Tag Archives: Christmas

Make a Path for God’s Comfort to Arrive

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. A voice of one calling: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’ A voice says, ‘Cry out.’ And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’ ‘All people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.’ You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, ‘Here is your God!’ See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.” Isaiah 40:1-10

Comfort. It is such a simple word. Yet, when spoken in certain contexts, it becomes profound. The year 2020 has been one such context. Whether it has been the violence and racial injustice in American towns and streets, the divisions over the national election, or the murder hornets, there hasn’t been much comfort this year. This is to say nothing of the disruptive pandemic we are in. Some people have lost their jobs, others their businesses, still others, their lives. Some readers probably have had Covid, the experience of which, I am told, makes comfort a distance memory. Others have had to care for a loved one with Covid or watched a loved one die from it. During such tragedies, we normally find comfort in the presence of friends and family, but Covid has robbed us even of this. After the year we have had, what would we give to hear that simple word spoken to us: comfort.

The uncertainty and sense of hopelessness of the current moment approaches the context in which these words from the prophet Isaiah were first spoken. The people of Israel, to whom he addressed his message, were in exile in Babylon. They had been forcibly removed from their native land years before. Their homes and crops had been destroyed, their temple burned to the ground, and their king killed along with the rest of the royal line descended from David. Having been rescued from slavery by their God over 1,000 years before, they found themselves back as slaves in a foreign land. “By the rivers of Babylon,” laments the Psalmist, “we sat and wept when we remembered Zion . . . How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?” (Psalm 137:1, 4). The lament of the people of Israel must have had an additional layer of bitterness; they knew their own unfaithfulness caused their exile. The writer of Lamentations writes, “After affliction and harsh labor, Judah has gone into exile. She dwells among the nations; she finds no resting place…The Lord has brought her grief because of her many sins” (Lamentations 1:3, 5). The people of Israel were experiencing the covenant curses for their centuries of unfaithfulness and idolatry: namely, the loss of God’s presence, for which humans were created. Exile. Death.

And then, spoken in the midst of their darkest days, comes that profound word, comfort. “Comfort, comfort my people,” says the Lord through the prophet. Yes, even in exile, even in their unfaithfulness, they were still his people. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,” he continues, “and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” If we could put this message more simply, it would be, “It’s over!” Or maybe even, “It is finished.”

What amazing words of hope and comfort! Those of us living through 2020 may understand a bit the unspeakable joy these words would have brought the exiles. How many internet memes and discussions are devoted to what we all will do, when this pandemic is over? How wonderful will it be, to be among friends and family again without fear, without masks? How lovely will a simple hug or handshake seem then? To eat at a restaurant, to go to a movie, to go back to work. We long after ten months of a pandemic simply to be able to leave our homes; the Israelites were in exile for 70 years; more than anything, they wanted to just go home.

But the completely unexpected truth about this prophecy is its proclamation that the end of exile would not consist in the Jews going back to their homeland, back to the place where they assumed God was. Rather, exile ends by God coming to them. The prophet says, “A voice of one calling: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’” The highway was not for them to leave; the highway was for God to come.

The Jews didn’t grasp these words when they were first spoken. And so sometime later when they were released from Babylon and a remnant returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple, they thought that their exile was over. It wasn’t. Roman soldiers marched in the streets, David’s throne was still empty, and no one saw the glory of God. Most significantly, though they had returned, comfort remained far from them. Their disappointment must have been like ours will inevitably be, when 2020 turns to 2021, and we realize the pandemic has not ended. A random year change or a lighted ball dropping from a building or a presidential election can’t fix anything. The only thing that can fix a broken and hurting world, an exiled and a quarantined people, is God showing up in our midst. And for that, they would have to wait.

Like the exiles, we are in a period of waiting right now, the season of Advent. In the cultural mind with all its cherished traditions, Advent always gets mixed up with Christmas. But the celebration and feasting that is Christmas doesn’t actually start until December 25th. The season of Advent is less about celebration and more about exile, and the Church’s song in this season is less the joyous herald angels singing and more the lamenting cry, “Oh come, oh come Immanuel!” The words of this cherished Advent hymn are not far from the song of the exiles, “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.” Thus, Advent focuses us not only on Christ’s first coming 2,000 years ago but also on the hope of his second coming. We are reminded in this season that though Christ has already come, all is not well. Our world is still broken and hurting and we still long for Christ’s full presence. And so we wait.

Thanks be to God that unlike the exiles, we are waiting in this season with the confidence of the children of God, and the comfort of those who know that although not all is well, exile has indeed ended. It didn’t end because the Jews went back to Canaan or because they rebuilt the Temple. Its end is not found in the ceasing of pain or death or in the absence of rulers opposed to the purposes of God. These things are still very much a reality, as 2020 has made all too apparent. Rather, as Isaiah prophesied, exile ended when God came to us, in the very midst of our darkness, in Jesus Christ, the light of the world. It is for this reason that all the Gospels launch readers into John and Jesus’ ministries with the quotation from Isaiah 40 about the God who comes on a highway in the wilderness. About the God who speaks comfort. We know, then, that God is with us in the waiting.

No matter how dark these days are, take comfort in the Gospel’s promise that “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).

Featured image courtesy Alexandre Dinaut on Unsplash.

Subversion: Christ the King Sunday

While today is Christ the King Sunday, next Sunday is the start of Advent. It always seems to me like a starting pistol signalling the frantic dash towards Christmas. No doubt it will be a very different Christmas this year, which perhaps will allow us as God’s people to reflect more deeply on what Christmas is about. To do just that, I reread the Christmas story; one very familiar passage sticks out.

