Sunday, 11 April 2021

Life and Hope


 "While there's life, there's hope." - Cicero

I have just finished reading a book about Cicero and Julius Caesar. It was a fascinating read and I learnt things about Marcus Tullius Cicero that I never knew. As he lived from 106 - 43 B.C. we can't claim that he was a Christ-follower, but there are plenty of links between his philosophy and that of the early Christian church. It would have been interesting to see if he would have followed the teachings of Jesus if he had lived 200 years later.

His quote above is very much a "Resurrection" quote and it speaks into our lives in a clear way. With the resurrection of Jesus there was a renewal of all hope and purpose for the disciples, as well as for us. 

May we remember that with Jesus there is always hope and therefore always life.

1 Corinthians 15:19 - "If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied."

Living in Grace

D3LM3

Thursday, 8 April 2021

Bird song



This week there has been a lovely sound of birdsong outside our office windows. It is not the first time that we have heard them singing, but this week it seemed a lot more noticeable. Perhaps it was because we have just experienced Easter and the thought of "new life" was in the forefront of my mind, or maybe it was just that I been previously distracted. In the end, I was reminded of these words from the Psalmist:

"They give water to all the beasts of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst.The birds of the sky nest by the waters; they sing among the branches. He waters the mountains from his upper chambers; the land is satisfied by the fruit of his work." - Psalm 104:11-13

Living in Grace
D3LM3

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

Taking note


I came across this beautiful prayer from Eddie Askew this morning. It is such a lovely reminder of what the Resurrection means for us all. It is my hope and prayer that you would enjoy it as much as I have done. God bless you.


"Forgive me Lord,
for all the times
I walk through life head down,
my vision limited to the immediate.
Confined within the pressures of my day
problems press in,
expand,
prevent the recognition
that we both desire.
I find it hard to look beyond the obvious,
my mind so sealed
it almost breaks imagination's fingernails
to prise it open
to the wonder of your presence.

Yet you still walk with me,
each step a revelation of your love,
a gentle leading on
to boundaries of understanding
I've not yet crossed.
Have patience, Lord.
Help me see
your hand at work
shaping my life,
and make your nearness a delight
that turns my mourning into joy."

Living in Grace
D3LM3

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Nostalgia


Have you ever caught yourself dreaming of the 'old days', when life seemed a lot more simple and a great deal less stressful? I think nostalgia is a natural thing for all of us, and remarkably time seems to blur the searing pain of our traumatic memories. I guess the trouble with nostalgia is if we end up getting 'stuck' in the past - we are then not free to embrace the opportunities of our present circumstances. 

If we take a look at the example of Disciples for a moment - if they had remained stuck in the past (nostalgia), they would have missed the chance to change the future. Jesus had been preparing them for some amazing adventures in the future, which they would have completely missed if their heads had remained turned to the past.

Luke 24:18-24 - "One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

“What things?” he asked.

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”

May the Spirit of Christ help us to look to the future with renewed hope and a thankfulness for the lessons of the past. 

Living in Grace

D3LM3


Monday, 5 April 2021

Transformed to help others


"Transformation in the world happens when people are healed and start investing in other people." - Michael W. Smith

I couldn't help but think of the early disciples when I read this quote. The Resurrection was the ultimate healing moment in their lives. As they came to terms with Jesus' Resurrection they allowed their healing to transform the people around them. Wouldn't it be incredible if we allowed the Risen Lord to heal us and then to equip us to transform our communities? 

John 20:17-18 - "Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her."

In my opinion, true transformation will involve a natural desire to tell others of what has changed in your own life.

Living in Grace

D3LM3

Saturday, 3 April 2021

Silence and stillness


“Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep.”Anonymous

In my experience, Holy Saturday is one of the least celebrated days of Holy week and perhaps it has to do with the fact that we don't fully know what happened on this day. There is a strong belief that this is the day that Jesus descended to the dead (1 Peter 3:18, Ephesians 4:7-10). 

We only know in part what really transpired on Holy Saturday, but what we hold onto is that Sunday is coming. The earth's silence and stillness, after the agony of the Crucifixion, prepare us for the great joy of the Resurrection.

“To be sure, it was not Easter Sunday but Holy Saturday, but, the more I reflect on it, the more this seems to be fitting for the nature of our human life: we are still awaiting Easter; we are not yet standing in the full light but walking toward it full of trust.” - Pope Benedict XVI

What does this day mean for you?

