An Unshakeable King

I don’t think anybody would deny that we live in interesting times of great shaking and challenge. Psalm 2 has always been a comfort and an assurance for God’s people since it was written 3,000 years ago. It is written as a declaration of God’s intent:

“Why are the nations so angry? Why are the people making such foolish plans? Their Kings and leaders join together to fight against the Lord and his chosen King. They say, “Let’s rebel against them. Let’s break free from them! But the one who rules in heaven laughs at them. The Lord makes fun of them. He speaks to them in anger, and it fills them with fear.”

Do you know why God laughs? I think it is because He knows the end from the beginning and has stated, “I have chosen this man to be King, and he will rule on Zion, my holy mountain.” His confidence, passed onto and through His people, is that there is already a King on the throne. Nothing can alter that fact. Not only is there a King on the throne, but we are also His people and His ambassadors.

And He’s chosen us to serve prisoners, their families and victims in our daily work – groups that many others say “no” to care for even though He’s chosen them too.

We are privileged to do this work. No matter what challenges come against us, God declares, “I’ve installed my son as King.” And we know from elsewhere in the Bible that in Him, by Him and through Him, all things have been created and there is nothing that can stop what God is doing in our world through Jesus Christ. It began on Resurrection Sunday and will continue into eternity.

We are involved in something really important. In Isaiah 61:1, the Son of God (the King that God refers to in Psalm 2) stands up and announces His Kingdom mission and mentions the prisoner twice. That double mention assures us that this is Kingdom work of the highest order.

Through His own grace and mercy, this is what God has called us to. And though the challenges may be significant and various, we can have confidence that allows the same joy in our heart that causes God’s laughter to be ours too.

This is the fight of faith: what the Bible defines as the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. When we are tempted to doubt this, remember that we are the people He has called to do this work.

We are not here by accident. And because of this, He will empower us and provide everything that we need. He is our refuge and strength and utterly reliable. This is great news when all around us seems to be shifting and shaking.

So today, again, let’s trust the King’s power, promises, authority and strength as we go about our daily tasks. Selah. As the Book of Common Prayer so beautifully says, “worthy are you to be praised and exalted forever.” Selah.

Returning to Center Court

When I was a younger man, I played a lot of sports, and one of my favorites was squash. Squash is like tennis, but it’s played in a very small room. It’s an incredible game – you must be fit, you’re constantly moving around and it’s very mentally taxing. There is a secret to playing squash and is that you must return to the center of the court. Wherever you are on the court, you must move back to the center to play your best game. I think there are spiritual parallels here, which for us is the cross and our relationship with the resurrected Jesus. 

We’re in a civilizational and cultural moment right now. All we have to do is switch on the news, listen to the radio, read the newspapers or talk to friends. We are in a time of stress and strain. 

For us, for the people of God – what does that mean? What does it mean to be living in these times of civilizational and cultural moments and movements as people of God? What does it mean to be in the center of the court that God has called us to play on?  

Perhaps Psalm 46 will help orientate us:  

“God is our protection and source of strength. He’s always ready to help us in times of trouble. So we are not afraid when the earth quakes and the mountains fall into the sea. We are not afraid when the seas become rough and dark and the mountains tremble. There is a river whose streams bring happiness to God’s city, to the holy city of God Most High. God is in that city, so it will never be destroyed. He is there to help even before sunrise. Nations will shake with fear and kingdoms will fall when God shouts and makes the earth move. The Lord All-Powerful is with us. The God of Jacob is our place of safety. Look at the powerful things the Lord has done. See the awesome things he has done on earth. He stops wars all over the world. He breaks the soldiers’ bows, shatters their spears and burns their shields. God says, ‘Stop fighting and know that I am God! I am the one who defeats the nations; I am the one who controls the world.’ The Lord All-Powerful is with us. The God of Jacob is our place of safety.”

Selah (meaning pause and think calmly about that).

What an inspiring and magnificent word, not only for us, but for those who have come before us and those who will come after us as well. David was inspired by God Himself to write this Psalm. As we pray these divinely inspired words, we join both David and Jesus Christ, God incarnate, in the prayer, so we can return to the centrality of our faith which is Jesus Christ and the fact that He is with us, for us and by His Holy Spirit, lives in us.   

