Act This Out

Christmas-Charades

Still in Luke Chapter 1, he’s telling you his story, most excellent Theophilus…

jesus

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years. 

Zechariah_Elizabeth

Back with Zechariah and Elizabeth this morning.   Zechariah and Elizabeth have been waiting their whole lives, waiting on God, waiting for a child.  But they are into their old age now, with no sign of either.

zechariah

Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.   It comes time for Zechariah’s priestly division to serve in the temple, a small town priest heading for the big city, Jerusalem, to serve in the temple.  Zechariah’s lot came up, and he is called to go into the sanctuary to offer incense and prayers upon the holy altar.

Zacharias_(Michelangelo)

And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”   An angel of the Lord appears to Zechariah, saying what angels always say – Do not be afraid.  The angel tells Zechariah not to be afraid, then tells this righteous old priest, who’s been waiting for the Lord for his whole life, that at long last he will have a son!   And not just any son, but a son who would be great before the Lord, filled with the Holy Spirit, going before the people in the power and spirit of Elijah, the great prophet of the Hebrew people!!   This child whom Zechariah has been waiting for would be the one to prepare the people for the long awaited, long anticipated coming of the Lord!

into-the-presence-of-god

And now the story turns to the comedic – And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”   Sounds like an answer I would give.  “Are you kidding me??!!”  I’m an old man, she’s an old woman.  She’s been barren all her life, now she’s going to get pregnant??   Zechariah asks for a sign, and sure enough the angel gives him one (ever been told to watch what you wish for?).   And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.”    What, do you think I’m the janitor?    Zechariah wants to know How shall I knowthe angel Gabriel just shuts him up, just like that.  He stands in the presence of the Lord our God, he was sent by God to deliver this message, he’s not the cleaning lady.

Charades-Cartoon-Book-Cover

 And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute.    The people were waiting outside, wondering what happened?   Zechariah came out, and tried to communicate with them by signs what had happened.   Imagine trying to act out that message in a game of charades…

zechariah and elizabeth 2

And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home. After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.   So Zechariah goes home unable to speak.   Of course, we know men don’t have to talk to have sex, and lo and behold, Elizabeth gets pregnant.   An old Jewish couple has again conceived a child past their child bearing years.  With echoes of Abraham and Sarah, Zechariah and Elizabeth conceive a child at a ripe old age.  And their son would join Isaac, Samson, and Samuel, sons destined for greatness born to women who had been barren…

John Lewis

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The Waiting

The Waiting

waiting

“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught”

advent 1

This past Sunday was the first day of Advent.   Advent is the New Years Day of the church calendar.  The church calendar, a Christ formed calendar brought to you by the same people who gave you the Bible!!  The church calendar is a  creative way of subverting secularism by marking time according to the Christian story.  The Hebrew people have been doing this for millennia, marking time according to the feasts, festivals and holy days according to their story of being delivered out of Egypt, the Exodus.   We have our own story centered in Jesus Christ.  We mark the year telling the story of Jesus Christ.  The church year begins first Sunday of advent, so Happy New Year!!!   We are no longer in “ordinary time”, but a special time.  We are in the season of advent.   Advent means “the coming” or the “appearing”.   So in this season of advent, we are patiently waiting for the birth of Christ, but we are also waiting for his coming again.

luke

Looking today at the gospel of Luke, which begins 15 months before birth of Jesus.  Luke was a physician, which in those days meant he was trained in both medicine and philosophy.   Luke was also a Gentile, which is very significant because he is the only Gentile contributor to the holy canon of scripture.  Every other book in our bible was written by a Hebrew writer, but Luke is one of us, a gentile.   He was an associate and traveling companion of the apostle Paul, and wrote both the gospel which bears his name and the Acts of the Apostles.

advent

The Gospel of Luke was written about AD 70, give or take a couple of years either way.  Luke was very painstaking in his research for his Gospel.  He used the writings of both  Mark, Matthew, and some other sources we don’t know about anymore.

