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Whispers of God

Whisper

When God begins to whisper in your ear, listen.

Luke 2:22-40, ew Revised Standard Version Updated Edition

22-27 When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord  (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”),  and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him.  It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child  Jesus to do for him what was customary under the law

When God Whispers in Our Ears

What has the Holy Spirit shown you?

Is it audacious to make claims of divine revelation? Is it theologically correct to do so?  Might it not be considered presumptuous?

In the first place, this was not a general revelation for all people. It was personal disclosure for Simeon’s personal consumption and encouragement. The Holy Spirit had assured him of the promise, and he had embraced it.

There is no indication that Simeon had gone about bragging on his “special revelation.” He had not used it to elevate his status or to appear hyper spiritual.

He had not developed and marketed a seminar entitled, “How I Received a Revelation from the Holy Ghost and How You Can Too.”

He simply received a promise through the still, small voice of God and he clung to it with all his might. He did so in complete trust and confidence that God would bring it to pass.

Perhaps you believe that the Holy Spirit has shown you something about your future. It is OK to entertain the thought. None of us is a perfect receptacle for words from God, but he does still whisper promises in our ears in the form of assurance, calling, and encouragement. Do not be afraid to receive these words.

Could you be wrong? You might, but if you are, God will clarify that for you and show you something better in due time.

You will most likely discover that God was indeed speaking to you, but that you did not fully understand what he was trying to say. It stretched you and challenged you and through the experience, you grew.

If the Holy Spirit is speaking to you, it is most likely about you. It was about Simeon that he would live to see the Lord’s Christ and it was about Christ Himself. There were many ways God could have chosen to fulfill those words, but the way he did turned into a blessing for all who believe. What is God whispering in your ear?

28-32 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,

“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
    according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation,     which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the gentiles
    and for glory to your people Israel.”

 Hanging On

 Sometimes it seems that we are just hanging on, waiting for something big to happen.

We hang on to money because we know that either a great opportunity or a rainy day is on the way.

We hang on to an idea because we know that someday, it will be useful. Someday, other people will buy into it and come alongside of us.

We hang on to life because we know that God is not done with us and that all God has promised has not yet come to pass. We hang on because God is hanging on to us and because to shortcut the process would be to cheat Him and to cheat ourselves.

We hang on to hope because we believe that God is the God of hope and that everything he promises will come to pass. We know deeply that he is not forgetful, nor is he remiss. He will fulfill his Word.

Therefore, we live on tiptoe. While resting on his promises, we do not entirely relax. We stay alert. We watch. We pray. We actively seek any sign of his coming, any indication of His acting out of His purposes in our time.

We may not know what our roles may be, but we stand at the ready to play them. If it is only to witness His power and trustworthiness, we will do so with joy and gratitude.

Simeon could not depart in peace until the moment came and when the moment came, he knew it.

“Any time now, Lord.  I have seen what you told me I’d see before I died. I’m ready now.”

There were no regrets in Simeon’s life, no unfinished business, no unfulfilled plans, no lost dreams. God had done the great thing for which he had been “hanging on.”

Maybe he lived many more years; maybe he died the next day; we don’t know. What we do know is that when the time came for him to make the final departure, he was ready. He was ready from that moment on.

33 And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 

 Marveling

 God isn’t calling know-it-alls to play a significant role in His program.

He is not looking for those whose motto is, “Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.”

God is calling men and women who are capable of marveling over that which is marvelous.

“Business as usual” is not in His order of the day. He is full of surprises. The mundane is not His domain; He shakes things up.

When God speaks directly through prophets to us, his Word goes straight to the heart with recognizable veracity and piercing honesty. We are amazed.

Joseph was a man capable of relishing the marvels of God. He was not jaded by boredom or dulled by cynicism. Joseph was caught completely off guard by the wonder of God’s power, and He basked in it.

To marvel at the spoken word means that we have truly received it – deeply and with a willingness to let it shape us. We have rejected the superficial responses that tend to dismiss the unusual as a something merely strange and we have chosen to let God speak.

It is no small thing to receive such a word.

It is no small thing what God wants to do in us, through us, and within proximity of our lives.

When God sends a Simeon or an Anna into our lives, he has a reason. While no human being is capable of a consistently infallible representation of divine will, God is able to speak through the frailest, most errant person to say what we need to hear.

And while we are not witnessing the creation of new scriptures in our time, the Lord is still taking His scriptures and placing them on the lips of men and women He chooses to apply them to our lives in ways that cause us to marvel.

Don’t stop marveling; we serve a marvelous God.

34-35 Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul, too.”

A Strange Blessing

It must have seemed like a strange sort of blessing to Mary and Joseph. Many would rise. Many would fall. As a sign, the babe would be spoken against. He would bring out the best and worst in people as their very heart thoughts and motives were revealed. As parents, they would have their hearts pierced.

It was a strange blessing indeed.

When Jesus comes, sweet and unassuming, precious, cute, and giggly as a little baby, it is hard to imagine that the planet has just been invaded by a force to contend with.

He does not tread lightly. There will be no lasting indifference in His regard. He will not be non-controversial. He defines controversy. He confronts us, shattering our prejudices, exposing our biases, showing us what our religious hypocrisies really look like in the light of His truth.

And so, Jesus comes to you and to me, dear friend, amid the noise of confusion and the beating waves of doubt an anxiety. His words speak truth and courage to our hearts, but it is His touch that is life giving and life affirming, Fear not!

He threatens our stasis. He shatters our well-formed opinions no matter how many proof-texts we have arranged to support them. He is Lord of all, and every notion is subject to His interpretation.

We are not guaranteed safe passage through the sorting out process. We may well be sifted. Nor are those close to him guaranteed that we will not be broken on the wheel of pain and discomfort.

And yet, he is blessed, and we will be blessed through Him. By being in his circle of relationships, the siftings will be blessings and the piercings blessings too. We need his awful mercy and his harsh healing to be made whole. Strange as the blessing may be, a blessing it is.

The S Factor

Simeon was in the right place, in the right frame of mind, living a righteous life, and doing so in right relationship with God.

He was a ready receptacle for God into which God could deposit a gift. He was also ready to be used to make a great declaration to the world.

The Holy Ghost was upon Him – what a magnificent state in which to be!

To be in Jerusalem, the city of God was the first of his blessings. That meant that he lived within eyesight of the temple and could go there regularly to worship, pray, and hear the Torah. Proximity to God and God’s people opens us to blessings beyond our imagination. Stay close.

He was just. When given a choice between doing the right thing and the wrong thing, he chose the right thing. He did not ask, “Which is easier or has a better payoff?” He asked, “What is right?”

He was devout. His heart was turned in the direction of God and He was an earnest God-seeker. Such a man or woman is ready for God to move.

He was waiting for the consolation of Israel. He was not a grumbler about the times, but he knew that something better was coming. He lived in anticipation, waiting for a great movement and intervention of God in history. So may we.

The Holy Ghost was upon him. Whatever else might be said of him, there was this invisible, unexplainable, beyond-the-ordinary dimension to his life that nothing could account for but the Holy Spirit. It was the S Factor – S for Spirit.

The Christian life is a spiritual life. It is to be lived spiritually in the power of the Holy Spirit and under His constant influence. When that is the case, whatever else might be said of us will not be enough to explain the extraordinary hope, confidence, insight, and authority of our lives.

The S Factor is available to each of us. Are we available to Him?

36-38 There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 At that moment she came and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

Speaking to the Right People

Anna showed up at just the right moment.

It was not all that surprising, because she had devoted the years of her widowhood to prayer and worship. She was in the temple so much, that she might have seemed like an anachronism to some and an annoyance to others.

She was just “always there.”

Yet, she could have missed the moment if not for one thing. God wanted her there and arranged for her to be there to see the Baby King.

She hoped for the redemption of Israel and, once she had seen Him, she told people who were like minded.

There is always an audience for the message that God entrusts to us. There are always those who share our longing, hope, and dissatisfaction with the status quo.

God prepared Anna and He prepared her audience.

Have you been so infused and enthused with redemptive hope that you know you have to share it? He has prepared some people who are ready, willing, and anxious to hear your testimony.

Do not grow discouraged thinking no one is interested. You just haven’t found them yet.

Do not expect everyone to be responsive. Some folks have grown cold and indifferent. Others have never thought beyond the present time with all of its thrills and carnal gratifications. They are living for now and are satisfied with their listless lives.

That very well may change for them, but for the moment, they are at different stages of listening and longing.

You are looking out for those who are thirsty. Keep your good news handy, because when you are willing to share, they will start appearing.

39 When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 

The Long Road Home

They did what they had to do and then, the adventure began.

It was an adventure which Matthew elaborates upon, but about which Luke chooses to remain silent. It would lead through Egypt, a detour that would save the life of Jesus. It was a long road home.

It would lead back to Nazareth to a period of silence that would be punctuated only by a visit to Jerusalem when He was 12.

But the long road home would continue because Nazareth was only a temporary home. He was progressing on for the gory set before Him.

Our lives take twists and turns and move through mountains and valleys, over rough seas and through caves and along the streets of cities. We are going somewhere, and it is not always an easy road.

Necessity is only a starting place. When we have done what is required, the journey begins. Then we start to learn and grow and exercise faith. That’s when it gets messy and mundane.

People don’t write stories about all those details. We skim over them.

It is not that the gospel writers left out anything God wanted us to know. It’s just that there is so much more about the journey home to glory than we can recount or account for.

The journey of Jesus began when the necessities were done.

We sometimes take a “what can I get by with” attitude toward life. We want to do the minimum and quit, meet the basic requirements, get a pat on the back, and sit down in our easy chairs.

We get saved and collect our ticket to Heaven and think we are done. We haven’t even started. There is a journey ahead of us, an adventure, a plethora of unknowns, and a lifetime of wonder.

When we’ve done what we have to do, the adventure begins.

40 The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom, and the favor of God was upon him.

 Growing Stronger

Jesus grew.

He was not born strong, wise, and full of grace.

He was born who He was: the Son of God, but the Son of God, God the Son had emptied Himself and taken on Himself the form of a servant.

Therefore, it was required that He submit to the process of maturation physically, emotionally, relationally, intellectually, and spiritually.

We, when we were children, often wanted the privileges of adults. When we became adults, we longed for the carefree life we enjoyed as children.

Seldom have we relished the gut-wrenching, humiliating, submissive, and painful experiences that are sometimes associated with growing up. In the quest to avoid some of these, there are among us those who have never grown up or have failed to do so in some selected areas of life.

Jesus grew. He became strong, wiser, and more gracious. He did it in stages and through steady progression. He did through challenges and changes, and choices.

He embraced the opportunities to grow and cherished the wisdom that was available through the synagogue and temple and the teaching of His parents.

Jesus grew.

Are you growing? You cannot stay where you are. You will either be spiraling up or spiraling down in the strength, wisdom, and grace.

You can become weaker by not growing stronger. You can indeed become less wise by refusing to grow wiser.

You can become colder and more indifferent by not becoming a channel for God’s grace to flow through you.

The choice, as always, is yours. What will it be – growth or decline?


Regina's Aria

Rabbi regina
On this day in 1935 – Regina Jonas is ordained as the first female rabbi in the history of Judaism.
 
"If I confess what motivated me, a woman, to become a rabbi, two things come to mind. My belief in God’s calling and my love of humans. God planted in our heart skills and a vocation without asking about gender. Therefore, it is the duty of men and women alike to work and create according to the skills given by God."
 
In 1942, the Gestapo arrested her.
 
She was deported to Theresienstadt. She continued her work as a rabbi, and Viktor Frankl, the well-known psychologist, asked her for help in building a crisis intervention service to improve the possibility of surviving by helping to prevent suicide attempts.
 
She was deported to Auschwitz in 1944, where she was murdered.
 
On 5 April 2014, an original chamber opera, titled "Regina" by composer Elisha Denburg and librettist Maya Rabinovitch, premiered in Toronto.
 

Flowers of Friendship

A Bouquet of Flowers

"And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend." Exodus 33:11a


He sent a bouquet of flowers to his friend’s funeral as a token of a lifetime of friendship.

Everyone admired the arrangement and thought what great friends they must have been When we look at such a lovely arrangement in a vase, we enjoy its beauty, but we take some things for granted.

Before those flowers were picked and arranged, each one was caught up in a process of planting, growth, and cultivation to become the thing of beauty sitting in the center of the table.

Great friendships are like flowers. They also must be planted, grown, and cultivated. They must be protected from the encroachment of weeds and from pests that would devour them. Great friendships must be nurtured.

So also, must a friendship with God be nurtured and grown over time.

When men looked back on Moses’ life and his relationship with God, it seemed like a lovely flowering plant with luxurious colors and sweet savory aromas. It was a thing to be admired and appreciated. We take that for granted as well. Moses spoke with God face to face as a friend, but that friendship developed over many years as Moses sought God and God shaped Moses.

We are also called to blossom in our friendship with God. Are you willing to pay the price of time and cultivation? If you are willing to seek Him as Moses did and be shaped by Him as Moses was, you can also be known as a friend of God and bloom for Him.


George Bailey for President


Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

In the early days of this country, if a person needed a home and had none, he or she could just move to the wilderness, hunt, fish, forage, or grow something, build a cabin, and live in peace. Then, we had homesteading and that is where many Americans started owning land.

It is in relatively recent years that people who could not “buy into” the economy had absolutely no options except to be invisible or enter a program — whether they were program material or not.

One of my relatives even owned a “poor house” in Virginia where people could go, live, and work with dignity, take their families, and build community.

Just wondering … just wondering if, in this day of strict building codes, high land and housing prices, high unemployment, disparity between living wages and costs of living, and other obstacles to stable housing … just wondering mind you … if we could all get a bit creative together, develop a new homesteading plan … or do something that does not judge people or render them wards of the state in order to help people become stable home owners or renters again.

I saw so many good families Sunday who were not drug-dazed or lazy or indigent — — hundreds of them who wear the label “homeless” for one reason and one reason alone: They do not have a home.

There are thousands in every city.

From 2013:

“Just viewed “It’s a Wonderful Life” for the 3 millionth time, and also saw America becoming Pottersville. 1.3 million jobless are two days away from losing their extended unemployment benefits, Congress is readying another cut in food stamps, and 1 in 5 of our children is in poverty — at the same time the rip-roaring stock market has made the nation’s wealthiest some 15 percent richer than they were this time last year. Who’s your candidate for Mr. Potter of 2013? (The Koch brothers? Ted Cruz? Paul Ryan?) Your nominee for this year’s George Bailey?” — Robert Reich

My response to Robert Reich is not meant to be cynical, but sincere:

If I could find a George Bailey in the group, I’d support him or his sister, Georgia. No one is entirely Mr. Potter. No one is 100% George (not even George was). Remember that George was reluctant and had no ambition to do what he was called to do — — so we might have to draft someone. I’d actually like to see that.”

What if we could find a leader who was truly compassionate, wise, fair, just, conservative about what needs to be conserved, liberal about what needs to be shared, progressive about innovation and progress, regressive about decline, libertarian about personal liberties, utilitarian about necessities, pragmatic and idealistic, optimistic and realistic, firm on non-negotiable things and flexible enough to negotiate wherever possible, friendly and dignified, human but above reproach, honest, but diplomatic, strong yet vulnerable, self abasing yet confident, cheerful yet solemn, appreciative of counterpoints, yet able to make a decision …

and lots more? … Well …

That person might be the Son of God and Son of man and …

He/She/They would probably not want the job, but would consider what he/she was already doing to be more important … and …

Would not look good on camera … and …

Would be torn up by the left media or the right media or the centrist media or all combined … and …

Could not be nominated or elected … and …

Would appeal to virtually no one … and would do nothing to change that image … and

“I knew George Bailey, Senator and you’re no George Bailey …”

Not even George was!

So, given that scenario, let’s just do the best we can, find a human being who can do the best he/she/they can, give him/her/them as much support as we can, pray for that person as much as we can … and realize that’s the way it has always been with leadership: There has never been a perfect leader of any nation … and that includes the best of them.


