Saturday, May 30, 2020


In his book Holy Spirit Michael Ramsay quotes the words of a leader in the Orthodox church.  They really made me think about what we celebrate tomorrow.

Without the Holy Spirit God is far away,
Christ stays in the past,
The Gospel is simply an organization,
authority a matter of propaganda,
the liturgy is no more than an evolution,
Christian loving a slave morality.

But in the Holy Spirit
the cosmos is resurrected and grows
with the birth pangs of the Kingdom,
the Risen Christ is there,
the Gospel is the power of life,
the Church shows forth the life of the Trinity,
Authority is a liberating science,
the liturgy is both renewal and anticipation,
mission is a Pentecost

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The Keeper

Carol read Psalm 121 from the King James Version for today's church zoom prayers.  Only eight verses but there was one word in translation that I particularly wanted to highlight. Contrasting KJV with NIV you notice how the question at the beginning is missing: I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.  A question mark helps - are the hills places of danger, of cultic worship or (as I think the majority take it) the physical hills around Jerusalem which speak of the Lord's majesty and purpose?  I have always wondered whether for this psalmist who seems to have a deep need to know God and have a purpose and meaning to his life whether they dwarf him with their permanence and size in contrast with his little life.  Well, who knows.

But what matters is the personal affirmation that his help comes from the Lord who made the hills and everything else and who promises to be with him every step of the way, night and day, body mind and spirit 24/7.  And the KJV word is 'keeper' - the Lord is thy keeper v 5.  It has a ring of warmth and responsibility about it and, as we read on, we see how consistent is God's keeping.

I particularly paused at the theme that 'he that keepeth thee will not slumber (v3) Behold he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep (v.4).  I remember as a child marvelling that God did not need to go to sleep...ever.  It was the Methodist minister Dr. Quayle who was working hard one night with no end in sight when this verse struck him and he seemed to hear God say: There's no need to both of us to stay up all night. I'm going to stay up anyway. You go to bed and get a good sleep'.

Yes. keeper is a good word.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Sit Down and Wait.

Of course we don't know for sure how disciples coped in this period of 50 days after Easter.  They had witnessed the world shaking event of the Resurrection. Emotions are shaken to the core. After the scary first encounters - the raw fear of Luke 24: 37 - there is so much they have to come to terms with. Their world is changing though they don't yet know the half.

It seems critical that twice Jesus tells them that they must wait. Luke 24: 49 Stay in the city literally means SIT DOWN.  In Acts 1.4 Jesus commands: Do not depart from Jerusalem but wait. Yes, Jesus is promising that the Father is sending a gift which they will miss if they leave the city.  But they also need a long waiting period.  Why? Because they have much growing up to do.  Their experience and understanding of Jesus needs deepening.  It's not some instant subjective experience that solves everything.  It's not as though they suddenly know how to live in the new normal as Easter people. What did it mean now to live in the Kingdom of God? (Acts 1:3)

Waiting gives time to grow deeper. Christian discipleship requires times of sitting down. It was the Quaker, John Southall who said: 'We cannot go through life strong and fresh on constant express trains; but we must have quiet hours, secret places of the Most High, times of waiting upon the Lord when we renew our strength and learn to mount up with wings and eagles.'

In our current time of enforced waiting  and wondering when the timetable might be relaxed for the lock down there may be a lesson here. Express trains are out for most of us! But if it is true that Christian discipleship is a matter of continuing to sit down with the Lord so that he can deal with us in the quiet, well, this is quite an opportunity.

John White in Flirting with the World  really let's rip: 'Jesus weeps over sheep fed on lollipops...,  Jesus weeps over poor deceived people who are falsely taught by enthusiastic preachers that an instant,subjective experience at a special conference will solve all their problems and give them zippy, automatic Christian joy for the rest of their lives. That's garbage'.  No, lollipops won't do. Sit down, Michael!

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Ascension Day

So Ascension Day!  That concealing cloud also means that a new era is beginning.  Jesus is to be seen no more but something new is going to happen.  Jesus made it very clear as he said goodbye to his disciples that he would be replaced by a universal presence called the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit.  'I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counsellor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you '(John 16:7 ).

