Wednesday, 14 October 2015

He sees you

You know those moments when you set out to read something in the word and you just can't get past a verse?! Having one of those moments - “I, Peter, am an apostle on assignment by Jesus, the Messiah, writing to exiles scattered to the four winds. Not one is missing, not one forgotten. God the Father has his eye on each of you, and has determined by the work of the Spirit to keep you obedient through the sacrifice of Jesus. May everything good from God be yours!” 1 Peter 1:1-2 MSG

Not one missing. Not one forgotten... God knows, he's watching, he sees you. He sees your situation. He sees your frustration. He has his eye on you... I could spend all day in these verses. Let that truth go deep. HE has determined to keep us on track. He's doing it for us. 
You are known in this moment. You are not forgotten. Regardless of where you might have been scattered to, you are not forgotten. There is no accident in your world.

And may everything good from God be yours. Er hello. Everything good. Everything. Peace, joy, love, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control... Everything good. Yours. From God to you. A personal gift.

So go head high today, stand tall, because you are known, you are not forgotten. God has his eye on you and he's determined to work in your world.

El Roi - the God who sees - sees you. “She answered GOD by name, praying to the God who spoke to her, “You’re the God who sees me! “Yes! He saw me; and then I saw him!””
Genesis 16:13 MSG He sees. He speaks. He determines. He acts.


Thursday, 24 September 2015

God wants you to win at life.

This was a guest blog I did for the blog

Emily is a super-short (4’10”) kick-ass mummy to three fabulous (and loud!) children who are 5.5, 3.5 and 1.  Married to a Student Pastor of a city-centre church their house is often filled with extras coming to ‘do life’ in the midst of crazy but beautiful family life.  In her spare time (pah!) Emily paints ( and has been known to pick up the mic from time to time to share from her passion, the Bible. Emily also blogs at Emily's Blog 

You know the setting, trying to have an in-depth conversation with another mummy friend in the midst of children charging around noisily, interrupted by a nappy change, a bang to the head, an argument that needs to be resolved and then continue as if nothing had happened.

It’s in this context that I am imagining one of my mummy friends say – “So why are you a Christian anyway?” 

To help unpack my answer, there’s a bit of the Bible that says this:

You have searched me, Lord,

    and you know me.
 You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
 Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.
Psalm 139:1-12

I am known
So why am I a Christian?  Straight away – “you know me”.  God knows me in a deeply intimate way.  Elsewhere the Bible tells us that God knows us by name, he calls us by name, he knows the number of hairs we have on our head.  But he doesn’t just know our name, this is the Omniscient God knowing me.  The God who knows all things.

These verses show us that God knows everything about us – our very core – our genetic make up – our fears, doubts, secrets, anxieties.  Our pride, our history, our family, our celebrations and our joys. 

I am known better than I know myself.

I am known by the Omniscient God who knows my thoughts before I have even spoken – I don’t even know my thoughts before I speak sometimes – much to the hubster’s exasperation!  And yet, in spite of being known so intimately, God still chooses to lay his hand of blessing on us. 

There’s an example of this inside-out knowledge when Jesus calls Nathanael in John 1.  Jesus’ complete knowledge of who Nathanael was – his character, his background, his nature, leaves Nathanael exclaiming “How do you know me?” and then later in response to Jesus saying “I see you…”, Nathanael says “you must be the Son of God” – because only God can know us so intimately.  And Jesus says the same to us – “I see you… I see you.”

However, sometimes, I think the idea of someone (let alone the God who created the entire universe) knowing everything about us is a bit scary.  We might think – if you knew, if you really knew… if you really knew the dark thoughts I have, the secret and hidden things in my life, well then you wouldn’t want to know me.  You wouldn’t love me…

But no – these verses in the Bible show us that God, the all-knowing God, the omniscient God knows EVERYTHING about us, further on it tells us that he knows us inside out, and He still places his hand of blessing on our lives.  He knows us and chooses us because he loves us.

So I am a Christian because I am fully known by an omniscient God, and still accepted.

I am known  >>  I am not alone
Every time I have had a baby, after the crazy hormones have settled (do they ever?!) I have tried to take up running as a way of getting some exercise, fresh air, a bit of headspace.  Anyway, after my first two children I tried to take up running and would maybe go for one or two runs, but I just couldn’t do it.  It seemed that running wasn’t for me. 

However, three months ago when my youngest turned 8 months I tried again… and now, I run 2 or 3 times a week and just under a month ago I ran my first 10k race (and smashed it, thank you very much!)  So what was different this time?  I downloaded the ‘NHS Couch to 5k’ app.

