Monthly Archives: December 2016

My list of thank yous for 2016…

Lord, thankyou for bringing me through this year. Such kindness and grace we have experienced, and  I have much to give you thanks for:

  1. Thankyou that  your word is constant and sure.
  2.  Thank you that when the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, you are our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
  3. Thank you for bringing my husband to repentance and enabling him to see the  idols in his heart.
  4.  Thank you that those idols have now gone, and he is revelling in the grace you have lavished upon him. Thank you  for placing him in a job where his boss loves the Lord and knows his story,  and has supported him – Such amazing grace.
  5.  Thank you  that each of our children are walking with you. I pray that as they have each experienced debilitating trauma, you would use it to grow them and know you better.
  6. Thank you for those special  friends that have loved me this year. Thank you that scripture has winged its way to me every day.
  7. Thank you  for hemming me in and giving me what I have needed, even when I fought against it.
  8. Thank you  for our new church family and the kindness that’s been shown when we felt banished and lonely.
  9. Thank you that you’ve shown me that obedience brings joy and peace.
  10. Thank you  that when we submit the devil flees.
  11. Thank you Lord, that as a new year approaches, we come to you,  loving each other better than before, because  you have revealed to us the depths of your love for us.
  12.  Thank you  for the privilege of understanding what forgiveness really looks like.
  13. Thank you that each hurt we experience points us to the hope that we have in you.
  14. Thank you that I have come to understand in a new way the power of the gospel. That it is life transforming when we are willing to obey.
  15. Thank you for new beginnings.
  16. Thank you that you are working everything together for our good.
  17. Thank you that we can trust your plans and purposes.
  18. Thank you for Jesus; for all that he is, for all that he has done for us and continues to do in us through his Spirit.

There are so many things to thank you for. My prayer for 2017 is that we shine for you, that grace and mercy continue to cover all the devastating wrong that’s gone before. I pray for strength and help in the year to come.

All you need is love

I’ve come to understand this year that LOVE is all we need. But not just any love;  God’s love. 

I’ve seen that God’s love heals, covers and forgets. It sees a future when things are black, and restores our brokenness. Love listens and doesn’t jump to wrong conclusions. Love is willing to see the best when the worst is on show. Love pacifies and soothes our wounds. Love covers wrongs. Love forgives and never brings up past offences. Love makes the offender feel at ease and built up, not torn down and riddled with guilt.  Love shows proactive kindness even when we want to snub and ignore. Love doesn’t come naturally, selfishness does. Real love comes from God and is a gift from him. Without his help, none of us can love. 
God’s  Love shows up Satan’s lies. His lies tell us we have the right to nurse grudges and  hold  onto resentment which lead us to hate in our hearts. Hating damages us, spoils earthly relationships, but more importantly, it spoils heavenly ones. It separates us from God. 

Amy Carmichael writes of Calvary love, and as I’ve reflected on what she has written this week,  my heart has been profoundly affected. I’m praying through her “If’s”, and I pray that I may know more of Calvary love. 

This is what she says:

  • if I have not compassion on my fellow-servant, even as my Lord had pity on me, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
  • If  I belittle those whom I am called to serve, talk of their weak points in contrast perhaps with what I think of as my strong  points: if I adopt a superior attitude, forgetting “who made thee to differ?” and “what hast thou that thou hast not received?” then I know nothing of calvary love.
  • If I can easily discuss the shortcomings and the sins of any; if I can speak in a casual way even of a child’s misdoings, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
  • If  I can enjoy a joke at the expense of another; if I can in anyway slight another in conversation, or even in thought, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
  • If I can write an unkind letter, speak an unkind word, think an unkind thought without grief  or shame, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
  • If I do not feel far more for the grieved Saviour  than for my worried self when troublesome things occur, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
  • If my attitude be one of fear, not faith, about one who has disappointed me; if I say, “Just what I expected,” if a fall occurs, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
  • If  I am afraid to speak the truth, lest I lost affection, or lest the one concerned should say, “You do not understand,”or because I fear to lose my reputation for kindness; if I put my own good name before the other’s highest good, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

I pray for more Calvary love. To know and experience more love for God and others in my heart. Thanking God this Christmas time for the ultimate gift of love in his precious son.

