Thought for the Day
24th November 2020
Philippians 1:6 And we know that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is completed on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
There is something wonderful about completing a jigsaw. A picture, an assignment, a piece of work, a letter, any activity. Completing anything offers a sense of achievement, self-worth and value. Knowing “I did it” is a wonderful feeling that enhances wellbeing and mental health. To achieve and complete we need sensible goals, things we can work towards and we need to be able to stand firm when things are not rosy and wonderful, we need to develop determination and resilience. A wonderful story of determination is the discovery of Hawaii by early Polynesian explorers. They knew something was out there, they followed the Golden Plover bird that emigrated that way each year, but it was so far away it took about 400 years to find it. Yet they did not give up, imagine had they given up after 395 years. They believed, had faith, did not give up and eventually got there. Of course, there was and is a risk. We can set goals, dreams and hunches and sometimes it just doesn’t happen. Determination keeps us going through the obstacles. We have to do it one step at a time, even if we cannot see the end, even if the view is obscured or clued over, one day at a time. Sometimes there is little or no proof, no encouragement and this can make us question and give up. Fear of mistakes and failures, of getting nowhere, of being wrong can make us not even try or give up far too easily. This verse is about faith in God and ourselves, the completion of a life set out for us, a path to travel, a journey to make. It all takes time and small steps. The promise of completion is there if we are determined and do not give up. Around us are many people who could have given up, but they chose not to. They stuck to their calling even though people and circumstances told them not to. We will want to give up, we will find our faith and our calling difficult, but our determination is God given and God driven. He will be with us each step of the way, encouraging us to find our Hawaii even if everyone else says it isn’t there.
23rd November 2020
Jeremiah 31:3 The LORD says “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness”
I have had a cat through most of my life and always had rescue cats. Having a cat reminds me about unconditional love and trust. Each time we have taken a cat from a rescue centre with no conditions as to whether they would be suitable or not. Each one has come to live in our home as they were. Each one has trusted us to feed them, love them, come back when we go out, let them in and out of the house as they need and not to be cruel to them in any way. When I do not put fresh food down at their request, they do not pack their bags and leave. They still move round me, follow me everywhere, sit near me when I work and jump straight onto my empty lap. They regularly sleep on the bed; they patrol the house at night checking in on the family. We don’t ask them to love us, they just do. They sleep everywhere and tend not to jump when we move about, they trust us to stroke them, pick them up and they have all let the boys do anything with them and never run away. The claws don’t come out in anything but a need to grip or wear them down. Each one has sort to be centre of the family so where we are, they are. So, why am I telling you all this? Do we trust God to care for us, to give us all we need? Do we believe God always has the best planned for us? Do we seek to be part of the family and allow God to do what He wants with us without getting our claws out? We are loved unconditionally by God who does not refuse to love us because of our past or if we do or don’t behave in a certain way. God gives everything for us in Jesus. Just as every cat has had the freedom to be who they are in our family, whatever their baggage, we are completely free to be who we are in God’s family, whatever our baggage. So please know yourself loved, chosen, special, cared for and allow God to look after you and give you all you need to be free to be yourself in His family. In the words of Rob Haywards worship song: “I’m accepted, I’m forgiven, I’m fathered by the true and living God. I’m accepted, no condemnation, I am loved by the true and living God”.
22nd November 2020
Jeremiah 17:7 Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.
How are you at trusting others? Recent surveys suggest we are not very trusting of our government and their handling of the present crisis. When we vote for parties and MP’s we are putting our trust in them to fulfil their promises. When we go to our doctor, we trust them to give us the correct treatment, when we buy a product, we trust that we will receive what we are promised. As the prospect of a vaccine comes along many are already feeling unsure, concerned that a process of usually ten plus years is happening in less than a year, can this be trusted to be safe? When we are told something is safe, tested, right or wrong we chose to accept it or challenge it based on how much trust we have, and that trust is earned through honesty and the keeping of previous promises. Trust and belief are a key part of the Bible and Christian faith. We are asked time and again to trust God, to believe He will do the best for us; we look at Bible History and Church History and see if that trust is honoured and respected and as a result we have faith and belief in God as one we can trust to honour His promises. Sometimes that trust is difficult, the world around us challenges our faith and our belief and we can be urged to not trust in God even though He has proved himself time and time again. We seem able to forget the constant lies and reneging on promises from our leaders, willingly trusting them again every five years and yet our God who does not lie, who does not renege on His promises is questioned and challenged constantly. Perhaps it is about faith, faith and hope; we have so little faith and such little hope in our promised future here on Earth that we simply cannot allow ourselves to trust God just in case He lets us down. Let me encourage you, God will not ever leave us, He does not bless us only to take it away again, He does not build His home in us to then move out , He does not promise something and then change His mind; so we can trust Him completely day after day after day.
21st November 2020
1 Timothy 4:12 Let no one look down upon you because you are young but set an example in love, in faith, in conduct and speech.
Working with young people shows me how incredible they are. We tend to think young people are not experienced and don’t really understand and therefore they can be ignored when it comes to making decisions or setting things up. In 1 Timothy it is made clear that we should not look down on anyone just because they are young. There is a realisation that young people can be spiritually and socially mature. My parents have always looked at me as young and therefore not fully understanding the situation and you certainly cannot categorise me as young any more, that is perhaps a parents role, to never see our children as anything other than inexperienced because they have not lived as long as we have. Yet in our righting off of their input we are quite happy as a society to leave millions of them as young carers, not only doing their school work but looking after a parent day in and day out, often with no help and saving the government millions in benefits for those who should really get help. We are quite happy to let young people challenge on the environment which will affect their future more than ours. There is almost a mindset that sees young people as those who can be ignored and set to do the things we do not want to do. Youth actually see things more clearly than we do, they are not yet caught up in all the pros and cons we allow to sway us. Youth also have that enthusiasm and energy while we are relying experience and coffee. From a Biblical perspective some of the champions of the gospel were young, Mary, Timothy, John Mark and in the Old Testament Daniel and David. Their youth allowed them to take on God’s challenges and callings with enthusiasm and excitement. Their youth allows them to offer God the best of their life to do His will. Their friendships and willingness to be straight about things gives them such opportunities for evangelism, for planting those seeds to nurture and grow. When we bring them up correctly, offering them respect for who they are and their experiences of the living God, then they will respect others, respect people for who they are and allow them to grow and be valued. Before God we all have something to offer, something to bring, whether we are young, old or somewhere in between. Young people need to be encouraged and enabled, to be taken seriously as disciples of Christ for they are the ones who will bless the church and take it forward if we let them.
20th November 2020
Ecclesiastes 7:20 Surely there is no one on earth so righteous as to do good without ever sinning.
There is no perfect version of a Christian than Christ, there are some who try to persuade us they are pretty close with their rhetoric and condemnation of others who do not agree with them, but no. We attempt to follow Jesus, we love through Jesus, we pray and live through Jesus, we give ourselves over to Jesus. The book of Ecclesiastes broods over the troubles of life and the desire for answers. Within it and within us lies this tension of hope and futility. The psalmist too often spoke of the hope in God that lies in tension with our fragile lives. Our story will only consist of a certain amount of years and how we live in that timeframe. For most of us it consists of mixed feelings, the anger and rage we feel lies alongside a stubborn desire not to give up. Thankfully, the Bible is full of folk complaining that God is hiding from them while they are hiding from God. Adam and Eve hid from God in their shame and so do we at times. God’s love, compassion and mercy comes to us in many ways, but we have to accept it. There is a marked distance between reality and the ideal in ourselves, so we confess, we admit our faults and frailties and thus give mercy the last word. As we confess we receive forgiveness from God through each other, as we confess in our worship services we do so before each other and all God’s people that our sins have broken this world and then we find forgiveness in the words of the Kyrie. As we suffer grief, anger, life and faith all held in tension, as we feel hurt, loss, injustice and fear is there a place for rejoicing in singing, in words of hope? Within the very mystery of faith lies the place for our heart to sing. As we pray for goodness, for healing, for strengthening of faith, for vision and dignity, as we fight not to give up we find delight and hope in our God. We believe in order to understand, to make sense of the melee around us. When we think we will just give up faith offers us a way to hold futility and hope, grief and consolation, known and unknown, turmoil and peace, sadness and joy all together in tension. God did not bring us this far to leave us, He did not lift us up to let us down, He did not make His home in our hearts to then move away. The road is not an easy one, we will struggle and suffer but we do not do so alone. We walk in faith, God with us, never leaving us. We have come a long way and we still have places to go knowing that He goes with us.
19th November 2020
Psalm 18:2 The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my saviour; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.
There is an image of God as our refuge which is often found in the Psalms. When the storms of life come it is encouraging to know that we can turn to God as our rock, our shelter, our fortress, our protection, and our refuge. The peoples of old sheltered in the caves in the rock, they found protection here from the heat of the sun, the wild animals, the thieves and robbers and soldiers. Thus, a picture of God as this place of protection and safety made sense and could be understood by everyone. Within western Europe most of us are fortunate enough to never need a physical refuge from famine, conflict, or natural disasters. Across the world, of the 65 million people who have had to flee their homes because of violence or conflict, around 40 million are displaced inside their own countries. These internally displaced refugees don’t have the protection and support that comes with legal refugee status and so they are the forgotten refugees. Sadly, at the moment, the support for legal refugees has become sparse and begrudged in the west but surely it doesn’t need to be this way. Many aid organisations began as a response to the post-war refugee crisis of 1945, the knowledge that God called each of us to clothe the naked and feed the hungry challenged the folk of that time to do just that. That vision and challenge has continued into the present because people are still being displaced, forced to flee for their lives and God still calls us to this generosity of spirit, to this vision of peace and refuge for all. Can we answer that call? Can we overcome our fear of the stranger and open our hearts and our borders to those in need? Can we be brave enough to speak out when refugees are demonised? We have the opportunity to change the narrative around refugees; to challenge the negative discriminatory headlines by writing to the relevant newspapers, to our MP’s and news outlets and remind them that our nation is founded on the fair treatment of all refugees with dignity and compassion. May we be willing to stand up and speak out in God’s name for all refugees as they seek a refuge and a safe place to call home.
18th November 2020
2 Thessalonians 3:3 But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you, protect and guard you from the evil one.
One of the things I am always conscious of is the safety of those I love. Whenever the boys or Gareth leave the house, I always say keep safe. As we brought up the boys, we did everything to protect them form harm although several visits to A&E show we were not always successful. We all protect the most vulnerable parts of our bodies with helmets, hats, pads, gloves and guards, these are obvious visible protection, we avoid being hurt when we can, physically. But we also need protection mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, these are not as obvious but still very necessary. Things that are said to us, relationships, friendships, what we see and feel, these affect us and so we need protection here as well. Protection by being careful in what we watch, see, hear, experience, what we put in our bodies, how we treat them, the anxieties and worries about family, life, future, and prospects. God always intended us and those we love to be kept safe from harm, it is us humans, we are the ones who have exposed ourselves to harm by our selfishness and rebellion. God is faithful, protection and care are freely offered and freely given. Sometimes we can take all the ncessary precautions and things still go wrong but when we take precautions and prepare ourselves well, even when things go wrong, we have a level of protection. Our faith provides us with protection, with help, strength and perseverance. We do not stand alone in our need but with our God and our community around us, supporting us in prayer, in messages of hope, in friendship and in acts of caring. We go through nothing alone, but it is always our choice whether we allow God and others to help or not. We should always take precautions, be sensible, prepare where we can and allow God given support and help from others to protect us from harm and deal with the unexpected that sometimes comes our way.
17th November 2020
Hosea 6:6 For the Lord desires steadfast love and not sacrifices, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
We all live in a world where internet and Wi-Fi have become necessary and everywhere. Our vicarage has to have internet access for all the work we do as clergy and it is an added benefit for keeping in contact and for the gaming activities of our sons as well as study and the ever present Zoom and Teams meetings. In recent weeks we have had many issues with things going offline several times a day or for days on end. This connection, when it is lost, means we are not functioning at our best, unable to communicate effectively, lose our contact with certain information and situations. Lose our access to books, news, comment, and entertainment. If you will pardon the analogy losing our Wi-Fi is a little like losing our connection with God. It is quite easy for our connection to God to be lost, for us to suddenly not be able to communicate with God, not to hear or receive the necessary information. We can miss out on the information we need to help our faith. If the connection fails, then the zoom, emails and website fail, and we feel cut off from God and from others. In order to rectify our problem at home we have put in a new router, designed to get a better, stronger more reliable signal and to beam that throughout the house. We need a router with God, something that channels the signal round us, can reach us wherever we are and can’t be lost by a weak signal, a problem or bad connection. Our router is our relationship with God, we need our Bible, our prayer life, our knowledge of Jesus and His teaching to be in us, round us, above us and below us. We need to be able to reach God and be reached by Him. We need to be completely immersed in God without a break in the signal. To know and love Him all day and every day no matter what.
16th November 2020
Esther 2:8 Esther was taken into the king’s palace and put in the custody of Hegai, who had charge of the women.
One of the Old Testament stories I love is the one about Esther. I grew up with this story of a woman, a strong women who is at first treated as a slave but who saves her people and shows what God can do through anyone if they are willing to listen and act as God shows them. In the second chapter of Esther we are told how the harem of King Ahashuerus, also called Xerxes, was managed. I am not happy that he had a harem, it’s treatment of women was appalling, and it was of its time. The second chapter is an account of the immorality and cruelty which often accompanies such dominating power. This is not uncommon in history or even today. Esther, our heroine, represents a purity and humility which saves her from the humiliation of lust and the poor triviality which underpinned the rota for the king’s attention. She becomes, in her seemingly small way, an agent of love and transformation in a very difficult situation. The story may seem almost too good to be true, but if we are sceptical then we do not believe that the God’s love can penetrate and restore even in the most awful of situations. Esther’s interaction with an all-powerful king was to save her people from destruction and it did Ahashuerus some good too. It is good for us to take a little time to learn about the conditions of cruelty and immorality under which many are still forced to live. We have modern slavery around us, but it is not easy to see. We have people coerced into servitude, those whose debt has forced them into forms of prostitution. We must not turn away, must not give up. Being a Christian means we can support those who work to find and help these people. The work of The Children’s Society, Christian Aid and The Salvation Army are always purposeful and every one of us is here for a purpose. We may not be able to do the work ourselves, but we can support those who do in prayer and financially if we are able. I encourage you to help where you can and allow your choices and actions to be an agent for God’s work in our world just as Esther was.
15th November 2020
James 1:19 Know this, my beloved: let every person be quick to hear and slow to speak.
How good are you at listening? Most of us like to think of ourselves as good listeners but research would suggest that we actually spend much of our listening time thinking up a reply or comment to make to the other person. In other words, we do not really listen. If we are truly listening then we are not looking for a point to jump in, we do not interrupt them and we certainly don’t close our eyes or turn away to do something else…..or do we? Often people who talk a lot think they are good listeners; I am sorry to say that is not usually the case. Those who like to talk, want to talk, and therefore listening to anyone else for any period of time is both difficult and unrewarding for them, so it becomes about offering stock answers and suggesting solutions without really hearing what the need is. I am sure that many of you, as I have, finally found the courage to share something painful with someone else only to find that they were not really listening and just fobbed us off. That terrible experience means we become far less likely to trust someone to listen to us and really hear us in the future. Listening does not mean giving answers, although sometimes a little advice can be helpful. Listening is not about trying to jump in and tell someone how you have been through the same as them and how you coped. Listening is often silence, allowing space and time for thoughts and ideas to come out. Listening is giving our full and complete attention to a person as they open themselves up to us and make themselves vulnerable. Listening is offering a safe space to speak out thoughts and feelings without judgement or ridicule. When I talk to children about listening and speaking, I use the old adage that God gave us two ears and one mouth, in other words we should do twice as much listening as we do talking; simple it might be, but it is nevertheless truth. One of the most important and blessed things we can ever do for someone is to give our time to really listen to them.
14th November 2020
Romans 15:7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
I have always liked to think that the church is welcoming and have tried to make every church I have been part of welcoming, but I am very aware, especially since lockdown, how many people have not felt welcomed by the church and that some have even been painfully rejected because they don’t quite fit in. Our churches should be safe spaces, it is historical that churches are places of sanctuary and once within the walls a person can claim sanctuary and not be arrested or deported. The holier than thou attitude we have seen in churches in the past is still there but over different things. Once we would not have accepted single mothers now, we want them to come into family services and messy church, once we would have shunned divorcees but now, we welcome them, well in most places anyway. Currently the bone of contention is whether we accept those who feel they are trapped in the wrong gender, those who wish to love and marry those of the same sex, those who think women should be treated far better in the church than they are, those who have suffered abuse mentally and physically. You only need to look at Jesus in the Gospels and how He constantly shared with societies lowest. He spent time with tax collectors and prostitutes, He healed the demon possessed and the leper, he ate with those who were considered unclean and he fed the poor and hungry. Once you really see that for what it is, Jesus was making it clear that it is not for us to judge another’s ways, it is for us to love and care for everyone and to provide a safe place for all who need it no matter their circumstances. We may struggle with the way someone else leads their life as opposed to us, but I can assure that there are plenty of people who struggle with how each one of us lives our lives. How can I speak about helping the outcast if I do not assist in some way, how can I speak about feeding the hungry if I am not prepared to do my part? How can I follow Jesus teaching about loving my neighbour if I put constraints on who my neighbour can be? I long for us to welcome everyone into the church, no matter their creed, colour, sexual orientation, gender, disability, status………. Everyone. That complete welcome starts with me, with you, with each one of us before our God.
13th November 2020
Job 8:4 Your children must have sinned against him, so their punishment was well deserved.
I find some of the book of Job difficult, it is heart-warming that Job’s friends come when he is in desperate need, they sit with him for days in silence as they mourn together then they open their mouths and the problems begin. The term Job’s comforter is used to indicate those whose offer of comfort is far from that. People whose view is that you must have done something wrong, that everything we receive in life is of our own making. Imagine how Job felt when his so-called friend and comforter Bildad says to him, about the children he had lost, that they and Job got what they deserved. I am almost surprised Job didn’t swing for him. Job’s friends are trying to comfort him in his suffering. They are sort of listening to him, but they do not seem to fully engage with has happened to him and the huge amount of emotional and physical pain he is in. What they say are mainly true words about God, but they are out of context and not understood in this situation. At the end of the day these comforters and friends completely fail to represent the true, loving and faithful God? So we need to ask ourselves how often do those who suffer hear people or society saying, ‘You are only getting what you deserve’? If we listen out around us right now, we will hear the very loud voices of people who unfairly presume that these people are responsible for their own suffering. It may be comments about refugees and migrants, families in such poverty they cannot feed their children, the homeless, the disabled, the elderly and lots of other forms of suffering. We must take the opportunity to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. To remind others of compassion, empathy and true love for our fellow humans. It is really easy to play the blame game, to justify our seemingly secure position against those who have been hit the hardest. It is really easy to open our mouths as a friend and comforter and make the situation worse by spouting the comments we have seen in the papers or on social media. Of course, we should always go to help and comfort our friends but we also must refrain from putting our opinions and ideas out there. We are called to comfort one another in love, to support and care for each other’s needs and not to condemn. We are called not to be Job’s comforters but God’s comforters always speaking words of comfort, love and peace.
12th November 2020
Psalm 119:11 I have stored your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
How is your storage situation? I like to keep to things; I am terrible at throwing stuff away and so sometimes I am thinking where can put things out of the way. I have, over the years, used several storage ideas and accessories, usually finding they don’t quite do what they are advertised to. One of the things that does help is organisation, a place for certain things and when something has been used, putting it away again, not leaving it out to deal with later. The same principles apply to our Christian lives. We are constantly learning and picking up information from the Bible and the church and we need to store it away. As a youngster I was encouraged to learn Bible verses and that has been an incredible blessing to me all my life. Organisation is once again the key. Putting things into the right places, returning them to storage once they have been used and not leaving them lying around. One of the visual examples used to explain how the human brain works is that of a filing system. Certain drawers or boxes with labelled files in them, linked by topics and ideas that we refer to as and when we need them. In the Bible we are told about writing and storing the word of God in our hearts and minds, in this filing system, so we do not sin against Him. If we have all the things we learn about God and His love for us stored in our hearts and minds then when life throws difficulties at us, when we are being tempted, when we are unsure about the path in front of us we have God’s assurance, God’s words and actions of the past, our experiences of His provision for us up to now and these all enable us to have confidence and to move forward in the best of ways. So how is your storage? Have you stored God’s words in your heart and mind so can you recall them and use them when you need to? If not, why not try to get yourself more organised, to learn God’s word and to store it in your heart and mind.
11th November 2020
Proverbs 15:30 A cheerful look brings joy to the heart; good news makes for good health.
A lot of my interaction with people is through smiling, as I was around school today I realised that under my mask no one knows if I am smiling or not, I am still smiling underneath the piece of cloth but they cannot see it. Yes, maybe my eyes sparkle a little or the area around my eyes has those laughter lines, but it is not obvious. Masks have become everyday wear but now the facial expressions we use so much to convey our empathy, our joy, out annoyance even, are no longer available to us. As a young teacher I had the reputation of being able to deal with challenging children just by a look, I inherited that from my father who could make me squirm just by a look. God’s creation of us gave us these faces with the ability to smile, laugh, cry, show anger, empathy, compassion, but the moment we cover them up we lose this. It is not by accident that covering the face became associated with crime and activity we did not want others to know about, now it is much more to do with facial recognition and identifying people. This then presents us with a problem, how do we communicate our facial responses if they cannot be seen. The danger is we stop responding with our faces. Perhaps for the moment we need to have the expressions there but convey the feeling with a vocal response. The smile of acknowledgement now perhaps needs a “hi” or “hello” added to it. The expression of compassion and empathy perhaps need an “’I’m so sorry” added to it, the look of curiosity perhaps needs a “can you expand on that please” added to it. As regards anger perhaps this is an opportunity for anger to not be noisily expressed and thus not hurt as it otherwise might. The other thing we all need to learn is to look more closely at people’s faces, see the tiredness round the eyes, see the frustration, the lines on the forehead, and begin to become a little more expert in what the upper part of the face does when someone laughs or smiles, or cries, or is frustrated. Faces can be a real indicator into someone’s need or blessing and at this time we all need to look a little more closely, so we do not forget how to read the signs.
10th November 2020
Matthew 7:7 Seek and you shall find
I hate losing things, particularly things which are precious to me. In various house moves I have lost some things which I have never found and still wonder where they have ended up. I am very much a touchstone person, things given to me for special reasons, kept and stored where I can refer to them, get them out and look at them, they hold memories and blessings for me. When something is lost we can just accept it, leave it, move on and forget about it, or we can search for it, turn the place upside down just as in the parable of the lost coin or the lost sheep. I have to look for things and I get very frustrated when they do not turn up and even when I cannot find them, I still hope that one day they will be found. This looking for the lost is God’s nature, He never gives up looking for the lost, never accepts that they cannot be found again. God looks in every nook and cranny, under every rock and stone, round every corner, in every valley and on every mountain. He desires that no one is lost, and Jesus came to make sure everyone of us could be found and brought home. We are told to seek and that when we do, we shall find, we are told that if we seek God first everything else will fall into place. We seek because we long to find the best, the right way, the way of most blessing, God seeks us because He longs for us to have the best, to be in the right way and to receive all the blessing that He wants to bestow on us.
9th November 2020
1 Corinthians 13:12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
I have spent several hours today cleaning, not the usual but taking all my glass down, cleaning shelves and cleaning the glass. There is nothing more satisfying than glass that has been out on a shelf for a while suddenly being beautifully clean and clear again, sparkling in the sunlight. I have always loved glass, the way it can be shaped and blown, then the patterns and reflections, but a clean sparkling piece of glass is just wonderful. In the Old Testament glass is referred to as something expensive and precious similar to gold and silver. In the New Testament it is referred to either as a mirror or as something we look through; it is about clarity and purity. In Revelation particularly, glass is referred to because of its transparent properties and its ability to shine like precious stones. Glass revolutionised living, bringing light into homes without exposing the inside to the elements of outside. Of course, for this to work glass must be kept clean. The dirt that collects on both the inside and outside needs cleaning away regularly so the glass can do its job. Conservatories or garden rooms made mainly of glass are so popular because we can effectively sit in the garden with the protection of the glass, but if it is not clean then we cannot see clearly and the light and warmth cannot come in. Our lives need to have this transparency; God sees both the inside and outside, we often project one image on the outside but try to keep the inside hidden away. The Bible reminds us that whatever we are truly like on the inside will be exposed. But it is the keeping of it clean that is the most important, a dirty, grimy window does not allow the light in or anyone to see out. A dirty grimy life does not light the light in or out. We need a good clean on a regular basis, I was always taught as a young Christian to have a clear out every day if possible, to clean away the grime beginning to collect in my life each day so it does not build up. The daily grime of temper, frustration, bad words and deeds, anger, lies, jealousy, selfishness, attitude….. all need to be confessed and forgiven, that way the light keeps shining in and out.
8th November 2020
Isaiah 49:16 I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands.
Currently we are in the time of remembrance, we have had All Souls and remembered those we love but see no longer. On Remembrance Sunday and the 11th of the month we remember those who have given their lives in wars and conflicts. But why do we remember? Often people talk of learning the lessons of the past, remembering what went wrong and not repeating the same mistakes again but somehow it doesn’t always work! We remember those important dates in lives when we celebrate birthdays and anniversaries, we mark the passing of loved ones and of time. We remember things we learn and our life choices are often made by what we learn and the interests and skills that are forefront of our memory. We use all sorts of things to help us remember, diaries, date books, pictures, computers, even knots in hankies for some. Memory is so crucial to who we are, we are made up of our memories and what we learn in life, it is why illness like dementia is so devastating to people’s lives and those they love. From a Biblical perspective God constantly talks about remembering us, never forgetting His people, knowing us so intimately that He knows the number of hairs on our heads. The most powerful image of God not forgetting us is this one where we are told we are inscribed on the palms of His hands. This is a clear and poignant reference to Jesus death on the cross, the hands that were outstretched in death for us that we might live forever with Him. God does not forget us, even if we don’t visit for a while, even if we seem to forget Him, even if we turn our back on Him, He will never turn from us and never forget us. We are forever in God’s memory, we are blessed with wonderful memories given to us by God and we are created with memory to allow us to be who we are.
7th November 2020
Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.
I often listen to the Radio 2 slot What Makes us Human. Many people, often in the public eye, speak about things in their lives and the affect it has on them. Some are incredibly moving, and many are very thought provoking. The human condition, what makes us who we are, is different for all of us, yes, we have common areas but because we are individuals, we have individual experiences and outcomes. One thing we can have in common is the detachment that occurs when we become overloaded, or we begin to sink and latch onto a safety protocol of going through the motions so we can hopefully find some self-repair. If we allow ourselves to stop and examine who we are as humans, allowing ourselves the knowledge that we are not perfect, neither is anyone else, we can begin to put things into perspective. We can see if we are working too hard, under too much stress, not spending time with family or friends, and neglecting ourselves thinking that if we just keep going no matter what, we will eventually get there; wherever there actually is? Society colludes with this idea of living to work, of success only being achieved by endless hard work and that failure to do so is not an option. We are human, we make mistakes, we can be unpleasant, argumentative, hurtful, entrenched and selfish; but we can also be kind, loving, caring, empathetic, compassionate and selfless. We are God’s creation and we have so much going for us and there are perhaps three things we can do to help ourselves be more like we were created to be. We need to avoid harm, in other words look after ourselves physically and mentally, by caring for our bodies in rest, food, exercise and caring for our minds through prayer, talking, reading, sharing. We also need to do good, to care for relationships, to care for others needs as well as our own, to offer help where it is needed. We need to stay in love with God, remembering who we are and whose we are as children of God, caring for our relationship with Him on a daily basis. Yes, we are humans with all our faults, but we are also God’s beloved humans with all our joys and blessings. What makes us truly human is God!
6th November 2020
1 Corinthians 11:26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
One of the fundamentals of the church is the Eucharist, or Communion. It is a celebration of the last meal Jesus had with His disciples before His death on the cross. It is a reminder of the sacrifice made and teachings He left for us to follow. Not only is it a memory it is a re-enactment, an anamnesis, a recollection of the past through repeating the action. It uses all our senses, and thus has the greatest effect on us. In Communion we remember the shedding of Christ’s blood and the breaking of His body so that we could be brought back into communion with God. This simple meal re-enacts our journey from death to life made possible in Jesus. As such it is a vital part of our worship and so very hard when it cannot be celebrated together. In the taking of Communion we have the opportunity to make room for others at the table, to invite and extend this meal to others, sometimes we need to make ourselves smaller to do this. As I grew up if visitors came for tea, we were told FHB, it meant family hold back, let everyone who is a guest choose and eat first and we had what was left. It was to make sure there was enough to go round and guests were first in the queue. If anything, these days we have so much on our tables that no one has to hold back but the principle is the same. When we bring others in and share this celebration, we must make room for the other, hold back in our own exuberance and practice so that others feel welcome. We may have to show them the way, by gentle example or quiet words, but not so it is embarrassing or obvious. The church has always been a place of sanctuary, a safe haven for those who need it, our sharing of our family meal allows the guest, the outsider, to become part of the family, to be loved and accepted for who they are. May there always be space at our table for another.
5th November 2020
Ephesians 2:14 For Christ is our peace; in his flesh he has made all into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.
Do we really believe that Jesus reconciled us to God and to one another? As Christians we are, by the very nature of our Saviour, accepting of all humans no matter their culture, background, status, tradition, country of origin or colour of their skin. In the early church the gentiles were treated very poorly to begin with, they were excluded from citizenship, considered foreigners to the covenant promise, they were living in a world devoid of hope and without God but yet Christ on the cross had solved the problem of all our relationships with God and with each other. Prior to the acceptance of gentiles into the church and even for a while after, in some cases, they were considered aliens, foreigners and not allowed to partake in the practices of the early church, they were considered outsiders with no rights and separated from Christ. As I write this, I am conscious of exactly the same practices going on worldwide and within our own nation. Treating others as outsiders, foreigners and excluding them from citizenship and thus any rights as a human. Why do we allow this? In doing so we live not as part of the very kingdom we say we are defending and preserving. Why do we live with indifference to those who are not the same colour as us, or the same culture or background than us, or were born in a different place to us? I suggest that much of this comes from misunderstanding and fear. It is easy to manipulate people by praying on their worries and fears, to deflect from key issues and dishonesty by using inflammatory and emotive language to point people to a made-up cause. We have seen it in our own elections, we currently see it so clearly in the American elections. Not long ago we were moaning about the absurdity of political correctness and yet politics is currently full of lies, manipulation, fraud and dishonesty. The very rules put in place to supposedly stop us offending and treating others unfairly are being used for just that purpose. How compliant are we with these events? If we do nothing, say nothing in fear of upsetting someone, or out of fear of the consequences we have been told will happen, with no proof, we are not doing what God commanded of us. We were reconciled to God through Jesus; we must also be reconciled to each other and stand up for each other no matter who we are or where we come from. Every person of every nation is invited into God’s family and we have no right to turn anyone away we think does not belong.
4th November 2020
Philippians 4:1 My brothers and sisters, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way.
Paul’s letter to the Philippians is one of the most encouraging in the Bible and yet it was written at the most difficult of times for Paul as he writes from prison, his freedom has been taken away, he is under great physical threat and he cannot visit and encourage the early church as he had planned. Instead Paul writes letters full of the teaching and articles of faith he would have passed on in person. For Paul life is to be lived to its fullest, no matter the circumstances, and in light of current events, is perhaps a great help and encouragement to us. Our current situation is not as brutal as Paul’s was but for some of us it may feel like being in prison or at least like being under house arrest, unable to go out, unable to be free to live as we would wish. So, what does Paul do? He goes back to basics. He looks to hope, to being grateful for what we do have and foremost the presence of Christ Jesus with us in every moment of every situation providing peace and security. Times are very uncertain and change almost on a daily basis, we are not sure what the future may hold for us and we wonder if we can return to the “normal” we had. We are all finding our own ways of dealing with things, some better than others, but I dare to suggest we can learn from Paul and go back to basics and focus on what is most important. Hope is key, we have a definite hope in God, in our faith and in our eternal life, so as earthly living becomes uncertain we can rest in that surety, that hope of eternity; but also we can rely on the certainty and hope of having Jesus alongside us every step of the way. Next we have gratitude, we may not feel like being grateful but just look at the blessings we do have, our homes, food, family, books, internet, letters and cards, phones, friends….. endless blessings to be thankful for and the very act of being grateful makes us feel better and more understanding of our blessings and thus more grateful and round it goes, raising our mood and encouraging us. Most importantly we have the ever present and unfailing presence of Jesus and along with that His peace. Nothing that is going to happen or not happen is faced alone. Everything that comes our way will be handled by God and us together. So, as we face another lockdown, may we go back to the basics of our faith and know God’s blessing, hope and presence each and every day.
3rd November 2020
John 1:4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
The Bible is full of metaphor and similes, using images and daily understanding to explain what God is up to in ways we can relate to and understand. Light is used to show good, from the beginning of the world light is separated from the darkness and we understand it as the opposite of darkness. Light illuminates, it allows us to see so we can do things, it also shows up the things we want to hide away. Light also brings life, without light plants and crops will not grow, we as humans need light to keep us alive and healthy. It is hard to speak of light without using the words shining and brightness, but we also use goodness. Light and goodness come from God, they are blessings from God that make sense of things and bring out truth. Light reveals the hidden away for all to see and in John’s prologue we have that lovely phrase that says life is the light of God to all human beings, it is reflecting God’s glory and as such as we let our light shine before others, we are reflecting God’s glory for others to see through us. In this important way we need to ask ourselves is out light shining before others, are we a reflection of God’s glory in all we say and do, are we allowing God’s goodness to be worked out through our goodness, our good deeds, are people able to see God through us? Within the Old Testament there is also a link to the Tabernacle, the place where God’s glory was enthroned and within the tent was a lamp on a stand that gave light to that space around it, we can enlighten the space around us, illumine that space to show others the way to God. We are the light of Christ going into the dark places of the world. The danger is we try to hard, we try to be a torch and become an unbending blinding beam which turns peoples faces away because it hurts their eyes and quickly flattens the batteries. May we rejoice in reflecting God’s light into the space around us, into the darkness and shine as a light to guide people home to God.
2nd November 2020
Joshua 10:13 And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped.
I wonder how the change of hour affects you? I really struggle for a while after the time changes as my body clock wakes me at the normal time I would get up for work, it takes a good week before I adjust and I do struggle with less light in the evening. This change in timing does affect us, we have an internal clock that allows our bodies to know when to sleep and wake, when to eat, when to go to work and so on, time is important, marking days, weeks, months, years etc and time and seasons were created by God for us, to organise our living. In the Bible time crops up many times but I wonder if you know about not just a one hour change but a whole 12 hours where God made the sun stand still in the sky, keeping it light while a battle ensued. I know people ignore this and say it is just metaphor and cannot be real, but what you probably don’t know that in NASA, in their numerical calculations about the earth and the sun etc have a 12 hour discrepancy that they cannot account for. They justify it by space anomalies, time changes in calendars and all sorts of possible reasons. There are also historical accounts of an extra-long day in Chinese, Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Persian, Aztec, Inca and Babylonian records so I would just throw this in as another possible reason. God is the creator of time, of the universe, the sun and our earth so why can’t He control a situation if necessary. Our vision of God can be far too small. Joshua knew if He asked God for help God would do whatever was necessary and He did. I happily admit I would like to see some amazing things like this happen, but if I am honest we see amazing things happen on a daily basis but we happily give the credit to everyone else but God. Miracles are still happening, but we explain them away with science, even when the science doesn’t quite fit. Our picture of God needs to be a bit bigger, we need to give glory to God for more of the daily miracles and blessings we see and we need to remember that as creator and ruler of the Heavens God is in control.
1st November 2020
Matthew 8:24 And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we will drown!”
I loved and still love children’s books. I have the complete set of Arthur Ransom’s Swallows and Amazons and all the books about where and why they were written. I have visited many of the places from the books and I confess that the Lake District is one of my favourite places, I would describe it as a thin place, a place where the gap between Heaven and earth seems thin and God almost seems easier to reach. I am not sure exactly what drew me to this set of books but the idea of children being allowed to sail on the lake and camp on an island with no adult supervision was very appealing. These children, as of its time, had their roles to play with the two eldest children being surrogate parent to the two younger ones. It is their fathers telegram giving the children permission to do these activities that always sticks in my mind; “Better drowned than duffers if not duffers won’t drown”. This seems rather ambiguous, curious and under today’s circumstances would get a visit from child protection. My view of what this means is; I have taught you everything you need to know, I have given you the tools and abilities you need to cope, have confidence in yourself and we are here if need help. Telegrams had to be short, they were expensive, so a short cryptic message held a great deal more beneath the surface. This is where I see God at work, His messages to us are far more detailed but they say the same thing, I have given you what you need, I have and am teaching you all you need, have confidence in yourself and I am always here for you when you need that extra help. God allowed us to stand on our own two feet, to make our own choices and it has to be said that at times we have all been duffers and it’s pretty much a surety that we will be duffers in the future. The great news for us is that even when we are duffers God will not let us drown, He will always have a lifebelt to throw to us or another boat to pick us up. Of course, we have to actually take the life belt or accept the offer from the other boat, but God will always be there. It is also good to remember that although sometimes we are duffers, there are also many times when we are not, when we do the right thing and allow God to work in us for the good of all. Duffers we may be at times, but we are also, ransomed, healed, restored and forgiven duffers.
31st October 2020
Revelation 21:5 Behold I am making all things new.
I am a great fan of the TV programme The Repair Shop. Skilled craftspeople take people’s treasured and broken items and restore them to working order. We have become a throw away society and so much of our heritage has just become landfill. This programme gives hope, joy, an understanding that in the right hands things that seem even beyond repair can be given a new lease of life. That new life comes with incredible patience from the experts and often with the replacement of broken parts and the joining back together and strengthening of the old with support. I dare to suggest that this is a practical image of how God works within us. He is the skilled craftsman, the creator, the one who understands how we work and how we are affected by life. God is the one who can the broken pieces and slowly bring them back together into a whole. God is the one that can take the weakened parts and build in new support and strength so they can return to use. God is the one who can take the broken, the damaged, the falling apart and make them new. The Bible is full of stories and teaching on God taking the downtrodden, the weak, the broken and transforming them into new and strong people. Jesus own story is one of being physically broken into death and then completely restored to life, defeating death in the process. The creator, God, will always repair the damage if we ask Him, if we are willing to come to Him. It will need patience, it will take time, but just like the joy it brings to folk on The Repair Shop when the broken is restored, how much more the joy of repair and restoration for us as we are made new.
30th October 2020
Psalm 119:105 Your word is a light to my feet and a lamp to my path.
How are you with machinery and cars? Do you know vaguely what is needed to keep them running smoothly or do you just let someone else deal with that? I am not a mechanic but I learnt the basics about keeping my car running when I was younger and we all need to make sure we can keep computers, phones, copiers and printers working as best we can these days. For anything with working parts there will be instructions how to fix basic problems and there will always be things which keep the moving parts lubricated and functioning well. I was taught how to check the oil in my car, but it wasn’t until later I understood why this was so vital and needed to be monitored. The oil moves around the engine making sure all the moving parts move without friction and to stop them rubbing against each other and causing damage, no oil or oil so old it is full of bits and pieces means the engine will seize up and stop functioning. Now, I am not suggesting we have oil in our lives, but we do need lubrication, we need something that will help things run smoothly, that isn’t full of rubbish that clogs things up. For us, as Christians, I would suggest that we have these lubricants in the form of prayer and God’s word. The Bible is our instruction manual, it offers us help with the problem’s life throws at us, it is a guiding light to our feet and shows us how others have dealt with life’s issues and encourages us in our faith. In its pages we find history, poetry, teaching, rules, personal testimony, songs, and the eternal plan God has for us. Prayer allows us to bring these lessons into the context of the day, allows us to ask and hear from God how we can deal affectively with the daily issues and life we are living. Without the prayer and the Bible our lives are just cogs and wheels grinding against each other, causing friction, rubbing together, hurting, damaging and eventually causing us to seize up and not function anymore. God will never force anything upon us, but He offers us constant support, love, care, encouragement and help through His word and through His conversations with us. Everything we need is there we just have to be willing to read the manual and talk to the maker to keep everything in good working order.
29th October 2020
Isaiah 41: 13 For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand and say to you, “Do not fear, I will help you.”
As a teenager I remember we would get heavy fog sometimes, it would come down in early afternoon and if at school we would be sent home early because of the dangers of not being seen or able to see cars etc. It was not as bad as the smog of the years before, but it was heavy and hard to see right in front of you. It was difficult to breathe and very damp, even roads and paths you knew well were suddenly not as you remembered them, and it could be a little unnerving in the stillness this weather environment created. From confident knowledge of your way home you began to doubt yourself, the things around you seemed different, you were influenced into making judgements differently and under pressure. Our Christian lives can be just like this. We can be going along as normal, know where we are, confident, in control and then a fog comes, outside influences encroach in on us, suddenly we can no longer see clearly, things look different, we become unsure and our confidence takes a hit. At this point all we know of God and His love for us is called into question and we can experience doubts and insecurities. When we were in a fog there were things to help us; light, touch, company and signs to follow; in our Christian lives there is always help, light in the darkness from our relationship with God, our knowledge of the Bible, our past experiences of God not letting us down, prayer, relationships with other Christians, our worship and the signs of God’s love and word around us, we have the knowledge that God has led us clearly through difficulty before and He will again. These are the times when our faith is really at work and also being tested, because when the way forward is shrouded and unclear sometimes all we can do is put our hand into God’s hand and trust Him to lead us home. Even in the fogs of life God is with us and will not leave us, all we have to do is reach out.
28th October 2020
Proverbs 18:24 A true friend will be more loyal than a brother and is a treasure.
What do you count as treasures in your life? We all have things we keep safe and close, handed down, given by a family member, something we purchased for a special occasion, we all have special and treasured possessions. Proverbs has a message for us about friends and friendship, alongside a Jewish proverb it clearly tells us that true friends are treasures. Have a think for a moment of the true friends in your life, do you regard them as a treasure? If not does that need a rethink? We all know we cannot chose our family and relationships in families will not always be wonderful or helpful, but we do chose our friends, the folk we like to chat to, ask about things, have a coffee with and whose shoulder we like to cry on. Notice the word true, we all have friends but not all friends are true friends, not all friends will be there no matter what. That is why a true friend is a treasure, a treasure given by God. A true friend will stick with you no matter what happens, they will help in any situation, you know you could ring them at 3am in the morning and they would not only answer but come straight round if you needed them. Friendship is to be treasured, particularly at the moment, when so many are alone and not seeing people on a regular basis. Having a true friend is a blessing, a treasure but being a true friend is also a treasure. We do need to ask ourselves, look and see if we are being a true friend. Are we stepping up to the plate and being there when we are needed? Relationships are reciprocal, if we desire a true friend then we must be a true friend, willing to be there at 3am if it is needed. As God given blessings and treasures true friends deserve to know how special they are. Perhaps a note, a card, a little gift or just the words to let them know you appreciate them. A true friend is a real treasure, guard them just as you would a treasured possession, keep them close, keep them safe and appreciate them.
27th October 2020
John 2:5 Mary his mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
When Jesus began His ministry, it is very much his mother Mary who encourages Him and the situation. It is Mary who notices the need, even in the midst of this busy, loud and joyful wedding, she sees there is an issue and brings it to Jesus. Not only that, her faith in her son is complete, do whatever He tells you she says. For us the lesson is that we need to look and see the need, even when it is busy, loud and exciting and when it is quiet, sad and slow. Once we identify the need, we then must turn to God and ask Him, what do I need to do here, how will this situation be best served, by me or by someone else? Once we ask God then we must listen for the answer, not pre-empt what we think is needed. Just as Mary had complete faith in what Jesus was going to do, we need complete faith in what God is going to do through us or through others. God will ask us to listen and that means giving our time, but then we need to hear what He is saying and that means giving our mind and then we are asked to act in care for others, and that means giving our heart. Mary fully supported her son and believed in Him, we must fully support each other and believe in each other. Jesus stepped into this domestic situation of a wedding without decent wine, a shameful condition for the family, He not only provides in a miraculous way He provides the best and lots of it. When God gives, He gives abundantly and generously to us all. Mary’s complete faith in Jesus is validated, He goes above and beyond, and His first recorded miracle happens. From here Jesus steps into ministry. If we can have that faith in what God can do, if we are willing to let Him go above and beyond in abundance, then miracles will happen, and lives will be changed.