Living in Grace

D3LM3

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

I am thirsty

 


"Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said, I am thirsty.” - John 19:28.

Have you ever wondered which Scripture Jesus was fulfilling in speaking these 3 words? Well, today is your lucky today. If we go back to Psalm 69:19-21, we will find an interesting reference. This is what it says:

"You know of my shame, scorn, and disgrace.
    You see all that my enemies are doing.
20 Their insults have broken my heart,
    and I am in despair.
If only one person would show some pity;
    if only one would turn and comfort me.
21 But instead, they give me poison (gall) for food;
    they offer me sour wine for my thirst." - Psalm 69

I find this amazing. Not only is this a fulfillment of an ancient Psalm, but it also draws our attention to out own spiritual thirst. Jesus is the one who can satisfy this thirst in our hearts.

Living in Grace

D3LM3

Two responses to Jesus


We are accustomed to the striking image of 3 crosses standing on Golgotha on the fateful day known as Good Friday. We picture the scene with Jesus hanging on his cross between the two criminals, one on his left and one on his right hand side. This moment presents a unique platform for us to contemplate our own response to Jesus. 

The two thieves share the spectrum of humanity's collective response to the Messiah. Some of us refuse to acknowledge Christ as our Saviour and even if Jesus did a whole bunch of miracles for us, we would still remain stubborn of heart. On the other hand, there will be a few people who will recognise Jesus' true nature and we will call out to him for mercy. His response to the penitent thief is also his invitation to all of us.

"One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!”

But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”

And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
- Luke 23: 39-43

What is your response to Jesus?

Living in Grace
D3LM3

Monday, 29 March 2021

Father, forgive them

 


The last 7 words of Jesus, spoken from the cross, have all been well documented. In many Christian communities Holy Week gives us a chance to go deeper into these special words. It is believed that the first of these Seven Words are recorded in Luke:

"Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34)

As we hold these words close to our hearts, it is imperative that we allow God's Spirit to take us to the core of our being. What did these words mean for the original listeners and what could they possible mean for us today?

Jesus' prayer was more than likely aimed at everyone standing at Calvary that day and then they also echo down through every generation since.

God is invited to forgive the hatred of the Jewish religious leaders
God is invited to forgive the complicity of the Roman soldiers
God is invited to forgive the disciples who abandoned Jesus in his last hours
God is invited to forgive anyone who chooses to ignore the sacrificed given for them
The father is asked to forgive us when we carry on with our lives as if nothing happened on the cross.

As we experience Holy Week this year, may the words of Jesus connect with our innermost being.

"To err is human; to forgive, divine." - Alexander Pope

Living in Grace

D3LM3

Sunday, 28 March 2021

Break my resistance



Today marks the beginning of Holy Week, which traditionally allows us to reflect on the last days of Jesus's earthly life. The following poem is extremely helpful in bringing us to a place of remembrance and spiritual stock-taking. I offer it to you and pray that the words would help all of us prepare for the greatest weekend of our Christian experience. 

"Now to the gate of my Jerusalem,
The seething holy city of my heart,
The Saviour comes. But will I welcome him?
Oh crowds of easy feelings make a start;
They raise their hands, get caught up in the singing,
And think the battle won. Too soon they’ll find
The challenge, the reversal he is bringing
Changes their tune. I know what lies behind
The surface flourish that so quickly fades;
Self-interest, and fearful guardedness,
The hardness of the heart, its barricades,
And at the core, the dreadful emptiness
Of a perverted temple. Jesus come
Break my resistance and make me your home."
- Malcolm Guite 

What things are causing resistance in my heart today?

Living in Grace
D3LM3

Friday, 26 March 2021

Love drives out fear


How much of our relationship with God is fueled by FEAR? 

I know what you are thinking - and your first reaction wants to be to answer ..."none", but is that really true? A large number of Christians have come to faith through the 'fire and brimstone' preaching of certain Pastors, but a measure of that fear still lies deep inside us. Of course, I am not implying that we move to the other extreme of having no reverence for God at all - that would be arrogant and foolish. However, if our relationship with Jesus is based on Fear, then I don't believe we can fully enter into the freedom we are given.

"And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus.  There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love." - 1 John 4:14-18

What do you think?

Living in Grace
D3LM3

Thursday, 25 March 2021

What stands between us?


I love being able to reflect on both the wisdom of Scriptures and the insights of those 'saints' who have gone before us. Today's quote, which comes from Catherine Doherty, challenges us to ask if there is anything that stands between ourselves and God.