You hem me in. 

I love psalm 139, and this morning I reflected on it with a friend. we were talking about being fearful. I have been fearful about many things over this last year, and if I’m not careful, I can easily give in to fear again and again.

 As I read this psalm I wàs reminded that if we’re in God’s family, we have no need to be afraid. This psalm tells us that we are actually hemmed in by his love and we are in his eyesight all of the time. 

When our kids were little, I can remember being on a  crowded beach in France. My daughter and son went hand in hand down to the water’s  edge to fill up their buckets. My eyes were on them constantly, until my vision was obscured, and moments later I realised that my small daughter had been separated from her brother and was nowhere to be seen. Even though I was vigilant and on high alert, I failed to keep my eyes  on them both. With panicked hearts, we  scanned the breadth and length of that beach until we found her.

 Thankfully, God’s vision is never obscured and we are continually watched over. So when fear comes knocking on my door, I will come back to this psalm and remember that I’m hemmed in by God’s kindness and protection. 

I can be overwhelmed by so many fears and so many unknowns. Right at this moment I am still working through my warped perception of how people now view us, and if I’m not careful I can be filled with fear. Fear because we will no longer be accepted in the circles that we’ve moved in for the last 20 years. Fear of silence which is always misconstrued, always interpreted wrongly. This psalm says  that God knows my anxious thoughts, and thankfully he has forgiven, loved and accepted us despite really bad behaviour and overwhelming failings. With repentance hope is never dimmed. So if God has accepted us, does it matter what others think? My validation must always come from God, not from others. We can feel the need  for affirmation from others, because validation from God is not enough. I’m glad at the end of the psalm  it says” test my anxious thoughts, see if there is any offensive way in me..” This thought process is offensive to God, but his mercy is unending and the cross is never barred. My identity, standing and reputation has got to be bound up in Christ. If it isn’t, then I become an idolater,  grieving and hurting my Lord. 

So there is no need to fear. I am more loved and protected that I  could  ever understand. 

Psalm 139:
” You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!  Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—when I awake, I am still with you. If only you, God, would slay the wicked! Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty! They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name. Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?  I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies. Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Isaiah 41:10 

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

From my husband 

I remember my affliction and my wandering,

the bitterness and the gall.

I well remember them,

and my soul is downcast within me.

Yet this I call to mind

and therefore I have hope:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,

for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.

I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;

therefore I will wait for him.”(Lamentations 3v19-24)

Last Sunday I stood in front of our new church family to give a short testimony. It was exactly a year after we had turned up; overwhelmed, devastated, broken, fighting the feeling to run away, dreading meeting someone who knew us, hoping no-one would innocently ask, “so, what brings you here?” How do you respond when the answer is, “I have just told my wife I have been unfaithful, resigned my job in church ministry and we needed to get away”?

I began with the verses above from Lamentations 3v19-24 and testified to God’s great love (v22) and faithfulness (v23). I have expanded those thoughts at my wife’s request for her blog.

Like the writer I well remember my wandering (v19) and the ensuing affliction. For many years I lived overwhelmed by guilt, feeling unable (or perhaps unwilling) to confess it. I lived under a cloud of conviction. Every week’s sermon preparation brought new reminders of my failings and every Sunday morning I battled with the knowledge that I was about to preach God’s word to God’s people but was actually disqualified. In pastoral counsel, as I brought God’s word to those who battled with sin, I felt an absolute hypocrite, “if they knew what I had done……” Time with my wife and family was always alloyed by thoughts of what would happen if or when they found out. I was guilty of living unfaithfully, unkindly, deceitfully, selfishly and therefore as a hater of God. In Lamentations 1, the writer (probably Jeremiah) captures exactly what it is like to live with guilt:
Look, O Lord, for I am in distress;

my stomach churns;

my heart is wrung within me,

because I have been very rebellious


David, similarly speaks of the pain of guilt when he says:

When I kept silent

my bones wasted away

through my groaning all day long.

For day and night

your hand was heavy on me;

my strength was sapped

as in the heat of summer.

