A Thanksgiving Week Prayer

Gracious God of History, whom we are pleased to call “Father” or “Daddy” because of the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus:

We come to you as a thankful people. We are thankful for our salvation. We are thankful for those you have called to be our leaders over the past 101 years of the history of Bay Presbyterian Church, and we are thankful to be a part of the history of this great congregation. We are thankful for all the leaders of the Church Universal from the Resurrection until today. We are here because of their leadership.

On this Sunday before Thanksgiving, we are thankful for the little band of Puritans who left the comforts of home, braved the Atlantic Ocean, endured hardship and in many cases death, and who founded one of the first settlements of what would become the United States of America. We confess, O God, that we often forget the sacrifice made by them and by countless others who came here seeking religious, economic, and political freedom.

In the words of a famous national hymn we can pray:

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness.
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.

We pray, O God, that we might have some of their passion for You and for freedom, some of the strength of character that enabled them to make sacrifices for their freedom and for ours. With the writer of the hymn, we pray for a mending of our national flaws, self-control, and respect for the rule of law, all of which have been under attack in our recent past. We pray for your mercy upon the over 300-year old experiment in freedom that is our national history.

Holy God: we know that no people or nation can have leaders better than those whom they lead. Therefore, we ask your forgiveness for our national sins and flaws, for the way we have sometimes mistreated the stranger, the foreigner, those brought here without their consent, and those here before most of us who were disenfranchised in our past. We ask for your forgiveness and your mending of these and all our national flaws.

We thank you, O God, for the leadership of our nation. By your Word, you ask us to pray for those in authority (I Timothy 2:2), and we do pray for the President, the Congress, the members of the Courts of our nation. We pray for the Governor of Ohio, for the legislature and for the courts of our state and county. We thank you for the leadership of the city of Bay Village, and particularly for our Mayor and member, Paul Koomar. We thank you for the leaders of all the neighborhoods and communities of our nation. We ask that you would protect them, watch over them, and give them all wisdom and love for the citizens of our nation, state, and community. We also pray for the leaders of all the other nations of the world, even for our enemies, that you would give them wisdom and love for their peoples and peace among all peoples.

Finally, O God of Travelers, who came from Heaven to Earth: We do ask that you would protect all those who will be traveling this coming holiday week. Send your holy angels to surround and protect them, and bring them back home safely when our holiday is over.

We ask these things in the Name of Your Son and our Lord, Jesus the Christ.



Thankful for Salvation

As I write this, we are recognizing and celebrating the 100th  Anniversary of the end of World War I. A hundred years is time enough to forget. After 100 years, most Americans have less understanding of World War I than most people alive in 1965 had of the Civil War. The Civil War was fought on American soil and the scars were deep; World War I was fought mostly in France. In addition, the United States entered World War II only near the end and suffered fewer causalities than our allies.

Nevertheless, for England and France World War I was the defining event of the 20thcentury. There were 40 million casualties. 15 million people were killed. In England, an entire generation of leaders was obliterated. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, two Christian writers, both fought in the war. One of them remarked that, when the war was over, he had not a single friend from before the war left alive. A generation was decimated. In Europe, the aftermath of the First World War was a gigantic loss of faith. Both sides proclaimed that God was on their side. One side engaged in military tactics, such as the use of gas, that were contrary to Christian values.

In the end, all of the great monarchies of Europe were destroyed. The primary world leadership of France, Germany, and England came to an end as the United States, the least damaged by the war, emerged as the most powerful Western nation. Finally, the terrible reparations that were forced upon Germany led to the rise of Adolf Hitler and to the Second World War.

