Another wee prayer…

“Lord, they just placed him before you. Four pairs of strong dust covered hands, placing weakness and brokenness before you. Somehow they believed you would say the right thing, do the right thing…. and you did.

I can do that! I can bring brokenness, as I have seen it today, wrapped in a blanket of compassion, and lay it before you; trusting you to touch what needs to be touched, say what needs to be said and do what needs to be done.

You are helping me win the battle to simplify faith and prayer.

Thank You

Amen

Dancing Lessons…

I was thinking today in a non morbid way of losses or many different types that have been part of the reality of illness. Some of them have been hard, distressing, some of them reasonably easy to adjust to. Some  types of loss you can  possibly imagine would accompany health issues and early retirement, others may surprise you if I were to share them. What prompted my thinking along these lines were these words from Henri Nouwen: “The gift of life has revealed itself in the midst of all losses.” I prayed in  response to my thinking: once  again I wrote as I prayed. I have left our any specific references to any  of my particular personal losses, but having said that, I offer this prayer to you to share in and to use, if you find it helpful. The style is mine, so don’t be put off by that. I like words, but we are not heard by God for our love of words, or for out means of expression.  Perhaps reading my prayer will help you pray your own in the face of your own losses, in your own way and words!

“Lord, losses are real and they are painful. You know that. Thank You Lord that you sighed for the man whose speech impediment must have been mocked (a thought I read in  the reading for today, June 24th, in “Sanctuary” by David Strutt). You wept in the face of grief. You released anguish in the face of death: deep violent feeling against it, because of all it steals and destroys. You did not rush past feelings, but gave space for loss to live and breathe and speak and make its sounds too deep for words. Thank You.

As so often, I am left praying, “Teach me Your ways O Lord.” Give me your wisdom. These last few years have brought many losses, whose distress and voice I have sometimes gagged, forgetting that there is comfort that can only be found in and through mourning. It is not faith that ignores and presses on, but fear. It is not courage but cowardice to behave like that. It is not the triumph of peace but of panic. Forgive me.

Today, I feel. In the presence of the beauty of this summer day, the colour of it, the fragrances in the garden, senses are clarified and heightened. I am drawn to “feel” like bees to a flower. Beauty has awakened some remembered sorrows that I know you have now  brought me through.  But I  do remember the former things. Brightness  brought back the memory of confusion and lack of clarity; colours made me think of the grey times: more unbearable than black and white. The feeling of mourning can be felt again just as a smell can be remembered and sensed again though it is no longer present.

Yet, in the mourning remembered, I sensed the dawn that is new every second of the day and night, a dawn that penetrates the darkness and outshines the noon day sun. It is the ever fresh dawn of You, You Yourself. Under all shrouds, there seems to be a dance. You have helped me learn new steps. Mourning and dancing seem to be so linked in your presence. How horribly subtle is the serpent: causing grief but not allowing its expression, telling us to wipe out tears and dry our eyes prematurely. You call us to a grief that the evil one tries to disallow, for he knows mourning with you  is the first step in the dance of comfort. In facing  things that are no more,  You help us to find treasures that will never end. You teach songs in the night, that shine brighter than the sun in the dawn, haunting the day with their other worldly beauty, their unsung melody.

Through suffering you entered your glory. The uniqueness of your story is a pattern, a promise for all who believe. “Teach me to dance to the beat of your heart, teach me to move in the power of Your Spirit, teach me to dwell in the light of your presence.”  I am at my gladdest when moving with the Lamb who bears the marks of slaughter, yet has been anointed with the oil of joy beyond all His companions who walk with Him. You take the prize for dancing Lord, the prize for the most joyful dance learned through the most painful steps. Help me to wonder at You, watch, listen and learn. Oh, get off the floor, all you self-proclaimed  experts in God. Get off the floor, Pastor Borthwick. Make way for Jesus. Watch Him dance, look at Him go! Applaud His triumph! Give Him the glory due!

Father, may this be a day when for many, your Word will be fulfilled yet again: “You have turned our mourning into dancing…you have given me beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness!”

In Your Name

Amen.”

“Let them off the hook.”…”Why should I?”

I read of a Christian judge saying once that what he loved about being a judge was it gave him the opportunity to be merciful. I like that. I don’t mean I like the terrible legal stupidities we hear about in terms of inappropriate comments or sentencing that inflicts further wrong on the victims of crime etc, I mean I like the idea that someone loves to show mercy. Do you love being merciful, letting people off with a debt of some sort that they owe you, for no other reason than the love of God in your heart? We don’t like the idea of “pity” these days it seems, but in Luke 18, in the story of a man in great debt whose debt was wiped out, that action is described as happening as a result of someone, the man wronged, having pity towards him and showing him mercy.

Nothing is said of how joyful the merciful man was in that story! However, we know from the Old and New Testaments, that God requires this of His people: that we love mercy. Are you glad that as God’s child, His Spirit within gives you power to walk in the mercy of God, to be like that judge, and delight in opportunities to be merciful?

Maybe you are struggling to get to that point. Maybe you want to say, “But wait a minute, the judge is not being personally wronged, hurt, etc, but I have been.” Well, forget about the judge of an earthly court. Think about Jesus. He can teach you by His Word and by His Spirit within you, how to love mercy, even when the wrong has been severe and very personally inflicted upon you.

