December 2018 Streams of Thought
The Season of Advent is the highlight, along with Easter, of the Christian calendar. It celebrates the anticipation and excitement of His coming, His Advent.
That anticipation was even more intense in the years leading up to His birth. The original Christians were Jews who inherited a centuries-old hope that M'schiach (Messiah) would come and re-establish Israel's power, glory, and honor.
There were strong political elements but there was also a powerful faith side. By the time Jesus was born, politics were emphasized over faith because of Roman occupation. From Europe to Arabia to North Africa the Roman Empire was the Big Kid on the Block.
The Romans allowed Jews to more or less freely practice their faith and life but they were still controlled by a foreign power and subject to the whims, laws, and taxes of that power. The Zealots were one reaction to this and their movement sparked uprisings often led by men claiming to be M'schiach.
Some Jews decided to "go along to get along;" others hoped the real M'schiach would come soon and the sooner the better! These earliest Christians, all Jews,
came to the conclusion that the one called Jesus of Nazareth was the true M'schiach. They saw Him from the faith side of Messianic hope. He did not come to conquer
Rome but to conquer hearts and connect people forever with God.
What He offered had less to do with politics and more to do with living in a world of shifting alliances, human failings, and uncertain futures, trusting Him without reservation as the Incarnation of the Living God who is with His people no matter what.
In these uncertain and turbulent times we invite Y'shua Ha M'schiach, Jesus the Messiah, to come to us in power, grace, love, and glory. Let Him revive and rekindle a holy fire within us as we wait for Him in this Advent Season.
Grace and Peace,
November 2018 Streams of Thought
It's hard to believe we're nearing the end of the year; Halloween is near, Thanksgiving is coming up and right around the corner is Christmas.
Some stores were clearing old Christmas inventory at 40% off back in AUGUST! We lament the commercialization and diluting of Christmas (and Thanksgiving) but find it hard to push back against this cultural flood tide.
Maybe the best way to do this is to simply observe these holidays as "Christianly" as possible. St. Francis of Assisi is often misquoted as saying, "Always preach the Gospel; when necessary use words." While no evidence exists he actually said or wrote those words, the sentiment is good.
The Gospel, or Good News of Jesus Christ, is often lived and spoken at the same time. In our quiet time with God, our seasonal or holiday reading, personal worship times, and other daily activities, we can focus on the Christ who blesses us with so many blessings and be thankful and celebrate His coming to earth to save us. There are many great books and internet blogs that do this at this time of year. I encourage you to use these resources and others to help focus anew on Christ during the seasons we are approaching.
My own personal study for this time will be on the faith and theology of various Christmas carols as well as some of the people in the Nativity narratives in the Gospels. I hope this focus will turn my attention away from some of the cringeworthy stuff we see around the holidays and help me see Christ and His birth in new ways.
From this I hope will flow a fresh desire to fulfill the purpose of the Church: to bear witness to the Christ who has come to save us.
Grace and Peace,
October 2018 Streams of Thought
Grace and peace,
September 2018 Streams of Thought
The Christian satire website The Babylon Bee (it's like The Onion but without the profanity and from a definite Christian viewpoint) ran an article about how people expect us to live our faith but get really upset when we actually do.
The basis of the Christian faith is that a self-revealing God created all we see, called Israel to be His people, came to us in a man named Jesus of Nazareth, died for us and rose again, and calls His people to lives of holiness in all areas of life. The majority of Christians through history have believed this.
How Christians might understand things like Jesus' Incarnation or the nature/work of the Holy Spirit's gifts may differ but the heart of the faith as defined in statements such as the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds remains the same. The Christian faith has a definite and consistent foundation (based on centuries of prayer, careful study, and thought).
Christian apologist Dr. Ravi Zacharias visited a university here in the U.S. and was shown a new building built by postmodern (all is relative, there's no Truth) standards. Columns hung halfway down from the ceiling and stairs ended against walls. The host proudly pointed out the postmodern design. Zacharias asked, "Did the architect do the same with the foundation?" The response was laughter with tones of "Well, of course not."
Zacharias wrote that this response underscored the absurd premises that no such thing as truth exists or that foundations (religious, scientific, etc.) don't matter. He pointed out that if the architect had been true to his postmodernism he would have tried to make the foundation postmodern as well.
But physics and engineering rules/boundaries simply don't allow that. The same is true for the Christian faith. What is commonly called Christian orthodoxy is not the stifling, unimaginative creature its critics imagine it to be. Rather, while maintaining boundaries on doctrinal content, it encourages a growing, nuanced, and deeper understanding of some pretty mind-blowing stuff (such as Jesus being fully God and fully human or that He was sinless [John 8:42-47; Hebrews 4:15]).
The Church is at its best when it lives out a faith of vibrant orthodoxy that stresses grace and holiness of heart and life. And when that happens, lives are changed for eternity.
Grace and Peace,
Grow as you are led
Serve as you are able
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