In the divine economy Jesus' departure is to be followed by the coming of the Third Person of the Trinity.  Pentecost follows Ascension.  It's a kind of divine chain reaction. Jesus comes to show us the Father and the Holy Spirit comes to show us Jesus Christ. And more than that.  It is for your good.  When Jesus was on earth he could only deal with the few, a woman by the well, a blind man, ten lepers, 12 disciples. Among the 5000 fed how many hands was he able to touch?  He is flesh and blood.  He became tired.  He only travelled a few square miles when the whole world needed him.  But on the cross he accomplishes reconciliation for the world, for everyone, and when the Spirit comes he can go through the whole world carving a way of conviction, love, joy, forgiveness, assurance and power to live God's new way.

The cloud of glory that speaks of a new era also marks the ultimate victory, for there is consistent New Testament teaching that the Messiah of God will return on the clouds of heaven.  To the disciples looking up at the cloud comes the rebuke: 'Men of Galilee, why stand here looking into the sky?  This same Jesus who has been taken from you into heaven will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven (Acts 1:11).

The cloud marks how the God who has interrupted this world once, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem that people might see their God face to face, will interrupt this world again.  The clouds of glory with the returning King Messiah mean that history has purpose which is held in God's hands. History is not a haphazard collection of chance events leading nowhere.  Jesus is the Alpha and Omega - he will be there at the end.

A prayer helps me say it today (from Contemporary Prayers)

Ascended Lord Jesus, I adore you!
Once you lived a human life subject to the limitations of time:
now you are the same yesterday, today, and for ever.
Once you were limited to one particular place:
now you are present wherever people turn to you.
Once only those who met you face to face knew you;
now your divine love extends through all the world.
Jesus ascended Lord of time and space,
love as wide as life,
I adore you!

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

That cloud!

When Luke (the historian!) records that Jesus was taken up in a cloud this detail is not incidental. Indeed, it's crucial to understanding the wonder of the Ascension. Because cloud in Scripture means several things.

Particularly, GLORY.  Right through the Bible, cloud speaks of the glory of God.  The pillar of fire and cloud leading Israel from Egypt; thick cloud and lightning on Mr. Sinai; the cloud dwelling over the Tabernacle; and. especially, enveloping cloud on the Mt. of Transfiguration revealing the glory and presence of God breaking through in the ministry of Jesus.

At the Ascension, at the end of Jesus' resurrection appearances he is swathed again in cloud. In the splendour of God's presence he is accepted back into the glory which he left when the world's most amazing journey began as God's son was degraded to birth in a stable. Jesus is back where he belongs sharing the glory of God in three persons.  Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, back in control, sovereign.  And we can claim: He ascended into heaven that he might fill all things. That at the name of Jesus ever knee should bow, in heaven and on earth, and things the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.'. (Phil 2:10,11).

Because of the cloud of glory we can call Jesus by his right name. Not mighty prophet, not good religious teacher, not remarkable human being but Son of God who lives and reigns with God the Father and God the Spirit before all time, now and for ever.

And there's more....

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

40 days since Easter

Some within the world church will know exactly what 40 days since Easter means. They will celebrate on Thursday!  Others of us may not!  In fact some us will be surprised how important this milestone is for many.  Yes, it's Ascension Day.  It's startling how important some Christians have regarded this event. St. Augustine reckoned that the Ascension of Jesus was the most important Christian Festival of them all - rated higher than Christmas and even Easter...
Without which the profitableness of every festival would have perished.  For unless the Saviour had ascended into heaven his Nativity would have come to nothing, and His Passion would have borne no fruit for us and his most holy Resurrection would have been useless.
That seems to go too far but the Ascension certainly is a vital piece of the story of Jesus - because it finishes the earthly journey with the mightiest of flourishes with the crowning moment of glory.  Miss the ascension and you miss the end of the story, the end of the journey, the triumph of the King.

Maybe some of us play this down because it's celebrated on a Thursday and our church doesn't meet. More likely there is lingering embarrassment that the ascension of Jesus suggests a world-view that heaven is just above the blue sky.  In this scientific age perhaps we feel uncomfortable to read 'he was taken up before their very eyes and a cloud hid him from their sight'.(Acts 1:9).  We shouldn't be embarrassed. Because this story is not about space travel and the location of heaven. It's not here to support pre-Copernican ideas.  The Ascension of Jesus is not about where heaven is but WHO JESUS IS when human eyes last saw him.  And it's the cloud that shows us so much about what the event means.

