from one another. 

However, it is only when we do this (and it is imperative that WE DO), that we realise the value of being in physical contact with others. I noticed on Sunday in our services that we all struggled not to hold hands with the people around us - we have got so used to it, that when it was not there anymore, we all felt its absence.

 "While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus." - Matthew 17:5-7

In this chapter, I was drawn to the moment that Jesus touched his disciples and spoke words of comfort to them. This made the world of difference to them. 

Although we can't do this at the moment, we can still speak words of love and comfort to each other. 

Living in Grace
D3LM3

Thursday, 19 March 2020

16

Image result for MAtthew 16 - Who do You say I am
Who do you say Jesus is?
Lent is a time where we get to reflect on this in a much deeper way and of course now, in these present circumstances, we ask ourselves this question with a different emphasis.

"When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” - Matthew 16:13-16

Although I strongly feel that our faith needs to be community based and we need be part of the body of Christ, I also believe we must start with answering this key question:

"Who do we say Jesus is?"

Being a prophet at such a time as this may be helpful (like Jeremiah), or even if Jesus was someone like John the Baptist, preparing the way for us,  BUT I urgently need Jesus to be my Saviour, Friend and Comfort in the midst of this storm.

What do you think?

Living in Grace
D3LM3

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

15

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Jesus knows if we are sincere in our decisions to follow him or not. He spoke directly to the religious leaders when he said:
 
Isaiah’s prophecy of you hit the bull’s-eye:
These people make a big show of saying the right thing,
    but their heart isn’t in it.
They act like they’re worshiping me,
    but they don’t mean it.
They just use me as a cover
    for teaching whatever suits their fancy.” (Matthew 15 - The Message)

In this season of great upheavel and unprecedented turmoil there is no time to pretend we love God - we are either for Him or not! Use this Lenten season to refine your faith and to draw near to Christ.
 
Living in Grace
D3LM3

Monday, 16 March 2020

14 - In the Chaos

Image result for Matthew 14:27
It would be remiss of me not to speak into the Corona Virus situation, although I will leave all the medical advice to the experts. As you may have been aware I have chosen to reflect on Matthew's gospel during Lent and today's reading brings us to chapter 14. In this chapter, we note how Jesus is confronted by 3 very hectic situations, each demanding it's own set of troubles.

The first one (Matthew 14:1-12) involved Jesus having to hear the news of John the Baptist being beheaded - it was John's discples who brought the tragic news to Jesus.

In trying to get away from the crowds in order to pray and process this news, Jesus is then swamped by 5000 people all needing help (Matthew 14:13-21). Jesus then feeds them with the 5 loaves and 2 fish, reminding us that God supplies all our needs - physical and spiritual.

The third incident involves the disciples trapped in their boat in the midst of a huge storm. Jesus comes to them in their trouble, fear and doubt and he says these words:

"But Jesus immediately said to them: Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” - Matthew 14:27

I can think of no better word for the present crisis in our world than these words of Christ.

Take Courage!
It is I.
Don't be afraid.

Living in Grace
D3LM3

Sunday, 15 March 2020

13

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“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it." - Matthew 13:44-46

I believe that the season of Lent is a time for us to reflect on the "treasure" we have in Jesus Christ. When we have discovered this amazing gift, we should consider how much we would be willing to 'lay down' for Christ. The two people in today's parable sold everything in order to purchase the treasure. 

Following Jesus is not a matter of giving a little, but rather a choice of laying down our lives for Christ. 


Living in Grace
D3LM3


Saturday, 14 March 2020

12

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"I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” - Matthew 12:6-8

I was struck by the first words of today's scripture....
Something Greater than the Temple is Here!

Jesus is speaking about himself, so why does he seem to speak in riddles? 
Perhaps it is because he only wants the spiritually hungry to be satisfied in him. Or maybe he knows that the Pharisees can't see beyond their laws, religiosity and the buildings. Or maybe there is another bunch of reasons we just don't know as yet.

Whatever the reasons, let us remember that SOMEONE greater has come to offer himself to us. He has come to give himself for all who will receive him.

