Thursday 28 March 2024

A great display of love


Sometimes we don't have adequate words to express the depth of our feelings. When the woman (Mary) anoints Jesus' head, while he is eating at the home of Simon the Leper, we see the incredible love she has for Jesus. 

"While he was eating, a woman came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume and poured it over his head." - Matthew 26:7

The depth of her gratitude is revealed in the value she places on Jesus. The jar of perfume was worth a full year's wages for the average worker. That is a lot of money to offer up as a gift to Jesus, especially as it was only to be used in a once off act. 

Mary came to understand the true 'worth' of Jesus and her generosity always challenges me to reflect on the love that I show Christ. Is my love merely in words, or does it come with a great display of love.

"Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions." - 1 John 3:18

Living in Grace


John 12:3-6 - Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance. 4 But Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray him, said, 5 “That perfume was worth a year’s wages. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.” 6 Not that he cared for the poor—he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples’ money, he often stole some for himself.

The Coins

How much is Jesus worth to you? 

When Judas approached the chief priests and negotiated to hand Jesus over to them, we note the value he placed on Jesus' head - 30 pieces of silver. According to tradition, this was the sum of money that was needed to be paid for a slave that had been killed (Exodus 21:32). To reimburse the slave owner, a price of 30 silver coins was paid to settle the debt. 

Although we understand Judas' role in death of Jesus, it does seem incredibly sad that Judas felt that his teacher, Jesus, was worth the price of a slave. Of course, the great irony in this is that Jesus came to be a servant to all, so the actual amount of money probably didn't bother Jesus. However, it does strike a chord in my own heart, when I consider the tough question: What is Jesus worth to me? 

14 Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests 15 and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So, they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. 16 From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over. - Matthew 26:14-16

Thought: The 30 coins don't only speak to us of betrayal, but they also speak to us of value and worth!

Living in Grace


Tuesday 26 March 2024

The Crown

The closest I have ever come to wearing a crown is at Christmas time, when we don the paper crowns that come out of the crackers. I find them a little annoying at times, mainly because they don't always fit so nicely. After a while, I usually take them off, as they also start to make my forehead sweat, but at least I have a choice to put them to one side. 

Jesus didn't have that choice. And the crown he was forced to wear was not made of paper.

"Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face." - John 19:1-3

A crown that was hastily put together. 

A crown that wasn't intended to be a perfect fit, but rather stayed on his head because the thorns stuck into his skull.

A crown intended to hurt and to shame.

A crown that mocked Jesus' claim to be King.

Despite the evil intentions of the soldiers, Jesus continued to wear the crown, knowing that indeed he was a King. He probably wasn't even able to adjust it, to make it more comfortable. When his brow ran with blood and sweat, Jesus had no option to discard the thorns. 

In silence and pain, he bore their jeers and taunting - all because he knew a greater purpose was being fulfilled. And this was all for me. 

Thought: "How could I bear a crown of gold when the Lord bears a crown of thorns? And bears it for me!" - Elizabeth of Hungary

Living in Grace


Monday 25 March 2024

The Crowds

Wherever Jesus went he was followed by a crowd of people. The more the news about him spread, the greater the crowds became. The Bible tells us how Jesus felt about these people:

"When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." - Matthew 9:36

I am sure it was impossible for Jesus to speak to each person individually, especially when the crowds were in their thousands. However, we notice that he treated them as if they were the only people around at that time - his words spoke to the hearts of each individual.

Sadly, it was the anger of another crowd of people that pushed Jesus to the cross. Jesus became their scapegoat, and they satisfied their anger by turning on an innocent man.

Thought: Holy Week is a moment when I reflect on my own propensity to appease others. To go along with the crowds. To avoid independent thinking and to turn my back on Jesus. What about you?

Living in Grace


Saturday 23 March 2024

The Lamb is presented for inspection.

It was customary for the Passover Lamb to be kept for four days before the actual Passover (see Exodus 12). This allowed the people of Israel the chance to present their lambs to the priest for inspection. Is it not incredibly profound that when Jesus rides into Jerusalem, on what we know as Palm Sunday, that he was symbolically presenting himself to the priests as the Passover Lamb – the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world?!

There are so many remarkable events that happened during Jesus' last week on earth, that I can't see this has been mere co-incidence. God had a plan, and he was fulfilling it through the life and death of Jesus Christ. 

May you encounter Christ during this Holy Week. 

Exodus 12:1-6 - "The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb[a] for his family, one for each household. If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat. The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight..."

Living in Grace


Thursday 21 March 2024

Speak up for the rights of the destitute


As we remember Human Rights Day (in South Africa) on the 21st of March, it is good to remember a few important things: 

Proverbs 31:8 - Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.

Proverbs 31:9 - Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.

