Year Ending Against Hope

Many of us are in review mode now and if it seems like too much of a challenge it is probably because are having to acknowledge that we were not as eager to review in situ as we are when the movie comes out.

The feast of Gathering (haqqatsir , haqqawtseer) was a time for harvesting and enjoying the fruit of one’s labour. It may seem that this is what we do when new year’s day approaches. End of Year for the people with whom God forged a special relationship was a gathering time. It was a time for the Hebrew to reap, to calculate the yield of the fields, calculate the prescribed portions for the communal pot, and travel to the capital to celebrate. Our world is very different and trying to adopt the Hebrew practice will prove to be prohibitive.

You and I are going to prevail because nothing exists that can change our destiny. There is no condemnation at the centre of our worship and fellowship. The risks we face are perfectly pastoral. The sheep are always going to be at risk, of being assaulted, but the glory of life has a backdrop.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 2Cor 4:7

  1. We are afflicted in every way, (2Cor 4:8a)

  2. but not crushed; (2Cor 4:8b)

  3. perplexed, but not driven to despair; 2Cor 4:8c

  4. persecuted, but not forsaken; (2Cor 4:9a)

  5. struck down, but not destroyed; 2Cor 4:9b)


always carrying in the body the death of Jesus,

so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 2Cor 4:10

For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 2Cor 4:11

Conquerors conquer, and hyper-conquerors squeeze the oil out of every olive.

We Need Hope

God has already charted a path for us in 2019. It is helpful to forget the 75% we might have given ourselves for 2018 and give God an “A” for having his marvellous way with us in spite of our drifting off to sleep on the job and working when we should be sleeping. Hope is enriching for the human race, because without hope we are telling ourselves we have arrived. A better job of 2018 is not happening. One of the enduring lessons I hope to take with me into the new year is that all the popular means of communication have been exposed as easy tools in the hands bad actors. The news (print and digital), the civic grapevine, the Bible, the public service megaphones have all been co-opted.

Pictures do not always mean what we think we see. What we see is often what someone wants us to see.

The writing we do, from day to day, is a golden cord bringing the aroma of life to each other. Writing has outperformed – in effectiveness – the other forms of communication because it is in writing that God assures us of what to hope for, and there we find his unmoveable promises, all chock-full of YEAH and AMEN.


Since potus45 and the GOP are less and less capable of speaking unvarnished, unspun truth, is sabotage of institutions by the mercenaries of the GOP the happening thing while the “government” is shut down?

Whatsizname and allies are who they are .

Patriot shmatriot! Wall shmall! Shame!

Some shutdown!

Any vs All for Life

He answered, “It is written: Man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. ”

Matthew 4:4 CSB

Did we ever not love God with all our inner and outer resources and did we ever love him with utmost diligence? Did we stone the lying neighbour? Did we worship in Jerusalem three times last year? Have we stayed away from God because we ate a raven?

Every word we never heard

Everything God has ever said includes relevant and irrelevant matters. If I were dead, sick or thirsty, the words that would most interest and benefit me are God’s invitations: believe, come, and drink.

For the bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” John 6:33 CSB

Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. John 6:35

Perhaps the absurd proof of life are a better choice: ten things you never did

When our Lord refers to the ten commandments, to show he knows the subject beyond any prophet or angel, he uses the extreme prohibition form over the future (which exposes the probability).

Do not ever / do not even start


You shall not

Living by every word never happened unless one is an ocean wave, the sun, the moon, night and day.

When did we ever say amen and follow through like the ocean wave, the sun, the moon, night and day do?

Nativity Lecture 2018 07

Sacrifice Accepted

She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matt 1:21

There is certainty in the virgin birth, in the name assigned to the Christ-child, and there is certainty in the salvation of those who come to God through Christ, not with any personal credit, or works. His redeeming sacrifice alone makes us children of God. The Nativity teaches us is simple terms of goodness: humble beginnings, kindness, and humility. It speaks to us of what God became: little child, subject to authority, and . We must take comfort that Mary bore a son, that she called him SALVATION, and he saved his people by dying in their place.

Who gives this man to die?

The saved people – Christians – are not merely people who go to church, give to charitable and just causes, and talk intelligently about the glory of God. They perform justice. They free captives. They ease burdens. They keep a low profile. They stay connected with God. They have resigned their fate, temporal and infinite to the appointed saviour. All human giving gets dwarfed by this certain gift. He will save.

Saved people are not guessing what is next. There is no deeper or higher certainty. Mary was a thoughtful woman. It would not have eluded her that her baby was going to die. She had him for 33 years. If I might say so, there is no evidence that she ever stopped believing. The prophecy in the temple when she dedicated the Christ-child How could she – she who got pregnant without a man?
She kept holding these matters together, “rolling then together” (we might say) in her mind. Her thoughtfulness is clear from this witness.

But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.

Luke 2:19

As she watched him breathe his last on the cross, and hear him commit John to her she must have known that the world was about to change in accordance to all the words that she had been treasuring and pondering. Change it must, for everyone who comes to recognize that loving service is the sacrifice we can render with perfect confidence.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:8

The wise who find the Messiah will serve him wisely

Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. Matt 24:44 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Matt 24:45 ​Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.

Matt 24:46

Nativity Lecture 2018 06

Born to die

Apparently the first thing that the Christ-child experienced after the adoration of the Magi was a death threat. Herod, as we have seen launched an infant-hunt, delivering death to infants up to two years old. The prophecy stream confirmed that the Christ-child would face down death for others and give life to all, he is still the only one who can claim to take pleasure in being born to die.

