Wednesday 26 April 2023

A Call to Freedom

As we celebrate Freedom Day in South Africa (27th April) and remember the first democratic elections in 1994, it is important to also focus on what it means to enjoy and experience spiritual freedom? Here are a few thoughts to help us in the process:

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."- Galatians 5:1

Eugene Peterson puts it like this: Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.

May we think of freedom, not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right." - Peter Marshall

“Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.”― Mahatma Gandhi

Prayer: May you experience the freedom of the Holy Spirit as you seek to follow Jesus.

Living in grace


Tuesday 25 April 2023

Empty Nets

"Empty nets, Lord.
Moments when the strands that keep my life together seem tenuous,
thin threads incapable of holding anything of note.
My fishing futile, with nothing much to show for all I’ve done.

I sit with Peter and his friends,
cold in the dark, my minds amalgam of faith and uncertainty in equal parts with hope and fear,
not knowing what’s best, what my next move should be.
Times when I sit alone, human and vulnerable,
boat drifting in an early morning mist of fearfulness – net snagged on disappointment.
And yet you’re there, walking the edges of my life.

Calling me to one more effort,
your presence tempering the dark, your sunrise scattering the mist.
And when I move to try again, your early morning promise offers me warmth and welcome,
and the reassurance that my life is lived with you and the darkness,
and the mist don’t count.” - Eddie Askew

I absolutely love and appreciate these words from Eddie Askew. His prayer puts into words some of the fragile moments of my own faith. Eddie Askew served in the Leprosy Mission (TLM) for many years and used his talents as an author, speaker and artist to bring hope to all who suffered with Leprosy. For more on his life, read this splurb.

Living in Grace

Monday 24 April 2023

Rise up and be counted

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ invites all of us to a new life in his name. For us, this must mean a genuine desire to 'be resurrected' on a daily basis. What I mean is that we need to choose to 'die to our ourselves' and then allowed the Holy Spirit to renew us again. 

Perhaps for some people this happens in a once off event, but in my experience, this is something that I need to be willing to do every day of my life. As Matthew Fox writes - I must be willing to 'rise up and be counted.'

“to be Resurrection for another I need to be Resurrection for myself. That means I cannot dwell in [despair] or death and anger and oppression and submission and resentment and pain forever. I need to wake up, get up, rise up, put on life even when days are dark, and my soul is down and shadows surround me everywhere … I have to listen to the voice that says: Be Resurrection… Be Born again. And again. And again. Rise up and be counted. Rise up and imbibe the good news deeply – that death does not conquer, that life, not death, has the last word …” – Matthew Fox

Romans 8:11 - And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

Living in Grace


Thursday 20 April 2023

Looking for direction

As we contemplate Jesus' appearance to the 7 disciples, at the Sea of Galilee (John 21), there is an interesting connection between night and day - darkness and light. 

“I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So, they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. - John 21:3-4

The disciples were feeling lost and so they went back to the work that they knew. However, even that didn't seem to be working out for them. So, into this situation Jesus appears and starts to renew their purpose and direction. He shares breakfast with them and reinstates Peter, giving him his new mission. 

Eddie Askew – “It was a dark night for them, out on the water, and the enveloping mist must have emphasised their sense of isolation. Yet at their lowest point, their empty nets a metaphor for their empty lives, Jesus is there on the shore. They can’t see him, but he is there, sharing the dark hours, waiting to welcome, warm and feed them round the fire, ready to point them in a new direction.” 

God is always willing to point us in a new direction, especially if we are willing to be used for his glory.

Living in Grace


Tuesday 18 April 2023

Let us not rush through the story

It is barely 10 days since Easter Sunday, and I feel that many of us have simply rushed through the Resurrection story and had gone back to 'life as normal.' However, it shouldn't be this way! The news of Christ's resurrection makes sure that our lives are anything but normal. We are offered the gift of transformation and the chance to begin again. This is an everyday gift and one that should bring hope into our worlds. 

"Resurrection is the announcement that life cannot ultimately be conquered by death, that there is strength added when the labors increase, that multiplied peace matches multiplied trials, that life is bottomed by the glad surprise." - Howard Thurman 

What gift does the Resurrection offer you right now? Is there some grief in your heart that needs the light of Jesus to shine on?

