Advent14 — The Waiting Begins

Yesterday, in churches and homes all over the globe, a candle was lit. The first of four. The beginning of a new year in the church calendar. The beginning of Advent.

Advent. A word that simply means coming. A word that is packed full of meaning and is wrapped up in hope, joy, peace, and love. A word that brings us to that place between knowing that the Messiah has come and waiting for the Messiah to come.

It is that brief period of the church calendar where we position ourselves with an oppressed people longing for rescue. We–purposely–find ourselves between Malachi and Matthew. Wondering if things will ever be better. Knowing that for centuries “better” has been prophectically pronounced.

The King is coming!

Prophets of old have told us. Our parents have passed it on to us. The King. He is indeed coming.

At any moment now.

And, yet.

We’re a captive people. Captive in our own land. Captive in our own homes. Captive in a world that couldn’t care less that we stand in anticipation of rescue. In fact, we are captive in a world that mocks our anticipation.

And, we wait.

The Prophets once told us that this King would be called Immanuel.

Immanuel. God with us.

And, yet, we wonder if God could ever be with us. How, into this mess of a world, could God come?

Death. Some of it to disease or accident. Some at the hands of another.

Illness. Some curable. Some not.

War. Some in the name of money or resource. Some in the name of the very God we hope will come near. Some of it even considered just and right.

Hunger. Some due to famine. Some due to stinginess of those who have more than enough. Some due to neglect.

And, into this world, we wonder how God could come. And, yet, He does.

We learned over the weekend that a group of gunmen stormed a residence in Central Asian nation and opened fire on three South Africans who were there to help provide education to the children of the nation. A father and two teenaged children gunned down, and then the house burned. The mother, a doctor, was at the hospital bringing healing to the hurting–some of whom may even have been in support of the gunmen. For Warner, Jean-Pierre, and Rode, they rest tonight in the arms of loving–and near–God. For Hannelle, questions and fear and no rest. Yet, still in the arms of a loving–and near–God.

Three lives given–given so that others–strangers–might have an opportunity to a life of fullness.

One life remaining–longing for God to come near.

It is there in the tension that we long for the Messiah. We yearn for the Kingdom where lion and lamb will lie side-by-side. We hope for the place where weapons of death–guns, and knives, and drones, and tanks, and missles, and planes–are beaten into things that bring life–plows, and shovels, and hoes, and rakes.

And, we wait for God to come near.

We’re hearing confirmation of the rumors that the World Food Progamme lacks the $60+million dollars necessary to continue to provide aid for refugees who have fled the conflict in Iraq and Syria. And, so, more than one-and-a-half million people are forced to wonder from where they will receive bread and milk. Hundreds of thousands of children sit on the brink of starvation. Rumor has it that it’s not just this United Nations program that is lacking funding, but it is also many Non-Governmental Agencies–some even faith-based–that lack funding.

We are also aware that some of the food, coal, blankets, tents, clothes that should have found it’s way to these displaced peoples didn’t. Whether stolen, sold, or otherwise, the situation is dire.

And, we wait for God to come near.

And, God does indeed come near.

He comes near in the birth of a baby. In the unlikliest of places. To the unlikliest of parents. Immanuel. God with us.

And, God does indeed come near.

At the hands of everyone who has answered the call to give more than they keep. The call to go where no one else will. The call to love the unloved–and the unloveable. The call to feed the hungry. The call to clothe the naked. In every answered call, God comes near.

And, God calls us to come near, and to be near. To be near the wife and mother who mourn. And, also, to be near the gunmen and their families. To be near the millions who are without a home or a country or a meal. And, also, to be near to those who have driven them from their homes and countries and meals.

Advent.

So, yesterday, we lit a candle. A flicker of light in the darkness. A candle that will be joined by another and another and another. And, then, by the candle of the Christ-child. And, then, by your candle–and mine.

Until, the room grows bright, and we are pushed out into the world to proclaim that the King has come. And, when the King comes, so does the Kingdom.

Kuş14 – Photo Journal 2

Well, it's been a couple of weeks since our last photo journal. We've explored more of our city. We've walked an average of 1.8 miles each day (with some days as much as 5 miles). We've ridden in dolmuş (a public transportation method) and autos–some even driven by me.

As we work our way through our days and through our city, we find ourselves looking for places where we can see the Kingdom of a God already present in the culture as well as the landscape. So, many places we look and see evidence that imbedded within the DNA of everyone–even those who don't yet walk out life in the Kingdom–is parts of the Kingdom. All mankind is created in the image (mirrors of His character and nature) of God.

So, here are some of the images we've captured in the past couple of weeks. Let them spark you in prayer and celebration of the beauty of God's creation. Join us in prayer as we seek to live out our lives incarnationally.

This is the Mosque at the top of the hill about two blocks from our Villa. Five times each day, we hear the Call to Prayer from this minaret. While it is intended to call our Muslim neighbors to prayer, it reminds us to pray for them.

When we packed for this trip, we forgot to pack Hot Wheels cars for Caleb. Fortunately, his friend here loaned him a few.

