Advent: Week One, Hope!

Hope is a loaded term these days. From politics to generic inspirational use, hope can now mean many things to many people. Defining hope with such diversity is not bad; after all, the opposite is dread. Since then some family and friends face sorrow during the Holidays; hope is dread’s alternative. Furthermore, since our culture uses hope so often, we Christians can speak about the greatest hope of all much easier: that hope being, Jesus Christ

Luke 2:11 reminds us, “Today, in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.” [1]

Two-thousand years ago, the world was in a period with little hope. God’s chosen people, Israel, had not heard from the Lord for over 400 years. This timeframe was known as the “Silent Years.” It was a dark period…until Jesus Christ, the Lord and Savior was humbly born in a manger at the town of Bethlehem. 

As Jesus aged and matured, His ministry, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, the nature of Christ’s hope made more sense. In Romans 15:13, the Apostle Paul wrote, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” 

From Romans 15:13 and many like it, today, we know that when we trust in the greatest gift of all, Jesus Christ, we receive hope, joy, and peace. A hope, joy, and peace that comes from God the Father, through Jesus Christ the Son, and by the power of the Holy Spirit. Together, they are three-in-one, and our belief in Christ sustains our hope yesterday, today, and forevermore. 

We need no longer live today in silence or darkness. Instead, we should live with hope because the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was born 2000 plus years ago, not just in the flesh, but forevermore! 

[1]All verses used in this post are from the New International Version 2011.

Thanksgiving…Dark or White Meat?!?!?

No matter you Thanksgiving tradition, with time it can be better!!!

One decision often made every year is, “Do you want white meat or dark meat?”

Most people know that dark meat is not as good for you as white meat, but if you have white meat as dry as some families cooking, you smother it with gravy anyway. This result brings you back to the question, “Do you want white meat or dark meat?” Some people genuinely love white meat. Others want the dark meat, the legs, and thighs of the turkey. Life doesn’t always give us the choice, but we can choose how we consume what our circumstances give.

Life is filled with white meat moments and dark meat moments. Ultimately, our outcome matters on the response we give – not in what we consume because life sometimes brings darkness even if unwanted – we must then choose how we will process what life brings. There are dark meat moments like,

  1. Traumatic moments in your family history. 
  2. Remembrances where Thanksgiving brings the reminder of the loss of a loved one.
  3. Prior years of isolation than celebration.

No matter your circumstances, there our lives could contain white meat hopeful moments. Perhaps then…if you give it time, better looks more like:

  1. Seeing an old family create a new foundation because they’ve seen them as family all along!
  2. Developing a new tradition with a future family!
  3. Celebrating a one-week-old marriage with that new family!
  4. Your past trauma being overshadowed by the proximity of your marriage anniversary, which brings joy!
  5. Watching traditions passed to the next generations as they make family recipes better than prior ages!
  6. Lifelong memories of spending Thanksgiving with friends for the moment, but more importantly, for eternity!
  7. Embracing memories together where no family or friends are present, just another!

Those closest will know the examples are a list from my life. Over the years I’ve had some dark meat Thanksgivings. While I could go into more detail over my negative experiences, know that over the last decade though I’ve had many more white meat and hopeful Thanksgiving seasons. Simply put: hope exist for you, trust me!

You might not have much to be thankful for this year, but it won’t always be that way. Until then find the gratitude this year to push you towards better years, no matter how bad your circumstances might seem. Hope is necessary to work though our dark reminders. Eventually our toil will bring celebration. Therefore, know this truth: God is a God of redemption, period.

God then can use people and circumstances to redeem one’s past towards a future hope and a present joy. In other words, no matter the trauma of your past, be thankful for what you have now, while you hope for the future joy of tomorrow!

How, then, will you choose to embrace what God has given you – no matter your circumstances – on Thanksgiving?

Remember, for most; we are far better off than most around the world. Our worst day is someone else’s best day. Rejoice then in what God has given you than what you wish He could provide you!

Either way, you are blessed beyond most; that’s reason enough to be thankful! Be it dark or white meat experiences in your life, God can and will redeem if we are patient enough! Embracing such a hope leave no “bone” to pick with anyone, but a wishbone of joy to give to all!

Trust me, it…does…pay…off!!!!!!

 

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Friendsgiving…What A Great Concept!

Thanksgiving is a holiday with many memories and traditions. Various traditions that range from meeting at the same family member’s house each year to traditions unique to each family. For others, Thanksgiving is a difficult time because they might not have any significant customs. Some spend their lives admiring other families with no traditions of their own. Others are merely lonely and they long to spend their holiday with anyone, period! Enter the concept of Friendsgiving over recent years!

Friendsgiving is a typical Thanksgiving Meal where each friend is responsible for bringing a specific dish. Turkey, ham, stuffing, and other standard Thanksgiving staples are intentionally assigned. Some friends, however, become creative and bring different dishes to the gathering. No matter the food, the point Friendsgiving is a time to remember and be thankful for each other. After all, “our friends are the family we get to choose!”

