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Category Archives: Hope

Any Chance We Might Grow Up?

Withholding love from another person is the supreme act of childishness. Forbearing, proactive love … that’s the trait of a mature adult. We need God for that.

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This from one of Christianity’s most popular texts, 1 Corinthians 13: When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways” (13:11). What are these childish ways that Paul is talking about? In the context of this chapter, it’s quite simple. It is childish to withhold love.

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” If I lay out articulate Facebook rants, and can share quotes from my favorite talking heads, but am snarky, antagonistic, profane or dismissive of others, I’m just noise.

“And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” If I, in my self-perceived brilliance, believe in my convictions can change the world around me, but cannot be kind when I present them, I am nothing.

“If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” Even if I “walk my talk”, and am involved in all kinds of service projects that support my causes, but my heart and attitude toward others who disagree with me remains angry and contentious, the gain of my good works is nullified.

So, what is this love that Paul speaks of? It is, primarily, staying active in hard relationships. “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”

Kind. Love suffocates in non-relationship. It breathes through activity. Being kind is love. Just choosing to be neutral — to not be unkind — isn’t love.

Patient. Bearing. Enduring. Never-ending. Love assumes things will get difficult, and stays in the game anyway. To bail out on a relationship when it doesn’t go your way, that’s childish.

Arrogant. Rude. Irritable. Resentful. If these words describe you, then you’re acting like a child.

If you are so bent toward someone that you actually rejoice when things don’t go their way … this is the height of immaturity.

Children always think they should be given a second chance, but still carry grudges against others, and withhold them their kindness. Children want the benefit of the doubt for themselves, but they choose to meditate on the negatives of others, thus exchanging joy for bitterness. Children want people to believe in them, but they magnify and believe the worst in others. Children want others to see it their way, but give up hope for a better tomorrow that comes, as promised by God, through reconciliation and sticking together.

Children think they know. Then they become judge and jury over you. You will be found guilty. Love is gone. Existence becomes null and void.

Childish politics conceives contentious gridlock. Childish religion creates suicide bombers.Childish academes squash thoughts from a different point of view. Childish employees trash talk their bosses behind their backs. Childish church members leave their congregation when something happens they don’t like. Childish marriages produce divorces. Childish friends feel they’ve been so wronged that they have to withhold their ongoing care, affection and kindness.

God, through His Word, calls us to put away these childish behaviors. He provides the means to do so. But these days few are listening to God, and even fewer are availing themselves to the divine empowerment that makes change possible. Even those who find God interesting remain unwilling to hear His call to us to exercise the self-sacrificing kind of love that could change the world.

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Any chance we might grow up? Our chance is contingent on our love for God … which will enable our love for our neighbor. Without God? No chance.

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25).

– EO

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God’s Stump Speech? (Ps. 147)

10341948_1136209249753147_2020847579845022647_n.jpgI saw this picture posted on Facebook today. At first blush, I felt awkward about it.

I am a believer in God. I would say that the following labels apply to me, for the most part: Evangelical. Conservative. Bible-believing. And there are many, many people in the United States that share these convictions. But sometimes the ways people communicate these convictions embarrasses me.

Take the picture. “America” – I’m guessing you mean North America, and specifically the United States of America? “Great” – what is greatness, Biblically speaking? An incredibly strong economy that has us aggressively accumulating a disproportionate share of the worlds goods? A massive military that can exert influence on others countries, whether they want our influence or not? Freedom that has, especially in the media, proven to breed licentiousness and immorality?

Some people who say they want to make America great also think that they, themselves, are pretty great. If that’s greatness, I’ve got to say … I don’t want that kind of “greatness” for America.

So, to say God can make us great, we need a refined vision of greatness.

My Bible reading today has me in Psalm 147. I don’t want this to sound sacrilegious, but it almost reads like God’s “stump speech.” It’s pretty great.

Urban development: The Lord builds up [the city] … He blesses your people within you.

Social Services: He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds … He sustains the humble.

Homeland Security: He casts the wicked to the ground. He strengthens the bars of your gates.

Immigration: He gathers the exiles. 

Foreign Policy: He grants peace to your borders.

Climate and Environment: He covers the sky with clouds; he supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills.He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call … He spreads the snow like wool and scatters the frost like ashes … He stirs up his breezes, and the waters flow.

Economy: He satisfies you with the finest of wheat.

Priority of the Military: His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of the warrior.

Religion: He has revealed his word … the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.

God. At times He seems like what we might call a bleeding-heart liberal. At others, a hawkish, economically motivated conservative. I doubt if He could secure the nomination of either party.

But, I do believe, life under His rule would be great. If that is what the marquee sign is promoting, I’m all in.

Oh … and by the way … it will be great. That rule is coming. Probably not in November. But maybe before! And soon.

