Daily Devotionals Archive

These DAI LY DEVOTIONALS were especially produced for use during the COVID pandemic and are not currently being added to.

Updated  3rd March

The Christian’s role in evangelism      2 Corinthians 4.1-6

There are many Christians who wince at the word evangelism and feel awkward. This is often because past experiences have been difficult. There are frequently strong emotions associated with the term. The proclaiming of the gospel in whatever form is opposed by the dominant cultural view in many countries including much of the West. This should not surprise us as Paul states, ‘the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers.’ V4 What is role of the Christian? It is to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord. v5 For Paul this took many forms. At times he addressed large crowds, he met with women by a river during a time of prayer and talked with them. He visited people’s homes, he addressed small gatherings in homes, he spoke in court and he spoke to his jailers in prison. There is no one model and undoubtedly if ministering today he would use whatever modern means he could to proclaim Jesus. What the NIV translates, ‘preach’ the ESV translates ‘proclaim’ but the meaning is to herald. That is to go before and announce or introduce and to tell of the good things of Jesus.


Paul in this passage strongly qualifies his role in preaching the gospel with his attitude and approach as he proclaims. There is no room for self-promotion, he is not about creating a personal following. He terms himself a servant or slave for Jesus’ sake. v5 Underlying this is his awareness that the only difference between a Christian and an un-believer is that God in his mercy has opened the Christian’s blind eyes. It is the Spirit of God who does that not the preacher. The Christian then is to continue proclaiming Jesus and praying that God will open blind eyes by shining the light of the gospel into the hearts of unbelievers. v6


There are three basic heart attitudes the Christian should adopt when sharing the good news of Jesus.


Integrity – Open honesty that is genuine and sincere. ‘We have renounced disgraceful, underhand ways. We refuse to practise cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but in the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.’ v2


Faithful adherence – As the NIV translates we do not “distort” the word of God. This means we do not avoid the aspects that might be more uncomfortable to speak about. This includes sin, the need for repentance and the judgement of God. All of which Jesus was very clear about in his teaching.  We need to trust the Holy Spirit to attract people to Christ.


Humility – We are not to manipulate people or play on people’s vulnerabilities. It is Jesus we proclaim and we want people to make their own mind up as to whether to follow Jesus becoming convinced of the truth and led by the Holy Spirit.


(The content of this reflection draws on the Christianity Explored Leaders Handbook)


When we share the good news of Jesus do we pray that we will have the right attitude ourselves in how we relate to others?


Do we remain honest and humbly brave to speak about the whole gospel as the Spirit causes situations to arise?


Lord, I need you – Matt Maher




God’s role in evangelism         2 Corinthians 4.1-6

When Jesus gave his disciples the instruction to go into the whole world and ‘make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you,’ he did not intend them to achieve this alone or purely by their personal powers of persuasion. He added, ‘And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’ Matthew 28.19-20 Paul was deeply aware of the Spirit of Christ accompanying him as he preached and taught and therefore did not lose heart, v1 he was aware of the mercy of God in his ministry.


God’s role whenever the good news of Jesus is shared is to shine, ‘the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. v6 He makes his light shine in our hearts. This is fundamental to anyone coming to faith in Jesus. That role cannot be replicated by a human. God enables us to see who Jesus is. It is a matter of the Holy Spirit revealing Christ to us. That is the moment when someone becomes a Christian, when they recognise Jesus for who he is. When Paul became a Christian on the road to Damascus to persecute Christians, he saw miraculously a dazzling light. He asked, ‘Who are you Lord?’ Then Jesus replied, ‘I am Jesus.’ Acts 9.5 Not only physical light but the light of revelation had shone into Paul’s heart and he grasped who Jesus really was and called him Lord.


When Jesus healed the man blind from birth he said, ‘I am the light of the world.’ John 9.5 Jesus is the same God who brought light into the world at creation. Every time a person recognizes that Jesus is God and has come to save them from the consequences of their life of sin, God performs another miracle in their heart. It is no coincidence that the man who Jesus healed of blindness had been blind since birth John 9.1 we all have been blinded by sin and the devil until God reveals himself to us.  The sharing of the gospel alone is not sufficient for an individual to become a Christian.


There is spiritual conflict over the hearts of people, the gospel is veiled to those who are perishing. v3 The reason it is veiled is, ‘the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.’ v4  The devil causes people to pursue and desire the things of this world above a relationship with God. Whether that is popularity, possessions, relationships, sensual gratification, power and prestige or immediate temporary gratifications. People are blinded to anything that will open their eyes to see Jesus for who he is.


Part of the blindness can be that they think they have Jesus labelled, as a teacher, a dead prophet, a con merchant, a made up person to justify people’s beliefs, a myth. The devil wants and is happy when that is how Jesus is viewed. Anything to prevent people seeing Jesus as, ‘the light of the gospel for the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.’ v4


Who are you praying for that the Holy Spirit will open their blind eyes to see the glory of Christ?


Have you in your anxiety that someone should believe striven to do what only God can do?


Open our eyes Lord




Benefits of belonging                  John 17.6-12

Jesus continues his intercession for his disciples, ‘the ones given to him by the Father’, in this passage with a particular focus on them being sustained over the testing period ahead for them. Jesus continues to intercede for all disciples following his ascension to heaven. The High Priestly prayer we read here gives us an insight into how Jesus prays for all believers now. Hebrews 7.15 says, ‘he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.’ Paul emphasises this to Timothy, ‘For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.’ 1 Timothy 2.5 John confirms that Jesus carries on interceding for the church with specific reference to the continuing sanctification of believers as they struggle with sin in their lives. ‘My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.’ 1 John2.1


Jesus’ prayer reminds us that does not negate the necessity for prayer. It is God’s chosen means of fellowship with people. Neither does God’s sovereignty make redundant the human responsibility to obey God’s word. ‘They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word.’ v6  Believing in the sovereignty of God is an encouragement to pray because he has the power to answer prayer.


At this stage the disciples may not have fully understood that Jesus must die and be raised again. They also may have not understood how Jesus had fully fulfilled the motifs of the Messiah in the Old Testament: such as the lamb of God, the Temple, the High Priest and the Suffering Servant, but what they did know was Jesus came from God the Father. v8 Belief in the Trinity is essential for authentic Christian discipleship. All disciples have been given by God the Father to Jesus, who have faith in Jesus and obey the word of God.


The redeemed disciples bring glory to Jesus. v10 They have the security of belonging to God the Father and Jesus. Jesus knows he is about to leave them and this world and so he prays to the Father that he will protect them as he is about to be no longer physically present with them. v12 Now the disciples will have the protection that comes from the authority of God the Father. V11


Does the knowledge that Jesus prays for us help us to be obedient to his word?


How are you encouraged that Jesus prays for you?


Charlotte Church – The Lord’s Prayer (Live From Jerusalem 2001)






Sanctification process                    John 17.13-19

Sanctification is one of those technical words in the bible that can be difficult to apply to our lives in everyday terms. Jesus in these verses throws light on it in his prayer for his disciples to God the Father. The ESV global study bible sums up sanctification in this way, “The sanctification of Christians is a lifelong process. It involves separation from evil and growth in moral purity in attitudes, thoughts, and actions.” From this definition we can see that it remains an incomplete process this side of heaven. Jesus himself is the only person to have lived a life entirely free of sin, he therefore is our example. His prayer though shows an understanding of human frailty and now he seeks God the Father’s intervention to protect his disciples from the pressure of sin in the world and from Satan or the evil one. What is also clear is that Jesus expects his disciples to dedicate themselves to their personal sanctification and not use the inevitability of imperfection as an excuse for conforming to the pattern of the world.


Jesus emphasizes the joy of having Christ in their lives and sharing in his relationship with God the Father. The system of slavishly obeying rules is a failed system. God does not want grudging obedience, his desire is that we live the Christian life filled with the joy that Jesus had. ‘But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.’ v13 The world may try to convince us that God’s righteousness is dull, boring, limits our freedom, crushes our identity, whereas in truth the opposite applies. Living a life full of the Spirit, dedicated to love, peace, kindness, forgiveness and faithfulness is a joy filled life in close relationship with God the Father. The disciples have learnt this from words Jesus has spoken.


Jesus’ words caused a marked demarcation between those who were receptive to them and the wider world. Underlying this is the spiritual battle that was taking place. Jesus’ words caused extreme opposition about to culminate in his arrest, trial and crucifixion. Jesus was praying for his disciples because this battle was not going to end with his resurrection even though that struck the victory blow. When Jesus prayed, ‘that you keep them from the evil one,’ v15 he was praying for their continued sanctification despite temptation. He was also praying for their continuing mission in taking his word to the wider world.


The disciples were not to be miraculously taken out of the world and neither are we. We are to live in the world for the sake of others and the gospel. They were to be sanctified by his word and take the word to others. ‘Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. vv 17-18 Jesus continues to be the High Priest before God praying for the church’s growth in holiness and effectiveness in taking the gospel to others making disciples.


Does it encourage you to pray that Jesus prayed for himself?


How might you pray in the light of this passage?


REVIVAL ANTHEM – Rend Collective







I have manifested your name to the people              John 17.6

In John 17 we have the privilege of overhearing a private prayer between Jesus and God the Father. It has been called the “High Priestly Prayer.” Jesus is concerned at this point for the glory of God the Father, the welfare of his disciples and obedience to the word of God.


Jesus himself has been obedient to the Father in revealing his name to the disciples who God had already identified to be called out of the world into the kingdom of God. Revealing or making manifest God’s name is much more than a simple name. His name includes God’s identity, character, works and words. Earlier in John 1.18 John says of Jesus, ‘No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.’ Part of Jesus’ role is to make the whole nature of God known to mankind. When we see Jesus, we see God. This is a major reason for the modern Christian to regularly return to the gospels where his portrayal takes a narrative form. We can find out how he reacts to various people and circumstances. We can learn how he organises his life. We have the great honour of listening in to prayer. We witness obedience to God’s word in action as we discover the minutia of Jesus’ life. All of this had formed part of the disciples’ education into who God is.


They learnt the closeness of Jesus’ relationship with the Father. They must have been amazed at the power of God over creation seen in the quietening of the storm. How lives are transformed when faith enters people’s lives when the resurrection power of God was revealed through Jesus raising Jairus’ daughter from her death bed. How God has compassion on ordinary people who seek after him in the feeding of the five thousand. They learnt that God did not tolerate false religion that pampered to human pride. They witnessed the rejected in society experiencing mercy and inclusion into the kingdom of God whether that was a Roman tax collector, a leper or an alien woman with a dubious moral history. When anyone recognised Jesus for who he was and turned away from their sin and toward him they were welcomed with open arms.


The ones God had revealed himself to through Jesus were indeed a mixed bag but Jesus was able to say of them, ‘Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.’ v6 How much does that reflect our own experience and what we know of the modern church. How has God revealed himself to you through Jesus?


The challenge then passes on to the modern church and each individual Christian, to reveal to the world this Jesus and in doing so Jesus manifests the whole Trinitarian Godhead. How can this be done? The first clue lies in the end of verse 6, ‘and they kept your word.’ To be able to do that we must first of all know the word of God. Then we need to live under the authority of the word.


What a beautiful name – Hillsong Worship





What does eternal life mean?           John 17.1-5

Pre-lockdown I used to go along to a monthly meal for retired people at a rather nice hotel. Now don’t get me wrong these are not geriatrics who have lost an interest in life. They are a group of intelligent, quick witted people who were all engaged in active retirement. Even so conversation could quickly turn to ailments, waiting lists and hospital appointments. With life becoming increasingly painful and potentially limiting why would anyone contemplate eternal life as a good thing?


However, what one does become increasingly aware of in conversation over lunch beside the excellence of the roast potatoes is the importance of relationships. When the drivers of career and scaling the money tree have diminished what is desired above all are loving relationships. I try to avoid offspring poker. It goes something like this, “Well my daughter is a doctor and is doing frightfully well.”

“Oh is she, that’s lovely. Of course, my grandson is a specialist in orthopedics and he gives up three months of his year to work in refugee camps.  He says it’s very fulfilling.”

“Strange you should say that. Jeremy, my grandson used to work in war zones but he says that so often it feels like a lost cause. He now dedicates himself to reconstructive surgery for orphans in remote areas that you can only reach on foot or by small aircraft where the runway has been hacked out of the jungle.”


I exaggerate naturally, but it illustrates the importance of loving relationships that we can be immensely proud of. Today’s passage is all about wonderfully loving relationships. The relationship between God the Father and Jesus the Son but also God’s love for those who believe in Jesus and Jesus’ love for his disciples.


Firstly, Jesus speaks to the Father in his hour of greatest need, he does not shut him out. In his own suffering his desire is to bring glory or praise to the Father. ‘Father, the hour has come, glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you.’ v2 He shares the love the Father has for those who have trusted in him and this love has existed since before creation. Eternal life is in the gift of Jesus because the Father has granted it to him. Because it is a gift it cannot be earned or bought, it can only be received.


Eternal life is defined in terms of relationship. It is described as knowing, ‘the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.’ v3 However much we love and are proud of our closest loved ones what makes eternal life wondrous is the personal knowledge of God the Father and Jesus the Son. It is being in the presence of divine love. It is not sensual delights, possessions or achievement it is being in relationship with God the Father and Jesus Christ. What is wonderful is that this is not a one way street of admiring from afar. The Godhead desires to be in relationship with those who trust in Jesus and so Jesus is going to do all that is necessary for that to be achieved. He is going to take the judgment we deserve and grant us his righteousness because compared to his ours is like filthy rags.


Who is this one who desires to be in relationship with us. It is, “the Author of all Creation, the infinite One, the almighty One, the eternal One.” (Josh Moody, John 13 to 21 for you.) Jesus, whose works achieve our salvation brings glory to God the Father. Jesus persisted to the end, even though the end was the cross. Therefore, the cross is the glory of Christ that he had with God the Father before the world began. v5 It is a glory that is found in weakness, in sacrifice, in service and in death that brings about life.

Have we started our relationship with Jesus through faith in him?


Do we give the glory to Jesus for his love towards us expressed on the cross?


To God be the glory





Sharing in His victory                 John 16.25— 17.1

We come now to the concluding section of the long discourse between Jesus and his disciples the evening before his death. It started in the upper room following the last supper. At some point it would appear they had left the room and were walking to the Gethsemane garden as at the conclusion of the discourse Jesus moved into prayer. His last words in the discourse were, ‘In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world.’ v33 The disciples were to face tribulation with immediate effect, they were only minutes from Jesus arrest and Jesus words that, ‘they will scatter, each to their own home and leave him alone,’ v32  were sadly fulfilled. They had still not yet grasped how Jesus was to overcome the world but they had understood he had come from God. v30 Jesus’ questioning of their belief v31 was an indication of how incomplete their understanding and faith in him still was. His crucifixion was going to shake them to the core.


Jesus had just spoken plainly that he was about to leave the world and go to the Father having come from the Father. V28 There was no confusion about what he meant by the Father, he was referring to God. v27 His promise to them was one of a loving intimacy with God the Father which was radically different from the rules and fear governed religion being propounded by the religious leaders seeking to kill him. Their relationship with Jesus had opened up to them a direct communication with God the Father. ‘In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf, for the Father loves you, because you have loved me and have believed I have come from God.’ v26-27


Jesus also makes a break in his own style of teaching. Up to now he had extensively used parables and metaphors to speak about himself (e.g. the I am statements) but now their teaching was to be more explicit and direct. v25 He was referring to the period following his resurrection and then to the Holy Spirit’s work leading them into all truth following Pentecost. We see this greater direct instructional style in the epistles in the use of extended sequential exposition addressing both doctrine and real life issues. All of this was intended so that believers in Jesus could share in his victory over the world and have peace whatever their tribulation. v33


The important point to grasp is, it his victory not ours. He has already achieved it. By the world he means all those forces ranged against him, evil spiritual forces, the sinful hearts of his enemies and our own sinful desires. His enemies were going to kill him but God was going to raise him from the dead. He would then lead those who believe in him into an eternal relationship with him and victory over sin and death. We are not able to do that for ourselves, only Jesus can do it for us.


When speaking of Jesus’ victory over sin and death Paul says, ‘But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ 1 Corinthians 15.57 We then should go on and live victorious lives. As Paul describes it, ‘Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord you labour is not in vain.’ 1 Corinthians 15.58


Are you confused about a part of the Bible or Christian teaching? What could you do to gain clarity?


In what ways does Jesus’ resurrection victory give you confidence, joy and peace?


To You O Lord I lift up my soul (Psalm 25) Graham Kendrick




From sorrow to joy                  John 16.16-24

My wife and I were sat in the parish church at her Father’s funeral which he had attended for decades and been church warden for many years. The presiding minister had just given the lovely depiction of people standing on the shore waving goodbye with great sadness as a ship crossed the horizon whilst on the other side of the sea there were people cheering and waving their greeting as the ship hove into view. It was the image of the grief of loss and the joy of reception into heaven. When the service ended the young grandchildren were playing in the church and Heather leaned over to me and whispered those are the most important people here. Two images of loss, joy and hope coming together.


Jesus’ words, ‘A little while, and you will see me no longer, and again a little while, and you will see me,’ v16 were not immediately understood by the disciples. They did what so many do when confused and talk amongst themselves without directly asking Jesus for clarification. Jesus, however, realized their confusion made clear to them the process they would go through. Importantly he made clear that this would be in direct contrast to the “world.” By the world here Jesus was mainly speaking of his enemies. They would rejoice at his death and following his resurrection be angered and refuse to accept the truth. v20


The disciples were about to be struck by grief, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament.’ v20  The grief though will be like the pain and suffering of giving birth, painful and intense but followed by the joy of new birth. Jesus was using the birth process as a simile of his death and resurrection and it is not meant to apply to all births including those that have tragic outcomes. Whilst Jesus words were directed at the immediate circumstances for his disciples they also convey a wider meaning for all who trust in him.


When believers experience grief, hardship and suffering however extreme, it will pass. There will be resurrection and there will be eternal joy in his presence. Jesus never sugar coated the cost of discipleship but at the same time he went through suffering for us because of his love for us to overcome the world on our behalf. His words to the disciples regarding his appearing to them following his resurrection also apply to his disciples now as we look forward to his return or meeting him in heaven. ‘I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.’ v22


Up to this point the disciples were not in the practice of praying to the Father in the name of Jesus. This great privilege was now being opened up to them. v23 Because of what Jesus did on the cross the disciples can now approach the Father in Jesus’ name. We should be encouraged to pray in the name of Jesus, that is in his will. We are to pray as Jesus taught and how Jesus himself prayed, that God’s will be done. Matt 26.39 As we read the bible and increase our understanding of his will, it aids us in submitting to his will in prayer.


Do we give thanks that Jesus has provided a path for us by his death and resurrection through suffering and death to share in his eternal glory?


Do we ask the Spirit to enable us to understand his will and gladly submit to it?


God Will Make A Way – Don Moen Religious Song






The Spirit within               John 14.16-17 & 16.13

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” … “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”


Whilst Jesus continues to speak to his disciples on the evening of his arrest he repeatedly returns to the topic of the Holy Spirit. As we saw yesterday he was specifically preparing his immediate disciples, however, his teaching also contains relevance and application beyond that time and audience. His statement, ‘He dwells with you and will be in you,’ does not mean the Spirit of God has not been active in believers lives prior to this but in the future he will be ‘in you’ in a new and more powerful way.  As believers our sense of intimacy will be greater. This experience will make clearer to believers that they now belong to the kingdom of God and not to this world.


As a consequence, ‘the Spirit of truth’ v 16.13 will lead us into understanding of the bible but he will also guide us in his ways. The Holy Spirit is holy and so his ways are holy. Followers of Jesus are not immune from what Paul calls the desires of the flesh, in other words the behaviours and desires of our pre-Christian life. Paul illustrates these but does not give an exhaustive list in Galatians 5.19-21, all of which are as applicable today as they were then. He contrasts this with the instruction to ‘walk by the Spirit,’ Gal 5.16 this is not about slavish obedience to a written law but is a relational response to Christ Jesus. ‘Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.’ v Gal 5.24 Sin is serious and it deeply grieves the Spirit who lives with and in us. Walking by the Spirit brings joy to our relationship with him. The Spirit empowers us but does not force us to keep in step with him. v Gal 5.25


The Spirit also confirms to us our identity in Christ as children of God. Therefore, we need have no fear of God. We are able to look forward with confidence that we will share in the heritage of Christ even if we face hardship as children of God.  ‘For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.’ Romans 8.14-17


How conscious are you of the Holy Spirit guiding and prompting you?


Are there things the Spirit has challenged you over that you have avoided addressing?


Spirit Lead Me  ~ Michael Ketterer & Influence Music







A Guide into Truth                  John 16.12-15

In most forms of learning there is a fairly hierarchical structure to the concepts involved. There might be more than one route up the structure but learning is not secure until the simpler concepts are grasped and the connections between them are made. We may gain some insight into the more complex issues but we will not have fully understood or mastered them until there is sufficient supportive scaffolding to our learning. Most simply put, we cannot run before we can walk. Learning takes time and that alone often puts people off learning because sustained effort is required. David Beckham admitted he was not the most talented young footballer he grew up with but he practised every day and longer than anyone else. Practice alone is usually not sufficient. A skillful coach makes a massive difference to the amount learnt and the speed of progress.


One of the shifts in emphasis in the teaching of mathematics with young children was a focus on identifying gaps in their knowledge which may have occurred years before but without having grasped a key foundational concept true understanding of a more advanced idea was not secure. The child was not ready to learn the advanced concept until the earlier learning had been returned to and taught again.


The disciples were still undergoing their spiritual education and that would not be completed in Jesus’ earthly lifetime. Jesus had already taught the disciples about his forthcoming death and resurrection and many other key features of “New Testament” life and although there had been some inspirational insights along the way e.g. Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Christ, the building blocks of spiritual learning were not yet secure and wouldn’t be until they had witnessed and experienced more.


This then was the reason for Jesus words, ‘I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.’ v12 They were going to be in need of an advanced level coach and so the divine plan was for the Holy Spirit to be that person. ‘When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.’ v13 Why this is vital is that these disciples are to be the ones who record Jesus’ life and teaching and write further books included in the New Testament. Jesus was firstly addressing the disciples immediately in front of him regarding their imminent experiences. The things to come were firstly his death, resurrection and ascension. Later on they were to be the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and expansion of the church into the wider world with all its developing issues.


It is upon their Holy Spirit inspired writing that the future church up to our present time is founded. The importance of the New Testament scriptures cannot be over estimated. The same principle also applies to Paul’s writing although he was not yet a disciple. Paul wrote, ‘For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel.[a] 12 For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.’ Galatians 1.11-12


The Holy Spirit’s teaching is to glorify Jesus Christ by revealing all that is Christ’s and the Father’s. v14 We cannot fully understand the things of God without the assistance of the Holy Spirit revealing them to us. An intellectual understanding is not sufficient, faith itself is a gift of the Holy Spirit. This is not to devalue the importance of the intellectual integrity of the faith but the Christian experience is a relational experience in a way that an understanding of simple facts is not. The authority of the Spirit’s teaching is it comes from the Son and the Father. v13 Therefore the authority of scripture also has the authority of the full Godhead.


What are the things that you find more difficult to understand regarding New Testament teaching?

How can you find the answers to your questions?


Fall Afresh – Amanda Cook | Bethel Music Worship




Convicted by the Spirit            John 16.8-11

Convict -to decide officially in a law court that someone is guilty of a crime: Cambridge Dictionary

The term convict for the modern reader carries with it legal overtones. We called those sent to other countries to serve their prison sentence convicts. If someone is convicted we think there has been sufficient evidence brought to court to deem someone worthy of a negative judgement. There are three elements that go along with the word convict. Firstly, wrong has been done, secondly for this judgement to be made there must be a standard for good against which the wrong judgement is made. Thirdly there is a price that must be paid for the wrong that has been done. To grasp the rounded sense of the word convict in the passage it is also to be understood in terms of a strong opinion or belief or a feeling of being certain about something which are definitions of conviction in the Cambridge dictionary.

We get then two perspectives when Jesus says the Spirit will come, ‘to convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgement.’ v8 From the individual’s perspective the Spirit will impact their strong feeling and belief about their own conduct and motivations. From God’s perspective the Spirit will make clear to them what God’s judgement is. The common position in the modern west is that what is important is what I think about my life is what matters. Otherwise I cannot fulfil myself. However, the Spirit brings an understanding that there is an objective standard outside of oneself about right and wrong and we will face accountability to God against that standard.


Why was Jesus making this clear to the disciples now? It was because he was equipping them for their gospel work, evangelism. Whilst they were to take the message to the people it is the Holy Spirit that persuades and changes the listeners deeply held beliefs. It is interesting that when Jesus describes the reason for sin he addresses lack of faith in him. v9 This refers back to the first commandment, ‘You shall have no other gods before me.’ Exodus 20.3 All sin originates in a rejection of God. The gospel message is that righteousness comes from faith in Jesus as well. Through faith the Christian receives the righteousness of Jesus in the eyes of the Father. ‘For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.’ 2Corinthians 5.21


There is a judgement and a decision to be made. If we align with the values of the world we will receive the judgement along with the ruler of the world. If we align and believe in Christ we receive the judgement reflecting Christ’s righteousness. A first step in believing in Christ is an awareness of our own need. The Spirit convicts people of their need so that they can respond to the gospel. There are highly important aspects of the Spirit’s role in convicting one of sin as one progresses in the Christian life however in the context of this passage Jesus is preparing them for his own death, resurrection and ascension and their subsequent role in taking the gospel to the world.


This directly relates to the church’s core current role of continuing to share the gospel. The Spirit continues to be the one who convicts people of their need and who Jesus is. That does not detract from the church’s and individual Christians responsibility to share their faith. Neither does it mean that we should not communicate the message in the most effective way we can. However, a spiritual work needs to be done and only the Holy Spirit can do that. We live and work in a divinely arranged partnership having received God’s mercy ourselves.


Do we specifically pray that the Spirit will convict people we are sharing the gospel with of sin, righteousness and judgement?


Mighty to save



Helper, Advocate and Friend          John 16.7

When writing a will one has in mind how one can benefit others following your own departure. Along with one’s material possessions one wants to think about how those closest to you are going to cope with the storms of life that might just about to be becoming stronger because your presence will no longer be there. When my wife and I wrote our first wills we still had small children and so the most important thing to us was to consider who could be a guide for them until they reached adulthood. Our parents were naturally ageing and we could not be sure they would themselves survive that long. The solicitor then suggested that in the will we nominate a couple of trusted friends who would be consulted during that period whenever major decisions regarding their welfare were made. Two such friends did in fact agree to being named and their role was to be mature and wise helpers, advocates and friends. As things turned out we continued to live and so the formal nature of this trusted friendship never had to be called upon but provision was made.


Jesus in this passage is invoking on behalf of his disciples the Father’s promise to provide such a person during his absence due to his death and eventual ascension. This person is the Holy Spirit the third person of the Trinity and therefore much more than simply someone to be consulted he is God himself. His role in coming to the disciples is much more than that of an adviser.


The first thing to grasp about the Holy Spirit is that he comes from the Father. ‘But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.’ John 15.26 Therefore he will act and reveal those things the Father wills. The full Godhead is working in harmony, the Spirit is coming from the Father but is sent by Jesus and therefore occurs at Pentecost following Jesus’ ascension.  ‘Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.’ v7


The Greek word “Paraclete”, translated Helper in the ESV is translated Advocate in the NIV and Friend in the Message. These three variations convey some of the shades of meaning as to the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the disciples. What Jesus is also amazingly saying is that the disciples will be better off having received the Holy Spirit than with his physical presence.


Of course, any friend, helper or advocate is only of use if they are listened to. The Holy Spirit’s words and actions will have the character of the Father himself. Conflict will naturally occur between the world’s perspective and his and also within ourselves where we desire things contrary to God’s character. This means having the self-discipline to spend regular time in prayer and bible reading is essential if we are to be guided by him. It is through the “word” of God that the Holy Spirit primarily uses to guide and reveal God’s purposes and truth.


What is your experience of being “helped” by the Holy Spirit?


Do you use the bible as a standard to check guidance against?


Psalm 121 (I Lift My Eyes) LIVE – Kristyn Getty, Jordan Kauflin, Matt Merker








Jesus the realist                            John 16.1-16

One of the many wonderful, refreshing aspects of the personality and character of Jesus is his commitment to utter reality. As he continues to paint a very sobering portrait of the shadowy road ahead for the disciples, he demonstrates a deep sensitivity to their emotional fragility, only giving them as much as he knows they can bear to take. v12 And yet he told the truth, even though the truth was painful to bear, and he lived under no naïve illusions about the disciples either.


Jesus was totally aware that they, despite all of their experiences and victories, were still human, and humans, like sheep are gifted at going astray. His carefully chosen words are designed to warn them of coming perils ahead of time, ‘so they will not go astray.’ v1 Jesus saw through the posturing and false piety of mere religion too, knowing that a time would come when religious zealots would attack his followers and irony of ironies, believe that they were doing God a favour as they did so. v2


Jesus makes no attempt to gloss over the painful hours ahead. He was going away, and said so plainly, even though the news brought grief to the disciples. vv 5-6


Jesus is no negative pessimist, though, because he is equally real and emphatic about the help that would be available for his struggling friends in the Person of the Holy Spirit. He reminds them of the wondrous resurrection he would experience, ‘in a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.’ v16


Sometimes people of “faith” try to deny their sickness or sadness, believing that to admit to them is a “negative confession” and an obstacle to faith. No such teaching exists in scripture. Rather, the pages of the Bible tell the real life, flesh and blood stories of the faithful, with their mistakes and fears and scandals unedited. True faith is realistic, it doesn’t attempt to minimize the challenges we face. On the contrary, it squares up to them and yet still affirms that God is great. Get real.

(Jeff Lucas, CWR cover to cover, Feb 2012)


How easy to we find it to be honest with God?


Mighty to save – Hillsong Worship



The Reason Why                    John 15.21-25

‘Four Christians in China are facing prison sentences of between 18 months and five years for involvement in the distribution of audio Bibles. A fifth Christian involved in a separate business is currently on trial and could face a similar sentence. It’s part of a wider government campaign to ‘eradicate pornography and illegal publications’. (For a fuller story of government opposition to the Christian faith in China – https://www.opendoorsuk.org/news/latest-news/christians-china-audiobibles/ )


It is important to understand what Jesus meant by the “world.” v19 When he speaks of the world hating himself and his disciples. Some might consider the world to be anything non-religious but it was clear that religious people made up a significant portion of those who hated and persecuted him.  Jesus’ meaning included the whole system that is in rebellion against God and that may include aspects of rebellion. It also includes individual and societal rebellion against the name of Jesus. ‘But all these things they will do on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.’ v21 The name of Jesus represents his identity as the Son of God and the existence or authority of God the Father. The extract above from China is an example of political and philosophical hatred of Jesus and his followers. In that case they invoked a law outlawing pornography including the bible as equivalent material. Societal opposition does not have to be so formally organised. Materialism in terms of valuing the acquisition of goods and wealth as the goal of life forms a dominant opposition in the West. As does materialism in terms of excluding the possibility of anything existing outside of what can be measured in the physical world also sets itself up in rebellion against Jesus. This is despite advocates of materialism not facing up to the contradictions such a position causes within how they live their own lives.


Opposition to Jesus is heightened by what he said and did because it reveals their rebellion towards God. God views their rebellion as sin and the rebel wishes to assert it as good. In Western society having many sexual partners is commonly endorsed as good. Drunkenness is approved of as having a good time. Using foul language is often approved of, and gossip is to be relished. Those with wealth and power often place their right to increase their wealth above the needs of others who are greatly disadvantaged. Attitudes towards the distribution of Covid 19 vaccines have seen rich countries placing the lives of their citizens and the profit of pharmaceutical companies above the needs of the world’s poorest as good and fair policy. Similarly, if a Christian teaches what Jesus taught they will also open themselves up to opposition and even personal hatred. The purpose of Jesus’ teaching the truth is not vindictive but to open a way for people to repent and turn to him for forgiveness and be included in the Kingdom of God. There will be those who will respond in that way but there will be others who hate Jesus without cause. v25


When Jesus performed miracles of mercy that enraged opposition. v24 Some accused him of doing so by the power of the devil. Others accused him of breaking the law. When God’s people are engaging in his works of mercy whether through miraculous means or simple kindness there will be those who make accusations that it is done for evil motives. There is considerable opposition to church schools in our society, there are those who accuse acts of mercy by churches as having purely impure motives. This is done because of a rejection of the name of Jesus and his Father.


Jesus’ teaching, actions and life sharply divides people. 2 Corinthians 2.16 However, we are not left without help.


Are we prepared to be known as Jesus’ disciple?


When Trials Come – Keith & Kristyn Getty



They hated me first                                   John 15.18-23

‘It was a day like any other for Peninah in Kenya. She went to the market, leaving her phone behind, not expecting any calls. But then she returned home. And everything changed. Peninah’s phone was full of missed calls. Her husband, Paul, a lorry driver’s assistant, was on his way home from the Somali border when the lorry was stopped by al-Shabaab militants. They lined up everyone from the lorry and demanded that each person recite the Shahada, an Islamic creed. Paul didn’t know it and, as Peninah relates, he ‘told them he could not deny Jesus’. “If you want to kill me, I’ll remain in Jesus,” Paul told the attackers. “And if you let me go, I’ll still remain in Jesus.” He was shot dead.’ (Full story https://www.opendoorsuk.org/news/latest-news/violence-world-watch-list/ )

Jesus had just spoken about how he and the Father loved his disciples with a love greater than all others when out he comes with these words, like a punch to the jaw. ‘If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.’ v18 One can imagine some of the disciples taking a deep breath and thinking, “Wow! I am not sure that I signed up to be hated. I thought we had a message of love.” Jesus here sets a clear example of how the Christian church should be up front about the costs and consequences of discipleship. Jesus knew it was not fair to leave them with the mission to take the good news of Jesus to the world without warning them of the level of opposition they will face. Jesus himself had faced continuous opposition from the moment of his birth until he was finally cruelly falsely accused, tortured and then brutally executed. The accusations made against Jesus were: he broke the Sabbath, he blasphemed, he deceived people, he was demon possessed, of illegitimate birth, an apostate, a sinner, he was mad, a criminal, a Royal Pretender and a political threat. (NIV Study Bible page 2167) John was the only apostle thought to have not died for his faith in Jesus although at the time of writing Revelation he had been banished to the Island of Patmos.

Jesus was primarily addressing his particular disciples at the time in the context of his imminent execution and his subsequent resurrection followed by the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  However, all that he said then applies to his disciples now. There are Christians who try to live in both camps, attempting to conform to the Kingdom of God without giving up the ways of the world. This may arise from a lack of understanding of Jesus’ teaching but it may also be because they do not want to change or be different from the world surrounding them. Jesus draws a much sharper distinction. The world he says should not consider you as one of their own because, ‘I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.’ v19


Loving and obeying Jesus will cause you at times to be hated and that is likely to be an uncomfortable and unpleasant experience. If we have never experienced that then it may raise questions as to whether we are loving and obeying Jesus.


Jesus sums up the reason for this, ‘A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecute me, they will persecute you also. When we read Acts and the epistles we see the truth of Jesus’ words. Just as Jesus did they taught, healed the sick, lived their lives in humble community and befriended sinners and unclean foreigners. For this they were ridiculed, faced court hearings, were put in prison, were attacked by mobs and at various times killed. At no time did they politically oppose the authorities. But they did boldly preach the gospel.


This is the lived experience of many today. The evil one will oppose the gospel in all societies in many subtle and explicit ways. However, there will be those who if we teach what Jesus taught they will obey and respond to the gospel, believe and trust in him. ‘If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.’ v23



Do we down play the cost of being chosen out of the world? John 15.23


If so, what do you think are the consequences of teaching that discipleship is only ever positive or easy?


Trust & Obey – Chelsea Moon w/ the Franz Brothers




Love Love Love                                 John 15.17

After Jesus has emphasized the importance of remaining in him and his words remaining in his disciples so that they are enabled to live a fruitful life, Jesus then continues with the instruction to remain in his love. This is a three step love, the Father loves Jesus, Jesus loves his disciples and his disciples are to love each other. vv 9,12 There is something similar to the conservation of energy about this love in that it does not lose any of its force when transferred from one to another. Jesus loves his disciples to the same extent and in the same way as the Father loves him. The disciples then are to love each other in just the same way. ‘As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.’ v9 ‘My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.’ v12


The implications of Jesus’ statement are a lot to take in. God the Father’s love for Jesus cannot be surpassed, it is eternal in nature and is expressed through his pleasure in him. Math 3.17 It is a sacrificial love unto death. v13 It is not self centred, it considers the other first and it is reciprocal love. Which is why Jesus says, ‘If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.’ V10 His is not the love of an abuser who is making his love conditional. It is a love where Jesus was obedient because he was filled with love for his Father and obedience was his desire.


This is love intended to bring great joy. v11 Why joy and not happiness? It is joy because it is eternal and not transient. It is a love that brings purpose and peace and is not subject to circumstances. It is a love that does not rely on the fickleness of humans because its source is God the Father. It is a love that is open and explained and so each party is able to trust one another. Jesus has raised his disciples to the status of friends. ‘I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.’ v15 Jesus has made known to his disciples God’s full intentions and what has been made possible for them through Jesus’ death and resurrection. He has explained how he has equipped them for their mission in the world. They have the security that it was Jesus who chose them, and not the other way round, even if it seemed like it at the time. v16 If Jesus has chosen you, why would you have anything else to fear? He has provided each Christian with a community to belong to, to be loved by and to love.


Have you taken time to absorb the love of Jesus for you personally?


Love Divine All Loves Excelling – The All Souls Orchestra







The secret of success     John 15.1-8

Most of us want to succeed. The things we may want to succeed in will vary but the notion of success applies to all areas of our life. Parents want to be good parents and want their children to do well. If we are in business then we want our business to thrive to support not only ourselves but benefit others as well. It is unusual not to want to be socially successful even if that is the modest ambition of having a few good friends. When we marry we go into marriage with the intention of it lasting, giving us happiness and if we are Christians of it enhancing our Christian lives.  Jesus though redefines the nature of success through the metaphor of the vine.


In our individualistic age we would naturally think of ourselves being the one who produces the fruit of our lives and it is up to us to independently strive for success. Jesus makes clear that in the Christian life it is him that produces success through us. Observable success in whatever walk of life we are on is measured in how we show the character of Christ. He is the source of Christian success, only through close relationship with him is success, Godly success, achievable. So close is this relationship that is that he speaks of it as, ‘Remain in me, as I also remain in you.’ v4 Before Jesus talks of success in terms of achievements such as teaching, healing and acts of service he addresses holiness.


When one first believes in Jesus we are forgiven and cleansed by him in the sight of the Father. ‘You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.’ v5 However that does not mean that our life will then continue in a God pleasing way. In fact, he says it will not unless we continue to remain in him and he in us. Otherwise we are like a branch removed from the vine which is naturally incapable of producing fruit. Whatever our plans for achievement through the church or our own lives unless we pay close attention to maintaining our daily relationship with him they will be in vain. We need to constantly seek his strength and Spirit to overcome our desires to sin.


The responsibility is on the Christian to remain in Christ. He makes that clear with the use of the word “if”. ‘If you remain in me’, in verse 5 and ‘If you do not remain in me’, verse 6. Jesus also says that Christian lives that drift away from him and sever their contact will be subject to the Father’s judgement at the end. ‘If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown in the fire and burned.’ v6


What then if we feel that describes us now? We have indeed drifted away from Jesus and persistent sin still in part controls our life. Is all lost? Certainly not. Jesus’ immense love is shown in the following section. We need to subject ourselves to the Father’s pruning secateurs and have him cut away that controlling impulse. How is this achieved? By our own confession of our need and incapability of changing on our own. We need to apply ourselves to his word and let his word change our lives. ‘If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you.’ v7 ] The regular reading and application of God’s word (the bible) is a vital part of a fruitful Christian life. He then by his Spirit will enable the Christian to overcome and be fruitful. Much like the vine sends its sap into the branches to bring life to apparently dead branches in the spring.


It is Jesus’ greatest desire that his disciples’ lives should be fruitful, he will not give up on us. ‘This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.’ v8


How do you ensure that following your first confession of Christ that you are remaining in him?

What fruit in your life are you praying for?


Abide with me – Keith and Kristyn Getty



The Fruitful Life             John 15.1

 ‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.’

2020 during lockdown saw many people spending more time in the garden, physically connecting with life processes, literally from the ground up. I was one of those and I have always loved growing produce but often because other demands in life have taken me away I frequently missed a crucial time. In five years I had not eaten a ripe gooseberry from my three bushes, the blackbirds have always beaten me to the harvest. Last year I was determined to win the gooseberry wars. I cleared the ground, fed the bushes with copious manure, cut out dead wood, and covered them with a net fruit cage. Following a delicate afternoon of carefully picking fruit around the thorns we froze a bumper harvest and are still enjoying gooseberries through the winter.


To be successful in the kitchen garden one has to spend time learning how to create the right environment for each fruit and vegetable, what to do and when. The excitement of bringing in the first strawberry or bowlful of raspberries surely gives us an insight into the Lord’s excitement at seeing a new Christian’s life starting to reflect Christ-like changes in their lives. Jesus chose metaphors and allegories from the natural world firstly because his creation speaks of the Creator, secondly because his immediate audience would have had detailed understanding of the agrarian processes and thirdly because they are not limited by culture and history and so are just as powerful an image now two thousand years later.


Jesus powerfully applied the repeated Old Testament image of Israel being God’s vine to himself. Israel was chosen to be fruitful but had in large part failed and become dead wood. Psalm 80.8-15 This is the last of Jesus’ “I am” sayings. Jesus is now announcing that, “he is the reality of which Israel was but the type.” (New Bible Commentary) Jesus himself is the source of fruitfulness and the nature of fruitfulness. If the Christian or the church are the branches they can only produce fruit when attached to the root stock of Jesus himself. Detached from Jesus the Christian and the church simply become fruitless dead wood. However, when connected, grafted into Jesus, the Christian and the Church can produce a bumper harvest.


God the Father is pictured as the gardener tending to the vine. Once again Jesus is evoking a Trinitarian image of the whole Godhead causing his church or disciples to flourish. If the Father is the gardener it would not be unreasonable to imagine the Holy Spirit as the sap bringing strength and goodness to the whole vine.


Are we prepared to pay as much attention to our Christian lives and the life of our church as the good gardener would to his garden?


Do we have periods when we neglect our Christian lives and the life of the church and allow our lives to become fruitless?


Lord of all hopefulness




Not as the world gives          John 14.27

 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. Not as the world gives do I give peace to you.’

What did Jesus mean by the peace the world gives? There are short and long answers to this question that go to the heart of the conversion experience to Christianity. By the “world” Jesus is meaning all those who do not believe and trust in him, those who have other gods they worship, whether or not they are termed gods by those who have placed them on the throne of their lives. In Jesus’ time many of the Jewish leaders said and thought they believed in Yahweh and had him on the throne of their lives but in reality did not. This is evidenced by their own behaviour and response to Jesus where they plotted and eventually did have Jesus killed. On the throne of their lives was their own status, their self-interest, their love of rules without the spirit of the rule. Pharisees added to the law of God excluding others from faith, placing religious ritual where love of the Lord and love of others should have been in their hearts. The Jewish leaders’ faith at that time was racist, looking down on all other people groups and believing that they were condemned by God simply by their birth as we see in their attitude to their immediate neighbours the Samaritans. This went against God’s purposes for the Israelites to be a light to the world revealing the Lord to them.


The Roman world was a world where multiple gods were worshiped, each deity was considered to have specific limited control over aspects of human life. People were free to choose the deities they worshiped. This seems a long way from modern western civilization dominated by materialism. Jesus’ teaching did address the modern world because he addressed the issue of the human heart. For many peace comes from financial security with the belief that the more wealth one has the greater the peace and the more one can relax and enjoy life. The parable of the rich fool Luke 12.13-21 warns against a reliance on material wealth. For others in modern life peace is pursued through a range of what the bible terms sins. However, Jesus’ challenge goes deeper than overt sin, his challenge is to whatever is placed on the throne of our heart that is not the love of God. Even though there is nothing wrong in themselves with many of these things. The peace Jesus gives is not a peace limited by circumstances.


There is nothing wrong with having a pension and financial security in one’s old age, or enjoying the love of one’s family, these are good and sensible things. Grieving for the loss of loved and good people and circumstances is normal and healthy. Jesus himself grieved over the loss of people he lost and was about to enter a period of mental and spiritual agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. Our peace comes from who and what is ultimately on the throne of our hearts.


Jesus calls his disciples to have the same life attitudes as he has. He summed this up with his words,

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.’  Luke9.23-24


Who or what is on the throne of our life?


Before the throne of God Above





Gift of peace         John 14.25-31

The passage is still in the discourse after the last supper. Central to this section are Jesus’ words, ‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you.’ v27 In one sentence Jesus is announcing his departure and giving them a departing gift. This is not a casual departure or gift such as someone changing jobs and leaving a set of coffee mugs for the “mugs” stopping behind. Jesus is leaving to do his Father’s will and leaving a gift that will see them through the serious challenges ahead. This section is a continuation of the theme of the opening verse of the chapter, ‘Let not your hearts be troubled.’ v1


The peace Jesus is speaking about is not something gained by the disciples’ own endeavours, it is to be received. It is the peace Jesus has and it is his to give. What do we know about Jesus’ peace? It comes along with the spiritual presence of God himself in the form of the Holy Spirit. v26 We know from our life experiences that certain people’s presence can bring us peace of mind. Jesus himself experienced the peace that came from the constant infilling of the Holy Spirit marked by the Spirit descending on him at his baptism by John the Baptist. John 1.32 Now Jesus is promising the same Holy Spirit to them which they themselves were to be baptized with at Pentecost, 50 days after Jesus made this promise. One of the things the Holy Spirit was going to do for the disciples was to bring to them the remembrance of Jesus’ teaching. The secure understanding of the perspective of scripture provides one with a fundamentally different outlook on life. It is then that our world view becomes aligned to God’s revelation.


Jesus’ peace comes from living in and abiding by the Father’s will. v31 It also comes from sharing in Jesus’ joy of being in the Father’s presence. ‘If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I am.’ v28 The disciples at first did not understand these words and were grief stricken and fearful when Jesus died the next day. However, following his resurrection and then witnessing his ascension, they were transformed. At first they devoted themselves to worship and prayer. Acts 2.14 Once they had been baptized with the Holy Spirit they joyfully and publicly worshiped God with their whole lives. ‘Day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favour with all the people.’ Acts 2.46 Finally their peace was to come from knowing that Jesus’ death and resurrection had all taken place as he had told them, to fulfill the will of God the Father on their behalf. ‘Now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe.’ v29


A great deal of time has passed since Jesus made those promises to his disciples. How do they bear upon us now? The same gift of peace is there for his disciples now. The same Holy Spirit is given to those who believe in him. We rejoice in the knowledge that Jesus is now with his Father in heaven having accomplished all we need for salvation. We have the same teaching as the first disciples because the Holy Spirit reminded those first disciples and they have preserved it in the New Testament gospels.


A Christian’s peace does not come from the circumstances of our life it comes from the person of God who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.


How does Jesus’ gift of peace differ from the “worlds”?


Be still my soul – Kari Jobe






Belonging     John 14.18-24


Lee Strobel in “The Case for Grace” tells the story of a Korean girl who was abandoned by her family as she was the child of a US soldier during the Korean war. Having a child outside of marriage from an American father would have been a cause of disgrace for the mother and the family within the culture at that time. From about the age of three she scavenged a feral existence until about the age of 11 she was discovered by an American missionary who thought initially she was dead. The missionary worked in an orphanage who took her in and brought her back to health. A little while later another missionary couple came to the orphanage looking to adopt a baby but in a remarkable way God intervened and instead of selecting what had been their heart’s desire, a new born baby, they fell in love with this feral child and adopted her. The girl had no memory of parents, family life or love. She presumed she had been taken as a servant and could not understand why she was being given a room, clothes, food and sent to school and not forced to work all day at the home. Then at school she spoke of this to another child who said to her. Don’t you understand, you are their child. At that moment she was overwhelmed with the realization that she was loved and her new parents’ child. She rushed out of school, ran all the way home, threw herself at her mother and cried repeatedly, “You love me and I am your child.” You can imagine the emotional impact on the parents as well as the child.


Hours before his death, although the disciples as yet were still unaware of the imminence of coming events, Jesus seeks to comfort the disciples regarding their impending grief. He says, ‘I will not leave you as orphans.’ v18 When Jesus dies they may feel cut off, alone, disorientated, afraid, as if the last three years were a waste of time, defeated; but Jesus is saying to them it is not going to be like that. The world may think he is dead and gone but they will be reunited with him. v19 The bond between the Father, Jesus and his disciples is strong, entwined and based on love, the love of the Father. When Jesus reveals himself to them again they will understand that they also will overcome death because of him. ‘Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in the Father, and you in me, and I in you.’ vv19b,20


Obedience to Jesus’ commands is not the slavish obedience to an overbearing master. A way of earning love. That was the thinking of the little girl who had not yet realized she was her parents’  child and belonged as part of the family. Obedience to Jesus’ commands is a love response. Loving Jesus is accompanied by the Father’s love back to the disciple. v21 When Jesus says, ‘I will … manifest myself to him.’ V21b He is referring to meeting with his disciples after his resurrection but he is also probably meaning his revelation of himself through the giving the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and beyond to the present day. This experience of Christ in disciples’ lives is limited to his followers and is not experienced by the wider world until they become disciples.


The evidence of becoming a disciple and an adopted child of God is in changed and changing lives. These changes will not always be acceptable to the wider world as they do not conform to aspects of the world’s culture. ‘Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.’ v24 This will mean that life for the disciple will not always be comfortable, just as Jesus experienced opposition as well as appreciation. However, the disciple’s calling is to live as Jesus lived, loving the Father, listening to the Father and in close relationship with the Father. ‘If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.’ V23


What is our choice, to live as the world lives or to live as an adopted child of God the Father?


If we know we can be a child of God, why wouldn’t we share that knowledge?


I am a child of God – Bethel music






Do you know me?                             John 14.15-17

There is a story that in Mississippi USA a young lawyer was prosecuting his first case. His first witness was an elderly lady and to put her at her ease he thought he would ask a simple question. He said, “Mrs Jones do you know me?” “Yes,” she said. “I have known you since you were a boy and frankly you are a big disappointment. You lie, you cheat, you manipulate people and you cheat on your wife. You are nothing more than a 2 bit paper pusher.” Trying to recover the lawyer asked, “Do you know my colleague for the defense?”  “Yes,” Mrs Jones replied. “He is a lazy bigot who has a drinking problem. He cannot sustain any normal relationships and has the worst law practice in the State. He has cheated on his wife three times and the last one was your wife.” At that point the judged quietly summoned both lawyers to the bench and whispered, “If either of you ask her if she knows me I will send you both to the electric chair! The truth can at times be very uncomfortable.


Most of us would say we want to know the truth but when we say that we often have an internal desire for that truth to confirm to what we already believe to be true. We want an affirmation of our current understanding. When what we hear differs from our presumptions it can become difficult even unacceptable. We cannot help it, our existing world view shapes our understanding of the truth.


Jesus had embarked on a long sequence of teaching to his most intimate disciples, immediately prior to his arrest, recorded by John in chapters 14 to 17. A close relationship between the disciples and Jesus had already been formed and now he knew he was about to be taken from them. He was drawing on their existing relationship when he said, ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments.’ v15 Jesus was not making his love conditional on blind obedience or legalistic conformity. Jesus is the incarnate Son of God, to love him is to recognize him for who he is and therefore willingly obey him out of love. As we grow in our love for Jesus so we will increase in obedience and it will be a matter of joy and not a hardship.


However, the disciples were used to having Jesus consistently with them, reinforcing their love and trust by his presence, the sound of his voice and witnessing the many miracles he performed. How were they going to cope when Jesus left? Scripture is full of occasions when God’s people were obedient when all was going miraculously well but the heart had often proved fickle. Remember how the Israelites repeatedly grumbled in the desert and built themselves a golden calf to worship. The Israelites at that point had blocked the truth they had experienced of walking through the Red Sea as the Lord parted it and created their own false truth that a man-made statue was now their God.


To prevent a similar falling away the Trinity of God was going to take action. Jesus was going to ask God the Father to send God the Holy Spirit to be with them and in them. v17 The Spirit was described by Jesus as their helper or advocate. He was going to be their constant companion. v16 The Greek for helper is parakletos commonly used in terms of an advocate in a law court. The Holy Spirit was to be their representative to God the Father. We read elsewhere that Jesus intercedes for his disciples, (Romans 8.34)  together they make for powerful representation on our behalf.


What sort of helper is the Holy Spirit to be? In the context of this passage Jesus means the Spirit is the one who will teach his disciples the truth. For those at the time it would have been reminding them of Jesus’ teaching and opening the Old Testament scriptures to them so they understood how Jesus fulfilled the prophecies. In a similar way Jesus explained the scriptures to the two disciples on the Emmaus road. The Holy Spirit also inspired the authors of the New Testament. For disciples now it is the Holy Spirit who brings a spiritual understanding and conviction as we read the New Testament as well as the Old Testament.


It is the spiritual understanding the Holy Spirit brings that separates the disciple of Jesus from the wider world. It is so important then that we pray for those who are wanting to know more of Jesus and are seeking after God, asking that the Spirit of truth will bring not only an intellectual grasp of the truth but also a spiritual conviction leading to repentance and new birth. The Holy Spirit as the Spirit of truth makes clear to us our standing before God, who Jesus is and what he achieved through his crucifixion and resurrection. He enables us to love God and keep his commandments.


What impact has the Spirit of truth had on your life?


Who are you praying for that the Spirit of truth will reveal who Jesus is?


Spirit of the Living God – Vertical Worship




Greater works than these           John 14.12-14

‘Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.  Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.’


We get used to people saying hyperbole but not literally believing it. The speaker usually doesn’t believe it, or mean it, but uses it as a means of emphasis. Mother’s say to children, “I’ve told you a million times.” A compere might introduce a run of the mill comedian with, “Ladies and Gentlemen give a big hand for one of the funniest comedians of all time.” Is that the sort of thing Jesus was doing when he said, ‘whoever believes in me will also do the works I do.’ v12 He didn’t stop there, he went on to say believers would do even greater works than him.


Let us consider the sort of works he did. He walked on water, he calmed a storm with a word, he caused the blind to see, he raised the dead, he healed those with leprosy. The Acts of the Apostles does record some similar events in terms of healing and Peter raised Tabitha from the dead. Acts 9.40 There are not the same type of miracles demonstrating power over natural forces like a storm. Although there are many miracles recorded in Acts there are not same volume of healings. Records of many miracles have continued since biblical times into the modern day. Clearly disciples are enabled to pray and miracles occur as signs to the truth of the gospel. Is it fair to say they are greater than those Jesus performed?


In one sense certainly not. No disciple has the power to raise themselves from the dead eternally. Neither can a disciple ascend to heaven by their own will. No disciple can atone for their own sins or the sins of others. No disciple can bring into being the universe. John 1.3


What then could these greater things be? To understand that we need to look to the commission Jesus gave his disciples prior to his ascension. The fulfilment of this were to be the greater things. ‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.’ Acts 1.8 Jesus left behind about 120 disciples who gathered together to pray when the Holy Spirit descended on them at Pentecost and in one day around 3000 more disciples were added to their number.


The greater things were the spread of the gospel and growth of the church. Numbers though are far from the whole story, it is about changed lives as the Spirit of God transforms people. It is about people with no certainty of their future grasping the hope of eternal life with Jesus. It is how the gospel has radically impacted society over history. The miraculous in terms of dramatic supernatural events still occur as God responds to prayer but they are not the ultimate objective, simply steps on the way to complete the great commission.


The promise Jesus made to do whatever is asked in his name so the Father will be glorified, ought to have a handle with care label. Prayer in the name of Jesus is not simply an incantation. It is prayer in the same terms as an ambassador represents the will of the government. They are only authorized to speak according to the government’s policy and will. So it is with praying in the name of Jesus. We then as disciples need to spend time aligning our heart and mind with his, crucially by becoming biblically informed and having our own character sanctified by him.


How might you be involved in evangelism, discipleship or the ministry of the local church?


Welcome Holy Spirit




How can we know God?          John 14.6-11


When the children of my eldest son were very small you could see them looking at a photograph of me hanging in the hall with a puzzled expression. They knew it was not picture of their father and yet they were still not sure because my likeness was so similar to my son’s. When people rang the home phone number and Paul answered they could not tell the difference between our voices and equally the same thing happened if I answered his phone. The likeness between parent and child can be very close. Personality can also be very similar although in that case it is difficult to know how much is genetic and how much environmental. Is it that sort of thing that Jesus meant when he said, ‘I am in the Father and the Father is in me’?


Well the answer is no, he was not speaking about genetics as both are eternal. They are part of the mystery that is the Trinity. Their closeness is of a different order to a biological genetic connection. So much so that Jesus perfectly reveals the Father but, in a way, more comprehendible to us. To emphasize the point Jesus repeats four times, although he says it in different ways, within four verses, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father’ v9


It was time for Jesus to fully open the eyes of his disciples as to who he was. Firstly, in response to Thomas’ questioning as to where Jesus was going and how they were to get there, Jesus answers he was going to the Father meaning God (Yahweh) and the way to God was through him. vv5-6 This is an exclusive route, there is no other way, says Jesus. At this point the narrative does not answer the question what about those who have never heard of Jesus? We have to look elsewhere in the bible for responses to that question. Here, however, Jesus is speaking to disciples of his own, in a country that had the benefit of the Old Testament scriptures that speak of him, and to people who had met him, watched him and heard him. They clearly have no excuse as to whether or not they positively respond to him. For ourselves, Jesus words make it imperative to explain who Jesus is. If people are genuinely seeking God then we know we need to introduce them to Jesus.


Jesus could not have made it plainer when he said, ‘If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen me.’ v7  Philip did not take in the meaning immediately but demonstrated the heart of a seeker by saying, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.’ v8 There appears to be a mix of exasperation and patience in Jesus’ reply to Philip. He says again that to see him is to see the Father. He clearly does not mean physical sight. He means that Jesus expresses God’s love, power, wisdom, truth and character. He can only do that as the two are intimately combined and he expresses that with the question, ‘Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?’ What Jesus says comes from the Father, what he does comes from the Father and his power comes from the Father.


For Jesus it is better if the disciples believe in him because they know him. However, Jesus goes on to say in effect, if knowing me is not enough for you to believe: believe because of the miracles you have witnessed. v11 This statement by Jesus places miracles in the appropriate perspective. The main purpose of miracles is to enable faith, which leads people on to the Father. They have a gospel value. The miracle’s primary purpose is not the miracle itself.


How much time do we take to know Jesus?


What have we learnt about God the Father through the life of Jesus?


How do we try to make Jesus known?


Knowing You, Jesus – Graham Kendrick





Hope when troubled        John 14.1-4

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”


Hope is a necessary part of a healthy mental attitude. If we lack something to look forward to motivation quickly dissipates. For many of us we mostly live in the moment but that is in the context of also having hope even if it is short term and even unrealistic. Hope helps us tackle the everyday with positivity. Having no hope can be a symptom of depression. Taking away hope from an individual is one of the weapons of an abuser.


Hope can be severely tested when circumstances turn against us and if we are frequently confronted by loss and obstructions to happiness then it is understandable when people give up on hope. Such events are very common and occur even when on the surface someone is apparently in a stable secure position. One does not have to be homeless or jobless to have lost hope. Lack of hope leads to a sense of powerlessness and powerlessness leads to a lack of hope. These feelings can grow slowly or descend quickly. In the bible, the story of Job is possibly the most complete and dramatic account of cataclysmic circumstances to test one individual’s capacity to have hope.


The theme of hope is one of the three great threads that extend through the entire text of the bible. As Paul famously writes ‘Now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.’ 1 Corinthians 13.13 At this point in the narrative of John’s gospel Jesus wanted to provide his disciples with hope because he knew the hope they had in him is about to be severely tested. In doing so Jesus has provided hope to all who believe in him whatever their circumstances. Hope to strengthen his disciples in times of trouble and hope that goes beyond death.


At the time Jesus said these words he was speaking of his own death. When he leaves them, it is not to be a permanent separation. He is preparing a place where they can be together in the presence of God the Father. His absence from his disciples is to be a temporary separation. The implication is that Jesus’ reunion with his disciples will take place whether or not the disciples have died during his absence.


It is Jesus’ unique claim in John 14 that differentiates Jesus from any other founder of a major world faith. All other religions have a founder who points to what they believe must be done to achieve the end goal. Jesus says it is not possible for you to achieve those things by your efforts. Jesus says I am going to prepare a place for you and I will come back for you. The Christian’s hope is the person of Christ not a route map to salvation. He summarises this in verse 6 when speaking to Thomas, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”


God through Jesus Christ is the source of the Christian’s hope not the Christian’s own endeavours, no striving on the Christian’s part is sufficient. Peter who listened carefully to Jesus’ words eventually fully grasped their meaning and wrote to the churches many years later. ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead’ 1 Peter 1.3


Are we still placing our hope in our own endeavours?


In Christ alone



Just as I have loved you    John 13.33-35

The meal had been completed. Judas Iscariot had walked off into the night to inform the authorities of Jesus’ whereabouts and time was short. In John’s gospel we are now at what has been termed “The farewell discourse” that continues to 16.33. During this final teaching Jesus explains the significance of his death, resurrection and ascension. He also outlines the promise of the Holy Spirit whom he will send after he has left to be with the Father. However, before he gets into the depth of that teaching he has two important things to say. Firstly, what he is about to do is something that only he can do and they are not able to be a part of it. Secondly, the disciples are to be a distinctively loving community. The tenure of Jesus’ words is him being firmly gentle. He understands the emotional roller coaster they are about to go on. He wants them to understand and become the people he wants them to be even if it is only possible when they look back over events.


He addresses them with an intimate term, ‘Little children,’ v33 John adopts the same term in his epistles late in life. He explains they cannot go where he is about to go. This is to his inner circle who have been close by his side for three years. Only Jesus can pay the price for sins. He allowed no room for disciples to think in some way they shared in the cost Jesus paid because only Jesus could be the lamb of God. For a little while the disciples were going to feel lost and leaderless. Jesus knew about their oncoming grief and confusion and he was preparing them for it. Their grief and suffering was to bear no comparison with Jesus’ but even so he had time to support them and remind them of their responsibility to support each other. When we face grief and confusion it is good to remind ourselves that Jesus understands us as much as he understood his first disciples.


Jesus them gave them a new commandment which continues to be a commandment for all his followers. ‘That you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’ vv34-35


What could Jesus have meant by, ‘As I have loved you?’ None of us can do what Jesus did in terms of taking upon himself God’s wrath that is rightfully ours. However, we can share many of his qualities. We can be genuinely sacrificial in our love for each other. We can be unchanging in our love. We can be righteous in our love and by this I mean not mixing it with sin, leading each other towards holiness. We can actively love the poor, the weak, the vulnerable, the stranger and those who are different to ourselves. We can be family. Tertullian wrote describing the Roman view of the early church, “It is mainly the deeds of a love so noble that lead many to put a brand upon us. See how they love one another, they say.”


Being a loving Church family is to be actively involved in gospel mission. Words that have no substance behind them carry little weight. It is in the living out of Christ’s love for others that we demonstrate the reality of how he has transformed out lives. It is resurrection life in action. In this way we can all be engaged in communicating our own relationship with Jesus. ‘By this all people will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.’ v34


How can we continue to show by the way we live our life that we are a disciple of Jesus?


The love of Jesus – Nathan Taylor





It’s all about Glory                        John 13.31-33


Judas leaves the room and the conversation changes. Judas stepping into the night v30 seems to take the darkness with him. The second half of John’s gospel is all about glory it is just not as the world would recognize it. Jesus’ face is set towards a journey to glory. ‘When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him”.v31 Glory for most comes from a public display of triumph but Jesus in less than 24 hours was to gasp his last breath on a Roman cross. A very public display but to those watching at the time an utterly humiliating defeat. A world view of glory and a Godly view of glory being in sharp contrast because the world did not understand what Jesus’ had been teaching. Even his closest disciples at this stage failed to grasp the nature of how it was that God the Father was going to glorify Jesus. The words Jesus spoke were intended to stay in their memory so that in a few short days they would understand firstly that Jesus knew what was coming and secondly it had been God’s prophesied plan for mankind’s salvation.


Jesus could have been drawing on Isaiah’s second servant song describing the Messiah who will save the nations. ‘You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.’ Isaiah 49.3 There is a mutual glorifying effect, the saving sacrifice Jesus was about to make would bring glory to both Jesus and God the Father. The repeated use of the word glory in verses 31 and 32 indicates glory above normal honour, this is supreme glory. The Message version provides a straight forward understanding of a verse that can seem confusing in NIV or ESV. When he had left, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is seen for who he is, and God seen for who he is in him. The moment God is seen in him, God’s glory will be on display. In glorifying him, he himself is glorified—glory all around!’ vv 31-32 (The Message)


Jesus, knowing the disciples forthcoming emotional and spiritual confusion seeks to soften the blow. What he is about to do no other person can do. In a very short while they will feel left alone but he is saying you have already heard me speak about this to the Jews. v33 Here he meant the Jewish leaders as well as the crowds. They were about to witness Godly glory. They were about to witness the most significant moment in history and he had to do it on his own. The only perspective that would matter would be how God the Father saw the unfolding events.


The loneliness of Jesus’ crucifixion must have been extreme. It was the only time in eternity when Jesus and the Father have been separated as seen in his agonised cry from the cross, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ Matthew 27.46 Jesus’ path to glory was down a road of suffering, rejection and mockery.


How does this bear upon our own path of discipleship? Where and in what way are we seeking plaudits? What have we got to say to God if we would rather be in a different place to do his work? Are we liable to grumble if events have not turned out to be how we initially hoped? Have we in the past promised to sacrificially follow Christ but are now saying, ‘not this sacrifice, can’t I be associated with something a bit more fun, a bit easier, a bit more glamourous, a bit more recognised?’ ‘Just not here Lord, alright?’ Do we sometimes think, I deserve more than this.


Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.’ v27 In only a few hours he was to deny he knew Jesus. Jesus knew that, but Peter would, about 30 years later, die on a cross for his faith in Jesus, as Jesus indicated. “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” v36 Peter the person who Jesus chose to found his church in the end walked the same path as Jesus.


When I Survey the Wondrous Cross



You will believe, I am who I am       John 13.18-30

‘Even my close friend in whom I trusted,
who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.’ Psalm 41.9


When things all go wrong, even dramatically wrong, it is easy to believe you and God have been thwarted. When I was appointed as Headteacher of Central Middle School in Exeter the linked church, St Leonard’s, had just experienced a catastrophic fire gutting the main building. It was arson and the Rector, whom I know and have great trust in his spiritual judgement, was confident it was more than vandalism and had elements of spiritual adversary. St Leonard’s was already a thriving evangelical Anglican church with a well developed university student ministry but itself attracted opposition. The fire though acted as the spark (forgive the pun) to enable a major refurbishment and the building of a new purpose built annex for midweek ministry as well as improved young people and student outreach.


When we read of Judas betrayal of Jesus it may have been easy for the disciples to think, this is when it all went wrong. The bible’s perspective along with Jesus’ is different. This does not mean that Judas’ betrayal was OK, it was not. Our perspective looking back on events must inevitably be different from the disciples during the days of Jesus’ trial, torture, death and burial. Jesus though was preparing them to understand God’s purposes when they later reflected on events.


Spiritual opposition as well as physical and intellectual opposition was and is real. Jesus was about to complete God’s plan. Jesus had been confronting evil spiritual forces throughout his ministry. Now at the last supper Judas had been tempted through his major weakness, the love of money, to join with a final attempt to do away with Jesus for ever. It is not surprising that the devil uses our principal weakness to tempt us, whether that is wealth, sex, substances, anger or any other of a multitude of sinful tendencies. Judas had lived closely with Jesus, maintained a responsible role as keeper of the purse but the king of his heart was not Jesus it was money. There had been tell-tale signs as small amounts of money had gone missing. John 12.6 We need to be spiritually self-aware of who or what really is king of our heart. We will know by what we find the most difficult to stop and if we are a Christian the Spirit will strongly convict us of it. Whatever it is we need to die to it, lay it at the cross of Christ and not only ask him to forgive us but also remove the compulsive desire for it.


God is not overcome by evil and Jesus needed the disciples to understand that even Judas’ betrayal was part of God’s sovereign plan and fulfilling the scripture. Psalm 41.9 Even so the pain of Judas’ betrayal is evident. If ever we feel we have been unjustly betrayed or let down when we come to Jesus in prayer we can know he empathises. Hebrews 2.18


By foretelling events Jesus wanted his betrayal to increase their faith rather than destroy their faith. It is in the face of opposition and suffering that faith can grow when at last we can see the hand of God in it.  ‘I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.’ v19


Jesus then instructs them to equip them for mission after his ascension. ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.’ v20 The disciples were completely at a loss when Jesus said that and reverted to questioning him as to who was going to betray him. However, Jesus was drawing a distinction between the betrayer and the faithful. Jesus was saying the other disciples would be sent by him, with the gospel, and if they were accepted the recipients would also be accepting Jesus and God the Father.  This great honour of taking the good news to the world is now the privilege of all Christians, whether or not they are specially commissioned as evangelists. How we should be encouraged and emboldened by his promise. As Josh Moody simple puts it, ‘If someone accepts you as you proclaim the gospel, they accept the Jesus who sends you, and they accept God the Father.’ (John 13-21 for you.)


Whether in the face of opposition or not do we have the confidence and trust to share our faith in Jesus?


Broken Together – Casting Crowns




He stoops to conquer.        John 13: 12-17

‘When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant[a] is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.’

Jesus washing his disciple’s feet was an act of profound importance. He did this within 24 hours of dying for them and all who believe in him. He could have done it at a host of occasions during his ministry, at any one of hundreds of times he ate with them. His act spoke of the deep and divine love he had for his disciples and continues to have for his disciples now. He did it with the intent of them learning a truth they still had failed to grasp. v15 What Jesus did was unique among founding religious leaders, there is no comparable story for Mohammed or Buddha. Fully aware of his place in the Trinity v3 he reduced himself to the most humble state.


