..."and a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the way of holiness; evil minded people shall not travel on it, but it shall be for those wayfarers who are traveling toward God. (Isaiah 35:8, adapted)

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Be Willing to Change

"Unless we change direction, we are likely to
end up where we are going."
- Chinese Proverb

photo taken in Worcester, England
on the banks of the River Severn.

Devotions From the Heart: Losing What We Have

by Derek Gitsham

Losing What We Have

"Therefore we ought to give the more earnest
heed to the things which we have heard, lest
at any times we should let them slip" (Hebrews 2:1)

In the Greek the words for “let them slip” are
literally translated “run out as from leaking vessels.”
So many are suffering this malady in the Church due to
this one reason not taking heed. Another rendering
reads, “less we should slip.” How apt is that? If we
do let the words that the Lord is speaking to us not
take a hold, we shall be liable to slip.

Our minds and memories, because they have been
twisted by the corruption of our nature, have to
be diligently harnessed to lay hold of what we are
hearing and reading from God’s word. We are told the
birds of the air, in the parable of the sower, (birds
are types of demonic spirits) sweep down upon the
seed and steal it away, the fowls of the air
devouring it (Luke 8:5).

Hearing the word once is not enough for most of
us, we need to hear it again and again, our
memories and minds being so leaky. The work of
the enemy, if he cannot steal the word away, will
try and distract us and he will work hard at it
to obtain his purpose. The word fell by the way
side, some upon a rock, some among thorns. All
were places to be avoided if the word is to be
fruitful in our lives. The final place was the
good ground which Luke says is a man who in
a good and honest heart, having heard the word,
keeps it, and brings forth fruit with patience
(Luke 8:15).

The word “keep” in Greek is "to keep in memory,
possess, seize on, and take." A good exercise for
all of us is when we hear God’s word and know it
is for us, we need to say, and “That’s mine!".
We need to take it, seize it, snatch it out of
the air, and claim it for ourselves. So serious
is this word, to take heed, that failure to do
so could have terrible repercussions, as Hebrews
begins to unfold. God makes us serious as we
listen to His Word.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Inoculated or On Fire?

We have all been inoculated with Christianity, and
are never likely to take it seriously now! You put
some of the virus of some dreadful illness into a
man's arm, and there is a little itchiness, some
scratchiness, a slight discomfort--disagreeable,
no doubt, but not the fever of the real disease,
the turning and the tossing, and the ebbing strength.

And we have all been inoculated with Christianity,
more or less. We are on Christ's side, we wish him
well, we hope that He will win, and we are even
prepared to do something for Him, provided, of
course, that He is reasonable, and does not make
too much of an upset among our cozy comforts and
our customary ways.

But there is not the passion of zeal, and the burning
enthusiasm, and the eagerness of self-sacrifice, of
the real faith that changes character and wins the world.
... A. J. Gossip (1873-1954), From the Edge of the Crowd

photo: summer's night thunderstorm,
Feeding Hills, MA

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Devotions From the Heart: Come & See

by Derek Gitsham

Then Jesus turned and saw them following
and saith unto them, what seek ye? They
said unto him, Rabbi (which is to say being
interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou?
He saith unto them, “Come and see.” John 1:38-39

Jesus turning around and seeing his disciples
following surprised them by asking them what
they were seeking. Impulsively they responded,
“Where do you live?” It was a strange response
but they did not know what to say, as they were
not expecting that question from Jesus.

The Lord’s response is beautiful. It is totally
uncomplicated, void of anything intellectual,
come and see. It is possibly the most simple of
responses that they could have heard from Jesus.
They were not put off, they were not rebuked for
being silly, just told to “come and see.”

So uncomplicated does the Lord intend our walk
to be with Him, that literally all the believer
has to do is come to Jesus, and “look around.”
Take it all in boys, everything you see. See
where I live in my heart, who preoccupies me,
where I go when I need help, just come and see.