In America, November 11 is Veterans Day, during which we recognize the veterans of all wars. In England and France, the day remains an important remembrance. The President is in France today for the remembrance. In England this morning all of the churches, in fact the entire country, will enjoy a two-minute moment of silence in remembrance of the sacrifices made. We’re going to join them today. We are going to have two minutes of silence as we share with other nations in remembering our veterans and thanking God for their sacrifice. (Silence)

Text and Prayer

Our theme today is being thankful for our salvation. One great quality we can develop as Christians is thankfulness. In one of his earliest letters to the Thessalonians, Paul wrote, “We always give thanks to God for you and pray to God for you” (I Thessalonians 1:3). In his last letter, he writes to Timothy, “How I thank God for you, Timothy” (2 Timothy 1:3). In between, Paul often—almost always—gives thanks to God. In Ephesians, he says, “Always give thanks for everything to our God and Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”(Ephesians 5:20). Paul learned to be thankful in all situations and conditions of life (Philippians 4:11-12).We live in a land of unbelievable prosperity; but few are thankful, truly thankful, to the One who made it all possible. This is too bad because thankfulness is a virtue and a gift of the Spirit of God.

Our text is Isaiah 12. The part of Isaiah we are reading from primarily relates to the judgment of God upon the people of Israel for their disobedience. In the midst of prophesying a judgment, Isaiah also the shares the people of Israel that their salvation will come.  Hear the word of God as it comes to us today from Isaiah chapter 12:

In that day you will say: I will praise you, Lord. Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me. Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense; He has become my salvation.” With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.  

In that day you will say: Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted.

Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world. Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion,  for great is the Holy One of Israel among you” (Isaiah 12:1-6).

Prayer: Lord God, we thank you for Jesus and for the salvation you have provided for us in this name. Please be with us now in our time of thinking about your Word. In Jesus Name, Amen.

The Promise of Salvation

Isaiah 12 is one of my favorite life texts. Many years ago, at a time when everything looked as bleak as could be, God gave me these verses as an encouragement. I was a young lawyer with three children. I opened a practice with a small law firm at just the time when Texas went through its oil crisis, real estate crisis, and banking crisis. My practice was not only in the affected areas, but in the most affected parts of the crises. I had a mortgage, business loans, a wife, and three small children to support. Frankly, I was scared as I could possibly be. One day in my quiet time, I opened my Bible to these verses. It was one of those moments when you know that God has given you a special grace by revealing a particular set of verses on a particular day. I marked the day in the margin of my Bible, and over the next several years, as I continue to struggle in the crisis, those versus became a constant source of encouragement to me. I still read it on many days.

The first part of Isaiah primarily involves God’s judgment upon the people of Israel for their infidelity. [1] The Kingdom of David had split into two parts, the Northern Kingdom, Israel, and the Southern Kingdom, Judah. Both kingdoms were in a state of moral and spiritual decay. The kingdom of the Assyria was about to invade the Northern Kingdom and take into exile little Israel. It would never recover. Into this situation, the prophets spoke a word of judgement. God was going to punish Israel for her sins.

However, this word of judgment was not the end. Although there would be a suffering, although there would be punishment, there would also be forgiveness and salvation. This message is important for us. There are times in our lives when we have done something that is not right. There are times in our lives when we are not in the right place. There are times in our lives when we are going to suffer for decisions and choices we have made. This is true of all human beings, nations, organizations and nations. However, judgement is not the final word of God. The final word from God is one of forgiveness, mercy, grace, and salvation.

Many people are worried about our nation and its future. People are worried about their families. Whatever our future, God is prepared to save us and be merciful. What know that God loves our families and will show mercy on our families, even if we are in a time of suffering.

The Reality of Salvation

At the very beginning of chapter 12 of Isaiah, the prophet says:

“I will praise you, Lord.
    Although you were angry with me,
your anger has turned away
    and you have comforted me.
Surely God is my salvation;
    I will trust and not be afraid.
The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense;
    he has become my salvation.” (Isaiah 12:1-2)

As Presbyterians, we discourage what is called a “name it and claim it”theology. There is danger in a theology that involves claiming God’s promises for financial affluence as a given if we obey God. However, there is an element of truth in such thinking. We can claim the reality of our salvation before we receive it. At the time Isaiah 12 was written, there was no reason to praise God for salvation, because Israel was experiencing judgment not salvation. In this passage Isaiah is claiming the promise of salvation even though he is not yet received it.