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’” (Luke 2:8-12)

I once went for some tests to become an officer in the Intelligence Corps in the British army. (Who said military intelligence was an oxymoron?)  During that weekend, we were given a lecture on subversion. One of the roles of the Intelligence Corps, we were told, was to keep an eye on foreign governments and domestic groups who were trying to subvert, or undermine, British democracy and values. They posed a threat, we were told. I don’t think the Roman Army had an Intelligence Corps, but if they had, those verses from Luke would have definitely interested and worried them. For us, the angels’ words to these poor shepherds seem familiar and safe. The whole scene appears Christmas card cosy and innocuous, but to the Romans, those words were the language of dangerous subversion. To the Romans, those words that described Jesus to the shepherds would have seemed more appropriate on an indictment for treason than on a greeting card.

Here is the significant thing: three things ascribed to Jesus by the angels were already used to describe the Roman Emperor. Written in letters and inscribed on monuments throughout the Roman Empire was that it was good news (“gospel”) that Caesar was Lord and Saviour and that he brought peace to the world (incidentally it was also often said that Caesar was a divine son of the gods).

Now do you see how subversive what Luke is telling us really is?

He is presenting Jesus, not Caesar Augustus, as the true divine King, who had come to bring peace and true salvation to the whole world. What we think of as a quaint nativity scene is in fact a gauntlet laid down to Rome and its claim to absolute power. It is a direct challenge to the so-called “gospel” of Rome and its peace which was enforced through brutality, and which did not provide any actual salvation.

This understanding of Jesus and self-understanding of Jesus which it expresses set the first generations of Christ followers on a collision course with Rome. This is the political reason for Jesus’ execution.  Pilate had Jesus crucified because he believed Jesus was usurping the power that alone belonged to Caesar. Pilate rightly realised that there couldn’t be two people in the Roman Empire claiming to be Lord of all.

The early Christians faced death for saying the fundamental creed of Christianity that flowed from the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ,  that “Jesus is Lord.” Whenever they said Jesus is Lord, they were saying simultaneously that Caesar was not Lord, a statement treasonously subversive to Rome.

I wonder if perhaps we have forgotten that to say Jesus is Lord and mean it, is to dethrone every other claim to ultimate authority over our lives? That other royal figure in the nativity story, King Herod, was many things: cruel, despotic, vain; but he was not a fool. Herod understood the implications of what the angels said to the shepherds. He realised Jesus had come to depose and dethrone him; that’s why he tried to kill him and didn’t mind how many innocent lives were lost in the process.

This Sunday, the last Sunday before Advent, has come to be known in the Church as Christ The King Sunday. It was designed to be a reminder that Jesus alone is Lord. Maybe more than ever as his disciples we need the reminder that Jesus and Jesus alone has the rightful claim to reign over our lives and world. Christ the King Sunday is a much-needed reminder that ultimate authority in our lives lies not with Caesar, not with politicians or governments, not allegiance to a nation, flag or philosophy, not to another human being or even with ourselves, but with our Lord Jesus Christ. 

And in case you are looking for some small print – a get-out clause when it comes to Jesus claim to lordship over your life – I want to remind you of that well-worn but nevertheless true Christian cliché: “If he is not Lord of all, he is not Lord at all.”There is no area of our lives that Jesus does not claim the right to reign over, which of course means that many of us need to do some dethroning of usurpers.

Perhaps this is the real significance of Christ the King Sunday. It is an opportunity to look at what has been ruling over us in every aspect of our lives. It is an opportunity to dethrone the Caesars of today, allowing Christ the King to reign in their stead.

Dr. Ellsworth Kalas was my Dean when I spent a year at Asbury Theological Seminary.  He was a master with words. I want to leave you with some of his words as we approach the celebration of the birth of our rightful ruler, from Preaching the Calendar.

“We’re all people who want to be king or queen. Some of us don’t get a very large throne, but we make the most of it. We start in our crib, from which we scream out our orders, and we generally keep at it, as much as society and good taste will allow, until we’re on our deathbed. We like being king or queen….Here, then, is a Christmas word for you and for me. If your name is Herod or Caesar (and everyone’s name is) then be afraid. Because the King has come, and He is going to win. This little babe, in swaddling clothes, is going to win. Brothers and sister, boys and girls, it’s time to get off the throne, and to give the throne to the only one who is eternally qualified to reign.” (p.144)

Elizabeth Glass Turner ~ Reveal

Note from the Editor: Enjoy this reflection on the Incarnation from our archives.


Not of the contents of a carefully wrapped box in your childhood home, hidden from view until enterprising siblings helped you spy out the contents (or were you one of the professional tape-peelers who could lift a flap of wrapping paper without leaving a trace?).

Not of a painful holiday discovery, realizing your daughter has an eating disorder or your sister has cancer or Uncle Joe isn’t who everyone thought he is.

Not of the extravagant new church cantata, rehearsed over months and performed under spotlights in matching robes to an audience in green and red.

Christmas is a revelation, one that trumps even North American preoccupation with the Book of Revelation and end times, because Christmas is Word-Made-Flesh and in him was life and light. And what we know about Christ’s second coming is always framed in what we know of Christ’s first coming, of who Christ is revealed to be through the incarnation, Emmanuel, God with us. We have seen the careful braiding of a whip in the temple, we have seen the mud smeared on a blind man’s eyes, we have seen the gentle drawing in the dirt as a woman shivers and shakes while her accusers drop their rocks, we have seen friends’ gush of tears as they demand, “if you had been here, our brother would not have died,” we have seen the crazed man stumbling naked among the tombs and sitting dressed and in his right mind, we have seen a piercing glance towards Simon’s eyes across a courtyard, we have seen the stumble and fall in blood and sweat and the Cyrene who carried Christ’s instrument of torture and death (what a strange brotherhood).

