Wednesday 31 January 2024

Diving in the deep end!

How far would we go to follow the call of the Lord? This is always a difficult question to answer, as we all come from different backgrounds and experiences. However, Elisha was faced with a difficult decision and in the end, he decided to dive in at the deep end!

1 Kings 19:19-21 - So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was ploughing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him. Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye,” he said, “and then I will come with you.”

“Go back,” Elijah replied. “What have I done to you?”

So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the ploughing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant."

The Complete Jewish Bible describes verse 10 in this way: "He left the oxen, ran after Eliyahu and said, “Please let me kiss my father and mother good-bye; then I will follow you.” He answered, “Go; but return, because of what I did to you.”

Thoughts: What do you think convinced Elisha that this was what he needed to do?

Living in Grace


Tuesday 30 January 2024

Describing beauty

Leading Christian apologist and scientist, John Lennox, says:

"Describing beauty is almost impossible because we perceive it, rather than describe it. If you look at a Rembrandt painting and start to try and describe what the beauty is you see, your words sound absolutely pathetic."

Perhaps this is why we are sometimes lost for words, when we see the beauty of Creation all around us. Beauty is there to be witnessed, perceived and enjoyed, but we struggle to find adequate words to articulate what we are seeing. 

If you have even seen something truly breathtaking, it is hard to describe this to someone else, even to people you know well. The best way to allow others to enjoy it, is to try and show it them, so they can see it with their own eyes.  

The Psalmist had a very good handle on words, and he described beauty and creation in this way:

I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous,
your handmade sky-jewelry,
Moon and stars mounted in their settings.

Then I look at my micro-self and wonder,
Why do you bother with us?
Why take a second look our way?

Yet we’ve so narrowly missed being gods,
bright with Eden’s dawn light.
You put us in charge of your handcrafted world,
repeated to us your Genesis-charge,
Made us stewards of sheep and cattle,
even animals out in the wild,
Birds flying and fish swimming,
whales singing in the ocean deeps. 

God, brilliant Lord,
your name echoes around the world. 
(Eugene Peterson)

Living in Grace

Monday 29 January 2024

Give me, Good Lord

If you were a few days away from your execution, what kind of prayer would you offer up to the Lord. According to tradition, the following words are part of Thomas More's prayer, which he wrote in 1535, just before he was martyred: 

"... give me, good Lord, a humble, lowly, quiet, peaceable, patient, charitable, kind, tender, and pitiful mind with all my works, and all my words, and all my thoughts, to have a taste of Thy holy, blessed Spirit. 

Give me, good Lord, a full faith, a firm hope, and a fervent charity, a love to the good Lord incomparable above the love to myself; and that I love nothing to Thy displeasure, but everything in an order to Thee.

Give me, good Lord, a longing to be with Thee, not for the avoiding of the calamities of this wretched world, nor so much for the avoiding of the pains of purgatory, nor of the pains of hell neither, nor so much for the attaining of the joys of heaven in respect of mine own commodity, as even, for a very love to Thee."

The part of the prayer that really stands out for me today is:

A Full Faith ...
A Firm Hope ...
A Fervent Charity....

What about for you?

Hebrews 5:7 - "During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission."

Living in Grace

Sunday 28 January 2024

A rudder for the day

"Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray. Later Simon and the others went out to find him. 37 When they found him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.” - Mark 1:35-36 (NLT)

When we feel that our 'to-do' list is so long, it may feel counter-intuitive to set time aside for prayer. We may struggle with the temptation to skip our devotional disciplines, so that we can free up time for other demands. However, many faithful Christians would argue that it is precisely because they committed their day to the Lord, that they managed with all their other demands. 

Henry Ward Beecher commented: 

 “The first hour of the morning is the rudder of the day." 

Clearly, he felt that his time with God helped him navigate through the trials of the day. And we note from Mark's gospel today, that even Jesus needed this time with his heavenly father.

Ellen White – “Jesus was wholly dependent upon God, and in the secret place of prayer He sought divine strength, that He might go forth braced for duty and trial. In a world of sin Jesus endured struggles and torture of soul. In communion with God, he could unburden the sorrows that were crushing him.”

