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Reflections



a notebook of prayers, poetry and other devotions



By David Holdsworth








reflectionsbydth.blogspot.com





















E-book edition



Copyright © 2018 David Holdsworth



All rights reserved.



Christian/Poetry/Prayer/Devotion



A note from the author:


Welcome to my notebook!

I have been noting down my prayers, poetry and devotional thoughts for years now. This a small choice of notes. I include numerous entries here along with my testimony. I occasionally refer to scriptures here by writing a verse to look up. There are two reasons I don't put the verse down. The first is to avoid any copyright issues. The second more important reason is that I want my readers to interact with their Bible in whatever version they are already comfortable with.

I hope you enjoy this brief, but God willing, meaningful book.

Yours in Christ, David





Grace Alone - My Christian Testimony




When I was young, my parents raised me in a Christian home. The influence of the gospel lay upon my life from a young age. I lived in the Mission House owned by the Free Church. My Dad worked as a local preacher and Mum was a caretaker of the Church building next door. The Minister a Rev Macleod and his wife were so kind to us and that has stayed with me over the years. I wanted to give my life to Jesus after hearing so many testimonies and seeing that older believers I met at fellowships had something or rather someone beautiful. So, the Lord drew my heart to His and though young I invited Christ into my heart and life. Though I have faltered and failed many times along the way and the road hasn't always been easy God had begun a good work in me.

In my teens with a much fuller understanding of the things of God I recommitted my life to Jesus, or as one person put it I found assurance of salvation. I took Free Church communion for the first time, which is reserved for those who are saved and who the elders have examined as such and feel are ready. It was a blessing.

In my later teens was a major denominational split and a major family crisis. It would be untruthful if I said these things didn't impact my journey, for they did. Though it shook me these things gave strength in the long run. I was inward looking until in a spiritual battle in my heart my eyes opened to the fact that others suffered still much more than I did.

When I went to University, I found that through my studying of Theology and Social Science that the troubles of human nature were not new, nor was the world's or my need for hope. In a rage one day I roared at God "Why do you allow such suffering in this world?" God may have been saying "Why do you?" How could I ignore such a thing?

It was this that got me active in campaigns against wars and armaments and joining the struggle to Ban the Bomb, Drop the Debt and Make Poverty History. But, it still wasn't enough for me, so I journeyed to Devon to be a summer worker at Lee Abbey. They taught me to "be God's hands and feet in this world."

This idea of love was a spiritual awakening and the start of a profound stirring within my heart. I found my old path of blaming God for the world's woes was unsound. I discovered many woes are man-made. That God lives within the laws of cause and effect - laws he made, He lives by His own word and gives humans and angels free will. I could not blame God any longer.

Here are 5 things I have discovered on my pilgrimage of faith:


1. Having for a time looked at other faiths I concluded that though many faiths offer a few ideas, Christianity in its truest form was the only faith offering a much-needed saviour. Christian faith is not winning points with God but is the person Jesus the Christ. It is less religion, more relationship.

2. I could not save myself from sin or judgement, I needed and still need a redeemer. The heart of man’s problem is the problem of man’s heart. In this I was no exception. In the words of John Newton "I am a great sinner, but I have a great saviour."

3. Salvation is by Grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone for the glory of God alone.

4. This gift of salvation does not remove the need for right living but changes the motive. We must do good because it is right and because we love God and others, not to gain salvation or position with God. God is love, and whoever does not love is not of God. Good works do not save us, but Jesus saves us, so we may do them.

5. It's important to be peacemakers, such are called the children of God. Christ came to reconcile man to God, and brothers to brothers.

After, my time at Lee Abbey I did cleaning and factory work. But, my wish to experience Christian community had grown. I had heard of L'arche at Lee Abbey and a community existed in Inverness. So, in Inverness I joined the L'arche community. I discovered care work and much more. The impact of this community and the ideas of the founder and philosopher Jean Vanier was great. Whilst holding true to my evangelical faith I discovered a new dimension to my faith. If one were to have faith in Jesus one ought to express this through practical Christianity and what better way than through community and care.

Various Christian churches influenced me over the year. I was a part of the Free Church of Scotland as a boy and in due time the Free Church (Continuing). When I moved to Inverness, I looked around a while and joined what they then called Christian Outreach Centre Inverness (called CityLife a while and now called The Junction). It was a family friendly, lively church. I had a membership of the Baptists both in Inverness and Edinburgh for a while also (including being part of the Scottish Baptist Lay Preachers Association). Both these churches and those I studied (e.g. the Anabaptists) have had a deep impact on my journey.

