Monday, 30 March 2009

Secrets, boasting and good deeds

I have this idea that good deeds should be done in secret, without showing off - and so they should. We shouldn't boast about what we do. Yet Jesus says we shouldn’t keep the good that we do a secret:

Here's another way to put it: You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don't think I'm going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I'm putting you on a light stand. Now that I've put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:15-17, The Message)

Paul adds (1 Timothy 5:24-25) The sins of some men are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not cannot be hidden.

James has the last word: Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. (3:13)

Secrets and secrecy

Secrets often suggest something kept hidden that isn’t good – or, if not exactly bad, isn’t great either. The Bible is full of stories of people who did dastardly deeds in secret, often known only to God – yet there were consequences.

Jesus did not do anything in secret: "I have spoken openly to the world," Jesus replied. "I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret." (John 18:20) However, he does talk about praying and fasting in secret:

"But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." (Matthew 6:6)

"Here's what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won't be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace. (The Message)

And “But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:17 – 18, NIV)

"When you practice some appetite-denying discipline to better concentrate on God, don't make a production out of it. It might turn you into a small-time celebrity but it won't make you a saint. If you 'go into training' inwardly, act normal outwardly. Shampoo and comb your hair, brush your teeth, wash your face. God doesn't require attention-getting devices. He won't overlook what you are doing; he'll reward you well.”

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Stirring up and pouring out.

I had the lines of Tim Hughes' song running through my head this morning:
Stir it up in our hearts, Lord,
Stir it up in our hearts, a passion for your name.

And then I thought: stir up - and pour out. Just like cooking. Stir up the pot, cook everything together, then pour the food out to serve it.

I want to be stirred up and poured out. To be stirred up so that I have more of God in my daily life, to have more of Jesus bubbling up to the surface, to BE more like Jesus.

I'm in danger of overusing the phrase 'stirred up', but it resonates with me. By this stage of the term, I have usually become so over busy that I go down to 'minimum maintenance' mode. (You don't want to see the contents of my freezer - more ready meals than I've ever had in there.) So the thought of cooking Sunday lunch, rather than having our usual laid back, relaxed day, didn't exactly appeal.

Yet here I am, Sunday morning, cooking together a complicated curry lunch for friends I didn't mean to invite. ('Didn't mean to' does NOT equal 'didn't want to' - it will be lovely to see them and catch up.)

It's energising. I'm literally 'pouring out': food, but also myself - my time, my energy... A faint echo of Paul's words in Philippians 2:

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. (Chapter 2, v 14 - 17, NIV)

I should be 'complaining and arguing' because I am spending more time and energy than is really sensible at the moment, but somehow I'm not. And I'm glad.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Peace and Contentment

We were talking about peace and contentment the other day – being satisfied with what you have. I like the NIV version of 1 Timothy 6:6 because it is so succinct: But godliness with contentment is great gain. (NIV)

But these two versions are great as well!
A devout life does bring wealth, but it's the rich simplicity of being yourself before God. Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that's enough. (The Message)

…religion does make your life rich, by making you content with what you have. We didn't bring anything into this world, and we won't take anything with us when we leave. (Contemporary English Version)

Friday, 27 March 2009

Psalm 51

I have always liked Psalm 51, particularly the words “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.” (verses 10 – 11)

Psalm 51:6 - 9
Surely you desire truth in the inner parts;
you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.

But The Message version (verses 6 – 17) is even more challenging:

I've been out of step with you for a long time,
in the wrong since before I was born.
What you're after is truth from the inside out.
Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life.

Soak me in your laundry and I'll come out clean,
scrub me and I'll have a snow-white life.
Tune me in to foot-tapping songs,
set these once-broken bones to dancing.
Don't look too close for blemishes,
give me a clean bill of health.
God, make a fresh start in me,
shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.
Don't throw me out with the trash,
or fail to breathe holiness in me.
Bring me back from grey exile,
put a fresh wind in my sails!
Give me a job teaching rebels your ways
so the lost can find their way home.
Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God,
and I'll sing anthems to your life-giving ways.
Unbutton my lips, dear God;
I'll let loose with your praise.

