Saturday, 28 November 2009


What is it? A change is as good as a rest – or is it?
1. Cessation of work, exertion, or activity.
2. Peace, ease, or refreshment resulting from sleep or the cessation of an activity.
3. Sleep or quiet relaxation.
4. Relief or freedom from disquiet or disturbance.
5. Mental or emotional tranquillity.

Remember to take time
Ease off, ease down,
Turn to tranquility
This seems to be a progression.

How do we rest?

1.Remember to take time, Remember God’s goodness: Time and again the Bible tells us to rest one day a week. This is not about being ‘religious’ – it’s for our health!
eg Exodus 35:2
For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day shall be your holy day, a Sabbath of rest to the LORD.
Yes but how? Deliberately choose NOT to do things on the ‘to do’ list, try to get chores done on other days, ease off on the email or texting…Choose to spend the time with God. Sometimes I’m too wound up to be able to collapse in my chair with the Bible or a ‘good book’ – but I can go for a walk, put a praise tape on and dance round the kitchen, even start speaking out loud to God.

Psalm 33
1 Sing joyfully to the LORD, you righteous;
it is fitting for the upright to praise him.
2 Praise the LORD with the harp;
make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre.
3 Sing to him a new song;
play skillfully, and shout for joy.
4 For the word of the LORD is right and true;
he is faithful in all he does.
5 The LORD loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of his unfailing love.

Or, in The Message:
Good people, cheer God! Right-living people sound best when praising.
Use guitars to reinforce your Hallelujahs!
Play his praise on a grand piano!
Invent your own new song to him;
give him a trumpet fanfare.
For GOD's Word is solid to the core;
everything he makes is sound inside and out.
He loves it when everything fits,
when his world is in plumb-line true.
Earth is drenched
in GOD's affectionate satisfaction.

We can rest when we know we are 'in true' with God.

2.Ease off, ease down,

2 Samuel 7 God gave David rest from his enemies, Deuteronomy 25:19
‘When the LORD your God gives you rest from all the enemies around you in the land he is giving you to possess as an inheritance’ The Israelites received rest from their enemies, we can trust God that he too will give us rest from our enemies.

Who or what are our ‘enemies’?
I venture to suggest that these can be things and people which rob us of our relationship with God. Identify them. Demanding children or parents? Demanding colleagues? Demanding friends? A demanding self, giving ourselves an impossible ‘to do list’ or even a ‘do it perfectly’ list. It’s hard, but possible, to say ‘no’ from time to time. Some of the things we do we don’t need to do. ‘It’s as good as it gets’ is a useful phrase.

3. Stop

Psalm 16
7 I will praise the LORD, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me. 8 I have set the LORD always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,

10 because you will not abandon me to the grave, [c]
nor will you let your Holy One [d] see decay.
11 You have made [e] known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand

When I am stressed and over busy, the first thing to suffer – apart from my temper – is my sleep. My mind starts churning and, even when I am not consciously worrying over something like a dog with a bone, there is still so much churning around subconsciously that I stay awake.
Sometimes, it is only by repeating the words of Scripture over and over again that I can actually slow myself down enough:

Psalm 33 again: this puts my life in perspective as I look to God and who HE is and that my plans and purposes will only come about in HIS will:

10 The LORD foils the plans of the nations;
he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.
11 But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever,
the purposes of his heart through all generations.
12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people he chose for his inheritance.
13 From heaven the LORD looks down
and sees all mankind;
14 from his dwelling place he watches
all who live on earth-
15 he who forms the hearts of all,
who considers everything they do.
16 No king is saved by the size of his army;
no warrior escapes by his great strength.
17 A horse is a vain hope for deliverance;
despite all its great strength it cannot save.
18 But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him,
on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
19 to deliver them from death
and keep them alive in famine.
20 We wait in hope for the LORD;
he is our help and our shield.
21 In him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name.
22 May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD,
even as we put our hope in you.

4.Turn to tranquillity

Psalm 91

1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. [a]
2 I will say [b] of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust."

Psalm 116:6-8 (New International Version)
6 The LORD protects the simplehearted;
when I was in great need, he saved me.
7 Be at rest once more, O my soul,
for the LORD has been good to you.
8 For you, O LORD, have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,

So REST in God and HIS purposes. Find God’s good way. Jeremiah 6:16
This is what the LORD says: "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.

Matthew 11:28-30 (New International Version)
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

For more inspiration, look at Lisa Notes post...

Tuesday, 24 November 2009


For the first time for months, I took the dog out just after 6 this morning. (I've not been lazy, particularly, but have had a dodgy knee which has been very painful. Turns out it's osteoarthritis, but that's another story...).
It was dark. Pitch dark, so we walked along in almost total darkness.
Every so often I'd flick my torch on, but we know the way so well that I didn't need to.
Is my walk with Jesus as trusting? Don't I demand a torch of knowledge and wisdom to see by? Why isn't it just enough to walk so closely with him that we touch?
Every so often, a car would come by. Most cars dipped their lights, so I could still see, but some didn't. The headlights were blinding, wiping out everything else. Then, once past, it was momentarily SO dark that I couldn't see anything.
So even with the light I was blinded, and consequently even more so without it.
But God's light isn't like that.
God's light is gentle and helpful.
God's light is also so awesomely bright, that it is ALL we see - without being dazzled. We see Jesus in all his glory. We can see our world as well- our beautiful, God'created world - but our focus is on Jesus.
There will come a day when Jesus is all we see. His kingdom will come.
But it will also come, in a fainter way, now.
Today, I want to be dazzled by Jesus.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Lysa Terkeust

I wanted to put a direct link to this wonderful blog post - but couldn't. It's at Lysa's blog:

I was in the audience at a concert one night amazed by the size of the arena, the volume of the cheers and applause, and the excitement of being in this moment. At one point all eyes went to a ten year old little girl who was acknowledged by the singer and given the happy birthday wish of a lifetime.

As I sat there and thought about how exciting it must have been for that little girl to get the attention thousands others craved from this star, my mind wandered away from the concert.

I imagined Jesus standing up on that stage. I imagined the whole crowd fading away as He points his finger straight up to me. Little ol’ insignificant me, sitting in row 116, section R, seat 24. And then He speaks straight to me, “I love you Lysa and I have chosen you. Can we spend some time talking about this?”

I smiled. Then the reality of the concert brought real life crashing back. To the rock star the person sitting in row 116, section R, seat 24 is just another face in the crowd.

But to Jesus there is no such thing as just another face in the crowd. Somehow to God, we are all unique souls who He desires to call out, recognize and invite into a more intimate setting.

Unlike a human pop star, Jesus can give this kind of individual attention without excluding others. Every single person in the crowd could have their own individual encounter with Him. The only requirements are the desire to experience Him and the belief that it is possible. Sadly, very few people have either of these.

I know. I used to have the kind of relationship with God where I viewed Him as The One who makes sweeping glances over thousands of people per minute just to make sure no one was getting out of line. But the possibility to have God pause in the midst of everyday life to spend a little time with just me wasn’t in my scope of possibilities at all.

It almost seems a bit presumptuous to think God would want to notice me, choose me, call on me, and converse with me- doesn’t it?

Maybe the answer to this question is yes in human terms but not in Biblical terms.

In human terms the word “chosen,” sends my mind reeling back to playground kickball days. These were not some of my finer childhood memories.

“Chosen” was not at all a word I would have used to describe myself.

So, when I first heard that word in relation to God’s feelings toward me, I couldn’t process it. In human terms it did seem quite presumptuous to think that God would pause to pay attention to me. My earthly Daddy never did that. My kickball team mates certainly didn’t do that. It seemed quite upside down to think that a girl the world ignored and passed over would actually be handpicked, on purpose, by God.

The Bible is full of reassurances that this is exactly the way God wants us to process life.