Back to my story. Many of you know that Houston is subject to massive flooding. This is not just during hurricanes, because tropical storms can also dump enormous amounts of water on the city in a short period of time. A feature of the Houston freeway system is that, if you’re between exits in a low spot without proper drainage during a tropical storm, your car can get flooded.

As part of my legal practice, I often had to work late into the night. One night during a tropical storm, I was driving home in the middle of a terrible storm. I was at one of those spots where you cannot exit the freeway. The freeway was stopped. There was flooding ahead. The water was slowly rising around my car. In addition, I was tired and upset. I was praying to God saying, “I can’t keep doing this.” I had reached a bottom.

In that moment, I could almost feel the universe shift. I felt that God had answered my prayer and that a time was coming when I would go to seminary. It didn’t happen right away, but within a year or so God revealed his salvation. That night, I praise God for his revelation of my salvation. I felt my heart lift. I claimed a salvation that I did not see for some time. But, in a way, it had already become real because God had already put into motion his new plan for my life.

If you’re here this morning and going through a difficult period of time, listen with all your being for that sense that God has heard your prayers. When that happens, have faith in that answer. When you feel that answer, move out in faith and do what God is calling you to do, even if it is scary. The answer may not come at once or soon, but it will come. In the case of some prayers, it may not even come in your lifetime. But it will come.

The Response of Salvation

I’m not musical, and I can’t sing, but this is one of those sermons that you really wish that you could sing the verses and the sermon! As chapter 12 goes on, the prophet is filled with the Spirit of God and proclaims, not just himself but to the world, “Sing praises to the Lord for he is done gloriously let this be known in all the earth!” (v. 5). Of course, this is connected to the prior point: Isaiah is singing about God’s salvation at a time when he is not yet experiencing that salvation. In point of fact, we don’t think Isaiah lived to experience that salvation! He would have been 200-plus years old when Cyrus of Persia allowed the Jews to return home.

How many answered prayers have you kept to yourself? I’ve heard people say that my faith is personal, and I don’t share the answers to my prayers. Well, there are some prayers that we should probably not share. There are prayers the answer to which is private. Nevertheless, there are a lot of answered prayers that we ought to proclaim to the whole world. What if Isaiah had not shared God’s promise of salvation in Isaiah 12?

In Acts 3, there is a wonderful story about a healing involving Peter and John. One day, Peter and John were going to the Temple to pray. As they came to the Temple Gate, there was a lame man. When the man saw Peter and John, he asked for money. Peter, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, look at the man and said, “Silver and gold have I none but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk”(v. 6). Then, he took a man by the hand and lifted him up and the man was healed. The story ends like this:

“He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him”(vv. 8-10).

The result of this man’s willingness to respond to God’s healing by walking, jumping, and praising God was that not only did hereceive a blessing, but everyone who knew himreceived a blessing and a sign that God was present. If we keep our Christian faith a secret, if we keep what God has done for us a secret, then we’ve been blessed what the world has not beenblessed. If we are willing to share all that God is done then we are blessed and the world is blessed.

We should never be afraid to share our faith. We should never be afraid to share what God has done for us. We should never be afraid to “walk and leap and praise God” for the salvation he has promised us. Members of this church have participated in what is called “Tres Dios.” In Memphis, it’s called the “Great Banquet.” As a part of the weekend, I have the opportunity to hear many testimonies. The Biblical content of the talks on a Great Banquet weekend are actually outlined for us. We have to say what is supposed to be said in the talk. On the other hand, we are asked to share a portion of our personal testimony as a part of our talk.

Now here’s an interesting fact: I have given a lot of talks, and I’ve heard hundreds of talks. I don’t remember the content of many of the talks. However, I do remember almost every personal testimony. I remember every story of salvation. I remember every marriage that was healed, every addict healed from addiction, every criminal who went straight, every housewife who prayed for a child, every man who ever prayed for a spouse. Those testimonies are more important to me theological content of the talk.

When we tell others about our salvation, we are doing a great thing.

Today’s message is about being thankful for our salvation. We need to be thankful.  And, we need to remember to tell others just exactly how thankful we are!


