Firsts – take 2

This time last year I wrote a blog about firsts (read it here  https://wp.me/s8Y84A-firsts) .

Those of you who know the journey our family have been on will remember that last Christmas was the first that we would spend without mum, as she began her new adventure with Jesus in heaven.

Who would have thought that this Christmas would bring another first – one without dad too? 

I feel a bit different this year.

Although dad was “still with us” he chose to spend Christmas abroad. I remember that it was something he had wanted to do for ages – but knew that mum would never go “and leave the kids (and by that she meant the grandchildren) over Christmas. I totally understand why he went. He was grieving just as we were. He needed space, and didn’t want to spoil Christmas for anyone.

In a sense, last Christmas felt like I’d lost both parents.

If I’m honest I found that incredibly tough. The loss of mum was still very raw. The need to spend as much time as possible with dad weighed heavily on my heart.

However much I wished he was with us last Christmas, it is nothing compared to how I  feel this year.

So, like last year , this will be another one of firsts. The first without both parents, but also the first that both mum and dad get to spend together in the presence of Jesus. They so deserve to rest in His Glory, worshiping with other saints and angels.

I don’t begrudge them that reward at all. This time last year I said I was a little bit jealous. Perhaps doubly so this year.

It is still tough though. It’s the little things that I’ve noticed recently. Things like an easy solution to baby sitting. Like sharing bad “dad jokes” with dad, and trying them out on mum. Like trying to decide which set of parents we will invite for Christmas Day, and which will be on Boxing Day. The first time you find yourself thinking about these things, and you realise that baby sitting needs to be more carefully considered, that no one understands your jokes and that you have two slots over Christmas to fill with one sets of parents can get a bit teary.

If I’m honest, it hasn’t got any easier.

The busyness  if the season means there are other things to fill my mind, so I don’t necessarily ask these questions very often.

If the last year has taught me anything it is that it is vital we spend quality time with those that are here. It’s good to remember those we have lost, but important that we don’t do that at the expense of those who are still with us.

The first Christmas, a baby came that would change history. The story is well known – he grew, and was violently killed on a Roman cross. He rose from the dead and ascended back into heaven. Before He went, He promised to send the Holy Spirit – who would come, fill us and abide with us.

The God who was the baby in the manger will never leave us.

If you know Him, take time to get to know Him better. If not, why not ask Him to make this the first Christmas that you spend with the real reason for the season.

Send the fire

 Lots of the songs we sing at church petition heaven to “send the fire”, or to “rain down”. I’ve often pondered that we would ask for both, when one would naturally cancel out the other. I’ve been thinking a lot more about the fire songs recently.

So often sung, yet so little evidence that our request has been granted. I have no doubt that on a personal level, many have felt the touch of heaven when singing these songs, but in my experience it tends to be limited and localised.

What would it look like if God suddenly sent fire from heaven to the meeting we were in?

Imagine if the fire fell on the whole room, not just one or two. Imagine being in a place so full of the fire of heaven that the fire brigade was called because of the flames, only to find there was nothing that their water jets could do to put it out. (See testimonies of Azusa Street rival)   Imagine what would happen if we really meant some of the words we sing on a Sunday.

 My suspicion is that for many who consider this, the first image that appears in their mind is that of Elijah and the prophets of Baal. A totally impossible situation, miraculously consumed by fire. Many died that day, such was the ferocity of the fire that fell from heaven. It is hardly any wonder that many of us are a little cautious about really meaning it when these words come up on the screen. Sure, we sing them, but only because everyone else is. There will be, for some, and often unconsciously a fear in asking God to send fire from heaven.

Some will be afraid for other reasons. Their image is of Acts 2, when Holy Spirit fell and looked like tongues of fire on the heads of those that were in the building at the time. The result of that heavenly fire was power, authority, supernatural gifts and the Presence of God living inside of each of them. That made a difference to their lives. Things could no longer go on as they had. They had to change. If we are honest, there are few of us that really relish that sort of change in our lives.

