Monday, 30 January 2023

Committing to discipleship


Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes: “The fellowship between Jesus and his disciples covered every aspect of their daily life. Within the fellowship of Christ’s disciples, the life of each individual was part of the life of the brotherhood (sic). This common life bears living testimony to the concrete humanity of the Son of God. ........ In the Christian life the individual disciple and the body of Jesus belongs inseparably together. (The Cost of Discipleship p.284).

The Church continues to struggle with the difference between discipleship and membership. Jesus was explicit in his call to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20), but we have been discovering for centuries that this is much harder to put into practice. We have neat systems to build a membership base, but we keep wrestling with how to keep following Jesus, just as his disciples would.

John 6: 65- 68 - "He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”

From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

Thought: What do you understand by the difference between a disciple and a church member?

Living in Grace

D3LM3

Sunday, 29 January 2023

It doesn't happen automatically!


How can we prepare ourselves for growth in Christian faith? Can this even be achieved or measured? Regardless of our answers to these questions, the one thing I know is that 'growing in grace' doesn't happen by osmosis. We have to be intentional about it. Read the following words and see if this makes some sense:

“At the heart of it [John Wesley’s thoughts on Christian Perfection] was his conviction that growth in grace is not accidental or automatic. One does not wander or stumble into maturity…The key to Christian growth is not feeling but faithfulness.” – Dr Steve Harper

There is so much depth to this quote, but I am drawn to the part which insists that our growth doesn't come from something 'accidental' or 'automatic.'

Thought: What strikes you about the words from Dr Harper?

Colossians 1:10 - "so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God."

Living in Grace

D3LM3

Friday, 27 January 2023

Let us spur one other on


"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds." - Hebrews 10:24

Spurring one another on is an interesting thought, especially if we think about what a ‘SPUR’ really is. A horse SPUR is a device with a small spike on the end or a spiked wheel, that is worn on a horse rider's heel. It is used for urging a horse forward or encouraging it to listen to instructions. 

I am not sure if we would like one another to use a spiked wheel to encourage us in our faith, but I think we understand the sentiment. There are times when we need our Christian family to strongly keep us focussed and on track.  

Another definition of the word 'spur', is perhaps a little less painful - it is to “give an incentive or encouragement to (someone).”

Thought: Who needs an encouraging word today? How are you able to spur someone onto 'love and good deeds?'

Living in Grace

D3LM3

Thursday, 26 January 2023

The Hound of Heaven


In my weekly Bible Study, I mentioned the poem by Francis Thompson (1890) entitled Hound of Heaven. The 182-line poem captures the idea of a 'hound' relentlessly chasing down a hare. This idea becomes the core reflection of how God pursues us - relentlessly. Obviously, we are not rabbits that are about to be eaten by a hungry God (that's not the point at all), but rather, that God loves us so much that he runs after us until we notice Him and turn to him. This is how the poem starts:

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasm├Ęd fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.

Thought: Sometimes we run away from God because we fear that he is chasing us to harm us, but what if the Spirit of God is actually pursuing us, in order to call us back to our Beloved?

Song of Songs 2:8 - Listen! My beloved! Look! Here he comes, leaping across the mountains, bounding over the hills.

Living in Grace
D3LM3

Wednesday, 25 January 2023

Making mistakes


"A life spent making mistakes is not only more honourable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing." - George Bernard Shaw

It is easy to point out someone else's mistakes, but what we may never know is the huge lessons they are learning along the way. We are all a 'work in progress' and so perhaps we need to allow for each other's frailties. 

Paul wrote to Timothy to offer him some advice on what could help him live a Godly life:

2 Timothy 3:14-17 - Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way.

Living in Grace

D3LM3


Tuesday, 24 January 2023

At the Crossroads


When we reach a crossroads in our lives, we sometimes struggle to know which way to turn. This can be a trying time in our Faith journey, but one which we need to persevere through. At times like this I am reminded of the words of the great hymn Guide me, O Thou Great Jehovah

May these words also offer you some hope and encouragement today.

Guide me, O though Great Jehovah
Pilgrim through this barren land
I am weak, but you are mighty:
Hold me with your powerful hand.

Thought: May the bread of heaven be our food and nourishment during our time in the wilderness.

Living in Grace

D3LM3

Monday, 23 January 2023

Hiding from God?


Genesis 3:8 - Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

What makes us hide from the Lord?