Before we reach Thursday I need to think some more.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Listen...just focus

A break from serious stuff!  This morning I have been on my hands and knees scrambling in awkward corners.  9 weeks ago, after protracted calls and online 'chats', a BT engineer replaced our old TV system. He said how useful it would be during lock down to have it all working well.  But two weeks ago it started to malfunction again with a tv/errors notice whenever I turned on.  Following online instructions to correct this also failed.  Another chatline adviser suggested new cables which, when fitted, led to no improvement either.

This morning I eventually got through to a live adviser.  Carefully I explained our problem.  He said he would talk me through fixing it.  First, I had to check the leads.  Disappointed I told him that I had done this several times!  'No, listen', he said, 'Just focus on what I am saying. What do your mini transmitters look like?  What lights are on?'  As I searched he reminded me to focus.  'Are they on extension cables?'  'Yes', I said, 'that's how the engineer set it all up.'  'That's wrong', he replied. 'They must be in the wall socket.  Put them into the wall socket'. Much more messing around in dark corners, disconnecting other items like the 'phones. Which meant suddenly I was cut off from him.  At least three times, with some irritation, he had told me to keep focus!

Cautiously I find that this advice appears to have worked. And this provides a  banal picture of how the Holy Spirit wants to keep me focused on essentials. Of course, he shows no irritation but has a similar task of guiding us when other things get in the way and confuse.  It's a good way of remembering in prayer...Listen..just focus.

Thursday, May 14, 2020


Yesterday we read the challenge of Ps. 46:10 Be still and know that I am God.; I will be exalted...  And it is a challenge.  Pascal claimed that 'most of man's troubles come from his not being able to sit quietly in his room.'  The truth is that some of us temperamentally find it difficult to sit quietly in a room.  I find it is a discipline that demands practice.  But coming to terms with silence is vital for self-knowledge and for prayer.

I read these words recently (From Kenneth Leech, Soul Friend):
The purpose of silence is to allow the heart to be still and to listen to God. To build up inner resources of silence and stillness is one of the central tasks of training in prayer. In a culture which has almost outlawed silence, it is a matter of urgency that Christians create oases, centres in which inner silence can be cultivated.

I'm trying to discipline my own little oasis.  And I have been helped by Sue Jeffreys' prayer:
Help me Lord to find time to be quiet. Sometimes my ears get so bombarded with noise that I don't hear anything. Help me to learn to listen. If I begin to hear tiny sounds - quiet breathing, the murmur of bees, the rustling of leaves; then we may begin to hear what people are trying to say to us. And what YOU may be saying. Let me remember the deaf in their loneliness and isolation. But we may be isolated by noise. Open my ears, Lord.  Amen.
I'm trying with the Lord's help!

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Be still

I led our church zoom prayer meeting this morning on Psalm 24 (in my mind from the last post). What two challenges it gives:

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. That when all the things that seemed permanent and certain in our lives come crashing down God remains permanent and certain.  It puts God first order.  When life bubbles along with all our normal priorities God can often be relegated down the order - 3rd, 4th, or lower as work, family, leisure take first place. But when everything is shaken up we should get the order right. God first. And he does not secure us against the virus but is with us in the virus. Especially, as Easter people, with the risen Jesus promising that he will be with us always (yes, in the virus).  Therefore we will not fear. 

Be still and know that I am God and I will be exalted among the the earth.  This is one of those rare times when God speaks directly to us in a psalm.  And what a critical command this is.  For we cannot place God in first place without being still.  Quietness and stillness is the path to knowing God. That ought to be a little easier for us in lock down.