Jesus is making the same response to us today,
“come and see.” Look upon Me, gaze upon Me with
the eye of your heart, seek My face, “behold in
a glass the glory of the Lord, look unto Me all
you ends of the earth and be ye saved.”

Look for Jesus in everything, see Him in all,
He is there. As the Hebrew writer beautifully
writes, but now we see not yet all things put
under him but we see Jesus who was made a
little lower than the angels.

Come and see. Two great things to do. Come, just
do it, stop procrastinating, simply come, and see
what happens when you do. Come unto me all you
that labor and see the change.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Jesus & Peter: Redeeming the Failures of Others...John 21:1-19

There's no doubt about it:life comes at you hard.
Failure, abysmal failure, no doubt, is somewhat
inevitable. God has to bring us to the end of
our long, hard selves in order to get us into
any shape at all that can be called holy and healthy.

Thank God that we have a Savior who knows
how to lift us up out of the miry clay and
set our feet on the Rock without unnecessary
comment. Our God leads and teaches and corrects
with the utmost humility.

There is much talk about spiritual leadership,
but what really is a godly leader like? If you
were going to be fall into your worst failure,
who would you want to gather your sadly shattered
pieces and help you put them back together?
Implicit in that answer is a lot of what it means
to lead like God leads.

Have you ever broken something that is precious
to someone else? There is nothing worse than
the feeling of horrible helplessness when you
realize that you have dropped something that
cannot be easily or at all fixed, or acted, or
been acted upon, in such a way that trust has
been broken. This can happen to us as a child
with our mom's favorite collectable or it can
happen relationally to us as adults with each
other. It can happen, and many times does happen,
between us and God. Or any mixture of all of the

We are hurt often, we hurt others often:
that part we get. But how do we respond as
Jesus would? For how we respond to the
failure of another, especially if the
failure has caused us great hurt, is a test of
our ability to lead as Jesus does. In these
situations we have much more to lose than
the one who appears to have failed.

Again, when you fail, who would you like to
come and help you up? Wouldn't you
want someone to come and get you
as gently but as effectively as Jesus
got Peter when he denied Him? Jesus did
not mock Peter, or shame him, but
gently shows him the path to restoration
and, therefore, to freedom.

Peter denied Jesus at the worst
possible time. In Jesus' hour
of need, Peter not only was
not there, he turned his back
on Jesus. Peter failed--royally
failed. If we think that Jesus
did not feel the pain of that,
I think we misunderstand

Christ was hurt by his fellows,
have no doubt about that.
Betrayal is the nastiest of things.
Yet He kept on doing the will of
God to the very end. He plunged
into death so that we might be
plunged into life. He was pulling
all of humanity out of the pit
on His very back. Alone.

And yet, without fanfare, at the
first possible moment, he heads
back for the one hurting, lost
sheep: Peter.

With Christ there was no posing for
paparazzi. No grand talk of beating
the devil's butt singlehanded. No
victory swagger. Not even
any reading of "the Riot Act"
to Peter for cracking under
pressure at the most crucial moment.
Jesus is back to basics: cooking
breakfast on the beach. Serving.
Low of heart. Looking to take
Peter back in and get him back on track.

If Jesus comes in too high,
even though He certainly could,
Peter might not, probably would
not, take the extended hand up.
True leaders are not focused on
themselves, but on reaching
the last lost sheep. They do not
say, "99 is good enough, let the
last one go, they deserved it."
They do not count whether the
fallen one has money or not, or
talent, or beauty, or brains or
anything this world calls "worth"
--they go out and get them.

Jesus does not say much to Peter,
but He keeps saying the same
thing until Peter gets it.
"Peter, do you love Me? Feed
My sheep." No direct mention is made
of Peter's denial. Peter must get
that Jesus asks him three times,
"Do you love me?" because Peter
denied him three times. Kind of
a cancelling out of the denial
with love. Love is like that.

