A Prayer for the Jewish People


Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
“May they be secure who love you!
Peace be within your walls
and security within your towers!”
For my brothers and companions’ sake
I will say, “Peace be within you!”
For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,
I will seek your good. (Psalm 122:6-9 ESV)

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day. Let us with the psalmist pray for the peace of Jerusalem and the Jewish people (jewishvoice.org).

Jerusalem and all the people and land of Israel- 

  • Pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6)
  • For the people of Israel to come to know their Messiah, Yeshua (Psalm 40:7; Isaiah 53)
  • For her borders to be secure (Exodus 23:31a)
  • For Jerusalem to be protected from being divided (Joel 3:2)

Israel’s government and leaders-

  • For Israel’s leaders to be blessed and lead well, so Israel’s citizens can live in peace and many will come to salvation (1 Timothy 2:1-4)
  • That they may be just and give their country stability, and be free from corruption (Proverbs 29:4)
  • That they would ask God for wisdom and follow His lead (James 1:5)

For the believers in Israel-

  • For the believers in Israel to be strengthened with power in their inner being, so Messiah may dwell in their hearts through faith, and that they would know the love of Messiah (Ephesians 3:16-19)
  • That they would be filled with God’s will, wisdom and understanding; live a life worthy of Him; bear fruit in every good work; have great endurance and patience; and be grateful (Colossians 2:6-7)
  • For their protection, and that those around them would be drawn to Yeshua because of their love for Him and one another (John 17:11, 23)

For the youth and the elderly-

  • For the LORD to comfort the young and old alike (Isaiah 40:1)
  • That they would know the LORD desires to give them hope and a future, not evil. (Jeremiah 29:11)

For friends and enemies of Israel-

  • That people and nations will take this Scripture to heart and bless Israel, thus receiving a blessing and not a curse (Genesis 12:3)
  • That the nations would understand the depth of God’s wrath against those who don’t follow Him (Isaiah 60:12)
  • For God to keep a watchful eye over His People, and bind the schemes and resources of their enemies so they can do them no harm (Zechariah 12:1-5; Psalm 91)

[Online] Available: http://jvmi.convio.net/assets/pdfs/prayer-infographic-israel-letter-size.pdf?_ga=2.170703200.1772248093.1517070723-1336605399.1517070723


Seeking Wisdom

salt-1073252_960_720“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5 BSB)

“Out in the open wisdom calls aloud,
she raises her voice in the public square…” (Proverbs 1:20 NIV)

In Proverbs 8 and 9, we are shown a picture of Lady Wisdom eagerly seeking us out, rather than the other way round. From generation to generation, Wisdom sounds her clarion call, asking us to give up our simple ways, which lead to poverty and destruction of body, soul and spirit, and to partake of her rich banquet. Her claim to our obedience lies in her close connection with our Creator – before God created you, Wisdom informs us, He created me – to be your guide and to hold a torch before you, as you navigate your way through the mazes of life.

Wisdom expects us to meet her half-way – she calls, but we must choose to follow her. It is Wisdom who nudged us, when we were gone astray, to turn our steps back to the Father’s house. When Wisdom shone a light into the dark recesses of the prodigal’s confused mind, he came to his senses and repented of his wickedness and foolishness. It occurred to him that he should now return home to seek his Father’s forgiveness; Wisdom reminds us that our heavenly Father has not only the power, but also a great longing to forgive, restore and bless us. Wisdom showed the wandering prodigal the stark reality of his condition and brought full restoration in his life. So will Wisdom do for us all, if only we humbly heed her call.

To understand the difference that Wisdom makes in a person’s conduct, let us study two contrasting verses. First, in Psalm 14:1 (ESV) – ‘The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good.’ We see the Prodigal’s attitude before his fall – he knew his father, yet he did not really understand him. He had, what is today called, a ‘humanistic approach’ to his inheritance – he was aware of his rights, but had no understanding of the claims of filial duty or obligation. He was eager to grab what he saw as his due, but had no thought to offer something in return or to thank such a kind father. Seeking his own pleasure, his life spiralled out of control till he had lost everything. Thankfully, there is a remedy for people in his condition – “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7 NIV). 

