Thursday 31 August 2023

Time of renewal

"The key to continual and deeper spiritual renewal and revival is the continual re-discovery of the gospel."
- Timothy Keller

We are accustomed to noticing the change in seasons and sometimes it is not too hard to recognize what is happening in nature. Green leaves beginning stretching out on the end of naked trees; shoots of new life suddenly appear on barren fields; warm weather or spring rain washes away the memories of cold winters. Our world is filled with reminders of change.

But, what about our Spiritual renewal? 

Do we need to wait for something drastic to happen before we change our lives, or can we faithfully tune into the work of the Spirit and allow God to bring refreshing into our weary bones? It is my prayer that I would be more open to the work of God's spirit as He moves in our midst. 

Titus 3:5 - "...he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit."

May the change in seasons bring you the joy of the Spirit, the Hope of Christ and the peace of God.

Living in Grace

Tuesday 29 August 2023

Don't believe them!

Anne Bronte was a prolific writer of poems, books and hymns. She was the daughter of an Irish clergyman, and also the sister of Charlotte and Emily. Sadly, Anne died at the very young age of 29, but even in her short life, she left a huge legacy. 

We sang one of her songs on Sunday, as it fitted in well with our theme on the book of Job. For a young person, Anne had incredible insight and understood the complexities of life and faith. This song reminds us that the Christian path is not a smooth way, and if people tell us that it is, then we shouldn't believe them. This song originally appeared as a poem in Wuthering Heights. 

Believe not those who say
The upward path is smooth;
Lest thou should stumble in the way,
And faint before the truth.

Arm, arm thee for the fight:
Cast useless loads away;
Watch through the darkest hours of night;
Toil through the hottest day.

To labor and to love,
To pardon and endure,
To lift thy heart to God above,
And keep thy conscience pure,

Be this thy constant aim,
Thy hope, thy chief delight;
What matter who should whisper blame
Or who should scorn or slight,

If but thy God approve,
And if, within thy breast,
Thou feel the comfort of His love,
The earnest of His rest?

May we all know the comfort of his love, no matter what we are experiencing at the moment.

Nahum 1:7 - The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.

Living in Grace

Monday 28 August 2023

Walking with a friend in the dark

Helen Keller observed that “walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.”

Being a friend to someone who is experiencing suffering is a hard thing to do, but very necessary. I am grateful that we are able to turn to Christ as he walks with us in our times of testing and pain.

Daniel 3:24-25 - "Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?”

They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”

He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”

Thought: Do you need to walk alongside someone at the moment? 

Living in Grace


Thursday 24 August 2023

Sure-footed as the deer

Have you ever wondered how you will face your next obstacle without stumbling and falling flat on your face? Well, if you answered YES, then these words from Habakkuk will give you some hope and guidance.

"Elohim Adonai is my strength!
He makes me swift and sure-footed as a deer
and enables me to stride over my high places." - Habakkuk 3:19 (Complete Jewish Bible)

The NIV puts it slightly differently, but it makes the same point. God is our strength and God gives us the ability to be sure-footed.

The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights.

Living in Grace


Wednesday 23 August 2023

Yet, I will trust in God

It is hard to offer praise to God when we can't see a positive outcome from a bad situation. However, as we walk closely with the Lord we slowly learn to trust in God's providence and in his grand design. This trust is transformed into a deeper faith, where we are able to say: "Even though I don't see it now, I will trust in your goodness, O God!"

This is also what Habakkuk also came to understand. 

"Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior."
- Habakkuk 3:17-18

Thought: Am I able to trust in Christ even when there seems to be no sign of life?

Living in Grace

Tuesday 22 August 2023

Suffering does not discriminate.

The first verse of the book of Job tells us much about the character of the man: He was blameless—a man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil.” (Job 1:1). 

This is important for us to understand as we read the rest of the book, as it addresses a common misunderstanding amongst modern Christians, especially regarding suffering. We are sometimes led to believe that if we are holy and super-spiritual (close to God), that we can bypass suffering. 

However, this is not what the Bible actually teaches at all. Suffering is part of the experience for all believers and in fact, suffering doesn't discriminate at all. Every person can and will experience some degree of suffering: rich or poor, black or white, Christian or non-believer, young or old. 

