Category: My Musing


Mainstay

Reading through the Psalms in the New English Bible of 1970, I came across this phrase: “The Lord: the mainstay of my life” – and though perhaps not a literal ‘translation’ the nautical imagery nevertheless conveys the truth that God is the Chief Support of human life – that apart from Him human beings tend to fall apart, become vulnerable in the storms of life, and are prone to instability & ultimate shipwreck – not glorious prospects.

A stay (on a sailing ship) is part of the standard rigging used to support or stabilize the mast, taking the form of a large strong rope or steel wire/rod extending from the upper end of each mast and running down towards the deck of the vessel. Wikipedia states: “The object … is to prevent the masts from falling down, but the stays also prevent springing, when the ship is pitching deep.” – that is, providing stability in an otherwise unstable environment. Here’s a visual of a typical ship’s ‘stay’:

In general usage, the Cambridge Dictionary defines mainstay as, “the most important part of something, providing support for everything else“, while the Collins Dictionary states: “if you describe something as the mainstay of a particular thing, you mean that it is the most basic part of it.

Therefore, we can infer that the NEB ‘translators’ wished to emphasize, and that Scripture intends us to understand, by this paraphrase: “The Lord: the mainstay of my life” precisely that the Lord is INTEGRAL to humanity – that He’s not an add-on – like some app. to be downloaded, according to our personal whims, in order to make life that bit easier. No, He is to life what hydrogen is to water, and what blood is to the body. He is essential to us being whole, human beings – and we were never designed for life apart from Him. To live our lives without such awareness results in diminishing us to living far below our potential, of being incapable of living human life to the full … so that like a car with spark-plugs removed we’re incapable of firing on all cylinders, and life becomes such a strain, rather than a joy.

Our ‘deadly disconnect’ from God has the most dire consequences: for ourselves, our families, our environment, our world – in fact everything is affected detrimentally. This is the reason why God worked proactively in Jesus to redeem the situation – when Jesus announced, “I have come in order that you might have life—life in all its fullness” He proclaimed the good news that through restored relationship with Him, disconnected and disorientated humanity may be restored to the original and live a fully human life.

Writing much later than the Psalms, St Paul in one of his letters wrote concerning Jesus Christ: “…Who is our life…” This revelation, of Christ as our LIFE – giving and sustaining us in life – is so revolutionary, and raises faith in Christ far beyond mere man-made religion, with its absurd practices, into an all-absorbing, full-time relationship with the Creator, as the very essence of human life, and without Whom we are considerably less than we were ever created for.

There’s an old hymn, which expresses this magnificently, albeit in language that may seem strange in the 21st century. It goes:

I need Thee ev’ry hour

Most gracious Lord

No tender voice like Thine

Can peace afford

~~~

Chorus: I need Thee, oh, I need Thee

Ev’ry hour I need Thee

Oh, bless me now, my Saviour

I come to Thee

~~~

I need Thee ev’ry hour

Stay Thou nearby

Temptations lose their pow’r

When Thou art nigh

~~~

I need Thee ev’ry hour

In joy or pain

Come quickly and abide

Or life is vain

