Archive for the ‘Biblical Studies’ Tag

Essential?   Leave a comment

In our Zoom hang out after church on Sunday we were sharing how hard it is for some of us to stay at home and feel like we are doing nothing while some are having to work harder than ever. They’re having to encounter real danger as part of their daily routine. This would have been unthinkable just a few weeks ago let alone when they filled out their application. In the course of the conversation it was pointed out that the reality is, staying at home is, in itself, making a real contribution to stemming the tide of this virus.

As I thought about this later in the day it reminded me of the command God, through Moses, gave to the Israelites as they left Egypt. Confronted with the Red Sea in front of them and an advancing Egyptian army behind them God says “Don’t be afraid, just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today” Exodus 14:13. In the Psalms, we are urged to “Be still and know that I am God.” The truth is, it’s the “being still” and “standing still” that is so difficult and make us feel that we are not contributing.

Could it be that being and staying still is one of the lessons that we are able to learn by experience as we stay at home? The interesting thing is that I often overlook the rest of Psalm 46:10. It goes on to say “ I will be honored in every nation.” Surely the implication is that if we are not still, we run the risk of getting in the way of His being “honored among the nations.” If the Israelites had decided to take action they would certainly have obstructed the plans that God had for their deliverance. And it was the news of that deliverance that spread among the nations and brought Him honor and glory.

Those of us who play our part by staying at home have the opportunity to understand the “being still” is a crucial part of “knowing He is God” It is just an opportunity to observe. It is by being still when we are told to do so, that we are actively allowing Him to run the universe. Sometimes He asks us to participate, on other occasions he simply asks us to stay out of the way. So to those who are currently staying out of the way, thank you for doing your essential job so well!

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

Tagged with , , , , , ,

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?

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?

A Real Book   Leave a comment

Some times I just like to have a old fashioned book in my hands! I do believe You Version to be one of the greatest gifts that the Body of Christ has received in the recent past. His word is “a lamp unto our feet and light unto our path” to have it readily available on all our mobile devices is an inestimable blessing. However I have to be honest there are occasions when I still love to turn pages and my daily devotional is one of those times. Recently I have been using a devotional book     41uIkC0wdNL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_entitled  “Through the Bible, Through the Year.” This volume is a selection of writings from  the late John Stott.

Sometime ago I wrote that when The Father took John Stott home to be with him we lost one of the most remarkable Biblical expositors  of our generation. However Dr Stott was not just a scholar, but also a pastor with a supreme ability to make the most complex Biblical concepts crystal clear. One example to which I refer often is his masterful explanation of Jesus death on the cross for us  in ” The Cross of Christ”

“The concept of salvation may be said then to lie at the heart of both sin and salvation. For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting Himself for man. Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be; God  sacrifices Himself for man and puts Himself where only man should be. Man claims prerogatives that belong to God alone and God accepts penalties which belong to man alone”

In this devotional volume,“Through the Bible, Through the Year.” you have the chance to feed on this supreme wisdom day after day. In a single page and few verses each day he unfolds the big story of scripture in a wonderful way and the portion set for each day is brief enough to make it easy to catch up if you get behind. One reason for sharing this now is that he follows a calendar that begins in Genesis next week. The book is laid out in such a way that you can begin at anytime, but to start at the beginning has a certain logic to it! So if you are looking for a real book with pages to turn during a daily devotion, this one will not disappoint I guarantee it!

Stay on the Hill   Leave a comment

Over recent years Good Friday has become an increasingly important day for me. Last year I wrote a piece that explained my feelings that an Easter Sunday celebration was significantly muted if one does not take time to absorb the full significance of Good Friday.  Each year part of my Good Friday has been a service with two other churches in Pacifica. This year as I prepared for that event, particularly focussed on those last word of Jesus “ It is finished” I was impressed by a perspective I had not really seen before. 

