Tag Archives: Satan

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 8B

Track 1: How the Mighty Have Fallen

2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27
Psalm 130
2 Corinthians 8:7-15
Mark 5:21-43

In today’s reading from 2 Samuel, King David laments the death of King Saul and his son Jonathan:

Your glory, O Israel, lies slain upon your high places!
How the mighty have fallen!

Tell it not in Gath,
proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon;

or the daughters of the Philistines will rejoice,
the daughters of the uncircumcised will exult.

You mountains of Gilboa,
let there be no dew or rain upon you,
nor bounteous fields!

For there the shield of the mighty was defiled,
the shield of Saul, anointed with oil no more.   (2 Samuel 1:25-27)

Saul was anointed by God to be king over Israel. He was a mighty warrior who conquered many of Israel’s enemies. Yet Saul had decided to do things on his own, without regard to the will of God. Because of this, Israel was continually being attacked by its enemies. Saul was warned but kept on rebelling against God.

How could someone be so stubborn? Does that sound like someone we might know? The psalmist wrote:

Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”
    They are corrupt, they commit abominable acts;
    there is no one who does good.

God looks down from heaven on humankind
    to see if there are any who are wise,
    who seek after God.

They have all fallen away, they are all alike perverse;
    there is no one who does good,
    no, not one.   (Psalm 53:1-3)

We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The psalmist wrote:

Out of the depths have I called to you, O Lord;
Lord, hear my voice;
let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.

If you, Lord, were to note what is done amiss,
O Lord, who could stand?

Have we not all been guilty of rebellion against God? In a time of desperation we call out to God, hoping that he will still here us. The psalmist goes on to offer this assurance:

For there is forgiveness with you;
therefore you shall be feared.

I wait for the Lord; my soul waits for him;
in his word is my hope.    (Psalm 130:1-5)

God is faithful even when we are not faithful. He is ready to forgive those who will repent of their sins and turn to him. He has been waiting patiently for us. We must learn to wait patiently on him, not losing our hope in his  word. The psalmist reminds us:

The Lord is merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always accuse,
    nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
    nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
    so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
    so far he removes our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion for his children,
    so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.
For he knows how we were made;
    he remembers that we are dust.   (Psalm 103:8-14)

We may have fallen, but we do not have to remain fallen. Saul refused to repent. Let us not be so stubbornness of heart. Out of the depths let us cry out to God. It is not too late to call upon his name.

 

 

Track 2: Your Faith Has Made You Well

Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-15; 2:23-24
Lamentations 3:21-33
or Psalm 30
2 Corinthians 8:7-15
Mark 5:21-43

We are blessed today with quite a story of faith from the Gospel of Mark:

And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”   (Mark 5:24-34)

What is so remarkable about this true story? The woman who was healed had been suffering from her illness for twelve years, but she did not lose hope that God could heal her. She tenaciously held on to that hope. Perhaps she was familiar with this passage from Lamentations:

This I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”   (Lamentations 3:21-24)

She did not give up hope in God. She did not become discouraged to the point of unbelief. Her belief is that God could heal her and that God would heal her. She understood the character of God: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.” She could have given up hope in God’s love but did not because she knew that God is love and that his love never ceases.

In life we can have difficulties. We can have illnesses. That is  simply a part of life. God allows these things, but that does not mean that he wills that our trials continue. His perfect will is that we will be made whole. Again from Lamentations:

The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
    to the soul that seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.
It is good for one to bear
    the yoke in youth,
to sit alone in silence
    when the Lord has imposed it,   (Lamentations 3:25-28)

The woman understood that she had to wait for God patiently. God would come through for her. We are armed with knowledge that this woman did not have: Healing is provided in the cross which Jesus bore. In Isaiah we read:

Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.   (Isaiah 53:4-5)

This leads us to the next and vital point about faith in God. The woman was able to touch God. She knew that if she could just touch the clothes of Jesus she would be healed. He did not have to speak to her. He had the power of God to heal. She just had to touch him with her faith.

How do we do that? How do we touch Jesus? Satan is constantly telling us that we are unworthy of his healing because of our sin. The more we have to wait on God’s healing the more Satan will make his case against us. The key to touching God is to believe in his character more than the circumstances in which we may find ourselves. The woman who was hemorrhaging strongly believed that God would heal her. She believed that he wanted to heal her because he is a loving and healing God. The psalmist wrote:

The Lord works vindication
    and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
    his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always accuse,
    nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
    nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
    so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
    so far he removes our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion for his children,
    so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.   (Psalm 103:6-13)

One of the greatest obstacles of healing is our belief that we are not worthy of God’s healing. Our faith should not based on who we are but on who God is. God is not limited by our character. God is governed by his character. “He does not deal with us according to our sins, not repay us according to our iniquities” the psalmist tells us. Do we believe this? Then we have every right to reach out and touch him. As we touch him, he will  touch us and say to us: “Your faith has made you well.”

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Third Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 5B

Track 1: The Sovereignty of God Rejected

1 Samuel 8:4-11, (12-15), 16-20, (11:14-15)
Psalm 138
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
Mark 3:20-35

Israel was an exceptional nation for one reason only. Though were chosen by an exceptional God. God has lead them out of slavery in Egypt with signs and wonders and brought them into a land promised to their forefather Abraham. With God’s help they defeated the pagan nations in this land. Nevertheless, despite all of this the people wanted to be like other nations. They wanted to have a king. From 1 Samuel we read:

All the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, “You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to govern us.” Samuel prayed to the Lord, and the Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. Just as they have done to me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so also they are doing to you. Now then, listen to their voice; only—you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.   (1 Samuel 8:4-9)

God was to king over Israel. God’s people were to be a holy nation – a kingdom of priests. They were not merely asking for a king to be like other nations. They were rejecting the plans and purposes of God. Reading on:

But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; they said, “No! but we are determined to have a king over us, so that we also may be like other nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles.”  (1 Samuel 8:19-20)

There is much talk today about America being an exceptional nation. God makes covenants with people and with nations. When we obey him and keep his commandments he gives us an exceptional task. Any nation favored by God is a holy nation, a missionary nation. The nation is not exceptional. Rather, they are serving an exceptional God.

