10am - Tue 7 Feb
On Sunday we sang a new song during our worship time, a song called Cast My Cares by the amazing Tim Timmons. (If you don’t know his music and story I would highly recommend checking them out!)
In the week I came across Psalm 55:22, which says “Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” (NIV)
Instantly I was struck by the use of the word ‘cast’.
Every Monday, my wife looks after our niece at our house, which means that our son has to share his toys for the day.
Have you ever watched a toddler ‘share’ their toys?
There is that awkward moment when they pass it from one to the other; when both have a hold of it and neither want to let go of it.
Often this is how I feel when I hand my burdens over to God.
I know deep down that it would be better to give them over but somehow, I convince myself, that if I just hang on to them a little bit, I will still be in control. As the idiom says, it’s better the devil you know…
For a long time I was reluctant to let anyone pray for my asthma because I wasn’t actually sure that I wouldn’t rather put up with having asthma, and the inconvenience that comes with it, than have to figure out how to live if I didn’t have it anymore! Sometimes I’d rather hold on to the burden because it is safer to have it than to not.
But the Bible tells us to “cast our cares on the Lord”…
My uncle enjoyed angling and used to compete for Hampshire in long distance casting competitions.
When I looked up the definition for ‘cast’ it says: “to throw something forcefully.” The world record for casting a fishing line stands at around 300 metres.
God doesn’t want us to half hand over our burdens to him while we hang on to them just a little bit.
He wants us to throw them forcefully to him.
To give away all control of them.
To find out what it might be like to have them truly taken away from us.
To not hang on to them for just that little bit longer, as my son would say “just five more minutes, Daddy.”
To be totally free.
9am - Tue 3 Jan
Power can be a dangerous thing.
In the hands of Hitler, power led to World War II.
In the hands of Nick Leeson, power led to an £800million debt and a crashed national bank.
In the hands of too many sports people, the need for power has led to doping scandals which seem to never end.
It doesn’t matter whether we are a world leader, financial trader or sportsperson. At whatever level we operate, power can be a vehicle for destruction. I imagine that this is the reason that so many people in a position of power hold on to their power so tightly; if we control the power surely we can guard ourselves from it.
It is also why I find Jesus’ approach to power so unusual.
Think about when he met the Samaritan woman at the well.
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink? (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) — John 4:v7-9 (NIV)
I find it interesting how much Jesus shocked the Samaritan woman with such a simple question; it shows us a lot about the culture of their society.
Society saw Him as a man and her as a woman, who were deemed less important, so Jesus would have been in the position of power.
Society saw Him as a Jew and her as a Samaritan, who Jews looked down on for the way they worshipped God, so Jesus would have been in the position of power.
But when Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well, He started the conversation by turning the table and putting who society called his enemy in the position of power. By asking her for a drink he was putting himself in a place where she had what he needed first, not the other way around.
A quick Google search lists hundreds or thousands of self-improvement articles which aim to help you ‘reclaim your power’ – yet Jesus was happy to give his power away freely.
Why would he do this when he knows that really He is the one that has what the Samaritan woman needs?
Can you imagine how the Samaritan lady would have reacted if Jesus had just walked up to her and offered her his living water from this position?
Firstly, by putting the Samaritan woman in the position of power Jesus was showing her that he didn’t see her in the same way that society saw her.
Society lessened their identities to ‘Jewish man’ and ‘Samaritan woman’.
Jesus saw their true identities as so much more.
The difference here is that the Samaritan woman focused on the things that separated her and Jesus, when Jesus came to unify these things.
There are a couple of lines from the Godfrey Birtill song, Two Thousand Years Ago, which I love:
Now every distance has been cancelled in Christ,
And separation’s an illusion a lie
So great is the love that He’s lavished on us.
Also, by breaking down the barrier between them, Jesus put them in a position to build a relationship, which would later lead to her life, and the lives of many people in her town being changed by their encounter with Jesus.
I’m sure Jesus knew that power could be dangerous, but he also knew that power could be life changing.
