A voice in the darkness

Ever felt like you are stuck in a dark place? Then this post is written just for you….

Gods first words in the human story were words spoke in the darkness – words from the darkness. Spoken by God. Spoken to breathe life into the darkness.

Out of the darkness these words were uttered:

“Let… there… be… light!”

And there was light. The first light in the universe came from the voice of God in the darkness. Gods first breathe in the universe created light.

This was the beginning. The first beginning. The first of many beginnings. This is the work of God in our lives. God enters into the darkness, unperturbed or disturbed, to bring light, growth, love, joy, peace that surpasses understanding, and all other manner of blessings as he wills.

Whenever God wants us to grow he leads us into the darkness where we are led by the spirit into the place of deepening faith and holy trust. And into our darkness He speaks ever so gently… let there be light, and Christ enters our darkness. He walks in it with us to lead us through the dark wilderness into his promised land for our lives.

Where there is darkness today God is already at work. New life will spring up at the sound of his gentle voice. Do not listen for a booming voice in the darkness. Look for the still small voice of the Spirit speaking and breathing the new life of God. God is speaking light into your darkness.

Things Jesus Modeled and Taught – Love

I had a chess set a long time ago, and I loved that little chess set. It was a rather funky, electronic board that meant I could play chess even when no one else in the family wanted to play – and that was always. So I played against the computer – an unseen opponent way smarter than myself (because truth be told, I ain’t that smart most of the time!). Anyway, I loved that chess board until way beyond the day it gave up the ghost and it could play no more.

Now I have different loves: I love my guitar (although I neglect it often). I have a strong attachment to my guitar and I’d be sad if it ever left me.

I love tasty food (but I don’t neglect that love!). Yet, I can live without food. I can fast; I can miss meals; I can go without – it truly doesn’t bother me. I love food, but I recognise that even when it’s tasty, It’s a means to an end of survival.

I am part of a family consisting of me, my wife, and my three children – I love my family beyond words. They are my deepest loves on this revolving planet in this great universe! If I ever lost them I would be a wreck, devastated with a hole in my heart. But despite my love, I still find that I do not treat them perfect, much as I try. I will let them down. There are times when I’ve not been there for them. There will be times when my love alone doesn’t seem to be enough for them. This is a deep love, but it is also an imperfect human love.

Jesus taught, spoke and modeled a life of love a LOT! But what he taught about love differs from the loves I’ve described above. He taught that there is a love so much MORE than the love we show. Many in the past have described or called it the unconditional love of God:

When you look at the love of Jesus in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) it is clear that God’s Love is a big love; a boundless love; a better love – it has no end to it. According to the God Book no matter what you do in life God never stops loving you. This does not equate to us acting how we want and God shrugging his shoulders with a ‘doesn’t matter what you do’ perspective – what we do really does matter to God, but what you do DOES NOT stop God from loving you – as already written: God’s Love is BOUNDLESS. I have seen this in my own life.

  • I have experienced loss and grief – God held me in his loving hands.
  • I have been an idiot and let people down – God gently led me lovingly back along the pathway called repentance into the wide street of reconciliation
  • I have experienced many failures – God loved me in the ditch and reached down many times to pick me up and set my feet on a secure path despite my failings
  • I have lived through horrendous abuse – God healed and restored my soul so that I could experience the joy of living well and happy

There is no part of your life that God cannot reach with his love if you will let him. He longs for you to open your heart to His goodness. The good book (the bible) tells us that Jesus ‘knocks at the door’ calling out for us to open our lives to Him (Revelation 3:20). Even while suffering on the Cross of crucifixion Jesus was still revealing boundless love – he cried out to God to forgive those who caused his suffering and impending death; he sees to it that John the beloved disciple will take care of of his mother; he assures the criminal on the cross next to him that he will enter paradise. This is the boundless depth of the love Jesus taught, spoke of, and lived out in his short time on earth!

The Good Book talks about how the invite to know God’s love is open to all today – it is an inclusive invite for all to come to God and experience His transforming love personally. Maybe today you can open the door to Jesus; open the door of your heart to the love of God; open the door to his healing work; open the door to happiness with Jesus in your corner.

His love is more. More than we have ever experienced – can you hear his love calling to you today?

