Posted by: Terry - theTravelsketcher | March 2, 2017

A journey to participative worship

6772e74bf2ea726e0f37962e0465b3ccWhen did worshipping God become a sing-along concert with a self-help talk? Yet this is what I have observed at many churches over the last twenty-plus years.

Song leaders have been replaced with “worship leaders and bands.” The message of the songs is frequently more about “me” and my response to God than it is proclaiming the person and the grace of God. Even the songs about the work of God seem to end with “what it means to me.” The musical part of the service is well rehearsed, a polished performance with loud instruments that drown out the voices of the congregation. I miss hearing a congregation’s voice praising God for who he is, above the guitar or organ.

I do not come out of a liturgical tradition, my roots are Baptist. Yet we did have a sort of liturgy. There would be a song or two, scripture reading, prayers for the needs of the church and each other, an offering was taken, an offertory, a sermon explaining a portion of the Bible, and once a month communion or Lord’s Supper – of course in a Baptist church it was never called Eucharist.

When I moved from Baptist churches, to a Nazarene church (A long story having nothing to do with doctrine), there was a time each Sunday morning when people were invited to the alter for prayer. In both of these denominations there was a bit of interaction between the worshippers and the pastors. We actually sang the songs, now we sing along with a music group, then we were part of the music. We entered into prayer with other believers, either in our pew or at the alter. Over time congregations singing and praying together have faded away, our church finally took away the alter.

For much of the church’s history the sermon illuminated God and his work, then offered encouragement or exhortation to live a life that expressed our faith. There was regular reminders of the foundational message of the Bible: God created his world, his created people fell away, he instituted a plan to restore his creation, Jesus the Messiah was the pinnacle of that plan, there is a new people and kingdom entered into by faith, and ultimately there will be a restored creation with God dwelling with his people.

We are people “saved by grace, not our own efforts.” The Apostles and early church leaders were clear that there was a danger of leaving the good news of the Messiah and returning to a life of self-effort, embodied in the Torah (the first 5 books of the Bible). Following Jesus meant embracing him as Messiah then taking active participation in his kingdom, which required adopting a new vocation for our life – bringing his will on earth as it is in heaven. Following Jesus was all about glorifying the Father, just as Jesus had done while on earth.

Someplace along the way self-help has replaced the Torah as the false way of being right with God – but then again maybe they are not so different. The Torah laid out a life that must be lived to be accepted by God, his grace was implemented by living in accordance with the Torah, the Law’s, requirements, mixed with faith. Jesus recognized that human effort would always fall short, it was faith in the Messiah’s coming, his death, and resurrection that would produce right alignment with God.

If you listen to many preachers today who encourage following Jesus, their message is that patterning your life after Jesus results in a better life and that you then are members of the family of God. Following Jesus becomes a self-help program of doing all you can to live your life with Jesus as your role model. Certainly a person could not pick a better example for right living, yet following Jesus for self-improvement was never the prime directive of the New Testament.

It is this trend that caused me to wander and explore. I discovered that much of what I grew up with was not the ancient church, it was as new as the late 1800’s, embodied in the Scofield Study Bible. The early church read the  Apostle’s writings and the Scriptures to each other, they prayed together, and they celebrated the death of Christ weekly, even daily. Worship was praising God,”Hallowed be your name”,  proclaiming his person and work. Prayer was worship, thanking, praising, petitioning.

I was raised on a sort of intellectual-checklist kind of faith. The right distinctive doctrines were more important than the relationship with God. They talked about relationships, but preached theology. Theology is important, but the end is knowing God, checklists just don’t produce relationships. Study is important but not the end. It gives us substance for what we believe, but as it says in Ecclesiastes “Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.” (NIV)

The turning point for me was when I realized what was missing in what I was hearing. Paul said, “We preach Christ crucified.” Eucharist has been the celebration and the proclamation of Christ crucified since the earliest days of the church, weekly, even daily. Christians have felt the need for constant reminding and recommitting to the death of Christ. Thinking about this I realize that from my early days as a youth pastor, 40+ years ago, I taught that there was more to Communion than just a time of remembrance and warm feelings, but that we should center on what the body and blood of Christ did, and what it means to us who call ourselves Christians.

I began to explore the denominations who’s worship made Eucharist the center or regular part of their services. That led me to discover that their liturgy focused on Praise, Reading Scripture, Prayer, and Eucharist. An added attraction was that they were praying and reading the same scriptures as millions of other Christians around the world were praying, a unity I desired.

For many years I have read the readings from the Book of Common Prayer each morning, and often the prayers for the day. There is something refreshing, comforting, to the routine. The same routine that I have experienced as I have visited liturgical churches.