When the Prodigal came to his senses he began to see things differently. Firstly, he realised that he had acted wickedly in abusing his father’s generosity, and was sorry for the grief he had caused his father. Secondly, he realised that his father owed him nothing – to be received even as a servant in his father’s house was more than he deserved. Finally, his state of utter depravity and helplessness did not result in discouragement, but fired his resolve to return home – because his eyes were opened to the truth of his father’s character. No pride or sense of false dignity could now keep him away from the Father – all this was indeed the work of Wisdom.

The story of the Prodigal shows us the keys, the attitudes that are receptive, to wisdom:

  1. Awareness of one’s lack – The realisation that we cannot manage our own lives, and must rely on God to guide us. The awareness of our lack frees us from pride and a false belief that we can succeed on our own. “The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception” (Proverbs 14:8). 
  2. Humility – “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom” (Proverbs 11:2 NIV). A street beggar is unashamed to plead for help. Someone has defined pride as a sense of self-importance; indeed, when we realise that we are no more important than anyone else on this planet, we gain a greater appreciation of the gifts the Father bestows on each of us.
  3. Understanding the value of wisdom – “For wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her” (Proverbs 8:11). We live in an age when presentation matters more than wisdom. Over the past decades we have seen the election of leaders, particularly in the West, who are all show and no substance. “How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver!” (Proverbs 16:16). To value wisdom requires an awakening of the spirit and conscience.
  4. Fear of God“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise” (Psalm 111:10). The fear of God, unlike the fear of man, has the power to awaken and transform souls. A sense of awe and admiration are combined in this fear – it is a tool of enlightenment and progress. As we realise that it is to our profit to follow His instructions, we become imitators of Christ, and there is no wiser way to conduct our lives than to follow His holy example.
  5. Faith“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God… But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:5-8). These scripture show the need to resolve our spiritual instability and double-mindedness, that to-ing and fro-ing within, the lack of purpose and conviction, before we can truly receive from God. This is done simply through prayer and waiting on God. Only Christ can still the storms within our spirits so that we become receptacles of His grace and wisdom.

Father, we come before You, empty and humbly ask for wisdom. Help us to walk in the fear God, free of all double-mindedness and doubt, fill us with the knowledge of your will. In Jesus’ name.

The Salt of Wisdom


“Get wisdom, get understanding;
do not forget my words or turn away from them.
Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you;
love her, and she will watch over you.
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom.
Though it cost all you have, get understanding.
Cherish her, and she will exalt you;
embrace her, and she will honour you.
She will give you a garland to grace your head
and present you with a glorious crown.” (Proverbs 4:5-9 NIV)

This New Year 2018 is a special year. A 100 years ago, WW1 came to an end, but hopes for a permanent peace lasted barely 30 years, until the beginning of WW2. The century following the First World War has arguably been the most godless one in history – in our own lifetimes, we have seen an unparalleled growth of evil, moral depravity, political unrest and terrorism. Interestingly, the Catholic Church has some prophecies relating to this period, both in St Malachy’s Prophecy of the Popes, and a vision given to Pope Leo XIII. I believe the Catholic Church was chosen for this ‘honour’ because its global reach has always meant an extensive dissemination of information. How does one cope in this present age? Some baptismal ceremonies, including the Catholic, use salt in the sprinkling of water, and this salt represents wisdom:

“Almighty and everlasting God, you have created salt for the use of man, we ask you to bless this salt and grant that wherever it is sprinkled and whatever is touched by it may be set free from all impurity and the attacks of Satan; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

“Receive the salt of wisdom; let it be to thee a token  of mercy unto everlasting life. May it make your way easy  to eternal life.”