love and the cross metaphor

Luke dedicated both his gospel and its sequel, the book of Acts, to a man named Theophilus, which means “Lover of God” or “God lover”.  He addresses him here as most excellent Theophilusso it’s possible this man was a high Roman official or someone else of some distinction.  But probably Luke here is simply using a literary device.  You could say his Gospel is written to “Mr. Love God”.  Do you love god?  Then This story is for you.

god saves the world

This is the story of how god saves the world.  The story of how god was born as a baby, lived as a man, died as a mortal, and was raised Lord of all.  We tell the story beginning in advent.  The annual re-enactment of  waiting for god to act in history and do what only god can do.  The story begins with a birth.  Not the birth of the savior, but the fore runner.  Not Jesus the Christ but John the Baptist.   We begin with an elderly righteous couple named Zechariah and Elizabeth.

zechariah and elizabeth

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years. 

king herod

It begins during the time of King Herod, Herod the great.  Cruel,  maniacal, megalomaniac, and a genius architect.  Herod was rewarded for faithful service to the Roman Empire, he was also a military genius and had won many great battles on behalf of Caesar.  He was given the official title “King of the Jews”.   Upon receiving this  title, Herod proceed directly to offer his sacrifice at temple of Mars, the great god of War.

trust-in-God-500x325

Herod has been king for about 30 years.  He is 70 years old, coming near the end of his life.  Brutal and barbarous, Herod was most definitely not the king the Jews had been looking for.

have-trust-in-God

There is a great juxtaposition in Luke’s story – we have brutal, powerful king in Herod on one hand, and a pious, elderly, humble, righteous old couple, a priest and his wife living in hill country on the other hand.   They’ve been faithful to god, had wanted children, prayed for children, waited for children, but have reached a ripe old age and alas, no children.  Advent is about waiting.  Waiting for God to do whatever God will do.  We have our own expectations, our own demands, our own timetable for what we want God to do, Amen!  But Advent is about abandoning  that and saying “God, you will do what you will do when you want to do it.  I trust you.”  But do it soon please…

advent-wreath-nativity-figures

That’s advent,  that’s Zachariah and Elizabeth   They had prayed, were pious, righteous, a priest and his wife entering old age childless.    It’s a picture of Israel itself.  Israel has been waiting through a long season of disappointment.   They’ve been for 600 years with no real king.  Wasn’t there a promise?  Wasn’t there a promise that there would always be a son of David upon the throne…yet there hasn’t been a king for 600 years.   Now they have this imposter Herod?  Living that that whole time under gentile domination.  Babylon, Persia, Greece, and now Rome.  They’ve been an oppressed people without the promises of God seeming to come to pass.  How long???   They’ve been waiting, waiting, waiting…how long will they have to wait???

How-Long-1

How long have we been waiting for Christ to come again?   I guess we are coming up on 2000 years now, aren’t we?   How long, O Lord, will we have to wait??   How long before you do something Lord?

Come-2016_-761x324

How long have you been waiting?   How long have you waited for Christ to do something in your life?   What are you waiting for, what are you praying for?   Advent is the season of waiting.  We patiently (or not) wait for Christmas morning, for that feast and that celebration and the gifts and the joy and the love.  It always seems to come, doesn’t it?

waiting1

But we also wait for Christ to come again.  This we are not so patient for.  This, it seems, may never come.  By never, we mean not in our lifetimes.  This is the hardest wait.  There is no date on the calendar (and no, it’s not next Tuesday.  Or whatever the next date the apocalypse “experts” try to tell us).  We want God to come, we expect Him to come…but we want it to be now.  It should be now.   We want to know, we want to see.  Faith is just so hard.

But wait we must.

John Lewis

Mountain Climbing

mountain climbing

The first week of advent on the church calendar, so Happy New Year to all my brothers and sisters in Christ!   Not exactly an advent message today, but maybe a little talk of mountain climbing…

mt-everest

“The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.”

Isaiah 2:1-5 ESV

http://bible.com/59/isa.2.1-5.esv

mt zion

“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem…”

Hebrews 12:22 ESV

http://bible.com/59/heb.12.22.esv

Mount Everest becomes world's highest traffic jam.