Colossians 3: 12 says, “Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

Psalm 25:12 says, “Who, then, is the man that fears the LORD ? He will instruct him in the way chosen for him.”

And John 15:19 says, “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.”

I am a chosen person, with a chosen way, who has been handpicked by God on purpose to live a chosen life set apart in this world. But please don’t mistake this as an exclusive country club type membership. No, this is the truth that every person can stand on no matter their race, background, or their past. If you proclaim Jesus Christ, son of God, as your Lord and Savior, this is your chosen reality.

The problem is we have been trained to process life based on the way we feel. We think we must feel love for love to exist. We think we must feel wanted for it to be true that we are chosen. We think we must feel God’s presence for Him to really be close. But God never meant for us to feel our way to Him.

God wants us to stand on the absolute truth that He is with us no matter how our feelings may try and betray that reality. When I process life through my feelings I am left deceived and disillusioned. When I process life through God’s truth I am divinely comforted by His love and made confident in His calling on my life.

So, back to that concert when Jesus gave me the visual of Him calling out to me- choosing me, I learned something profound that night.

God made each of us with a vulnerable place inside our souls to be wanted, loved, and chosen above all others. I think that’s what ultimately drives people on both sides of an arena filled stage. The one on the stage is looking to have this vulnerable placed filled by the screaming crowd. The screaming crowd somehow thinks this famous person has it all figured out so if they can just get close maybe some of that fulfillment will rub off on them.

All the while Jesus stands off to the side and wonders if anyone realizes He’s the One our souls long for… not the fame… not the attention of the famous… and not the millions of other things we’ll spend our lives thinking we must have.

The answer to our deepest desires is not the seemingly perfect life… not the most romantic husband…not the smartest and most well behaved kids… not the bigger house… not the better job… not the awards and recognition of man and not in trying to feel our way to God.

It’s making the choice to recognize that God is close. Whether we’re at a concert, on a playground in the middle of a sorry kickball game, or sitting in a chair in our den- God is there. Loving. Assuring. Teaching. Calling. Choosing to spend time with us.

Becoming more than a good Bible Study Girl means never settling for needing to feel our way to God or to simply limit our experience of Him to those few minutes we call our quiet time.

It’s being able to sit in the noise of the arena of life with every worldly distraction imaginable bombarding you and suddenly thinking of Him- talking with Him- smiling with Him- and realizing every longing I’ve ever had in life to be more than just the girl in row 116, section R, seat 24 is already filled. By Him. The One who sees me as chosen.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges

The first book I ever studied in a small group was ‘Pursuit of Holiness’ by Jerry Bridges – a gem of a book which I still have. Respectable Sins is an admirable companion.

Immensely readable, the truths contained in it are both easy to grasp and difficult to implement. We are all guilty of sinning but, as Bridges says, we excuse ourselves. This book challenges that attitude: any sin, however, small, is anathema to God and we would do well to develop ‘zero tolerance’ towards the ‘little’ misdemeanours. Sins such as anger, pride, self-righteousness and sins of the tongue are all familiar to us and are sin even when present to a very minor degree. Add to the list ungodliness, anxiety, frustration, discontentment, unthankfulness, an independent spirit, selfishness, inconsiderateness, lack of self-control, judgmentalism, envy, jealousy and worldliness – there is no area of our lives where, if we are honest with ourselves, we can claim to be ‘sin-free’.

Such a long list might seem disheartening, but Jerry Bridges offers encouraging advice, practical help and real stories which give the reader confidence in defeating sin. An accompanying discussion guide, suitable for both personal and group study, is a useful tool for practical action.

Read the book slowly, pausing to examine your life in the light of each chapter. Life-changing.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Memo to self


1. Sermon at Church on the Rock yesterday: Moses turned aside to look at the burning bush which was not burning, then God spoke to him.

2. Today, reading Nick and Catherine Drayson's blog, a mention of the burning bush. They quote this poem by r.s.thomas, in the context of inspiration for extending God's kingdom:
“I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it.
But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
the treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to posess it.
Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future,
nor hankering after
an imagined past.
It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush
, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory
as your youth
but is the eternity that
awaits you.”

[The Bright Field]

3. This was an Aargh! moment. Reading a blog I came across quite randomly - you know how you click on a blog, then click on another blog mentioned on that blog, etc etc - I found this quote:

Peter Maiden said at a University Christian Union event, (30 years ago)

"Moses spent 40 years learning to be a somebody, 40 years learning to be a nobody and 40 years learning how God can use a somebody who's learned to be a nobody"

I literally went 'Aargh!!', clutching at my hair and bashing elbows on the table - I was about to load to look up... yes, Moses!

So, this is the story: the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, "I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up."
When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, "Moses! Moses!"
And Moses said, "Here I am."
Exodus 3:2 - 4 Or, as The Message puts it: The angel of God appeared to him in flames of fire blazing out of the middle of a bush. He looked. The bush was blazing away but it didn't burn up.
Moses said, "What's going on here? I can't believe this! Amazing! Why doesn't the bush burn up?"
God saw that he had stopped to look. God called to him from out of the bush, "Moses! Moses!"

He said, "Yes? I'm right here!"

Then, after making as many excuses as he could think of, Moses went back to Egypt on a mission at God's command...and the rest is history.

It struck me yesterday in church - and again today, reading this passage - that Moses had to turn aside to look at the bush BEFORE God spoke to him. I wonder what would have happened if he'd just carried on walking...?


Saturday, 24 October 2009

Saying 'no'

I never thought I would do this, but I’m actually saying no to a couple of commitments at church. I’ve just – barely – survived a week where, on top of working full time, I have been out for six nights running – five of those six, on church events of one kind or another. Two of them only happen every couple of months – but happened to be on consecutive days. It’s too much: I’m exhausted to the point of feeling ill.

I’m taking myself off the coffee rota, for one. I reckon I’ve been serving coffee about once a month for the last three years, so it’s time to step back.

A while ago, I resigned from leading prayers. I’d been asked to do it shortly after I arrived at church over five years ago, but I just wasn’t comfortable with it. It all seemed too formal, too prescribed – yet doing anything more interactive with over 80 people was quite a chore and didn’t lend itself easily to the format of the service. I couldn’t, in all conscience, continue. So that was OK.

But the coffee rota? What’s the harm in SERVING, especially as it is only once a month?

The harm is in too many other commitments: by the time I’d fitted in coffee rota, prayer ministry rota, small group, ladies' breakfast, prayer session with prayer partner, committee meetings, women’s fellowship committee meetings and events AND tried to spend whatever free time my husband had (he works shifts with a weekend off every five weeks, I work Monday to Friday) with him, my weeks were too full. The harm is in doing too many little things.

There is harm in another way, too. If I am doing something useful, filling a gap – then I am depriving someone else of the opportunity to serve. (Yes, we could have half a dozen of us to serve coffee when one or two will do, but that never happens in practice…)

If someone is not serving or involved in other ways, they may not be developing their God-given talents for His purposes.

So I’m resigning from women’s fellowship committee. I’ll still go on hosting a breakfast for ladies in church who work; I’ll still attend events – if I can.

But at least I am free of pressure to be in a certain place at a certain time.

And where is God in all this? He wasn’t – that was the trouble. I was too tired, too busy for Him. I had begun to run on empty, without His words filling my life. He tapped me on the shoulder with exhausting circumstances, and I’m grateful.

It was indeed time to stop.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Interview with God

I have seen this as an email 'round robin' before, but just love it. Watching it feels like coming into God's presence...

Thursday, 8 October 2009


Thinking about wisdom - and finding this article in Discipleship Journal.

I'm a teacher - and find my school day gives ample opportunity to share wisdom with colleagues, students and parents.

It also gives ample opportunity for Satan to interfere with God's work.