What do you think about this? 

Living in Grace


Friday 26 January 2024

Blessed is ....

At the bottom of my diary this week, I saw the following quote:

"Blessed is the person, who sees the need,
recognizes the responsibility.
and actively becomes the answer." 
- Willam Arthur Ward

These are wise words indeed, but are surpassed by the words of Jesus, who said:

"Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God." - Matthew 5:7-9

Thought: Can we be the answer to someone's need? 

Living in Grace


Thursday 25 January 2024

Love strengthens us

Yes, we know that “we all have knowledge” about this issue. But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church." - 1 Corinthians 8:1-2

As Paul was trying to find common ground in the Corinthians church, especially around the issue of food sacrificed to idols, he made a powerful statement: Love strengthens the Church.

I find it interesting that when we deal with potential issues of conflict, we still try to lean a lot on our 'knowledge' of the issue, instead of seeking Love. Of course, this is a very hard thing to put into practice, but Paul does make a valid point. 

The words of St. Francis came back to me, as I was writing today's reflection:

"O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand..."

What do you think?

Living in Grace

Tuesday 23 January 2024

A thoughtful prayer from Alan Paton


Below is a prayer from Alan Paton. I trust that you will find it helpful for today.

"Lord, open my eyes that I may see the needs of others,
Open my ears that I may hear their cries,
Open my heart so that they need not be without relief.
Let me not be afraid to defend the weak, because of the anger of the strong,
not afraid to defend the poor, because of the anger of the rich.

Show me where love and hope and faith are needed,
and use me to bring them to these places.
Open my eyes and ears that I may, this coming day,
be able to do some work of peace for You."

Habakkuk 3:2 - Lord, I have heard of your renown, and I stand in awe, O Lord, of your work. In our own time revive it; in our own time make it known; in wrath may you remember mercy.

Living in Grace

Monday 22 January 2024

When someone believes in you, it has the power to change your life!

In reading Luke 5 this past weekend, I was reminded of the influence we can have in the lives of others, especially when we believe in their potential. So, why do I say this? Well, take note of these words from Luke, as a starting point:

"When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m such a sinful man.” For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him. His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed. 

Jesus replied to Simon, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus. Luke 5:8-11

Simon Peter was very honest about his sinfulness and his lack of faith, yet Jesus sees beyond these faults, to the person that Simon Peter can become. It is almost as if Jesus says to him: 

"Simon, I know who you are, and I know your sin. However, I created you for more than this. Work with me and we will begin to change the world!"

It is little wonder that the disciples left everything to follow Jesus. Who wouldn't want to follow someone who knows your worst secrets and yet still loves you enough to bring you onboard their team? 

Living in Grace

Sunday 21 January 2024

Word for the month .... and maybe the whole year!

I stumbled across this profound Scripture during the week, and I think that this will be my 'Word' for the rest of January, and maybe even for the rest of 2024. I share it with you and pray that it may also encourage you:

“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them. – Isaiah 42:16

It spoke to me in a number of ways:

1. It reminded me that God will lead me, even along unfamiliar paths. There will be plenty of those during this year, I am sure of it!

2. Christ will shine a light on the path and will help me to walk on the uneven paths. The rocky trails will seem a lot smoother, if I learn to walk with Jesus.

3. Jesus will not forsake me. 

May you have a blessed week.

Living in Grace


Saturday 20 January 2024

In the driver's seat

Matthew 16:24 (Message) -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."

The challenge for us all is to allow God to be in the driver's seat and not to shove him out the way. I know that I can be a little bit of a nervous passenger at times, but when I trust the driver, I am very content to sit back and allow them to get me to the destination.

How about you? 

Do you trust God to get you to your final destination?

Matthew 23:10 - Nor are you to let yourselves be called ‘leaders,’ because you have one Leader, and he is the Messiah!

