Holiness and Love

July 28, 2017 - Leave a Response

There are many aspects to God’s nature. Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984) comments on two of God’s qualities in The Mark of Love.

“The Christian really has a double task.
He has to practice both God’s holiness and God’s love. The Christian is to exhibit that God exists as the infinite-personal God; and then he is to exhibit simultaneously God’s character of holiness and love.
Not His holiness without His love: this is only harshness.
Not His love without His holiness: that is only compromise.
Anything that an individual Christian or Christian group does that fails to show the simultaneous balance of the holiness of God and the love of God presents to a watching world not a demonstration of the God who exists but a caricature of the God who exists.”

Advertisements

Trip to Spain 2017

July 4, 2017 - 6 Responses

From May 28 to June 12 we were in Madrid, Spain, and nearby areas as part of my work for the World Missions department of our denomination, the Brethren in Christ.

During the first week we led a learning trip for two couples, and the one couple had their 4-year-old and 2-year-old sons with them. The little boys showed great adaptability as we traveled by Metro, bus and train, had many meetings and kept late hours.

Here are David and Christine, with their sons.

And here is the other couple, Elias and Idotress, on the right, talking with a member of the Madrid Church.

During the second week, JoLene and I had meetings and appointments with our workers as we discussed in depth several important administrative matters.

Cafe del Gato 1

Cafe del Gato 3

In Madrid, we ate several times at Cafe del Gato, the Cat Cafe. There were no real cats on the premises, just the art decorations. In the first photo, the window reflects the street opposite the cafe, and if you look carefully, you can see me as I took the photo.

The Madrid Cathedral, also called the Almudena Cathedral, or the Cathedral of St. Mary the Royal, of La Almudena. La Almudena is similar to the Arabic word, “The Castle.” A modern structure, it was completed in 1993.

Above, the apse, the area beyond the altar; and the ceiling above the altar.

Palace - front

Across the plaza from the Cathedral is the Royal Palace, the scene of state and formal events. King Felipe VI lives in a different palace, somewhere outside the center of the city.

Plaza Mayor 1

Plaza Mayor, a main plaza located a few blocks from the Puerta del Sol (the Gate of the Sun), which is the very center of the city.

Mariachi players and singers in Sol. Like all the street performers, they are looking for donations, so for the privilege of taking this photo I dropped a few coins in the hat.

 

Mercado de San Miguel, San Miguel Market, a glass-walled, indoor upscale market. All kinds of tapas (small portions, a bit like appetizers), seafood, fruit, large stuffed olives (which our group we really liked) and all kinds of drinks.

In Plaza de Espana (Spain Plaza) the Cervantes Monument, a tribute to the famous novelist and poet, author of Don Quixote. Below the statue of seated Cervantes you see Quixote (taller) and his squire, Sancho Panza.

Our church in Madrid meets for worship at noon on Sundays (Spaniards eat lunch at 2:00 PM.) On the first Sunday we were there, they had an international meal. Delicious entrees and desserts, many of them from Latin America. We contributed Hershey’s Chocolate Miniatures.

For our workers, serving means not only singing, Scriptures and sermons, but also clean-up duty. What a pose!

It was a privilege to pray with, bless and encourage our workers.

The members of our two churches are involved in works of compassion. We joined them in packing non-perishable lunches for the members to give to homeless people they meet on the street. I gave my package to a man sitting on the sidewalk outside McDonald’s at Puerta del Sol.

 

This is the storefront (the street level and basement) that serves as the meeting place for our church in the town of Hoyo de Manzaneres, about 15 miles from Madrid.

Here you see Antonio and Aida, the pastoral couple at Hoyo. They are gifted servant-leaders and have a heart to see the fire of God settle on the people of their church and town.

In Hoyo we walked through the town, praying for God to work in mighty ways. On a more mundane note, we saw a huge stork nest, with an adult stork feeding one of its two chicks.

 

We took a bullet train to the city of Toledo, location of the huge Toledo Cathedral, which is impressive on the outside and richly decorated on the interior.

Interior, above the main altar.

Interior, The Disrobing of Christ by El Greco.

This is the Cathedral Monstrance, a structure to exhibit the host (communion wafer, the body of Christ) in a once-a-year procession through the streets. This Monstrance is one of the most famous in the world. The literature says it is made of pure silver, but to me it appears to be gold. Is it silver covered with gold? It is carried on the shoulders of several people, in a procession takes place in the month of June, some time after we were there, so we missed seeing the procession.

Also in Toledo, we spent time in the small museum called Ancient Instruments of Torture, showing many instruments that were used during the Inquisition, which was established by Queen Isabella I in 1478. Originally, it was mostly to ensure the orthodoxy of those who had converted from Judaism and Islam. After seeing the instruments and machines and reading the descriptions, we left the museum with sober thoughts and heavy hearts.

Also in Toledo, we visited a shop where they make damascene plates and jewelry. Damascene is the art of inlaying gold and silver in a darkly oxidized steel background in intricate patterns. The English term comes from the fact that the finished work resembles the rich tapestry patterns of damask silk.

On a day off we went to the town of San Lorenzo of El Escorial to see the Royal Site, a vast building complex that was once a monastery, royal palace and burial place for the royal families. It was conceived by Phillip II and completed in 1584.

Today it is still a monastery of the order of St. Augustine and also a tourist site.

The photo above is the iconic view of the building, which is laid out in an immense square and has spacious gardens of three sides.

The main entrance.

After you enter the main entrance, you step into a courtyard facing the basilica, or church.

This concludes our photo tour of Madrid and surrounding areas. Thanks for joining us.

Please post a short message on my blog so that I know you are there!

God Speaks

June 25, 2017 - Leave a Response

In the Bible we learn that there are many sides to God’s nature. He is kind and gentle, and also strong and powerful. In Psalm 29, King David, with repetition and lyric beauty, tells about the powerful side of God’s nature.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord thunders over the mighty waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is majestic.
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightning.
The voice of the Lord shakes the desert;
the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord twists the oaks and strips the forests bare.
And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”
Psalm 29:3-9

When was a time when God spoke to you in kindness and gentleness?
When was a time when God spoke to you in power and authority?
With what voice is God speaking to you now?
What causes you to exclaim “Glory!” when you think about God and what God is doing in your life?

Looking beyond Age 70

April 8, 2017 - Leave a Response

Samuel Zwemer (1867-1952) was an American missionary who came to be known as the Apostle to Islam. He did missions work in Arabia and Egypt and later was professor Princeton Theological Seminary. He retired from the professorship at age 70 but continued traveling, speaking and advocating for world missions after that. He died ten days short of his eighty-fifth birthday.

Zwemer expressed his attitude toward retirement by a message he gave to Princeton’s Warfield Club in his seventieth year. It was titled “Life Begins at Seventy.” He gave seven reasons why:
1. We should have a diploma from the school of experience by that time.
2. We are near to the river that has no bridge.
3. We have passed our apprenticeship in the school of life.
4. At 70, we can look further backward and further forward.
5. By this time, we should know that life consists not in the abundance of the things we possess.
6. The responsibility to witness for God to the next generation.
7. At 70, the Christian must redeem the time and live in more deadly earnestness.

What important life lessons have you learned in your life so far?
Who or what shapes your thinking as you consider aging, retirement and serving God wholeheartedly?

Learning Together

April 2, 2017 - Leave a Response

On March 16 and 17, I hung out days with 300 Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Greek Orthodox, Baptist and Mennonite people at the Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg. The occasion was a conference on “Bringing the Church Home: Reimagining the Family on Mission.”

Jonathan Lloyd (Director of Brethren in Christ World Missions), Bruxy Cavey (Teaching Pastor of The Meeting House in Toronto) and I were the only Brethren in Christ participants.

Bruxy Cavey was a plenary and workshop speaker.
He talked about the fact that our human relationships are patterned after God and his essence as Trinity, and that therefore “the goal of the gospel is union with God’s love life.”
He explained that the real nature of The Meeting House is the home churches, not the Sunday morning service. All functions of the true church take place in the home churches.
He and his wife have maintained an open door policy for their family. Anyone who needs a place to stay can live with them for a few days or weeks.

Other speakers included:
• Ben Witherington of Asbury Theological Seminary, my alma mater,
• Frederica Mathewes-Green, author and speaker, Greek Orthodox, married to a priest,
• Christopher West, Catholic writer and teacher who lives in Lancaster County, PA
• Bishop Ronald Gainer, Bishop of the Harrisburg Diocese of the Catholic Church,
• Monsignor Renzo Bonetti, of Verona, Italy, who is passionate about the discipleship of the family and how the home serves as a primary place for evangelism.

A few highlights of the event:
• The Amore Project here in US is a ministry that helps the whole church rediscover the family as the domestic church and the NT “oikos” as the center for community and mission. Amore trains married couples to embrace their marriage as a sign of the gospel and a calling to minister among those who are far from God. Amore was the main sponsor of this conference.
• We need a movement of married couples who live as agents of Christ’s self-giving love. Mission often arises when the people of God seek reconciliation in their broken places.
• In the Gospels, you find that, to a great extent, Jesus did his teaching over a meal in someone’s home.
• Jesus said clearly that his disciples, not the physical family, are his primary family. The family of faith takes precedence over the biological family.
• “Ecclesia domestica,” domestic church, was the early church’s name for the home. The early church was a domestic movement. On Sunday the domestic churches come together.
• The purpose of the family is to be a beacon of God’s love in the world.
• We are always sitting at the feet of Jesus and always being sent out into the world as missionary disciples.
• Christopher West has devoted himself to spreading the “theology of the body” that Pope John Paul II wrote about extensively. It takes both the male and female human to express the image of God. Our physical bodies are giving constant witness to the nature of God and the nature of grace. Marriage and wedding are central images, signs pointing to the intimacy of the Trinity and the intimacy between Christ and the church. Lust is what you have left when you let agape out of your life. Some of what Christopher said was what I already knew about the biblical view of marriage, but “the theology of the body” was new to me.
• Because the body and marriage are images of God, it is no surprise that the enemy is launching major attacks on sexuality and marriage.
• As the culture in America becomes less and less committed to Judeo-Christian values and worldview, we Christians from all traditions need each other in a deeper way.

This was an enriching and stretching experience for me. I met wonderful people from other traditions. I reflected on ways that JoLene and I have lived out, and failed to live out, the reality of the domestic church as the primary means of discipleship and evangelism. I began to look at Scripture and human sexuality in a deeper way. I thought often of the fact that, in various ways, many of our Brethren in Christ missionaries are establishing home churches as the primary expression of the gospel. In the days following the conference, I have sensed a new depth and richness in my devotion to God.

I thank God for the truth about life, sexuality, marriage and spirituality that comes to us from the Scriptures, other Christians and the Holy Spirit.

I pray that Christians all over the world get a vision of their homes as a domestic church, a beacon of God’s love in our world.

If any of my readers have some experience in, or thoughts about, domestic church, I welcome your comments.

After Christmas

January 11, 2017 - Leave a Response

Here is a poem for reflection after Christmas and Three Kings Day or Epiphany.

The Work of Christmas
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.

This was written by Howard Thurman, and African American, a Quaker and a preacher, who was active in the civil rights movement in USA.

Americans in Paris

November 27, 2016 - Leave a Response

In April 2010 while in London on assignments for world missions we took some vacation time and went on a two-day tour to Paris. Now I find, to my surprise, that this draft was never published, so here it is, six years late!

We went to Paris by Eurostar, the “bullet train,” which travels at 120 mph and goes under the River Thames and the English Channel. Travel time from London to Paris is three hours.

We arrived in Paris on April 8 just before noon and had a bus tour of the city, including a stop at the Eiffel Tower and a river cruise on the Seine.

We took the crowded elevator (holds 80 people) to Level 2, seeing, as we rose, what makes the elevator work.

The views are spectacular. Looking west…

And east…

Next we took Batobus for a river cruise. There are 37 bridges over the Seine in Paris! Here is a partial view of one of the beautiful, the Alexander III Bridge. The limitations of the boat prevented my getting a full view, but you can always check it out online!

At the end of the afternoon the bus returned us to the railway station Gare du Nord. From there we set off for our hotel, choosing to get exercise and save money by walking instead of taking a taxi. The hotel was a few miles away, a walk of about an hour and twenty minutes, taking us past the famous Moulin Rouge (Red Windmill), location of lavish show girl perfomances – or so we are told!

Our hotel was Pavillon Villiers Etoile, 6 rue Labouteux.

Next morning we had a generous buffet breakfast at the hotel, part of the room fee. The rest of the day we had to ourselves.

Off to Notre Dame Cathedral, by Metro, not walking.

On a street beside the cathedral we had tea and crepes at a restaurant. The crepe preparation is done outside in the open air with a nifty machine that spreads the batter evenly and thinly along a stainless steel grill.

Here is the National Academy of Music, which, if I heard correctly, was formerly the place for operas but now features ballets.

I find fountains fascinating. This one is at the Place du Chatelet.

Next, we wanted to walk the boulevard Champs-Elysees, which they say the average tourist does twice during his visit to Paris. We started at the famous Arc de Triomphe at the top of the hill.

I thought the pharaohs were all in Egypt, but here was one at the Champs-Elysees!

Some advertizer has clever ideas.

We sat in the sun in the park known as Tuilieries and then walked the few blocks to the Louvre Museum (one of 132 in the city).

In the plaza stands a smaller version of the Arc de Triomphe.

Also, the modern pyramid that serves as the entrance to the Louvre.

Inside, at another part of the building is another marvel, an inverted pyramid.

From there we walked again to the Place du Chatelet and had dinner at Au Vieux Chatele. We sat at a window and had an incredible view.

We were on the Right Bank (north side) of the Seine, but the river, bordered as it is by walls, was not visible. Straight ahead we saw the wall, with bookstalls and vendors and street traffic, and beyond that part of the Conciergerie, formerly a royal palace, then a prison, now a judicial center. To the left were the two towers of Notre Dame, and to the right, far away, the Eiffel Tower. “Can you believe we are actually here?” we said.

Finally, back to the Gare du Nord, and the Eurostar back to London, with so many memories of two special days in a beautiful city.

Paris is a delight.

Bluebird Sighting

November 27, 2016 - Leave a Response

Here is a photo I found from a few years ago. In December of that year a flock of bluebirds landed on the railing of our deck. I grabbed my camera and, fortunately,  got a photo before they flew away.

bluebirds-1a-re

Actually, I made them as a Christmas gift for several family members.

 

Remembering London

November 27, 2016 - Leave a Response

In June 2014, we were in London for meetings and appointments for the work that Brethren in Christ World Missions has in London. When we had free time, JoLene and I checked out a few sites around the city.

For my missions assignment, one of the couples we interviewed live in what is called a narrow boat, at a marina on a canal. England has hundreds of miles of canals, and many people, like this couple, have a narrow boat as their only home. Here are a few views of the canal and marina that we visited.

dscn3342

dscn3344

dscn3346

We stopped by the Museum of London (not the more famous British Museum.)

We went there to see this.

dscn3331

dscn3332

This large bronze plaque commemorates the fact that John Wesley experienced his evangelical conversion near this spot on May 24, 1738, while attending a meeting of a Methodist Society on Aldersgate Street. The plaque features text from Wesley’s journal describing his conversion experience. How gratifying to see such a clear witness to God’s saving grace in such a public place!

New Testament Christianity

October 27, 2016 - Leave a Response

Many people talk about “revival in our nation,” but not everyone thinks deeply and clearly about what this involves.

A. W. Tozer was a pastor, author and magazine editor in The Christian and Missionary Alliance church. He lived from 1897 to 1963. Here are his comments on revival and prayer from this book Keys to the Deeper Life.

“Prayer for revival will prevail when it is accompanied by radical amendment of life; not before. All-night prayer meetings that are not preceded by practical repentance may actually be displeasing to God. “To obey is better than sacrifice.” We must return to New Testament Christianity, not in creed only but in complete manner of life as well. Separation, obedience, humility, simplicity, gravity, self-control, modesty, cross-bearing; these all must again be made a living part of the total Christian concept and be carried out in everyday conduct.”

Will you join those who are returning to real Christianity?