My wife and I watched a minister at the end of one of a church’s regular times when it cooked and served meals for the local hungry go and fetch a mop and bucket and set to cleaning the floor. There were plenty of other volunteers around doing a variety of jobs. He was happy to mop even though he was the church leader and teacher. To him it was a natural thing to serve. There is a story of John Stott, a famous leading bible teacher who when visiting some African bishops after the meeting started cleaning the floor to the astonishment of the bishops. He had internalised Jesus’ words, ‘you also should do as I have done to you.’ v15


Jesus’ teaching goes beyond using one’s gifts to serve each other. I doubt whether the minister or John Stott had the gift of cleaning. If they were to stop at giving through their gifts both of them would have stopped once the sermon or talk were over leaving the cleaning to others. Jesus is teaching all of us to humbly seek to serve in whatever way we can. To do it willingly out of love for God and love for each other. Love for God and love for each other cannot be separated. If we do not love each other, love for God is an idea we assert but not a reality in our lives. 1 John 4.7-8 None of us are above the most humble acts of service for no one approaches the greatness of God.


Loving acts of service are part of the way the church is intended to demonstrate the gospel. Firstly, through serving each other. If we cannot serve each other, then acts of service to those outside the church have a hollow ring of insincerity. Loving service to those outside the church, often through everyday kindness, is a fundamental way to communicate God’s love and character. We should pray that God will open up for us ways to show our love. Reaching out in the name of Jesus is much more about the everyday than it is the big event.


Paul urged every Christian to, ‘Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honour; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.’ Romans 12:9-13 In this way we bear the master’s image.


Jesus words were not optional or advice, they were a clear instruction, ‘you also should do just as I have done to you.’


Are there serving attitudes you can ask God to help you develop?


The Servant King – Graham Kendrick



It’s a hard, hard thing        John 13.8b

 Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

As I read these words of Jesus I hear them in a Scottish, ‘Rebus’ like, accent and I want to hear him end the sentence with a clipped, “Jimmy.” It is one of those, there is no arguing with me, statements. It might be construed as a threat although I expect Jesus actually said it with soft patient compassion. The thing is, what Peter really did want was a part of Jesus. He was desperate for it. Jesus was saying there is only one way you are going to get it. I’m going to have to wash you. So, what’s so hard about that then?


Consider Naaman, back in the days of Elisha he was the commander of the Syrian army. A powerful, successful general. ‘He was a mighty man of valour, but he was a leper.’ 2 Kings 5.1 Sometime previously Naaman had captured an Israelite girl child and made her his wife’s servant. She told her mistress about Elisha, who, she said, could cure Namaan. Naaman’s wife told Naaman, who told the king, who gave him permission to seek out Elisha. Off went Naaman to the king of Israel with huge amounts of money and gifts and a letter from the terrifying king of Syria demanding the king of Israel cure Naaman of leprosy. The king of Israel, knowing he could do no such thing had a full-blown panic attack. Up steps Elisha and says stop panicking and send him to me. ‘Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.’ 2 Kings 5.8 Naaman turns up and is told to wash seven times in the Jordan. Naaman loses his temper and says Syria’s rivers are better than your river. ‘I want full blown, dramatic prophecy and ceremony,’ and storms off. Once again, it was servants who had wisdom and persuaded the ‘great man’ to do the simple thing he was asked to do. He did, he was healed and immediately believed in and trusted in the God of Israel.


The hard, hard thing was that there was nothing about him or his capabilities that he could bring to his own cleansing except obedience. It took a slave girl to point the way out of kindness. It took other servants to recognize who God was speaking through. He had to come to the point where he laid aside his ego. Perhaps that is why Jesus said it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. All those things we value the highest and have placed in the place God should have in our life have to be forsaken as useless to enter the kingdom of God. We cannot buy our way to forgiveness, we cannot earn our way to forgiveness, we cannot deserve forgiveness, we cannot prove ourselves to God through overcoming trials, we cannot gain forgiveness through religious ritual and tradition. The only way to forgiveness is through humbly allowing Jesus to wash us. Josh Moody wrote, “There is no other way to heaven but through the basin and the towel of Jesus’ sacrifice for us.” D.A. Carson wrote, “Unless the lamb of God has taken away a person’s sin, has washed that person, he or she can have no part with him.” No one is excluded unless we exclude ourselves.


We can be washed by Jesus by humbly asking and trusting in his promise to forgive and cleanse our lives.


We can be a servant and humbly point others in the direction of Jesus.


Here I am – Chris Bowater





You are clean                John 13.2-11

What do we imagine God sees when he looks at us? What is the true me? Does it actually reflect what others think of us or even what we choose to think of ourselves? There is a strong inclination to be self-deceiving but the bottom line is that it is what God sees that counts. Personally, I would like to pick the time God can see and rub out the other times as just embarrassing. But that isn’t how it works; my honest self-evaluation is despite some good things there is a great deal that might be described as dressed in filthy rags. Peter knows that, even though he had been as close a friend of Jesus as anybody. He didn’t want Jesus to wash his feet because his view of the world was still the world’s view. ‘Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet. v8 He understood rank as it was commonly practiced around him by the Romans and by the Jewish religious leaders. Servants served, leaders were served. Worth was determined by perceived rank. Contrast Peter with Jesus.


‘Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it round his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped round him.’ John 13.3-5


Jesus the man, fully conscious of divine status, knowing his equality with God the Father, aware of the path immediately in front of him and his eventual glorification because of his death on a cross, chose not to be served but to serve. His enactment of the servant’s role, washing the feet of his own disciples, was also a picture of their sins being washed away. Instead of being dressed in filthy rags in the sight of God, because of him, they were to stand as people who are clean in the eyes of God.


When Jesus said to Peter, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no share with me,’ v8 he was meaning that without the forgiveness and cleansing that comes from the trusting in him and his forthcoming death on his behalf, Peter could not be acceptable to God the Father and be part of the kingdom of God.


Only through his cleansing, now symbolised in baptism, can we be seen as clean in God’s eyes. Peter had already confessed that Jesus was the Christ. His faith, however wobbly it was about to be in a few hours’ time, was already rooted in Jesus and Jesus knew that. The initial trusting in Christ is a once for all matter. However even so the normal human condition is that we repeatedly rebel and place other things in our heart where the love of God should be. Jesus’ feet washing was a picture of the disciples regular need to confess and be forgiven for the sake of the ongoing relationship with him.


It is an excellent feature of the Anglican liturgy that confession is placed early in every act of worship. Spiritually as we confess we come to Jesus’ foot bowl to have the obstructions to our relationship removed and only he can do it. It is something often omitted from ‘nonconformist’ services. Is that because we want to miss out the embarrassing things that expose our dependence upon him or is it because we still want to pretend that we are better than we are?


For our own spiritual life, we need to learn the humility of Christ and value it as something of great worth. He who had no need to be humble expressed ultimate love and humility.


Do you think it is sometimes hard to “allow” Jesus to wash us?


What particular form of pride can prevent us from accepting our need of forgiveness?


Lord, I need you.



He loved them to the end.        John 13.1

 ‘Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.’ (ESV)

Chapter 13 begins the second half of John’s gospel. In the first half John records signs and key moments from Jesus’ three years of ministry. He included the great ‘I am’ statements connecting him to Yahweh’s name in the Old Testament. He opened the gospel with the words, ‘In the beginning’ placing Jesus as the creator of all things, ‘through him all things were made,’ and now here he was, God living with us. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us’ John 1.14

 At this point in John’s gospel the focus changes from a broader overview to narrow down in detail to the few hours before Jesus dies on the cross. The next chapters up to the end of chapter 19 all follow Jesus’ deliberate choice to obey his Father, to go through death to glory. Jesus knew what was to come and what he was doing.


Here lies the essential difference between Christianity and all other religions. Christianity at its core is not a set of teachings to learn and follow. It is the person of Jesus who loves us to the end. It is his relationship with us. He is God made flesh and he loves us. He loved us before we loved him. He loved us when our lives rejected him and caused him great offence. He loves us when we continue to offend him with our sin. He loves us to the end. If we are suffering, he chose to suffer more because he loves us.

His love is not a hopeless love without direction. It is a love that carries a certainty about its destination. He left this world to go to the Father to prepare a place for his own. His own are those who have trusted in him, whom he loves. He came to this world that he had created because he loves us and that love will not end. God created humankind to be in relationship with him and now, at the last supper, just before the Passover festival, Jesus knew the time had come to complete his saving work in the ultimate act of love.


It is God’s great desire to be in relationship with us. How can we not respond to such love?


The love of Jesus – Nathan Taylor




Revive us again.             Psalm 85

If the spiritual auditors were to arrive at the local church how would they draw up the balance book? Does even the suggestion of that strike you as shocking? Would you be outraged if someone made judgements of a spiritual nature? What would you look for in the final report, perhaps pleased if there were more positives than negatives? If that was the case would you expect a well done? Possibly responsibility for any negatives could be passed on to the leadership, after all simply for an attender or member it would not be reasonable for responsibility to be apportioned in their direction – would it?


The church in Ephesus received such an audit report, Revelation 2.1-7 highlighting eight commendations, each one in an important area of spiritual life. It only had one point on the debit side. ‘But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.’ Rev 2.4 The consequence of this would be the Holy Spirit would withdraw his presence from them and the church would wither and die. The church was called to repent, remember what their first love was like and return to it again and revive the works that their love led them into. The score, good against bad, might have been 8 to 1 but it was still a losing score line. The leadership may have particular responsibility but it was the church as a whole that was being held responsible.


In the same way as the nation had lost their first love in Psalm 85 and incurred God’s anger so that picture is applied to the local New Testament Church. We need to remember what our salvation was like at the beginning. ‘Lord, you were favourable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob. You forgave the iniquity of your people; you covered all their sin. You withdrew all your wrath; you turned from your hot anger.’ vv 1-3 But for the psalmist that was in the past. Now they were experiencing the discipline of the Lord. So, he prays, ‘Will you prolong your anger to all generations? Will you not revive us again.’ vv  5-6


There were two stages to the revival of the relationship between God’s people and God himself. Firstly, it was the hearing of God’s voice. Secondly, it was repentance. v8 This would lead to the glorying of God and a restored relationship of steadfast love and faithfulness. v10


How do we contribute to our church’s relationship with the Lord?


Would we describe the relationship as one of steadfast love and faithfulness?


Love divine all loves excelling





Loving it here!           Psalm 84

On our first touring caravan holiday with the children in France we arrived in the Loire Valley feeling very intrepid. We were off to explore the chateaus of France and so on the first day we decided to walk to the nearest one. As we crested a small rise there was a spectacular vision of Chambord, perhaps the largest of the Loire chateaus. It’s setting, elegance and scale took my breath away. I stood and stared. Psalm 84 invokes that image in my mind. The Psalm is a celebration of pilgrimage to Jerusalem to worship at the temple set upon Mount Zion. It is a song of delight at being a welcome guest in the home of the Lord. For the psalmist no wickedness or pleasure of the world can compare with being in his presence, in his home. ‘How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God …. Blessed are those who dwell in your house ever singing your praise.’ vv1-2,4


The temple structure dominated the landscape, it was a justifiable tribute to Almighty God, built to strike awe in the ancient heart. But it wasn’t the architecture that primarily excited ancient pilgrims, it was that here they were in the presence of the Lord of Hosts. It thrilled them and filled them with joy. When joyful, the most natural thing to do was to sing, not a solitary song but songs sung as a community, the people’s choir. Everybody and everything was welcome, even the lowly sparrow. v3


Here was a place where one could find refreshment and new strength v5 no matter how worn down one might have become. The journey was worthwhile. There is no known valley of Baca but the word Baca is also the name of a tree that grows in arid areas. The image of the Valley of Baca v6-7 is one of arid places becoming a fertile place where nature flourishes and strength returns because of springs of water. (Frequently a simile for the Holy Spirit.)


The psalmist then picks up repeated themes. It is in the presence of the Lord that prayers are heard. v8 His presence is the pilgrims shield. However, the psalm at this point takes on prophetic notes as it pleads with God to look upon his anointed. In context almost certainly the king but also with the coming of Jesus it pertains to him.


The temple is a place where the pilgrim wishes to remain, however lowly the position. v10 Why? Because being in the presence of the Lord is both a place of blessing and protection, accessed by faith alone. ‘For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favour and honour. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you.’ vv11-12


For the Christian Jesus is that temple set on Mount Zion. Time in his presence brings joy, safety and blessing. He is the anointed one but he is also the one who anoints us with the Holy Spirit. He is the one to whom we can address our prayers. Praise comes naturally from our mouths as individuals but is a special blessing when we can praise him together as his family. He is the object of our pilgrimage. Blessing comes in response to faith.


Do we know the joy of being in the presence of God or do we just know about it?


Do we miss out on the pleasure of worshiping together with other disciples of Christ or do we treasure the times we can praise him together?


Better is One Day




On our first touring caravan holiday with the children in France we arrived in the Loire Valley feeling very intrepid. We were off to explore the chateaus of France and so on the first day we decided to walk to the nearest one. As we crested a small rise there was a spectacular vision of Chambord, perhaps the largest of the Loire chateaus. It’s setting, elegance and scale took my breath away. I stood and stared. Psalm 84 invokes that image in my mind. The Psalm is a celebration of pilgrimage to Jerusalem to worship at the temple set upon Mount Zion. It is a song of delight at being a welcome guest in the home of the Lord. For the psalmist no wickedness or pleasure of the world can compare with being in his presence, in his home. ‘How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God …. Blessed are those who dwell in your house ever singing your praise.’ vv1-2,4


The temple structure dominated the landscape, it was a justifiable tribute to Almighty God, built to strike awe in the ancient heart. But it wasn’t the architecture that primarily excited ancient pilgrims, it was that here they were in the presence of the Lord of Hosts. It thrilled them and filled them with joy. When joyful, the most natural thing to do was to sing, not a solitary song but songs sung as a community, the people’s choir. Everybody and everything was welcome, even the lowly sparrow. v3


Here was a place where one could find refreshment and new strength v5 no matter how worn down one might have become. The journey was worthwhile. There is no known valley of Baca but the word Baca is also the name of a tree that grows in arid areas. The image of the Valley of Baca v6-7 is one of arid places becoming a fertile place where nature flourishes and strength returns because of springs of water. (Frequently a simile for the Holy Spirit.)


The psalmist then picks up repeated themes. It is in the presence of the Lord that prayers are heard. v8 His presence is the pilgrims shield. However, the psalm at this point takes on prophetic notes as it pleads with God to look upon his anointed. In context almost certainly the king but also with the coming of Jesus it pertains to him.


The temple is a place where the pilgrim wishes to remain, however lowly the position. v10 Why? Because being in the presence of the Lord is both a place of blessing and protection, accessed by faith alone. ‘For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favour and honour. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you.’ vv11-12


For the Christian Jesus is that temple set on Mount Zion. Time in his presence brings joy, safety and blessing. He is the anointed one but he is also the one who anoints us with the Holy Spirit. He is the one to whom we can address our prayers. Praise comes naturally from our mouths as individuals but is a special blessing when we can praise him together as his family. He is the object of our pilgrimage. Blessing comes in response to faith.


Do we know the joy of being in the presence of God or do we just know about it?


Do we miss out on the pleasure of worshiping together with other disciples of Christ or do we treasure the times we can praise him together?


Better is One Day





Crafty plans to wipe them out.     Psalm 83

 They lay crafty plans against your people; they consult together against your treasured ones. They say, come, “let us wipe them out as a nation; let the name of Israel be remembered no more!”

(Psalm 83:4-5)

Psalm 83 was written when God’s people were a nation state. Jesus redefined God’s people to be the church or the disciples of Christ. The psalmist describes a country surrounded by enemy states of one accord in their determination to overcome Israel so that they are not even a memory. v4  In doing so he names nations who not only geographically surround Israel but historically span the time from Joshua to the invasion of the northern kingdom by Assyria. vv 5-11 Antagonism towards Israel did not mean that they were not at various times at war with each other.


The psalm’s geopolitical imagery mirrors the contemporary situation of the modern church. Where the enemies of Christianity are numerous. Whilst divided in their own goals and motivations they share a common objective of destroying the influence and even existence of Christianity. Atheist secular forces are frequently not passive. In western civilization they often attack Christianity with the claim that it is not intellectually credible. Atheist states such as North Korea and China see Christianity as a threat to their authoritarian control. Other authoritarian states think that Christianity’s  teaching, that every human is made in the image of God and is precious in his sight, threatens their oppression of their own people. There are theocracies especially in the middle east and sub-Saharan Africa who enshrine in law that conversion to Christianity is illegal and punishable by imprisonment or death. Religious based militias and state forces impose their faith through violence and drive alternative people groups from their land causing mass migration which has led many thousands across the world to live in refugee camps for generations. (Overall in 2020 there are 79.2 million displaced persons and 26 million refugees, Doctors Without Borders.)


The opening prayer of the psalmist then of, ‘O God, do not keep silence; do not hold your peace or be still, O God!’ v1 remains highly relevant. There is much that the modern church can do in practical terms in the face of this level of opposition. In the West the intellectual opposition can be answered in as intellectually credible a manner as those who argue against the faith. The Church could be much more active in equipping its members to do so. The church could also improve its capacity to advocate for persecuted Christians at an international level and in local settings as well as supporting local churches in persecuted settings. There are excellent organizations working in this field including the Bible Society, Barnabas Aid and Open Doors. I recommend looking at the 2021 Open Doors World Watch list, just published, that maps and ranks countries by Christian persecution levels. ( https://www.opendoorsuk.org/ )


However, practical activity, without prayer and the working presence of the Holy Spirit, is worthless. Psalm 83 demonstrates prayer that is a lamenting cry from the persecuted, pleading with God to intervene. It is also a prayer for God’s holy power to overcome the oppressors. However, it is also an insightful prayer that by the grace of God his salvation is for his enemies as well, if they recognize he is the Most High. v18 Humbly the Christian needs to own up that s/he has also been an enemy of God through her/his sin. S/He is now called to pray for their enemies, that they will repent and turn to God for forgiveness. “God’s desire is not to punish for punishment’s sake but to redeem.” (NIV Study Bible 2015) Following Jesus, all Christians are called to live loving sacrificial lives.


Be still my soul – Kari Jobe





Psalm 82 Doing nothing is doing wrong.

When we know there is an injustice, what do we do? When we vote, in whose interests do we exercise that power? When we buy what we consume, do we care about who benefits? Is doing nothing a neutral act? Have we got to the age where we say my time has gone it is up to others now? Do we favour those who will benefit us over others in greater need?


Papua New Guinea is a highly tribal country, nobody actually knows exactly how many tribes, but it is estimated there are around 850 tribal languages, in a country with a population of 8.5 million. It has a complicated preferential voting system. Each voter has 3 votes which they place in preferred order. It is common for each constituency to have 50 or more candidates standing and only one can be elected. Bribery is common place. I asked a woman how did she work out who to vote for? Her reply was, ‘In PNG you always give your first vote to the person from your tribe because they will make sure the most government money will be spent on your tribe. Then you give your second vote to the person who you think will do a good job.’ Partiality is culturally built into the election process and partiality is the outcome as those elected heavily favour their own. You may not consider it is much different in your own country or even in the church.


The Christian is not separated from the world in the sense of having no responsibility. Psalm 82 is a powerful condemnation of participating in injustice. God is not neutral, he is on the side of the weak and powerless, the poor and oppressed and he expects action to be taken. These are his words to those in responsibility, ‘How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.’ vv2-4


Commentators argue about who is meant by ‘gods.’ v1 God is placing himself in judgement over them, whether they are the gods of neighbouring nations, spiritual principalities and powers as mentioned by Paul or Israel’s own judges and kings. Jesus himself however when quoting the passage used it to mean the people of Israel. John 10.31-39 In verse 6 the psalmist enlarges on ‘gods’  as ‘sons of the most high’, a term used in Exodus to describe the nation of Israel. It is reasonable to take from the psalm that all who act unjustly will be judged by God, including his own people.


If God is so clear about his justice what excuse is there for his people to be silent over injustice? Inactivity or passivity clears the way for injustice to thrive. It is easy to look back at missed opportunities to act justly. It takes greater discernment and courage to raise one’s voice over contemporary issues, especially when it occurs close to home within the church. It is however clear in a way that it probably wasn’t to the first hearers of this psalm that God’s concern is a global concern. The concluding verse is a jolt to any navel gazing, obsessing introspection by the people of God. ‘Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all nations.’


Is there an injustice that we are ignoring?


What action have we taken to rescue the weak and the needy; to deliver them from the hand of the wicked?


Who is on the Lord’s side?




Second chances               Psalm 81

I had a conversation with someone recently as to whether an old grievance had been healed. It can be hard to restore relationships and even when that has been done there is always the question can it be on the same terms. Memories remain, embarrassment prevents fully open communication and pretending things didn’t actually happen doesn’t work either. We can never be totally sure we know what the other person is thinking and feeling. These same barriers come into play when we know we have grieved God.

It is possible that the pattern of relationship between God’s people and God, spread over hundreds of years, can be worked out in microcosm in our own lives. Psalm 81 is a prophetic hymn calling the people back to covenant faithfulness by recalling the history of God’s relationship with them. It is a harvest hymn to be sung at the feast of Trumpets and the Booths. It therefore opens with verses of musical praise recalling the promises and blessings received through Jacob and Joseph. vv1-4  It resembles the first flush of passion and thrill of knowing the Lord when one becomes a Christian.


The verses recalling escape from slavery by God’s strong hand and then provision in the wilderness years emphasizes how God heard their voice and they heard his. vv4-7 Just as God heard them when they were suffering so he understands our need when we are burdened down with sin and live separated from God. As God said to Moses, ‘I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good land, a land flowing with milk and honey.’ Exodus 3.7-8 This reflects our own experience of salvation through Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection. The parallels in the Exodus account are multitudinous.


However, the people of God although in covenant relationship did not remain faithful. They broke the opening commandments and replaced God in their hearts with other desires. vv8-9 Therefore the psalmist quotes the words of God before the ten commandments to remind them of how their covenant relationship was formed, ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.’ v10 and Exodus 20.2  Many of us have had a time when we drifted off from our relationship with him, replacing him with other things, passions and relationships. This period for many can last for decades. I spoke to one man who before attending a Christianity Explored Course told me he had made a commitment to Christ when a university student and done nothing about it since, he was now in his 50s and felt the need to find his relationship with God again.


God though did not give up on his people despite hundreds of years of wayward discipleship. Instead his words were, ‘Oh, that my people would listen to me, and Israel would walk in my ways! v14 God was still calling them back. He still wanted to bless them with good things expressed as feeding them with the finest of wheat and with honey. v18 He wanted to satisfy their souls. The man I mentioned above turned again to the Lord and his relationship with him was restored.


It isn’t too late. God is patient and gracious beyond human imagining. If we have walked away from our relationship with him and replaced him with “foreign gods” v9 there is a way back if we turn back to him. He is waiting to bless us with eternally good things. He is able to restore our relationship with him even though we may be embarrassed, awkward, sure we don’t deserve it, unable to forget and not forgiving ourselves. It is because God had done all that is necessary through Jesus’ sacrifice. We are simply told to turn and ask. It is so simple, we are to come as a child. Mathew 18.3 He knows. There is no point in pretending.


No longer slaves



Tears to drink in full measure.       Psalm 80

How long, Lord God Almighty will your anger smoulder against the prayers of your people?
You have fed them with the bread of tears; you have made them drink tears by the bowlful.
You have made us an object of derision to our neighbours, and our enemies mock us.

 Restore us, God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved. Psalm 80.4-7

A drinking bowl full of tears sums up many people’s experience over the last nine months. It could be a simile for the nation’s current condition. How do we handle grief in whatever form it comes? It is one of the most fundamental questions of human life. My eyes were opened to the pervasiveness of grief when a disability adviser came to speak to me about the needs of a child with severe brittle bone disease, who was wheelchair bound and had regularly broken bones for her whole life and would continue to do so. The adviser herself had a progressive condition that meant that she steadily lost function in her body and senses. She explained how every time she lost function she went through the full grief process for the loss of that ability. Loss causes grief and does not only occur following death. There are many forms of loss that have debilitating even life changing impacts.


I remember a colleague who was lively, successful in her career and physically well. She experienced a relationship breakup, the grief for the loss of her relationship brought on a severe mental illness that nearly took her life. I am pleased to say that following a long period of treatment and recuperation she not only recovered, she got her career successfully back on track and found a new permanent relationship, she also returned to her faith in Christ in a much deeper way from which she had drifted in adulthood.


Why these anecdotes? It is to illustrate how pervasive grief frequently is and also how much a relationship with the Lord, our Shepherd, is the healing balm we need. v1 Those of us who have grieved know how much we need to be restored. This is not to minimise the loss whether or not we are responsible, it is to find salvation within the loss.


The psalmist is grieving the loss of relationship the people of God are experiencing in addition to the suffering inflicted by Gentile nations. He knows the only salvation for his people is not to be found in their own power, it comes from the ‘Shepherd of Israel.’ Hear us, Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth.’ v1 He has a deep longing to see the face of God. v3 He repeats this desire as a prayer to God in verse 7. In his grief he shows how we should act in ours, to seek the face of God.


In the second half of the psalm he invokes an image used elsewhere in the Old Testament of Israel as a vine. Jesus himself used this image where he spoke of God’s discipline as pruning the vine so that the branches of the vine will bear fruit when it is grafted in to the main vine, or God himself. ‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.’ John 15.5 Unfruitful branches are consigned to the fire.


Whether or not grief is a result of the Lord’s discipline have we sought his face, that we may be saved? v7


Shine Jesus Shine.





Is collective responsibility a thing?        Psalm 79


How much do we consider ourselves to be part of the church’s relationship with God or do we attend a church but consider ourselves in some way only partly attached? Psalm 79 is a community lament not an individual’s. It is a confession and a pleading the people of God are making as one body. Collective responsibility is being owned up to and mercy is being asked for all God’s people. Is this something we could see the modern church doing?

Psalm 79 is a prayer that arises from a dire situation that the remains of Judah found itself in. It has come from God’s judgement following persistent embedded sin throughout Judea, from top to bottom, and it was sin that persisted over generations. The Babylonians were God’s instrument of punishment and now a remnant remained in a much reduced Jerusalem. The temple had been defiled, the city reduced to rubble and the people so weakened in numbers and capability even the dead were not being buried. They were in short a laughing stock of neighbouring nations.

The psalmist in this situation does not pretend or cover up their responsibility or that of previous generations. He is honest with God and says it how it is even though it places the surviving remnant in a very poor light. He asks God, ‘Will you be angry forever? v5 He recognizes that the Lord is jealous for his people and his name. The psalmist as the voice of the people throws himself on God’s mercy. ‘Do not hold against us the sins of past generations; may your mercy come quickly to meet us, for we are in desperate need. Help us, God our Saviour, for the glory of your name; deliver us and forgive our sins for your name’s sake.’ vv8-9


Realistically one could imagine the modern persecuted church praying very similar prayers. The difference though is that God’s people were experiencing divine judgement for dishonouring God’s name. The circumstances of the contemporary church is much more like the persecution of the early church in the Roman Empire for preaching the gospel. However, whatever the circumstances opening one’s prayer with confession of sin is a helpful practice.


The remnant also prayed for God’s judgement on those who were cruelly oppressing them. It is important to note the distinction between asking for God’s judgement as opposed to themselves exercising the act of judgement and punishment. It is being left to God. We could say these prayers were answered at the end of Daniel when the Medes and Persians overthrew Babylon in one night.


The psalm ends with the confession that the people of God are God’s sheep and in praise to him. Jesus himself is our Shepherd. It his name that is brought into dishonour when the church is disobedient. The church is not a loose collection of individuals but the one body of Christ, mutually dependent upon each other and Christ himself as our head.


Do we take some responsibility for the church we belong to?


The church’s one foundation



How many times and ways?      Psalm 78:9-39

Have you, like me, looked back over your life and considered how many times you have offended God the Father and in how many ways you did that? Alongside those thoughts have you also considered how many times God has forgiven and rehabilitated you? It is perhaps easier to examine the lives of others and see their crooked path whilst at the same time to make excuses for ourselves for similar decisions and actions. When we have gone wrong, what has prompted us to turn back, repent and ask for forgiveness? Would we have called it God’s discipline at the time or do we only in retrospect recognize his hand on our lives?


Asaph in his lament forensically examines not one life but the life of a nation over up to 500 years, from the Exodus to King David. It is a catalogue of God’s unjustified love for a rebellious people who in the face of repeated miraculous interventions grumbled, rebelled, disobeyed, rejected God and worshipped other gods who do not exist. They tested God’s love beyond the reasonable or excusable and deserved God’s rejection. If we are honest, how well do we stand up against the same accusations.


Let’s look at the charges. Ephraim, (often shorthand for Northern Israel) ‘turned away from the battle.’ v9 Do we engage in the spiritual battle, in prayer, in resisting sin, in standing up for righteousness, in loving when we are not loved?


‘Israel did not keep the God’s covenant and refused to live by his law.’ v10 Do we even consider that when we asked Jesus into our lives and accepted his death on our behalf that we had entered into a covenant with God. From then on, we had made promises of covenant love, the best simile is that of marriage vows. When we break that covenant love by giving our love due to him to other people, vices or things we are committing spiritual adultery. Such behaviour deserves the same response by God the Father as when the Israelites sacrificed to other gods on the high places. ‘They angered him with their high places, they aroused his jealousy with their idols.’ v58


Do we grumble about the situation the Lord has placed us in when he has blessed us greatly forgetting all he has done forever wanting more? vv 9-30 Where is our treasure and how does that impact our daily life?


When God is leading us in one direction, how often do we want to turn round and go the other way, back to our old lives? ‘He divided the sea and led them through; he made the water stand up like a wall. He guided them with the cloud by day and with light by night.’ vv13-14 The people of Israel complained to Moses that they had been led out of slavery where they felt safe and wanted to return despite all the Lord had done. As we consider the span of our life, how often have we wanted to do just that and turn back from his calling and promises. Did it feel easier to live as the world lives?


When we speak to God or join in with worship are our words sincere or are have they been at times as Israel’s sometimes were, a false declaration? ‘But then they would flatter him with their mouths lying to him with their tongues; their hearts were not loyal to him they were not faithful to his covenant.’ vv36-37


Remarkably, God’s patience, grace and understanding meant they were not permanently rejected by God. Even when tested to the limit he held back righteous anger and restored his people. ‘Yet he was merciful; he forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them. Time after time he restrained his anger and did not stir up his full wrath. He remembered that they were but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return.’ vv38-40

Should we then be casual in our own attitude towards sin, presuming on God’s forgiveness? Paul had a blunt response to this notion. ‘What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning, so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.’ Romans 6.1-4


We can rejoice in the promise, ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.’ I John 1.9


Let us live then as a new creation, by faith and in the Spirit.


Forgiven – Crowder







Tell the children this       Psalm 78: 1-8

Many years ago, I was studying for a Philosophy degree in education and so fairly obviously the first question was, what do we mean by education? The most succinct and helpful definition I came across was the transmission of culture. Culture includes the body of knowledge we hold and value, our behaviours and traditions. Culture belongs to a defined group and is something that we learn, it is not innate. As people of God, what is the body of knowledge, values, behaviours and traditions we value so highly that we want to do our best to pass it on?


Psalm 78, the second longest psalm, is a narrative covering the period from Moses to David attempting to encapsulate the critical memory of God’s great deeds and his instructions to his people over the generations. It graphically spells out the consequences of the repeated times when God’s culture had been forgotten, ignored or rejected. Asaph, the psalmist, appeals for each generation to be taught the ways of God and the history of God’s people.


‘He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children not yet born, and they would tell their children.’ vv 5,6


Asaph was very aware that the history of the people of God was not a smooth one, there had been many times when for prolonged periods Israel had lived lives disobedient to God, testing his patience, love and grace. Now at last they lived under a shepherd king, appointed by God and the good times had returned and they were experiencing the favour of God.


‘He chose David his servant and took him from the sheep pens; from tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his people Jacob, of Israel his inheritance. And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.’ vv71,72


Tuition came in many forms e.g. parables, revealing things previously hidden, and through the demonstration of power and wonders. vv2-4 It was a forerunner of the teaching and life of Jesus who similarly revealed the mysteries of God in parables and miracles living a life that modelled holiness. The psalmist asked the questions, ‘Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favour again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?  Genuine and valid questions that have been frequently asked by those who find themselves estranged from God but not necessarily asking what is it that we have done and been that caused us to be so far from the Lord’s favour?


Asaph was not to know that the complete answer to all those questions was to be a resounding NO! With God’s YES to find it’s fulfilment in the person and life of Jesus. It is each believer’s generational responsibility to pass on the knowledge of the culture of the kingdom of God. We can all play our part, some formally, some informally, as members of the family of God. What matters is that we do so deliberately, not only in words but also in lifestyle because our actions either confirm or undermine our words. However, there is an important sense in that we are all children of God and remain so throughout our lives. The apostle John called all the church his little children and so we are to be constantly both learners and people who pass on the Christian culture.


How much have we entered into the culture of Jesus Christ?


Are we lifelong learners and teachers?


How often have we forgotten, ignored or rejected Christ’s teaching?

Remember Me – Mark Schultz







Lost closeness to God       Psalm 77

Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his love again?

Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time?

Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in his anger withheld his compassion? (Ps 77.7-9)


For how many do these verses reflect their current spiritual experience. It is not so much, I have lost faith in God, it is more, “I just don’t feel it anymore.” The setting for this psalm was probably the fall of Jerusalem when it seemed to many as though God had reneged on his promises and declaration of love towards Israel. There is little more devastating than being overrun by a brutal foreign power, having homes and countryside reduced to waste, no longer having one’s own government or control of one’s life. Family, friends and community members killed, raped, imprisoned, deported. “Where is God in this?” is the cry. It is both an individual prayer and a community prayer. Let us remember this is not just an ancient history picture, the same it is being played out in our world today where smaller people groups are being driven out by dominant neighbours, often barely reported in the world media.


These words could be the repeated prayer in the UK today as for several days in succession the Coronavirus death rate has been over 900 a day. It is not simply the tragic death rate that has caused despair, it is all the knock-on impact to medical services, family life and the economy. From, I cannot hold my sister’s baby to being made homeless in the freezing winter.


It is important to recognize the level of suffering that is being experienced and spiritual suffering that often goes alongside. The psalmist has not denied God he simply feels he cannot find him. ‘In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted.’ v2 He remembers good times for himself and his people but now he cannot pray, he cannot speak or sing and feels outside of God’s love. He doubts this will ever change. How many, for whatever reason, would say this is exactly how they feel now?


It was only when the psalmist was able to alter the direction of his thoughts towards what he knew of God and his deeds, that he could he see a way of salvation. He reflected on the escape Israel made from captivity in Egypt and described God’s intervention as unseen footprints. ‘Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen.’ v19  The psalmist’s language had changed from the repeated ‘I’ in verses 1 to 9, to ‘you’ and ‘your’ in verses 10 to 20.


Of even greater relevance for the modern Christian is to look back to Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection as our exodus and evidence of God’s love, compassion and presence with us during our suffering. It is when we consider this that we can say along with the psalmist, ‘Your ways are holy. What god is as great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.’ v13


When we are feeling down and even out do we remember God’s constancy?


Even in times of trouble have we managed to remember all that Jesus has done?


Have we helped others in their times of trouble to look to Jesus?


Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus






Let me get this right. An angel said what?     Luke 1.28-33,35


The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants for ever; his kingdom will never end.’ … The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God.

There are some conversations when one carefully selects the time and the words used. Recently I arrived home and after greeting my wife, she replied, “I have had an absolute disaster of an afternoon.” That set me up to be understanding and compassionate, whilst inwardly bracing myself for something very expensive. “I made a curry and it’s too hot to eat,” she announced. I un-tensed my stomach muscles and searched for an appropriate answer. Fortunately, she had already prepared one for me. “I looked it up and google said, add a potato and lots of yoghurt.” That seemed to overcome the awkward moment and life could continue as normal.

I just wonder how the conversation between Mary and Joseph went after Gabriel had dropped in to see her. I imagine it started with Joseph saying something like, “Just stop there a moment, what did you say his name was and what did you say he was? Now take a moment Mary and start again, very slowly.” One thing was certain, for Mary and Joseph, life never did return to normal.

The days before Christmas day are good days to simply reflect on Gabriel’s promises fulfilled and rejoice. It is a bit like mindfulness we may know we should take a minute to simply concentrate on the moment but if we never do then we will never feel the benefit. So, do take a few minutes, stop and reflect on promises kept.

God was with Mary and she was obedient and faithful. She did conceive and as a result the world has been given the gift of God with us. He is the complete revelation of God and because of him we can understand who God is. The light of God shines in the world’s darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.  John 1.5

He was given a name that is now the name above every name. ‘Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.’ Philippians 2.9-11


Mary’s child was the Son of the Most High and because of that he was able to create the chance for us to have new life through him. ‘But these are written that you may believe[a] that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.’ John 20.31 ‘For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.’ Colossians 2.9


Mary’s son established a kingdom like no earthly kingdom that will last for ever. ‘For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.’ romans 14.17 ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.’ revelation 11.15


At the name of Jesus










Shout and be glad             Zechariah 2.10-11


‘Shout and be glad, Daughter Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you,’ declares the Lord. ‘Many nations will be joined with the Lord in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you.


With Christmas day almost upon us it is a time to lift our voices in gladness. As we do so we align ourselves with the rejoicing and gladness in heaven. God is working his plan out to bring about salvation. What does salvation include? Mary’s song of praise includes the bringing down of the powerful who use their power to oppress others, ‘He has scattered those who are proud in their innermost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones.’ Luke 1.51-52 He also extends mercy to those who fear him and are humble and needy, ‘His mercy extends to those who fear him …He has lifted up the humble … He has filled the hungry with good things.’ Luke 1.50,52,53


For the Angels salvation is good news that brings great joy for all people and the sign of that salvation was the birth of a Messiah in Bethlehem. Luke 2.10-12 For the wise men salvation meant the coming of a new king and discovering him brought them great joy and they worshipped him. Matthew 2.10-11


Jesus’ birth was God keeping his promise to come and live among us. H

ow often we look forward to the arrival of a person. My wife taught in a school where families lived on farms that belong to the Duchy of Cornwall, that is Prince Charles. One day a boy in her class did not come to school and when asked why the next day, he said Prince Charles came to lunch and arrived by helicopter. He had to keep it a secret and was not allowed to tell anyone before the day. There was great excitement in the family during the preparation. How much more excitement is appropriate if God himself has come to live with us?


Well he did in ancient Israel and when he matured he did many signs to show that he really was the promised Messiah, God with us. Many hardened their hearts and did not accept him. As Mary sang, they were proud in their innermost thoughts; but the humble he lifted up and the hungry he fed.


People from many nations have joined with him and have become his people. They have understood that the Lord has sent him to live with us. Following Jesus’ resurrection and then ascension he kept his promise of sending the Holy Spirit to continue to live with us. ‘I am going to send what my Father has promised, but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.Luke 24.49


So let’s make a noise, shout and be glad, for the Lord has come.







No ordinary person               Isaiah 9:6-7


For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and for ever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.


When Isaiah uttered this awesome prophecy, Israel had just suffered great oppression from the Assyrian Empire. What the people wanted was a leader after the style of Gideon who had led them to impressive military victories. Isaiah 9.4 Instead Isaiah offered a child of unimaginable character. Character that stood in the greatest contrast possible to the succession of Israel’s kings. The only comparison that could be made was this child was going to be in David’s line or in succession from David. Isaiah could not have fully understood the prophecy he made. Indeed, Peter confirms this in 1 Peter 1.10-12 placing us in a hugely privileged position. ‘It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.’ 1 Peter 1.12


These words then are a precious heritage and it is the coming of this child that we celebrate each Christmas. Prayerful contemplation on the character of the promised child we know as Jesus evokes emotions including awe and wonder, confidence and peace of mind, joy and hope, security and relief. This is the one in whom it is possible to have complete trust.


Whatever our feelings of darkness may be and they may be considerable, after all we are still in the middle of a pandemic that has just taken a nasty twist. At best life feels highly uncertain. Uncertainty persists politically, in terms of security in many places in the world, with growing poverty including child poverty, a greater divide between the haves and the have nots, employment insecurities and the threat of a climate and environmental crisis. All of these issues have as a root cause human sin and rebellion against God. Here is a promise of a light to shine in our darkness.


Those who walk in darkness need a great light Isaiah 9.2 and that light is the son who is given Isaiah 9.6 – Jesus Christ. What can we know about this child? He is a deliverer who brings great joy, You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder.  For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. Jesus’ deliverance though is not the expected military victory but a victory over sin and death and it is an everlasting deliverance.


He is a ruler who rules with justice and righteousness. There are those who consider judgment that is just and righteous leaves no room for love and compassion. However the opposite is true, it would be cruel not to be just and not care about sin. Such a ruler is in complete contrast to Ahaz who Isaiah prophesied to.


The combining of the titles, Wonderful Counsellor, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace into one person represents the totality of this child’s divine, royal power. God has no need of any additional counsellor as human kings or heads of government have. He is his own counsellor. Everlasting Father conveys the protective qualities of God for his people. God unlike human kings will continue to provide for and protect his own for ever. Jesus has through his own death and resurrection brought about lasting peace between believers and God and therefore is their Prince of Peace. How great is the need for peace in our time. So many suffer great internal turmoil as well as conflict with others and God.


Now is the time to pause and worship him, placing him as King of our lives.


Is there any part of our life that we need Jesus to take lordship over?


Handel: Messiah, For unto us a child is born (Sir Colin Davis, Tenebrae, LSO)







Because of him           Corinthians 1.26-31


Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.  It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.’


Have you been part of conversations where one Christian says to another, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if ‘X’ were a Christian, they are so talented, they could do wonderful things for God.?’ Frequently such a comment is met by general nodding in agreement. Is there anything wrong with that? It is a matter of emphasis. When Paul says, ‘Not many of you were wise by human standards.’ v26 He is not saying none of you were academically wise, or rich, or in positions of privilege, he is saying most of you were not. This is to emphasise that worldly wisdom that gives rank to academia, inherited wealth or status are no passports to heaven or positions of authority in the church. They do not exclude one from faith, or responsibilities, but God judges differently. Think Samuel and the sons of Jesse, or Jesus’ teaching not to claim a top table for oneself and then face the indignity of being asked to move down the table.


Time and time again Jesus approached a sinner or a lowly regarded person and salvation was the outcome.  Think Zacchaeus or the woman who touched the hem of Jesus garment or the Samaritan woman who was living a life considered morally disgraceful. The question should not be what can, he or she, do for God but what can God do for him or her regardless of worldly esteem. Paul is emphasising that salvation is an act of God not of man. ‘It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God.’ v30 This is not a reason to put down various abilities, but to order what we value and to whom we give the credit. When God judges us, there is little point in playing the wealth card to God who created all things, or the status card to God of heaven and earth, or the brains card to him who knows all things. When God looks at us we need him to see the righteousness of Christ credited to us by his gift of love through faith. v30 The cleverest, wealthiest and most important person in the world has to come humbly before God in exactly the same way as the lowliest person and admit his or her need. I was struck today when listening to Barack Obama reading from his new autobiography, where he said everyday he knelt by his bed and prayed for forgiveness of sins and guidance. At the time, the most powerful person in the world who had carried beside him at all times, in his own words, the capacity to blow up the world. He understood humility.


There are those who say what Jesus meant by, ‘it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven,’ referred to a gate into Jerusalem which was called the eye of the needle and any camel carrying valuable goods had to have them removed before the camel could squeeze through. What is the purpose of this teaching? It is so that praise goes where it is due, to the Lord. ‘Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.’ v31


How does this impact on evangelism? It does not support an attitude struck by some saying, “If it is up to God then what I do does not matter.” It clearly does, Jesus left the instruction to go into the whole world making disciples. Paul’s entire ministry was one of taking the gospel to new people and places. It does however mean that we should recognise this is the Lord’s work that we are about and without him there is no point in what we do. It places prayer at the top of the agenda. It places humility as essential in the work of evangelism. It means that the cleverest of ideas are of no use unless the Spirit is at work and it is for this reason that the Holy Spirit was given. It also means we need to be clear and straight forward about the gospel. It is important to answer genuine questions, but in the end, to enter the kingdom of heaven requires an act of faith in Jesus, his death and resurrection and a repentant heart.


Does our faith rest on human reason, or on God’s power? 1 Corinthians 2.4


“Mighty To Save” – Michael W. Smith





Beautiful feet         Romans 10:11-15

As Scripture says, ‘Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.’[a] 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’[b]

14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’

In the Christian church today, the vast majority of preaching is directed at those who already believe. Paul’s concern here is for is first of all for those who do not yet believe. However in practice Paul’s life’s work did not make separate distinctions between teaching and preaching, if we take preaching as being addressed to the non-believer. He went to new places where he spoke and argued the case for Christ. When people became believers he then continued to teach them. However, he was a man on the move and once he had established a church he moved on and others took over the leadership and teaching role. Others also took on the continuing outreach to non-believers.

In New Testament terms a healthy church was one that was focused on outreach to non-believers with the gospel. The risk has always been that inertia takes place and the prime focus becomes inward focusing on the existing church’s needs. Some see these two aspects as competing, Paul did not. Jesus himself also did not see a conflict between his teaching of his disciples and his reaching out to fresh people with the good news of the kingdom.

The crucial need for both the existing church and the future church is the need to hear the word of Christ. ‘So faith comes from hearing, hearing through the word of Christ.’ Romans 10.17 There could be many approaches to communicating the word of Christ.

J John, a British evangelist and Cannon in the Church of England has written a book titled “Natural Evangelism”. In it he outlines three connected things every Christian and every church can do – Praying, Caring and Sharing.

Praying for people around us who we meet in normal life, praying for our area, praying for new opportunities, praying for “Thy kingdom come”. As J John says, it is surprising how many “coincidences” happen when you pray. Pray he says should be regular and intentional

Caring practically demonstrates the love of God we wish to share. It is a matter of living out Jesus’ words to love others as we love ourselves. This is not something to force from within, it comes from God loving us and our loving response back to God. It is something we can pray that the Spirit will grow within us. Caring and praying can naturally bring with it opportunities to share.

Sharing the word of Christ that can bring faith when it is heard should be honest, natural and com from our own understanding and experience and not be forced. We can only speak honestly about what we know and believe. Who knows what the Spirit will do with our words. As time progresses and we learn from the teaching in church as well as these days from books and online resources our ability to share may grow. However, it is interesting to me how often it is the words, love and enthusiasm of the new Christian that seems contagious.

How active is the church in reaching out to new people?

What worked for you?

Is reaching out to new people a live issue in our church?

Our God reigns





The Messenger        Malachi 3.13-14

‘You have spoken arrogantly against me,’ says the Lord. ‘Yet you ask, “What have we said against you?” ‘You have said, “It is futile to serve God. What do we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty?

Covenant love is a constant theme throughout the Old Testament and reaches it’s climax in the life and death of Jesus in the New Testament. The notion of covenant love is something that has always been under threat but some will say that it is more so now in western society than it has ever been. I remember the first time I was taken aback by its casual treatment in the early 1970’s when a colleague said of her marriage that when she got married she never expected or intended her marriage to last more than 5 years. You may wonder at my naivety at the time but such an attitude was in sharp contrast to those in my family upbringing.

In Malachi, God is despairing of his covenant relationship with his people. ‘I have loved you,’ says the Lord.  But you ask, ‘How have you loved us?’ Malachi 1.2 Malachi means messenger and this has led to discussion as to whether Malachi is the actual name of the prophet or a title, and as to whether there is a single author, a group of prophets or clerks recording the prophet’s messages at a later date. Such arguments may satisfy academics but they shed little light on either God’s message or the relationship between God and his people.

Malachi was prophesying after many of the Jews had returned to Judah after the exile during the time of Nehemiah and Ezra. There is a considerable overlap between the issues in those books and the content of Malachi. God is in a long standing covenant relationship with his people, initially promised to Abraham and confirmed in much greater detail through Moses, a covenant of love. However, the people of God persistently and in a multitude of ways broke that covenant, they exhibit indifference, rather than committed love, and this was exhibited most by the priests whose responsibility was to represent the people to God and God to the people. The priests offered the worst of the produce to God rather than the best.v1.7 They brought disgrace to the Lord’s name, v2.1 they taught falsely, v2.8 they allowed and partook in marriage outside the people of God which led to idol worship, v2.11 they endorsed unfaithfulness in marriage and divorce leaving the wife destitute. v2,15 In short they had ‘wearied’ the Lord by declaring what is evil is good and there are no consequences for their behaviour. “By saying, ‘All who do evil are good in the eyes of the Lord, and he is pleased with them’. Or ‘Where is the God of Justice?’ “

God’s response was to put these words in the mouth of the prophet. “So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers, and perjurers, against those who defraud labourers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the Lord Almighty. v3.5

A remnant or smaller grouping responded to the Prophet’s message and covenanted to be faithful to the Lord. ‘Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honoured his name.’ v3.16 The book concludes with the promise of an Elijah figure. Christ’s ministry of reconciliation to the church prior to the final day of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5.18-20.) ‘He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents,’ v4.5 In our time the same prophetic message as Malachi’s remains directed towards the church, to challenge the church wherever indifference and disobedience to God’s covenant love has entered the church. See the prophetic visons to the seven churches in Asia Minor in Revelation 2 and 3.

What experience have you had of God’s prophetic ministry correcting the relationship between the church and God?

Lauren Daigle – Light Of The World





I am with you         Jeremiah 1:4-8

 Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying,

 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” But the Lord said to me,

“Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’;
for to all to whom I send you, you shall go,
and whatever I command you, you shall speak.
Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,
declares the Lord.”

A lot of people consider that if what they are truly like was known, then they would not be liked let alone loved. If their unfiltered thoughts were known they would not be trusted and they would be publicly shamed. These inner feelings of guilt or inadequacy then inhibits them from expressing other true feelings and thoughts. They lead to a conviction of unworthiness in the Lord’s service.

Jesus, when warning his disciples about the Pharisees’ hypocrisy said, ‘There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.’ Luke 12.2 We are an open book to God and that knowledge should not only lead to repentance but should also be a huge relief. We can stop pretending and covering up because he knew even before we were born. Even so he still loves us enough to send his Son to die for us. Now we can get on with our life of obedience, excuses are swept away.

As with Jeremiah, God knew us, loved us, planned our salvation  and had a role for us before we were formed in the womb. We will have excuses, even Moses had excuses, but that is what they are. Jeremiah’s excuses were that he was too young and wouldn’t know what to say. We may have different ones. God’s answer will be the same. I know you completely and I will be with you. For Jeremiah the words are not to be his but the ones the Lord will put in his mouth.

Jesus had similar words to say to the twelve. He knew that the future held serious challenges including being held to account by governments and courts. He did not want them to be like gladiators in the arena but he did mean them to be trusting and faithful.

‘Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.’ Mathew10. 16-20


May we remember the Spirit of God is with us as we share his good news.


God is with us



I heard the voice      Isaiah 6:8,

The third week of Advent is traditionally associated with John the Baptist as a servant of God’s call and preparation for prophetic ministry


And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” And he said, “Go, and say to this people:


If asked, who would you say was your favourite biblical prophet? Does that seem a bit odd? It may be and the question does cause one to consider if it is a trick question. I don’t mean it so but I think we can be drawn towards wanting to spend more time reading prophets who say things we like in ways we enjoy. Jeremiah would top a lot of people’s list despite his life of suffering, because it was Jeremiah who said.  ‘For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.’ v29.11 A verse frequently used without reference to the context but one that comforts many and can be used when facing new beginnings. Micah 6.8 is a reference point for me, ‘He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?’  So, I would be tempted to say Micah. However, I believe Isaiah would probably top the polls because from his pen came the most eloquent prophecies concerning Jesus that capture the reader’s heart and inspired Handel’s Messiah. In truth it is a vain and useless exercise because it misses the core issue that they were simply servants, obedient to a master conveying a timely message.


The prophet’s role was to point away from themselves towards God and his message. Their authority was not their own, their message was not their own, the power of the message was entirely dependent upon the Spirit of God. Before they were equipped to speak they first of all had to encounter the Holy God. Some of these encounters are vividly recorded in scripture. Isaiah had a vision of, ‘the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne, and the train filled the temple’ Isaiah 6.1 Ezekiel had a vision of mysterious heavenly creatures. The Lord spoke to Jeremiah with the words, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.’ (Note the plural) Jeremiah 1.5 Paul’s encounter on the Damascus road temporarily blinded him and brought profound repentance. In each case the experience was one that was fearful in the sense of awesome, and caused them to understand the holiness of God as well as his greatness.


A common impact on the prophets is a sense of their own sin but also a knowledge that God and God alone has cleansed them. Isaiah 6.5-7 It is then they are able to be as Isaiah was and say, send me. The role of taking God’s word to the world is not limited to a few chosen ones. In the New Testament it is the church as a whole that bears this responsibility. To do this however the church needs the same things as prophets of old in preparation. A knowledge of the holiness and greatness of God. A repentant but forgiven heart. An understanding of the commission God has granted and to go in the power of the Trinity. The Lord asked Isaiah, ‘who will go for us?’ At Pentecost the church received the fullness of the tri-union God himself to take the gospel to the world. Individuals are still commissioned for specific purposes but the church bears the responsibility to be his witnesses to the end of the earth.


Does the church leave the role of advocating the gospel to a chosen few?


What is our response to the Lord’s question, ‘Who will go for us?’


Here I am Lord with lyrics





Piercing the division of soul and spirit     Hebrews 4.12-13

 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

What the Old Testament describes in physical and material terms is often worked out in spiritual terms in the New Testament. Chapter 4 of Hebrews explains how it is possible to enter God’s rest or Sabbath in our lives. There have always been large numbers of people who struggle to find an inner rest or peace. There are many famous artists in all the forms of the arts who have achieved greatness drawing on their lack of inner rest for inspiration. They may have earned great acclaim in the process but they have literally suffered for their art. We may have a place where we go to find that rest, the place could be an activity e.g. gardening, making music or mountain walking, however when we return to ‘real life’ the lack of peace has a habit of returning.

The New Testament says that lack of lasting peace is a consequence of rebellion towards God. In the Old Testament entering the promised land stood for entering God’s rest. When Israel rebelled after being led to freedom from Egyptian slavery God swore they would not enter his rest (the promised land) and so Israel did not do so until that generation had died out. ‘And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.’ Hebrews 3.18-19 The writer of the Hebrews applies the same division in spiritual terms to those who believe in Jesus and those who do not. When speaking of those who have heard the gospel and rejected it he says they are unable to enter God’s rest. ‘For the good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.’ Hebrews 4.2 He goes on to warn those Jews that they will not enter God’s rest on the basis of their nationality alone, they have to listen to and obey and believe the gospel. He quotes Psalm 95.7-8, ‘Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.’

The writer then urges people to do everything they can to enter God’s rest through faith. What the ESV translates as ‘strive’ The Message translates as ‘keep at it’. In other words, be persistent in seeking faith and obedience. Does that seem like a contradiction, how can one strive for faith? Doesn’t one either have faith or not? However, today’s quotation above, explains the reality of how faith is gained. The Spirit of God uses the word of God to penetrate our doubts, questions, struggles and desire to rebel against God to reveal his truth. God is able to discern our thoughts and intentions, nothing is hidden from him. Hebrews 4.12-13 However, his word reveals to ourselves his truth and the truth about ourselves. What we do with that revelation is of course up to us. We will live with the consequences as did those who rebelled in the desert.

Are we ready for the revelation of Christ this Christmas?

Come Lord Jesus – Noel Richards




Equipped for every good work.          2 Timothy 3:16-17

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.


As we wait to celebrate the coming of the Messiah at Christmas we need to take the time to be equipped to follow him in our lives. I have many times heard and read verse 16 quoted as defining the value and purpose of the bible in discipleship. However, I cannot remember verse 17 being expanded upon. The reason for reproof, correction and training is to equip his disciples in every way for good work. What might these good works include? Amongst other things it includes the use of our money, (Philippians 4.18) the praise and worship of God, (Hebrews 13.15) charitable works, (Hebrews 13.16) as well as sharing the gospel and spiritual ministry. (Romans 15.16) Whatever the good works are Paul is clear, it is scripture that prepares us for them and is the tool used by the Spirit of Christ to equip us for the life and task.


Paul opens the chapter with a devastating description of the pervading culture of the time that he calls the ‘last days.’ 2 Timothy 3.1-5 He means by the last days, the period between Pentecost and Jesus’ second coming. He describes a culture dominated by many people who he compares to Jannes and Jambres. These refer to Egyptian magicians who opposed Moses before Pharaoh, prior to the exodus. He was warning Timothy that this is the world he lives in and this is the level of opposition that exists to godly living and God’s will. Avoid such people, he warns Timothy. He cannot mean by that do not engage in terms of the gospel and ministry as Jesus spent a great deal of time with those who were looked down on in society and people who were not yet believers. He may well have been particularly concerned about avoiding people who were trying to draw believers back into godless practices and away from discipleship. The enemy within. 2 Timothy 3.5-7


Paul offers Timothy two antidotes, firstly the example of his own discipleship through persecution and suffering and secondly the power of the word of God. In describing the bible as God breathed it captures the image, when reading, reflecting, meditating and learning from it, of breathing in God’s Spirit. It has often been said that two miracles need to occur for us to learn from scripture. God needs to inspire it and then he needs to inspire our learning of it. Godly learning is not always easy because it involves both reprimand and correction. We have not learnt well it if it has not included repentance. However, scripture also builds us up through teaching, training us in Christ like living. When the Spirit is using scripture in this way he is making us complete and able to live for him. Oh what joy!


What value do we as individuals and as a church place on learning from the bible?


Are we prepared to accept the discipline of the Spirit through the words of scripture?


Every Promise of Your Word – Keith and Kristyn Getty




“My thoughts are not your thoughts.”          Isaiah 55.6, 9-11

Seek the Lord while he may be found;

call on him while he is near.

“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Each morning I wake to news, good and bad. This morning an 89 year old woman, one of the first to receive the Pfizer Covid 19 vaccine, was sharing her story of the loss of her husband in a care home in June, having not been able see him from March. It was intended to be a good news story but it carried a cloak of sadness, even tragedy. We welcome the good news of vaccines to protect us from the threat of contagious disease but that alone does not satisfy the ache of the soul. Isaiah 55 draws us into the promises of God at the times when we are aware of our greatest need. Our need is for Him. The chapter opens with, ‘Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.’ Isaiah 55.1 This advent, God’s offer is free, unearned by us, not ours by right, but it is in a sense click and collect. We have to know we need it to receive it and we have to collect it. The payment however has already been made by him.

There are choices to be made. Isaiah 55.2 We can choose to go after those things that do not satisfy our long-term needs. We can even rejoice in foolish choices by listening to those who promote things that do not address our essential needs. Our whole lives can go by without listening to God’s loving voice. But God’s appeal is to, ‘Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live.’ Isaiah 55.3  What is so different about what God has to say? It is because his words are eternal and not a temporary fix. He says, ‘I will make with you an everlasting covenant.’ Isaiah 55. Isaiah goes on to convey God’s message, presence and salvation is not just limited to Judah and Israel but is for all people who turn to him. Isaiah 56.1-8 The preparation time for Christmas then should be a time when we seek him and call upon his name. Isaiah 55.6

God’s plans and means of carrying them out are different to what we would think and do. Israel was looking for a military salvation and conquest of their neighbours and enemies. Our plans may not include military victories but without responding to the word of God they are unlikely to rely on the death of a man some 2000 years ago. God’s plan was to re-establish a relationship with people through forgiveness and sanctification. His means of doing so was to send his Son in human form to take the consequences of our sin upon himself, to experience God’s wrath on our behalf and to rise from death and so conquer death on our behalf. No wonder Isaiah repeats the phrase, ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts.’ Isaiah 55.8,9 The choice he requires of us is to repent and, ‘turn to the Lord, that he may have compassion on us.’ Isaiah 55.7

God has promised that his word (message) will go out and it will accomplish his will. The question for us is whether we choose to benefit from it or ignore him.




What shall I cry?           Isaiah 40.6-8

A voice says, “Cry out.”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”

“All people are like grass,
and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the Lord blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God endures forever.”

 What shall we cry out this Christmas? It has been a long time in the UK since we had a year when the truth of, ‘people are like grass v6  … The grass withers and the flowers fall,’ v7 has seemed more apt. The frailty and mortality of human life has not only dominated much of individuals’ thoughts, it has dominated global politics. The preservation of human life has become urgent and broadly society has sought to care for and protect others with a generosity of spirit. We may be able to extend life and improve the quality of our life but eventually the shortness of life, even ‘long life’, becomes ever more apparent.

The passage however is not only speaking about mortality, it also addresses faithfulness, in particular faithfulness towards God. ‘ All their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field .. the flowers fall.’ vv6,7 What hope is there for us when we cannot control our mortality and find faithfulness towards God, our judge, something that slips between our fingers. Should we cry out a lament? Should we give up hope and wail before God?

No. The chapter is a call by God to comfort his people. Isaiah 40.1 The people of God had moved into a time of peace and been forgiven for their iniquity. Isaiah 40.2 Isaiah at the time was addressing the King and the people, bringing the King solace until the end of his days.Isaiah 39.8 However, the King also knew that the future would bring judgement and exile for the next generation. Isaiah 39.5-7 Now then is the time to prepare for the coming of the Messiah and it is a cry taken up by John the Baptist to prepare the way for Jesus. Isaiah 40.2-5

Surely then this is the cry for all believers at advent as the people of God look forward to the coming of Christ. They are to cry out good news. ‘Go on up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news, lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news, lift it up, fear not.’ Isaiah 40.9 Upon what is this good news based and how certain of it should we be? It is based on the certainty that the word of God, unlike our own mortal lives and faithfulness, will stand forever.’ Isaiah 40.8

Are we prepared to join in the cry of comfort to the world when the world is acutely aware of the brevity of life?

Do we place our confidence in the unchanging word of God?

Faithfull One So Unchanging (with lyrics)



At the heart of the family     Deuteronomy 6.4-7

(The second week of Advent traditionally is a week of thanksgiving for the bible and prayers for ministry of the word in all forms e.g. preaching, study, publishing and translation.)

‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.’

 If I said to you, what makes your family tick? What would your answer be? It is worth spending time thinking about isn’t it, whether we are thinking back to our own childhood, raising a family now or reflecting on the core values and behaviours of an all adult family. What is the common thread that runs through your family and how has it been communicated and fostered, generation to generation? Do you even accept that it is appropriate to have such a common thread or do you consider that to be a denial of individualism?

Moses was concerned that such a thread should be passed on from generation to generation not only in his family but in the whole body of the people of God. These are the words of Moses, ‘These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life.’ Deuteronomy 6.1-2

It was living according to the word of God that was to be the golden thread for the nation and in consequence each tribe and family within the people of God. Responsibility was passed on to the family to teach the word of God. Obedience to the word is not only through fear of God it is an act of love for God, the holy one and therefore is in itself worship. The family is intended to be a place of teaching and learning. How this differs from much of modern western culture is that the parents are not to abdicate their responsibility and simply leave the responsibility to find their own way in their own time for fear of crushing their individuality. The parents and influential family members are to take their responsibility before God very seriously. How then are they topass on the golden thread of the love for and obedience towards God?

Firstly they are to know the word of God well themselves, ‘these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.’ v6 This is more than an academic learning such as key dates in history, it is heart learning. Learning that moulds you as a person. Learning that impacts your reactions and decision making. If our lives do not reflect our words then our words do not carry authenticity. The family who know us the most intimately will not believe us when there is a significant disconnect between what we say and what we do.

Secondly the communication of the word is to be intentional and not to be avoided. ‘You shall teach them diligently to your children.’ v7 The approach to teaching though is not to be one of formal lessons, it is to be woven into our whole lives, naturally occurring and not forced. ‘You shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way and when you lie down, and when you rise.’ v7 The image here is one of naturally arising of situations and questions that happen in all families. Discussion could arise about fairness over the meal table, children can raise issues that trouble them as they are settled to sleep. Ideas can be explored on a family walk. The family can give thanks together and can ask for God’s help together. The key factor is the word of God becomes the first reference point. It is more important to keep the spirit of writing the word of God on your doorposts and gates than the literal engraving. The concept is, the word of God is always before us.

In the end Israel repeatedly failed to follow Moses’ command and it eventually led to the over running of both Israel and Judah followed by mass forced exile. The greatest responsibility for this fell to the nation’s leaders many of whom did evil in the sight of the Lord.

Are we careful to follow the Lord’s commands and see our obedience as a way of expressing our love for God?Word of God




Put on the Lord Jesus Christ           Romans 13.11-14

‘The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light.  Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.’

If we have a big event coming up most of us spend time in personal preparation. We want to look right and feel right. As followers of Jesus we will probably want to spend time composing ourselves in his presence if it is that sort of event. Preparation is more than the outward appearance it also about inner composure. Isaiah wrote, You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.Isaiah 26.3 Paul in his concluding blessing to the Thessalonians wrote, Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.’ 2Thessalonians 3.16  Focusing on Jesus prepares us spiritually, mentally and emotionally. It is very easy to forget that his presence is a constant.A sense of urgency in the light of Jesus’ coming has motivated Christians since the very early church. It was a common conversation point, in each age there have been many who expected his return in their lifetime. The bible is clear that this ought to be our mind-set regardless of whether it happens or not. Paul is drawing upon this expectation as he writes to the Roman Christians, ‘Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.’ v11 It is equally true in terms of our own life span. Each day that passes brings us closer to meeting Jesus face to face. When I woke this morning one of my first thoughts was, do I have 10 years left before I die and what have I done with the previous 52 years since I first trusted in him? Then I read this passage. How then are we to prepare to meet him whether on death or his return? One’s first thought might be regarding mission, the outreach to others with the gospel, or one might consider the urgency of meeting the needs of the poor and needy as many Christian reformers have done. Both of these have excellent biblical precedent and are undoubtedly in the expressed will of God. However, Paul in this passage implies, first look to one’s own spiritual well-being. Tackle the sin in your life. Do this he says in two ways, throw stuff away and grasp hold of other stuff. The stuff to throw is the sin of our old life that still rises up through temptation. Paul has just written about the sins in the ten commandments that are against others including fellow believers. He says replace these with love to your neighbour. The same level of love with which one loves oneself. Romans 13.8-12 For Paul to mention it the risk for Christians must be an ever-present possibility for believers to either continue or be drawn back into the ways of the non-believing world. He is very specific, orgies, drunkenness, sexual immorality, sensuality, quarrelling and jealousy. v13 Despite being 2000 years old the list sounds to me to be one that applies as much today and possibly with greater access in the light of new technology and social media. Have nothing to do with these things is what Paul is saying, cast them off as works of darkness.

However if you do not replace them or fill the gap immediately then they will recur. How do we protect ourselves from these temptations? By putting on the armour of light. v12 Stay in the light, stay deliberately in Christ’s presence, he is the light of life. Do not take these things lightly, ‘Make not provision for the flesh to gratify its desires.’ v14 Do not be surprised if that it is a battle. It is a battle that can only be won by putting Jesus on as Lord of our lives. v14 It is not a battle that can be won by self will power alone. Only the grace of God through the Holy Spirit can change our inner natures to this extent. We need to be honest with ourselves, recognise our weakness and his strength.

Is there sin we do not want to cast off?

Are we ever reluctant to put on the armour of light?

Have you a Christian friend you can trust to talk and pray these things through?

Lord, the light of Your love (Shine, Jesus, shine)




Caught in the act          Luke 12.45-46

‘But suppose the servant says to himself, “My master is taking a long time in coming,” and he then begins to beat the other servants, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.’

Continuing the parable of the unexpected return of the master of the house Jesus addresses one of the most difficult issues for the church in our current age – abusive leadership. Peter had asked, “is this story for us (your special disciples) or for all?”  Jesus answer makes it clear that he is including all those who are in leadership positions continuing beyond his earthly mission. “The future tenses in vs 42-48 must refer to the situation in the church after the departure of Jesus. In fact all the parables in this section refer in their present setting to the period after the resurrection of Jesus and before his second coming.” (New Bible Commentary, D.A. Carson et.al) Jesus also teaches, there are degrees of responsibility depending upon their level of knowledge. John 12.47-48 Jesus summarised this with, ‘Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” John 12.48b

The period of waiting has now reached two millennia and in that time there have been a great many ‘abusive servants’. The period of waiting exposes the heart of the self-serving servant. Abuse of others is the antithesis of Christ’s character and it happens when the servant places himself where Christ should be. All for me rather than all for Jesus. It is revealed in personal behaviour illustrated by Jesus in the servant, eating, drinking and getting drunk. However, it includes all self-indulgent actions and attitudes. It is also directed at others, Jesus uses the example of physically beating  others. However, abuse includes spiritual abuse, neglect, sexual abuse and emotional abuse and is worryingly common at all levels of responsibility within the church. On occasion those who are loving in public are abusive in private. Abuse is frequently tolerated, usually denied and often covered up in fear of people’s opinion as opposed to fear of God.

Jesus’ delay in his return is an act of God’s grace, however it also exposes whether those in positions of responsibility are continuing their journey of sanctification or indeed ever were truly a disciple. Mathew records Jesus stark warning, ‘Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.’ Mathew7.21

How distinctively Christ like is the leadership within the church?

How aware of the subtleties of abuse are we?

Who are we living for?

Casting Crowns – Oh My Soul (Official Lyric Video)



Advent 3 – Eveready     Luke 12.35-37

‘Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will make them recline at the table and will come and wait on them.’

 I have noticed there are four types of waiters, I don’t mean by this those who earn their living by serving customers in cafes and restaurants. I mean how we wait for an important person or event. There are those who I call the twitchers, who are ready at least half an hour before the expected time, hat on, handbag on the crook of the elbow, gloves to hand, peaking surreptitiously around the edge of the curtain as they don’t want to seem to be anxious. Whilst waiting they have probably consumed at least two chocolate biscuits worth of nervous energy. The workers are a complete contrast. They barely notice the impending time so consumed they are with the tasks of the day. When the doorbell rings they have to hurriedly pack up whilst struggling to get their arm through the jacket sleeve, whilst hopping in a bid to get their shoe on as they fall out the front door. The ‘Perry Como’ however is the definition of laid back. For those who have yet to draw their pension, Perry was the definition a relaxed crooner, so laid back he was virtually horizontal. He died as he appeared to perform, asleep. The Perry Como is mildly surprised but pleasantly so when the important guest arrives, however do not expect any provision to have been made. Finally, there is the wastrel, so consumed with self-gratification that they are not only not prepared they  couldn’t care less who the visitor is, what they want, may need or bring.