Peter says, "Lord, you know that I
love You." He understands, in a new
way, that the Lord does know--knows
everything about Peter, knows his depths,
and knows his failures and definitely
knows his weakness. Its all out there.
Jesus in not horrified, not surprised,
not out to embarrass Peter, but to give
him what he needs to get back on the path.

The setting reflects the moral of the
story. Jesus, as always, has prepared
what they need as a good leader always
does. Peter has decided to go fishing,
because that is what we do when we fail:
revert to our old life, but that old life
produces no fruit, and in this case, no fish.

Jesus already has fish cooking on the shore.
This is his third appearance to his
disciples since He has risen. He invites
them to eat of what He has, but He also
invites them to bring forth out of the
share He miraculously provides for them.
They have been fishing all night and caught
nothing. Now they have more than they could
imagine once they take His playful advice.

Jesus tells them, "put your net on the other
side of the boat." Yea, right. The truth is,
with God, the impossible, amazing answer is near
at hand, right under our noses, if we but
believe God. He brings a little miracle,
an ironic little miracle, to the beach
that morning to take the morose tone
off things. Jesus always seems to be
doing that. "Just letting you guys know
that its the same old Me."

"It's no big deal. Just get back to business."
Do you love Me? Feed my sheep. Love
them the way I love you. Love them
just like this. No fanfare. Breakfast
prepared, a little straight talk,
communion shared, life given. Off to
work. Radical acceptance and radical
forgiveness are like that.

When you experience radical acceptance
and radical forgiveness you have a
better chance of becoming the kind
of person that will go and pull
people out of their failures without
the "shoulda, coulda, woulda" lecture.
You have a better chance of being
like Jesus: the answer comes to the 'just
on the other side of the boat' kind
of person, a love God and take care
of others kind of person. And by the way,
breakfast is waiting. Don't be late.
Make the road back as easy as possible
for others.

Be like Christ. He leads best who bows
his knee to lift others up. That is
rarer than hen's teeth, and infinitely
more valuable. Happy fishing.

I thank you God for this most amazing day, for
the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for
the blue dream of sky and for everything which
is natural, which is infinite, which is yes. ~e.e. cummings

photo taken in Worcester, England

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Daniel Bible Study-- Like Daniel & Jesus: Cultivating a Quiet & Obedient Spirit

The sixth chapter of Daniel reveals to us
some similarities between the life of Daniel
and the life of Jesus. Daniel had a quiet
spirit. He, like Jesus, did not try to
make himself the center of attention. Both
men quietly went about doing good, and
obeying what God had asked of them.

Yet, envy and jealousy rose up in people's
hearts against Daniel, as it did against
Jesus. Those that plotted against Daniel
knew that they could not find anything
wrong in what he was doing "unless they
find it against him concerning the law
of his God" (vs. 5); for they knew that
he served God alone and would not compromise,
even with the king. May we strive for
such a pure place, for sadly, there can be
much that antagonizes others in us that
is not of God.

Nonetheless,envy and jealousy provoke evil
deeds more than we know. We need to guard
against the mad thrashings of envy in our
own lives. Envy provokes Daniel's contemporaries
to devise a plot to bring him down. The
same was true of Jesus. In Matthew 27:18
Pilate knew that "it was for envy that they
delivered him" [to the Roman authorities].

What is amazing about both Jesus and Daniel
is how, when continually and violently
opposed, they just remained in the place that
God called them to and "did not raise their
voice" in the streets. They did nothing to
promote their "ministry" nor defend themselves.
They were simply faithful to God.

In Daniel 6, those that were envious of Daniel
observe that he is not falling down to worship
the king but is still, blessedly, worshipping
God alone. Here is how they hope to trap him
and take him down. Daniel's response to this is to
go home, open his windows, and pray three times
a day to God AS HE HAD ALWAYS DONE! (vs. 10).

When things are arrayed against us let us
quietly but visibly continue to obey God.
Consider the life of Jesus, for in it we
see this same quiet, visible obedience
in action.

