Wait! There’s More

2 Peter 3:13 (ESV)
But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

Are you waiting?

The new heavens and a new earth are definitely not here. Peter writes of a coming time. A foretelling of the character of this time is that “righteousness” will dwell in the “new heavens and a new earth.” A simple understanding is that in the new heavens and a new earth there will no longer be sin. As we remember, early in the Bible when Adam and Eve fell into sin the ground was cursed (Genesis 3:17). Creation is still cursed or corrupted and sin went rampant. Envisioned in Revelation, there is a coming day when the corruption of creation is no more and sin will vanish. Then we will realize a longed for, ubiquitous, all-encompassing peace. In the meantime we wait. Now what? John Ortberg wrote, “What God does in us while we wait is as important as what it is we are waiting for.”  During this wait we can begin to disconnect from the concerns of this life. Imagine the energy we waste as we worry about tomorrow. Consider the activities and routines we promote in the feeble attempt to stay young. Now, imagine our lifestyle if we simply counted on God. We are encouraged to trust God even when the Lord’s answer is, “Wait.” Are you waiting? You’re not alone. I am, too. Wait, There’s more! The new heavens and a new earth are coming.

“There is no place for faith if we expect God to fulfill immediately what he promises.” John Calvin   

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Faithfully Waiting

Isaiah 64:4 (ESV)

From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him.  

Are you waiting?

It seems we’re all waiting for something these days. I imagine most of us are waiting for the end of the pandemic. A good number of folks who are waiting for the end of the pandemic must be waiting for a vaccine, too. Sadly, the SARS-cov-2 virus will have taken many more lives before the general public gets the vaccine. As we wait for the defender the feeling of helplessness can creep into our psyche, our inner self. The background to today’s verse is that the people of God were waiting for God. They felt God was up in heaven watching as a spectator. In keeping with that perspective Isaiah wrote, “O Lord, why do you make us wander from your ways and harden our heart, so that we fear you not?” I can hear in these words the helpless cry, “Look what you made us do!” From my perspective God does not make us do anything. That may be a big challenge of following Christ: Jesus does not make us follow. That said, a common thread throughout the entire Bible is that we are encouraged to wait for God’s action. That takes faith. Like our faith in medical scientist working toward bringing an end to the pandemic leading us to wait patiently, waiting on God takes faith. When our faith runs it’s course we begin to turn away from science (pandemic) and God. Are you waiting? What are you waiting for? If you’re waiting on God, please, have a little faith. God’s timing is perfect. Trust God!

“Trust in God’s timing. It’s better to wait a while and have things fall into place, than to rush and have things fall apart.” Adam Cappa, American contemporary Christian rock singer-songwriter born and raised in Richmond, Indiana

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Take It From Here

Psalm 90:17 (ESV)

Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and prosper for us the work of our hands – O prosper the work of our hands.  

Is your work prosperous?

Early this November “Two Minutes to Share” will reach the 600th post. Since its beginning in August 2008, TMTS has been read around the world in many countries. TMTS has been the subject of Sunday school classes, sermons, and bible studies. TMTS has even been “church” for people who cannot attend church, or no longer desire to gather in a congregational setting. All the applications of TMTS are well beyond my control. Just as with today’s post, I write them, post them, and then get out of the way. I rarely get any feedback, unless I briefly stop writing. TMTS is distributed through many channels and out of my sight. This calls for much trust that the money I spend and the time I contribute to this significant ministry is not in vain. Therefore, like the psalmist I call upon the Lord to “prosper the work of (my) hands.” Today’s verse is from an Old Testament prayer. The psalmist admits that the success of his/our efforts is best achieved through the favor of the Lord. Is your work prosperous? Just like the outreach of TMTS, we just may not know the full outcome of the work of our hands. You may have poured your life into the work of your hands, only to receive little to no feedback. Such limited response does not indicate anything when trusting in the Lord. To this point, whatever may be the work of your hands this day, may it prosper through the favor of Lord our God, who is capable to prosper and promote your work beyond your vision and imagination. As for this post, Lord our God, take it from here.

“God’s hand never slips. He never makes a mistake. His every move is for our own good and for our ultimate good.” Billy Graham

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Spiritual Duty

Matthew 22:21 (ESV)

Then [Jesus] said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”  

Have you rendered to God what is God’s?

“Render,” is an interesting word choice in today’s passage. It stirs me to consider the difference between “render” and “give.” We tend to use the words interchangeably. Such exchange diminishes the meaning of “to render.” The two verbs are distinct. We know what “to give” means: “to make a present of.”[1] The meaning of “render” comes to life when we study its origin in the Old French word, rendre, meaning, “to give back.” This is exceptionally important. We’re not being told by Jesus to give to Caesar and God, but to give back to Caesar and to God what is their due. In Jesus’ time, coins were stamped with an image of Caesar; thus, making the coin Caesar’s. In a way, we are stamped with an image of God; thus, making us God’s. I like the way Jesus clearly indicates that our civic duty and our obligation to God can coexist, one does not exclude the other. “He who takes the coin from Caesar, must give it back to him again,” wrote John Peter Lange, D.D..[2] I will add, “One who takes God’s blessings, must give it back to God again.” Lange celebrated the wisdom of today’s verse, “If [people] would always strictly adhere to this rule, there never would be a hostile collision between the two powers.” Now, when we give to our God, we are simply giving back to God that which was God’s to begin with: our time, talent, and treasure. Have you rendered to God what is God’s? It is our spiritual duty to Christ.

“Victory over fear is the first spiritual duty of man.” Nicholas Berdyaev, early 20th century Russian political and Christian religious philosopher       

[1] The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, Boston, “render,” © 2009.

[2] Lange’s Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, © 1960, Vol. 8, p. 397.

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That Change of Mind

Exodus 32:12b (ESV)

“Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people.”  

Who will intercede for you?

Moses interceded for the people of Israel. The impatient people had waited long enough for Moses to return from the mountain. They made for themselves their own gods out of the gold of their jewelry. Remember, the golden calf? God sent Moses away and down the mountain to the corrupted people, while God got ready to consume the idolators, to purge such behavior from the people of Israel. But, Moses took upon himself to intercede for his people before God, pleading with God to, “Turn from your burning anger.” And we all know what happened then. The Lord relented the decision. The lesson for us all: God can have a change of mind. There are times when we may need a Moses-type, someone to stand before God and plead for us. The good news is that we need no such person. Jesus Christ is our advocate. Who better to intercede for us? Long ago Christ became the ultimate intercessor for us, before we ever sinned. We routinely melt our riches and mold them into false God’s. No, we have no golden calf but we have our homes; our jobs; our accomplishments; our families; even our church buildings. All such “gods” are capable of taking our focus off of God. Who will intercede for you? You know who. We thank God for that change of mind.

“Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” Romans 8:34 (ESV)  

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Thin Places

Psalm 105:4 (ESV)

“Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually.”  

Are you seeking?

“Worship constitutes the central setting in which the charge is given: “Seek YHWY and his strength; seek his face continually.” William P. Brown, is his book, Seeing the Psalms: A Theology of Metaphor, goes on the explain today’s passage, “It is in the temple or, more broadly, in God’s “Sanctuary presence” that God’s face is beheld.”[1] Accordingly, those entering the temple can encounter the face of the divine. Such a wonderful promise. It is the assurance that God can be found in a place. We no longer need wander until God appears to us. This is well and good, but we Christians don’t go to the temple, and in these “COVID times” were not entering a sanctuary anytime soon. This means we must seek the divine presence elsewhere, with masks on, and socially distanced. It may sound fruitless, but the ancient Celts had a great belief, “thin places.” These are special places “when the veil between heaven and earth seems thin and every day.”[2] A “thin place” describes a place in time where the space between heaven and earth grows thin and the Sacred and the secular seem to meet. The Celtics were deeply connected to the natural world and considered the Divine to be in the ordinary elements of everyday life. Though, for the ancient Celts the thin places were identified by specific locations and dates, we Christians can realize them as situations and stations were the Divine presence is undeniable. For me, I find my thin place surrounded by the books of my faith. In addition, I find my thin place in the aged settings of our faith: old church foundations, vacant pulpits, tarnished ware of a Communion set, on my knees beside the bed, to mention a few. In the midst of our pandemic, Are you seeking? Are you seeking the strength of the Lord to face your challenges? Consider finding your thin place. Try creating your thin place: regularly retreating to a special place to pray and reflect. You may be surprise by the Lord’s presence. Are you seeking? I hope you are.

“Stop seeking the presents of God, and start seeking the presence of God” Anonymous

[1] Brown, William P., Seeing the Psalms: A Theology of Metaphor, Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, © 2002, p. 173.

[2] Asacredjourney.net, “Thin Places, Holy Spaces: Where Do You Encounter God?”

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It’s A New Day

Romans 13:12 (ESV)

“The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.”  

Have you put on the armor of light?

A new day is at hand. As written in an old commentary on today’s verse, “Nothing can prevent tomorrow from dawning.”[1] The Apostle Paul took note of our casual habit of wearing the clothing of darkness. It brings to mind my actions last week. I had to go under my house to inspect something. I got filthy, and my blue jeans really showed the dirt. After I crawled out from under the house I went on and did a few more tasks. I forgot how dirty I had become from just crawling around in the darkness of the crawlspace. Then it came time to leave. I forgot about the condition of my attire. It was almost 11 o’clock that evening and I was still wearing those filthy pants. I had forgotten all about them and had paraded throughout the town for all to see. In keeping with the passage, I had held on to the habit of wearing the clothes I had been wearing, a habit of sorts. The good news: clothes can be changed. Returning to the old commentary, “The soiled and filthy garments of undisciplined behavior can be laid aside.” Then we can put on the “armor of light,” to be clothed with the deeds appropriate for the new day. A new kind of conduct is within our reach. Returning to my story, I no longer need to crawl under the house with my filthy blue jeans. I can come out into the light of the new day covered with garments which make it possible for me to face the day without dismay or shame. That is what happens when we wear “the armor of light.” Are you wearing the armor of light? Rest assured you are letting your “light so shine” before the people of your world that they will see your good works.   

“Let your light shine so brightly that others can see their way out of the dark.” Katrina Miller

[1] Buttrick, George, Arthur, The Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes, Abingdon, Nashville, © 1954, Volume 9, Romans 13:12, p. 610  

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Our Keys

Matthew 16:19 (ESV)

“[Jesus said] I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”  

Do you have the keys?

Church keys seem to multiply on their own. I’ve yet to serve a church that had full control of the keys to the building. The situation begins like this: someone will be handed a church key for a specific task, and never return it. Sometime later, that keyholder will make a copy of that key and give the copy to someone else who needs to enter the church building. The day comes when the church must rekey the locks to control access, and the proliferation of church keys begin again. I’ve had the old keys dumped on my desk. There was a time all the keys of a certain issue looked alike. By the time the keys are returned, there can be twice as many as when the locks were first keyed. Why does anyone want a key to the church? Beats me! Possessing the church key is a big responsibility. With a key comes responsibility. In today’s passage, we may think the “keys of the kingdom of heaven” are Jesus offer for us to let ourselves into heaven. Not really. Jesus was truly giving his followers permission to interpret and apply scripture in Christ’s name. In a way, speak for Jesus. Such a privilege. It took only a few centuries for the church to take this and make it into a command to be the gatekeepers or key-masters of salvation. The church took it upon itself to identify the sin and the sinners and their unrepentant damnation. I think that it is much easier to tag people as sinners than it is to teach them about sin. For example, someday ask your Sunday school teacher, Who is a sinner? An answer will race out of their mouth, “We are,” or “They are!” Then follow that question with, What is sin? Then wait. The good news is that Jesus Christ has given us the keys of the kingdom of heaven, the authority to answer such questions, applying scripture to concrete situations in our lives. By the way, my answer to the question of sin, sin is any action we allow to get between ourselves and God. We have been given the keys of the kingdom of heaven, bearing a huge responsibility. Such keys are to be valued and used for the expansion of the kingdom of heaven on earth.

“The church and only the church has been given the keys to the kingdom of God so we have unique access to God that no one else has.”  Tony Evans

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Set Yourself Free

Genesis 45:5 (ESV)

[Joseph said] “And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here [Egypt], for God sent me before you to preserve life.”

Can you forgive?

Joseph was sold by his brothers, and he ended up in Egypt. The quick story is that because of a drought and famine in the land of Canaan, the father heard there was grain for sale in Egypt and sent his sons to buy some. This led them to find their estranged brother. Their brother had found such success he was unrecognizable to them. To their surprise, Joseph was a leader in Egypt and they needed his grace. What a spot to be in. Have you ever held a grudge against someone and the day came when that person needed your grace? Did you find it difficult to forgive? Surprisingly, Joseph was very gracious. He seemed to have already forgiven his brothers, long before they appeared before him. To imagine the way Joseph’s life turned out, far better than if he had remained home, forgiveness may have come easier than for the rest of us. Nevertheless, to never forgive puts the grudge-holder in a prison of sorts, to be avoided, if at all possible. If Joseph had never forgiven his brothers his life could have been much like if he had been left by his brothers in that empty cistern, slowly dying. Can you forgive? Every time you do, you set yourself free.   

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” Lewis B. Smedes, renowned Christian author, ethicist, and theologian

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Be Alive

Psalm 17:15 (ESV)

“As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.”

Are you awake?

“Are you sleeping, are you sleeping, Brother John?” The words to this English translation of the French rhyme have omitted an important line, “Sonnez les matines!” or the call, “Ring the bells!” The French poet expressed that Brother John had a job to do, and he was oversleeping. Humorously, when the English translated the line, if my understanding of the French original was the true intention, it appears someone else took up the job in Brother John’s absence. We may not be sleeping through our job obligations, but God may have other expectations of us we’re not meeting. In essence, we’re sleeping through our God-given days. The life that may be missed. To be awake is to find the peace of being free of the expectations of other people, to be free of the weary work to satisfy ourselves, and to accept the call to follow Christ and be quite alive. Are you sleeping? Or, are you awake? Be awake, be alive.

“To be awake is to be alive.” Henry David Thoreau 

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