Reflection on a Reflection by E. Stanley Jones

 
 
When we analyze the program of Jesus, set forth in Luke 4, we find:
 
 1. Good news to the poor -- the economically disinherited.
2. Release to the captives -- the socially and politically disinherited.
3. The opening of the eyes of the blind -- the physically disinherited.
4. The setting at liberty the bruised -- the morally and spiritually disinherited.
5. The Lord's Year of Jubilee -- a new beginning on a world scale.
6. The Spirit of the Lord upon me -- the dynamic behind it all.
From "Christ's Alternative to Communism" by E. Stanley Jones
 
Jones give us a  wonderful reminder of what it means to align with the child in the manger on Christmas morning.
 
To follow this man, Jesus, means to adopt His program, to enter His kingdom as a child by turning from everything else (repentance). When we make that turn, grace and mercy cover every failed attempt we have ever made to make life meaningful or bearable.
 
Every sin is obliterated because He carried this entire program to the final degree of obedience unto death.
 
Following  him  is freedom to bring this same good news of release, sight, liberty, and Jubilee to all for, as the Spirit was upon him, He is with us and within us to accomplish these purposes.
 
Our hearts and our lives are in lockstep with His heart and life for the poor, the captive, the blind, and the bruised.
 
We can change things. We can make a difference. It is not all on any of us, but it is upon us all as one people with Him. We will have multiple failures, disappointments, and quite a few successes .... but the walk behind Him is a walk of grace and joy and peace.
 
Welcome, Jesus! We shall follow you!

Conspiracy of Love

“No other God have I but thee, born in a manger, died on a tree.” — Martin Luther

There is a great deal of toxic conversation in our world today, words devoid of love; quips and snippets absent of grace; toxic thoughts and corrosive undercurrents. But the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light, and the Word, which was from the beginning, life giving and full of grace and truth, has been made flesh and dwelt among us and we have beheld His glory.

The burden of light and love in a dark and loveless place is great, but it is ours to carry and ours to be born anew each day in our hearts. A blessed Christmas with a gentle and heavy-hearted prayer. Let us be people of Word and truth, of light and love, and of grace and peace as we follow the Prince of Peace. Amen

Wrapped in vulnerability,
Love descended …
exposed to the elements …
exposed to threat
and danger …
exposed,
vulnerable,
human …
Love:
Incarnate …
invisible divinity and
visible humanity.
Love …
an open target …
a viable opportunity
to align or malign and yet
Alive!
Very Alive!
Present with us,
Among us,
One of us,
Like us …
in all our infirmity …
every temptation,
every disease,
every emotion,
every pain and passion,
poured upon Love!
Welcome, Jesus!
Welcome, Spirit!
Welcome, Presence and Power of God,
Emptied and embodied in
a body.
We are your body now.
All that you were among us,
We are called to be.
Let us be who you were and let us
give as you gave and let us
speak as you spoke and let us
love as you loved.
You, who are the Prince of Peace have made us …
Peacemakers and called us …
Blessed.
And we are …
Blessed.
Welcome, Lord Jesus.
Welcome to our hearts and lives and
World.
Joy to the World!
The Lord has come.
Let earth receive her King!

To Marvel

“And Joseph and his mother marveled at those things which were spoken of him.” — Luke 2:33

God isn’t calling know-it-alls to play a significant role in His program.

He is not looking for those whose motto is, “Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.”

God is calling men and women who are capable of marveling over that which is marvelous.

“Business and usual” is not in His order of the day. He is full of surprises. The mundane is not His domain; He shakes things up.

When God speaks directly through His prophets to us, His Word goes straight to the heart with recognizable veracity and piercing honesty. We are amazed.

Joseph was a man capable of relishing the marvels of God. He was not jaded by boredom or dulled by cynicism. Joseph was caught completely off guard by the wonder of God’s power and He basked in it.

To marvel at the spoken word means that we have truly received it — deeply and with a willingness to let it shape us. We have rejected the superficial responses that tend to dismiss the unusual as a something merely strange and we have chosen to let God speak.

It is no small thing to receive such a word.

It is no small thing what God wants to do in us, through us, and within proximity of our lives.

When God sends a Simeon or an Anna into our lives, He has a reason. While no human being is capable of a consistently infallible representation of divine will, God is able to speak through the frailest, most errant person to say what we need to hear.

And while we are not witnessing the creation of new scriptures in our time, the Lord is still taking His scriptures and placing them on the lips of men and women He chooses to apply them to our lives in ways that cause us to marvel.

Don’t stop marveling; we serve a marvelous God.

 

We Have Seen a Great Light

Have seen great light

Isaiah 9:2-7

New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition

The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
    on them light has shined.
You have multiplied exultation;
    you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
    as with joy at the harvest,
    as people exult when dividing plunder.
For the yoke of their burden
    and the bar across their shoulders,
    the rod of their oppressor,
    you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For all the boots of the tramping warriors
    and all the garments rolled in blood
    shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
For a child has been born for us,
    a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders,
    and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Great will be his authority,
    and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
    He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
    from this time onward and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Isaiah conveys a word He has received for the people around him who are crushed, broken, despairing of life, depressed, rejected, and oppressed and out of ideas for how to fix things. In a leadership vacuum, they have no voice to call them or unify them. They have known success and seen success depart,. They have had victories without deep satisfaction. They have experienced defeat and they have known slavery. Like many today, the people walked in darkness. Like many today, there is a crying need for light. We hang lights on our trees, but we are called to carry the light on our persons.

Light has come to the world in the person of Emmanuel, God with us, Jesus the Christ. He has saved us and filled us with His own Spirit so that we might carry His light in the world where there is a deep and absent void.

The ABSENT VOID

There is darkness and it cannot be disputed or denied. Nor need we attack it at its roots because its roots are in the absence of light. It is the absence into which light pierces the walls of the void and the result is rejoicing.

What is life like in the Absent Void? The passage tells us it is a dark walk, a death walk, and it is a deafening walk of war.

A. It is a dark walk by definition. It is dark to the mystery to dark to morality. When we are in darkness we are blinded to reality. In fact, just a few minutes ago, in my house, I ran into a wall I did not see and bumped my head. I do not make the best decisions in the dark.

B. It is a death walk. In the shadows of death there is little hope. People walking in darkness experience a despair that is deathly and death is the common denominator of humanity. If there is no intervention of life, death is our permanent outcome and we experience some of it  in the shadows here and now.

C. It is a deafening walk. The KJV translation of v. 5 refers to confused noise in battle. There is so much noise that the ears are deafened to any clear direction. Have you not been deafened by the cacophonies of dissonant battle cries around you so that nothing makes sense at all?

Another way of looking at the void is to create an acronym of it.

It is a V- Vicious darkness.

It is an O- Oppressive darkness.

It is an I - Insidious darkness.

It is a D - Deep darkness, but it can be overcome.

To follow Jesus truly, we must be willing to be present in the absence.

In the Absent Void of darkness comes the ACTIVE VOICE of light.

The ACTIVE VOICE

Light simply and powerfully penetrates darkness and that is that! He comes as a child. He comes to be seen. He comes to break the yoke of oppression. He comes to rule with justice and truth. He speaks through light and that light, according to John 1, is the Light of men. Let's look and word, voice.

A. First, it is V - VICARIOUS by nature. The word is from Latin, vicārius and it means "substituting." The government, which is a heavy weight, lands on His shoulders. He takes on our pain, suffering, and bonds to break them. He enters in to our life with us. Are we willing, as His representatives, to enter into the dark places and bear the suffering of the world to speak and to be?

B. Second, it is O - It is OBVIOUS - it is no secret coming when He enters a space. There is an obvious contrast between light and darkness and people notice. If we are the light of the world in Him, how obvious is our presence?  Do we bring light to darkness just by being their? Does the voice of our lives speak as He did?

I - Third, it is I -It in INVASIVE. Light invades the darkness and He speaks to powers and systems, dismantles the weapon of destruction, liberates the captives, and sets up His rule, not as a mighty warrior, though He is capable, but as a child. Are we willing to be the childlike representatives of His Kingdom to light and speak with a gentle, yet powerful voice the confusion of the battles in our midst?

C - Fourth, it is C - a COMFORTING voice. He is the counselor, comforter, one who walks beside us as Prince of Peace. People do not necessarily understand this peace because it comes as incarnation. The message of the gospel is that those who are redeemed have this Comforter to come and live inside us, transforming the darkness of our interior lives into habitations of peace, joy, light, love, and the Christ Himself who can live in us, with us, and through us. What sort of comforting presence brings peace to the turmoil around us, through us as Jesus lives out His life and speaks His voice through us?

D - Fifth, it is an E - ETERNAL voice. There is no end to His Kingdom. The kingdom of darkness will cease, but the Kingdom of God is forever, embodied in a Child - a child in a manger in Bethlehem. His first whimper was a welcome sound for in His humanity, we discover divinity. He is our connection to eternity. Everything about this baby's life is God speaking to us, calling us, inviting us, living among us, tasting death for us, rising to raise us, and living forever within us. To come to Him like the shepherd and wise men, to welcome Him like Mary and Joseph, to worship Him, and to receive Him and follow Him is life itself and life eternal. It is also the beginning of our mission in the world to carry His presence into the darkness.

Shall we?

 


Away in a Manger

Nativity with Women Attending-Frank Wesley

Attribution - Estate of Frank Wesley, http://www.frankwesleyart.com/main_page.htm

 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. - Luke 2:7 

Everyone knew what a manger was and it was no place for a king. Everyone knew what swaddling clothes were and that they were unfit garb for the Lord of glory. Nor should he have been relegated to a barn.

But they just didn’t understand and we are still having a hard time “getting it.”

“Away in a manger, no crib for a bed.”

This is His poverty, His willing emptying of Himself, His lowliness and love to identify with the least and the lost among us.

No crib -  no bed – no amenities – no sanitized conditions – just a trough where the livestock were fed, just rough clothes to cover Him and keep Him somewhat warm. He became as the lowliest among us.

“The little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head.”

He was there, helpless and sweet, all God and all man, emptied of all the riches and prerogatives that were rightfully His, poor and needy like us. Who couldn’t love such a baby? Who wouldn’t?

“The stars in the sky looked down where He lay.”

No one standing by would have known how all of creation that night was subject to that little bundle of new life. Humanity has no capacity to  notice when millions of angels bow and worship. And yet, it was happening all around them.

“The little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.”

God grant that we not miss Him lying there. May we not overlook Him, take Him for granted, or minimize His importance. He is so easily discarded and disregarded, but He cannot be ultimately ignored.  May your heart today become His manger, your flesh, His swaddling clothes, and your heart like the stars in the sky that bow before Him.

 

 


I Don't Get It

Ospan ali

Photo by OSPAN ALI on Unsplash

There is a lot of "not getting it" going on around us. We cannot show anyone a god made of clay or any other earthly material and say, "Here it is!" Our God is beyond all of that. Our God dwells in eternity and infinity. Our God does whatever our God pleases. That is what defines God. That is what makes God God.

I am sure glad that it pleases God to love us and extend grace to us!

It is not a necessary part of the job description.

It is a choice He chooses.


"Why should the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
Our God is in the heavens;
he does all that he pleases."
-Psalm 115:2-3 ESV


Now, Joseph! Joy to the World

Five Christmas Messages in One from Matthew 1:18-21

Joseph called

Just and Compassionate

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily ... - Matthew 1:18 -19 

If you were about to send your only son to faraway place and could choose a family for him, you would be very careful. God was no less deliberate about His choice for who would raise His Son.

We celebrate Mary who conceived Him by the Holy Spirit and nurtured Him in her womb before giving birth. In Mary were the finest maternal qualities.

But Jesus needed a man to protect Him and guide Him as well and God chose Joseph. First, He arranged the betrothal of Mary and Joseph through Divine providence. Then He kept them apart until He could work a miracle.

Joseph did not live in an age of miracles. The truth is, there has seldom been such a time. Miracles always take people by surprise and require a mind/faith stretch to be embraced. What Joseph did possess was a wonderful combination of integrity and compassion.

He was a just man. It would be no small thing for him to believe that his betrothed wife had been unfaithful to him. He would have been devastated and offended. As a man of honor, he would know that he could not simply overlook such an offense.

But he was also a man of compassion and, while it might have soothed his bruised ego to do so, he was not willing to make a public example of her. By public example, Matthew might have meant anything from humiliation and banishment to death. No more could Joseph turn off his love and compassion than his sense of right and wrong.

Such a man was chosen by God the Father to be a father-figure in the life of His Son. Such a man would model the Law of God and the love of God for the Son of God. Such a man would figure prominently in God’s plan to fill the life and heart of the Holy One who emptied Himself by taking the form of a Servant. Such a man was Joseph.

--------------------------------

Born of the Spirit

“But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. “ –Matthew 1:20

It was the kind of conception that was hard to conceive of. Joseph is silent during this transaction with the angel. No words are recorded. If he spoke, he must have deemed anything he had to say unimportant, because he reported only God’s words through the angel.

For some reason, miracles often evoke fear, perhaps because God voice speaks so powerfully through them and we are overwhelmed by His glory. This was a miracle of reduction. All of God’s glory would be compressed into one tiny little baby and His developing body would be planted into the womb of Mary.

Joseph was asked to come along as a willing and faithful participant in this process, to take Mary as his wife, to exercise restraint and patience, to accept any shame, humiliation, and ridicule that might come his way, and to rejoice with her in what God was doing. He was asked to take a giant step of faith.

People raise their eyebrows at the notion of the Incarnation, but they also turn a skeptical eye toward testimonies of new birth. The church boldly declares that men and women can be born of the Spirit from above and that God can transform the life of the most miserable sinner into the most useful saint. The world scoffs, but the true believer keeps testifying to the power of the miracle. That is because we know it is true. We have experienced it. Like Joseph, we are dumbfounded and receive the gift with joy.


Joy to the world! The Lord has come!
Let every heart prepare Him room.
(Isaac Watts, 1719)

------------------------------

Of the Holy Ghost

But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. - Matthew 1:20

Sometimes it takes a messenger from God, human or angelic to interrupt our thinking and redirect our beliefs so that we can see that the seemingly negative events in our lives are nothing less than something conceived by the Holy Spirit.

Joseph was thinking as a natural man with the information he had and the beliefs that focused his thinking. He was filtering reality through a mindset that had not even considered the possibilities that were about to be revealed to him. As a result, he had come to certain conclusions, made certain decisions, and experienced a range of emotions including fear.

The angel’s message suggests that he might have toyed with the idea of marrying Mary in spite of everything, but fear prevented him. He needed a word from God to give him courage and assurance.

Joseph was thinking. Perhaps he was brooding. He may have been playing various scenarios in his mind, rehearsing his speech, considering and reconsidering his options. He must have been on an emotional roller coaster and had drifted into the oblivion of racing thoughts when waking or sleeping, he saw what he had never seen before – an angel.

Though startled at first, imagine how Joseph must have welcomed the message he received. He could never have hought of it himself. It was like a breath of fresh air, a reprieve from the nightmare of recent days. It was a word of hope. The angel gave him permission to love the girl of his dreams and take her as his wife because the one impossible scenario was actually the truth: God had done this thing. . It was all His doing and it was good.
Is that not what we need to hear in the midst of our despairing conundrums?

We need to know that however convoluted the circumstances and what we believe about them, that the Spirit of the Living God is at work and is working out His eternal purposes.

Embracing that word, we are set free from fear.

-----------------------------------

Call Him Jesus

And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
Call his name, “Jesus.” - Matthew 1:21

It was the core of the angelic message that was delivered to Joseph. Mary would have a son. There were no ultrasound tests in those days that could have predicted gender. Only God could know.

Only God could know the meaning of that life. God knew and shared that knowledge with Joseph through His angel. You will call Him Jesus – not because it was a common name among the sons of Israel; such a designation was not unheard of, but neither was it common. Call Him Jesus – not because it was a family name or because it had a ring to it.

Call Him Jesus, because that name, like His life, like this great event of miraculous conception means something. Of all those who have ever borne the name, He would most embody it and fulfill its promise.

Call Him Jesus because it means that God is Savior and God saves. Call Him Jesus because it for the purpose of saving His people from their sins that He came. Call Him Jesus and never forget that you are part of something greater than your own self interests.

There is no evidence that the angel shouted these words or sang them, but never has there been a more dramatic proclamation in the annals or oratory or a grander crescendo in the history choral repertoire. Thus, whenever we recall them theatrically, homiletically, or musically, it is almost impossible to restrain the enthusiasm.

What God spoke to the disoriented and discouraged Joseph in the dark quiet of that moment has resounded through the ages as great exclamation mark in salvation history.

