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We are coming up here on the second Advent season in a lot of years where I’m not in the pulpit. I remember after preaching about a dozen years of Advent/Christmas messages feeling the well was a bit dry. How many more ways can the story be told, afresh? Maybe there are pastors out there who will benefit from 21 of the Advent message series I preached over the years. Maybe God will again touch something here with inspiration for your pulpit work this season.

Are You Expecting? 1994

Tangled in the Tinsel 1995

Celebrate the Gift 1996

All I Want For Christmas 1997

It’s A Wonderful Life 1998

A Time For Joy 1999

All Is Calm 2000

God of Wonders 2001

Dark Streets Shineth 2002

Adoration 2003

Everlasting Joy vs. Xmas Cheer 2004

Narnia/ Always Winter, Never Christmas 2005

Hopes and Fears 2006

Wish List 2007

Desire of Nations 2008

Foretold 2009

Incarnate 2010

Expecting 2011

Happy Holiness 2012

Stump of Jesse 2013

Holy Days 2014

Each series was 3-5 messages, usually four plus a message for Christmas Eve. Here’s a link to an excel spreadsheet which will give individual message titles and scripture texts for each message in the series. I have manuscripts for each also, I think, if you’d want a peek at any of them – borrow freely from anything I have. For most of them we have artwork also, but you’d have to figure out how to crop out our church name.

Here’s an example of how I promoted a series and laid it out:

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Here are some of the big ideas which are behind this series FORETOLD: A Prophetic Christmas

  • People today are hungry for prophetic insight
  • God does nothing without first revealing it to his servants the prophets (Amos 3:7)
  • Prophets foretold Jesus’ first coming with specifics and detail
  • Many missed Jesus’ first coming in part because they were prophetically-challenged.
  • Jesus’ Second Coming is foretold and therefore we need to immerse ourselves in the prophetic revelation of his Second Coming or we’ll miss that too.
  • Last weeks message: Is There a Star to Follow?, Genesis 49:10
  • This weeks message: The Due Date on Advent’s Calendar, Daniel 9:20-27

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Lord, we thank thee for this food this day which comes to us from the misery of animals in large animal confinement operations, and from the chemical toilet which is modern farm soil, sold to us cheaply through subsidised ag policy which destroys foreign ag economies contributing to starvation in developing nations but enriches US commodity brokers like my uncle seated on the Chicago Board of Trade.

And Lord thank you for the clothes we wear, so affordable to us by the long hours and low wages of child slave labor…

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When we go to war, in some sense we go without God, at least without his favour and blessing. How could he bless it, he loves our enemies too? Is it too utopian, this scary-silly Sermon on the Mount of that radical but woefully unrealistic Jesus, to suggest that our national leaders could one day decide that we want God more than we want war– that we want God more than we want revenge or victory– that we want God more than we want to punish and rid the world of evil– that we want divine protection not drones?

Here’s to the hope that one day when provoked our national leaders will declare that we want the favour of God, not war, and instead of revving up the war machine they call every person of faith and parish in the land to fight this one in the heavenlies asking God to settle it all in the earthlies. What might result if people of faith and parishes humbled themselves, repented and renounced their trust in horses and chariots? Is it not when we are weak that we discover his strength? When did we all become such Deists who disbelieve in a God who breaks in to intervene?

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Violence doesn’t settle anything, make anything right or change any minds. It is only about anger and hate – the very thing they protest against – and does nothing to heal, it widens the divide. We need the leaders of these groups from the President, elected officials, media, and Hollywood on down to rise up and tell people to contend in other ways besides burning cities down, killing, beating people up, vandalising property, or anything vile like this.

Where are the MLK Jrs. and Gandhi’s? By the fears I’m hearing you’d think America elected one of those stone’em/hang’em Saudi Princes. The media made Trump into one of those monsters. His entire public life is far more inclusive than they are reporting.

My three point plan if I were Trump to start off on the right foot…

1) Come out this week and acknowledge the emotion against him and assure all that he will be a President to all. Announce that right now he is inviting black, hispanics, LGBTs and women to serve high in his Cabinet administration. Assure people his comments in the past were about national security and toss the blame on the media for exploiting them to further divide the nation.

