Be Still and Know
Day 15 - Issue 32

Day 15 - Issue 32

January 21, 2020

Psalm 90:3-4 NLT

You turn people back to dust, saying, “Return to dust, you mortals!” For you, a thousand years are as a passing day, as brief as a few night hours.

Recently as I walked down London’s Oxford Street, shopping with my daughter, engulfed in a sea of humanity, I wondered at the purpose and intent of the crowds; dust on the move. In our secular age, many fail to appreciate that each one of us is nothing more than a collection of molecules, whose ultimate destiny is a return to dust. As the funeral service declares: “...we therefore commit [this] body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ’. These are not empty words, but a reflection of God’s truth revealed in scripture (Genesis 3:19).

As fellow shoppers bumped me, I was reminded of all that God can accomplish in mere mortals. No more than dust in essence, we can live a full life, contribute, produce, love and laugh, yet all with little awareness of our fragile constitution. That is until trauma awakens us to our vulnerability and we have to determine the degree to which we address and survive that crisis. This can take time and demands decisions, one of which requires me to take a view of who I am to God and who God is to me.

The assurance I have is that God is eternal and while dust is my mortal end, I have an eternal destiny though my physical body decays. Returning to the funeral service I am encouraged as the officiant declares: ‘…in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body, that it may be like unto his glorious body, according to the mighty working, whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself.’

QUESTION: Are you intimidated by the passing of the years?

PRAYER: By your grace may I be resilient when challenges yet to unfold crash in on my life on earth. Thank you for your eternal resources available to help me safely navigate my way through each day, and for your resurrection promises.

Day 14 - Issue 32

Day 14 - Issue 32

January 20, 2020

Psalm 90:1-2 NLT

Lord, through all the generations you have been our home! Before the mountains were born, before you gave birth to the earth and the world, from beginning to end, you are God.

In a world of constant change, one thing doesn’t alter, on which we can all rely. God is our first cause and final end. He is the constant throughout time and space.

As I have aged, I have become more attentive to the longevity of much of the natural world. There is something reassuring about those natural phenomena, which preceded my birth and shall continue beyond my death.

One of the benefits of age is that we can find time to pause, breathe and become still. In a world of constant movement, such moments of stillness are critical for our wellness. The natural landscape can offer up a sense of constancy and durability that human life increasingly fails to offer the older we grow. Where once I drew my motivation from the unrealised challenges seeded deep within my ego, today I am content with a simpler and slower pace of life. I’ve made peace with myself and those whom I love. I am increasingly aware of the fragility of life, yet also the indestructible nature of God.

It is healthy to take some moments each day and contemplate God’s enduring nature. It helps ground us in a world we can fear that we are losing touch with. Swamped by data overload, it is calming to gaze upon an ancient tree or a large boulder in the river. These can direct our gaze towards our creator, God, and reassure us of God’s faithfulness and our place in this world as a passing pilgrim.

QUESTION: What can you see around you today that will help you pause and consider God’s eternal presence?

PRAYER: Thank you for walking beside me in this life and for the promise of life eternal with you to come.

Day 13 - Issue 32

Day 13 - Issue 32

January 17, 2020

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NLT

'All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.'

I often remark to Jayne that looking back I hardly recognise myself as I stepped from university into Christian ministry. There was a confidence and a swagger that I fail to recognise within myself today. Now I appreciate a depth of reflection that I knew nothing of as a young man. Life experience can either result in greater wisdom, or simply add frustration. Wisdom is not guaranteed with age. For me that wisdom has created a softer, more accepting heart. I am content within my own space, hence my pursuit of the contemplative life. I am less convinced of my own ability to change much apart from prayer.

With confidence, I affirm Paul’s declaration that God comforts us in all our troubles. This is not to say our troubles go away. Certainly, we may begin our prayers in this manner. Yet, if troubles endure, we face the challenge of discovering God’s comfort in those troubles. Jayne, with her chronic pain condition, is invited to manage the pain while discerning Christ each and every day. I am called to both support and encourage her while also finding Christ for myself within the many restrictions Jayne’s condition brings to our life.