He shall save His people from their sins!

The experience of Joseph has become our experience and the culmination of its advent, we have come to call, “Christmas.” Our sins, so profound and so hideous with their dire consequences in our lives have met their match in the One we call Jesus.

----------------------------------

Savior

“And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” – Matthew 1:21

The name, Jesus means Yahweh Saves. In a wonderful application of that meaning, the angel informs Joseph of the role of this boy who Mary carried in her womb. His life would be the very saving presence of God among His people.

Let us meditate upon the significance of this coming. The Son of Mary, who is the Son of God, would bear a name that others had borne before. But He would bear it with authority and purpose. Others wore that name as a prophetic reminder, He would be the authentic fulfillment of the promise incarnate.

This salvation that He brings is not from the destructive power of armies or the oppressive arm of dictators. It is from ourselves, our sins, our choices. It is the offering that He brings with His life, death, and resurrection.

Jesus comes to save His people. Joseph, no doubt, heard this as the household of Israel, but God sent His Son to save the whole world. His saving arms are long enough to embrace all people and gather them to Himself. And so, His arms are open to you this day to rescue you from whatever wars against you and to deliver you from your sins.




The Great Expectation

Second coming

Transience and Permanence


“Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” – Matthew 24:35

When I was a child, I believed that our house was the most solid reality in my life. I could not conceive of a time when it did not exist. I certainly could not imagine it ever ceasing to exist. It was so strong, so firm, and warm inside. It was a world unto itself, a place removed from the larger, more threatening environment. It was real.

There was an old oak tree in our backyard, majestic oak, reaching upward beyond any heights I believed I would ever scale. To be as tall as that oak, or at least to sit in its highest branches and look out over creation would have been the grandest of human elevations. When I lay on my back under the summer night sky, gazing into the stars, it was in the shadow of our old oak tree which I believed had much in common with those distant stars.

My house and my oak were sources of strength in my young life until one day the neighbor's house was struck by lightning and burned. Later, our Governor's daughter (and the cousin of my classmates) was struck by lightning on the beach and killed. That year, I watched my father build a room in the attic and with fascination and disappointment I came to know that houses were built with hands and were thus, somewhat artificial, and profoundly vulnerable to forces like lightning, as were people.

But the oak continued to shade us in the summer and shield us in the winter. It was the mightiest oak on our avenue. One day, the old oak was struck by lightning also. It too was vulnerable to the forces of nature. One of its most noble branches was severed and fell upon our house.

Concerned that the old tree might give way in another storm and destroy our house, my parents made plans for its removal. Little did it matter that the oak had been there long before us and had reigned over the neighborhood before it was a neighborhood. It was old and had grown too tall and brittle.

I learned some lessons about transience and permanence through that old tree. Nothing of this earth is permanent. All stability and strength are in God alone.

Jesus was a mighty oak and they chopped Him down, but He stood up again, alive and thriving. His words last; His promises endure; His truth prevails. Nothing can silence Him. He is the temple that was destroyed and rebuilt in three days. He is the Word and He is the only permanence in a transient world.

Expectation

"But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.” Matthew 24:36

We knew she was coming sometime, just not when. We knew that every day brought the visit closer, but we were not certain exactly what day. We cleaned the house once, twice, and then again. Finally, we just got in the habit of keeping it clean. We’d stare out the window and watch, waiting for our great aunt to arrive with gifts and hugs. We were children. Our parents understood the calendar better than we could. We only knew the seasons and it was the right season for a visit.

Don’t be dismayed that God keeps some things secret. He knows better than to entrust us with every detail of His plans. There are some things we simply could not understand if we were told in plain language. He tells us what is necessary and withholds what would breed complacency and contempt for His ways. Not knowing the details of His second coming means that we can live in constant expectancy of His appearing. We wait on tiptoes. We lift our hearts in wonder. Waiting for His redemption gives us a clue as to the spirit of messianic expectation that must have gripped the hearts of the faithful who waited patiently for His first coming.

Shepherds and wise men all eagerly sought word of salvation. While others despaired and resigned themselves to business as usual, there were always those who kept hope alive in their hearts. Our job in our generation is to eagerly seek Him in everything.

Jesus has come and Jesus is coming. Both statements stir the heart and ignite the imagination. Hope, born in the hearts of children, inspires hope in those who are tired of waiting. The call comes rolling down through the centuries. Live in constant expectation and you will never be disappointed.

Matthew 24:32-44
“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. "But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.


Nothing Trivial - December 18 Memories

Abbott
 
Born this day in 1835 – Lyman Abbott, American Congregationalist theologian, editor, and author.
"If I could conceive it possible that this universe were governed by a wisdom no greater than I am able to comprehend, I should not be able to believe in a God of infinite wisdom; for finite wisdom cannot comprehend infinite wisdom."
"Every life is a march from innocence, through temptation, to virtue or vice."
 
"The problem of sin is not to be confounded with the fact of sin. As to the fact, there is no room for question. All the great dramatists have recognized it in their portrayal of remorse, indignation, penalty, repentance, forgiveness, restoration. The great historians have recognized it, in depicting the struggle of righteousness with moral evil. Religious worship is largely founded upon it; for religious worship is largely an endeavor of the worshiper to rid himself of the present burden and the future penalty of sin. All government recognizes it; for certainly the first if not also the chief function of government is to protect the innocent from the sins of the sinful. He who denies the fact of sin denies the police and the prison, the temple and the priest, the battle-field and the martyrdom, Shakespeare and Aeschylus. The problem is not, Is there sin? but, Whence comes it? If we are to cure a disease, we must know its nature and origin. What is the nature and origin of sin, the cure of which is alike the problem of government, education, and religion,— of the courts, the school, and the church?"
 
"God has put His children in the world, as pupils are put in a laboratory, and has set them to work on the great problems of life — Who am I? What does this world mean? Who is over me? What are the laws of the moral life? How must I conduct myself toward my neighbor? How must he conduct himself toward me? What is our future destiny? These problems God has left us to work out for ourselves, by our own quest, under His patient, guiding, inspiring influence. The Bible is a record of man's laboratory work in the spiritual realm, a history of the dawning of the consciousness of God and of the divine life in the soul of man. It contains the story of his spiritual aspirations, his dim, half-seen visions of truth, his fragments of knowledge, his blunders, his struggles with the errors of others, and with his own prejudices."
 
"The Bible always anticipates something higher, larger, nobler than was ever known in the past. When Abraham goes out of the land of paganism to a land he knows not what, he is not called back to Eden. When Moses calls the children of Israel out of the land of Goshen into the Promised Land, it is to a new land that is to be opened up to them; their looking back is continually reprobated and condemned. When the exiles are called out of Babylon, it is not with any conception that the old condition of things is to be restored; it is to a new and larger glory, when " Gentiles shall come to thy light, and the nations to thy rising." When Christ comes, He never bids His disciples look back for the golden age. He tells them of a kingdom to come, not of a kingdom that has been. He tells them that greater works than He has done, His disciples shall do; the future has more for them than the past. Paul never suggests that the race is to go back to Eden, to Isaiah, to David, to Moses. His call is always toward a nobler future. Finally, the last book of the Bible is a prophetic book; the garden it portrays is not the garden of Eden. In this garden of the Apocalypse the very leaves are for the healing of the nations, and the fruit is of many kinds, yielded every month, and all freely to be plucked; and alongside this garden is the great city, the New Jerusalem, the fruit of centuries of Christian civilization."
 
"Vengeance does not satisfy. It sometimes gluts, but it does not satisfy. The duelist, angered by insult or wrong, challenges his enemy to a duel, runs his sword through the body of his opponent, leaves the life-blood oozing out of his arteries, wipes his sword, and walks off in the brightness of the morning. Satisfied? Never! Nemesis follows him; the vision is ever before his eyes; he has taken his vengeance, and the vengeance itself nestles in his heart and breeds future penalty."
 
"Nothing is trivial to God which is of consequence to us. He is not so absorbed with the affairs of state that he can give no time or thought to the minor concerns of his children's life."

 

“And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest.” – Psalm 55:6

It was November 21, 1783 in Paris, France. Physicist Jean Francois Pilatre de Rozier and the Marquis d'Arlandes fulfilled the dreams of generations when they became the first humans to fly.

Rising to a height of 3000 feet, they drifted for 25 minutes before landing 5 miles from where they started in a hot air balloon.

For as long as human memory has been recorded, men and women have admired the great birds of the sky and wondered what it would be like to soar above the clouds.

Helen Keller said, “One cannot consent to creep when one has an impulse to soar.”

The psalmist mused about the possibility of soaring above the cares of life, above his circumstances, and above his limitations until he came to a place of rest and fulfillment.

Soon after the Paris flight, ballooning became a popular recreation. Yet still today, it is cause for amazement and imagination. To fly away and see our little worlds below from the vantage of eternity is a longing that God has placed in our hearts. To rise above our impossibilities is a God-shaped and God-sized dream.

Where places a longing, God plants the possibility and the power within us. He has not made us to be ordinary, sedentary, or earth-bound. He has made us to soar.


https://www.history.co.uk/this-day-in-history/21-november/first-balloon-flight-over-paris

https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/term/BIOG137377

https://www.thisdayinaviation.com/tag/jean-francois-pilatre-de-rozier/

First flight

/> /> />  

“Deus creator omnium.”
“God, creator of all things.”
-St.Augustine
 
 

 

 


My Spirit Rejoices

The Serious Business of Heaven

“… my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…” – Luke 1:47

This morning’s message is more celebration than it is instruction.

It is a celebration of joy and a call to rejoicing.

The call to action is to rejoice always.

Rejoice always in the character of God, the call of God, and the confidence we have in God’s salvation.

Mary rejoiced and echoed Isaiah 61:1-4a, 8-11 (New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition):

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me
    because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
    to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and release to the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
    to comfort all who mourn,
to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
    to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
    the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.
They shall build up the ancient ruins;
    they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
    the devastations of many generations.
 

For I, the Lord, love justice,
    I hate robbery and wrongdoing;
I will faithfully give them their recompense,
    and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
Their descendants shall be known among the nations
    and their offspring among the peoples;
all who see them shall acknowledge
    that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed.
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord;
    my whole being shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
    he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland
    and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth brings forth its shoots
    and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
    to spring up before all the nations.

C.S. Lewis said, “Joy is the serious business of heaven.”

We see Mary rejoicing as she prepares for the birth of this son who will bring the day of God’s glory and redemption.

She is prophetic in her utterance and passionate in her joy.

Her spirit rejoices because she has been chosen to be an instrument of God’s peace. She rejoiced because she will join those who are called “oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, to display his glory.” – Isaiah 61:3b

To be an instrument of God, like Mary, is to be among those who ...

shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.” – Isaiah 61:4

Today, we walk among the ruins. We weep over the broken cities. We cry on behalf of the devastation in our world.

But, if we will embrace the joy of purpose, the power of Advent, and the message of God’s intervention we can be among those who rebuild, restore, and repair.

Mary rejoiced and all of those who embrace the wonder of being chosen by God have reason to rejoice in their spirits.

“I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” – Isaiah 61:10

"The LORD has done great things for us, and we rejoiced." – Psalm 126:3

"My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed.
for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”
– Luke 1:46b-49

"Rejoice always." – I Thessalonians 5:16

Paul describes a life of rejoicing in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 (New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition)

  • Rejoice always, 
  • pray without ceasing, 
  • give thanks in all circumstances,
  • for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 
  • Do not quench the Spirit. 
  • Do not despise prophecies, 
  • but test everything;
  • hold fast to what is good; 
  • abstain from every form of evil.

 May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.

It is instructional and it speaks to the everyday business of living prophetically with the Spirit of the Lord upon us.

As we are sanctified, joy flows more freely. We are in a constant conversation with God. We are perpetually thankful. We stop resisting the Spirit. We embrace words from God, but we are wise and discerning. We cling to the good and push away the evil.

We abide under God’s benediction.

Let us return to Mary’s song of praise at the beginning of her mission, reflecting that of Isaiah and later, of her son, Jesus.

Luke 1:46-55 (New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition)

And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
    and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowly state of his servant.
    Surely from now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name;
indeed, his mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones
    and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things
    and sent the rich away empty.
He has come to the aid of his child Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
    to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

These verse ooze joy.

They caress the bliss of being filled with the presence of God and commissioned for a purpose greater than ourselves.

They announce the goodness of God who can topple the powerful and lift the lowly, who fills the hungry and sends the rich away empty, a God who turns the tables, rights wrongs, loves the humble, restores the broken, forgives the sinner, has merc y on the fallen, and keeps every promise.

This is our God. Mary carries his Son in her womb. Isaiah carried his word in his mouth. Jesus embodied all the fullness of the Godhead in himself according to Paul in Colossians.

Let us commit to do the deeds that cause God’s heart to rejoice that we might rejoice with God.

Isaiah tells us of God’s joy in verses 8-11.

God loves the people that he blesses with a covenant relationship. Since we are under the new covenant, that means all people are intended to be included.

God loves justice.

For I, the Lord, love justice,
    I hate robbery and wrongdoing;
 

God delights in seeing people treated fairly, with equity, compassion, dignity, and respect.

We share in God’s joy when we love God completely and our neighbors as ourselves.

God loves the people that he blesses with a covenant relationship. Since we are under the new covenant, that means all people are intended to be included.

I will faithfully give them their recompense,
    and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
Their descendants shall be known among the nations
    and their offspring among the peoples;
all who see them shall acknowledge
    that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed.

 So, God rejoices in the special relationship that he has with all who come to him by faith, respond to the divine call, and enter the fold.

Then, God rejoicing in bestowing salvation to people who learn to rejoice for that reason.

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord;
    my whole being shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
    he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland
    and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

 These are clothed in garments of salvation.

These are made righteous and appear in robes of righteousness before God’s throne

These are adorned with garlands and jewels,

We come before God dressed up for a festive occasion. We are prepared by grace for a grand celebration.

Finally, God rejoices when this message of joy, reconciliation, redemption, righteousness, justice, mercy, and peace is proclaimed. As it is proclaimed, it bears fruit.

As it bears fruit, righteousness and praise spring up before all the nations.

For as the earth brings forth its shoots
    and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
    to spring up before all the nations.

The call to action is to rejoice always.

Let us take the benediction of Paul to the Thessalonians and make it ours today.

May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.

Amen.


My Spirit Rejoices - Text Only

 Text Only Version

“… my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…” – Luke 1:47

This morning’s message is more celebration than it is instruction.

It is a celebration of joy and a call to rejoicing.

The call to action is to rejoice always.

Rejoice always in the character of God, the call of God, and the confidence we have in God’s salvation.

Mary rejoiced and echoed Isaiah 61:1-4a, 8-11 (New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition):

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me
    because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
    to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and release to the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
    to comfort all who mourn,
to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
    to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
    the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.
They shall build up the ancient ruins;
    they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
    the devastations of many generations.
 

For I, the Lord, love justice,
    I hate robbery and wrongdoing;
I will faithfully give them their recompense,
    and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
Their descendants shall be known among the nations
    and their offspring among the peoples;
all who see them shall acknowledge
    that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed.
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord;
    my whole being shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
    he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland
    and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth brings forth its shoots
    and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
    to spring up before all the nations.

C.S. Lewis said, “Joy is the serious business of heaven.”

We see Mary rejoicing as she prepares for the birth of this son who will bring the day of God’s glory and redemption.

She is prophetic in her utterance and passionate in her joy.

Her spirit rejoices because she has been chosen to be an instrument of God’s peace. She rejoiced because she will join those who are called “oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, to display his glory.” – Isaiah 61:3b

To be an instrument of God, like Mary, is to be among those who ...

shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.” – Isaiah 61:4

Today, we walk among the ruins. We weep over the broken cities. We cry on behalf of the devastation in our world.

But, if we will embrace the joy of purpose, the power of Advent, and the message of God’s intervention we can be among those who rebuild, restore, and repair.

Mary rejoiced and all of those who embrace the wonder of being chosen by God have reason to rejoice in their spirits.

“I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” – Isaiah 61:10

"The LORD has done great things for us, and we rejoiced." – Psalm 126:3

"My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed.
for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”
– Luke 1:46b-49

"Rejoice always." – I Thessalonians 5:16

Paul describes a life of rejoicing in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 (New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition)

  • Rejoice always, 
  • pray without ceasing, 
  • give thanks in all circumstances,
  • for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 
  • Do not quench the Spirit. 
  • Do not despise prophecies, 
  • but test everything;
  • hold fast to what is good; 
  • abstain from every form of evil.