26th October 2020
2 Timothy 3:2&3 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.
Does this sound like people you know? It does me. In fairness I also recognise myself a little at times, I think we all do. Timothy seems to be very understanding of the human condition here, how those, particularly those who have a great deal of power, wealth and high status, seem to be lovers of self and of money, proud and arrogant and so on. I do struggle with why? Why are those whose job it is to protect others and make sure society is fair for all seem to be easily swayed into selfishness and ingratitude. If we are brought up to appreciate what we have and how our parents have worked hard to provide for us how can we be so dismissive of others, particularly those less well off than us? Perhaps that is it, so many of those in senior positions are there because of background, they were not brought up to appreciate what they have but rather to see it as entitlement. Once we believe we are entitled we lose all understanding of other’s needs, wellbeing and suffering and can only see the need for ourselves to be have everything. The entitled love self, love money, are proud and arrogant, are ungrateful and unholy and they treat others with contempt, unforgiving, conceited and have no time for good or God. I am not saying that all are like this, some have come from backgrounds which make them more understanding, sadly the majority of our political leaders and business leaders have a sense of entitlement which seems to switch off their compassion and empathy. The Bible is very clear that none of us are entitled, that everything we have has been freely given to us by God for the good of all, and that in all things, at all times, we should be grateful for what we have and share it with those in need. May we be compassionate, empathetic and love others before self, treating everyone with respect.
25th October 2020
Amos 2:6 They sell the innocent for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals. They trample on the heads of the poor on the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed.
It always amazes me that clergy are told to keep out of politics and do their day job. I wonder what they think my day job is. For any Christian and any member of clergy our belief in God means we are very much involved in politics and socialism because we follow the gospel and the example of Christ and the challenges of the prophets. The Christian faith is about turning lives to the way of God, becoming the people God created us to be and that means we challenge those who sell the innocent, those who trample on the poor and deny justice to the oppressed. Whenever we witness the vulnerable being treated poorly, we must speak up, whenever we see children going hungry in our own country as well as round the world, we must speak up. Whenever we witness power being abused and money used to bribe, line pockets and create weapons we must speak up. If anyone tells me to keep my nose out of politics I point them to Jesus who healed the sick, challenged the religious leaders and the political leaders, fed the hungry, forgave sinners, cared for ordinary people and treated everyone with respect and love. I point them to a God who constantly spoke through the Prophets about dishonesty, lying, cheating, using power for selfish reasons, treating the poor and vulnerable as treasures, respecting the alien, supporting the widows, orphans and poor, freeing the oppressed……… so much about people being treated with justice and fairness. We have both a duty and calling to serve God through our lives, through what we do personally but also with what we do about challenging those in authority about their behaviour. We are called by God to hold ourselves to account but also to hold leaders, politicians, business owners, local councillors and MP’s, organisations, friends and neighbours. If we witness dishonesty, injustice, unfairness, poverty, lies, manipulation, anything that is against God’s way than we should speak up and challenge it. That will not be easy and we might be insulted and ignored, even threatened in some way but I would much rather stand before them than before God asking me why I did not do something to help the innocents, the needy, the poor and the oppressed.
24th October 2020
Ecclesiastes 4:9 Two are better than one, If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.
As a Chaplain and Priest, I deal with people at the happiest and worst moments of life, as well as everywhere in between. One of things I say to encourage people at the sharp end of life is to be kind to yourself. As humans we have a tendency to blame ourselves for things, especially when we are under stress or normality is lost. Being kind to ourselves allows us to keep our minds and hearts healthy and functioning well even in the midst of difficult, stressful times. Being kind to ourselves means many things such as sleeping and resting when we need to and for longer; treating ourselves to things we enjoy; eating things which we like and make us feel better; taking time out from activities that stress us or put pressure on us and letting ourselves cry and laugh about the silliest of things and nothing. The kindest thing we can do for ourselves is talk, talk to someone about our feelings and thoughts. We can talk to friends or family, We can always talk to God, but there are also friends, counsellors, chaplains, helplines and many organisations who offer help and advice. People are there ready and willing to listen, to help us explore how we feel and why, to offer techniques and ideas to help us through. Admitting we need help is not giving in, it is a strength of character that allows that which is overwhelming us to be explored and helped. I am writing here of us and our, not because it is a helpful way to write, but because this applies to me as much as it does to you. In my role I have someone to talk to, to offload to, so that I do not become weighed down or overwhelmed with all the things I deal with. That goes for everyone involved in any role where they help people with their difficulties. This allows all of us from you through me, through those who help us and those who help them to share the load. We were created by God as relational beings; we were never meant to cope alone but to share the load of work and life together. We all have good days and bad days, and we are all capable of helping each other to cope, to help shoulder the burdens, to offer a hand to help each other up when we fall and share the load. God is always there offering help and support from Himself but also through others. Let me encourage you to be kind to yourself, to seek the help when you need it and to do those things which lighten your spirit, that make you feel better and please do let others share the load when you need to because we all need a helping hand sometimes.
23rd October 2020
Ephesians 1:18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you.
Do you see yourself as creative? Do you see yourself as enlightened? We all like to think of ourselves as forward thinking, open minded, progressive, but are we? Being creative means having new and imaginative ideas, being able to perceive the world in new and different ways, it is what we are all having to do in the present situation. The creative is able to find hidden paths and patterns, make connections and find solutions. We all have a level of creativity within us but some shine more than others and of course we can be creative in many different ways. The 18th century has become known as the Age of Enlightenment, a time when people began to question traditional authority, a realisation that all humanity could be improved through rational change. It was a time of huge scientific discovery, new laws, revolutions and wars. People began to recognise that they were important, they had things to offer and were entitled to be listened to. The creativity of the ordinary person was encouraged, and books, art and music flourished. Sadly, one of the things that actively discouraged this creativity and enlightenment was religion and the church. Ordinary people could not read the Bible for themselves and relied on those who lead them to be told the truth. Sadly, we all know that truth can be manipulated to maintain the status quo. This is the time when Martin Luther had challenged the church and from this new beliefs and groups were created and God began to be seen very differently and much more personally. Questioning is crucial to learning and developing. Asking why and how is vital to our development and as much as answers can be factual, they can also be possible and probable and of their time. People who hold back this creativity, this enlightenment often do so out of fear, fear that change might mean loss, for others it is about selfishness and control. This verse shows us that God wants us to have a spirit of wisdom and revelation, that He desires our eyes and hearts to be opened and to discover things. We have a brain which is so wonderful and complex, we don’t use or even access all the areas of our brain, we have incredible potential and that should not be wasted. God has given us the means and ability to do wonderful things, He has given the science, the medicine, the physics and chemistry, the art, music, sport, language, the creativity and enlightenment to make this world a better place. Are we ready to listen, learn and use our enlightenment for the good of all or are we only interested in ourselves? I challenge us all to be realistic dreamers, proud but also modest, traditionalist and rebellious, passionate and objective, sensitive, open, happy and joyful, not held back by stereotypes, creative and enlightened. God given gifts and talents are given for the good of all humankind but how we use them is our choice. Let me encourage you to use all you have to make this world a better and safer place for all.
22nd October 2020
Deuteronomy 33:27 “The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.
I have a nickname, given to me as a teenager when a group of us became bears for a holiday entertainment evening. I was known as Huggy bear, not because I resembled the character form Starsky and Hutch but because I loved to hug people. Giving hugs or cuddles is amazing medicine, it helps people feel comforted, assured, encouraged, loved and just held physically. We have a need to experience physical contact and a hug is the perfect way to do this. Those who have looked into the area of hugging, yes there are folk who do, have concluded that hugging someone transfers energy and offers the person being hugged an emotional lift. Science also suggests that hugging is a form of communication because it can express things that we just don’t have the words for. Of course, if you give a hug to someone you automatically get a hug in return, that’s not the reason we do it, but it certainly is a bonus. There are those who would suggest we need a minimum of four hugs a day just to survive, so currently I think we are probably missing out quite a bit with social distancing. We may think hugs are a modern thing, but they have been there as long as there have been people. St. Hildegard talked of us being encircled in the arms of God, the father in the Lost Son parable wraps his arms around his returning son, John speaks of God opening His arms to all, and the verse for today speaks of God’s loving arms underneath and round us. Back when I was called Huggy and we wrote to each other, letters and cards through the post, we would send hugs by God mail, in other words we would send each other love and hugs through God as our common companion. I still send hugs to friends via God mail, even today. The importance of physical contact cannot be understated, we need to feel another presence, holding and supporting us when life is difficult, when we need encouragement and just to show someone, we love them and care about them. The Bible is very clear that God surrounds us, supports us, holds us and as much as we can, we should do that for each other, for our loved ones, our children and for anyone who needs it.
21st October 2020
1 Samuel 16:7 Do not look at appearance or stature, the Lord sees not as humans see: we look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.
Those who know me will know I live in trousers. It is a standing joke in the vicarage that I rarely wear a dress or skirt, but this is me; it is who I am. I had my reasons as a young person for wearing trousers and I am not comfortable in dresses or skirts or high heels and so very rarely wear them. I have had to come to terms with who I am. I have never been a small person, head and shoulders taller than everyone in primary school with large feet. I was very fit and sporty in younger years and as often happens my physique has remained large. It has not always been easy to be who I am, I still struggle with those who would criticise my choice of clothes, my size, my looks and those things said, even in jest, can hurt deeply. Coming to terms with who we are can happen at any age but for many of us it comes more with age and experience. God made us who we are, as individuals, unique, special and with gifts and talents only we have. God does not look at us with judgement and criticism, but with love and compassion. God does not want us to look upon ourselves in judgement and criticism and He certainly does not want us to hurt each other by using punitive judgements and measures to decide if we look and wear what others have decided is correct. How you and I are comfortable in our own skins, clothes, attitudes etc really matters. We are who we are, a product of our nature and our nurture, a product of God’s love in us and we should be proud of who we are. We naturally want to fit in, to be what society says we should be, wanting to be cool and have status, but these very ideas have been set up by those who have no right to decide how we live but have given themselves that responsibility through journalism, power, celebrity status, magazine articles and personal designs. Only God has that right, and He wants us to be who we were created to be, to be content, happy, and confident with who we are and to celebrate that with confidence in Him.
20th October 2020
1 Samuel 20:14 But show me unfailing kindness like the Lord’s kindness as long as I live.
A few years ago, there was an internet sensation around random acts of kindness. People were doing things for others for no other reason than it was a good thing to do, these acts were then filmed and put onto YouTube or Facebook for people to see. Although the sensation of this has passed it is still incredibly important in our world and for our mental health. Being kind is a natural part of humanity and very much encouraged in Christianity and other religions, being friendly, generous and considerate, seeing how we can help another and striving for human flourishing. Kindness is also key in wellbeing, how we treat others and ourselves. Kindness should be a lifestyle, a daily practice and although it is within our human nature the practice of it is a choice we make. As Christians we are called to grow in the fruit of the spirit, of which kindness is a part, and growth can take time. A seed does not become a plant or flower overnight, but needs care, water, sun and patience. It is the same with kindness. We need to practice it daily to bear the good fruit. Kindness also has emotional and physical benefits. When we are kind it releases within us the chemicals that make us feel better and that lift our mood; then as we are kind to others it also allows them to gain those feelings too, to have their spirits lifted and encouraged. Kindness does require intention; we do need to make the move; do the action, not just think about it, and when we are having a difficult time ourselves it can be hard to follow through on kindness. Acts of kindness can be random, on the spot events, but they are more often actions that are planned. Kindness requires each of us to look out for the needs of others. Jesus was a clear example of this as He spent His ministry seeing and treating the needs of others, never turning them away. Jesus could be counted upon for every act of kindness even in His worst times. We need to ask ourselves how often we miss the opportunities to show kindness to others because we are too busy? And how often we are not kind to ourselves because we are too busy? We also need to ask ourselves if we are kind because of what we will get in return, because this is not the way of Jesus. It is always easier to do things out of desire for reward, but true kindness does not expect anything but to improve and bless the life of another. To be kinder people perhaps we need to slow down and open our eyes; just as Jesus took the time, so should we.
19th October 2020
Deuteronomy 32:7 Remember the days of old, Consider the years of many generations. Ask your elders, and they will tell you.
How are you at story telling? Personally, I love telling stories and loved story time in school when I was teaching. Our lives are stories, they tell our personal life story but also intertwine with the stories of others, the stories of our society and of our place in the world. If you sat down and wrote the key parts of your life story so far what would be in it? Our memories are quite selective, and some things will jump to the fore while others will pale into insignificance. We also do not remember things the same as others do, the stories my Mum tells about me often bear no resemblance to what I remember and are often far more embarrassing the way she tells them. There are those who say that what gets structured in narrative, in story, is what we remember clearly, the rest tends to get lost and forgotten. Our life is structured in a pattern, and we need to structure our memories in the same way. Being ourselves is very much bound up in telling our own story. Philosophers tell us that memory anchors identity, we are not just lots of individual snapshots bundled together and because memory is prone to loss and damage it needs pattern, form and shape, memory needs story. In the Old Testament Israel figured out who it was by remembering its story, even today with the festivals like Passover, Seder and the Sabbath they remember through their story. I often comment on the structure of the word History, which is made up of two words, His and story. History is the story of God’s world, is the story of Jesus coming to bring salvation and the story of our constant rebellion and fight against His love for us. Our story has a place in His story, what makes us who we are, our life experiences, our personality have all been formed as part of our place in His story. Let me encourage you, when you have some time do sit with your story, identify those things which have impacted your life, made you who you are and see the story around those as they intertwine with others and with God.
18th October 2020
Matthew 21:13 He said to them, It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.
Amongst everything else at this present time, I am particularly struggling with societal attitudes and the politics being played with people’s lives and livelihoods. Throughout history the church has been very good at calling out the sins of individuals, of hurting those who speak out and challenge the norm, as I read the Gospels I do not see Jesus doing this, I see Jesus forgiving the individuals but condemning the societies, the politicians and religious leaders. Jesus challenges these leaders on poverty, on unnecessary rules and practices, on their treatment of the poor and their selfish hoarding and provision for themselves. I cannot help but see a parallel with current society. When did public office become about self-gratification and gain instead of about service? Many would say it has always been like that, though I believe there have been those whose vision has been for a better society it does seem that more and more we see supposed public servants line their own pockets to the detriment of society in both the example they set and the mismanagement of provision. Society reasons that If those in leadership can lie and cheat and squander others hard earned money then so can we. In the Gospels Jesus does not accept or live by the standards of the leaders of His time, He does not enter into the ways which have trapped people, instead He lives simply and encourages others to do the same. It is only when He challenges those norms, those punitive practices in the Temple that He is taken and killed within a week. We see others who really challenge society and it’s leaders also get removed because they make a stand, the likes of Ghandi, Martin Luther King and although she survived, the attempted murder of Malala Yousef because she dared challenge the norm of her leaders that girls are entitled to be educated. Making a stand is costly. It is hard work and it often seems to be pointless when nothing appears to change, but as long as some of us are shining a light in the darkness, challenging the norm and holding people to account then there is always hope. Friends may I encourage you to not give up writing to your MP, challenging your local councillors, speaking up about injustice and poverty and exposing those who would deliberately take from others to line their own pockets. Shine your light and be a beacon of hope.
17th October 2020
Isaiah 30:15 In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.
I have always wondered why humans do not have the ability to hibernate. As the nights draw in and winter comes, I could happily eat lots then cocoon myself into sleep for a good long while, sounds wonderful. Of course, it is not practical, so many of us could not afford to do it, we are not built to be inactive for long periods of time, our world needs our input, our work to keep it working, daily life is a necessity, the sick need care, the dying need help and care, the economy needs input and so it goes on. The more complex life has become the more dependent it is on our daily activity. I am a great believer that our bodies indicate a lot to us, when we need to sleep, rest, eat, etc. I fully believe God created us that way, with these instincts, so I do not think it is any accident that we feel the need to rest more in winter months, that we desire the warmth and cosiness of our homes more and that we desire comfort foods. Perhaps the winter months can encourage us to a simpler life, to spend more time with family in comfort and warmth, to not feel the need to rush from one thing to another to another. God’s creation follows a pattern of activity and production followed by rest and recuperation; we need this as well. Whether we use our weekends for this, or our days off from work, or if we use our evenings, however we do it we need that hibernation time, not completely of course, but in part. We need to have a fallow field for a while, a time to recoup strength and energy, to build up the reserves to be able to start again. Jesus did this, took time to go into the hills or quiet places to pray, to rest, to be with God. Being with God is about church and worship but it also about quiet time, time to be at rest and just let God wash over us. In our desire to get everything done, said, right……. We lose ourselves in the activity and not in God. May we find time to just be and do a little hibernating in God.
16th October 2020
2 Corinthians 11: 13-14 For such are false apostles, deceitful, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.
I am a fan of the author CS Lewis, I particularly love his children’s stories but after those I read the Screwtape Letters, these are letters and advice given by a senior devil to a junior one, ways in which this young devil might trip up the Christians and have them doing the opposite of what they want to be doing. One of these key ways to trip up Christians is to have them believe that evil is actually good, to disguise the evil within a coat or covering of goodness. You only need to look at history to realise this is exactly what happens. In Jesus own story He is constantly ridiculed and punished by the religious leaders, those people would be expected to know the truth and so people believed them, the Popes gave decrees to establish the Christian kingdom worldwide and in doing so made other countries and their people’s inferior fit only for occupation and subjugation. Kings took their power to rule as a divine right and thus could murder and imprison anyone who stood against them in the name of God. Even today some politicians wave bibles around and have photos taken of them praying with religious leaders to give religious credence to their corrupt and selfish policies and to justify their position. I have read many stories of wealthy and powerful folk who have started out believing that once they have money and influence they will use it for good, for God, but once there, the lure of what they have is quickly overtaken by a desire for more, to give away less and less and to justify this by believing the more they have the more good they can do, sadly the doing good gets so easily lost. Most of us do not set out to do evil, to hurt others but we get caught in the lie that a better, richer, more powerful life for me means a better world for others. Good verses evil is a battle where good by it’s very nature will be honest and truthful and fair in battle, evil will use every trick to persuade us that it is good and honest and fair, it will lie to us, cheat us and persuade us that actually it is good and that we can use it to help others. The Star Wars story is very much in this vain, as Anakin is persuaded that evil, in disguise as good, is the only way to help and so he spurns good and becomes Darth Vader. The good news is that even he finds redemption in the end. The Devil tried to use these very tactics on Jesus when he tempted Him with power to do good in the world if He would bow and worship him, the devil. Evil can be made to look attractive, to be a desirable way forward but it is in disguise and the more we are sucked in the harder it is to find the way out.
15th October 2020
John 6:5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?”
Over the years I have discovered that the secret to so much of life is food. From young people meeting on a Sunday afternoon eating toast, Jam, chocolate spread and noodles. To family life catching up as we eat together. There are many cultures that must offer food as a hospitable gesture for guests and family. Eating together is central to our faith, we do it every time we celebrate Holy Communion together as Jesus commanded us. In the feeding of the 5000 the people who come to Jesus are the poor, those whose access to food is determined by their rulers. Inequalities around food existed then and exist now. More people are accessing food banks, Breakfast clubs and free school meals than ever before. Without food people are more prone to sickness and disease. The people of Jesus time would know the promise of God that the hungry will be fed. They would know that their leaders had failed in this task and had taken the best and most for themselves, leaving the people on and below the breadline. In Exodus God had given manna in the desert to His hungry people, Isaiah had spoken of the sharing of bread. God had promised to provide and do so abundantly. As Jesus feeds the 5000 He fulfils all these promises. He provides for their spiritual needs but also their physical needs and does so abundantly with 12 baskets of leftovers. Our God is a God of abundance. Our God is a God who wants the hungry fed and poor looked after. We are the hands and feet of God here on Earth, so it is up to us to make sure everyone has enough food, not just to survive but to enjoy and share with each other. Food is a staple of life and a key to fellowship and family life. Our challenge is whether we want to help those who lack food or not.
14th October 2020
Job 2:13 They sat with him on the ground for seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.
When something bad happens how do you react? It is quite common for people to be sympathetic when someone experiences illness, diagnosis or bereavement but often people want to get way or not go and visit because they do not know what to say and rather than say the wrong thing they stay away. In Job’s story his friends come to support him after all his tragedy and to begin with they are quiet and just sit with him, the problems actually come when they start to speak and offer their idea of what has caused the terrible events. They look for excuses and reasons and in doing so their comforting presence becomes an issue and no longer a comfort. What we learn here is that what matters is presence, just being with people when they are in need. We are so worried about we might say that rather than just be there, we don’t go. What anyone in difficult and sad circumstances actually needs is presence. Someone to be there, to listen, to be a shoulder to cry on. To be a good friend or support we do not need to have all or any of the answers, we don’t have to know the reasons why and in fact it is better not to try and explain something. These days we no longer just sit with people, it used to be common to just sit with folk, without conversation, just being together, being a support, now we think we have to fill the silence with conversation, we don’t! All we need is to be present, be there, offering whatever is needed from practical tea making, or errand running, to just being there to hold a hand, to be talked at and to listen. Job’s friends, although wanting to help, ended up making Job feel like it was his fault, they and we do like to offer our opinions and try to explain things away; but we are not called to do that, we are called to just be there, to be a friend and support without judgement, without reason. We must never be worried about just being there, we must not turn away because we think we might put our foot in it; instead we must just be there, a supportive, loving presence for as long as we are needed.
13th October 2020
Zechariah 4:6 Not by might, nor by power but by spirit says the Lord.
Throughout History the belief has been that might and power is what establishes and protects kingdoms. From this comes the need for war, to fight others for what is perceived to be ours and not theirs. Our own British Empire came out of a belief that we were superior, more intelligent, more powerful, and thus were entitled to just take that which belonged to others. This idea has not gone away, we are still bombarded in the press and through news stories and social media that we have certain rights and others don’t. There is still an empire mentality among many of our so-called leaders, a hankering after the wealth and power of the past, provided by those seen as lesser than us. These words from Zechariah are about this very thing, that in God’s kingdom it is not about might or power, it is not about the forceful taking of what belongs to others, it is not about treating others as less than us by lording over them; it is about God’s Spirit working in the world, in our lives, in each situation. In Zechariah God was showing His people that He wanted to restore His relationship with them, that He wanted to rebuild the city and the people but He was not going to force them, He was not going to make the people do His will by might or power, instead by the working of His Spirit within them. His Spirit, there at Creation, resting on His people throughout the Bible and coming down on the disciples in Acts 2, His Holy Spirit. For us, God will never force Himself on us, He will not use His might and power to help us hurt others or lord it over them, or to give us superiority over others. When we pray for His help, His work in any situation, He is working through His Spirit, things happen, prayers are answered by the work of His Spirit. May this be our attitude, our approach in life, our daily prayer….. not by might, nor by power but by thy Spirit please Lord.
12th October 2020
2 Chronicles 16:9 For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is toward Him.
On my way back and fore to school I pass a house on a stretch of road with a look out stationed by the garden fence. Not a real human, I discovered, but a statue of a person who appears to be looking out over the road and I think it makes several people slow down when they first see it. I am not sure why it is there, perhaps the owner of the house wants people to slow down on this stretch of road or to think they are being watched. We all get that feeling of being watched sometimes, that our every move at work or at home is being watched to see if we are really doing what we should. In the middle ages the idea of God watching you and seeing what you were up to was something the church taught people. The idea that everything hidden and secret was evil and though you could hide it from other humans you could not hide it from God. Many poor people were forced into doing the bidding of their Lords and even their clergy by fear. Sadly, it is still an idea used today in some forms of extreme evangelism where pressured fear of judgement, of hell, of others, tries to force someone to give up certain parts of their life as wrong. Whilst it is true that God sees everything we do, knows the thoughts of our hearts and minds He does not follow us round condemning and pressuring us every moment of the day. God brings about change bit by bit in our lives. He deals with something within us and as we change and adapt then something else comes into view. This is why we should not judge others or force them into our version of faith, we only do things by our own standards and just because God has challenged or changed something in us does not mean He is doing that in everyone else. God’s watching over us is out of love and compassion, it is the watching as parents do of their little children, steering around dangers, comforting in sorrow and hurt, providing the necessary love and concern for growth and protection. God is with us not to force us to behave in a certain way but to love us and care for us as we find the right way for ourselves in our faith.
11th October 2020
Mark 6:34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.
Jesus acts of compassion include healing and almsgiving to the needy. We, as Christians, will be judged by our provision for the sick and to the needy. If people are going hungry and we have enough then surely, we can share out of our abundance. We can buy some and share some with the foodbank, using the supermarket contribution points they now have. We can make sure those who need medical help receive it. We can have a vision that no one goes hungry if we can help it. We can challenge the appalling treatment of refugees and not take part in the blame culture. We can be a people of abundant sharing and compassion in all things. That compassion of Jesus is also part of us. The Vagus nerve runs from our Brain to our abdomen and secrets oxytocin, a hormone linked to care, empathy and compassion. It prompts us to go and help others. Humans were created as relational beings, to share and help each other. Sadly, research shows that the more we have materially, the more we suppress this empathetic and compassionate reaction that would prompt us to act and help. We can lose our empathy and compassion because of our desire for more for ourselves and our selfish behaviour and attitude. Jesus disciples had to learn that being a follower of Jesus meant not just feeding people spiritually but physically as well. They and we need to learn that telling a sick person Jesus loves them will do nothing for them but offering compassion and help can change their lives. We have to learn that same lesson, to feed people spiritually but also physically. To have the compassion and desire to help those who need it, the sick, the poor, the refugee, the migrant. Jesus compassion is our compassion, we can choose to let it prompt us into action or to ignore it and become more and more selfish.
10th October 2020
Proverbs 31:8/9 Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.
In recent weeks there has been condemnation of do gooders, of those who stand up for human rights, for those who argue for fairness and justice, this condemnation has come about because those in authority do not like to be questioned or challenged because it exposes their selfishness and their lack of humanity. Radio 2 runs a regular slot called what makes us human, exploring our humanity and what that means for our behaviour and lifestyles. Our humanity has shaped our nations, our goals and achievements, often for the good but also for the bad in events like the Holocaust. Our twisting and turning existence can be very testing and very straight forward, it seeks to strive for goodness, for the best for everyone, not just the select few, and it proclaims the equality of all no matter their background, race, gender, colour, religion, culture and so on. The things that distinguish us, that make us human are Knowledge: the ability to reason, to work out the best and right way. Freedom: to make choices for ourselves but in doing so not restrict the freedoms of others and Love: being human is relational, we find partners and families, societies who care for each other. These are things given to us by God as He created us. If you look at where the selfish and greedy have taken power these are the very things which are suppressed, no education, curbed freedoms and the breaking and dividing of society so one small section of humanity dictates to the rest and in so doing achieve their own believed personal superiority. True God given humanity always seeks for the common good and flourishing of all. We maybe condemned for doing good and for standing up for human rights but as children of God that is what we, as humans, are called to do.
9th October 2020
Jeremiah 31:3 The LORD appeared to us saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”
Do you ever feel like you live in a fish tank with all you do and say on display for everyone to see? I know I do. I sometimes wonder if God sends a battalion of angels to follow me around and clear up the mess I make and run interference and damage limitation. This idea comes from a fear that God might not love us, that we might be just too unlovable, well we need to hear and accept that God does love us, completely and utterly. We might feel unworthy but as long as we try to live a life that is worthy all is as it should be. We are where God has placed us, in our home, job, family, church etc He has put us there for a reason, He will support us as we serve Him and He will open the doors when it is time to move on. God is never wrong footed. In all our situations it is worth remembering that each of us are not perfect yet, we all still get angry, argue, treat one another poorly, cheat and lie a little, we are not perfect, neither is anyone else so therefore we need to be tolerant of each other just as God is tolerant of us. Sadly, there will be folk who will look all sweet but behind our backs will gossip, there will be folk who speak ill of us for no reason. In a fish tank you can put anti stress fluid to help fish cope, in our lives we have the anti-stress fluid of the Holy Spirit, pouring oil on troubled waters. We also need to find space, time to ourselves, a place where we can pull down the blinds and be out of public view for a while. If we are constantly in the limelight, we easily develop a mask, a look and type of behaviour that makes people think we are okay and doing well in our Christian life. God is our constant companion, He is totally in love with us, He wants the absolute best for us so as long as we talk to him, pray, look for the best way forward and try our best all will be well.
8th October 2020
Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, everyone, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
From the beginning, the fall in Genesis, we have been set about with sin. Life is not easy and things around us and about us lead us astray. We are all called to repent and that means not just apologising, not just saying sorry but completely changing direction, it is a new mindset, a new way of doing things, a new way of thinking. We need to let God switch us on to this new way. The serenity prayer sums this up asking God for the serenity to accept what we cannot change, courage to change the things we can change and the wisdom to know the difference. There are things we cannot change but there are so many things we can change, particularly about ourselves and we need the courage to change them, God given courage. The Lord’s prayer says Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven, if we are praying this and meaning it then change will happen in us and around us. We will become the catalyst for changed lives and changed people. As always, we cannot do this alone or in our own strength, we must allow God to energise us, to send His power on us and through us. God’s light will shine from us and through us, unlike any bulb we will not pop or shatter but be a constant bright light to others and the world. Turning away from sin, repenting, changing our life is not doom and gloom it is about being lit up and switched on to a new way of living.
7th October 2020
Hebrews 11:13 All of these heroes died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and believed in them.
If I asked who was your hero or heroine, who would you say? We all have a number of people we look up to but as Christians our ultimate hero should be Jesus. Have you and I decided to make Jesus our hero, our superhero even? When we have hero’s, we tend to imitate them, so what do we emulate in Jesus? Probably not the way He dressed but certainly the fact that He followed His father’s will, we may not be preachers like Him, but we can strive to be the best in what we do, to be good workers and leaders, to always look for the best in others, to give second chances. Jesus was a healer, we may not be medics but we can offer healing words and healing love and we can certainly pray for healing in people’s lives knowing that He will do what is right in every situation. Jesus was a fisher of men and called the disciples and us to do the same, to share the gospel openly and honestly to all, in who we are and how we live. Jesus was a carpenter, most of us do not have that skill but we are given the words and actions to shape people’s lives, to carve out the love of God in them. None of this can be achieved on our own, Jesus was baptised and needed the strength and power of the holy Spirit, so how much more do we need this. Life is such that we can easily forget our hero’s when times are difficult, we can forget that just as Jesus needed God’s presence every day so do we. The destiny of every person is to be a child of God, a brother or sister of Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit. We were each born by God for God, to be heroes of faith ourselves, we may have good days and bad days, but we have God on our side every day. May we fulfil all that God has called us to be.
6th October 2020
Exodus 24: 17 To the eyes of the people of Israel the appearance of the Shekinah glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire on the mountain top.
I have often spoken of the God shaped hole in our heart, the missing piece for which we are all searching, people often turn to everything but God in order to try and fill this God shaped hole. For those of us who have found God we have, deep within us, an inner sanctuary, a holy place, a Godly Centre, which permeates through us and to which we can continually return for blessing, strength and encouragement. This God shaped hole, once discovered, becomes God’s eternity within our hearts, breaking into everything we are, warming us with God’s love, calling us home unto God Himself. This is often called the light within, or the eternal light that burns within us, not unlike the eternal light which burns in our churches and holy places as a symbol of God’s presence. If we choose to give over our body, mind and soul to this light within, then we discover a new and complete life which opens us to a glimpse of our Heavenly future. This “Godness” within is dynamic, creative, life giving, and it emanates through everything we are and do. People see us differently and witness that presence, that light within. It is a brightness within us that illuminates the face of God and shines it out to others. In the Old Testament it is called the Shekinah glory, God’s presence in the midst of things making them shine with beauty, authority and holiness. When we know God, this light, this glory, is right there inside us, but it is also easily suppressed by our human nature, by our unwillingness to speak out our faith, by an embarrassment to speak of God in our lives. If we do not hide it then our response is one of internal joy, thanksgiving and worship, we offer ourselves in self-surrender and listening to God in our heart and mind and this bubbles over into our daily lives. The secret places of our heart become a holy sanctuary of our relationship with God where we find His perfect peace and love, where we become our Lords perfect creation of us and we shine His light into the world.
5th October 2020
Hebrews 12:1 Let us strip off every weight of rubbish that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.
On a weekly basis we put out the rubbish to be collected, every so often we have a bigger clear out and we may go to the tip. We get rid of all the stuff we do not need so that our homes do not become stuffed full of things we just don’t need. How often do we have a clear out and get rid of the rubbish in us? Just as we collect waste in our homes we also collect waste in our lives and this waste needs to be got rid of, as the verse says it becomes a weight on us that drags us down and it can also trip us up as we become embroiled in it. So a regular life spring clean is a good idea. We need to get rid of the anger, unresolved anger ends up hurting people and medical science has proved that angry people are at greater risk for health problems. Get rid of the guilt which reminds us and condemns us of our sins and what we have failed to do. Get rid of the resentment holding us prisoner, preventing us from having freedom. Get rid of the grumbling because it’s hard to grumble when you’re thankful, and it’s hard to be thankful when you’re grumbling. Get rid of the anxiety and worry which choke us and strangle our ability to live life to the full, get rid of the envy which causes us to focus on what we don’t have so that we miss seeing the blessing and taking pleasure in what we do have. Get rid of the lies and dishonesty which make us untrustworthy and not nice people to know. We need to get rid of anything and everything that drags us down and makes us lose the joy and blessing of being a Christian and being part of God’s family. Just like we have to actually put the rubbish out for collection each week, we also have to actively put out the rubbish in our lives, recognise the problems and cast them out to be got rid of. We can do that with God’s help, through prayer and Bible reading, through changing our attitudes and being willing to listen to God and learning how to be better people.
4th October 2020
Isaiah 26:3 You keep them in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because they trust in you.
How is your mental health? That may seem a strange question, but actually it is very important. Our happiness and wellbeing, our feelings and emotions need as much care as our physical needs, perhaps even more in light of the pandemic and months of lockdown and restrictions. All of us live on a continuum that runs from healthy to unwell passing through coping and struggling. We tend to only speak of Mental Health when we finally admit a need, but, Mental Health is vital to our ability to function, to cope with daily life. In much of life’s situations and issues, especially if we are under pressure, we cannot always see a way through, but, actually all we need to see is the next step; as the old song says “One day at a time sweet Jesus is all I’m asking of you”. Our resilience, our ability to cope is given to us by God as we need it at each step, and with Him right there with us, taking each step with us, supporting us as we need it. A step at a time is how we need to go, one foot in front of the other. Admitting we are in need of help is really difficult, we are fearful of stigma, of what others might think but there are plenty of avenues of help, friends and family or church leaders, also meditation and mindfulness. We cannot function properly when things are not right, it affects work, relationships, family life and we worry and become anxious. Experience gives us resilience, God’s love gives us resilience, keeping our mind on God and trusting Him gives us resilience, looking at what God’s people have done and their experiences of God’s faithfulness gives us resilience. It is why stories are told in Judaism, stories of God’s provision and blessing, reminding and encouraging of God’s faithfulness and care, of God’s constant accompaniment through difficult times and the work of the God’s people in helping and supporting each other. We can use our past to enable us to cope with our future, but we also need to recognise our own need of help so that we are ready and able to help others in their time of need.
3rd October 2020
Ephesians 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.
The Bible and other religious literature make it clear that humans are made in the image of their creator. This can be both physically and mentally. We can physically resemble God but also resemble Him in our abilities to think, act, do and be. As a baby, toddler, and child all of us learn and develop by imitating those around us, our parents, siblings, friends and family. Just as we pick up how to walk, talk, eat, make, and play, we also pick up wrong things too. We learn, very early on, the naughty things that provoke a reaction from parents and adults and we use them to get attention. St Paul reminds us to imitate our best role model, to imitate Jesus and therefore our creator God. We are told to rid ourselves of the bad things we have picked up; the anger, the lies, slander, malice, bitterness and rather to put on compassion, kindness, forgiveness, living a life of love, a life like Jesus. Pauls words translate to putting on Christ, in the Greek it means like an actor taking on a role, they become the person, inhabit the role, living and acting as the role demands. In that way we are called to put on Jesus and to live, act, speak and be like Him and so like our creator God. We need, then, to look at ourselves, get rid of the bad habits and take on the good ones, to become more loving, caring, honest, truthful, patient, kind, humble, forgiving, and compassionate. We are made in the image of God so let us, through Jesus, become more like Him.
2nd October 2020
Matthew 4:1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
How have you been tempted? Perhaps to blame someone else for your mistake, the blame game is popular amongst politicians and law breakers. Think back to Genesis and the story of creation and the fall, Adam blames Eve, Eve blames the serpent and the serpent doesn’t have a leg to stand on! As a result of their falling into temptation life becomes much harder for Adam and Eve and their descendants. We often use the phrase “That is really tempting” when looking at food or a good deal, or even if we should retaliate or play a joke. That temptation presents us with a battle, honesty and truth verses dishonesty and lies. Hopefully you will have noticed that as we lie, the lies tend to get bigger to cover the lie before and before we know it we become accomplished liars who cannot escape our elaborate construction of lies. As His ministry begins Jesus is tempted and He manages to stand against it, not just because of who He is, remember He has become like us, human, open to temptation as we are; but He uses the Bible to stand against that temptation. He uses his knowledge of the 10 Commandments, of the Jewish law to make it clear what was right and wrong. That example is a key for us as Christians. If Jesus could stand against temptation using His knowledge of the Bible as He knew it, then surely, we can also stand against temptation using our knowledge of the Bible as we know it. Do we know what the Bible says about lying, cheating, paying tax, how we should treat our bodies and creation? Do we know the promises God has made about prayer, strength, help, support and love? Knowing what the Bible says, in context, means we have a constant defence against things that try to tempt us, try to lead us into trouble, try to make us follow the easy path instead of the right path. Being tempted is a daily occurrence, let’s hope our knowledge of the Bible will help us to stand against temptation and if we are not too sure, it is never too late to start reading it.
1st October 2020
Exodus 34:6/7 ‘The LORD is a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty.
Alexander Pope said, “To err is human, to forgive is divine”. Quite simply we all, as human beings, make mistakes and get it wrong. Some do choose to deliberately to break laws and rules, take from others in order to make money. For the majority of us the mistakes we make are not intentional but perhaps are careless. If we did not have the divine quality of forgiveness we would be very, very lonely people. God’s attributes of compassion, grace, love, faithfulness and forgiveness are also available to us, God’s ability to forgive is endless, ours can be stretched to the limit but it is still ours to give. Forgiveness is a change of feelings and attitude toward another person, to let go of the negative emotions of retribution and revenge. To condemn the actions and words as wrong but to recognise the humanness and weakness of the person behind the actions and words and to attempt to restore the relationship. It has been scientifically proven that those who forgive are happier, healthier people, more optimistic, who do not live with resentment, depression, aggression, and sadness. When we recognise that none of us are perfect, that we all need forgiveness, and that God has and is forgiving us on a daily basis, we can find it in ourselves to forgive. Martin Luther King Jr said “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love," We do need to recognise our own imperfections and our own need for forgiveness before we can forgive others as we are forgiven. It is not easy, there can be scars, memories which make forgiveness very difficult, but we need to try, even if it takes a long time. When we try it does slowly happen, slowly become easier and life will be better for us both physically and mentally.
30th September 2020
2 Samuel 23:1 Now these are the last words of David: The oracle of David, son of Jesse, the oracle of the man whom God exalted, the anointed of the God of Jacob, the favourite of the Strong One of Israel.
Some years back, as part of a group exercise, I was asked to write an epitaph for myself, what I hoped people might say about me when I die. Once we had all done this we each read them out and discussed the ideas and content. It was quite revealing and challenging. We can all read people’s epitaphs and even their last words and these can be used as helpful quotes found all over the internet. In this part of 2 Samuel King David is reaching the end of His life and the 23rd chapter pays tribute to his mighty soldiers; stories of chivalry and bravery just like ones passed down from the Middle Ages, where valiant knights did daring deeds in insurmountable circumstances and became our heroes; but first of all it has an epitaph declaring that it was God who made David a great king, It was God who chose him, and David had written and sung beautiful songs that we now call the Psalms. As David offers his last words, he reiterates his relationship with God, his attempt to live his life for God and his hope for the future. David was being honest, he had completely messed up at times and been a terrible sinner, but he had also recognised the terrible things he had done and turned his life around before God. It Is characters such as David who give hope to the rest of us. When we reach the end of our lives, what will our 'last words' be? What will our epitaph say? We won’t all achieve great things in the eyes of the world. We won’t all be remembered in the public square, but, and it is a big but, we are all unique and precious, we all have our own songs to sing, we have all been chosen by God to do the things that only we can do and it was God who made us who we are. Reading these words can encourage us to look back at our lives so far, and perhaps open our eyes as to what we can do to change things and make sure the opportunities given are taken. As Christians we know that death is a stepping-stone to our wonderful future and how we live now is how we prepare for that heavenly kingdom.
29th September 2020
Joshua 24:15 Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.
I used to work with a Head Teacher who would walk around the school saying to students: Will you please take your responsibilities seriously. It took me a while to see what he was driving at but what we do, how we act, how we behave is a choice. We are responsible for ourselves and our impact on others and we have collective responsibility for others around us. We have a responsibility for the world we live in, the communities around us and it is when people ignore that responsibility and chose to live for themselves that communities become unsafe and not good places to live or work. All through our lives we make choices and as we do so we learn that those choices have consequences. As long as we are doing fine and not suffering, we seem happy, but what about others. If I choose to drop my litter it causes a mess, others think it is okay to do the same and now our parks and rivers, seas and oceans are full of plastic and rubbish, I choose to travel without paying because others do it and fares go up for everyone to recuperate the losses. I choose to drive without insurance and the cost rises for others and anyone I hurt or damage is left to pay for something I did. I choose to ignore the cries for help from my neighbour and someone can end up terribly hurt, starving to death or abused…….. but hey, I am okay!!! All of life is based around choices and we don’t always make the right ones. Becoming a Christian is a choice, serving God is a choice, praying each day is a choice, all choices we are free to make, all choices have consequences. Our choices affect us, yes, but they also affect others and so seeking to choose wisely, seeking to do the right thing is immensely important. Joshua told his people to choose this day who they would serve, our choice, every day, is either self-service or service of others and of God. If everyone of us thought about the impact our choices will make on others before we make them, our world would be a more compassionate and caring place for us all.
28th September 2020
Philippians 2:3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.
Some years ago, there was song in the charts with the line: What have you done today to make you feel proud? It is a phrase I use in school, on posters, to make people think about what they can achieve each day and what they have achieved. I ask them to think onto their future and ask themselves what they want for themselves and their families. The replies can be anything from fame, money, good job, travel to having a family, staying healthy and getting married. We all want different things and what we are actually striving for is fulfilment. We all want to find our place, our purpose, what makes us tick, what we are passionate about and what excites us. Sometimes being fulfilled can come from the oddest of places such as sharing in others grief and sadness, being the voice of reason, being a good neighbour or a shoulder to cry on. In a book I read recently the main character was found on her knees in church asking God for her reason, why was she where she was when it all seemed so hopeless; through the words and support of her family, friends and her faith she realises that it is her family and friends and those she has worked to help and save who are her reason, she has changed people’s lives for the better, brought closure and support, this is her reason and she finds her fulfilment. Most of ask God at some point in our lives why we are here, what is our reason? We might not know right now what it is, we might not yet feel completely fulfilled but there will be reasons we have found fulfilling, things we are good at, people we are a blessing to by who we are and what we do. The road to fulfilment, to finding our reason, comes from looking for the best in ourselves and in others. It comes from doing nothing out of selfish ambition and being a blessing to others as we go about our daily life. A good way to help us in this endeavour is to look back at the end of each day and ask ourselves what have I done today to make me feel proud?
27th September 2020
Proverbs 4:23 Keep your heart safe, for from it flows the springs of life.
We often use the term heartbreak when we experience some of life’s testing and hurtful times. We don’t mean that our physical heart actually breaks but those feelings we experience with our heart, feelings of love, grief, pain and hurt, they make us feel broken and physically and mentally distraught. Having our hearts broken is part of life because we open ourselves to others and in doing so allow ourselves to be hurt if things go wrong. I often talk to people about grief being the price we pay for love, if we did not open ourselves up to loving people it would not hurt when we lose them and I think through most of life we would all agree it is price worth paying. Here in proverbs we are reminded to take care of our heart, to keep it safe because it is the source of life. That is physically the case, we talk a lot these days about heart health, because it keeps our body living and it seems even this long ago, they understood that. But this is also referring to keeping our heart safe from breaking over the unnecessary hurt caused by others. Keeping ourselves grounded in truth and not in rumour or lies. Being aware that not everyone has our best interests at heart when they befriend us. God gave us hearts to literally keep our bodies living but also to experience the emotions we need to be compassionate and empathetic people. There is always a risk, if we are willing to care for others and open ourselves to others we risk, as God did in sending Jesus, being rejected and having our hearts broken. I think the risk is well worth taking, as I hope you do, but we can put in place precautions, remind ourselves to check and be sure and know that anyone who treats us with anything other than respect, fairness and compassion is someone we should keep our heart safe from.
26th September 2020
Proverbs 14:30 A joyful heart and mind is good medicine.
