God, have mercy on me, a sinner

Luke 18:9-14 (NIV)

9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”


Many people, even Christians, think that to be ‘righteous’ (effectively ‘right before God’) involves doing the right thing. Keeping the commandments. Obeying the Law.

But this completely misses the point.

It’s because we are unable do good all of the time that Jesus paid the price for us. Stood in our place. Received the punishment we so justly deserve.

We are all sinners. Each and every one of us. (Romans 3:10)

Acknowledging this and asking for God’s forgiveness is our only path.

Trying to earn His merit is a futile endeavour. No matter what we do we will never be good enough. At least, not without Jesus.

It’s such a simple, pure concept of substitution that we find it hard to grasp.

We are reluctant to accept such generosity. Such grace. Such mercy.

Perhaps it’s about time you stopped struggling to pay an insurmountable debt and instead accepted the gift on offer: eternal life.


prayer : that friends & family would discover the joy of faith

action : share the hope I have in Christ with family & friends

I have finished the race

2 Timothy 4:7 (ESV)

16 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.


As a long-distance runner I have always loved Paul’s analogy of the Christian life.

A journey that is not a quick dash but rather a long-haul, pavement pounding, heart-wrenching, soul-enriching marathon.

One that takes plenty of preparation, planning, and bucket-loads of perseverance.

To be able to come to the end of my own days and say, like Paul, that despite everything life threw at me I still managed to keep the faith would be quite an achievement.

Yet it’s one I’m aiming for, training for, and hoping for.

Knowing that by Gods grace I will finish the race, and finish strong.


prayer : help me to persevere, keeping the faith no matter what

action : encourage a fellow brother and | or sister in Christ to persevere

equipped for every good work

2 Timothy 3:17 (ESV)

16 … that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.


It’s Scripture, God’s very breath, that helps us stay on the straight-and-narrow.

Guiding us like ‘a lamp to [our] feet
and a light to [our] path’ (Psalms 119:105).

Sometimes the instructions and commands are explicit, specific.

Other times it’s necessary to understand God’s will, His very nature, in order to find our way.

Like a cryptic crossword His purpose may not always be clear at first. It takes time and effort and persistence to come to a greater (if not complete) understanding of His intent.

But it’s well worth the effort. And His gentle prods and corrections are invaluable.

How else are we to do good work if we lack His guidance? And not just some but every good work.


prayer : thank you LORD for teaching, reproofing, correcting and training me

action : help me to do good works

breathed out by God

2 Timothy 3:16 (ESV)

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…


What a wonderful image of the Word of God: His very breathe.

It brings to mind the beginning of time – when ‘the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters’ – just as God spoke and formed the universe (Genesis 1:2).

And as such we should never take His Word for granted. Never suppose to be above it. Never presume to fully understand it.

What we should do is seek to read it daily. Day & night.

Ponder it. Unravel it. Obey it.

Because it is the ultimate way we can know God’s mind.

His will. His grace. His love.


prayer : thank you LORD for your Word

action : delight in and meditate on God’s ‘law’ day & night (Psalm 1:2)

why I changed my Facebook profile picture #ن


It started off as a pretty innocuous thing. I noticed a friend’s Facebook profile picture was now sporting a strange new image: a glowing golden glyph on an inky black background.

I was curious but dismissive. I didn’t recognize the symbol. I certainly didn’t understand it’s meaning, hidden or otherwise.

It was only when this change became ‘viral’, transforming profile photos of many more Facebook friends, near and far, that I finally sat-up and took notice.

So what’s it all about? What does this odd curved character mean? And why adopt it as my new profile pic of all things?

The symbol ن is being used by Islamic State (IS) militants. They spray-paint the ن mark (the Arabic letter for “N”) on Christian property they plan to seize. “N”, or ن​, is the first letter of the Arabic word for Christian, namely ‘Nasrani’ or Nazarene (source: euronews article).

Why? Because the Christians were given an ultimatum to “either convert to Islam, submit to their radical rule and pay a religious levy, or face death by the sword.”

Not very nice to say the least.

Frustrated by the lack of a serious response and any coordinated action from the international community, social media has taken it upon itself to publicize the plight of these persecuted Christians.

I admit I was initially hesitant. I’m not one for following a crowd. I didn’t want to respond to some mindless mob-like campaign, reacting to what may well be faddish and trendy yet lacking substance and serious thought.

I know it sounds like a small thing to change a picture yet I felt it was actually quite a big decision; more than just a click of a button.

So rather than blindly copy what others were doing I first did a little digging; researching the whys and wherefores behind the movement. I investigated what it stood for. And looked at who else had adopted the new profile pic. Not every Christian I knew had done so. But many had whom I respected for having sound, considered judgement.

Did I wonder about the reaction I might receive from other people by my Facebook update? Oddly, I was more concerned about fellow Christians laughing at my potentially silly, ill-considered decision rather than my non-Christian friends rejecting me for taking such a stance.

Yet I also felt strongly led by the Holy Spirit to do something.