Copyright 2018, G. Christopher Scruggs, All Rights Reserved

[1] Isaiah has three basic focuses, Chapters 1-39 primarily deal with the fall of the Northern Kingdom, which occurred about 721 B.C. The Second Part, chapters 40-66 deal with the fall of the southern Kingdom (608 B.C.) and the end of the exile around 531 B.C. In other words, Isaiah covers a period of nearly two centuries. This has led some scholars to see multiple authors writing in different times. Other scholars retain the view of a single writer. In my view the authorship debate is not material for Christians, who read Isaiah primarily for its prophesy of the nature of the Messiah. The historical references herein are impacted by John H. Oswalt “The Book of Isaiah: Chapters 1-39 in The New International Commentary on the Old Testament(Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1986)

Will we be Leaves on the Tree of Life?

Revelation 22:1-6

Week before last was one of the best weeks I’ve had since coming to Bay Presbyterian Church. On Tuesday, we had a luncheon with one of our missionaries. This young lady grew up in our church and now works in a primarily Muslim country. She told a group of us her story of growing up at BPC, being a part of our youth group, thinking she would have a lucrative and successful career, and then feeling called into the mission field. She has served in two of the most difficult countries in the world to be a missionary. It was so touching.

On Wednesday, we went to the Family Ministry Center for staff meeting. We heard presentations from the Bridge Avenue School, Garden Christian Academy, Scranton Road Ministries, and the Nehemiah Collaborative, all of which we support through our ministry here and at the FMC. Julie Jones filled us in on what is happening in other areas of the FMC. We had a wonderful lunch of food from the area  created by a local ministry/business. It happened to be my one -year anniversary at BPC.

Wednesday evening, I had the opportunity to be with one of the MOPS groups. It was held in a private home filled with young mothers, some of whom don’t go to our church. On Thursday morning Sally Gerycz and I had a wonderful meeting about the Evangelism Ministry of our church. 

We began our series on the theme of “Made for This” in the Garden of Eden, learning that we were created to be stewards of God’s creation. We then learned that foolishness, fear, and sin keep us from being the people and stewards we were created to be. We learned that Jesus wants us to trust him, live by faith and be cheerful, loving stewards of our gifts from God. We learned that we can’t be filled with God’s love without giving[1] We also learned that how we use our spiritual gifts matters to God—and in learning that we remembered that the least gifted person at BPC filled with God’s love is important for the world. [2] Last week we heard from several members on the importance of giving to spiritual growth and health. This week we are concluding with an encouragement to be all God calls us to be.

Text and Prayer

Our text is from Revelation, Chapter 22, verses 1-6. [3] Revelation  is  the subject of controversy in the church, much of which is directed towards understanding its meaning for the end of human history. Too often, people fail to recognize that Revelation had meaning for the first Christians who read it, and who may have read it differently than we do.

The book begins with John on Patmos receiving a vision of the Risen Christ with messages for the churches of Asia Minor in the midst of persecution. This is important! Revelation is primarily designed to be read as an encouragement to the church of Jesus Christ to be faithful. This message is as important to the Church today as when it was first written. We can be faithful because God is faithful. We can trust God because God is trustworthy. 

The majority of the Book begins with Chapter 4 and a series of visions which take place at the Throne of God surrounded by the people of God. This section ends with today’s verses. Let’s take a look at the Word of God as it comes to us through the voice of John:

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign forever and ever. The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.”

Prayer: Living God. Source of Life. Come among us this morning. Send your Holy Spirit to upon us that these words might not be simply words spoken long ago in a distant place, but Your very Word to us this morning.

The River of the Spirit and the Tree of Life

At the end of the Revelation, John returns to a theme that runs throughout Scripture from beginning to end. In Genesis, a River flows from the Garden of Eden, functioning as the headwaters of natural rivers.  Within the Garden is the Tree of Life, a symbol of God’s life-giving and life-sustaining power (Gen. 2:9-10). In Ezekiel, the prophet records a vision of the river of the Spirit flowing from the Temple in Jerusalem—a river that produces abundant life and trees which have healing properties (Ezekiel 47:1-12).

