Fore Street Topsham, Exeter

Minister : Reverend Paul Collings BTh (Hons) : email : : Telephone : 01392 206229 : Mobile : 07941 880768

About Us

St Nicholas Methodist Church has existed on the present site for over 150 years since it opened in 1867.

We are a friendly community of believers where all are welcomed. We help each other to worship God, and strive to live more like Christ in service beyond the walls of our church building.

Part of the
Exeter Coast and Country Circuit of the Methodist Church.

Thursday, 30 September 2021

An ABC of Prayer


Psalm 19:17 has the lovely phrase “let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us, And establish the work of our hands for us; Yes, establish the work of our hands.”

Whilst I know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder there is something astounding in perceiving the beauty of Jesus.

Albert Orsborn paraphrased this desire in the refrain,

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. 

Another wrote

Come, beautiful Christ,

Radiate thy beauty in me.

'Tis thee I adore,

What can I ask more

Than to live for thee, beautiful Christ.

In 2 Corinthians 4:6 we find Paul praying, “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” Is he alluding to the Creation Narrative where God declares light into being and asking that such recreating light might shine in the hearts of the faithful. But more than that, that reflective beauty of the living Christ might shine in us.

Have you ever noticed when passing a stranger and you smile at them, that inevitable the beauty of a smile brings forth a smiling response.

Augustine of Hippo in a sermon said, “He then is beautiful in heaven, beautiful on earth; beautiful in the womb, beautiful in his parents’ arms; beautiful in his miracles; beautiful under the scourge; beautiful when inviting to life ... beautiful in laying down his life; beautiful in taking it up again; beautiful on the cross; beautiful in the sepulchre; beautiful in heaven.”

In this eloquent passage, Augustine takes us ‘from heaven to heaven’ At every stage in that story, beauty characterises Christ, even when he is laying down his life on the cross. Augustine’s comments provide a framework for reflecting on Christ’s beauty.


The beauty of God

be reflected in your eyes,

the peace of God

reside within your heart,

and the love of God

be the focus of your life,

this day and all days. Amen

Wednesday, 29 September 2021

An ABC of Faith


Someone once prayed,  “We have no portrait of you, Lord, but in the Beatitudes you show us your interior landscape, the source of your joy.” The Beatitudes are not a set of regulations, but a vision of where true happiness lies. 

If you think about it, Jesus lived every one of the ‘blesséds’. Just list them, notice how he might have lived them himself. He was merciful, pure in heart (single-minded), a peacemaker. All the others find space in his life. Note them as you read the gospel and in your prayer. Jesus knew each of the Beatitudes from the inside out. He knew just where the blessing and presence of God may be found.

I love the story of a child was once asked for a definition of a saint. She said ‘A stained glass window!' Asked why, she explained, ‘The different colours let in the light and every saint is a different colour of God.' Every one of our unknown saints coloured God in a new way in his or her corner of the globe. We are grateful for the lives of so many people of every age, church and century who have lived their lives as best they could within the vision and spirit of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

What the world sees as tragic or empty, Jesus sees as blessed: humility, mourning, gentleness, peacefulness and other virtues. Jesus lived by these qualities himself and we can notice them in his words and actions during his life with us on earth. He could encourage us to live in the spirit of the Beatitudes because he himself lived them and knew that a life of integrity and honesty is indeed a blessed life.

Easy to recite these ‘blesséds’ as a sort of mantra yet in a real sense these are the vision statement of Jesus. All who live according to his way of life are – and will be – richly blessed.

Spend some time today allowing these blessings to come home to you. Imagine Jesus carefully speaking them to you, aware of you poverty, sadness and hunger.

As we live with difficulties, may we seek to hear Jesus speaking the Beatitudes to us as I encounter them.