Going through the motions doesn't please you,
a flawless performance is nothing to you.
learned God-worship
when my pride was shattered.
Heart-shattered lives ready for love
don't for a moment escape God's notice.


Wednesday, 25 March 2009

A journey

I’ve picked up John Eldredge again after a long absence. No, not an old boyfriend. Christian writer of The Sacred Romance, The Journey of Desire, Wild at Heart and Captivating, the last written with his wife. I’d like to know him though – he seems like an interesting guy to hang around with. Like my friend Bob, whose conversation always directs our thoughts to God. (Bob blogs at )

Anyway, John Eldredge writes about our relationship with God. His writing is full of imagery and compelling analogy. It is like a sudden splash of cold water on a hot day, refreshing and invigorating. A wake up call.

This caught my eye this morning.

Isaiah 45:2 – 3

I will go before you
and will level the mountains;
I will break down gates of bronze
and cut through bars of iron.
I will give you the treasures of darkness,
riches stored in secret places,
so that you may know that I am the LORD,
the God of Israel, who summons you by name.

Eldredge writes: “God’s imagery of going before us lets us know that he desires us to go on a journey. This is not so frightening. Most of us are aware that the Christian life requires a pilgrimage of some sorts. We know we are sojourners. What we have sometimes not given much thought to is what kind of a journey we are to be taking.
Not realizing it is a journey of the heart that is called for, we make a crucial mistake. We come to a place in our spiritual life where we hear God calling us. WE know he is calling us to give up the less-wild lovers that have become so much a part of our identity, embrace our nakedness, and trust in his goodness.”

Elsewhere he talks about becoming ‘slaves’ to anything that is not God. He talks about letting all kinds of things – many of them good – get in the way of our relationship with God. A relationship where God is calling us to venture into the unknown future WITH HIM. We are not alone.

I could keep rambling on and on and on. But above all, I want to keep going on that journey and be given ‘riches stored in secret places ‘ – riches that I will not be able to discover for myself unless God gives them to me.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

I want to be a goat, not a sheep!

I'm STILL thinking about sheep. More specifically, about goats. I want to be a goat.

Goats are intelligent. They can work out an escape route if they become trapped. They are curious, and don't give up until they have explored all the options available to them. They exploit opportunities.

Goats are well coordinated (for cloven hoofed creatures, that is). They can climb - fences, trees... They can be trained to be useful. They are useful just for what they can provide - milk, meat, warm clothing.

Another point in the favour of goats is that there are many different breeds of goat, as there are sheep. But none of them are called 'fat-tailed'.

I'd rather be a goat (except from the point of view of being 'useful', that is. I'd rather be valued than useful, thank you very much).

But if I'm a goat, I will tend to be stubborn; independent; reliant on my own capabilities. None of these attributes will tend to encourage me to rely on an all-powerful, limitless God. So, I suppose it is better to be a sheep and to know that God will rescue me, care for me and stay with me for ever.

Yes, being a sheep is definitely better.

Sheep, not goats

I found a new website this week: I was wondering about sheep and goats. Not sure why. This is what I found: “Dozens of times in the Bible, the people of God are referred to as sheep. A few of the more notable passages that come to mind are the 23rd Psalm, Isa. 53:6 and John 10.”

Isaiah 53:6 says in the Message version:
We're all like sheep who've wandered off and gotten lost.
We've all done our own thing, gone our own way.
And God has piled all our sins, everything we've done wrong, on him, on him. (Jesus)