Continue reading “Friendsgiving…What A Great Concept!”

Jesus’ Body Was Not “Broken” For You!

Communion or The Lord’s Supper is an essential part of worship for the Christian faith. With the practice comes the remembrance of Christ and His substitutionary atonement for us on the Cross of Calvary.

Yet often, when I attend churches or chapels of various denominational beliefs, I hear pastors get one phrase wrong. Often they hold up the bread that relates to the Body of Christ and says, “This bread is the body of Christ ‘broken’ for you. Eat and do this in remembrance of me.” While we have become accustomed to the phrase, it is Biblically wrong, and there is a better phrase to use to build up our worship towards Jesus.

Quickly, we say “broken” because it has become a habit. Yes, there are theatrics when explaining Communion/The Lord’s Supper to congregations. As a result, when ministers either break a cracker or tear apart the bread, both are being “broken” apart. However, “broken” is not what scripture says of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The problem with the phrase is with the word “broken.” See, Jesus’ body and bones never broke for us. Otherwise, we worship a Savior who didn’t fulfill scripture. Look at Psalm 34:20. There the David writes,

“He protects all his bones,
not one of them will be broken.”

The text states that “no bone in his body would be…broken.” Not only does David quote it in the Psalm, but John later repeats it in his Gospel in John 19:36,

“These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: ‘Not one of his bones will be broken.'”

Even, Isaiah 53:5 further states that:

“He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds, we are healed.”

But, “pierced” is not the same as “broken.” Neither is “crushed.” The term “wounds” does not automatically equate to the concept of being “broken.” Each word could mean “broken,” but they could equally say something else too.

Furthermore, when Jesus described the Passover Meal that alludes to the Cross, He doesn’t even use the word “broken.” He uses another word: “given,” as found in Luke 22:19. Across the other three Gospels, Jesus broke the bread and said, “take it; this is my body!’ Sure, one can allude that broken applies to both bread and body, but that is not the truth. Therefore using the word broken during our Communion/Lord’s Supper practices misses the mark.

Now some will argue that I need to look at the spirit of what is being said by ministers. They might also suggest that words are what we make them mean. As a result, “broken” is a way to say that Jesus sacrificed His life and that preachers who use the word “broken” are using it metaphorically and not literally. Yes, there is some truth to these arguments that I do not dismiss, but knowing and using the right phrase is important because it makes our worship more meaningful.

Before reading this post, you may have never considered a minister’s use of the word “broken” before. If so, you are normal because most have not. However, now you are thinking about the word usage, whereas before, you did not. If so, then one has to ask, what is the appropriate word to use in replace of “broken?” Simple: “given” as Luke 22:19 instructs.

Here is where focusing on one word within theology matters. Jesus’ body and life were not “broken” for you because His life was “given” for you. No one, not even Satan, took His life from Him. No one forced His body to break. Instead, He went to the Cross voluntarily for our sins because of His great love for us. That through His sacrifice, we might die to our sins and live afresh and anew as He lives resurrected today. All of what Christ did for us and what we experience start with His free will and loving choice that He “gave” His life and body for us.

By now, I hope you see the difference. Christ’s body was not “broken” because He “gave” it up for us. Broken implies that His life was stolen from His will when it was not. Broken subconsciously communicates that we are forgiven in Christ as a second-order impact of His death on the Cross. Yet, the Bible teaches that the Cross was the Triune God’s ultimate and final solution to the separation between humanity and a Holy God. The choice was one made before the beginning of time and one that was freely given based on God’s longterm plan. The Cross is foreshadowed in the Exodus Passover, The Law, and even Jesus’ Last Supper His disciples. The Cross was, is, and forever will be the answer to the cosmos’ most significant problem because, in a “given” Christ, it finished the work of God once and for all!

Given then reminds us that we are God’s children, not by chance, or by recycling Jesus’ death into something unintended. No, we are “so loved” that our Lord and Savior gave Himself for us that we might live with Him forever, for those who genuinely believe.

Sure, it’s easy to dismiss my comments as being theologically picky or overly semantic. Perhaps I am picky, maybe not, and I’m encouraging you to discover a more profound worship experience.

Before you determine your ultimate judgment on the difference between “broken” or “given,” try it in the heart of your worship the next time you take Communion/The Lord Supper. Your minister might say “given.” He might even say, “shed for you.” He might say, “broken.” If he does the latter wording, then say “given” in your heart and see if that changes your heart’s worship towards Christ as you take Communion/The Lord’s Supper.

Ultimately, the goal of Communion/The Lord’s Supper is to bring our hearts closer to worshipping Jesus. That’s my goal, and its why I’ve “given” you these thoughts today.