A prayer

Lord, I confess that sometimes I choose to focus on the negatives, instead of focusing on what you’ve called me to focus on. Help me take the words of Philippians 4:8 to heart. In every moment of every day, help me focus on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable, so that my attitude may reflect and honour you. As I practice shifting my perspective, keep my heart from growing cold or bitter. Teach me to remember that I am not a slave to my negative emotions. Because of your Spirit, I can tell those emotions to be removed and turn my eyes to the things of you, instead. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Tuesday, 28 September 2021

An ABC of Faith


Who cannot but be moved by the delightful rendition of John Rutter’s “The Lord Bless you and Keep you,” where he takes the words of Numbers 6:24-26 and weaves them into a song of blessing. “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

A number attempts have been made to place the ancient word Blessing into contemporary language, that I regret falls short of beauty and mystery of this sacred term.  For example Today’s English version uses the word happy, but for me there is something deeper and much richer behind the word blessing. Yes, it means a state of happiness but the Hebrew word for Blessing (berakhah) also means to kneel, to praise.

The function of a berakhah is to acknowledge God as the source of all blessing. Berakhah also have an educational function to transform a variety of everyday actions and occurrences into religious experiences designed to increase awareness of God at all times.  

This awareness of God is true of the Beatitudes, which we will consider tomorrow, where the state of vulnerability of those who receive God’s blessing seems anything but a state of happiness.  Matthew Henry for example writes, “What we count as the ills of life are often blessings in disguise, resulting in good to us in the end. Though for the present not joyous but grievous, yet, if received in a right spirit, they work out fruits of righteousness for us at last.”

It is worth noting the tale that Sadhu Sundar Singh, relays. “While I was in Tibet I saw a Buddhist, a monk, who had lived for five or six years in a cave. When he went into the cave he had good eyesight. But because he stayed so long in the darkness his eyes grew weaker and weaker, and at last he became quite blind. It is just the same with us. If we do not use the blessings which we have received from God for His Glory, we are in danger of losing them forever.”

A prayer

Blesséd Lord, I am so grateful for how you keepin those around me safe and loved. ... I am extremely grateful for all of your blessings in my life, Lord. I pray that you remind me of just how blessed I am and that you never allow me to forget to show my gratitude in prayer and returned acts of kindness. Thank you, Lord. Amen

Monday, 27 September 2021

An ABC of Faith


It was John Newton who philosophically once said, “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am”

Paul also speaks of becoming within the Christian Context in 1 Corinthians 9:22 “To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” Whilst a paraphrase of 2 Corinthians 5:17 could read, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, they have become new.”

John Wesley, in his inimitable way, placed a sense of responsibility upon the believer on becoming a follower of Jesus Christ. “When a man becomes a Christian, he becomes industrious, trustworthy and prosperous. Now, if that man when he gets all he can and saves all he can, does not give all he can, I have more hope for Judas Iscariot than for that man!"

There is a sense of the present and future in this notion of “be-coming.”  To be - to exist in a particular time, place, a way of living. Coming - a movement towards a goal or objective. A marking and acknowledgement of where we are by the grace of God whilst being in a state of transition into what and who we can become through the Grace of God seen in the life, death and renewing resurrection of Christ.

John Gowans in the musical Glory speaks of this transitional transformation in the words. 

If we say that we have no sim

Then we deceive ourselves

It’s true;

But when we own our sins,

And then disown our sins,

The work of Grace begins


It’s the work of a moment, 

It’s the work of a lifetime,

It begins in an instant,

It can take eternity.

But the work of the Spirit,

Of the world-changing Spirit,

Can begin at this moment for me

Even in me.


Dear Lord,  I pray that I become transformed by the renewing of my mind that I may learn to understand Your will for my life, which is good and pleasing and perfect. I thank You for my spiritual growth and transformation, help me focus on the godly values and ethical attitudes that will help me flourish spiritually, emotionally and mentally, Amen.

Saturday, 25 September 2021

An ABC of Faith


Alleluia - God be praised - often uttered in worship throughout the bible. The Hebrew word Halleluya as an expression of praise to God was preserved, untranslated, by the Early Christians as a superlative expression of thanksgiving, joy, and triumph.