~~~

I need Thee ev’ry hour

Most Holy One

Oh, make me Thine indeed

Thou blessed Son

~~~

Words by Annie S. Hawks, 1835–1918

“I need Thee, Oh I need Thee” – that’s the cry of an awakened human spirit, equivalent to the lung’s cry for air, or the parched tongue’s thirst for refreshment. In the cacophony of life it’s common, even as followers of Christ, to miss and ignore that cry, resulting in our impoverishment and a sense of spiritual lost-ness. Alternatively, starting each day with a recognition of our need, and asking that we may acknowledge our Mainstay throughout the day, in whatever appropriate way, will set us up for a more enriching, joy-filled life.

I hope you may benefit from this recommendation.

 

HONOURING THE NAME

Sharing the notes of my ‘sermon’ from Palm Sunday … April 9th 2017

Remember the Burning Bush where Moses is commissioned to visit his people. They were enslaved in Egypt under a tyrannical regime and Moses ‘task’: to lead them into freedom, and into a Promised Land. Moses asks: “Who shall I tell them has sent me”, and God replies: “… tell them I AM has sent you … for this is MY NAME”. “I AM” translates the original Hebrew: “YHWH” – often pronounced as YaHWeH. So, what’s in a name ? Well, in Scripture name indicates the WHOLE PERSON: identity, individuality, personality, character, authority and reputation – and also PRESENCE.

In reading through the Psalms in March I was impressed by the many references to the NAME and made a point of underlining the verses concerned. When I started thinking/praying about this sermon I sensed a ‘nudge’ to re-visit those underlined verses, and decided to write them out in full, which I was then able to analyze … here are a few of my discoveries:

– At least 96 references to the NAME – one third of these (some 32) are either exhortations to, or exclamations of, praise to the NAME – a significant number of these have strong musical connotations – (singing, playing instruments & dancing).

– A number of ‘adjectives’ are used to describe the NAME – e.g. MAJESTIC, HOLY, GOOD, GLORIOUS, GREAT, AWESOME, EXALTED.

– One stand out reference – (86:11) – is a frequent prayer of mine: “Give me an undivided heart that I may fear (or reverence) Your NAME” –  hence, the sermon title, expressing my desire to encourage a stronger commitment to HONOURING the NAME.

– Many of these verses indicate HOW we may indeed honour the NAME – e.g. by LOVING, TRUSTING, DECLARING, PRAISING, CALLING ON the NAME.

Now this is Palm Sunday when the Christian world commemorates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on a young donkey. A ‘prophetic’ event described in all four Gospels. Importantly, each writer records the words of the crowd (mainly Jesus’ followers) as they accompany Him into the city: “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord” (Luke amends slightly to “Blessed is the King who comes in the Name of the Lord). These words, drawn out of Psalm 118:26, a Messianic Psalm, strongly affirm Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah (or, the Christ).

Further ‘revelation’ is given as Jesus prays on the eve of His crucifixion – a deeply moving and significant prayer, found only in John’s gospel, where a couple of His petitions under-score the importance of the NAME. Listen with your heart as Jesus prays: “HOLY FATHER, protect them by the power of Your Name – THE NAME YOU HAVE GIVEN ME … while I was with them I protected them and kept them safe by THE NAME YOU GAVE ME” – (John 17:11b-12a). Of course, Jesus was fully aware of the significance of the NAME, and of His own Name. “JESUS” literally means “YHWH SAVES” – and the implication of Jesus’ prayer, recorded by John, ought to banish any doubt concerning His true identity and mission.

ABU’S STORY: I met Abu on a plane at Tripoli airport, which was flying our team out to Ghana, but taking on extra passengers in Libya. Abu sat in the vacant seat beside me, and we quickly engaged in conversation. He noticed a book I was reading – ‘Knowing God’ by J I Packer – and asked if I was a pastor. He shared an experience of a vivid dream, in which an assailant attempted to strangle him. As a ‘nominal’ Muslim, with a Muslim father, he called on Allah and recited verses from the Koran all to no avail – as the grip around his neck tightened.

Then he recalled the faith of his ‘Christian’ mother in Accra, and desperately shouted out: “Jesus”. The assailant’s grip instantly released, and Abu woke from the dream with the realization of an incredible power in the name of Jesus, that he’d never known or believed. Prompted by this dream, he gave up his job in Libya, and was returning to Ghana, where he hoped to find a pastor who would explain how he could become a follower of Jesus.

For the next few hours I had the joyful privilege of sharing the Good News of Jesus with this hungry young man. He absorbed the Scriptures which I shared, and some 30,000+ feet above the African Continent, Abu committed his life to Jesus Christ through a prayer of repentance and faith, coming into a wonderful sense of assurance of forgiveness and of peace with God.

I’m sure you will agree this is a remarkable story. I share it because it illustrates the saving power of Jesus’ Name, and in the deep conviction that Jesus, who humbled Himself and surrendered to the humiliation of crucifixion has been exalted to the highest place, and given “the NAME that is above every name, that at the NAME of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

So, as we live through the events of this Holy Week may we be blessed with a renewed desire to honour the NAME.

 

Go Peaceful

best-happy-new-year-pictures

I was recently impacted by these words, written by Paul Field, which deeply resonate with my heart’s desire as we move into 2017. I hope that you appreciate them, and it’s my heartfelt prayer that you will be richly blessed in the coming 12 months – indeed, may we all be known by love.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Go peaceful
in gentleness
through the violence of these days.
Give freely.
Show tenderness
in all your ways.

Through darkness,
in troubled times
let holiness be your aim.
Seek wisdom.
Let faithfulness
burn like a flame.

God speed you!
God lead you,
and keep you wrapped around His heart!
May you be known by love.

Be righteous.
Speak truthfully
in a world of greed and lies.
Show kindness.
See everyone
through heaven’s eyes.

God hold you,
enfold you,
and keep you wrapped around His heart.
May you be known by love.

(by Paul Field)

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Here’s a version of the song I found on YouTube, sung by Sarah Hart:

Go Peaceful – A Reflection

https://c4.staticflickr.com/1/752/23018595403_4738e47e39_b.jpg

Nails And Wood

18 years of Jesus’ life are summarised in 13 words, by Luke in his Gospel:

“Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them”.

Here’s a moving perspective I found in my readings the other day:

NAZARETH – Joseph & Jesus

At key moments he would sense the call of something more

His greatness would be felt in further realms than this.

Strange choice of fosterage for a future king,

to be a trusted, patient elder brother

and learn this happy and hard working, hidden life.

And Joseph taught him all he knew:

to give his best, do small things with great love,

seen or unseen, complete each task, say, ‘it is finished’.

Still, it seemed strange apprenticing for a Messiah

to have familiarity with nails and wood !!