The challenge for me will always lie in how we handle the suffering we encounter and how we view God in the midst of our trials. That is the hard part.

Matthew 16:24-26 (Eugene Peterson) - 

Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?

Living in Grace


Monday 21 August 2023

Suffering is not optional

“Dear Child of God, I am sorry to say that suffering is not optional.” - Desmond Tutu

We started our preaching series on the book of Job this weekend and the quote from Desmond Tutu (above) has lived with me throughout this week. For a long time, I believed that when I experienced some kind of suffering, that it was because of something I had done wrong, and that God was punishing me. 

Thankfully, I see God in a different light now, but there are still many people who think (mistakenly) that their suffering is caused by some defect in their spiritual lives. I feel this is not what God wants from us - this is dangerous theology. Suffering is universal and it is God who helps us get through these moments of pain and trial. 

Paul says something interesting in Philippians. He states: "I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead." (3:10-11)

What would this mean for us? Let me know what you are thinking, please. 

As we continue through this preaching series, I am sure I will share a few more thoughts on Job and suffering. Remember, that if you would like to listen to the sermon, you can click on this link.

Living in Grace


Thursday 17 August 2023

Patiently waiting

Patience has never been one of my best gifts - I get impatient easily and usually expect God to answer me according to my timeline and not his. Obviously, this doesn't bode well for me and so I realise that I need to take a leaf out of Habakkuk's book. 

Listen to what he says as he pours out his heart to God (Habakkuk 2;1).

"I will stand at my watch
    and station myself on the ramparts;
I will look to see what he will say to me,
    and what answer I am to give to this complaint."

As we position ourselves, waiting for the Lord's response to our prayers, may we not grow weary and lose heart. 

Grace and peace to you all.

Living in Grace


Monday 14 August 2023

Don't let your past define you!

Don't let your past define you!

When we read the story of Rahab and her family, in Joshua 2, we see that they were spared a violent death when the Israelites attacked Jerico. For her act of bravery and defiance, Rahab is given a special place in the rest of God's story. 

What is even more is that Rahab's faith led her to a place of honour within the lineage of Jesus Christ. In the genealogy found in Matthew 1:5-6, we see her name mentioned among the ancestors of our Lord. This inclusion highlights God's remarkable ability to turn the lives of unlikely individuals into a key part of His grand narrative.

Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,

Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,

Obed the father of Jesse,

and Jesse the father of King David.

Rahab's story teaches us that our past does not define us; rather, our faith and obedience to God's calling determine our place in His story. She is then mentioned in Hebrews 11 (the Hall of Faith) and then in James 2. Her story is a remarkable testimony of how God can use anyone for his purposes and how we are all given a chance at redemption. 

“Think of it—a pagan prostitute becomes a believer and then a wife of a prince of Judah. And ultimately, she becomes an ancestor of the Messiah Himself. Isn’t the grace of God wonderful?!” – Doug Lyon

Living in Grace


Friday 11 August 2023

Witnessing the giant censer (Botafumeiro) in Santiago Cathedral

As we completed the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, we hoped we may be fortunate enough to witness the Botafumeiro in action. This historical ceremony has been taking place in the Cathedral since the 12th century and is truly epic. 

Botafumeiro literally means 'to expel smoke' and it is a giant censer that is swung from the roof of the cathedral. The current censer weighs about 80 kilograms, is around 1.60 meters tall and takes 8 men to operate. It is usually only in operation on special occasions and Christian holy-days, but we were so blessed to witness this event in person. 

If you would like to watch this incredible event, please follow this link and watch our video. 

If you are in the Fish Hoek area on the 16th of August and would like to come along to our presentation about our Camino experiences, please join us. We are meeting at 6pm in the Methodist Church.

Living in Grace


Wednesday 9 August 2023

Thank you to all the women in our society.

"Give us thankful sense of the blessings in which we live, of the many comforts of our lot; that we may not deserve to lose them by discontent or indifference..." - Jane Austen

I think that these words from Jane Austen remind us of the importance of honouring the women in our communities. Sometimes we take for granted all that is done by the women in our society. Today is one of those days (National Women's Day) where we pause to say thanks and to remember their contribution. 

