Archive for the ‘Hope’ Tag

Outrage and Hope   1 comment

Recently I was scrolling through Facebook (often dangerous) and came upon an article that shocked me to the core. Actually I was so outraged that I had to at least try to investigate if the information was  an example of the notorious”fake news”. So for reasons that I trust will become apparent I am resisting the urge to provide you with a link to the article so you can be outraged as well. Suffice it to say that article recounted how one of our news stations broadcast an investigative report on how Iceland has succeeded in almost completely eliminating Downs Syndrome from their population.On the face of it an interesting story until as the story unfolds it becomes apparent that the report is celebrates and praises an achievement that has been brought about by aborting any pregnancies that have the slightest chance of being Down Syndrome children.

Now I confess that to a limited extent this is personal to me. I have friends who have Downs Syndrome children and without exception they are wonderful human beings and the world would unquestionably be poorer without them. While making unique and productive contributions to their communities, they spread  joy and love in ways few others are able to parallel. However as I thought about this further I became dissatisfied with the idea that I could merely join the chorus of protest and outrage. As a follower of Jesus I have so often regretted that all we seem able to do is join the chorus when, if we really believe that Jesus is the hope for the world we should be able to find away to proclaim hope with an equally loud and passionate voice.

By God’s grace in this particular situation I believe I found a way to do just that. One of the most compelling podcasts I listen to comes from an organization simply named Q*  Its founder, Gabe Lyons, and his wife Rebekah have a Downs syndrome child themselves, and in a recent edition interviewed an wonderful lady, Heather Avis. Heather has adopted two of these amazing children. She tells a story of joy and hope that provides a powerful repost to anyone who considers  the elimination of such people is anything to be celebrated. So I enthusiastically provide links both to this conversation and to her book ” The Lucky Ones.”

One final thought, I am wondering if the sharing of hope should not be a priority in my thinking whenever I consider responding to the vast range of tragedies and outrages that litter our news media from home and abroad. If, as a Christian, I believe that Jesus is the answer and that He is enough then it is that hope which is the unique and powerful contribution we can offer, in humility, to these conversations. Otherwise we simply join the rhetoric that fuels the anger that so often brings yet more tragedy… What do you think?

*Q is an organization that facilitates wide-ranging conversations about the most challenging issues of our day. It is probably the most stimulating podcast I listen to and is guaranteed to challenge you to think differently!

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Gloating   2 comments

One of the things that has been bothering me as I observe or increasingly divided communities is the way that every action and every comment seems to require a slew of equal and opposite reactions. The tragedy, as I see it, is this seems to be leaking (may be pouring) into the way in which we as followers of Jesus respond to things. The net result is a frightening outpouring of self-righteousness and , yes, I am sure that I am as guilty of this as anyone. I am increasingly challenged by the need to ask myself before I speak, tweet, message or communicate in any way does what I am about to say and how I am about to say it reflect the character of Christ? Is this the way Jesus would have spoken? Jesus was both relentlessly clear and relentlessly compassionate. Every word he said was crafted with His Father (John 12:49)

I am using Tim Kellers book ” The Songs of Jesus in my daily devotions this year and this mornings reading just underlined what I have been think so I though i would share it with you

Psalm 35: 19– 28. 19 Do not let those gloat over me who are my enemies without cause; do not let those who hate me without reason maliciously wink the eye. 20 They do not speak peaceably, but devise false accusations against those who live quietly in the land. 21 They sneer at me and say, “Aha! Aha! With our own eyes we have seen it.” 22 LORD, you have seen this; be not silent. Do not be far from me, Lord. 23 Awake, and rise to my defense! Contend for me, my God and Lord. 24 Vindicate me in your righteousness, LORD my God; do not let them gloat over me. 25 Do not let them think, “Aha, just what we wanted!” or say, “We have swallowed him up.” 26 May all who gloat over my distress be put to shame and confusion; may all who exalt themselves over me be clothed with shame and disgrace. 27 May those who delight in my vindication shout for joy and gladness; may they always say, “The LORD be exalted, who delights in the well-being of his servant.” 28 My tongue will speak of your righteousness, your praises all day long.

