Heart’s desire


(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)
 

Take delight in the Lord,
      and he will give you
      the desires of your heart
.

(Psalm 37:4)

Reflection

The secret is to connect with – and pursue – the desires that God has placed in our heart.

Recommended listening

Ashton Gustafson in conversation with John Philip Newell, the celebrated author of Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality.
 

From a grateful heart


(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)

A Prayer

based on Psalm 103:1-5

Come!
Come praise the eternal God!
Let all that is within us —
body, emotions, mind, and will —
praise God’s holy name!

Despite our failures, He forgives and releases us.
More than any doctor, He heals our diseases.
When we are famished and weak,
He fills us with good and beautiful things,
satisfying our needs,
and restoring our strength.

So come!
Come, praise the eternal God!
Sing songs from a grateful heart,
and remember all that He has done for us.

source: https://re-worship.blogspot.nl


What songs of praise and thanksgiving is your heart dying to sing today? Sing away.


See also Forgiven and forgotten

Give me a heart of flesh

Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland
Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland (Photo: Irene Bom)
 

God said to the Jews in exile in Babylon, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26, NIVUK)

Here is a prayer dating back to the 4th century asking God to work this miracle in us.

O Lord, who has mercy on all,
take away from me my sins,
and mercifully kindle in me
the fire of your Holy Spirit.
Take away from me the heart of stone,
and give me a heart of flesh,
a heart to love and adore you,
a heart to delight in you,
to follow and enjoy you,
for Christ’s sake, Amen

St. Ambrose of Milan (AD 339-397)


Related topics to explore to your heart’s content

  1. Jesus’ parable about the sower and the seed in Mark 1:1-20 (also in Matthew 13 and Luke 8). Note in particular the impact of stony ground.
  2. From the blog: Unite my divided heart
  3. www.christianitytoday.com article about Ambrose and his legacy
from www.christianitytoday.com
 
“When we speak of wisdom, we are speaking about Christ. When we speak about virtue, we are speaking about Christ. When we speak about justice, we are speaking about Christ. When we are speaking about truth and life and redemption, we are speaking about Christ.” So wrote Ambrose, bishop of Milan, biblical exegete, political theorist, master of Latin eloquence, musician, and teacher; in all these roles, he was speaking about Christ.
 

Unite my divided heart

O Eternal One, guide me along Your path so that I will live in Your truth. Unite my divided heart so that I will fear Your great name. Psalm 86:11, The Voice
(Illustration: Irene Bom)

 

This post – the first post in 2018 – introduces the theme for the month of January: Heart.

(source: Logos Bible Software)
 

In other words …

Here are some other English translations of Psalm 86:11 to help flesh out the meaning of the words, “unite my divided heart” (from The Voice).

Good News Translation
“Teach me, Lord, what you want me to do, and I will obey you faithfully; teach me to serve you with complete devotion.”

The Passion Translation
“Teach me more about you, how you work and how you move, so that I can walk onward in your truth until everything within me brings honor to your name.”

New American Bible (Revised Edition)
“Teach me, Lord, your way that I may walk in your truth, single-hearted and revering your name.”

Evangelical Heritage Version
“Teach me your way, O Lord. I will walk in your truth. Give me wholehearted commitment to fear your name.”

Modern Evangelical Version
“bind my heart”

Names of God Bible
“focus my heart”


Related topics to explore to your heart’s content

  1. “Our Daily Bread” devotional entitled The divided heart
  2. 131 references to “heart” in the Psalms (NRSV)
  3. From the blog: Prayer sheet on Theme: Do not lose heart
  4. 70 phrases and expressions that include the word “heart” from www.dailywritingtips.com

Get creative

If you’re feeling inspired, design your own “postcard” featuring a Bible verse or quotation that speaks to you.

3 Prayers for endings and beginnings

Where do you go from here?
Where do you go from here? (photo: Irene Bom)
 

Here are 3 prayers for happier endings and good beginnings as we approach the end of one year and the start of another.

Go with God.

And if you’re looking for guidance on what to focus on in your walk with God in the coming year, here’s Paul’s advice, from his first letter to the Thessalonians:

16 Always be joyful. 17 Never stop praying. 18 Whatever happens, give thanks, because it is God’s will in Christ Jesus that you do this. 19 Don’t put out the Spirit’s fire. 20 Don’t despise what God has revealed. 21 Instead, test everything. Hold on to what is good.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-21 (God’s Word translation)


A new story

Author of Salvation, write in us a new story.
Erase the sins of the past and create a new narrative,
one in which we seek Your love and justice in this world.
Write a new direction for our lives,
away from the busy-ness
    and cares of the world for success and stability,
and instead plot us towards ways of living Your compassion,
care and grace in the world.