Living in Grace
D3LM3

Thursday, 12 March 2020

11

Image result for quotes on listening Chesterton, images
“Are you listening to me? Really listening?" - Matthew 11:15 (Message)

There are two remarkable parts in Matthew 11 for me (amongst many others). When you read it in the Message, we are asked a probing question by Jesus - "Are we listening? Really listening?" 

Lent is certainly a time of listening in to the things of the Spirit. And so, I ask all of us the same question today - "are we listening to the voice of Jesus?" Not just hearing, but actually LISTENING.

Later on in the same chapter, Jesus seems to suggest that the mysteries of God are concealed from those who think they are clever. It is only the humble and ordinary people who will truly discover the gifts of God, because they realise their great need of them.

25-26 Abruptly Jesus broke into prayer: “Thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth. You’ve concealed your ways from sophisticates and know-it-alls, but spelled them out clearly to ordinary people. Yes, Father, that’s the way you like to work.”

“There's a lot of difference between listening and hearing.” - G. K. Chesterton 

Living in Grace
D3LM3

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

Ten - part 2

Image result for St john of the Cross quotes, dark night
To be continued ... these have to be the most annoying words on TV. Just when you feel as if you are getting into the swing of things and the story is about to get interesting those dreaded words appear... To be continued!

Today I am going to continue the thoughts I was reflecting on yesterday, particularly about God revealing things to us in the dark. I have been reading a fascinating book 'Learning to walk in the dark' by Barbara Brown Taylor. It offers a different look at the darkness that enfolds us at times and urges us to listen to the voice of God during these tough times.

In one of her chapters, Barbara looks at the response of St. John of the Cross who suggests that 'the dark night of the soul is God's best gift to you, intended for your liberation. It is freeing you from your ideas about God, your fears about God..."

Let's read that passage from Matthew 10 again - this time from the Contemporary English Version. 

"Don’t be afraid of anyone! Everything that is hidden will be found out, and every secret will be known. Whatever I say to you in the dark, you must tell in the light. And you must announce from the housetops whatever I have whispered to you." - Matthew 10:26-27 (CEV)

Living in Grace
D3LM3

Tuesday, 10 March 2020

Ten

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Are you afraid of the dark?
The fear of darkness is called Nyctophobia and there are many people who struggle with this phobia. Night time, darkness, silence, fear - they all have their own combination of anxiety and unknowns, but it is often during these times that God speaks clearly to us.

“So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs." - Matthew 10:26-27

Jesus promises to speak to us in the dark and to whisper his words of Grace for us. During this Lent season may we learn to listen in the dark.

Os Guiness writes - "Jesus does not say we will never walk in the dark, but that we do not wander in the dark or have a way of life at home in darkness. To anyone not knowing the anguish of such a situation, the distinction may sound trivial—the darkness appears as dark and the dilemma as agonizing. But neither is ultimate, for the outcome lies with God.”

Living in Grace
D3LM3

Monday, 9 March 2020

Nine

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Jesus takes delight in calling the Rif-Raf to himself. Those on the fringes; the outcasts; the marginalised and the broken - each one of them had been cast aside by the religious people of his day, but Jesus saw these people with different eyes. He saw them as they could BECOME and not as they were in the moment. He had the compassion to look beyond the dirty clothes, dirty lives and dirty souls - Jesus knew that if they chose to come to His Father, they would be changed for ever.

"While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” - Matthew 9:10-13

Let us take Jesus' words to heart this week and contemplate what it means to 'desire mercy' and 'not sacrifice.'

Question: Who deserves MERCY in your community/family this week?

Living in Grace
D3LM3

Friday, 6 March 2020

Eight


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“He took up our infirmities
    and bore our diseases.” - Matthew 8:17

In his life and ministry Jesus fulfilled so many prophecies and this one in Matthew's gospel takes us back to some incredible words from Isaiah. He wrote:

"Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed." - Isaiah 53

If you take a quick glance through Matthew 8 you will see words like 'heal', 'restore', 'calm' - all these teach us about Jesus' real motivation in coming to earth. He came to save and help. Even in the tragedy of the cross we note how Jesus fulfills prophecy and takes our sins upon himself.