 May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.

It is instructional and it speaks to the everyday business of living prophetically with the Spirit of the Lord upon us.

As we are sanctified, joy flows more freely. We are in a constant conversation with God. We are perpetually thankful. We stop resisting the Spirit. We embrace words from God, but we are wise and discerning. We cling to the good and push away the evil.

We abide under God’s benediction.

Let us return to Mary’s song of praise at the beginning of her mission, reflecting that of Isaiah and later, of her son, Jesus.

Luke 1:46-55 (New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition)

And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
    and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowly state of his servant.
    Surely from now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name;
indeed, his mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones
    and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things
    and sent the rich away empty.
He has come to the aid of his child Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
    to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

These verse ooze joy.

They caress the bliss of being filled with the presence of God and commissioned for a purpose greater than ourselves.

They announce the goodness of God who can topple the powerful and lift the lowly, who fills the hungry and sends the rich away empty, a God who turns the tables, rights wrongs, loves the humble, restores the broken, forgives the sinner, has merc y on the fallen, and keeps every promise.

This is our God. Mary carries his Son in her womb. Isaiah carried his word in his mouth. Jesus embodied all the fullness of the Godhead in himself according to Paul in Colossians.

Let us commit to do the deeds that cause God’s heart to rejoice that we might rejoice with God.

Isaiah tells us of God’s joy in verses 8-11.

God loves the people that he blesses with a covenant relationship. Since we are under the new covenant, that means all people are intended to be included.

God loves justice.

For I, the Lord, love justice,
    I hate robbery and wrongdoing;
 

God delights in seeing people treated fairly, with equity, compassion, dignity, and respect.

We share in God’s joy when we love God completely and our neighbors as ourselves.

God loves the people that he blesses with a covenant relationship. Since we are under the new covenant, that means all people are intended to be included.

I will faithfully give them their recompense,
    and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
Their descendants shall be known among the nations
    and their offspring among the peoples;
all who see them shall acknowledge
    that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed.

 So, God rejoices in the special relationship that he has with all who come to him by faith, respond to the divine call, and enter the fold.

Then, God rejoicing in bestowing salvation to people who learn to rejoice for that reason.

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord;
    my whole being shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
    he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland
    and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

 These are clothed in garments of salvation.

These are made righteous and appear in robes of righteousness before God’s throne

These are adorned with garlands and jewels,

We come before God dressed up for a festive occasion. We are prepared by grace for a grand celebration.

Finally, God rejoices when this message of joy, reconciliation, redemption, righteousness, justice, mercy, and peace is proclaimed. As it is proclaimed, it bears fruit.

As it bears fruit, righteousness and praise spring up before all the nations.

For as the earth brings forth its shoots
    and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
    to spring up before all the nations.

The call to action is to rejoice always.

Let us take the benediction of Paul to the Thessalonians and make it ours today.

May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.

Amen.


Strengthen What Remains

Strengthen what remains


Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. -Revelation 3:2 

Harry was discouraged. He fostered such high hopes for progress when he began his life of discipleship. Along the way, he had not met all of his goals. He had experienced the limitations of the flesh and had felt the sting of rebuke. Now, as he evaluated his spiritual progress, all he saw was regress. He had the right answers. On the outside, he seemed like an ideal Christian. On the inside, he was spiritually dead and emotionally drained.

"What's the use?" he muttered as he threw up his hands in despair.

Then for some reason, he began reading the book of Revelation. His eyes fell upon these words of Jesus to a church whose spiritual condition sounded much like his own. Sardis looked alive on the outside but was dead on the inside. Jesus' words to that church spoke to that glimmer of spiritual life in Harry's heart.

"Be watchful .."

Harry had to admit that he had not been paying much attention to his spiritual life. His personal devotions were routine if present at all. He was too busy to be watchful. The words of Jesus were a wake-up call to his heart.

"… strengthen the things which remain…"

There was a spark still flickering in his heart. Harry sensed that God was calling him to fan it into a flame, to build on his strengths, and trust him for the rest.

" …that are ready to die …"

He understood that this was a serious matter - that he could lose whatever spiritual vitality he had. He was not willing to let go of his relationship with Jesus, no matter how casual it had been.

When setbacks come, the Satan tempts us to retreat farther. He lies to us and tells us that there is no more to lose. Jesus says to strengthen what remains and be faithful to him amidst the rubble of our failures. He makes the promise to overcomers that they can wear white garments of righteous servants. Harry decided that day to become an overcomer. What will you decide?

 

 


The Power of Purpose

Jamie-street-_94HLr_QXo8-unsplash

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

There is some satisfaction in a self-centered life.

Some.

Fleeting.

There is some gratification in self-serving deeds.

While we can still taste the thrill.
And until it is gone.

But a year from now, it is gone.
A month from now, we have forgotten the flavor.
We have lost the feeling.

A moment from now, we want more.

Build a house for a higher purpose.
Build a place where inhabitants of earth can meet with divinity.
Build a cause that gathers a community and makes them brothers and sister.
Build a movement.
The satisfaction lasts.
The gratification endures.

Haggai, what do you mean about our paneled houses and our gardens?
What are you saying about our luxuries and leisure?

The prophet is pleading and exhorting us to bring our devotion to a higher calling.

Losing oneself in a greater purpose is finding oneself.
Investing time in eternity is multiplying time.
Joining hands with neighbor, friend, and stranger to make a place of meeting is an enduring thrill.
Beyond thrill.

A purposeful life is a real life.

Find it and live it!

#purpose #satisfaction #significance #meaning #meaningless #futility

 


First Love

Ephesus

First Love

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.   For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” -  I John 2:15-16

 “Nevertheless, I have somewhat against thee because thou hast left thy first love. “- Revelation 2:4

First loves must remain pure and focused regardless of our lack of focus and propensity for clutter.

We are so easily distracted as we chase thrills and new experiences. But it is not a wider experience, we need as much as a deeper one. Loving the world may seem to broaden us, but it is a false love and poor substitute for our first love.

We need to return to our love relationship with Jesus Christ. We can grow deeper in love, but we can never grow deeper than love.

Lord Jesus may Your love flow through me today and back to You. I am incapable of the love that You deserve, but Your love within me and through me is all I need to draw me closer to You.

Leaving Love Behind

... and Returning

"Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent." - Revelation 2:5

There is but one remedy for those who have lost the zeal of their love relationship with God. It is found in the process of remembering, repenting, and resuming.

An entire body of believers had to be corrected by the Master – not for overt sin or immoral activity.

Their departure was far greater and more dramatic.

While going through the meticulous motions of religious living, they had forgotten why they were doing so.

They had left their first love behind.

Love was, is, and always will be, the standard, the goal, the aim, and the full meaning of our moments.

 

 


First Love

Ephesus

First Love

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.   For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” -  I John 2:15-16

 “Nevertheless, I have somewhat against thee because thou hast left thy first love. “- Revelation 2:4

First loves must remain pure and focused regardless of our lack of focus and propensity for clutter.

We are so easily distracted as we chase thrills and new experiences. But it is not a wider experience, we need as much as a deeper one. Loving the world may seem to broaden us, but it is a false love and poor substitute for our first love.

We need to return to our love relationship with Jesus Christ. We can grow deeper in love, but we can never grow deeper than love.

Lord Jesus may Your love flow through me today and back to You. I am incapable of the love that You deserve, but Your love within me and through me is all I need to draw me closer to You.

Leaving Love Behind

... and Returning

"Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent." - Revelation 2:5

There is but one remedy for those who have lost the zeal of their love relationship with God. It is found in the process of remembering, repenting, and resuming.

An entire body of believers had to be corrected by the Master – not for overt sin or immoral activity.

Their departure was far greater and more dramatic.

While going through the meticulous motions of religious living, they had forgotten why they were doing so.

They had left their first love behind.

Love was, is, and always will be, the standard, the goal, the aim, and the full meaning of our moments.

 

 


What John Saw on Patmos

Nicolas Poussin - Landscape with Saint John on Patmos

HIS RIGHT HAND

“And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead, and He laid His right hand upon me, saying unto me, ‘Fear not …” Revelation 1:17a

In a moment of profound confusion, possible terror, and overwhelming spiritual awe, for John, Jesus places His hand on him with reassuring intensity. All over the world where the gospel had been spread and believers gathered, there was severe persecution. Old now, John had been relegated to a place of exile. He was no stranger to trouble, no coward in the face of danger, and not a man to be shocked by anything God could or would do. However, this experience of seeing Jesus in all His glory was enough to knock Him over as a dead man.

It is not said, but one might wonder if John had grown dismayed, discouraged, or disillusioned amid suffering and seeming chaos. Had he grown weary in waiting for the promises of redemption from this world of sin? Certainly, he had remained faithful to his calling and steadfast in his faith, but had his confidence wavered? We may not know about John, but we can know about ourselves. Have you ever needed the boost that comes from a reminder of God’s presence? Have you ever been at that place where you just wanted to know that God had not abandoned you?

The whole church was there, and Jesus chose to speak to and through John and He placed his right hand upon him. Whatever John may have lacked in confidence, the right hand of fellowship restored. Whatever may have faded in faith was revived by His touch. Whatever seemed far removed and unapproachable in the vision of the exalted Christ was made intimately present through the personal reach of the crucified, risen Savior, who laid His hand upon an old friend with the compassion words, “Fear not.”

And so He comes to you and to me, dear friend, amid the noise of confusion and the beating waves of doubt an anxiety. His words speak truth and courage to our hearts, but it is His touch that is life giving and life affirming, Fear not!


FEAR NOT

“… Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am He that liveth and was dead; and, behold; I am alive forever more, Amen, and I have the keys of hell and death.” – Revelation 1:17b-18

At the start of Jesus’ earthly life the angel brings the same message to the shepherds that the resurrected glorified Christ gives to John on the Isle of Patmos, “Fear not.” He, who is the first and last, has the first and last word in this mater. We are not called to fear, but to faith. We are not designed for timidity, but for courage. We are not relegated to lives of restless anxiety, but to confidence in a Lord who surrounds times and envelops space, One whose purposes are eternal and whose promises endure forever.

He is indeed the first and the last. Nothing preempts His preeminence in all things. In the beginning, He is God. In the end, He is God. He created history and He will sum it up in the final analysis.

It would be enough to know that He is eternal, but He became temporal flesh and blood for us. We can expel fear because He faced our deepest fears in His own body. Death, our old nemesis, has stalked us through all of our years. He turned to death as if to say, “Just try to take me. Give it your best shot.”

And He died – horribly, as hideously as possible, but even in death, He had the last word, “It is finished!”

Sometimes you feel locked in and the walls seem to be caving in on you. Sometimes you feel locked out, unable to enter the place of security and joy. Whether you feel locked in or out, fearful of the unknown, apprehensive of the future, regretful of the past, I have good news for you. The keeper of the keys is extending one hand to you and dangling the keys to all the great mysteries and eternity itself in the other. Death and hell are in His hand. He has been there to release the captives and all we must do is follow Him.

But that is not all. He is alive forevermore demonstrating that death is not final for one who believes with heart and life in the Lord of life. But even that is not all – for even if we were to conquer the fear of death, there would be eternity to contend with.

And to that anxiety, Jesus exclaims, “Fear not … I have the keys.”

GRACE, MY FEARS RELIEVED


And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: - Revelation 1:17


For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. – Romans 8:15

It is not enough to learn to fear. Once we have learned the hard lesson of reverence, grace relieves our fears and comforts our troubled, weary souls.

First, we fall as dead before His magnificence; then He touches us in compassion and commands us to fear not.

First we go down into Egypt and experience bondage. There we learn to know Him and in the wilderness, we learn His Name. We are slaves to sin and then to the law, but we are redeemed and released. And we are adopted. And in that adoption we learn to cry, “Abba.”

Bondage brings fear and God uses the bondage of the law as a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. Bondage informs us of what we are missing because our longings become the pangs of want. Somewhere in the process of learning fear, we come to grips with the deepest desire of our hearts. If we are honest and open, we realize that our desire is for God who alone can meet our needs and grant us redemption and freedom.

Grace taught my heart to fear and my fears relieved many years ago. Yet, I must return to that turning point again and again, sometimes in the singing of the song of Amazing Grace. There I remember. In that moment, I give thanks. In those chords I am realigned with his purposes communicated through His loving kindness which is better than life.

Grace, my fears relieved. I cannot begin to describe the relief, the pure, sure calm that has come over my soul. That can be yours as well.


ALIVE FOR EVERMORE


“I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.” – Revelation 1:18

See Jesus. He stands before you with outstretched, nail-pierced hands and declares, “I am alive,” and you know that His life is the most profound reality in the universe.

“I was dead,” He continues, and you know that it is over. Death has been stared down and has been the first to blink.

Been there; done that – as the colloquialism goes.

And death is done. You have to choose death now to die forever. Yet, people choose death every day. They choose death by rejecting the life of grace that is freely offered. Through sin, we have all made the choice against life.

Sin is not defined by a list of unacceptable behaviors. Those are the symptoms of sin. Sin is staring at the One who is alive and was dead and then, turning away. It is trying to snatch the keys from His hand, to sneak in the back door, or to create our own religion of self-sufficiency. Sin is kidding ourselves by calling death, life. Sin is rejecting the One who holds the keys.

Easter is about Jesus standing before us still. He holds the keys in His wounded hands and rattles them as an invitation to life. They are engraved with the words, “Do not copy” and they cannot be copied. They are the originals no imitations will open the doors of death and hell. He is alive for evermore and deeply desires to make us alive with Him.

Worship Him today by acknowledging His unique and exclusive right and power to bring life. Trust Him. Follow Him. Invite Him to rule within your heart. He is Lord.

-----------------------------------

Art: Niccolò Possino, 1594-1665, Landscape of John on Patmos


Why You Might Try a New Translation this Year

Collection_of_Bibles_and_New_Testaments

Norbert Kiss (User: Eino81) 

After listening to Matthew in the New Living Translation. Listening to the bible is a valuable experience because we hear the words the way most of the early Jews and Christians heard them - orally.

Switching translations jars our preconceptions and forces us to hear it like it is fresh news, something we have never heard before --- Good News! Gospel!

I confess that after some months in the Hebrew scriptures, which were exciting, the Advent message of Matthew's gospel was nothing short of exhilarating! Absolutely Exhilarating !

A grand crescendo followed by a great commissioning!

I kept hearing themes.

The Hebrew Scriptures: Stop chasing other gods. Love me; serve me; treat people well with justice and mercy. I have done much for you. I love you, but you keep forgetting me. I will deal harshly with you if necessary to bring you back to me. I am really disgusted with the way you are treating people and getting infatuated with religious practices that distort truth and inflict pain on humanity like sacrificing babies.

Please give me some indication of a change of mind and heart so I do not have to bring you back through judgment ... anything, even a hint and I will relent. I cannot let all this injustice continue, but I will never forget or forsake you and by the way, you exist to extend my reach to all the nations. Bring all humanity to me so that you may worship me and enjoy my presence together.

Matthew's Gospel: Jesus pops up in history as an unlikely person in an unlikely time under unlikely circumstances and yet, at the right time, place, and situation to say: God is present with you. Stop complicating things. Stop looking for loopholes and start loving God and your neighbor. Everything commanded leads to that so, stop twisting the commands so that they mean something else. Get back to basics: Love God. Love others. Watch me and follow me and I will show you how. I give my life for you and I give life to you. If you have messed up, and you have, I will bring you God's forgiveness. You are not stuck with the old life. Turn around and follow me and invite others to come along as well. I'll be with you all the way.


Reconstructing Faith from the Ground Up

Reconstructing Faith

Comfort Ye My People

“Comfort ye my people …” - Isaiah 40:1-8

 



 God speaks in advance of our need. He looks down the road and knows what we are going to face. He sees the challenges before we do. He experiences our pain before it ever comes to us. He understands our sorrows and frustrations. He anticipates our doubts and every temptation we will ever face.

He knows there will come a time when we need a word of comfort.

He knew such a time would come for His people and prompted Isaiah to comfort them. He knew that in the fullness of time that word of comfort would come as the Word made flesh and dwelling among us. Try to hear these words from Isaiah 40 sung by soloist in Handel’s “Messiah” as you read them and experience them as a love song from the Father.

Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.

It is God Himself who speaks the word of comfort through Jesus Christ. He speaks and we echo His Word to a world in turmoil,

Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem,

His voice is gentle and comforting in Christ. We are to speak that same comfort to His people with gentle strength and quiet confidence. 

… and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished,

It is the cessation of hostilities. The war is over. We don’t have to fight for our salvation. He has come in person and freely offers His peace.

that her iniquity is pardoned …

God has taken the initiative to forgive, to heal the breach, to restore His people. What a privilege it is to announce pardon to those who will receive the message.

… The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

Let us join the company of those who proclaim His coming. Let us not miss the opportunity this Christmas season. The world is hurting and listening. Let us be speaking comfort.

-----------------------

Now, let us hear a comforting word:

 


Reconstructing Faith from the Ground Up

Reconstructing Faith

Comfort Ye My People

“Comfort ye my people …” - Isaiah 40:1-8

 God speaks in advance of our need. He looks down the road and knows what we are going to face. He sees the challenges before we do. He experiences our pain before it ever comes to us. He understands our sorrows and frustrations. He anticipates our doubts and every temptation we will ever face.

He knows there will come a time when we need a word of comfort.

He knew such a time would come for His people and prompted Isaiah to comfort them. He knew that in the fullness of time that word of comfort would come as the Word made flesh and dwelling among us. Try to hear these words from Isaiah 40 sung by soloist in Handel’s “Messiah” as you read them and experience them as a love song from the Father.

Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.

It is God Himself who speaks the word of comfort through Jesus Christ. He speaks and we echo His Word to a world in turmoil,

Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem,

His voice is gentle and comforting in Christ. We are to speak that same comfort to His people with gentle strength and quiet confidence. 

… and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished,

It is the cessation of hostilities. The war is over. We don’t have to fight for our salvation. He has come in person and freely offers His peace.

that her iniquity is pardoned …

God has taken the initiative to forgive, to heal the breach, to restore His people. What a privilege it is to announce pardon to those who will receive the message.

… The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

Let us join the company of those who proclaim His coming. Let us not miss the opportunity this Christmas season. The world is hurting and listening. Let us be speaking comfort.

-----------------------

Now, let us hear a comforting word:

 


Seeking to Love

"Oh Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek ... to be loved as to love."

Seeking to love

It seems easy, God,
Until I try.
Maybe I am not aware of how much I seek to be loved.
Maybe I am not aware of how insecure I can be and vulnerable ...
And needy:
To be regarded, respected, and renowned ...
To be chosen and cherished ...
To be welcomed and warmed ...
To be a friend ...
But, Aha! Lord ...
There is my choice: to BE a friend is to be and to act and to serve
LIKE A FRIEND.
If I seek it, I will be it.
If I seek to love, I will love.
Grant that I will reject reciprocity in this matter and think nothing of ...
Quid Pro Quo ...
Teach me to love by loving through me.
Teach me to love by knowing again and again and again, how deep,
How wide,
How long,
How long-suffering,
How patient is Your love for me and that ...
It is all I need.
So, filled with love, I can give love.
In the Name of the Lord of Love,
Amen.

 


Nothing Is Impossible

Nothing is impossible advent day 3

With God, nothing is impossible.

Advent Readings for Day 3.

Another Thought for Today

We are not on a roller-coaster ride into a predetermined future; we are laborers together with God, charting & implementing tomorrow.

As a leader, I do not have all the answers, just more questions, which I raise than most folks. That can be annoying.

We make up news & believe what fits our favorite narrative; we selectively read history & tirelessly reject logic. We are citizens.

Life is a gift from God - all life at all stages of life. Let us be consistent in our embrace of life and protection of life now and future.

We have entered a era when people are going to be mad at us from all sides if we speak truth. Let us continue to do so in love.

We are come to a time when, if we truly seek and speak truth, it will challenge all of our cliches and many of our core beliefs.

We have had days of lament and that may continue, but Advent cries out to us to introduce HOPE into the equation and that calls for action.

While the ultimate destination is in the hands of God, our proximate destinations are in our hands as we cooperate with His purposes.

The prophetic voice of the church is not in for a time of relaxation. We have much work to do. But the gospel is the power of God.

We have done and anticipate doing so many things that destroy life. Can these be done and we call ourselves pro-life?

Is it pro-life to destroy a life-giving environment for future generations of unborn children?

On this first Sunday of Advent, we start at the culmination of history to see where we are going. We emphasize the Second Coming.

We get very disappointed in our governments because we expect them to save us. There is much that they can do ... just not the most important things.

"Put not your trust in princes,
in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
When this breath departs, he returns to the earth;
on that very day his plans perish." - Ps 146:3-4

 


God's Kingdom has come. Advent, Day 2

God Is Painting
 
In all these readings, when I read them together, I sense a thread, a theme, and a word of encouragement.  All of these gather around a big idea of identity that is declared by God, shaped by God, flavored by our influences, and resistant to anything anyone else can say about it.
 
It is unrestricted and guided by an unseen hand.
 
It cannot be stifled or extinguished by external forces.
 
Trees are planted by rivers and deeply rooted.
 
Those who are rooted by God, take refuge in God and are undisturbed by the raging of nations.
 
Adversaries do not matter. They cannot change our essential identity in God, for, in God we rest.
 
When external forces challenge our calling and seek to oppress, as they did in Amos' day, the people of God stand fast and firm.
 
We respond, as Peter admonished us, by working on our inner lives and allowing what is spiritually real to be worked out in our lifestyles. We are assured of God's peace and our place in God's Kingdom in Christ.
 
And through it all, as an overriding vision, we still see the Messiah, riding through the streets of the City of God, on a donkey.
 
And we know that  God's Kingdom has come.
 
Kingdom come
 
Psalm 1
Beatus vir qui non abiit
 
Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked, *
nor lingered in the way of sinners,
nor sat in the seats of the scornful!
 
Their delight is in the law of the Lord, *
and they meditate on his law day and night.
 
They are like trees planted by streams of water,
bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither; *
everything they do shall prosper.
 
It is not so with the wicked; *
they are like chaff which the wind blows away.
 
Therefore the wicked shall not stand upright when judgment comes, *
nor the sinner in the council of the righteous.
 
For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, *
but the way of the wicked is doomed.
 
Psalm 2
Quare fremuerunt gentes?
 
Why are the nations in an uproar? *
Why do the peoples mutter empty threats?
 
Why do the kings of the earth rise up in revolt,
and the princes plot together, *
against the Lord and against his Anointed?
 
“Let us break their yoke,” they say; *
“let us cast off their bonds from us.”
 
He whose throne is in heaven is laughing; *
the Lord has them in derision.
 
Then he speaks to them in his wrath, *
and his rage fills them with terror.
 
“I myself have set my king *
upon my holy hill of Zion.”
 
Let me announce the decree of the Lord: *
he said to me, “You are my Son;
this day have I begotten you.
 
Ask of me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance *
and the ends of the earth for your possession.
 
You shall crush them with an iron rod *
and shatter them like a piece of pottery.”
 
And now, you kings, be wise; *
be warned, you rulers of the earth.
 
Submit to the Lord with fear, *
and with trembling bow before him;
 
Lest he be angry and you perish; *
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
 
Happy are they all *
who take refuge in him!
 
Psalm 3
Domine, quid multiplicati
 
Lord, how many adversaries I have! *
how many there are who rise up against me!
 
How many there are who say of me, *
“There is no help for him in his God.”
 
But you, O Lord, are a shield about me; *
you are my glory, the one who lifts up my head.
 
I call aloud upon the Lord, *
and he answers me from his holy hill;
 
I lie down and go to sleep; *
I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.
 
I do not fear the multitudes of people *
who set themselves against me all around.
 
Rise up, O Lord; set me free, O my God; *
surely, you will strike all my enemies across the face,
you will break the teeth of the wicked.
 
Deliverance belongs to the Lord. *
Your blessing be upon your people!
 
Amos 2:6-16
Thus says the Lord: For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment; because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals-- they who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth, and push the afflicted out of the way; father and son go in to the same girl, so that my holy name is profaned; they lay themselves down beside every altar on garments taken in pledge; and in the house of their God they drink wine bought with fines they imposed. Yet I destroyed the Amorite before them, whose height was like the height of cedars, and who was as strong as oaks; I destroyed his fruit above, and his roots beneath. Also I brought you up out of the land of Egypt, and led you forty years in the wilderness, to possess the land of the Amorite. And I raised up some of your children to be prophets and some of your youths to be nazirites. Is it not indeed so, O people of Israel? says the Lord. But you made the nazirites drink wine, and commanded the prophets, saying, "You shall not prophesy." So, I will press you down in your place, just as a cart presses down when it is full of sheaves. Flight shall perish from the swift, and the strong shall not retain their strength, nor shall the mighty save their lives; those who handle the bow shall not stand, and those who are swift of foot shall not save themselves, nor shall those who ride horses save their lives; and those who are stout of heart among the mighty shall flee away naked in that day, says the Lord.
 
2 Peter 1:1-11
Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith as precious as ours through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: May grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants of the divine nature. For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love. For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For anyone who lacks these things is nearsighted and blind, and is forgetful of the cleansing of past sins. Therefore, brothers and sisters, be all the more eager to confirm your call and election, for if you do this, you will never stumble. For in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly provided for you.
 
Matthew  21:1-11
When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, "Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, 'The Lord needs them.' And he will send them immediately. " This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, "Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey." The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!" When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, "Who is this?" The crowds were saying, "This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee."
 


 
 

Rend the Heavens and Have Thine Own Way

Potter and clay advent

“O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence-- as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil-- to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence! When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.”- Isaiah 64:1-3

In some place deep in our hearts, we know that God’s will is best.

We understand that God knows more, and God knows best. We understand that we do not understand. We are settled on the idea that God is God, and we are not God, individually or collectively.

God is a potter fashioning the universe and us, within that universe, into something useful, usable, and beautiful.

We long for the divine will to be done in some ways that make us unsatisfied with anything less. We want it now; we want it in the resolution of history; we want it for eternity.

Isaiah’s heart longed for God’s presence to be known and acknowledged. With this movement of God, the prophet knew there would be justice, righteousness, and a rectification of wrongs.

For the Christian, this comes, in fullness in the Second appearing of Christ at the end of the present age. It is the hope that is the longing expressed every first Sunday of Advent.

It also comes whenever and however God shows up in our lives and circumstances.

It is a wonder beyond comprehension or description.

“From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him.” – Isaiah 64:4 (NRSVU)

Sin is that part of our nature that resists the deepest desires for God’s will and purpose. Sin resists God’s love, God’s grace, God’s mercy, and God’s sovereignty.

It settles for less than the best. Sometimes, it gravitates toward that which is polar opposite of the best or even what it good.

Isaiah confessed collective sin and embraced the gift of salvation. He knew the hopelessness of those whose own righteousness is as filthy rags, who fade like leaves, and are blown away with the wind.

We are stained with iniquity, but we are covered by grace. For that reason, we pray for the Day of the LORD and we joyfully wait, even judgment because we have no terror of awesome revelation of God’s power.

Isaiah declared, “We are Thy people.” To be the people of God is to be a people of promise and hope.

We are God’s people. We are called to be that. We are desired for that. To the extent that we have heard and responded to God’s call, we are considered that and are moving toward the realization of that in our lives and behaviors.

But, still we struggle with the negative forces of sin and rebellion that drag us into the mud.

The prayer continues with verses 5-9:

You meet those who gladly do right, those who remember you in your ways. But you were angry, and we sinned; because you hid yourself we transgressed. We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls on your name, or attempts to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity. 

Yet, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be exceedingly angry, O LORD, and do not remember iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people. 

We are clay. God is the potter. God is making something out of us even as God is fashioning the divine purposes of history.

Psalm 80 echoes the theme:

Verses 1-7 and 17-19

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock! You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh.

Stir up your might, and come to save us!

 Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved.

 O LORD God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people's prayers?

 You have fed them with the bread of tears, and given them tears to drink in full measure.

 You  make us the scorn of our neighbors; our enemies laugh among themselves.

 Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.

 But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand, the one whom you made strong for yourself.

 Then we will never turn back from you; give us life, and we will call on your name.

Restore us, O LORD God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.

God answers this prayer, as God answers so many prayers, in Jesus.

The coming of a child, born in Bethlehem, born to die and rise again, is a signal that the culmination of time has begun and that the glorious rule of God has been announced The Jesus event in Israel two thousand years ago, was God’s announcement that history has a meaning and is leading to a grand destination.

Let’s jump to Mark 13:24-37

"But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in clouds' with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.”

 "From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near.  So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates.”

 “Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.

 “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

 "But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.  It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch.”

 “Therefore, keep awake--for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly.”

 “And what I say to you I say to all: ‘Keep awake.’"

 Let’s extract some key ideas from Jesus’ discourse that go to the prayers of Isaiah and the Psalmist, but also support his admonition to stay awake.

"But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

He has been predicting a time of suffering. There were actually two stages all leading to a third.

  1. The disciples would suffer after the passion for their testimony.
  2. The people of Judea would suffer under the Romans when they came to destroy the temple.
  3. Times of suffering will come and go, rise and subside until the end of history.

Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in clouds' with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.” 

God is going to show himself and the Son of Man will be revealed as victorious Messiah. God, who keeps track of all his people, will find us wherever we are scattered and will gather us together.

In the meantime, pay attention to time the way a farmer pays attention to his or her fig trees. There are indications of harvest. There are times for performing certain tasks. Each time of harvest reminds us that the great harvest is nearer than it has ever been and is coming.

From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near.  So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates.”

And yet, he says: 

“Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 

What Jesus is telling us is that everything short of the actual end of time, judgment, and ultimate redemption would happen in the lives of the people present. We are all living in a generation where spiritual forces are vying for control of the hearts and minds of people.  We are all living on the edge of our own time on earth. We are all and always living in a generation of crisis, decision, and revelation of God’s presence and power. 

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 

No matter what changes or how dramatically those changes may come, one thing remains – God’s words, spoken, lived, acted out, and applied in Jesus Christ. 

"But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.  It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch.” 

Days and hours are a different matter. Specific circumstances vary.  We are not given all the details. We just know that something big is going to happen. Redemption is coming. Judgment is coming. Everything is going to be set right.

In the meantime, we are in charge of the house and are to remain alert because the Master can show up any time. 

“Therefore, keep awake--for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly.”

 God comes suddenly.

Like at Pentecost, the Spirit came suddenly like a mighty rushing wind.

God does not ease in. God speaks without ambiguity when the Day of the Lord arrives. It will not be subtle.

God is going to show up again in Christ and rectify all that is wrong. We, who have been saved from the penalty of sin and are being saved from the power of sin, will be saved from the very presence of sin.  There will be no more forces to drag us down. There will be no more war between sin and righteousness in our lives or in the world.

God’s will shall be accomplished, done, and exalted.

The Potter will make the final evaluation and refinement and the pot will be ready to be displayed.

 “And what I say to you I say to all: ‘Keep awake.’"

The first Sunday of Advent is about anticipating the Second Coming of Christ. His coming Incarnation was a preview and preparation for that final historical event.

We welcome the season by praying with the saints of the centuries, “Come Lord, Jesus, come.”

As our epistle readings often do today’s reading tells us how to live in the meantime. How to stay awake.

In this case, it is an iteration and reiteration of a prayer. In this prayer, we receive confidence, strength, and assurance that God has heard. God has called us. God has equipped us for anything we may ever need to face.

1 Corinthians 1:3-9

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus,  for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind--  just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you--  so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.   He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

We have been called into fellowship with the Son of God, Jesus Christ, our Lord. That fellowship is full of grace, forgiveness, joy, and love. Have you said “Yes” to that invitation?

You can. It is a one-word response:

Yes.

Have thine own way, Lord!
Have thine own way!
Thou art the potter,
I am the clay.
Mold me and make me
after thy will,
while I am waiting,
yielded and still.

Have thine own way, Lord!
Have thine own way!
Search me and try me,
Savior today!
Wash me just now, Lord,
wash me just now,
as in thy presence
humbly I bow.

Have thine own way, Lord!
Have thine own way!
Wounded and weary,
help me I pray!
Power, all power,
surely is thine!
Touch me and heal me,
Savior divine!