"Lent is a time of going very deeply into ourselves... What is it that stands between us and God? Between us and our brothers and sisters? Between us and life, the life of the Spirit? Whatever it is, let us relentlessly tear it out, without a moment's hesitation."

In fact, she goes even deeper to ask the next question: Are there obstacles between ourselves and those around us? You see I think we sometimes forget that in choosing to love God, we are also choosing to love our neighbours too. This is the harder part! 

Remember John's words:

"Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us." - 1 John 4:11-12

Living in Grace

D3LM3


Wednesday, 24 March 2021

No act of virtue


“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

These quotes encapsulates the true perspective of Lent for us. We can't give up things and act like 'martyrs' for the Lord, unless we are willing to love our neighbour as we love ourselves.

Question: How has our Lenten journey opened our hearts to God and others?

What do you think?

Colossians 3:14 - "And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity."

Living in Grace

D3LM3

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

Immeasurable



Every so often I stumble across a verse that really leaves me astounded at the love God has for us. This last week, while reading Jeremiah 31, I ended up reading a little further into the set reading. I came to these 2 verses and I offer them to us today:

“I am as likely to reject my people Israel
    as I am to abolish the laws of nature!”
This is what the Lord says:
“Just as the heavens cannot be measured
    and the foundations of the earth cannot be explored,
so I will not consider casting them away
    for the evil they have done.
    I, the Lord, have spoken!”Jeremiah 31:36-37

I am awe-struck by God's choice to love humanity despite our failings and shortcomings. I am humbled by the Lord's commitment to me. And Jeremiah makes it sound even more convincing when he argues that God would rather suspend/abolish the laws of nature before he stopped loving us. That is such a beautiful gift for us in the our season of Lent.

What do you make of God's immeasurable love for you?

Living in Grace

D3LM3

Monday, 22 March 2021

The courage of Jesus


In his insightful book "The Cross", Morton Kelsey shares these incredible words as a reflection on the cross. He speaks of the huge amount of courage it must have taken for Jesus to endure the Cross. We often focus on Jesus' love or humility, but seldom spend time contemplating his supernatural courage.

"Love without strength can be weak and ineffectual. The love of Jesus attained its incredible power and effectiveness because it was compounded with another quality as near to the heart and nature of God as love itself. Strange how we can look at the cross, at all it was, at what Jesus did upon it, and often fail to see the courage of the man. It was his courage as well as his love which led him there and left him hanging on the cross. It was his courage which enabled him to love in those dark hours."

May the Courage of Jesus inspire your heart today.

Let us season our prayers with the remembrance of Christ's courage on the cross and the life he has won for us.

Living in Grace

D3LM3

“The church is not a museum for saints but a hospital for sinners.” - Morton Kelsey

Sunday, 21 March 2021

The Day is coming


One of the verses from today's Lectionary readings really fills us with a deep sense of Hope. Although we don't know when things will change in our current situation, we should always hold onto the great promise of a "better day". 

With Jesus this day is a past and present event. It is in the past, in that Jesus has already given us the glimpse of a new life. However, it is also in the future as we long for the return of our Lord. 

"The day is coming,” says the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah." - Jeremiah 31:31

Alan Brehm - "Sometimes we find ourselves asking whether God is anything more than a … powerless presence. And yet Jeremiah said, "the days are coming." Days of restoration, days of rebuilding, days of returning to hope and faith and joy. With this promise in mind, we can find the faith not to lose heart in the face of all that is wrong with our world."

Lent is a period in our lives where we find the faith not to lose heart in our troubled world. We keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the one who makes all things new.

Living in Grace

D3LM3

Thursday, 18 March 2021

Will you die for it?

 


I stumbled on this profound quote by Tim Keller this morning.

"What you treasure will ultimately require you die for it. 
Jesus is the only treasure that died for you."

This deserves a second and maybe even a third reading. 

The things we value in this world will ask everything of us and many people are willing to lay everything on the line (death) to gain it. However, Jesus is the only TREASURE who was willing to lay it all down for us. That makes all the difference!

As we nudge closer to Good Friday it is important to ask ourselves if we are being held ransom by our Treasures, or if we have allowed Jesus to lay down his life for our sakes?

Matthew 6:19-21 (Message) - “Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.

Living in Grace
D3LM3

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

The plot against Jesus


Lent is a progression leading from the teachings and miracles of Jesus, through the animosity of the religious leaders and their plots to kill him, to the events immediately preceding the crucifixion. The culmination is, of course, the triumph of Jesus over death which changed the whole world!

