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Advent Hope Print E-mail
(6 votes)

Advent Theme Number One: Hope

Day One – The Truth about Hope…….Ephesians 1: 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit[f] of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.

 

The Last couple of weeks I took time to watch the Hunger Games. Fascinating movies, as they play off of the themes of good vs. evil, rich vs. poor, and the worth and value of human beings. I found myself most intrigued by what turns out to be the real theme of the two movies – “hope”. You can only maintain control over mass people groups in so much that you are able to create “hope”. The Hunger Games are created to give a false since of hope to a people who are always on the brink of revolution. This false hope suppresses revolution, built upon the very real assumption that if hope is taken away, revolt will most certainly follow. Was Paul giving us major insight into the core of humanity when he wrote in 1 Cor. 13: “Now these three remain, faith, hope, and love……….”?

 

Those of us who have experienced the reality of hope know of its power to hold and contain us. My entire life I have been a Cubs fan. Each new spring is brimming with hope. “This is the year!” we shout to one another from the rooftops of our heart, and this in spite of the sure and certain reality that Jesus will most certainly return before a World Series be won. I am somewhat surprised that those who think they have the second coming map all figured out have not managed to find somewhere in Ezekiel a passage that could only mean “if the Cubs of Chicago win the World Series, look up, for most certainly our redemption draweth nigh.” I sometimes find myself feeling sorry for the Yankee fan, for the World Series is not a hope for such as these, but instead an expectation. To fail to make it, and for some to win it, is yearlong disappointment. For the Cub fan, Hope simply becomes that much more amazing, that much more powerful, that much more meaningful, and that much more a reality, when October highlights our absence once again. The Cub fan forever knows the true allure and the true power of hope. Without hope, we are lost. Without hope, we will never know the true power of redemption, the consuming beauty of a promise made to those who know only the depths of longing and despair.

 

The Truth of hope is simply this – Those who long for a different tomorrow are those who grow discontent with today while believing that something new, something better, something wonderful is somewhere on the future horizon. When Jesus entered the world He came to a people who missed his arrival simply because they had lost or displaced hope. Living during a time of peace and tolerance, insured by the strong hand of Roman Rule, hope had been redefined as waking to peace and security. The 1st century Jew had grown all but content in the freedom allowed them to faithfully practice the tenets of their faith under Roman rule and protection. In some ways they resemble the districts in Hunger Games. The temple rebuilt, and the sacrifices re-celebrated, it seems as if the practice of their religion became more meaningful to the Jewish Leadership than that which the sacrifices signified – eternal hope for all people in all nations for all time. Once we grow content in our circumstances, or convince ourselves that things can never be changed, the power of hope is all but diminished. Why would First Century Jews in Judea long for a Suffering Messiah who would threaten the very uprising that had sought for centuries to overcome? Why would the Sanhedrin ever embrace and accept a Messiah who would threaten the very existence of the temple itself when it had taken so long to rebuild it and reestablish its place in the daily lives of their people? Each brick in the temple, every stone used to cause it to rise again, represented the hopes and dreams of a people who had longed for its return. And once hope is realized, hope disappears. As Paul said to us: “Who hopes for that which they already have?” (Rom. 8;24). Thus the dilemma of the Yankee fan, the chains of those who occupy the poorer districts in the Hunger Games, and the daily ritualistic practices of the First Century Jew of Jerusalem, bring three diverse groups of people to the same place – Void of The Truth of Hope, a hope that drives us to wake each day in search of a better way, and new beginning, and a deeper more meaningful reason for living than we have ever known before!! The true meaning of Advent is found in the renewal of our celebration of just such a Hope. And this hope can only be found in the promise and the power which rested upon a babe in a cave some 2000 years ago.

 
Love is Patient Print E-mail
(11 votes)

Love is Patient……..

 

My mother used to say, “patience is a virtue”….then she would remind me that I needed to do my homework – “Right this second!!!”

 

The preacher used to say, “wait upon the Lord”……then he’d give an altar call reminding everyone in the congregation that this could be their last day to accept the gospel.

