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Sabbatical Reflections

The old riddle goes ‘What goes up but never comes down?’

Your age!

I have been thinking a lot about time! I am having a 6 week sabbatical presently and thinking about how to use my time. I have also celebrated my birthday and reflections on the time I have left. And so I have used the acronym of time to express a few thoughts.

Treasure it – time is most definitely a gift. It is a gift of God – Psalm 139v16. So do you treasure time? Do you thank God for the time he has given you in the places and with the people you spend time with – he has determined that (Acts 17:26-28). So treasure the present and the people you spend it with, it is God’s gift for you in this season of your life. Or do you abuse time? By not valuing it – overworking, wishing your life away, not honouring the people you share your life with today?

Intentionality – are you intentional with how you use the gift of time or do you let it just fly by? The book of Proverbs compares the unintentional slug to the intentional and driven Ant – Proverbs 6:6-11. Do you rely on others to determine how you use your time or do you think ahead and plan/dream for the future. Where do you want to be in 5 years time? What do you need to do today to get there? The bible tells us that God has already prepared good works for us to do with our time (Ephesians 2:10) – how intentional are you in discovering these? For us as Christians how intentional are you in living your time for the will of God (1 Peter 4:2) and progressing as a Christian?  (Heb 5:12). How intentional are you with your time with your spouse, children, family? 

Manage it – simply being intentional can be overwhelming. We all live busy lives and more often that not time controls us so we are not intentional. We need to learn to manage our time or as Colossians 4:5 says to make the most of every opportunity. We can only do that if we are not exhausted or distracted. So managing our time means getting sufficient rest, sleep, physical exercise, time to eat properly as well as prioritising and diarising! Take control, make decisions on how you will use your time, learn to say no so you can make the most of your yes’s! For us as Christian we make the most of every opportunity when we lean to devote ourselves to prayer (Colossians 4:2) so that we can fulfil verse 5 and make the most of every opportunity. Do you have set times of prayer & bible reading.

Eternity – we all know we have limited time but the bible also tells us that God has placed eternity in our hearts (Eccl 3:11) – and so treasuring time means preparing for eternity. How? 1. ensuring that we have been reconciled to Christ because ‘now is the time of God’s favour, today is the Day of salvation’ (2Cor 6:2). 2. By prioritising meeting together Sunday by Sunday to worship because eternity is coming (Heb 10:25) 3. By telling others that Jesus has made it possible to live for eternity – both the quality and quantity of forvever! Because today is the day they can choose a forever! Is Evangelism one of your intentional uses of time? If not you are not treasuring time nor preparing for eternity!

My prayer is that as you reflect on this, you will treasure time, live time and not just exist in time.


How should I vote on Thursday?

The answer is simple – prayerfully! 
‘If my people, who are called by name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land’

Although we need to be careful in applying this verse as a definite promise now to a specific modern nation, the principle of prayer changing a nation still holds. So let us use this referendum to pray for our nation. Our prayer should be for the Kingdom of God to come and if the Kingdom of God is ‘here’ & ‘among you’ we need to pray for the church and the gospel to bring revival to our nation. So set aside one hour this Thursday to pray!

As I think about how the Lord used the Greek empire and language and the Roman Empire(in many ways both ‘anti’ God empires) to be tools in his hands to allow the spread of the gospel, so I pray whatever decision this Thursday it will be a tool in the Lord’s hand to allow the further spread of the gospel.

However, that doesn’t help me as individual deciding how to use my vote. So I have been reflecting whether there are any Christian principles that I can prayerfully consider as I make my choice.

• 1 Timothy 2:1-4 – what outcome will allow me and all Christians to ‘live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.’ Will either outcome effect how I can live as a Christian? My conclusion is that in our secular society whatever decision, we will face challenges to living as Christians.

• 1 Timothy 2:4 – what outcome will allow more people to ‘be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.’ What impact, if any, will this referendum have on the perception of and opportunity to share the gospel.

• Luke 10:29 – ‘who is my neighbour?’ What outcome will be the most loving and compassionate for ‘my neighbour’ and our neighbour is anyone in need, whoever they are or wherever they come from? One concern I have is that we may leave for the wrong reasons. One of our tendencies as an island nation is to be suspicious or fear the foreigner. Whatever decision how can we ensure we are loving and hospitable to our neighbours. How can we show greatest love to the migrant and refugee?

