What marks you?

“What else will distinguish me and your people
from all the other people on the face of the earth?”
(Exodus 33:16)

Moses had asked this question of God after He had threatened that He would no longer travel with the Israelites. It was a very valid query for without God they would have been nothing more than one of the numerous peoples of the earth with no special identity, significance or advantage.

We might well ask ourselves the same question today. What is it that sets us apart from the rest of humanity? What identity and significance do we have that others might not share? And does this shine through in an attractive and positive way?

There are a few answers against which we can examine ourselves individually and collectively as Christians.

Jesus said that we were to be the light of the world – something visible, attractive and helpful

  • “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14)
  • “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16)

Paul taught that the fruit of the Spirit – God’s gift to all believers – was to be characteristic of us all.

  • “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23)

Jesus was clear that our greatest and life-enhancing quality was to be love.

  •  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37)
  • “Love your neighbour as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39)
  • “This is my command: Love each other” (John 15:17)
  • “But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44)

And Paul made it clear that without love nothing was achieved or gained in terms of the Kingdom of God.

  • “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

To be identifiable as God’s people is not to claim it with our mouths but to reveal it with the quality of our lives. As we submit to the Lord Jesus and to the Holy Spirit whom He has given us His Light becomes our light, His love our love and His fruit our fruit. Then He tells us,

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another”  John 13:35)

What is my light?


Lord please pour Your love into my heart that I may also release it to others. Amen.



Believer or Observer?

“Some of them said, “Could not he
who opened the eyes of the blind man
have kept this man from dying?”
(John 11:37)

Jesus was standing outside the tomb of Lazarus. Deeply moved by the situation and the tears of Mary and the others “Jesus wept.” Some of those present said “See how He loved him!” However others were more critical and remarked “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

This criticism reveals something that was common at the time and is still with us today. Some people acknowledge and submit to the Lord, trusting Him in all situations. Others, whilst seeming to follow Him, are in fact observers rather than disciples and believers. As observers they judge Him from their own situations and standpoints instead of surrendering everything to His. We might find something of this in ourselves from time to time when we wonder and even complain that He does not intervene or act the way we would like to see.

Peter revealed something of this when almost immediately after saying “”You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16) he went on to rebuke Him for talking about His suffering and death. He was in turn strongly rebuked by the Lord.

“Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matthew 16:22-23)

Jesus then went on to talk about the need for each disciple to “deny himself.’ One of the ways in which we do this is to surrender our own judgements and viewpoints and to entrust ourselves to His.

In this particular case Jesus had not hurried back to prevent Lazarus from dying. He knew that instead there was a greater work for Him to do – that of raising Lazarus from the dead and in doing so revealing more of the power and glory of God.

When we pray in the Lord’s Prayer “Your will be done on earth as in heaven” we are acknowledging again that it is God’s will and way that is important and not the way we feel at the time. We exercise our faith in trusting His love and will – believing that it will turn out to be greater, better and more love-inspired than ours. That is why in some situations it is important for us to ask the Lord what it is that He wishes us to pray for.

God’s will is better and more love-filled than mine


Lord help me to pray for what is on my heart – and allow You to lead me into what is on Yours. Amen.


Train Yourself


“Since we have these promises, dear friends,
 let us purify ourselves from everything
that contaminates body and spirit,
perfecting holiness out of reverence for God”
(2 Corinthians 7:1)

After watching Roger Federer win his sixth Australian Open and twentieth Grand Slam titles I listened to some of the post-match comments. One of them struck me as very pertinent. It went something like this.

We enjoy watching Roger in action but we don’t see him during the off-peak times. It is then that the hard work takes place. He is busy preparing himself for the challenges to come – working on his fitness and his game, ironing out the kinks and practicing new skills. Away from the crowds it can be a lonely but a critical time, and without it he would not be the champion that he is. He depends upon himself, more than his small team, to maintain his commitment and dedication. We then enjoy the fruit of that time and effort.

It is very much the same for us as Christians. It is in the personal times, away from our everyday activities, that we prepare ourselves to be the people of God and the expression of His love. It is here that we allow Him to examine us and show us the things that are not good in our lives, the ones that need to be worked on and strengthened and the new areas that should be identified and developed. It is rather like the time that Jesus spent in the desert after His baptism – recognising the main challenges that He would face and identifying a proper and Scriptural response.