I enjoy reading the Gospel of John. The first part gives valuable insight into the life of the Lord, his ministry and the teachings about God which he revealed to the Israelites at that time. But getting nearer to the Passover and his death, it shows how dramatic the plots were against him; his radical statements; the claims he made of being God’s son; the risks he and the disciples took ...

Reading this, I am amazed by the sub-plot behind the story. It is interesting to see how early in the ministry of Jesus the plots to get rid of him were discussed by the religious leaders. He was hated! Real cloak and dagger stuff in some places!

As we follow these events, we progress towards the tragic, violent death of Jesus, which must have shaken his followers to the core! Their lives must have been in danger. Their hopes of Jesus being the longed-for Messiah of Israel must have been shattered. Their future must have been in fragments! They must have questioned what had happened in the past 3 years as they followed Jesus… just think of Thomas!

However, miraculously, all this is dramatically followed by Jesus’ mind-blowing resurrection and then his ascension! Glory be to God for a most unexpected turn of events which altered the course of believers for the rest of time.

What an incredible event we consider each year at Easter! Praise God!

HALLELUJAH!

I am thankful to Joan Moore for her wonderful devotion today and for her insightful thoughts on our journey towards the Cross.

Living in Grace

D3LM3

 

Tuesday, 16 March 2021

Dying to things


In his delightful work Sharing the Foundations, Paul Tillich writes that "the new is created out of the death of the old." Of course this can relate to many different aspects of life, work and even relationships. 

However, I wanted to ask what this could possibly mean for us in a Faith context? And especially in the season of Lent.

What would the 'old' refer to and how will the 'NEW' be created out of that?

Hebrews 9:15 - "For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant."

I am drawn to the image of Christ's body that is laid to rest in the tomb - the death of the old. And then the Resurrected body of Jesus appears from that same tomb (the new created out of this). I am not sure if that makes sense, but I will start from there for today.

Living in Grace

D3LM3

Monday, 15 March 2021

Dreaming dreams


Sometimes God speaks to us in different and unique ways. We are grateful to Iris Gouws for sharing with all of us her recent encounter with Jesus.  

On 28th February at 6:45 am I was woken up with a wonderful dream. I was talking with a group of people telling them that Jesus is coming soon when suddenly He (Jesus) was standing right there with us! Oh, the joy I experienced!! Can't describe it, it was absolutely amazing.

I have taken some time to reflect on this dream and the thought that has come to me is this - let us be sure in our own hearts that we are ready to meet our Saviour, no one knows exactly when He (Jesus) will return, but this is an encouragement for us all to be sure of our faith, because He is coming soon. 

In Acts 2:17 we read - "...and your old men shall dream dreams. I have never before had a dream with such clarity, I knew it was Jesus standing there, my heart was so full of joy. Knowing that my Saviour is coming soon."

Question: How has God been speaking to you during this season of Lent? 

Living in Grace
D3LM3

Sunday, 14 March 2021

The Cross


As our journey of Lent nears the cross, I decided to share a few insightful thoughts on the Cross. May these words help you to focus on Jesus this week. God bless you.

"Love was compressed for all history in that lonely figure on the cross, who said that he could call down angels at any moment on a rescue mission, but chose not to - because of us. At Calvary, God accepted his own unbreakable terms of justice." - Phillips Brooks

"Only in the Cross of Christ will we receive power when we are powerless. We will find strength when we are weak. We will experience hope when our situation is hopeless. Only in the Cross is there peace for our troubled hearts."Michael Youssef

"Long-lasting victory can never be separated from a long-lasting stand on the foundation of the cross."
- Watchman Nee

"The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God." - 1 Corinthians 1:18

Living in Grace
D3LM3

Friday, 12 March 2021

In the moment


"The only opportunity you will ever have to live by faith is in the circumstances you are provided this very day: this house you live in, this family you find yourself in, this job you have been given, the weather conditions that prevail at the ...moment." - Eugene Peterson

How fascinating is this quote? We are easily drawn into the narrative that by living in some kind of other "life" or set of circumstances we would be able to exercise our faith in better ways. However, that is wishing thinking. God is asking us to exercise our faith in the PRESENT and as we do this so the future is unveiled before us.

This is a challenging thing to think about as we approach Holy Week. Let us not get trapped into procrastinating the out workings of our faith.

