Leaving the desert behind


Wanderlust, Paris  (Photo: Irene Bom)

 

It was my privilege, as newly appointed moderator of the International Presbytery, to conduct the communion service at our Presbytery meeting in Paris this past weekend.

Here is a transcript of my reflection on Joshua 1:1-9.


Only be strong and courageous

I regularly listen to a podcast called Creative Pep Talk. Here is God giving Joshua a pep talk at a crucial, threshold moment in his life and in the life of his people. And, I suppose, this is my pep talk to you and to my own soul.

Joshua got a sneak preview of the Promised Land 40 years earlier, as one of the 12 spies, and he and his friend, Caleb, returned with glowing reports, admitting it wouldn’t be easy but with God’s help nothing is impossible.

Sadly – tragically – the other 10 spies were anything but strong and courageous and they sowed a spirit of fear and unbelief.

Joshua stayed true to his convictions all through the wilderness years, faithfully serving Moses as his assistant and spending time with God, getting to know Him better.

With Moses gone and the Promised Land back on the agenda, it was time for a leader with a different personality and skill set. A warrior leader, strong and courageous, to inspire his people (this time round) to be strong and courageous too.

‘Be strong and courageous, Joshua,’ God said (v. 6). ‘Only be strong and courageous’ (v. 7). ‘Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened or dismayed’ (v. 9). ‘As I was with Moses,’ God said, ‘I will be with you; I will not fail or forsake you’ (v. 5). ‘The Lord your God is with you wherever you go’ (v. 9).

To paraphrase: ‘Be strong and courageous, Joshua, because you are not alone. If you continue to trust me and obey my commandments, there is nothing to fear. I’ve got your back.’

Earlier in Deuteronomy 31:7-8 God used Moses to encourage Joshua with these self-same words. This time God encourages Joshua in person with wave upon wave of loving affirmation, so the words sink in.

We can all do with more courage and encouragement – especially when we are tempted to give up, worn out by the wilderness years; or when we’re on the threshold of something new and risky; or when we face wave upon wave of opposition as we venture forward to make the Promised Land our own.

Let me encourage you today.

Whatever ‘strong and courageous’ means in your context, be strong in the Lord and courageous. For ‘God did not give us a timid spirit, but a spirit of power and love and sound judgement’ (2 Timothy 1:7).

And let us encourage one another as we boldly move forward to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of us (Phil 3:12).  Amen
 


Call to worship

(inspired by Jeremiah 31:7-9)

Praise God!
For God is gathering His people together.
From near and far we come together—
the wounded and the whole, the weak and the strong—
seeking God’s presence,
God’s forgiveness,
and God’s direction for our lives.

by Christine Longhurst, re:Worship
 

Worthy of trust


Spring willow  (Photo: Irene Bom)

 

I love this passage from Paul’s first letter to Timothy. It’s peppered with good, true and beautiful words like “promise”, “value” and “deserves”. To accompany the reading, a blessing by Jan Richardson, inspired by the story of the Roman Centurion who demonstrates uncommon trust in Jesus.

 

Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. That is why we labour and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Saviour of all people, and especially of those who believe.

1 Timothy 4:7-10 (NIV UK)

 


Only Speak the Word

A blessing inspired by Luke 7:1-10

You might not have guessed
how far this blessing
can travel.

But it is worth believing
that it is built
for crossing distances
for stretching itself
for making its way
without hesitation
to the place
where it is needed most.

Only believe—
or, failing this,
latch onto someone
who will believe
for you,
who will ask
on your behalf,
who will plead
for this blessing
to come.

Trust one who knows
with a certainty
fierce as fire
that this blessing
will find its way
to you,
that it will treat
miles and time
as nothing,
that it will push through
each boundary,
cross every border,
pass through
all obstacles
to reach you.

Trust that these words
know the path
into your anguish,
that in your ache
they will become balm
and in your pain
they will become soothing.
Trust that they will be for you
a sweet
and stunning
peace.
 
by Jan Richardson, posted on paintedprayerbook.com
 


 
From the blog
Fearfully and wonderfully made
 

Blessed assurance


Graffiti on graffiti  (Photo: Irene Bom)

 
 
Assurance is one of the synonyms for trust (noun).

Searching for assurance on re-worship.blogspot.com I came across many references to Words of Assurance (of forgiveness), often used in the service after a time of confession.

Here are some words of assurance written by John Birch – assurance that goes a lot deeper than feelings alone as it is based on the character and love of God.


Confession and forgiveness

(A moment or two of quiet where we might make our silent confession to God)

‘Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against him.’
(Romans 4:7-8)

 
For your embracing love
a Father’s love
a Mother’s love
The love that sees our failings
and forgives us
The love that sees our joys
and embraces us
The love that knows no ending
or beginning
The love that could die for us
and did
We bless you.
We bless you!

— written by John Birch, and posted on http://www.faithandworship.com/


From the blog:
Forgiven and forgotten

On trust


 


 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
      and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
      and he will make straight your paths.

