Deo Gratias (1 Cor. 15:57)

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The Prelude:

Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Cor. 15:57-58)

Every morning, a specially appointed brother or sister walked along roamed the corridors of knocking on the doors of monks and nuns to wake them up to greet the day, and the Lord of the day.

As we emerge from our sleep-stupor and jumbled dreams, may we, as within cloistered walls, hear in spirit this summons to bless and praise our Lord: ‘Benedicamus Domino.’

In answer to this invitation we reply: ‘Deo Gratias’ – Thanks be to God: a response that shapes and sets the tone for the day, and which continues the call to unbroken communion.

The exhortation:

When you wake, my very dear friend,
let the clearest Deo Gratias rise unbidden from your lips.

Whether the day bids fair to happy things, or bodes full of weighty strains, may you seize this chance to stay your mind on Christ.

With practised hand, reach for the breastplate of righteousness and the helmet of salvation, placing all that preoccupies your mind before the Lord, and all the cares that would wear down upon your soul.

May He give you grace to shape and craft all that you have seen or felt and to turn it into prayer, and so make room for the Lord to move in and through and far beyond.

Firmly fix the belt of truth that sets you apart,
so that by the time you break your fast,
with the sword of the Spirit strapped to your side,
in your footsteps may be left an imprint of peace
that comes from the Prince of Peace Himself.

The Lord has many things that none but you can do, so rise up now in Spirit to do the bidding of your heavenly King.

In His name welcome whatever chances come your way to mentor and be mentored, to praise and to pray, to ponder and perform for love of Him.

This day, may your words ring out in love to comfort and inspire –  and to point people to the Source.

May Jesus give you the wisdom to identify the specific things that He would have you attend to throughout the day:
the issues for which you must contend,
the ones whom He would have you befriend,
any potential dead end that He would have you hold at bay.

May you pray prayers that count in Heaven’s court,
Countering and confounding inner and outer disarray,
scattering fear and shattering strongholds.

May the God of Light confirm and strengthen you in each good habit and in every good way – and lead you over round and past every potential stumbling stone.

May you reach your resting place each night   an undaunted Deo Gratias on your lips and in your heart.

Deo Gratias,  Glory be to God most High
for each project you have laboured in,
whether now complete or as yet half formed.

Deo Gratias to the King of Kings, for every sign of His Kingdom that He has sent and that you have followed.

Deo Gratias to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and to His Coming King, who strengthens and delivers you from every threat and snare,
and speeds you on your earthly race,
ever singing in your heart this power-full refrain:
Deo Gratias. Deo Gratias.

Reversing Maastricht and Lisbon – or into a dead end?

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I have been having problems with the brakes on my car. A mechanic assumed it needed nothing more than a new ABS Advanced Braking System sensor. I sensed it was more complex – and so it proved to be. How many people when they voted in the Referendum would have thought we would still be in our present impasse? Further on in this article we will be expressing a strong idea as to why this may have needed to occur.

Meantime we cannot but marvel at how Teresa May, is still standing at all, despite her intense dejection. I bumped into someone from church yesterday who told me that she had had a dream that she was sitting in a taxicab with Theresa May, who was terribly upset and crying. My friend reached over and placed her hand on her shoulder and prayed for her.

Linda Entwistle is among the many who have been spending a lot of time praying for her too. Back in June 2017 this is the prayer that Linda prayed for Theresa. It seems more relevant now than ever! Click here to join in her insightful prayer.

For more on the complexities involved in getting out of European treaties click here.

Of the millions who voted for ‘Leave’ many did so out a passionate conviction that we should never have committed ourselves as fully as we did to the European cause as embodied in the treaties of Maastricht and Lisbon. But leaving is proving to be far more complex than simply replacing one set of treaties and obligations with another.

Click here for a prophetic message about the significant role that Ireland could play in the coming months. If this word is right, it would certainly give an entirely different take on why an extension to Article 50 might prove both strategic and timely, rather than (as many commentators are inclined to see it) just another example of kicking a by-now-very-battered-can still further down the road. Read her insights here.