Living in Grace


Thursday 18 January 2024

Pride and Joy

I have seen many 'back to school' photos on social media this week. All of them speak of the excitement and joy of parents as they send their children back to school. Some of these kids are just starting out, while others are ending their school careers. The one thing that is common to all of them, is the sense of love and pride that each parent has for their kids. 

We are reminded in our current Church season of the baptism of Jesus, and we come to a beautiful picture of another proud parent - our heavenly Father. If we read Eugene Peterson's take on Mark 1, you will note that he helps us to see the joy and pride of the Father, as he blesses Jesus.

"At this time, Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. The moment he came out of the water, he saw the sky split open and God’s Spirit, looking like a dove, come down on him. Along with the Spirit, a voice: “You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life.” - Mark 1:9-11 (The Message)

Have you ever considered that God would speak those words over your life? We are God's pride and joy. How does that make you feel?

Living in Grace


Wednesday 17 January 2024

The day most people quit!

In a recent blog post by Jon Acuff I was astounded to discover that the 2nd Friday of January is known as Quitter's Day. According to the fitness app Strava, who analyzed over 800 million exercise downloads, it appears that most people quit their fitness goals within 2 weeks of the New Year. 

I can't vouch for the information, but I guess I can understand that many people can't follow through with their best intentions. So, what makes the difference in the lives of those who persevere? Is it just sheer grit, determination, or something more?

As we venture into the heart of 2024 in our Spiritual lives, what will help us not to quit? I don't believe it is just sheer will power that keeps us holding onto our faith; nor can it only be my determination. It has to include something deeper, surely? 

I wonder if it hasn't got something to do with community (small group or Church), encouraging us along the way? And of course, believing in the end goal! Fixing our eyes on Jesus - the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12).

What would you say keeps you going? 

What has helped you in the past?

Let me know your thoughts please.

Living in Grace


Tuesday 16 January 2024

A prayer for our children

As another school year begins, I wanted to write a prayer for my own children. I pray that this may help and encourage you too. God bless.

Dear Lord,

As our children begin another year of school, we pray that you would fill them with confidence, peace and the willingness to learn. 

We pray for their teachers, coaches, mentors and friends, and that each of them would be able to positively contribute to the growth of our kids. 

We acknowledge that not all learning is academic, and that our children need to understand the value of listening to others, coping with disappointment, helping those who struggle, encouraging a wary teammate and, that genuine kindness can break down many barriers.

Gracious God, we ask that you place your great arms of protection over our kids, and that you would give them strength to overcome the obstacles in their paths. 

We also ask, that where we cannot be, that you would keep watch over their lives. 

Give them courage to stand by their faith, principles and convictions. 

Lord, help us to nurture our kids as best we can, and to allow them just enough freedom to spread their wings, but enough guidance to make wise decisions. 

As they begin this new year of studies and adventures, we intentionally place them into your loving care.

Lord, in your mercy, please hear our prayer.

Living in Grace


Monday 15 January 2024

Let us hold fast

Certain words we use in the English language sometimes lose their intended meaning along the way - or we associate other things with the original word. 

Take for example the word, FAST. Most of us would assume that this word is relating to the speed of a person or object. Example: That person can run very fast!

However, this word can also be used in a different context, and it can mean something very different. It can relate to something holding very securely to another object. (The child held fast to the ladder). It speaks of how securely we hold onto someone or something. Or it can even mean 'to abstain from food.'

The writer of the Hebrews says: Let us hold unswervingly (fast) to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. (10:23)

There are many things that can threaten our faith, and these can erode our ability to hold 'fast' to Christ. The call for us to hold onto Jesus is loud and clear, but we all need encouragement along the way. 

As we move deeper into January, may we resolve to hold fast to Christ.

“That exhortation, ‘Let us hold fast,’ might well be written on the cover of every Christian’s Bible. " - Charles Spurgeon

Living in Grace


Sunday 14 January 2024

It has been torn in half!

Reflecting on the dramatic passage in Matthew 27:50-52, I stumbled upon a brilliant observation from Charles Spurgeon. The scripture speaks of the work of God, as Jesus dies on the cross:

"And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split, and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.