How is your tactical game going? Are you constantly returning to the center in order to take part most effectively? I hope you will see a little more of Jesus in your leadership, anchored to the center of the court and nowhere else. 

An Easter Reflection

Walking is a slow and intentional activity. We walk at approximately the same speed as our heartbeat.

Jesus never moved at any other pace so far as we are told. He walked with his disciples, at the pace of being known and knowing them. Running is great, but you don’t encounter others at that pace.

Some may point out that walking occurs at the same speed as thought. Imagine that…the creator of the universe walked slowly and intentionally towards his own death propelled by purpose and love.

Selah.

Plenty of time to think, plenty of time to refuse and turn away from his mission, plenty of time to indulge in fear and plenty of time to contemplate the prize. Which is us, all of us. The mystery and the wonder dawns on us slowly and results in praise and adoration.

Thank you, Lord, for the cross.

And thank you for being part of this ministry, walking alongside those in prison and their families around the world. Together, we are growing and uniting as a body of believers, following the path forged by the footsteps of our Savior.

Children of prisoners from across the world who are enrolled in The Child’s Journey helped create this video of reflection and hope for this Easter season. I encourage you to take a few moments to watch it, knowing that your heart will be blessed by this powerful message.

 

Blessed Easter to you all,

Andy Corley

Trusting the Story

Prayer 

Father, this is about you. We’ve already committed our time to you, committed our year to you. We’ve asked you for wisdom. God, you say that you are bringing about, through your kingdom, a planting for your own splendor. That’s the story, Lord. We trust you above all. We trust the story of your redemptive power and action in our world. Lord, grace us with skill and gifting beyond what would be ours without you. God, we commit our year to you and thank you for involving us in your amazing mission and calling us into a relationship with yourself. 


Recently, I was talking with a great friend who I have not spoken to for about six months. He said to me, “Andy, there are just some times when you need to trust the story.” What a great bit of advice: trust the story that we are in the middle of.  

So, what is that story for us? That story is God’s work in our creation, His kingdom, of which there will be no end. Everything is created by Him, through Him and for Him. At the heart of His kingdom are the poor, the oppressed, the prisoners. That’s God’s kingdom. That’s what we’re invited into. 

I know we’ve got great people within the Prison Fellowship International family. I know our teams have really solid strategies. I know we’ve got commitment. I know that God is with us. The rest is an open book. I can’t predict what’s in front of us, but I believe it’s going to be a great year. I’m trusting God for a great year, but if it’s not, then I’m going to trust the story. 

As I encourage you to also trust the story, I don’t want you to think, “Andy’s worried that we’re going to have a down year.” That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying that whatever comes through the gate, God is with us. 

Psalm 46 tells us that “God is our refuge and strength.” This means that whatever happens, He’s always with us. We know that we can trust the story, one of a God who puts on flesh. One of a God who twice mentions the people whom we are serving daily when He first announces the launch of His kingdom. What a great privilege. 

 I want to encourage you at the beginning of this year. I hope that this will be a great year. I think it will be. Like last month’s prayer said, “God, give us wisdom. We need more of it than ever.” As we orientateourselves around and adopt the posture of this prayer, we are able to trust the one who made the story in the first place. The one who says, “I am your refuge and strength.” As much as we need great strategy, that’s not what we should be placing our trust in. As much as we need resources, it’s not that either. God is the basis of everything we need in 2024.  

Recently, I have been asking God to crown our year with splendor. When we pray and articulate, we are praying things into being as well. That’s why our prayer is so important. I don’t know if you’ve ever thought of prayer in that kind of way, but there’s a creative act that occurs when we articulate, inspired by the Spirit of God, aligning ourselves with the Word of God. 

Selah. 

The Mystery of the Trinity and Incarnation

Prayer 

Father, we stand at the precipice of another year. We continue to ask you to give us wisdom on what our priorities should be, not only for the year, but for each day. Help us to know where to spend our time. Give us wisdom that’s beyond our understanding to make decisions that need to be made to advance this work in your kingdom. Amen.  


