Greetings in the name of Jesus! This is a continuing effort on my part to make available to family, friends, and any other poor unfortunate souls that run across this, some of the thoughts that run through my mind regarding sermon preparation, newsletter articles, random thoughts (of which there are many), and generally how God is working in my life. I hope to post at least once a week but I'm not promising that.

So welcome to it.

Post Script:
A couple of people have asked me about the address. When I was putting this together I was preparing for sermons from the 6th chapter of John where Jesus refers to himself as "The Bread of Life" and these are passages that I strongly identify with. So artos is bread and zoe is life (roughly) and to quote Forrest, "That's all I have to say about that."

Sunday, December 20, 2009

December 20 – Fourth Sunday of Advent

The Promise is  Joy

Isaiah 7:13-14

13Then Isaiah* said: ‘Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? 14Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman* is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel (God with us).

This is one of God’s Promises to be with us… a promise of hope. But what is one of the possible human responses to the Promise of hope; one that God wishes to inspire in us?

Luke 1:39-44

39 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy.

John the Baptist even while in his mother’s womb recognizes the Promise of God and responds as a person should when encountering the presence of God… with unrestrained joy.

True joy comes from our acknowledging and responding to God’s Promise… Jesus… Immanuel; God with us… and God wants us to live lives of joy… to acknowledge and respond positively to God through faith in Jesus.

Nehemiah 8:10

…do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.

Just as God is love, God is also joy; where love and joy abound there can be no room for fear for “perfect love casts out fear” 1 John 8:18

Joy 1 a : the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires b : the expression or exhibition of such emotion 3 : a source or cause of delight

Joy is spoken of often in the Bible in both the Old and New Testaments (joy in one form or another—including rejoice—is found almost exactly 400 times. Compare this with love-586; glory-468; mercy-310; and faith-275) and in different ways depending upon the situation the writer found themselves in (this includes happiness from married life and family to particularly harvest. Overwhelmingly though, these examples are related to God—some attribute or action of God in relationship with God’s people and our response of joy.

In the Old Testament, difficult times (times of war, famine, poverty, oppression etc.) the experience of joy became the anticipation of God’s deliverance from whatever it was they were being subject to either because of their faith or their lack of faith and so joy became a central theme in their eschatological hope—their hope in God’s promises of salvation in the coming of God’s anointed or Christ and again in the coming Son of Man.

As Christians, we understand and believe that Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise and hope and so the source and object of joy.

This is a key theme in Luke’s gospel beginning with the angel’s announcement to Zechariah in the temple, that he and his wife would have a son and they would have “joy” at his birth because of who he was and what he would do in relation to the coming of Jesus; again in the passage for this morning; the pronouncement of the angel to the shepherds; throughout his ministry and his resurrection. As seen in John’s gospel, our relationship with Jesus is a source of our joy as believers.

The Apostle Paul argues that our joy in Christ can be experienced even during trials and troubles in life as an expression of our faith. He understands them to be temporary (agreed a subjective term but from God’s perspective all of existence is temporary) and as such should not dampen the joy we experience in life. In addition he believes that these difficult times suggest that the pending completion or consummation of God’s promise and our hope and so should heighten our joy. In circumstances where our hardship can be understood as being experienced because of our faith, Paul argues it is an extension or reflection of Jesus’ own suffering and so cause for more rejoicing.

God wants us to experience joy… Jesus tells us that he wants his joy to be in us so that our joy may be complete. Paul reminds us of this when talking about the character traits of Jesus that we receive when given the gift of the Person of the Holy Spirit—the Spirit of Christ—and the fruit of the Spirit, one of which is joy!

I think we also need to stop and think for a moment about the character and nature of God… God’s attributes. Scripture tells us that God is love, God is peace and so also God is joy. God not only evokes these responses in us but God is the source of them for God “is” these things. We experience them in different ways as human beings but in God they could be considered interchangeable but most certainly they are so intimately inter-related as to be indistinguishable… much like the Triune nature of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

These ideas are important because they help us think about how we can understand and experience joy in our own lives.