Is there someone to let off the hook before your head hits the pillow tonight?

Oh and one more thing: I am not saying, “Do it for your benefit.” When I read about forgiving others in many Christian books, often the matter is cast in that light, the benefit it will bring to us when we forgive someone – we will no longer be held by bitterness, we will be free. I am not so sure that is how we should be thinking of mercy. It may well bring us benefit, but that is hardly Christian mercy.Rather, we are to be merciful for the good of the person who has done wrong to us. We not only release them from being in any sort of debt to us, but pray that God will be merciful and bless them, that good purpose from God will prevail in their lives. A benefit to us is a bonus, not the motivation behind showing mercy. We do not do it for psychological or emotional relief, even if that is a benefit that comes our way. We do it to be like our Father.

God bless

Kenny

Spirit to spirit…

Some people are so afraid of false fire that they settle for no fire of the Spirit at all, so sign, no wonder, no miracle, all disdained under slight of hand saying, “Of course Salvation is the greatest miracle.” Of course it is, who is arguing with that? Such fear does not bring any glory to God. In fact it robs Him of His glory.

Which is greater: our Father’s ability to answer the sincere prayers of His children when they ask Him for the Gift and gifts of His Holy Spirit or the devil’s ability to sneak in there past the Father’s watchful love as He listens and answers the prayers of His people asking in response to the encouragement of His trustworthy Word? Come on folks! Counterfeit means there is real. They can look the same. That is why we need the gift of discernment of spirits. It is impossible to make right judgement about what is happening, by any other means. Observation, common sense, accurate knowledge of the bible are all helpful, but taken all together are still insufficient to make that call. A good mind cannot work these things out either. This is a Spirit to spirit business. The unspiritual person,  who by definition has settled into living  from their soul – their  mind and emotions, their  strong will about matters – cannot receive such things.

God bless

Kenny

“Father, I ask…I pray for…”

Recently a couple of folk have shared with me how they were healed in the past when I prayed for them. I also heard of someone, just a couple of nights ago, whose condition had improved and whose pain had been lessened for a few years, which gave them much needed relief. I did not know that had happened, so it was nice to hear the news.

In the charismatic world we have made healing very complicated, usually with the best of intentions. We want to see people experiencing the healing power of God. However, these good intentions have often made it seem as though unless you pray in the right way, speak in the right way, use the correct  formula of words, then healing will not happen. The end result is that healing can focus more on our ministering method than on God, which ultimately means less healing happens., though often exaggerated claims are made. I was once at a meeting at which the speaker had a world wide repuation for a genuine healing ministry, and was teaching a “method” of praying for healing. Despite repeated requests for testimonies, there were no testimonies to healing forthcoming, but the website of the ministry involved said that loads of folk had been healed in that self same meeting.

As far as I can remember, I used no formula when praying for the people mentioned above. I simply came to the Father through Jesus the Son, prayed with the help of the Holy Spirit and left the matter there. I did not declare anything, command anything, promise anything. I believe there can be a place for commanding, declaring, promising etc., but it has become hugely overdone in my opinion and is leading to disappointment. Turning God into a technique never works.  It is not the wisest way to relate to the Living God.

Perhaps you are one who has attended courses, conferences, etc on healing for genuine reasons; you believe in healing and want to see more of it happen… but after all that you have learned and put into practice, you are still disappointed. It could be that because of that you have even retreated a bit when it comes to the whole subject of healing.

I wonder if you need to get back to an old fashioned humbler way, sometimes even taught against now in charismatic circles, or despised as showing  a lack of faith? Just come to the Father, through Jesus the Son and ask Him to heal. Leave the matter there, unless you know that you know that the Spirit is prompting you to do or say something further. Often there will be results that no one may tell you about until years later. Indeed you may not hear about them until  heaven. That is fine is it not? After all, it is for His eternal glory we do anything we do…or is it?

God bless

Kenny

Looking at the birds…thinking….of you?

Love this time of the year! The baby birds are so tame. I guess they have not learned fear yet. They soon will, for their own protection, but the fear will probably be a bit indiscriminate, in that they will become afraid of me when there is no need. I have no malevolence towards them, but nonetheless, soon they will fly away when I come out to feed them, whereas for a few weeks they are quite happy to hop around and stay put! Some in time will learn a boldness again, I guess, and quite happily hop around human beings at tables in city centre cafes, or fly into garden centres. Their fears will have become a bit more appropriate.

It saddened me to meet human beings ,when I was in parish ministry, in whom fear of people had been awakened for understandable reasons, but in whom that fear had spilled over its appropriate borders to make them afraid of almost every situation of human contact. That makes life so difficult.

Perhaps that describes you? If it does, then I pray that somehow God will help you with that fear which has gone into overdrive. There is a positive and wise caution and common sense, that can be good, for not everybody is trustworthy. It could be however, that at the moment, you feel you can only live and survive by cutting off contact with just about all people, which may be include those through whom God means to bless you and enrich your life, people who will be the channel of God releasing you from the hold of all pervasive fear.

If that is you, you have been in my prayers this morning. Can you dare to believe you will not always be afraid of people? I hope that seed of hope may be planted in you this very day.