When we see someone, we often ask how they are, we might say are you well? Or how are you? We usually don’t expect to get much of an answer other than fine or okay. We tend to associate being well with physical traits because we are created with a physical body, but we also have a mind and a spirit or soul. Being well applies to all parts of us. Just as we might take some medicine for a physical ailment, we also need medicine for our mental and spiritual ailments too. Although we do sometimes need actual physical medicine most of the time mental and spiritual medicine is actually provided by each other. We have the ability to help one another, to encourage, strengthen, bring joy and offer hope to one another as we spend time with each other, talk and share experiences. There is a flip side to this, just as we can be each other’s comfort and help we can also be each other’s hurt and harm through what we say and do. A careless word, which we often excuse as a joke or banter, can cause real harm to another just as if we actually physically hit them. The Bible speaks a lot about being careful with our words and actions, about not leading people astray or harming them with our words. The way we live our lives can help or hinder others. Every human deserves dignity and respect and that is achieved by each of us playing our part, treating each other with gentleness, respect, patience and love. When someone struggles with mental health issues, when the soul is hurting, the last thing someone needs is to hear a joke at their expense or to be the object of people’s banter. God has given us the role of each other’s carers, friends, and family and as such we are responsible for helping, for bringing joy to the heart and mind and not for harming each other.
25th September 2020
Acts 2:11 Each of us hears the wonders of God in our own language.
How do we communicate? Most obviously we talk, but we also communicate through our expressions, body language, our gestures and through our eyes which are often called the window of the soul. We are all affected by what we see, hear, feel. Messages are flying through our bodies, 200 neurons a second connecting to another 1000 neurons which means our brain is moving 20 million, billion bits of information every second….WOW! We are incredible and we are in control. All these messages need to be in a format we can understand, however a message is conveyed others need to understand. In the early church the message of Jesus life, death and resurrection was passed onto every person in their own language so that everyone could hear and clearly understand. We all need to communicate, and we do it naturally but maybe we need to stop and think about the message we are putting across by our body language, our gestures and expressions. It is very easy to say one thing but be thinking another. We are so blessed with ways to communicate, who would have realised how important Zoom would become for actually seeing people we are talking to, our phones offer us many ways of communicating as do our computers. Of course, with this also come the ability to communicate irresponsibly and to hide who we are. When we communicate, we have the responsibility of communicating wisely, honourably and honestly. We need to think seriously about the messages we are sending out, to not allow our mood to hurt others because we speak or act out of turn. We need to put our brain in gear before opening our mouths to avoid putting out foot in it. God gave us ways to communicate with each other and as with all things we need to use these blessings wisely and for the good of all.
24th September 2020
Deuteronomy 15:11 You shall open wide your hands and hearts to each other, to the needy and to the poor.
Do you remember the story of the Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas? These men protected their King at all costs and their motto was All for one and one for all. It meant that each member of the team supported each other member and supported the group as a whole. It would be an excellent motto for the church and us as members of it. As members of the family of God we should be committed to looking out for each other and for the family of God as a whole. A strong symbol of this is that all round our country we find war memorials, covered with the names of those who fought for their country and gave their lives for others to have their freedom. We have information, records and in some cases pictures of these people who have gone before us, thousands upon thousands who gave so the future would be a better one for all. As Christians we need to accept that we must stand up for each other, support one another, we need to be all for one and one for all. At least that is what we should be. The question is, are we? The verse above is very much about being open handed to others, that means keeping an eye out for each other, it and many verses and passages clearly show us we are to bear each other’s burdens, care for each other, do good for others as we also watch our own conduct, taking care of family and not giving up even in the face of difficulty. Within the family of God there are those who are in need physically and mentally and we need to support them. We all have needs and even if right now we don’t need help and support our time will come and the call for each to help each other will offer us the support we need. If we all look after each other then no one will face anything alone and everyone will have a support network on which to rely. As Christians may we look after each other, be open handed to each other, stand up for each other and for the family of God. May we be “All for one and one for all” before our God.
23rd September 2020
Genesis 8:22 While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.
We now officially enter autumn, the balance of light and dark evens out then tips toward darkness. The mornings become chillier and darker and we begin to go out in the dark and come home in the dark. I find this a difficult time and hanker after the long, warm days of summer. Some years ago, they announced SAD, seasonal affective disorder, whereby some of us find our mood is changed and we struggle with having more darkness than light in our lives. It can make us literally sad. During the months in which we receive less light we can become sleepier, more irritable and crave more carbohydrates. Our body is reacting to the lessening of sunlight and the change of seasons to a time of rest and recuperation. The seasons are a vital part of the earths natural balance, the need for ground to be rested, for seeds to have a time of rest and for rich nutrient gathering within the ground. There is a cycle to our lives, to our crops and to our earth which allows things to rest and recuperate before giving more out. Autumn is when we celebrate Harvest, thank God for the food produced, celebrate the goodness of the earth and then that same earth takes a break, rebalances itself, rebuilds the nutrients, takes back into itself the leaf mulch and water of the autumn and winter so it is ready to start again in the spring. God promised, right back at the start, that we will have seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, seasons, day and night. The balance has always been there, it is us, often in the name of progress, who have fiddled with the balance and striven to maximise production forgetting that every living thing needs time to rest and recuperate. As autumn comes it offers s time for more rest, it offers a time to re balance and it offers a time to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation as it moves in season.
22nd September 2020
Numbers 30:2 If we make a vow to the LORD OR swear an oath to bind ourselves to a pledge, we must not break our word.
The playwright George Bernard Shaw said, “Liberty means responsibility”. If we want to claim the freedom to choose and decide for ourselves then we must accept the responsibility for what happens as a result of our decision, we must take responsibility. As we grow older, we take on more responsibility, we learn to make decisions, to choose a path and as we journey on we hopefully learn from the mistakes we make. We also learn from those around us, family, friends and those who have gone before in history, how we should act in a way that is best not just for us but for others too. When we make a promise or vow to do something, look after someone, help someone then we have made a commitment before God and people and should honour that. Our love of God and our neighbour should prompt us to take responsibility for promises we make, for decisions we make and keep us honouring those promises and accepting the outcome of those decisions every day. Our love of God permeates through everything we do, gives us a conscience, challenges our motives, helps us see the needs we should address. As we seek to keep those promises we make and take responsibility for our words and actions we look for the best in others and ourselves, making our choices and promises so that the best is served for everyone. We strive, as humans, to make our own decisions, to be free, to make our own choices in life but that freedom comes with responsibility, we are responsible for the consequences of what we do and say, for the promises we break and damage we can do. In all we do we need to weigh up the consequences of our actions and decisions, to take time in making our promises and decisions and to always look out for others as well as ourselves.
21st September 2020
Matthew 7:1 Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.
Be honest, how much do you like judging other people, criticising, shouting someone down, not listening and placing yourself in a superior position? We all do it to a degree, but do we like it when it is done to us? How fair are we in our treatment of others? Do we always assume the worst, accuse people unfairly, decide on someone’s guilt before hearing the evidence? Think of a time when you were falsely accused and how much that hurt and damaged you. As humans we are really good at hypocrisy! We divert attention to others so we are not closely examined ourselves. What our view on the current political situation it is quite obvious that diversionary tactics are being used to take the pressure off and to stop people looking too deeply at other things, things which threaten our freedoms and prevent exposure of the money making operations and behaviour of the elite. There is a phrase from a poem by Mary T Lathrap which reminds us that before we judge anyone, we should walk a mile in their shoes. In other words, you need to experience and understand their life, their issues and problems to see why they act or speak as they do. Our desire for self-preservation often means we accuse others to divert attention from ourselves. Jesus is dealing with issue here in Matthew 7. He is challenging His followers to have a good look at themselves before criticising and challenging others. If we are too blind to see and correct our own faults, we are much too blind to see and correct the faults in others. Our country has always prided itself on justice and fairness but even here the colour of someone’s skin, their gender, their religion, their race can mean they are not treated fairly or justly. Assumptions are made and people are treated as guilty before anything is proven, yet our laws have always been based around innocent until proven guilty. Judging others quickly and unfairly is damaging our country and our standing in the world. We must always look to treat others fairly and with justice, to put ourselves in their shoes, and we must challenge others in society when this is not done because God calls us to this justice, God calls us to allow for others imperfections because none of us are perfect and how we judge others will be how we are judged.
20th September 2020
Ephesians 4:1 Lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called.
How do you define yourself? A wife or husband, a daughter or son, a Christian, a human, kind, spiritual, hardworking, sporty, well educated…… the list is endless. But do we know who we are? Do we understand why we are here, what is our special gift and what can we do to make the world a better place? Have you seen the film Chariots of Fire? The film tells of how Eric Liddell, an incredible sportsman sacrifices his actual event, the 100m, because it is being run on a Sunday. For Eric Liddle and any Christian at this time, one did not work or do sport on a Sunday, it was a day of rest. Eric transfers to the 400m and wins the gold medal. Many of his friends and family cannot understand why this man, destined to be a missionary in China, wanted to run, to race, they could not see God’s work in running. Eric says to them “I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast and when I run, I feel his pleasure.” Eric Liddell understood that God gives each of us special gifts and talents by which we can help each other and build each other up. Humans are collaborative, we need each other and each other’s talents to flourish together. For example, the farmer grows the food and is able to grow more and better because the engineer designs the machines. Learning who we are and our place in the world allows us to collaborate, to work together and thus make a better world where we can all flourish. In Ephesians 4 we are called to live and act worthily, to be humble, gentle and patient. We are called to make allowances for each other’s imperfections and to build each other up as we help each other using our special gifts and talents. Who are we? We are who God made us to be, called and gifted to use our talents and gifts for the good of all.
19th September 2020
Deuteronomy 20:1 When you see enemies, horses and chariots and armies larger than you, do not be afraid, God is with you!
When we are facing something difficult and seemingly overpowering it is not easy to not be afraid. What’s ahead is daunting and could result in harm or injury, how do we face that? I was thinking of those firefighters and police who went into the twin towers on 9/11 as everyone else was fleeing out. The paramedics who went down into the underground on 7/7. The police who placed themselves between attackers and the public on London Bridge. None of these people knew what they would face, they had little or no contact with those above ground or outside and yet they went to help others, willingly risking their own safety for others. They did and do this because it is their calling, because they have an inner strength that allows them to always look for the good of all not just self. For us, whatever we face, and some things may seem insignificant in comparison, but to us they are major, they seem insurmountable and dangerous; for us we are told that God is with us, He is in front leading us, He is behind encouraging us forward, He is right next to us keeping us going, He surrounds us with His love and care, His protection and strength. We do not face anything, large or small, alone. We may not face such terror as those I mentioned above, but whatever we face it can seem engulfing, shocking, overpowering and we need help. Others may not understand our reactions or feelings, but God does. God knows our innermost feelings and reactions and He is always willing to be our rock, our support, our strength if we will let Him. It is easy to say, don’t be afraid, but not so easy to do, we may still feel afraid but with God we have the ability to cope and deal with those feelings of fear.
18th September 2020
Proverbs 3:6b He will make your paths straight.
Depending on where you live you may or may not be used to bendy roads. As we travel into the country many roads bend back and fore and almost seem to double back on themselves. Depending on your experience you either really enjoy these roads or find them difficult and slow. So many sharp bends with little or no ongoing view and plenty of drivers who drive too slowly because of inexperience and those who drive to fast and take theirs and others lives in their hands as they attempt to overtake on blind corners. Contrast that with motorways and straight dual carriageways, there are still bends but they are so much more subtle, and it is easy to see well ahead. Having a straight path or road offers security, safety and confidence. We can see ahead, beware of difficulties early on, have time to react and stay safe. What we are be told here is that God wants that for our lives. He wants us to be able to see ahead, to be aware of any difficulties easily on so we can prepare, to be able to have time to react and to stay safe. God does not want us to be meeting blind corners, doubling back on ourselves and being slowed down or unsafely overtaken by those who have no care for us or others. The reasons for bends and sharp corners are the way in which humans have divided up land, claimed territory, how areas have been demarcated by planners over years, our experience very much depends on others and their behaviour, so it is in life. We are affected by those around us and we affect them. In looking to God to keep our paths straight we will allow others to have better experiences and allow ourselves to have better lives, safer lives, looking ahead and able to do what is needed to keep things as they should be.
17th September 2020
Jeremiah 33:3 Call to me and I will answer you.
This verse has always been known to me as God’s phone number, Jeremiah is the 24th book in the Old Testament so I was taught 24333 was God’s phone number, no code needed. The context of this idea came from the discovery of the telephone and being able to call someone, wherever they were, and have a conversation. Here we are told that we can call on God and have a conversation at any time. Now, of course it is not a literal phone call, we do not need a phone, it is the ability to talk to God at any time, in any situation, about anything and knowing He will hear and will answer. As with any call if all we do is talk then the other person can’t get a word in. When we pray the tradition is to talk, to ask mostly and then say Amen and go about our daily life, job done. Actually, part of prayer is listening, what does God want to say to me? As I am able to tell God about my day, my ideas, my feelings and thoughts, I need to listen as He tells me about His. God can offer us the support and help to deal with daily situations, He can and will offer solutions and ways in which to help but, if we do not listen, we cannot hear. People often say, God did not answer me, to which I reply, did you listen, did you give Him a chance to speak to you? Many of us read our Bibles when we pray, it is often through those words and readings that God offers an answer. Of course, sometimes the answers are not what we want or think they should be so we ignore them. There has been a growth in meditation, actively listening to God, but not all of us can relate to that or work with it. If that works for you brilliant, go for it, but if not know that listening does not have to be done for long periods of time in silence, short times in our prayers where we pause and listen, reading our Bibles prayerfully, listening to God as we move around and go about our lives. Prayer and conversation with God can be going on all the time in our minds and hearts but we have to be willing to listen as we call on God in all and every situation.
16th September 2020
1 Chronicles 16:25 Great is The Lord and greatly to be praised.
This verse and its context are a hymn of praise from the people to their God who has saved them, the people declare God’s mighty and wonderful acts and sing out for all to hear. Apart from our hymn singing we do not recognise and sing out the praises of God in this day and age. We don’t see it as God who works the miracles, who changes things, who provides, instead we see everyone and everything other than God as responsible. The common view is that everything was and is a big, amazing accident and we are responsible, as humans, for the science and technology that now moves us forward. What everyone conveniently forgets is that behind the science is God. It is God who created the incredible motion of events, that gave humans the capacity to think and act, learn and discover. The medicines, the cures, the treatments, the technology, the advancements all given by to us by God who created us with the ability to learn and discover. If you want a miracle, proof of God’s amazing provision for us just look at the human body which heals itself, cuts that will not be seen days later, bones that heal when broken, antibodies that fight off colds and illnesses. Think about the seasons, the oceans and tides, the harvest, the land and sea, fresh and salt water all freely given and working in harmony, but what we do with it is our choice. The results of our selfish choices are the death of species, the changes in eco balance, melting ice caps, extreme weather, poor atmosphere, global warming….. we have been given an amazing body and mind, an incredible planet and instead of praising God and taking care of it we have chosen to set ourselves up as gods whose selfishness has damaged the wonderful provision of God. The best way for us to praise God for His greatness and love is to take care of what He has given to us and be thankful.
15th September 2020
Isaiah 43:18 Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!
If we all had to take an exam about life most of us would fail, why? Because most of us are trying to copy others in life instead of realising that each person has different questions to answer. We are all different, we all make mistakes and we look at how others have achieved success and try to imitate it, rather than find our own way. The good news is that even if we failed the exam we can always start again, always begin again. No matter our past, our failings and our achievements we can start again, we have a God of second chances, also of third and fourth and fifth chances. Within all religions there are teachings about how to improve life, how to change, but it is Christianity that offers complete forgiveness and a brand-new start, not just once but whenever it is needed. We can easily become prisoners of our past, held back by events and happenings that stop us from moving on in life. God does not want us to be imprisoned by our past, God wants us to be forgiven and to move on. God will never force that upon us, we have to be willing to let go of our past, not hold onto things just in case, instead we need to realise what is holding us back, seek forgiveness by being sorry, and ask for strength to change and move on. The bad past is something that should be forgotten, unfortunately, a lot of people let it define them. They become miserable, cunning, selfish, greedy, and blame it on the past or people in their past, saying, “I am this way because of how I was treated.” God wants us to know that the past has no power over us and that we can let go of it because we have been renewed by his love, and redeeming grace. So, let us forget the past, not dwell on the former things and allow God to do a new thing in us.
14th September 2020
Proverbs 5:1 Be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding.
One of the amazing things about our life on Earth is that we never reach an age or time when there is nothing left for us to learn. In recent years many universities have developed departments around Lifelong learning, realising that people can study, learn and gain qualifications all their life. The Dalia Lama has said that when we talk, we are only repeating what we already know. But if we listen, we can learn something new. The opinions we express come from our learning and listening. The more we listen to others and learn the facts around issues the more we understand and therefore the more sensible and balanced our opinions are. It is incredibly easy to be opinionated and to not listen to anyone else because we believe we are right and yet even the things around us we take as fact change as we discover more in science and nature. For example, I grew up being told that there were nine planets, fact; today we are told there are eight. We can never know everything, if we did then we would be as God, but God encourages us to keep learning, to keep listening, to hear Him and others as we grow. The word used here is incline, actually turning our ear to listen, it is an action of intent, it means we are looking for wisdom, wanting to learn. For many the older they become the more they think they know it all and do not need to listen to anyone else. We have all met them, perhaps we are them, never willing to hear someone else’s point of view, never willing to change our opinion even in the face of proof. God calls us to be attentive and incline our ear to Him and to others all our lives. The choice is ours, we can be lifelong learners or those stuck in their ways, we can be those who only ever repeat what we know or those who listen and learn something new.
13th September 2020
John 14: 1 Do not be worried and upset, believe in God and also in me.
Would you describe yourself as a worrier? Some of us seem compelled to worry about everything, most of us worry about the usual things and some seem to be completely carefree. We tend to worry about things and people who are important to us. We worry about family, friends, safety, illness and we worry because life has shown us that sometimes bad things happen and our minds and hearts conjure up situations where those we love might be hurt or maltreated. Worrying is a natural part of life the problem is when it takes over life and becomes so obsessive, we can see nothing else but problems and difficulties. Worrying will not stop bad things happening. By worrying we cannot stop illnesses or accidents, pain or suffering, we can not add any time to our lives; what does happen is we stop enjoying the good the things. We become so obsessed with worry we stop appreciating the good in our lives and in doing that we become a self-fulling prophecy. Constant worry and concern takes from us the ability to think clearly, to act rationally and so we place ourselves in the position of being more at risk. Jesus words in John are in response to death, one of our biggest worries, He is clear that when we believe in Him, in God, we have the promise of eternal life, a place in Heaven. We cannot stop worrying, our human nature means we are aware of evil and the affect it can have on us and those around us but Jesus is offering a way to deal with the worry, a way for us to live more peacefully within ourselves by believing in God and His protection of us and His complete and utter love of us. If you are a worrier look to the Lord, His word and His promises, let Him offer you some peace by allowing Him to take the worry, the burden, from your shoulders to His.
12th September 2020
Colossians 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
In whose name do we do things? Our own? Our religion? Our God? Are we tolerant, respectful? Do we bear with others? Do we forgive others and ourselves? Do we offer the respect to others that they deserve or are we selfish? Being honest is about truth, reaping what you sow and developing trust with others but also about being honest with yourself, every day. To allow us and others to flourish demands honesty. If we are not honest with ourselves, we are not able to recognise and live in reality, in the real world. Dishonesty means we choose only to see what we want to see, ignoring everything else. That means we turn a blind eye to problems and difficulties, allowing others and ourselves to suffer because we don’t speak out about unfairness and injustice, we don’t stand up when someone is being bullied and hurt. A senior army officer speaking out about challenging bad behaviour said “The standard we walk past and ignore is the standard we accept” So when we allow racism, bullying, sexism, aggression, lies, cheating and do not challenge it we are saying that it is okay to treat people like this and by default it is okay for people to treat me like that. If we are honest with ourselves, we should be able to look back at each day, each week and say How did it go? What did I do right? What could I have done better? This reflection, this honesty is not negating or criticising, it is helping us to learn, to grow, to become better people. We need to be honest about the good things and the bad things, acknowledge what needs to change. Ask yourself are you tolerant and respectful? Do you bear with others? Do you forgive and allow yourself to be forgiven? What needs to change? Does my ego get in the way? Being honest about our short comings, about what we don’t know and what needs to change, makes us humble and realistic people.
11th September 2020
Matthew 5:45 God makes the sun to shine on the righteous and the unrighteous.
As I write this the sun is shining and it is a beautiful day. People everywhere will enjoy this blessing no matter who they are how they behave. I have a real issue at present with the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. I really struggle with the dishonesty of so many politicians and so-called public servants. I am amazed that much of society seems to think that this kind of behaviour is okay. We are told that the sun shines on the righteous and the unrighteous, in other words God does not only provide His children with what they need but also everyone else. This is God modelling to us how we love our enemies. This verse is part of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus is teaching about how we live as followers of God. Within that teaching we are required to care for and love not only those who care for and love us but also those who don’t. That changes our outlook on society, it means treating prisoners with consideration even though they have broken the law, it means making sure justice is done for everyone and not just those we think deserve it. It means treating all people with respect whether rich or poor. It does not stop us from challenging inequality, challenging lies and holding people to account but it does affect the way we do it. If God’s love and fairness extends to all, whether believers or not, then we too must extend our love and fairness to all. Within that love we can still challenge the lies and dishonesty, stand up for the truth, but we do so by copying God’s way and leading by example. God graciously gives good things, even to those who hate Him. He gives the blessing of sun and rain to the just and the unjust alike. God does not withhold blessings until a person comes to Him by faith in Christ. Since God is so generous with His enemies, then we should be as well.
10th September 2020
Jeremiah 17:7 Blessed is the one whose confidence is in the Lord.
How confident are you? Are you confident in your ability, your upbringing, your education, your record? There are many things we can be confident in but are we confident in the right things, is that confidence justified or is it just arrogance? Confidence in the wrong things results in major problems, for example remember the CEO of Lehman Brothers who ignored warnings because of his arrogance, the bank collapsed, and a huge recession followed. The Australian army offers who were so arrogant about their ability that they ended up killing 10,000 of their own soldiers. Over confidence comes from arrogance, a faulty assessment of a situation, unrealistic expectations, hazardous decisions made in haste without weighing up the facts or implications of what we do. People who are arrogant do not deal in details or clear hard facts, they make a fuss and a noise about the easy things. They have a mindset and are unwilling to listen and learn to inform their decision making. It is easy to judge, react and walk away without ever knowing the whole story. Arrogance results in defensive, vengeful and punitive actions. In His letters Paul has a reason for his confidence, his family, education, training and position make him almost untouchable and yet he realises that the more responsibility a person has the more they must be careful, honour the truth, listen to the facts and first and foremost be confident in God. We can often confuse blustering arrogance with genuine ability but that is not the case. Just because someone says they can be believed and trusted does not mean they can. Look for the evidence, look for the proof and always check people’s credentials. Being confident in the right things means we need to listen and learn, look behind the obvious, examine our own track record and that of others, confidence in the right things will be witnessed through how we treat others and how we behave. Confidence in God or arrogance in self, the choice is ours to make.
9th September 2020
Isaiah 53:4 Surely he has borne our grief and carried our sorrows.
Sometimes I can only describe my presence on earth as detached, like that old phrase Lights on but nobodies’ home. We go through the motions, we appear to be functioning, going to work, cooking and cleaning, watch TV, sending emails but it is all automatic, muscle and mind memory. I am supposed to be here, do this, say that, smile and wave and we become almost robotic. This happens because we are protecting ourselves from a situation or event. In the west, particularly, we are not too good at public affection or grieving. We tend to keep ourselves in the British tradition of the stiff upper lip, do not show weakness, keep going and you will make it through. I find it interesting that research is showing that many of our mental health issues come from not expressing our grief, our anger, our love. So many people have low self esteem and self-worth because no one ever told them they were special, they were loved, they were capable. This is not just in homes where abuse takes place, but in ordinary homes where love was never expressed, where crying was not allowed and seen as weak, where behaviour was driven by fear of punishment and neglect. We need to recognise that it is okay to tell people we love them, to cry when we are upset and hurt, far from being weak it allows the chemicals in our bodies, that we are in need of, to be released. Expressing our grief and our love makes us stronger, it makes us realise how valuable we and others are and how we are worth so much to the world and to God. Telling someone we love them, we miss them, is saying I value you, I hold you in high regard, you matter! Grieving the loss of someone says this person mattered, they were valuable and special, they are a child of God and had a part to play in the world and I will miss them. Far from being weak, allowing our feelings to surface shows we are human, we are created to look after each other and to acknowledge the key to everything in this world, Love. Grief is the price we pay for love, the robotic, detached way we cope is okay for a time but me must allow ourselves the freedom to express our love and our grief outwardly and without fear of embarrassment.
8th September 2020 (I apologise for my lateness. Family funeral)
Psalm 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
How do you react when things go wrong? If you are anything like me there seems to be a rush of things that happen all at once and each wears the patience a bit thinner. At the worst times of life I have always reached the point where I realise that I am not alone, that even in the midst of the most difficult of times there is a peace, a strength that surrounds me. The psalmist here is recognising that in every situation God is our refuge and strength. That even when trouble lies at our door, we have His help, we are not alone. A refuge is a safe place, a place that provides shelter and protection, therefore God is our shelter, our protection, He provides the necessary protection for us in whatever shape and form it needs to take. When we are in trouble, we need support, someone to offer advice, comfort and help, to reassure us that whatever needs to be done can be done and will be done. That is what God does, makes sure that everything that needs to be done is done. For those who are facing illness, job loss, debt, family divisions, bereavement and the like God provides the refuge, the safe haven, but also the strength, the help to deal with each situation, every condition. He may provide this through other people, situations and encouragements, but what the psalmist knows and what we need to know and remember is that God has it in hand. It may not always seem like it, it may not be happening how we think it should, but God has it in hand. God promises that whatever we go through, whatever happens to us we do not need to face it alone, He is right there, every moment, ever present, every day offering refuge and strength, present in every moment, supporting and caring for us.
7th September 2020
Psalm 22:1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Enduring pain and hardship, experiencing distress often comes from harm or the threat of harm, it can be physical, mental, emotional or spiritual or a combination of any or all of these. As humans we have a selfish human nature, we have a tendency to put self-first and in doing so can actually inflict pain and distress on others without meaning to. Sadly many in our world inflict suffering on others on purpose to promote their own agenda and to increase their authority, power and wealth. For us we may be experiencing suffering but hiding it, the old tradition of suffering in silence, not complaining, not allowing ourselves to be vulnerable or to accept help and yet actually this is so necessary for every human being. Psalm 22 is the Psalmist not suffering in silence, many psalms are like this, a brisk honesty, speaking out about feeling forsaken or fed up or angry. The Bible is quite clear about us expressing our emotions and feelings, about telling out our fears; after all if God created us with emotions and expressions He intended us to use them!! The psalmist, as he expresses his suffering, begins to open himself to see where others have suffered but come through. He opens himself up to help, just as we need to. We cannot always see suffering, hardship and pain in others because we become good at hiding it, but a more careful and prayerful look at others, their reactions, how they behave will show us needs and will indicate to others our needs. We also need to be willing to open up, to allow ourselves to be vulnerable so we can access the help and support we need. As we recognise our own need for help may we also recognise the need of others for help that we might be able to offer or direct them to. Suffering in silence does not make us a better person, in fact it causes us more issues particularly with our mental health. We all need help, there are plenty of people and organisations to help us, we just need to be willing to admit we have needs and that others can help us.
6th September 2020
Ecclesiastes 3:1 There is a time for everything under Heaven.
This week our children have gone back to school, back to learning after over five months away from the classroom. We have all done various things with our time since March and a danger of returning to a type of normal is that we neglect things we have developed and which have been a blessing to us in the previous months. There is a time for everything under Heaven, that means we need to make time for the things we need in our lives. We must make time to rest both mentally and physically, the desire to catch up on education or work must not be allowed to encroach into our rest time. We must do things for pleasure, things we enjoy, hobbies etc which allow our minds to widen and give us perspective. Although we still have social distancing it is vital we see family and friends, spend time together, eat together and enjoy that social company. The role of sport has been seen as crucial to mental health and exercising our bodies when we have been indoors so much, now it is still vital to exercise and stretch bodies as well as minds. Reading for pleasure is good for imaginations and creativity, it is so easy to be so wrapped up in textbooks and study we lose the joy of reading a book for fun. We need time to just look around us and listen, really listen to the natural world. All these things and many others allow us to be ourselves, to exercise the balance needed in our lives of work, study and pleasure. We all need to be refreshed, not just once a year but regularly, trips, picnics, walks, things which allow us to breath, refocus and energise us. These things bring us joy, make us feel good and appreciate what we have, that in turn allows us to have a better all-round quality of life and makes work and study easier and more effective. God has given us a time for everything under heaven but we are in control of our timekeeping and so we must use our time wisely and sensibly for the good of ourselves and others.
5th September 2020
Proverbs 16:3 Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.
Do you usually make plans? Do you have plans for the future? After this year’s lockdown we all had plans totally rewritten, cancelled and changed and it is still a real lesson in how we cannot depend on the plans we make. Maybe you are someone who likes to have plans in place, perhaps you are clear about your aims and ambitions, perhaps you have just muddled along and hoping for the best. All those responses are okay. We steer a course of hopes and dreams but also needing to have an open mind to allow these plans to adapt when life changes and when the unexpected happens. Plans are good, it is helpful to know where we are going but life often gets in the way and plans sometimes need to change. Proverbs reminds us to question what the reasons are behind the plans we make. Are we just interested in money, fame, status, power, image etc or are we interested in the best for others as well as ourselves? We are reminded that there are people around us who are there to help us and advise us and we are foolish if we choose to ignore that advice and experience that God has offered to us. The future, the way ahead, is by its very nature an unknown, a variable, but the good news is we don’t have to do it alone. King George VI used part of a poem by Minnie Haskins called “God Knows” in 1939 to speak to a nation at war with a very uncertain future; it’s message was to put our hand into the hand of God which is better than any light or known way. The future was uncertain and unknown but faith in God was a light in the darkness and a known way forward for everyone. We travel nowhere alone when God is with us, we face nothing alone when God is with us. Any plans we have need to be made with God in the centre and in the knowledge that whatever happens, unexpected or not, we have God with us, holding our hand, through it all.
4th September 2020
Colossians 3:23 Whatever you do, do it with all your heart as for God.
If we think about all the things we are involved in, do we put the same amount of effort into everything we do? If not, why not? Are certain events, places and people more important to us than others? It is a hard question to ask ourselves because if we are honest we all have preferences and things that we put more effort into. Here we are being asked to do everything with all our heart and as if we are doing them for God. In basic terms it means when we garden we do it with all our heart as for God, when we sing we do it with all our heart as for God, when we go to work we do it with all our heart as for God. Everything we do, say and are involved in should be done to the best and highest standard as for God. So for me I should be the best Chaplain, Vicar, teacher, mother, wife, daughter…….that I can be and do each as if for God. In all we do we are not looking for the praise of others, we should not be desiring the praise of other humans, but we should be looking for what pleases God. This is a real attitude change; I am doing this for God so I give it my everything. I am doing this that God might be praised and worshipped, not me. When we are tired, life is hard, weather is not ideal, it is easy to only be half hearted in what we do, but if we commit each day to God, ask His help, look to always bring Him glory and praise then we will desire to do our best in everything, to do everything with all our heart and as if it is for God.
3rd September 2020
Psalm 145:4 One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts.
What would you like to be remembered for? What is our legacy? Perhaps you want to leave a trail of goodness, a legacy in music or publishing, perhaps your family knowing they have had the upbringing that will allow them to make their mark of goodness on society. Many of us grow up seeking our fifteen minutes of fame, the desire to be on YouTube or some reality TV programme to get our face out there and then achieve a status, fame and wealth. Sadly, this does not offer the desire to leave a legacy of goodness. If we look back in our lives, who are the people who have been commended to us from previous generations, who are our heroes? If we look at them what is it that makes them so special? What can we see that prompts our interest? Perhaps it is their genuine honesty, their philanthropy, their constant work for the good of others, their desire to promote the best for all humans wherever they are, whatever their status. These are things we should look to imitate, to follow on with because society is nowhere near perfect and without those who work for the good of others things will never change. Of course there is also the desire to perhaps have the wealth and fame of others thinking that will allow us to do more good, and yes it can, but unfortunately research shows us that once we become comfortable and live well we tend to forget others who we perhaps once longed to help. The desire to leave a legacy of good changes as we begin to have a better life ourselves. The Bible, and history, is full of stories of those who promised to use their power and wealth for others, only to be swallowed up in the club of wealth and power being used to control the masses, to maintain the lifestyle they now had and did not want to relinquish. A desire to help can easily be eroded to a belief that those who struggle do so because of their own laziness or unwillingness to work hard, nothing is further from the truth. So many who struggle do so because they have no access to the necessary education and resources to improve their lot but they still work harder than most just to provide even some of the basics for their families. Our legacy, whether published abroad or not should be as God desires, a fairer, just society where goodness and honesty are promoted, and all human beings are able to flourish.
2nd September 2020
Luke 18:1 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.
How many of us start things we do not finish? Start cleaning the room then something else catches your attention, start a book then just don’t get round to finishing it, working on something then our phone distracts us, we start writing those cards and letters and never finish and something else needs to be done. Often, we stop things because we become bored, fed up and impatient because we want to see the benefits now and not have to wait. Our society is now so instant that we want things done and dusted in an instant. Not everything is or can be instant, we have to stick at things, persevere, even when they are difficult, and things don’t change straight away. This verse is about persevering in prayer, sticking at it even when we don’t seem to get an answer straight away. Let me tell you a secret about perseverance; when we read about Jesus finding strength to keep going, to persevere he does 2 things. Firstly, He prays, He talks to God, tells Him exactly how He feels, Jesus admits the struggles and difficulties and asks for help. Yes, Jesus Christ is willing to ask for help so if Jesus needs help to stick with it, to persevere, then so do we! Secondly Jesus takes time for Himself, time to be alone, to recharge His batteries and energy, to collect His thoughts. Once again if Jesus needed to do that then so do we, actually we need to do these things even more than Jesus. The secret to perseverance is to ask for help and to take to time for yourself. This allows us to build up our strength, get the rest we need and then we have the strength to face things with renewed vigour. Take time to be yourself, take time to be quiet, to pray and ask for God’s help and from that rest and recuperation in God comes the strength to carry on, to persevere.
1st September 2020
Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
Have you ever done those trust exercises where you close your eyes and fall back and the person behind will catch you, or allow yourself to be led by someone through obstacles with your eyes covered? It is really hard to trust someone, to believe that they will keep you safe and do right by you. Trust is defined as a firm belief in someone or something and is used to confirm that belief in terms like Trustee or Trust fund. It won’t surprise you to know that I Trust in God, just as the verse says, but that does not mean that I do not question or challenge or want to know why. We are told to not lean or rely on our own understanding, why? Because we cannot and do not know all the answers, so we have to trust in those older and wiser than ourselves. Trust is difficult, it makes us vulnerable and if we are let down, if someone betrays our trust, then it becomes so much harder to trust again. Often we can put our trust in things without even thinking; that the bridge will hold us, the car will stop when we brake, the bus will turn up, there will be food on the table at home, the ambulance will turn up when we dial 999…… To trust, is to believe, to not doubt. In this verse it is trusting in God, believing in Him, not doubting Him but accepting that He knows best. As we acknowledge this trust, He makes our paths straight; it makes life’s easier, clearer because it makes sense, it works. Trusting means we believe in others and are willing to give them the opportunity for trust. Where trust has been broken, we work at rebuilding it, we apologise, we change our attitude and we try to be more trusting and less skeptical.
31st August 2020
Romans 14:5 One person will consider one day more sacred than another; another will consider every day alike. Each of them is fully convinced in their own mind.
Have you ever asked yourself the question why can’t other people be just like me? If you haven’t then it is likely to happen at some point. If we were all the same, just like me or you, wouldn’t life be easier, better? But no, we are not all the same, we are different, unique and special. Scientifically there are at least 420 billion possible variations in human DNA, from tiniest differences to huge differences and yet we are all human beings. Science also tells us that we are generally attracted to those who are like us. As we grow older we are less likely to listen to or be around those we disagree with or who have different ideas and views to ours. We become “set in our ways” we find safety and security in similarity and are concerned by difference. We are all different because we are sentient beings, we think, we reason, we feel, we experience, we are subjective, we feel both joy and sadness, pleasure and pain. These things affect who we are, our opinions, our ideas. It is these very differences that offer us creativity, gives us new discoveries, enable us to develop treatment for illnesses and invent things which allow everyone a full quality of life. Difference needs to be celebrated and not feared. In this verse we see that even 2000 years ago people argued about how things were to be done, they developed, even in the early church, a sense of my way is the right one and yours is the wrong one and we are still doing that today. But we are clearly reminded that God does not work this way, God made us with our differences, and He celebrates and encourages our differences. God accepts each of us as we are, unique, special, wonderful and we need to be reminded of that sometimes, but we also need to be reminded that those around us are special and unique as well. Let us celebrate difference in whatever shape or form, allowing ourselves and others to be who we are without criticism. May we engage the disengaged, challenge the suspicious and fearful attitudes and always look for the good and not the bad in everyone and recognise that we are not all the same, and thank God.
30th August 2020
Matthew 7:12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
Think about who helps you and who you help each day whether at work or at home or in the community. Doing to others as we would have them do to us, or as my Nan used to say, do as you would be done by, is a key to daily life. This idea, known as the Golden Rule, exists in all major world religions. It is a universal idea, one of those things that all religions agree on and therefore must be hugely important, must be of great value to the human race, as such it needs to be listened to and acted upon. The history of this idea can be traced back to Ancient Egypt, China, Near East, India, Greece, Persia and Rome. This Golden Rule has such a presence in history, in religion, in formulating many modern societies, so it deserves to be listened to and acted upon by everyone. Doing to others as we would want done to ourselves is a moral commitment to both ourselves and others, we see ourselves in others and we see others in ourselves, it sparks empathy, compassion, understanding and flourishing. Many through history have gone as far as to say that this Golden Rule is the glue that keeps society functioning. So, what does this Golden Rule mean for us? It means a realisation that if we don’t like being lied to, joked about, laughed at, pushed around, ignored, maltreated, falsely accused……….. then other people don’t like that either, therefore we do not do it to others. It means taking a moment to think before we speak or act in a situation and asking ourselves if we would like this if someone said or did it to us. We are often confronted with those who appear to get what they want by walking over others but we must recognise that if we all behaved like that there would be no trust, no care, no concern, no empathy, no friendship, no family, no love. God gave us each other to help and look after one another, so we are never alone; the least we can do is treat each other with respect and love and as we would like to be treated ourselves.
29th August 2020
John 8:36 If the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed.
When someone talks about freedom what crosses your mind? The freedom to choose perhaps or freedom to do and say what I want. Freedom to think and believe what I choose. Freedom to behave as I see fit or freedom because I am not a slave or in prison or under the rule of some dictator. As human beings we have been given the freedom to think, learn, speak, reason, imagine, dream, set goals, be creative, artistic, develop tools that multiply the power of human energy, change environments, change ourselves, to invent, develop personalities, to love, to worship, to make decisions and choices. Wow, that is just a small list and look how incredible and amazing it is. This freedom offers us incredible potential. It is true that another person or group of people can restrict us, restrain us, even rob us of certain freedoms. People can try to gag us, force us, injure us in a quest for domination, but each of us was born with an incredible mind, the ability to think and act for ourselves. No one can take away our God given freedoms of our human mind. Nelson Mandela, imprisoned unjustly for so long said “To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” In pursuing and living our own freedoms we should not damage the freedom of others, rather we should enhance their freedoms. This is called mutual flourishing, where each of us lives in a way that helps and respects each other. Over the years many have given their lives that others may be free, we are free to do and be all we are because God gave every human those freedoms through His Son who sets us free and many have fought to keep and restore those freedoms across the world. Are we willing and able to take the opportunities and freedoms afforded to us and in doing so enhance the freedoms of others?
28th August 2020
Isaiah 41:10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
You know those days when everything just seems to go wrong, sometimes it can be longer than a day, even weeks, but why and how do respond? Somehow some days just seem bent on going wrong, each event or conversation just goes wrong, our mood deteriorates, we become negative and then everything we touch turns sour, or so it seems. Often it is our family who bears the brunt of our negative mood and we just spiral downwards as things get worse. Firstly, we need to realise we cannot control everything in our life and just because something happens that we do not like, it does not mean everything else will go wrong. Part of the issue is how we deal with things, how we allow our attitude to life and to God be affected by what happens. We have a choice in how we react to things and our very attitude can be what allows a day to get worse or to become better. Our own minds love to play tricks on us, tell us everyone is against us, that we deserve what is happening because we are not good enough. God is quite clear that through Jesus we are good enough, we are loved and cared for , we are forgiven and negative things which sometimes happen are not necessarily our fault and are not a punishment for some obscure event in our past. In simple terms of good verse evil, evil will always try to force us to be negative, will try to persuade us from the right and good path and by using bad experiences when things go wrong, we are much more easily misled down this path away from good and from God. Being a child of God does not promise that things will always be fine, but it does promise strength to cope, God’s love and support as we deal with each situation. In whatever situation we find ourselves God is right there with us, we do not stand alone. Sometimes we need to just accept that life happens and things go wrong but, we do not have to allow these things to cause us into a downward spiral, instead we need to let go and let God take the strain, tell Him how we feel and allow Him to turn the negative into positives and give us all we need to not just cope but to change and live a better more positive life.
27th August 2020
Luke 14: 15 “What a blessing it will be to attend a banquet in the Kingdom of God!”
When were you last invited to a wedding or a dinner party or banquet? The current pandemic has affected this year’s weddings and parties but they are still such wonderful occasions. When you are invited to a big event what is your reply? An instant yes, or I must check the diary, or an excuse because we are busy or think it is too far to travel or just don’t want to go. We invite people to share with us for all sorts of things, celebrations, meals, parties, windfalls, family get togethers and we do it because we want to share our joy and good fortune with others. We want folk to feel welcome, to be provided for. In many traditions when you go to someone’s home you must be given some food and drink to welcome you and show you hospitality. To feel welcome, you must receive a welcome, be made to feel at home, that you can use the facilities, join in the celebration and make yourself at home. That means each one of us has a responsibility to make others feel welcome in our churches, our homes, our groups and clubs. As we meet together for whatever reason, it is vital that we care for one another, show welcome, treat people as we would like to be treated and of course to also allow ourselves to be welcomed. This parable is an illustration of how God invites everyone to share in His creation, His love, His eternal kingdom but how we, humans, often make excuses and don’t want to turn up or get involved. God’s welcome goes out to everyone no matter who they are or from where they come, poor and rich, female and male, any culture, race or creed. God has invited us to come to His celebration, to be welcome in His home and to make our own home with Him. We, too, are encouraged to make others welcome, to share all we have with everyone, to be kind, to encourage and help one another as a community, a family together under God. There is also a warning, those who make excuses, who are invited into God’s kingdom and don’t want to come, their invitation will become invalid, it is a time limited invitation and each person has the choice whether to accept or not. I hope you have accepted the welcome invitation and are sharing that welcome with others.
26th August 2020
Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will look after the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”
Do we really appreciate what is around us, or has it just become every day and not so worthy of our appreciation? I love the incredible sunrises and sunsets, especially when we are away near the coast, I am still searching for the perfect picture of a sunset and I have taken many. What about those incredible super moons? Or the beginning of new life each spring and the Harvest each autumn? We have those amazing programmes that show us nature and our affect on it through our careless and selfish living. The likes of Blue Planet, Spring Watch, Animals with Cameras, Big Cats, Wonders of the Moon….we cannot miss the incredibleness of the nature, of God’s creation, unless of course we just don’t look, don’t open our eyes to see just how amazing God’s world and universe is. If you need a prompt to remind you how amazing God’s creation is, try looking up the salt flats in Bolivia that act like a mirror, or the waves and beach that glow in the Maldives, or the red sandstone formation like a wave in rock found in Arizona. We swat bees away and call them a nuisance but have found how vital they are to the food chain and our life. Find the films on how Giraffes and Monkey’s grieve their dead and how a dog’s nose print is as unique as a fingerprint. God created an ecosystem which allows all life to coexist, survive and flourish, but that is only if we chose to let it. We need to open our eyes, to look around us and appreciate the amazing wonder of this beautiful world God has given us. We need to watch the programmes, listen to the experts, and as we learn and understand more, change how we live so that every living creature may flourish together as God intended. We were given a role in creation, by God, to be a steward of His creation, to care for it and look after it. We need to do better because change starts with us.
25th August 2020
2 Corinthians 8:9 Our Lord Jesus Christ; rich as He was, made Himself poor for our sake, in order to make us rich by means of His poverty.
