Wednesday 30 November 2022

As close as we can get

Historians know that in order to try and substantiate a thesis, we need to get as close to the original source as possible. So, how close to the life and times of Jesus can we get, in order to try and understand the mystery of his birth? 

Well, besides the words of the Scriptures themselves, we get a glimpse of Jesus, through the eyes of Ignatius of Antioch. His name may not mean much to you, but he is a very important figure in the history of our faith. He was born around 50AD and lived until 117AD. More importantly, it is widely recorded that he was a disciple of the apostle John. 

Ignatius wrote a lot of letters to the first Century Church and this is what he wrote (italics are mine):

"There is only one physician, who is both flesh and spirit, born and unborn, God in man, true life in death, both from Mary and from God, first subject to suffering and then beyond it, Jesus Christ our Lord."

"For our God, Jesus the Christ, was conceived by Mary according to God’s plan, both from the seed of David and of the Holy Spirit."

"Consequently, all magic and every kind of spell were dissolved, the ignorance so characteristic of wickedness vanished, and the ancient kingdom was abolished when God appeared in human form to bring the newness of eternal life."

Like I mentioned yesterday, let us not become side-tracked by the actual date of Jesus birth, but rather contemplate the incredible gift He is to the world.

Luke 1:29 - But the angel assured her, “Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus. He will be great, be called ‘Son of the Highest.’  (The Message)

Living in Grace

Tuesday 29 November 2022

Having Hope

“Live in faith and hope, though it be in darkness, for in this darkness God protects the soul. Cast your care upon God for you are His and He will not forget you. Do not think that He is leaving you alone, for that would be to wrong Him.” - John of the Cross

The first week of Advent invites us to focus on the word HOPE. It is remarkable that even though we have a working understanding of 'Hope', this can take on a deeper meaning when we reflect on what it truly means for us. 

Hope is what gets us up in the morning. 

Hope is what enables us to lift our heads, when all seems lost. 

Hope enables us to push our disappointments aside for a moment and to trust in something better. 

Hope teaches us to hold out our hands to Christ.

“To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the HOPE of glory.” – Colossians 1:27


1. What does "Hope" mean for you this week?

2. Where does your Hope lie?

Living in Grace


Monday 28 November 2022

When did it all begin?

There is a lot of debate around the origins of Christmas. Many Christians point out that Jesus probably wasn't born in December, and they would be right. The trouble is, we don't have conclusive evidence to mark his actual birth date, otherwise we would surely be celebrating his birthday on that date. 

I found these interesting comments from, which I would like to add to the mix:

The actual observance of the day of Jesus’ birth was long in coming. In particular, during the first two centuries of Christianity there was strong opposition to recognizing birthdays of martyrs or, for that matter, of Jesus. Numerous Church Fathers offered sarcastic comments about the pagan custom of celebrating birthdays when, in fact, saints and martyrs should be honoured on the days of their martyrdom—their true “birthdays,” from the church’s perspective.

This is an interesting point and would mean that we could end up celebrating Jesus's birthday around the time of Easter. I do like the idea of our death as being the 'birth' of eternity, which would tie in with John's thoughts on being born again. However, Jesus didn't need a 2nd birth, as he was without sin, so this is also tricky. 

In the end, I feel that we waste a lot of time and energy debating something that we can't solve with satisfactory answers. However, this doesn't stop us from pausing to remember the impact of the birth of Jesus. Surely the message of the 'Word made flesh' and the fact that Jesus lived and died for our sakes, should make all the difference?

What do you think?

"The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighbourhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
true from start to finish." - John 1:14

Living in Grace


Sunday 27 November 2022

The Countdown

We have been watching our kids "tick-off" every completed exam and seen the end draw nearer, day by day. There is something satisfying in doing this - I guess it is the feeling of fulfilment and the desire to complete the goal, and then we all get to celebrate when it is done!

We do the same kind of thing when we are planning a holiday or longing for a special occasion. We countdown the days until the big moment arrives. Each day is 24 hours nearer to the anticipated joy. 

And so, as Christians we begin our own version of the 'Countdown' today. Advent is the season of expectation and preparing for Christ's coming. Of course, we do this with two main motives - to celebrate the birth of the Messiah on Christmas morning and also to remind ourselves that Christ will come again. 

Advent stems from the Latin word 'adventus', which means the 'coming' and from what we can tell was first celebrated in the 4th Century. According to the Gospel Coalition, The Council of Sargossa (in 380AD) meet to discuss various heresies in the church and there is mention of Advent in those meetings. The council was not committed to any specific dating of Advent, though, and only suggested people attend church daily between December 17 and 29. 

