Archive for the ‘books’ Tag

Apprenticeship   Leave a comment

I know I have not written for quite some time. This is, at least partly, because I don’t want to burden those kind enough to read my musings with anything that does not seem to have real importance (at least to me!!). I am writing today because I believe that at New Life we have just begun one of the most important preaching series since I became pastor some sixteen years ago. When COV!D -19 broke upon us and we were unable to meet together in church I was convinced at a very early stage that this was going to result in a profound and much-needed change in the church. This was not to cast any unnecessary aspersions on the past but to recognize what many have said: “What got you here will not get you where you are going.” Since that time many of my prayers have been focused on the request that the Father show us what that change was to look like and how we could join Him in bringing the change about.

I am certainly still on that prayerful path but I do believe that coming to a deeper and richer understanding of what it means to be an apprentice (disciple) of Jesus is foundational to us moving forward. In last Sunday’s sermon I shared this quote from Ronald Rolheiser which I think summarizes the challenge before us

We’ve always found it easiest to ignore the truth as long as we never stop moving. In the fall of humanity, we mastered the art of hurry. “And so we end up as good people, but as people who are not very deep: not bad, just busy; not immoral, just distracted; not lacking in soul, just preoccupied; not disdaining depth, just never doing the things to get us there,”                                                                           Ronald Rolheiser. 

When we read how Jesus invited a ramshackle group to follow him and think about how that invitation applies to us, do we really understand the journey that He invited them, and now us, to begin? In his book “Invitation to a Journey” Robert Mulholland says this:

I do not know what your perception of Christian discipleship might be, but much contemporary Christian spirituality tends to view the spiritual life as a static possession rather than a dynamic and ever-developing growth toward wholeness in the image of Christ. 

Robert Mulholland

As we study this together ( and we have only just begun) we are seeing that Jesus’ invitation to follow is motivated by His unconditional love for us but as with all invitations we are free to decline. The invitation to follow is rooted in the remarkable Jewish education system. This link takes you to some brilliant teaching on what it meant to be a disciple in Jesus’s day. I encourage you to take the time to listen because it will open your eyes as it did mine to what it meant when we said yes to following Jesus.

However, this is a journey that will last a lifetime. How do we begin? When we have taken the first step of recognizing our sin (the decision to decide for ourselves what is right or wrong) and have accepted the forgiveness purchased for us by Jesus on the cross we must begin to be with Jesus and get to know him. Here is an exercise that you might try to begin the process of getting to know him

Think about your closest friend or spouse and ask yourself how did I get to know them. Try and detail the process as far as you are able and preferably write it down. Then ask how your life of walking with Jesus compares to this and what has helped/hindered you from getting to know Him. Come up with one thing you might do now to help get to know Him better. To make this stick share it with someone you trust and ask them to keep you accountable.

How good it is to center down   1 comment

I have not written for while mostly because the relentless cacophony of opinions and perspectives that assault us on every subject under the sun has been somewhat overwhelming.

I have been reading ” Mobilizing Hope – Faith Inspired Activism for a Post Civil Rights Generation” by Adam Taylor* and I came across this wonderful devotion from Howard Thurman’s “Meditations of the Heart” that I thought I would share with you:


How good it is to center down!

The streets of our minds seethe with endless traffic;

Our spirits resound with clashings, with noisy silences,

While something deep within hungers and thirsts for the still moment

    and the resting lull.

With full intensity we seek, ere the quiet passes, a fresh sense

    of order in our living;

A direction, a strong sure purpose that will structure our confusion

    and bring meaning in our chaos.

We look at ourselves in this waiting moment –

    the kinds of people we are.

The questions persist:  what are we doing with our lives? –

    what are the motives that order our days?

What is the end of our doings?

Where are we trying to go?

Where do we put the emphasis and where are our values focused?

For what end do we make sacrifices?

Where is my treasure and what do I love most in life?

What do I hate most in life and to what am I true?

Over and over the questions beat in upon the waiting moment.

As we listen, floating up through all the jangling echoes of our turbulence,

   there is a sound of another kind –

A deeper note which only the stillness of the heart makes clear.

It moves directly to the core of our being.  

Our questions are answered,

Our spirits refreshed, and we move back into the traffic of our daily round

With the peace of the Eternal in our step.

How good it is to center down!