In 2010 I had the privilege of serving refugees and homeless people in London. An interesting month where I learned of Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker - though keeping my right to be in effect an Evangelical worker. I learned of the Anabaptists thanks to SPEAK and the Mennonites. I joined campaigns against violence. This active month deeply influenced me.


Then in 2011 I went on a mission trip to give parcels and share the good news of Jesus in Romania. I realised God wanted me to have an active vocation.

God blessed me to live and work at Kilravock Christian Castle. Then for a time I returned both to Highland Theological College and L'arche. I moved to Edinburgh in 2014 to get married to Sarah and began work as a support worker at a Christian organisation called Redwoods Caring Foundation. We faced many challenges in our new life together, but it has been interesting to see that God has used other Christians to help us (and a few Muslims and secular folks). God has not forgotten us when we needed him most. One of our hearts desires has been to have a baby and though it looked like it would not happen for us (as some people experience) God none the less blessed us with a beautiful baby boy.


And so my story and pilgrimage continues...Soli Deo Gloria!


A Prayer of Thanks

Dear Lord,
Thank you for giving us faith, hope and love.
That the greatest of these is love.

Thank you that your love lights up the world.
That though the darkness is resistant your light still shines.

Thank you that you rejoice over your children with singing.
That you put a new song in our mouths so may rejoice in your love.

Thankyou you that you give strength to the weary.
That you give us wings so we may mount up like eagles and bath in the sunlight of your infinite love.

Thank you that you bring salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, for the glory of God alone.
That you O God are Love,

Amen.








By the Blood

Thankyou Father that we can come into your holy presence with boldness by the blood of the Lamb (Jesus) who sets us at liberty.
You, Lord have torn the veil of the temple from top to bottom so we may come to such a holy God as thee.
We rejoice that if we draw near to you, you will draw near to us and if we resist the devil, he will flee from us. So, Lord give us strength, your strength.  For yours alone will be enough.
Thank you for full assurance of faith and that though our sin be as scarlet you can wash us as white as snow. So, we confess we sin (miss the mark) by commission (doing wrong) and omission (not doing right). We sin in thought, word and deed. We plead the blood of Jesus and ask for forgiveness for this. By Christ and his wounds, we receive healing.

In the name of our high priest Jesus the Messiah.
Amen.











Lovers of the Light

Lord we thank you for common grace. The light of your love shines on everyone. Even though we as a species may be a broken masterpiece, we are still a masterpiece created in your image and for your glory. We thank you for how precious you hold each of us. That while we were yet far off Christ died for us. Help us live in faith and acceptance of such love. Not only that, but to mirror it in our dealings with others, reconciling as you are the God of reconciliation. Teach us to overcome evil with good. To love just as you love. Amen.






Friends of God


Precious, merciful God, we thank you for family and friends.
We thank you for your provisions that cover our basic needs.
For the blessings of clothes, food and shelter.
Clothes, the ones we choose.
Food, the food we enjoy.
Shelter, a home.
We thank you for the great spiritual blessing of salvation offered to us in Jesus Christ our Lord and saving grace.
For the washing away of our mistakes and sins.
For life and life eternal.
We thank you for evidence of the Agape (love) of God.
That you call us friends.
Blessed be your name.
Amen





Anchor Us

Lord, in all weather and in all seasons be our anchor. Come storm or sunshine be our steadfast hope.
Amen.










Global Compassion


God calls His people to the work of compassion. Just as God loves the entire world so must we love this global village. We must do what we can where we are. Think global and act local. 
Being humanitarian is not just trying to convert people. There is a place for sharing the faith both in word and deed. Some attribute this saying to St Francis "Preach. Use words if you have to." If he said it or not, I am not sure. However, I admire the idea we should preach as much by action as we do by words. We can only talk the talk authentically if we walk the walk. We should wish to clothe people because they need clothed and as we do for "the least of these" we do unto Him. Compassion is at the heart of who God is. That is why he calls people to be history makers in this way. History makers who know the truth in the head, let it reach the heart and from that place do works of mercy with the hands. Will you partner with God in this way?






The Sunrise of His Grace

Behold the Sunrise of God's infinite Grace. 
In an age of war, disasters and wickedness, Mary has a child. 
In an age of war, disasters and wickedness a boy stunned the religious elite. 
In an age of war, disasters and wickedness a man preaches love and performs miracles. 
In an age of war, disasters and wickedness in humiliation he is mocked, tortured and killed, his body on display. 
In an age of war, disasters and wickedness in a tomb, followers, crushed, forsaken. 
In an age of war, disasters and wickedness HE RISES AND DEFEATS DEATH! 
In an age of war, disasters and wickedness he forgives the followers who abandoned and denied him. 
In an age of war, disasters and wickedness still he forgives. 
In an age of war, disasters and wickedness HE IS COMING AGAIN! 
Behold the sunrise of God's infinite Grace!