Japanese Peace

Komorebi: A Japanese Peace Piece

May the Lord open new doors for Jesus in Japan – Omo ga Nihon ni atarashī reitekina tobira o hiraku yō ni!

Operation World describes Japan as being the largest unevangelized nation that is completely open to missionaries – yet due to spiritual, socio-cultural, linguistic and financial difficulties, spreading the gospel there has consistently proved very hard.

I wrote this lovely short piece for flute and piano very much with Japan in mind as a piece to soak in and enjoy – but also as a way of bringing that country into focus. Continue reading

Manna for the Soul: Rich Musings on overcoming distractions and uniting our hearts with God

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Do you find when you set aside time to ‘mullinate,’ (to pray and ponder in the Lord’s presence) that you are bombarded left, right and centre by all sorts of distracting thoughts? The first thing to remember about these inevitable distractions is that we are on our Father’s side, just as He is on ours. But as surely as the Lord loves to slip in precious impressions, the enemy is at pains to plot and plan to see if he can slither in distractions and delusions in order to side-track our focus. He knows that if he can do that, it will diminish our energy and even our incentive to seek the living God.

Some of these disturbances are so intensely directed against us that they can feel all-consuming. It is as important to identify and deal with them as it would be to repel boarders from a ship! Or the powers of darkness simply draw on one of their plentiful supply of little ‘nothings’ in the attempt to fritter away our time.

May the Lord increase our ability to be still in the Lord’s presence – and to be quick to bring ourselves back to the Lord’s presence when our thoughts drift. This is a matter for discernment as well as resolution. With experience we learn to sense when something is a distraction, and when it is rather a sign that we would do better to be more lenient towards ourselves. We cannot possibly hope to get the balance right every time, any more than we can operate at 100% intensity the whole time. Focused meditation, like everything else, benefits from proper breaks.

Whatever it is that we are engaged on, discernment enables us to sense when we need to go the extra mile and push harder, and when we are wiser to take time away from it. Even just a few minutes can leave us feeling renewed and refreshed.

With these things in mind, and drawing extensively on themes that my great uncle, Bishop Frank Weston, addressed in some of his retreat talks and writings, we are offering this meditation to help us to overcome distractions, and to enrich our ponderings with the Lord, so that we can unite our hearts and minds more fully with His.

Lord in the midst of so much inner and outward noise,
I want to still my mind to pay attention to You and to You only.

In You Jesus, I cultivate the gift of internal stillness as well as external silence.
You are the Eternal Power, the ultimate force in the whole Universe –
and You make it possible
for each one who puts their trust in You to dwell with You,
and to walk with You in active partnership.

In Your name, Jesus, I shut out from my mind every distraction.
Deliver me from evil –
and from every fiery dart and flash of flame from the enemy’s magnifying glass that would have me direct my focus on things I don’t need to be steamed up about.

I want there to be more room in my heart for You:
to make it a sanctuary of prayer and worship;
a reflection of Your love,
and a mirror that shines with Your compassion for people.

Forgive me the many times I allow my heart to burn for that which is not of You,
For every time I do this I give You that much less room and opportunity to let Your love triumph in me.

Come deep within and do the work You need to do.
I long to pursue You with vigour and joy –
and the calling that You have spoken over me,

Keep me from sickness and slackness,
and from lingering in guilt over all I fail to do.

In Your holy name, and by Your great grace,
let me spend each coin of time that You give me wisely and well.

More on overcoming distractions

We must let our times of ‘mullinating’ grow their own fruit – but tend the fruit by getting into the habit of talking to the Lord at different times throughout the day.

It is the Father who willed that we, who live in a busy and sinful world, should become His temples. He knows all about the specific difficulties that we face, and He fully intends to renew and redeem our minds so that we can pray and respond to them in the power of the Spirit.

So long as we are prepared to continue the struggle against distractions there is no reason to be worried. We are giving the Father all He expects, and He values our prayer precisely because we are struggling not to succumb to the things that come our way.

I am not speaking of the times when we are lazy, and give up; but when the Lord sees us struggling against the distractions that daunt and dog our steps, we are not to be afraid of them. The Father thrusts us out into a world full of distractions and bids us to redeem it by our prayer. This is what gives prayer true meaning in His sight.

