Archive for the ‘spirituality’ Tag

Delighting!!   Leave a comment

In studying Psalm 1 recently I was struck by two words in particular. David tells us that joy (happiness, blessing) comes from “delighting” and mediating on the law. Now of course the law for him was the Torah, the first five books of the bible and in all honesty at first glance there does not seem a lot of fuel for delight. Genesis and Exodus are great stories but after that we are in deep trouble… or are we?

A little investigation reveals the delight is a word with rather deeper and stronger meaning than might at first appear. Merriam Webster defines it as “something that makes you very happy; something that gives you deep satisfaction”  So maybe the significance of David putting “delight” in the same verse at “meditation” is important. 

Meditation is a word that carries a considerable amount of cultural baggage. It is associated with all forms of mysticism. Our yearning for instant gratification resists anything that demands time, which none of us have! However Merriam Webster again helps us by defining the word a little more clearly; ”to focus one’s thought on: reflect or ponder over”

What might happen then if we took a few minutes to ponder the first five books of the bible.  If we asked why they were written, and to whom. Minimal research would reveal that one of their principle purposes was simply that the nation of Israel might know the God who had chosen them. What sort of a God was He and what did it mean to be nation? 

Getting to know someone really does give me delight. Learning to appreciate their distinctive qualities and grow to love them for who they are. But doing this requires the investment of time. How many people have you come to know deeply through passing conversations in the gym or the super market? 

The secret of delighting in God’s word then comes from knowing God Taking time to reflect on and ponder over scripture. I wonder what “deep satisfaction” is there waiting for us if we will risk the experiment by carving out some time in our calendar to “reflect and ponder.”  Could it be the “delight” of getting get to know our Heavenly Father better?

Gloating   1 comment

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.

Is Serving enough?   Leave a comment

At our church we are  beginning an extensive discussion of our values. This was prompted by a podcast from Craig Groeschel, along with the realization that 2017 will be our 10th birthday. This significant milestone provides a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the past and look to the future. Our observations of our church currently indicate that it is a  healthy and an interesting and exciting place, one where we can confidently invite others. However we recognize that we are, for the most part, “insiders” and so biased. In addition we lack clarity on the “why” of our current  perceived well being, hence the need to articulate, not just the values we would like to have, but more importantly the one others would identify in our activities and behaviors.

In the course of this discussion we listed ” service” as an important value. As I thought about this I wondered if “service” alone was sufficient to express our value. After all multitudes of people , people of faith and no faith would say that serving others and community involvement was important to them and for everyone service is often hard, inconvenient and even painful.

However if  we list “service” as a value for our church family perhaps we  need to dig a little deeper to describe the uniqueness of Christian service. As I pondered this I remembered that Jesus himself said the he came “not to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45  This struck me in a new way with the emphasis on the first and last parts “not to be served” and “give his life …”. If we are to follow our Savior’s example then the special qualities of our service are not what, we do but how and why we do it. In seeking “ not to be served” and ” to give” we act solely in response to the amazing sacrifice of love made for us by Jesus. We do this joyfully and at the expense of our our own wants and desires because, once again, this was the pattern that He gave us.

This is important because it provides a distinct contrast to what Lyons and Kinnaman (Good Faith – Being a Christian when Society thinks you are Irrelevant and Extreme) describe as the “new morality of self fulfillment.” Tragically  the prevailing cultural values are leaking into the Christian community. Recent research indicates that more than 60% of “practicing Christians” agree  with statements that “the highest goals in life are to enjoy it as much a possible’ and ” to be fulfilled in life you should pursue the things you desire most.” Serving others can fall within either of these objectives. However as Christians we are called to serve because He served and sacrificed for us. To do so we must frequently and joyfully set aside our own desires. So how then should we express the value of service in a way that is uniquely applicable to followers of Jesus… any suggestions?

 

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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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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Looking under the carpet   Leave a comment

For the past few weeks I have been preaching on the subject of temptation under the title of “Short Cuts.” In recognizing my own capacity for “yielding” to the pervasive and persistent nature of temptation I observed what I chose to call Level 2 Temptation. This is the human propensity to respond to our yielding by sweeping all remembrance of the matter under the proverbial carpet in the hope that it will be forever erased from the memory.. The principle driving forces behind Level 2 Temptation are shame and guilt. These are first evidenced in the garden of Eden when Adam and Eve go from being “naked, but they felt no shame” Genesis 2:25 to “suddenly feeling shame”  Genesis 3:7 (both NLT). This realization triggers the desire to hide and is followed by the assignment of blame by all those involved. This all falls under the overall category of attempting to sweep under the carpet. Tragically however the collection of things we keep under the carpet become arguably the most debilitating and destructive part of our lives. It has been said that we are only as healthy as our secrets and it is under the carpet that most if not all our secrets are hidden.

My understanding of this was greatly illuminated recently when Maggie and I had the privilege of attending the Global Leadership Summit. One of the sessions was lead by Dr Brene Brown, a research professor in social work from Houston. The main thrust of her work has been on the subjects of vulnerability and shame and her TED talks* on the subject are compelling (evidenced by the millions of viewings they have received).  Dr Brown points out that guilt is the knowledge that you have done something bad but that shame is the overwhelming conviction that as a consequence you are bad. The answer, she suggests very persuasively, is vulnerability, the willingness to courageously turn over the carpet and deal with those festering secrets in a loving, safe and nonjudgmental environment.

Is there any greater challenge to the church family than to be such an environment? The word of God makes it clear that Jesus has provided the answer for guilt since, “when we confess our sin He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins…” 1 John 1:9 and the statement “if we are in Christ we are a new creation” deals directly with shame. So how can we seek to be this place of safety? Primarily I believe, we must be willing to be open and vulnerable ourselves. Take the courage to turn over our carpets and encourage and support each other in the process. The fewer secrets we have, the healthier a community we become. When we are honest with our struggles, we give people freedom to be honest about theirs. Healing and change only happen when things are brought into the light Loving, emotional health is one of the most attractive characteristics of individuals and their communities. Jesus’ death and resurrection have given us the hope that deals with guilt and shame. Let’s experience it ourselves and offer it to one another and resist Level 2 Temptation- keeping our carpets free from clutter!

 

(* This is the link I promised in the sermon “Carpet or ConfessIon”)

Posted August 22, 2013 by jolm15 in Uncategorized

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