Isaiah writes about what the coming
Messiah will be like: "he shall not cry,
nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be
heard in the street. A bruised reed he
shall not break and a smoldering wick he
shall not quench." (Is. 42:2-3).

He also writes:"he was oppressed and
afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth:
he is brought as lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before her shearers is
dumb, so he openeth not his mouth" (Is. 53:7).

Jesus, and Daniel, did not fight to
defend themselves but trusted in God,
leaving their defence to God.

In Matthew 21 Jesus tells the parable
of the wicked vineyard keepers. The
parable exposes the envy and hatred
of the Pharisees toward God and His Son.
Jesus concludes that He is as the son
of the husbandman who was killed and like
the rejected cornerstone. Then He says
"whoever falls on the Stone shall be broken,
but on whomever it falls it shall grind
him to powder" (Mat 21:44). Even this coming
judgment is without words yet sure and

The chief priests and elders constantly
plot to get Jesus, yet Jesus just goes
along quietly obeying the Father. They bring
false witnesses to speak against Jesus but
"Jesus held His peace" (Mat. 26:63).

Jesus only does what He sees His Father
doing, He does nothing from Himself (John
5:19). Even then, He is persecuted, but
God is His defender, just as God is
Daniel's defender and the defender of
anyone who obeys God and does not
fight in his own strength to defend
himself for doing what God bids.

Defending ourselves becomes noisome.
We choose to lift up our voice, to
take up our weapons, to defend
our way; in doing so we lose quiet
obedience to God. Our voice is heard
in the street, we call attention to
ourselves. We lose the quiet and
meek spirit displayed by Daniel and
by Jesus. The spirit of Antichrist
is a noisy spirit that chatters
and clatters and pushes itself
to the front, gleefully breaking
bruised reeds and pompously snuffing
out smoldering wicks.

Let us seek to walk quietly and
humbly with God, not raising our
voice, putting ourselves in God's
hands, even when we are threatened
at the hands of men.

God's ways are not like ours.
We find Him in quietness and in
confident trust. We find His favor
in obedience. Let us trust ourselves
into His hands, and leave our defence
to Him. Whether we live we live unto
Lord, or whether we die, we die
unto the Lord, whether we live
or die, WE ARE THE LORD'S (Rom 14:8).

Other installments of this bible study
are filed under "Daniel Bible Studies" in
the archives.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I will charge my soul to believe and
wait for Him, and will follow His
providence, and not go before it,
nor stay behind it.
- Samuel Rutherford

Friday, July 11, 2008

Devotions From the Heart: A Man's Calling

by Pastor Derek Gitsham

"God is faithful by whom you were called
unto the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ
our Lord" (1 Corinthians 1:9)

Paul was perfectly chosen to bring our hearts
and minds to the most significant phrase in
scripture. You were called unto the fellowship
of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. He did not
launch out and say our calling was our work
for God but our fellowship with God. A man’s
work was to be an overflow of his relationship
with God, not vice-versa.

This is probably the reason why so many in the
work of the Lord have suffered so much, by being
burned out; given to despair, depression and many
other symptoms which are all the result of putting
the cart before the horse.

Mark 3:14 Jesus ordained twelve that they should
be with him and that he might send them forth to
preach. Notice the phrase, “ordained to be with Him.”
How true this is. Far be it for us to think anything
less of this verse. It means exactly what it says,
“Ordained to be with Him.”

Everything starts with our relationship to Jesus.
All must come out of our fellowship with the Lord
else all is dead. He is the life, there is no other
life but in Him, and as we commune and partake of
Him so His life becomes our life. He that hath the
Son, goes on having the Son, has life. Everything is
Jesus. He is first, second, third, fourth, and so on.
He is Alpha and Omega, and all that is in between.