What Isaiah anticipates, the writer of Hebrews announces as gospel, that in Christ we have come to the mountain of god.  The great mountain that is the mountain of god.  Jesus claims the first ascent, he has led the way, fixed the ropes, established the route, that we might enter into the experience of the living God.

Winter at Longs

But we still have to climb it.

long's

Mountains are very prominent in bible  It’s amazing how many important episodes occur on mountains.  There is Noah on Mt. Ararat, Abraham on Mt. Moriah.  We have Moses on Mt. Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments.   We see Deborah and Barak on Mt. Tabor, Elisha with his sword on Mt. Carmel.

2d2 Mt_ Tabor

Much of Jesus’ ministry also occurs on mountains.  In His story alone we have the mount of temptation, the mountain of transfiguration (also Tabor), the Mount of Beatitudes, the Mount of Olives, the Mount of Ascension.  The Bible is seemingly overflowing with mountains.

mountains surround jerusalem

Mountains in the Bible sometimes represent God Himself, as is very often in the psalms –  “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people, from this time forth and forevermore.” Psalms 125:2 ESV.  

sinai

Oftentimes climbing mountain is a picture of entering into a deep experience of god.   Think of Moses on Sinai, or Elijah on Mt. Horeb  being restored as a prophet.

Mount_Olympus-JP2

Most ancient cultures have held certain mountains to be sacred.  The Greeks had Mt. Olympus, Japan had Mt. Fuji, Mt. Kanchenjunga in Nepal (3rd highest peak in the world), Mt Vesuvius, Long’s Peak (known as “Nesotaieux” to the Native American’s long before we ever got here).   Yes, these and many other peaks have been worshipped by people as sacred for thousands of years.  Ancient people could not help but stand in awe and wonder at the majesty of these mountains.  But if worshipping the creation instead of the creator is a sin (and it is), then so is the secular idea that nothing is sacred.  Because, for example, if it’s idolatry to worship a mountain as God, it’s also idolatrous to destroy a mountain through mountain top removal mining for the idol of greed.  Let that one sink in for a minute…

mount-kanchenjunga

Sometimes when we are in or near the mountains, we just want to stay on the lower slopes.  We don’t really want to climb them, we are just as happy to admire them from the comfort and safety of the valley below.

Mount Rainier Washington

But sometimes, we want to climb that mountain.  Sometimes, we feel driven to go higher, to get above the clouds.  I feel that way about God.  I am still relatively new in Christ (I believe), still in many ways very immature in my faith.  But I do not want to stay on the lower slopes of the mountain of God.  I am not satisfied with simply telling you that Christ died for my sins, I said a sinners prayer and got baptized and now I’m going to heaven when I die.  I don’t know how to express this, but that just feels kind of empty.   Of course I want to go to heaven and not hell when I die (whatever that really means), but is that really all there is?   Is the entire Gospel of Jesus Christ, his life, death, burial, resurrection and ascension, his suffering, his teaching, “love your enemies” and the golden rule, all this is just about being “in” or “out”?   Pardon me for being so bold to say, I think we are missing something.

DCF 1.0

So I want to climb that mountain.  I want to go above the tree line, get past “in” or “out” theology.  I want to go higher on the mountain than just knowing that Jesus died for my sins (as beautiful as that truly is).  I want to climb higher on the mountain, get closer to what the apostle John saw when he so daringly told us, not once but twice, that “God is Love!”   And I say to all who are reading this, “come with me”.   Let’s begin to climb this mountain, the mountain of God, together.

longs

You can do it.  It won’t  be easy, but you can do it.  But you can’t do it alone.  Novice mountain climbers who want to go it alone can get lost, go astray, and even perish, even in the mountain of a God.

LongsWinter 019

Mountains, if you approach them from different directions, or different perspectives, can give you many different pictures.  Long’s Peak in the Rocky Mountains can appear to be a completely different mountain depending on the direction you approach it from, or even the season you are seeing it in.  Again, God is like this.  Depending on our perspective (and I’m only talking about Christian perspectives here), we can come to God from different perspectives and different places, and see God, differently.

mountain-of-god

We can get into trouble if we approach the mountain of God, think that the perspective we have is all there is to see, then declare to the world that “I’ve found God, and God is ____”   If we do this, and become convinced that our perspective of God is all there is to see, we can become fundamentalist in our views.   Fundamentalism is the belief that one perspective of God (our perspective) is all there is to see of God.  But just as some of our great mountains are for too vast to take in from one perspective, so God is far too vast to see and comprehend from just one vantage point.

