Day 37 - Issue 22

August 22, 2017

Psalm 65:2b-3 NLT

'All of us must come to you. Though we are overwhelmed by our sins, you forgive them all.'

God is a popular destination for most people. Prayer is given a try when all else appears to be failing. I have only once been refused when making an offer to pray for someone. These are not just Christians, but as I meet people and hear their stories of challenge, I will state that I am a Christian and believe in the power of prayer and request permission to pray for them. I have usually been met with a grateful, “yes, please”. It’s a practice that Jayne taught me for she has practised this for years.

God extends his invitation of approach to all humanity. This is a God who loves and intervenes in response to the cry of our hearts. As a child, not in a Christian family and no knowledge of God, each evening as I was tucked into bed I would pray the Lord’s Prayer. This

was followed by prayers for the safety of my family and became habitual, and something of a talisman. I had no sense of the One to whom I directed such prayers, yet had an inner impulse to pray.

I also found within myself a notion of guilt when I lied, something which I developed into an art form, and did things I knew I wasn’t supposed to. God was engaging with me in my ignorance, filling the silence of my own thoughtfulness and reflection with a prompting that eventually blossomed into full friendship with the Trinity.

I learned once I’d found God to bring my troubled conscience to him alongside my many requests. I was forever in need of God to cleanse me from the residue and effects of sin in my life. This forgiveness and cleansing I took for granted. Rather more readily than I accepted my prayers had been heard. I demanded no evidence for my forgiveness, only for my intercessions.

QUESTION: Is prayer like an emergency parachute or a deeper engagement with your heavenly Father?

PRAYER: Lord God, thank you for mercy on me, a sinner, through Jesus Christ.

00:0000:00

Day 36 - Issue 22

August 21, 2017

Psalm 65:1 NLT

'What mighty praise, O God, belongs to you in Zion. We will fulfill our vows to you.'

All of us make our way to God with requests. God is the focus for our intercessions, prayers for ourselves and the ones we love. We approach God with confidence that he will hear and answer us. I remember as a new Christian at university where I met and started dating Katey, I explored this way of prayer. Katey was prone to migraines, and having recently read about physical healing in the Bible, I thought I would pray. Aware a migraine was coming on, I suggested we pray. I had no oil, and in reality didn’t know what sort of oil was meant in the Bible. So I got an egg cup, filled it with water and said in my naivety, “Let’s pray this water becomes oil; after all, Jesus prayed over water and it became wine.” Simple faith carried me a long way.

So I prayed and then dribbled some water from the egg cup over Katey’s head, praying for a healing. The signs of the migraine retreated, it never developed and Katey never endured another migraine. I was overjoyed at the outcome. It built my faith, increased my confidence and raised our spirits. Yet, we were focused upon the outcome rather more than the source of that outcome. The healing was as important to us as the healer.

John Goldingay translates this verse as, “To you silence is praise”. This, perhaps, is a more fitting response when facing the source of all creation, the One to whom we pray. The silence begins where my words end. It is a quiet recognition of the reality of God’s presence and trust in God’s provision. Now I leave my request with God, confident God has heard and will respond.

Approaching God is what we are each invited to do. Having made our approach, expressed our intentions, it is good to pause and acknowledge God’s faithful promise to answer us. We can entrust God with our request with complete confidence that he hears our prayer and will prove faithful.

QUESTION: Is the purpose of your prayer to secure your stated outcome, or is it to demonstrate obedient trust in God?

PRAYER: Lord, may you be more important to me than getting what I want from you.

00:0000:00

Day 35 - Issue 22

August 18, 2017

Luke 24:31 NLT

Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared!

God is present continuously. God’s promise is never to fail nor forsake me. In other words, God is forever alongside me. Yet, for large portions of time, I can be completely unaware of God’s close proximity. How can I become more aware, more of the time?

When my buttons are pushed, I can and do react. Often those closest to me push those buttons with the greatest regularity, and I have to develop a strategy to manage instinctive reaction. All that this reaction tells me is that I am living with me at the centre of my world. And it’s God who I have invited to live in that space. This is the real work of discipleship; developing an immediacy in my friendship with God. I can discover seeing the world through my lens or finding how to view it through God’s.

This, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, is the product of a journey, yet a journey that may not mean travelling too far geographically. It is the journey that leads me towards God’s heart. It is in the familiar setting of a meal that the disciples recognise Christ. As he breaks bread, they realise this is Jesus. How had they missed him when he’s been their companion not only on this most recent journey, but throughout his earthly ministry? It’s because they became absorbed with the details of their own experience in life with their own analysis of reality. God invites each of us to encounter God in God’s reality that can require a stretch beyond our own.

QUESTION: How do you react and respond when your hot buttons are pushed? Can you reach out and discover the presence of God in those moments?

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, open my eyes to see your presence in my life.

00:0000:00

Day 34 - Issue 22

August 17, 2017

Luke 24:23 NLT

They said his body was missing, and they had seen angels who told them Jesus is alive!

Traditions and scriptures are both the product of reports from others. These disciples recount how the women had reported an empty tomb and a message from angels. Self-evidently these disciples were uncomfortable with this account. They don’t dismiss it, yet their lack of positive endorsement and dejected mood suggests they did not embrace it with any great conviction.

Although I’ve been unable to find God during various seasons of life, and indeed got positively frustrated and cross in those seasons, I have found it impossible going back over my life to discount my conversion experience and process. I met with God. I can’t lose the sense of substantial reality to that friendship. So I know the tradition and scripture passed down by the Church are true.

For these well-intentioned disciples, they required Jesus to fall in step beside them, challenge their ignorance of God’s presence and explain the meaning within scripture. The story of how a fractured world was delivered through the incarnate life, death and resurrection of its creator. Following Jesus requires a confidence in the reality of the risen Christ. If this is mere fiction or metaphor, we can hardly be expected to order our lives around Jesus’ words, for they may prove as ethereal as his own eternal nature. These disciples had to discover the reality of the risen Jesus as completely as they’d embraced and believed the call and message of the incarnate Jesus. Reason may prove useful as part of the discernment process, yet alone can never bring us face to face with Christ nor sustain a life committed to follow in Jesus’ footsteps.

Much like these disciples, you may be on a journey, yet ultimately will you recognise the risen Christ or be left with little more than a sincere and ever-deepening reasonable understanding of scripture? I am glad I am a friend of God today.

QUESTION: How have you encountered the risen Jesus?

PRAYER: Thank you, God, that you raised your Son from the grave and we can know him today.

00:0000:00

Day 33 - Issue 22

August 16, 2017

Luke 24:15 NLT

'As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them.'

While it is easy to understand the phrase, Jesus “came near and went with them” (NRSV), what does it mean some 2,000 years on? For each of us this is the hope and desire, that Jesus might walk with us. Much of my preaching was about individuals drawing near to Jesus and becoming God’s friend.

Yet friendship can be of the sort I have with my mate Ken in Dallas. I have spent times with Ken, yet in recent years our different callings have meant that we have spent very little real time together. I know he’s my friend as I am his, yet we are not in close proximity. There’s a danger that friendship with Jesus can become like this. I become a friend of Jesus separated by some great distance. I know who he is and I know I am his and he is my friend. Yet face-to-face time is limited, and distance prevents me from consulting him on my understanding of my world.

Two confused, perhaps angry disciples, begin the long walk home. This Jesus who they’d known wants to walk with them, yet they do not recognise him. Still, their innate hospitality allows them to invite Jesus to accompany them. The point is that Jesus is not about some distant act upon a cross in Palestine, nor simply a means to securing our eternal destination. Jesus is about interaction in the now with you and with me. The fact is, Jesus is present today, in as much reality as Jesus was 2,000 years ago. That’s the point of the resurrection.

These two disciples had all the pieces to the jigsaw, yet couldn’t put the whole picture together. Here they describe the resurrection, without perhaps completely believing the testimony of the women who’d brought this strange yet significant report of an empty tomb and angelic message that Jesus was alive. We often struggle in a secularised age of reason with the fact that Jesus is alive. Jesus is present and can draw alongside us. However, we must make the invitation and before that settle in our hearts how the risen One might walk with us.

QUESTION: How does the risen Jesus want to walk alongside you?

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, thank you that by your Spirit you accompany us on our journey through life.

00:0000:00

Day 32 - Issue 22

August 15, 2017

Luke 24:14 NLT

'As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened.'

