Tuesday 27 October 2020

face : loss of a pet

Very sadly at the end of September, we lost our beautiful golden retriever Zeta. She was only 7 years old, way too young to die. As a family we are heartbroken, and still coming to terms with her passing. She was a much loved pet, and a massive part of our family unit - a piece that is now missing.

The following days and weeks after her death had me asking that recurring question that we have probably all asked at some point: “Where do our pets go when they die?” Do animals in fact go to heaven? Or are they just here for their time on earth? Is there anything in Scripture that can point me in the right direction of God’s plan for animals? 

God makes it very clear that from the beginning of creation there is a role for creatures alongside humankind. In Genesis 1:24 it says:

And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals each according to its kind.” And it was so. 

The word for creatures here in Hebrew is ‘nephesh’, which can be translated as soul - that which breathes, the breathing substance of being.1 Nephesh can also mean self, person, appetite, mind, desire, emotion, passion, and personality. What is important to note here is that nephesh refers to what is internal - not external. 

Aristotle writes in ‘On the Soul’ that the ‘soul is the cause or source of the living body’ (Book 2 part 4).2 In a speech in 1990, Pope John Paul II said that ‘animals possess the divine spark of life - the living quality that is the soul’.3 Could they both be referring to the nephesh?

The creation story continues and in verse 26:

Then God said “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

From the very outset, God intended for there to be a relationship between his creation, with humankind having the overseeing role. In Genesis chapter 2, Adam, the first man, was given the task of naming all the animals, thus cementing his relationship with God’s creation, and also establishing the authority that humankind has over living creatures. We are designed to live alongside all God’s creatures, to care for them, look after them and tend them. This is reinforced in one of the most beloved children’s stories in the Bible found in Genesis 6 - 8: Noah and the Ark. God instructs Noah to take every species of animal onto the Ark with him, strengthening the relationship God established between humankind and creatures.

The Prophet Isaiah also described how it will be when creation is brought together: 

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. (Isa 11: 6-9)

We can also take comfort from the words of Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians, when he writes:

But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another.  There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.

So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. (1 Cor 15:38-44)

Paul clearly states here that we have different bodies, according to our kind, but he also gives us the hope that after death, there is the resurrected life. Referring back to nephesh there is comfort that animals are more than just their natural bodies.

C.S. Lewis writes about the hope we have in life after death. In his book ‘The Problem of Pain’, he describes how domestic animals, in part, are shaped by their human masters, just as the masters are shaped by their animals. He says:

If you ask, concerning an animal thus raised as a member of the whole Body of the homestead, where its personal identity resides, I answer “Where its identity always did reside even in the earthly life - in its relation to the Body and, specially, to the master who is the head of that Body”. In other words, the man will know his dog: the dog will know its master and, in knowing him, will be itself.  4


Part of who I am is shaped by having had Zeta as my dog.

Just as in the beginning of the Bible, creatures feature at the end of the Bible. In Revelation 5:13 it is written:

And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb

be blessing and honour and glory and might forever and ever!”

It is abundantly clear that God intends his creation, including animals, to play a significant part of his new creation: the new heaven and the new earth. 

So we say, “Goodnight sweet Zeta”. We desperately miss you. We still cry over you. We have overwhelming waves of sadness. You were a big part of our family, and that part is now missing. But I do take comfort that as part of God’s beautiful creation, you are now part of his eternal creation, and we will be together again. 

Zeta’s nephesh is part of mine.

By Alex


1 https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?t=kjv&strongs=h5315

2 http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/soul.2.ii.html

3 http://www.dreamshore.net/rococo/pope.html
4 C. S. Lewis  The Problem of Pain pg 111.

Monday 5 October 2020

face : life with a ‘yes’ to God

A little while ago I heard a song that was new to me. It’s been in my head ever since. “We say yes. My soul says yes. Whatever you have for me, whatever lies ahead. We say yes.” 1

The Bible is full of examples of people whose souls said yes. 

Noah’s soul said yes - to building an ark in the face of ridicule because he trusted God’s voice.

