On Either Side of the River

“On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” (Revelation 22: 2b from Revelation 21:1-22:5 )

Today is the last day of the year, and the last day that this blog focuses on right relationships, justice, and shalom – or at least in a concentrated way. I am sure in 2014 we will touch on the same sort of issues; dealing rightly and fairly with each other and promoting God’s peace. But in 2014 we will be looking at verses that the historic Anabaptists used. C. Arnold Snyder’s book, Reading the Anabaptist Bible is the source of these verses, and five years ago when “Sip of Scripture” last used these verses, Arnold was generous enough to provide me with a copy of the book. I will be drawing on that same resource for 2014. But back to the verse for today.

Thinking about healing of the nations and moving from the old year into the new year, I was struck by the “either side” notion, and the image of the tree of life bridging from one side to the other. The concept of bridge building is a good one when one thinks about moving from the old to the new, and for changing one way of being for another. Those who were enemies are now friends, and we have “bridged” the gap that separated us. Because we have moved over and beyond what separated us, we can now dwell as friends. This is as relevant and possible a concept for individuals as it is for nations. In fact, if nations can bridge over and get past what separated them, it is more likely that individuals in the nation will make that positive movement too. BUT then the nation needs to bridge and move past what separates the entities within it, and unfortunately gentle reader we do not seem to do well at that.

So I must ask myself, and I ask you, has this past year made a difference in your life? Has the focus of right relationships, justice, and shalom helped you or refocused, or even changed your thinking? Has it made a difference? I do not assume or pretend to think that solely what I have written has made a change in you; what I hope instead is that as you have read what I have written God has spoken to you and fostered and nourished your thinking. If that has been the case, then I am content.

There are many things I wish and hope for myself in the new year, and I hope and pray that God will bless you with what you need for the new year. I am excited about what God will reveal to me in the coming year through the verses that the historic Anabaptists used, and I would be honored if you journey with me this coming year.

May your year end sum up all that was good this year, and dispel all that was not good. And may the new year find you ever closer to God, and ever closer to those around you. Selah!

Advertisements

2013 In Review

If you have a blog on WordPress.com you may have gotten a year end summary of your blog – how often it was viewed, what posts were popular and where the viewers were from in addition to those who commented the most and what they commented on. All in all pretty comprehensive. In sending me this report WordPress.com said “The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.”

As you may have gathered, numbers and popularity are not something I am muchly interested in – the long run. It is nice to see that people have viewed the posts and left comments. But mainly because I want to make sure that what I write is of interest and worth to others. And this summary of the year tells me that many found it of interest and came back to read more. I am truly grateful for your interest.

I have to be amused though that this report does not include the very last day of the year! Supposing I write something so over the top great on the last day that blows these stats out of the water! I doubt it would happen, but still . . .

Mostly I am thankful to God that the Lord has given my the endurance and stamina to post something each day. And the inspiration. Praise to God for that!! I have a good source though – the Bible! And of course the daily verses from it that Third Way Cafe provides with their “Sip of Scripture.”  It has been a pleasure and a privilege to be associated with them for so many years.

So read what WordPress. com has to say and where they place their importance and emphasis. But remember too that it is our Lord God where we should place emphasis and importance. May God be with you in the coming year. And I hope you will continue to check in with me daily in the coming year. May it bring you closer to God. Selah! And shalom!

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 20,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

PRAY FOR PEACE . . . Who shall we pray for?

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, and security within your towers.” For the sake of my relatives and friends I will say, “Peace be within you.” For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your prosperity. “ (Psalms 122:6-9 from Psalm 122:1-9 )

I had thought at first I would do a paraphrase and an updating of this passage. But as I was ready to begin, I thought “Who or what nation or place should I put in for ‘Jerusalem’?” And it was at that point I was stumped and knew I could not continue. Indeed, I should not continue. For what ever name of place or person I put in, someone would be left out. And if I put in some generic term like the “global community” it would be so neutral as to mean nothing.

