A Living Hope for 2020

I ended up watching Netflix late last night.

Again.

I wasn’t going to do it.  But then Netflix showed me a new show, an action thriller with spiritual themes…so I watched the whole, first episode.

I’m hopeless.

And while my back is feeling better after straining it, the new Soni-care tooth brush that Sara got for my birthday gave me a headache.  I was excited about it because it’s supposed to be good for gum-care. I need better gum-care, at least that is what my dentist says.  But, it gave me a head-ache so I guess it’s a choice between receding gums and a headache?

I’m hopeless.

I also spent most of yesterday installing a new DIY alarm system from RING.  I love doing this kind of thing and Sara has been wanting a better security system w/ cameras for awhile now.  The camera doorbell works amazingly well and the whole system syncs with the Alexa.  In fact, I just asked Alexa if the back door was closed and she responded, “Back-door is closed”.  Ironically, I still have two magnetic sensors that won’t work.  It’s the simplest part of the whole system and I can’t get them to work!

I’m hopeless.

However, the biggest part of the New Year so far was the four word text from my Mom.  It read, “Aunt Dottie went home” . By “home”, my mom meant heaven because my Aunt Dottie has been fighting ovarian cancer for 6 years and fell asleep in the Lord on the first day of the year.

My Aunt Dottie and Uncle Ray were the family we always stayed with when we went out to Philly to visit the Scott side of the family.  Aunt Dottie was short, even by Scott family standards, but she was always ready to laugh, hug or encourage.  She regularly wrote my wife, Sara, encouraging her to keep writing.  A little over a year ago, Aunt Dottie messaged me about a new song we were singing at Emmanuel called “Living Hope”.  She loved the lyrics that come from 1 Peter 1:3-4.

In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…”

This year, we are going to focus on the theme of hope.  We are going to learn that “Hope is the confident expectation of what God has promised…” As Peter writes, we have a living hope in Jesus, who rose from the dead.  That is our confident expectation.  That was my Aunt Dottie’s hope in life and in death.

Later, I cried while listening to Coldplay’s new song, “When I Need a Friend”.  I cried for me and for my Mom who just lost her sister.  But they weren’t hopeless tears, they were hopeful tears.

Maybe I’m not so hopeless after all.

Christians shaped by the (new heavens and new earth when Jesus comes again and makes everything right) vision of worship seek to bring that vision to bear . . . in the world.

(For example, stand up for human rights, oppose injustice and oppression, work out of a clear sense of honesty, take care of widows and orphans, support the battle against the destruction of the environment, and engage in various activities that uphold the vision of a new heaven and a new earth where all wickedness has been put away forever)

-Robert Webber, Worship Is a Verb: Celebrating God’s Mighty Deeds of Salvation, Second Edition

New Song: New Name Written Down in Glory

When your name is changed in the Bible, it indicates that there has been a change of status.  The person has not only been given a new name by God, their core-identity has changed too.  We see it throughout the Scriptures…

Abram’s name was changed to Abraham.

His wife Sarai was changed to Sarah.

Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, was given the name Israel.

Simon was renamed Peter by Jesus.

And then famously, Saul saw Jesus on the road and became Paul.

We also are given a new “core-identity”, but it is an identity that was designed for us by God before we were born and is written down in heaven.  Jesus told his disciples that this was more important than casting our demons!  He said,

…do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. -Luke 10:20

Charles Austin Miles originally wrote a song with the title A New Name Written Down in Glory back in 1910.  He had already aban­don­ed his ca­reer as a phar­ma­cist and had become a gospel song writer.  Our new song by People&Songs is loosely based on Miles’ song.  In fact, there is only one line that carries over…

There’s a new name written down in glory,
And it’s mine, O yes, it’s mine!

BUT there is an important difference.  Miles’ song suggested that your name was written down in glory at the time of your salvation.  But Revelation tells us something different.  It says,

The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished… -Revelation 17:8

So before “the creation of the world”, your name was already written in the book of life.  But let’s jump in and see how our name (core-identity) is changed and what that means…
Verse 1: I was lost in shame
Could not get past my blame
Until He called my name
I’m so glad He changed me

Sin, shame and blame entered our world after the Fall, but he calls us by a “new name”.  As God says to Israel,

…you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow. -Isaiah 62:2b

Darkness held me down
But Jesus pulled me out
I’m no longer bound
I’m so glad He changed me

Just so you know, most of the metaphors in this song (darkness, blindness, light, freedom from prison) are from Isaiah 42:7.  Jesus later read this passage and said that he fulfilled it.  Jesus is…

