Saturday, December 24, 2016

Until He Comes: Walk (in tension)!

Love was born in a manger.
That's the Christmas story, wrapped in swaddling clothes, easy to comprehend.
What's difficult to understand about a baby? 
They come ready-made to love and be loved.

What's difficult to wrap our minds around is the next thirty-three years. 
The road that led to the cross.
The road that Love walked. 

This is the same road that Love-followers are commissioned to walk.
"Love one another," Love commanded us (John 13:34-35; 15:12, 17).
This is our Advent duty.

I thought I understood love.
It's "going the extra mile."
It's "turning the other cheek."
It's "out-doing one another in showing honor."
It's the living-out-practice of Paul's poetic 1 Corinthians 13.

It's more...
It's living in tension.
It's wrestling with loving between two extremes.
Love walks a tight-rope that's not always easy...
in a place that comes between law and lawlessness...
This is our Advent Call, especially in these last days...

Because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold (Matthew 24:12)

But woe to you Pharisees (religious leaders)! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, but without neglecting the others 
(Luke 11:42)

Love shows up in the place in-between these two passages...
Somewhere smack dab in the middle, between lawlessness (letting someone do whatever suits their fancy) and too much law, is the road Love walks.
Right there, out of a heart of true worship (giving generously) and justice, is the love of God we are to reflect.

The road Love walks is just and generous. 
This is the tension!

Biblical Love always does what is RIGHT (law)...
BUT...Love doesn't give place for lawlessness to reign, either.

Love is willing to pay the high cost of sacrifice given...
in such a way that others are always benefitted.
That means that Love isn't always fair,
Love doesn't indulge,
doesn't give free reign,
doesn't pamper...
Love is always for the good of those with whom we do life.

To truly live out Love, we live in the tension of this question:
What is the most helpful action I can truly take that is "for" you?
What benefits you most?
What is the RIGHT/JUST action to take on your behalf?

Those are often hard questions to answer!
Even harder is the doing of love...

That's why Love sometimes turns over tables.

Living in this tension is highly reminiscent of the Prophet Micah's words:

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what the Lord requires of you: to do justice, to love being kind to others, and to live humbly, obeying your God.
(Micah 6:8)

Until He Comes: Walk in Love!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Until He Comes: Write!

I love the social media postings where mom's document their child's cute sayings.
You know that old adage, "out of the mouth of babes..."
Well, it's true (by the way, did you know it came from a Biblical reference?)!!

How I wish I'd documented the things my kids said.
Truly, there were some rare gems amidst all their incessant chatter.
How often have I wished I'd written some of them down.
Especially now that my mind is failing me.

The point of this particular Advent instruction is that we all should be writers.

For me, writing is like breathing.
I've often imagined myself imprisoned with no pen or paper and I know I'd go crazy.

I don't write because I think I'm good at it.
I write because it keeps things fresh in my mind.
I write because it helps me makes sense of my world.

I write because it helps me

Just as it's hard to conjure up those cute things my children once said,
It's hard to remember the stories of my past.
But, if I write them down...
They stick to my memory like chewing gum to the bottom of a student's desk.

However, this isn't just about writing down kid-sayings.
It's about writing down God-sayings.
God-at-work-in-the-midst of our lives.
We NEED to remember.

Because sometimes, in the midst of hard, or, simply, in the midst of the ordinary everyday of life, we are God-amnesiacs.

We write because the Lord instructs us to do so:

Write, therefore, the things that you have seen...
Revelation 1:19

Write the revelations I show you; make it that he may run who reads it...
Habakkuk 2:2

Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it often in ears...
Exodus 17:14

The Lord our God, the Lord is one
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
And these words I command you today shall be on your heart.
You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
You shall bind them as a sign...
You shall write them on the doorpost of your house and on your gates...
then take care lest you forget the Lord.
Deuteronomy 6:4-12.

God isn't calling us to be a professional.
He's calling us to be faithful.
He longs for His name, His majesty, His day-to-day care, His wondrous miracles, His heart, His voice to be passed down from age to age.
The purpose: HOPE!

There is no Advent without HOPE!