In John, Jesus identifies himself as the source of Living Water. Jesus says, “Whoever believes in me,asthe Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'”[4] Jesus is the personal presence of the River of Life in history. He is also the personal presence of the Tree of Life in human history.

In Revelation, John records a vision of the people of God as a “Heavenly City,” a New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:1-6). He also has a vision of a great river, “the river of the water of life” flowing from the throne of God and of Christ, the Lamb of God, down the middle of the Main Street of the Heavenly City. The Heavenly City is clearly the people of God, the Church of God, made up those who have been called out of the world to become God’s children, God’s people, those who have felt the grace of God (22:1-2). [5]

In the vision, the great River of the Holy Spirit flowing from the Throne of God passes through the city.  On each side of the river is the Tree of Life—that tree of Divine Life, the Divine Life from which Adam and Eve were separated by their sin in the Garden of Eden. The tree John sees, is the Tree of God’s Love in Christ. As the River of the Spirit travels through the City carrying the testimony of the Twelve Apostles, it bears fruit each month—twelve times each year. The leaves of Tree of are for the healing of the nations—for the healing of the ancient curse of the Fall and its terrible consequences in human history. [6]

One of the interesting things about this vision has to do with the Tree. Note that there is one great tree, the Tree of Life, that occupies the banks of the River on both sides. This tree is the fruit of the apostolic testimony to Christ. It is one tree because the people of God are one people. 

In Colorado they have Aspen trees. Aspen trees are all connected. In fact, an Aspen grove is actually on organism. If one part of the grove is short on water the trees on the other parts shift nutrients through the interconnected root system to the part in need. The body of Christ is just such an interconnected system.

The river of Revelation is nothing less that the Spirit of Christ, proceeding from the Father and the Son passing through the church into the world carrying the healing power of the Gospel of Christ. Earlier, in Revelation, John gives some idea of the kinds of healing we can expect when he says that, in the Heavenly City, “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (21:4). All those aspects of human history which result from our sinful human nature, war, greed, poverty, starvation, hunger, lack of water, and the like, all these things will pass away.

The Life Centered in Christ

In February , our congregation adopted a new vision statement establishing that we wish to be Centered on Christ, Shaped in Community, and Sent into the World. Jesus says that he is the vine and we are the branches, without him we can do nothing (John 15:5). Returning to the metaphor of leaves on a tree, a leaf on any tree that become separated from the life-giving power of the tree and its root system withers and dies. If we do not remain centered in Christ and connect to God by the power of the Holy Spirit, we too begin to wither and die.

Our Session has organized itself in a way focused on helping our congregation be Centered on Christ, Shaped in Community, and Sent into the World. Regular attendance in worship, a personal prayer life, daily Bible reading, and meditation on the word of God are essential for all of us to continue to be filled with the life-giving power of God. You can commit today to live a life Centered in Christ, in worship, discipleship, and prayer.

A Life Shaped in Community

We cannot remain centered in Christ unless we are being shaped in community with other Christians. One misconception of modern Christianity is the notion that we can be solitary Christians. Human beings were born for relationships, which means we were born to be part of a community. In point of fact, we are all members of multiple communities! We are born into a family. We go to school. We join clubs. We become citizens of a city, state, and nation. All these communities we belong to shape who we are.

If you don’t believe that, go to another country and notice the subtle differences between the way people live and think and the way we live and think. (Kathy and I lived in Scotland for summer. We almostspeak the same language as the Scots! Nevertheless, their history and culture are different and they live and think differently.)

If we want to live and think as Christians, we must remain connected to the Body of Christ. This means we must be connected to a church and a small group of people inside of the church who are growing in Christ together.

Since I’ve been with you, we have had two studies designed to help grow the small group network in our church. This Christmas, we are encouraging those who are not one group to get together with one or two other people to join as a group to discuss this year’s Advent Devotional. Why? Because people grow in community. Small groups are not only the best way for people to grow in Christ—in prayer, in Biblical understanding, and in service to others, they are also the very best way for a church to grow as people are drawn into the fellowship of believers. [7]

Last week, one of our members, Jack Dannemiller, came to see me. He gave me a book by Presbyterian minister Irving R. Stubbs, called Dialogue a Way to Live. [8] In the book, Dr. Stubbs, who is a retired Presbyterian pastor and friend of Jack’s, describes his own experience with the transformational power of a small group early in his ministry.