Others still will be afraid that He won’t send the fire as we have asked – at least not to them. They are quite happy with realising that fire will fall on others, but they don’t expect it to happen to them.

The sort of experience we expect depends largely on how we view God, and our understanding of our own identity now we are in Christ. If we see ourselves as servants, we will do things out of a sense of duty. There will be  a constant fear of failure, punishment and that “the Master” might be watching. We try to remain inconspicuous by following the rules (often man made ones) and ticking boxes. We don’t want to put ourselves in a position to fail, so we do as little as possible. Every now and again we will offer to help out a little more, just to make up extra credit. Our impression of fire falling from heaven would only be as way of punishment and we’d rather not thank you very much.

If we fully grasp that we are adopted into the family, that we are sons and daughters of the living God, we operate out of relationship and love. We are aware of our inheritance, and that we have access to it now. We live in the assurance that our Father is good and we feel comfortable in His presence. Our impression will be more of Acts 2 – yes there will be some trembling, the house might shake a bit, but the knowledge of His presence throughout the situation makes all that seem insignificant. We will be desperate for more.

There is always something that is destroyed when fire comes. When we experience the fire of Holy Spirit, there is less room for things that are not of Him. The more we hunger after heaven, the more heaven we will experience. The Father will never force His way in though. Heaven is attracted to hunger, but will never force feed us.

A friend recently reminded me of a conversation that happened in the Narnia books of C.S. Lewis. When talking of Aslan,the children were told, “Safe, no, he isn’t safe – BUT, he is good.” The same is true of our Father in heaven. When He comes, we will inevitably be taken out of our comfort zone. We can’t experience Him and stay the same. It will almost certainly be uncomfortable.

It will absolutely be worth it.

Sparrows and lilies

Sometimes life seems to give you lemons. One thing after another, each of them big by themselves, but cumulatively huge.

I can’t pretend that the past year has been easy. I think, most of the time I have coped well, or at least thought I was. There have been more times than I really want to admit to, where I just feel tired. Not so much physically, (although often that too), but emotionally and spiritually. I’ve felt that I have probably given out more than I was receiving, and it seems to be taking its toll.

I have found that the cause of this is often my fault. This isn’t a self depreciating statement, but one of truth. You see, the One who has sustained me thus far on my journey hasn’t changed. He still feels the same way about me. He is still in control. He still has a plan. It is me that has moved. It is me that hasn’t been as attentive to His presence as I perhaps once was. This hasn’t been a deliberate act of course, but one that little by little has resulted in a distance which has created a feeling of loneliness at times.

The wonderful thing about God is that no matter how far we find ourselves drifting, it is only ever one step back to His arms enveloping us in Love and Grace.

I don’t necessarily think that the distance is all that great, it’s just that when one is used to being really close, to being constantly aware of His Pleasure and His Presence even a step away is too far. When one finds oneself even a step away from this, it is lonely.

I’ve found that listening to worship music can be a helpful way to realign my mind, and to reposition my intentions. It can quickly bring me back to a place where I feel His pleasure again.

The song “Sparrows and Lillies” by Pat Barrett brought me back to that place again tonight.

Life has be hard recently. But

“I have seen the sparrow
I have watched it fly
Though she does not worry
Tell me why should I?

So hold on love
Things are gonna get better
Things are gonna get better
I know it’s hard
Hold on love
Things are gonna get better
Things are gonna get better
I know they are”

If you are finding it tough to see His hand in your situation, can I encourage you with these words. In the words of another song “You’ve never failed and You won’t start now.” He really does have it under control. Join me in finding the Gold amongst the dirt of our situations. Sometimes it takes a bit of digging to find it, but I am convinced it’s there, we just have to believe, and keep digging.

