Archive for the ‘Time Up to Pentecost’ Category

Pooh loveFew us willingly embrace paradox: loss for gain, death for life, serve to lead, and so on. Each and every type is repeated throughout scripture and our first reaction is reason: that is contradictory, that is not possible, that is absurd. Even faith itself is a type of paradox, to believe in what cannot be seen or proved rationally. Paradox is simply inevitable within the Way of Christ. And those who dismiss it, miss it.

But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. [John 16:7-11, NIV]

And so I wonder about my own loss. I cannot help but read this passage and wonder, is it the same for the death of a loved one? Will there a come a day when I can look back and see, if Mike had not died, we would have missed this other event, this other understanding, this other transformation? I can almost imagine Mike, in his final moments, seeing our future more clearly than we ever could. And perhaps he also thought, I go that they might live in this other way, within this other road.

Mike’s faith was unshakeable and his mantra was that God would provide [Jehovah Jireh]. And he calls me to do the same. Trust God. Let go of what was freely. All will be well.

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Christ Pantokrator mosaic, Ravenna, 6th century.

Christ Pantokrator mosaic, Ravenna, 6th century.

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, will give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation that makes God known to you. I pray that the eyes of your heart will have enough light to see what is the hope of God’s call, what is the richness of God’s glorious inheritance among believers, and what is the overwhelming greatness of God’s power that is working among us believers. [Ephesians 1: 17 – 19a, CEB]

At my church, I often have the privilege of “hosting” one of the morning services. In this capacity, I welcome the people, introduce the substance of the service, pray for the congregants, sometimes lead communion, give announcements, and finally, release the people at the closing with a final word and/or blessing.

Today, I am touched by these words from the lectionary for they speak from my heart what I desire for you, my reader. What greater gift can I offer you than a revelation of God and an open heart to the presence of God in your life whose promises await you (and me)?

This week, on Facebook, a friend challenged her FB followers to define beauty in three words. One of the best answers I read was “Revelation of God.” That made total sense. For all things beautiful have their roots in the creative hand of God.

So, with that in mind, I bless you. I pray for you beauty and all the other benefits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and even self-control. What more do we need in this world to walk the Way?

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confessionA “good confession,” as a phrase, has been pinched by the Catholics and any Internet search will teach you how to make a good confession in the confessional and thereafter make penance etc. But in this case, Paul is referring to a “confession of faith” which has been appropriated by yet another clerics to represent a formal statement of beliefs by one denomination for another. They are crafted documents and in most cases, cover a wide range of potential controversies discussed by believers through the centuries. But honestly, the confessions of Timothy and the Christ were much more personal. They simply acknowledged who they each were and to whom they belonged and gave fealty.

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you [Paul to Timothy] made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. . . .  I command you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and Christ Jesus, who made the good confession [Paul about Jesus] when testifying before Pontius Pilate. [I Timothy 6:12-13, CEB]

There are people who get all “hinky” about the term, saved, as in “Are you saved?” But I think it’s really just a shortcut question about one’s confession. They are asking, “do you profess the Christ?” Do you follow the One God? Do you believe that Jesus was God in the flesh during a particular period of history and yet died and resurrected into a different kind of “body” and heretofore communes intimately with the God of the Universe to this day? Or, even this, do you believe in the Presence and transforming power of a Holy Spirit who lives within, upon invitation, and opens a Way to heaven on earth in preparation for eternity?

What do you believe? What is real to you? Who is this Jesus to you? Whom do you confess?

“This is also why I’m suffering the way I do, but I’m not ashamed. I know the one in whom I’ve placed my trust. I’m convinced that God is powerful enough to protect what he has placed in my trust until that day.” [II Timothy 1:12, CEB]


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enticedWhat does it mean to be enticed to turn away? Intellectually, of course, I understand that to be enticed is to lured or beguiled by an expectation or hope for something better. But this phrase comes at the end of a long list of plentiful promises including a “land flowing with milk and honey” in which generations would experience fertility in their families and their land. They were promised a win-win. And yet, the warning came too and in the end, proved to be on target. Never enough.

 Observe therefore all the commands I am giving you today, so that you may have the strength to go in and take over the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, and so that you may live long in the land the Lord swore to your ancestors to give to them and their descendants, a land flowing with milk and honey. . . . Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them. [Deuteronomy 11:8-9, 16, NIV]

Human beings are notorious for never being satisfied. Most of us who live in the West are prime examples. We have more than we need and we want more still. I am no stranger to this dis-ease. I am living within the norm of this culture and mind-set. Only until we travel to other countries where people walk to a pump for their water or eat the same staple food every day or die of an unchecked pandemic, do we have our eyes opened for a season.

We have it all and yet we are enticed away by the “other gods.” Do we really imagine that the mere facade of better, faster, or bigger will be the antidote to what ails us? I am ashamed at the number of times I have allowed myself to covet what others appear to have, to know, to enjoy.