Questions

Why are we here? Why do the nations rage? Why do the wicked prosper? Where do wars come from? Who am I Lord? What must I do to be saved? Revival, how long Lord? In all our questions you have the answers. Help us to keep asking questions. Help us to listen. Help us to be still and know that you are God.







Mary’s Example of Heart

See 2 Corinthians 3:11, Luke 2:19.

Under the law there was the condemnation, for all have fallen short of the glory of God. But, one was coming into the world to save the lost.

So he comes. Not as a great emperor, but as a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.

Did Mary keep all the angel had told her of her special boy in her head alone? God forbid. No, she kept it in her heart. It is possible for us to know gospel truths in our head alone, but what good is that? It must move beyond head knowledge to heart knowledge. Don't just know the truth about Jesus but let it and Him live in your heart. When we do this, it compels us to respond. Our head ministers to our heart and our heart to our hands.

Mary responded. She gave birth to Jesus and as far as we know lived a Godly life. Likewise, though our task may not be giving birth to God's son, we also must respond to whatever our calling is and to live Godly lives.

Head, Heart, Hand!

A final thought, he is not to be left in the stable of filth where he was born but must now have the best home, the home of our hearts.







Prophesy of Peace Fulfilled

It would be controversial if I left the title at that. We live in a world where war is rampant (though some statistics show a more peaceful time than some previous generations?). How then can I say peace has been fulfilled? The answer is simple: it has! But, alas the kingdom of God's peaceable reign is both now and not yet.

Let me explain. Isaiah long ago spoke of one who would be 'God with us' (Immanuel). He would live among humans but was of God. (Isaiah 7:14; cf. Matthew 1:23). The coming of this servant king would also be the coming of the peaceable kingdom of God. (Isaiah 9:6-7). Likewise, another wise prophet called Micah spoke of him as a new ruler born in Bethlehem. (Micah 5:2). He would not only bless Israel, but the entire world. (Micah 5:3-5). The birth of Jesus fulfilled these prophetic words. The peaceable kingdom of God appeared on the scene with Him.

Both Micah and Isaiah are famous for the ultimate peace saying that is so popular it is inscribed on a UN building and at the EU. It basically says that swords will one day be ploughs and the learning of war shall be no more.

These verses are surely the 'not yet' of the prophesy of peace. Yes, the Prince of Peace has come, and his kingdom is coming more and more (hence Jesus saying to pray "Thy kingdom come.") But, there is a final phase of peace prophesy still to come to pass and that is this peaceable vision Micah and Isaiah speak of.

One verse that could be brought up to challenge how authentic a promise Isaiah and Micah are making is from Joel. Joel effectively says it is the time for war and that ploughs should in fact be swords. Joel appears at first glance to be saying the entire opposite to the other prophets. However, let's consider it also as prophesy both fulfilled and being fulfilled. What have we seen so far since Jesus came with peace to earth? As Jesus promised we have seen "wars and rumours of wars. " We had the Dark Ages, the Inquisitions and crusades, the endless violence of a Godless foreign policy, colonialism, two world wars, the cold war, two (that we know of) almost nuclear wars, not to mention some of the cruellest persecutions of followers of this peaceful prince, to name but a few. "But the end is not yet." 

It sometimes seems as if it will never end. A new Nero like beast appears on the scene again and again. But, fear not little flock. There is hope. 

See Isaiah 9:6. His kingdom come!







Day of the Martyrs

Gathering of light.
Sacred assembly of love.
Age of war, hate, and strife.
The day of the martyrs has just begun.
Blood stained standing stones.
Anabaptists’ tears, angels’ song.
The day of the martyrs has just begun.
Ice cracks, foe falls.
Pilgrim saves.
To burning he must go.
Stands fast, dies slow, proclaims love for all to know.
The day of the martyrs has just begun.






Emmanuel - With Us!

See Matthew 1:23

God be with us!
God be with us in the valley of the shadow of death.
God be with us on the mountain tops of glorious hope and life.
God be with us in thick and thin, up and down, conflict and peace...
Peace - give us your peace!
God is with us!
God is with us in the valley of the shadow of death.
God is with us on the mountain tops of glorious hope and life.
God is with us in thick and thin, up and down, conflict and peace...
Peace - He gives us His peace!






