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‘Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks.’
Reflections based on John 4:1–26
There is so much that I could say about this passage – including how Jesus crossed cultural boundaries to reach out to this woman – but today I want to focus on what He teaches us about the importance of attitude over place in worship. The Samaritan woman is bowled over by how much this man knows about her and recognises the fact that He must be a prophet or some such person. So, feeling uncomfortable, she changes the subject and asks Him about a popular theological question of the day – where the correct place to worship was: ‘Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem’.
Jesus’ answer is one of the most important teachings on worship that He gave: ‘believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem… God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in the Spirit and in truth’. In this statement Jesus was revealing the importance of attitude rather than location when we worship. He also spoke of the importance of the Spirit as well as truth, as it is through the Spirit that we are able to really connect with God and celebrate the truths that we know about Him. And the Bible clearly teaches that we are all born of the Spirit when we become Christians. That means we can each draw on His wisdom and strength day by day (Ephesians 1:13–14).
Sadly, sometimes our Westernised ‘worship culture’ can actually be a smoke screen if we get too caught up in it, and it can actually end up hiding us from God rather than drawing us nearer to Him. The means by which we worship should always remain that – the means, not the end. It is not about the latest songs, or the ‘best’ worship leader. While I enjoy singing new songs, putting too much emphasis on them causes them to be a distraction.
Question: Do you have a tendency to focus on the songs and musical arrangements rather than God when you take part in corporate worship? Ask God to help you to focus on Him alone, and to teach you more about what it means to worship Him in Spirit and in truth.
I am pleased to announce that my latest book, co-authored with the wonderful Chris Ledger, is available now. I am really proud of Insight into Self-acceptance, as I know how many of us still struggle to accept the love that God lavishes on us – often it is because we do not know how to love and accept ourselves.
In the book, we look at some of the enemies of self-acceptance, including shame, guilt, unforgiveness, our own inner critical voice and the internal scripts and rules we set for ourselves. Then we spend time exploring some of the tools we can all utilise in our daily lives, such as mindfulness, self-compassion, knowing who we are in Christ and thankfulness. Here is some info from the book’s jacket:
Many of us struggle to believe that we can be truly loved and accepted just as we are. Perhaps we know that God loves us, but are still striving to feel ‘good enough’. Understanding some of the obstacles to self-acceptance can lead to a breakthrough in our relationships with ourselves, with others, and with the loving God who already accepts us.
If you would like to find out more, or to buy a copy, please click here.
‘The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.’
Reflections based on Psalm 19:1–11
Going back through the books I have on worship, I was struck once more by how many of them focused on worship as a response to what we know about God. This makes so much sense as it is only out of revelation that we can make a heartfelt response. And yet how often do we try and worship out of a dry and unfed bank of revelation? One writer simply suggested that if we aren’t very good at worshipping it’s because we don’t know our God very well. Ouch. I know there are seasons in which worshipping is harder, and we will look at that specifically later on, but there is a basic truth to what they said.
So where should we go to find out more about God? His Word is the obvious place and a great starting point is the psalms, such as the one we’ve read today. It’s there that we learn of the absolute awesomeness of God and yet, more than that, are reminded that He knows even the number of hairs on our heads and wants a personal relationship with us. What incredible truths!
Spend some time soaking those truths in. The more science discovers about the universe the more we can be in awe of the God who, as Graham Kendrick’s song ‘The Servant King’ so beautifully describes, ‘flung the stars into space’*. And yet He also knows every intimate detail of our lives and wants to spend time with us.
I love the way that Psalm 19 paints such a vivid picture of how God’s own creation literally pulsates with the truth about Him – that everything reveals His glory. It also reveals how God’s laws and commands are ordered and right. That to me shows His care for humanity.
Meditation: Sit quietly and write down some of the things this psalm reveals to you about God. Try and write a response in the form of a prayer, thank you letter, psalm or song.
*Graham Kendrick Copyright © 1983 Thankyou Music/Adm. by Capitol CMG Publishing worldwide excl. UK & Europe, adm. by Integritymusic.com, a division of David C Cook email@example.com Used by Permission.