Jesus’ words to Peter were, “Do you love me, Peter,
more than these?” Spoken three times, Peter gave the
same response. Jesus’ answer was, “Feed My sheep.”
Loving Him is our relationship with Him, then we have
food for sheep. How crucial is it for God’s servants
to be in a vital relationship with Jesus, if they are
to feed the flock. “Love Me, Peter, fellowship with
Me, know Me, feed the sheep.” We can know what we
need to know by loving Him. Called into fellowship
with Jesus, make your calling and election sure.

I love to think of nature as an unlimited
broadcasting station, through which God
speaks to us every hour, if we will only
tune in
. ~George Washington Carver

photo taken in Catskill, New York

Thursday, July 10, 2008

God writes the gospel not in the Bible
alone, but on trees and flowers and
clouds and stars. ~Martin Luther

photo taken in Hudson, New York :)

Monday, July 07, 2008

The Grace of Wonder

"Dear Lord, grant me the grace of wonder.
Surprise me, amaze me, awe me in every crevice
of Your universe. Delight me to see how Your
Christ plays in ten thousand places. . .to the
Father through the features of men's faces. Each
day enrapture me with your marvelous things
without number. I do not ask to see the reason for
it all; I ask only to share the wonder of it all."

Joshua Abraham Heschel

photo taken in Abergavenny, Wales

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Considering the Beam

"And why beholdest the splinter that is
in thy brother's eye, but considerest
not the beam that is in thine own eye?"
(Matthew 7:3).

I like the fact that when you read the
words of Jesus, you often find a penetrating
irony there. At the heart of Jesus'
teaching we see that Christ most
assuredly tell us not to judge others,
not because things don't need
judging, but because our eye condition,
mainly the fact that something quite
large is clouding our vision, causes
us to be unable to see clearly.

Jesus teaches us to put the shortcomings
of others in their proper perspective.
How is it that we notice the smallest
problem in another but do not see the
very large problem in ourself?

We see the speck in our neighbor's eye,
but fail to consider that there is a
massive beam in our own. He gently
reminds us that we fail to "consider"
what is wrong in our own heart. "Consider"
has that well pondered, well acknowledged
kind of feel to it. The kind of consider
that those who wanted to cast the first
stone at the woman caught in adultery were
forced to do when Jesus started
writing their sins down for them.

They had "forgotten" to consider and
Jesus was just "helping" them along
in that regard. Dear Lord, there is
so much we need to consider. 70 x 7
times a day kind of consider. Danger
of hellfire kind of consider. Standing
before the judgment seat of Christ
kind of consider. Making an absolute
fool out of myself kind of consider.

I don't mean rehearsing your sins
and falsely lamenting about how
bad you are. I don't mean dwelling
on things that God has forgiven you
for. Just a good healthy consider
to put things in their proper perspective.
It shouldn't take too long before
you slip into a well-considered silence.

We are all helplessly, hopelessly weak
without God. We are all, even at our
strongest points, genuinely broken. No
matter how much healing the Lord has done
in us, the door still squeaks. At best
we are wounded healers. Jesus is trying to bring
us together under one roof as children of
God; children who love each other no matter
what, children who know how to love
much because they have been forgiven

The really embarrassing truth is
that our shortcomings are out
there for everyone to see. We are
the ones, the embarrassingly last ones,
who usually fail to see our greatest
flaws. But what if we were meant
to help each other instead of
judge each other?

A graceful community knows
how to help each of its members, from the
alleged small to the alleged great, clear both
speck and log from their eyes. We are meant to
do that as a community of the forgiven, knowing
that, for better or for worse, how you deal with
me, is probably how I'm going to deal with you,
with God watching the whole time.

There is balance and healing and a whole
eye in the community of God when she is
healthy. Not one of us can see everything,
we must look and see and discern together,
with each bringing what he has. If you
haven't been hit by this revelation in
its practical chaotic working, let me
inform you that God has made each of us
wildly different!