Acts 23:6 - I stand on trial because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead (Paul). 

Living in Grace


Monday 17 April 2023

Mere Christianity - C.S. Lewis

Mere Christianity is a book written by C.S. Lewis and published in 1952. The origins of the book began as radio broadcasts that Lewis did for the BBC, and eventually came together in the book form. His work is known for its brilliant apologetics, as well as clear description of what it means to be a Christian. The influence of C.S. Lewis is immense, with many people speaking of how his gift with the pen, changed their lives. 

Out of interest, here is one of my favourite quotes from the book:

Keep nothing back.

Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours.

Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead.

Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, 

despair, rage, ruin, and decay.

But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him, everything else thrown in.

Luke 9:23 - Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

Living in grace


Sunday 16 April 2023

Christ recognizes you!

"That same day two of them were walking to the village Emmaus, about seven miles out of Jerusalem. They were deep in conversation, going over all these things that had happened. In the middle of their talk and questions, Jesus came up and walked along with them. But they were not able to recognize who he was." - Luke 24:13-16 (The Message) 

Frederick Buechner writes an interesting response to this encounter. He says, “I believe that although the two disciples did not recognize Jesus on the road to Emmaus, Jesus recognized them, that He saw them as if they were the only two people in the world. And I believe that the reason why the resurrection is more than just an extraordinary event that took place some two thousand years ago and then was over and done with is that, even as I speak these words and you listen to them, He also sees each of us like that.”

What better news is there? We may not 'see' Christ in the midst of our chaotic lives, but he sees us.

May you have a blessed week. 

Living in Grace


Thursday 13 April 2023

A 17th Century prayer that still resonates today

I was looking for something in one of my desk drawers today and I stumbled across this lovely prayer that I had completely forgotten about. It is accredited to a 17th Century nun, and I think it is still very pertinent for us in the 21st Century. Hope you enjoy it and that it resonates with you. There is so much beauty in her words: 

"Lord, you know better than I know myself that I am growing older and will someday be old. Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion. 
Release me from craving to straighten out everybody’s affairs. 
Make me thoughtful but not moody; helpful but not bossy. 
With my vast store of wisdom, it seems a pity not to use it all, 
but you know Lord, that I want a few friends at the end.

Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details;
give me wings to get to the point. Seal my lips on my aches and pains. 
They are increasing and love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by. 
I dare not ask for grace enough to enjoy the tales of other’s pains, 
but help me to endure them with patience. 

I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and a lessening cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others. 
Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken.

Keep me reasonably sweet; 
I do not want to be a saint – some of them are so hard to live with – 
but a sour old person is one of the crowning works of the Devil. 
Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places and 
talents in unexpected people. 
And give me, O Lord, the grace to tell them so.


Living in Grace


Wednesday 12 April 2023

A new life emerges

"Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; new life emerges! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins." - 2 Corinthians 5:17-20 (Message)

...a new life emerges!

This is the phrase that encapsulates the Resurrection for all of us. Thanks to the work of Christ, who emerges from the borrow tomb, each of us can experience this gift of new life. As we emerge from the darkness of sin, so we allow the Light to help us adjust our eyes to our new world-view. Following Jesus changes us - slowly, but steadily. The old life disappears, as we embrace the new.

May you know the love of God today.

Living in Grace


Tuesday 11 April 2023

A dog called Arthur

I have had a few people ask me to re-share the story of the dog called Arthur. I used his story in an illustration during Holy Week. If you would like to listen to the sermon in which it was used, then you can also click on this link.

In the 2014 Adventure Racing series in Ecuador – the Swedish team were led by MikaelLindnord. They came across a shaggy, tired, ugly and hungry dog and Mikael tossed him a piece of a meatball. That gesture changed the dog, nicknamed Arthur, forever. The little dog appreciated the food from Mikael so much that he decided to follow Mikael’s team over the next 10 days of racing. This included trekking through the mountains, kayaking down the Amazon and a whole lot of other hectic events – all totally about 700 km’s of adventure racing. The race organizers were not so chuffed about the scenario, but Arthur raced with the team until the end.

