Monday, 30 January 2012

Adventures in Ephesians...

Looking at Ephesians Chapter 2...
...immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! (verses 4 -5)
I found myself thinking of this Al Gordon song:

This is how I know what love is
This is how I know I'm free
This is how I know salvation
Jesus came and died for me

This is why I come to worship
This is why I lift my hands
This is why I now surrender
Everything I am -

Because of Your love
There's dancing in my heart

Because of grace I am free
Because of Your faithfulness
There's a song that must be sung
I will sing, I will sing because of You...

This is why there's joy within me
This is why my spirit sings
Jesus, You're my great adventure
You're my everything.

You came to save the world
To save the world, to save the world
Your love can change the world
Can change the world, can change the world. 
'It is by grace - by love - that we have been SAVED'.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Inspirational photos from Renee Swope

Renee Swope has posted some wonderful photos recently...
May the God our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorioius Father, give me the spirit of wisdom and revelation so that I may know Him better. I want to know and rely on the love You have for me, Jesus, and live in that love. You say whoever lives in love lives in You, and You in him. In this way, love is made complete in me, so that I can have confidence today and forever.

Hold on to this promise and live in the power of its truth: because God's love is perfect, you don't have to be!

Jesus is the only One who can meet our deepest needs to be accepted and delighted in simply because of who we are. We can offer nothing but our presence, and He will desire us just the same.
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart." (Jeremiah 1:5)

Christianity is the only faith that offers a relationship with the living God. We don’t just know about our God; our God wants us to know Him. We were created for that kind of relationship. He wants us to find lasting soul-security in knowing we are valued and pursued by the One who knows and loves us—the One who created our inmost being and wove us together in our mother’s womb (Ps. 139:13). Have you let the gospel of God’s grace move from your head to your heart, so that you know without a doubt you are known intimately and loved completely by God?”

Friday, 27 January 2012


We've been chatting quite a lot recently about change. It's a topic that recurs over and over again at our monthly breakfasts.  So I wanted to share this quote from Max Lucado:
Are you hoping that a change in circumstances will bring a change in your attitude? If so, you are in prison, and you need to learn a secret of traveling light. What you have in your Shepherd is greater than what you don’t have in life.
May I meddle for a moment? What is the one thing separating you from joy? How do you fill in this blank: “I will be happy when ________________”? When I am healed. When I am promoted. When I am married. When I am single. When I am rich. How would you finish that statement?
Now, with your answer firmly in mind, answer this. If your ship never comes in, if your dream never comes true, if the situation never changes, could you be happy? If not, then you are sleeping in the cold cell of discontent. You are in prison. And you need to know what you have in your Shepherd.
Lucado Inspirational ReaderYou have a God who hears you, the power of love behind you, the Holy Spirit within you, and all of heaven ahead of you. If you have the Shepherd, you have grace for every sin, direction for every turn, a candle for every corner, and an anchor for every storm. You have everything you need.

from Lucado Inspirational Reader
Our God is an awesome God
He reigns
from heaven above
with wisdom, power and love
Our God is an awesome God.
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul prayed - for them and for us - that believers might know " ...what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might." (ESV)
Know.  NIV says "and his incomparably great power for us who believe."
We are in Christ. We have his power.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God...

I've been thinking about Ephesians 1:17-22: The Message puts it like this:I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength!

All this energy issues from Christ: God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule. And not just for the time being, but forever. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. 

With such awesome power, why am I not in total awe, struck dumb and motionless - he is King of Kings, Lord of Lords, absolute ruler of all.  In the face of such might, petty squabbles and dissatisfactions are like a blot on the face of his beauty. They assume so much importance that they loom in front of my face, obscuring him who is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end, the lord of all...It is as if I block out the sun by holding a small insignificant object close to my the same way, I block out God's mighty power by holding close to me my petty grudges, resentments, difficult relationships, unhappy memories...
I am reminded of 1 Peter 5:6 which says in the Message: God's strong hand is on you; he'll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you.
live carefree. Care free. Not letting "death nor life, angels nor demons, the present nor the future, nor any powers, height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39, NIV)
Now, there's a thought!

