I hope you are at home for Thanksgiving this year – whatever and whomever home may be for you. It is a hard thing to be wayfaring, wandering, and on the road as a stranger in a strange land. Through the law of Moses, God constantly reminded Israel that they had been aliens until they found a home and that they ought to therefore welcome strangers, aliens, and foreigners into their midst.
I hope that, if you are at home for Thanksgiving this year, you have found a way to open your home, your table, and your life – however briefly – to someone with nowhere else to be. To do so is to live out the very substance of God’s own life: in Jesus, the home of the Triune God opened up and received all of us – strangers and aliens to the Divine – into himself.
I hope that in your home this Thanksgiving there is thanks given for the home that is and is yet to be. As the old spiritual says, “I’m just a poor wayfaring stranger / While traveling in this world of woe / Yet there’s no sickness, toil nor danger / In that bright land to which I go.”
May your Thanksgiving table this year be a foretaste of the Thanksgiving table of the world to come: a place where you are at home and others have found a home with you.
~ Jonathan Stepp
NEW LIFE FELLOWSHIP OCEAN CITY 2015 GOOD NEWS FESTIVAL GOSPEL MESSAGES:
Question and Answer – Joe Tkach
I don’t know what the answers are to the world’s problems that have been highlighted this week (and every week in truth). It’s enormously complicated. and when we view it from our perspective as we all do, we are just seeing one narrow slice of reality. What I do know is that the answers do not lie in us bashing each other across the heads with our opinions.
In part one of the recent trilogy of movies based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic, The Hobbit, wise wizard Gandalf declares:
Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I have found. I’ve found it is the small things, everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keeps the darkness at bay. Simple acts of kindness and love.
(Unlike Gandalf, Saruman had chosen the way of darkness and corruption, and found his nature tragically twisted because of it.)
As Gandalf saw, when we wonder how to respond to the incredible suffering and yes, the evil, in our world, simple everyday acts of kindness and love will always be the answer. It’s a painful truth that if all we “ordinary folk” behaved this way to those we encounter, the darkness would be kept at bay for the most part.
Brian Zahnd, lead pastor of Word of Life church, notes:
“The demonic seduction of accusation, empire, and propaganda (dragon, beast, and false prophet) always lead humanity to another bloody battlefield. Armageddon always looms. Yet hope abides. Armageddon is always a possibility, but never an inevitability. If we reject the ways of the beast and follow the way of the Lamb, Jesus will lead us away from the doom of Armageddon into the shalom of the New Jerusalem. Though the fires of destruction are always burning outside the walls, the Spirit and the Bride are always calling us into the city of the Lamb…and her gates will never be shut.”
When so many see humanity on the brink of of extinction due to endless conflict, it is such a relief to step back and see that in Jesus we possess the keys to turn things around. I don’t know if I will see it in my physical lifetime — it seems unlikely indeed. But impossible? Never. Regardless of the outcome for our world, in my own life, I can follow the Lamb, and live knowing that my eyes have not seen his peaceful victory over the powers of darkness, but in the dimension I cannot see, it has already happened. So I can live my life today in hope and faith instead of fear, and with an open heart toward all those I encounter.
In the hope that with God’s quiet leading humanity can somehow turn it all around, I am doing my best to raise my children to have open hearts toward all people — of all religions, cultures and lifestyles. They’ll have their own lives to lead and conclusions to draw, but children tend to adopt or be heavily influenced by the attitudes of their parents, and so what I model for them is crucial. People make much ado of developing their strongest friendships with people of “like mind,” and while there is nothing wrong with doing so to a degree, excluding someone from your inner circle on that basis is also one the most limiting things we can do as humans. With God’s grace, my children will not grow up learning from me to fight and argue with and exclude those with whom they disagree, but seeing instead that there is much they have to learn from people of all walks of life. I am very much hoping that they will learn that it is possible to respectfully hold the beliefs of another individual in their minds without necessarily accepting them as true (because sometimes they will be true; sometimes they won’t).
