Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Holy Spirit: He is a She, Or Not

[It has been some time since I wrote on this blog. This seems a good time to return to Jackie Speaks in order to address an issue that has recently arisen. I place it here for those who seek it out rather than on FB where everything seems thrown into the face of the masses. My desire to offer light and not heat, personal opinion without being confrontational.]

On occasion I refer to the Holy Spirit with feminine pronouns. I do this for differing reasons. Sometimes I just want to see if people are listening. At other times, I’m just having fun. Most often, I am using a pedagogical tool to provoke students to thought and hopefully some research. In all cases in which I refer to the Spirit as feminine I do so with complete confidence the Spirit is neither male nor female, but that grammatically speaking the Scriptures lean heavily toward a feminine identification for the Spirit.

In the Old Testament there are two Hebrew words that are translated into the English word “spirit:” ruach and neshamah. Both words are feminine in the Hebrew language. In the New Testament the Greek word for the Spirit, pneuma, is neuter, neither masculine nor feminine. Thus, the prevailing grammatical references to the Spirit in the Bible are as a “she” and certainly not as a "he." Although, it should be noted that in John’s Gospel Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as the Paraclete, a masculine noun.

The critical issue for early Christianity was to understand that the Spirit is not an “it;” the Spirit is a person, a person within a triune Godhead. For the first several centuries of the Christian church the personhood of the Spirit was predominantly thought of in feminine terms and with feminine images. To this day the Eastern Church continues to use feminine images for the Holy Spirit.

In the West, the feminine images of the Spirit were replaced with masculine ones primarily for two reasons. First, Latin became the dominant language of Christianity and in Latin (and other Germanic languages) the word for “spirit” is masculine. However, the reason the shift was so thorough in the West appears to have been a reaction against heretical teachings of some groups. One such false teaching was that the Spirit was God the Mother and that Jesus was the product of the sexual union of God the Father and the Spirit. In order to combat this type of heresy, the Western Church (Roman Catholicism) came to insist that only masculine terms and images be used in reference to the Spirit. [See Augustine’s work On the Trinity.]

Augustine also opened the door for what would emerge as the Roman Catholic doctrine of the immaculate conception of Elizabeth, a necessary doctrine to preserve the doctrine of a sinless state for Mary. It seems less than coincidental that as Mary was being exalted as a female, holy being, the Holy Spirit was being made more masculine. Could it be there is only room for one holy mother?

In truth, the Holy Spirit is neither male nor female. He is not offended to be addressed as "She," or vice versa. Her personal identity transcends the limits of human language. It is Biblically sound to refer to the Spirit with feminine or masculine terms and images. Further, I am convinced it is a grave doctrinal error to insist that only masculine terms and images be used in reference to the Spirit. To force the Spirit into the limitations of maleness is to cut ourselves off from the rich feminine imagery for God contained in the Bible. In so doing we make God less glorious and less nurturing and less powerful than the Word of God demands. (In my opinion there are some types of strength, or power, that women tend to possess in greater amounts than men, e.g., consider childbirth.)

The Spirit is God; may we never limit God to our finite imaginations. By all means, let us never superimpose on God our prejudices about who is and who is not worthy to bear His image. In Christ there is neither male nor female; In Heaven there is neither marriage nor giving in marriage. Why? It is because the image of God fully encompasses Adam and Eve, the masculine and the feminine. “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27).

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Exodus: Some Observations

I read Exodus today. Due to allergies my eyes were watery all day making it a challenge to focus. Nevertheless, I read the book in three sittings – 2 ½ hours total reading time.  I was struck by the following observations.

1.   The book divides into halves: (1) leaving Egypt (more narrative in nature) and (2) meeting God at Sinai (more descriptive/instructive in nature).

2.       Women play significant roles but are even less prominent than in Genesis. They appear early in the story of the birth of Moses.  The mid-wives, who are named in the text (Shiphrah and Puah -- 1:15), are featured as heroes in defying Pharaoh’s order to kill all the male infants at birth. They are described as having “feared God” (1:17 & 21) and as a reward for this fear God established households for them (1:21). Moses’ mother, and sister, and Pharaoh’s daughter are prominent is saving Moses from Pharaoh’s death sentence. They  were not named within the story but it may be assumed the sister is the same as Miriam who was later named (15:20-21). Moses’ mother was later named (Jochebed – 6:20). [Aaron’s wife was also named, Elisheba – 6:23.] In the middle of the book Miriam and the women are portrayed as taking the lead in worship in song and dance (15:20). Near the end of the book women are reported to contribute to the fabrication of the tabernacle (35:22-29).