• Romans 13: 4-8 – authority to rule is given by God for our good(again Paul is referring to the ‘evil’ Roman Empire) . How will the outcome of Thursday enable wrong doing and practices to be best outlawed and enforced? And be careful to heed the command – whatever the outcome let us ensure we give respect and honour.

• Revelation 13 – although Romans 13 tells us rulers are given by God and should be given honour and respect, Revelation 13 warns that the same rulers/empires can become like gods to us, that we worship and can lead us away from acknowledging God. I believe this is true for both sides of the arguments I have heard – those wanting the good old days of being ‘British’ & better than others and those seeing the union as answer to peace and prosperity in our world. Whatever we decide and whatever outcome let us be careful to ensure the Lord always has our worship and allegiance.

• One final principle that I found on the website (which on an initial browse does seem to argue/biased in one direction but is worth a look) can be summarised with the following quote

“Instead of the centralised and top-down management characteristic of Egypt and Assyria, the Bible reflects the idea that decisions should be taken at the lowest, most local level possible – closest to those affected by them, by people who understand their context best, and who have the most interest in their outcome. A task is only passed up to a higher, more central authority if it cannot better be addressed at a lower one. This is explored in the idea of Subsidiarity found in Catholic Social Teaching. The biblical approach to government is therefore ‘as large as necessary, as small as possible’.” – See more at:

 I am not convinced this can be concluded as a biblical principle (as the nation of Israel was a theocracy and not a democracy – and this is not an option for us!!) but as common sense seems good – then the decision is to decide when is it better to work together and when apart and how can this be best worked out and implemented – whether in or out!

As I weigh up all these considerations I am challenged to do this seriously and prayerfully because the words of my teenage daughter are ringing in my ears ‘you will make the decision, we will have to live with consequences’. It is the next generation, a definite postmodern generation, who will have to live with what we decide – perhaps I will go with my daughters view and trust her as a Christian young person and her generation to relate with our European neighbours in the way they will negotiate.

I am not interested in political or personal views but if you have found other biblical principles that we should consider for Thursday I would be pleased to dialogue with you. But whatever your view, as a Christian our primary call is to pray and to ‘give a reason for the hope we have’ which lies outside any political outcome or decision.

Church Membership – not optional if you are a Christian!

dare-to-be-a-discipleForgive the stark and controversial headline to this article but I am passionate about church membership because I am passionate about Jesus. So I want people to discuss, consider, even disagree but not to ignore.

In our culture consumerism; contract; freedom; autonomy; individualism; and self-fulfilment dominate and church membership flies in the face of this. We are all naturally and culturally wary of institutions, hierarchy and commitment. This means many Christians who love Jesus are uneasy about becoming church members. I therefore write this to challenge all Christians to see membership not as an optional extra but a fundamental foundation of faith.

For me the basis of baptism and membership is perhaps the earliest creedal statement seen in the New Testament which was held to the point of death by early Christians – Jesus is Lord. Declaring this simple statement is the basis on which we baptise or accept people into membership. But what does it mean to believe and declare this and how does this work itself out in membership? Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:3 goes as far to say the declaration ‘Jesus is Lord’ can come only from the Spirit who indwells believers.

Jesus is Lord demands our fellowship with him – 1 Corinthians 1:9. In declaring Jesus is Lord we are brought into fellowship with Jesus. We enter into a relationship with Jesus. The bible teaches we do this through the church. The church is the bride of Christ and is also the body of Christ of whom Christ is the head. We become ‘members’ together of him. We work this fellowship out with Jesus together. Paul says in Ephesians that it is together with the saints that we can experience the fullness of Christ’s love and fellowship. (Eph 3:18-19). So if you are a Christian you are a ‘member’ of the local Christian body and church membership is moving from denial (1 Cor 12:15-16) to acceptance which brings fulfilment and peace.

Jesus is Lord demands allegiance – declaring Jesus is Lord in the early church was counterculture and risked exclusion, persecution, imprisonment and even martyrdom. It said that my first allegiance was to Jesus and not Caesar, or any other religious, political or social power. As we looked at recently from Mark 12 – for those called by Jesus, we are to love him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Our allegiance to Jesus stands above our allegiance to state, family and self. We are to give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar but we are to give back to God what belongs to God – all that we are! Declaring Jesus is Lord at our baptism and as we become church members is publically confessing with our mouths our allegiance to Jesus which is evidence of our salvation (Romans 10:9). In our culture church membership is counterculture as we make promises to one another that Jesus will always come first.