In our prayer time Carol read from Jonathan Aitken's Psalms for People under Pressure.  A cabinet minister he was sent to prison for perjury where he encountered God more deeply. When he was released he wrote this book about the psalms with personal notes.  On Psalm 46 he comments that for most of his 57 years he was too busy to follow the key advice of Be Still.  But when he went to prison he discovered a cell can be a good place to pray.  Between dawn and the prison officers shouting out :Unlock! Everybody out! at 7:30 a.m.'I first discovered how to be still before the Lord, how to listen to him, be in awe of him and to get to know him'

This morning we prayed his prayer.
O Lord God, you are our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. Help us not to be afraid when we are caught in a crisis or a catastrophe. Give us the strength to see that your life-giving streams of love flow through even the worst of disasters and will sustain us.  In the worst of our troubles help us to heed the wisdom of this psalm and to obey its command: Be still and know that I am God. In the stillness we offer you, may we hear your voice and know your will, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Remembering 9/11

Carol was talking to me about the bitter morning when terrorists struck the New York Twin Towers and our reactions in September 2001. It was our first full year in the US and alongside teaching in seminary I was interim preacher at First Baptist Church, Wheaton.  She said, 'Do you remember how you had to preach in all the shock on the next Sunday?'  I do, and I looked back on my notes today.  As I read the sermon's beginning I cannot help but contrast the kind of shock the US was feeling compared with today.  I began like this:

On Tuesday morning from 6:30 I finished preparing the sermon for today. It was on Abraham...but it's not for today.  Because just as I was leaving early for the office Carol shouted out: Quick, put on the TV - something terrible is happening.' And it was.  We have been in shock this week ever since. We have witnessed things we have never seen before. One reporter said; "Note this. America changed forever at 9 :29 September 11 2001. At 9:28 with the twin towers on fire it was surreal and frightening and we watched with fear. I was on the streets below. At 9:29 the first people jumped to their death and then we knew it was real and we were scared.'  We were scared.  Everyone of us who lives in America, who belongs to this generous, freedom loving nation has been shaken and shocked to the core. There were images in our minds unfolding before our eyes, that we shall never be able to forget. The passenger plane flying into the side of the second tower. The towers crumbling, the scenes at ground zero.  People trapped and sending last messages, I love you'  I don't know what you did? Did you call someone and talk and talk.  Or go very quiet.  How you expressed sadness or anger?

I went on to preach Psalm 46.  Maybe I'll look at that shortly. But it struck me looking back how this sudden disaster had hit us so visibly.  We saw the disaster unfold and the casualties hit us viscerally.  And how different today's disastrous virus is.  Because most of us do not see suddenness.  Its very stealth and invisibility make it a very different experience to deal with.  And a much more difficult experience to deal with too. The virus' impact is deadly and it  is slow burn .Sadly, some will have grim images in their minds of loved ones suffering.  But for so many of us it is still out there... unseen. Coping with it requires long-term faith and hope.  We need to hear Ps. 24: 1:  God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Nutriment not indigestion

Oswald Chambers arrested me by his thought for today.  Meditating on Jesus' claim to be the living bread (John 6:51) he pictures how Jesus was made broken bread and poured out wine for us, and he expects us to be made broken bread and poured out wine in his hands for others.

If we are not thoroughly baked, we will produce indigestion because we are dough instead of bread.  We have to be made into good nutritious stuff for other people. The reason we are going through the things we are is that God wants to know whether he can make us good bread with which to feed others. The stuff of our lives, not simply of our talk, is to be the nutriment of those who know us. 
He warns that many Christian workers are like dough not bread:
They are faddists and cranks, and when they are given out for distribution they produce indigestion instead of giving nourishment. 
As I go 'through the things we are' I really don't want to give others indigestion.  That's a disturbing challenge !

Friday, May 8, 2020

75 years ago

We have just been silent for two minutes' during which television film showed the worst of war with scenes of battle, the blitz and so many graves, focusing on a plain wooden cross to an unknown soldier.  The sacrifice and bitterness of loss brings such sadness.  And grief will be felt by many today. I remember my first Remembrance Sunday in Blackburn when many men turned up in uniform and after the silence there was weeping among them. As a young minister I came of age as I saw raw grief.

Today is bitter-sweet because the memories are also focused on celebration. Our neighbour is 79 today and he came round to thank us for his birthday card. 'I was only four but I remember this day so clearly. Our whole street went mad.  They scrubbed kitchen tables and brought them out into the street with those wooden chairs we used to have. And hung garlands, with so much noise and merriment.  All the women in their pinafores and headscarves making a feast for us. Oh, how I remember'.  Then he went quiet. 'My father was in the RAF.  He came home but within 3 months he had left my mum and me'.