 

The presidential candidate would say, “we cant take four more years of this”……..then he’d run for reelection and tell everyone, “four years is just not enough to get the job done”.

 

My son always says, “I’ll take my time driving home tonight Dad”……then he’d fall asleep at his friends house and hurry home the next morning.

 

My dog would love to say, if of course she could talk, “I’d kinda like to go outside now”………then she’d spend the entire time looking for the perfect place to pee, prancing back and forth in the yard, only to settle on a spot that was no different or no less special than any spot she had chosen before.

 

All living creatures must learn some how to wait. All living creatures hate to wait. All living creatures are very difficult to convince that waiting is a sign of love.

 

I live in a county in Ohio where people especially seem to hate waiting. We have the highest teenage pregnancy rate in the state. We have more teenage moms than any county in Ohio. And we have a higher divorce rate than any county in Ohio, and 11th in the entire country. We do not wait to have sex. We do not wait to have children. And we do not wait to move on from one partner to another in the area of wedded matrimony. We simply do not like to wait.

 

There are signs of impatience all around us. At stop lights we blow our horns when someone makes us wait. At the grocers we go through the 16 or less line with 23 items. When we want something badly we charge it rather than save for it. We reach for things like early retirement, power ball tickets, weight loss pills, online degrees, pampers, powerful dish washers, dvrs and blow dryers because every fabric of our being hates to wait. We don’t even like waiting on our waiters.

 

We pretend to wait. I made him wait until the third date, one woman told me as if she had accomplished something worthy of a Nobel Peace prize. I saw a man once stop to help a lady with her shopping cart on his way to his car, then run a stop sign on the way out of the parking lot. One friend I know can spend all day waiting for a single deer to walk by his eye sight, then comes home without finding a second to listen to his wife as she talks about her day. Cleveland Brown fans have waited 8,000 years for a Super Bowl without losing hope, but dismiss a quarterback after two interceptions. WE pretend to wait.

 

"Patience is a virtue". Virtue. Virtue. Virtue? Did you ever wonder what went through Abraham’s mind as he lay on his pillow at night, having spent yet another day without a son. Day after day, week after week, year after year, decade after decade………..no son. Where is your promise God? How can you say you love me when you create such joy and hope for your child by making a promise that I never asked you for, only hoped for, then dangle the words like before me like a drink of water that is always out of reach after years in the dessert of my own barren dreams? You see Sarah. She cries herself to sleep every night. I have told her of your promise. She trusted me. She believed in me. There was one month we tried every single day, sometimes twice a day. Nothing. Not even a hint of a child. Why would you have me believe in that which you never intended to do? I have very little doubt that Abraham’s last thought on many a night was simply this: “I should never have believed you. I should never have trusted you.”

 

It is at these times we take things into our own hands, do we not? I saw that parking place first, as we cut off a little old lady who did not have the reflexes to prevent you. I need dinner right now, as we leave half of it on our plate because they did not cook it to our specifications. If I don’t get waited on right this second I’m going to choose Wendy’s next time, while five people scurry around the Mc Donalds kitchen just so we can “have it my way.”

 

Sometimes God exercises patience that we have no patience for. It seems to me that the Lord had such a marvelous, loving plan for Abraham that bringing about a child in the ordinary way just would not have put this quality of love on display. I have no doubt that Abraham would have written the story very differently. He would never have brought patience into the story. He would have brought about the promised seed long before He was ready for the promised seed. He would have made the entire thing easier on himself, his spouse, and his descendants to follow. He would never have burdened a 90 year old woman with the pain of child birth. And he most certainly would not have created a situation where two brothers were up for the same blessing. Abraham is one of us. We are like him.

 

It is precisely because we are like him that God does what He does. Faith, true faith, can only grow in the face of the test. We know as parents that people and children seldom learn from handouts. The Giver learns and grows, but seldom does the hand out change the life of the one who receives, unless they are taught to also become the giver along the way. Abraham is being taught. The blessings of God do not come all at once, do not come easy, and require the growth of our faith. Love is patient precisely because Love involves suffering over time in order to receive and embrace the things that really matter. So God displays Love through a promise, and promise that causes our faith to trust and hope in a future that we have yet to see, a blessing we are yet to realize, and a child we are yet to comprehend. Love is patient precisely because the nature of Love is a slow, quiet, long suffering phenomenon that can only be shaped in us over time. Love is patient.