As I was thinking a little bit about this coming year (as we stand at the beginning of a new one), I wanted to orientate us in the most appropriate way that I could think of. By merging some of the things that I’ve been thinking about in my own devotional times, it’s going to be a little messy because we’re going to be looking at some mysteries that I’m not claiming to understand. We’re going to be talking about the Trinity and the incarnation, which will orientate us in a way which helps us to anchor our mission in who God is, who Jesus is, who we are and what we’re called to do. I hope after you read this, you will come away thinking, “Wow, God is amazing. We’re involved in something really incredible that He’s called us to.” 

This is one of the most famous icons in the world. It’s by Russian iconographer Andrei Rublev (c. 1360-1430) and is based on a story in Genesis where Abraham meets three angels. As people contemplated what this icon represented, they found the mystery of the Trinity. It is a really remarkable icon and there’s so much to unpack in it, but there are two things that I want to highlight especially:

  1. The way that they are completely orientated in loving relationship. The gaze between the three members of the Trinity is one of affection. If you look at the fingers of the figure in the middle, his two fingers are pointing down. This has been interpretated as God as man, who was truly and properly both man and God. If you were to hold a coin up centered on those two fingers, you would see circular symmetry between all three of them. They are gathered around a table, or altar, with a chalice that is representative of Holy Communion. 
  2. The small rectangle on the table at the bottom is a fascinating thing because experts have really no idea what that is. There have been some speculations that it may have been a box where bones were placed in there in the hope of the resurrection. It has also been theorized that is mirror to represent that as you gaze into the mystery of the Trinity and that perfect relationship, you are also invited in to that relationship 

Genesis says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth… the earth was formless and empty…and God said, ‘Let there be light.’” The action of speaking implies that there is someone else to speak to, which would mean this act of creation involved the other two members of the Trinity. God used words and as he spoke, our universe was created out of nothing. 

The same God, whose words created the universe from nothing, is incarnated in the person of Christ, and always around us in the Holy Spirit. He welcomes us into the middle of the divine dance through relationship with Him – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I find that remarkable and a meaningful way to orient my year around relationship to God, and to one another.  

May our year hold opportunities for deep fellowship and relationship with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit – the Trinity.  

Selah. 

A Christmas Message For You

There is much to be grateful for this Christmas season, and we give thanks to God for every good gift, which comes from Him. It may have been a challenging autumn season for many, but you continue to inspire us with your creativity, passion and commitment to transforming the lives of prisoners, victims and their families. We remain united by our shared love for those who are forgotten and condemned by others, and this simple truth – there is a Savior who came to set us all free and give us hope.

Today, I am sharing a personal message of gratitude to thank you for your partnership with Prison Fellowship International this year.

Thank you for remembering those in prison in this, and every, season.

Wishing you and yours a blessed Christmas,

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Illuminating Perspectives: Connections Between Art, Faith and Christ’s Light

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my friends’ house, in Cornwall UK, being deliberately demolished and rebuilt with a new design to take maximum advantage of the sunrise and sunset. 

Coincidentally, the British county of Cornwall throughout history has been a haven for artists of all types, many of whom talk about the “quality of light” found in the area. I take this to mean that something in the quality of light in Cornwall allows people to see things differently, leading to inspiration and creation of innovative artworks.  

The relationship between art and faith is a huge area to explore. I’m convinced that we, being created in God’s image, reflect both His creativity and character when we pursue art and work to, in the very best way we can, reflect a small part of His glory and beauty.  

“When we make, we invoke the abundance of God’s world into the reality of scarcity all about us.” Artist Makoto Fujimura, Art and Faith: A Theology of Making 

As we approach the season of Advent, which is intimately connected with incarnational light in the person of Jesus of Nazareth coming into our world, I want to draw our attention to the unsurpassable, eternal, and without comparison quality of light that He is. There simply is no light like Him. 

Jesus said it Himself: “I am the Light of the world. I am the way, the truth and the Light.”

