Random Ramblings

Reflections on my walk with God


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Simply, Simon; Redux

Thoughts on the blankness of Holy Saturday from Sy at The Book of Works

The Book of Works

It is Holy Week, and I would like to repost something that I put up on Holy Saturday last year.

Holy Saturday is the day in-between. Very little is written about what happened on that day, but we can imagine.  We can imagine a man, much like us. A man defeated, alone, miserable and afraid. This man, who was once called a rock, today thinks of himself as simply – Simon. Imagine him sitting in a strange house in a city not his own, staring out the window, seeing nothing but his own failure, and the loss of all of his hopes and dreams. I have felt this way at times, and perhaps you have also.

He thinks of the glorious promise that he has witnessed the past months, the miraculous and wonderful things he has seen and heard. He thinks of the Man who showed so much faith in him…

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Love

My thoughts on 1 Corinthians 11-13 for Valentine’s Day.

All quotes are from the NASB translation unless otherwise noted

When I teach I always try to get my students to see the big picture before looking at the details. The big picture here is that Paul very much wants the Corinthians to understand that although they no longer have to follow strict rules and laws about food, behaviour, dress etc., they should act in ways that demonstrate their salvation. If we bear this in mind and, as always, remember that this is a letter (no chapter or verse divisions) perhaps some of the more troubling sections make more sense.

The beginning of Chapter 11 is one of those sections of scripture that we shy away from. It seems on the surface to be undeniably misogynistic. Paul lays down the law about the behaviour of women in church. I leave delving deeply into that to the theologians. However the HCSB study Bible points out that many behaviours (for all believers) were required to avoid alienating the Jews and/or avoiding doing anything which seemed to align them with pagan practises or rituals. If I may quote an example from my Pastor. He recently told us that whilst there is nothing in scripture to prohibit him preaching to us in his pyjamas, it would be inappropriate and would certainly upset many of the congregation. It would also give the wrong message to outsiders. A trivial example perhaps, but one which helps us to see why it is so important to not only do what is right, but be seen to do what is right.

In the next section of this chapter, Paul denounces the behaviour of some of the believers with regard to the Lord’s Supper. He has heard that many take it as an opportunity to eat and drink to excess. Perhaps even worse, whilst they are feasting, some of the brethren are eating very little. Such behaviour is wrong on so many levels, they are not sharing their food, they are exhibiting glutony, they are ignoring or even abusing the poor, they are disrepecting the institution of the Lord’s Supper, and in so doing dishonouring Jesus himself. This should be a a time of sharing and fellowship, there should be no distinction between them, certainly not based on wealth.

For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; (Romans 10:12)

The sharing of the Lord’s Supper should be distinct from general eating and drinking, believers are advised to eat before coming together for the Lord’s supper. We can perhaps assume that if they were celebrating communion as part of general fellowship, they would be expected to share all that they had, so that each received sufficient food. Paul urged them (and us) to make sure that they were worthy; in particular they should confess unforgiven sin and make themselves right with each other before sharing the bread and wine.

Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself [herself], and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. (1 Corinthians 11:27-29)

During fellowship it would be commonplace to talk about how the Lord was working in the lives of the believers. Perhaps Paul had heard that some thought themselves better than others because they had “superior” gifts.

For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. (1 Corinthians 12:8-11)

As we share in the Lord’s Supper and share fellowship, so we should share the gifts that we have been given.

There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. (1 Corinthians 12:6-11)

The gifts are given not to glorify the individual but to allow believers all to work together. Just as a healthy body needs all of it parts to function correctly and work together, so a healthy church needs all of it’s members to use their gifts and work together. No member of the church is more important than another, though perhaps it can be argued that some are more essential. Just as the heart and brain are essential for life, so some members of the church may have more important roles, but all members are equal in their relationship with Christ.

Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. (1 Corinthians 12:27-28)

Paul finishes this part of his letter (chapter 12) with a series of questions and then goes on to “show us a more excellent way”. Chapter 13 is such a well known passage of scripture. It is a wonderful description of what love should look like. However, if we read it in the original context, i.e. continuing on from chapter 12 with no chapter or verse breaks, it becomes even more wonderful. Paul is clearly telling us that gifts are useless, if they are not used in and with love.

All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way.
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13)

Roman13:10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.