So, as we wait...
Let's use the time wisely.
Let's WRITE.
Let's record the stories.
Let's tell of His deeds that He will never be forgotten.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Need an Advent Reflection - Here's Just One Thought

An Advent Reflection...

It struck me on Sunday in the midst of the service.
It's a testimony of the timelessness of Scripture.
It's a declaration of delight in the Word that still speaks to hearts.

How many times have I heard the Christmas story?
You know, the one Dr. Luke wrote...
We read it EVERY YEAR, at home, on Christmas Eve.
It's tradition.
With kids around or none.
We remind ourselves of the truth of His coming.
The manger-baby whose coming turned our lives around.

But this Sunday -
As common as every other Sunday -
The story was read aloud and one verse...just one...
seemed to be shouted from the microphone.
And, one truth, one small reminder, leapt off the page and into my soul.
God's whispered words just to me.

Fear not,
      for BEHOLD,
            I bring you GOOD NEWS of GREAT JOY!
                     (Luke 2:10)

These were words from an angel
Who interrupted some shepherds on a quiet hillside.
Men who'd been minding their business.

Perhaps they'd been quietly swapping stories.
Maybe watching the glistening night sky.
Or, reflecting on the craziness of David's City, as men and women crashed their way through the town gates to register for taxes, none in a good mood.
Tax season never brings out the best in anyone.

The shepherds might have been cautiously complaining about the Roman Rule.
Maybe reminiscing on what life would look like under a new rule...
The one promised by God so many years ago.

Whatever was happening, in these shepherd-conversations, they knew that they were different than most people.
They were shepherds.
Lowest of low on the totem pole.
Down there at the bottom, just above pond scum (oops, Samaritans).
No watching or wondering would change life for them...

UNTIL an angel appeared.
The "glory of the Lord shone around them."
That meant their universe, their little spot of sheep-grazing-land, was illuminated.
Darkness was obliterated.
Pitch black became daylight at midnight.

It was NOTHING they'd ever seen before.
Totally out of the ORDINARY.
"And they were filled with GREAT FEAR."

I can only imagine it.
What if, in the middle of my darkness?
In the middle of my desperation?
In the midst of wondering how I might change my life for the better?
An angel simply appeared?


That's what the unknown does to us, right?
It troubles our hearts.
Our mind runs crazy with conspiracy theories...

Then, the angel spoke those words.
Those very familiar words.

And there it is...the simple truth.

Between great fear and great joy there is always good news.

Good news changes EVERYTHING.
God's good news.

What's the key to understanding it?
One word.


Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world...

Behold, the old has gone, and the new has come...

Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.

Behold, He is coming with the clouds and every eye will see Him...

Behold, your King is coming...

Our great fear can always change to great joy when we behold the good news!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Until He Comes: Worship!

He came once.
He IS coming again.
How does the bride of Christ properly prepare?
So far, I know three ways.

(...with my belief system - until I live in total expectancy and not just a "hope so" as in a "wish so" mentality)

Wake up! 
(Advent is missional - join the greatest team on earth, doing the greatest work every conceived)

Watch for the signs of His coming...learn the lesson of the fig tree & know when "summer is near."

This week, I discovered a fourth:


Both wrestling and waking require one thing: remembering.

Remember, therefore....
Revelation 2:5

Remembering WHO Jesus is...
Remembering WHAT Jesus has done...
Remembering Jesus as the Victorious One in the midst of our Stories
(what a perfect way to combine the WHO & WHAT)...
Taking a good, hard, long look at Jesus
leads us to only one response...
the same one the Apostle John had as he turned and beheld his risen Savior...

When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as though dead. But He laid His right hand on me saying, "Fear not. I am the first and the last,  and the living one - I died, and behold I am alive forevermore..."
Revelation 1:17

In the middle of remembrance
is overwhelming awe.

In the midst of awe
is the crushing sense of Jesus' power.

In the eye of His power
is the recognition of our smallness.

In the recognition of our impotence
is the comprehension of our great need.

All we can do is fall at His feet powerless in the face of power.

His response to John reassures me of what happens next:
"Fear not..."
His words flood my very being.
"I died for you.
No greater love has no man than this...
And, behold I am alive forevermore.
My love for you goes on, and on, and on, and on, and on...."