2) Join Russia in issuing an arrest warrant for George Soros for financing his plans to destabalize American cities and incite violence resulting in lives lost and property damaged.

3) Announce the formation of a presidential commission on inclusion and national unity to commence his first day in office to help his administration better understand our differences and bring the nation together again in ways only war has in the past. Our common enemy this time is each other, and even without using his name this commission can seek to model Jesus’ strategy of winning a war against enemies by loving them.

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Is trophy hunting okay for a Christian?

No.

For starters I’ll share my journey as it relates to the ethics of killing anything. Since my dad was killed violently and then watching my mom go painfully slow, and after countless death notifications with the police department and s many hard funeral in my decades as a pastor, and considering my lung disease and facing my mortality, and studying the senseless loss of innocent life in all our various war-of-the-day, my view on killing changed. It was fuelled also by a desire to take the non-violence of the Sermon on the Mount serious – didn’t figure Jesus was offering it as a suggestion, or optional for extra credit.

Over time I lost a desire to kill anything. So I started to push back against violence in society where ever I could – fighting cage fighting in the legislature, and as many know I entirely changed my mind on the death penalty and came to believe we ought to teach our kids it’s never okay to kill. It will increasingly become a topic I comment on how this whole red-state, red-blood, red-meat, Cross yourself and pile’em high, ammo and Bibles thing in our churches really is so unChristlike. God comes to the aid of those who are weak in battle not those who trust in their chariots and horses.

These days I marvel at animal beauty and diversity and enjoy their personalities and all that prompts me to turn to the Creator of Life in gratitude and worship. Jesus said look at the birds because they will reveal something about God to you. He did not say shoot the birds. My increasing love for life in its most vulnerable forms changed my view of hunting too. I’m not against responsible hunting for you or others, just saying that personally, I’m done with it. But I have come out strongly against safari hunting and trophy hunting as anything ethically justifiable for a Christian.

Deuteronomy 22:6 revealed to me the concern God has for animals: “If you come across a bird nest beside the road, either in a tree or on the ground, and the mother is sitting on her young or on the eggs, do not take the mother with the young…. so that it may go well with you and you may live a long life.”

I began to note the capacity in animals to respond to God… “Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths… [Praise the Lord] wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds…” Psalm 148:7, 10.

Small creatures and flying birds… like fox and pheasants? Note to self; that text is not one to pull out if asked again to give the breakfast devotional at the Fellowship of Christian Sportsman’s Pheasant Hunt.

A book also shifted my thinking on animal cruelty and animal misery and abuse in modern agriculture. It’s not some liberal PETA book. It was written by a Sarah Palin speechwriter. Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals and the Call to Mercy, Matthew Scully states: “Go to the largest livestock operation, search out the darkest and tiniest stall or pen, single out the filthiest, most forlorn little lamb or pig or calf, and that is one of God’s creatures you’re looking at, morally indistinguishable from your beloved Fluffy or Frisky.”

A longing in me to see God’s kingdom come on earth drew me to the passages that describe that time to come when we aren’t at odds with the animal world. I figure, why wait till then?? I’d think animals didn’t run away when Jesus walked by, shouldn’t they recognize Him in us when we walk by?…. “And in that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground; and I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth, and will make them lie down in safety. And I will betroth thee unto me forever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in justice, and in loving kindness, and in mercies.” Hosea 2:18-19

In his extensive Dogmatics on The Doctrine of Creation, Karl Barth reminded us God the Creator did not originally intend for animals to be our food; “Whether or not we find it practical or desirable, the diet assigned to men and beasts by God the Creator is vegetarian. This makes it clear that the supremacy given to man over animals is not one of life and death. Man does not enjoy any capital jurisdiction.”