May we also see LENT as a time of helping and drawing alongside others in their pain.

Living in Grace
D3LM3

Thursday, 5 March 2020

Seven

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Have you noticed any planks in your eyes lately? Well, if not planks, then how about some small blocks of wood? Or a few tiny pieces of off-cuts from your garage floor? Any Sawdust?

"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye." - Matthew 7:3-5

Lent teaches us to look inward at our personal journey with Jesus and to ask ourselves the honest (but hard) questions. 

Do I notice the sin in the lives of others very quickly and then leniently overlook my own sins?
What could "the plank" represent in my own life?
Am I fairly judging those around me?

“Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.” - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Living in Grace
D3LM3

Wednesday, 4 March 2020

Six

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Each day has enough trouble of its own.
These are the last words of Matthew 6 and they come at the end of portion where Jesus urges his followers not to worry about the trivial things in life.  It is not that these things aren't important for us - we do need food, shelter, clothing and so on - but I believe Jesus wants us to know that God is also concerned about these things too and God will make a plan for us. God will provide enough for us to get through each day.

That could mean - Enough food...
Enough shelter...
Enough love...
Enough strength...
Enough support...
Enough hope...
Enough comfort...

As you continue to make your journey to Holy Week reflect on these wonderful words from Jesus. God is enough. God will give us enough in order to sustain us for whatever we are facing.

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." - Matthew 6:33-34

Living in Grace
D3LM3


Tuesday, 3 March 2020

Five

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“Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose." - Matthew 5:17

Ask a bunch of Christians to explain why Jesus died on the Cross and you will probably get an answer that makes some sense. However, on other issues of faith and Jesus's teachings you will find a divergent collection of opinions. In trying to explain His purpose to his followers Jesus wanted them to fully understand and not to become confused by all the frivalous talk. 

For this reason he uses the following words before each teaching in the Sermon on the Mount:

"You have heard the Law says...."

"But I say..." 

Tom Wright said of the Sermon on the Mount - "It's a royal announcement that God is turning the world upside down - or, rather, the right way up."

During Lent it is important for us to do our own studies of the Scriptures to get to the heart of the Gospel. We know that Jesus accomplishes his purpose through the Cross and empty Tomb, but we would do well to truly comprehend what this means for each one of us.

Questions to ponder:
1. Do we understand why Jesus came?
2. What does this mean for you?

Living in Grace
D3LM3


 


Monday, 2 March 2020

Four

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Our two greatest enemies are Death and the Devil. In Jesus' temptation in the wilderness He defeats the 3 strategic attempts of the enemy to try and distract him from God's plan. No matter how hard the devil tries, Jesus rejects his efforts.

"Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him." - Matthew 4:8-11

As we project forward to the Passion of Christ we should also remember that the second of our enemies is defeated at the Resurrection. Taking a look into the empty tomb reveals the greatest gift we could ever dream of. It tells the story that death will not be the end for us, but rather the transition from this world to God's home. 

Allow the knowledge of this victory to bring you LIFE today.

"Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death." - Hebrews 2:14-15

Living in Grace
D3LM3

Saturday, 29 February 2020

Three

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Lent is all about preparation – it is a time of spiritual preparation and discipline, which leads us into the mystery of the Cross and Resurrection. In fact, it is not unlike the call of John the Baptist to prepare the way for the Lord.

 Matthew 3:1-3 - In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near. This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:  “A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
    make straight paths for him.’”


Just as John tried to 'make straight paths' for people to encounter Christ, so we take it upon ourselves to get rid of the distractions in our own spiritual paths. By fasting, reading the scriptures, praying, giving (and so on) we try to clear the obstacles that prevent us from meeting with Jesus. 

It is good to remind ourselves that we don’t do this to win favour with God or try and brag about some spiritual ‘brownie points’ – we do this because God loves us deeply and we want to honour that Grace by giving God the attention and praise that is due His name. Jesus himself was loved by the Father long before he did anything miraculous – His father loved him because he was his child. 

“As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” - (v.16-17)

Our Lenten experience and commitment is to appreciate how much we ARE ALREADY loved and to draw nearer to the One who gave His all for us.

Living in Grace
D3LM3