The word hallelujah first appeared in the book of Psalms in the Old Testament, a combination of two Hebrew words, "hallel" meaning praise and "jah" meaning God. But it's in Christianity that hallelujah or the Latinised "alleluia"  became best known as a word of great emotional energy. It also appears as a triumphant ending in the book of Revelations where we read, “Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.”

It was Leonard Cohen a Canadian singer-songwriter, poet, and novelist who explored religion, politics, isolation, depression, sexuality, loss, death and romantic relationships in his music and challenged the idea that all there was in the world was damage and despair who said, “It's the notion that there is no perfection - that there is a broken world and we live with broken hearts and broken lives but still there is no alibi for anything. On the contrary, you have to stand up and say hallelujah under those circumstances.” He went on to write the hit number “Hallelujah”

Another song writer, Candi Stanton, who lived a troubled life in her song “Hallelujah Anyway” lists life’s troubles but resolves her depression in the refrain:-

Praise him till your blessings come down

Praise him till your situation turns around

You gotta lift up your voice and say:

Hallelujah anyway

Hallelujah anyway

In many ways these two songwriters are following the scriptural tradition of lament. N T Wright  invites us to remember that Christianity offers us a way to lament that leads to hope: “It is no part of the Christian vocation, then, to be able to explain what’s happening and why. In fact, it is part of the Christian vocation not to be able to explain—and to lament instead. As the Spirit laments within us, so we become, even in our self-isolation, small shrines where the presence and healing love of God can dwell.”

In many senses though our songs may be in a minor motif of now, become one day a resolved major chord. When every tear is wiped away, when death is swallowed up in victory, when heaven and earth are made new and joined as one, when the saints rise in glorious bodies…then we will sing at last a great, “Hallelujah!”

May our prayer today be “Alleluia Anyway” Amen

Friday, 24 September 2021

An ABC of Faith


What makes you angry?

It is clear from the New Testament, much like today’s church, things were not always plain sailing and that disputes and even angry exchanges were sometimes voiced.  So much so, that James felt he needed to speak up with some advice. “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,  because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” James 1:19-20

The word Anger comes from Middle English meaning grief, pain, trouble, affliction, vexation, sorrow, wrath. That deep feeling that rises from within. It was Aristotle who said, “Anybody can become angry - that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way - that is not within everybody's power and is not easy.”

True, the New English Bible in translating the Temple Incident where Jesus overturned the Money Changers tables says that Jesus did this in the spirit of “Righteous Indignation.”

Perhaps it is what we do with those deep rising feelings that is what James is suggesting. Jesus according to Matthew advices that we should not let anger control us but address the situation in love

“I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. Settle matters quickly with your adversary” (Matthew 5:22-25).

If we am at all human, we probably find feelings of hurt, resentment and bitterness come to the surface in prayer. People we wish to forget inhabit the spaces of my prayer.  Jesus challenges us to reconciliation. This can be very difficult and may not happen immediately. We can always pray for someone sincerely – that is the beginning of reconciliation. The call in a time of prayer is to see the other who has hurt or damaged me as being equally loved by God. This realisation works no easy miracle of healing, but is a step on the road to forgiveness.


Show me my heart, Lord, and the corners where I harbour resentment or hatred or contempt. Then help me to clean them out. Amen

Thursday, 23 September 2021

An ABC of Faith


“Well," said Pooh, "what I like best," and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called.” 

Anticipation is an expectation of what might be. We feel good imagining the way things will happen. For example if you plan a trip/vacation that you have been waiting for since a long time. You imagine all the wonderful things you will do, where you will go, what you will eat and so on. You feel good and thrilled by just imagining it. The wait is the best part of it because it is going to happen soon. Having something to look forward to gets us through the tougher times.

But when the actual event happens it MAY not be such a great feeling. Because you have achieved it. You have fulfilled your desire. It has come true. There is nothing more exciting to a human than to crave, desire, wait. The mind always wants to look ahead. What NEXT?