To the end of our lives we will never be completely free from difficulties and distractions, but as our will becomes slowly purer, and our desire stronger, we will find that their power over us is lessened. Little by little, we bring all the details of life into the Lord’s presence, so that all becomes one vast desire in our union with Him, as we fix our heart, mind and will on Him. We are in a great ‘school’ of His Sacred Heart, and it is His delight to teach and lead us, so that prayer becomes all the Father intends it to be as He moves through us to fulfil His will and purposes.

May we not be downhearted about our distractions, therefore. Where they are the result of past sin, the Lord Jesus forgives us as we bring them to Him – and when the devil taunts us with the reminder of them may we be quick to remind him that You have forgiven all that we have confessed to You in the past.

Where distractions come as a discipline that You need us to bear,
enlarge our heart to do so with a willing spirit, Lord!
Where the cares of the world are pressing in hard,
give us grace to turn away from them,
and to trust that You will find a way forward for us, through and beyond them.

But where they stem from the wiles of Satan,
empower us to show great resilience to resist and overcome them in Jesus’ name.

No matter how much we are hurting, may the Lord keep us from looking inwards, and convincing ourselves of our worthlessness. May we not focus our eyes too long either on outward circumstances, lest we find our faith faltering and daunted by the size of the challenge and by the seeming hopelessness of some situation. May we rather look up to His face, and remember the power that He has placed within us. Nothing is too difficult for Him.

It is fear and pride that hold us back from co-operating with His power – that dreary self-sufficiency which causes us to think that everything depends on our own wisdom and resources.

Lord, because You have chosen us, and I have responded to Your call, I open my heart now to meditate on the secret power of Christ at work in me. Your power outweighs all weakness, pain and cowardice, and enables me to keep on walking. That is why You urge us to “Lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Little by little, we find ourselves caring ever more passionately for others, as His concerns become ever increasingly our own. For His sake, we find an ever deepening concern for the well-being of the Church and for whatever other sphere He lays on our heart. His direction will be quite different from one person to the next.

Because we are learning to seek God about everything that comes across our path, prayer itself becomes a profound oneness with Jesus. Grant us the willingness to go whatever extra mile may be required in any situation, as well as to respond to those who have an obvious claim on our time and wherewithal.

Going deeper in the Word of God

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As a young Christian I remember dreaming of the Bible one day being freely available on a computer. I could never have imagined in those days that are at-once-so-close-and-yet-so-far-off that we would one day be blessed to have such extensive Bible resources available at the touch of a button. Praise God for all who had the vision and the wherewithal to make these great resources a reality: may we be hungry, thirsty and determined enough to make good use of them! Continue reading

Mullinating: Anything but boring!

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Let the beloved of the LORD rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the LORD loves rests between his shoulders.”  (Deut. 33:12)

No need to go reaching for a dictionary: you won’t find ‘mullinating!’ I was looking for a word that would embrace the concept of mulling, musing, marinating, and meditating, so I checked out to see if there was such a word as ‘mulinare’ in Italian. To my delight, I found that there was, and that it means ‘to brandish, spin or twirl’ – and figuratively, ‘to ponder or to ruminate’. So I promptly coined ‘mullinating’ to describe the precious process of pondering the meaning of things!

As ever the first thing we need to do is give ourselves permission to take the time to ‘mullinate.’ But I have found, as I am sure you will have done, that it is often in the course of such ‘down times’ (as opposed to times of feeling down!) that the Lord sows really helpful seeds and insights. Continue reading

Taking sides on Brexit

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Making Friday 22nd February a day of special focus in prayer.

There is certainly a need to pray for breakthrough into the apparent stalemate between Westminster and Brussels, even as new twists and turns continue to develop. The vote in Parliament on 29th January 2019, was significant because a number of Labour MPS voted with the government not to extend Article 50, bring the whole matter of timing into sharp focus with March 29th being only a few weeks ahead of us now. Pray for the handful of MPs from both sides who have stepped away in protest from their mother parties. Is their stance merely opportunistic individualism – a ‘straw in the wind’ – or is it something more than a symbolic gesture that others will follow, and which will lead to some degree of political realignment?