Living in Grace

D3LM3

Thursday, 11 March 2021

Slowing down

 

A line from author Brennan Manning has been sitting with me this week. It goes like this:

"In prayer we slow down to a human tempo and make time to listen."

I agree with this sentiment in some ways, but I would disagree on this key point. I don't feel that we should slow down to 'human' tempo, but rather to God's tempo. The tempo of us as humans seems to be way too frantic, and God's time always seems to be unrushed. 

The season of Lent urges us to slow down and to make time to listen for the voice of God.

2 Peter 3:9 - "The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think."

What tempo are you finding yourself in at this stage in your life?

Living in Grace

D3LM3

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Remembering dust

I am thankful to Rev. Ralph Thornley for his devotion this morning.


Daniel 9:3 - Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and supplications with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.  

The word Lent does not appear in the Bible and neither does the word Bible. However, repentance with ash goes all the way back into the Old Testament. The text above refers to Daniel’s great confession when he heard that Jerusalem was to be trodden down. Sackcloth was normally a coarse cloth made of goats hair, it was very rough and uncomfortable and the people indicating their mourning and repentance would sprinkle ash upon themselves and lay prostrate on the ground. This was a very private thing, a sign of total humility and absolute dependence upon the grace of God. Repentance was something taken very seriously and should still be so today. 


David says in Psalm 66:18 “If I had cherished sin in my heart the Lord would not have listened.” 


The earliest record of ash and sackcloth being normal Christian practice dates back to the 8th century and was eventually abolished by the reformation between the 15th and 16th centuries. Perhaps something was lost when the practice was removed. Apart from a sign of mourning and repentance it reminded people that they were only in this world for a season. A remnant of that ancient practice is to be found at the Ash Wednesday service. People are invited forward to have ash placed on the forehead with these words “Remember man/woman that thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return.” It is a reminder to us of our total dependence on God. It is also a time to look seriously into one’s own heart and lay before God things that you wished were not there. 


That is what Lent is all about – a time of reflection and repentance.

 

Prayer: Most Gracious Lord help me as I echo the  words of your servant David. Create within me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me. In Jesus Name I pray. Amen

Monday, 8 March 2021

Great Love


1 Corinthians 13:13 - "And now these three remain Faith, Hope and Love but the greatest of these is love."

In 1911, a little book,  The Greatest Thing in the World was published. It was written by Henry Drummond a Scottish Theologian, but only published after his death. It is based on the well-known scripture passage 1 Corinthians 13:1-13. In it he describes love as the supreme good and asks Christians to read this passage once a week for three months as it can change their lives.

I purchased a copy in 1963 after leaving school and it has remained next to my bed for the past 57 years. I have not read the scripture nearly as often as I could, but just seeing the cover reminds me of the words inside. It is beautifully written and as pertinent today as it was more than 100 years ago.

"Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." - John 15:13.

Jesus our King, our Saviour and our friend paid that ultimate price for each and every one of us, rich, poor, young, old, good and bad, when he died on the cross and purchased forgiveness for us. His resurrection tells us of the power of Jesus and his victory over death and evil, the promise of eternal life and his presence ever with us to give us hope and joy in life, whatever the circumstances.

Eugene Petersen in The Message puts 1 Corinthians v 13 this way. Trust steadily in God, Hope unswervingly, love extravagantly and the best of the three is love.

Prayer: Dear Lord, every Easter reminds us of what your death and resurrection means for us, of your great sacrifice, your love and compassion shown to each one of us. Help us to reflect that love to those around us. Amen.

I am grateful to Hilda Boyd for her thoughts and message today. Thanks for taking the time to write these words Hilda.  

Sunday, 7 March 2021

Secondhand faith

 


I came across a lovely paragraph in The Relentless Love of Jesus written by Brennan Manning. 

"....many committed Christians must acknowledge, "I have been content to learn about You (Jesus) at secondhand, Lord. From Scriptures and saints, from priests and preachers. I wish I could say to all of them, as the Samaritan villagers said to the woman who met Jesus at the well, "It is no longer because of what you said that I believe, for I have heard for myself."

This surely is the goal for each one of us, including myself. It is good to hear about Jesus from others and this is an important part of our spiritual awakening, but we need to come to a point where we say ourselves: "I believe in Jesus!" And this is our personal statement of faith - it is not because of someone else, but rather our own choice.

May we strive to experience Jesus 'firsthand' during this season of Lent. It is only an encounter with the risen Lord that will truly transform us all.

John 4:42 - "They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

Living in Grace

D3LM3

Friday, 5 March 2021

Coincidence?

