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I will rejoice over Jerusalem and delight in my people. And the sound of weeping and crying will be heard in it no more.

Yes, we are the beginning of the new Jerusalem and Jesus will rejoice and be delighted in all his people as a groom rejoices and delights in his bride. Jesus gives this vision to John, recorded in Revelation 21.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

God’s people are seen as the bride of Christ. We have his everlasting covenant where we are one with him. There will come a day when we are raised from the dead and given new life when the new heaven and new earth become one.

In the meantime we are to live now as it will be then. The future comes to us in the present as we are called to anticipate what God is going to do in the future with our acts now. Acts of justice where we bring God’s fairness, acts of mercy where we bring his graciousness, acts of beauty that lift up what is good and right, and acts of truth which last far beyond.

ME

When have you experienced some “heaven on earth?” What was it like?

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John 14
My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our home with him. 

I don’t know exactly when it happened, but people today, even people I would say are Christians of good will, have a completely distorted view of the concept of love from the Bible. The biblical view of love is to work for good of someone within your range of influence. What is good? What God wants for them. Instead of this view of love, in our culture today love means something far different.

Love means approving of someone doing whatever they desire. How did that happen?

When we think of God loving us it is not about God letting us have whatever we desire. Are you kidding? Any earthly parent knows what a disaster that would be, let your kids have whatever they want, so why would our heavenly Father think that way?

No, Jesus says God loving us has to do with God making his home with us. If God is at home with us then obviously we are at home with God. And God is the head of the household.

God puts limits on us all the time. There are lines we are not to cross. Fences to keep us on the right path. We call these things, “God’s ways.”

You can’t be a racist, for instance. Everyone knows that one. Intentionally working against someone because of their race is wrong. But, we tend to forget this one. You can’t be bigoted toward people you consider racist. Remember the Jesus thing about loving your enemy? Most people, including many Christians forgot this one.

It is a really a simple formula. You don’t have God on your side blessing your life if your actions are not godly.

But, when you do obey God and follow his ways, something amazing happens. You share the same home with him.

This means you share his stuff. It’s like a family refrigerator. What’s yours is mine. In the refrigerator of “life with God” all that is God’s is ours. What makes this even more amazing is God will guide us if we open ourselves to him. God will actively put his thoughts in our minds because we are home with him. We can think like Jesus.

ME

What do you need out of God’s refrigerator today?

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Isaiah 9
And his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David and over his kingdom, to order it and to establish it with justice and with righteousness, from now until forever. The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will perform this.
And hope comes where it is complete…
It is God’s zeal that will bring lasting peace. It is his ways that will take hold. People will treat each other like they do already in any good home. With fairness, with graciousness, quick to forgive, slow to anger, and filled with laughter and gladness. If we can already live this way now when we are our best true selves, why do we think that this will not be a way of life for all people forever?

God won’t let his dreams fail. His destiny for us is that we will live with him as he lives in his fullness in the Trinity. We even get glimpses of this the words of Isaiah from even before the time of Jesus. Isaiah calls him a Mighty God, but listen to what else he calls Jesus and then consider the words of Jesus himself from the Gospel of John.

Wonderful Counselor…
John 14:26
But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.
We are not alone in the world relying on our own strength and wisdom. We have the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus who remains with us and teaches us everything. Way more powerful than Wikipedia or the whole internet itself, there is nothing The Holy Spirit cannot show us that will give us confidence in Jesus.

Eternal Father…

John 10:30

I and the Father are one.

You either trust that Jesus is God himself or you don’t. There isn’t anything that God the Father has that Jesus doesn’t have. And Jesus ruling from the heavens now is doing so as a human being. He is the first true human in God’s new creation and everything he has is available to us. We even get to experience the power of Jesus in glimpses now. Hope for the hopeless, strength, even in our weakness. God is for us and not against us.

Prince of Peace…

John 14:27

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Remember peace is not just the absence of violence or war. The world can give us laws and treaties and resolutions. Again, like our best true selves living in community, we don’t need any of this if we have his peace. His peace means everything is in harmony. Our life with God and others is in synch. We don’t have to be anxious, we don’t have to be fearful, the Prince of Peace has perfect love and perfect love casts out fear.

This is not only our hope, this is our destiny. No troubled hearts. No fear. The peace of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is true reality and it is available to anyone who wants it. Real peace is available to you.

ME

How does knowing God as community help in your understanding of what it means to live in community?

aircraft-77971_1280Isaiah 9
For all the sandals of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire.

And hope comes where it is most evident…
Here we see another kind of fire. A fire where the sandals of warriors and their blood soaked clothes are burned for good.
We talk a lot about a world without violence and war. When you don’t seek revenge and you work for the good of others, no matter who they are- That is a formula for working towards a world without violence and war.
In other words following Jesus. We move in a world of less violence when we raise children with this hope. From day one when children realize they are loved by us and we are glad to be with them, when children are encouraged that their lives will go well, this is possible as we follow Jesus.
Jesus never used hate as a motivator. Jesus never saw himself as a victim, though no one had more reason to see himself as treated unfairly than he. This is why following Jesus makes so much sense and why true hope can be a way of life. If you raise your children to hate or raise them to see themselves as victims their lives will not go well. The evidence of this is all around us if we have eyes to truly see.

