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A Prayer for Father’s Day

June 21, 2020

God, thank you that you chose to be known as our Father and for being the perfect example of fatherhood, filled with love, understanding, forgiveness and wisdom. We thank you today for our earthly fathers and all those who fill the role of father, asking you to bless them and lead them, giving them wisdom and discernment. Encourage them to look to you for guidance and example. We ask that you equip them to raise their children with understanding, integrity, encouragement and compassion as they seek to follow you and teach their children to know you. May they be vessels of your love to their children as they provide, protect and teach. We pray for those who struggle in their role as father, that you would give them your strength and remind them that you are parenting with them. We pray for those who are not yet fathers, that you would prepare them for their role and be their role model, and for those who long to be fathers, we ask that you would give them the desires of their hearts. We pray for those who have lost fathers, that you would come to them and comfort them. Your word says that in you the fatherless find compassion. May they, and those who have difficult relationships with their earthly fathers, come to know you as Father in a deep and personal way, and feel the magnitude of your love and compassion for them. As we think of dads around the world, we pray that you will truly turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers in honour, love and respect in a way that leaves a lasting legacy of love and godliness for generations to come. In your Name, dear Father we ask it. Amen.

Forever Loved

June 1, 2020

“Give thanks to the God of heaven. His faithful love endures forever.” (Psalm 136:26)

Do you have a favourite “love song”? That question may sound overly sentimental to some, but bear with me for a moment! Can you think of the lyrics of a song about love that really moves you, which resonate deep in your soul? Now let me ask another question. If God were to sing or speak those words over you, how would it make you feel? You would probably feel pretty special, but consider this: all of the greatest love songs in the world put together, can not actually describe God’s love for you! The greatest lyrics and the feelings they evoke are just a hint of his love for you, which is a far greater and more powerful, sacrificial love. God has loved us from the beginning of time and created us to live in a loving relationship with him for eternity. His love is a ‘forever love’. It is an eternal love, as Jeremiah 31:3 confirms:

“The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”

The wonderful truth is that God will love you forever, no matter what you do or don’t do. His love is not reliant upon you or anything you can do. It is not dependent on you attending church, praying or reading your Bible more. His love is dependent on him! His loving care is always the same, always consistent. There is nothing you can do to earn it and nothing you can do to stop him loving you. 1 John 4:8 tells us that “God is love”.  This means that love is at the core of his being and everything that he does. He is the perfect example of true love without exception or restriction. His no-exception, no-restriction position has not and will not change.

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” (James 1:17)

Perhaps there are people in your life who have let you down. Those whom you trusted and whom you love. Those who should have loved you whether parents, friends, children, siblings or a spouse. Human love can disappoint and hurt us at times, but God’s love is different. He has promised never to leave us or abandon us. He has promised to love us always because it is his very nature to do so. This will never change, because, as he has said, “I, the LORD, do not change;” (Malachi 3:6)

From the moment of your conception, even before your birth, God knew you, named you, saw you and loved you. You are here because God created you and has a plan for you. There are no misfits or mistakes in this world. The everlasting God has called you by name and called you his beloved (Colossians 3:12), and in the greatest proclamation of his love, he sent his own Son to die in your place so that you can live in his loving presence for eternity.

 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)    

You are forever loved! In the words of Ephesians 3: 17-19, I pray that “you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

Amen.

Pentecost

May 29, 2020

We easily forget that Jesus Christ is not a name but a title. It means literally, Jesus the Anointed One. But – anointed by what or whom? Anointed by the Spirit. We see the power of the Spirit in the life of Jesus, and he would have had no ministry apart from the anointing.  In his own words, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me” (Lk 4:18) and Peter sums up his life in saying, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power” (Acts 10:38). Let’s celebrate the person and work of the Spirit this Pentecost!

A sonnet by Malcolm Guite

Today we feel the wind beneath our wings,
Today the hidden fountain flows and plays,
Today the church draws breath at last and sings,
As every flame becomes a tongue of praise.
This is the feast of Fire, Air and Water,
Poured out and breathed and kindled into Earth.
The Earth herself awakens to her maker,
Translated out of death and into birth.
The right words come today in their right order,
And every word spells freedom and release.
Today the gospel crosses every border,
All tongues are loosened by the Prince of Peace.
Today the lost are found in his translation,
Whose mother-tongue is love, in every nation.