Jesus had different categories in his story of servants waiting for the arrival of their master returning home from a wedding. They did not know what time that might be, all they knew was he would return. In this story Jesus’ words to the servants were keep your work clothes on and the lights of the house on. Be ready to welcome him and have everything ready. In other words, stay on top of the job and don’t be caught out. v36 The master wasn’t just pleased and congratulating the servants for being fine servants, maybe giving them a bonus of an extra day off. No, he reversed the situation and turned from master to servant, he made them the people of honour and served them. v37

In this brief story Jesus encapsulates the extraordinary kingdom of God. Where the king becomes the servant and honours the faithful servants, way above their rights. What can we learn from this opening to Jesus’ story? Firstly, it was Jesus who is the story teller and therefore needs to be taken seriously because he was teaching about himself. He is the returning master in the story. The people of God are the servants, initially the nation of Israel, as his story was addressed to the crowd who at the beginning of the chapter were trampling over each other to hear what he had to say. 12.1 But the kingdom of God is for all who believe in him and so the story is for us, should we call him Lord, as well. What is it then to be dressed for action this advent as we wait for him? Nobody has put it better than the apostle Paul.Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled round your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.’ Ephesians 6.14-18Have we looked in the spiritual mirror recently to see how we are dressed while we wait for the Lord?

Do our own lives conform to the servant leadership of Christ?

Are our eyes on the goal of our inheritance in Christ?

The Blessing Zimbabwe



Prepare the way          Isaiah 40.3-5

 A voice cries:[a]
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

When Isaiah spoke these words to the exiled nation of Judah they must have felt themselves in the deepest spiritual wilderness. They were cut off in all senses, they no longer had a home of their own, they were surrounded by the worship of foreign gods. They did not control their own destiny, they were controlled by a vastly superior force. A nation that had been desperate for a king and repeatedly lobbied God for one, now no longer had a king, not even a king in exile. In a year when we have been beleaguered ourselves, our personal freedoms restricted, often cut off from loved ones, many with reduced income and grieving the death of family members, we also are a nation weighed down with cares.

As then, we also as a nation are in the need of hope. Some see hope only in the form of a vaccine but a vaccine will not address our spiritual and emotional needs. A vaccine is limited as to the ways it can meet our needs. In Jesus, we have a saviour who addresses our whole and eternal needs. We are both the ones in need of someone in our wilderness who calls us to prepare the way of the Lord and at the same time we are the people God has sent to be the ones who are doing the calling.

The gospels claim these verses for John the Baptist as he set about preparing the ground for Jesus’ ministry by challenging the spiritual status quo. John knew that Jesus’ coming was of immense importance, it was a matter of life and death and he was prepared to suffer the consequences of offending those in power.

When Isaiah prophesied he was speaking words of comfort to a suffering people. Isaiah 40.1 He was directing them to the coming Messiah who was going to bring peace and reconciliation with God the Father. Isaiah 40.2 This is the one who was going to judge rightly and make the way forward plain. However, the Messiah’s work is not for one nation, his lordship is to made known to all peoples. Isaiah 40.6

The coming of Jesus should inspire the church to be like John the Baptist and prepare the way for him by taking his word to the people. Comfort for people who are far from God is not a gentle “there, there” or an, “everything will be alright in the end”. It is loving concern sharing the good news of Jesus so they may know, ‘iniquity is pardoned’ and that they have, ‘received from the Lord’s hand double for all their sins.’ Isaiah 40.2

Do we see the birth of Jesus as the coming of a saviour or the coming of a holiday?

Are we prepared to prepare the way of the Lord?

10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord o my soul ) – Matt Redman (with Lyrics)



Lift up your heads

Psalm 24.7-8


Lift up your heads, O gates!

And be lifted up, O ancient doors,

That the King of glory may come in.

Who is this King of glory?

The Lord, strong and mighty,

The Lord, mighty in battle!

The excitement of anticipation is something that ought to stay with us for a lifetime. We may get a bit better at disguising it as we age but what a loss if we cannot look forward with eagerness. An imminent birth is one of the most universal of events, that in all but the worst of times, raises up hope and joy. Advent is a period of anticipated joy at the coming of Christ. You may say it is more a matter of remembering than anticipation as Jesus has come and gone. That would be a very limited way of thinking about Advent. Throughout scripture and into current times faith brings with it hope and that hope is centred on the presence and coming of Jesus. Paul reminds us, ‘we are waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.’ Titus 2.13 The Messiah was looked forward to throughout the period of the prophets. Those in Jesus’ time were still looking forward to the Messiah even though most did not recognize him when he was present with them. In modern times, believers look forward to his return when he will bring judgement and a new creation.


This hope is not just for the individual, it is a collective hope for all the people of God, in shared anticipation and celebration. How then should we prepare? Psalm 24 is for collective community use, remembering and celebrating the time when David brought the ark of the Lord to Jerusalem. The ark was the most precious and holy object, it represented the presence of God and his contract with the people of Israel. The ark’s arrival in Jerusalem said to the people of the time, the presence of God is with us, he has come among us. The psalm provides a model of how we could prepare our hearts for the presence and coming of Jesus Christ.


It opens with recognizing that the whole earth and everything in it is his and he created it. Whether we choose to acknowledge him or not, ‘The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.’ v1Jerusalem was built on a hill, the temple had not yet been constructed. To approach the ark or be part of the procession carrying the ark one had to ascend the hill. Holiness was imperative and therefore to come and participate in this celebration and worship it was necessary to have the right heart attitude. David therefore writes, ‘who shall stand in this holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.’ Advent then is an ideal time to take time to let the Spirit search our hearts and open up to us what is deceitful, insincere and impure in our lives. As he exposes each element take the time to calmly seek his forgiveness by confessing to him what the Spirit of God has shown you to be true. This should not be a rushed process it is too important to be flippant, we are wanting the most holy God, maker of all things, to be present in our lives.


Neither should we be afraid that he will not keep his promises to us and remove our sin as far as the east is from the west. Listen to the promise of God, say it out loud, ‘He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation.’ v5 Now is the time to seek his face. v6


Then this advent we can join with the psalmist and lift up our heads so that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? It is Jesus Christ, strong and mighty in battle. What battle is this? The battle with sin and death and for our souls. Physically separated as we are we can still as one church of God lift our heads to him in anticipation.


Have you placed your hope in Jesus?


Are you eagerly awaiting him this Advent?


Come, Thou long expected Jesus (with Lyrics)



The awesome Lion        Psalm 76

Psalm 76 continues the theme of the victory of God over his enemies which probably draws it’s inspiration from God’s victory over the Assyrians and General Sennacherib who scorned the God of Judah and then overnight his army died, camped outside the walls of Jerusalem, by the word of God. Where we see God’s victories in battle in the Old Testament through, or on behalf of, his people Israel, they foreshadow Jesus’ victory on the cross over sin, death and Satan. (Colossians 2.15,20 & 1 Corinthians 15.15.56-57.) The psalm uses concealed imagery of God as a lion, to be feared. Revelation 5 uses the same imagery where Jesus is termed the lion/lamb of Judah. ‘Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered…’ Rev 5.5 and ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing!’ Rev 5.12

Psalm 76 is a psalm of praise to the God of Judah, which was the remaining kingdom of Israel, the Assyrians having already conquered and dispersed the northern nation of Israel. v1 The word obliquely translated, tent (NIV) and abode, (ESV) is the Hebrew word for a lion’s den elsewhere in scripture. Salem is the old name for Jerusalem and Zion is the mountain on which Jerusalem is built. God therefore is dwelling with his people. ‘His abode has been established in Salem, his dwelling place in Zion.’ v2 In the New Testament God’s dwelling place is not a city or building or even the tent that travelled with God’s people during the exodus, he dwells in each one of his people, the church of God. ‘Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?’ 1 Corinthians 3.16

It was there, where he dwells, that God caused the victory. v3 It is in our hearts and lives that God now has the victory over sin and evil. This should be as much a source of praise for us as the victory over the Assyrians was for the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Verses 4 to 6 summarise the victory in 2 Kings 19. Just as no soldier was responsible for the defeat of the Assyrians so it is not by our own efforts that we are saved from the consequences of sin and death. It is solely by the grace of God.

The psalm celebrates God’s victory continuing the image of a lion hunting in the land surrounding Jerusalem. The enemy are the lion’s prey, ‘Glorious are you, more majestic than the mountains full of prey.’ v4

It is right to fear the God who judges because he is awesome, righteous and just. ‘But you, you are to be feared! Who can stand before you when your anger is roused? God’s judgement will be to save the humble, v9 they are those who faithfully believe and trust in him. The psalm ends with dismissing any rage his enemies might have concerning his judgement.

Do we live in the daily knowledge that God dwells with us?

Spirit of the Living God




Lift up your heads    Psalm 24.7-8

Lift up your heads, O gates!   And be lifted up, O ancient doors,

That the King of glory may come in.    Who is this King of glory?

The Lord, strong and mighty,    The Lord, mighty in battle!

The excitement of anticipation is something that ought to stay with us for a lifetime. We may get a bit better at disguising it as we age but what a loss if we cannot look forward with eagerness. An imminent birth is one of the most universal of events, that in all but the worst of times, raises up hope and joy. Advent is a period of anticipated joy at the coming of Christ. You may say it is more a matter of remembering than anticipation as Jesus has come and gone. That would be a very limited way of thinking about Advent. Throughout scripture and into current times faith brings with it hope and that hope is centred on the presence and coming of Jesus. Paul reminds us, ‘we are waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.’ Titus 2.13 The Messiah was looked forward to throughout the period of the prophets. Those in Jesus’ time were still looking forward to the Messiah even though most did not recognize him when he was present with them. In modern times, believers look forward to his return when he will bring judgement and a new creation.

This hope is not just for the individual, it is a collective hope for all the people of God, in shared anticipation and celebration. How then should we prepare? Psalm 24 is for collective community use, remembering and celebrating the time when David brought the ark of the Lord to Jerusalem. The ark was the most precious and holy object, it represented the presence of God and his contract with the people of Israel. The ark’s arrival in Jerusalem said to the people of the time, the presence of God is with us, he has come among us. The psalm provides a model of how we could prepare our hearts for the presence and coming of Jesus Christ.

It opens with recognizing that the whole earth and everything in it is his and he created it. Whether we choose to acknowledge him or not, ‘The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.’ v1Jerusalem was built on a hill, the temple had not yet been constructed. To approach the ark or be part of the procession carrying the ark one had to ascend the hill. Holiness was imperative and therefore to come and participate in this celebration and worship it was necessary to have the right heart attitude. David therefore writes, ‘who shall stand in this holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.’ Advent then is an ideal time to take time to let the Spirit search our hearts and open up to us what is deceitful, insincere and impure in our lives. As he exposes each element take the time to calmly seek his forgiveness by confessing to him what the Spirit of God has shown you to be true. This should not be a rushed process it is too important to be flippant, we are wanting the most holy God, maker of all things, to be present in our lives.

Neither should we be afraid that he will not keep his promises to us and remove our sin as far as the east is from the west. Listen to the promise of God, say it out loud, ‘He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation.’ v5 Now is the time to seek his face. v6

Then this advent we can join with the psalmist and lift up our heads so that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? It is Jesus Christ, strong and mighty in battle. What battle is this? The battle with sin and death and for our souls. Physically separated as we are we can still as one church of God lift our heads to him in anticipation.

Have you placed your hope in Jesus?

Are you eagerly awaiting him this Advent?

Come, Thou long expected Jesus (with Lyrics)



When the earth totters      Psalm 75.1

For many the Covid Pandemic will have been, and continues to be, a time when the foundations of their world have shaken to the point of collapse. Nothing is more shattering than the death or threat of death to those we love but added to this has been financial risks through loss of income or employment, the value of many people’s savings has plummeted. As a country we are daily told the death toll as compared with the previous day. Emotionally nearly all have suffered, families have been separated and for a while we wondered if and how it would end. Because nearly all of us in the West have been living in a period of nearly unprecedented peace and stability it has come as a huge shock. Living through times of societal trauma though is no new experience. Is there a distinctively biblical or Christian perspective that can be brought to bear and assist us when, ‘the earth totters, and all its’ inhabitants’? v3


Psalm 75 is a psalm of praise when just such an event has happened. The fact that it is a song of praise is in itself profound. Whatever has happened or is happening the psalm expresses confidence in God, rooted in a whole society’s experience of him over a long period of time. ‘We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks, for your name is near. We recount your wondrous deeds.’ v1 We do not know for certain what events inspired this song of Asaph. Asaph was a great psalmist in David’s time but psalms that bear his name also derive from descendants and a school of Asaph that continued for hundreds of years. Probably the best fit is when Sennacherib of Assyria with the army of the world’s greatest power at the time arrived at Jerusalem’s walls, challenged the God of Judah and by an act of God met his downfall and was totally humiliated. 2 Kings 18-19

When a society is experiencing their greatest need, it is a time for God’s people (now the modern church) to give thanks and praise to God because of his wondrous deeds. In the time of the psalmist he would have recounted the Lord’s victory over Egypt and the gift of the promised land as well as God’s defeat of Sennacherib. For us we have an even greater victory to declare and one that changes not only society but individuals’ lives now and into eternity. Foundation shaking events cause people to question their lives and their futures. Some do not but many ask fundamental questions of life. The church in obedience to Christ should declare the Christian good news of Jesus and the confidence we have in him.

Have we continued to thank and praise our Lord during this time?

Have we shared our confidence and the reasons for it with others?

Trust In You (Live) – Lauren Daigle




Remember us – O God, remember us       Psalm 74 Pt2

Have you ever felt cut off from God? A feeling that you are forgotten? It is a dreadful feeling to consider that God has wiped his hands of you, your chance has gone. Perhaps you have looked around and said to yourself, “If it this bad, God must have turned his back on me.” I am sure that if one is trapped in the middle of a famine with people dying all around or one is fleeing from war as a refugee, then there would be a great temptation to think that God has forgotten you. It doesn’t have to be that sort of situation though, frequently that sense of separation from God is a direct result of our own sin that has not been reconciled and we are living under a weight of guilt with a sense of spiritual oppression.

There are times when those feelings are a bit like physical pain, they are there to prompt us into action, to deal with the underlying cause. If we suffer from leprosy and have lost feeling in our foot, we could be walking with a stone in our shoe that is progressively damaging our foot and causing infection. If only we could feel the pain then we would remove the stone. Similarly, if sin has caused a breakdown in relationship with God it takes conviction of sin to cause us to address the problem.

Psalm 74 describes the psalmist coming to terms with the consequences of sin and rebellion against God at a macro level. The sin of a country’s spiritual leadership and a nation following suit. Judah at the time of the psalm was a picture of devastation. A vastly superior army had gone through the country wrecking it. There was not a concept of human rights at the time, the countryside had been pillaged, the city of Jerusalem was broken down with the temple being the principal focus for destruction. Many of the inhabitants including the fittest, best and brightest were taken into slavery and marched to Babylon. Babylon was the agent for God’s discipline of his own people. It should not have been unexpected, God had repeatedly warned this would be what happened if his own people rejected him for idols and pursued the corrupt practices of those who worshipped foreign gods.

The psalm then opens with a cry of anguish, ‘O God, why do you cast us off forever? Why does your anger smoke against the sheep of your pasture?’ v1 The word smoke evoking the smoke of the burnt temple and the sheep being a term frequently used to describe God’s own people. He then uses a biblical approach to intercession and appeals to God by reminding God of his previous goodness and promises to his people. ‘Remember your congregation, which you have purchased from of old.’ v2 God needs no such reminding but it places the plaintiff in the history of God’s redemption story. We need to do the same thing when we come yet again to him on the basis of Jesus’ sacrifice for us. We then recognize that the only basis for redemption and reconciliation is his goodness and promises. When he asks God to, ‘direct his steps to the perpetual ruins’, v3 he is confessing his own helplessness and yet he knows God cares for his own.

The depth of the damage done by the Babylonian army especially the desecration of the temple is set out in detail. vv 4-9 The Psalmist appeals to God on the basis of surely you do not wish to see Satan and his representatives remain victorious, represented by their placing of signs regarding their idols in the temple. From a New Testament perspective, we know that Jesus has overcome the power of Satan through his death, resurrection and ascension. However, we also know there still remains a conflict for the modern Christian, as James instructed, ‘Submit yourselves, then to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.’ James 4.7 The Psalmist now surveying the temple ruins is in the place where he wants to do just that. However, he has lost a sense of spiritual direction. ‘We do not see our signs; there is no longer any prophet, and there is none of us who knows how long.’ v9

He then appeals to God for the destruction of Judah’s enemies. There do remain times in a modern context where such prayer is appropriate even though it may seem in conflict with praying for one’s enemies. Consider for instance whether one might pray for the destruction of ISIS or Pol Pot’s regime and their genocidal oppression.

Where at the beginning of the psalm he pleads with God to remember, the psalmist now reminds God and by doing so reminds himself and his people of what God has done. vv 12-17 As the Psalmist ranges through the salvation history of Israel and Judah, particularly the Exodus from Egypt, we also need to regularly in prayer revisit our salvation through Jesus.


He concludes with an appeal to God to fulfill his covenant in the salvation of his people who have now become a poor and needy people. ‘Let the poor and needy praise your name.’ Whether we are one of the poor and needy as the Psalmist was or we see the needs of the poor and needy we know that God’s response was to send Jesus his Son.

Have you ever felt the discipline of God?

How would you advise someone who came to you with questions about God’s discipline?

Great Jehovah Official Video – Travis Greene



When disaster strikes              Psalm 74 (Part 1)

There is a need for the bible to contain prayers that arise from great distress and extreme circumstances. The people of God have always attracted fierce opposition and continue to do so. We need examples of how to bring our laments to God even when the situation has arisen through rebellion against him as in Psalm 74. If we find ourselves in a position where we can worship freely and live our faith without opposition then we are blessed to be able to empathize and support those who cannot do so. There are many countries today where it is dangerous to be a Christian or to convert to Christianity either because of government policy or due to violent sections of society whose desire is to eradicate or suppress Christianity.

Open Doors, a charity dedicated to supporting persecuted Christians world-wide, says there are over 260 million Christians worldwide spread across 50 countries that experience extreme, very high or high levels of persecution. You can view a world map at the link above. (https://www.opendoorsuk.org/persecution/world-watch-list/)


The UK government Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative (PSVI) team has launched a ‘Declaration of Humanity’. This is in recognition, “that women and girls from religious minorities often suffer. Why? Because of their gender, or indeed their faith.” As Christians we can not only pray we can advocate for the needs of those suffering for their faith.

Psalm 74 is written arising from a comparable experience, the conquering of Judah, the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem and the taking of many into captivity in Babylon. What is different is that this was a consequence of Israel’s repeated sequence of disobedience and idolatry over a prolonged period from the death of Solomon. It provides an insight into what it feels like to be in the middle of devastation that is completely beyond our control. It also provides an example of how we might pray in such a circumstance.

The pattern is one of appeal and reminder:

“An appeal: remember us (vv 1-3)

A reminder: what they have done (vv 4-9)

An appeal: destroy them (vv 10-11)

A reminder: what you have done (12-17)

An appeal: vindicate yourself (vv 18-23)” (Michael Wilcock, Psalms 73-150, BST)

Please read through the psalm and we will look at the text in the next reflection.

Do we remember our brothers and sisters experiencing persecution in our prayers?

God of Justice (We Must Go) – Tim Hughes




A Crisis of Faith         Psalm 73

If you are having a crisis of faith right now, take heart you are far from the first and there is a way through it. Of course, what you mean by a crisis of faith may be different from what I mean. They often arise from a question we are internally struggling with. If you think you have a unique question, you are probably wrong and there will be fellow believers who have struggled with the same issues. Particularly these questions, in our modern western highly individualized society, often bear upon our sense of fairness and an experience that we consider to be unjust. “Where is God in that?” we ask.

The Psalmist confesses his sense of injustice nearly caused his faith to fail. ‘But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped.’ c2  What is the point in trusting in God and being obedient to his commands when arrogant, sinful, God deniers prosper? They appear to be living untouched, rich, comfortable lives and the faithful do not share in the same prosperity?

His concerns are readily apparent in modern life. Verses 3b to 12 paint a vivid picture. Many of the rich and powerful are wicked and seem to go through life protected by their wealth and influence. They buy the best health care v4 and their wealth overcomes problems others would collapse under. v5 Their character is full of pride and if necessary they force their will on the less fortunate. v6 They indulge in hedonistic behaviour. v7 They bully others remorselessly, ‘They scoff and speak malice; loftily they threaten oppression’ v8 They boast of their evil ways and claim them to be good. ‘They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongue struts through the earth. Therefore, his people turn back to them and find no fault in them.’ vv9-10 They believe there are no negative consequences to their behaviour because they deny the efficacy of God. v11

We can all readily recognize all these attributes amongst many in political power, professional bodies, business and financial leadership. Wealth however is relative, it is easy to consider the rich are those richer than ourselves without being aware that others may consider us rich. Wealth and power are seductive, the impact of peers is significant and those in the church itself are not beyond such temptation.

It is not surprising then that someone should question the point of their faith. Added to the psalmist’s troubles is the sense that he cannot make known his true feelings for the sake of others. He feels he has been wasting his life by being obedient to God. ‘All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence.’ v14 However his conscience says if he voices his true feeling he will damage, even destroy the faith of others. ‘If I had said, I will speak thus, I would have betrayed the generation of your children.’ v15 This is a common feeling when someone is going through a spiritual crisis and so they bottle up their internal conflict. They are made tired, even exhausted by the process. v16 At, this point, in the psalm when all seems lost comes the pivotal second half of a sentence: ‘until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.’ v17

The sanctuary was where people met with God. In those times it was the temple and prior to that the tent of meeting. Now it is not a specific building although many treat a church as such, it is wherever we meet God in prayer and bible study. Spending time in honest reflection with a trusted spiritual partner is very beneficial but what is essential is time in honest confession and listening with God. That is achieved through prayer and bible reflections confessing one’s sin and need. Asking him for the gift of understanding and faith. Both knowledge and faith are spiritual gifts and can only be received through the Holy Spirit.


It was after that experience that the psalmist understood the vanity of the arrogant rich vv 18-20 and also the state of his own heart. ‘When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you.’ vv 21-22 He then received the underserved grace of God that turned his anguish to love for God. ‘You hold out your right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory.’ V24

The psalmist has gained God’s perspective and his own eternal security. Having gone through the experience and then had his soul restored he bookends the account with the assertion that God is good to those pure in heart and that for him it is good to be near to God. He is now ready to tell of the works of God because God had done a work in his life.

Whatever the form of a crisis of faith the appropriate reaction is to spend time in God’s presence, confessing the truth of our heart and learning from him.

Are we honest with God as to the state of our faith?

Do we treasure our time with him?

Faithful one – Robin Mark



Blind eyes and hardened hearts            John 12.37-50

We are midway through John’s gospel and already the account is deep into Jesus’ last week prior to his execution. John takes a step back and observes with incredulity, ‘Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him.’ John 12.37 How can that be? He then goes on to record how Isaiah foresaw this some 700 years previously. Isaiah 53.1 and 6.1-4 It was because of spiritually blind eyes and hardened hearts. Isaiah spoke as a man who had a very clear and transforming vision of the Lord. ‘In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne, and the train of his robe filled the temple.’ Isaiah 6.1 For Isaiah, John and Paul the spiritual blindness and hardness of heart was a matter of great sadness and grieving and their desire and prayer was that people would see and understand who Jesus is.


Paul identified the same situation to the Corinthian church as John witnessed in Jerusalem. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.’ 2 Corinthians 4.3-4 Paul’s reaction was to, ‘proclaim not ourselves, but Jesus as Lord with ourselves as servants for Jesus sake.’ 2 Corinthians 4.5 Paul saw that as how light shines out of darkness and brings knowledge of the glory of God. 2 Corinthians 4.6

It is easy at times to think that we are alone in our understanding of Christ and become downcast. However, this has never been the case. We need to take heart and be encouraged by one another. At the same time pray earnestly that God will open the eyes and soften the hearts of those who cannot see whilst we the church lovingly and openly continue to present the good news of Jesus. As Paul said, ‘God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness”, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.’ 2 Corinthians 4.6

Mingled in the crowd were leaders of the Jews who secretly believed in Jesus. They were afraid to speak up because they feared the rest of the leadership more than they feared God. John 12.42-43 Knowing this, what was Jesus’ response? He cried out, raising his voice, it was as if he was calling them to open their blind eyes and see. He declared that if they saw him then they were seeing the one who sent him, God the Father. He was saying come out of your darkness and into the light, you don’t belong there. ‘The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.’ John 12.45-46

Who do you know with blind eyes and a hardened heart?

Who could you pray for and who could you share the good news of Jesus with?

Help Me Find It – Sidewalk Prophets








Walk in the light while you can      John 12.35-36

Impending darkness takes many forms. With November comes markedly shortening days. Those leaving for work in the morning do so in the dark and as they leave darkness has closed around them again.  There are fewer hours to seize to pack in the things we need to do outside, exercise, errands or jobs. Those who fear the onset of the winter and suffer from SAD become acutely aware of the impact on their feeling of well-being. This year, perhaps more than other years, we feel the darkness closing in and making the lock down imposition even more restrictive. The front door closes earlier in the evening and we know that it is well more than 12 hours before it opens again. If we are alone it is harder to face. If we feel trapped in the home we have longer to worry, more opportunities for being trapped into a circle of negative thought.

In the last week of his life Jesus could easily have been overcome with spiritual darkness. How did he manage both the spiritual and emotional threat? He found himself spiritually alone in a crowd. No one else truly understood him or his calling, even the closest of his followers were about to become confused and only make sense of things following his resurrection and ascension. Two things drove Jesus on, his loving obedience to God the Father and his love for his followers causing him to prepare them for what was to come. We see his love for his Father despite his troubles as he addresses God the Father in the presence of the Passover crowd. ‘Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!’ John 12.27

Oh, the heart of Jesus. Here we see his immeasurable, unstoppable love for the Father and the crowd whom he had come to save. Because of his love for us and the gift of the Holy Spirit when we face our darkest hours we can pray with Jesus, because he helps us in our prayers, glorify your name.  He provides the light for us to live and walk in.

Jesus had built a relationship with the crowd who wanted to know more, some of whom were Greeks. They had just heard the voice of God replying to Jesus that he would indeed glorify his name. They had heard Jesus say that in some way he was to be lifted up. They had still not actually grasped that Jesus was the eternal son of man prophesied in Isaiah 9.7 and Ezekiel 37.25 but they had hunger in their souls.

Jesus then gave advice to them that stands today for all threatened by spiritual darkness. ‘Walk in the light while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you.’ John 12.35 To the crowd at the time they literally were going to have Jesus with them for a day of two before his crucifixion and darkness was going to overtake them. Darkness brings with it a loss of direction, light brings a surer way forward. So, Jesus said to the crowd, ‘Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.’ John 12.35-36

John picked up on these words of Jesus when he wrote to the churches decades later. He called them to walk in the light of Jesus because in that light we have a relationship with God and each other and we do so, purified of our sin. It is a wholesome beautiful fellowship. Belief in Jesus brings that light because he is the light of the world. John 8.12 ‘If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.’ 1 John 1.6-7

Do you feel the darkness closing in, walk in the light.

Do you long for the light of Jesus in your life?

Do you need his light to see the path to take?

Walking in the Light of God worship video



A seed falls into the ground and dies.                            John 12.23-26

Leadership often comes in one of two forms. There is the one who leads from the front. They set the agenda, break new ground, call others to come after them and believe in them whatever they say. They are the not so much glory hunters as the glory grabbers. They win awards, have an adoring public, love the limelight and are stand out different. Then there are the crowd pleasers. They do what the masses want, banking on the principle that if you give them what they want then they will follow you. They need the crowd to reassure and affirm them. Two ways to try to keep on leading and winning. Then there is Jesus’ way.

When Andrew and Philip came to Jesus saying there were some Greeks who wanted to meet him, Jesus took the opportunity announce a third way to glory. Using his usual opening phrase when he wanted to emphasise something as particularly important, he said, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you.’ This is always a sign that what he is about to say needs one to pause and think deeply, what are the consequences of his next utterance? Once again, Jesus cuts across the normal way of thinking. Jesus had just been heralded as the King of Israel by the fervent crowd. They would be expecting a grand gesture, a display of power, another miracle, a rallying cry. The last thing they would have expected is teaching about dying. Yet Jesus takes this moment to explain what true obedience and discipleship is about by explaining why it is that he is to die. But more than that it is the way his disciples must go.

He uses, as so often was the case, a simile from nature. ‘Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.’ John 12.24 Jesus died to his own will when he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’ Luke22.42 Jesus, just like a grain of wheat, was to die, be placed in the ground, and rise with new life, bringing countless more to life.

But Jesus was not just talking about himself. He was saying if you want your life to be fruitful in an eternal way then death to yourself is the only way. ‘Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honour him.’ John12.25-26 Josh Moody expresses it like this, “we cannot want what we want selfishly, for ourselves – and expect that way of life to give us true life …  We must die to ourselves to live to Christ and to find real life in him.”

The challenge is applying this in practical terms to each aspect of our life. This is not a miserable sullen obedience, grudgingly offered to God. It is a joyful loving sharing in the Jesus way. If it is good enough for Christ it is good enough for me. 1 Samuel 2.30 captures God’s heart when he declares to Eli the High Priest following the despicable behaviour of his sons, ‘Far be it from me! Those who honour me I will honour, but those who despise me will be disdained.’

Have we contemplated how through the death of Jesus, God the Father has brought about such a rich harvest of righteousness?

Are we prepared to live his way so that the Lord is honoured?

ABOVE ALL by Michael W Smith Lyrics



What price approval?      John 12.42-43 & Romans 10.9-10

How much do the opinions of others influence the decisions we make? When choosing the perfume we wear, the colour of coat or the logo on our trainers it probably will not have life-long consequences. However, the opinions of others may be more influential than we could be prepared to admit. When going to an interview or social event most of us think of the impression we will make on others. When telling a story or joke we will weigh up in our minds what we expect the reaction to be. Getting it wrong can have greater consequences than we imagined. Ask Gerald Ratner. (Look it up, if you don’t remember it.)

One of the things that most people fear, at some time, is being rejected by those who we want to approve of us. To whom do we owe our greatest allegiance and what price are we prepared to pay to keep it? There is plenty of psychological evidence that most of us will agree with what we know to be a falsehood rather than risk disapproval from the majority powerful group. (e.g. Asch conformity 1951)

Not all the Jewish leaders during the week leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion were spiritually blind. They like the crowd were a divided group. John 12.42 Some recognized the signs Jesus performed with the clincher being the raising of Lazarus from the dead. However, the grip the Pharisees had over the Chief Priest and the Sanhedrin prevented them from saying what they believed in their hearts. Fear of being excluded from their current high status group and even being unable to attend their synagogue prevented them from confessing their faith.  We do not know if these same Jewish leaders following Pentecost were amongst those who did in the end decide to follow Jesus but at that moment they chose to deny their inner convictions. The opinion of other Jewish leaders mattered more to them than their relationship with God.

This overwhelming desire to fit in remains a major reason why many are not prepared to make a commitment to follow Christ. What family think, their social group think, their colleagues at work think, even the potential action of authorities in their country can all prevent a person from confessing what they know in their heart to be true. There has never been a time when being a Christian does not carry some form of risk.

How many people have sacrificed eternity for the sake of approval now.  I am very slow and reluctant to criticize those who have because I have not walked in their shoes. Paul however through the suffering and persecution he experienced did earn the right to say, ‘If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.’ Romans 10.9

How much as a church do we support those who live with constant pressure to reject faith in Jesus?

Are we prepared to be publicly honest that Jesus is our Lord?

I Have Decided To Follow Jesus ♫ The Story & The Song



Who are today’s Greeks?     John 12.20-22

It happens at all really big events. Crowds start to gather during the days ahead. People have been looking forward to this for a long time. Strangers greet each other and pick up on the gossip. What is different this year? How far have you come? Some in jokes get passed around. People start to get pointed out. Some love to boast about who they know and what they have seen. Arguments break out and people take sides.

This Passover was getting particularly heated. For once Galileans were the new story and you could tell them because their accent was definitely northern and not like people from Judah and Jerusalem. It all centred around Jesus and he had really stirred up trouble by first raising a man from Bethany from the dead and then he rode into Jerusalem as bold as brass, on a donkey with crowds of people waving branches and calling him King of Israel. John 12.13 The Passover crowd was always an international crowd and those who came from further away countries spoke Greek. The Romans might be the current Empire but it was the Greeks before them and their influence was still widespread. No wonder then that some Greeks wanted to find out more and meet Jesus. John 12.20 They worked out that Philip was one of Jesus closest followers and approached him for an introduction. Philip had been a close friend of Andrew (Peter’s brother) from childhood so they both asked Jesus if he would meet up with the interested Greeks.

Jesus response was to go into some depth about his impending crucifixion (more about this tomorrow) and that it was the nature of his death that would attract people. However, Jesus made clear that he will draw all people to himself. John 12.32 Andrew and Philip were intermediaries between the seeking Greeks and Jesus. I wonder how many of us have had that privilege? The “Greeks” are all people whatever background or circumstances who want to know Jesus. Is it not true that such seekers do not exist, there are many who would love to be introduced to Jesus and understand who he is. I was thinking back over my lifetime to name to myself the people to whom I have been an Andrew or Philip. In the end it is Jesus who draws people to himself but we can be one of those who they speak to on the way.

Are we aware of the opportunities to invite people to engage with Jesus?

Do people know we already know him?

Do we expect God to use us in this way?

Do we ask God for the chance to introduce people to Jesus?

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus (Lyrics)



Opposition without   John 12.10-11

It is difficult to keep a miracle a secret let alone a raising from the dead when the body ought to have been stinking. The crowd who witnessed Lazarus clothed in wrapped burial cloths walking from his own grave were hardly likely not to mention it to anybody. Crowds were packing the streets of Jerusalem with people from all over the empire as well as those born in Israel. There was a groundswell of amazement, fascination and belief in Jesus. The Chief Priests were more than worried they were terrified that the crowd’s interest in Jesus might be interpreted as a religious insurrection and their own lives would be in danger if the Roman authorities decided on a clampdown. Their own hearts were hardened against Jesus as they saw him as a threat, one who undermined their laws rather than fulfilled the law of Moses. They acted as many in authority have and still do act when they feel threatened, they decided to do away with the evidence. ‘So, the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.’ John 12.10,11

Unlike Jesus, many in authority substitute unsupported assertion for evidence. This feels particularly relevant in the aftermath of the USA presidential election but it is far from limited to the political arena. Jesus had repeatedly given the chief priests and Jewish authorities signs as to his identity and his purpose. Their response was to threaten, punish and destroy evidence. Professor Lennox along with many modern apologists (defenders of Christianity) argue that many scientists who oppose Christianity do so because their world view stops them objectively considering the evidence. Their hearts are hardened and so they dismiss reasonable possibility as being possible. We see this in some non-believing theologians who argue that prophecy that foretells the future is impossible, so if a prophecy has come true as in Daniel’s prophecies, then the prophecy was written after the events not before even when there is excellent evidence that dates the prophecy prior to the events. Their world view prevents them from objectively considering the evidence.

What then should the modern church do? We should equip ourselves with the reasonable evidence and make it known. This can be done formally in terms of books, videos, films and talks. It can also be done at a more personal level where Christians in natural conversation are able to give sound reasons for their faith.

As a church do we equip our fellowship with a clear grasp of the evidence that supports such beliefs as the resurrection of Jesus Christ?

Have we thought through how we would justify our faith to anybody who asks?

Turn your eyes – Lauren Daigle





Opposition within         John 12.4-8

John 12 starts the week that includes much of Jesus’ most significant teaching, his trial, death and resurrection. Jesus is resolutely and knowingly setting his face to be obedient to his Father’s will. It was a week that tested the love, loyalty and faith of his closest followers. This was a week where only one thing dominated his mind, the mission he left glory for, to bring glory to the Father. John 12.28 Throughout the week opposition intensified. Opposition took various forms, all of them continue in a variety of ways today. Each of them, betray the true heart of the perpetrator. Understanding these various forms of opposition increases our capacity to discern them and respond appropriately.

Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus’ closest disciples with the considerable responsibility of looking after the money asks Jesus a seemingly well intentioned and honourable question. In doing so he also criticized Mary for her humble loving devotion and worship of Jesus. He didn’t mean what he said, he didn’t really think the money should be spent on the poor. He tried to use his position of trust for his own gain, with the intention stealing part of the money for his own use. Any gift to the poor from Jesus and his disciples would have gone through his hands. Jesus understood Mary’s anointing was part of his own preparation for his sacrificial death, divinely inspired. It was part of God’s most momentous act in the history of humankind. He also understood Judas’ motivation and answered him from Deuteronomy 15 which emphasizes the continual presence of the poor but also explains that is a reason to be continually generous not just engage in one off gestures.

If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted towards them. Rather, be open-handed and freely lend them whatever they need. Be careful not to harbour this wicked thought: ‘The seventh year, the year for cancelling debts, is near,’ so that you do not show ill will towards the needy among your fellow Israelites and give them nothing. They may then appeal to the Lord against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. 10 Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. 11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be open-handed towards your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land. Deuteronomy 15.7-11

What we can learn from this is that opposition to God’s purposes can come from people who are in a position of trust and expressed in words that have superficial credibility. How can we be discerning when this happens? We can apply the same approach that Jesus did, use a well-rounded knowledge of scripture to keep our understanding in balance.

What checks and balances do we as a church have to ensure our church life glories our Lord?

I the Lord of sea and sky



A Woman’s devotion     John 12.1-7

1          The setting

The setting was six days before the Passover.  It was a Saturday and Jesus was visiting Lazarus at his home in a village just outside Jerusalem called Bethany.  It was a busy meal time.  The disciples were there including John who was an eye witness.  The men were sat down reclined around the table waiting for their meal.  Martha was busy preparing the meal with Jesus as the guest of honour.  Martha came in and served the meal.

Into this scene Mary, Martha’s sister, entered the room carrying a jar.  The jar was a large jar of extremely expensive perfume known as nard.  To everyones’ surprise she then poured the whole content over Jesus’ feet and then even more shockingly wiped his feet with her hair.


2          Nard a symbol of a bride’s love

Nard is also known as Spikenard and it is made from the root of the spikenard plant that grows in the Himalayan Mountains.  It is made into an ointment and in those times it represented the gold standard for quality much like a Tiffany diamond might now.

This was outrageous extravagance.  Nard had a very distinctive scent that would cling to the body for a long time.  John 12:3 says, ‘the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.’  It is a lovely personal memory of John’s as he recalls the event.

Amongst other things nard is the perfume of deep love.  The Hebrew for nard is also the word translated as perfume in the love poetry of the Song of Songs.  There is a strong synergy in this passage with Song of Songs 1:12 where a bride speaks of her husband and king seated at his table. ‘While the king was at his table my perfume spread its fragrance.’  Nard was the most exotic fragrance and identified an exclusive and special love.

Where did a relatively humble woman like Mary get such a valuable perfume?  The truth is we do not know.  It has been speculated that it was her dowry or an inheritance.


3          Nard a symbol of Jesus’ sacrifice

This seemingly over the top gift has come to symbolize several things.  First and foremost, Jesus understood what nobody else in the room had imagined, even Mary.  ‘It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial.’  (John 12:7.)  Jesus was fully aware of his imminent death and took this as part of his funeral arrangements.


4          Nard a symbol of untethered humble love

I want us to somehow grasp the complex emotional context of the event.  Mary’s gift was her demonstration that she was prepared to give everything in her worship of Jesus.  Nothing would stand in the way of her love for him including convention and appearances.


Convention expected that the anointing of oil or perfume would be on the head.  Mary turned that on its head and in great humility gave her most precious possession to anoint Jesus’ feet.  Such humility, such devotion.  Mary is a great biblical example for worship.  One can worship inspired by awe.  Mary worshipped, inspired by love but she sought no special place.  She was content to wipe his feet with her hair.

It would have been against Jewish convention for a woman to appear in the presence of men with her hair untied, but in Mary’s case love was stronger than convention.  Does our sense of convention hold us back from fully expressing our love and worship of Jesus?

Just a few days later Jesus turned Mary’s foot washing back on his disciples, who had witnessed Mary’s act, by washing their feet prior to the last supper.  Jesus ignored convention and set the supreme example of humility, service, obedience and above all of love for God the Father and love for the world.

This is unashamed love.

It is easy to look at Jesus’ enacting of washing the feet of his disciples as one of the great human demonstrations of humility through physical representation without fully taking into account who Jesus is.  He is the Word of God in John 1:1, ‘In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.’  Here he is washing his disciples’ feet.


5          Generous love faces resentment

In Luke we get another picture of Mary’s devotion when Martha complains to Jesus that Mary is at Jesus feet listening to his teaching. Luke 10.38-42 This is not an account whose purpose is to show that a life of contemplation trumps practical action.  That would be a false juxtaposition.  It is just that it is not wise to fill one’s life with action to such an extent that one has no time to learn from him.  Mary shows her love in that she wants to absorb the words of Jesus.  This is a vital lesson for all disciples whatever our responsibility.  Love says we should make time to listen and learn.  That is part of worship and in itself requires discipline.  Luke’s account is often portrayed as a false dichotomy.


6          Worship and emotions go together

The account of Mary and the jar of nard emphasizes the importance of our emotions in discipleship.  Discipleship and faith are not simply matters of the intellect they are about personal commitment and love.

What encourages our love of Jesus?

How do we gain the right balance between worship and service?

Does anything stand in the way of our worshipping God?

Your Presence – Planetshakers



John 12 – One liners

John 12 marks a significant change in John’s gospel. John has completed his record of the eight signs testifying to who Jesus is and the emphasis now moves on for the rest of the gospel to the glory of God. Chapter 12 introduces this deliberate emphasis as Jesus decides his hour has come and he voluntarily moves towards his death. Chapter 12 reinforces some of the teaching already covered in the gospel as well as following the new emphasis. It is an involved chapter with many learning points, taught through narrative. Before we look at specific aspects it is helpful to read the chapter as a whole and so for this reflection I am simply asking you to do that. As you do so you may be struck as I was by several individual sentences and their importance that have not been previously emphasized to you. I found this chapter a chapter of discovery. I hope you do so as well.


Did one particular sentence stand out for you in a new way?


Praise to the Lord, the Almighty – Don Moen


Not all the people all the time           John 11.45-52

There will be many times when something is blindingly obvious to ourselves and it is baffling why it isn’t to everybody else. I guess as the drama that is the USA presidential election plays out that scenario will be taking place in millions of households. It is understandable when one is faced by a mathematical concept where one needs the previous building blocks to understand. It is also understandable that if two people have vastly different cultural backgrounds they may consider certain behaviours very differently. However, one might argue that if the Son of God had just stood before you and conducted a remarkable miracle, such as raising from the dead, a man who was clearly dead and had been so for some days, then everybody who personally witnessed it would surely believe in him. Those who witnessed the miracle came from the same culture, they knew and believed in the same ancient prophesies, they personally knew the people concerned and they had a common experience. However, there were two polar opposite reactions.

‘Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.’ The implication is that those who went to the Pharisees did not go because they were excited and wanted to share the news of this fantastic event. No, they were opposed to Jesus and sided with the Pharisees in rejecting Jesus and his teaching. They knew the Pharisees were already looking for him with the intention of having Jesus killed. Joh 11.8

The Pharisees and the majority of the Sanhedrin (the Jewish religious ruling body) were spiritually blind to who Jesus was, his mission, and how he was fulfilling the prophesies in their scriptures. Their concerns were fundamentally political. They feared that as Jesus gained popularity and very many believed in him and followed him the Romans would perceive that as rebellion against the empire. That would lead to the destruction of the temple and a hard military clamp down on the Jewish people. If they had listened with understanding to Jesus he never preached a kingdom that had a political message. The Kingdom of God that he taught was not a nation state or a military empire. He put himself forward as something completely different, as the lamb of God who was to die for all who would believe.

For people to believe in Jesus they not only have to see the evidence physically and or rationally they need to perceive it spiritually. Naturally people belong to darkness and to the power of this world. Each one of us needs a spiritual awakening from God. As the Lord himself said to Paul as he commissioned him on the Damascus Road, ‘I am sending you to them (the Gentiles) to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ Acts 26:18 Despite himself Caiaphas as high priest was inspired by God to prophesy that Jesus was to die for the Jews and also for the scattered children of God throughout the world. He meant it politically, God meant it spiritually. Caiaphas was now to be a major player in God working out his purposes without any understanding of what he was really doing. God uses opposition as well as faithful disciples to carry out his purposes. This however does not remove personal responsibility for the things we do.

In what ways do we join in with Paul’s commission to share the gospel and pray that people will open their eyes and turn from darkness to light?


Open Up Our Eyes | Live | Elevation Worship



Resurrection in his words             John 11.25-26

The pivotal sentences in John 11 are, I am the resurrection and the life.[a] Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.’ John 11.25,26 It is an extraordinary thing for Jesus to say. It is easy to gloss over it because to Christians it has become common place. However, if true it rewrites our understanding of the world. Jesus’ resurrection was a central plank of the early Christian church’s teaching. It was the ultimate sign of who Jesus is and what makes it even more so is that Jesus repeatedly taught that he would be resurrected and what the implications for his followers are before he died. There is a great deal written about Jesus’ resurrection in the bible from prophecies in the Old Testament to records of the event in the gospels and the proclamation of his resurrection in Acts. The apostles teach in one way or another of the significance of Jesus’ resurrection in their letters to the churches.

However, what did Jesus actually say about his resurrection to his disciples and others prior to his crucifixion?

Jesus’ statement that he is the resurrection and the life, conveys a meaning that without him there cannot be a resurrection. Resurrection and eternal life can only be found in relationship with him. Those who trust or believe in him will go beyond death into a life that is united with Christ.

Jesus taught that he is the means by which God the Father’s will is achieved and that will is that those who believe in Jesus will receive eternal life and themselves be resurrected. ‘For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.’ John 6.40

Jesus’ resurrection was a sign to the Jewish leaders and nation that he was the messiah. He referred to himself as God’s temple, the meeting place between God and human kind. At the time many Jewish leaders did not understand the imagery Jesus was using and took his words literally. However, Jesus’ teaching was also designed for his own disciples to build up their faith and give them understanding. So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.’ John 2:18-22

Jesus also made clear the details of his forthcoming trial, execution and resurrection prior to the events actually happening. Despite that the disciples found it very difficult to understand what was happening until after the event. However, the memory of Jesus’ teaching confirmed to them the divinity of Jesus. ‘And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.’ Mark 8.31 (Mathew 20.18-19 contains a parallel account.)

John also taught that resurrection for his followers will complete their transformation into Christ likeness. This will be because their vision and understanding of him will be complete and not be marred by sin. Like Jesus they will in some way have a resurrection body. Whilst we do not have Jesus’ own words regarding this, John as one of Jesus’ intimates passes on the insight in his first letter to the churches. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears[a] we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.’ 1 john 3.2

Jesus also made clear that he will bring about the resurrection of those who have trusted in his death and resurrection. ‘Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.’ John 6.54

Jesus taught that resurrection is the ultimate reward for living a sacrificial life for those in need. His judgement will be righteous. ‘But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.’ Luke 14.13-14

As Jesus’ resurrection is such a central Christian truth, how effective is the modern church in communicating the evidence of his resurrection and its significance for all who believe?

The Rapture and Resurrection – I Will Rise – Chris Tomlin



In the daylight          John 11.8-16

‘Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.’ John 11.9,10

Time keeping in the days of the New Testament was different to ours (No pun intended). We are used to a standardization of time unknown to people then. Both the Roman and Jewish practice was to divide the 24 hour day into 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night. Hours therefore varied in length depending on the time of year. Jesus reference to twelve hours of daylight is not to be taken literally and does not refer to planning his journey time to Bethany. Rather is relates to his whole ministry leading up to the twelfth hour, the culmination of his work on earth and his death on the cross.

There appears to be a disconnect between the disciple’s objection to Jesus’ return to Judea to attend to Lazarus and Jesus response about the length of day and walking in daylight and stumbling in the dark. The disciples are concerned for Jesus physical safety and with good cause. Jesus is concerned with pressing on with obeying the Father’s will right up to the last moment.  When reading this passage, it can be approached in two ways. To understand what Jesus was doing and how he was revealing himself to be the resurrection and the life, the prophesied Son of God bringing about salvation for all who believe in him. Additionally, we can see in Jesus a model or example of how we should view our own lives.

Light in John’s gospel draws upon the physical light and darkness of creation to convey moral and spiritual conflict as well as God’s means of salvation. John says in v1.5, ‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.’ Jesus speaking of himself to Nicodemus says, ‘Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.’ John 3,18,19

Jesus despite the potential dangers was going to press on and bring the sign of his ultimate overcoming of death and the light of salvation through raising Lazarus from death. We gain from Jesus’ reply the sense of urgency in his mission as well as determination to complete the task to the end. He was not going to be diverted away from God’s light. In that sense Jesus is the example of how we should view our life up to the end. He is our encouragement. Hosea captured the spirit of this, Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.’ Hosea 6.3 Jesus had previously summed up his sense of urgency with, We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.’ John 9.4Hebrews also encourages us to press on with God’s mission for our lives. ‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.’ Hebrews 12.1,2Do we allow obstacles to our faith deter us from “walking in the light”?

Have we a clear vision of our goal?

Be thou my vision



Does it Matter?    One flock – One Shepherd

‘I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.’ John 10.16

We probably don’t grasp how shocking this statement by Jesus was and within ourselves we may well not want to grasp its full meaning for ourselves now. Intellectually we may assent to it but history shows that Christians have constantly tried to modify its implications. It certainly runs against human nature and the church has repeatedly compromised over this basic tenet. Deep within human nature there is a desire to be considered more worthy than others and therefore have greater privileges and recognition. Deep in our heart we want our tribe (sheep in our sheep pen) to be superior and more rewarded than others. Of course, a modern day tribe does not have to be genetically a tribe, it can be determined by any self-created means. The church has ripped itself apart over the years creating sheep pens when they need not exist and refusing to accept other sheep pens called by God as equal in his sight to theirs.

Jesus’ original words were addressed to the Jews and the shocking fact was, he was saying there are other nations, not religions, that were also his to call into his kingdom. But worse in their eyes these fellow sheep of the same shepherd were really one flock, they not only belonged to him equally but they also belonged to each other. When the church in Galatia was trying to divide itself up into separate sheep folds, reflecting the status the world would apply, Paul comes crashing into their argument with instruction, ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.’ Galatians 3.28

How then may the church divide itself up into false sheep pens?

Division by social standing is something that does not reflect the truth that we are all sinners saved by grace and yet there have repeatedly been ways in which this worldly view has crept into the church. Consider how in time past in this and many countries seats in church have been allocated by standing in the world. I remember visiting a church where there were two toilets and a church membership of 200+, one toilet was for the minister and one for everybody else. What does the bible say about the creation of division by social standing?

‘My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place”, while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there”, or, “Sit down at my feet”, have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?’ James 2.1-5

The Jews were offended by Jesus because of their sense of superiority. However, Paul says, ‘Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.’ Philippians 2.3

As sheep in the shepherd’s flock we share the same hopes. The day we all look forward to is the same day when, ‘The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.”

And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.’ Revelation 22.17

The modern Christian church is a truly global church as the Spirit has enabled Christians to obey Jesus’ command and take the gospel all over the world. The Spirit has not been bound by human opposition, it is now estimated that 1 million Chinese turn to Christ each year in a country where the government sets its face against all religion. The Bible Society has just had an appeal for money for paper to equip in China the largest bible printing factory in the world as Chinese Christians are desperate for their own copies. Sheep from another pen have been meeting that need. Barnabas Fund and other Christian Charities foster the connections between one sheep pen and another to meet the greatest needs of those belonging to “one fold” in a different pen. Go to https://barnabastoday.com/en/  to listen to the voices of those in the greatest need.


The principle of meeting needs across nations and cultures was established by Paul in the early church when he gathered a collection to meet the needs of suffering Christians in Jerusalem. 1 Corinthians 16.1-4

Finally, are we prepared to learn from sheep from another fold? A contemporary example of the great benefits of recognising the contribution of other Christians of different traditions bringing great blessing is the impact of John Wimber on Holy Trinity Brompton, the home of Alpha. John Wimber, a founding Pastor of Vineyard Churches, was an important figure in HTB leadership discovering the Spirit’s ministry in healing and evangelism. This has led to many thousands becoming Christians and a continuing ministry of church planting through Holy Trinity Brompton.

Do we praise God that his church in all its diversity is one church which hears the voice of Jesus?

Are we open to learn from other Christian Churches in different circumstances and lands?

Are we prepared to count others more significant than ourselves?

Above All [with lyrics] – Lenny LeBlanc





Who to trust           Mathew 7.15-20

Mathew included in his record of Jesus’ teaching to a crowd, known as the Sermon on the Mount, a way of distinguishing between a false and true prophet. Mathew 7.15-20 It wasn’t by the strident nature of their voice, their popularity, their capacity to evoke emotion, the clothes they wore, the people who back them, the wealth they have, the family they belong to, the number of followers on social media or the academic qualifications they hold. It was by the fruits of their life. This would include their character and what they do.

He warned them then about false prophets and the warning is relevant today. False prophets were a common feature of life in the time leading up to Jesus and they didn’t go away either during Jesus’ ministry or during the time of the early church. Warnings against false prophets are found during the entire biblical period. They arose apart from the church and even more dangerously within the church. Peter gives a general warning with, But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 Peter 2.1 Jesus took very seriously the threat to the church arising from false prophets, he called them ravenous wolves in sheep’s clothing. The reference to sheep’s clothing is not primarily an allusion to vulnerability and innocence. The sheep are the people who hear Jesus voice as their shepherd and follow him. Jesus is warning that false prophets will come from within his people and their motivation is to lead God’s people astray. The principal means of doing this is to prevent them from hearing the Shepherd’s voice.

This then calls for great discernment on the part of the sheep or God’s people. One can tell a true and false prophet by their lives and what they seek to do. As Jesus says, ‘Every healthy tree bears good fruit.’ Mathew 7.17 Conversely, ‘the diseased tree bears bad fruit.’ False prophets will lead people away from Jesus. We are not talking here about disagreements within the church over minor matters. No human can know all things. Neither are we talking about living a perfect life as no human outside of Jesus can do that. But all prophets, teachers, evangelists, elders should be continually on the path of sanctification. The word of God should be active in their lives changing them progressively into the likeness of Jesus.

Jesus’ prime concern in Matthew 7 was to lay down a warning about those “prophets” who would divert them from grasping who he was. His advice is as relevant and pertinent now as then. Check their lives out and don’t be taken in by appearances or as Jesus put it, ‘Thus you will recognise them by their fruits.’ Mathew 7.20

How much care do you take to discern the difference between false and true prophets?

Robin Mark – Days of Elijah (Official Lyric Video)




Martha’s Story (A personal perspective)    John 11.1-44

My brother Lazarus, Mary and me, we were all very taken with Jesus. He didn’t come from the same village we lived in. He came from up north in Galilee but that didn’t matter. We had been out to see him, to listen to him and over time we all got to know him. We saw the things he did which were amazing. In fact, you could say all three of us not only got to know him, we became really close friends. Lazarus and Jesus had that male bonding thing going on but both Mary and I in our different ways felt very close to him as well. Anyway, Jesus wasn’t around when Lazarus became ill. We were home in Bethany which is really close to Jerusalem and it wasn’t safe for Jesus to be there because of all the plots to kill him from the big religious leaders. They really hated him. But I knew he was a good man, even more than that he was who we had all been waiting for. You wouldn’t believe how jealous the Sanhedrin was because he showed them up to be what they really are.

Lazarus got worse and Mary and I were so worried that we sent people from our village tofind Jesus. After all he had healed that son of Herod’s official without even going to see him. I’m told when they did find Jesus there was a bit of a row. First of all, Jesus didn’t come straight away. To start with when I heard that I was surprised and disappointed. I didn’t think that was like him, he isn’t afraid of people. Then two days later he seems to change his mind and says he is coming. His close disciples tried to stop him. They said if he comes to Bethany the Jewish leaders are bound to hear of it and they will try to stone him to death. They had already tried to do that more than once. But Jesus came and so did his disciples.

People around heard he was coming before he got to Bethany. The trouble was it all took too long and Lazarus by now had died four days before Jesus got here. Everybody was round the house. They were doing the usual things trying to comfort us. When I heard Jesus was outside the village I went to see him. Mary stayed back, but I had to see him. I went straight up to him. You see even then there was hope in my heart, I couldn’t explain it, there just was. I said to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.’ I think I just needed something from him.

Jesus said, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ I know everybody, even leading Jewish Rabbis, don’t believe that but Jesus always taught it and I believe it. So, I told him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus did mean that but he meant more than that. He said, and I will never forget it, he said to me, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.’ Jesus then asked me if I believed that. I said I believe it and I believed in him. ‘You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world,’ I said. He asked me then where Mary was so I went back home.

The house was still full of people, so I whispered to Mary that Jesus was just outside the village and wanted her. That was it, Mary just went without a word. The people who were here to comfort us thought she was going to Lazarus’ grave but she went straight to Jesus. She said to Jesus the same as I did, if only he had been here Lazarus wouldn’t have died. When Jesus saw Mary crying he cried too. I had never seen him cry before.

Some of the people who had been round our house started to blame Jesus saying if he had healed other people why hadn’t he healed his good friend. Jesus though didn’t reply he went with us to the cave where Lazarus had been put in our usual way, carefully, tightly wrapped in linen strips. Jesus wanted the stone removed from the entrance. I told him the smell would be awful after four days. He turned, looked at me to remind me of our conversation earlier and said, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?’ Then they moved the stone, Jesus said a prayer, mostly I think for everybody else’s benefit and then he almost shouted, ‘Lazarus, come out.’

It was then my lovely brother, still wrapped up, came to the front of the cave. It was just incredible. What an amazing thing, it was so wonderful to see Lazarus. I realized then that Jesus was what he said to me, the resurrection and the life. I had been so filled with worry and grief about Lazarus I didn’t realize then that God had a plan for his glory.

What did Martha learn about Jesus’ priority?

How significant is it that Jesus chose Martha to tell, he is the resurrection and the life?

What did Martha learn about God’s timing?

What can we learn from Martha’s trust in Jesus?

Because He Lives I Can Face Tomorrow



Not the answer I was expecting.           John 11.1-44

When Mary and Martha were anxiously deciding to send for Jesus because Lazarus their brother was seriously ill they were definitely not expecting Jesus’ initial response to be what he said to his disciples a few days later when the message got through. Their message was simple enough, ‘he whom you love is ill.’ John 11.3 They meant Lazarus is seriously ill, you love him, obviously you will want to come and heal him, simply because he is ill and will die otherwise. It must be about the most common form of prayer over all time. Go to any prayer board in a church or Cathedral and it will be covered in prayers for the sick. There is nothing wrong with that although all of us have to recognize our mortality and inevitability that in most cases some form of sickness will in the end be the cause of our death. Death of course for those who have responded to the gospel carries a different significance than for those who have not done so. Hence the compelling imperative for believers to spread the gospel and make disciples. Luke 24.47

In Lazarus’ case Jesus saw his illness differently. He said it’s purpose was to bring glory to God. ‘This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’ John11.4 Jesus did not get things wrong? Lazarus did die and Jesus pronounced him dead, v14 however Jesus was looking beyond that to the end of the whole episode where he was raised from the dead and the impact on the disciple’s faith of Lazarus’ resurrection.

The glory of God through the Son of God was not limited to the growth in faith of his disciples or the increased number of disciples. This was however an intentional outcome. ‘Jesus told them plainly, Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe.’ vv14,15 Many but not all following their witnessing Lazarus’ resurrection did believe in Jesus. V45

It was how the evidence of the truth of Jesus words to Martha, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die’, that was going to bring greater glory to God.

Jesus’ delay in coming to Bethany did bring temporary mourning and distress for Lazarus’ family.  Christian discipleship is frequently associated with difficulties and suffering. All this though hardly compares with the cost to Jesus of gaining our salvation. When we come to God in prayer is our first thought, “For your glory Lord?” Is it possible for us to consider it a blessing to share in his sufferings? I am not saying that all suffering or illness is to bring God glory, far from it. We live in a world deeply corrupted by sin, in a world that groans for God’s new creation. In Lazarus’ case his suffering did bring God great glory through bringing glory to Jesus. The consequences of Lazarus being raised from the dead have continued to this present day in directing people towards Jesus and his power over death. Whilst Mary and Martha’s desire to see Lazarus healed was loving and good, Jesus saw and sought even more in the situation. He sought to bring glory to God the Father.

How hard it can be to change the perspective from which we view our life and God’s purposes.

Reign in Me – Chris Bowater






During these times of flux…  a thought for the day.

I and the Father are one.     John 10.22-42

Jesus is back in Jerusalem. This time it is winter and he is there for the ‘Festival of Dedication’ we know as Hanukkah. The events remembered at Hanukkah are not part of the biblical text but they are of great importance in Judaism. In 165 BC Maccabees successfully defeated Seleucid (Greek) forces and expelled them from power in Judea, following their desecration of the second temple, as prophesied by Daniel. At the temple re-consecration when it became time to light the menorah only one small jar of oil could be found in the temple sufficient for one day only. It was eight days before new oil could be found but the small jar of oil lasted all eight days. This became known as the Chanukah or Hanukkah miracle. The symbolism of this festival would have been very powerful as the Jews would have been longing for another ‘Messiah’ to overthrow their current occupiers the Romans.

John adds the personal witness detail of Jesus walking in Solomon’s Colonnade when he is challenged by the Jewish leadership to tell them if he, Jesus, is the Messiah they are longing for. The context indicates that their ambition is to find the next Maccabees who will liberate them from the Romans and establish their power in Judea. You may be thinking, hasn’t Jesus already made that clear in his words and actions? There was however a discontinuity between what Jesus was and is as Messiah and what the Jewish leaders were looking for. This same issue remains relevant today as people seek meaning and purpose in their life. What people start out looking for is not who Jesus is. Can that gap ever be closed and someone move from not recognizing who Jesus is to understanding that he is indeed the Son of God and one with the Father?

Jesus applies the teaching he gave in the Sermon on the Mount, which we looked at in the previous reflection in Mathew 7.15-20. He says my people recognize my voice and if you do not belong to me you will not recognize me for who I am. ‘You do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.’ John 10.26b,27 This is not new teaching in John 1.13, John states, ‘he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.’ Again, in John 6.44, Jesus says, ‘No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.’ It therefore takes an act of God to give them the ability to believe. This does not relieve each person of the responsibility for their own actions. It does however give a very clear focus for prayer for those who do not yet believe.

Jesus then says if you do not feel that spiritual compulsion which is God drawing you to me, look at the evidence. Ask yourself if the things you have seen me do are things of God or not and then make up your mind. ‘Do not believe me unless I do the works of the Father. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I in the Father.’ John 10.37,38 Here then lies a significant responsibility of the church in our age. It is to make known the works of Jesus, both those recorded in the bible and also those he continues to do each day in our lives and the lives of others. This is to be in partnership with the Trinity of God; as he draws people to himself, we are to place in front of the world the evidence as to who Jesus is. If we only keep retelling the evidence to ourselves how will others be able to close the gap between their search for meaning and grasping that Jesus is the Son of God to be trusted for eternal life?

At this time Jesus’ Jewish opponents did not ‘hear his voice’ or recognize his works for what they were, evidence that he and his Father are one. They picked up stones with the intention of stoning him. John 10.31 Jesus then drew on Old Testament teaching to demonstrate that nothing he had said constituted blasphemy which further enraged his opponents and they tried to seize him. Jesus however, eluded them and withdrew to the other side of the Jordon. This would have evoked the memory of John the Baptist and his call to repentance. Many in the crowd who came to see him behaved in the opposite way to the Jewish leaders. They looked at the evidence of what Jesus did and believed in him. ‘They said, “Though John never performed a sign, all that John said about this man was true.” And in that place many believed in Jesus.’ John10.42 The people who believed in Jesus then share the same promise and reassurance that having believed in him we cannot be snatched from the Father’s hand. ‘I give them eternal life and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father who has given them to me, is greater than all, no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.’ John 10. God secures his own with a double lock.

How does this passage give us confidence?

How does this passage encourage us to pray?

To live is Christ (Lyrics) – Sidewalk Prophets (I love this song.)




One flock – One Shepherd    John 10.16

The atmosphere was highly charged. The accusers kept probing trying to find a weakness in their opponent’s knowledge, logic and assertions. They were looking for the one weakness in what he said that would give them good reason to charge him with insurrection and heresy bringing about his death. The accused poured scorn on his accusers understanding of history, their inability to discern God at work, their leadership capacity and the validity of their lifestyle. The listening crowds felt pushed into taking sides and were confused by the conflicting arguments.

‘There was again a division among the Jews because of these words.  Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?”  Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”’ John 10:19-21

What had excited the crowd so much? The answer is the simple gospel as the modern church understands it. Was what Jesus said then so new that one could expect the learned listeners to understand? Very definitely not, it was much more they did not want to understand, from their perspective there was too much to lose without understanding of what they had to gain. Jesus’ words had just opened up an area they found unacceptable because they felt it took away their specialness. To be fair even Jesus’ closest disciples did not really understand until God revealed to Peter through Cornelius in Acts 10 that all peoples had equal rights to salvation and thence equal standing in God’s kingdom.

Jesus words, ‘I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.’ v16 were taken to mean he was detracting from the Israelite status as God’s people. Israel however was always intended to be a blessing and light to all people leading them to worship God and be fully accepted. From God’s first promise to Abraham, ‘in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed,’ through the Mosaic law and in the prophets, there was always the statement that the Israelite people were God’s chosen people to bring all nations to the Lord. ‘Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.  For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.’ Isaiah 60:1-3 Now here was Jesus announcing himself as the fulfilment of this long line of prophetic messages.

Jesus however, placed this coded statement that he would be the means of salvation for all nations in the middle of twice saying it would cost him his life. vv15,17 There is no salvation without the cross. The sheep in other folds was not a coded message that other religions are acceptable or there are alternative ways to being in the kingdom of God. The only way is through faith in Jesus and his sacrifice on our behalf. This is the message that he then sent his disciples with after his death and resurrection and he sent them into the whole world or as it is termed in this passage other folds. The cross is the great leveller. There is no place for pride or birth right. No special status by race, colour, gender or social standing. The only way into the sheep pen is by the shepherd who chose to lay down his life for the sheep. v15

How does Jesus’ sacrifice change how we view and behave towards, people who culturally, racially and in appearance are very different to ourselves?

Lay Down My Life – Sidewalk Prophets [With Lyrics]





Does it Matter?    One flock – One Shepherd

‘I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.’ John 10.16

We probably don’t grasp how shocking this statement by Jesus was and within ourselves we may well not want to grasp its full meaning for ourselves now. Intellectually we may assent to it but history shows that Christians have constantly tried to modify its implications. It certainly runs against human nature and the church has repeatedly compromised over this basic tenet. Deep within human nature there is a desire to be considered more worthy than others and therefore have greater privileges and recognition. Deep in our heart we want our tribe (sheep in our sheep pen) to be superior and more rewarded than others. Of course, a modern day tribe does not have to be genetically a tribe, it can be determined by any self-created means. The church has ripped itself apart over the years creating sheep pens when they need not exist and refusing to accept other sheep pens called by God as equal in his sight to theirs.

Jesus’ original words were addressed to the Jews and the shocking fact was, he was saying there are other nations, not religions, that were also his to call into his kingdom. But worse in their eyes these fellow sheep of the same shepherd were really one flock, they not only belonged to him equally but they also belonged to each other. When the church in Galatia was trying to divide itself up into separate sheep folds, reflecting the status the world would apply, Paul comes crashing into their argument with instruction, ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.’ Galatians 3.28

How then may the church divide itself up into false sheep pens?

Division by social standing is something that does not reflect the truth that we are all sinners saved by grace and yet there have repeatedly been ways in which this worldly view has crept into the church. Consider how in time past in this and many countries seats in church have been allocated by standing in the world. I remember visiting a church where there were two toilets and a church membership of 200+, one toilet was for the minister and one for everybody else. What does the bible say about the creation of division by social standing?

‘My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place”, while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there”, or, “Sit down at my feet”, have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?’ James 2.1-5

The Jews were offended by Jesus because of their sense of superiority. However, Paul says, ‘Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.’ Philippians 2.3

As sheep in the shepherd’s flock we share the same hopes. The day we all look forward to is the same day when, ‘The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.”

And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.’ Revelation 22.17

The modern Christian church is a truly global church as the Spirit has enabled Christians to obey Jesus’ command and take the gospel all over the world. The Spirit has not been bound by human opposition, it is now estimated that 1 million Chinese turn to Christ each year in a country where the government sets its face against all religion. The Bible Society has just had an appeal for money for paper to equip in China the largest bible printing factory in the world as Chinese Christians are desperate for their own copies. Sheep from another pen have been meeting that need. Barnabas Fund and other Christian Charities foster the connections between one sheep pen and another to meet the greatest needs of those belonging to “one fold” in a different pen. Go to https://barnabastoday.com/en/  to listen to the voices of those in the greatest need.The principle of meeting needs across nations and cultures was established by Paul in the early church when he gathered a collection to meet the needs of suffering Christians in Jerusalem. 1 Corinthians 16.1-4

Finally, are we prepared to learn from sheep from another fold? A contemporary example of the great benefits of recognising the contribution of other Christians of different traditions bringing great blessing is the impact of John Wimber on Holy Trinity Brompton, the home of Alpha. John Wimber, a founding Pastor of Vineyard Churches, was an important figure in HTB leadership discovering the Spirit’s ministry in healing and evangelism. This has led to many thousands becoming Christians and a continuing ministry of church planting through Holy Trinity Brompton.

Do we praise God that his church in all its diversity is one church which hears the voice of Jesus?

Are we open to learn from other Christian Churches in different circumstances and lands?

Are we prepared to count others more significant than ourselves?

