Do Not Be Afraid

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A Facebook group that I’m part of, called Compadres, is having a blog tour. The general theme is The Glory of The Son and each of us will pick a story, event or teaching of Jesus that reflects His glory. Here are the posts so far:
June 3: Jeremy Schopper: Leaving the Noise Behind
June 5: Danny Holman: Jesus Challenge
June 10: Carl Jenkins: Give A Man A Fish
June 17: Jonathan Dobbs: Why Me, God?
June 19: Scott Elliott:The Beauty of the Gospel
June 24: Chris Hodges: The Glory of the Son
June 26: David Smith: then they can see my glory, which you gave me
July 1: Jeremy Hoover: Matthew and Mission
July 3: Allen Carr: The Glory in the Welcome
July 10: Daniel Burns: Not So With You
July 15: Rex Butts: A Place For Lepers
July 22: Jennifer Rundlett: A Vision of Harmony
July 24: Don Middleton: Come To The Table
July 29: Tim Archer: Do Not Be Afraid

Did you notice that last name and date on the list? (last for now… more to come) Yep, I forgot to make my contribution to the blog tour! So here it is, a couple of days late:

Do Not Be Afraid

“On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.” I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone “like a son of man,” dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” (Revelation 1:10–18)

John knew Jesus well. John formed part of the inner circle of disciples, along with Peter and James; these three participated in Jesus’ ministry in a way that no one else did. Yet now, when John sees Jesus again, he faints.

This was the glorified Christ, the Risen One in all of his glory. The description is bathed in Old Testament imagery, filled with symbolism of prophetic authority and messianic identity. But what really catches my attention are Jesus’ words:

  • Do not be afraid. As we read through the Bible, we see heavenly messengers giving these reassuring words. It’s a scary thing for an earthly being to find himself in the presence of a celestial visitor! But in Revelation, these words have a special meaning.
    Christians were being killed for their faith. John was in prison for his. One of the key phrases in this book is “do not be afraid.” More suffering was to come. More prison. More death. But Christians were to face these things with courage.
  • I am the First and the Last. Jesus wasn’t just another prophet. He was God made flesh, using terms that described God and applying them to himself.
  • I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! Christians needed to remember that Jesus had the perfect résumé to be able to talk to others about not fearing death. His was not mere theoretical knowledge. He had been there and back.
  • And I hold the keys of death and Hades. Jesus didn’t just die; he stripped death of its power. Christians could face death with confidence; Jesus had entered the realm of the dead and emerged with the keys. He had promised that the gates of Hades would not overcome his church. How could they when he held the keys to those very gates?

The resurrection of Jesus changed history. Not just as something in the past nor something to wait for. The resurrections transforms our living today. We don’t have to fear earthly powers. We needn’t be concerned about those who can only threaten our lives. We face death with our heads held high, knowing that our Lord has forever conquered.

Do not be afraid.

Links to Go (July 31, 2014)

God is NOT good!

I am sure he must have told me God was not good and God hates most everybody at other times, before this Sunday. But this was the Sunday I finally remembered what he said; and I believed him; probably because during the week before this particular Sunday, my father was so hateful and mean to my mother, and to me and to my brothers and sisters … again. And I felt scared and alone, and I finally despaired! I think something happened in my soul the day I started believing my father. And it happened because of the way little kid’s hearts are wired. For some reason children tie their view of God in with their view of their parents, sad to say. It occurs to me now that the day I believed God was not good was the day I realized my dad was not.


Why We Love the Amish

So I suppose the most fascinating thing of all about the Amish is that they still exist. When they first came to national attention in the early twentieth century, prognosticators gave them a generation or two before they were gone. They thrived. When they received close study in the middle of the century, sociologists and anthropologists once again decreed that they would soon surrender to the world around them. They grew. And as the technological distance between them and us deepens and widens, they seem to be thriving all the more. Their very existence is a marvel; their practices are a challenge. We love the Amish because, in some ways, we long to be the Amish.


