Posted by: Terry | December 12, 2016

Advent – My security and responsibility

Adventskranz 3. Advent

There are two songs that express my thoughts this Advent Season. The first is “Joy to the World” by Isaac Watts, the second is “Happy Xmas (War is over)” by John Lennon. The four Sundays of Advent are usually called: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love. We live at a time when these four are desperately needed, each of these songs speaks to the state of the world and our responsibility living in it.

Isaak Watts published “Joy to the World” in 1719, inspired by God’s promise, found in Psalm 98, to free the world from its bondage and decay, to establish a new Kingdom of justice and right. It is the most published Christmas Hymn in North America.

“Joy to the world/ the Lord is come / Let earth receive her king.” The message of the Gospels is that the long awaited Messiah, the promised King of Israel, had arrived. “The kingdom of  God is at hand” was the message of Jesus from beginning. He came to start something new, NT Wright calls it a revolution.

To a world that was in bondage as a result of ignoring God, who he is and what he does, Jesus  made the hope of freedom a reality (the true meaning of forgiveness). God was not tearing up a parking ticket, he was changing the direction of how we drive. We have hope in the world because there is a new King, who is greater than dictators or presidents. He is king now and forever – “Joy to the World the Lord IS come.” The King has begun the process to restore and set right all wrong and injustice, not in some vague apocalyptic event in the distant future, but now, everyday.

Free from the bondage of our own devices we find internal peace, peace with others, and peace with God. The enemy of peace is insecurity, the natural offspring of fear and guilt – both are defeated with the coming of the Messiah. I need not fear the future because I know who holds it, and the bondage of my guilt is gone, forgiven.

There is joy in knowing that the world changed 2000 years ago; regardless of a persons viewpoint you must acknowledge that something changed in the world that Friday that Jesus died. The stream of history that is recorded in the Bible makes it clear that the promised Messiah did come and that the world would be different. Joy is the choice to live in the reality that the present is not how things will always be, and that there is a God overseeing it all.

The coming of the Messiah-King is the ultimate expression that we are loved and accepted by God, yes he did love the world so much that he gave his Son. In him we see the Father, we learn to know him, we find release from all the entanglements that bring fear and guilt. We experience the love, the unconditional love, and that changes everything.

It is unfortunate that many fail to grasp the wonder of Jesus, Christ, Messiah, King. Even more have accepted a one-dimensional perspective of the mission of Christ that says he came to blot-out a list of bad things we have done, so that we can one day leave this world and live in heaven escaping some vague, Dante invented, fiery existence. Since the mid 1800’s much of Christianity has embraced the idea that Jesus came to manage behavior – forgive us for our past bad actions, then encourage us to try to behave ourselves until we die, or he returns. Our thin hope is that we get to live eternally in a Platonic, ether-worldly existence, playing harps and singing.

God is in the process of restoring this world so it can be the meeting place of God and his creation; this world will be our home, a restored, wonderful, Eden-like place, with God’s presence in the center. Jesus said that “As the Father is sending me, I am sending you.” We are his image on the Earth, his representatives, his face before the rest of the world. His plan is to use people to represent him, and to change the world around. Thus John Lennon’s song asks the right question.

So this is Christmas

And what have you done

Another year over

And a new one just begun

His song expresses the longing of creation, groaning to have some kind of redemption and justice. Now I am sure that Lennon did not base his question on the coming of Messiah and God’s Kingdom, but he is right in asking the question that we must all ask: What have I done to promote the kingdom of God on this earth, what have I done to make it more like the Kingdom of god? What have I done to reduce conflict?

What have I done to show hope to people living in need? What have I done to promote peace? Do I choose joy in the face of despair and fear? Do I choose to love? How do I respond to those in need, to the oppressed, the trafficked, the lonely, the hungry, the poor? How do I fight injustice and prejudice? Do I reach out in love or in judgement to those who live a lifestyle that is different than mine? How do I treat the environment and its creatures, God’s creation?

Advent reminds us that the Messiah, the promised one, did in fact come. He began his kingdom, and it lives on now, and one day it will be complete. But advent reminds us that God’s instrument of change is people, living in the reality of a new Kingdom and demonstrating to the world that there is a better way, that God is working, that there is hope, peace, joy, and love.

