Waiting Forward

Two days ago, I concluded a five-week sermon series during which our church focused on the letter Paul (along with Silas and Timothy) wrote to the small group of new believers in the Greek port city, Thessalonica.  Within that letter, the Apostle encouraged the Christ-followers to stay strong in their faith with a hope fueled by the expectation of Jesus' return.  They, like modern-day Christians, looked forward to the Lord's return.

Looking forward goes hand-in-hand with waiting.  Waiting goes hand-in-hand with patience.  

Impatience forces its way in seeking to separate the hands of patience and waiting and, when successful, thus handicaps one's looking-forward.

None, save the few number of extra patient people among us, wait well.  As a general rule, we rank poorly on the delayed-satisfaction scale.  What we want we want as soon as possible - actually "now" would be better.
So how can we strengthen our waiting abilities?  To answer in a word - run.  No, I'm not suggesting that you lace up your Sauconys.  Rather, I'm encouraging you to hear and heed the words Paul wrote to a young man named Timothy.
11-12 But you, Timothy, man of God: Run for your life from all this. Pursue a righteous life—a life of wonder, faith, love, steadiness, courtesy. Run hard and fast in the faith. Seize the eternal life, the life you were called to, the life you so fervently embraced in the presence of so many witnesses.

13-16 I’m charging you before the life-giving God and before Christ, who took his stand before Pontius Pilate and didn’t give an inch: Keep this command to the letter, and don’t slack off. Our Master, Jesus Christ, is on his way. He’ll show up right on time, his arrival guaranteed by the Blessed and Undisputed Ruler, High King, High God. He’s the only one death can’t touch, his light so bright no one can get close. He’s never been seen by human eyes—human eyes can’t take him in! Honor to him, and eternal rule! Oh, yes.  1 Timothy 6:11-16 (The Message)
Run.  Run toward wonder.  Race to faith.  Sprint for love.  Dart steadily.  Hurry with courtesy.  Seize the eternal life by living your everyday ordinary life with a passion for life, true life.

Ready . . . Set . . . (You know the rest!)


Experiencing Transition? Don't Panic.

According to the Western calendar, autumn begins this Saturday.  Autumn, one of the four seasons, serves as a transition time between summer and winter.  Already in Alaska, the temperatures are dropping ever so slightly.  Wardrobes change, lawn mowers roar less often, and rakes stand at the ready. 

During the fall season, Alaskans check to see that the condition of their studs (on their tires, that is) is suitable to carve the ice through the winter.  They also remove their garden hoses from the outdoor spigots knowing no watering will be necessary until May.

So, autumn marks transition.

Are you in a time of transition right now?  What is changing (or threatening to change) in your life? 

For some, transition means a move away from home to a college dorm.  For others, transition looks like selling a long-comfortable house before snow flies in order to relocate to a new neighborhood.  Others are presently experiencing less exciting transitions.  As the current year draws to a close, they know that 2019 will be the first year without a loved one who passed away.  Others enter into autumn still in the shock they experienced when the physician shared the unwelcome and unexpected news.

Transitions.  Some are thrilling; others are frightening.  No matter the adjective that best suits your situation, you can take comfort in the promise of God as recounted by the prophet Isaiah.

Don’t panic. I’m with you.
    There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.
I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you.
    I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.
Isaiah 41:10 (The Message)

Look carefully at those first five words - "Don't panic.  I'm with you."  Notice the charge and the rationale.
Charge:  Don't panic.
Rationale:  I'm with you.
Knowing that God is with you fuels your ability to keep it together.  Your sanity directly relates to your knowledge of His presence. 

Take a few minutes (or moments) now to experience God's presence.  How?
1. Read from the Bible.
2. Listen to a favorite song of faith.
3. Write yourself a reminder of a time you felt His presence.

Don't panic.  God is with you.


Difficult Dates

Seventeen years ago today, we watched as the Twin Towers collapsed due to the selfish and murderous acts of angry people.  The combination of the numbers 9 and 11 is etched into our minds.  Events such as 9/11 force their way into our long-term memories. 

The years 587 BC and AD 70 are etched into the minds of people of Jewish heritage as they remember that their most holy site, the Temple, was destroyed in those years. 

I recall hearing the news of the explosion of the Space Shuttle (two actually). 

Those of a generation before me remember the day of the Grassy Knoll. 

One generation before them was shocked on December 7, 1941.

Other events are far more personal but no less painful.  You have yours; I have mine.  Without taking the unwise step of numbing the memories, what should we do with our own "personal Pearl Harbor days"? 

You probably expect me, as a Christian pastor and blogger, to answer that question with the answer, "God."  If so, you are correct.  I stand by that "Sunday School answer."  (Sometimes those are the best answers.)

God can free you from your distress that is causing you stress.  Bring your bad memories to God.  In his song, "Forgiveness," Crowder declares . . .
I've done things I wish I hadn't done.
I've seen things I wish I hadn't seen.

Our bad memories consist of recollections of things that we have done wrong and that others have done to us.  We can find freedom from both kinds of recollection.  Crowder's song title points us to the "how."  Forgiveness.

When you recall a wrong you have done, ask forgiveness from God and the one(s) you harmed.  (Don't forget to also forgive yourself.)

When you recall a wrong done to you, extend forgiveness - it is for good reason that Jesus told us to forgive our enemies and pray for those who harm us.

On this September 11th, decide to give your "personal Pearl Harbor days" to God.


Church Speak - Part 7 - Why So Much Blood?

Christians sing about blood.
- "Are You Washed In The Blood?"
- "O The Blood"
- "Love Ran Red"


Christ-followers talk about blood and its power. 
Some churches display images of Jesus with varying amounts of blood on His body.

Why so much blood?

To help us find the answer to that question, we can read the words of the biblical writer of the letter to the Hebrews.

How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!
Hebrews 9:14 (NIV)
Those words immediately follow the writer's (possibly Paul) assertion that the old (former) way of symbolically atoning for sins, which involved the sacrifice (killing / shedding blood) of goats and bulls proved, while meaningful, incomplete.  In fact, the shedding of the blood of "Innocent" animals foreshadowed the death of the innocent Son of God - Jesus the Christ.
For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.
Hebrews 9:15 (NIV)
Other passages of Scripture help answer our question of Church Speak.  The writing of Matthew in the book bearing his name serves as a prime example.
27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
Matthew 26:27-28 (NIV)
The Lord's Supper (Communion / Eucharist), as established by Jesus serves as an unmistakable reminder of the significance of Jesus' death.  Jesus' death, best symbolized by blood (think "life blood"), serves as the open door to salvation for all who believe.
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—
John 1:12 (NIV)

This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.
Romans 3:22a (NIV)
Christians, I am quite sure, will continue to sing and talk about blood, specifically the blood of Jesus.  For without His blood (death), all are without hope; but with His blood (by His death), all who choose to believe and follow hold firmly to hope.
9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
Romans 5:9-10 (NIV)


Thank you for reading these blogs on Church Speak.  Next week I will return Ordinary Lives to more ordinary themes.  😉
Next week's topic - Waiting on Jesus.