What I had been missing initially was a Coach, someone alongside me telling me what to do, someone that knows about pacing yourself when you’re learning to run.  Someone who could increase the intensity as I developed in strength and stamina.  I needed a voice in my ear encouraging and spurring me on, giving me direction and telling me what to do.  When I tried to learn to run on my own, I wasn’t successful – I needed someone ‘with’ me.

We are not alone.

The author of the Psalm above was David.  As a shepherd boy he would have spent vast amounts of time without any other human contact.  Alone, in the fields could be a pretty lonely place.  Sometimes, being a mummy can feel like this.  You spend all day with children, no adult contact, just the housework, to-do list, nappies.  It can be a lonely place.  Or maybe you work in a 9-5 office job that is pretty mind-numbing, your co-workers clock in and out doing the bare minimum and no one ever asks you about your weekend.  It can be a lonely place. 

But God is omnipresent.  He is everywhere.  All the time.

God goes ahead of us and brings up the rear.  He is with us always.  There are SO many examples where God tells us that He will never leave us and that he is with us ALWAYS. 

This omnipresent God is with me… even when I am not aware of his presence.  Just like the travellers on the road to Emmaus, facing the darkest of times, with ‘downcast faces’ as Luke 24 tells us, Jesus himself walks with them, talks with them, even though they are unaware of who he is.  And Jesus himself, walks with us too.

Just like I needed the running coach spurring me on, encouraging me, speaking in my ear, teaching and training me in the way I should go… I need God in my life directing, encouraging, spurring me on and taking me at a pace I can go.

So I am known – by the omniscient God
And I am not alone – because the omnipresent God is with me

And finally, I am strengthened.

I am known  >>  I am not alone  >>  I am strengthened
Verse 10 reads, “your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.”

God is not only omniscient and omnipresent but he is also omnipotent – all-powerful – and quite frankly, this is good good news.

Because I am not all-powerful.  I know, shock right?!  Sometimes though, I go through life acting as if I am.  I try to do it all, hold everything and everyone together.  It might work for a bit, but then invariably I burn out, freak out or wipe out and remember that I really can’t do this thing called ‘life’ in my own strength.

Even there, at the 3am feedings of the baby, the loss of a loved one, the redundancy, the set-back on the road to recovery, the isolation and loneliness, the ill-health, the poverty and debt, the exam failure… even there in the brokenness and painfulness of ‘life’… Even there, “your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.”  Even if we are in the darkest of places, He shines.

I once asked my three year old before going to speak to a bunch of students what I should tell them.  And without any prompting, he responded, “Tell them that Jesus is the light of the world”.

Out of the mouths of babes right?

In our darkest moments, Jesus is the light of the world.  In John 8, He says “If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”  And a couple of chapters further on, he says that he came so that we “may have life, and have it to the full.”

The Bible shows us countless times where Jesus heals.  He takes the weak, the broken, the weary, the lost, the outcast and he says “what do you want me to do for you?  What do you need?” and then he meets that need.  Jesus heals, restores, encourages, strengthens.  We are all weak, and we all need strengthening.

I can’t run successfully without a coach.  I can’t run successfully and ‘win’ without wisdom, training, support and the right equipment.

For me, sharing why I am a Christian comes out of a place of relationship.  Out of a place of coming alongside other people, sharing life and living in a way that hopefully opens up opportunities for conversations about why my hubby and I live as we do.  I want to show my friends love.  I want to show them Jesus. 

I am a Christian because God knows me, loves me, and wants me to win.  And that’s true for you too.  God loves you, he knows about [insert scenario that is going on in friend’s life] and he cares.  He weeps when you weep, he rejoices when you rejoice.  He is with you in the midst of your situation even if you don’t recognise or realise that He is.  Do you ever wish that someone really ‘got you’?  That they knew you without your mask of being super funny, or super together, or super human.  That they know you without your mask – there’s no trying, no striving – that they know you so intimately that you can totally be yourself and totally accepted?  No spouse however fabulous they are always understands, no parent or child, friend or colleague.  But God does.  He knows you, loves you, accepts you.  He sees you.

God wants you to win at life. 

Do you ever feel that it’s too difficult? 
Too tough? 
Relentless or unforgiving? 

Can I show you what God says about that? 
Can I show you love? 
Can I show you Jesus?