GLOATING. One of the great spiritual dangers of persecution is that it can make you self-righteous. You feel noble and superior because of your unjust victimization. Here David asks God to prevent his enemies from gloating over him, yet he does not gloat in return. To be happy over bad things that happen to others is called schadenfreude. David commits himself to rejoicing in God’s justice and greatness (verse 28) rather than his own moral superiority. While many bemoan the incivility that technology has made easy and anonymous, the cause is really the human heart that wants to fire back a defensive attack. Don’t try to pay back but leave it to God, who alone knows what people deserve (verses 23– 24.) Let God be your vindicator; one day all will be known.

Keller, Timothy; Keller, Kathy (2015-11-10). The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms (p. 69). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Its over…well almost!   Leave a comment

The Chicago Cubs have won the world series, the British , or at least the English, have decided to leave the European Union and by the time you read this the United Staes will have a new president (or almost have one!). Each of these events was preceded by endless  analysis, discussion, prediction and persuasive rhetoric. In some cases the conversation was excited and enthusiastic, and in others harsh and vitriolic, but in every case the current state of technology rendered the quantity unprecedented. In each case the results were unknown until those last few decisive hours and in some cases the result totally unexpected, but they are over!

Almost everywhere except perhaps Chicago, the sporting event that was billed as “changing the face of baseball” is long gone and we are lost in the customary deluge of current sporting analysis. The UK is slowly but surely working out the way forward and out of Europe without destroying any more relationships than necessary and The US will learn to deal with a new president, who ever receives the requisite number of votes. The world both locally and nationally will move on and learn to live with the consequences large and small.

At New Life we have been ” Imagining Heaven” together for the past few weeks and it struck me how different a reality this presents us with as followers of Jesus. The plan of God is still the same and has never changed . We know the result! Revelation 21 excites me more every time I read it . The choice is clear and everyone of us gets to make that choice for ourselves. We do not need to decide whose opinion or analysis is the most persuasive, or wait for the declaration of the majority decision . Our part in God’s unchanging plan is crucial, eternally crucial, simply to decide if we will choose to love and follow our Creator and then take every opportunity He gives to encourage everyone we know to understand what is at stake, make their own choice.

When God declares the plan concluded, our choices will become eternal. We will not simply learn to live with a result, we will either experience the unspeakable joy of love, light and  life in the world God created in the way He intended or experience what it really means to choose a life without God.  I have never felt the urgency of finding ways to share the certainty of that”result” more than I do now. How about you?

When you must choose!   1 comment

A while ago someone I respect asked me if, given my emphatically stated position on keeping politics out of the church,  I thought  a pastor had any responsibility  in advising their congregations on their involvement in the political process. This caused me to think very carefully over recent months and to read fairly widely on the subject of Christians in culture and the public square. The current electoral season has generated a rash of blogs, articles and podcasts on the subject and as a consequence I have reached the conclusion that I should share four principles  I believe are firmly based in scripture and that people might find helpful:

1 God is still in charge! Presidents, Prime Ministers, politicians, pastors and the rest of us come and go but God remains entirely and eternally in control. His plan remains unchanged, as it has through the ages, and nothing can deviate Him from its fulfillment.

2 The phrase ” lesser of two evils” is not found or implied anywhere in scripture (to my knowledge). The Bible is clear that all forms of evil come from the forces of darkness and are to be resisted Ephesians 6:10-12. James 4:7

3. The scripture is full of applicable principles and I trust you will search them prayerfully as you ponder these things. In this context I want to share just one:

Know, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,

and this is what he requires of you:

to do what is right, to love mercy,

and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

4. The fact that someone comes to a different conclusion than you about the application of these, and other biblical principles, does not mean they are bad people neither does it call their relationship with Jesus into question. By God’s grace you will share heaven with many of them, and remember, when the time comes, we will stand before almighty God alone!

I am aware I have on many occasions expressed my relief at not having to make political choices since I am not s citizen. However I have no wish to use this as an excuse not to think and pray for each of you as you think and pray about the choices you must make. To finish I return to where I started, remember, in politics, as in every other aspect of life, God is still in charge and He always will be!

