The First Day of the Week

On the first day of the week we became Easter People. the_empty_tomb__Medium_[1]

Our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom all things were made in the beginning, has initiated the new creation.  Just as in the first beginning, Jesus completed the work—living among us, proclaiming Kingdom-come, casting out demons, healing the sick, mending the broken, confronting the powers and the evil that pulls their strings, taking their best shot, and dying—crying, “It is finished! 

His cry turned out to be the most delightful and wonderful double entendre.  The powers, of course, understood the one meaning—yes, indeed, would-be Messiah and King dead as dead can be, problem solved!  But they had no idea.  Later the Apostle Paul would observe, if they had had any clue at all what they were doing they would not have crucified the Lord of glory (1 Cor. 2:8).  No indeed.

The other, deeper and more powerful meaning was this: New Creation has now begun.  And so, as Jesus declares the fact—it is finished, the Sabbath quickly comes.  Just as in the first creation, so now, when the foundation for New Creation is set, then the God-man rests.  Sabbath comes.  And then …

Read more…



The Unsettling Truth About Peacemaking

The scripture tells us to “seek peace and pursue it” (Psalm 34:14).  Jesus said that peacemakers are blessed people (Matthew 5:9).  Shalom (peace) is one of the richest Hebrew terms in the Bible.  Shalom is peace that leads to or is evidenced by wholeness.  Peace is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).  Peace is what Jesus promised to (John 14:27) and breathed on (John 20:19) his disciples in the upper room.  And peace is what most people deeply desire.

Many people never experience peace.  The soul of the natural person is at war.  The soul of this lost world is at war.  The inner and outer conflicts result from the lack of peace in us and among us.  In today’s world where God has been ignored in personal and global affairs, peace is scant and hard to come by in personal and global terms.  As someone quipped, “no God, no peace or know God, know peace.”  The first seems to have been the choice of many.  The second is the solution that is too often ignored.

Read more…



A Taxing Question

It began with a divisive question, “Should we support a bad government with our taxes?” It ended with, “Whose inscription is on your heart?”

 

 

or on Vimeo at:

 


If Jesus Were An Immigrant

A lot of people are talking about immigration and immigrants these days.  Whether for or against;  whether the th7LUOA535gospel Jesus proclaimed and embodied has anything to do with it, and if so what; whether immigrants pose a threat to us, and if they do exactly what sort of threat—inconvenience, discomfort, danger, death; whether immigrants from some groups should be treated differently than others; whether immigrants from places predominantly Muslim pose more of a threat than those from other places—these and many other questions enliven or deaden the multiple media enveloping our lives these days.  The Free Methodist Church offers a well-written, reasoned, biblically shaped and practical position on matters of immigration that I thoroughly affirm and commend to all followers of Jesus.  You may find it here: http://fmcusa.org/scod/the-free-methodist-position-on-immigration/

In relation to all of the questions and concerns, I wonder if we might think differently about immigration matters if Jesus were an immigrant.  Often our settled ways of thinking about issues, and therefore our responses to them, suffer disruption when we learn that the “issue” has happened to a loved one.  No one I know champions divorce because everyone knows how devastating a divorce can be.  But it makes a difference when it happens to you or others you love.  It makes a difference, even if the one you love might seem at fault.  Facts are facts and truth is truth, though both can be hard to establish, but it makes a difference when it touches, hurts, or destroys someone you love.  That difference may not reduce the complexity of the issue, (indeed it probably will increase it).  And that difference may not change conclusions you draw about the issue.  Still, when someone you love suffers, it becomes more than an issue and it makes a difference in how you respond.

Read more…



Tone It Down

This is a time when people are praying not only for personal things of which we are typically inclined, but for political things that are to the fore of public life right now.  The natural inclination is to try to ascertain how to pray and for what to pray at times like these- unsettling political seasons.  We know that we are to pray for those governing.  It is a foregone conclusion that we will also pray for those impacted by those who govern.  We pray for the governing and the governed.  And, we are in a day where justice is what matters most to most.  So, that is the dominant subject of prayer for the governing and the governed.