3.       In response to the deliverance through the Red Sea, Moses led Israel in the first worship song recorded in history (15:1-18).

4.       The pattern of genealogical listings prominent in Genesis is replicated for Moses and Aaron as descendants of Levi (6:14-25).

5.       There is a pattern of duplication in the book. Moses and Aaron, two tablets of commandments, two listings of the Law of God, two descriptions of the tabernacle and furnishings.

6.       I was struck by Jethro’s instruction to Moses that the elders selected to help judge Israel be persons who “fear God” (18:21). This phrase is not common in Exodus but is tied to the midwives (1:17-21), Pharaoh’s delay in freeing Israel (9:30) and, more significantly, it is portrayed as God’s gift to Israel that they not sin against Him (20:20).

7.       The tabernacle incorporated diverse elements of creation (wood, minerals, precious stones, animal hair and hides, etc.).

8.       The temple and furnishings were built largely with free-will offerings and so much was given the people had to be told to stop giving (36:1-6). But there was a foundational minimal contribution (30:11-16 & 38:24).

9.       For some reason it stood out to me that the inner tabernacle was covered with four layers of diverse material, one of them embroidered with angels.

I will reflect on some of these and other observations later.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Genesis of Sexism

I did not preach this past Sunday morning. This entry flows out of my Scripture reading for the week.

Our New Covenant church family has begun a program of reading through the Bible in 2012. The emphasis is on looking at each book as a whole. Typically, we will read one book each week and when possible we will read through it in one sitting. I estimated this will require that I set aside three hours a week for reading. The church will begin the program this week but I plan to stay a week ahead and started early.

Reading through Genesis in one sitting gave rise to a number of observations that require further study. For example, one phrase that reappears throughout the book is “these are the generations of…”  The objects of the clause include Adam, Seth, Noah, Shem, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and Esau.  The clause is not applied to Abraham, the Father of Israel. Instead it is applied to Terah, his father.

Perhaps because I long ago wrote on the meaning of being male and female in the creation stories, I was tuned into the role of women in the remainder of the book. In the creation of Adam and Eve emphasis is placed on (1) they are created in the image of a singular yet plural God (“let is make man in our image”), (2) humans are singular yet plural (“He created man in His own image, male and female created He them”) (3) Adam was created first and was incapable of fulfilling his purpose for existence alone, (4) Eve was created in response to Adam’s need for a “helper” who was “suitable to him,” (5) “helper “ conveys merely one who comes to the aid of another without reference to superiority, and (6) the original word for “suitable to him” means “by way of comparison in front of him.” In short, Adam and Eve were created as equal and whole beings that only together could fulfill God’s purposes.

Eve was the first to give into temptation and God’s judgment on her included that her desire would be toward her husband and he would rule over her. The obvious but oft overlooked question is how did this curse unfold in the book of Genesis?  My reading this past week surfaced a few observations. First, the narrative of Genesis centers on men; it was a patriarchal society. After the fall women are secondary (but significant) characters in the narrative. They are seen largely as subservient to men. Second, women are objectified as if property; men make decisions governing them. Likewise, there is a surprising emphasis on their appearance – Sarai is described as a “beautiful woman” (12:11), Rebekah “was very beautiful” (24:16), and “Leah's eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful (yapheh) of form (toar) and face (mareh)” (29:17). [However, Rachel’s good looks were apparently passed on to her oldest Son who was described with the exact same phrase, “Joseph was handsome (yapheh) in form (toar) and appearance (mareh )” (39:6).]

While women were largely portrayed as background objects of a patriarchal society, the identified female characters were presented as strong and complex subjects who acted on others proving themselves to be as capable, intelligent, righteous and unrighteous as men. For example, Potiphar’s wife was sexually aggressive with Joseph. Judah’s daughter-in-law, Tamar, was declared righteous by him for tricking him into fathering her child. God told Abraham to obey Sarah concerning Hagar and Ishmael (21:12). Rebekah guided Jacob into the reception of his father’s blessing through their scheme of deception (ch. 27). Neither the fall nor the curse removed from women the intelligence and abilities equal to those of men.

