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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Start The Year With Jesus

Tonight people will be partying. In the island state of Samoa the New Year will come a day earlier than it did last year because they have decided to switch to the other side of the International Date Line in order to be in line with their trading partners in Australasia. They are going into 2012 with a sense of hope and optimism that this one small change will fuel economic growth. Their weekends will now coincide with other nations in the region which means there will be more time for business activities between Samoa and other countries. It’s a clever little trick.
Many other people around the world will also be starting the New Year thinking about economics. They will be concerned about how long their jobs will last, if they will be able to pay the post-Christmas bills and whether or not they can maintain their living standards.
But for one night they will party, trying to send their anxieties to oblivion and attempting to be optimistic about the future - surely 2012 has to be better than 2011.
I used to belong to a church which every year held a New Year’s Eve party. It was full of fun and games and the whole church family joined in. Two things separated it from the kind of parties going on elsewhere. The first was a lack of alcohol. The second was that, at the stroke of midnight, we prayed and gave thanks to God. We started the year with Jesus.
There was none of the flamboyant frothiness and wishful thinking that somehow chiming in a New Year was going to change everything. Instead there was a sense of gratitude that whatever we’d been through in the past twelve months Jesus had walked with us through it, and the certainty that whatever we would face in the coming year He would always be at our side.
As 2012 begins I pray that you will know the love of Jesus throughout.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Confessional Prayer

A friend recently asked me, "what does it mean to live a godly life?"

I didn't feel that I gave her an adequate answer so I've been pondering for a couple of weeks.

I pretty sure that I'm not the best person to ask as I certainly don't manage to live what I would describe as a godly life. I also think that a century ago we would have been able to see living examples of godliness in the Christian community which aren't there now. We have lost a great deal of our desire to be holy.

However, several things have come to mind which may help us to understand so I thought I might share them.

When I spent some time with Wycliffe Bible Translators at their UK HQ I remember being shocked by a Bible study one of the translators on furlough did for us. She was sharing a psalm (I don't remember which one though I could probably find it if I sat down and read through them all) and drew out the point that God was far more interested in who we are than where we are. Up to that point I was trying to please God by finding out where He wanted me to go and what He wanted me to do. It's a trap I continually fall into. But the truth is that when He wants us to go or do it's because He wants us to grow. He is often gracious to use us to advance His kingdom in some way but the important thing for us is not the doing but the becoming, learning lessons in the environment where He has placed us.

As I said, I can't find that psalm quickly but the message of Micah 6:8 is the same:
He has showed you, O (wo)man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

I think that is one definition of godliness.

I'm reading a book on prayer by Moody at the moment and something he said struck me. He talks about the importance of confession and says how valuable it would be if we frequently repeated David's prayer in Ps 139:23-24. We need to let God search our hearts and show us our sin. It's no good simply looking for sin within ourselves because we often don't recognise it - the heart is deceitful above all things (Jer 17:9).

I think those two thoughts - walking humbly with God and asking Him to search our hearts are probably the key to living a godly life. I also think that as we learn to live a godly life, His plan and purpose for us will naturally unfold. It's no good being in the right place at the right time doing the right thing if we're not right with God.