Jesus is Lord demands obedience – Luke 6:46. If Jesus is Lord it means his followers choose to obey him. Jesus said ‘if you love me you will obey my commands’. (John 14:23) The promises we make to one another when we become church members are to support one another to be obedient to the commands of Jesus. We make ourselves accountable as we know our hearts are fickle and our motives mixed. We promise to keep his command to ‘love one another.’ And to follow the ways and commands as taught in the bible. In membership we commit to study the bible with others to help us understand and follow it.

Jesus is Lord demands our devotion and worship – Declaring Jesus is Lord at the most basic level is an act of worship. We are acknowledging Jesus’ right of our worship. This is the message of Palm Sunday – ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord’. This is the message of Mark 12, as we saw recently, Jesus deserves our worship with heart, soul, mind and strength. This is the message of Matthew 14:25-36 – that Jesus, who the disciples call Lord, deserves their worship (v33). The Spirit who enables us to say ‘Jesus is Lord’ is the Spirit who gives gifts to enable our worship of Jesus (1 Cor 12). I could go on – suffice to end with Ephesians 5 where we are called to find out what pleases the Lord (v 17) which is then explained by being filled with the Spirit so we can ‘sing and make music in your heart to the Lord’. That is why as a central part of our church covenant and constitution which we adhere to in membership is to promise to join in Sunday worship and join in sharing with communion. In our culture this is proving more challenging and sacrificial to keep, and although acknowledging a need to be flexible to reach out to the non-church, as I have argued in a previous blog I believe a commitment to weekly worship is still at the heart of the declaration ‘Jesus is Lord’. As a church our flexibility & response to the cultural challenge we face has come by offering two alternative opportunities of worship on a Sunday.

Jesus is Lord demands our fervour in service – Romans 12:11. Another aspect of the Lordship of Jesus is our responsibility to give fervently and joyfully our gifts, abilities, wealth and possessions in his service. This again is something we promise to do in membership.

Finally, for now, Jesus is Lords demands our witnessing – 1 Peter 1:15. This declaration and its implications in baptism and membership is so counter culture that it will mean we will have to witness and give evidence for our declaration that Jesus is Lord. If we really lived ‘Jesus is Lord’, our world will come asking questions and searching for the reality we live. We simply need not to be ashamed but proclaim Jesus is Lord.

So this most basic of creedal statements has huge implications. Have you come to believe that Jesus is Lord? Then what should you do?

If it is not obvious by now, Peter gives the clearest answer in Acts 2:36-47. Which I summarise in two statements

1, Be Baptised! Have you been baptised? There is only one baptism (the one accompanied by declaring Jesus is Lord) – did you have faith when you were baptised? Confirmed your faith through confirmation? Is this your appropriate response?

  1. Become a Church member! What is stopping you becoming a church member? Have you been baptised? Do you believe ‘Jesus is Lord’?

So what about you?

Every year as a church we give a public opportunity on Pentecost Sunday to publically confess Jesus is Lord and renew together the covenant we made when becoming a church member. We recognise the need to keep on declaring ‘Jesus is Lord’ If you are not a church member why not become one in time to join us on Pentecost. If you are a church member make Pentecost Sunday a priority for you to join us and declare again ‘Jesus is Lord’

Read the following passage and either individually or in a group consider the questions.

Acts 2:14-47

How did you come to believe Jesus is Lord? What is the evidence Peter gives in his sermon to convince people Jesus is Lord? What convinced you?

Why were you baptised or what stops you from being baptised? What do you think are the requirements of baptism? What about those from other Christian traditions? How do they view baptism/confirmation?

What does it mean to you that you declare ‘Jesus is Lord’? What are the implications for you in practice and lifestyle?

What were the implications for the first Christians? See v 42-47

Read our church covenant (a covenant are promises we make with others – in this case other church members – in the presence of God, as we need his help to keep)- How does our church covenant relate to these implications in v 42-47?

What do you like about the church covenant? What troubles you? Why?

What does Church membership mean to you? Why did you become one? What stops you becoming one?

What do you think motivated the first Christians in this passage to follow through on these things?

What shoud/could motivate us to become and keep on being committed in our membership?

Why believing in hell matters!


I am sure the title of this blog will now mean I will get very few views. It is amazing that on a Sunday I can preach about any topic under the sun, but even I feel a bit guilty, ashamed about having to preach about hell. Our culture has made it a no go topic. For those outside church it justifies their reasons to stay out, they don’t want to be condemned or feel bad. And for those inside church we think it gives God bad PR and so we try and cover up any reference to it. However preaching through the book of Romans I came across Romans 11:22 which tells us to ‘Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God’ Therefore I want to consider the reasons scripture does speak about God’s sternness, wrath and hell! And ultimately I blog not to get lots of views but as a filing system for me to remember what I believe is important and I am likely to forget! So for a fuller treatment on this topic do a search for Tim Keller’s – The importance of hell, which I adapted to fit the context of Romans 11.

