Saturday, 22 December 2012

Weeping may last for a night time

Cowering under the bedcovers through the night, gripped in the midst of fear, almost suffocating from the weight of those fears. Many tears but not a wink of sleep passed my eyes that night as I poured out my fears to God.  This is how I saw in the new year on 31st December, 2011. As the new day dawned, and the first rays of light from 2012 shone through the bedroom window, chasing away the shadows of the dark night, He uttered a verse of promise to my heart:

As those words took root in my heart, the fears were swallowed up by His promise, as hope and peace took their rightful place, growing with the strengthening daylight.

This word of God has not returned to Him empty, but has proven itself to me over this year, time and time again.

It is a promise that has sustained me throughout a difficult year. And it is a promise that has returned to me as the year closes and I have sought to respond to the tragedy of Sandy Hook, which stands as a solemn and Holy testimony to the darkness engulfing the land, to a land that has been “given over” in Holy judgment, a land where His hand is lifted high yet the people do not see it. As in America, so in Britain.

This Christmas time, as Immanuel holds my attention, I remember how Light stepped down into the darkness. The darkness did not overcome. Darkness was defeated. This is the promise we have, the promise we celebrate! No matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. In this time of darkness, it is surely time to teach one another a lament, to hold fast to the promise of Immanuel.

Sovereign Lord, list the tears of my lament
In your scroll, hear my cry
For our land walks in the dark
And we cannot see the light
Arise O Lord! May we hear Your Voice again!

Sovereign Lord, truth has stumbled in the streets
Righteousness stands afar
Yet we have not lost our hope
As we cry “Come, Emmanuel!”
The light shines in the dark and is not overcome!

And weeping may last for a night-time
But rejoicing – it shall come
Yes rejoicing – it shall come
Rejoicing shall come with the dawning of the day!

Sovereign Lord, my heart is poured out on the ground
The fathers’ hearts are turned away
But as darkness closes in
Your deliverance draws near
Arise, O Lord! And turn our mourning into joy!

And weeping may last for a night-time
But rejoicing – it shall come
Yes rejoicing – it shall come
Rejoicing shall come with the dawning of the day!

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Immanuel - God with us

Last year as I thought about the blessed incarnation of Christ, the Word dwelling among us in flesh, my thoughts were shadowed by the cross of Christ.

This year as I think about the Word coming to tabernacle amongst us, I am mindful of His return.

It is no surprise, really, that the world can find it in its heart to acknowledge the birth of Christ upon the earth. A baby in a manger doesn't challenge us. Little Jesus, meek and mild.

This year, I want to shout out the truth, that He is coming again. And His second coming will be so different to His first coming.

As I remember the coming of the King this year, I am overawed. My Jesus, My King, My Saviour, My Lord…I bow my knee before Him. May He grant me a greater boldness in the coming year to proclaim the year of His favour, the year of Jubilee. 

Thursday, 29 November 2012

The fear of the Lord leads to life

I fear my God. May this be the beginning, the foundation, the source of any wisdom I may have. I have been crying out for wisdom, for understanding – and my fear of Him is growing.

My God is Holy, Holy, Holy.

I know what it cost Him that I could be adopted into His family, a sinner like me, who has failed to keep His law.

It cost Him His only begotten Son, His beloved Son with whom He is well pleased.

He gave His Son up to death as the punishment for all my sin, for without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness of sin.

THIS makes me fear Him.

And through my adoption into His family He has given me, not a spirit that makes me a slave to fear, but rather the spirit of sonship by which I can cry out “Abba, Father!” His beloved Son delighted in the fear of the Lord through the Spirit of the Lord. It is my prayer that I may understand something of what it means to delight in the fear of the Lord.

But when I cast my eyes around me at the world in which I live, at a world which has no fear of God before its eyes, then my flesh trembles in fear of Him.

O, let all the earth fear the Lord, let all the people of the world revere Him! 
(Ps 33:8)

For this is what He says concerning those who fear Him:

“Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honoured his name. ‘They will be mine’, says the Lord Almighty, ‘in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not’” 
(Mal 3:16-18).

May we fear God, and give Him the glory.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Wonders on the earth below

May all the kings of the earth praise you, O Lord,
    when they hear the words of your mouth.
Psalm 138:4

The wonder of Him demonstrating His signs is that so many people do not see His hand at work. His powerful, majestic hand.

The wonder of Him demonstrating His signs is that so many people do not hear His Voice. His powerful, majestic Voice.

Jesus spoke in parables when He dwelt among men, God incarnate, speaking the very words that God gave Him, and His words were accepted by His own. Others could not understand because of a hardness of heart, unbelief.