Click here to listen to Sparrows and Lillies by Pat Barrett

People versus places

I think it is safe to say that the past year has been tough. Emotions have been all over the place, the sense of loss has never been far from my mind. I’ve done a pretty good job (I think) of holding it together whilst in public, but the reality is that I really miss my parents. It is often said that we don’t realise what we have until its gone, and I can confirm that this is very much the case with parents. I know that regardless of the amount of time I had spent with them, learning from them and just being in their presence it would still not have been enough, but I still wish that I had spent more time with them.

I have found that it is only since they are gone that I am finding out about things that I wish I had had the opportunity to ask them more about it. I hate the fact that much of what I now know about my parents is a result of the memories of others rather than my own memories of them.

I recently had the opportunity to travel to town where I grew up (at least for the first 10 years). The plan was to try and find some emotional closure, by visiting people and places that held a memory of one or both of my parents.  After the turmoil of emotions that the last year has brought, I felt that I would benefit from being there again, talking to people about mum and dad, and immersing myself in the places that they called home.

I found myself sitting outside childhood homes, churches, schools and even chip shops. I found myself searching for the memory that would allow me to move on. What surprised me was I found very little emotion in these places. The memories were free flowing, but there was no emotion.

It was different though when I visited with people from the past. People that remembered mum and dad (and my sisters and I) were full of stories and memories. These memories brought life back into the pictures that I had in my mind. It was wonderful to worship in the building that I had left as an 18yr old but was so much more special to worship with some of the people that had been there back then. We have all changed and our expression of our journey may be different, but the God who holds it and us all together was very much there in the midst of us.

The bible tells us that we shouldn’t “give up the practice of meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing.” I know that this guidance is for those that claim to following Christ, but have little time for His people, but I believe it applies to simply keeping in touch and doing life with those that are important to us too. I’ve never been very good at writing letters (the examples I have found amongst my parents ‘memories’ box is testament to that) so I am really grateful for the advent of social media that allows me to reconnect with people that I had previously lost touch with. Its not without its limitations though, and there is nothing quite like meeting someone face to face.

I suppose what I trying to say (and remember that the purpose of this blog is so I can process thoughts, and isn’t a final say on the subject) that “doing life” with people is really important. Places will still be there decades later. Those we love may not be. Take time to talk. Take time just to be with them. Learn from them, laugh with them, cry with them. As much as it depends on you, don’t lose touch. People matter.

I am thankful that I was able to take this trip. Some boxes have been closed forever. Some have been closed, and will be opened again at some point, hopefully with others present. What I find most interesting, is that I have found some boxes that I didn’t know were there, and now I have looked in them I want to keep them open.

I pray that you will find peace as you process the boxes in your life.

Logs in the eye

The moment someone becomes noticed these days it seems to be the practice of the media to dig into their past. The primary purpose for this doesn’t seem to be validate the persons popularity, but to bring them down.

The media, whether traditional or social, wants to hold those we ‘follow’ to higher standards than they can follow themselves.

I saw a (satirical) headline the other day. It read “Prodigal son kicked back out after old tweet surfaces.’ As is so often the case with satire amongst the intended humour was a deep truth to be examined.

I for one am thankful beyond words that social media wasn’t a thing when I was growing up. Not that I did anything illegal, just a bit stupid at times. I don’t wish to remember some of these things nor do I want anyone else to do so. At the time, even if I realised the error of my ways and stopped doing whatever it was, there were inevitably consequences. Some of these persist today. .

The beauty of being a Christian is that we have the same benefits as I do from being a little older than the ‘social media generation.’

My mum used to say, “confession is good for the soul, but bad for the reputation.” It really is. When I confess my sin, He is faithful and just, and will forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 – emphasis mine)

Confession brings a cleansing that leaves us positionally right with God again, able to approach Him without fear, without risk of being banished. Once sin has been removed from our account we shouldn’t try and apply it again. It is done, it is finished.

The Psalmist reminds us that “as far as the East is from the West, so far does He remove our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12)  If God has removed them that distance, who are we to bring them back?