Today is International Day of the Girl Child, and the theme for this year is “Girls’ Progress = Goals’ Progress: A Global Girl Data Movement”. As UN Women explains, this is ‘a call for action for increased investment in collecting and analysing girl-focused, girl-relevant and sex-disaggregated data.’
One of the reasons that stands in the way of girls making progress is a lack of education. When I realised that today is the Day of the Girl, I immediately thought of my daughter: how much I love her and how proud I am of her. She is so fortunate because she is given free access to education. She is at the point this year of choosing secondary schools and our area is one in which competition is fierce and the grammar schools, in particular, attract applicants from miles away. Some of the comprehensives, as well as the grammars, have entrance exams and so my daughter has been juggling various tests and auditions alongside her usual school work. She has had week after week of study and exams – and has done amazingly well under the pressure. I have felt so keenly how unfair the system is, especially when other counties across England have no such approach. But I have also been proud of how my daughter has risen to the challenge and met every new obstacle with a gritty determination.
I want my daughter to know that she is loved for who she is – not for how she performs in tests. But I also want her to know what a privilege it is to be educated freely. I want her eyes to be open to the plight of other girls her age around the world. In developing countries (excluding China), one in every three girls is married before reaching the age of 18. This stunts their progress, not just because child marriage is often followed by pregnancy – even if a girl is not yet physically or mentally ready. Every day, over 20,000 girls under age 18 give birth in developing countries – over 7 million a year.
The statistics are still horrifying and I long for the day when they won’t be, remembering soberly that each number stands for a girl’s life. Today I simply want to stand alongside UN Women’s statement: ‘On the International Day of the Girl Child, we stand with the global community to support girls’ progress everywhere. Let girls be girls.’ They are the women of the future – let us celebrate them not just today, but by doing all we can to support organisations that are seeking to educate and empower girls right around the world.
* Stats taken from UN Women.
I have been a worship leader for many years now, which means I think about the whole subject of worship quite regularly and extensively. I’ve also read a lot of books about it. That by no means makes me an expert, as I think we can spend our whole lives learning more about worshipping our king.
My aim in posting this devotional series is for us to explore together what it truly means to cultivate a lifestyle of worship – every day. So let’s begin…
‘For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.’ Colossians 1:15
Reflections based on Colossians 1:15–23:
Everyone on this earth was made for worship; it is an inbuilt thing. We were made by God, for God. If we aren’t worshipping God we are worshipping something else.
Worship comes from the Old English word ‘Worth-ship’ and it really is about honouring what we value the most. As Louie Giglio, in his book The Air I Breathe, says: ‘Right this very instant, all across your city or town, people of all shapes and sizes, people of every age and purpose are doing it – continually making decisions based on what they value most. Worship happens everywhere…all day long.’
When we look at it from this perspective, the idea of ‘worship as a lifestyle’ doesn’t seem so alien.
Our passage in Colossians looks at how Jesus existed before time, was there helping his father create the world and also reconciled us to God. As verse 17 indicates, ‘He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.’ There is so much in there to ponder – try reading back through the passage slowly and see how your spirit responds to the enormous truths contained in it.
You may not feel like worshipping God today. Life is hard and none of us are immune to difficult circumstances. But even if you don’t feel it, the way you live your life reveals what it is that you worship. Your ideals, priorities etc are all based on what it is that you value most. That is simply the way you were made. And for those of you who, like me, have a tendency towards self-sufficiency, do really take time to ponder the question below.
Question: Think about what you prioritise in terms of your time and money. What does that reveal to you about what you value most?