“When we struggle for human rights, for freedom, for dignity, when we feel that it is a ministry of the church to concern itself for those who are hungry, for those who have no schools, for those who are deprived, we are not departing from God’s promise. He comes to free us from sin, and the church knows that sin’s consequences are all such injustices and abuses. The church knows it is saving the world when it undertakes to speak also of such things.”Oscar A. Romero, The Violence Of Love

Living in Grace

Wednesday 20 March 2024

Wave after wave

The image of waves crashing onto the seashore is a beautiful picture for us all. There is something therapeutic about hearing the waves washing onto the sand or crashing onto the rocks. When we read these words from Luke 1, in a paraphrased version of the Bible, we note that this same image is highlighted. 

"What God has done for me will never be forgotten, 
the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.
His mercy flows in wave after wave,
on those who are in awe before him.
He bared his arm and showed his strength,
scattered the bluffing braggarts.
He knocked tyrants off their high horses,
pulled victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
the callous rich were left out in the cold.
He embraced his chosen child, Israel;
he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.
It’s exactly what he promised,
beginning with Abraham and right up to now."
- Luke 1:46-55

Food for thought:

1. What resonates with you as you hear these words?

2. Is there a connection between these words and your Lenten journey?

3. How can this thought change your heart and attitude today?

Living in Grace

Tuesday 19 March 2024

Dealing with distractions this Holy Season

As we embark upon this sacred season of Holy Week, there are many things that threaten to distract us from doing the most important of our tasks. And for any believer, the most important task we should be doing at this time of the year, is to worship Jesus. 
No question about it!

So, what is stopping you from setting meaningful time aside to worship Jesus? How can you realistically cut out these distractions for a week or so? To try and help us get the ball rolling, here are some words from Meister Eckhart.

“Some people prefer solitude. They say their peace of mind depends on this. 
Others say they would be better off in church.
If you do well, you do well wherever you are. 
If you fail, you fail wherever you are.
Your surroundings don't matter. God is with you everywhere - in the marketplace as well as in seclusion or in the church.
If you look for nothing but God, nothing or no one can disturb you.
God is not distracted by a multitude of things.
Nor can we be.”
- Meister Eckhart

Jesus says it best, when he speaks to Martha (Luke 10:40-42):

"But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Living in Grace

Monday 18 March 2024

A big misunderstanding?

When Jesus had set his mind and heart towards Jerusalem, he pronounced:

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified" - John 12:23 (NIV)

It is believed that in saying this, Jesus was referring back to the words of Daniel and thus fulfilling them: 

“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed." - Daniel 7:13-14

The trouble came when the crowds understood the phrase, 'be glorified', to mean something very different from what Jesus was thinking. William Barclay helps us to understand this on a deeper level:

“By glorified the people meant that the subjected kingdoms of the earth would grovel before the conqueror’s feet; by glorified He meant crucified!” 

Throughout Jesus' ministry and especially in his final weeks, people superimposed their own ideas of salvation, victory and glory, unto Jesus' true meaning. 

Thought: In what ways, could I misunderstand the message of the Cross?

Living in Grace


Sunday 17 March 2024

A thought for Saint Patrick's Day

Most of us are aware that Patrick is the patron Saint of Ireland, and yet he was not technically Irish at all. He was born in Britain and taken captive by Irish raiders in the early 400's. After spending 6 years as a shepherd/slave in Ireland, he managed to escape back to his homeland. It was during this captivity that his relationship with God deepened to a very devout level, and this continued while he settled back in Britain. 

However, God called Patrick back to serve the people of Ireland and so he went back there to share the Gospel with his previous enemies and captors. I can't think of a more profound example of God's love and grace than someone doing what Patrick did. It was his faith and love that continued to spread Christianity through Ireland, and so he is now revered as Saint Patrick. What a remarkable story!

"If I have any worth, it is to live my life for God." - Patrick 

May the strength of God pilot us, may the wisdom of God instruct us, may the hand of God protect us, may the word of God direct us. Be always ours this day and for evermore. - Patrick

Living in Grace


Thursday 14 March 2024

Are your hearts hardened?

Jesus sure knows how to ask tough questions! When his disciples were arguing over who forgotten the rest of the picnic lunch, Jesus was probing to see if they had made any spiritual connection between the leaven and the Pharisees. Of course, they hadn't! Like most of us, they only saw what was physically before them, without truly comprehending the spiritual depth of Jesus question.

So, when he asks the disciples, "Are your hearts hardened? (Mark 8:17)", I wonder what actually went through their minds? 

This is a great question for us to mull over during Lent? Is there a part of our own hearts that has become calloused? Hardened? Dull? 

What kind of things can turn our once vibrant hearts into hearts of stone?

Will we allow the Spirit of Christ the opportunity to soften our hearts?

“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” - Ezekiel 36:26

Living in Grace


Tuesday 12 March 2024

Don't you see?

In the space of a few verses in Mark 8, Jesus asks his disciples a series of questions. We dealt with one of these yesterday, but today we note another question that he asks of them? 

