Virtuoso? Me?…. Yes, You!

You have probably heard of Itzhak Perlman, the Israeli – American  virtuoso violinist. When he was young he contracted polio and since then has moved with extreme difficulty. For reasons too long to go into, a story concerning him came to my mind while driving my car today. I cannot verify details, but what I am about to tell you runs true to the essence of what I remember. He was performing somewhere, and having come on to the stage with great physical difficulty and effort, all of a sudden a string broke on his violin. He gave a sigh and sat quietly for a moment. He then reset the tuning of the remaining strings and played the piece as though nothing had happened!

That in itself shows a talent that is beyond the norm, but this morning as I thought about that incident I felt the blaze of the anointing of God, and a rise of emotion as the realisation dawned upon me, that I had, in some sense, done the same in recent years. Several strings are not there in my life that once were: parish ministry, health, etc. However, I have retuned the remaining strings and kept on loving the Lord and serving him in whatever ways seem to present themselves to me.

I do not usually write blogs that seem to pat myself on the back, but God seemed to pat me on the back  today in the car to make this connection for me, between the memory of that Perlman story and my life, a connection I would never have made, and a pat I would never have given myself. In fact it was more affectionate than a pat by far. It was the touch of consoling affirmation and admiration in the deepest part of my being, the very heart of me where issues of trust and love and hope and relationship to God, others, life, and myself are formed, are rescued and healed. I usually prefer to boast of things that show my weakness and the power of God in that weakness. I intensely dislike those occasions where one has to listen to speakers speak about their marvellous ministries elsewhere to date as it were – a boasting that is usually not verified by results from the ensuing ministry, I  have to say! However, I share my pat on the back from my Heavenly Father, in the hope it will help some of you who may have to retune your remaining strings, having experienced a few snapping at the most inconvenient times in life! It can be done.

Within that general truth, I believe there is someone who specifically needs to hear this who reads this blog. God would call you a “faith virtuoso.” First there was abuse in your childhood (round about or just under the age of 11 at some point). There was the instrument you were never allowed to master. Then there was the knock back in educational hopes. Then there was the series of broken relationships, the failure of marriage, disappointment with regard to children. But you have managed to retune  the strings so many times and still sing songs of praise and faith. “Well done, Virtuoso!” Others screech out a tune which only their Father could bear to listen to and does! But your tune has blessed not only Him. Many others, more than you realise heard, savoured and appreciated your overcoming more than you know. It has helped them. Again, I say, “Well done, Virtuoso!”

God Bless


Shouting + Hiding = ?

I was reading John 4, the story of Jesus meting and talking with a woman at the well of Sychar in Samaria. It made me think of the Christ who comes with a winnowing fork in his hand.

A winnowing fork needs a gentle breeze to separate wheat from chaff. You could not use a winnowing fork in a hurricane. The grain would be blown away with the chaff. Everything would be lost.

Truth and love encouraged the woman out of hiding, to own her whole story. Wheat and chaff were separated within her, and the seed of further fruitfulness planted. Harshness does not bring a hiding fearful soul into the light of truth. It makes it seems as though the safer and more sensible course of action would be to keep hiding….

God bless


Road Warning….

“Ministry” – and we all have one – can develop a life of its own. One door can open another and it is tempting just to go through them all. God may allow you to do that, at least for a while, but it is not the best way to be. If you are the type of person that says “Yes” to every ministry opportunity or invitation, something has gone wrong somewhere. Ask God to show you what it about you that is needing his insight and attention. Less is more when God is more in the less than in the more you may have become addicted to.

I felt this morning that there were some who read my blogging efforts that needed to hear this. Some of you may struggle to allow yourselves to hear what I am saying. Something in you will fight against it. That is understandable. When it is the Lord who cares about the wellbeing of His servants who is trying to speak to you, it will not go unopposed. I hope you may not throw this aside in anger and disgust, like a crumpled up letter. Perhaps though you discard this today, you might retrieve it and read it again when your hostility  (or is it a fear? Panic?) has lessened, or indeed when you have become curious about your own hostility and reaction.

This blog came about because of a dream. I could also have written it from experience of many years ministry and ministry opportunities. Looking back, I said “Yes” too often….I wish I had learned to say “No” with equal ease.

God may be warning someone this very day of the imminent danger of a crash.

God bless


These things I call to mind….

A story came to mind tonight. I think it cane out of Revival In Indonesia, but cannot check it as it was one of several hundred books that I had to say goodbye to, after my lung condition was diagnosed. If I remember the story with any accuracy, it was about an old minister who heard himself being described in mocking terms as “the old dry stick.” He was cut to the heart, but in pain and humility sought the Lord. The Lord met with Him and now the rumour started to spread, “The old dry stick has caught fire.”

Are you criticising local church leadership? In evangelical or charismatic church settings it can, sadly, be quite common. It is as though if someone has a very definite story of meeting with the Lord in salvation or empowering, that somehow causes them to doubt the minister or the leadership or others in the church as a whole, have had as real an experience, or know the Lord as they know Him. Talk from such a spirit, usually gets back to those being talked about, and it can be hurtful.