So I realized,when I read Proverbs 19:20 "Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise," that, strange as it may sound when I am the one 'giving instruction' - literally, several times a day - I need God's wisdom quite desperately.

I need advice and instruction when I am dealing with a difficult student, parent, or even colleague.
I need to listen more carefully than I do.
I need to be humble enough to accept that advice - particularly when the advice is to say sorry.
I need to be brave enough to accept that advice - particularly when it might take me to a place of fear.
I need to be strong enough to do put it into action.

Above all, I need to be wise. Help, God!

Friday, 2 October 2009

Wise advice

Psalm 86:11
Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.

Psalm 94:18
When I said, "My foot is slipping," your love, O LORD, supported me.

Psalm 119:32
I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.

Proverbs 21:20
In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil,
but a foolish man devours all he has.

(New International Version)

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Insights from Rick Warren

I found this on The Reservoir

In the interview by Paul Bradshaw with Rick Warren, Rick said:

People ask me, what is the purpose of life?

And I respond: In a nutshell, life is preparation for eternity. We were not made to last forever, and God wants us to be with Him in Heaven..

One day my heart is going to stop, and that will be the end of my body– but not the end of me.

I may live 60 to 100 years on earth, but I am going to spend trillions of years in eternity. This is the warm-up act – the dress rehearsal. God wants us to practice on earth what we will do forever in eternity.

We were made by God and for God, and until you figure that out, life isn’t going to make sense.

Life is a series of problems: Either you are in one now, you’re just coming out of one, or you’re getting ready to go into another one..

The reason for this is that God is more interested in your character than your comfort; God is more interested in making your life holy than He is in making your life happy.

We can be reasonably happy here on earth, but that’s not the goal of life. The goal is to grow in character, in Christ likeness.

This past year has been the greatest year of my life but also the toughest, with my wife, Kay, getting cancer.

I used to think that life was hills and valleys – you go through a dark time, then you go to the mountaintop, back and forth. I don’t believe that anymore.

Rather than life being hills and valleys, I believe that it’s kind of like two rails on a railroad track, and at all times you have something good and something bad in your life.

No matter how good things are in your life, there is always something bad that needs to be worked on..

And no matter how bad things are in your life, there is always something good you can thank God for.

You can focus on your purposes, or you can focus on your problems:

If you focus on your problems, you’re going into self-centeredness, which is my problem, my issues, my pain. But one of the easiest ways to get rid of pain is to get your focus off yourself and onto God and others.

We discovered quickly that in spite of the prayers of hundreds of thousands of people, God was not going to heal Kay or make it easy for her- It has been very difficult for her, and yet God has strengthened her character, given her a ministry of helping other people, given her a testimony, drawn her closer to Him and to people.

You have to learn to deal with both the good and the bad of life.

Actually, sometimes learning to deal with the good is harder.. For instance, this past year, all of a sudden, when my book sold 15 million copies, it made me instantly very wealthy.

It also brought a lot of notoriety that I had never had to deal with before. I don’t think God gives you money or notoriety for your own ego or for you to live a life of ease.

So I began to ask God what He wanted me to do with this money, notoriety and influence. He gave me two different passages that helped me decide what to do, II Corinthians 9 and Psalm 72.

First, in spite of all the money coming in, we would not change our lifestyle one bit. We made no major purchases.

Second, about midway through last year, I stopped taking a salary from the church.

Third, we set up foundations to fund an initiative we call The Peace Plan to plant churches, equip leaders, assist the poor, care for the sick, and educate the next generation.

Fourth, I added up all that the church had paid me in the 24 years since I started the church, and I gave it all back. It was liberating to be able to serve God for free.

We need to ask ourselves: Am I going to live for possessions? Popularity? Am I going to be driven by pressures? Guilt? Bitterness? Materialism? Or am I going to be driven by God’s purposes (for my life)?

When I get up in the morning, I sit on the side of my bed and say, God, if I don’t get anything else done today, I want to know you more and love you better. God didn’t put me on earth just to fulfill a to-do list. He’s more interested in what I am than what I do.

That’s why we’re called human beings, not human doings.

Happy moments, PRAISE GOD.

Difficult moments, SEEK GOD.

Quiet moments, WORSHIP GOD.

Painful moments, TRUST GOD.

Every moment, THANK GOD.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

My Daily Creed

By Author Unknown

Let me be a little kinder,
Let me be a little blinder
To the faults of those about me;
Let me praise a little more;

Let me be, when I am weary,
Just a little bit more cheery;
Let me serve a little better
Those that I am striving for.

Let me be a little braver
When temptation bids me waver;
Let me strive a little harder
To be all that I should be;

Let me be a little meeker
With the brother that is weaker;
Let me think more of my neighbor
And a little less of me.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

The Wizard of Oz

I was thinking about the Wizard of Oz – the story. Of how a little girl, Dorothy, a stupid Scarecrow, a Tin Woodman, and a Cowardly Lion all journey together, anxiously trying to reach the Wizard of Oz in the belief that he will meet all their needs. Dorothy wants to go home; the Scarecrow desires brains; the Tin Woodman longs for a heart and the Lion craves courage.

When the travelers arrive at the Emerald City, where the Wizard lives, each perceive him in a different way: To Dorothy, the Wizard is a giant head; the Scarecrow sees a beautiful woman; the Tin Woodman sees a ravenous beast; the Cowardly Lion sees a ball of fire. Yet the reality of the Wizard is a disappointment: he is just an old man with no obvious magical powers. Nevertheless, he provides the Scarecrow with a head full of bran, pins, and needles ("a lot of bran-new brains"), the Tin Woodman with a silk heart stuffed with sawdust, and the Cowardly Lion with a potion of "courage", and promises to help Dorothy get home. (He doesn’t achieve this.)

Yet these useless items don’t, of course, provide what they promise. The characters survive and triumph through friendship and courage in adversity. Together, they protect and help each other, for each of them recognises the value of the others.
And that’s what I think it is all about: giving and receiving value.

Value isn't achieved through having brains, or a beautiful nature/personality (we are not all naturally kind-hearted, for example, though that is something we CAN learn to be), or being naturally brave - likewise, we can learn how to act bravely. Value is not about the kind of job we have - whether that's out at work, or at home; or how successful we are at what we do; or whether we are 'nice' or popular - it doesn't depend on what others think about us. It doesn't even depend on what we think about ourselves. We just have to know that we are of VALUE:

Valuing others. Philippians 2:2-4 says: (be) like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. (NIV)

The Message: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

It sounds simplistic to have an attitude of helping others, but think of the opposite: disagreement, bad-feeling, antagonism, hate, enmity and rivalry; selfishness, unhelpfulness, self-centredness, self-seeking, self-importance, ambitious at the expense of others; pride, vanity, smugness, arrogance. Any one of these are enough to frighten us!

This might sound like a lot of giving, but it is also about receiving value. We treat others as of great value because we ourselves are of value.

Isaiah 43: 1 – 5 listen to the LORD who created you.
O Israel, the one who formed you says,
“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine.
When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.
For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
… Others were given in exchange for you. I traded their lives for yours because you are precious to me.
You are honored, and I love you. “Do not be afraid, for I am with you. (New Living Translation)

Again, in The Message: Don't be afraid, I've redeemed you.
I've called your name. You're mine.
When you're in over your head, I'll be there with you.
When you're in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you're between a rock and a hard place, it won't be a dead end—
Because I am God, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior.
I paid a huge price for you…That's how much you mean to me! That's how much I love you!
I'd sell off the whole world to get you back, trade the creation just for you. (The Message )

And so I think, when we know how VALUABLE we are, how precious to God, it becomes so much easier to give value to others and to love others. To have this attitude of helpfulness, sharing and not needing to be first, or to be valued by others, or to achieve recognition.