Hear Malcolm read his sonnet HERE

Stronger than a Rock

May 25, 2020

 “The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior..” (Psalm 18:2)

Most people would agree that the world feels very unsafe as we find ourselves starting to emerge from a pandemic for which we currently have no vaccine. Aside from pandemics, there are other disasters around the globe that leave many people feeling unsafe at the best of times. Some people experience anxiety daily and exert an enormous amount of emotional energy searching for safety in an unpredictable world.  As therapists will confirm, many of the troublesome emotional and behavioural patterns that people develop, are simply strategies they acquire to keep themselves feeling safe from either real or perceived threats.

What do you need to feel safe, secure and protected?

A baby bird feels protected under a mother’s wing. A child feels safe in the arms of a loving parent.  A soldier feels secure under the authority of a good commanding officer, and God wants us to feel safe in his care. He has been described as being like a rock or fortress:

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
    my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
    my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (Psalm 18:1-2)

He is also like a shadow where we may find rest:

 “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1).

He has promised to shelter us like a bird shelters her young,

“He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge..” (Psalm 91:4)

He has promised never to let our foot slip. He watches over us day and night:

“He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber..” (Psalm 121:3)

In order to experience this safety and protection, we must entrust our lives to his authority. He has given us a choice, just as a child can choose whether to follow parental guidance. If a child chooses not to listen to a parent and touches a hot stove, he is jeopardizing his safety. If a serviceman chooses to disregard his orders and fight alone in battle, he is no longer under the protection of his platoon. If a driver chooses to teach himself to drive without the wisdom of an instructor or the highway code, he may end up in an accident.

In ancient times, a king’s subjects could travel with a letter from the King to ensure safe passage through certain territories. Today, our King is longing for us to travel through life with his protection, wanting us to know that he will rescue and protect those who trust in his name (Psalm 91:14) When I think of the description of God as our rock, I picture boulders, which are massive rock fragments that are usually unmoveable. Billions of years old, and having existed since the beginning of time, they are strong, impenetrable, and can be used as shelter, shade or for defence. Just a small comparison to the greatness of our God! Let us not allow safety to become our god, but rather let us allow God, our rock and fortress, to become our safety!

Father, thank you for being my rock and my fortress, my God in whom I trust. There are days when I find it hard to trust, but in faith, I choose to put myself under your authority and protection, and to believe. As your word says, my only hope is in you (Psalm 39:7) I choose your eternal shelter, protection, and strength. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Ascension Day

May 21, 2020

A sonnet by Malcolm Guite

We saw his light break through the cloud of glory
Whilst we were rooted still in time and place,
As earth became a part of heaven’s story
And heaven opened to his human face.
We saw him go and yet we were not parted,
He took us with him to the heart of things,
The heart that broke for all the broken-hearted
Is whole and heaven-centered now, and sings;
Sings in the strength that rises out of weakness,
Sings through the clouds that veil him from our sight,
Whilst we ourselves become his clouds of witness
And sing the waning darkness into light;
His light in us, and ours in him concealed,
Which all creation waits to see revealed.
From Sounding the Seasons

Love is all Around

May 20, 2020

“..unfailing love surrounds those who trust the Lord.” (Psalm 32:10)

Loneliness is said to be one of the biggest diseases of our time.  We are more connected than ever, and yet more isolated (Covid pandemic aside!) Communicating with others has never been easier, yet some people struggle with conversation and communication with those who are right in front of them. How many times have you observed people in a social setting, totally engrossed in their phone instead of tuned in to the company they are with? Aside from phones, we have TV, gaming, music, work and many other distractions that can keep us from others or keep others from spending quality time with us. Some people are lonely in relationships for a myriad of reasons. Friendships fail, marriages grow cold and families stop talking.  

People might leave, ignore or reject us, but God has promised never to do that. His love surrounds us always. We may not always feel his love, but that doesn’t mean it is absent. God accepts us and loves us without condition. He cares about every detail of our life. The Bible says that he takes great delight in us and rejoices over us with singing!

“ The Lord your God is with you,
    the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.”
(Zephaniah 3:17)

What a beautiful image! Just as a parent sings over his or her baby, both comforting and reassuring him of their presence and as an expression of love for him, so God sings over us. Sometimes babies are unaware of the parental presence and cry out, only to learn that their loving parent was not far away and that they were not alone, but simply unable to see the parent. We too sometimes feel unaware of God’s presence, just as Jared Anderson expressed in the song, “Amazed”:

“You dance over me

While I am unaware

You sing all around

But I never hear the sound

Lord I’m amazed by You…how You love me…” (2003 Vertical Worship Songs)

In a recent devotional, author Max Lucado wrote,

“God surrounds us like the Pacific surrounds an ocean floor pebble. He is everywhere: above, below, on all sides….Lay claim to the nearness of God. He says in Hebrews 13:5, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Grip this promise like the parachute it is. Repeat it over and over until it trumps the voices of fear.  The Lord God is with you, and He is mighty to save.  Cling to His character.  Quarry from your Bible a list of deep qualities of God and press them into your heart.  He is sovereign…”   (Upwords, the teaching ministry of Max Lucado, www.maxlucado.com May 14, 2020)

Pressing the truth of God’s love into our hearts is so important. Soaking our mind in the truth of his word and meditating on it will grow our faith so that our feelings will follow.