We have no right to bring back the sins of others either. If a brother or sister in Christ did something, their accountability rests with God, not with us. If they have been forgiven by Him, reminding them of their past indiscretions is of no beneficial value. There are of course situations that we must take account of past misdemeanours. In the same way I live with the consequences of my actions, so must they.  There are those that will be inappropriate for certain positions, but if true repentance has occurred, I believe, these people will understand this.

We seem to have a tendency in the church, certainly in the West to raise up leaders to lead us, only to discover years later that when they were younger they made a mistake. Someone talks to someone else and before we know it we are looking for another leader, just for the process to begin again. I’m not suggesting that we put up with continued sin, but if there has been true repentance, that should be the end of it.

Church, we need to remember the Grace afforded to us personally is the same Grace available for our leaders. Let us support them, love them and remind ourselves that a mistimed comment does not define their positional stature any more than it does ours.

I’m reminded of the verse in Luke 6, Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?

I have enough to worry about with keeping my own life on track without worrying about anyone else. I suppose when I have me sorted, I can start on others.

I pray you do too.

What will you do?

There is a famous speech made by William Wallace in the (documentary) film “Braveheart” as the Scottish Army line up to face the English at Stirling.

Wallace, as he sees the Scots begin to leave, as they see the might of the English approaching rides through and manages to convince his countrymen to stay and to fight. The main thrust of his plea is around the fact that, in spite of their current experience, of oppression and being subject to an English King, that they are in fact free men.

For those who are unfamiliar with the speech, here it is.

“Sons of Scotland, I am William Wallace, and I see a whole army of my countrymen, here, in defiance of tyranny. You have come to fight as free men, and free men you are. What will you do with that freedom? will you fight?

Someone replies – “no, we will run, and we will live.”

Wallace replies, “Aye, fight and you may die, run, and you’ll live, at least a while. and dying from your bed, many years from now,  would you trade all the days from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies, that they can take our lives, but they will never take our freedom.”

Whether this speech actually happened or not, I was struck by the question Wallace asked at the beginning. “What will you do with that freedom?” That the Scots were free was never in question. They may not have felt free, but that is what they were.

The truth of their reality (rather than their experience) required a response. What would they do to demonstrate to their enemies that they were no longer satisfied to be subjected to oppression?

The question is just as relevant for us today as it was for the “Sons of Scotland” centuries ago. The bible tells us that “it is for freedom that we have been set free.” (Galatians 5:1) There is a reason for our freedom. It was bought at a price, a price that none of us can fully appreciate or understand, yet we accept the gift, without realising that it comes with a need to be active in our acceptance. It is not sufficient just to say thank you and wait until we receive the call to heaven.

Too many of us sit back, with our ticket, just waiting. When trials come, we conclude that it is simply human experience and there is little we can do to change things. Yet, Paul tells us that with the freedom we have, we don’t have to be oppressed any more. The chains have been broken. We are free from the shackles than ensnare and hold back, and yet we don’t really try and move off, to try and achieve anything for the Kingdom.

Whilst stating that it is truth that is more important that experience, I firmly believe that we should be experiencing more of the Kingdom here on earth than we currently do. Even those of us who have experienced great things already have more to experience. There is always more. God is eager to show us more. Jesus himself taught us to ask for it. “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, here on earth, as it is in heaven.” He wouldn’t have told us to pray it if it wasn’t possible.

I believe that God is perfectly capable of bringing His Kingdom to earth by Himself. He needs no assistance. I also believe that He chooses to partner with us. 1 Corinthians 3:9 says that “we are God’s fellow workers.” It also tells us that we are God’s field, God’s building. He wants to use us to further His Kingdom here on earth.

Those that understand that they are free and choose to do something with that freedom are those that are most malleable into the people who can be effectively used.

William Wallace understood that there was an action required in response to freedom.

You are free.

What will you do with that freedom?