 
 
Hope, part 3 Print E-mail
(21 votes)

Hope Beyond Human Hope

 

Much like 1st century Rome, we live in a world of spiritual hunger and thirst, a people running to and fro looking for significance, purpose, and meaningful existence. We open ourselves to whatever deity that can deliver that which we desire, and we delight in making the divine an extension of what we dream about when we think of ‘the good life”. Enter Santa Claus, or other super human beings that we create to bring us what we need or want. But The Christ does not come to us on our terms, nor does he come to us through the gods we have fashioned for ourselves. We cannot realize lasting hope as we unwrap a package or swipe another credit card. It’s as if we have convinced ourselves that the one flesh union of husband and wife is created by the diamond ring rather than the intimacy shared by a husband and a wife. Significance is not discovered in another diamond or a new gadget. Advent comes to us as The Creator of Life empties himself of everything in order to become the poorest of the poor so that we might begin to understand that hope is not realized in the stuff of life, but rather in surrender and sacrifice. Advent is discovered as we follow the example of the God who becomes human, willing to surrender that which He would not hold on to in order to give us that which we can never lose – God’s Self.

 

John tells us that His birth was the beginning of a new kind of life, The God-Man. It is very difficult to fathom the infinite and eternal Creator of the Universe becoming a finite and helpless babe in a cave. I would dare say, though I have no research to back up my statement, that this is one of the major reasons that people have trouble with the Christian Deity. When we think of God we think of other worldly Zeus like creatures that would never stoop to the level of vulnerability and death on a volunteer basis. Maybe if overcome by some god more powerful than he, maybe if tricked into sacrificing a place on the throne for a spare room in our home, maybe if somehow the entire fate of the Cosmos rested in the balance and Mount Olympus could only be saved by such a venture. Or maybe if offered enough money by a Hollywood producer. But what kind of deity would subject himself to the common cold, bullying at school, skinned knees and broken dreams, hunger and grief, the depths of human suffering; and all this for a depraved humanity who is indifferent to His being, unworthy of His calling, and unmoved by His sacrifice. This is just not the type of god that warrants mention at the Oscars, much less in our “arenas of worship”.

 

However, when we pause for a moment to think outside the box of human reason, and consider things from a perspective void of human ego and a survival of the fittest frame of reference, such a god would be the Only God Who makes any sense at all. What is the point of power if it cannot be given up and lost? What is the meaning of life if there is no hope for a better tomorrow which transcends the very best we can imagine? And what is the significance of Deity if the Divine only appeals to human understanding? I would submit for all to hear that the divine being of our choice should create questions in the mind of all who truly seek, if in fact this divine being is only revealed to be a better and more powerful version of ourselves. If our imaginations would find this being, if our books could contain this being, if our thoughts could grasp this being…….what, my friends, is so divine about such a one as this?

 

“In the beginning, God”. A God who exists before time and space, a beginning which beautifully resonates only within the understanding of the eternal, now this would be A True Divine!! “And the Word was with God, and the Word was God….the same was in the beginning with God.” A God who exists as Ever Present Eternal Being beyond my ability to express with human language, Who demands that I violate the rules of grammar and the laws of nature in order to contemplate, Who can only be conceived of if understood as Revelation originating from the Divine Self - Now this would be A True Divine!!. “And the Word became human flesh, and pitched a tent among us”. These words of John 1 proclaim to us a God who is so moved and so connected and so utterly in love with His own creation that He would do whatever is needed, whatever is within Divine power to demonstate, whatever is possible for revelation to unveil, in order to show us a quality of love that is beyond our understanding, a depth of love that transcends time and space, and a demonstration of love which ushers the infinite into the hearts of the finite and the undeserving. The mere fact that such a Divine plan would stray so far from what humans would conceive of or do is probably the best piece of logical evidence that such a Revelation is in fact The Truth. What human mind would have thought of such an inconceivable God? What human author would have pinned these illogical and seemingly irrational parameters? How could we even know of such a God, if in fact this God had not revealed Himself to us?  