God bless you,

Kenny

A wee extra thought, courtesy of Psalm 139…

Since I started to train for the ministry in 1979 onwards a few people have said to me something like this: “Kenny, I really want to grow in God. If you see anything in my life where you think I am going wrong I give you permission to speak into that.” I think one or two of the few really meant that in all humility and sincerity. I was reading Psalm 139 a few moments ago, in the NLT. I was wondering if I could pray and mean these words at the end of that psalm, and I guess I am giving you the opportunity to wonder about that too for yourself: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me the offends you, and lead me alone the path of everlasting life.” “Search..test..know..point out…lead..” That really is laying it all before the Lord.

God bless

Kenny

In the wake of Hector, a memory of its Master…

Woke up early. Everything was so still. Perhaps with Storm Hector’s passing on,  the absence  of the noise of  its wind was accentuating the silence. Looking out of the window, the stillness awakened a memory of a deeper holy hush, I experienced  many years ago.

I was in the manse of a friend in North Uist at the time. I was there for a Communion Season at which I was to preach at the English speaking services while another visiting minister was due to speak at the Gaelic speaking services. It was a house marked by much prayer for Revival. Through the night, I woke up and became aware of such a deep presence of the Lord that it was tangible. It was beautiful, fearful, made me want to get out of bed and prostrate myself on the floor and also dance furiously all at the same time. There was deep awe and fear in a part of my inner being I have rarely touched, but  joy rising in my heart as well, a lightness of spirit. The simple thought  birthed in these moments was this: “This is our God and we have waited for Him.”

At first I  had no sense of wondering about the meaning of what was happening. The moment was there to be lived, survived even, whatever it led to, if anything. The Holy One of Israel was there to be worshipped, that is all. The sense was of Him filling all things. From my bed I looked out of the window. Though the Lord often speaks to me through “pictures” in my spirit, I have had very few vision experiences. This was one of them. Against the background of the darkness  of the early hours I could see two things:

The first thing I saw was  not part of the vision but an earthly observation. In the distance I could see the lights of cars going to and fro across the island. It was already the early hours of the Sabbath, and there was a sense of these cars carrying people on the same godless pursuits of the lonely and the lost as happens anywhere on a Saturday night/ early Sunday morning. My heart was hit by such a sense grief, a grief  that I knew was not my own. It was the Lord, the Shepherd’s own heart for the lost that I was touching the outer edges of. “God so loved the world….”

The second thing I was aware of was a shape moving effortlessly among the stars.  As I looked upwards, these words were birthed deep within: “Who is this who rides across the heavens in the stateliness of His majesty?” What I saw was the outline of a kingly figure. His transparent robe was made of stars and planets, that seemed to be drawn in the skirts of the train of that robe as He moved onwards with unfaltering  and unstoppable pace . It was as though the whole universe was magnetised to His glory, being taken at His will towards a destination to which He would one day bring all things.

I have never forgotten the “sight.” It left me with enduring memories and thoughts, above all this one.  What would happen if  men and women  were to  be awakened to the magnetism of Him who carries all things in his hands, and become aware of the presence of the One whom moon and stars, suns and planets obey, the One to whom all creation is calling out, “Come!” ? Folk in the cars I was still aware of would be out of them, lying face down before the Lord, unbearably conscious of the God they had ignored passing by in their midst. No one would need to tell them to cry out in the sentiments of Fanny Crosbie’s hymn,

Pass me not O gentle Saviour
Hear my humble cry,
While on others thou art calling,
Do not pass me by.

Let me at Thy throne of mercy
Find a sweet relief:
Kneeling there in deep contrition,
Help my unbelief.

Trusting only in Thy merit
Would I seek Thy face;
Heal my wounded broken spirit,
Save me by thy grace. 

In the presence of the One riding across the heavens in the stateliness of His majesty it was not hard to believe that a nation could be changed in a single day, it was not hard to believe for Revival. I suppose I hoped that Revival might be falling on the island at that moment. That did not happen, despite the earnestness of prayer of many over the decades, prayer which  I am sure still continues even today, especially  in the hearts of some of the Lord’s people for whom the islands of the West are home. However,  I believe Revival in the islands is only a matter of time. As the intense glory of the moment I am recounting to you passed, I felt  that  the whole experience was a prophetic promise of that coming revival: “This is our God and we have waited for Him.” My hope is that when that day dawns, hearts in North Uist will be among many more hearts throughout the islands and indeed the United Kingdom, magnetised to the moving of God in the midst.

As the glory further faded yet still lingered, the most natural response was to pray. I do not know what I prayed then, my words were probably few, but I know what the memory of  all of this made me pray today in the stillness of the early morning. I typed as I prayed. I share it with you. The wording may sound old fashioned and severe. It is just the way I pray about such things. The style is personal to me, do son’t trip up over that. Hopefully you may feel the urge to pray in your own way for Revival.