Alone

Though the phrase alone gives images of a lonely saviour on a tree, being alone can also be good. Jesus often was alone in prayer (see Mark 1:12-13, Mark 1:35, Luke 5:16, Luke 6:12-13 also see Psalm 46:10). When we withdraw to pray alone, let's remember to be still, to know Him as God.














Exodus and Exile

See Ephesians 1:7

The Bible reads like a collection of books about people caught up in exodus and exile. It is a book that shows the destruction of imperialism and war. It shows how innocents suffer. The climax of the book is the suffering innocent saviour crucified on a tree. But, God is not done there, it is also a story of resurrection, redemption, and hope. It is the story of people with good news to share by words and action. It is counter-culture and more relevant now than some may realise. In an age of wars and rumours of war, an age of refugees in exile and mass exodus, it speaks of the need for love and compassion. The early followers of Jesus were famous for love and not hate. So, while the extremists, the religiously ignorant, the politically cold, the divisive nationalists and the greedy arms dealers fuel the world's problems, and beat the war drums, let us the people of new birth be lights in the darkness and voices in the wilderness. Let us live and sing the song of love, for truly His banner over us is love. It is to that beat we march and, in His name, not the gods of hate and war, but the God of love, the Prince of Shalom (peace).
Soli Deo Gloria. Amen

Lord we pray for those lost in Exodus or Exile.
Those lost physically, mentally, emotionally.
We pray for those lost in poverty and need.
We also pray for those spiritually lost in sin and confusion.
Thank you that you have come to set the captives free.
We pray that you would use us to help those who are lost. In small ways and even big ways. Little by little or even with momentum.
Lord that the lost would be found. That your light would shine in their lives.
That more would be able to say, "I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind but now I see."
Amen






He Changes Everything

See John 3:19

Thankyou Lord Jesus that you change everything. That the tide of evil and darkness that once thought it was winning was wrong. We praise you that by your resurrection power you are winning the battle between good and evil. The light is winning! There is hope! Even if the darkness becomes so powerful that only a small light can be seen (as has happened often in human history due to the sins of our species) there is still a light! Teach us also to be lights in the darkness, to imitate you the greatest of all lights, the Son of God. Let the light shine! Amen.






Love: That splendid word



Love. That splendid word. Thank you, Father.
You are graciously loving us.
You are love.
This is such a beautiful thought. Teach us to understand it and live in the light of it.
Continue to show us how to love.
To love others and to love you. Love.
That splendid word.
Thank you, Father.
Amen.






In the Calm and in the Storms

See Psalm 66:12.

Lord, the storms may rage, and the waves may beat against us just as it did in the disciple’s boat as they fished so long ago. But, you call us to faith. Even at times to step out onto the waters of life. The storms of life only last a while in the scheme of things but your grace, mercy and truth are eternal, from age to age. So, in faith we ask you to be with us in the calm and in the storms. You are our hope, our salvation. Amen.






Allegiance


See Luke 4:5-8.

Swearing allegiance is very much a part of some cultures. In the US it is sworn to the flag and in the UK in some uniform youth groups allegiance is sworn to the Queen. The actual word allegiance has a strong connection to the word Lord. Jesus encourages in scripture that we choose our Lord and the one we serve for "we cannot serve two masters." Jesus' kingdom is very much in contrast to the empires or systems of this world. Indeed, His kingdom "is not of this world."

Let's contrast the worst of earth's empires and systems with the beautiful kingdom of Christ Jesus:
The kingdom serves the king of kings. The empire serves Caesar like leaders who are deluded about themselves.
The kingdom though often persecuted unites and blesses people as a holy family. The empires deny the importance of family (e.g. many emperors of old murdered family members to consolidate power).
The weapons of the kingdom are not carnal and indeed if anything true followers of Jesus are a peaceful army of love and compassion. In contrast, the empires are so linked to the arms trade that it is hard to know where they end, and the government begins. They are a dreadful war machine of horror.
Jesus came to save not to destroy. The empires do not care who they destroy as they expand. They justify all kinds of evil with phrases like "Collateral Damage", "Friendly Fire" (What's so friendly about it?).
The kingdom has a banner, and that banner is love. In the empires it is flags, emblems, swastikas.
The kingdom puts a new song in people's mouth. Songs of joy and praise. The empires only have anthems many of which are laced with hateful words to "enemies."
This kingdom of love shall never end. Whereas the empires pass away. They are but dust in the winds of time.
The kingdom is built on an economy of love and self-sacrifice. The disciples of old also notably had all things in common. The empires seem to use masses of tax to pay for wars and other cruelties.
The kingdom is compared to a perfect bride. It is already blessed. Empires on the other hand need established churches to "bless" sin.

