Tag Archives: salvation

Nativity of St. John the Baptist

The Path of Peace

When John the Baptist was eight days old he was brought to the temple to be circumcised as was the Jewish custom. His father the priest then prophesied over him:

And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1:75-79)
The path of peace theme is also echoed in the prophecy of Isaiah:

Comfort, O comfort my people,
    says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
    and cry to her
that she has served her term,
    that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
    double for all her sins.   (Isaiah 40:1-2)

There is only one way to peace and Jesus is that way. He is the Prince of Peace. Today, we are hearing about another peace. It is said that a peace will be provided by a new world order and a one world government and a one world religion. How much should we trust this peace? Paul writes to the Church in Thessalonica:

For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.   (1 Thessalonians 5:2-4)

When John grew into his ministry he preached that we must repent of our sins and seek the real Messiah. John prepared the way for Him. Jesus has prepared the way for us to approach God the Father.

Thomas, the disciple of Jesus was confused about the identity of Jesus:

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.   (John 14:5-6)

There are no alternative ways of peace? John the Baptist’s message was very simple. Repent and seek Jesus. His whole ministry was to point us to Jesus. Nonetheless, in the world today there are many distracting voices. These distractions lead to dead ends, literally. Jesus said:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.   (John 14:27)

The world promises peace but delivers persecution. Again Jesus said:

I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”   (John 16:33)

Peace will only come to the world during the millennial reign of Jesus. The message of John the Baptist was quite simple. He was not the Messiah. Jesus is the Messiah and true path of peace. All we need to do is repent and believe.

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First Sunday after Pentecost: Trinity Sunday

The Fullness of God

If the world needs anything today it needs the fullness of God. The Church needs the fullness of God. I need the fullness of God. We all need all of God. What does this mean?

A group of ladies came to my door. I won’t say which church denomination they were from. I invited them in and they began to explain to me that Jesus was not God, but that Jesus was just God’s Son. I asked them to interpret for me the beginning of the Gospel of John:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.   (John 1:1-5)

John loved and knew Jesus. He was given special insight concerning our Lord and, fortunately, he wrote them down for us. Is Jesus really God? Scripture tells us that Jesus is the agent of creation. All things were made through him.

Let us take a closer look at the creation. From the first chapter of Genesis:

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.  (Genesis 1:1-3)

The Hebrew word for “moved” means brooded or hovered over, as when a mother bird broods over her eggs to bring forth life. The Holy Spirit of God was waiting for the command to bring forth life. He very much has a part in the creation as well. Is the Holy Spirit God also?

Later in Genesis we have an account of God creating the human race. God says:

“Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”   (Genesis 1:26)

To whom is God talking to when he says “let us”? He is speaking to members of the Holy Trinity. He is speaking to himself. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, in divine cooperation, was creating the universe and all life.

What is this Holy Trinity? Some might say that it was just a creation of the Council of Nicaea  in AD 325. Nicaea was the first council in the history of the Christian church that was intended to address the entire body of believers. It was convened by the emperor Constantine to resolve the controversy of whether or not Christ is divine or just another created being. The council opined that Jesus was and is divine. He is part of the God-head.

Let us examine today’s appointed readings. From the Gospel of Mathew:

The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”   (Matthew 28:16-20)

Was not Jesus commissioning his disciples to baptize new converts of the faith in the name of God – all of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?

The Apostle Paul, in today’s Epistle, blessed the Church at Corinth in this way:

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

Paul wanted the people to be blessed by all of God. And today we need all of God. For each personality of God has a specific ministry in our lives. When one aspect of God’s ministry is misunderstood, overlooked, or downplayed,  the door may be left open for division within the Church. One denomination might stress one thing and another denomination another. We need a unified faith, but we need to start out with a unified God.

We may hear of the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New. Are these two different Gods? In the Old Testament God gives his commandments to Moses. In the Gospels Jesus makes it clear that he did not come to set aside the law, but to fulfill it:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.   (Matthew 5:17-20)

God is a just God who cannot overlook sin. He is also a God of mercy because the punishment for our sin was taken on the cross by his Son. Jesus fulfilled the law by living a perfect life for us. Not only that, but he eradicated by his sacrifice. When we identify with Jesus we may claim his perfect life for ourselves. How so? We must confess our sins. We must accept, with thanksgiving, his great sacrifice and embrace him as Lord of our lives. The Apostle Paul writes:

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;   (2 Corinthians 5:17-18)

When we proclaim Jesus as our Savior, we crucify our old self and are born anew in him by the Spirit. What about any new sin that we might commit? The Apostle Paul writes:

Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.   (Romans 6:1-4)

The Holy Spirit of God brings us newness of life. How so? Paul writes:

Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.   (Galatians 5:16-18)

The Trinity of God tells us that God is not divided. He is one, but he has different ministries that we need for growth and maturity in Christ. God is a divine unity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The wonderful news in the Gospel message is that God invites us into a divine unity with him.