 
Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV)
 


Blessing

inspired by Psalm 37:3-9

Trust in God, and do what is good;
live with quiet confidence where God has placed you.
Delight in God’s presence,
and you will have all that your heart desires.
Commit everything you do to God—trust Him completely—
and He will never let you down.
Be patient.
Don’t worry or get upset when things don’t go well.
Instead, learn to rest in God’s presence.
For those who trust in God will have everything they need.
 
from re-worship.blogspot.com

Sola gratia – Deo gratias


Water lilies – in and on the water  (Photo: Irene Bom)
 
 

The words gratia and gratias point to a connection between grace and gratitude.

 
 
To bring to a close our reflections on the theme of “grace”, I’ve selected some Latin terms, a song, a reading, a bit of church history and a prayer of thanksgiving by Thomas Ken, writer of the traditional doxology, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.”
 


By grace alone (Sola gratia)

[God] has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
 

 

“Only by grace” by Gerrit Gustafson

Thanks be to God (Deo gratias).

 
Note:
Sola gratia (“by grace alone”) is a foundational principle of the Reformation, along with two other core beliefs, Sola scriptura (“by Scripture alone”) and Sola fide (“by faith alone”).
 


Giver of All Good Things

Giver of all good things, we thank you:
for health and vigour,
for the air that gives the breath of life,
the sun that warms us,
and the good food that makes us strong;
for happy homes and for the friends we love,
for all that makes it good to live.

Make us thankful and eager to repay,
by cheerfulness and kindliness,
and by a readiness to help others.

Freely we have received; let us freely give,
in the name of him who gave his life for us,
Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.
 

by Thomas Ken (1637-1711)
 
source: re-worship.blogspot.com
 


 
From the blog
Ancient Irish Prayer
 

Grace upon grace


 

From [Christ’s] abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.
John 1:16 (NLT)

 

Let us then approach
God’s throne of grace with confidence,
so that we may receive mercy
and find grace to help us
in our time of need.

 

Hebrews 4:16 (NIVUK)

 


More about grace …

 
We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.

 

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.

 

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus. God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

 


 
More about grace …   from the blog
 
God of grace
More to come
Precious dust

In the clouds


(Photo: Irene Bom)

 

Let me encourage you with these words, as Paul suggests:

 
Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.

For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord for ever.

Therefore encourage one another with these words.

 


A prayer

Not when the mountains shake,
or the seas roar,
or the clouds part to reveal You,
Holy One,
but here and now,
on this one ordinary day,
we will wait and watch
for You will surely come to us.
Amen.

by Ann Siddall
posted on the Stillpoint Spirituality Centre and Faith Community website.
 


Get inspired

Cloud Appreciation Society Manifesto

More to come


Rotterdam café in festive mode  (Photo: Irene Bom)
 
 

Peter writes,
 
“… prepare your hearts and minds for action! Stay alert and fix your hope firmly on the marvelous grace that is coming to you. For when Jesus Christ is unveiled, a greater measure of grace will be released to you.”

 

(1 Peter 1:13, The Passion Translation)

 


From the blog
 
Prepare = action
Pause for breath …

Food for thought


(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)

 
If you recall, few posts ago I featured Romans 12:1, about offering our BODY as a living sacrifice.

In the following verse – Romans 12:2 – Paul highlights the role of the MIND in keeping us on the straight and narrow so we may “live a beautiful life” (Romans 12:2, The Passion Translation).

Here, to reflect on:

Romans 12:2 three ways

NIV UK
Do not conform to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Then you will be able to test
and approve what God’s will is –
his good, pleasing and perfect will.
 
J.B. Phillips
Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould,
but let God re-mould your minds from within,
so that you may prove in practice
that the plan of God for you is good,
meets all his demands
and moves towards the goal of true maturity.
 
The Passion Translation
Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you,
but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit
through a total reformation of how you think.
This will empower you to discern God’s will
as you live a beautiful life,
satisfying and perfect in his eyes.

If you’d like to explore further, follow this link to all English translations of Romans 12:2 on biblegateway.com.

More food for thought

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Colossians 3:1-2 (NIV UK)

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.
Romans 8:5 (NIV UK)

Finally, brothers and sisters, 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 (NIV UK)

From the blog:
The Gift #3 : Re-minder

Daily prayer

Jesus,
by your Holy Spirit,
keep my mind firmly set
where you want it to be focused today.

by Judy Allen, from Five steps to renewing your mind

Fearfully and wonderfully made


(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)

 

Here are some radical verses from one of my favourite psalms and a blessing from one of my favourite writers, Jan Richardson of paintedprayerbook.com.

 

You created my inmost being;
     you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am
     fearfully and wonderfully made;
     your works are wonderful,
     I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
     when I was made in the secret place,
     when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
     all the days ordained for me were written in your book
     before one of them came to be.

 
(Psalm 139: 13-16, NIV UK)
 


Known

A Blessing

First
we will need grace.

Then
we will need courage.

Also
we will need
some strength.

We will need
to die a little
to what we have
always thought,
what we have allowed
ourselves to see
of ourselves,
what we have built
our beliefs upon.

We will need this
and more.

Then
we will need
to let it all go
to leave room enough
for the astonishment
that will come
should we be given
a glimpse
of what the Holy One sees
in seeing us,
knows
in knowing us,
intricate
and unhidden

no part of us
foreign
no piece of us
fashioned from other
than love

desired
discerned
beheld entirely
all our days.

 
written by Jan Richardson
from paintedprayerbook.com
 


From the blog:
Body of water