Have thine own way, Lord!
Have thine own way!
Hold o'er my being
absolute sway.
Fill with thy Spirit
till all shall see
Christ only, always,
living in me!

Adelaide A. Pollard




Rend the Heavens and Have Thine Own Way

Potter and clay advent

“O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence-- as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil-- to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence! When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.”- Isaiah 64:1-3

In some place deep in our hearts, we know that God’s will is best.

We understand that God knows more, and God knows best. We understand that we do not understand. We are settled on the idea that God is God, and we are not God, individually or collectively.

God is a potter fashioning the universe and us, within that universe, into something useful, usable, and beautiful.

We long for the divine will to be done in some ways that make us unsatisfied with anything less. We want it now; we want it in the resolution of history; we want it for eternity.

Isaiah’s heart longed for God’s presence to be known and acknowledged. With this movement of God, the prophet knew there would be justice, righteousness, and a rectification of wrongs.

For the Christian, this comes, in fullness in the Second appearing of Christ at the end of the present age. It is the hope that is the longing expressed every first Sunday of Advent.

It also comes whenever and however God shows up in our lives and circumstances.

It is a wonder beyond comprehension or description.

“From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him.” – Isaiah 64:4 (NRSVU)

Sin is that part of our nature that resists the deepest desires for God’s will and purpose. Sin resists God’s love, God’s grace, God’s mercy, and God’s sovereignty.

It settles for less than the best. Sometimes, it gravitates toward that which is polar opposite of the best or even what it good.

Isaiah confessed collective sin and embraced the gift of salvation. He knew the hopelessness of those whose own righteousness is as filthy rags, who fade like leaves, and are blown away with the wind.

We are stained with iniquity, but we are covered by grace. For that reason, we pray for the Day of the LORD and we joyfully wait, even judgment because we have no terror of awesome revelation of God’s power.

Isaiah declared, “We are Thy people.” To be the people of God is to be a people of promise and hope.

We are God’s people. We are called to be that. We are desired for that. To the extent that we have heard and responded to God’s call, we are considered that and are moving toward the realization of that in our lives and behaviors.

But, still we struggle with the negative forces of sin and rebellion that drag us into the mud.

The prayer continues with verses 5-9:

You meet those who gladly do right, those who remember you in your ways. But you were angry, and we sinned; because you hid yourself we transgressed. We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls on your name, or attempts to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity. 

Yet, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be exceedingly angry, O LORD, and do not remember iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people. 

We are clay. God is the potter. God is making something out of us even as God is fashioning the divine purposes of history.

Psalm 80 echoes the theme:

Verses 1-7 and 17-19

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock! You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh.

Stir up your might, and come to save us!

 Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved.

 O LORD God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people's prayers?

 You have fed them with the bread of tears, and given them tears to drink in full measure.

 You  make us the scorn of our neighbors; our enemies laugh among themselves.

 Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.

 But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand, the one whom you made strong for yourself.

 Then we will never turn back from you; give us life, and we will call on your name.

Restore us, O LORD God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.

God answers this prayer, as God answers so many prayers, in Jesus.

The coming of a child, born in Bethlehem, born to die and rise again, is a signal that the culmination of time has begun and that the glorious rule of God has been announced The Jesus event in Israel two thousand years ago, was God’s announcement that history has a meaning and is leading to a grand destination.

Let’s jump to Mark 13:24-37

"But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in clouds' with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.”

 "From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near.  So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates.”

 “Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.

 “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

 "But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.  It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch.”

 “Therefore, keep awake--for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly.”

 “And what I say to you I say to all: ‘Keep awake.’"

 Let’s extract some key ideas from Jesus’ discourse that go to the prayers of Isaiah and the Psalmist, but also support his admonition to stay awake.

"But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

He has been predicting a time of suffering. There were actually two stages all leading to a third.

  1. The disciples would suffer after the passion for their testimony.
  2. The people of Judea would suffer under the Romans when they came to destroy the temple.
  3. Times of suffering will come and go, rise and subside until the end of history.

Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in clouds' with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.” 

God is going to show himself and the Son of Man will be revealed as victorious Messiah. God, who keeps track of all his people, will find us wherever we are scattered and will gather us together.

In the meantime, pay attention to time the way a farmer pays attention to his or her fig trees. There are indications of harvest. There are times for performing certain tasks. Each time of harvest reminds us that the great harvest is nearer than it has ever been and is coming.

From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near.  So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates.”

And yet, he says: 

“Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 

What Jesus is telling us is that everything short of the actual end of time, judgment, and ultimate redemption would happen in the lives of the people present. We are all living in a generation where spiritual forces are vying for control of the hearts and minds of people.  We are all living on the edge of our own time on earth. We are all and always living in a generation of crisis, decision, and revelation of God’s presence and power. 

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 

No matter what changes or how dramatically those changes may come, one thing remains – God’s words, spoken, lived, acted out, and applied in Jesus Christ. 

"But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.  It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch.” 

Days and hours are a different matter. Specific circumstances vary.  We are not given all the details. We just know that something big is going to happen. Redemption is coming. Judgment is coming. Everything is going to be set right.

In the meantime, we are in charge of the house and are to remain alert because the Master can show up any time. 

“Therefore, keep awake--for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly.”

 God comes suddenly.

Like at Pentecost, the Spirit came suddenly like a mighty rushing wind.

God does not ease in. God speaks without ambiguity when the Day of the Lord arrives. It will not be subtle.

God is going to show up again in Christ and rectify all that is wrong. We, who have been saved from the penalty of sin and are being saved from the power of sin, will be saved from the very presence of sin.  There will be no more forces to drag us down. There will be no more war between sin and righteousness in our lives or in the world.

God’s will shall be accomplished, done, and exalted.

The Potter will make the final evaluation and refinement and the pot will be ready to be displayed.

 “And what I say to you I say to all: ‘Keep awake.’"

The first Sunday of Advent is about anticipating the Second Coming of Christ. His coming Incarnation was a preview and preparation for that final historical event.

We welcome the season by praying with the saints of the centuries, “Come Lord, Jesus, come.”

As our epistle readings often do today’s reading tells us how to live in the meantime. How to stay awake.

In this case, it is an iteration and reiteration of a prayer. In this prayer, we receive confidence, strength, and assurance that God has heard. God has called us. God has equipped us for anything we may ever need to face.

1 Corinthians 1:3-9

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus,  for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind--  just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you--  so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.   He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

We have been called into fellowship with the Son of God, Jesus Christ, our Lord. That fellowship is full of grace, forgiveness, joy, and love. Have you said “Yes” to that invitation?

You can. It is a one-word response:

Yes.

Have thine own way, Lord!
Have thine own way!
Thou art the potter,
I am the clay.
Mold me and make me
after thy will,
while I am waiting,
yielded and still.

Have thine own way, Lord!
Have thine own way!
Search me and try me,
Savior today!
Wash me just now, Lord,
wash me just now,
as in thy presence
humbly I bow.

Have thine own way, Lord!
Have thine own way!
Wounded and weary,
help me I pray!
Power, all power,
surely is thine!
Touch me and heal me,
Savior divine!

Have thine own way, Lord!
Have thine own way!
Hold o'er my being
absolute sway.
Fill with thy Spirit
till all shall see
Christ only, always,
living in me!

Adelaide A. Pollard




May I Have This Dance?

May i have this dance

Maybe the dancers "get it" more than some of the rest of us who contemplate and pontificate.

God is inviting us to a dance and whether or not we are skilled or talented, we can join in and, as we do, He will teach us the steps.

After listening to Peter, Paul, and Mary singing, "Don't let the Light Go Out" in honor of Chanukah, which as I write this, is in a week, I was thinking about light and oil and miracles and how we gravitate toward celebration in singing, dance, and giving.

 

Every spark, every glimmer, every ray of light in my life has been a miracle and a gift from God.

In my tradition and faith, we celebrate Advent and Christmas. Though they are different and unique events from Chanukah, I have always appreciated that they come at close to the same time each year.

What is this human urge to celebrate with light and laughter and generosity of spirit?

There is gravity and solemnity in much of what we do religiously, but there is also celebration and joy.

Religions are different. If I were not convinced that God had spoken and visited us in Jesus, I would be something other than a Jesus follower. I state my beliefs, humbly, as truth because I am convinced of their truth. I don't apologize for that and never expect my friends who are convinced of their beliefs to apologize for them either.

However, my conviction that I am settled on Jesus does not negate the common elements of our experience. They are present because truth is universal and because the God who fashioned us in His image is always reaching out to us and touching that something in us that makes us want to stand up and dance.

We are made for something more, something "Other," something eternal. All of us! We are all created by and for God and with a deep urge to embrace what Nehemiah called, "The joy of the Lord," and described as "your strength."

The oil in the temple was just not in ample supply for the days of dedication when the first candle was lit. Yet, there kept being enough ... enough for each day. The description of the event was and remains, "A great miracle happened there."

Our lives are miracles. The oil of joy, healing, and anointing for significance does not seem to be ample for the demands we face. Yet, each day, if we will light the candle in faith and celebration, there seems to be just enough ... and enough ... and enough for each day.

And our hearts desire is to celebrate, to give gifts, to light candles, to be charitable and jolly and gracious.

This is a God-connector. It is a sign. It is a message through us and back to us that we are loved, have been visited by the God who made us, and are invited to join the song and the dance of time and eternity.

Jesus said, "seek and ye shall find." It is an open invitation to keep our hearts open to the One who loves us. Joy, grace, giving, and gratitude are all different facets of the same diamond in my faith and language in which it was expressed.

I am not a "Dancing With the Stars" fanatic like most of America and my own household, but I do "get it." We are made to sing and to dance. It is intrinsic and one of the ways God woos us.

Back to my own faith. There were Magi in the story of Jesus' coming. They did not practice the same faith as Jesus' family or my traditions. In fact, we might find some of their beliefs at real odds with our own - like astrology for instance. But they most likely lived in a place where the influence of the Jews had been strong and they were acquainted with Jewish scripture.

They longed for the divine moment and the appearing of One who would be worthy of their worship. The scriptures I embrace say that the Eternal One crossed the barriers of race and religion and drew them to the place where they could see and do what they longed to see and do.

There is this longing we share.

We can wish each other well in this common quest and encourage the seeking. If I believe my Master, and I do, seekers find. Those who knock get doors opened. Those who ask, receive.

Why do we share some common experiences when we have such differing beliefs? Without arguing for one universal religion or watering anything down, I can say with confidence that there really is only One God and whether we describe Him correctly or incorrectly or somewhere between, that God is always reaching out to all of us to supply the oil and light the candles within us,.

To the extent that we respond to that, it ignites something within us that wants more and more and more.

So, let's dance! As you dance, you might just learn the steps and get to know the Choreographer!





Who Cares?

Who cares

Soul Care

“… no one cared for my soul….”  Psalm 142:4

God cares for your soul.

How can a statement be true and untrue at the same time?

Many a man or woman has echoed the psalmist’s cry in lonely and despairing hours. Many have passed though the dark tunnel of desolation “like sheep without a shepherd.”

In those times it is true that no one really knows the darkness within you and no human being cares at the level that caring is needed. The statement is true in that it expresses the essential emotions of the moment.

It is not true in the deeper, larger sense, for there is always One and often, others, who are ready to come to your aid – yes, you, for the psalmist’s story is your story and my story. It is also our challenge to be present, sensitive, and ready to respond to the heart cry of others.

Who might you see as you look around, wandering in a sea of ambiguity and hopelessness?

Who is within your reach that needs to know that he or she is not alone?

Who can be reminded of God’s love by your loving touch?

Who can learn of God’s care through your care?

Start with yourself, wounded, and battered by life. Be reminded that God cares for your soul, your life, and your deepest self. Receive his love at the point of your most profound pain. Then allow him to fashion you into an instrument of healing and grace.

Can God really use a wounded healer?

Can God take a broken soul and accomplish his purposes through that man or woman? I think of David, and I say, “Oh yes.”

I also think of great men such as Abraham Lincoln, a man often haunted by his own inadequacies, fears, and pain – yet a man who found himself, more and more, turning to God for help – just to cope with the burdens of responsibility, leadership, and the healing of a nation.

God cares for your soul and has called you to trust him and become an agent for his caring in the lives of other people.


Under My Vine and Fig Tree

Come sit a while
But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken it. – Micah 4:4

There is an empty bench under a tree somewhere with your name on it. It is waiting for you to stop running so hard and sit for a while.

Samuel Walter Foss wrote, “Let me live in a house by the side of the road and be a friend to man.”

You can sit and greet people as they pass by. You can watch the children playing. You can read a book. You can behold the beauty of the world. You can watch life go by.

You can meet God.

God invites you to a life beyond the rat race, a place of safety and solace, a moment of quiet and grace.

Can you imagine a park with no benches?

Can you imagine a life with no quiet moments?

Can you imagine a world without any hope of peace and fulfillment?

God could not and so He made a promise through Micah of an age to come when people would sit in the open, secure, studying war no more, and drinking from the fountain of grace.

Every promise of the future has it glimpses, hints, and previews in this life. In Christ we come to find rest. We take His yoke and find it easy. We sit with Him in Heavenly places. We take a break and behold Him.


Under My Vine and Fig Tree

Come sit a while
But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken it. – Micah 4:4
There is an empty bench under a tree somewhere with your name on it. It is waiting for you to stop running so hard and sit for a while.
Samuel Walter Foss wrote, “Let me live in a house by the side of the road and be a friend to man.”
You can sit and greet people as they pass by. You can watch the children playing. You can read a book. You can behold the beauty of the world. You can watch life go by.
You can meet God.
God invites you to a life beyond the rat race, a place of safety and solace, a moment of quiet and grace.
Can you imagine a park with no benches?
Can you imagine a life with no quiet moments?
Can you imagine a world without any hope of peace and fulfillment?
God could not and so He made a promise through Micah of an age to come when people would sit in the open, secure, studying war no more, and drinking from the fountain of grace.
Every promise of the future has it glimpses, hints, and previews in this life. In Christ we come to find rest. We take His yoke and find it easy. We sit with Him in Heavenly places. We take a break and behold Him.

Jonathan Swift

Jonathan swift

Born this day in 1667 – Jonathan Swift, Irish satirist, essayist, and Dean of St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin.

He is remembered for "A Tale of a Tub," " An Argument Against Abolishing Christianity," Gulliver's Travels," and "A Modest Proposal."

His prose satire was and is considered among the best in the English language.


"Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody's face but their own."

"Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it, so that when men come to be undeceived, it is too late; the jest is over, and the tale hath had its effect: like a man, who hath thought of a good repartee when the discourse is changed, or the company parted; or like a physician, who hath found out an infallible medicine, after the patient is dead."


"Conversation is but carving!
Give no more to every guest
Than he's able to digest.
Give him always of the prime,
And but little at a time.
Carve to all but just enough,
Let them neither starve nor stuff,
And that you may have your due,
Let your neighbor carve for you."


King Jesus the Shepherd with the Sheep and the Goats

The least of these

The Test of a Nation's Greatness

"And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats..." Matthew 25:32

This is a dramatic and overwhelming scene that Jesus describes. As far as the eye can see, the nations are gathered before the throne. There are sheep and there are goats at a time when only sheep are truly welcome in the flock. There has been considerable blending up until this point, but now the shepherd is dividing them.

And there is one criterion by which He judges the nations. How did you treat me when I was among you?

He is not talking about His incarnation here, but His presence among His people many of whom were the poor, the lowly, the imprisoned, the hungry, and so forth. He is identifying with the powerless that He described in Matthew 5 and, from their perspective, evaluating the powerful.

What did you do with all your influence to positively touch the people I love? That is His question. It is the test of a nation's greatness and the test of greatness for every institution or individual that has been entrusted with power. Were you just? Were you fair? Were you generous? Were you compassionate? Were you righteous? Were you aware that I was there in the midst of my brethren?

This is one dimension of judgment in the heavenly kingdom and Jesus gives us a preview. It is but a glimpse. We could not understand more, but we can understand this much: We must always be aware of Jesus and receive others as if we were receiving Him.

The greatness of America has always been in her central idea: the dignity of every human being under God. It is the basis for freedom, laws, and our system of government. For the Christian, that means looking for the image of God in every person we meet and treating that person as we would treat Jesus.

