How to be supplied with spiritual strength from the Psalms

Using the Psalms as God intended

Worship is Work

I lead musical worship in Church congregations. It is a privilege, a joy, and hard work! I need spiritual strength to lead worship. Where is the supply coming from?
 

God’s Songbook

Two weeks ago I chatted about this with my friend Dave Eastman. Check him out on lifechangingworship.com. He shared his conviction with me that a worship leader needs to be constantly in the book of Psalms. It is God’s songbook. A hymnal with 150 songs ready for any and all occasions in the Christian life.
 

Regular Devotion

I love the Psalms. I turn to them from time to time. But I’ve not been devoting myself to them regularly. I wonder how many of us use the Psalms in moments of great joy, or deep crisis, but neglect their day-to-day use.
 
What a shame to relegate this amazing resource to special occasions. They are available to supply us with spiritual strength whenever we need it.
 

A Psalmic Pile

Thanks to Dave, I’ve reflected on my use of the Psalms. So far I’ve made two decisions.
 
  1. I’ve opened a tab in my Bible software specially for the Psalms. That tab stays open no matter which other part of the Bible I’m studying.
  2. I’ve pulled my favourite books about the Psalms off the bookshelves and piled them up in one place. Now I see them every day and am reminded to look into them for insights. The books include: “The Psalms and the life of faith” by Walter Brueggemann (more theological). “Music of the heart”, new Psalms in the Celtic tradition by David Allen. “A long obedience in the same direction” by Eugene Peterson (focussed on the Psalms of Ascent). “Prayer, praise and promises” a daily walk through the Psalms by Warren Wiersbe (a devotional focus).

All About You

Here is a thought from Psalm 86 and some insights from Brueggemann. Read this Psalm, and you will hear a desperate David. But notice that his attitude is not one of self-pity. Instead, he is very focused on the qualities of God. This is emphasised by the use of the word, “You”.
 
Quoting selectively from the Psalm, “You are my God…For you, O Lord are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call on you… For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God… But you, O Lord, are a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness… Because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.”
 
The force of the Hebrew doesn’t come across in an English translation. But the point does. David knows he must focus on who God is if he is to be supplied with the spiritual strength he needs.
 

Conclusion

I will finish with an old rabbinic prayer quoted in Brueggemann’s book on page 37:
 
Where I wander-You!
Where I ponder-You!
Only You, You again, always You!
You ! You! You!
When I am gladdened-You!
When I am saddened-You!
Only You, You again, always You!
You! You! You!
Sky is You! Earth is You!
You above! You below!
In every trend, at every end,
Only You, You again, always You!
You! You! You!

Questions

What is it about the Psalms you find most helpful? Do you use them regularly? What books would you recommend to help us understand them and apply their message?
 
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community.
 
I hope you have a wonderful week of quality quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm 

How to Pray for Kings

How to live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness

Have politicians and public authority figures ever been more derided? Perhaps, but not in my lifetime. We’d agree they need our prayers, but do we, in fact, pray for them? What does the Bible have to say?
 

Pleasing God

Our key passage is 1 Timothy 2.1-4.
 
“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1–4 NIV11)
 
Paul wrote this. He had first-hand experience of the injustice of authorities. Yet, his perspective was pure. We could forgive him for a rant, a diatribe, a list of complaints. Take for example his illegal beating and imprisonment in Philippi (Acts 16.37). This might, in our day, have been followed by a twitter storm. But no. He acquires an apology and moves on. What is going on here?
 

Two Reasons to Pray for Authorities

Paul recognises that God wants all people to be saved. The appeal to pray is for “all people”. Paul goes on to mention “kings and all those in authority” for two reasons.
 
1. Firstly, they have more power to stand in the way of the spread of the gospel than other people. They also have the power to facilitate conditions favourable to the Gospel.
2. Second, they are often the last category of people we think to pray for. Unpopular decisions, questionable morality and insensitive pronouncements lead us to dislike them. Perhaps even hate them.
 
Jesus said this, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44 NIV11). If we are to pray for our enemies, then we can’t leave our kings and authorities out. No matter our differences.
 