I am sure you have heard the expression “I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes” or “Before you criticise, walk a mile in their shoes”. What do these mean? This idea exists in the earliest records from the Native Americans, Harper Lee uses it in To Kill A Mockingbird, there are comparative proverbs and phrases in most religions. What they are all saying is to really be like someone, to understand them, to realise what their life is like, we must experience what they experience. This is empathy, to empathise with others because we can put ourselves in their situation and position, in their shoes. In the Jewish tradition of Jesus time disciples followed their teacher or Rabbi literally living as they did, imitating them, becoming like them, actually walking in their footsteps or their shoes. So it is with Jesus, He comes from God to live as we do, to experience what we experience, to walk with us in our shoes. Jesus, God’s son, gives up His heavenly place, His Godhead, His authority, His omnipotence, and omniscience to take on our human nature. Jesus gives up the power and riches of His position to be just as we are. Why? Why would Jesus do this? Because this way He can build a bridge, a way between God and humans that allows us to be loved, treasured, and forgiven by God and thus restore us to eternal life. Jesus living in our shoes means that there is nothing we will go through that God does not understand and therefore help us with every day. So, before we criticise another human being we should walk a mile in their shoes, try to see things from their perspective, be more empathetic, give up some of our comfortable superior attitude and see things from the other side, just as Jesus has done for us.
24th August 2020
James 1:3 For you know that when your faith succeeds in facing such trials, the result is the ability to persevere.
Do you remember taking exams? I always wondered why we could not have a setting to enable us to remember exactly what we needed for the exam. I was always told that providing I had studied, listened, read and revised, it was all there to be had in the exam. But somehow it often got lost in the pressure of the exam situation and what that meant for the future. Our recall, in thought, word and action, is often affected by the pressure of a situation. Working in a pressurised environment is difficult and has to be learned, this happens by sticking at it, persevering, and doing it over and over again. We can deal with the pressure by reminding ourselves that we do know our stuff, we have studied and practiced, we have worked for this and to act accordingly. Self confidence is important, knowing that we can do something, we do know how this works, we can step into that situation and do the right thing. We have a friend who is a paramedic in London, he has been in some of the worst situations including being first on scene at the London bombings in 7/7, if you ask him how he coped then and still copes now he says: I am trained for this, I know what to do, sometimes I have to remind myself of that, but I know what to do and don’t doubt my abilities because I have the knowledge, wisdom, training and confidence to do what I am trained to do. James chapter 1 reminds us that life will have it’s ups and downs, but as we stick at it, persevere with it, remind ourselves that we do know what needs to be said and done, that we can ask for help when we need to; then we grow in maturity, in self-confidence and we are able to stand firm in any situation and deal with it accordingly. This verse is part of a passage called faith and wisdom which reminds us to have faith in God, but also in ourselves, as He provides us with the abilities we need, the wisdom and knowledge we need, and stands right beside us in each situation supporting us. God gives us wisdom; we have learned from Him and His word and we need to be confident in ourselves as children of God even in the difficult times. It is good for us to remind ourselves that we have and do work hard, we do have knowledge, experience and wisdom, we do have help if we need it and to be confident in all that God has given and will continue to give us.
23rd August 2020
Lamentations 3:23 His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is His faithfulness.
If you are like me then there will have been days when you wish you could just start again. When I used to play a lot of sport and the team were losing, we would just want to start again, do it differently or maybe we would get a different outcome. In exams, interviews, conversations, plans…….. If we could just start again, take the foot from out of our mouths or not say what we just did, or no do what we have just done, please let me start again. I love writing and have books for that purpose, there is nothing like a new clean book, pristine, unmarked, completely clean, very quickly it becomes untidy, dog eared as I carry it round, pages with crossings out and mistakes, can’t I just start again. Some days we are just not ourselves and we upset someone with our attitude which we didn’t realise was not good, our choice of words is careless, nothing goes quite right, we can’t find that document we put in a safe place and it is everyone’s fault but ours, please can we start again. This verse from Lamentations comes from a time in Israel’s history when they really needed to start again. They had made a mess of everything and had begun to realise that God had always been there, ready to help, ready to step in, but they had ignored Him and turned away from Him and in the process everything had just gone completely wrong. God, as always, is just waiting to give them, and us, a fresh start but we have to recognise our need and ask for His help, God never forces Himself on anyone. They begin to realise that God is still there and that His compassion never fails, that it is new every morning. For them and us each and every day offers a new start, a new beginning, and offers the opportunity of a great day full of promise. Each day is ours for the taking, it is what we make it. Yesterday is the past, tomorrow is the future, today is a gift, that is why we call it the present, a gift from God, with all its possibilities and the opportunity to start anew. The question is what will we do with our present?
22nd August 2020
Philippians 4:8 Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable; if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think on these things.
What occupies your thoughts? Wherever you are right now there is something that no one can know about you in this moment, exactly what it is you are thinking. Our body language might betray us a little but we can, and frequently do, act and speak totally differently to our thoughts, it’s hard work and we become accomplished at it the more we do it, but it is our thoughts that reflect the real us. In the verse we are told to think on these things, to focus our minds on wholesome, good, positive things that are noble, true, right, pure, lovely………. Thinking on these things completely changes our lives, we begin to live as we think, put into practice the positive and it becomes a complete whole person response to life, not an act, not measured or taught. If what we think about is positive, good, encouraging and wholesome then that is what will come out in our practical lives, we will not fight to be seen in a certain way but be true to ourselves, to who we are, to who God made us to be. As a society we are beginning to be more active around Mental Health issues, a brilliant and very necessary change. We have begun to realise that the health of our minds is just as important as that of our bodies. Our thoughts and feelings are vital to how we live, act and respond and Paul's words in Philippians are exactly about this. We are being encouraged to fill our minds with the positive, the true, the noble, the praiseworthy and to allow these mindful things to filter through our whole life. Yes, I know it is often easier said than done but we need to be encouraged to think about good things, to dwell on the positive and wholesome things in life. If we need some help then talk to someone, a friend, a priest, a counsellor, someone who may just be able to help us reset our mind set to be someone who thinks on these things.
21st August 2020
Jeremiah 17:10 I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give to each according to their ways, according to the fruit of their deeds.
We are currently in the process of a selling a car. In doing so we have cleaned it, not just a quick outside clean, but all the places you don’t usually look. We have cleared out all the stuff from the inside, checked the spare tyre and jack etc are all there. Removed the CD from the player, cleaned the footwells and taken out all the car park change. It is cleaner than it has been in ages so we can get a good and fair price for it. It struck me that our lives are like this, we do the quick fix regularly, appear to all intents and purposes that we are clean, ready for life, but on the inside not so good. We have those areas we don’t clean up very often, the little hidden cracks and areas which have been there so long they are sort of comfortable. We have the forgotten Poems, hymns and Bible verses tucked away but not really used much. There are the emergency tools and tyres hidden away and never really used because we don’t like to publicly use them or even remember they are there. There is all the dirt in the footwells, the recesses of our lives, from the places we walk and work which need a good clean up but rarely get it. We leave our change, the little things we need regularly, but pay little credence too, in the cup holders of our minds and hearts. On the outside we are looking good, but on the inside are things we need to clean up, to deal with, but because no one else can see them we just push them to one side and carry on. What we forget is that as people travel with us, they see the inside too, and more importantly, God sees the inside all day, every day. God knows what lies in our hearts and minds and wants us to deal with it in the safety of His love and protection. We cannot be the complete package as a Christian if we are not willing to keep the inside clean, the bit God sees, as well as the outside which most people see. So, when we have a good clean up let’s make sure we deal both with the inside as well as the outside, being willing to look a little deeper and harder at ourselves and make the necessary changes before God.
20th August 2020
Psalm 73:26 "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."
We all have those days, even weeks when life seems to drain us, we struggle with the normal of life and we seem to be in a fog that we just can’t get out of. This often happens after bereavement, or illness or big life changing events. Even though we know we are physically fine we feel the mysterious aches and pains, we don’t have the energy to get up and walk to the shops or round the block for exercise, we may have to make ourselves eat even though we do not feel like it. This mental and physical reaction is a coping mechanism, because feelings have been stretched to their limit, emotions overloaded, thoughts all over the place and our bodies and minds go into a sort of safe mode. We baton down the hatches and for a while we don’t allow ourselves to feel, to express emotion because it is all tied into physical and mental pain that we just don’t want to experience again right now, body and mind tell us that we just do not have the strength to cope. In very extreme and difficult times like bereavement we shut down to save ourselves anymore hurt and to allow ourselves to recuperate, to become strong enough again to deal with the emotions of life. There is no “one size fits all” with anything in life and at any point an event or visual image, or aural stimulus can return us to that place and cause the pain and hurt to resurface. This is quite normal but encouragingly, the time taken to recover usually becomes less and less. We never just get over difficult events in our lives, we learn to accommodate them, to live with them in a different normal of life. The words of this Psalm give us hope and blessing that even when our heart and flesh may fail, may go into safe mode, God is still right there, holding us in the everlasting arms, giving us the necessary strength to cope, and caring for us as we recuperate and learn to live our different and new normal.
19th August 2020
Matthew 7:12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.
How do you treat others and how do you treat yourself? It is central to our quality of life and of others. I have a friend who worked with street children, she told of how these children had no self-worth or value because people treated them so badly. People were abusive, shouted awful things at them, kicked them, threw things at them so these children came to believe they were worthless. When the helpers came the street children could not understand why these people treated them so well, why they were helping them when they were worthless. No human being should ever be treated like that no matter who they are, their status, creed, culture, colour, gender, or life choice. Every human being is created in the Image of God and has worth and value. We need to treat each other well, just as we would like others to treat us. I am proud of my welsh heritage and love St. David our patron saint. He had a saying “Do the little things in life”. In other words if we do the simple basics like caring for each other, helping each other out, looking out for friends and family, doing a favour, an errand, tidying up after ourselves, all the little things, the normal day to day stuff, do that and all the rest falls into place! Doing to others as ourselves is a clear message about how we treat others, we must treat everyone with respect, enabling them to flourish and achieve just as we would want for ourselves. It is good practice to always think am I helping or hindering? Would I like what I am about to do or say, said or done to me? If the answer is no, then do not do it or say it.
18th August 2020
Matthew 7: 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.
I had the most wonderful Nan and she had many expressions, one of them was , have a bit of common, it was her way of saying use your common sense, think before you do something, weigh up the consequences of your words and actions. To put that in context, common sense says we form an orderly queue to pay at the checkout, or wait our turn to cross the road, those who don’t, who push and shove or step out immediately cause an issue that effects many other people. Those who weight until the last minute to do something or rush rather than use time wisely, they too cause an issue for those around them. It is easy to be distracted from a task by something more fun or more pleasant to do and thus the link in a chain is broken and things are left undone that needed to be done. In the story from which the above verse comes is all about using our common sense, our wisdom, thinking before we act. The man wants a quick fix, cheap, impressive and quick, no long-term planning or thinking, no eye to the future, he wants it now. In building he misses out the important early steps of planning and foundations, he jumps straight to building on a surface no one else was building on, a surface that shifts with the tide and when the storm comes the house comes crashing down. God has given us wisdom, common sense, the ability to think and weigh up our actions for a reason. We are being reminded that everything we do and say has consequences and so, taking time to think and plan and assess the consequences will save so much hurt and pain. God is encouraging us to build on solid and firm foundations for everything we do in life. By using that bit of common, as my Nan put it, we can make our lives and the lives of those around us so much better. We need to be God’s Master Builders and not the world’s rogue traders in all we do and say.
17th August 2020
Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
What happens in your house as regards housework, cooking, washing up etc? Is one person left to do it all or is it spread equally? Most of us know that our children are often unwilling to do their chores and speak in terms of unfairness, in many homes one spouse often does most of the chores, is that fair? When we say that being asked to do something is unfair what we are really saying is I am better than you, it’s your job not mine, we are marking ourselves as more important and better than someone else. At a deeper level this is why we have to have human rights because some of us develop the idea that we are better and more deserving than others because of wealth, status, culture, skin colour, gender, belief, race etc. We only need to look at world history to see just this. In Galatians it is made completely clear that ALL are equal, there are no ifs or buts, no one person is better or more deserving than another. In God’s eyes it is not race, gender or our position in society or our culture or skin colour, or our status and belief that counts but purely the fact that we are God’s created people and we are ALL special, ALL unique. None of us is better than another in God’s eyes! So, if that is the case we have no right to look down upon another person, no right to treat another person differently because they are not the same as us or don’t fit into our view and perception of what people should be. Psalms tells us that ALL human beings are God’s crowning glory, that means you and me and everyone no matter who or what. We are all equal, it doesn’t mean we will all get on with each other, but it does mean we should respect each other and not treat anyone differently because of physical or cultural differences. May we see each other through God’s eyes, recognise we are all equal, all wonderful, valuable and special and treat each other as such, that will make life so much better, farer, easier and happier for everyone.
16th August 2020
John 1:23 A voice crying out in the wilderness, prepare Ye the way of the Lord.
It has been difficult to visit people or have visitors your self recently, but perhaps over the summer holiday you have had family to stay or come for a meal or a day. Visitors mean preparation, getting ready by cleaning, tidying, move the clutter out of sight, get food in, make up beds if people are staying over… there is a lot of preparation to be done and some of us are so much better at it than others. Preparing for things is a necessary part of life, we prepare for visitors but also for interviews, work, exams, lessons, cooking, writing….. if we never bothered to prepare life would not be any good for us or others. At the time of Jesus the people had spent centuries preparing for the Messiah, getting ready for the Lord’s coming but as time moved on and years past it lost it’s appeal, it wasn’t important any more and preparation and readiness had slipped to ambivalence for most. So when Jesus arrives and is born in Bethlehem it doesn’t make the headlines, it is not what was expected anyway, years of waiting were for a king, powerful and strong who would raise the people to be rulers over everyone else. As Jesus grows up and things start to happen the questions are asked, John the Baptist, out and about preaching and baptising, is asked if he is a prophet or is he the long awaited Messiah. John uses the words of Isaiah, words they would understand, to declare that he, John, is preparing the way, he is getting the people ready, opening their eyes to see the Messiah, Jesus. Sadly, most of the people of the time were not ready. Are we ready? Ready for Jesus in our lives? Ready for the changes we need to make so Jesus is seen and heard through us? Are we prepared for the teachings of Jesus to be everyday living experiences that we share with others? Or have we too, lost sight of Jesus, become ambivalent to Jesus presence in the world and our part in that? We need to be ready, to get ready and prepared for Jesus and His work through us. If not we will miss out, we will be left behind; may we be those voices crying out, prepare ye the way of the Lord.
15th August 2020
Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always, I say it again, rejoice!
How often do you celebrate things? Maybe the usual birthdays, anniversaries each year but here we are told to rejoice, to be joyful everyday and we are told not to be anxious, not to worry, so why is that? It is because God is on our side, constantly with us. As God stands with us nothing can stand against us, God and Us, we are a majority anywhere. How do we rejoice? The most natural thing is to smile. Science tells us that smiling is good for us, it lifts our mood, helps us feel better, it changes our brain chemistry. Even if we force a smile, make ourselves smile, it does us good. Smiling helps us live longer, it boosts our health, it makes us feel happier, happier means less stress, less anxiety and leads to better physical and mental health. Rejoicing can also be expressed in singing, also really good for us, for our heart, our mind and it reduces stress and anxiety. Singing increases the oxygen in our blood, it uses muscles and exercises us aerobically. Studies by Harvard and Yale have shown that singing can prolong life because of its physical and psychological benefits. It also produces endorphins which make us feel better. Even now, when singing together is not allowed, singing at home or in the car, out loud is fine. Now, just try putting singing and smiling together and we can take on the world. We have so much, God has given us so much and blessed us so richly and He wants us to enjoy it, to rejoice and celebrate life. Rejoicing allows us to delight, to celebrate, to be less anxious and so live better, healthier lives. So, let us try to smile more, to enjoy life, to celebrate, sing and rejoice in all the good things God has given us.
14th August 2020
2 Corinthians 8:7 But just as you excel in everything--in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
Do we excel in giving? Giving of time, money, talents, patience, care, love….out of our abundance do we give? Our example of true and complete giving is that of Jesus who as Son of God, therefore King and Lord, who has it all, the power, wealth, authority, knowledge, ability...... choses to give it up, to become poor so He can give it all to us and help us. Jesus chooses to give it all up so we can thrive and flourish. What an example! Through history some folk have come closer than others in their giving like Christ, St. Francis, Mother Theresa, Gladys Aylward, so many of the Saints in what they did and do for us and for others. We are told to excel in giving, in other words be the best in giving. We strive to be the best in knowledge, the best in sport, in music, in the cars we drive and the houses we live in but do we strive to be the best in giving? Are we willing to give up some of our wealth, be it material or physical, our talents, our experience to help others? The context of the verse says we do our giving out of love, out of compassion for others that they too may have a good life and share in the wealth. It astonishes me that in a wealthy country as ours we need food banks, it is a shame on our society and government that these are necessary, it also astonishes and blesses me the reaction and response of so many to these foodbanks. The generosity of people in their giving. I have also witnessed that those who have the least give the most, those closest to the need, who understand and have had help themselves give so much. We can give in so many ways, with time, knowledge, talents, encouragement as well as money and food. But, we need to be willing, to want to excel in giving. We need to think about how we can give out of what we have, how we can use what we have to benefit our families, our friends and neighbours and everyone whether we know them or not. Jesus gave so much for us surely; we can give out of our abundance to help others.
13th August 2020
Exodus 20:15 Thou shall not steal.
One of the 10 commandments, we are told categorically that stealing is wrong, and we must not do it. Most people we talk to would say “I don’t do that!” Stealing comes down to taking what does not belong to us. Every religion is very clear on stealing and from the very earliest of times rules and customs protected someone’s property from being taken from them. We are all aware that these rules have been broken, often in the case of the powerful and wealthy riding rough shod over the poor, sometimes simply for people to feed their families and starving children. Why do people steal? In some cases, it is for attention, a cry for help, often it is about jealousy and wanting more, to have what someone else has. Sometimes it is about an unwillingness to work to live but a desire to take from others hard work to get what we want. Some people just think their lot in life is unfair and so feel justified in taking someone else’s. Whatever the reason stealing is a very selfish act, it causes people to be hurt both physically and mentally, it is disrespectful of others, it oppresses others. We are responsible for ourselves and our families, we work, we earn, we save, we pay our taxes and bills and live within our means, we do not take from others, we do not force others into despair and need by taking what belongs to them. This all seems basic and right, but dig a little deeper, do we always pay our dues? Those things we take from work without thinking, those things we borrow and don’t return. Maybe the things we do not declare on the tax return, the job we do cash in hand. When we start to look deeper it is possible that we can all fall into the trap without realising, because that has become the norm. In simple terms we all need to respect one another, to recognise we are not perfect, to try always to be completely honest and up front in all our dealings and let God do the rest.
12th August 2020
Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
How often have you been forgiven? Actually, it will be too many to count and so many times not remembered. Within most families, parents, children, siblings etc forgiveness of some sort happens on a daily basis. It is hard when someone hurts us, particularly over an issue which is very important to us at the time. Meeting people on the edges of life I have found folk holding grudges for 20 or 30 years and they often cannot remember why or what for, they just know that for whatever reason they can’t forgive. They are wiling to live without the love and care of a family member or friend all those years. What the time does is build bitterness, anger, resentment which eats away at us and seeps deep inside until all that matters is the grudge and we become sad, bitter people. Offering forgiveness does not mean someone goes unpunished for what they do, there are always consequences to be lived with, but as we live and move alongside each other our kindness and tender-heartedness should help us to see that we all make mistakes and we need to bear with one another when this happens. So often in life there but for the grace of God go all of us. God accepts us as we are, warts and all, Jesus came and died for our forgiveness and it is through that forgiveness of us by God that we should also forgive. We have a duty to forgive, it is part of being a Christian and, how can God forgive us if we will not forgive others. Forgiveness blesses us and it blesses others. By not holding a grudge, by allowing ourselves to forgive and be forgiven we physically and mentally are more rounded, caring and loving people. Forgiveness can take time, it can be very hard to do but it is as much of a benefit to ourselves, if not more so, than it is to the person we forgive and we always have God’s strength to help us. We all have to live with our mistakes, we all need forgiveness and understanding, and we all need to offer that forgiveness and understanding to each other so our world can be a better, kinder place.
11th August 2020
Proverbs 2:6 For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.
Continuing from Yesterday’s thought on wisdom today I ask what is it to be wise? There are various definitions on offer to us such as the ability to think and act using knowledge, experience, common sense and insight. Quite a list but it does not stop there. It is also linked to compassion, self-knowledge, virtue, benevolence, ethics and experience of life. Wisdom is about our perception and judgement, what is the best course of action here and now that will secure the best outcome for all. Phronesis is ancient Greek for intelligence and wisdom and we have the word Philosophy which literally means the love of wisdom and in Ancient Greece wisdom was considered the father of all virtues. Wisdom is considered highly important in all religions, seeing things for what they really are, using mindfulness, noble truths, how we live in the world in the right way. Wisdom is considered to be the way to find good and right living. Within Judaism wisdom is mentioned 222 times in it’s Holy Books and sets it alongside Kindness and Justice as the highest of virtues. Wisdom is also linked to charity, simplicity, humility and restoring balance and is acquired through life’s ups and downs, linked to love and reflection on experiences. This should get the message across to us that Wisdom and being wise is vitally important. It is not just knowledge but the coordination of knowledge with experience, a light that dispels the darkness, a value of life for others and us. It is God that gives wisdom and all we must do is ask Him and learn. It is quite clear that our wisdom is reflected in how we live, act, speak. The wise are virtuous, caring and want to help others. So, are we wise? If not, what can we do? We ask God for wisdom and we learn day by day, we work on our life, we learn from experience and from others and we seek the treasure that is wisdom in our lives. It will take time, but it will be worth it as wisdom grows within us.
Proverbs 4:6 Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. Wisdom is supreme; therefore, get wisdom.
What is wisdom? Who do you think of as wise? People think of Aristotle, or Yoda from Star Wars who says Wise I am, many consider our Queen to be wise and we look on older people as being wise because of their life experience. Proverbs is quite clear that wisdom comes from learning and the idea of older and wiser is because the older we are, the more we have learned, hopefully. Sometimes we use the phrase “wise beyond their years” because some folk just seem to have the ability to weigh up choices, say and do the best things even when they are young. Wisdom offers us protection, guardianship, and exhortation but it takes learning, open mindedness, open heartedness, often learning the hard way BUT it is worth it. Worth it because it allows a better, fuller, safer life as we grow. Learning and wisdom offers us success and opportunities to change, to turn failures into success. The Bible refers to Wisdom as a Treasure that we should search out and gain and that wisdom is better than gold. King Solomon is asked by God whether he desires wealth or wisdom, Solomon chooses wisdom….I wonder what you and I would choose if we were given that choice? So, a word to the wise; learning, experience, reflection, thoughtfulness, these lead to wisdom. We need to weigh things up, when things go wrong, and mistakes are made we must learn from them and move on. We need to learn to grow from life experiences, to be tolerant of others and their mistakes as well as our own. We should never think of ourselves as wise because wisdom will be seen in us by others. Just as Solomon chose wisdom and asked God for it, so can we. The Book of James tells us that if we lack wisdom, we should ask God for it and He will give it to us as we seek to serve Him.
9th August 2020
Matthew 24:44 You must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
Today is a Sunday, what do you expect? Going to church perhaps, except that is not necessarily the norm anymore. A quiet restful day maybe? Lunch out if you can find somewhere open? There are certain things we expect in our lives, going to work, coming home, family commitments, meetings and yet these have changed over the past months and life took a totally unexpected turn for all of us. None of us started 2020 thinking that we would end up in lockdown, queuing for food, losing people we love to what was, up until last year, an unknown virus. For much of life we expect certain things, patterns, events but there are always things which we do not expect, and these come along throwing our lives into disarray. From this has come the phrase Expect the Unexpected. We need to be aware of things changing suddenly and unexpectedly and to not let that take us by surprise. Some of us love to plan life in detail and it is good to know and be prepared, but life is full of so many variables that we need to learn to cope with things that do not happen according to plan but come completely out of left field. So much of the Bible is God doing the unexpected. People have always tried to put God in a box, control Him, but you cannot. We believe we know everything about the universe and space and then God throws a curve ball. A song a few years ago by Jamie Lawson had the line repeating all the way through….I wasn’t expecting that….things in his life went differently to how he expected and were wonderful. There is so much for us in life and God want us to live our lives to the full. We need to plan and be aware of the future, think ahead and act sensibly but we also need to know that the unexpected is just around the corner, anything, anytime may come our way, we don’t know the day or hour but the unexpected will come and we need to expect it and be ready knowing God is right there in it with us.
8th August 2020
James 2: 8 If you really keep the law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbour as yourself,” you are doing right.
We tend to judge others based on our likes and dislikes, whether they are the same as us or like us. God’s love does not discriminate! God loves all, no matter who or what, where or how, God’s love is for everyone and He asks us to do the same. I really enjoy the series Call The Midwife and in one episode they covered the scandal of the Thalidomide drug, a drug given to pregnant women to help with morning sickness. What no one knew to begin with was it caused damage in the first 12 weeks of development leaving Babies being born disabled with terrible deformities. Because these babies were not perfect but different many were left to die by open windows, left unfed. People could not see beyond the disability, the difference to what was accepted as normal and so made the judgement to allow them to die. God’s love would never and does never treat anyone like that and our love must be the same. We need to care for, to love others, no matter who, in the same way. It is easy to love those who are like us and who love us back but it is hard to love those who make us angry, hurt us, contradict us or are very different to us socially, mentally and physically. We need to love as God loves, to love our neighbour as our self. As we learn to cope with and accept ourselves, so we should accept others, completely, for who they are in God. We are told in 1 Corinthians 13 that Love bears all things, that means it accepts the good and the bad in everyone. Love sees through the imperfect, the differences, the wealth, poverty, gender, race, belief, age, disability. Love sees through it all to the special unique child of God that each and every person is. We are all equal and all loved by God and as we are loved so we love others.
7th August 2020
Exodus 3:8 I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians.
In the book of Exodus, The Israelites are slaves in Egypt, but God has a rescue plan. But there is a problem, the Israelites might be complaining and saying they want God to do something but when He does, they are not very willing to be rescued. We can be so caught up in what we are at this moment, even if it is hard and difficult, that as much as we ask for God’s help we do not really want to be rescued. As God does rescue the Israelites, without much cooperation on their part, they spend far longer in the desert than they need to because they constantly moan and complain and will not let God work for them. God does not take His people into the path of enemies but takes them safely to a new and wonderful land flowing with milk and honey. God’s plan, God’s way, safer, provided for, ready for them and for us, if we are willing. It is not an instant answer, but it can be made a lot longer if we are not willing to let God work in us, in our situation. We must be willing to be rescued and keep being willing each day. God sees the bigger picture, the whole situation, and our place in it, in context. He sees what needs to happen step by step and if we are willing, offers us the grace and strength to cope with each step for the best result for us and those around us. Okay, we say, but can’t God be more obvious so I can see more clearly? Well, in this story God sends a pillar of fire at night and a huge cloud by day to guide them, how much more obvious do we need? In my experience God is very obvious but we become so focused on the hear and now, on our own journey, in our own way, that we don’t look and see His obvious signs, we become blinkered to God and His ways thinking we know so much better. We need to remove the blinkers, look around us, listen, see, and hear God speaking and working, clearly showing us the best way to make our journey. But we need to be willing to be rescued. The question is, are we?
6th August 2020
Lamentations 3: 22&23 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is His faithfulness.
Have you ever read the book of Lamentations? It is just that, a book that contains the lamenting of the people, lament means to grieve, to recognise the bad things that have happened, be sad about them and sorry for the part you played in letting them happen. The people of Israel have been moaning and complaining, saying it is not fair, it is all bad. Then they begin lamenting their position, recognising that they have no reason to complain, actually they begin to see that they have had things pretty good. They begin to recognise how good God has been to them, that His love has never ceased, never stopped even as they have rebelled and been ungrateful. Every day God has given a new day, food, water, flowers, grass, sun, rain, homes, families and the recognition of this endless and constant provision for them they know it is time to be thankful for what they have, to count their blessings. So, where do we fit in this? Are we those who have learnt to lament? Have we come to recognise the part we have played in making life difficult and unpleasant? Have we begun to recognise the great and wonderful provision God has given us and been thankful? When we get to this point and life is a little rough or difficult we can remember the good, the blessings and thus feel better about what is going on and know that God has never let us down before and is not going to start now. Are we moaners and complainers? Are we those who accept the new blessings each day as God’s love for us? Are we those who recognise and lament our mistakes and not blame God for everything? God has never failed us, God loves us completely and utterly, God is on our side, may we not forget that.
5th August 2020
Romans 12:3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought.
What are you good at? What inspires you? What are your gifts? Have you thought seriously about this? For our world to function we all need to play a different and important part, we are all unique and offer unique gifts and perspectives. Yes, we all have many things in common and we will find others with similar gifts and talents but we each bring something unique to what we do, to who we are and our place in the world. So, what are your gifts? Various academic attributes, sport, creativity, arts, leadership, teaching, serving, encouraging, giving, strength, peace, thoughtful……the list goes on and none are more or less important than others, all are necessary for us to work together in a cohesive, caring society and we can be blessed with one or two or many as the need arises. We are warned in todays verse not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought. This offers us two insights, firstly that we should have a lot of self-respect and self-worth, we are important it is going beyond that, giving ourselves such self-importance that causes the second issue of belittling others and their gifts in order to champion our own self-importance. Our society can make us think that some gifts, abilities and talents are more important than others. We can fool ourselves into thinking we are better than others because we consider our gifts and abilities are superior to theirs. This is not the case. We all need all sorts to make things happen. We all have a unique offering that only we can make in this world. If we were all mathematicians there would be no authors and novelists. If we were all teachers who would we teach? If we were all doctors who would drive the buses or taxi’s, if we were all nurses who would keep everything clean? if we were all speakers who would listen? If we were all leaders who would follow? If we were all actors who would make the music? Everyone is equally valuable in this world, everyone’s gift is needed but we have been persuaded, usually by those who have money and power and who, to retain it , tell us that their skills and their talents must be more important than ordinary people. That is not the truth, it is a lie we have been sold to maintain the status quo. Please think seriously about your gifts, what is special about you and how you can use them for the benefit of all in our community. God gave you those gifts for a reason, your job is to seek out those talents and use them for the benefit of all God’s children.
4th August 2020
Deuteronomy 6:6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.
How do you feel about traditions? Some of us love them, others do all they can to rid them from life considering them to be old fashioned and boring. Let’s put it into some context. Without tradition there would be no birthdays each year, no Christmas with parties and presents, no new year with its celebrations and no anniversaries to celebrate and enjoy. Traditions are handed down to us to enable us to live good lives. They are part of a collective history that puts us into context and gives us a grounding in our place in the world. We are reminded of our personal and collective past and the lessons we can learn from them. We have cause to celebrate and to change where necessary. Tradition is a huge part of life and is very important within religious life. All religions have traditions to enable learning, celebration and to put belief and practice into context. Religion or not, traditions tell us why we do what we do. The celebration of New Year offers us a fresh start, allows us to put past behind and move forward, the tradition of Pancake day taking us into Ash Wednesday and Lent reminds us of our imperfections as people and points us to Easter and forgiveness. The traditions of birthdays and anniversaries allow us to celebrate our lives, our relationships and to contemplate how we live and use our experiences in our lives to come as we get older. The traditions of life are there not to impede us or hold us back but to release us into fullness of life. They allow us to have a basis out of which we flourish and grow, a past which offers us a future, lessons that allow us to be better people and live in a better society. Traditions offer us a collective memory which allow us to have a better and more beautiful future in God’s world.
3rd August 2020
Isaiah 66:13 As a parent comforts their child, so I will comfort you says the Lord.
When did you last cry? We tend to think it is okay for children but as we get older, we become embarrassed, less willing to cry and even see it as weakness. Yet much research has shown that crying is good for us, is necessary for our mental health and the release of pain and hurt both physical and mental. It is also recognised that those who allow their emotions to help them are much more stable and react better in a crisis. God gave us emotions for a reason. Crying allows release, lowers stress, releases chemicals to help us feel better. Crying is good for both our mental and physical health and without experiencing sadness we cannot appreciate joy and happiness. Within the Bible our relationship with God is often described as one of parent and child, that God cares for us as a parent would. When we are upset or hurt a parent will comfort us, wipe away the tears, speak gently and lovingly to us and help us cope and heal. God wants us to know that He will always be there to comfort us in this way. As we grow older we think ourselves capable of dealing with life on our own, we can manage, we know what to do and we push emotion to one side because we believe we are grown up now, we don’t need to cry, we don’t need a helping hand, but we do. God reminds us that we should not, and don’t have to, cope alone. Just as we are given our emotions for a reason, so to are we given families and friends that we might receive and give the care to one another as we need it. Don’t ever be embarrassed to cry, we are not embarrassed to laugh and both emotions are necessary to help us in coping with daily life. Don’t ever let the worlds stereotypes stop you from using the emotions God gave you to help you live well.
2nd August 2020
Luke 3: 14b Be content with what you have.
If I asked you how you are today what would you reply? Fine, okay, happy, busy, sad, fed up. Worried……..so many answers, I wonder if any of you would say content. On face value this seems simple, straight forward, what we have is ours and be content with that, don’t try and take what belongs to others. We find contentment through Honesty, integrity, justice and fairness, not just for ourselves but for everyone. The Dalai Lama says that all humans need to practice contentment, to be thankful and appreciative of What we have instead of continually grasping for more. An old song I grew up with says count your blessings, name them one by one and it will surprise you what the Lord has done. How often do we thank God for a new day, the sun, the rain, the food we have in abundance, our home and family, the money we have for more than our needs but the extras too. How often to we thank God for our talents and abilities, for our friends….the list is endless, we can never name all the blessings God has given us, but just naming a few shows us just how blessed we are. In counselling this technique is used, a person is encouraged to list the things they are thankful for because it has the effect of cheering them, of encouraging them and making them smile. God has given us so much, we are so blessed day after day and yet we are so good at moaning, wanting more, looking at what others have and being envious and jealous. As we live, we lose the magic of our world, the awe of the incredible life we have been given. Just watch small children as they discover what the world offers them and begin to recapture that as we learn to be content in our own blessings and when we do we become more carefree, more expressive, creative and positive people. Why not give it a try, count your blessings, list those things you are thankful for and begin to see just how much God has given you and be thankful.
1st August 2020
Deuteronomy 30: 20 Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and love the LORD your God and hold fast to him.
The choices we make impact on our lives but also on the lives of our families, friends and those around us. When you drop a pebble in the water the ripple radiates outward, in that same way our choices ripple and radiate outwards causing an effect. Good choices bring joy and blessing, poor choices bring regrets and problems, we must be careful in the choices we make, think carefully about our choices, remember that our choices may well have consequences. Being as God is a God of second and third and multiple chances it is also the case that good choices can help to rectify the consequences of poor choices. In Deuteronomy the people are having to face up to the choices they have made, and the consequences of these poor choices and they are told to choose life, life with God. This phrase, choose life, has been used in many add campaigns, you may remember the huge baggy T-shirts of the 80’s with Choose Life in huge letters on the front. You may remember the film Trainspotting with its famous speech about choosing a future and choosing life. It is also used by pro life campaigners and is the title of a book discussing nuclear war and world disarmament. Life is not a dress rehearsal; we get one life in which to make a difference. Life is for living, it has purpose BUT, to live life to the full we need to make the good and wise choices, to weigh up the pros and cons, to think before we act. God has given us the ability to think and reason, He has given us the freedom of choice. Let me encourage you to use your God given freedom to choose wisely and well and to choose life.
31st July 2020
Ephesians 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.
Who do people say you look like? Perhaps not so much now, but when you were younger saying, you look just like your Mum or Dad, you have your mother’s eyes or Father’s nose. People look for and see a family resemblance. So, what about a Christian family resemblance? Do people see Jesus in us? Do they see the dynamic, full of love and compassion, honest, truthful, child of God who expresses their faith through practical acts? Do we get involved with the poor and hungry, in giving and serving, in working in our community, volunteering, visiting? We are Jesus hands and feet in this world. We don’t preach by words but by our actions and then the words come as answers to our actions when people want to know why we do this? The Holy Spirit comes to us, is with us, enabling us, supporting us as we try to be more like Jesus. We support each other within the Christian family as it can be difficult for us. Meanwhile society challenges us by encouraging selfishness saying keep it for yourself, don’t give it to others they don’t deserve it, they are just taking your hard-earned cash! We cannot and must not ignore that there are millions of refugees worldwide, displaced people threatened with ethnic cleansing, homeless, disabled, poor and vulnerable people who cannot feed their families. What does Jesus want from us? To do what we can do to help. To look after each other. Jesus knows we will annoy each other, challenge each other and argue, we are family, that is what family does. So, Jesus prays for us, intercedes for His brothers and sisters that we will have His love, His humility, His unity, His desire to help. As we do these things, as we become more like Jesus, people see it, they witness God’s love for them through us, they see Jesus in us! All of us bear the image of God, our creator, but not all of us grow into that image, not all of us become the family of God. We chose to become more like Jesus or not, we choose to judge others and hurt people, or we don’t. Jesus final words from the cross were about love, unity, forgiveness and caring for each other. If we are family and we strive to become more like Jesus each day, then people will see the family resemblance.
30th July 2020
1 Corinthians 15: 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and our faith is useless.
What is your opinion of the Bible? Do you believe in it, accept it as God’s word? Paul challenges us about what we believe, saying if Jesus did not rise from the dead then our belief and faith are futile. Luke speaks of the evidence we are presented with which is put in the gospels to help us with our understanding. We do like proof, something to assure us that what we think or believe is true and right. Many people turn to science for absolute proof but as a scientist I know says “I have worked with electrons for 20 years, I have never actually seen one, but we know they are there”. Science is based on taking what you have and look for the most likely way and go for it. Use the information you have to push things forward. Christianity is the same, take what you have and move forward as it points the way. Not even science can be 100% about everything. As time and research and understanding moves on we find something new and what we accepted as fact originally is now different. It is interesting that about 40% of scientists are Christians, about 15% believe in a creator or higher power and about 12% are actually atheists. The argument that it has to be either science or religion is lost in these figures. We can believe in both. We have changed and adapted as time has gone on in a world designed to function, grow, develop and move on. We need to be aware of the danger of being totally engrossed in science as the beginning and end of everything because, science changes it’s ideas and “facts” regularly. As much as people use Darwin to question God’s existence, they forget that Darwin openly confessed his Christianity until his death. He never intended people to question their faith because of him. We also need to remember that Christianity encouraged study and education and that so many scientists came from Christian backgrounds. Even Dawkins finds himself on shaky ground when he says all science is proved, it is not, science is a work in progress. There is always room and need for change in science, new theories and ideas, new elements and changes in old ideas. Faith in Jesus is not blind, it is based on what we can see, what has been witnessed and talked about, what people have stood up and proclaimed even under threat of death. Faith in Jesus is taking all the evidence we know and moving on to where it points, just like science.
29th July 2020
Luke 2:15 The shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened”.
We seem to learn something new about the universe every day. Someone like Professor Brian Cox helps us to understand the complexities but they are mind blowing. There are quite a number of things in our life that are mind blowing, including the birth of Jesus on that first Christmas. God, the creator of this massive, amazing universe comes to be with us on earth in the form of His son. In the Christmas story Angels tell the shepherds, the shepherds go immediately to find the baby and then they tell everyone about Him, who He is. It is this new baby that causes them to celebrate, not the Angels visit. We love babies, we ooh and ahh and want to tell people about them, theses shepherds tell everyone they can find that this is no ordinary baby. They worship God because they know the prophecies of old, they know what Isaiah says about this baby as the one who is to come, that this is the year of the lord’s favour. In contrast we have Mary, His mother, she doesn’t tell anyone but stores it all up in her heart, she ponders it, treasures it. Mary realises the importance of all this going on around her. She knows a future is to come that is so vastly different for this, her child. This child is more than just a baby, He is God with us, Emanuel. God is made more real to us by and through Jesus. God is no longer distant, ethereal, He is now real, alive, with us, like us and He fully understands us. Through Him, we can have that relationship with God that we crave, that we need. We need to follow the examples of the shepherds and tell people about this wonderful baby, this wonderful Jesus who loves them and wants to help them, but we also need to ponder and treasure these things in our own hearts, all those things that we learn about Him and know about Him and His love for us.
28th July 2020
Hebrews 12:1a Let us run with determination the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus.
I was expecting to be watching the Olympics this summer, I love this spectacle of a world coming together through sport and I fulfilled a dream being able to attend the 2012 games in London. But this year has been totally changed in its orientation and the Olympics has been called off, postponed until next year. The preparation these folk had made to be at their best for this event would have been enormous, training and competing just to get a place in the team choice events beforehand, and then to win one of the few places on the actual team. From there they would go and compete against the best in the world, in the hope of that illusive medal. When interviewed these sports people have an aim, to do their best and to win, they have their eyes on that prize. It is this idea that Paul talks about in Hebrews, fixing our eyes on the prize, on Jesus. Not everyone who goes to the Olympics wins, in fact very few actually win a medal but they do not stop trying, they do not give up and so often they talk of next time, of doing better, training harder. They look for a new way, a new path, different training, different disciplines, they will do whatever necessary to get better. They strive for the prize. This is a good example for us as Christians, keeping our eyes on the prize ahead of us through the path of our life, career, family, stability, happiness, and it won’t be a straight or easy path. We may have to deviate, change ideas, go to plan B or plan C but we run our race the best that we can. We strive for the best way forward, changing lanes if we have to, regaining focus when we fall or struggle. There are always folk around us who can help, Bible teachings and studies, techniques we can use to help us, get up, dust ourselves off and keep going. Be encouraged that whatever plan you end up following, be it A, B, C, D etc, and remember the alphabet has 26 letters, you do not have to struggle alone, as we fix our eyes on the prize ahead of us God goes with us, side by side, picking us up and carrying us when we need it, we never have to run the race alone.
27th July 2020
Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Do you worry? Silly question, we all worry…… no not me I hear you say! Well we know everyone worries sometimes and some of us more than others. Those who pretend they never worry, I assure you they do, they are just good at hiding it and that is not good for their physical or mental health. It is quite normal to worry, to be concerned and to carry that burden, BUT, it’s what we do with that worry that matters, how we deal with it. The Bible tells us that worry can become a burden that weighs us down but then tells us to take His yolk upon us. A yolk is a way by which two animals share the heavy burden of work together. The image we are given is of us sharing our burden, our worry with God and with one another; in doing so the weight of the burden, the weight of the worry, becomes so much less. The thing about worry is that it can’t actually change anything. It is good to show concern about something, to be thinking ahead, but the danger comes when we let it absorb us, make us tired, angry, fidgety, it is just not good for us at all. We need to find a balance, that is actually the key to most of our lives, find the balance. The yolk balances the problem between 2 or 3 or 4 people instead of on just us. This sharing of the issue means rest from the worry, allowing a friend, God, someone we trust to share the burden with us and help spread the load. Cast our cares on the Lord and He will give us rest.
26th July 2020
Micah 6:8 What does the LORD require of us but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God?
We have different ways of communicating, language, expression and movement. We sometimes talk about the language of God, what He talks to us about and what the Bible says. It is easy to say yes to questions like did you put your clothes away? Have you done the washing up? Did you do that work or write that letter, but did we? The old adage of Actions speak louder than words registers here. We can so easily say what we think someone wants to hear instead of the reality. We need to ask ourselves if there is a disconnect between what we say and what we do? Are we really who we tell people we are? Do we pretend to be what we are just to maintain an image? What do we communicate not just with words but through our actions, expressions and behaviour. Recently someone said to me, “It is all to complicated, I can’t be what everyone wants me to be”. So, I shared with them the words of the verse above, that God asks just three things of us, Justice, kindness and humbleness! In whatever we do or say, in however we communicate, in all of our lives if we are always just and fair, always kind and always humble then life will work for us and for all those around us. We should be exactly who we say we are every moment of every day. However we live, however we communicate let us be just, kind and humble, that way we can change the world for the better.
25th July 2020
Luke 14: 23 And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and byways and call the people to come in, that my house may be filled”.
Do you have one of those mats at your front door that says welcome? People often comment on the welcome they receive in someone’s home or at church. Being made to feel welcome is very important. Research has found that people feel most welcome when they are greeted with a smile, and the person introduces themselves and asks about them, in other words they show a genuine interest. The word welcome is a greeting, a salutation and has also become a response to the offer of thanks and gratitude, as in “you’re welcome”. I wonder if you have ever been surprised by the welcome you were given. Has it ever been unexpected in either a good or bad way? God has invited all of us to His banquet, His freely given eternal life in Heaven for everyone. The invitation is for all but many people offer their excuses, there is a wonderful welcome waiting for everyone but some just don’t bother to turn up and make often unreasonable and pathetic excuses. If we have a party or gathering, we expect people who are invited to turn up or at least to offer up a genuine reason why they can’t. For those whose invite is ignored it is hurtful, they make a huge effort to welcome others but are then ignored and side lined; that is exactly what we do to God when we give excuses as to why we don’t come to church or bother to pray or respond to Him. The welcome God has for us is not deserved but is freely offered, that very same welcome needs to be from us to those in our communities, those we work with, those in our families. As we are welcomed so we welcome others, no excuses, no dithering, no disappointing, just a genuine, real, loving welcome.
