Talk: How God helps us to know Him personally

A message taken from the set readings for May 17 used by many churches, about how anyone can come to know God personally. There’s a prayer at the end to receive Jesus into your heart, done in a way which makes it easy to join in if you wish. This is all about believing the good news!

The Bible passages it is based on are:

Psalm 66:8-20 Praise for God known through His faithful love through salvation history

John 14:15-21 — Jesus spells out the promise of the Holy Spirit who makes God known

Acts 17:22-31 — The Athenians hear from Paul that God is known and personal

1 Peter 3:13-22 — Living with Christ as Lord, ready to tell others why we belong to Christ

These are set out with explanation in The Living Word for May 17, 2020

Notes to go with this talk are on this page

Thought: How to ask God for wisdom

1. What is wisdom?

Wisdom is the ‘how to’ that goes with knowledge. We know quite a lot about coronavirus, but we desperately need a breakthrough in this area of ‘how to’ – how to cure the infection and how to prevent it. God, who is all-knowing, has that wisdom – and we are the ones who know how how to ask Him.

We need wisdom! Our death rate the highest in Europe. New admissions are still rising. There is no clear end in sight from what the Prime Minister described as “this devilish illness” ( he was right about that).

We desperately need the missing piece of the puzzle, the clue that unlocks the conundrum, the solution no one has thought of yet.

James, writing to first-century believers in newly-started home-based churches outside Jerusalem, has an answer. Like us, these early believers were facing risk – look what had happened to Stephen – and living in uncertain times, trying to work out the ‘how tos’ of being a church. This is the advice James gave them:

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:5)

It seems too simple to take seriously. “You should ask God…”. Well, he would say that!

But we SHOULD ask God, and repent of seeking wisdom in every other quarter apart from a word from God — which might just be a scientific discovery from God!

James assumes two things that would have been completely normal and expected in any church gathering of that time.

First, he assumes hearers will have come to a committed, personal relationship with Jesus, accepting His sacrifice of Himself for our sins, and also submitting their lives to Him as Lord.

Second, He assumes they have all had an empowering encounter with the Holy Spirit, like the first believers did at Pentecost.. This was general. They needed more than KNOWING how to live in the new life Jesus brings – they needed to be empowered to DO it, to have revelation of the reality of resurrected Jesus in their lives.

The relationship with Jesus is like the manual we get with a new appliance from Curries telling us to make sure the machine is plugged in. It will also say, make sure the power is on and flowing!

2. How to seek God’s wisdom

What has this to do with James’ question? Everything. We have two-thirds answered it already .

Wisdom comes to us when we turn to Jesus, by the Holy Spirit giving us revelation. It is all about the relationship – and we have that relationship. Or rather, we are given that relationship by Jesus because He is like that.

Two-thirds of the way – but there is one more thing.

We have to ask. To actually ask, as those serious about getting an answer.

3. How to ask.

  1. ADMIT our need of God’s wisdom as ours is insubstantial.
  2. STOP the various ways we pursue our own wisdom. Put them down. This is not ‘Plan B’, not a back-up for our own efforts.
  3. Humbly, but confidently – ASK, expecting that wisdom will come. Not always an immediate flash of insight, but it will come. now here’s the thing. Suppose there is a boffin out there – an eminent researcher, I should say – who had a line off study that seemed to have reached a dead end – and work was stopped. It could have been a plant derivative, or a genetic theory, or a medical trial. And they were prompted to revisit it – and made a discovery that no one could have predicted! Entirely possible by prayer and faith – and we are the ones who know how to do that.
  4. So we ask God for the breakthrough which we RECOGNISE is in heaven. He is all-knowing – so without doubt He has all the answers. Our job is to pray that wisdom down to earth. So we do, and thank God for it, in anticipation.

For a suggested prayer based on this message, go over to the associated site with its focus on encouraging prayer for communities, GLOW Weobley

The PEACE process when fear comes calling

A three minute thought

The post below goes with the video and gives a bit more explanation, and help to pray at the end

Three-minute thought by Ian Greig

Anxiety is real enough

A recent UK Ipsos-Mori survey found that almost two-thirds of those surveyed were fearful about the epidemic, and if restrictions were lifted, would be too anxious to go out and socialise. About a third would dread going t o work on public transport, or shopping.

Young people, who are less at risk, actually reported having the greatest anxiety in the survey.