But isn’t there another side to anticipation - waiting with contentment. Right through the bible we hear the exhortation to wait - to wait upon the Lord.  This is exactly what the prophet Micah recommended when he said, “But as for me, I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God who will deliver me. My God will hear me.”

Help me Lord, to be still in Your presence and to wait quietly and patiently before You as did the Psalmist. Many and precious are the promises You have given to Your children, and I desire to rest in them by faith and to abide in You moment by moment, to the praise of Your holy name. Amen

Wednesday, 22 September 2021

An ABC of Faith


In their book ‘Resident Aliens’ Bishop Will Willimon and Professor Stanley Huaerwas write, “We believe that many Christians do not fully appreciate the odd way in which the church, when it is most faithful, goes about its business. We want to claim the church's "oddness" as essential to its faithfulness.” 

Have you ever felt that following Christ implies that you are at odds with society, in fact a Resident Alien. One of the strong sayings of Paul to the Romans is, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2) And later in Ephesians 2:12 we read, “remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.”

Perhaps one of the failings of the Church has been to try and become too trendy, too hip, too contemporary and that its alright to be countercultural in fact “Odd”.

Farmers in Zentsuji, Japan, are preparing full-grown watermelons for shipment -- only these are no ordinary melons: they're square! They were placed in tempered-glass cubes while they were still growing. Why would anyone want a square watermelon? They’re much easier to store in a refrigerator! It’s amusing to think of how a naturally round watermelon can become square because of the shape of the container in which it’s grown. I think that this clearly illustrates Paul’s instruction to the church in Rome.

I do like J B Phillips paraphrase that says, “With eyes wide open to the mercies of God, I beg you, my brothers, as an act of intelligent worship, to give him your bodies, as a living sacrifice, consecrated to him and acceptable by him. Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity.”

Thomas Taylor born in 1807 penned a hymn that said,

I'm but a stranger here,

Heaven is my home;

Earth is a desert drear;

Heaven is my home:

Danger and sorrow stand

Round me on every hand;

Heaven is my fatherland,

Heaven is my home.

Dear Lord, I pray that I do not become like the world. I pray that I am transformed by the renewing of my mind that I may learn to understand Your will for my life, which is good and pleasing and perfect. I thank You for my spiritual growth and transformation, help me focus on the godly values and ethical attitudes that will help me flourish spiritually, emotionally and mentally, Amen.

Tuesday, 21 September 2021

An ABC of Faith


Don't Worry, Be Happy" is a song by American musician Bobby McFerrin released in 1988. It was the first a cappella song to reach number-one.It has the words

Don't worry, be happy

In every life we have some trouble

But when you worry you make it double

Don't worry, be happy

Don't worry, be happy now.

Yet saying don’t worry seems a mile away from stopping ourselves from becoming anxious as witnessed by the levels of anxiety during the pandemic that seemed to have escalated according to a number of research projects across the population.

I am sure that we are all familiar with the words of Jesus, “…. do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” Matthew 6:34. But we need to remember that this guidance starts with the word “Therefore.” In the previous verses Jesus has shown in almost minute detail the providential care of God for each one of us.

Many of the phrases in this section of the gospel are well known. The message of Jesus is not to be worried about many things in life. He does not look down on concern for money, clothing and the things we need every day, even telling us to pray for our daily bread. He alerts us to the futility of worry and anxiety which can take our minds and hearts off what is really essential in our lives.

May we listen to Jesus’ words not just as advice, but consider how he lived them out. May we think of the difference his living freely made in the lives of others and continues to make in ours. May we talk to him about our worries and listen to his response as he takes on our cares.

Jesus shows us that worry undermines faith. May we bring our worries before God and ask for help to bring them into a truer perspective.