As we continue this journey through Advent, I will be sharing various thoughts, insights and reflections in relation to this season. It is my hope that this will make our experience of Christmas a meaningful one. 

Psalm 119:116 - Sustain me, my God, according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed.

Living in Grace


Thursday 24 November 2022

Precious Lord, take my hand

“Precious Lord, take my hand
Lead me on, let me stand;
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn.
Through the storm, through the night,
Lead me on to the light;
Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.”

The words of Thomas Dorsey have offer hope and comfort to millions of people over the last century, including Martin Luther King Jnr, Elvis, Jim Reeves and others. Written in a time of his own pain and suffering, Thomas found the solace and inspiration from his knowledge that God is always with us. 

May his words also speak to you today.

"My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life." - Psalm 119:50

Living in Grace

Tuesday 22 November 2022


Philosophers could argue over the question of 'importance' and never really come up with a solid answer. 

What is important for you, may not be important for me. 

Who is important for me, may not even appear on your radar. 

Sadly, sometimes the church gets caught up in side-issues; things that are not as important the gospel. Political parties make a habit of losing focus and becoming distracted. Families can be the same and even schools and other communities. 

Staying focused is hard, but important!

"I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said." - 1 Corinthians 15:3

"It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow." - 1 Corinthians 3:7

Living in Grace


Monday 21 November 2022

Time spent in prayer is never wasted


The story I shared on yesterday's blog reminded me of the wisdom of Francois Fenelon. As you read through these quotes today, may they offer you some inspiration and encouragement. 

“True prayer is only another name for the love of God. Its excellence does not consist in the multitude of our words; for our Father knoweth what things we have need of before we ask Him.

“It is false humility to believe ourselves unworthy of God’s goodness and to not dare to look to him with trust.”

"Time spent in prayer is never wasted."

2 Chronicles 6:19 - Yet, Lord my God, give attention to your servant’s prayer and his plea for mercy. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence.

Living in Grace


Sunday 20 November 2022

Trying to flatter the King?

Francois Fenelon was the court preacher for King Louis XIV of France in the 17th century. One Sunday when the king and his attendants arrived at the chapel for the regular service, no one else was there but the preacher.

King Louis demanded, “What does this mean?”


Fenelon replied, “I had published that you would not come to church today, in order that your Majesty might see who serves God in truth and who flatters the king.” - (Submitted by Chris Stroup, Source Unknown)

Thought: The obvious challenge for us all is this - do we attend Sunday worship to gain the respect of others, or do we worship to honour the King? 

Revelation 17:14 - They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.”

Living in Grace


Thursday 17 November 2022

A lamp that lights the way

"Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path." - Psalm 119:105 (NIV)

"By your words I can see where I’m going; they throw a beam of light on my dark path" (Message)

"Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path." (NLT)

No matter what version you read this verse in, it says the same thing. God's Word sheds just enough light for us to take small steps of faith. And this is all that we need at the moment. 

The circle of light, that would be cast from an ancient oil lamp, wouldn't have been close to the brightness of our modern LED lights, but they would have offered sufficient light to give the 'holder' confidence to step forward.

As we turn to God's Word, his wisdom and guidance, shine enough light for us to walk in faith. We can't see the whole pathway, but we can trust that God will lead us down the path, step-by-step.

Living in Grace


Wednesday 16 November 2022

Contemplate the beautiful thing

"To do the useful thing,
to say the courageous thing,
to contemplate the beautiful thing:
that is enough for one man's life."
- T.S. Eliot

I found these thoughts very interesting, especially on the level which asks the question: 'what is success?' We live in a society that is constantly telling us what 'success' looks like, and most of the times it looks nothing like T.S. Eliot's thoughts. 

I think if Jesus was asked this question, he would suggest something like this:

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. ’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” - Matthew 22:37-40

What do you think would constitute a successful life?

Living in Grace

Monday 14 November 2022

Perspective makes all the difference

"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." - Genesis 50:20

These words from Joseph have always challenged me on the topic of perspective. So often we find ourselves in difficult circumstances and we wonder why God has allowed these things to unfold. We question God's plans for our lives, and we see all setbacks as God's failure to honour his commitment to our lives. It takes an incredible amount of wisdom and faith to trust in God's sovereignty, despite what the situation may look like. 

“It is a narrow mind which cannot look at a subject from various points of view.”
― George Eliot

Living in Grace


Sunday 13 November 2022

If God is for you ....