 Jesus prayed for his disciples and for those who would come after them, that all would be guided into unity with Him and the Father:

“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.   (John 17:20-23)

To enter into the fullness of God we must accept the fullness of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We must allow the fullness of God to minister to our souls. God’s whole nature and desire is to rescue us from sin and bring us into the abundant life that Jesus has promised us. Today, are we fully open to the fullness of God? Do we want to be joined together with him in the fullness of his being? If so, God invites us into himself. How can we refuse such a glorious invitation.

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Sixth Sunday of Easter

God Is with Us

There are various ways of thinking about God. Atheists believe that there is no God. Have they given the matter much thought? The Apostle Paul writes:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened.   (Romans 1:18-21
A second way of thinking about God is that there might be a God, but we are not sure. This is the belief of agnostics. The Apostle Paul faced this type of thinking in the city of Athens:
Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.   (Acts 17:22-23)
Having an unknown god left the door open to the possibility that there might be a real God. But who is this real God? Is he the and he has creator of all things? Many people believe this deep down in their hearts, whether they affiliated with a particular religion or not. But for some, God is a cold and distant God. He exists. He created the universe. But he is observing all that he has made from afar.
Paul continues his treatise on God:

The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said,

‘For we too are his offspring.’   (Acts 17:24-28)

The disciples of Jesus were concerned because he had said that he would soon be departing them. In today’s Gospel reading

”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)

This is another way of saying: “In him we live and move and have our being.” This is a thinking about God that is beyond simply that God exists. Can we move into this thinking? God wants to engage us. Jesus told his disciples:

”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)

The prophet of old foretold this God:

“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall name him Emmanuel,”

which means, “God is with us.”   (Matthew 1:22-23)

This God is with us. He is for us. He upholds us. The psalmist wrote:

Bless our God, you peoples;
make the voice of his praise to be heard;

Who holds our souls in life,
and will not allow our feet to slip.   (Psalm 66:7-8)

Do we know this God? This is the God who bled and died for us so that we might be with him forever. He has given us this assurance through the resurrection. Paul continues:

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)

The Apostle Peter explains:

For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.   (1 Peter 3:18)

Jesus wants us to be alive in the Spirit. If we have the Spirit then we have hope that, event hough we die,  God the Father will raise us up to eternal life just as he did his Son. Paul writes:

Therefore, 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)

The current world around us is in such despair. Many people have lost hope. Do we have anything to offer them? Do we have any comforting message? We do if we believe the message that Jesus has given us. He is with us. He is in us. He has not left us. Do we know this God today? If so, let us offer hope to those around us. Peter writes:

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)

We have “Christ in us, the hope of glory.” Let us tell the world. But if we do not have him, it is time to ask him to come into our hearts. We must acknowledge our sin and repent, sincerely from the heart. Then

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)

God loves us. He is with us. He is for us. He has given us his Spirit. Let us show the world who this unknown God really is.

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Fourth Sunday of Easter

The Shepherd and  Guardian of Our Souls

We have one thing that is unique to us, and that is our souls. Our souls are a gift from God:

And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.   (Genesis 2:7)

A soul was given to us at birth. It is the only thing we have that truly belongs solely to us and no one else. Our soul will never die. It is a gift that extends far beyond this life. In fact, it lasts for an eternity. We have been given sole custody of it. Only God can access our soul, but that is by our invitation.

Our soul has been sent to earth to experience life and develop. We encounter the challenges of life which help develop and form our souls. Our soul become the product of how we respond to the challenges and opportunities of this life.

Do we want to do it alone? Or do we want to trust someone else to direct and define us? Perhaps the culture? Perhaps an entertainer or sports personality? Can we trust these sources to understand who we are and where we should be going?

There is another alternative. The Apostle Peter wrote:

He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross,  so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.   (1 Peter 2:24-25)

We live in confusing times. Numerous people and things vye for our attention. But what do they provide us?
We have another source:

Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”   (John 10:7-10)

Some may be wondering where that pasture is right now. Jesus will lead us there. He is our Good Shepherd. He may require some movement on our part, even physical relocation at times. Nonetheless, Jesus knows where the best pasture is for us.  In fact, he has chosen our best location as the last and final one. Will we trust him enough to follow him?

King David was called by God to lead his people. He was anointed by God to do so, but he faced many challenges and obstacles along the way. The enemy does not want us to succeed and he will everything that he can to discourage us. David wrote this famous psalm to share with us the source of his divine help:

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not be in want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures
and leads me beside still waters.

He revives my soul
and guides me along right pathways for his Name’s sake.

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I shall fear no evil;
for you are with me
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me;
you have anointed my head with oil,
and my cup is running over.

Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.   (Psalm 23:1-6)

Today, who is our shepherd? Who is the guardian of our souls? This may be the most important question we will ever ponder. Our souls are presented with many choices and many paths, There is only one path that promises us life eternal in the presence of God. There is only one person who can make that promise.

The disciple Thomas was concerned about where Jesus was going:

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  (John 14:5-6)
We have nothing to fear. Even though the future may seem doubtful, God is still in charge. Jesus tells us today:

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”   (Matthew 11:28-29)

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