Think about people’s situation and response from the passage from Isaiah and in the early part of the gospel when God breaks into their lives.

Ahaz—king of Judah is going to be besieged and is in fear for the future; Zechariah—aging, he and his wife Elizabeth past child bearing years and childless, without hope; Mary—a young girl engaged to be married and with bright prospects for the future only to hear that that future all of a sudden doesn’t look to bright; Joseph—Mary’s betrothed… he has just found out his fiancĂ©e is pregnant and faces disgrace

God comes to each and says do not fear… the promise is that God is or will be with them and will see them through whatever is going to take place. And what does God say to each of them… do not be afraid…

Their response? Ahaz refused to accept God’s word out of fear. Zechariah questioned and doubted. Mary and Joseph accepted God’s word and acted upon it. But nowhere in these passages is the word joy mentioned, so why bring them up? The passage from Nehemiah is my clue.

Ezra instructs the people not to grieve; which here literally means “not to worry.” That the joy of the Lord will give them strength… will give them courage to do what they need to do.

Think back to the situations that we listed before. Ahaz worried and did not act on God’s word. Zechariah while he certainly wasn’t the example of faith of Mary and Joseph did not doubt any longer. Mary and Joseph, accepted God’s word to them and acted. In a sense you could say that they acknowledged God’s joy in choosing them and that joy provided them the courage to act in faith.

Think back to God and God’s attribute of love casting out all fear… all worry and read that with the passage from Nehemiah in mind and the responses of the folks.

This can help us to understand how Paul talked about he experienced joy during all of the trials and hardships of his ministry for Jesus… the joy of the Lord was his strength.

Does this mean that when we have feelings of happiness when things are going right we should not call it joy? To quote the Apostle Paul… “By No Means!” Of course we can experience joy and celebrate the blessings in life that involve success and good fortune! The Bible is full of examples of those. But we should not limit our understanding of joy and God’s desire for us to experience it to only that understanding.

The reason, I believe, that we sometimes don’t understand that joy can be experienced during difficult times in our lives is that we misplace the source of our joy as well as the object of our joy. The Bible is clear that God is both. And as Christians we experience that in the Person of Jesus Christ… the incarnation of God… Immanuel… God with us… that is God’s Promise to us.

The question we may ponder, especially in light of everything that’s going on in the world around us… political unrest, international conflict, questionable economy, unemployment, the reality of death in our own families and communities… the question we many ponder is, “how do I respond?” Do I refuse to believe God’s Word to me? Do I doubt and question? Or do I take courage in God’s Promise… do I take courage in the abiding presence of Jesus… and live in faith… with joy? For myself, for my family, for those near and for those far away. For the Promise is for all that the Lord our God calls.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sunday December 13 – Third Sunday of Advent


The Promise is Peace

“For the Promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls…”    Acts 2:39

Ephesians 2:11-16

11 So then, remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth,* called ‘the uncircumcision’ by those who are called ‘the circumcision’—a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands— 12remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. 15He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, so that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, 16and might reconcile both groups to God in one body* through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.

Advent—a time of expectation for us as Christians. For some it is expectation of the celebration of Christmas. Gathering together with family and friends… the giving and receiving of gifts. For others it is time of expectation and preparation… and no not the house for the dinners or parties and family… but a time of preparation of our hearts… our minds… the way we live… not just this time of year but each day of the year. That’s the preparation part. The expectation is for the reason why we prepare—the coming of Jesus.

We do that two ways… the celebration we know as Christmas or the Christ “Mass” to commemorate, to celebrate and give thanks to God for His incarnation and birth as God the Son in the person of Jesus... but also we prepare in anticipation of Jesus’ return in glory to judge the world. To complete what was begun with His incarnation and birth.

That’s God’s promise to us. Jesus is God’s promise to us… Jesus as God the Son is the giver of the Promise… as the incarnate son is the Promise… and as the Son of Man coming in final glory and victory is the fulfillment of the Promise. Jesus is the Promise.

During these past weeks of Advent we’ve been looking at some of the different expressions of God’s promises to us and how they have been fulfilled in Jesus. We’ve seen that the Promise is Hope… that the Promise is Love… and this week we will explore how the Promise is peace.

