Category Archives: Pentecost

Holy Cross Day

Day of Judgment

The Prophet Isaiah forecast a time when God would hold a court to judge humankind for sin. God was speaking to the nation of Israel, but Israel was a proxy for all the nations of the world:

Declare and present your case;
let them take counsel together!

Who told this long ago?
Who declared it of old?

Was it not I, the Lord?
There is no other god besides me,

a righteous God and a Saviour;
there is no one besides me.   (Isaiah 45:21)

We are asked by God to present our case to him. God is also saying that he is qualified to judge our case because he is creator and has established all life. There is no other god besides him. Furthermore, his very nature and character qualifies him. He will be fair because he is not only a righteous God, but he is also our Savior.

A righteous God must be fair, but he must also be just. He must declare the injustice caused by sin. Sin cannot be ignored or swept under the rug. How is God able to accomplish this most difficult task, that of being both compassionate and just?

Before his verdict of guilty and penalty of death, God provided a path of escape. He did so through his Son Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul reminds us of the cruel crucifixion of Jesus by his own choice and desire:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,

but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.

And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,

so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.   (Philippians 2:5-11)

In today’s Gospel reading we see a link between the judgement of God and a route of escape:

Jesus said, “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.   (John 12:31-33)

On the cross the sins of the whole world were judged. Jesus bore our sins for us while hanging from a cross and receiving the Father’s judgement.  The judgement of sin was once and for all, for all who believe. The Apostle Paul’ wrote:

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”   (Romans 6:23)

Have we allowed God to judge our sins through his Son Jesus? If so, we must acknowledge it. We must turn towards Jesus. We must see him on the cross standing in for us.

God spoke through the Prophet Isaiah:

Turn to me and be saved,
all the ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.

By myself I have sworn,
from my mouth has gone forth in righteousness
a word that shall not return:

“To me every knee shall bow,
every tongue shall swear.”

Only in the Lord, it shall be said of me,
are righteousness and strength;

all who were incensed against him
shall come to him and be ashamed.

In the Lord all the offspring of Israel
shall triumph and glory.   (Isaiah 45:22-25)

Do we want triumph and glory? The only judgement of God that is left is the judgement of fallen angels. That judgement is not meant for us. Do we ignore such a great gift of salvation established on a Holy Cross? If Jesus humbled himself, why can we not humble ourselves? In Hebrews we read:

Therefore we must pay greater attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. For if the message declared through angels was valid, and every transgression or disobedience received a just penalty, how can we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? It was declared at first through the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard him, while God added his testimony by signs and wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, distributed according to his will..   (Hebrews 2:1-4)

It is the cross was very cruel instrument of torture and death. We say that it is holy only because it can make us holy. We have been washed in the blood of Jesus.  If we refuse what Christ has done for us we nullify the power of the cross and join ourselves with fallen angels who await the lake of fire.

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Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 19

Track 1: The Judgement Seat of God

Exodus 14:19-31
Psalm 114
or 
Exodus 15:1b-11,20-21
Romans 14:1-12
Matthew 18:21-35

Proverbs tells us that the way to become wise is to feae the Lord.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
    fools despise wisdom and instruction.   (Proverbs 1:7)

Satan promised Eve that if she ignored and dishonored God she would become wise like him. Eve chose to listen to Satan. She demonstrated the corollary of the saying from Proverbs: Disrespecting and ignoring God is the beginning of foolishness. In our lives, many of us have followed her path of foolishness.

Moses warned Pharaoh that he must allow the Israelites to be freed from slavery. He not only warned Pharaoh but demonstrated by signs and wonders that it would be disastrous if he did not act. Pharaoh chose not to act. He disregarded and disobeyed what God had commanded. Today’s Old Testament reading records the consequences of his bad choice:

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, so that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots and chariot drivers.” So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at dawn the sea returned to its normal depth. As the Egyptians fled before it, the Lord tossed the Egyptians into the sea. The waters returned and covered the chariots and the chariot drivers, the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea; not one of them remained.   (Exodus 14:26-28)

Pharaoh discovered first hand this saying from the Book of Hebrews.≈

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.   (Hebrews 10:31)

Pharaoh chose to ignore a God who controls all things, even the path of the sea. The psalmist wrote:

The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice;
Let the many islands be glad.
Clouds and thick darkness surround Him;
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.
Fire goes before Him
And burns up His adversaries round about.
His lightnings lit up the world;
The earth saw and trembled.
The mountains melted like wax at the presence of the Lord,
At the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.
The heavens declare His righteousness,
And all the peoples have seen His glory.   (Psalm 97:1-6)

We are all accountable to this most high God. Do we ignore him? One of the ways that we do is in our judging of others. The Apostle Paul wrote:

Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written,

“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall give praise to God.”