Suggestions

1. Pray for those who influence your community: local councillors, your MP and the like
2. Pray for those who influence your country: parliamentarians, party leaders, kings, queens, Prime Ministers and Presidents.
3. Pray for those with global influence: world leaders, the secretary-general of the United Nations and leaders of other global organisations.
4. Pray for your enemies: the authorities you complain about
 
If we spent as much time praying for these people as grumbling about their decisions, we would see the Gospel spread more rapidly. Some of them might become followers of Jesus. We could find ourselves in a better spiritual and emotional place.
 

Conclusion

Pray for them by name. Do it personally, and do it in church gatherings. If you are a church leader, I urge you to call on members to pray in this way.
 
I believe I am called to pray for Baroness Dorothy Thornhill (Mayor of Watford), David Gauke (MP for where I live), my Queen, Theresa May, President Trump, Kim Jong-un, António Guterres – and othersPraying for them does not mean I agree with them. It simply means I acknowledge they are sons and daughters of God just as much as me.

Question

Which kings and authorities do you pray for? What motivates you to do so? What points have I missed?
 
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community.
 
I hope you have a wonderful week of quality quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm

What to do when you don’t know how to love God

Three tips to find and grow that connection with God

Connection Crisis

It’s awkward when you don’t know how to connect with someone. Even more so with God. How can we connect with the awesome, pure creator of all we see and cannot see? Let’s talk about that today.
 

Mexican Standoff

I’ve just returned from a few days in Mexico where I was attending a conference on worship. I speak no Spanish and most of the people there spoke no English. In my home church culture, we hug one another as a greeting. But I noticed a lot of cheek-to-cheek kissing going on in Mexico. The women did this with one another and with the men. The men held out their hand to other men in a clasp-like manner and then hugged. I clumsily imitated them. Once I kissed a woman’s ear instead of her cheek. Another time I trod on a man’s foot as I attempted the hand-grip and hug. Coordination was never my strong suit!
 

Shunned No Longer

I was embarrassed about my mistakes and my clumsiness. However, no one shunned me. I was not avoided in case I trod on someone’s foot. Everyone embraced me eagerly. I relaxed, kissed and hugged, and gradually got better at it. I was reminded that God will never shun my attempts to communicate, not matter how hapless.
How are we going to connect with God? By embracing the ways he has taught us to connect with him. And doing so consistently. Practice makes perfect in many things, and our relationship with God is no exception. Here are three ways to connect. If practised regularly they will help you to develop a deeper connection with God over time.

Three Tips

1. Open your heart to God. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalms 34:18 NIV11). Give him your deepest fears and dearest hopes.
2. Praise God. “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” (Psalms 145:18 NIV11). The word, ‘call’ is ‘qara’ in Hebrew meaning to praise the qualities of YHWH.
3. Pray with others. “Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.” (Psalms 34:3 NIV11) Find a friend to pray with and glorify God together.
 

Conclusion

Connection with God is possible. He made us for this very purpose. But we’re limited in our understanding of how to do so. Never fear. God has left us with a huge book with helpful examples, instructions and principles. Put the three above into practice this week and see your connection with God grow and grow.
 

Question

What helps you to connect with God? What have I missed that could help other people?
 
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community.
 
I hope you have a wonderful week of quality quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm

Three Ways To Protect Your Healthy Spiritual Eyesight

What a mistaken contact lens order taught me

What we look at affects us. Visual images influence us emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. If that were not so, we’d not have photographs framed. Nor would companies spend what they do on advertising. We cannot always control what we see, but we do have a choice about what we look at. 

I’m writing this blog in Guadalajara where I’m attending a conference for leaders of corporate worship. I flew here wearing spectacles instead of my normal contact lenses. That way I didn’t have to bother with taking the lenses out so that I could sleep on the plane.
 
This morning I put in my new contact lenses. Instead of the expected clarity, the world went blurry. I was confused. Looking at the box I realised I had ordered the wrong lens prescription. Instead of -2.50 in one eye and -2.25 in the other I had bought +2.50 in one eye and +2.25 in the other. The exact opposite. Instead of making my eyesight better they made it worse.
 
I removed the lenses, muttered darkly about my folly, and ordered the correct lenses online. In the meantime, I will make do with my spectacles. Not the worst situation in the world. But a waste of £45.
 

Out of Focus?

By ordering the wrong lenses I made a decision that impaired my sight. As soon as it became obvious I corrected it. But do we have the same urgency when it comes to spiritual sight? Do we even notice when our spiritual vision is out of focus?

