At the start of a new year many of us are more open to suggestions for change and a fresh start. By holding up a mirror, discerning road blocks and continual repenting, we may experience the promise from Acts 3:19-20 of a season of refreshing, literally a recovery of breath from the presence of the Lord. What will be part of your 2017 re-boot?
New Testament scholar Walter Wink asserts: “Nothing is more rare, or more truly revolutionary, than an accurate description of reality.”
One uplifting exercise is to ask several friends to list five strengths and/or spiritual gifts which they recognize in you. For those with strong egos, the friends might add “areas to work on” such as patience, issues with control, among others or “areas in which to pray for God’s additional gifting.”
Clearing the fog
Brain fog is a newer term describing the complaint of feeling scattered, unfocused and confused when dealing with decisions and simple actions. At the 2014 convention of the West Virginia American Baptists, Talbot School of Theology professor Gary McIntosh outlined some of the problems this fog can bring. He lists the fog of fatigue which blinds us to perspective, the fog of frustration which causes loss of patience and the fog of fear when we lose heart.
St. Paul recognized that it is not only human emotions and situations that bring on a fog when he observed in 2 Corinthians 4:4 that “… the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ….”
Satan who is called the “father of lies” in St. John 8:44 and the “deceiver of the whole world” in Revelation 12:9 may also tempt us Christians to “walk in the flesh” or give us a distorted view of our ministry. Those who are experienced in prayers for deliverance report Satan blocking the truth, nay-saying and creating confusion and drowsiness.
Importance of a path
George D. McClain was for many years director of the Methodist Foundation for Social Action. In his book Claiming All Things for God, he outlines a seven-step process for persons and institutions to break up malaise and sin and to open a more Godly path.
His process follows:
1. Recognizing consternation or puzzlement about direction.
2. Identifying collisions between past vulnerabilities/wounds and the future.
3. Acknowledging the collusion which ensnares us in the web of the world, the flesh and the devil.
4. Confessing that we fall prey to hopelessness and are complicit in sin.
5. Confronting the spirits of fear, arrogance, lies, stumbling blocks, oppression, control, etc. that beset us and our institution.
6. Cleansing ourselves and institution as we stand behind Christ with this bold imperative prayer: Lord, you must deliver us from evil and command all manner of evil to depart.
7. Claiming God’s ownership and God’s blessing.
Overlooked power of forgiveness
Eduard Thurneysen in A Theology of Pastoral Care plumbs the depth of sin and the power of forgiveness as few writers have. The Biblical understanding “… shows sin as that power which takes the whole man prisoner, a dictatorship to which he is subjugated, even a possession from which he is unable to deliver himself.” (p. 235) The state of sin is not merely emptiness or privation. Sin draws us under Satan’s rule.
Thurneysen demonstrates that forgiveness means not only that God’s power takes possession of a person’s formerly empty life and that God’s peace fills it, but “forgiveness is a change of regime…. An old reign is overthrown, and a new reign is established. Assurance of pardon is ultimately to be understood as exorcism. Demons are cast out when God’s word is forcibly proclaimed.” (pp. 316-17) Scriptural references of support include: St. Mark 3:22-27, 4:15 and St. Luke 10:17 ff.
Revisit ordination vows
At the beginning of each new year it is advisable to return to the beliefs which we affirmed at our ordination.
In addition to beliefs the former United Presbyterian Church of North America in 1910 asked pastors if zeal for the glory of God was one of their “great motives.” One of the ordination questions which I answered was: “Will you serve the people with energy, intelligence, imagination and love?” I confess that I need prayer to fervently exhibit those characteristics.
To which of your ordination vows will you re-commit?