For the sake of the world

What would you say was the primary objective of being a Christian?  Some might say, “to live a good life, helping others.” Some might give more emphasis to experiencing more of “the Kingdom of Heaven” here on earth.

For me, it can be summed up in the last command of Jesus whilst He was on earth. “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’”

I am certain that for many of us, these are very familiar words. The problem that I have with them is that I am so very bad at obeying them. For years I have put that down to the belief that there were some that were clearly gifted in evangelising, and they were able to carry the rest of us on some sort of communal fulfilment. In recent years of course, I have realised that that isn’t the case, and the command is for all of us.

More recently, the excuse (for that is what it is), has been that I am far too introverted to be able to talk to people about Jesus, let alone disciple them. Despite the brash exterior, I struggle to make even simple conversation with those that I don’t know well, often overcompensating with humour. Although I appear happy displaying this, there comes a point when I just need to withdraw and spend time in my own company, to recharge the batteries before thrusting myself into life again.

The problem with that approach is that it doesn’t change the command. The truth is that in and of myself I am pretty useless at making disciples. I’m even less competent at ‘going’ to do it. I’d much rather be at home, minding my own business.

So if Jesus commanded it, it must be important. I don’t believe that Jesus asked us to do things that He wouldn’t equip us for, but we need to be prepared to accept the equipping that He offers.

As I was driving home last night, a song came on. It had the words “For the sake of the world, burn like a fire in me, light a flame in my soul, for every eye to see, for the sake of the world, burn like a fire in me.” It got me thinking about fires. Fires consume all the fuel that is available to them. Given the correct environment, fires will leave little evidence of the original object remaining.  As long as nothing is done to extinguish a fire, it will continue to burn.

I know from experience that the only way the world is going to know about Jesus from me, is if I allow Him to light a fire inside me, and for me to do everything in my power to fan the flames. I need to completely surrender to the energy and potential that the fire gives. I need to allow it to consume me, not just a part of me, and I need to ensure that I do nothing to dampen the flames, or try and put the fire out.

I remember hearing the story behind the song “How He loves us” by John Mark McMillan. The song was written about a Youth Pastor, who had said to God that “if it would change the youth of our nation, I would give my life.” God listened to that offer and accepted it. The Youth Pastor was killed in a car crash that night. The song that grew from that event shaped a generation of young people across the world.

If we take the command of Jesus seriously, I wonder if we, I wonder if I, would be prepared to pray that prayer? I believe that allowing ourselves to be consumed by the fire of the Spirit will accomplish the same thing. People who really are on fire are different. They have a habit of setting fire to anything nearby that is even slightly combustible. There are people all over the world who are dry and ready to catch light.

So, if you are an extrovert, go for it. Get out there, meeting people, talking to strangers. Telling them the good news.

If you are an introvert like me though, get full, get burning, and just be you. You may not even have to talk to anyone (at least at first).

Either way, the effects will be the same.

Elevating others

Today I had the immense privilege to talk to a friend who had recently had a life changing “God experience.” They had taken time out to worship, learn and spend time with others who wanted to experience God, and had found that He was even more amazing that they already knew He was.

When I was chatting to my friend, my overwhelming feeling was one of excitement. I was thrilled that they had experienced something of God that they hadn’t before. I loved the fact that it had built their faith.  I was delighted to hear about the spiritual journey of another. In hearing testimony of what God had done for them, my faith increased, knowing that it was possible for it to happen again. If anything, I wanted to hear that they had experienced more than I had. In time, I hope they will see more, experience more than I have or will.

I have had similar experiences to the one that my friend was describing in the past, and I remember telling others of them and wishing that they too would experience God in the way that I had. The problem that I found that unless the person I was talking to had also had a similar experience it was almost impossible to describe the feeling.

For those who hadn’t experienced what I had, my longing was that they did. For those that had, there was a shared desire to experience more.

That desire isn’t new though. It is one that I have tried to learn from another, far more experienced than me.

Jesus, speaking in John 14:12 says “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.”

