Thy will be done…

I have mixed feelings about the recent week or two – our government is submitting to socioeconomic pressure to lift lock down while we are seeing second spikes appearing in other countries that, perhaps, eased them too early.  Suffice to say I think this particular virus will be with us for some time to come, so we have to learn to adapt and hopefully we will prevail where others have so far failed.

This week, for many of us, we have been adopting new working practices in line with social distancing, moving into new working environments, or perhaps spring cleaning all of our collective hoard of old documents, manuals, coffee sachets ten years-out-of-date hiding in corners of drawers, and so on.  One thing that remains constant in all of this is that Gods Will is ever present.

Sometimes we are driven by human desires and needs; a workplace example might be an instruction from a manager, who in turn are dealing with the demands placed on them.  Sometimes we are driven by forces that don’t make any sense; maybe an urge to do something different, to go someplace, to say a particular thing.  It is at times like these that we need to be aware of who or what is driving it.

When you recognise these circumstances, it is essential to know whether it is God-given or not. There is no hiding the fact that there are forces at work against the will of God; the battles have raged for centuries. The thing to remember is that the war is already won, through the one final sacrifice and resurrection of God’s Son, our saviour Jesus Christ.   As such, any power of evil has no claim on any us, no right to demand anything of us, so long as Jesus is at the very centre of our heart evil will dissipate before us.  When you believe there is a power urging you to do something, place your trust in Jesus and pray, if it is against the will of God it will vanish, but if it is God-given it will persist (FYI: God is very, very patient, and very, very persistent).  We are to be subservient to Gods will, but only because we have free will to choose to do so; we get to choose whether we act or not (mostly, God will face down any argument you have with love and reason to persuade you otherwise and not by force and anger). You have to recognise the gentleness of the impulse as opposed to a push in the back.

There is a prayer in one of my books that reflects on will very nicely; it goes like this:

My Father, help me as a follower of Christ
to say “Your will be done”.
You would not have me accept your will
because I must, but because I may.
You would have me take it,
not with resignation, but with joy,
not with the absence of murmur,
but with the song of praise . . .
Teach me that your love is wise.
Guide me not blindfold, but with open eyes . . .
Give me the blessedness of the man
whose delight in in your law,
who can tell of your statutes rejoicing the heart.
I shall obey your will in perfect freedom
when I can say, ‘your Spirit is good’.

George Matheson. A Book of Prayers, Lion Publishing 1988

We have free will, to accept Jesus, to accept God’s wisdom, His gifts and to rejoice in life no matter what it may hold for us right now. We must open our eyes and our ears for His guidance; we do not walk blindly through the light or darkness.

We can listen to thunder, marvel at lightning, hear the scream of the wind in our ears and cower in the facelessness of a virus, but that is not where you will find God’s voice. It may be in a whisper to your soul, or it may be in a rush of warmth in your heart as it fills with the love of creation.

We begin with acceptance of His will; by accepting that we are His children and therefore His agents, ambassadors & messengers.

Through God we will prevail with His strength and guidance, for the glory of His Kingdom upon this earth.

May God bless us all.

Where to start … ?

There are times when words fail me ….

[Starting again]

There are many times when words fail me …

[Starting again]

My thoughts are all jumbled up …

[Starting again]

… so Covid-19 happened, is still happening, is likely to be around for many years to come …

… and I feel helpless and powerless.

I do what little I can to support our health services, to protect those around me who need my help, and to protect myself by social distancing, shopping only once a week, eating but not snacking, working (thankfully the job I have is relatively secure right now) and sometimes not sleeping but sleeping well when I do. I listen for those who need it, and talk to those who will listen for me, supporting health and well being, thinking and praying.

All I can really do is trust in God, to have His hand upon our situation, to rely on His guidance, to lead our scientists in their search, to lead our health services in healing those who are ill, and for patience in our civilisation which is in the midst of such turmoil; so much so that anger spills out in all directions. Normality has been lost in the depths of a new beginning and sometimes that means people have lost themselves, or show sides of themselves that were buried, or hidden, and have now been let loose.

It doesn’t matter how many times we get stuck for words.

It does not matter how many times we have to start again.