Paul raises the importance of considering God’s severity in the context that it will drive us to run towards God’s kindness and keep us trusting and believing in God’s kindness. As Christians we are not presumptuous, arrogant or judgemental – we assert that everyone, all individuals, all groups whether well meaning, religious or not (and definitely including ourselves) are all deserving God’s severity but that it is God’s kindness (mercy, grace, love & acceptance) that welcomes all who come to him. This is what Christians call the good news or gospel.

And so we consider the severity of God (and yes even preach on it) for the following reasons.

  1. It is in the bible. Our passage Romans 11 tells us to consider it. Romans 2 tells us to expect it. Jesus describes it. He likens the final form of it to be hell which he describes with imagery of a fire that never goes out but never totally destroys, also like the worst place he knows – gehenna, where rubbish is placed and burnt, and even corpses who have no connections, relatives in this world. We also see God’s wrath shown in the Old Testament against those whose sin has reached the need for judgement (see Genesis 15:16).
  2. It allows Grace to shine. In Romans 9 Paul has already argued that God ‘has the right to show his anger’ but ‘he is very patient’. v 23 ‘He does this to make the riches of his glory shine even brighter’. In other words God’s grace, love and mercy can only be appreciated fully in the light of God’s justice and that we are all under his judgement of justice. As I preached on this I showed a youtube clip of Rachel Riley on ITV’s ‘It’s not rocket science’ where she flew down a zip wire through a ball of fire at 1000’s degree centigrade but she was unharmed as she was covered with water! The power of the water could only be amazed at in the context of the severity of the fire. Likewise we can only marvel at God’s mercy and grace when seen in the context of his justice.
  3. It unveils a life without God. The question that arises is ‘What is hell?’. Scripture uses metaphors but teaches that hell is the absence of God. It is a place where the sustaining and supporting power of God is not present. The words of judgement at the end of Jesus’ parables sum it up ‘depart from me’! Our passage in Romans 11 describes being cut off from the life, love and joy of God by not believing that life, love and joy come from him. The closest places to hell in our world are where we see the least of God – his love, righteousness & beauty. Hell is a consequence of rejecting God, as I think Romans 2 suggests. It is God loving us so much that he take’s  our rejection of him seriously and moves out of the neighbourhood. (An idea from Karl Barth). It is the decision to be our own god and worship ourselves – as C.S Lewis wrote ‘Hell begins with a grumbling mood, always complaining, always blaming others . . . but you are still distinct from it. You may even criticize it in yourself and wish you could stop it. But there may come a day when you can no longer. Then there will be no you left to criticize the mood or even to enjoy it, but just the grumble itself, going on forever like a machine. It is not a question of God ‘sending us’ to hell. In each of us there is something growing, which will BE Hell unless it is nipped in the bud.

Or as Tim Keller writes:

The image of ‘gehenna’ and ‘maggots’ means decomposition. Once a body is dead it loses its beauty and strength and coherence, it begins to break into its constituent parts, to stink and to disintegrate. So what is a ‘totaled’ human soul? It does not cease to exist, but rather becomes completely incapable of all the things a human soul is for–reasoning, feeling, choosing, giving or receiving love or joy. Why? Because the human soul was built for worshipping and enjoying the true God, and all truly human life flows from that. In this world, all of humanity, even those who have turned away from God, still are supported by ‘kindly providences’ or ‘common grace’ (Acts 14:16-17; Psalm 104:10-30; James 1:17) keeping us still capable of wisdom, love, joy, and goodness. But when we lose God’s supportive presence all together, the result is hell.

Hell then is simply the consequence of running away from and not towards God’s kindness.