Whatever area in our lives we have power in, whether it’s at home, work, in church, or in the community, we could hold onto it tightly and use it to keep us in a safe, secure environment.
Or we could hold it loosely, give it to others and empower them to reach situations they otherwise wouldn’t be able to reach.
It might be more dangerous, but it also has the potential to be life changing.
12pm - Tue 29 Nov
I have enjoyed the Harry Potter series of books and the world created by J K Rowling. The new film “Fantastic Beasts and where to find them” is funny and scary at the same time.
Some folk have been put off by the fantasy nature of the stories, but they are good moral tales where good always triumphs over evil in the end.
The nature of evil is clear – power like the wizards have is easily corrupting – but in the end, it is love that wins because its power is stronger. One of the strongest evils in the books are the Dementors, who are the prison guards at the wizarding prison, and are let loose by the real baddie, Voldemort.
The nature of the Dementors is such that it is a close parallel to the Christian concept of a personified evil (Satan – the accuser). The Dementors’ kiss is such that it sucks all the joy out of your life, leaving only despair leading to death. Interestingly, the spell which counters this effect is the Patronus Charm, which very few can produce. The essence of the Patronus Charm is that it represents the real person or core of the person producing it. Harry’s charm is a stag, Hermione’s an otter and so forth.
One of the best counters to depression and gloom is an awareness of who we are in God. Many Christians seem to be unaware of their status as saints even though it is the biblical term for all who are in Jesus. We don’t appreciate how much we are loved and approved of. We need to spend time with our heavenly Daddy (abba) and let him love us to the point where we really know we are loved and precious.
9am - Tue 20 Sep
I still remember extremely well the time, a couple of years ago, that a friend from church asked me those four simple words.
“Do you trust me?”
My head was saying “it depends on what you’re about to do” but as I seem to do when I’m put on the spot I managed to utter a strange noise which obviously sounded enough like “yes” to satisfy the friend asking the question.
Before I knew it I was lifted up onto the shoulders of this great man and was being paraded round the church meeting (feeling something like Fiona in this picture) as a symbol for something I sadly can’t remember now; obviously the trauma of the experience is stronger than the message he was trying to deliver!
Fortunately, I stared death squarely in the face and lived to tell the tale.
But why does the thought of ‘trust’ strike so much fear into my life?
I’ve recently been reading the story of Daniel.
The background to his story, which is largely found in Daniel 1, is that he was chosen by King Nebuchadnezzar to serve in the King’s palace because he was handsome, intelligent and quick to learn new things.
He trained for three years and discovered he could understand and interpret dreams and visions for others, and served so well that the King placed him in a high position and lavished him with gifts.
Daniel also served God faithfully.
He was a pretty successful guy however you measured him.
Daniel’s success continued for many years and eventually a new King, Darius, made Daniel one of his three administrators, a role in which Daniel “distinguished himself” so much that King Darius planned to set him over the whole kingdom. (Daniel 6:8, NIV)
Consumed by jealousy, the other administrators and their friends conspired against Daniel and persuaded the King to set a decree that anybody who worshipped anything other than the king would be thrown into the den of lions.
“When Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened towards Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down to his knees and prayed, just as he had done before.” (Daniel 6:10, NIV)
So great was Daniel’s trust in God, that he decided to continue to pray even though he knew it would land him in the den of lions.
Although King Darius tried to wriggle out of his decree, he was held to account by the jealous men. When the day arrived and Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den, King Darius said to Daniel “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you” (Daniel 6:16, NIV)
This is not a King who believed in God, he even refers to Him as “Your God”, but he put his hope in God.
He acted on the small amount of faith or hope that he had.
Morning came after a dreadful night without eating or sleeping, so King Darius rushed out to see whether God could save Daniel.
The story tell us that the King was overjoyed to discover that “when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.” (Daniel 6:23, NIV)
Daniel’s story is a story of trust in God, but as much as it is a story of Daniel’s trust, it is also a story of King Darius’ willingness to exercise the tiny amount of faith or hope which he had.
Maybe the situation forced him to cast his hope onto God.
