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Reverend Paul Collings BTh (Hons) - - - paul.collings@methodist.org.uk - - - 01392 206229 - - - 07941 880768

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We are a community of faith seeking to discover the face of Jesus Christ in our Church, in our Community and in our Commitment.

Monday 4 March 2024

Faith Thoughts


Today we look at a third inspirational set of words of wisdom from George McDonald. “It is our best work that God wants, not the dregs of our exhaustion. I think he must prefer quality to quantity.”

In a similar way Oswald Chambers asks a question  in his book ‘The Utmost for the Highest’ where he says, “Are you seeking great things for yourself, instead of seeking to be a great person? God wants you to be in a much closer relationship with Himself than simply receiving His gifts—He wants you to get to know Him. Even some large thing we want is only incidental; it comes and it goes. But God never gives us anything incidental. There is nothing easier than getting into the right relationship with God, unless it is not God you seek, but only what He can give you.”


However, a story is told of a  ceramics teacher announced that he was dividing the class into two groups.


All those on the left side of the studio he would grade solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality.


His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: 50 pounds of pots rated an “A”, 40 pounds a “B”, and so on.


Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot — albeit a perfect one — to get an “A”.


Long came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity.


It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work-and learning from their mistakes — the “quality” group had sat theorising about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.


Paul writing to Colossians 3:17 said Let Christ’s teaching live in your hearts, making you rich in the true wisdom. Teach and help one another along the right road with your psalms and hymns and Christian songs, singing God’s praises with joyful hearts. And whatever you may have to do, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, thanking God the Father through him.


You are the God of abundance and You offer Yourself freely to us. Renew my faith and joy in my daily tasks, knowing Your presence is there with me, ministering to my heart. You are never far, Lord. Realign my heart to walk with you each moment, drawing on the strength that you give. Thank you, Lord, for your promises and for fresh grace today. Thank you for Jesus.

Amen. 


Saturday 2 March 2024

Faith Thoughts


Another of George McDonald’s helpful insights can be found in the words, “My prayers, my God, flow from what I am not; I think your answers make me what I am.” 

Again these words find a parallel in Paul’s words, “For I am the least worthy of all the apostles, and I shouldn’t even be called an apostle at all after the way I treated the church of God. But whatever I am now it is all because God poured out such kindness and grace upon me—and not without results: for I have worked harder than all the other apostles, yet actually I wasn’t doing it, but God working in me, to bless me.” 1 Corinthians 15:9-10 (Living Bible)

The dilemma of an unclear sense of personal identity was  illustrated by an incident in the life of the famous German  philosopher Schleiermacher, who did much to shape the progress of  modern thought. The story is told that one day as an old man he  was sitting alone on a bench in a city park. A policeman  thinking that he was a vagrant came over and shook him and asked,  "Who are you?" Schleiermacher replied sadly, "I wish I knew."


In Paul’s case, he declares that his only claim to being anyone is by God's grace, a messenger of Christ. A smile definition is that Grace is the unearned gift of God. What Paul is saying is that he did not reform himself and start over. He was transformed and sent out.


An engineer had this note taped inside his desk drawer at his office: "This is not my life. This is my job. Christ is my life."


Heavenly Father, thank you that like Paul it is by the grace of God that I am what I am.. It is by Your grace that I have been saved through faith in Christ and it is by grace that I am maturing in the faith and being conformed into the image and likeness of Christ.. for Your praise and glory. Thank You for the example of Paul who has helps us to understand that it is not the labour of my hand that is reckoned as righteousness.. but the grace of God that is with me and working through me.. that words the work of God. May I do all to Your praise and glory. Thank You in Jesus name, AMEN.


Friday 1 March 2024

Thoughts of Faith


As we enter March we return to the the writings of George McDonald with his pithy yet revealing words “As Christ is the blossom of humanity, so the blossom of every one is Christ perfected in them.”

