Psalm 130 talks of both suffering and the antidote. It is written from the heart of someone who is suffering and crying out to God and yet this person knows that God is coming, is the antidote to their suffering. Despite the obvious suffering from the depths and a need for mercy, the psalmist’s main focus is on God and his coming deliverance.
Eugene Peterson writes, “Eight times the name of God is used in this psalm. We find, as we observe how God is addressed, that he is understood as one who forgives sin, who comes to those who wait and hope for him, who is characterised by steadfast love and plenteous redemption, and who will redeem Israel. God makes a difference. God acts positively towards his people. God is not indifferent. He is not rejecting. He is not ambivalent or dilatory. He does not act arbitrarily, in fits and starts. He is not stingy, providing only for bare survival.”
Much of our suffering can be short lived, some of it long lasting, but the psalmist recognises that God is the deliverer from all suffering and chooses to wait for him like the watchmen wait for the warmth of the rising sun in the morning, knowing the comfort that it will bring.
There is another suffering though – separation from God – ghastly isolation as P T Forsyth suggests, and this is also where God is our deliverer.
“If you God, kept records of our wrongdoings, who would stand a chance?” Despite our rebellious and sinful nature, God chases us down with his unfailing love to offer the antidote to this eternal suffering without God. The antidote? Grace. God’s unmerited favour on our lives that ensures that all suffering that we experience is temporal. Those who accept God’s offer of redemption can look forward to that time when ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)
When we suffer, let us turn to God and wait on him like the watchmen waiting for the sun for he is coming to redeem us from sin, release us from pain and suffering and to take us home to be with him.
A post by Mark Bradley
Geoff encouraged us to keep running in his message last Sunday.
Firstly, I must confess.... I am not a very good runner !
Sometimes I see runners and am in awe that they almost seem to glide along their path, with what appears to be minimal effort, and don’t even look like the are breaking a sweat. At the other end of this picture of perfection, is me ! I looked up the definition of ‘lollop’ and it says (move in an ungainly way in a series of clumsy paces or bounds) which sums my efforts up almost perfectly. Yet.... I’m running.
Since the lock down, I felt the need to get outdoors and run. I’ve started slowly and started to increase my distances, routes and terrain. I know it’s good for my physical, mental and spiritual well-being.
I’ll confess, at times, I’ve felt like giving up but I’ve tried to keep going, with the exception of the other day that is, when a new blister literally stopped me in my tracks. Just before this small set back, as I was running, I became very aware my gaze was fixed firm on the path I was on. I lifted my head and turned my focus to take in the beauty of my surroundings as I ran through Saltram. I saw the sun shimmering on the water, clear blue skies, and tree after tree with the most beautiful and vast colours of greens. I was surrounded by all that God had made, yet, as my focus was on the path, I was missing this amazing canvas of creation.
I’m aware at times over the past weeks, my focus has been fixed on the wrong things. We are in a season of great uncertainty and it’s easy for our time and attention to be on the wrong things. This may be worry around finances, health, employment or family to name but a few. It says in 1 Peter 5 ‘cast all your anxiety on Him because he cares for you’. He has His attention on every part of your life as He cares so deeply for you. As we navigate through these next days and weeks I’d encourage you to lift your head, turn your gaze to him, take in the view, enjoy your journey and the blessings He has for you.
Hebrews 12 vs 1 -2 ‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith’.
Written by Rachel Macdonald
We have been enjoying such beautiful weather, and I have appreciated having a garden albeit small in this time of lockdown. It has been a place to read books that never got finished, a place to hear nature get louder whilst traffic got quieter, watch the changes in the plants as winter gave way to spring. It has also been, a time of treasured conversation with my closest family members.
Today in one of these garden conversations I admitted to my children, “I fear everything just going back to normal”. I understand there will be others who are desperate for everything to get back to normal as quickly as possible, and there will be others, whose normal will never be the same again. I do not for a moment want to diminish the suffering and distress of so many at this time, and we too have had some testing days. Whatever end of this sliding scale you are on, it is ok to feel the way you do, but when something this big comes along, we tend to reflect on our lives, things we may have discovered , and how we continue to live personally ,and how to be the church in this new day.