My appeal to those who read this and commit to pray is that we do not fail to remember the spirit in which we should pray.  There is a posture from which our prayer should be lifted up.  Paul urged us “that all requests, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving be made for everyone- for kings and those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (I Timothy 2:1-2).  The underlying, stated reason for the prayers for public leaders is so that we may all live in peace, not turmoil.  Specifically for those of us who believe, it is so that holiness and godliness might not be threatened as we try to live congruent lives that do not force us to conflict with civic authorities as we worship God and serve people.

Read more…



Made In His Image

by

 
bishopnov2016
 

We are made in God’s image. Genesis 1:26–27 contains this in clear language, not once or twice, but four times.

“Let us make mankind in our image. . .” (v.26). “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (v.27). Verse 26 is a divine dialogue of the Trinity. Verse 27 include descriptions of God’s activity. Though verse 27 is elongated, all four of these expressions contain the same three basic grammatical elements found in a simple sentence (subject, verb, object) in these three words — “God” “created” “mankind.” And part of this creation involved God implanting His image in humanity. That conveyed image is enjoyed by no other part of His creation — only humanity.

Read more…



Any Chance God Thinks of Us?

Is there any chance that the almighty God of the universe, Creator of everything that is, thinks of you? Could you be in His thoughts? One of the most astounding stories of all time is this story; of a young woman who was remembered by God, representing all of us who are “insignificant,” “forgotten,” and without hope. If He thought of her… well, you know where I’m going!

Or on Vimeo at:

 

 



Political Questions – Is There Hope?

By 
 
 
VoteColorsplash
 
Liar vs. Lecher. That could well be what the marquee reads out front of today’s political arena.  The followers of each engage in fierce fighting for their contender—“fanatical” seems apt to me as a normative, rather than 
extreme, descriptor.  In one corner, just as some alleged lies fade into the past a new spate of emails comes to light.  Sadly, it might be that deals were discussed, quid pro quo in nature, that stretches her credibility beyond the breaking point for many.   In the other corner, just as the lechery stands fully exposed more professed victims come forward.  Sadly, in the most recent cases the alleged lecher responds in ways that themselves seem dismissive, abusive and cluelessly aggravating.  More sadly, professing Christians who support him dismiss his deeds with shockingly cheap grace in one breath and then rail against the same misdeeds committed by the spouse of his opponent.   On both sides, we see the practice of defense by attack of the other.  And both sides seem not to consider that the means one uses often invalidate the noblest of ends.  Christians on both sides know better.  If ends in themselves can justify the means, then Jesus was a fool and should have jumped from the Temple pinnacle.  Liar vs. Lecher offers bawdy entertainment and C-rated drama, but no hope.

But hope remains for earnest and daring followers of Jesus.  In fact, hope remains precisely because the dynamics now playing out in this electoral carnival show seem so dark.  Is there hope?  Yes or, at least, there can be!

Hope will flow from an excellent opportunity for Jesus-followers to reaffirm that:

Our citizenship is in heaven. We look forward to a savior that comes from there– the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform our humble bodies so that they are like his glorious body, by the power that also makes him able to subject all things to himself, (Phil. 3:20-21 CEB).

Read more…



PRAYER with Exclamation Points

I love to pray.  Prayer is that wonderful convergence of urgency, love, raw emotion, transparency and faith wrapped in bundled communication with God.  I know that prayer is communication.  But, too much of it is tepid.  I know.  I have prayed that way.  I have heard others pray that way.