Neither of us naturally feels an inclination to give thanks to God. However, we discover so many benefits when we pause to consider God in our challenge. Each of us will experience disappointment and heartache. Yet, the great news is that God is present throughout and can be found wherever we find ourselves. As we find God’s comfort for ourselves, so we have the authority to comfort others. We empathise, pray and praise God together.

QUESTION: Does any part of Micah’s journey of faith resonate with yours?

PRAYER: May your peace and quietness fill me, whatever twists and turns I encounter in this day.

Day 12 - Issue 32

Day 12 - Issue 32

January 16, 2020

Mark 6:34 NLT

'Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.'

Compassion is the gift of feeling the pain of another. It touches our emotions and resonates within our understanding. When compassion and mercy work together, we offer support, help and encouragement to another without demanding anything in return. Compassion moves our hearts while mercy initiates our response.

The greatest challenge the Christian faith presents to our society is to the selfishness that drives the ‘me first’ movement. The advertising industry never fails to market on the basis of my own self-interest. It stirs up my selfish desire to have something for myself. Somewhere a feeling of guilt might stir, but I challenge this mere emotion with a reasonable justification that I deserve something. If I become aware of the disparity between my fortune and another’s I may seek to explain my good fortune away with a phrase such as: “I’m so lucky.”

Jesus invites me to allow compassion to complete its work within my heart. Compassion invites a merciful response, free of judgement and justification. Mercy seeks to respond to a person, not to explain the reasons for their predicament. There may well be issues of responsibility, but these are best dealt with once the obvious need is addressed.

I all too easily become consumed with my own selfishness, a product of my fear, comparison with others, advantage or pleasure. Jesus invites me (Luke 6:36) to be compassionate and merciful as a reflection of God’s nature.

You will not want to face the fact of your own selfishness. None of us wants to. Yet, until you engage with compassion and mercy, your life horizon will stretch no further than your own front door. The call to journey from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth is not purely geographical. It is a metaphor for the degree to which your heart is open to serving God.

QUESTION: Will you make that journey from your own front door?

PRAYER: Thank you for your compassion and mercy towards me and for sending your Son, Jesus, to rescue me and show me a new way to live.

Day 11 - Issue 32

Day 11 - Issue 32

January 15, 2020

Deuteronomy 7:9 NLT

'Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands.'

Jayne and I often comment on the amazing diversity of shapes, sizes and colours that emerge from both seeds and bulbs. The packages come with pictures and a promise. The seeds and bulbs themselves are not attractive. Yet, faithfully following the planting instructions gives rise in time to a beautiful display of flowers.

God’s promise and provision is just like those seeds and bulbs. Once planted within the soil of our lives they will, if tended according to the instructions, give rise to a harvest of God’s unfailing love. Just as in the garden we’ve discovered that we may need to move plants to ensure they have the best chance of growing well, and at other times we lose plants and must sow the seed again, we can find ourselves wrestling with how best to realise God’s promises in the garden of our life and through the various seasons we encounter. One thing we can celebrate and be sure of is that God’s love is a given and if nothing else we can hold onto this.

However, for most people, truth has to be tangible to be believed. Yet, many of the greatest things in life are invisible, such as a parent’s love or a partner’s loyalty. We may have indication through actions, yet anyone who has experienced the joy of being loved knows that there is a reality that itself informs the action. The experience is not simply the act of kindness, but the spirit with which it is offered. We too often seek to judge God on the basis of external reference points within our lives, when in fact regardless of circumstance we can rest in the sure knowledge that God loves us and we are safe within God’s eternal embrace. This flies in the face of evidential truth and reflects the character of true love.

QUESTION: Do you struggle to hold onto God when the evidence of his love seems sparse?

PRAYER: Thank you, God, for your faithful promise to keep loving me.