We Have a Choice

We choose where we ‘look’ spiritually. It is our responsibility. Job acknowledged his ability to make such a choice when he said, “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman.” (Job 31:1 NIV11) Easier said than done, of course! What can we do to make sure we are protecting our spiritual eyesight?
 

Three Tips

1. Surround yourself with spiritually healthy people. “My eyes will be on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; the one whose walk is blameless will minister to me.” (Psalms 101:6 NIV11) When we surround ourselves with people who ‘see’ right, we’ll ‘see’ better too. The healthy example of others inspires and instructs (1 Cor 4.16). Jim Rohn said something similar when he said that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. Who are you spending time with? Are they lifting your vision or depressing it?
2. Ask God for insight into his word. “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.” (Psalms 119:18 NIV11). Reading the Bible is never enough. We need spiritual insight. When you open the Bible, take a moment at the start, or when you hit a tricky section to pray and ask for God to help you understand what he is communicating. God will help us ‘see’ his word more accurately and clearly if we ask him.
3. Deal decisively with sin. “And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.” (Matthew 18:9 NIV11). We should not kid ourselves. Sin blinds us to God, his promises and his love. If you’ve been finding it hard to ‘see’ God clearly, take a moment to reflect if there’s been some sin in your life. If so, be decisive and ruthless about removing it.
 

Conclusion

A friend of mine recently described what it was like to be temporarily blind. He felt confused, insecure and afraid. God never intends for us to feel this way. His dream is that we feel confident, secure and loved. What we look at, where our focus is, on what we set our attention has an enormous impact on the clarity and health of our spiritual sight.
 
My contact lens order mistake cost me £45. The costs of spiritual un-sightedness are much higher.
 

Question

What do you think of the three suggestions above? Are there other practical actions we can take that I’ve missed? What helps you to maintain clear spiritual vision?
 
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community.
 
I hope you have a wonderful week of quality quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm

Mexico “International Congress of Praise 2017”

As you can understand, there has been uncertainty about the “RVRNT” conference going ahead. However, it’s on, and Heathrow is my temporary stop on the way to Mexico tonight. I’m looking forward to making new Mexican friends at the conference in Guadalajara. And I hope to bring them some of God’s comfort.

It’s impossible for me to relate to what they are going through, but I know God is familiar with suffering and tragedy. Please pray for me to have the right words and the right attitude to comfort the mourning.

I’ll be posting daily if possible – depending on wifi and power availability. Look out for the video blog. I’ll update it with lessons I’m learning about corporate worship.

Also, please pray for the two speaking opportunities I have:

1. “The God who Transcends” on Friday

2. “Worship as Sacrifice” on Sunday

Thanks & God bless,

Malcolm

How to Love a God Who Transcends

My Mexico challenge

Is it possible to love a God who transcends? Can we connect with the creator of all we see and all we cannot see? What kind of relationship makes sense when we are mortal and God is not?  I’m not the first to wrestle with this question, but I have a particular reason for asking it now.

Going to Guadalajara

On 20th September I fly to Guadalajara for a conference. The “Reverent” conference for leaders of corporate worship. It’s my first time going to this event. My first time to this country. My first time to this city. I’m excited and a little nervous. Not about the setting, but about my responsibilities. You see, I’ve been asked to speak. The title of my 20-minute slot is, “The God Who Transcends”. Wow! What an opportunity, and what a mystery!

Taking on Transcendence

The goal is to speak on the holiness, other-ness and transcendence of God in a way that inspires and instructs worship leaders to be better at what they have been called to do. No small matter. No small topic. Relevant Bible verses are not in short supply, but what approach would be best? And how do I encapsulate such a gargantuan topic in 20 minutes? Is it possible?

Starting the Search

Well, I had to start somewhere. I sat down recently to contemplate my theme. The verse that came to mind was this one: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7 NIV11)  It appears to leave me with no hope. God’s peace is beyond my understanding. What’s the point of trying to grasp his transcendence if even his peace is incomprehensible? However, there is a hint of an answer. The effects of his peace are real. His peace guards my heart and mind. Perhaps this is a clue to the right direction.