Sometimes, you just need a touch of home. I'm grateful for the ability to stream a little Arkansas Razorback football to Turkey.

The majority of the food that we eat comes from the local Pazar (weekly street market). While walking through the Pazar it is not unusual to see the merchants cutting fresh fruit and offering it to you as you walk by. The other day as we walked through I was struck with the thought that the Kingdom of God is like the merchant in the Pazar who sells you 1.1 kilograms of fruit for the price of 1 kilogram.

The sunsets here on the Aegean Coast never cease to amaze me. The Psalmist writes (and Eugene Peterson interprets), “That's how God's Word vaults across the skies from sunrise to sunset, melting ice, scorching deserts, warming hearts to faith.” (Psalm 19:6, The Message)

One day last week, I went out for coffee with a friend here in Kuşadası. What a blessing it was to sit for a couple of hours with him and hear the dreams that God has placed within him. Our view from the table on the deck at Starbucks was a phenomenal view of the island in the harbor.

Finally, yesterday evening we were at our friends house here watching their kids as they went out of town to celebrate their 19th wedding anniversary. As I walked out of their Sitesi (housing complex) to run to the store, I snapped this photo of their common area. What a beautiful reminder that God in His creativity loves us so much that He provided such detail and color for us to be inspired–and reminded of His faithfulness–by.

 

 

Some thoughts on John 1

The Word was first, the Word present to God, God present to the Word. The Word was God, in readiness for God from day one.

Everything was created through him; nothing—not one thing!— came into being without him. What came into existence was Life, and the Life was Light to live by. The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out.

There once was a man, his name John, sent by God to point out the way to the Life-Light. He came to show everyone where to look, who to believe in. John was not himself the Light; he was there to show the way to the Light.

The Life-Light was the real thing: Every person entering Life he brings into Light. He was in the world, the world was there through him, and yet the world didn’t even notice. He came to his own people, but they didn’t want him. But whoever did want him, who believed he was who he claimed and would do what he said, He made to be their true selves, their child-of-God selves. These are the God-begotten, not blood-begotten, not flesh-begotten, not sex-begotten.

The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.

John pointed him out and called, “This is the One! The One I told you was coming after me but in fact was ahead of me. He has always been ahead of me, has always had the first word.”

We all live off his generous bounty, gift after gift after gift. We got the basics from Moses, and then this exuberant giving and receiving, This endless knowing and understanding— all this came through Jesus, the Messiah. No one has ever seen God, not so much as a glimpse. This one-of-a-kind God-Expression, who exists at the very heart of the Father, has made him plain as day.

–John 1:1-18 MSG

This is one of my favorite passages of scripture (It’s been on this blog a number of times). During the month of October and November of 2012, I spent about six weeks just hanging out in it. In that time of study, I came across this John Michael Talbot quote:

When Jesus revealed the new Word to the world, He did not write a letter or a book.  He simply lived it.  He is the Word.  He is Word when He speaks and Word when He is silent, when He is active and when He is still.

Since coming across that quote, when I read this passage I do so through that lens–the lens of Incarnation.

John Michael Talbot on John 1

John Michael Talbot on John 1

John uses an outline for His Gospel that is reminiscent to the outline that Paul uses in the book of Ephesians. He starts with this epic cosmic story. Painting for the reader the idea that God is bigger than anything else. Yet, in His bigness is willing to send His Son to be Incarnate.

John, for all practical purposes, presents the reader with a summation of Biblical Worldview. All things proceed from God, he surmises. And, in light of that, we, like Christ, must live Incarnationally.

John also paints for us an image of the Kingdom of God. He uses the idea from the Greek of cosmos and chaos. Cosmos implying an orderly order–not just order, but an orderly order. Yet, where the Greeks believed these things to live in some sort of harmonic accord, John shows that God’s design is that even in the midst of chaos and orderly order can come forth. And, that, is the Kingdom.

Between John 1:1 and John 1:14, John presents the reader with two paradoxes. In Verse 1 the Word WAS God, yet, in verse 14, the Word BECAME flesh. Second, in verse 1, the Word was WITH God, yet, in verse 14, the word lived AMONG us. God incarnate.

Consider, 2 Chronicles 6:18-21 (The Message):

Can it be that God will actually move into our neighborhood? Why, the cosmos itself isn’t large enough to give you breathing room, let alone this Temple I’ve built. Even so, I’m bold to ask: Pay attention to these my prayers, both intercessory and personal, O God, my God. Listen to my prayers, energetic and devout, that I’m setting before you right now. Keep your eyes open to this Temple day and night, this place you promised to dignify with your Name. And listen to the prayers that I pray in this place. And listen to your people Israel when they pray at this place. Listen from your home in heaven and when you hear, forgive.

He moved into our neighborhood.

Good.

Bad.

Safe.

Unsafe.

Clean.

Dirty.

He came to where we are, and dwelt among us to show us the Glory of God–to make His name great among the nations!

Shekhinah.

Emmanuel.

Comforter has come.

God’s glory in our neighborhood.

Dwelling in our messiness.

Bring orderly order out of our chaos.