Spurgeon then went on to comment about the curtain (veil) and this is what he wrote:

“For believers the veil is not rolled up, but rent (torn). The veil was not unhooked, and carefully folded up, and put away, so that it might be put in its place at some future time. Oh, no! But the divine hand took it and rent it front top to bottom. It can never be hung up again; that is impossible. Between those who are in Christ Jesus and the great God, there will never be another separation.”

God has paved a way for all of us to enter into the inner sanctuary of his presence. The work of Jesus can't be undone - the curtain is torn, thus making a way for us to enter in. However, we can refuse to enter in, but God still longs for us to commune with him.

Living in Grace


Thursday 11 January 2024

Don't overcomplicate things - praying simply!

I have met very few people who claim to be "good" at prayer. Most of us feel that there is lots of room for improvement and we would be correct. However, I also know that there are many of us who try to overcomplicate our prayers and then we wonder if we are praying in the right way or not! 

Perhaps there is a simpler way to start...?

When we find ourselves drawn to pray, we need a little prompting to get us going. Sometimes having a starting verse or opening line, may be the thing that we really need. 

Some Christians use the first line of the Lord's Prayer as their kickstart (Our Father who is in heaven), while others may start with a scripture, (The Lord is my Shepherd). Perhaps the Apostle Paul may have used his famous words as his starting point: "These three remain: faith, hope and love; but the greatest of these is love!"

And then of course, there is Saint Francis. He may have used his own prayer: "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace..." 

Or John Newton - he may have started off with: "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound..."

My point is this: Prayer takes time and discipline, but we need to start somewhere. Please don't get tangled up in worrying 'how', but rather just start.

Living in Grace


Wednesday 10 January 2024

Learning to walk

My friend, Hugh Till, shared this lovely prayer on Sunday during his service. It really spoke to me, and I would love to share it with you too. It is called: Learning to Walk, and was written by J. Bradley Wigger.

"O God of steadfast love,
trusting you, we devote our hearts to learning,
and our lives to walking.

Teach us truth, that we may walk with courage.
Teach us mercy, that we may walk with humility.
Teach us forgiveness, that we may walk with compassion.
Teach us grace, that we may walk with strength.
Teach us wonder, that we may walk with praise.
Teach us goodness, that we may walk with those in need.

O God of steadfast love,
Learning from you, may we walk well.
(From Together we Pray: A Prayer Book for Families (Chalice Press, 2005)

Thought: As we begin a new year, we would do well to devote our hearts to learning and our lives to walking well. 

Living in Grace

Tuesday 9 January 2024

What are you leaning on as you begin 2024?

The New Year is already a few days in and many of us are starting to grasp the reality of the challenges that lie ahead. As we grapple with the difficulties of life, I have been asking myself, what am I leaning on, as I face these inevitable hurdles? Or perhaps the question should be phased: Who are we leaning on? 

I pray that we would make the firm choice to lean on the mercy and grace of Jesus, as we begin each day. 

He is all that we need to face the year ahead.

Proverbs 3:5 - "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding."

Song of Songs 8:5 - "Who is this coming up from the wilderness leaning on her beloved?

Living in Grace

Monday 8 January 2024

Time is all you have

"The key question to keep asking is, are you spending your time on the right things? Because time is all you have." - Randy Pausch

Over the last week I have had the chance to do a little reading and I am grateful for the books I have managed to work my way through. One of them was "The Last Lecture" (Randy Pausch), which I decided to re-read as we begin 2024. If you don't know Randy's story, it is work taking a look at his biography. 

In a nutshell, Randy was diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer in 2006 and given 6 months to live. Suddenly, everything in his life became extremely focused - he wanted to make the most of his time left on earth and was left with some critical decisions to make. One of those was that he decided to give a series of lectures, that would be part of his legacy for his family and community. If you get to read his book, you will find it is surprisingly uplifting and very moving. 

The quote that I was drawn too (see above) fits in nicely with the verse from Psalm 90, which speaks of the same thing. 

"Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." - v.12.

What does this say to you about your decisions for the new year?

Living in Grace