John 10:1 – 30 says: John 10
He Calls His Sheep by Name
1-5 "Let me set this before you as plainly as I can. If a person climbs over or through the fence of a sheep pen instead of going through the gate, you know he's up to no good—a sheep rustler! The shepherd walks right up to the gate. The gatekeeper opens the gate to him and the sheep recognize his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he gets them all out, he leads them and they follow because they are familiar with his voice. They won't follow a stranger's voice but will scatter because they aren't used to the sound of it."
6-10Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again. "I'll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good—sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep didn't listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.
11-13"I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before himself, sacrifices himself if necessary. A hired man is not a real shepherd. The sheep mean nothing to him. He sees a wolf come and runs for it, leaving the sheep to be ravaged and scattered by the wolf. He's only in it for the money. The sheep don't matter to him.
14-18"I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me. In the same way, the Father knows me and I know the Father. I put the sheep before myself, sacrificing myself if necessary. You need to know that I have other sheep in addition to those in this pen. I need to gather and bring them, too. They'll also recognize my voice. Then it will be one flock, one Shepherd. This is why the Father loves me: because I freely lay down my life. And so I am free to take it up again. No one takes it from me. I lay it down of my own free will. I have the right to lay it down; I also have the right to take it up again. I received this authority personally from my Father."
19-21This kind of talk caused another split in the Jewish ranks. A lot of them were saying, "He's crazy, a maniac—out of his head completely. Why bother listening to him?" But others weren't so sure: "These aren't the words of a crazy man. Can a 'maniac' open blind eyes?"
22-24They were celebrating Hanukkah just then in Jerusalem. It was winter. Jesus was strolling in the Temple across Solomon's Porch. The Jews, circling him, said, "How long are you going to keep us guessing? If you're the Messiah, tell us straight out."
25-30Jesus answered, "I told you, but you don't believe. Everything I have done has been authorized by my Father, actions that speak louder than words. You don't believe because you're not my sheep. My sheep recognize my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them real and eternal life. They are protected from the Destroyer for good. No one can steal them from out of my hand. The Father who put them under my care is so much greater than the Destroyer and Thief. No one could ever get them away from him. I and the Father are one heart and mind."

Why sheep? Why not goats? The reasons don’t sit comfortably with me, but it seems to be because of the inherent nature of the sheep.

1. Sheep are Dumb - In other words, they are not the smartest animals in the world. As a result, they are constantly getting into terrible situations.

2. Sheep are Directionless - If a sheep wanders off from the rest of the herd, it will have a hard, if not impossible time, finding its way back. They have no sense of direction.

3. Sheep are Defenseless - Lions have teeth and claws, bears have the same. Snakes have fangs, even the fowls of the air have some type of defensive mechanism. Goats are intelligent. Not so with sheep. They have absolutely no means of protecting themselves from danger. If they are attacked, they are simply helpless!

Well, these are the ideas from I’m still thinking about it. Hard to accept I might be like a sheep, but still…

Monday, 23 March 2009

The Story About Investment

My class have been putting the parable of the talents into practice:

"It's also like a man going off on an extended trip. He called his servants together and delegated responsibilities. To one he gave five thousand dollars, to another two thousand, to a third one thousand, depending on their abilities. Then he left. Right off, the first servant went to work and doubled his master's investment. The second did the same. But the man with the single thousand dug a hole and carefully buried his master's money.

"After a long absence, the master of those three servants came back and settled up with them. The one given five thousand dollars showed him how he had doubled his investment. His master commended him: 'Good work! You did your job well. From now on be my partner.'

"The servant with the two thousand showed how he also had doubled his master's investment. His master commended him: 'Good work! You did your job well. From now on be my partner.'

"The servant given one thousand said, 'Master, I know you have high standards and hate careless ways, that you demand the best and make no allowances for error. I was afraid I might disappoint you, so I found a good hiding place and secured your money. Here it is, safe and sound down to the last cent.'

"The master was furious. 'That's a terrible way to live! It's criminal to live cautiously like that! If you knew I was after the best, why did you do less than the least? The least you could have done would have been to invest the sum with the bankers, where at least I would have gotten a little interest.

"'Take the thousand and give it to the one who risked the most. And get rid of this "play-it-safe" who won't go out on a limb. Throw him out into utter darkness.' Matthew 25:14 - 30, The Message

I've given each of them £1, to keep safe for me or to try to multiply it to raise funds for The Tumaini Fund, supporting AIDS widows and orphans. They are having tremendous fun, using their £1 in all kinds of ways: one had spent his pound on car washing materials, washing cars for Saturday shoppers. Another had marbled card with paints, then made bookmarks. One had made a collection of pompom animals, another brooches out of felt. A talented artist had bought a canvas and sold the resulting painting to a local art gallery. Another designed, drew and wrote his own comic, paying for multiple copies to be produced. One rather unconfident child wrote and read out a long speech on how he had bought ingredients from his mother, baking and selling cakes and then using the profits to buy more ingredients and do it again. We heard, in great detail, about the kind of cakes and how much money he made at each step.

