The Wisdom of Solomon…and Spock!

Well, today was one of these days when I felt weaker in body than on other days. Since taking time off and now stepping back from parish ministry through ill health I look back over the years and see how unhealthy my attitude has been towards my body’s well being! Perhaps that was fuelled by reading biographies of Christians who seem to disregard their bodily health for the sake of the gospel and were looked upon as heroes of the faith to be emulated. Somewhere along the way I picked up the feeling that to be a worthy servant of the Lord, I needed to work myself to an early grave. However in the Book of Proverbs we are told  by Solomon that “it is better to be a live dog than a dead lion.”   Look after your body. Make sure it gets rest when it is tired or unwell. Observe the Principle of the Sabbath.

I want to share something the Lord said to me earlier on in my illness. After a few days in hospital  I was trying to force the pace of recovery not only from surgery but from an infected wound. He simply said, “Kenny, listen to the distress of your body.”  If it is not irreverent to say this, there was almost a pleading in the tone of His Voice, almost an exasperation born of His love for me that I was ignoring messages my body was trying to give me, that I was demanding too much of myself. It  was a serious word that I knew I could not ignore. (How do I know it was The Lord? I just know.) For me practically that means learning to live within capacity, and not feeling ashamed or a weakling or a failure when I think of the champions of old, or have days when I cannot do or achieve as much as I want.  In saying all this, please know I am not devaluing the suffering of our persecuted brothers and sisters down through the centuries and in our own day whose loyalty to Jesus has led to the early death of martyrdom. That is Holy Ground on which we should silently stand with bare feet, and  bowed heads. I am thinking rather about early deaths that were the result of misplaced and wrong spirituality. In the words of Spock from Star Trek , which actually were stolen from the Bible, “May you live long and prosper!”

PS – You are very welcome to enjoy these blogs and share them with anyone “without money or price!” However, if you ever feel grateful for these blogs and are able to do so, then please make a donation to Open Doors, Scotland. Their website is

In case you have not heard of them, Open Doors works to help our persecuted brothers and sisters throughout the world.

“What’s for you will not go by you…”

I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son; but I was an herdsman, and a gatherer of sycamore fruit: And the LORD took me as I followed the flock, and the LORD said unto me, ‘Go, prophesy unto my people Israel.’Amos Chapter 7:14.

I was asked a question via Facebook last night. The question was this: “Is the Scottish saying, ‘What’s for you will not go by you,’ true or false?” I am not sure what you would say in answer to that question. I gave an answer but I have been thinking more about the question since and that thinking has become today’s rather longer than usual blog.  On the whole, I think that well known phrase seems more like fate than faith. It could produce almost a carelessness or a wrong sort of spiritual passivity. Can we miss out on the fullness of what God wants for us? It seems to me that the clear answer to that from the Bible is “yes.” However, to put things positively, if we stay close to Jesus, listening to His voice and staying close to His mercy when we get it wrong, we can be sure that God will work out all that He plans for us.

One emphasis that I find in the modern day church, or at least in that part of the Body of Christ with which I am familiar, is  a great stress being put upon  “destiny” or “calling.” I am not sure that  emphasis existed in quite the same form when I was a young believer.  I was encouraged to believe that there was something I could do to serve Jesus with my life. I found that a humbling and life giving thought. However, nowadays, I think these things are often spoken of in such grandiose terms that it can bring people into a state of anxiety or even produce narcissism: “What if I miss my calling?” “What if others can’t see my calling?” The gift of prophecy was not common in the days of my youth. In fact the gifts of the Spirit were not much talked about. I am so thankful that generations younger than me are now more likely to grow up believing and experiencing these gifts. However sometimes in the operation of spiritual gifts,  it is possible to  begin with the Spirit and end in well meaning, well intentioned flesh!  By the way that can happen with those who preach and teach as well, even those committed to expository preaching! It is a fault common to charismatics and non-charismatics alike. None of us are innocent here! The result is that people often go beyond what God really wants to say and the fruit of that is fear, nervousness and bondage at worse or frustration and resentment when these prophesied purposes do not come to be.  It can lead to an anger against the church, or its leadership when there is no recognition or opening made for me to move into this prophesied purpose.

I have something very simple to say to you if you are carrying this frustration or nervousness. God knows where you stay. He can find you. Be faithful where you are right now. He can call you, so just stay close to Him and you can be sure that with regard to destiny, no man or woman or circumstance can thwart you. I love the verses quoted at the start of this  blog. Amos was a shepherd, or herdsman, but God took him from following the flocks to being a leader of Gods people. (By the way not everyone is called to be a leader as is the common teaching gaining ground today. It is not biblical and is just plain wrong. Let’s not go down that side track today though.) Can you get my main point? What you are doing right now might seem to be completely different to something that is yet to be in the purposes of God. Be faithful. He can find you. He knows where you stay.

Let me give you some suggestions to think about to save yourself from fear or frustration. They are not a hundred percent law as it were, but think about them carefully and think carefully before you disregard them.

1 – What has God put on your heart to do for Him? Don’t follow a prophecy that does not confirm something that God has said to you. If God has not yet planted even a seed of what is being prophesied over you in your own thinking and wondering, then at least wait upon the Lord to see if there is any witness of His Spirit to what was “prophesied.”

2 – Don’t allow just anyone to prophesy into your life. It is all a bit complex. Genuine prophets can seem like nutters at times. That was true in bible times and it still is. BUT, being odd  is neither a qualification nor the only mark of someone that God wants to use to speak into your life.  We seem to have got to the stage that we are more likely to listen to someone the more odd or eccentric their behaviour is,  the more unusual their dress or hairstyle or manner, or the more peculiar the physical manifestation of the prophetic becomes. More shaking means more God… Wrong! More gold dust means more God…Wrong!  More volume means more God…Wrong!  I am saying this  as someone who has known what it is to shake, rattle  and roll in the Spirit. I have been in meetings where gold dust and supernatural oil and fragrance were manifest, resting upon me and upon others, but these things are not an absolute authentication of everything about a message or a messenger. We need to be open minded when God is in the midst and moving by His Spirit in sign and wonder, but not so open minded that our brains fall out completely. Never give up the necessity and right to weigh things up.

3 – Don’t put more weight on the words of a wandering prophet who may seem to know things from God through supernatural knowledge than on the words and advice of faithful servants of God in your local church. At the same time, I am not saying to dismiss the wandering prophet. They are welcome to minister  in my church or into my life if  they have a relationship with me or with other church leaders I know and trust. If there is no such relationship, well I have adopted the approach of the late great Steve Hill; They have to produce a letter form their pastor to show they are under the authority of local church leadership back home and a letter from the treasurer of their home church to confirm their financial commitment there!

4 – “Have you told God you are willing to lean into His  calling upon you?” That was a question that Rick Hayes, who will be known by many of you who read this blog, once asked me. It may sound very obvious, but actually I had never said to God, “I am willing,” to a particular aspect of  His call on my life. I followed Rick’s advice and the wheels of that aspect of my destiny started turning within the hour… and have kept turning.

5 – Don’t try and force an opening and don’t manipulate things. I hear a lot of talk nowadays about how we need to be “intentional.” However have you realised that there is a passivity that honours God too? There is a passivity of the wrong type as I mentioned in the first paragraph, but there is a passivity that is part of truly following Jesus. It is interesting that the fullest calling upon Jesus required Him to be purposefully passive. As the cross approaches there is a change in the way the story is told.  Up until the movement towards the cross, Jesus is always the active one, the initiator, the subject or prime mover of an action rather than its object. Indeed at times He seemed intentionally active in a way that  frightened those who were following Him. However, though actively and intentionally embracing the cross, as it approaches He also then becomes the object rather than the subject as it were. People do things to Him, and like a sheep before its shearers He opened not His mouth. He “purposefully passively” gave His back to those who stuck Him and His face to those who plucked out His beard. Intentionality all the time is unlikely to get you into the will of God. ( I have just updated this post as I felt a strong physical anointing of the Spirit upon that last sentence. That means someone really needs to hear this.) Intentionality all the time may get you into your own will. Neither will passivity of the wrong type or all the time  get you into the will of God. That is more likely to get you into what others think is the right destiny for you rather than into the good things your  Heavenly Father has for you to walk in. So, yes, we need “intentionality.” But we need every bit as much what those who really understood spiritual life down through the centuries unanimously tell us… “intentional passivity.” The Bible calls that either “trust” or “waiting” upon God. Not perhaps such “in” words as “intentionality” but having no place for such concepts is not a good idea.

Well, that is more than enough for today. As I say, these are not laws. There are exceptions to every rule… but please don’t insist on you always being the exception to the rule. I am trying to tell you in these blogs a way that works. I am trying to help you to learn from my mistakes. I suppose I am sharing bread that has nourished me over the years. In fact to be more accurate, today I am maybe giving you a recipe that works if you want to bake some bread yourself. Not all recipes work out.  It is good to have a teachable spirit. In fact if we don’t have  what is for us may well go by us.

Yours in the love of Christ


PS – You are very welcome to enjoy these blogs and share them with anyone “without money or price!” However, if you ever feel grateful for these blogs and are able to do so, then please make a donation to Open Doors, Scotland. Their website is

In case you have not heard of them, Open Doors works to help our persecuted brothers and sisters throughout the world.

To end the day…Short… and sweet?

I have just been on Facebook which has confirmed me in my  intense dislike of soundbite truths that a lot of the Christian world seems to love these days.  They are all over the place in great abundance tonight! By “soundbite,” I mean a short phrase that obviously the contributor  rather annoyingly feels sums up Christianity… but it rarely does! However rather than write at length about my dislike and justify it, and name and shame some of my friends publicly for their irritating little phrases,  I allowed God in on it and He seemed to help me see something that I have had great difficulty in believing over the years that I want to share with you. Here is my contribution to the world of “soundbite” Christian sayings. It is written in the style of many of the psalms, in other words it says the same thing in two different ways. Hopefully that will convince some of you of its orthodoxy even if you remain suspcious of mine! Here it is:

“I am not always right…

…I sometimes get it wrong.”

Come to think of it, is it “Soundbite” or “Soundbyte” and should that have been a colon or a semicolon?

PS – You are very welcome to enjoy these blogs and share them with anyone “without money or price!” However, if you ever feel grateful for these blogs and are able to do so, then please make a donation to Open Doors, Scotland. Their website is

In case you have not heard of them, Open Doors works to help our persecuted brothers and sisters throughout the world.

Take a good look…..

To be honest I remember very little of University days, in terms of what was said in lectures. There are however 2 things I remember Rev Professor Murdo Ewan Madonald saying in Practical Theology. I have tried to put them both into practice over the years. The first is that if we were having trouble as ministers with dominant people in a congregation or a Kirk Session trying to control us, we were to say to them, “Yes, I am your servant, but you are not my master!” Unfortunately he never told us what to do to cope with the aftermath of saying that!!

It is however my second memory from Murdo Ewan’s  classes that I want to share and concentrate on in this blog. He said almost as a throwaway comment one day, “Make sure that the offence in your ministry is the offence of the cross. Make sure it is not you that is being offensive and a stumbling block to people.”

I think there is wisdom in that. It is good to think about it. In every relationship difficult times can come along. It is easy  for believers to assume that any difficulty we face with people is because of the offence of the gospel, an adverse  reaction to the Light of Christ within me… but it may well be that I am behaving in a way that is offensive. Please don’t hide today behind the notion that every difficulty that you face is a spiritual attack upon you. Are you aware of the effect of “you” upon people?

It takes time to unlearn things that are wrong or only half true. Half true principles are probably the more dangerous. In the late 70’s and early 80’s a half truth broke from the world of secular psychology or psychotherapy  into the Christian World, namely that “I am not responsible for your   reactions.” That can be true or a lie at the same time. If you are behaving in a way that is wrong or offensive or abusive then you do bear a responsibility for how people react to you.

As I write, I am thinking about  the story of Joseph in the bible. The purposes of God were upon his shoulders as we know from the fullness of the story. However when we first meet Joseph, he is utterly obnoxious, but cannot see it. He upsets his siblings and even his parents by thinking only of himself and the importance he had in God’s purposes. There was indeed a high calling upon his life, but he failed to see that he was obnoxious. The attacks that came his way  were in no way excusable, but they were understandable. It was only after years of refining from what was obnoxious that God’s purpose could unfold in fullness.

Is the cross the only offensive thing about you or me? We cannot take away the offence of the cross in that it declares all people sinful and unable to save ourselves, however highly  we think of ourselves. The cross  has always been a stumbling block to  people’s pride in themselves that we ca get to heaven by our own good deeds, or merit the love and blessing of God. It also demands a death to King Self, or Queen Self who have usurped the throne of God in many lives and threaten to do so every moment and day in every life that will allow them territory.

So, a  couple of suggestions today:

1 – Be aware of how you are affecting other people. If you keep meeting the same sort of reaction or are treated in the same way by different people indifferent settings, it may well be that you are lacking in both self-awareness or in empathy towards other people. “Why does this keep happening to me?” is a good question to ask.

2- If you want to live in reality, which is after all a key to physical, emotional, spiritual and relational health, perhaps you will have the courage to pray the words of David in Psalm 51: “Surely you desire truth in the inward parts. Purge me with hyssop and I will be clean, wash me and I shall be whiter than snow…” Only when we come into reality about ourselves can we have the right sort of ministry to others with the right motive. Only after he has asked God to help him into truth about himself does David say, “Then I will teach transgressors your ways and sinners will turn back to you… open my lips that my mouth  may declare your praise… the sacrifices God requires are a broken spirit. A broken and contrite heart you will not despise, O God.”

You would be surprised how much time a pastor spends dealing with fallouts between believers. Don’t hide behind the half-truth that you are not responsible for how others react to you. Don’t hide from this simple truth, that like Joseph all of us have the capacity to be completely offensive without knowing it!  Between the dream of the calling upon his life and the calling working out right, there were years of refining. We live in an “X Factor” generation where people are looking for a fast way to prominence. Sometimes the church falls into that  mistake and promotes people to  places they are not ready for. They have the gifting  but not the character. Let me say that as minister I have never offered people an opening on the basis of their gifting alone. It is character, or the willingness to take that seriously, that  I look for. Giftedness may be enough for this world or for a worldly church, but  the story of Joseph reminds us that in God’s Kingdom it doesn’t work like that. Well actually, the alarming thing it that  it can; I have just realised that I have to say this as well:  it is possible to have a ministry based  on giftedness… and be lost. One day Jesus  will say to those  who based their understanding of their spiritual status and well being on the fact that they successfully prophesied and cast out demons in His name, “I never knew you.”