God is always there for us, to pick us up when we fall, to support us as we take our first steps (whether that is walking or a new path in life).

I will not judge others, because I will be judged in kind!
I will forgive because if I cannot forgive how can I expect to be forgiven?
I will pray because, frankly, it is the only thing I can do at this time…

Dear Lord,
let my words be your words,
let my actions be your actions,
my will is your will,
use me to fulfil your plans upon this earth.
Grant us your wisdom,
lend us your patience.
Bring your healing upon us,
and let your spirit wash our souls clean of sin.
Lord be with us in our time of need.
All this we pray
in the name of our Saviour, Jesus Christ,
Amen.

The clothes we wear…

When you got up this morning did you put the right clothes on?
Did you dress for work or for recreation?
Did you put a jacket on to go out?
When you got to work did you take off the jacket?
Did you change your clothes for work?

We get to pick and choose the clothing we wear, usually they are related to where we are, but where we are going in life is much more important than where we are going on a daily basis.

10 I delight greatly in the Lord;
    my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
    and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
    and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Isaiah 61:10 New International Version – UK (NIVUK)

27 for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

Galatians 3:27 New International Version – UK (NIVUK)

When we are baptised we shed our old selves, we become new in Christ, and with this we are clothed anew, He is our spiritual clothing and something that we cannot take off.  Our spiritual clothing is not just for Sunday mornings or church coffee mornings.  Our overcoat, in fact, our Greatcoat, is one that can’t be seen but can be experienced by everyone around us.

We can change our physical appearance as often as we like, but when we take on our garments of salvation why would anyone want to take them off?

Lord Jesus,
Grant us we pray, to be a light unto the world,
let the clothes that You provided us with
shine with the light of Your transfiguration
to cast all shadow from this world.
Amen.

Hope

Sometimes life can feel like it’s dragging us down, sometimes it can feel like we’re hacking our way through a jungle to get stuck wading through quicksand, but just like the old Tarzan movies when people get stuck there is always a vine to hold onto, for everyone, that vine is Jesus.  Once we are holding onto that vine, becoming one with it, we know safety is assured, our saviour is on their way and we can live to enjoy life once more.

The vine and the branches
15 ‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
‘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 15:1-17 New International Version – UK (NIVUK)

There is always hope in life as long as we reach out for the vine that can save us.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. John 15:1

Hope is the subject we’re covering in Celebrate Recovery (CR) so it’s been on my mind lately amongst the turmoil.  It’s odd how much we can find God is with us when we are feeling a bit useless (Matthew 5:1-12).  The other day, after feeling a bit low, I decided to try to write the prayer to open the Hope session of CR (it’s my turn on the rota) so I thought I’d share it with you, to use if you so wish.

Lord Jesus,
You are our flame of hope, rising above us like the pillar of fire before Moses and the tribes of Israel as they escaped from suffering.
Fill us all, we pray, with joy and peace, as we place our trust in You,
so that we may overflow with hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Hope binding us all together to the vine of life.
May we have rest and peace in our hearts.
We ask that You guard our minds through the night to protect us from our fears, our doubts, and our regrets.
May Your healing be upon our hearts, our minds, and our bodies at the break of dawn.
Restore us, Lord, heal our wounds, instil Your energy within our souls and hope eternal within our hearts.
Allow us to find new strength through Your words, teach us O Lord.
We thank you for Your love that we can live and enjoy life again.
Help us, we pray, to wake up every day with hope.
Of all this, we ask, of all this we pray
through You, our brother,
our saviour, Jesus Christ
AMEN

Changes

Have you ever stopped to think about how much our lives revolve around change?  It is always there.

While we welcome some alteration into our lives, we often tend to focus our minds on those that aren’t welcome, and this is when it takes over our lives, our train of thought burns bad emotions and intentions deep inside, and ultimately turn us away from God.  When we allow that to happen, we fail ourselves; we fail God.

When we find ourselves in times like these, we can take comfort in the knowledge that God and our Lord Jesus Christ are always walking beside us, Jesus is interceding on our behalf, and the Holy Spirit is there to guide us.  We can turn to God, to Jesus, surrender to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, because They are the constant in our lives that does not change.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Hebrews 13:8

In among all the change in our life, Jesus is always there, the rock that is our anchor, our cornerstone, the foundation of all foundations.

