Tuesday 28 February 2023

More than Information

The greatest challenge for any student is to take all that they have studied and to apply it in real life. This is the test - how has the collection of information helped someone to put these principles into practise? 

The same can be said of studying the Scriptures. If I am only doing my studies so I can appear to be holy, then I am missing the point. This was Jesus' complaint against the religious leaders. He saw that they were studying intently, but all their information had not brought them any closer to discovering he was the Messiah. 

"You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life." – John 5:39-40

Dwight L. Moody – “The bible was not given to increase our knowledge, but to change our lives.”

Thought: How do you take what you have studied in the Bible and apply it in your life? 

Living in Grace


Monday 27 February 2023

Doing a little mining

“If you want to grow in the Word of God, become a person with a chisel and quarry the Word – look, explore, seek. Let the Word of God become your Word, and you will grow.” – Max Lucado

The idea of becoming a 'miner' of God's Word intrigues me. I believe that it necessary to approach the study of the Scriptures with intent, focus and the desire to 'mine the riches' that are hidden in the pages of the Bible. Of course, sometimes the treasures are in plain sight, but there are a few days when one really needs to dig deeper to find the precious gifts from God.

 2 Timothy 2:15 - Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that need not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Ecclesiastes 12:9 - Keep this in mind: The Teacher was considered wise, and he taught the people everything he knew. He listened carefully to many proverbs, studying and classifying them. 

Living in Grace


Friday 24 February 2023

God moves in mysterious ways

I find it fascinating how words and phrases make their way into our common vocabulary. Take for instance the phrase: "God moves in mysterious ways..." 

These words are attributed to a poem, that later became a popular hymn, written by William Cowper. Below is the full hymn if you would like to read it again. Of further interest, is that William was a friend of John Newton (author of Amazing Grace) and it was the depth of their friendship that inspired them both to push through some very tough times. 

God moves in a mysterious way,
    His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
    And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
    Of never failing skill;
He treasures up his bright designs,
    And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints fresh courage take,
    The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
    In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
    But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence,
    He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
    Unfolding ev'ry hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
    But sweet will be the flow'r.

Blind unbelief is sure to err,
    And scan his work in vain;
God is his own interpreter,
    And he will make it plain.

Thought: In what ways have you experienced God move in mysterious circumstances?

Living in Grace


Wednesday 22 February 2023

A Prayer for those who are seeking God

The following is a prayer written by Anselm of Canterbury. I love his honesty and his willingness to admit his need of Jesus. May it bless you today.

"Lord Jesus Christ;
Let me seek you by desiring you,
and let me desire you by seeking you;
let me find you by loving you,
and love you in finding you.

I confess, Lord, with thanksgiving,
that you have made me in your image,
so that I can remember you, think of you, and love you.

But that image is so worn and blotted out by faults,
and darkened by the smoke of sin,
that it cannot do that for which it was made,
unless you renew and refashion it.

Lord, I am not trying to make my way to your height,
for my understanding is in no way equal to that,
but I do desire to understand a little of your truth
which my heart already believes and loves.

I do not seek to understand so that I can believe,
but I believe so that I may understand;
and what is more,
I believe that unless I do believe, I shall not understand."

Luke 11:9 - “And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.

Living in Grace


Tuesday 21 February 2023

The Best Fasting

Health benefits of fasting YEN.COM.GH

As we begin the season of Lent, on Ash Wednesday, it is always good to contemplate the invitation to fast. The practise of fasting is prevalent in the Bible, but it is something that seems to have fallen out of favour in the modern Church. 

Jesus would have fasted as it was a common Jewish practise at this time, but he did urge his disciples not to fast with wrong motives: We can read this in – Matthew 6:16 & 6:17 - When you fast, don’t ….” 