 

The God of the New Testament takes the edge of human limitations and extends them into a beautiful poem of hope which human beings themselves would never have imagined on their own. Our stories end with “happily ever after”, not even understanding what the “ever after” is supposed to be or can be. God’s story ends with “you ant even seen happiness yet, for it has only just begun with the very best you can imagine”. Ten virgins? Streets of gold? No more sickness or crying or pain? No loneliness or despair? This is what we want when we think of hope for the future. The God of the Bible, especially the New Testament, floods us with a hope of a future that transcends the very scales we use to measure and investigate life to such a degree that the newness of what God has for us cannot yet be conceived or imagined.……………You tell me, What kind of hope would you prefer from The Divine? The best dream you have ever had? Or a dream that is so incredible, so beautiful, so beyond human comprehension, that you cannot possibly have it………..yet?

 
Advent Reflections - Hope Part 2: A Restless World Full of Restless People Print E-mail
(21 votes)

A Restless World full of Restless people….

 

Luke 2:29: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
    you may now dismiss
[d]
your servant in peace.
30 
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 
    which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your people Israel.”

 

When Jesus entered the world he entered a cosmic conglomerate of spiritual hunger and thirst. Everywhere one looked around the Roman Empire one could find signs of people seeking Deity, whether we speak of the Roman tendency to deify the Caesar, the Greek and Roman Pantheon of endless gods, or the Temple which rose before the people of Israel in Jerusalem, Jesus was born into a very religious world. Roman Law protected the rights of people to worship God or the gods, as long as it did not interfere with the allegiance expected of their citizenship or the paying of taxes. Given there was no real state religion until later in this century, religious belief was viewed as nothing more than a nuisance at worst, and often a convenient mechanism for keeping the people in line. After all, a people with hope, be it real or imagined, is an easier people to control (so thought the president in The Hunger Games). The arrival of the Messiah was not viewed a threat to the Emperor, but to Herod. Unless the worshippers had an army, the Iron Kingdom known as Rome did not feel the threat of any so called King. The slaughter of the innocents around Bethlehem was a sign of the threat of Jesus to the Jewish political establishment rather than as a threat to Rome.

 

Both the song of Mary and the song of Simeon point us toward a particular kind of hope in the hearts and minds of many in Israel. It is very clear that many longed for The Messiah, the one who had been promised by the prophets for hundreds of years, the One who would deliver Israel from the hands of her oppressor and restore Israel to her rightful place of prominence in the world. But just as the Yankee fan can settle for nothing less than another championship, many in Israel would settle for nothing less than a Messiah who would destroy the enemies of Israel through this longed for restoration. The power of hope is fueled by our agendas, for it is political priority which is often allowed to define the desires of our hearts. Once we have decided what the fulfillment of our hopes and dreams is supposed to look like, it is very difficult to accept and receive anything less than what is anxiously and powerfully anticipated. John’s gospel tells us that Jesus came unto his own, but his own people did not receive Him. How? How? How could this be? How could a people with a history and heritage so deeply immersed in the anticipation of the coming Messiah miss His arrival when the day had finally arrived? How could a people who celebrated the words of the Prophets through their daily devotions and songs of worship and educational institutions misunderstand their meaning to such a degree that we can safely say, “they did not have a clue!” How? The same way you and I do, the same way we continue to shape the Messiah after our own image as we celebrate Advent in the isles of Wal Mart in 2013.

 

No matter the power of hope, it will always disappoint those who hope in something beyond what life can deliver, or who hope in things that can never fill the void we are convinced “stuff” can fill. Those who long for an i-Pad will be disappointed in a Pony. Those who have their hearts set on a new car will not leap for joy at the site of a bicycle. Those whose hopes and dreams are swallowed up by materialism, as we drown ourselves in the temporary happiness of “stuff theology”, will never be content with a pair of jeans passed down from their brother. Not only do we need hope to define and shape our humanity, we need a hope that can be trusted, a hope that is true, a hope that can deliver what is truly needed rather than what is selfishly desired. Israel longed for a Messiah who would destroy her enemies. Simeon longed for a Messiah who would forgive our sins. We long for an Advent that will fill up the space under and around our Christmas tree. But God desires to give us an Advent that will bring us humble and empty handed as we bow our knees and our hearts to a tiny Babe in a Cave. The hope of Advent is not found within packages and stockings, but rather as we remove our shoes finding ourselves on holy ground once again…….