Posted May 11, 2016 by jolm15 in Uncategorized

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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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A Culture of Offense   1 comment

No, this has nothing to do with football or any other sport for that matter. These thoughts came to me as I read an article about cinema’s (movie theatres) in England banning a commercial, prepared by the Church of England. In the short clip a number of different people participate in a recitation of the Lord’s prayer. The commercial, which was scheduled to have played before the new Star wars movie, received the approval of every regulatory body during its production. Nevertheless, I learned from an article in Britain’s Daily Mail that, at the last minute, the permission was withdrawn on the basis that ” it might offend some people.”  The ban has prompted a cacophony of protest from every quarter, including from none other than Richard Dawkins, declaring the action to be ridiculous. But their actions are perfectly consistent with, what seems to be, our rampant culture of offense. One state university has proposed a resolution the every student has the right not to be offended. But where does all this end? It matters very little whether it is a cup in Starbucks or a cross on Mount Davidson some believe they have the right to declare offense and as a consequence have the offending item removed. Often the christian community are active participants as we wave banners and shout our protest at some movie or other media pontification.   But isn’t a significant amount of what we now define as “offense”  what we used to call disagreement or even dislike?  Has anyone ever suggested that it was even desirable to “like” or “agree” with everyone and everything?  I am not for one moment suggesting that there are not situations when it is right to express offense and ask or even demand change. But shouldn’t this be limited to occasions when an individual, their faith, race or culture is insulted or in some way denigrated?  We cannot permit each other to take offense at a persons right to be who they are,  have their beliefs and express them.  If we continue to permit people to suggest they have a right protest offense at anything that they see or hear that reflects a belief other than their own I suggest we are on the way to a society that will eventually be entirely devoid of meaning. Perhaps it is that very trend in our culture that we should take every opportunity, not to be offended by, but to resist in every way we can.

Growing Hope   Leave a comment

imgres       Family movie night at New Life yesterday and we saw a really interesting movie ” Where Hope Grows.”  (in the course of this blog I may stray into “spoiler” territory if and when I do so I will proceed this with the word SPOILER and you should stop reading at that point to avoid information that might spoil the movie for you). This is the latest offering from such movies as Courageous and Fireproof. Calvin Thompson is a single father living with his seventeen year old daughter Kate. He was a major league baseball player until his lack of performance resulted in him being kicked off the team . Since then his life has spiralled out of control, fueled largely by the contents of a bottle. At his local supermarket he meets a young man with Downs Syndrome who takes pride in his nick-name -Produce and, of course, he is responsible for the fruit and vegetable displays in the store. The movie chronicles the relationship between Calvin and this grocery store employee, Produce as they become friends and their lives become intertwined. SPOILER

 

The movie begins by revealing a number of lives largely devoid of hope. Calvin with no hope of any direction, Katie without hope of any change in her father, and Produce with no hope of becoming employee of the month! Calvin sees in Produce, however, an uncanny ability to remain cheerful and positive in any situation and in the end asks Produce what his secret is.  Produce never articulates any details but in time asks Calvin if he will give him a lift to church and suggests he might come in. Inevitably Calvin declines choosing rather to join his friend on the golf course. During their round his best friend confronts him as a loser detailing his lack of purpose since leaving the major leagues . Calvin’s violent response leads him into a freefall drunken binge resulting in him lying, passed out on baseball field having missed an interview for a job. As the story proceeds Calvin tentatively approaches Alcoholics Anonymous and things begin to change.

I won’t disclose any more but there are a number of notable aspects of the story. Produce gives a powerful picture of unconditional love as only a person with downs syndrome can. Anyone who has been in contact with one of these wonderful people will inevitably be engulfed in their effortless and irrepressible affection and cheerfulness. For Produce hugs are the order of the day and, as he engages Calvin in unconditional friendship it is hard to avoid being reminded of the unconditional love we are offered in Jesus. When he was asked his secret I wondered, is there anything in my life as a follower of Jesus that would prompt that  question of me?

The movie ends not with a death-bed conversion or dramatic life changes (although the end is not what I expected!) but rather in a place where all those who had no hope at the beginning of the story are granted a glimmer of that hope. Kate has her father back, and Calvin has a job. It would seem they have joined Produce at church so we see the seeds of faith beginning to sprout! Yes there is hope for Produce too, but if you want to know about that you will have to see the movie!

Posted August 29, 2015 by jolm15 in Movies

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