Wrestling with the Word

Let’s go back to the word in question. The word translated ‘transcends’ in Philippians is ‘huperechoœ’. It means to excel, exceed, be better than, to hold above, to stand out above, to overtop, to surpass, excellence, preeminence, to be higher, superior. It’s used elsewhere in the New Testament. Here are the other references and the NIV11 translations (the relevant word in bold):

– “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Romans 13:1 NIV11)

– “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,” (Philippians 2:3 NIV11)

– “What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8 NIV11)

– “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority,” (1 Peter 2:13 NIV11)

Of course, I will be searching the Old Testament for insight in due course, but I wanted to start with the New Testament. The verses above paint a picture of something beyond me, not owned by me, not contained by me, not controlled by me. Here’s where I am so far. God’s qualities which make him God are not understandable by humans like me. When I think of ‘transcendence’, words like omnipotent, omniscience and omnipresence come to mind. I cannot relate. However, the effects of his transcendence are visible, material and tangible. This is the direction I’m following at the moment.

A fruitful enquiry as to God’s transcendence might be to consider the effects on his creation of his invisible qualities (Romans 1.20). Those who trust his nature will benefit from his nature.

Conclusion

As of today, there are 15 days between now and the day I am due to deliver the talk. Ideas are swirling around my head. Your input would be most welcome. I am writing today’s blog to clarify my own thinking and to request your thoughts.

A fruitful enquiry as to God's transcendence might be to consider the effects on his creation of his… Click To Tweet

Question

When you think of the transcendence of God, what comes to mind? Do you have a way of picturing it which helps you? Do you think I’m on target so far? Would you suggest I add anything? Are there any scriptures relevant to the topic? Please let me know by leaving a comment below.

I know I will be very grateful and so will other readers of the blog and listeners to the podcast. We learn best when we learn in community.

Many thanks, and God bless,

Malcolm

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The Sunday Sample 3rd September 2017

Reflections on Corporate Worship

Date:  Sunday 3rd September 2017

Location: Bracknell

Special Occasion: none

The service in Bracknell this Sunday was a delight. Most summer wanderers had returned. It was good to see familiar faces again. Many of which had been significantly tanned. 

Speakers

Tim Dannatt preached. I shared the communion talk. Elliot and Emily talked about HOPE worldwide and the Patel family welcomed us. A few notes on what I observed.
Elliot and Emily teased us about a presentation they will be doing about the Zambia HOPE Youth Corp at the beginning of October. They used the technique of repeatedly saying they were going to tell us things then, but not now. This created strong engagement with the congregation through the humour of the repetition. It also meant that there was no way we were going to forget what they were promoting!
I liked the way that Harry and Saroj involved their children by having them read Scripture. We could tell that neither of the children felt pressurised, although, of course, they looked a bit embarrassed. And I especially liked the fact that Saroj clearly had thought carefully about what she was going to pray about and how she was going to pray. In the devotional before we began the service, she asked if there were any prayer needs. Then when she actually prayed, she did so with a good blend of formal and extemporary tone.
  
Videos of Tim’s sermon is here.

Audio available at the Thames Valley churches of Christ iTunes podcast.

Music Worship

I mentioned last week that we were going to try something different. Here’s how it went. We did a three song opening set all in the key of G. Beginning with the first two verses of “Amazing Grace”, then moving straight into “Anchor for the soul”, straight into “How great is our God”, and finishing with the final verse of “Amazing grace”. The congregation loved it!  I can’t claim that I originated the idea – heard it somewhere else. Something about the flow helped the congregation get into the spirit of why we were praising God, and connecting with the God whom we were praising.

Other Thoughts

Here’s a pre-service devotional idea I tried this Sunday. Before starting the devotional I handed a small picture to every person involved in the service. It was a photograph I had taken of a cyclist silhouetted against bright sunlight. I used it to symbolise what God has done for us in bringing us out of darkness into light, 1 Peter 2.9. Then I remarked that we are people praising the one and leading the worship in praise of the one who brought us out of darkness into his wonderful night.

Nothing I said was remarkable, but having a photograph in the hand helped people to connect more strongly with the point. Several of those present mentioned how helpful this was. We must never underestimate the value of physical props helping us to communicate our message.

Last week I said I would:

  1. Experiment with an opening set three-song medley sandwich in Bracknell. Done
  2. Lead a devotional for all involved in the service in Bracknell. Done

The focus for next Sunday: I’m on holiday!

Please comment on what you’re doing locally with your services. What are you trying that’s working? What is God teaching you?

Share reflections with us so we can grow and please God.

You can leave a comment below.