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A Christmas Open Letter to His Royal Highness – Prince Charles

Powerful words and wisdom from David Robertson

THE BLOG OF DAVID ROBERTSON

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Your Royal Highness,

I am writing to you to thank you for your Thought for the Day as given on BBC Radio 4 yesterday.  I appreciate what you said and also the manner in which you said it.   I remember the kindness you showed to a woman in my former congregation, Brora Free Church.  Megan Boyd told me how sometimes  you popped in to see her on your way up North – not least because she was the best fly-tyer in the world – but your kindness was largely unknown until the film To Kiss the Water, told the story.  Thanks.

I also appreciate your evident concern for the well being of those who are persecuted because of their faith.  As it happens I had just been reading about the Christians being beheaded in Aleppo and so it was particularly moving to hear your account of meeting the Syrian Orthodox…

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Creation Hymn

​In my Every Day with Jesus devotionals, the focus at present is on the Prophet Amos. 

Most of the book is very much about judgement on the unfaithful people of Israel. Interspersed are these beatiful verses described as Amos’ creation hymn. Amos reminds the people (and us) that as Creator, Gid is in control and has ultimate authority.

For behold, He who forms mountains and creates the wind And declares to man what are His thoughts, He who makes dawn into darkness And treads on the high places of the earth, The Lord God of hosts is His name.

Amos 4:13 NASB

He who made the Pleiades and Orion And changes deep darkness into morning, Who also darkens day into night, Who calls for the waters of the sea And pours them out on the surface of the earth, The Lord is His name.

Amos 5:8 NASB

The Lord God of hosts, The One who touches the land so that it melts, And all those who dwell in it mourn, And all of it rises up like the Nile And subsides like the Nile of Egypt; The One who builds His upper chambers in the heavens And has founded His vaulted dome over the earth, He who calls for the waters of the sea And pours them out on the face of the earth, The Lord is His name.

Amos 9:5‭-‬6 NASB


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Speaking in Tongues

I’ve always been a bit bemused about speaking in tongues. I have admittedly only witnessed it once ir twice , though have seen it in video clips. Why would God talk through someone in an incomprehensible stream of sound? There was no interpreter on the occasion that I witnessed this occurrence and it left me pretty baffled and in no way left me feeling as if the Spirit had spoken.

Acts 1 (in various translations of the Bible) indicates different languages or different tongues. The understanding is that the gift is the ability to speak to those from different nations. It does not say that they were babbling.

Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean?” (Acts 2:3-12 NKJV)

And as Paul laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spoke in [foreign, unknown] tongues (languages) and prophesied. (Acts 19:6 AMP)

Also in 1Cor 14:6-25 Paul admonishes that the gift of tongues should be used with care to teach and glorify God.  He also says that if there is no interpreter present then the person speaking in tongues should not do so aloud.

But now now, brethren, if I come to you speaking in tongues, what will I profit you unless I speak to you either by way of revelation or of knowledge or of prophecy or of teaching? (1 Corinthians 14:6 NASB)

If I speak in tongues and I do not understand what I am saying, and there is no interpreter available, what is the point? No one is edified by this as none have gained knowledge from my utterances. How can I expect  anyone to say “Amen” if they do not understand? Indeed should we ever say “Amen” if we do not understand and agree with the prayer that has been spoken?

What then is the conclusion, brothers? Whenever you come together, each one has a psalm, a teaching, a revelation, another language, or an interpretation. All things must be done for edification. If any person speaks in another language, there should be only two, or at the most three, each in turn, and someone must interpret. But if there is no interpreter, that person should keep silent in the church and speak to himself and to God. (1 Corinthians 14:26-28 HCSB)

Today in our Pentecost service we were reminded that the Holy Spirit came upon all who were gathered in the upper room. Men and women. All heard a sound like a great wind, all received the Holy Spirit and were given the gift of tongues so that they may share the Gospel far and wide. The many visitors to the city heard the good news in their own language and dialect, no translators were needed. The Church was born in power but also in the simplicity of each person’s mother tongue. All could understand the message. All could take Gospel with them back to their own land.

Are we doing likewise?


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Follow me

My readings today include Luke 5 and I’m reminded that we are called to follow Jesus, often this calling may require that we leave our comfort zone, it may mean that we leave jobs, family, friends … Everything that we hold onto in this world. Can we “up sticks” and move to where God sends us?