Paul says, "For who has made you to differ
from another? and what do you have that you
did not receive? now if it was received,
why do you glory, as if it had not been
received?" (1 Cor. 4:7). All that we are
is a gift given by God. We cannot then
use it to judge others, we must use it
to help others.

There is the old story of the Emperor who
Had No Clothes. Everyone could see his
nakedness, but pretended that he was royally
dressed because it would have been too chancy, too
politically incorrect, too dangerous, to say

The truth is, we are all naked emperors,
and our job, to each other, is to help
cover our individual and corporate nakedness,
not with dysfunctional lies of false pretense, nor
with the deceitfulness of sin's false cloak,
but with the righteous robes of healing, love,
and the fear of God.

How sad we will all feel when we see how
much healing was out there for all of us
that we failed to avail ourselves of or
failed to work together toward. We cannot
get there by ourselves.

It is very hard to "consider the beam"
outside a healthy community of faith.
Self-deceit is too greatly embedded in
us all. It is too easy to let ourselves
off the hook if we are doing the self-inspecting.

We must allow God into the consideration
process, but we must also consider that
the Body of Christ is meant to be a place
where you can LOVINGLY help me see my
reflection and urge me to make those necessary
changes that will make me look more
like Christ. If the body is sick,
then that process is not possible,
and much is lost. Sadly, much has
been lost, so much so that there is
often more dis-ease than healing in the

I'm not saying that there are easy
answers or that any of us
will ever get there, but I still
hold it up as God's best way.
If this kind of healing and
accountability is not available to you
on a large scale, then ask God
to make it available to you on a
small scale. Start with one person
you trust.

Let us not lose sight of the fact
that mutual healing, the wisdom born
out of diverse people choosing to give
what they have, choosing to love, and
be loved, to change and be changed, is
what God wants for us. Feeling that
is an impossible task does not let
me off the hook, for here I stand,
broken, weak, bleeding, and in need
of one of the passersby on the road
to be as a good Samaritan to me. Feeling
that it is too risky does not negate
my charge to stop and aid others that are
likewise bleeding and broken.

The Word and call of God stand no matter
what. What we do with them determines
our individual and corporate destiny.
Consider the beam. Consider love.
Consider change. Consider the glory of God.
Oh, if only we could see what we could
be together.

Devotions from the Heart: Girding Up the Loins of Your Mind

by Pastor Derek Gitsham

"Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind,
be sober and hope to the end for the grace
that is to be brought to you at the revelation
of Jesus Christ" (I Peter 1:13).

Peter is thinking possibly of the last words of
Moses to Israel as they were exiting Egypt. In
Exodus 12:11 it speaks of eating the sacrifice,
whose blood was placed on the lintel and doorposts
of the houses they lived in, so that the angel of
the Lord, when seeing the blood, might pass over

While eating the sacrifice, they had to have their
loins girded, their shoes on their feet, and their
staff in their hand, and they shall eat it in haste
for it is the Lord’s Passover.

They were to eat the sacrifice in departure mode,
having the loins girded. Peter says we are to be
thinking in the same way. This is not our home here;
we will one day be gone to our heavenly home. We
have to live in departure mode in our thinking, not
allowing our minds to dwell on things of the earth,
and be caught up with the world and its distractions.

They were to eat it in haste. They had to be quick.
Leaving the world and sin needs to be done quickly.
The word labor, in “labor to enter into His rest”
means be quick. If you delay over things in the world,
procrastinating, before long it will have you. Paul,
to the Corinthians, says, “Flee fornication, escape it.”

Our mindset must be in departure mode. Unfortunately,
Israel left Egypt (the world) but Egypt did not leave
them. We must progressively be leaving Egypt whilst here,
leaving sin, having nothing to do with it if we are to
obtain the prize, and reserve our crown.

Speaking of the faith witnesses in Hebrews 11:15 says
“Truly if they had been mindful of that country from
whence they came out, they might have had opportunity
to have returned." Let us gird up the loins of our mind,
and live in departure mode.