The Parable of the Lawn Mower

Now: what have my actions preached to him? They have preached that Christians are people who do good things for their neighbour. They have preached that niceness, and kindness, and morally upright behaviour are what make you a Christian. In short, they have preached justification by works.


Child Migrants Have Been Coming to America Alone Since Ellis Island

The Immigration Act of 1907 did indeed declare that unaccompanied children under 16 were not permitted to enter in the normal fashion. But it didn’t send them packing, either. Instead, the act set up a system in which unaccompanied children—many of whom were orphans—were kept in detention awaiting a special inquiry with immigration inspectors to determine their fate. At these hearings, local missionaries, synagogues, immigrant aid societies, and private citizens would often step in and offer to take guardianship of the child, says Moreno.


Most Americans See Unaccompanied Immigrant Kids As Refugees, Poll Says

Across political leanings and religious backgrounds, most Americans believe the recent influx of immigrant children should be treated like refugees if authorities think they cannot be returned home safely rather than face immediate deportation, according to the poll by the Public Religion Research Institute.


Wikipedia’s Edit Wars — and the 8 Religious Pages People Can’t Stop Editing

Using Wikipedia’s rules, Carter says, religion can be difficult to independently verify, especially when there’s a range of opinions about what events took place and what they mean.
“No one has any real evidence that Jesus rose from the dead or not — how do you give the various opinions balanced coverage? And was he God, or a god, or something else?” Carter said. “Even nominal Christians disagree on those and several other significant topics.”


The Beta Marriage: How Millennials Approach ‘I Do’

Buried in the data was the revelation that almost half of millennials (43%, and higher among the youngest subset) said they would support a marriage model that involved a two-year trial — at which point the union could be either formalized or dissolved, no divorce or paperwork required. Thirty-three percent said they’d be open to trying what researchers dubbed the “real estate” approach — marriage licenses granted on a five-, seven-, 10- or 30-year ARM, after which the terms must be renegotiated. And 21% said they’d give the “presidential” method a try, whereby marriage vows last for four years but after eight you can elect to choose a new partner.


33 Pictures Taken At The Right Moment

The internet is abound with images shared by people who have captured images at just the right moment or from just the right perspective, so we wanted to share some more of them with you.
Anyone with a smart phone, point-and-click camera, DSLR or any other sort of camera can potentially capture such a moment – whether it’s staged or spontaneous.


How missions trips are like Undercover Boss

Money in handI like the show Undercover Boss. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a “reality” show based on an executive in a company assuming a disguise and going to work at different jobs within the company. At the end of the show, the boss reveals himself to the people he’s been working with. In most cases, the boss gives impressive gifts and bonuses to the employees in a tear-jerking finale.

In almost every episode, the boss is overwhelmed by the people he meets. They seem like the best workers (or the worst, in rare exceptions). Their needs seem greater, their stories more dramatic. They’ve overcome obstacles and challenges to loyally serve the company.

And you ask yourself: why these employees? Aren’t there hundreds of others with similar stories? Greater needs? More outstanding work? The boss changes the lives of a few that he meets in the course of this show.

Mission trips are a bit like that. We go, and we’re overwhelmed by what we see. The Christians in the other place must be the hardest working Christians on earth. Their work must be the most challenging, yet most rewarding. Their needs are great, yet we can often step in and meet those needs.

And others say: why them? Why that place? Why that need and not this other one?

This is really meant as more observation than criticism. Go. See the works. See the needs. Help where you can. But recognize that what you are seeing is part of God’s work in this world, not the sum of it. Don’t come home telling everyone that all mission funds should go to Mongolia or Ushuaia or Tasmania. Don’t imply that your trip was so much more important than that of someone else.

Don’t try and be the Undercover Boss.

Image courtesy of MorgueFile.com

Links to Go (July 30, 2014)

Why I’m a Member of the Churches of Christ

I am more interested in being a part of church that is engaging the Muslim, Baha’i, Buddhist, Jew, and Agnostic persons of a community than I am “patting ourselves on the back” because the Baptists, Methodists, and Church of Christ ministers had lunch together. It’s a new day. We need courage.