But he chose to cast it.
I find that is the most difficult thing about trust; it is always a choice.
We can chose to live within what psychologists call our ‘Circle of Comfort’ – where we are happy, safe and secure – or we can exercise a small amount of trust and step out into the ‘Growth Zone’ – which is a little more uncomfortable but will provide new opportunities to grow.
The real adventures with God exist in this growth zone.
It is where we will experience his faithfulness, where we will really get to grips with his goodness, and where we will see life changing adventures.
In Romans 12 we are not told to all be outlandish like Daniel, but to “exercise the measure of faith God has given us.”
Daniel and King Darius had vastly different measures of faith, but they both chose to exercise them.
As we start a new year in church what will happen if we trust God and exercise the measure of faith he has given us?
For a start we’ll experience a fantastic year of adventure with God, as we learn to rely on Him more and us less.
And we’ll also find that every time we climb a rung up the ladder of trust, the steps get smaller and exercising our faith gets easier.
I can’t promise that you won’t be paraded around church on somebody else’s shoulders.
I won’t even begin to suggest it will be safe, or comfortable.
But I can promise that it will be an adventure.
And that you’ll be pleased you did it.
2pm - Mon 6 Oct
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit abide with you all.” (2 Corinthians, 13 v 14)
I hardly know where to start so let’s begin with this morning’s news and work back from there.
I spoke with someone this morning who declared “it’s a miracle!” I prayed for her holding hands across her desk some weeks ago. Her eyes were giving her such pain. They were “dry”, “painful” and obviously causing her great discomfort.
I asked her if she wanted me to pray. She said yes, and I held her hand and prayed in the name of Jesus. Today she told me that all of the symptoms left, she needed no more treatment – “miracle”.
This is the second encounter like this in just two weeks. The first involved cancer. Each time I was just so moved for the person concerned. There was no shouting and going on. There was simple hand-holding, declaration of healing in Jesus and a deep sense of compassion.
When I went to Canada it was to attend a conference on Miracles. The title was “Expect Miracles”. In some ways it would be easy to argue that I didn’t need to go. After all, we are seeing the truly miraculous regularly among us here (Jean Hanford drove herself to the meeting last Sunday having been to the brink of death with Legionnaire’s disease!) But go I did.
There was deep teaching on the nature and power of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Sufficient to say that if everything comes to us by grace then we can swim in the river of God’s love and enjoy everything he wants us too in this abundant life. Step into the area of justice, fairness, self-righteousness and law and we simply step out of the river. The call of God is into Love which travels in this ship of grace.
Love? God loves us to distraction: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1John 4 v 10) Try as we might the strands of love and grace cannot be separated and yet they are clearly identifiable expressions of God, each in its own right.
But God hasn’t left us to struggle along trying to make sense of this. Rather, He has expressly promised to fill us with His Spirit. We are offered this amazing intimacy with Him as He lives in us and we no longer “know about” love and grace, but actually “know” love and grace.
The kingdom is in us “Luke 17 v 20&21) and for those we meet it is “at hand” (Matthew 10 v 7).
Which brings us to the miraculous. I was in a huge meeting in Toronto on a Saturday night. I think there was some power at work, but from deep inside me I could hear the words “Little flock.” Over and over I heard them. Into the night back at my hotel I heard them. Next day as I visited a church and spent some time with one of the leaders I heard them I spent more time with a terrific young man who I know is travelling this road of love grace and fellowship and still heard – and spoke them.
The result is, I think, quite astounding. There are tears, warmth, comfort, healing.
The “little flock” reference is from Luke 12, v 32: “Do not be afraid, little flock for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.”
It is clear to me now, clearer than it has been in over 40 years of following the Lord, that it boils down to this: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and fellowship – which is the power – of the Holy Spirit.”
Ecclesiastes 4 v 12 says, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
This “threefold chord” of love grace and power cannot be broken since it is God Himself. Each – like the trinity – intertwines, supports the others in intimate conspiracy, and finds outlet in the grown up maturity of His children.