This great love 
great worship!

While we wait...
Wake up!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Until He Comes: WATCH!!!

The season of Advent is a season of watching.

Be on the alert.
Keep your eyes open.
Be on guard.
Be vigilant.
Give strict attention to the fact that Jesus is coming again...
And that time is nearer than ever.

I'm not a good "watcher."
I get too antsy.
I have "watched" and "waited" a lot in my life.
Who was it that said that anything worth having is worth waiting for? ...or this?

I'm sure it's true, but, oh my, it's
In the middle of watching and waiting, it's hard to convince me it's worth it...
The only thing that makes watching easier is knowing there is an some point!

Watching is closely connected to WAKE UP!
However, where waking up has a semblance of "looking alive, yet being dead (Revelation 3:1), to "watch" carries with it a connotation that's military in it's approach.
Active in it's anticipation.
Protective in its nature.
Patient in its character.
Hopeful in its assessment.

"WATCH" does not refer to something we wear on our wrists.
We can't set an alarm so we don't miss out.
And, while time has something to do with watching,
There isn't a specific hour we can know.
In fact, no man knows the hour of the Lord's return.
When He comes, it will catch us off guard - like a thief in the night.

Yet, the Lord assures us that there are signs of His return.
A check list of sorts.

He told us to learn the lesson of the fig tree...

"When the buds become tender
And its leaves begin to sprout,
You know without a doubt
That summer is near."
(Matthew 24:32)
So, what's the lesson of the fig tree?

Watch for the signs!

That's exactly what we should be doing during our current season of Advent.
Watch for the signs.
Look often at the check-list.

What's on the list?
Many will come in Jesus name, false prophets who will lead people astray.
Many of those will fall away - give up
There will be wars and rumors of wars - one after another.
Tribulations and trials...very difficult times.
Increased lawlessnesss - a transgression of the law due to IGNORANCE.
A prolific amount of scoffers who laugh at God, as well as, Followers of Jesus
Ungrateful and entitled

When you see these things, "summer is close at hand."
It will make the watching, so much easier - you know the promise is around the corner.
Excitement is unquenchable.
Steadfastness is easier.
Hope is assured.

Your Savior is close at hand...
Your Advent is NEAR!

What do we do during Advent?

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Until He Comes: WAKE UP!

Wake up!
That seemed to be the first two-word-call I received.
I want to be prepared for my Lord's next coming...
So, I asked - How?
Then, I heard it,
"Wake up!'

Ever been in that place of semi-comatose unconsciousness?
It often comes for me just before my eyes fully open to the morning light.
I know it's time to wake up, but I just can't seem to get my eyes, or my brain, to co-operate.
A great word for this state is "torpor."

It really is a wonderful place.
I just want to snuggle under and stay there forever (especially when it's cold outside and I have my polar fleece sheets on the bed).

That's about when reality hits.
The list of the day's activities ahead of me starts running like a little litany through my brain.
Chores, activities, errands, places to be.
This is no time for inactivity and lethargy.
"Wake up!"

As I've read through Revelation, I've seen those words from the Spirit of the Lord quite often.
It's His call to the church waiting for Jesus' second advent.
"Wake up!"
It's not a physical awakening.
It's a spiritual one.
He's reminding us that it's not time to snuggle under and get cozy.
There's much to be done before His coming.

We are to be His instruments.
His hands.
His feet.
His mouthpiece.
His ears.
His heart of compassion.

"Wake up!"
"Arise and shine for the LIGHT has come"...and is to come again!

Get out of your lethargic torpor,
"Be witnesses..." (Acts 1:8)

"Go...and make disciples..." (Matthew 28:18-20)

"Live in peace..."

"Love one another..."

"Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good..."

"Show hospitality..."

"Rejoice in hope..."

"Be patient in tribulation..."

"Serve the Lord..."
(Romans 12:9-13)

That's just a few suggestions on the list the Lord provides for how we can be an ever present-Jesus in a weary world.

As we prepare for the Advent of our Lord...our first call is to action!
Advent is missional...


We are to be an instrument in the REDEEMER'S HANDS...