For the full talk featured here, listen to “One Minute Gospel #3 – Emily Tyler” 
Or for another of Emily’s talks, “Good News #4 – Emily Tyler

Tuesday, 22 September 2015


This is our broken sugar pot. I've no idea how long it's been broken. I wasn't even there when it happened. We could have replaced the pot but there's something about seeing a cracked, battered, weary, held together by tape pot that reminds me that it's ok to be broken. You can still serve your purpose even if you're broken. You can still achieve, still carry, still provide out of your brokeness. Much like how God can use us in spite of our brokeness. I like my broken pot. It reminds me that perfection isn't what we strive for. It's service. This broken pot gives me hope that I will be able to serve even out of my brokeness.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Watching from the boat.

So it occurred to me recently that when Peter walked on water with Jesus that the disciples were watching from the boat.

They were watching.

What were they thinking? Were they jealous, excited, fearful, in awe...?

I have heard many a sermon preached on Peter in this episode, on Jesus or even the storm itself, but I've not heard much about the disciples.

Matthew 14:22 (NLT) reads,

"Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home."

Immediately.  Immediately after what?  After the feeding of the 5,000, after watching one of the most incredible miracles ever, after a long day, after emotions were running high, after a long long time of listening to the most mind blowing teaching.  Immediately when their faith levels were raised.  Immediately.

And Jesus didn't just suggest to the disciples that they might like to consider getting back in the boat.  He insisted.

Jesus insisted because he knew what was coming next.  He knew the faith that would be needed for Peter's water adventure.  And he knew that the disciples would be watching.

We're told that the disciples were in trouble. They were far away from land and fighting heavy waves. Physically, emotionally, mentally exhausted.

It's then that the whole Jesus walking on water / Peter joining him jobby happens. Worth noting that they were terrified and fearful... But I want to focus on the impact of watching Peter's faith journey with Jesus.

What happened afterwards?

Afterwards, when Jesus and Peter got back into the boat the storm stopped and the disciples "worshipped" and declared "You really are the son of God".

Peter's encounter with Jesus affected the disciples own faith. Watching their friend trust, rely, walk towards Jesus encouraged and strengthened their own faith.

I recently read the following in Priscilla Shirer's book 'Discerning the voice of God'.

"Monica's life is certainly a case in point.  Her friends are blessed and inspired just by hanging around her.  Being with her, talking with her, always whets my appetite for a more dynamic relationship with the Lord.  She helps me to hunger to experience Him personally and powerfully in my every day existence. I hope you have a friend like that.  I hope you are a friend like that."

I think this is the case for the disciples watching Peter with Jesus. Even if jealous, seeing Peter engage, trust and experience the divine is going to make them hunger for the same.  

And that's why we need community.  That's why we need the church... To encourage, celebrate and spur one another on. 

Often we might not think our faith is all that... But when we see a Peter or a Monica living out of the boat on the water it doesn't half make us want to know Jesus on that same level.

I am blessed. I have Peters and Monicas in my life that when my faith isn't strong enough I get to watch them walk on water. I get to sit in the boat and cheer them on when they start to sink. I get to watch from the boat at the incredible work God is doing in their life. I get to go deeper in my own understanding of God without even getting my feet wet.  Don't get me wrong, it'd be great to walk on water, but we're not always in a place where that can happen. I'm grateful that Jesus insists we come along and do life together.  

I'm grateful that I get to watch from the boat.

I get to watch. And then worship.

Thank you special people in my life who keep on climbing out of the boat so I can watch.  You know who you are. X

Monday, 24 August 2015

Wait expectantly.

Learning what it is to 'wait expectantly'.

Just like the beauty of a wave cut platform appears as the result of erosion over time and just like the beauty can only be seen in a low tide, sometimes the seemingly destructive and pressured environments create intricate and beautiful development.

#feelingreflective #wavecutplatforms #expectant 

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Why & How should I read the Bible?

This was the talk I gave for Alpha at St George's Church, February 2015.

Why and How should I read the Bible?

Hi, my name is Emily, I’m a mum to three children ranging from five and a half months to almost five years old (you may be thinking how is that possible when I still look about 12, but assumptions are dangerous things)!  I moved up to Leeds about three and a half years ago when my husband got a job working here at St George’s.  In addition to being a mummy, I sometimes paint and people give me some money for it so I suppose I’m an ‘artiste’ but I still find saying that a bit strange!