24th July 2020
Matthew 5:44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
We are called to love, not revenge or retaliation. If we followed the old way of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, then the whole world would be blind and toothless. We do not want to live in a world like that. Have you noticed how you react to things? Are you someone who reacts and retaliates quickly, flairs up in anger? Or are you calm, steady and it takes a lot for you to get riled up. Do you know your breaking point? A young man recently said to me “I don’t understand why people get angry and worked up over things they cannot change.” He has a point and shows a great maturity in his thinking. This section in Matthew can almost seem like we should allow ourselves to be taken advantage of, never complain or seek justice, but that is not the case. Matthew 5 is part of Jesus Sermon on the mount. Up to this time, in the Jewish religion, rules had been followed for the sake of it, what you felt as a person did not matter. Jesus new teaching, new holiness code, was about someone as a whole person, the physical, mental and spiritual. We matter as whole beings just as God made us. We should not follow rules just for rules sake but believe in what we are doing and know why we are doing it. Before we react we need to stop and think, is there a reason why this is happening? Can I prevent it from escalating? What am I not seeing? None of us know what has happened to someone, their history, why they are reacting the way they are. We all need to offer each other space and time, give each other the benefit of the doubt. That way we will have a lot less blind and toothless people.
23rd July 2020
Jeremiah 8:4 This is what the Lord says: If someone falls down, they get up again. If they go the wrong way, they turn around and comes back.
When you study history, you don’t find failure recorded because it is the winners, the successful, that write the history. If we dig deeper, we will find that behind winners and success there is failure that leads to that success. Within all our lives there are steppingstones to success. Thomas Edison’s invention of the light bulb took 1000 tries to reach a prototype. When he was asked how it felt to fail 1000 times his reply was I didn’t, the light bulb was an invention with 1000 steps. But just think if he had given up at 500 tries or 850 tries, life would be very different. We are so pushed by society to be successful and not fail, to not be vulnerable, that we often edit out all the failures. Remember to err is human. Human beings are not perfect, it is how we react that counts. Failure is a necessary steppingstone in life and how we react to those steppingstones will make the difference. Amelia Earhart was the first female to cross the Atlantic, she weighed up the risks, looked at previous attempts and decided it was worth trying. The failure of others had enabled her to become successful. Many top authors endured the rejection letters again and again but used them to improve, find a new way, to learn and eventually become successful. Think of Nobel, who blew up his lab and his brother but kept going and achieved his goal and more. There are so many examples of successive failures which go onto be successful because people do not give up. We may think as Christians that we must not fail, we read stories of great missionaries, popular preachers, celebrity believers and think we are not good enough and yet with God failure is part of the story. Failure offers the opportunity to learn and grow and improve. We all will fail at some point in our life. Failing is a learning experience so we can do better next time. There were many Biblical leaders who failed, but they learned from their mistakes and kept on moving forward. For God, what counts is that we try and keep trying. God will forgive our failures as we recognise them and learn from them. It is trying to do our best that counts not that we are successful. God wants us to strive after perfection but knows we will fall short, He does not condemn us in that but encourages us to keep trying, to learn and improve. He will pick us up and dust us off and stand by us. So don’t be afraid to fail, just pick yourself up and keep trying in God’s strength.
22nd July 2020
Proverbs 3:1 Do not forget my teaching, keep it in your heart.
How are you at quizzes? I do enjoy Only Connect and University Challenge, as well as Question of Sport. I am really pleased if I manage to get a question right. I will call out my answer confidently and then hear the whispers; the thoughts of others and I begin to waiver. Am I sure? Am I right? As other possibilities enter my head my confidence drains away, surely others are more knowledgeable than me, why would I be right? While all of us will never know everything our experiences, our lifelong learning should give us a confidence in our knowledge that we can stand firm when required. Proverbs reminds us that as we learn God’s teaching, keep the basic commandments of our faith, live a good honest life we can be confident and stand firm in the promises of God. When we witness injustice we can stand up for what is right, when we witness cruelty and hurt of the innocent we can challenge the wrong and fight for what is right, when we see dishonesty and lies we open eyes to the honest and right way and tell the truth confident in the promises and statutes of God. This is confidence in God, not arrogance about our own abilities. This piece from Proverbs is a reminder of the Jewish custom of daily prayers, of binding the Shema, the declaration of who God is, around their forehead, shoulder and arm, where their mind and heart are. This is a declaration of trust in God for everything, not a reliance on their own ability or understanding. From a young age they learn God’s promises and learn to trust these, they have confidence in God not in their own abilities or achievements. This gives an honesty to life, a confidence to life because it comes from God, not self. We, too, need to carry this knowledge and trust in God within our hearts and minds. Hold ourselves with a confidence in our God, in the ways of truth and justice and a willingness to stand up for what is right and not waiver in the face of whispers and contradictions. A confidence in God who has created us, kept His promises to us and has given us the ability to do amazing things in His strength as a child of God.
21st July 2020
Jeremiah 29: 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord.
As humans we love to acquire information for ourselves. We want to know everything; we want to know what the future holds for us. We are curious about what our future holds, to see where we are going and what we shall become. What piece of advice would older you give to younger you? For me I would tell myself to stop worrying about the future, trying to influence it and predict it, instead live life to the full now. Live each day to the full and enjoy it; life is for now. It is quite natural to want to know our place in the world, not just right now but in our future. We are naturally curious, but that very curiosity can lead us to miss out on what is happening now, to miss out on Living Life in all in its fullness. This vision of living life to the full is central to the Church of England’s Vision for Education. The desire to make sure our young people are not so fixated on the future that they forget to live now, embracing every moment. Anxiety about the future, about qualifications, earning power and job prospects negatively affects about 20% of people, probably more in the wake of lock down. The curiosity and concern about the future becomes so overpowering that current life cannot be lived in its fullness. In the old Testament, at the time of Jeremiah the people of Israel were in exile, they had lost virtually everything and wanted to know if they had any sort of future. God reminds them that He has their future in His hands and that their future is one of prosperity and hope. He reminds them that they are not alone and the same is true of us. Curiosity is a good thing, to look forward, to learn and explore but not at the expense of living now. God wants us to live life in all it’s fullness now, each and every day, to take each experience and opportunity and allow God to bless us here and now, knowing He holds the future and it is safe in His hands.
20th July 2020
Titus 2:7 Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned.
All actions have consequences, basics physics tells us that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, or consequence. This called Newton’s third law of motion. SO, this means everything we do, everything we say has a consequence. A book called The Hinge Factor by Erik Durschmed, examines how world history has been altered by simple decisions and actions people have made. For example, the decision to listen to the British weather forecast and not the American one meant D Day happened on the 6th of June, not the 5th when it would have been wiped out by storms. All of our actions, thoughts and speech spread out and affect others and situations. Things around us are interconnected and once something is done or said things are set in motion. The consequences can be good or bad, if I don’t stop at a red light it is likely an accident will happen, If I don’t study for an exam it is likely I will fail, If I speak a lie it will grow and damage others as well as me, If I speak peace and love to someone they will have a much better day and life. We have to make choices and trust they are the best ones, but we can make sure they are the best decisions by learning, discipline, honesty, integrity, looking for the best in others. If we have good behaviour modelled to us then we have an example to follow. Jesus is our prime example, how He spoke, acted, behaved and the impact those things had on those around Him. Once we say something about someone else, we cannot take it back and it can have huge consequences. Even if we think what we say is a joke, or is said in jest, it could be the 4th, 5th, 12th time they have heard it and it can seriously hurt them, damage their self esteem and mental health. What we say and do matters and excuses to try and shake off our ill thought comments and actions will do little to repair the damage. When we pray and read the Bible regularly, we have an example to follow, we learn what is acceptable and helpful and what isn’t. We learn to live and behave like Jesus did and that will always allow the other to flourish because what we do and say, as Jesus would, cannot be condemned.
19th July 2020
Joel 2:28 I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young people shall see visions.
I wonder, would you call yourself creative or imaginative? Do you like to visualise what you read and hear, or do you prefer to see pictures? For most of us when we played games as children, we were the characters, we did the things they did, we imagined being there. Our imaginations allowed us to delve into other places, other worlds, other situations. Our imaginations can allow us to find a way through, even in difficult times. During the time of slavery, the African Americans would sing spiritual songs as they worked. These songs spoke of Christian faith, of God who was with them even in the harshness of slavery, of a future when things would be better. They gave imagination to a better future to look forward to, for those whose lives were awful at that time. People who have been imprisoned for their faith, such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King, Meriam Ibrahim all spoke of how when alone they remembered passages of scripture and imagined times when things would be better. They imagined the freedoms and joys of a world where all people were free to live as God intended. Joel speaks of vision, dreams and prophecy, an imagining of what will happen in the future. He uses things we understand, imagery we associate with change, with wonder, with the destruction of the bad and all bad being overcome with good. It was a vision or imagining of a better future, an encouragement to change life for the better. For us, our imaginations can picture a bright and good future, we can see what needs to change in our lives and in the world around us and then actively do something positive. We can securely base this all on the fact that God has done so much for us in the past and will continue to do the best for us in the future.
18th July 2020
Colossians 3:13 If one has a complaint against another, forgive each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
Most of us have heard Alexander Pope’s quote “To err is human, to forgive, Divine.” In His Essay on Criticism, Pope was saying that all people commit sins and make mistakes, God forgives them, and people are acting in a godlike or divine way when they forgive. God is a compassionate and forgiving God, He offers us gracious forgiveness, He is slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness and is willing to forgive all as long as they chose to admit their mistakes and be sorry. This forgiveness is a change in feelings and attitude towards someone. The need to let go of negative emotions, like revenge, and offer pardon and reconciliation so the relationship can be restored. Forgiveness does not mean that the consequences of our actions are taken away, any consequences still have to be faced up to and accepted. It is well documented that those who forgive are happier and healthier, tend to be less angry, less hurt and more optimistic as well as more compassionate, more self-confident and under a lot less stress. But those who carry resentment tend to be more aggressive, sad, down beat, suffer from depression, and carry a lot of stress. Forgiveness is divine, Pope says, because God is able to forgive us, and we can learn to forgive because we have been forgiven. As we are forgiven by God, we learn to forgive others. All of us make mistakes, no matter how good we think we are, we all make mistakes, it is human nature, but as God finds the ability to forgive us out of His amazing love for us, so we must forgive others out of that love and God will give us the help we need to do just that if we ask him.
17th July 2020
Romans 13:14 Clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Have you ever caught someone imitating you? Children are brilliant at it, especially when you are cross with them. Actually, we all learn through mimicking those around us. In our early years we watch our parents and siblings and do things they do, especially if they provoke a reaction. As we grow up, we learn and develop based on what goes on around us, if we see respect and care regularly we mirror that, if we see anger and aggression regularly we mirror that. We all need role models, people to look up to, who we respect and learn from. We, in turn, become role models for our own children and for those around us. It is so very easy to imitate the wrong things, to pick up bad habits that we see in others, particularly if they cause a reaction be it good or bad. We are told in Romans to imitate or put on or cloth ourselves in Jesus, in other words our best role model is Christ. If we are going to imitate anyone let us imitate Christ. We are made in the image of God and so much of ourselves becomes tainted by the ways of the world that we need to find our way back to being like Jesus. Paul tells us to put on Christ, to be like Him. The original meaning in Greek talks about taking on the ways of Christ like an actor would take on or inhabit a role, they would study their subject, live like them, act like them, speak like them and react like them. So, Paul is telling us to study Jesus, to live, act, speak and react as Jesus would. As we inhabit this role we become like Christ. So, our challenge is to look at ourselves, really see the bad habits and shed those in favour of putting on the good and right things. To always be like Christ in how we treat others, in being truthful, loving, caring, honest, by always looking for the best in others and putting others first.
16th July 2020
1 John 3:17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?
I love Space, the planets, the stars and their stories, it has excited me since childhood. Some time ago the thought struck me that we have the technology, the money and the brains to put people in space and yet right now people are starving in our world. Because of the satellites in space and the technology we can speak to someone thousands of miles away by phone as clearly as they are next to us, but children are dying because they cannot access clean water. People are dying across the world from diseases we can actually treat and cure. Here in the UK more children now live in poverty than since the Victorian era, about 1 in 5 of the population. Instead of there being less foodbanks than 5 years ago there are more and more. Across the world 3 billion, just under half the population live on less that £2 a day and of that 3 billion about half again live on less than £1 a day. In our world, today, at least 23 thousand children will die because of the basic lack of food and water. We need reminding how important it is to care for others, to help, to do what we can for those in need. We are clearly told in the Bible that every time we ignore those in need, we are saying that we do not care, that our fellow human beings are not Important to us, that we have no compassion, empathy and love. Being caring, loving people is not about words but actions. It is what we do that will change things. So, what can we do? Food banks are crying out for donations, children just get 1 treat in a week’s parcel if there are enough given. Ask yourself what you can give and give it. There are charities making sure children get an education, that girls of 12 are not married off to older men, that children don’t starve to death or die from simple illnesses. Ask yourself what you can do and do it. Out of our abundance we can help others. Out of our abundance we can give enough to change lives for the better. This is exactly what Jesus calls us to do, to love our neighbour as ourselves whoever they may be. To see our brother or sister in need and do something about it.
15th July 2020
Matthew 7:1 Do not judge others, for you will be judged in the same way.
In recent weeks we have all had cause to examine our prejudices. All of us have unconscious bias in our lives because of our background, our culture, our upbringing and many other outside agencies. We are fed stories and ideas that build up into a picture of certain things being acceptable or unacceptable and we are swayed by news reports, media platforms and advertising. If you seriously ask yourself what are your prejudices what would you say? Have your opinions changed in the last few weeks or months because of what you have seen and heard, what you have witnessed? The experiences of our lives will affect how we look at others. If we have struggled with certain things, we may well be suspicious of those who don’t struggle, and this can easily present us with a scenario which justifies our suspicions. We need to ask ourselves if we are willing to listen to both sides of any situation and not just blindly criticise what people do without finding out why. Peaceful protesting is a legitimate form of raising the profile of an issue, we need to remember that we only have the vote because of people protesting, that certain political decisions which severely damage people’s rights have been overturned by protesting. Peaceful protesting tends to occur because people will not listen to the usual channels. How long have issues been complained about through letters, votes, meetings and never get any traction or recognition or change, this is why people protest. If papers won’t carry the terrible stories of fraud, racism, poverty and injustice and MP’s won’t reply to letters or be willing to speak up on our behalf, there needs to be a way of challenging the status quo of making those in power listen, take note and be prompted into action but it is so much easier to let things be than make a stand, it always has been. The Disciples were people who once they had been energised and emboldened by Jesus Teaching and then by the coming of the Holy Spirit, began to make those stands against prejudice, against injustice, against poverty and the use of power for personal gains. As we examine our own prejudices, we must also examine our willingness to make a stand, to be energised and emboldened by the Holy Spirit and make our locality, our town, work place and our country a place where prejudice is eradicated and replaced with honesty and love of the other which allows us all to flourish.
14th July 2020
Philippians 4:7 The peace of God ... will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
How easy do you find it to sleep and sleep well? Many people tell me that sleeplessness is an issue in their lives and it is due to worry and concern often over issues they have no control over. The very famous singer, Frank Sinatra, was prone to sleepless nights and was always chasing something to get him through. The man who seemed to have it all, who had huge fame and fortune and sang, "I did it my way," was unable to sleep, because even in doing it all his own way it did not give him peace of mind. He is not the only one. Millions of people, both rich and poor, powerful and vulnerable, from every walk of life, go through their life without God's gift of peace. One of the biggest problems in society is sleep deprivation caused by worry and concern. Some people search endlessly to find a peace, peace of heart and peace of mind, and never find it. Others will try almost everything imaginable, including medication, hypnosis, drink and soundtracks without success. No amount of alcohol or pills can help us obtain peace or relief from the worries in our lives. No quantity of fame or pleasure can guarantee it. No huge amount of money can buy it. Only God himself can give peace. In Philippians 4:7 Paul tells us where and how to find this peace. It comes only when we know the Lord Jesus Christ and have a personal relationship with him. Paul speaks about peace a great deal in his letters and tells us that when we commit ourselves to Him, to His ways then that peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. God's gift of peace is available to everyone just by asking, by turning our life over to the Lord Jesus Christ and believing in him as our Saviour. A peace that will guard our hearts and minds. Peace comes as we commit to living our lives for God each day and ask for the Holy Spirit's help and presence. Once we do this and let God deal with us and our worries and problems, we have the promise that the peace of God will flood and protect our hearts and minds. Let me encourage you to not go another day or night without God’s peace in your life.
13th July 2020
1 Peter 5:7 Cast your cares on the Lord, for He cares for you.
So, how are you? How are you feeling right now? Life has some normality returning but is still quite different. Not seeing those we love for such a long time and not being able to express ourselves through closeness and touch. We have experienced a roller coaster of emotion and we are still hurting, worried, upset, fed up and probably quite angry. If we are honest, we are not ourselves, not the same now, we have been through a lot and are probably now the 3rd or 4th version of ourselves. In the midst of this comes a voice that says cast your cares on the Lord, on me says God, because I care about you. To cast is to get rid of, not politely put down but throw it, hard, away from you as a fisherman does when they cast out their line. This is an act of will, we must want to do it, to throw off all that holds us up and drags us down. So, all our cares and worries, our anger and sadness, our hurt and confusion need to be cast onto God, our Father. God is ready, willing and able to take the load, but we must want to cast it off, to offload it to Him. Why does God do this? Because, we are quite clearly told, He cares for us. God has never left humans to it, He has always been ready to look after us and provide for us because He created us and loves us more than anything else. He never stops loving us and sent Jesus to die for us so we could be restored to God’s perfect creation of us. We are offered everything, but we have to make the choice, God will never force us. True love never forces itself on anyone. We have to make the choice to cast our cares onto God, He waits, ready, eager and willing. He stands with us, behind and in front of us, supporting us, protecting us, but we must make the choice. However you are feeling right now cast your cares on the Lord because He cares for you and is right there waiting for you to cast it all onto Him.
12th July 2020
Hebrews 12:1a We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.
One of my greatest discoveries in the Church of England tradition was saints. I had heard of the 4 patron saints of the UK but not much else, of course the 4 Gospels were each a Saint but beyond that I had no idea that were so many. In the early church Saints grew up in local areas, people who had done amazing things in God’s name. They were associated with miracles and in their locality, they were given a day of their own which was celebrated. Very quickly there were saints’ days happening all over the place for saints living and dead and it got tied into remembering all those gone before. It was all rather disorganised, and the church, as it became more centralised, needed to get itself organised. The remembering of so many became a festival over 2 days. The first, All Saints, a day when every saint is remembered so none are forgotten and all are honoured, and All Souls, a day when all our loved one who have dies are remembered. All Saints in old English is All Hallows, meaning holy, sanctified and as such becomes a day of obligation which then has a day of preparation called All Hallows Eve, over the years this shortened and became Halloween. This coming around the same time as a day remembering the dead meant It began to be identified with spirits and mischief and a pagan festival of that time where one night a year the walls between earth and the spirit world were thin and spirits could move through both ways. For us, as Christians, this time of All Saints allows us the opportunity to recognise what it means to be a saint. Lives of people like, Francis, Augustine, Teresa, Hilda, ordinary folk called by God who lived for God, were vulnerable, imperfect, frugal, and lived in the service of others. We think they were special, and they were but no more special than we are. Every Christian is a Saint, called by God to serve Him. We may not have a Special Day marked in a Calendar, but we are Saints of God in our homes, communities and workplaces who serve God the best way we can.
11th July 2020
Mark 14:38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.
If I asked you when you were last tempted what would you say? We use the phrase regularly, that’s very tempting or I am really tempted to do that. When we are tempted and give in we often play the blame game, it is someone else’s fault, exactly what happened in Genesis, Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the Serpent and the serpent didn’t have a leg to stand on! They did not accept responsibility or apologise to God, just blamed each other and we have been doing the same ever since. It is a battle between honesty and truth verses dishonesty and lies, and the lies just keep getting bigger as we try to cover our tracks and not appear to be the dishonest folk we often are. When Jesus was tempted in the desert he immediately used the scriptures to stand against the temptation, exactly what we can do, but of course we do need to know what the scripture says. Reading and knowing our Bibles is really important. We have been given the 10 Commandments which clearly offer us a right way to live and behave. These show us that lying, stealing, idolising, mistreating parents ,murder, adultery, not having a rest day, etc are all wrong and so if we are tempted to do any of things we know it is wrong, no ifs or buts, no excuses so, we do not do it! We are told our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit, places of holiness and worship so should not be involved in anything damaging or wrong. Jesus paid His taxes for the common good, so should we. We are also told to take the log out of our own eye before trying to take the splinter out of anyone else’s. Look at ourselves first, don't be so quick to judge others. We see Jesus tell accusers that only those without sin can cast the first stone in judgement of others. We are so good at looking at everyone else and criticising them and their faults that we neatly and conveniently forget our own. We like to gloss over our temptations and failings, blame someone or something else when all we should be is honest with God and each other from the word go.
10th July 2020
Matthew 28:18 All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
The Great Commission comes at the end of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus sends the disciples out and also us. This calling is based on 4 uses of the word all. To start with it is All Authority, given to Jesus, the Son of God, the Lord of All. Jesus is both human and God, creator, healer, sustainer, the one who has defeated death, ascended into Heaven, and as such has All Authority in Heaven and Earth. Next is All Nations, this means that absolutely everyone is included, God is to be reconciled to the whole wide world, that is His purpose. The calling to be disciples no longer is just to the 12, now it is for everyone. The call is for everyone to live out His teaching, to change and make a difference. Thirdly, we have All I have Commanded you, in other words we follow His way, His life, His teaching, His action and His belief. As Christians we are called to live as Christ lived, to follow the teaching recorded in the Bible. Our faith and our behaviour should be in and of Christ. He shows us God and we show others God through following His ways, All His commands. Finally, we have Always, He is with us at all times, He promises to never leave us. Jesus is an abiding presence with us and we never have to face anything on our own. This Great Commission, the 4 Alls, is a sending out of all of us to everyone by God Himself, through Jesus, to share what we have with others, so that they can have what we have; and we go out to do this in His authority with Him on our side, every minute of every day.
9th July 2020
Proverbs 8:13 To fear the Lord, to love the Lord, is to hate evil.
I personally do not like the word hate but the Bible says that there are things God hates. So, is it alright to hate? Our instinctive response may be to say, "No! That's never OK!" But it must be okay to hate some things if we are to be God's people. An example would be that we should completely and utterly hate racism, not only when we see it in others, but especially when we see even the slightest evidence of it in ourselves. We cannot transform racism; the only way to deal with it is to do away with it! We should also hate crime and murder and poverty and injustice. And then there is pride, greed, envy, gluttony, anger, lust, and sloth, these are not called the seven deadly sins for nothing! Strangely enough love and hate are not just antitheses, but it is our love of God that means we hate the awful things that tear people apart. Jonathan Edwards writes "From love arises hatred of those things which are contrary to love or which oppose and frustrate us in those things in which we delight." Our love of God and the incredible love He has for us prompts the emotions we experience when we see terrible events, when we watch inhumane and abhorrent acts against others. From this deep love will come an intense hatred and revulsion of wickedness; a realisation of just how far society has sunk in its treatment of the poor, the vulnerable, the disabled, those of a different race or colour skin. We begin to realise how deeply God is distressed and profoundly hurt by the actions and words of those He loves so much, us. Our desire to serve God, and bring everyone into that loving relationship with Him, means we have a hatred of all that robs another of dignity, security, meaning, purposefulness, hope, and health. This hatred is accompanied by a deep desire to do something about it! Paul talks of this in Romans chapter 12 where he speaks of hating what is evil; and clinging to what is good. It is okay to hate that which is evil and wrong, that which hurts others, that which dishonours God. The question we need to ask ourselves is whether we love God enough to want to do something about these things that we hate.
8th July 2020
Acts 17:22 Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious.
In Acts 17 we read of an intriguing encounter Paul has with some spiritual explorers. Picture St. Paul walking through the world renown city of Athens. As he walks, he cannot help but notice the many religious statues and altars the people have built around them. He sees copious evidence of false religions and superficial spirituality. He does not find any evidence of real worship of the one true God. You might think Paul would be downhearted, but no, instead Paul grasps a great mission opportunity. Like Paul, instead of succumbing to the darkness around us, we need to be bearers of God’s light in this world. Our daily encounters with unbelievers should prompt us to look for opportunities to share God’s love with them. We achieve this by finding common ground and establishing points of contact. That’s just what Paul did. To the philosophers on Mars Hill (the Areopagus) he said, “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious.” Instead of ridiculing their spiritual ignorance or judging their traditions, Paul compliments them on their spiritual desires. He builds a bridge that connects with them and their experiences. He places God into their lives and situations. Paul also speaks their language. He refers to their altar to an unknown God and quotes their own poets to them. He shows he is informed and engaged in their culture. He builds a bridge, a common way, and uses it to put across the message and love of Jesus. Paul delivers the gospel in a way that those around him can understand. This approach is still the most effective today. Find the common ground, have respect for and knowledge of people’s interests and ideas, build a bridge that allows communication and understanding, show that you care and are interested in them for who they are, as the bridge is built the opportunities will come.
7th July 2020
Philippians 2:20 I have no other friend like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare.
Many of us have been and still are in a time of emotional discouragement and distress and need some encouragement to keep going. Perhaps we feel like a spiritual orphan, rather lost and alone, feeling uncertain and in need of some assurance. Sometimes we need a voice of hope as we mourn the loss of so much of life as we knew it, as we come to terms with untimely physical loss, job loss and the loss of usual social interaction. In these difficult times, true friends are essential. A true friend is one who is ready to help, comfort, and stand by another, especially in times of hardship. A true friend will not have forgotten about you and found ways to keep in contact. A true friend is also perceptive and will ask the hard questions, face out the dishonesty, and demands the truth. Ultimately, this kind of honest friendship can be the best time of growth for encouragement, assurance, and hope within us. This is what St. Paul saw and experienced in two of his friends that we read about. Timothy was a friend who was like a son to Paul as they worked together in sharing the gospel of Christ, and Epaphroditus was like a brother, serving as a companion and workmate in the work of Christ. Paul welcomed these friends with joy because they shared a genuine interest in the well-being of others through their love of God and the gospel of Christ. These are true friends, those who serve with and alongside and speak the truth and love of God into our lives. We are given the blessing of friends as we make life’s journey, and, we also, and most importantly, have the completely dependable friend of all in Jesus. As the friend of sinners, Jesus is always ready to help, comfort, and stand by those who turn to him. His help is always heartening, His comfort is reassuring, His love is never wavering, and his presence is the foundation of hope. As we trust in Jesus the book of James reminds us that we can be called God’s friends; what an honour and blessing that is. As we thank God for the friends He has given us, may we be true friends who help, comfort, and stand by each other, just as He has done with us.
6th July 2020
Luke 16:23 In Hades, where the rich man was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.
The concept of Hell is not one people think about much these days. We use the term hell to refer to really difficult times and going through awful things, so we do still link hell to evil and badness. Dante s inferno, a fourteenth century classic poem, has the phrase Abandon hope all ye who enter here! Inferno is Italian for hell and it is supposedly a Divine Comedy written by Italian Dante Alighieri. Hell, for Dante, was a series of circles or areas a person moves through depending on how they have acted during their life but once in Hell there is no hope. This tied into the Bible story of the rich man and Lazarus, teaching about Hell and about charity. The poor man, treated so awfully in life, spends eternity in Abraham’s Bosom, a term used for Heaven. The rich man ends up in hell. In the Jewish Old Testament life was important in the here and now, life after death was not a prevalent teaching and they did not measure their life in terms of good and bad; what mattered was now, money, power, wealth and so on. In Jesus time there was a rubbish tip outside the city where all rubbish was dumped and it was permanently on fire, it was called Gehenna, a constant fire which burnt and scorched whatever was thrown into it. This fire was used as a pictorial representation of hell, a place where fire constantly burnt and scorched at those who ended up there, an eternal punishment and a painful one at that. Revelation speaks of the Lake of Fire, or second death in a fiery pit of Sulphur where a person will be judged by their actions. Jesus teaches in the sheep and goats parable that there will be a judgement, a separation of those who have done good with their lives and live for others and those who have been selfish and lived purely for themselves. Jesus refers to Hades, the Greek concept of hell, the underworld, an unpleasant place of pain and punishment, ruled by Hades himself, and the people of the time knew and understood this concept. This whole picture presents to us a place where there is eternal punishment as well as a place where there is eternal blessing and reward. This Lake of fire, Gehenna, is constantly burning, those who find themselves there are in writhing agony, it is the rubbish tip for those who turn their back on justice, fairness, equality, and love in favour of injustice, power, wealth and domination of others. Whether we believe in a literal hell or not, there is definitely something very important in our treatment of others and what our future life beyond death will be. It is not a pleasant picture, but it is a challenging one and one we would do well to think about and adjust our lives accordingly.
5th July 2020
Psalm 33:6 By the Word of the Lord were the Heavens made, their starry host by the breath of His mouth.
I wonder if you have ever watched The Big Bang Theory, a comedy about an odd bunch of physicists and their lives. The opening credits talk about the universe beginning at a single point, hence the Big Bang in the title. This view actually tallies with Scripture, it does not disprove it as many seem to think. We believe that God created the earth and the heavens ex nihilo which is Latin and means out of nothing. The universe had a beginning, that beginning or Big bang had to have a cause, that cause we call God. Empirical science says that whatever begins to exist must have a cause that is equal to, or greater than, itself. So, the Big Bang theory actually supports the Biblical story of creation, not denies it. The universe was not, scientifically speaking, an uncaused event, something caused it, often called first cause. The Big Bang, a term used for creation by those who would like to dispel creation as a myth, actually answers questions concerning the origin of the space, time continuum. Indeed, the cause of all space, time, matter, and energy must be nonspatial, nontemporal, immaterial, and unfathomably powerful and personal. Sounds like God! I just love watching Brian Cox speak about time and space, planets and the universe and he has given many talks on how it all came into being, he too, stands with some initial cause, this cause we call God. Cox shows that science and physics can’t explain the origins of life, while others would dismiss it as some kind of freak chemical accident. I find it interesting that the Particle accelerator or Hadron Collider is looking for the God Particle, what actually caused the Big Bang or creation, even they call it the God particle, as a deliberate link to the Bible and the incredible, amazing, intricate, structural beauty of the universe. It seems the more science and religion are promoted as enemies the more actually happens to show how they sit together and compliment each other.
4th July 2020
2 Samuel 7:18 Then David the king went and sat before the LORD; and said, Who am I, O Lord GOD, and what is my house, that You have brought me this far?
Abraham Lincoln pondered that he could understand how a person could look at our world with all its problems and impurities and be an atheist. What he could not fathom was how anyone could look at the heavens, the galaxies and stars and think there was no God. I have always loved the stars and spent many a dark night looking at the constellations from my bedroom window and plotting the movements of the plough across the sky as the seasons changed. I loved the stories of the constellations learning them as a child and I would love to spot Orion, Andromeda, Ursa Major and Minor in the night sky. Do we not wonder why God created so many galaxies and planets, stars and nebula that for centuries generations never saw, or even new existed? So many that we can’t even see them all with our huge telescopes and incredible knowledge of the universe. A conservative estimate is of 350,000,000,000,000 stars at least. So why? Because it shows God is unfathomable and far too big to comprehend and perhaps it reminds us to say Who do I think I am that God loves me and cares for me. Yet in the middle of this huge and unfathomable universe God choses us as His special ones. God created us and gave us a beautiful planet which would provide us with everything we have ever needed and more to be our home and gave us the role of stewards to care for it and live along side God in worship and praise. It is us in our selfishness who created a world no longer in balance or in harmony and so badly damaged by our selfishness. Even now, in the midst of the mess we have made our unfathomable God still does not forsake us but rather does everything to bring us back to Him. His love never fails, His heart though broken, never stops caring for us. We are offered so much every day, even though we do not deserve it. He has given the endless universes, the uncountable stars and such beauty born out of love Just for us.
3rd July 2020
Genesis 2:7 Then the LORD God (Yahweh) formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into Adams nostrils, and he became a living person.
In the Old Testament the name for God is Yahweh, for the Jews God’s name is unspeakable because it is God, so the vowels are left out when it is written giving us Yhwh a Tetragrammaton and it is replaced by terms such as Adonai, meaning My Lord or Elohim meaning God. God, for the Jews, was and still is kept mysterious, the “I am who I am” identity given to Moses at the burning bush. This name Yahweh was breathed, God’s breath, because the sound of inhalation is Yah, the sound of exhalation is weh. Yahweh. The first thing we did was breathe; the last thing we will do is breathe. We breathe constantly, in and out, without realising, throughout our lives, it is life to us. The very name of God is in our breathing, Yah in, weh out, the very name of God is on our lips, is on everyone’s lips even if they do not realise it. There is no Christian, Jewish, Muslim or Buddhist way of breathing, no Catholic, Evangelical, Pentecostal or Reform way of breathing, there is no rich, poor, male or female way of breathing, there is no black or white way of breathing, all human beings breathe the same. All humans have God on their lips from birth to death, from creation to the end. God is in all people and in the breath of all people, Yah in, weh out. We all breath God every moment of every day. Of course for so many they don’t ever realise they are God’s creation, full of God’s breath and they fight from birth to death to prove they make their own life, their own breath and that somehow their breath is of their own design but as we are reminded; can any of us add a day to our lives through worry, knowledge, money, importance? No! God breathed into Adam and Eve and that life breath became our life breath, in, out, day after day. Yah weh, Yah weh, Yah weh.
2nd July 2020
Ephesians 2:10 For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us.
The word Gospel means good news, for us the four gospels give us the good news, they bring Jesus to life for us. Matthew is a Jewish evangelist, for Him Jesus Christ is the fulfilment of prophecy, He is expected! Matthew is a traditionalist, in His first chapter the genealogy places Jesus within a certain time and place, foretold and fulfilled, a fresh expression for His time. As the centuries have progressed each generation proclaims the story of Jesus, the good news, afresh. We learn new stories and understandings from those who have gone before and these we share with others in a way that is relevant and appropriate for the time in which we live. We too have our genealogy, our “Who do you think you are” moments, our parents and grandparents, home, education, family, church tradition, events and influences in our lives; how we deal with them and how we have dealt with them in the past makes us who we are today. Our rebellion, our mistakes, the events we regret, as well as all the good things and treasures of our lives, they all make us who and what we are. Maturity comes with accepting our roots, our past and accepting ourselves as we are. Contemplation of who we are and where we have come from is necessary to move forward as it runs alongside our life in the present moment. We, like Matthew, need to contemplate our genealogies, our traditions and use them to know who we are and who we have the potential to become as we are created anew in Christ Jesus. That potential is unlocked as we let go of our roughhewn self with its sharp points and angles, its dull and broken edges, its ugly harshness and allow God to work with us and create a beautiful, honed, complete, and priceless child of God; chosen and loved beyond all else. May we let God meet us anew in every generation, let Him welcome us and prepare us to be His crowning glory.
1st July 2020
Romans 13: 12 Let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light…
St Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430) is an important character in Christian history. His writings influenced the development of Western philosophy and Western Christianity, and he is viewed as one of the most important Church Fathers of the Latin Church. He is quoted regularly and is responsible for many of our ideas and traditions. He grew up in North Africa and his mother was a Christian who prayed vehemently for him to find Jesus, but his journey to belief in Christ took a lot of detours. Augustine was gifted with a brilliant mind; he explored and followed several religions and philosophies and used his knowledge in teaching students. He did rather enjoy sensual pleasures and lived a hedonistic lifestyle with a lover for many years. He was finally drawn back to the church by powerful preaching and came to grips with his sin. At the age of 32, he was in a friend’s garden shedding tears over the guilt he felt deep within his soul. His friend had opened the Bible and was trying to explain the gospel to him. Augustine began to walk away but heard the sound of a child’s voice, seemingly from somewhere near repeating “take the Bible and read” “take the Bible and read.” He picked up the Bible, and his eyes fell on Romans 13:11-14. Augustine later said “I had no wish to read more and no need to do so… It was as though the light of faith flooded into my heart and all the darkness of doubt was dispelled.” God later called Augustine to become an outstanding pastor, teacher, and writer in the Christian church. He wasn’t perfect, none of us are, but He did what God asked of Him and in doing so brought the light he had found into the dark lives of many others. Are you wondering about what truth is? Are you stumbling around in the dark and wondering about God? Why not take up the Bible and read, just as Augustine did, asking God to reveal himself to you, because He will.
30th June 2020
Luke 15: 9 Rejoice with me; I have found what was lost.
Have you ever been lost? Or perhaps lost your young child in a supermarket or on a busy street? It can be very frightening, not knowing where you are or where someone you love is who cannot look after themselves. If we lose things, we usually search high and low to find them, if we are lost, we hope someone will look and look until they find us. Stories in the Bible about being lost speak to completeness, the need to find anyone or anything that is lost because it is valuable and must be found. Jesus parables about lost sheep and coins and sons illustrate to us the value God places on us all as lost souls; the willingness of God to search us out, to keep looking and not give up. It also shows us the Joy God has when we are found. It is cause for huge celebration. Whatever our views on Christianity and faith may be, one thing is abundantly clear, Jesus was sent by God to die, defeat death and rise again to save us. God sent Jesus to seek out and save the lost and then even if we are found there are still many others who still need to be found. The story does not end with us, as we are found we become those who share what we have with others that they too may be found. It is very easy to think that once we are found we should hide away, bring up the drawbridge and not risk getting lost again. We would much rather God spent His time on us, looking after just us and not looking for others. We feel like we deserve to monopolise God and can become quite selfish with our faith. BUT, quite simply the most important job of anyone who has found their saviour in Jesus is to tell everyone else and share God’s love for them, with them. Everyone who is lost deserves to be found, every human deserves to find and know God for themselves. We are, in many cases, the only opportunity our friends, family, neighbours and colleagues may ever have to find Jesus. We need to be out there, speaking about our faith, about God, but even more than that we should be setting an example, showing people just how much God loves them by what we do and how we act as Christians in our community.
29th June 2020
John 14:2 In my Father’s house there are many Mansions; I am going there to prepare a place for you?
When I was young someone told me that thunder was God and His angels moving the furniture round in Heaven. I never questioned why there was furniture in Heaven but as I became a Christian and then a priest and I read john 14 about preparing a mansion for us it sort of made sense. There are plenty of people who tell me I am theologically wrong but actually our minds process things as we understand them. We aren’t going to have bodies like we have now, but we will still have our essence, our spirit or soul that makes us who we are. So, in our understanding we need a place to live, to be ourselves, a place that will reflect who we are. When John talks of many mansions, why not? Why not gardens and flowers, music, kitchens, tea and cake, hobby rooms etc. I find this brings huge comfort to grieving families and actually it brings huge comfort to me. I like the idea of finally living in a mansion with many rooms. I like the idea of freedom to be me with those I love. Why shouldn’t we be with our spouse or partner, our parents and grandparents, all those we love, because those relationships are crucial to who we are. I know for certain that we are promised no more pain, no more sadness, no more problems, so life as it will be in Heaven will be perfect, just as was intended for us when we were created. If my theology is not quite as academic and grounded as some I don’t think God minds at all because what is important is that we have promises of better times, of wholeness and healing, perfection, pain free and wonderful all in our mansion of many rooms prepared for us by Jesus our Saviour; who has gone before us and has always wanted only the very best for us. So next time you hear thunder, perhaps God is moving the furniture around for one of your loved ones who has gone to be with our Lord in their mansion with many rooms.
28th June 2020
1 Chronicles 29:49 For all things come from You, and from Your own do we give You.
We often use the word content about our lives and whether we are happy with our lives. If I asked you how content you are with what you have? What would you tell me? Are you content or do you want more? Cleverly the word greed has been legitimised by calling it ambition. The Bible calls us out on our behaviour, challenging us about whether we make everything about ourselves or realise that it is about everyone of God’s children and the part we play in that. What can I do? is the question we should be asking God each day. What can I say, do, share, help with? What can I do to share the wealth I have with others and not try to grasp more and more? We are wealthy, we may not see it like that, but we are. Where do we position ourselves? How do we see ourselves? Are we top table types or middle income or at the bottom, surely not? I deserve more, I am worth more, I expect more, Why? What makes you or I deserve the best at the cost of others? We need to ask ourselves the question, Do I do things in expectation of what I will receive? I give, they give, invite me, I invite you, networking, back scratching etc. We are called to honour others, to seek human flourishing not to pretend to be humble and giving like Uriah Heap in David Copperfield. We are called to do things out of love while society teaches us to ask what we can get out of every situation. We are called to ask what can I give in every situation. How can we help others? This should always be our question. The love we are called to have cares about the other, offers a deep friendship and it is shown by what we do and not what we say. The early church taught Christians to be the friend of strangers, to help others, to care for all and held family and marriage as high principles. Our human nature always seeks for a bit more, a bigger house, car, just one more pair of shoes, the newest phone and computer, we never quite have enough, we are never quite content. God is the foundation for contentment, humbleness in God that understands that all that we have is God’s and all that we give to others is already belonging to God. We are stewards of all we are given by God, and we are called to honest humble living, which is not easy, but is our calling. We give because God freely gives to us. We do not deserve but yet He gives, we are not entitled but our God gives abundantly and out of that abundance we should humbly and freely give.
27th June 2020
Luke 3:11 He said to them, If you have two coats, give one to the person who has none; if you have more food, give to the person who has none.
If you think back, who was it that taught you how to live, right from wrong, good manners and so on. Most of us would probably say our parents, teachers maybe, or family friends. We are brought up with certain codes on how we live so that everyone is kept safe and looked after, as far as is possible. These codes for living come originally from the Bible, from God to create a fair world. All young people’s groups like scouts and brownies have a promise they make which includes some form of doing their best, doing duty, helping others, being a good citizen, kind and helpful. These things help us to understand their needs to be a consensus of behaviour in order for the community, the town, city, country and even the world needs to look after each other’s needs as well as their own. If we all behaved unselfishly then there would be enough food in the world for everyone and no one would go hungry. If we were all less greedy and shared out of our abundance, we would not need to collect food for others or have foodbanks, and yet the usage of foodbanks has increased exponentially in recent months. In fairness some folk have been even more generous during this time and have made food for others in their need. It is an inditement on a wealthy country who prides itself on family values and high morals has huge numbers of people going hungry, unable to feed themselves and their families, unable to have basic needs met because they have no money. It was wonderful to hear that the government finally agreed to food vouchers for children in the poorest families during the summer break but I have to ask the question why is that even needed in the UK in 2020? Why are children needing free meals? Why are we still seeing children across the world dying from malnutrition and drinking dirty water? Why are we seeing people dying and suffering from basic diseases we learnt how to control 50 years ago? It is because of greed. We give ourselves and our leaders permission to have as much as we can get because it is a status symbol. We have worked hard, and this is our reward. We can so easily turn a blind eye to the dying on the other side of the world and blame governments and people for not being like us. We even turn a blind eye in our country because that is easier than paying a little more tax, or insisting governments help the poor and needy so they can rise out of the poverty trap. Our community upbringing, based on biblical principles of sharing, giving to the poor, treating people equally and fairly should have eradicated these issues long ago but the greed, justified as ambition, has become the greater motivator to our lives. Me first, then others if I have enough, trouble is we never have enough, we want more, and so others never get enough help and the circle continues. Before God we need to examine ourselves, our attitudes and begin to put others first alongside challenging others and our government to do the same.
26th June 2020
Genesis 2:18 The LORD God said, It is not good for humans to be alone.
For those who live with conditions like Autism they are used to keeping distance, they struggle with other people being in their personal space. For most of us we do not give it a second thought. We shake hands, hug, kiss, stand and sit very near to people without a thought. Suddenly most of us were thrown into a position where we could not see people apart from on Zoom, or through glass. Even now we are required to keep our distance, two meters preferably, even as lockdown eases and with a mask where possible. It is so difficult as people struggle to hear at two meters, naturally lean toward us, we and others want to offer care, sympathy and help, people just want to be closer, not staying away or apart. This is because we were created as naturally social creatures. We are part of families, we live in communities, villages and towns both for safety but also for that social interaction. Communities grow up around common interests and ideas, people meet with people who are similar minded because they like to talk about common interests. We need to communicate with others, as much as there are some folk we could with a break from right now because we have been with them in lockdown, we still need to be with others. It is not good for any of us to be alone. For some the loneliness of the past months is presenting real mental health issues because there has been no real interaction or conversation. Solitary confinement is used as a severe punishment for a reason, no contact with anyone for a period of time causes mental issues, break downs, psychosis. People are eager and need to get out and be “normal” because they crave human contact, human interaction, God made us that way! It is good to see people, talk to them; in our gardens and open spaces is a great place to start. God gave us social places, social feelings and needs and we must engage with those. Do try to see folk, talk to them, use the phone, go in the garden, talk across the fence or in the front garden. Keep the rules so as to keep everyone safe but don’t let anyone be alone as it is good for everyone and society if we have people to be in community with.