This anxiety is real enough but I think it is fuelled by the media which report exceptions, like young fit people who develop severe symptoms, because unusual instances are more newsworthy than people who are making a good recovery.

Risk and failure is also exaggerated by the media needing to find stories at a time when the news is quite predictable and slow-paced.

So with lockdown and distancing and infection control set to continue indefinitely, there’s plenty out there to fuel my anxiety.

What is God saying about it?

What He is saying to us now will come out what He has always said (His Word). The ‘now’ word is more specific and we often hear it where a particular word seems to buzz for us at this time.

It is said that there are 365 instances of “fear not” in the Bible! That’s one for every day of the year, but only if you need to ration them out.

But how, in practice, DO I “fear not” when my mental state is very anxious-feeling?

That highlights an essential difference we commonly get confused between the religion and the relationship. Christianity the institutional religion is not the same as the personal relationship with God which comes through a personal encounter with Jesus Christ, accepting Him as Saviour from the penalty of sin and Lord of life’s direction. Of course there is overlap but there’s also a real tension because the values are rather different and even opposed at times..

Formal religion teaches “you shall”, “you ought not” and “you must not.”

The religious way of thinking teaches that favour with God is achieved by merit through observance and good deeds. It emphasises the relative importance of different people and activities – so there is a hierarchy of clergy, often called priests, whose religious activities are seen as especially important, and what we do in the direction of ‘church activity’ is perceived to trump our mission and witness to the wider world. Following the resurrection, there was no need for any further sacrifice, the old order of priesthood was abolished and every believer in Jesus comes to share the priesthood of representing God to man – witness and evangelism – and representing man to God – shepherding and intercession. As we have our own relationship with God, the remedy for our anxiety is found in that relationship, not through another person standing between us and God.

And just as Jesus was criticised for looking beyond those who belonged to the covenant of the Nation of Israel, by loving, healing and delivering all comers, and by His willing exposure to the grimy and poverty-stricken world He was born into, we invite criticism by following Jesus. For Him there was no ‘sacred’ and ‘secular’ but the kingdom of God in all and over all. His way, His presence and above all His peace is not restricted to a church service! The present crisis is bringing that home to us as never before, and it is a good lesson God is bringing out of a bad situation.

The relationship with God as a Father that comes through spiritual rebirth in acknowledging Jesus Christ as God who took human form, has a different tone. It is new life and new understanding, in an encouraging and enabling partnership around the phrase: “You can”. The Holy Spirit is central in this understanding of ‘You can” and it leaves “You ought” looking distinctly unhelpful. The “you ought” way of thinking does not help our anxiety – it increases it.

We view the word of God brought in earlier times through a different lens and with more light than was available then.

You might remember that the Holy Spirit was poured out on a crowd around this time of year (May) and every single one of them was moved to change their lives around and receive Jesus as their Lord. Three thousand of them (just counting the men) went into the water to wash off and bury the old life and come out into the new. But it wasn’t just a nice symbolic thing to do. They received an endowment of the Holy Spirit that empowered them to know that Jesus is resurrected and real, and to live differently by knowing Him.

That is a key understanding. And with that understanding, the verse that follows is a promise we can hold on to.

The Good News

You (God) will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You.
Isaiah 26:3 NLT

Let’s put with that a verse from one of John’s letters where he explains what receiving God’s love does for our assurance:

There is no fear in love. But perfect love DRIVES OUT fear, because fear has to do with punishment…
1 John 4:18 NIV

The deep-down root of all our fear and anxiety, is the fear of judgment – and God’s final judgment would be something to be VERY fearful about.

Except that, when we turn to Jesus and ask Him into our heart, we receive His love and acceptance and forgiveness. The condemnation we were carrying inherited from Adam and built on by us, is lifted off. We are loved by God!

With no legal right to oppress us any more, there’s not a lot the enemy can do about our new status, except shout threats at us. But they are empty threats now, for those whose thoughts are fixed on the Lord.

This is how it works.

That battle goes on in our thoughts. Not all thoughts come from us! We can choose what we think about, and what we believe, when the devil attacks us (as he did Jesus) with not-quite-true thoughts which are actually subtle lies.

So you can listen to the news reports and perhaps it’s about a young, fit person who has become very poorly. It’s remarkable — because it is not usual. “It could be me,” says the anxious thought.