So then, each of us will be accountable to God.   (Romans 14:10-12)

We are all in the same boat. As scripture tells us:

since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God;   (Romans 3:23)

For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil.   (2 Corinthians 5:10)

We have no right to judge anyone. From Hebrews we read:

 For we know the one who said, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.”   (Hebrews 10:30)

God is God. He has a right to juege. The good news is that God has already judged his people through the cross of Christ. This is true only for those who have stopped judging the sins of others and repented of their own sins. Let us remember how Jesus taught us how to prayL

Our Father in heaven,
    hallowed be your name.
   Your kingdom come.
    Your will be done,
        on earth as it is in heaven.
    Give us this day our daily bread.[c]
   And forgive us our debts,
        as we also have forgiven our debtors.   (Matthew 6:9-12)

Jesus goes on to explain:

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.   (Matthew 6:14-15)

If we go on judging others, God will not forgive us. Not even the cross will excuse our foolishness. If we refused to listen to the words of Jesus, then he will hot be able to plead for us before the judgement seat of God. We have this waring from Hebrews:

For if we willfully persist in sin after having received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has violated the law of Moses dies without mercy “on the testimony of two or three witnesses.” How much worse punishment do you think will be deserved by those who have spurned the Son of God, profaned the blood of the covenant by which they were sanctified, and outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know the one who said, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.   (Hebrews 10:26-31)

 

 

Track 2: Forgiving from the Heart

Genesis 50:15-21
Psalm 103:(1-7), 8-13
Romans 14:1-12
Matthew 18:21-35

Peter had a question about forgiveness:

Peter came and said to Jesus, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.   (Matthew 18:21-22)

It appears that Peter wanted to place a limit on forgiveness. Perhaps it was because he understood his own limitations. Perhaps that is something to which each one of us can relate. How do we understand forgiveness?

Jesus told this parable to illustrate the nature of forgiveness and how our heavenly Father looks upon it:

“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. But since he [c]did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’ And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’ But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. Then summoning him, his lord *said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?   (Matthew 18:23-32)

What the servant in the parable failed to understand is that his forgiveness is tied to how he forgives others. In his Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught:

If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; 1but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.   (Matthew 6:14-15)

The Apostle Paul asked:

Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written,

“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall give praise to God.”

So then, each of us will be accountable to God.   (Romans 14:10-12)

We are all in the same boat together. The Apostle Paul wrote:

For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith.   (Romans 3:22-25)

The servant in the parable did not forgive his fellow servant. This is the lesson that Jesus wants us to take from the parable.

“And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”   (Matthew 18:34-35)

An unforgiving heart is a very serious matter with God. How do we forgive someone from the heart? In truth, we cannot without God’s help. We need to offer our hearts to God on a daily basis. I have found this prayer to be useful when someone annoys me or offends me:

“Bless {the person’s name} and heal me.”

If we go on judging others, God will not forgive us. Not even the cross will excuse our foolishness. If we refused to listen to the words of Jesus, then he will hot be able to plead for us before the judgement seat of God. We have this waring from the Book of Hebrews:

For if we willfully persist in sin after having received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has violated the law of Moses dies without mercy “on the testimony of two or three witnesses.” How much worse punishment do you think will be deserved by those who have spurned the Son of God, profaned the blood of the covenant by which they were sanctified, and outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know the one who said, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.   (Hebrews 10:26-31)

 

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Labor Day

The Dignity of Work 

Ecclesiasticus 38:27-32a
Psalm 107:1-9 or Psalm 90:1-2, 16-17
1 Corinthians 3:10-14
Matthew 6:19-24

God is our creator. He is the master craftsman of the universe. We are made in his image. Thus, a large part of our life on earth is the discovery of the God-given talent and creativity which he has placed within us. This discovery gives us joy but also contributes to the wellbeing of others.