Merry Christmas to all,

Posted by: Terry | November 24, 2016

Thankful for Hope

thNorman Rockwell and The Saturday Evening Post never were and still are not reality. The first National Proclamation of a day of Thanksgiving was made just weeks before Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address, it was a plea for unity in the face of bloody conflict. We survived that conflict as a nation and a people, and I am confident we will survive the present polarization in our land. I have hope and am thankful today.

Consider:

  • Neither candidate received votes from the majority of the population. According to CNN the voter turnout was only 57.8%. That means that the presumptive president-elect (presumptive, because as I write the Electoral College has not yet voted) received votes from around 25% of the voting public, the loser just a bit more.
  • The presumptive president-elect is in the process of backpedaling or diluting many of his most offensive election promises. Racism, walls, deportations, registries, torture, xenophobia, etc. may have excited a portion of the 25% of the people that voted for him, but I am confident they do not represent the feelings and conviction of the majority of the people in this country.
  • Most of the extreme promises made will never happen as they are too entangled in laws, states rights, and other checks and balances built into the system. Our founding leaders established structures to prevent demagoguery.
  • Our history as a nation supports the reality that we rise, albeit too slowly and after the fact, to face issues and attempt building a better place. Our history is no idyllic utopia for sure, but over the 240 years we have made slow progress, but progress. We finally and painfully abolished slavery, sadly we still have a long way to go on equality of the races. Women vote, own property, and slowly approach the equality they were created for, we still have too many glass ceilings and centuries of male domination to overcome, yet we have moved a bit as a nation. I am confident the present times will rouse the good people of the land to take another step in the right direction

There are people truly afraid in our country today, I empathize with them. The danger in this year’s election process is that the extreme rhetoric of the campaign excited and emboldened some of the fringe elements in our society. Our challenge as a people will be to keep extremists on both sides from doing long term damage. Our history reveals that the true majority in this country are moderate, and that the voice of moderation will drown out the messages of hate.

Ultimately my hope comes from my complete conviction that the creator of all things, the sustainer of all things – God, Jehovah – is ultimately in control. Like David so many years ago found comfort in the face of great national and personal conflict, I too find comfort in the knowledge that though the nations rage God is working all things out for a bigger plan. David’s longing, the prophets’ predictions, the early church, and my prayer is that “God’s will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

What am I most thankful for this Thanksgiving Day? That the chaos and fear, the pain and uncertainty around me are not how it will always be. I am thankful most for the hope offered by the one who designed it all, and the one who will one day reconcile it all, judging the right and the wrong, ushering in a new age on this restored earth. “Even so, come Lord Jesus.”

Posted by: Terry | November 22, 2016

How long God?

The questions on the lips of many faithful followers of God are the same questions his followers have asked for the last 4,000 plus years: “What are you doing God?” “How long will this last?” “God, what are you thinking?”

Two thousand years ago, in an upstairs room in Jerusalem, Jesus comforted his disciples in perilous times. His countrymen were ruled by the iron fist of a Roman army, they longed for release and freedom. Jesus, who they had left everything to follow in the expectation that he would be the one to bring the revolution they longed for, instead predicted his imminent death, dashing their hopes for the future. That Friday he would die, added to the thousands that hung on crosses of slow death along the roads, powerful Roman intimidation.

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” The comfort Jesus offered is the same comfort that has sustained believers from the beginning of time, it is the Message, the Word, of God. “Believe in God; believe also in me.”

Something happened that Friday that changed the world. Even the most hardened skeptic and agnostic must accept that for whatever reason the world changed because of the death of Jesus of Nazareth, the self proclaimed initiator of a new kingdom, the one who claimed to be from God and to be God. Accept his statements as false if you would, yet the world began to change and a movement was started by those who did believe.

What did happen that Good Friday? Was his death some kind of a pagan-like religious sacrifice, an innocent victim offered up to placate an angry deity? Was its purpose to produce some type of Platonic ethereal future existence for his followers, whisked away from this evil world to an eternity of ghostlike existence in the clouds? I think not.

“Believe in God; believe also in me.” This is shorthand for the story of God and his creation from the beginning. Believe in God, the creator and the sustainer, who desired to have communion and relationship with his creation. God who from the beginning planned and covenanted to restore that relationship when it was damaged. God who promised to Abraham to bless the world, who called a people Israel out of the bondage of Egypt for the purpose of forming them into a people who would show God to the world; they failed and ultimately ended up in bondage once again.