They have had tremendous fun - and so have I. But, more importantly, this has taught me a lesson.

I’ve never really understood the parable before. Yes, I know we should use our God-given gifts and attributes – but I’ve never really understood why the one talent was taken away from the poor guy who only had one to start with. After all, he kept it safe – didn’t lose it or spend it. But, now that I have been responsible for lending out money myself, and seeing the joy of the children as they have multiplied it hundreds of times over on behalf of The Tumaini Fund, now I get it. I would do the same as that master - give that one talent to someone who will make much better use of it.

Use it or lose it.

Sunday, 22 March 2009


Downloading information from my personal organiser (otherwise known as clearing out my handbag, aka The Tardis) I came across a sheet entitled: You Are Very Special. It listed all the ways in which I am unique and special - that there is NO ONE IN THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE EXACTLY LIKE ME! Now, although sometimes I feel the universe is probably extremely glad that I am a 'one-off', it is amazing, isnt' it? That each of us is SPECIAL. Unique. And this is even more amazing: that there is SOMEONE who knows that unique me better than I know myself.

God, investigate my life; get all the facts firsthand.
I'm an open book to you;
even from a distance, you know what I'm thinking.
You know when I leave and when I get back;
I'm never out of your sight.
You know everything I'm going to say
before I start the first sentence.
I look behind me and you're there,
then up ahead and you're there, too—
your reassuring presence, coming and going.
This is too much, too wonderful—
I can't take it all in!

Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit?
to be out of your sight?
If I climb to the sky, you're there!
If I go underground, you're there!
If I flew on morning's wings
to the far western horizon,
You'd find me in a minute—
you're already there waiting!
Then I said to myself, "Oh, he even sees me in the dark!
At night I'm immersed in the light!"
It's a fact: darkness isn't dark to you;
night and day, darkness and light, they're all the same to you.

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother's womb.
I thank you, High God—you're breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I'd even lived one day.

Investigate my life, O God,
find out everything about me;
Cross-examine and test me,
get a clear picture of what I'm about;
See for yourself whether I've done anything wrong—
then guide me on the road to eternal life.

Psalm 139:1 - 16, 23 - 24

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Christ holds us together - in more ways than one!

This is from Colossians 1:3 - 20, more or less. It's from The Message - I'm not sure I like this particular section as much as in the NIV - it resonates less, but it's different enough to make me think:

Our prayers for you are always spilling over into thanksgivings. We can't quit thanking God our Father and Jesus our Messiah for you! We keep getting reports on your steady faith in Christ, our Jesus, and the love you continuously extend to all Christians. The lines of purpose in your lives never grow slack, tightly tied as they are to your future in heaven, kept taut by hope.

The Message is as true among you today as when you first heard it. It doesn't diminish or weaken over time. It's the same all over the world. The Message bears fruit and gets larger and stronger...

Be assured that from the first day we heard of you, we haven't stopped praying for you, asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to his will, and so acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works. We pray that you'll live well for the Master, making him proud of you as you work hard in his orchard. As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you'll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us.

God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He's set us up in the kingdom of the Son he loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating.

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.

He was supreme in the beginning and—leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he's there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross.

Friday, 20 March 2009


Planting potatoes at school today. I love potatoes. I love that they grow, but all the useful work is done underground. Lots of leaf is all show - there's no room for the potatoes to develop if the stems are not buried. Then, when they are ready, it is a wonderful adventure to scrape away at the soil to find the treasure underneath.

What an allegory for our lives! All the useful work that God does in us is often so hidden that we don't see it. We just feel buried underneath a load of dirt that we would gladly get rid of. 2 Corinthians 4:6 - 8 says: For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
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.

