Archive for March 2020

Saturated!   1 comment

At New Life we have just finished a sermon series where we thought together about what it meant to be the church rather than go to church; How to be part of the fulfillment of Habakkuk 2:14 , filling the earth with “the knowledge of the glory of God.” How can we do that by intentionally infusing the activities of our daily lives (our rhythms) with the gospel? We have looked at incidents in the life of Jesus along with “Saturate” by Jeff Vanderstelt as we have learned together. One of our church members, Shaloni Jeet, shared with me a beautiful poem she wrote inspired by what we have been learning. So I asked her if I could share it with you.

Welcome to your table
To break a bread with someone
Share joy, pain, and all the ordeal
Over a simple meal

It may seem ordinary
But a huge weight it will carry
For once if you could free
someone of their solitary

Lend your ear always
To the broken and the healing
What peace they will get
When they reveal to you their feelings

If someone shared their deepest thoughts
It is you who is blessed
For you had an ear for listening
And not a judging heart you possessed

The story of the greatest hero
Who is brave and bold
With his blood he saved the world
Share the greatest story ever told

Share your testimony without hesitation
With all those around
It may bring someone to their salvation
So that they may be also found

Bless others with what you are endowed with
Your time, skills or riches, as you please
Share with all while you can
It's here today, tomorrow it may cease

Celebrate with others each day
For you have Gods permit
It is the day the Lord has made
Be glad and rejoice in it

Rest in the Lord as you work
He will make everything perfect
He will renew your strength
And through you, his wonderful work will reflect

Through everyday stuff you be the church
And let the message pass through
That you don’t have to go to him
Just call out and Jesus will come running to you!

Aravs Mum. 03/24/2020
Inspired by "Saturate" by Jeff Vanderstelt


Posted March 30, 2020 by jolm15 in Uncategorized

Now?   2 comments

How long will this strange situation last? We don’t know, but we do know that it will not last forever. The question that troubles me repeatedly is, “What is going to be different when we do return to normal? Are we going to rapidly return to the old way of doing things and before we know it the challenges of Sheltering in Place will be little more than a memory?

At New Life we begin each year with 21days of prayer and fasting. Many of us stop some of our regular, even habitual, activities to pay more focussed attention to the plans God has for the year to come. The question however is. how many of those changes would God have us make permanent.

Some of us are currently facing the pain of being without work because our employment is not deemed “essential”. That is painful enough by itself, let alone when you are wondering how to pay the bills.  On the other hand, some feel they are working harder and longer than before Shelter in Place. Most of us, however, are working differently. 

All of us (hopefully!), rather than leaving our workplace for a litany of frenetic activity, are returning home to spend time with our families. We have been forcibly reintroduced to “unstructured down time.” Families have discovered one another again and remembered that they quite like each other! Books with layers of dust have been opened and found to be really engaging.

How often have we bemoaned our packed schedule, busyness and unrelenting tiredness wondering if there would ever be any relief? Somehow it seems God has pressed a world wide “pause button” which a short time ago would have been inconceivable. I am not suggesting God designed or created the virus but it seems He has permitted a fundamental challenge to the entire world’s way of life. Could it be that He is offering us the chance to change.

I have been really struggling with this. I can embrace the idea that change needs to happen, but when I try to tie myself down to actual practical details, I find myself floundering in the dark. However this morning in the shower I had a thought that gives me just a pin prick of light at the end of the tunnel. I remembered the advice Dallas Willard gave John Ortberg when he inquired as to the priorities he should have during a sabbatical. Willard famously said “Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from you life”.  Isn’t there a sense in which this is what has been forced upon  us, at least partially, in the last couple of weeks?

 It occurred to me that I can reduce the prevalence of “now” in my way of life; I must do that “now,” respond “now”, decide “now” and so on.  How many of these really require to be done ”now”? Can I structure my calendar in such a way that there is more space and so reduce the recurrent sense of urgency and immediacy? I am not really sure how that might work but it may be a start. What about you? Do you have some ideas to share? 

Posted March 27, 2020 by jolm15 in Uncategorized

Independence or Dependence   Leave a comment

I am so proud and appreciative of our church family for the ways in which you are all working so hard to shelter in place, social distance and live within the orders we have been given. For many of you this causes immense frustration and hardship, so thank you on behalf of us all

I was wondering how many of you have read the most recent circular for our County Health Officer Dr Scott Morrow. As I read it I think I began to appreciate the conflicted emotions that he expresses

As I write this, I am both immensely grateful and exceedingly disappointed. We are in a grave crisis”

  I am grateful that many people are taking this seriously and are doing everything they can to slow the spread of this virus. You are heroes for doing this.

I am deeply grateful for and everyone should thank God for our first responders and our front line medical and public health personnel. They are taking on personal risk to take care of you. They are heroes for doing this.

My disappointment stems from the fact that many people just aren’t taking this seriously and going about their business as if nothing has changed.

In my reading through the Bible this year this morning  I began the book of Deuteronomy. Of course, this awakened so many memories of our journey through the book together at New Life last year. But what struck me this morning was the similarity between what Dr Morrow says and the message Moses decays to the Israelites. “If you want to be safe”, Dr Morrow says, “you must ALL follow the guidelines otherwise you show great disrespect for the community”. “If you want to experience a land flowing with milk and honey”, says Moses, “you must follow the laws God has set out for you.”

