Thursday, 25 February 2021

Reconciliation


Our Lenten devotion comes from the pen of Mr Bill Griffin this morning. Thank you Bill for your contribution.

As I write this (on 14 Nov. 2020) I am thinking of the bombing of Coventry Cathedral in North England on this day exactly 80 years ago. Only the walls and shattered shell of the once beautiful place of worship remained. But .... from the ashes arose not only the magnificent new cathedral, but also a wonderful  ministry of reconciliation which seeks each day to bring harmony into our chaotic and unforgiving world. Instead of recrimination, forgiveness. Instead of retaliation, restoration. Instead of hate, the embracing love of Jesus.

Stretching out his encompassing arms on the cross, Jesus prayed "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." How his Saviour heart must grieve as the world he loves continues to distance itself from him, resulting only as it does in strife and degradation.

In 2 Corinthians 5.19 we read that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself. J.B. Phillips renders this verse - "God in Christ was restoring the world to himself, no longer counting our sins, but blotting them out. This is the wonderful message He has given us to tell others." How effective are we His people in telling and living out this awesome reconciling action of God, in these times?

From the smouldering debris of the cathedral, someone unknown propped up two pieces of blackened rafters in the form of a cross, and wrote in charcoal on the scorched wall the words "Father forgive." Just those two words. You may see them there today - a deeply moving experience.

'Father forgive. Forgive my prejudice, intolerance, self centredness, greed, indifference and unlovingness. Supply in full measure your Spirit who reconciles and unites people everywhere in the love of Christ.' Amen.

Living in Grace
D3LM3

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Keep your heart


The word lent comes from the Dutch or German word for lente mean spring and in Europe that is so, while here in the Cape we will be experiencing autumn.  Each season is important for the health of the earth which includes us humans.

Lent is a time of anticipation, of new growth, shoots coming out of the ground.  The church uses Lent as a time of renewal of our spiritual lives. 

I have been reading a book by Arnold Mol, ‘Think New, Live New.’  Well worth a read and challenging in a gentle way.  Arnold quotes Proverbs 4:23, ‘Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flows the springs of life.’

Throughout scripture we have examples of men who ignored God’s Word and chose to do things their own way.  We need to pray for our leaders here in South Africa as well as world leaders that they may follow God’s direction and love the people they serve.

Lockdown has meant different things to people, some have found it difficult to work from home, others have found it easy and enjoy working at their own pace instead of at the office.   Children have struggled to keep focused and learn via the internet, others have done well, and the Matric result will reflect this trend.

As a retiree I have found it quite pleasant but as a people’s person I have found it difficult as I thrive on being with people.  Not being able to visit has been hard, not meeting with the people from the Bible study has been strange, but I keep in touch through phone calls and social media (not so much).

I would encourage myself and all who read this that we continue to proclaim that God is still on the throne, not far away but as near as the breath we take, that His love is enduring, and that Jesus knows what we are experiencing as He came to earth and walked the road to Gethsemane.  Let Him who loves us walk with you.

May this Lent be a renewal of our spiritual lives. 

Louise Hazell

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Inviting God in


Revelation 3:22 - “Look! I stand at the door and knock.  If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and we will share a meal together as friends”

Forty years ago, I heard this message on a tape by Jack Cook. I had been going to church for a short while with a neighbour but did not think much of it.  I wondered what people got excited about, sure there was ‘happy clappy’ singing and at times I enjoyed the entertainment! I borrowed the tape by Jack Cook, as I thought it might help me understand a little more about church. I think I dozed off but woke just as the verse above was read.  It was a like a bolt of lightning, and I found myself lying on the lounge floor, saying “Yes come in.”  Nothing else really happened but I slept well for the first time in months.

Nothing really changed but I found that I was not shouting and swearing at the boys to get up and go to school. I carried on with life as usual, but there was a strange kind of peace; I was coping with life. I went to badminton and one of the ladies asked me what had happened because she thought I was different.  I knew that life was changing but, just because I heard one verse of scripture??  I went to chat with Brian Hazell and together we went through ‘The First Steps’  over the course of 6 weeks and I came to understand a little more but, I never could understand that I didn’t have to earn my way to heaven.  I was baptized during lent and what an Easter that was, God had accepted my invitation to ‘come in’ and turned my whole life upside down.  I still did not understand but I tried so hard to!

There have been many ups and downs, but the downs have never been as low as they were before inviting God into my life. There are times in my walk that I seem to take one step forward and 2 steps back. He has asked me to do many things and I have failed repeatedly, but He is always there to pick me up!  I believe that our God will never leave or forsake me, and His life was sacrificed to give me new life. It is good to live my life with God knowing that His mercies are new every morning for each of us.  I still do not understand.