Peace is sometimes defined as the state prevailing in the absence of war or the absence of hostility. Dictionaries define it as: 1 : a state of tranquility or quiet: as a : freedom from civil disturbance b : a state of security or order within a community provided for by law or custom <a breach of the peace> 2 : freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions 3 : harmony in personal relations 4 a : a state or period of mutual concord between governments b : a pact or agreement to end hostilities between those who have been at war or in a state of enmity

Over the past 8 years or so peace has been a reoccurring issue for us as Americans… this is especially true for many that have family members serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. The definitions that we heard have particular meaning in that case. But when they stop to consider the number of wars that have occurred in human history… some folks stop and think, “Are God’s promises of peace valid? Are they true? (ex. Psalms 72, 85, 147; Isaiah 9:6-7; 32:1-10; 54)

The basic problem we face here is trying to understand God’s promises from a human or worldly point of view. Here’s how I understand this… It means that we as a sinful and fallen people are ruled by the attitude, logic, mindset, pattern of thinking of the world that defines victory in terms of overcoming our adversaries by force (most often expressed in violence) and that victory ensures peace.

Now force does not need to be physical… there can be economic force, political force, psychological force… all of those might be considered non-violent in physical terms but have the effect of violence if they are understood as not being entered into freely; in other words coercion or threat.

Now consequences to our choices should not be understood as threat or coercion. In any human relationship there should be an element of cooperation and or incentive for certain behavior. For instance; I’m trying to help our kids understand that there are consequences for their behavior… that the choice they make in cleaning their room or the way they treat each other can have blessings… or not.

In a perfect world our relationships would always be mutually beneficial and motivated purely by selfless desire to make sure that everyone’s needs are met including our own. But we don’t live in the perfect world. One of the interesting things that I noticed when I read those definitions was that all of them talk about peace as a state of existence that is dependent upon how well we as people can get along. That’s always the rub isn’t it? That we need to agree on some common core values and purposes—hey we have a hard enough time doing that in the church and sometimes in our own families.

Look back over the course of human history. Our nature, our cultures and societies are not only marked by constant reoccurring warfare of one kind or another, but they have been shaped by it as well. Our character as human beings is competitive in nature and that has been understood and explained as a self-defense mechanism… in Darwin’s terms, it is survival of the fittest. The stronger and more adaptable an organism was thought to be the better its chances of surviving and multiplying. Now whether we believe in evolution or not we all understand the principle and can see it lived out on a daily basis.

Hearing all of that can be depressing. It can make it sound like there is no hope at all for us as human beings in general and as a country… even as a people. This is especially true when so many Christians around the world are being killed because they are Christians. And I say that knowing that our own past as Christians has its own share of violence and conversion by the sword.

So are we without hope? That depends upon where you draw your hope from.

You see I believe in that maxim that victory ensures peace… The questions are; what kind of victory and what kind of peace?

Listen again to the words of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the church at Ephesus… (my paraphrase)

Remember at one time you were far away from God… in the way you thought and in the way you acted… your character and nature was miles apart from God’s… because you did not know or have Christ… you had no hope… But now you have been brought near to God and have received his character traits because of Jesus’ victory on the cross… because off the gift of his blood and his life… he has conquered violence and death and hostility… Jesus is our Peace… the Promise that God gave to us.

That’s why we have hope… that’s why we can look at all the violence and bloodshed and oppression and greed and coercion and threats from within our country and from without and still have hope.

We know that it doesn’t have to be this way because God has spoken his Word and fulfilled his Promise to overcome it. It’s just that the world doesn’t realize it. It refuses to listen or to pay attention to it because the world thinks that it has won. It hasn’t won… It just hasn’t realized that the victory that has ensured the final outcome has already been won and that everlasting peace is inevitable. What that means is, yes we will continue to have wars… because we will continue to have people, organizations, and governments that continue to seek and maintain power for the benefit of a very few… especially those in control of that power… and let’s be clear here that this is not a Republican or Democrat issue… it’s not about one administration or another or one country or another… it goes much deeper than that. It is a human issue… a condition of our spiritual health…

Jesus himself warns us of how deeply rooted it is in our human nature when he answered a question about the coming of the Son of Man… Jesus’ own return in final victory and glory… it’s from the Gospel of Mark

Mark 13:5ff Jesus said to them: "Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am he,' and will deceive many. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.

