I intensely dislike being made to do icebreakers! However I do recall one that had a profound effect upon me. What I am sharing happened years ago, but it had an impact that still endures. I was attending some sort of committee meeting for Urban Priority Area Parishes of the Church of Scotland. Details such as who led the opening devotions are hazy in my memory. Whoever it was, they asked the rest of us to think of this question and then to share our answers with our neighbour: “When you don’t feel like getting out of bed in the morning, what helps you get out of bed and move into the day?” Well, there were some predictable schoolboy humour jokes about toilets and so on! Unexpectedly, I found my dislike of icebreakers disappearing – well actually my dislike still remains but the truth is I forgot this was an icebreaker! I felt I had been faced with one of the most profound questions I had ever been asked to think about. Beyond having to work for a living, attending to family, pursuing a call, seeing to other responsibilities etc, what gets us up and ready to greet the day when we don’t feel like doing that at all? The answer that came into my mind surprised me. From deep within, in that place where God’s children simply know things in their knower, came a sentence that I have never forgotten. “What gets me up when I don’t feel like getting up is that there is Someone who thinks more highly and warmly of me than I think of myself.” That is really what I want to say today: God thinks more highly of you and more warmly than you have perhaps realised. To Jesus, you are the pearl of great price he came searching for. He found a treasure when he found you.
Almost 40 years ago I heard a recording of a wonderful if at times controversial bible teacher called David Pawson. In the particular talk I am thinking about as I write this blog, he shared a memory of being at a big conference. He looked out and saw thousands of people worshipping the Lord Jesus Christ with great joy. He felt that Jesus said to him at that moment, “It was worth it all!” He asked, “What do you mean Lord?” This is what he believed the Lord replied: “It was worth the spitting on my face, the ripping of my back, the pulling out of my beard, the nails in my hands and feet, the crown of thorns upon my head. It was worth the blackness and forsakenness of the cross. I am looking at the fruit of my travail and I am well pleased.”
Something that is a strength can easily become a weakness in its unguarded or counterfeit form. There is something in the Scottish spiritual D.N.A that I recognise when I come across it in people, namely a proper sense of humility before God. Charismatic preachers from other cultures have at times come here and have ridden roughshod over this, mocked it and have tried to convince us that it can be wrong to attach “If it be your will Father” to the end of our prayers. They would justify this by saying that we know from the bible and the ministry of Jesus what the will of God is and so we are not to say, “If it be your will,” as that means a lack of faith. It may be the defiant and fighting Scot within me, but every time I hear teaching as to why I cannot add “if it be your will” to my prayers, it actually makes me rejoice in saying it all the more! In truth however, beyond the part a defiant spirit may indeed play in such a reaction, I actually believe “If it be your will” is not a cop out, nor does it indicate lack of faith but is rather a genuine heart posture of genuine humility before Almighty God which much of the charismatic world has forgotten and needs to relearn. Perhaps once we return with confidence to our unique identity as Scottish believers rather than give up our birthright and blessing to please frustrated visiting conference speakers who want us to be like them, this could be Scotland’s contribution to the charismatic world – to share the need to humble ourselves beneath God’s mighty hand. When will visiting speakers stop mocking our Scottishness? When will we stop accepting that mockery? At best it is rude, at worst it is stopping us finding or re-finding our unique identity as Scottish Christians. It is wrong to make David fight in Saul’s armour. It is wrong to make sport of Scottish spirituality the way that the Philistine lords made sport of Samson. One day Scotland’s spiritual hair will grow again, the lion will find its roar and idols that have been set up in the House of the Lord in Scotland will fall. Even as I was praying briefly earlier on today I found such a large place in God as I allowed myself to say at the end of my prayers, “If it be thy will.” That did not limit my faith but rather increased it.That phrase for me opens up vistas in God that are awesomely large, almost frighteningly so. I remember when God met with me on one occasion, that all I could say was “Big God…Big God…”
However, having said all that, there is a counterfeit humility that can lead us into dark waters. It can lead me into the lie that I am worthless to God… and a lie that most certainly is. We may indeed be unworthy but we are not worthless and there is all the difference in the world between the two concepts. I hope you know that however low a value you may pin to yourself, Jesus Christ looks at each one of his flock every day and watches over us as we sleep and says, “They were worth it. When I look at him, when I look at her, I see fruit for my travail and I am well pleased.”
Here is how I know each morning whether it is Christ I am listening to or someone or something else; when I look at my face in the morning in the mirror, do I smile at what I see because I am looking at someone deeply loved, or do I avert my eyes in disgust because looking at my own face brings on feelings of shame or failure or inadequacy or of being a disappointment to people and to God? I will make a disclosure to you all; most mornings I smile at myself in the mirror but now and then I shake my head and look away. I hope the next time you and I look in a mirror at the start of the day we will catch ourselves smiling at ourselves with the warmth and kindness of the steadfast love of the Lord which is new every morning. Perhaps that should be our daily icebreaker! Indeed that is not just my hope for you, it is my heartfelt prayer as I write this blog. “May it please you Lord, to let it be so, Amen.”
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