There is a line from a play in which I performed many times in Covenant Players, ‘It is not necessary that you understand. If you understand and believe that is wisdom but, if you do not understand and believe that is faith’. (Anybody Know the Way by Charles M. Tanner)

Our devotion today was written by Sue Rice - thanks Sue.

Living in Grace

D3LM3

Monday, 22 February 2021

Change from within


"Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen." - 1 John 4:20

Let each failure and shortcoming simply urge us to turn humbly and meekly to the Lamb of God. Have full assurance that where He is enthroned in the heart, His humility and gentleness will be one of the streams of living water that flow from within us.

Let us look on every brother and sister who irritates or troubles us as God's means of grace. Let us look on him or her as God's instrument for our purification, for our exercise of the humility that Jesus, our Life, breathes within us.

And let us have such faith in the all of God and the nothing of self, so that we may, in God's power, seek only to serve one another in love.

These are challenging words today. Thank you Avril Hoepner for your thoughts.

Living in Grace
D3LM3


Sunday, 21 February 2021

Going Home


Our Lent reflection today is share by Ken Gerhardt - thanks for your contribution Ken.

Romans 8:11 (HCSB) "And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, then He who raised Christ from the dead will also bring (quicken) your mortal bodies to life...”

I remain blown away that the very same Holy Spirit lives in me at this moment, this hour –today and yes, 2,021 years later remains ever-present to all who believe! How can I not be overwhelmed? He, our Lord God that raised Jesus from the dead, has promised to quicken my body back to life (Romans 8:23 NIV)!

Yes, of course, I wait eagerly and groan deep within for Christ Jesus to come back and to take me home at long last... [Romans 8:18-30 is the cream & cherry on top of Holy Scripture.]

My Prayer: “In just a little while, He who is coming will come and will not delay.” Hebrews 10:37 (NIV)

Living in Grace
D3LM3

Question to ponder: How does it make you feel that the same Spirit that lived in Moses, Elijah and Jesus is living in us? 

Saturday, 20 February 2021

Making preparations



We prepare for all the big events and functions in our lives without even giving it much thought. 

We prepare for the big Christmas dinners;
We prepare for the family weddings;
We prepare the children to write their school exams;
We prepare for sporting events.

The list goes on...

In a real way, preparation is part of our lives, so it leaves me wondering why we struggle to make room in our lives for Spiritual preparation? 

This is one of the reasons why I love LENT - it keeps pulling me back to the question: "Does the Cross and Resurrection make a difference in my life? And if the answer is 'YES', then what will assist me in preparing my heart for this incredible gift?"

Even Jesus made preparations ...

    Luke 22: 8 - Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.”
    "He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.” - Luke 22:12

    As Benjamin Franklin once said: "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail!"
    Living in Grace
    D3LM3

Thursday, 18 February 2021

Forgiveness


 "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." - Luke 23:24

An advertisement for a paint product on TV claimed that forgiveness is easy. Many would disagree - it is not easy to forgive someone who has wronged you or wronged a loved one. Hurt is very real and forgiveness is extremely difficult.

Jesus' words and example have however made a significant difference in many of the lives of his followers. Dr Clarence Macarty tells of the young Armenian girl who saw her brother killed by a Turkish soldier. Years later, when the girl had become a nurse, she was given the task of nursing this same soldier, now wounded. She cared tenderly for him, and at last he asked her how she could do it, knowing he had killed her brother. She replied: "I have a religion that teaches me to forgive."

As we journey through this Lenten period we should search our hearts to find if we harbour any bitterness or resentment against any person. If so, we need to ask Jesus Christ to help us replace these with the spirit of forgiveness.

Prayer Thought: Father I pray that you will help me to forgive others as you have forgiven me.

We are grateful to Mrs Lynn Allison for her contribution today.

Living in Grace
D3LM3

Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Taking Stock


Many of the devotions you will be reading over the next few weeks have been written by members of our Church community in Fish Hoek. As we are celebrating our Church Centenary in 2021, I asked people to share part of their own faith experience by reflecting on this Season in our Christian calendar. I am sure you will be as blessed as I have been, in reading these devotions. 

Matthew 4:1-2. Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.

 

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent, a word that does not appear in the Bible. The Afrikaans word for Spring is “Lente” which is connected to an Old English word “Lencten” meaning the season of Spring. The Old English word really meant “Lengthen” because in the Northern Hemisphere at this time it was Spring and the days started to get longer. 


Lent as we know it in the church, came into being about the 4th century as a time of preparation for Easter. It originally consisted of 36 days of prayer and fasting but by the 7th century it was lengthened to 40 days to correspond to Jesus’ fasting and temptation in the wilderness. 


In every commercial undertaking there comes time for the annual stock take. It really is a time of reassessment. Lent is the time when we ought to be taking stock of our lives. Perhaps the most important question we should ask; 


“Where am I in my walk with God?” 


It was William Sangster who suggested we ask these questions of ourselves;

“Am I really a converted person? 