ME
Where are you most peaceful?

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Isaiah 9
You have multiplied the nation and increased the joy; they rejoice before You according to the joy of harvest and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. For You have broken the yoke of his burden and the bar of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor as in the day of Midian’s defeat.

And hope comes where it is most potent…
When we allow God to have reign in our lives, he expands his influence. God’s expanding influence can be called his Kingdom. Here we see “joy” takes center stage once again in God’s Word. Four times in one sentence is a lot of joy!
Here is what God is saying to us. When you look for God in life, you discover him where there is gladness. This is where his Kingdom is expanding. When you look for the things that are not of God, you discover either dull lifelessness or rage. Going through the motions or being filled with anger leading to contempt.
Where do you experience gladness right now? Stay there. Let the gladness of being with god and being with others penetrate any gloom that remains.
God will break whatever is binding us up and keep us from giving in to the hopelessness that comes from everything that tries to work against God. Nothing can overcome his power.

ME
Where do you see gladness in the world today?

I remember what my dad used to always say about Thanksgiving. It is his favorite holiday because there isn’t gift giving involved. Sorry Dad, I guess we just wanted too many presents when we were kids! But, thanksgiving at it’s best, it’s just pure family and friends expressing their gratitude toward God. It is a way for us to acknowledge that we know where our blessings come from.

At it’s worst? Well, you can’t get much worse than the awkwardness of Thanksgiving called, “Turkey Day.”

It feels so strange to me when someone says, “Happy Turkey Day.” Where did this strange salutation come from? My guess is this is someone’s attempt at being sensitive so you won’t have any allusion that they presume you might be thankful to God for anything. Is this going the way of Seasons Greeting, Happy Holidays and Merry Xmas for Christmas? Maybe not, but it seems so.

And, if this is the case, why does the turkey get all the love? Happy Turkey Day? Why not Happy Stuffing Day? Happy Cranberry Sauce Day? Have yourself an awesome Pumpkin Pie Day?

Well, at least gratitude is coming up on the radar of modern society today.

The current popularity of practicing an attitude of gratitude enters into the public forum all the time now. Just google the word “Gratitude” and you will see a full page of science articles concerning how the human brain is wired for gratitude. We have been learning about an attitude of appreciation and gratitude here at LIFEHouse for quite some time now as we continue to learn more and more how God wires us for appreciation and high-joy. It is fortunate that sources like Psychology Today, Forbes, the New York Times, and the University of California-Berkeley are finally catching up.

But, I do find it ironic that these publications, are expressing gratitude as all the rage. Here’s my question.

Who am I being grateful to when I am told to have this attitude of gratitude from sources which vary from leading scientific journals to my yoga instructor?  I think the disconnect comes with the word, “gratitude.” Are you grateful for something or someone, or are you grateful to something or someone? It seems to me gratitude needs at least two parties. Someone who is grateful to someone else.

Let’s try this out.

I thank fate for bringing me the blessings I receive.

That doesn’t cut it. I’ll try again.

I give thanks, O random mutation and natural selection, for your coming together in such a marvelous way to give me Nancy as my wife.

Please…

No, none of this works. It probably has something to do with the difficulty of overriding your fast track right brain. Remember, the brain is composed of fast track information that comes at us at the speed of about 6 images per second from the right side of the brain. This is faster than we can think. Faster than our own consciousness. Even if I am an avowed atheist, I can’t stop my fast track brain, which deals in matters of identity and values, from firing out gratefulness emotions towards an unknown cause or source of my gratitude. Help me! I can’t stop it!

Now I can try to use the decision-making slow track 5 images per second left part of my brain to correct my gratefulness, and make sure the object of my thanks is not an entity, but…It’s too late. The fast track has already brought a sense of gratitude and it is registering as an emotional response to an unknown source.

 

There, I just pretty much complicated thanksgiving even more, haven’t I?

Let me straighten it out. I think Jews and Christians at least have the God stuff figured out. In the Hebrew of the Old Testament the word for thanksgiving is todah which comes from the word, yadah, which means, “Praise.”

Here is an example of the use of todah from Psalm 26:7

…that I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving,

    and tell of all Your wondrous works.

So, giving thanks is praising God. That makes sense.

The original Christian word for thanksgiving from New Testament Greek is eucharistia, which translates, “Giving thanks for God’s grace.”

Grace is God’s way of saying we are special and we don’t have to do anything to be special to him.

One of the places Jesus comes to us with his love freely with no strings attached is Holy Communion. Another word for Holy Communion you may be familiar with? “Eucharist.”

Here is an example of the word Eucharist from 2 Corinthians 4:15

All these things are for your sakes, so that the abundant grace through the thanksgiving of many might overflow to the glory of God.

So for Jews and Christians, thanksgiving is related to God in the very definition of the word.

Well, wisdom leads me to stick with God. So, because I thank God for you, from my family to yours- Happy Thanksgiving!