Tag Archives: promises of God

Second Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 6

Track 1: Our God Is Too Small

Genesis 18:1-15, (21:1-7)
Psalm 116:1, 10-17
Romans 5:1-8
Matthew 9:35-10:8(9-23)

We maybe familiar with God’s promise to Abraham. God would make him the father of many nations. When Abraham was nearly 100 years old God promised him a son. His wife Sarah, who had been barren,  was far beyond her child baring years.

In today’s Old Testament reading we pick up on God’s promise. Three strangers came to visit Abraham. Abraham must have recognized that there was something special about these men. He welcomed them and hastened to prepare a meal for them. While he watched them eat they eventually asked this question:

“Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” Then one said, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?” The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.” But Sarah denied, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid. He said, “Oh yes, you did laugh.”   (Genesis 18:9-15,)

It was difficult for Sarah to believe the men. Have we ever been in situations where it has been difficult for us to believe God? God is a God of miracles. It is a miracle that God speaks to us and we actually listen to him. When that happens, it is not so unusual that God calls us to go beyond our expectations and comfort zone.

Jesus sent his disciples to go out and preach the good news that the kingdom of heaven has come near. He asked them to do more than that – to heal the sick and raise the dead. From today’s Gospel reading:

The twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, 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. [Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food. Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.   (Matthew:5-8)

It was clear from Jesus’ charge that his disciples had to exercise their faith and rely only on the provisions God would supply them along the way. The disciples had great success because the Spirit of the LORD was with them. Is God with us? Are we with him? How big is our God. In the Book of Hebrews we read:

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son,[a] whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains[b] all things by his powerful word.   (Hebrews 1:1-3)

Is Jesus big enough to do what he has promised, to do what he has called us to do? We will not find out unless we exercise our faith? God is preparing an end time revival to bring in a full harvest. Will we join him?

Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”   (Matthew 9:35-38)

Intercessors have prayed and asked God for the harvest. Now God is asking us to join his labor force. Jesus is our message and he is our supply. A part from him we can do nothing. In him and by him and through him precious souls will be saved.

 

Track 2: A Priestly kingdom 

Exodus 19:2-8a
Psalm 100
Romans 5:1-8
Matthew 9:35-10:8(9-23)

God called the nation of Israel his chosen people, of all the peoples of the earth. What did that mean? From today’s Old Testament reading:

The Israelites had journeyed from Rephidim, entered the wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness; Israel camped there in front of the mountain. Then Moses went up to God; the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites: You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.”   (Exodus 19:2-6)

Yes, God singled out Israel, but for a purpose. He wanted to use the nation as a way of reaching other nations and peoples. We are joined with Israel as ingrafted branches when we believe on the Lord Jesus and embrace him as Savior and Lord. The Apostle Paul writes:

Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.   (Romans 5:1-2)

We have been called to share the glory of God. Paul writes:

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.   (2 Corinthians 5:17=21)

Are we reconciled to God. If not, now is the time to be reconciled. Let us repent of our sins and ask Jesus to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Then God will empower us for his great commission. Jesus empowered his twelve disciples:

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, 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 9:35-38)

Jesus is ready to empower us. Many of our churches may be dead. But let us be alive in Christ. We will break the mold. We will get back to basics. Let us say by faith, the kingdom of heaven is near. Let us invite the Holy Spirit of God to flow through us. We have been chosen for this purpose. Time to get out of our privileged pews and proclaim the power and presence of God. Time to join the priestly kingdom.

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Second Sunday in Lent

The Journey of Faith

Abram was set out on a journey. It was a journey that was quite unexpected:

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.   (Genesis12:1-4)

Notice that Abram was 75 years old. We are never too old to begin a new journey that may change our entire lives.

Nicodemus was on a quest. He was not yet on a journey. He just wanted to know what Jesus was all about. From today’s Gospel:

There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”   (John 3:1-6)

What was Jesus saying to Nicodemus? Was he not saying that Nicodemus needed to change directions? Nicodemus needed to follow the wind wherever it would take him. The wind of the Holy Spirit that would guide him and empower him. But he would need to let go of the past. He needed to reborn, so to speak. He needed to be born from above and not be bound by this world

Abram became Abraham, because he obeyed God, became the father of all who would put their trust in God.. The Apostle Paul writes:

What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness.   (Romans 4:1-5)

Abraham left his home, family, and support system. He set out on a journey whose destination was unknown to  him. But Abraham believed in what God was saying and trusted God to lead him. That was his response to the call of God. God then justified Abraham as only God can do. If Nicodemus wanted to be justified by God, he would need to have the same faith of Abraham. He would have to begin a new journey and stay the course.