Another Thought on Verse 32

Seeing Jesus: Sheep and Goats

There is a question for self-examination emerging from this passage.  Such examinations are painful, but the process is necessary for our growth.

Am I among the nation of sheep or the nation of goats?  How do I align myself with what God values and those with whom Jesus identifies?

Leo Tolstoy spun a tale about a cobbler who was given to believe that Jesus would visit him on a particular day.  He made simple but elegant preparations.  One by one the poor came to his door and he served them, but he came to the end of the day without the visit for which he longed.

Then he realized what had happened and he heard the voice of Jesus with the words of this passage.  So, the real question is this: Am I seeing Jesus where Jesus is?  That question separates the sheep from the goats.|

 

 


King Jesus the Shepherd with the Sheep and the Goats

The least of these

The Test of a Nation's Greatness

"And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats..." Matthew 25:32

This is a dramatic and overwhelming scene that Jesus describes. As far as the eye can see, the nations are gathered before the throne. There are sheep and there are goats at a time when only sheep are truly welcome in the flock. There has been considerable blending up until this point, but now the shepherd is dividing them.

And there is one criterion by which He judges the nations. How did you treat me when I was among you?

He is not talking about His incarnation here, but His presence among His people many of whom were the poor, the lowly, the imprisoned, the hungry, and so forth. He is identifying with the powerless that He described in Matthew 5 and, from their perspective, evaluating the powerful.

What did you do with all your influence to positively touch the people I love? That is His question. It is the test of a nation's greatness and the test of greatness for every institution or individual that has been entrusted with power. Were you just? Were you fair? Were you generous? Were you compassionate? Were you righteous? Were you aware that I was there in the midst of my brethren?

This is one dimension of judgment in the heavenly kingdom and Jesus gives us a preview. It is but a glimpse. We could not understand more, but we can understand this much: We must always be aware of Jesus and receive others as if we were receiving Him.

The greatness of America has always been in her central idea: the dignity of every human being under God. It is the basis for freedom, laws, and our system of government. For the Christian, that means looking for the image of God in every person we meet and treating that person as we would treat Jesus.

Another Thought on Verse 32

Seeing Jesus: Sheep and Goats

There is a question for self-examination emerging from this passage.  Such examinations are painful, but the process is necessary for our growth.

Am I among the nation of sheep or the nation of goats?  How do I align myself with what God values and those with whom Jesus identifies?

Leo Tolstoy spun a tale about a cobbler who was given to believe that Jesus would visit him on a particular day.  He made simple but elegant preparations.  One by one the poor came to his door and he served them, but he came to the end of the day without the visit for which he longed.

Then he realized what had happened and he heard the voice of Jesus with the words of this passage.  So, the real question is this: Am I seeing Jesus where Jesus is?  That question separates the sheep from the goats.|

 

 


Forgiveness

Forgive slksdv7 (1)

Saint Mary of the Presentation Church


“Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

F - Free yourself from the burden of retributive passion.

O- Orient your heart in the direction of joy and healing.

R - Release your need for vindication to the One who vindicates.

G - Give your pain and regret to God.

I - Invest in the future and resist the tug and anchor of the past.

V - Value the image of God in the one who offended and harmed you.

E - Energize your future with grace and mercy.

N - Nest yourself in God's love.

E - Exist the drama of victimization.

S - Surrender to God's best for your life.

S - Sing. It hardly matters what. Let the song move your forward.

-----------------------
Matthew 18:21-35
New International Version

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

“At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”


Endurance - Moses Style

Moses you da man

The secret of endurance as discovered by Moses ...

"he endured as seeing Him who is invisible." (Hebrews 11:27b, NKJV)

Seeing the invisible God. It really goes to the heart of faith for people of faith.

We deal in that realm that an outsider might legitimately view as subjective ... and yet we see.

All people of vision, whether people of faith or not, see things that others do not see. Some see the future. Some see possibilities. Some see realities too small or far away for the naked eye to surround.

If it can be captured and perceived through the optical nerves, it may not be faith and it may not be enough to produce endurance.

If it requires a leap into the uncharted unknown, one has lengthened the distance of vision and shortened the gap between what is and what can be through the Eyes of the One Who Is.


By Faith ... Leaning

Rembrandt_-_Jacob_Blessing_the_Children_of_Joseph_-_WGA19117

Rembrandt

"By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph and worshiped, leaning on top of his staff." - Hebrews 11:21 (NKJV)

He worshiped, leaning ...

Faith, in itself, is a kind of leaning. Blessing others, we lean into them. Proclaiming the blessing as if already accomplished, is a leaning into the future with faith. Worshiping is leaning into God.

"Leaning on the everlasting arms," we need a bit of support. Jacob had a staff.

It worked, but still, he was dying.

But aren't we? We live with dying and we die with living.

Jacob chose faith in his dying days, he envisioned a future, and he fell upon his staff and found God supporting him. Thus he worshiped.

I am not exactly sure how this day will unfold, but I am leaning toward a faith that shall not falter with faith that cannot fail because it leans forward on a Father who receives my faith as an expression of worship.


By Faith ... Leaning

Rembrandt_-_Jacob_Blessing_the_Children_of_Joseph_-_WGA19117

Rembrandt

"By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph and worshiped, leaning on top of his staff." - Hebrews 11:21 (NKJV)

He worshiped, leaning ...

Faith, in itself, is a kind of leaning. Blessing others, we lean into them. Proclaiming the blessing as if already accomplished, is a leaning into the future with faith. Worshiping is leaning into God.

"Leaning on the everlasting arms," we need a bit of support. Jacob had a staff.

It worked, but still, he was dying.

But aren't we? We live with dying and we die with living.

Jacob chose faith in his dying days, he envisioned a future, and he fell upon his staff and found God supporting him. Thus he worshiped.

I am not exactly sure how this day will unfold, but I am leaning toward a faith that shall not falter with faith that cannot fail because it leans forward on a Father who receives my faith as an expression of worship.


My Thanks

Marcos-paulo-prado-BWoRIaXy-Mw-unsplash (1)
 
Thank you, Sovereign, Mighty, and Loving God.
 
Thank you for the capacity to recognize that I did not get here alone.
 
Nor will I stay here on my own.
 
Nor do I wish to be alone.
 
But, alone with you, I find refreshment in my soul.
 
Thank you for the alone times that draw me out of myself toward others.
 
Thank you for the people who surround me with hope and promise.
 
Thank you for precious stones, promising seeds, and profound sentiments.
 
Thank you for the gift of wonder, the grief of waiting, the grace of all your ways.
 
Thank you for food and fulfillment and the hunger that causes me to appreciate them more.
 
Thank you for the slight pains I have endured on the path to healing that i might know your healing mercies.
 
Thank you for the hope that has always kept my eyes open for possibilities in the midst of despair.
 
Thank you for always providing, even when it was not on my schedule.
 
Thank you for a family that has grown into a community and is more than I deserve.
 
Thank you for a community that has grown into a family and is also more than I deserve.
 
Thank you for friends in real time and cyber time whose words and thoughts challenge and inspire me.
 
Thank you for the gift of words. Teach me to use them with gratitude and grace.
 
Thank you for a reason to get out of bed this morning.
 
Thank you for rest and for this day of rest.
 
Thank you for things to do and places to go and people to see.
 
Thank you that I may, from time to time, retreat from these activities.
 
Thank you for moments with you and for your listening ear, but also, your voice that speaks to my very heart.
 
Thank you for the bible. It has been one of the greatest treasures of my life and never grows old to me.
 
Thank you for the church, flawed as she is and yet, always lovely, always a home for me wherever I go.
 
Thank you for pastors who have been my brothers, and sometimes my sisters for so many years.
 
Thank you for parents and grandparents who helped to make me, guided me, loved me, and expected the best of me.
 
Thank you for a wife who has been an example to me, a rock, a reason, and a best friend for so many years.
 
I thank you for my sons and my grandchildren and their families, extended and creative.
 
Thank you for the tea I have been sipping and the honey that has sweetened it.
 
Thank you for renewed health. I am younger today than I was ten years ago. Anyone still reading this can scratch their heads at that.
 
Thank you for the warm socks on my feet and the clothes on my body ...
 
For this very computer upon which to type my prayer that is truly for you, but also a call to prayer for anyone who wishes to read.
 
This is my closet, but you are welcome. I pray that this will not be one of those long prayers on the corner designed to impress that Jesus warned us about.
 
But I am openly grateful, Lord and could and will go on and on and on all day.
 
I have nothing that you have not given me in some way.
 
Even what it seems I have acquired is because you gave me the gifts I have and placed me in the right places with the right people at the right times to
exercise them.
 
I have a head full of hair, albeit thin, a body full of energy, a mind full of thoughts and ideas, a heart full of love and joy, and enough challenges and irritations to keep me from ever getting complacent.
 
And thank you. You have given me a mission and a ministry and a passion to serve and a heart that breaks for the brokenness of the world with renewed energy to do something about it.
 
Thank you for forgiving my sins and giving me new life. For your great sacrifice, I thank you. For calling me to serve, I am grateful and humbled.
 
Thank you that you are teaching me even now how to pray and how to give thanks and I offer these thanksgivings to you in the name of Jesus. Amen.
 


The Core Work of Theology

Thomas Aquinas  by Carlo_Crivelli_007

"I will give great thanks to the Lord with my mouth; 
in the midst of the multitude will I praise him;
Because he stands at the right hand of the needy,
to save his life from those who would condemn him."


A vital element of theology is of be found in the word "theology" itself. It is a word about God and Word of God.

If we are to do genuine and life-changing theological reflection, it will be as the psalmists often did, a meditation on the nature, character, and acts of God.

The more we come to know the character of God and experience and practice the presence of God, the deeper our theology is established within us.

In these two psalms, we are enable to reflect upon a God who is just and merciful. These are not two sides of the nature of God; they are a perfect blend. God's justice is mercifully administered and God's mercy is always just and true.

Then, there is the next psalm of the day, 109 where we declare with the ancient singers, the God of our praise, Deus Laudem!,

This God acts in history, generally, specifically, broadly, and personally to redeem those in greatest need of God's advocacy and help.

The psalms enable us to contemplate God's character, presence, and power by observation of his mighty deeds among us, the Word spoken and written, and nature itself.

Let us enter into the Presence and do the real work of theology today.


-------------------------------------


Psalm 101
Misericordiam ed judicium

I will sing of mercy and justice; *
to you, O Lord, will I sing praises.

I will strive to follow a blameless course;
oh, when will you come to me? *
I will walk with sincerity of heart within my house.

I will set no worthless thing before my eyes; *
I hate the doers of evil deeds;
they shall not remain with me.

A crooked heart shall be far from me; *
I will not know evil.

Those who in secret slander their neighbors I will destroy; *
those who have a haughty look and a proud heart I cannot abide.

My eyes are upon the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me, *
and only those who lead a blameless life shall be my servants.

Those who act deceitfully shall not dwell in my house, *
and those who tell lies shall not continue in my sight.

I will soon destroy all the wicked in the land, *
that I may root out all evildoers from the city of the Lord.

Psalm 109
Deus, laudem

Hold not your tongue, O God of my praise; *
for the mouth of the wicked,
the mouth of the deceitful, is opened against me.

They speak to me with a lying tongue; *
they encompass me with hateful words
and fight against me without a cause.

Despite my love, they accuse me; *
but as for me, I pray for them.

They repay evil for good, *
and hatred for my love.

[Set a wicked man against him, *
and let an accuser stand at his right hand.

When he is judged, let him be found guilty, *
and let his appeal be in vain.

Let his days be few, *
and let another take his office.

Let his children be fatherless, *
and his wife become a widow.

Let his children be waifs and beggars; *
let them be driven from the ruins of their homes.

Let the creditor seize everything he has; *
let strangers plunder his gains.

Let there be no one to show him kindness, *
and none to pity his fatherless children.

Let his descendants be destroyed, *
and his name be blotted out in the next generation.

Let the wickedness of his fathers be remembered before the Lord, *
and his mother’s sin not be blotted out;

Let their sin be always before the Lord; *
but let him root out their names from the earth;

Because he did not remember to show mercy, *
but persecuted the poor and needy
and sought to kill the brokenhearted.

He loved cursing,
let it come upon him; *
he took no delight in blessing,
let it depart from him.

He put on cursing like a garment, *
let it soak into his body like water
and into his bones like oil;

Let it be to him like the cloak which he wraps around himself, *
and like the belt that he wears continually.

Let this be the recompense from the Lord to my accusers, *
and to those who speak evil against me.]

But you, O Lord my God,
oh, deal with me according to your Name; *
for your tender mercy’s sake, deliver me.

For I am poor and needy, *
and my heart is wounded within me.

I have faded away like a shadow when it lengthens; *
I am shaken off like a locust.

My knees are weak through fasting, *
and my flesh is wasted and gaunt.

I have become a reproach to them; *
they see and shake their heads.

Help me, O Lord my God; *
save me for your mercy’s sake.

Let them know that this is your hand, *
that you, O Lord, have done it.

They may curse, but you will bless; *
let those who rise up against me be put to shame,
and your servant will rejoice.

Let my accusers be clothed with disgrace *
and wrap themselves in their shame as in a cloak.

I will give great thanks to the Lord with my mouth; *
in the midst of the multitude will I praise him;

Because he stands at the right hand of the needy, *
to save his life from those who would condemn him.


The Core Work of Theology

Thomas Aquinas  by Carlo_Crivelli_007

"I will give great thanks to the Lord with my mouth; 
in the midst of the multitude will I praise him;
Because he stands at the right hand of the needy,
to save his life from those who would condemn him."


A vital element of theology is of be found in the word "theology" itself. It is a word about God and Word of God.

If we are to do genuine and life-changing theological reflection, it will be as the psalmists often did, a meditation on the nature, character, and acts of God.

The more we come to know the character of God and experience and practice the presence of God, the deeper our theology is established within us.

In these two psalms, we are enable to reflect upon a God who is just and merciful. These are not two sides of the nature of God; they are a perfect blend. God's justice is mercifully administered and God's mercy is always just and true.

Then, there is the next psalm of the day, 109 where we declare with the ancient singers, the God of our praise, Deus Laudem!,

This God acts in history, generally, specifically, broadly, and personally to redeem those in greatest need of God's advocacy and help.

The psalms enable us to contemplate God's character, presence, and power by observation of his mighty deeds among us, the Word spoken and written, and nature itself.

Let us enter into the Presence and do the real work of theology today.


-------------------------------------


Psalm 101
Misericordiam ed judicium

I will sing of mercy and justice; *
to you, O Lord, will I sing praises.

I will strive to follow a blameless course;
oh, when will you come to me? *
I will walk with sincerity of heart within my house.

I will set no worthless thing before my eyes; *
I hate the doers of evil deeds;
they shall not remain with me.

A crooked heart shall be far from me; *
I will not know evil.

Those who in secret slander their neighbors I will destroy; *
those who have a haughty look and a proud heart I cannot abide.

My eyes are upon the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me, *
and only those who lead a blameless life shall be my servants.

Those who act deceitfully shall not dwell in my house, *
and those who tell lies shall not continue in my sight.

I will soon destroy all the wicked in the land, *
that I may root out all evildoers from the city of the Lord.

Psalm 109
Deus, laudem

Hold not your tongue, O God of my praise; *
for the mouth of the wicked,
the mouth of the deceitful, is opened against me.

They speak to me with a lying tongue; *
they encompass me with hateful words
and fight against me without a cause.

Despite my love, they accuse me; *
but as for me, I pray for them.

They repay evil for good, *
and hatred for my love.

[Set a wicked man against him, *
and let an accuser stand at his right hand.

When he is judged, let him be found guilty, *
and let his appeal be in vain.

Let his days be few, *
and let another take his office.

Let his children be fatherless, *
and his wife become a widow.

Let his children be waifs and beggars; *
let them be driven from the ruins of their homes.

Let the creditor seize everything he has; *
let strangers plunder his gains.

Let there be no one to show him kindness, *
and none to pity his fatherless children.

Let his descendants be destroyed, *
and his name be blotted out in the next generation.

Let the wickedness of his fathers be remembered before the Lord, *
and his mother’s sin not be blotted out;

Let their sin be always before the Lord; *
but let him root out their names from the earth;

Because he did not remember to show mercy, *
but persecuted the poor and needy
and sought to kill the brokenhearted.