That is not completely untrue — but it is not completely true, either.

And this is where you have a choice-to entertain the nagging fear, and let it grow. Or to tell that fear to go back where it came from, and make an intentional, believing choice to trust God, who is faithful, and receive His peace and love air ash so there isn’t room for the fear.

It’s a battle – but a winnable one. It’s a choice, conscious at first but then it becomes more of a familiar routine.

PEACE is like this:

P = POSITION yourself to know where the thoughts come from

E = EXERCISE faith. That is believing God actively, by putting it into practice.

A = ADMIT to your Father that you can’t do this alone. You need His help! He knows that, but it is good to take that step of dependence.

C = CHOOSE who you believe and who you disbelieve — a quality decision, not a ‘flip-flop’ one. Christ is who you choose. He is the Living Word and will point you to the written word which is your way to silence the devil and his nagging thoughts and fears

E = ENGAGE with the fear thought. Ask the Holy Spirit of Jesus to help you. Then In the authority of Jesus who is Lord, silence that fear thought and put it out. Invite the Holy Spirit to fill you with His security and peace – and with praise!

Prayer

(You don’t say the letters, they are just for reference!)

P for position
There is no fear in love. But perfect love DRIVES OUT FEAR because fear has to do with punishment… but I am troubled by a nagging, critical voice threatening me.


E for exercise faith
I put my trust in You once again. Thank You for Jesus. Thank You for saving me. Thank You that I am not just a struggling sinner, but someone You have chosen, died for and wants very much.


A for admit
I need Your help. I can’t handle this on my own.


C for choose who you believe
You are the One I have trusted with My life and I trust You now.


E for engage
Jesus, You are Lord of my life and in Your name and authority I say to that fear of (name it) “Be silent and obey Jesus.”
Holy Spirit of God, fill me again, let me be full of a sense of Your love and peace – and joy! You are great, You are good and Yours is the glory. Amen.

Good and Evil around an Epidemic

A “two minute thought”

Addresses a question many are asking – and the answer is easier than you might think

The question

Is Covid-19 just one of those epidemics that happens, or is there a spiritual dimension we can tap into?

Well, how spiritually aware are you?
If your viewpoint is all evidence-based about “following the science” that is rigorous and good but it doesn’t leave much room for the spiritual perspective. To be holistic, we want engage with both aspects .

Hospital medicine likes certainties: scans, tests, proven treatments.
But doctors know that a person’s expectations and attitude have a lot to do with how they recover.
People are spirit, soul and body, so we want to help all three.

An epidemic like Covid-19 causes more than respiratory sickness. For the rest of us, it has a fear factor. That summons up whatever Christian faith we have, to be dusted off and brought to bear.

But how do we pray? What is God doing?

Joining the spiritual battle

There’s a side to the battle which is not seen. It is just as real.
All of us need to get stuck into this one – and it’s a lot easier than you think.

The encouragement

A verse in Paul’s letter to the church in Rome stands out to me. It’s very simple, very practical – and very true.
Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good. (Romans 12:21 NLT)

“Doing good” is just that. Not threatened, not hopeless, not powerless
The GOOD NEWS is any of us, at any time, can turn to God to receive His love and goodness, then we just overflow that to others in little acts of encouragement, meeting practical needs etc.

The Christian way of doing good always involves relating to the One who is good:

  • doing what we ‘see’ the Father doing
  • following the small nudges of His Spirit
  • allowing His creativity to stir our imagination.

All we have to do is to look to Him and align ourselves with His flow of goodness and love.
We will find ourselves prayerfully “doing good”, the good that God shows us, and that, according to the verse above, is a really effective way of pushing back spiritually against the tide of evil. No need to make it more complicated…

So whatever is getting to you today:

  • your job, or perhaps your business
  • the threat of sickness for you or a loved one
  • the cold grip of fear

You turn to the One who has overcome it — by doing, thinking and expressing what is GOOD, because that is what agrees with Him, and it is in the opposite spirit, cancelling out the one sowing the sickness and fear.

We think practical and spiritual are different or even opposed, but they are not separate in God’s sight, but all part of the same flow of His goodness.
And good news again: yes, we can invite and direct that flow.

Let’s pray

Father God, everything about You is good.