God’s love for you is unfailing and will not let you down. His love is reliable and steadfast throughout all of eternity.

  “…be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

Why not take a favourite verse, or one from this devotional and meditate on it today and through the week?

Prayer: Lord, thank you that your love surrounds us always. I long to hear the song that you sing over me and to feel the nearness of your presence, especially during lonely or anxious moments. May it be so Lord, in Jesus Name, Amen.

Made New

May 15, 2020

It’s the season for new life. Lawns are growing, the trees are full of blossom and the rose outside my back door has been showing off its shiny new leaves for a few weeks now. The leaves on this rose are very small when they first unfold, and yet are perfectly formed. Silken to the touch, like leafy sheens of satin, completely unspoiled and untainted, they look polished clean. Just days old, they have perfectly serrated edges, impeccable veins and are completely flawless. I marvel at these leaves, so perfect and tiny, so pure and fresh, and I realize that they are telling a story.

Each new, recently uncurled leaf is telling us a story of perfection. Of beauty. Of minute attention to detail and intelligent design. It is a story of redemption and re-creation. A story of new life, written into each cell and fibre by the Creator Himself, whose fingerprint can be seen on each one.  Every fibre treasures silent knowledge – the promise that all things can be made new once more. That all things can be re-created. Every year the leaves appear, fresh and soft, growing and changing before becoming dry and old as their lifespan comes to an end. Yet every spring, the cycle begins again with fresh green shoots.

Romans 1:20 tells us that .. ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.”

One of the ways God has chosen to reveal himself is through the natural world. Through everything God has made, we can see his qualities and his divine nature. His fingerprints are everywhere. On every leaf, every butterfly wing, every seashell, every grain of sand. Scottish author and minister George MacDonald, in his book Wisdom to Live By (1996 Sunrise Books) said, “All nature speaks, like the flower, messages from God, the Father of the universe.”

God is nearer than you think, longing for you to see him in and through the world he made for you. If He put intelligent design and care into each tiny leaf which is here for a season and then blown away by the autumn wind, how much more does he care about you? So much more! His fingerprints are upon you too. He intelligently designed your DNA, choosing it, creating you perfectly, beautifully and with much attention to detail. The story of redemption and re-creation is written into you also. If you have accepted Jesus as your personal Saviour, you are in a new season. A season of growth, of newness of life. Like the tiny new leaves, you too have a fresh start. He sees you as flawless, perfect, polished clean, redeemed and re-created. No matter what happened in your past, no matter how scarred or flawed or broken you may feel, there is new life for you and a new season. All things are possible with God.

Nature knows these truths. I pray that you will also.

Prayer: Father God, I am so thankful for this reminder from the natural world that all things are made new in you, and that the ‘story’ of new life is written into every one of my cells also. I am proud to bear your fingerprints Lord!  Help me to honour you in this season of life as I grow, and to see myself and others as you do, polished clean, redeemed and re-created, so that I may live for your glory. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Safeguarded!

May 12, 2020

As a child in Sunday school, I learned that having Jesus as our Saviour, meant that Jesus had come to save us from sin, but it wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned that “Saviour” has two meanings. “one who saves from” and “one who safeguards against.

The idea that our Saviour safeguards as well as saves brought a whole new realm of meaning for me as to who Jesus is! Not only did he pay the ultimate sacrifice for our sin, but he is our very own bodyguard! 

The dictionary defines a safeguard as:

  1. a measure taken to protect someone or something or to prevent something undesirable
  1. protect from harm or damage with an appropriate measure.