In the Genesis account we see that for Adam and Eve it was their shame and fear of what the Lord would say about their sin. For us it could be many things, but we still often try to hide from God, when we choose to go our own way.

Thought: Perhaps we should not be hiding from God, but rather hiding in God.

"Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty." - Psalm 91:1

Living in Grace

D3LM3



Sunday, 22 January 2023

Searching deep within



Psalm 7:9 – “… for you, the righteous God, look deep within the hearts of men/women and examine all their motives and their thoughts.” (Living Bible)

The Psalmist reminds us that it is only the Spirit of God that can penetrate deep into our hearts and souls, searching out our inner thoughts and motives.

I still maintain that one of the bravest prayers we can ever pray is:

"Search me, O God and know my heart." - Psalm 139:23

Living in Grace

D3LM3

Saturday, 21 January 2023

Stranger to myself


"Most of us remain strangers to ourselves, hiding who we are, and ask other strangers, hiding who they are, to love us. - Leo Buscaglia

When Jesus called us to love our neighbours as we love ourselves, he assumed we actually love ourselves to some degree. This is the interesting part, because many of us still struggle to love ourselves as we should, and this may stem from the fact that we are still 'strangers to ourselves.' 

Thought: Do we truly know ourselves?

Which part of our inner lives do we not love?

Living in Grace

D3LM3

Wednesday, 18 January 2023

Do you not know? Have you not heard?


"Do you not know?

    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall.
but those who hope in the Lord,
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles.
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint." - Isaiah 40:28-31


Before the year runs away from us and we forget how peaceful the Christmas season was, let us remember the One who never grows tired or weary. I am sure that we will all face moments of exhaustion in 2023 but let me urge us all to HOPE in the Lord - this is when our strength will be renewed.


Thought: You don't have to carry every burden on your own. God grants us the strength and capacity to live each day. 

“Seeing that a Pilot steers the ship in which we sail, who will never allow us to perish even in the midst of shipwrecks, there is no reason why our minds should be overwhelmed with fear and overcome with weariness.” ~ John Calvin

    Living in Grace

    D3LM3


    Tuesday, 17 January 2023

    Back to School - some thoughts


    As our children head back to school for the start of a new year we are often filled with mixed emotions. On the one hand there is a little relief that the long holidays are over (if we are being totally honest :), but there is also a nostalgia that stirs in our hearts. 

    Our emotions are a mixture of pride in our ever-growing kids, but also a sadness that they are no longer the little toddlers they once were. We are also anxious about what the school year holds for each of them, and we hold very real questions in our hearts too: 

    • will they settle down and make friends? 
    • will they cope? 
    • will they study hard? 
    • will they adapt? 
    • what issues will prove to be a distraction for our kids? 
    • who will be a positive influence on our kids? 

    As I reflect on our youngest son starting grade 9 this year, he is the last of our 3 boys still at school. Our older sons have now finished and will both be studying at university. All I can think is this: Time certainly flies. It seems like it was just yesterday that they were starting out at Grade 1.

    So, as the school year begins, let us pray for all children and teachers returning to the classroom. Let us hold them all in our hearts and ask God to strengthen all involved in the education of our young people. There is so much 'wrong' in our country at this time, but we can still pray that the next generation are prepared for the challenges that lie ahead. Let us pray that many of them will be our true future leaders.

    Lord, in your mercy. Please, hear our prayer!

    Nelson Mandela - "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." 

    Psalm 86:11 - Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name.

    Living in Grace

    D3LM3


    Monday, 16 January 2023

    Inspiration from Martin Luther King


    When remarkable people die the world searches for ways to remember them. Perhaps it is not just about keeping their memory alive, but rather about recapturing the legacy they leave for all of us. The third Monday of January is marked as Martin Luther King Day, in memory of the civil rights leader, who fought for racial equality in America. 

    When one reads some of his inspiring words, one can't help but feel compelled to make the world a little better. I have chosen a few of his quotes that must have been inspired by his strong faith and his belief in Jesus Christ.

    “I have decided to stick to love...Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

    “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

    “Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

    “Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.”

    Thought: We may not get the chance to share our faith in speeches or sermons, but we all get the chance to honour Christ with our lives. 

    Living in Grace

    D3LM3

    Sunday, 15 January 2023

    Set up house!


    When Jesus instructed his disciples to 'remain in his love', what do you think he meant? 