Paul writing to the church in Corinth is challenging them and us to look to our own characters and lives, to cleanse them of what should not be there and add in what should. It can take commitment and time to break away from old habits and weaknesses and to establish new skills and strengths. It can be done though because we have the Holy Spirit with us to guide and strengthen us – even when humanly speaking our spirits are weak and lazy.

As we work to purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit and to perfect holiness it is not merely for our own sakes but for the honour and glory of God who has called us, as His children, to ‘be holy for I am holy.’

“As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14-16)

As we focus more on what we do to prepare ourselves we will find that we are better able to meet the challenges of our public lives and to bear the fruit that the Lord has begun to develop in us.

The Holy Spirit is your coach – ask Him for guidance and listen to His prompts


Lord help me to train with You for the challenges that I will face and for the opportunities that You will prepare for me, and cleanse and equip me for Your work and glory. Amen.


I Belong

“But our citizenship is in heaven.
And we eagerly await a Saviour from there,
the Lord Jesus Christ”
(Philippians 3:20)


Jonathan Sacks makes the statement in his book, Not in God’s Name, that ‘the twenty-first century has left us with a maximum of choice and a minimum of meaning.’ He goes on to state that ‘the most fundamental of human needs (is) the search for identity.’ The world around us is filled with people seeking or attempting to establish an identity in many different ways, including corruption and violence.

Jesus meets this very great need in His life and death and in His teachings and ministry. And it is small wonder that He drew to Himself so many of the lost, lonely and marginalised of society –  whose lives had lost value and meaning and who were no longer acceptable in their own eyes or in the eyes of those around them. No one and nothing else has anything of lasting value to offer.

Consider these statements:

  • “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
  • “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
  • “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God”  (John 1:12)
  • “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:16)

Here is an identity beyond and above all others that we might have or to which we might aspire. Through faith in Jesus Christ we become the daughters and sons of the Lord God Almighty. This is an eternal and intimate relationship which nothing and no one can reverse or destroy. No matter what upheavals there may be in the world, our nation, community or personal and family life that identity, once established, is eternal.

  • “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
  • “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:2-3)

In the Lord Jesus Christ we have the certain promise, underlined by the gift and witness of the Holy Spirit in our lives, that through faith in Him we become and are for eternity the sons and daughters of the living God, our beloved Father. Our response is to accept and own that gift and promise. It gives us our true and eternal identity.

Own your identity.  As a Christian you belong to God – He will never lose you or let go of you.


Lord God Almighty, You are my Father and I am Your child in Jesus Christ. Please help me to accept and own that wonderful gift of my new and eternal identity, and in it to be at peace. Amen.


Watching for the Son

“My soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.”
(Psalm 130:6)

Those who have watched and waited through the night will know the dark and forlorn hours between 02h00 and 04h00. The world can quieten to such an extent that even the sound of a car in the distance is sad and lonely. The moonlight is colder, the night becomes darker and a deeper chill seems to settle on everything – including one’s thoughts and emotions. Those who watch or guard, and those willing the night to end, will scan the eastern horizon for the first signs of the new day’s sun.

The lonely psalmist cries out to the Lord for forgiveness and help. With more hope and intent even than the watchman who looks for the coming dawn he looks for signs of the Lord’s coming to him. Such is his certainty in the Lord’s love and forgiveness that he watches and waits with more assurance than the one who looks to the sunrise. In fact, more certain for him is the response and coming of the Lord than the dawn of a new day.

For the Christian this also is true for, in terms of Jesus prophecy of His coming like a thief in the night, there will be a day when there is no dawn except for that of the Light of the world, the One who as ‘the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.’ (Malachi 4:2)

In the dark and lonely times of life we need to remember the coming of the Lord as Saviour, His promise to come again as King, and His commitment, in between, to be with us always. Whatever the darkness may be that may flow into our life from time to time the Lord is near. He is our Light and our Life. He comes to us and He keeps on coming – as the Shepherd looking for His sheep, as the Lord walking through the wind and waves into the very heart of our storm, and as the Father running to welcome us home again.

Because He is God – Our Father, our Saviour and our Lord – and because of His great and eternal love for us, He will respond to our cries for help. He always hears us, He always responds and He always helps us through the darkness and into His light.