4. Finally considering the severity of God demonstrates the love and need of Jesus’ suffering. Paul, in Romans 9, has told us how he wished he was cursed and cut off from God to save some of his fellow Jews. His separation and suffering could not achieve this but God being cut off from God and being cursed could. This is our salvation that God stood in our place – when Jesus was cursed by dying on the cross, when he cried ‘I am thirsty’ and ‘My God, My God why have you forsaken me’ he was bearing hell for us? The separation within God, of Jesus from Father & Spirit was the cost of our salvation, of us being spared hell, and if we do not consider that we do not begin to understand the need and the cost of Jesus’ death on the cross and the amazing love and kindness of God that did that for you – so the challenge of considering the severity of God is to be blown away by the magnitude of his love and grace and come running into the arms of God held out for us and receive his blessing. The arrogant, proud and judgmental are the ones who turn their back on this love and should not be surprised that in his love God may take our rejection of him seriously! &

I am for Peace – Week 1 Day 4

examen-with-quoteI have spent this week meditating on Psalm 120 as I have made preparations for 2016. This Psalm is a Psalm of Ascent to be sung on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. It also considered by some to the songs of those in exile longing and hoping for the return to Jerusalem. There are hints of that in this Psalm – of dwelling in Meshech & Kedar. These no doubt are poetic – Mesheck is a tribe on the edge of beyond (southern Russia) & Kedar is a nomadic Bedouin tribe infamous for its lack of morals. Wherever the Psalmist actually is – he feels a refugee, among a people of very different culture, desires, dreams and hopes.

So my meditation on this Psalm has given me empathy and led to prayers for those in our time feeling isolated and ‘aliens’ in a foreign land, refugees. It is us Christians who also are away from our home city, the city of God that can and must empathise and show compassion to refugees in our time.

This Psalm has also helped me consider how I can maintain my citizenship of heaven in an alien land. How I can be a man of peace, a man of God in a world which shouts and screams selfishness, greed, idolatry of work, pleasure and sex. And the answer must be found in the only time God is mentioned in the Psalm – verse 1 ‘I call on the Lord’. And so I have found the prayer of examen a helpful tool to ‘call on the Lord’ and combat  the ‘lying lips’ & ‘deceitful tongues’.

What is the prayer of Examen. It is prayer of meditation considered to have been formulated by St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556). For me it helps me acknowledge the presence of the Lord in my world and to reflect how I can be more open to hearing and obeying his voice. Ignatius acknowledged that God is always present and at work but the challenge is for us to respond in gratitude and openness.There are usually considered five parts to the meditation and usually practised at the end of the day.

  1. Presence – find a quiet place (shut the door on the world- Mat 6:6) and find an appropriate posture and begin by recognising the presence and nearness of Jesus with you and then acknowledging his presence with you throughout the day as you review it in your mind.
  2. Praise, Gratitude – As you think about the last 24 hours consider all that you are grateful to God for and say thank you. As Eckhart wrote ‘if the only prayer you say in your entire life is ‘Thank you’ that would suffice.’ You may find  it helpful to write these down.
  3. Pay attention to your emotions – What would the Lord think of these? Repent or Rejoice; Let go or Learn.
  4. Pray from one feature or aspect of the day that the Holy Spirit has drawn to your attention. Maybe an encounter with someone or a particular incident/situation. Pray about it.
  5. Present tomorrow before the Lord with hope.

As we do this we can identify the voices that are unhelpful (lies, deceit, strife) and the voice of the Lord that brings peace – Ignatius called these ‘desolations’ and ‘consolations’. In response we offer confession and gratitude. As Richard Fosters describes in his book on prayer.  The Prayer of Examen ‘has two basic aspects….the examen of consciousness through which we discover how God has been present to us throughout the day and how we have responded to his loving presence…an examen of conscience in which we uncover those areas that need cleansing, purifying and healing.’

I have found it helpful this week to do at the end of the day – will you give it a go each night for a week? Let me know how you get on.




I am for peace – Day 1 Week 1


This week I begin my preparations for the journey into the undiscovered country of 2016. My preparations this week are Psalm 120 and the spiritual discipline of meditation. By meditation I mean as Foster describes ‘the ability to hear God’s voice and obey his word’. It is not simply a detachment or emptying but an attachment, a filling of ourselves with God. Scripture teaches that the primary mode of meditation is ‘meditatio scripturarum’ – the meditation on scripture. Psalm 1 is often seen as the introduction the Psalter. The call to meditate on the ‘law of the Lord’ – the whole Pentateuch. The rest of the Psalms are often considered to be those divinely spoken meditations on the book of the law. So I will begin each day with a ‘meditatio scripturarum’ and with Bonhoeffer’s advice I will spend the whole week on one text – Psalm 120. I will meditate by memorising it, by imagining myself in the text and by re-imagining it for my context.