How can we do this?

Believe God’s promises. Time and time again, in the Psalms, God’s people are referred to as precious to him. Psalm 72:14 He (God) will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight. (NIV)

Psalm 94:15, The Message: God will never walk away from his people, never desert his precious people. Rest assured that justice is on its way and every good heart put right.

Micah 7:18 The Message (MSG)
Where is the god who can compare with you— wiping the slate clean of guilt, Turning a blind eye, a deaf ear, to the past sins of your purged and precious people? You don't nurse your anger and don't stay angry long, for mercy is your specialty. That's what you love most. And compassion is on its way to us. You'll stamp out our wrongdoing. You'll sink our sins to the bottom of the ocean.

Zechariah 2:8 “Anyone who harms you harms my most precious possession.

Luke 12:7, 23 - 25 New Living Translation (NLT)
And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows….Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds!

Remind ourselves. Play praise and worship music at every opportunity; put relevant Bible verses where we will see them often: a post-it on the steering wheel, on your work station or desktop, on the mirror at home… a rolling screensaver…a significant piece of jewellery…

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

God never sends you out alone!

I read this on Crosswalk Weekly, an email I get regularly: I just love it!

God Never Sends You Out Alone
by Max Lucado

When you place your faith in Christ, Christ places his Spirit before, behind, and within you. Not a strange spirit, but the same Spirit: the parakletos. Everything Jesus did for his followers, his Spirit does for you. Jesus taught; the Spirit teaches. Jesus healed; the Spirit heals. Jesus comforted; his Spirit comforts. As Jesus sends you into new seasons, he sends his counselor to go with you.

God treats you the way one mother treated her young son, Timmy. She didn't like the thought of Timmy walking to his first-grade class unaccompanied. But he was too grown-up to be seen with his mother. "Besides," he explained, "I can walk with a friend." So she did her best to stay calm, quoting the Twenty-third Psalm to him every morning: "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life..."

One school day she came up with an idea. She asked a neighbor to follow Timmy to school in the mornings, staying at a distance, lest he notice her. The neighbor was happy to oblige. She took her toddler on morning walks anyway.

After several days Timmy's friend noticed the lady and the child.

"Do you know who that woman is who follows us to school?"

"Sure," Timmy answered. "That's Shirley Goodnest and her daughter Marcy."


"My mom reads about them every day in the Twenty-third Psalm. She says, 'Shirley Goodnest and Marcy shall follow me all the days of my life.' Guess I'll have to get used to them."

You will too. God never sends you out alone. Are you on the eve of change? Do you find yourself looking into a new chapter? Is the foliage of your world showing signs of a new season? Heaven's message for you is clear: when everything else changes, God presence never does. You journey in the company of the Holy Spirit, who "will teach you and will remind you of everything I have told you" (John 14:26 NLT).

From Fearless by Max Lucado

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Being real

A week or so before New Wine I listened to a series of talks by Jay Pathak, a Vineyard pastor working in Denver. The emphasis was on being REAL: talking about Jesus, not hiding behind 'church' or even 'Christianity' but by just talking openly about Jesus - who he was, what he did, why he died...

The underlined comments from the first evening at New Wine were reminders of this:

I need to rediscover an ease of talking about Jesus, being natural. The words 'church' and 'christian' are so often barriers to belief.

I need to be so GRATEFUL to Jesus for all that he has done that I can't stop talking about him!

I need to fall in love with Jesus all over again - because HE is the alpha and the omega...

There is no one else like him!

The islands

I was rather intrigued by the talk on the opening evening of New Wine, by John Coles, who oversees the work of New Wine worldwide.

He talked about Martin Luther King's dream, focusing in on God's dream: how, starting with Abraham, God dreams of reaching all the nations through Jesus and his followers.

I scribbled the references down hastily, then looked them up later.

Isaiah 60, which begins with a wonderful prophecy: Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. but then goes on, as do many references in Isaiah, to say: Surely the islands look to me. How I wish this to be true for Guernsey and its islands - to be full of the presence of God, focused on him and on living out His kingdom here on earth.

Psalm 86 - verse 11 stood out:
Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth;
give me an undivided heart,that I may fear your name.

Then, Matthew 24 verse 45 reminds me to be ready for the Lord's return: and I take this also to be ready to see what God is doing here and now, as His kingdom breaks through. Having the attitude of seeing my world through Jesus' eyes, finding meaning in the day to day minutiae of life.

Lastly, Revelation 5 verse 9 reminds us that Jesus is worthy because he has purchased us from destruction with his blood.

I don't know what the speaker was intending with these chapters: possibly a different meaning from the one I picked out. Yet, from this, I can take:

A heart for Guernsey and its people,to know Jesus.
An undivided, single-hearted heart and strength of purpose.
A devoted heart, seeing God's purposes in my world.
A humble heart, to accept Jesus' sacrifice with no sense of pride or worthiness.

Lord, send your spirit

I can't give God all of me: not everything, not all the time.
I just can't do it.

Yet I received a few words of encouragement last week.

The first was: I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I am EVERYTHING. This from Revelation 21:6 and goes on to say: To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. Jesus talks about this 'water of life' - his spirit. And His Spirit is for everyone, everywhere.

Even for me. It's not a 'get and keep' Spirit, however, but a 'pass on and give' one - for blessing.

Blessing everyone, everywhere.


What has God been saying to me recently?

Well, I took copious notes during every talk or ministry opportunity at New Wine last week. I jotted down stuff from conversations. I noted anything that seemed to stand out.

This is what I found – I think. For now, anyway.

I was reminded again that God wants ALL of me. Not just a few minutes in the morning, or on a Sunday at church, but all of me all the time. My waking, my sleeping, my eating, my breathing. My reading, my writing, my tears, my laughter.

All of me, all the time.

So many aphorisms come to mind. Life isn’t a waiting room. Figure out what God is doing, then join in – enthusiastically. There is no waste in God’s kingdom.

But one in particular: the God’s kingdom is like a pearl of great price. Everything is worth giving up to get it. EVERYTHING.

That will do for now.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

You're Beautiful

I've had the music of Phil Wickham's lovely song running through my head ever since I first heard it at New Wine Guernsey a couple of weeks ago:

I see Your face in every sunrise
The colors of the morning are inside Your eyes
The world awakens in the light of the day
I look up to the sky and say
You’re beautiful

I see Your power in the moonlit night
Where planets are in motion and galaxies are bright
We are amazed in the light of the stars
It’s all proclaiming who You are
You’re beautiful, You're beautiful

I see you there hanging on a tree
You bled and then you died and then you rose again for me
Now you are sitting on Your heavenly throne
Soon we will be coming home
You’re beautiful, you're beautiful

When we arrive at eternity’s shore
Where death is just a memory and tears are no more
We’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring
Your bride will come together and we’ll sing
You’re beautiful, You're beautiful, You're beautiful

I see Your face, You're beautiful, You're beautiful, You're beautiful
I see Your face, You're beautiful, You're beautiful, You're beautiful
I see Your face, I see Your face
I see Your face, You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Psalm 27

The LORD is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?
When evil men advance against me
to slander me
when my enemies and my foes attack me,
they will stumble and fall.

Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then will I be confident.

One thing I ask of the LORD,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple.

For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle
and set me high upon a rock.

Then my head will be exalted
above the enemies who surround me;
at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make music to the LORD.

Hear my voice when I call, O LORD;
be merciful to me and answer me.

To you, O my heart, he has said, "Seek my face!"
Your face, LORD, I will seek.

Do not hide your face from me,
do not turn your servant away in anger;
you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
O God my Savior.

Though my father and mother forsake me,
the LORD will receive me.

Teach me your way, O LORD;
lead me in a straight path
because of my oppressors.

Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me,
breathing out violence.

I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.

Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.