Who is God? Emmanuel, Word-Made-Flesh, Jesus Christ the fully divine, fully mortal. And the Book of Revelation is understood through Emmanuel, God with us, who makes all things new – new, say, as a newborn, fists tight, eyes blinking, with that delicious newborn smell and tiny tufts of hair.

Our world needs to be new again: reborn, pressed against the chest of its Creator. Do galaxies have a newborn smell? Do subatomic particles dance with the hard-to-predict movements of a newborn’s kicking legs? In the youth of the world, did the trees yawn the contented sigh of a just-nursed newborn?

The earth needs swaddling cloths. How can we be young again? Innocent like a newborn baby? How can we go back, before terrorism or Rwandan genocide or Vietnam or the Holocaust or Hiroshima or the Spanish flu or mustard gas or humans bought and sold or the plague or Mongolian war chiefs or the crusades or martyrs or Hebrew slaves in Egypt or Cain and Abel…how old and jaded the human race feels sometimes.

All things new: our world needs to be new again, but not by going back. We can’t be young again, returning to childhood, peeling tape away from the edge of Rudolph wrapping paper, Citizen Kane whispering, “Rosebud…” How can a man be born again? Can he enter his mother’s womb a second time? “See, I am making all things new:”

See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”                                                               And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.”

What do we want for Christmas? A set of swaddling cloths for the world, newborn and blinking. Mercifully, we’ve gotten a peek at the cosmic birth narrative through the birth of Jesus Christ and the unveiling of the new birth of the cosmos in the Book of Revelation.

Meanwhile, enjoy your set of tiny jams or a crisp new pair of flannel pajamas with relished contentment, and let hope be born in your heart today.

Michelle Bauer ~ Finding Joy and Peace this Christmas Week

On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived. When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”

There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him.  – Luke 2:21-33, 36-38

Christmas is almost here! Thinking backing over the last few weeks, when have you felt the most peaceful? When have you felt the most stress or anxiety? As you think ahead to the coming week, what are you looking forward to? What, if anything, are you dreading? Offer those things into God’s care.

Christmas Eve: The whole world waits today for God’s peace to enter the world in the form of a baby. Place yourself in the story and imagine what Mary and Joseph must have experienced as the time drew closer. What do you notice?

Christmas Day:  “The Lord is come!” Simeon and Anna were so overwhelmed by Jesus’ birth that they burst into prophetic praise to God. What would you like to express to God about his great gift?  

Wednesday: Despite the extraordinary circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth, Mary and Joseph take great care to follow the Law. What do you learn from their example? How do you imagine this experience at the temple affected Mary and Joseph?

Thursday: In what ways does Simeon demonstrate peace in waiting? What is something that you are waiting for? In what ways have you experienced peace as you wait? In what moments has peace been hard to find?

Friday: Instead of losing hope, Anna spent her life worshiping, fasting, and praying. How do these practices affect our peace?  Consider the ways in your life in which you worship. What is fulfilling and what needs adjusting?   

Saturday: What are your hopes and expectations for the New Year? Offer these to God and ask him to sustain you. May God give you his peace in 2019!

Leave this quiet time resting in the peace that Jesus came to bring.

Michelle Bauer ~ Celebrating Advent as a Family: Las Posadas

Many families enjoy re-telling the events that happened around the time that someone was born – the mad dash to the hospital, nervous pacing in the waiting room, funny names that your parents almost gave you.

Luke begins his gospel by telling the story surrounding Jesus’ birth. Did you know that Jesus was born next to animals? That’s unusual isn’t it?! Where were you born? Jesus was born next to animals because his parents had to travel out-of-town and the extra spaces were full.

Over 400 years ago in Mexico, the tradition of celebrating Las Posadas began.  La Posada is the Spanish word for lodging or inn.  Every year in December, Mexican children reenact Mary and Joseph’s search for lodging in Bethlehem.

This year for two nights we are going to talk about Mary and Joseph’s journey, too!

If you like, you can put a few items in a basket to accompany your family storytelling time: objects like cloth, a Mary figure, a baby Jesus figure, a Joseph figure, barnyard animals, and a candle. Families in your church or small group can take turns hosting Jesus in their homes and then pass it to the next family.

Let’s consider the realities of Jesus as a baby – a real, live, crying baby with demands to be fed and comforted.  Let’s enter into the challenges and mysteries that faced Mary and Joseph as they prepared for and welcomed their son – God’s son.

Sometime this December, enjoy a few quiet moments together with your loved ones as you invite Jesus to be born in your home, in your family and in our community.


GATHER your family around a table or other flat surface.

INVITE the children to arrange the figures and other items in the basket (and even the basket itself) into a scene.

LIGHT the candle.

READ Luke 1:26-35, 38 and Luke 2:1-7


  • What are the things that families do to get ready for a baby?
  • Any preparations Mary and Joseph made were interrupted by their need to travel. Mary might have brought along the cloths that she used to wrap Jesus; they used an animal feeding trough as his crib. Do you think Jesus’ birth happened in a way that Mary and Joseph expected? How does it feel when things don’t happen the way we expect them to?
  • God’s Son, Jesus, did not come in the way anyone expected him to. What might the people in Bethlehem have done differently if they had known it was Jesus, the Messiah, about to be born in their town?

SING a verse of a favorite Christmas carol together.


Dear Jesus,

We welcome you into our home tonight. We want to make room for you in our hearts and in our lives every day. Sometimes time goes by so quickly and there is so much to get done each day. Help us to recognize you when you show up at our door of our hearts asking if there is room. Help us to see that it is you, especially when you come in a way, or at a time, that is unexpected.


