Category Archives: Easter

The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin

Children of the Promise

Mary, the mother of Jesus, visits her cousin Elizabeth who was also with child. When the child in Elizabeth’s womb hears Mary’s voice he leaps for joy. This child is John the Baptist. The moment of celebration brings joy to Mary and she prophesies:

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
    and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
    Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
    and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and sent the rich away empty.   (Luke 1:47-55)

Mary’s prophecy echoes the great joy of another Mother who had a miraculous child. Hannah prayed:

“My heart exults in the Lord;
    my strength is exalted in my God.
My mouth derides my enemies,
    because I rejoice in my victory.

“There is no Holy One like the Lord,
    no one besides you;
    there is no Rock like our God.
Talk no more so very proudly,
    let not arrogance come from your mouth;
for the Lord is a God of knowledge,
    and by him actions are weighed.
The bows of the mighty are broken,
    but the feeble gird on strength.
Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
    but those who were hungry are fat with spoil.
The barren has borne seven,
    but she who has many children is forlorn.   (1 Samuel 2:1-5)

Hannah dedicated her child who became Samuel, the great prophet and man of God. Hannah was barren but she believe in the promise of God.

What is remarkable about Mary and Elizabeth also is that they believed the promises of God, even though great miracles of God were required to fulfill them. Mary, a virgin, had conceived a child and Elizabeth, who was well beyond any child bearing age, had also conceived. Nevertheless, these chosen instruments of God were able to believe God as was Abraham before them.

Are we able to believe in the miraculous today?

Mary and Elizabeth understood that the promises God made to them were not just about them. Jesus and John the Baptist are children of the promise which God made to Abraham. Their births extended and expanded that promise down through the ages. Today, we are recipients of that promise.

God has made promises to us as well. His plans for us may not be as dramatic as Mary and Elizabeth, but they are important to God just the same. Are we willing to believe in those promises and hold on to them. There will always be obstacles in the way of our receiving God’s promise. The Apostle Paul tells us how to overcome these obstacles with this prescription:

Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.   (Romans 12:12)

In time, the promises of God will come to pass. The blessing is in the believing and perseverance. Too often me take matters in our own hands and thwart God’s plans and purposes for us. Others are depending upon to make the right choices. In fact, their future blessings depend upon our faithfulness. Let us be willing to see beyond ourselves as the wonders of God’s work unfolds.

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Seventh Sunday of Easter

Why Do You Stand Here Looking Up?

The last words of Jesus spoken to his disciples before being taken up to heaven are extremely significant. In John we read:

When the apostles had come together, they asked Jesus, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”   (Acts 1:6-11)

What is significant? Is it that Jesus said that we would be his witnesses. Yes! And the assurance from the angels that Jesus would return the same way he left. Yes! But the angels also said this: “Why do you stand here looking up?”

So many events and signs today point to the fact that we are living in the last days. It is right that we should be anticipating Jesus’s return. Even the Early Church did that. But they did much more than that. Because of their courageous witness the Gospel was spread throughout the world.

How are we doing today in terms of our witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Are we telling others about the good news of salvation by faith in his saving act upon the cross? Or are re we just looking up and waiting? Do we have a bunker mentality or are we ready to take new ground for the Kingdom of God?

Our example is the Lord Jesus Christ. He lived through very difficult times. Yet his primary concern was to reveal the love of God the Father, whatever the cost. In John we read:

”I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.   (John 17:6-8)

The Early Church followed the example of our Lord. They were willing to go the distance, even to the point of death. The Greek word for witness in today’s reading from Acts is “Martus.” From this Greek word we get the word “martyr.” The dictionary defines the word martyr as a person who sacrifices something of great value and especially life itself for the sake of principle.

Jesus gave his life for us. Many of the early believers gave their life for us as well. What are we willing to give today?

Are we waiting on God? Are we waiting on His return? He is waiting on us. He is counting on our witness to the Gospel. Has the Gospel impacted our lives? If so, others should that it has.

What keeps many of us from witnessing today is the threat of persecution. This is increasing more and more throughout the world. Now we are experiencing it in America. Such persecution is promise. The Apostle Peter wrote:

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you.   (1 Peter 4:12-14)

The key is that God is with us. We are not alone. God is pouring out this glory through us when we boldly step out for him

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Ascension Day, Year A

You Shall Receive Power

From today’s scriptural readings it is also impossible not to miss this message: You shall receive power. From Acts we read:

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.  (Acts 1:6-10)

In Luke we read the final words of Jesus to his disciples:

Jesus said to his disciples, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you– that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”  (Luke 24:44-49)

Are we clothed with power from on high? If not, how can we be effective witnesses for Christ? The Apostle Paul prayed for the Church in Ephesus:

I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.  (Ephesians 1:15-19)

Paul speaks about  “the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe.” Are we believers? Then Paul is speaking to us!

The Church is the Body of Christ on the earth until Jesus comes again. But we are not powerless. In fact, Jesus said that we would continue the work he was doing and do even greater work. However, this work can be accomplished only through the Holy Spirit for those who believe in Jesus and the promise he made to the Church.

The primary work of the church is evangelism. The power of God is a large part of effective evangelism. Paul wrote the church in Thessalonica:

For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you, because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake.   (1 Thessalonians 1:4-5)

What are we accomplishing in his name? Are we powerless? If we do not believe in his promise, then we are without his power. The enemy wants to keep us in the dark.

A revival in the Church is coming for those who believe and pray. Do we want to sit around and curse the darkness? Or do we want to fulfill the promise made to the Body of Christ by our Lord Jesus. It is up to us. Jesus has poured out his power. We must receive it by faith.

Grant, we pray, Almighty God, that as we believe your only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into heaven, so we may also in heart and mind there ascend, and with him continually dwell; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Sixth Sunday of Easter

262017884xGMKlo_phThe Spirit of Truth

We live in a pluralist society. It is becoming ever more difficult to talk about our Christian faith. Persecutions of Christians are on the rise, even in America. Moreover, there are alternative messages to the Gospel that spew out on the airways and over the internet. False doctrines have supplanted Biblical truths. Deception, misinformation, disinformation, and down right lies are the order of the day. Some might even say psyops, brainwashing, and group think. Satan has taken over the culture of today.

We are living in a very dark time indeed. Who is telling the truth? What is truth? People are begging for the truth, rather they realize it or not. That is where Christian comes in. Are we prepared to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

The Apostle Peter laid down this challenge:

Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence.   (1 Peter 3:15-16)

God has done great things for us. Will we boldly share with others what he has done? The psalmist wrote:

Come and listen, all you who fear God,
and I will tell you what he has done for me.

I called out to him with my mouth,
and his praise was on my tongue.   (Psalm 66:14-15)

If we are to give witness to the Christian way of life, then we must be living the Christian way of life. We must be different from the world. This is no time for shallow or nominal Christians. We must be walking with Jesus on a daily basis. We cannot truly witness the Christian faith without his help. The good news is that he has promised to help us. We read in today’s Gospel:

Jesus said, ”If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.   (John 14:15-17)

Jesus has given us supernatural help by way of the Parakletos, which is a Greek word often translated as “helper.” The Holy Spirit is our helper and guide who leads us to the truth. He is the Spirit of Aletheia, in the Greek, which means standing against corrupt opinions and precepts of false teachers. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth.

The Spirit of truth helps us to understand and interpret God’s Word and relate it to our lives. With the Spirit we are not in the dark. Without the Spirit we are part of the darkness.

Jesus promised:

I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”   (John 14:18-21)

Have we received the Spirit? He is continually available to us. But we must ask for him. We must ask for his help. And we must also seek to keep the commandments of God. Deliberate sin is not compatible with the Spirit because this type of living is not truthful. It does not show the world what God has done for us. To speak the truth we need the Spirit of truth and we need to live in truth daily.

We are living in critical times. God is bringing the Church age to the close. Are we ready for that day when God judges the earth? How about our families and loved ones? The Apostle Paul wrote:

While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”   (Acts 17:30-31)

Jesus has risen from the dead and sits on the right hand of God the Father. He is calling us to live out our faith that the world may know that we have risen with him. We are not longer subject to this world and its compromised. We must live in the truth by the Spirit of truth to demonstrate to the world what is real and lasting. This present age is passing away. Even unbelievers sense it. Where can they go for answers? We who are living in Christ are the answer for them. Jesus is Lord of this age and in the age to come. Amen.

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Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year A

A Cornerstone Chosen and Precious

What is the foundation of the Early Church? A better question is: Who is the foundation of that Church? There was question in the minds of some of the apostles who that was. After the resurrection it was settled for them. It was Jesus. The Apostle Peter wrote:

Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in scripture:

“See, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious;

and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe,

“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the very head of the corner”,

and

“A stone that makes them stumble,
and a rock that makes them fall.”

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.   (1 Peter 2:4-8)

Jesus was the problem for the leaders of Judaism during the time of his earthly ministry and following his resurrection. Even though he had performed countless miracles the leaders just could not accept him as Messiah. He did not fit their expectations. In fact, Jesus’s ministry was such an affront to their faith that they had to destroy him and remove all evidence that he actually existed.

Stephen had been appointed by the apostles to serve as a deacon in the Church. He was so filled with the Holy Spirit and so anointed by God that his ministry made the risen Christ ever more real. The leaders simply could not stand his presence:

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Stephen gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him.   (Acts 7:55-57)

Jesus was the very foundation and cornerstone of the Church. However, to acknowledge that he was meant that the leaders of Judaism had to admit that they totally misunderstood what Judaism was all about.

What about our churches today? Is Jesus our chosen and precious cornerstone? If he is not then our church is dead. What evidence do we see that demonstrates Jesus is the firm foundation of our faith and of our churches?

Jesus told his disciple Philip:

Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.   (John 14:12-14)

Do we see that glory of God the Father in our churches? Do we see the miracles that apostles were accomplishing in the name of Jesus? The deacons were doing a similar ministry if Stephen is an example. God is no respecter of persons. Jesus said that all we have to do is believe in him and use his name.

Is Jesus a stone that makes us stumble or is he our cornerstone? The problem with Judaism in Jesus’s day was that the leaders had too narrow an understanding of it and their vision was severely limited. How do we see our church? Are we limiting what God can do through our unbelief?

God is calling us to a live and dynamic church where the Spirit of God is in operation. He is calling each one of us to do the greater works about which Jesus spoke. Jesus was teaching the  disciple Philip about these works. Philip was skeptical at first. History has shown, however, that he stepped up the plate when he became a powerful apostle of Christ.

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