Category Archives: bible

Keeping Your Eyes Fixed

This is the text of my Going Deeper Daily Devotions for today:

Todays reading is Hebrews 12:1-24, but I am only going to read the first few verses, I will leave you to read the rest yourself. 

 As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us.  Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne.

When I was learning to drive, the one best pearls of wisdom that the wonderful Llewelyn imparted to me is “look at where you want to go”.  Keep your eyes focussed on the road ahead at where you are journeying to. 

Don’t look at the front of the bonnet, you are not prepared for what is ahead, and especially don’t start admiring the scenery to the left or right – or that is where you will end up heading.

It turns out, that is not only useful advice for driving, but also for faith.  I would dare to suggest it is also good advice for a pandemic.

We are running a race, Hebrews tells us.  I sincerely hope it is not a physical running race, or I don’t stand a chance!  If I can expand the metaphor further, it is not a sprint, but a marathon.  It is not about a short sharp burst of energy, but about the long game.  The race that lies before us is probably long and winding, with unexpected twists and turn – more like a steeplechase with various different obstacles! – but no so systematically placed.  We will all run it in our own way, with our own style.  But the writer of Hebrews tells us to run, always keeping our eyes on Jesus.  He is where we are going, he is the reason for the journey, it is on him we depend.  Take our eyes off him and we will become distracted, drop focus, lose momentum in our step, become confused about where we were going, what the goal actually was, or just head off in the wrong direction all together.

With our eyes fixed on Jesus, we will not be distracted by the things on the periphery – those things that scare us, confuse us, take out focus, our interest, or just take us from the road and land us in a ditch.

Jesus should be our focus, the way, the guide.  With our eyes on Jesus, we are not avoiding the here and now, not just looking to the future, but thinking like Jesus each step of the way.

It seems very trite to ask,

‘what would Jesus do?’

but actually it can be a great question.  We will only reach the end if each step works. As we plough on with our natural reactions, it can be a great question to pull us up in any situation – never mind what I feel, what my knee jerk reaction might be, what would Jesus be doing in this situation? How is my vision of him going to effect what I do here, now?

When I finish this race, will I be able to look Jesus in the eye?

The passage finishes with these words:

22 Instead, you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, with its thousands of angels. 23 You have come to the joyful gathering of God’s first-born, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, who is the judge of all people, and to the spirits of good people made perfect. 24 You have come to Jesus, who arranged the new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that promises much better things than does the blood of Abel.

That is race’s end – The city of the living God.  To the joyful gathering of God’s people.  To Jesus.

Each day, may that be our focus.

Lord
you call us to run this race of life.

We want to run it always with you,
always with our eyes fixed on you
and not distracted
by things that do not matter.

And so each day
may we look to you
and live
in the way that you would.

May God bless us this day in our journey
and every day.
May we know his presence.
Amen

Most Important of All

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I wanted to know
what The Most Important thing was,
which of all God’s words
was the greatest?
What it was most crucial to follow.

Jesus summed it all up in two phrases for me,
Love God
with everything you have got
and love your neighbour
as yourself.

So ‘all’ I have got to do
is love God,
my neighbour
and myself.

It sounds so easy put like that,
I could not disagree.

But actually,
when you think about it,
that is the whole world,
it encapsulates everyone.

Love of God is at the root,
in that is the love for the rest.
If my focus is on loving God,
love for everyone else
should flow through that.

If I can love myself,
in the knowledge
of the depths of God’s love for me,
I should be able to dwell in that love,
soak in it,
so that love overflows in me
onto all those around me.

All bound together
in a circle of love,
mutual support
and fellowship.

Lord,
may I learn to truly love you,
that you are
the most important thing
in my life,
and I may give you
all that I am.

I come
to let you love me.
To stay here,
as your arms stretch out
and hold me tight
– comforting,
healing,
warming,
letting me know
that I am known
and loved.

May I allow your love to sink deep into me.
And from there,
may I be at the point
of being able to love others,
from the security of knowing what I mean to you.

The Greatest Commandment

When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’

The Question about David’s Son

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: ‘What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?’ They said to him, ‘The son of David.’ He said to them, ‘How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying,
“The Lord said to my Lord,
‘Sit at my right hand,
   until I put your enemies under your feet’ ”?
If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?’ No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

Matthew 22: 34-46

Testimony – the 2020 Edition

This is the text of my Going Deeper devotion for today.

It is so easy to sit in church and think everyone else has got it together or is having a great life, only when we start sharing our stories together do we realise that others may have been in a similar situation to us, or are in that place now.  By sharing our stories we can help support one another and strengthen our faith and the life of the church.

We all have a story to tell.  Our life and journey are unique, but will touch on common factors with other people.  Our faith story is no exception.

In his brilliant sermon to us on Sunday morning, Trey Hall encouraged us to tell our stories -so, here is (part of) mine.  I did share this in written form when we first came to here, but this is an updated version.