Seeing salvation

And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed Luke 2:34 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” Luke 2:35

Dying for others remixed

Pharoah’s firstborn and all firstborn in Egypt died as God brought about the Exodus. The generation that escaped Egypt died in the desert. The high-priests did their work in the tabernacle under a hazard of death. Such is the terror of death and its function in our salvation. The saviour does not need to be saved. As firstborn of God and Mary he is set to die: no-one else is.

Dedication for the mission

After the Christ-child was circumcised, and was officially named “Jesus” (Luke 2:21),the time came for purification according to the Law of Moses. So they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (Luke 2:22). They meet a Spirit-filled man in the temple, named Simeon, described as a righteous and devout individual, who was among the Jewish people who were eagerly expecting the consolation of Israel (Luke 2:25).

And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Luke 2:26 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, Luke 2:27

  • he took up the Christ-child in his arms and blessed God and said, Luke 2:28
    1. “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; Luke 2:29
    2. for my eyes have seen your salvation Luke 2:30

He saw salvation. He also saw what that salvation meant: CRASH[ing] and RESURRECTION

And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed Luke 2:34

Everyone dies with Christ. As we all die in Adam, we must come to life in Christ.

Nativity Lecture 2018 05

King in the Countryside

Breaking with human practice, the king of Israel and the Saviour of the world was born in lowly circumstances. We say that of all humans because we are born as strangers to God and proceed through grace to our destiny. The same can be said of the first couple. The hoopla about the newborn king vanished quickly enough and the shepherds who were the happy recipients of the good news of great joy (Luke 2:10) disappear from the Judea’s “trending now”. It comes as a shock to most of us that the king only visits Jerusalem just like any other faithful descendant of Abraham. Christ himself needs no testimony from humans, and he would have fared no better if he had moved to Jerusalem and built a palace.

Breaking with tradition

The break with tradition was clear from the start. Kingdom for the Jewish people was not a matter of a king in Jerusalem. It was not a matter of the end of the temple services, for that would have meant hat the people had stopped sinning.

As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? Matt 11:7 What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. Matt 11:8 What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. Matt 11:9 This is he of whom it is written, “‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’ Matt 11:10 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. Matt 11:11

One would expect John, with his seismic message and mission, to be in the big cities, enjoying the blessings of God’s favour on the people of Judea. He worked in the desert regions. He did not dress or eat according to the popular customs.

The kingdom is one of heart, of the splendour of God in Christ and in us. Christ does move from the countryside. When the Heavenly Father sees faith connecting properly with His Son, he authorizes the Holy Spirit to transition from being with us and around us to being in us. He moves as it were from the suburbs to downtown. In the heart, not the mouth or ear.

We can be distracted by trappings as the magi might have been if they looked for the royal marks in the manger and not in the babe. We have become accustomed to dressing up too for all kinds of reasons and we may find ourselves evaluating people with an inappropriate lens. It is a humble arrival, yet royally majestic even a week away from the end of his life.

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Zech 9:9

Nativity Lecture 2018 04

Hanging with the right crowd

It would have been incredibly lonely for the king to be in the world without a like-minded soul. The two greatest people who ever lived – and there will be none greater – met before they were born and they have not stopped shaking up the world since.

In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, Luke 1:39 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth [her cousin]. Luke 1:40 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, Luke 1:41 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! Luke 1:42

King and cousin

Kingdom folk conduct kingdom business. The arrival of the Son of God in Bethlehem 2000 years ago as king was a loud invitation to partnership and constant companionship for the human race. No child of God will ever be without rod and staff. John was there in his magnificent strangeness for the Lord as cousins and as messengers from the highest. Great team work is in everyone’s file.

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, Matt 3:1; “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matt 3:2

A kingdom needs a king. There was no shortage of applicants, each wanting the praise of the people. Among them are the Herods, the Roman Emperor, high-priests, and countless humans (John 12:43, Luke 20:46, Rev. 13:12). The Persian king who had ordered and funded the return of the sons of Israel is a beacon that contrasts with the Judean attitude of separateness with only God as their true king. Yet, when the sky itself announced that the king had arrived they were blissfully unaware.

Apparently, God did not feel it was necessary to have the usual fanfare had the learned people been tracking the prophecies. The province of Judea was full of people whose one concern was, despite all the signs to the contrary, necessary to keep the ancient tradition alive and themselves pure from personal contact with strangers. That is the root of the blindness about the babe in the manger. As Saviour of the world his majesty is unique, and he is one of us, God-in-flesh. It is okay if people do not recognize us, at first. The crowd is usually not the real McCoy.

Just two witnesses

When John announced that his cousin from Bethlehem (birthplace) and Nazareth (current residence) was God’s answer to the human sin problem (John 1:29) he shook the world and the we are still shaking today. Teamwork shifted into high gear when John’s cousin began to call himself “Bread from heaven”, “Light of the World”, “Beautiful Shepherd”, and “The Way”.

We are strange when God is our Father. Just imagine the heaven-slide when we embrace the voice of God as it comes to us, even from the womb, the very lap and bosom of humans just like us. It only takes two individuals in perfect agreement to bring about the will of God from day to day. It only takes two individuals who know that the king has arrived to conduct life and die as an unbeatable team.

For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him. Matt 21:32

Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. Matt 21:24 The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ Matt 21:25 But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” Matt 21:26

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Mark 1:9