The best was still to come – When they finished the race, Mikael adopted Arthur as his own pet and had him shipped home to Sweden. One man had a heart for a lost, shaggy and ugly animal and offer it grace and salvation. 

This sounds a lot like the story of the Gospel to me.

œ "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Jesus Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8

I was lost and stray, but God gave me hope in the form of his Son Jesus. He loved me warts and all and I can tell what, I am prepared to follow him wherever it may take me.

Living in Grace


Monday 10 April 2023

God with us

"God with us in our nature,
In our sorrow,
In our lifework,
In our punishment,
In our grace,
And now with us,
Or rather with Him,
In resurrection,
And Second Advent splendor."
- Charles Spurgeon 

Forgive my lack of creativity, but it has been a long and tiring Holy Week. I am sending you all this lovely prayer/poem written by Charles Spurgeon and pray that it may offer you some joy today.

Luke 24:6 - "He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee:"

Living in Grace

Thursday 6 April 2023

Last messages

The last words and actions of Jesus (before his arrest) leave us amazed at the extent of his love. On the very night before he would be nailed to the cross, Jesus was revealing his love to his followers in a most profound way. 

He showed them how to serve one another, through the washing of their feet (John 13) and then he led them through the Passover meal, drawing a direct connection with his body, about to be broken, and his blood about to be shed. These last messages still have a profound influence on our Christian faith today. 

Prayer: "Almighty, everlasting God,
on the evening before he suffered
your beloved son entrusted to the Church
the sacrifice of the new and eternal covenant
and founded the banquet of love.
Grant that from this mystery
we may receive the fullness of life and love.
We ask this through Jesus Christ.
" - Henri Nouwen

Question: How does Jesus's call for us to serve and love others, challenge us today?

Living in Grace


Wednesday 5 April 2023

A picture that speaks a 1000 words

In the late 1820's many people in Denmark were wrestling with faith and what means to follow Jesus, especially in the light of a broken world. In response to this longing, a sculptor by the name of Bertel Thorvaldsen was commissioned to design some statues to put into the Cathedral in Copenhagen. One of these is the now famous ‘Christus’, which is a statue of Christ (see above). 

Legend has it that when Thorvaldsen first modelled the statue in clay, he designed it so that the arms and hands of Jesus extended higher up – almost towards the heavens. However, during the night, a dense mist rolled in from the sea and soften the clay. When he arrived in the morning, the hands of Jesus had shifted downwards and consequently made the whole attitude of Christ look so much more inviting. Thorvaldsen decided he liked this newer portrayal of Jesus and left the hands as they were. 

As we enter into the final days of Holy Week, let us use this image of Christ as a reminder that God is always inviting us - always drawing us near to himself. 

Matthew 11:28 - Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.

Living in Grace


Tuesday 4 April 2023

Turning tables

Our journey through Jesus' last week in Jerusalem conjures up many different emotions. We also note the emotional impact on Jesus himself, reflecting on his passion and purpose. One of the incidents that leaves us a little confused is when he turns over the tables in the Temple. However, the more we read into it the more we comprehend the heart of Christ. When our worship loses its main focus (i.e., God) and becomes bogged down with the peripheral issues, then we miss the whole point. 

Matthew 21:12-13 - "Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out all the people buying and selling animals for sacrifice. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves. He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!”

If Christ came to you today, what "tables" might he overturn?

Living in Grace

Monday 3 April 2023

Holding the Hosanna and Heartache together

I read this very beautiful description of Palm Sunday last week and it has been living with me since then. In response to the question of why we retell the stories of Holy Week, Karoline Lewis writes:

"Because Palm Sunday is a day that holds hosanna and heartache together in a kind of proximity that is not always comfortable and honestly, doesn't even seem achievable." 

What an accurate portrayal of life - celebration and sadness, all held together in one. We can't have one without the other. Even as Jesus entered into Jerusalem that day, he knew that each hosanna would be echoed by a heartache that no human being would ever fully experience. 

In doing so, he invites us into the gift of his mercy and love. As we continue into our final days of Lent may God's spirit comfort your heartache with the knowledge that Jesus is among us. 

Matthew 21:9 - The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

Living in Grace