Above All [with lyrics] – Lenny LeBlanc



One Way in           John 10.1-18

Jesus made many bold claims and John’s gospel is particularly noted for his “I am” statements. Chapter 10 connects two of these: ‘I am the door of the sheep,” John 10.7,9 and ‘I am the good shepherd’. John 10.11,14 Jesus mixes metaphors whilst telling and then explaining his parable. The sheepfold represents God’s people or the kingdom of God. The thieves and robbers who climb in over the sheepfold wall are the multitude of false “messiahs” that abounded before and during the first Century but it also included the Pharisees who belittle or expel genuine seekers after God’s kingdom such as the healed man in the previous chapter. False messiahs or prophetic figures still persist and so the parable remains highly relevant today. A false messiah does not have to be an individual it can equally be a philosophy that provides false hope and promises. Jesus provides us in this parable a way of discriminating between them and the kingdom of God.

Being in the kingdom of God is about belonging to him, the good shepherd. He twice asserts that special relationship. ‘The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.’ v3 and ‘I am the good shepherd. I know my own my own and my own know me’. v14 Being in the kingdom of God is about being in relationship with Jesus. It is not just about belonging to a wider group, each member is in individual relationship with him. They are individually known and named, he calls them by name. Each person is known, counted, named, sought after, cared for and loved.  His sheep follow him because they know his voice. If they do not know his voice then they are not part of the flock. Beyond that a characteristic of being in the kingdom of God is the rejection of false messiahs, teachers or prophets. Jesus says his own will not follow them but will in fact flee from them. How does this impact our lives today? What are the influences on our lives, our choices, the people we listen to? Are these people who guide us in the direction of Christ and lives set apart for him? Are these spiritually healthy people?

Jesus in the same teaching mixes metaphors and says he is not only the shepherd, he is the door vv2,7 and the gatekeeper. v3,9 The only way in to the kingdom of God is through him and by him. Jesus accompanies this with a promise, ‘If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture’. v9 When considering a promise and weighing it against other promises we should consider who the promise maker is. Jesus’ promises are made by the eternal God who has demonstrated his love for us through his preparedness to go through death for us. Jesus was not only prepared to lay down his life and then take it up again for us but he was actually capable of doing it. There is no price he was not prepared to pay for our sake and that differentiates him from all other false promisers. ‘For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again’. vv17,18

Jesus once again warns about false messiahs, describing them as those who will not be prepared to pay the ultimate price for the sake of the kingdom of God. v12 The underlying security for the followers of Jesus is the bond between him and God the Father. Jesus is fulfilling the Father’s will because of their mutual love. ‘For this reason the Father loves me’ v17‘This charge I have received from my Father’. v18

Followers of Jesus then should take great comfort and confidence from Jesus’ promise. We should be careful to listen to his voice through his word for our guidance. We should flee from false prophets and ultimately the test of falseness is whether they are directing us towards Jesus alone. Our trust is to be personal and this is why Christians speak of a personal relationship with God. No other faith conveys such an intimacy of relationship. Jesus speaks in this passage about a spiritual life that is totally fulfilling not just in terms of stretching into eternity but in it being as the ESV translates, abundant. v10 In pictorial terms Jesus describes it as saved sheep going in and out finding pasture. v9

How has this passage challenged us about who we listen to?

Do we ask the Holy Spirit to continue to build our confidence in the promises of Jesus?

Shepherd of my soul



Knowing his voice         John 10.1-6

A sheep farming colleague once said to me that as she lay in bed and listened to the sheep in the field outside her window she could name sheep by the sound of their bleat. She then clarified she did not mean all 100+ but those who had been part of her flock for years and she knew intimately.  It is lovely to stand in our garden and watch the sheep in the field over our back fence call to their lambs, when they are that stage where they charge around together like infants in the playground. Then the mother sheep gets anxious, bleats and twin lambs break off and return to their mother often crossing the width of the field.

We also have the capacity to selectively hear those we love. Walking into a crowded room we can pick up the distinctive notes of those with whom we are intimate. Beyond the sound alone there is depth of intimacy of connection. I phoned one of my children this week, without rational reason, I just wanted to hear her voice. When I took a placement in Namibia, an adventure into the unknown, to me a strange and uncertain place deep in the bush, initially I felt very insecure and I had little contact with home. My wife phoned and I could not control my reaction to her voice, I cried.

Jesus tells one of his most well known stories of sheep in a sheep fold and a shepherd who enters the fold and leads his sheep. Jesus then says of the shepherd, ‘The sheep hear his voice, and he calls them his own sheep by name and leads them out. John 10.3 John Chapter 10 has many complex interrelated things to say but early on there is this beautiful simplicity of each person’s relationship with Jesus described in the metaphor of a shepherd and sheep. Biblically there is a long history of the image of God and his people as shepherd and sheep. Here though it is not the nation as a whole but each separate sheep that knows his voice.

Knowing his voice is also knowing him. Knowing him is understanding his heart and character. Knowing him is learning from him and following his ways. Hosea says, ‘Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.’ Hosea 6.3 Isaiah passes on God’s word, ‘Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast , sure love for David.’ Isaiah 55.3 Listening to Jesus leads us into an everlasting contract with God and brings life in full abundance. John 10.10

Listening to Jesus’ voice brings faith and also guides us into right living. ‘So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.’ Romans 10.17 And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.’ Isaiah 30.21

It is good to practice hearing his voice. It takes time set aside but He will also speak in the hurly burly of life. Hebrews reminds us, ‘Therefore as the Holy Spirit says, “Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in rebellion”.’ Hebrews 3.7

What experiences have you had of hearing Jesus’ voice?

Do you follow Jesus’ practice of regularly spending time alone with God the Father to hear his voice?

Word Of God Speak – MercyMe



One Way in                                     John 10.1-18

Jesus made many bold claims and John’s gospel is particularly noted for his “I am” statements. Chapter 10 connects two of these: ‘I am the door of the sheep,” John 10.7,9 and ‘I am the good shepherd’. John 10.11,14 Jesus mixes metaphors whilst telling and then explaining his parable. The sheepfold represents God’s people or the kingdom of God. The thieves and robbers who climb in over the sheepfold wall are the multitude of false “messiahs” that abounded before and during the first Century but it also included the Pharisees who belittle or expel genuine seekers after God’s kingdom such as the healed man in the previous chapter. False messiahs or prophetic figures still persist and so the parable remains highly relevant today. A false messiah does not have to be an individual it can equally be a philosophy that provides false hope and promises. Jesus provides us in this parable a way of discriminating between them and the kingdom of God.

Being in the kingdom of God is about belonging to him, the good shepherd. He twice asserts that special relationship. ‘The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.’ v3 and ‘I am the good shepherd. I know my own my own and my own know me’. v14 Being in the kingdom of God is about being in relationship with Jesus. It is not just about belonging to a wider group, each member is in individual relationship with him. They are individually known and named, he calls them by name. Each person is known, counted, named, sought after, cared for and loved.  His sheep follow him because they know his voice. If they do not know his voice then they are not part of the flock. Beyond that a characteristic of being in the kingdom of God is the rejection of false messiahs, teachers or prophets. Jesus says his own will not follow them but will in fact flee from them. How does this impact our lives today? What are the influences on our lives, our choices, the people we listen to? Are these people who guide us in the direction of Christ and lives set apart for him? Are these spiritually healthy people?

Jesus in the same teaching mixes metaphors and says he is not only the shepherd, he is the door vv2,7 and the gatekeeper. v3,9 The only way in to the kingdom of God is through him and by him. Jesus accompanies this with a promise, ‘If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture’. v9 When considering a promise and weighing it against other promises we should consider who the promise maker is. Jesus’ promises are made by the eternal God who has demonstrated his love for us through his preparedness to go through death for us. Jesus was not only prepared to lay down his life and then take it up again for us but he was actually capable of doing it. There is no price he was not prepared to pay for our sake and that differentiates him from all other false promisers. ‘For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again’. vv17,18

Jesus once again warns about false messiahs, describing them as those who will not be prepared to pay the ultimate price for the sake of the kingdom of God. v12 The underlying security for the followers of Jesus is the bond between him and God the Father. Jesus is fulfilling the Father’s will because of their mutual love. ‘For this reason the Father loves me’ v17‘This charge I have received from my Father’. v18

Followers of Jesus then should take great comfort and confidence from Jesus’ promise. We should be careful to listen to his voice through his word for our guidance. We should flee from false prophets and ultimately the test of falseness is whether they are directing us towards Jesus alone. Our trust is to be personal and this is why Christians speak of a personal relationship with God. No other faith conveys such an intimacy of relationship. Jesus speaks in this passage about a spiritual life that is totally fulfilling not just in terms of stretching into eternity but in it being as the ESV translates, abundant. v10 In pictorial terms Jesus describes it as saved sheep going in and out finding pasture. v9

How has this passage challenged us about who we listen to?

Do we ask the Holy Spirit to continue to build our confidence in the promises of Jesus?

Shepherd of my soul


Good or Bad Shepherd?              Ezekiel 34 & John 10

Those who have followed the Bible Society’s Bible Course will be used to the idea of reading the bible with the questions What and Now What in their minds. ‘What,’ concentrates on what did it mean to the people at the time, and ‘Now What’, considers contemporary applications. When Jesus spoke about being the Good Shepherd John 10.14 and tells the story about the good and bad shepherds, the sheepfold, the door and the gatekeeper he did so in the full knowledge of Ezekiel’s prophesy in Ezekiel 34 applying it to the Jewish Leaders and himself. This passage comes after several accounts of the accusations and plots of Jewish Leaders to discredit and kill Jesus and their refusal to see the miracles that Jesus performed as well as his teaching as acts of God. Knowing Ezekiel’s prophesy helps us answer the question, what did Jesus’ teaching mean to the people who heard him at the time?

The Lord commanded Ezekiel to prophesy against the, ‘shepherds of Israel’, saying, ‘Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not the shepherds take care of the flock?’ Ezekiel 34.2 The shepherds were the country’s rulers. The rulers were accused of ruling for their own benefit and oppressing their own people and so the people without direction became aimless and uncared for. ‘My sheep wander over all the mountains and on every hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them.’ Ezekiel 34.6  The Lord therefore makes this promise. ‘I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them’ … ‘I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep.’ Ezekiel 34.10-12 Ezekiel then expands on that basic theme in more detail.

Jesus was being very clear to the Jewish leaders and the crowds, saying I am the good shepherd and you Jewish Leaders, are the bad shepherds, the thieves and robbers who try to gain entry into the kingdom of God by devious routes, but there is only one way and that is through me. The evidence was before them and the question was could they see it? It caused consternation, misunderstanding, questioning and abuse. Eventually by the end of the chapter they were once again trying to stone Jesus.

Does it surprise us today if leaders lead for their own gain at the expense of the people they lead, even in the church? Does it surprise us if when Jesus’ teachings are spelt out they cause offence. Does it also surprise us if an accurate picture of Jesus is presented it may attract personal attack from religious and secular leaders?

Above All – Lenny LeBlanc




Light of the world           John 9.4-5

How do you feel about your life each day? When you get up in the morning and mentally check your day, what are your priorities? I cannot reasonably attempt to guess how you would answer that. What if we asked Jesus the same question? John 9.4 gives us a very clear indication as to his answer. ‘As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me.’

Jesus had a very clear view –  his day was to be filled with fulfilling God the Father’s will. Jesus the man had very limited time, each day was to be maximized. Whether it was teaching or healing, coaching disciples or challenging enemies all was done in accord with God the Father’s will. He was to be the light of the world and the purpose was to reveal God and his purposes to the world. Night was coming when work could no longer be done. That night started with his death on the cross. John 9.4b Even his death was light to the world.

As he faced his death while in prayer in Gethsemane he was overwhelmed with dread and no wonder, he was about to absorb the wrath of God for the sin of all mankind. He was certainly dreading death by crucifixion, no person would not, but it was God’s righteous wrath that was to be dreaded even more. This was his prayer, ‘`Yet not as I will, but as you will.’ Mathew 26.39

As Jesus is the light of the world and now in glory, so it his disciple’s role to direct the gaze of others to the light of the world. When Jesus first declared himself the light of the world John 8.12 he added, ‘Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Therefore, the way to point others to the light of the world is to walk in the light of life oneself.

After Jesus made the statement he promptly healed the blind man bringing light into his life. The healing was a living parable. This was the ‘work’ that we must be engaged in. ‘We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day. John 9.4 Josh Moody puts it like this, “This is the one thing that we can do now that we cannot do in the new heaven and new earth – the work of witnessing to Christ as the light of the world.” (John 1 to 12 for you.)

Jesus came into the world, ‘that those who do not see may see’. John 9.39 The blind man became one of those physically and spiritually. Jesus sought him out following his rejection by the Jewish leaders and asked him if he believed in the Son of Man. John 9.35 The man asked him who the Son of Man was and Jesus replied it was him. The man then said, ‘Lord, I believe, and he worshipped him.’ John38 Those moments are ones of great rejoicing and we should pray that we are a witness to many.

How can we live our life so that it is a witness to the light of the world?

Light of the World – (This was not the song of the blind man but it could have been.)



Those who see may become blind.       John 9.39


The term Pharisee has become associated with a particular vocabulary. Legalism, intransigent, accusative, unbending, bitter, unforgiving are all words that many would recognize as applying to a Pharisee. They also exhibited spiritual blindness and self -righteousness and these traits prevent them from understanding spiritual truth even when presented with first hand evidence. This is despite deep scriptural knowledge and religious conviction. Jesus described the Pharisees as those who could see becoming blind.  How then can a seeker after God guard against becoming as the Pharisees or be saved from those attitudes once they are adopted?

Jonathan Edwards a 18th Century revivalist wrote, “One under the influence of spiritual pride is more apt to instruct others, than to enquire for himself, and naturally puts on airs of a master. Whereas one that is full of humility, naturally has on the air of a disciple.” (Thoughts on the New England Revival, Vol 1)

It is unfair to tarnish all Pharisees with the same brush and beyond redemption. Nicodemus was a genuine enquirer and unafraid to defend Jesus. Saul who became Paul was transformed from the man who describes himself as the greatest of sinners, to the greatest New Testament evangelist and church planter.

The Pharisees in John 9 displayed attitudes that every mission minded Christian should be prepared to encounter and to be self- aware of lest they also find themselves reflecting them should they look in the mirror. James warned Christians to be, ‘doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in the mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he looks like.’ James 1.22-24

The Pharisees in John 9 were suspicious of Jesus and looking for ways to disprove and discredit Jesus’ act of mercy in healing the blind man. v 9.15 They were looking for reasons to accuse and confirm their superiority. This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath’ v9.16 They leapt to conclusions and made preemptive decisions. The parents of the healed man were afraid of the Pharisees because, ‘the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue,’ v 9.22 There were some who were more open minded, ‘others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs”? v16b However, they were either ignored or overridden. When faced with rational arguments they became intimidatory, vv22&24 abusive v28 and pronounced false reasons for superiority. v28 They finally took vindictive action in excommunicating the healed man with the intention of preventing others from becoming a disciple of Jesus.

In Saul of Tarsus we see an example of a proud zealous Pharisee being physically blinded to overcome his spiritual blindness. (Acts 9.3-9) Having been humbled, by the work of God within him, the Spirit continued to create a humble, faithful and highly loving example for ourselves.

If the Pharisees teach us that spiritual pride is a real danger, how can we guard against it?

Let Your Love Come Down – Noel and Tricia Richards



Touched by God        John 9.1-12

If we have experienced God touching our lives in a way that we could not explain in another way, how have we reacted? For some this may have been a dramatic healing where medical services were not involved. Other’s report a vision and this seems to particularly occur in the Islamic world. I cannot know your experience although I have listened to many personal accounts of various sorts. For a lot of people, they will not have personally experienced that form of God’s touch in their lives. They may have experienced God through a combination of other people ministering to them, from learning and reflection, from experience of life’s events and opportunities arising. Frequently God’s involvement in our lives takes us by surprise and may be initiated simply by what someone says to us unbidden.

The blind man in Chapter 9 probably started his day the same as all his others, preparing his begging bowl and finding his usual place at the road side. He may have heard rumours of Jesus but in this case, there is no record of him calling out. But his presence prompted a question from Jesus’ disciples that has often been asked and is still prevalent in common conversation. Many people casually attribute misfortune to previous sin by saying things like, ‘I must have been very bad some time before’. Somehow the disciples had gathered the man was born blind and asked Jesus if that was due to the man’s sin or his parents, falsely believing that God punishes people in this punitive way.

Jesus’ response was that the man had always been in God’s mind to be a sign. In his case not just a sign for him but for all. God was going to use him to testify to who Jesus was and what his mission in the world was. He was a living metaphor. John 9.3  The bigger picture would have not have been part of the man’s thinking even though it was in Jesus’ mind. We will return to the metaphor and sign on a later day, today we are thinking from the man’s perspective.

The next thing the man knew, Jesus was applying mud to his eyes made from saliva and earth. There was nothing supernatural about either, it was symbolic. Still blind he heard Jesus say go and wash in the Pool of Siloam. Jesus was using a play on words here, Siloam means sent and the man was being sent but Jesus was also sent by God the Father. At this point what the man did is crucial. He was obedient and went. He acted in faith, believing Jesus. He was the living definition of faith. Archaeologists identified this pool in 2004. The aqueduct leading to the pool was part of the major water system King Hezekiah developed in 2 Kings 20.20. (NIV Study Bible 2011)

He then had a journey home the like of which he would never have had before. I wonder how he found his way or whether he was accompanied by astonished people seeing everything for the first time. He must have been bubbling over with joy and thrilled by Jesus. He was first of all confronted by astonished neighbours scarcely believing he was the same man they knew as blind. John 9.8-10 He responded simply and honestly and gave a straight forward account. He is an excellent example of how we should speak about our experiences of God in our lives. John 9.11-12

We then see his faith develop and his resolve strengthen as he is subject to firstly questioning, then abuse and finally expulsion from the temple. His responses showed physical sight had been followed by a depth of spiritual sight that was beyond the Jewish leaders. I am reminded of Paul’s words to the Corinthians, Brothers and sisters, consider who you were when God called you to salvation. Not many of you were wise scholars by human standards, nor were many of you in positions of power. Not many of you were considered the elite when you answered God’s call.’ 1 Corinthians 1.26 This unnamed man is an amazing example to us all.

Have you given thanks for the first time you encountered Jesus?

Do you ask God for the strength of mind to openly, boldly tell your story?

Do you pray that God will reveal himself to people you know, opening blind eyes?

Light a Candle in the Darkness – Garth Hewitt



The Arrogance of Entitlement            John 8.39-59

They believed their ancestry set them apart and above others. They considered they had superior insight. They were a purer race. They had the right to forcibly impose their will on who they chose, up to and including killing whoever they thought opposed their will. They were confident that any behaviour was justified to ensure continued superiority and power. They rejected kindness as weakness and would truck no difference of opinion. Who could these people be and what type of state would they live in? Is it apartheid South Africa, Nazi Germany, North Korea, the Spanish Inquisition, Communist Rumania, European Colonial Powers? Is it possible that such attitudes could only have prevailed in the ancient past as humans have morally evolved and such attitudes are now universally abhorrent. Sadly, we know this is not true and that no society is immune from this type of influence because the human heart is inherently prone to what the Bible terms sin and this influences not just individuals but societies as a whole.

In fact, I am not meaning a contemporary group even though the listing could go on extensively.  I am speaking of the Jewish religious leaders who were the religious aristocracy and were more concerned with protecting their privileges and sense of entitlement than they were in discovering the fulfillment to their own historic prophecies. They claimed their ancestry set them apart and above others John 8.33 as descendants of Abraham. Jesus challenged them over their behaviour and understanding if they claimed to be the offspring of Abraham, making a spiritual distinction to their genetic one. ‘If you were Abraham’s children you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing the works your father did.’ John 8.29-41 Jesus was making the point that their conduct was the work of the devil not like Abraham who was the Father of faith and the promise of the Messiah. Jesus stood before them having been sent by God the Father, John 8.40 having given them a multitude of signs that he was from God through healing and their response was seeking to kill him. They saw mercy as weakness and were threatened by superior insight into the Old Testament scriptures.

At that point they resorted to what many supremacists do, they made sexual smears as a form of demeaning their enemy. ‘We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father – even God.’ John8.41 The Jewish leaders were trapped in their own dogma and had become incapable of accepting the truth, not for intellectual reasons but because spiritual rejection had hardened their hearts. Jesus words were, ‘If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.’ John 8.46-47

At this point they turned to three additional smears common to supremacists. Racial, spiritual and mental deficiencies. ‘The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon”?’ Jesus did not directly answer but countered with a crucial issue, whose glory does he seek. The Jewish leaders by implication were seeking their own, he was seeking the Fathers. By attacking him however they were attacking the Father. The bottom line is the true identity of Jesus, they were unable to recognize who Jesus was and is. Jesus could not deny his Father and now spoke plainly about his identity. Although the Jewish leaders claimed the Father as God they were unable to recognize his works. ‘It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, “He is our God”. But you have not known him. I know him.’ John 8.54-55 Jesus then openly confessed his divinity by using for himself the holy name of God. ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.’ John 8.58 


Have we searched ourselves to see if there are any spiritual or other forms of arrogance within us?

Does our own seeking after glory obstruct our vision of God’s glory?

Do we actively oppose all forms of supremacy within our society?

Jesus’ Name – Ryan Delmore



Gotta serve somebody.                          John 8.31-38

Let me ask you a question, Who do you serve? I can hear an answer, “I don’t serve anybody, I am a free person.” Freedom is still a huge issue. Modern western culture teaches us to aspire to independence, freedom and self-determination, the internal dialogue is, as long as it doesn’t harm anybody else satisfying myself is good. This frequently carries with it a naïve perspective about what constitutes harming others.

For a great deal of the world even political or freedom of thought and expression may be an aspiration that has little relation to reality. Consider the countries where blasphemy laws carry a death penalty, political opposition attracts prison, torture and possibly death. Economic oppression inflicts slavery on vast numbers, India the largest democracy in the world has an estimated 14 to 18 million slaves. (Wikipedia 21.10.18) A great deal of slavery is driven by the desire for cheap products to satisfy western freedom to pursue materialism with little thought of the hidden harm it is causing.

Freedom then remains a massive current issue and at the heart of it lies the heart, or core values of individuals.

John chapter 8 contains three huge statements by Jesus, they are so outspoken that as C.S Lewis said there can only be three alternatives, Jesus is either who he says he is – God, mad or bad. The statements are :


  • ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ v12
  • ‘If you abide in my word … you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ vv32,33
  • ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am. v58

When Jesus speaks of freedom he means freedom from the slavery of sin. All slavery arises in one way or another from people’s compulsion to sin, ‘everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.’ v34 No one is naturally free from that compulsion even if we do give in to the extremes of it. Denial of that is common even in the face of obvious evidence. The Jewish crowd said, ‘We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved.’ This is the nation that had been 400 years in slavery in Egypt, Northern Israel had been overrun by Assyria and the vast numbers deported as slaves throughout their empire and Judah had only relatively recently returned from enslavement in Babylon and they were currently living under the control of Rome. A feature of sin is to deny the truth of sin.

Jesus was promising liberation from the control of sin and the eternal consequences of sin. This is what he meant by, ‘If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed’ v36 Obedience to the word of God is the means by which we can live in his freedom. ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ vv31,32 God’s word, or scripture, is God’s means by which we are empowered to live as his disciples. The Spirit of God will use his word to guide us into his truth and that will bear fruit in our lives. ‘When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.’ John 16.13

Paul says, ‘For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.’ Galatians 5.13 James says, ‘Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.’ James 1.18Have you experience the reality that knowing Jesus and obeying his teaching is what delivers true freedom?

Do you spend time reading, reflecting and praying about God’s word so he can work out his freedom in you?

Bob Dylan – Gotta Serve Somebody



A blind mind                John 8.13-30

Heartbreak for many Christians is when those around them just do not see or even want to see why they trust in Jesus. The first half of John Chapter 8 is a dialogue with the Pharisees where Jesus has that same experience. The setting continues to be the Feast of Booths. Jesus has just said he is the light of the world and following him will lead people out of darkness into the light of life. The Pharisees continue to challenge Jesus as to the truth of what he says and who he is. This passage seems set in its time and difficult to relate to circumstances now, but if we read it alongside 2 Corinthians Chapter 4, it can help us understand Paul faced similar issues and how we should approach the same things.

Paul says he speaks openly and straight forwardly about the gospel and in that way appeals to people’s conscience. ‘We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.’ 2 Corinthians 4.3 This does not mean we should endlessly quote the bible at people using language they do not understand, or shout at them from a distance. However, we should be clear about what the bible says and simply seek to explain it in terms that will be readily understood. Paul goes on to say those who do not grasp who Jesus is and understand the message have had their minds blinded by the god of this world. 2 Corinthians 4.4 Paul is being clear here, this is not just an intellectual acceptance or rejection, spiritual conflict is involved. This is the point at which there is a direct application for the contemporary Christian. Those who reject Jesus have had their minds blinded, ‘to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.’ 2 Corinthians 4.4

Prayer and loving openness about our faith then becomes the most important things we can do if we are heartbroken for those around us. That raises the question, how persistent and serious are we? Paul was clear he was weak. He described himself as a jar of clay, broken and weak, sharing in the death of Jesus but within him was the life of Jesus and the surpassing power of God. 2 Corinthians 4.7-10 

Jesus was challenged by the Pharisees that unless he could produce collaborating witnesses to who he said he was then he could not be believed. This was a distortion of the Mosaic law which was designed to protect people from false allegations of criminal activity. Jesus answered, ‘My testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one.’ John 8.14-15 Jesus later said to the Pharisees, ‘You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.’ John 8.23,24 Jesus was saying what Paul said, that the god of this world had blinded their minds to who he was.

In response to their accusations of collaborating witnesses as to his identity, Jesus had answered that only he and God the Father could and did testify to that because as he was from heaven only they were in a position to do so. John 8.14 and John 8.19 Jesus then went on to say that he limited his words to those the Father gave him to say and should be trusted because God the Father was not a fickle god as people believed their local gods to be but completely good and truthful.

Did that mean there was no hope for the Pharisees and other people who do not recognize Jesus for who he is? It did not. Jesus then pointed forward to his death on the cross and said following his crucifixion people will recognize him and understand. John 8.28-29 At this stage this message was in veiled terms but many Pharisees did finally recognize who Jesus was following his death, resurrection, ascension and Pentecost. Similarly, it is our role as a church to point people to Jesus’ atoning death and resurrection providing the evidence for its truth. Just as Jesus said, ‘And he who sent me is with me.’ John 8.29 so He has given the Holy Spirit to be with us.

Are you praying that blinded minds will see Jesus?

Do you believe you are a clay jar, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God? 2 Corinthians 4.7

At The Cross – Chris Tomlin



Light up the world.            John 8.12

There are some personalities that are said to transform a room when they enter it. There is something about them that is said to light up the room. Princess Diana was reportedly one of those. Despite her aristocratic, privileged, flawed and troubled life she became known as the Princess of the People. What made the difference was not just her status and beauty it was the way she communicated some of her inner self. She revealed her vulnerability through supporting mental health causes that she had experienced. She touched people that others might shy away from, famously those suffering with AIDs at a time of great prejudice. A patron of over 100 charities, above all Princess Diana had the capacity to relate to all types of people the world over. It was reported, people felt understood and cared for. In that sense she could light up a room.

Is that what is meant when Jesus said I am the light of the world? Not really, but there is a hint of it. When Jesus made that claim to the Jewish authorities and crowd at the Feast of Booths he was making a statement about his identity, his authority, his character and the impact he will have on people’s lives. His statement, “I am the light of the world” took place as part of the Festival of the Booths and therefore closely followed Jesus promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit when he said, ‘Whoever believes in me, … out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ John 7.38 Just as when Jesus used the libation ceremony to illustrate that pronouncement so here he linked himself to the lighting of candelabra in the Court of Women to signify the pillar of fire. That was God’s presence leading the Israelites at night, in the dark, through the wilderness. He was saying, I am the pillar of fire that is God, follow me. The significance would not have gone unnoticed by the people or the Jewish authorities and it enraged the Pharisees. John 8.13

John in the opening of his gospel made the connection between Jesus being the creator of life and it was Jesus’ life that was the light of men. John 1.4 Jesus’ identity was divine and his authority came from being the source of all life. But more than that, the metaphor of light relates to character. His way is the way to living life with purpose and goodness that is pleasing to and honours God. Following Jesus’ light keeps us on the path, wandering off the path leads to darkness and being lost.

These are simple messages. Their authenticity is rooted in who Jesus is. When in darkness we are attracted to the light. Can we make this our prayer for ourselves as we follow his path and our prayer for others who might still be stumbling in darkness.

Light Of The World – Lauren Daigle



Shout out and cause a stir!     John 7.37-39

For Jesus it was a matter of picking his moment and the moment was the last day of the Feast of Booths. A big crowd was in, everyone was focused on remembering how God had saved and protected their ancestors in the wilderness. Everyone was aware of the Mosaic Law and God’s command that they should live for seven days in temporary shelters. Leviticus 23.42 Religious interest was heightened and Jesus was the talk of the town. The tradition was that that the central event was a water libation, a pouring out of water probably performed by the High Priest. Against this backdrop and excitement Jesus raises his voice and shouts ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me as the Scripture said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water”.’ John7.27,38

With these words Jesus connects himself to God’s saving work in the desert and God’s blessing in the future. The shock would have been palpable dividing the opinion of the crowd. John 7.40,41 Jesus was associating himself with the rock Moses struck to provide life giving water to a thirsty and complaining nation. Exodus 17.5-7 Throughout the Old and New Testament a flowing river is used as imagery for the life giving Holy Spirit. Paul makes the same connection saying the manna in the desert and the water from the rock at Horeb were foretelling Jesus as the source of the bread and water of life. ‘All ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.’ 1 Corinthians 10.3,4

Jesus followed up his declaration as the source of the Holy Spirit with a promise none would have understood, the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. ‘Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.’ John 7.39

Jesus was asserting to the crowd that he was the fulfilment of a succession of Old Testament Prophecies. When he said Scripture said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’ John 7.38 Jesus was not quoting a specific verse he was rather conflating a range of references and promises. Isaiah promised, ‘With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. Isaiah 12.3 Isaiah also promises spiritual blessing for the poor and needy a constant theme of Jesus’ teaching, ‘Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!’ Isaiah 51.1 The promise is for the spiritual as well as physically thirsty.

Jesus and Isaiah are making the same point. To be satisfied, restored and renewed by the Holy Spirit one must desire it and come with nothing, deserving nothing. The only way is as Jesus said, to believe. ‘Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture says.’ John 7.38 When Jesus shouted these words the Pharisees and Jewish leaders would have been aware as experts in the scriptures of Jeremiah’s prophesy against Judah’s rulers just prior to Babylon’s conquest of Jerusalem. ‘O Lord, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you shall be put to shame; those who turn away from you shall be written in the earth, for they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living water.’ Jeremiah 17.13 Jesus was saying to the rulers, rejecting him was rejecting the source of the Holy Spirit. He was the fountain of living water.

In the third of the great prophetic books, Ezekiel pictured spiritual flourishing, or life in the Spirit, as abundant life in a river running into the sea bring life wherever it flows. ‘And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. Ezekiel 49.9

 Finally, the Old and New Testament equally confirm the cleansing of living water. Just as the water ceremony is being conducted in the temple, Jesus says receive living water from faith in him. Ezekiel promises God will sprinkle clean water on his faithful people and cleanse them from all unrighteousness. Ezekiel 36.25 Hebrews makes the same promise to believers in Jesus, ‘Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10.22

How does this apply to us today? The promises are open to us and the way to receiving the living water, the Holy Spirit, continues to be open to all who believe in him. Peter’s words still apply, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’ Acts 2.38

Have you taken up the promise of Jesus made to the woman of Samaria? ‘Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ John 4.14

Spirit of the Living God



Bucks Fizz                               John 7.28-52

Don’t let your indecision; Take you from behind; Trust your inner vision; Don’t let others change your mind. Words from Bucks Fizz European Song Contest win in 1981. A great quiz question, Can you name the five UK winners of the European Song Contest? The Bucks Fizz song, “Making your mind up,” was about that time when one struggles with making a decision about which man or woman one is going to end up with for life. It was kind of cute at the time. Most of us though, have gone through that period of indecision even if the end point was nobody. Similarly, before someone becomes confident to make a decision to become a Christian, or to put it another way put their trust in Jesus, there is a period of indecision. We ask the same sort of questions as the Bucks Fizz song.

The church has a responsibility to take this period of seeking seriously. In today’s passage we see a crowd unsure, asking questions, a period of indecision leading to inaction and competing voices. We also see Jesus resolutely continuing his journey to the cross but also taking time to explain who he is and where he came from. The latter was the important question of the day, where did he come from? This is because the Old Testament prophecies made clear the Christ was to come from Bethlehem and many in the crowd knew Jesus came from Galilee. This in part is why Matthew’s gospel, written initially for a Jewish audience, makes clear Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Matthew 2.1

In the mash up of contrary comments, questions and accusations, Jesus makes some fundamental points and these remain as important steps to faith. John 7.29,29 Jesus was sent by God the Father. We may not immediately grasp that was what was meant by, ‘I have not come of my own accord. He who sent me is true, and him you do not know. I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.’ However, the crowd at the time knew and the Pharisees knew, provoking them to send the temple police to arrest him. John 7.32 It is a basic piece of understanding that is essential for someone to accept as they are seeking if they are to trust in Jesus. Jesus was sent by God the Father and God the Father can be trusted because he is true.

Jesus’ authority comes from the intimacy of the relationship within the Trinity. He is eternal truth. Our role as a church is to introduce people to Jesus, patiently, lovingly. His character will convince many. Jesus says many things that people will find hard to understand as when he said, ‘You will seek me and you will not find me. Where I am you cannot come.’ John 7.34 He was referring to his return to glory following his resurrection an experience those rejecting him cannot share. But there will be others who on hearing Jesus’ words will say, ‘This really is the Prophet … This is the Christ.’ John 7.41,42 But they cannot do that unless they hear the words of Jesus and that responsibility is ours to provide.

I have probably quoted David, my neighbour in halls of residence at teacher training college, before. After a period of questioning about Christ one evening he came to my room and said he had become a Christian. I asked how and why. He replied that he had just started reading Matthew’s gospel from the beginning and after he finished Chapter 5 he was convinced that Jesus was the Christ. He had heard the words of Jesus and believed as in John 7.31. The Temple Police or as some translations call them, soldiers, found themselves in a difficult place. Ordered to arrest Jesus when they actually met and listened to him found they could not do that. ‘No one ever spoke like this man!’, they said. Meeting Jesus and being convinced by him can create problems for people including life changing threats. We do not know what happened to these individuals.

Nicodemus was a man on a journey to faith. He now faced ostracism from the powerful Pharisee leadership when he argued for a fair hearing for Jesus. John 2.50-52 The Pharisees were reflecting the current bias against Galileans or misrepresenting facts. Jonah came from Galilee and quite probably both Elijah and Nahum. However, Nicodemus had already met with Jesus and was profoundly affected by his words and presence.

How do we as a church enable people to search for meaning?

How sensitive are we to the conflicts people have as seekers?

How clear are we about the evidences for Jesus being the Christ?

Bucks Fizz – Making Your Mind Up – (Just for fun)



Loving Rumours – Missing Truth                 John 7.10-24

 Sifting truth out of rumours has become one of the biggest issues of modern life but chapter 7 tells us that this is no new phenomena. We are more prone to pay attention to rumours in areas that highly concern us. I feel I must confess here, I read every day the football gossip, which mainly concerns rumours of players’ transfers, of which probably less than 1% actually take place. I am not alone in a fascination with rumours in my area of interest. Just as most reading this will not understand why I spend time on such a fruitless exercise, (I realise I have no good defense over this.) others in large numbers follow all rumours regarding the Royal Family. I know this as I get almost daily, e-news from the magazine Good Housekeeping, (don’t ask why) who are obsessed with every microscopic detail of their lives. None of this has great consequence, however it all becomes much more serious when the rumours are about matters that directly impact the future of people and nations. Hence the concern about political interference by foreign powers through social media in general elections. A vital skill for all then is the ability to develop discernment in matters of consequence.

In this extended section of John’s gospel, in which Chapter 7 is central, we see confusion and hostility growing in the mass population and amongst the leadership, along with a fascination with Jesus and a desire for truth, healing and a new beginning. In Chapter 6 Jesus laid claim to being the Messiah the Israelites had been waiting for and to whom the Old Testament festivals were a signpost. However, he was not the type of Rescuer they imagined or wanted and so they grumbled. Jesus exposes the nature of the hearts and motives of the people and the religious leadership. The Spirit of Christ continues to do that today, and it provokes a range of reactions, frequently hostile. Truth is often at least initially uncomfortable.

The atmosphere in Jerusalem was toxic. People felt they had to be very careful about what they said regarding Jesus, for fear of reprisals by the authorities. ‘`Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him.’ John 7.13 The religious leadership was trying to control the narrative. Opinions amongst the people were divided, some said he was a good man, others he was misguided and this opinion was actively promoted by the Jewish leadership. John 7.12 Everybody either misunderstood or disbelieved both the signs and Jesus’ words. They were however perplexed by Jesus’ authority, John 7.15 especially the Jewish leaders as Jesus had not been trained in their orthodoxy. Jesus’ response is that his authority is directly received from the Father and the evidence of that is that he does not seek to glorify himself but instead seeks to glorify the Father who sent him. Jesus then gives us insight into how to be discerning. Firstly our desire should be to do the will of God the Father. ‘If anyone’s will is to do God’s will he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.’ John 7.17 Secondly if the speaker is self-promoting they are not to be trusted. ‘The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true and in him there is no falsehood. John 7.18 An important test of the rhetoric is the character of the speaker.

Jesus then exposes how the Jewish leaders have distorted the application of the law and by doing so have not understood how the Father’s will is for the healing of the whole person. The Jewish leaders would circumcise a child on the Sabbath if it fell on the eighth day according to Mosaic law despite their over rigorous application of the no work on the Sabbath rule. However, when Jesus healed the whole body of the man at the well in Chapter 6 they condemned him. John 7.21-24 The Spirit is able to use greater discernment when we are seeking to understand the Father’s will. As Jesus said, ‘Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgement.’ john 7.24

Do we seek to understand the message of the whole of the bible when reading a small section to enable us to have right judgement?

How much do we apply biblical understanding to life decisions?

In our decision making are we firstly seeking the glory of God ?

Raise A Hallelujah – Unlimited: Live Worship from Spring Harvest 2019  (Try turning the volume up)



God – Is this the right time?          John 7.1-10

Have you ever worried about whether it is the right time to do an important something? So much of our life can be consumed by these concerns. Should I take a gap year now would have been a big question for 18 year olds as they waited for the A level results. Is it the right time to commit to life-long marriage, even when should I pop the question? At the other end of life, is it the right time to move into supported living? In terms of Christian service when should I take on leading a youth group, volunteering in an outreach programme, perhaps apply for missionary training. Is going for the next promotion really the thing to do or does God want me where I am?

Does the Jesus disciple have a different perspective about timing in life to the rest of the world? A disciple learns from his teacher. So how did Jesus approach his timing?

Jesus was remaining in Galilee even though it was the Feast of Booths, otherwise known as the Festival of Tabernacles. The Feast of Booths took place each year in September/October. It is named as such because people lived in outdoor shelters to remember God’s faithfulness to Israel during the time spent in the wilderness following their escape from Egypt. Deuteronomy 16.13-15 It was a time of great joy and centred on the Temple in Jerusalem in Judea.

Jesus’ brothers, that is younger sons of Joseph and Mary, wanted to go up and join in the celebrations. They urged Jesus to go with them but the reasons they gave arose from a misunderstanding and skepticism of Jesus identity and calling. John 7.5 It wasn’t until after Jesus resurrection that we have evidence of the brothers’ faith in Jesus. Acts 1.14 They argued that if Jesus wanted to promote himself he needed to go where the action was and do his stuff there. They thought that Jesus’ motivation was self-promotion, much as one expects a secular opposition leader to be like.

Jesus however was motivated by obedience to the Father. He taught what his Father taught him, ‘My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.’ John 7.16 He was obedient to the mission given to him by his Father, ‘I have not come of my own accord. He who sent me is true, and him you do not know. I know him, for I come from him and he sent me.’ John 7.28,29 Jesus did go to the Feast of Booths, but some days later. He didn’t go to attract attention but quietly. John 7.10 He knew the timing was not correct and the day when he was to suffer was still some time off. The end goal of course was to bring salvation for all who believed and glory to the Father, but this had to be in the Father’s time and it had to be through humiliating suffering and not an easy path.

What then as disciples can we learn about the timing of important decisions? To make godly decisions we need to spend time being close to God as Jesus was. That means time in bible reflection and prayer. We need to align our motivations to those of Jesus that did not seek self-promotion for the sake of it. There will be times when it is better to wait, God has other plans. Our decisions should not always fit the wider world view of how we should behave, in this account expressed by Jesus’ brothers. There are times when the quiet way is God’s way.

Do you have an important decision pending?

Have you considered it in terms of God’s purposes for your life?

Is the advice you are receiving coming from a Godly perspective?

The Way – Pat Barrett




The Hostile Environment         John 7.1

‘After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him.’ John 7.1


When John refers to the ‘Jews” he is not making an anti-semitic statement, after all both Jesus and John were Jews. He was referring to the Jewish religious leadership. It was they who were plotting to have him killed. Jesus was ready for the final show down, there was still teaching to do, preparation of his disciples to undertake and signs to perform. Jesus was entirely obedient to his Father’s will. As he said to the Jewish leaders, ‘I have not come of my own accord. He who sent me is true, and him you do not know. I know him, for I come from him and he sent me.’ John 7.28,29


Jesus was living in a hostile environment created by the political and religious leaders of the day. The environment was so hostile it threatened and eventually took his life. Is it shocking to you that for vast numbers of disciples of Jesus 2000 years later it is still a hostile environment created by the political and religious leaders? Do we think that this is only something that takes place in distant countries and therefore we may occasionally pray but it isn’t something that is close to home. When Jesus told his disciples, If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?’ Was he establishing a general principle, possibly literally applicable then, but not meant in such stark terms in western Europe in the 21st Century?


When the UK government officially took the stance that they were creating a hostile environment towards asylum seekers included in that policy were large numbers of Christians fleeing threats to their lives as Jesus fled the swords of Herod’s soldiers. In conversation with and accompanying asylum seekers to their solicitors I have listened to their traumatised accounts of life in their country of origin and their journey to a country they believed was compassionate. The process though from the asylum seekers perspective is usually lengthy, difficult to understand, frightening and when faced by the complexity of our legal system and highly paid barristers, instructed to find every legal reason to oppose their claim, it is difficult for it not to feel hostile. Sadly, for many regardless of the legally proven outcome, if claimants are sent to their country of origin they will face imprisonment for their faith, potentially torture or even death.


In conversation with an Iranian Christian he explained that Christians who met in underground churches were often ‘disappeared’. He had been reported to the secret police by a family member who found a bible in his car. He left the country just before his family home was raided in search of him. Another Iranian woman explained she fled the country after she witnessed from further down the street her church meeting being raided and all those there taken off to prison. Why should we care? Simply, they are our family. It is our brothers and sisters living in the hostile environment.


The issue of a hostile environment is not just an issue about migration. The UK church has often been guilty of creating a hostile environment for its own through abuse conducted under the protection of the church. This week a report is being published that shows that survivors of abuse within the church have been subject to a double dose of abuse. In addition to the original abuse, the way in which the leadership and structures of the church, from Bishop level onwards, including solicitors working on behalf of the church, have conducted their investigations has grossly added to survivors’ suffering.


Whistle blowers in the church institutions are no more welcome than they are in business and governmental departments. We have in our Lord Jesus a God, Saviour and High Priest who fully understands the path of suffering and the experience of living in a hostile environment.


Are we able to learn from Jesus’ own experience?


What have we to learn from those who suffer for their love of Jesus?


How can we protect the weak within our church?


Search Me, O God – Jeharna South






Is grumbling that bad?                  John 6.41-43, 61.

Are you a grumbler? If not, I bet you know someone who is. Come on, what is it that gets you going? Is it other people’s failings? The absolute fact that life isn’t fair? That people in power cannot be trusted? Perhaps it is because you cannot stand it when someone claims to be what you are certain they are not.

Probably most of us have a grumble at some time or another. Why is it then that the bible takes grumbling so seriously? To understand we need to ask who is being grumbled about and who is doing the grumbling, why people are grumbling and what they are grumbling about. Biblically grumbling can be a dangerous thing to do. Paul summarized a number of incidents during the Exodus where the people of God complained, grumbled and rebelled against God in 1 Corinthians 10.1-9 as a warning to the church. The ancient Israelites’ complaints and lack of respect for God’s holiness and awesome authority, in addition to all that God had done for them, led to them setting their hearts on evil things. 1 Corinthians 10.6 Their grumbling led to idolatry, sexual immorality and various forms of rebellion that brought on them God’s judgement. Who then were doing the grumbling, it was the people of God. Who was being grumbled about it, it was God himself. Why were they grumbling, it was because they did not like the means by which God was providing for their freedom. In the case of the Exodus, it was the journey to freedom from 400 years of slavery and to the promise of a land of their own. They did not recognize their own culpability in prolonging their time in the wilderness through their own lack of faith.

Paul makes clear that the people of Israel were testing Christ when they opposed Moses as God’s prophet and agent in the wilderness. ‘We should not test Christ, as some of them did – and were destroyed by snakes. And do not grumble , as some of them did – and were killed by the destroying angel.’ 1 Corinthians 10.9-10  Paul adds the warning that the church through grumbling against God when times are difficult is liable to fall into the same sin as the Israelites in the wilderness.

When Jesus said to the crowd who were grumbling about what Jesus had just said, ‘Stop grumbling among yourselves,’ John6.43 he was also addressing the historical people of God. Despite the signs Jesus had given them as to his identity as the Son of God they could not accept his teaching. They were stuck in the knowledge of who his human mother and father were and could not see the spiritual truth. The crowd were not able to discern that Jesus was fulfilling God’s promise of direct, personal, divine teaching prophesied in Isaiah 54.13. ‘All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace your children.’  The demand that they believe in him and understand the sacrifice he was going to make was too difficult for them to accept and many left, missing out on God the Father’s promise. Jesus called on them to remember their own spiritual history and understand how God the Father’s provision of manna in the wilderness was in itself foretelling his coming. John 6.55-58 Even Jesus’ immediate disciples found this a hard teaching and themselves joined in with the grumbling. John 6.60-61 However despite their difficulty in understanding and temptation to leave with the majority of the crowd, the Spirit convicted them of the authenticity of Jesus. Peter answered for them when challenged by Jesus. ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.’ John 6.68 We see in Peter’s reply the impact of what Jesus had said to them in their time of temptation to reject him, ‘The words I have spoken to you – they are full of the Spirit and life.’ John 6.63


Is there any aspect of our calling that we are prone to grumble about?

Do we recognize Jesus lordship over all of our lives?

Jesus is Lord



The Father’s will       –  John 6.37-40

There is a long standing false debate in Christian circles where some say who is saved is by God’s choice alone and others say it is up to the individual to make their personal choice as to whether to believe in Christ. It is my view, both sides in this argument do not take into account the whole of scripture. Jesus’ discourse in John 6 is helpful in making clear various responsibilities or roles that the Trinity and individuals have in the salvation process.

D L Moody was an initially unlikely nineteenth century evangelist who started adult life working in his Uncle’s shoe store and was a very reluctant church attender. However, he did become a Christian and then became a remarkable evangelist and along with his famous gospel singing collaborator Ira D. Sankey, toured the U.S. and U.K. for many years, speaking to huge crowds. Among his many accomplishments he founded what is now known as the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. He used this illustration to show the differing perspectives of God and the seeker after God.

‘When you are saved, it’s as if you walk through a door with a sign over it saying, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” You walk through the door and when you look back, you see on the other side of the door the words, “Before the creation of the world I knew you.” (D. L. Moody)

Salvation is by God the Father’s will. Jesus said, ‘All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.’ John6.37 He also said, ‘For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.’ John 6.40 So we see that the Father wills, draws and gives eternal life.

How does the Father draw people and give eternal life? He does this through the work of the Holy Spirit. ‘The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you – they are full of the Spirit and life.’ John 6.63 The Holy Spirit uses the words of Jesus and the gospel to convict people of the truth of Christ. We see in the Acts of the Apostles how the Holy Spirit both inspires and convicts people revealing Christ and transforming lives. It is important to understand that when Jesus says, ‘the flesh counts for nothing’ it is not meant as the Gnostics interpreted it. The Gnostics considered the body and the material world were evil and only the spirit was good. John’s first letter was written in part to refute the early development of what became Gnosticism. Jesus had a physical resurrection body as will those raised to be with him on the last day.

The Son (Jesus) firstly is obedient to the Father and so achieves what is the Father’s will. ‘I come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.’ John 6.38 His role is to save, keep and raise up those who believe in the Son. John 6.39-40 Jesus achieves the reconciliation between God and people through his own death and resurrection. He expresses this through the metaphor of people eating his flesh and drinking his blood. There is no indication of this being transubstantiation, throughout the discourse he has been using the image of himself being the bread of life. Eating is believing, the blood is representing the sacrifices for sin in the Mosaic law. Without that belief there is no gift of life. ‘Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you”.’ John 6.53

Jesus words, ‘that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day’ John 6.40 convey the notion that firstly it is the individual’s responsibility to recognize Jesus for who he is. However, it is more than an intellectual responsibility, belief also includes personal commitment and trust.


“Come to (him), and you will never thirst, never hunger, always be fully and eternally satisfied.” When this week will you most need to remember this?

The Old Rugged Cross – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CltrLsjsQl0


The Gift             John 6.30-36

Giving they say is one of the love languages and it is true that gifts are usually associated with the most significant moments in our lives. I wonder what gift you treasure the most. For me it must be my wedding ring because of the love and commitment associated with it. In an important sense the ring represents the gift of life together. Other gifts actually bring life such as the gift of a transplant. Similarly, for those dying from famine the gift of food and water is also the gift of life. To the extent that some gifts prevent life threatening disease they also are a gift of life, I am thinking of such gifts as toilet twinning or water pumps and mosquito nets. When we join in with schemes, frequently at Christmas time, run by Charities such as TEARFUND or OXFAM to buy a gift card that will buy a water sanitary kit or even school books for a child, we are in a sense giving life.

The people of Israel were in need of such a gift in the wilderness. They were refugees from Egypt with no settled place of their own, unwanted by surrounding nations. To go back was to go back to slavery, punishment and for many death. They had no food. The people then constructed a false reality where they reimagined their slavery as the good life. ‘There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted,’ Exodus 16.3 they said. ‘Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day”.’ Exodus 16.4

The crowd asked Jesus for a sign, ‘that you will give that we may see it and believe you.’ John 6.30 The irony being that they had just witnessed the sign themselves and not recognized it. The crowd quoted Moses and the gift of manna. Jesus then corrected their thinking, ‘It is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread and gives life to the world.’ John 6.32,33

The crowd wanted a gift, they wanted food to sustain their life, but their thoughts were limited to a life that would end. The gift that Jesus wanted to give was eternal life and that is only received as a gift. He is that gift of life. The bread of life and the water of life are metaphors for eternal life. As he goes on in Chapter 6 to elaborate how he is the bread of life and the gift of eternal life he states again, ‘I tell you the one who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life.’ John 6.47,48  

To avoid any potential confusion, Jesus does not mean it is wrong to work for your living and provide for oneself, family and dependents, far from it. The bible is clear we have a responsibility to work and contribute. 2 Thessalonians 3.10-12 Here Jesus is urging the crowd to receive the greater gift of eternal life that is only received as a gift through faith. We are incapable of earning it.

Have we received the gift of eternal life through faith?

Do we take regular time to be thankful for the gift of eternal life?

How has the gift of eternal life, reoriented our priorities?

Jesus Christ / eternal life



Was my life worthwhile?                                  John 6.24-29


When Harry was 18 he left home to go to college and was suddenly faced with a whole set of questions most of which had little to do with study and much more to do with navigating life. Questions about friendship and intimate relationships, managing money and time, what to do socially. Then deeper questions came into view about what type of person should he be? How much should he swear? How much should he smoke or drink?  Was there a purpose to drive his life or will it just happen? When Harry left college he was then faced with career decisions, buying a house, wanting to find a life partner and then having made those first decisions there was the question, was that enough? Harry remained in good health and looked forward to retirement when he could do what he pleased. He looked back over the previous 40 years and along the way he had enjoyed his marriage, children and now grandchildren, was that enough? When Harry was alone, away from the all-consuming every day activity, he knew, that lovely as much of his life had been in the end there remained big gaps when the answer to his question as an 18 year old, was there a purpose to his life or will it just happen, had not been responded to and he was still avoiding it.

The crowd that followed Jesus from one side of the Sea of Galilee to the other and back again were the equivalent to 1st century Harrys. There life was taken up with questions concerning the everyday. Jesus addressed their deeper need through the everyday. He knew that they had seen signs, especially the miraculous feeding of the crowd, about who he is and the purpose of life but failed to understand them. Life for them was generally hard and feeding the family was pretty much top priority. Jesus wanted so much more for them.

Jesus answered, ‘Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.’ John 6.26,27

Everything they had in life they had to work hard for and the crowd then took the Jesus statement to work for food that does not spoil as a set of things to do to earn eternal life. They lived in a culture where you only got what you worked for and their religion was largely a set of onerous rules to be obeyed. Jesus redefined for them what the work involved. ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent’ John 6.29

Can that really be true? It still goes against the grain doesn’t it? We still live in a culture where we strive for a purposeful life. Jesus is being very clear, the start of a truly purposeful life as defined by God is to believe in the one God sent, Jesus.

That was such a difficult lesson for the crowd and hard to accept. It remains so now. To accept it one needs to hear the love with which the words were said and realise that the one saying it was soon to give his life for the crowd he was speaking to.

Where are we looking to give purpose to our lives?




Being in the presence           John 6.15-21

In these six verses we see two examples of being in the presence of God. The first is Jesus who went up the mountain to pray and the second is when Jesus met the disciples in the stormy sea.

Jesus did not miss out on spending time in prayer and fellowship with his Father. At the beginning of the chapter Jesus had crossed to the east side of the Sea of Galilee with his disciples to find time to pray. This had been interrupted by a huge crowd seeking him and he then spent an exhausting day teaching, healing and finally feeding the crowd. He then withdrew on his own. His disciples had lost track of him. He went back up the mountain and stayed alone except for being in the presence of God through the evening and on into the night. This was not a one off, there are frequent references to Jesus spending time like this with his disciples and alone. At times he behaved in this way before a major event, prior to choosing his twelve disciples, Luke 6.12 before Peter’s profession of faith Luke 9.18 and before the transfiguration. Luke 9.28 Perhaps the times of greatest significance and recorded in the most detail were following his baptism Matthew 4.1-11 and on the eve of his crucifixion. Matthew 26.36-46  However, Jesus did not leave times of sustained prayer to times of greatest need, prayer to him was a necessity of life not to be postponed. Luke tells us that Jesus, ‘often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.’ Like 5.16 Jesus provides the ultimate example of choosing to spend time in the presence of God. He also needed those times to be uninterrupted and so found places where he could be quiet.  It was to him as great a need as food, drink and sleep.  Jesus did not let the business and urgency of the day crowd out quiet time. He normally chose to rise earlier or spend time at the end of the day to be with his Father.

The disciples having lost Jesus made the decision to row the six miles back across the Sea of Galilee even though it was going to take them well into the night to achieve it. Over half way across they hit trouble with high waves and strong winds.  They were not fools, some were experienced sailors on the Galilean Sea, they knew they were at serious risk. At that point Jesus came alongside walking on the turbulent sea. Now they were more afraid from seeing Jesus walking on the water than they were of the stormy sea.

The importance of this event is not that this was simply an amazing feat, it lies much more in what it says about the identity of Jesus and the significance of the words Jesus spoke. Jesus in walking on the sea demonstrates that he is the Lord of all the natural world because he is the creator and sustainer of the world and beyond that the universe. When we are in his presence, this is who he is. How does that relate to the troubles we find ourselves in? Jesus reassures his disciples with the words, ‘It is I; don’t be afraid.’ John 6.20 This was not a carelessly chosen phrase. Jesus deliberately chose to say ‘It is I’ to remind them of Exodus 3.14 where God said to Moses when the people ask you who sent you, say to them ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ When Jesus said these words to the disciples he was preparing them for the time when he answered Jewish leaders with the words, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.’

The impact of Jesus’ presence was that the disciples calmed down and welcomed him into the boat and they immediately reached their destination. John 6.21

What kind of King is this, the great ‘I AM’? “He is far greater than we can imagine, and his claim upon our lives is more significant than our tendency to domesticate God so often allows.” Josh Moody, John 1-12 For You


Do we make time and space within each day as Jesus did for spending that valuable time in the presence of God?

Do we allow the storms of our lives to triumph over the scale of the majesty of Jesus?

Here In Your Presence – New Life Worship


Feeding a crowd – What’s that about?            John 6.1-15

If you have taken the step to active belief in Jesus and as they say committed your life to him, how did you reach that point. It is typical that such a personal journey can be complicated although not for everybody. Listening to people’s personal stories is a helpful process when planning how a church should reach out with the good news of Jesus. It rapidly becomes evident that individual journeys are frequently very different and what made the greatest impact also varies greatly. Misunderstanding and changing motivations are common features. We can draw comfort that even the way people reacted to Jesus and his teaching was a complicated picture.

Jesus had been attracting large crowds despite opposition from the authorities. As it neared the Passover festival the general level of anticipation would have risen because it was at Passover time people expected God to act. Jesus chose to cross the Sea of Galilee, we know from the other gospels that Jesus wanted a quiet place to pray and be with his closest disciples. However, a great crowd followed him. Their motivation was simple, they had seen him perform miraculous signs especially healing the sick. This was incredibly important as medical knowledge was very limited and there were a huge number of ailments and disabilities for which there was no treatment. The crowd were not foremost interested in his teaching.

Jesus and his disciples had climbed a mountain, probably the Golan Heights, and could see the crowd coming from a long way away. Luke tells us, ‘he welcomed them, and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed to be cured.’ Luke 9.11 Jesus then did not turn away the opportunity to both meet people’s physical needs or teach them about the kingdom of God. He was prepared to stop what he had wanted to do to put others’ needs first. This alone is a serious challenge for all of us and the church in general.

Secondly, he did not hesitate to teach about the kingdom of God even though that was not the main reason people came to him. There would have been those who did seriously desire to hear Jesus teaching amongst the crowd but Jesus did not discriminate. He healed all and he taught all. As churches it is easy to appear as if we are only interested in people if they accept what we have to say even if that is not how we feel.

Jesus questioned Philip about how they were going to feed the crowd as a test. John doesn’t say what Jesus was testing but Jesus was about to perform a sign. John 6.14 By miraculously feeding a vast crowd Jesus was providing a sign as to who he is. The connections to God’s provision for Israel in the desert, the provision of meat in Numbers 11 and Manna in Exodus 16 were there for all to see, only God could do this. The test for Philip then could well have been, how much did he understand of Jesus’ identity?

Once Jesus had fed the crowd and they themselves had participated and had time to absorb what was happening, a change occurred in their understanding. It was not a complete grasp of the truth regarding Jesus but they did understand that what they had seen was in the same category as had been performed through the great prophets of the past. John 6.14

They responded by wanting him to be their political ruler, a king, a rebel leader against Herod and the Romans. They had translated the sign of Jesus’ divinity and concern with the eternal as well as the temporal into a political movement. The crowd had shifted its understanding and interest, grasping that Jesus was from God but not understanding the implications as yet.

Does this mean that what Jesus did that day was not worthwhile and members of the crowd had missed out on promised salvation? No to both those questions, what was happening was an evolving message. Jesus later in the chapter follows up the feeding of the five thousand with teaching that he is the bread of life, making the links between the miracle, his identity and his salvation ministry. In the middle of that teaching Jesus repeats the salvation message of John 3 and John 5, ‘For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.’ John 6.40 What is building here through the gospel of John is a connected account with significant signposting events that establish the evidence of Jesus’ identity, purpose and accomplishments along with how the people of the time and we should relate to him.

Equally the church should allow for and be sensitive to the stepped approach many take to faith.

What are the misunderstandings that confuse people about who Jesus is?

How should the church help people on their journey to faith?

Do we show the same flexibility as Jesus did to people’s needs even when it causes a change to our plans?

Lift Him Up, Lift Him High – Dave Bilbrough



Do you solemnly swear … ?                John 5. 28-47


‘A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established.’ Deuteronomy 19.15

In the record at the end of John 5 Jesus applies the principle in Mosaic law of accusations being supported by two or three witnesses. Jesus uses it again in Mathew 18.16 when teaching about how to settle disputes between his followers and Paul also does so in 2 Corinthians 13.1 when he warns them about his coming to settle disputes. ‘This is the third time I am coming to you. Every charge must be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.’ The Jewish leaders accuse Jesus in the name of Moses and Jesus turns it back on them. ‘There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would have believed me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words.’ John 5.45-47

On the question of belief, a misunderstanding can occur when Jesus was claiming he has the authority to execute judgement on the final day as the dead are raised. ‘And he (the Father) has given him (Jesus) authority to execute judgement, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of Judgement.’ John 5.27-29

 This passage in isolation can be read as salvation or justification by works, that is on balance one is saved if one generally lived a good life. However, previously in verse 24 Jesus said, ‘Whoever does not honour the Son does not honour the Father who sent him. Truly, truly I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.’ The “good” then is belief in Jesus as the one sent by the Father and obedience to him. Evil is the rejection of Jesus.

Jesus turns the subject to who are the witnesses that testify that he is the “Son of God”. John 5.25 He turns initially to the testimony of John the Baptist who at this point is still alive and greatly respected, even feared, as a contemporary prophet and hero of the masses, if not liked or welcomed in the circles of Jewish leadership. John had publicly endorsed Jesus as the Messiah. John3.22-36 (The famous, “He must increase, but I must decrease” speech.) We see something at this point that is easily overlooked, Jesus remains concerned for the salvation of his accusers even though they are plotting to take his life. The consistency of Jesus’ underserved love continues even as he is dying and prays for the forgiveness of the soldiers who are hammering nails through his flesh and bones. Jesus referred to John’s testimony because the Jewish leaders had been, ‘willing to rejoice for a while in his light.’ John 5.35 For that reason then, they may have been willing to believe in him.

Jesus does not need the testimony of John or any other person. The works of the Father that he accomplishes are testimony in themselves. The miracles of mercy he has performed including the healing of the man at Bethesda and the royal official’s son along with many others were all works of the Father, done in the open for all to see. Jesus calls upon the word of God as a third witness. ‘The Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent.’ John 5.37,38 When Jesus spoke of the Father’s voice it is possible he was making reference to the words God the Father spoke at his baptism by John, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’ Mathew 3.17 but he is certainly referring to the whole of the Old Testament scriptures through which the Jewish Leaders accepted that God had spoken. Jesus is making the claim that all scripture points to him.

What the Jewish leaders found difficult to understand and accept was that studying scripture was not intrinsically life giving but that it pointed to Jesus who is. ‘It is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.’ John 5.40

Finally, Jesus identifies the obstacle that prevents the Jewish leaders from recognising Jesus for who he is. It is their own pride. They want their own expertise as teachers of the law to bring them praise and credit whilst at the same time not realising that the law itself points to Jesus. John 5. 45,46 Jesus spoke plainly when he said, ‘How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God.’ John 5.44 Their pride had become their idol. As we read the bible do we ask the Spirit to reveal to us in what ways it reveals Jesus?What things do we place in our life before seeking the glory that comes from God?What is the evidence we are confident of, that Jesus is the Christ?

Who Is There Like You? – Paul Oakley




The biggest claim        John 5.19-29

Mathew’s gospel records the Pharisees accusing Jesus of performing his miracles by the power of the devil. (Mathew 12.22-32) It was at the same time one of the most ridiculous accusations as well as one of the most heinous. A man had been brought to Jesus who was demon possessed, blind and unable to speak. Jesus heals him to the extent that he could both see and talk Matt 12.22 which naturally caused amazement in all those who saw it and knew the man in question.  Jesus puts down the Pharisee’s accusation with the now famous statement, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.’ Matt 12.25 Abraham Lincolns “House divided” speech (1858 on his acceptance of his nomination to the Senate when the nation was profoundly divided over slavery) did not prevent, drawing on this biblical principle, but it did provide the basis for unity following the civil war. In modern times we saw the echo of this in the Peace and Reconciliation process following the abandonment of apartheid in South Africa, led by Bishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela.

In the passage in John’s gospel we have Jesus explaining that his authority comes from God the Father in obedience to him. In doing so he is also claiming equality with God the Father. Jesus is demonstrating the unity of the Godhead. Each has their role. How is this equal partnership worked out?

Jesus, the Son, does what he sees his Father doing demonstrating his divine insight. He limits his own actions to those of his Father’s will. John 5.19 We see Jesus aligning himself to the will of the Father in all he does and in this way he reveals the invisible God to us. God the Father reciprocates by showing all he is doing to the Son. John5.20 The basis of this reciprocal relationship is equal love. The relationships within the Godhead are demonstrations of how our relationships with God himself, between members of his church and especially in marriage should be ones of unity and love.

Jesus obedience will lead on to the demonstration of greater works than the disciples and the general public including the Jewish leaders had yet seen.  This includes the raising of the dead that demonstrate that the Son is the life giver. John 5.21 Later Jesus raises from the dead Jairus’ daughter, the son of a widow in Nain and his close friend Lazarus. These of course lived to die again but Jesus’ true divinity and proof he has authority over eternal life is shown by his own resurrection from the dead. The raising of the dead is achievable by God alone.

A second feature of divinity is the right to render final judgement. Here Jesus reveals that the Father has ‘given all judgement to the Son, that all may honour the Son, just as they honour the Father.’ John 5.23 Jesus here is claiming the same honour as the Father meaning he is worthy of the same praise.

The third God defining feature is the authority to raise the dead on the final day and execute judgement. John 5.27 He is able to do this because as God the Father has life within himself and so does the Son. John 5,26 Jesus is able to grant eternal life to those who have believed in him. John 5.24 ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear, the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. The NIV Study bible explains it in this way. “Hears, includes believing and obeying. ‘My word’ brings either eternal life and cleansing or judgement. Because the Son, in all he says and does, mediates the Father to us placing one’s faith in the Son is placing it in the Father.”


We see in this passage the closest unity between the Father and the Son. This unity is worked out throughout the gospel until it is tested without being broken, to the greatest degree in the Garden of Gethsemene.

Jesus showed the way the people treated him showed how they really treated God the Father. How do we treat Jesus?

Rend Collective – Church Online (Be warned it is a 20 minutes collection


Mathew’s gospel records the Pharisees accusing Jesus of performing his miracles by the power of the devil. (Mathew 12.22-32) It was at the same time one of the most ridiculous accusations as well as one of the most heinous. A man had been brought to Jesus who was demon possessed, blind and unable to speak. Jesus heals him to the extent that he could both see and talk Matt 12.22 which naturally caused amazement in all those who saw it and knew the man in question.  Jesus puts down the Pharisee’s accusation with the now famous statement, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.’ Matt 12.25 Abraham Lincolns “House divided” speech (1858 on his acceptance of his nomination to the Senate when the nation was profoundly divided over slavery) did not prevent, drawing on this biblical principle, but it did provide the basis for unity following the civil war. In modern times we saw the echo of this in the Peace and Reconciliation process following the abandonment of apartheid in South Africa, led by Bishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela.

In the passage in John’s gospel we have Jesus explaining that his authority comes from God the Father in obedience to him. In doing so he is also claiming equality with God the Father. Jesus is demonstrating the unity of the Godhead. Each has their role. How is this equal partnership worked out?

Jesus, the Son, does what he sees his Father doing demonstrating his divine insight. He limits his own actions to those of his Father’s will. John 5.19 We see Jesus aligning himself to the will of the Father in all he does and in this way he reveals the invisible God to us. God the Father reciprocates by showing all he is doing to the Son. John5.20 The basis of this reciprocal relationship is equal love. The relationships within the Godhead are demonstrations of how our relationships with God himself, between members of his church and especially in marriage should be ones of unity and love.

Jesus obedience will lead on to the demonstration of greater works than the disciples and the general public including the Jewish leaders had yet seen.  This includes the raising of the dead that demonstrate that the Son is the life giver. John 5.21 Later Jesus raises from the dead Jairus’ daughter, the son of a widow in Nain and his close friend Lazarus. These of course lived to die again but Jesus’ true divinity and proof he has authority over eternal life is shown by his own resurrection from the dead. The raising of the dead is achievable by God alone.

A second feature of divinity is the right to render final judgement. Here Jesus reveals that the Father has ‘given all judgement to the Son, that all may honour the Son, just as they honour the Father.’ John 5.23 Jesus here is claiming the same honour as the Father meaning he is worthy of the same praise.

The third God defining feature is the authority to raise the dead on the final day and execute judgement. John 5.27 He is able to do this because as God the Father has life within himself and so does the Son. John 5,26 Jesus is able to grant eternal life to those who have believed in him. John 5.24 ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear, the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. The NIV Study bible explains it in this way. “Hears, includes believing and obeying. ‘My word’ brings either eternal life and cleansing or judgement. Because the Son, in all he says and does, mediates the Father to us placing one’s faith in the Son is placing it in the Father.”


We see in this passage the closest unity between the Father and the Son. This unity is worked out throughout the gospel until it is tested without being broken, to the greatest degree in the Garden of Gethsemene.

Jesus showed the way the people treated him showed how they really treated God the Father. How do we treat Jesus?

