2020 Bible Reflections

April 23rd 2020: Psalm 5

Psalm 5[a]

For the director of music. For pipes. A psalm of David.

Listen to my words, Lord,
    consider my lament.
Hear my cry for help,
    my King and my God,
    for to you I pray.

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
    in the morning I lay my requests before you
    and wait expectantly.
For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness;
    with you, evil people are not welcome.
The arrogant cannot stand
    in your presence.
You hate all who do wrong;
    you destroy those who tell lies.
The bloodthirsty and deceitful
    you, Lord, detest.
But I, by your great love,
    can come into your house;
in reverence I bow down
    toward your holy temple.

Lead me, Lord, in your righteousness
    because of my enemies—
    make your way straight before me.
Not a word from their mouth can be trusted;
    their heart is filled with malice.
Their throat is an open grave;
    with their tongues they tell lies.
10 Declare them guilty, O God!
    Let their intrigues be their downfall.
Banish them for their many sins,
    for they have rebelled against you.
11 But let all who take refuge in you be glad;
    let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
    that those who love your name may rejoice in you.

12 Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous;
    you surround them with your favor as with a shield

In today’s Psalm, David asks God to listen to his prayers. We are told that he prays in the morning and in the evening. I have no doubt that he was praying during the day too. I would have been if his job was my job and his enemies were my enemies. There’s something here of two elements:

  1. Persistence in prayer. Most of the time when we start praying we know what we are praying about, or asking for (although not always, sometimes all we can do is groan and ask God to hear the deep cry within us). David speaks here of continually going to God and asking him to hear and intervene as he prays. God is not an instantly-gratifying slot machine. One thing you notice through spending any time with David’s Psalms is that he obviously felt as if he put a huge amount of time into his relationship with God and so he knew his ways, what God wanted, the kind of things it was right to pray. If prayer is a conversation, a deepening of relationship, then as much as it is for God to hear and to answer, it is also for us to be committed to actually putting in the time in prayer, making it a priority, deepening our own commitment to our side of the relationship that we have been offered through divine generosity. We can be known by God and approach him in conversation, with our thankfulness and our requests, as well as our weeping and our laments. Having been given such a great gift, we ought to use it.
  2. David recognised God’s holiness and that he would have nothing to do with evil apart from finding ways to get rid of it. Of course David lived before Jesus triumphed over death and evil in the resurrection and his ascension, so we now know that we can be forgiven and free if we trust him. It is worth remembering when we pray that the one we are praying to is holy and right and good as I said earlier this week and that his love is what makes us worthy  to be his friends, adopted members of his family. I can try my best on my own, but I will never be the right kind of good without the intervention of God. That’s not to do myself down, that’s just how it is. Evil has been overcome. We ought to do our utmost to stay away from it where we can and ask God to lead us in the path to everlasting life, and do so often.

Something To Do

Make a point of praying today. It doesn’t matter what kind of prayers you pray in the first place, just spend time in prayer. Make it a priority.

Something To Pray

Thank you is always a good place to start, if you can’t think of anything else, but if you spend any amount of time actually focusing on God, I’m sure the thoughts, words and perhaps even tears will come.

2020 Bible Reflections

April 14th 2020: Psalm 136

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.

to him who alone does great wonders,
His love endures forever.
who by his understanding made the heavens,
His love endures forever.
who spread out the earth upon the waters,
His love endures forever.
who made the great lights—
His love endures forever.
the sun to govern the day,
His love endures forever.
the moon and stars to govern the night;
His love endures forever.

10 to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt
His love endures forever.
11 and brought Israel out from among them
His love endures forever.
12 with a mighty hand and outstretched arm;
His love endures forever.

13 to him who divided the Red Sea[a] asunder
His love endures forever.
14 and brought Israel through the midst of it,
His love endures forever.
15 but swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea;
His love endures forever.

16 to him who led his people through the wilderness;
His love endures forever.

17 to him who struck down great kings,
His love endures forever.
18 and killed mighty kings—
His love endures forever.
19 Sihon king of the Amorites
His love endures forever.
20 and Og king of Bashan—
His love endures forever.
21 and gave their land as an inheritance,
His love endures forever.
22 an inheritance to his servant Israel.
His love endures forever.