As C.S. Lewis helpfully framed for us: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” 

At this time of year, share with me in the joy and wonder of the grace-bestowed, non-merit relationship we are able enjoy with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit because of the quality of the Son’s light. Go out in the confidence that, although we can do nothing without Him, His divine power gives us everything we need for life and Godliness. 

Fujimura reminds us: “When we surrender all to the greatest Artist, that Artist fills us with the Spirit and makes us even more creative and aware of the greater reality all about us.” 

Your brother, 

 

God’s Light – A Firm Foundation

Some wonderful friends of my wife and mine have constructed a glorious house overlooking one of the best surfing beaches in Cornwall, England.

They purchased the plot, knocked down the original house, and designed and rebuilt on the same site but oriented the new house to take full advantage of the rising and setting of the sun. Despite hectic schedules for all of us, they generously share its beauty with us as their guests, when the opportunity arises in that ‘zone’ where family and friend are fluid.

Their home is spectacular. Light flows in from every window and bathes one in its warmth and quality of light.

We visited a few weeks ago and as I sat looking out over the setting sun, it reminded me of this Psalm:

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun. It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth. The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous.” Psalms 19:1-9 NIV 

There is real wisdom in constructing our own house (our lives) to take full advantage of the light of God Himself and of His inspired word. In fact, there is no more sure foundation for our lives as the Bible itself tells us.

According to the Psalm, everyday He bathes our planet in truth, light, revelation and wisdom. His word sprints, rejoicing in its work. It never returns void.

This past weekend, I learned a new acronym to help me apply God’s word in practical ways in my life. I thought it was helpful.

S – is there a Sin God wants me to be aware of?

P – a Promise?

A – an Attitude?

C – a Command

E – an Example?

So, let’s begin. Try SPACE with this Psalm. Let it go deep, no matter your circumstances. Draw strength, mercy, forgiveness – in fact, whatever good gift you need – from its truth.

God is good all the time.

And enjoy the view….

Beyond the Clouds: Discovering God’s Everlasting Goodness

The changing of the weather is often used as a metaphor for life’s changing circumstances. 

The weather, as we all know, can alter very quickly. Recently, I experienced four seasons in a single day while fishing.    

It was remarkable how the external environment around me went from sunny to bitterly cold to wet and windy, and how rapidly the transitions occurred at ground level. 

Most of us have experienced this when we take off in an aeroplane in foul conditions, only to find that five minutes later, we’re having to pull the window blinds down as we emerge into bright sunlight.   

No matter the weather, the sun still continues to shine, despite what it might look like at ground level. Even more surprising is that out in deeper space, the stars are there, shining in their own beauty, but simply out-performed by the sun’s brightness.  

It takes a special kind of person to remember in the cloud and rain that, somewhere up above the impenetrable gloom, a hot glowing ball of hydrogen and helium at the center of our solar system burns at 5600 degrees Celsius with a fire that never ever goes out. 

This brings me to one of my favourite Psalms which tells me not to forget that God is good all the time. That all the time, God is good because it is His nature.  

It is the equivalent of remembering that above, the weather, all is well and warm.  

From time to time, I’m tempted to forget this truth. In fact, I believe it is a tactic of the enemy and his dark forces to steal, kill and destroy my appreciation of this truth, so important, is it to my heart, soul, strength and mind. 

So today, no matter what comes my way, I choose to recall the goodness of God and praise Him and all He promises for me (and you).  

Join me right now in this collective reminder, and let it guard our hearts and restore us.

  

“Let all that I am praise the Lord; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name. Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s! The Lord gives righteousness and justice to all who are treated unfairly. He revealed his character to Moses and his deeds to the people of Israel. The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust. Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die. The wind blows, and we are gone— as though we had never been here. But the love of the Lord remains forever with those who fear him. His salvation extends to the children’s children of those who are faithful to his covenant, of those who obey his commandments! The Lord has made the heavens his throne; from there he rules over everything. Praise the Lord, you angels, you mighty ones who carry out his plans, listening for each of his commands. Yes, praise the Lord, you armies of angels who serve him and do his will! Praise the Lord, everything he has created, everything in all his kingdom. Let all that I am praise the Lord.” Psalms 103:1-22 NLT