Rend Collective – Church Online (Be warned it is a 20 minutes collection



A chasm opens                                                             John 5.9-18

We know John included the events around the healing of the paralyzed man at the pool of Bethesda as the third sign that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. It is not a sign simply because of its miraculous nature but also because of what Jesus said regarding his actions in the follow up to the healing. The day of the healing was the Jewish Sabbath and Jesus’ instruction to the man was to pick up his mat and walk, which he immediately did. John 5.8 There is no record of the man objecting that he couldn’t possibly do that on a Sabbath. He was in receipt of grace and mercy. The pool though was a large crowded place and he was seen by Jewish leaders who challenged him. ‘It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.’ John 5.10

At this first point the first chasm of understanding is exposed. For the Jewish leaders salvation was dependent on keeping the law meticulously. Salvation in their mind was earned and if one was ‘good’ at keeping the law one was better than those who were not so good at it.  It took a great deal of effort and study to achieve so little. However, being so meticulous and interpreting the law so rigorously, fed their self-righteousness. It also, in their eyes, gave them the right to judge and condemn. Can you see how in adopting these attitudes they were attributing to themselves god like status about their own righteousness and right to both judge and condemn? In their apparent effort to be obedient they were in fact going down the line of idolatry, for only God who is truly righteous is both the one who judges and has the right to condemn.

The man replies that he has no idea who healed him. This seems to be the most extraordinary lack of curiosity and thankfulness. Jesus had just completely changed his life beyond anything he could have realistically thought and he didn’t even ask Jesus’ name. At this point the object of the Jewish leader’s wrath moves from the healed man to the healer who had instructed him to carry his mat. But this was just the start of an escalating situation. When Jesus later saw the man again he stopped and spoke to him, ‘See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.’ John5.14 For some reason the man thought it would be a good idea to promptly find the same Jewish leaders and tell them it was Jesus who healed him. The motivation for this is interesting, he was clearly aware that the Jewish leaders were hostile to Jesus for his act of mercy on a Sabbath day but was more interested in keeping in with them than protecting the very person who had healed him. This raises for ourselves the need for self-awareness of our own motivations for the things we do and say.

Our own receipt of God’s mercy can be thrown back in his face whilst at the same time as we continue to benefit from the mercy of God. If we connect that with the warning Jesus gave the healed man, to ‘stop sinning’ John 5.14 it raises the question of how many times we throw Jesus mercy towards us in his face by our own persistence in carrying on sinning. How seriously do we take our continued sin? Jesus’ warning to the man that, ‘something worse may happen to you’ was not a reference to another malady brought on by his sin either administered by God or otherwise but a warning of God’s judgement.

The response to Jesus, who is the one who is genuinely righteous and has the right to judge and condemn, was to set about persecuting him. When the word persecute is used in this context it does not mean say hateful things or make life difficult. It is absolutely clear it means plot to kill Jesus. John5.18 In addition to Jesus acting mercifully on the Sabbath was added the charge that he was making himself equal to God.

A second chasm opened at this point was over the identity of Jesus. In response to the Jewish leader’s accusations Jesus spoke directly to them. It confronted their understanding of the Sabbath, a fundamental pillar of their religiosity, and Jesus’ relationship with God the Father. Jesus’ statement that God the Father works on the Sabbath bringing grace, mercy and salvation to people conflicted with their own beliefs about the Sabbath. God, Jesus was saying, does not become detached from the world and people’s need on the Sabbath, he continues to be a merciful and loving God active in people’s lives.

Additionally, no Jew would term God their Father as Jesus did. Jesus by saying God was his Father and he was about his Father’s work was making a statement that Jesus was equal to the Father. He was indeed God incarnate. Jesus was saying he is the Lord of the Sabbath and his healing of the man was evidence that both he and God the Father were at work. He had the right to heal on the Sabbath and to tell the man to carry his mat because he was Lord of the Sabbath.

A divide had arisen, “between God’s Son and God’s historic people who want to kill him”. (John’s Gospel: Read, Mark, Learn. Marshall Pickering.)

Are we comfortable with our own sin?

Is there a danger of succumbing to the idolatry of legalism?

Have we taken in the significance of Jesus’ equality with the Father when we reflect on his words?

Lord Reign in me – Brenton Brown



Do you want to get well?                                           John 5.1-14

The pool was crowded that day but not with swimmers or children larking about. Instead it was packed with resigned despairing adults waiting for a false hope. The pool itself was impressive, stone built with five colonnades. Steps surrounded the pool leading into the water. Jesus was walking there, picking his way between sat and lying bodies. He had returned to Jerusalem for a festival and made his way to the pool called Bethsaida near the city Sheep Gate. As he looked around he could see a multitude of suffering; the blind, those who could not walk disfigured by illness or accident, a few paralyzed and entirely dependent on others to carry them each day to the pool, all waiting for the water in the pool to be disturbed. This was not a pool for swimming or play but the story went if the water rippled then the first person into the water would be healed. Each time it happened there was a mad scramble as the disabled on their own or aided by friends sought to be the first. This architecturally beautiful pool had become a pool of human tragedy. While people waited there were those begging as their sole source of income.

In the middle of this scene Jesus became aware of one particular man and his story. He had been an invalid for thirty-eight years, longer than many lived in those days. We do not know his name and in a sense his anonymity adds poignancy to the account. Jesus stopped, looked at him and when he spoke he said, ‘Do you want to get well?’ The answer might seem obvious but the man evidently knew nothing of Jesus. Instead of affirming his desire for healing his reply was a resigned complaint. There was not an element of hope within it. “Sir,” the invalid replied. “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” Jesus then told him to, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” Surprised he undoubtedly was but he did as he was told.

That question, ‘Do you want to get well?’ has a much wider significance and application than for this one man and event. There were potential costs and implications for his identity arising from being healed after thirty-eight years. How were family and friends going to respond? Was he going to accused of being a fraud all these years? How was he going to make money and live now? What was going to happen to his state of mind? His life was about to change radically, had he become content with his disability and accepted it as his lot in life with the hope of healing just being an excuse to beg?

We have no idea about what eventually happened to this anonymous man, it would appear that despite being the recipient of the third sign of Jesus being the Messiah in John’s gospel, he did not become a follower of Jesus.

The question, do you want to change, is a bottom line question when it comes to discipleship and being a Christian. It may be that you know you need to change but actually you like what you know is wrong or undesirable and you are too attached to it to change. The cost may be too much and you are unwilling to pay.

Jesus repeatedly made it very clear there is a real cost to following him. Discipleship is not a call to easy street. Amongst other things it costs changes in behaviour and for that to happen you need to want it. On one occasion Jesus explained to his disciples that the cost they bear is one he shares with them.

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.” John 15.18-25 

What do want in life?

Has Jesus challenged you and are you prepared for the consequences?

Whatever your answer this is God the Father’s promise – ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ John 3.16

Look Up Child – Lauren Diagle





Superficial to deep faith               John 4.43-54

How would we describe a superficial faith in Jesus today? It may be that Jesus is recognised as an important historical figure whose teachings have had a positive impact on our society and even influenced how one lives individually. It could be that one wants to include Christian landmarks in our lives such baptising a child, getting married in church and a church or Christian led funeral. For some it may be that Christian theology is of interest even fascination in a purely intellectual way. Other’s might really like visiting Christian architecture on holiday or love classic Christian art and music. They may pray occasionally usually at a particular point of need. At no point though would a person with superficial faith or interest say that Jesus was at the centre of their lives in a continual way. This is at least in part because they are not convinced about the identity of Jesus.

Above all John’s gospel is written so that people will understand who Jesus is, ‘Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.’ John 20.30,31 John’s gospel above all is an evangelistic gospel, written first to Jews spread out across the world so that they would know who Jesus is and have life in him. He recorded Jesus’ healing of the son of the royal official as the second sign John 4.54 of who Jesus is (note present tense) so that they could enjoy the same life as the official and his whole household.

He records an interesting contrast between the Samaritans who believed and the Galilean welcome. The Samaritans believed, ‘because of his word’ John 4.41 they had been convinced by his teaching and his prophetic insight and recognised him as the promised Messiah. The Galileans were fascinated by his miracles which they had witnessed in Jerusalem but had not made the connection as to his identity as the promised Messiah, the Son of God. They were sensation seekers.

Jesus was now in Cana the place of his first sign, as to who he was, at a wedding. He was approached by a royal official from Capernaum, some 16 miles away. He was part of Herod Antipas’ court and almost certainly a Gentile. He was a man in great distress because he believed his son was about to die of an unspecified disease. He was desperate that Jesus came immediately to his home to heal his son. John 4.47 Jesus first response was not to the official but directed to Galileans around him, saying that faith for them relied on signs and wonders John 4.48 the implication being, how many more do you need to see? Jesus was not being careless of the official’s distress however he was always conscious and focused on his mission of revelation and salvation.

Up to this point the official was a superficial believer, he believed and wanted to believe that Jesus was in some way a healer because he had heard of him healing many. He thought that for Jesus to heal he would have to be in the presence of his son. Then Jesus spoke, ‘Go, your son will live.’ John 4.50 There was something about the authority of Jesus coming from his divinity that the official grasped. He believed the words of Jesus and went on his way. On his return his belief was confirmed by the news that his son recovered at the exact time Jesus spoke. John 4.53 What an awesome moment. It was then that he completed his move from superficial faith to deep faith and not only him but his whole household, probably including servants as well as family members.

Deep faith occurs when the words of Jesus strike deep into our hearts and our lives change.

What will it take to believe?

Has deep faith in Jesus, recognising him as the Son of God, occurred in our lives?

How do people now hear the words of Jesus?

I See the Lord (Live) – Ron Kenoly




Lift your eyes and see                             John 3.27-42

Tolstoy in his novel War and Peace wrote that a battle can turn in a “Hurrah”. The Hurrah represents a changed contrasting attitude compared to the disposition of all around. It stands for a different vision of what is before them. It is grasping the positive when all around is negative. Suddenly the world seems different and the “Hurrah” enthuses, encourages and conveys a new sense of reality.  Belief in Jesus can be that “Hurrah” as we see in the Samaritan woman when the penny drops and she realizes that the man before her is the Messiah she and all her people have been waiting for. She believed him when he said, ‘I who speak to you am he’. John 4.26

Jesus’ disciples returned from town with food just as he made that confession to the woman. It reads as if they barged in breaking the intimate profound moment oblivious to the significance of the event that had taken place and not caring. ‘No one said, “What do you seek?” or “Why are you talking with her?”’ John 4.27 Their preoccupation was with the mundane and the everyday. Food was their dominant thought. ‘Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.”’ John 4.31

The woman though had just had her view of the world changed by her encounter with Jesus. She was a convert in the first flush of excitement. The mundane, such as collecting water, had fallen away and she was bursting to share her new-found faith and introduce others to Jesus.  What a contrast with the disciples. ‘The woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, “Come, and see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?”’ Counter culturally we have in essence the woman being the evangelist. She was doing what all can do and so frequently do not do. She was inviting people to discover Jesus for themselves.

Jesus and the woman now shared the same vision inspired by the Holy Spirit. It was a vision of a harvest of people for salvation. Is it too strong a term to say that Jesus rebuked his disciples when he said, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about’? He was referring to the Spirit of God empowering him to preach the gospel. This was his calling and purpose. The disciples like the woman at the beginning of her encounter were preoccupied with the everyday and literal understanding of his words.

You can feel Jesus frustration coming through the words, ‘Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that the sower and reaper may rejoice together.’ john 4,36,37 He was drawing on the imagery in Amos 9.13 which also describes the abundance of the new age. Men and woman from the Samaritan town responded to the woman’s invitation to come and see Jesus. Their salvation was Jesus’ total priority and he stayed two days teaching. As a result, many believed. They believed because they encountered Jesus for themselves and the Holy Spirit spoke into their hearts. ‘They said to the woman. “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Saviour of the World.”’ John 4.42

Are we preoccupied with the everyday or do we share Jesus’ vision for the gospel?

As a church have we stopped inviting people to meet Jesus?

Do we think that we are not sufficient in some way to invite people to meet Jesus?

Where does reaching people with the gospel rate in our priorities as a church?

Lord I lift your name of high – Maranatha singers



When barriers collapsed             John 4.1 -26

What stops someone from feeling able to trust in Jesus? There are many potential barriers some of which are intellectual regarding questions about the historical or scientific evidence. Some questions are philosophical perhaps regarding suffering, justice or whether there can be only one true religion. However, for many the barriers that prevent the act of trusting in Jesus are not so much about these wider questions, they are ones concerning personal identity, culturally and emotionally. It is in this highly personal area that the account of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman is highly relevant. Before moving on I want to say there are highly coherent responses to scientific, historical and philosophical questions and if anybody would like a steer towards where to read, listen or view these, please get in touch via my personal e mail or facebook page. (See below)

Jesus left Judea where his disciples had been baptizing because his presence was attracting more attention from the Pharisees than he wished at that time. It was still early in his ministry and there was much more to be done before his death on the cross. He returned to Galilee, taking the shorter route north and therefore passed through Samaria. Many Jews would have gone around Samaria, up the east side of the River Jordon, because they would not have wanted to mix with the Samaritans who they considered, “half-caste, religiously barbaric heretics”. (Josh Moody, John 1-12 For You.) The Jewish view of Samaritans, who lived in part of what was the Northern Kingdom of Israel prior to the Assyrian conquest, were people who were mixed race due to Assyrian deportation and settlement policies. Their religion whilst sharing the Pentateuch, although it partially differed in content, also mixed in pagan worship practices. The Samaritans had a different centre of worship to Jerusalem, Mount Gerizim, where Moses pronounced the law’s blessings. It was on this mountain that the Samaritans had erected a temple but in 128/7 BC John Hyrcanus, a Jewish High Priest, destroyed it. There were then deep historical and cultural divides between the Jews and the Samaritans although they were immediate neighbours.

Jesus and his disciples arrived at Sychar, half way through Samaria and close to Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim. It was midday, Jesus was hot and tired and his disciples went on into town for food while Jesus settled down by the famous “Jacob’s well” just outside town. A Samaritan woman arrived on her own to fetch water and Jesus asked for a drink. John 4.7 The woman was shocked because she was immediately aware that the cultural and gender barriers that existed between her a Samaritan woman and Jesus a male Jew would normally prevent any form of communication. John 4.9 Jesus completely ignored these factors and spoke directly to her heart and need. He used water as a metaphor for the Spirit and spiritual life. He loved her and wanted her to have life that was the best it could possibly be. He used the term “living water” to describe eternal spiritual life. John 4.10  There then followed a conversation at cross purposes, the woman speaking literally and misunderstanding Jesus. She refers back to her cultural heritage and speaks of Jacob supplying them with water from the well and how it was revered as Jacob and all his family had used it.  At this point the barriers between Jesus and the woman were historical, cultural, gender based and simple lack of understanding. There was little hope of this discussion making progress. Jesus then tries to clarify what he meant but initially that did not work and the woman still took him literally although she thought it would be wonderful to have water that satisfied one’s thirst once and for all time.

‘Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty again and have to keep coming here to draw water”.’ John4.13-15 Jesus then jumped over the barrier of culture, religion, gender and comprehension by showing deep insight into her life revealing her disgrace and sin while at the same time offering her the spiritual ‘water of life’. There could not be a greater act of love and respect for a woman who her own people considered did not deserve respect. Jesus had divine insight into her life and heart by exposing her relationship outside of marriage and five previous husbands. Culturally, at that time, it was unacceptable to have had more than three husbands even if there were acceptable reasons for multiple husbands such as widowhood. The implication is though that her multiple husbands were for more unacceptable reasons than that. It was the turning point for the woman. Jesus had made contact with her heart and revealed himself as the Messiah. He moved her thinking from understanding that religion is based on place and culture to spiritual connection and truth. She was looking forward to the Messiah coming who would reveal truth and Jesus revealed himself to her as that Messiah. Instead of a body of ideas her faith was now placed in the person of Christ.

When we reflect on our own spiritual journey can we identify a time when culture and religious practices were replaced by encountering the person of Jesus? Can we also identify a time when our understanding was changed by the Holy Spirit convincing us that the “water of life” is Jesus himself? Can we think of a time when the Spirit of Christ showed us up to ourselves how we really are without excuses?

Jesus’ conversation with the woman was a private conversation, she was not publicly humiliated or made a fool of. He respected her dignity and valued her highly. He was patient in his explanations. He was spiritually insightful. It would be great if as Christians we prayed for these qualities as we meet people cross culturally. When we speak of cross cultural work we often mean across global cultures, however as disciples of Christ we belong to another culture, the kingdom of God. May we have the attitude and discernment to communicate with those around us, cross culturally.

There is power in the name of Jesus – Noel Richards



The Crunch Pt 2                                                John 3.36

When John writes, ‘whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life’ John3.36 he raises several questions in the modern reader’s mind. Is the reason for obedience just the reward we will receive? How is it possible to know what it is I am meant to do? How am I meant to get the strength to continue to be obedient. I want to be free and isn’t obedience the opposite to freedom? To understand this phrase it is necessary to place it in the context of the developing account in John’s gospel as well as in the wider biblical writings.

Christian obedience to Jesus is a response to both authority and love. John opened his gospel with a declaration that Jesus as the Word of God is eternal, the creator of all and the revelation of God that brings light to our lives. John 1.1-5 His authority is from that he is the awesome God but more than that, he is intimately concerned with us. However, Jesus’ relationship with us is not simply as the all powerful God who made all things and will judge us, he is the one who was lifted up to die for us because of his very great love for us. John 3.15-16 Obedience then is a love response to very great love, love that is almost beyond our comprehension and indeed would be if it were not for God enabling us to understand.

Love for Jesus means we want to be with him and be like him. ‘Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.’ 1 John 3.24 Obedience becomes a pleasure, For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.’ 1 John 5.3

To grasp what obedience is we are helped by the word of God and the Spirit of God both of these are received through Jesus. Immediately prior to John 3.36 we read, ‘For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure.’ John3.34 It is the combined words of God and his Spirit that brings us both understanding of God’s will and the capacity to be obedient.

Our understanding of freedom depends upon our world view. The biblical view of freedom is freedom from the slavery of sin. This freedom from the slavery of sin is also expressed in love for others especially love for fellow disciples of Christ. ‘Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.’ 1 John 2.9,10 Love and obedience for Jesus then overflows into love for others around us.

How has God been speaking to you about his love for you?

Is there any next step of obedience that the Spirit has made you aware of?

Be the Centre – Michael Frye



The Crunch, Pt 1     John 3.36 & Deuteronomy 27.9,10

Independence of mind and self-determinism is so ingrained in our society that an instruction to obey can be seen as wrong, offensive and detracting from our rights. It feels like being forced to do things against our will. There have rightly been strong reactions against enforced controls on people’s lives typified in the anti-slavery movements and a rejection that crimes committed under the orders of military commanders are excusable. Many women have seen a promise to obey in a marriage service as inappropriate and unequal. How then do you react to John’s words, ‘Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God remains on him’? John 3.36 These words fit into a whole biblical theme of obedience to God and are also a repeated theme in John’s writings. They can be a stumbling block to faith and spiritual growth and they can also be misinterpreted and cause Christians stress and anxiety. On the other hand fully grasped and understood they can be a pathway to freedom, joy and peace.

Jesus was just about to walk through Samaria on the way back to Galilee, passing Mount Ebal and it was close to there he met the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. It was on Mount Ebal that Moses addressed the people of Israel just before they enter the promised land with these words, ‘You have now become the people of the Lord your God. Obey the Lord your God and follow his commands and decrees that I give you today’. Deuteronomy 27.9,10 He then went on to clarify what obedience to God was by issuing a series of curses or forbidden things, followed by blessings for obedience. Obedience then is about rejecting sin and living in a God pleasing way. What then is sinful? No lists in scripture are comprehensive, but what they do is expose the depth and range of sin. Moses’ list Deuteronomy 27.15-26 first of all identifies idolatry, that is anything we place in our hearts where God should be. It includes a whole range of behaviours destructive to family life: not respecting parents, having sexual relations with close relatives and animals, maliciousness, injustice to the poor, weak and foreigners, crimes against neighbours and corruption. The blessing in addition to occupying the promised land and prospering is that they will be God’s people, Deuteronomy 28.9 and the name of the Lord will be known throughout the world. Deuteronomy 29.10  Here we see the missionary dimension of obedience to God. The lives of the people of God are intended to reveal God to others.

God’s material blessings in the Old Testament are symbolic of the spiritual blessing in the New Testament. The promised land of the Old Testament becomes the promised land of eternal life in the New Testament. Does this mean that obedience is the means of salvation and eternal life? It does not, but obedience is the evidence and outcome of faith. Condemnation by God is not something that God decides after having weighed up how obedient one has been. It is the state all are in unless one believes in Jesus. It is a very hard message to hear, that one has naturally separated oneself from God and it takes the positive action of faith in Christ to change that.

Does it also mean that if we stumble and fail in obedience then we come under God’s wrath again? No, it does not and John addresses this in his first letter to the churches. We all stumble and fail, but we are called to be honest with God about our struggles. The Christian life is about our ongoing relationship with God. It is highly personal and intimate as in a marriage or with parents in a family. These are John’s words, If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.’ 1 John 1.8-10

Does our obedience to Jesus reveal the character of God to others?

What A Saviour – HTB Worship




The bride belongs to the bridegroom – Hallelujah     John 3.22-36

Once the Passover was over and Jesus had finished his conversation with Nicodemus, he and his disciples moved out of Jerusalem into the surrounding Judean countryside. His group were close to John the Witness (Baptist) and both parties were baptizing people. They were located beside a plentiful water supply. In Jesus’ case his disciples were doing the baptizing. A Jew and we do not know anything more about him than that, challenged John over his practice of baptizing, we can only presume it was because it did not conform to normal Jewish purification rites. This sparked off questions to John from his own disciples because people were now going to Jesus for baptism. In John’s answer to his disciples he came up with a cornerstone of all appropriate Christian ministry, ‘He must increase, but I must decrease.’ John 3.30

John’s heart towards Jesus exemplifies the perfect attitude for Christian ministry. John was delighted that people’s focus was now on Jesus. For a more detailed understanding of humility in Christian ministry read 2 Corinthians 4, but this short passage contains bright insightful gems. I was once in a church where a potential split was occurring because another church of the same denomination was starting up and some of the members were wanting to transfer as the new church was more charismatic in character. Our minister spoke to the church and said he welcomed a thriving charismatic church starting in the same area and expressed the hope that both churches would continue to lead people to Christ and grow in all ways. This indeed did happen, but for me it was an example of a Christian leader putting Christ and his ‘bride’ before his own ministry and God blessed the community with two thriving churches.

John corrected his own disciples with positive teaching because he clearly understood who Jesus was and that his own ministry was to prepare and point people towards Jesus. ‘You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ John 3.28 The day after John had baptized Jesus two of his disciples, Andrew and probably John the gospel writer had left John to follow Jesus. This had now become the dominant pattern of behaviour and John was glad. John recognized that his ministry was a gift from God and that he had been able to fulfil it. ‘A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.’ John3.27

John used the analogy of a bride, a groom and a best man. The bride is what we now call the church or Jesus’ disciples, the groom is Jesus and his role is the best man. As he sees the two wed it is for him a matter of great rejoicing. ‘The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.’ John3.29 Witnessing the union of Jesus with his people is the pinnacle of Christian ministry.

John then moves on to the best man speech where he extolls the virtues of the groom. Because Jesus is from heaven itself he alone is able to speak from firsthand knowledge of heavenly things. ‘He who comes from heaven is above all. He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony.’ John 3.32 Sadly there are many who do not understand or reject his words but there will be those who receive both his teaching and Jesus for themselves. Where people do accept and act upon his teaching Jesus assures them of his truth through the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit. John 3.33 The seal seems to work both ways. The believer affirms the truth of God but God secures their faith with the gift of the Holy Spirit. Elsewhere in John’s gospel Jesus says, ‘Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.’ John 6.27 Paul writes, And who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.’ 2 Corinthians 1.22 The seal of the Holy Spirit acts like the evidence of the signed marriage certificate or the gift of the ring that signifies the contract and bond that holds together Jesus and his bride the church.

All these things are in the gift of the Father through the Son. John 3.34,35 John draws a clear distinction between those who believe in Jesus (the Son) and those who do not. ‘Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.’ John 3.36 By implication this emphasizes again the importance of Christian ministry that points to Jesus and why he must increase and the minister must decrease.

How do we approach our own ministry?

Do we rejoice each time a person commits their life to Christ?

You must increase youtube – Matt Redman



Loving darkness – Being loved           John 3.16-21

Stories about how lives have been dramatically transformed when individuals have come to faith in Christ are frequently inspiring and deserve celebration. The apostle Paul or Zacchaeus would be biblical examples. However, the dramatic can often cloud everyday reality. Our own hearts are by nature deceptive, we are inclined to think unduly well of ourselves and so the normal default position is that we are basically good people. This comes from a perception that who and what we are is normal and we then make judgements regarding other conduct and beliefs relative to ourselves. So hopefully a murderer is worse and therefore bad and worthy of condemnation whilst the likes of Mother Teresa is probably considered better and therefore worthy of praise. Nicodemus is likely to have thought well of himself at the time of his night time visit to Jesus. He may well have thought how open minded he was being and perceptive as he recognized God at work in the miracles Jesus was performing.

Jesus sweeps away this relativist perspective. God does not have a balance sheet of good stuff we have done compared to the bad. God looks at the heart attitude towards him and our love for him expressed through our faith. He knows and had already told Nicodemus’ generation the state of everybody’s default position. ‘We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.’ Isaiah 64.6 Paul reiterates this, ‘For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,’ Romans 3.23 because the standard of righteousness is not our standard, but God’s. The truth that is so hard for us to grasp deep within our hearts is that we naturally love darkness. Jesus exposes this in his sermon on the mount. Mathew 5 It is a false position to think we start at a neutral position and make choices from there. We are naturally inclined to reject Jesus. On top of that the last thing most of us want is the state of our heart to become known. As Jesus said to Nicodemus, ‘This is the verdict: Light (Jesus) has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.’ John 3.19,20

It takes a work of God within us to recognise our need and want to do something about it. If we are in the position of searching for God to change us, God has started that work, and he will be responsive to our prayer to make our need clear to us. God uses the bible to speak into our hearts and lives, it pays great dividends to spend time to not only read a passage like John 3 but to dwell on it prayerfully letting each phrase sink in. The Spirit of Christ uses scripture to expose our true selves to us. ‘For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.’ Hebrews 4.12

Whilst the judgement of God would condemn us the love of God wants to save us. His love is directed towards everybody not to a select number. Once more our natural hearts frequently rebel against a God who is like that. We say to ourselves, I understand God loves me but how can he possibly love and want to save this other dreadful person? Jesus, however, is clear, ‘God so loved the world’, it is the clearest of statements against racism and discrimination. The demonstration of the extent of his love is the cost he is prepared to bear to restore relationship with him and give eternal life. Life spent forever with him. Implied in, ‘he gave his only son’ is Jesus incarnation and crucifixion. God desperately does not want to condemn individuals. Whilst we have considered John 3.16 onwards separately from the previous paragraph it is all part of one explanation made by Jesus. God’s only requirement is belief in Jesus, ‘As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.’ John 3.15 Such love.

Belief in Jesus is a transforming moment. From that point our heart starts to be drawn to the light unafraid of what God sees. ‘Whoever does what is true (initially belief in Jesus) comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.’ John 3.21

How much do you pause and let scripture sink in and transform your inner life?

Such love – Graham Kendrick



The wonder of being lifted up        John 3.10-15

Nicodemus was struggling to understand Jesus when he said, ‘You must be born again.’ John 3.8 Nicodemus had thought he was an expert in spiritual matters but Jesus was now speaking about things beyond his expertise and experience. His prior prejudices were being challenged. ‘ “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.’ v 3.9 Jesus then made clear the gap between Nicodemus knowledge and experience and his own. Jesus opened up about his identity. In using the term ‘we’ when speaking of what we know v 3.11 he may have been referring to the Trinity but he was certainly saying he had knowledge of heavenly things from personal experience that Nicodemus could not have. When Jesus said, ‘No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven – the Son of Man’ he was stating in terms very clear to Nicodemus that he was the prophesied Messiah. He was also saying he had the knowledge and authority to speak of these things because he was from heaven. God incarnate.

Jesus then connected his teaching about new birth with his coming crucifixion. He did so using symbolism from the time of the Jewish exodus from Egypt. Numbers 21.4-9 The Israelites rebelled against the Lord complaining that he had brought them into the wilderness without food and water. God miraculously provided both. God punished their rebellion with venomous snakes but when the people repented and confessed their sins God instructed Moses to hold up a bronze snake on a pole, if anybody was bitten by a snake and looked at the pole, they lived. The symbolism here includes people’s rebellion against God and his righteous judgement, however, where people confess and repent God provides a means of salvation, in this case salvation of their earthly life.

Jesus here was saying the bronze snake represented how he would be lifted up on a cross and his death would atone for the sins of people who looked to him, in other words had faith in him. His lifting up, however, was a matter of eternal life not some temporary healing of earthly life. ‘Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life.’ v 3.14-15 Nicodemus would later personally witness Jesus dying on the cross and help Joseph place him in the tomb.

When John uses the term lifted up in his gospel he has two meanings, Jesus lifted up on the cross and Jesus glorious exultation in heaven following his ascension. Both are relevant here as the promise of eternal life is a promise to share in Jesus’ resurrection and be with him in heaven.

Who have we got our eyes on?

Have we shared in his promise to be lifted up with him?

Be lifted up – Paul Oakley



Spiritual Birth                             John 3.3 – 3.10

 Brian Welch: From Korn to Jesus



Christianity is personal, it goes to the heart of the individual and it changes lives. You can be a clever person, a rich person, socially successful or down and out but if Christianity doesn’t personally impact you in your inner core as a person it is of no lasting value to you. Why is that? It is because Christianity is about personally being born spiritually and from that beginning one’s life changes and a relationship with God starts. Nicodemus knew all about religious practices as a Pharisee and teacher of the law. He was faithfully obedient to all the customs and rituals. He knew the scriptures inside out. However, that does not equal spiritual life. His religion was at that time an empty husk except for one thing he had desire in his heart to know more about Jesus and he recognized that Jesus was from God. ‘For no one could perform signs you are doing if God were not with him.’ John 3.2

That desire to know more about Jesus and really wanting to change is God’s Spirit speaking into our mind. Being as it were touched by the Spirit of God is described by Jesus as, ‘The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear it’s sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.’ Johm 3.8 It is poetic language but everybody who has started a relationship with God will recognize that prompting that draws us closer to Jesus. We look back and say I have known the Spirit convicting me even when I have fought against him. Jesus concluded his description of the Spirit’s impact by saying, ‘So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.’ John 3.8 Jesus longs for each one of us to respond to the Holy Spirit’s prompting and ask him to be spiritually born.

Is spiritual birth a real thing and is it absolutely necessary? Jesus makes clear that spiritual birth is necessary for forgiveness, spiritual life and eternal life. He says it twice to Nicodemus. ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.’ John 3.3 ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.’ John 3.5

This to Nicodemus was a whole new idea and so naturally enough he gets confused about the difference between natural birth and spiritual birth. ‘ “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked.’ Jesus states plainly that spiritual birth is separate to natural birth because they are different. ‘Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit (notice the capital S indicating that it is the Holy Spirit) gives birth to spirit.’ John 3.6 God alone can give one spiritual life we cannot do it for ourselves. Our role is to ask and trust.

Why did Jesus say that one needed to be born of water and the Spirit? The idea that the Spirit gives spiritual birth is straight forward but what is meant by being born of water. Jesus was speaking to a learned Jewish leader who would have known the scriptures intimately. He therefore refers Nicodemus back to Ezekiel’s prophecy addressed to the nation of Israel when the people had persistently pursued sinful ways. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 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. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.’ Ezekiel 36.25-27 The sprinkling with water symbolizes forgiveness and cleansing from their old ways that rejected God. The Spirit within enables one to live a life pleasing to God.

Is it time to take the step that Nicodemus eventually did and ask Jesus for spiritual birth, to be cleansed from old ways and received the Spirit’s life and have a new start?


If one took that step some time ago but now need one’s spiritual life to be refreshed then do not hesitate to come again to Jesus, ask for forgiveness and cleansing, to be filled again with his Spirit to overcome sin and lead a life that is fulfilling and righteous.

Newsboys – Born Again



Too scared to ask in public.                 John 2.23 – 3.2

Do you understand people who are reluctant to speak in a public forum? A personal fault of mine is not readily appreciating what a barrier that is for many. I am subject to the other personality trait and am too readily prone to speaking out. For me it goes with my learning style which is strongly bent towards engaging in debate, while others may much more happily be outwardly passive learners keen on listening and observing. In a constructive, supportive, nonthreatening environment all personality types can flourish. However all too frequently life is not like that and the context in which we live can carry heavy penalties if we openly speak our mind or indeed at times do not openly speak up for particular people or ideas. I think of a time when the newly invested President of the USA ask his closest advisers and ministers sitting around the table to each say how great he was. It reminded me of Nebuchadnezzar. In the one case their job was on the line in the other their life. Nicodemus’ desire to find out more about Jesus must have been a bit like that. ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.’ John 3.2 He had come under the cover of darkness, God’s Spirit prompting him to enquire further.

Nicodemus along with many of the other Jewish leaders had witnessed many signs performed by Jesus during his visit at Passover to Jerusalem. Many believed in Jesus because of these signs, (John does not record what miracles they were) but Jesus was not convinced about the long term sincerity of their belief because of man’s inherently sinful heart. ‘But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.’ John2.24,25 The Jewish religious leadership, of whom Nicodemus was one, were highly antagonized by Jesus’ teaching and actions. At the same Passover he had cleared the temple of traders and then spoken of the temple’s destruction and how he would raise it in three days. If one was a member of the religious leadership one would be very unpopular and risk one’s personal standing by expressing interest and respect for Jesus. So, Nicodemus came at night. Nicodemus was a seeker after God and he recognized God at work through Jesus. We can be confident that in the end Nicodemus became more than a sympathizer, he became a disciple. Jhn 7.50-52, John 19.38-42

Nicodemus’ hesitancy about enquiring after Jesus is a very common thing. Nicodemus was genuinely enquiring, he wanted to know more and he wanted God in his life. There are many like that and there is considerable anecdotal evidence that Covid 19 has increased the level of interest. There has been a reported 20% increase in the numbers attending church by virtual means. Alpha reports more people than ever before attending their courses. What are the factors behind this? Partly it is a response to greater awareness of mortality and how we are not as in control of our lives as we once thought and partly because virtually we can as it were come at night with no one knowing. Whatever the case the Holy Spirit is at work in people lives prompting them to seek and ask.

Jesus provides us as a church with two important examples. He was active and known, publicly ministering to people’s needs in the power of the Holy Spirit. His identity and ministry was not hidden or secret. He demonstrated God’s purposes in his life and words. He did not let difficulty, opposition or hardship prevent him from obedience to the Father. Seekers knew who to go to, to find out more.

Jesus made himself available even at night. He was approachable. He did not have a private life that came before his ministry. He was wholly available to God’s will.

How does this challenge us individually and as a church?



Temple what Temple?                                    John 2.13-22

The Temple in Jerusalem during Jesus’ ministry was not the temple built in Solomon’s reign, it was the third temple and even though the Temple authorities said it had taken 46 years to build v20 the outer structures were not completed until AD 66. Prior to Solomon a temporary tent like structure was where the Ark of the Lord was housed, containing the tablets of the covenant, a golden urn holding manna and Aaron’s staff that budded. Hebrews 9.4 David dreamed and planned for the day when a permanent temple would be built, in his eyes it was to be grand enough to be worthy of the Lord. The temple was for the nation of Israel a number of things. It was a sign of God’s presence with his people. It was where the people through the offices of the priests could meet God and seek counsel. It stood for God’s authority over his people. The temple honoured God and was where the great feasts to give thanks and praise to God were centred. Longing to be in the temple equaled longing to be in God’s presence. Above all it was the place of sacrifice to seek forgiveness and reconciliation with God. The temple represented the heartbeat of the nation therefore its destruction under Nebuchadnezzar tore the heart out of the nation and was considered by Israel’s enemies not only a defeat for the people of Israel but also for their God. The temple was the ultimate symbol of nationhood and the nation’s relationship with Yahweh.

When Jesus cleared the Temple, the complaints were not about brutality towards either people or animals. They were not even about the mess created. The whip of cords v15 Jesus made was not comparable to the whip used to scourge Jesus, ripping flesh from his back, it was a means of driving animals from the courtyard. Little did the Temple authorities know but they cut to the heart of the matter. In asking, ‘What sign do you show us for doing theses things’ they were asking by what authority did he challenge the “Father’s” house being used for trade.

Jesus’ answer was not understood by any present at the time. It took Jesus’ resurrection for the disciples to grasp his meaning. v22 The Temple authorities limited imagination was restricted to a Temple of stone. They had lost sight of the Temple being the symbol of God’s presence, the place of reconciliation, teaching, intercession and God’s transforming blessing. In Jesus’ answer he was stating that he is the eternal Temple of God. Only through his death and resurrection three days later would all these things be possible. All the previous rituals would be swept away. God is met through him wherever one was geographically. No physical building is required. Jesus left just two acts of remembrance and

Commitment, the bread and wine of the last supper and baptism. Each needed no set place or even a building of any kind. The only priest needed was the High Priest Jesus. Hebrews 4.14

The first place I truly met Jesus was in my study bedroom at college, aged 18. He placed in me the faith, I had been wanting for some weeks, through his Spirit. Where can you first remember engaging personally with the Lord? He and he alone is our access to God, who is truly a universal God, not constrained by buildings, geography or time.

There are many things during history that the Christian Church has promoted as “Temples” and necessary for access to God. There then occurs a reaction against them that frequently divides the church. It may be a physical church where some feel they have to be there to pray. It could be a ritual or ceremony. It may be a particular kind of musical atmosphere is deemed necessary. The presence of a religious leader may be seen as a means of accessing God’s blessing and even biblical knowledge as the ultimate goal rather than as a means of meeting with God through his Spirit.

What difference does it make that Jesus, and not a building, is our temple; and that access to God is through him, and not through religious ritual?

Be still for the presence of the Lord


Marriage as a metaphor                                                      John 2.1-11

Politicians do it all the time, when they have an announcement they pick the background setting to emphasize the message. In just the last week we had the prime minister crawling on a primary classroom floor to encourage parents to send their children back to school and then wearing a hard hat and luminous jacket to announce the reopening of Appledore shipyard. Of course, it can go ridiculously wrong such as when the prime minister was filmed hiding in a refrigerator to avoid questions. The PR people talk of getting the optics right. If then you were the Son of God and you wished to select the place for your first sign of the coming of your future kingdom, where would you pick? As it is a kingdom perhaps a palace would be ideal or maybe the temple. If instead of a building one wanted a natural setting how about the top of Mount Sinai with all its historical associations with the giving of the law. In addition, judging by modern leaders there would be some announcement to attract the crowds. The audience would be carefully selected to ensure the contemporary leaders were present to provide their endorsement.

Contrast this with Jesus who chose the wedding of an unnamed couple in a minor town in Galilee with no greater witnesses than his family and new disciples. When he changed the water to wine it was done without fanfare so the master of ceremonies did not even know it was happening. Yet it was this humble event and setting that has been recorded and preserved over two millennia. Jesus indicates the reason for the low key nature of the miracle is that people’s misconceptions about the coming Messiah would lead to unhelpful responses. However, this did not prevent Jesus performing numerous miracles or signs in the course of his daily ministry. John records that this was simply the first of his signs. v 2.11

The importance of the setting of a wedding is the place marriage has in the symbolic relationship God has with his people. The theme of marriage runs from the beginning of Genesis Genesis 2.24 into Revelation Revelation 19.7-9 as a God ordained relationship. Humans are made for intimate relationships that reflect the fellowship the Godhead has within themselves. The faithfulness of the marriage is intended to reflect the faithfulness of God to his people. In the Old Testament this is particularly the message of Hosea, where God through Hosea’s marriage demonstrates that he is faithful even when his bride is not and reconciliation between God and man is always possible.

A Christian marriage is intended by God to be in itself a witness to God’s faithfulness to his bride, his people. “Paul tells us that marriage is a mystery designed by God to show us Christ’s love for the church.” (Josh Moody, John 1-12 for you.) ‘Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.’ Ephesians 5.25-27

How then does a marriage reflect Jesus’ love for the church and how can the marriage partners foster that loving faithfulness for the rest of their lives?

What challenges are presented when only one of the married couple is a disciple of Jesus?

What pastoral support do we provide as a church for married couple to be a witness to the faithfulness of God?

Faithful one – Brian Doerksen


Is the business of religion OK?     John 2.13-25

Is it true for you that the industry that surrounds religion including the Christian faith is a problem? Does it in any way create a barrier to faith for either yourself or people you know. If so, is the problem where established churches appear to be wealthy and the wealth is not used for the purposes their teaching would lead you to expect? Is it that the churches money is focused on the wants and needs of church members and not on the gospel message and needs of non-church members? Could it be that you believe you cannot trust the people in power in the church to honestly manage the finances? Is it that you believe the business of religion has relegated gospel living and sacrifice to a small dusty back seat in the corner of the church, so much that you believe if Jesus walked in the church he would not recognize it as a people of worship?

Following the wedding feast in Cana, Jesus, his family and disciples go back to his Galilean base, Capernaum, but he only stays there a few days before heading off to Jerusalem for the Passover. John 2.12,13 John mentions Jesus attending three separate Passovers and there is some disagreement as to whether there were one or two occasions when Jesus “cleared the temple”. The other gospels record a similar event in the Passover week of his death. Has John reorganized the order of events to structure his teaching for symbolic and conceptual reasons? This may be so but we cannot be absolutely sure either way. Certainly, conceptually this account fits in well, just before the visit of Nicodemus, as it deals with religion being a barrier to a relationship with God.

When Jesus entered the outer courtyard of the temple in Jerusalem, known as the Court of the Gentiles what did he see? It was noisy, thronging with people doing business selling animals for sacrifice and exchanging currency for the correct money to pay the temple tax.  v14 The business itself was not illegitimate it was where and how it was being done that was wrong. It made sense that people who had travelled great distances, often on foot, bought their sacrifice to worship God on arrival. The payment of the Temple tax was not in itself wrong but by insisting that it was paid in specific Temple currency and then charging exorbitant rates was exploitative of worshippers. The temple was being run for the benefit of the insiders preventing them from being the light to the world that God intended them to be. They had effectively reversed the intentions of God and the place of prayer set apart for all to worship in had become a noisy market place where prayer and worship were no longer possible.

Jesus drove out the animals and stall holders because they had become a barrier between ordinary people and God. These were frequently God fearing people who had come in humility seeking forgiveness. God fearing is how the New Testament described genuine Gentile seekers after God who were not Jews. Acts 17.4 The court of the Gentiles was where such people could come and worship but in the eyes of the religious authorities they were inferior to those born a Jew. They were presented with unnecessary additional barriers for the profit of the religious authorities. Contrast that with Jesus’ own responses to such people as we will see later in the gospel. Before we consider how Jesus prophesied that he was the way to forgiveness and a relationship with God it is worth thinking of the many ways the Christian church has created self-seeking additional barriers to forgiveness and a relationship with God. This can be in the form of hierarchies, rituals, legalism, language designed to exclude and moral depravity.

Have you experienced the church placing barriers in the way of simple faith in Jesus?

Have church rituals made it difficult for enquirers after Christ to feel welcome?


Do we place moral integrity as an essential characteristic for continuing in Church leadership?

How closely do we align church finances with gospel priorities?


Holy ground – David Bilborough


Pressed down, shaken together and running over.   John 2.1-11

How good are you at taking the right gift when you have been invited to a meal or party? Are you a grab a quick bottle of rioja red wine and a bunch of artificially bright flowers from Morrisons type of person or do you ponder deeply and try to find a gift that fits the hosts just perfectly? I’ll leave you to guess which side of the divide I fall on but I have to say Morrisons is very reasonable when it comes to wine and flowers, or so my Mother said. Weddings are a particular challenge, especially if one is one of those marginal guests and somehow all the presents on the John Lewis website that come under the ‘I can just about afford that’ category went three months ago. It’s funny how what is a suitable gift has changed over time. I can remember when duvets were a big thing, I don’t mean literally as in Super King Size, I mean that most people still fought over blankets and sheets and duvets were strangely European and exotic. Towels always seem a safe bet, but the poor ‘newly weds’ probably never get to actually choose a towel for the first thirty years of marriage and they never match the bathroom décor. Truly a first world disaster. Cheeseboards were the present of choice at my daughter’s wedding.

I wondered if there was any helpful biblical advice for this type of eventuality. Luke records these words of Jesus,‘give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.’ Luke 6.38 Brilliant advice, if expensive, but then I realized that this giving was even more expensive than I realized at first sight. Give did not have a capital letter in the bible, it was preceded in the same sentence with: ‘Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;’ giving according to Jesus is much more costly than might be thought if scripture is taken out of context.

The thing about Jesus is he lived what he taught and as he was God incarnate both what he said and did revealed the purposes and nature of God. All this brings me back to the wedding in Cana. Jesus turns up with his Mum and his newly found disciples. The party had probably been in full swing for a day or two, weddings were commonly a week long affair. They hadn’t been there long when an embarrassing situation developed, the wine had run out and there was no Morrisons round the corner. Mary turns to Jesus, and this is where Mary is much more in the know than anyone else, after all she had been told all about Jesus even before conception, so she makes one of those observations that are really a question and an instruction. ‘They have no more wine.” v3 Jesus doesn’t seem to be too happy about being put on the spot. I can just imagine the look he got from Mary when he came out with, ‘My hour has not yet come.’ v4 She ignores him and speaks directly to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ v5

Jesus does what Jesus is, over abundantly generous, kind and loving he turns water out of vessels for ceremonial washing into the finest of wines. Not just a couple of cases but gallons and gallons and gallons. Of course, this is packed with symbolism, the washing ceremonies and sin offerings of Judaic religion in those days were going to be replaced by the cleansing and forgiveness that never needs repeating. Wine in the Old Testament was a repeated symbol of God’s abundant blessing and the removal of reproach. ‘The Lord had pity on his people. The Lord answered and said to his people, “Behold, I am sending to you grain, wine and oil, and you will be satisfied; and I will no more make you a reproach amongst the nations”.’ Joel 3.18,19 This was a forerunner of the new covenant wine which Christians celebrate every time they remember death of Jesus with bread and wine.

What a joyous thing it is that the first sign of the glory of Jesus is a super abundant gift, miraculously achieved because he is also the creator Word of God.

Is your vision of Jesus as the super abundant generous bringer of joy?

Has the Spirit of God worked in your heart to make you a giver of gifts, pressed down and shaken, a forgiver as well as forgiven?

Joy – Rend Collective (Wait for it)


A fig tree, a ladder and the birth of a nation                                      John 1.43-51

“Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” John 1.51

 Jacob had cheated his elder brother, Esau, out of Isaac his father’s blessing and inheritance. Isaac was now concerned that Jacob should not marry a Hittite and so he sent him to his wife’s brother to marry one of his daughters. This was to be fair, mainly due to his wife Rebecca complaining about how much she hated Hittite women. But that was a ruse in itself as Rebecca had heard that Esau was planning to kill Jacob as soon as Isaac died in revenge for Jacob’s deceit and she wanted Jacob out of the way. It is incredible how despite all the deviousness of mankind God works out his purposes. Jacob did what he was told and set out for Harran where his Uncle Laban lived. It was a long journey so he slept in the open with a stone for a pillow. That night he dreamt of a ladder or stairway resting on earth and reaching to heaven, Genesis 28.12 going up and down the ladder were angels. At the top of the ladder the Lord stood and promised Jacob that his descendants would be numerous and occupy the land he was sleeping on. In effect he would be the father of a new nation. God additionally promised that, ‘All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.’ Gen 28.14 Even from the very beginning God’s people were intended to be people of mission or blessing to the world. On a second personal encounter with God, Jacob wrestles with a mysterious man throughout the night and refuses to let him go until he is blessed. At that point the man renames Jacob, Israel, from which his descendants took their national name. This is the turning point in Jacob’s life he now has a new relationship with God following a great personal struggle.

It was this account that Jesus was referring to when he said to Nathanael, a man very conscious of his biblical heritage as a man of Israel, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.’ John1.51 As a line of communication was opened for Jacob and his descendants, Jesus was indicating that he, Jesus, would open a new two way connection between humankind and God, pointing forward to his death, resurrection and ascension. Jesus was going to found a new people of God, starting at that point with just five men, Andrew, John, Simon Peter, Philip and Nathanael leading on eventually to the universal church.

Jesus had been able to detect in Nathanael a depth of character and someone conscious of Israel’s unique place in God’s plans. When they met for the first time Jesus’ words about him were, ‘Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.’ v47 Cautious, even skeptical, Nathanael had previously questioned Philip as to whether anything good could come out of Nazareth in response to Philip’s urging to meet Jesus, as he is the one prophesied about in the scriptures. Nathanael was probably well aware that the ‘anointed one’ was meant to come from Bethlehem and did not know Jesus’ early life story. Jesus met him with symbolism laden with significance to an Israelite. Jesus stunned Nathanael by having previously discerned him under a fig tree. To Nathanael’s question, how did Jesus know of him, ‘Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were under the fig tree before Philip called you”.’ v48The fig tree and in particular enjoying life under the fig tree is a repeated image of Israel living under God’s blessing. It was part of God’s blessing in Deuteronomy 8.8 as the people entered the promised land if they were obedient to his commands. A sign of God’s discipline of his people in Jeremiah 8.13 is the destruction of their fig trees. The possibly most importantly sign of life under the fig tree is as the servant who will remove his people’s sins pointing once again to the cross of Jesus Christ. ‘“I am going to bring my servant, the Branch. See, the stone I have set in front of Joshua! (The High Priest) There are seven eyes on that one stone, and I will engrave an inscription on it,” says the Lord Almighty, “and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day. In that day each of you will invite your neighbour to sit under your vine and fig tree,” declares the Lord Almighty.’ Zechariah 3.8-10

 Nathanael immediately recognized the implications of Jesus’ words demonstrating a heart already prepared by the Spirit to believe and follow Jesus. Jesus connected with Nathanael in the way that was meaningful to him and trusted him with profound truths. Nathanael’s reactions contrast sharply with the religious leaders and teachers of the law later in the gospel when the signs John records were far more obvious and accompanied by clear teaching.

Pray for people to come to Jesus with open and Spirit prepared hearts and minds.

Pray that like Philip, Christians will keep inviting people to find out more about Jesus.

Thank God that he has made a worldwide spiritual nation so that they are a blessing to all people.

Bri (Briana Babineaux) – Jacob’s Song



Have you got the right?     John 1. 9-12 & 35-51

We are keen on our rights and get very upset when they are objected to or taken away. We prize our right to freedom, to live our life as we choose, which is why imprisonment is the strictest sanction our society imposes. A high profile professional footballer has been in trouble this week because according to the Greek courts he thought his wealth and celebrity status gave him the right to get away with abusing and attempting to bribe the police as they broke up a fight. Even following a death family disputes can become highly vitriolic if some believe their right to an inheritance has been denied when they are the deceased’s child. Wars have been fought because a monarch’s  ‘illegitimate’ child has believed they have been denied their right to succession.

The right to be recognized as our parents’ child goes to the heart of our sense of self.  Who then has the right to be called a child of God and if we are what is our inheritance? There is a common assumption that we are all children of God. This can be associated with a belief that people are naturally good and that it would be unfair of God to differentiate between people including people of differing faiths.

The priests and Levites sent by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem to investigate John the Baptist v19 believed they had a birth rite because they were the chosen people of God. The Pharisees would have narrowed it down even further to those who obeyed their strict laws, many of which were additional to the laws passed on by Moses. The apostle John though gives a very different perspective.

John says that our starting point is that to be a child of God requires a spiritual birth that comes from the will of God. v12 He clearly differentiates between natural birth and spiritual birth as a child of God. Spiritual birth as a child of God is in the gift and will of God. If natural birth does not automatically give us the right to be a child of God then race and natural parenthood are not qualifying factors.

The qualifying factors are our responses to Jesus, who in the early section of John 1 he calls the Word and the Light because he is the one who reveals God and the way of being in relationship with God. The default position for people is not recognizing Jesus for who he is. ‘He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.’ v10 This sadly included many of the Israelites including the majority of the religious leadership. It took a brave and honourable member of the leadership to stand out against their peer pressure.

However, in the crowds of people who travelled to hear John preach there was a deep sense among ordinary people of their need. They knew their lives were not right, they knew they needed a fresh start. They would have been of all ages from the poor to the rich. When John condemned their lifestyle and told then to prepare for the promised Messiah confessing their sin and being baptized as a sign of repentance they did so in large numbers. John called it making, ‘straight the way of the Lord’. v23 But, was that enough? John, the gospel writer, makes the point that simply wanting to start again and live a better life is not the whole journey to becoming a child of God. One needs to receive Jesus. v12 I find that term receive him difficult to pin down. The NIV study bible (2015) helpfully clarifies what receiving or believing in Jesus means. Receiving or believing in him includes, ‘personally welcoming, trusting, and submitting to Jesus’.

When John the Baptist and Jesus met up the day after Jesus’ baptism two of John’s disciples make that step with the blessing of John. One was Andrew, Peter’s brother, and the other is unnamed but assumed to be John the gospel writer. vv 35-40 It is of great significance that Andrew’s first instinct after making the decision to follow Jesus was to invite his brother to meet him as well. ‘ “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus.’ v41

Have you the right to become a child of God?

Have you invited someone close to you to meet Jesus?

Who You Say I Am – Hillsong Worship




Will the guilty person step forward: Behold the Lamb of God-     John 1.29

The phrase “the Lamb of God” has meant so much to generations of followers of Jesus, since John the Witness (Baptist) first said it when they met in the wilderness by the Jordon river. I wonder though how that phrase can be made meaningful to people not brought up in the Christian faith. To the crowds who went to hear John preach in the desert it would have readily been understood because it represents the culmination of Israel’s Old Testament history, prophesy and worship rituals as laid down in the Mosaic law. The bible makes clear that it is an eternal title for Jesus, a name by which Jesus is revered and worshipped in heaven. Revelation 15.3 However that seems very remote from most of everyday modern life. There is no exact modern parallel to the meaning of the Lamb of God that I know of but a story of a prisoner in a second world war Japanese prisoner of war camp captures some of the meaning. The camp was on its daily parade following a breach of camp rules. It was made clear to the prisoners that a number of them would be executed unless the person who breached the rules stepped forward to own up and nobody did. When it became clear that the threat would be carried out immediately an innocent man took that step forward to take the punishment and at least temporarily save the lives of his fellow prisoners.

How is this similar to Jesus being the Lamb of God? An unblemished lamb was an offering that was made for the sin of the people on the eve of Passover. It also reminded the Jewish people of how God freed them from slavery in Egypt and the Angel of Death “passed over” their homes prior to their leaving for the promised land. The blood of the lamb was painted on their door posts and its presence protected them from God’s judgement. Jesus as the Lamb of God was to become the vicarious sacrifice for people’s sin. He took the judgement and punishment of God for others voluntarily. The brave prisoner of war was not a completely innocent man in the same way that no human is, however he was innocent of whatever misdemeanour the Japanese guards deemed had taken place. He chose to be a vicarious sacrifice for the sake of others. It was an act of extreme bravery. It came from love for others. Whether knowingly or not he was obedient to Jesus’ own command to his disciples, ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.’ John 15.12,13

How is the story not similar to Jesus being the Lamb of God? Firstly Jesus’ death whilst being unjust and the work of an evil corrupt set of religious and political leaders, was at the same time Jesus taking upon himself the just and fair judgement of God the Father for the sins of all who trust in him. Jesus was not only innocent of the “crimes” the authorities accused him of, he was also innocent of any sin. Jesus was not only an innocent man he is also the Son of God, creator of all things and therefore taking such a punishment was an act of supreme humility. Jesus’ sacrifice not only benefited his “friends” temporarily it opened the door to eternal life.

It took the Holy Spirit to reveal to John that Jesus was the Lamb of God even though John would have known Jesus his whole life as he was his cousin. ‘John bore witness: I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me (God, John 1.6) to baptize with water said to me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.’ v32-34 Similarly it takes the intervention of the Holy Spirit for every individual who understands and believes that Jesus is the Lamb of God.

Are we praying that the Holy Spirit reveals the true Jesus to our friends?

Have we taken on board Jesus command to love one another as he has loved us?

How would you explain the phrase, the Lamb of God, to someone who had no knowledge of the bible?

Lamb of God – Twila Paris




Call the next witness         John 1

Our legal system, at least in part, is based on establishing the balance of probability. Above the Old Bailey in London is a statue commonly called the Scales of Justice but is more accurately named Lady Justice. She holds in her left hand a balance scale denoting fairness. In her right hand she holds a sword symbolizing authority. Her imagery comes from the mythical Greek god Themis, goddess of divine law. She is often depicted standing on a snake representing evil. Law in the UK has different levels of proof or probability required depending on the area being judged, the highest level is beyond reasonable doubt. To establish this, evidence needs to be provided through witnesses. Some might have specialist knowledge others have first hand experience through their senses.

The whole of John’s gospel is John presenting the case for Christ bringing evidence from a series of carefully chosen witnesses including Jesus’ own testimony. We saw in John 1.3 that creation itself testifies to the existence of and goodness of God. Paul in Romans confirms this, ‘For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.’ Romans 1.20 However early in his gospel John introduces a human witness, John. Known elsewhere as John the Baptist but more appropriately known in John’s gospel as John the Witness. John self identifies as the one Isaiah prophesied, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.’” v23 John was in a long line of witnesses to the coming Christ stretching back through the Old Testament. Each one, like John, sent from God. v6

Confusingly, the only John mentioned by name in John’s gospel is John the Witness (Baptist) and not the author. However, John, the gospel writer includes himself in the same line of God sent witnesses. In the penultimate verse of his gospel John makes clear he also is a first hand witness to Jesus’ words and life. ‘This is the disciple who testifies to these things, and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.’ John 21.24 Jesus himself handed on the baton of being witnesses at his ascension. ‘You are witnesses of these things.’ Luke 24.48

The point of being a witness is that others might believe that Jesus is the Christ or as John is terming Jesus at this point, the light. v7 When being a witness, that is speaking about one’s experience of God through Jesus, it easy for oneself to become central to the narrative. This detracts from the evidence and the reason for the evidence. John the Witness provides a clear example of how to be a witness. I do not mean, go all native and dress in odd clothes, eating uncooked scavenged food. He is repeatedly clear that the message he had to give was not about him, it was about the coming Christ. v8 When questioned by the priests and Levites sent from Jerusalem he said, I am not the Messiah v20 then when pressed again he repeated the statement. v21

 John was eager to give his testimony regarding the coming Christ. ‘He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely’. v20 This is a real challenge for us all. John gained his confidence and passion from being filled with the Holy Spirit. The angel of the Lord spoke to Zechariah, his father and prophesied that John would be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he was born. Luke 1.15 Have we prayed that God would fill us with the Holy Spirit so that our lives are a witness to Christ?

John also had a clarity to his message. He knew what he knew, he did not over elaborate. He understood that Jesus is the embodiment of the grace of God. God had up to this point revealed himself through his creation, the prophets and his chosen people Israel. Now in the coming of Jesus God has fully revealed his grace and truth. v17 Jesus is the perfect revelation of God. As John writes, ‘No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.’ v18

Do we see the church as being in the line of succession of witnesses to Jesus as the Christ?

What can we learn about being a witness from John the Witness?

I Will Stand as a Witness of Christ




Ladies and Gentlemen put your hands together for –   John 1.1-5

A guest speaker at a morning breakfast to a prestigious award ceremony is usually introduced by the Chair of the organization with a short biography that gives a personal insight into the speaker’s personality, career and qualifications so that the audience eagerly anticipates the forthcoming talk. John does a similar thing in his prologue as the first 18 verses of the gospel are known. In particular verses 1 -5 open with the dramatic statement that Jesus was the Word (In the beginning was the Word) v1 and that he is the source of all things. The implication and consequences of the truth of that statement was and is mind blowing. It would hugely out do an introduction at a writers’ conference that went, ‘Ladies and Gentlemen put your hands together please, fresh from the grave, William Shakespeare!’ John is saying that the person I am introducing you to outranks every person, thing or event that you could possibly think of including creation itself. Hang on tight because what I am going to tell you will blow your mind.

When John wrote the last of the gospels he took a completely different approach to the other gospel writers who essentially took a traditional approach to biography writing of largely keeping to a time line. John divides his account into two main sections his public and private ministry. To build his case for Jesus being the Word and the Christ, the son of God v20.31 he selects three series of sevens whilst recognizes that there are many more proofs that could have been recorded. He alternates in the first section (1.19 – 12.50) seven signs or miracles with seven extended teachings (discourses) that elaborate on the signs. He also includes seven statements of Jesus known as the ‘I am’ statements. These build to John’s own self-declared reason for writing the gospel, ‘that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name’. v20.31

The Word pre-existed time and creation and John makes the dramatic statement that the Word became human and this person is Jesus. ‘And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth). v 1.14 John is identifying himself as one of the eye witnesses to the events recorded in the gospel and it is therefore a first hand account.

John is identifying the Word as fully God. A literal translation of the last phrase of verse 1 is, ‘and God was the Word’. John is also connecting Jesus with the opening of Genesis and the creation of the universe. ‘In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth Genesis 1.1And God said …’ Gen 1.3 Jesus is the eternal creating Word of God. ‘All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.’ v3

More that the physical creation of the universe Jesus is the source of life and John refers to Jesus’ life as ‘the light of men’. There are various nuances to the term light of men. There is a sense in which the light of Jesus reveals God and his salvation. This is further developed in the gospel. There is also the way in which the light of Jesus penetrates darkness, symbolic of sin, and reveals it for what it is. In verse 5, ‘The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it’ John is pointing forward to Jesus’ victory over sin and death through his crucifixion and resurrection.

Through Jesus then we can understand who God is because he is God revealed to us. We can have confidence in his capability because he is the creator of all things. He also is the light that will reveal and overcome our personal darkness.

My son has a personal favourite exclamation, awesome. This Jesus certainly is.

Is it harder to grasp the all-powerful divinity of the Word of God or the humility of the Word to become human?

Are we prepared for God’s light to be in our lives or do we prefer darkness?

Word of God by Brenton Brown – Music begins 1.30 into video, great Ethiopian images




Hope has a name        Psalm 72

Hope energizes, despondency sucks the energy from us. Hope or lack of it is a major issue in our time as certain global forces impact so many lives. A global pandemic, with no clear pathway through, impacts expectations on all continents. Global warming carries with it seismic threats to the well-being of the whole of nature as far into the future as we can see. It is apposite that it is the younger generations who are the most vocal regarding its consequences. We have not experienced a world war since the mid twentieth century but the impacts of regional wars are now felt globally. The human heart has not changed and secular advocates of human rights with a belief that rationality and ever-increasing knowledge will lead to less cruelty have not proved substantially true, although this could be argued at length.  Large scale events impact individuals at all levels from young adults feeling that career chances have slipped away following the economic contraction associated with the Coronavirus pandemic, to elderly in severe pain and unable to have any clear date as to when surgery to relieve their chronic pain can be undertaken. At such times a good and strong leader is wanted. People are desperate to believe in somebody who is trustworthy and honest. When a new leader comes to the fore there is often a surge of hope that this one will make a profound difference. There is no need to be entirely cynical. There have been many who have made significant differences to people’s lives and the well-being of their nation.

Psalm 72 is a prayer for such a king. It is only one of two attributed to Solomon but as to whether it was written by Solomon and was a prayer for his own kingship and future kings or a psalm of David for his son Solomon it is not known. The psalmist and for convenience we will call him Solomon is primarily concerned with his own immediate time and the kingship of Israel, prior to the division between north and south. This is a mortal king, ruling a physical geographical nation, loved by his people. ‘Long may he live! May gold from Sheba be given him. May people pray for him and bless him all day long.’ v15 The best fit for the prosperity of the nation during his kingship, the geographical extent of his rule, the gifts and tributes brought to him and the wisdom and fairness of his judgements is Solomon’s reign. Sadly though, Solomon did not maintain this throughout his life and the long decline of Israel started in his life time as he was tempted to worship other gods influenced by his many wives and concubines.


However, Christians see this psalm as much more than that, it is prophetic, set within the whole thrust of the bible whose purpose is to reveal Christ. The aspirations of the psalm are beyond any one human. Themes within the psalm are continued in the New Testament and reach their culmination in Revelation. ‘May his name endure forever; may it continue as long as the sun. Then all nations will be blessed through him, and they will call him blessed’. vv17

In this psalm, which provided a liturgy for an enthronement ceremony we see the nature of Jesus’ kingship. Hope has become not a thing, an idea or a process but a person, Jesus Christ. He alone is capable of providing eternal hope, kept safe and glorious, untouchable, to all who trust in him. ‘An inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you’. 1 Peter 1.4

In this ‘royal son’ we see the righteousness of God. ‘Endow the king with your justice, O God, the royal son with your righteousness’. v1 God’s righteousness is a light that shines into darkness bringing  life. John introduces his biography of Jesus with these words, ‘In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.’ John 1.4,5 The natural companions to righteousness are justice and judgement. Solomon prays, ‘May he judge your people in righteousness, your afflicted ones with justice’.  The clear priority for this righteous king are the needy and afflicted. vv 2,4,12 Read any of the gospels and Jesus’ concern for people and his active mercy accompanied by his anger about hypocritical oppression is abundantly apparent.

He is not only interested in opposing injustice and hardship, he is equally concerned to actively cause righteousness to flourish. This king came on an eternal mission at the heart of which was to overcome sin and death and to do that through his own sacrificial life. He is a king concerned not just for one people group but for all peoples. ‘May all kings bow down to him and all nations serve him.’ v11 ‘Then all nations will be blessed through him, and they will call him blessed’. v 17

He is our hope, he is our king and deserves the doxology that rounds off the second book of psalms.

Praise be to the Lord God, the God of Israel,

who alone does marvelous deeds.

Praise be to his glorious name forever;

May the whole earth be filled with his glory.    Amen and Amen.

Can you join in Paul’s prayer, ‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope’? Romans 15.13

 Living Hope – Phil Wickham




If you bothered to ask?       Psalm 71

When as an older Christian do others see you as old? Is it when they stop asking you to be part of things and including you in decisions or think your thoughts are no longer relevant? Could it be that people no longer think you will be wrestling with temptation and the evil one or you cannot speak in a meaningful way about what God is doing today. Perhaps it is when people see bodily limitations and think the spirit is equally disempowered. One of the most hurtful ways to be perceived is as a caricature. There are several out there.  There is, now you are retired an assumption that passion and drive have retired as well. Alternatively, there can be the idea that life is now a constant holiday and you will not have plans beyond the next cruise or trip. Conversely if in later life one is financially poor then one is also negatively dependent in all aspects of life including spiritual understanding. Then there is a belief that from now on all of life’s adventures are lived vicariously through children and grandchildren. In truth some people in later life live up to caricatures like these.  Psalm 71 shows a multifaceted spiritual life of a believer who is now, ‘old and gray’. v18

The opening stanza contains familiar refrains of the Lord being the believer’s refuge but in verse 3, ‘Be my rock of refuge’ the Hebrew word chosen includes a subtle change. Here it would be more literally, ‘rock of habitations’. (BST, The message of Psalms 1-72, Michael Wilcock) The implication being that in times past he has sought God when in need of refuge, rescue and deliverance but now he has learnt to see the Lord as his home, a safe home. There is a greater stability about his relationship with the Lord as his saviour. That does not mean he is no longer under threat as he still prays, ‘Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of those who are evil and cruel’. V4 Simply because one has become older it has not removed one from being as Peter puts it sojourners and exiles in a world that wages war against your soul’ 1 Peter 2.11 I wonder how many times we consider that in the spiritual lives of the elderly the battle for holiness is as urgent as ever it was in younger years.


The psalmist here is able to bring a perspective of God’s faithfulness over his life since his youth. v5 He understands that God’s hand has been upon him from his conception, well before he was able to make any conscious act of faith. The longer one can trace God’s goodness in one’s life the more it is liable to inducepraise for him. In this way the psalmist is fulfilling a principal purpose for his and the lives of others to give praise to God and bring him glory. ‘From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb. I will ever praise you’. V6 But more than this he is able to trace how his life has intersected with others and contributed to their encounter with God. This is a tremendous resource of experience to draw upon and when shared builds up the faith of the fellowship. Can you think back and name people who you know God has impacted upon their lives, in some small way, through you? If so then you can share at least in part with the psalmist when he says, ‘I have become a sign to many’ v7 and it ought to encourage one to continue to pray for occasions when it will be repeated.

A fear in older age is that one can become rejected. Not only by God but also by fellow Christians. At that point one becomes increasingly vulnerable. In the western world in particular there is a tendency for the elderly to be excluded and lonely. There are many reasons for that some of which are not intentional but never the less do happen. In the light of this a prayer written around 3000 years ago can be highly contemporary to a Christian incapable of getting to church. ‘Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone.’ v9 Feelings are as important and strong in old age as they have been throughout life.

The psalmist is not an elderly person who has given up. He always has hope v15 and he continues to see it as important to tell people about God’s righteous deeds and his saving acts. v15 For the modern Christian with our understanding of Jesus’ cross and resurrection and that we all will face God’s judgement, how much more important is it for elderly Christian to speak of these things. The psalmist is not prepared to let his own inadequacies prevent him from speaking, ‘Though I know not how to relate them all. I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord.’ v16 He is not going to limit himself to speaking to people of his own age in some old people’s forum he sees his role cross generationally. v18

As an older person the psalmist understands his eternal hope is fixed upon the Lord, ‘you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up.’ v20 This is such an important message and needs to be communicated before it is time for the funeral. Our hope rests on Jesus’ resurrection and the reason for that hope should be declared by the church, old and young, repeatedly backed by the reliable evidences. It is what the apostles declared and it continues to the be churches’ calling.

Old age should be a time for praise, hopefully based on a lifetime of grateful celebration of the grace of God. vv 22-24

 My Jesus My Saviour





Psalm 70 Hurry up God! I’m dying here!

When the chips are down, when the rubber hits the road, when you’ve just drunk the last drop in Last Chance Saloon, what would you pray? If like me when your first read psalm 70 and thought, what has this got to do with me, then the worst crisis you’ve ever had might not have really been that much of a crisis. Not every refugee is threatened with life threatening violence but the numbers that are, are horrific. Not everybody whose life is threatened by violence is a refugee and again the statistics where this is the case is terrifying. What is the women married to a man who regularly beats her meant to pray? What should the teenager forced at gunpoint onto an inflatable to cross the Mediterranean pray. When I explained to an asylum seeker from Eritrea, that the letter he had received from the Home Office meant that they had the right to send him back to his country of birth, he just quietly cried repeating, ‘No, they can’t’, because he had just told me that for years he had been repeatedly beaten in their jails with electric cable on his feet. What should he have prayed? The examples could endlessly carry on. If one is a victim of such events then the prayer, ‘Make haste. O God, to deliver me! O Lord, make haste to help me! Let them be put to shame and confusion who seek my life.’ Vv.1,2 makes complete sense.