23 He remembered us in our low estate
His love endures forever.
24 and freed us from our enemies.
His love endures forever.
25 He gives food to every creature.
His love endures forever.

26 Give thanks to the God of heaven.
His love endures forever.

You can listen to today’s Psalm here: Psalm 136 audio
How often do you wish you could be sure that the goodness of God was a reality? How often do you find yourself hearing about this God from other people, perhaps people who seem a little off, or a little odd, but who also have a kind of contentment and confidence that the God they talk about loves them? And not just them either, but that the love he has for them could extend to anyone around who asked for it. People who don’t ‘get’ Christians (and there are lots of reasons not to ‘get’ Christians) often find it off-putting, infuriating even, that when things are tough and all the visible evidence points to God having long ago left the building, the faith of the one who truly trusts God remains strong. It makes no sense at all. Why would a person, or people, who appear to have been cut off, a people who have been let down, disappointed, hurt even, by the God who they put their trust in, keep on going back to him with love and trust and with thankful hearts.
It’s all in the psalm above what I’m writing here. The love of God has endured throughout everything that Israel has faced.
And so it endures today, through everything we face, whether individually or as a society. What will be remembered about us who claimed to have faith in God as we lived through the time of Covid-19 a hundred, two hundred, even a thousand years from now? Will it be that we remained thankful and praised God for his goodness? I hope so.
As we think back to the love Jesus showed and lived out through all he did at the first Easter, remember that whatever it seems like now, death is defeated, fear has no power anymore, unless we decide to allow it to have power in our lives. I’m bad at being fearful. It happens to me a lot, but the perfect love of God, love that endures forever, triumphs over fear. If we ask God into our lives, in he comes. And we need never be the same after that.
Something To Do
Write a list of all that you’re thankful for today. Give it time so that you don’t just write down the things that first come to mind. Then
Something To Pray
Thank God for each one in turn.
2020 Bible Reflections

March 30th 2020: Psalm 121

You can read today’s passage here: Psalm 121 text

You can listen to today’s passage here: Psalm 121 Audio

Problems sometimes feel like mountains, don’t they? Looming over us, looking down on us, judging us, mocking our inability to cope, to offer a defence. We’re unable to think about doing anything about them because they overtake us. We’re powerless. Powerlessness leads, in my experience, to fear, anger, resentment and to turning in on myself, turning against myself. By the time I do this, I’ve long since given up raging against how unfair the world is. To be perfectly honest, I’ve probably given up doing what I should know by now is the great and right instinctive response when faced with crisis too: look to God for help.

As I read the passage today, it struck me how ironic it is that these mountains that loom over us, so powerful, so insurmountable, are exactly where our help  comes from? Where does help come from? It comes from the Lord, the maker of Heaven and Earth, the one who made the mountains and put them in their place. I use that turn of phrase deliberately. If we look to the Lord for help, He will put our troubles in their place which is, I believe, under His authority. All of us have problems, trouble, pain, suffering that we’ve faced in the past, are facing now and will face in the future. There’s no doubt about that. When we do, it takes faith and trust to hold on to the beautiful promise of this Psalm that the Lord will watch over us, He will watch over our going out and our coming in. Whatever happens, God doesn’t sleep. He has His eye on us. His love is for us every step of the way. It might be scary to think that God has His eye on you all the time. I truly believe that when He looks at you He does so with love. He loves you. It’s an old-fashioned phrase ‘He will keep your soul’ but that is the phrase that gives me the most comfort from this reading today. It is God who cares for me the most. Imagine the most cared-for you’ve ever felt in your whole life: that’s just a small picture of the care and the love and the passion that God has for you.

Something To Do

Think deliberately about trying to be as caring as you can towards those around you and yourself today. It might sound silly but I bet it helps.

Something To Pray

Father, thank you for caring for me, for keeping your eye on me. Help me to trust you and help me to know your love for me. Amen

2020 Bible Reflections

The Return of Daily Bible Reflections

Periodically I discipline myself to write a short piece about the readings that are offered for each day by the Church of England, the Church I work for. As we are in the midst of Coronavirus and all that it has brought so far and will bring in the future, it feels like a good time to start writing them again, particularly as I’m largely going to be at home for a good while.