Although most people are bone weary of the whole topic, these things merit our attention, for the simple reason that we are called first and foremost to ‘pray for all men with all forms of prayers and requests as you intercede with intense passion. And pray for every political leader (or king) and representative, (or magistates) so that we would be able to live tranquil, undisturbed lives, as we worship the awe-inspiring God with pure hearts.’ (See 1 Tim. 2:1-3 TPT)

There has been a call to make Friday 22nd a day of special prayer and fasting – not in big meetings but simply where we are. I am sorry we were not able to give more advanced warning of this.

Praying ‘with intense passion’ sounds a great deal more inspiring than just supposing that our prayers are nothing but a ‘drop in an ocean!’ So let’s continue to play our part in the ongoing political and economic shaping of our times – remembering, too, the many who are losing their livelihoods in places such as Swindon and Jaguar-Landrover, irrespective of the extent to which these decisions were directly Brexit related or not.

To keep these wider issues in focus, we are passing on the following article from the Jubilee Centre. The comments at the end of it represent a wide and interesting range of viewpoints.

The Wood Cutter’s Story and the Call to Intensify our Prayer Life

Syncretistic Alert

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You will be aware of the the intense scrutiny the Catholic Church is under at the moment over the matter of clerical abuse. Praise God for every long overdue and positive forward step that is being taken in that direction. With all that is going on (or not going on!) with the Brexit negotiations, you may perhaps have missed the ‘small print’ details of the Pope’s recent joint declaration of fraternity that was very publicly signed with the grand imam of al-Azhar in the UAE in front of a global audience of religious leaders from Christianity, Islam, Judaism and other faiths. As we will see, however, the main concern I would like us to pray into here is a theological one.

There is no problem with the Pope’s call for peace between nations, religions and races, and the insistence that “religions must never incite war, hateful attitudes, hostility and extremism, nor incite violence or the shedding of blood.” But whilst most reports focused on the Pope celebrating a hugely well attended mass in Arab territory, other factors present were more disturbing. For a start there is the fact, although the UAE is setting itself up as a ‘centre for religious diversity,’ it remains unrelentingly quick to clamp down on any public manifestation of Christianity with regard to its own people. My main concern, however, is the theology implicit in the declaration, because it spoke of it being God’s will that there be a diversity of religions on earth.

What then of missionary endeavour and the whole history of the Church? Predictably there was no hint in the declaration of anything that promotes the uniqueness of Jesus. Effectively, therefore, it ‘airbrushes’ the consistent teaching of the New Testament that “there is salvation in no one else – and no other name under Heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

Why Syncretism poses peril to the Church

Most people reading this blog will be aware of eschatological expectations of a ‘one world religion’ in place in the end times. The following material – largely drawn from Ravens and the Prophet – highlights something that the Lord is particularly concerned about: the presentation of other gods as being equal to Himself, and the assumption that all religions are fundamentally the same.

I once met a man who had just heard his first word from the Lord. Quite literally, it was just one word: ‘syncretism.’ Amazingly, I met a teacher some time later who had precisely the same experience. Both had been startled to hear the Lord speaking to them so clearly – and both had been obliged to reach for a dictionary to find out what the word meant!

Syncretism is the attempt to blend elements of different faiths together under one banner. As such, this seemingly beneficial but man-made initiative actually represents a direct challenge to the heart of the Bible’s message that we are to love the Lord our God, and Him alone, with all of our hearts, – along with Jesus’ own declaration that He alone is the way, the truth and the life. (John 14:6)

Never for one moment did Jesus imply, let alone declare, that simply being sincere in what one believes is sufficient to procure our salvation. Instead He declares that without faith it is impossible to please Him (Heb. 11:6, cf John 10:8). This is not the language of one who believes that all approaches to life are equal in God’s sight.

Here is a simple, if rather absurd, analogy to help us to see how mistaken it is to assume that we can tack on bits of other religions to our own, without doing harm to the whole. Suppose a man were to go to his local railway station to find out which trains go to Glasgow. He is surprised but delighted when the ticket office assures him that every train goes there. Imagine his discomfiture a few minutes later when he discovers that he is on a non-stop express to London! All trains do not head in the same direction.