    “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. - John 15:9

    There are a few different ways of looking at this concept of 'remaining,' but the one that strikes a chord with me is the idea of setting up a house. When you go camping for a weekend, you don't really plan to settle in that campsite, but you are fine with using it for a few days. You can live without a few things, but you may not really want to set up home there. 

    However, when you decide to set up home, you plan for the long haul - you create a garden, you hang up pictures, you paint the walls a colour you enjoy, you buy flowers for the dining-room table, you get a few pets, and you decide to tell your friends your new address. 

    This is how I see the concept of remaining in the love of Jesus. I must decide to 'set up home' in the presence of Christ. I must decide to be part of His life for longer than a weekend. I must choose to become a more permanent feature in the Jesus' company.

    Living in Grace

    D3LM3


    Thursday, 12 January 2023

    To flee or take refuge?


    Sound advice is often hard to come by. 

    It seems that King David was given advice to 'flee like a bird to the mountains' (Psalm 11), but he wasn't too enamoured with that suggestion. It is possible that he was being attacked and pursued by his enemies, yet David didn't want to give into their demands and evil tactics. He wanted to make a stand. 

    His statement of faith was this:

    "In the Lord I take refuge!" (Psalm 11:1)

    There are times when good people may give us very helpful advice, but we still need to place our trust in someone (something). David was willing to proclaim that God was his refuge. I am grateful that we can say the same thing.

    Thought: What is the difference between having complete faith in God's protection or simply ignoring sound advice? Do you find that the line is a little blurred? 

    Living in Grace

    D3LM3


    Wednesday, 11 January 2023

    Lots of friends versus Real friends

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    "As we go through life, we start to understand that it's not important to have lots of friends, what truly matters is that we have real friends." - Unknown

    Cultivating friendship is a long-term commitment. 

    It is quick and easy to click "add friend" or "unfriend" on our social media platforms, but it is a beautiful joy to invest time and energy in fostering genuine friendships. These are the friendships that stand through the storms of life.

    I am grateful for the real friends I have in my life. What about you? 

    Proverbs 12:26 - "The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray."

    John 15:15 - I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

    Living in Grace
    D3LM3

    Tuesday, 10 January 2023

    Getting rid of the junk


    In the last few days, we have had the chance to tidy up a few cupboards and drawers in the house. It is amazing how much junk we end up keeping, don't you think?! 

    I found pieces of paper and ten-year-old bank statements, along with things that should have been thrown away years ago. I kept asking myself: "Why did I keep that? What was I thinking?"

    Anyway, the purge has been done (for this year) and I am sure that I have kept some items that will confound me in ten years' time - I will probably be asking myself similar questions to the one's I asked this weekend. 

    The whole process got me thinking about the rest of our lives - spiritual, emotional and relational. 

    What junk do we hold onto? 

    Are there things in the dark recesses of our hearts that we need to clean out? 

    What is stopping us and why do we hold onto unnecessary garbage? 

    Here is a delightful piece of Scripture that was re-worded by Eugene Peterson: 

    "So don’t turn a deaf ear to these gracious words. If those who ignored earthly warnings didn’t get away with it, what will happen to us if we turn our backs on heavenly warnings? His voice that time shook the earth to its foundations; this time—he’s told us this quite plainly—he’ll also rock the heavens: “One last shaking, from top to bottom, stem to stern.” The phrase “one last shaking” means a thorough housecleaning, getting rid of all the historical and religious junk so that the unshakable essentials stand clear and uncluttered" (Hebrews 12:25-27).

    Living in Grace

    D3LM3

    Monday, 9 January 2023

    Ups and downs in spiritual life

    78 Best Ups and Downs Quotes to face daily life difficulties

    "Let the ups and downs your spiritual life come and go. If you were always down, you would become hardened and discouraged. God gives you seasons when you can catch your breath." - Francois Fenelon

    What do you feel about these words? 

    How easy is it to allow our 'ups and downs' to come and go? 

    Are you living in an 'in-between' season at the moment?

    Psalm 94:18-19 - If God hadn’t been there for me, I never would have made it. The minute I said, “I’m slipping, I’m falling,” your love, God, took hold and held me fast. When I was upset and beside myself, you calmed me down and cheered me up." (The Message) 

    Living in Grace

    D3LM3


    Sunday, 8 January 2023

    Having courage



    "In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged
    till he establishes justice on earth.
    In his teaching the islands will put their hope.” - Isaiah 42:3-4

    As we brace ourselves for the unveiling of the rest of 2023, it is good to remind ourselves that we put our trust in the One who will not falter or be discouraged. We will be discouraged at times, and we may even falter, but when we place our hand into the Lord's hand, then we know that we will be carried through these difficult times.