I hope you enjoy the posts which will follow and that you find them helpful. I know that a lot of people I know and who follow me aren’t Christians and will probably sigh and move on when the posts come up on your social media feeds, but you never know, some of my jokes might be funny. Unlikely, I know, but still, a possibility which makes reading the posts probably worthwhile.



The Contents of My Head

As I begin writing this, I’m a couple of hours away from going away on retreat, before I am ordained a deacon in the Church of England on Sunday.  If I was a proper blogger, I’d have been thinking about this for quite some time in readiness for dazzling whoever reads my writings with some wisdom, insight or humour which makes them at once stop in their tracks and marvel at the gifts and talents (coupled with humility) that God has given me. Sadly, this isn’t the case. I’ll never be a famous Christian blogger. Instead, as it ticks past midday, here are the contents of my head.

I said goodbye to my wife a couple of hours ago. I won’t see her until Sunday. Next time I talk to her properly I’ll be a deacon/curate and have a bit of white plastic round my neck. I don’t know whether people will notice that first, or the black cassock I’ll be wearing, the white surplice that I’m pretty convinced makes me look like a levitating soufflé, or whether my seemingly-defining features (suave, debonair good looks and/or wheelchair) will draw the most attention. I don’t know how I feel about ontological changes. I don’t think I understand ontology well enough to know how I feel about it, and the idea that when the Bishop puts his hands on my head on Sunday (must wash my hair) and prays a powerful prayer, I will become something, or someone else. What I do know is that once a person makes a step like being ordained, nothing is quite the same again. God does something, the Church does something, I do something, but almost equally, those who love and care for me do something too, and everything changes. I was struck as she left this morning as Jo left that she has committed and sacrificed so much so that I can be and do this, that neither of us really have a clue what we’re getting into, but that there’s no-one I’d rather be getting into it with.

I’ve got to be silent from after dinner tonight for most of the next four days. I don’t know how you feel about being silent, but I have a busy mind, sometimes troubled, sometimes rejoicing, but hardly ever quiet. Lots of books and leaflets exist on how to be silent and how to make the most of the gift of silence and I really appreciate them, but the truth of it is I’ll likely find the next few days a challenge. Be thinking of me!

I’m looking ahead to a new life and a new job (I know it’s a vocation really) as a colleague and team member of the Emmanuel Group of Churches in Northampton. Rather unbelievably, as this move has been a long time coming, I start there on Monday. I have so much to learn, but I’m very excited and feel very honoured by the welcome that I’ve received there so far. Come visit sometime.

You’re supposed to say that you feel unworthy at times like this. It’s the done thing. I often feel unworthy. It’s my default position. I find it easier than confidence, peace, happiness or anything else. The thing is, this time I feel like I’m in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing. This is strange, and oddly frustrating (don’t ask how my mind works). I feel pretty good about the whole thing though. I suppose I could theologically reflect about why that is while I’m away. If I come up with any answers I’ll probably blog about it! Anyone who knows me or has spoken to me in the last few years knows that the last few years have been something of a journey (hate that phrase, but it’s true) and that there were a lot of times when I didn’t think I would be here doing this. There were even more times when I didn’t even want to be here. The thing is (and here comes the vaguely spiritual bit) sometimes you can’t run from the thing that God wants to gift to you. Ordination is a huge thing, it’s a responsibility, but it’s also, next to Jo and my family, probably the biggest gift and privilege I’ve ever been given. I don’t know from my own experience yet but I’m pretty sure it’ll turn out to be the case. God has been constant and abundant in His provision throughout my life, perhaps unsurprisingly as that is His character and mode of operation, but on a day like today it feels important to stop and acknowledge that truth afresh. I’ve tried hard to escape from His love, grace and generosity, often a lot too hard, but “where can I flee from your spirit?” Nowhere. There’s nowhere that any of us can go which is beyond the welcome of the Spirit. Wherever you are at this morning I hope you know that somewhere deep within.

And so, in spite  of a maelstrom of thoughts and concerns, I can go in to what is next knowing and believing what hindsight tells me loud and clear. God is with me. God is with us. God is for us. This is His life, His ministry. I’m me. Bizarrely He wants to partner with me in doing the next part of something. It’ll be fun finding out what it is.