What a challenge this is to our cultural obsession with “independence” and what we call “freedom.” Could it be that through this difficult time God is giving us an opportunity to rethink the degree to which we both value and recognize how much we need to prioritize our communities’ needs before our own? What do you think?

Posted March 25, 2020 by jolm15 in Uncategorized

Stuff Hurts!   2 comments

Probably no coincidence that as I read “ The Daily Office” during my devotions each day this week I have come to the chapter entitled “ Growing through Grief and Loss” It has impressed on me that this is exactly what many of us are feeling right now. Here are just a couple of quotes :

“ Experiencing loss makes us confront our humanity and our limits. We quickly realize we are not in control of our lives; God is. We are creatures not the Creator”

“ We don’t become mature human beings by getting lucky or cleverly circumventing loss, and certainly not by avoidance or distraction. Learn to lament.”                         Eugene Peterson

Many have lost jobs, at least for the time being, with no knowledge of when work will restart. Many are feeling lonely  and disconnected wondering how they can maintain relationships in any meaningful way. How will bills get paid? Will people forget me completely. All these fears and so many more are real and legitimate and need to be confronted. It’s not that the fact that God is in control and will work all things for good is not real, it’s just that it takes time for that message to travel from our heads to our hearts. And that is ok. 

In the meantime we must first confront the pain and fear and feel all the emotions these unsettling circumstances bring to the surface. Express that emotion in all its raw reality to God, He can take it. Then and only then, when we have fully engaged with all that emotional reality, can we open the door to embrace the new reality with all its possibilities.

When Jesus tells repeatedly to “fear not” He does so because He knows how relentlessly fear  and insecurity rises within us. He does not say we are bad or wrong to feel that way. He does not say stuff it away in a place where hopefully you can forget it. He does not say forget it and get on with life. He simply says face it and recognizing it, hand it to me. I will take it and walk with you through it. I will take you to a place where you have no need to pretend but rather have confidence and trust we can face it together.

So, as we seek to maintain contact and connection with each other, let’s encourage one another to face the challenges with honesty. Then, I believe we will experience the joy and peace that passes understanding in fresh and amazing ways. In time, our Heavenly Father will enable us to deepen our faith and trust in Him. Also, He will teach us new ways to face the future that we will, in turn, be able to share with others.     

Posted March 23, 2020 by jolm15 in Uncategorized

We can-Pray   Leave a comment

A few Sundays ago I was talking with Andy Lie about the wonderful project to build affordable housing for teachers in the Jefferson Union School District. He was observing that bond measures being offered in a number of other districts were not doing well and we were musing as to why this was. 

Whereas it is not helpful to speculate as to all the reasons for the lack of progress in other places there is one distinctive the JUHSD project has that we at least suspect is unique. The site on which the housing will be built was prayer walked by a number of Christians on multiple occasions. Trash was collect form the site symbolizing the removal of opposition to the project. Whether or not this was THE reason for the success of the project we don’t know of course but I believe even the most cautious of us can be confident it was a major factor.

This reality got me thinking about the effectiveness of covering locations within our city ( or whatever location you are reading this in!) with consistent, committed, confident prayer. I am excited that members of our church family are already regularly praying together ( observing social distancing of course!!) In a number of locations. Recently the management of Casa Pacifica has said that they do not want our growth group to continue visiting once a month (This was before the virus restrictions). We have decided to make a practice of walking past Casa Pacifica regularly and praying for its residents and asking the Father to open it up to us again. 

One of the things we CAN do during the current restrictions is to get outside and walk in the fresh Pacifica air.  What if we saw this as an opportunity to regularly take time to pray all over our city? What if we asked God where He would have us pray, maybe for a local business or at some other local landmark and we walk in that location as part of our routine. Is it to much to think that our Father might fulfill for us the promise He made to Israel “ “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land”.2 Chronicles 7:14 ? 

Posted March 20, 2020 by jolm15 in Uncategorized

Can or Can’t?   4 comments

Well, we are now into the second day of our shelter in place order. How are you doing? It struck me this morning that the focus of so much of our thinking and reading is what we can’t or should not do. Wouldn’t it be better to change that focus on what we can and should do?

At New Life we had our first fully live-streamed service last Sunday and it was great. We still have a lot to learn of course but we were able to act fast and say “We Can” because God has given us the technology to make it possible and we have some amazing staff who have worked on that technology for a long time and we have been streaming our sermons for a while now. 

We have had a Zoom account for some time now and experimented with meetings in the past so I was so excited to do discipleship with three other guys over zoom last night and see that one of our growth groups used the platform to meet last night as well. By the end of this week we will have held at least four gatherings on zoom and I am sure there will be many more to come. We discovered “We Can”

This morning I read in (Mark 8:1-8) about the time when Jesus fed the five thousand. If ever an occasion when it was obvious to say “we can’t” it was then and of course the disciples said just that. However they discover that with Jesus there is no “can’t” and He uses the little they had to feed everyone and have an abundance of leftovers.

I am convinced that in these strange and confusing times if we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus He will show us that  “ He can” and through Him “We can”. The outcomes will be “ greater than we could ask or imagine.(Ephesians 3:20) Let’s remember to support and encourage each other, keep in contact especially with those who may be lonely and vulnerable. Let’s prepare to be amazed at what our God will do!

Posted March 18, 2020 by jolm15 in Uncategorized