Ruth leaves everything to follow Naomi. Her family, her people, her gods. She is faithful to Naomi and trusts in her God.
But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” (Ruth 1:16, 17 ESV)

When Saul hears about the threats from the Ammonites, he is seized with anger and cuts up the oxen that he is ploughing with. He sends the pieces to the rest of Israel as a rallying call to follow him.
He took a yoke of oxen and cut them in pieces and sent them throughout all the territory of Israel by the hand of messengers, saying, “Whoever does not come out after Saul and Samuel, so shall it be done to his oxen!” Then the dread of the Lord fell upon the people, and they came out as one man. (1 Samuel 11:7 ESV)

Elisha stops ploughing, sacrifices his oxen and uses the yokes to cook the meat. Completely giving up everything to follow Elijah.
And he returned from following him and took the yoke of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the yokes of the oxen and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and went after Elijah and assisted him. (1 Kings 19:21 ESV)

When Jesus calls His first disciples they literally get up and leave everything behind. They don’t even know Jesus but are drawn by Him to follow. In Luke’s gospel the fishermen are described as having caught the biggest catch of their lives, but still they leave it. They leave family, friends and a small fortune in fish – security for them and their loved ones.
And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him. (Luke 5:11 ESV)

Later in the same chapter Jesus calls Levi, a tax collector and therefore a rich and hated man. Levi does not hesitate:
After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.”  And leaving everything, he rose and followed him (Luke 5:27-28 ESV).


As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”  And He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.”  Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Luke 9:57‭-‬62 NASB

Can I give up everything that I rely on to follow Jesus? Can I let go and let God today?


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Trust, Wait, Rest, Work

10 years ago I walked into a church for the first time in many, many years. At this time I had never “read” the Bible. Being brought up as a good Catholic girl, I was familiar with the new testament – well maybe not all the letters or revelation – and had a passing acquaintance with the main OT stories, but had not read most of the Pentateuch or Psalms, or Proverbs, etc

It was daunting to say the least. With my pastor’s support (massive thanks to him) and a “Read the Bible in a year” guide (given to me by my church) I got started. Took me over 3 years ….. (more on that later).

Certain words grabbed my attention as I started to read. The first of these was “Trust“…..

Trust in the Lord with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

In the amplified Bible this verse conveys anticipation:
Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths.

But I struggled with this – what did it mean to trust in God? I am a scientist by nature and I trust that which I can see materially or have empirical evidence for. By nature God is unknown and unknowable.

I contemplated trust whilst I ploughed through the Deuteronomy, Numbers, Leviticus – trying not to fall asleep over my Bible.

My next “instruction” was to wait exemplified by one of my favourite Bible verses, Isaiah 40:31.

Yet those who wait for the Lord Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.

The amplified Bible again conveys the idea of anticipation and also that waiting is not passive:
But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up [close to God] as eagles [mount up to the sun]; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired.

While I was still trying to get my head around trusting and waiting my next word was given – Rest.  This seemed like a great idea – lean back against the Lord and just chill out, or maybe not. Another favourite verse comes to mind many, many times when I feel in need of rest, Matthew 11:28:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

However, Matthew 11:29-30 goes on ..

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

The Amplified Bible does not suggest stopping all activity, we are to take up the “yoke” that Jesus gives us, in the knowledge that He will enable us to carry it.
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls.] Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest (relief and ease and refreshment and recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls.

In other contexts a resting place is very much envisaged as a place of reward from righteous labour.

Isaiah 11:10:
In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.

Isaiah 30:15:
This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.

My final word in the sequence was Work. at this point it started to make sense. Before I could work for the Lord I needed to understand what He wanted me to work at. This required being still, listening to Him, resting in His presence and trusting Him to lead me on the right path.

Work is something that we are all called to do. In Genesis 2:15 God “put him [Adam] into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.”  We are made Imago Deo – in God’s image – our work is thus a reflection of His work as is our rest.

5 years ago I had a period of prolonged illness which forced me to do nothing for most of the day (rest) – that was when I finished “the Bible in a year”. I learned that resting in God was truly not passive, it was a time of enormous growth in my Faith.

I see these words as a cycle in my growth. At any time I may be in a place where I really need to just trust even though I can’t see where I’m being lead! I may need to wait for instruction or to rest and learn in His presence (like Mary), or to get to work (like Martha).