The ن mark reminded me of the ‘Ichthys‘, or fish: a secret sign probably used between early Christians to identify one another. Although perhaps it’s more like the ‘Yellow Badge‘ that Nazi Germany forced upon Jews given the injurious and pernicious behaviour of IS.

For me it’s essentially a call-to-action: signifying that I stand together with my brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ suffering for their faith.

Far from being a lone voice in the wilderness I am, in fact, part of a world-wide show of solidarity through my willingness to count myself amongst those ready to die for their beliefs.

By doing so I personally hope to raise awareness of their dire circumstances; be reminded every day of God’s good grace; pray for all persecuted Christians throughout the world; and encourage other Christians to do the same.

I pray that they will “persevere” despite their sufferings (Matthew 5:11-12, Romans 8:28) knowing that nothing can “separate [them] from the love of God” (Romans 8:35).

I pray that they would “endure” (Colossians 1:11, Revelation 6:11) and “not seek revenge” (Romans 12:19).

I pray that they would “not fear death” despite it being a distinct possibility (Philippians 1:21, Hebrews 2:14-15, 1 Peter 5:10).

And that God, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, would give them the “strength” (Psalm 86:16) and “courage” (Psalm 86:16) to “live by faith” (Galatians 2:20).

I pray that they would “rejoice” in their suffering (Hebrews 11:26) and in so doing, “glorify God” (James 1:2-3).

And finally, I pray for these “enemies”, the members of IS, despite their evil actions (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27).

Put simply, it’s my hope that by adopting this new symbol persecuted Christians everywhere will feel united as “one in Christ” (Galatians 3:28). That they will know we are thinking about them; that we’re deeply concerned for them; and that we love them.


the LORD will come in fire

Isaiah 66:15-16 (ESV)

15 “For behold, the LORD will come in fire,
and his chariots like the whirlwind,
to render his anger in fury,
and his rebuke with flames of fire.
16 For by fire will the LORD enter into judgment,
and by his sword, with all flesh;
and those slain by the LORD shall be many.”

I think we often forget that the LORD is a God of judgement as well as mercy.

And that His judgement will be harsh but fair (Romans 2:2).

Fire is considered a means of purification; a way of cleansing and refining. Like the process of melting down gold to separate the good bits from the bad bits and in so doing create a pure metal.

Because God hates sin, because He is angry with man’s ungodliness and unrighteousness (Romans 1:18), He will one day act to destroy those who sin: to ‘slay’ those who turn their back on Him.

In some ways it is a “fire & brimstone” message.

And we should all sit-up and take note of it. Because no one – not one of us – is guilt-free.

We have all – every last one of us – rejected God and “gone our own way” (Isaiah 53:6).

Yet that’s where Jesus comes into the picture …


prayer : thank you LORD for your justice and mercy

action : confess my sin before God, repenting, and seeking His forgiveness and mercy

abstain from the passions of the flesh

1 Peter 2:11-12 (ESV)

11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

Abstaining from sinful desires is easier said than done.

Whatever our resolve, all know that we give into temptation. Why else would we need a saviour?

However, He too was tempted like us (Luke 4:1-13): to give into the hunger that gnawed deep inside (v.3); to reject God the Father and take what was rightfully His (v.7); to put God’s word to the ultimate test (v.9-11).

But He didn’t. He refused to be goaded by Satan. To be lulled by his empty promises and scheming deceptions.

Instead, Jesus Christ returned again and again to God’s word to sustain Him (v.4, 8 & 12). Putting His trust in God the Father alone. And not in the Prince of Lies.

Sadly, we are not nearly as strong. Yet it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to do the right thing.

So that our deeds may also ‘glorify God’. And in so doing, help others to repent & believe so that they in turn will ‘glorify God’.


prayer : make me strong enough to withstand temptation yet humble enough to admit my sins and accept your forgiveness

action : during this time of Lent please help me to make a conscious effort to walk closer with you God and abstain from the passions of the flesh

now you have received mercy

1 Peter 2:9-10 (ESV)

9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

How great it is to receive mercy.

The overwhelming relief. The love and gratitude we then feel in return.

How can we possibly repay our maker? What can we do in return for our redeemer?

Whatever it might be it can never be enough. The debt is too great.

Yet we’re told all our debts to God are forgiven. We are absolved of the need to repay Him.

Leaving us free to serve Him as we ought. With a clear conscience.

As one who is ‘chosen’. One of His ‘people’. Part of His ‘royal priesthood’.

Made ‘holy’ in His sight. And thus set apart for His good purposes.

In part, to show grace and mercy to others.

And what better way than by sharing our faith through ‘proclaiming’ His ‘excellencies’.


prayer : may I fully appreciate the gift of ‘light’ and my rescue from ‘darkness’

action : help me to ‘proclaim’ boldly and faithfully

a fool despises his father’s instruction

Proverbs 15:5 (ESV)

5 A fool despises his father’s instruction,
but whoever heeds reproof is prudent.

We’re so quick to give instruction but often slow to heed the counsel of others.