It’s only a start, but a good one. I feel already over-extended most of the time. The world needs so much to heal it, and I am one already worn out person who gives most of what is in me to the little ones in my care as it is. I will never regret having given it to them through this season of my life. I know many of you can relate to feeling that way, whether you have children or not. But if we “ordinary folk” make a practice of small, unconditional acts of kindness and love toward all those we encounter — things that we are all capable of because of God within us — things that God has modeled for us by extending those very things to us and to all — who knows where it could lead? Whether or not anything we would consider great will be asked of us, these small things are contagious. It is not overly idealistic to say that true healing of the world is possible and could indeed happen not in violence and fiery battles, but instead in peace. It will come through God ultimately, but as we answer the call to participate in his plan for humanity by expressing love for our fellow man and all of creation, we become an integral part of the solution.
Because of God in us, we — all people — are ordinary, but powerful folk.
~ by Jeannine Buntrock
Is miraculous healing a nice thing that happens once in a great while when we ask God to do it, or is it central to the Church’s daily work in embodying the union of God and man in Christ? I enjoyed Ken Blue’s Authority to Heal, for example, but I’ve had long stretches of my life where I’m really not into that stuff. I have gone back and forth on this more times than I’d like to admit.
So anyway, I was recently doing some T. F. Torrance reading, and I came upon this in his Atonement:
With the withdrawal of the resurrected body of Christ from visible and physical contact with us in this world, there is no appointed programme of anything like ‘faith healing’ or miraculous activity of a kindred sort. (Atonement, p. 306).
And then another in Incarnation.
To transmute the gift of healing from the strenuous domain of petitionary prayer to the sacramental domain as through we could have a sacrament of healing, or any programme of healing here and now is to deny the sacrament of the eucharist that we must take up our cross daily, die daily, and constantly communicate in the body and blood of Christ. It is to heal the hurt of God’s people too lightly, and to evade the fact that the cross must be inserted into the conditions of time, into the heart of our struggles and conflicts, redeeming the time. It is to deny that although we are redeemed, we wait for the redemption of the purchased possession. (Incarnation, p. 341).
I bring this up because this surprised me a bit, since most Torrancial people I know are rather INTO the healing thing.
What do you think?
In the POWERFUL conclusion to this series, where it is proclaimed that you are CALLED, EMPOWERED and SENT by the FATHER, through JESUS THE SON, and IN THE SPIRIT, understand:
- How to be a faithful steward of time in this hectic world to which you are sent!
- How to be the best steward of gifts and talents and experience God’s best even through discouraging personal weaknesses that can distract you!
- How to organize money and maximize its impact in participation with Christ in this world that’s trying to consume it all!
You won’t have time to sleep on this one cause you’ll be either glad or mad! hahaha
1.) get this NEW and UPDATED WORKSHEET you’ll want to keep for review: goroncy-a-theology-of-mission-share-God’s-good-news copy 2, , and…
2.) grab a pencil or pen
3.) fill-in-the-blanks as you prepare to share with others what you are learning to others who can share what their learning to others!
Here is part 1 if you are wondering: http://trinityandhumanity.com/2015/09/14/some-things-jesus-come-before-other-things/
Photo courtesy of: http://www.lifeway.com
The heart-wrenching picture of the drowned Syrian toddler and the follow-up stories with his father, the only survivor from the family: these are typical images of suffering that we see on the news. However, we also cannot pick up our local paper without seeing deaths from illness or accidents, and when we look on Facebook, we see friends and family dealing with grief and loss. Many of these friends are believers, and we wonder to ourselves (if not aloud), “Where was God?”
Some well-meaning folks may respond with “Well, God is in control,” or “God is teaching you something in this.” These responses are rarely helpful, and they keep us from realizing that we cannot make sense of evil, pain, and death by using reason. Instead, we must recognize that while evil and suffering exist, God is good and all-powerful in his love.
What we must consider is the way we define God as all-powerful. Humanly speaking, we think of power as control, and we can see throughout scriptures that God not only permits but desires free will from human beings. God allows vulnerability by rejecting control (when defined as coercion), though God also shows great power and authority through creation and great love through the cross.
On the cross God as Christ bore evil and suffering even as we do now, and in a sense, he shows us that enduring such pain can be healing and transformative though we may not see this perspective for a very long time. Galatians 3:13 says that “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole’” (NIV). Author Bradley Jersak comments about this, saying, “This means that in his death, Jesus himself absorbs the curse of sin and death for all of us, sucking the darkness of the world into himself, where his own blood is the all-powerful, spiritual anti-venom that cleanses sin and overcomes death. Assuming the likeness of fallen humanity, he is able to heal it” (A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel). Jersak points out that Jesus doesn’t passively witness our suffering and ‘do nothing,’ but instead, he “enters the suffering, experiences the anguish, lives the sorrow for all, with all, for all the time…In love, he consent[s] to co-suffer with us in solidarity.” We are never alone in our grief; we are never alone in our suffering.