Mmmm . . . maybe what I could do is allow you, gentle reader to put in the name or places that you would pray for. And that would work and give you a wonderful meditation. But would that right and in keeping with our triune theme which is just one day away from passing into history?

So here is the challenge I set before myself – to make something contemporary out of something very old.

“Pray for the peace of your neighborhood, and the neighbor far away: “May they prosper who love you, and who you love. But may those for whom love is not a reality prosper also. Peace be within your walls and all the walls that humanity has constructed. And security within the hearts of every nation. But may each nation’s security not threaten another nation.” For the sake of every one of God’s children’s relatives and friends I will say, “Peace be within you.” For the sake of the house of the Lord our God who is the God of child, women and man, I will seek their prosperity. “ Selah! And shalom for the days to come.

GOD AS COMFORTER . . . and Tissue

“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. “ (Revelation 7:17b from Revelation 7: 14-17 )

Yes, we read this before, twelve days ago. But it is worth looking at again. Why? Because after God wipes away the tears there is a sense of relief and hopefulness. As I think on this, I reminded for Psalms 30, “Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” (verse 5b) I would assume that John, the writer/recorder of Revelation, would be familiar with this. Or maybe not. We as readers certainly are. While we may mourn and grieve, when the sun/Son comes out/comes our tears, sorrow, and sadness fade away. And since God blessed and gifted us with the Son, God has provided the means for our tears to be history.

The baby Jesus is now four days old; four days past Christmas many people are taking down Christmas decorations and readying themselves for the New Year. The tears of yester-year are fading away and new hopes for the New Year are taking shape. It is my hope, gentle reader, that you have set aside the sorrows for 2013 and are looking forward to the New Year.

I will be here in the New Year, if that is a source of joy and happiness for you. I cannot promise you a year without tears, but what I can promise you is hope that will dry and wipe away your tears because we will be again looking at scriptures that bring hope and help us define our faith.

May the tears of yesterday be a faded memory, and may you have hope, joy, and shalom for today and tomorrow. Selah!

WELCOME AS YOU WOULD WELCOME ME . . . Fully and Completely

“So welcome Onesimus as you would welcome me. If he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge that to my account . . . I will repay it.” (Philemon 1:17, 18, 19b from Philemon 8-22)

I re-read what I wrote five years ago about this passage. Then I read what Albert Barnes said about it. Barnes made note (and said it better than I did) of Paul’s promise to repay to Philemon what ever loss was realized by Onesimus’ running away and absence. He said that this action and promise by Paul parallels that action Christ made on our behalf. Paul is not saying that he is now guilty of what ever Onesimus’ did, but he is willing to pay the penalty of it. Paul also reminds Philemon that Paul had done much on his behalf, so perhaps Philemon will count this toward his debt to Paul.

But as instructive and illuminating as this is, they way this verse relates to our triune theme is that even thought Onesimus might be guilty of some things, he is to be made welcome by his former master – the one he was indentured to and to whom he should have owed allegiance to. If Philemon is to welcome him as he would welcome Paul, to whom he is evidently in great debt to, how much more should we welcome and extend hospitality to others. Precisely, how much more? A kind word? More than that. A friendly smile? More than that? A firm handshake or hug? No, more than that too. We should welcome others as long-lost or not yet known friends. They should be made welcome to our homes and our hearts. In this last verse of this chapter, Paul asks Philemon to prepare a room for him – to offer him hospitality. No where does it say whether Philemon did this or not, but if he had been instructed in the Christian life by Paul, you can rest assured the room was ready for Paul’s arrival.

May you gentle reader extend a hardy to welcome to all who come into your circle of acquaintance. Selah! And shalom for all of us this day.