Women are portrayed in Genesis as strong and complex characters who have God’s full attention.  God acted to defend the honor of Sarai/Sarah when Abraham influenced her to lie about being his wife; He brought plagues on Pharaoh’s house (12:17) and threatened Abimelech with death (20:3) for taking Sarah into their households to marry. [In the last incidence she was apparently close to one hundred years old.] In addition to Eve, God talked with three women in the Book: Sarah (18:15), Hagar (twice -- 16:8-12, 21:17), and Rebekah (25:22-23). In each of these cases His words centered on their children yet to be born. With Hagar the Angel of the Lord found her in the wilderness fleeing Sarai the first time and along with her son near death from thirst the second time having been discharged by Abraham and Sarah. Mother and child wept and God listened. Rebekah, the only character (male or female) in Genesis said to go to “inquire of the Lord,” made inquiry concerning the state of her unborn twins. In Genesis, God spoke through dreams and through direct words to men; When He spoke to women it was always direct.

Genesis reveals the almost instantaneous and universal presence of sexism following the fall and the curse. But it also reveals the fallacies that undergird sexism. Power, control, and manipulation are traits of both genders; sin affects us all. But it would be a grave error to conclude that sexism flows out of the curse. Yes the curse on Eve was that her husband would rule over her, but that curse did not authorize Adam to oppress her. It merely gave him the opportunity.

It was not the curse that gave rise to sexism; It was sin. When his sin was exposed, Adam responded by blaming God and Eve, “the woman whom You gave to me…” (3:12). That sin-full response was the birth of sexism.  The curse was but God’s judgment on Adam and Eve for their sin. As in the first chapter of Romans, the judgment of God on sin is to turn humans over to their sins. Eve gave in to temptation and then became the tempter, but both sinned against God and each other.  Their union was shattered by their sin, not by God. No longer could they stand face to face; one would rule over the other.

The curse was an act of judgment that laid the foundation for redemption. It announced and described the new reality born of their disobedience. Thanks be to God, it also framed the context for a promised redeemer. Albeit through great pain, Eve would bring forth an offspring (seed) who would bruise the head of the seed of the serpent. [It is interesting to note that Eve would have a seed; in patriarchal societies men are thought to have seed, not women.]Thus, the curse was not given to subdue women or men, but rather to speak to the gravity of their sin and to announce the promise of their deliverance. The remainder of the book of Genesis tells the story of how God kept the promise alive by communicating hope to women and men.

Monday, January 16, 2012

He Gave Himself for the Church

Text: Ephesian 5: 21-33

Currently the church seems under constant assault from without and within. In modernity the part became more important than the whole. This obsession with the particular resulted in a narcissistic focus on the individual. As a general rule, the church capitalized on that worldview as congregations shifted their self-image from being  “the family of God gathered for worship and fellowship” to one of being more of a “God-mart” for individuals to achieve self-actualization. The emphasis shifted from relationships to programs. The missionary vision of the church shifted from outreach and service to institutional growth. The mega-church was seen as the standard for success; Little did we realize we were undermining our very purpose for existence.

Like a sand castle on the beach overwhelmed by the changing tide, we now find ourselves dissolving under the vicissitudes of a new worldview that not only exalts the self but also disdains all things institutional. Postmodernity promotes a challenge to the very existence of the church as a corporate reality in this world.  It would have us believe the church exists only as some mystical association of like-minded believers who would gather in small groups and avoid all organizational traits.  This assault on the church is from believers and from non-believers. Non-believers see the church as an enemy of social progress. Many believers see the church as the antithesis of true spirituality; it is at best an obsolete channel for the Christian faith.

These assaults on the church fail to consider the value of the church for Jesus; He gave Himself for the church. The incarnation, suffering, and sacrifice of Jesus were not for a collection of individuals. His great plan of salvation centered on His everlasting incarnation within the church. "Body of Christ" is not a metaphor for the intimacy we share with Him.  The church is not “like” a body to Christ; it is His body.