There were three (at least) groups of people on that hill outside Jerusalem that Friday. The first was a gathering of religious authority figures. For them this was finally the end of three years of chaos (or at least so they hoped). For the past month this self styled Rabbi had travelled their jurisdiction, proclaiming a radical and disruptive message. Every aspect of this message seemed to discredit them and all they stood for. Every time they confronted him they were humiliated and to add insult to injury he claimed to be God! They must have been glad to hear the words “ It is finished.” 

And then there were his friends and family. They had struggled and stumbled along beside him, asking questions, and at least reserving judgment as far as they could. Step by step however they had moved towards the belief that he was at the least a remarkable prophet and at best the Messiah of their hopes and dreams. Imminent, they had begun to believe, was that moment when he would declare the end of Roman tyranny and the Jewish nation would be free again. For them the sight of that body slumped lifeless on a cross meant that all they and dared to hope was finished. Disappointment, confusion, anger, and humiliation it was all there. How could they have let themselves give room to that hope? And lastly a tired, surly group of Roman soldiers reaching the end of another tedious day trying to keep the peace. How quickly could they get these people cleared and get home?

Not far away, to add to the chaos, there in the temple the priests on duty must have stared open mouthed at the shreds of a curtain lying, along with all that held it up, on the floor. This had separated them from that most holy of places, which was now exposed for all to see. Should they look or turn away?

How easy it is with 20/20 hindsight to hurry to the joy of Easter morning, to the significance of a torn curtain that allows us all to “ approach the throne of grace with confidence” To rejoice that the body slumped on the cross is no longer there and to cry in triumph He is Risen. However to do so would surely be to miss the pain and confusion of those close to Him. To miss also the agony of those three days when Jesus was separated from His Father and carried not just a few sins but those of the whole world. Imagine for one second accepting the full responsibility for just one of the horrendous events described on today’s news and then realize He took it all!  

The truth is most of the world is still on that hill. Some intent upon putting Jesus behind them even persuading themselves it did not happen, a luxury not available to those original groups! Others are wrestling with the fact that God does not seem to be who they would like Him to be or to do the things they want Him to. However if we take the risk of staying for a while on that hill I believe that when we come down the experience of the joy of Easter morning will be so much more amazing. And yes, its not too late! Just as we can rejoice in the victory of the resurrection every day we can go there via the hill that makes it so much more! Then we can say with that one Roman soldier “ Truly this was the Son of God!” 

Posted May 2, 2014 by jolm15 in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , ,

Unique and Interesting Theological Volume   Leave a comment

url        Micheal Bird’s new volume “Evangelical Theology” promises to provide a unique and exciting contribution to the ever increasing multitudes of volumes written on the subject. Perhaps this uniqueness is best expressed in the final section of Part 1 of the book he suggests that we might consider

“… the goal of theology is not simply drawing up a list of propositions, but for us to engage in a performance of the divine drama and to experience the transformation of our imaginations so the we can know God better’

For many, both those who are academically inclined and those who are not, the clear understanding of the reasons for “doing theology” are difficult to articulate. In the opening section of this book the author does a masterful job of engaging these difficult and complex issues without either dumbing them down or rendering them outside the scope of a regular reader. He helps his readers in understanding the concept of Prolegomena by explaining “it ordinarily addresses questions like “Is there a God to be known? and How do we know God?” and then tells us  “it is a bit like a shopping mall sign that says, you are here”.

He further makes the case for a specific “Evangelical Theology” holding the gospel as its central it is “ the rule of faith for evangelicals” . A clear definition of the gospel follows along with defense of the necessity of systematic theology despite his admission that it is a fallible attempt to systematize the central tenets of the Christian faith.

The section on the sources of theology  is a robust defense of his contention that tradition, nature ,experience and even culture can and should be allowed to inform our study of theology while retaining the centrality of Scripture.

I certainly look forward to exploring this volume further an expect it to yield a great deal of stimulating thinking.

Posted November 23, 2013 by jolm15 in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,