Create new opportunities for us, O God,
to explore and live this adventure of life in bold and daring ways,
in which new insights may unfold for us.
Grant us the fullness of life by living for others,
as You taught us to love our neighbour as ourselves,
but most of all, may our story be about You,
about Your love for us,
and what Your love for us calls us to do.
In the name of Christ,
who writes the new ending and beginning, we pray.
Amen.

by Rev. Mindi, and posted on her Rev-o-lution blog.


God’s timing

O God of all seasons and senses,
grant us the sense of your timing
to submit gracefully and rejoice quietly
in the turn of the seasons.

In this season of short days and long nights,
of grey and white and cold,
teach us the lessons of endings;
children growing, friends leaving, loved ones dying,
grieving over,
grudges over,
blaming over,
excuses over.

O God, grant us a sense of your timing.

In this season of short days and long nights,
of grey and white and cold,
teach us the lessons of beginnings;
that such waitings and endings may be the starting place,
a planting of seeds which bring to birth
    what is ready to be born –
something right and just and different,
a new song, a deeper relationship, a fuller love –
in the fullness of your time.

O God, grant us the sense of your timing.

by Ted Loder, in Guerrillas of Grace.


Prayer at the threshold

And so we take the ragged fragments,

the patches of darkness
that give shape to the light;
the scraps of desires
unslaked or realized;
the memories of spaces
of blessing, of pain.

And so we gather the scattered pieces

the hopes we carry
fractured or whole;
the struggles of birthing
exhausted, elated;
the places of welcome
that bring healing and life.

And so we lay them at the threshold, God;

bid you hold them, bless them, use them;
ask you tend them, mend them,
transform them
to keep us warm,
make us whole, and send us forth.

by Jan L. Richardson in Through the Advent Door: Entering a Contemplative Christmas, Posted on Prayers and Creeds.


Tip: World in prayer
Their final post for 2017 invites us to pray for everyone and includes a list of every nation, so we can pray for them by name.

 
Other posts in the “3 Prayers” series
3 Prayers to the Sacred Trinity
3 Prayers for Wayfarers
3 Prayers for Refugees

2017: Advent Joy #7


(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)
 

THE JOY OF THE ASSURANCE OF GOD’S LOVE IN CHRIST

Romans 8:31-35  (The Voice)

31 So what should we say about all of this? If God is on our side, then tell me: whom should we fear? 32 If He did not spare His own Son, but handed Him over on our account, then don’t you think that He will graciously give us all things with Him? 33 Can anyone be so bold as to level a charge against God’s chosen? Especially since God’s “not guilty” verdict is already declared. 34 Who has the authority to condemn? Jesus the Anointed who died, but more importantly, conquered death when He was raised to sit at the right hand of God where He pleads on our behalf. 35 So who can separate us? What can come between us and the love of God’s Anointed? Can troubles, hardships, persecution, hunger, poverty, danger, or even death? The answer is, absolutely nothing.

Reflection

Fanny Crosby’s hymn, Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine, is well-loved. Our congregation sings its uplifting melody and inspiring words with gusto. What is it to have the assurance of our faith? Assurance in Christ is a work of the Holy Spirit in someone’s life which gives the believer confidence in the truths of the gospel.

Someone who has assurance in Christ may not have led an easy Christian life. They are likely to have wrestled with Christ’s gospel, asked hard questions of the scriptures and faced challenging times and seasons in life. Assurance is a sign of Christian maturity that gives the believer the level of respectful assertiveness needed to share the gospel in words and action.

In his letter to the Christians in Rome, Paul writes about assurance in the Christian life, commenting on his confidence in God’s sovereign work and how it impacts the life of the believer: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28).  Paul then confidently reminds them that nothing – absolutely nothing – can separate them from the love of God.

What will such confidence in a Sovereign God and perfect Saviour do for us? As you ponder this, let God fill you with deep peace and joy.

Praying the psalms

6 Often at night I lie in bed and remember You,
meditating on Your greatness
till morning smiles through my window.
7 You have been my constant helper;
therefore, I sing for joy under the protection of Your wings.
8 My soul clings to You;
Your right hand reaches down and holds me up.