As a human endeavor peace is a state that will ebb and flow…

But it doesn’t need to be that way for us as followers of Jesus. And we shouldn’t throw in the towel and not try to make a difference in the world… we are called to be peace makers.

The thing is; we need to stop looking at peace from viewpoint of the world… we have to begin to understand how God defines it and claim it for ourselves… for our family of faith… for our communities and for the world.

If God’s Peace is Jesus… and he is… then God defines victory as self-giving; and we won’t truly understand this until we come to the cross… until we come to Jesus.

You see, peace is a state… not a state of mind but a state of being… a way of living… living in relation with ourselves… with others… but it all flows from the state of our relationship with Jesus.

If we are looking for peace in our lives then we need to start with the peace that God not only promised us but the peace that God has provided—a personal relationship with Jesus.

When we, with God’s help, place our faith in Jesus, God begins to change our broken human character and nature into Jesus’. If we choose we will begin to see things as Jesus sees them… to think and reason as he does… we will begin to care more about others and trying to encourage and serve them rather than worrying about being served.

What would happen if people started to really think and act this way? So much of what we struggle with in our communities, our countries and around the world simple disappear…

Hunger? Gone. Prejudice? No more. Violence, oppression, War? Things of the past. It would be like… it would be like… heaven.

Will we ever see it in our life time? Don’t know. But I pray for it and as a church along with millions of others WE pray for it at least every Sunday just like we will in few minutes:

“Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”

We pray for Jesus’ return. For the victory that has been won in his incarnation, death and resurrection to be consummated… for every person to bow and confess that Jesus is Lord of all.

For Jesus is our Peace… it is through him that all who are far away from God will be brought near… I’ve been kind of dancing with this throughout this message… there is another way to understand or define peace… a biblical way. In Scripture peace has the primary understanding of being made or restored to wholeness.

Why do we have war and all of those negative expressions of what it means to be human? We have them because of our separation from God. We are broken and fragmented as human beings because of it. In my mind then it follows that we will not know peace, wholeness; completeness; until we know Jesus. Because Jesus is the Promise of God… and the Promise is Peace… for those near and for those who are far away.

Sunday December 6 – Second Sunday of Advent


The Promise is  Love

(Sorry, initial notes only. The sermon text was the unfortunate victim of operator error… yeah, I erased the wrong file.)

Malachi 3:1-4 (God’s promise to send a messenger to prepare the way of the anointed and the anointed’s purpose in coming)

3See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 2But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; 3he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness.* 4Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.

(You do not purify and sanctify what you do not love… so what is spoken of here in Malachi is an act of love)

Luke 3:1-6 (God’s fulfilling God’s promise to send a messenger to prepare the way of his anointed… his Christ)

3In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler* of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler* of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler* of Abilene, 2during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, ‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 5Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth; 6and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” ’

The Word of God came to John… he went into all the region around the Jordan proclaiming a baptism of repentance and the forgiveness of sins… and all flesh shall see/witness (not necessarily experience) the salvation of God

The fulfillment of God’s promise: 1. if my people will seek my face and turn from their sin I will forgive their sin (2 Chr. 7:14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land) 2. God will send a messenger to prepare the way of the coming of the Messiah

In the Old Testament, the land acts as a spiritual barometer registering the people’s loyalty and devotion to the Lord… God’s response to Solomon’s prayer reminds the people that through worship at the Tempe God has provided a way for the forgiveness of sins… that beyond the broken covenant are divine resources for healing and restoration… the land is a symbol for the people… it suffers as result of the people’s sinfulness

Why is this important? Because the temple will be destroyed along with Jerusalem and their will no longer be the focal point for divine healing and restoration or forgiveness of sins… But God himself has interceded and prepared the way by establishing both a new temple and the sacrifice for the sins of the people…

So God’s promise of forgiveness is preceded by God’s call to repentance and that promise is being fulfilled by John as the one who goes before (as God promised) the one who is the Promise and the fulfillment of the Promise

The key is highlighted in the above verses: John shared God’s Word (not John’s)… the Word (God’s promise is a message of repentance and forgiveness) is an expression of God’s love… that calls us back to a way of living that honors God and our relationship with God as well as others and our relationship with them.

