Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Facing 2009

Perhaps, like you, I am full of the things that I am definitely going to do in 2009. Yes, keep a rigorous devotional life, stay on top of my emails and correspondence (and blog), finish writing a book! Yes, exercise more, diet more, and be a better husband, father and pastor in specific ways (that I won't publish!)

I have just read a secular magazine's challenge (Experience Jan/Feb 2009) about what it calls "The dreaded Resolutions Season." It argues that what matters is the way we approach the New Year:
We love the idea of willpower, don't we? It's forceful, bold, intrepid. It reeks of individual determination, and it suggests just enough stalwart endurance to sastify our stoic sensibilities'.... Go forth! Make it so!
But the real key to creating positive change is not so much will as it is willingness.... the will tends to think it has all the answers and it doesn't relish asking for directions.
Willingness, on the other hand, is full of open-minded inquiries, like: How might
I go about getting started on this project? What would be most helpful

It's true that will-power often runs into a brick wall half way through January. Self ability leaks. But availability endures. For the Christian, genuine willingness, allied with dedicated will, keeps depending on God's strength and enables sustained effort...."for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose" (Phil 2:13). May my hopes for 2009 be right in God's will, and may I stay willing. Will you join me?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Benediction

I love that benediction, especially for today:

May the wisdom of the Wonderful Counsellor guide you,
The strength of the Mighty God embolden you,
The love of the Everlasting Father enfold you,
And the peace of the Prince of Peace be upon this day and for evermore. Amen

May this be your glorious experience of God's Blessing this Christmas.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Big 7 for Christian Leaders (7)

First, love, second, prayer and then, only then, comes humble leadership. Christian leadership is unique. Yes, it shares qualities with other kinds of leadership - such as clarity of vision, ability to inspire, and courage to stand firm. But, rather than these qualities residing in personal status and natural gifting, which so easily pump up pride of position with arrogance, for Christians these qualities depend utterly on God's love and will, responded to and discerned. They depend on humility, on meekness. In Scripture, meekness requires strong personalities submitted to Christ, that are always sensitive to God (Matthew 5:5). It requires love and prayer!

So Christian leaders need first, to be people who love God and others. Love should be evident in all their words and deeds. Even the toughest decisions (and there will be many) will be made and communicated in God's love. (How obvious this ought to be, and yet how often missing!) And they need to be people of prayer who discern what God wills and listen with the heart. Then there will be leadership sui generis. Uniquely humble and effective, meek yet bold, listening yet leading, sensitive yet decisive.

At Christmas we remark again on the curious way in which the world's greatest leader, Jesus Christ, breaks all assumptions about leadership. His humble beginnings underline the absence of personal status, and his ministry is empty of pride of position and arrogance. Yet, we call him LORD. Of course we do - he reveals God's Way.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Pages from a Preacher's Prayer Book (10)

The beginning Word.
In the beginning was the Word (John 1:1)

What a Christmas word for the preacher! When the fourth gospel describes Jesus' coming there are no stars, stable, shepherds, Mary and Joseph, but the shock assertion, sounding out like the first words of Genesis 1:1, that Jesus is the Word in the beginning.

To call Jesus the Word is extraordinary.
Words break silence - the baby Jesus tells us who God is, as noone else can. No more wondering, in the silence, how God sounds.
Words create relationship - other people are necessary for words to be heard and make sense.
Words create personal relationships in community.
Word reveal truth - the Word in John 1:1 is LOGOS, which describes the fundamental principles of existence. In Jesus the ultimate truth about humankind is told.

But there's more. Jesus is the Word in the beginning.
Jesus shares within the Trinity breaking silence at the beginning of creation, as God said, said, said and it was so.
Jesus is the culimination of God's word spoken by law and prophets. He embodies: "Thus says the Lord."
Jesus is the complete expression of God. "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father" John 14: 9.

O Come let us adore Him.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas Mess

Since posting over two weeks ago, my straightforward plans leading upto Christmas have been entangled in a mess, as a virus wouldn't let go of me, and a mound of grading piled higher ,(evaluating each student sermon takes 2-3 hours!) Deadlines for an academic journal article suddenly loomed, and neat plans for a gentle run-up to Christmas were well and truly messed up.

But perhaps Christmas is not about neatness! BBC America News has been following the journey of Joseph and Mary, from Nazareth to Bethlehem these last few days. Plodding the 150k with a donkey has proved eventful. On Day 3, the journalist was already on donkey number 3 because of unforseen problems, and was encountering innumerable obstacles (like roadblocks) on the way. I said to Carol that these troubles actually do more justice to the first Christmas. As far as Joseph and Mary were concerned, could you have had a greater mess than needing to travel on the eve of pregnancy with no settled accommodation?

But the glorious message, out of the mess we live in, is that the Christchild is born to rescue and redeem in the profoundest ways possible. Oh yes!

So, way behind schedule, and a little harassed, I need to take a deep grateful breath. To try and post my last page from a preacher's prayer book this term, maybe work on another of the Big 7 for Christian Leaders (I hoped to finish this by now!) and anticipate authentic praise for God with us, Immanuel, for Christmas 2008.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Rejoice with us

As a proud (relieved) grandfather, I am using every communication channel to tell out the good news. Last night my first grand-daughter was born, (joining three grandsons). She is Sophie Grace Quicke, 8lbs 7ozs and 20 inches long (the US isn't into metrics), and her mother Lori , father Rob, and older bnrother Elliot are all doing well. I am sure they will post pictures and tell the story on their own blog:

Quite a troubled story led up to this exciting news, and we are so grateful for all the love and prayers that helped us on our way, and especially to our heavenly Father, the Giver of all life, from whom every family takes its name (Eph. 3:15).


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Pages from a Preacher's Prayer Book (9)

Multi-sensory Scripture
Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow (Heb 4:12)
The hearing ear and the seeing eye - the Lord has made them both. (Prov. 20:12)
How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth. (Ps 119:103.)

Preachers (and others) need to engage God’s word with all our senses. Scripture is living and active. It is no mere resource book to be quarried for sermon texts, a place of duty and making sermons. It is a place of rendezvous with God. It pierces our most secret parts, cutting into our inner core. The command to love God “with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27) also applies to total personal engagement with God’s word.

Preacher don’t just know “about Scripture” grasping its contents but are to come alive “inside” its message, immersed in its life, grasped by its power, living out its story. Utterly open – heads, hearts, ears, eyes, touch and taste. “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight.” (Jer.15:16).

Scripture is a place for multi-sensory encounter. By the same Spirit who first breathed on its authors we become active participants within its inspiration - to enter, listen, immerse, taste, see, obey and above all love. Soaked in the Bible not exploiting it

A prayer: O Lord slow me down to experience your word today. Help me to be open to its life and its piercing. Let me touch, hear, see and taste. Grant that I may know some delight as I open your word today. Help me to sense the deliciousness of your promises and to bear the challenge of your commands, Through Jesus Christ, Amen