I am not really sure there is a neat conclusion to this post, it is more of a progress report. Going back to concert-self-help is probably not an option. For now I continue to read, pray, and explore. I do know I feel more connected to God than I have for many years, that is refreshing, and motivating me to keep the process going.

Posted by: Terry - theTravelsketcher | February 24, 2017

Coming to grips with a president I don’t like

Let me be clear, I am not happy with Donald Trump as president. He does not have the composure nor the values that I would like in a president. He has surrounded himself with many folks who’s values are diametrically opposed to mine. Over the last few weeks and months I have denounced, criticized, laughed at, and cried over the situation I see my country in. As I write this the news reports only deepen my disappointments and concerns for the direction we are taking. Yet it is time for me to align my values with my actions. So the question is: How does a professing Christian, who is faced with a president he finds offensive, respond and conduct himself?

First of all, Donald Trump IS my president. Last Monday, Presidents Day 2017, there were “Not My President” rallies. Well he is my president, I did not vote for him, Hillary did get 3 million more votes in the popular, the Electoral College system may need changing, the Russians and Comey/FBI may have influenced the election, yet according to the laws of the land Donald Trump is our president. I may not like it, but the reality is that he actually is the president.

One thing I know is that God is not surprised, over the centuries God has tolerated and even used some pretty un-godly folks, he can do that again. When all is said and done God’s ultimate plans will not be thwarted, though how Trump will fit into all that is a mystery to me.

Trump may be just what we deserve. Since the time of Nixon our nation has progressively become more and more divided. Extremes on both sides have shaped arguments and hindered any kind of moderate resolutions. It makes sense that a divisive president would emerge from a divided populace.

I don’t like it, but he is my president. Denial does not change the reality. Robert Ringer said, “Reality is the way things are, not the way I wish they were. We either use reality to our advantage or it automatically works against us.”

Since he is my president I will pray for him. Last Sunday, Mother Cynthia at St. Hilda’s church said that anyone can pray for the people they love and support, but as Christians we must follow Jesus’ example and pray for those we don’t. “Prayer is love put into action.” She said that when we pray for those we would rather hate it is us that are changed.

If anyone needs prayer it is Trump. Paul prayed for Nero, he told us to pray for our leaders as well. Notice that it was not so they would change their policies, it was so that we could live in peace. I need peace, so I will pray.

As believers in the Christ we profess that God changes people and directs circumstances. Prayer is an expression of my faith that God will in fact work his plan – so I will pray.

Next, I will not call him names, nor ridicule him. I have done this and am not proud of it. Jesus may have called the Pharisees names, but that was because they were in a position to lead people to God and instead they drove them away. When Jesus talked to Pilate at his trial leading to crucifixion he was respectful.

I must admit that I am not sure what to do with Saturday Night Live, and other political humor. A bit of humor is a good thing, yet I am sure there is a time when it is too much. I am still considering this part of name calling. At the least I personally will try to refrain from demeaning this person who is so easy to mock.

I will not resist just for the sake of resisting, I will focus on issues. I was critical of the Republicans during the term of Obama because their primary objective was to oppose anything he did. It was petty and it prevented progress. I may not like Trump as a person but if the White House proposes something that I support then I will support it. If we oppose everything just because we oppose him as a person, we lower ourselves to to the same level the Republicans were in, I don’t want to go there. I do not plan to accept and thus by default approve of everything that is said and done, I will speak out when I see what is not right or does not make sense, yet will do so with substance.

Jesus told Pilate that his kingdoms was not of this world, since I am part of his kingdom this world is not mine. I either believe that or I don’t. If I believe that, and believe that my vocation is to exhibit the characteristics of God’s kingdom, to influence the people I meet, then I must live differently. “We are ambassadors for Christ”, representing Christ in this world, for me, that is this country. Jesus accepted the harsh Roman rulers, his detractors wanted him to overthrow them, he did not. Jesus treated all with respect, he prayed, he touched people with the love of God.

I may continue to grieve at what I read, get angry and frustrated, this I know. Yet, quoting Mother Cynthia again, “Prayer is love in action.” We need love. So I pray for myself, my country, and my president.

Posted by: Terry - theTravelsketcher | January 15, 2017

What’s a Christian to do?

1122832_823c3501January the 20th approaches, Inauguration Day 2017, my apprehension and uncertainty grows each day. Our 45th President was elected by a minority of the voters, at the end of the most divisive campaign in my memory, possibly in our history. A sense of angst permeates much of the country, both supporters and detractors of the new President must sense the climate of tension in our country. As one who professes faith and trust in God the Father and his son the Christ I have struggled to clarify how I should come to terms with this new chapter in our country and society.

The overriding priority is that my conduct must be true to the faith that I profess to have, and must bring glory to God. So two questions emerge: How does a person who claims to trust that God is God, and is not surprised by the current state of events, live and act? Does my conduct make God look good?

