Tag Archive: Faith


Journey

I’ve been a Christ-follower since my teens, in the mid-1960s, and marvel at the vast range of hymns and spiritual songs out there, pertinent to all kinds of moods and seasons. Just occasionally in recent years I’ve come across a ‘belter’ that I’ve never heard before … this is one such. Its lyrics are special … yes, one of those you wished you’d written yourself !! So it’s with great enthusiasm that I commend Joy Dine’s brilliant hymn to you. In a ‘meter’ which fits with many ‘well-known’ tunes, I find “Ode to Joy” as appropriate as any – do enjoy and let it speak for itself.

(My own photo: a section of Hadrian’s Wall, northern England – June 2012)

~~~~~~

God who sets us on a journey
to discover, dream and grow,
lead us as you led your people
in the desert long ago;
journey inward, journey outward,
stir the spirit, stretch the mind,
love for God and self and neighbour
marks the way that Christ defined.

Exploration brings new insights,
changes, choices we must face;
give us wisdom in deciding,
mindful always of your grace;
should we stumble, lose our bearings,
find it hard to know what’s right,
we regain our true direction
focused on the Jesus light.

End our longing for the old days,
grant the vision that we lack –
once we’ve started on this journey
there can be no turning back;
let us travel light, discarding
excess baggage from our past,
cherish only what’s essential,
choosing treasure that will last.

When we set up camp and settle
to avoid love’s risk and pain,
you disturb complacent comfort,
pull the tent pegs up again;
keep us travelling in the knowledge
you are always at our side;
give us courage for the journey,
Christ our goal and Christ our guide.

 Joy Dine (1937 – 2001)

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Carrying

70 years is a vast amount of time … if you’re aged 70 or above I honour and congratulate you.

For 70 years God’s ancient people endured ignominious captivity in Babylon, before being permitted to return to their homeland. Many of those who returned were born in captivity, had never seen ‘the land of promise’, and were entirely dependent on childhood stories, which fired their imagination and longing for the ‘home’ they’d never known.

Psalm 126 is a short piece describing the emotions of that return from captivity, the adversity faced on arrival, and the hope brought to them by prophetic input.

Here we may discover something of our own journey towards God … often experienced in three repeating stages/cycles:-

 1 – HAPPINESS – described in vs 1-3 – A Dreaming

Whenever God works to bring about release to captives there is a sense of joy. Sometimes it seems too good to be true, almost like we’re in a dream world. For many, the initial experience of saving grace, of forgiveness, of sheer relief, of peace within our heart leaves us pinching ourselves to check it’s real and we’re not sleeping. Very often it can be the recognition by others, of what God has done, that brings it home to us. They say, “the Lord has done great things for them” and we respond, “Oh yes, the Lord has done great things for us, and we rejoice”

 2 – HARDSHIP – described in 4-6 – A Drudgery

The euphoria of ‘deliverance’ is more often than not tempered by discovering the true state of things (our hearts, our circumstances, for example) and may produce severe anxiety over the future.  Lyrics of a ‘Verve’ song are quite pertinent:  “It’s a BITTER-SWEET symphony, this life”.

The returning captives found:

  • Uncultivated Land – hard, dry and barren
  • Unpromising Conditions – unseasonable weather and a wilderness environment
  • Unwelcoming Neighbours – who were not exactly pleased to see their return

NONE of this was conducive for sowing seeds. There was the strong likelihood of crop failure – and a farmer’s precious seed (which is his future) all being wasted. He sowed with tears, with apprehension, with uncertainty … BUT

https://i1.wp.com/www.rutahsa.com/sheaves.jpg

3 – HARVEST – described in 6 – A Doubtless

The contrasting ‘moods’ of previous verses take another twist on this winding journey in our final verse, with the ‘prophetic’ use of a powerful word: “DOUBTLESS” – the original Hebrew text suggests this word which is beautifully picked up by the translators of our Authorized Version. What fresh hope this word births – what new confidence it inspires – what a firm foundation for faith it offers – what outstanding encouragement – “DOUBTLESS”.

How descriptive of our journey

As people of God, ours is a faith journey within a community of faith – facing our hardships with perseverance, while trusting the Living Word and the Spirit of God, we work hard, we sow our seeds, we weep over the hardness of our own hearts, and of others, we commit ourselves to God, casting ourselves on His unfailing love. As the “DOUBTLESS” kicks in, we may grow in the certainty that our ‘toil’ is not in vain, and  that we will reach the moment of HARVEST. Having carried seeds, we will carry sheaves, too.

The fruit will be gathered in because of the favour of God, as clearly expressed in another Hebrew Psalm: “You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly. The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it. You drench its furrows and level its ridges; you soften it with showers and bless its crops.  You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance. The grasslands of the wilderness overflow; the hills are clothed with gladness. The meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with grain; they shout for joy and sing. ” Psalm 65:9-13

What remarkable evidence of God’s providential care for the natural creation – watering, enriching, filling, drenching, leveling, softening, blessing and crowning. This being so, how much more does He care for us, described as His new creation in Christ.

REMEMBER THIS: God has not brought you out of captivity in order to fail, but in order to bless you and cause you to increase – DOUBTLESS.

So doubt less.