Abraham’s soul said yes – to journeying to an unknown land and future because God spoke to him. And it said yes again when he was willing to sacrifice his long-awaited, promised son, because God asked him to.

Moses’ soul said yes – to leading the Israelites out of Egypt, to walking with God through the wilderness – he took some persuading and he didn’t do it perfectly, and nor do we, but it started with a yes. 

The prophets’ souls said yes to speaking God’s word, often in difficult and seemingly hopeless situations to people who didn’t always want to listen. Sometimes they did it willingly, sometimes like Jonah they did it when they realised that saying ‘no’ wasn’t really an option. 

Mary’s soul said yes in response to the angel’s visit calling her to obey an extraordinary command – so joyfully that she sang the Magnificat. And Joseph’s soul said yes when he took Mary to be his wife. 

The disciples’ souls said yes when they left their fishing nets and tax booths, their families and their familiarity to journey with Jesus. 

The Samaritan woman’s soul said yes, when she met Jesus at the well and went on to share what she had learned with others in the town, so that they could say “We know that this man really is the Saviour of the world” (John 4 v 42). 

Ananias’ soul said yes, after a bit of double-checking, when he heard God in a vision telling him to go and find Saul and lay his hands on him. 

Those are just a few of the examples that popped into my head. I’m sure that you can think of others. Saying yes doesn’t mean never asking questions of God, but it does mean being willing to listen and to act.

A few years ago I was introduced to the Methodist Covenant Prayer, which I think expresses this desire to say ‘yes’ to God in all the parts of our lives in a really clear, if challenging way. 

“I am no longer my own but yours.

Put me to what you will, 

Rank me with whom you will;

Put me to doing,

Put me to suffering;

Let me be employed for you,

Or laid aside for you,

Exalted for you,

Or brought low for you;

Let me be full,

Let me be empty,

Let me have all things,

Let me have nothing;

I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.

And now, glorious and blessed God,

Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

You are mine and I am yours. So be it. 

And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.”

May we be people whose souls say ‘yes’ to God. 

By Anna S



1  Elim Sound, We Say Yes

Monday 14 September 2020

face : balancing busyness and listening

When thinking about balancing practical and spiritual needs I often think of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42). I am very aware as someone who finds it hard to say no that I am probably more like Martha. I used to think I wanted to be more like Mary than Martha and give all my time to listening and learning.However if we only sat and listened and learned nothing would get done. My family would go hungry and wouldn’t be dressed in clean clothes!

So maybe it's ok to be like Martha and when reflecting upon it I want to be like both Mary and Martha, care deeply for others, be a gracious host and make time to listen to God's word. How to do both well is a hard task. Trying to balance our spiritual lives with our everyday. It makes me feel slightly anxious to think about how on earth I am going to get it right.

When I reflect upon it, it may be this is actually what Martha is feeling. She was the one who invited Jesus into her home and she wants it all to be perfect, maybe she wants to listen in her heart but doesn’t know how to stop. She is frustrated with her sister who isn’t helping her and can see her doing what she may want to do however can’t see a way to stop. So she takes out her frustrations on Mary, chastises Mary, trying to show her sister is doing wrong. Jesus doesn’t say what she is doing isn’t valuable however he does say she shouldn’t worry about Mary's choices.

Jesus rescues her by making Martha stop and recognises that her anxiety is not with her sister but with herself not knowing it is ok to stop and listen. He shows how much God loves her, that it is just as important for her to listen as her sister and she is just as valued. He is in fact giving her a chance to listen without being worried about the jobs. He is showing that actually it is just as important for her to make time to listen as to carry out her tasks. He is giving all of us the message that we need to stop and allow time to listen and learn.

By Megan


Tom Wright (2014) Luke for Everyone
Darrel L Bock (1998) Luke The NIV Application Commentary

Tuesday 25 August 2020

face : prayer

Last month we had the privilege of meeting virtually to talk about the vital, and challenging, topic of prayer.