Am I known as a Christian in the circles where I move? 

Who is Jesus to me?” 


These questions are very personal and only you can answer them.

 

Most Gracious Lord, at the beginning of this season of Lent, help me as I examine my relation with You and forgive me for my shortcomings. Despite my failures I do love you with all my heart. I pray this in Jesus Name. Amen


(Thanks to Rev. Ralph Thornley for his lovely devotion today.)


Living in Grace

D3LM3

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

A reason for Lent


As we come to the start of another Lenten journey I wanted to share some reasons why I like to use this time to reflect on my relationship with Jesus. I need to make it clear (again) that Lent is not something we 'have to do', but it is a very helpful practice that keeps me focused on the cross of Christ. Let me start with this quote from Catherine Doherty first:

"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."

So, Lent calls me to the following:

1. To Remember I am mortal and that I am called to honour God with my every breath.

2. To remember that Jesus died for my sake and that by choosing to follow him I am aligning myself with his call, values and life.

3. To remember that life is busy and it easily distracts me from the things of eternal value. By pausing for a moment, each day, I am drawn back into the world of Jesus and am choosing to ask myself 'kingdom' questions.

4. To prepare for the experience of Good Friday and Easter Sunday is essential for me. This weekend marks the cornerstone of our faith and to stumble into the weekend seems sacreligious for me. Just as I spend months training and preparing to run the Comrades Marathon, so I feel I need to do something significant in my walk with Jesus. Lent offers me a space to do this.

5. Lent reminds me that I am part of a global Christian community and God is interested in us as a "Church". My personal response to Jesus is shaped by those around me and this also impacts upon my call to serve God in the world.

I hope this makes sense. Let me know the reason why you choose to mark Lent (or even why you choose not to)

Living in Grace

D3LM3

Monday, 15 February 2021

Mountains of the Lord



I read a lovely book called "Mountains of the Lord" (Rob Taylor) and have posted a review on Scripture Union magazine about this book. If you have a moment please follow this link and read the review to discover more about this fantastic book. 

In essence, Rob takes a look at the significant Mountain top moments in the Bible and reflects on what each encounter means for the people of God. These include Moses on mount Sinai, Elijah on Mount Carmel, the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration and obviously, Jesus on Calvary. 

Psalm 43: 3 - "Send me your light and your faithful care, let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell."

Living in Grace

D3LM3

P.S. For our Lenten journey which starts on Ash Wednesday (17th February) I will be sharing a variety of devotions written by people from our Church community - this will be a lovely way of hearing a different voice on a familiar topic. Watch this space :) 

Sunday, 14 February 2021

Love is a tough decision to make


This time of the year brings a lot of reflection on love, romance and relationships. I was reminded again today that LOVE is a definite choice that we make. Sure, it can also be prompted by initial feelings or something along those lines, but we still need to choose to Love on a daily basis. This goes for all our relationships! 

Seth Adam Smith wrote: "Our society places a lot of emphasis on feelings. We are taught that we should always follow our feelings and do whatever makes us happy. But feelings are very fickle and fleeting. Real love, on the other hand, is like the north star in the storms of life; it is constant, sure, and true. Whenever we're lost and confused we can find strength in the love that we have chosen."

Almost every act of genuine love in the Scriptures involves someone making a sacrificial decision and then following through with committed dedication:

I think of Ruth choosing to go back with Naomi. 

Joseph's love for his family, even after they left him for dead. 

Jesus as he begins his lonely journey towards the cross.

"Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." - John 15:13

Who do we need to love today?

Living in Grace
D3LM3

Saturday, 13 February 2021

Love shows up


In a week where millions of people will spend a lot of money trying to reveal how much they care for their loved ones, I want to teach you a little secret. You actually don't have to spend much money at all. The Bible teaches us this simple truth - LOVE SHOWS UP! Jesus showed up when all seemed lost and he made his love clear to everyone. Our response is to 'show up' in our love - shown towards God and others. 

The writer of Psalm 30 expressed his understanding of God's love in this way:

Lord my God, I called to you for help,and you healed me.
You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead;
    you spared me from going down to the pit.

 

When I felt secure, I said, “I will never be shaken.”
Lord, when you favoured me,
    you made my royal mountain stand firm;
but when you hid your face, I was dismayed.

To you, Lord, I called; to the Lord I cried for mercy:

11 You turned my wailing into dancing;
    you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
12 that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
    Lord
 my God, I will praise you forever. (Psalm 30)

 

In every way possible, God shows up!


How will we respond?

Living in Grace

D3LM3

Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Rescued for a purpose


"So I want to remind you, though you already know these things, that Jesus first rescued the nation of Israel from Egypt, but later he destroyed those who did not remain faithful." - Jude 1:5

I find this verse quite hard to fathom in some ways - it leaves me feeling a little uneasy. It could give the notion of God as a revengeful tyrant, who delights in squashing his subjects. However, I believe it is good to read it with the background understanding of God's great compassion and mercy. 