“Oh that thou wouldst rend the heavens and come down; that mountains of unbelief, lostness, rebellion, hard heartedness, confusion, the devil’s lies, would melt away, flow down before your presence. May that day come! Whether Scotland is the first to be awakened by your Sovereign grace and timing, or its place in heaven’s future unfolding calendar of mighty acts be marked by a  less noteworthy number in the list of nations to be revived, may the world  look with  astonishment on a Scotland awakened to You. May our humbling before you, be a sign of hope  to those who look and who hear of what you have done for us.  May other faithful souls who even now are often found on their knees and faces pleading for their own communities and homeland say with faith, “This is what God does for those who wait for Him! If God can humble the nation of Scotland which has forgotten its God, the proud leader of the march of increasing godlessness in the nations of the United Kingdom, He can save us. Revive us too, O Lord, for the sake of the glory of your own dear Son, Jesus. Amen!”

I hope these early morning thoughts bless you.

Kenny

The grinning clown, or the Father’s Face: a prayer for true “Hope.”

Sometimes I fear that the charismatic movement which began in the Spirit has ended in the flesh. The raw power of God has been transmuted into systems, processes, taught and learned but often not marked by as convincing results as claimed. I am not against learning “how to” as it were. God means His ways to be taught and learned. There are “systems” or processes taught in His Word. For example if we ask, seek and knock, He will give us His Holy Spirit. If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us ours sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. The thing is though, that God’s systems are based on relationship with Him, not merely on learning steps to a result from a motivational speaker. There is always a danger that trust in God degenerates into a series of magic chants invented by man even though using biblical language,  with the Name of Jesus attached to them, without Jesus being honoured or even present.

Today I was reading in Romans 5 about the relational, the non magical journey to hope. (maybe you should read that  Chapter before reading more of this blog!) Here are a few lines of a longer prayer I  found myself praying and writing:

“…Today Father, I read of another journey of relationship in your Word, a journey that leads to a desirable and often sought place. Your Word tells me there is a “hope” we can reach that will never be disappointed. Father, so much deadness in life, lifelessness in eyes, lethargy of limb, dull beat of heart has settled upon people through hope which has proved false and mocked its own dying, only to rise again in some other mask or guise to grin at our grasping and gasping, showing its true face: the nightmare clown.

Father, the hope you give does not disappoint us. It is secure, for it is the fruit of assured love, your love shed abroad in our hearts by your Spirit. What a prize; what a treasure:a hope that does not die because its anchor is in that love which died and never dies.

Thank you, Father, for showing me the steps of the joyful dance of hope in your Word. “Trouble.. endurance,” steps one and two. Most dances begin with finding our feet move awkwardly, and the steps are difficult. “ Trouble… endurance” seem a long way from swirling with You and all who love You on the dance floor of each new day, but your Son is Teacher, Rabboni, who knows the steps, The Way. “Trouble, endurance… and then…character.”  Lord,  this is old time religion, that modern day religions of magic chants through mics have replaced. But it was good for our fathers, good for our mothers, good for Paul and Peter, so it is good enough for me. “Trials, endurance, character…hope…,” planted in Calvary, nurtured by the continual fertile living waters of your witnessing  Spirit within.

I’ll stick with your Way, Lord, by your grace and help. I’ll  learns to dance to the steps revealed, written, recorded. Raise up a generation of Josiahs, of every age and of each gender, who discover lost words and ways, the ignored Book of God, buried in our forgotten heritage.

Amen, let it be so! Amen!”

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When the Holy Spirit whispers, “Shoosh…!”

It is curious the way no one was allowed to spread the news of Jairus’ daughter being raised from the dead. The prohibition was obviously felt to be understood as temporary: after all, I read it again today as the text for June 14th. in David Strutt’s beautiful devotional book, “Sanctuary.” (Pray for David, by the way. I have just had word from David that he has ruptured his Achilles’ tendon and his leg is in plaster.)

As I read Luke 8 afresh, I was reminded of a time when my friend Howard and I were visting one of the fruits of the Lewis Revival. In the midst of conversation this lovely old man just happened to mention a time when his daughter had been raised from the dead. He did so in an unaltered tone from the conversation that had been flowing before that revelation. Indeed, Howard and I looked at one another as if to say to one another by our glances, “Did he just say….?” Right at that moment, the phone went and this is what Howard and I heard:

“Yes, it’s yourself. I have some boys in just now. I was just telling them about the time you were raised from the dead. Speak to them.” The phone was handed over to us. “Yes, that is what happened. It was quite wonderful really.” End of conversation! The conversation moved on to our host showing us a 24 hour world clock he had received after speaking to a meeting of over 37.000 people when he was in his eighties. That is the age God allowed him to start sharing things! In his delightful island accent he said, “Yes, this clock, it is a beautiful thing, a wonderful thing really, if only I knew how to work it!”

How different the approach to God’s miracles today. When something like this happens, it is placarded across the Chritian world. The person involved becomes an object of intense interest, public property, to bolster the faith of believers, that our God is real after all and still doing wonders. They become a curiosity, used, perhpas even to the point of being abused like the elephant man or a circus freak or curiosity. The Christian world had no interest in them before and soon they are no longer flavour of the month. Today’s news, tomorrow’s fish and chip wrapping. Interest soon passes to gold dust falling somewhere or some other such phenomena, or the person tours the charismatic church scene themselves telling the same story again and again as though God had only acted one time in their life in any way that was worth speaking about. God is cheapened and so are they.