A Prayer

Lord, you know me. You made me. You love me. Meet me where I am in this moment. You knew I’d be here. Do what You want with my churning insides and my spinning mind and my blown-up fear. Don’t waste a minute of my anxiety. Heal it. Use it. Change it. Instead of begging for something specific, I give myself to You. What do you want from me and for me? Thank you for understanding me when no one else does and loving me anyway. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Monday, 20 September 2021

An ABC of Faith

We now turn to a series that I have entitled “The ABC of Faith”, and so we start this week with the letter “A”.


Those of St Nicholas Methodist Church who join with our sisters and brothers from the other Topsham Churches for our Good Friday Walk of witness, will recall the words recited at each station. “We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you. Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.” But what do we mean by adore.

It was pope John Paul II who said, “Through adoration, the Christian mysteriously contributes to the radical transformation of the world and to the sowing of the Gospel. Anyone who prays to the Saviour draws the whole world with him and raises it to God. Those who stand before the Lord are therefore fulfilling an eminent service. They are presenting to Christ all those who do not know him or are far from him: they keep watch in his presence on their behalf.”

Much earlier in the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy (11:1) we read, “You shall therefore love the Lord your God, and always keep His charge, His statutes, His ordinances, and His commandments.” This is the essence of adoration, defined as “very strong love or worship for someone”.

We recall how Jesus searched Peter’s heart following the resurrection with those haunting words, “Do you love me?”  And maybe that is a question that we need to answer each day of our Christian journey.

The devout Saint (William Temple) summed up adoration as: "Worshiping God is nothing but opening our hearts to the love of God, quickening our conscience to the Holiness of God, purging our imagination with the beauty of God, filling our minds with the truth of God and committing our purposes to the will of God."

Now there’s a task to delve into today.


Heavenly Father, I give you all the glory because you are the King of kings and the Lord of lords. You are worthy of all my praise and worship, and I am filled with awe when I think about the great things you have done upon the earth. You are holy and righteous and you rule your people with justice. I praise you because you are faithful and true, and I know that I can always trust in you. 

Saturday, 18 September 2021

Bible Trees

The Trees of the Field

To round off this series on trees I want to look at an Old Testament verse that has intrigued me ever since Stuart Dauermann wrote the song based upon Isaiah 55:12 “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”

What a wonderful image of the trees of field clapping their leaves in response to the joy we find in our hearts.

Chapter 55 of Isaiah is rightfully named “The Compassion of the Lord.” At this point in the book of Isaiah, God’s people have been completely disobedient, but God the Father is a God of grace and compassion, so he invites them into his lovingkindness. He is restoring them so they may glorify him once again and he is blessing his people.

Verse 12 specifically commands the people to go out in joy and be led forth in peace. Why does God ask this and how do we, as believers, do this?

What does that scripture mean, “Trees of the field shall clap their hands”? For a moment imagine a time of great joy and celebration. You are standing in a bountiful field of grain surrounded with fruit trees heavy with harvest. You feel so blest that you shout with joy! The trees of the field are just a part of the whole picture. The entire verse is a vibrant blessing and goes like this:


“For you shall go out with joy,

And be led forth with peace:

The mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing,

And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. “


A dynamic scene unfolds bursting with joy, peace, and singing! All of nature rejoices with you and great happiness abounds. What a blessing this is!


Certainly it is a blessing worth pursuing. How can a person get this blessing?

To find the answer, we turn to Leviticus 26: 3, where God says: 


“If you walk in My statutes, and keep My commandments, and do them;

Then I will give you rain in due season,

And the land shall yield her increase,

And the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.”


The Lord gracious and abundant in goodness is the blessing source. All we have to do is follow His game plan. Sounds like a good deal to me. How about to you?  

Friday, 17 September 2021

Bible Trees

The Sycamore

Today we turn our thoughts towards the sycamore tree and I wonder how many of us find our selves thinking of the Sunday School chorus, “Zacchaeus was a very little man and a very little man was he.” The sycamore tree is mentioned several times throughout the Bible  and the name sycamore can be applied to several types of trees, but with somewhat similar leaf forms. The name derives from the ancient Greek συκόμορος (sūkomoros) meaning "fig-mulberry".