It all contrasts so deeply with another memory this evening of someone converted in the Lewis revival of 49-52. I have met them several times. I have never met someone who carries more of God. To be in her presence has always made me cry. I would sometimes cry when I didn’t even know she was around! The presence of God would be sweet and beautiful to the point of unbearable. On each occasion, I turned around…and there was this lady! The first time I met her in her home, she was terribly embarrassed when I asked her to pray with and for me. “How can I pray for you, a man of God?” Well, she saw my disappointment and relented! I cannot begin to tell you how I treasured that simple non showy prayer, in all its glorious ordinariness!

There is a false humility, the sort of “Holy Willie” type of thing, and there is a true humility. This was true unforced humility. Meeting with God in spirit and in truth will always result in thinking others as better than ourselves, and to honour them accordingly. Even areas of actual giftedness or even expertise, if there is such a thing in spiritual life, will not prevent you from considering everyone you meet as better than yourself. This dear lady held those who lead God’s people in high regard.

What about praying for leadership instead of criticising from a place of frustration, or from a place of thinking you know the Lord His Spirit and His Word, better than those for whom God has opened the door of leadership? Listen, you may well know the Lord better than your minister, your church leadership, but if you do you will never think or feel that you do, or express to others in subtle or blatant ways that you do….nor think it privately and smugly!

…and if you are leader who humbly believes you are a dry stick, remember how bright a dry stick can burn….God bless you…real good! You have my highest admiration, even though I may not know you or ever meet you. Leading is not easy…


At ease…

Jesus, in John Chapter 4, was so at ease with the Samaritan woman at the welll of Sychar – a despised woman in a town despised by other Samaritans and called “Drunkenness”, in a country despised by the Jews – that He told her who He was: He didn’t self disclose to any other individual in the four gospels. In the process of their conversation, she gradually got to a place of being at ease with Him. From that place, she seemed to move into a place of being at ease with herself and at ease living in relationship with others in her community.

Anyway, I am running ahead of myself…indeed a sermon is unfolding in ma heid right at this moment! I really just wanted to ask you if you believe Jesus is at ease with you today? Does He enjoy being with you? I am not asking you to spout forth the “right” answer. What do you think, honestly and truthfully?

God bless


Sweating beneath a mask?

OK, I am a Charismatic in the eyes of others. Well, indeed I am, in terms of biblical conviction and in terms of personal experience of the Spirit. However the “culture” of the Charismatic world is not something I am always at ease with as it often runs counter to the biblical revelation of the Sovereign Lord and to my experience of His Spirit. It is a world in which there are successive flavours of the month – well flavours of the month that if marketed well run for a few years. “What God is doing” is in the hands of advertisers with a budget, who expect a profit from those who can afford their product.
I was helped to admit my discomfort with the way things have developed, or I would say regressed, in the current Western charismatic scene by thoughts from Thomas Merton. It sounds patronising in the extreme to say I do not agree with everything Thomas Merton wrote, or thought or taught, but I found this helpful:
“Perhaps if I only realised that I do not admire what everyone else seems to admire I would really begin to live after all… I would be liberated from the painful duty of saying what I really do not think.”
Merton says that when a person begins to sweat or itch under a mask or a role placed upon them by culture, which presumably includes the culture of “church” or a movement within the church, they are beginning to be free. As I read his words today, I began to see what, on reflection, is patently obvious: alienation is not only a societal or economic or political concept, but can be much more personal and spiritual than that. It begins, as Merton says, when a culture divides me from myself.
These thoughts gave me rich pasture to feed on and seemed to have the scent of Kingdom of God revolutionary air about them…. deep was calling to deep.

God bless


“And Jesus did call apart Peter, James and John and they did enter a room and sit down….”

With the help of David Strutt in today’s comments in “Sanctuary, Moments in His Presence” I was thinking about the fact that people watched Jesus, “insidiously.” Not a nice word and not a nice experience. The amazing thing is that it did not seem to disturb Jesus at all! If we are secure in our Father’s love, these types of things are like arrows that fly over our heads but do not land!

Goodness me, how much time we waste thinking about people thinking about us! “Are they thinking about me properly, justly, are they relating to me rightly, fairly?” Give it up! Grow up even! Remember your time is actually God’s time and Kingdom time. In all sorts of ways we need to remember we are to have this mind in us that was in Christ! We are not our own, we have been bought with a price. Such concerns have no place in the life of Abba’s Child.

I honestly believe that in terms of the Kingdom, we will never reach our potential if we do not triumph over these insecurities and rest in our belovedness. For our own sake, God will limit opportunities open to us, because with greater anointing comes greater adverse and unjust human reaction. Spirituality is at least in part about learning to close the time gap between a happening and reacting to it as a child of God. It would be unkind of God to place you into a calling you feel is for you, until you get the security issue settled, until you meet injustice against you unfazed, and meet potentially insecurity inducing treatment with security.