We need wisdom to know when and what to speak about God’s wonders. This incident in Luke 8 is not an isolated one. There were other times Jesus told people not to share marvellous happenings or miracles they had experienced. The reasons may have differed from case to case, but in Luke 8, I think the instruction to silence was to save the young girl from uncaring attention. Sometimes we speak as though God’s glory is His only concern. Actually that is wrong scripturally. He cares for vulnerable people. That is part of His glory. Seeking glory at the expense of others is the glory a tyrant seeks. It is not who the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is.

Is there something to learn from all of this? We live in days when there seems to be a demand that we tell all and share all. It is probably a reaction to a time when people were told to keep silent and much hurt and harm went unnoticed and covered up. However telling of our hurts or even the wonders God has done for us does not always help, though we might think it always would.

Can God do something wonderful for you and trust you for your own sake to be silent? Can you trust God if there should come a time when you feel a check from His Spirit on what you are about to say, indicating you are to keep silent about an injustice, and not be constantly biting your lip, longing to tell of it? The reason may be because He cares for you and can see consequences of harm coming your way if you speak at the wrong time. It may be of course the other person to whom you are speaking, is not trustworthy. I have come across shocking things in the world of charismatic conferences involving world famous names. Leaders threatening other leaders that they will reveal what was spoken between them in confidence in order to bring them down. Even gifting from God – gifts of the Holy Spirit – can be abused, so never be overawed by a person’s gift into thinking it must mean they are trustworthy or that they are in a good place with God. You need to know both when to speak and who to speak to.

I happen to have a gift of discernment of spirits. It is not something I sought. It was just given when I was baptised in the Holy Spirit while training for the ministry, whether I wanted it or not. I got it before I understood it! I know the difference between  when I am thinking something and when the Holy Spirit is revealing something about what is going on in a life or situation or conversation. I cannot turn it on or off. I never quite know why it kicks in some times and not every time I or others think it would be useful! I have never known the Holy Spirit’s disceernment to be wrong when it happens! It is a difficult gift to handle. For example God showed me not long ago that a minister of international reputation was demonised but continuing to minister in the charismatic scene. I know I can never say who it is publicly, not today, not tomorrow, not ever, even after the person dies, as I believe they will within a short course of time. I hope the person lives out their remaining time in the peace of God rather than in the torment of their troubled soul, but have no assurance from God that they will. I cannot know what God has now shown. I can hope and pray, unless he tells me to stop. Accepting a gift has imitations, and staying within the bounds of its limitation and the anointing upon it, is part of the fear of the Lord.

Keeping silent can show as much of where you are spiritually as speaking out boldly and truthfully. Sometimes of course God gives the go ahead to speak out, but I wonder if in today’s climate both in the secular and charismatic world, we are not hearing God saying as often as He is speaking it, “Be silent. Trust in me.”

God bless

Kenny

Little me…

Some of ou have been blessed by prayers I have shared.  It is a mini stream in these blogs which will probably come to an end, but for the time being here is part of another…

 

“However slowly, I have come to see it, Father. Little things, little me, the little things of your little children, matter to the bigger story. You showed the Emmaus Road walkers that. The story of their sadness, did not matter to the world. Nothing stopped. The affairs of men did not alter. Rarely does anything stop to mourn our losses with us in a way that touches our pain. What distorted message such ignoring can give us about our worth, our mattering. Thank you that you take the disregarded stories and make them part of the story of your living enduring bright flame which darkness has never overcome or understood; the story of Him who has life in Himself, taking all things somewhere, even the nothings that have nowhere to go. You call these Emmaus Road mourning moments upwards, along with planets and stars into the transforming onward march of your glorious purposes which move from eternity through time to eternity.

Our sufferings find their setting in the victory of Christ, the story which rings with triumph. In theses current times stones often seem so immovable. Thank you, You have made us part of the story of the stone rolled away, its crushing weight no longer able to contain to control or imprison as a malevolent mind had purposed it should.

Father, my suffering, though at times I scarcely think it worth mentioning, matters to you and matters to the fullness of the story of Your Christ. It links me too, to the story of all humanity, to the lost world You loved when you sent forth its Lover and its Rescuer here among us. It links me to the cry I hear in the eyes of cows, in Polar bears exhausted by warm sea swims. I am one with man and beast and one with all who hope in your redeeming might: one with all which cry, bleat, chirp, croak howl and roar, “Come Lord Jesus.” These all look to you, cry to you, and so do I!

Amen.”

Caw, Caw! Tweet!

Slept well. Up early. Looking out at a beautiful morning. Wish I could sing with the lark or even caw like the crows to declare the faithfulness and compassion of God, declare it to all creation, to all things seen and unseen! Wish I had the words to declare it to you, especially if you are doubting it.

The last few years frequently brought me to places that looked like a succession of dead ends at first, physically, financially, house and home wise, ministry wise too, etc. . But there never has been a dead end. The only blocked road has been a return to the way it was, the road often tried as a first reaction when game changing happenings strike. That option, the way back, was an option I quickly came to see was shut off in the goodness of God’s will and wisdom. But often the way ahead looked as though it was blocked too. Without being over dramatic, I found myself thinking from time to time of God’s chosen people, Israel, Egypt behind them, but the Red sea before them. The verse that has been proved true to me now, probably in more ways than I have fully recognised, is Psalm 77 verse 19 in the New Living Translation “Your road led through the sea , your pathway through the mighty waters – a pathway no one knew was there!”