So, for me personally, why do I fear everything going back to normal? This is what I could LOSE
Living more simply
Operating more creatively, learning new ways of working and connecting
Sensing Gods presence and hearing him more clearly
Extra time to enjoy family
Of course, it is largely our rhythms and habits that will determine how we live going forward, but our breakneck speed, consumer driven world just stopped for a while, and I found I did not miss it…
As we the church, continue to meet differently, we recognize there are things for the moment we have lost, but there are things to be gained. I am confident God is at work, and his kingdom advancing. Let us not be too hurried in bringing the old normal back, God may be wanting to do a new thing. I was reminded today by Sian Lowry about the Kingdom of God being like a mustard seed, a tiny seed is sown, yet it grows into a huge tree. God wants us to plant seeds of the kingdom everywhere we go, it is God who makes that seed grow. I finished reading Mark Comers book,” the ruthless elimination of hurry” (in the garden of course) and I find myself guilty of much of it, but am determined to live a life more akin to the one Jesus modelled . He lived simply, connected to the Father, empowered by the Spirit he ministered to the crowds and to the one. He invites us to live in the same way. Let us take some time to grieve our losses, discover our gains, listen, and move at Gods pace.
We are all included in this wonderful invitation from Jesus whether you are afraid of going back to normal, or eagerly anticipating it, let us not hurry, but be yoked with him in this new season.
Matthew 11v 28
Come to me all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Lyrics 'Fun' / Rend Co. Kids
While my heart is beating, while my body’s breathing
My future’s there for You to write
Though today I’m hurting, there’s a new day coming
Bright and shining like your smile
I won’t give up, no, no I won’t give in, no, no
You are the tide on which I rise I won’t back up, no, no I won’t back down, no, no
This is the time for me to rise
You are the fun in my life, you are the joy
You are the laughter inside and I want more
No one can ever make me happier, no one can ever take me higher
Let’s have some fun, let’s have some fun
This I know for sure now, nothing’s keeping me down
Every fear has gotta go, can’t stop my feet from dancing
Stop my spirit soaring, you’re the rhythm in my soul
Throw your hands in the air like you just don’t care
Reach for the sky, let your heart run wild
Dance like there’s no one watching
Sing like your soul is bursting
In Romans 7, in a passage of scripture that you might be forgiven for thinking was a tongue twister, the Apostle Paul talks about his decisions and habits…
I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
Even Paul struggled with sinful habits and wrong decisions and yet he is widely regarded as the foremost Christian of all time. How could this be?
Well, we all sin and fall short of the glory of God but thank God! We have an advocate through Jesus Christ who has paid for our sin allowing us to repent, which results in forgiveness and allows us to get back on track in our relationship with God.
But what about the type of person we become? How did Paul, despite his mixed decisions, become the great leader, Apostle and man of God?
Because in the main, he kept making the right decisions from putting God first every day, to praising God in prison, to refusing to renounce Christ despite being flogged and ultimately dying for his faith.
You see, Paul wanted to be like Christ more than anything else and it this desire that ultimately drove his daily decisions. It would have been easy for Paul to look at his past as a persecutor and murderer of Christians and think, “When will I ever be like Christ? I’m so far off.”
Yet Paul became the man he was in likeness to Christ because of the sum of the small daily decisions to follow Christ. We need to picture who it is we would like to be – a good Father, Mother, great teacher, colleague, disciple – whatever or whoever ever we want to be or be like, we need to allow that to drive our small daily decisions.
Whoever you are today or however you see yourself is not a result of what you have done today or yesterday, you did not become you overnight, but through the result of the many small decisions, both good and bad that led you to who you are today. If we desire to change, we can achieve it through being mindful of the small daily decisions that will ultimately shape us.
For me, I too want to be like Jesus and even though it seems a lofty goal and a long way off, the small decisions that I make every day to be like him will add up to make me more like him.
Jesus always took time to spend with his Father, he was always kind, he loved everyone, even those who cursed him, he was patient and he sacrificed his life for others.
This may well be the toughest of all acts to follow but if it is who I want to be like then I must allow that desire to drive my decisions, one small choice at a time.
The good news is that whoever it is that we want to be or whatever it is that we would like to become, we are not alone. In all of Paul’s struggles with habits and decisions he had this to say about the answer -
Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.
While we must make decisions and choices if we want to change or emulate someone, if we want lasting success in this, we must partner with Christ through his Spirit within us.
Many of us have recently had time to reflect on the way we live our lives and the type of people that we are. Think about the changes you want to make or the type of person you want to be and ask the Holy Spirit daily in prayer to help you with your decisions. It will be the faithful, small, daily decisions that will add up to make the big changes that you want to see.
Jesus waited 30 years to begin his 3-year ministry and the bible says this about his growth
“And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” (Luke 2:40, 52)
Jesus spent 30 years making faithful decisions to pray, do the right thing, learning, respecting and growing. If you are thinking that change is a long journey, know that you are the sum of all your decisions and that change is coming.
Psalm 128, which we looked at this weekend, contains the secret of blessing. How to be blessed. How to live a blessed life.
Blessed! Four times over.
In work, in family life, in church, in society…
In prosperity and in posterity.
It is all here.