~~~~~

FOOTNOTE: These are notes of a ‘sermon’ I preached at King’s Baptist Church, Cleethorpes – on Sunday 28th January 2018

Affirmation & Aspiration

As we call ‘time’ on yet another calendar year and welcome in 2018

I share some lyrics of a song I wrote a couple of years ago,

reflecting the title – Affirmation & Aspiration –

(the tune is for an audience of One)

They’re offered along with a heartfelt prayer

that the coming year will be fragrant with divine favour upon your life

~~~~~~~

You are my Source

You are my Centre

You are my Home

Where I belong

Refrain:

Lord, may I know You

So may I grow like You

That I may make You known

Wherever I go

You are my Rock

You are my Refuge

You are my Fortress

Where I am strong

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another Wave

It’s 3 weeks since my brother passed away and I miss him like crazy.

The grieving process for me has been deep, as waves of sadness sweep over me at unexpected moments, and for no apparent reason other than they’re inside & need to get out.  Of course, the ability to express grief through writing has been immensely important and therapeutic, which is why I’ve not hesitated to share my experience through Ready Writer – also I guess if it can help one other person on their painful journey, then the exercise will be doubly worth-while.

This morning, during early devotions, another wave crashed onto the shore-line of my broken heart. As it surged over me, somehow I was able to recall and hang on to words which have been sustaining me during this period – “Into my grieving I weave …” Here’s a link to a previous post entitled: Into-My-Grieving

Now, reading in the Psalms has proved such a solace over many years, and today was no exception, for Psalm 107 ministered deeply, bringing re-assurance of God’s ‘enduring love’ and the knowledge that He delivers from distress those who call on him in trouble – the refrain of verses 6, 13, 19 and 28.

Furthermore, verses 29, 30 of the Psalm spoke directly to my heart with the following words: “He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven” – reminding me of Jesus as He stood in fishing boat on Lake Galilee and ordered wind and waves: “Be muzzled” – Oh, the peace my Saviour brings.

If that was not sufficient I also found my way to some incredible words of Celtic Daily Prayer (in Book Two) as follows:-

Declaration of Faith

Lord, I will trust You, help me to journey beyond the familiar and into the unknown

Give me the faith to leave old ways and break fresh ground with You

Christ of the mysteries, can I trust You to be stronger than each storm in me ?

I determine amidst all uncertainty always to trust

I choose to live beyond regret, and let You recreate my life

I believe You will make a way for me and provide for me, if only I trust You

I will trust in the darkness and know that my times are still in Your hand

I will believe You for my future, chapter by chapter, until all the story is written

~~~~~

I believe God’s sustaining grace is enough and more than enough.

Changing to another metaphor, I’m profoundly grateful that the Good Shepherd is with me even as I walk through this dark valley.

Thank You, Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

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.