Today we should be realists about the costs of conflict and suffering and the world we live in.  Living in a fallen world where the Bible speaks of spiritual warfare, of the need to be strong and put on God's complete armour, we are told to keep alert.  'We are up against...spiritual agents from the very headquarters of evil...Take your stand then with truth..righteousness, peace...salvation....the Word of at all times with every kind of spiritual prayer, keeping alert and persistent (From Eph 6. Phillips).

Thursday, May 7, 2020

A lock-down prayer Part 2

The prayer began GOD BE IN MY HEAD and in my understanding. The consequence of brains being filled with spiritual intelligence is that understanding God's will leads to GOD BE IN MY BEHAVIOUR.  Godly thinking leads to godly living - lives worthy of the Lord (v.10).

Two behaviour words jump out that are particularly appropriate for lock-down:
GREAT ENDURANCE - this word is frequently found in the NT. It's about how we face events with God's strength, not by sitting down, gritting our teeth and letting troubles flow over us. But by overcoming because God's spirit within strengthens us to endure with heads held high. Phillips Brooks once said:'I do not pray for a lighter load, but for a stronger back'.  That's quite a challenge.

PATIENCE - rather than applied to events this is primarily about coping with people with God's strength. It's the quality of mind and heart that enables someone to bear with others who hurt, irritate, deeply annoy and worse.  So easily in lock down frustrations can build with those close by. This is God's challenge that we respond to hurts, irritations, annoyances with grace. Yes, grace under pressure.

One commentator says: The Christian's fortitude in events and patience with people must be indestructible.  This prison prayer of Paul's was expressed under great personal  pressure and is not theoretical wishful thinking.  It's for real.  For us, today.

8 year old Amy, grand daughter of a friend, wrote this prayer.  Simply it captures much, doesn't it?

Stay safe
Be kind
Have faith
Calm your mind
Be brave Be strong
it won't be long
Keep praying
God's above
And never forget
God's love

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

A lock-down prayer - Part 1

I led our church zoom prayer time this morning with some verses that seem especially appropriate. Partly because they are written by Paul in Lock down.  Probably in prison in Rome, certainly in chains, with the threat of death.  But also for us because of the way that he prays.  It is extraordinary in imprisonment that he is so keen to pray so positively, and for others too. It's Colossians 1: 9-14.

Look at the way he begins.  When we pray for others that they may have endurance and patience we likely dive straight into it.  But Paul begins by: asking God to fill you will all the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding v.9).  He's praying first that GOD IS IN YOUR HEAD.  This filling is a strong word about the whole of our minds - right brain (the imaginative) and left brain (the logical).  Every bit of our thinking.  The specifics are dramatically different from how we often think.

Spiritual wisdom is the knowledge of God's first principles.  It's intelligence of a completely different order. Elsewhere Paul speaks of the wisdom of this age and the rulers of this age (1 Cor 2.6) - the wisdom of university, law, media, conventional wisdom which accumulates facts from the world around.  Spiritual wisdom  is about receiving facts and knowledge from God himself - he has revealed the truths about us in Jesus, in we are to live.  What life is all about.  What is his will for creation, for you and me. Now.

Understanding comes from applying this spiritual wisdom - it's the practical application of living God's way.  For Paul, what matters is that we are thinking aright.  Someone said: The brain is no stronger than its weakest think. And it's very easy to become weary, anxious, depressed which can so easily lose sight of God's will for us.

You know those words from the Sarum Primer 1538;
      God be in my head, and in my understanding;
      God be in mine eyes, and in my looking;
      God be in my mouth, and in my speaking;
      God be in my heart, and in my thinking;
      God be at mine end, and at my departing.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Golden rules

Yesterday I led a session on how to prepare and give a devotional talk to a group of students. In preparation myself I wondered what golden rules about communication in general I might begin with. I came up with four.  I know many of my readers also speak publicly.  Would you agree with this selection?