 
Hope Part 1 Print E-mail
(17 votes)

Advent Theme Number One: Hope

 

Day One – The Truth about Hope…….Ephesians 1: 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit[f] of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.

 

The Last couple of weeks I took time to watch the Hunger Games. Fascinating movies, as they play off of the themes of good vs. evil, rich vs. poor, and the worth and value of human beings. I found myself most intrigued by what turns out to be the real theme of the two movies – “hope”. You can only maintain control over mass people groups in so much that you are able to create “hope”. The Hunger Games are created to give a false since of hope to a people who are always on the brink of revolution. This false hope suppresses revolution, built upon the very real assumption that if hope is taken away, revolt will most certainly follow. Could it be that  Paul giving us major insight into the core of humanity when he wrote in 1 Cor. 13: “Now these three remain, faith, hope, and love……….”?

 

Those of us who have experienced the reality of hope know of its power to hold and contain us. My entire life I have been a Cubs fan. Each new spring is brimming with hope. “This is the year!” we shout to one another from the rooftops of our heart, and this in spite of the sure and certain reality that Jesus will most certainly return before a World Series be won. I am somewhat surprised that those who think they have the second coming map all figured out have not managed to find somewhere in Ezekiel a passage that could only mean “if the Cubs of Chicago win the World Series, look up, for most certainly our redemption draweth nigh.” I sometimes find myself feeling sorry for the Yankee fan, for the World Series is not a hope for such as these, but instead an expectation. To fail to make it, and for some to win it, is yearlong disappointment. For the Cub fan, Hope simply becomes that much more amazing, that much more powerful, that much more meaningful, and that much more a reality, when October highlights our absence once again. The Cub fan forever knows the true allure and the true power of hope. Without hope, we are lost. Without hope, we will never know the true power of redemption, the consuming beauty of a promise made to those who know only the depths of longing and despair.

 

The Truth of hope is simply this – Those who long for a different tomorrow are those who grow discontent with today while believing that something new, something better, something wonderful is somewhere on the horizon. When Jesus entered the world He came to a people who missed his arrival simply because they had lost or displaced hope. Living during a time of peace and tolerance, insured by the strong hand of Roman Rule, hope had been redefined as waking to peace and security. The 1st century Jew had grown all but content in the freedom allowed them to faithfully practice the tenets of their faith under Roman rule and protection.  The temple rebuilt, and the sacrifices re-celebrated, it seems as if the practice of their religion became more meaningful to the Jewish Leadership than that which the sacrifices signified – eternal hope for all people in all nations for all time. Once we grow content in our circumstances, or convince ourselves that things can never be changed, the power of hope is all but diminished. Why would First Century Jews in Judea long for a Suffering Messiah who would threaten the very uprising that had sought for centuries to overcome? Why would the Sanhedrin ever embrace and accept a Messiah who would threaten the very existence of the temple itself when it had taken so long to rebuild it and reestablish its place in the daily lives of their people? Each brick in the temple, every stone used to cause it to rise again, represented the hopes and dreams of a people who had longed for its return. And once hope is realized, hope disappears. As Paul said to us: “Who hopes for that which they already have?” (Rom. 8;24). Thus the dilemma of the Yankee fan, the chains of those who occupy the poorer districts in the Hunger Games, and the daily ritualistic practices of the First Century Jew of Jerusalem, bring three diverse groups of people to the same place – Void of The Truth of Hope, a hope that drives us to wake each day in search of a better way, and new beginning, and a deeper more meaningful reason for living than we have ever known before!! The true meaning of Advent is found in the renewal of our celebration of just such a Hope. And this hope can only be found in the promise and the power which rested upon a babe in a cave some 2000 years ago.

 
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