I have discovered that I have the ability to talk myself into a crisis, creating an extreme emotional state. I start the verbal reasoning process well, yet if challenged, so attached am I to my thought process that I note my blood pressure rising, my speed of verbal delivery increasing and the sound of my voice increasing in volume. I cannot seem to stop pressing in or find the pause button. My mouth runs away with me and dictates my emotional state.

I don’t enjoy this, although those experiencing me mid-flow note that I appear to. Once I break from the moment, and walk it through, I actually feel misery and disappointment, for this is not how I want to be. James in his epistle describes how the tongue, although a small body part, has a massive influence over the body, emotionally and physically. This is certainly my experience and, in fact, it is only as I embarked on the way of contemplation that I have slowly discovered how to ‘tame it’ by keeping in close step with God.

What I think and say is the product of various influences; my background, upbringing, failures and successes, my interpretation of events. Failure to moderate these by consulting Jesus, they can and will determine precisely the person I am in life. Jesus offers me, and you, the opportunity to measure our thoughts against the truth of God’s revelation. I can’t make my way forward on my own. I need Jesus, who is always waiting to accompany me, yet always awaits my invitation to join me. He alone can give me insight into the truth that lies behind what’s going on.

My difficulty is learning to accept that my perspective is neither the only nor the right one. Sadly it feels like it is right. To consider I might have it wrong threatens my identity that in turn questions within my ability to cope and go on. Yet my identity is, in fact, now Christ, who I have or rather am continually trying to put on. It becomes a question of trust and confidence.

QUESTION: How hard is it for you to acknowledge that you might be wrong?

PRAYER: Lord, help me have the humility to see that I might not always be right.

00:0000:00

Day 31 - Issue 22

August 14, 2017

Luke 24:13 NLT

'That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem.'

Walking offers me the best way to process my thoughts. I’ve never really been able to meditate as I walk, since my brain appears to go into overdrive. Indeed, you will observe my processing mind by the speed at which I am walking – the more intense the emotional connection with my mind, the faster my pace. Jayne will often interrupt my flow as we walk the dog together by asking the simple question, “Where are you?”, a question that returns me to the present moment.

The disciples, confused and afraid following the events of that first Easter, leave Jerusalem to make their way home, their minds not simply consumed with the crucifixion, but the events preceding it and their own conclusions about Jesus. They were disappointed, for their assumption that he was the Messiah appeared to have been false.

The information our brain processes always creates some form of physical and emotional reaction within. Our brains order all of our life, which is why I process on the move. The better news for family and friends is that I’m now conscious of that fact. Where once I simply stormed out and walked, muttering grim threats as I strode off, now I give notice that I need to take a walk. Best walk and process than throw a tantrum or even a frying pan!

The realisation that we are integrated persons; with mind, emotions and physicality is important. In a world where so much information is directed at our heads, we must recognise that our heads are incapable of processing that alone. I worry at times that so much of our Christianity is directed at our minds and practised silently within. I have found great benefit on engaging in greater physicality when expressing my faith in prayer and practice.

QUESTION: How does processing life’s ‘ups and downs’ impact you?

PRAYER: Thank you, Jesus, that you walk alongside us in our questions.

00:0000:00

Day 30 - Issue 22

August 11, 2017

Genesis 1:27 NLT

'So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.'

I grew up with an unspoken assumption that men ruled the world and women served their men. It was never put to me like that, but through the decade of my birth and then the 1960s as I formed my world view, I can see that male superiority quietly seized control of my mind. Instinctively I believed that in marriage I would be the primary decision-maker, something then underlined by the Church teaching I encountered aged 19. I’d quietly been trained as a despot. A kind despot; kind, that is, unless challenged. The challenge was taken as an affront not just to my authority but my masculinity, and Katey and I had some troubled waters as I had to unlearn, a painful, slow and exceedingly difficult process, in order to relearn.

Scripture helped. For the image of God is not visible in man alone or indeed in woman alone. Only when you have female and male together is the image of God fully represented in the earth. Indeed, in creating male and female, God attributes no enhanced authority to either expression of the divine image. God is on the side of breaking the glass ceilings.