As you think about what you may want to fast from this year, I offer you some other thoughts on Fasting - this time from Pope Francis. THE BEST FASTING:

  • Fast on offensive words and transmit only sweet and tender words
  • Fast on dissatisfaction and fill yourself with gratitude.
  • Fast on anger and fill yourself with meekness and patience.
  • Fast on pessimism and be filled with optimism
  • Fast on worries and be filled with confidence in God
  • Fast on laments and take pleasure in the simple things of life.
  • Fast on stress and fill yourself with prayer.
  • Fast on sadness and bitterness, and fill your heart with joy.
  • Fast on selfishness, and be filled with compassion for others.
  • Fast on unforgiveness and vendetta, and be filled with acts of reconciliation and forgiveness.
  • Fast on words and fill yourself with silence and readiness to listen to others.
There is lots of food for thought in these words (excuse the pun :)

Living in Grace

Monday 20 February 2023

No short cuts and quick fixes

We have embarked upon a new preaching series called: "A path to Spiritual growth" and it is based on the book Celebration of Discipline, which was authored by Richard Foster. In preparing for these messages, I have been struck again by this hard truth: There are no short cuts or quick fixes in choosing to be a disciple of Jesus. We have to be willing to sign up for the long-haul. 

In this book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society, Eugene Peterson shares around this similar theme, reminding me that my growth may be a little slower than I truly hope for, but I must be willing to submit to this long obedience in the same direction. 

 “And yet I decide, every day, to set aside what I can do best and attempt what I do very clumsily--open myself to the frustrations and failures of loving, daring to believe that failing in love is better than succeeding in pride.”

“There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians called holiness.”

2 John 1:6 - "And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love."

Living in Grace


Friday 17 February 2023

Connecting with God

What helps you to connect with God? 

There are many of us who find the love of God revealed in the beauty of creation. When you contemplate the might of a glorious mountain, or the crashing of waves on the ocean shore, these all point us to the power of our Creator. 

Or if you notice the flight of a colourful butterfly as it lands on the garden plants and then takes off again or the scurrying of the mysterious gecko, as it clings to the side of a sheer rock face. All creation points us back to the original Designer. Our Creator - the One who loves us and who desires to renew each one of us, is constantly seeking to celebrate the work of his hands. Let us give thanks that God has given us glimpses of his glory all around us and that we just need to open our eyes to see what God has made. 

Psalm 96:13 - Let all creation rejoice before the Lord...

2 Corinthians 5:17 - Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: 

Thought: Try and find a quiet place, somewhere outside. As the silence enfolds you, take note of God's creation and what God could be saying to you. 

Living in Grace


Thursday 16 February 2023

When our burdens chafe our shoulders

"God of life, there are days when the burdens we carry chafe our shoulders and wear us down; when the road seems dreary and endless, the skies grey and threatening; when our lives have no music in them and our hearts are lonely, and our souls have lost their courage. Flood the path with light, we beseech you; turn our eyes to where the skies are full of promise. Amen." - St. Augustine of Hippo

The words that initially struck me (in this quote) are from the first line - 'when the burdens we carry chafe our shoulders.' How many of us are busy carry heavy burdens at the moment and we feel as if our shoulders have been chafed raw?

If this is you, then listen to the words of Jesus:

 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." - Matthew 11:28

"For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." - Matthew 11:30

Living in Grace


Monday 13 February 2023

Do we have this the wrong way around?


I have come across this quote twice in the last week, so thought it would be good to reflect on it.

"People were created to be loved.
Things were created to be used.
The reason the world is in chaos is because
things are being loved and people are being used." - Unknown

There is some element of truth in this. It seems that the more 'things' we have in life, the less connected we can become. Jesus always saw value in the people around him and this was noticed by everyone. 

Mark 6:34 - "When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So, he began teaching them many things."

Thought: Although some people may treat us as commodities, God never will. 

Do we love things more than we love people? 

Living in grace

Sunday 12 February 2023

Prayer is listening!

"A person prayed - and at first they thought that prayer was talking. But then they became more and more quiet until in the end they realised that prayer is listening." - Soren Kierkegaard

"Be still and know that I am God." - Psalm 46:10

Do you find it easy to 'be still' in your prayer times?

What can we do to enable more 'listening' in our devotional lives?

Living in grace


Thursday 9 February 2023

If you could ask God for one thing...