"Meanwhile, the disciples were finding fault with each other because they had forgotten to bring bread. Jesus overheard and said, “Why are you fussing because you forgot bread? Don’t you see the point of all this?" - Mark 8:16-19 (Eugene Peterson)

They were struggling to see beyond the earthy nature of the lack of bread. All they could think of was that Jesus was complaining about the lack of bread, but in the meantime, he was trying to explain to them the spiritual dangers of the 'leaven' in the bread - referring to the Pharisees and Herod.

As Christians we need to spend time in the presence of God to fully 'see' his ways and to grasp the meaning of the gospel. There are times when we think we understand, but we really don't! 

There is an ancient proverb that states: "There are none so blind as those who will not see!" - This speaks of those who show no desire to see or understand the truth that stares them in the face. 

Living in Grace

Monday 11 March 2024

Don't you remember?

Lent is time for remembering. We should remember all that Jesus has done for us and all that we are invited to be a part of. We should also take the time to remember how God has taken care of us in the past and how he will continue to be with us in the future. When Jesus was trying to teach his disciples about trusting in his provision, he seemed to get a little exasperated at time. In Mark 8 we read:

And don’t you remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”

“Twelve,” they replied.

20 “And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”

They answered, “Seven.” 
(Mark 8:18-20)

They had recently witnessed these great miracles and yet they still doubted whether Jesus could meet their needs in the future. Their forgetfulness reveals the immaturity of their faith.

Question: What has God helped you with, in the past? Is there a reason why God can't help you in the future?

Living in Grace

Thursday 7 March 2024

Which person are we?

Elizabeth Browning wrote these words:

“Earth is crammed with heaven,

And every common bush afire with God.

But only he who sees, takes off his shoes.

The rest sit round it and pluck berries.”

One may have to read these 4 lines a few times before they truly begin to sink in. Elizabeth Browning suggests there are two common responses to the beauty of Creation. Some people just want to consume what they see, without much thought for the Creator, while others are moved to awe and wonder. Their response is Moses-like, they take off their shoes and realise they are witnessing a marvel from God.

Which person are we?

"Dominion and awe belong to God; he establishes order in the heights of heaven." - Job 25:2

Living in Grace


Wednesday 6 March 2024

A lesson in faith

"Faith isn't about having everything figured out ahead of time; faith is about following the quiet voice of God without having everything figured out ahead of time." - Rachel Held Evans

In our season of prayer and listening, let us tune our ears to the voice of Jesus. As we listen to his voice, so we can take the next step in faith. 

"The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
    the God of glory thunders,
    the Lord thunders over the mighty waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
    the voice of the Lord is majestic.
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
    the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon leap like a calf,
    Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the Lord strikes
    with flashes of lightning.
The voice of the Lord shakes the desert;
    the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord twists the oaks
    and strips the forests bare.
And in his temple all cry, “Glory!” - Psalm 29:3-9

Living in Grace


P.S. - "No step taken in faith is wasted, not by a God who makes all things new." - Rachel Held Evans 

Tuesday 5 March 2024

Not as we should be .... yet!

We are all a work in progress. To realize that we are not yet as we could be, is a humbling thought, and one that is good to dwell on in this season of Lent.

"God loves you unconditionally, as you are and not as you should be, because nobody is as they should be." ~ Brennan Manning.

The challenge is twofold:

1. To keep coming to the Lord in prayer and worship, asking the Holy Spirit to refine us and to make us more and more like Christ. This is a lifelong process.

2. To show as much patience and grace with others, as God shows us. Our neighbour's are also on their own journey of transformation and sometimes we find their slow progress a little irritating :) 

2 Corinthians 3:18 - And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Living in Grace

Monday 4 March 2024

Wrestling with God


"So, Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” 

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
- Genesis 32:24-26

I have always been fascinated by this account in Genesis and it reminds me of how often we wrestle with God in prayer. Of course, we don't always seem to get the outcome that Jacob received, but I feel that our willingness to wrestle with God reveals our desire to be heard and understood. 

Jon Acuff says: "Wrestling with God is a sign of intimacy. You can't wrestle with someone you are far away from." 

Are you wrestling with God at the moment? What is it you are asking from the Lord?

Living in Grace

Sunday 3 March 2024

Are you willing to grind the wheat?

I stumbled upon this challenging statement from Charles Spurgeon. There is so much wisdom in his words, but the part that intrigued me the most was the line that I have highlighted. I invite you to read through these words and see what stands out for us.

“There are times when solitude is better than society, and silence is wiser than speech. We should be better Christians if we were more alone, waiting upon God, and gathering through meditation on His Word spiritual strength for labour in his service. We ought to muse upon the things of God, because we thus get the real nutriment out of them. . . . 

Why is it that some Christians, although they hear many sermons, make but slow advances in the divine life? Because they neglect their closets, and do not thoughtfully meditate on God's Word. They love the wheat, but they do not grind it; they would have the corn, but they will not go forth into the fields to gather it; the fruit hangs upon the tree, but they will not pluck it; the water flows at their feet, but they will not stoop to drink it. From such folly deliver us, O Lord. . . .”

Living in Grace