“I am essential!”

The preacher roars in his hundred dollar suit. 

His hundreds strong holy huddle of pew warmers burst into an applause of rapture as they prepare for the second offering. 

The TV channel switches to pre-recorded “Tele-Evangelist mode”. 

The cheers echoe through the giant money making machine. 

Like an idol his image flashes across giant screens in the auditorium. 

As he speaks he suddenly remembers his brother across town.

In an old tin tabernacle the gentle shepherd speaks to his flock.

“I am not essential… Except the Lord builds the house the builders build in vain.”

He says this while ministering in a soup kitchen as he serves the needy.

Later that day he plans to do food drops and work in a care home.

At evening prayers his prayer would be as he helped refugees at the docks and prisoners in the cells. 

Then at night he would minister on the streets as a practical pastor to the needy and outcast. Each moment of his daily life he shares in word and deed the good news of Jesus. 

As the popular preacher thinks about his friend he pauses and bows his head muttering quietly:

“I am essential, right?”

He looks at his text for today and trembles a little:

“Is not this the fast that I choose:

to loose the bonds of wickedness,

to undo the straps of the yoke,

to let the oppressed go free,

and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry

and bring the homeless poor into your house;

when you see the naked, to cover him,

and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,

and your healing shall spring up speedily;

your righteousness shall go before you;

the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.

Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;

you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’

(Is 58:6 – 9a)

In a strange moment of epiphany he realises he has done none of these things. He has not chosen the correct fast. The giant of a man shaking falls on his knees. With uncomfortable tears an unsettling silence falls over his audience. The show is over. He doesn’t hide behind the smoke machine, move the spot light, call the band on stage or even ask an elder to take over. The TV channel switches quickly to pre-recorded adverts asking for money to build a bigger auditorium and offers proverbial indulgences. Meanwhile he simply falls still. A long strange silence. 

Some time passes and he gently arises as if from the dead. 

“Today we must become His hands and feet in this world. Today we must become essential.”

From that moment on he follows the passage he had read to the letter. He gives the poor shepherd his suit, helps repair his brothers tin roof, and joins in the works of mercy he had so neglected. Some of his audience have merely been that and abandon him, while others join the essential work of seeing God’s kingdom come both in word and deed. 

When he asks his new lead Pastor at the tin tabernacle, who he fondly calls Shep now (short for shepherd) for advice the response is “Humbly take up the cross, put your hand to the plough, don’t look back, become what you use to call essential. Preach, use words when you have to. Be His hands and feet in this world, a hearer, teacher and doer of the word – now that is essentially what is essential.”

And that is essentially what he does. By God’s grace alone he has faith alone in Christ alone for God’s glory alone and becomes a doer of the word, a bearer of fruit. After all surely these are the essentials just as God is essential. 

He is essential. 


Day of the Martyrs

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:10 ESV)
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.

Published in the anthology Poetic Velocity. This poem reflects on the powerful faith and love of many Christian martyrs. The main one is the story of Dirk Willems who was an Anabaptist Christian martyr. He was being hunted for his faith and he turned back to save his enemy when his enemy fell through some ice. Dirk was burnt at the stake for his faith despite his merciful gesture. He entered heaven with a clean conscience.

You can buy the anthology at:
Poetic Velocity and appears at All Poetry.

A Stand

The lone figure emerges from the mist, his long white beard blows in the wind. A peculiar sight for guard and prisoners alike. Soon more emerge as the old man advances. 7, 14, 21…soon a hundred unarmed saints. ‘What do they want?’ ‘Who are they?’ ‘Are these the followers of Jesus?’ ‘Surely not, or they like others would sing louder as screams echo from death train.’ ‘No, no my brother it is them.’ ‘Why have they come?’ The lone figure pushes gunmen aside. ‘Can’t go in there!’ Guards cry. Heeding them not he stands in the midst of the prisoners. Eyes of surprised prisoners, Eyes of dumb struck guards, Eyes of bold congregation standing at the gate.’What will he do?’ ‘What can he do?’ ‘Tomorrow to death camp we go.’ But then… Lifting up holy book he roars prophetically the words of Ruth 1:16, 17. A thunder of applause within and outwith the gates. Gates that will not prevail. Guards disband for the Word of the Lord has been spoken. Never again do they return, All because a few made A STAND to save children of the promised land.

Based on a true story. 

The verse from Ruth reads: “And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.” (from the KJV – public domain).

The Poor Man

We hid him.

The poor man.

His existence challenged our comfortable lives.

A prophet speaks out.

The vipers take him out, on our wicked behalf.

We say, “not in our name”, but… How can the prophets compassionate humanity be tolerated when it challenges us this much?

Like trees with no fruit our true colours show.

We store up.

Moth and rust still win.

The grass withers and the leaf fades.

A puff of smoke, a vapour.

This to shall pass.

The empires crumble and fall.

Even the ecclesiastical tyrants meet their maker.

The rich shall inherit the grave.

Earth is for the others.

Good Friday

Scene 1 (The upper room): Take the bread. Take the cup. Be blessed. Foot washing. A final meal, a humble farewell.

Scene 2 (Betrayal): Watch with me! Bleeding tears. Anguish in prayer. Betrayed with a kiss.

Scene 3 (Peter and friends): Promises broken. Tearful regrets. Denial.

Scene 4 (The cross): A tear drop falls from the cross. A dying man’s cry. The earth shakes. The temple trembles in the presence of God.

Scene 5 (Empty tomb): A king rises from the dark. The grave abandoned. Nature blooms in the presence of it’s God. The victory accomplished!

His Kingdom Come

Where is Hope?

The Saviour:”Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.”

The Martyr: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

The Prophet: “The Kings of the earth are a vanity, the nations are as a drop in a bucket.”

The Charlatan and Jester: “Make the mortal vanity and dust of empire great again. We are the greatest” wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

The Saints: “His kingdom come.”

The Sinners: “All hail the wind”, grasp, grasp, grasp.

The Philosopher: “Are we looking to earthly authorities and powers or above?”

The Saviour: “My kingdom is not of this world… all authority in heaven and in earth has been given to me…heaven and earth pass away, but my word is forever.”

The Prophet: “Of the increase of His government there shall be no end.”

There is Hope!*

*Notes and verses of interest: Kingdom – Mtt 24:14, Col 1:14, There is an eternal kingdom and the great king is God – Dan 4: 3, 34, The kingdom is for members of all peoples, for the saints who gain not only forgiveness but citizenship – Dan 7:14, 27, It is a kingdom of peace and justice unlike war like kingdoms of earth – Is 9:7, Entry is supplied by Jesus who makes His people citizens – 2 Peter 1:11, The currency of the kingdom is the light of His love – Col 1:12-14

Be Still

“Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”

(Psalm 46:10)
Once there was an old man who took his grandson a walk in the countryside. The old man’s face was creased with wrinkles. Like the rings inside an ancient log tree, each signified age and wisdom. The man, to the boys surprise stopped suddenly. He was calm, so calm the boy didn’t feel it right to interrupt this moment of solititude. ‘Listen’, the old man said. The boy listened. At first he could hear nothing but his own racing thoughts. ‘Truly listen’, the man said sensing the boys difficulty. So he tried again. He closed his eyes, took a breath and opened them again. ‘I hear it’, he whispered. They both fell silent again and listened to the gentle winds and the birds in the trees, and further a field the beautiful sound of a babbling brook. Then they listened to silence itself. ‘This my child is real worship.’ ‘To Jesus?’ ‘To Jesus.’