I was a bit taken aback when Chris asked if I would speak at this session in Alpha – Why and How should we read the Bible?  My mum’s response was “and… when was the last time you actually read your Bible…?”  little bit rude! But, in the interest of being upfront I want to put out a disclaimer that no, I am not the finished article of exemplar Christianness, I don’t read my Bible every day (more about that later)… but I wish I did.  I believe the words written in this book are so important that I will only paint commissions which have scripture written on them and have even turned down requests when people ask me to paint pictures with quotes or other words that are not found in the Bible.

So what’s the big deal with the Bible?  I grew up in a Christian home and so went to Sunday School at church each week.  I will never forget one particular morning when my youth leader, a crazy Welsh lady named Gaynor, told us about her experiences of Bible smuggling.  At eleven years old, something about what she shared stayed with me and made me want to know more about this book that people were prepared to risk their lives for.

Gaynor was part of a group of people who were smuggling Bibles into the Soviet Union.  They had an old VW camper van, guys in their church made it road-worthy and they were on their way.  They had to stop off at a remote farm house in Austria to pick up the Russian Bibles.  After successfully making it through the Russian customs they got to the Russian border late at night where they had to drive their vehicle over an inspection pit so the guards could look under the van.  They were stopped, door panels ripped off, the van was gutted as they searched everywhere and suffice to say the Bibles were found.  Gaynor and her friends were taken inside a building.  Her concern at this point was she had some information taped to her tummy that was intended for the secret believers they were to meet.  She managed to peel it off her body and get it flushed down the toilet by another friend who asked to go to the loo.  Shortly after that, they were strip searched.  Gaynor and her friends thanked God that no information was found that would have endangered the lives of Russian Christians. 

When I asked Gaynor about this story recently, she said “The trip was wonderful and even though we had lost the Bibles, we knew they would find their way via a black market into the hands of Christians, albeit for a month’s wages.  When the guards found the Bibles, they had exclaimed, ‘Ah Gold!’”

Why were the Russian Christians prepared to risk their lives to receive a Bible?  Why were the guards so sure that they had something so valuable?  To many today, the Bible is seen as a pretty out of date, dull rulebook.  Perhaps full of contradictions, written for people in a different time and culture – certainly irrelevant to our lives today.  So what’s so special that people are prepared to die in order to get hold of a Bible in their own language?

Firstly, the Bible is uniquely popular.  

It is the most successful literary creation ever, more influential than Shakespeare or any other great texts.  It’s completely international.  The Greek philosopher Homer has been translated into forty languages, Shakespeare into sixty, Harry Potter into sixty-seven languages.  The Bible?  The Bible has been translated into 2,333 – ten times more than any other book.  It’s every publisher’s dream, it is the world’s bestseller and continues to be the biggest-selling book annually with forty-four million copies sold every year.

Ghandi said this of the Bible, “You Christians look after a document containing enough dynamite to blow all civilisation to pieces, turn the world upside down and bring peace to a battle-torn planet. But you treat it as though it is nothing more than a piece of literature.”

So, in addition to the Bible being uniquely popular, it is also uniquely powerful.  It has the power to change individuals and it has the power to change societies.  And, it’s also uniquely precious.  The Psalmist says of the Scriptures that they are “more precious than gold”, something the Russian Guards recognised when they found the Bibles.  Even the Queen at her coronation was handed a Bible with these words, “We present you with this book, the most valuable thing that this world affords.”  Why is that?

If you look with me at Matthew chapter 4, verse 4 which is in your booklets, Jesus said this:

“It is written, ‘People do not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God”.

Jesus is asking us to consider whether material things alone can satisfy us.  As well as a physical hunger, we also have a spiritual hunger which can only be satisfied by spiritual things.  It’s a kind of longing for God that is in every human heart, longing for a relationship with our Creator.  Jesus says, people can’t live on bread alone, but every word… this spiritual hunger can be satisfied by Jesus, and by his word.  The Greek word used here literally means communication is continually coming out of the mouth of God, like a stream pouring forth.  God is longing to communicate with us, to be in a relationship with us and his primary method of speaking to us is His word, the Bible.

So the first claim that Christians make here, is that the Bible brings revelation about who God isI think in the very first week of Alpha you looked at how Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God.  Well, the main way we know about Jesus is through the written revelation of God, the Bible.
People talk about how different things point them to God – maybe a beautiful piece of music, orthe complexities of science.