We are thankful to Carolyn Axmann for her devotion this morning. Thanks for taking time out from The Net to share you insights with us.


I didn’t know until recently that according to historians, Moriah, the site on which Abraham took his son Isaac in obedience to God’s command for sacrifice, is that same place where Jesus almost 2000 years later was crucified.

This blew my mind.  How could it be possible.  What huge irony.  Was this a coincidence? – Or was the coincidence that I wanted to write a devotion for the Lenten period but could not think what to write about and here, God gave me the perfect topic to explore. 

Off I raced to research this “new” concept – only to discover I must be one of the last people to know about it – so great is the amount of literature and sermons on these separate yet connected sacrifices.

So, if you are like me, the basic facts are as follows:

In Genesis 22, Abraham is instructed to take his only son Isaac to the Land of Moriah and sacrifice him.  Before he does, God acknowledges his obedience and provides a ram for sacrifice in Isaac’s place.

Almost 2000 years later, the land has changed and cities and temples have been built and destroyed.  By the time we encounter Jesus’ crucifixion, Jerusalem is built on Mount Moriah.

Golgotha is located just outside the walls of Jerusalem, not more than 700 m from the spot where King Solomon built the first Jewish Temple.  According to Jewish tradition Solomon built the temple on Mount Moriah, commemorating the exact spot where Abraham stretched out Isaac upon the altar of sacrifice. Jesus, The LAMB OF GOD is crucified (sacrificed) in the same place where God provided a ram (or male lamb) to Abraham to be sacrificed in the place of Abraham’s beloved son, Isaac.

Mount Moriah, the Temple of Solomon, the place of Isaac sacrifice, and Golgotha — are all the same place. 

WOW, HOW MIND BLOWING: I can’t keep up with my evolving thoughts.

Genesis 22: 2 – 14.  With specific reference to Vs 2, 7-8 and Vs 12-14 (CEV)

The Lord said, “Go and get Isaac, your only son, the one you dearly love! Take him to the land of Moriah, and I will show you a mountain where you must sacrifice him to me on the fires of an altar.

Isaac said, “Father, we have the coals and the wood, but where is the lamb for the sacrifice?” “My son,” Abraham answered, “God will provide the lamb.”

Vs. 12 – 14: “Don’t hurt the boy or harm him in any way!” the angel said.  “Now I know that you truly obey God, because you were willing to offer him your only son.” Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in the bushes.  So he took the ram and sacrificed it in place of his son.  Abraham named that place “The Lord will provide”.  And even now people say, “On the mountain of the Lord, it will be provided.”

Luke 23 Vs 34-35 Jesus said, “Father, forgive these people! They don’t know what they are doing.”

John 1: 29 – “The next day, John saw Jesus coming towards him and said: “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

This to me is not a coincidence; everything is planned of and from God.  There can only be a God-incidence.

It is not a coincidence that Jesus was crucified on this same spot. Everything is part of a God’s plan.  Not just some random event. This was the fulfilment of the ancient prophecy - God’s promise.  God told Abraham that someday “on the mountain of the Lord — it will be provided”.  And now it was provided, in the person of Jesus Christ. He gave Himself for me.

On a sub topic, that of provision; there is much emphasis in some of the research I did about the grammar used in Abraham’s exaltation that God WILL provide.  Not only did He provide me with a topic for this devotion.  Not a coincidence I was at that spot where the discussion of the sacrifice and crucifixion took place, but part of God’s plan, a God incidence that led to a wonderful journey of research and discovery and hopefully growth in Christ Jesus.

 I pray that you have learnt something more about our all-powerful and all-knowing God.

God bless you.

Thursday, 4 March 2021

How should we pray?



Luke 22:39–46 - "Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. 45 When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 46 “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”

How should we pray?

When faced with difficult circumstances and the way forward looks very difficult and even painful.  When we have the choice of accepting the situation or running away and hiding. The advice we always receive is to pray about it. Then we are often told that God will change the circumstances for us if we have enough faith. So, we go and pray, pleading with the Father to remove the difficulties from our path. We are earnest in our prayers and firmly believe that He can change the circumstances, and He can, but He doesn’t. We may even be told that we don’t have enough faith, but this just adds to our misery.

We find in this passage the road to peace in all our difficulties. It is a road that is not natural or easy for us. Jesus sweated blood for something like three hours to find it, Paul pleaded on three occasions before he found it (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). It is the path of prayer that Jesus taught his disciples and is in fact the only way to live at peace in this troubled world.