In the parable of the weeds Jesus speaks of how the weeds will grow up alongside the good crops. The two kingdoms will grow side by side. Choose you this day who you will serve!

See Matthew 13:24-30.







Armed with the Gospel

Armed with the Gospel... or more accurately The Gospel on my Arm?

Some years ago there was a phase where many who liked supporting causes wore armbands like these. I was no exception having been influenced by The Make Poverty History movement who sported a white band at that time.
I also had a multi-coloured collection I think from the hunger site (a website supporting various causes).
I think it was my younger brother who gave me the gospel band.

It has an easy diagram of the work Jesus has and is doing:
1. The arrow pointing down symbolises Jesus coming into this world as a little baby. The Son of God showing his love and humility.
2. The cross symbolises how he died for our sins on a cross.
3. The little hill is symbolic of the tomb and speaks of how Jesus was buried in the belly of the earth just as had been prophesied.
4. The upward pointing arrow speaks of how he defeated death and rose again three days after burial and equally speaks of how he ascended into heaven.
5. The second downward facing arrow speaks of how he is coming again with great power and glory.

Father thank you that we can come to you. Thank you for good causes we can support and the amazing work they do. We also thank you for Jesus and his beautiful gospel of peace. Teach us how to share it with others. Let thy kingdom come. All glory and honour to your name. Amen







In all Things


Lord Jesus, teach us to listen for you in all things. Thank you for paying such a high price for our hope and redemption. Help us to not be ashamed of the gospel, but to be as a city on a hill that can't be hid. Teach us not to hide the light you have given us but rather that we would shine like the stars above. In all things Lord have the glory. Forever. Amen.






Christ's Example of Humility

See 2 Corinthians 8:9, Luke 2:7 and Isaiah 9.6

One thing that people may consider was the level of humility and kindness Jesus showed the world. Whilst being from the wealth of heaven He humbled himself and became of the poor of earth. Jesus was not born into some royal palace or even a run-of-the-mill inn but into a filthy stable. Becoming a mortal was humble enough, but to be born in the dirt signified something special.

Some say, "silent night", but I doubt it was. A midst the blood and tears of birth pangs, the weeping that endures the night a Son was born, and he truly would be the joy of the morning. Born in a simple town among the stench and noise of livestock a new kingdom is coming where the poor are the ones that are blessed (like shepherds who watch flocks by night, void of noble birth, see the new-born king).

The Lord showed a true example of humility and in this He is honoured. One of my favourite passages of scriptures is the first few verses of Philippians 2. Why not look now?







Do Not Lose Hope

See Hebrews 11:1

Where is the hope in this world? We see a world of wars, global warming, economic collapse, poverty, starvation, disease, and persecution. It does feel hopeless!
However, this world and us in it are still a masterpiece. There are several beautiful paintings that have been vandalised over the years. Yet, when looking at such paintings do they cease to be a masterpiece if they are damaged or broken? Surely a defaced masterpiece is still a masterpiece. In the same way this world may very well appear broken and corrupted, but it is still home to some 7 plus billion of us and however many other species. It is still a masterpiece and we humans are still created in the image of God. This all says to me that there is still hope for us yet.
God knows the future, trust and hope in that. There is both hope for individuals and hope for the collective.






God So Loved


See John 3:16,17.


Thankyou loving gracious God that your love is so vast that it engulfs the world. That where there is light, love and goodness there you are. Thank you for giving your one and only begotten Son, so that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. Thank you that your offer of salvation is open to whosoever. Even me, even us. Imperfect and sinful as we are. Thank you that your Son Jesus is not for condemning the world; but for the redemption of it. That He is for the expansion of your kingdom, for people being adopted into your holy family of faith. Hallelujah! Amen.

For further thoughts from scriptures see
2 Peter 3:9 and Isaiah 59:1.







A Little Child will Lead Them

See Isaiah 11:6.

Lord we thank you that you are King, and your kingdom is both now and not yet. That it is coming. That you will and are ending divisions. Putting an end to the powers of death. That the old is passing away and the new creation is coming. That harmony is coming in creation. So that one day even a divisive species like ours may see people of every tribe, nation, and tongue united in worship. Until the fulfilment of that promise help us to seek out both likely and unlikely friendships. To be peacemakers in our daily lives. To love as you love. Amen.






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