For 'we have this treasure in jars of clay' could also be 'we have God's hidden treasure underneath the dirt that has been dumped on us'. One day we'll see it!

Thursday, 19 March 2009


Certainly the word has negative connotations. We feel overwhelmed when we have more than we can cope with.
The Bible refers to people being overwhelmed:

with sorrow – when Jesus was struggling in the garden of Gethsemane, for example;

with terror - I, Daniel, was the only one who saw the vision; the men with me did not see it, but such terror overwhelmed them that they fled and hid themselves. (Daniel 10:7).

The list goes on: guilt, dread, destruction, horror… and wherever people are confronted with God’s glory and power.

But it is not all doom and gloom. People were also overwhelmed:

with wonder - As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him. (Mark 9:15);

with amazement - People were overwhelmed with amazement. "He has done everything well," they said. "He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak." (Mark 7:37)

It certainly puts all my ‘overwhelmings’ into perspective!

Wednesday, 18 March 2009


I was thinking about approval this morning - about wanting/needing/striving for it. Fortunately, the Bible gave me the right perspective on who I should be seeking approval from:

2 Timothy 2: 14 - 16: Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene.

Or, as the Message puts it: Repeat these basic essentials over and over to God's people. Warn them before God against pious nitpicking, which chips away at the faith. It just wears everyone out. Concentrate on doing your best for God, work you won't be ashamed of, laying out the truth plain and simple. Stay clear of pious talk that is only talk. Words are not mere words, you know. If they're not backed by a godly life, they accumulate as poison in the soul.

I'm also wondering - is approval the same as appreciation? Hmmm...

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Jesus says: I am...

I was preparing an RS lesson this morning, looking up the metaphors Jesus describes himself as:

"I am the bread of life." John 6:35, 41, 48-51
"I am the light of the world." John 8:12, 9:5
"I am the door of the sheep." John 10:7, 9
"I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep." John 10:11, 14
"I am the resurrection, and the life." John 11:25
"I am the way, the truth, and the life." John 14:6
"I am the true vine." John 15:1, 5

Then I came across an eighth 'I am' with no metaphorical object.

It is I; be not afraid [In Greek, same as "I am; be not afraid"]. John 6:16-21

The ultimate 'I am', really: Jesus says: "It's me, Jesus. However you think of me - as life-giving bread, vital light, whatever, know that you can trust me: you do not need to be afraid."

Monday, 16 March 2009


We all like to be encouraged. Just a few words is enough to lift our spirits and give us a different view on the day. Acts 20 says exactly this:

Paul called the disciples together and encouraged them to keep up the good work in Ephesus. Then, saying his good-byes, he left for Macedonia. Travelling through the country, passing from one gathering to another, he gave constant encouragement, lifting their spirits and charging them with fresh hope.

Again: Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints. (Philemon 1) and in 1 Thessalonians 2:
You remember us in those days, friends, working our fingers to the bone, up half the night, moonlighting so you wouldn't have the burden of supporting us while we proclaimed God's Message to you. You saw with your own eyes how discreet and courteous we were among you, with keen sensitivity to you as fellow believers. And God knows we weren't freeloaders! You experienced it all firsthand. With each of you we were like a father with his child, holding your hand, whispering encouragement, showing you step-by-step how to live well before God, who called us into his own kingdom, into this delightful life.

But I think there is more to encouragement than just individual brightening up. On my way to school this morning, I was stopped at a traffic light. Next to me was a huge granite wall,with some hefty stones on the top. But holding it all together were smaller stones and cement. Don't words of encouragement both hold our lives together, strengthening them and helping to build us up? And don't they also build us up as a community, helping make us more patient with and appreciative of one another?

Sunday, 15 March 2009


I'm writing this halfway through Sunday - the day of rest. Of course, sticking rigorously to Sunday as a 'rest day' may not be for all of us, especially for those who have a job to do which entails Sunday working. But 'rest' is so important - and it is different for everyone. For some of us, it may indeed mean not working in any sense - even taking a break from routine chores. For others, it may mean catching up on little things and being able to start the working week with a clean page. Some will gain rest in solitude; others, in the company of friends or family. We all pursue rest in different ways.

