Friday, 31 December 2021

Sumballo - The great comparison

As we contemplate all that the birth of Jesus means for us, let us also spare a thought for Mary, who had been given the greatest task of all - carry the Saviour of the world in her womb for 9 months. 

In his gospel, Luke tells us that "Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart" (Luke 2:19) and who can blame her for needing a little time to think about what had just happened. In the greek lexicon we read that the English word 'ponder' is one of the meanings of the word sumballo. 

Why this is most interesting for us is because it implies that when you ponder an event, you place two different scenarios next to each other. And this is probably what Mary was doing - pondering how things would have worked out for her family if God hadn't chosen her to carry Jesus, and then also reflecting on what their lives would be like now that God had intervened.

As we celebrate Christmas let us also do our own sumballo - let us ponder what our lives would be like if God had not sent his son into the world. And when we come to that place of overwhelming gratefulness, let us hold this treasure in our hearts.

Have a blessed Christmas. 

Living in Grace


Wednesday, 29 December 2021

We have everything we need

At the end of every year we often spend time wondering what we need in the coming year. There are expectations and commitments to think about, as well as worries, burdens and curve-balls to navigate. However, as Christians we also have the greatest gift for the journey ahead - we have God with us. In the following words of Max Lucado we truly have everything we need.

“You have a God who hears you,
the power of love behind you,
the Holy Spirit within you,
and all of heaven ahead of you.
If you have the Shepherd,
you have grace for every sin,
direction for every turn,
a candle for every corner
and an anchor for every storm.
You have everything you need.”
– Max Lucado

Luke 11:10 “Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This is not a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in." (Message)

Living Grace

Tuesday, 28 December 2021

All forms of Grace

In these slower paced days between Christmas and New Year, we get to contemplate many things. These would include:

  • The gift of God's grace
  • Family and friends
  • Health and wellness
  • Purpose and priority
As we spend the time contemplating these things I want to add something into the mix. John Blanchard offers us these wise words concerning how God meets our deepest needs. He writes:

"For daily need there is daily grace;
for sudden need, sudden grace,
and for overwhelming need, overwhelming grace."

John 1:16 - Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 

Living in Grace

Sunday, 26 December 2021

Traveling beyond Bethlehem

Now that Christmas has come and gone, we are left with the question: 'What next?' 

If Bethlehem was our final destination, then many of us will wake up in the week after Christmas feeling very flat and empty. It is not that we are disappointed with the gift of Jesus (how can we be?), but that we feel a greater longing for some other place. We want to be with Jesus, but not here on earth. It is in this time that we must be thankful for the presence of the Almighty throughout all our circumstances and situations that befall us. Bethlehem is not out final stopover, but it is a necessary place to rest for awhile.

"For outlandish creatures like us, on our way to a heart, a brain, and courage, Bethlehem is not the end of our journey but only the beginning - not home but the place through which we must pass if ever we are to reach home at last.” Frederick Buechner, The Magnificent Defeat

Living in Grace


Thursday, 23 December 2021

3500 - So this happened!

With all the preparations for Christmas and our family dealing with Covid isolation, I almost missed out on this special milestone. This week I managed to get to the 3500 blog post mark. And I am so grateful to each on of you who are willing to read my ramblings and thoughts on a weekly basis. I would never have got this far if it weren't for your encouragement and support. So thank you once again. 

Psalm 25:6 - Mark the milestones of your mercy and love, God; Rebuild the ancient landmarks!

C.S. Lewis once remarked: "The safest road to hell is the gradual one - the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts."

God bless you and thank you once again. 

Living in Grace

Wednesday, 22 December 2021

Christmas Prayer - a unique prayer

In the Upper Room daily devotional they recently shared this beautiful prayer. I was really moved by the words and want to pass it onto you. As we draw near to Christmas my the gift of Jesus fill your heart with joy and peace. Let us remember that Jesus comes to us wherever we find ourselves. 

"God of the forgotten, the scorned, the aching
God of the hustling, the harried, the frayed,
Find us where we are, and draw us close to you.
Give us eyes to see and recognize your shining face,
And all that your presence would heal and restore,
That we may be saved. Amen."