This is a serious blog today. It is being written in the aftermath of what happened to our brothers and sisters in the Lord and their children and indeed to Muslims in Lahore, Pakistan, during this Easter time. The  times are serious and could become more difficult yet for people of faith. In a world such as this , there is a need for good relationships within the body of Christ, between believers as well as for much grace in our dealings with people of other faiths. Satan loves to sow seeds of disunity in the world and in the church. Paul said to the Philippian church  that it would be  a matter of comfort to him in his imprisonment for the sake of Christ to hear that believers were standing side by side contending for the faith of the gospel. The picture is of a Roman formation with shields being held out in all directions to produce a turtle-like shell of protection. What  would happen if within  that structure a soldier suddenly decided to stick his sword or spear into someone who was fighting alongside himself? There would be a breaking of protection as shields dropped, a chink in the armour surrounding the whole company and the enemy arrows  would now be able to get through to decimate the army.

We are not only called to be individual champions contending for God’s truth and Kingdom, but a company  doing that together. We need unity for these difficult days of stress throughout the world, days that might well become darker still….

Will we obey the command of the bible which tells us that in as far as it depends on us we are to live at peace with people?

“Lord, may the only offensive thing about me be the offence of the cross. Show me if there be any offensive way in me.” Perhaps you are frightened to pray that prayer because facing up to getting it wrong is difficult for you. Perhaps you were brought up or schooled or  are in a work environment where getting it wrong had or has severe consequences. Here is the good news: “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Don’t be afraid to look at yourself with Jesus.

PS – You are very welcome to enjoy these blogs and share them with anyone “without money or price!” However, if you ever feel grateful for these blogs and are able to do so, then please make a donation to Open Doors, Scotland. Their website is

In case you have not heard of them, Open Doors works to help our persecuted brothers and sisters throughout the world.

The need for someone who “gets” me….

I had a strange dream last night. I will not go into all the details. I was in a restaurant. The waiter serving me was very odd in appearance, to say the least. He served me very competently and politely. Before he ended his shift, he went over to a waitress who by every observable sign was suffering from mental  or emotional illness, but managing. This unusual couple gave one another an affectionate kiss. That was the end of the dream…apart from this. All of a sudden I felt incredibly pleased for both of them. I felt they had found a safe place and a refuge in one another. Seeing that, made me feel as though I had eaten a full meal. I felt satisfied for them and by them.

I think we all have a  hunger for communion with another or with others plural. Have you ever considered Jesus had such a hunger? He had a hunger for communion with His Father, of course. It also seems He loved communion with other human beings. In John 4 his disciples have been off looking for food They come back and are surprised to find Jesus, a Jewish man, talking with a Samaritan woman. He says to them that He has just had a good meal, has eaten food of a different type. That food was communion with a rejected woman who was being sought by Jesus’ Heavenly Father and hers. He offered her the answer to her need. He  told her that He could give her, Living Water that would satisfy her thirst. He told her that far from being rejected, her Heavenly Father was actually looking for people like her, that her worship was eagerly sought.  But it also seems that something about that encounter in obedience to the Father’s will satisfied Jesus too. There are other examples of this in Scripture. Do you remember the story of how Mary poured a pint of pure nard over Jesus in the middle of a party to celebrate Lazarus being raised from the dead?  She is criticised by the disciples, but Jesus defends her in these words: “She has done a beautiful thing for me. She did what she could. She has anointed me beforehand in preparation for my burial.” No one else in the gathering seemed to understand the cross was just round the corner, except Mary. Have you realised that in the midst of the sweat, the blood the agony of the cross, the fragrance of that pure nard would still have been there? It would have said to Jesus, “Someone understood. Mary got what I was thinking about that night, she understood. She “got” me when no one else did!”

As I write I am thinking of the words somebody said to me in a pastoral setting once. They were getting help from a counsellor which they were valuing. This person said of her counsellor, “She gets me without me having to explain everything.” That means a lot. It is something that lies at the heart of true communion, a mutual “getting” of one another.

The hunger for communion was there in Jesus and it is there in us. Henri Nouwen says that how we cope with that hunger is a really important thing. I guess that can drive us into wrong places and into arms that are not safe. One of my favourite films is “Silence of the Lambs.” The acting is quite simply brilliant, with Anthony Hopkins playing an imprisoned psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter. Despite his horrific crimes, his understanding of people is incredible. He is approached in the film by Agent Clarisse Starling, (brilliantly acted by Jodie Foster) who is in the early stages of her career with the FBI, who asks for his  help to catch a serial killer. What I find fascinating is that Clarisse is completely repelled by Hannibal and yet is strongly attracted because… he “gets” her, he understands her.That need to be understood, for someone to “get” me, is so deep that it can drive us into what we know are the wrong arms in the wrong places.

Do you feel the need for closeness to someone who “gets” you? Will you remember this day that Jesus who understood the woman in John 4 is alive. He is alive to be eternally who He has always been.  Yesterday, today, forever, He is the same. That means that today by His Spirit He can draw near as the Wonderful Counsellor who actually “gets” you. This was the wonderful discovery of that woman in John 4. Jesus seems to know everything about her, yet despite there being dark bits to her story, His eyes were looking at her with merciful kind love.

He already knows it all. He wont be shocked if you tell Him things truthfully. In fact He will commend that and warm to it. It is safe for the whole story to come out in the presence of Jesus. I remember a pastoral situation where someone needed to recall something that had happened but it was so horrific they could not allow themselves to remember. All of a sudden, the presence of Jesus came into the room. I knew it  and so did they. I simply said, “Jesus is here, and He is kind and gentle. In His presence, it is safe to remember.” In less than a second she said, “I remember.” She went on to slowly tell what she had not been able to face up to or tell before. Jesus gave her a significant level of freedom that very night.

Today, through this blog, I say the same sort of thing that I said all these years ago to that lady to you, whoever you are:  “Jesus is with you. He knows you. He “gets” you more than you maybe “get” yourself. In His presence it is safe to remember what you need to remember in order to be free. It  is safe to speak. He will listen to you, look at you and speak with you (note that; “with” not “at”) with kind and gentle love acknowledging the real truth of the real story and helping you do the same. In fact he sees it more truly than you and can set you free from misbeliefs your story or your life have formed in you, that are holding you captive and stopping you from truly living Life.”

Jesus “gets” you. I hope you “get” Him. If you do, you will know you can seek refuge in his arms. Some of you may fly into his arms this moment in instant trust. Some may move slowly, fearfully and nervously towards Him, because our capacity to trust or to believe we will not be rejected is paper thin, all but destroyed. The important thing is however fast or slow, your hunger for communion makes you move in the right direction. Jesus “gets” you. Move towards Him today. That will show Him you really are beginning to “get” Him too.

PS – You are very welcome to enjoy these blogs and share them with anyone “without money or price!” However, if you ever feel grateful for these blogs and are able to do so, then please make a donation to Open Doors, Scotland. Their website is

In case you have not heard of them, Open Doors works to help our persecuted brothers and sisters throughout the world.

Make some noise this Easter…

I guess you might expect someone who has been a preacher for a long time to have  a lot to say in a blog on Easter Sunday. Actually I don’t feel led to share too much. I just want to say two things.

Firstly, It may  be that this is the day when you need to tell all your fears, anxieties , etc.,  that, “He is Risen!” I can only assume that what I used to experience as the leading of the Spirit in preparing a sermon is now happening as I prepare my blogs for you to read.  Just as hopefully in a sermon there is something for everyone, but a particular sermon may be God’s almost personalised word for somebody, well, I guess the same happens in blogging. Whatever, I found myself wanting to address the subject of fear or fears plural. According to what Paul said to Timothy, a spirit of fear does not come from the Lord. It is not something that your Heavenly Father wants for you or for me.

I have discovered over the years that because we are linked body soul and spirit, what we actually do or express physically can affect us in other ways too. I think I have to tell you, it is time for some of you to shout at your fears in the Name of the Risen Christ, and tell them, “Christ is Risen.” I can imagine some of you who may be feeling a bit embarrassed for me and are thinking, “Kenny, has lost the plot, poor thing!” I can imagine others asking, “Do you mean I have to actually say that out loud, or do you mean I am just to believe it and tell myself?” Well, I am actually telling you to frighten your fears in the name of Jesus!  Find a place you can do this physically! It may be that you can do it right where you are. It may be that you fear the effect on others on your household if you do it without warning! Perhaps you should go out in your car. That is where I do a lot of shouting to the Lord and against the things that are oppressing me. Perhaps you  can go for a  walk. Though the sheep may get a shock, in the deepest sense Creation wont be alarmed, for it is waiting for that day when it itself will be liberated. Your shout will help Creation remember that day is coming! It is  day nearer than yesterday, for “Christ has died! Christ is risen! Christ will come again!”

So wherever you feel you can do this, I want to be there beside you at least in spirit through this blog and say to you “Christ is Risen!” May something deep within respond, reply and shout, “He is risen indeed!”

Second thing for today:  At a time when I needed to know the Lord’s risen help and presence not long ago, I stumbled across this old fashioned American country style song ,“Gone!” I found myself  laughing with the joy and the fun of this indisputable fact that Jesus is alive! As well as shouting this day, you perhaps have become too serious in the wrong way in your relationship with the Lord. This guy made me smile and laugh each time I replayed  the song! Maybe you need to just enjoy the fun of  its somewhat out-dated style too!  Imagine that you were coming to the tomb of Jesus and someone told you “He’s gone!” Perhaps if this song makes you laugh, that may be the most appropriate response you will ever have to the wonderful new of Easter. I remember an evening service when the Spirit was poured out when I was a minister in Thurso. One of the effects was that someone who I later discovered had a dreadful life story to tell, collapsed on the floor and started to laugh. It offended me. You just don’t do that sort of thing in a church service! In fact I believe I heard The Lord asking me, “Kenny, Does this offend you?” I said, “Yes, Lord.” He said, “Well you had better get used to it!” Then He said this, “Do you realise that there are some people whose experience of life means that they have never laughed from their belly?” What has happened in the church when it has come to the point that if we see someone in  tears we think the Spirit is at work, but if someone were to laugh in church, well, we are more likely to believe it is the devil! May God bless those of you who have never laughed from your belly with the joy of Easter!

So quite a simple prayer behind this blog today. May this day be filled with the shouting, the joy, the laughter of God’s people all over the globe! May a ripple of`Easter laughter invade this dark world and by the grace of God swell to a mighty wave that can bring down strongholds of dark oppression and injustice and brutality, the things with which religion of one guise or another has often joined hands and still does.  Here is the link…

(If it doesn’t work just search Youtube for Jessy Dixon, “Gone!”)

PS – You are very welcome to enjoy these blogs and to share them  with anyone “without money or price!” However, if you ever feel grateful for these blogs and are able to do so, then please make a donation to Open Doors, Scotland. Their website is

In case you have not heard of them, Open Doors works to help our persecuted brothers and sisters throughout the world.


Well, it is Easter Saturday today. In terms of what Christians throughout the world  are remembering in this Holy Week, this is the day when Jesus’ body lay in the tomb… dead. It is such a contrast to the pace of the awful events of Good Friday, and the high emotion of Easter Day. It is a day when not much seems to be happening as far as anyone can see. It is almost like a blank page.

Perhaps that is where you feel yourself to be spiritually or emotionally or just in terms of life. Everything seems a bit of a blank. It is not a painful time of injustice or aloneness, it is not a joyful time where life seems to be awakened in a new way, it is just, well…. blank. Nothing seems to cause joy to rise, things that maybe should bother us don’t, we  are neither mourning nor hopeful. We just feel it is a non-day, a blank.

It is really important to remember at times such times of felt experience,  that Easter Saturday was as much held in the purposes of God the Father for His Son, Jesus Christ, as Friday and Sunday.

Spiritual life can be a strange thing. There can be times of deep sorrow and times of intense joy, but perhaps the blank days are the most difficult to live through when I am not particularly aware of anything significant happening or being advanced in my life. If that is where you are today, please remember that those days are held in the hands of your Father as much as days of high awareness and high emotion, whether of sorrow or joy. As Jesus went into that silent day, remember He said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Of course He was trusting His Father at the  point of death. But is there a lesson in that for the blank days of life? I think there is. On days like that we can entrust ourselves to our faithful God and say, “Father, into your hands I commit myself. Thank you, that you hold all my days in your hands.”

I love psalm 139. Take time to read it. Whether this is a day which for you is an intense day or a blank day, tell yourself in the words of the Psalmist, “Oh Lord, in your book were written all my days before one of them had come to be.”  Remember this too: In the words of a famous internet sermon, “Sunday’s coming!”

That Thursday…That Friday…

“Men and women are different after all!” So I discovered or re-discovered  a few days ago. Not long ago I changed my car. It has one of these trip computers. I was trying to explain to my wife what a wonderful thing this trip computer was. She asked what it could do. I told her with great excitement that it could tell me my current and average fuel consumption. I proceeded to read the figures out to her with a wonder approaching awe! There was a sort of blank look came over her face. There was not the slightest flicker of being impressed! Anyway, men and women are different in so many ways. In fact we are all different in some way from one another. If I can be male again, I was thinking today of different makes of car that share the same chassis yet can look and indeed drive  very differently from each other despite having the same foundation on which they are built… I feel such a draw to wax lyrical and give endless examples, compare prices, performance and so on, but I realise that to some of you, in a way that escapes me, all that matters is a car’s colour, and so I will allow the purpose of this blog to constrain me, so please don’t yawn! Keep reading….

