Archive for the ‘History’ Tag

Doubt   1 comment

When responding to the recent tragedies in Paris the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, was asked if incidents like this caused him to doubt God. He replied ‘ Of course!” Shock! Horror! the most senior clergyman (pastor) in the Church of England admits to doubting God, how can this be? Well, guess what, Justin Welby along with every other bishop, church leader, pastor, or whatever term you prefer, is a human being just like every member of the churches they serve. The simple fact that, however strong our faith, we cannot prove the existence of The Almighty. His own word tells us thatmy [God] thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways”  Isaiah 55:8-9  This leaves us in a place where there is so much we do not and cannot know. However we are naturally and inexorably dragged into the place where we grapple for proof, understanding and logical explanations when they simply are not there. Is it surprising therefore that we are drawn to ask if God really does exist? Is that somehow wrong, especially for those who profess faith? Do those doubts and the painful wrestling with things that God does render us unbelievers?

I think not. One of the first books of the bible to be written was about a guy called Job who was on the receiving end of a series of events that would have caused anyone to doubt the existence of any God, let alone one who cared about him. To add insult to injury, he had friends who sensitively shared that really it was all his fault! Through all his battle and doubt about God’s behavior, Job refused to conclude that He did not exist. In the end God does not commend him for those doubts but with understanding and grace simply points out that He is indeed God and so by very definition will not be comprehensible to mere humans. However Jobs dogged refusal to surrender results in Gods blessing,  and the admonition of those friends that sought to undermine His faith. I have no doubt the the archbishop, while having the courage to share that he too has doubts at times, will similarly hang on tho his faith in an incomprehensible but truly amazing God.   And I trust that he has friends who, rather than discouraging him from faith, will stand beside him and encourage him. I pray that each of us also will have those who will walk through the dark times with us and build us up rather that cast us down.

Posted December 8, 2015 by jolm15 in Uncategorized

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Zebra Bag?   Leave a comment

What is “The Zebra bag”? Recently I was asked why my blog had such a strange name and I realized that an increasing number of people associated with New Life Christian Fellowship, let alone others, had no idea how the name  originated. It was suggested that I record the story for perpetuity. So here it is!  In 2005 I was invited to become the interim pastor at Vista del Mar Baptist Church in Pacifica. I accepted, and on my first visit to preach I was informed that one of the features of their Sunday morning service was a “children’s talk”. I was not used to preparing such things and thought them (children’s messages) to be a residue of the dark ages.  I resolved to phase them out as soon as possible! However, I was unable to do this immediately so I gave some thought to how I might fulfill the requirement, at least initially. I came up with the idea to call the children forward. gather them in a circle around me while I sat on the floor and a shared an object lesson. In order to keep the object from view, until I was ready to use it I would put it in a bag with a picture of a zebra on it that I had brought back form a trip to South Africa.

zebra_lovers_art_gifts_bag-149043790282943828You have probably guessed, that became known as ” the zebra bag” (which I pronounced in the correct English Ze-bra rather than Zeeeeeebra!). Well the bag, my pronunciation, and the object lessons, took on a life of their own. Far from being phased out they became a much loved and anticipated feature of our services for a number of years! Through them I formed some of my most precious relationships with children  in our church family, who are now of course, teenagers and young adults!

It was also these conversations that God used to fulfill dream of mine that our church would be one that children felt was for them and not just a place their parents dragged them to reluctantly each weekend. It also taught me a salutary lesson that I should be careful and prayerful before  resolving to anything phase things out. I think (hope!) God was smiling as He impressed on me, somewhat emphatically, that He would decide these things, not me!  So when I began this blog “from the Zebra Bag” was a natural title. As the church grew and those children grew older the children’s conversations became less frequent and , far from rejoicing, I was reluctant to see them quietly cease to be part of our Sunday celebrations.

The bag itself was somehow was lost without trace but the stories that came from those conversations will remain part of New Life tradition for ever! So if you are part of NLCF or come and visit us you might ask one of our high school seniors to tell you a story of ” the zebra bag’!!

Posted September 11, 2015 by jolm15 in Uncategorized

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Its Just Joking…   Leave a comment

…so my grandson explained to me about the scary decorations he had seen for
Halloween! Once again the question of how, as a Christian, I should approach the
second biggest commercial holiday. As a pastor, how should I answer those members of
my church family who receive a range of messages from, instructions to avoid the
celebrations at all cost to just enjoy an innocent time of fun for children. Realizing that I
grew up far closer to the scene of the origination of the festival, one that began literally
thousands of years ago, I can see that my perspective may be different than those of
my adopted home here in the USA. So I decided to do a little research to ensure that
when I offered my opinion, I was able to support my feelings with fact.

Two resources proved to be very helpful, the first an excellent article on the website
History.com and the second an blogpost from Jim Daly, the president of Focus on the
Family. Both seem to set out balanced and helpful information to help frame the
approach we should have as Christians.

My concluded  that both ends of the spectrum would benefit from some thoughtful
adjustment of their polemic. For those preaching a message of doom and destruction on
to participants, should note the unique evolution of the festival here in the United States
so helpfully set out in the historical article.

“By the 1920s and 1930s, Halloween had become a secular, but community-
centered holiday, with parades and town-wide parties as the featured entertainment.
Despite the best efforts of many schools and communities, vandalism began to plague
Halloween celebrations in many communities during this time. By the 1950s, town
leaders had successfully limited vandalism and Halloween had evolved into a holiday
directed mainly at the young. Due to the high numbers of young children during the
fifties baby boom, parties moved from town civic centers into the classroom or home,
where they could be more easily accommodated. Between 1920 and 1950, the
centuries-old practice of trick-or-treating was also revived. Trick-or-treating was a
relatively inexpensive way for an entire community to share the Halloween celebration”.

To oppose with such vehemence what has become a community festival centered on
small children risks obstructing the Christian message of the value of community.
However it is undeniable that, albeit distant, the historical background of the festival
has clear links with evil and the practice of dark and demonic religion. It is clear that
although many children are dressed in cute and wonderful costumes, some appear as
characters such as witches and other representations of death and destruction. These
unavoidably point back to the dangerous aspects of the holidayʼs history and run the
risk of making an unhealthy connection between evil and fun. The scripture warns us
that the evil one is at his most dangerous when he “masquerades as an angel of
light” ( 2 Cor 11:14). For us to detract from the enormous danger of such things must
be avoided at all costs.

Jim Daly warns us, in addition, of the growing danger of the glorification of violence in
our culture.

Christian or not, it is high time to turn away from the dark, gory and horror-filled side of
the holiday. Itʼs always been time, but the confluence of culture and recent current
events raises this matter to a new level.

There is absolutely nothing entertaining or redeeming about hatchet wielding villains
parading in costume or front-lawn displays featuring blood spattered body parts.

My suggestion therefore that, along with everything we do as Christians, we take the
time to ask ourselves a couple of questions. Would I be happy for Jesus to accompany
us on our trick or treating expedition dressed the way we are ? If Jesus was to visit our
home tonight would I be happy for Him to encounter the decorations in my front yard?
The answer to those questions and others like them will help ensure that we have a
uniquely Christian approach to the holiday and one which will may give us the chance to
share truth with our friends.

Posted November 1, 2012 by jolm15 in Uncategorized

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