Psalm 27. Perfect.

Monday, 25 May 2009


Listening to Jason Upton sing brings me into the presence of someone who waits on God. There is a unique quality to his singing - a combination of worship and prayer, set to a strange kind of music. Drawn into his prayer world.

It is our human condition to wait.
Noah waited for the dove to return from flying over flooded waters.
Moses and Aaron waited for pharaoh by the Nile before God turned the water into blood.
People waited while Moses talked to God.
They waited 40 years in the desert.
Ruth waited for Boaz's decision - reader, she married him, became an ancestor of Jesus.
People waited on God.

While I wait, I pray that I may listen. Not just wait.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Psalm 40 - hope, not despair

Psalm 40
I waited and waited and waited for God. At last he looked; finally he listened.
He lifted me out of the ditch,
pulled me from deep mud.
He stood me up on a solid rock
to make sure I wouldn't slip.
He taught me how to sing the latest God-song,
a praise-song to our God.
More and more people are seeing this:
they enter the mystery,
abandoning themselves to God.

Blessed are you who give yourselves over to God,
turn your backs on the world's "sure thing,"
ignore what the world worships;
The world's a huge stockpile
of God-wonders and God-thoughts.
Nothing and no one
comes close to you!
I start talking about you, telling what I know,
and quickly run out of words.
Neither numbers nor words
account for you.

Doing something for you, bringing something to you—
that's not what you're after.
Being religious, acting pious—
that's not what you're asking for.
You've opened my ears
so I can listen.

So I answered, "I'm coming.
I read in your letter what you wrote about me,
And I'm coming to the party
you're throwing for me."
That's when God's Word entered my life,
became part of my very being.

I've preached you to the whole congregation,
I've kept back nothing, God—you know that.
I didn't keep the news of your ways
a secret, didn't keep it to myself.
I told it all, how dependable you are, how thorough.
I didn't hold back pieces of love and truth
For myself alone. I told it all,
let the congregation know the whole story.

Now God, don't hold out on me,
don't hold back your passion.
Your love and truth
are all that keeps me together.
When troubles ganged up on me,
a mob of sins past counting,
I was so swamped by guilt
I couldn't see my way clear.
More guilt in my heart than hair on my head,
so heavy the guilt that my heart gave out.

Soften up, God, and intervene;
hurry and get me some help,
So those who are trying to kidnap my soul
will be embarrassed and lose face,
So anyone who gets a kick out of making me miserable
will be heckled and disgraced,
So those who pray for my ruin
will be booed and jeered without mercy.

But all who are hunting for you—
oh, let them sing and be happy.
Let those who know what you're all about
tell the world you're great and not quitting.
And me? I'm a mess. I'm nothing and have nothing:
make something of me.
You can do it; you've got what it takes—
but God, don't put it off.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Rest and the body

I have been incredibly busy of late. So busy that it feels as if my mind and spirit are beginning to run faster than the rest of me. That feeling when my emotions start to say: "Whoa there, this is a bit too fast for me. Can't we slow down a little?" That feeling when my body says to my mind: "OK,I'm right with you on this and I know we're having a lot of fun right now, but if we're not careful it'll all end in tears."

That feeling of being on a helter-skelter, accelerating so rapidly that soon it will be impossible to stop.


This little psalm is a breath of fresh air:

Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I said to the LORD, "You are my Lord;apart from you I have no good thing."

LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure.

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.

I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.

I have set the LORD always before me. Because he is at my right hand,I will not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.

You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Psalm 16:1-2,5-11

"Phew!" say my mind, body and spirit. "Just keep the Lord always before us and we're with you all the way. We can do it!"

Saturday, 16 May 2009


I have echoing in my mind the song shout 'Freedom...!' I think it's Brian Doerksen. Or maybe I just think that because he is my favourite singer songwriter and I could listen to his music for ever.

Whatever. It resonates in my spirit - a cry for freedom, a longing to be free.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:17 -18

I paraphrase the Message version:

Whenever, though, we turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil and there we are — face-to-face! We suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We're free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.

We are free.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Living in freedom

It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don't use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that's how freedom grows. For everything we know about God's Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That's an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?

My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God's Spirit. Then you won't feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don't you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?

Galatians 5:13 -18

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Digression continued - faith.

The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

I suspect you would never intend this, but this is what happens. When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit. For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.
Galatians 5:4 - 6, The Message.

So it is not my projects - however creative they might be. Nor my church programmes - however useful.

It is the interruptions in my life which give me the opportunity to express my faith. With love, even in the most unwelcome of situations.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

A digression from the theme - freedom

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.

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.
(Galatians 5:1)

Don't live by the 'oughts' and 'musts'.
Don't live by the fear of being found out.
Don't live as if under a cloud of disapproval.
Live freely.

Put yourself in a place where Jesus, the Christ, is as real as your best friend, your flatmate, your spouse, your child.
Put yourself in a place where you can listen, take good advice, and act.
Live in freedom.

All one, in one Body

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:26 - 28, NIV

Racist attitudes of any sort can have no place in the Christian church. Simple.

Monday, 11 May 2009

I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.

The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20(NIV)

What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn't work. So I quit being a "law man" so that I could be God's man. Christ's life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not "mine," but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that. (The Message)


Sunday, 10 May 2009

A challenge

Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

With promises like this to pull us on, dear friends, let's make a clean break with everything that defiles or distracts us, both within and without. Let's make our entire lives fit and holy temples for the worship of God.

2 Corinthians 7:1-3

Thursday, 7 May 2009

A life of obedience

2 Corinthians 4:7-11 today: in three different translations:

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.
We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair.
We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.
Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies.
(New Living Translation)

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. (NIV)

If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That's to prevent anyone from confusing God's incomparable power with us. As it is, there's not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we're not much to look at. We've been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we're not demoralized; we're not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we've been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn't left our side; we've been thrown down, but we haven't broken. What they did to Jesus, they do to us — trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us — he lives! Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus' sake, which makes Jesus' life all the more evident in us. While we're going through the worst, you're getting in on the best! (The Message)

Three versions: three reminders of God's love,Jesus' sacrifice, and the Holy Spirit in our bodies.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Be careful of the body

1 Corinthians 6:18-20 (New International Version)

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body.

This is how the Message puts the last verse: The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body.

This is about sexual sin but for me, it also applies to good health. In my book, that means taking enough exercise, rest and eating the right food.

I don't honour God with my body as much as I should.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Alive - as Christ is!

This is truly a great encouragement, when it seems as if we can't do anything right...

But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won't know what we're talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God's terms. It stands to reason, doesn't it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he'll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ's!

Romans 8:9-11, The Message

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Do not sin with the body

Romans 6: When Death Becomes Life

So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving? I should hope not! If we've left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn't you realize we packed up and left there for good? That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace—a new life in a new land!
That's what baptism into the life of Jesus means. When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus; when we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus. Each of us is raised into a light-filled world by our Father so that we can see where we're going in our new grace-sovereign country.

Could it be any clearer? Our old way of life was nailed to the cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sin-miserable life—no longer at sin's every beck and call! What we believe is this: If we get included in Christ's sin-conquering death, we also get included in his life-saving resurrection. We know that when Jesus was raised from the dead it was a signal of the end of death-as-the-end. Never again will death have the last word. When Jesus died, he took sin down with him, but alive he brings God down to us. From now on, think of it this way: Sin speaks a dead language that means nothing to you; God speaks your mother tongue, and you hang on every word. You are dead to sin and alive to God. That's what Jesus did.

That means you must not give sin a vote in the way you conduct your lives. Don't give it the time of day. Don't even run little errands that are connected with that old way of life. Throw yourselves wholeheartedly and full-time—remember, you've been raised from the dead!—into God's way of doing things. Sin can't tell you how to live. After all, you're not living under that old tyranny any longer. You're living in the freedom of God.