The Bible is clear about it’s centrality to our everyday lives. We are encouraged to ‘come boldly to the throne of our gracious God'. 1  Talking to God about everything and in ‘every situation 2.  Despite verse upon verse urging us on and Jesus’s example of going to quiet places to be with His Father, prayer can be something we don’t talk about and perhaps a last port of call instead of the first.

Some of us may feel our concerns aren’t ‘important’ enough to bring before our God. Where at other times, it may feel the mountain in front of us is too hard to navigate in prayer. Whatever the reason, it seems as if there is more for us to discover and delight in.

Sometimes it can be difficult to know where to begin and at these times a structure and ‘headings’ can be really useful. Below is one approach to prayer:

Adoration - spend time worshipping God. It sets the tone, reminds us who we are talking to and changes our agenda as our Spirits are softened

Confession - cleanses our conscience. It reminds us of God’s forgiveness and brings freedom to our prayers.

Thanksgiving - God - as our parent - loves it when we thank him for his gifts to us. Jesus was sad when the lepers he cured didn’t thank him, but took delight in the one that returned to do so. We need to be like that one. 

Supplication - or requests. Nothing is too big or too small. Sometimes we are only tempted to offer the small, thinking he won’t answer the big requests. Other times we may not offer the small things as we think they are insignificant and a ‘waste of God’s time’. Praying and requesting is never a waste of God’s time.  3

At the end of the evening, we committed to praying for something that we have not been praying about - for whatever reason. To start bringing it to God again and again. I wonder how you are getting on with that? For me, it has taken me down a road that is difficult and challenging but also one that I need to walk. I remind myself that God is good all the time; all the time God is good.



1 Hebrews 4:16

2 Philippians 4:6

3  Ideas from 'Too Busy Not To Pray' by Bill Hybels

Monday 10 August 2020

face : lament

It has always seemed to me that “lament” is an old fashioned, out of date word. It seems kind of miserable, dwelling in loss.. loneliness.. who wants that?

Except more recently, I found myself walking in a season of lament. Actively lamenting. And it’s been kind of radical. The dictionary definition of lament is “a passionate expression of grief or sorrow; a complaint”. Passion and grief seem like oxymorons don’t they?

At the end of February, before all this lockdown madness, my lovely mum, after a 15 year battle with dementia, finally passed away. It’s a funny thing dementia - watching someone slowly slip away - it’s a long drawn out season of grieving… saying goodbye to parts of them and you kid yourself that the final part, the death bit, will be easy because who they were hasn’t been there for a long while. I can confirm, this isn’t the case. The grief I felt when I walked into my mum’s room, as she took her last breath, was the most devastating moment. Yet, it was months before this I found myself lamenting.

In Psalm 77, we read “When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands, and I would not be comforted. I remembered you, God, and I groaned; I meditated, and my spirit grew faint. You kept my eyes from closing; I was too troubled to speak.”

How often have we cried out to God in our distress? Sometimes too troubled to speak. A great friend pointed out to me, “isn’t it amazing that despite how we feel, it says He kept our eyes from closing. Even in our worst of times, God keeps our eye open so we can glimpse him.” I love this idea.

The Psalm goes on to say:

“I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. Your ways, God, are holy. What god is as great as our God?”

Lament is rooted in what we believe. It is a prayer loaded with theology - built on what we believe and what we know of the nature of Christ. As Christians, we affirm that the world is broken, God is powerful, and He will be faithful. Sometimes in life, these truths buffer against each other and life hurts… people die, pandemics unnerve us and upset our life rhythms, people lose jobs, lose hope... We feel the sadness, the burden, the weakness and like all is lost. How do we marry up our Christian faith and our experiences of grief. A great quote I read says “Lament stands in the gap between pain and promise. To cry is human, but to lament is Christian.” 1

Lament is how we endure. It’s how we trust. It’s how we wait. Who knew that actively engaging in lament could feel like such comfort and challenge in a time of sorrow? Let’s not wallow in our grief, but be passionate and active in it!