Day 10 - Issue 32

Day 10 - Issue 32

January 14, 2020

Ephesians 2:3-4 NLT

'All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much…'

For years, I drove my family to distraction with my low boredom threshold and tendency to wear my heart on my sleeve. At times, I was loud, bombastic and acerbic with my comments. Jayne helped me by being brave enough to challenge my behaviour and by reminding me of the resource I had in Jesus. After all, what is it to become a Christian if not to be born again?

This is the great mercy of God’s incarnation and salvation. I no longer need to live according to my natural instincts. I am changed in status and in character if I choose to live the Christian life. This is mercy writ large. It took a number of years for me to recognise my own self-centred arrogance and explore the nature of humility revealed in the Gospels. Jesus led a life of service where the welfare of the ‘other’ was uppermost in his mind. His humility did not turn him into a victim but gave him the self-assurance to embrace the cross and in his hours of agony, continue serving others.

When younger I all too easily justified my behaviours to myself and to others. It took Jayne’s direct challenge to awaken me to the realities of how such behaviours made her, and by association, others, feel. That did not make for pleasant learning. I had the capacity because of the Spirit of God made available by God’s mercy through the cross to change my way of life. It took effort, yet by God’s mercy I found my true self and the way of discipleship that had eluded me for so long. Concepts became practical realities. I no longer had a Christianity of the mind but a robust Christian way of living.

QUESTION: Has there been a key moment in your life when your discipleship was taken to a deeper level?

PRAYER: I want to grow as your disciple, Jesus, to no longer be conformed to the world around me, but to be transformed into your likeness.

Day 9 - Issue 32

Day 9 - Issue 32

January 13, 2020

2 Samuel 24:14 NLT

“I’m in a desperate situation!” David replied to Gad. “But let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is great. Do not let me fall into human hands.”

I grew up with the phrase “A bad decision is better than no decision” ringing in my ears. Either parents or school burned this into my consciousness. I get the point that to prevaricate is in no one’s interest. Yet, bad decisions can lead to long-term difficulties, as Adam and Eve discovered. Still, despite their disobedience, humanity was to enjoy the fruit of God’s mercy. Jesus, the second Adam, was incarnate and recovered humanity’s lost relationship with God.

Each of us has a past, and that past will have events we are ashamed of. Every day we, like Adam and Eve, struggle to maintain our obedience to God. However, the wonderful news is that we have fallen into the hands of the Lord and are beneficiaries of God’s mercy. This is undeserved forgiveness in place of legitimate punishment. It is something worth pondering, for we are not treated as offenders.

You and I cannot change the past; however, we can influence both our present and our future. The shadows of the past do not need to haunt us. We can find forgiveness and acceptance in God. We can choose to learn to live differently going forward. We can leave the baggage from our past behind.

Mercy is our opportunity to take hold of freedom. Regardless of decisions taken, your own as well as those that others have knowingly and unknowingly imposed upon you, God places within your gift the ability to determine how you live in this present moment and all those moments yet to come.

QUESTION: How will you choose to benefit from mercy?

PRAYER: Thank you for the rich freedom from self-recrimination and inner angst available to me through stepping into your merciful hands. May I also extend the gift of mercy to others in my own heart and mind.

Day 8 - Issue 32

Day 8 - Issue 32

January 10, 2020

Lamentations 3:22-24 NLT

The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”

God is equally present in every moment of every day. There are no ‘ifs or buts’ to this truth. I may struggle to engage with the present as my mind might swim with myriad anxieties. Yet, I can do nothing to change the reality of God’s promise. For me each morning is the moment to both seize and then begin to rest in God’s new mercies for me today.

Reading scripture, and alongside it the testimony of many who have gone before me, I discover that there is a rich inheritance entrusted to me of God’s promised daily presence. I all too easily set conditions upon which I can receive such a promise. However, God reminds me through Job’s declaration (Job 1:21) about arriving and departing this earth naked and with only what God has provided.