16 So this is what the Sovereign Lord says:
“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone,
    a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation;
the one who relies on it
    will never be stricken with panic.

Isaiah 28:16

Change happens; it does not always come from God, a lot of it is human-made, as a result of our greed, our desires, our attempt to apply our will over situations, our inability to follow Gods will; what we do in times like this can lead to disagreements, animosity, theft, hostility, and war.

There’s plenty to be said in the bible about change, it is full of change, starting at the very beginning with creation, variations in covenant with God, changes in nations, changes in people, initiated by the Holy Spirit (tongues of fire [Acts 2-3]), by Jesus (so many changes in hearts, minds and body), by God (far too many to contemplate or even begin to describe).  The point is that we should not fear change, we can embrace it even when we do not like it because we can be the light that turns bad to good.

The one thing that never changes is that God loves us all, and He made the most significant demonstration of that love by sacrificing His Son, Jesus Christ, for our salvation; for we do not have to sacrifice anymore, as Jesus took upon himself all the sins of humanity and paid the price, our price, on our behalf, for all of our sins, for the sins of our predecessors, and the sins of our descendants.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Philippians 4:6-8

Life is full of new beginnings, fresh days with which we can become closer to Jesus, I thank the Lord our God for each new day, for each opportunity to start again, for new beginnings, for His eternal love, comfort and guidance through times of trouble.

Holy Jesus, ev’ry day,
keep us in the narrow way;
and when earthly things are past,
bring our ransomed souls at last
where they need no star to guide,
where no clouds thy glory hide.

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all.
2 Corinthians 13:14

Kingdom, power and glory

Have you ever wondered where the words

“For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and for ever”

in the Lords Prayer, the Our Father, originate?

I did up until recently.  I was puzzled as to why it is different from the Bible and during a recent bible study through the Pilgrim course I found out why.

It turns out the early church added the words after the prayer Jesus taught became more widely used.  The context is the end of David’s life after the preparation of everything for the building of the temple.

David’s Praise to God

10 Then David blessed the Lord in the presence of all the assembly; David said: ‘Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our ancestor Israel, for ever and ever. 11 Yours, O Lord, are the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is yours; yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. 12 Riches and honour come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might; and it is in your hand to make great and to give strength to all. 13 And now, our God, we give thanks to you and praise your glorious name.

14 ‘But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to make this freewill-offering? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you.

1 Chronicles 29:10-14 New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised (NRSVA)

There’s a couple of things to take note of in this verse too:

  • ‘All the assembly’ refers to all of the gathered people of God in the temple – everyone was there!
  • ‘Blessed are you O Lord’ is an ancient Jewish way of beginning prayer, which is still used today in many prayers.

I discovered a deeper understanding and attachment to the Lords Prayer throughout the time we studied it.

Take some time and look at each line of the prayer, what does it mean to you?

Which part of the Our Father stands out the most or is most relevant to your right now?

The Lords Prayer in the Bible

The Lords Prayer, as Jesus taught us to pray, is found in two of the Gospels in the New Testament. It appears in both the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke.

First the appearance in the Gospel of Matthew:

Matthew 6:9-13 New International Version (NIV)

“This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,[a]
    but deliver us from the evil one.[b]

And the appearance in the Gospel of Luke:

Luke 11:2-4 New International Version (NIV)

He said to them, “When you pray, say:“‘Father,[a]
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.[b]
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
    for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.[c]
And lead us not into temptation.[d]’”

Footnotes
[a] Luke 11:2 Some manuscripts Our Father in heaven
[b] Luke 11:2 Some manuscripts come. May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
[c]Luke 11:4 Greek everyone who is indebted to us
[d] Luke 11:4 Some manuscripts temptation, but deliver us from the evil one

 

 

The Lords Prayer

We restarted our weekly bible study at cafe church following on from the busy Christmas period with the second instalment of the Pilgrim course – the Lords Prayer.

To start, here are the two versions that you come across in a worship service, use at home, in work or elsewhere.