It is so wonderful God can see pathways through the sea and open them up for His people to walk upon. If you are standing looking at mighty waters, remember God can see a path no one else can see. In my experience of the last few years of many adjustments, the path of God for me – even though not always easy ground to journey on – has been paved with God’s Compassion and Faithfulness in all things. That has come to me, to us, through believer and non believer alike, who have shown care beyond what I feel I deserved to expect. I was reminded of that two days ago now, when I saw tears of compassion forming in the eyes of some NHS staff as they talked with me. One turned away even to hide her tears after listening to my story. I never expected that! Where you find God’s love and care threaded into life never ceases to move me.

Remember this, early on in this new day which you may be greeting with dread rather than wanting to sing like the birds: God knows the way He is taking. Walk on the path he unfolds for you. Rough terrain? At times, yes. But His Compassion fails not. His faithfulness is great.

God bless

Kenny

Mmm…..

I worked an average of over 80 hours a week over my whole ministry, sometimes much more than that. I would have denied I had any choice in the matter. In hindsight, I did have many choices, I just made wrong choices at times. Thinking of the possible effects of all of that on wellbeing as I rest in bed after yesterday’s heart procedure….Any choices you made or are making that you need to reconsider, or that you need to admit were not God, but you?

God bless your thinking

Kenny

Try this and see…

My biggest break though moments spiritually have usually rested upon the foundation of reading the bible as though I was reading it for the first time. In other words letting the text speak fully in its own right without referring to other parts of the bible or making it fit in with what I already believe. I find as I do that, so much fresh revelation comes with the help of God’s Spirit. It is not easy, especially if we like systematic theology where we like everything to fit into a neat pattern. God is non cooperative in that sense. He knows how all He has said fits together. The rest of us just have a bash at doing that. It’s best not to cut the bits off the jigsaw pieces to make them fit. Listen fully to the text you are reading as though you had no other part of the bible to refer to. Then you can stand back and see how the picture is emerging and that there is greater colour and detail in a part of the jigsaw that you had not even particularly noticed before. Listen to the text fully and live it fully. Allow fresh truth to root itself and find its growing spot in the garden of your soul. At first you might feel that splash of yellow will really clash with that sea of pink you have been cultivating for years, that is your pride and joy. In time you will see how they complement one another, indeed show one another off. Don’t spray yellow flowers pink…

God bless

Kenny

God of a thousand Bethels….

Off for the second stent tomorrow, Monday. Not feeling afraid but somehow just aware of how fragile and vulnerable humanness is. It has not been the easiest of times in the last 18 months, so much of it to do with health issues beyond my control, but  these issues have asked for a response of faith.
As I thought about these semi-turbulent times, this was the prayer I said and wrote, thinking of Jacob. By the way, I heard one of my recently written prayers was used at a Church of Scotland Presbytery event! I never expected that! I hope this prayer too might be useful to someone somewhere in some setting that is beyond my imagination to think possible. Maybe that person will be you!
“God of Jacob, thank you that  the most ordinary ground, even the most uncomfortable ground, difficult to lie down upon – far from soft feathers – can become the very “Gate of Heaven.”  The place where my head is full of adrenalin deciding  for me whether to fly or fight or freeze, the place where I can find no pillow save hard stone upon which to fall into uneasy sleep, can become the congregating point of wide awake  angels fulfilling assignments ordered by you in the wisdom of your purposes.
 
God and Father of my Lord Jesus Christ,  why should this surprise me? He came forth as a shoot out of dry ground. All His littleness and frailty  of cross to crib was rooted in the immovable stump of your eternal purposes being unrolled through your servants, time and space and earth and history. What looked improbable, happened. A Kingdom appeared on the earth which became the largest of trees; big enough for the birds of the air to find refuge in its branches. Your eye is even upon this sparrow.
 
May the gate of heaven open for me in unexpected places in my very ordinary human journey, shared in kind by so many. You have given me faith that I will come to the end of this day, and  by your grace to the end of tomorrow fully awake to your presence as I fall asleep, knowing that I will be watched over by unutterable and unalterable love. The planting of the Lord will grow in me, for me and through me for others to your glory and to the honouring and praising of your Name. I do not need to know how.
 
I worship You, God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, God of Jacob, God of so many thousands of Bethels. God of our Fathers be the God of their succeeding race. By your hand your people still are fed even in the desert wanderings through sands of both frailty or folly. From an empty sky, manna comes down. From hard rock, water flows. You know the way you are taking. “Through each perplexing path of life, our wandering footsteps guide: give us each day our daily bread and raiment fit, provide! Such blessings from Thy gracious hand, our humble prayers implore, and Thou shalt be our chosen God and portion, evermore!”
 
I am so glad you are the God of Abraham and people of faith; of Isaac and people of meekness; but today I am even more glad that you are the God of Jacob and all people of weakness, the uncomfortable sleepers and distracted wanderers. He says to me from the past that in such a place of an unfinished and uneasy journey, I am sitting at the gates of an unseen Kingdom. Your Son assures me of even more. He invites me through the gates to live in the house itself forever in His Name and grace and authority.  Such is the power of  His cross. He signed my deeds with his atoning blood. He ever lives to make His promise good! If the gates abound with angels, what riches are mine to enjoy in the house to which I belong in the Sonship of the Son for eternity?”
 