Bring any darkness to the Lord. Ask for His light, love and life to help you through. Be still before Him and trust Him.


Lord Jesus, Light of the world, be the Light in my life now and always. Amen.


Choose Your Thoughts

“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right,
whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable
–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–
think about such things.”
(Philippians 4:8)

Our lives are influenced by what we think. And what we think is a product of our past as well as being fed by the influences of the world in which we live, the people with whom we associate and the news that we read and hear. It is important, therefore, to exercise control over our minds – instead of allowing them merely to react to negative stimuli.

Very easily do we indulge ourselves in angry and critical thoughts about others, negative thoughts about ourselves, and doubtful thoughts about God. All of these affect our opinions, relationships and the way we conduct our lives. They do nothing to help us or anyone else. Our minds need to become used to new habits of thought as well as choosing to reject what is not helpful.  As we ‘choose to choose’ our thoughts we may well be astonished at what we need to filter out.

Christian love begins to look out for the positive and beautiful aspects of life and living and focus on them. This is not artificial and an ignoring of the reality, but it is a refusal to merely dwell on weakness and ugliness when it is not helpful. There is beauty all around us. There are fine qualities in many people, including ourselves.

Paul is challenging us to allow the God-given beauty within us – the new and redeemed us, temples of the lovely Holy Spirit Himself – to begin to surface and take control of our thoughts. God will give us a new focus, a fresh awareness, and a different perception of truth. We will discover that there are deeper truths than the superficial bits and pieces that have come our way.

We can choose not to reflect the world but to reflect the God of love instead. That means also feeding ourselves on His love and life and word – not merely on worldly news and views. And when we do meet news that is distressing, whilst we may acknowledge even the sin that is behind it, we can pray for all and everyone involved that somehow God’s love and blessing will touch them all.

There are enough armchair critics.  Check yourself and step out in a new way.


Father, fill me with beauty and the loveliness– and help me to discern more of Your Truth and Love. In Jesus name, Amen.


Wonderful God

“What may be known about God is plain to them,
because God has made it plain to them.
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities
–his eternal power and divine nature–
have been clearly seen,
being understood from what has been made”
(Romans 1:19-20)

We can become so focussed on what we would like God to do that we may easily forget what He has done.
If we will open our eyes and look around us we will see that we are surrounded by the wonder and beauty of His creation. All of it bears a mainly silent witness not only to His power and authority but to the breath-taking beauty and abundance that is a part of His nature.

The Psalmist picked it up and exclaimed in awe,

“The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
(Psalm 19:1-4)

As I was preparing to write this I looked out of my window straight into the glorious blue head of an Hydrangea – a mass of soft, small petals joined together in an eye-catching display. And it felt as if the Lord was saying to me, “How about this one?” – with all the joy of an artist over a beautiful creation. He does it to me regularly with His endless variety of sunsets – and in the early hours when a small bird sits outside of my bedroom window and greets the dawn with the loveliest liquid song of praise. I wonder at times that he does not burst with the joy pourings out of such a small throat. And I say to God in wonder, ‘You did this, and You showed it to me so that I too might enjoy it and say, “O, it is indeed good!”

Then there are the majestic trees, the stately clouds riding on the invisible winds, the dancing shadows on a wall, the surging and laughing surf, and the chuckle of a child. And the wonder of it all is that He made me so that I can see them, hear them, smell them and fell them – and be touched by them in the silent depths of my spirit. And it is there that I can turn to Him in wonder and find that He is watching me and smiling joyfully at my delight.

This is what our Father longs for – to delight us with the truth of His love and beauty, even in the midst of a world that has looked the other way.

Stop – look – and listen. And allow Him to show you what He has for you today.


Lord open my eyes that I may see, my heart that I may love, and my spirit that I may rejoice and praise You. Amen.


Feeding Me

“The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.”
(Luke 6:45)


A man was trying to explain good and evil to his grandson. He told him that they were like two wolves fighting inside a person. When the boy asked him which wolf won he responded, “The one you feed!”

We feed ourselves daily on a large variety of news, views and impressions. Much of what we take in relates to alarming and sensational happenings and the achievements, disasters and lifestyles of public figures. Our values can be diluted and our opinions re-formed by the world in which we live, the views we hear and the shows that we watch. Many people become cynical, depressed and afraid and they express it knowingly and unknowingly.

