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

Image result for Matthew 15:9
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

Image result for 13
“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

Image result for Matthew 12:6
"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

Image result for God speaks in the dark

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

Image result for MAtthew 9:13
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


 Image result for Isaiah 53
“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

Image result for Matthew 7:3
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

Image result for Matthew 6:34 - each day has enough worry
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

Image result for Matthew 5:17
“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

Image result for Hebrews 2:14-15
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