    "Having courage does not mean that we are unafraid. Having courage and showing courage mean we face our fears. We are able to say, 'I have fallen, but I will get up.' - Maya Angelou

    Living in Grace

    D3LM3

    Friday, 6 January 2023

    The Quest - my story of Epiphany

     


    The light draws me in – mysterious, divine, compelling.

    I feel as though I am given a simple choice – follow the star and find the elusive answer or potentially live with a lingering, nagging wonder… where would the star have taken me?

    Keeping the star in my sights, I persevere into the future. I am not yet sure if the brilliant light is just a mirage, a guide, or my ultimate destination. All I am sure of is that I must find the answer.

    The journey is hard, but I continue to wander over mountains and through deep ravines. On occasion I stop to refresh and refocus on the great, glimmering goal. The wilderness is the toughest part of the quest; it is the audible silence that casts doubt on my desire for the light, but I push on.

    My companions offer words of encouragement as we edge closer to the star. The mystery grows daily – larger and more pronounced, like a young pregnant mother watching the growth of her child from outside her stomach. Our questions are laced with nervous excitement and our words offer a hopeful consolation: have we made the right choice?

    Wearily, but rhythmically, we plod on. At some point in the early evening, we are arrested by the silent, stationary star. Its arc has come to rest above an obscure and unlikely home. There are no magnificent palatial walls to mark the birth of this unique child. Where are the consorts and servants? Why are there no royal guards or physicians? There is no smell of a thousand fires, lit to feed the multitudes come to honour the king.

    Perhaps this is all wrong? Has our wisdom been nothing but foolish guessing?

    Yet, there is a faint sound emanating from a home on the eastern hillside. We see a dull light coming from the rudimentary shelter. In truth, it’s more like a stable, but there are signs of life coming from the open doorway. It is the voice of a weary young man, followed by the prayer of an emotionally drained teenage mother: Thank you for this gift, Yahweh!

    In my heart I sense we have come to the appointed place, but my gut-feeling is confirmed when the sound of the angelic choir rises overhead. I have never heard hundreds of voices combine to this effect before. The overall message resounds as one, yet it is as if each distinctive voice is heard: Glory to the King!

    Our hope is finally rewarded in this delightful moment. We choose to respectfully bow to the young parents, before we kneel before the child. It seems fitting that we honour the infant boy and as we rise from the dusty floor, the star reflects in his new-born eyes.

    The gifts are for him, but we wonder if they are worthy enough for this special child. Will he even need them? Perhaps in the end he won’t, but it is what they truly represent that we have come to offer. Each precious treasure conveys the message of our hearts. We have found what we were looking for and now He deserves our genuine response.

    And so, we offer Him:

    Our allegiance. Our resources. Our All.

     

    Living in Grace

    D3LM3

    I find it incredible that when I ponder on the familiar stories of our faith there is always something new that touches my heart. These special events, in our Christian tradition, can deepen our faith and give us renewed purpose as we follow Jesus. God bless you as you keep your eyes fixed on the Light. 

     

    Thursday, 5 January 2023

    A sacred sign



    Epiphany remembers the moment the Magi followed the star to Bethlehem and how they worshipped Jesus when they eventually came to the manger (Matthew 2). Their willingness to follow the sacred sign (the star) changed their lives forever. 

    Writing on the theme of the Incarnation, Christina Georgina Rossetti spoke about the sacred sign:

    Love came down at Christmas,
    love all lovely, Love divine;
    Love was born at Christmas;
    star and angels gave the sign.

    Worship we the Godhead,
    Love incarnate, Love divine;
    worship we our Jesus,
    but wherewith for sacred sign?

    Love shall be our token;
    love be yours and love be mine;
    love to God and others,
    love for plea and gift and sign.

    Thought:
    As we follow the Christ into the unknown may Jesus be both our vision and our destination. 

    Living in Grace
    D3LM3

    Wednesday, 4 January 2023

    Chasing the rainbow


    I saw a beautiful rainbow this morning while out on a run. We had just had a little drizzle and the sun was trying its best to peek out from behind the dark clouds. Suddenly I was blessed with the sight of a giant rainbow right in front of me. As I ran down the hill it looked as if I was chasing the rainbow - sadly, I didn't find a pot of gold at the end of it though. 

