Already …. but Not Yet!

Often in theological conversation we hear the phrase “already but not yet”, to describe our current ‘age’. The King has come! Christ is risen! A new day has dawned and is still dawning. The end is inevitable we await but the epilogue. It will be the longest epilogue ever, for it will last eternity.

From the cross come the words “It is finished.” Satan’s seeming victory is dramatically snatched away and his death throes begin.

We live in that in between space where the work is indeed finished, and things have not yet been fully ‘put right’ under the Dominion of Christ. We continue in our struggle against; sin, the flesh and the devil and we do so in full knowledge that Christ has died, Christ is Risen, and Christ will come again. The struggle is real and the ultimate victory is realer as we live by faith.

I have been thinking about this “already but not yet” state lately. I am reminded of it during this pandemic. Today I get my second vaccination. It has been a strange and grace filled journey! I was not expecting to be ‘fully’ vaccinated so soon. Late in March our province had a supply of vaccine designated for teachers. I was really happy about this because our son is one of these ‘front line’ workers and both he and his wife are immune deficient. However just before the teachers were to get ‘jabbed’ questions arose about reactions occurring in those under 55. The teachers’ vaccinations were halted and the province briefly opened up the possibility to the general public over 65. Our disappointed son called me to tell me this and within the two hours before all the appointments were booked we got on the list and were inoculated on April Fools day. The other day we heard on the radio that there were doses of our vaccine (Astrazenica) which had to be used very soon before they expired. I called in and made an appointment for today. This will mean that two weeks from now we will have effective protection from the ravishes of covid! Practically speaking, though, not much will change for us until the province around us ‘catches up’ but our hearts and minds are at rest, as we wait in the “already but not yet” phase.

There is a hope for victory over covid but an even more wonderful hope for the Lord’s return and the putting right of all things.

“Boldly Go…”

Talk about no good deed going unpunished, Peter and John spent the night in the pokey for healing a lame man, in the name of Jesus. They sit through a stern lecture and return home and join in the ongoing ‘Prayer Meeting’. Rather than praying “Whew, that was close!” they pray “Sovereign God … grant your servants to speak your word with boldness.”

I have been challenged to add this brief prayer to my daily devotions. ‘Boldness’ does not mean rudeness or loudness, but rather fearlessness. Too often through fear I resist speaking of Jesus and all that he means to me. The fear can be that I will not have adequate words, or that I may be asked a question I cannot satisfactorily answer or that I will strain a relationship.

Let me address this latter fear. My fear might come because I misunderstand boldness for inappropriate and careless speech. The same Peter from our story elsewhere advises that we speak “with gentleness and respect”. He sees no contradiction between the two ideas. As I share my beliefs and experience with those who may not share them, I give them an opportunity they might not have had to consider Jesus, and he is certainly worthy of consideration. If my friend does not immediately and gladly receive Jesus, they have not rejected me. Fear of this kind of rejection is simply based on wrong thinking!

I am finding that adding this simply prayer to my routine does several things. It makes me sensitive to opportunities. I sometimes realize in the moment and silently re-pray the prayer and ‘step up’, or I recognize my failure in retrospect and repent. It also gives me a sense of anticipation each day, as I wonder what encounters lay before me each day. It shakes me from a complacency in my faith life.

It amazes me at the dividends a five second investment prayer can bring!

I have also been challenges to intentionally add my proximate neighbours into the neighbours I am to love. I take a few minutes each day to lift them to God in prayer including any specific needs I might be aware of, but also praying that I might be able to be a ‘good neighbour’ and ambassador.

These two small additions add so much value to my day! I highly recommend them. A couple of small additions to your prayer can have an outsized impact on your life. Give it a try.

Bring Hope

I find myself recalling witnessing a fire being ‘fanned into flame’. The fire had all but gone out and the embers were beginning to cool but a fresh breeze brought it back to life.

After over a year of covid I was beginning to wonder if my zeal for the vision of Threshold House had waned, like a fire going out. The venture has been so bogged down due to this pandemic and early momentum lost, that the ‘embers’ seemed to be cooling.