You are blessed with the favour and love of God

Today’s’ post is a very short encouragement regarding God’s view of you. We often view God as distant and unconcerned with our lives – but this is so far from the truth. There’s a song in the bible that says the following:

“But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;

let them sing joyful praises forever.

Spread your protection over them, that all who love your name may be filled with joy.

For you bless the godly, O Lord;

you surround them with your shield of love.”

‭‭- Psalm 5:11-12‬

Many of us are looking for places of love, warmth, safety, affirmation or belonging. According to this song we can find these things (and more) in God. Whatever you’re looking for, may you find your true rest and peace in God today

We are blessed by God, and surrounded by the shield His Love.

His love protects, blesses and delivers us.

His favour rests upon you when you live for him, with him, and through him.

He is for you, and not against you.

He loves you.

Enjoy your day and allow some of these thoughts to ruminate in your heart and mind, and illuminate your soul.

Taking Christmas into the wilderness of the margins

One of the things I love about the best story in the world (that would be the Christmas story 😃) is that it’s the outsiders who are led to The Christ Child:

– smelly, rough, poor shepherds

– foreign wise guys

– Simon and Anna in the temple (the old crazies of the town!!)

Jesus kept up the trend during his life by befriending and calling the swindlers and the prostitute; the demonised and the destitute; you; me.

His love and acceptance reached out into the margins of society (and hearts) to lead us into the security, belonging and acceptance of his great love.

This is the heart of the Christmas story

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The Christmas story was never meant to be a ‘stand-alone-narrative – from before it began there was already a meta-narrative of a God who ardently and faithfully was reaching down into the pit of life and rescuing humanity. For example:

  • Joseph is literally saved from a pit and a prison to become ‘prime minister’ of Egypt.
  • Moses the murderer becomes Moses the national rescuer
  • God uses Esther saves the Jews (who were being marginalised and persecuted at the time) from mass Genocide
  • David the adulterer is called ‘a man after God’s own heart (his Psalm 51 shows the depth of his repentance as he turns towards God)

The heart of the Christmas story is in fact the heart of what the Bible calls ‘the Gospel’ – it’s the good news that God is there for the last, least and lost. He is gently pursuing the maimed, the miniscule and the marginalised with grace-filled love, compassion and saving grace.

This is the heart of the Christmas story

This story continues here today:

Christ loves the homeless person and gives them a home in his heart. God uses an army of homelessness volunteers to do this – and not only Christian folks! – I love the work done by the Harrogate Homeless Project in my town! – their No Second Night Out project is innovative and highly responsive to local homeless needs. Other projects near me who are faithfully serving homeless needs of the community are LifeLine Harrogate and Ripon YMCA – without these charities many would find life unbearable – with love and practical support life has the wonderful spark of hope!

With Love and practical support life has the wonderful spark of hope

Christ loves those who are lonely, isolated, and marginalised.

Will we help His story continue today, tomorrow and always?

The Antidote to Anxiety

Ever have those moments when your head is full of worry, anxiety and stress when you look at the world around you? I know I certainly do! It’s so easy to feel like you are drowning. We all have times like this – so how should a follower of Jesus respond to such moments?
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One of the key discipleship principles Jesus consistently taught was to have ‘faith (in God) not fear’. All through the bible we see this theme – Jesus was always telling his followers to ‘fear not’, ‘worry not’, and to ‘have faith in God’. Jesus understands our human psyche and he meets us in our weaknesses and in our need. He does this gently and compassionately, and never with condemnation.
A few days ago I was really blessed in reading Psalm 37 because it offers some great points to help us with anxiety and stress:

Do not fret

Three times the writer states “Do not fret…” (vs 1, 7, 8) when you look around and see much wickedness and bad news. Yes, it’s easier said than done, but it is possible to change fearful fretting to fiery faith

Three little remedies

v3. Trust in the LORD, and do good.
v4. Delight yourself in the LORD (make the Lord your delight!)
v5. Commit your ways to the LORD

Yes, but how?

v7. Be still before God and wait on him
v34. Wait for the LORD
I love this phrase ‘wait on the LORD’ – it means to spend time deliberately with Him. It means tarrying with him; hanging out with Him; listening to Him and learning from Him; Loving His presence and all that comes with Him. It is being with Him long enough to see His character; his love; his solutions. It is being enveloped by him and reassured that he holds all of the world with it’s worries and its wonders in His strong, love-filled hands.