PEACE THAT SURPASSES ALL UNDERSTANDING . . A Preacher & Seeker Conversation

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus . . . Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 3: 7,9  from Philippians 3:12-4:9 )

Preacher: “And the peace of God . . . ”
Seeker: “. . . which surpasses all understanding . . .” Preacher, why does it surpass all understanding?
Preacher: Well Seeker, peace on the earth, that is humanity’s concept of peace, can be broken and shattered so easily. We think things are at peace, but someone gets upset about something and that upsets others. Before you know it there is arguing and bickering, which can lead to aggression and violence. We just don’t humanly know how to keep peace. But God’s peace is eternal; God’s peace never breaks and there is never any strive. For right now though, we try to emulate God’s peace on earth, but we can’t do it like God does. We can’t understand how to keep eternal peace. Let’s continue – God’s peace “will guard your hearts . . . “
Seeker: “. . . and your minds in Christ Jesus . . . ” But then how can the peace of God guard our hearts and minds if we can’t manage it?
Preacher: When we read about God’s peace or meditate on it, it reminds us of how peace should be. Peace and renewed peace comes when we live in harmony with each other and creation. God’s teachings show us how to live in harmony and when we do that, we are at peace again. And if we keep God’s peace in our minds, we are more likely to live in harmony with one another. It guards or protects us from unkind thoughts and actions etc, which we also call sin. The writer of Philippians continues saying, “Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and . . .”
Seeker: Preacher, did the writer of Philippians keep God’s peace perfectly?
Preacher: The writer of Philippians was human, just like you and I, so he did not keep God’s peace perfectly. But each day he committed and recommitted his life to preaching about God and God’s peace. He was not perfect but he focused his life and his teachings to reflect God’s peace. He is not suggesting you study his life as a template for living, but that you study and keep in mind what he preached and tried to do in his own life. He said if you do that, “. . . the God of peace will be with you.”
Seeker: Was the peace of God with him?
Preacher: The writer of Philippians has his own problems and struggles. Some of his letter reflect those, and he talks quite honestly about himself and the issues he faced. Many people consider him to be an extremely good man, but what we know of him comes from the letters that he wrote, and what he strived to do. Remember he said that God’s peace surpasses all understanding, so that would include his. He knew that God’s peace was perfect and that we need to strive for that, but he also knew that striving does not mean we will get it perfect.
Seeker: So he is encouraging us to do what he did himself, look to God to learn how to live in peace and then practice it diligently in our lives?
Preacher: Yes, and doing that is the best way to guard our hearts and minds so that only Christ Jesus’ influences our thoughts and actions. He also said, “Finally, beloved whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
Seeker: And doing that is our best chance to keep God’s peace as much as we humanly can!
Preacher: Amen, Seeker, Amen!

And selah, gentle reader. Shalom for your day.

HONOR SUCH PEOPLE . . . Whether they have died . . . or lived courageously & with conviction

“Welcome (Epaphroditus) then in the Lord with all joy, and honor such people, because he came close to death for the work of Christ . . . . “ (Philippians 2:29-30a from Philippians 2:19-3:1)

Some of the most notable and worthy people I have known have not “come close to death” as a result of their work for Christ. But then these people did not live in a time or place where they risked death by working for Christ. Maybe I am being a little picky about this verse, and I do not think Paul meant to exclude others – risk takers or note – from a good welcome either. It is not necessary to risk one’s life in doing Christ’s work. Certainly it makes a more exciting story. It is actually harder and more challenging to lead an authentic Christian life when it is hum-drum and boring. Close calls and risking life and limb can make you grab hold of your faith tightly and refuse to let go. But when you are not challenged in your Christian life and allowed to calmly go about your faith practices, it is easy to become complacent and lax.

Maybe this is something you have not considered before; that the saints that have gone before us were saints because it was a constant struggle to remain saintly. It is easy to look like a saint amongst sinners. But consider the firm believer amongst other such believers. What holds them to a standard and encourages them to be ever more devote and righteous? These are the types of people I look up to as well as the daring-doers of Christianity.

May you gentle reader hold the course as you walk with ease through this Christian life, and may you find saints with quiet and unassuming conviction to emulate. Selah! And quiet and mild shalom for your day.