Lament leads us to trust. Again and again. It’s an active, enduring practise of patience. It’s not an ancient concept. It’s not a lonely, isolating path. We cry out to God, we share our pain, we remind ourselves of His unwavering promises, that His ways are higher. We lament.


1 “Learning to Lament - a 5 day devotional”, The Bible App

Inspiration, quote citation and further reading taken from “Learning to Lament - a 5 day devotional” from The Bible App.

Saturday 30 May 2020

Spiritual Pathways

So, have you ever met a Christian who you think is ‘better at it’ than you? Maybe you know people who regularly fast, or who can lose themselves in worship, or who spend hours in prayer. And you think either ‘wow, I wish I was like that’ or you feel inadequate measuring yourself against them. Moreover you may have tried to be like them in some way, but failed? We’ve probably all been there, but have you ever wondered why?  We know that we are all unique and created with different abilities and natures, we know we shouldn’t compare ourselves to others, so why do we compare ourselves to other Christians? Maybe these people are wired differently to you. Perhaps they have a different ’spiritual pathway’ to you.

Spiritual pathways are something I came across about 10 years ago which really impacted my thinking. Bill Hybels in his book 'Courageous Leadership' describes spiritual pathways as ‘doors that open a room where we can feel particularly close to God’. It is a way of understanding how we best relate to, or connect with, God. And when we are aware of this we can nurture and grow in our relationship with God.

Hybels outlines seven pathways : Intellectual, Relational, Serving, Worship, Activist, Contemplative, Creation. When I first read the names of the different pathways. I assumed I would come out as Serving and Activist; at the time I was working for the church therefore I was definitely serving God and I like to be busy therefore I must be an Activist. However, when I completed the exercise my two main pathways were Worship and Creation. It was only when I realised it was about connecting with God that I understood why these were my main spiritual pathways . Yes, I was serving God in my work and I was involved doing ‘stuff’, but those were not the way I primarily related to God. I love it when there is time to sing worship songs especially at festivals like New Wine and Spring Harvest and latterly at our college worship times. Times when I am surrounded by others worshipping in song, enjoying the music and words. And my heart sings when I am in nature. I love being in the hills and mountains. Creation is amazing and I find God in the beauty of a flower and in the magnificence of a mountain range. Knowing that these two activities help me connect with God, gave me a real release when worshipping and when in nature.

So I would encourage you to consider what your spiritual pathway(s) might be. Most people are thought to have one or two main pathways. There are various questionnaires online to help you (see further resources below). Once you have identified your pathway, use it to develop your relationship with God. Explore specific activities and spiritual practices that help you come closer to God e.g. praying with others (relational), reading a theological book (intellectual), listening to worship music (worship). Then look at the other pathways and the activities/practices that are associated with them and perhaps try some of them. They aren’t likely to feel quite as natural and or as easy, but it is good to challenge ourselves sometimes. All pathways offer an opportunity to grow in our relationship with God and no pathway is better than any other pathway. Those activities and exercises that are associated with other pathways can be helpful and will add to your spiritual growth.

As with all ‘personality’ tests, there are negative aspects. Some people don’t like to be classified in any way. And that is fine. If you are not interested in this then don’t waste your time trying to engage with something you won’t find helpful. Find something else that will help. This is only one tool designed to help you connect with God and grow in your relationship with Him.

Further Resources

If you are interested in understanding a little more about Spiritual Pathways, there is further information on the internet and the following books are recommended:

Bill Hybels, Courageous Leadership, 2002, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Gary Thomas, Sacred Pathways, 1996, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Spiritual Pathways Workbook (
Gary Thomas website)

Below are links to websites with questionnaires to help discover your spiritual pathway (some reference more than the 7 pathways listed in the blog post). Some of them provide an explanation of the different pathways and helpful suggestions to develop and stretch yourself:

Spiritual Pathways Assessment 1

Spiritual Pathways Assessment 2

Spiritual Pathways Assessment 3

Spiritual Pathways Assessment 4

By Sarah B

For a more complete explanation and additional spiritual pathways see Gary Thomas, Sacred Pathways, 1996, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Monday 25 May 2020

Part 3 - Growing fruit

They are words that are used all the time (both for those with faith, and those without). They’re on: greetings cards, lettering on our walls, hanging from our Christmas trees. Somehow we know the value but yet at times, perhaps, they can seem allusive.