As I begin my preparations today I realise the obvious – spiritual disciplines require discipline! Not legalism but discipline. As Foster writes “In this regard it would be proper to speak of ‘the path of disciplined grace.’ It is ‘grace’ because it is free; it is ‘disciplined’ because there is something for us to do….The grace of God is unearned and unearnable, but if we ever expect to grow in grace, we must pay the price of a consciously chosen course of action’. So for me my chosen course of action,as is my habit, I will rise at 6am for half an hour of ‘meditatio scripturarum’. And at 12pm and 10pm I will use the prayer of examen (more about that in a later blog).

As I begin my preparations by meditating on Psalm 120 I am hit by the phrase ‘I am for peace’. As a Christian I stand for peace with God, peace with others (love, forgiveness & reconciliation) and peace with the world. I am for peace found in Jesus not a searching for happiness in greed, materialism, pleasure, money, sex, relationships. Happiness may be elusive like the catching of the wind but peace is ours for the asking. This is how Psalm 120 begins – I call on the Lord in my distress, and he answers me! Today I recognise I am stressed and distressed. I have listened to the lies and deceits (v2) of the world and filled my life with busyness, things, gadgets, shopping, coffee and found them enslaving me not freeing me, they simply create noise to avoid the distress of my life and soul. I have lived too long in a world of exile, a world where God is ignored and his peace not sort. So today I begin by offering him my stress & distress. I lay my palms down as turning all my stresses (saying them one by one) and burdens over to him and ask him for peace. I then lay my palms up, knowing the Lord answers me and seeking to receive his peace but also his voice, wisdom speaking into my stresses. So I declare ‘I call on the Lord in my distress and he answers me’. Psalm 120:1

Travelling Companions

compassWe are all on a journey. The undiscovered country awaits. And as we prepare to celebrate another New Year we need to reflect on where our journey has brought us and  how we can navigate the journey ahead. What have you learnt from your journey so far and what  preparations now need to be made? And this blog is my preparation for that journey ahead. As fellow travellers it is those preparations I want to share with you.

2015 has been an unsettling year in many ways and for me personally it has been challenging and tough as well but as I look back I see the hand of my Good Shepherd, the Lord Jesus, protecting, providing, rescuing and guiding me. But as I look back I believe I could have been better prepared by being a better listener to his voice. (John 10:4). So as I prepare for a new year, not knowing what lay ahead, I believe I need to make better preparations in learning to hear His voice.

The sixteenth century was a time of great exploration as new worlds were discovered. But as well as many heroes there was a great cost as many lives were lost. During this time one of most precious treasures of the explorers was a ‘rutter’. A small book that contained all the notes, navigational routes and dangers that returning, successful explorers had recorded. The equivalent of these for the Christian on their journey are ‘the great cloud of witnesses’ (Heb 12:1). We have the ‘rutters’ of those biblical witnesses come to us with the divine voice and authority of  scripture and we also have the ‘rutters’ of those who have followed the biblical witness and recorded there own experiences. I believe that as we surround ourselves with ‘cloud of witnesses’ we can avoid many of the dangers and catastrophes that lie hidden ready to pounce and learn to hear the voice of the good shepherd who is directing us.

For my preparations for the year ahead during the month of January I am going to use two ‘rutters’ to grow deeper into God so I can hear his voice better. The first are the Psalms of Ascent (Psalm 120-134). These 15 Psalms were used by Hebrew Pilgrims as they ascended to Jerusalem. But as Eugene Peterson comments ‘the ascent was not only literal, it was also a metaphor: the trip to Jerusalem acted out a life lived upward to God, an existence that advanced from one level to another in developing maturity. What Paul described as ‘the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”. During January I will be preaching on three of them but will be reflecting on them all. Join me.

My second rutter is Richard Foster’s celebration of discipline. In this book Foster discusses the ‘classical spiritual disciplines’. He calls them classical not because they are ancient but because ‘they are central to experiential Christianity’ as rooted in scripture and ‘God has given us the Disciplines of the spiritual life as a means of receiving his grace’ that is of receiving direction, protection, provision and restoration. In his introduction he lays out seven pitfalls of the disciplines, ‘the seventh pitfall is the most dangerous. It is the temptation to study the Disciplines without experiencing them’. Therefore this blog will contain my observations of experiencing them.

So as fellow travellers I invite you to become my companion over January. Let us share our thoughts and experiences. Let us encourage one another. Let us prepare ourselves for the journey ahead by learning to recognise,  listen and obey the voice of Jesus as we allow the Psalms of Ascent and Spiritual disciplines to be our ‘rutter’.