Indeed, in our age, more than ever before we need the salt of wisdom in our lives, to shield us from the incessant attacks of the forces of darkness. And what is wisdom? According to scripture wisdom is the foundational principle of life and creation, likened to a strong and nurturing mother figure in Proverbs, able to guard us and keep us well protected against the storms of life. If we live in her presence and in obedience to her instructions, our lives will be rich, joyous and safe, for she brings honour, pleasantness, and sweet rest to all who find her.

“By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations,
by understanding he set the heavens in place.” (Proverbs 3:19 NIV).

My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight,
preserve sound judgment and discretion;
they will be life for you,
an ornament to grace your neck.
Then you will go on your way in safety,
and your foot will not stumble.
When you lie down, you will not be afraid;
when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
Have no fear of sudden disaster
or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked,
for the Lord will be at your side
and will keep your foot from being snared. (Proverbs 3:21-26)

“For wisdom will enter your heart,
and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.
Discretion will protect you,
and understanding will guard you.” (Proverbs 2:10-11)

Therefore, God exhorts, indeed, commands us to seek wisdom. Solomon’s plea for wisdom was so pleasing to God, that He added long life and wealth to the blessings He bestowed on the young king. In our own age of instant gratification, we do not have many who model wisdom in their daily lives. Yet, all of us know at least one or two individuals who seem wiser than others, whose speech is characterised by careful moderation, and who consistently practise patience, sobriety, diligence, forethought and kindness in their daily lives. Recently I read a comment which I agree with, that in human experience, natural intelligence and wisdom rarely go together. Indeed, a majority of wise people are those of average intelligence, and only a minority of those considered ‘brilliant’ are actually also wise. I was blessed with a mother, who possessed both qualities in substantial and equal measure; and I know a few others as well, but such people are really too few in this world. Another thing about wisdom is that it grows with experience, and oh, how I wish I knew as a teenager the lessons I have since learnt from practical, sometimes painful, experience. On the whole, as I approach mid-life, I have come to the conclusion that wisdom rather than intelligence contributes to a happy life.

The good news for the Christian is that, whatever our initial or natural state, on being welcomed into the flock of Christ, we have departed the foolish ways that lead to destruction, and become partakers of His wisdom. A beautiful future full of hope, peace and joy awaits us, both in this world and in the one to come. This is truly the mercy of God – “It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God: our righteousness, holiness, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30 NIV). Growing is wisdom is a natural, but also an active, process for the sheep of God. If we feed on the right ideas, deliberately reject harmful thoughts and habits, and seek to practise wisdom in our daily lives, we will mature in the way of wisdom, that we have entered. Christ, our Guide, is with us always; but we must be careful to follow Him, and not be led by our own instincts or desires, which can greatly hinder our progress. In more practical terms, wisdom comes from praying, listening and doing. In my next post, I will share more of my thoughts on this.

Father, thank You for the promise of wisdom to all who will humbly ask You for it. Forgive us our foolish ways, and clothe our minds with Your wisdom that we may live fruitful lives, and bring honour to Your name. In Jesus’ name.

Ring In the Christ That Is To Be


Ring Out, Wild Bells 

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

The Christmas Rose

rose-2641113_960_720.jpg“The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.” (Isaiah 35:1)

Remember Ebenezer Scrooge, and his visions of Christmases past in Charles Dickens’s ‘A Christmas Carol’. Growing up in the Arabian desert, albeit in a modern Gulf city, some things held an unusual fascination for us as children. The rain, for example – for it only rained about once each year – and the even rarer, hailstorm. When it rained, excited children would press their noses to windows, eager not to miss a moment of these magical showers. Our feeble rains left no puddles for children to jump in, but the thrill of those moments was equal to the excitement of going to a circus. Even more fascinating were flowers – so rare in the Gulf in the seventies. A bride would have flowers, but even these were often not real. I saved pictures and postcards of flowers and gardens, and on the rare occasion I happened to visit a real garden, I could hardly take my eyes off those angelic beauties. Listening to the song, ‘Raindrops on Roses’ in the ‘Sound of Music’ brought a sad realisation that raindrops, roses and fluffy kittens were commonplace in other lands, and lucky children took these things for granted. Even the iced flowers on Christmas cakes were a source of immense delight.