There is the potential for us to spend weeks now looking at each characteristic of the fruit in depth but now does not seem the time for that. So, instead, below are some verses to reflect on if you would like to explore one facet of the fruit of the Spirit more.

Perhaps read and reflect on a verse a day; you could commit to memorizing one; why not doodle or 
draw what leaps out at you from them; maybe you could spend time reading around one using different translations of the Bible. (Needless to say, this list is by no means complete.)

  • 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
  • 1 John 4:7 - 21

  • Romans 12:12
  • James 1:2
  • Psalm 28:6-9

  • John 14:27
  • Philippians 4:6-7

  • Colossians 3:12-15
  • Psalm 103:8

  • Colossians 3:12-14

  • Psalm 23:6
  • Psalm 145
  • 2 Peter 1:5-8


  • 1 Corinthians 1:9
  • Psalm 86:15

  • Proverbs 15:1
  • Colossians 3:12
  • 1 Peter 3:3-4

Self control
  • 1 Corinthians 10:13
  • 2 Timothy 1:6-7
  • 2 Peter 1:5-8
  • Romans 12:2

A final note on fruit
Things that are of value can take time and it is often the same as we grow. Let’s acknowledge the real struggle that we find in these different areas but also remember what a great reward there is for our time and effort as we become more like Him who made us. Be encouraged that we can grow, and God is with us as we do.

By Jo P

Tuesday 19 May 2020

Part 2 - Living fruit, desiring gifts.

In Part 1 we looked at Paul’s letter to the Galatians, and sensed his frustration at their behaviour and poor choices - choosing to live under the ‘law’ rather than in the freedom that is offered through faith in Christ Jesus. Like the Galatians before us, Paul instructs us to live by the Spirit, turning away from sin and worldly desires. ‘Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.' (Gal 5:24). We should live lives in the fruit of the Spirit, out of this is born our Christian character.

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul also desires that we seek spiritual gifts given to us for the ‘common good’ (1 Cor 12:7), including the gifts of wisdom, knowledge, healing, prophecy, tongues, and the discernment of spirits. Now I have met many Christians over the years who are quite fearful of engaging with the spiritual gifts. One of their fears, it seems to me, comes out of a sense of them ‘handing over control of their minds and bodies to someone or something else’, and not knowing quite what will happen. Or there is fear of ‘getting it wrong’ or ‘what if nothing happens, I’ll look stupid’. There are all sorts of fears or anxieties that prevent people from fully engaging with the gifts that the Holy Spirit wants to give them.

Paul places the desiring of spiritual gifts in a framework of love. Whilst we are encouraged to desire spiritual gifts, we must use them only in an attitude of love:

‘If I speak in tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am only a 
resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and
 can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can 
move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing’ 
(1 Cor 13: 1-2).

As love is the framework, why might we be afraid of using the gifts that the Spirit gives us? The Holy Spirit will give gifts as he determines, but all within that loving framework. We should not be afraid to use the gifts we are given. As Paul writes about those that prophesy:

‘The spirits of the prophets are subject to the control of prophets. 
For God is not a God of disorder, but of peace’ 
(1 Cor 14: 32-33)

Why is it so important to live in the fruit, and also to desire and use our Spiritual gifts? Whilst the fruit determines and develops our character, it is through the spiritual gifts that we uphold, encourage, equip, and build the community of Christ. We need both the fruit and the gifts.

If we only have the fruit, we will not be spiritually equipped or mature to minister to those who need it, we will lack the wisdom and insight that the Spirit gives us in ministry situations. Our prayers will lack the power and knowledge that the Spirit gives us.

If we only have the gifts, and do not use them in the way of the fruit, we will be just like the clanging cymbals that Paul describes. We might come across as harsh if we don’t use our gifts in an attitude of prayerfulness and especially love.