"A Young William Wilberforce was discouraged one night in the early 1790s after another defeat in his 10-year battle against the slave trade in England. Tired and frustrated, he opened his Bible and began to leaf through it. A small piece of paper fell out and fluttered to the floor. 

It was a letter written by John Wesley shortly before his death. Wilberforce read it again: 

"Unless the divine power has raised you up... I see not how you can go through your glorious enterprise in opposing that (abominable practice of slavery), which is the scandal of religion, of England, and of human nature. 

Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. 

But if God be for you, who can be against you? 

Are all of them together stronger than God? 

Oh, be not weary of well-doing. 

Go on in the name of God, and in the power of His might." - Daily Bread, June 16, 1989.

I have deliberately made this quote appear over a number of lines, as I think that each sentence is filled with power and promise. Is there perhaps a word that stands out for you today. Hold onto that for your 'food' for the day.

Romans 8:31 - What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Living in Grace


Friday 11 November 2022

Remember, remember the 11th of November!

As I child, I distinctly remember the phrase, "remember, remember the 5th of November." This was always said in conjunction with Guy Fawkes, and it was such a catchy little ditty that I still remember it to this day. 

However, as today is Remembrance Day, I would like to offer a variation of the phrase and encourage us to sing: "remember, remember, the 11th of November!"

It is always good to pause and remember all who can gone before us, especially those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. In many ways, War reminds us of the evil of humanity (on one hand), while also teaching us about the resilience of human beings. Sadly, we never seem to the learn the lessons that War teaches us and, even today, we feel the global impact of another war - the Russia-Ukraine conflict. 

“There are perhaps many causes worth dying for, but to me, certainly, there are none worth killing for.”
― Albert Dietrich

Remembrance Day is also a moment where I stop to consider what Christ has done for me. Jesus took the worst that humanity could throw at him - including my sin - and paid the ultimate sacrifice, in my place. For this, I am deeply grateful and indebted to him. As I remember this, I pray that my response is not one of apathy but rather is motivated to honour what He has done for me. 

Wouldn't it be a miracle if all humanity could remember the pain, loss and destruction of War and then commit to never repeat that evil again? 

Isaiah 2:4 - "He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore."

Living in Grace


Thursday 10 November 2022

Like wineskins in the smoke

"Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke, I do not forget your decrees." (Psalm 119:83)

This is such an interesting image to contemplate. 

Perhaps we can't relate to the habit of carrying our water/wine in wineskins anymore, but we can still picture the practise of the Israelites doing this. When the Psalmist uses this simile, he refers to the idea of an empty container that has shrivelled up through contact with smoke in the home. 

And this is how many people feel at the moment, especially as regards their spiritual and emotional lives. We feel as if we are empty - and that our lives are shrivelled/dried up by the constant demands of the world around us. 

Thankfully, there is some good news. When we feel like this, we must remember the words of the Lord and turn our eyes to Jesus. As we allow the 'Living Water' to fill us, so our hearts will be revived, and we will be able to face the challenges of a new day.

John 7:38 - Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.

Living in Grace


Wednesday 9 November 2022

Let courage rise with danger

In his famous hymn, Stand up! Stand up for Jesus, George Duffield penned these two lines:

"Let courage rise with danger,
and strength to strength oppose." - George Duffield (1818-1888)

These words speak of how we can ask God's Spirit to fill our hearts with such courage, that when we face any danger or strife, we can feel our hearts rise to meet the challenge. I believe that God can do this for each one of us, no matter the situation we are facing.

Exodus 15:13 - In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.

Thought: Have you ever encountered a difficult situation, but sensed a supernatural strength carry you through the time of testing? 

Living in Grace

Tuesday 8 November 2022

When grace is enough to get us through today!

"My grace is enough; it’s all you need.

My strength comes into its own in your weakness." - 2 Corinthians 12:9

How many times have we stressed over our weaknesses and wondered who will notice our inadequacies? Paul's honest vulnerability is refreshing and he boldly states: "Christ's power works through our weaknesses, so I have learnt to be 'okay' about admitting my weaknesses" (my version of his thoughts).

May the Grace of Jesus carry you through today and may we rest in the promise that 'HIS GRACE IS ENOUGH!'

“I am struck by how sharing our weakness and difficulties is more nourishing to others than sharing our qualities and successes.”
― Jean Vanier

Living in Grace


Monday 7 November 2022

Brighten up your corner - Inspirational poem

In conversation with a friend last week, he mentioned an inspirational poem to me. As I read it, I realised it was the perfect ending for the sermon I was writing. Having shared the poem on Sunday, a few people have asked for the words. So, here they are - it is a poem entitled: "Brighten up your corner." Enjoy and please pass on to someone in need. 