When I open my eyes each morning, my first thought will set the tone for the day. So I do warfare with my fears and anxieties by starting my day with prayer before I set one foot to the floor. I want to acknowledge God amid those fears, and then through active prayer submit myself to God so that by God’s grace fear will be set to flight. This is the challenging work of choosing God ahead of my own anxiety. It is the path of prayer that lays the tarmac on the path of discipleship. Without it, I will spend my life chasing my tail in restless endeavour that may never realise God’s presence.

You can choose to find God’s presence in your life today. Of course, past decisions will have real consequences. Yet, fixing these can prove difficult without God. Finding God for yourself today will bring stability and hope.

QUESTION: What does the first ten minutes of your day typically consist of?

PRAYER: Thank you for your promise of fresh mercies available to me each and every day.

Day 7 - Issue 32

Day 7 - Issue 32

January 9, 2020

Isaiah 43:18-19 NLT

'But forget all that – it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.'

God is constantly doing new things, yet fear of past shadows informed by bad memories can inspire an overdeveloped sense of self-preservation within me. This means I may tend to surrender faith in God for self-reliance.

Exercising confidence in God, who remains unseen apart from through the eye of faith, can be physically and emotionally challenging. Yet, this is the workshop within which our faith is purified. Much relies on our own perception of the nature of our friendship with God. Have you ever asked yourself: “How deeply do I desire my friendship with God?”

Every relationship is tested, and its continuance is partly dependent on my reaction and responses over time. We can fail to see a friend for quite a while. Yet, when we reconnect, it’s as if we’ve never been apart. Other relationships we thought were close and important fade over time and prove only to have been instrumental for a season.

The great news is that God never changes and that despite my failings, his love for me is steady and complete. This is the declaration made by one of my favourite hymns, “Great is thy faithfulness”. As in all friendships, it takes time to build up trust, yet God has demonstrated complete trust in us through the gift of Jesus. God’s invitation to us is to make a positive and practical response. Then, somewhat like learning to swim, we must entrust ourselves to the buoyancy of the water and learn how to master a stroke that will carry us through the sea of life. It is tiring, most certainly, but we can find an intimate friendship with the creator of all that sustains us through every turn of life.

QUESTION: How close or distant is your friendship with God?

PRAYER: Thank you for being my “forever friend” and for wanting to be close beside me even when I have been cool and distant in my relationship with you.

Day 6 - Issue 32

Day 6 - Issue 32

January 8, 2020

Philippians 3:13-14 NLT

'No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.'

I have moved into the third chapter of my life, the first two having consisted of education and full-time employment. Society suggests this chapter is about pleasing myself and allowing an increased measure of self-indulgent living. It’s as if society suggests I have earned this. However, I see this season as a continuation of my opportunity to serve God with my life, recognising my ageing process will have increased impact on my health, my strength and that I need to prepare myself for my mortal demise.

This may sound alarming, but it’s not. I was 19 before I met with God and discovered I had a purpose greater than self-indulgence. It took many more years of learning to understand what life in Christ was all about. Today I deliberately live in God and have a realistic appraisal of my own fractured humanity.

Our society doesn’t know how to handle its rapidly ageing population. It wants to pension people off and forget about them. Yet, we remain fully human and therefore creative contributors. We have years of finely tuned wisdom and have ditched the insecurities and narcissism that once characterised us. Here St Paul reminds us that we are to keep focused upon the opportunities of today. The caricature of the elderly reminiscing is not something Paul either recognises or commends.

This call to keep chasing our goal is something we can pursue regardless of human circumstance. I read recently of someone who lost their sight in their 80s and whose sole comment was that this removed so many distractions that had impeded their consideration of God. We can find the positives amid the challenges.

QUESTION: Do you have a clear idea of the goal God seeded in your heart?

PRAYER: Everything is subject to change and decay but your purposes remain up to and beyond death. Thank you, God, for your eternal and strong arm to save, guide, protect and care for me.