– EO

   

 

 

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The Past of Our Future

Read Amos 9:8b-15

HOPE! Part 1 of 3

After what we’ve been reading in Amos, v.8 is so refreshing! “‘Except that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob,’ declares the Lord.” God will sift His people through the sieve of His judgment, but a remnant of solid stones will remain!

Remnant. God always takes a bit of the past in order to build the future. Remember Noah and the Ark? God could have really started from scratch, and just made a new Adam and Eve. But He doesn’t.

Evangelical Orphan was launched out of a desire to better know the remnant God has used through time to bring me us where we are today. I was “orphaned” when I became a Christian in a Restoration Movement church. Leaders adopted an ahistoric primitivism, saying that the remnant through Church history was irrelevant after the New Testament accounts, and that all we need is God’s pure revelation, the scriptures, in order to build our family expression today.

True?

But God, and His Word, betray a different agenda. Encased in our texts is our Biblical heritage, Old Testament and New, warts and all. God wants us to know this time-and-space history. And Jesus came as the fulfillment of that history: the seed, the root, the stump, the branch. And now we are grafted into that history through the Messianic gospel being proliferated to the nations.

God never gave up on His covenant people, and did a do-over. Why do we think that, since Christ, God gives up occasionally on His Church, but does a contemporary do-over today? Because we deserve it more than they have in preceding centuries? Because we’ve are more, I don’t know, enlightened? (Don’t get me started…)

“In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old” (v. 11). God could start over. Instead, He deals with ruins. And the completed project will be a re-stored people “as in the days of old.” We look back for an image of our glorious future. (I love that the “booth” or “hut” of David is contrasted with the ritzy, collapsing temple at Bethel earlier in the chapter.)

“I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them”  (v. 14). God will restore (see also v. 11, v. 15), but the people will do the rebuilding. Like Nehemiah, we are to be about God’s business of exploring our collective rubble, and rallying our people for the rebuilding of our tradition.

The past provides the plumb line for our building of our today, and our tomorrow. Our hope is firmly imbedded in our heritage. Without a keen sense of our history, we are lost. With it, we have hope.

Who is this hope for? And what will it look like? Two more days, friends…two more days…

– EO

 
 

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Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers! 3rd Sunday of Advent – 14.12.14

Another Lutheran hymn for you on this Advent Sunday. It was our “hymn of the day” this morning. The text was written by Laurentias Laurenti in 1700, and was translated from German into English in 1854 for the hymn compilation Hymns from the Land of Luther. Laurenti was the music director at the cathedral in Bremen.

A true Advent text! I love the acknowledgement of the tough, dark side of waiting for Christ’s coming.

Rejoice, rejoice, believers, and let your lights appear.
The evening is advancing, and darker night is near.
The Bridegroom is arising, and soon He draweth nigh.
Up, pray, and watch, and wrestle: At midnight comes the cry.

See that your lamps are burning; replenish them with oil.
And wait for your salvation, the end of earthly toil.
The watchers on the mountain proclaim the Bridegroom near.
Go meet Him as He cometh, with alleluias clear.

O wise and holy virgins, now raise your voices higher,
Until in songs of triumph ye meet the angel choir.
The marriage feast is waiting, the gates wide open stand;
Rise up, ye heirs of glory, the Bridegroom is at hand.

Our hope and expectation, O Jesus, now appear!
Arise, Thou sun so longed for, over this benighted sphere!
With hearts and hands uplifted, we plead, O Lord, to see
The day of earth’s redemption that brings us unto Thee.

Ye saints, who here in patience your cross and sufferings bore,
Shall live and reign forever, when sorrow is no more.
Around the throne of glory the Lamb ye shall behold;
In triumph cast before Him your diadems of gold!

 
 

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Second Sunday of Advent – 14.12.07

St.-Ambrose (1)I have personally celebrated the seasons of the church calendar for decades. I have always been saddened by the lack of Advent-themed worship music in the contemporary Evangelical church world. But I have recently become a part of the Lutheran tradition, which has a wealth of Advent hymns! On the remaining Advent Sundays, I’ll share a few of my favorites.

Savior of the Nations, Come is a hymn text written by St. Ambrose of Milan, one of the great Doctors of the early church. It was written in the 4th century – and era when the church was crystalizing its theological understanding about the person and nature of Jesus in the incarnation (e.g., The Council of Nicaea in 325, which produced the Nicene Creed, which we read together today in church). This hymn reflects those theological themes, which Ambrose championed strongly.

Savior of the nations, come! Virgin’s son, make here Your home!

Marvel now, O heaven and earth, that the Lord chose such a birth.

 

nativity-icon-1Not by human flesh and blood, by the Spirit of our God,

was the Word of God made flesh – woman’s offspring, pure and fresh.

 

Here a maid was found with child, yet remained a virgin mild.

In her womb this truth was sown: God was there upon His throne.

 

Then stepped forth the Lord of all from His pure and kingly hall;

God of God, yet fully man, His heroic course began.

 

250px-Nicaea_iconGod the Father was His source; Back to God He ran His course.