God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, God and Father of my Lord Jesus Christ, God of angel armies, God of my Fathers:  thank you that you are my God and my children’s God. What more can I ask?
 
Amen

“To stay silent or to laugh?”: that is the question…

Confused by the Book of Job? Well, each time I read it I come away with fresh confusion! Some of what Job says seems true in the course of conversation with his “friends.” Some of what his friends say seems true to me as well! Some of what Job and his friends say makes me cringe and is plain nonsense. Some of what they say makes me want to  stop reading, close the book,  and worship with my face to the ground.

Well, whatever, at the end of the book, God throws a question into all the conversations: “Who is it that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?” That gives Job the opportunity to look back on his ramblings and say, “It is I – and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me.”

The twists continue! God now says  to Job’s friends that He is angry with them because they “have not spoken accurately about me as my servant Job has.”

How do we square these odd twists, the apparent contradiction between Job speaking with  jaw-dropping and cringe factor ignorance (so much so that he wanted to take back everything he had said) and him now being described by God  as speaking with accuracy about Him and being His servant, a prophetic appellation, with which  James  agrees in the letter that bears his name in the New Testament?

I think the answer to the riddle is this: Job did say one accurate thing. It is perhaps the shortest prophetic ministry in the Old Testament. It lasted for one sentence to use our terminology. Newly humbled, at last he gets it! He says this: “I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you.” Another version puts it like this: “Now I know that no plan of yours can be thwarted.”

I have been thinking of prophetic ministry that has impacted me the most over the years. I think that often we mistakenly almost submerge “Prophecy” under the gift of ” Words of Knowledge” in Charismatic circles. Of course they are both revelatory gifts, but I think that we have reserved our “wow” response for accurate words of knowledge, so much so that when true prophecy is happening without words of knowledge being present we scarcely notice it.

To be honest I have reached the stage in life, where words of knowledge addressed to me about me in the course of being ministered to, elicit no “wow” factor response from me. I know that God knows me! What does make me feel awe is the reminder of the “Godness” of God. I thrive on people telling me about God, not on people telling me about me! The Godness of God  is what prophet Job spoke of with fear and reverence with his hand over his mouth. The psalmist agrees with the content of his short prophetic ministry. Our God is in the heavens! He sits above the sphere of the earth and does whatsoever pleases Him. He cannot be packaged into lazy second hand non alive orthodoxy, and refuses to fit neatly into any system or programme that demands He be a performing circus animal  and do tricks for our delight, for which we reward Him with our spectating chattering approval and  applause.  He is God.  As a hymn from my childhood puts it: 

“Before Jehovah’s awesome throne
Ye nations bow with sacred joy
Know that the Lord is God alone
He can create and He destroy

His sovereign power without our aid
made us of clay and formed us men
And when like wandering sheep we strayed
He drew us to His fold again.

You reach a place of astounding victory when you realise with Prophet Job, “Now I know that no plan of yours can be thwarted.”  The God and Father who made us out of nothing and redeemed  us by nothing but His own grace, knows every resistance His plans will meet even in the hearts of His children, individually and collectively as the church of His Son; He knows every obstacle that will be put in the paths of His purposes being fulfilled in you and I, in the church and in the world,  by Satan Himself. However, despite all of that,  the idea that His purposes can be thwarted, is either in its utmost seriousness blasphemous,  or side-splittingly-laughable when faith triumphs and dismisses such a notion out of hand.

Perhaps tonight you can choose which response to make to  any creeping doubts you can have at the triumph of God’s will and plan  for your yielded life. Put your hand over your mouth and repent in silence because you have spoken in bitterness of spirit and experience about things you know nothing about…or holy laughter. Which?  See how the Spirit leads…

God bless

Kenny

 

 

Your back, Lord…

Thinking this morning not of asking to see Christ’s face, but the need to walk close behind his back. Again, since I am in a writing as I pray phase, at least for a wee while anyway, here is a snippet of my prayer, with slight alterations to make it easier to read. I hope it might help some of you today.

“O Christ, my elder brother, bigger than me in every way, your stripped to the bone shoulders and back, clothed in a Conqueror’s glory are my hiding place. Confined once to a cruel tree for me, they are broad enough for all the world to shelter behind from storms common to us all.

Today, Jesus, I think as ever of your face set like flint from eternity through time to eternity to a “Yes” to Abba. But this thought of your back brings such strength too. In the midst of praying, “Show me Thy face, O Lord, ” I find this prayer sounding: keep my eyes upon your back, your sheltering back, for then whatever today’s weather, I can walk on.

In the midst of wanting to see what you see for me, this thought emerges: “Could I handle that?” Help me to walk onwards in the shelter of your back, watching the ground before me, the non existent space between us, for every fresh imprint of your never faltering and never retreating Conqueror’s heel.”

Gardening styles…

For some reason, I started to jot down my prayers a short while ago. I type or write as I pray. Here is one that I felt I wanted to share with you this morning. It is really for those of you who have a tendency to be harsh toward yourself. That is my tendency too. It is not altogether bad in that it stops you from shifting blame too easily on to others or even the devil, but it certainly has its crippling side as well. Anyway, here it is:

“…in the setting of all that is me a new life grows, planted by your grace Father. One day it will be separated from all weeds, but even now I yield to the gentle regime of the Gardener, intent on bringing me to fruitfulness. I trust you to weed today where weeding is urgently needed. I trust you to prune in the right way, in the right place, so that wounding that must happen may heal quickly and well.

