Expect.

To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me. (Colossians 1:27-29, TNIV) 

Hope.  The word in Greek is  ἐλπὶς, this has a meaning of prospect, hope, and “expectation”.  Glory has a meaning of grandeur, splendor, majesty, of power.  However, it is not for worldly power or as we understand it.  It means something different, something deeper and more powerful.  It means finding an identity in the One who came to give himself away to others, while having confidence in his identity.

When I was a kid, I wanted a bike like my best friend, Jeff Hume, for Christmas.  Jeff was cool, if I had that bike, I’d be cool.  I didn’t get that bike…and, at age 8 or 9, I kind of moped around a bit and wondered, why didn’t my parents give me the bike that I wanted, I even showed it to them in the store!  Later, as I matured and grew older, I realized that my parents made sacrifices for me and it made a huge difference in how I viewed them, and myself.  My attitude changed.

Friends, God has made huge sacrifices for us, even the ultimate sacrifice.  His relationship with us cost him greatly, on the cross and throughout history.  Yet, this God continues to love us and shares his love with everyone (vs. 28).

We have a deep need to cultivate this awareness that Christ is residing in us!  Not in some building or program, but in us!

As we approach 2014, may it be a year filled with expectation!

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Wright and Torrance: Different Framings of the Gospel

Love this! Great blog from Adam Nigh…Brilliant!

Out of Bounds

In the video below, N. T. Wright discusses his new book on Paul’s theology. He strongly asserts that the ministry and death of Jesus Christ have to be understood within the history of Israel and the promises God made to Abraham, Christ himself being the fulfillment of those promises, the righteous Israel that restores humanity and thereby creation in light of the primeval fall. That much I think ought to be noncontroversial. Have a look.

What is wonky about this is the unapologetic plan-B-ness of Wright’s understanding of Abraham, the nation of Israel that comes from him and therefore Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s intentions with that nation. Wright paraphrases “that rabbi who said in I think the 3rd or 4th century” that basically prior to creation God said to himself he’d make Adam and if Adam blew it he’d make Abraham to fix what Adam broke…

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Lovers of Light.

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4 But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; 5 for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness.

–        1 Thessalonians 5:4-5 (NRSV)

Stretch out my life and pick the seams out

Take what you like but close my ears and eyes

Or watch me stumble over and over

I had done wrong you built your tower

But call me home and I will build a throne

And wash my eyes out never again

But love the one you hold

And I will be your gold

To have and to hold

A lover of the light

–        “Lover of the Light”, Mumford & Sons

In the middle of winter, it can seem like things are bleak.  The days are shorter, it’s cold and cloudy, the sun doesn’t seem to shine as much.  Plus, in Cincinnati, we seem to get a lot of “in-between” weather.  Doesn’t really snow a lot, but still cold and wet.  We long for spring!

In our lives this past year (2013), we may have experienced things that have been bleak, dark, and we may have felt like we are in an “in-between place” as well.  We may have been sensing that a change is necessary, we have longed for the warmth of hope, just as we may have longed for the hope of warm sunshine in the spring after a long winter.

I believe our worshipping communities, our churches, may also at times this past year have felt like they have been a place of searching.  As a collective group of persons, it seems like we have been in an “in-between” place.  We dealt with (and continue to deal with) hard budget decisions, we have seen folks come and go, and we have experienced hurt and pain in relationships.

Yet, we are still a Church universal called out by God and we look forward to a new year filled with hope and expectation of change, healthy change.  As Jesus followers, or as “children of the Light and Day” as the above Scripture passage says, we should not be surprised when darkness comes.  It happens all around us and we not immune from darkness, evil, and pain…within our churches and within ourselves.

Yet, darkness does not win out, we are not consumed by it.  Darkness flees at the slightest beam of light.  And as events and occurences in our lives as persons and as a church or exposed to the Light, we can see clearly who we are as persons and collectively.  We may not always like what we see, but the Light not only exposes us, but can transform us.

I like this Mumford song, “Lover of the Light”.  It is hopeful.  As the writer grapples with his shortcomings, he still has hope and proclaims to be a lover of the light.  And as a lover of the light, he can and will change.

Friends, as we live into the present moment within our lives and in the Church, may we be lovers of the light.  May we look around at the darkness in our communities and go there so that we can be children of light in that darkness.  As I walk around our communities where I live and talk to folks and listen to them, I see so much potential for the church to step in and be the Light that shines in darkness.  We can be in our communities addressing so many needs right at our doorstep and even inside our doors, while also providing a context for genuine friendship to folks that need to know that they are not alone.

But, this takes some bold moves.  We can no longer have communities of faith cloistered away, hoping to avoid the darkness around us.  We must be a church that thinks in new ways.  We need to become the church springing out of the communities we serve.  This will change our theology, our worship, our traditions, and it will change us.  To be light, we have to live, love, and listen to the folks in the communities we live in order to have opportunities to build genuine friendships…not so we can “pack our pews”, or “leverage our relationships” to build a program.  Our intent should simply be to  connect with folks, to live life with them, to be in community and work together towards better communities, and to love well while receiving love from other imperfect folks and from a God who exhibits this love and loyalty to community in so many ways and ultimately Jesus, the Light of the world, who became one of us.

May it be so in 2014, may we all be lovers of the Light.

Relationship.

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Relationship really is what makes the world go around.

We experience this reality every day.  I’ve heard it said that we are the sum of our relationships.  All of our relationships form and reform us.  They give us perspective, hope, acceptance…and oftentimes, rejection, despair, and discontent.  That’s why it’s so important to approach every relationship with as much grace and honor as one can muster.

It’s also important to have that “long haul” perspective that helps us realize that we do indeed have grace and are free to give and receive each other in a way that brings growth.  We enter into relationships knowing that they are risky, yet so worth it.  We learn from mistakes, we understand the importance of confidence in ourselves and the frailty of ourselves.  We gain wisdom through relationships even as they are oftentimes “messy”.

We cannot escape relationships really.  We are not created to live as isolated individuals, but as whole persons interconnected with each other.

We were created for relationship out of relationship.  As a Jesus follower, I believe in a God who is relationship in it’s very being.  I believe in what Christian orthodoxy calls the “Trinity”.  God in three Persons.  God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit.  Three distinct beings that mutually indwell in each other.  Relationship.  This God relationship is the creative force that gave earth it’s form somehow, gave life to it somehow, and with a word of relationship, created us and even became one of us.

It’s not only relationship with others, but with a God who understands relationship, invites relationship, and gives us relationship.  A God that is not trapped in the four walls of a church, but is out in the community dancing and crying, laughing and frustrated, committed and loving.  A God who we can love well, doubt, question, and struggle with.  A God who’s relationship with us will not end, even when we think we may want it to.

Yeah, relationship, it says a lot to me about how I should interact with creation, with my wife, my family, co-workers, friends…and with God…especially when I understand the relationship that is the creative, regenerating, renewing force all around me…shaping me into the person that I am becoming.