Yet we find a timely reminder in Psalm 62:1 - 8 says:

My soul finds rest in God alone;
my salvation comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.

How long will you assault a man?
Would all of you throw him down—
this leaning wall, this tottering fence?
They fully intend to topple him from his lofty place; they take delight in lies.
With their mouths they bless, but in their hearts they curse.

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone;
my hope comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.

My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.

True rest is in God.

Friday, 13 March 2009


Romans 15:4-6

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

And Paul also says, in Ephesians 4:2 - 6:
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 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; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Our great Christians have been characterized by peace - think Mother Teresa! I know I still have a long way to go before I attain even a small measure of peace - but I won't give up trying!

Thursday, 12 March 2009

The shepherd

I've been thinking of this adaptation of Psalm 23 this week:

The King of love my Shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never,
I nothing lack if I am His
And He is mine forever.

Perverse and foolish oft I strayed,
But yet in love He sought me,
And on His shoulder gently laid,
And home, rejoicing, brought me.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Grass. Grass?!?

For some reason, while praying and thanking God for keeping me calm through a period of, potentially, great stress, I thought of grass. Grass? How weird is that? The common thread seems to be an ungodly double ss spelling.

Anyway, I looked up grass on... yes, These verses caught my eye.

God says
Listen, O heavens, and I will speak;
hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.
Let my teaching fall like rain
and my words descend like dew,
like showers on new grass,
like abundant rain on tender plants.
I will proclaim the name of the LORD.
Oh, praise the greatness of our God!
He is the Rock, his works are perfect,
and all his ways are just.
A faithful God who does no wrong,
upright and just is he.
(Deuteronomy 32:1 - 4)

New grass, coming up green in the springtime. Isaiah 51 reminds us that we are just like grass - dependent on God for our very lives.

A blast on the trumpet... and other musical moments

Music has been a feature of my school life this term. Twice a week the choir has practised in the hall next to my classroom and there have been numerous other occasions when I have enjoyed the sound of singing. This week we have had a great school concert and a brilliant drum solo in assembly this morning, and so... Psalm 150!

Hallelujah! Praise God in his holy house of worship,
praise him under the open skies;
Praise him for his acts of power,
praise him for his magnificent greatness;
Praise with a blast on the trumpet,
praise by strumming soft strings;
Praise him with castanets and dance,
praise him with banjo and flute;
Praise him with cymbals and a big bass drum,
praise him with fiddles and mandolin.
Let every living, breathing creature praise God!

Tuesday, 10 March 2009


'Trust' caught my eye this morning. The front cover of the New Wine magazine bore the words: Where's your trust? Responses to the world-wide financial crisis featured heavily inside, as articles examined ways of living in times of trouble. It was also encouraging to read stories of how God has worked in lives.

Some years ago, just as we were entering possibly the most difficult period of our lives, a friend gave us this verse from Psalm 33, verses 17 - 22:

A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.

We wait in hope for the LORD;he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you.

Psalm 20:7 also says: Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

These verses are so familiar to me, I thought I would try to find more, so I looked up 'trust' on and found 164 entries for trust, trustworthy, and so on. But I found I couldn't look further, because Psalm 33 says it all for me. I need to remember that 'horses' - money, job, friends, even church family - are 'vain hopes'. It is only God who needs my hope and trust.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Strength, encouragement and comfort

1 Corinthians 14:1-3 (The Message) Go after a life of love as if your life depended on it—because it does. Give yourselves to the gifts God gives you. Most of all, try to proclaim his truth. If you praise him in the private language of tongues, God understands you but no one else does, for you are sharing intimacies just between you and him. But when you proclaim his truth in everyday speech, you're letting others in on the truth so that they can grow and be strong and experience his presence with you.

The NIV says: But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.

The prayer training day emphasised that, in praying for others, we should say only what is strengthening, encouraging or comforting. Why keep that idea just for prayers? I'm thinking especially of today, as we start out inspection week at school. We ALL need strengthening, encouraging and comforting (though not, I hope, too much of the latter!)