I know I am posting this rather late – but better late than never! I took time off of blogging while my kids were on holiday, and have been busy finishing off a book I am co-writing since they went back to school. But I read some great books during the summer, so wanted to share them with you:
By C.F. Dunn
I was so excited that I got to read the final book in the gripping ‘Secret of the Journal’ series before it was officially released, as I am a great fan. It certainly didn’t disappoint, as I was totally engrossed right until the end. Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing the author about her writing process and how she felt having finished the series. I was feeling quite bereft knowing that I wouldn’t be engaging with the characters anymore – it seems she has ways of keeping them alive in her head and getting to know them better! I would definitely recommend this whole series. If you haven’t read them at all, they are quite epic but flow really naturally and draw you in immediately. The series would make a great Christmas present…
This book was sent to me by the publisher the day before I was flying out on holiday, so it made it into my hand luggage. It was a delightful read, very well crafted and full of interest from the off. It is set in 1923, and centres around Muriel Ross, a young American photographer who travels to Paris to document antiques for a US Senator. But all is not as it seems, and she ends up part of a much more dangerous mission… Historical interest, intrigue and romance all interweave with one another seamlessly. I will certainly be looking up some of the author’s other books now.
Having read Mel’s Time to Shine, I was looking forward to seeing what Evie Adams’ latest clients would reveal and how they would impact on her. I didn’t realise how personal this story would be for the main character, but loved finding out more about her – often at the same time as she did! It was interesting to see how Mel explored the whole concept of being ‘chosen’ – one of the other major characters, Matt, is adopted and the book charts his journey into discovering more about his birth parents and wider family. Through her characters, Mel tussles with the thought of whether being adopted means you are chosen or cheated. One of the other main themes is about being free to make our own choices – both Evie and another character, Sophie, have moments in which they have to decide whether to face both their fears and their own responses to situations and people, or to hide from the truth. Yet again, Mel has used her own knowledge to create a riveting book about some difficult subjects – it is well worth a read.
End of the Roadie
I felt I still needed to include this book, even though I interviewed Elizabeth for her official blog tour on my website. She writes great detective mysteries with characters that are likeable and ‘real’. If you like this genre I would definitely recommend the book.
To Everything a Time
This is a story about a farming family who live in a rural setting, but still fairly close to a town. Centring around the wife, Alison, it is a very honest look at the challenges of raising teenagers and younger children. There are mysteries, misunderstandings, tears and laughter throughout, but it is also a really gentle read full of tenderness. As a farmer’s wife Alison is very aware of the seasons, and the book’s structure is hung on them too, which was a nice touch.
The family’s faith is a thread through the book too, and I like the way that the women of the community learn to share more deeply with one another and support each other through some tough times. Alison also shares times where she really sees God at work in her interactions with people – helpfully sharing her mistakes as well as good decisions😉
Eleanor is obviously an accomplished writer: I was drawn into the story very quickly and felt like I could really empathise with Alison – as well as draw my own life lessons from those she was learning.
I started reading this as research for the book I’m co-writing on how to deal with burnout, but I soon found it is full of really practical advice helpful for anyone juggling 21st century living. I don’t know why we all rush about so much, filling our time with endless chores – advances in technology haven’t given us the extra time and space we all thought it would (we are now constantly available – if we are allow ourselves to be!). I stopped reading after the first couple of chapters, as I felt it was a great book to work through with my husband. Each chapter ends with questions/reflections for you to apply to your own life and we have found them extremely challenging and helpful.
This book explores the ten ‘holy habits’ we see in Acts 2 (biblical teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, prayer, giving, service, eating together, gladness and generosity, worship and discipleship making). Andrew, a Methodist minister, uses a mixture of biblical background and real-life stories to put them into context for 21st-century disciples.
I like the fact that a lot of the chapters focus on cultivating and outworking these habit in community, as so many other discipleship books are more introspective. I did find it took me a little while to get into the book – I don’t know whether it is because there are a lot of quotes – and there were a few typos, which are a particular bugbear of mine.
I did like the suggestions for further reflection and action that Andrew provides at the end of each chapter. He facilitates personal and collective reflection and action both at a local as well as global level. He also helpfully provides recommended reading and, where relevant, further resources – the list within the chapter on prayer was particularly helpful as we have a week of prayer coming up as a church! His chapter on worship really got me thinking about how well we cater for everyone during a Sunday morning meeting. There is a lot to ponder in this book…