I have preached and taught on our text on numerous occasions. To the best of my recollection, I have always focused on the meaning of the text for Christian families with an emphasis on what it says about God’s intentions for husbands and wives. This passage addresses both of these issues and shows them to be interrelated. On this occasion I begin with comments on the family as a starting point for focusing on what it says about Christ and the church.

I can summarize my understanding of what the New Testament says about family relationships as God expects us to be Christian with one another. Whatever it means to be Christian with other Christians, husbands and wives are to model that. If we are to love one another, husbands and wives are to love each other. If we are to submit to one another, husbands and wives are to submit to each other.

In Ephesians the emphasis is that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the church and wives are to be subject to their husbands as the church is to be to Christ. This emphasis does not negate the inverse; if we agree that God expects wives as well as husbands to love their spouse, we should also agree that in Christ husbands are likewise to submit to their wives. Mutual love requires mutual submission.

One of the great mistakes we have made is to read this passage in a manner that projects our experiences onto God rather than to critique our experiences in the light of God’s self-revelation.  We read that Christ is the head of the church as if headship should be defined by our family patterns or those of our culture. We should instead ask ourselves how we must change in order to conform our families to fit into the image of God. It is an error to project onto the Godhead our hierarchial concepts of society; there is no subordinate member of the Trinity,

For example, the central point of contention in our text is the concept of submission (or subjection). We read that word through the lens of our cultural heritage which emphasizes submission as a verbal concept or word of action, to submit is to obey. But the Greek word (hupotasso) from which it is translated is more comprehensive than a mere active response. The focus is on relationship rather than activity. Hupotasso is a descriptive word for a pattern, or posture, of relationship; Its fundamental meaning is to exist in conjunction with another. The word is more accurately construed as “to stand attached to another.” The prefix hupo does convey the image of being "beneath" but in the sense of integrated.

Our modern inclination toward understanding submission as behavior is derived from the Latin translation of the New Testament. The Greek word hupotasso was translated into the Latin word submissio, sub-mission. In the translation the core image of "standing in connection to" is replace by an image of obedience or at the very least conformity to the wishes of another.

Whatever the immediate context being addressed by the Apostle Paul, the general problem appears to be that wives were living as though they were independent of their husbands. They are conducting themselves without regard for the effects of their behavior on their husbands. More accurately, they are positioning themselves apart from their husbands. Paul’s response is simple, wives and husbands are to be one as Christ and the church are one. In Christ they are to live out the reality of their union in all things.

This expectation of Christian unity in marriage is grounded in the certainty of the unity of the Godhead and the unity of Christ with the church and not vice versa. The relationship of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit is one of perfect unity. They are one in essence and in being while eternally existing as three persons. Chapter four of Ephesians makes it plain that union with Christ, and by implication participation in the Triune life of God, is the destiny of the church. We will "all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (V. 13). We are to “grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ” (v. 15).

With that background I turn now to my central text, Ephesians 5:25-27 which reads  25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,  26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,  27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.”

Christ loves the church. He does not just love the collected members of the church; He loves the church with all its members. His love is so great that He gave Himself up for her. The passion of Christ was not splintered into rays of grace aimed at a limited multitude of separate individuals. The passion of Christ was for the redemption of His bride, which is the church. His eye was on the whole and on the parts. Furthermore, His mission was not just to free persons from sin; His mission was to prepare for Himself a bride fully suited to be joined with Him as His body. He gave Himself so that she might be sanctified, cleansed by the fountain of His sacrifice and continuing to be perfected by Him until she is without spot or blemish or any imperfection. The church shall be holy and blameless. Notice the past and future tenses of the text. The church is and the church is becoming. It has been cleansed and it is being made blameless.

When I think of His love for the church, the closest analogy that I can make is the love of a parent for a new born child. We often say to the infant “I could just eat you up.” We hunger to inhale not just the aroma of their undefiled bodies; we wish we could inhale their very beings. We love them so much we imagine swallowing the whole, taking them into ourselves to be cherished and honored and protected. Christ  is "eating up" the members of His church, taking them into Himself. But what we cannot do because it would limit and destroy our child, He is doing so that His children might have life and have it to the very fullest. This is abundant life, to know Him and the Father, to be one with them. And in them we are one with each other.