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord
Open the eyes of my heart,
I want to see you
I want to see you

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord
Open the eyes of my heart,
I want to see you
I want to see you

to see you high and lifted up
shining in the light of your glory
pour out your power and love
as we sing Holy Holy Holy...

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord
Open the eyes of my heart,
I want to know hope
I want to know hope

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord
Open the eyes of my heart,
I want to know the hope
I want to know the hope

which He has called me to
all the riches of life eternal
glorious inheritance
as we sing Holy, Holy, Holy,

Holy, Holy, Holy...

Monday, 23 January 2012

Ephesians - still in chapter 1...

A prayer... 
May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ
THE God of Glory
give us a spirit of wisdom
a spirit of revelation
a spirit of knowledge of Him
and fill us with power
to live lives which give HIM, not us, the praise and glory.

And a reflection...
It’s hard to really take hold of this knowledge, that each of us is a princess of tremendous worth to God – yet so true. This pearl of wisdom is echoed in ‘Captivating’ by John and Stasi Eldridge: this book is a ‘must-read’ for every woman!

Sunday, 22 January 2012

A song of prayer

Chad Lawson plays the prayer of his heart...

And Audrey Assad sings.

Saturday, 21 January 2012


New Year.  New challenges.  What are we being asked to do – what WILL we be asked to do – that is new?

New Year’s resolutions.  All very well, but we don’t keep them.  But perhaps we could have new attitudes?  It’s very easy, but when we have worked in the same place for some time it is quite hard to change.  We slip back into the same old comfortable ways of working, ways of responding to our colleagues, clients and customers and ways of speaking.

I’m challenged to be new.

One thing that bothers me about this is that, as a Christian for many years, my relationship with Jesus lacks a sense of newness, of excitement.  That has begun to make sense to me now, through the study of Ephesians.

When I was first in Kenya I was ‘adopted’ by a family, long term residents. I spent my first Christmas away from my own family with them, included, accepted and loved. I loved being with them, accepting the new relationships I was forming, absorbing what it meant to be a ‘member’ of this particular family. I stayed with them frequently. After a while, the sense of newness and strangeness faded. I helped with the elderly mother, ran errands, helped with cooking and the housework.

I realised that my adoption into God’s family is a little like that. The joy of finding a new family is no longer new in the same way: to begin with, my relationship was about taking what was offered, not about giving. Yet now I find I help members of my Christian family; I run errands for them; I am involved with the running of the house.  I am so well settled in as an adopted daughter of God that there is no longer the same sense of ‘newness’.

Yet, however long we have or haven’t known him, God still wants to give us a sense of excitement.
We have a new life. The first verse I ever memorised was 2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here!
Romans 6:4  says We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

We are given new commands
John 13:34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 

He wants to give us new attitudes:  Ezekiel 36:26 says I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 
Ephesians 4:22-24:  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; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

And we have been given a new song
Psalm 40:3 
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
   a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the LORD
   and put their trust in him.
Psalm 33:3-4 
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.
Psalm 96
 1 Sing to the LORD a new song;
   sing to the LORD, all the earth.
Psalm 149
 1 Praise the LORD.
   Sing to the LORD a new song,
   his praise in the assembly of his faithful people.
Song of Praise to the LORD
 10 Sing to the LORD a new song,
   his praise from the ends of the earth,
you who go down to the sea, and all that is in it,
   you islands, and all who live in them.

God brings ‘newness’ to us Isaiah 42:8-10 
 8 “I am the LORD; that is my name!
   I will not yield my glory to another
   or my praise to idols.
9 See, the former things have taken place,
   and new things I declare;
before they spring into being
   I announce them to you.”

Isaiah 43:18-20 (New International Version)
18 “Forget the former things;
   do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
   Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
   and streams in the wasteland.
20 The wild animals honor me,
   the jackals and the owls,
because I provide water in the wilderness
   and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen,
How do we become or choose ‘new’?  How do we get rid of the unwanted old? What do we each do to retain the newness of a relationship with God – that sense of becoming a ‘new creation’?

1.       Substitute old habits for new
2.       Do something completely different
3.       Commit to regular Bible reading/study/gathering together
4.       Take a new position at work: develop new relationships; take a new standpoint on issues.

Perhaps we could have a new ‘word’ for ourselves.  It might be ‘joy’ or ‘delight’ or ‘trust’ or ‘follow’ ... what would yours be?  Mine is ‘mercy’.  To be kinder, less brusque...