Paul writing to the Colossians spoke of this Christly Perfection in this way. “So everywhere we go we talk about Christ to all who will listen, warning them and teaching them as well as we know how. We want to be able to present each one to God, perfect because of what Christ has done for each of them. This is my work, and I can do it only because Christ’s mighty energy is at work within me.” Colossians 1:28-29


The word perfect in the Greek is a word full of meaning. It can mean

  1. brought to its end, 
  2. finished -  wanting nothing necessary to completeness 
  3. fully mature 


Later in his life, C S Lewis, questioned what maturity really looked like; “When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am 50, I read them openly. When I became a man, I put away childish things -- including the fear of childishness and the desire to be grown-up. “


At a church bible study on the subject of Christian Maturity, someone said, "Being spiritually mature probably means you don't try to figure out whether the people around you are spiritually mature or not." Someone else said, "It's all I can do to figure out what God wants me to do. I don't need to try to figure out what God wants everyone else to do."


Simply put, as in our an earlier devotional, is Christian Maturity as simple as, “Letting go ad Letting God!”


God of unity and love,

place within each of us

a spirit of hope and community.

Have mercy upon us

when we speak without love

or act without humility.

Cleanse us with the living water of your grace.

Create in us willing hearts

to live in patience and gentleness.

Raise us up to be your children,

growing toward maturity

in faith and love.

Strengthen this church,

that we may be a model

of ministry and unity

for all the world to see. Amen


Thursday 29 February 2024

Celtic Daily Prayer


To complete our month of exploring Celtic Daily Prayer, I share the mid-day canticle used by the Northumbria Community:

Teach us, dear Lord, to number our days;

that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

Oh, satisfy us early with Thy mercy,

that we may rejoice and be glad all of our days.

And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us;

and establish Thou the work of our hands.

And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us;

and establish Thou the work of our hands, dear Lord.


It is said that beauty is seen in the eyes of the beholder. This literally means: that the perception of beauty is subjective - people can have differing opinions on what is beautiful. So what one person perceives as flawless and captivating might be ordinary or unappealing to another.


The concept that each individual has a different inclination of what is beautiful first appeared in the 3rd century BC in Greek. According to Plato, the sense of beauty is itself transient in nature. So, a thing beautiful for one might not be beautiful for the other.


Interestingly, Peter speaks of beauty this way; “Your beauty should not come from outward adornments, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewellery and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.” 1 Peter 3:3-4


Charles William Eliot (1834-1926), former president of Harvard University, had a birthmark on his face that bothered him greatly. As a young man, he was told that surgeons could do nothing to remove it. Someone described that moment as "the dark hour of his soul."  Eliot's mother gave him this helpful advice: "My son, it is not possible for you to get rid of that hardship...But it is possible for you, with God's help, to grow a mind and soul so big that people will forget to look at your face." 


Surely, the essence of this beauty is succinctly put in a verse by Albert Orsborn


Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me,
All his wonderful passion and purity,
O thou Spirit divine, all my nature refine,
Till the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.


Just think, that when Jesus appeared to the disciples he did so with nail prints in his hand; now that’s a beauty to behold!


Lord God, I want to see the little things

That bring beauty to my day

That make me smile and grateful to be alive.

I want to be attentive to

Even the tiniest way in which

You show your love and care for me.

When I’m overwhelmed by my circumstances,

When I’m fearful of the days ahead,

When I’m sad and upset,

Show me how to be

thankful

For every little thing that is delightful,

For every single person who is wonderful,

For even one moment when I experience

The beauty of Your peace, love, and grace

In my life.

Amen

Wednesday 28 February 2024

Celtic Daily Prayer


Finally the Celtic Evening Prayer ends with these words

See that ye be at peace among yourselves, my children, and love one another.

Follow the example of the wise and good

and God will comfort you and help you,

both in this world

and in the world which is to come.


If there is one word that seems to be on so many people’s hearts and minds it’s that of Peace in our troubled world. But as the famous quotation by Inger Skjelsb├Žk reads, “If peace is just the absence of war, then you have peace in lots of places. But if peace is also well-being and resilience to conflicts, then it is more challenging.”


Surely this is what Jesus was getting at when he said, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27 (Living Bible) Here, Jesus promises peace, a peace that the world cannot give. We all yearn for inner peace, for peace in our families and in our communities. We are shocked at wars that seem never-ending, where no one seems willing to seek peace. 


We ask Jesus for the peace he offers me, we ask for the grace to be like him, bringing peace wherever we are.


