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Today is Ash Wednesday. The one day of the year when many Christians all over the world will have ashes put on their foreheads in the shape of the cross. This marks the beginning of Lent, a time of waiting in expectation of Easter- Resurrection Sunday. A time of contemplation and inner examination. A time of anticipation and adoration. A time of waiting.

When we wait, we choose. Sometimes we choose to grumble and complain. Sometimes we choose to get frustrated or worried. At times we choose to rejoice and give thanks. Many times our choice depends on what we are waiting for. More often than not, it depends on the kind of person we are. Ultimately we wait patiently or impatiently. It all depends on what’s inside us.

I have read an article and a book recently that have greatly impacted my perspective on patience and what it means to be a patient person. The article is called Silence, Patience and Presence. It is from Fuller Studio. The book is called Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Warren. Below are some quotes from both that I hope will impact you as much as they did me.

From Silence, Patience, and Presence – Fuller Studio

Being patient means waiting for a God whose patience outdistances and outlasts our own – we only have a brief span of life to wait; God has eternity. Peter Blum

Christians believe that through cross and resurrection we have been given the time to be patient in a world of impatience I am often in a hurry and busy, but this is not the same thing as impatience. Patience does not mean “doing nothing.” Rather patience is sticking to what you’re doing because you believe that is is worthy and worthwhile. Stanley Haurwas citing John Howard Yoder

Learning to weep, learning to keep vigil, learning to wait for the dawn. Perhaps this is what it means to be human. Henri Nouwen

Ones willingness to be wronged, to absorb evil patiently without retaliating, helps to break the cycle of vengeance and opens up the possibility for healing and peace. Hence though forgiveness is a constitutive practice of peace, forgiveness is unimaginable apart from patience. Philip Kenneson.

Waiting patiently in expectation is the foundation of the spiritual life. Simone Weil

From Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Warren

When we practice the Sabbath, we not only look back to God’s rest after his work of creation but we look forward to the rest ahead, to the Sabbath to come when God will finish his work of re-creation. We recall together that we are waiting for the end of the story, for all things to be made new.

In the liturgical year there is never celebration without preparation. First we wait, we mourn, we ache, we repent. We aren’t ready to celebrate until we acknowledge, over time through ritual and worship, that we and this world are not yet right and whole. Before Easter, we have Lent. Before Christmas, we have Advent. We fast. Then we feast. We prepare. We practice waiting.

We want happiness now. Fulfillment and gratification now. I get angry when I have to wait because it reminds me that time is not at my bidding.

Our problem with time is a spiritual problem, one that runs right to the core of who we are as human beings…. Indeed, these distortions drive us into the arms of a false theology: we come to believe that we, not God, are the masters of time. (Dorothy Bass)

Time is a gift from God, a means of worship. Time revolves around God – what he has done, what he is doing, and what he will do.

We live in a waiting world, a world where time itself, along with all of creation, groans in childbirth, waiting for something to be born. We are waiting and hoping. Our present reality is fundamentally oriented toward what is to come.

Waiting is an act of faith that is oriented toward the future. Yet our assurance of hope is rooted in the past, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth and in his promises and resurrection. In this way, waiting, like time itself, centers on Christ-the fulcrum of time.

Scripture tells us that when we “Hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Rom 8:25). We live each ordinary day in the light of a future reality. Our best life is still yet to come.

I have a friend who has struggled with cancer for a long time. She said to me one day,”I always felt like I was waiting for the gift. But I have come to see that the waiting is the gift.” There is more happening while we wait than just waiting. God is at work in us and through us as we wait. Our waiting is active and purposeful.

The church father Tertullian wrote –

The singular mark of patience is not endurance or fortitude, but hope. To be impatient is to live without hope. Patience is grounded in the Resurrection. It is life oriented toward a future that is God’s doing , and its sign is longing, not so much to be released from the ills of the present, but in anticipation of the good to come.

Even now as we wait, God is bringing the kingdom that will one day be fully known. We can be patient because we know there are gifts promised by a Giver who can be trusted.

May your Lent be filled with peace, the presence of God, and patience.

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Happy Easter!

He is Risen!

The apostle Peter makes reference to the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ in the first three verses of his first letter.

In the first verse he writes that his letter is to God’s elect and in verse two he goes on to say, “who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus and sprinkled with his blood.”

Whew. That’s a lot to take in. The part I have been focusing on these last few days is the sprinkled with his blood part. What did Peter have in mind when he wrote that? None of the followers of Jesus that were reading Peter’s letter had been sprinkled with his blood. What could he possibly mean? How did his early readers take that phrase? It must have something to do with the crucifixion, but what exactly?

The best book I have ever read on the crucifixion is called The Day the Revolution Began – Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’ Crucifixion, by N.T. Wright. With regards to “sprinkled blood” he writes about the lid of the Ark of the Covenant and says, “This was where God met with his people; and, in order for this to take place, it was where the priest cleansed the sanctuary from the defiling effects of the past sins of Israel with the sprinkled blood of the sacrifice.”

So one thing that Peter is trying to communicate with God’s elect is that through the shed blood of Jesus on the cross, the chosen ones are cleansed and can meet with God. Cleansed, meaning forgiven of all sins. Purified, white as snow. That’s how God now sees his followers through the lens of the sprinkled blood of Christ.

One other thing that probably came to mind when Peter wrote about the sprinkled blood, was the great Passover, when the Israelites killed a lamb and sprinkled its blood on the doorposts of their houses. Upon seeing the blood, the killer angel would pass by and spare any firstborn male in the house. The results of this last plague, was freedom for the Jews from the Egyptian slave masters. Similarly, the result of the sprinkled blood of Jesus is that God’s elect are set free from the Evil Slavemaster called Sin, and are free to worship the one, true God.

With regards to the resurrection, Peter writes, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

Wow! New birth. Living hope. No more living in sin, being totally controlled by passion and pride. Because of the resurrection, we have  new birth, old things have passed away and all things have become new.

Because of Christ’s resurrection we have a living hope. Not dead hopes that many people in the world depend on. Dead hopes like a new job will make me truly happy. Or a new soul mate will fulfill my life. Or a good education is what I really need to live the good life. Those are just a few examples of dead hopes that people rely on to get them through each day. With the reality of the resurrection, Messiah followers have a living hope that brings true and lasting joy now and all the way into eternity.

Because God loves us and wants us to be happy, he has chosen us, sprinkled us with the blood of Jesus, rose from the dead with new life and living hope in his wake! No wonder Peter exclaims, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” and in verse six he writes, “In this you greatly rejoice…” And in verse eight, this, “You love him and believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.”

Indeed we love him and rejoice greatly.

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God purifies his people in and through the shed blood of Jesus,

so that the covenant may be renewed,

and not just renewed,

but now effective for the whole world.

N.T. Wright in his book The Day the Revolution Began

This morning I was thinking about the history of mankind, from Adam and Eve, to the new heavens and earth, and new Jerusalem.  From Genesis to Revelation.   I was thinking about the high points and low points; the great positives and negatives.  The first great positive was the creation of Adam and Eve.  The first great negative was the fall of Adam and Eve, and thus, all mankind.

In my mind there was a timeline, with blips to indicate the highs and lows.  In the middle of this time line was a the highest positive blip, signifying the death and resurrection of Jesus.  The greatest negative down blip was the fall.  The next biggest negative blip was something I read in 1Samuel 7.  The Israelites come to Samuel and tell him they want a king, like all the other nations.  Samuel, who was the spiritual leader at that time felt rejected and went before God.  God tells him not to worry, that the people have not rejected Samuel, but have rejected God.

That is huge!  Almost as huge as Adam and Eve ‘s falling to the temptation of the serpent, with similarities.  Adam and Eve rejected God’s command because they wanted to rule themselves.  The Israelites rejected God because they wanted a human king to rule them, rather than the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  Both great sins came down to pride, arrogance and greed.  Both entities felt that God had given them the short end of the stick;  that God didn’t really love them and want them to be happy.  They believed that they could be happier doing things their way.

God has always wanted and chosen a people to be his own.  A people who would love him, follow him and do his will.  A people that he could bless, reveal himself to, and make happy and prosperous.  A people who would respond to his generosity by being generous themselves, both to God and their fellow man.  Thus, the second up blip on the historical timeline is God’s call of Abraham.  God did not call Abraham only for Abraham’s sake, but so that Abraham would be the father of a nation who God could call his own.  Through this man and this nation, God would bless all the people on earth.

This group of people would be initially called Hebrews.  The Hebrews were enslaved by the Egyptians.  God delivered these people from slavery in a miraculous way.  This is the third high point in the history of mankind and pointed to the ultimate high point in history when God would set people free from slavery to sin through Jesus death and resurrection.

The next high point after being set free from bondage in Egypt followed closely on the heels of this miraculous event.  This was the giving of the law on mount Sinai.  God was saying to his chosen people, “I love you and want you to be happy, so I am giving you these laws, precepts and commands.  If you continue to follow me by obeying these mandates, I will prosper you and you will be truly happy and will experience shalom. Slalom was a word the Jewish people used then to greet one another. It meant peace, prosperity, and joy.

Next followed a low point where the people showed they didn’t really believe that God loved them and wanted them to be happy. When it came time to possess the land flowing with milk and honey, they balked. Ten bad spies gave the report of giants in the land that made the Hebrews look like grasshoppers in comparison. Two good spies said the enemy was indeed large, but our God, who delivered us from the Egyptians is the real giant that will go before us and conquer the enemy. The Jews didn’t trust God and thus had to wander in the wilderness for forty years until the unbelieving generation died out and a believing generation rose up.

The believers went in and took the promised land. A definite high point.

The next century was filled with high blips and low dips as God’s chosen people alternatively worshiped and obeyed God, and then fell away and were disobedient. This cycle continued through the period of the Judges and then the kings. Finally, an awful low point occurred when first the ten tribes of Israel were conquered and taken into captivity by the Assyrians, and then Judah was humiliated by the Babylonians and taken into exile.

The prophets had warned the people of Israel and Judah that if they didn’t change their hearts and their ways that God would punish them and send them into exile. They didn’t and he did. The prophets also told of a time of restoration that would come. They told of a new covenant that would be written on hearts of flesh rather than tablets of stone. Daniel foretold of a Son of Man who would come into the world and inaugurate a new era; a new way to relate to God; a new way to experience peace and happiness.

The Son of Man was Jesus. He used the title Son of Man to refer to himself more than any other title. The incarnation of the Son of God, the Son of Man, was the high point on the time line of mankind. God with us, the beginning of the end. The end of the God’s presence in the holy temple in Jerusalem, along with the sacrificial system involving the blood of bulls and goats and lambs. The Lamb of God was the ultimate sacrifice that made a way for all mankind to receive forgiveness of sins, liberation from the bondage of Sin, and to enjoy God forever.

The ultimate high point will be the day when God creates the New Heaven and New Earth and the New Jerusalem comes down from heaven.  God’s radiance will be our light, and his presence will be our joy.  We will enjoy Him, evermore free from tears, pain, loss, suffering and grief.  All will be glory and peace, and that is the point in mankind that I am looking forward to.  Come quickly!

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mankind

 

One day God said, “You know, I think I’ll make a billion stars today.”  He didn’t have to, but he did,

billion stars 2billion stars 3

billion stars

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Because he loves us and wants us to be happy.

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God didn’t have to give us sunrises and sunsets, but He did,

sunrise sunset

Because He loves us and wants us to be happy.

God didn’t have to make oceans and beaches, but He did,

ocean    beach

Because He loves us and wants us to be happy.

God didn’t have to make the Rocky Mountains,

   rocky mountainsrocky mountains2

The Grand Tetons,

grand tetons grand tetons2

Or the Sierras, but he did,

sierra sierra2

Because he loves us and wants us to be happy.

He didn’t have to make pink roses,

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Purple bougainvilleas,

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Or birds of paradise, but he did,

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Because he loves us and wants us to be happy.

He didn’t have to give us good scents, like star jasmine, citrus blossoms, and lavender, but he did,

star jasmine citrus blossum DSC08906

Because he loves us and wants us to be happy.

He didn’t have to give us pineapples, mangoes, and grapes, but he did,

pineapples mangoes grapes

Because he loves us and wants us to be happy.

God didn’t have to give us puppies, and kittens, and goldfish, but he did,

puppies kittens goldfish

Because he loves us and wants us to be happy.

God didn’t have to be born in a stable

jesus birth

And be crucified,

jesus death

And rise from the dead, but he did,

jesus resurrection

Because he loves us and wants us to be happy!

God gives us all good things,

So that we will glorify him by enjoying him forever.

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“Only wonder understands.”  Gregory of Nyssa

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Next blog – Waves and Lights

Why Am I Here?

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