You are always doing good, and You look on us with love and patience.
You always have time. You are full of generosity in every way.
Fill us with Your Spirit and Your love, to join with what You are doing.
And let Your good, coming through us, conquer the evil behind today’s troubles – and give glory to You.

Through Jesus we pray. Amen.

‘Follow the science’ but let God have the first and last word

Humility comes before honour” – Jesus, ultimate example of both humility, wisdom and honour is also called the Lamb of God.
Lamb near The Birches, Sarnesfield Coppice, image credit Ian Greig

Thought for the Day, April 25, 2020

Proverbs 15:33

Wisdom’s instruction is the fear the Lord,
and humility comes before honour.

Before we get successful we have to get humble, especially in terms of who God is and how we defer to Him.

This is teaching about holding God in greater awe than everything else.

  • Greater than ‘following the science’.
  • Greater than public opinion.
  • Greater than the particular political ideology that we follow.
  • Greater, too, than the voice of reason.

Sometimes churches put forward “fear of the Lord” as being beholden to church tradition and its hierarchies. All denominations and even modern streams have them! But that is fear of man, not being in awe of a loving God.

What’s the bad news?

In this epidemic, people are dying, others are very poorly and it could be us, or our friends or neighbours. The anxiety, the uncertainty and the need for isolation and distancing is set to go on and on — and we don’t have the wisdom for a clear way out of it.

In the present pandemic, we hear daily opinions from experts in science, medicine, epidemiology and data interpretation. But as one commentator remarked drily (on BBC Radio 4 Today), “Scientists like to think they are expert at everything.”

And so do we in our unguarded moments.

Education and knowledge is good and helpful. I studied the science streams and then engineering in early life. I know the value of following scientific evidence and then developing the engineer’s ingenuity in thinking outside the familiar ways, to construct a better solution.

Bringing that into the disciplines of Christian philosophy brings thinking skills which are very helpful in finding our own framework. We all need a framework for what we believe. But it is important for that framework to include the values that come from what we believe, because the values we hold are are what really steer what we do, or avoid doing. We might believe that God is all-powerful and all-wise. If we put a high value on finding out what His wisdom is, we’ll be ready to listen and learn.

All of this is really helpful in making a kind of landing pad for what God might be saying to us. We have to bring it down to earth… and we need a way of processing what we discern spiritually. The language of heaven isn’t the language of earth, so we have to translate the whisper of the Holy Spirit and the glimpses of revelation He shows us. We have to do the work of joining them up. The disciplines drummed into us through education and experience help us do this… until they start to take over, and then they don’t help, they hinder. Because then we are putting our faith in the process rather than the source.

“Wisdom’s instruction is to fear the Lord…” and that means learning to listen with an openness to hear, and hear differently. The comfortable religious routines offer their own pre-packaged answers, and the danger is that we find it easier to substitute these for the harder work of us seeking God for Himself.

So this Thought can do no more than encourage you to go back to God with a renewed humility and sense of His majesty and all-knowing perspective, and agreeing with Him that man’s answers are insubstantial and flawed help, compared with His

The Good News is…

… that believing and trusting Jesus is the one simple thing we can all do, which opens the door for His Holy Spirit, to be the light which guides our way and the revelation insight that shows us simply, what we struggle to reason out by ourselves.

“Fearing the Lord” starts out as something that sounds ‘heavy’, but really it is just putting first and foremost God our Father who first loved us, who gave His Son Jesus for us and who loves to honour us as we get to know Him

What do we do?

Consider the question: “Who am I listening to ?” And then, work on ‘tuning in’ to what He is saying and making that our ‘front page news’.

Revival of kindness

A willingness to learn new habits and behaviours – the stretched-out queue waiting to be admitted to the Tesco, Belmont, Hereford.
Image credit: Ian Greig

Thought of the day

Luke 9:23-24 NIV
Then He said to them all: “Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me will save it.

Ian Greig writes: My thought today is not about the difficulties, anxieties and losses from Covid 19, real though they are. The other side of the coin is the huge outflow of good that is being seen, not just in hospitals and care homes but among neighbours and in goodwill within communities.

There is a growing realisation that we need one another. And at a challenging time, to support one another without condition. It looks like what we read in the Bible is just happening…

Many people are asking, what is God doing in all of this?Let’s be clear, He doesn’t bring sickness and hardship but at many time in history He has allowed it, and used it. What is intended for harm, He can turn to good.

