Archive for January 2020

Final Instructions before…   Leave a comment

At New Life Christian Fellowship in Pacifica we begin each year with 21days of Prayer and Fasting. During this time we are encouraged to find ways to set things aside and find time to focus on things that God might want to impress upon us for the new year. Often the sacrifices that release the most time to spend with God are related to media, no TV or Social media! However, fasting from food in some way has the additional element of allowing real hunger to remind us of our need to hunger after God.

During this time it can be helpful to find something new to read or meditate upon. This year one of the things I decided to do was to read very slowly and meditate on John Ch 14-17 as these where Jesus’s final conversations with his closest friends before his death, “Final instructions before…” He is preparing them to found the church following his ascension. I am particularly trying to focus on what it must have been like to actually be there and listen to Jesus talk. What did they understand? What did He hope they would understand.?

The first passage I spent time thinking about was Ch 14:1-5 and I noticed that, first, Jesus reassures them and encourages them to trust him. Then He says something that must have been pretty mysterious to them. It seems he must have realized that they would need that trust to accept those things they did not really understand yet. When He stated that they “knew where He was going” I think I would have had said as Thomas did ” we have no idea where you are going so how can we know the way?“, (v5). As I thought about it for a while I could not help wondering what were the things that Jesus had taught them that made Him say v4 ” you know the way to where I am going‘? Did they miss them or just misunderstand them?

So for me, this was a good reminder often there are aspects of our walk with Jesus that are mysterious and we need simply to trust Him. It also made me want to take some time to contemplate lessons I have learned in my walk with Jesus and ask if there are parts of those lessons that have still more significance for the future. For that day I stopped my meditation there and made some notes in my journal knowing there was more to come in these pivotal chapters.

Do you have any thoughts on this passage or are you reading anything specific during these 21days that you would like to share?

Posted January 20, 2020 by jolm15 in Uncategorized

I have a confession to make!   Leave a comment

When I recently preached on Psalm 32 I was really struck by the significance of confession in the life of a Christian. For many, the word is significantly misunderstood and simply carries the implication of focussing on what we have done wrong and ‘fessing up! The images from the Catholic faith of wooden closets with little windows through which you recount your deepest dark secrets are not I suggest very helpful.

So what does the word mean? Well, at its simplest, it means to acknowledge or confront and can be used in both positive and negative contexts. In his epistle, John urges us to confess our sin but Paul in Romans similarly encourages us to confess that Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9)*. James, however, suggests that we confess our sin to one another (James 5:16). Given all these different uses of the word in scripture I believe it warrants us looking more carefully at what this should mean for us.

Each of the uses above suggests a different response. The acknowledgment [confession] of having done something wrong, according to David, results in not the burden of shame and guilt but the freedom of forgiveness (Ps 32:5). The confession of Jesus as Lord brings salvation (Rom 10:9) and James tells us that confession of sin to one another results in the prayer support (James 5:16)

In his book “Breathing Under Water” Richard Rohr looks at the parallels between the gospel and the twelve-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous. When he comes to Step 5, Admit to God, to ourselves and another human being the exact nature of our wrongs” makes some really powerful observations:

” Any good therapist will tell you, you cannot heal what you do not acknowledge, and what you do not acknowledge will remain in control of you from within, festering and destroying you and those around you”

“When human beings” admit” to one another” the exact nature of their wrongs” we invariably have a human and humanizing encounter that deeply enriches both sides”

So it seems that a fresh and broader look at the concept of confession as “confrontation” or “acknowledgment” can bring us rather and discouragement and depression a wonderful sense of release and freedom. Those who attend liturgical churches are often taken through the routine of confession during each service. Perhaps those of us not familiar with such practices might benefit from thinking about somehow adopting not simply the practice of confession but consider what might be called a confessional lifestyle and then bask in the blessing of Ps 32:2 the joy of lives “lived in complete honesty”

*The KJV actually uses the word “confess”, other versions use “openly declare”

Posted January 14, 2020 by jolm15 in Uncategorized

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Taking NO for an answer   1 comment

I have always been told that when we pray we can expect one of three answers, Yes No or wait. Now “yes” is always acceptable, “wait” is just about tolerable but “no”… !! As a consequence when I read (1Sam 7) the account of David and his plans to build a temple I always wonder what it felt like when God said “no” to him?

The king was in one of the most successful phases of his reign almost everything was going well. He had united the nation and defeated the Philistines who had been the bane of the nation’s life for years. He had established Jerusalem as his capital city and King Hiram of Tyre had sent laborers and materials to build him a palace.

At last, there was peace for the nation and as the king relaxes in his palace, he realizes that The Ark of the Covenant that God had given them as a focus for worship was in a tent. Immediately he resolves to rectify the situation and build a temple ( 1Sam 7:2). Wisely David consults his prophetic adviser Nathan who encourages him ( 1Sam 7:3). But then God speaks to Nathan “Whoa not so fast! Did you ask Me before telling David to go ahead; I have other plans for who will build the temple.” So God instructs the prophet to go back to David and tell him that contrary to what he said earlier he was not to build the temple that job was assigned to his son, Solomon.

I often wonder how that must have felt? “Hey, God, I wanted to do something good for you, look at my life so far I have been obedient, I have been patient I’ve done it all right surely its ok to do this. In fact, I am not sure why I asked Nathan in the first place after all its a no brainer, build a temple I will just go do it!”

But no, David does something I think is really remarkable (2 Sm 7:18) he goes and sits before the Lord and prays. He humbly accepts the plans that God has for the temple and gives thanks God for all the promises He made. And more than that, the king actively sets aside abundant resources for Solomon to use when he does build the temple.

So when you pray do you contemplate that God’s answer may be no? Do you realize that when the answer is no it is not because God does not want to bless you? When God answers no He has something better in mind, HIs plan is so much bigger than ours. Are we willing to sit quietly before God as David did? And as Jesus did in the garden of Gethsemane, will you surrender to the answer your Father gives?

Posted January 4, 2020 by jolm15 in Christian Living

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