Sycamore trees have large serrated lobed leaves that are light-green with three or five lobes. The lobed leaves have prominent veins running to their pointed tip providing good cover to anyone wishing to hide in a sycamores branches.

We all like Zacchaeus, the shy man who did not want to attract any attention, yet ended up getting far beyond his expectations. Jesus could see what he really desired in the depths of his heart, and invited himself to Zacchaeus’ house. All who saw this began to grumble, but Jesus faced this criticism by proclaiming that salvation had come to Zacchaeus’ house. Try to imagine yourself present in this scene: and ask, “would I be like the diffident Zacchaeus, like the complaining crowd or like the merciful and strong Jesus?”

In the case of Zacchaeus, note the urgency in Jesus’ exhortation to Zacchaeus – ‘hurry!’ Lord, like Zacchaeus, we gladly welcome you to our house now. Help us become more aware that at all times and in all places we are in your loving presence. Help us to realise that the divine is within every person that we meet, including those whom we may find difficult. Help us to be truly aware that Gods’ love is all-inclusive.

I find it interesting that the wood of a sycamore tree can be used in the making of a yoke.  How appropriate that Jesus also said “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 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." Matthew 11:28-30

Prayer: In my prayer, Lord, I am often like Zacchaeus, making huge efforts to catch a glimpse of you, only to find that you are waiting for me, calling me by name, inviting yourself into my heart. Once I am with you, I find happiness in putting things right, ordering my life, finding the springs of generosity and justice that have been stifled by old habits. Jesus, as I sit here today, you look at me as you looked at Zacchaeus. You call me by name, and invite me to join you. You do not make demands, but in your company I want to change something in myself, and to offer it to you. Amen

Thursday, 16 September 2021

Bible Trees

The Willow Tree

The Bible does not indicate which species are meant by the reference to Willow. Willows are common along watercourses and form dense thickets along the banks of the Jordan, especially in its upper reaches. Willows are mentioned in only four places: Leviticus 23:40, Job 40:22, Isaiah 15:7 and Isaiah 44:4.

The willow is a much branched shrub with narrow, pointed leaves that are lighter on the bottom surface. Each shrub is unisexual and the flowers are minute and borne in the spring. The seeds are equipped with hairs that enable them to float through the air and ensure their dispersal. For centuries the bark of the willow has been used as a medicine and it is from the willow bark that aspirin was first extracted.

In Scripture, the willow is always associated with a brook or river, that is, with a perpetual source of nourishment and supply. This application is evident from Isaiah 44:4, "And they shall spring up among the grass, as willows by the watercourses." This is a different allusion than that in Psalm 1:3 and Jeremiah 17:8 where the emphasis is on being planted and on yielding fruit. In the case of the willow, the emphasis is on the vigour of the growth and the intimate association with the watercourse.

These verses teach us:

1. That God will pour his blessings on the children of his people - a promise which in all ages, when parents are faithful, is abundantly fulfilled.

2. That one of the richest blessings which can be imparted to a people is, that God's Spirit should descend on their children.

3. That the Spirit of God alone is the source of true happiness and prosperity to our children. All else - property, learning, accomplishment. beauty, vigour, will be vain. It is by his blessing only - by the influence of piety - that they will spring forth as among the grass, and like willows by the streams of water.

Thank you for your great love and blessing over our lives. Thank you that your favour has no end, but it lasts for our entire lifetime. Forgive us for sometimes forgetting that you are intimately acquainted with all of our ways, that you know what concerns us, and you cover us as with a shield. 

We ask that we would walk in your blessing and goodness today. That your face would shine on us. That you would open the right doors for our lives and for our loved ones, that you would close the wrong doors and protect us from those we need to walk away from. 

Establish the work of our hands and bring to fulfilment all that you have given us to do in these days. We pray that you would make our way purposeful and our footsteps firm out of your goodness and love. Give us a heart of wisdom to hear your voice, and make us strong by your huge favour and grace. In Jesus' Name, Amen. 