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Now, God is not everything we make him up to be.  He has definition.  When I’m talking about God, I’m talking about the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  I’m talking about the God of Israel.  The God and father of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ,  the true and loving God who is Father, Son, and  Holy Spirit.

orthodox

But we many different perspectives of our God, do we not?   We have the Orthodox perspective, Catholic perspective, Anglican, Protestant, Evangelical, Charismatic, And Pentecostal perspectives.   Each one of them can be fundamentalist.  If a Catholic says “Our perspective of God is the only one that’s valid and if you see God from a different angle the you’re a heretic!”, that’s Catholic fundamentalism, and we must rise above that.  It doesn’t matter if it’s Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Baptist, Anglican, we can all go the fundamentalist route.  We must rise above that and learn to be contemplative.

catholic

Our great mountains are so big and so vast that we cannot see all of them from one perspective.  So if we see a mountain like Long’s Peak in Colorado or Mt Fuji in Japan or Mt Rainer in Washington, but come at the The from the north side over and over again, but then come to them from the south instead, we might feel we are seeing a totally different mountain.    If we don’t know it’s the same mountain before we see it, we can be completely fooled and not recognize it at all.  It doesn’t mean it’s a different mountain, just that we’ve come to it from a different direction this time.   We could be fundamentalist about the mountain – “If you don’t see the diamond face on Long’s Peak then it’s not Long’s Peak!”   Yes, Long’s Peak has a diamond face if you look at it from the east, but from the West you don’t see it at all.  It’s still Long’s Peak, just a different vantage point.

methodist

Though we can only see one vantage point at a time, we can go all around the mountain and learn all the different vantage points and get a fuller picture and understanding of the mountain.  In the same way, we can learn to be contemplative as we approach the mountain of God,  as we respectfully engage with other traditions who over the centuries have learned this angle, Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Southern Baptist.  We can learn other traditions views of the living God, and get a much clearer, better, more true vision of the nature of God.

advent-wreath-nativity-figures

So this advent season, as we anticipate the coming of God, let’s understand God is coming.   But while we may see his coming in many different ways, it doesn’t mean one is right (mine) and all the rest are wrong.  But maybe, just maybe, if we can respectfully engage and contemplate another’s point of view, we might get a fuller picture of the God we love.   We have our guides (which we need) on the mountain, maybe this advent season (and beyond) we can open up to another perspective and come to see a different trail, and climb  just a little bit higher on the mountain of God.

John Lewis

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all!!   Striving to be grateful as St Paul was grateful – for all things, in all afflictions, despite the results he could (or couldn’t) see, and in the face of all challenges.  Paul stayed grateful and in a state of constant Thanksgiving.

May we all be able, at least for one day, to give grace and thanks to our Lord and savior for he has given, all he has done, all he gives, and all he is doing.

Happy Thanksgiving

Love you all.

“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

Philippians 1:3-11 ESV

http://bible.com/59/php.1.3-11.esv

“I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

1 Corinthians 1:4-9 ESV

http://bible.com/59/1co.1.4-9.esv

“I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

1 Corinthians 1:4-9 ESV

http://bible.com/59/1co.1.4-9.esv

“We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 ESV

http://bible.com/59/1th.1.2-3.esv

John Lewis

Do You Want It?

Do You Want It?

peaceonearth9x16jpg_lg

Merry Christmas!! Finishing what I started yesterday…
He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. The prophetic word from Isaiah, the great prophet of Messiah. Isaiah can see the time coming when swords will be turned into plowshares, spears into pruning hooks. In other words, weapons will be turned into tools of agriculture. It would be like us turning tanks into tractors, missile silos into grain silos.