Thank you, ladies! May you be blessed and appreciated. 

1 Thessalonians 5:18 - No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus

Living in Grace


Tuesday 8 August 2023

How long O Lord must I call for help?

With all that is happening in the world around us, and especially in the Western Cape with the Taxi protests and violence, we can easily identify with the words of Habakkuk: 

"O Lord, how long must I call for help before you will listen? I shout to you in vain; there is no answer. “Help! Murder!” I cry, but no one comes to save. 3 Must I forever see this sin and sadness all around me?

Wherever I look I see oppression and bribery and men who love to argue and to fight. 4 The law is not enforced, and there is no justice given in the courts, for the wicked far outnumber the righteous, and bribes and trickery prevail.

5 The Lord replied: “Look and be amazed! You will be astounded at what I am about to do! For I am going to do something in your own lifetime that you will have to see to believe."
- Habakkuk 2:2-5

Habakkuk's complaint is understandable - when he looked at things that were unjust, wicked and evil, he asked why God didn't seem concerned. 

However, God responds, saying that there will be an answer and that this will take everyone by surprise. The solution will come from an unlikely source. 

Prayer: Lord, we seek a miracle from you in the ongoing strife in our land. As we seek your face, teach us not to lose heart and to trust in your divine wisdom and grace. Amen.

Living in Grace

Monday 7 August 2023

The mystery

“God seems to do nothing of Himself which He can possibly delegate to His creatures. He commands us to do slowly and blunderingly what He could do perfectly and in the twinkling of an eye.” - C.S. Lewis

It is often a great mystery as to why God would choose to include us in his work on earth. Surely God can do it a whole lot better than we can? Yet, we are still invited to be co-workers with Christ; partners with God in making his kingdom a reality.

"The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labour. For we are co-workers in God’s service.” – 1 Corinthians 3:8-9

Living in Grace


Sunday 6 August 2023

The Lord will guide you

Isaiah 58:11 - "The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail."

There is so much depth to this one verse - it is well worth chewing on for a while and seeing what sticks with you. Could it be that God wants us to remember some of these essential truths:

God will guide us always.

God will satisfy our needs, even when things look bleak around us.

God will strength our frame.

Our lives will become like a garden that has been cared for and is well watered. 

Have a blessed day and may these words become true for you. 

Living in Grace


Thursday 3 August 2023

Our travelling stories - check it out!

Forest path in the Spanish province of Asturias

As you may be aware my sabbatical included a lot of different experiences - some of these included the privilege of travelling to Spain (walking the Camino) and hiking in beautiful parts of our South Africa. In order to try and share some of these experiences I have created a website called Travelling Eden. If you are interested in these stories and in any of my ongoing adventures, please pop over to the site and have a look. I would really appreciate it. 

Thanks for your support and encouragement.

Living in Grace


Wednesday 2 August 2023

Playing on the one string - attitude!

"We cannot change our past. We cannot change the fact that people act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude." -  Charles Swindoll

What do you make of this quote? Do you agree or disagree? I do agree that our attitude is important in how we respond to certain people and events in our lives, but where does 'Faith' come into play? Can our faith impact our attitude? 

Ephesians 4:23 - " be made new in the attitude of your minds."

Let me know what you think.

Living in Grace


Tuesday 1 August 2023

If you were granted one wish

                                                            Proverbs 4:7 Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And ...    

If you were granted one wish, what would you ask for? Three more wishes? A million dollars? World peace?

In a dream, Solomon is visited by the Lord and told he could ask for anything from the Lord. This is part of his reply (1 Kings 3): 

7 “Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. 8 Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. 9 So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. 11 So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, 12 I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. 13 Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. 14 And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.” 15 Then Solomon awoke—and he realized it had been a dream."

We just need to take a look at Solomon's legacy to see how God granted his request and how Solomon became known as the wisest man on earth. Solomon must have been tempted to use his title, honour, wealth or name, to his own advantage, but instead he asked for wisdom. 

"The only true wisdom is knowing that you know nothing." - Socrates

Living in Grace