If you could ask God for anything, what would you ask for? Listen to the thoughts of a young soldier, who is credited with this beautiful reflection:

"I asked God for strength that I might achieve.
I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked God for health that I might do greater things.
I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy.
I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men.
I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life.
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for--but everything I had hoped for...
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am among all men most richly blessed." - 
An unknown Confederate soldier.

Question: If you answered my first question (above), would you consider changing your answer after having read this poem?

Living in Grace


Wednesday 8 February 2023

We Belong


I was reminded of an inspirational truth that is found hidden in the popular Toy Story movie. If you haven't seen the movies, then perhaps you need to watch the first one, at least. Anyway, the star of the series is the much-loved space ranger (toy), named Buzz Lightyear. 

At some point in the movie, Buzz finds that he is lost and doesn't know how to get home. He sits in despair and sorrow, until he looks down at his foot (see the picture above) and notices that the name "Andy" is written on the bottom of his foot. This is not just any name - it is the name of his friend and the little boy who actually owns Buzz. In this poignant moment, Buzz remembers that he belongs to someone special, and this makes all the difference.

If you are sitting in a period of despair at the moment, I invite you to remember that we belong to Jesus.

Romans 14:8 - If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

Living in Grace


Tuesday 7 February 2023

The sharpest weapon

Question: What is the sharpest weapon around?

Answer: Knife? Needle? Sword? Tongue? 

According to Anne Frank, none of the above. She suggests this: 

"In the long run, the sharpest weapon of all is a kind and gentle spirit." - Anne Frank

I have never thought of a 'kind and gentle spirit' as a weapon, and it took a lot of brain power for me to reflect on her point, but I think I get it now.

What do you feel?

2 Corinthians 10:4 - The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.

Living in Grace


Monday 6 February 2023

Expect great things!

"God is ready to assume full responsibility for the life wholly yielded to Him.” - Andrew Murray

This quote is one that I found while preparing for our Covenant service last week. I enjoy the depth of insight that Andrew Murray offers us through his writings. He was certainly someone who was able to express his faith in a clear way. Take another example of his thoughts - this time on prayer:

“Each time, before you intercede, be quiet first, and worship God in His glory. Think of what He can do, and how He delights to hear the prayers of His redeemed people. Think of your place and privilege in Christ and expect great things!”Andrew Murray

What strikes you about these Andrew Murray quotes?

Joshua 24:23 - “Now then,” said Joshua, “throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.”

Living in Grace


Sunday 5 February 2023

God's promises through a sign

God often follows up his words with a clear and definite sign. This is to make sure that we are 100% sure of his divine purpose and promises.

One of the best signs God ever gave was the one mentioned by the angels when Jesus was born. Let me take us back to the birth narratives of Jesus and let’s see what Luke wrote:

This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12).

May you hold onto the precious signs God has given to each one of us. May they give us all the strength we need to endure and to follow the ways of Jesus. 

Living in Grace


Thursday 2 February 2023

Count it pure joy

James 1:2-3 — Daily Wisdom for Sunday, June 6, 2010

How is it possible to give thanks for difficult circumstances and trials? 

There are a few passages in the Bible that remind us to do so, but this is something I am still working on. I don't enjoy trials - I don't seek out suffering. However, they still come to us, no matter how much we seek to avoid them. So, how do we embrace them?

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn spent a long time in prison for his beliefs and when he was released, he was able to say: “Bless you prison, bless you for being in my life. For there, lying upon the rotting prison straw, I came to realize that the object of life is not prosperity as we are made to believe, but the maturity of the human soul.”

Is this what James meant, when he wrote?

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance." - James 1:2-3

Living in Grace


Wednesday 1 February 2023

Spirit of the Living God

Sometimes we can feel at such a loss that we don't know where to turn. It is at times like this, that I am reminded of this song:

"Spirit of the living God,
Fall afresh on me.
Spirit of the living God,
Fall afresh on me.
Melt me,
Mold me,
Fill me,
Use me,
Spirit of the living God,
Fall afresh on me.
" - Daniel Iverson

John 20:22 - "And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit."

Living in Grace