Thursday, 19 January 2012

A new word

The 'buzz' on the blogs for the new year seemed to be about choosing a 'word' for the year. Others challenged us to ask God for a 'picture'. I wondered about a 'song'.  All good ideas, but what?
I could only think of 'mercy'.  To dwell on God's mercy, to aim to extend mercy, to be merciful...this is the word that has stayed with me. 
Mercy. To be compassionate, forbearing, kind...It implies forgiveness, indulgence, clemency, leniency, lenity, tenderness, mildness. 
Most of those words do not come naturally to me. I am decisive, with no natural inclination to 'suffer fools gladly'.
At least, that was definitely the teenage me.  Several decades on, I am glad to say that I am far more merciful than I used to be.
Yet still, mercy is a good word for me this year. A new word in my life.
Now I have another word, arising from the Good Morning Girls study on Ephesians. This comes from chapter 1.
Fearless. Fearlessly.
Because I a because I am redeemed, saved, paid for, rescued...I am safe, and can live fear less! And because of that, I can also live FEARLESSLY. 
So I pray I will respond to compassionate instincts, not hold back, examine, assess, weighing up risks...but acting with mercy and kindness towards those around me.
A good idea for a new year.
(I still haven't had a 'picture' yet.)
Faith Barista offered this challenge. I love the tagcloud she made of all the words which others had been given for this year. 
Interestingly, I can't see 'mercy'.  Or 'fearless'.  Hmmm...

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

To be chosen...and receive a gift

Studying Ephesians 1:4 I came across this lovely Gospel song:

The phrase: 'It's a mighty good thing to be chosen by God' is what caught my attention, in the context of being eternally chosen to be loved members of God's family - yet the song hints at chosen in other ways too:
It's a mighty good thing, to be chosen by God
It's a mighty good thing, to be chosen to serve
So don't ever complain, when He calls your name
The job might seem hard, but you'll get a special reward
When you're chosen by God

Yes, chosen!
Then Rose found this:

You might be the wife, 
Waiting up at night
You might be the man, 
Struggling to provide
Feeling like it's hopeless 

Maybe you're the son, 
Who chose a broken road
Maybe you're the girl, 
Thinking you'll end up alone
Praying God can you hear me?
Oh God are you listening?

Am I more than flesh and bone?
Am I really something beautiful?
Yeah, I wanna believe, I wanna believe that
I'm not just some wandering soul
That you don't see and you don't know
Yeah I wanna believe, Jesus help me believe that I 
Am someone worth dying for 

I know you've heard the truth that God has set you free
But you think you're the one that grace could never reach
So you just keep asking, what everybody's asking
You're worth it, you can't earn it
Yeah the Cross has proven 
That you're sacred and blameless
Your life has purpose 

You are more than flesh and bone
Can't you see you're something beautiful
Yeah you gotta believe, you gotta believe
He wants you to see, He wants you to see
That you're not just some wandering soul
That can't be seen and can't be known
Yeah you gotta believe, you gotta believe that you 
Are someone worth dying for

You're someone worth dying for 
You're someone worth dying for

And then I found the words of this old Shaker hymn popped into my head:
'Tis a gift to be simple,
'Tis a gift to be free.
'Tis a gift to go where you ought to be.
And when you go to the place just right.
You'll be in the valley of love and delight.
Beautiful words. A variety of musical styles. The infinity of God's creativity.

Praying for strangers

Just read about praying for strangers...this is something I think I need to do.
Not an ought or a must. A need.
Need to pray and read about it, too.

And when I think of strangers, I think of Katie in Uganda. I think of her kindness, her sacrifice, her willingness to give up her life at an age younger than my daughter (who embodies kindness and sacrifice for me too).

These are women of inspiration.

I think I might start a bloggy hall of fame for them. Because I need to be inspired by such as these...

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Thoughts hang out together...

Starting the Good Morning Girls study on Ephesians is interesting.
Interesting because what I thought would be easy is difficult.
Interesting because what I thought would be short is long.
Interesting because what I thought would be simple is complex
Interesting because what I thought would be straightforward has twists and turns.
Interesting because what I thought would be concentrated is diffuse.
Interesting because what I thought would be individual is community.