Jesus wasn’t concerned with being the best, sitting at the top of the pile whilst others tried to emulate Him. His concern was that the Father was glorified. If that meant others were involved, that was absolutely fine with Jesus. It was almost like He was saying “my ceiling is going to be your floor. There is so much more that you will see, do and experience. You will do it through my power and with my Spirit, but you need to aim higher than you have seen me do so far.”

He looks at those who truly believe in Him and says, “I believe in you – Go for it!”

I reckon that if celebrating the breakthrough of others was okay with Jesus, it should be okay for us too.

So when you are longing for breakthrough, and others tell you of their breakthrough, celebrate with them. Rejoice that God has blessed them.

God will be glorified – and it may just be that you see breakthrough too.

Can you see it?

I’ve found that there are rarely coincidences when it comes to God, so when I noticed that my Great Grandfather had underlined two verses, one in Habakkuk and one in Acts that was a quote of the one in Habakkuk, I decided to ask God what He wanted to teach me through these verses.

One was written sometime between 612 and 599BC, the other when the Apostle Paul quoted the same verse almost 700 years later.

The verse is Habakkuk is found in chapter 1, verse 5.

“Look among the nations, and see;

Wonder and be astounded.

For I am doing a work in your days

That you would not believe if told.”

Habakkuk writing at a time when Babylon was on the rise, but hadn’t yet attacked Jerusalem.

Recognising that Judah had strayed far from God He enquires of God what He is planning on doing about it. Gods reply astounds Habakkuk. All the injustice, violence and idolatry that was Habakkuk’s daily experience was to be replaced by something that although not at the full height of its power was known to be much worse. God states that He is raising up the Babylonians to take care of things.

A foreign power coming to decimate Gods people, and at his command?

I wonder if Habakkuk was able to recall the words that Isaiah wrote “ for my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.” Isaiah 55:8

It didn’t make any sense to Habakkuk, but he knew that God was trustworthy, and would redeem His people in time. He couldn’t comprehend how God’s plan could possibly have a good outcome, but was prepared to stand at the watch post to see. Confident that God was in control, Habakkuk would wait.

The widely taught lesson from Habakkuk is that we are to persevere through suffering, that God is in control and can be trusted to win through if we just persevere. I wonder if there is an additional lesson that God wants to teach us here. I believe it is a lesson that many do not want to learn, but thankfully gives great comfort to those who are willing to listen.

The question that I believe God is asking us to consider is whether the Church (generally, rather than individually local churches) has restricted Him because it has defined what a move of God looks and feels like, leaving no room for Him to do things that don’t conform to its very strict doctrine and theology.

Has the Church found ways of operating that limits what it is prepared to accept as “Gods way?” Has it so tamed Him into what we find acceptable, that it misses exactly what He is doing in these days. Has it become blinded to His love, his perseverance with those who claim to follow Him that it has decided what He is and isn’t allowed to do in our churches and in our lives.

Denominations across the world have developed processes and parameters to allow people to feel welcome, to ensure that their lifestyle is not challenged, and to make Church ‘comfortable’ but in doing so have created a place where God is impotent to move. In many churches the box in which God is permitted to operate in means that He rarely bothers to show up on a Sunday morning. The public and the media love it, because there is nothing demanding about going to a church like that.

God has declared that He is doing something in these days that we would not believe, even if we were told about it – and yet we refuse to hold Him at his word, often because that might mean change on our part. My experience is that when you have encountered the real Jesus, when you have felt the comfort, the conviction, the power of Holy Spirit, when the loving arms of the Father envelope you change is inevitable, even welcome. Have we so left God out of our Churches that even He doesn’t attend any more.

People who live what they believe is what the world is crying out for, often without realising it. They are tired of seeing the same dreary things being portrayed as ‘Church’. The media tells us that Church attendance is declining. If the worlds perception of what church is, is Songs of Praise on the BBC, or the odd Royal wedding I’m frankly not surprised. The world wants to feel alive, and if the message we are proclaiming is that Jesus is life, then those that are proclaiming the message should at the very least look alive.