God bless,

Malcolm

 

The Sunday Sample – 27 August 2017

Reflections on Corporate Worship

Date:  Sunday 27th August 2017

Location: Watford & Lower Earley

Special Occasion: none

Both Watford and Lower Earley were empty! Seriously think we should consider having house-church on the August bank-holiday weekend. Not only are many away on holiday, but a bunch of Thames Valley folk are off at youth camp. We had a good time anyway, but a more intimate home-based service would be better.
 
The Watford service benefitted by us taking off from the school as soon as the service ended and popping across the road to the park. A new playground opened recently. The children had fun on the equipment while the parents picnicked in the sunshine. We must do that again. It rather looked as if some of the adults had fun too!

Speakers

I spoke in both locations. Not a common practice, but not a problem.
 
My lessons were OK. Not great, but not bad. Let me know what you think. The heat and small numbers made for a less energetic atmosphere than usual. But the engagement was reasonable. I know that my own assessment of my lessons is not always objective. I’ve often found that the lessons I think went well had little impact. The lessons I don’t like sometimes get the best feedback.
 
I aimed for 25 minutes in both locations and went longer. 29 minutes in both. Oh well, not far off. If you have any tips on shortening lessons, please leave a comment. See also this video on my YouTube channel.
 
Videos are here and here. Audio available at the Watford and Thames Valley churches of Christ iTunes podcasts.
 
Johan shared a deceptively simple, but profound communion talk. Here are his main points explaining the purpose of the Lord’s Supper using 1 Cor 10 & 11 as his source texts:
  1. Discernment – make sure we have a correct focus going into the Lord’s Supper
  2. Separation – from idols
  3. Communion – 1 Cor 10.16 – as in sharing together in something
  4. Remembrance – his name, works, life, exaltation
  5. Bond of Christian fellowship – 1 Cor 10.17
  6. Powerful proclamation – vital facts of the gospel
Note to self: keep working on succinctness.

Music Worship

Leon was awesome in Watford! Danny & Charl lead most of our songs, but they were away. Leon stepped in a led with passion and professionalism. He even got a round of applause for his leadership of one song. It’s endearing to see the way congregations warm to people stepping up to serve in faith.

Our song service in Lower Earley was super. Obi was majestic in his role as lead song-leader.

Other Thoughts

Last week I said I would:

  1. Lower Earley: confirm which person is leading which song well in advance – by Friday. Done
  2. Watford: keep my combined sermon and communion to no more than 25 minutes. Working on it….

The focus for next Sunday:

  1. Experiment with an opening set three-song medley sandwich in Bracknell. I’ll explain next week.
  2. Lead a devotional for all involved in the service in Bracknell.

Please comment on what you’re doing locally with your services. What are you trying that’s working? What is God teaching you?

Share reflections with us so we can grow and please God.

You can leave a comment below.

God bless,

Malcolm

 

Two Ways to Quickly Find Support From God When You Need It

How a Text Message Refreshed My Soul

Have you ever felt low? Lacking in energy and motivation? What picked you up? Let me tell you about something that strengthened my soul this week.
 

A Gratitude Text

A text message pinged into my phone last night. It was from an old friend. Someone I don’t see so often these days, but for whom I feel lasting affection and considerable respect. He messaged me out of the blue. It wasn’t a request, but an unsolicited message of encouragement. He thanked me for my impact on his life, and my support. Seeing the message caused a small lump to form in my throat. The word that stood out to me was ‘support’. He used it three times. In one text message. I don’t remember the details of the events he mentioned. Some of them were over 15 years ago. But, it is clear he felt supported.
 

A Source of Support

Do you feel supported by God? If you were sending him a gratitude text, would support be the main topic? God helps us in so many material, emotional and spiritual ways. But even if you couldn’t remember them all, would you still recall his support? I hope I do. I know I can, and so can you. God wants to be our support. But how does this work?
 

Two Words

Two Hebrew words are commonly translated ‘support’ in an English Bible. Let’s look at them.
 

1. ‘mishan’

“They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support.” (Psalms 18:18 NIV11)
 
Here the emphasis is on supply. God supplies what his people need. Have a look at the rest of the Psalm. The writer was in ‘deep waters’, facing an overwhelming enemy, in need of rescue. Feels like my life. What about yours? What did God do? He supplied rescue to a safe place. The panic of sensing a need unmet makes us forgetful of the many times we’ve received what was needed.
 