As believers in Christ, we share the same foundation, Christ Himself, but there is a unique shape that is “me” as I live from that place of being deeply rooted in Him. He makes of His people, His church,  a community in which individually and together we are allowed to truly discover and become who God made each of us to be. However, the foundation is indeed the same, and that means there are certain things which are common core for every believer. Yesterday was Maundy Thursday. I am so grateful for my long standing but seldom seen friend, Mike Clarkson, who posted on his Facebook page an article about what the “Maundy” in Maundy Thursday actually means. The person who wrote it is an Anglican, who knows about liturgy and all that stuff, so I guess as a Presbyterian I just have to trust him on this! The word comes from the Latin “mandatum” which simply means “commandment.” On what we call Maundy Thursday, Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with His disciples, and so many churches celebrate the sacrament of Holy Communion on that day. However as well as doing that, He gave His disciples a commandment. “A new commandment I give unto you, that you  love one another as I have loved you.”

There seems to be a new boldness and confidence coming about in Christian witness today in the UK. There is a fight on for the right to believe and the right to express what we believe and share what we believe freely. That fight needs to happen, but I hope it is  married to a fight to the right to obey this command: “Love one another as I have loved you.”  This according to Jesus is the best way to convince the world of who He really is. There is an inherent danger in our rising confidence and willingness to be combative in defending Christian belief and rights: The danger is that is what we become known for and nothing more. Would it not be good if you and I and our churches were known not only for the beliefs we fight for (and sometimes fight over) but also for our love for one another. That is what Maundy Thursday is about.

But today is Good Friday. I am writing this article at the time of day when as Jesus hung on the cross, darkness covered the land. On this day when we stand on holy ground,  let me push the boat of this blog out  a bit further. Maundy Thursday was not the end of what Jesus taught about love. He  was still to show the full extent of His love. I am not simply meaning the love He showed by dying for our sins. Even in the church today there are those who deny that Jesus died for our sins, or that He even needed to do that. Well, there have always been false teachers leading people astray and always will be. (Maybe God is calling you into the ministry of a denomination that seems to have lost its biblical roots. If He is, then respond to that call. It wont be an easy fight, at times you will feel great distress, but the main thing to remember is that God will be with you.) But I  am expecting most of you are humble enough and in good mental health which knows the reality is that all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and that we need a Saviour.   Most of us reading this bog probably believe that Jesus died to take away our sin, whatever the important additional understandings  we want to attach to the cross – and there are indeed other rich truths that the New Testament itself teaches about the cross. Today, however, on this Good Friday,  I am thinking of the love of Jesus in relation to those who crucified Him. “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” He has the right to say to us, “Love your enemies.”

It is hard to get closer to the core of what it means to really follow Jesus than this: He calls us to show the love of God to our enemies. However they may have come into that place where that is the right appellation to use for some people, in loving them and seeking to do them good as we can, we show the love of the Father who sends his sun and rain on the just and the unjust. Communion on Maundy Thursday may remind me of the mandatum, the commandment, to love my fellow believers. Good Friday’s mandatum calls me to love the enemy, whoever that may be.

I have mentioned before that one of the great influences for good in my life and ministry  was a Pentecostal minister by the name of Hugh Black who is now in glory. When he was younger someone shot his dog, a dog he loved very much. By the grace of God he got to the place where he said to God he was prepared to forgive the man, feeling perhaps that God would commend him for reaching that place. God spoke to him and said, “I am not asking you simply to forgive him, I am asking you to love him.” Hugh Black said that when he started to love that man, “He had no more power over me than a fly on the wall.”

So while applauding the muscular Christianity that is arising in it ability to challenge unbelief and the eroding of Christian rights… I am concerned. Almost every good thing has its flip side when it has no constraints. Let’s not mock our enemies, making them or their  ideas and object of derision. I was listening on line to a Christian apologist . The Christians in the audience applauded the answer he gave to a young man who asked him about the Christian view of homosexuality. He gave  what many of his audience would have considered and indeed I myself would consider a true blue bible view on that question.  But if I had been the questioner, I think I would have felt small and stupid – rather than just small, which I am!  Somehow, though it was weeks ago that I watched that evangelical tub thumping, I cannot get the image of that nervous young questioner out of my mind.  I somehow feel he was the object of God’s great compassion… and still is. I wonder what God thinks of these debates when Christians go home feeling self satisfied by their debating victories or the victories of one of their apologetic champions? When the Christ of Calvary is living  in our hearts, our enemies will not simply provoke us to debate or worse to derision. Rather they will put us in touch with the love of the God who so loved the world that He gave us His only son, the God who while this world was still at enmity with Him, sent His Son to die for us. It is not enough for a Christian Apologist or any of us simply to be smart.

Let’s  ask the Christ of Maundy Thursday and of Good Friday to help us more and more to get to that place together where the love of Christ constrains us in our behaviour to our fellow believers, and how we speak and act towards the world. Without river banks a river can spread and destroy. Without the constraint of the love of Christ, the new found rising confidence to engage with the world may well reek destruction rather than bring life. What is constraining you?

PS – You are very welcome to enjoy these blogs and to share them with anyone “without money or price!” However, if you ever feel grateful for these blogs and are able to do so, then please make a donation to Open Doors, Scotland. Their website is

In case you have not heard of them, Open Doors works to help our persecuted brothers and sisters throughout the world.

The hardest thing you may ever have to do…

I really don’t know why I am writing about forgiveness today. No one has particularly severely wronged me since my last blog, so I have not been stretched in the immediate past few days, personally, about this aspect of being a follower of Jesus. However the draw seems to be on my heart to say something about “Forgiveness.” Perhaps it will help you, if you are struggling with that issue today. I hope so.

Obviously  this is a blog and not  a book, therefore its scope and depth is limited. If you want to read a life changing book, then read R.T. Kendall’s “Total Forgiveness.” If I could put one book in everyone’s hands, that would be it. It could help to revolutionise your life, your relationships, your marriage, your work place. Have we realised how many situations could be transformed today if people, if you or I, decided to totally forgive another?

Anyway, here is my thought to mull over. I have said in these blogs how much I appreciate the writings of Henry Nouwen. (I feel that for all people who might worry about my theology when I reveal that , that I have to say  “Of course, I don’t agree with everything he says… obviously!” But, that sounds so patronising and “small” to put in such a caveat about the writings of someone who has helped untold numbers of people through his sharing of experiencing God in his own human vulnerability.) A theme throughout  his writings could be summed up in this phrase, “To forgive is  to allow other people not to be God.” (“A Spirituality of Living,” H. Nouwen – it is a short and inexpensive book. Get a copy and read it!)

Throughout my pastoral life I have tried by the grace of God to help people who have been severely wronged in one way or another.  In this blog I am thinking today more of the run of the mill wounds and hurts and fallouts, and tensions that we experience as part of normal every day life, in the home, in the workplace, in church , in friendships, relationships etc.  Probably you have had opportunity to forgive at least 3 people who have wronged you in some way this very day!

I want to help you think through what that quote from Henri Nouwen may mean for you today. Let me ask you some questions:  “Are you putting too much expectation on someone, demanding more than they can be to you or give to you? Have you made room for them being who they are, not who you want them to be for you? Can you accept that though they can offer you something of God, they are not God?

As a pastor, while ministering up North, I learned how best to run a church. For the first half of my ministry I tried to keep everybody happy. I received a “eureka” moment of revelation one day. I could never keep everyone happy, but I might be able to keep everybody equally unhappy!  I remember the joy and laughter that accompanied that insight and the decision I made. It has brought me joy ever since! That  became my way of operating. No one “group” in the church got it all their own way, even those who were supportive and  agreed with me the most, so no one was completely happy, but everyone was happy enough. Well, almost everyone, except the handful who didn’t like my predecessor and don’t like the minister who is there now! It has  been harder when I know perhaps I have disappointed people pastorally who hoped I might have helped them more than I was able to. But I am not God.

Have you learned the principle of “enough?” Perhaps a parent is reading this today and needs to hear that word with some sort of relief. I remember hearing a top psychotherapist saying that what children needed were parents who were good enough. They are not God.  (Perhaps you have to still grow up and forgive your parents today that they are not.) You can apply that principle in all sorts of ways, situations and relationships, and maybe you need to do so today. Gratefulness is a great life-giving principle. Joyce Meyer said in a T.V Broadcast lately, “Do you realise that there would be many people in the world grateful to have your spouse, your house, your crummy job?” By the way, I may as well shock a few more: I think Joyce Meyer is one of the best bible teachers around today.  (I feel that for all the people who may worry about my theology when I reveal that, that I have to say…. wait a minute, there I go again… Fear of man is a snare and makes blogs needlessly long!!) I don’t know anyone who more successfully and honestly helps people understand what it means in practical real life situations to die to self and live in Christ more effectively than Joyce Meyer. No wonder many Christians don’t like her. Hearing how to put into practice death to self is never pleasant! Please don’t bother commenting if you don’t agree… I won’t approve or reply to the comment. The type of blog I am writing is  not the place for debate….. It is simply a beggar sharing with other hungry beggars where I have found bread that nourishes and sustains me, in the hope it will  nourish and sustain you too…

Rant over, so let me get back on track now with where I was heading. Your day could be transformed if you could accept  that someone you expected more from either legitimately or unreasonably, is not God. No  human being can satisfy that deepest place in each of us to be completely loved, completely understood, treated every moment completely the way we need to be or should be. No human being can be the answer to all the unsettledness that may be in your very spirit today. Instead of trying to get “them” to give you more of what you are looking for, or trying to force them to behave in a different way towards you,  why not forgive them and be thankful for who and what they are and have done that is positive.  Let them be them  and God be God to you. Be thankful rather than living from a spirit of complaint and nursed injustice.

I have never looked for justice from men or women when I have been wronged personally, though justice in the world and for others matters a lot to me, especially for the poor and the persecuted.  I am a follower of one who suffered the greatest injustice possible, Jesus Christ. I am not saying it is wrong to look for justice, because God cares about justice and  its presence in the world  one of the top priorities of the Risen Christ, but please, don’t put your personal life on hold until you sort out everyone who has ever wronged you and until they say, “Sorry.” That will waste years, which you, not the locusts, have eaten up. The biggest challenge of my life in this area, at least to date, came a few years ago when in the face of an injustice that was about to begin and to go on on for many years ,God spoke to me.  I was reading R.T Kendall’s book, mentioned above. He was speaking about the fact that Jesus was vindicated in the Spirit. I felt as I read that God asked me a question, “Kenny, will you be content with a secret vindication?” I said, “Yes Lord,” and I meant it. The immediate effect was a fresh meeting with God in a vision/dream and a promise of a future beyond the injustice if I would be content with a secret vindication now.What I was shown in the vision came true in each detail. I never went back on my “yes,” to the vindication of God in my heart being  enough for me to be happy. I believe that because of that, I experienced what is said of Christ in Isaiah 53, a chapter about the injustice of the cross. “The will of God shall prosper in his hand.”

I am only trying  to tell you what works. This is neither the be all nor the final word on forgiveness, injustice, etc.  But I am also speaking like this to perhaps save some reader from wasted years and bitterness and going round and round in circles waiting for something more from someone that may never come… because they are not God. If you feel you are getting nowhere fast, or getting nowhere full stop, perhaps there is something for you to think about in this blog today. If you find yourself getting angry as you read it, it is probably a sure sign there is something in it for you! You maybe want to say to me, “But you don’t understand…” Well, even if you told me the whole story, I would still try by the grace of God  to share the same truths.  Don’t lose sight of what God may be saying to you today through wanting to raise your hand in objection and offer and speak forth  “buts” or “what about this  or that…” That is too convenient a ploy that all of use to shirk a painful facing up to truth when it comes too close for comfort.

If it all works out publicly in this life and you get all the exonerations, appreciations  and honourings that you crave, well then, that is a bonus. Thank God for it… but perhaps ask the useful question as to why you crave these things so much. However, things  may not work out, justice wise, in this life. Just read Hebrews 11, or think of your persecuted brothers and sisters in the world today if you have heard a teaching that everything works out fairly rather than God taking all things and working them for the good result and purpose of making you and me like His Son. Things may or may not work our fairly,  no matter how much faith you have or how convinced that God is passionate for justice… He is by the way!  Is it time to live for another Kingdom today. Even non-Christians can be happy when they get justice. Being happy when you are treated right is not a trait sufficient to mark us out as followers of Jesus.  You are in a different Kingdom; the already here, increasingly coming but not yet fully here Kingdom of Heaven. You have an eternity for things to come right. Is it time to ask God to help you forgive and move on. Is it time for you to discover the happiness and joy a Christian can know even when life or people have been unfair?

Somewhere in my mind there is another thought that I have picked up from R.T. Kendall about spirituality or maturity as a Christian. It is about closing the time gap between what God says and you actually doing it. Is  the God who loves you and who wants you to know life in all its fullness  speaking to you through this blog today? I hope you can close the time gap and not let disappointments and injustices eat your life away. “Today, if you hear his voice, harden not your heart!” You may be greatly gifted, but do you bear the marks of still being a spiritual infant? Is it time to grow up and discover the way life in the Kingdom of Heaven really works here on earth? I want to say to you what is not an easy truth to communicate, especially to those of you who are very conscious of being  faith-filled Spirit-filled charismatics! You need to be filled with Bible truth too, otherwise you may well spend your life getting nowhere other than round and round the roundabout of frustration and distress, again and again. Here is a truth you really need to hear, no matter who may have taught you otherwise: There is one thing that you know will come your way if you are really following Christ in this world: an unjust cross. In a church where worldly values seem to be becoming more respected than bible values, you can expect the same. Whatever you may feel is the right way biblically to think of the church, let me add another definition for you to think about: Church is a crash course in forgiving people.

So, stop telling everyone about “it’ or “him” or “her” or “them” or “that church” or “ that minister!” Stop repeating the story.  If something has been done against you that is criminal then be assured you should refer this to the police or the relevant authority.  The fact that a person may end up in prison does not mean you have not forgiven them, nor does it stop them seeking the forgiveness of God. If you need to speak to a minister or a counsellor because you genuinely want to be free, then I would advise you do  that too, but don’t spread the story just to make you feel better and to let everyone know what that other person is really like.  As R.T. says, that can be a secret way of getting revenge, by  lowering another person in the eyes of someone else, who didn’t need to know. The circle of those who need to know in order for you to be helped and move on is very much smaller than the circle who need to know for purposes of the expression of un-forgiveness and  revenge.

I agree with RT that there is nothing harder than total forgiveness. Though it may be hard, it could give you back your life… today!