25th June 2020
Matthew 13:45 The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
Most of us have, at some time or another, planted a flag in a treasure map at a fete or gone on a treasure hunt of some kind. We grow up with ideas of pirate treasure and X marks the spot. Buried treasure has a charm about it, stories told of realising a fortune by a discovery of buried treasure. Treasure maps, Treasure Island. It makes us a little excited and we would love to be the one to discover a treasure. We have things in our lives that we value, that are treasures to us. We may at some point in our lives find something so valuable and wonderful that we are prepared to give up everything to have it. The story of the Pearl of great price is about this longing, this willingness to give up everything for something that is so important to us. For the Christian it is our faith in Jesus that should be this valuable for us. Jesus is our treasure, our pearl of great price that we should be willing to give up everything for. If we are willing to give up everything for our treasure, then it should make a difference to our lives. If we have given everything to be with Christ, then our lives should reflect that. We should be willing to do everything not only to be part of Jesus family but to promote Jesus to the world, to share what we have found with others. As we find our find our treasure, surprisingly, we should be doing everything to give it away to others. What we have in Jesus is so amazing, so incredible that we must not keep it for our selves but pass it on. Of course the metaphor of treasure means keeping it hidden, locked in a strong box, buried, to keep it safe. We cannot do that with our faith, with Jesus. As a Christian we cannot bury our faith or lock it away, it has to permeate our lives, be part of each decision we make, affect how we act and react. You can’t keep faith hidden because if it is hidden away no one will know about Jesus and what He has done for everyone. We have found our treasure, we have our map to guide us in the Bible and we have given up all to be part of the story, now we must open the box and share it with everyone so they too can find the treasure they have been looking for and pass it once more.
24th June 2020
Matthew 21:13 My house is a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.
There are days or events that really make us question the behaviour of humanity. We see things happen and hear of terrible things and we realise just how much people have turned away from God. The world is full of sin, of hatred, depravity and the only answer is for this sin to be washed away. In the gospels we find an answer, they use the words of Isaiah to explain that Jesus is the answer. Jesus is recognised as the king, the Lord, The Son of David in the City of Jerusalem which is in turmoil. Jesus understanding of the wickedness and sin of the people finds a perfect illustration in the Temple courts where religious practices have been turned into money making schemes and people are being led astray by the very people who should be living lives of honesty and integrity. The religious people of the time do not recognise Jesus, it is the ordinary folk who see Him for who He is. The religious leaders who should have been expecting Him, who knew the prophecies, were so wrapped up in money and power they were blinded to Jesus, Messiah, Son of God. Our recognition of Jesus is very much dependent on our priorities, what and who we put first in our lives. To me or you, to those around us who is Jesus? Is He a friend, a saviour, a Lord or perhaps an annoyance, or an irrelevance? In a society that treats the vulnerable so poorly Jesus is just seen as a story we tell at Christmas, a person in history, for some just another religion for those who need something to believe in. It is very easy to push Jesus aside as an irrelevance, to think He and His sacrifice are not relevant today. It is even possible to make Jesus an irrelevance in the church. He should be the centre of our worship and yet is often pushed to the side by tradition, practice, events and personalities. The answer to the problem of sin is Jesus. Life lived in a loving caring way, that allows the other to flourish, to seek the best for everyone and always puts the other first. We are told that one day Jesus will return, and the perfect world of God’s original creation will come. Our choice is whether we want to be part of the current world in all it’s sin or part of the new Heaven and Earth of God? We still live here on this planet, we are in this world, but we do not have to be a part of the sin and wickedness, we do not need to be part of the den of robbers or thieves. Instead we can be signposts, examples of God’s love, of the way things can be if we only live better, live as Children of God, as people of prayer, live as His family on Earth.
23rd June 2020
Matthew 11:28 Come to me all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
These last months of lockdown have shown me a different type of tiredness. Instead of the usual physical stresses it has been much more mental and cerebral. It is easy to get caught up working to justify one’s existence in a culture where the world wears busyness as a badge of honour, to be well thought of, to make sure no one thinks we are being lazy and not working hard. The press has carried many stories about teachers doing nothing when in fact they have been working longer hours than before to keep students up with work. Stories of people not wanting to return to work because of laziness instead of the fact that many are shielding or caring for those who are at risk. It is easy to believe that being in lockdown has meant plenty of rest, but routines have been changed, people are doing far more tasks whilst working from home, sleep patterns interrupted and a different type of tiredness and fatigue has descended. It is so easy to judge others in an attempt to make ourselves feel better, to jump to conclusions about other people’s motives, to criticise people for needing to rest and take a break. For many of us the last months have meant working every day, no day off, working far more than the usual 8 hours or so and being expected to attend endless computer meetings which really strain the eyes and mind, adding to further stress. Rest is vital to our continued affective functioning. We need to be able to shut off, to not have to write or answer a barrage of emails, to not answer our phone whenever it rings, even in the middle of the night because someone else is working late. It is not laziness to rest, to relax and take time for ourselves and families. It is necessary for our bodies to recharge and recuperate physically and mentally. It is a well-known fact that one of the reasons we live longer now is because we have regular breaks, take holidays and do not work 18 to 20 hours a day every day of the week. Once again, we should take our lead from Jesus. He rested frequently with His disciples, would sleep and eat between journeys and tasks. To rest with family and friends is both biblical and healthy. He tells us to come to Him to find rest. As life has changed so our need of rest has changed, as we work differently, we need to rest differently, take care of our needs physically and spiritually and let God bless us and give us rest from our labours. We need to recognise our needs and allow ourselves to be looked after and as we do that we also allow others to rest, to not judge them or suggest that they are being lazy but recognise that we all need rest and we can never know someone else’s needs or situation.
22nd June 2020
Leviticus 19:34 The foreigner who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself.
Today, 72 years ago the Empire Windrush docked at Tilbury. On board were about 500 Jamaican and Caribbean people who were asked to come to Britain to help in the post war rebuild. Promises were made of a good life, good wages as a reward for their help. Most of these folks had the intention of going back in a few years once they had saved enough from their promised good wages. What actually happened was they were held here as their jobs were poorly paid, they found it almost impossible to find accommodation, were disrespected and spoken about in inflammatory terms. If this wasn’t bad enough Enoch Powel gave his famous and racist Rivers of Blood speech which just inflamed the jingoistic, white British culture which would tolerate people of colour only if they did the jobs that British people were too good for, they were still seen as only fit for a modern form of slavery. 72 years later we are still treating people with contempt. Our own government had the Windrush travel slips destroyed and quietly removed a statute that protected these people and then began to remove them accusing them of being illegal. These people came at our invitation to help a country in need, we treated them appallingly, most never got to return home and despite promised citizenship were deliberately targeted to appease a white British nationalistic attitude and treated like criminals; all because of the colour of their skin. This is not how God taught us to behave. We were clearly told to welcome the foreigner, the stranger; to feed and clothe them, to give respect and care. Instead we have and are still doing the complete opposite. The colour of our skin does not define any one of us, being human, created in the image of God does. We all need to examine our attitudes to those around us. To be respectful of all God’s children. God shows no partiality, neither should we. May God bless all the Windrush generation and their families on this day.
21st June 2020
Matthew 6:13 Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.
Many years ago, I watched my vicar invite anyone who would like one of his home made chocolates to come forward and have one. Several adults and children came with delight written upon their faces, they took one, all took a bite and their coughs, uggs and errs and some spitting into their hand, underneath the lovely chocolate were Brussel Sprouts. They had all been seduced by the outer chocolatey look and bitten in without any regard to what was inside. It is a bit like that saying “all that glitters is not gold” we are easily seduced by the look of something from the outside and we dive right in because the outside looks great, it is only once we are right inside that we find out we have bitten off more than we can chew, to keep the analogy going. Wrongdoing, or sin is like this, wrapped up in glittery, chocolatey coatings that make it attractive, it seduces us into diving head long into it before we realise the danger, we are in. All through the Bible the representations of Satan are ones of seduction, offering something wonderful on the outside while the nastiness lies within. Adam and Eve as individuals and representatives of all human kind were seduced by the belief they could be like God, but wrapped up in that outer coating came imperfection, sin and so death instead of the eternal life God had originally created for them. We are seduced by money, wealth, power, fame, celebrity status; an outer coating which we believe we can use for good and then once we are involved we are dragged under, the glittery chocolatey coating becomes more important and we lose sight of all the good we wanted to do in favour of keeping what we have become accustomed to. Satan will use whatever glittery and chocolatey coatings he can to pull us away from our faith, from our God, from our Christian life, that is why every day we need to ask God to lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. To open our eyes to wrongdoing, to let us see things for what they really are and, in His strength, not to be dragged into sin.
20th June 2020
Luke 2:28 Simeon took the child in his arms and praised God.
Do you remember any nursery rhymes? I would sing them with reception and nursery children as well as with my own boys. One of my favourites was Pussy cat, pussy cat, where have you been? I've been to London to visit the Queen. Pussy cat, pussy cat, what did you there? I chased a little mouse under her chair. In this little story the cat goes to visit the queen, but yet in the presence of royalty it's business as usual, never mind the queen, the importance of the Royal visit is irrelevant as the cat just gets on with chasing a mouse. We are often like this with God, we go to church, we talk about our great and wonderful God and yet we behave as if He is nothing special, we carry on as before, business as usual. I think a lot about the Christmas Story all year round and how we go in our carols, readings and services, to Bethlehem to visit the Christ child. But what do we do there? Is it business as usual for us, the trappings of the season, the traditions, or do we see the new-born King? Later as Jesus is taken to the Temple, Simeon bursts into a song of praise when he holds the Christ child: Sovereign Lord, he cries, my eyes have seen your salvation. Seeing this salvation is what gave Simeon peace to face death and gives us peace both in living and in dying. When the painter Rembrandt died in October 1669 at age 63, they found his unfinished painting of Simeon holding the Christ child. It was a work in progress. Rembrandt painted Simeon as an old man, like himself, and blind. One historian writes, "The old man's cradling hands are immense, held rigid as in deepest prayer. His face ... glimmers with unearthly brilliance. Behind the heavy eyelids he has, at last, seen the light of salvation," and he is able to say, "Lord, now let your servant go in peace." On seeing the Christ Child, it is not business as usual for Simeon. He recognises God’s messiah; he recognises the promises of God fulfilled in this child. He is different because of who he is holding in his hands. For us we should be different because of who we hold in our hearts and minds, God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In the presence of God it should never be business as usual.
19th June 2020
1 Thessalonians 5:17 Pray without ceasing.
Yesterday we opened the church for private prayer. It was an interesting experience, on the one hand I was glad to get the doors open and welcome people back, on the other I was concerned that this would not be enough for those bereaved, hurting, saddened, lost, uncomfortable and those who have not been able to worship in their church for three months. It is interesting that we are allowed to open for private prayer but nothing else. So what is private prayer? How long is a piece of string? There are many different ways of prayer, all beneficial, all correct and all with their own value and blessing. It can be a time of contemplation where we let God wash over us in the silence, just allowing our thoughts and feelings to just be about God. We can use the words of others or our own words, a conversation with God where we tell Him how we feel, ask on behalf of others and allow Him to speak to us through Bible verses or thoughts or visual images around us. We can use our phones, apps which guide us in prayer, give us themes and ideas which we can then adapt or add to in a more personal way and can show us Bible texts to help us. We can speak out loud or within our heads and hearts just saying what needs to be said, expressing feelings, thoughts, ideas and concerns. We can just be still, not thinking about anything in particular and allow thoughts and ideas to come to us. We can carry with us a pen and paper and write or doodle, we can draw pictures, write down words and phrases. We can listen to music on personal equipment or in the place if it plays music and allow that to minister to us, guide our thoughts. We can think through and sing hymns and worship songs in our heads and hearts; open or close our eyes, look around us or within our minds eye. We are all different and there is no one way, no right way! Yes, we have traditional forms of prayer we can follow but God does not mind how we pray, it is that we pray; that is what matters. When Paul writes pray without ceasing, in the Greek it means recurring, keeping at it any time, any place, in any way. It is like having a 24-hour conversation with God, chatting as we need to, times of silence, times of creativity, times of stillness, times of talking and so on. Private prayer is bringing that conversation, that time with God, into the church building and exposing ourselves to another different environment for our personal prayer, perhaps being more specific or praying for particular people, events and situations. The most important thing is that we pray, that we pray without ceasing. Do come and pray when we are open, or pray where you are, at home, in the garden, on a walk, however it works for you let me encourage you to pray and to keep on praying.
18th June 2020
Philippians 1:6 Be confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Do you have days of self-doubt? We all do, days when we wonder why God chose us, why me, when we get it wrong so often. But God tells us that we do not need to be good or perfect, just willing, willing to do God’s work. Willing to listen, to learn, to grow and to change and to do. All ministry in the Christian faith is a mystery, the mystery of God taking the imperfect we offer and creating something beautiful and relevant which makes a difference. We are beloved children of God, each chosen and blessed with gifts and talents that God has given. We are unique and God’s love of each of us is exclusive to us and never ending. His voice is the one of He who loves you and me unconditionally. We need to recognise that “within me is the starting point of my service,” placed there by God from the beginning. Authentic service comes from a person who has experienced a wounded heart, who is healed, restored, and forgiven. We all have different stories to tell, different backgrounds, experiences, talents, and gifts which God has given us to use in His service. What we can share with others is God given but sometimes it may look as if it hasn’t worked, or seems inadequate or is even met with anger or pain but as long as we do what God has asked of us He is responsible for the rest. God chose us because He knows just how wonderful and amazing, we are, God uses us because He has equipped us with everything we need. God is with us in every situation and He is responsible for what happens next. There are some Jobs that only you can do, some words only you can offer, some love only you can give. Let God do His work through you and never doubt how much He loves you and how much He wants to bless you and use you to bless others.
17th June 2020
Genesis 37: 34/5 Jacob mourned for his son for countless days. All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted.
In recent weeks many have been lost to us, more than we would ever have expected, and there is much grief and pain. Much of that grief has not been able to be expressed as we would normally do. Families have not been able to be with someone when they have died and then not been able to attend services to say goodbye. Grief needs to be processed and people cannot just move on. We actually learn to live a new normal without those we love, we don’t get over it, we learn to live with it. A picture of this type of grief is shown in Genesis 37 where Jacob mourns the believed loss of Joseph, his favourite son, and to cap it all, those comforting him are the very people who have caused the grief. Imagine the scene, the air was heavy with grief. Jacob’s sons had to listen to their father’s mournful howling day after day as his weeping cast a veil of despair over everything. After a while, Jacob’s children tried to find a way to force him past his sadness. But nothing worked. It can’t, grief finds its own way and Jacob refused to be comforted. His one small shred of comfort was in the gloomy prospect that one day he would be united with Joseph in death. The sons’ attempts to comfort their father failed because they were the ones who had sold Joseph into slavery and had faked his death. This scene is intense with irony and duplicity. Not one of the brothers came forward with the truth. No one is honest or truthful with their grieving father. Jacob’s cries were like a call to come clean, but no one shifted from the lie. The fact that they refused to admit their grisly secret only emphasizes how deceptive their hearts were. Even the pain of an inconsolable father did not break through their hardened resolve and jealousy. Can evil really be so entrenched? Yes, it can. How often do we hide behind a lie, a bending of the truth because we cannot admit to our own fault. The deception is so entrenched that we actually convince ourselves that we are in the right. We may not be responsible, as Jacobs other sons were, but we are tempted to hide truths, to push someone forward before they are ready, to not allow friends, family and even ourselves to grieve at their and our own pace, in each one’s own way. There is never a right way or an only way to grieve. We must always give others and ourselves time, we must be kind to each other and be a comfort to each other for as long as it takes to find a new normal that we can learn to live with.
16th June 2020
Romans 5: 2 We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into God’s grace in which we now stand.
I have often been asked why people come to church. My answer is that people come for many different reasons, for hope, for peace, for understanding, for friendship, for community, for love, for music, for teaching…….the list is pretty endless. If you have or have had young children you will know that they will come to you at any time for reassurance, for a hug or cuddle. Our children have uninterrupted access to us 24 hours a day 7 days a week, so they can appear at 3 in the morning or midnight or whenever because they know we are there for them when they have a bad dream, or feel unwell or get hurt. They know, they have reassurance that we will always be there when they need us. The amazing news for all of us is that we have that relationship with God, that complete access to God. We have that access because of Jesus, we can come to God at any time, in any place about anything. Jesus sacrifice allows us unlimited access to God, this sacrifice was and is made for the very people who rejected Him. Freely offered and freely given making access to God possible whoever you are, wherever you are. This access brings with it a peace, when we are anxious, unsettled, unsure, upset we can come to God and find His peace. Everyone of us needs that peace in our hearts and minds otherwise we will be in constant turmoil, we will carry uncertainty, instability even chaos with us. With God’s peace we can face any storm that may come upon us, any situation, any difficulty because we have God’s attention 24 hours a day, 7 days a week forever.
15th June 2020
Acts 20:7 On the first day of each week they came together to break bread.
The last three months have tested our relationships. We have seen some folk more than usual; you may even say far too much, and some folk we have not seen at all. We have had to develop new ways to sustain all these relationships so we and they can cope. The same can be said about our relationship with Jesus. Our churches have been closed and we have had to find new ways to pray, to worship, to practice our faith. It has been exceedingly difficult without Communion, there has been a Eucharistic fast since before Easter, and with that comes a growing longing to come and receive again. The Bible tells us how important the Mass is, from Jesus institution on that Passover to its life-giving observance by the early church. From this day we can return, in a small part, to our churches for private prayer. We are being given a moment of grace. As we open our doors it is a reminder that there is more to life than work, than home, than lockdown. We are drawn back into the presence of God which lifts us up and ministers to our souls. But, even as we can return to pray, we long to gather round the altar and take part as the Body of Christ in partaking in the Body of Christ. St Augustine said that we see, on the altar, the sacrament of who we are and what we are to become. Christ is our way, our truth and our life! It has been wonderful that our computers and tablets have given us a way to worship, to keep in contact, to pray, but we long for Communion; both the communion of being together and partaking in the Communion of the Body and Blood of Christ. We have found some new ways, we will need new ways as well as developing and strengthening the old ways and these will all need to be set in deep roots, the roots of Christ, His life, death and resurrection. We need to commit these next weeks and months to God that His power will flow over and through our society and bring the new, the necessary changes through the sacrament; that we will find ways so that no one is left out, that we keep everyone safe and that we rebuild and sustain our relationships with each other and with God.
14th June 2020
Matthew 10:16 See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves.
This very day, 14th June 2020, we are remembering Grenfell, three years ago this terrible atrocity happened and still people are not rehoused or recompensed, still people are grieving and asking why, there was eventually an enquiry set up that has been delayed and tampered with and may never actually report, if it does it is likely to be so watered down that it is has no impact. All the talk of politicians and counsellors at the time has just been forgotten and the practice of selective deafness and selective memory continues as society moves forward when so many cannot. Those who bravely make the stand, who challenge this, and many other injustices, particularly linked to race, are pilloried in the court of the press and social media, lies are told and stories imagined so that their opinion and challenge is somehow invalidated. Making a difference, challenging the world’s ways with the ways of God’s kingdom is not an easy task and means we will suffer for our faith and our belief in truth and justice for all. Jesus sent his disciples and us where the work of God meets the trajectory of the world and resistance is at its greatest. The disciples were told they would be handed over, flogged, dragged before kings and courts, lose family and friends, be imprisoned and suffer because of Jesus' name. Not exactly an encouragement to get involved. It is easy to forget that being a Christian is not easy and people will persecute us and speak ill of us and even accuse us falsely. We only need to look at what is currently happening with the death of George Floyd to see that when people make a stand against the status Quo it brings unpopularity and judgement. When any of us make a stand against unfairness and injustice we are ridiculed and punished and where possible silenced; because those with power, wealth and authority will do anything, anything to maintain their position. Let’s face it, if something works in our favour, we don’t want to change it, or upset the balance, because we do not want to lose our status, our position and influence. But just think a moment, without the voices of challenge, the fight for justice, we would still have slavery, there would still be no democratic voting rights for the poor or women, gay people would still be going to prison, there would still be justified murder and genocide, there would still be children working in mines and factories for a pittance and not protected, men would legally be able to abuse women without fear of prosecution, the list is endless and yes in many places in the world these things are still happening. Even here and in the so-called free world, we are still fighting for justice and equality, for fairness and equity for all, whoever they are. This is what we are called to do as Jesus followers, the question is, are we willing to make that stand as sheep amid wolves?
13th June 2020
John 18:36 Jesus said, My kingdom is not of this world.
Have you ever seen the television program that asks "Where are they now?" They take celebrities and child stars who have been famous but have quickly faded from the public eye and find out what happened to them. People relish in other people’s stories, particularly if they have some sort of secret or reason why their fame and fortune is short lived. What if we apply this idea to Jesus arrival on Earth. Caesar Augustus was famous in his day. He ruled the Roman Empire and led a period of peace known as the Pax Romana. It was a time of prosperity for the empire, and Augustus was popular with his people. But Augustus and his empire had a dark side. In his early years he was known for his cruelty. When he took power, he put 300 of Rome's senators to death. When Jesus was born, Judea was under Roman military occupation. Under Caesar's rule the people of Judea were taxed heavily, and political dissenters were crucified. Caesar Augustus built his kingdom on earthly power and a dubious peace born of cruel intimidation. Into this very world another king was born, not in a palace but in a stable. His kingdom was not of this world but came through His relationship with God and His preaching, teaching, and healing as he brought a lasting peace with creator God through His own death and resurrection. There was no coercion, even though some have tried to make it like that, we are never forced to accept Jesus as saviour, we are give the choice, the option. Two thousand plus years later, we might ask, where are they now? Where is Caesar and his kingdom? Well, Augustus died, and his kingdom faded long, long ago. He is a name in History known for his cruelty to his people. But Jesus, He lives, and his kingdom is all around us. If you want to know where Jesus is now then look around you at the Christians, the churches and chapels, the gatherings, the community work done in His name. Jesus is right here in the centre of everything, He has not gone from us or this world, God’s kingdom is still all around us and we still have the choice to be part of it or not. No coercion, just a freedom to choose and make the decision as to where we are now and always.
12th June 2020
Proverbs 18:2 The foolish are not interested in understanding, but only in expressing their opinion.
A very wise friend once told me that we will never know the good we have done, the lives we have helped, the things we have influenced. We may be fortunate to meet someone many years later and find out the part we played in their life, but most of the time we will never know. At present one of the things we can do is help with reconciliation, finding a way to bring people together who hold opposing views and ideas. In present times some people are becoming heated with one another and not listening to what is really being said. Let’s face it, we all like to express our own opinion. The human tendency is to want to re-educate other people to agree with us, we are all less likely to listen to those with opposing views, even if their point is valid or correct. You only need to look at many of our world leaders who retain power whilst becoming more and more out of touch by surrounding themselves with yes people. We all have different ideas, experiences, upbringings that affect how we view others and their situations. We hold opinions and ideas that we have been fed with, by society, as being right; yet, we are told in the Bible to respect and care for all our neighbours and our neighbour is anyone we come into contact with, who are part of our society. All our dealings with anyone must be with integrity, with honesty, with a willingness to listen and learn from each other. In all our relationships, our one to one conversations need to be on a deeper level. To bring reconciliation we need to reclaim the ground taken by those who want to disrupt, to anger, to press an aggressive agenda for their own ends. We are the people who need to stay in the room when others walk out. We need to reclaim the language of community, of justice, of honesty and fairness for all whoever they are. Our principles are bound in our faith and we belong to a church, a family of God, that exists for the benefit of everyone. We have influence, we have the opportunity to make a difference, we have the opportunity to do good, may we all take that opportunity and make a difference.
11th June 2020
Matthew 28:19 Go make disciples of all nations, and I will be with you to the end of the age.
You will often here the expression a game of two halves. A team who are not playing well in the first half, seem to experience a change during half time and have a second wind. Often this is put down to the pep talk they are given by their manager or coach. When Jesus speaks to His Disciples just before His Ascension, here is His pep talk to them and us. He tells us and them to go and make disciples of all nations and promises to be with them and us until the end of the age. In their first half the Disciples just hadn’t got it, they couldn’t put it all together with the events of Easter, they needed help to get going again, to ignite the spark in them. We may not get it now, perhaps we need help, a pep talk to ignite our spark. We, as Christians today, know far more than the disciples did, Jesus has authority over all creation, over all lives and He passes the momentum onto us, just as he did to the disciples. He says GO make disciples of all nations, the Good News is for everyone, no exceptions! Jesus came for everyone whatever gender, age, race, creed, nation, class etc; so, we need to be a people who witness to everyone and leave no one out. We do not choose who to share the gospel with, we are told to share it with everyone. The Welsh Patron Saint, David, left a mantra for His friends “Be joyful, keep the faith and do the little things!” Surprisingly enough this is how we make disciples, people see the joy and want to know to why; people see us stick to our faith and live what we believe and they want to know why; people see the little things we do without being asked, they experience the love and care we offer quietly and without a fuss, and they want to know why. In all these things we are showing the love of Jesus to everyone in this world and that offers them the choice to become a follower of Christ.
10th June 2020
Ezekiel 1:4 God chose us in Christ before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.
I wonder if you have ever realised that God’s gift of salvation for us started even before he created the world? That is just mind blowing! This simple truth about how valuable we are to God can really stretch our minds, and it shows us that God’s knowledge and planning is far beyond ours. Even as we read and hear about all that God did to create our world; from the universe, to our galaxy, to our planet, to all the plant and animal life around us, and to us humans, we are filled with awe and wonder. But then, to know that God chose us one by one to be saved in Christ even before he made all of this, it goes beyond our ability to understand. So, there is great mystery here. But this doesn’t mean we are left confused or without understanding. As our Creator, God knows our minds, and God knows we can understand what it means to be chosen, and loved, and called to be holy. So, He tells us those things in his Word the Bible and His Word the Son and in so much more. It is true that what we cannot understand is considerable and yet even though we can’t understand all that God does, or why, we can be sure that He loves us completely and wants what is best for us. Far back in eternity God made plans to bring us into his family so that we can have full life forever, instead of us dying in our sin and misery. But it is not just that we were chosen by God from the beginning, we are chosen to be Holy and blameless. As we recognise our wrongdoing we bare no guilt because of Jesus sacrifice for us, we are seen as pure and spotless through Jesus. We are holy as He is holy, we get to be perfect before God because God chose us before the creation of the world and through Jesus death and resurrection made us perfect in His sight.
9th June 2020
Psalm 42:5 Why be downcast my Soul or disturbed within me? I put my Hope in God.
As Christians we can begin to think that we don’t deserve to struggle or have difficulties in our lives. We begin to believe that we are doing a pretty good job at being a Christian and God will therefore keep us on the up as a reward, He becomes a sort of talisman against bad luck. So, when things do go wrong, we can seriously struggle with the why. We long to know why me? Here in Psalm 42 the writer is in distress, life has taken a turn for the worst and yet he does not ask himself why it is happening to him, but why he is downcast when he has hope in God. He looks back and remembers just exactly what God has done, how He has blessed him and cared for him. This recollection allows him to have complete hope in God. We use quite a few metaphors for hope, the sunshine through the rain, warmth in the cold, the dawn after a dark night, the glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel and so on. They all point to something that brings assurance, that lightens our heart, that burns within us and helps us to cope in the difficult times. Hope offers us a future based on the evidence of the past. Because God has not let the Psalmist down before he knows that God will not let him down now or in the future. Hope is defined as a feeling of expectation and desire for things to happen. The expectation can only come if we have reason to believe it can happen, we can only have that reason to believe that it can happen if we have experience of it happening before. As we grow up, we become less trusting and make decisions based more on evidence. If we have evidence that God has not let us or others down in the past, it will increase our hope and our faith. The evidence we have may be from our own lives, but it can also be from the lives of others, from the Bible and from history. The psalmist has lived and experienced the arms of God supporting him and others and so knows that God will always support him. If we have experienced God’s arms supporting us and others, we can say with confidence why be downcast my soul……I put my hope in God.
8th June 2020
Isaiah 40:31 They shall soar on wings as eagles, run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint.
At our lowest points God is there as He is in every situation, but at our lowest we often do not see God is there. It is only when we look back do we begin to see that in the Melee of emotion God is in control. We can look back, as in the footprint’s poem, and see that at our worst God picked us up and carried us. The promises God makes cannot go unfulfilled! Looking back through our own lives, others lives, the Bible and history we see that God has done what He said, kept His promises; and so, we can be assured He will keep them where we are concerned. This fortieth chapter of Isaiah is called Comfort for God’s people. It teaches us that we can and should lean into God and allow Him to take the strain and let Him comfort us, He is far more able to do this than we are to receive it. Look at the order of words in verse 31; that we will soar as eagles, run without weariness, and walk without fainting. Why put soar first? There are days when we soar, and days we will run, these are the days when everything goes well, life is good and we seem to almost float along, but most days we walk, we need to just put one foot in front of the other and although God is always there, it is on these common walking days we have His daily promise to be right there with us; beside, behind, in front or carrying us. Every day, step by step and in God we will not grow faint and when we just can’t seem to go on, to lift ourselves to even do the mundane stuff, God is right there; the everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth, whose wisdom is unsearchable. He gives power, strength and support to all whether young or old or anywhere in between. Even though God is more than we can conceive or understand He cares for us, He is interested in us and our ordinary daily lives, what bothers us and hurts us, what drags us down and builds us up and in absolutely everything this amazing, all powerful, all knowledgeable God wants the best for us!
7th June 2020
Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
When unexpected news lands in our laps how do we respond? I suppose it depends on whether the news is good or bad but in either case it can both excite us and fill us with dread. When you learn from a news report that churches can begin to open for private prayer in just over a weeks’ time it is great news, but then to begin to read the guidance, the instruction and see how difficult this will be, it begins to fill one with dread. The huge organisational task of preparation and then of intensive cleaning. The need for many within the congregation to continue shielding and so feel even more deprived in this apparent situation of hope. There is also the tension of a still high daily death rate and an increase in the R number since lockdown has eased and we do not want our churches to be the cause of a further spike. It is at times like these there is only way to go, to pray, to talk to God, to offer all our feelings and thoughts to Him and allow His love and peace to flow over us. We are called to trust in the Lord! We desire to have all the answers, to lean on our own understanding, to be in control, and yet so often we cannot be, the pressures and ways of the world just don’t allow that. We walk a tightrope between the positive and the negative on a daily basis. As with all things we need time, to adjust, to prepare, to deal with things in life; the world pressures us to be instant in our reaction in our preparation, but we must act carefully, honestly and with integrity. We need to hold these differing thoughts and feelings in tension which is not easy. I was always taught to think before I speak or act, to take time before rushing into something, to weigh up the pros and cons of any situation. So throughout this pandemic that is what I have tried to do and now with the sudden knowledge of being able to open doors in 8 days the first thing for all of us to do is stop, consider, think, pray and ask God what do you want me to do? For everything in out lives God will provide the way forward but we must take the time to trust and listen first.
6th June 2020
Hebrews 4:9-10 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.
At this time of year many of us are usually thinking towards our summer holiday, a source of rest and recuperation after months of hard work. These past weeks of lockdown have meant people not going to work but that does not mean they have had a chance to rest. For so many they have taken on more and new roles in the home and this way of life has its own stresses and strains to cope with. Travel restrictions mean holidays have been cancelled and who knows when hotels will be open again. We value our holidays, and so we should, but as well as yearly holidays we need to rest regularly. A week should leave at least 1 day for rest and recuperation, for family, for fun. Genesis reminds us of God’s rest on the seventh day when he completed the work of creation. That set a pattern for us that is worth keeping. If the creator of the world takes a day to rest after the working week then who are we to ignore that. In the midst of our busy lives each week, it is good to take a day to rest from our work, to take time to worship and honour God, to share with others, to be with family, to help those who are in need. The letter of Hebrews points out that the promise to enter God’s rest still stands, for then and for now, it remains something to strive for and long for. Hebrews also notes that some of God’s people hardened their hearts, refused to listen to God, decided their way was better and so did not enter His rest. Once again, as in so much of being a Christian, we have to make a choice. The promise of entering God’s rest is still there, but we must actually decide to take that rest. Sadly, our society has made us feel guilty for resting, for not working seven days a week and thus we have lost our work life balance and our work rest balance. The promise available to everyone is that we can enter God’s rest and that we can enjoy resting in Christ now as well as for eternity. This is not a call to stop all of our activity and our work, instead, it is a call to follow the example of God and rest from work each week, to set that example for others and by not expecting those who work for us or with us to work when they should be resting.
5th June 2020
Hebrews 4:16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence.
In Old Testament times Priests were God’s chosen servants; they served as mediators between God and his people. They worked in the temple, praying for the people and bringing their sacrifices to God. They offered sacrifices on behalf of the people to make atonement, amends, for their sins. Only the high priest was allowed to enter the most holy place to stand before God and then only once a year. In the book of Hebrews, Jesus is referred to as the “great high priest.” This means He is the one true High Priest and as such is the only one needed to stand in the gap, to atone for the sins of the people. Jesus is the High Priest because, unlike all the others gone before, He “has been tempted in every way, just as we are, yet he did not sin.” Jesus was and continues to be, the sinless and perfect sacrifice, able to stand before God, in the gap, as the one who can make recompense for our sins. This forgiveness through Jesus is real and lasting and for this reason, we do not need to be afraid to enter God’s presence; in fact, we can have “confidence” when we approach God. We can be confident that we will receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. This full and complete sacrifice meant that the priest was no longer the only one who could approach God, everyone can. Over the years this has meant that the role of the Priest has changed to more of a pastor who leads worship and cares for the people, standing in the gap during Communion where they are God’s representative. This change has meant everyone can approach God in confidence. Yes, the priest will always intercede for their people, give advice, hear confession, but it is not required for anyone to go to God through anyone else. We do not need to be afraid to approach God. Instead, we can approach Him with confidence, knowing and recognising that even though we cannot do this in our own strength, we can do it through Jesus, our great High Priest.
4th June 2020
Amos 5:24 Let Justice roll down like rivers and righteousness like an overflowing stream.
The danger with quoting the Bible to back up our response to something is that it is open to interpretation and it was originally written in response to things of its time. Some of us take great delight in using the Bible to justify acts of discrimination and violence because in the past, in communities which still had terrible inhuman treatment of those who disagreed with the law of the land or the kings who declared themselves of God, disagreement was just eradicated. What we need to do is make sure what we are quoting or using is not just a one off idea but that it sits in the overall view of God, His love of all humans and His sending of His son to save everyone because not one of us is perfect. The Bible was and still is used to justify slavery but God is quite clear it is wrong to enslave others, it has been used to punish those who challenge the status quo as being against God, and yet challenge the status quo is exactly what Jesus did. We now have many differing types of theologies, reading the Bible as a woman, black person, poor person, free person, enslaved person, persecuted person and in using those lenses we see that the Bible has much to say to help and challenge others about these differing lives, but the Bible has always been interpreted and followed in a white, privileged, male way. Change happens very slowly, especially if it risks those in senior positions, who feel justified in their wealth, status and power, and fear losing these. Change for equality, justice and righteousness is like a huge boulder needing to be moved forward. The more hands that help to push the more inertia is gained and things happen, promises are made; but as the movement begins, people become distracted, something else in the news catches their eye, another cause is brought to the fore and they stop pushing thinking everyone else will carry on, but no. Slowly the inertia is lost and very little changes and the promises so loudly and confidently made are lost and forgotten about. The events of Grenfell Tower are a clear indication of this. As are the current demonstrations against racial discrimination, where once again the Bible is being flaunted as justification for violence against those who seek justice. One of the clearest and most repeated messages of the Bible is justice, righteousness, and fairness for all. As Amos states these should never lack inertia, they should be flowing like steams and waters at the centre of our society, as essential as a fresh water supply is for our physical life so is the supply of justice and righteousness. If we want to stand as a Bible believing Christians, then Justice and fairness for all is crucial and central to our belief and cannot be ignored, manipulated or biased. God sees and God says how we treat each other is a mark of our true belief.
3rd June 2020
Jeremiah 29:7 Pray to the LORD for help, because if everyone flourishes, you too will flourish.
I believe that community is only complete if everyone can participate. We need to see what God is doing around us and join in. We as Christians, as churches, should be outward facing, led by the Spirit with a shared purpose. We are carriers of the gospel throughout life. There has always been social teaching in the Church but it has swung in and out of favour depending on the society of the time. It teaches that as we live in the world we must engage with the world. Human’s are relational beings because we are created by a relational being, the model of The Trinity clearly shows that. This social teaching is needed and driven by a breakdown in social trust, a turning inward that breeds individualism and extremism. We have lost the language and action of mutual obligation. It is fair to say we have seen much more community cohesion in recent weeks but the prospect of being able to get back to normal lives has meant this is quickly dissipating again in favour of me and my rights. The society of the new millennium has lost social solidarity, people have been marginalised, left alone, lumped into groups, we have a crisis of alienation, a collapse of trust, a crisis of purpose and the results of this are huge increases in suicide rates, depression, addiction and mental health issues. Being social is central to human nature, we need to interact with each other because when people are ostracised it places increased pressure on individuals to cope alone. The church has always and still has the potential to overcome the divides in our society, the polarisation that exists, by looking for and acting for the common good of all. This means that we put aside self to pick up others and work with them and for them together for mutual flourishing. It means we must take responsibility, take our part across societal differences of all types. The encounters between all human beings are special, sacred and are blessed and we need to recognise that. Each person is made in the image of God and flourishes within relationship. We are God’s representatives on earth and must work together for the common good and mutual flourishing of all.
2nd June 2020
John 17:1 Jesus looked to His Father in Heaven and prayed.
How is your prayer life going? We have more time to pray than ever, but it probably isn’t our priority. We all wrestle with prayer, it both delights and challenges us. Corrie Ten Boom, a survivor of Ravensbruck Concentration camp, suggested Prayer needs to be our steering wheel and not our spare tyre. Prayer lies at the heart of our relationship with God, it is how we communicate whether through silence, words, art, music, poetry and so on. The Lord’s Prayer was given to us as an example and like any good meal it has various ingredients to make prayer helpful and inspiring. Within prayer the tendency is to have a shopping list of requests and although that is an important part of prayer it is not the whole story. Prayer should offer us the space to search for God, to seek and find Him, to listen, learn and be encouraged. The story of sisters Mary and Martha illustrates the differing attitudes we can have, either being fraught, rushing around, not really spending time or Mary who just sits with her Lord and takes time to just be. Unchecked endless activity leaves no space for listening, hearing, communing, and growing with our Lord. As part of prayer we need to remind ourselves of the goodness of God, of all He has done and praise Him for that. This praise will lead to thanks for all the blessings we have been given. We also need to be aware of our short comings, of how what we have said and done has hurt others and ourselves. We are all in need of forgiveness from God, to admit our faults, clear the debris from our lives and minds. We do need to think of our world, of interceding on people’s behalf and it is okay to use a list. God does want people to be loved, healed, cared for and blessed so we can pray with hope and again be reminded of what God has done before and will do again. We may not have all the answers, we may never know of God’s answers in people’s lives that we pray for, but we are assured that He will hear and deal with our needs and requests. Where we have seen answered prayer we must thank God for it and as we end our prayers we have the opportunity to praise God once again, to encompass our time with God with worship and praise, with recognition of exactly who it is we are praying to. In this pattern of prayer, regularly, as well as at any time and in any place, prayer becomes our steering wheel, it guides us, moves us forward, it is key to our life and not our spare wheel that we only resort to when all else fails.
1st June 2020
Psalm 136:1 Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, and His love endures forever.
Our experience of love can be fleeting or enduring or somewhere in between. If we have the blessing of older living parents and long happy marriages then we understand, in part, enduring love. Love that keeps going through the good and bad, that keeps going through growing families, illness, growing up and old. A love that does not give up! Even this experience Is only a shadow of the love spoken of here in Psalm 136. This is love that is from everlasting to everlasting. A love from before we were born to beyond our physical death and everywhere in between. This love is unconditional and available to all but must be recognised and accepted. Many of us will have experienced that love from afar, that unrequited love that is never recognised by the other person. With God love is offered to all through Jesus Christ but is often unrequited by the world it is offered to. At Pentecost we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit, God’s active presence on Earth. This Spirit offers to us and through us the unconditional love of God to all. This Spirit of Father and Son, is anchored in eternity, knows each and every human being by name and has witnessed all the world has ever experienced of pain, war, suffering, destruction and pandemic. This spirit has interceded for us when we could not pray any more, has worked in our lives in the good times and the bad times and at all times has offered unconditional love, the love of God that endures for ever. It is this unconditional, enduring love that keeps us going through these difficult times, that encourages us to not just keep going but to share this love with others through service, through helping one another. Enduring love is selfless, serving, and unconditional. We have it at our disposal through our relationship with God, through the example of Jesus and through the Holy Spirit working within us. This Love, His Love, endures forever.
31st May 2020
Romans 10:11 Those who believe in Him will not be put to shame.
The word shame is not one we use much these days. I grew up with phrases like shame on you and you should be ashamed of yourself. Whilst I believe that shame was used excessively in the past, and often for the wrong reasons, I also believe we have lost the concept of shame. Putting someone to shame in the past meant publicly revealing something they had done and chastising them in public. Of course, once something is made public it cannot be undone, therefore shame has been used to deliberately discredit someone by making public things that may not necessarily be true. Shame has been particularly applied unfairly to women because they are the ones left with the physical aspects once they have been part of something. There is also the fact that all laws and judiciary have been male dominated. I am also saddened to say that a male dominated church used shame far too much in its past, to rewrite the narrative to suit it's practices. Shame was used as a powerful weapon for a very long time so when it was declared that those who believe in God will not be put to shame it offers a lifeline, a declaration that no one can chastise us, find us guilty or humiliate us any longer before God. Yes, we can still be shamed by our actions, our words, by what others accuse us of but before God, the great redeemer and judge we will not be put to shame. The feeling of shame we may have about something can actually be a good thing. Feeling ashamed means, we recognise wrong in our lives and that we need to change. Those who do not feel shame, who believe so totally in their own judgement are dangerous and never learn right from wrong. We need shame, not for it to be publicly used against us but for us to recognise when we are wrong and to learn from our mistakes. If the word is used much today it is when we talk about something being a shame when it goes wrong or does not work out. That is probably the best public use of the word today.
30th May 2020
Ezekiel 36:26 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.
I wonder how you would describe yourself? It is rare that someone is described as heartless, but the Bible does talk about hearts of stone. Now we know the heart is a physically functioning organ and not something that dictates feelings and reactions and yet throughout history the heart has been given this identity. It is used as a marker of love, as a determiner of emotions and as what makes us tick, both literally, as in heartbeat, and emotionally. We talk of using our head not our heart or visa versa. So, when the Bible speaks of hearts of stone, what is it driving at? We cannot survive if our hearts are literally made of stone. Our heart is used to summarise our attitude to God and to others. A heart of stone refuses to listen to any other opinion but its own, it refuses to operate in any way that will benefit anyone else and allows only that which benefits self. A heart of stone is a selfish one, a careless one, an arrogant one and is cold to any need or hurt in others. Ezekiel speaks of turning that heart of stone to one of flesh, in other words making the heart desire to help, to care, to worship God, to speak out for the vulnerable, to challenge poverty and injustice, in other words to do all the things God requires of us as Human beings. Notice that God speaks of a new heart and a new spirit, the coming of His Holy Spirit at Pentecost sets a flame in our hearts that removes the stone and releases the flesh. As hardened hearts are softened and eyes opened, we can begin to see that we are beings who were created for community, for interaction and as such we care for those among us who are in need. If all we ever do is look after number one then we are hard hearted and selfish and sadly those in our community suffer even more and are disregarded because they do not increase the value , power and personal impact of the selfish and hard hearted. I for one do not want to live with a heart of stone and I encourage you to allow God to soften your heart in everything, that each of us may live for the benefit of all rather than just ourselves.
29th May 2020
Ezekiel 34:16 I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak.
Most of us live in towns and cities or very near to them. For some, in our world, they live in mountain areas, in places where the weather can turn quickly, and a simple trip can become dangerous very quickly. In Ezekiel 34 God is using the Shepherd imagery we see in the Old Testament, the idea that He is constantly caring for His flock. Within a mountainous area sheep will wander to the nicest grass they can find, even if that is right on the edge or down a few rocks. They are hardy creatures but easily get themselves in a pickle. The role of a shepherd is to care for them, when they wander the shepherd will look for them, find them and bring them back. If they are hurt the shepherd will bind the wound and care for them, restoring them to health. When they are vulnerable and weak the shepherd will carry them, nurture them until they regain their strength. This image describes clearly what God does for us. We are very good, as humans, at getting in a pickle, wandering off into difficult, even dangerous, situations but God will always come looking for us, even when it is our own fault. BUT we do need to admit we need help, otherwise He cannot rescue us. At the times of our most vulnerable, when we are sick, injured, bereaved, hurt, in pain and suffering He will pick us up, carry us and make sure we receive what we need to become strong again, to restore our soul, but once more we need to be willing to let Him. A sheep allows the Shepherd to rescue them, pick them up because they realise that they are in need and the Shepherd is their only hope. We like to think we can always get ourselves out of trouble, we don’t like to admit our vulnerability and so we can often wander much further away, even with God right there, because we just will not admit our need of help. God promises, not just here in Ezekiel, but time and time again that He will care for us, but we need to be willing to accept that care. God thinks no less of us for admitting we need His help. Whatever journey you are on, wherever you are ask for His help, He is right there waiting but you need to ask and tell Him you are willing to receive His help, His love and His care.
