Thursday, 20 March 2014

Reflections- Article Preview from our Autumn MAC Magazine


Recently I’ve been reflecting on the noise of life. 
It can take over our headspace, squeezing out other things.

What sparked this reflection was a sermon I heard in January at my brother’s church. The sermon was on James 1. It helped me think more clearly about an issue I have been tossing around for a while. 

From James 1:18 – 21, and 25:

The Father . . . ‘chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created.  My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. . . . The man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does.’  
The preacher suggested that, since the passage is about the centrality of God’s word, and the response to it we need to make so that the ‘righteous life that God desires’ grows in us, it is to God and his word that we should be quick to listen, and be slow to speak with him about our concerns – the noise of our lives.
That noise is powerful. 
It is the accumulation of all that is on our mind and in our hearts.
We have probably all had the experience of listening to a great sermon – the word being taught – and suddenly finding that our attention has been pulled away by life’s noise. We may have had a good look at a Bible passage in our growth group, but the prayer time that follows may have little to do with praying the passage into our lives, and have barely any focus on God himself, and how we are developing in our relationship with him. How easy it is for the noise of our lives to take over our time with God.
Not that it is wrong to bring our concerns to God. Far from it. We are encouraged, if not commanded, to do so (Psalm 62:8, Phil 4:6). It underlines our dependency on God.
But if the noise of life is the focal point of our relationship with God, that relationship is out of balance and we will struggle to grow. It is a bit like the husband who adores his wife and takes her to a fabulous getaway, to spend some quality time together and to give them both, but her especially, a break from the demands of caring for their young children. But the children are her ‘noise’. They are all she talks about. They are on her mind the whole time. She can’t step beyond her role as a mother and throw herself into her role as wife and lover, even for a short time. Her relationship with her husband is the foundation of her family. But she is giving it - giving him – very little attention, even when the opportunity is provided. Yes, she is a caring mother, but the relationship with her husband will shrivel if she does not nurture it, however hard that may be for her while the children are little.
How can we get to a place where loving God, and caring about what he cares about, drives us at least as much as the concerns of our own lives, if not more so?

We know James wrote a letter about action, so doing is important. But the preacher I heard referred to a step James mentions that it is easy to skip over.
James says we must ‘humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you’.  
God has already saved us from remaining dead in our sins and given us ‘birth through the word of truth’. The word is already ‘planted’ in us.
So what, then, does it mean when James says we are to ‘accept’ it? The preacher said that it means to take it into ourselves, to sit under its authority, humbly, and without anger – rebellion, resistance, impatience. We need to ‘look intently into the perfect law’, to work it into our lives. This is similar to the Old Testament concept of meditation – being still in God’s presence, taking time pondering his word, chewing it over, wrestling with it, taking it on board.
If we are quiet before God and quick to listen, the Holy Spirit has more opportunity to grow within us the righteousness of Jesus - to grow in us his life, which was planted in us when we were given new birth (2 Peter 1: 3-4). Nurturing this life is not something we can do on our own. What we need to do is to make ourselves available for the Spirit to grow the word in us.          
If you’ve ever tried being still before God, letting the Holy Spirit remind you of things the word says, letting the things of God ‘gel’ within you, just spending time loving God, then you will know that it can be a time when the words of the two disciples who met the risen Jesus on the road to Emmaus, can be true for us. ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us . . . and opened the Scriptures to us? ’Luke 24:32.

You will also know that, despite our best efforts to spend quality time with God, with every intention of being quick to listen and slow to speak, the noise of our life can take over so very quickly.
It can be easier to be quiet before God in the company of others, even if we are communing with him privately, in our own hearts. Guided reflection can help us set aside our noise. It can help us stay focussed.

Some of us are getting together for Reflection and Prayer, for about an hour, in the church, on Sunday afternoon 6 April at 2pm. The focus of our reflection will be Easter. We are planning for it to be a gentle, non-threatening time. We will read God’s word, sing, there will be a time of guided reflection, and a time to be still before God on our own with a suggested focus.
Whether you are an old hand at this, or whether it is something new to you, everyone is welcome, from the young to the not-so-young. No RSVP needed. Just turn up.

We are looking forward to sharing with you as together we wait on God to do his work in us. As the joy of sharing in Jesus’ life grows within us, individually and as a community of God’s people, so we will grow in the freedom to delight in our relationship with God, and to be more keenly attuned to his agenda.

By keeping on looking ‘intently’ into the word of life, the mind-boggling benefits of being ‘in Jesus’ will become more real to us. James says we will ‘be blessed’ in what we do.

- Jenny Kennedy

READ THE FULL ARTICLE and more in the Autumn Church Magazine due out next weekend. 
Comments and discussion on this article are welcome and encouraged. 

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