The turning to good is not always seen directly. Much good political reform came out of the damage of two world wars, but the change was more about people gaining a will to live (and take decisions) differently, than a landmark moment.

What can we see God bringing out of the Covid-19 pandemic? What are we seeing that is good, creative, caring – that reflects God’s goodness? You might add to my list…

  • Selfless dedication (as we clap the NHS and carers)
  • Neighbourly kindness, caring and (in certain ways) sharing
  • Exploration: people seeking and finding spiritual insights and answers
  • Self-discipline: the majority sticking to the guideline restrictions
  • Social creativity: people finding new ways to socialise
  • Innovation and development: from ‘Formula 1’ positive air pressure devices to ‘Airbus’ and ‘Dyson’ ventilator machines and apps for group conversations and streaming.
  • Cycling, running, walking: distancing outdoors
  • Learning new habits: from handwashing to the stretched-out queue and maintaining distance in the aisles.
  • Reflection and slower pace: where the practice of mindfulness was bolted on to busy routines, now restrictions make us think about what we are feeling and doing, and learn as we go.

Very few of these will have been motivated by the thought of being Jesus’s disciples, or even if the cost of followership. They are doing what they believe is right, having put personal gain to one side and personal cost to the other side.

Their beliefs might not yet have caught up with who Jesus is, but their values are reflecting HOW Jesus is. And that, to me, looks like the beginnings of a move of God.

Link to prayer

A suggested prayer on this theme

How weeping can become refreshing

A place of refreshing springs…” Willows growing by the side of the Newbridge Brook between Weobley and Dilwyn.
Image credit: Ian Greig

Thought for the day

Psalm 84:5-6
What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord, who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs.

On a walk, what we see in the distance can be quite different when we get close. Similarly in life, our reaction to what we see can change dramatically, when we get a different perspective. This is a story of how what appears one way, can turn out differently.

At certain times of year, groups would set out to Jerusalem to celebrate a festival at the Temple. They would walk on bad roads with hills, valleys and dangerous ravines, and they probably gave them nick-names, like we do.The psalm writer’s Valley of Weeping (Hebrew baka) could also be called the Valley of Poplars, a double meaning not lost on the original hearers.

  • Poplars grow close to water — so travellers in a dry, dusty country who saw poplars on the horizon would anticipate being able to drink.

  • There’s a deeper meaning here. The ones “walking through the Valley of Weeping” , are “on a pilgrimage“. So this is a picture of believers on a journey of faith, who (like all of us at times) have hit difficulties. Sometimes difficult times can be dry times — a sense of abandonment, nothing coming from the Lord, no fresh direction. The Valley of Weeping is the right name.
  • But the Valley of Weeping can be turned into the Valley of Poplars, and there’s running water in that valley. There’s a place to drink and be refreshed.

  • The place of “refreshing springs” is where the “times of refreshing” start, Acts 3:19. The psalm points to God’s greater purpose, which is always to bring spiritual renewal.

Those whose strength comes from the Lord” are the ones “on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem” — walking with the Lord and knowing their destiny with Him. “For you,” the psalmist says, “the valley of tears will become the place of refreshing. Why? Because when we come to the end of ourselves with the Lord, we can find Him in a new way. He’ll let us struggle on for a time, but only so we find the place of refreshing — which we always do if we turn to Him.

The psalm holds out that exact promise.

“Be quiet!”

A picture of hope or a chilling warning? Image credit: Newsquest

Thought for the day

April 1820200418

1 Peter 5:8-9 NIV

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

‘Red zone’ staff in the Covid areas at over 1,000 acute hospitals around the UK are well aware of people being ‘devoured’. On present statistics, most will have the experience of losing patients every day or even, every shift.

The suffering through illness, and for some, an untimely end of life, is hard for us to hear about. It sits a lot heavier for those with friends and relatives affected, or on the front line caring for them under difficult circumstances in care homes or hospitals.

But the ‘roaring lion’ is a not a picture of devouring (real though that is) but is more picture of fear and intimidation. It’s what happens in our thought life – that’s where “your enemy the devil” gets to all of us. If we let him.

The devil and his army of ‘dark angels’ is no myth or metaphor but a real threat and a real attacker. Jesus had His close encounter in the desert at the start of His ministry.

