Tag Archives: power

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 12B

Track 1: Lust of the Flesh

2 Samuel 11:1-15
Psalm 14
Ephesians 3:14-21
John 6:1-21

David was on top of the world. He had consolidated the nation of Israel and moved the capital to Jerusalem, along with the Ark of the Covenant. He had subdued all of his enemies. He was a war hero, psalmist, and prophet. Best of all, he had a close relationship with God that made all of this possible. What could go wrong? A great deal! From Second Samuel we read:

It happened, late one afternoon, when David rose from his couch and was walking about on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; the woman was very beautiful. David sent someone to inquire about the woman. It was reported, “This is Bathsheba daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” So David sent messengers to get her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she was purifying herself after her period.) Then she returned to her house. The woman conceived; and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant.”   (2 Samuel 11:2-5)

David was in trouble. To cover his own tracks, he tried to get Uriah the Hittite to sleep with his wife. Uriah, the loyal, would not do it while there was a battle going on. For David. drastic measures were needed:

In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, so that he may be struck down and die.”   (2 Samuel 11:14-15)

How did this happen? David was close to God but David was now an adulterer and a murderer. Was he any more sinner than we are? The psalmist wrote:

The Lord looks down from heaven upon us all,
to see if there is any who is wise,
if there is one who seeks after God.

Every one has proved faithless;
all alike have turned bad;
there is none who does good; no, not one.   (Psalm 14:2-3)

Each one of us has very powerful urges to disobey the commandments of God. Perhaps one of the most powerful is the lust of the flesh. The flesh wants to satisfy itself at any cost. It is totally selfish. It does not care about God’s law. It wants nothing to stand in its way, and it is very persistent.

The Apostle Paul wrote about his inner struggle:

For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.   (Romans 7:14-20)

The truth of the matter is that we cannot overcome the desires of the flesh on our own. Paul wrote:

Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord   (Romans 7:24-25)

David repented from his sin. He did so from the heart and God forgave him. Nonetheless, David faced grave consequences because of his sin. Would it not be better to avoid the sin if at all possible and, thus, avoid the consequences? Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians:

I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.   (Ephesians 3:14-19)

Can we be filled with the fullness of God? Not when we are filled with the fullness of this world. It is our choice. If we seek the fullness of God and know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, then we are so much better prepared for the temptations of the world, including the flesh. In fact, do we not discover that our love relationship with Christ is far more exciting and wonderful than anything in this world?

Paul concludes bis thought by praising the Holy Spirit for what he is accomplishing in our lives:

Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.   (Ephesians 3:20-21)

How then do we live, by the flesh or by the Spirit.

 

 

Track 2: Tell out the Glory of God

2 Kings 4:42-44
Psalm 145:10-19
Ephesians 3:14-21
John 6:1-g21

We find in the Gospel of John an emphasis on signs and wonders. John’s Gospel speaks of events in the earthly life of Jesus that are not found in the synoptic Gospels. At the beginning of the second chapter of John’s Gospel we read about the miracle that Jesus performed at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. We remember that, when there was a shortage if wine, Jesus miraculously transformed water into wine. John speaks about the significance of this miracle. He writes:

Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him..   (John 2:11)

It was not only the water was transformed, but by this miracle the disciples of Jesus were radically transformed in their faith.

In today’s Gospel reading from John we see more signs and wonders. Jesus feed five though and people with just five barley loaves and two fish. Following this we have the incident where his disciples were terrified when they saw Jesus walking on the sea:

When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.”   (John 6:15-20)

John concluded his Gospel be speaking about the importance of these signs and wonders. John writes:

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.   (John 21:24-25)

How important is his message about signs and wonders? The signs and wonders speak about the power and glory of God. The psalmist wrote:

All your works praise you, O Lord,
and your faithful servants bless you.

They make known the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your power;

That the peoples may know of your power
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.   (Psalm 145:10-12)

We have a story to tell and perhaps we do not do a very good job of it. Our God is a miraculous God. Do we tell the people about his wondrous works? Some churches today are convinced that the “age of miracles” (so to speak) is over. Why would anyone say that? Do we not observe? Do we not see?

Of course, there are people who do not want to see. Signs and wonders are a threat to the status quo. They are outside the norm. But what the world says and teaches is not the norm that God has for us. God wants to pour out his glory upon the earth. We need to receive it.