As you read through this prayer, which of the 'people' do most relate too?

May God bless you today.
Living in Grace

Tuesday, 21 December 2021

Is it with an "I" or "E"? - Immanuel or Emmanuel?

"Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’” - Matthew 1:23

During the Christmas season we will come across the name Immanuel on numerous occasions. However, sometimes we will see that it is spelt with an "E" and then others with an "I." So the question I am asked is: "What is the difference?" 

Here is my answer.

The Hebrew word Immanu'el means 'God is with us' and is found in Isaiah 7, which is then quoted in Matthew 1 with the same spelling or sometimes with an "E." 

So, where does the "E" come in then? The simple answer is that in Greek the name "Emmanouel" is a translation from the Hebrew name Immanuel. The New Testament was written mostly in Greek, and the Old Testament originally in Hebrew. So in order to have the Bible in one language, the Hebrew Immanuel was translated into the Greek Emmanuel. 

But the biggest question to ask is: Does it actually change the meaning? 

And my answer is: Not at all. The meaning is the same. Jesus is the Word made flesh and He is God with us.

As Charles Spurgeon says, "in this great Name IMMANUEL is eternity’s sonnet, heaven’s hallelujah, the shout of the glorified, the song of the redeemed, the chorus of angels, the everlasting oratorio of the great orchestra of the sky." 

He adds that "John Wesley died with the words "The best of all is GOD IS WITH US" on his tongue.

This Christmas season let us us not get bogged down with trivialities, but rather focus on the important truth - God is with us.

Living in Grace


Monday, 20 December 2021

Shining and guiding

If one had to ask an audience about the greatest gift Jesus offers humanity, it would probably be a unanimous answer of 'Salvation.' While I believe that this is the correct answer, we mustn't forget that this great gift comes with a whole lot of extras attached. For example, Luke tells us that the Messiah will 'shine' on those living in darkness and those living in the shadow of death, as well as guiding our feet into the pathway of peace. 

" shine on those living in darkness   and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” - Luke 1:79

If you find yourself living in the shadows today, then look out for the light of Christ.

If you are needing to know the right path (the path that will bring you peace), then listen for the guiding words of Jesus.

Living in Grace


Sunday, 19 December 2021

Help is on the way


It is a little easier to hold out in difficult circumstances when one knows that help is on the way. Advent is that time of the year when we wait with great anticipation for the arrival of the Messiah. Although Jesus has already come, marking time during Advent is a helpful way to remember that HELP has been sent to us already. 

I came across a lovely song from Toby Mac, that uses these words to speak hope into our lives. The name of the song is 'Help is on the way."

"It may be midnight or mid-day
He's never early, never late
He will stand by what He claimed
I lived enough life to say...

I heard your heart, I see your pain
Out in the dark, out in the rain
Feels so alone, feels so afraid
I heard you pray in Jesus' name

Help is on the way
Roundin' the corner
Help is on the way
Comin' for ya
Help is on the way
I lived enough life to say...
Help is on the way."

Living in Grace

Saturday, 18 December 2021

Coming, ready or not!

Even as we wait out the final seven days until Christmas, it struck me that Jesus comes into His world, whether we are ready or not. And whether we like it or not! In the words of Thomas Merton:

“Into this world, this demented inn, in which there is absolutely no room for him at all, Christ comes uninvited.”― Thomas Merton

Jesus doesn't really need to be invited onto his own planet, but he does need to be invited into each heart. 

Have you done this already? If not, what is stopping us from inviting Christ into our hearts again?

Mark 1:3 - "He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming! Clear the road for him!’”

Living in Grace


Friday, 17 December 2021

Silence is golden

Silence is Golden!

Why is it that we can often hear God more clearly when we actively seek silence? Is it perhaps that the noise of our own agenda's fade into the distance, or that our daily distractions slowly drown out the voice of God? 

As we move into the last week before Christmas, let us reflect on the 9 months of silence that Zechariah was forced into, and ask how this changed his heart and soul. Remember it was a moment of doubt that caused Gabriel to mute Zechariah's lips and how might those 270 days have shaped his spiritual life forever?

"Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God." - Luke 1:62-64

Even though God had chosen John the Baptist for his unique role as the fore-runner for Jesus, John still needed a wise earthly father to guide and walk alongside him. Is it possible that Zechariahs time of golden silence was crucial in preparing John too?

How might silence help you prepare for Christmas?

Living in Grace


Thursday, 16 December 2021

Reconciliation - being willing to forgive


On this day, the 16th December, we mark a day of Reconciliation in South Africa. Although many people simply enjoy the day as a public holiday, it is important that we remember that this day has a tragic history. 

The day of Reconciliation has roots in hatred, violence, division and brokenness. And in order for us to be willing to move forward as human beings, we all need to acknowledge the pain we have been a part of - once we do this, we can start to heal and see real change in our land. Sadly, this is not something that happens over night - it will take generations of people, all willing to love extravagantly and to work towards peace.

As Christians we have the best role model to help guide us towards being reconciled to one another. Jesus sought to bring true peace and reconciliation between humanity and God. 

Proverbs 14:9 - "Fools make fun of guilt, but the godly acknowledge it and seek reconciliation."

"Reconciliation requires changes of heart and spirit, as well as social and economic change. It requires symbolic as well as practical action." -  Malcolm Fraser

Living in Grace


Wednesday, 15 December 2021

An advent message from Joseph Conrad

I am not sure if the author Joseph Conrad ever intended us to use his words in our preparation for Christmas, but I feel that his words help us reflect on the coming of Jesus. He wrote: 

"Woe to the person whose heart has not learned while young, to Hope, to Live, to Love."

Advent helps us to prepare for the arrival of the One who gives us all three of these glorious gifts and so much more.

Psalm 103:4 - ".... who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion."

Living in Grace


Monday, 13 December 2021

Being mindful of God

What do the words 'being mindful' mean for you? 

In their simplest form they speak to me of having something 'fill' up your mind, or allowing someone to come to the forefront of your thoughts. When you are mindful of something/someone you are thinking of them a lot. This is what Mary describes when she sings her Magnificat - she is overwhelmed that God has been thinking of her:

"...for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant." - Luke 1:48

Not only is God mindful of us, but he also invites us to be mindful of him. This is what the season of Advent helps us to be conscious of - we allow our thoughts and hearts to be filled with the things of Jesus. We TAKE NOTICE of what is happening in the Spiritual realm and try to tune into what the Lord is saying to us.

What is occupying your thoughts at the moment?

“Be happy in the moment, that's enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.”
― Mother Teresa

Living in Grace


Sunday, 12 December 2021

Courageous Song

As I have been reading and reflecting on Mary's Magnificat (Luke 1:39-54) this week, I was stopped in my tracks by these thoughts from Rev. Carolyn Sharp. She says:

“Don’t envision Mary as the radiant woman peacefully composing the Magnificat. Instead see her as a girl who sings defiantly to her God through her tears, fists clenched against an unknown future. When we do this, Mary’s courageous song of praise [becomes] a radical resource for those seeking to honour the holy amid the suffering and conflicts of real life.”

I think that this is deeply profound. 

Singing and praising God, when we are going through good times is easy, but offering God worship and thanks, when we are confused, stressed and worried, is a true test of courage. 

How often do we trust Jesus when we are faced with the gathering of the storm clouds?

“Pray, and let God worry.” - Martin Luther

Living in Grace


Saturday, 11 December 2021

Words to inspire

I really enjoy it when I come across a verse that truly speaks into our situation. This verse from Daniel 10:19 has offer me much solace and comfort this week. As I read through it again and again, I am given fresh insight into great words of hope:

“Do not be afraid, you who are highly esteemed,” he said. “Peace! Be strong now; be strong.” 
When he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Speak, my lord, since you have given me strength.”

These are the words that are uplifting for me:
1. Don't be afraid
2. We are greatly esteemed (loved)
3. Peace is a gift for us
4. We can be strong, despite all that's happening around us
5. God strengthens us

If you want to listen to the podcast Bible study I did on this passage you are welcome to click this link. Enjoy. 