We cannot all be famous
Or be listed in "Who's Who,"
But every person, great or small,
Has important work to do.

For seldom do we realize
The importance of small deeds,
Or to what degree of greatness
Unnoticed kindness leads.

For it's not the big celebrity
In a world of fame and praise,
But it's doing unpretentiously
In an undistinguished way.

The work that God assigned to us,
Unimportant as it seems,
That makes our task outstanding,
And brings reality to dreams.

So do not sit and idly wish
For wider, new dimensions
where you can put into practice,
Your many good intentions.

But at the spot God placed you
Begin at once to do,
Little things to brighten up
The lives surrounding you.

If everybody brightened up

The spot where they're standing,
By being more considerate,
And a little less demanding.

This dark old world would very soon
Eclipse the evening star,
If everybody brightened up
The corner where they are! - Helen Steiner Rice

So, the challenge lies before us!

How can we lighten the dark corners of our world? 
What can we do to bring Christ to those who need Him?

Isaiah 60 - Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you.

Living in Grace

Sunday 6 November 2022

What's your catch phrase?

Many of us have a little phrase or a few words, that have become our catchphrase. We are known by these words and often people even associate us with the message behind these words. In the Bible, it could be argued that Isaiah was known for his "do not fear" mantra, and one just needs to read a few verses to confirm the truth behind this: Isaiah 7:4, Isaiah 35:4 and Isaiah 40:9. 

Another Old Testament prophet was well known for his "take courage" catchphrase. Haggai used this sentiment a number of times in the short book, of the same name.

"Yet now take courage, O Zerubbabel, says the Lordtake courage, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; take courage, all you people of the land, says the Lord; work, for I am with you, says the Lord of hosts." - Haggai 2:4-5 (NRSV)


1. Do you have a catchphrase?

2. What do the words of Haggai stir up inside of you today?

Living in Grace


Friday 4 November 2022

Change ... slowly


"Change. But start slowly, because direction is more important than speed." - Paulo Coelho

Sometimes the changes we need to make must be taken quickly, or else we place our lives in jeopardy. For example, getting off a sinking ship - there is no time to debate whether changing vessel is a good idea or not :)

However, there are some changes we are called to make, that can begin slowly and then gather momentum. I think about the desire to practise Spiritual disciplines - it may seem unnatural or hard to spend 5 minutes in prayer, but the more we practise the discipline, the easier it becomes. Slowly, 5 minutes becomes 10, and soon, 20 and 30 minutes. The important issue is that change needs to be made and this is in the right direction. 

Thought: Are you being asked to make a change in your spiritual life? Can you start with a small change and then gather momentum?

Proverbs 8:10 - "Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold."

Living in Grace


"Trust and start walking. We are not alone in the dark, our path will unfold as we move." - Paulo Coelho

Thursday 3 November 2022

Whose Adventure?

"But man wished to conduct his adventure on his own, in his own way, instead of entering into God's adventure." - Paul Tournier

The Genesis account of creation reminds us that God invited us into his adventure, but we chose another way - we thought ours would be better. In the end, we came to the harsh reality that God's adventure is always better than our own. 

Just to clarify, God's adventure is not boring or second rate, compared with humanity's adventure - God's choice is always more exhilarating and exciting than we expect. Aesop apparently said that "adventure is worthwhile" and I would agree with him. However, I would add - "God's adventure is always worthwhile!" 

Question: Whose adventure are you living out?

1 Corinthians 1:8-9 (The Message) - God himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on track until things are all wrapped up by Jesus. God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that.

Living in Grace


Wednesday 2 November 2022

An amazing story of hope

What amazes you about this story?

"When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help.  “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”

Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”

The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith."
- Matthew 8:5-10

As I read this, I am taken aback by Jesus' willingness to engage with all people. This centurion was not Jewish, but he was desperate for help. He put aside his pride, position and honour to beg Jesus for help. And in return, Jesus sees into his heart and offers help.

Question: If Jesus could see into your heart today, what would he see?

What 'big' request do you have today? Are you willing to ask Jesus for help?

Living in Grace

Tuesday 1 November 2022

Your work IS important!

"Every occupation has its own honour before God. Ordinary work is a divine vocation or calling. In our daily work no matter how important or mundane we serve God by serving the neighbour and we also participate in God's on-going providence for the human race." - Martin Luther

These words remind us that, no matter what we do (work or serving), this is part of our higher calling. As you go about your tasks today, remember that you do it for the Lord and not for anyone else. 

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters" - Colossians 3:23

Living in Grace