In Malachi the image of the Lord’s anointed is that of judge… but in reference to God’s people… those that kept covenant with God… the judgment is not one of eternal separation of God but that of refinement or sanctification… where all impurities will be removed and we will be made like Christ Jesus at the coming of the Son of Man (from last week). This can (and I believe should) be understood as an expression of God’s love in that we are not punished but disciplined.

But even for non believers the message should be one of hope based upon God’s love for us and God’s desire that all flesh should experience the salvation of God… the way the passage from Luke reads “all will see” but not all will experience the salvation of God… but God’s desire is that all will experience it. We get this understanding from numerous places in the Bible but perhaps the most well known is John chapter 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son so that all who believed in him would not die but have eternal life…”

The call to repentance is God expressing God’s desire for us to accept God’s gift of love and forgiveness for the things in our lives that separate us from God…

Like Isaiah the promise is not only for the Son of Man who comes but that there will be one before him that is to prepare the people for the coming of the Lord’s anointed.

John the Baptist was the messenger… the one who came before with God’s Word of forgiveness and acceptance pointing to the One who was in essence the giver of the promise and the one who would make the promise effectual for all who received the promise

This is a call to repentance for us so that we too can share in the receiving of God’s promise… in Advent repentance is part of our preparation to receive the Christ child…

we are the objects of God’s love and desire… the reason for the incarnation and birth of Jesus

The call to repentance is an expression of God’s love

We need to be ready to claim the promise (accept God’s gift of faith in Jesus… just as we prepare to receive in Spirit the Christ child) and we need to be ready for the coming of the Son of Man… the day of judgment that is promised

The coming judgment is also an expression of God’s love

Focus on God’s faithfulness in keeping God’s promises…

God’s nature is self-giving love… God’s promise is lived out exactly that way in the life of Jesus

Jesus is the giver of the promise and fulfillment of the promise—on God’s behalf as well as ours--

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Sunday November 29 – First Sunday of Advent

The Promise is Hope

Jeremiah 33:14-16 and Luke 21:25-36

The first Sunday of Advent remembers God’s promise of both coming of the Messiah and his return to judge the living and the dead… it anticipates the celebration and remembering of the in breaking of God’s salvation in Jesus Christ as well as the anticipation of his second coming… so the first Sunday in Advent communicates God’s past faithfulness, present faithfulness and future faithfulness…

Because God is faithful to God’s promise we have hope.

Some History from our passages

~ What situations did they speak to?

The passage from Jeremiah spoke to the people of Judah as they were in exile in Babylon… they were cut off from their identification as God’s people (Jerusalem and more specifically the temple… in fact it had been destroyed) and so they had lost the physical manifestation of God’s promise to them… the land or physical location of their nation (if you will be my people and obey my word I will give to you a land flowing with milk and honey and I will establish you as my people). So this was a time of great loss emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. It was also a time where they questioned God’s faithfulness to God’s promise because they applied the promise in ways that suited their purpose… in other words of the 60’s song The Boxer… they heard what they wanted to hear and they disregarded the rest…

Jeremiah was reaffirming God’s promise to them… that God had not forgotten God’s promise and that God had not forgotten them

The passage from Luke spoke to a similar situation where the country had come under the control of the Roman empire (and before that the Greek, the Persian, and the Assyrian empires) and they were again looking to God’s promise of an anointed one… a Messiah… to reestablish them as a political power. Jesus in his preaching had been saying; repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand or close. In other words he was restating God’s promise through the prophets (like Jeremiah)… which again was understood two ways… political kingdom and eternal kingdom AND that he was the fulfillment of God’s promise (think back to the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry when in the synagogue in Nazareth… when he read the prophecy—promise of God—from Isaiah Luke 4:18 "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