Today is the day of salvation. The eternal gospel is still to be proclaimed to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people.

In His mercy, God continues to speak. He is not silent. Even when He speaks in judgment, there is still opportunity for repentance. Even in the Hour of Judgment, the eternal gospel continues to be preached.

The worst thing that can happen to us is for God to cease to speak.


Almighty God, Heavenly Father, thank You that You continue to speak. Thank You that You speak through Your Word. Thank You that You speak through Your signs in the heavens above and on the earth below. Give us ears to hear. Let our hearts not be hardened against You. Give us opportunity to speak Your Word, to our friends, neighbours, loved ones, for the days are evil. May Your gospel continue to be preached so that when Jesus returns His bride will be comprised of every nation, tribe, language and people, that He may receive the Glory due to His Name. Amen.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

"No-one else dared join them"

Our God is Almighty. He sits enthroned in the heavens. The lightning, hail, snow and clouds, and stormy winds all do His bidding. He speaks. His Voice is powerful, majestic. He reduces the rulers of this world to nothing…He blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.

Our God shows wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below.

From heaven He pronounces His judgment, and the land fears and is quiet.

Come and see the works of the Lord, the desolations He has brought on the earth.

“Be still, and know that I am God”.

Our God is Almighty. He makes distinctions between His people and others. His Presence is with His people, and He gives them rest. He promises He will make a distinction again between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.

“No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number.” 
(Acts 5:13-14).

Almighty God, Sovereign Lord, I pray fear of Your Name falls across the nations. I pray Your Name is lifted high in awed wonder at the works of Your Hands. I pray that whilst You oppose the proud, You would give grace, grace and more grace to the humble. I pray more and more men and women believe in Your Name and are added to Your people, to Your treasured possession, for the sake of the Name of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

(For meditation: Psalm 148:8; Psalm 29:4; Isa 40:23-24; Acts 2:19; Psalm 76:8; Psalm 46:8,10; Exodus 33:14; Malachi 3:18)

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Small Wonder book discussion

My dear friend, Elizabeth DeBarros, has been hosting a book discussion in recent weeks over at her blog, findingthemotherlode.

The book, Small Wonder, by Barbara Kingsolver, is written by a lady who has experienced much of common grace in her life, but has yet to recognise the reality of, and bend her knee before, the God who has revealed so much truth to her and has brought so much goodness into her life.

Reading through the essays in this book has not only endeared Kingsolver and her writing to me, it has helped me to see the extent to which all of us are the recipients of God's grace at work in our lives, and I trust that those of us who have engaged in the discussion will be better equipped to "defend the Truth with a right spirit", as Elizabeth puts it. 

It is my honour today to have written a response to Kingsolver's essay "Household words" considering the topic of homelessness. Please do come and join the discussion.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Not Guilty

“Do you find the defendant guilty or not guilty?”

I sat there, heart thumping, desperately wanting to hold someone’s hand. There was none. I was sitting alone, representing my family, waiting for the jury to deliver their verdict on a most harrowing case of abuse against a member of my family.

“NOT guilty.”

The words pierced my heart, shattering its hope for justice into pieces. A sob broke out of the depths of my being as I took in the enormity of the words, the lack of justice, the lack of protection, the impact this would have on my family.

As I walked dazed from the courtroom, the defendant and his barrister came out, the barrister smiling, saying “Congratulations!” to his client. I could almost hear the defendant saying to himself: “Nothing will shake me, I’ll always be happy and never have trouble”. (Psalm 10:6). The defence barrister had done an excellent job, sowing enough doubt into the heart of the jury that they could not be sure of the testimony against this man, who had himself lied under oath before Almighty God. I can hear him saying to himself “God has forgotten; he covers his face and never sees; He won’t call me to account.” (Ps 10:11;13).


Psalm 10 has been the cry of my heart during these harrowing days in court. It has helped me to form the words to cry out against the wickedness which has been committed:

“He lies in wait like a lion in cover, he lies in wait to catch the helpless; he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net. His victims are crushed, they collapse; they fall under his strength.” (vv9-10).

As I listened to him telling lies in court under oath, I had verse 7 in my mind: “His mouth is full of curses and lies and threats;  trouble and evil are under his tongue” even as I called on God to fulfil verse 15 in that courtroom: “Break the arm of the wicked and evil man; call him to account for his wickedness that would not be found out.”