Though we may wish that our loving Father would wave a magic wand and prevent the grief and suffering we experience, we know that God’s heart has given humanity free will with the hope (the calm assurance?) that human beings will choose relationship with the Divine and each other. This free moral agency does not come without a price, but it is a price that God as Christ has demonstrated a willingness to share with us. The suffering we endure is not ours alone, and this is the comfort of cruciform love.
Have you ever thought much at all about what we call Eternal Life? Do you really want to live forever? I was once asked whether I wanted to live forever by a well-meaning street evangelist. I replied, “Depends on what the life will be like.” That is a factor to consider is it not. I think most of us would answer, “Yes,” when asked the same question assuming that our eternal existence will be a happy and pleasant one.
But have you ever considered how this is possible? In his book, Space, Time, and Resurrection, T. F. Torrance reminds us that time is in creation… creation is not in time. In other words, time is a created thing and the Father, Son, and Spirit are not limited to nor confined to time. We often hear rightly that God is outside of time. That is true but we must also keep in mind that He has also entered into our space and time in the person of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, that brings me to the main and final point. In the Incarnation, humanity has been brought into full and objective union with the Triune God of Grace in Jesus. Jesus became a human just like us! Therefore, if God, who is outside of space and time, truly entered into the contingent world of creaturely being as a human, then necessarily all of humanity is taken up into his unbounded freedom from limitation in space and time.
You see, you and I will live forever, not because something magical will be done to make our bodies immune to disease, resistant to aging and wear and tear.
We will live forever because we have been brought into permanent and full union with He who is outside of time. There is no time for us now. Sure, the overlap between our present selves and our glorified selves needs time to function and relate to the world around us but someday time will be but a memory.
Here’s to living forever and getting to know each of you in eternity!
I listened to a truly wonderful interview of Franciscan friar/Catholic priest and author, Richard Rohr recently. In it, he noted that as people develop spiritually, they move through three phases: Order, Disorder, and Synthesis.
Order is all about law, tradition, structure, certitude, order, clarity, authority, safety, and specialness. Disorder is where all of these things are challenged, but where people also begin to develop healthy self-criticism, and to acknowledge their own “dark sides.” It’s a liberating stage – but also one clouded in doubt and confusion as that which was once so clear and certain is no longer so. When people remain in the first phase and do not move into the second, Rohr notes that they remain tribal in their thinking, believing they are the “only,” and become narcissistic.
It is then the combination of the first two phases: healthy self-criticism added to the certainty of one’s specialness that allows one to move into the final phase, Synthesis.
Here you move into the language of mystery and paradox. This is the second half of life. You are strong enough now to hold together contradictions, even in yourself, even in others. And you can do so with compassion, forgiveness, patience, and tolerance. But we don’t move toward the second half until we’ve gone through the other two states. The best sequence, therefore, is order-disorder-synthesis. ~ Richard Rohr.
What was particularly fascinating to me was Rohr’s assertion that it is very hard for people to progress to Synthesis when they never spent time in Order, but began in Disorder.
I myself spent plenty of time in Order as I grew up in a church that believed it was the “only” true church. But my entire time as a parent has coincided with my time in Disorder, with ever increasing forays lately, I hope, into Synthesis.
So a small bomb went off in my thinking when I read this because I saw that despite my own current position, my children themselves must begin in Order if they are to develop rich, deep, lifelong spiritual lives. I will do them no favours if because of me, they bypass Order and begin instead in Disorder. (Yet with many in my generation, this is what we are unwittingly doing with our children.)
I do not believe that this has to mean that their time in Order is characterised by all that characterised mine. But were I to believe that all that I experienced in Order was pointless, I’d be wrong. Despite all the sadness, disappointment and disillusionment I have experienced in my life as we all do, I will never stop believing in a loving God who never leaves me. This is likely because of my time in Order when the lasting building blocks of faith were being built, many and even most of them at an unconscious level.