28th May 2020
Luke 5:13 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man, “I am willing,” He said. “Be clean!”
The Street Lawyer is a book by John Grisham. It tells the story of a well to do lawyer who one day finds himself in a lift with a homeless person. The lawyer is incensed because the man smells and is so unkempt that he finds him disgusting to look at. The lawyer wants him out of the building as soon as possible. He doesn’t pay his taxes to experience this horror in his city, he has no time for homeless people. As the story unfolds, the lawyer undergoes a transformation. He leaves behind a promising career to become a street lawyer who spends his time and effort working with the poor and homeless. Without realising it, the lawyer begins to imitate the actions and works of Jesus, who spent time with the outcasts of his community. In the above verse Jesus reaches out to touch a leper. This was unheard of. A leper was unclean and was not allowed to live with his family or in society. The disease was considered a punishment for evil and contagious. The leper was homeless, in rags and cast out from the city. To touch a leper was to become unclean yourself. If Jesus touches this man, He is going against all the rules and understandings of the time, that is to say, some people are just worthless. But that’s exactly why Jesus came, to reach out to people who were branded untouchable. We are called to have the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus. That means we would do well to look around us and reach out to people who are cast out or homeless. We may not be out and about that much right now, and for a while during the pandemic homeless people have been given rooms and food but that is changing back quickly. People are back on our streets and we have the choice of walking past on the other side or doing something. We could think about spending some time in a homeless shelter when volunteers are needed again. We can always offer monetary help to organisations like Crisis or The Salvation Army. We have our own homeless shelter in Bromley during the winter, can we offer any help there? Whatever we decide we can do we are called to follow our Lord’s example and reach out to the homeless and outcasts of our society.
27th May 2020
1 Corinthians 11:28 Let us examine ourselves before God.
Looking at yourself, your behaviour, needs honesty. Currently the view is to never admit you are wrong or sorry. To justify everything you do and never apologise or say you made a mistake because if you do you make yourself vulnerable and you can be dismissed as weak and of no use. We have managed to associate strength and success with being able to lie successfully and bend the truth to suit our own needs. People are told to look in the mirror and see their faults, unfortunately when they look in the mirror, they see themselves, their successes, their lifestyle. It is but arrogance that is reinforced. Because we are created in the image of God , generally the human disposition is to do the best for everyone, to be altruistic, but if everyone around you, behaves selfishly and with blatant arrogance, without thought for anyone but self, then you see no need to change, behaviour is reinforced and seen as acceptable, even normal, therefore no change is necessary. If all around you lie then why would you not, if all around you abuse others then why would you not, if all around you see illness as weakness then why would you not. Even though we have been taught right from wrong the right you become accustomed to allows you to justify your behaviour and never to examine yourself or feel the need to change. The challenge to examine our self is to make sure we never allow ourselves to become totally self-reliant or conceited, to realise we only grow, improve, and learn from mistakes. No human being can ever get it completely right. We must always act for the best and safest outcome for everyone. We cannot just look out for ourselves and we must allow our mistakes to be seen, acknowledged, and learnt from. The ability to admit when we are wrong and to apologise is what makes us honest, truthful and genuine children of God. If there is anything we have done or said that has caused another to be hurt or humiliated, then we must apologise and seek to put it right. Every day we need to examine ourselves and make sure we have been Christians of integrity, honesty and truth in everything we do. When our examination shows us to be wrong, to have caused harm, to have caused upset, then we must take the necessary steps to apologise, make things right and make the changes needed in our lives so it does not happen again.
26th May 2020
Hebrews 12:1 Since we have such a great crowd of witnesses let us strip away anything that slows us down or holds us back.
As this strange situation continues and the daily pattern of life has changed, I have good days and bad days and that must be the case for us all. When things appear to be dark and bad, we need to focus on the positive, on what is good around us, what we can celebrate. The simple question to enable this is what am I thankful for today? It can help lift us. As we answer that question and begin to think of what is good, what we have in our lives, what we have been blessed with, our spirit begins to lift. It is what my parents would call counting your blessings. As a child I would sing that very Song, “Count your blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.” If we think back over time, we have met hundreds of friends, witnesses, people who have inspired us with their kind comments and personal stories. The Bible calls these “a great cloud of witnesses”, heroes of faith, who encourage us with their examples. None of them were perfect, they all had bad days too, but they serve as a reminder of God’s rich blessings which are also available to us. We are also blessed by many “living saints” in our local churches, extended families, and circles of friends, people who encourage us, teach us, pray for us that we might continue serving God the best we can. As well as people our lives are full of daily blessings, we have so much and although it is unusual to spend so much time at home that in itself is a blessing, to be surrounded by our family, pets, belongings, music, games, pictures, books, flowers, plants…… we have so much it is easy to take it and others for granted. I return to that lovely old hymn…”When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost, Count your many blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done” As you pray today thank God for the heroes of faith around you, the cloud of witnesses He has given you, thank Him for all that you have and are, thank Him for the opportunities He gives you daily and thank Him that as you count these blessings you are encouraged and blessed and your spirit lifts within you and you become a blessing to others.
25th May 2020
John 21:6 Then he said, cast your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you will find some fish!
I wonder what your diary or calendar looks like now? Pages that would have been full are now empty or have cancelled written through them. The plans we made and put on our calendars have gone, life has changed, and we feel disappointed, we are waiting, wondering when we might begin to book things again. Some of us are patient to varying degrees, some of us are struggling, some of us are beginning to lose hope, but most of us are still doing the best we can to keep others, our families and ourselves safe. We have listened to the government advice and done what we have been told to do for the good of everyone. We have all done what we can and there are some things that only we can do for others, for ourselves and for our faith. However small the action, the words, the sentiment, we do what we need to do, what only we can do, to get through this. The Disciples were in this position after Jesus crucifixion and resurrection, they were lost, disappointed, waiting and wondering and so they did what they could do. They went fishing, their trade, they put themselves out there even in uncertainty. In the middle of doing this the voice calls and says try the other side and the miracle happens. The fish are caught, the prayers answered, lives changed, the door opened. We need to listen for that voice, the voice of Jesus, and do what only we can do. We, like them, are waiting, we are trusting, we are longing. We need to be daily casting our nets on whatever side of the boat we think is right, we need to listen for Jesus voice. We don’t stand idly by waiting for God to call, for things to change, for life to restart. We do what only we can do and we do it in God’s strength. And as we see things change, prayers answered, miracles happen, fish caught, perhaps we can fill the diary up with these things to encourage us and others now and in the future.
24th May 2020
1 Corinthians 2:13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words given by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit given words.
People often tell me they are worried about what they might say if asked about Jesus, or being a Christian, or about something in the Bible. They worry that they will not have the answers or might say the wrong thing. Paul encourages us in several places to speak out because it is the Spirit who will give us the right things to say. Wisdom is often personified in the female gender because it is something to be desired, to be sort and found, to work for, to treat with respect and as such something everyone of us should look to obtain. To be wise is often associated with age and experience, with education, with the ability to judge reactions and situations considering all the possible outcomes. As Christians we may feel too young, inexperienced, lacking Bible knowledge or theological understanding and so worry we may do more harm than good in a situation. The great news is that we are promised God’s wisdom through the Holy Spirit. As we pray, we begin to develop the relationship between us and God. We need to take time, pause, and listen. We never have to rush into an answer, we speak out of what we have experienced, what we feel and know in our hearts and that comes from the Spirit of God living within us. It is not that we want to be known as wise, but that we speak from an honesty and integrity that makes people want to listen. If we are unsure of something wisdom would suggest we say, “I don’t know but I can find out.” If questions seem aggressive or angry then wisdom would suggest we speak peace and gentleness. The Spirit will prompt, guide, act within us but we must be in touch with the Spirit. We must get to know our God, read His word, learn His ways and as we do the Spirit works within us to provide the answers and actions we need in every situation. As Paul says My God will supply all your needs, God will never let us down.
23rd May 2020
2 Kings 20:11 Isaiah the prophet called to the LORD, and he brought the shadow of the Sun back ten steps.
I tend to find that Christians don’t really believe in miracles in the present day. Before the scientific understanding we now have, many things we would have said were miracles can now be explained in someway or another. I would argue that doesn’t mean they are not miraculous. There is an anecdotal story that Nasa cannot explain some missing time in history, the only explanation that seems to fit is the story in 2 Kings 20 where King Hezekiah asks for proof from God and is offered the movement of the sun in the sky, Hezekiah believes that moving time backwards is a lot harder than forwards and so God moves the Sun and thus time backwards. The amount of time here fits with the amount of time Nasa cannot explain. It is a miracle, one we cannot explain even today with all our science and understanding. I want to suggest that we are witness to daily miracles that we don’t even recognise, the miracle of a cut healing and disappearing after a few days or weeks, the miracle healing of broken bones after several weeks, the miracle of antibiotics to cure diseases, the miracle of nature producing food season upon season…..the list is endless and can often be justified by science but science cannot explain how we were created with this natural healing ability. We take these things for granted instead of seeing them for what they are, God given blessings or miracles that allow us to live well. Yes, we would all like to see what we call a big supernatural miracle of the Sun going backwards but we only need to look at the miracles Jesus performed and the way many people with no knowledge or understanding just wrote them off as unreal or even against their laws. Miracles are still happening, the daily ones and occasionally the really big ones, we have the choice to either believe in God and His miracles or just ignore them and chalk them up to something else because we do not want our beliefs and practices to be challenged or changed.
22nd May 2020
Psalm 8: 5/6 You have made humans a little lower than the angels the crown of all creation. You made them stewards over your creation.
I have referred to this current situation as like being in a holding pattern and like a pause. I am now discovering that this time during the virus has begun to be called the Great Pause. We have, by remaining in our homes, caused some amazing things to happen, pollution has fallen, so many less cars on the road and planes in the sky, people can work from home, the rat race has calmed, families have spent time together, people’s social conscience has been heightened. Within God’s creation we are the only ones, as humans, who can choose to stop doing things, who can choose to do something different. The bird flies, nests, feeds but cannot collect pollen and make honey like the bee. The lion will sleep and hunt and feed but won’t stop during a chase and think I will let the gazelle go this time. Animals live on instincts, to feed, to mate, to survive. We have been created with so much more, we can choose to do something or not do it. We can choose to help others or not, we can choose to challenge injustice or not. By choosing, in the main, to obey Lockdown, to remain in our homes we have helped to slow the spread of the virus and give our world time to breathe, time to reenergise. Life offers us choices every day and it is our God given mental capacity to weigh things up, to make choices that makes us the crown of God’s creation. But with that role comes an even greater responsibility. We are God’s created stewards of our world, what we choose to do effects the lives of others, the vulnerable, the elderly and the disabled, all creation and the animals. Our current pause has improved our environment for everyone, we have a choice if we allow that to continue or just let things go back to how they were without learning lessons and making different and better choices for our God given world.
21st May 2020
Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever.
Change is a word that can inspire hope but also fear. Particularly as we age, we tend to fear change because we are secure with what we know. For some change is the answer to everything and they easily throw the baby out with the bath water. I grew up with the adage if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. We need some constancy, some reliability in our lives, in our world so we can live safely and well. Of course, our world changes and we move on, life is able to change for the better with technology, in health matters, living conditions etc but we also see some change which is not as good for us, living to work rather than working to live is a prime example. Jesus is a constant in the midst of change. His love for us has always been and does not stop because of any reasons. Amid change we have a constancy, we have our Lord, our Saviour whose love is unconditional. Our human nature means that we are not perfect, we can be cruel, unpleasant, rude and dishonest but we always have a choice. Jesus love for us, His care for us means that as we recognise our faults and admit to them, we are forgiven, we can start again, we can change for the better. The changeless love of Christ means we have the opportunity to change our lives and also the lives of others for the better. Paul wrote his letter to the Hebrews to encourage them, to keep them faithful in the difficult times around them, this letter also encourages us today, reminds us of Jesus perpetual and unconditional love that is our constant in a changing world.
20th May 2020
Colossians 1:16: For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible.
We often refer to humans being made in the image of God as Genesis tells us. It also says God created the whole of creation and values it as divine and special. In other words everything is the “child of God”, there are no exceptions. All created beings must, in some way, carry the divine DNA of their Creator. We have lost a sense of the intrinsic sacredness of the world in every tiny bit of life and death. As humans we struggle to see God in our own reality, let alone to respect our whole created world, protect it, or love it. The consequences of this are all around us, in the way we have exploited and damaged our fellow human beings, the beautiful animals, all growing things, the land, the waters, and the very air we breathe. It took until the twenty-first century for Pope Francis’ to say “May it not be too late and may the unnecessary gap between practical seeing (science) and holistic seeing (religion) be fully overcome. They still need each other.” Those who follow the Franciscan lifestyle have an incarnational worldview, which is the recognition of the presence of the divine in everything and everyone. It is the key to mental and spiritual health, as well as to a kind of basic contentment and happiness. Franciscans mean we can speak with one consistent and true voice about a rock, a tree, an animal, a human, an angel, and God! It is often said “God is Being itself.” This removes any distinction between the sacred and the profane, God created everything, God is in everything, nothing was made without Him. We are all God’s children and as such we must treat each other and all God’s creation with complete respect and love. We need to see God in everyone and everything, every day and that will really change our world for the better.
19th May 2020
Hebrews 11:10 For Abraham was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
Abraham is a Bible character we all know about, one of the patriarchs, someone whose name was changed to reflect His change of loyalty and belief to God. He was a city man, as far you could be then, so leaving Ur was a real step of faith because he was promised a place in a bigger, better city, a city he could only see by faith. The same eternal city we are promised. He followed God and was prepared to live a nomadic life to work toward God’s promise. But Abraham was human, he kept making errors, he bargained with God, he lied to keep himself safe putting his wife in danger but even so, even in his imperfection he had a strong and blessed relationship with God. His relationship with God was one of friendship, friendship brings out the best in someone and offers help and encouragement where it is needed. Abraham and Sarah were given a miracle, a son, even in their old age. They called him Isaac which means laughter and joy. Abraham had been promised that he would be father of a nation, he took matters into his own hands and tried to second guess God and made problems for himself, but he learns to trust and believes that God will honour His promise and when his faith is tested Abraham is not found wanting, even being willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. God does not let Him down. God is our friend, He will honour the promises made to us, we can challenge Him, we can ask Him for help, we will make mistakes and mess up and we will always be offered forgiveness. We can trust in His promises to us, His ultimate promise of eternal life, and we can walk day by day with our friend God by our side and know we never walk alone.
18th May 2020
Leviticus 11:44 I am the Lord your God, consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy.
We tend not to think of ourselves as holy, in fact in today’s society it is used more as an insult by calling someone holier than thou. Being holy actually means being different, being set apart. We set things apart in our daily lives, when we wash our clothes, we set them apart by whites and colours. On our plate we set apart our vegetables from our meat. In the kitchen we set apart our refrigerated things from our frozen items, from our tins and packets and we set apart our cleaning products keeping them safely away from little hands and foodstuffs. To be holy means to be “set apart.” We are called to separate ourselves from immorality, dishonesty, lies and impurity, to be set apart from sin, even as we live in a world weighed down by sin. By calling His people to be holy, God called them to be a shining light of His blessing to all nations. But we know the story of the Old Testament, Israel continually failed to be the holy nation God called them to be. God never gave up, that is why the prophets kept calling them back to living God’s way, by loving God with all their heart, mind, and strength and by loving their neighbours as themselves. God never gives up on us either. This calling to be set apart is also our calling as prophets in the world today. We are all called back to living for God and showing His love, just as Jesus did. The world, as it continues, needs to be shaped by Christians who push back the darkness and reclaim this lost world for Christ. Sometimes it is a frightening thing to be a prophet. It can also be exciting and fulfilling. The world needs more prophets. You and I are prophets. We are called to be holy, to be set apart, to confess the name of Jesus as Lord and Saviour. We are called to love God with our whole being and to share His love with everyone.
17th May 2020
Isaiah 11:2 The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him: the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, counsel and might, knowledge, piety and the fear of the LORD
Much of what we talk about as Gifts of the Spirit we take from the New Testament but Isaiah gave a clear list of Gifts which would be a sign of the Messiah to come and of any person who serves God. These gifts are things we should all strive to have in our lives. Wisdom and Fear of The Lord, often placed together, an awe and wonder that places the creative, mysterious and delight of God into our lives, to see God in everything and as such ask ourselves what would God do in any given situation. How can I act or speak effectively for God at any given time. Wisdom is of the heart. Understanding follows from this, it is of the mind, looking for truth, understanding Scripture and why we do what we do. Counsel is listening to all parts of ourselves, the bigger picture, not allowing fear to affect our reactions, the Spirit of truth is our advocate to who we refer, a supernatural intuition if you will. Fortitude/Might, often linked to courage, enables us to judge promptly and rightly in difficult situations and gives us the strength to continue in long term difficult situations and not give up. Knowledge means the drawing out, leading and bringing up of humans so they can flourish and grow. It is educating ourselves and others in the best and safe ways of living as best for all and seeing things from God’s perspective. Piety is the giving of service, respect, reverence to others. We respect and honour God as we should, it recognises we are God’s creation, not an outward show as often misinterpreted, but a religious spirit of love, care and compassion for all people and all God’s creation. These gifts sit very much together and are gifts we should all strive for and live with as people of God. If these gifts are present, and we are given the Holy Spirit to enable these gifts to be present in us, then we will be people of God, clear witnesses and signposts to the God of all creation, people who when seen and heard point clearly and directly to God.
16th May 2020
John 11:35 Jesus Wept.
This is the shortest verse In the Bible but one of the most important. If Jesus cries, then it is not only okay for us to cry, it is actually encouraged. This verse clearly shows the humanity of Jesus, that He is both fully human and fully God. We are created beings, created by a loving caring God and as such we are created with emotions, with the ability to love, care, cry, laugh, shout, scream, grieve, celebrate……..we are created with emotions because they are important. We are not robots; we are not supposed to just deal with every situation without feeling or emotion. Jesus had just been told that His friend had died, He was challenged that had He been there His friend would not have died, such belief in Him, and He wept. It hurts deeply when we lose someone, it is like losing a part of ourselves because we are very much made up of all the people around us and they impact they have on our lives. Emotion allows us to release the hurt, to allow ourselves to boil over and so readjust the temperature inside, to release the pressure that builds and so begin to find a way to move on, adjust and accommodate a new normal. We never get over loss we only learn to live with it. Jesus felt the pressure of grief, the pressure of being responsible, of being late, of needing to comfort others while feeling lost Himself. He knows exactly how we feel when we hurt when we grieve. He fully understands the emotional roller coaster we ride, and He rides it alongside us. When we weep, He weeps with us, when we grieve, He grieves with us, when we question our role, He knows exactly how that feels and stands alongside us, supporting us. Only someone who fully understands our human nature could fully release us from the prison of sin and only someone who fully experiences emotions can stand alongside side us and enable us to go on.
15th May 2020
Proverbs 16:16 How much better to obtain wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver!
As things begin to unlock people are very aware of dangers and of returning to “normal”. Already the blame game has begun, people who speak out, who challenge the status quo are written off , even threatened and ignored because the return to the “norm” of the rich getting richer and the poor getting even poorer is more important. We are already aware that the poor, the elderly, and those from ethnic minorities are more at risk and yet these concerns are bring ignored in favour of restarting the economy. It is not new, all through history the same has happened, BUT we are only protected as we are, have the freedoms we have and the rights to protection and safety because of those who have stood up and been counted. Our children receive education because the church realised that education gave children the way to escape poverty and to have a better life. Our treatment of the poor and ethnic minorities changed because Christians stood up in parliament and challenged work practices, fair wages, limited and safe working hours. Because we believe in fairness and justice for all we must stand up for what is right. It is easy to criticise those who make a stand, to decry their efforts as stopping progress but we forget that the progress we have made is fairer and safer because questions were asked, and challenges made. All of us must not allow our enthusiasm for getting back to “normal” to put the elderly, the vulnerable, the poor or the minorities at any more risk than everyone else. Before God we have a duty to our neighbours, to every person who as children of God are all equal, to be just and fair and not be guided by money and self interest alone in the decisions we are making.
14th May 2020
Hebrews 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
I have been to the bank this morning; I checked online the current opening hours and structured my visit accordingly. When I arrived a tiny paper notice on the door told me it wasn’t actually opening at the times on the website and that it actually was only there to pay in or out through machines. A real lack of communication and provision. When I finally got into the bank, I witnessed an old lady who needed help being told to go up to London if she wanted any other type of help. I found the attitude very uncaring and it took a machine 15 minutes and several attempts to take my money to pay in, the machine did not like the notes, they were not good enough to pass through. This whole experience made me feel that accessing what was mine was being discouraged and withheld. Current issues have given certain organisations the power to make us feel guilty for accessing services we pay for. In all this negativity I was encouraged by the fact that God never stops us from accessing Him. He does not put limits on forgiveness, on love, care, compassion…all are freely given in abundance and without having to queue. He does not look at what we want to deposit and turn it away as not good enough, He does not want us to feel guilty but be freely forgiven, He does not make us wait for assistance and does not tell us to go somewhere else when we need help. God’s riches are on tap to us without people on doors telling us if we can go into His presence or not, without someone withholding what God has given us by right and what He wants us to have every day. So let me encourage you to tap into God, take what He freely gives and know you always have access to Him 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
13th May 2020
Matthew 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.
At this time a lot of people are grieving and mourning. People never expect death but through this pandemic many people have passed suddenly, and their families are left bereft and without any apparent reason. In life all seasons move on, we move on, not in a forgetful way but one that accommodates what has happened and learns to live a new normal. The softening of our hearts by love means that we will grieve and hurt when we lose those we love, grief is the price we play for loving someone. Dicken’s character Scrooge had hidden away from being hurt by loving money instead and had to lean to experience life and love again, to be thawed in his emotion. God has given us emotions for a reason, that we can love, laugh and celebrate but also cry, grieve and get cross. We need these emotions to deal with life, with love, with companionship. We are enabled to live better and good lives because we care, because we love, and out of that love we give unconditionally to our families and others. We can so easily forget the good when we experience the bad, we can be so lost in hurt and anger that the brightness of life and love can be lost for a short time until we feel the sunlight again, until spring begins to come and new life, our new normal begins to blossom. We all grieve because we love, notice I use the present tense, love does not stop because someone is physically gone. All that someone was to us, as part of our life, still remains within us. We are all, in part, who we are because of them and as such we carry them forever within us. We must be kind to ourselves when we are mourning, to remember the good times, the things that make us smile, to tell stories, to look at family pictures and treasure the love. Then slowly, very slowly we will accommodate our loss and begin to live with it in the new normal, physically without someone, but spiritually, emotionally and mentally they will always be with us.
12th May 2020
John 16:7 Very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away.
To be told that Jesus was leaving must have caused real upset and concern for the disciples, they must have wondered how His going away could be for their and our good. Jesus had often taught them that following Him could bring trouble and hardship so how could Him going away be good? This question may seem especially relevant today. Many Christians around the world face persecution and even death for following Jesus. And in places where persecution is not so obvious, following Jesus can still mean sacrifice. As Peter once said to Jesus, we have left everything to follow you. Currently we are struggling with a worldwide pandemic and faith is tested and understanding is difficult. When Jesus ascended to heaven, He was no longer physically present in the world with his followers, so what made His going away a good thing? Jesus’ words on the night before his death, addressed this concern. He said that his ascension would open the way for the Holy Spirit to come and live in them and bring power from God into their lives. Jesus’ followers would no longer need him to be physically present on earth, with all the limits that Jesus’ humanity levied. Now God the Father and Jesus the son would be fully part of our human life through God the Holy Spirit who would come and live within us. Because Jesus has returned to the Father, we feel God’s presence even more powerfully as the Spirit comes to live in us. This is sometimes hard to believe when we face the hardships of life. But it is God’s promise, for our good, that we are never alone, He is with us always through the Spirit who lives within.
11th May 2020
Joshua 14 :8b I, however, followed the Lord with all my heart.
In the Bible there are many characters who show us the way to be true to our faith, even in the midst of great difficulty. Caleb is one such character who never gives up. When the spies return from the promised land declaring the impossibility of God’s plan, Caleb stands firm in his faith and belief in what God has said. He keeps believing God’s promise throughout the wasted years of unbelief by his people. He steadfastly counted on God’s promise even though his own generation had kept complaining to God and even after God keeps caring for them, providing for them they keep turning their back. Even though Caleb knew God would give them the promised land, that things were ready, because of the negative accounts of his so-called friends Caleb was prevented from entering to God’s blessing. Caleb had to take his place within the Israelites through forty years of wilderness wandering, forty years of frustration and yet be different form them in spirit. Unbelief and impatience are very contagious across groups of people, so Caleb employed something we all need, to keep our heart and mind set on God. This enabled Caleb to keep going and made him a living link between the current generation who have lost their love of God and a new generation who will find God again and possess the inheritance God promised them all those years before. We all have naysayers around us, people who would drag our faith down by their negative views but we need to keep our hearts and minds on God, remind ourselves of His constant faithfulness and love to us and know that God will always be with us and bless us, that way we are able to stand firm in our faith and follow the Lord with all our hearts.
10th May 2020
Psalm 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble.
We are often presented with history as a neat package with start dates and finish dates, we turn over the page in the book and a new era starts. These dates are actually just one day in peoples lives of struggle that started before the date and go on after it. We commemorate dates as part of our collective history but in that we can easily lose the bigger picture, forget those whose struggles continued, those who were key to an event but are now forgotten. As we move forward in our current pandemic there is a call for change, a call to honour and protect those who have been on our front line, those who vocation in life has meant they desire to help and care for the sick. Florence Nightingale, who was born 200 years ago this coming week, was someone who gave professional dignity to nurses and carers and as we call for change ,now, we must ask ourselves if we really want to change things or just go back to normal. In 6 months or a year will we still value key workers or simply place a date in the history books when we rejoice in winning the battle, but easily forget those who were on the front line, those who gave their lives. What happens next is in our hands, this can be a watershed moment in our time where we challenge the status quo and change things for the better. It won’t be instant, there are no quick fixes, but nothing we do for others is ever lost. God uses everything we do; He is our refuge and strength. We talk of winning a battle, of being victorious, true victory is a healing compassion that can never be extinguished! Every good we do matters. Let us look to God, His healing, His compassion, it has always been there, it is here now and it will continue over time and forever. Keep seeking to do good, to exact change, to challenge the status quo and know that God is with you and nothing you do is ever wasted.
9th May 2020
Luke 23:34: Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.
Being a Christian, having a faith means I am always keen to visit churches and Cathedrals round the country and when we are abroad. I love the sense of History, “His Story” that we find in each one and the stories of human struggles to firstly build and then keep these places maintained, sacred and special. One of my favourite Cathedrals is Coventry. You have the old ruins bombed in WW2 and the new Cathedral with its beautiful tapestry and stained glass. For me two things stand out, the Cross of Nails; two big nails had fallen into the shape of a cross during the bombing, then secondly a Message of Forgiveness was written underneath a wooden cross in the ruins. From the brutality of a war time destruction came a sign of hope: A Cross of Nails. From the brutality of a Roman occupation came hope, held by nails to a wooden cross. From a battered ruined Cathedral came a Message of Forgiveness, from a battered ruined body came a message of forgiveness and new life for all. When we think of symbols of love we tend to think of hearts, flowers, rings and yet the most powerful signs of love are nails, a cross, forgiveness and a battered and bruised body that dies that we might live. If you ever get the chance to visit Coventry Cathedral go and see the glory of new and old standing side by side, see the Cross of Nails and the message of Forgiveness and recognise God’s complete and utter love for us.
8th May 2020
Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his complete love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Today, May 8th, as well as being the 75th Anniversary of VE day is also the day the church remembers Julian of Norwich, 1342-c.1416. Known to most through her book, The Revelations of Divine Love, which is accepted as one of the great classics of living the spiritual life. She is believed to be the first woman to write a book in English which has survived and is still widely read and quoted. Julian took her name from St. Julian's Church in Norwich where she lived for most of her life as a spiritual counsellor. The people of Norwich suffered from famine, plague and poverty, so she was counselling a lot of people in terrible pain and yet, her counselling and writings are filled with hope and complete trust in God's goodness. Julian received insight into Christ sufferings and his love for us and so her message was, and remains, one of hope and trust in God, whose compassionate love is always given to us. In this all-gracious God there can be no element of anger. That anger or wrath, as it is often called, is all that is contrary to peace and love and so it is a problem that lies in us, who are not perfect, and not in a perfect God. The proof is in God’s saving work in Jesus and in the gift of God's Spirit, freely given to us. Julian did not perceive God as blaming or judging us, but as completely and entirely enfolding us in love.
7th May 2020
Matthew 6:11 Give us this day our daily bread.
I wonder how much bread you get through, a day, a week? We al know people who go to the supermarket late so as to pick up the dated bread cheaply because their family, children particularly, need packed lunches daily and have toast as a snack several times a day. Bread is a staple and central food in our lives. People are differently fussy about their bread. Some have to have fresh bread every day and will not eat day old or longer bread. There are also those who will not throw bread away, even if it is mouldy, they will cut the mould off rather than waste bread. There are some who only make their own bread because it is fresh, free from additives etc. My personal preference is when I buy bread it must be on the top of the bag because I cannot abide squashed bread. So, is our relationship with bread a reflection on life? There are those who get through as much life as they can, then there are those who always start fresh every day. There are those who hang on to everything, good and bad, and never really start afresh and those who think only their style of life is correct, free from additives etc. Perhaps what we need is a more mixed approach. Yes we must live life to the full, the Bible tells us that, we also need to start afresh every day and not be hampered by the past, we need to rid ourselves of the mould of life and we need to not pollute our lives with the distractions and additives of life. Just as bread is a staple food let us remember its lessons: life to the full, fresh starts, releasing the past and not polluting the present.
6th May 2020
John 18:37 Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.
Jesus’ declaration here about truth is in line with everything he had taught and continued to teach. He stands before Pilate full of grace and truth. He is the bread of life; the living water; the way, the truth, and the life and the only way to know God the Father. As he stands before this Roman governor, Jesus offers Pilate the chance to experience the truth and enter into a relationship with Him and His father just like He offers to everyone and just like one of His disciples. But doing that, recognising and accepting Jesus, would be very costly for Pilate. If Pilate were to accept what Jesus has to say, he would have to make the truth more important than Rome, or political power, or wealth. If Pilate accepted Jesus’ claims and set Jesus free, he would be throwing away his credibility with the Jews, and his entire career. In this Gospel account John has been helping us to understand that all we possess on this earth, all our power, influence and wealth pales in comparison to the truth of Jesus. Who He is, what God has done through Him. The offer Jesus extends to everyone is the chance to experience life with God the way we are created to live it. Nothing is more important than that. Sadly, Pilate chooses to reject Jesus’ offer. What about us? What might we need to let go of in order to embrace the full truth of Jesus?
5th May 2020
Micah 6:8 What does the Lord require of us; to do justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God?
The current lockdown situation offers many opportunities for people to speak out against injustice. We are seeing a great outpouring of sympathy and support for care home staff and NHS staff fighting for people’s lives without the proper protection. We are seeing many speak out about domestic violence and homelessness. We are also seeing politicians and authorities being overzealous in their pursuit of their version of keeping people safe. There is very little willingness to admit mistakes and take responsibility, instead there is a declaration of fake news or questionable journalism against anyone who disagrees. The recognition of our being wrong, needing to change and being open to scrutiny is vital to a just and fair society. No one is ever completely right, and it is only by admitting mistakes and learning from them that we improve and change things for the better. Leadership is not, as we are currently often witnessing, telling people they are wrong, we are right, and you are disloyal if you disagree with us. If God the creator of the world is willing to allow us to formulate our opinions based on truth and honesty, then real leadership and leaders should be willing to allow us the freedom to do that as well. We do not all agree about everything, we can’t, we are individuals, but we have the ability to disagree, to discuss, to be transparent and open with each other and so come to the best way forward, to the way that promotes justice, mercy and humility for all.
4th May 2020
John 4:7 As the woman drew water from the well, Jesus asked her for a drink.
If you are like me you will be thinking about what you have been doing with your time whilst in lockdown. I have been trying to do more prayer, but actually come to recognise what prayer I have always been doing. One area I do a lot of is practice hospitality, but how do we practice hospitality when we can’t open our homes or visit others? We are all guests in God’s creation, as stewards the world is on loan to us, it is God’s hospitality to us; his created image. We are called to make ourselves feel at home in God’s world and make others feel at home here too. We have a place in this world and all we have and are is sacred. We are called to take care of everything and share everything. Everything is worthy of our respect; everyone is worthy of our respect. All humans are of God, from God and are a gift from God and each have their own gifts to offer. If we treat every human being as in God’s image, with compassion, respect and love, just as God treats us, then we are practicing hospitality. When Jesus met the woman at the well, He allowed her to give Him hospitality before sharing God’s love with her. We cannot be good hosts until we are at home in ourselves because then we allow people to be at home in themselves. Being hospitable means making space for people to be themselves. Right now, this has to happen in a different way. Through shopping and errands delivered to doorsteps, by sharing meals with neighbours, by writing to people, phoning them, emailing them, sending messages of support and over mobile screens. Being hospitable is still happening and I would encourage you to keep allowing others to be themselves as you are yourself.
3rd May 2020
1 Peter 2:5 You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house.
Our church buildings are currently closed, and we lament that, but ministry in our world still goes on because as Peter tells us we are living stones. The church is both people and buildings. The buildings and their surroundings carry people’s stories across time, they offer God in time, a very missional experience. Over years these building change because life has changed and although our message of love is constant, the way we offer that message changes with time. Our buildings are thin places of prayer, places where we learn to live in relation to God, to one another and to creation. Our buildings are a sign of hope within the community, a reminder of God’s presence in our world, a light in the darkness of the time. Christianity is worship, what we do outside our buildings is the test of that. We finish every service with a sending out, a challenge to go and get on with the work of God in God’s world. Our personal ministry, our part of being church is how we live and work within our community, our part of God’s world. When we meet together, we are encouraged, blessed and energised to go and be living stones in God’s world. Currently our meeting together is not in buildings but through emails, computers and phones, a change of the present time, BUT we are still church, as people of faith and as people of ministry who as we practice being living stones in our community point to God who loves this world and gave Himself for it.
2nd May 2020
Acts 2:44 All the believers were together and had everything in common.
We often talk about our church, as a community and a family. In school we often refer to it as a community and as part of certain subjects we discuss and think about what community is. Every time we think about it we come up with something different. It is such a wide-ranging topic. Community applies to everything that we are and that we do. When we play games together, we are building community. When we eat together, we are building community. When we study God’s Word, we are building community; each week as we worship together and learn to apply our faith, we are building community. When we serve and work with others in our neighbourhood, together we are building community. When we pray together, we are building community. The early church, described in Acts 2, is a great example of this building community. Whatever the early Christians did, they did it together and built community in the process. From the big things in life to the small things, they did them together and learned about who they were and who God is at the same time. From this early meeting as community came the church, bodies of people coming together as community making sure everyone had enough and was not in need. Community looked after each other. Being part of a community is vitally important. Humans are not good alone, we need each other. Community gives us the opportunity to be honest and vulnerable, to build others up as we are being built up. To discover our gifts and talents as we help others do the same. To learn from others as they learn from us and to see a larger picture of who God is in the world around us and in ourselves. At present Community is being practiced differently but it is still community and it is still and always will be God’s community in this place.
1st May 2020
2 Timothy 1:14 Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted within you.
I have been wondering if we can learn any lessons from Celtic Christian spirituality. The ancient Celts made great use of their internal Spirituality. Do we realise that within each one of us is the heartbeat of the Sacred? Within us is the mark of the Creator who made us. We have the opportunity and we should honour that Sacredness in one another and in everything that God has created. As we realise that we are bearers of God’s Presence, as well as needing to honour that Presence in one another and in the earth, we realise we hold the key to transformation in our world. We have such a deep well to tap into, God’s well of creativity but we don’t. We must delve into the internal spirituality that God has given us, visions that emerge from deeper within us than our conscious rational minds. It will demand a fresh releasing within us of the world of God’s imagination, God’s Spirit, God’s creativity. We have the opportunity to open the well of what we do not yet know or what we have forgotten deep within. This deep well of spirituality is why, in so much Celtic storytelling and legends worlds come together, the convergence of the unseen world of those who have gone before us and this present time where the seen and the physical dominate. This is also why, in so much Eastern spiritual practice as well as in monastic communities in the Christian tradition, the early hours of dawn are viewed as the time of meditation, when night and day are in communion and so open up ways that more readily allow us to move from the known to the unknown and from the obvious to the deeper realm of God’s creation within us.
30th April 2020
Hebrews 10:25 Do not give up the habit of meeting together as some are doing.
With things as they are my thoughts have turned to church, what happens next? When we are able to meet together again things will be different and we will have to adapt our worship to the circumstances at the time. Being unable to meet together on a Sunday or weekday has, I believe, meant a much bigger appreciation of what we have, a recognition of what God has given us in our communities and buildings. It gives us the opportunity to reflect on what we have done in our churches over the years, have we been places of faith and love or have we allowed ourselves to make it an exercise in running church buildings or being a church officer. Has it become more about the role and the place than about our faith and God’s love. A difficult question for all of us is Why do we go to church? Why does church matter to us? These are difficult questions and the answer will be different for each one of us. Do we attend church for the culture, the acceptance, the tradition, our upbringing or is it because God calls us and we have a living relationship with Him. The church, and being part of it, enables us to live in the world as Christians. The change in us enables us to go and change others. The knowledge and experience we gain in church life and community allows us to share it with others in confidence. All services end with a sending out in to the world to share His love, we go because in our meeting together to worship we have been reenergised, blessed, encouraged and enabled to live as we are called.
29th April 2020
Colossians 4:5 Be wise in the way you live, make the most of every opportunity.
We tend to think that proclaiming the gospel and making it clear is achieved through speaking, preaching and telling, and although this is partially true we forget that our biggest proclamation of the gospel is found in our actions toward others. How we live each day really matters. Two important things are offered to us in this verse. Firstly, wisdom or discernment which we need to have and should use regarding our actions, our daily living toward others around us. What we do and what we say must be consistent every day and with everyone, in order to clearly present the love of Jesus. Secondly, we are to make the best use of our time, making the most of every opportunity. Every moment of our life is precious and important and should be lived in the service of our saviour. St. Paul, the author of this letter to the Colossians, was deeply aware of this, having been beaten, imprisoned, and shipwrecked over the course of his ministry. This perspective inspired Paul to confidently share His faith in Jesus through both words and actions and we should do the same. The truth of the gospel message is that time is short. Whether by accident, nature, or the return of Christ, each person could be face-to-face with God at any moment. Therefore we need not only set our own house in order, by daily living our faith, but give everyone we come into contact with the opportunity to set their own house in order and find their own belief in God. As Christians we are called to both speak and live our faith every day.
28th April 2020
Exodus 14:14 - The Lord is fighting for you; you need only to be still.
For much of my adult life I have lived in areas where the planes stack ready to land, it is called a holding pattern. I was trying to think of how to sum up how I feel at the moment and Holding Pattern is a great metaphor. The planes circle round and round in the sky waiting to land, busy going nowhere. That is how I think many of us feel right now, we are circling round and round waiting to land back into normal life, lockdown is like a holding pattern. As human beings we are no different from children in our expectation, we pray to God and expect an answer, now, immediately. When He does not seem to answer or does not answer in our expected and desired ways, we begin to say perhaps there is no God. This impatience explains the number of Christians, who daily seek for miracles and fast remedies to their solution. We are so used to an instant world we want instant answers. We forget that the Bible is filled with believers, who waited and held on in their holding pattern in spite of their problems; great people of faith such as Job, Abraham, Jeremiah, Daniel and so on. Even in their holding pattern, they hold on to their faith, even when it seemed pointless and even useless. Today, we are reminded that Christianity is nothing without patience, and learning to wait, even when it seems like God has maybe forgotten us, as we circle, waiting, it is an important part of our journey. We are encouraged to hold on time and again in the Bible, we are reminded constantly of God’s love for us and that He does not forget us, so, as we wait patiently in our holding pattern, let us continue to praise Him and know He circles with us, fighting for us and learn to be still as we wait.
27th April 2020
Luke 24: But we had hoped that He would be the one to redeem us.
The Emmaus road is about 7 miles long from Jerusalem to Emmaus. At Jesus time it was a well-worn path, a common journey but on this occasion one of immense sadness. Into this melee of emotions comes a stranger, we know it is Jesus, they don’t. In that time God is being revealed to them but they are unaware of it. God is right there in the everyday, but they can’t yet see it. They utter that phrase, but we had hoped………here is future not fulfilled, a tragedy of what has happened, an unfulfillment of what they had hoped would happen. For us we have that same feeling, we had hoped for Easter services in church, we had hoped for normal life, we had hoped for an Easter break in the sunshine, we had hoped for a spring we could revel in, without perhaps knowing it we had hoped for life as normal and we still are. What we have done and are doing every day is moving over the disappointment and despair. Often our problem with anything is we want to get to the good part, the celebration without all that goes before. We don’t like disappointment and despair; we want to move on to the good, to what is comfortable and normal. What we forget is that God is there too, God does not just exist at the times of celebration and Joy, He is there all of the time. He is in the despair, in the disappointment, in the pain and suffering, in the grief and the long journey we make in life. God is our constant companion in life, sometimes behind us, sometimes in front and mostly by our side, and yes sometimes He picks us up and carries us when we just can’t take another step. Whatever our hopes are, our hope in God is our strength. God will always be our companion whether we recognise it or not, we are never alone, He has always been there and always will be there. Our Hope is in the name of the Lord who made Heaven and Earth. I will trust in Him.
26th April 2020
Matthew 16:15 But what about you?” Jesus asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Transitional space, between two places or things, is where we can begin to think and act in new ways, we have the opportunity to change as we move from one place or state to another. It is where we are betwixt and between, having left one room or stage of life but not yet entered the next. We usually enter this transitional space when our former way of being is challenged or changed, perhaps when we lose a job or a loved one, during illness, at the birth of a child, or a major relocation or right now during a pandemic. It is a time of grace but often does not feel like it. In these times, we are not certain or in control. This global pandemic we now face is an example of an immense, collective transitional space. The very vulnerability and openness of this transitional space allows room for something genuinely new to happen. We are empty and receptive, waiting for new words, it is where we are most teachable, often because we are most humbled. It finds us struggling with the hidden side of things and it calls our so-called normal way of life into question. It’s no surprise then that we generally avoid these times if we possibly can. Yet much of the work of deepening spirituality and human development happens in these places and we need to spend enough time there, long enough that we can learn something essential and new. Many spiritual giants like St. Francis, Julian of Norwich, and even Gandhi tried to live their entire lives in permanent transitional states, on the edge or periphery of the prevailing culture around them. This in-between place is free of misconceptions and false promises. It invites us to discover and live from broader perspectives and with much deeper seeing. It means we do not to live or perform according to our usual successful, normal patterns. We need to be quiet instead of talking, experience emptiness instead of fullness, anonymity instead of personality, and poverty instead of plenty. In these transitional places, we need to take time, to let these experiences wash over us, rebuild us and help us re-enter the changed world with freedom and new, creative approaches to life.
25th April 2020
John 20:29 Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.
As Jesus is preparing to go to Heaven and leave his followers to live faithfully, He wants to help them adapt. Jesus addresses the challenge of doubt and unbelief, Thomas was a realist; he knew that resurrections were not everyday events, he feared that his fellow disciples had got it wrong, had got misled in their grief. Thomas wanted evidence. He demanded proof. It is really easy to criticise Thomas for his doubts, especially with hindsight, but the truth is that many of us live with similar hesitations. After all, Jesus is no longer on earth for us to see and touch, but he was for Thomas. We cannot have the same experience as the first disciples who walked with Jesus before and after his resurrection. So, we need Jesus to help and prepare us for the challenges of scepticism and doubt in our own lives. What does Jesus say to these struggling followers and therefore to us? “Stop doubting and believe.” We may not have the opportunity to feel the wounds of the cross with our own hands. But we have the testimony of lives changed by the Lord’s power. We have the evidence of Saints and followers who have gone before and are around us now. We have the fellowship of other believers in the church and can be encouraged by their words and actions, their lives of faith. Through them, through the Bible and prayer we can watch for the glory of Christ to appear around us, joining in with Thomas’s beautiful confession: “My Lord and my God!” It is sometimes hard to believe. We live in an age of doubts and lies, and our human minds constantly demand proof as science has told them to, But we believe because so many who have gone before show us the way and we see Jesus at work every day in our lives and in the world and He gives us the faith we need and calls us blessed.