It is true that the Lord rescued the Israelites from Egypt and later he condemned the disobedient to death, but it was because they chose to turn their backs on the Lord. All the promises the people made were broken through their own disobedience and this left the Lord with very little choice, but to discipline that generation. Jude is remind the people of how the old Covenant relationship was all about promises and consequences. 

Thankfully, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ has now atoned for our sins and we can turn to Jesus as our Rescuer and Saviour. For all who receive this gift, we are given a renewed hope and opportunity to show our allegiance to God. 

For this reason, I believe we need to honour the second chance we have all been given.

Living in Grace

D3LM3

Monday, 8 February 2021

Fight with everything


"Dear friends, I’ve dropped everything to write you about this life of salvation that we have in common. I have to write insisting—begging!—that you fight with everything you have in you for this faith entrusted to us as a gift to guard and cherish." - Jude 1:3 (The Message)

Living as Christ-followers is becoming more and more complicated. We are definitely moving into a time where we will need to 'content' more for our faith. Of course, this doesn't mean that we have to attack people, but rather be willing to stand up for what we believe in and to 'guard' the gift we have been given.

What does this verse mean for you in this time of your life?

"Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." - Winston Churchill

Living in Grace

D3LM3






Sunday, 7 February 2021

More and more



"I am writing to all who have been called by God the Father, 
who loves you and keeps you safe in the care of Jesus Christ.
May God give you more and more mercy, peace, and love." - Jude 1:1

Sometimes when I begin to write a letter, or even a blog post, I wrestle with how to start. What opening sentence would get the letter going, or convey the right tone of the contents. As I read through the letter of Jude I am struck by how he gets it spot on. Just the very thought of someone asking God to bless you with "more and more" of something amazing - that gets my attention. In this instance, Jude asks that God would give us more:

Mercy
Peace 
Love

I can live wit that!

May you receive some of God's mercy, peace and love today. And once you have recognised those gifts, may God give you more and more!

"When you wish someone joy, you wish them peace, love, prosperity, happiness... all the good things." - Maya Angelou


Living in Grace
D3LM3

Wednesday, 3 February 2021

God is in touch with our reality


I am sure that there are many times where we feel God may have lost touch with our reality. Today's scripture passage was such a great reminder to me, that God IS still in touch with us. Jesus is our High Priest and we can approach his throne of Grace with great confidence:

"Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help." - Hebrews 4:14-16 (Message)

"But Jesus the Son of God is our great High Priest who has gone to heaven itself to help us; therefore let us never stop trusting him. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses since he had the same temptations we do, though he never once gave way to them and sinned. So let us come boldly to the very throne of God and stay there to receive his mercy and to find grace to help us in our times of need." - Hebrews 4:14-16 (Living Bible)

I have added the Living Bible translation of this passage because I love the words in bold - Let us never stop trusting in him.

Living in Grace

D3LM3

Tuesday, 2 February 2021

Purpose of prayer?


Have you ever considered this question? "What is the purpose of Prayer?"

There are many different answers to the question and I think a lot of them would be correct:

Communicating with God
Handing over our problems to God
Waiting on the Lord
Adoration
Confession
Thanksgiving
Supplication

Here is another response that I stumbled across in my sermon prep. It is from George Knight - "Prayer for Jesus was not an end in itself. Rather, it involved preparation for the task ahead. After he prayed Jesus arose to preach and heal throughout Galilee..."

William Barclay seems to agree - he says that "prayer will strengthen us for the tasks that must be done."

What do you think and feel? Please let me know if you have time.

Colossians 4:12 - "Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured."

Living in Grace
D3LM3


Monday, 1 February 2021

Taking risks


One of the books I have just finished is The Choice, by Edith Eger. When you understand the pain and trauma she had to endure as a teenage prisoner of war, surviving the hell of Auschwitz, then her words make a huge impact on your life. 

Edith embraces the desire to forgive and to work hard at allowing healing to take place. In her book she never glosses over the journey of healing and the commitment to live a better life. One of the things she wrote really stuck with me:

“Taking risks doesn’t mean throwing ourselves blindly into danger. But it means embracing our fears so that we aren’t imprisoned by them.”― Edith Eger, The Choice

Here are a few other insights she shares in her book.

“We can’t choose to vanish the dark, but we can choose to kindle the light.”

“Time doesn't heal. It’s what you do with the time. Healing is possible when we choose to take responsibility, when we choose to take risks, and finally, when we choose to release the wound, to let go of the past or the grief.”

I am grateful that Jesus has offered us the gift of healing and forgiveness. Jesus took numerous risks and I know that following him is also a risk worth taking.

Luke 7:9 - "When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.”

Living in Grace

D3LM3