~~~~~

‘From The places of the house that John built readings by Andy Raine
in Celtic Daily Prayer Book 2: Farther Up and Farther In published by Collins. Used with permission.’

https://i2.wp.com/www.amandamuses.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/DSCN5875-web.jpg

Rain Break

My early morning ‘reflections’ were disturbed today by the sound of heavy rain on the lounge window, prompting me to re-locate into our large conservatory, where I sat and simply listened for over an hour, as the torrential downpour beat upon the polycarbonate roof – what a noise and stark reminder of the power of natural forces.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This unexpected distraction (?) provoked a series of thoughts about rain and spiritual outpourings – the subject of much debate and discussion in churches and at conferences during my time in church leadership. 

INTERRUPTION

My starting point has to be what actually happened this morning.  The interruption to my devotions brought awareness of how much I’d gotten into a routine (not necessarily a bad thing) of sitting in quiet reflection on God and on Scripture . It then occurred how often natural rainfall does disrupt our human plans and programmes. As a cricket lover I’m conscious how “rain stopped play” heralds the weather’s unwelcome interference in a game’s flow. Again, our British summer frequently brings a catalogue of planned events (e.g. galas, fêtes, barbecues, picnics etc.) which have to be cancelled due to inclement weather conditions. One thing all this highlights, for me, is our love of being in control, and the frustration we experience at being incapable of controlling the elements.

Is there not a similarity here that applies to ‘spiritual’ outpouring ? Does not the history of Christian ‘revival’ suggest this is the case, with ‘divine interventions’ tending to interfere with normal human plans and activities, and proving quite unwelcome in some quarters, even to the extent of producing strong resistance and opposition (remember the physical attacks made on persons and properties in the early days of Methodism). It is no less true in ecclesiastical life today, as so much time, energy and finance is directed towards controlling plans, programmes, and, sadly, even people. Frankly such a state of affairs does need disturbing by divine interventions, methinks.

INVIGORATION

A second strand of thought then took shape – how the rain invigorates both the earth (bringing refreshment, enlivening and enriching the soil and the existing plants with its nutriments, and so facilitating growth) AND the environment as a whole (e.g. high humidity or pollen counts may sharply reduce as an after-effect of a quick shower) in a kind of ‘cleansing’ process.

I’ve found that a ‘stifling’ atmosphere can develop within some ‘church’ groups, which is most discomforting and incompatible with a genuine worship experience and with kingdom living. Some congregations suffer from high doses of legalism, professionalism and dogmatism, in which the human spirit finds it hard to breathe, let alone flourish. Here there is desperate need of fresh outpourings of the Spirit of God, to purify the environment, to restore creativity, to bring the nutriments and gifts which together promote healthy life.

INSPIRATION

A third line of thought emerged concerning how our Scriptures are replete with this beautiful metaphor. Parallels between natural and spiritual ‘outpourings’ are very evident. Rain is usually indicative of divine blessing. A great Harvest Psalm proclaims: “You visit the earth and water it, You greatly enrich it … You water its ridges abundantly … You make it soft with showers, You bless its growth“. There’s also a rich promise made to the Jewish nation, for instance, that “if you walk in My commandments … then I will give you rain in its season, the land shall yield its produce …

The link is frequently made in the prophetic writings between natural and spiritual rain, none more so than in Joel’s inspired vision of “the age of the Spirit”. Foretelling a change in fortune for his beleaguered people, Joel announces that God “will cause the rain to come down to you – the former rain and the latter rain (i.e. seasonal rains) …” In the next breath the prophet goes on to speak of a universal down-pour of the Holy Spirit, announcing: “… I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh …” Centuries later these words are taken up by Peter, the apostle, in defining events in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. Peter affirms: “THIS is what was spoken by the prophet Joel…” and goes on to explain: “…being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, HE (Jesus Christ) poured out THIS which you now see and hear“.

So, Pentecost was an opening of Heaven’s Windows, and we’re left in no doubt that the ‘gift’ (or outpouring) of the Holy Spirit is available to all, as Peter continues: “…the Promise is to you, and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Now, although we cannot control spiritual seasons any more than we can natural seasons, we can at least ‘position ourselves’ in heart and attitude by seeking God and by asking Him for rain – “Ask the LORD for rain in the time of latter rain. The LORD will make flashing clouds; He will give showers of rain …

Friends, it’s raining hard across the world … and now is not the time for umbrellas !