Thankfully we have records of how Christians have dealt with similar situations of political or social turmoil in the past,  some admirable and some disgraceful; considering both would be instructive for sure. Yet for now I need the simple, and more immediate guide that I find that in the familiar passage of Galatians 5.22, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is not law against such things.”

Regardless of what the politicians or the special interest groups do in the coming months there is no law preventing me, and other Christians, from exhibiting these evidences that we are members of a Kingdom that is not part of the world we are sojourning through.

Where we are exposed to hatred and name calling there is only one response, love. Our example is Christ: he confronted the domination and oppression of Rome with love for those he met. So must we, as we interact with those whom we may disagree with.

“The joy of the Lord is our strength.” When tempted to throw up our hands in despair the Spirit produces joy. Joy in the face of negativity has always been a characteristic of faith, it is an outward expression of an inward condition. My pendulum swings between withdrawal and sarcasm/ cynicism, both of which deny the joy that the Spirit makes available.

In turmoil we are called on to live and demonstrate peace in an un-peaceful world. Jesus said he would give us peace, but not the circumstances-dependent peace of the world, a peace produced by the conviction that God is God, along with the Spirit’s inner strength.

Patience will be difficult and required in these next few months and years. Change will not happen as quickly as I would like, if it happens at all. The urge to give up, or take matters into ones own hands will be tempting. Action when we can is responsible, peaceful protest is patient, violence and anarchy are not. We may be required to wait patiently at times; another demonstration of faith.

Kindness and generosity are rare in our society these days, or at least drowned out by vitriolic interactions on Facebook and the media. As a follower of Christ kindness and generosity demonstrate a different mindset, a different heart. We have been instructed to overcome evil with good.

When tempted to give up, the Sprit reminds us to be faithful, true to what we believe, true to others, true to God, who is faithful in his dealing with us.

Gentleness will stand out at this time when confrontation and conflict are all too prevalent. When  braggadocios proclamations and defenses of opinions are the norm, a gentle word glorifies God and exhibits our faith.

Lastly, i need self-control. The emotions right now are tender, easily enflamed, resulting in the potential for rash actions and rhetoric. God grant me the self-control to think and pray before I act.

I do not know what the near future holds, and am not sure how I fit in to it all, but I do know that one thing is required: to live in alignment with the faith I profess, and bring glory to God, both overwhelming at times. By God’s grace and the Sprits urging my prayer is that we who profess to be Christians will show a bit of God to a world so in need.

Posted by: Terry - theTravelsketcher | December 21, 2016

Flapping our wings to change the world

butterflies_ufmuseumEven a casual glance at the daily news can kindle a sense of frustration, even despair. Feelings of futility easily follow: “What can one person do?” “My vote does not count.” Confronted with the pervasive injustice, inequality, and evil in the world, giving up and/or anger are logical. Where is God? What is he going to do? Why does he allow these things?

Somehow I want something big to happen, lightning to strike, the right political party to come to the rescue, new laws passed old laws changed. But it never happens, and the older I get the more I am convinced it never will. Could it be that we have it all wrong? What we need is Lorenzo’s Butterfly. Lorenzo was a meteorologist, he discovered that even miniscule differences in data that was entered in a weather model made major changes in the predicted outcome. A slight difference in wind or pressure, as slight as the flutter of a butterfly’s wings, would change the course of a hurricane.

As I was praying this morning from The Book of Common Prayer, I asked, “Does it matter? Will anything change?”

Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart, that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Then it hit me, God is like Lorenzo’s Butterfly. If I start praying and living this prayer every day, then I am changed. Then if I can just get one or two other people to pray the same prayer and strive to live it, and they influence one or two more people, then before long the world has changed – my prayer did make a difference.

It seems that God works one person at a time, I want God to change the world, God wants to change the world as well, but his instrument is me, and if you will join me in praying this prayer daily, and passing it on, we will make a change in the world. Enough of these small changes and the world would be a different place.

For those not familiar with The Book of Common Prayer, the title means that it is the prayers that are being prayed in common among believers. When we pray this prayer for harmony and justice we join with millions of others praying the same prayer, we are all agreeing, and the more we are in unity the more our world is affected.

So, I am asking you today, don’t just “like” this post, but commit to pray this prayer daily, live it as you can, and get one other person to pray with us. Our piece of the world will change, and individually we will be changed.


Posted by: Terry - theTravelsketcher | 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 - theTravelsketcher | 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.


  • 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 - theTravelsketcher | 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 - theTravelsketcher | 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 - theTravelsketcher | 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

Posted by: Terry - theTravelsketcher | May 14, 2016

Praying the Lord’s Prayer – Your kingdom come II

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

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