To develop our Christian character, and to be fully who Christ has called us to be, we need both spiritual fruit and spiritual gifts. 

By Alex C

Thursday 14 May 2020

Praise Him?

I don’t know if you use any kind of daily notes to help you read the Bible, but Rob and I try to read the New Daylight notes each day. It’s always good to be encouraged to think about a particular part of the Bible and benefit from the way that the various contributors reflect on it, but there are some days when it feels like a particular passage or reflection stands out more than others.

This week our notes have been looking at Ezekiel speaking to the Israelites in exile in Babylon, and one morning there was a section from Psalm 137, which is a Psalm remembering the destruction of Jerusalem and the experience of exile. It got me thinking and it has stuck in my head this week, so I thought I’d share my reflections with you.

The start of the Psalm (v1-6) says this:

“By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’

How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land? If I forget you O Jerusalem may my right hand forget its skill. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy."

The phrase that has really stuck with me this week is the line ‘How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?’ The Israelites were in exile in a strange land and they were mourning for what they had lost. At the moment, it perhaps feels like we are in something of a strange land, missing much of what is familiar and the people and places that are important to us. Whilst of course it is good to be as positive as we can, it’s also OK to sit and weep if that’s what we are feeling sometimes. It’s OK if we don’t feel like singing.

The Israelites’ captors were asking them to sing as entertainment what for the Israelites were songs of worship to God. They were not something that could be sung on demand.

We don’t have to be forced to sing at the moment, but how brilliant would it be if we could get to a place where we want to sing, because it’s authentic – not just as music, as worship from the heart?

How do we get to that place? It will probably be different for each of us. The Israelites might not have been able to sing, but they hadn’t forgotten God. In verses 5-6, ‘If I forget you O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill, may my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy’. It’s worth remembering that for the Israelites, Jerusalem was not just a city, but the dwelling place of God in the temple, the heart of God’s promise to them. And it’s interesting to note, as one commentary does, that the Israelites hadn’t destroyed their harps, only hung them up.

If we’re feeling a bit overwhelmed and like we’ve hung up our harps on some days at the moment, then remembering what God is like - his unchanging character - and his past faithfulness to us is a good starting point for being able to worship from the heart again. For me, it seems like the Psalms are full of ‘buts’ – moments of despair, which the Psalmist doesn’t shy away from, but then often in the same Psalm a statement of who God is, and what he’s done in the past “But you O Lord…”– a reason to praise.

So this week, perhaps we can turn that phrase that’s stuck in my head ‘How can we sing the songs of the Lord in a foreign land?’ from a despairing, rhetorical question to a question that we want to answer – how can we sing the songs of the Lord in what feels like a foreign land? And let’s ask God, by his Spirit, to help us answer it. He is good, and faithful, even (or perhaps especially) in these strange times, and my prayer is that we would surprise ourselves with our ability to sing the song of the Lord wholeheartedly.

As an aside, if you have read this and then go away and read all of Psalm 137, I thought I should probably just mention the last two verses. It seems pretty horrendous – “Oh Daughter of Babylon, deemed to destruction, happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us – he who seizes your infants and dashes them on the rocks”. It’s a rather unpleasant, vindictive end to the Psalm. Apparently, it was the norm for heathen armies to mercilessly destroy women and children when they had captured a city, and it’s likely that it’s what had happened to Jerusalem. The Psalmist’s call for revenge in such a graphic way is, apparently, them calling for a proportionate retribution. It’s another indicator that the Psalms are a good place to realise that our whole range of emotions are acceptable before God, but we should also read that last part of the passage in the light of New Testament teaching where we are called to love our enemies and trust in God’s judgement rather than taking revenge!

By Anna S

Sunday 10 May 2020

Part 1 - Those naughty Galatians

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, 
faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is 
no law” (Gal 5:22-23).

Paul’s letter to the Galatians is unlike any of his other letters to the early church. He is really quite furious with them, and his frustration at their behaviour is littered throughout the whole letter. He basically calls out their bad behaviour, doesn’t hold back, and lets them have it with both barrels!