This is how you should pray: “…Thy will be done…” (Matt 6:10)

Understanding that the Father knows what we really need (Matt 5:8) and He will not be slow in giving it to us (Luke 11:12). It is the prayer of complete surrender of our lives, our hearts and our wills to the Father’s purpose. A purpose that we cannot see at the time. It is only in that surrender that we can receive the comfort and strength of the Holy Spirit. And then we can go forward knowing that God is in command and working His purpose through all the tragedies of life. At peace while all the world around us is falling apart.

As you continue the story of Jesus’ journey to the cross you find He is the only peaceful figure in the scenario. The light in the darkness, the stillness in the chaos, the One who has already won the victory.

I trust that as you pray this most powerful and simple prayer, “Thy will be done” you will find God’s strength and peace in your life through this troubled world.

Our devotion this morning has come from the pen of Hugh Till - many thanks for your insights Hugh. 

Living in Grace

D3LM3

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

What are the chances?


Today's reflection comes from Iris Gouws - thanks so much for your testimony, Iris.

Thinking back over my life - and yes, I have passed the "three score and ten" as so many of us have, it is quite amazing to look back and see how many times God has undertaken for me and changed things for the better, but also that things I had longed for became a reality in my life, perhaps not as quickly as I wanted things to happen, but looking back I can see God's timing was perfect.

I can remember as a young girl, perhaps 8 or 9 years old, standing on the beach in Natal, arm in arm with my older sister, singing choruses that we had learned in the Methodist church in Stanger during Sunday School.  There is one that I remember so clearly.


Tenderly He watches over me,
every step, every mile of the way.
Like a mother watches o'er her baby
He is with you every hour of the day.
When you're right, when you're wrong,
When you're weak, when you're strong
In your sorrow and your pain,
When you lose or when you gain.
Tenderly He watches over you,
Every step, every mile of the way.

I have to say, that in all of these experiences in my life, the words of the above song hove proven to be true.

Let me give you an example.

When I first started working, my greatest desire was to meet someone, fall in love, get married and start a family (that was the dream most young women had in those days).  I waited and waited and waited, but nothing happened. My two brothers got married, one older and one younger than me, and still no mister right.

Looking back I can now see God's hand in everything. During those years of waiting, my Father passed away. We lived on a farm some 8 kilometres from the nearest town and had to vacate the home where we had spent so many happy years. Just three months prior to his passing, my Father had completed building a house in Stanger for his retirement, so we had a home to move into. My oldest sister was asthmatic and although she was working, was not very strong. My youngest sister was in her final year at school. The responsibility fell on me to help in every way to get resettled in our new home and give my mother the support she needed at that time, although my brothers helped as much as they could, they were working in Durban.

My youngest sister finished her matric and I managed to get her work in the bank where I was working, so the family was now settled.I had tried over the years to get a transfer to Durban which should have been very easy but was never successful.

A year or two after my sister was settled in her work and able to assist with my Mother and older sister, out of the blue I was offered a transfer to Durban which I accepted. Well, that was the start of the changes in my life. Shortly after my transfer I was sent on a course from Durban to Johannesburg for a week where I met the man who was to become my husband. He was sent from Welkom in the Free State by the Mines on a course. After meeting him I told him that I was not interested as I had a friend that meant more to me than anyone, my friend was Jesus. Shortly thereafter he called me and said I have met your friend Jesus. At the age of 33 we got married and it had taken 15 years to fulfil my dream .

During this waiting period the Scripture which had been given to me on no less than 5 occasions from different sources was : Psalm 37 v 4 & 5.  "Delight thyself also in the Lord; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust in Him, and He shall bring it to pass,"

What were the chances of us meeting in the normal course of events ? I see God’s hand in this.

PRAYER:  Father God, thank you for your many blessings.  Help us to always wait for your timing in our lives which is always perfect. Amen.   

 

 

Tuesday, 2 March 2021

The work of grace


We are blessed to read the words of Xavier Moran today as he reflects on his experience of the Cross and Easter. Thanks again Xavier. If you are keen to read a little more about Xavier's journey please visit his personal web-page. It is well worth your time. 

“…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12b-13).

If you cast your eye across a wall filled with photographic snapshots of my spiritual journey you would come across an Autumn scene of seventeen-year-old me kneeling on a hillside committing my life to Jesus. At the time, I was attending the annual Youth Easter Camp led by a combined team from the Methodist Circuit in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal. Because of this moment, Easter assumed the role of a spiritual ‘gauge’ of sorts, whereby I consider each year how I’m doing with the ‘working out of my salvation’.