The next time you’re in need of support reflect on what you already have. Part of my prayer time this morning was a ‘basics’ segment. I thanked God for supplying the air I breathe and all the senses with which I enjoy this world. I listed everything from the earth beneath my boots to the leaves on the trees. I have been repeatedly over-supplied. When I remember God’s generosity, it gives me faith for his future supply.
 

2. ‘saad’

“When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.” (Psalms 94:18 NIV11)
 
This time the emphasis is on sustaining. God sustains his people. The idea is that God sustains to the point of refreshment. The Psalmist’s “anxiety was great” (v19), but, and I love this phrase, God’s “consolation brought me joy”.
 
We can get so caught up in the whirlwind of a crisis we lose sight of its temporary nature. This too will pass. God is with you in the storm, and he will sustain you until you get to the right refreshment stop.
 
Many times the sustaining is only obvious in hindsight. I’ve known life, ministry, church and family crises that seemed unending. Later, a few weeks, months or years later, I can see God kept me going, and gave me refreshment. Reflect on the challenges of the past years. Can you recall the refreshment that came at the end of the tough time?

Conclusion

From Psalm 18 we know God supplies what we need. Friends can help, but God is the support. The direct support. Go to him first when you are struggling.
 
Psalm 94 reminds us that God’s love is our support. His personal presence supplies us with faith and strength long after ours has run out. Read Psalms and other scriptures about the love of God if you want to stand strong.
 
I’m so grateful to my friend, Mr ‘T’, for his text message. And glad he felt supported by me. I will send him a reply after finishing this blog and recording the podcast. How much more does God deserve a gratitude-text from me – otherwise known as a prayer!
 
The next time you need God’s support, do two things:
  1. Thank him for what he has already supplied. Ask him for what you need to get through the current crisis
  2. Thank him for his sustaining love up to know. Offer him your commitment to continued trust in his love. Ask him to provide you with consoling comfort.
 

Question

What helps you to feel God’s support? What does it mean to you to experience his supply and sustaining strength?
 
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community.
 
I hope you have a wonderful week of quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm
By the way, if you’d like some personal coaching on developing spiritual disciplines in your life, click on the badge below and find out more.

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HOW TO BE GRATEFUL IN ADVANCE

What my 32nd Wedding Anniversary taught me

It’s our 32nd wedding anniversary today! I’m a lucky man. God gave me a wonderful woman. I’m brimming with gratitude. Shall I tell you why? I think I will.
 

Surprise

Today’s post will be shorter than usual. The reason for this is that my wife surprised me on Monday. She told me we were going away for the night on Tuesday. To the Grove hotel. It’s a very nice hotel (one of our church members works there and got us a discount). Consequently everything this week has to be a little more compressed. However, I wanted to bring you some spiritual lessons I learned from this experience.
 

Special

The reality was amazing. An 18th-century country mansion converted into a luxury hotel. Our room was gorgeous. The bathroom was luxurious, with a bath was so big you could almost swim in it! The evening meal was amazing. Lamb shoulder melting in the mouth. The grounds were stunning – 300 acres of countryside. I felt special. I was in a special place with a very special person who was helping me an experience a very special love.
 

Behaviour

Today, on our actual anniversary, I’m reflecting on what I noticed about myself. My mood changed on Monday after Penny told me we were going away. I worked hard until late. I bounced around all Tuesday. I was more energetic. More friendly to strangers. More giving to my friends. I’m still basking in the gratitude-glow! What was going on?
 

Lessons

What was different? Simply that I had something exciting to look forward to. And I had someone for whom to be very grateful for providing this experience. I had a clear vision of what would be good about the future. Isn’t this what we receive from God? And isn’t this why we read our Bibles and pray our prayers? So that we don’t lose sight of what is on offer?
 

Conclusion

I was grateful in advance. It made a huge difference to how I lived for several days. How can we be grateful to God in advance? Here’s my suggestion for this week. Pray through Psalm 100 – one of the greatest passages on gratitude in the Bible.
Psa. 100:1    Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
3 Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
5 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; 
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Pray through the themes of this Psalm and feel your gratitude grow. Let me know how it affects you.
 

Question

What helps you to look forward to the future with positive anticipation? What helps you to be grateful in advance?
 
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community.
 
I hope you have a wonderful week of high-quality quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm