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.

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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.

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

We went there to see this.

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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?

Emanuel Church in Charleston

July 4, 2016 - Leave a Response

We have been in Charleston, SC, for a few days of vacation. Of special interest is Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on Calhoun Street, the oldest AME Church in the South.

Emanuel AME Church 1

Emanuel AME Church 2

This is the church where last year, on June 17, a 21-year-old fellow sat through almost an hour of the Wednesday night Bible study and then opened fire with a handgun, killing nine people, including the pastor. Two days later family members of the slain spoke words of forgiveness to the killer by closed-circuit television.

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People still bring floral tributes to the church.

Emanuel AME Church 3

Emanuel AME Church 4

We attended the almost three-hour service on Sunday morning, July 3. Rev. Eric Manning is the recently installed new pastor.He preached today on Psalm 130, “Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord.”

I estimated the attendance to be about 350. When the leader asked the guests stand, surprisingly, it was nearly half of the congregation.

The service included communion, served as worshipers knelt at the long altar rail.

I do not know if the chancel furniture is normally draped in white, or if this has to do with Communion Sunday, or with remembering the church members killed a year ago.

A police or security officer stood in the balcony most of the service, looking over the congregation carefully.

The service had a great deal of ritual and congregational participation and was quite meaningful. We considered it a privilege to identify with the trauma and grace that these brothers and sisters have experienced.

Israel – Final Comments

March 22, 2016 - Leave a Response

For the last part of my visit to Israel-Palestine I took a two-day tour north to Galilee and back to Tel Aviv, with a tour guide.

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My guide is Sahar Saado, a Messianic Jew from Jerusalem.

We went east from Jerusalem to the Jordan River Valley, an area where abundant produce grows, and then north through that valley into the area of Galilee.

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At my request we went to Hula Nature Reserve, a vast area of protected land, water and farms.

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The huge flock of Gray cranes was delightful and noisy, but since I had no telephoto lens, you are not likely to be impressed with this simple photo.

Gray crane was one of the new species I added to my bird list on this trip, so my “life list” now stands at 658.

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Our next stop was Galilee’s Miracle Center to see the remains of this boat recovered from the mud of the Sea of Galilee and restored – a boat from the first century, similar to the one Jesus and the disciples would have sailed on.

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Welcome to Capernaum, Jesus’ home base for his public ministry. This what is left of a fourth century synagogue, built on the site of the synagogue that was here in Jesus’ day.

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At this same location is a statue of the Apostle Peter, with the Sea of Galilee in the background.

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In the evening Sahar and I went to a grille restaurant for lamb and chicken kebabs. Before the kebabs came, we had flat bread to be dipped in 19 side dishes!

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We stayed in a hotel in Tiberias, looking east over the Sea of Galilee.

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On my last day of touring we start out at Arbel, a high cliff overlooking the valley and, to the right, off the photo, the Sea of Galilee.

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The excavations of Zippori (or Sepphoris), which was the capital and largest city of Galilee in Jesus’ day. Here are the pillars and mosaic floor of a synagogue from the first half of the fifth century.

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Still in Zippori, a floor mosaic from the house of a wealthy  person. The woman in this scene is called the Mona Lisa of Zippori.

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Next stop  – the town of Nazareth. We spent time in Nazareth Village and had a narrated tour of the re-creation of several things typical of Jesus’ day – a sheep pen, a cave tomb, a winepress, a watchtower in a vineyard, an olive oil press  and a synagogue.

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And a carpenter’s shop.

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We had a lunch of foods typical of NT times. The delicious flatbread was baked in the oven you see here by a baker who is a volunteer from US.

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The large, modern Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth.

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The inside view of the rotunda.

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In the lower level a shrine and grotto.

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In the courtyard stands a statue of Mary. Many pilgrims pause to hold her hands and pray.

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We went to Mt. Carmel, the site of the prophet Elijah’s challenge to the prophets of the false god Baal. The interior of the chapel.

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Elijah about to kill one of the false prophets.

From an observation roof we saw the large, fertile Jezreel Valley, but the fog and haze rendered my photos not worth showing.

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Now we are in Jaffa (also called Joppa and Yafo), the ancient port city on the Mediterranean Sea out of which Tel Aviv grew. Here we are looking north along the Sea to modern Tel Aviv.

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A friendly-looking resident of Jaffa.

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A house in a location similar to Simon the Tanner’s house, where Peter stayed and saw the vision from God that persuaded him to be willing to go to the home of the Gentile Cornelius.

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Still in Jaffa, St. Peter’s Church, a Franciscan Church.

My last night in Israel was at Gilgal Hotel in Tel Aviv, a hotel owned by a Messianic Jew.

In these two days I learned important insights into Israel and Palestine from my guide, Sahar. His perspectives were not always the same as what I learned at Christ at the Checkpoint, but I was able to affirm him and bless his role as a peacemaker for Christ.

One of his important comments about Palestinian and Jewish believers was this: “Both sides need to open their hearts to each other.”

God certainly opened my heart in new ways through the many experiences I had in Israel-Palestine.

Thanks for traveling with me.

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