My question is, have we learned the lessons that God was declaring over 2500 years ago? I think it is unlikely. 700 years after Habakkuk wrote, Paul had the same warning for the people of Antioch. Worship God. Stay in “the Way”. Don’t drift, don’t allow the warnings of the Prophets come about.

“Look, you scoffers, be astounded and perish;

For I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you.” Acts 13:41.

We have been told, yet we still do not believe. We hear stories of revivals, of healings and of divine visitations, yet we are quick to forget them, or our enthusiasm is diverted to other more seemingly tangible things. Sometimes the move starts small, almost as if He is checking to see if we will notice. A change of wind speed, glitter on the floor. Both likely to be caused by something other than a “move of God”, but if we are willing to notice them, to raise our awareness that He is present and desperate to meet us, it is just possible that noticing a speck of glitter on the floor, choosing to turn our eyes towards Him rather than trying to explain it away, will cause the Father to move in a way that will bring revival to our church, to our town and to our country.

God is still at work, He is still doing things in our days. Let’s not miss what He is doing because we are comfortable where we are and have a very carefully defined version of Him.

God doesn’t fit in our boxes. Sometimes the only way to really experience Him, is to step outside ours.

Reading between the lines

I recently had the enormous privilege of looking through my great grandfather’s bible. I found it incredibly humbling to hold in my hands the last book he read before he died. As I turned the pages, it was clear that it had been read often. Even though bible paper tends to be thin already, there were definitely pages that had been worn more thinly by frequent turning.

As I looked through, I was drawn to the verses that had obviously meant a lot to him, and he had underlined, or written brief notes against. Without being able to speak to him to enquire it was sometimes difficult to figure out why he might have highlighted them (Leviticus isn’t top of my list of “go to books” for assurance). Others were clear favourites and have been for generations of Christians.

I was drawn to one chapter that he had underlined in its entirety, Psalms 139.

In this well known and loved Psalm, David talks of his assurance that God the creator knows everything there is to know about him. He was there planning David before the cells that made David came together. He knows that God knows him intimately. He knows that God is everywhere, and that there is nowhere that David can hide from Him.

God knows every word that David will utter or write (including Psalm 139). He protects David and the thought that the God of the Universe cares about David in this was is too much for his head to comprehend, yet in the light of the knowledge all he can do is worship.

I love that we can read scripture again and again and God will reveal more of His heart, more of the message of the Kingdom, more that brings us closer to Him. If one of the aims of the Christian life is to become more like Jesus it inevitably means that we need to change.

As I read, it occurred to me that Psalm 139 is bookended by two similar but different concepts. The first, in verse 1 is a statement of fact. David writes “O LORD, you have searched me, and you know me.” He goes on in the next 22 verses to describe what the result of that search is. God is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient. He already knows everything about us.

In verse 23 David begins to ask a question of God. “Search me, O 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.”

In spite of the sure and certain knowledge that God has already completed the search and found out everything He needs to know; David asks Him to search again.

I wonder if the question David was really asking was “God , will you reveal to me the results of your search, and more importantly will you help me to trust you more, and will you show me what it is you want me to work on at this time?”

I think if we are honest with ourselves, we don’t really need anyone, let alone God to tell us about our secret failings. We are all too aware of them. The point is that knowledge doesn’t do anything to fix the problem. Asking God to highlight areas that need work is the beginning of becoming more like Jesus. Together with Him we can work on things that will change us from one degree of Glory to another. Perhaps what God will reveal to you when you ask is that you need to learn to trust Him more, to rest in the knowledge that He really does know everything. That He cares.

The key is to ask. Acknowledge He knows anyway, then ask Him to show you. Its just possible that the thing He wants to work on are not the things you think. Either way, my experience is that He will be with us every step of the way. All we have to do is ask.