King Solomon wrote about the skills of the potter:

He molds the clay with his arm and makes it pliable with his feet; he sets his heart to finish the glazing, and he takes care in firing the kiln. All these rely on their hands, and all are skillful in their own work. Without them no city can be inhabited, and wherever they live, they will not go hungry.   (Ecclesiasticus 38:29-32)

We are familiar with King Solomon. He was the wisest and the most wealthy ruler of his time, or perhaps of any time. Yet, Solomon found that all that material wealth was “vanity and striving after wind.” It did not satisfy. Again he wrote:

So I saw that there is nothing better than that all should enjoy their work, for that is their lot; who can bring them to see what will be after them? (Ecclesiastes 3:22)

Solomon was saving the our work itself should provide us satisfaction. The doing is more rewarding than the wages and what they can provide. Thus, whatever we do, let us do it unto the Lord, offering him praise and thanksgiving.

This Labor Day let us pause and rest. But let us also enjoy and appreciate our work and that of others. If we are still on the discovery to find our God-given vocation, we should not give us. God is with us. The psalmist wrote:

May the graciousness of the LORD our God be upon us; prosper the work of our hands; prosper our handiwork.   (Psalm 90:17)

There is great dignity in any kind of work. All work if for the betterment of society. To not work is a drag on society and on others. The Apostle Paul warned:

For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, and we did not eat anyone’s bread without paying for it; but with toil and labor we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you. This was not because we do not have that right, but in order to give you an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat. For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work.   (2 Thessalonians 3:7-11)

While on the earth Jesus never stopped working:

“My Father is still working, and I also am working.”   (John 5:17)
We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”   (John 9:4-5)
We need to follow his example. Soon the darkness will come upon us. We want to be working up to that day in the Kingdom of God. Then we will be prepared to work for him in his millennial reign.
Today, let us pause and give thanks for all our workers and citizen saints who keep us going.

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Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecos: Proper 18

Track 1: The Lamb of God

Exodus 12:1-14
Psalm 149
Romans 13:8-14
Matthew 18:15-20

We are living in a Passover time. God told the children of Israel to get ready. His wrath was coming on the house of Pharaoh. They had to be prepared to leave Egypt quickly. Reading from Exodus:

This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the Lord. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.   (Exodus 12:11-14)

The Apostle Paul gives us a similar warning:

Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.   (Romans 13:11-14)

What was required of Israel is required of us. We need the blood of the Lamb covering us. We need Jesus Christ, the Paschal Lamb.

Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch, as you really are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.   (1 Corinthians 5:7-8)

God is looking for sincerity and truth. Is that what we are getting in the media? Is that what we are saying? We either serve the God of truth or the Father of lies.

Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God,  us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful.   (Hebrews 10:19-23)

Are we now ready to approach God with a true heart. Untruths are not going to make it. We are living in a Passover time. God is not going to passover our sin. His judgment is already here for some. It is time to sprinkle our hearts clean with the blood of the Lamb. It is time to believe in Jesus and to come under his Lordship and protection. Otherwise, there will be no protection. Paul, again, reminds us:

You know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep.   (Romans 13:11)

We are either going to put on the robe of righteousness that Jesus offers us, or we are going to live in sin and ignore God’s warning. Read the signs of the time. He is ready to forgive us and restore us. Are we ready?

 

 

Track 2: Wrath or Reconciliation?

Ezekiel 33:7-11
Psalm 119:33-40
Romans 13:8-14
Matthew 18:15-20

God still speaks to the Church today through the prophets of old. Reading from Ezekiel:

So you, mortal, I have made a sentinel for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, “O wicked ones, you shall surely die,” and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but their blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from their ways, and they do not turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but you will have saved your life.   (Ezekiel 33:7-9)

Has the Church in America lost its way? Can we say that it is the moral compass for culture? As a minister of the Gospel I am tasked by God to tell the good news of salvation by grace through faith. But I am also  god is warning tasked with warning pe0ple about sin. The cross of Jesus Christ does not excuse or condone sin. I believe God is warning America today. Repent!

Let us continue reading from Ezekiel:

Now you, mortal, say to the house of Israel, Thus you have said: “Our transgressions and our sins weigh upon us, and we waste away because of them; how then can we live?” Say to them, As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?   (Ezekiel 33:10-11)

In today’s Gospel reading Jesus specifically tells the Church to point out sin and to deal with it:

“If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.   (Matthew 18:15-17)

We are living in the Church age, but his age is rapidly coming to a close. The Apostle Paul warns:

Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

We are either going to put on the robe of righteousness that Jesus offers us, or we are going to live in sin and ignore God’s warning. His wrath is coming. It is already here for some. Read the signs of the time. God takes no delight in pouring out his wrath, but he must because he is a just God. But he delights in those who truly repent. He is ready to restore us. Are we ready?

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