Jesus later told Pharisee antagonists that far from belonging to God, they were under the sway of the devil. The teaching of the letters to the Early Church is forthright about recognising the devil’s schemes and avoiding the trap of the devil, and the need for believers to actively resist. Following the well-known parable of the sower and soils, Jesus explains the three common strategies of the devil to attack the seed, or faith-producing word of God, as the devil “takes away the word from the hearts” of those on the unreceptive, uncultivated ‘path’, causes faith to wither through testing of those on ‘rocky ground’, and chokes the word with worries and pleasures in those inhabiting the ‘thorny ground’. The battleground is in our mind – our thoughts and perceptions. Whose thoughts are we choosing to hold on to?

How we view setbacks — the perspective we adopt — has a huge effect on how we respond to them. Ask Andy Murray how he responds to a missed shot or losing a set.

Christians have a two or three not-exactly-secret weapons.

  1. We face an enemy who makes a lot of noise but is defeated. More to thj point, this enemy knows that WE KNOW this. Our identification and relationship with the One who has been the sacrifice on the Cross, now resurrected, living and reigning, gives us a confidence in how we pray.
  2. We know how the story ends, and through that relationship with the Lord, how our own story ends — or rather, doesn’t end but continues in eternal life and fellowship.
  3. We know God. And if we know Him, we hardly need reminding that He is good, and His plans and purposes, if not always easy to understand, will work out for good. We are saved and also being saved, because He loves us.

So what do we say to the noisy ‘lion’ now? Be quiet, take off your lion outfit and go and play elsewhere! Meanwhile, having dealt with the intimidation, we have work to do, in praying down the peace and healing presence of God on those who are crying out to Him.

Luke 8:4-15; John 8:44; Ephesians 4:27; 2 Timothy 2:26; James 4:7

A picture of hope or a chilling warning? Image credit: Newsquest

Thought for the day


April 1820200418

1 Peter 5:8-9 NIV


Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.


‘Red zone’ staff in the Covid areas at over 1,000 acute hospitals around the UK are well aware of people being ‘devoured’. On present statistics, most will have the experience of losing patients every day or even, every shift.


The suffering through illness, and for some, an untimely end of life, is hard for us to hear about. It sits a lot heavier for those with friends and relatives affected, or on the front line caring for them under difficult circumstances in care homes or hospitals.


But the ‘roaring lion’ is a not a picture of devouring (real though that is) but is more picture of fear and intimidation. It’s what happens in our thought life – that’s where “your enemy the devil” gets to all of us. If we let him.


The devil and his army of ‘dark angels’ is no myth or metaphor but a real threat and a real attacker. Jesus had His close encounter in the desert at the start of His ministry.


Jesus later told Pharisee antagonists that far from belonging to God, they were under the sway of the devil. The teaching of the letters to the Early Church is forthright about recognising the devil’s schemes and avoiding the trap of the devil, and the need for believers to actively resist. Following the well-known parable of the sower and soils, Jesus explains the three common strategies of the devil to attack the seed, or faith-producing word of God, as the devil “takes away the word from the hearts” of those on the unreceptive, uncultivated ‘path’, causes faith to wither through testing of those on ‘rocky ground’, and chokes the word with worries and pleasures in those inhabiting the ‘thorny ground’. The battleground is in our mind – our thoughts and perceptions. Whose thoughts are we choosing to hold on to?


How we view setbacks — the perspective we adopt — has a huge effect on how we respond to them. Ask Andy Murray how he responds to a missed shot or losing a set.


Christians have a two or three not-exactly-secret weapons.

  1. We face an enemy who makes a lot of noise but is defeated. More to thj point, this enemy knows that WE KNOW this. Our identification and relationship with the One who has been the sacrifice on the Cross, now resurrected, living and reigning, gives us a confidence in how we pray.
  2. We know how the story ends, and through that relationship with the Lord, how our own story ends — or rather, doesn’t end but continues in eternal life and fellowship.
  3. We know God. And if we know Him, we hardly need reminding that He is good, and His plans and purposes, if not always easy to understand, will work out for good. We are saved and also being saved, because He loves us.


So what do we say to the noisy ‘lion’ now? Be quiet, take off your lion outfit and go and play elsewhere! Meanwhile, having dealt with the intimidation, we have work to do, in praying down the peace and healing presence of God on those who are crying out to Him.