What Is True Freedom?

So, since we're out from under the old tyranny, does that mean we can live any old way we want? Since we're free in the freedom of God, can we do anything that comes to mind? Hardly. You know well enough from your own experience that there are some acts of so-called freedom that destroy freedom. Offer yourselves to sin, for instance, and it's your last free act. But offer yourselves to the ways of God and the freedom never quits. All your lives you've let sin tell you what to do. But thank God you've started listening to a new master, one whose commands set you free to live openly in his freedom!

I'm using this freedom language because it's easy to picture. You can readily recall, can't you, how at one time the more you did just what you felt like doing—not caring about others, not caring about God—the worse your life became and the less freedom you had? And how much different is it now as you live in God's freedom, your lives healed and expansive in holiness?

As long as you did what you felt like doing, ignoring God, you didn't have to bother with right thinking or right living, or right anything for that matter. But do you call that a free life? What did you get out of it? Nothing you're proud of now. Where did it get you? A dead end.

But now that you've found you don't have to listen to sin tell you what to do, and have discovered the delight of listening to God telling you, what a surprise! A whole, healed, put-together life right now, with more and more of life on the way! Work hard for sin your whole life and your pension is death. But God's gift is real life, eternal life, delivered by Jesus, our Master.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

The Body’s response to evil

Isaiah (21:2-4, NIV) talks about what happens in our bodies when we get bad news:
A dire vision has been shown to me:
The traitor betrays, the looter takes loot.
Elam, attack! Media, lay siege!
I will bring to an end all the groaning she caused.
At this my body is racked with pain,
pangs seize me, like those of a woman in labor;
I am staggered by what I hear,
I am bewildered by what I see.
My heart falters,
fear makes me tremble;
the twilight I longed for
has become a horror to me.

What is the answer?
Trust God.
Rely on his promises.
Recognise fear, but don't give in to it.
Don't give in.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

The effects of sin on our bodies

Whew - this could be a long subject! I thought I'd start with Proverbs 14:29-31

A patient man has great understanding,
but a quick-tempered man displays folly.
A heart at peace gives life to the body,
but envy rots the bones. (NIV)

A sound mind makes for a robust body,
but runaway emotions corrode the bones. (The Message)

The mind, the heart... separate yet interlinked, at the core of our being. How to get a sound mind?

2 Timothy 1:7 says: For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline

Somewhere - maybe in the Good News version - I have read 'self-discipline' as 'sound mind'. God has given me a sound mind - which I need to discipline. Then my body will indeed be 'robust'!

Monday, 27 April 2009

Obtaining health for our bodies

Proverbs 3:5 - 12

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
don't try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
he's the one who will keep you on track.
Don't assume that you know it all.
Run to God! Run from evil!
Your body will glow with health,
your very bones will vibrate with life!
Honor God with everything you own;
give him the first and the best.
Your barns will burst,
your wine vats will brim over.
But don't, dear friend, resent God's discipline;
don't sulk under his loving correction.
It's the child he loves that God corrects;
a father's delight is behind all this.

Proverbs 4 (20 - 22)also says:

Dear friend, listen well to my words;
tune your ears to my voice.
Keep my message in plain view at all times.
Concentrate! Learn it by heart!
Those who discover these words live, really live;
body and soul, they're bursting with health.


Psalm 62
For the director of music. For Jeduthun. A psalm of David.
1 My soul finds rest in God alone;
my salvation comes from him.
2 He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.

3 How long will you assault a man?
Would all of you throw him down—
this leaning wall, this tottering fence?

Psalm 116:6-8 (New International Version)

6 The LORD protects the simplehearted;
when I was in great need, he saved me.

7 Be at rest once more, O my soul,
for the LORD has been good to you.

8 For you, O LORD, have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Taking time to rest our bodies and, therefore, our minds: take a Sabbath time out.

Psalm 16:8-10 (The Message)

The wise counsel God gives when I'm awake is confirmed by my sleeping heart.
Day and night I'll stick with God;
I've got a good thing going and I'm not letting go.

I'm happy from the inside out, and from the outside in, I'm firmly formed.
You canceled my ticket to hell— that's not my destination!

Or the NIV...

I have set the LORD always before me.
Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

The body’s response to God – his wrath

Our bodies do not just respond in praise to God: look what happens when we sense His wrath: David expresses how we feel so well...

Take a deep breath, God; calm down— don't be so hasty with your punishing rod.
Your sharp-pointed arrows of rebuke draw blood; my backside smarts from your caning.

I've lost twenty pounds in two months because of your accusation.
My bones are brittle as dry sticks because of my sin.
I'm swamped by my bad behavior,collapsed under gunnysacks of guilt.

The cuts in my flesh stink and grow maggots because I've lived so badly.
And now I'm flat on my face feeling sorry for myself morning to night.
All my insides are on fire, my body is a wreck.
I'm on my last legs; I've had it — my life is a vomit of groans.

Lord, my longings are sitting in plain sight, my groans an old story to you.
My heart's about to break; I'm a burned-out case.
Cataracts blind me to God and good; old friends avoid me like the plague.
My cousins never visit, my neighbors stab me in the back.
My competitors blacken my name, devoutly they pray for my ruin.
But I'm deaf and mute to it all, ears shut, mouth shut.
I don't hear a word they say, don't speak a word in response.

What I do, God, is wait for you,wait for my Lord, my God — you will answer!
I wait and pray so they won't laugh me off, won't smugly strut off when I stumble.

I'm on the edge of losing it — the pain in my gut keeps burning.
I'm ready to tell my story of failure, I'm no longer smug in my sin.
My enemies are alive and in action, a lynch mob after my neck.
I give out good and get back evil from God-haters who can't stand a God-lover.

Don't dump me, God; my God, don't stand me up.
Hurry and help me; I want some wide-open space in my life!

Psalm 38(The Message)

Friday, 24 April 2009

Physical benefits:

A different take on The Body today.

Wonderful to think that, in the midst of a hectic and occasionally stressy life, it is not just my soul which benefits from my trust in Jesus. My body does too:

This is what Psalm 16:8-10, NIV says:
I have set the LORD always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
because you will not abandon me to the grave, [a]
nor will you let your Holy One [b] see decay.

I liked the Message version as well...
The wise counsel God gives when I'm awake is confirmed by my sleeping heart.
Day and night I'll stick with God; I've got a good thing going and I'm not letting go.

I'm happy from the inside out, and from the outside in, I'm firmly formed.
You canceled my ticket to hell — that's not my destination!

Thursday, 23 April 2009

The body’s response to God – his power and glory

David, in Psalm 63 (v1 - 7), echoes the individual's response to God:

O God, you are my God,earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.

Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.

My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.

Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.

Can we echo this as a church?

Earnestly look for him
Long for him
See him at work in mighty power
Can't stop talking about how wonderful he is
Wave at him in excitement
Say that nothing else will do, nothing else will satisfy us but to have him here with us.
Sing with happiness because he is near

Is he our superhero?

Wednesday, 22 April 2009


There is something incredibly attractive about a peaceful person: someone who is at ease with themself, at peace with who they are.

There is something incredibly attractive about a group of Christians who are at peace with one another. People entering the walls of a convent or monastery sense this: there is often an air of serenity which reaches beyond the obvious. An intangible sense of harmony seems to pervade the stones.

Attaining peace has to be worked for:

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It's your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.

Colossians 3:12-1 7, The Message

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism;
Ephesians 4:3-5 (New International Version)

Make every effort

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Being truthful to our body: ourselves and each other


Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (NIV)

God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love — like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.

Ephesians 4:15-16 (The Message)

Now that is a challenge. To speak the truth IN LOVE. Home truths are not, usually, in love. Our truths are often coloured by anger, aggravation, impatience... how often do I really speak the truth IN LOVE? Even when that means saying truths when I would rather keep quiet so as to avoid upsetting someone and hurting their feelings?