PS – You are very welcome to enjoy these blogs and to share them  with anyone “without money or price!” However, if you ever feel grateful for these blogs and are able do so, then please make a donation to Open Doors, Scotland. Their website is

In case you have not heard of them, Open Doors works to help our persecuted brothers and sisters throughout the world.


I had some beautiful thoughts to share with you today…. but they will keep for another day. Along with many of you I have been watching the news with a level of horror and dismay. My thoughts are with Brussels and its people.

If I were a more fiery a type of Presbyterian than I am, I may have chosen to speak to you about the sinfulness of man, the reality of evil and all that as God’s regents over the created world we have opened the world to when we turned from God…. however,  such preaching can sound like gloating as though it all proves our religious point if only the world would listen to us. I remember feeling sickened watching Christian Satellite TV after 9/11 as it almost seemed on some channels at least there was an excitement, a wondering what prophecies were being fulfilled by such events. There was also an unseemly rush of claimants as to who had prophesied this was coming. The secular news was much more dignified in its coverage of that dreadful day, so much more compassionate. The truth was no one’s prophecy  prevented this. I found God in the dismay and distress of secular channels rather than in the confident explanations of Christian  triumphalism applauded by TV audiences.

Today I found that my mind went back to January 1st. 2015. On that New Year’s Day , I woke up with a sense of spiritual sadness. I cannot prove to you what that was about, but I can tell you what I believed then and still believe I was experiencing. I was feeling something of the Holy Spirit’s grief and sadness about the world. Particularly I found myself thinking about terrorism and the distress and fear it promotes among us all today.

I remember hearing Brother Andrew speak about a verse in the bible that he believed to be one of the spiritual roots of how terrorism takes a hold of someone’s life: “No one cares for my soul.” (Psalm 142:4) I humbly bring another piece to the complex jigsaw. As I lay in bed on that New Year’s Day, I found myself thinking of the words of the Pharisee in Luke 18. In that chapter Jesus tells a story about two men praying. One boasted before God while the other, a cheating tax collector,  humbled himself before God. The boaster said, “I thank you that I am not like all other men, robbers, evil doers adulterers or even like this tax collector !” Having spoken about the inferiority of the other, he goes on to widen the distance between them as he boasts before God of his own superiority.

I am not like all other men… we are not like all other people.

To do what was done in Brussels today one must surely have a mindset, of “us” and “them.” Surely one has to believe that the “them” are somehow less worthy than “us.” One only has to look back not too far in the history of Europe to see what happens when “us” and “them”  becomes a dominant thought in the mind of an individual, a group or  culture. It is easy to present the “them” as less than human. Indeed that has been done. The Jews were presented in Nazi propaganda as rats, sub human. “Us” and “them” when it becomes a matter of indoctrination and established belief in the mind of a culture can have horrifying results to the extent that there is a feeling of justification, even an obligation to at least rid our own land if not to the  whole world of “them.”

I know that there is much more to understanding the mind of a terrorist than what I have written, but I am convinced what I have written is part of the story.

Please hear me. Our job is not to add fuel to the fire of “us” and “them.” Rather than that, I  believe such roots are there in every heart. Is there someone you are looking down upon today? Someone to whom you feel superior?  I am a bit ashamed of British politics and the levels of insult to which it can descend by default. I also find American  politics of the moment difficult to understand, but I do confess the mutual rhetoric by which  Christians who are Republicans and Christians who are Democrats  refer to one another, worries me. When people are referred to as snakes by possible Presidential Candidates, well, that worries me too…

We will never find an answer to all of this until the heart of man is humbled of all its tendency to feel superior, and we find ourselves kneeling with a lost and broken world saying,”I am like all other men. I share in the weakness and the irrationalities and sinfulness of all peoples.” Will the day ever come when we kneel together before the cross on level ground, admitting we all need God’s healing and grace?

This is a  day to weep together.

Here is the poem I wrote sometime after watching Christian Satellite TV’s coverage  of “9/11.” I remembered it today and looked it out for you. I guess it is simply a plea to suffer with those who suffer today, and to  believe in the sacred worth of every human life: I hope God may use it to help you in your thinking and praying today. It is also an appeal for us to ask for something at least of Abba’s love for  His children, lost or found…

Sign Language

“A sign! A sign!The Towers are on the ground,
The seas are landward bound,
Those known are nowhere found!
Yet, “Notice me! I saw it coming!
Wrote it down -
Check the date -
That was penned of old, not of late!”
“A Sign, a Sign!”
Excitement in the eye… but
Did the Seer’s loved ones die?
Breathless explanation of what it means,
Testosterone strutting, Adrenaline rushing,
Greeted with applause and praise and a bigger offering… 
but did the Preacher’s precious child join the fellowship of suffering?

“Who dares to speak?
Who is this who darkens my counsel without knowledge,
to trim the Lion of Judah’s claws,
forgetting crushed hearts and hopes and hurting feet?
Sign language is for the deaf of heart,
for those who cannot hear My sigh
for Abba’s crying child.”


Sometimes it is difficult to separate fact from legend. I read a story today that demonstrates that. The story goes that a monk was sitting in contemplation. With his hands held open in prayer he did not notice that a bird had come and laid her eggs in his hands and was sitting on them to keep them warm. The story continues that he stayed in that place until the eggs were hatched. Where did a real historical happening begin and end and legend or myth take over? I don’t know.

I noticed in myself however an instant dismissal of what I read. Why did I do that? Perhaps because I did not want to face up to the truth that is in there somewhere, that interruptions and inconveniences are not always easy to deal with, nor is weakness and fragility…but Compassion finds a way.

As I mused upon that thought, I started thinking about Jesus. He had such compassion upon weakness and fragility. Some of His most amazing miracles and sayings come out of encounters with what onlookers might have considered inconvenient need or weakness, yet He did not seem to see it that way. I am thinking, for example, of the day that the disciples tried to push mothers who brought their children to Jesus to be blessed out of the way. In their thinking, Jesus was far too important to be concerned about such unimportant and lowly things as women and infants. Yet, while His disciples rebuked the mothers, Jesus rebuked his disciples and told them to allow the children to come to Him. They were not to be looked upon as an inconvenience. Far from it! He told His disciples the reason they should not be hindered: “For of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.”

I am thinking too of another incident recorded in the gospels. Jesus is on His way to a house to heal a sick girl, the daughter of a man called Jairus. As Jesus is on the way to the house He is stopped in His journey by the touch of a sick woman. She had spent all she had on doctors and they had not managed to help her. She reaches out in faith to touch the hem of Jesus garment, and temporarily stopped Jesus in his journey towards the girl. But did Jesus see her as an inconvenience? No! He took time to stop,  to address her in tender terms, and to  publicly commend her for her faith.

Is there someone who was an inconvenience to you today because of weakness, illness, their need for time or attention or care. Can I challenge you with this thought, especially if you are  a church leader. Jesus never thought of Himself as too important to give time or care when need cut across His path. Some of what is being taught today in courses on leadership makes me shudder, as does the cost of these courses! Apparently the Kingdom does not belong to the poor any more and leadership is only open to those with a few hundred pounds to spare!  Please let’s remember Jesus is actually the model for disciples and for those disciples called to be leaders.

Whether you are a leader or not, here is how you know you are a follower of Christ. Did you stop for anyone today? Did you give someone your time, a listening ear, because of the compassion of Christ in you? I have long ago departed from the type of Christianity that is so intent on programmes that it forgets people, where real people with real needs who need real care and real time to help them know a real God really loves them, are almost seen as getting in the way of more important or exciting things! I am not sure that the times are favourable for the Jesus Way, the Jesus Life, even in the church. Perhaps He has always been the biggest inconvenience to those who claim to be spiritually alive.

So at the risk of being repetitious, I ask a question, pure and simple. Are you a follower of Jesus? Did your day today have anything of the Jesus of Matthew, Mark Luke and John about it? To steal a phrase from Heidi Baker, did you, did I “stop for the one”  if an opportunity was ours to do that today. Perhaps I had more important things to do in life and ministry, or more exciting people to meet  than to stop and care for that inconvenient need, or that inconvenient person. Did you fear someone’s need today? If you did, it is a pity, for it is where people are poor in whatever way that the Kingdom breaks through. Whose kingdom are we really interested in?

Illness and stepping aside from ministry as I have known it has given me the opportunity to ask how much of what I was doing looked or sounded like the Jesus way? Can I encourage you to stop and take stock in a similar way yourself? I hope the compassion of Christ in you and I longs that the story of the monk and the birds and the eggs was all true.

Thank you Mr. Dal……

It’s funny the way things come back to you, filtering through the passing of years. I was reading a beautiful piece of writing today about an otter and then I realised I had hurried on to the next page without taking time to truly savour what I had just read. All of a sudden words came to mind of the depute rector at my school; words I heard him quote at least 40 years ago. His name was Mr. Dal. It is only looking back that I realise more fully what I half noticed at the time, namely that he had  a thoughtfulness and a genuine concern for his pupils. I am recalling for example how after I shared with him the sense of call to ministry he said something to me and something to my parents. To me he said, “Well, you may never be rich but you will be happy.” To my parents, behind my back as it were, he expressed the concern that I was too shy and sensitive to be able to cope with being a minister. I think he was right in what he said. I have been happy in my calling as a minister, especially these last 11 years, and yes, I have had to learn to marry my sensitivity and shyness to all that was demanded of me as a parish minister. I have developed a thicker skin while somehow keeping my heart sensitive. God is faithful. When He calls, He equips.

Anyway, words came to mind that Mr. Dal used one Morning Assembly. It is a well known quote, but I don’t know who said it. It may be from a Prayer Book that as a Scottish Presbyterian I do not use! I am sure one of you may be able to enlighten us all. He prayed that we would “read, learn and inwardly digest” truth. I think noticing  my own hurried reading today made me see how it is possible to “read,” even to “read and learn,” but to stop short of “inwardly digesting” truth, even truth that we know will be life-giving, the truth of the Word of God. Perhaps that explains what was a confusing mystery to me when I was converted as a 13 year old. I looked and saw people who read their bibles a lot, but could not understand why they were as they were!

It takes time for some truths to get into our system. It can be difficult to inwardly digest something that God may be saying to us because it seems to be different food than we are used to. Jesus had to repeat and repeat to His disciples that He was going to Jerusalem, that He would be handed over, mistreated and killed.  When He talked about His death, even when He talked in the same breath of His rising from the dead it simply did not compute for these disciples. This was food they found it difficult to digest… but He kept feeding them the same truth anyway. Eventually, perhaps at different rates of time for each, they got it!

Somewhere on the edges of your awareness are you aware of God saying something to you, or saying something to you repeatedly? It may be something you need to hear but cannot fully believe. It may be something that contradicts something that you have aways thought. It may be a promise or a warning. Next time this truth comes your way, take time to catch hold of it, to inwardly digest it.

You could begin to learn to do that by taking a fresh look at how you read the Bible. Do you read it and quickly move on to the next chapter as I did this morning while reading about the otter? I love Psalm 1. It tells us the sort of thing I am writing to you about here; the blessedness of truly receiving the Word of God. Think about these words today. (I am quoting the psalm in the Authorised Version. It may not be the most politically correct version, but I love the sound of its language. If its “male” language offends you…. well, it’s  my blog!)

“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord: and in His law doth he meditate day and night.

And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in  his season; his leaf also shall not wither: and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.”

A strange thing for a minister to ask, but could it be that God wants you to read your bible every day but to read less of it, to stop hurrying on and missing life-giving truth? This day and every day may you “read, learn and inwardly digest.”  “Thank you Mr. Dal, and whoever it was  you were quoting.”

PS: If you find attentiveness difficult and find it difficult to stop your mind racing around you may well find help towards developing the meditative side of your being here:

I am finding great blessing through this.



Today, it may be half a slice of bread I offer rather than a couple of slices.

I am reminded this morning that I do have an illness that affects me. I don’t fully understand the way it all works, but today I feel weak physically. The frustrating thing is that yesterday was a good day. All that i wanted to do, I did. The day flowed well from one activity to another. Yet, looking back I can see that I did ignore some warning signals that I was doing too much, reaching beyond capacity.

Though this blog is short today, I believe some in particular are meant to read it. In a sense what I have to say today is more serious that usual. It is simply this: Just because an opportunity to do something is there before you like an open door, it does not mean you should do it. I feel an unusual sense having to warn people of that today, an unusual sense of seriousness that I think is from the Lord. Perhaps for some this blog may be a very particular warning for this very day…

I am thinking of the story of Jonah. Told by God to go to Nineveh he decided to go in the opposite  direction. Lo and behold, there is a boat at the harbour going in that opposite direction! Things are going his way.  He pays the price and gets on board. By the severe mercy of God toward him the story worked out in the end, but it is that matching of what was in his heart to do with the opportunity to do it that I am interested in here. When it is in your heart to do something against the will of God, an opportunity will always open to do it, to the extent that we can even convince ourselves we are doing the right thing after all. Is there tension between you and your spouse? You can be sure a shoulder to cry on will seem to present itself that is  the wrong one; a shoulder you have been getting too close to in the first place. Has material advancement become a fixation, an idol? You will find an opportunity for advancement in that way comes along which demands you pay a price spiritually, but you pay the price and get on board.

I could go on, but I am keeping this short, being kind to myself and to you. This is a genuine warning. Just because an opportunity to say something do something, go somewhere, meet with someone comes along today, and a door seems to be open to do something that you have been fondling in your heart… DON”T DO IT. The consequences may be more severe than my not getting up before 10.30 this morning…

From my bed, but soon getting up…

With love


“My sheep hear my voice…”

I take easily to unusual people. I saw someone on TV not long ago who fascinated me. He was a curator of a department in a museum, in Oxford, if I remember right, which housed a huge collection  of the sketches and initial drawings of famous artists. Well, actually that is the understatement of the year. He looked after the drawings of SERIOUSLY famous artists, if that is what you consider people like Michelangelo to be! This curator was shy by nature but there seemed to be an endless and effortless flow of words and exceptionally interesting thoughts when he got into his groove and was talking about what he was passionate about. What caught my attention most was his explanation as to why he preferred drawings to paintings. He said that drawings represented more what was in the artist’s heart whereas a painting more often than naught represented the artist’s original thoughts with layers of what needed to be added to that beginning point of inspiration, either to please a patron or for the finished work to be presented for public view. He proceeded to demonstrate this by showing the original pencil drawings for some priceless paintings. He made his point well. It was obviously true.