…A light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. -Isaiah 42:7

But the core of this song is about identity.  Let’s get back to it.  The pre-chorus is almost verbatim from 2 Corinthians!
Pre-Chorus: See I’m, now a new creation in Christ
The old has gone, there’s new life
I live by faith, not by sight
Or as the Bible says…

If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17

For we live by faith, not by sight. –2 Corinthians 5:7

And then we hit the chorus.  We’ve already talked about the first two lines that come from Charles Miles…
Chorus: There is a new name written down in glory
And it’s mine, yes, it’s mine
I’ve met the author of my story
And He’s mine, yes, He’s mine

Did you catch the last two lines?  They come directly from Hebrews and affirm that Jesus has already written our life’s story with both a beginning and end.  Hebrews 12 says we are,

…Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Verse 2: Sin had left me blind
But Jesus opened my eyes
Now I can see the light
I’m so glad He changed me

BIBLE GEEK SIDENOTE!  I find it so interesting tracking themes through the scriptures.  The first time that we find the phrase “eyes were opened” is after Adam and Eve fall into sin and shame…

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked…-Genesis 3:7

But when Jesus quotes Isaiah, he tells us that he came to “open eyes”.  Not only that, when he appears to the disciples on the Road to Emmaus we read,

Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him[Jesus]…-Luke 24:31

So it seems that Adam and Eve’s eyes were opened to sin and that is really blindness.  We THINK we can see clearly, but we only see who we are AFTER Jesus opens our eyes.  That was just a side-note…back to the song…
Now I’m walking free
I’ve got the victory
See it’s all over me
I’m so glad He changed me
Lastly, the bridge tells us that the I AM defines who we are.  But who is the I AM?  Back in Exodus, God gives tells Moses that this is his name.

God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” -Exodus 3:14

Later, Jesus claims to be the same I AM…

“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I AM!” -John 8:58

So God is the great I AM, but what are we?  In his book, “Who Am I?:Identity in Christ”, author Jerry Bridges answers this question by pointing us to scripture.  He says there are 8 ways to biblically define ourselves.  These 8 “I am…” statements are:

I Am Created.  I Am in Christ.  I Am Justified.  I Am an Adopted Son/Daughter of God.  I Am a New Creation.  I Am a Saint.  I Am a Servant of Jesus Christ.  I Am Not Yet Perfect.

In other words,

Bridge:  I am who I am because the I AM tells me who I am.

…Our worship stands at the center and gives shape to all that we do. Worship, then, is not only the public acts we do as a gathered community, but our very way of day-to-day life.

-Robert Webber, Worship Is a Verb: Celebrating God’s Mighty Deeds of Salvation, Second Edition

How Do We “Seek God’s Face”?

I hear people talk about “seeking God’s face” and I’m not always sure what it means.  Do they mean a time of singing and/or prayer where we have a spiritual experience?  Do they mean a deeper understanding of God’s character?  I’m not always sure… As I’ve thought about it, Psalm 105 has been helpful.  Let’s seek God’s face together…

Worship is a means through which we can see, hear, smell, taste, feel, and come into contact with the infinite. Therefore the arts can mediate the message of Christ and minister to me in the depth of my being. . . . The future of the arts in worship, I believe, holds considerable promise for us in our continued discovery of worship as a verb.

-Robert Webber, Worship Is a Verb: Celebrating God’s Mighty Deeds of Salvation, Second Edition

The Unofficial Israel Tour – Bethlehem

Bethlehem means “house of bread”. There are a lot of stories based here in the Bible, but the most surprising thing is where Jesus was mostly likely born…

Good art “speaks to me. It makes me listen. It forms me.” . . . Somehow the art in worship surrounds me and gathers me up into itself. Like music, it enters into my soul and abides there. During the week it becomes a dominant image in my experience and pulls me to dwell on the theme and allows the theme to dwell in me. In this way, it forms me and energizes my spiritual pilgrimage.

-Robert Webber, Worship Is a Verb: Celebrating God’s Mighty Deeds of Salvation, Second Edition

The Unofficial Israel Tour – Caesarea

If you thought the Holy Spirit descended on followers of Jesus in Jerusalem on Pentecost, you’d be right. However, the believers at Pentecost were all Jewish believers. The Holy Spirit fell for the first time on the gentiles at Caesarea after Peter preached to a Roman Centurion named Cornelius. At the time, everyone recognized that this was a new thing!