Recently I felt constrained to “lift up my head”, to make a firm decision and set a fixed date to begin. We will be opening our doors September 6th. We will be proclaiming  “the Year of the Lord’s Favour” for up to 4 residents at Threshold House. We are currently accepting applications for acceptance into our Christian Community.

The goal is to accept men who have come to find their hope in Jesus and by creating a unique network of support around each, and by living in a Christian community for 1 year, help them become people who can effectively bring hope to others. In this way our small ministry can multiple our reach and have ;an outsized’ affect on our wider community, bringing fresh hope to our streets.

After a year we will do it again, and again, flooding our community with ‘hope bringers’. We also plan to increase our housing capacity and release more ‘hope bringers’ in coming years.

In Lamentations 2:19, the ‘Weeping Prophet’ call us to cry out in the night for the children that are dying at the head of every street. In his day, the deaths were due to starvation because Jerusalem was under siege. In our day, the obituary pages are replete with deaths due to addiction. Every week our community is losing people because people are losing their battle with addiction. We believe the only way to stem that life loss is through the hope that is found in God alone.

This is a time of urgency! In 1 Corinthians 16:9 Paul says, “for a door for effective service has opened to me”. This is a time of great opportunity, but he continues “there are many adversaries.”  This is not an easy path and if we are to make the difference which I believe we can, we must do it together.

You have opportunity to be involved. We need: prayer support, volunteers (no special skills are needed but a heart that cares for people), finances (all donations are tax deductible), and donations of bedroom furnishings.

The Lord loves a cheerful giver. What is that? Someone who gives what the Lord asks not a penny more (or you may be proud) and not a penny less (or you may feel guilty).The road has been long, but we must not falter now. Please take this appeal to prayer and ask God how you can assist. Then cheerfully follow his will.

Every blessing.


Neighbours and Neighbourliness

A rudimentary scan of scripture will soon tell us that God is interested in our neighbour. He is also vitally interested in our neighbourliness! His interests ought to be ours as well.

The latter portion of Jesus’ summary of the “Law” calls for love of neighbour. Seeking clarification, or more likely limitation, the young man asks, “Who is my neighbour?” Like so many wrongly motivated questions, Jesus does not directly answer. Instead, he goes on to give an expansive view of what it is to be a ‘neighbour’. He answers in this way because any objective reading of scripture will reveal who God considers to be our neighbour. The list is both succinct and sprawling. It is all those we meet, those created, like us, in His image. The scriptures also highlight a subset for special neighbourly attention. Time and time again we read reminders of our neighbourly responsibility to: widows, the poor, and orphans. Jesus is less concerned with again enumerating this list. Malachi reminds us that we know what God requires! Jesus seems more intent on our obedience than on a vain repetition of that which has already been made clear.

I suggest that the great challenge for Christians and the Christian Church is the challenge of neighbourliness. We cannot claim to be fulfilling the first part of the summary, that is “Love the LORD your God” if we falter at the latter portion. “Not everyone who says “Lord, Lord, shall enter the Kingdom of God, but the one that does the will of my Father.”

‘Church Growth’ has become an industry in the West. Many churches are shrinking and turn to extra biblical experts for advice. I would propose that a better use of time, treasure and talent would be to seek ways to increase in neighbourliness. If members individually and corporately concentrated on this the influence of the Gospel would grow and so would the Kingdom.

Perhaps we need to examine our priorities. Such examination might well lead to repentance. Neighbourliness is not beyond us. We have it in us. We only need to work it out. To do this effectively we will need to partner with God the Holy Spirit, asking help to see and serve our neighbour, knowing that as we serve the least of these we serve Him.

One of my personal frustrations, this past year, has been that I rarely interact with my neighbours. We isolate to protect our neighbour that we seldom see. I find I need to rely on the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to show me how I might love my neighbour who I do not see. In prayer, recently, I was reminded that I love God though I have not seen him. This illustrates that physical sight is unnecessary for love. I can find creative and prayerful ways to bless my neighbour.