Yes, that changed after the Flood, even after the Flood when killing animals for sacrifice and food was permitted, Barth contends “the prohibition of homicide and eating the blood of animals will be a reminder that the life of another being does not belong to other living beings but to God alone.” For Barth, “the introduction of capital jurisdiction between creature and creature, will not in any sense signify a kind of divine submission to creaturely degeneration.” In regards to the subsequent legitimisation of animal sacrifice, Barth says God now accepts “the surrender of the life of the animal for that of man” as “a substitutionary sign” in the “reconciliation thereby signified.”

David Clough writes: “…human beings may use their superfluity for food but should not wilfully destroy them; in relation to other animals, Barth says they can be killed only as a matter of necessity, and then as a sacrificial act with gratitude and repentance. In a modern context where few humans need to kill other creatures for food, this is a radical ethical stance.”

The reason I have all this handy is I have written on my love and regard for Animals in an essay elsewhere. Here are the opening lines of that essay….

Meet Gordon Howie. A visit to his United States Senate campaign website and you would first notice his campaign bumper sticker slogan; God, Guns & Gordon. Click on the tab for videos and up comes a god tube . com link to his video: “Take a World Hunting Tour With Gordon Howie.” The six and a half minute clip shows dozens of still photos of Gordon all over the world holding rifles or his bow, standing or kneeling, but always smiling next to the corpse of every conceivable animal one can legally shoot with a gun or a bow; deer, fox, coyote, rabbit, mountain goat, bighorn sheep, antelope, sables and roans, gazelles and African dik-diks, spiral-horned kudo, a half a dozen different bears, leopards, mountain lions, moose, plains buffalo, zebra, and various sub-Saharan wild boars.

An additional feature in the video is the background music of Gordon singing Christian country music songs, recording being another one of his pastimes, actually one of his ministries. The photos advance every three seconds and there are enough hunting pictures to require the entire audio of three of Gordon’s songs. While he sings “I’m going home to be with Jesus” the viewer sees dozens of animals who Gordon recently sent on ahead of him. It is not clear what putting a video compilation of decades of safari hunts on a campaign website is supposed to communicate about a political candidates’ philosophy of governance except perhaps it does communicate something of his understanding, or misunderstanding, of the dominion mandate of Genesis one.

Here is that video to which I’m referring:  Take a World Hunting Tour With Gordon Howie

Karl Barth

“The believer need not fear fate, even though it might be the devil himself.

The devil may plague and tempt and harass us… It is God that we must fear,

the God to whose Word the believer is directed and clings.”

– Karl Barth, Ethics, 301.


I’m reading Barth’s Ethics for discussion each Monday afternoon with other Ph.D candidates in the Divinity Department here. Some of the reading for today had to do with fate. Got me thinking about the fate of nations versus the choice of an electorate.

Reminded me of an argument I found myself in back in 1999 while eating fish on a beach in Gaza City with a Palestinian Christian friend named Ahed. Kristen and I were privileged on a humanitarian mission to stay as a guest in the compound of Yasser Arafat. Yasser’s rooster woke us up at five in the morning that week.

That evening sitting together at a wicker and wood beach table only a few feet from the Mediterranean Sea, an argument ensued. Actually, I wasn’t arguing, but something I said set Aed off and he stood and burst out angrily about how I don’t understand fate. My comment was in regard to how the first thirty years of his life were lived entirely within the land prison called the Gaza Strip (only 5 miles wide and 25 miles long – imagine living your entire life within a space that small and never being allowed to leave it) and my hope that things will change for the better and he can leave that place.

Basically Ahed said: “NO! This is my fate! To be born here, to live here and to die here is my fate. You Americans don’t understand fate. If you don’t like where you live, you move. If you don’t like how things are in the land where you live, you vote to change it. In America you are the masters of your own fate but here– fate is our master.”

What do you say to that?

Sucks to be you?!

I really don’t remember what I said. Probably something like, “Sorry I’ll give that some thought.” I did give that some thought. I thought about it for a very long time and it wasn’t until after I had left the Gaza Strip did I think of what I wish I would have said. I wish I would have put my arm around his shoulder and looked with him at the sea and said, “Ahed, my friend, our God still parts seas.”

I don’t believe in fate.

I believe in God and in His Sovereignty over the affairs of men. He still raises up kings and tears them down.

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