My whole spirit has been crying out throughout the case “Arise, Lord! Lift up your hand, O God. Do not forget the helpless.” (v12)

And I am assured in my spirit that He will do exactly this. Justice may not have been served in this earthly courtroom, but I know that my God hears the cry of the afflicted, that He hates wickedness and injustice, and that there is a Day when all will be set right. On that Day, there will be no clever defence barrister to twist words, to cast doubt on the honest, heart-rending testimony of a broken individual. Instead, our God who does see all trouble and grief will consider it to take it in hand (v14). Justice will be served. Wickedness will be punished. For the sake of the defendant, I pray he repents and believes before that Day.


As I reflect on the events of this past couple of weeks, I find my mind drifting to another courtroom, a heavenly one. But this time, I am the defendant. My heart knows my guilt. Then my barrister stands to sum up the evidence against me. Before He speaks, He walks over to me. He takes my hand in His – such relief to hold a hand at a moment like this. I feel the scars on His hand. And lifting our entwined hands up, He declares before the heavenly court “I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions; as far as the east is from the west, that’s how far I have removed your transgressions from you.” (Isa 44:22; Ps 103:12). This time, the words “NOT guilty!” which reverberate around the courtroom bring a sob of joy from the depths of my being.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Living inside Hope

I am currently participating in a thought-provoking book discussion here, considering some essays by Barbara Kingsolver. I hopped onto her website today and came across this quote: “The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. The most you can do is live inside that hope, running down its hallways, touching the walls on both sides” (from Animal Dreams). I think she’s spot on. Except that to fully live inside True Hope, we will run along the path of His commands, holding His hands. My Hope (and hers, and may she be given eyes to see this) is not in a safe building, a safe place somewhere….my Hope is in a Person.

When I think of Hope, I think of how apart from Him I can do nothing, but that if I remain in Him, I will bear much fruit. Even in my prayers....

“O God of grace,
I bewail my cold, listless, heartless prayers;
Their poverty adds sin to sin.
If my hope were in them I should be undone.
But the worth of Jesus perfumes my feeble breathings,
And wins their acceptance”
(Extract from “Continual Repentance”, Valley of Vision).

I LOVE the word “but”. God ALWAYS uses this word. On our own – hopeless. BUT NOW, in Christ – we worship the God of Hope and possess all the hope in the world! Our prayers, on their own…hopeless. BUT NOW, offered in the Name of Christ….a fragrance pleasing to the Father.

How does the bridegroom describe the words of His beloved bride?

“Your lips drop sweetness as the honeycomb, my bride;
    milk and honey are under your tongue.”
(Song of Solomon 4:11)

Oh! What love is this!

I will never forget the day, just about a couple of years ago, when I read these words and wept and wept because they confirmed what the Lord had been working in my heart over the previous few weeks:

To be a Christian is to believe that it is the Father who defines our identity and is to be believed against all inner and outer accusations to the contrary when he says of us ‘This son of mine’. To know that is not to skulk in the back pew; it is to come forward with confidence to receive the inheritance.” (Thomas Smail, The Forgotten Father).

I skulked in the back pew for far too many years of my Christian life, feeling wretched and worthless over my sin. Even now, I struggle with the temptation to revert to this way of thinking. But this is a denial of all that Christ has accomplished, when He once and for all paid for sin when He shouted out in triumph on the cross “It is finished!” It is true, His blood really has cleansed us from our sin and made us clean, when we repent and believe.

The words of the bridegroom again:

“All beautiful you are, my darling;
    there is no flaw in you.”
(Song of Solomon 4:7)

Words of hope to feast on today.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

A poem for when His face is hidden....

When I felt secure, I said,
    “I will never be shaken.” 
Lord, when you favored me,
    you made my mountain stand firm;
but when you hid your face, 
    I was dismayed.

Psalm 30:6-7

With Your face turned towards me,
I know peace deep inside;
My steps, though uncertain,
Gladly follow my Guide.
As Your face shines upon me,
Your grace falls like rain,
The path broadens beneath me,
My ankles do not give way.

With Your face turned towards me,
I felt so secure,
Whatever the trial,
I’d faithfully endure.
As Your face shone upon me
Unlit paths became bright,
Hope burned in the darkness
As faith gave me sight.


O Lord, I’m dismayed!
Your face I can’t see!
The grief in my heart -
It overwhelms me!
I want nothing on earth
Besides You alone!
I’m feeble and crushed;
In anguish I groan.

Darkness now threatens
Giants loom overhead
Fear rises within me
Can’t shake off this dread.
I yearn for those days
When Your face I could see;
To You, Lord, I call,
I cry for mercy.


Your face may now be hid,
But my cry will reach Your ears,
I know You won’t leave me,
I’ve no reason to fear.
My thirst will be satisfied,
Hope will be reborn,
I’ll wait on You, my Lord -
A watchman waiting for dawn.