CLOSE this time by extinguishing the candle or leaving it lit throughout a meal or the evening’s activities. Leave the figurines displayed if possible.

Additional questions to ponder with older children and adults:

  • Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, and the wise men were all away from home when they experienced Jesus’ birth. How can being away from home open us to encountering God in new ways? Has there been a time when you have seen God in a new way away from home? Share these stories.
  • Imagine how Mary and Joseph must have felt as they found there wasn’t room for them. What kind of pressure was Joseph under? What fears might Mary have had?
  • Moms and Dads, what is it like to wait 40 weeks for a baby to be born? What are the hard parts? What are the fun parts? Think of a time when you have waited for Jesus to arrive in a situation. What was the waiting like? Are you waiting now? What comforts you in your waiting?


GATHER your family around the scene that was created the previous day.

LIGHT the candle.

READ Luke 1:26-35, 38 and Luke 2:1-7


  • Have you ever gotten to see or hold a brand new baby? What are they like? What do they need? What would it have been like to hold a brand new baby with animals nearby?
  • The Christmas carol Away in a Manger makes it sound like baby Jesus didn’t cry:“But little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes.” But Jesus was a real baby and he did what all babies do.  What kinds of things do babies do?
  • It’s hard to describe how a mom and dad feel when their baby is finally born. It’s a mix of happy and relieved, with a little nervous thrown in. Take a few moments and share about the day the children in your family were born. What were your thoughts, how did you feel? Mary and Joseph must have felt all of those things, too. What do you think they said to Jesus and to each other as they huddled together that first night?

SING a verse from a favorite Christmas carol together.


Dear Jesus,

Thank you for being our guest. You are always welcome in our home. Like Mary and Joseph, we feel all sorts of things when you come into our lives. But most of all we are grateful. Teach us to look for your arrival, help us to wait with anticipation and show us what it means to make room for you.


CLOSE this time by extinguishing the candle or leaving it lit throughout a meal or the evening’s activities.

INVITE the children to pack the figurines and other items back into the basket and offer a prayer for the next family who will host them.

Additional questions to talk about with older children and adults:

  • Read Philippians 2:5-11. Verse 8 tells us that Jesus “humbled himself”. What did Jesus give up when he became not only a human but a baby? What do we learn from this example about what humility looks like?
  • Tonight we asked the question, “What kinds of things do babies do?” I’m sure the list included some pretty “earthy” things.  For every stage of Jesus’ life we could make a similar list. He got tired, hurt, sick, and sad.  What is your gut reaction to this list? In what ways does it fit or not fit with your ideas about who Jesus is?
  • Moms and dads, take a moment to remember bringing your first child home. What was that first night like? Re-orienting a babies’ days and nights can take us to the limits of what’s humanly possible! What do you think Mary and Joseph’s first days and nights with Jesus were like?

Edgar Bazan ~ Emmanuel: God Wants to Be With Us

Christmas is around the corner, and for the Christian church this is the beginning of the Advent season.

Advent is a season when we are reminded that God is with us. In fact, one of the names for God that we hear often during Christmastime is Emmanuel, which means: God with us. (Isaiah 7:14)

However, many times we don’t feel that God is with us. So today I want to address this concern: is God with me? Perhaps many of us have asked this question.

What I do know is that most people struggle with feelings of loneliness or abandonment at some point in their lives. They have felt the heavy weight of loneliness through the loss of people we love or missed opportunities in life. These experiences set on us as a heavy burden and make us wonder if God cares about our lives or if God is with us at all.

Other times, as it relates to our faith, we believe that God is not with us or that God does not want to have anything to do with us because either we don’t think we deserve the presence of God in our lives or simply that God does not care enough to be with us. Even more, our acting sinfully causes us to struggle with shame, guilt, and fear and these sentiments make us distance ourselves not only from God but also even from the people we love.

In such times of loneliness when we are confused, afraid, tempted, hurting, or discouraged, what does God do for us? How does God speak to our needs? Are any of us, today, feeling alone or abandoned?

One of the things that I have learned by ministering to people and by having my own personal challenges is that God is always with us, but we don’t always feel God’s presence, right? Well, feelings are not infallible; sometimes our feelings are misplaced and misguided. From this, I have learned that God is with us not because you or I feel it, but because God has promised God’s presence in our lives.

So, when we feel alone and struggle with all kinds of heavy thoughts and emotions, there is a gift we can always rely on: God’s presence. The God we believe in has chosen to be present in all of our pains and needs. Our God joins us in our brokenness. Our God feels as we feel. Our God has been with us since always.

Psalms 139 gives witness to the presence of God through the struggle of someone that thought deeply about the same things we are thinking right now. Hear the Word,

O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down,
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is so high that I cannot attain it.

Where can I go from your spirit?
    Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
    if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning
    and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light around me become night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is as bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

For it was you who formed my inward parts;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
I try to count them—they are more than the sand;
    I come to the end—I am still with you.

King David wrote this Psalm. A beautiful one indeed. In this Psalm, David tells us that he knew that God knows everything, and God is everywhere. He is reflecting about a place and time where he may find himself truly alone, yet there is none. Even if he goes deep into a pit of darkness, God will meet him there. Even before he had a consciousness while he was being formed in the womb of his mother, God was there with him. And, he says: I come to the end of everything I can possibly think of, and I am still with you.

But he did not know this always, he experienced a great deal of loneliness in his life and endured a myriad of struggles that led him to write this and many other Psalms.