The vast majority of people living in fear for their lives are as the psalmist describes, poor and needy. v5 In that situation the need for salvation is great. Prayer is urgent and they long to rejoice and be glad. It is into that type of situation that the gospel is so crucial and along with that, the role of the church to bring people the gospel.  When this happens then people can honestly pray, ‘You are my help and my deliverer, O Lord, do not delay.’ v5 They can also rejoice with the psalmist affirming, ‘God is great!’ v4

In Jesus we have a saviour who knows exactly what it is to have had powerful people to plot to kill him, have him arrested, tortured, publically humiliated and brutally executed. He then overcame through his resurrection but that in no way diminishes his suffering or his experience of fear. Fear so great he sweated blood. The gospel is at its most obviously meaningful in times of the greatest crisis. Perhaps this is why the church often prospers the most in times of greatest oppression because the person of Jesus cuts through empty materialism, temporary sating of senses, self-righteous rituals and the cruelty of one of human to another. Jesus has met people’s needs by giving himself not an ideology. He is the source of love, light, truth and hope.

Jesus though did not simply come to bring urgent relief to those who are suffering, his mission was much more than that, it was to bring people and God back into relationship and establish permanent reconciliation between humans and God through the forgiveness of sin and faith in him. But that does not take away from the repeated biblical opposition to injustice and oppression and the importance of his disciples to love and serve those in greatest need.

How do you think the church should respond to the prayer of psalm 70?

My Help” sung by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir in HD




Psalm 69 The isolated disciple          Psalm 69 and Matthew 10.32

Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. Matthew 10.32

The emotional and spiritual price of being a follower or seeker after God is no new thing. Today there are so many long term situations where a Christian can feel alone and unable to see a way forward. It feels unjust and when things don’t seem as if they will ever change then in prayer the Christian will understand David’s words, ‘I am worn out calling for help, my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God.’ v3 It can be particularly difficult for the adult who has become a Christian when those they know are hostile to their new found trust in Christ. This can often be family who now feel rejected or betrayed and then retaliate by rejecting the new Christian. Many experience opposition in the work place especially where the values at work do not conform to Christian values. Friends may reject a Christian because the Christian does not want to speak the way they used to or do the things the group once did. Living in the context of conflicting beliefs where one stands out as different frequently leads to bullying of various degrees and a tendency to compromise and conform to the group.

Psalm 69 exposes David’s inner life when isolated humanly and spiritually and reassures us that these experiences are not rare, they can be openly expressed to God. Christians have seen how Jesus went through many of these things himself and in that sense the psalm is seen as prophetic. Not all that is written here can be applied to Christ, David’s confession of sin v5 in particular does not apply to him. The language is poetic, powerful and evocative but that is appropriate to the internal dialogue that goes on when one feels, ‘up to one’s neck in it’. v1

How many of these feelings or situations have applied to you at some time in your Christian discipleship? They carry a contemporary resonance for the modern seeker after God.

It is painful when one feels that one is hated without legitimate reason. Think of a daughter who has become a Christian, that does not mean she no longer loves and respects her mother and family but there have been many who have been rejected by their family for their new found faith. In such circumstances David’s words, ‘Those who hate me without reason outnumber the hairs on my head; many are my enemies without cause’ will be a shared experience.   When we are in the middle of unjust hostility it easy to be filled with self-righteousness but David avoids this and confesses his own sin. ‘You God, know my folly, my guilt is not hidden from you.’ v5

 To continue the example of hostility from one’s family David terms it being, ‘a foreigner to my own family’. The most obvious examples may be when one changes faith from the family faith, but it is not limited to that situation. It can be equally and just as painfully when one has abandoned a positively atheist setting or simply a context where no thought has been previously given to faith.


The actual practices of being a Christian in themselves can be the focus for hostility, that may be reading the bible, taking time for prayer, attending a bible study group and going to church. It could be altering how one uses time such as choosing to join in with a feeding the hungry project one evening a week instead of a social activity. For David the religious and cultural practices in his time were different but they still attracted derision. ‘When I weep and fast, I must endure scorn; when I put on sackcloth, people make sport at me.’ vv10.11

When opposition is overwhelming it is OK to plead with God and pour out one’s heart because God does have great love for you. If we are struggling for words then the bible often provides words for us and we can simply pray what we read.

‘Answer me, Lord, out of the goodness of your love;
    in your great mercy turn to me.
 Do not hide your face from your servant;
    answer me quickly, for I am in trouble.
 Come near and rescue me;
    deliver me because of my foes.

 You know how I am scorned, disgraced and shamed;
    all my enemies are before you.’ vv16-19


If you feel in any way as David did in this psalm have you shared your feelings and circumstances with a trusted Christian?


Does the church you belong to take the time to know who the Christians are in their church who are experiencing opposition in their private life, understand and support them?


At The Cross – Chris Tomlin



Psalm 68 – Strength comes from the knowledge of God and his deeds

The opening words of Psalm 68 are the words Moses said whenever the Ark set out, ‘Rise up, Lord! May your enemies be scattered; may your foes flee before you.’ Numbers 10.35 The Ark representing God’s presence with his people took hundreds of years to travel from Sinai, the place where the law was given to Mount Zion (Jerusalem). One can imagine the words again being incorporated in the rejoicing as David accompanied the Ark into Jerusalem. David draws upon the song of Deborah as she described the Lord as being the God of Israel and Sinai where the mountains quaked, the earth shook and the heavens poured clouds down like water. Judges 5.4,5 David declares God is the ‘God who saves’ v20 based on the history of how God has fought for Israel from slavery in Egypt, through the desert and the giving of the law, on to the conquest of the promised land and up to the point where the Ark is now resident with God’s people in Jerusalem.

The wicked who perish before God v2 were probably the Egyptians who had for centuries enslaved Israel and the righteous who were glad and rejoicing before God v3 were the Israelites. Such simplified statements gloss over many complications, even doubt and rebellion but when in the middle of events it is helpful to remember the big narrative that God has a purpose and history demonstrates that he has fulfilled his promises in his time. As Christians we benefit from knowing Jesus, who he is and what he has done as well as his promises. The same God who kept his promises regarding Israel will keep his promises regarding his people now.

The destruction of his enemies is balanced by the care for his own as in verses 4 to 6, those who call him Lord. ‘A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing’. vv5,6 The dwelling of God now resides with the church and these verses capture how the church should be now, a place where God meets the needs of people in need. It describes what contemporary mission should be, not limited to orphans and widows but to all who have need to be in the family of God. Prisoners may be literally in prison but they equally may be people who are imprisoned through sin and need God’s saving grace.


Israel’s victories over the nations as it occupies Canaan are sung of in verses 11 to 14. Again there is no mention of the many failures that occurred during that time as the focus is on God’s faithfulness. The silver sheathed dove with feathers of shining gold is poetic imagery possibly drawing on an ancient practice of sending victory messages by a homing bird. It was the role of women to proclaim the word of the Lord v11 and that feminine vocabulary is used again in Isaiah 61.1-2 and repeated by Jesus in Luke 4.18 as good news is proclaimed to the poor. The biblical narrative may be dominated by male perspectives but the role of women is essential and core and this captures the importance of women in proclaiming the gospel.

The narrative moves on to the eventual arrival of the Ark and the Lord’s presence at Sinai. vv 15-19 This is also symbolic of Jesus’ ascension. The remaining verses of the psalm celebrate the rule of God over all nations. David’s psalm looks forward to a time when nations will recognize and honour the God of Israel and Jerusalem. v29 However Christians will see in these verses the promise of Jesus’ return and his reign culminating in the defeat of all the spiritual enemies of God. Christians can join in with ancient Israel and sing, ‘You, God, are awesome in your sanctuary; the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people. Praise be to God! v35

 Paul saw the whole sweep of the psalm, from Egypt to Zion, as a picture of the saving work of Christ (Michael Wilcock, BST) in Ephesians 4 and from Christ’s place in glory he has given gifts to his people through the Holy Spirit that have meant that God’s praises have been sung throughout the kingdoms of the earth. v32 It started at Pentecost and the process continues today as the gospel reaches fresh people worldwide each day.

Do we sometimes focus so much on the details of life that we forget to see the big picture of God’s purposes?

Do we remember what God has achieved in our own lives and draw strength from that as we face the future?

Everlasting God (Chris Tomlin)





Victory snatched from the jaws of defeat.

Psalm 68, 1 Corinthians 15.54-56, Ephesians 4.7,8

The England cricket team has just celebrated an unlikely victory. When Root, the captain, was interviewed he said the team believed they could win because they had won from seemingly impossible positions twice last year and they drew confidence from that memory. What victories have there been in your life and more importantly what victories do there need to be?

In Old Testament literature victory was often recorded over Israel’s enemies, in the New Testament it was victory over spiritual opposition to the gospel of Jesus, sin or death. Whilst victory may occur through the agency of humans, although not necessarily, it was always by the grace (underserved favour) of God. Thus, David opens his song (Psalm 68) with, ‘May God arise, may his enemies be scattered; may his foes flee before him’. v1

Life faces us with many obstacles and battles that can stand between us and a fulfilling relationship with God. They often centre around sin in some form but ultimately the greatest battle is with death, not just physical death but also spiritual death. Most of us for most of the time refuse to engage with this battle and when we have to we are unprepared. The sweep of history covered in David’s song (Psalm 68) acts as a metaphor for the victory over sin and death achieved by Jesus through his death, resurrection and crucially his ascension.

Paul in Ephesians 4.8 quotes Psalm 68.18 with a twist. ‘But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people”.’ Ephesians 4.8 The psalmist has the people bringing gifts to God (entirely appropriate) but Paul has God providing gifts to his people to equip them for works of service and growth in their Christian life to enable them to attain the, ‘whole measure of the fullness of Christ.’ It is for this reason that the psalm is used by Christians as a Pentecost psalm because it was following Christ’s ascension that the gift of the Holy Spirit was given to equip the church for gospel outreach and a holy life.

1 Corinthians 15 is a wonderful summary statement of the gospel which as Paul puts it, ‘You have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain’. 1 Corinthians 15.1,2  The chapter develops until it culminates in Christ’s victory over both sin and death. Over sin through his death and resurrection as he takes God’s judgement over us upon himself. He explains as we share in Jesus’ death so we also will share in his resurrection. Paul summarizes this victory over sin for those who have faith in Jesus with these words. ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory. “Where, O death, is your victory: Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’. 1 Corinthians 15.54-56

The result of Jesus’ victory then should be as emphasized in both Ephesians and Corinthians is to be the capability to give oneself fully to ‘the work of the Lord’. 1 Corinthians 15.58 In the next reflection we will look at the victory events celebrated in the psalm that give confidence to his people as they are not immediately obvious. However, the ascension of Christ raises some questions for the modern Christian.

Have we appreciated the extent of Jesus’ victory over all dominions?

Is there any aspect of our life that we need to gain the Holy Spirit’s victory over?

Have we grasped the grace Christ has apportioned us so that the body of Christ may be built up?

Eben – Victory [Africa Gospel Music]



Help rebuild society God’s way       Psalm 67.3-7

Tearfund are campaigning for the government to see the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to provide reasons for the peoples of the nations to praise God. If the nations are led in the light of the character and ways of God then they will be singing praises. Why is this? Because the Godly way to rule is with equity. It also has a world wide view because God wishes to bless the whole world, not to benefit some peoples at the detriment of others. Gospel living and governing is radically different from government by unfair self-interest. It has a different perception of self-interest in that it is in everybody’s interest that governance is equitable.

Psalm 67 is a harvest psalm but it is clear from verse 7 that the harvest is spiritual and global, not just material. Read again Psalm 67 in the light of the e mail content below from Tearfund.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we see the world.

It’s forced us to pause and reflect.

It’s reminded us of the fragility of life and exposed inequalities in society. But it’s also brought communities together and given us the chance to reimagine what life could be like.

We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to be part of rebuilding a society which reflects God’s kingdom values.

As Christians, we can play a vital role by living differently and calling for change as we move forward. Christians have often been central at moments of social renewal and justice – from the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade to the civil rights struggle.

And now, we can urge our leaders to prioritise loving our neighbours near and far, protecting the most vulnerable, and caring for God’s creation. Here are two easy ways you can take action today with our Reboot Campaign.

First, you can join us in urging the UK government to reboot the economy in a way that prioritises the poorest and creates a better world for everyone. We have limited time to influence our leaders as they respond to the current crisis.

Add your voice by sending a ‘reboot message’ to the prime minister using the link below. You’ll find easy instructions to send an email or write a letter.

You can also use our Reboot Campaign video and discussion guide to explore with others how you are experiencing the pandemic, and how you can play your part in building a better world. We’d love to hear how you get on.

Respond: Share vaccines with developing countries

Reset: Cancel debt and release emergency funding to help developing countries respond to the crisis

Recognise: Include local faith groups in the response and recovery plans

Recover: Ensure the global recovery creates a better world for people in poverty, including by supporting small businesses, clamping down on tax loopholes and tackling climate change.

Renew: Work with the devolved nations to reboot the UK economy in a way that creates jobs and tackles the climate crisis

To find out more about these recommendations, please refer to
Tearfund’s policy paper 
Coronavirus crisis: Restoring societies.

Are we prepared to see advocacy as part of our Christian discipleship?

Do we see the world through the eyes of the Holy Spirit and take Jesus teachings to heart?

Psalm 67 (Lyric Video) | The Corner Room




Pulling back the Blackout Curtains of Life

Psalm 67.1-2 and Mathew 5.14-16

‘You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.’ Mathew 5.14-16

I woke this morning in a hotel room and it was dark, the noise of the motorway outside had been continuous all night and so its roar gave no indication of time. I could have reached for my phone to let its light shine on the time, instead I closed my eyes and let the dark control me. Slight chinks of light crept round the curtain edge jogging me into reluctant action. Eventually my conscience overcame my inertia, I rose, pulled back the curtains and instantly light flooded the room and galvanized me into life and I was ready to engage with the world.

Psalm 67 is about the light of God’s face shining on us so we take the light of the gospel to the world. There are two biblical roots the psalmist has drawn on, almost repeating word for word the blessing God gave Aaron and his descendants as priests to the nation, Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. ‘Say to them: “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.” ’ Numbers 6.23-26 However the wording is changed to a prayer for the nation to be priests bringing God’s blessing to the world. Peter confirmed this calling for the modern church to be, ‘a royal priesthood, a holy nation’. 1 Peter 2.9 The second is Abraham’s promise, I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. (Gen 12.2-3)

The opening two verses of Psalm 67 would make a brilliant prayer to be repeated each time a church gathers. 1May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah, 2that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.(ESV) To push the blackout curtain analogy a little further, a prayer that stops at the end of verse one draws the blackout curtain tightly around the church and says God’s grace and blessing is all ours or mine.  How often is that the motivation of our prayer, that we will be blessed? How often is the motivation that we will be a blessing?When talking and thinking about the ‘light of the world’ we frequently think about Jesus words in John 8.12 ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ But in Mathew, Jesus spoke to his  followers and said, ‘You are the light of the world … let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.’

God’s blessing on his church ought to be apparent to the world, the ways of Christians should be so distinctive that it is clear that the good news of Jesus is God’s salvation. This is a major challenge to a church too frequently consumed by its own internal issues. Our light for the world is the Holy Spirit within us, a mirror only reflects a light that that faces it, turn the mirror away from the light and it can no longer reflect it. May our faces shine as we gaze upon the goodness of God.  How often do we take time to be in God’s presence so that his face can shine upon us?

How do we join in making his ways known on earth?

Shine Jesus Shine (from the Indian released album Shine) Lyric Video – Graham Kendrick




Have you a story to tell?                             Psalm 66

We may not have a book in us but we all have a host of stories. Listen in to casual conversations around the table, when dog walkers meet, between family members over the phone and the conversation will be filled with stories from their lives. They may be about small incidental happenings but they are relevant, informative and create bonds between people. When the psalmist writes, ‘Come and hear, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me’ v16 he is keen to share the story of how God has answered his prayer. This is a congregational psalm designed to be used in shared worship and so it celebrates and encourages us to share our own stories of God’s answers to prayer and how important this is in building up the community of faith. Have you a story to tell about answered prayer during this Covid 19 time? If so who have you shared it with and how naturally does it flow in conversation.

The telling of salvation stories is an essential part of mission in our local community. It opens up our faith to others. It is easiest to do so within the faith community because we have confidence that our story will be well received but it is also provides a place for it to become a normal part of our life and makes it easier to share with those beyond the comfort of church. We need to be careful that the stories we tell are those that reflect God’s will and righteousness. The psalmist says, ‘If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.’ v18

The ‘awesome deeds’ that God has done are salvation deeds. The reference to the sea being turned into dry land v6 evokes memories of the Israelites escaping enslavement through the Red Sea or the crossing of the Jordon into the promised land. There is no pretense in these stories, everything did not go well but they do show the faithfulness of God. As the psalmist says, ‘For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let people ride over our heads, we went through fire and water,  but you brought us to a place of abundance.’ vv 10-12

All of this is ultimately completed through Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension. We have a story to tell. We will fail many times on our discipleship journey but God is faithful and we have many reasons to praise the Lord. We no longer bring burnt offerings instead our worship is now to be our lives lived out being transformed into Christlikeness. In Paul’s words, ‘I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.’ Romans 12.1,2

To discern the impact of personal story telling in spreading the good news of Jesus read Matthew 9 which contains several accounts of how personal testimony of encounters with Jesus were passed on and ‘news spread throughout the region’. It is important that Christians normalize the telling of their faith rather than be fearful of reactions as we seek to change the culture.

Have you heard a story recently that encouraged your faith?

Have you passed it on?

Build your Kingdom here – Rend Collective



 I heard the news today – Oh Boy!                            Psalm 65


A vast explosion in Beirut with more than 4000 injured and an unknown number dead. Over 1 million Uighurs’ forced into highly secure camps for “re-education” in the Xinjiang province of China. Governments across the world trying to balance lock down and economic recovery. Each story humanized through an individual’s eyes, a phone’s video clip, an eye witness account or a personal story. Is there a God for all peoples?

Psalm 65 is the middle one of a group of three all of whom address God being the God of ‘all people’. Throughout the bible there is a call to be outward looking to grasp that God’s love is for the whole world and all peoples. Even in David’s time where commonly gods were thought of as belonging to one nation or group, the biblical perspective was looking forward to a time when all people will come to recognize God and this theme continues through the New Testament. Psalm 64.9 says, ‘All people will fear; they will proclaim the works of God and ponder what he has done’. Psalm 65.2 says, ‘You who answer prayer, to you all people will come.’ Psalm 66.4 says, ‘All earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you, they sing the praises of your name.’ Revelation 14.6 declares, ‘Then I saw another angel flying in mid air, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth – to every nation, tribe, language and people.’

Peter explains that it is God’s desire that all people would turn to him now and be in relationship with him and that is the reason for his patience in the face of continued rejection by people towards him. ‘The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.’ 2 Peter 3.9 But what does it mean to be in relationship with God now? Psalm 65, a harvest psalm, provides us with some insight into the relationship experience.

A foundational position is grasping that God is the creator God and his creation conveys his eternal greatness, power, wonder and continuing presence. He is not a God who has done something and wandered off bored or disinterested and his continuing engagement with this small planet bountifully provides for us. vv 6-13 Contemplation of his provision evokes in us who trust in him a response of joy that the whole of nature seems to join in with. ‘The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy.’ v8 ‘The meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with grain; they shout for joy and sing.’ v13 We should not be ashamed of simple adoration and thankfulness, the growing urbanisation of human life has separated many from the immediate impact of God’s provision. ‘The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you ordained it. You drench its furrows and level its ridges; you soften it with showers and bless its crops.’ vv 9-10

 Sin separates us from God and it is easy to minimise sin in our minds because it is uncomfortable and challenging. Sin is all pervasive in the world, not only in our individual lives. It is also evident in the way many companies, organizations and countries conduct themselves. The Beirut explosion will have sins of neglect as a minimum behind it, the Chinese abuse of minority groups involves governmental sins of torture, imprisonment and abuse of women over their reproductive rights. God through Jesus has provided a means of re-establishing a relationship with him. ‘When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions.’ v3 John in the New Testament writes to the churches that we should not fool ourselves even after we have committed our lives to Christ we will still sin, however if we are honest with God about it we do receive forgiveness. 1 John 1.8,9

Knowing God through Jesus Christ is also to be individual loved and special to God. It is not just being a part of a group it is being a child of God. David writes, ‘Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts!’ v4 David is drawing on the imagery he knows as a king chosen and anointed by God. Jesus said, ‘No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day’. John 6.44

Whilst the thrust of the psalm is a celebration of God’s goodness through the harvest, David uses this to celebrate the greater harvest of righteousness that comes from God as our Saviour. Being in relation with God is living in a Christ like manner. In the same passage that John speaks about the confession of sin he also uses the phrase to walk in the light, meaning to live according to the gospel. ‘If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. A fulfilling outcome of being in fellowship with God is also the fellowship with other believers.

Do we provide time each day to consciously be in fellowship with God through Jesus Christ?

Are we brave enough to face up to the impact of sin on our lives and confess it to Him?

River of God – Paul Oakey





So it ain’t right and it ain’t fair!                  Psalm 64

If someone’s got a problem with you because what you’ve done is wrong then fair enough but if what you did or what you are is God’s will then what are we to do about that? This is a challenge for an individual but it is also a challenge for the collective body of believers in Jesus, in other words the church. What is experienced in terms of a threat to Israel as a nation or the king as the representative of the nation in the Old Testament is reflected as a spiritual threat in the New Testament. It may not be either right or fair but spiritual conflict is the status quo and we should expect it and treat it as the continuing normal. Paul makes this very clear, For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms’. Ephesians 6.12

In Psalm 64 David is complaining to God about his enemies and seeking God’s protection and whilst he is seeking God for himself as king he is also seeking him for the nation. ‘Hear me, my God, as I voice my complaint; protect my life from the threat of the enemy’. v1 Those who want to overthrow him also want to lead the nation in ways that rebel against God. For the modern church the enemies are those who want to undermine Jesus’ teaching and reject him as the Son of God and restorer of mankind’s relationship with God through his sacrifice and resurrection. The difference between the Old Testament way and the New Testament way is that in the Old the battle was waged with war and in the New it is waged with love. The spiritual battle and enemies are diverse. There is widespread violent opposition to Jesus through sections of other religions and atheist states e.g. North Korea and China. There is also spiritual and intellectual opposition where sanctions are imposed on those who would profess to follow Jesus. There are those who oppose Jesus through the promotion of sinful practices, these may include entirely legal methods of abuse and oppression including behaviour that leads to addiction, self-abuse or an obsession with materialism.

David wants to hide from the conspiracy of the wicked v2 and one can understand that, they want to kill him. It is interesting to contrast that with Jesus who thankfully did not hide but boldly declared the kingdom of God and deliberately obeyed God even though he knew it would cause him suffering beyond our understanding and physical death.

David highlights a number of the characteristics of the enemies of God. They speak with the intent to destroy. ‘They sharpen their tongues like swords and aim cruel words like deadly arrows’. v3 In modern terms that would include through all forms of written and visual media. It is not done haphazardly but deliberately and remorselessly. It is an ambush. v4 How is this expressed today? It is organized by such groups as the British Humanist Society and a range of intellectual institutions. Let’s be clear Christianity is not anti-intellectual it is intellectually coherent and has many leading scientists and other intellectuals as personal believers. Anti-Christian sentiment is often institutionalised much like other forms of prejudice including in certain settings into the legal framework of a country.

We should not be surprised if opposition to Jesus and his teaching is planned in terms of deliberate attacks on faith. These plans may well disguise themselves as other campaigns but in essence they are opposing the gospel. ‘They encourage each other in evil plans, they talk about hiding their snares; they say, “Who will see it”?’ v5

What is the Christian response to such opposition? David points to a concern for all people and points to a time when all will come to a knowledge of God. This remains the Christian confidence and hope. ‘All people will fear; (hold God in proper reverence and awe) they will proclaim the works of God and ponder what he has done. The righteous will rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in him; all the upright in heart will glory in him’. vv 9,10

Whilst David looks forward to God’s judgement and even punishment of his enemies, vv 7.8 Jesus’ teaching was to follow his example and sacrificially love those who opposed and even hated him. Paul who is a classic example of a person who hated and plotted against Jesus prior to his conversion wrote, ‘while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ Romans 5.8

Jesus’ words were, ‘But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.’ Luke 6.27,28 Peter wrote to the churches, ‘But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.’

 A vital part of loving people whether they are friend or enemy is to communicate the gospel as the good news of Jesus Christ in obedience to Jesus’ closing words in Luke’s gospel. ‘Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.’ Luke24.45-48           How can we be a blessing to the world?

For the joys and for the sorrows – Graham Kendrick




Do you miss going to church?      Psalm 63 and Hebrews 10.19-25

 Going to church is great but what is the best thing? Is it that the place feels special or maybe it is meeting trusted friends and knowing you are welcome? For lots of people it is simply being with the family of God knowing that what you treasure most is the thing you have in common. For others they love to listen to the bible being explained as they have their life changed by the word of God. Many find that it is in shared corporate worship that they most intimately meet with God whether that is through music and song, prayer or focusing on the words God has provided. Worship is highly personal and intimate because God has enabled that by becoming more understandable in the person of Jesus. As Christians long to worship God part of that longing is for the shared experience because it has so many benefits.

David from, ‘a dry and weary land where there is no water’ v1 is desperate to experience again worship of God in his sanctuary. This for David was a literal experience, he had fled to the wilderness following Absalom’s attempted coup. David’s dejected and mournful state of mind is lucidly described in 2 Samuel 15.23-37. He had commanded Zadok to take the Ark of God back to Jerusalem with the words, ‘If I find favour in the Lord’s eyes, he will bring me back and let me see it and his dwelling place again’. 2 Sam 15.25 When David calls out to God, ‘O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you’ v1 it is the definition of the wilderness experience. For us now many things can be described as a wilderness experience where we are separated from the worshiping community of God’s people. Most of us at this moment cannot physically be together to worship but like David we recall worshipping together beholding his power and glory. Even in the wilderness we can rejoice with David that his steadfast love is better than life and look forward with eagerness to the time when together our lips will praise him.

David is confident and we can share his confidence that the Lord will fully satisfy us. v5 Frequently it is during the night that the sense of being in a wilderness is at its greatest. It is then we can copy David perhaps with the aid of our bible or Christian book in remembering God and meditating on him until we have joyful praise on our lips.  Past experience teaches us that we are living in the shadow of his wings as our inner being ‘clings’ to him. David knew his own son was trying to overthrow him. If our troubles are caused by others then we can rest assured that God will be the final judge. vv 9-11

 What was David’s experience of worship in the sanctuary of God is now surpassed by Jesus’  once for all sacrifice. All Jesus’ disciples now have full access to God’s inner sanctuary or his presence and we are fully encouraged together to enter his presence. Hebrews put it like this, ‘Therefore, brothers, (all disciples) since we have confidence to enter holy places by the blood of Jesus, the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure spiritual water’. Hebrews 10.19-22

 Hebrews expands on the benefits of worshipping together. We are to think of ways to stir each other up to love and good works. Heb 10.24 We are to encourage one another with a particular view to the return of Jesus. All this with the purpose to live a life set apart for Jesus resisting sin. Hebrews is very clear being a disciple of Jesus will need endurance Heb 10.36 and it is likely to be a hard struggle with sufferings. Heb 10.32,33 However, through it all we are to show love and joy in the Lord for we know we have a, ‘better possession and an abiding one’. Heb 10.34

For reasons of victorious discipleship we are not to neglect meeting together. Heb 10.25 Whilst meeting virtually in our current circumstances and to be encouraged where possible it is right to long for the time when we can meet fully in person.

Do we take up opportunities to virtually meet together to worship and encourage each other?

Are we minded to support those who are not able to share in fellowship at this time?

Are we praying for the time when we can once again be fully together and behold the Lord’s power and glory?




Who would you be most surprised at self-declaring they’re a Christian? For me Alice Cooper lifted an eyebrow. After struggling with drugs and alcohol for much of his life he said, “Drinking beer is easy. Trashing your hotel room is easy. But being a Christian, that’s a tough call. That’s rebellion.’ George Foreman didn’t only invent a worktop grilling machine, he was a world champion heavyweight boxer. He became a Christian after nearly dying in fight in 1977. He quickly became a Christian minister. ‘Mr T’ (Lawrence Tureaud) of The A Team fame following his wrestling career became a Christian. Famous for wearing gold, after Hurricane Katrina (2005) he gave his gold away. He is recorded as saying, ‘When I saw other people lose their lives and lose their land and property … I felt it would be a sin before God for me to continue wearing my gold.’ Francis Collins was an atheist, he invented positional cloning, took part in the discovery of the genes for cystic fibrosis, Huntington’s disease and neurofibromatosis and directed the Human Genome Research Institute for 15 years. He found himself challenged by a terminally ill woman as to what his faith was. He then sought advice from a Methodist minister about Christianity and was given a copy of C S Lewis’ Mere Christianity. On reading that he came to the conclusion that Christianity was rational and is now a strong advocate for both science and the Christian faith.

In Psalm 62 David says, ‘Those of low estate are but a breath; those of high estate are a delusion; in the balances they go up; they are lighter together than a breath.’ v 9  When in adult life we are taken short and challenged as to the value of our life, whether poor and at the bottom of the pile, born into wealth and influence or a high achiever it is a shock to realize that our life is, ‘lighter than a breath’.

 David himself was the most successful king, despite many failings, in Israel’s history. It was from his succession that Jesus came and Jesus as Messiah was known as the son of David. Despite being anointed by God and victor of many battles extending and securing the nation of Israel he understood the vanity of self-reliance. He twice records the refrain, ‘For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken’. vv 1-2,5-6

At the point where we are deeply challenged or troubled and action of some kind seems imperative it takes courage to stop in our inner being (soul) and wait for God in silence. It is at that point when we can become deeply aware of our need for the grace of God. To grasp that God and God alone is our salvation is a break through moment to a new life with him. Christianity isn’t trusting in ideas or our own ability to lift ourselves out of life’s problems. The Christian faith is trusting in God expressed in the person of Jesus. Jesus own words were, ‘I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’. John 14.6

David is refreshingly honest in that he acknowledges he can be a little shaken but God is his fortress at those moments. v2 Things that can shake us include people who plan against us and behave deviously, saying nice things to our face but inside curse us. v4 Many will have experience this in family disputes, friendships gone wrong or employment situations. David also cautions against those who seek to prosper through criminal activity or put their faith in wealth. v10

David’s response to such things is listen to and trust in God. He doubles up the importance of listening and trusting God with the words. ‘Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God, and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love. For you will render to a man according to his work’. v11-12

If you are experiencing a testing time have you taken time alone to wait in silence and listen to God?

Are you trusting in things that in God’s judgement have no weight?

As you find me – Hillsong Worship




The whole world in your hands                              1 Peter

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

Psalm 139. 7-10

The gap year and global travel are now must have aspects of life for many. If like me you missed out on a gap year, I’m not sure I had even heard of it, between education and work then in retirement, the second window of freedom, it is eagerly grasped. This notion of broadening one’s horizons and getting to grips with alternative cultures although so much easier now mostly remains in global terms a privileged pastime. Where the poorest have globally travelled it has often been more forced rather than chosen for pleasure. I am thinking of migrants who have travelled to work as domestic servants or labourers leaving family behind and transferring nearly all of their meagre earnings to their family at home. There are also the migrants who risk their lives travelling huge distances at great personal cost on the vague hope of a safer life in a strange often western country.

The world is undeniably much more connected now than at any time in history. Information is passed almost instantaneously on any subject. Access to information is usually not the question, it is reliability of information that is more uncertain. What then can a letter, handwritten and personally delivered to a few scattered house churches in Asia Minor two thousand years ago have to valuably say when compared to the wealth of information now available in our information rich, globally connected world?

Peter’s first letter does have historically and culturally specific aspects. It mentions the Emperor, a temple and specific religious practices no longer undertaken but in all of these there are valid ways of applying them to modern life. The letter takes a very wide view, it scans God’s salvation plan for human history placing us between Christ’s resurrection and his return. It shows how Christ is the culmination of the Old Testament narrative and the hope for the future not only for the Jewish nation but for all nations. It is a letter with a sharp global perspective.

At the heart of the message is the importance of Jesus’ resurrection because it is through the resurrection of Jesus that he has formed a new global people who are to be to the world his race or people and his priesthood. 1.3-5, 2.9a They are to be from all nations and races of equal worth to him. They are to have one mission in life and that is to reveal God in all his glory, mercy and holiness to the world. 2.9b They are to do this through their life style and communicating God’s word.

This is very good news and will bring its own eternal reward. However, it will be personally costly and followers of Jesus should expect that to be normal. 4.12 Life now for the global Christian is a pilgrimage, they are aliens in an unbelieving society, journeying to our true home. ‘Wherever believers live around the globe, this fallen world is not our home. As Paul put it, “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3.20)’. 1On this pilgrimage Christ is the example and the substitutionary saviour. Peter speaks of Christ as an example to follow (2.21-23, 4.2, 13-14) as well as a saviour (1.18-19, 2.24, 3.18). The gospels or life stories of Jesus now provide reliable accounts of Jesus character, work and teachings so that Christians are able to understand and follow him.

Peter also wants the global church to have hope even when they suffer for, ‘a little while’ 5.10 in God’s judgement, justice and glory. As Christians across the world journey together they are to be bound together in a supportive unity. They are to intercede for one another, bear each others’ burdens, advocate for each other and reach out in mercy and kindness. At all times they are to keep in view the glorious inheritance that awaits them.

 He’s got the whole world in His hand – Mahalia Jackson (Like you’ve never heard it before)




Humility defeats prowling lion          1 Peter 5.5-11

The presence of pain and suffering at the hands of evil in the world frequently presents difficulties for Christians and a barrier to faith for skeptics. Peter does not address the philosophical issues of why there is suffering when God is good. The whole span of scripture with the rebellion of human kind and God’s salvation plan through Jesus addresses the meta story. Peter’s concern is to prepare the church in Asia Minor for the ‘inevitable reality of unjust suffering’ 1 and equip them to positively live as disciples with a confident hope in their hearts.

Peter presumes Christians will naturally be grouped into local churches asserting the necessity of them being led by elders who shepherd God’s flock in the same way Jesus, as the Chief Shepherd, taught and led the disciples. v 5.1-4 Then the church as a whole grows, becomes secure in faith and is equipped to declare the excellencies of God. In these circumstances younger believers can be secure in being subject to the elders. v 5.5 Whether Peter meant younger in age or faith does not overly matter as the principle is equally appropriate. God’s intention is that Christians should live together as part of a loving family or community led by Christ-like elders with a clear understanding of their own salvation and hope in Christ. In this way they are to follow Jesus’ instruction to make disciples throughout the world.

The attitude that preserves the bond in the family of God is humility. Peter urges the people to, ‘Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’. v 5.5 He doubles his emphasis on humility with the additional phrase of, ‘all of you’. Humility is expected of everyone in the church it is evidenced by mutual respect and a desire to serve one another. God blesses the humble with the gift of grace. v 5.5 Grace in one sense is a once and forever gift as we first believe. However, we are also in need of continuing grace as we live the life of a disciple. Peter uses the term in his blessing at the beginning of the letter, ‘May grace and peace be multiplied to you’. v 1.2 Grace is the undeserved favour of God and so it takes humility to receive and benefit from it.

Peter presses the point home connecting humility now with being raised up by God to his eternal glory. v 5.10 ‘Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you …’ v 5.6 Pride is opposed by God as it is a form of idolatry, placing oneself where God should be in our hearts. It replaces trust in God and doubts God’s love for us and hence spoils our relationship with him. Trust in God and humility does not mean we should be naïve which is why Peter is keen that Christians should be sober minded and watchful. v 5.8 Christian life is full of pitfalls and risks, there is constant spiritual opposition. ‘Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour’.

 Humility in all these circumstances brings the Christian peace as they cast, ‘all their anxieties on him, because he cares for you’. v 5.7 Does this mean we remain passive and do nothing. Not at all, it means going about our business, facing our issues in the day or night knowing we are also about God’s business, with a trust in his grace. This could be at work in the office, classroom, hospital or field. It could be in the home challenged by children and relatives, financial difficulties or our own mental and physical health. The devil would turn any of our circumstances against us if he could to undermine our faith. Many find that the threat is even more severe in the court, in prison, facing armed forces, fleeing hunger or political oppression. Christians across the world face all of these things and the bible is the word of God for all time and all places. Peter’s word then is, ‘Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world’. v 5.9

In suffering the Christian has hope. The writer to the Hebrews says, ‘Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see’. Hebrews 11.1 Paul in Romans writes, ‘Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which was given to us’. Romans 5.5 The hope the Christian has is confidence in the grace of God, ‘Who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you’. v 5.10 In humility we can join with Peter and say, ‘To him be dominion forever and ever. Amen’. v 5.11

 Gracefully broken – Matt Redman


1 – 1 Peter for you, page 163, Juan R. Sanchez


Killer questions for a Christian leader      1 Peter 5.1-5 and Mathew 20.20-28

But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mathew 20.25-28

Is there a difference between Christian leadership and secular leadership? Should we order leadership priorities differently in the Christian context? Here are some questions based on 1 Peter 5 that don’t always get asked.

Have you got a mentor?

Spiritual leaders in the bible are often called elders. Peter as an apostle, a founder of the Jerusalem church saw his role in later life to counsel and guide other elders. ‘I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you …’ 1Peter 5.1,2 Peter knew from first hand experience that to have someone to turn to and even step in with a wise word at the right time was essential. When Jesus took him to one side on the beach after the resurrection and three times asked him if Peter loved him and instructed him to feed and care for his sheep it left an indelible mark on him. A mentor is someone who loves enough to be openly honest because they love the Lord, the leader and the sheep. Peter appealed to the elders of Asia Minor on the basis that he also was an elder and knew what it involved but more than that he understood the suffering of Christ as much as the glory. A good Christian mentor is someone who understands suffering. Peter was a man who had a proven life following Jesus and therefore had earned the respect of fellow believers. Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith’. Hebrews 13.7 If a leader does not have a mentor or mentors then they and the church are at greater risk.


Are you in it for the money or the kudos?

Not many admit to either but careful listening to the language used and observation of the behaviour of a leader reveals their underlying motives. When the mother of James and John asked Jesus for her two sons to have the most important places in heaven, Jesus response was to point to his own death as a servant of others as the model for leadership. Mathew 20.20-28 Jesus’ way is to be the way of all Christian leaders. He was willing to serve to his own cost, not profit, he was willing to experience public shame. He never shirked his responsibilities for ‘the flock’. Peter summarises Christian leadership motivation as exercising, ‘oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly …’ v 5.2


Who do you lead?

Peter exhorts elders to shepherd the flock of God, not their own flock. v 5.2 Peter wants to make clear to elders that a sense of personal possession is not appropriate, as an elder one is a matter of steward not an owner. In that sense an elder is an under shepherd of Christ and so the ministry needs to express Christ’s love and teaching. Peter is reinforcing the importance of local leadership as he instructs elders to, ‘Shepherd the flock of God that is among you’. v 5.2


Do you drive or lead?

The ancient middle eastern way of shepherding was to lead from the front in contrast of a British shepherd with a sheep dog. Peter was keen for elders to be humble in their approach and not domineering. v 5.3 A few sharp, unguarded words alone can have a long lasting harmful impact. Trust is built and therefore willingness to follow when the leader is seen to follow his or her own teaching. Where leaders selflessly give of themselves in the way Jesus had done the whole church is built up.


What is the reward you will gain?

The Elders are reminded that there will be a reward in heaven. They do have a special place that is not theirs by right but is by the grace of God. On Jesus’ return they will receive a crown of glory v 5.4 These honours are in God the Father’s gift Matthew 20.23 but are associated with participating in the suffering of Christ. Jesus termed this suffering, ‘the cup I am going to drink…’ Matthew 2022


If I am leader have I asked how my leadership is perceived by others?


If I am led how am I able to support my leaders?


Servant King – Graham Kendrick





The Fiery Ordeal                  1 Peter 4.12-19 and Matthew 5.10-12

Eyal is a church leader in Eritrea. In Eritrea only three Christian denominations (Eritrean Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Lutheran – as well as Sunni Islam) are legally permitted and they are tightly controlled by the government. Eritrea is roughly equally Christian and Muslim.

‘Anybody who is believed to have criticised the government is likely to be severely punished – and following an unapproved Christian denomination is considered anti-government. This means that hundreds of Christians are arrested and imprisoned, including  141 in May 2019 and 30 the following month. Some prisoners are held in shipping containers in scorching temperatures.  Eyal, who has now been released, talks about being severely beaten with rods, kept in chains and treated without any human dignity. “I cannot believe I survived that,” he says. “Really, it was only by the grace of the Lord.” Eyal still sees a bright future for the church in Eritrea. He knows that Eritreans are often choosing suffering when they choose Jesus, but as 1 Peter 5:10 says, “The God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

In recent months, the Eritrean government has also shut down church-run schools and  hospitals. This is believed to be in retaliation for bishops making a public call for government reforms.’ Open Doors, Website UK

Peter opens this section with, ‘do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you’. v 4.12 When Peter wrote to the Christians in Asia Minor the level of persecution was not extreme and more closely matched that of the western world now. However, he had experienced imprisonment and beatings, more importantly he had witnessed the sufferings of Jesus and heard him say, And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me’ Mathew 10.38 and ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.’ Mathew 5.10-12 In just a few years levels of extreme Christian persecution in the Roman Empire became official policy.

Peter was not academically discussing the rights and wrongs of suffering or does the presence of suffering raise the question is there a God. He was addressing the reality and expectation of suffering for the Christian believer. He knew that unless the churches were prepared their capacity to cope and persist, with eternal consequences, was at risk. One of the most important parts of leadership is to prepare for the worst and one of the most negligent aspects of leadership is to presume the good times will always be with us.

Suffering is on a continuum from insults, derision and threats to torture and death. John Lennox, Professor in Mathematics and Fellow in Mathematics and the Philosophy of Science at the University of Oxford, describes being summoned into the study of his senior lecturers whilst an undergraduate and warned that unless he gave up his Christian faith he would not progress in the world of science. Increasingly in the western world barriers are being raised against Christians but it rarely comes to physical suffering. This is far from the case across much of the rest of the world.

Peter seeks to strengthen Christians in the face of persecution in ways that Eyal has grasped. Firstly, in suffering the Spirit of Christ is with them. ‘If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you’. v 4.14 I think it is only when we have been through such experiences that it is possible to fully appreciate how the Spirit strengthens one at those times. But knowing that brothers and sisters are experiencing such persecution should encourage us to actively support them in prayer and other ways. Having spent time with fellow Christians who have suffered from life threatening experiences and subsequent trauma in their flight to this country for asylum the church here also has a role to play in welcoming, loving and actively supporting them as they go through spiritual and mental restoration.       Peter describes suffering for faith in Christ as sharing in Christ’s sufferings .v 4.13 Paul says, ‘For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too’. 2 Corinthians 1.5 In this way Jesus provides us with an example of how to live. 1 Peter 2.21 We should therefore not be ashamed of suffering but instead glorify God. v 4.16 This is an important message for those experiencing post traumatic stress following periods of persecution.

Peter also confirms the apostolic message that those who have suffered for Christ’s sake will receive a reward that far exceeds their suffering. v 1.6,7 James adds his voice in James 1.12 and Paul in 2 Corinthians 4.17.

Peter makes clear though that suffering for wrong doing is very different and should not be considered in the same terms as suffering for Christ. v 44.15

 In all things and especially in suffering we are to entrust our life to God while persisting in doing good. v 4.19

 The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir – Psalm 34 (Live)




Multiplying Bags of Gold      1 Peter 4.7-11 and Mathew 25.14-30

Jesus told a story that was similar to an episode of ‘The Apprentice’ and like Lord Alan Sugar the boss was a tough cookie. The boss handed out bags of gold (NIV) to three servants, 5 to one, 2 to another and 1 to a third. The two with the most money used it to good purpose and doubled the value. The third simply buried it frozen by responsibility and fearful of losing his master’s wealth. However, the master had clearly intended the servant to use the money and so condemned him as a wicked lazy servant. He hadn’t even invested it with a bank to earn interest. The gold given to the lazy servant was taken away and he was thrown out. An illusion to final spiritual condemnation.

Matthew places this parable in the section considering the period waiting for the return of Christ and judgement. Teaching elsewhere makes clear that salvation is only by grace and not dependent upon good works or a mixture of good works and grace. The actions of the lazy servant may well indicate that they were never truly a disciple. It could refer to those who professed faith such as some of the Jewish leaders but rejected Christ. Similarly, they may be those in the church who publicly profess faith but do not really believe and are in the church for other reasons. It is clear from this parable that God expects lives to change with the gift of salvation and for believers lives to bear a spiritual profit.

Peter picks up on this teaching by firstly saying it is time to leave behind the life that was before faith in Christ, ‘For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles (non-believers) want to do’. v 1 Peter 4.3 Jesus is coming, it is time to think calmly, sensibly, deliberately and prayerfully. v 4,7 Jesus himself devoted himself to prayer and as his crucifixion was at hand he took himself to the garden of Gethsemane and prayed that God’s will be accomplished on earth. It is time to use the gifts and abilities that God has given us in a way that brings glory (credit) to God. v 1 Peter 4.11 This raises the question, how do we set about doing that?

The starting point is a deep and sincere love for fellow Christians. Sincere love overcomes difficulties and frictions between each other that arise where people harm each other through wrong actions or words. ‘Above all, keep loving one another earnestly; since love covers a multitude of sins’. 1 Peter 4.8 Brotherly love is gospel testimony to the salvation work of Jesus in our lives. On the other hand, absence of brotherly love brings discredit to Christ’s name and works against the gospel.

If brotherly love is true it will be seen in our delight in spending time together and welcoming each other. Hospitality is a very important part of discipleship. This should be willingly and freely given. ‘Show hospitality to one another without grumbling’. 1 Peter 4.9 Luke’s gospel is known for the amount of times hospitality and food features. Hospitality takes many forms, it includes the welcome given at outreach events, meeting someone for a drink and a chat, providing for a travelling missionary, welcoming new people as well as finding ways to cement or maintain relationships.  The Old Testament strongly encourages hospitality to aliens. I have been struck by the importance inviting people from other countries to one’s home. Whether they are seeking asylum, have migrated for work reasons or here to study, it makes a huge difference to feel welcomed and loved when in an alien country. It opens up opportunities to really know people and to have important discussions. A series of brief superficial conversations is not a replacement for spending good quality time with people.

We have all received gifts from God and we are now required to steward those gifts for the sake of others rather than ourselves. ‘As each has received a gift use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace’. 1 Peter.4.10 Peter divides these gifts into two broad categories without prioritizing them. They are gifts of service and gifts of speech. The objective of both types of gift is the glory of God and to achieve that he has provided the strength.  1 Peter 4.11 Serving can be demanding of time and strength and there is a real danger of it becoming a burden. But God has provided us with a new heart 1 Peter 1.22,23 that allows us to serve willingly and by doing so display God’s love for the world.

The gifts of speech are not for our own words or glory. They are to speak the ‘oracles of God’ 1 Peter 4.11 that is his words. God provides Christian teachers and leaders in many forms from one to one counsellors, through small group leaders to ministers and Principals of Bible Colleges. However, their role is to equip the church to enable all to speak in one way or another. The greatest thrill and miracle is one person through their personal testimony to lead another to Christ. Where one person has been greater gifted comes greater responsibility. The servant who was entrusted with 5 bags of gold multiplied it by 5 more.


Is there some obstacle to brotherly love in our life?


Is there anybody to whom you can show hospitality?


There is louder shout to come – Matt Redman





Living in expectation.       1 Peter 4. 1-11 and Mathew 24. 45-51

Imagine the scene, a wealthy member of the English Edwardian aristocracy early in the Twentieth Century divides his time between his home in the country and his London residence. He has appointed a butler in each house to manage each large set of servants. Neither household knows when the owner will return. One butler keeps everything in readiness, the house and gardens are well maintained, the kitchen is kept stocked and all the staff are supervised rigorously. Meanwhile when the owner is absent for a much longer time than usual the other butler begins to behave as if the home and servants were his own. He mistreats the staff, holds debauched parties, raiding the owner’s stocks of drink and food, leaving the house and gardens to go to rack and ruin. On return the owner becomes angry and both punishes and dismisses the butler. At the same time, he rewards the butler who manages the well run house with additional pay and responsibility.

Jesus told a similar story in Mathew 24 to illustrate to the disciples how they should live whilst waiting for his return following his ascension. The parable of the faithful and unfaithful servant is set in a passage of teaching regarding his instruction to, ‘Keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.’ Mathew 4.42

Peter is confident of Christ’s return because he was a firsthand witness of Jesus’ death and then bodily resurrection. Peter was with Jesus as he promised to return and saw his ascension. If that was your personal experience then you would believe what Jesus said because you had already witnessed the naturally impossible. But Peter is concerned the next generation of new Christians may grow disappointed that Christ has not yet returned and drift off into their old life style. He then draws a sharp contrast between their old life, as a, ‘flood of debauchery’ v 4.4(ESV) and their new life as born again children of God.

Peter knows there is a constant temptation to conform to cultural pressure to live a life that is focused on immediate satisfaction of unguarded sensuality. They are surprised he says, ‘when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you’. v 4.4  He describes contemporary culture as, ‘living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties and lawless idolatry.’ v 4.3 In a sense all these things are forms of idolatry in that they become things we can love more than God and godliness. They are all aspects of life that are on a continuum towards addiction. To these we could add many more or modern variants of similar repeated behaviours and compulsions. If they are not lived out in practice they can still take hold of our mental life. Life in these terms is focused upon self and whilst that may be thought to be a form of freedom it is a slavery to sin. In contrast Christ-like life is centred on love for God and others. ‘Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.’ v 4.8

 To equip the Christians mentally to both resist sin and embrace life as, ‘good stewards of God’s varied grace’ v 4.11 he encourages them to, ‘be self-controlled and sober-minded’ v 4.7 because succumbing to sin damages our relationship with Christ and therefore impacts on our prayers. v4.7 To this end he advocates three strategies.


* We are to adopt Jesus’ attitude who was prepared to suffer ‘in the flesh’ v 4.1 to be obedient to the Father. This was exemplified in Jesus’ prayer before his arrest, ‘Father if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done’. Luke 22.42 Peter says it is time to lay aside sinful human passions and live as Jesus did for the will of God. v 4.2


  • He also reminds Christians that God is the judge and we all will be judged. v 4.5 This is not to detract from grace but our works will be judged as if by fire. 1 Corinthians 3.15


  • Our lives are to be strengthened by God, ‘in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ’. v 4.11

Is there an idol in our life that we need to bring in confession to God and seek the Holy Spirit’s strength to overcome?

Do we live with the expectation of the returning Christ in our minds?

Even so come – Chris Tomlin




Unity in suffering for the gospel           1 Peter 3.8-17

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart and a humble mind. v 3.8

How real is suffering for the sake of the gospel in the modern world? Wasn’t suffering simply because one was a Christian restricted to the early church and the Roman Arena? Even if there are some examples of Christians suffering why should that significantly affect me? 1 Peter 3, shows how a unified, loving, humble church in its response to suffering for righteousness declares Christ to the world. Here are two up to date examples of contemporary Christian suffering and loving responses by the global church taken from, Barnabas Aid, July/August 2020 edition.

The first new church in Uzbekistan for twenty years has just been built and registered with financial support from the global church. Hundreds of Christians will now be able to worship without breaking the law. Churches can only register in the Muslim-majority country if they have at least 100 members. Therefore, many small congregations have to meet in private homes, making them vulnerable to police raids and heavy fines. This new church’s congregation is made up entirely of converts to Christianity making it similar to the churches addressed by Peter in that they were first generation Christians in a hostile religious environment. The blessing spreads well beyond one congregation, now six other congregations also use the building, whilst the smaller old building is used by a further six congregations.

In India the Coronavirus lock down has caused starvation level hunger in some poorer areas particularly for families reliant on daily-wage workers as there is no work and many have migrated back to their villages from the cities. Where food relief distribution is controlled by local Hindu extremist groups Christians are being denied food unless they deny faith in Jesus. In unity, sympathy and brotherly love, the global church in partnership with local Christians has been providing staple food, face masks and soap.

Suffering for righteousness sake is not exclusively something that occurs in distant places. It happens in a multitude of ways and settings including in families, work places and social settings. It takes the form of institutional prejudice and personal hostility. Sadly, it can also happen within the church. Peter expands on what a unified, loving Christian response is when suffering takes place. He draws again on previous themes of the example of Christ in the face of suffering, brotherly love and righteous living set apart for Christ.

We see conflict all around as people trade evil for evil and insult for insult, Peter here sets the opposite standard. ‘Do not repay evil for evil, or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.’ v 3.9 Here Peter is confirming Paul’s teaching in Romans 12.17-21. In particular Peter is instructing us to be careful in our speech. Self control, Paul informs us is a fruit of the Spirit and an outcome of living and walking by the Spirit. Galatians 5.22,25 James compares self control of speech to the bit in the mouth of a horse or to the rudder of a ship. James 3.3-5 When we are under stress we are more liable to respond rashly and unwisely and therefore need to prayerfully prepare our minds. As Peter says earlier, ‘Prepare your minds for action, and being sober minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.’ v 1.13

The Christian should be a peace maker and a peace seeker. Peter connects such righteous living to the effectiveness of prayer as our actions and prayers align with the will of God. ‘Let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are open to their prayer. vv 3.11b,12 Reading accounts of the suffering church it strikes one again and again how much their suffering has caused them to pray.

Peter says that under normal circumstances righteous life would not attract suffering. However where it does God will reward. He urges the church to have no fear and honour Christ as Lord. He returns to this theme in 5.7 and in doing so is confirming Jesus’ own teaching in Mathew 6.34, ‘Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.’ I have been repeatedly humbled alongside asylum seeking Christians, who have fled extreme persecution, as to their capacity to live trusting in Jesus during times of prolonged uncertainty.

In all circumstances the Christian’s confidence in Christ as Lord should be expressed in their preparedness to explain the reason for their faith. v 3.15 However this as well should be done with self control and reflecting the character of Christ himself. ‘Do it with gentleness and respect.’ v 3.16

 For the Christian the bottom line is, ‘It is better to suffer for doing good, if that is God’s will, than for doing evil.’ v 3.17

Refiner’s fire




Gospel living in marriage                                              1 Peter 3.1-7

Eileen was brought up in a church attending family and continued with her faith into adulthood. She has good friends at church and loves going. When she met Bob he was happy about her going to church but wanted to do other things on a Sunday morning. Eileen hoped and prayed that Bob would change his mind after they married and want to come with her but it hasn’t happened.

Jane also grew up in a very active Christian family. It meant a lot to her as a child but while she was at university she stopped going to church and mixed with a different group of people. Jane never actually lost her faith but she had lots of questions. After she met and fell in love with Harry her life was filled with all sorts of other things. It was only after they had married and started a family that the feelings of wanting to revive her faith and teach the children came back to her. Harry was a bit grumpy about her going to church with the children every Sunday so that was hard.

Nieve had never been to church, she didn’t know much about Christianity and was happily married. Then a good friend told her that she had attended an Alpha course and it was great. Nieve was amazed that her friend should do that but could see she was really excited and very happy. So, when her friend asked Nieve if she would go to Alpha with her she rather nervously said yes. To her surprise Nieve herself found that she wanted to become a Christian but she was worried about how this would change her relationship with Kieran her husband.

All these examples are fictional but they represent common situations in many churches in Britain. Whilst biblical teaching is that as a Christian one should marry a Christian if you want to marry (2 Corinthians 6.14, 1 Corinthians 7.39) that doesn’t address the actual situation that exists for many. Peter when writing this letter recognized that this was the case in the churches in Asia Minor. Across the world cultural attitudes to marriage vary considerably as they have done throughout history. The reasons for marriage are also varied and the control over whom one marries, especially for women, has not always reflected equal rights and standing. This was clearly the case in the culture of the time.

Peter in this passage has not changed his underlying themes of living for the sake of the gospel and humble obedience to Christ through following his example for his glory. In whatever situation we find ourselves we are to be distinctively his people and that includes within marriage. Marriage itself is a reflection of Christ’s own relationship with the church. Authority and submission are seen in the relationships within the Trinity of God. ‘There is only one God, and he exists in three Persons. Each Person is equally God, yet the Son submits to the Father (1 Corinthians 11.3), and the Spirit submits to the Father and the Son (John 15.26).’ (1 Peter for you. Juan R. Sanchez) We can see then that in Christ, honour, equality and submission are not in conflict. The man is equally required to, ‘live in an understanding way, showing honour to the woman’ v7 and as Paul instructs the Ephesian church, Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. v Eph 5.25

Peter is making clear to Christians that it is the quality of their relationships and love that is the most important thing. External beauty changes over time but God is causing an internal beauty that is even more attractive to grow in the Christian. ‘Let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. v4 It is in the quality of love and Christ like character that we seek to win our spouse for Christ or grow together in the Lord.  At the same time the church should not simply leave someone alone within a marriage but create a supportive, loving prayerful culture that understands the complexity of marriage.

Is there a married person in your church who you can be a listening friend to and pray for?

How is the church supporting married couples especially during this intensive period of lock down?

When God made you



The bible says we must wear face masks?     1 Peter 2.13-24

No it doesn’t but it does say stuff about the principles of obeying governments.  There are times when people are tempted to look for specific guidance when it is not there. At these times there is a temptation to cast around for additional specific guidance perhaps through a prophecy or dream and there is a risk that these can take precedence over existing biblical guidance. 1 Peter 2.11 begins a section that sets out guiding principles for much of our everyday life. It is then our responsibility to consider how they apply to our circumstances and how they fit within the wider teaching of scripture. On the day of writing significant Conservative Party advocates and donors have resigned their party membership in the belief that the government has breached their individual freedom to choose where they refuse to wear a face mask.

Today’s passage addresses submission to Authority and individual freedom, whether it is in the context of obedience to governments or employment even in unfair circumstances. The starting point for Peter is acting for the Lord’s sake vv 2.13,25 following the example of Christ. v 2.21 Peter is building on his teaching that we are not our own but have been ‘ransomed’ v 1.18 from our former life and are now a, ‘chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession’. v 1.9 The freedom we have now received is to, ‘live as servants of God’. v 2.16 In doing so we are to, ‘honour everyone’ v 2.17 whether we like them or agree with them. The notion of universal human rights is for most of history an unknown concept, outside of the gospel. Even today although affirmed by most nation states it is very widely ignored by many of the same states. But the Christian is called to see people as Christ sees them and in every individual there is a likeness of God, 1 Corinthians 15.49 however deformed it may have become. The Christian is to love the brotherhood, fear God and honour the Emperor. v2.17

The purpose of respecting civil authorities is to promote law and order and to assist society to prosper. There are also gospel reasons and that is to silence those who would point to Christians as rebels or insurgents in society. Such allegations later became common currency in Roman society. Christians are called to emulate Jesus’ own character of one who does good even when treated badly, who speaks honestly, behaves humbly and does not retaliate with the same attitudes and behaviour that he has been subject to. vv 2.21-13 Judgement and justice is ultimately to be trusted to the hands of God as Jesus himself did.

Does this mean that Christians should always be passive recipients of injustice on behalf of themselves or others? This is clearly not the case as we take into account the wider teaching of scripture. Peter himself draws a line when the will of God diverges from the will of a governing authority. Standing before the highest court in Israel he said, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard … We must obey God rather than men’. vv Acts 4.19-20,5.29 This same challenge faces many modern Christians. During the reign of the Nazi Party in Germany they rewrote the statement of faith of the Lutheran Church to conform with racist ‘Arian’ ideals. Sadly, much of the church leadership agreed to it because they thought they were obeying the principles Peter wrote in verses 2.3-15. Others such as Bonhoeffer opposed the Church leadership and Nazi Party in that and other ways. Bonhoeffer lost his life for participating in the plan to kill Hitler. A similar situation is now being faced by the Christian church in China as the government is authorizing a ‘new translation’ of the bible to conform to the Chinese State communist ideology. (The same action is being taken over the Koran.)

Similarly, Peter and other apostles repeatedly instruct Christians to do good. This includes advocating for justice, fairness and the good of society especially the most vulnerable. In this way Christians have been and continue to be at the forefront of campaigns for racial justice, improved prison systems, provision for the poor, the care of refugees fleeing persecution and care for the elderly, along with many other good causes.

To revert to the first question, does the bible say we should wear face masks? Not specifically but where the Authority has brought in a regulation for the good of society, even if we are annoyed that it infringes our personal liberty, the biblical principle is to obey.

In what ways are we challenged to follow the example of Christ to do good even if we suffer for it?

Do we uphold in prayer and in other ways Christians who face the challenge of obeying God by disobeying their government?

Trust and obey




Regrets. I have a few.    1 Peter 2.4-12 and Ephesians 4.4-16

‘But you are chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you into his wonderful light.’ 1 Peter 2.9

 Are you a don’t look back, look forward type of person or do you spend time pondering the if only question? Have you wished you had said something while there was still a chance, written that message or sent some flowers? Do you spend time wishing you had been bold enough to have made a different decision? Perhaps you wish you had gone, when instead you stayed or gone when you should have stayed. A lot of this is tied up with how we manage our feelings. Our emotions are strong forces that either drive us on or prevent us taking action despite what we may know is right.

Shortly before my Father died I realized I wasn’t sure if I had ever really told him how much he meant to me. And I think he was the most formative person in my life. We lived three to four hours drive away, the family were growing and demanding of time and so we only saw each other during school holidays when there seemed more time.  It suddenly became important to me to say to him what was deep in my heart but I knew it would never work out face to face. So, I wrote him a letter. It was never mentioned until I was alone with him some months later in the hospice and I said to him, ‘I would just like to say how important you are to me.’ He replied, ‘I know, you wrote me a letter.’ That was all either of us needed. I am not sure how I would have coped if I hadn’t written the letter.

What regrets will we have as we are judged by a ‘Father who judges each person’s work impartially’. 1 Peter 1.17 In particular what will we regret not saying in the light of Peter’s conclusion to the quote to, ‘live out our time as foreigners here in reverent fear’?  When Peter and Paul are writing they are addressing believers individually but they are also speaking to the church as a whole and expecting the church to respond and act as one whole entity. Paul uses the biblical analogy of the church being the body of Christ and Peter of the church as a spiritual building. How good is the modern church at being a unified body or building directing its energies in a collective ‘declaring the praises’ of him who saved us.

The declaring of praises is much more than singing worship songs and prayer in the confines of a church building or home group. It is the obedience to the great commission to, ‘Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.’ Matthew 28.19,20 There are three broad strategies to achieve this, each one essential. Holiness of life, that is a life set apart overcoming sin that makes us aliens in our own world. Good works that are derived from God’s grace towards us. The proclamation of the gospel. The church is called to be at one in all three areas.  Which if any do you struggle with? God has done all that is necessary for us to be obedient. All three in their own ways declare the praises of him but perhaps the one we may most regret when meeting our God is whether we have shared the gospel with others.

God has empowered the church through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

He has equipped the church for the work of ministry through the, ‘apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers.’ Ephesians 4.11

He has given the church the identity and authority to convey the word of God and make disciples. 1 Peter 2.9

 In that case why is the modern church frequently so reluctant and ineffective in reaching people with the gospel? Here are some thoughts to address what is for God a vital issue.

Follow the money – How much of the churches resources (people, time, money, events, prayer) go into reaching out to people with the gospel.Training and equipping – How does the church equip itself to communicate the gospel in helping people understand the gospel, the questions people ask, the ways to listen, explain, mentor and coach people who do not yet believe?

Invitations – How often and how many are invited to join in with the family of God. It can be small social gatherings, films, quizzes, courses, individual bible reading, church services.

The attention we give to make the Christian life understandable – From what is done in church to why Christians make different decisions.

Engaging with the market place – The apostles met people where they were, by a river, in the street, in a place of worship, in a community hall, in people’s houses, all with the deliberate intent to share the gospel. Where do people meet now with an open mind?

Friendship – Have we ever asked a friend to come to a Christian function or do we think it will hurt the friendship? Have we ever explained to a friend why we believe and why it is so important to us?

What regrets will we have as we meet our Father?

Here I am Lord




The house that speaks.          1 Peter 2.4-12

When the church comes together whose church is it? It is easy to become possessive over a church and the reasons for going can be strongly about oneself. Church leaders can easily adopt a position where they say this is my church and what I say goes. It is my vision and if you do not agree then go somewhere else. Another might say, it is where I have been for a long time and it is what I like and there should be no change. Some might go as long as the music is what they want. Others may decide based on the version of the bible that is used in preaching. Many go because their friends go and leave if their friends are not there.  Some go because of the children, others leave because of the children. At the heart of much of this decision making is a consumer mindset and it exposes a limited and reduced view of the church. It answers the question, ‘whose church is it’ by saying it is mine. Peter answers the question by saying it is God’s and God’s with a massively larger vision than any one person or group of people may conceive of, at any one time or in any one place.

It is God who chooses the people, 1 Peter 2.4 not the church leadership. God who made Jesus the keynote foundation of his church. v 2.4 God who made the church a new race. v 2.10 God who appointed the roles to the church. v 2.9 Crucially it was God who showed mercy to those who had not known mercy, that is ourselves. v 2.10 God is not a brick in the house we are building, we are the bricks in his house if we come to him through Jesus. ‘As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ..’ v 2.4,5 Through Jesus Christ, God has made the church the new temple and the new nation that is his medium for declaring the goodness and glory of God through the life of the believers and the gospel.

This is priestly work in terms of worshiping God, interceding for others and teaching his word. Peter explains that the church belongs to God to declare its own salvation and the salvation that is for all who have faith in him. The church is to, ‘proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.’ V 2.9 The declaring of his excellencies is to be by word and life. God keeps these in balance. To do this we need to recognize that we are not to conform to the pattern of life in the surrounding non-believing culture and to overcome those inner desires that as Peter puts it, ‘wages against your soul.’ v 2.11 The Holy Spirit will make us very well aware of these desires of the ‘flesh’ through the word of God (Scripture). Clearly Peter’s meaning is more than simply abstinence, that is the avoiding of things, it is the positive outworking of good deeds. v 2.12 The reason for this is to make evident what God has done and bring him glory.

Changing our view of belonging to the church to perceive it through the eyes of God leads on to a radical change of motivation and life.  How does being part of a chosen race, priesthood and nation challenge us regarding our future?

How does our part of the spiritual house of God speak to the world that has not yet received mercy?

Cornerstone – Hillsong Live




Brotherly love        1 Peter 1.21-2.3

How different is belonging to a church from belonging to any other group? The question matters not just for the sake of those who belong to a church, it matters for the sake of the gospel and it matters for the glory of God. Problems in relationships within the church often lead people to take the view that faith is private, their relationship with God is individual and not connected with other believers. Some say they have no need of church. Poor relationships within a church become known in the community and become a barrier to others accepting the validity of Christian teachings because they see a disconnect between what is said and how the church behaves. Christians at times place their own ego and wants above the interests of the gospel and the glory of Christ.

At the same time we are all in need of genuine brotherly or sisterly love. Everyone thrives in a loving environment, however understanding the appropriate way to show love is also crucial. It is easy to take modes of expressing love from one’s surrounding culture and assume that is Christ-like love. Examples of inappropriate behaviour repeatedly occurred in the early church as it does in the modern church. This brings into focus what is distinctive about the ‘sincere brotherly love’ that Peter refers to.

At the heart of this issue is Christ’s perspective. It is through him that Christians, ‘are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.’ 1 Peter 1.21 The object of Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection are both God’s glory and our faith and hope in God. At that point then when we have trusted in the saving work of Jesus, God has purified our souls. ‘Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth …’ v22a Purified means cleansing or washing but also in the context of 1 Peter it also has the Old Testament meaning of being set apart or dedicated to God. In verse 1.2 Peter tells the churches they have been, ‘sanctified of the Spirit, (purified) for obedience to Jesus Christ (set apart). Having been set apart for obedience or discipleship they are now aliens in their own country. They belong to a new spiritual kingdom. They have been born again into a new family, the family of God. Belonging to this family through Jesus Christ is the source of their brotherly love. Obedience to Jesus is expressed through obedience to the gospel of word of God. v 1.23

It is the word of God that is the seed of eternal (imperishable) life. This new birth brings forth a new and pure heart, set apart or sanctified to God. Brotherly love then comes from obedience and a sanctified heart. Your old life Peter explains will wither and die but your new life brought about by the word of the Lord remains forever. vv 1.24,25

What is this loving new life like? Peter explains it initially in terms of changes that need to be made in their personal and collective life. Put away he says, ‘all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.’ v2.1 These are challenging principles because they take away many of the protections we create around ourselves and make us vulnerable in our relationships. They mean we do not massage the truth so that it appears personally more favourable. It means that groupings within a church that plot against another group are not acceptable. It means being careful in the way we talk so that we do not claim things that are untrue. It challenges our motivation for what we say and do so that we allow others to prosper even if there is a personal cost. It means being open and honest in a way that shows love rather than self-interest. Our desire instead should be for the word of God so that the whole church matures in its spiritual life. We have already experienced the goodness of God through his love for us and want that to be the way we are. V2.2

I will be my brother’s keeper



A Holiness Mindset                              1 Peter 1,10-20

Holy isn’t a word that one hears too much these days. When it is used it is often in regard to the exotic, a personal special place or object. It is defined by the individual, a cricket fan might call the Lords pitch their holy ground. Sometimes it is linked to a personal aspiration and is termed their holy grail meaning the goal at the end of a quest. Historically holiness has been linked to pilgrimage and it still is for some Christians, particularly Orthodox and Catholic traditions but is now perhaps more associated with other world faiths. The idea that it is God who determines what is holy is central to the Christian faith and other theistic religions but is at odds with common western world views that are rooted in materialism or relativism that emphasize individual independence.