Psalm 63:6-8 (The Voice)

 

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Church of Scotland Advent Calendar
Journey daily with characters in the Nativity through video, reflection and prayer

 

TIP … from the blog
In a joyful vein:
The Gift #8 : Adoption

2017: Advent Joy #6


Treacle – Lindy and Laurence’s dog – source of much joy and exercise
(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)
 

REJOICE IN THE LORD ALWAYS

Philippians 4:4-7  (The Voice)

4 Most of all, friends, always rejoice in the Lord! I never tire of saying it: Rejoice! 5 Keep your gentle nature so that all people will know what it looks like to walk in His footsteps. The Lord is ever present with us. 6 Don’t be anxious about things; instead, pray. Pray about everything. He longs to hear your requests, so talk to God about your needs and be thankful for what has come. 7 And know that the peace of God (a peace that is beyond any and all of our human understanding) will stand watch over your hearts and minds in Jesus, the Anointed One.

Reflection

My favourite letter of the Apostle Paul is to the Christians in Philippi. It is an incredibly upbeat epistle, considering that Paul is under house arrest. The underlying theme of the letter is ‘rejoicing’ and ‘joy’. Paul doesn’t seem in any way intimidated by his situation or restrictions on his movements.

The fact that the gospel is being preached by others as a result of Paul’s imprisonment brings him joy, regardless of the motivation behind it (1:12-18). Paul rejoices in the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ, reminding the believers in Philippi that their attitude towards one another should be the same as that of Christ (2:5). Also, the friendships that he shares with Timothy and Epaphroditus bring him joy (2:19-30). Lastly, Paul is filled with deep joy at the ‘the peace that passes all understanding’ resulting from his prayer life, and he encourages the Philippian Christians to experience this for themselves.

Advent is a time of preparation. We fill our time with too much busyness; present-buying, meeting up with friends, tidying the house for visitors coming to stay. Yet, it is not that sort of preparation that I am thinking of. In all of the ‘stuff’ that we do, let us take time to reflect on the Nativity story and ponder afresh on what God has done for us in giving us his incarnate Son. There we will discover deep joy, just as the Apostle Paul did.


(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)

Praying the psalms

9 This is a good life—my heart is glad, my soul is full of joy,
and my body is at rest.
Who could want for more?
10 You will not abandon me to experience death and the grave
or leave me to rot alone.
11 Instead, You direct me on the path that leads to a beautiful life.
As I walk with You, the pleasures are never-ending,
and I know true joy and contentment.

Psalm 16:9-11 The Voice

 

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Church of Scotland Advent Calendar
Journey daily with characters in the Nativity through video, reflection and prayer

 

TIP … from the blog
3 Prayers for Wayfarers
For when you’re travelling, to help you tune in to God’s presence

2017: Advent Joy #5


(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)
 

GRIEF WILL TURN TO JOY

John 16:20  (The Voice)

20 I tell you the truth, a time is approaching when you will weep and mourn while the world is celebrating. You will grieve, but that grief will give birth to great joy.

Reflection

The gospel of John gives us a detailed account of the conversations that Jesus had with his apostles in the upper room. There are some tense moments as the scene plays out, when Jesus confronts Judas, who will betray him, before he departs into the night. Jesus is explicit about his own death and he knows that he will face it very soon. Yet, despite all the gloom about the crucifixion to come, Jesus promises that the apostles’ grief will turn to joy.

Who was it that grieved the Lord’s death? We know of Judas, the betrayer, whose despair at his own actions so overwhelmed him that he took his own life. Then there’s Peter, the rock on which Christ would build his Church, who denied his Lord three times in the courtyard. When Christ is led out, he looks at Peter from across the courtyard, and Peter runs off sobbing. How many tears of grief Peter cried we will never know.

Yet the grief of Christ’s death turns into the joy of the resurrection on Easter morning. After breakfast the risen Christ invites Peter for a walk along the shore of the lake. The conversation begins ‘Peter, do you love me?’ and concludes with Peter’s joyful restoration.

Praying the psalms

You did it: You turned my deepest pains into joyful dancing;
You stripped off my dark clothing
and covered me with joyful light.
12 You have restored my honor.
My heart is ready to explode, erupt in new songs!
It’s impossible to keep quiet!
Eternal One, my God, my Life-Giver, I will thank You forever.

Psalm 30:11-12 (The Voice)

 

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Church of Scotland Advent Calendar
Journey daily with characters in the Nativity through video, reflection and prayer

 

2017: Advent Joy #4


(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)

Celebrations and jubilations! This is the 100th post since starting the blog on 7 March 2017.

 

MARY’S MAGNIFICAT JOY

Luke 1:46-55  (The Voice)

46 Mary: My soul lifts up the Lord!
47 My spirit celebrates God, my Liberator!
48 For though I’m God’s humble servant,
God has noticed me.
Now and forever,
I will be considered blessed by all generations.
49 For the Mighty One has done great things for me;
holy is God’s name!
50 From generation to generation,
God’s lovingkindness endures
for those who revere Him.