The Bible agrees. There are many verses that show how Jesus not only is our Saviour, saving us from the power and consequence of sin, but also how he saves us from harm. He calmed a storm that terrified his disciples (Matthew 8 : 23-27), told Paul that he would rescue him, (Acts 26 :17), delivered him from death, (2 Corinthians 1:10), and gave Paul complete confidence that he would rescue him “from every evil attack” (2 Timothy 4 :18)

He has also promised to protect us from Satan’s power:

I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” (Luke 10:19)

“Then should not this woman… whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?” (Luke 13:16)

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” (1 John 3:8)

These examples show that God cares deeply about what happens here and now in the physical world as much as he does about our spiritual lives. He is our ever-present help in times of trouble. The Message Bible puts it well,

God guards you from every evil,
    he guards your very life.
He guards you when you leave and when you return,
    he guards you now, he guards you always.”
(Psalm 121: 7-8)

Many of the psalms confirm these thoughts.

“You make your saving help my shield, and your right hand sustains me; your help has made me great. You provide a broad path for my feet, so that my ankles do not give way.” (Psalm 18: 35-36)

“As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 18:30)

In the book of Exodus, Moses recognized that “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:14)

The prophet Isaiah confirmed that God’s protection is our heritage, “No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord…” (Isaiah 54:17) 

We can be tempted to think that our spiritual life is all that really matters to God, but God’s word shows us that he also cares passionately about the here and now, and about our physical existence. He sent Jesus as both Saviour and Safeguard to show us what Kingdom living really means, and to offer abundant life both here and in eternity. Be encouraged!

Prayer: Father, thank you for caring about every detail of our lives, and for being our safeguard. May these Scriptures give us a confident and grateful heart, as we journey through life, and may we work diligently alongside you to advance your Kingdom here on earth, sharing your message of hope and encouragement with the world.  In Jesus Name, Amen.

Cageless Birds and Resurrection

May 7, 2020

I’m a fan of Cageless Birds — not the birds, the musical band! In their song ‘East and West’ they write,

Heard about a man with holes in his hands;
He can hide a mountain of sin in them.

We are still in the Easter season, between the resurrection and ascension. Ascension Sunday is coming up fast! And I’m struck that in the upper room appearance with his disciples, Jesus still has scars on his body.

Think about that a moment. The most perfect human who ever lived, even after resurrection and now with a glorified body, still has scars! This has to be one of the most unexpected pieces of the resurrection story. Read more…

Casting your cares on Him

May 1, 2020

“Casting all your cares on him, because he cares about you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

I have a few friends and family who like to go fishing.  I have spent hours sitting on riverbanks and docks, watching my husband and kids casting their lines into rivers and lakes before waiting patiently for a fish to bite. I have also seen what a tangled mess a fishing line can become when it gets stuck on a rock or in weed, and how patient one has to be to untangle it!

A few days ago, a comment by author Max Lucado on his weekday blog, (Upwords, the teaching ministry of Max Lucado, April 29th 2020) inspired me. Commenting on 1 Peter 5:7 he simply said, “Casting is an intentional act to relocate an object. As you sense anxiety welling up inside you, cast it in the direction of Christ.”

In this verse, Peter is telling us to take our anxieties and deliberately cast them onto God. To relocate our fears into God’s hands. Having watched my fishermen friends and family, this seems to be a fairly straightforward exercise. Lift and fling! It seems to me that casting is not the problem, but trying to be patient once the casting is done, or trying to retrieve what you have cast can present problems.

Once casting his line, a fisherman cannot always see what is going on under the water. He has to be patient and wait for a fish to take the bait. Just as when we cast our anxieties onto God, we too must wait, without necessarily seeing what God is up to right away. Hebrews 11:1 reminds us that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (bold and italics mine)

It is hard to wait and trust. Sometimes we give our worries to God and then try to pull them back as doubt creeps in. The fisherman who casts his line and repeatedly reels it back in without the ‘wait’ is not going to land any fish! He is more likely to cause a disturbance.  It takes more effort to reel a line back in, especially if it becomes snagged on a log or something that causes it to break or tangle. Impatience and doubt can snag our confidence causing anxiety to escalate.  James 1: 6 says that when asking God for help, we must believe and not doubt, because “the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” Just as a fishing line can get blown in the wrong direction and tangled by the wind, so can our emotions when doubt and fear are given a foothold.

God does not want us living under a burden of fear. He asks us to actively transfer our fear to him because he cares for us and is able to carry our burdens. Next time you find yourself worrying over something you have transferred to God in prayer, remind yourself that he has already taken responsibility for your concerns and has your very best interests at heart. As Isaiah 59:1 reminds us “The LORD’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call.”

Prayer: Father, I am grateful to be able to cast my cares upon you. How you must long to carry my burdens so that I don’t have to. Help me to choose to transfer my anxieties over to you, and give me patience and trust so that I don’t try to seize them back. In Jesus Name, Amen.