24th April 2020
Mark 4:26 This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground.
Jesus used pictures about farming in the time to describe the kingdom of God. It was a language and experience they would understand. In this parable the mystery and excitement of farming helps us see something important about the kingdom of God. Once seeds go into the ground, the farmer has no control over them. It may help to provide water and sunlight, but the farmer must simply wait for the seeds to sprout and grow. It is a relief and a thrill to see the first tiny shoots appear, the crop is coming. Sure, the farmer expects it because seeds usually grow when the conditions are good. Yet the farmer does not and cannot control all the conditions. When growth happens, just as it normally does, it’s still amazing every time. And when the time for harvesting finally comes, when all the conditions have been met regardless of the farmer’s lack of control, it brings the joy of the Harvest and relief at the provision of food from God’s hand. When we sow the seeds of the good news of God’s kingdom, we can trust they will grow in the right conditions. But, we don’t have any control over the conditions, just like the farmer, so we have to wait. What a thrill it is to see the first sprout of faith begin in a child, a friend, or even someone we have just met! Even if we did not plant the seed, it is a joy to watch it grow into abundance. We then have the joy of watching that growth bear fruit in them and they are ready to join in feeding others and spreading the seed of God’s Word for the process to start again just as with seedtime and harvest. All God asks of us is to sow the seeds and let Him do the rest.
23rd April 2020
John 1:12 To all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God
I wonder what size and type of family you grew up in. Mine was fairly small and we didn’t see much of cousins and relatives. Others of us will have grown up in large families and been used to spending time with relatives. Though most of us love our families, we know there can be times of making mistakes, hurting one another, and disagreeing with each other. When conflicts come, we should try to resolve them. As children that often-meant separate rooms until we had calmed down and the desire to play again far outweighed the all but forgotten argument. Sometimes we need wisdom to resolve an issue and it can help to be able to rely on the family of God, which can offer love and support as well. Even Jesus own family struggled at times, Jesus was attracting large crowds because of his teaching and healing. His family members had heard some reports, and they thought Jesus might be “out of his mind” because leaders said He was, though he wasn’t, of course. When they came looking for him, to try and embarrass Him into seclusion he asked, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” He was not disrespecting his biological family here; he used this as a “teaching moment” for all his listeners, including us. He pointed out a much larger family, the family of God. Then he explained how to become part of this family: “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” Jesus, God’s Son, invites all of us into his family. And to all who receive him and believe in his name, he gives “the right to become children of God.” We may not always get it right as family, but we will always have God’s family to turn to, to help us and support us. It is a blessing freely given by Father God.
22nd April 2020
Hebrews 13:2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.
As Humans we are generally hospitable people. In some cultures when you enter a home you must be offered food and drink. There is a welsh tradition of everyone who enters your home is given Tea and cake or bread and butter. In some places poor families will take a loan to buy special chocolates for a visitor. Even in the old Testament those from other lands and cultures were to be treated with respect and shown hospitality. Behind all this lies the realisation that we never know exactly who we are welcoming in or helping. People have helped Kings, Princes and Nobles without knowing and the Bible reminds us that some have unknowingly entertained Angels in their hospitality. Abraham and his three visitors who he cared for and fed and brought blessing on his home and future family, Angels sent by God. There is Jesus teaching that whatever we do for one of these little ones we do for Him. As we are all created in God’s image, we are all to loved, cared for, fed and watered by each other. No one should be left without food or water, basic human needs, and therefore hospitality is a God given and God required blessing. Monasteries, particularly Benedictine ones, Abbeys and Churches practiced this throughout history, and our homes should also be places of hospitality. Right now, we may not be able to be so hospitable in our homes as we would like to be, but we can be hospitable with sharing food, money and time for others.
21st April 2020
Mark 12:30-31 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ ‘Love your neighbour as you love yourself.’
I have always seen prayer as a conversation between us and God. We tell him about our needs, feelings, ask His help and thank Him for all He has done for us. But, a conversation is two way, we need to listen as well as speak. Prayer involves times of silence as well as talking. Prayer must never be thought of as difficult, we do not have to follow a formula, although it can help, we don’t have to say certain words. We will often follow patterns we learned in school or church and we have the pattern of the Lord’s Prayer to use if it helps. The beginning and end are just acknowledging who we are talking to and saying goodbye at the end, just as we would a friend. Talking to God can be any time, any place and about anything, but as with any friendship or relationship we need to get to know one another, the relationship deepens, and you establish an understanding. For this to happen prayer needs to be regular, daily, without ceasing according to St. Paul. Through prayer we learn to love God with heart, soul, mind and strength and we learn that we also must love our neighbour as ourselves. Our relationship with God spreads outwards, we pray for others and we are prompted to act, to help others and to share each other’s burdens. Prayer is not just for the best or worst of times, it is for all times, in all places about everything. God is concerned about every part of all our lives, the little details as well as the big. Let me encourage you to pray regularly, to talk with God, to listen and to allow prayer to become the most natural thing we do.
20th April 2020
Luke 7:26 But what did you go out in the wilderness to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.
John the Baptist was a real outdoors type, he lived in the desert and preached repentance. For him to be locked away in a fortress prison was the worst kind of suffering. He had spent years in the wilderness with God’s spirit resting upon him. He asked for neither riches or comfort just the privilege of serving God, of burning bright as God’s forerunner for Jesus. Suddenly he found himself in a living tomb with no evidence of God’s vindication. He had expressed his willingness to decrease while Jesus increased but he had never thought that it would work out the way it had. Finally, his fate lay upon a block, beheaded at the request of spoilt girl who wanted to impress her mother. His earthly life had no recompense for his faithful, sacrificial service, it came in his heavenly reward, eternity with God, with Jesus, rewarded as a true and faithful servant. We are currently being locked away, not in the same way as John, but still experiencing a suffering of this current time. We may not be able to see any evidence of God’s vindication at the moment, but He is still right here with us, giving us the strength we need to keep going, to keep serving as true and faithful servants whatever the circumstances around us.
19th April 2020
Genesis 2:7 God breathed the breath of life into the human and they became a living being.
Breathing is something we do naturally, unless we are unwell of course, God breathed life into us in the beginning. Ruach or Spirit is called the breath of God. Pranayama is the cleansing breath used in yoga and eastern religions. Breathing is calm and measured, controlled and gentle unless we are stressed or angered when it becomes short and laboured and sometimes snivelly and erratic. When we face anger, rebuke, insult, torment or temptation we need to breathe slowly, in a holy manner, the manner in which God breathed life into us. Breathing the breath of life in all situations allows us to remain calm, not to retaliate, not to get angry or annoyed. Breathing deeply, evenly, rhythmically, is a holy manner of breathing. The Bible uses terms for impatience as short, snatched breathing and patience as long, even breathing. The state of our spirit, our soul is partly determined by our breathing. If we practice breathing calmly, being measured and gentle then that is how we will be in our Spirit and our Soul. God breathed life into us, we can breathe life or death into the situations we are in. If we use and practice God’s breath we will always breathe life, calmness and peace into every situation.
18th April 2020
Psalm 150:6 Let all creation Praise the Lord.
For those of us with gardens we have been out in them a lot recently, appreciating the creation of the Lord around us. These things are often not appreciated by us in what we call normal life. They become the norm to us and no longer hold the awe, the joy that they should. My younger son went to the same primary school I did for a time and on one occasion I was at his sports day on the same field I had done PE and sports on 30 + years before. I sat on that grass wondering if it was the same grass and what it would have seen and been part of over those years. I had moved several times, got married, had a family, was heading toward ordination but this field was till there with new children playing on it, living their lives on it. All around us God’s marvellous creation lives on whether we notice it or not. The trees and shrubs in your garden, outside in your street have been a part of your life and the lives of those before you and those who will come after you. God’s creation is a constant in our ever-changing world. What we so easily take for granted is a gift from God to us and it sings out His love and care for us every day. This verse from a childhood hymn sums it up:
Every tree and every flower, every creature high or low,
Come and praise the King of Heaven by whatever name you know.
God above, man below, Holy is the name I know. (Copyright 1961 Galliard Ltd)
17th April 2020
Psalm 139:13 For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Hope is the main motivation of life. As humans we often head towards despair because most of us cannot endure suffering for long without some sliver of hope or meaning. It is worth asking ourselves about where our hope lies. The writer and Retreat leader Cynthia Bourgeault makes a powerful distinction between what she calls ordinary hope, that is tied to outcome and an optimistic feeling, because we sense that things will get better in the future; and mystical hope that is a complete turnaround of our usual way of looking at things. In contrast to our usual notions of hope, mystical hope is not tied to a good outcome or to the future. This hope has a life of its own, without allusion to external circumstances and conditions. It also has something to do with presence, not a future good outcome, but an immediate experience of being held and cared for and this hope bears fruit within us; sensations of strength, joy, and satisfaction that well up. It is easy to understate and miss that hope is an abiding state of being. We can lose sight of the invitation and our responsibility, as stewards of God’s creation, to develop a conscious and permanent connection to this wellspring. We miss the call to become a vessel into which this divine energy can pour; a lamp through which it can shine. We ourselves are not the source of that hope; we do not create it. But the source dwells deeply within us and rises up abundantly. The good news is that this deeper hope does exist, and we can find it within. This journey to the wellsprings of hope is something that will change our innermost way of seeing. It is really a journey toward the centre, toward the innermost parts of our being where we meet and are met by God.
16th April 2020
Habakkuk 2:1 I will climb my watchtower and wait to see what the LORD will tell me to say and what answer he will give to me.
Habakkuk was a minor prophet around 600 years before Jesus. He had a deep faith and whilst on his watchtower learned from God about faith, about believing in God and His care for humans in every situation. As the world around Habakkuk grew ever darker and harder, he kept on believing, his heart was at peace and even when everyone was in despair Habakkuk could offer a message of hope and speak of the time of rejoicing to come. He passed on this message and it became part of our Old Testament. The disciples and Jesus would have known his message, St. Paul would have known his message, early Christians would have known his message and would have seen the fruition of his prophecy. In that knowledge they would have gained strength to keep on believing even when times were hard, and darkness seemed to overcome them. Habakkuk found that faith in God gave him fulness of life, as have millions of Christians throughout history. Many have turned dark times into prayer, praise and song. People have defeated difficult times, have led others to be encouraged and strengthened and brought societies to better more caring times. We are currently in dark times, we are feeling lost, confused and at times without hope. The message of Habakkuk is a proven one of keeping the faith, believing that God is in control and that our hearts can rest peacefully in Him and move daily toward the light all the time passing on the message of hope we have in our God.
15th April 2020
Job 2:10 When God sends us something good, we welcome it. How can we complain when trouble comes?
Sooner or later, we all ask the questions “What do we do with our pain? Why is there evil? Why is there suffering?” Job begs God for an answer to this mystery when his life is completely turned upside down and he can’t seem to get one. Job only begins to trust God again when he no longer feels ignored, when he knows that God is taking him seriously and that he is being heard. When Jesus later becomes the answer to these questions in his own passion, death, and resurrection, He, too, discovers what Job finally experienced: in the midst of suffering, God can be trusted. The world is still safe, still turning and even blessed. We are saved by being included in a universal conversation. We do not really need answers; we need to be taken seriously as part of the dialogue. But we usually only know this in hindsight after the suffering and the struggle is over. It cannot be known by us beforehand. Our knowledge of God is participatory. God cannot be intellectually “thought,” He is known only in the passion and pain of it all, when the issues affect and challenge us. In the gospels Jesus says he will give us only one sign, the sign of the prophet Jonah. Sooner or later, life is going to lead us, as it did Jesus, into the belly of the beast, into a situation that we can’t fix, can’t control, and can’t explain or understand. That’s where transformation most easily happens. That’s when we’re uniquely in the hands of God. Right now, it seems the whole world is in the belly of the beast together. BUT, and it’s a big BUT, we are all safely held in the loving hands of God, even if we do not yet fully realise it. Keep going and know God is right there with you.
14th April 2020
Isaiah 1:18 Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be washed as white as snow.
I love the beach, particularly walking along it morning or evening. When our sons were younger we would try to get to the beach for holidays as often as we could. My youngest would often join walking the beach, picking up shells, cuttlefish even the odd star fish. On one such walk my son asked me about the waves and where all the holes and castles from the day had gone. We talked about the tides and after some contemplation he said “So twice a day God sends the tide to wash the beach clean.” Out of the mouths of children can come such wisdom. What a lesson for us. We need washing clean constantly from our wrong doings, rudeness, selfishness, attitudes etc. I was always taught to keep a short account with God, in other words confess and clean the slate regularly, what better than to do it twice a day, morning and evening, get ourselves washed whiter than snow by the tide of confession to our loving and forgiving God. Of course, we can pray at any time, in any place, we are told to pray without ceasing, to live our lives in an attitude of prayer. But our main business with God needs doing at key points of the day, the beginning and the end where we can deal with all the mess and rubbish we have accumulated. Just as God sends the tide twice a day to wash the beach so He will wash us when we come before Him and ask His forgiveness.
13th April 2020 Easter Monday
Luke 24:31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.
The story of the Emmaus Road is intriguing. The walkers do not recognise Jesus, they are astonished that this man doesn’t know what has happened and they are amazed at His knowledge of Scripture and His teaching. Yet these followers are so taken by this man that they talk openly of their grief. If you a walker you will know that talking with someone always makes the journey easier and seem to take less time. That companionship, the chance to talk freely in God’s creation is a real blessing. Later in the story they realise that as the unknown Jesus spoke with them their hearts burned within them, there was something very special about this man. As all good people did at this time, they offered hospitality to a stranger, come and eat and stay until morning, it was the least they could do for someone who has been so good with them. It is in that moment as Jesus breaks bread that they see who He is. We can walk with Jesus, talk with Him but still not really know who He is. We all need that revelation moment when our eyes are opened and we see Jesus for who He really is, Son of God, Saviour, Lord, King, Messiah who has saved His people and died for me! That moment may have happened a long time ago for you or more recently, but we all need it and we all need to be reminded of it. That moment when we see Jesus for who He is and then want to tell everyone else. The walkers in our story promptly turn round and go back to Jerusalem to tell everyone, do we still have that excitement, that burning in our hearts that we want everyone to know? It is us who need our eyes opening, not God!
12th April 2020 Easter Sunday
Luke 24:2-3 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.
There are many things we associate with Easter. The days are getting longer, buds and blossom appearing on the trees, clumps of daffodils, endless chocolate and special family meals; but it doesn’t feel like Easter this year because normal life is on hold. We are in lockdown, Churches are closed, there will be no gatherings, no big family picnics or Easter egg hunts. The things we expect, the usual family celebration, the norm, just cannot happen this time. It leaves us feeling empty, unfinished and a little lost when we would normally celebrate.
Yet perhaps we have a chance of understanding Easter in a new way. Seeing things we have not seen before. For the followers of Jesus, the start of the first Easter Sunday was not a special day. He was gone and their dreams, hopes and vision for the future had gone too. Jesus had died. So they, like us, that first Easter day had no gatherings for worship and the disciples were in lockdown in fear of losing their own lives. But after death was defeated, Jesus had risen, Mary and the disciples had seen Him, hope was reborn, and the Friday was rebadged Good Friday. That normal day of grief became a special day of celebration, of victory. For them things changed and they have for us to. It seems to me that is a pretty good reason for us to celebrate Easter this year. Christ is risen, He is risen indeed. Alleluia.
11th April 2020 Holy Saturday
Psalm 30:8 Weeping may last for the night-time but Joy comes with the morning.
Today is an odd day, not the Friday of Jesus death or the Sunday of His resurrection, it is the bridge between the two. For the people of Jesus time it was a sabbath day and a day of mourning. They observed their religious duties with heavy hearts. They could not minister to His body until the sabbath was over. This was a day of pain, hurt, distress and many, many tears. Today there are many tears for lost ones, for those we love so dearly but will not see again on this earth because of a terrible disease let lose upon us. Tears of anger, tears of pain, tears of feeling useless, tears of discomfort…..tears and more tears because it is all we can do to let out the pain, hurt and distress in our souls and bodies. These tears, given by God for us to express our emotions and feelings will only last for the night time, for the dark times and eventually the Sun will rise again, or in the case of Easter, the Son will rise again and bring hope, bring comfort, bring peace and joy once again. Easter Saturday is a very painful day but still one of hope, still one of power. Whilst we are grieving He is working, defeating the power of death and Hell that even though we die in the human sense we will live forever with Him where there is no more pain, no more disease, no more tears or weeping.
10th April 2020 Good Friday
Mark 15:34 Jesus gave a loud cry, Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani? which means, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
According to Marks Gospel, at 3.00 p.m., Jesus gave a loud cry, a scream of urgency, a cry for help: a prayer, in fact. The quotation comes from Psalm 22, and is the only statement uttered by Jesus on the cross that Mark records. It is a cry of utter isolation and there is something touching about the language. One of Jesus’ most characteristic habits was the use of the familiar Aramaic word Abba, meaning father, in His mother tongue. At this moment, though, Abba seems almost incomprehensibly distant. The people standing by mistake the words, thinking that He calls Elijah. Was it a cry of failure, or a cry of recognition? Traditional theology argues that this was the point of abandonment, when Jesus was suffering for all humankind, for you and me, but we should remember that it was a prayer, and prayer always implies the hope that someone, despite appearances, is listening. The quoted Psalm 22 ends with vindication and restoration as does our Easter story. Today may seem like an end, a time of deep sadness and grief and yet through the depths of despair there is still hope. In the context of God’s plan this is not the end!
9th April 2020
Luke 1:68 Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
For about 400 years, there had appeared to be no direct word from the Lord. Had God forgotten his people? Was God just not there anymore? No! In the temple one day, a word from God came to a priest, Zechariah. His name means “God remembers.” Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, were devoted followers of God. They were old and childless, and Elizabeth was a relative of Mary, who became the mother of Jesus. One day Zechariah had a rare opportunity to burn incense at the time of prayer in the temple. And while he was doing that, an angel of God came with startling news: Zechariah and Elizabeth would have a son! He was to be named John, and he would become a prophet like Elijah, bringing many people back to the Lord just as had been spoken about in the previous religious books. This child became John the Baptist, who prepared people for the coming of Jesus, the promised Saviour. When John was born, Zechariah sang a hymn of praise because he knew salvation was coming. God had not forgotten his people. God never forgets His people although they easily forget and ignore him, until they want something!!!! Friends, if you are struggling with disappointments and God seems far away, take heart. God has not forgotten you. He wants to give you his peace today. In his mercy and love God remembers each one of us. That’s the good news of knowing God: Jesus, who forgives our sins and brings us new life, has come and has given His life for us. So let’s join with Zechariah and sing God’s praises today because He is always with us!
8th April 2020
Proverbs 21:21 Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honour.
Life tests us constantly. There are conflicts with and at work, struggles with family and friends, irritating strangers we encounter, threats to our employment, unpleasantness on social media, people who go against the norm and jump the queue and so on. Sometimes it is really hard to be nice and do good to those around us, especially every day. We want to lash out, to shout about the injustice and make ourselves feel better. We are reminded in the Bible about why we must be forgiving and show love to all people. In short: It's exactly what God did and does for us every day and so the least we could do is return the favour to others. God requires of us to be kind to our enemies, which is one of the hardest things to do. Actually being kind to those close to us can be even harder at times. But, in the end, we will have a better life and our world will be a much better place for all if we aim to live a good life, spreading joy and thoughtfulness wherever we go. If we live a good life we will find a good life! It is important that we don't let the rewards be the only reason that we're doing good, kindness for kindness sake is the goal here, that is what is required of us. But for those days when we need a little reminder of what's at stake and why we need to be kind even to the most annoying people around us, the Bible will always help and God will be right there to help too.
7th April 2020
Luke 1:43 Why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
We are just a few days from Easter, the most important season of our Liturgical year, a time of preparation then hope in our eternal future. But right now our lives have been devastated by a disease, you may have recently lost a loved one, you may be worried by friends or family who are ill through this or other diseases still prevalent and still in need of treatment. There are many painful events that may be causing you to cry out, “Why is this happening to me?” Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin, knew such pain. She was old and childless, and in that culture, she was therefore disgraced. Long ago she had given up all hope of becoming a mother. Imagine the talk in her village: “What do you think she did to make God punish her in this way?” God actually doesn’t operate in that way, but people often make that wrong assumption. Soon after God’s promise that she and her husband would have a son, Elizabeth became pregnant. Six months later, her cousin Mary came with even greater news: an angel had said Mary would become the mother of God’s Son! Elizabeth was not disappointed or jealous, but she was full of excitement, she exclaimed, “Why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” She counted her blessings and rejoiced. Today let each of us, no matter our circumstances, look in awe at Christ, count our blessings and ask ourselves, “Why should I be so blessed that Jesus has come to save me and fill me with the hope of eternal life?” Why? Because God loves you!
6th April 2020
Psalm 31:9 Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief.
Sometimes the suffering of life feels overwhelming, it is as if we are under attack and can’t find any relief. There are many people today who are debilitated by the grief of losing a loved one. Someone they were not expecting to lose so suddenly. There are others who are sick from a medical condition or treatment who are now unable to access their treatment or help like they could before. There are now many people who are living alone who did not choose that but have no option under the present circumstances. Whatever the case, there are days when we really feel the weight of the world upon us. In Psalm 31 the psalmist is feeling besieged by relentless human forces, along with the abandonment of his friends. He uses words like distress, anguish, groaning, affliction, forgotten, and terror. He fears that he will suffer terribly, so much so that he will go under, at the hands of his enemies, and he cries out to God in agony; Lord, have mercy! Perhaps you can recall a time you felt that way, perhaps you are feeling like this at this very moment, when the walls and ceiling seem to be closing in on you. The current uncertainties of our lives mean that we are out of routine, feeling that we do not have control, dependent on others keeping their word and unable to access those we love and care for. If we can pause for a moment and look back on turbulent times of the past, we can see how the Lord was with us and delivered us. How He was right beside us in every situation and provided all that we needed to get through it. God answers the cries of his people and shines his loving face on us, lighting up the darkness. Our time, right now, is in God’s hands, let us trust Him to deliver us.
5th April 2020
Now to each one the gifts of the Spirit are given for the common good of all. 1 Corinthians 12:7
As our boys grew up, we had many superhero toys and watched many superhero films and stories. As human’s we have a love of these characters because they use their special powers for good and make people’s lives better. These specially gifted people are not selfish in offering to help others even when the cost to themselves is high. I heard Rabbi Jonathan Sachs on the radio today talking about the powers of “we and not I” and how we have seen both the best in people but also the worst in those who have been selfish and uncaring. Currently we are seeing many superhero’s, not in capes and elastane suits but in scrubs, protective gowns and masks. We are witnessing people who are giving selflessly to help others even when the cost to them is so very high. Our support of them and what we are doing in our own homes and communities is also super heroic. We need to be encouraged by our resilience, our ability to keep going in the midst of difficult times, and our use of our gifts for the common good of all. We are all superhero’s in our own way, we are all doing things to help others, the power of we not I. It is good for us to keep praying for our NHS, for all working to help others, to offer support that makes the lives around us better. Our superpowers may not be flight, strength, laser vision or freezing breath but we have the superpowers given to us by God, superpowers of compassion, love, empathy, prayer, words, pictures, comfort, encouragement, strength of character………let’s use these God given powers for the good of all and not be selfish.
4th April 2020
Jeremiah 29:10 When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfil my promise to bring you back to this place
God is saying these words while his people, the Israelites, are going into exile. Before the hope, God’s promised future plans come into effect, the people will have to endure 70 years of captivity, and their bright future will hinge on seeking God, who longs to bring them back. While we endure seasons of suffering, which is what is happening at the moment; times we have not seen or faced before, things which we cannot control, we ask the Lord to deliver us, to bring us out of our isolation and exile from normal life. But often God’s answer is that right now is not the time, other things will need to happen first, some things will need to change and so we must wait patiently as we settle into this place, this normal, for now. There will eventually be release, for some that release will come through death and transfer to the promised next life for eternity. For the rest of us that release will come when it is safe for everyone to go back to life as we knew it, but with many positive, just and fair changes made to our society. Sometimes God’s plan is for short-lived suffering, and other times God allows us to take a more “scenic route” that builds our perseverance and character, but never without hope in God. Whatever we are facing on a daily basis we do not face it alone, we are always held in the everlasting arms and always given strength for each day and bright hope for tomorrow, as the old hymn says, and perhaps it would be good for us to join in the chorus of that hymn as we remind ourselves and sing:
“Great is Thy Faithfulness! Great is Thy Faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see:
All I have needed, Thy hand has provided,
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me! (Thomas Obadiah Chisolm 1866-1960)
3rd April 2020
2 Corinthians 4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
Paul is getting older; he can’t see the way he used to (and there were no glasses). He can’t hear the way he used to (and there were no hearing aids). He doesn’t recover from beatings the way he used to (and there were no antibiotics). His strength, walking from town to town, doesn’t hold up the way it used to. He sees the wrinkles in his face and neck. His memory is not as good. And he admits that this is a threat to his faith and joy and courage. But he does not lose heart. Why? He does not lose heart because his inner heart, spirit and life are being renewed. How? The renewing of his heart, and ours, comes from something we might not think about: it comes from looking at what we can’t see. Paul goes onto say we look, not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. This is Paul’s way of not losing heart: looking at what he cannot see. So, to help us what did he see when he looked? And what should we be seeing and looking for? As Christians we walk by faith, not by sight. This doesn’t mean that we leap into the dark without evidence of what’s there. It means that for now the most precious and important realities in the world are beyond our physical senses. We look and see the unseen things through the gospel, through Jesus and the promises made to us as followers and believers. We strengthen our hearts, we renew our courage, we keep going even in the midst of adversity and difficulty by fixing our gaze on Jesus Christ. The same God, who created light out of darkness, has shone that very light in our hearts to show us His love and care for us in sending Jesus for us. Now we need to go on looking and seeing every day with the eyes of the heart, so that we do not lose heart.
2nd April 2020
Proverbs 3:5 Trust in The Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding
I drive to work every day, in normal times, and as I go, I listen to the radio, mainly to keep aware of the traffic news. If I hear a road is blocked, or there is a delay it gives me the option of what I do next, should I stay on this route or go another way, but are these routes blocked too because everyone else goes that way to avoid the problem. Still I listen, I hope it will help me or at least give me a reason why I am stuck there, perhaps it is even in a vain hope that it will all go away, a bury my head in the sand approach. What about in our lives? We can read our Bibles, hear sermons and talks, read helpful books and we learn about how to live and the way forward, the journey we are on as Christian. But what if there is a blockage, a problem? Can I go another way? Do I want to change direction? What if there is a problem on that different way? What if I get lost? There are endless questions, so it ends up being easier to just stay where I am, stuck, as many of us are, just going nowhere fast. We hope that today will be okay, tomorrow will be alright, but it isn’t! We keep meeting the same problems, we are still struggling, nothing seems to be changing, one day drifts into the next and we find ourselves rather lost. Friends, we have a choice, we can use our knowledge, our Bible, prayer, the resources we are offered, our reading and our conversations to find the way through. To return to my travelling analogy we have satellite navigation of the highest order, we have God right there supporting us, helping us. Of course, the other choice is to let it all go on just as it did before, sit tight, do the same thing every day, moaning and groaning hoping that one day it will get better. It is our choice, it isn’t easy at the moment, but I encourage you; chose God’s satellite navigation and make each day’s journey a better one.
1st April 2020
Psalm 33:22 May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.
When we say, “I hope my team wins this Saturday,” it’s both a wish and a prayer. But when we say, “God gives me hope for the future,” that is confident assurance in the promises of the God who has never failed us. We all hope for a long life, lasting relationships, good health, and happiness. Yet we know, and are currently experiencing, that in a matter of moments life can be turned upside down and inside out, and it can feel like our hopes are dashed. For the people of God, hope is drawn from a deeper well. As the psalmist explains, we cannot rely on our own armies, our own resources, our own Government, to deliver us. The wonderful and encouraging image in the Psalms is that of the God whose eyes are locked on us, whose love never fails, who is our help and shield even in the midst of unprecedented times such as these. Of course, sometimes our hope falters as we face troubles, but God paints, and unfailingly promises, a positive picture of our forever future. When our hope and trust are firmly connected to our unchangeable God, we know deep in our souls that God’s love will sustain us through this life and into eternity. This means that even if our struggles continue, change or return, our hope in God remains. This kind of hope is irresistible, and it needs sharing with people, we have a hope and we need to tell others about it. Maybe you know someone who needs to hear these words of hope today: the Lord sees you, loves you, and will sustain you.
31st March 2020
Psalm 13:1 How long, Lord, will you forget us? How long will you hide your face from us?
This season of Lent encourages us to give things up or do without. Suddenly our usual doing without seems insignificant to our current situation where we are doing without seeing family, friends, going to the pub or to work, going to church or school. We are in a place of confinement; we are cut off and there is no usual Easter release to come this year. We have an imposed quietness, an anxious and sorrowful calm. We want an explanation…Why? How? But there is none right now. We can only wait and hope. Sometimes we can only lament, weep, grieve, we ask why but get no real answer. Lamenting comes from seeing not just our own predicament but the suffering of others in the world. If this is bad for us imagine what it is like for those in refugee camps, the homeless, those in institutions. The Psalms reflect this lamenting. They call to God who seems hidden from them, they look for answers, they tell God exactly how they feel and often by the end of the Psalm they find a light and a hope in God’s presence which is very much there, but not necessarily with an answer. God does not necessarily explain the trouble or provide an answer, but He does provide reassurance, support, comfort and hope within it. Lamenting allows us to let out our frustration, sorrow, loneliness and our inability to understand what is happening and why. What we need to know is that God laments too! God grieves at the wickedness of the world, of the people given everything who still turn away and insult him. Jesus too, laments at the death of his friend and at His coming sacrifice and Paul reminds us of the groaning and lamenting of the Holy Spirit within us. It is not for us to explain this or to have the answers but it is for us to lament and become places where God’s presence and healing love can dwell, places from which new possibilities, new acts of kindness, new understanding and new hope can emerge.
30th March 2020
Galatians 6:10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people
If you look at the Bible Jesus recognises that some of our most important ministry happens in the strangest of times and moments. The parable of the Good Samaritan is a prime example. (Luke 10:25-36) Currently we are finding that to be true. While we cannot meet together as church instead, we are being church in the Community, as we have always been, but perhaps a little more obviously these days. We find ourselves streaming, messaging, emailing, filling websites with resources, phoning, getting shopping and many other things. Many of our number are keeping an eye on the vulnerable, helping in the community, being, themselves, Good Samaritans, because Jesus always put the poorest and most vulnerable at the centre of His ministry and we must put them at the heart of His church. The current situation is most painful and destructive to the poorest and most vulnerable in our society and we must, even in our own difficulties continue to fight for them, to fight against injustice. In recent days public pressure about fairness has seen parking fees lifted for NHS staff and food parcels for the vulnerable. We must, as a church, by which I mean a body of people, stand up for what is right, for those both in our congregations and outside who are vulnerable, those with no home to isolate in, no place to store food, no money to buy food and essentials. Many of our night shelters are still working to help those on the streets and can only do so because of the commitment of the Christians working there to fight for the vulnerable. We cannot all be on the front line, but we can all be Good Samaritans in our homes, with our neighbours, with those who we are keeping in contact with every day. Whatever you are doing, do it as unto the Lord and with all your might. (Ecclesiastes 9:10)
29th March 2020
John 19: 2 They clothed him in a purple robe, shouted “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face.
Today, the Fifth Sunday of Lent, begins Passiontide where you may have noticed purple cloths draped over the crosses, crucifixes, statues, icons and saint images at your parish church. In some churches, these items may be removed from the sanctuary altogether, or this may be done on Maundy Thursday. This tradition is practiced during the last two weeks before Easter, starting on Passion Sunday and ending on Good Friday. Violet or Purple is the seasonal colour for Lent and is the colour of mourning, humility and suffering. It is also associated with noble birth as it was very expensive to colour garments in purple. Christ was given a purple robe as he was mocked as King of the Jews which the soldiers then cast lots for so as not to damage it. This old custom of veiling religious images is a way of focusing on the atoning and repentant aspect of this liturgical season of Lent. It reminds us, in a visual way, that our faith in all its glory is made possible only through the work of Christ in his suffering and death on the cross. When we cover or remove these holy and sacred images that we are so accustomed to, we are starkly confronted and reminded, in a poignant way, of all that Christ has done for us on the cross. It also serves to remove everything from between us and our God and what He is doing for us through His son. It gives us specific focus and offers the opportunity to think through Christ’s sacrifice for us and exactly what Easter means.
28th March 2020
Romans 15:4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
Hope is currently something we are all living by, hope of a cure, hope of a vaccine, hope of keeping well, hope of a future of freedom again, hope of a miracle that will restore our lives to “normal”. The Bible is full of Hope, amongst other things, chiefly in pointing Humans toward a restoration of their relationship with God. Hope is what keeps us going, gives us purpose and drives us forward. With life being so different currently Hope is key, the fulfilment of so many promises in the Bible gives us hope that things will get better. There are so many stories of promises fulfilled, of goodness triumphing over evil, over the human spirit, along with the Holy Spirit, giving strength in times of weakness, offering advice, help, comfort and encouragement. The Bible, or any Holy Book, is not some dusty, ancient text but rather living, breathing words from the Creator of the Universe who has always wanted what is best for all Human Beings. Sadly, so many of us find it easier to ignore the good in favour of complaint, of wanting instant answers which involve no effort on our part. We have a sense of entitlement which means we have become very selfish. The Bible is so full of wisdom, advice, care, concern, fairness and fulfilled promises, all there to help us but we have to be willing to read, listen, learn and act fairly and lovingly to all.
27th March 2020
James 3:13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from the wisdom of knowing God’s word.
Who do you consider to be wise? Wisdom is often tied into age and experience but notice here it is also linked to humility. In other words people who are wise do not brag about it. Wisdom is not just about what we know but how we act. We can know huge amounts about things but if we cannot help people lovingly and carefully with our knowledge we are not wise. The dictionary says wisdom is the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgement. That ability to think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense and insight. Wisdom is associated with attributes such as unbiased judgement, compassion, experiential self-knowledge, self-transcendence, and virtues such as ethics and benevolence. So Wisdom is not just about knowledge but the application and transferring of that knowledge. I wonder if you can think of a few very wise people in your life, perhaps you could tell them and encourage them.
How wise do you consider yourself to be? Let’s face it we often think of ourselves as wise or at least knowledgeable and we love to tell people what we know, it makes us feel good about ourselves. But the gift of wisdom comes to those who listen, who speak less and observe. Wisdom is a gift from God, it comes to those who are humble, and it comes from a knowledge of God and of His word. If we know our Bible and what it teaches about life, behaviour, justice, fairness and truth then we will always have words of wisdom to speak and we will know exactly how and when to speak them.
26th March 2020
2 Corinthians 8:7 See that you also excel in this grace of giving
What can you give to someone today so that there might be equality? One of the many things society is currently learning is that someone’s value is not related to their earning capacity. Those in senior positions, particularly, are suddenly discovering that many people described as “low skilled” are actually vital to the functioning of society. God gave us all different gifts and abilities so that the world would function equally and beautifully, and everyone would have what they needed. It is us, as human beings, who have linked a person’s value to their income or qualifications. One of the biggest joys in life is giving, we see it on birthdays and Christmas particularly, but when we give something to someone they light up, they are brought joy and feel they have worth. Every person has such worth to God and is equal before Him, so much so that He sent His son to die for us. But how about in our eyes? Do we see everyone’s worth and true value? Giving, gives value. There are people, at present, with so little, people who still don’t know how they will survive and provide for their families in the next few weeks. What can we do? We can give to others through messages and phone contact. We can make sure those nearby have food. We can offer virtual friendship and care and we can make sure that anyone who is struggling financially, that we might know about, receives practical help. Giving can be so many things: time, experience, money, encouragement, love, friendship, wisdom….. so, today decide what you’re going to give, to whom you will give it, and when you will do it and excel in the grace of giving.
25th March 2020
Luke 1:38 Mary answered, “I am the Lord’s servant, let it be to me according to your word”.
Today is the Annunciation of our Lord to the Blessed virgin Mary. The visit of the Angel, which we read every Christmas, is actually marked today, March 25th, the observant among you will spot that it is exactly 9 months until December 25th and Christmas Day. Exact time frames like this are important in the Bible and in Christian tradition, they show a power, a command over everything that is perfect, that is to say, God is in control and God is perfect.
Here in Luke is an ordinary young lady called Mary who is about to become Theotokos, God Bearer, and notice she is not called to her task in the Temple, or in a public place, or on a busy street; she is called to be the Mother of God in her home. Right now we are all in our homes round the clock unless we are key workers, and God can speak to us and use us just as effectively in our homes as He can in church, or in work, or in a public place. God takes the ordinary and uses it for His glory and richly and abundantly blesses, but, we have to agree, to say yes. Mary says yes to God and amazing things happen, will you say yes to God and let amazing things happen?
24th March 2020
Matthew 5:45 God sends the sun to rise on the evil and on the good and sends the rain on the just and on the unjust.
In the last few days, I have seen and had some quite unpleasant Tweets about God and faith amid this situation. Their view is that it must be God’s fault, nothing to do with them. I meet this quite a lot these days from people who quite simply think they are entitled. They have lost sight of the blessings of each day; they never appreciate what they have and are never thankful. There is always someone else to blame and because of that they do not believe they have to play any part in making things better for others or playing their part to help society. Yes, right now, things are incredibly difficult, but we have so much to be thankful for. Most of us live in comfortable, warm homes, we have TV and Radio, computers, phones and we have food and medicines and people who care about us. Yes, things are very different, yes, we are having to curb our freedoms for a while, but we still live on an amazing planet amongst God’s incredible creation. Today, in the sunny garden, as I sat with a cuppa, a beautiful butterfly came and landed right by me, opening its wings to soak up the sun. It was one of those lovely, blessed moments. When God created this world He did not make one rule for the good and one for the bad, He created the sun and the rain for everyone, even the folk who can’t see how incredible it all is and are not very nice to others. God cares about everyone, no matter who or what they are, so let’s all try to be just a little more appreciative of what we have, of creation and of other people.
23rd March 2020
Mark 12:31 Love your neighbour as yourself
The problem with the appeal to love your neighbour lies in its vagueness today. What exactly do we mean by it? One reason people get confused when they hear the call to love their neighbour as themselves is because they think that this love should be a warm and fuzzy feeling towards people. That’s what we feel when we like someone. But loving someone is a much deeper commitment: it means doing the right thing by them. Thankfully it doesn’t mean we have to like them. It is impossible, and probably not desirable, to like everyone in this world. Emotion alone is a poor basis for deciding what should be done, but our feelings must have a place. Any society which does not give proper recognition to the place of emotion suppresses a cherished gift which makes us human. There are some who call for the world to be governed by purely rational thinking, but without the tempering of love, this can turn out to be cold, calculating and instrumental. Our reasoning powers are just as much at risk of being wrong as our emotions. We need the interplay of both emotion and reason to guide us through life. God’s love is not sentimental because it included a hard-headed decision to offer himself as a sacrifice for human sin in Christ. There is nothing fuzzy about this; its outline is bold and stark. But neither is this love legalistic. God does not judge us by our repeated failings but has already poured His grace and forgiveness into our hearts to challenge and remove the lurking guilt and fear with His steadfast gift of peace. What is love? God is love and we are called to love our neighbour as ourselves.
22nd March 2020
John 19:25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother.
On this Mothering Sunday a thought prompted by Mary, Mother of Jesus. I think the above verse is one of the saddest in the Bible. Mary having to watch her son die on a cross. For any mother or carer one of the worst things is to see those you love, suffer. In our hospitals at present there are those, whose vocation it is to care, seeing people suffer and trying so hard to relieve that suffering. We are told that humans tend to be selfish and yet we were created in the image of a loving, giving God who is concerned for our well-being and that side of God is portrayed as that of motherhood. In Eucharistic Prayer G we speak of God as a mother who tenderly gathers her children. We all have that caring nature within us, the question is whether we are willing to let it out, to be caring and nurturing of those around us. Caring does not have to be just practical, praying for people, picking up the phone to chat with people, making things for someone, being a good neighbour in a spiritual sense as well as a practical one. We celebrate and treasure our Mothers for all they have done and do for us, we can also celebrate the caring nature in all of us, put there by God that none of us should ever be alone. So, I leave you with a question: What things can we all do to make life easier and better for our mothers and all those who care for us? Not just today but every day!
21st March 2020
Psalm 145:14 God gives a hand to those who are struggling, a fresh start to those ready to quit.
I think it is safe to say most of us are struggling at the moment. Things are so uncertain; life is changing dramatically, and we have worries that perhaps are not being answered. There are many situations where the natural reaction is to struggle but actually freedom comes when the struggling stops like in Harry Potter when only by stopping struggling can they escape from the throttling tendrils of Devil's Snare. I don’t think the name Devil’s Snare is a coincidence, things which try to take our freedom, which ensnare us are not of God! God understands we are struggling and wants us to take His hand and let Him take the strain and worry. In many religions there is a cleansing breath, in Christianity it is called "breath of God", a deep breathing which allows calmness and perspective. If you are struggling then try releasing your worry, breathe in slowly and deeply for 5 seconds and then release slowly for 5 seconds allowing the worries to ease out. As you do this allow yourself to be held in the everlasting arms of God who always wants the best for you. We have a lot of time on our hands at present, but we still need to take time to breathe, to restore our calmness and equilibrium and God is there, ready at any moment, to hold us and help us.
20th March 2020
2 Corinthians 8:7 See that you also excel in this grace of giving
In recent days I have seen some very selfish people, but I have also seen some very selfless people who have given to others above and beyond what is expected. This made me think, what can we give to or do for someone else today so that there might be equality and fairness? It may be difficult to decide what you’re going to give or do, to whom you will give it or for whom you will do it because of all the restrictions but there are still things we can do to help. Front line people need encouragement and support, a simple thank you by phone, email, social media would be wonderful. Those who are self-isolating or live alone need to feel that someone cares, a phone call, an email, a message on a regular basis to show them they are not forgotten. Someone said to me today that they hoped this situation would restore the lost sense of community we used to have. By doing something, however small, we will make a difference, we will restore the sense of community and we will restore faith in human nature. I encourage you to excel in this grace of giving.
19th March 2020
Philippians 4:13 I have the strength to face all conditions through the power that Christ gives me
At this difficult time we might be wondering if we have the strength to cope, to keep going. We are reminded, here in Philippians, that it isn’t our strength that keeps us going but God’s strength given through Jesus. We tend to think of strength meaning physically strong, hard, immovable but actually strength comes in vulnerability, in honesty, in admitting that we need help from God and from others. Being strong in Christ can mean letting our emotions out, not necessarily in public but at home, if the tears need to come let them, you will feel better afterwards, you will have renewed strength. If you need to shout then do so, away from others and at God, because He can and will handle it. The build up of all that is weighing down upon us is weakening our ability to cope, we need to release ourselves from it thus allowing Christ’s strength to be ours. Let God have it all, tell Him how you feel and then let His strength come in and carry you through each day and each hour.
18th March 2020
1 Peter 4:10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others.
Saints are ordinary people who help others, that means you and I are saints so what can we do to help those around us right now? All of us have gifts which we can employ in the service of others, going and getting things for those who can’t, ringing people up to chat, to pray for them, to offer support. Sending encouraging messages through email or social media if you have access to it. Why not write some simple prayers that others can use to help them or be creative.
So have a think and identify what gifts you have that can benefit those around you in the midst of this difficult time.
With so much happening we do need to ask ourselves if we are willing to serve others, to help everyone no matter their background, status, creed, ethnicity, gender. The worst thing that could happen right now is that we lose compassion for everyone around us. If we become selfish, we will lose our ability to empathise and thus enter into another form of isolation and loneliness.
Let me encourage you to keep supporting each other, to use your gifts for others and let yourself be God’s hands and feet in our community.
John 10:10 Life in all it's fullness. 17th March 2020
Right now it may seem that life in all its fullness is quickly disappearing. We are being limited in our activities, our habits, our usual way of life and yet there is something about home, family, being together that we have lost the value and importance of. Our home should be the centre of our family life, a safe place to be who we are, to rest, to relax, to enjoy the company of family and to experience human touch and companionship. For some, who are alone, the home could become a place of isolation and loneliness so we, who are able, need to call,catch up with, visit if possible and safe so that people are not left isolated or alone. We may well need to redefine how we do things, start to play together again, rediscover board games, card games, crafts, reading, listening to the radio.......even in doors or in gardens we can be people who give all to where we are and the situation we are in, people who are thankful for the fullness of life we do have rather than mourn what we had before. Jesus is still wanting us to have a full life it is just different to what we may have envisaged just a few weeks ago.