He was the youngest of seven brothers, often left out of any important family discussion. Throughout his life, David was persecuted by people he loved; was left to die in the hands of his enemies; he committed dreadful sins like killing and adultery, and he did so many other things that we wouldn’t think a man of God would do. Yet he always came back because in spite of all his mischiefs he truly loved God, and the moment he realized his wrongs he would return to God confessing and imploring for God’s presence to not abandon him. (See Psalm 51 as an example of this.)

David soon learned that God’s presence never abandons us but that it is we humans who run away and hide from God, even reject God, because we have yet to realize how much God loves us. We say things like: “God would never want me. God would never welcome me. God has abandoned me because of what I have done. God does not care.”

King David would challenge these statements because he learned that God’s love was greater than any of his fears, shame, and guilt; that even though God knew his brokenness or lack, God had never abandoned him.

This knowledge or revelation of God’s heart changed everything for King David and can change everything for us too. God, knowing everything and being everywhere, was not a cause for fear but for comfort, hope, and confidence in the future. Even when he felt alone or forsaken by all others, he knew that God was there with him. To this, David exclaims (v. 6): “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is too high, I cannot attain to it.”

And so, David reflects: God isn’t just everywhere, but everywhere I go God lays hold of me (v. 10). God’s presence is not like a force field that follows me but is personal, a warm, caring, and guiding embrace that upholds us.

The Bible is the constant narrative of God’s work to bring God’s presence into our lives, of God’s continual struggle to be with us. If anything can be said about God, it is not: “why have you abandoned us,” but, “why do you keep insisting on being with us?”

This is a very significant theological theme in the Bible: the unwavering presence of God. This is so important that it changes the way we pray, worship, and practice our faith if we realize its meaning.

To explain this properly, I need to elaborate on a particular theme in the Bible: The Temple.

In general terms and across religions, a temple is a place of worship. In the Bible, it specifically was the place where heaven and earth met, as if heaven and earth were two separate circles, and the circles overlap in the middle, and they called that place the temple.

This is because heaven was seen as God’s dimension. The place where God dwelled. And the Jewish people saw the temple as that space ripped down from heaven here onto earth. Once they entered the temple, they were entering the space where human space collided with God’s.

Jefferson Bethke writes in his book It’s Not What You Think about the meaning and significance of the Temple and the presence of God in the Bible. He explains,

“All temple-building texts had two huge markers to distinguish themselves from other literature. The first thing to recognize is all temples, when they would be completed, would put the image of that god in the temple on the last day as a sort of seal or marking that it was done. The second thing would be the builders would rest and celebrate the day after they had finished, and formally invite the god to take up residence. It was an ancient version of an inauguration ceremony. It would be seen as a day of rest where you would invite the god [or goddess] to flood the temple with his [or her] presence.” (Chapter 2)

This observation takes us back to the beginning: the book of Genesis.

In Genesis 1-2, on the last day of creation, God placed Adam and Eve in the garden as God’s image-bearers and rested from all the work, making the seventh day the Sabbath –a day of rest and enjoyment. Hebrew and Israelite listeners and readers would have recognized those markers and said, “God is following temple-building patterns in the telling of the story.”

The meaning of this is that Genesis is all about a temple being built: the creation itself. But the strange thing about this text that is completely unique and different from other ancient Eastern religions is that there is no building or imageries of metal, wood, or stone placed in a temple. In Genesis, the images are flesh: spirit, flesh, love, and humanness. And the Temple is the whole of creation. While other gods were regional and controlled only particular elements of nature such as the sun or sea or field, this God was God of all and God of everywhere. The whole world is God’s temple.

But this is just the beginning of temple-building work. Soon after, as Genesis tells, sin broke into the Creation, and those who were the reflection and witness of God’s presence couldn’t carry it anymore. What Adam and Eve lost in the Garden of Eden when they sinned was the presence of God –not because God abandoned them but because they rejected God. Nevertheless, God continued to carry on pursuing all people and designed a new plan to make himself available to humanity.

As the story continues and goes beyond Genesis, in Exodus, God tells us that God, “will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God.” For this, right after God pulled the Israelites out of slavery and oppression in Egypt, God provided instructions for building a tabernacle, basically a tent, a new means and place for God’s presence to manifest and dwell temporarily.

As the story continues, once the Israelites had settled in their new land, God gave Kings David and Solomon permission and instructions for building a permanent dwelling place for him: The Temple.

However, this did not last long. The people of God rejected God and lost everything again like back in Genesis: their home and this time their new Temple. This exile was such a disaster for the people of God because they were away from God’s presence. But what happened next changed everything.

This is where Jesus comes in. Jesus is Godself becoming flesh to dwell among us. In the very words of John 1,

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… And the Word became flesh and [dwelt] among us… From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” (v. 1, 14, 16)

A significant detail in this text is that the Greek word translated as “dwelt” in verse 14 is eskenosen, which can literally mean “to fix a tent or tabernacle.” With this, John is saying that Jesus himself (Bethke would say) is “pitching his tent” (that is, his holy tabernacle) among us. His body was now the place where heaven and earth met together.

This means that through Jesus God was pitching God’s tent with us—to be with God’s people. Jesus is the ultimate and perfect manifestation of God because “God became flesh and [dwelt] among us…” In other words, Jesus was the walking Temple of God, the very presence of God’s self. What Jesus did, what he said, everything he accomplished was a manifestation of God’s heart for humanity, for all of us.

Hence, when we ask: How does God uphold us? How is God present in my life? How am I not alone? What is the value of God’s presence? We need to look no further than to Jesus. He was fully present in everything. Fully caring, for everything. Completely invested in all people.

But now what? Jesus is not here anymore. Is God still present? Does Psalms 139 still hold true today? Well, there is one more thing that Jesus accomplished that answers these questions.