Howard Thurman

*( By the way this book has one of the best chapters on Racial Reconciliation and Racial Justice I have read)


These books!   2 comments

As I began the series on The Paradox of Suffering last Sunday I mentioned that I might share here some of the books I have been reading in preparation for the series. That idea seemed to be greeted with enthusiasm so here it is! Needless to say, I have not read all of each of these books in the last few weeks but all have, over the years contributed to my thinking on this subject. (Please do add any others that have been helpful to you in the comment section and then share so others can benefit)

If God is Good- Faith in the midst of suffering and evil by Randy Alcorn

Walking with God through Pain and Suffering by Timothy Keller

Embodied Hope- a theological meditation on pain and suffering by Kelley M Kapic

A Grief Observed by CS Lewis

Is God to Blame? -beyond pat answers to the problem of suffering by Gregory a Boyd

Rewriting Your Broken Story- the power of an eternal perspective by Kenneth Boa

Shaped by Suffering- how temporary hardships prepare us for our eternal home by Kenneth Boa

Surprised by Suffering by RC Sproul

Lament for a Son by Nicholas Wolterstorff

Joni -an unforgettable story by Joni Eareckson Tada

Disappointment with God- Three questions no one asks aloud by Philip Yancey

Where is God when it Hurts by Philip Yancey

Christianity and Suffering- African perspectives Rodney L Reed general editor

Hearing Jesus Speak into your Sorrow by Nancy Guthrie

A Grace Disguised-how the soul grows through loss by Gerald L Sittser

When God Weeps -why our suffering matters to the Almighty by Joni Erickson Todda and Steven Estes

Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy – discovering the grace of lament by Mark Vroegop

Tracks of a Fellow Struggler -Living and Growing through Grief by John R. Claypool

The Gift of Hard Things- finding grace in unexpected places by Mark Yaconelli

Hope Heals – A True story of Overwhelming Loss and overcoming Love by Katherine Wolf

What Does The Bible Say about Suffering -Brian Han Gregg

(If you consider purchasing any of these for yourself and you live in Pacifica, remember that Florey’s Books is a local store that very much needs our support at this time)

Posted April 21, 2020 by jolm15 in Uncategorized

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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?

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!

Books I am reading   Leave a comment

One of the great joys of feeling better is that the desire and ability to read has returned. For the last year each time I would pick up a book it would be a signal for my eyes to close! I had a very dry year, spiritually. I never doubted the hand of God on my life and His control over all that was happening, however often the control room seemed a long way away. And such intellectual and physical energy I had was focused on asking the Father for weekly sermons and then preaching them, only to crawl into bed to accumulate the energy for the next Sunday

What a joy it was to get back my desire to read!  I thought I would share with you the books I have read and am in the process of reading. I have completed four books so far this year; the first two focus on the development of my devotional life and the other two are works of fiction (it’s been a long time since I read any fiction!!!)

Opening to God by David Benner is a book I probably would not have seen if I had not been a member of the Intervarsity book club. It was delivered to me so I glanced at it and my interest was piqued. Focusing on prayer, it is a practical book that really helps the reader to experiment and cultivate a prayer life that draws them closer to God.

Whole Life Transformation by Keith Meyer another Intervarsity book the author of which was not known to me. The title caught my attention and it did not disappoint. The book is particularly aimed at pastors and the like and is based on the author’s experience in pastoral ministry. A question from his son caused him to rethink the foundations of his ministry. This is also a very practical book with many suggestions as to how to translate the content into a day to day reality

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. Maggie gave me this for Christmas having read about it pamphlet. Immediately I picked the book up I remembered why I have not been reading fiction; when I get into a story, I can’t put it down. This a wonderfully written true story (so not technically fiction) about a service man captured by the Japanese. He somehow survives a horrendous selection of tortures to struggle with the return to civilian. A superb book, (Mark Batterson said it was the best book he read last year!) but not for the squeamish!

Piercing the Darkness by Frank Peritti This fictional work is the second of a pair of books that paints a picture of the relationship between the forces of evil and the Christian community. The story is gripping (as is the first by the way) and I found myself having to remind myself that it all comes from the fertile imagination of the author and is not the truth! However I believe it did somehow give me a fresh appreciation of the reality of evil. Once again I could not put it down and I think Maggie wonders if it was a good thing to encourage me to include fiction in the books I read

Right now I have my bookmarks in;

Small Faith Great God by NT Wright another Intervarsity offering. Wright is one of our most prolific and gifted Christian theologians and authors. So far the book is great and has given my yellow highlighter ample employment.

The Reason for God by Tim Keller. Keller is an amazing apologist and renders complicated theological ideas with incisive simplicity. This book is destined to become classic in apologetics alongside the work of Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel.

On Road with the Archangel by Fredrick Buechner. More fiction, a fascinating story set in Jerusalem, Antioch or Alexandria about 722 BC, If you have never read any Buechner, I recommend you do. His use of images and language is extraordinary.

Books “on deck”

The Lighthouse by PD James

So what are you reading? I would love to hear. If you are looking for something I have one or two books in my office that you can borrow if you wish!

Posted January 24, 2011 by jolm15 in Uncategorized

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