Your gardening in me is so much kinder than my gardening style. I weed, prune, and do whatever with a measure of anger and frustration. You prune and clear the ground around me with loving intent and patient wisdom. I see a plant struggling and you see the same, but there we so often part. I look harshly on my struggling and withdraw kindness and hope in a way that I would never do towards any other planting save the planting of grace called Kenny, refusing to glance in my direction. You look and think how to feed me, help me, shield me, support me, cover me.

Father, my Gardener, give me your patience, hope and love towards this planting. May I live this day looking upon you and upon me, not with my own version of faith, but by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.

In His Name,

Amen

Open hands…

If you read what I put on Facebook, you will know I am thinking for myself about prayer. Have not finished that yet, but with the help of Henri Nouwen in particular I have seen that prayer is about having open hands to God..

I found myself praying the following prayer to sum up where I felt I was at, at this moment with my thinking, and felt I should type it as I prayed it. I have gone through it to give a bit of structure to make it readable, but it really is the utterance of my heart. I am sharing it not because I am a great prayer, far from it. I am sharing it as a learner, privately in public! If it helps you, I am glad.

“Lord, in your presence I am always a child, with growing still to happen. In your presence, I feel the need to take off my shoes for I am on Holy ground. In your presence I am aware of my poverty. Every good thing I have, every righteous element in my being, comes as a gift from you in your Only begotten Son, the friend you have given me, Jesus Christ. To you belongs the earth and all its fullness, the world and all its inhabitants. To you alone belongs righteousness; salvation is from you, the Lord, the giver of life. I long to be one more step, even in this passing moment of prayer, toward truly honouring you as the One who gives and who takes away for your glory and for my good to that same glory.

Teach me to pray to the One to whom all things belong as one to whom nothing belongs save the gift and gifts of your grace. Teach me that when I pray, I am asking you to take me further into your growing Kingdom on this earth advancing amongst all flesh, not further into my Kingdom, for the Kingdom of Me is an illusion and a dark spell. It lures me to be content to live in the pride of life , what I have known, what I have seen even of you and done even for you, content with sharing how good you have been to me with photographs and scribbled notes to prove it. The next part of the path may mean new gifts require to be given by you and received with my open hands, but with these same open non-clinging hands, old manifestations of your grace, favoured views and resting places, places of familiar learned craft and labour, may have to be left with gratefulness and thankfulness in the past.

To pray to you is to confess my incompleteness in the completeness of Christ, my desire to move into every spiritual blessing including those not yet experienced, tasted, understood or glimpsed, into a future that is certain but not clear in its every step.

With what else can I come but with open hands? I would not cling to past mistakes or triumphs, for held tight in my fist both could make me lame. Save me from the power of regret that could kill my hope… ah yes,…Hope! Above all, may I see prayer, not as my prayer, but as your gift of hope making its presence known within my body, soul and spirit: hope that today and every fresh day, every new even momentary turning to prayer is a marker, a milestone on the journey not a memorial where the journey ended.

I have not reached the stage of outliving the need to pray, “Show me Thy ways O Lord, Thy paths O teach thou me.” Keep that prayer alive within me. I saw not long ago someone who has only old stories to tell. God help me not to become Yesterday’s man. As long as I pray with open hands, I can know for sure I will be saved from becoming such a tragedy. Others who love me may not know how to tell me the tragedy has happened. But your gift of prayer means I am reaching out to the Living God and to His Christ who is ever saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega. I am the God who is coming soon.”

Thank you for prayer, a sign you have placed your hope within me.

In the Name of Jesus, the Shepherd who goes ahead of me,

Amen. .

P.S:The prayer may sound sort of formal to some ears, but it’s the way I pray in private!

God bless,

Kenny

Sleep in peace and rise tomorrow with open hands, heart and eyes…

Was a prayer not answered in the specific way you were sure it would be today? Are you distressed by that? Well, maybe before you go to sleep tonight, there is another step of faith you can take. It is marked by hope, that the Lord to whom the whole earth, its inhabitants and all that it contains belongs, has another route toward answering that you may not have thought of. As, God willing, you rise tomorrow morning to live another day on His earth, moving among its inhabitants and all that it contains, be open to your prayer being answered by unexpected means through unexpected encounters.

Growing in prayer, is learning to stay attentive with open eyes, hands and heart to how and through whom God may come to you after the prayer has been uttered. Release God’s hands from being tied to your demands as to how the answer must come. Separate out the request you made – which may well have been a request that rose from God’s Spirit within you and in line with His Will – from that insistence. Bring your prayer to Him with fresh boldness and confidence before your head hits the pillow, and then allow Him to take the matter into His own hands, to work from the vastness of His bounty, the vastness of all that belongs to Him. Rest tonight by faith and hope in the watchful love of Christ, the one who never slumbers or sleeps, the One through whom, for whom and by whom all things were made, visible and invisible. He rules over all that is His for the benefit of His people.

God bless

Kenny