I find I am doing something similar in blogging. People have suggested to me that I write a book. I may do so one day, I may not, but the thing I love about my new found hobby and way of ministering through a blog, is that I can give you my pencil thoughts as it were, rather than processed thought refined over and over again for the attention of the pubic. Actually what I am doing is being incredibly intimate with you whether you realised that or not. I am sharing with you rough note thoughts of truths that have brought life to me. In a sense I wish more ministers did that. I don’t like sermons that are so refined that they seem like works of art instead of words of life, though of course that is no reason for sloppiness in preparation. (David Watson said that he heard a minister say that he did not prepare in advance but just preached as he felt led by the Spirit when he stands up. David Watson said he found himself wishing this preacher had left it to the Holy Spirit in his study through the week and he would have perhaps said the same thing with double the clarity in half the time! ) I think though you can get the feel of my appeal for pencil drawings rather than finished works of art in the pulpit. Perhaps this is all a spiritualising though of my bad grammar and spelling mistakes in my blogs! I find checking though what I have written so so boring and trust that what I write is always sufficiently in the ball park for you to work out what I mean. After all, you probably take time to puzzle over a “crossword,” so I can leave you with the odd puzzle that I cause through these pages….

These blogs literally come from thoughts recorded in pencil in a notebook (by that I mean one with paper and lines that you write in)  that I keep with me. The bible reminds us that one of the pieces of armour and weaponry that we have as Christians is “Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” However, a more accurate  translation of what Paul says in Ephesians 6 would be “Take up the Sword of the Spirit which is the words which God gives.” This will maybe anger some of you but it is not the Bible solely that is being referred to here though what is being referred to here will always be true to the Bible, for after all, all Scripture is God breathed. “The Sword of the Spirit which is the words that God gives”  is rather referring to the immediate voice of the Holy Spirit, the  words that God is speaking to you at any given moment to help in a particular situation.  These words may come through thoughts in prayer, they may indeed come as a verse of Scripture that the Spirit brings to mind, they may come as a prophetic word, through the interpretation of you or another believer speaking in tongues, or they may come as an impression, a dream, a picture that comes to you, or just a knowing in your knower!  If we believe the bible we know too that they can come through angelic visitation or seeing the Lord. It is the immediate present ministry of the Holy Spirit that is being spoken of here bringing a word from God, however it comes.

Perhaps you don’t think you can hear such words.You can! Moses longed for all God’s people to be able to hear and speak the word of God, Paul said it was something we could all learn and Jesus said it was something  His sheep could do. So who are you going to believe on this matter of hearing from God? Moses, Paul and Jesus…. or you?

The problem is that we may not have recognised how God speaks to me, whoever I am, as an individual, in this immediate way. I would encourage you to ask Jesus your Shepherd to teach you to hear His voice. The best preparation is deciding beforehand you will believe and do what His word that He gives to you says! To not start from that place is to be a double-minded person, unstable in all our ways. James tells us in his letter in the New Testament  that if we ask to  hear wisdom we need from God with a heart like that we will receive nothing from the Lord.

I leave you with this thought from my pencil notebook. If you really want to hear from God, you will. If you follow the Shepherd you can learn to hear his voice. Do you believe that?  Do you believe that you can take the Sword of the Spirit which is the words that God gives in you in order to do life, and walk in God’s will and peace and purpose?  Do you REALLY have faith for that? I remember hearing a story of a gathering to pray for rain. Out of that prayer meeting attended by  hundreds,  only one little girl had brought her umbrella! Put faith into action. How do you do that? Well, it is not rocket science as they say! Start your own pencil notebook!  If you want to sound incredibly serious and impressively holy and a bit clever and mystical, call it a Journal, and call your “Notebooking” ‘Journalling,” quite an “in thing”! I don’t have the discipline to keep a journal. To keep one would only result in my being laden with guilt and feelings of failure sooner or later, probably within a week,  as I surveyed the empty pages. I would write stuff for the sake of it and all of a sudden something that brings me life would become  a new religious burden. No, for me a “notebook” sounds less high brow and makes allowances for my laziness . It seems within reach. Keep a notebook and  a pencil handy. Keep a pencil beside your bed… and get a torch App on your mobile phone, so you can write down the words which God may give in the night hours…. and still leave others to enjoy God’s gift of sleep! Try not to wake them up to share the words God gives you, excited though you may be! Try and keep a lid on it until they wake naturally in the morning. They are more likely to be receptive to the idea that what you are sharing is indeed God given, rather than angrily dismissing you as someone who is off your chump!

On a more serious  note, as I close,  we are told in Isaiah 50 that Jesus had an instructed tongue to know the word that would sustain the weary. Morning  by morning His Father opened Jesus ear to hear such words. Sometimes, as seems to be the context in Isaiah Chapter 50, that was probably a word to sustain Jesus in His own weariness. Sometimes though I am sure it was a word to sustain someone He would meet  that day. As you listen for words for you, be open to the fact that you may be given a Sword of the Spirit word that is just what  someone else needs to hear from you, that will strengthen, encourage and comfort them. Share it with humility, allow them to weigh it up and the freedom to receive it or not, but don’t stay silent.

“In the desert we discover the value of what is essential for living…

These are words of Pope Benedict XVI, quoted by Pope Francis in his challenging book, “The Gospel of New Life.” If you are someone who finds it difficult to believe that God’s grace is in the Catholic Church, then forget it was any Pope that said it, and pretend it was John Knox, or Dr. Martyn Loyd Jones, or Bill Johnson, or….. or give up your prejudice or pride and accept two things. Number 1, truth is truth whoever said it. Number 2, it may surprise you to know God does not actually believe all you believe about Him nor does He necessarily share your every interpretation of every Scripture verse, nor your thoughts on other people, nor your estimation of whether they are out or in His family and Kingdom. I have heard Protestant Bible teachers, even reformed Sottish Presbyterian ministers I greatly admire, say things that I think are wrong biblically. In fact I have heard preachers at times teach what in my opinion and understanding of the Bible is patent nonsense, but it doesn’t make me think they have never spoken truth or never will again! Nor do what I consider errors make me think they are unsaved or the Antichrist. No doubt in time I will look back on these blogs of mine and see things that I consider not quite right, but that won’t make me judge myself unsaved or make me feel I need to label myself a heretic or false teacher. I am saved by the grace of God in Jesus Christ, full stop! All of us who have ever lived have made mistakes with our tongues according to the letter of James, save Jesus Christ alone, Perfect Man. No doubt come Judgement Day there will be a few surprises and one of the biggest for those of us who love theology more than God or people, may well be to discover that God loves us not because we were so right all the time, but because He so loves us. It is best to focus on our own story, remembering that when Peter asked about what would happen to his fellow disciple, John, Jesus replied curtly I believe, “What is that to you? You follow me!” If that involves too much humbling of yourself in one day, then just forget the possible word of God to your heart in these first few lines of this blog, till you can humble yourself under His mighty hand, another time, and for now try and calm your flustered soul and quieten any anger by thinking of this simple Bible truth. “Desert” is a theme and a fact of the story of the people of God recorded in the Old and New Testaments. Sometimes that desert is literal, sometimes it is metaphorical and sometimes both at one and the same time. The intriguing thing is that often the desert is somewhere where God takes his people in the mystery of His good, wise, loving and perfect will: It is where the Spirit of God led God’s Son, Jesus.

There in the desert, our values as to what really matters, are re-calibrated aright. Gold, silver, or precious stones, or fame or achievement or applause of any type would soon seem pretty useless. I guess topmost felt needs would be for water and somewhere to shelter form the blazing sun. Since having to step back from life and work as I had known it through illness, I have come to value certain things more than ever. Let me share two treasures found, or re-found, which I have come to appreciate more, discovered in what for me and for those who love me most, has not been the easiest of experiences or places to be.

1: The kindness and tenderness of Jesus, my friend. He does not despise weakness. Today I found myself remembering a time in recent Church of Scotland history when a New Hymnbook (CH3) was being compiled. It was decided that the much loved hymn “What a friend we have in Jesus” should be left out. I think it was probably a mistake so to do, but again not necessarily a sufficiently grave sin to consign that version of the hymnbook to the flames to which many did indeed condemn it and condemn it still even though we have actually moved on from that edition of the hymnbook to  a more recent one still… well some have and some have not, some may and some have decided they never will. Such is church life. What Paul calls “party spirit”  which ultimately means a divisive spirit, is alive and well and flourishing strongly in the church at large!

Anyway, ranting sermon over… for the time being… back on track now! Why was that particular hymn discarded at that point? If my memory serves me right, I think it was felt to be too personal and individual in its language and did not reflect strongly enough the fact that as Christians we are a body of people together. But at times that truth of being a body of people, can be pushed to the point of simply being the spiritual equivalent of politically correct nonsense. It can be  pushed to the extent it becomes an error, as every truth out of balance can easily and dangerously become. Nowadays through the most current Christian books and conferences and week to week Sunday Preaching, it can seem as though we should be so much part of a company of people and so much involved in the Church’s mission and service in the world of today, that “me and Jesus” is almost frowned upon. It is not spiritually/politically up to date, or considered daring enough.

Well, it may or may not be. All I know is that in “the desert,” the place with few if any familiar landmarks, I have discovered in a fresh way that Jesus really is my friend who sticks with me. As I have negotiated changes in this season of life, and at times have felt anxious, so often by His  Spirit,  Jesus just reminds me He is there, with me, watching over me, sticking close by me and He loves me. His friendship means more to me now than ever, as does this astonishing fact: He wants my friendship! Having asked Simon Peter twice over “Simon Son of Jonas do you love me with sacrificial love?” as they walked together on a beach one morning after the Resurrection, He then asked him, “Simon Son of Jonas, do you love me as a friend?” Personal friendship with sheep He knows by name seems to matter to Jesus. We are a body of people, but individually we are never just one of the crowd. He does not see all Americans simply as Americans, or all Mexicans simply as Mexicans. Have you undervalued a personal friendship with Jesus Christ? Have you ever begun one? Does it not amaze you that He offers His friendship and wants yours? Friendship is a lovely thing. It implies enjoyment of one another’s company. It implies warmth and affection, not just loving one another because we have to, by some duty. Does it seem a strange idea that Jesus may actually like you? If it does, you may have to ask Him to help you see what He sees as he looks at you. Seeing “you” through His eyes may surprise you…
2: In the desert, the place without familiar land marks I am coming through, I have also come to value the kindness of other people and come to a new acceptance that I need others in my life. Kindness has at times come from fellow believers, but at time it has come from people whose spiritual life I have no knowledge of any more than I know the spiritual pulse of anyone reading this blog. I have met incredible kindness, concern and compassion through health professionals; from those whose theology is at the opposite end of the scale from mine; from those who have simply listened and helped me with wise counsel and fresh outlooks; from those who have taken me for a drive, eaten breakfast with me and laughed and joked with me; from those who sent a text or an email at the right time and persisted when they did not get the encouragement or the courtesy of a reply from me! I am not sure I would have noticed the value of all of this without this illness. Please hear me. I am giving the illness no credit, and thank God there are many still praying for me to be healed. But, I want to say to those of you who pray for me, I have been blessed with much care and kindness in this time. It has been a very humbling thing and I am learning to receive it all with gratefulness. In the presence of illness and weakness which at times have the feeling of an enemy about them, I have found that God has spread a table before me so many times. Often I have tasted His goodness through people.

I guess I am saying that I I can genuinely say that I can understand at least in part why God said of Israel through the prophet Hosea, that He was going to take them into the desert and allure them all over again. He has wooed me to Himself in a new way and also to things that matter most. I perhaps find myself looking back with this strange mixture of thoughts: “Lord, in some ways I feel I am allowed to say to you that I wish things could have been different in this or that aspect, but I thank you they have been as they have been.” That is easier “felt than tellt” as we would say here in Scotland from where I am writing, but if you need to get to that spiritual place of honesty  t and peace too, I pray God will hep you get there. When you get there, you will discover a new sense of purpose, strength, and even  a sense of destiny destroying any hovering and darker notions of fate.

Beloved, whoever you are, I humbly want to share the bread I have found in the desert in the form of two questions I offer to you to think about:

Has anything, even a good thing like church or mission or whatever, replaced friendship with Jesus at the core of your being?

Have your learned to recognise His presence and help in others?

Notice Him, notice Him in “them” today and thank “them” and Him.”

1 out of 10…

There are some things that seemed to catch Jesus attention, and to which he draws our attention. You perhaps know the story where ten lepers come to Jesus seeking healing. As they continue their journey they find that they have all been healed! Only one comes back with thanksgiving. Jesus notes that and draws attention to it by noting also the absence of the other 9. “Were not ten healed? Where are the other nine?” 1 out of 10 is a disappointing mark…

There are other stories that show what Jesus notices either with expressed approval or disapproval, other activities or actions or attitudes recorded that Jesus particularly notes, but I want to stick with this one today: Thankfulness.

You have maybe picked up in my blogging that I like poetry. I never liked it at school perhaps because beauty can be overanalysed. Sometimes it is to be enjoyed rather than understood. I have come to like it and even write a bit of it myself from time to time. I referred not long ago to a poet I like called Kenneth Steven and encouraged you, if you are so inclined and like poetry – and I recognise not everyone does – to buy a collection of his poems called “Coracle.” In a poem from that collection, “A Green Woodpecker” he describes a walk into a wood to look for the said Woodpecker. The poem is actually hardly, if at all, about the Woodpecker, but is rather about all the other beauties and wonders he saw as he searched. He went looking for one thing and “found all this instead.”

Sometimes we can get so focussed on the one thing that we feel we are needing to see God do for us, or help for one area of living that we are asking for, that we become blind to the “all this” blessing around us. Our heavenly Father knows our needs according to Jesus, the Revealer of the Father. Don’t get so focussed on looking for a Woodpecker that you miss rivers, moon, crackling leaves and twigs, deer and swans, standing still and looking up into the sights and sounds of the sky above. I hope you know what I mean as I write this, even if you don’t like poetic thought! It is as old as Adam and Eve, this focussing on “one tree,” and forgetting that freely we are being offered the good fruit of many trees in the garden.