Can I do this? Speak truth in love?

Monday, 20 April 2009

Our responsibilities to the church

What does being part of the Body of Christ here on earth mean for us?

Ephesians 4:17 (New International Version)
From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

The Message puts it like this: We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.

Imagine that. As the song puts it: Every breath we take, we take for you, Jesus.

Imagine being so close to him that I breathe in time, so that I scarcely know when I breathe and when he does. When I was first married, I used to lie against my husband's chest and try to breathe in time with him. I could only achieve it for one or two breaths - his lungs are twice the size of min - but when I did manage it, we seemed to breathe as one being, not as two separate people.

Then, admonitions like these become easy to follow:

So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts...You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry...
and so it goes on.
Ephesians 4: 17 - 18, 22 - 26

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Meeting together as the Body of Christ: church.

Thinking about the body of Christ, the church, I realise how easy it is to lose that sense of being 'all together' in one body. It is SO easy to let difference and disagreement creep in: even the first churches experienced this, as we know from Paul's first letter to the church which met in Corinth:
I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.
The Message puts it even more bluntly: You must get along with each other. You must learn to be considerate of one another, cultivating a life in common. (1 Corinthians 1:10)

So I must remember this: keeping that goal of unity firmly fixed in my mind, I can find it easier to overlook differences. I need to remember to rejoice in our common purpose: we are all pulling in the same direction, even if we are using different methods to do it!

The greatest achievement

When these little gems pop into my inbox from Crosswalk Weekly, I don't want to lose them...

A Cry of Victory
by Max Lucado

"It is finished."

Stop and listen. Can you imagine the cry from the cross? The sky is dark. The other two victims are moaning. The jeering mouths are silent. Perhaps there is thunder. Perhaps there is weeping. Perhaps there is silence. Then Jesus draws in a deep breath, pushes his feet down on that Roman nail, and cries, "It is finished!"

What was finished?

The history-long plan of redeeming man was finished. The message of God to man was finished. The works done by Jesus as a man on earth were finished. The task of selecting and training ambassadors was finished. The job was finished. The song had been sung. The blood had been poured. The sacrifice had been made. The sting of death had been removed. It was over.

A cry of defeat? Hardly. Had his hands not been fastened down I dare say that a triumphant fist would have punched the dark sky. No, this is no cry of despair. It is a cry of completion. A cry of victory. A cry of fulfillment. Yes, even a cry of relief.

It's over.

An angel sighs. A star wipes away a tear.

"Take me home."
Yes, take him home.
Take this prince to his king.
Take this son to his father.
Take this pilgrim to his home.
(He deserves a rest.)

"Take me home."
Come ten thousand angels!
Come and take this wounded troubadour to
the cradle of his Father's arms!

Farewell manger's infant.
Bless You holy ambassador.
Go Home death slayer.
Rest well sweet soldier.

The battle is over.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

So...stay connected!

Colossians 2:18-20 (New International Version)
Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.
Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules...

or, as The Message puts it:
Don't tolerate people who try to run your life, ordering you to bow and scrape, insisting that you join their obsession with angels and that you seek out visions. They're a lot of hot air, that's all they are. They're completely out of touch with the source of life, Christ, who puts us together in one piece, whose very breath and blood flow through us. He is the Head and we are the body. We can grow up healthy in God only as he nourishes us.

It's very easy to become so enthusiastic about our own beliefs that we take pride in them: we want everyone to agree with us and pursue the same goals, however spiritual they are. But in the end, we have to defer to each other as being part of the body: For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. (Romans 12:3 - 5, NIV)
Philippians 2:3 sums it up beautifully:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Our attitude

So what attitude should we have? Here is the answer:

In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we're talking about is Christ's body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn't amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ's body, let's just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren't.Romans 12:4-6, The Message.

It's hard to do that sometimes. Yes, it's hard not to compare ourselves - wishing we were like someone else; and it's equally hard, sometimes, to understand and accept someone who is very different. Remembering our 'connectedness' and 'being-part-of-ness' and 'we're-in-this-all-together-ness' does help!

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

We are all joined together: we need each other

1 Corinthians 12:14 - 27, The Message:

"I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn't just a single part blown up into something huge. It's all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. If Foot said, "I'm not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don't belong to this body," would that make it so? If Ear said, "I'm not beautiful like Eye, limpid and expressive; I don't deserve a place on the head," would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it.

But I also want you to think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance. For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of. An enormous eye or a gigantic hand wouldn't be a body, but a monster. What we have is one body with many parts, each its proper size and in its proper place. No part is important on its own. Can you imagine Eye telling Hand, "Get lost; I don't need you"? Or, Head telling Foot, "You're fired; your job has been phased out"? As a matter of fact, in practice it works the other way—the "lower" the part, the more basic, and therefore necessary. You can live without an eye, for instance, but not without a stomach. When it's a part of your own body you are concerned with, it makes no difference whether the part is visible or clothed, higher or lower. You give it dignity and honor just as it is, without comparisons. If anything, you have more concern for the lower parts than the higher. If you had to choose, wouldn't you prefer good digestion to full-bodied hair?

The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don't, the parts we see and the parts we don't. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.

You are Christ's body—that's who you are! You must never forget this. Only as you accept your part of that body does your "part" mean anything."

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

The implications of being part of a body

So, what are the implications for us if we are part of that body of people called the church?

1 Corinthians 12:4-13 (The Message)
‘God's various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God's Spirit. God's various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God's Spirit. God's various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful:
wise counsel
clear understanding
simple trust
healing the sick
miraculous acts
distinguishing between spirits
interpretation of tongues.
All these gifts have a common origin, but are handed out one by one by the one Spirit of God. He decides who gets what, and when.
You can easily enough see how this kind of thing works by looking no further than your own body. Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you're still one body. It's exactly the same with Christ. By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything. (This is what we proclaimed in word and action when we were baptized.) Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain—his Spirit—where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves—labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free—are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive. ‘

So, this is how it works when we seek to live as Jesus taught us: together, all together. Different, yet all part of the same organism.

One of the most important things is to recognise each other's strengths and abilities that God has given each of us. Difference can be threatening: but if we can appreciate and celebrate our diversity, remaining close, we can live and work together, pulling in the same direction. Rather like a sports team - people play in different positions with different skills, yet all aiming at the same goal.

The body has a head

A body has a head: the position or place of leadership, greatest authority, or honour.

Jesus is our head: Colossians 1:15-18 (The Message) explains how Christ holds it all together:
‘We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God's original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body.’

So, whatever we do and however we do it, we should always be looking to the head of our corporation of life, the manager of our business for living, the headmaster in charge of our learning, the foreman in charge of our working, the director of the institution that is our church, our leader, our chief… looking to that extraordinary human being who is Jesus.

And acknowledging his rightful position in everything we do at every moment of our day.

Monday, 13 April 2009

The Body

Our faith is both individual – in our response to Jesus and the sacrifice of his life – and corporate, as we seek to live out a life in community. I’ve been thinking about that: about my body being my own, yet belonging to Jesus and how I am also a part of the body of believers.

I looked up the definition of ‘body’ – 21 different meanings of the noun! Several definitions do, in fact, refer to individuality of a physical structure of one sort or another – the body of a person, an animal, the trunk of a tree, the fuselage of a plane, even the hull of a ship… all independent entities.

Yet body also refers collectively to a major part, or all of, a group of people. That’s what we, as Christians, are – a body of believers:

Ephesians 5:29-30 says: ‘After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body.’

Jesus feeds and cares for us all – together.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Peter says it all...