Thus our text amplifies and applies what was laid out in Chapter Four. The process of the church being brought to completion, or perfection, is a process characterized by offices, order, discipline, and varieties of functions. The church is a living organism with Christ as its head; Like every other living organism it has structure, order, and purpose. Thus the church is a living organization.

Christ gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers to the church. They function to equip or furnish the saints for works of service for the building up of the body until we all come together “to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (4:13).

I know our experience says the church has failed tremendously in this mission of unity and conformity. My own testimony would be that the greatest wounds in my life have come from within the church. Often the institutional nature of the church has been the stronghold of sin, suffocating the life-giving breath of God and robbing the church of the awareness of Christ’s sovereign presence.  But we must never allow our experience, or our interpretation of our experience, to limit the purposes of God. Peter and Paul had “no small dispute” between them and that over the authority to appoint a co-missionary. But they worked through it.

The church exists in many forms and under many polities. It disagrees over doctrines and decrees. But it is one church with Christ as its head. The reality of His headship demands that we ever labor to be faithful to Him and to one another. The reality of our disagreements does not exempt us from always striving to give full expression to what it means to be the Body of Christ.

He loved the church so much that He gave Himself for it. I have from time to time been tempted to walk away from the Church of God. [I am using the upper case “C” here, referring to the Church of God with headquarters at Keith and 25th Street in Cleveland, Tennessee. I must admit I am troubled by the lower case “c” in reference to the universal church as if it is somehow a less proper name, but that is beyond this message.] But how can I walk away from that for which Christ died? How can I allow its imperfections, yes, even its sins, to separate me from that which Christ has  joined to Himself? If I was to leave the Church of God I would be bound by the Word of God to find another group existing as the church. I am convinced I would find no more perfection farther north on Keith Street, or in Springfield, or in Oklahoma City than I currently experience in our fragile expression of the church. Neither would I find perfection in an uncomplicated but emaciated house church.

The challenge before us is not to perfect the church as we know it. The challenge is to live in full submission to Christ so that He might perfect us personally and corporately. Submission to Him demands submission to His body, the church. This is not the submission of blind obedience (sub-missio), but rather the submission of full participation (hupotasso) within the life of the church. He is perfecting us in, with, through, and by our unity in life and mission. To withdraw from full devotion to the church is to withdraw from that which Christ loves, indeed from Christ Himself, and it is thereby to work against Christ.

Let us love the church as Christ loves the church.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

King of Kings and Lord of Lords: A Message for Epiphany

Text: Revelation 19

This morning we celebrated Epiphany, the arrival of the three wise men to honor the Christ-child as King of the Jews.  Their presents, their presence, and their posture suggest they recognized Jesus as King of Kings.

Our image of Christ determines our conception of the gospel.  Who we believe Him to be sets the limits of what we understand Him to do and the nature of our desired relationship with Him. Our image of Him determines how we approach Him, what we give Him, and how we represent Him to the world.
Modern Evangelicalism has painted a portrait of a comfortable Jesus; He’s a “Palmolive” savior, gently removing the stains of sin while softening the wrinkling effects of our transgressions.  This Jesus is passive, too gentile to do battle and too "good" to even confront evil.  His power is derived from His goodness, that is, good will always win in the end. It is His goodness that has power, not his person.

This Jesus is not the Jesus of the Bible. Yes, our Savior is gentle and kind. He invites all to come and dine at His table, to lie at His bosom. He is the lamb slain from the foundation of the World. But He is also King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  Revelation 19 reveals Him to be the great warrior king, riding on a white horse, with eyes like flames of fire, a robe dipped in blood, and a sharp sword coming out of His mouth; He is leading an army and fully engaged in battle with His enemies.  He is powerful and good and His good conquers evil; it doesn’t just wait it out.
When Christ conquers evil it is a gruesome scene. Death dies violently. The gospel bears witness not just to the goodness of Christ, but to His sovereignty and His power. His reign over His creation comes at a great price.  With violence He defeats His enemies, for His enemies are violent.  The wages of sin are death and only through death can life be restored. This is the gospel, He suffered, died, was burried, and rose again having conquered death, hell and the grave. But the battle rages on until that great and final day of our deliverance.