1. All communicators can improve.  I know there are inspiring exceptions but most of us need to keep learning how to do it better.  It's a matter of fact that those attending conferences on communication are the better communicators; others say they do not need any help because they've got it down pat are not the better communicators!
2. Christians are promised the help of the Holy Spirit (and that's the biggest deal) but it does not allow us to flout basic communication rules. 
3. Feedback is essential for the effective communicator.  To receive honest, loving, critique is the greatest gift for any communicator - and that's the way to learn.
4. Your God-given personality means you have a personal speaking style.  You will not sound like anyone else.  You are not like anyone else. Some are serious, others more humourous; formal/informal, teacher-oriented/story-telling, logical/emotional, slow-paced/ fast paced. We need to develop our unique speaking voice.

I asked the group which of these is the most difficult to follow. Immediately 3. was flagged up. Said a student 'When I've done, I'm done.  I don't want to hear myself, see myself or think about it!'  Others agreed.  Yes, this is probably the most difficult of all, though someone else highlighted 4 because of the need genuinely to find your own style.  And to be willing to be adaptable to many other listening styles!

Would you agree?  Add? Change?

Sunday, May 3, 2020

A first

This morning I preached at Arbury Rd. Baptist Church, Cambridge.  I was asked to record my sermon earlier in the week.  So, in the quiet back bedroom I preached to the little screen with Carol giving the reading. Today we shared in the Sunday event as the minister opened the service from his front room and we were led into some songs and prayers (really helpful and to the point).

When it came to my bit it was a very odd experience.  Never before have I shared in a worship service when I have been pre-recorded.  Yes, sometimes I have seen events once they have happened but this was a first.  Decidedly odd.

Marvellously, my London family tuned in via You Tube and later they called to tell me how odd it was for them too!  Happily odd, I add! And  later in the day owing to the time difference our family in New York State also worshipped with us.  Doubly happily odd. Technology has enabled so much good as well as all the other stuff!

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Back to front

Yesterday I was working in my study on a teaching seminar scheduled for Monday. It's titled: Preparing and Giving a Devotional Message.  Not a small theme!   I have fleshed out a framework for the two hour session and had the brainwave of asking Carol to write out the nine steps of preparation on a big board for my Zoom session. I want to be able to write on it. I positioned the board on my easel behind my chair and then checked how big the lettering should be.....and discovered that it zoomed an image which was back to front.  It showed a mirror image.  I was utterly flummoxed.

Shortly, in the afternoon it was time for our regular Zoom church prayer time.  When I joined others commented that my bookcases background looked different from normal. (Isn't it interesting how many TV interviews are given with books behind?) I explained I was in my study in the middle of preparing this session and that I had just encountered this mirror problem with my visual aid..

'Oh,' said our pastor, ' You have the mirror option on your Zoom, you can change that!'  'Really', I replied with astonishment.  With the group listening in he told me where to go on the screen and which buttons to hit and hey presto the mirror imaging had gone.  Everything was the right way round!  I laughed and said how helpful joining the prayer group was!  Actually it was helpful in more significant ways too.

Carol has now written the steps up in poster size.  How easy it was, when I knew how, to get things the right way. That was on's much more demanding process in life, isn't it?

Friday, May 1, 2020

Nothing irredeemable

I read an interesting interview with the author Philip Yancey yesterday.  He was asked how his view of pain and suffering had changed.  He explained that as a young man he thought suffering was God's one big mistake but that he began to see how differently the Bible presents things:

I began to see the Bible presents things in a bit of a different way. The Bible doesn't promise that we're going to have a pain-free existence. Nowhere does it say that. I learned a new paradigm.  You asked about how I've changed, and increasingly I've looked at that paradigm, that God isn't in the pain-removal business so much as God is in the pain-recycling business, or as Christians would say, the redeeming business.

The best expression of that that I know of is Romans 8 where Paul talks about how the whole planet is groaning as if in the pains of childbirth,...then he describes his own personal biography which included a lot of bad things.... Yet, as he looked back on those things, he said, "All of these things were used for my good.

When I was studying Romans 8 I came across this beautiful phrase from Dallas Willard, who said, For those who love God, nothing irredeemable can happen to you and that's the promise we can hold out to others.  As I got to know people and written articles about them, especially those who go through very hard times, frankly pain redeemed impresses me more than pain removed. Miracles are great - I love miracles - but they are miracles. They're pretty rare! You can't count on those! On the other hand redemption is something we can count on; it's the hope we all can cling to.

Those words: For those who love God, nothing irredeemable can happen to you really lit me up. Perhaps they do for you!