We need to share it with others, knowing that the glory is not ours but God’s. A desperate and dying world is starving for the presence of God. Will we speak out? Do we have testimonies to share? Or are we stuck in our own dead little world? For Christian believers this should not be. We first want to know and then we want others to know “God’s power and the glorious splendor of his kingdom.”

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Ascension Day, Year B

You Will Be My Witnesses

There is much speculation in today’s Church concerning the date of Jesus’s return to the earth. Little has changed from the Early Church. This same concern was on the mind and hearts of the disciples. 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.”   (Acts 1:6-8)

Jesus did not answer his disciples directly. Rather, he conveyed what was a much more important consideration for his Church. They task was to be witnesses to the resurrection. From Luke we read:

“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 24:46-49)

There would be two essential ingredients to witnessing for Christ: 1) they were to proclaim the repentance and forgiveness of sins, and 2) that they would be clothed with power from on high. That does not sound like a seeker church with a watered down Gospel. Our church is not to blend into the world and thus, have no relevance. Moreover, we need to be clothed with the Holy Spirit in order to fulfill our calling. The age of the apostolic faith is not over. We are now the apostles.

Are we excited about the message that has been entrusted to us? The psalmist wrote:

God has gone up with a shout,
the Lord with the sound of the ram’s-horn.

Sing praises to God, sing praises;
sing praises to our King, sing praises.

For God is King of all the earth;
sing praises with all your skill.

God reigns over the nations;
God sits upon his holy throne.   (Psalm 47:5-8)

Are we equipped for ministry? If not, let us ask for power from on high. Jesus promises to baptize us in the Holy Spirit. He has called us to do his greater works. Now is not the time to shrink back or hide behind man-made doctrine and tradition.

The questions the angles asked the disciples is still applicable to us:

“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 1:11)

We do not have time to waste. Let us get on with the true task of the Church. Jesus may come at any moment. We should be living holy lives with our lamps full all the time. But our concern must be for the lost. We were once lost and someone witnessed to us. If we love Jesus then we will keep his commandments. His great commission is all the more important today as we approach the close of the Church age.

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Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B

Godly Authority

Jesus taught scripture with an authority and understanding that was not found in the scribes of his day. From today’s Gospel we read:

Jesus and his disciples went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.   (Mark 1:21-22)

Whoever properly speaks and follows God’s word may exercise the power of that word. The scribes were following God’s word in a very shallow, superficial, and legalistic way. Thus they could not expound upon the word with any authority.

The word of God is powerful. When spoken with authority, the word has very practical and immediate applications. Again, reading from Mark:

Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.   (Mark 1:23-28)

Everything is subject to the word of God including evil spirits. If we are to fight evil then we must be able to speak the word of God with authority. The Apostle Paul tells us how to do this:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.   (Ephesians 6:10-17)

How much we need, today, people who can take up the sword of the Spirit – who can speak the word of God with authority! God told Moses that the children of Israel needed someone to speak the word of God to them:

Moses said: The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet. This is what you requested of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said: “If I hear the voice of the Lord my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.” Then the Lord replied to me: “They are right in what they have said. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command. Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable. But any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak—that prophet shall die.”   (Deuteronomy 18:15-20)

Notice, the prophets and spiritual leaders of Israel would speak to the people in God’s name. They would speak the very words that God put in their mouths. Do we have such leaders today in our churches?

God gave a warning to those who presume to speak in his name but who actually speak in the name of other gods. Perhaps this describes some of our religious and spiritual leaders today. Some of our leaders and some of our churches have wondered from the truth. That is why we do not see any exercise of authority against evil forces in these churches. There is no power. Healings and deliverances are absent from the scene.

Unfortunately, some churches teach that the days of miracles and healings are over. Not so. Jesus gave this command to all his disciples, including us:

Proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near. Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.   (Matthew 10:7-8)

There are many in the church today who do not want to hear this message. But is was also true in the day of the Apostle Paul who wrote Timothy:

Proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.   (2 Timothy 4:2-5)

If we cannot find a church were the true authority of God is being exercised, then perhaps God is calling some of us to start a church that will. Paul’s injunction to Timothy and Jesus’ commission still ring true today. Preach and teach the Word. Preach it with authority. Put on the full armor of God and war against evil. Amen.

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