Are we on God’s journey? It requires us to believe and trust in God. But what does that mean?

Charles Blondin, a famous French tightrope walker, became the first person to walk a tightrope stretched across the Niagara Falls. A large crowd gathered and the buzz of excitement ran along both sides of the river bank. The crowd “Oohed and Aahed!” as Blondin carefully walked across – one dangerous step after another – pushing a wheelbarrow holding a sack of potatoes.

Blondin suddenly stopped and addressed his audience: “Do you believe I can carry a person across in this wheelbarrow?”

The crowd enthusiastically yelled, “Yes! You are the greatest tightrope walker in the world. We believe!”

“Okay,” said Blondin, “Who wants to get into the wheelbarrow.”

Have we gotten in?

The journey will not always be easy. It was not for Abraham. It was surely not for Nicodemus.

But we are not alone. God is with us. The psalmist wrote:

The Lord himself watches over you;
the Lord is your shade at your right hand,

So that the sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The Lord shall preserve you from all evil;
it is he who shall keep you safe.

The Lord shall watch over your going out and your coming in,
from this time forth for evermore.   (Psalm 121:5-8)

John concludes the matter in today’s Gospel:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.   (John 3:16-71)

Our job is to believe in Jesus enough to trust him and follow him. Jesus justifies the ungodly. He will change us from glory to glory if we let him. Are we on the journey with him?

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Third Sunday of Advent, Year A

Believing in His Promises

On of the greatest expressions of faith, if not the greatest, was made by Mary the mother of Jesus. On her visit to her cousin Elizabeth she proclaimed:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,

my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel,
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,

The promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever.   (Luke 1:46-55)

Mary believed in the promises that God made to his people Israel. Israel had not heard a prophetic word from God for over four hundred years. They nation of Israel was under foreign occupation, yet Mary still believed in God’s promises. She believed so strongly in them that she was willing to surrender all of herself to God’s providence.

Because he was now in prison and ostracized from the significant events that were occurring, John the Baptist began to have doubts about the one he had proclaimed as the Messiah. From today’s Gospel reading:

When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”   (Matthew 11:2-6)

Notice how Jesus answered John. He did not do so directly. Rather, he proclaimed that the promises of God were being fulfilled. Jesus, by his very works, was fulfilling the prophecy of old concerning himself. From the Prophet:

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;

then the lame shall leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.   (Isaiah 35:5-6)

Do we believe in the promises of God? Circumstances around us can cause us to doubt them if we are not careful. Often times, the timing of the fulfillment of God’s promises is problematic. God’s timing may not be our timing. Yet, his timing is perfect. From the Book of James we read:

Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.   (James 5:7-10)

Mary was patient. Mary was trusting. She was willing to wait upon the Lord, even though what God promised to do through her was beyond anything imaginable. How willing are we to believe in God’s promises today? In some ways, it may appear that the promises of God are losing ground. That is all the more reason for us to put our entire trust in him. We cannot take matters into our own hands. Only God can bring about his glorious word.

Let us remember that we are not alone on our Christian journey. We have our brothers and sisters in the faith to offer us encouragement:

For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.  (1 Thessalonians 5:9-11)

We also have a traveling companion who is our greatest encouragement. He is Jesus. He has established a road map for us. Isaiah prophesied:

For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;

the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water;

the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp,
the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

A highway shall be there,
and it shall be called the Holy Way;

the unclean shall not travel on it,
but it shall be for God’s people; no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray.   (Isaiah 35:1-10)

Many are unwilling to travel this highway. But this is the only highway that leads to he absolute fulfillment of the promises of God. Jesus said:

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”   (John 14:6)

Those who hold on to the promises of God shall not be disappointed:

And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,
and come to Zion with singing;

everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain joy and gladness,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.   (Isaiah 35:6-10)

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