51 God’s arm has accomplished mighty deeds.
The proud in mind and heart,
God has sent away in disarray.
52 The rulers from their high positions of power,
God has brought down low.
And those who were humble and lowly,
God has elevated with dignity.
53 The hungry—God has filled with fine food.
The rich—God has dismissed with nothing in their hands.
54 To Israel, God’s servant,
God has given help,
55 As promised to our ancestors,
remembering Abraham and his descendants in mercy forever.

Reflection

Mary, betrothed to Joseph the carpenter, could have been as young as 14. To get pregnant outside of marriage in the ancient world of the 1st century was a huge scandal. Mary would have been the talk of the town. Whose baby is it? Was it Joseph’s baby or was she pregnant by another man? Despite everything – her reputation in tatters, her fiancé threatening to break off the engagement (who could blame him?) – still, Mary responds positively.

She sings a song of joy that we call the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), selected as today’s reading. Her positive spirit is astonishing and her faith inspiring. She is so filled with the joy of the news of the angel’s revelation to her that her soul bursts forth into song. Mary’s focus is not on the potentially difficult circumstances she finds herself in, but on the amazing privilege that God in Heaven has bestowed upon her. Mary’s spiritual maturity and depth of faith is astonishing for such a young woman.

Timothy Dudley-Smith’s Advent hymn, Tell out my soul the greatness of the Lord, based on Mary’s song, is a firm favourite in our congregation.

(Tell out my soul: Songs of Praise, St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast)

Praying the psalms

6 We confess — there is nothing greater than You, God,
nothing mightier than Your awesome works.
I will tell of Your greatness as long as I have breath.
7 The news of Your rich goodness is no secret —
Your people love to recall it
and sing songs of joy to celebrate Your righteousness.

Psalm 145:6-7 (The Voice)

 

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Journey daily with characters in the Nativity through video, reflection and prayer

 

2017: Advent Joy #3


(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)
 

JOY TO THE WORLD

Luke 2:8-12  (The Voice)

8 Nearby, in the fields outside of Bethlehem, a group of shepherds were guarding their flocks from predators in the darkness of night. 9 Suddenly a messenger of the Lord stood in front of them, and the darkness was replaced by a glorious light — the shining light of God’s glory. They were terrified!

Messenger: 10 Don’t be afraid! Listen! I bring good news, news of great joy, news that will affect all people everywhere. 11 Today, in the city of David, a Liberator has been born for you! He is the promised Anointed One, the Supreme Authority! 12 You will know you have found Him when you see a baby, wrapped in a blanket, lying in a feeding trough.

Reflection

On Christmas Day we often sing the Christmas Hymn, Joy to the world, the Lord has come. What is it that we are celebrating on Christmas morning?

Firstly, we celebrate God’s faithfulness; the Messiah is promised through all of the Old Testament from the book of Genesis to the words of the prophet Malachi. It is a great testament to God’s faithfulness that he fulfilled his long-term promise of sending the Messiah, by giving us his only eternal Son, incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth.

Next we remember God’s perfect thoughtfulness. When you seek out a Christmas gift for someone, it can take a lot of thought and effort to find the appropriate item. God is thoughtful and kind to humanity by choosing the most appropriate gift of all. He chooses his precious Son to be our perfect Saviour, the only one who can forgive our sins and give us the hope of resurrection life. No other being could do that for us; only God the Son Incarnate in Christ was equipped to fulfil this task for us. We rejoice in God’s perfect thoughtfulness.

Next, God is persistent in his love for us. When we reject that love and go our own way or cave into temptation, he seeks us out again and again until we turn towards him and seek the restored relationship with him that deep down we crave.

Lastly, God is generous in his grace for us. So often we think of Christ’s sacrificial death on the Cross as the ultimate expression of God’s grace towards us. Yet if God had not given us the gift of his incarnate Son, there would have been no Cross.

Praying the psalms

2 Our mouths were filled with laughter;
our tongues were spilling over into song.
The word went out across the prairies and deserts,
across the hills, over the oceans wide, from nation to nation:
“The Eternal has done remarkable things for them.”

3 We shook our heads. All of us were stunned —
the Eternal has done remarkable things for us.
We were beyond happy, beyond joyful.

4 And now, Eternal One, some are held captive and poor.
Release them, and restore our fortunes
as the dry riverbeds of the South spring to life
when the rains come at last.

Psalm 126:2-4 (The Voice)

 

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Journey daily with characters in the Nativity through video, reflection and prayer