Chinook Helicopter
So the question remains, do we see the world as a battleground, where our weapons must always be ready at a moments notice? Or is it a Garden, calling out and begging for loving care and nourishment? Is the world fundamentally a dangerous place, or is the world fundamentally the recipient of God’s grace and loving mercy?
Isaiah sees the world better than it is. He sees that God is going to act in Jerusalem to change the world. He doesn’t know when it will happen, but he knows it will be big, and after God acts nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. Isaiah sees a world where weapons are turned into agricultural tools, a world where people choose to walk in the light of the lord and learn war no more.
For us, Christ has come. It’s time to walk in the light of the Lord and study war no more. War is over. We have to choose to walk in the light of the lord, and if we do, there will be war no more.

Light-of-the-World.jpg
O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord. The invitation of Christ. The invitation to walk in the light of the Lord. Whether the rest of the world walks in the light, we who say Merry Christmas MUST walk in that light. We don’t get to wait to walk in the light when Jesus comes the second time. If we confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, we must walk in the light of the Lord right now, and learn war no more.
I’m going to stay away from talking world peace and the warring nations in the world today. I’m not going to talk about the warring nations of the world, I’m going to talk about you and me. Let’s talk about our own personal wars. Let’s talk about our wars with family, friends and coworkers. Our political wars, our Facebook wars. In these wars, it’s time to turn our words that cut like a sword into words that cultivate love, respect, and friendship.

The apostle James says this – “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” James‬ ‭4:1‬ ‭ESV. Passions here can also be translated “evil desires”. War is not born somewhere “out there“. War is born right inside each and every one of us. Wars come from the evil desires and passions within us. We have war out there because we have evil desires within us.

war-in-heart
We have war in the world because we have war in our heart. We have war in our heart because we have evil desires. We don’t think we have evil desires, we just think we are right. Nobody who goes to war, on Facebook or a literal war with guns and tanks, never think they are unleashing their evil desires. We just think we are right. But wrap your head around this one – thinking you’re right is the evil desire. More specifically, the desire to be right at all costs is the evil desire.

tree-of-knowledge-of-good-and-evil
This is introduced very early in the Bible. The original sin has to with prioritizing the desire to be right. We want the knowledge to judge, to know good and evil, we want to be right all the time. Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge, wanting to be right all the time. Before you know it – their kids are killing each other.
The promise was – you will be like God. You will be wise. You will be right! ““God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.” The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too.” Genesis‬ ‭3:5-6‬ ‭NLT‬‬. Tasted good! Before you know it, Cain is killing Abel, and it only gets worse from there.
War is the offspring of prioritizing being right over being in relationship. Adam and Eve ate from the wrong tree. They ate from the “being right” tree. The priority should have been being in relationship, with God and each other. But being right was more important than being in relationship.

im-right
Jesus was right. But Jesus didn’t go to war to defend being right. People go to war because of the evil desire of being right. We all think we are in the right. But we know at least half of us can’t be right, we are deceived.

right-and-wrong
Jesus chose relationship over being right. You have to forgive to stay in relationship. In every relationship, at some point, something will happen where you believe you are right and being wronged. You might be right, or you might be deceived. It doesn’t matter for you. It happens in every relationship of any significance. From your view, you are in the right. If that’s what is important to you, if you chose to be right and go to war, your evil desire is winning out. The desire to be right above all else is what leads to war.
If it is more important to be in relationship than be right, you forgive. Jesus chose relationship over being right. When the world was wronging Him, He forgave us. Jesus chooses relationship with us over being right.

cross-bearing
War ends “out there” when it ends inside of each of us. It ends when it ends in our hearts. “Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭9:23-24‬ ‭NIV‬‬. When we accept Jesus’ terms of discipleship, which are non negotiable, war is over. War is over, because there is nothing to fight for. We expect to lose. We expect to lose our lives, so we can find our true lives. He taught us to walk in the light of the Lord. Jesus taught us His ways. Jesus taught us to value relationship over being right. He taught us to value forgiveness over vengeance. He taught us to value trusting God over fighting for our rights.

banner_jesus

When this happens, war is over. It’s part of the salvation being offered by Jesus Christ. Do you want it?

war-is-over

“”It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭2:2-5‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/isa.2.2-5.esv

John Lewis

God has Come

God has Come

god-is-coming

One last message from the advent season…

god_with_us_wide
Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come…
God will come. This is the word from the poet of Christmas. Do you have an anxious heart? Are you waiting for God to show up and do something? Are you waiting for some kind of salvation? Are you troubled and anxious, distressed and distraught? God will come.
Isaiah is the great poet of Christmas. So many of our great Christmas carols and Christmas cards come straight outta Isaiah. Emmanuel, “God with us”, that’s Isaiah. Unto us a child is born. The prince of peace. All Isaiah.