About ten years ago I went to New Zealand for a couple of weeks.  Whilst there I went skiing, glacier hiking, helicopter riding, fiord sailing, and even skydiving.  As I jumped out of that plane at 15,000 feet with over 60 seconds of freefall, I had to travel through the clouds before seeing the landscape below.  On the video, as I come through the clouds, you can see me exclaim “wow”.  It took my breath away.  There were beaches and the sea to one side, mountains in a different direction, you could see glaciers and just the biggest expanse of awesome creation laid out below.  The Psalmist says, “the heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”  The beauty and intelligibility of the universe points to a Creator.  But even this is not enough, we need the Bible.

2 Timothy chapter 3, verse 16 says this:“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that God’s servant may be thoroughly equipped for every good work”.

The word translated ‘God-breathed’ is the literal translation of the Greek ‘theo-new-stos’ “God… breathed…”  What the writer is saying is that the Bible is God speaking.  Over a period of 1500 years at least forty authors – kings, scholars, philosophers, fishermen, poets, statesmen, historians, doctors – wrote different types of literature such as history, poetry, prophecy, letters… The writer is not saying that God dictated the Bible, it’s 100 percent the work of human beings.  But that it’s also 100 percent inspired by God.  How can we test this?  We can read it for ourselves.  There is good evidence to believe the Bible has been well preserved and not corrupted.This verse also says that the Bible is the supreme authority for teaching.  It is our authority for how we act, for finding out what is wrong in God’s eyes and what is right, how to successfully live in a relationship with God and with other people.  How to conduct our lives, how to make tough decisions… It is FULL of practical advice and wisdom.  We all need help with our thinking.  The Bible shows us a bigger picture, the Bible gives us purpose and direction.So the Bible is uniquely popular, precious and powerful.  God has spoken and used the Bible to bring revelation, but the second point is this.  God is still speaking.  God still speaks today.  He is not a dead God.  He is not a God for the past.  He is a God for the here and now, a God for the future.  A God who wants to be in relationship with you, walk with you, share with you, journey with you, do life with you and life to the full.

Christianity is all about relationship.  It’s not about rules and religious observance, but relationship.  The Bible is God’s way of speaking to us today.  We can so easily make assumptions about our own lives and the circumstances that we find ourselves in, but when we go back to the Bible it gives us a bigger perspective, it shows us God’s heart, it anchors you and tells you “this is the truth, this is the way”.  It’s why Christians seek to read their Bibles daily, asking the Holy Spirit to speak to them afresh.  Martin Luther said “The Bible is alive.  It speaks to me.  It has feet, it runs after me.  It has hands, it lays hold of me”.  The Bible is known as the ‘living word’.  This is why I want my paintings to have Bible verses on them – because it’s not just old dead words, it’s personal and relevant, it’s freedom and life, it’s truth.
The absolute hands-down best Christmas card I received this year was this one…

It has luminous stickers saying ‘traders wanted’, it is an old re-used bit of card, the spelling isn’t correct… but that’s not why it’s special.  It’s valuable and special because of who wrote it.  My little boy, at school, one day, by himself went to the writing area and was thinking about me.  He was thinking about me and so wrote me a Christmas card.  “To mum, lots of love from Ethan”.  I expect I will treasure this card for many years to come… not because of the card itself, the paper it’s written on, but because the author loves me and created this message just for me.  My relationship is not with the card, but with the person who sent it.  The Bible is like this Christmas card.  It is God’s love letter to us.  We can draw close with God in intimacy not with the words on the page, but with the person who spoke them.  John 5:39 says “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life.  These are the Scriptures that testify about me [Jesus says], yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”
This is about a person who has lived, a person we can know today.  Communication is vital to any relationship.  God can speak directly into our lives and situations through the Bible.  However desperate we might be, or however humdrum our lives might be, God can speak.  Communication is vital for every relationship and as we study the Bible we can come into contact with Jesus.  Rick Warren, an American Pastor, has written that “reading the Bible generates life, it produces change, it heals hurts, it builds character, it transforms circumstances, it imparts joy, it overcomes adversity, it defeats temptation, it infuses hope, it releases power, it cleanses the mind.”  It’s spiritual food.
So how do we do this practically?
Time.  Place.  Method.

Most people find it helpful to set aside a regular time – it doesn’t matter when, little and often works well.  When I was a student, I found just before going to bed, winding down from the day, thinking about what the next day would bring was a great time.  I then married a night owl who only opens up when it’s bed time and so if I wanted to be able to talk to him I had to seize that opportunity… which meant that a new Bible reading time had to be found.  The time doesn’t have to be the same time for the rest of your life.  It’s not about rules and religion, it’s about relationship… most people find that a set time just facilitates the habit of reading their Bible to further their relationship with God.