Not today then. I choose to wrap myself in the armor of God’s contentment. If only for a little while, I will be mindful of “Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every man [person] who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.” [St. Patrick]

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christingardenNo matter how much time is lost or mistakes made or fears given into, God’s love remains available to me . . . to you. The days have been very hard, the stress like a heavy weight upon my heart, and even then, more challenges have come, yet God calls me to come beneath the wings of safety, into the protection of holiness, and grounded by the promise of healing and wholeness. I come.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. . . . “ [John 15:9-12, NIV]

Snapshot: This week will mark only the fifth month of Mike’s passing. Forever and yet only yesterday. But the realities of life move forward and after much consultation with professionals, friends, and family, it’s evident that I must sell our house and downsize into something more affordable for me, and ultimately, whatever twenty-somethings come along. The house is listed, the “huge” yard sale is done, and the hunt is on. Each day, a little more must be done to spruce up the digs in hopes that the potential buyer won’t notice that gnawed off window sill by big dog or that crack in the wall through a settling foundation. The weeds continue to sprout no matter how many times I tell them to stop. We are all trying our best to be neatniks for the sake of show. And still life goes on.

All during this time, I am hearing the voices of Simplify (Hybels) and Essentialism (McKeown) and 168 Hours (Vanderkam). What is essential? What is important? What is long lasting? Where is my true treasure? What is needful?

I believe remaining in Christ is part of the simplify message. For, it is only in Christ, that I can let go of the other stuff, both physical and emotional.

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It’s important to seize and exercise forgiveness; otherwise, the whole point of the Christ/Messiah sacrifice is lost. It’s God’s forgiveness and intentional dis-remembering that manifests in the crucifixion and renews our direct access to God.

Hebrews 10:17-18
Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.

It’s big: forgiveness. There is more power in forgiveness than any other aspect of faith. Forgiveness works for both believers and non-believers. It’s like gravity. If it’s genuine, it generates freedom.

But here’s the part that took me a long time to truly understand. Forgiveness is for the giver moreso than the receiver. It is my act of forgiving that frees me from the results of unforgiveness.

I did not say that this makes forgiveness easy. But it’s benefits are not lessened or increased by its difficulty.

Forgiveness begins with a choice, not with a feeling.

When I forgive, I can begin to let go of the expressions and allies of unforgiveness like anxiety, anger, distrust, bitterness, hardness of heart, worry, conversations and images stuck in replay, negative expectations, disappointment, and even ill health.

To withhold forgiveness is a direct assault on the heart that the Holy Spirit is mentoring within.

I begin each day now with my acknowledgement and need for forgiveness — specifically! I name everything that comes to mind. Sometimes, those things are from yesterday and sometimes, I’m surprised to find a piece of old baggage cropping up, a hidden room who’s door must be opened, a pebble that is not a pearl at all, but a stone of that has been secretly growing within a shell of resentment. God reveals as I am able.

Some people are slow to forgive because they believe this sets the other person free. Nothing could be further from the truth. Once we let go, the judgment lands at the feet of God. While I hold on to any pain that someone else has caused me, no matter how unfairly, I hinder the work of God.

“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave the way open for [God’s] wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is Mine, I will repay (requite), says the Lord [Deuteronomy 32:35.” [Romans 12:19, Amplified]

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The second appearance of the Christ is critical to the faith. But I must say, it’s been an event a long time coming. No one can really imagine what the Second Coming might look like. Scriptures are fairly vague at best.

Hebrews 9:28
. . . so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

There’s Revelation 1:7 — “Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him. . . ” and Matthew 24:30 — “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.” and II Thessalonians 1:7b — “This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.”

So what do we have here: clouds, flames, and signs with the Son of Man manifesting in the midst of it all. Artists have rendered this idea/image as either the Bible School Jesus all in white, robes flowing, or some kind of King image, all in gold, often times on a horse, and full of majesty (whatever that means). In either case, he is recognizable. Me? I don’t think so. I don’t think we’ll understand the Second Coming any more than we understand the ways of nature. We may be able to describe its properties, but not its essence.

Some people talk about the Second Coming of Christ as their chance to say to unbelievers, “See, I told you so,” “I warned you!” They act as though they wouldn’t be in the same shock and terror and wonder! Face it. How many times do things appear out of nowhere in the sky? I have to laugh as I consider whether all the spaceship movies are getting us ready for that appearance.

Of course, not everyone believes this can even happen. I remember standing at a bus stop every day to wait for the public bus that would carry me to high school (this is pre-school buses in Indianapolis). On the corner was a church of some type or another and on their sign, it always said, “Jesus is coming soon!” From my limited understanding of Christianity in those years, I thought they were really stupid. How could Jesus come again if he had already come. This was a teaching I never got (or understood) in Vacation Bible School or the more formal Latvian Lutheran church services. I don’t think I was alone.

A Second Coming is not something which we can prepare for in any way. When Harold Camping touted his May 21st forecast of judgment day (now pushed back to October 21st), he made it sound like people could actually do something in time for that day. That’s not the purpose of Christ’s coming. It’s the end of the age. Whatever happens next will be new, different, not recognizable. It may mean death or it may mean transformation. It’s a nexus moment. When the Christ comes, and if indeed, it’s “in the sky,” then the universe has changed dramatically. Both things cannot co-exist and be the same as before.

And why do the scriptures say that people will mourn? Is it because they didn’t believe or is it the loss of what we know. Our children and our children’s children will not know life as we know it. Everything must change. Everything will change. And if we don’t like change now, “Baby, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

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