In the early years I was often given to guilt when reflecting on the cross, feeling that I wasn’t doing enough for Jesus. Although I knew I was saved by grace, I measured my life by works and it gave my walk with Jesus an Achilles heel of condemnation.

In more recent years I have come to understand that ‘the work’ I need to do is simply to remember that I will always be that seventeen-year-old on the hillside. That even though I may grow in knowledge and experience, it’s always ‘God who works in me to will and to act.’ That my first work is to accept that I’ve nothing to offer and then to find my peace in the knowledge that what is given through me is from Him and will be made complete by Him, ‘in order to fulfil his good purpose.’

Lord Jesus, help us to accept your work on the cross and to receive the power of your Holy Spirit as we live out the resurrected life for the advancement of your Kingdom.

Living in Grace

D3LM3

Monday, 1 March 2021

The meaning of the Cross

 


Today's Lent reflection is from Mike Shaw - thank you so much Mike:

"As a child I remember we learnt about good and evil at Sunday School. The 'rules' that God gave us for living were very important for us and I recall that the Cross became like my badge - the side I was on.

As an adolescent I continued to attend church, did confirmation, learnt about the Apostles Creed, began to increase my knowledge of the Scriptures and the meaning of the Law. As the way ahead widened and challenges increased, my resolve to remain faithful was still evident. The Cross continued to represent the side I was on.

As an adult, pressure began to build up from all sides. I felt it on my heart, from work in the Engineering profession and greater responsibilities. I experienced the good and bad, as well as the 'grey' in-between. Life was full of choices and big decisions to make. I sometimes wondered if it was an intellectual decision to remain in the Christian fold and to keep faithful through these tough situations. However, I realised it was God who made the seed grow in my life.

As the years passed and my knowledge of the Scriptures increased, the New Covenant opened up a new relationship with God for me. I knew I could pray directly to the Father and this was liberating. I followed this way and have seen the eventual outcome many times and have known what Joy is. The Cross reminds me of God's spiritual presence and His supernatural presence.

As an old man (in my 90's), I fully understand that God's way of communicating with us is through the Bible. The love of God is on display for all humankind to see - we don't need any language to communicate this. This is what the Cross of Christ means to me."

Living in grace

D3LM3


Sunday, 28 February 2021

Beginning again


"At that same time, I begged God: “God, my Master, you let me in on the beginnings, you let me see your greatness, you let me see your might—what god in Heaven or Earth can do anything like what you’ve done! Please, let me in also on the endings, let me cross the river and see the good land over the Jordan, the lush hills, the Lebanon mountains.” - Deuteronomy 3:23-25

As we come to the end of another month, I find the transition from the 28th February to the 1st March very pertinent. There is something symbolic in the re-setting of the days of the month back down to 1. 

In a simple way it reminds me that God allows me the chance to reset, to start over again. Lent is one of those seasons where we set time aside to re-evaluate our spiritual lives and what we need to relinquish to the Lord.

As the new month begins I pray that the Lord may guide you into a new season of hope, joy and peace.

"Holiness does not consist in not making mistakes or never sinning. Holiness grows with capacity for conversion, repentance, willingness to begin again, and above all with the capacity for reconciliation and forgiveness." - Pope Benedict XVI

Living in Grace

D3LM3

Friday, 26 February 2021

Life-saver



"If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" - 2 Corinthians 5 : 17

My husband recently became critically anaemic and had to have a blood transfusion. His condition improved - INSTANTLY!

A blood transfusion is a really amazing procedure which we take for granted. It is a life-saving event, made possible  by the generous gift from an anonymous donor, of his/her life giving blood. It set me thinking about how Christ shed His blood for us - how He shed his blood for our redemption and how that was a truly life-saving act which transforms the lives of those who receive it.

When we come to realise the enormity of Christ's death and resurrection, we enter a new relationship with God. As scripture teaches in Romans 12: 2 we are   "....transformed by the renewing of your mind."

Our lives are completely transformed - INSTANTLY !  We receive a transfusion like no other.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for sending the Holy Spirit into our lives to transfuse us with your love; To be our comforter, our Counsellor, enabling us to resist conforming to pattern of this world and giving us new life. Amen

We thank Cecily Froud for her lovely devotion this morning.

Living in Grace
D3LM3