Look for God’s goodness today and try and get rid of anxious obsessions about that one thing.

Before I sign off, here is a practice with which someone started a meeting I attended lately. I found it amazingly profound, though generally I get annoyed at icebreaker things, and do them with a bad spirit and “surprise, surprise” to no obvious benefit! However, I was moved and did benefit from this exercise, despite beginning with a bad spirit. Maybe this old dog is learning new tricks, maybe I have become more tolerant and mellow with age and appreciate simpler things… anyway here it is:

As you sit where you are now;

See 5 things you have not noticed yet since you sat down

Touch 4 things around you, you have not touched today

Listen for 3 sounds you have not noticed

Smell 2 smells you have not registered yet

Taste 1 taste and name it

May God help us this day to see, touch, to listen to, to smell and to taste His goodness and be thankful. Satan loves to mesmerise us with that “one thing” to destroy our peace, like a snake mesmerising its prey. May the stare of the snake be broken for you … may you become alert … may Jesus note your thankfulness today.

Open your arms! Hold your head high!


I find myself stunned by the calm dignity of Jesus Christ. In the face of so much that was designed to mock and humiliate and break Him, when He is asked “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” He says, “I am.” It seems that so often there was an assault upon Jesus’ identity, His awareness of who He was… and is and ever will be. The temptation story makes that clear. Read it in Matthew Chapter 4 when you get the time.

Perhaps there are things you are going through or parts of your life story that seem to mock the idea that you are a son or daughter dearly loved by your Heavenly Father. How do we strengthen ourselves in God to be able to meet and deal with arrows that are fired against our security? To me it is obvious that Jesus spent time with His Father. It seems so obvious that it should not need to be stated, but after 34 years as a pastor I have found that when things begin to fall to bits in spiritual life it is rarely because we have missed some esoteric point of doctrine, or failed to understand some elusive secret open only to mystics or ascetics or to those who know the original languages in which the bible was written, or have read the latest academic book by a German theologian… in German! It is usually because we have not understood the ABC’s in the first place, or have allowed the most obvious things necessary to sustain spiritual life to slip.

Are you spending time with your Heavenly Father? I know personally and as a minister that it is possible to be carried along by a lot of different currents which provide a sort of spiritual adrenalin type of strength, which can feel great for a while but usually leads to a crash. I can be carried along by the desire to debate a point on Facebook, to win the argument. I see many Christians are similarly occupied and I am not sure it helps commend Christ. Indeed I am not too sure it does anything other than reassure wavering Christian, while further distancing non believers in the process. There is a great danger of playing to the evangelical crowd for their approval and applause. Donald Trump is not alone there! There is all the difference in the world between the anointing of cleverness and the anointing of the wisdom. I have known both and they are very different in their fruit because they are different in their source. According to James, one is from below, the other is from above. I find I can also be carried along by a commitment to some cause or other, or with a desire to promote my bandwagon or leap on another. Eventually, however, I notice when I am living from any other place than security in the love of my Heavenly Father, that I have become graceless, driven and feel a nagging sense that something has gone wrong. I may even still be preaching and ministering the truth of God’s Word, but something has gone wrong. Normally what has gone wrong is that time spent with my Father has been marginalised. Has that happened for you? Have you marginalised time spent with the Father, loving Him and allowing Him to assure you that you belong to Him?

I hope hunger for that sense of true communion rather than formal or driven relationship is alive and well in you and if not, I am praying as I write that God will restore it to you. I think I particularly want to say quite simply, it is OK to want to know that you really are a child of God, loved by Him. For some reason I picked up an impression in my early Christian years that to want to know the love of the Father in a palpable way meant that I was psychologically in want, that I was some sort of light weight Christian, one of those type of Christians who liked the Living Bible rather than the NIV! ((Actually I use both, but why do I need the feel to say that? Will “Self” ever recognise truly that it is dead? Fear of man, even our fellow believers is a snare!) Over the years I have come to agree with a friend now in glory, that the felt love of God is the answer to everything.

So I am praying that you will have a hunger for true communion and I am praying that if someone is trying to pacify your cry for that too easily you will not listen to them no matter how orthodox and committed to the Word of God they seem to be. Follow the hunger and the smell of bread in your spiritual nostrils! Let God himself pacify that legitimate need of a child in you to know that you are loved, to feel that you are loved rather than simply accept it as a doctrine, though accepting it as a doctrine matters. According to Paul in the opening Chapter of Ephesians we are deeply included in Christ and therefore in the Father’s love for Christ when 3 things happen. First we are to “hear” the good news. Secondly we are to “believe” and thirdly we are to be “sealed” by the Holy Spirit. When something was sealed in bible days it was a way of saying, “This is mine. This belongs to me.” I am not sure why some preachers will talk a lot about hearing the good news and believing, but encourage their hearers that to hear and to believe is enough for us to be deeply in Christ. Maybe those of us who want to be biblical are not as biblical as we think we are! Why do we encourage people to stop short in their experience of the love of God?

Let me therefore put it this way: Have you been sealed by the Spirit? Has there come into your heart an assurance that God your heavenly Father has said, “You are mine and you are mine forever!” Have you said in reply, “I know… at last I really know!” Being Spirit sealed, deeply assured, is what your Father wants for you, so that no matter what happens, how deeply painful your experience of life may have been or may yet be, no matter how you have been humiliated or done things that you are ashamed of, you can hold your head high in Christ and say, “I am a child of God.”

Take time to be with your Father. Jesus by the Holy Spirit will help you to know Him the way He knows Him. This is His desire, that you should know His God as your God, His Father as your Father. Remember that ultimately Jesus is the only theologian for according to His own words in Matthew Chapter 11, “No one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.” Let Jesus be your teacher by the Spirit and bring you into the rest of soul that He, God’s Son, knew in the Father’s love and will. He says, “Learn of me.” It would be good just to listen to Him. That is more important than reading this blog!!

Perhaps I am speaking to a believer who has experienced a form of Christianity that seems to be so “word” dominated that the place of feelings, knowing something with emotional and “feeling”certainty is an idea that you hear with suspicion and might even try and convince others against. Effectively you have maybe become a student of a lecturer in your relationship with God, or a lecturer of students in your thinking about your ministry. I want to lift the weight of condemnation and cynical comments off of your hunger and longing to know the felt love of your Heavenly Father. Tell Him of that hunger! You are not psychologically wanting, you are not weak in faith, you are not a doubter of God’s Word. You truly are a child wanting to be embraced. May you always be so and may that need be satisfied by your Heavenly Father himself by His Spirit.

God bless you, Child of God. Open your arms wide and hold your head high!

“It is better for you that I go away…”

I thank God for those who feed me fresh spiritual bread. I am signed up to receive daily readings from the writings of Henri Nouwen. You might want to sign up for that as well. If I was more technical I would tell you how to do it, but all I know is I did it so you can do it too!! I remember hearing a minister speaking at the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland saying that his ignorance of things technical was so great that it could be considered profound! I identify with that.

Anyway, today with the help of Henri Nouwen I was thinking about Jesus saying to His disciples that it was better for them that He went away. I am sure none of them believed that at the time, and would have wanted to put up a strong argument to show this was patent nonsense, but if Jesus said it, then it must be true. He went on to teach them about the ministry of the Holy Spirit by Whom He Himself would come to them again and by Whom they would be brought into remembrance of all the precious things He had taught them, and indeed would receive greater insight still. Through the Holy Spirit anyone who wishes to can access the presence and person of Jesus wherever they are. From the day of Pentecost any place can become a holy place, a place of encounter with the risen Christ and with our Heavenly Father.

As I thought about this my mind went on to think about people that have meant a lot to me over the years, who have helped me as a person in the deepest sense. I was thinking of one in particular, a Pentecostal minister by the name of Hugh Black. Even though I was not one of his fold, he always had time for me. In fact the gift of his time and counsel made me feel valued and worthwhile. Often he would ask me what I thought about things and would dignify my blundering opinions with his attentive listening – even though I always felt he knew the answer to what he was asking my opinion on. When he died, I felt so sad. In many ways it felt like the loss of a spiritual Father. Who would I turn to now?

Friends, we can and should be grateful for spiritual guides, mentors, ministers, pastors, whatever we want to call them. However when in the course of time they are removed, is it indeed possible that as Henri Nouwen suggests their absence from us can be a gift as well that the Holy Spirit can help us enjoy? In a sense I grieve Mr. Black’s passing still, but over the years some of the things he said to me or helped me see have become even more valuable to me than when he was alive. His passing too helped me to do something he would have approved of: To stand more fully on my own two feet in the grace of God. Though grateful for anyone who has helped us grow in spiritual things, they should never replace our own direct relationship with the Lord.

So some questions to chew over….

Do you need to come before God with renewed thanksgiving for those whose counsel and words have helped you grow?

Are you still feeding upon their words and counsel?

it is possible that you need to thank God for someone’s absence as being a way to understand them and appreciate them better?

Will you live so as to be a non essential but very real blessing to others?

I don’t know if I am allowed to hate anything as a believer but I do hate the way that Christian ministries market their ministries as though you need them in order to learn the secrets of victorious living, which of course always means making them richer in the process. Friends you have the bible and the Holy Spirit. I have a simple message today. Be truly thankful for those who have taught you where to find bread, but remember they are not The Bread. Christ is the Living bread. Ask the Holy Spirit right now to help you into a relationship with Jesus that is so real and fruitful that you will be able to say, “Amen, Yes Lord!” to the staggering statement that it was better for every follower of Jesus that he did not remain on the earth.

An invitation into The King’s Clearing…

I believe something that I heard John Paul Jackson say at a conference, “CLAN Gathering,” in Scotland. “God is who He has always been and is doing what He has always done.” For some curious reason many believe He no longer does what He did in the days of the bible. Well, if He has changed, He cannot be God, for either He was by definition perfect before He changed in which case He is no longer God, or He was perfect after He changed in which case He was not God in the first place. From everlasting to everlasting, God is God. He is who He has always been and does what He has always done. He would remind us all “I am the Lord. I do not change.”

So I want to tell you a fact that my mind from a Presbyterian background disapproves of but my born again spirit rejoices in! God has spoken to you in your dreams. It is one of the ways He chooses to speak and, remember, He is God so He can do whatever He chooses and does not need our counsel and advice as to how He should do things. If He is the God of the Old and New Testament, then more than likely He has spoken to you in dreams but you may have discounted that as a possibility and so not have recognised Him speaking to you a word to live by. I hope that from now on you may be alert to His presence and truth as you sleep. Indeed, pray that your Heavenly Father who never slumbers or sleeps but keeps watch as you sleep with unutterable and unalterable love will begin to speak to you as He chooses in your dreams. Pray too that the precious gift of sleep from a Father to His beloved children will not be invaded by the enemy, unless of course God allows you to see something about how the enemy has been attacking your life and exposes his tactics so that you can have the victory of Christ over him. Yes, I do believe not only in dreams but in the devil and his demons. I have seen them leave people, including me. Yes, I believe a born again Christian can be demonically troubled.,, but more of that another time… perhaps… but it is quite boring really and not nearly as exciting as talking about God. Never give the devil more attention than he merits.

From time to time in this blog I will tell you how God has spoken to me in my dreams.
Here is the dream I want t tell you about tonight. I was fighting my way through a forrest. It was heavy going, and my armour had taken a few strikes. Yet, i was struggling on. It was only when I came to a clearing and stopped hacking away that I realised how tired I was. I sensed an invitation to step into this clearing. At the same time there was a sense of fear. The fear came from the emptiness of the space I was being invited into. I feared that emptiness. I feared the clearness of the space. There was nowhere to hide, which begs the question as to what I felt I needed to hide from. This is a good question to ask I think. What exactly is it that I fear about stepping out of laboriously hacking my way through the woods into a clear space? Who is the enemy that I fear will see me and attack me? Perhaps the enemy is myself? Yet, I longed to step into that clear space as the sense of invitation increased and did so because all of a sudden I saw one feature in that clearing. It was Christ. How do I know? Well, you just know that you know. I saw Him as a victorious warrior sitting astride a huge stone. This was the risen Jesus, the conqueror of sin and death and hell who had driven out the prince of this world. With a speed and a confidence that seemed against my personality, against the Kenny that everybody sees and knows, I made my way boldly towards Him, but as I did I was aware this was a precious moment that could be stolen. A prayer formed in my dream, which as I recollect went something like this, or at least this was the felt tone of my prayer within the dream: “Jesus, I lack the wisdom to be the Gatekeeper. Be my Gatekeeper in the Power of the Spirit. Let me know when something is trying to enter the clearing without passing the gate which you are watching, a gate open to all your followers. Warn me by your presence, calm me by your presence, be the kindness, the tenderness that destroys all harsh judgment or treatment that would rush upon me from others, from my own fears, yes from me, my own worst enemy. Amen!”

So, I came to Christ the King. I will tell the rest in the first person, as I am writing about me not someone else: “It is Christ the King, calling me as one of His Knights to stand, not to kneel, but to stand before Him that He and I may look at one another face to face. It is a place of calm counsel where established righteousness fills the air with rest. He sits on top of the rolled away boulder, and from that place of accomplished victory, He is looking at this knight not for defeat but to honour valour. The sense is that the clearing is full of “eternal splendours,” saved, redeemed human beings of all types sizes and shapes, and yet this face to face meeting is entirely that; One to one. I think it has been the same experience for these other eternal splendours too, my redeemed brothers and sisters. Around that boulder there is no weakness, no darkness at all, nothing but the light of victory and of righteousness. Around that boulder there is an awareness of an eternal truth that in Christ weakness is turned to strength. In His presence all that there is awareness of is strength. Weakness is automatically transformed into that as it approaches Him. Weakness can only be seen with the eye of faith not the eye of sight in this clearing. All is calm, strong, vibrant, eternal life, yet soft and fragrant. Victory has no need to fear or flex its muscles to convince itself or others it is victory. In this place the weak do indeed say they are strong, the poor say they are rich, the blind say I can see… One step into the King’s Clearing and what is weak is strengthened, what is in danger of being put out of joint becomes worthy of being trusted with weight and movement once again.”