There are far too many commas and semi-colons and simple periods in prayer when I come to think of it and when I listen to others praying.  I don’t think it was meant to be that way.  David’s Psalms are not so dispassionate.  That is not what I see when I read the prayers of those in the Bible- Jehoshaphat, Daniel, most of the minor prophets, Jeremiah and of course Ezekiel.  With these, there is much more energy and emotion in their prayers than is commonly heard today.  There prayers are filled exclamations and questions, if not literally at least figuratively.  Most certainly, there are simple sentences involved.  But, many of those would seem to read better if they were in full caps or in some staccato single word sentences.  Some of the prayers may not be brief.  But, what they may lack in brevity, they make up in unrelenting passion and intensity (cf. Ezra 9; Daniel 9; Psalm 27 etc.).

Very few public prayers in the Old and New Testaments seem as disinterested and benign as many that I hear today in public settings.  If our communication is as urgent as it should be, then our voice and fervor should match the urgency.  The woman who grabbed at Jesus’ garment and the thankfully healed Samaritan who threw himself at Jesus’ feet and blind Bartimaeus who shouted at the top of his lungs to gain Jesus’ attention, were among the many who saw any subsequent communication with Jesus as simply a bonus to their clamor for his touch.  When we are so eager to seek the touch of God, it generally bleeds through in our words.

We generally offer more reference to traditional postures of prayer (kneeling, prostrate, lifting our eyes and hands, etc.) in our songs than in our real prayer expressions.  It is time we pray more on our literal knees and with more exclamation points and passion and less visible disinterest.  The world needs God.  God seeks true worshippers who worship in Sprit and truth.  I don’t think either the truth or the Spirit ever come across as blasé.  Neither should the voice of true worshippers.  I, for one, am willing to suffer the indignity of David, dancing before the ark, to express the unquenchable joy of Jesus Christ.  It is not that the world needs to see it.  We simply need to express it and let the world see the results of answered prayer.  John Wesley said that when people are lit on fire by the Holy Spirit, people come from miles to watch them burn.  Perhaps that is what we need in these days of protocol and calm- an attractive fire.



Anger. The Quick Fix.

Seemingly poles apart, what’s driving all the political campaigns, the Black-Lives-Matter movement, the Blue-Lives-Matter movement, the radicalized religious bombers, the conspiracy-theorists?

Anger.

Anger is the heroin of our public discourse.

Anger is adrenalin’s cheap-shot.

Anger is in the back of my mind. In the back of your mind, too.

No, you might say, it’s driven by a desire for justice, or by hope. Not really. The source of it all is anger. Anger on all sides, anger from all races, anger from all social classes. Angry over immigration, on all sides. Anger over police abuse, on all sides. Angry birds, angry talking-heads, angry mobs, angry religions.

Surprised by anger?

Christians are never surprised by anger, because we understand it’s love’s opposite. We understand it’s the default human response. We understand it’s the normal natural way to respond to threat and injustice.So we’re not surprised, although usually disappointed. We’re not surprised by conflict or abuse. Saddened to tears, yes, surprised no.

This is the moment for Christians to demonstrate love. Not jelly-bean candy-cotton sickeningly-sweet love. But real love; sacrificial love. This is the moment for Christians to figure out how to live love in this context, an angry context. You don’t need a grand jury investigation or an FBI investigation to know every detail of every atrocity. Whether it’s Istanbul or Minnesota, I can assure you it’s an escalating cycle of anger that can only be broken by love’s intervention.

So what should we do? The basic rule of love is “Don’t look out for #1,” for yourself. The identifying characteristic of love is that it seeks the good of the other above our own good.

Even as we weep. Even as we repent. Even as we work for justice. We love sacrificially.

God so loved that he gave… That’s the story we’re to imitate. “yes but they might kill us.” Right. That’s what happened, isn’t it? But whenever we look to further our own cause, our own finances, our own “kind of people” we deny the faith that depends on our father. Faith is being at risk, faith is trusting that we don’t have to defend ourselves. Faith was embodied by our Lord who laid his life down, on purpose, to an angry mob, not just to forgive us our sins but also to show us how to love.

So, am I some kind of loving pacifist?

Would that make you angry if I were?