Peter makes holiness a main theme in his letter. He repeats God’s command in Leviticus 19.44, ‘But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy”. 1 Pet 1.15,16 Holiness is defined by the nature of God himself.  But is that realistic and how do we go about being holy? Wouldn’t that make one into some kind of oddball? How can one possibly live a normal life and be holy? It does sound rather medieval and completely out of touch with modern life. It is a big topic but Peter in the second half of the first chapter does provide some starting points that are not odd but have a lot to do with one’s mindset.

The believer has always been in the mind of God as he prepared salvation. The Spirit of Christ inspired the Old Testament prophets to point to the coming of Jesus as Messiah. 1 Pet 1.10 A key understanding to start the walk of holiness is grasping that one has always been in the mind of God but more than that, each one of us is so valued and loved that it was always his intention that Jesus would through suffering bring about salvation.  Jesus’ death and resurrection followed by his return to glory was never a spontaneous event, it was a matter of pure deliberate love.  As post resurrection Christians we have been in the privileged position of having the good news (or gospel) explained to us. The wonder of it is so great, Peter says, ‘Even Angels long to look into these things.’ 1 Pet 1.12 Closely associated with holiness is awe, as we increasingly grasp the depth of God’s love for us then awe of God will grow.

Peter says in the light of this, prepare your minds for action, be sober minded and, ‘set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.’ 1 Pet 1.13 Being holy then is a deliberate thing, one must be resolute and determined, crucially in being like Jesus in one’s attitudes involves positively embracing godliness and rejecting passions that once controlled one’s life. As Peter goes on to say, ‘As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.’ 1 Pet 1.15 This is not a colourless drab life, it is filled with love, joy, good relations, peace of mind and fulfilling deeds that are aimed at bringing the good news of the gospel to all in your sphere. As a disciple of Christ one becomes part of a loving, generous community with a common goal.

Disciples of Jesus are in the combined position of being able to know and address Almighty God as Father and at the same time understand that he also is the one who judges impartially. 1 Pet 1.17 That combination of what might feel contradictory understandings makes sense in the light of Jesus’ sacrifice. As we deliberately choose to walk the path of holiness we do so knowing it was Jesus who ransomed us, not a matter of, we pass God’s judgement based upon our own good deeds. Peter reminds us that we were not ransomed with material wealth but, ‘with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.’ 1 Pet 1.19 Carrying that knowledge with us helps us to soberly prepare our minds for holiness.

What is your passion?

Holiness – Micah Stampley



The Wind blows where it wishes.   1 Peter 1.3-9 and John 3.1-15

We live very close to the coast and the wind plays an important part in our lives. We have just had a four day period of 40mph winds. The wind howls round the front door and the trees whip and twist. Young plants have been torn from the ground and established trees in the fields are bent permanently in the direction of the prevailing wind. Walking on the beach in shorts becomes painful as the sand blasts the skin below the knee. This last weekend my wife turned to me and said, ‘Look at the wind out there.’ Clearly, we could not see the wind but the effect of the wind was dramatically apparent. Jesus describes the impact of the Holy Spirit on people’s lives in just these terms. ‘The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear it’s sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.’ John 3.8

Peter celebrates this spiritual birth, ‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!’ 1 Pet 1.3 Peter is referring back to Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus a prominent Pharisee and Jewish religious leader, who later came to faith in Jesus and helped with his burial in the tomb. Jesus made clear that just as we have a physical birth, for a relationship with God, there is a need for a spiritual birth. John 3.5-7 This new birth involves being cleansed from one’s old sin driven life and our heart, or inner person, being spiritually renewed. As Paul puts it, ‘He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.

 Jesus expresses surprise that this is puzzling to Nicodemus as an Old Testament scholar because it is clearly expressed in Ezekiel 36.25-27 and Joel. 2.28-32 Just as a tree bending in the wind is evidence of the wind so a believer’s life should be evidence of their spiritual new birth. Many look for dramatic spiritual signs as evidence of the Spirit’s work but the most significant signs are to be found in changes in the believer’s life. Peter encourages them to live out their new life. ‘Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.’ 1 Pet 1.22.23

Peter explains that this new spiritual birth is due to the believer’s participation in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. 1 Pet 1.3 The new life will not die as our body dies but is an inheritance of eternal life. Once given it is God who keeps it secure and it will become evident in what Peter terms, ‘in the last time’. Peter is encouraging believers to live in the light of this secure hope. The reason Peter wants believers to be secure in this understanding is that it will create resilience in times of trouble.  Resilience here is more than simply bearing suffering, the knowledge of God’s eternal promises will bring about joy during suffering. ‘In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.’ 1 Pet 1.6

 New birth has led to resurrection hope and rejoicing in times of trouble, resisting sin, and this in turn brings glory to Jesus Christ. ‘These (troubles) have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Pet 1.7

 Peter is the one who has seen for himself the suffering, resurrection and ascension of Jesus and heard his teaching. Time now has passed and the letters’ recipients have only heard about Jesus, they have the Old Testament writings but as yet they would have limited, incomplete collections of New Testament gospels and letters. It was therefore very important for the churches to hear firsthand from those who lived with Jesus. Even so, Peter is excited by the evidence of their new birth through the Spirit. He shares with them the joy of their salvation. How lovely that he is thrilled by their salvation and is rejoicing for others. ‘Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.’ 1 Pet 1.8

How much would others see in our lives evidence of new birth as the wind can be seen in the trees?

Who are we rejoicing with that though they have not seen him, they love him and are filled with joy as a result of their faith and salvation of their souls.?

Power of your love



You’ve got mail.        1 Peter 1.1-2

I was standing on my drive last week when a delivery driver appeared from behind the front hedge with the words, ‘Are you Andrea Williams?’ Now I am six foot, over weight, balding, with a beard and male. ‘Yep’ I replied. He seemed a little unsure so he pressed me for more detail. ‘Are you number three?’ Now as far as I know my mother only had two children and I was the second, but I assured him I was number three any way, just to get the whole thing over with. ‘This is for you then’, he said and thrust a small parcel in my hand. I’ve been had like this before and given post that wasn’t for me and ended up walking the local streets trying to find the real recipient, so I checked which delivery firm he worked for. He threw back over his shoulder the name of the highest valued company in the world (other possibly more ethical internet providers are available) as he rapidly disappeared from sight. Mildly amusing as that interchange was it succeeded in establishing who the post had come from and if it had arrived at the intended recipient, which broadly is what the opening sentences of 1 Peter does as well.


Peter wrote this letter close to the end of his life, around A.D. 62-64, he was probably in Rome. He was one of the most well known of the apostles with a special commission from Jesus to, ‘Feed my Sheep.’ John 21.17 This commission, Jesus made clear, was to be a response arising from Peter’s love for Jesus. Peter had a particular role in reaching out to the Jewish community while Paul had a special commission to establish churches amongst the Gentiles (non-Jewish). However, it is a mistake to think that that these roles were exclusive, Peter was the first to have revealed to him that the same baptism of the Holy Spirit was for Gentiles as it was for Jewish converts and Paul always started his outreach in a new town by going to the synagogue and preaching to the Jews.


Peter starts his letter by stating he is Peter, a sent one or messenger, from Jesus Christ. In fact, no one knew Jesus better than Peter. He went through every grueling moment of Jesus ministry, death and resurrection by the side of Jesus. He knew Jesus’ love and rebukes. He saw Jesus in all his miraculous glory, he saw his tortured body. He witnessed Jesus’ healing touch and then healed people himself in Jesus’ name. He welcomed Jesus into his home and saw him heal his mother in law. He walked with Jesus for three years over the whole landscape of Palestine. He saw Jesus disappear in the clouds following his resurrection promising to return. He ate fish with him, that Jesus had cooked, after Jesus’ crucifixion. He listened to every word of Jesus’ teaching. He had walked on water towards Jesus in the middle of a tempestuous storm and then lost faith so Jesus had to grasp him and save his life. He had been imprisoned for speaking about Jesus’ resurrection and then been miraculously released from shackles and prison. He had experienced the grace of God in a way that few could compare with. Peter was a man who learnt the hard way but there was nobody who had greater claim to say they were an apostle of Jesus Christ. So, receiving a letter from Peter for any church was a massively significant moment.

The letter was for circulation around the churches of Asia Minor or what is now Turkey. In his initial greeting to the elect exiles of the Dispersion the ‘elect’ are the chosen of God in the same way as Israel was the chosen people of God in the Old Testament. He is signifying that the church is now God’s people, called by God, to be his body living distinctively and bearing the good news of Jesus to the world. In the second sentence Peter introduces one of the key themes of his letter, the notion that God’s people are exiles. From now on their allegiances are to the kingdom of God and they are now strangers to the culture of the world that they have been called out of. Jesus consistently taught about the kingdom of God and then established it through his death and resurrection and on his ascension being enthroned as the King. The kingdom became the dispersed people who God had sanctified through the Holy Spirit. v2 Sanctification here is referring both to the initial conversion of the believer and also to the progressive changes the believer experiences as they learn to live more like Christ. This is the life of discipleship or as Peter describes it here, obedience to Jesus Christ. This new relationship with God is only possible because by faith the Christian has benefited from forgiveness from sin because of Jesus taking the consequences of the believer’s sin through his death. Peter describes this as being sprinkled with his blood.


In these ways Peter establishes at the beginning of his letter, who he is and who he is writing to. He then prays for their continued experience of God’s blessing in experiencing God’s mercy and peace. Peace here is not only a sense of inner peace, it is peace in terms of their relationship with God, not being estranged from him and in fact being positively in harmony with him. The opening of Peter’s letter also makes clear that the believer’s relationship is with the full Trinity, as he describes the foreknowledge of God the Father, the sanctification of the Spirit and obedience to Jesus Christ.


Have we made that first step of obedience to Jesus Christ and therefore joined the Kingdom of God?

Do we experience the continuing sanctification of the Spirit that enables us to become more like Jesus?


What a Beautiful Name – Hillsong Worship



Presence makes the heart grow fonder.         Psalm 61

David opens the psalm a long way from Jerusalem and the tent of meeting. v4 It felt like being at the end of the earth although he was probably just over Israel’s border. He was in the need of God’s presence to be his place of refuge. He was experiencing a time of spiritual weakness as well as probably a threat to his life. Although the tent of meeting was the holy place where the ark of the covenant was placed the God of Israel was not contained by geography. Psalm 139 makes this clear, ‘Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. Psalm 139.7,8 David felt safe in the presence of God in a similar way that being in the presence of someone who you love provides a sense of safety. A sense of safety is an important aspect of love, it is why we hold someone who is frightened and why we hold the hand of a loved one in their dying moments.

The central verses of the psalm, either side of ‘Selah’ carry the heart of this psalm’s message. It is the importance of spending time in the presence of God. ‘Let me dwell in your tent forever!’  v4 says David. He wants to be close to God not only for refuge but also because he shares the inheritance of all those who fear God. Because he loves God he loves being with God. Absence isn’t making his heart grow fonder, the continuing presence of God grows his love.  He enjoys God and enjoys obeying God. The Old Testament and especially the psalms are full of verses that thrill at being in the presence of God. ‘How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God’. Psalm 84.1,2


In Jesus we have a perfected model of desiring to be in the presence of God. Jesus showed and taught his disciples the importance of spending time quietly in God’s presence. When the twelve disciples excitedly returned to Jesus after he had sent them out to preach the Kingdom of God, he said to them, ‘Come away with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest’. Mark 6.31


Spending time in God’s presence enables the disciple to resist sin as Jesus showed in the wilderness after his baptism. Persistent sin frequently damages Christians’ ongoing relationship with God and limits the effectiveness of their lives. David links time spent in God’s presence with the keeping of his vows. ‘For you, O God, have heard my vows; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.’ v5 Again in verse 8, ‘So will I sing praises to your name, as I perform my vows day after day.’

Time in God’s presence also builds hope. David expresses such hope for himself but at the same time moves into prophetic verse concerning the coming King, the Messiah, as he talks about being enthroned forever before God. vv 6,7 Hope is a vital part of the Christian life, it is rooted in the promises of God and the death and resurrection of Jesus. Hope produces resilience. When Peter was writing to the churches at the time of Nero and rapidly escalating persecution he wanted them to grasp the hope they had in Christ. He wrote, ‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.’ 1 Peter 1.3,4 Later he called them to come into Jesus’ presence to be built up into the people of God that God desires. ‘As you come to him, the living Stone – rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him – you also, like living stones, are built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.’ 1 Peter 2.4,5

Have we regularly built into our life time to, ‘come away and be with Him’?

Do we allow ourselves time to enjoy being in the presence of God and celebrating the hope that is within us?

Living hope – Phil Wickham



Discipline is like worm medicine      Psalm 60 and 2 Samuel 8

As a parent what was the worst fight you had with your child, or perhaps it was the other way round? In our household it was over worm medicine. Worms are a topic that most of us prefer not to mention in public but something a lot of us have had to deal with in private. I am not sure if children lock on to parents’ tension over this. I remember vividly the semi-secret whispered request over the pharmacy counter if they stock medicine for worms and then the absolutely toe-curling embarrassment as the pharmacist loudly proclaims the whole family must take the treatment. I was then told not to worry as it was a delicious strawberry flavour. The truth is the taste of the medicine was revolting and nothing at all like strawberries. As dutiful parents we made a show of cheerfully swallowing our dose. The first child opened their mouth and spat it across the room. There then began one of the biggest family scenes I remember that ended with our rolling around on the floor with our child trying to wrestle a spoonful of medicine into him. It was a ridiculous humiliation of parenthood, easily rectified the next day by buying tablets crushed into copious quantities of jam. God’s discipline of his people is like worm medicine, unwanted and unpleasant but good for you.


Psalm 60 relates to a time when David was defending Israel against invasion on multiple fronts and is described in 2 Samuel 8. The enemies were the Philistines, Moabites and Edomites. David believed God who had promised to go with the Israelites into battle had left them v10 and it was God who had previously given them victory. The nation had in some way rejected God and now they were experiencing his discipline by God removing his presence from them. It had become a national emergency, so David prayed, ‘You have rejected us, God, and burst upon us; you have been angry – now restore us! You have shaken the land and torn it open; mend its fractures, for it is quaking. You have shown your people desperate times; you have given us wine that makes us stagger.’ vv 1-3 Some might interpret a psalm like this today as God causing a pandemic to punish countries for sinful disobedience and rejection of God; in much the same way as some said Aids was God’s punishment against homosexuality. This I believe is an entirely false understanding of scripture. The Old Testament should be read in the light of Jesus’ life, sacrificial death, teaching and example.


David responded appropriately, as the representative of God’s people he threw himself entirely on God’s mercy. ‘Save us and help us with your right hand, that those who you love may be delivered.’ v5 God’s reply was that he was not only the God of Israel, he was also God over all nations. vv 6-8 David then faced up to the fact that the nation had become proud and thought they could achieve victories without God’s help. He confessed their own helplessness to do so and their need of God. ‘Give us aid against the enemy, for human help is worthless. With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies’. vv 11,12

The New Testament reveals there are still times when God needs to discipline his people. Not this time in national battles as his people are now spread across the nations. No this is a battle for holiness. In Revelation 2 and 3 the risen Christ addresses words of discipline to seven churches located in modern Turkey. He repeatedly opens his words with, ‘I know your deeds’. God’s discipline was addressed to the local church as a whole and formed from his intimate knowledge of the church. He both affirms their obedience and details their failings. He cautions the church in Ephesus, ‘Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.’ Rev 2.5 The Spirit would withdraw from the church and it would die. The church in Laodicea had become like Israel in Psalm 60, self-dependent and not trusting in God.  The Spirit warned them of the risk of their losing his presence, ‘Because you are lukewarm – neither hot not cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing. But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire … Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.’ Rev 3.16-20


God’s discipline in both the Old and New Testaments is relational.

How much do we prize our relationship with God?

Have we experienced God’s discipline in our lives reflected in our relationship with him?

Do we grasp the grace of God in always wanting to restore our relationship with him.

I will offer up my life – Matt Redman



That’s the sixth time you’ve tried to kill me.

Psalm 59 and 1 Samuel 19

The events that inspired Psalm 59 were getting David down. I can hear him shouting, ‘This is the sixth time you have tried to kill me. It is getting beyond a joke.’ 1 Samuel 19 sets out the series of events. Saul was overtaken by jealousy as he was repeatedly faced by David’s greater success in battle and popularity with the masses. Jonathan, David’s best friend and son of Saul, reasoned with Saul that, ‘the lord worked a great salvation for all Israel. You saw it and rejoiced. Why then will you sin against innocent blood by killing David without cause?’ 1 Sam 19.5 Jonathan temporarily brought about reconciliation between Saul and David. However, the war season came again and David led a major victory over the Philistines. Saul could stand it no longer and when David was playing his lute to sooth the King, Saul picked up his spear and tried to pin David to the wall, making it the fifth time Saul attempted to murder David. David dodged and escaped fleeing to his own house.

Saul sent men to watch David’s house with the intent of arresting and killing him in the morning. David’s wife, Michal warned David and helped him escape through a window.  She then tried the old escape from prison trick of making up a dummy in his bed to look like him to give David time to escape. When Saul’s men arrived in the morning to take David to Saul she claimed he was sick and in bed. Saul’s response to his men was bring him in his bed. Once Michal’s deception was exposed Saul challenged his daughter Michal as to why she should help his enemy escape. Michal then lied to protect herself saying that David had threatened her life.

David made good his escape and reached Samuel the prophet. Saul ordered his men to pursue David but as they approached David’s hideout, at Ramah, they were overcome by the Spirit of God and started prophesying. What is meant here by prophesying is uncertain but may well have meant, praising God. Three times Saul gave the same instructions and each time his men were overcome by prophesying. Saul gave up and went himself only to find he also was overwhelmed by prophesy and spent an entire day lying naked and repentant before Samuel, prophesying.

This incredible account explains the extreme language used by David in the psalm. He pleads for God’s protection. ‘Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; protect me from those who rise up against me; deliver me from those who work evil and save me from bloodthirsty men.’ David was not innocent of all sin, but he was innocent of what Saul had charged him with. vv 3,4 For David, Saul’s persistent henchmen were the howling dogs, prowling the city. v6,14 David’s repeated escapes were for him a clear demonstration of God’s protection, although as he wrote the words describing God’s deliverance he may well have also been drawing on other later experiences in his reign as well. ‘But you, O Lord, laugh at them; you hold all the nations in derision. O my Strength I will watch for you, for you, O God, are my fortress. My God in his steadfast love will meet me; God will let me look in triumph on my enemies. vv 8-10

How, you may ask, can this psalm possibly relate to a twenty first century Christian experience? Who can possibly be relentlessly chased down with their life threatened because of their faith in Jesus? Sadly, we see many in those circumstances seeking asylum and refuge in Britain today. There are those who have fled countries controlled by ruthless gangs because their faith will not let them comply with the gang’s criminal demands. Others who by criminal gangs have been enslaved and transported into another country for prostitution, domestic servitude or economic enslavement. Many were either Christian at the point of being captured or tricked, or have become Christians since. There are churches significantly growing where men and women have escaped certain arrest, torture or execution for confessing Christ in their country of origin. Once here, even if given permission to stay, it does not mean that the gangs, families or authorities have given up on taking their revenge.

But we can join with them as they worship when they reach a place of relative safety using David’s words, ‘But I will sing of your strength; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning. For you have been to me a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress. O my Strength, I will sing praises to you, for you, O God, are my fortress, the God who shows me steadfast love. vv 16,17

Is there someone who needs our time, love and patience to listen to their story as well as our intercessions?

 How long – Stuart Townend



Not even your wife likes you!!!!             Psalm 58

The above protest poster was held high by a woman in a crowd of thousands as a head of state visited a Scottish golf course. I added the exclamation marks as they are a signature feature of the head of state’s own memes. Humour, cuts sharpest, when there is an element of shock and potential truth. But that is mild compared to Psalm 58 where all humour has fallen away leaving only truth that is brutally vitriolic. The words are aimed at those with wealth and power who wield both to their own advantage, simultaneously oppressing others. The objects of David’s condemnation are rulers or as the ESV scathingly translates, ‘you gods’. v1


Psalm 58 has been controversial, even made optional in the Anglican 1980 service book, because of the strength of its language, especially verses 6 to 9. The language is strong, these are words that no western politician would expect to get away with. David appeals to God to break the teeth of unjust rulers and then tear them out of their mouths. He wants God to make them disappear, compares them to slugs and a still born child. He wants swift and total judgement that sweeps them from power and even life.

However, a further statement that has caused offence, ‘the righteous will be glad when they dip their feet in the blood of the wicked’ v10 is not a celebration of personal revenge. The imprecatory psalms (of which this is one) leave judgement to God. But it does recognize there is a battle and the godly are involved in it and the righteous will be pleased with God’s victory. v11

This psalm makes clear that when people are not treated with equity then that is wicked and to be opposed. ‘Do you judge people with equity? No, in your heart you devise injustice, and your hands mete out violence on the earth.’ vv1,2 We are called to be godly in what we do and say. A core part of our calling is to campaign for justice and oppose injustice. This can take place within a political party structure but there is an increasing trend for campaigning to be cause specific and there are many causes that Christians and churches as a whole could actively support. They do not all have to be specifically Christian causes such as the persecution of Christians across the world, they can and should also be issues that impact the well-being of all e.g. modern slavery, Black lives matter and the impact on the world’s poorest of global warming.

Christian Aid is currently campaigning for debt relief for the poorest countries so that they have finances to fight the Coronavirus. Burkino Faso a country of 19 million has 11 ventilators, Sierra Leone has no intensive care beds in the hospitals. You can add your voice for debt relief here – https://www.christianaid.org.uk/campaigns/debt-jubilee-petition .


Tearfund is campaigning to clear up the plastics in the ocean which impacts on many poor people’s livelihoods. Increasing the proportion of global aid spent on waste management to 3% would more than halve the quantities of plastics entering the oceans and improve poor communities’ health. More than two billion people have no waste collection, meaning their rubbish ends up being burned or dumped in places like rivers and oceans. Tearfund are campaigning for global companies to take responsibility for the waste arising from their profits. You can join the campaign here – https://www.tearfund.org/about_you/action/

As a disciple of Jesus, do you recognise a responsibility to speak up and act for justice?

How can you help your church actively promote justice?

God of Justice (We Must Go) – Tim Hughes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3NelRb1LY4


Sharing in the glory                                       Psalm 57

 There was a time when caves figured large in David’s life. (See the title) Life had not improved much since Psalm 56 when David had escaped from the Philistines in Gath. He fled to the cave of Adullam where his brothers and a general band of discontents joined him, but Saul returned from fighting off another Philistine attack with 3000 of the fittest men, to finally hunt David down, while David and his followers were hiding near the Crags of the Wild Goats. At that point David and some of his men were sheltering at the back of a large cave when Saul entered the cave to relieve himself. Despite urging from his men David refused to seize his chance to kill Saul because he honoured him as the Lord’s anointed. Instead he crept up and cut off a piece of Saul’s cloak without his knowledge. A trick fit for a pick pocket in Oliver Twist. When Saul left the cave, David called after him from a safe distance, waving the piece of the cloak and demonstrating that he had spared Saul. Saul temporarily repented of his pursuit of David and recognized that David would succeed him as King.

Psalm 57 begins as a lament vv 1-4 and ends in praise. vv 6-11 David has grown in confidence as he shelters under God’s wings. v2 It is not that his troubles, even the threat to his life, have gone away but he has seen evidence of the Lord’s protection. The threats are real, both physical from the weapons of Saul’s army and accusatory from those, ‘whose tongues are sharp swords’. v4 It is God who vindicates him v2 and so he gives glory to God in verse 5 and repeats it in the concluding verse 11. ‘Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.’ David bursts in to a song of praise, vv 6-11 which gives God the glory for his salvation.

The theme of giving God the glory and living for God’s glory is repeatedly picked up in the New Testament. Jesus said, ‘Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven’. Matthew 5.16 Jesus again linked his disciples lives with God’s glory in John 15.8, ‘By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples’. Jesus demonstrated how obedience to the Father brought glory to God and the Father would in turn glorify him. ‘I glorify you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.’ John 17.4,5

Later the apostles made clear how disciples of Jesus lives ought to bring glory to God. Peter instructed, ‘As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good servants of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies – in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever.’ 1Peter 4.10,11 Paul made clear that even in the smallest things we do we ought to act in a way that brings glory to God, protecting the faith of the most vulnerable in their faith. In Corinth, meat bought at the market had previously been dedicated in some way by the butchers to a pagan god. Paul said if he eats in thankfulness to God, then his conscience is clear. However, if it becomes an obstacle to another believer then do not eat it because the greater good is in not undermining the faith of another. In all our lives we are to live for the sake of the gospel that bring glory to Jesus Christ and God the Father. In that way we can join with David in singing, Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.’

 In time of trouble, do we take refuge in the shadow of the wings of the Father?

Do we draw upon the strength God supplies to live our lives in ways that glorify him through Jesus Christ?

To God be the glory – (For traditional worship)




Michael W. Smith – King of Glory ft. CeCe Winans (For full throated modern worship)



Walking in the light of life        Psalm 56

When darkness is its most complete we feel the need for even the smallest amount of light. Darkness has the capacity to make us feel completely surrounded and yet absolutely alone. It makes our next step uncertain and can leave us directionless. It connects to our most primitive instincts, our other senses become heightened and our safety becomes our dominant concern. These things were all David’s experience at the time of Psalm 56. No wonder darkness and light are such powerful images in the bible. For those who are conscious of surrounding darkness in their life these are the words Jesus said to the people, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’, echoing the closing words of Psalm 56.

 Life’s darkness is made worse when accompanied by loneliness and I find it difficult to think of a time when loneliness has been a greater issue than over the last few months of lock down. Psalm 56 describes David’s intimate conversation with God at an all-time low. David, described his life to Jonathan as, ‘only a step between me and death,’ 1 Samuel 20.3 as Saul was determined to kill him. David had fled Israel alone and sought refuge in Gath the home town of his historic enemy Goliath, carrying Goliath’s own sword. There he stood before Achish, king of the Philistines, while Achish’s servants reminded the king of the Israelite chant, ‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands’. 1 Samuel 21.11 The tens of thousands being Philistines. To Achish, David was a prize hostage. It is in the light of that we can understand David’s opening plea and prayer to God. ‘Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me; all day long an attacker oppresses me; my enemies trample on me all day long, for many attack me proudly.’ Vv 1,2

We do not have to be in fear of a sudden and violent death to experience extreme darkness and loneliness. Sometimes darkness can make us incapable of even uttering a prayer but David does an important thing, he admits he is afraid and in his fear he voices his trust in God, however weakly. ‘When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.’ v3 Why do I say weakly? Because he does what we are all liable to do and reverts immediately to focusing again on his troubles in detail. Although he says, he will not be afraid and in God he trusts, his trust is fragile. To escape Achish, he feigns madness and goes into an elaborate act of desperation. His behaviour is not that of a faith filled man of God.

David’s enemies and risks are two-fold, they come from his own people and the Philistines. He wants God to keep a close eye on both and hold them to account. Faith does grow though as he turns to God’s word. ‘In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?’ vv 9,10

David does two things. He remembers his vows to God and he trusts God’s word. v12 For the Christian we may remember a time when we made a commitment to follow Christ, that time when our promise became a life-long promise and we took Jesus at his word. That was when it was God who, ‘delivered my soul from death.’ v13 From then on his word reveals the light of our life – Jesus, who is the light of life.

How disciplined are we in understanding God’s word so we can walk in the light of life?

Thy word – Amy Grant





The enemy within the kingdom

Psalm 55         2 Corinthians 11 & 1 Corinthians 3

‘Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?  So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.  A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.’ Matthew 7.15-20 ESV

For the Christian one of the most emotional and spiritually painful times can be when division occurs within the church or the ‘Kingdom of God’. Psalm 55 has much to say on this topic. Typically, division arises around personalities but it can also occur because of differences over aspects of theology or the way the church expresses itself. Where it does happen things other than the glory of Christ have risen to the dominant place in peoples’ minds. In David’s time the kingdom of God was a nation ruled by a king under God and division was rebellion against the king.


Frequently when David orders his thoughts and communion with God into a psalm he carefully constructs poetry according to ancient Hebrew literary conventions. Here it appears emotion has taken over and the psalm jumps around as he pours his heart out before God which in itself captures the level of upset he feels. ‘Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea; hear me and answer me. My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught … Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me.’ vv 1,2,5 David, as king, lived in a time when each year brought round the season for war. He was not afraid of conflict with other nations and he had repeated evidence of God’s faithfulness to him in such situations. What was different this time was the enemy was once the closest of friends, one of his own. ‘But it is you, a man like myself, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God, as we walked about among worshipers.’ vv 13,15 We do not know who this enemy is, perhaps the closest match to the description is Absalom although whilst the psalm identifies him as a close friend it does not call him a son. Absalom was however a very smooth talker whilst plotting to forcibly overthrow his father, v23 Conspiracy was rife in the walled capital of Jerusalem with, ‘Destructive forces at work in the city; threats and lies never leaving its streets’. v 11 Arrogance has replaced a fear of God and the enemy defies the covenant God has made. v 20 It could be said that similar things can occur within a church when division strikes and historically it accurately describes the church when politics and religion have become so closely entwined they could not be separated.

David’s initial reaction is to flee, leave behind the boiling city and find solace in the wilderness. ‘Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. I would flee far away and stay in the desert’. vv 6,7 David prays that confusion will fall upon his enemies, bringing to mind the tower of Babel and in various ways he calls for God’s judgement on them. The psalm ends with a lesson to himself. ‘Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken … but as for me, I trust in you’. vv 22,23b

The Corinthian church, as an expression of the kingdom of God, early in its life experienced division of two types. Firstly, by dividing itself according to the teacher people favoured instead of faithfulness to the gospel, or as Paul expresses it, the wisdom of God as opposed to the wisdom of this world. 1 Corinthians 3 Then in 2 Corinthians 11 Paul severely warns against teachers who change the gospel for personal gain. He calls them, ‘deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.’ 2 Corinthians 11.13 Psalm 55 provides a helpful analysis of the fruit of such teaching and Jesus words in Matthew 7 tells us to look beyond ‘smooth talking’ to the fruit of their words and life.

How are we able to check that we are living a gospel centred life?

Jesus Paid It All – Kim Walker-Smith





What’s in a name?       Psalm54 and 1 Samuel 23. 14-28

The setting for this short psalm is the wild desert area east of the town of Ziph, south east of Hebron in Judah.  David and his band of 600 are dodging from one place to another trying to escape Saul and his army. The Ziphites told Saul of David’s whereabouts and Saul asked them for more precise information which they were able to provide. Saul then closed in on David, he was one side of a mountain and David’s men were running away on the other side. Just at that moment Saul received a message that the land was being attacked by Philistines and he broke off to go and meet the new threat. It reads like a film script. Psalm 54 is David’s prayer in the middle of this threat to his and his followers’ lives.

It is quite simply a prayer for help. David’s confidence in God’s help is deliberately and structurally placed in the very centre of the psalm, ‘Surely God is my help, the Lord is the one who sustains me.’ v4 This is a prayer, expressing an inner certainty before he has experienced God’s answer. He cannot know how God will respond or what will actually happen but in the middle of turmoil his trust is in God.  In our lives we can easily be overtaken by events and it feels as if they control us and our future. The odds may seem overwhelmingly against us and we can lose hope.  This can relate to so many aspects of our lives, our work, relationships, finance or our safety. Things may have got to the place where we have run out of options. God is not a ‘get out of jail free’ card but he is always our help and sustainer. It greatly helps if like David we have known him as our help and sustainer already in our lives. Sometimes we need to reach a point of crisis to turn to him. It is this message that the work of organizations like Christians Against Poverty bring to people when there seems like no hope.


David opened his prayer in the name of God. The name of God represents his authority and power or might. ‘Save me, O God, by your name, vindicate me by your might.’ v1 When I first became a Christian, we frequently sang a chorus that started, ‘In the name of Jesus, in the name of Jesus, we have the victory.’ People have prayed in God’s name throughout scripture. Jesus spoke to the disciples, ‘Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.’ John 14.13 Peter and John prayed in the name of Jesus of Nazareth for a lame man in Jerusalem’s temple court and he walked. Acts 3.6 If something is prayed in God’s name it clearly must be done so in accordance with his will and authority. The purpose of such prayers is God’s glory. It will also bring joy to his people for they glory in God. In the lame man’s case it caused many to praise God and to come to faith. It did not however prevent continuing persecution of the church from the religious authorities.


David ends his prayer with a promise to praise and offer a sacrifice to God in the form of a freewill offering. ‘I will sacrifice a freewill offering to you; I will praise your name, Lord, for it is good.’ v6 This is in anticipation of the Lord’s deliverance and is therefore an act of faith. Freewill offerings were not linked to the festival calendar but were voluntary and personal. They remain a joyous way Christians worship and give thanks to God for particular blessings. However, for the Christian all giving is to be a matter of freewill and a ‘cheerful heart’ rather than a regulatory requirement.


If you find yourself in a David like position. Is there a prayer you can pray in the name of Jesus?


Love has a name – Jesus Culture




Who is the fool?               Psalm 53

We live in an age where the secularist often derides believers in God as anti-intellectual or emotionally immature. On the other hand, believers are frequently dismissive of agnostics or atheists as people who have no hope or basis for moral conduct. One such argument may go, if we are all an accidentally evolved collection of atoms what does it matter what one collection of atoms does to another? A good starting point to think around the philosophical competing views of, ‘Is there a god?’ is Tim Keller’s book, ‘The reason for God,’ or get a quick introduction on his Youtube channel.

Psalm 53 does not take a neutral position as its starting point. The psalmist is quite clear, it is the fool who convinces himself that, ‘There is no God.’ v1 His reason for that is that he (assuming the psalmist is a man) has a pre-existing relationship with God and he draws upon evidence from the past where God had kept his promises. V5 When an existing believer has experienced God at work in their life or in their community it provides a confident basis on which to build personal trust in him and also to give a reason for their faith. It equips one to comply with Peter’s instruction, In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.’ 1 Peter 3.15 I would argue that some of the most compelling evidences of God’s existence are the lives changed by Jesus’ saving grace.  It is a natural trait to want to jump straight to the bottom line, that is the assertion there is a God, missing out the reason why one would want to do so. In Peter’s case, the reason is his heart condition of revering Christ as Lord. Peter also reminds us of the importance of how we say things as well as what we say. This contrasts somewhat with the psalmist who holds a more confrontational position.

The psalmist looks at the people who have sought to destroy the people of Israel and connects their lack of faith and reverence for God with corruption. ‘They are corrupt, and their ways are vile; for there is no one who does good.’ v1 This is repeated in verse 3 as he imagines God searching for faithful and honest people. The psalmist then draws upon a time when Israel was treated dreadfully by their enemies and suffered greatly filling them with fear. ‘They devour my people as though eating bread; they never call on God. But there they are, overwhelmed with dread where there was nothing to dread. vv4,5a God did however step in and take saving action. ‘God scattered the bones of those who attacked you; you put them to shame, for God despised them. v5b

 The psalmist concludes by appealing to Israel to remain faithful to God, in continuing times of trouble. He is looking forward to God’s salvation for his people and the fulfilment of ancient promises. ‘Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When God restores his people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad! v6 Salvation did indeed come out of Israel but not as he imagined through military might. It came in the person of Jesus to establish a kingdom through a victory over sin and death. He came as an expression of God’s love for people while they are still rejecting him and pursuing ways that offend him. God’s response to people who say, ‘There is no God,’ was to send Jesus, to show them God. He is and was not what people expect because despite his awesome greatness he came in humility. ‘God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ Romans 5.8


Have you ever felt threatened by people through their conduct or aggressive beliefs?

How could you respond in a way that demonstrates your own faith in God that reflects Jesus’ sacrificial humility?


Love in the face of evil        Psalm 52 and 1 Samuel 22. 9-23
Corrie ten Boom was a young woman and member of a watch making family in Holland during the Second World War. The whole family hid Jews in their home and helped them escape the Nazis. Eventually they were discovered, arrested and sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp. Four of the family died, Corrie was released through a clerical error and two weeks later all the women in the camp in her age group were killed in gas chambers. Her sister, Betsie, died of ill health (16.12.1944), prior to her death she told Corrie, ‘There is no pit so deep that He [God] is not deeper still.’ The ESV Global Study Bible’s sub title for Psalm 52 is the Steadfast Love of God Endures. A summary of Corrie’s and her family’s lives can be found on, https://www.tenboom.org/about-the-ten-booms/

The opening stanza vv1-4 originally applied to Doeg, the Edomite, who betrayed David and killed a whole family of priests, in total 85, who provided sustenance to David as he was running for his life when threatened by Saul. It equally applies to anybody whether individual or organizational that plans and carries out evil. The psalm characterizes such behaviour as boasting of evil, v1 discussing plans for evil, v2 loving and enjoying evil vv 2,4 lying or being deceitful. v3
God did not prevent Doeg from carrying out his evil actions in conjunction with Saul. The psalm does however say that whatever their temporary prosperity God will judge them and bring about their destruction. v5 The psalm contains the inference that this is an eternal judgement as well as one applied to one’s mortal lifetime.  The psalm contrasts David, who made God his refuge, with Doeg who sided with and relied on the rich and powerful.
Verses 8 to 9 contrast the wicked who are ‘uprooted’ with the godly who become like a green olive tree. Olive trees are long lived, up to 500 years, and so the image is of endurance in God’s love. ‘I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever.’ v 8 Because the psalmist has such confidence in God’s love he is able to wait in hope. ‘I will wait for your name, for it is good in the presence of the godly.’ v9 Corrie ten Boom was an example of a woman who waited upon the Lord, endured and overcame.
When we are feeling embattled and even find we have enemies, are we able to wait for the Lord?

Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord – Chris Tomlin

Psalm 51 part 1 – The poor man’s ewe lamb.

Psalm 51.1-6 and 2 Samuel 11 and 12

A rich and a poor man lived in the same city. The rich man had many sheep and cattle and the poor man had only one ewe lamb. When the rich man received a visitor, he took the poor man’s only lamb to prepare a meal for the visitor. The lamb, being a ewe, was the poor man’s only hope for a future as from it he could breed more sheep. This is the story Nathan the prophet told David 2 Samuel 12.1-10 to expose to him the depth of sin he had committed against God and Uriah the Hitite. 2 Samuel 11 It was a case of sin mounting upon sin through the abuse of power. In the Harry Potter books there is a mirror where you see the greatest desire of your heart. Psalm 51 is like a mirror that has exposed David’s heart as God sees it.

The opening stanza vv 1,2 is a plea to God for mercy purely on the basis of God’s love. There are no excuses offered or bargaining on the basis of other good things he has done.  He knows he has no capacity to cleanse himself from sin. He knows God knows his actions and his heart. One sin led to another. He coveted another man’s wife and by abusing power committed adultery with her.  To cover up his sin he tried to hide his adultery by making it plausible that Uriah was the father of Bathsheba’s child and when this failed because of Uriah’s loyalty to the king and his fellow soldiers, he conspired with his leading general to murder Uriah. In legal terms because of David’s power and status there were no consequences for David and he got to make his mistress, whether forced or willing, his wife.


Only when confronted with his sin did David repent and plead for mercy. Just as God through Nathan convicted David of his profound sin and rebellion against God, who had blessed him greatly, so it is God, whether through the direct action of the Holy Spirit or by other means who convicts us of our sin. Verse 3, ‘For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me,’ v3 accurately describes how God penetrates our consciousness and raises our awareness of our need for cleansing. Clearly David had treated Uriah with fatal abject disregard and yet David’s words addressed to God are, ‘Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.’ v3 This not to ignore the criminal injustice done to Uriah, but to emphasize that all sin is fundamentally against God.


David recognizes that God has the right to judge and is right in his judgements. v4 He also understands that he is intrinsically rebellious against God. vv 5,6 This is frequently a major obstacle that prevents people from seeking God’s mercy as our pride does not want us to accept it. Paul confesses the truth of his inbuilt rebellion against God in Romans 7.19-20, ‘For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do— this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.’


Can you remember a time when you became particularly aware of rebellion against God’s ways and a need for his mercy?


Have mercy on me, O God – Graham Kendrick



Living in relationship with God               Psalm 50

There are times when in our close relationships there is the risk of going through the motions of well worn habits while the intimate core that was once the focus has withered through neglect. In other words there can be a form of relationship without a heart. From a Christian perspective our human relationships are meant to reflect our relationship with God. Psalm 50 is a prophetic message to his own people about their relationship with him.

The opening stanza vv 1-6 draws upon the exodus experience where an awesome God establishes his covenantal relationship with his people. The whole of creation declares his greatness and righteous character. ‘The mighty one, God, the Lord, speaks and summons the earth,’ v1 and ‘the heavens proclaim his righteousness,  for he is a God of justice.’ v6


The second stanza vv 7-13 challenges any misconceived notion people might have that God is in some way dependent on human worship or actions. Ancient Judaism’s religious practices shared in common with the other surrounding religious practices, the incessant sacrificing of animals. C.S. Lewis wrote, ‘we should have not enjoyed the ancient rituals. Every temple in the world, the elegant Parthenon at Athens and the holy Temple at Jerusalem, was a sacred slaughterhouse.’ God’s words as conveyed by the psalmist are, ‘I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.’ vv 9,10


It is a reminder that frequently the form of worship in modern services can become our dominant preoccupation whether formal or informal but the form of worship does not constitute the relationship.


Verses 14 – 23 set out God’s basis for a relationship with him for the people of God as understood in Old Testament times. Framing all, to start and finish what God says, is thankfulness. ‘Sacrifice thank offerings to God,’ v14 and ‘Those who sacrifice thank offerings honour me.’ V23 Thank offerings were a form of fellowship offering. All fellowship offerings were voluntary and the other forms were votive offerings, brought to fulfil a vow and freewill offerings, brought to express love and worship of the Lord.


Verses 16 – 21 reveals how one’s life is the evidence of true freewill offerings. It is what we do, v18 how we speak, v19 and the honourability of our relationships. v20  Asaph, the psalm’s author was a contemporary of David and yet it is striking how modern this set of principles for a relationship with God is and how challenging it remains.


In what terms do we think of worship?

Do we ever get tempted to think that in some way God needs us?

Have we been prompted to examine any aspect of our life?


How Great is Our God – Chris Tomlin




‘Nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.’

Psalm 49 and Luke 12. 13-21


Benjamin Franklin’s famous words are often quoted but the truth of them had been apparent for centuries.  Psalm 49 confronts the reality of death and whilst not speaking exactly about taxes does refer to the cost of life beyond the grave. ‘Truly no man can ransom another or give to God the price of his life, for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice, that he should live on forever and never see the pit.’ vv 7-9 The Psalm forms part of the bible’s wisdom literature and responds in part to the last verse of the previous psalm that speaks of God’s guidance.


“It addresses the confusion that the faithful often feel when they encounter trouble even while unfaithful people seem to get along so well. Is not God expected to show his favour for the faithful in how he treats them? The answer is that God will distinguish between the faithful and the unfaithful in what happens to them when they die vv 12,20 Verses 12 and 20 are very similar, the key difference being in the words translated ‘remain’ and ‘understanding,’ which sound almost the same in Hebrew. The element of understanding makes the difference.  Those who sing this psalm will want to continue living faithfully. They will be strengthened against the temptation either to despair or to give up and join the unfaithful.” (ESV Global Study Bible)


Jesus takes this theme in the parable of the Rich Fool. In a response to a demand to settle a family dispute of an inheritance Jesus warns them to be on their guard against greed, ‘life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.’ Luke 12.15 Life should though, be lived in the awareness that one might die without warning. At that point it is what we stored up before God that is important.  Luke 12. 20,21


Psalm 49 does contain within it the promise of resurrection v 15 although as yet the exact form and means of the resurrection is yet to be revealed. The ransom and resurrection become the principle focus of the New Testament.


Faithfull One So Unchanging






Living in the presence of God             Psalm 48

Does the place you are in impact your sense of the presence of God and your ability to worship God?  The protestant church has had an uncomfortable history with buildings and symbols fearing that manmade objects can lure one into idolatry.  Isaiah was clear that God cannot be contained within a building, Thus says the Lord: Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.’ Is 66.-2 However, it is true for many that we associate a place either natural or man-made with an encounter with God. A woman seeking refuge in this country, with little or no knowledge of Christianity, walked into Liverpool Cathedral and sensed God’s presence with her. This led her to find a local church and ask how to become a Christian and so began her daily walk with God. Special places form a part of our spirituality because they convey our awareness of God.


The complexity of the Ancient Hebrew makes the translation of some words in Psalm 48 difficult and so aspects of their meaning are not easy to understand. As the Psalmist worships the Lord in the temple and on Mount Zion he is aware God surrounds him in every sense. Zaphon v2 a mountain in the north also means north.  East v7 means in front as the Hebrews made the top of their compass where the sun rose before them. East also means before in time. The word translated ‘the next generation’ v13 also means behind, in terms of direction and after, relating to time. The Great Lord, most worthy of praise, v1 found in the city of God is not confined to the city alone, he surrounds them in all directions and through all time.


Mount Zion and Jerusalem in this psalm are synonymous.  Mount Zion is given exaggerated praise v2 when comparing it to Mount Zaphon, a much bigger mountain in the north, which Caananites believed to be the home of Baal. The city of Jerusalem was seen as a citadel defended by God that God makes impregnable. vv 4-8 The particular incident referred to is not known although there are several possibilities recorded in the bible. A leading candidate is when the Assyrians failed in their siege in the time of Hezikiah. 2 Kings 19.35-36 New Testament imagery of the temple of God refers to the heart of the believer 1 Corinthians 3.16 or the collective church. 1 Corinthians 3.17 The threat to the temple, in Paul’s letters, is not physical destruction but the corruption of faith through false teaching leading believers away from Christ and immoral behaviour. As the psalmist celebrated the temple in Jerusalem as sacred so we are to treat our lives and bodies as sacred. The whole community of the universal church is to be considered the temple of God. ‘So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.’ Ephesians 2.19-22


To help us maintain a mindset where the unity in the Spirit with Jesus (1 Corinthians 6.17) is worked out in our lives, the psalmist provides us with helpful guidance.  He spends time thinking about the steadfast love of God. v9 The more we grasp God’s love for us, the more we will respond with obedience and love towards him. He also enjoys the righteousness of God and spends time rejoicing in his judgements. v10b,11 When we live in a society that frequently values and applauds things that do not accord with God’s righteousness it makes it easy to drift away from godliness. Finally spending time considering how God has built his kingdom through the sacrificial love of Jesus on the cross and his glorious resurrection will encourage us to pass on the good news and that good news will guide our lives. Vv 12-14


Jesus, all for Jesus – Robin Mark






The nations rage, the kingdoms totter          Psalm 46

Nations have continued to rage both within themselves and between each other over the 3000 years since the above words were written. Ps 46.6 Boundaries between countries have been constantly shifting throughout history, dominant powers rise and fall, some disappearing completely.  Internally nations are often volatile and as I write the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement is dominating headlines following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.  In current times an individual event can produce an almost instant response throughout a nation and even across the globe.  The symbolism of one action captures an essence and causes a nation to totter. The unrelenting knee pressing on the neck of George Floyd summed up in a single cruel event the oppression of Black people over hundreds of years. The throwing of Edward Colston’s statue, a prominent Bristol slave trader, into the river, whilst illegal, stood for a demand for institutional repentance and internal change from Britain’s imperial heritage. How then should the Christian Church respond and does the psalm that contains the words, nations rage and kingdoms totter, have anything to say today?


The psalm has two very famous verses, ‘God is our refuge and strength an ever-present help in trouble,’ v1 and ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations.’ v10 Although Christians frequently take comfort from these words individually they are addressed in the psalm to a people group, the people of God. The threat to the nation is unspecified, it is likely that the threat is to Jerusalem that represents the city of God. v4 The psalm with extravagant imagery describes the awesome power of God vv 6, and his power to control nations. vv  8-9


The, ‘river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells’ v4  is an image found in Ezekiel 47.1-12 and Revelation 22.1-2 of the river of life bringing new life and sustaining life, flowing from the throne of God, in the city of God.  The message is clear, in the midst of great turmoil God is able to bring new life through the Holy Spirit.


If God is our refuge then the values and stance we should take as Christians must be those that reflect his character.  God in Psalm 46 is a God of action v9 and so as disciples Christians should also be people of action. It was Christians historically, in Britain, who led the fight for the abolition of slavery, even though many in the church at the time resisted the movement. It was the repentant slave trader, John Newton, who gave us the great Christian anthem, Amazing Grace.


The Old Testament call to discipleship still acts as a clarion call over the millennia:

‘He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.’ Micah 6.8


Jesus perfectly lived out Micah’s commission and now united in the cross of Christ his disciples are in God’s eyes equal in value and in his love.  ‘For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.’ Galatians 3.27-28 


In the middle of turmoil and action God calls on his people to quietly centre ourselves on him, trusting in him, having confidence in his presence.  From this place we will find the strength to live Micah 6.8 lives.


How can the church act in the uproar of national life?

What opportunities does the church create to be still and know that God is God?

How do we live out the crucified life of Christ in our community?


Be still for the presence of the Lord is here



The wedding song         Psalm 45 and Hebrews 1.8-9

2020 hasn’t turned out to be the best year for a wedding. Casually reading the Evening Standard Lifestyle pages I discovered that by mid-April 64,000 weddings in the UK had been cancelled or postponed in the previous three months. The wedding app ‘Bridebook’ reckons losses to the wedding industry this year will be £87.5 billion. It seems the average cost of a wedding in the UK is around £20,000.  Imagine the cost of a really big royal wedding which is what we have celebrated in Psalm 45. In the bible marriage has been a God ordained relationship from the beginning with Adam and Eve to the last chapter when the Spirit and Christ’s Bride (the church) say, ‘Come and let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.’ Revelation 22.17


Giving a speech at a wedding is nerve wracking enough, here the poet is called to write the wedding song praising both the bridegroom (the King) and the bride a foreign princess.  Imagine getting it wrong.  It is thought the wedding was probably between Solomon and a princess. It could be the wedding in 1 Kings 3 where early in his reign Solomon married a daughter of Pharaoh. God had warned Israel not to intermarry with other nations as they will turn your hearts after other gods. However, I Kings 3 is a chapter where Solomon also asks God for wisdom and so this marriage more resembles Ruth who was prepared to forget her people v 10 and be loyal to her new people and God.


The Psalmist in his praise of the King connects him with the coming Messiah as is quoted in Hebrews as part of the description of Jesus in his glorified, post ascension, heavenly reign. Hebrews 1.8-9 The praise to the King is fully fulfilled by Jesus in a way which is unattainable by a normal human King. The hugely enthusiastic poet v1 firstly praises the appearance of the King. vv 1,2 But, this is the post Davidic age where Samuel has pronounced God does not look at the outward appearance but the heart. 1 Samuel 16.7 So he goes on to praise the King for his character and justness of his actions. ‘In your majesty ride out victoriously for the cause of truth, and meekness and righteousness.’ v4 All facets perfected in Christ. He then moves rapidly on to credit him with an eternal reign, loving righteousness and hating evil before pronouncing him anointed by God. vv 6,7 This exaggerated type of praise may have been used in surrounding nations for their Kings but Israelites would have seen it as putting oneself on the same level as the one and only eternal God if meant literally. In Solomon’s time it would have been meant metaphorically because the King represents God’s rule on earth.  Hebrews applies the same verses to describe Jesus as the Son, who glorified reigns forever.


The second part of the psalm turns to the bride and her relationship with the bridegroom. She arrives gloriously adorned, filled with joy and gladness, leaving behind her previous life. v15 A description picked up on in the New Testament to describe the church’s relationship with Christ. ‘Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.’ Revelation 19.7-8


A wedding is a great time of celebration.  Do we take the time to celebrate the Kingship of Christ and the honour of our relationship with him?

Praise my soul the King of Heaven



Psalm    44     and  Romans     8:18-39

Why aren’t the good times rolling?

It is understandable that if a Christian has believed in God and trusted Jesus for forgiveness and eternal life but is struggling in aspects of their life, that they should question God about it.  There is a branch of the late twentieth century and twenty first century Protestant church that advocates what is called the prosperity gospel or theology.  This was mostly found in Pentecostal or Charismatic movements, although there are many in those denominations who would oppose such theology. However, aspects of this teaching have been absorbed through the modern church. In brief it says that if you are obedient in your faith God will reward you with material wellbeing. This could be in the areas of wealth, health, career and personal fulfilment. Some of the leaders in this movement have been at the centre of scandals as they have grown wealthy at the personal cost of many low income followers who have been desperate to please God and improve their personal circumstances. It holds out a promise of hope to people who are desperate for a resolution to their problems with the appearance of being rooted in biblical teaching.  So, people believe that if they are in some way more obedient in their faith or giving they will have the child they desire, meet their life partner, increase their wealth, be healed or perhaps gain spiritual gifts or ministries that they would love to have.

The psalmist in Psalm 44, speaking on behalf of the nation, finds himself in a similar dilemma.  Israel, he says, has been faithful in its covenant relationship with God v17 and yet its circumstances are dire. ‘Yet for your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ v22 How then can we understand how God who has honoured his covenantal relationship with Israel vv 1-8 can then apparently turn and leave them in a state of national mourning? vv 9-16

Romans 8 sets Psalm 44 in a New Testament context quoting verse 22. The New Testament Christians are indeed in a covenantal relationship with God as children of God. ‘The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ,’ but Paul makes clear this is not a free ticket to a smooth life as he goes on to say, ‘provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. Rom 8.16,17 Our hope is an eternal hope linked to the promise of a new creation Rom 8.23 When Paul talks about all things working together for good, for those called according to his purpose, Rom 8.28 he is not speaking of prosperity in this life, he is speaking of the hope of salvation. ‘Those he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.’ Rom 8.30

When the Psalmist complains, ‘You have made us a reproach to our neighbours, the scorn and derision of those around us,’ Ps 44.13 Paul’s reply is, ‘Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?’ Rom 8.35 

 The New Testament knows nothing of prosperity gospel, Jesus words were, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself.’ Luke9.23-25    God has not rejected us or forgotten us as the psalmist pleaded, Ps 44.23,24 he has indeed risen up and rescued us because of his unfailing love through Jesus Christ.

Does this mean we cannot bring our daily lives before God?  Of course not. However, our joy is to be in Christ himself and our calling is to go tell whatever our circumstances.

More Than Conquerors” from Rend Collective



PSALM 42 & 43

The reality of spiritual depression:           P a r t  2 .

When thinking afresh about a topic I find it is often useful to consider the vocabulary that is used in discussing it before ordering the concepts.  Apart from the second sentence of the repeated verse at the end of each stanza Ps 42.5,11, 43.5 there is little that is positive. The vocabulary includes these words and phrases: thirsts, tears, pour out my soul, cast down, turmoil, breakers and waves have gone over me, mourning, oppression, taunt and reject me.  The psalmist is in despair and experiencing repeated mental and spiritual turmoil. Frequently if we are in that place our internal dialogue is circular and although we imagine ways out of the position we return again to the same set of feelings.

We do not know if the circumstances he describes are metaphors or physical reality but it is not necessary to know to understand the nature of his experience and how it relates to contemporary experiences.  He describes being in the far north of the country 42.6 well away from Jerusalem in the south, the centre of his spiritual highs with God. He understands his relationship with God through his role as a musician and leader of worship in Jerusalem and is now deprived of it. ‘How I would go up with the throng, and lead them in procession to the house of God.’ v 42.4 When the capacity to continue in the things that have been a blessing to us and others is removed it can seriously damage our spiritual health, cause a period of mourning and adjustment. It can challenge our identity, for the Christian it is helpful to meditate on our identity in Christ and what he has done for us. ‘But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.’    John 1.12

The psalmist describes his longing for God as a dryness and unresolved thirst. vv42.1,2 These feelings will not go away and they are destroying his appetite. ‘My tears have been my food day and night.’ v 42.3 He recognises his spiritual and mental state impacts his physical wellbeing. He keeps going back over memories of times when he was fulfilled and cannot move on.

The second stanza 42.6-11 describes the feeling of being overwhelmed and out of control. In truth there are no major waterfalls or seas with massive breakers and waves to cover him v 42.7 in northern Israel. He is drawing on repeated biblical and ancient Hebrew imagery where the depths of the sea represent chaos and disorder, a place where unknown evils may come from. He is desperate for something firm to stand on. ‘I say to God, my rock: Why have you forgotten me.’ v 42.9 The sense of desertion by God that can overwhelm one creates a spiritual loneliness.  Whether his enemies are real or imagined 42.9-10 he is oppressed by them. The taunting in his head will not go away, ‘Where is your God?’ 42.10

 In the midst of his turmoil he again resolves to praise God, knowing that he is his salvation, but that does not make him feel better. One has to admire the psalmist, he has faced up to his problems, he has rationalised them and knows the way forward is with God whatever his current feelings. In the third stanza (Psalm 43) he starts his fight back. He calls on God to vindicate him against his oppressors even though his feelings tell him God has rejected him. There is a conflict between his inherent trust and experience of God and his overwhelming feelings. To cut through this he needs two things. He needs light to shine through his spiritual darkness and God’s truth to guide him into the presence of God for which he has so longed. V 43.3 He wants to express his faith and love for God in the way he knows he connects with God, through music. That is undoubtedly true for very many now, however for others their core way of relating with God may be different. For some it will be in silence, for others through the written or spoken word. Some find the easiest way to pray is when walking, others need to be on their knees. Others like me may prefer to spend time with an open bible, moving between reading, reflecting and prayer. However we find God in our deepest souls we also need to spend time in the company of other disciples.  Their presence and faith will build us up.

We could pray that:

We will recognise and understand when people are experiencing depression.

We will be prepared to stand alongside them with patience and love.

That our church will be a place where God’s light and truth can gently lead them into God presence.

Holy overshadowing – Graham Kendrick



PSALM 42 & 43

The reality of spiritual depression:           P a r t   1 .

Over 3 million people in the UK are diagnosed with depression.

Depression is a mood disorder, characterized by the persistent feeling of sadness, lack of motivation and interest.

(My Therapy website)

Depression is a major issue throughout the population and disciples of Jesus are commonly subject to it along with everybody else. We could ask, why is that? When Jesus promises such a glorious hope.  Isn’t Christianity all about love, forgiveness, healing and joy? The songs are full of praise and upbeat. If we have enough faith, it could be assumed, God will bless us with good things and problems will be solved and we will and should be happy.

We could ask, is there a spiritual dimension to depression? If so, what comes first depression for other reasons or is the cause of depression spiritual? Spirituality and depression has been researched around the world, although it is more difficult to identify outcomes specifically concerning Christian faith and depression. Even in the more general research it is difficult to be definitive about the connection between faith and specifically depression although there are general trends that clearly connect to peoples experience of the Christian faith.

A review of over 400 related research papers between 1962 and 2011 concluded, ‘Religious beliefs and practices may help people to cope better with stressful life circumstances, give meaning and hope, and surround depressed persons with a supportive community. In some populations or individuals, however, religious beliefs may increase guilt and lead to discouragement as people fail to live up to the high standards of their religious tradition.’ (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3426191/) I think that seems realistic and has both positive and negative implications for the communication of the Christian faith and in particular how the bible’s teaching is shared and understood.  It also raises a number of questions about how the church approaches its mission in relation to peoples experience of depression and in particular spiritual depression.  Psalms 42 and 43 are originally one psalm divided into three stanzas, each one concludes with the same repeated question, ‘Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? The psalmist then urges himself to, ‘Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.’ They recount the internal dialogue of an individual experiencing spiritual depression.

Please read through the two psalms and consider how much do they reflect your own experience and possibly that of a good friend.  A closer look at the text will be in part 2.

As the deer pants for the water – Robin Mark




Who are the Sons of Korah?

Psalms Book 2 (42-49) and Numbers 16


If someone and all their family, all those who were associated with them and their possessions fall into the depths of the earth as God opens up fissures in the earth’s surface and it is then closed over them, one would assume there is no coming back from that. That is what is recorded in Numbers 16.31-33.  Indeed, for those individuals there was no good ending but somehow some descendants did survive and they became significant authors of psalms.  Korah was a ring leader of a rebellion against Moses and consequentially against the Lord’s authority. Numbers 16.1-3 Their rebellion included trying to usurp Aaron’s priesthood Num 16.10,11 and Moses’ leadership of them into the desert and out of slavery in Egypt.  The Old Testament contains examples of the fear of the Lord that are usually more graphic than in the New Testament.  They are however there, consider Ananias and Sapphira Acts 5.1-11 and Herod Agrippa. Acts 12.20-25 Whilst salvation through the grace and love of God through Jesus is the dominant gospel message a caution about the seriousness of rebellion against God and fear of the Lord in the rounded biblical sense is appropriate.

Repeatedly in scripture where God has taken action in judgement there is a message of restoration as well.  We see this worked out in the history of Old Testament Israel and Judah. The ‘Sons of Korah’ (descendants) are an illustration of this.  They were musical worship leaders appointed by David and would lead processions to worship God.  ‘I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng’. Ps 42.4 The Sons of Korah were the composers and authors of the first eight psalms in Book 2 of Psalms. A feature of their writing was the use of Elohim (God) in preference to Yahweh (Lord). This represents a change from David’s use of Lord (Yahweh) in Book 1. Whilst we cannot be certain of the reason for this it may reflect the fear of the Lord, as in their family history, as possibly Yahweh, the great Name, was thought too holy for common use.

As we progress in our reflections in Book 2 of Psalms we will find the theme of lament occurs repeatedly. From this we can gain comfort that bringing our sorrows, regrets, disappointments and griefs to God is a positive thing to do. Even in our saddest of times we can worship the Lord in honesty.

How conscious are we of the holiness and greatness of God?

Are we able to give thanks for the times the Lord has restored our relationship with him?

Can we support someone else in finding restoration through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ?

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom – Tommy Walker



Can a letter to an individual have a lasting global significance?


Some of the content draws upon but not exclusively on the ESV Global Study Bible.

Titus was written to one man on a relatively small Mediterranean island in an ancient Roman Grecian culture.  How is this applicable now in a global context?

Titus was a principal member of the second generation of the early church leaders.  He was converted under the ministry of an apostle and as such received primary source teaching. He was exposed to firsthand accounts of Jesus life and teaching. Now it was his role to pass on the same teaching, however as we know oral traditions are subject to variation as the accounts are passed on. The Apostles therefore left written accounts for permanent reference although in many cases they were assisted by other disciples who brought their clerical and research skills to bear, such as Mark and Luke.

Paul’s letter to Titus whilst it was a personal letter was also an open letter intended to be shared with the churches.  It gave authority to Titus’ teaching and responsibilities. The concluding blessing of grace 3.15 is for the church as a whole and implies it was to be read to the entire church. It was in a sense a bit like a modern job description, openly disclosed, so that all will understand the parameters of the job.

Titus places the current age in the context of redemptive history. God promises eternal life before time, v 1.2 he then reveals the grace of God keeping that promise through Jesus Christ’s first appearance, v 2.11 he also speaks of Christ’s appearing as a future event as our blessed hope, v 2.13 that is, his second coming.

Titus’ message that sound teaching leads to God pleasing lives is not time or culturally restricted, whether people are currently embroiled in false teaching or are church leaders. Titus contains three universal themes: doctrine fuels godliness, v 1.1 the character qualities required for church leadership vv 1.6-9 and the twin connected gospel messages of grace and obedience. vv 2.11-14

In the light of the above teaching the contemporary church is called to, ‘devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need.’ v 3.14 The broad scope of the whole bible’s gospel message encompasses that, ‘humans are made in God’s image and human life therefore has intrinsic worth and dignity.’ ESV global study bible

 So what things globally would now be included in urgent need?

The provision of basic needs such as clean water and sanitation, the welfare of unborn and young children, universal education, protection from war and violence, the capacity to be heard and understood, a right to flourish mentally, physically and intellectually and the capacity to live free from personal oppression including forced marriage and FGM.

What makes the Christian response to urgent need distinctive? It is the combining of the gospel life with the gospel message, aptly represented by Christian missionary, aid and development charities. Paul’s letter to Titus summons us to a life of self-giving love as we walk with Jesus, “who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (ESV study bible).


Create in me a clean heart, O God



Doing Good, what’s Christian about that?      Titus 3.1-8, 13-14For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was ill and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Mathew 25.36-36

During the 19th Century many of the great social reformers were inspired by their Christian faith and a clear perception that should Christ return they wanted to be about his work. Such characters as Elizabeth Fry, Lord Shaftesbury, William Wilberforce and Thomas Barnardo. Modern Society has significantly changed, we have the welfare state, the NHS, a minimum wage and legislation to protect children and vulnerable adults. Is there then a place for distinctively Christian good works?

The Trussell Trust is an example of a contemporary Christian charity rooted in the person of Jesus and his teachings. They provide an example of what contemporary Christian good works can look like. Their passion comes from God’s passion for opposing injustice. They stand in solidarity with their clients placing their wellbeing as their highest priority. Their work is not only face to face service but it is also advocating for the poor and needy as well as holding to account those who are in power. They are creative and innovative in their approaches. Through carefully listening to their clients they seek to empower the powerless.

But if we grasp that our personal salvation does not come from good works we do, why should we be so devoted to good works? Paul explains that it’s source is the understanding of what Jesus has done for us. He reminds us of the transforming work God had done in the lives of believers. ‘For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slave to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.’ Titus 3.3 From this state Jesus took compassion on us, ‘But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his great mercy, by the washing and regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.’ Titus 3.4-5 It is the regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit that is the motivator and empowerer of good works. As heirs of Jesus Christ we fix our hope on eternal life through the grace of God. Titus 3.7 It was this motivation that drove on the 19th Century reformers and it is the same motivation for the Christian church today. As Paul puts it, ‘So those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works.’ Titus 3.8

Good works are not limited to organisational activities, they are to permeate our personal lives and the needs of the fellowship. Paul urges Titus and the church in Crete to care for the Christian workers Zenas and Apollos, seeing they lack nothing. Titus 3.13 Good works are clearly the calling for all believers. Paul adds, ‘Let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.’ Titus 3.14

Have we asked the Holy Spirit to continue his regenerative work in our lives?
How do we stand alongside those in urgent need?
Can we be an advocate for justice?
Lord we long for you – (heal our nation)


No legitimate separation between belief and behaviour     Titus 1.1; 2.1, 11-14; 3.4-7

 During these reflections on Paul’s letter to Titus we have picked out key themes as they are developed through the text. Arguably, that the gospel produces godliness in the lives of believers, is the dominant concept. In the middle of a pandemic we see the impact on credibility where what is said conflicts with the behaviour of the speaker.  It destroys confidence, creates division and promotes harmful behaviour.  These things equally apply to the teaching of the gospel and Christian leadership.

Paul opens his letter with the statement that it is, ‘the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness’. Titus 1.1 He is making the teaching of this knowledge central to his calling as an apostle and also the work of Titus and other church leaders.  The importance of teaching the gospel is repeated throughout the letter. Elders of churches, ‘must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught,’ and ‘be able to give instruction in sound doctrine’. V1.9

Titus is instructed to teach older men, v2.2 older women, v2.3 who then should teach younger women. v2.4 He is to urge (ESV) or encourage (NIV) younger men to be self-controlled v2.6 and teach slaves.  All of this teaching, in the context of the letter, relates to personal conduct.  Titus’ own conduct is to be a model for his teaching. v 2.8 In contrast teaching that does not accord to the gospel is associated with behaviour Paul defines as detestable, disobedient and unfit for any good work. v1.16 Paul gives some indications about how to discern such teachers, he describes their motivation as being for shameful gain, v1.11 although he doesn’t say whether that is personal esteem or monetary advantage. Their teachings are ones that stir up division v3.10 and so their focus will be on controversies, genealogies, dissentions, and quarrels about the law. v3.9 In context this seems to connect with the circumcision party but similar warnings could be taken about contemporary teaching that is designed to divide a fellowship.

Gospel teaching is only effective if it is partnered with the Holy Spirit. Jesus told his disciples, But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.’ John 14.26 The gospel is applied to our lives through the grace of God, ‘training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passion, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age’. v2,12 The sanctification process is by the Holy Spirit.  Paul terms it, ‘the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour’. v 3.6 The Holy Spirit first teaches and then applies that teaching to our lives training us in godliness.

How then could we pray?

We could pray that the Holy Spirit will make us aware of those things in our lives that diverge from gospel living.

We could pray that the Holy Spirit would train us in godly living.

We could pray for our teachers that their teaching and lives will continue to accord with the gospel.

Lord I need you – Chris Tomlin



An attractive life                      Titus 2.5, 8, 10

Philip said, ‘Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.’ Jesus answered: ‘Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”?  Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. John 14.8-10

The reason Jesus was such an attractive person to so many was that he revealed God the Father through his character.  It was also the reason people were hostile towards him because their hearts were hostile to God and godliness. Similarly, the transforming work of the grace of God in Christians lives is intended to be a means by which Jesus is revealed to those who do not yet have faith. Titus 2.10 There are many scriptures that capture how as children of God we are to grow into Christ likeness.  An outcome of this process is to draw others into relationship with God that they also might be recipients of salvation. Jesus said, ‘Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven’. Matthew 5.16

In Crete the Christian life was in stark contrast to the surrounding culture where over indulgence and idolatry were the norm. Paul was insistent that the conduct of Christians’ private lives should not detract from the gospel.  His advice reflected life in Crete but it is not restricted to that time and place. He wanted older women to be reverent in their behaviour, careful in the way they speak and not addicted to alcohol. v2.3 The impact of excessive alcohol is to reduce self-control and therefore lead on to behaviour that is offensive to God.  The same advice is equally appropriate to all including older men who were taught to be dignified, sober-minded, self-controlled, sound in faith and in love. v2.2 The repeated message for all groups within the church whether they were older or younger, free or bondservants, was to be self-controlled, trustworthy, careful in their speech, loving in their relationships, full of good works.  All of this for the sake of the gospel. For young women it was, ‘that the word of God may not be reviled’. v2.5 In the case of young men it was, ‘So that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us’. v2.8 In regarding the relationship with bondservants and their masters it was, ‘so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour’. v2.10

It is a false reading of chapter 2 if it is taken to advocate either the oppression of women in marriage or the endorsement of any form of slavery. Here the emphasis is on the ongoing saving work of the grace of God in believers’ lives and how that in itself is a witness to Jesus as the gospel.

What is it that you find attracts you to Jesus in other believers’  lives?

Is the Lord prompting you through the gospel to become more Christ like?