I am convinced that with one hand Jesus holds the sword of a victory won, but with the other he is beckoning you, whoever you are reading this, into “The Clearing” where the King honours His Knights, a place fragrant with love. True love looks for the best and seeks to show it to the other who may be blind to it. Christ wants us to see what He sees as He looks at us. He wants us to see what He most regards. He does not give His best attention to our sin and our failure. He has done that on the cross. Sin is not the object of his fascination or attention. Perish the thought. He has died a death to the realm of sin forever. It no longer is the focus of His attention though such a great salvation will be the focus of our attention and fuel our worship for eternity. Christ the Captain has moved the front line. His attention now is to where it fast-forwarded to in His High Priestly Prayer in John 17, namely His battling people. He regards our valour and our strength and our victories as well as being touched with our infirmities through experiencing the battle to be truly human from the inside. He is present as the one who says in the midst of battle, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. ” This is what He wants to speak to us about, face to face; our winning the fight. There is almost a sense in which to speak too much of our failures and defeats would be to waste the time. The question is how to take the victory forward. He has such a confidence His knights, and by that I mean knights both male and female, can do that, so much so that He has no back up plan other than them/us. This is gracious love for ourselves and one another: To believe for God’s best in and for a person can come to be.

I think in a way that I do not remember being as obvious for a long time, the Church is awakening to its task of mission and service in the world, and that is wonderful. But please, never forget time in The King’s clearing, where Jesus offers the best portion: Himself. Generous hospitality is part of the creation story. Everything was good, so so good. It was good in itself. Creation without man was good. But it was also a good setting for Adam and Eve. Freely every tree of the garden bar one was offered. “Come and taste the goodness of God.” It is hardly surprising therefore that when the Maker comes as Redeemer the tone of all He is and does and offers is so incredibly generous. He offers Himself as the bread which came down from heaven to give life to the world. He is always the generous host. Everything about the dream says to me what I am now saying to you in the name of the King: “Come! Come without money and price”

Sleep and dream well.

Truly God is in this place…”

I  came across a poem today called “Iona” by Kenneth Steven. You can find it in a collection of his poems that goes under the title, “Coracle.” There is a simple beauty to his poems. They are very accessible even to those who do not easily take to poetry, and yet I find when I read some of his poems, I want to shut the book, speak to no one and sit silently in the presence of God whose beauty I have often seen in a fresh and indeed refreshing way. For me that is a sign of a good piece of spiritual writing, whether the author or poet intended the result or not… it brings me to silence and makes me yearn for the living God; to see, to touch, to embrace Him in his beauty and to be embraced by that beauty.

I have only been to the beautiful island of Iona once in my life so far and that was over 40 years ago.The 10 lines of Kenneth Steven’s poem seemed to fit so well with what still lingers in my memory all these years later. I don’t want to quote the poem as I am unsure of Copyright law, and in any case I would counsel you to buy the book for yourself. I do want to refer however to a truth expressed poignantly in the poem: The truth that sometimes a place such as Iona is found by those who have lost their way, and would not have been found if a person had not lost their way.

In a sense that is the story behind my taking up blogging. The way that I had mapped out for my life suddenly came to an end, but in the process I found myself in another place, on another way, and I have come to appreciate its beauty. Some of you know what I am referring to, but some of you may be scratching your heads. Lest you invent a story that is more exciting than the truth, the rather tedious and tame non-scandalous truth is that I have developed a lung disease ,which has meant my having to give up my post as a parish minister in the Church of Scotland. I was absolutely sure that the Lord had called me to Wester Hailes and that is where you would have found me when I would have reached normal retirement age, 8 or 9 years from now. That was the way I had mapped out, but now I find myself having to adjust to stopping that journey. The Lord, just as for the Israelites of old, is leading me on a way that I have not been on before. At first the adjustment was hugely difficult. In a sense is still is. I see this huge empty space looming and wonder with what and whom and where etc things will begin to take on the contours of an identifiable shape. However, fear is giving way to realising this is a new start that God is offering me. It is a gift of His goodness to a child whom He loves, not a punishment or being disqualified from the race which is what Satan, that pious sounding but false bible teacher was trying to get me to believe.

I could tell you many beautiful things I have found in this place and may well do once I have learned to enjoy them and savour them better for myself. Even at this early stage of readjustment I do want to share a treasure that I have found as I have beach-combed this new, unvisited and unsought place: I have discovered that I can make a friend of time. That is a concept and a phrase that I got from one of my heroes, Jean Vanier or Henri Nouwen. I cannot remember which and in any case their thoughts on things are often very similar. Each had a great admiration for one another and I don’t think they would mind my uncertainty as to which one of them had blessed me with this principle: Make a friend of time. At times in these early days of what is for me a new way and a new phase, I have by default mode of thinking treated the passing of time as an enemy who wounds me with arrows of frustration, foreboding, anxiety and restlessness. I have not found it easy to befriend time, and yet time passing has allowed God to speak things and do things, and help me to speak things and do things and stop speaking and doing other things that would never have happened without the passing of time. In a very real sense though still not well physically, I am more well than I have ever been in the deepest sense. It is almost as though I needed this time period of illness in order to become truly well in the core of my being.

Are you finding the passing of time difficult? Perhaps you too have all of a sudden found yourself being carried down a way that you did not choose. It is unfamiliar. I hope you will discover treasures and beauties in God, in life, in the world around you, in your fellow human beings and even in yourself that you would never have discovered had you not found yourself travelling by a different way to a place whose shores you have not walked upon before. Give it time, make a friend of time and that can happen. You may find yourself one day telling others what I am telling you, and using the words of Jacob as though they had been written for you: “Truly God is in this place and I did not know it…. This is the gate of heaven.”

As I close, I end with a P.S. which perhaps you will take tonight as a spiritual nightcap: I stored it in my head years back, source unknown. Whoever said it, this is what they said: It is good for us to spend time in the waiting room in the doctor’s surgery. It reminds us we are not in charge. Perhaps that may be the biggest blessing that God may bring for you out of what you are going through at this moment: God really is God.

‘Hello Beautiful….”

I was looking today at a photograph from my daughter, Sarah, on”Facebook.” There she was with some friends from her church, Central church, Edinburgh, off to Calais to show the love of Christ in a situation of immense need that has been appearing on our TV screens almost daily. Just about every time I see her post a photograph my mind goes back to when I held her when she was first born. I simpy looked a this miracle of God and said, “Hello beautiful!” Her eyes vaguely focussed on the direction of my voice, her neck stretched upwards as she tried to somehow connect wth this sound, this person, that perhaps she was vaguely aware of in a muffled way from the womb.

Sometimes I wonder if I have ever been truer to the image of God than at that moment. When God made human beings, according to the story of the bible He looked at us and said, “Very good!” He knew all that would happen. He knew all about our welcoming sin and so on, but yet He still looked at what He had made and said, “Hello Beautiful.”

You may be aware of sin past,  just as God was aware of sin still to come when He first made men and women. Can you believe  that somehow He still looks at you and says, “Hello Beautiful!” ? Jesus shows what His father is like. I love the story of the disciples criticising a woman who anointed Jesus with expensive perfume. He looked at them angrily, and said “Leave her alone, she has done a beautiful thing to me.” On another occasion when a woman came to wash Jesus’ feet with her tears and dry them with her hair and anoint them with perfume, onlookers were only aware of her sinfuness. One of them, Simon, voiced his inner heart in these thoughts, “If this man Jesus were a prophet he would know what manner of woman this is, that she is a sinner!” Jesus knew what was in men and women. He knew the gracelessness of Simon’s heart, He knew  this woman’s past, but He saw the beauty in what she was doing and points it out to Simon. Simon had given Jesus no proper hospitality, had not offered Him the kiss of welcome and friednship, but this woman had not stopped kissing Jesus’ feet. He saw in her the beauty of someone who was grateful that her sins had been forgiven and love had welcomed her and accepted her.

I note this blog is being followed by people in different countries, so forgive me if I write a word about Scottish spirituality.  There is much that is good about it, in that we emphasize humility before God and an awarness of His sovereignty. I do wish American charismatics would stop trying to  make us like American Christians. I am so tired of that!! (I could go into a rant, but I won’t, or at least I will save it for another time!!) Their culture, like ours, is flawed and not aways in line with God’s Kingdom. In fact as their  Presidential elections draw near it is patently obvious that American evangelicalism is deeply flawed. We do need to see our own flaws. One of the flaws of Scottish Christianity is that  we can almost glory in our sinfulness. For many Scots the height of Christianity is that we are a sinner saved by grace. But if that is the height of how I regard myself I think we dishonour the Father’s love, the sacrfice of Jesus at Calvary and the witness of the Hoy Spirit within us. God wants us to know that when He looks at us in Christ he says over us, “You are my Son, my daguther whom I love, you bring me great joy!”

According to my bible He celebrates and dances over His children with great rejoicing. I have never been more godly than when I rejoiced at the birth of my son and daughter. They did not have to do anything to earn my joy and my love towards them. It was simply there. Can you dare to believe that tonight there may be a sound of singing or dancing in heaven and one angel says to another, “What on earth – (or rather what in heaven) – is that?” Canyou believe that his angel companion could possibly say of you of and of me, or of someone whom you find it hard to get on with, “Of it is just his/her father. He is thinking of His chidren!”?

Max Lucado asks a question that I would ask of you. “What is the holiest moment of your day?” Is it when you read your bible and say your prayers, or when you do other thngs that good Christian people are meant to do? He says to all of that a resounding, “No.” The holiest moment of the day is when you wake up in the morning and stumbe through to the bathroom mirror with your hair matted, your pyjamas crumpled, with a breath that would stain the wall and a face that would scare a dog! What makes that moment so special is that this is the you that your Heavenly Father sees and loves. He is looking at a morning miracle!

What do you find yoursef saying to yourself as you look in the mirror?  Can you dare to beleive that God would want you to say “Hello Beautiful!” As I look back I knew about all the dirty nappies, the sleepless nights still to come  when Sarah and David were born, the joys and the pains of parenting still to come, but nothing took away from my sense of wonder when I saw them , newly born. If, according to Jesus, I who am sinful can say something like that to my daughter  or my son, how much more can your heavenly Father say it to you… and mean it.

,I dare you to say it to your own amusement and embarrassment and, by the way to the torture of the devil of hell who has perhaps been torturing your soul and mind for many years… When you get up tomorrow, look in the mirror and say, “In the Name of God, in the name of Jesus Christ the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me, by the power of the Holy Spirit, I say to you, “Hello beautiful!”

“Jesus knew in advance what he was going to do…”

I learned early on in ministry in Edinburgh that people don’t always know when a minister is asking rhetorical questions whilst preaching. In a service early in my time in Wester Hailes, I asked the question, “What do people out there say about the church here in Wester Hailes?” I was NOT asking for an answer but boy did I get an answer! I was left in no doubt as to what some people “out there” thought about the church. I should say I enjoyed the experience and now frequently ask a congregation a question, hoping for answers which I can then incorporate into the sermon time. Take the risk and try it, if you are reading this and you are a preacher. It can be very interesting to say the least!

One day, Jesus asked a question of his disciples. I am not sure whether he expected them to answer or not, but what intrigues me is that he already knew what he was going to do about the situation he was asking them about. He was faced with a crowd of hungry people and asked the disciples, “Where shall we buy bread for all these people to eat?” We then read these words, “Jesus knew in advance what he was going to do.” (John Chapter 6 verse 6.)

I have found in times of ill health  and the changes that has brought to my life that my faith has had to become simpler. There are questions about my future that I do not yet know the answer to. I am so comforted that Jesus allows me to speak to him about  the situation, but even more comforted that whatever he calls me to take responsibility for, he knows in advance what he is going to do. When anxiety threatens to overwhelm me, I remember this verse.

Please remember that Jesus did not do it all in the feeding of that hungry crowd. He involved the disciples in solving the problem. They had responsibility to act, and it is good to remember that, but we all need to know where our responsibility in carrying out the will of God begins and ends in any situation and how that works in with what Jesus has already decided in advance that he himself will do. God is not a harsh God. Jesus is not a taskmaster. He looks with compassion on need. He defended his disciples from the harsh expectations of the religious on more than one occasion. On another occasions he was happier to have folk just sitting with him than doing things for him. In this period of my life,I have noticed that when I try and push beyond what he is asking of me and try and do what I am asking of me or think others may be expecting of me, I lose the presence and peace of Christ: This I have found to be a one hundred percent rule.

We seem to get more and more sophisticated in our attempts to minister the good news of Christ,as though the old old story is not sufficient to pass muster in an age that knows more about all sorts of things than our great grandparents’ generation. Well, I have had to rediscover in times of weakness that the old old story of Jesus and his love still works and is still true. I love contemporary worship, but I love it less than I once did, partly because it asks me to be too triumphalist and does not allow me to confess my fears, my anxieties, my need for reassurance. I find myself going back to the more humble hymns from my earlier years which contained truths that I am finding myself needing to live in now. I found myself effortlessly recalling the following words from the church of my childhood and singing them in the midst of an anxious and sleepless night:

“Oh God of Bethel by whose hand, thy people still are fed, who though this weary pilgrimage, hast all our fathers led.

Our vows, our prayers we now present before Thy throne of grace; God of our fathers be the God, of their succeeding race.

Through each perplexing path of life our wandering footsteps guide;  give us each day our daily bread and raiment fit provide.”

As I come to the end of this day i am feeding  on this truth: Jesus knows what he is going to do. I hope you may feed on that thought with me.








“The wind blows wherever it pleases…”

“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

I love these words from the lips of Jesus as he speaks with an enquirer, Nicodemus, about spiritual life. I suppose I have made the assumption that anyone reading this blog will already be a signed up Christian. I am not sure why I have assumed that, as there was a time I was not a Christian myself. How did I become one? Well, I could tell you that story and may well do so sometime in a future blog, but all I know is that God did it.Yes, there were choices and decisions to be made, and people involved, but ultimately God did it. I cannot think of a better picture of spiritual birth than the one Jesus uses here. It tallies with my experience. In a way that I cannot fully understand the Wind of the Spirit of God blew upon me. I couldn’t tell particularly when that blowing had begun or all that it would lead me into from that point on, but I knew the effects upon me.