I remember saying to a friend not many weeks ago that I didn't think I would ever be uprooted in my walk with God again, as I felt so close to the Lord...if there is one lesson I have learned from this experience of the Lord hiding His face, it is this: It is He alone who sustains us. If I stand firm through the battles, it is by His grace alone. I can see in verse 6 of Psalm 30 that David likewise seemed to be trusting his ability to stand firm - "When I felt secure I said I will never be shaken". The experience of the Lord hiding His face quickly brought him closer to the truth - that it was the Lord alone who sustains Him in those times of safety - "You made my mountain stand firm, but when You hid Your face, I was dismayed." The reality is that "Apart from Me, you can do nothing". The reality is, as Paul Washer says, apart from Him, we can't even breathe. The mercy is that He does draw near, that He delights to shower His blessings upon us, that in Christ He never leaves us, never forsakes us, because His sacrifice alone has paid it all. He may hide His face, but only for a moment, and for only one bring us closer still.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Peaks and troughs

Less than 2 weeks ago, I was standing on top of Helvellyn mountain in the Lake District, experiencing such a closeness with the Lord and the wonder of His creation. The words of Isaiah 40 sprang to life in my heart, as the sheer grandness of the Lord spoke to my heart, together with His nearness, the fact that such an awesome Creator would stoop to deposit in my heart His Holy Spirit, through the blood of His Son. I had no words to express my joy.

This week, I have found myself at the bottom of a pit, berating myself for failing to keep my footing secure on the Rock, allowing myself to be cast asunder. I have had no words to express my emptiness. 

Today I found this hymn by John Newton, tucked away inside the Olney Hymns which he wrote with his friend, William Cowper. His words speak for me. 

Return to bless my waiting eyes,
And cheer my mourning heart, O LORD!
Without thee, all beneath the skies
No real pleasure can afford.

When thy loved presence meets my sight,
It softens care, and sweetens toil;
The sun shines forth with double light,
The whole creation wears a smile.

Upon thine arm of love I rest,
Thy gracious voice forbids my fear;
No storms disturb my peaceful breast,
No foes assault when thou art near.

But ah! since thou hast been away,
Nothing but trouble have I known;
And Satan marks me for his prey
Because he sees me left alone.

My sun is hid, my comforts lost,
My graces droop, my sins revive;
Distressed, dismayed, and tempest–tossed,
My soul is only just alive!

LORD, hear my cry and come again!
Put all mine enemies to shame,
And let them see, ’tis not in vain
That I have trusted in thy name.

Feelings come and go. The word of the Lord endures forever. He is my Rock. He is my stronghold. He never changes. 

I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.
Psalm 34:4

Thursday, 19 July 2012

How long....

A friend recently counselled when dealing with pain “Be real”.

As a Christian who firmly believes in the sovereignty of Almighty God, I confess I sometimes find this difficult. Knowing that God is in control and allows all things for His glory and His purposes, I so often push aside my pain and ask God to give me the strength to deal with the situation that He has ordained.

I want to jump straight in and shout out Habbakuk’s cry of faith

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Saviour.” 
(Hab 3:17-18).

I have been redirected to the opening chapters of Habbakuk.

Back up. I have been redirected to considering what the name Habbakuk means. To “embrace” or “wrestle”. Here is a prophet who wrestled with God.

And how he wrestled with God in laying bare his heart in verses 2-4 of the opening chapter. “How long?” ;“you do not listen”; “you do not save”.

This is no angry fist-waving, which God forbid we ever do! These are words of a man who has a clear understanding of the nature and character of God. He knows God is a God who listens, who saves, who is a God of justice, does not tolerate wrong, who punishes the wicked and ensures that righteousness prevails. He also has a clear understanding of the wickedness and injustice of the situation he sees around him. These are the words of a man who understands that our God is a relational God, a personal God, a God who says to Isaiah “come now, let us reason together” (Isa 1:18). A God who says “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). Abraham was a friend of God (Isa 41:8), and the LORD would speak with Moses “face to face, as a man speaks with his friend” (Ex 33:11). All these men understood the Holiness of God. They also understood that is only through being honest about their lack of understanding that they could hope to understand more of His ways.

Maybe I’ve been content with my lack of understanding.

I’m starting to see that by faith, there is something more. Ask, seek, knock. If you lack wisdom, ask God.