Luke 8:4-15; John 8:44; Ephesians 4:27; 2 Timothy 2:26; James 4:7

A picture of hope or a chilling warning? Image credit: Newsquest

Thought for the day


April 1820200418

1 Peter 5:8-9 NIV


Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.


‘Red zone’ staff in the Covid areas at over 1,000 acute hospitals around the UK are well aware of people being ‘devoured’. On present statistics, most will have the experience of losing patients every day or even, every shift.


The suffering through illness, and for some, an untimely end of life, is hard for us to hear about. It sits a lot heavier for those with friends and relatives affected, or on the front line caring for them under difficult circumstances in care homes or hospitals.


But the ‘roaring lion’ is a not a picture of devouring (real though that is) but is more picture of fear and intimidation. It’s what happens in our thought life – that’s where “your enemy the devil” gets to all of us. If we let him.


The devil and his army of ‘dark angels’ is no myth or metaphor but a real threat and a real attacker. Jesus had His close encounter in the desert at the start of His ministry.


Jesus later told Pharisee antagonists that far from belonging to God, they were under the sway of the devil. The teaching of the letters to the Early Church is forthright about recognising the devil’s schemes and avoiding the trap of the devil, and the need for believers to actively resist. Following the well-known parable of the sower and soils, Jesus explains the three common strategies of the devil to attack the seed, or faith-producing word of God, as the devil “takes away the word from the hearts” of those on the unreceptive, uncultivated ‘path’, causes faith to wither through testing of those on ‘rocky ground’, and chokes the word with worries and pleasures in those inhabiting the ‘thorny ground’. The battleground is in our mind – our thoughts and perceptions. Whose thoughts are we choosing to hold on to?


How we view setbacks — the perspective we adopt — has a huge effect on how we respond to them. Ask Andy Murray how he responds to a missed shot or losing a set.


Christians have a two or three not-exactly-secret weapons.

  1. We face an enemy who makes a lot of noise but is defeated. More to thj point, this enemy knows that WE KNOW this. Our identification and relationship with the One who has been the sacrifice on the Cross, now resurrected, living and reigning, gives us a confidence in how we pray.
  2. We know how the story ends, and through that relationship with the Lord, how our own story ends — or rather, doesn’t end but continues in eternal life and fellowship.
  3. We know God. And if we know Him, we hardly need reminding that He is good, and His plans and purposes, if not always easy to understand, will work out for good. We are saved and also being saved, because He loves us.


So what do we say to the noisy ‘lion’ now? Be quiet, take off your lion outfit and go and play elsewhere! Meanwhile, having dealt with the intimidation, we have work to do, in praying down the peace and healing presence of God on those who are crying out to Him.


Luke 8:4-15; John 8:44; Ephesians 4:27; 2 Timothy 2:26; James 4:7

How HOPE prepares you to hear from God

This is an anxious uncertain time. The scare of sickness and possible death. A very difficult time for business – some cannot operate. People cut off from friends and family. Living a locked-down, restricted life. And perhaps the worst part is the absence of positive anticipation, a sense of how this might end, which is what keep us going. We watch the daily updates, and we revere Professor Chris Whitty, a lovable boffin with his tie and collar never quite in agreement, and listen carefully to he sepulchral tones of Sir Patrick Vallance and his charts — silently asking “What hope do you have for us today?”

But that’s not where real hope is found. And the “word” we crave is going to come in a different way – if we are in the right place to discern it. This short thought from the Bible (4 1/2 mins) will help us to hear. –Ian Greig

Rev Ian Greig

Why the resurrection of Jesus changes everything

  • The resurrection of Jesus happened
  • Jesus is alive and very much with us.
  • He broke the controlling power of our sin that put Him in the Cross
  • He showed Himself the Lord of new life because death could not hold Him
  • He invites us to believe in Him, receive Him in our hearts and know the joy of this new life in Him.

The Queen, in her Easter message, said this:

“We know that coronavirus will not overcome us. As dark as death can be – particularly for those suffering with grief – light and life are greater. May the living flame of the Easter hope be a steady guide as we face the future.”

“The discovery of the risen Christ on the first Easter Day gave his followers new hope and fresh purpose, and we can all take heart from this.”

View from a human perspective

For Jesus to have endured without retaliation the suffering of the whipping post and the Cross is instructive. A righteous man, falsely accused, who did not abuse His captors but forgave them…. So this, our sense of reason tells us, is the example for us to try to live up to. And to keep on trying harder… Perhaps this is what we should do in the present pandemic?