Let me be very simple: If you are a person who has not yet found bread for your soul but are aware of the hunger ,let me ask you this question: “Who put that hunger there?” I would encourage you to believe that hunger is the movement of God’s Spirit upon you. I simply pray that the Wind would continue to blow with the strength that God knows is right for you; that enthusiastic Christians won’t rush you or put you off in your search or make you abandon your hunger for your own experience of God. I pray that your experience will be so much one that God nurtures and brings about that you will never understand it fully, but ultimately will say, “God did it!” My own personal belief is that well meaning human beings can get in the way of God. It is not that human beings, their witness and sharing the good news are not something that God uses, but the apostle Paul said that he wanted people’s faith to rest in the power of God, in something that God himself had done, rather than in the persuasive words of a human being whether that was Paul himself or some other sharer of the Good News of Christ.

So, I encourage you to pray quite simply for the Spirit of God to blow upon you. But, I also want to encourage those of you who are believers who have found the Bread that is Christ, to pray the same thing for your family, your friends, for al those whom God puts upon your heart.Pray it for your church, for the church at large. Pray it for your own self. Our prayers, sharing, loving, caring, all of these things are good, but I love what Dr. R.T. Kendall said once at CLAN Gathering, a conference in Scotland: He said that he regarded his ministry as an experiment to see if the Holy Spirit could get past him! Let’s learn to do our bit but not do the work of God that only the Spirit of God can do.

So I pray that some reading this might know the blowing of the Wind of the Spirit, perhaps recognising and naming His felt presence for the first time. But I pray too for those of you who have been feasting on the Living Bread for many years now. Will you too think of the imagery of the Spirit blowing like the wind? Has your experience of God become too tame? Is it a long time since He surprised you? Are you too much in control of your spiritual life, or indeed your life in general? Self control of course is a fruit of the Spirit but have you also put some sort of limit on the Holy Spirit so that, yes, you can think with thankfulness of the fruit of His presence,on your life, and be thankful for the power to witness and serve that He has given you. But what about being picked up by the Wind and blown away from all that is familiar, being set down in a different place? What about adventure in God? Have you relegated the Holy Spirit to safe devotional practices, or are you alert to the blowing of the wind, whether as a breeze or hurricane, blowing upon you unexpectedly? Can I encourage you too to pray that the Wind of the Spirit will blow afresh upon you? Are you ready for that? He may well blow gently but He may well blow violently in a way that will alter the direction of your life. There is a risk when we say, “Holy Spirit, blow upon me afresh, fill me anew.” But remember that Jesus told us the Holy Spirit is the good gift of a good Heavenly Father to his children, a Father who longs for your life and mine to be filled with good things, not with destructive things.

I simply want to say the breeze is real and so is the hurricane. There can be experiences of the Spirit that are simply like the warm breath of Aslan around us, when the air becomes, as it were, filled with the beautiful fragrance of his mane. But at times, as on the day of Pentecost recorded for us in Acts Chapter 2, a violent wind can blow and another lie bites the dust that God is a gentleman who would never do anything we would not want Him to do. According to my bible, when the Spirit of God blows, buildings are shaken, people are changed without permission being asked. God is God. He can blow with tender reassurance to whisper deep within, “Shh! Be still dear one, all is well.” He can pick you up, turn you around so that you wonder how on earth did I get here. He can even do that physically, pick you up and set you in a different place. He did that for someone in the bible called Philip. He did it for me…. but that is another story for another time….

Rest of soul…?

There are some things I will keep saying even if no one listens and hardly anyone agrees. I may be right and I may be wrong, but all I can say is that I wince anytime I am in a church or read a church bulletin that contains a phrase like “this academic year” or “next term…” Since when did church become a school or place of higher education or a place that teaches us about how to get ahead of the world in pursuing the world’s goals? I am not academic enough to tell you a date, but it probably began to move that way in the UK and perhaps more generally in the Western World at the point where it ceased to be a carrier and demonstrator of good news to the poor and started on its inexorable movement towards what it has become now in the places it is growing fastest, namely a church of the middle class for the middle class, with middle class value systems and aims. That is what it has largely become in the UK. It may well be that in time it will become a church of the rich for the rich, given what we see gaining influence through the airwaves of Christian Broadcast Channels. Increasingly it seems that to be making it as a Christian is about being wealthy and healthy. Ten years ago the proof that you had made it as a conference speaker was that you flew first class. Indeed I have been in conferences where it was “prophesied” over the visiting speaker that it was not the Lord’s will for them to travel Economy any more but to travel not just Business Class but First Class. This apparently was a sign of a life that was truly under the favour of God. This, apparently, is what the blessed life is like; sitting in First Class rather than Economy or even Business Class, keeping check of the time on a Rolex instead of a Timex. It looks as though it is now possible to do what Jesus said no one could do, namely serve God and Mammon. The goalposts have moved. Who moved them? I have no idea, but I know we have no right to do so and yet the movement continues. Now the proof that you have really made it as a preacher is not the type of car you drive but the type of car you are driven in by your own full time chauffeur, whether you have a mansion and bodyguards, and whether you have got rid of your first jet and are now flying in jet number 2! The Jesus of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John can be so inconvenient. He always has been. Thank God for us it is so, for our hearts can indeed be desperately deceitful and there is always someone around who whispers “there is another way of looking at this you know.” A justification for something that is not justifiable for a believer gets under our skin and as the Methodist preacher W.E. Sangster once said, “fatal sophistry” makes us make room for a thought that previously we would have dismissed with a blush.  Satan usually offers us things that seem good, things that “surely a good God would want for us, would he not?” In fact he often seems to offer us another version of what God invites us into. God made us as human beings to be in His own mage. Satan seems to offer us the same thing but by a different and forbidden route: “You shall be as God….” We don’t believe a lie unless it seems as though it might be the truth.

I felt so sad overhearing a conversation about discipleship in a cafe the other day. It is not that the conversation was not sincere and I recognise that those involved in the conversation may have a much greater love for the Lord than I do. I am not judging their hearts but again speaking about something that for right or wrong made me wince. Discipleship from the conversation is apparently something that you can now describe in upwardly mobile language, going on this conversation. Words like “where to invest myself” “How to pursue success and still be a Christian” and “Setting goals” seem to fly about the air thick and fast. It struck me as very different from any conversation about discipleship that Jesus had with Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John etc etc. Was it just my sensitivities wincing, or was it the Holy Spirit’s grief I was touching? I cant be sure but I know what I think…

For so many, phrases or words like “academic year,” “term,” “success,” and so on are words that cause unbearable feelings of failure and awaken terrible memories of shame or humiliation. Many people’s experience of life and their estimation of themselves is that they have nothing to invest that is of any use. Even for those who enjoy such phrases and embrace them with capability and hope, are somehow offered through such phrases an off skew version of what Christianity is about. It is about Jesus of Nazareth, once dead but now alive for ever more. In that overheard conversation about discipleship I heard not one mention of His Name. I heard agitation and no rest of soul. Where is the centre of your spiritual life? If we give any answer other than the love of Jesus Christ for me and my love for him, we will probably not have the rest of soul that Jesus wants for his people and indeed the rest he wants in the soul of His Church and for His church to offer to the world.

For some reason, I find that the writers I now turn to most often to refresh my soul are all Roman Catholic, alive on earth or more alive in heaven. People like Jean Vanier, Henry Nouwen and Brennan Manning have refreshed my soul by telling me about the love of Jesus. Each is different from the other. There are certain similarities though. They write from the place of a real touching of their own fragility and the fragility of others and with accepting wonder of the love of God in Jesus Christ. While the church often would encourage you to see yourself in terms of what you can contribute to its goals and mission, let me encourage you for today and indeed for longer than today, to put that aside. See yourself as someone loved by God, loved by Jesus Christ.

For various reasons I have had to get rid of a lot of my books lately. I cannot always remember the source of quotes. I trust I am not breaking copyright to pass on a phrase that I read somewhere by Brennan Manning whose words have so often brought life to me, refreshing to my mind and tears to eyes when I had forgotten how to feel tenderness to myself or to others or a lost world that does not know the love of God: “ If you approached Paul and wanted to discuss parish renewal or contemporary worship, he would answer, “I have no understanding of church or religion except in terms of the sacred man Jesus who loved me and gave himself up for me.”

Please do something for me and more importantly for yourself. Make time to be alone with Jesus. It’s not difficult. Just find somewhere reasonably quiet, and say to him, “Jesus, Beloved Son of God I come to you. I want to spend time in your presence. Please draw close to me and help me to know the love with which the Father loves you and the love with which He loves me.” For some that may seem an uncomfortable thought, not because I am uncomfortable with Jesus but because I am uncomfortable with myself. Let these further words from Brennan Manning be food for your soul: “Jesus came to take away our mistrust of the Father and our dislike of ourselves.” One of the wonderful things about Jesus is that He was completely free from self loathing and completely sure of His belovedness. He wants to help you to be free from every deed or memory, everything that you have done or has been done to you that causes you to dislike or even loathe yourself. He, the Beloved Son of the Father, wants to help you to know that you are the Beloved of God too. He promises to His Father in John 17, “I have made you known Father to the disciples you have given me, and I will continue to make you known, in order that the love you have for me may be in them…” Whoever you are, whether words like “term” or “academic year”, or “success” are words which cause you to breathe with excitement, ease or anxiety, I pray that you will come to this place of knowing that the deepest answer to the question as to who you are is this: “I am the beloved of God.”

All of me to all of God…

I thank God for iconoclastic people who over the years have helped me see where I was wrong and simply blind to the heart of God. They have rarely been preachers, bible teachers or ministers. Hardly ever have they been known names or famous faces in the Christian world. Let me tell you about one of them, a teenage girl in Wester Hailes,  which is the Housing scheme in Edinburgh where I have ministered for the last 11 years until having to step down for health reasons.

When I first came to the wonderful congregation of Holy Trinity Church in Wester Hailes, the girl I am thinking of was one of a group of young people in the church who were in the habit of self harming. I took it in to my judgmental head that this was just a fad and just for attention, and decided to let them have it one night as I preached in the Name of Christ. I reminded the whole congregation that when we come to a church service we are here to worship God and that we should leave our problems at the door. The sermon was not for the whole congregation at that point of course, but was getting at this group of young people whose behaviour was annoying me, something I am sure any other minister reading this has ever done….

The following week during worship, I saw the teenager I am telling you about get up as the rest of us were worshipping. She went out and a few minutes later came back and and joined us all again. In the minutes between her leaving and returning, she had taken a piece of glass, stuck it into her leg and drawn it up to her thigh. Why had she done that? She was simply trying to do what  I as her minister had told her to do, and trying to be obedient to the sermon the week before. She tried to leave her own “stuff” out there, as she came to worship, but found she could not do that. Her only option was to leave the presence of the worshipping community, go out to attend to her needs that she had left at the door, and then come back in and lift her hands to the Lord with the rest of us.

I repented publicly the next week and told the congregation that through that incident I had learned a new definition of at least part of what is involved in worship: Worship is bringing all of me to all of God. Jesus told us we have a Father who is looking for those who will worship Him in spirit and in Truth. Until coming to wester Hailes, I thought that the only truth that mattered in our worship was correct doctrine about God. But that Sunday I saw there is another truth the Father is looking for in those who worship Him: The truth about ourselves.

To the extent we do not bring all of me to all of God, we deny ourselves what secretly everyone of us longs to experience  – that someone knows all about us  and yet wants to embrace us, even the bits of ourselves and our story that we cannot embrace ourselves.

What do you leave outside the door when you come before God? What part of your story do you need to take by the hand and bring into the Father’s heart. What have you been made to feel is not welcome in the presence of God and not acceptable about you to his people? It may be that there is something so sensitive and sore that you have tried your best not only to shut it out from the presence of God, but to shut it away from your own gaze, and certainly from the gaze of others. My prayer is that somehow by the help of God you will be able to bring all of you to all of God.  This is the kind of worshipper Jesus tells us the Father is looking for.

I have come to love the writings of Henri Nouwen. He says that spiritual life is moving from a closed fist to an open hand and allowing what we would rather not be seen or touched to be seen and touched by the love of God. I have discovered in my time of struggling with ill health that there is an incredible tenderness to God’s touch  at the point of our weakest most fragile places. Don’t be afraid to move from the clenched fist to the open hand.






The Smell of Fresh Bread….

Well, I feel a bit like those folk who criticised the Edinburgh Trams… but now look quite happy when they are using them. I have never liked “blogging” and was judgemental towards those who blogged. “Do they really think that people are interested in their opinions, especially when their opinions are so obviously wrong…?”

Funny how circumstances alter your values. A preacher for 34 years, I now suffer from a lung condition which at least for the time being sets certain limitations around that activity. Many are praying for me, and I am so thankful for that. I look forward in believing faith to see further answers to these prayers… BUT I CANNOT WAIT FOR THESE ANSWERS TO UNFOLD. In this time of being laid aside from what I most love doing I have seen so much more beauty in Jesus than ever before. In what could have been dark time, I find myself saying again and again with wonder, “Jesus, I am amazed by your light.”

The bible tells us that we do not well if we keep good news to ourselves. I want to write to you with the goodwill of a beggar sharing with another beggar where they have found bread. Sometimes in these days of hatred of absolutes the search is exalted above the finding and the hungering above the bread. I need some way to share  with you bread that I have found ,so I can go to bed in peace.

What finally pushed me into the until now hated realm of blogs and bloggers was seeing someone greatly admired by the Christian world as a bible teacher of international renown giving ludicrous and harmful advice about how a wife should cope biblically with an abusive husband. How is it possible to sound so sound and yet for the fragrance of Jesus to be so missing? Biblical orthodoxy, to which I am committed, without the Spirit of Christ pleases no one but the religious and advances no cause other than enslavement of human beings. When the truth of Christ is prepared to ignore real people with real needs, it simply becomes a Phariseeism or a new teaching of the law which loads burdens on the backs of men and women that are not only hard to carry but crush.

I want to offer you bread fresh from the oven. Sometimes it may be half a slice, sometimes it may be a loaf. My hope is whoever you are you will be able to taste that the Lord is good, and that He is nearer than you think…. and you are dearer to Him than perhaps you have ever realised.

Let me share bread with you….