Have a blessed day

Living in Grace

Thursday, 9 December 2021

What would it mean for you to hear these words?

What would it mean for you to hear a messenger of God speak these words into your life?

·       “God has heard your prayer…” - Luke 1:13

       I am sure that these words would fill our hearts with great delight, just as they must have encouraged Zechariah and Daniel. We pour out our hearts to God with the deep hope that God will answer those prayers, but there are times when we feel a little despondent in the slowness of God's action. 

      Can you remember a time in your life when you prayed and prayed for something, only for there to be a period of complete silence? What motivated you to keep on trusting in God's goodness? Was there someone who encouraged you to keep believing? 

      I am sure that Zechariah may have been close to giving up, but he held onto his knowledge of God's goodness. in the end he must have been ecstatic to hear the whisper: "God has heard your prayer my friend!"

      Living in Grace


Wednesday, 8 December 2021

Share Peace

The voice of the angels initially caused a lot of consternation in the hearts of Zechariah and Mary. However, as they listened more and more to the message of Gabriel, so they moved to a place of peace. They understood that God's plan was unfolding right in front of their eyes, and that God had invited them to be part of that plan. 

Being at peace with God's plan is a great place to be in, but one that often takes time. Here is a lovely prayer that I came across and it fits in with today's message. Enjoy. 

Be people of peace.
Let peace live in your heart and share the peace of Christ with all you meet.
Share peace by acting out of compassion and not fear.
Share peace by listening to all sides of the story.
Share peace by praying for our world.
In this Advent season, we need to see, feel, and share peace.
As you go out into the wonder of God’s creations, share peace and hope with those you meet. Amen.


May we all seek to be people who share peace.

Living in Grace


Tuesday, 7 December 2021

No Fear

In 1989 Brian Simo created a clothing brand that became very well known. It was called "No Fear" and part of the appeal came from the fact that most of us desire to live our lives without fear. I remember owning a cool beanie with the No Fear logo on it and there was a part of me that felt more confident every time I put it on. However, this name goes deeper than it may seem. There is something spiritual about having No Fear. 

When the angel Gabriel spoke to Zechariah and Mary, one of the first things he said to them was 'Do not be afraid" - have NO FEAR. I think this is word for many of us at the moment. We can hold onto the promise of God's strength in our times of trial and uncertainty. 

Having No Fear is not about putting on an item of clothing, but rather about reminding ourselves of the great promises of God. 

Luke 1:13 - But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. 

Living in Grace


Monday, 6 December 2021

3 Promises in one verse

"This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear." - Haggai 2:5

The prophet Haggai gives us 3 reasons to celebrate this morning:

1. God has made a covenant with us.
2. His Spirit remains among us...always.
3. We don't need to fear!

May these words bring you encouragement and peace this morning. Our King is glorious.

Living in Grace


Thursday, 2 December 2021

What is Just?

"See, a king will reign in righteousness and rulers will rule with justice." - Isaiah 32:1

A simple response to the question: "What is just?" could be something like - To be just is to be fair and unbiased. It is to judge everyone with the same measuring stick.

However, how many times have we found ourselves saying?: That is unfair! Life is unfair!

We can't change the way other people judge us or view us, but we can rely on the Messiah to treat us all with righteousness and justice. Matthew proclaimed this of Jesus when he said: 

“Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations." (Matthew 12:18)

How can we respond to this knowledge today?

Living in Grace


Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Life is Advent - We just need to recognise it

"The Lord is coming, always coming. When you have ears to hear and eyes to see, you will recognize him at any moment of your life. Life is Advent; life is recognizing the coming of the Lord." - Henri Nouwen

As we draw closer to the miracle of Christ's birth, there is a sense in which we remember that "Jesus has already come, but he will come again." I know it sounds a little confusing, but it is the heart of our belief that our Messiah has come, but that we believe he will come again. 

2 Timothy 4:8 - "In heaven a crown is waiting for me, which the Lordthe righteous Judge, will give me on that great day of his return. And not just to me but to all those whose lives show that they are eagerly looking forward to his coming back again."

How does this change your life today?

Living in Grace