And so…

As you look at the world and people around you today may you find peace in God’s presence – a peace that melts fears, worries and anxiety – and may you draw close to Him.
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The name of the LORD is a strong tower

Go in MY strength – not your own strength

Recently I was reading Judges and I came across a few verses that stirred my heart. God addresses Gideon, who in turn addresses God. read on:

God said, Go with the strength you have and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you

And Gideon replied, My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manassah, and I am the least in my whole family

Could God have chosen a weaker man?!!!!

I’m sure God knew what he was doing when he tells him to Go. I just love that when Gideon sees weakness, God sees strength. Often we are all too self-aware and we focus on our weaknesses. Interestingly it was Gideon’s weakness that resulted in his being called to go. God didn’t need a general, he needed a weak and empty vessel through which He could make his name known.

God told Gideon, Go with the strength you have.

It isn’t our strength (abilities, skills, intelligence, etc) that matter to God (although he uses these). It is our weakness – God uses what little we have to participate in His Mission to save the lost with his great love. Gideon’s story can teach us to accept our own weaknesses in order that we will trust in His great strength.

Gideon’s strength is found in God, and God tells him: I am sending you!

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God’s mission does not succeed when we go in our own will and strength – it will be successful when God sends us in HIS strength. He is with us and he wants to use us despite our insecurities and weaknesses.

Let me share a secret with you…

…I am an introvert! I have preached and led services, and done stupid things like school assemblies, drama, sharing my faith with unbelievers. I’ve found that God strengthens in relation to the calling and ministry he entrusts us with.

Perhaps you are like Gideon saying “Why would god use me?”

God will use you because you are willing, weak and humble of heart.

God will use you because he knows the strength you have when you rely and trust in him.

God will use you because he has already chosen to send you as a partner in his mission to rescue the world from separation from God the father. So…

…Go out in the mission of God in the strength you have (inc. the power of the Holy spirit!!)

…Go because God is sending you.

…Go because you are willing to take up the call of God just as Gideon did.

…Go because you know you are longing to see God’s glory, victory and unfailing love displayed in a lost and hurting world.

The Gospel is difficult for us to receive

Sometimes the simplest of truths are the most difficult for us to get to grips with. For some reason we as humans often struggle to realise that we are truly and unconditionally loved by God. The image below highlights lyrics from an old children’s chorus which articulates a child-like faith that we are loved by loved by Jesus. Children find mysteries much easier to believe than we adults do.

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There are two aspects of this chorus that we perhaps struggle with:

Jesus loves me

Everything in us feels unworthy of Jesus’ love for us. We wonder “why would he love me?” As humans we long for the security and acceptance that unconditional love offers us, yet we shy away from it when it is freely given. In the world almost everything comes with strings attached, so when we are give a free gift of God’s loving grace we are looking for the strings.

The truth of the Gospel is that there are no strings attached. Jesus really does love us – even if we struggle to believe it.

The Bible tells me so

We also struggle to believe that the Bible really does tell us the truth about the world, about ourselves, and about God who loves us. God knows that we will struggle with understanding and accepting his love so he chronicled the story of his love through the Bible.

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Live according to God’s word of life
He gave us his great book full of his great deeds and truths in order that we might read, reflect, and receive his love. As we read regularly God by his Holy Spirit renews our minds and cleanses our hearts as he reveals himself through the pages – this in itself is a great mystery that is hard for us to fathom.

It is by grace you have been saved through faith (Eph 2:5)

We receive everything God has for us simply by having childlike (not childish though!) faith in Jesus.

He does love us.

He does accept us as we are.

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He does give us his words in the bible to ensure we don’t stay just as we are – his word and Spirit transform us from the inside out. Although these are hard truths for us to receive, they are there for the receiving. Jesus loves you – the bible confirms this. All you have to do is simply trust him. set your heart on following him. Connect with others who follow him. Grow in your understanding and experience of his love for you.

May we grow closer to to the Holy Father, as we see Jesus and receive his love for us as revealed by his Holy Spirit.