To put that in more theological terms: how can God be at one and the same time impersonal and distant (as in the huge pantheon of Hindu gods), there be one God but no Son (as in Islam), and personal and knowable through Jesus as in the Christian faith? These are fundamental incompatibilities that, in neither logic nor Spirit cannot all be true. All attempts to blend and ‘merge’ faiths along those lines invariably end up taking away from the heart of the gospel, just as all cults either add their own doctrines to and beyond Christ’s teaching, or else they subtract from it. We can basically define them, therefore, as falling into two camps: Christ plus – or Christ minus.

Unlike certain New Age and Hindu doctrines, the boundaries of God’s love are clearly delineated. Because Jesus sees matters from God’s viewpoint, how can He pretend that what is fundamentally displeasing to God can possibly be safe and right for us to trust in? Indeed, virtually every epistle in the New Testament takes pains to address such false teaching. The apostle John, for example, wrote his epistles not only to instruct and reassure young believers but to warn against the creeping incursion of Gnostic ideas into the Church.

Rather than acquiescing meekly with the spread of syncretistic beliefs, therefore, it is vital that we in the Church takes a clear stand. We rejoice not that every way leads to God, but rather that there is a way that leads to Him – and that He has made it possible for anyone from every possible background to find and walk in it!

John 14:6, the verse I referred to earlier, is effectively a vital litmus test for the Church. It is deeply concerning how many believers – and many leaders amongst them, actually do not believe, when push to comes to shove, that Jesus is the only way, truth and life – and that no one comes to the Father except by Him. But it is Jesus Himself who declares this to be the case!

To return to the declaration that the Pope has signed . . . many Catholic voices have already been raised to express concern.(1) The greatest danger lies not so much in one pope saying or doing one thing, but rather in this being perceived to be the accepted Church policy. May the Lord raise up wise and prophetic voices to lead the Church in affirming and upholding the uniqueness of who Jesus really is.

1) Some of you might be interested to look at these Catholic articles to understand how at odds the Pope’s stance is with the core belief of the Christian faith. Article one, article two and article three.

Work In Progress – A new album by Kat Mills

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It is hard to believe that it is over three years since we publicised Kat Mill’s lovely CD Out of the Ashes. She has recently written a new album for a secular market, and is releasing this track now as a single. Kat writes,

‘This album is an honest and vulnerable journey through being misunderstood, struggling with communicating and coming to terms with being autistic and learning to embrace who I am and what I have inside.

Music and song writing are my way of voicing what is on my heart, and where I feel most effective in communication. My heart behind this album is to give a frank view of the struggles and challenges I have faced over the years, and to show others who are similarly struggling that they are not on their own. Most importantly to remind them that they are not a mistake or ‘made wrong’! It also seeks to encourage others to look deeper than what is on the surface – and to look for the diamonds in amongst the rough.

I’ve called the album ‘Work in progress’, because that is my reality. We are all works in progress, and I have gone from initially understanding and embracing being autistic, to learning how to overcome the challenges that I face rather than being constantly crippled and defeated by them. My faith is a hugely important aspect of all of this, as I daily rely on God’s goodness and strength, and have seen so many breakthroughs. Yet it is a continuing journey.

Autism is a word that helps me understand how I work, why I process things in certain ways and helps me learn how to overcome many of these challenges. But it is not who I am, or the way I define myself. As well as being a vulnerable journey, this album is a celebration of coming to a place of peace and joy in who I am, and in feeling secure of my identity and in what I have to offer.

See Kat Mills Music

Asa Jennings: The extraordinary story of a miraculous deliverance

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. . . and why it would be good to pray for the lord to raise up more such champions

Most of us are ordinary people doing ordinary things from day to day. But because we are in the place the Lord has purposed for us, and doing the things He has created us to do, at any time He can up the ante and enable us to do truly extraordinary things that we could never achieve by our own strength alone. A friend posted an extraordinary story on his blog (Sternfield Thoughts) about an ordinary man who, in the wisdom and purposes of God, managed to save many tens of thousands of utterly desperate Armenian Christians in the Turkish city of Smyrna (today’s Izmir). Continue reading