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Bible Trees

The Olive Tree

The Olive tree has a great significance throughout the Bible. The olive was one of the most valuable trees to the ancient Hebrews. It is first mentioned in Scripture when the dove returned to Noah’s ark carrying an olive branch in its beak (Gen.8:11). Since that time, the olive branch has been a symbol of “peace” to the world, and we often hear the expression, “extending an olive branch” to another person as a desire for peace.

The Hebrew word for “olive tree” is es shemen, which literally means ‘tree of oil.” It is from a primitive root meaning “to shine.” It means “richness, anointing, fat, fruitful, oil, ointment, olive.” It is related to the word shemesh, “to be brilliant,” and which also is the Hebrew word for the “sun,” that brightly shining orb in the sky.

Paul in writing to the Romans uses the Olive tree to teach a significant lesson.  Romans 11:17-18 “If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you.”

Paul is describing an apparently common practice of olive tree farming. To mingle plants, caretakers can transplant branches from one tree to another. Paul's take on the practice seems unusual, however. It was unlikely that a farmer would graft a wild olive branch onto a cultivated olive tree. However, that may well be Paul's point. God's choice to graft the "wild" and unspiritual Gentile people onto the tree of God's grace to the Israelites also seems unlikely. And yet, this is exactly what God has done. 

Gracious God and heavenly Father, what a joy and privilege to be called Your child. I long that Your Spirit works deeply within my heart so that I may grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

I humbly pray that You will increase my desire to know You more and to love You better. Please continue to supply me with the grace and strength to abide in Your love, so that I may show forth the beauty of Jesus in my life, more and more. 

May my life and all I say and do, be honouring to You and draw me ever closer to Your heart of love. In Jesus' name I pray, 


Tuesday, 14 September 2021

Bible Trees

Juniper (or Broom) The Common juniper is an evergreen conifer. Mature trees can reach a height of 10m and live for up to 200 years. Its bark is grey-brown and peels with age, and its twigs are reddish brown. It is also known as broom due to it’s long needles.  We come across this the Juniper in 1 Kings 19 3-8 

“Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.

All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.

The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.”

It’s struck me that it is often at those moments when we feel lie giving-up, that God refreshes us with rest and sustenance and encouragement. Such care enabling us not only to travel on but to reach the Mountain of the Lord.

Truth to tell, the distance across the wilderness to mount Horeb is no more than a three day’s journey.  What the forty days is saying to both Elijah and us is that we are given enough sustenance even for our wanderings and diversions.

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,

  Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;

Streams of mercy, never ceasing,

  Call for songs of loudest praise.

Jesus sought me when a stranger,

  Wand’ring from the face of God;

He, to save my soul from danger,

  Interposed His precious blood.

O to grace how great a debtor

  Daily I’m constrained to be!

Let that grace, Lord, like a fetter,

  Bind my wand’ring heart to Thee.

Teach me, Lord, some rapturous measure,

  Meet for me Thy grace to prove,

While I sing the countless treasure

  Of my God’s unchanging love.

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it;

  Prone to leave the God I love:

Take my heart, oh, take and seal it

  With Thy Spirit from above.

Rescued thus from sin and danger,

  Purchased by the Saviours blood,

May I walk on earth a stranger,

  As a child and heir of God.

Robert Robinson

Monday, 13 September 2021

Bible Trees

The Fir Tree


Isaiah 55:13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

I know we are now a third of our way into September and the inevitable garden centre’s display are already dusting off their fir tree display in early anticipation of the advent season. Fir trees; a symbol through the ages of life - eternal life. Fir trees are coniferous trees belonging to the genus Abis and family Pinaceae.

The genus Abis is derived from the Latin word “Abies” which means “rising one” due to the ability to the plant’s trunk to grow upward in a straight and simple manner – a great characteristic which makes it different from other types of plants. The fir tree is also a symbol of truth, forthrightness, honesty, friendship, hope, promise, renewal, endurance, and determination.