Jesus would find ‘a solitary place’ to pray.  That’s not always possible.  This is a picture of my kitchen.  Right now you’re all making assumptions about my life based on this.  Well… ha!  Only kidding, that was how it was when we moved in.  This is the reality of my kitchen at the moment.  Solitary?  Not really, but even in the midst of the craziness and busyness there, I can still read my Bible, I can still meet with God, I can still talk to Jesus.  I have a blackboard in my kitchen purely to write out Bible verses on… so that on those days when actually the baby is crying, kids are pulling at me and my cup of tea has been reheated five times I can still connect with God’s word.  Knowing that I was going to be having a baby and entering a season of mental sleep patterns, I specifically wrote out some verses that would encourage me and remind me that I can trust Jesus that God has got this whole ‘parenting thing’ down and that I’m not doing it on my own. 

So it’s helpful to try and set aside a regular time and place, but then what do you do when you’re actually sat there?!  It’s pretty simple really, ask God to help you.  Ask God to speak to you, in the Old Testament a little boy said “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening”.  Read the passage.  And then just ask the questions – What does it say?  What does it mean?  And how does this apply to my life?  How is God speaking to me today?  And then, respond in prayer.  It’s a relationship, it’s two-way communication.  Some people like to have a journal or a notepad and paper to hand while they read the Bible – either so that the can note down any distractions that pop into their head (oh I must post that, need to buy more milk…) or so they can write down what they think God might be saying, or write out their response in prayer to God.  

So I talked about how God speaks to us still today, and I also mentioned that I have a young baby.  I am a touch sleep deprived at the moment.  I am a touch hormonal at the moment.  I am a touch at breaking point at the moment.  I had been struggling to find a time to read my Bible, I had been struggling to connect with Jesus and felt far away from God, I felt overwhelmed by life, overwhelmed by the demands of three small children and a never-ending to-do list.  In the midst of a particularly emotional moment recently, I found myself reading the book of Acts.  Now I have read the whole Bible cover to cover more than once, and I have read the book of Acts several times.  But this time, I was reading it, and I came across this verse like I had never even noticed it before.  And it said this:

“Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord, and he will again send you Jesus, your appointed Messiah.”

Times of refreshment.  From the presence of the Lord.  He’ll send Jesus.  Yes please.  Sign me up.

The Bible is a world-changing, challenging, at times difficult but powerful life-invading book.  God has spoken and he wants to speak to you today.  If you’ve never read the Bible before then a really good place to start would be one of the Gospel books about Jesus’ life – Matthew, Mark, Luke or John.  It would take probably 2 hours tops to read through one in one sitting.  I said right at the very beginning of talking tonight that ‘assumptions are dangerous things’.

You may have heard the following before, in which case, sorry, but if not,

This is the transcript of a radio conversation of a US naval ship with Canadian authorities off the coast of Newfoundland in October, 1995. Radio conversation released by the Chief of Naval Operations 10-10-95.
Americans: Please divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a Collision.
Canadians: Recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision.
Americans: This is the Captain of a US Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course.
Canadians: No. I say again, you divert YOUR course.
Americans: This is the aircraft carrier USS Lincoln, the second largest ship in the United States' Atlantic fleet. We are accompanied by three destroyers, three cruisers and numerous support vessels. I demand that YOU change your course 15 degrees north, that's one five degrees north, or countermeasures will be undertaken to ensure the safety of this ship.
Canadians: This is a lighthouse. Your call.

Whether true or not, the story illustrates that it is easy to make assumptions.  Chris and I are good family friends, I’d never met him before three years ago and now he and his wife are godparents to one of my children, but to look at us, it would be easy to assume that a whopping great big northern bloke and a teeny soft southerner wouldn’t necessarily get on.

We make assumptions based on what things look like (like the picture of my kitchen).  We make assumptions based on things other people have said.  We make assumptions based on all sorts of things and my point I hear you ask?!  Each of us here, myself included, will have made assumptions about God.  We will have assumed things about Jesus – either positive or negative – based on all sorts of influences.  Assumptions can be misleading, assumptions can be dangerous things.  I challenge you to get to know Jesus for yourself.  I challenge you not to rely on your assumptions, not to rely on what you think you know about the Bible, but to actually pick one up and get reading.

Let’s pray.

Father God, thank you that not only have you spoken through the Bible, but you still speak to us today through this book.  And Lord, I pray that every one of us would lay our assumptions aside and find a pattern in our lives of reading your life-giving, life-changing Word.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.