He loved cursing,
let it come upon him; *
he took no delight in blessing,
let it depart from him.

He put on cursing like a garment, *
let it soak into his body like water
and into his bones like oil;

Let it be to him like the cloak which he wraps around himself, *
and like the belt that he wears continually.

Let this be the recompense from the Lord to my accusers, *
and to those who speak evil against me.]

But you, O Lord my God,
oh, deal with me according to your Name; *
for your tender mercy’s sake, deliver me.

For I am poor and needy, *
and my heart is wounded within me.

I have faded away like a shadow when it lengthens; *
I am shaken off like a locust.

My knees are weak through fasting, *
and my flesh is wasted and gaunt.

I have become a reproach to them; *
they see and shake their heads.

Help me, O Lord my God; *
save me for your mercy’s sake.

Let them know that this is your hand, *
that you, O Lord, have done it.

They may curse, but you will bless; *
let those who rise up against me be put to shame,
and your servant will rejoice.

Let my accusers be clothed with disgrace *
and wrap themselves in their shame as in a cloak.

I will give great thanks to the Lord with my mouth; *
in the midst of the multitude will I praise him;

Because he stands at the right hand of the needy, *
to save his life from those who would condemn him.


Prayer of One Afflicted

Affliction

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

 

This is called, "A Prayer of one afflicted, when he is faint and pours out his complaint before the LORD."

Surely, many here have had days when the cry sounded something like this, first to be heart, and then to be answered:

" Hear my prayer, O LORD;
let my cry come to you!
Do not hide your face from me
in the day of my distress!
Incline your ear to me;
answer me speedily in the day when I call!"

(Psalm 102:1-2 ESV)

"Do not hide ..."

How do you know that an invisible God who rarely manifests His presence directly and obviously in your life is really hearing and answering? Sometimes it is in the subtleties; often it is in the coincidences; frequently it is in the irrational peace or the unexplained strength and faith that arises in our hearts as we trust and follow.

So often, it is in joy and in the joyful reality of community that becomes the presence of God to us.

We experience God's presence as we brutally pour out our hearts to God in the full range of human emotion, despair, and frustration:

" For my days pass away like smoke,
and my bones burn like a furnace.
My heart is struck down like grass and has withered;
I forget to eat my bread.
Because of my loud groaning
my bones cling to my flesh.
I am like a desert owl of the wilderness,
like an owl of the waste places;
I lie awake;
I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop.
All the day my enemies taunt me;
those who deride me use my name for a curse.
For I eat ashes like bread
and mingle tears with my drink,
because of your indignation and anger;
for you have taken me up and thrown me down.
My days are like an evening shadow;
I wither away like grass."

(Psalm 102:3-11 ESV)

You know through hope and you know through the acting on feeble faith. This God who regards and hears the prayers of the destitute will not despise your prayers:

"But you, O LORD, are enthroned forever;
you are remembered throughout all generations.
You will arise and have pity on Zion;
it is the time to favor her;
the appointed time has come.
For your servants hold her stones dear
and have pity on her dust.
Nations will fear the name of the LORD,
and all the kings of the earth will fear your glory.
For the LORD builds up Zion;
he appears in his glory;
he regards the prayer of the destitute
and does not despise their prayer."

(Psalm 102:12-17 ESV)

This God manifests Himself and, in due season, manifests Himself to you. He appears in His glory, even if only in glimpses and hints, even if only in flashing moments of self-disclosure, He lets you know.

Furthermore, He reveals Himself in worship as one who attends to our prayers and in the words of those who record His deeds and share together, in community, their experiences of grace:

" Let this be recorded for a generation to come,
so that a people yet to be created may praise the LORD:
that he looked down from his holy height;
from heaven the LORD looked at the earth,
to hear the groans of the prisoners,
to set free those who were doomed to die,
that they may declare in Zion the name of the LORD,
and in Jerusalem his praise,
when peoples gather together,
and kingdoms, to worship the LORD."

(Psalm 102:18-22 ESV)

It is our witness of one another of His witness to each of us.

Comparing our notes, we realize that there really are no coincidences.

" He has broken my strength in midcourse;
he has shortened my days.
“O my God,” I say, “take me not away
in the midst of my days—
you whose years endure
throughout all generations!”"

(Psalm 102:23-24 ESV)

He has His ways of bring us to the place where we can experience His grace in healing ways, but they sometimes seem like the breaking of our strength in the middle of our lives. We are moving toward a grand goal and suddenly, we are interrupted.

Perhaps our interruptions are necessary for refocus - at least sometimes ....

But in the meantime, go ahead and register your complaint to God.

Our struggles with faith land on faith. Believers' doubts, fears, and frustrations are real, but they are differentiated from the ordinary because they land on faith. They settle on solid ground. They come to rest where they have always rested in that confidence that simply will not go away, that stubborn trust in the one who upholds all things including our own feeble lives:

" Of old you laid the foundation of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but you will remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away,
but you are the same, and your years have no end.
The children of your servants shall dwell secure;
their offspring shall be established before you."

(Psalm 102:25-28 ESV)


We Must Laugh

Laughter for a Saturday - 1 Stan

Ask me what laughter is.

Go ahead and ask.

I know it when I see and hear it. So do you. But what is it? I am not really sure.

The dictionary is not much help. In fact, it is rather circular:

"the action or sound of laughing."

That settles it - somewhere. I suppose.

Wikipedia offers more.

"Laughter is a pleasant physical reaction and emotion consisting usually of rhythmical, often audible contractions of the diaphragm and other parts of the respiratory system."

That helps. I suppose.

Of course, there are neurological studies that give us insight into the brain functions involved. There are chemical stimulants that provoke it and chemicals that are produced by it. Norman Cousins echoes, in the 80s, the wisdom of Solomon that laughter is very good medicine.

Even if it does not cure, you feel better.

I know very few people who do not agree that it is good to laugh. I do not seek out the company of those who never laugh. I enjoy people who contribute to the grace of laughter in my life.

So, here is my shot at an experiential definition of laughter in the form of an acronym:

LIFE

Life is absurd, silly, painful, perplexing,  deep, and shallow. It is difficult to cope without learning to laugh at oneself. It is impossible to cope without laughing at all. If you are not laughing, you are not looking at life.

AFFECT

Affect, used as a noun, means to display emotion. If one does not harness the power of laughter and occasionally give in to it, one is stifling a significant emotion and not displaying the full range of affect. Dulling the senses locks out a great deal of potential.

UNDERSTANDING

When we can appreciate humor, it is often the result of a deeper understanding of the connection between ideas, circumstances, and other emotions in our life. Laughter both triggers and is triggered by self-understanding, insight into human nature, and appreciation of the realities of life.

GROWTH

Our senses of humor grow with us. As we mature, our laughter matures. As we become more sophisticated, so does our humor. Subtleties take on greater meaning in our lives. We can chuckle and grin at the complexities. We learn to laugh at ourselves with greater ease.

HOPE

If we can laugh, we can hope. Laughter that is not cruel can bring us onto common ground with others who might be natural adversaries.  It enables us to see one another as part of a shared humanity. It reminds us that we are more alike than different. One wonders if there can be any real peace without shared laughter. But I hasten to add another "h" here. It is hopeful because it is healing to  humans, to the emotions, to the body, and to relationships.

TERMINAL

We will stop  laughing someday. We all will, in our bodies. Don't stop before you are dead. That is soon enough. When you terminate laughter, you terminate an important part of your living. Live until you die and then, go out with a chuckle.

ESSENTIAL

During the pandemic, I watched more late night comedy, told more jokes, and enjoyed more silliness than usual. Many people did. When all that could stay open were essential services, humorists broadcasted from home. It is essential because we need it and because it is intrinsic. i remember my grandchildren laughing at silly things without being taught to laugh. Early in life, they knew how to take food in, expel waste, cry when the wanted something, and laugh when they were happy.

RIGHT

For all these reasons, it is right to laugh. Red Skelton believed that God had put him on earth to make people laugh. And he did. Laughter is not always the right response, but it often is, even in the hardest of times, even when mingled with tears, even when our tasks are dead serious. It is right to laugh.

 

 

 

Read Cousins' book (above) and this talk.

 

A short joke for you:

Heaven and the Post Office

Which Way to Heaven?
 
Billy Graham tells of a time early in his ministry when he arrived in a small town to preach a sermon. Wanting to mail a letter, he asked a young boy where the post office was.
 
When the boy had told him, Dr. Graham thanked him and said, "If you'll come to the Baptist Church this evening, you can hear me telling everyone how to get to heaven."
 
The boy replied, "I don't think I'll be there... You don't even know your way to the post office."
 

Laughter is the Best Medicine

And it’s a great adjunct in the treatment of patients with cancer.

By Charlene Gayle Story Pattillo, BSN, RN, OCN, and Joanne Itano, PhD, RN, OCN

Laughing All the Way

Author and scholar Norman Cousins’ pioneering research on the impact of humor on health continues through the center that bears his name.

A Joyful Heart is Good Medicine

"For many years, Reader’s Digest magazine has published a monthly article called 'Laughter the Best Medicine.' But Reader’s Digest didn’t originate the idea..."

 


The New Kumbaya

Kumbaya, my Lord!
Come by here.

Yes. Yes. Yes.
Make a way.

Come quickly!

Come and speak..
Come and touch.
Come and lead.
Come and sit awhile among us.
Come, instruct us.
Come, teach us.

We have waited so long, Lord.

Come and correct the errors of our ways … including …
Several misconceptions of You and how we have …
Used you and taken your name in vain to promote our own views,
Our prejudices …
Our biases …
Our desires …
Our angry obsessions and our power plays.

We are so alone without you. We are lost, confused, and misguided. It is dark.

Come, Lord, by here and lovingly squeeze the meanness out of us.
Hug us till all the hurt and anger and bitterness oozes out of our souls.

It has been too long wince we have asked with the sincerity we felt around the campfire. It is high time that we asked again.

Come and heal bodies, minds, souls and
Rifts in the fabric of our communities,
Tensions in the streets of our cities,
Dissensions in our board rooms,
Apathy in our churches,
Venom in our national discourse.

We sing and pray as if it were a new song.

Kumbaya, Lord, Kumbaya.
Now, we need Your Visitation!
Come by here.

 

 


Another Color Purple

Clothed with purple

When I See Purple


There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple … - Luke 16:19

Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man! – John 19:5


When I see purple I think of Lydia who, in the book of Acts, was known as the dealer of purple.

Purple was a precious commodity, the garment of royalty, the symbol of wealth.

Purple is a featured color in the Lenten season as we meditate on the road to the cross that Jesus trod.

It is also an element of two of Jesus’ teachings, one that he spoke and another that he lived. One was a parable and the other was a reality.

Jesus spoke of a rich man, clothed in purple, who died and discovered that all he had valued and cherished in life was worthless in light of a Godless eternity. This man begged for a drop of water and someone to warn his brothers. He was simply called, “a certain rich man.”

Later, Jesus would also ask for a sip of water, from the cross. Just prior to that pivotal event in salvation history, Jesus was paraded before Pilate clothed in purple. The soldiers were mocking His message of a spiritual kingdom that transcended all human kingdoms.

Jesus wore the purple unwillingly on His willing path to bear the shame of the world for our salvation.

The rich man wore it with a prideful heart proclaiming his superiority and gaining nothing.

One exalted himself and was humbled. Jesus humbled Himself and was exalted.

And both wore purple.


Ready

Ready 4

There were ten bridesmaids waiting for the groom to show up and the festivities to begin. Five were wise. Five were foolish. Those we were wise were wakeful, waiting, and prepared for the long haul. They were ready.

What is the key to readiness?

Listen.

 


Now, I Am Found

Lost found


(Luke 15:6 ) And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost… (Luke 15:9 ) And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbors together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost… (Luke 15:23b-24 ) … Let us eat and be merry. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

-------------------------------------------

“We have heard the joyful sound: Jesus saves! Jesus Saves! Spread the tidings all around. Jesus saves! Jesus saves!”


So that grand hymn of faith calls us to “give the winds a mighty voice.”

How sweet the sound? Oh yes. The lost has been found. It is the sound of laughter and merriment. It is the sound of praise. It is the sound that rings through the streets of Heaven and even the angels sing. It is the sound that warms the heart of God. It is the sound that ought to flow from our voices daily and throughout the day, the song of gratitude, of joy, and of love.

Whereas I was lost, I am now found. I am no longer lost, no longer hopeless, no longer guilty, alienated, or dispossessed. I am no longer unworthy, no longer useless, no longer an orphan. God no longer sees me as a sinner, but as a son. I have a hope. I have a future. As He did with Jeremiah of old, He knows the plans He has for me.

I am found.

Do you know the joy of being found? Or have you forgotten. The truth can be seen in your attitudes toward your brothers and sisters in Christ, whether you are patient and forgiving or irritable and judgmental? The truth is revealed in your attitudes toward people who are still lost.

Are you charitable and seeking or critical and aloof? The truth is seen in your attitudes toward new believers. Do you rejoice or rebuff? Do you step aside and move over or do you guard your established territory? Do you join the celebration, feasting with the friends of the father or do you stand afar off as the son who feels he never left home?

You will never be at home as long as you cling to the notion that you never left. You will never experience the full joy of redemption if you forget that you were lost in slavery to sin when grace found you. You will be unmoved at the singing of Amazing Grace if you forget that the wretch saved was you and the lost one who returned was also you.

You have been found! Rejoice!


Social and Media

Social and mediaSocial media are defined and valued by how we use them.

Yes. “Media” is a plural word and “medium” is the singular form.

Media are means to an end. Social media are tools for communication.

We have a wide range of possibilities for using the tools. Two of mine are prayer and prayerful concern

Another is encouragement. I feel fulfilled when I can encourage people.

For me, online friends are real friends.

I find out what I need to be reading, listening to, and watching based upon friends’ recommendation.

We collaborate on big ideas.

Then, there are puppies, kittens, cute pictures, and jokes.

There is music

Then, there is education.

Of course, it is all communication. It is a bag of tools and every age has its tools for communication. If you want to meet people, you have to meet them where they are with the tools available.

What is your favorite social medium and why?

Sometimes these platforms give me a soapbox for my ideas and sometimes a conference table for collaboration. Out of that collaboration come bigger ideas, mutual understanding, and respect.

Sometimes people complain about mean-spirited postings on Facebook, too much drama, too much politics, inconsequential conversations, and wasted time.

That is not my experience.

I have built my platforms for the most part. I have had a hand in creating my communities. I set the tone for my on-line presence and pages.

It is largely up to me what I experience, with some exceptions.

Facebook is one of the best tools I have ever had at my disposal for intercessory prayer as well as the nurturing of community and friendship. I utilize others as well.

They keep me “in-the-know,” so that I can pray more effectively with my mind even as my spirit prays. Combine all the media into one singular entity and it connects us in a network of caring, even for people we have never met.

Like any “tool,” it can be misused.

It is neutral as a technology; but it is powerful as an instrument for potential good.

Are we using social networking to build people?

If not, why not?

It is really all within our control.


Can a Person Still Write Offline?


Photo by Unseen Studio on Unsplash

Writers enjoy instant gratification on the internet. We expect feedback within minutes of posting an idea. Without it, we feel crippled and dis-empowered unlike our fathers who secluded themselves for years, wrote only to God, and never had any assurance that anyone else would read what they were writing.

I wonder if they hit dry spells in the desert.

If you are a writer and you don’t write much for a while, you have to struggle with a certain measure of guilt mingled with fear. You feel you should be writing, that there are tens of people bereft of your wisdom and charming words.

The internet does not lend itself to seasons. It cries out for constancy.

On the other hand, despite all your advice to others to write something every day, you know that you have seasons in your life. You have times of intense productivity and times when something has to brew inside of you.

It is like one of our California rivers that rises and recedes with the flow of its water supply from the mountains.

Then comes the panic. Will I ever write again? Will I ever again be seized with a passion, desire, or creative urge?

Will I ever again have a creative idea?

Will I be forgotten? Will I lose all my readers who, as it is, cling by a thin thread?

Suddenly, we want to write whether or not we have something about which to write.

That season often arrives as a flash flood and often when ones life has been filled with things to do, places to go, and people to see. Life gets in the way of art.

… And we are far away from our computers hooked to the internet …

It raises an interesting question. Can a person still write offline?