(Psalm 32v3)

Both passages are clear that such struggles are down to the tenacious faithfulness of God. God was too faithful to let me get away with it. Too faithful to let me live with a broken relationship with him. Too faithful to let Satan have the last word. It was divine, loving faithfulness that pursued me, faithfulness that afflicted me, faithfulness that closed all the not-so cunning escape routes I dreamed up, faithfulness that brought me to embrace confession as a friend and not an enemy.

And then, divine loving faithfulness that forgave me. I knew the gospel, believed the gospel, preached the gospel, had the privilege of seeing many experience the power of the gospel but this year has brought the gospel home to me like never before.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,for his compassions never fail.

There is literally hell to pay because of my sin – and of course not just the ugly, obvious sin I owned up to but all the acceptable sins that no-one ever seems to be bothered by. Having said that, marriage in the Bible models God’s covenant relationship with his people and therefore adultery uniquely grieves God and falls short of his glorious unfailing faithfulness. It was right to be overwhelmed by guilt, but here is the amazing thing, I was chastened but not consumed, corrected but not crushed. Because of God’s faithfulness I was, instead, completely cleansed. God has tied himself to the gospel so that John writes:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.(1John1v9)

He is FAITHFUL and JUST. Faithful and therefore he forgives. Righteous and therefore he purifies from all unrighteousness. Why? Because Jesus was consumed. Because Jesus was treated as if he committed my sin, punished under the white-hot purity of God, condemned, crushed, consumed in the horror of hell. And because God punished him instead of me, he cannot stay just and punish me as well. As that wonderful old hymn puts it

Payment God cannot twice demand

First at my bleeding Surety’s hand

And then again at mine.

God’s faithfulness meant that I confessed, that I was cleansed, my relationship with him restored and my heart renewed. God’s love has meant that my marriage and family are being restored, as readers of this blog will have seen. I have a new church family who have responded graciously, humbly, faithfully – as fellow sinners who need grace every bit as much.

God’s loving faithfulness is great. Very great. Amazingly great. Awesomely great.

I am still sad, shocked, grieving, recovering but ….
God’s compassions never fail.

They are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.

I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;

therefore I will wait for him.

His compassions are new every morning.

Lamentations 3:22-26 

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

Last night my husband was brave enough to get up in front of his new church family and give his testimony. It was an excruciating thing for him to do, but a right one.

He started with Lamentations ch 3. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed…”

I felt proud of him as he spoke about failure and brokenness and pain. As he told our new church family about God’s grace in our lives a year on, I felt thankful for where we are now. How broken and bereft we both were a year ago. 

I am amazed by God’s grace to us. So touched that our new church family have welcomed us in despite our huge failing and sin.

As we lie and bask in the sunshine of God’s love we are mending together. As we understand more of God’s grace and outrageous love shown to us in Christ,  our hearts are loving him more and more.

God’s love is shockingly kind. And our church family last night were  kind to us. They intentionally sought us out when they could have easily gone the other way. Just like the Good Samaritan with his intentional love, He willingly crossed the road and went out of his way to show a poor broken man intentional kindness. He went out of his way to make sure that this hurting  man was loved and made whole, and it was costly to him.

Christian living Is not about judging  others. God is concerned about our kind responses to one another under great pressure, especially when we have been let down and hurt. 

I thought a lot about Mary yesterday, the fallen woman who had lived such a sinful life. The Pharisees looked down on her and  judged her. They looked down on her behaviour and felt self righteous, yet failed to see their own great need. Their need was the same as Mary’s but with one big  difference; Mary understood her need while the Pharisees really didn’t. 

For us all, the right response to our sin is to weep in the presence of Jesus and pour expensive perfume all over his feet. Translated,  surely this  means that  we give him our all;  Love him more than anything else and love others with an intentional  love which will always mean sacrifice.

We are weeping at the feet of Jesus and we are understanding his intentional love in our lives today. We are blessed and have treasure of infinite value seen in Jesus. We have been forgiven much and as we continue to respond, I pray that it will be as Mary did – with huge thankfulness and love for her saviour shown by her tears and act of generosity. 

Luke 7:44-47

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”