‘I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by 
the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel - which is really no gospel 
at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert 
the gospel of Christ’ (1:6-7)

‘You foolish Galatians!’ (3:1)

‘Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? 
Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your
goal by human effort?’ (3:2-3)

‘My dear children, for whom I am in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed 
in you, how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am 
perplexed about you!’ (4:19-20)

‘See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!’ (6:11)

That final verse reminds me of how in modern texting and messaging etiquette that to use FULL CAPITALS indicates someone shouting, usually in anger or irritation. You can hear Paul’s frustration with the Galatian church in verse 6:11 - maybe those large letters were FULL CAPITALS - emphasising his exasperation! Also, by telling them he is writing to them in his own hand, rather than the more usual practice of using a scribe, Paul is stressing the importance of his message as he took the time to write this personally.

So, the question is why was Paul so frustrated with the church in Galatia, and what do we need to learn from this letter? Timothy Keller describes the purpose of the letter to the Galatians as:

‘in this short letter, Paul outlines the bombshell truth that the gospel is the A to Z
of the Christian life. It is not the way to enter the kingdom; it is the way to live
as part of the kingdom. It is the way Christ transforms people, churches 
and communities.’ 1

What had happened is that the church in Galatia was not living a Christian life. They were being ‘confused’ by other preachers who came after Paul, who were preaching a different message, and were more concerned about the ‘law’, and not the freedom found in living the Christian life through the crucified Christ. They were causing the Galatians to abandon the gospel of Christ, for a different gospel. They were reverting to traditions, law and cultural practices, and these were seemingly more important than the freedom found in Christ.

‘Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until 
faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we 
might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the 
supervision of the law’ (3:23-25).

Now, why have I included all this background when talking about the fruit of the Spirit? Partly because I think that it is easy to fall into practices that are not glorifying to Christ, or bring freedom to ourselves in our Christian walk. The Galatians were being duped and living back under the ‘law’ when Paul had preached a message of being justified by faith. They were missing the point. Do we allow our own ‘traditions and culture’, or ‘law’, to sometimes cause us to miss the point, and not to flourish?

As a young Christian, I know that my personal faith journey was challenged by some of my behaviours and choices. Thankfully, I have always had more mature Christians around me who were able to disciple me, challenge me, correct me, encourage me, pray with me, and teach me how to live a life in the Spirit, and not under the ‘law’. My journey is far from completed, but rather an ongoing one. There are many days when I feel I have ‘dropped the ball’ and my behaviour, attitudes, or more usually my thought life, have been dishonouring to Christ. By seeking his forgiveness and striving to do better, and with the help of his Holy Spirit, I try to live my life by his fruit.

Paul lists the fruit of the Spirit so that we can develop our Christian character, to be free, to be the fullness of who God created us to be. We need to ensure that we are practising:

love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and 
self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Are there things that are holding you back from living in this freedom? Practices or beliefs that fall under the ‘law’? Let’s not live like the Galatians who forgot Paul’s message of freedom through faith, but fell into the pattern of old practices which denied them the true gospel and whose character was brought in question. Instead, let’s embrace the fruit of the Spirit, against which there is no law, and which enables us to build our true Christian character.

In our next blog post we will consider how the fruit of the Spirit in partnership with the Spiritual Gifts help us to develop our full Christian Character.

By Alex C

1 Timothy Keller, Galatians For You, (The Good Book Company, 2013), 9.

Thursday 7 May 2020

Fruit, Spiritual Gifts, & Character

At Thrive we have recently been exploring our Spiritual Gifts, having the opportunity to discover which gifts we have, and to practice the prophetic gifting that the apostle Paul encourages us all to seek “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire the spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy” (1 Cor 14:1). 

Over the next couple of posts, we will look at how, as Christians, we should live lives that bear the fruit of the Spirit, as well as seeking to develop our Spiritual gifts. And finally how, when these are working together, we are truly developing our Christian character.

by Alex C