When I left school I worked for our local church as part admin part outreach worker which really developed my call.  Fast forward to when our children were born and I was very fortunate to be able to be at home with them and was perfectly content with doing that and volunteering through church – until God had a different idea…

Thus, I became a Circuit Minister in 1999.  Aside from raising our sons, I felt as if I was doing what I was always made to do.  I loved it.  I got to meet all kinds of interesting people of all ages and talk about God with them, I had the massive privilege of being with people at significant times in their lives, I got to work with great people with God and we were doing some new and exciting stuff.  We were happy and settled.  It was hard work, but the blessings were immense.

Then in March 2005 I got proper flu.  Although the flu symptoms went after a few weeks, I was left with an awful chronic cough that also caused hoarseness, which is not much help when your voice is your tool, and breathing problems. I was constantly exhausted and had various other symptoms, but the cause was never quite pinpointed.  I visited various consultants and no one could really offer me a diagnosis or a real prognosis – but it meant my life had turned upside down.

I had several trial returns to work, fully supported by my GP and the Circuit, but wasn’t able to sustain it.  Eventually it was concluded that I was going to have to retire on ill health.  At 41 and with two teenage sons, this wasn’t quite how we had envisaged life going.

I guess it should have been a scary time, but I didn’t feel it.  Partly I was focused on being ill and trying to find a way to live with this new reality, but I never lost a sense of “we do not know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future”.  I felt such a strong sense of God holding me and holding whatever was to come, however unclear that seemed.

So we moved out of Circuit life.  I was left with the new reality of feeling that I no longer had a role.  I couldn’t do any of the things I used to love – not just work, but everyday life.  But still I felt that God had called me to something different, to be a Minister in a different way.

Unfortunately as the years went on my symptoms multiplied and it became clear that there was something very specific going on, not just post-viral problems.  I was able to do less and less.

Eventually I was given a diagnosis of Sjogren’s Syndrome, which is basically effects every part of the body that produces fluid.  This is a brilliant illustration of where and how it effects the body,

but for me as well as the lung issues, it effects my joints, balance and concentration/processing (if I don’t give a sensible answer it’s because I’m trying to process the question and what the answer is), as well as giving me dry eyes (with vision issues), dry mouth (which gives difficulty in chewing and swallowing) and awful skin.  I find sitting or standing for long hard work and struggle with energy, everything is an effort and I struggle if I try to do anything for more than an hour. I have little spare energy for anything I might want to do, having to concentrate on what I really need to do.  I also have to be very careful what clothes I wear so they don’t cause me any problems.  As anyone who has spent more than a few minutes with me will have noticed I am constantly drinking and putting in eye drops – and I have an assortment of other medications I take that try and keep on top of the symptoms – though nothing can cure it.  That is my reality.

Over the last couple of years as my symptoms have increased and effected more parts of my body, it became clear that I was struggling to live in a house and I wasn’t very safe on the stairs.  We are very fortunate to be cared for so well and were able to find a bungalow to live in.  That has made our lives so much easier and we believe that God has brought us here with a purpose and a place. 

Well… that was up until COVID-19 arrived in our lives, and the church had to find a new way to be.  Although COVID has had its challenges, for me it has also been an opportunity to rediscover my voice and my ministry.  I am so grateful to Sean for inviting me to be a part of the team that creates these Going Deeper devotions.  By recording slots in my own time and my own space and with the ability to record in tiny chunks and put it all together, I have been able to do what I haven’t been able to do for 15 years and publicly lead God’s people in worship and prayer.

So, just when I was wondering what I can do, what role there is for me any more, how God is going to use me, something new came along – and I am as surprised as anyone else.  My ministry has been in some small way, which to me is a massive way, been given back to me, my life, faith and spirituality have found a new path

The last few years have not been easy, there have been times when I struggled with not being able to do what I enjoyed or even the basic tasks. There were times when church was the place I most needed to be – yet the hardest and most painful place to be.  There will no doubt continue to be those times and on bad days it can be heart-breaking.  But God, his arms, his love, his hope and his peace have the only thing that held me together. God wrapped his arms of love tightly round me and gently held me.  God is in the reality of where I am and continues to work in and through it – and me.

I hold tightly always to the words of Habakkuk 3:17-19:

Fig trees may no longer bloom,
or vineyards produce grapes;
olive trees may be fruitless,
and harvest time a failure;
sheep pens may be empty,
and cattle stalls vacant—
18 but I will still celebrate
because the Lord God
saves me.
19 The Lord gives me strength.
He makes my feet as sure
as those of a deer,
and he helps me stand
on the mountains

Life does not look like we anticipated it would and is a struggle every day.  Having a chronic illness that effects every part of your body is exhausting and frankly mostly sore, but God is with us and continues to work. I may not be able to much physically, but God still is God. God saves me, holds me gently and gives me strength for what he calls me for and to.  God still calls and still uses us.

May we each know that in our lives.