After his death and resurrection, Jesus fulfilled his promise of sending his Spirit to dwell in us. Now, God’s presence is not just walking among us, but truly dwelling in us! Jesus spoke very clearly about this. (I won’t quote the whole chapter, but I do encourage you to write it down and study it later in your home.) This is from John 14, excerpts from verses 15-20,

“I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth. You know him because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while, the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day (when the Spirit comes to you) you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”

What we hear and read here from Jesus himself is that the overarching theme of God’s presence in Scripture is the progressive movement of God to dwell with God’s people. God in creation, God in the temple, God in Jesus, and now God in us through the Holy Spirit.

King David saw a glimpse of this, and he shared it with all of us through Psalms 139: “God, you are with me always; I am with you always. I am never alone or forsaken. I come to the end, and I am still with you.”

Let me ask you now: What is the “end” for you, when you feel like there is nothing else left for you?

My friends, there is no pit so deep that God is not deeper still. And there is no “end,” no place where we can be completely lost, or we can run away to because God is already there. Hope and new beginnings can find us in all places and circumstances. We may come to what we think is the end, but God is still with us giving us the power to change everything for good.

Today, let us know that dwelling is God’s goal.

This is what the apostle Paul wrote in the letter to the Ephesians,

“[Through faith in Jesus] You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God… a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.” Ephesians 2:19-22

We, the people of God, are the dwelling place of God, we are the overlapping middle place where heaven and earth meet. We are the Temple of God forever. We are now the dwelling place of God. So, we can’t go anywhere that God is not with us and in us. As King David said, “Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? I come to the end, and I am still with you.”

When we are confused, God’s presence will guide us; when we are afraid, God’s presence will protect us; when we are tempted, God’s presence will help us resist; when we are hurting, God’s presence will comfort us; when we are discouraged, God’s presence will encourage us; when we are lonely, God’s presence will be our companion. God sees us, walks with us, and cares for us no matter where we are.

In the beginning, God impressed his presence in everything he created, including us –particularly us. But now, through Jesus, God’s presence is not just an impression on us, but we are now a dwelling place of God, where the fullness of God’s presence is our gift forever.

Let us come to God today and always, and dwell in the fullness of the gift of his presence: Jesus, Emmanuel.

Priscilla Hammond ~ Living a Life of Advent Light: When a Wreath Is More Than a Wreath

Many churches are currently setting up Advent wreaths to mark the weeks leading up to Christmas. The four candles that encircle the wreath illuminate the area around them as they point toward the center candle. Those outer candles relate to prophecy, Bethlehem, shepherds, and angels, while the center candle alludes to Christ.

The prophecy candle represents the expectation of the coming Messiah and the hope of salvation.  The Bethlehem (manger) candle represents love, the shepherds represent joy, the angels represent peace, all pointing to the middle Christ candle, which represents purity.

We read the Scripture and light the candles each year. However, what if we see the Advent wreath as not just a representation of the Christmas season, but of our active faith? What if Advent is a time to remind us not just of the historical actors in the Christmas drama but also of our ongoing response to Christ?

The prophetic message of hope is needed today

Skepticism seems to be the modus operandi of our socially mediated culture. Disbelief, distrust, doubt, and despair fill our newsfeeds. These are the opposite of hope. During this season of Advent, what if we choose to display hope in our communications? What if we embody the prophetic promise of Isaiah 43:19, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” and looked for hope in the world? What if, instead of seeing a valley of dry bones, we have the prophetically hopeful eyes of Ezekiel? What if our ministry to our community focuses on being a ministry of hope?

Love is the gift we celebrate at Christmas

If you’ve attended a sporting event, you’ve probably seen John 3:16 on a placard in the stands. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” It’s a popular verse, but a fan-filled arena wasn’t the original context. This verse was the response of Jesus to Nicodemus, who saw God in Jesus (John 3:2). Jesus didn’t go around yelling at people about God outside of their context; He shone God’s love into their contexts. If I communicate hope, but do it without love, I’m just making noise (1 Cor. 13).

Love is what we have that causes someone to ask what we have and how we came to have it. We don’t need to bang a gong; we just need to let the light of Love shine. The prophetic word of the coming Christ is delivered through a man-made manger—that is the incarnation of love into our context. What if our celebration of Christmas focuses on loving our neighbors and our enemies (Matt. 5:43-48) wherever they are, not just asking them to join a bunch of Jesus fans in an arena?

I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart (where!?)

Imagine the shepherds, biding their time in the fields, hanging with the sheep, doing what shepherds do, when suddenly, “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified” (Luke 2:9). Joy does not seem like the right word for that moment. The shepherds might have sung “I’ve got the fear, fear, fear, fear, down in my gut.” But they were told the good news that joy was on the way—a joy that came from the hope that love was awaiting them. This prevenient grace of God went out and let people know that hope, love, and joy was there for them. They didn’t hear about it in church; they received word while they were working and hanging out. When Jesus gave the disciples (us) our commission, he said, “Go and make disciples” (Matt. 28:19a). That word, go, means to pursue the journey you’ve already started. On the first Christmas, the truth was shone into the place where the people were working and hanging out. What if we choose joy and spread the prevenient grace of God while we are on our journeys in our communities, workplaces, and relationships?

Not that kind of peace

When Jesus was born, the angels declared, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14); however, during his ministry Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth” (Matt. 10:34a). It’s the same word in both places, so did he change his mind? Or do we expect the wrong kind of peace? At the end of his life, he said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives” (John 14:27a). We will always live in the midst of chaos, but we can receive peace, and we can give peace to others. Peace with God is received when we engage in the hope, love, and joy of the Christmas event. We will enjoy peace in our hearts, out of which peace with others can be possible. What if we can pass the peace of Christ in the chaos of our world?