~ What is God’s promise of hope? (Specifically in these passages and in general)

That God has not forgotten God’s promise to his people that was first given to Abraham and then Isaac and Jacob, to Joseph, to David and Solomon. God’s promise is to make them a holy and special people; to be their God and one day re-establish God’s people as a light to the nations as representatives of God’s Kingdom on earth… a kingdom where justice and mercy are to be lived out in the lives of the people under the leadership of God’s anointed… and this was to be an everlasting or eternal kingdom… this promise was understood two ways; that there would be an earthly political or human kingdom and there would come a time when God would re-create the world through God’s anointed one—The Son of Man which Jesus in citing passages from Daniel who speaks of the Messiah (anointed one) as the Ancient of Days (a descriptive name for God)… is proclaiming that God will in fact establish an eternal divine Kingdom where justice and mercy will be finally realized by all. The gospels make clear that Jesus is the Son of Man

Hope is grounded in God’s promise to be Immanuel – “God with us” that is the basis of all of God’s other promises… peace, love, joy; the promises of healing, restoration

What God promises us is that God will always be with us (hence the promise of Immanuel—God with us) so the promise is relationally based… the kingdom of God is not so much a physical reality (meaning a political one) but a spiritual and relational one (God affirms this through Jeremiah earlier—chapter 31—when he says, 31:31 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

~ Is God’s Promise still good… is it still valid? Can we still trust God? How has God fulfilled promises in your life?

We may not experience or see the completion of the secondary promises but we can always experience the first… it is based upon our trust or faith in God… not having to follow laws or rules… the laws or rules are there to help point us toward God and to help us keep and live out our faith… they do guarantee us the fulfillment of the promise… they help us to appreciate it more…

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for; the conviction of things unseen. Hebrews 11:1

One of the things that we need to remember is that God’s Promise is eternal in scope or range… God’s concern is not only for what we are experiencing now but for God’s concern for all humankind in the present but also the future…

That’s why I place so much emphasis on the God’s promise to be Immanuel… “God with us”

~ How did God fulfill God’s promise?

Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise of hope

And God fulfilled that promise in Jesus… his incarnation/birth as God the Son; his ministry and teaching; his self-giving on the cross; his resurrection; and his self-giving in the Person of the Holy Spirit…

Jesus is the Giver of the Promise and the Promise… and so is the source and object of our Hope

That’s what we celebrate on this first Sunday of Advent as we proclaim his coming in the celebration of his birth… as he comes to us continually in the Word and in the Person of the Holy Spirit, and whose return as the Son of Man we anticipate to complete our hope.

Leads me to some questions

~ So do we accept God’s promise of hope?

Individually? As the church?

~ How do we experience hope? Through our relationship with God lived out through our relationships with God’s people

~ If we have accepted and experienced God’s promise of hope;

Have we shared it? How do we share it?

~ How do we fulfill the promises we’ve made to God?

God has made promises to us but in response we have made promises to God… so how do we keep those promises? This is a way of asking, how are we living out our faith and our hope?


~ How do our acts of faith help in executing God’s promise of Hope to humanity?

On the front of the bulletin there is the passage from Acts 2 where Peter in his preaching on the day of Pentecost…

“For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who 
are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him."
                Acts 2:39

~ How can our congregation promote acts of compassion to actively live this message of hope in our community?

Being prepared and ready does not mean to be passive… to not be active in who Jesus has called us to be and what Jesus has called us to do…

Who are the ones out there who need this… who can we identify… who needs to hear God’s promise and know the giver and the keeper of the promise

Advent 2009

The Promise

This year, once again, I’m using Michael Card’s “The Promise” as the basis for the celebration of Advent. I told someone just the other day(and I’m sincere in this) that I believe “The Promise” is the best Christmas CD ever produced… if not musically certainly theologically.

While not taken directly from Card’s devotional that accompanied the release of the CD; the messages for each Sunday of Advent certainly (I hope) draw upon the spirit of The Promise.