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 “The land mourns and languishes; Lebanon is confounded and withers away; Sharon is like a desert, and Bashan and Carmel shake off their leaves…And the peoples will be as if burned to lime, like thorns cut down, that are burned in the fire.”…The sinners in Zion are afraid; trembling has seized the godless: “Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings?””

evelasting-fire

Isaiah‬ ‭33:9, 12, 14‬ ‭ESV‬‬. This is not on a Christmas card. But it is from the poem before the poem that is a Christmas card. Isaiah anticipates a time when both people and planet are broken. He anticipates a time when both land and lives are burning. A time when people are broken by idolatry and injustice…the land itself seems to bear witness. This can be seen throughout the the prophets from Isaiah to Malachi. Isaiah sees a time when the land will be burning, like a desert, and the people will be blind, deaf, and disabled. The land will be burning, and the people will be blind to the problem, deaf to the word of God, and unable to do anything about it.
But…something is going to happen to change all of this brokenness. “The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down, the grass shall become reeds and rushes.” The poet tells us God will come and change everything. And when He does – the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.

prepare-the-way

John the Baptist knew what he was sent to do. He was sent to prepare the way. “In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.'”” Matthew‬ ‭3:1-3‬ ‭ESV‬‬. But he had already figured how the messiah would come. “”I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭3:11-12‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Make no mistake – John the Baptist was looking for a warrior king. Jesus was supposed to bring his winnowing fork and separate the wheat from the chaff – by force. He was from the royal line of the great warrior king David. He was just 150 years after another great warrior, Judah Maccabaeus. This is what John expected. This is what almost everyone expected. Jesus was to come and change the order of the world, flip things upside down. We know he did this…just not as people expected.

fourth-of-july
John the Baptist is the one who prepares the way. John took this from Isaiah 40. John has recognized Jesus as messiah. As he took a prophetic stance against Herod Antipas marrying his brothers wife…he gets arrested. So as he sits in a first century prison run by a king who didn’t much like him, John is waiting for God to do something big. He knows Jesus is Messiah, he announced to the world that Jesus was Messiah. But John is waiting for the revolution, and it’s not happening. So he sends his disciples to Jesus with a pointed question. Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?   Jesus hears the question, and just keeps doing what he’s doing, which is healing people, preaching good news to the poor and and enacting the kingdom of God. In that hour he healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. Then He sent John’s disciples back to John with this message – “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” What Isaiah said would happen when God comes, Jesus was doing. The eyes of the blind were opened. The ears of the deaf were unstopped. The lame walked. And blessed is the one not disappointed.
Jesus did not come to change the pecking order. He did not come so that the Jews could now be on top and peck down on the Romans. Jesus came to heal broken lives, throw out the pecking order and change the world. Blessed is he who is not disappointed by the coming of God…

missing-god
Jesus was announcing and enacting the kingdom of God. But it was possible to miss it. Not just Pharisees and Sadducees. Even John the Baptist got confused. He knew exactly who Jesus was, but he too got discouraged and confused.
The Pharisees missed Jesus as Messiah because for them, it was all about moralism. It was all about following the rules and following the law. And if you didn’t follow all their rules along with gage Law of Moses, then you were on the outside looking in on the kingdom of God. Then Jesus showed up freely forgiving sinners, just like that, and it disqualified Him immediately as any Messiah in their mindset. They missed God when He came to them.
The Sadducees were the religious elites controlling the temple. All the priests were from the Sadducees. They saw the world through the lens of religious sanction and elitism. Then Jesus comes and welcomes even those banned from temple. He goes straight to the least elite in society, the worst sinners, tax collectors, even lepers. He has dinner with them, visits them in their homes. So for most of these elites, not a chance they could see Jesus as Messiah. They missed God when He came to them.