The blessing of God is an amazing thing. God wants to bless us so much that he sent his son to die for us and take our curse – so we could be blessed. He took the cup of cursing and he offered us the cup of blessing!
I was moved again watching the UK Blessing song this last week. Just the fact of how much God is for us, how much he loves us and wants us to live blessed lives. His amazing extravagant love for us. This song perfectly captures that heart, the heart of scripture and the Aaronic blessing. God wants his people to be blessed!
And I was touched by the line of Amazing Grace – “‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear.”
The secret of the blessing is not a cowering, religious, performance-based, must-do-better type of thing. It is being touched and moved and loved in the presence of God, standing in awe and amazement at his love and patience and mercy and grace, and learning to walk in loving intimacy with a Father who sacrificed his son for us and yearns to give us all good things – his cup of blessing.
The secret is to fear God and to obey his commandments. To live like we were meant to live – in relationship with an amazing awesome God.
We really are blessed beyond the curse. His promises will endure.
So may the Lord bless you this week and keep you. May the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May he lift up the light of his countenance upon you. And give you peace!
He is for you!
The last time we talked, I left you to swim to the shore where Jesus was waiting.
Mirroring the reckless decision of Simon Peter, who couldn’t wait the time it would take for the boat to reach the shore, both he and I (I more metaphorically) dove into the sea and swam to the shore to reach Jesus as quickly as we could.
I can only try and explain the reason to jump rather than wait by borrowing an ending line from one of my favourite films, ‘When Harry met Sally’, where Harry confesses- “when you realise you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”
I think that realisation pushed Simon Peter and I over the edge of the boat and into the sea: both of us realised that Jesus is our greatest need- and if Jesus is who we want to spend our life with, we want that life to start as soon as possible.
But I think that these new circumstances have caused many of us to question what this life will look like and we begin to use the language of impossibility and disbelief and doubt… I am a teacher and conversations with other teachers centre on the impossibility of going back to work; conversations with friends are full of doubt about what will happen and my own children are full of disbelief as life has shifted again this week… Isaac didn’t believe that he could swim in the sea- what if the police came? And Lyra was in disbelief as she realised that she couldn’t be with her friends as she had hoped. And me? Mum. Teacher. Aimee. The idea of home-schooling and working until September at least? Impossible. The practical implications of trying to create class sizes of 15 with 2m social distancing? Disbelief. And Aimee? Self-doubt and condemnation often come knocking on my door at the best of times.
Aimee-beloved- I love impossible situations- tell them how you let me into yours…
Impossibility, disbelief and doubt are the soundtrack of Aimee BC. When this track begins to play, do you know what Jesus has taught me to do? Do you love me? He asked three times. Of course, I love you, you know I love you… Jesus also turned up and made an impossible situation possible… It was two weeks ago, about 6.00pm, a Thursday evening and I was getting tea ready- all the usual domestic stuff. I was also multi- tasking- following an online course and this session asked you to invite Jesus to dinner (Revelation 3:20) and ask 3 questions: 1) What would you talk to Him about today? 2) What do you think His response would be? 3) How would He say it? What is His tone?
So, it felt natural to lead from the video into inviting Jesus to come join me for tea-but suddenly the power goes in the house: life becomes all practical and real as I fix the fuse (easy part) and then try and find what caused it (the harder part). It was the oven. And I’m looking at it- in disbelief (No! Why?) and thinking how can I get this fixed at a time like this? It’s going to be impossible! Anyway- I get a nudge in my spirit- remember the story you heard where the guy prayed for the dishwasher? Rueful smile, doubt- I liked the story but really? But then Jesus had got my attention- So, Jesus you’re here for dinner, we can’t talk properly and I can’t sit and eat with you cause the oven is broken and yet You are speaking and You are saying to pray for the oven. Ok Jesus- we’re both laughing- I’ll pray. So I pray for the oven and then the phone rings- ‘real’ life begins- it’s my dad- a cynical atheist- why don’t you pray for the oven? He scoffs… I already did… Then Isaac and I watch a film, I post a plea on Facebook for advice; look at YouTube videos on oven fixing, eat popcorn and head to bed...And then the next morning, when I wake up, I’m nudged to try the oven... And? It is WORKING! And it is still working.
So, what does life look like in these times?
Life looks like what- or Who we look at! My life looks like Jesus coming for dinner and staying to fix my oven.
And the bit that is really giving me joy is that if I keep looking at Him, He keeps looking back and speaking- see that impossible situation? I can fix that. See your disbelief? I can rebuild that. See that doubt? Let’s get it gone.
So, if you invited Jesus to dinner today, what would you talk to Him about? How would He respond? What song would He sing over you? I’ve got a feeling it would be a love song…
Do not judge.
I’m sure many Christians are familiar with this instruction from Jesus to not judge one another before we take stock of our own issues.