With my children now, if I couch every Bible story in qualification, and am not able to share with them anything that is rock solid and believable at face value, I may well rob them of the certainties that they will need as the foundations to their own spiritual journeys.
And when I am too concerned with trying to explain away cloudy, uncomfortable aspects of certain stories, I run the risk of killing the magic, so to speak. My children need to look up to the larger-than-life heroes of the Bible, just as they need to look up to the heroes of legends, myths and great literature. When those individuals take on life in our minds and hearts, we are all made better for it.
Their flaws will become apparent to my children all too soon – and the knowledge of it will coincide with their knowledge of their own flaws. But maybe, just maybe, the belief that they too could be heroic even while flawed will live on somehow. It’s a critical belief to take into adulthood.
Modern day heroism in the battles we fight daily is not just a dream, but the promise of God living in all of us and revealing to us the truth of who we really are in him.
Heroes. Good people. Sacrificial. Willing to lose our lives for one another. Brave.
Many of these battles are played out on a daily basis. They may not seem significant to us, but to the development of our character and the refinement of our souls, they are every bit as significant as any battle of good against evil, light against darkness. Because of God in us, we can be people of the light. Faithful friends and spouses. Devoted parents and children. Honest. Hospitable. We can try always to choose kindness. We can try always to choose to extend grace. We can try always to forgive.
God has designed us to grow this way through these stages for a reason. When it comes to my children, it’s up to me to just step back, trust the process and to embrace my children wholeheartedly where they are. God has set this example for us throughout eternity, by embracing all people fully wherever we are.
He always will. And that’s a solid rock we can all stand on.
~ by Jeannine Buntrock
Twenty years ago today, we lost our oldest son. Luckily, it was only for a very short time, and it happened to be at my youngest brother’s wedding reception (Happy 20th anniversary, Matt and Beth!).
We were enjoying ourselves at the reception, as much as the parents of two toddlers can in a large, crowded, open room. My husband was holding the younger son, and the older one was by his side as he chatted with some friends. This was my opportunity to eat (as any mother of a toddler knows), so I wolfed down my hors d’oeuvres and enjoyed some adult conversation at a table nearby.
Shortly after I was finished, my husband came over, still holding the two-year-old, and said, “Where’s Quentin?”
“I thought you had him,” I said accusingly.
“Well, I thought you had him,” he retorted back, as if our oldest son was a hot potato we were tossing back and forth.
Panic set in immediately as we combed the large reception hall which was located on a college campus. Did he wander outside? Did someone abduct him? The worst case scenarios swirled in my head, bringing tears to my eyes.
My brother Tim went outside to check out the perimeter of the building, and I saw him through a large window nearby. He stopped, and then he pointed at the window. I rushed over, and there was our oldest son, standing just inside the long drapes and looking out the window.
That feeling of losing someone I love (even for a short time) has not left me, and when I read about how Jesus responded to the tax collector Zacchaeus, saying, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10 NIV), I understand at least a little about the love and passion that the Father, Son, and Spirit have for humanity.
This seeking and saving of the lost through the story of Zacchaeus offers us a broader view of how we are lost and saved, rather than just the saving grace of the cross. In Zacchaeus’s case, he was “lost” by being a tax collector, despised by his own people and community of faith, but Jesus’s acceptance of him ultimately began the reconciliation of Zacchaeus with his people. Jesus’s love transformed Zacchaeus and made him want to change, giving back the monies he unfairly took. His “repentance,” in this case, meant he was found and restored to himself and to his people.
Jesus didn’t wait until Zacchaeus changed to eat with him, to show him love. When Jesus “found” Zacchaeus, he welcomed him. Just as in the other parables about losing and finding, we can see that even in our “lostness,” we are as precious as a lost sheep, a lost coin, or a lost son. Though some may think the Father is looking to punish those who have erred, Jesus says the truth is “There is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents [or is found and restored] than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent [or who never wandered off in the first place]” (Luke 15:7). For the Father, Son, and Spirit, fellowship and reconciliation between God and humanity, as well as among humanity itself, is the primary goal, not retribution.
Even as my husband, my brothers, and my entire family rejoiced when we found our lost son, so do God and the angels in heaven celebrate when a person who has forgotten his or her true self as a beloved child of God suddenly “remembers.” We are a special treasure, and when we live loved (like we are), we are transformed into our best and truest selves.
~by Nan Kuhlman