bastille-day
John the Baptist was waiting for the violent revolution. He was waiting for Jesus, the Messiah, to come break him out of his prison, march on Rome and take down all those who were oppressing his people. He’s waiting for the liberation of his people. He’s waiting for the Fourth of July. He’s waiting for Bastille Day. But it’s not happening. He didn’t miss God, he announced Jesus to the world. But John did miss the signs himself that Jesus indeed the awaited Messiah.

revolution
Jesus was bringing a revolution all right. But instead of a violent, bloody revolution, He was bringing a love revolution. All the prophecies were coming true, right on time. Isaiah had the virgin birth, Hosea had it in Bethlehem, Daniel gad the time pinned down. The Magi figured it out. It was right there for all to see, yet for those who were supposed to be waiting for Messiah it was so hard to see.
God has come. It is Jesus. Jesus is the coming of God. Just as Isaiah predicted, the blind cloud see, the deaf could here, get lame could walk, and the mute could talk. But still, Jesus didn’t come as John expected. Or the Pharisees. Or the Sadducees. All of them, even John, had their own notions, their own vision of what the Kingdom of God would look like, they all had their own expectation of what the Messiah would do for them.

healing-of-the-blind-man-cropped
God will come and it will be Jesus. God is always coming, and it’s always Jesus. But will we see it? Will we recognize how and where Jesus comes into our lives?? Can we be quiet and contemplative enough to see beyond our own expectations and not miss what He is doing for us?
Do not draw a line from what you want God to do for you to how you believe He’s got to come. John was locked into a way God would come. He was waiting for a warrior Messiah to come liberate his people and drag the emperor behind His chariot. And John got disenchanted and discouraged when it didn’t happen.

John the Baptist in prison Matthew 14:3
God will come. But we don’t know how or when. God won’t be late, and will bring everything you need. John the Baptist never got out of King Herod’s prison. He was beheaded and died young. But – did his story end wrong?

john
Jesus did not do what John assumed he would. But he did not fail John. Have you ever heard someone lament -“That John the Baptist. He really could have been something. It’s too bad he died young, there’s no telling what he could have accomplished!” NO! You’ve never heard anyone say that. You’ve never thought that. John the Baptist is one of most honored lives in history. Every Orthodox Church in the world has an icon of John The Baptist. His story is told over and over again in churches around the world. Jesus did not fail John the Baptist. John was exactly where he needed to be. Jesus did not do what John assumed he would. But he did not fail John.
There is a message of the advent season. It’s a message for you if you’re in that burning desert, if you’re withering away, if you’re being burned in that fire.
Don’t be afraid. Trust God. God will come.

He will bring streams in the desert.

streams-in-the-desert
John the Baptist did not come to a bad end. We don’t expect to die in prison or get our heads cut off, but sometimes it feels like we are going to come to a bad end. “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:28‬ ‭NLT‬‬. No one who loves the way of Grace ever comes to a bad end.

“”Now I will arise,” says the Lord, “now I will lift myself up; now I will be exalted. You conceive chaff; you give birth to stubble; your breath is a fire that will consume you. And the peoples will be as if burned to lime, like thorns cut down, that are burned in the fire.” Hear, you who are far off, what I have done; and you who are near, acknowledge my might. The sinners in Zion are afraid; trembling has seized the godless: “Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings?””

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭33:10-14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/isa.33.10-14.esv
“The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down, the grass shall become reeds and rushes.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭35:1-7‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/isa.35.1-7.esv
“The disciples of John reported all these things to him. And John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And when the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you, saying, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?'” In that hour he healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.””

‭‭Luke‬ ‭7:18-23‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/luk.7.18-23.esv

John Lewis

A Battlefield or a Garden?