If every word that came out of my mouth had the effect of strengthening, encouraging or comforting my hearers, I'd be a very happy bunny indeed!

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Strength in numbers

The prayer training day yesterday was quite inspiring – faith-building, even. Even though I already knew and had experienced much of what was taught, it was great to be reminded.

The day was full: but, thinking about it now, one of the challenges I am left with is that we were recommended to pray with a partner. Mark 12:13 tells us that the disciples “preached with joyful urgency that life can be radically different; right and left they sent the demons packing; they brought wellness to the sick, anointing their bodies, healing their spirits”, Luke adding that Jesus sent them out two by two.

I was reminded that “By yourself you're unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst. Can you round up a third? A three-stranded rope isn't easily snapped (Ecclesiastes 4:12) Two of us – and Jesus – an unbeatable prayer trio!

Friday, 6 March 2009

Deliver us from the Evil One

I came across these words of wisdom from Max Lucado and wanted to share them:

The next-to-last phrase in the Lord's prayer is a petition for protection from Satan: "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one."

Is such a prayer necessary? Would God ever lead us into temptation? James 1:13 says, "When people are tempted they should not say, 'God is tempting me.' Evil cannot tempt God, and God himself does not tempt anyone." If God does not tempt us, then why pray, "Lead us not into temptation"? These words trouble the most sophisticated theologian.

But they don't trouble a child. And this is a prayer for the child-like heart. This is a prayer for those who look upon God as their Abba. This is a prayer for those who have already talked to their Father about provision for today ("Give us our daily bread.") and pardon for yesterday ("Forgive us our debts."). Now the child needs assurance about protection for tomorrow.

The phrase is best understood with a simple illustration. Imagine a father and son walking down an icy street. The father cautions the boy to be careful, but the boy is too excited to slow down. He hits the first patch of ice. Up go the feet and down plops the bottom. Dad comes along and helps him to his feet. The boy apologizes for disregarding the warning and then, tightly holding his father's big hand, he asks, "Keep me from the slippery spots. Don't let me fall again."

The Father is so willing to comply. "The steps of the godly are directed by the Lord. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will not fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand" (Ps. 37:23--24 TLB). Such is the heart of this petition. It's a tender request of a child to a father. The last few slips have taught us--the walk is too treacherous to make alone. So we place our small hand in his large one and say, "Please, Abba, keep me from evil."

Thursday, 5 March 2009


Thoughts in the context of our school inspection next week seem to be dominating - I wonder why?! Interestingly, my small group prayed for me that I will do everything not in my own strength, but in the Lord's. That would be great! Certainly, after having been quite chilled about it all I am now beginning to wonder when I will be able to get everything done before next Tuesday. It certainly seems as if time, at least, is running out and with it,the strength to get everything done and dusted.

I was amused to see a 'follow on' verse from yesterday, just a couple of chapters after the Israelites were encouraged to hurry out of Egypt. Safely out of harm, God's people were so excited by how God had saved them that they were inspired to sing:

The LORD is my strength and my song;
he has become my salvation.
He is my God, and I will praise him,
my father's God, and I will exalt him. Exodus 15:2

Or, as The Message puts it:

God is my strength, God is my song,
and, yes! God is my salvation.
This is the kind of God I have
and I'm telling the world!
This is the God of my father—
I'm spreading the news far and wide!

The antidote to hurry

The last few days - as we gear up, as a school, to being inspected next week - have been so busy and hectic that I thought I'd better look up 'hurry' on

This is what I found. Lot told his sons-in-law to "Hurry and get out of this place, because the LORD is about to destroy the city!" But his sons-in-law thought he was joking. With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, "Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished." (Genesis 19:14 - 15).

Then in Exodus 12:33 the Egyptians urged the people to hurry and leave the country. "For otherwise," they said, "we will all die!"
In 1 Samuel 23:26 Saul was going along one side of the mountain, and David and his men were on the other side, hurrying to get away from Saul.