The fir tree is closely associated with Devon’s St Boniface, a missionary to the people of Germany and the Netherlands. Boniface knew that in winter the inhabitants of the village of Geismar gathered around a huge old oak tree (known as the “Thunder Oak”) dedicated to the god Thor. This annual event of worship centred on sacrificing a human, usually a small child, to the pagan god. Boniface desired to convert the village by destroying the Thunder Oak, which the pagans had previously boasted the God of Boniface could not destroy, so he gathered a few companions and journeyed to Geismar.

Boniface steadied the nerves of his friends and as they approached the pagan gathering he said, “Here is the Thunder Oak; and here the cross of Christ shall break the hammer of the false god Thor.” Boniface and his friends arrived at the time of the sacrifice, which was interrupted by their presence. In a show of great trust in God and born from a desire to enkindle the fire of Christ in the German pagans, Boniface grabbed an axe and chopped down the Thunder Oak of mighty Thor.

The Germans were astounded. The holy bishop preached the Gospel to the people and used a little fir tree that was behind the now felled oak tree as a tool of evangelisation. Pointing to it he said, “This little tree, a young child of the forest, shall be your holy tree tonight. It is the wood of peace… It is the sign of an endless life, for its leaves are ever green. See how it points upward to heaven. Let this be called the tree of the Christ-child; gather about it, not in the wild wood, but in your own homes; there it will shelter no deeds of blood, but loving gifts and rites of kindness.”

Perhaps the verse from Isaiah says to us that we should allow God to remove the thorn in our lives and plant there a Fir tree in our hearts.

Saturday, 11 September 2021

Bible Trees

The fig tree is often mentioned throughout the Bible.  Today we consider how Jesus used the fig tree as a lesson for his followers. (You may wish to read Mark 11:11-25)

This is one of the odder miracles in the New Testament. Why was Jesus looking for fruit if it wasn't the right season? And when He found none, why did He blame the tree and curse it? Was this some sort of divine temper tantrum?

Actually, no. Common fig trees produce at least two crops of fruit. The "breba crop" appears in the spring, with the first leaves. You could say it isn't really a proper fig crop at all; the breba figs aren't that great, and a lot of people don't bother to harvest them. The main crop comes later and will taste much better.

But Jesus was hungry. So He went looking for the early breba figs, which should have been there if the leaves were out -- and there was nothing.

That's a bad, bad sign. A common fig tree that doesn't produce brebas around Passover isn't going to produce real figs at the right time either. The early failure is a sign of the much greater failure to come. And Jesus knew that. The words He said confirmed the disaster that was already on the way: "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." And within a day, the tree was withered up.

There are things like brebas in our own lives, too. Every day we live our lives in Jesus, growing in faith, and receiving His gifts of Word and Sacrament. And every so often the challenge comes -- are we producing the fruits that show that Christ is living in us? Do we have figs, or just leaves?

To be sure, most of the fruit we Christians produce is like breba figs -- small, relatively tasteless, not particularly good quality. Jesus must be really hungry if He wants our fruit! And yet He does. He is. And He rejoices when He finds an early fig, even a breba -- because it shows that the Holy Spirit is living in us, doing God's will through us. It shows that we belong to Jesus -- and one day, we will rejoice together with Him, at the real harvest time.

What did Jesus see?

  • He saw a useless tree, drawing from the soil but giving no fruit: a parable for those who take out more than they put in. Not like Abraham Lincoln: “Die when I may, I want it said of me that I plucked a weed and planted a flower wherever I thought a flower would grow.”
  • The owner looked at the tree as property, judging the investment by its return. The gardener saw an opportunity for growth and recognised that effort, nourishment and time were called for. Perhaps I should  consider how God looks on me lovingly, 'digs around me' and is patient with me. I humbly lay the fruit of my life before God.
  • Knowing how difficult I sometimes find it to be patient with the others, I consider how through the attitude of the gardener they help me not to judge too quickly.

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