    "The rainbow of God's promise
    Is always shining bright,
    And when the storm is over
    We'll see its blessed light.
    And if we'll only trust him
    As little children do,
    He'll take us gently by the hand
    And see us safely through."
    - Betsey Kline

    Genesis 9:16 - "When I see the rainbow in the clouds, I will remember the eternal covenant between God and every living creature on earth."

    Thought: Rainbows are seldom seen when the sky is clear - they shine best when there are dark clouds around. When we face storms this year, let us remember that God is always with us.

    Living in Grace

    D3LM3

    P.S. Please feel free to forward these posts to anyone who may need some encouragement. Asking them to sign up to the blog is a great way for us to grow this ministry - thank you for your help in this. Grace. 

    Tuesday, 3 January 2023

    A treasure of common sense


    "For the Lord grants wisdom! 
    From his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
    He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest.
    He is a shield to those who walk with integrity.
    He guards the paths of the just
    and protects those who are faithful to him." - Proverbs 2:6-8

    As I begin the New Year, I often look for inspiration to motivate me in my faith. I find it hard to beat the words of wisdom contained in the chapters of Proverbs. Today's reading speaks very plainly about the wisdom that is given to us by the Lord. 

    I hope and pray that I have enough common sense to trust in the Lord this year and to keep my eyes firming fixed on him.

    What words of wisdom will you be turning too in 2023?

    It is a thousand times better to have common sense without education than to have education without common sense. -Robert Green Ingersoll

    Living in Grace
    D3LM3


    Monday, 2 January 2023

    Old habits die hard


    The phrase 'Old Habits Die Hard' is an expression that has remained in common use for many centuries. There is a lot of debate as to who initially coined the phrase, with some people giving Benjamin Franklin the honour, as he wrote the words in a published article in 1758. Others claim that it may have been in use as early as the fifteenth century, but there is no concrete proof of this.

    Anyway, regardless of its origins, we all understand it's meaning: Any established habits are hard to break. 

    It is interesting that if I asked us if this phrase was used in a positive or negative context, most of us would lean towards the negative. I certainly relate this expression to the bad habits that I have a tendency to keep repeating - these old habits are hard to shake off and change. 

    However, what if we took the expression solely in a positive perspective? The good habits that we have created over time (that are now viewed as old or established) are equally hard to break. They will not easily die off, if we keep nurturing them.

    As we start 2023, I feel it is good practise to reflect on all our habits - both healthy and destructive - and to ask God to help us with each of these. The healthy habits need to be maintained, but the destructive ones need courage to quit or to change. 

    Proverbs 18:9 - "Slack habits and sloppy work are as bad as vandalism." (The Message)

    Questions:

    1. What healthy habits do you need to feed and grow this year?
    2. What destructive habits must you stop?
    3. What new habits can you create, that will become 'old' and resilient habits for future years?

    Living in Grace

    D3LM3

    Sunday, 1 January 2023

    A special prayer for the New Year



    In reflecting on our transition from 2022 into the New Year, I wrote a few thoughts that I trust could form the basis of a helpful prayer for each one of us. These words are my prayer for each one of us as we embark upon the journey of 2023. May these words be a blessing for you.

    "May our disappointments of the Old Year give way to new hope and dreams for the New Year.

    May our pain and scars of this past year create a new resolve and perseverance in the coming year.

    May all our grief and loss of the past, become fuel for deeper empathy and kindness towards those who will struggle alongside us in the days to come.

    May all our doubts and uncertainty of the Old Year be motivation for a resolute faith and passion for the future.

    May our failures and unfulfilled expectations of the past grant us revised perspective and refined clarity in the days to come.

    May our victories, joys and celebrations of this last year become a reservoir of deep gratitude and thankfulness in the New Year.

    May our knowledge of God’s unending mercy and grace be both a light for our journey this year, as well as a promise of God’s continual presence into the unknown."

    Thank you for your willingness to read these thoughts and devotions. I have committed to continue to this ministry into the future and I pray that each post would offer us all something to chew on and hopefully provide a little extra fuel for our Spiritual adventures. 

    Please remember that you can sign up to receive these posts directly to your email if you would like. It is FREE. You sign up on the home page.

    Have a Blessed 2023. 

    Living in Grace

    D3LM3