Constructive interference

The Advent wreath uses light to symbolize the Christmas event. Jesus is the “light of the world” (John 8:12), and when we believe in him, we become “children of the light” (John 12:36). When light waves meet, constructive interference occurs and the two waves reinforce one another. These wavelengths combine to produce a super light wave.

As we embrace hope, love, joy, and peace, we reinforce the message of Christmas, and his light is multiplied into the world. What if Christians unite as the church, illuminating the world around us as we point toward the Christ?

Suzanne Nicholson ~ Let’s Not Pretend Our Vision is 20/20

I confess that I enjoy a good meme now and again. The snarky quips pasted over engaging photos often make me guffaw with their cynical wisdom. This past Christmas, however, I kept seeing memes that irked me, perhaps because they critiqued one of my favorite Christmas songs, “Mary Did You Know?” For the unfamiliar, here is one of the verses: 

Mary, did you know  

that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man? 

Mary, did you know  

that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand? 

Did you know 

that your baby boy has walked where angels trod? 

And when you kiss your little baby 

You’ve kissed the face of God. 

In response, the meme-makers have generated everything from “Of course she knew! Read Luke 1” to “Listen to the women! They told us they knew! Luke 1.” While I appreciate the Scripture reference, it’s pretty clear that Mary had no idea what she was getting herself into when she said yes to the angel Gabriel. Gabriel did give her a few juicy tidbits: “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end’” (Lk. 1:32-33). Not to mention, Joseph surely explained to Mary that the angel told him that Jesus would save the people from their sins (Matt. 1:21).

But let’s keep in mind that ideas about the expected messiah were many and varied in those days. Sure, people understood that a descendant of David had been promised to restore the kingdom of David (2 Sam. 7:12-13). But how that restoration would take place was the object of speculation. For some, the messiah would be a warrior king, while others predicted a priest or teacher of righteousness would lead the people.  

They did not expect God himself to arrive on the scene in the form of an infant. After all, “son of God” was a term that could refer to human beings, angels, or even to Israel. Jews also did not expect God’s anointed one to suffer and die on a criminal’s cross at the hands of the Romans. (The Suffering Servant passages in Isaiah were initially thought to refer to the nation of Israel, not a messianic figure.) 

Even though Gabriel told Mary about her miraculous baby, she had no idea that shepherds would show up on her doorstep, or prophets in the Temple would laud her child, or Magi would visit and present luxurious gifts. She certainly wasn’t expecting to flee to Egypt with her child to avoid the murderous intent of a paranoid king. 

Even the Gospels acknowledge that Mary and her other children misunderstood Jesus’ ministry. Mark 3:21 reports that they thought Jesus was out of his mind, and when they tried to see him (3:31), Jesus called his disciples his new family. Yet the sting of this rejection could not prepare Mary for the horrors of the cross or the miracle of the empty tomb. Mary, did you know? Of course, you didn’t. 

But how often do we assume we know the plans of God? Since hindsight is 20/20, Christians can too quickly jump to the conclusion that if we had been there, we would have seen these things coming. How many of us shake our heads at the inability of the disciples to understand the parables of Jesus or to remain faithful to him in his darkest hour? Yet I doubt we would have fared any better. The disciples had heard Jesus predict that he would rise from the dead on the third day, but even then they didn’t believe the women who both saw the empty tomb and spoke with angels (Lk. 24:11). Some of the disciples even doubted after they saw Jesus (Matt. 28:17). They literally could not believe their eyes. These people had the benefit of walking with Jesus daily for three years, sharing stories around the campfire at night, seeing miracles, and eating the blessed and broken bread passed to 5,000 people. But they still didn’t know what was in store for them after they rolled the stone in front of the tomb. 

If we consider many of the other leaders in the Bible, we will find that their calling was not everything they expected either. When God sent Samuel to anoint David as the next king of Israel, did David have any idea the difficult path that lay before him? Did he know that King Saul would try to kill him numerous times? Did he know that he would feign insanity in order to escape the Philistines (1 Sam. 21:10-15)? Did he know that he would marry several women, but his passions would lead to his downfall with Bathsheba? Did he know that his kingdom would be divided a few decades after his death? Did he know that it would take hundreds of years before one of his descendants came to free his people from their sins? 

When God called the apostle Paul into service, could Paul have imagined how many churches he would start? Did he know the extent to which he would suffer beatings, imprisonments, and shipwrecks (2 Cor. 11:23-33)? Did he know how many of the letters that he wrote would be copied and read for 2,000 years? Did he know that his words, by the power of the Holy Spirit, would lead the likes of Augustine and Martin Luther and John Wesley to deeper faith and service?  

So when God calls us, what do we know? Our vision is never 20/20. The problem with assuming we know the details is that often reality differs significantly. Then it becomes easy to question our calling. This conundrum is nothing new. Even prophets and apostles, when they felt discouraged, needed to hear that God was still calling them to kingdom service. Elijah ran into the wilderness and thought he was the only one left who was loyal to God; in the stillness, God corrected him. There remained 7,000 who had not bent their knee to Baal (1 Kings 19:1-18). Even the seer had not seen this.  

Apostles, too, needed encouragement. When Paul was in Corinth and had been rejected by the Jews, the Lord told him in a vision not to be afraid and to continue to speak the Gospel; no one would harm him there (Acts 18:9-10). Yet at other times, the Holy Spirit’s message was not as comforting. When Paul headed to Jerusalem for the last time, he did not know what lay ahead “except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and persecutions are waiting for me” (Acts 20:22-23).  