To do that we have to keep looking back. We find in the historical account a high call to live up to. Is it even possible? Should our worship mean solemnly revisiting a sense of failure, that our lives never measure up?

A lot of Christian religion tells it that way. It emphasises the failure, but avoids getting to the joy, which might be frivolous.

“Enthusiasm,” an 18th century bishop lectured John Wesley, “is a horrid thing, a very horrid thing indeed.” Wesley listened to God instead and continued with his enthusiastic, Spirit-led ministry. He told ordinary non-religious people of the freedom and joy that came from being born again — a kind of resurrection — into new life with Jesus as our Lord. The revival he pioneered probably saved the country from revolution in the late 1700s.

God Is good! Wesley knew God in a persona;l way through a life-changing encounter he had roughly this time of year, in 1738. And Wesley knew full well that God did not leave us, in a cycle of failure, our inability to break out of the control of sin. He didn’t leave us struggling to do all the right things and none of the wrong things and live right by Him. He doesn’t want us to live a checklist. The way people should relate to God and each other that He gave Moses had been turned into the most complicated of legalistic structures. Of course, it didn’t work, because man always tries to create an ordered, repeatable system which we can understand and control. And as Jesus taught, it doesn’t work that way. It works His way.

God never intended that we should turn Jesus into a system, a set of rules and sanctions, a religion. The destroying of the temple curtain in the earthquake that followed the crucifixion (a few decades later, the wrecking of the massive temple) ended for all time the need of a special priestly order, standing between men and God. Everyone was free to know Him through Jesus.

View from heaven

The resurrection of Jesus tells us we must not go there again.

Our God is a living, understanding, providing Father who wants us to enjoy day-by-day fellowship with Him. Why? Not just for our well-being but for His pleasure! He created us for fellowship! He wants each one of us to know this closeness, to experience His love, and He has made a way for us to overcome the crippling, blinding disability of sin that separates us from it.

How? How could we do enough good to put this historical handicap even a little bit more right?

On the day when we celebrate Christ’s resurrection, this is the headline.

We can’t. He did — and is alive and with us.

The law and the ordered, prescriptive approach of religion could only ever get us partly aligned with God. It was a rough measure, like the blaring of an aircraft cockpit warning, that told us if we were off track, but useless for helping us to line up.

The religious approach is only good at the warnings. It frightens us into pulling this way and that, striving to stop the spin and doing the exact opposite of what we should do to fly straight and level. Most aircraft stabilise in level flight with hands off the controls.

God had to help us get our attitude and alignment right. He has done this for us — but we have to let Him. We have to let go of the controls of our life and let Him have them. Only then do we make room for the enabling Saviour, who was dead but is now very much alive and with us.

The resurrection of Jesus is about Him being with us in life – the meaning of the name Immanuel.

Jesus appeared, first to an outsider among the disciples, Mary of Magdala, not the one with the best CV, but the one who felt most forgiven and accepted.

Then He came to the others, in a number of occasions, eating with them, being real with them, reminding them of all the Scriptures which pointed to Him.

This new, resurrected life defines the Way of Jesus we follow. We must resist all temptations to reduce this to a repeatable form and a constructed system of our understanding. That is what religions consist of, because they give us what we think we can understand and a familiar route we think we can follow — on our own.

Wrong! This new way is WITH Jesus, led now by His Spirit, unpredictable but always life giving.

There are a lot of world religions. They cause a lot of world conflicts, and harm those who don’t fit in with them. Knowing Jesus is a different thing all together.

Jesus came back to life, to give us life and life in abundance, in Him. Where all the news is about lock down, and terrible mortality rates, He is saying to us: “Look UP’ I AM the Way, the reality and the life.

What is God saying, in this pandemic?

Jesus proved, by being seen as a flesh-and-blood person following His resurrection (not a ghost), that there is life after death. This pandemic is a prompting to all of us to turn to God! Is God calling you to take the step whereby you will come to know Him personally, receive His assurance that you are forgiven and have an eternal life with Him, and be empowered to live, pray and know His peace even in difficult times such as these?

Here’s a prayer you can pray

Is it true? Further reading for you to check out the evidence – a lawyer, a NT scholar and a journalist’s approaches