A Battlefield or a Garden?

battlefield-4-featured

A beautiful, poetic prophecy from Isaiah, the great prophet of messiah. The great prophet who in so many ways saw the coming of Jesus 7 centuries before His birth. Prophets are the ones who reimagine the world as being better than it is, the ones the Holy Spirit chooses to give the imagination to, the vision, to see the world different and better than it is, and then the ability to communicate that vision.
Principalities and powers are often intimidated by the poet prophets. The status quo is just alright by them. Those in power never want people to have the idea that the world could be any other way. It threatens their authority. Isaiah made the powers and the empire so uncomfortable with his poetry (it’s just poetry!!??) and so enraged King Manasseh with his vision of the world different than it was that the king had him sawn in half. You have to be pretty angry to have someone sawn in two!! So just remember this as you read these passages.

mountain-of-lord-2
It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” 
Isaiah doesn’t know when, but he knows God is going to do something big. God will act in such a way that the world is going to take notice. The world is going to be drawn to the Lord, they will come to the Lord seeking to know His ways.
For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. Isaiah doesn’t know the when, but he has the where figured out pretty well. He knows that whatever God is going to do at that point in the future, it’s going to have something to do with Jerusalem. Something’s going to happen in Jerusalem, and it’s going to be big. It’s going to change the world.

The Bible
We have hindsight on our side. Isaiah writes about Jesus, but he doesn’t know his name. He’s going to be called “Immanuel”, “God with us”, but that’s not His name. He’ll be called wonderful counselor, prince of peace, lord of lords, and king of kings, but those aren’t his name either. His name is Jesus, the lord saves, and we know his story. Isaiah had a vision of what was to come, we have the hindsight and privilege to know what Isaiah could not see. We know the baby would actually be born in Bethlehem, but something big would happen in Jerusalem. This baby would grow up and go into ministry. He would be a lightning rod for those in power, he would heal the sick, help the lame walk, and let the blind see. He would preach the sermon on the mount, teach love of enemy, and demonstrate and live out His own radical teaching dying from the Roman crucifix, forgiving those who tortured and killed Him even as they were torturing and killing Him.

viking_sword_01
This just occurred to me yesterday. To live by the sword is to die by the sword. Nothing but a cliche to us, but that comes from Jesus. “Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.” Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. With that, one of Jesusʼ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” Matthew‬ ‭26:50-52‬ ‭NIV‬‬. So here’s the thing – Jesus was being seized by the powers that be, to be led off to His crucifixion, and when Peter draws his sword and fights back, Jesus tells him NO!! To live by the sword is to die by the sword. As He is Himself being led off to die. In Luke’s telling it says “And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the manʼs ear and healed him.” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭22:50-51‬ ‭NIV‬‬. You live by the sword, you die by the sword. “No more of this!” No more responding to violence with violence. No wonder Peter denied Him in the garden. It’s a hard walk to follow Jesus.
So we have the hindsight to know that yes, God DID act in Jerusalem. Because those in power took Jesus away, had their “trials”, and crucified Him.

calendar-2017-2018-2019
And what God did next, in Jerusalem, was big. Very big. So big in fact, it reset the calendar. We measure time by the event Isaiah is predicting right here, in 740 BC. BEFORE Christ. They killed Him, God raised Him. The word of the Lord will go out from Jerusalem. It was 740 years until the coming of Messiah, now it’s 2000 years since. We measure time based on this one event. We changed the calendar.  That’s how big it was.

plowshare
He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord. A prophetic word from Isaiah, the world reimagined. Their swords turned into plowshares, their spears into pruning hooks. The tools of war turned into tools of agriculture, tools for gardening. For us, could you imagine tanks turned into tractors? Missile silos turned into grain silos?

tank
Here’s a question – do we see the world as a battleground or as a garden? Is the world a fundamentally threatening place? Is the whole world a battleground where we must keep our weapons close at hand, prepared to do battle at any time?  Or is it fundamentally the recipient of Gods grace and loving care?

tractor

Do we feel like the whole world is a battleground and we need to be always ready to grab our weapons and go fight for our rights? Or is the world a garden to be cultivated and nurtured for the glory of God?? Are we all soldiers? Or are we gardeners? Which was Jesus?

shade-garden-design-vegetable-colorblocking
To be continued…

“It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭2:2-5‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/isa.2.2-5.esv

John Lewis