The passage in Matthew 7 when read in context tells us that there are times to judge but that we must be careful and considerate of our own position.
Watching the news and reading the online press and trawling social media show us that it is rare that we all agree on any particular issue – can anyone remember Brexit?
Rarely has an issue been more polarising for our society, and yet as important as Brexit was and still is, it has been surely superseded by our current predicament of the Coronavirus pandemic.
This has provided us with another chasm of differing opinion – lift or maintain the lockdown. Whichever is the right decision only hindsight can judge but people’s opinions and feelings are understandably still running high.
It is worth remembering that we are all made differently, in fact we are all unique, and we will often differ on many things. Apart from a minority of society who may be driven by selfish motives, I would suggest that the majority are basing their opinions on worthy ones.
Some are in need of a return to work for the financial security of themselves and their loved ones, others are afraid on contracting and or spreading the virus, making safety their main concern, some are bewildered by a desire for both.
While all these opinions are valid, they are often polar opposites and as followers of Christ we are called to disagree well. Whatever our opinion or position we need to love others as we would like to be loved.
The bible talks of the fruit of the Spirit that dwells in every follower of Christ. That fruit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
If we can display these characteristics of Christ in our daily lives, we will be able to disagree well and debate for positive outcomes from opposite sides of a divide. We are right to debate and question, to suggest and provide alternative views, Jesus did much of this in his ministry.
So, as we disagree with one another, let’s not judge but be kind, gentle, patient, loving and full of self-control.
I am reticent to quote social media straplines but, in this moment, it is very apt, if you can be anything, be kind.
Written by Hamish Macdonald.
I was out taking the dog (Murphy) for his morning walk and in the park we could see the signs of spring. It was lovely… the white and pink blossom in the trees and occasionally floating swirling down in the wind with vivid blue skies above. It made me thankful to be alive and I couldn’t help but think of a song lyric “cherry blossom in the market square”. (I’m sure Andy L will be commenting and quoting as I know it’s from one of his favourite bands !!).
I had already begun reflecting on some of the earlier posts which have been written during March and had noticed there seemed to be a tenuous link.
Geoff had written a post back on the 19th March and had called it Singing in the rain which is also the name of the 1952 classic song sung by Gene Kelly.
This was followed on the 23rd of March by his post titled from a Joni Mitchell lyric You don't know what you've got til its gone
Followed by Rachel’s post on the 27th March titled STOP who had inadvertently named it after one of her favourite songs from Sam Brown.
Paul wrote his post on the 29th March and called it Shifting Sands which reminded me of song by Deacon Blue also called Shifting sands !!
This caused me to reflect on just how important music can be and how much there is, in such a plethora of genres. I have long felt and known that music is a great influencer both for good or bad. It has an uncanny way to be able to evoke emotions and lead your feelings. I was reminded of a phrase “music feeds your soul”.
Food is so important for our bodies it is what helps us grow, keeps us fit and strong we know what a healthy diet looks like and the importance of it. We have heard it said, “we are what we eat”. Yet what we feed our souls is equally if not more important.
Are we as aware of what we feed our souls?
The above is what I began in mid-April then….
On Sunday (26th April) Geoff in his sermon continued his series on the Psalms of Ascent and talked about the soundtrack of our lives and even how this group of Psalms had been sung on the way to Jerusalem was like a spotify play list for a road trip for a road trip of Faith.
He then challenged us in his blog on the 27th April Surrounded by the arms of the Father to comment or suggest songs which we have found encouraging.
Really I’m not sure if my blog is not just a repeat of this but sometimes we do need to be told several times before we hear!!
So in this time of lockdown with lots of fear around are we careful in what we feed our souls? Do we remember God is faithful so we do not need to be fearful?
I was reminded of Psalm 23 verse 3 “He restores my soul and leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” in the NIV version it uses the word “refreshes”.
What is our soul?
Soul can be defined as the spirit and essence of a person.
Restore means bring back or re-establish, to return to a former condition, place, or position.
Refreshes means to renew the vigour or energy of (oneself or another).
Let us feed our soul and be mindful what we feed it. Look at the soundtrack of your life. Does it build it up or pull it down?
The great thing I noticed in the comments to Geoff’s blog was not the number of different and a variety of style of songs but they were all worship and praise songs which help focus us on our God who is the one who will build us up.
Ultimately, God is the one… the almighty, all powerful and all loving one who wants to be invited to be the centre of our lives and it is he who is able to restore our souls.
Music is a powerful tool but not the only one which can be used to refresh our souls. What other ways does God use to help refresh and restore our souls? Please encourage others with comments.
Thanks to all who are helping, co-ordinating, donating to our LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR campaign. We so appreciate it!
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