Traditional Version

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen

Contemporary Version

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on  earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but delivery us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen

I grew up to learn and use the traditional language version of The Lords Prayer. It always makes me giggle a bit when, if I’m in a prayer group, either myself or someone else forgets we’re reading the contemporary version and slots in thy or says trespass instead of sin. Years of use makes me switch automatically into the traditional version without batting an eyelid, and it’s made me feel extremely conscious of which version is being used, especially in church or in groups. I have become more accustomed to the contemporary version over time, and I feel comfortable with it these days, it is just that habits are learnt and difficult to break and we have a tendency to revert, or if you like, run back to the things we feel more comfortable with.

[I will attempt to catch up with my blog to ensure I get all my thoughts together for future use and to create the writing habit that needs reviving.]

Lean on me

I was listening to the radio this week on the way home from work, and they were playing Bill Withers ‘Lean On Me.’

It’s been a while since I’ve listened to the song, but it occurred to me that I’d never actually listened to the lyrics before, just letting the song wash over me.

The chorus is fantastic of course:

“Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on.”

Everybody at some point in their lives needs somebody to lean on, someone they trust, who will hold them up and support them, who will brighten their day in dark times, who will not criticise, never disappoint, will hold confidences, sympathise and wrap you in warmth and comfort.

Sounds nice, doesn’t it!

A shoulder that is reliable, constantly there if we need it, and yet we do not have to rely on physical shoulders.  There is a massive amount of comfort to be held in spiritual support, and there’s only one thing we need to do to receive it, open our hearts to God, pray through Jesus and release the Holy Spirit that resides within us all.  Pray as often as we can and read the bible.  There’s a huge amount of support to be found in scripture, but you won’t find it if you don’t know that it’s there.  The Gideon NT, and most Bibles these days have references to scripture for various times of life; Pinterest is full of them.

I thank God that I can lean on Him whenever I struggle with life.  I disappoint myself that I sometimes forget to do this, but in times of reflection (usually after the fact), I recognise that I should be putting God first in situations, asking for His guidance and support beforehand, and not afterwards.

I thank God that when other people lean on us, He helps us support them, whatever weight we place on Him He provides support, we cannot fall; if we do it is through our negligence, but God is always there to pick us up.

We will always have Jesus by our side to lean on because when others lean on anyone who has given their heart to Christ, they too are leaning on Him, whether they know it or not.

People need others to lean on.  When they are walking through dark times, through the shadows of doubt, fear, sickness and sorrow, but out of the pit of darkness, we all provide the support and strength that others are lacking as they walk this part of their path.  Everyone can provide a light to brighten the path; we help hold them up when they are falling, He helps us all do that; we are their comfort in their sorrow, and we rejoice as much as they do when they can.

People lean on us, so it is important that we lean on God so that they also lean on Him, we do so through the words and life of Jesus, through recognising and accepting His gifts within us, and by utilising the Holy Spirit to bring Gods will upon this earth into fruition.

Not a number

This may be finished, it may be not,
I’ve yet to get past the wording clot
so in the meantime enjoy my rhyme
and I will be writing another time…

Oh, my Lord, He loves us all,
I beg thee see the truth
and answer to Gods open call
to live with love and youth.
He grants us life, to do His will
upon this Earth so bleak.
I wonder while I tread this mill
if I am seen as meek?

To walk the path of good is hard,
it’s often less well travelled.
So many temptations, be on your guard
or else be cruelly unravelled.
Wear Gods armour, pray each day
and turn yourself from evil,
for the devil and his hunters prey
upon the soul primaeval.

I pity those who wake, to die,
and envy those who will
sleep peacefully, as a baby, aye
so calm, and very still.
I lie here till my Lord doth come
to wake me from my slumber
and on that day rejoice, it’s done,
I am no more a number.

This is my ‘verse of today’ 🙂

Father, God in Heaven,
we thank you from the bottom of our hearts
for everything that is good in our lives.
Thank you for allowing us to share in your love,
for being a vessel to share that love with others,
and granting us the opportunity
to see the joy that it brings to others.
We often do not spend enough time with you,
but are thankful that you are always here with us,
despite our inadequacies,
Help us to become better disciples,
through Jesus Christ, our Lord,
who resides with you, and intercedes on our behalf.

Amen