God, who promised to raise up one man who would be representative not only of Israel in bondage, but all of the world in bondage; this one who would take on himself the failures of the world and on that Good Friday end the bondage, free the exiled. God who acted  “according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” God “who was in the world, reconciling the world.”

“Believe in God; believe also in me.” Believe in the God who is working this all out, and believe that it is Jesus, the promised Messiah, who was talking to them at that very moment, who would soon die, and who they would see living again as proof of the success of his mission. Believe that Jesus was who he said he was, but more. Believe that in Jesus and the cross there was a new Exodus taking place, a new freeing of the whole world, a new kingdom released.

Jesus said his kingdom was not of this world, but it is real. We, who believe and act on the knowledge that the Messiah has come, that a new people are called, members of his Divine Kingdom on this not so divine earth, are his representatives and instruments to bring the heavenly kingdom to this planetary world.

How long? Why? I don’t know. Jesus told us to pray and live, “Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We have two great commissions; Worship God as creator and Lord, bring His kingdom to earth in the way we live each day.

The Psalm writers wrote as we would write, “How long Lord must this evil last? We worship and hope in you.” Today we also are overwhelmed by the world and its evils, but God is in charge, he is working out his seemingly too long and slow plan. But if God is who he says he is, our strength in trials comes from the quiet conviction and faith, that we “Believe in God.”

“Believe also in me.” Jesus is the Messiah, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus is changing the world, its not on me. My role is to live each day as a foreigner in this land, demonstrating what life is like in the Kingdom of light. Each moment we show hope in the face of fear or love in the face of hate we are bringing a bit of God’s kingdom to earth. And each time, we are comforted by the realization that we, “Believe in God; believe also in me.”

Posted by: Terry | June 25, 2016

Flames and wind will grab your attention!


Flames of fire will get your attention. They heard it first, like a violent windstorm, not uncommon in the desert, yet a sound that made you notice, alert to potential devastation. Then there was the fire, not lightening, but bright, carried along by the wind. Like some strange kind of funnel cloud the fire-laced wind converged on the place where the followers of Christ were gathered. People from all over the the city of Jerusalem ran toward the place attracted by the sound and the light. As the wind descended on the believers the flames split apart, with a tongue of fire hovering over every person in the room.
Touched by the flames, the believers began to speak loudly in a variety of languages which they had never learned, the people of the city were amazed and bewildered. These were mostly Galileans, considered by most to be simple and uneducated, yet they were speaking fluently in languages understood by all the people present. A violent wind, flames of fire, and over 100 people speaking in a multitude of languages will get your attention. The promised Holy Spirit had arrived, and the world would never be the same.

As the people of the city listened they heard these believers proclaiming the wonders of God; they were worshiping God, who he is and what he has done. When a person actually encounters God they are overwhelmed with the person and wonders of God. Intellectual or theological musings will not produce the same response that the indwelling of the Spirt will evoke.

The people of the city were amazed at what they saw, and at what they heard – the wonders of God. When we proclaim the wonders of God, people will take notice. If we would attract people to the church, to God, then let us proclaim his wonders. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, not ours. We are to proclaim the wonder of our Father. As we pray we should profess, “Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be thy name.”

The wonders of God may attract, but they do not make sense to those who do not know God, so the people of Jerusalem were puzzled. “What does this mean?” “They have had too much wine.”

Peter stood, with the Apostles, to explain. His message was simple – they were witnessing the coming of the promised Holy Spirt, the sign that all the hopes of Israel were being fulfilled, that the promised Messiah had come, that he had been put to death, yet he was alive, and they had all seen him alive. “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

Three thousand people were so moved by what they saw and heard, that they accepted that Jesus was Lord and Messiah, they became believers. They were not followers of Jesus, they were believers in Jesus as Lord and Messiah. “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” They were baptized as proof of their belief, their sins were forgiven, they became part of the family of believers.

There was no promise of a better life, of restored relationships, of financial improvement, of marriage bliss – none of the messages so prevalent in today’s churches. They were exposed to the wonders of God, the evidence of the Holy Spirit, and Jesus as Lord and Messiah, the result is that they were changed. And these would one day turn the world upside down. We would do well to learn this lesson of the day of Pentecost. We would do well to preach Christ, the Messiah, and Christ crucified. It was the message of Peter and the message of Paul, it should be ours as well.