Into hell His road went down, back then to His throne and crown.

 

For You are the Father’s Son Who in flesh the victory won.

By Your mighty power make whole all our ills of flesh and soul.

 

From the manger newborn light shines in glory through the night.

Darkness there no more resides; In this light faith now abides.

 

Glory to the Father sing,

Glory to the Son our king.

Glory to the Spirit be now, and through eternity.

 
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Posted by on December 7, 2014 in Advent 2014, ambrose, Early Church, Hope

 

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1st Wednesday of Advent – 14.12.03

“Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things(1 Pet. 1:10-12)

Today’s text reminds us that longing for the Advent of Christ is a very ancient tradition, going back dozens of generations before Christ. As Martin Luther describes, “The beloved prophets had a longing in their hearts for the grace and salvation that was promised in Christ … they sighed for it with a deep longing of their hearts … with a delight and joy in the promises.”

Prophets-of-bible_472_354_80The Hebrew-Christian tradition has always been one of waiting, hoping, longing. Since the Garden of Eden, we’ve been awaiting the ultimate recapitulation of all things, whereby life in Eden could be experienced again. Melchizedek’s ministry, Abraham’s visions, Jacob’s wrestling, Joseph’s dreams, Moses deliverance, Joshua’s conquests, Samuel’s faithfulness, David’s glory, the return from Exile … all of these were tastes of redemption along the way, that whet the appetites of the prophets for the most fulfilling taste of all:

“[The prophets] were satisfied in that they saw and knew from afar the grace and salvation that should be experienced by the whole world through Christ, and they also comforted themselves with it.”

The prophets knew that all of God’s salvific, covenantal acts came to a crescendo in the coming of the Christ! Luther claims that, though they longed to see His coming, they were in the meantime satisfied and comforted in their hope.

Yes, Christ came. We beheld the glory of God in the face of His Son, and received the deposit on our eternal salvation, the promised Holy Spirit. But, Jesus left! And we are left once again in our hope – this time, for His second coming.

joyofeverylongingheartHere’s the Advent question. Can we, like the prophets of old, find hope fulfilling? Satisfying? Comforting?

“[The prophets] served they us by explaining and developing those promises more richly and fully. … they did it in service and love to us, in order that we might go to them to school and learn also the same lesson.”

I’ve got to admit it … I’m not a very good “hoper”. I don’t like to wait. I want what I want, and I want it now. As the proverb states, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Prov. 13:12). And who wants a sick heart? But the second half of that proverb tells us that “a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” The heartache, the longing, the not-yet of our salvation – it’s all part of the package.

before-after-xmasA final thought. Christmases past. My memories are about presents under the tree…of peaking into the corners…of wondering, dreaming, and longing for Christmas Day, when we would get the thrill of having what we hoped for. I find it interesting that I remember the days before Christmas fondly. And the days after Christmas, well, kind of depressing. I do believe the days of hope were the richest of the season.

Maybe I’m closer to getting this whole hope thing than I thought.

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2014 in Advent 2014, Hope

 

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Seventh Day of Christmastide ’13

Number 7 brass“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” (Romans 12:12)

Many people think that Christmas is a time of “joy to the world” and “peace on earth, good will toward men.” Of course, Jesus’ coming is a source of joy. And He did come as the Prince of peace. And, yes, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son” — clearly an act of “good will” from God to man.

But the testimony of scripture is that this new, reborn life that comes through Jesus is not as sugary sweet as the portfolio of Christmas card images seems to indicate.

Jesus’ coming was not the end-all of the redemption story, and especially not the end of the work of Jesus! No, we are now in the “not-yet” tension of the gospel being preached to the ends of the earth before He comes again. So, the ongoing spiritual warfare we find ourselves in leaves us as people of HOPE.

flight to egyptJesus also promised that those who believe in the sign of His coming will be persecuted. From Jesus’ flight to Egypt because of Herod’s slaughtering of the innocent children in Bethlehem … to His crucifixion of Calvary, the Christmas coming of Christ has inaugurated continued TRIBULATION. 

Jesus also charged us to ask the Father for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven – because, as a general rule, it’s not. So we wrestle our way through an imperfect world as people of PRAYER.

Is the onset of grand cosmic tension commenced by Christmas really cause for rejoicing?

The chorus of the classic Advent hymn O Come, O Come Emmanuel captures the fullness of what it means to rejoice in hope. “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.” In many church settings, the “shall” is changed to “has”. But the biblical truth is that there is joy in the tension, grace in the tribulation, and blessing in the waiting. We rejoice in hope.

Christmas presents

I heard the comment this year that “waiting for the presents under the tree is even better than opening them.” I’m not totally sure about that! … but there is something wonderful about waiting. God’s grand design in Christ has us waiting, longing and hoping. Our greatest joy is found in that design. So, on this 7th day of Chrsitmastide, let’s rejoice in hope.

 

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2013 in 12 Days of Christmastide, Hope