Lessons from the Churches of Christ

Part of the reason that these developments have been allowed to take place is that, much like with many customs and rules in Roman liturgical practice, the heart of the Church of Christ’s congregational orientation – a theology of community derived from the Acts of the Apostles – has been reduced in common practice to a mere legalism: “No musical instruments.” Once a theological proposition has been reduced to a legalism, there are two inevitable consequences: circumnavigation and abandonment. Circumnavigation happens when the question becomes, “How can we do whatever we wanted to do anyway, without ‘technically’ breaking the rules?” Abandonment happens when the pretense of technicality is dropped and the rule is simply ignored or removed.


15 Reasons Why We Should Still Be Using Hymnals

  • Hymnals actually teach music
  • Hymnals set a performance standard
  • Hymnals integrate the music and text
  • Hymnals allow you to sing anywhere
  • Hymnals allow people to take possession of the music
  • Hymnals don’t screw things up
  • Hymnals are as helpful as the singer needs them to be
  • Hymnals are a theological textbook
  • Hymnals involve tactile action
  • Hymnals are not particularly distracting
  • Hymnals preserve the aesthetics of the Sanctuary
  • Hymnals confront us with “new” songs
  • Hymnals give validity to new hymns
  • Hymnals make songs less disposable
  • Hymnals give congregational singing back to the people

How Much Sleep Do You Actually Need?

What about people who claim to do just fine on just a few hours of sleep? It turns out that even though your cognitive abilities are on a steady decline, how tired you feel will eventually level off. Meaning, people who suffer from chronic sleep deprivation may have lost their ability to tell just how tired they really are.


Paying Ransoms, Europe Bankrolls Qaeda Terror

While European governments deny paying ransoms, an investigation by The New York Times found that Al Qaeda and its direct affiliates have taken in at least $125 million in revenue from kidnappings since 2008, of which $66 million was paid just last year.
In news releases and statements, the United States Treasury Department has cited ransom amounts that, taken together, put the total at around $165 million over the same period.


300 in brawl at New Jersey wedding; 2 arrested

Two off-duty police officers were working the reception as security when they were alerted to a fight. As the officers attempted to break up the fight, they say the crowd swelled to about 80 people. The were pushing and shoving each other while screaming and yelling.
The officers radioed for additional help to break up the crowd. As Middletown police officers attempted to gain control of the situation approximately 300 people became involved in the brawl.


2014 Cuba Youth Conference

Last week I was in Cuba with a group from the University Church of Christ in Abilene. Our church sponsored the conference, along with 3 churches in Tennessee and some other individuals. It was especially nice for me to travel with my wife, Carolina, and daughter, Andrea.

I feel like a broken record when I tell about Cuba. It was wonderful, great, exciting…. The work in Cuba continues to be one of the most encouraging works I’ve been a part of. Half a century of socialism coupled with an economic embargo imposed by the U.S. have left the island’s economy in shambles. People live constantly on the border of disaster. Yet being there makes me think of James’ words:

“Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?” (James 2:5)

I’ll share some pictures from the trip:

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The ladies from our mission team

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Tony Fernandez, Herald of Truth rep in Cuba

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Tony leads singing Sunday a.m.

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One of several baptisms Sunday a.m.

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Worship at the church’s farm Sunday afternoon

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Baptism at the farm

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Youth conference

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Paul Rotenberry and Steve Austin, elders from UCC

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Some of our team with a family from the province of Las Tunas

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Andrea sharing her story with the young ladies

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Ladies sent by the Madison church in Tennessee

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Lighthouse built by the young people. Each box had a Christian virtue printed on it.

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Tony Fernández and Ammiel Pérez, two of the principal leaders in Cuba

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Alejandro Ezquerra speaks to the young people

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There were 3 baptisms the last night of the youth conference

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The church had a party for the elderly of the congregation

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Me and one of my favorite people: Pastor Cardenal. I call him “Bishop,” which always makes him laugh.