Posted by: Terry | June 12, 2016

Knowing at the end


I have spent much of my life teaching others about God and how to reach him, I look forward to spending the end of my life getting to know God and speaking with the Father. Jesus came to reveal the Father and remove the barriers between God and people. Our highest calling is to adore and commune with the Father.

Christ spoke often about the communion he had with the Father, if we are his followers, his disciples, communion with the Father will be our desire as well. Worship is first of all adoration that grows out of contemplation of the person and work of the Father.

For much of my life doctrinal correctness and exegetical preaching were the heart and center of worship and church. The quest to understand the truths which God has revealed is certainly important, but too often I see it morph into equating faith with accepting a doctrinal checklist. A creed may be a concise statement of belief, but intellectual acceptance is not the same as faith in God.

Over the last fifteen years or so there has been a reaction to the doctrinal checklist thinking. The result is that personal application has been elevated to top priority. Bible teaching was often little more than head knowledge, intellectualism frequently posed as true worship of the Father. The Romans 12 admonition to “renew your mind” developed a culture of head knowledge only. So pastors and teachers began to emphasize application, taking James to heart when he admonished us that “faith without works is dead.” As with most things the pendulum has swung to a place where following Jesus means patterning your life after him, and where most sermons spend more time on self improvement than they do on illumination of God the Father.

I remember one pastor friend telling me that if your sermon did not change people’s lives you were missing the goal. Yet I would counter that the first duty of a prophet was to proclaim God’s message, and the messenger was not held responsible for the failure of the listeners to respond. He also said that seminaries today said that at least forty percent of the message should be personal application, another word for self help.

There is much in the Bible that does not have direct personal application, it is simply there to inform, enlighten, and reveal God. The Bible is the account of God reaching out to his people, it is not an owners manual, as bumper stickers would label it. Because in the end, God desires communion with his creation.

I am grateful that God allowed me to teach, many were blessed. I look forward to time with God, my tea with God has become more precious than ever. Given the chance to teach again I would spend more time in Psalms, proclaiming the person and wonder of my creator. I would encourage people to learn to pray in a new way, to see the beauty in liturgy, and learn from our Anglican friends the wonder of the Eucharist.

The Holy Spirit is quite able to change me, my efforts usually fail, but just as being in the presence of my wife has made me more like her, and a better person, so being in God’s presence will conform me to his image. “Show us the Father, and it will be enough for us.” Amen.

Our Father who is in heaven, we are humbled at the invitation to call the creator and sustainer of all things Our Father. You who are high and lifted up reached down through your Son the Lord Jesus Christ to reveal yourself to us and bring us close to you as a child in the presence of a loving parent. We pray that your Holy Spirit would manifest the relationship we have with you in ways that will move us to interrupt our busy lives with moments of worship and thankfulness. Amen

proclamationOur Father, your kingdom come. Forgive us for fretting over the enticements of this present age. We pray that the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ would be foremost in our thoughts and desires, that through the working of the Holy Spirit, our world with its cares and attractions would fade in importance as we contemplate your kingdom on this earth, both now and through the eternal age to come. Amen

proclamationOur Father, your kingdom come. In our world of strife and evil we long for the Kingdom of your dear son, the Lord Jesus Christ. We pray, since we live in expectation of his imminent return, that we will allow the Holy Spirit to transform our lives in such a way that we bring a foretaste of your eternal kingdom to the world around us; that as your Son revealed your glory, we would reflect that glory to those we meet. Amen

HolyTrinityWindowLevelledOur Father, hallowed be your name. You are the great I AM, Jehovah, creator, sustainer, Lord God Almighty, Rock. The Lord Jesus Christ revealed you as grace and truth. Yet through the Holy Spirit we call you Father. We come today into your presence as a child approaching their loving parent, confident that our praise and supplications are welcomed and heard. Amen

Stained-glass_window,_Holy_Trinity_Church,_Geneva_2Our Father, Hallowed be your name. You are holy and worthy of our praise. Through our faith in the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and the working of the Holy Spirit you have set us apart to be holy just as you are holy. Forgive us, for we so often fall short. Strengthen us and encourage us today with the power that only you can give, so that we reflect your glory to those around us and bring honor to your name. Amen

8141575655_4311701c42Our Father, Hallowed be your name. We join the seraphim who surround your throne in crying Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty. As our Lord Jesus Christ made it his highest goal to reveal the Father and bring glory to your name, may the Holy Spirit give us such a vision of your glory that hallowing your name becomes our highest goal and greatest joy. Amen

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