As Christians we must ensure that we are feeding ourselves on the truths of God. His revelations of Himself, His teachings and the accounts of His dealings with His people are vital to our growth and faith. It is not enough to listen to the odd sermon. We should be grounded in and familiar with at least the gospels, the letters of the New Testament and the Psalms as well. God’s word is still a living word and speaks into our situations. We need His teaching and insights to counter the diet served up by the world. They are not just words on a page but God speaking into our hearts, minds and spirits and into our situations.

Feed on the Scriptures. Pray and think them through. Make a Treasure Chest for yourself of God’s guidelines, promises and truths. They form the foundations of our faith, built upon the rock of Christ Himself and sustained and enlivened by the Holy Spirit.

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35)

Start now to deepen your relationship with our Lord – it is eternal.


Lord Jesus please help me to become more of a person steeped in Your Word. May it feed my heart and mind and direct my thoughts, words and deeds. Amen.



God’s working in me

“He who began a good work in you
will carry it on to completion
until the day of Christ Jesus.”
(Philippians 1:6)

Whatever may be happening – or not happening – in your life at the moment one thing is certain. God is at work. What He started in our salvation He will continue developing until it is completed. He will not cease until He can look into us and say with satisfaction “It is very good.”

The true quality of our life is not measured by what is happening around us or to us. It is what is happening within us that is vital. We will not always be aware of it – and sometimes will feel that we are not making progress. But that itself is an indication that God is at work and has effected some change within. As uncomfortable as it might be it is a step forward. He will be preparing the next one for us, and us for it.

In our life there will be some easy paths and some difficult challenges. All will lead us onward and will be used by God to build us and to grow us in our relationship with, and trust in, Him. To trust in the Lord is to trust Him with every aspect of our lives all the time.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;

in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.”
(Proverbs 3:5-6)

In many ways we are still spiritual infants. Like a good parent God will guide us forward into and through the different stages of growth and development. He will be with us in all the times of success and failure, sickness and health, sadness and joy, despair and faith.  Having called us He will never desert us – even when we prove difficult! He has invested Himself in us, nothing can separate us from Him and His love, and He will work in all things for good in our lives as His children.

He is with you now. Hold on to Him, persevere with Him and trust Him in all things.

Trust is a decision, take it. A mustard seed of faith is enough for a great God.


Lord Jesus, thank You so much for what You have already done in my life, and for Your most wonderful sacrifice on the cross. Please help me to trust You more and more – knowing that You have not finished Your work in me yet, but that You will. Amen.



God at work

“It is God who works in you to will and to act
according to his good purpose”
(Philippians 2:13)

The full extent of the love and grace and majesty of God is awe-inspiring.

He has a purpose and plan for His creation which very much includes us. He has been working towards the fulfillment of this plan from the beginning and has elected to do so by involving the people whom He has chosen. Notwithstanding the fact that they – and we – have at times gone horribly astray and got things terribly wrong He has nevertheless worked in them for good.

As He calls us into relationship with Him we become an active part of the outworking of His purpose. To enable us to take our proper place He gives us, through the Holy Spirit, the particular gifts that we will need and that He wants to see at work in our situations. These are not haphazard but carefully chosen and endowed. With them, and also through the Holy Spirit, He gives us the guidance and strength we need to be a part of His ministry.

Because we remain a work in progress we very often continue to get things wrong and to complicate everything with our own desires and agendas – both individually and corporately and as the Church. But God – our loving, forgiving and  patient God – keeps on working with us and is able in time to change our wills and the Church’s will, and to re-direct our actions and the Church’s actions, until His purpose has been achieved.

And because it is God’s purpose that is being worked out we have the confidence of knowing that is will be achieved in all its fullness. Whether through our human frailty,  obstinacies or inadequacies, or through the active opposition of others, there is no obstruction of barrier that will fatally impede of impair this work.

My contribution might seem to be completely insignificant and not worth the effort. However in God’s eyes it is of great value – which is why He built it and me into His great vision and design. And this is true of each and every me who reads this.

I have a significant purpose in this year and in this life – and an eternal position in the next.


Lord God You have called me – help me please to will and to act according to Your good purpose. Amen.