There is an alternative, reactionary image of Jesus that has emerged within Evangelicalism in recent years, the smack-down Jesus. This image attempts to recapture the portrait of a warrior King. But this contemporary Jesus is molded around a faulty perception of masculinity. He is always looking for a fight, finding someone to slap around. Domination (not dominion) is His mode of operation. This Jesus is void of a love that woos persons into the presence of God. He desires followers who emulate this aggressiveness, especially male followers.  The central problem with this anthropomorphic Christ is that His goodness is a derivative of His power. He must force His reign on others.

We must understand that the violence of Christ is focused on sin and not on His creation. Creation is caught up in His judgment not because of its limitations (i.e., it is not good enough to please Him) but rather because it is the harbinger and shelter for sin. In short, Jesus is not a bully; He is righteous judge.

Christ is not good because He is powerful and He is not powerful because He is good. He is sovereign God who by very nature is good, righteous, and powerful. He is our deliverer; having purchased us out of sin, He is now the guarantor of our final victory. We shall share in His goodness, righteousness, and power. In deed, the Holy Spirit is in us the present reality of our final destiny.

The work of Christ was not finished at calvary; it was/is guaranteed by calvary. He continues to intercede and do battle on our half until all things are brought under subjection and are placed at the feet of the Father. Yes, we are forgiven but salvation is infinitely more than forgiveness. In Christ, we are a new order of creation. In this new creation, Christ, in his sovereign love, rules and reigns in righteousness.  His work continues until all things are made new.

This is the gospel, by grace we can die to sin and live in the reign of Christ. The alternative is to rebelliously hold on to our sins and reap eternal death. Popular Christianity errs when it suggests people can know Christ as Savior and not as Lord as if His Lordship was an option. He will not be our Savior without being our Lord.  We cannot know Him as Savior from sin without knowing Him as conqueror of sin. The greatness of His power to give eternal life is evidenced by the greatness of the power required to destroy sin. All of creation will one day acknowledge Him as Lord of Lords and King of Kings. Those who know Him as Lord and Savior will in Him and with Him reign for all time. 

Let us never separate the joy, peace, and comfort of our salvation from the cost of being His disciple. We are called to take up our cross and follow Him. This is a call to live and to die as soilders of the cross. We wait for His return not to take us out of this world but to conquer His enemies and reclaim His creation.  

And so we pray, come quickly Lord Jesus, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, righteous in all your ways.  Rule over us now and forever more.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012: Come Lord Jesus

It is the first day of 2012. I have no resolutions; I do plan to “keep on keeping on until I can’t and then I am going to die and go to heaven.” That was a quip I often gave when I was a young man, long before my close encounter with cancer.  I do plan to write more and to lose more weight.
Tonight, I offer a summary my sermon from this morning.

My text was Revelation 22:8-21, the closing verses of the Bible.  The theme was coming together with Christ.  There are two references to the nearness of Christ’s return and multiple invitations for people to come to Christ and one challenge for the “hearers” to say “come.”

We are all moving into the future; what we may not understand is that the future in rushing in upon us. The Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End is coming for us. Many people have a passive approach to the future. They live as though the future is a void needing to be filled.

Some live as though they are backing into the future; their focus is on the past. Either a crisis of pain and disappointment consumes their outward focus or they have romanticized the good times of the past having convinced themselves things could never be as good as they once were.

The future is dynamic; we move into it and it moves toward us. For all who are in Christ, it is as if He has risen from His throne and He is running toward us. His hands are not empty; He comes with gifts: everlasting life, the City of God, and His righteous reign over all of Creation.  He is coming to be with us, to tabernacle among us.

We are running toward Him, at least we should be. His embrace should be the focal point of our hopeful imaginations. Let us run toward Him with gifts in our hands, the gifts He has requested: our lives, our worship, our service in His name. Coming together with our Lord should be the center of our existence.

And so we say “come quickly, Lord Jesus. Bring the fullness of your Kingdom and should you tarry, come to us in our times of trouble and our seasons of joy. Come, be present with us until that day of your final appearance.” Let all who have the hope of His appearance say “come.”