I can also testify that a small group of people made a great deal of difference in my early Christian growth—and since then, many small groups have made a difference in my life, including groups right here at BPC. There is nothing you can do that is more important to your spiritual growth than to be a part of a small group to help you be shaped in Christ in a loving, open, Christ-Centered community.

A Life Sent into the World

There is an old saying that “Christ has no eyes, but our eyes, no ears but our ears, no hands but our hands.” Our text reminds us that we—the members of the Body of Christ—are the vehicle through which God as chosen to impact the world. We are the leaves on the Tree of Life, created by God to heal the world of its addictions to power, to pleasure, to foolishness, violence and evil. God heals the world as we allow the Spirit to flow into us, to heal us, and through us into the world as his fully-committed disciples.

Although it’s hard to get people to commit their lives to Christ and trust Christ, it’s harder to encourage a commitment to be a part of a small group of believers and to share at a deep level. It’s hard to encourage people to join with others to overcome their bad habits, their self-centeredness, their selfishness, and other failings and shortcomings to become the people God has called them to be. However, it’s even harder to get people to get out of their comfort zone and move into the world to share the love of God with others. This requires a commitment of time, talents, and energy. It requires sacrifice and a love that is not natural but supernatural.

The Big Question

I love the end of Revelation. John sees that, despite persecution and troubles, God has acted in Christ, and Christ will be the victor. He sees that the Church is God’s chosen vehicle to share the Gospel in human history and renew God’s creation. He sees that we are the bearers of the life-giving power of the Tree of Life.  The  real question is simply this: “Will we allow the River of the Water of Life to run through our lives into the community around us?” “Will be carriers of the Gospel of Life into the very places where God takes us, whether to the ends of the earth or around the corner?” “Will we be leaves on the Tree of Life?”

Copyright 2018, G. Christopher Scruggs, All Rights Reserved


[1]John Murtha’s great comment, “You can give without loving, but you can’t love without giving.”

[2]My comment on November 21, “The least gifted person in our church using their gifts with love is greater than the most gifted person using their gifts without love.”

[3]The technical aspects of preaching on Revelationare daunting to say the least. I am grateful for the following commentators, William Barclay, “Revelation” in the Daily Study BibleVol. 2 rev. ed. (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1976); William Hendriksen, More than Conquerors: An Interpretation of Revelation(Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1940, 1967); Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, The Book of Revelation (London, ENG: Intervarsity Press, 1990); and Bruce M. Metzger, Breaking the Code: Understanding the Book of Revelation  (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1993).

[4]See, John 4:13-14, Proverbs 18:4 and Isaiah 55:1 for examples of the way in which God’s blessing is associated with water.

[5]See, David E. Aune, “Revelation 17-22” in Word Biblical Commentaryvol. 52c (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 1177.: “The “trees of life” in Paradise are metaphors for the faithful.” The river is certainly the river of the Holy spirit flowing from the Triune God into the church of Christ.

[6]William C. Weinrich, ed. “Revelation” in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testamentvol. XII (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2005): 387-393. The tree of life is a wonderful image. It is one tree, but also many trees, the fruit of the testimony of the apostles. This is a beautiful relational image of how we as Christians are both one and unique individuals!

[7]It is extremely difficult in our secular, individualistic and fragmented society to remain united in Christ and with other Christians. Our culture is so individualistic that creating community is the hardest thing pastors and leaders do.

[8]See, Irving R. Stubbs, Dialogue: A Way to Live(Richmond, VA: The Living Dialogue Ministries, 2018). For a more academic view of dialogue, see, David Bohm, On Dialogue(New York, NY: Routledge, 1996).  Bohm, a well-known quantum physicist, spent the later years of his life working towards a dialogical way of thinking. For a powerful adaptation of dialogical thinking to business and leadership, see Peter Senge, The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization(New York, NY: Doubleday, 2006).