So what do I mean?
I thought just reading a few verses each day would be easy, short, simple and straightforward. It IS all of those things, but it is also difficult, long, complex and full of unseen diversions.
Why have I never realised how RICH in meaning this book is? I've always enjoyed it, gained great wisdom and strength from: a friend of mine has even memorised the whole book.  But it has somehow all been so familiar that I have taken it for granted.

It is difficult to satisfy myself that I have understood what I have read. I reach a level of understanding, but then find myself with another question, and dig deeper. Then other questions arrive before I have even answered the first one...

It is difficult to find simple answers.

It is difficult sometimes to find enough time. This is no short, tick-the-box quickly study.  (Even now, before work, I find myself compelled to write this reflection as a direct result of this morning's study.)

It is difficult to just stick to the verses and read only those. The cross-references scream for my attention. Then THEIR cross-references demand to be examined. And so on and so forth.

It is difficult to stay focused just on the few verses in front of me, keeping the meaning in mind without getting sidetracked.

Yet some things are easy.

It is easy to find joy in the words of love and life, revelation and rejoicing.
It is easy to gain a wider insight when my daily devotional reading chimes in with what I am studying in Ephesians.  Just yesterday, when Luke 2:49 reminded me that if Jesus has to be in His Father's house, I realised that if I am blessed in Christ I am also in His Father's house, involved with him in his father's business...My study is concentrated on a few verses but it is also wonderfully diffuse.
And it is easy to maintain the discipline when I know that so many friends, near and far, known and unknown, are also studying with me, diligently jotting down their thoughts which they might share with me...It is easy when I look forward so eagerly to reading what they too have gained from this study.

What fun!

Emergency numbers

Bible references for all situations...

 When you are sad, call on John 14

- When you don’t feel loved, call on Romans 8:38-39

- When you have sinned, call on 1 John 1:8-9

- When you are facing danger, call on Psalm 91

- When people have failed you, call on Psalm 27

- When God feel far from you, call on Psalm 139

- When your faith needs encouraging, call on Hebrews 11

- When you are scared, call on Psalm 23

- When you are worried, call on Matthew 6:25-34

- When you are hurt, call on Colossians 3:12-17

- When you feel no one is on your side, call on Romans 8:31-39

- When you are seeking rest, call on Matthew 11:25-30

- When you are suffering, call on Romans 8:18-30

- When you feel you’re failing, call on Psalm 121

- When you pray, call on Matthew 6:9-13

- When you need courage, call on Joshua 1

- When you are in need, call on Philippians 4:19

- When you are hated because of your faith, call on John 15

- When you are losing hope, call on 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

- When you are seeking peace, call on John 14:27

- When you want to do good works, call on John 15

- When you want to live a happy life, call on Colossians 3:12-17

- When you don’t understand what God is doing, call on Isaiah 55:8-9

- When you want to get along with others, call on Romans 12:9-21

Monday, 16 January 2012

Stand alone

Do not
shake your head
sadly tut tut
and say 'How awful'

but do
stand and pray
for someone else
in a gap that is not of your making

knowing that
you do not
stand alone

for He stands next to you
sorrowing more than you can imagine.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Good Morning Girls!

Have just started a Bible study on Ephesians with a group of friends through Good Morning Girls. There is even an online Bible study application! Very exciting!
There are only a very few verses to read each day, which I thought wouldn't take too long - boy, was I wrong!  Questions and cross-referencing lead to mega more questions and cross-references....!
The idea of spiritual blessings stumped me rather...then Jen wrote a superb post explaining all!


Epiphany - the visit of the wise men. A prayer.

Just as the wise men brought gifts, so do we.

We bring the you the gift of concern
for our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world,
especially those countries where they endure hardship and suffering
simply because they are called by your name.

We bring you a gift of thanks
for those who faithfully follow you.
Inspire and encourage all who seek to live by your truth.
Connect us as we seek to work together.

We bring you a gift of sacrifice
Make us hungrier for your word and
thirstier to be obedient to what you teach us.
May we live our lives for your purposes.

Just as the wise men brought riches
we ask that we be more generous.
Make us open-handed with our wealth,
lavish with our praises and
extravagant with our worship
so that we may live lives
wholly devoted to you.