On Christmas, guests would turn up all day, and so we always had a large rich fruit cake with beautiful iced flowers. As we began cutting slices from the snowy white cake on Christmas morning, I would remind my mother to ‘be careful; please be very, very careful with the flowers’. By evening, after much of the cake had been eaten, a generous wedge would remain, topped with roses, and I would carefully, almost reverently remove these flowers and lay them lovingly on a small plate. Once the visual feast had been properly enjoyed, we – my siblings and I – would begin eating the ‘roses’. Naturally, they did not taste as well as they looked, especially after the rich treats we had eaten all day, but that hardly mattered… it was still a moment to be treasured – a glorious ending to a glorious day.

Iced roses on cakes – I wouldn’t be surprised at all to discover that they are made by secret angels in kitchens behind the shops. No doubt, the flower deprivation of my otherwise comfortable childhood has left a permanent mark on my psyche. Joking aside, for years all the curtains, cushions, bedspreads and vases in my home had rose patterns; my sister and friends gave me cards and presents with a floral theme. Thankfully, I outgrew this phase, and now my tastes are more restrained, but I still love roses.

nature-2908836_960_720.jpgThis week, I was drawn to a picture of the ‘Christmas Rose’ – a flower I seem to have a faint memory of, though I am not quite sure where or indeed if, I have ever seen a real one. It is not really a rose, but cradled within its snow-white petals is a golden crown, the whole image evoking a serenity and nobility, reminiscent of Christ, the Beloved of our souls. According to an old legend, it sprung from the tears of a young girl, who had no gift for the Baby Jesus; an angel came and drew a Christmas rose from the snow where her tears had fallen, which she then joyfully presented to the Holy Infant. This Christmas, I am away from home and loved ones; yet feel more peaceful and blessed, than in my Christmases past when I was surrounded by laughter, family, friends, fragrant cooking and beautiful cakes, for I have tasted the love of the ‘Fairest of Ten Thousand’. It takes a child of the desert to truly appreciate the beauty of the rose; in seasons of barrenness and aloneness, we learn to rejoice in the ‘Rose of Sharon, blooming for His own’ who lingers close to every longing heart.

My Christmas gift to you, dear reader, is an old German Christmas song, Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming!’ (writer unknown). I have taken the liberty to mix two versions-

Lo, how a rose e’er blooming,
From tender stem hath sprung.
Of Jesse’s lineage coming,
As men of old have sung;
It came, a flow’ret bright,
Amid the cold of winter,
When half spent was the night.

Isaiah ’twas foretold it,
The Rose I have in mind,
With Mary we behold it,
The virgin mother kind;
To show God’s love aright,
She bore to men a Savior,
When half spent was the night.

O Flower, whose fragrance tender
With sweetness fills the air,
Dispel with glorious splendour
The darkness everywhere;
True man, yet very God,
From Sin and death now save us,
And share our every load.

O Saviour, Child of Mary,
Who felt our human woe;
O Saviour, King of Glory,
Who dost our weakness know,
Bring us at length we pray,
To the bright courts of Heaven
And to the endless day.

Here is a Youtube video of the song in German –

May the joy of Christ fill your hearts! Happy Christmas!

Christmas Bells


Christmas Bells – A Poem by H.W. Longfellow

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

Snippets from the Saints

olives-357849_960_720“Women received their dead raised to life again” (Hebrews 11:35)

“Nothing is far from God” (St Monica).