Sadly the Church is not always Kingdom minded. It fails to see people that should have wider opportunities opened up to them and sometimes opens up wider opportunities to those who will be harmed by that and harm others at the same time. The Church, even in its leadership, does not always have the mind of Christ. Even those who often seem to have, don’t always get it right all the time. I have seen some of the most prophetically gifted leaders I know making disastrous appointments, even suggesting wrong marriage partnerships to people!

We must never become insensitive to truth about ourselves we need to see, even when it is extremely painful and may mean a whole new way of seeing and being in certain aspects of who we are not and who we are in God. But we can never become who we are meant to be if we continually need to feel we are in a safe environment, or if we do not get over reacting strongly or in a prolonged way to the negative or bad behaviour of others toward us….

It was a helpful word to think about today, based on the story of Jesus being watched closely, or insidiously at a meal in Luke Chapter 14….. How gloriously free Christ was to take his cue from His Father who loved Him…. Remember we are “In Christ” as believers, living in His belovedness, in the delight of His Father and ours. Get hold of that and you have the base established for Kingdom of God joy, unruffled personal peace about yourself, and usefulness. Set upon great security in your belovedness, we make ourselves available for increasing adversity, increasing injustice, increasing suffering, and increasing anointing. We can’t get to the last one on that list without setting out to conquer in the other areas rather than being tripped up by them. Resting in our blessedness is the place where we will conquer. From there, it will be safe for us to be trusted with the works and even the wonders of God as He calls and sees fit.

And Jesus did call apart Peter, James and John, and they did enter a room and sit down and talk in angst together: “Did you see the way they were looking at me at meal time? I am really hurt by it. It is so unfair, so unjust. I don’t know how to move on from here.”… NOT!

God bless


“Abba!” The cry of God’s child from the nightmare…

There has been much talk since the mid 90’s on the Father heart of God. I am so glad of that as a Scot! Scottish religion has been very harsh at times and the truth that Jesus taught, namely that the Father warmly and affectionately loves us, is one that is often met with unbelief or incredulity by Scottish minds and hearts. Though we are a country with a rich heritage in God, we also carry much religious baggage, not all of it helpful or good,  which often results in the warm love of God bing pushed away when first encountered either in the preaching of God’s Word or by direct experience of the Spirit.

I am sad however, that in the renewed and much needed emphasis on the Father heart of God, there is often not a full Scriptural telling of that truth. There can be a tendency to  fall into sentimentality as the dominant ambience in which the Father’s love is presented. The witness of the Scriptures is much fuller than mere sentiment and warm glow, though as I say and stress Abba’s love is indeed warm, it is indeed affectionate. Our Heavenly Father is not cold or harsh or austere.   But, when we are assured of the Holy Spirit of God helping us to cry “Abba Father” in Romans Chapter 8, the tone of the language used there might be imagined like this: a small child has fallen on the street, and is crying out to their Daddy not to be left alone, but to be helped; a crying out from a fearful place or hurt and woundedness in faith that Daddy can be trusted. Despite the faith, the tone is one of anguish and distress.

Rowan Williams is quoted in “Celtic Daily Prayer Book 1, The Journey Begins,” in similar vein; I commend that book to you, as a resource you might like to try:

“The Cry to God as Father in the New Testament, is not a calm acknowledgement of a universal truth about God’s abstract fatherhood. It is the Child’s cry out of a nightmare. It is the cry of outrage, fear, shrinking away, when faced with the horror of the ‘world’ – yet not simply or exclusively protest, but trust as well. ‘ “Abba Father” all things are possible to Thee…’

I have mentioned these amazingly insightful words of Rowan Williams before, but visiting my Mum today in hospital drew me to find refuge in their truth  afresh this evening, hence the sharing of his words again. It was not an easy visit. It is never easy to watch someone you love suffering whether in body, mind or spirit, no matter how much wonderful attention is being given to their care. Perhaps right now, the ambience of your life is far from pleasant. You may be suffering a nightmare in some sense, perhaps it is a nightmare involving those you care about, whose circumstances you would wish to change for them if you could, but cannot. Let your cry of pain and trust, that mixture of confusion, yes even anger or outrage mixed with faith go to Abba. This cry out of the nightmare, the crying out after the painful fall, shows we really are Abba’s chldren, and  the Holy Spirit is bearing witness to that from deep within.  Cry out to Abba for yourself, for your loved ones who may be too weak to cry out for themselves, for Abba’s children lost and found…

God bless


God has Life in himself…

It is always good to know that Satan and his hordes are not free to do as they will. They need permission. I have only seen a demon once with my eyes. It happened 40 years ago. There were a couple of incidents where my life was threatened. After they occurred I saw a demon looking to God asking for permission to end my life. Permission was not given. I have never seen a painting, even in salivating mediaeval genre that adequately expresses the horror of the figure I saw. It was not hideous in a stereotypical nightmare sense. Rather it was the epitome of non life, with an unswerving , religious committment, a sense of vow even toward its cause of non life… It is good that all our days are written in God’s book before one of them came to be!

The Father has life in Himself and has granted it to the Son to have life in Himself and to give life to those He wills, those who are given to Him. Non life is a death worse than physical…