Masculinity is also subject to review. The crude picture of the man defending homestead, spouse and family is nowhere in scripture. Perhaps a biblical appreciation is the reality of sin present in the world. Sin produces bad behaviours, threatens life and property, does harm. What we desperately need is for male and female to reflect the devotion the Trinity exercises to each member; a care and commitment to the other’s well-being and success.

As Jayne returned to training once her daughter started school, I found myself on school drop-off and pick-up. I discovered my love of cooking again as Katey declined, embarrassingly suppressed when I’d moved into puberty as not a very macho thing to do. Knowing who I am as a man, as Jayne must discover who she is as a woman, is enriching personally, yet also enables us to truly live together in mutual respect and fulfilment.

QUESTION: What misconceptions do you have about your gender?

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, help me to love and treat equally your daughters and your sons.

00:0000:00

Day 29 - Issue 22

August 10, 2017

Genesis 1:26 NLT

…They will reign…”

Exercising responsibility is a challenge. As a newly appointed school prefect, I entered into conversation with myself over the exercise of my new-found power. I could by virtue of my prefect status penalise people I didn’t much like. Responsibility is always a challenge.

God by choice entrusts the ordering of the creation to humanity. We have the ability to design and implement political structures through which we can determine the quality of life for fellow image-bearers of God. We equally have the capacity to use such authority to benefit ourselves. Of course, such corruption can only ever leave us feeling naked and ashamed as we hear the voice of God calling.

The invitation from Jesus is to choose to learn to resist the corrupting influence of living in a fractured world. Each one of us has the capacity for wrongdoing. Equally we have the capacity to resist. If I take Jesus as my model, his apparent influence on earth was minimal; born in a backwater, leading a group of twelve, itinerant without an office in sight, and unwilling or unable to penetrate the sources of power, the Sanhedrin and Roman. It is little surprise that the power elite who devised a corrupt plot to destroy him might have anticipated his swift eradication from history.

His enduring legacy was that he represented an altogether different way of living. This involved truth-telling, living for the interests of others and a willingness to give up life itself rather than be compromised through collaboration. I have found it hard to resist the temptation towards corruption. I had choices from fiddling my expenses when working, through to suppressing principle for advancement. I know I have made bad choices, yet the softened conscience that I chose not to silence has enabled me to return in repentance and choose God each time. I am not necessarily a good man, yet I know not as bad as I might have been and often wanted to be. Each of us is tested in this world ahead of exercising authority in dominion throughout eternity.

QUESTION: How do you deal with the yearning towards corruption in your own life?

PRAYER: Lord, lead me not into temptation but deliver me from evil.

00:0000:00

Day 28 - Issue 22

August 9, 2017

Genesis 1:26 NLT

…to be like us…

I am growing tired of TV. Not that I don’t like a good movie, more the way in which things are framed. News reporting seems so very devoid of hope, and issues reduced to points of polarisation. This creates the shrill sound of perpetual argument. There’s little modelling of how anyone moves from their declared position and settles on shared interests. It also denies space for the richness of religious and cultural heritage. So ‘terrorist’ is now a synonym for ‘Muslim’, ‘narrow-minded bigot’ for ‘Christian’. This is the failure of news that has laid the foundations for fake news.

Also in popular TV, sex is reduced to a simple satisfaction of sexual appetites. Rarely is sexuality presented as making love. Each participant appears merely to satisfy a fleeting lust. Since we are created in the likeness of God, not the same as image, we have the capacity to choose to live demonstrating the characteristics of God in the earth. Godly living itself reflects the reality of the kingdom. It provides a foretaste of eternity.

God has set eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). With rationality gifted to humanity, we can choose how we might choose to live: in pursuit of God or of self. If it’s the latter we are in danger. Humanity without God lacks all basis and means for moral behaviour.

God’s intention is that I might apply my resemblance of God to the practice of godliness. The epistles are full of encouragement that we are to focus on the way of life as expressed in Jesus and order our behaviour in accord with God’s ways. We have recourse to repentance and forgiveness for we repeatedly fail. But this is not our excuse to give up.

QUESTION: In what ways does God want to grow his likeness in you?

PRAYER: Lord, I confess my failings and all the times I have acted against your will. Conform me and mould me into the likeness of your Son.

 

00:0000:00