In 1897, Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee was held in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of her reign. The poet Rudyard Kipling was asked to write something to help celebrate the event. He wrote his famous poem “Recessional” which reads in part:

The tumult and the shouting dies;
   The Captains and the Kings depart:
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
   An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

This warning by Kipling is still applicable today, for all nations. Armies rise and fall. Kingdoms come and go. God warns through the Prophet Isaiah:

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
    Has it not been told you from the beginning?
    Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
    and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
    and spreads them like a tent to live in;
who brings princes to naught,
    and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.

Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,
    scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,
when he blows upon them, and they wither,
    and the tempest carries them off like stubble.   (Isaiah 40:21-24)

Through that same prophet he gives his assurances to those who follow in his ways:

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
    and strengthens the powerless.
Even youths will faint and be weary,
    and the young will fall exhausted;
but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
    they shall walk and not faint.   (Isaiah 40:28-31)

The prophet, psalmist, King David wrote:

May our sons in their youth
    be like plants full grown,
our daughters like corner pillars,
    cut for the building of a palace.
1May our barns be filled,
    with produce of every kind;
may our sheep increase by thousands,
    by tens of thousands in our fields,
     and may our cattle be heavy with young.
May there be no breach in the walls, no exile,
    and no cry of distress in our streets.

Happy are the people to whom such blessings fall;
    happy are the people whose God is the Lord.   (Psalm 144:12-15)

The only exceptional nation is the one which is serving an exceptional God. Have we forgotten, America?

 

 

Track 2: Satan’s Illusion

Genesis 3:8-15
Psalm 130
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
Mark 3:20-35

Intimacy with God the Father was established for humankind in the beginning. A fallen angel imparted the notion that we do not need an intimacy with God because there was a reality separate from God which greatly expands our possibilities and experience. From Genesis we read:

They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.”   (Genesis 3:8-14)

Satan had Adam and Eve buy into a false reality by telling them what they were experiencing had been just an illusion. His trick was and is still the same game: Satan’s substitutes his illusion for God’s reality and then calls God’s reality an illusion.

Today we live in an illusion. This was also true when Jesus ministered upon the earth. We read in Mark’s Gospel:

The crowd came together again, so that Jesus and his disciples could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.   (Mark 3:20-27)

Jesus was casting out demons and setting people free from a false reality. His family, however, were worried that his actions were not fitting into the accepted norms. They wanted to restrain Jesus because his reality was different from theirs. Notice that the scribes were saying that what Jesus was doing was demonic when Jesus was actually destroying the works of the demonic. In a world of illusions the actually reality of God’s world does not seem to fit in. Satan’s method is to discredit God’s reality by discrediting his word.

Are we ready to come out from under the burdens of a false narrative and live truly free? As recorded in the Gospel of Mark his family was not quite ready:

Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”  (Mark 3:31-35)

Family can be a huge obstacle in living as a disciple of Christ. Jesus said that the family of believers transcends any boundaries which family may place upon us.

We live in a fallen world. That is the reality. It is not normal. It is abnormal and against the purposes of God. Yet the world exerts pressures upon us to conform to its way of thinking. We cannot allow ourselves to be dragged down into the same ditch in which the world lives. The Apostle Paul wrote:

So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.   (2 Corinthians 4:16-5:1)

Satan’s illusion is passing away. Only the reality of God will remain. Now is the time to embrace the truth of God’s reality and word. From the Prophet Isaiah:

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
    and strengthens the powerless.
Even youths will faint and be weary,
    and the young will fall exhausted;
but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
    they shall walk and not faint.   (Isaiah 40:28-31)

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Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year B

The Testimony of God

The great basketball coach John Wooden was well-known, not only for winning 10 NCAA championships, but also for his sayings on life. This was one of them:

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

There is much wisdom in what he is saying. Reputations are based on the perception of others. Often their perceptions are not very accurate. Jesus warned:

“Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.”   (Luke 6:26)

In his First Epistle, John writes that we have a greater testimony than human testimony:

If we receive human testimony, the testimony of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God that he has testified to his Son. Those who believe in the Son of God have the testimony in their hearts. Those who do not believe in God have made him a liar by not believing in the testimony that God has given concerning his Son. And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.   (1 John 5:9-12)

Are we more interested in the praise of men that the praise of God? The praise of men is fleeting at best. The public is fickle, and as we have noted, often wrong. People look at surface values and do not see the heart of a person as God does. God sees our heart and draws us to himself. He is no respecter of persons. He is not influenced about what others might think or say. What could be more comforting than the testimony of God dwelling in our heart that we are his, that he cherishes us, and that we have eternal life in him through the blood sacrifice of his Son?

Not only is human praise fleeting, but this world is passing away. In his high priestly prayer, Jesus declares that his disciples are no longer of this world, just as he is not of this world. He asks the Father that he would protect his disciples from the evil one of this world, Satan.

And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.

If we are true Christians the world will hate us. This is becoming increasingly more obvious each day. This hate, however, cannot separate us from the love of God, nor can it take away the peace we have in our hearts. God is preparing us for a better world. In the meantime, Jesus wants his joy to be made complete in us, praying that we are one in him with the Father.

Each day, let us pause and listen to the inner testimony of God in our hearts. It is stronger than any human testimony. And it is truthful and lasting. All other testimonies are empty words from empty people. