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Photo of the Week — 5 December 2016

This week’s photo is from the sunrise on Friday. We had a couple of days of rain and cold. Serious rain. Flooding rains. Temperatures dropped considerably as well. But, Friday dawned with freshness and newness.

We’ve often shown you photos looking out of our front windows toward the sea, but this is our view looking north from our patio. Such an amazingly beautiful area where we live.

 

Fresco of John The Baptizer from the Saklı Kilesesi (Hidden Church) in Göreme, Turkey

#Advent16 — The Crazy Uncle

A reading from the Gospel of Matthew.

Later, John the Baptizer appeared in the desert of Judea. His message was, “Turn to God and change the way you think and act, because the kingdom of heaven is near.” Isaiah the prophet spoke about this man when he said,

“A voice cries out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way for the Lord! Make his paths straight!”

John wore clothes made from camel’s hair and had a leather belt around his waist. His diet consisted of locusts and wild honey.

Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole Jordan Valley went to him. As they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River.

But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to be baptized, he said to them, “You poisonous snakes! Who showed you how to flee from God’s coming anger? Do those things that prove you have turned to God and have changed the way you think and act. Don’t think you can say, ‘Abraham is our ancestor.’ I can guarantee that God can raise up descendants for Abraham from these stones. The ax is now ready to cut the roots of the trees. Any tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into a fire. I baptize you with water so that you will change the way you think and act. But the one who comes after me is more powerful than I. I am not worthy to remove his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing shovel is in his hand, and he will clean up his threshing floor. He will gather his wheat into a barn, but he will burn the husks in a fire that can never be put out.”

Matthew 3:1-12 (GW)

This is the Word of the Lord.

Fresco of John The Baptizer from the Saklı Kilesesi (Hidden Church) in Göreme, Turkey

Fresco of John The Baptizer from the Saklı Kilesesi (Hidden Church) in Göreme, Turkey

I love John the Baptizer. I have this image of him that’s like this strange uncle that the family is just a little bit nervous to take out in public. He’s just a little bit unfiltered. Willing to say anything regardless of how appropriate it might or might not be. He’s not afraid to rub folks the wrong way. He’s the kind of a guy who could land himself (and everyone associated with him) in hot water without a lot of effort. This is my image of John the Baptizer.

Wild hair.

Strange clothes.

Raspy voice.

And, this is the guy that God calls on to be the forerunner of Jesus.

Some people were attracted to John because they liked his message of change and hope. The Messiah—who had been the subject of prophecies for centuries—was on his way. They knew that John had a part to play in this story.

Some people were coming out simply because they were curious what he was going to do next. What will he say? What will he eat?

Others were not happy with him or his message. They didn’t like the way he spoke to or about them.

And, yet, John kept proclaiming the message.

THE KINGDOM IS VERY NEAR! He would say. Or yell.

He especially rubbed the religious authorities of his time the wrong way. Prophets are like that. John wasn’t afraid to call out the things that were in opposition to the Kingdom of God. He wasn’t afraid to point out the things that were roadblocks in the “Way of the Lord.” So, the Pharisees and Sadducees caught the brunt of his rage.

And, later, King Herod himself would hear about this man John.

John, like Kingdom people of today, stood in opposition to the things that weren’t as God wanted them to be. He wasn’t afraid to proclaim to the nations what wasn’t right. He wasn’t afraid to call out the religious officials who had blocked people’s access to God and the Temple through heavy rules and financial desires.

In this Advent season, we are faced with an important question. Are we willing to stand in the way of those who wish to act in opposition to the Kingdom of Heaven?

John prepared the way for the Messiah by calling out the religious and governmental authorities for keeping people on the outside.

Are we willing to do the same?

One more thought about the crazy uncle analogy…

In these days, it is important for us to be the crazy uncle. It is important that we not silence our voices in the face of things that are in opposition to God’s Kingdom. It is important that we speak up for the poor and the hungry and the immigrant and the refugee and the orphan and the widow. It is important that we become just a little bit unhinged at injustice and work to right that which is wrong. That’s a part of being a forerunner of the Kingdom of Heaven.

#Advent16–Pray for the King

A reading from the Psalms.

O God, help the king to judge as you would, and help his son to walk in godliness. Help him to give justice to your people, even to the poor. May the mountains and hills flourish in prosperity because of his good reign. Help him to defend the poor and needy and to crush their oppressors. May the poor and needy revere you constantly, as long as sun and moon continue in the skies! Yes, forever!

May the reign of this son of mine be as gentle and fruitful as the springtime rains upon the grass—like showers that water the earth! May all good men flourish in his reign with abundance of peace to the end of time.

Psalm 72:1-7 (TLB)

This is the Word of the Lord.

Today’s text is a prayer from the Psalms for the king. It is a prayer that the king would rule with justice for all. It is a prayer for prosperity. It is a prayer for the poor to be defended against their oppressors.

What would our nation be like if we prayed this prayer every day?

Prayer changes things. Not necessarily because of the prayer itself, but because prayer ultimately sparks the one saying the prayer to action. So, when we pray for the king to rule with justice, we are sparked to ensure that the king is ruling with justice.

We pray. God moves. We act as a response to God’s movement. We bring ourselves inline with His Kingdom and work to ensure that His Kingdom is being brought to earth.

So, yes, believers should be politically active. However, our action must be filtered through the lens of the Kingdom of Heaven. “Your Kingdom come,” we pray.

Yes, believers should pray for the leaders. But, praying for the leader to see politically or morally the same way as we do is not what we are called to pray. We are called to pray “Your Kingdom come.” We are called to pray for the king to act justly for all people.

Rich.

Poor.

Homeless.

Homeowner.

Natural-born.

Immigrant.

Refugee.

We pray that the king would act with equal justice for all people. Additionally, we act with equal justice to all people.

When unjust laws are made. We need to continue to act justly. We don’t yield to the laws of the land when they stand in opposition to the laws of the Kingdom of Heaven. We continue to do the Kingdom thing.

Here is where we must be careful. Jesus spoke about the Kingdom of Heaven more than any other subject. We need to seek to understand the principles that he outlines in these words. The best way to do that is to read prayerfully the things that He said. The Sermon on the Mount is one of the most succinct places to start. For we Kingdom Citizens, it is our constitution that sits above all other constitutions.

Here’s my challenge to all of us. Let’s take time every day to prayerfully read the Sermon on the Mount. And, then, let’s try to live it out. As we do, let’s pray that the king lives it out as well.

Pray for the king. Pray for him to acts justly to all people. Pray for the prosperity of the land in which you dwell. Pray for the poor to be defended. Pray for those who oppress the poor to be stopped.

And, work to make it happen.

Elizabeth sleeping in Emily's arms.

#Advent16 – Relationships

A reading from the Prophet Isaiah.

A green Shoot will sprout from Jesse’s stump, from his roots a budding Branch.

The life-giving Spirit of GOD will hover over him, the Spirit that brings wisdom and understanding, the Spirit that gives direction and builds strength, the Spirit that instills knowledge and Fear-of-GOD.

Fear-of-GOD will be all his joy and delight.

He won’t judge by appearances, won’t decide on the basis of hearsay. He’ll judge the needy by what is right, render decisions on earth’s poor with justice. His words will bring everyone to awed attention. A mere breath from his lips will topple the wicked. Each morning he’ll pull on sturdy work clothes and boots, and build righteousness and faithfulness in the land.

The wolf will romp wth the lamb, the leopard sleep with the kid.

Calf and lion will eat from the same trough, and a little child will tend to them.

Cow and bear will graze in the same pasture, their calves and cubs grow up together, and the lion eat straw like the ox.

The nursing child will crawl over rattlesnake dens, the toddler stick his hand down the hole of a serpent.

Neither animal nor human will hurt or kill on my holy mountain.

The whole earth will be brimming with knowing God-Alive, a living knowledge of God ocean-deep, ocean-wide.

On that day, Jesse’s Root will be raised high, posted as a rallying banner for the peoples. The nations will all come to him. His headquarters will be glorious.

Isaiah 11:1-10 (The Message)

This is the word of the Lord.

This is perhaps my favorite of the Advent passages in the lectionary cycles. The Prophet paints for us two beautiful images. The first is all about how the King that is to come will judge. The second is all about the beautiful Kingdom that will slowly-by-slowly come into being.

He will judge rightly. Not based on hearsay. Not based on wealth. Not based on power or strength. But, based solely on the wisdom and understanding that comes from the Fear of the Lord.

He will build righteousness—a legal and relational right-standing with God. The restoration of relationship destroyed by the fall. Man places back into right-standing with God, with neighbors, with himself, and with creation. All things working in tandem as originally designed by the Creator.

Wolf and lamb, leopard and kid, calf and lion, cow and bear all living and working together in harmony.

Little children taking the lead in caring for the creation.

I’m reminded of Jesus’ teaching on entry to the Kingdom of Heaven. “Be like the child,” he said. Be fascinated with the Kingdom of Heaven as a little child is fascinated by animals.

Elizabeth sleeping in Emily's arms.

Elizabeth sleeping in Emily’s arms.

Elizabeth, my 18-month old, love animals. Dogs and cats and lions and bears and donkeys and any other animal that she can see. Last night, when I put her to bed she said, “Hav hav”—the sound that dogs make in Turkish. I handed her the plush dog. She then said, “Ayı”—the Turkish word for bear. So, I handed her the stuffed bear. She put one under each arm and went to sleep.

Today, as I read this passage, I think of that image. A little child fascinated by creation. Two animals that could hurt her. Resting peacefully together under a fuzzy blanket on a chilly Turkish evening.

And, the Prophet says, “This. This is what the Kingdom of Heaven is like.” Wild and ferocious animals. Animals that zoologists will tell us are natural enemies. Lying down together with a little child.

The fulfilled Kingdom of Heaven—that place that Jesus initiated with his birth—is a place where all things are restored to original design and intent. All things are made new again. All things are brought back to Eden.

Because all relationships are made right. Man is placed back into right-standing with his Creator. People are in right-standing with one another. The relationship with ourself is made right. And, mankind is taking care of the creation around him.

So much of modern teaching—especially in the evangelical world—is focused on only the relationship between and and God. We ignore things like psychological care for oneself, and right-treatment of one another, and caring for creation. We focus on “getting right with God,” but fail to talk about what that means for all of the other relationships of which we are a part.

Yet, all relationships are in need of being set right. The Kingdom of Heaven is about setting all things right. It is about restoring all things to original design. So, we must work through restoring broken relationships with our neighbors, and ourselves, and with creation.

When we walk out the Kingdom of Heaven, we learn to take care of ourselves. We set healthy boundaries. We sabbath. We know when we’ve eaten too much and slept not enough, and we change these things.

When we walk out the Kingdom of Heaven, we learn to love our neighbor as ourselves. And, we learn that our neighbor is often the one most unlike us. The muslim. The immigrant. The stranger. The homeless. The hurting. And, we care for them as we do for ourselves. We meet their needs without question. We love them.

When we walk out the Kingdom of Heaven, we learn to care for the physical world around us. We reduce our carbon footprints to ensure that our children, and their children have the resources they need. We reduce deforestation. We pick up litter. We invest more in alternate energy than in energy sources that damage creation—and the people who inhabit it.

This is the Kingdom of Heaven that the Prophet dreams about. This is the Kingdom of Heaven in all its fullness.

Relationships restored.

Relationships made right.

Seven Revolutions by Mike Aquilina and James Papendrea

#Advent16 — Revolution!

A Reading from Paul’s Letter to the Romans.

Another reason for right living is this: you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for the coming of the Lord is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is far gone, the day of his return will soon be here. So quit the evil deeds of darkness and put on the armor of right living, as we who live in the daylight should! Be decent and true in everything you do so that all can approve your behavior. Don’t spend your time in wild parties and getting drunk or in adultery and lust or fighting and jealousy. But ask the Lord Jesus Christ to help you live as your should, and don’t make plans to enjoy evil.

— Romans 13:11-14 (TLB)

This is the Word of the Lord.

When Paul wrote these words to the church in Rome, he did so with great urgency. See, the early Church believed that Jesus was coming back—next Tuesday. It was so close they could almost taste it.

Almost two thousand years have passed since then. The darkness is still pressing in. The hour is still late. And, we still await the return of our King.

But, we shouldn’t let two thousand years of waiting stop us from changing our lives or the world around us. We should continue to live as if the time is short. We should continue to live as if the King’s return is scheduled for next Tuesday.

What does that mean?

What does it mean to live as light in a place of darkness?

Paul’s words to the church at Rome were more than just an admonition to live right in order to be on Christ’s good side when he returns. This admonition goes far beyond that.

Paul is telling these believers in Rome—the ultimate of ungodly empires—that it was time to change the culture in which they lived. It was time to bring light into a dark place. It was time to do things differently than those around them did.

Seven Revolutions by Mike Aquilina and James Papendrea

Seven Revolutions by Mike Aquilina and James Papendrea

I read a great book last year called Seven Revolutions: How Christianity Changed the World and Can Change It Again by Mike Aquilina and James Papandrea. (An affiliate link to purchase the book is at the end of this post.) In it the authors highlighted seven areas where the early Church changed the culture around them. Seven areas where they lived as light in the darkness of empire. Each of these seven areas have a modern-day equivalent. In other words, we Kingdom People need to continue to live as light in darkness.

Empires still exist. Darkness still surrounds us. And, we are still called to walk in and carry the light in the midst of it. To change the world.

That’s what Kingdom People do. They stand up to the empire of man, and bring in the Kingdom of God. Where there is injustice, they bring justice. Where there is fear, they bring love. Where there is conflict, they bring peace.

Sometimes, we do this through active engagement. Standing alongside people who are being forced from their homelands. Opening their homes to orphans, widows, and immigrants. Intervening in conflict by bringing medicine and food.

Sometimes, we do this through passive engagement. Living our lives in a way that is contrary to the culture around us. This is what Paul is talking to the Roman Church about in our text. “Quit the evil deeds of darkness,” Paul writes.

Don’t watch or read pornography.

Don’t cheat on your wife.

Don’t get drunk.

Don’t fight.

Don’t go to wild parties.

Don’t be jealous of your neighbor.

Change the culture by not participating in the culture. Where the culture isn’t in line with the Kingdom of God, don’t be a part of it. Do the opposite.

For we Kingdom People, “everyone else is doing it” is not a valid reason. We must weigh everything we do against the values of the Kingdom. We must live to bring about revolution in the empire of man. To stand firm in the face of that which is not in-line when Jesus and His Kingdom.

Let me leave you with a quote that I came across today by Bishop Robert Barron:

“I don’t think we’ll understand Advent correctly until we see it as a preparation for revolution.”


Seven Revolutions: How Christianity Changed the World and Can Change It Again
By Mike Aquilina & James Papandrea / Image

In Seven Revolutions, authors Mike Aquilina and James Papandrea examine the practices of the early Church – a body of Christians living in the Roman Empire – and show how the lessons learned can apply to Christians living in the United States today. Through expert storytelling and historical insight, the authors show just how revolutionary Christians were against the backdrop of ancient Rome, and just how revolutionary we can be today.

Caleb and Elizabeth working together

Photo of the Week – 28 November 2017

This week was a pretty quiet week. No real adventures out of the house. Just a week of school and admin work and living life in the beautiful place.

This week’s photo is Caleb and Elizabeth doing Caleb’s handwriting together.

Several years ago, we found this great handwriting curriculum called A Reason for Handwriting. Each workbook is a different Bible theme, but the work pattern is basically the same. Each day is different words or letters, and the last day is a coloring page where the student writes out the Bible verse they learned that week and colors a border around it. The kids really enjoy these books.

Caleb and Elizabeth working together

Caleb and Elizabeth working together

Refugee Camp

#Advent16 — The Olivet Discourse

A Reading from the Gospel According to Matthew:

“But the exact day and hour? No one knows that, not even heaven’s angels, not even the Son. Only the Father knows.

“The Arrival of the Son of Man will take place in times like Noah’s. Before the great flood everyone was carrying on as usual, having a good time right up to the day Noah boarded the ark. They knew nothing—until the flood hit and swept everything away.

“The Son of Man’s Arrival will be like that: Two men will be working in the field—one will be taken, one left behind; two women will be grinding at the mill—one will be taken, one left behind. So stay awake, alert. You have no idea what day your Master will show up. But you do know this: You know that if the homeowner had known what time of night the burglar would arrive, he would have bene there with his dogs to prevent the break-in. Be vigilant just like that. You have no idea when the Son of Man is going to show up.”

Matthew 24:36-44 (The Message)

This is the Word of the Lord.

Today’s Advent reading has us looking beyond the manger, past the cross, beyond the Ascension and even beyond today. It has us looking for the King to return in fullness. It takes us to the top of the Mount of Olives into one of Jesus’ most often quoted (and most often misunderstood) discourses—The Olivet Discourse.

Let’s begin here: The Olivet Discourse was not given for us to speculate about who is in and who is out, or about dates and times, or even to scare us into living right. Jesus’ purpose in this discourse is to encourage His Followers that even in the midst of the ugliness and mess of the world (after all, He is largely predicting the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple and ultimately Israel as they knew it), He is still the King. Further, He seeks to use this encouragement for us to live our lives to bring His Kingdom even in the middle of these messes and uglinesses. He challenges us to align our lives with Him and His Kingdom. So that when He returns in the fulfillment of His Kingdom, we will see it and know it and embrace it.

When we read these “end-times” passages in the scriptures, it is important that we remember four key points as we read.

First, Jesus wins. He is the King. He is the One whose coming was foretold from the beginning of time itself. He is the one who sets all things right. He is the One who will return to bring heaven (in all of it’s splendor and glory) to earth.

Second, suffering and pain are still present in the world. Jesus came to set all things right, but not all things are yet set right. We, as His followers, are called to continue this partner with Him i this work of setting things right. Yet, because not all things are set right, there is still pain. There is still suffering. Death still happens. Divorces still occur. Far too many children still get cancer. Too many elderly people face dementia. These things still happen.

Let me pause here. I will be the first to admit that I have no good answers to the problem of suffering. I don’t.

Refugee Camp

Refugee Camp

I live in a land where there are more than 3 million people who have fled their own homeland due to war and violence. I see them in town begging for bread. I seem them on the bow of the coast guard boats that enter the harbor below our front window after they’ve been rescued from the cold waters where their makeshift boats sank as they sought a new and better life in Europe.

I don’t know why a friend has to watch as his parents suffer with dementia.

I have no explanation for why dear friends had to sit helplessly through surgery after surgery and then ultimately bury their five-year-old son.

I struggle to understand cancer.

I don’t have answers for these questions.

But, here’s what I do know. We are called to do something about pain and suffering. We are called to cry with those who are crying. We’re not called to offer up hollow platitudes about “God being in charge” or “God wanting another angel.” We’re called to suffer with those who suffer. To cry with those who cry. To listen to those who need to yell and scream and cuss. To sit silently and hold a hand. To mourn with those who mourn.

Suffering and pain are as real today as they were when Jesus sat on that mountain and delivered the discourse from which today’s text is drawn. I don’t know why he didn’t heal every sick person that crossed his path. But, I do know that when his friend Lazarus was in the grave, before he raised him from the dead, Jesus stood alongside his friends and neighbors and wept.

Third, evil is real. Even though Christ has come. Even though the Kingdom has begun. Even though for two thousand years men and women have worked tirelessly to bring more and more of the Kingdom to bear. Evil still exists. Evil is still a reality with which we must deal.

Fourth, we must struggle against evil. We are called to stand in opposition to the things that are not as they should be. We stand in opposition to people being mistreated—even if it is by their own government. When children go to bed hungry, we stand in opposition by bringing food. When cities are overran by evil people, we do all we can to share the overwhelming love of Jesus—even at the risk of our own life.

That’s what Kingdom people do.

And, that is what Kingdom people have done for centuries.

When the ancient Romans used the horrible practice of exposure as a means of birth control, it was the Kingdom people who took these unwanted babies and gave them new life.

When a lady was told to change seats in a bus simply because of her skin color, it was the Kingdom people who peacefully protested until she was allowed to sit wherever she wanted.

When young girls and boys are kidnapped and sold for sex, it is the Kingdom people who find them and rescue them.

When poor people were left out in the streets to die alone, it was Kingdom people who took them in and cleaned them and nursed them and loved them and then buried them.

When millions were being taken away from their homes and interned in camps, it was Kingdom people who hid them from the authorities.

That’s what Kingdom people do.

We work to bring the Kingdom that Jesus proclaimed into its fulfillment. Knowing that there will come a day, when Jesus will return and say “Well done, you good and faithful servant” to those who have feed the hungry, and sheltered the homeless, and spent time with the widow, and fathered the orphan.

#Advent16 — Ascending to the New Jerusalem

A Reading from the Psalms:

Pray that Jerusalem has peace: “Let those who love you have rest. Let there be peace on your walls; let there be rest on your fortifications.” For the sake of my family and friends, I say, “Peace be with you, Jerusalem.” For the sake of the Lord our God’s house I will pray for your good.

Psalm 122:6-9 (CEB)

This is the Word of the Lord.

In ancient times, there were a collection of Psalms that the people of Israel would pray as they journeyed to Jerusalem for their yearly sacrifices. This particular Psalm is one of those. As the people of Israel would walk toward the Holy City they would pray these Psalms together. They would remember the goodness of God in times past while they yearned for an eternal King to come and rule over them with peace and rest.

For us, Advent is a bit like this ascension to Jerusalem. We remember that a new kind of King has been promised from time hence. The Prophets proclaimed that this King would come. And throughout Advent we march closer to this quiet cave in a small city. In that cave lies a newborn Baby—a new King—who himself is the gate to the new Jerusalem.

“I am the Way” that baby would later say. The way to life. The way to life lived to the full.

And, so, we march toward this New Jerusalem.

Advent is the season of waiting. But, our waiting is an active waiting. We call to memory the prophetic words of ages past. We dream prophetically about the King and His Kingdom to come. And, we walk excitedly toward that manger in that cave in that lowly city in the outskirts of Jerusalem.

And, when we arrive at the manger we find that the real work of faith has just begun. With fear and trembling, we work to bring about the fulfillment of this new Kingdom. We work the work of shalom. We work to make that which is crooked straight. We work so that that which is lost might be found. We welcome this new Kingdom, and work to bring it to it’s fulfilled state.

We ascend into the New Jerusalem, as the New Jerusalem descends upon the earth.

We work to bring the Kingdom to fulfillment, as the Kingdom comes in fulfillment.

One step at a time.

Mosaic of Christ the King in the Hagia Sofia, Istanbul, Turkey.

#Advent16 – A New King

A Reading from the Prophet Isaiah:

There’s a day coming when the mountain of GOD’s House will be The Mountain—solid, towering over all other mountains. All nations will river toward it, people from all over set out for it. They’ll say, “Come, let’s climb GOD’s Mountain, go to the House of the God of Jacob. He’ll show us the way he works so we can live the way we’re made.”

Zion’s the source of revelation. GOD’s Message comes from Jerusalem. He’ll settle things fairly between nations. He’ll make things right between many peoples. They’ll turn their swords into shovels, their spears into hoes. No more will nation fight nation; they won’t play war anymore.

Come, family of Jacob, let’s live in the light of God.

Isaiah 2:2-5 (The Message)

This is the Word of the Lord.

I heard it said the other day, that the church calendar is oriented so that the last Sunday of the church year (which occurred last week) announces that Christ is indeed King. All of Sundays in the church year point us toward this one Sunday. It struck me that Christ the King Sunday (this last Sunday in the church year) is followed by the first of the four Sundays that we call Advent. So, we end the church year proclaiming that this man—Jesus—is indeed the Christ. He is indeed the world’s one true King. From there, we reenter the cycle of the church calendar.