Monica, the mother of St Augustine belongs to that eternal throng of praying mothers, whose tears, as they cry out for the souls of their children, husbands and loved ones, flow like gentle streams before the throne of our God from generation to generation. The sum of Monica’s life was this – she prayed and her prayers were heard. So, she joins the many daughters of Sarah in that great hall of faith who were commended for persevering in prayer, travail and hope till they had ‘received their dead back to life’.

As a wife – her Berber Christian parents had given her in marriage to a Roman pagan – Monica’s heart was broken by the adulteries of her husband, Patricius. Her piety and gentleness, however, persuaded her mother-in-law to become a Christian. Although her prayers and deeds of charity annoyed her husband, he respected her, and before his death, came to believe in Christ. She was known to be a peacemaker among her neighbours, devoting her time to healing discords and settling disputes.

She sought to bring her children up in the true faith; but Augustine grew up to be a wayward son, who pierced her Christian soul with many thorns. She grieved as this gifted young man wasted his talents at the altar of pleasure. Worse, he converted to the strange cult of Manichaeism – this grieved her so much that she drove him out of their home, but was persuaded by a dream to reconcile with him. A bishop to whom she turned for comfort reassured her that “the child of those tears shall never perish.” Finally, her prayers watered by tears bore fruit when Augustine consecrated his life to Christ, and was baptised by the Bishop Ambrose. So, they spent a few peaceful years travelling together to preach the gospel, and rejoicing in their shared love for the Son of God, who had died to save sinners like themselves. Augustine recalled one of his last conversations with his mother-

‘Such things was I saying; and if not after this manner, and in these words, yet, Lord, You know, that in that day when we were talking thus, this world with all its delights grew contemptible to us, even while we spake. Then said my mother, “Son, for myself, I have no longer any pleasure in this life. What I want here further, and why I am here, I know not, now that my hopes in this world are satisfied. There was indeed one thing for which I wished to tarry a little in this life, and that was that I might see you a Christian before I died. My God has exceeded this abundantly, so that I see you despising all earthly felicity, made His servant, what do I here?”‘

So she departed this world with great joy to take hold of the crown which Christ had set apart for her. Augustine recorded his thoughts about his mother during those last moments in ‘The Confessions’-

“And You sent Your hand from above, and drew my soul out of that profound darkness, when my mother, Your faithful one, wept to You on my behalf more than mothers are wont to weep the bodily death of their children. For she saw that I was dead by that faith and spirit which she had from You, and You heard her, O Lord. You heard her, and despised not her tears, when, pouring down, they watered the earth under her eyes in every place where she prayed; yea, You heard her.”

“For Your hands, O my God, in the hidden design of Your Providence, did not desert my soul; and out of the blood of my mother’s heart, through the tears that she poured out by day and by night, was a sacrifice offered unto You for me; and by marvellous ways did Thou deal with me.”

“Soon after to us both (St Augustine and his brother) she says, “Lay this body anywhere, let not the care for it trouble you at all. This only I ask, that you will remember me at the Lord’s altar, wherever you be.”! And when she had given forth this opinion in such words as she could, she was silent, being in pain with her increasing sickness.”

She had previously expressed a deep longing to die in her own country; but, in those closing moments, being far from her own home and people had no power to disturb her mind. She realised then, as never before, that “Nothing is far from God”; so she was at peace.

“May she therefore rest in peace with her husband, before or after whom she married none; whom she obeyed, with patience bringing forth fruit unto You, that she might gain him also for You. And inspire, O my Lord my God, inspire Your servants my brethren, Your sons my masters, who with voice and heart and writings I serve, that so many of them as shall read these confessions may at Your altar remember Monica, Your handmaid, together with Patricius, her sometime husband, by whose flesh You introduced me into this life, in what manner I know not”.

Father, we thank You for praying mothers like Monica who call out to You, day and night. May their cry always rise like incense before Your throne, and may their prayers be answered beyond all expectations. In Jesus’ name.