The disciples must have been stunned, filled with joy and excitement that first Easter Sunday. Yet that was only a start ... their new lives had barely just begun, and so they waited around in Jerusalem after Jesus had returned to heaven. Then the Holy Spirit came and everything changed. This was the end, and yet the beginning, of the story of Jesus's life on earth. Peter, the illiterate fisherman, who until then seemed to have more faults and failings than admirable qualities, became an eloquent and impassioned orator:

"Jesus the Nazarene, a man thoroughly accredited by God to you—the miracles and wonders and signs that God did through him are common knowledge—this Jesus, following the deliberate and well-thought-out plan of God, was betrayed by men who took the law into their own hands, and was handed over to you. And you pinned him to a cross and killed him. But God untied the death ropes and raised him up. Death was no match for him. David said it all:

I saw God before me for all time.
Nothing can shake me; he's right by my side.
I'm glad from the inside out, ecstatic;
I've pitched my tent in the land of hope.
I know you'll never dump me in Hades;
I'll never even smell the stench of death.
You've got my feet on the life-path,
with your face shining sun-joy all around.

"Dear friends, let me be completely frank with you. Our ancestor David is dead and buried—his tomb is in plain sight today. But being also a prophet and knowing that God had solemnly sworn that a descendant of his would rule his kingdom, seeing far ahead, he talked of the resurrection of the Messiah—'no trip to Hades, no stench of death.' This Jesus, God raised up. And every one of us here is a witness to it. Then, raised to the heights at the right hand of God and receiving the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father, he poured out the Spirit he had just received. That is what you see and hear. For David himself did not ascend to heaven, but he did say,

God said to my Master, "Sit at my right hand
Until I make your enemies a stool for resting your feet."
"All Israel, then, know this: There's no longer room for doubt—God made him Master and Messiah, this Jesus whom you killed on a cross."

Cut to the quick, those who were there listening asked Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers! Brothers! So now what do we do?"

Peter said, "Change your life. Turn to God and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, so your sins are forgiven. Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is targeted to you and your children, but also to all who are far away—whomever, in fact, our Master God invites."

He went on in this vein for a long time, urging them over and over, "Get out while you can; get out of this sick and stupid culture!"

Acts 2:22 - 40, The Message

Many of Peter's listeners did just that: they started off on a new life with Christ. The rest is history...

Afraid, yet filled with joy

This phrase about the resurrection struck me: afraid, yet filled with joy. This is what happened:

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: 'He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.' Now I have told you."

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. "Greetings," he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me."

Matthew 28:1 - 9

I wondered why they were afraid. Afraid of Jesus, who they knew and who they had counted as their friend as well as their teacher? Afraid of the consequences of the empty tomb, and what the authorities might do? Afraid of the awesome power of God, when the man, who they had seen was most definitely dead, had come back to life?

Maybe a little of all of those reasons. Maybe, like them, we should be in awe of Jesus. Maybe, like them, we are afraid of the consequences when God works powerfully in our lives. Yet Jesus says: 'Do not be afraid.'

Friday, 10 April 2009

Simon from Cyrene carries Jesus' cross

I thought this was such a wonderful description, just had to share it!

Simon from Cyrene Carries Jesus' Cross
by Max Lucado

"A man named Simon from Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was coming from the fields to the city. The soldiers forced Simon to carry the cross for Jesus" (Mk. 15:21)

Simon grumbles beneath his breath. His patience is as scarce as space on the Jerusalem streets. He'd hoped for a peaceful Passover. The city is anything but quiet. Simon prefers his open fields. And now, to top it off, the Roman guards are clearing the path for some who-knows-which-dignitary who'll march his soldiers and strut his stallion past the people.

"There he is!"

Simon's head and dozens of others turn. In an instant they know. This is no dignitary.

"It's a crucifixion," he hears someone whisper. Four soldiers. One criminal. Four spears. One cross. The inside corner of the cross saddles the convict's shoulders. Its base drags in the dirt. Its top teeters in the air. The condemned man steadies the cross the best he can, but stumbles beneath its weight. He pushes himself to his feet and lurches forward before falling again. Simon can't see the man's face, only a head wreathed with thorny branches.

The sour-faced centurion grows more agitated with each diminishing step. He curses the criminal and the crowd.

"Hurry up!"

"Little hope of that," Simon says to himself.

The cross-bearer stops in front of Simon and heaves for air. Simon winces at what he sees. The beam rubbing against an already raw back. Rivulets of crimson streaking the man's face. His mouth hangs open, both out of pain and out of breath.

"His name is Jesus," someone speaks softly.

"Move on!" commands the executioner.

But Jesus can't. His body leans and feet try, but he can't move. The beam begins to sway. Jesus tries to steady it, but can't. Like a just-cut tree, the cross begins to topple toward the crowd. Everyone steps back, except the farmer. Simon instinctively extends his strong hands and catches the cross.

Jesus falls face-first in the dirt and stays there. Simon pushes the cross back on its side. The centurion looks at the exhausted Christ and the bulky bystander and needs only an instant to make the decision. He presses the flat of his spear on Simon's shoulders.

"You! Take the cross!"

Simon dares to object, "Sir, I don't even know the man!"

"I don't care. Take up the cross."

Simon growls, balances the timber against his shoulder, and steps out of the crowd onto the street, out of anonymity into history, and becomes the first in a line of millions who will take up the cross and follow Christ.

He did literally what God calls us to do figuratively: take up the cross and follow Jesus. "If any of you want to be my followers, you must forget about yourself. You must take up your cross each day and follow me" (Lk. 9:23 CEV).

From His Name is Jesus© (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2009) Max Lucado

Thursday, 9 April 2009

The Sufferings of His Broken Heart

Cleaning out my inbox, I found this piece from Crosswalk weekly by Max Lucado:too good to leave or delete...

Go with me for a moment to witness what was perhaps the foggiest night in history. The scene is very simple; you'll recognize it quickly. A grove of twisted olive trees. Ground cluttered with large rocks. A low stone fence. A dark, dark night.

Now, look into the picture. Look closely through the shadowy foliage. See that person? See that solitary figure? What's he doing? Flat on the ground. Face stained with dirt and tears. Fists pounding the hard earth. Eyes wide with a stupor of fear. Hair matted with salty sweat. Is that blood on his forehead?

That's Jesus. Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Maybe you've seen the classic portrait of Christ in the garden. Kneeling beside a big rock. Snow-white robe. Hands peacefully folded in prayer. A look of serenity on his face. Halo over his head. A spotlight from heaven illuminating his golden-brown hair.

Now, I'm no artist, but I can tell you one thing. The man who painted that picture didn't use the gospel of Mark as a pattern. When Mark wrote about that painful night, he used phrases like these: "Horror and dismay came over him." "My heart is ready to break with grief." "He went a little forward and threw himself on the ground."

Does this look like the picture of a saintly Jesus resting in the palm of God? Hardly. Mark used black paint to describe this scene. We see an agonizing, straining, and struggling Jesus. We see a "man of sorrows." (Isaiah 53:3 NASB) We see a man struggling with fear, wrestling with commitments, and yearning for relief.

We see Jesus in the fog of a broken heart.

The writer of Hebrews would later pen, "During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death." (Hebrews 5:7 NIV)

My, what a portrait! Jesus is in pain. Jesus is on the stage of fear. Jesus is cloaked, not in sainthood, but in humanity.

The next time the fog finds you, you might do well to remember Jesus in the garden. The next time you think that no one understands, reread the fourteenth chapter of Mark. The next time your self-pity convinces you that no one cares, pay a visit to Gethsemane. And the next time you wonder if God really perceives the pain that prevails on this dusty planet, listen to him pleading among the twisted trees.

The next time you are called to suffer, pay attention. It may be the closest you'll ever get to God. Watch closely. It could very well be that the hand that extends itself to lead you out of the fog is a pierced one.

The Great House of God