Scripture demonstrates that both great hardship and great blessing accompany service to God. Occasionally the Holy Spirit does give us specific direction and confirmation (“Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul”—Acts 9:11). But most oftenwwill not know exactly how God will work out the calling that God has assigned us. The humility of not knowing leads us to deeper faithfulness as we cling to God along the path. 


Note from the Editor: The accompanying featured image is “Mother and Child” by Mary Cassatt, ca. 1900.

Aaron Perry ~ He’s on His Way

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

Therefore keep watch; or be alert; it can even be translated, “Stay awake!”  Be diligent and expectant.  Jesus makes it clear: Wouldn’t you keep watch if you knew a thief was coming?  Wouldn’t you persevere just a little longer?  Wouldn’t you fight sleep and slumber?  Wouldn’t you stay up, stay awake and be alert?  Of course you would!  So be ready, be alert, be awake knowing that judgment will come as well.  But notice the person of judgment: the Son of Man; Jesus himself.  You don’t know when I will come, so stay alert, stay sharp, stay awake! – Matthew 24:42-44

The wisdom of the church and direction of the Holy Spirit places Jesus’ temple discourse to be read during Advent—each Advent. (I’ve read from Matthew and I know we’re not in Year A when Matthew is read, but let’s call it devotional privilege.) There are warnings of destruction and coming judgment: perhaps a fitting warning for our culture.

Christmas can become the same thing for us. Whether it’s “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas,” it has become a sinister distraction throughout our culture. To phrase it as a non-believing neighbor and dear friend told me, “It’s all about the magic.” What was once meant to be the pointer has become the object of attention. What was once meant to draw us back to God has gotten between us and God. Our pace changes, it becomes frenetic—struggling to see people, purchase just the right gifts, see the plays, perform the parts, put on the pageants, pull in the pagans—talk about the temptations of being in church leadership, the life of our students!—Christmas can become a distraction from God.

May this whole ordeal be to us what it is to the world: a sign.  It’s not the problem; it’s evidence of the problem.  It’s not the illness; it’s only a symptom.  It’s evidence that we can do exactly what happened in Eden, what happened with the temple and its beautiful stones, what happens in the minutiae of all our lives.

Inane Christmas simply reminds us that we are constantly challenged to construct a world without God.  A Christless Christmas is evidence that we try to create a godless world.  The temple, the city of Jerusalem had become godless centers and Jesus’ words of judgment came precisely because they had lost the purpose for which they were originally called.

And the warning comes to us, as well. We can construct a world in which God is not necessary.  The things that are meant to point us to God—family, community, food, presents, love, feasting—can take the focus, instead of pointing us to God, they can take the place of God. They are things we can love too much. In that situation, Jesus’ words of judgment mean the same thing to us: To the extent that I, to the extent that you, to the extent that we have constructed a world without God, God will destroy that world. And the day of that judgment will come without our expectation.  It will come on us quickly.  It will come on us unexpected.  And the world in which God only occupies the borders, the world in which God plays no role will be destroyed.

But just like Tolkien’s wizard who never arrives late, but precisely when he means to, Jesus’ words come to us at just the right time.  They come to us before it is too late.  They come to us while we may yet be alert; while we may yet watch; while we may yet wake up! They come to us right at the start of the year. Like that annoying alarm clock that goes off at the start of the day to keep us on time, Jesus’ words come to us at the start of the year to keep us in line!  The alarm clock is only bad news if it has been set to the wrong time and we awake realizing the time of preparation is over.  But when the alarm goes off at the appropriate time, then, “Good news!”

Jesus’ words still give us time to wake up—and to wake others.  Awake from senseless slumber!  God is calling us to wake up from the story that has lulled us to sleep!  He is calling us to awake from the senseless story of consumerism—the story that says my safety is in what I own; he is calling us to awake from the senseless story of elitism—where I am the most important part of every story around me—the story of my rights, my way, my wants; he is calling us to awake from the senseless story of division that seeks isolated identity in not being another; he is calling us to awake from the senseless story of unnecessary financial gain and unholy profit as setting what matters in my life; he is calling us to awake from the senseless story of ease and comfort to a life of sacrifice and service.

The words of Jesus—carried on the breath of Jesus so long ago—are now the words of Jesus carried by the Spirit of Jesus to us today.

I was cleaning up tables during one of the final sessions of a conference I had organized at my local church. I was in the gym and my wife sat in the session. Here’s the irony: it was a marriage conference.  My wife was in session of a marriage conference, but I wanted to clean up the tables.  I wanted to get a head start. The Spirit spoke to me.  “Go back to the session.”  It wasn’t an audible voice.  It wasn’t even a strong impression, but by God’s grace, I knew the Spirit.  I initially shrugged off the guidance and said, “I will be back in just a few minutes.” But little did I know that the words were not early. They were right on time. “Go back to the session.” The Holy Spirit spoke to me: “What am I here for?”  If I was going to ignore the promptings of the Spirit, then what role did he play in my life?  Why invite the presence of God, why pray, why study Scripture if in the moment he gave guidance, I would go a different direction?  His words were not early and praise God they were not too late.

The words of Jesus—carried on the breath of Jesus so long ago—are now the words of Jesus carried by the Spirit of Jesus to us today.

Is the Spirit gently calling you to wakefulness?  Is he calling you to awake from slumber?  Is he calling you to be alert?  To watch?  Is he calling us to repent?

Let’s listen to him.

The Spirit only calls us into the world that is being remade, restored, redesigned, reconstructed, out of the world that is headed for destruction.  He is calling us out of a world that has left no room for him and into a world that will be flooded with God.