In 1555, Nicholas Ridley was burned at the stake because of his witness for Christ. On the night before Ridley's execution, his brother offered to remain with him in the prison chamber to be of assistance and comfort. Nicholas declined the offer and replied that he meant to go to bed and sleep as quietly as ever he did in his life. Because he knew the peace of God, he could rest in the strength of the everlasting arms of his Lord to meet his need. 


Is this the sort of example that the Evening Celtic Prayer suggests that we should follow.


Creator God,

may your peace go with us 

wherever we will be this day

May you guide us through the challenges,

protect us when in need

and inspire us with your love.


May we acknowledge your presence

in all the human goodness we will see.


May you bring us home rejoicing

to our place of rest this night.


Creator God,

we now go into this day in the name of the Father

and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Tuesday 27 February 2024

Celtic Daily Prayer


In the shadow of Your wings
I will sing Your praises, O Lord.


I believe I shall see the goodness

of the Lord in the land of the living.

O wait for the Lord!

Have courage and wait,

wait for the Lord.


We have spoken of waiting for and upon God before, but perhaps we need this daily reminder in order to see the goodness of the Lord. As this portion of Celtic evening prayer suggests, it sometimes takes courage to wait for the Lord.


This is the theme that Paul takes up in his letter to the Romans. (8:24-25) “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience”


Waiting on the Lord is one of the hardest things we’ll ever have to do. As humans, our nature is to go it alone, try to accomplish things in our own strength, and take control of the situation. But that’s often not in our best interest. Too often I get ahead of God and try to accomplish things I’m not ready for.


When we are in a time of waiting, everything in us screams, “Just do it!” However, our Father’s time keeping is on a quite different level. Our part is to know that this time is where I need to wait on the Lord. He has already provided a miracle, a gift we’ve been desiring for years. However, in order to receive that gift, one more piece needs to fall into place. It’s incredibly hard to be still and wait for Lord to provide, but we can know that He will because He already has. The question is, will we have the courage to wait on His provision or try to force my own outcome?


Father, I pray for a heart to trust You in every circumstance. I release my desires, my intentions, and the issues of my heart to You. You see any difficulty I am having right now. I will allow Your Word to guard me and provide the safety I need. I give You complete control. I choose to trust Your faithful presence to keep me safe. You are my waiting place, Lord, in Jesus' name. Amen


Monday 26 February 2024

Celtic Daily Prayer


We now reach the concluding parts of Celtic Evening Prayer with the words

In the shadow of Your wings

I will sing Your praises, O Lord.


One thing I ask of the Lord,

one thing I seek;

to dwell in the presence of my God,

to gaze on Your holy place.


Living in the presence of God is such a mind blowing concept to conjure up. But is that the issue, that our image of the presence of God is so set that we often miss or misinterpret his nearness? What if we turn the phrase around and consider that it is God who is present with us, even in the ordinary hum drum life of every day.


Song writer Noel Richards has the lyrics that say….


To be in Your presence
To sit at Your feet,
Where Your love surrounds me,
And makes me complete.
To rest in Your presence,
Not rushing away;
To cherish each moment,
Here I would stay.

This is my desire Lord


Is it because we so often seek the presence of God using our preconceived image of the divine that we overlook his ever gracious presence.


Thomas Torrance likes to repeat a simple story of what he calls “the unconditional nature of grace.” He writes, “Our grasping of Christ by faith is itself enclosed within the mighty grasp of Christ.” Then he shares this story.


I sometimes recall what happened when my daughter was learning to walk. I took her by the hand to help her, and I can still feel her fingers clutching my hand. She was not relying on her feeble grasp of my hand, but on my strong grasp of her hand.


Is that not how we are to understand the faith by which we lay hold of Christ as our Saviour? It is thus that our grasp of faith, feeble though it is, is grasped and enfolded in the mighty grasp of Christ who identifies himself with us, and puts himself in our place.


Lord, as I come before You and dwell in Your presence, will You show me what You want me to see? Will You let me hear what You are speaking over me? Will You teach me how to be trustworthy, that I may grow to be trusted by You? I want to see You, Lord.


Will You teach me how to remain in the secret place of Your presence? Will You guide me and remind me, and teach me how to live in this place of Your holy presence? Lord, will You remind me constantly to keep my eyes upon You? Will You give me constant reminders that You are here with me, that You are before and behind me, always surrounding me, always near and always here? Keep me in constant awareness of You. Amen