We enter at Advent.

Advent.

Longing.

Waiting.

Hoping.

Yearning.

Listening as the Scriptures proclaim to us that a new kind of King—and Kingdom—is on the way. It will upset the empires of the world. It will change everything about the way we do things. It will change everything about the way we live.

“There is a day coming,” the prophet tells us.

A day where all nations will long to enter His Kingdom and find out how life was meant to work. Where all nations will learn to “live the way we were made.”

But, a new Kingdom requires a new King. And in this season of Advent—these 28 long nights of longing—we yearn for that new King to come. Because only a new King can usher in a new Kingdom. Only a new King can truly change the way that our lives are arranged and governed.

Only a new King.

Mosaic of Christ the King in the Hagia Sofia, Istanbul, Turkey.

Mosaic of Christ the King in the Hagia Sofia, Istanbul, Turkey.

This new King rules with justice—settling things fairly between nations. The new King changes the dynamics of power. Not favoring one group over another. Justice. All are truly created equal in the eyes of this new King. No one is less than. No one is better than.

This new King makes things right between peoples. He teaches us to forgive as we have been forgiven. To lay aside the things that weigh us down about another. To not wait to be apologized to before we offer forgiveness. He even goes a step further and urges us to go beyond what is required. To serve others before we serve ourselves. He teaches us that life is better when lived in a way to orients us to serve and not to be served.

This new King positions us to turn the tools of destruction and death into tools of construction and life. He challenges the empire to lay aside it’s weapons and seek first to build up. Take the things that cause pain and use them to bring healing. Take the things of despair and turn them into things of hope.

There will be no need to play war any longer.

See, when we seek to serve before being served…

…when we seek to bring life instead of death…

…to build schools instead of air bases…

…to bring bread instead of bombs….

…to provide for equal education opportunities for all…

…to pay equal wages regardless of gender or skin color…

…to insure that all have equal access to clean water, and shelter, and food, and healthcare…

…the world works better.

It works in the way of the Kingdom. The way that the new King desires it to work.

The message of the new King is there is good news even for the poor. There is healing for the broken. There is liberty for the captives. There is redemption for the prisoner. There is favor available for all. There is comfort for those in mourning. There is joy even in sorrow. There is a rebuilding of ruins.

That is the good news that the new King brings. That is the Gospel of the Kingdom!

And, that is the message of the King that is coming. In just a few short nights, we will announce the arrival of this King. We will proclaim that He is here. And, we will begin the walk to proclaiming again that this man, Jesus, is indeed the Christ. And, in His being the Christ, He is the King of Kings. He is the world’s one true King! And of his reign there will be no end.

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Photo of the Week – 24 November 2016

Last week we had to make a trip up to Izmir to the US Consulate to renew some of our family’s passports. This journey involved a dolmus (a minibus), a train, and a few kilometers of walking. Thankfully, a dear friend of ours was also in Izmir for the day, and meet us at the train station walked through the process with us and drove us home when it was all said and done.

After our appointment with the Consular Agent, we met back up with our friend at a coffee shop. As we left the coffee shop to head back to his car, we passed a building that looked like a church. There was a wall with a gate around the building, but the gate was open. We noticed a security guard standing there, and asked if we might be able to go in and take a look around. We were told we could.

We learned that we had stumbled upon the Cathedral of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist. This beautiful cathedral is the seat of the Archdiocese of Izmir. It was an amazingly beautiful building and an oasis of peace in the midst of a loud and busy city.

On a day of meeting with ambassadors of a government, entering this chuch reminded me of Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth. It reminded me of how we are ambassadors of the King of Kings. How the church is called to be outposts of the Kingdom in the midst of foreign territory. How we are to proclaim the Gospel (Good News) of the Kingdom in every place and time.

Cathedral of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, Izmir, Turkey

Cathedral of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, Izmir, Turkey

 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (ESV)