Habbakuk wasn’t criticised for his questions. The LORD stooped to answer him. Yet the answer Habbakuk received grieved him mightily. “I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones and my legs trembled” (Hab 3:16). When we have the faith to seek to understand more of God, we will receive greater understanding of His awesome nature. It may increase our mourning, our lament. Our heart and our flesh may fail – BUT GOD is the strength of our hearts and our portion forever. And it is He who will give us the strength to shout out with all of our heart, mind and soul Habakkuk’s cry of faith.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

My God, my Rock

During our time of worshipping our God through song last Sunday, I was overcome by the words “you are my God” in one of the songs. This Holy, Holy, Holy God, this Almighty God, creator of the heavens and the universe, who reigns above all in majesty, this Sovereign God who works all things for His pleasure – He has stooped to reveal Himself to me – wretched sinner that I am – has opened my eyes to Him, and has had me brought before Him so that I can call Him “my God”. Mine. I know Him!

Truly, everything in this world pales in comparison to knowing that you know God, that you are known by Him. He is my treasure. He is my reward. In Christ I have everything I need. What a God!

What is man that You’re mindful of him?
For You dwell in a High Holy place –
Yet when this poor wretch called You answered me
And now I can feel Your embrace.

My God, my Rock, my Lord, my King
My hiding place - my soul must sing!
My shield and refuge, my Reward,
My heart and flesh cry out for my Lord!

What is man that You’re mindful of him?
For Your ears are attentive to my cry
You revive lowly spirits and contrite hearts
And now I can stand on the heights.

What is man that You’re mindful of him?
You record the tears of my lament
But in Christ, how my comfort overflows!
The joy of the Lord is my strength.

Scripture references: 
Ps 8:4; Isa 57:15; Ps 34:6,15; Ps 18:2,33; Ps 32:7; Ps 84:2; Ps 56:8; 2 Cor 1:5; Neh 8:10

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Citius, Altius, Fortius

You were wearied by all your ways,
    but you would not say, ‘It is hopeless.’
You found renewal of your strength,
    and so you did not faint.
Isaiah 57:10

I remember as a child being inspired by stories of endurance. From a young age, marathon runners who pushed themselves beyond the limit to finish their race had a special affection in my heart. As I grew older and watched Olympic Games come and go, one event that captured my attention was the rowing races – every 4 years I would cheer on Sir Steve Redgrave as he helped to row his crew to a gold medal – at 5 consecutive Olympic Games. Gripped by the desire to experience the satisfaction that comes from having pushed yourself to the limit and overcome all temptation to give up, I took up rowing myself, at a time in my life when I was willing to push my body beyond its limits. I became hooked on the feeling of pride that would swell inside whenever I beat my previous best time, pushing myself harder than ever before.

As London prepares to host the Olympic Games at the end of the month, the motto of the Olympics springs to mind: Citius, Altius, Fortius – a Latin expression meaning “Faster, Higher, Stronger”. The Olympic creed as coined by Pierre de Coubertin reads “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

Don’t we like to fight well? When faced with weariness to dig deep, to tap into those inner resources, to pull ourselves up by the bootlaces when all looks lost, to renew our strength when we are about to faint. "Keep Calm and Carry On."

It takes a lot to crush the human spirit.

It takes an act of God to crush the human spirit.

I speak from experience. He had to crush mine.

Yet, frighteningly, His Word tells us that even being crushed by Almighty God does not always bring man to repentance.

O Lord, do not your eyes look for truth?
    You struck them, but they felt no pain;
    you crushed them, but they refused correction.
They made their faces harder than stone
    and refused to repent.
Jeremiah 5:3

Yet it is an act of mercy, of kindness, for God to crush the human spirit – that we might recognise our spiritual bankruptcy, our inability to offer Him anything of righteousness in and of ourselves – and cry out for mercy and grace.

And oh! How that grace flows when we come to this blessed place!

For this is what the high and lofty One says—
    he who lives forever, whose name is holy:
“I live in a high and holy place,
    but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly
    and to revive the heart of the contrite.”
Isaiah 57:15

Sometimes, the strongest thing we can ever do is to cry out “Lord, it is hopeless!”

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

O tender soul

"Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs" (Eph 5:19)

O tender soul, lift up your eyes
To see the One who paid the sacrifice
"It is finished!" His final cry
Ris'n, ascended, now at the Father's side

O tender soul, open your ears
Our Advocate bids us come and draw near
No condemnation - we've been set free!
He has promised He'll strengthen the weak

The Way is open, through Christ draw near
Our sins forgiven, no need to fear
The very throne room of heav'n awaits
Lead us, Spirit, that we might find mercy and grace!

O tender soul, hold out your hands
He will raise and lift us up so we can stand
In Christ Jesus we have victory!
May He open our eyes so we can see

O tender soul, come, seek His face
With confidence approach the throne of grace
His intercession will never cease
May this knowledge fill our hearts with peace.