David had to hurry to the Israelite camp, when they were battling against the Philistines. Everywhere I looked, people were hurrying all over the place, usually trying to get away from disaster and destruction.

Phew! So what is the opposite of hurry? How can I slow down?

Looking up 'slow down' on Bible Gateway, I found that we should slow down when we are tempted to rush into things without checking what God wants us to do(1 Samuel 14:36)or where sin is concerned (Jeremiah 2:24-26)

We shouldn't slow down in our Christian lives: So watch your step, friends. Make sure there's no evil unbelief lying around that will trip you up and throw you off course, diverting you from the living God. For as long as it's still God's Today, keep each other on your toes so sin doesn't slow down your reflexes. If we can only keep our grip on the sure thing we started out with, we're in this with Christ for the long haul. These words keep ringing in our ears: Today, please listen; don't turn a deaf ear as in the bitter uprising. (Hebrews 3:12)

Hurry for the right reasons!

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Church is us!

One of Adrian Plass’s books features a lady who keeps saying: “The church is the people, not the building, you know!” I was thinking about these verses in Hebrews 10:24-26: And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another… Let's see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on…

I watched two four year olds – twins, a boy and a girl – on holiday. They were ‘spurring each other on’, gathering handfuls of sand on the beach and then running down to the water together to throw it into the sea. They seemed to be unanimous in purpose, neither willing to let the other go it alone but happily doing it together.

I am so convinced that this is not just for social purposes, although that is good as well, but getting together as Christians has to be INTENTIONAL, to encourage each other to live life well for Jesus. As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17) or, as The Message puts it: You use steel to sharpen steel, and one friend sharpens another. The Amplified Bible mentions to ‘show worthy purpose’. I want my Christian life to be as full of purpose as a four year old intent on filling the sea with sand!

Monday, 2 March 2009

Act justly, love mercy - and be wise!

I had many things on my mind this morning, but somehow I ended up in 1 Samuel Chapter 14. The part where Jonathan, Saul’s son has been very brave with the result that, through his obedience to God’s prompting, the whole army rallies and defeats their enemies. Meanwhile, his father Saul tells the army they will be cursed if they eat anything: Jonathan doesn’t know this, eats some honey which revives him – while everyone else is fainting from hunger – and then Saul says Jonathan has to die because he broke the oath. Fortunately, the men won’t have any of it and rescue Jonathan.

How foolish! Among other things, power had gone to Saul’s head. The other verse I was thinking about was Micah 6:8 - He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Or, in The Message version: But he's already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It's quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbour, be compassionate and loyal in your love, and don't take yourself too seriously— take God seriously.

Difficult, sometimes, in our complicated lives – and no doubt too much of a challenge for Saul as king – but so simple!

Of mercy, good and evil

"I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You'll never—I promise—regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we're at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind.
"Don't pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don't condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you'll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you'll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity." Luke 6:35-37 (The Message)

I was thinking of this, reading a book about the Beatitudes which quotes Alexander Solhenitsyn: he says the the division between good and evil is not between people but can be found inside every human heart: that even the ‘best’ person has a corner of evil just as the ‘worst’ has a tiny bridgehead of good.

How, then can we pass judgement on others? We can’t.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

1st March

I’m reading RT Kendall’s book ‘The Complete Guide to the Parables’ – it’s taking ages, as it’s not a light read and each chapter is stuffed full of wisdom. I’ve got as far as the parables of the lost sheep – where the shepherd leaves the 99 sheep which are safe to look for the one which is lost – and the lost coin, where the woman turns her house inside out all for the sake of one coin. Then there is the joy of successfully finding what was lost.

It must have been terrifying for the sheep to be lost. A lost sheep cries and calls out constantly for help, running this way and that, until it is too exhausted to move. Then the shepherd comes: “And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home.” Luke 15:5- 6.

I sometimes feel lost like that. Overwhelmed by busyness, by work, by relationships, by sheer distraction, I wander away from The Shepherd. I’ve always thought that the lost sheep must have been alone – but now I wonder if it might have strayed and joined another flock. Hmm.