Are you in a relationship (e.g. sister, husband, friend) with an as yet non-believer and how can your life make Jesus more attractive to them?

How deep the Father’s love – Fernando Ortega




The silver thread in the warp and weft of discipleship    Titus 1.4, 2.3-4, 2.11-15

Warp and weft are the two basic components used in weaving to turn thread or yarn into fabric. The lengthwise or longitudinal warp yarns are held stationary in tension on a frame or loom while the transverse weft (sometimes woof) is drawn through and inserted over-and-under the warp. (Wikipedia)

One single thread cannot be separated from the whole material.  It adds to the whole and finds its place within it, enhancing its strength and beauty.

A silver thread running through Paul’s letter to Titus is the place of mentors in discipleship and growth in godliness.  Paul was himself a mentor to Titus.  Titus, a gentile, became a Christian through Paul’s ministry hence he terms him his true son. ‘To Titus, my true son in our common faith.’ Titus 1.4 The term, true son, indicates that the relationship was more than simply one of preacher and convert.  Titus had grown up in the faith as a child grows up, under Paul’s guidance and in close relationship as a child does with a loving father.  For such a relationship to exist it had to be long standing, intimate and trusting. For such confidence to exist that Paul would leave the ordering of the churches in Crete and the appointment of elders v 1.5 to Titus, he would have needed evidence of his reliability, which indeed he had.  Not only had Titus been Paul’s companion on missionary journeys he had shown independent reliability in taking Paul’s letter, known as 2 Corinthians, to Corinth and supervising the restoration of relationships and growth of the church in Corinth.  He then went on to raise a collection in Corinth, where they had previously been reluctant, for the Christians in Jerusalem that Paul personally delivered.

Paul was an older man to Titus’ young man and thus a model of the types of mentoring relationships he advocates to the church in Crete.  A key principle in Titus is that healthy doctrine should produce holiness and good works.  Titus was to teach what accords to sound doctrine, v 2.1 but then what we discover as we read on is that what accords to sound doctrine is not a theological statement but a description of conduct and character. Mentoring is meant to impact the whole life of the Christian including family life, work life, our friendships and our conduct within the church.

It is clear that there is particular place for the mentor and mentee relationship to be between two people of the same gender.  ‘Older women like-wise are to be reverent in bahaviour, not slanderers or slaves to much wine.  They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children …’ Titus 2.3,4 Mentoring is not only to be done by what is said it is to be by example.

A mentor’s credibility is established by the consistency of the example they set.  Thus, Paul urges Titus to, ‘urge the younger men to be self-controlled.  Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.

 All of this is to be achieved through the grace of God.  It is an ongoing process and it has an eventual goal.  That goal is, ‘the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.’ Titus 2.13 Being both a mentor and a mentee is part of our training in godliness. Titus 2.12

 Who has been a mentor to you and who have your mentored?

Do you actively seek to be in a mentoring relationship?

How can you encourage mentoring relationships in your church?

A valuable book if you are interested in the theme is –

Organic Discipleship: Mentoring Others Into Spiritual Maturity and Leadership (Revised Edition) by Dennis McCallum, Jessica Lowery

Oceans (Acoustic) – Hillsong United



The vain pursuit of mammoth clubbing.      Titus 1.10-16

George turned up to the house of his friend, Henry, to find him going through a clubbing routine on his back lawn.  ‘Henry,’ he said. ‘What are you doing?’  Henry was holding a magnificent two-handed whale bone club, beautifully weighted, intricately engraved, dressed in a bear skin.  Henry and the club seemed at one as he swung it in wide majestic moves.  ‘I am practising my mammoth hunting techniques,’ replied Henry.  ‘Why?’  George asked incredulously.  ‘When Marian and I were married, I promised I would defend and provide for her for the rest of my life.’  ‘But’ George said, ‘There are no mammoths left.’  ‘You don’t understand,’ Henry answered, ‘These skills have been passed down by my ancestors, they perfect balance, timing and centre the mind.  If I didn’t do them every day my marriage might collapse.’  Marian was looking out of the living room window gently shaking her head with despair in her eyes.

Comic as this image is it illustrates how one can be deceived into becoming trapped by ritual and tradition when they have ceased to have purpose.  Henry’s desire was to fulfil his marriage vows but the way he set about it was deeply misguided and was actually driving a wedge into the marriage.  In a modern phrase the ritual was no longer fit for purpose.

Paul was deeply disturbed that the young church in Cyprus had been infiltrated by people who taught practices that were worse than not fit for purpose, they lead people away from the truth and on into sin.  He termed them, ‘empty talkers and deceivers, especially those from the circumcision party.’ Titus 1.10 For the disciple of Christ physical circumcision was neither right or wrong but reliance on it for salvation was a deception.  Paul addressed this directly in Galatians, ‘For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value.’ Gal 5.6 Circumcision was a sign of God’s covenant with Abraham and his descendants Genesis 17.10-13 and later enshrined in law. Leviticus 12.3 It was an outward sign of what should have been an inward spiritual reality. ‘And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.’ Deuteronomy 30.6

If circumcision was part of God’s law, why then was Paul so condemning of those continuing to teach it?  It was because if one is relying on obedience to the law for salvation one has to perfectly obey the whole law, in spirit as well as in rituals, and that is not possible for sinful people. ‘I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law.’ Galatians 5.3 At that point one is rejecting who Jesus is and what he did through his sacrifice on the cross.  It is a rejection of the grace of God, Paul terms it a, ‘falling away from the grace of God.’ Gal 5.6 He describes the teaching of the circumcision party as, removing the offence of the cross. Gal 5.11

Paul wants to be clear, ‘By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of your own works, so that no one may boast.’ Ephesians 2.8-9 It is only through reliance on Jesus through faith that we receive the gift of salvation, Colossians 2.11-14 any other teaching will lead us away from the freedom of the Spirit.

This provokes the question, what constructs in our life do we rely on that prevents us from trusting solely in the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus?

The heart of worship – Matt Redman




Choosing and being a leader            Titus 1.5-9

Angela opens the expected e mail and groans at the number of attachments.  She really wants this job but process and stress to get it seems almost too much. The first document is the glossy brochure telling the world how wonderful the company is, then there is the formidable application form, an interview schedule, a job description, a person specification and an online task all to be returned in the next three days.  How is she to convince the appointing committee that she is the ideal person?  If only they just truly knew her and her heart for an opportunity like this.

Paul’s preaching and teaching tour of Crete has left small scattered house churches across the island but now to continue to grow in their faith and mission they need some more formally established leadership.  Paul has given Titus the job of appointing these elders. Titus 1.5 They are not jobs for the faint hearted, Cyprus is famous for its lax morals and prevalent dishonesty, v12 a place where the culture lays traps for the newly converted disciples of Jesus. The church has also come under the influence of Jewish groups that are adding to and distorting the apostolic gospel. v14 Surely then Titus must pay special attention to skills, organizational structures, eloquence of speech and commanding presence.  It appears these are not considered essential in the person specification although they may have been desirable.  Paul has one overriding priority and that is the character of the person.  He then subdivides it into three areas.

The fact that Paul did not appoint elders at the foundation of the churches is relevant.  It takes time to grow and assess Christian character.  In 1 Timothy, Paul counsels, ‘Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands.’ v5.22 He adds, ‘The sins of some are obvious … the sins of others trail behind them. In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not obvious cannot remain hidden forever.’ vv5.24,25 The appointment of leaders is not to be rushed.

Public reputation is vital firstly expressed in their family life. What the neighbours see reflects on the standing of Christ in the community.  Twice Paul asserts an elder must be, ‘above reproach.’ vv6,7 The conduct of the family and the faithfulness of any marriage should give a positive testimony to the elder.

The individual conduct is also crucial, under the phrase self-controlled comes an absence of drunkenness, quick temper and violence. v7 Motivations are equally important, an elder should not be arrogant, a lover of good, holy in their inclinations and disciplined in their approach.  These things all bear strongly on how they will relate to the church and to the community as they reach out in mission.  They could well find their perfect expression through hospitality, v8 taking a lead from Jesus’ lifestyle where he delighted to spend time with ‘sinners,’ not to join in their activity but to lovingly share the gospel.  What will differentiate the sacrificial leader is the time they give to people beyond their own inner circle.

The final characteristic Paul emphasizes is the person’s understanding and sharing of the gospel.  This being the basis on which they relate to church members, ‘holding firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.’ v9 This implies the capacity to go beyond simply quoting scripture and includes wise and loving interpretation and application.

Word of God Speak




Chosen ones                                  Titus 1.1-4

Each year I grow courgettes from seed.  Most people think courgettes are about 10 or 15cm in length, mine usually go wild and end up 30cm monster marrows.  This year during lock down with garden centres closed, new packets of seed were not available.  I searched the cupboards and found a packet of opened, old, out of date seeds.  I only wanted two or three plants so I chose the six fattest seeds to plant in pots thinking with luck two or three would germinate.  A week or so later five small plants popped their heads out.  As every (well almost every) school child knows, for a seed to grow into a plant you have to do more than choose it.  You have to provide water, warmth, food and light in a host environment.

Paul was God’s gardener.  Paul opens his letter as a servant or slave of God.  It is the only time he uses that term, usually preferring to be known as a servant of Jesus.  By identifying himself as a servant of God he was also directly connecting himself to Old Testament greats also known as servants of God, Moses, David and the prophets.  Why was this?  Perhaps because the root of much of the false teaching in the church of Cyprus was coming from Jewish breakaway groups such as the circumcision party.  He also calls himself an apostle of Jesus. An apostle is one who is sent, however in the New Testament it also referred to eye witnesses of Jesus’ ministry who were given authority by Jesus himself.  Paul did not fit that description but he had met Jesus personally on the Damascus Road and in subsequent visions, Jesus had chosen and sent him to be an apostle to Gentiles.  Paul then uses a term that has divided the Christian church over generations, he was an apostle, ‘for the sake of the elect.’ v1 Elsewhere the New Testament uses the term chosen.

Many have taken a strict interpretation of the term and pushed the meaning to the extent that the elect will come to faith regardless of their own will or the actions of others.  God will enforce his will.  It then becomes a recipe for complacency and inaction both on the part of the believer and the church.  However later in Titus, Paul writes, ‘the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,’ v2.11 and in 1 Timothy 2.3-4 ‘It is pleasing in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.’

The notion of being chosen in the New Testament is much more nuanced than a coach picking a team and simply leaving everyone else out.  Jesus spoke to his disciples and said, ‘You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last (converts) and so whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.’ John 15.16 Paul knew he was chosen to go to all with the gospel and nurture faith until it produced righteous lives that then went on to repeat the process with others.  We are part of that apostolic tradition.

May the Peoples Praise you – Keith and Kristyn Getty





Mercy and God’s word
Psalm 41.1-3 
Poverty just loves to destroy lives. It breaks families apart, isolates people from friends and family, shatters confidence and drives many to think that suicide is the only way out.
UK poverty is real, with millions locked in its miserable grip. We’re not prepared to sit back and let it wreak havoc across our nation. In a just and compassionate society, no one should be trapped in their home, afraid to open the door or answer the phone. No one should wake up wondering where they’ll find the money to feed their children or heat their home. No one should have to be alone, especially when times are tough. (Christians Against Poverty website)
BMS works among some of the most marginalised and least evangelised people, in some of the most fragile places on earth. We aim to bring life in all its fullness through seven key ministries: church, development, education, health, justice, leadership and relief. (BMS website)Locally or world-wide poverty is an ever present reality. We are now living in the largest collapse of the global economy since the second world war. Those who suffer the most are the ones who are already the poorest. The BMS mission statement gives a clear modern understanding of poverty that it is far more multifaceted than simply lack of money.Poverty is a major issue wherever we live but is it the churches’ issue? How much prayer, time, energy, money, effort and sacrifice of the church should it consume? How big a priority should it be for the church? How reasonable are the arguments that reflect these types of thoughts?
Preaching the word of God has to be our main focus, we cannot afford to do both.
We are struggling ourselves to meet our costs and cannot afford to do things.
We are only a few, we have to be careful about what we do.
There is a welfare state now it is no longer as important as it used to be.
Mostly it is the fault of the poor that they are in the situation that they are.
In some way their presence corrupts the house of God.How can these apparent conflicts be resolved? A disciple of Jesus would answer, by obedience to the bible, Jesus’ example and his teaching. We then find there is no conflict, the gospel is communicated through care for the poor, even becoming poor oneself as Jesus has already laid down his life for us. Biblical evidence is overwhelming and coherent. The gospel is not simply the message, it is a gospel life. As David says, ‘Blessed is the one who considers the poor.’ v1 The promise of God is that consideration or care for the poor, (ESV) or alternatively as the NIV translates it, the weak, is followed by blessing to the carer. He promises protection and sustenance. vv2,3 As an alternative to a song I would ask you to listen to what the bible says about poverty through children’s voices on the ‘Compassion International’ website.
You may not wish to respond to Compassion specifically, but it is worth asking what should I and my church do?



Number 40

A new song: a fresh start                            Psalm 40.1-10

It is our first day of a new job.  We spent the last week or so worrying about what the dress code is, who we will meet, are we really up to this new challenge, will we make friends, what time do I have to leave home to get there on time and how fulfilled will we be?  At the same time, we were probably worrying about the impact the job will have on family and other aspects of our life.

Fresh starts bring a surge of emotions.  Some of us grasp them with both hands and go forward boldly while others are more cautious and focus more on the uncertainties.  Probably most people experience a mixture of emotions.  We may also look back at what we have left behind, possibly with relief and perhaps with regret. New jobs are of course just one example of new beginnings. Spiritually committing our life to following Christ is the biggest step and it is so dramatic that Jesus terms it being born again.

David, in Psalm 40, has just reached the point of a new beginning.  He has kept his earlier advice and waited on the Lord. Ps37.7 38.15 The waiting period can be a time of great uncertainty and stress, I think of refugees who are granted the right to stay in the country but then have to begin the process of building an entirely new life, but there are many other examples. David’s first emotion is one of relief and thanksgiving for the new opportunity. ‘I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.’ vv1,2 David may have been recalling Joseph’s experience of being placed by his brothers in a pit as they initially plotted to kill him.  Later in Judah’s history Jeremiah was literally condemned to a slimy pit.  As we progress through our Christian life we can look back and identify our own ‘slimy pits,’ and understand God’s grace even though it was difficult to do so at the time.

Now with his feet set firmly on rock David pauses to praise God.  This is such a necessary step it builds the relationship with God.  It puts one’s experience in context and refocuses our eyes and direction.  The most natural thing for the saved is to celebrate with song. v3 Part of our witness to the community in which we live is to praise God for his work in our lives and there will be those who see and understand that we have trusted in the Lord. ‘Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.’ v3

David goes on to make clear how to continue life in new circumstances.  In verse 4 he sets out what to root our life in and that is trust in the Lord.  He recognizes that the surrounding world tempts us to trust in many other people and things but he urges us to not turn aside to false gods.  To pray for clarity in our lives as to what false gods might grow in our hearts is part of the discipleship path.  David also returns to a frequent theme of psalms, to remember all that God has already done as evidence of God’s purposes for us in the future.  It leads him to declare, ‘None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare.’ v5

David then addresses the issue of the heart.  The sacrifice that God requires of us is primarily willing obedience.  ‘I desire to do thy will, my God; your law is within my heart.’ v8 Paul described this process as being, ‘transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.’ Romans12.2

To continue with the fresh start and new song David declares it is a public thing.  He needs to spend time in the company of the Lord’s people where God’s righteousness, faithfulness, love and saving activity is jointly celebrated. Vv9,10 It is not God’s plan that his people should be lone disciples.  We are part of one body and need each other.  This is not weakness but strength.

When I was lost – Geraldine Latty




Number 39

Struggling for perspective        Psalm 39

In the rhythm of life there can be times of calm and times of turmoil.  Turmoil often raises questions and doubts about how one should tackle those problems including what to say or not say.  In the middle of one specific issue it is easy to lose the perspective of the big picture and what remain the important issues.  In the short series of psalms 37,38 and 39 David has echoed wisdom books in the bible.  In Psalm 37 passages were similar to proverbs, in Psalm 38 it was more like Job and here in Psalm 39 much of it accords with Ecclesiastes.

David is not specific about what his problems are but he does attribute some of it to his own sin v8 and God’s discipline. vv9-11 His troubles are compounded by his feelings of alienation with those around him.  David’s initial response is to keep quiet, ‘I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth while in the presence of the wicked.’ vv1,2  Why is David not wanting to talk about things?  There could be a number of reasons, he perhaps doesn’t want to appear a fool or disgrace himself.  He maybe does not want to bring disgrace to God in front of nonbelievers.  He might simply be unsure of the best thing to do.  Whatever the reason his anxiety increased, ‘But my anguish increased; my heart grew hot within me.  While I meditated, the fire burned.’ vv2,3  In the end he had to speak but not to those around who he did not trust but to the Lord.

David asked God to give him a perspective on his life compared with the eternal nature of the Lord.  He asks God to show him how fleeting life is and concludes, ‘You have made my days a few hand-breadths; and my lifetime is as nothing before you.’ v5 This he realizes is true of everybody not just him however secure people might feel.  It is almost as if a penny has dropped, however desperate I might be feeling right now, in truth my objective situation is not fundamentally different to everybody else whatever they might think. This leads him on to grasping that the rush for wealth and by implication other things the surrounding world might bestow on him is simply vanity and worthless.  Jesus repeats this teaching in the parable of the rich fool, Luke 12.16-21.

David turns again to the Lord, realizing that his purpose and life is to be found in him. ‘But now Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.’ v7 It is a simple statement but profound.  He realizes that he is naturally a sinner and constantly needs the Lord’s help to overcome sin and be forgiven. v12 The sense of being a stranger in the world will not go away but he has the presence of the Lord with him as his inheritance, ‘I will dwell with you as a foreigner, a stranger, as all my ancestors were.’ v12 At the same time he finds it difficult to be constantly in the presence of God, as did Job. Job 7.17-21.

My hope is built on nothing less





Number 38-

The unbearable weight of sin                          Psalm 38

 There is a difference between self-loathing arising from a distorted self-image and carrying the burden of knowing the unresolved harm one has done.  It is possible to feel deep guilt when there is no guilt.  There are however times when one can have done things that we have refused or failed to address.  This can then build up In our mind and become, ‘a burden too heavy to bear.’ v4  It can feel that the more we suppress it the more it affects us, impacting our mood and personality, relationships and functioning, in everyday life.

We see in Psalm 38 that for David consciousness of his sin has not just impacted his relationships with people around him but with the Lord as well.  David is a man who essentially both fears and worships God but he has here committed sin that deeply grieves God and himself.  We can helpfully read this psalm as if it is the experience of someone who has previously not trusted in God but is now burdened down by the weight of his own sense of guilt, convinced by God of his guilt, he is now seeking forgiveness and a relationship with God.  We can do this because much of the language fits that situation but it was not David’s true position.

David experiences God piercing his conscience v2 and this has translated itself into physical and mental symptoms. vv3,8 He concludes this section with, ‘I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart.’ v8 At this point he has stopped fighting and admits his situation before the Lord. ‘All my longings lie open before you, Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you.’ v9 There are those who treat the confession of sin as a superficial thing, a quick fix and move on.  David here shows that it can take time for a truly repentant spirit to work through their situation.  His sin has caused a rift between him and his neighbours and friends. v11 He has created opportunities for his enemies to gain advantage. v12 In his prayer life he has found he cannot find words and simply has to be in the presence of God. ‘I have become like one who does not hear, whose mouth can offer no reply.  Lord, I wait for you; you will answer, Lord my God.’ vv14,15

 David remains worried that he has enemies that he does not deserve and he reverts to previous complaints to God that people who he has been good to are now falsely blaming him. vv19,20 This reminds us that simply confessing sin and being forgiven by God does not remove all troubles from life.  David is aware of his continuing need to be close to God in his prayer, ‘Lord, do not forsake me; do not be far from me, my God.  Come quickly to help me, my Lord and my Saviour.’ vv21,22

 Let us learn to rest in the grace of Christ.  To quote Philip Yancey, ‘Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us more . . . and there is nothing we can do to make God love us less.’ (What’s so amazing about grace.)

Broken vessels – Hillsong W-orship



Number 37-

Living in a world where the wicked prosper.    Psalm 37

It is a great challenge for the Christian to know how to respond when wickedness succeeds bringing prosperity, power and happiness to its practitioners, especially when it is at the expense of ‘the righteous’.  This situation does seem to be an ever present reality.  In the workplace it is often bullying leaders and managers who succeed at the expense of employees and this is not limited to private enterprise.  Consider the cost whistle blowers in public services have paid.  At governmental level the power and wealth accumulated by oppressive governmental leaders is a permanent feature of history and no less evident today.  A global perspective brings into focus that a broadly just and compassionate government that prioritizes the weakest in society is a minority position.  In the home the figures for domestic abuse are frightening.  Last year the Office for National Statistics estimated that 2.4 million people were domestically abused in England and Wales.  The church is not immune to the corruption of power as has been highlighted in recent public exposures.

How then should the Christian live?  Should we change sides and say that clearly righteousness is a waste of time and we would be much better off conforming to the norm where evil doers prosper?  David’s response in Psalm 37 is reinforced through the bible and it is striking how much it accords with Jesus’ teaching 1500 years later.  He is adamant that we should, ‘turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever.  For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones.’ vv 27,28

David characterizes the wicked as enemies of the righteous v12 and the poor and needy. v14 This is a warning as to reality, ‘The wicked plots against the righteous and gnashes his teeth at him. V12 and ‘The wicked watches for the righteous and seeks to put him to death.’ V32 It was the same experience for Jesus and the church of the New Testament.

David takes a long view or eternal perspective. Some might say even a naïve view when he says, ‘I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging for bread.’ v25 when that clearly is not universally true.  He is however clear that the prosperity of the wicked is a temporary thing and often they become the victim of their own wickedness, ‘But their swords will pierce their own hearts.’ v15 He compares the wicked to the grass in the Middle East, green in spring but withered and dry by the autumn. v2  Ultimately under God’s judgement the wicked will be destroyed, ‘there will be no future for the wicked.’ v38

In the face of wickedness he calls people into relationship with the Lord.  He urges us to, trust in the Lord, v3 take delight in the Lord, v4 commit to the Lord, v5 be still before the Lord, v7 wait for the Lord, v7 and hope in the Lord. v34  Arising from time spent with the Lord and our relationship with him he then appeals to us to not be angry or worry v8 and to hope in the Lord and keep his way. v34

This is not an easy thing when one has experienced great suffering from the hands of evil doers but this is the over-arching promise of God that was pioneered by Jesus.

‘The salvation of the righteous come from the Lord; he is their stronghold in time of trouble.  The Lord helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him.’ vv39,40

Trust his heart – Babbie Mason


New wine – Hillsong



Number 36

The battle for the heart and soul                                  Psalm 36

 Over several months I had conversations with a man I will call Tim.  He was trying to leave behind a life that had led him to prison and a reliance on drink and drugs because he now had a child that he was not allowed to see because of his life style.  It was an internal struggle but it was also a battle against the deliberate temptations placed in his way by those who encouraged him to continue with his previous life.  There were texts from drug dealers extoling the virtues of their new batch from county lines, people knocking on his door and the offers of superficial friendship in the midst of loneliness and depression.

David, in Psalm 36, recognizes this battle for the soul and he concludes the psalm with a prayer that he is not drawn into the ways of the wicked.  ‘Let not the foot of arrogance come upon me, nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.’ v11 Translators place different interpretations on the opening verse as to whether it is a message from God or wickedness in his heart, but whatever the source, sinfulness personified is calling to him.  The overriding attitude of sin is arrogance.  Arrogance expressed as no fear or respect for God and a conceited belief that that sin will not be exposed. ‘There is no fear of God before his eyes. For he flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated.’ vv1,2  It was Tim’s experience that even as he was trying to leave a corrupt life behind so others were thinking of ways to tempt him back.  We should not underestimate the deliberateness of criminals or even our peer group to encourage us in living a godless life.  Once those decisions have been made it becomes increasingly hard to change direction.  David expresses the personification of sin as, ‘The words of his mouth are trouble and deceit; he has ceased to act wisely and do good.  He plots trouble while on his bed; he sets himself in a way that is not good; he does not reject evil.’ vv2,3 David makes clear that simply not rejecting evil amounts to complying with evil.

In contrast choosing good over evil is not so much choosing good as the source of goodness in the person of God.  He is love and righteousness, vv5,6 as well as where we find refuge from sin and temptation. v7 At that point we find a truly satisfying life.  ‘They feast on the abundance of your house and you give them drink from the river of your delights.’ v8  David then prays that he will continue to choose God’s life over death.  vv10-12

The battle for the soul is a battle that can be won but only by Christ within us. Paul summed that up, ‘If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.2Corinthians 5.17

He’s a chain breaker – Zach Williams



Number 35

Is it ever OK to pray for your enemy’s downfall?                  Psalm 35

For many there is a genuine conflict between what is seen as ‘Old Testament’ values of appealing to God for victory in war and Jesus’ ‘New Testament’ statement to love your enemies. Mathew 5.44 The appeals to God for the destruction of one’s enemies, ‘Contend, Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me.’ v1are know as curses.  Curses are not limited to the Old Testament.  They are rephrased as ‘woes’ when Jesus criticizes scribes and Pharisees. Matt 23 Passages such as Psalm 35.4-10 have been so uncomfortable that the Church of England marked them as not suitable to be read aloud in services between 1980 and 2000.  Do we share that problem?

How then can we understand a psalm like Psalm 35? It can be read literally or metaphorically in its original setting.  Can it then be applied to modern life?  How do we understand it spiritually?  I am sure it was written from the experience of life threatening and life taking conflict.  This psalm reflects the truth about Israel’s internal conflict during David’s life time when Saul sought to unjustly kill David and during civil war with the forces backing Absalom.  Internal malicious plotting was rife. ‘They do not speak peaceably, but devise false accusations against those who live quietly in the land.’ v20 David is not claiming to be faultless but he was chosen by God to fulfil his will and in that sense was living in his will.  He could therefore justifiably pray, ‘Vindicate me in your righteousness, Lord my God; do not let them gloat over me.’ v24 He appeals to God that his enemies would fall into their own trap. v8

David was right to first of all appeal to God rather than his own prowess and then give thanks to him when he was rescued. ‘Who is like you, Lord? You rescue the poor and needy from those who rob them.’ v10 As disciples our first appeal is to God, ‘may they always say, “The Lord be exalted, who delights in the well being of his servant.” v27 Where there are those who persistently remain enemies of the Lord the New Testament does teach that there will be judgement and the forces against God will be appropriately punished. Revelation shows us worship of the Lamb for his ultimate victory over evil.

Is there a place now for this literal understanding of praying for physical victory over the political, military, criminal and religious forces of evil?  I would say yes in this week of remembering V.E. day. The nation prayed at Dunkirk.  The forces of fascist evil attacked not only the Christian church but the whole of society.  Such oppressive forces are still very active in the world and through the life experiences of refugees within the church there is ample evidence that Christian opposition to such forces is not only justified it is part of our obedience to God.

There is also a spiritual battle that Christians are expected to engage in.  Paul informs us, ‘We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places. Ephesians 6.12 He then echoes David’s call to put on God’s armour and weaponry. ‘Take up shield and armour; arise and come to my aid. Brandish spear and javelin against those who pursue me. Say to me, I am your salvation.’ vv 2,3

 Great in Power –




Number 34

Can we ever see God’s presence in our major mess ups?

Psalm 34 and 1 Samuel 20.30 – 21.14

Terrified, David, having been tipped off by Jonathan his best friend, fled from Saul’s court with Saul in his jealous rage promising his death.  He first went to Ahimelek a trusted friend and priest, lying to him he gained food and a weapon, Goliath’s own sword.  He then sought refuge in the city of Israel’s persistent enemy who he had defeated on many occasions, the Philistines.  When exposed before the Philistine king, Achish, he feigned madness with comic stereotypical behaviour, foaming at the mouth and clawing at the gate leaving deep gash marks before Achish dismissed him as worthless.

The consequences of this dishonest and faithless conduct was that Ahimelek, his family, 85 priests and the whole town Ahimelek lived in were murdered for his supposed treachery.  David himself from being God’s anointed one reduced himself to a pathetic fool to save his life.  David later looks back at these actions sees not his cleverness at his deceptions but God’s protection of his anointed even when his actions caused such injustice and reduced state.

David’s reflection divides into two broad sections: his thanks and praise for the Lord’s mercy when he was at his most helpless and faithless time, vv1-10 he then moves on to sharing lessons learnt in bitter experience. vv11-22 Perhaps unwittingly, but divinely inspired, he concludes prophesying redemption through Jesus’ death on the cross for those who, ‘seek refuge in him.’ v22

 A brief summary of these experiences are in these verses, ‘My soul makes its boast in the Lord, let the humble hear and be glad, v2 and ‘This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.’ v6 David here gives credit where credit is due.

David also wanted others to grasp, ‘The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.’ v18

John draws on David’s prophesy, ‘He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken’ v20 to testify that Jesus is the redeemer. John 19.36

I invite you to reflect with me on how God in our deepest failures and greatest rejection of him, he has remained near and is still our redeemer.

Close to the broken hearted – Jill Phillips





Number 33

Creating the soundtrack to our life                        Psalm 33

Have you felt eager anticipation to join in praise to God?  To join the company of God’s people in singing fresh songs to him.  David must be the epitome of a worship leader.  As we discover afresh some new aspect of God’s nature and salvation so our emotions can burst out and we understand David’s opening exclamation, ‘Sing joyfully to the Lord’ or as the ESV puts it ‘Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous.’ v1

The Lord God remains the same, it is our understanding that refreshes or we grasp some new aspect of his character. ‘Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!  For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.’ vv8,9 

All the reasons David found to praise God are perfected in Jesus.  Jesus’ words are right and true, v4  he perfected righteousness and justice in his death and resurrection. He is the Word of God and by his word all things were made. v6, John 1.3  Jesus has called to himself a people who are his inheritance. v12, ‘As you come to him, the living Stone – rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1Peter 2.5

 The Lord sees all vv13,14 and, ‘the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him,’ v18  or as Peter says, For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.’ 1Peter 3.12  Our hope is in him, v20  as Peter again reminds us, ‘He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.’ 1Peter 3.3,4

 In the light of this whenever you feel the urge and want to join in a new song, do so with all your heart and skill giving a shout for joy. v3

 New song in my heart – Rob Smith


Won my heart – Emu Youth



Number 32

The stubborn mule                  Psalm 32 and 1 John 1.5-10

Have you ever experienced someone who believed their persistent and rigid refusal to accept they are wrong was a sign of strength?   Where this occurs it not only harms those around them, it damages the person them self.  It exposes their own weakness and frailty and can lead to a warped perception of reality.  Internally great mental and spiritual stresses are set up.  Frequently lasting damage to relationships occur because the means to resolve the problem has been denied.

God counsels us in Psalm 32, ‘Do not be like the horse or the mule which has no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle.’ v9  The pressure of one’s deceit when one is in self denial eats away internally and can feel like a heavy weight upon you.  David describes this, ‘When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.  For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of the summer.’ vv3,4  This is highly destructive in our human relationships and also in our relationship with God.

What is the pressure relief valve in such a case?  It is the acknowledgement of the problem.  That opens up a pathway for resolution.  This is the case in our interpersonal reactions and also between ourselves and God.  David says, ‘I acknowledge my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said I will confess my transgressions to the Lord, and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.  The apostle John makes the same point that our relationship with God is restored through Jesus’ sacrifice. ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ 1John 1.9

David experienced the relief and joy of being forgiven and Psalm 32 was written to celebrate that and to guide others into what he had learnt from bitter experience.  So, he opened the psalm with, ‘Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.  Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity and in whose spirit there is no deceit.’ vv2,3

 Oh how I need you – Sons and Daughters



Number 31

Let me not be put to shame                     Psalm 31

The fear of shame or public humiliation has frequently controlled people’s lives.  It can be the fear of one’s actions becoming known, a sin revealed.  At other times it may involve not living up to the expectations of others or one’s own.   A broken promise can turn in to shame and broken relationships.  Shame has led to life changing, even life taking, abuse and now we are far more aware of self abuse arising from a sense of shame.  Shame can feel like a place that is impossible to escape from or survive.  How we need a God who understands and brings about restoration at times like these even if it is our actions that take us to the place of shame.  David twice utters the prayer in Psalm 31, ‘Let me never/not be put to shame.’ vv1,17

In Jesus we have a God who has experienced dreadful public shaming even though, in fact because, he was sinless.  As we read David’s cry to the Lord for mercy vv 9-13 we can say it was like that for Jesus but worse.  Because of his enemies he became an object of contempt and dread even to his closest friends and family, stripped naked, beaten to near death, ridiculed, nailed to a cross and publicly taunted whilst in great pain until he died.  The crowds who had just days before hailed him as a hero now conspired against him and plotted to take his life.  It was in those last moments that Jesus used David’s words, ‘Into your hands I commit my spirit.’ v5  He did not go on as far as we know and add David’s words, ‘deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.’ v5  But that was what he did, trusting in a faithful Father to restore him through resurrection for his name’s sake. 

The grounds for David’s appeal was for the Lord’s ‘name’s sake,’ v3 referring to God’s promise to David in 2 Samuel 7.8-11 that he would cut off David’s enemies.  Similarly, we can also appeal to God’s promises however deep our feelings of despair.  David does not pretend that his sin has not contributed to his situation v10 but this does not prevent him from appealing to the character of God.  God is righteous, v1 a rock and a fortress, v3 a redeemer, v5 abundant in goodness, v19 and preserves the faithful. v23

At the end of the psalm David has passed through the trial and praised God for his mercy.  From his experience he urges others to trust in the Lord.  ‘Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord.’   In God, through Jesus, we can find complete acceptance.

 ‘No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame’ – Graham Kendrick, Matt Redman




Number 30

How great is our love?                                     Psalm 30

When questioned by a self-righteous Pharisee, why a woman known only as a sinner was allowed to touch him and anoint his feet with ointment, Jesus replied with a story that showed that those who have been forgiven most have the greatest love for Jesus. Luke 7.36-50  Her thanksgiving and love were expressed through kissing and washing Jesus’ feet with tears, drying them with her hair and anointing them.  We should never be shy about our thanksgiving, praise and love for God.

After a series of laments from David when he was in the midst of troubles, in Psalm 30 we have a celebration of praise and thanksgiving for salvation from troubles.  However, this psalm recognizes that life’s challenges do not stop and we have continuing need for the Lord’s mercy.  The psalm opens with an exclamation of praise, ‘I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up and not let my foes rejoice over me.’ v1  Do we reflect on times when we have known the relief of the Lord’s victory in our life and praised him for it?  It may be when we first knew his salvation, possibly when he gave us victory over a particular sin, when we were raised from a serious sickness, protected or removed from the threat of harm.  Then we can join in with the thanksgiving, ‘O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you healed me.  O Lord you have brought up my soul from Sheol (death); you restored me to life.’ vv2,3

David considered such times as discipline from God but without them he could not experience the joy of God’s subsequent blessing. vv4,5  Going through such experiences has increased David’s resilience and he praises God for it, ‘By your favour, O Lord, you made my mountain stand strong.’ v7  Despite this David still experiences despair when he feels remote from God v7  David appeals to God for mercy on the basis that we are made to praise God. v8,9  David praises God with his whole being dancing, singing and gladness.  Charismatic worship is no new phenomena.  If we have experienced God’s victory in our life let us join in with David and say, ‘O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever.’ v12

I will sing of the goodness of God.



Number 29

How do you imagine God?                             Psalm 29

How do we envision God and what impact does that have on us?  Our experiences both enable and limit our imagination.  Consider the authors of the three major prophetic books.  Isaiah saw, ‘the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne.’ He cried, ‘Woe is me!’  He knew he was too unclean to speak the word of God until a Seraphim put a burning coal to his lips taking away his guilt. Isaiah chp6  Jeremiah experienced God’s hand touching his mouth so he could speak and then God gave him a sequence of visions concerning his judgements. Jeremiah chp1  Out of a storm Exekiel saw four spectacular living creatures, ‘Each appeared to be made like a wheel intersecting a wheel.’  Above them a figure like a man of awesome appearance revealing the glory of the Lord, and Exekiel fell down. Exekiel chp1  Each by understanding the greatness of God, his holiness and power was equipped to boldly speak the word of God.

David was raised to praise God’s glory, power and holiness through the experience of an awesome storm that swept in from the Mediterranean into northern Canaan (now Lebanon) and south to the Desert of Kadesh, sweeping over Jerusalem.  If this is God’s creation, how much more powerful is the Creator?  Grasping the awesomeness of God draws one into worshipping his holiness. v3  There are times when envisioning the greatness and holiness of God can lead one into simply repeating his name.  Eighteen times David repeats the name of the Lord (Yahweh) in this short psalm and seven times he refers to the power of the voice of the Lord.  This is a psalm to be read aloud declaring the glory of the Lord.  ‘And in his temple all cry, Glory’ v9 

From this psalm we are to take confidence that, ‘The Lord is enthroned forever. The Lord gives strength to his people.  The Lord blesses his people with peace.’ vv 10,11

In the words of the Anglican liturgy, ‘Go forth and serve the Lord.’

Ascribe to the Lord



Number 28

The people are in great danger!       Psalm 28

 If like me you are safe and comfortable in your home and nobody is threatening your life or the life of the people you love, you may wonder if Psalm 28 has any relevance today.  However, this morning I received a message from someone I know who is seeking asylum in the UK and the opening sentence was, ‘For the past three years we have witnessed and had to cope and deal with death, destruction of property, looting, kidnappings, massive arrests, chaos and fear in my country.’*  The setting is a country where the ethnic groups in power are trying to impose their will upon minority groups through the armed forces.  Oppression on the basis of ethnicity, religion, gender, political persuasion and organised crime are widespread.  A 2019 UK government report found that approximately 1 in 3 people suffer from religious persecution and that in parts of the world persecution of Christians is at near genocidal levels.  The latest UNHCR report (2018) shows world record levels of displaced persons at 70.8 million worldwide.  There are 37,000 new displacements every day.

In Psalm 28 David pleads with God to, ‘Save your people and bless your heritage!’ v9  In verses 1 to 7 David speaks as an individual threatened by the wicked and evil doers but he does so as the King and therefore is speaking on behalf of all his people.  He goes on to assert that the Lord is the people’s saving refuge. ‘The Lord is the strength of his people, he is the saving refuge of his anointed.’ v8

I am repeatedly impressed at the readiness of people who have experienced extreme suffering at the hands of oppressors, political, religious and criminal to turn to God rather than reject faith in disillusionment. They echo David, ‘To you, O Lord, I call; my rock, be not deaf to me.’ v1  Verse 3 speaks of powers that pretend peace whilst practising such things as human rights violations.  ‘Do not drag me off with the wicked, with the workers of evil, who speak peace with their neighbours while evil is in their hearts.’

David looks forward to God’s righteous judgement, ‘Because they do not regard the works of the Lord or the work of his hands, he will tear them down and build them up no more.’ v5

 In the mean time when we see God’s hand in protecting and saving people it is good to join the celebration of his mercy.  ‘The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.’ v7

 Build your kingdom here – Rend Collective


. With permission from the author.


Number 27

Ordering the desires of our heart         Psalm 27

 When we face turmoil in our life what symptoms do we display?  Does our mind go into overdrive?  Do we lose focus on what our priorities should be?  Perhaps we have physical reactions such as headaches, feeling sick or becoming overtaken by tiredness.  We could find that we have a spiritual reaction, it may be difficult to pray, we want to withdraw from worship, we start self-blaming.  One of the bible teachers I find particularly helpful, in both his writing and talks placed on Youtube, is Tim Keller.  He uses the phrase ordering the desires of our heart.*  This is a conscious act, in Psalm 27 David goes through this process.

In a time of darkness he sees the Lord as his light. ‘The Lord is my light and salvation; whom shall I fear?’ v1  It is easy to get lost in darkness but to him the Lord is light and draws him towards it and that gives him confidence. v3 

David has learnt that spiritually he needs to remain in the presence of the Lord and if that seems distant he must seek after it.  ‘One thing I ask from the Lord, and this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.’ v4  Jesus made this promise to his disciples about remaining in the intimate presence of God, ‘As my Father has loved me, so have I loved you.  Now remain in my love.’ John 15.9  While in the presence of the Lord, David can worship and seek understanding. v5

David has learnt the power of praise when surrounded by difficulties.  ‘I will sing and make melody to the Lord.’ v6  Paul and Silas grasped this when they were in prison having been flogged and their feet placed in stocks, they volubly prayed and praised God, and then an earthquake freed them from their bonds. Acts 26.26,27 

As David remains in the presence of God his desire turns to learning from God as this will guide him. vv 7-12 

Waiting on the Lord v14 is not a passive resignation, it is an active expression of confident hope.  The word translated ‘wait’ in the ESV in psalm 25 is translated ‘hope’ in the NIV.  Putting the two words together conveys a positive action in the same way Paul urged Titus to, ‘wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.’ Titus 2,13

David then, ordered his desires: he turned to the light of the Lord and chose to remain in his presence.  There he offered a sacrifice of praise and learnt from him placing his hope in God his Saviour.

Great is the darkness: (Come Lord Jesus)




Number 26

How do you plead?                                   Psalm 26

 Being unfairly accused of wrong doing is very stressful but an experience common to many.  It can impact on many things, our relationships, our public standing, our future capacity to continue in a role or earn income, where we are welcome and to what extent we are trusted.  How we react in those circumstances is a test of character.  If we hold a particularly prominent position these things can be heightened further.  David prays Psalm 26 as King.

David’s circumstances at the time of writing are not known.  He considers his accusers to be plotting against him, prepared to bribe others to achieve their goal of taking his life. vv9,10  Their false accusations relate to his lifestyle, v3 his friends v4 and the sincerity of his religious practice. vv 6-8

David’s response is to come to God and plead that he is blameless in these circumstances.  ‘Vindicate me, Lord, for I have led a blameless life.’ v1  David is not claiming a sinless life as is clear in many other psalms, but of these accusations he is not guilty.  David then prays a prayer of a sincere seeker after God.  ‘Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and mind; for I have always been mindful of your unfailing love and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness.’ vv 3,3  To David the judgement of God is more important that the judgement of people even though his standing as King in the eyes of the nation is of great significance.

Our private integrity with God is the cornerstone of our life.  It is entirely reasonable to then pray with David, ‘Deliver me and be merciful to me.’ v11  It provides a stable place to stand and then we can in good conscience publically praise God.  ‘My feet stand on level ground; in the great congregation I will praise the Lord.’ v12

Does this mean we have to self justify ourselves to God?  No it does not.  Our standing with God relies on trusting in his unfailing love v3 expressed through Jesus’ sacrifice.  ‘But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.’ Ephesians 2.4,5

Faithful one – Robin Mark



Number 25

Don’t give me that attitude!        Psalm 25

 I can hear that rebuke in so many situations.  I can hear the frustrated parent with the child over the tidiness of their room, the teacher when a student adopts the passive aggressive pose, the employer to the repeatedly late employee, the pensioner to the patronizing call centre worker.  Why is attitude so important?  It is because it acts as a key to unlocking learning, healthy relationships and personal well being. v13

The attitude with which we approach God impacts our learning but it does not come out of a vacuum.  At the time of writing David is fearful and afraid he will be shamed. vv 2-3,19-20  These are common emotions through life, they can cause spiritual paralysis but David is aware this is a time to turn to God and learn.

A key aspect of discipleship is ordering one’s desires and David’s first desire is for the Lord, ‘To you O Lord, I lift up my soul.’ v1  He then desires to learn and learning is much more that a quick fix answer.  Learning involves engaging with truth, understanding the character of God and his purposes.  ‘Make me to know your ways, O Lord … Lead me in your truth and teach me.’ vv 4,5  For the modern disciple it involves being a life-long learner from the bible. 

David brings an attitude of humility to both his Lord and to the process of learning.  He doesn’t expect instant command of God’s ways.  Perhaps the most important word in the psalm is ‘wait’. ‘For you I wait all the day long’ v5 is repeated in verse 21, ‘for I wait for you.’  Learning takes time and understanding can come in unexpected moments.  For me, surprisingly, often in the shower. 

David knows God is the teacher, and this is an act of mercy v6  in response to repentance. v11 Learning comes from being in relationship with the Lord.  David speaks of, ‘friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him.’ v14  This should not be surprising as most remember learning best from teachers they liked and respected. 

Finally, learning is set in an attitude of trust.  The psalm is bookended with trust, ‘O my God, in you I trust;’ v2 and, ‘for I take refuge in you. v19 

 A prayer, ‘Lord, enable me to order my desires.  I will wait upon the Lord’




Number 24-

Awesome presence of God      Psalm 24 and 2 Samuel 6

 There is a generation who gained all their knowledge of the ark of the Lord from Indiana Jones and in a sense would have understood a partial truth.  The ark was not to be treated casually, not because blue lasers would be emitted from it, but because it was holy.  The awesome holiness of God has a tendency to be lost in the relaxed ease of modern worship but David and the Israelites had a sharp lesson regarding holiness as they carried the ark to Jerusalem. 2 Samuel 6   The ark embodied the presence of God in all his holiness, from God’s presence comes blessing, 2 Sam 6.11 therefore the entry of the ark into Jerusalem symbolized God’s blessing of David’s kingship and thus the whole nation.  Psalm 24 is closely associated with this event.

The starting point of reverence and worship is understanding and asserting that everything is God’s because he is the source of all. ‘The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.’ Ps 24.1  This changes our perspective as any ambitious drive to permanently own becomes illusory.

Who then can stand in the presence of such a holy God?  Four criteria are set out; righteous actions, righteous motives, loyalty to God alone and openness in relationships with others without unfair gain.  ‘The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.’ v4  Verses 5 and 6 change the phrasing and blessing from an individual to the collective people of God.  When we seek God’s blessing it is the whole church whose living worship Romans 12.1-2 is called upon to reflect God’s holiness.  This does seem alien in an individualized society but we are called to be in the world but not of the world.

The psalm in verses 7-10 changes to a call and response liturgy as the ark and thus the ‘King of glory’ ascends the mountain, enters Jerusalem and the tabernacle, later the temple, to bring victory.

How then can we enter the presence of such a holy God?  Praise God, only through Jesus.

‘God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.’ 1Corinthians 1.28-30

Who is this King of Glory – Chris Tomlin


(Suggest playing through a good speaker to get the bass)


Number 23

Valley walking       Psalm 23

 Valley walking can be a great joy.  We probably have favourite valleys.  Each one capturing a mood and a sense of spirituality.  I love the steep wooded sides of the Dart valley, dark but lightened by the bright foaming water of the river; or the wide peaceful green pastures of Dovedale.  But then the valley narrows and the craggy sides steepen casting menacing shadows. 

In Psalm 23 David draws upon his personal experience of Israel’s valleys or wadis.  Following the rains they provide rich pasture land but they are subject to flash floods and when the sides become cliffs the pilgrim ways become places of danger from bandits, the mood changes completely.

Psalm 23 is often associated with comfort at funerals but that only truly makes sense if in the context of a life led by the shepherd.  God as shepherd and his people as sheep led by him is a repeated image in the Old Testament. Isaiah 40.11  Jesus picks up on this, ‘I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.’ John 10.14  Crucial to Jesus shepherding is the notion of him leading, in contrast to modern shepherding, where sheep are driven with a harrying sheep dog pushing them forward.  Where Jesus calls us to go he has already gone before.

The psalm contains three testimonies.

I shall lack nothing, vv1-3 and this is because he has provided plenty, (green pastures) v1 peace, (quiet waters) v2 refreshment, (soul food) v3 and righteousness (guidance along right paths.) v3

 I will fear no evil as the joyous wide valley becomes harsher terrain, ‘shadow of death’ v4 is literally translated deepest darkness, which includes the darkness of death but also other life experiences.  At such times God promises to draw particularly close with a rod to protect and a staff to support.

I will safely dwell even though I am surrounded by hostile circumstances and people. v5 Here David may well be drawing on God’s hand through the abundant hospitality provided by Barzillai when he was being pursued by Absalom. 2 Samuel 17.27-29  The psalm ends with assurance of God’s abundant blessing whatever our circumstances, be it in green pastures or dark valleys.  This provision is life long, ‘all the days of my life, v6 and beyond this life into eternity, ‘I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.’ v6  Jesus confirms this assurance with the words, ‘In my Father’s house there are many rooms … I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself.’ John 14.2-3

 The Lord’s my Shepherd – Stuart Townend



Number 22-

Living with the Black Dog     Psalm 22 and Matthew 27.35-46

 Black Dog, often used as a metaphor for depression, is regularly attributed to Winston Churchill although its use can be traced to earlier authors.  It is a metaphor not limited to depression but it does convey an ominous presence that is not under our control where it imposes strong negative influences on our minds.

Psalm 22 is an intense personal lament written by David in a time of great personal despair.  David probably wrote the psalm whilst fleeing from either Saul or Absalom although the intensity of suffering in verses 12 to 18 far outstrips anything David is recorded to have experienced.  The resonance with Jesus sufferings is pronounced both in words spoken and the derision of his treatment. Matt 27.35-46  The mental and physical suffering described in the psalm oppresses him spiritually.

The psalmist feels deserted by God and his desperate prayers are unanswered. v1  He cries in the daytime and cannot sleep at night. v2 He considers himself utterly derided for his faith in the Lord. vv6-9  He is surrounded by overwhelming enemies, ‘Many … strong bulls of Bashan surround me;’v12 and ‘Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the dog!’ v20  His body is broken as if by torture. v v14,15 

It is heartbreaking to consider that this is still a literal experience for many and we see it in the accounts of huge numbers of refugees and victims of abuse.

How does David respond to this?  Despite his feelings he remembers that God is holy and has repeatedly in the past saved his people and on that basis appeals to God. vv3-5  He then remembers God has cared for him since his conception. vv9-11  From that he moves to publicly praise God by faith.  ‘I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.’ v22  In the end he asserts that he is what the Lord has made him.  ‘For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations.’ v28

David has learnt that as a disciple we are not what the black dog says or even what we feel at the time.  We are what the Lord has done and said.

You say by Lauran Daigle  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIaT8Jl2zpI

Number 21

The far side of the mountain                      Psalm 21

 Schools, colleges and universities having closed more than a term before the end of the academic year, cohorts of students will miss their graduation celebrations.  That outpouring of relief having gone through the struggle of study and examination.  Proud parents buy cards, organize meals, friends gather together to celebrate with joy.  In a sense the battle is over.  Teachers, lecturers and parents are worrying that the students will miss out on this right of passage.

In a time when many are preoccupied with stressful situations, the battle is not over and we are still in the midst of it all, many will be wondering if they will ever celebrate with joy again.  Psalm 21 concentrates on the time after the battle when the crisis at the top of the mountain has been overcome and does so in the name of the king.  Whilst psalm 21 is a psalm of David it is also a messianic psalm that rejoices in the victory of the king to come, the Lord Jesus.

Jesus’ battle took place on the cross as he overcame sin and death for the sake of his people and now there is great rejoicing.  ‘The king rejoices in your strength, Lord.  How great is his joy in the victories you give.’ v1  His great desire is the salvation of his people and this has not been withheld. v2  He is now crowned in glory and ‘a crown of pure gold’ v3 has been placed on his head.   Even through the spiritual, emotional and physical torment of Gethsemane and Calvary he trusted in the unfailing love of God the Father.  ‘For the king trusts in the Lord; through the unfailing love of the Most High he will not be shaken.’ v8

 The bible is clear, there will be judgement and evil will be destroyed, even if that seems very far off.  In David’s imagery, ‘Your hand will lay hold on all your enemies; your right hand will seize your foes.’ v8  That does not mean there will not be suffering and grief on the way.  There is hope and expectation that we will come to a time of celebration again through the victory of Jesus Christ.

My hope is built on nothing less:-



Number 20

A story mountain within a mountain range   Psalm 21 and Genesis 49.8-12

 All children are taught how to write a story based on a story mountain. At its simplest characters are introduced and a scene set, a problem arises and then a solution occurs followed by a conclusion.  In a sense Psalms 21 and 22 combine to form a story mountain in the mountain range of the salvation story.  They are royal psalms, focusing on the king.  They follow a common poetic pattern of parallelism where the first line’s meaning is repeated in the second line with a shift in emphasis.        ‘May he grant you your heart’s desire

And fulfill all your plans.’ v4

For verses 7 and 8 a variation of parallelism is used called Antithetical Parallelism, where the second line contrasts with the first.

‘Some trust in chariots and some in horses,

But we trust in the name of the Lord our God.’ v7

The scene is set, the people and probably the priests are praying for their king (David) before an unknown battle.  They pray for the king because he represents the people.  The characters are the people, priests, the king, the enemy and the Lord.  The problem is the threat of a foreign power against Israel.

The opening verse, ‘May the name of the God of Jacob protect you’ v1 appeals to Jacob’s prophetic blessing, ‘The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall come.’ Gen 49.10   This blessing applies to David as being in the line of Judah and also as a messianic type.  It is ultimately fulfilled in Jesus not only through his death and resurrection but also on his return and the final Victory, Judgement and Restoration. Revelaton chps 19-21

The meaning of verse 7 takes on a fresh perspective in the New Testament.  Despite various attempts in history Christ’s victory in bringing personal salvation to the nations has never been by military might.*  Might mostly serves to raise resistance rather than win over people’s hearts.  Rather the New Testament way is to come in weakness but in the name of the Lord.  Stephen pioneered the way, following in the sacrificial footsteps of his Lord.  He has been followed by myriads since.   God’s words to Paul were, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ 2Corinthians 12.9  It is not the solution on the story mountain that David’s Israelites were expecting but it is the way of the cross.

The Cross Has the Final Word.


*Personal salvation is a separate issue to national salvation and whether or not it is possible to conduct a righteous war.


Number 19-

The enquiring mind of a small child  Psalm 19 and Romans 1.18-23

Everyone who has spent significant time with a small child has been questioned about the wonder of the world with the intensity of a John Grisham courtroom scene. Who made this?   Where did it come from?  How does it work?  Why is it green?  When will it happen again?

When somebody first becomes a Christian, the question is often asked, but what about people who have never heard of Jesus, how can they find God?  Psalm 19 starts to answer this question.  Creation itself reveals something of the Creator.  ‘The heavens declare the glory of God.’ v1  Observation of the world we live in has always raised those childlike questions and in that sense speaks to us of God.  Paul puts it like this, ‘For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.’ Romans1.20

Psalm 19 though recognizes the limitation of creation itself as a full revelation of the nature of God and his relationship with humanity. ‘There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. v3 Central to this psalm is verse 9, ‘the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever.’  Scripture is clear, that through God’s creation alone we should understand that he is eternal and holy and consequently we should worship him through the holiness of our lives and be God seekers. Rom 1.21  But to more fully understand God and be in relationship with him we need the word of God.  For David, this was the law books in the Old Testament.  ‘The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.’ v7  

We however live in a different age and have the revelation of Jesus Christ the living Word of God.  ‘The law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  No one has ever seen God, the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.’ John1.17

 It is now our responsibility to communicate that word so the question, ‘How can they find God?’ is no longer asked.  How then are we being, ‘witnesses … to the ends of the earth?’ Acts 1.8

How great is our God!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHAZGXsVF1k


Number 18-

The power of story to celebrate and communicate God’s goodness

Psalm 18

I sat next to a man I didn’t know at a church lunch. It quickly became apparent that we had a mutual good friend and they had met some ten years earlier.  He told me how it was this friend who introduced him to Jesus at a time in his life when he had an alcohol problem.  Shortly after our friend asked him if he would tell his story about finding faith in Jesus in a church service and he initially agreed.  However, in the week before the service he visited our friend at his home in tears, saying he could not stand up in church as he was still drinking very heavily.  Our friend did what he usually does, he prayed with him for victory over drink.  He then turned to me and said, from that moment he had not touched a drop of drink and he was able to be honest and stand up in front of the church and tell his story.

Psalm 18 is fascinating, it is a narrative psalm, a celebration song, a messianic psalm, a royal psalm and a historical psalm.  It is recorded in 2 Samuel Chp 22 almost word for word as well as in Psalms.  It records David’s eventual deliverance from the hand of Saul in the most dramatic terms.  The Lord’s protection is described in a stream of metaphors, ‘The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer … my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.’ v2  This in response to David’s prayer, ‘In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help.’ v6 

 ‘He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me.’ v17  Doesn’t that sound like victory over addiction?  David then experiences the capacity to walk righteously, ‘I have been blameless before him and have kept myself from sin.’ v23  The psalm then culminates in praise for God.  ‘The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock!  Exalted be God my Saviour!’ v46

God’s deliverance of David was the military victory and spiritual victory of his anointed successor to Saul.  In Christ God has delivered victory over sin and the consequences of sin.  In Samuel the victory was recorded for instruction, in Psalms it was recorded for sung praise.  Contemporary stories of God’s victory over sin both encourage us and induce praise in our times of worship.  ‘For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.’ Eph2.10

 Jesus is mighty to save.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GEAcs2B-kNc


Number 17

I love you to the moon and back       Psalm 17

 When one of my children was small a favourite book was, ‘Guess how much I love you’.  It tells a story where an adult hare comforts its child by whispering to it how much it is loved with the words, ‘I love you to the moon and back.’  We would then play a game telling each other how much we loved them, each time the distance getting bigger.  To be told how much we are loved is a bedrock for our security, not only for a child but for all of us.

Psalm 17 is an individual lament where David feels unjustly accused of wrong.  He is keen to defend himself before God, ‘Hear a just cause, O Lord; attend to my cry! Give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit!’ v1  He appeals to God on the basis that he has been tested and found to be faithful. v4,5  David then beseeches God for protection on the basis of a special love bond between him and his Lord.  ‘Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings, from the wicked who do me violence my deadly enemies who surround me.’ vv8,9  Here David is harking back to Moses’ song at the end of Deuteronomy Deut32.10 where God has found his people in a desert.  Moses describes God’s chosen people in the beautiful phrase as, ‘the Lord’s portion.’  

Jesus is the apple of God the Father’s eye and in him we have become God’s chosen people.  ‘For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.  In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. Ephesians 1.4,5  Our security therefore lies in the intimacy or our relationship with God the Father.  Our portion is the Lord, ‘As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.’ Ps 17.15

 Love divine all loves excelling  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGGcqhKShQ8


Number 16

Multiple levels of understanding    Psalm 16 and Acts 2.25-28

 In C. S. Lewis’ children’s book and Christian allegory, Aslan explained to Susan and Lucy that the white witch knew the ancient law at one level but did not understand deep magic.  Therefore, when she killed Aslan on the stone table she had no idea the table would crack and he would come to life again.  So it is with much of the bible, where text carries meaning and application directly to people at the time of writing but also applies again later in a different context sometimes on more than one occasion.  Psalm 16 is a case in point.

David is celebrating the delights of living a life close to God.  He acknowledges that without God he, ‘has no good thing.’ v2  He rejoices in the company of fellow servants of the Lord in the same way as meeting as a church for Christians is uplifting for our faith. v3   He keeps himself apart from idol worshippers v4 just as Jesus prayed for the disciples and the modern church to be kept from the evil one because they are in but not of the world. John 17.14-15  David is fully satisfied with what God has given him vv5,6 as he continually learns from God remaining fixed upon him. vv7,8 

 David’s confidence extends to his eventual death as he asserts that death is not the end and he will continue into eternal life in the presence of the Lord. v9-11  David though, would have had no idea that those very verses would be applied by Peter to the resurrection of Jesus.  ‘You will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your holy one see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’ Acts 2.27,28

This bodily resurrection from the dead to experience the joy of the presence of the Lord is then promised to all who trust in Jesus.  ‘So in Christ all will be made alive.  But each in turn: Christ, the first fruits, then, when he comes, those who belong to him.’ 1Corinthians15.22,23

 How else can we respond but to say, ‘This is amazing grace.’



Number 15:

Resurrection life in the here and now  Psalm 15 & Matthew 5:17-48

As a child in the 1950’s to help me go to sleep at night I would close my eyes and imagine being Bobby Charlton in the winter and Freddie Trueman in the summer.  How I would have loved to score from long distance like Charlton or bowl the perfect away swinger like Trueman.  Who our heroes are says a lot about who we aspire to be.

The troubled David longs to be close to God, ‘O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?’ Ps15.1   David knew the law, he understood God’s righteousness and the personal implications for his life. He frequently interpreted a righteous life in terms of things he should not do: not slander, v3 not do evil to a neighbour, v3 not take offence from a fellow believer, v3,4 not take interest from personal loans, v5 not take bribes.  David did also grasp righteousness is positive and involves speaking truth,v2 respecting those who fear God,v4 and keeping promises even when it costs.v4

 But Jesus ramped up the expectation in the sermon on the mount, six times repeated the phrase, ‘But I say to you’ * when repeating an Old Testament law.  This placed expectation beyond what most would consider humanly possible e.g. ‘Everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.’ Mat5.28

How then can anybody live a righteous life pleasing to God that displays the resurrection life of Christ in our lives?  Two New Testament prayers point the way.  Firstly, through the active word of God in our lives.  Jesus prayed at Gethsemane, ‘Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.’ John17.17

 Secondly through dependence upon God for the resurrection life of Christ within our lives, as the Hebrews author prayed, ‘Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.’  Heb 13.21,22

On reflection then, who would we pick as our hero?  Jesus Christ my living hope.




Number 14    Good Friday


Our desperate need for a test     Psalm 14 and Romans 3

 Every day at the Covid 19 briefing the government is questioned about tests.  When will we have enough tests?  Who should have tests?  What sort of tests should be available?  Who is responsible?  Who can do tests?  Why is this? It is because we all need to know the reality of our situation and when we do know then we can face the consequences.  The first step in solving a problem is always to understand the problem.

In Psalm 14 God sets out the test for humanity.  ‘The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.’ v2  The diagnosis is devastating, ‘They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; here is none who does good, not even one. v3   Paul quotes Psalm 14 as he explains God’s law simply shows, everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard*’ Romans 3.21 At the point when we are told we have a terminal disease we ask the question what can be done?  When we stand before God and realize that we deserve his judgement we ask the same question.  God’s answer is, accept a gift.  The gift is, Jesus has taken the wrath of God that we deserve.  Paul explains it like this, ‘the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.’ Rom3.25  Propitiation means, wrath bearing sacrifice.  Jesus on Good Friday took God’s deserved wrath against humanity, to be received by faith alone.

David cried, ‘Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!  When the Lord restores his people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!’ v7  God replies, it has, through Jesus’ death on Good Friday.  Now is the time to give thanks.

*New Living Translation



Number 13

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.                          Hebrews 4.15

 Despair or a sense of distance from God can grip any one of us.  Sometimes it is because we have begged God repeatedly and nothing has changed.  At other times we believed we were following God’s will but it has become too difficult.  We want either our circumstances to change or God to change his mind.

It is not hard then to empathise with David in Psalm 13 as he repeatedly asks, ‘How long, Lord?’ v1,2 David asks questions we understand: ‘Will you forget me forever?’ ‘Must I wrestle with my thoughts?’ ‘Will my enemy triumph over me?’

 Jesus on the Thursday evening went to Gethsemane with his disciples and prayed a similar prayer. One record of this is Mathew 26. 36-46.  There Jesus wrestled with his thoughts in prayer and as he did so he asked his closest friends to pray with him. Matt26.37  If Jesus felt the desire for companionship in prayer how much more should we be prepared to wrestle in prayer with others.  It is something very many, even longstanding Christians, shy away from but it is a vital ministry.  How good it would be if our church was an easy place to find supportive prayer partnership.

David v2 and Jesus 26.37 experienced deep sorrow in prayer.  Both were in a battle with an enemy, Psalm 13.2 and Matt 26.45.  Both were facing death, Psalm 13.3 and Matt 26.39.  Both had enemies who would rejoice at their death. Psalm 13.4 and Matt 27.20.

However, they also both shared a willingness to be obedient to God’s will and to trust in his unfailing love despite the depths of their emotions.  David said, ‘I trust in your unfailing love, my heart rejoices in your salvation.’ v7  Jesus said, ‘My Father, if this cup cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.’ Matt 26.42  Whatever we face this Easter, Jesus has gone before us and so our hearts can rejoice in his salvation and we can, ‘sing the Lord’s praise.’ v6

 I had not heard this Gethsemane hymn before but it beautifully captures the spirit of Maundy Thursday.




Number 12

Flattering with their lips but harbouring deception in their hearts.   Psalm 12

Those of us who have experienced legal disputes will have stories to tell of the ease with which many rephrase events to their own advantage.  We have all witnessed denials and evasiveness in national life only for lies to be exposed later.  Sadly, even in church life brothers and sisters have at times turned on one another bringing disrepute to the name of Jesus.

Reading David’s Psalm 12 in the light of Easter week brings into sharp focus the duplicity of sinful human kind and also the mission of Jesus to bring reconciliation between God and man and hope to the poor and needy. David’s despairing words, ‘Help, Lord, for no one is faithful anymore, those who are loyal have vanished from the human race.  Everyone lies to their neighbour; they flatter with their lips but harbour deception in their hearts.’ vv1-2 are played out dramatically.  Repeated traps are laid through the week attempting to catch him in something he says,Luke20.20 the Chief Priests and the whole council persuade witnesses to lie,Matt26.59 and Herod and Pilate become close friends through the unjust conviction of Jesus.Luke23.11

But there is hope.  God keeps his promise in verse 5, ‘Because the poor are plundered and the needy groan, I will arise.’  Jesus in his response to the council at his trial said, ‘But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.’Luke22.69 He then through his death, resurrection and ascension conquered sin and death.  As Paul recorded, ‘But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.’1Corinthian15.57

So this Easter week it is helpful to hold fast to the words of Jesus.  In the words of Psalm 12, verse 6, ‘The words of the Lord are flawless, like silver purified in a crucible, like gold refined seven times.’  Through Jesus we have words that do not flatter or deceive.

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path – Amy Grant (skip the adverts)




Number 11

Come on coach!  How did you see that?

Psalm 11 & 1 Peter 4.7-11

At the beginning of the use of video cameras an American football team transformed itself from a mediocre performer to a top flight team in one season.  When the captain of the team was interviewed, he said after every match the coach made them watch a video recording of the match and examined in detail the performance of every team member.  Analysis like this and much more is now common place but if coaches had read Psalm 11 they might have caught on to this approach earlier.  ‘The Lord is in his holy temple …. His eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.’ vv4,5a 

 David refused to run and took his stand trusting in the Lord. v1  His stand takes the form of behaving righteously.  David links the holiness of God in heavenv4 with righteous deeds on earth. ‘For the Lord is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face.’ v7

 Does this support the notion that going to heaven depends on how good a life we lead?  No, it does not.  Biblical teaching is that when God looks at a person who has faith in Christ he sees Christ’s righteousness not their own.  This is termed imputed righteousness. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.’ Romans 3.22  The righteousness here is the outworking of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers.

Peter sees the outworking of righteousness as being alert, sober minded to promote prayer, deeply loving, hospitable and applying one’s gifts to the benefit of others. 1Pet 4.7-10 ‘So that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.’ 1Peter 4.11  The challenge for us is how to do it when in lock down.  To summarise Peter, teachers should teach and servers should serve. v11


Number 10

Does God really want me to suffer in silence?

 *Hilary was living at home with three small children.  Her husband had just been made redundant and she worked shifts as a carer.  The house they were living in was privately rented and had severe damp problems affecting the family’s health.  The landlord had been making excuses for two years now and it had got to the point that it dominated Hilary’s mind.  When she went to church, Hilary found it almost impossible to join in the praise when everybody else seemed so happy.  Hilary kept asking herself, ‘Does God really want me to suffer in silence?’

One third of all psalms are laments, that tell the Lord about a difficult situation, ask him for help and praise him for help.  In times of difficulty God can seem remote.  In Psalm 10 David says, ‘Why, O Lord, do you stand far away?’ v1  David describes the motivations of oppressors.  They reject God,vv4,11 are arrogant and fixed on their own evil schemes,v2  boastful and greedy, v3 and despising of their enemies and the poor. ‘As for all his foes, he puffs at them.’v5

 The oppressor’s actions betray him.  He seeks to exploit the weak, laying traps for them,v8 always watching out for new victims, ‘He lurks that he may seize the poor,v9  The consequence is, ‘the helpless are crushed.’v10  He then boasts to himself, ‘God has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he will never see it.’v11  We can see from Psalm 10 such oppression is not limited to individuals such as Hilary’s landlord but applies to many organisations, political parties, businesses and even countries.

No wonder then that David cries, ‘Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand;’ and ‘Break the arm of the wicked evil doer.’vv12,15   But, ‘God is not deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.’Galatians6.7  In the end David’s final trust is in God’s eternal kingship and his desire to hear the afflicted, strengthen them, do justice and grant them peace.vv17,18

 Does then God want us to suffer in silence?  Definitely not, he wants to hear us in our troubles and church should be a safe place for us to say it out loud.



*Hilary is a representative figure.


Number 9:

Beginning and ending with praise

 From my early days as a Christian I remember two pieces of advice that were frequently repeated.  Trust the word of God rather than your feelings because it is God who made the promises and don’t wait to feel like praising before you praise him, just start.

In Psalms 9 and 10 David constructed one acrostic poem.  Psalm 9 is a psalm of praise and Psalm 10 is a lament.  He speaks as an individual but also in his capacity as king he speaks on behalf of the nation.  He faces troubled time with praise. ‘I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.  I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High. 9.1-2 He then recounts how the strength of the Lord defeated the enemies of God’s people. 9.3-6  He did this because God reigns eternally and his throne is a throne of justice, 9.7 his justice is righteous and he applies those righteous judgements to mankind. 9.8-9   As David considers how God has been a stronghold for the oppressed it causes him to burst into song recounting all God has done. 9.11 

David did not praise God because he lived a trouble free life.  He praised God because he deserves praise and mostly he praised God because God does not forget the needy and the poor.  ‘For the needy shall not always be forgotten, and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever.’ 9.18  In our testing times it would be good to remember the character of God and what he has done through Jesus and give him an offering of praise.  ‘Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. 1Timothy 1.15

 So let’s join all the saints for the last 340 years in singing God’s praise with https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=roxlm_gCb7c



Number 8 part 2

We are designed for intimacy.  Psalm 8.4-5 and Hebrews 2.5-13

 Sylvia has just been moved from th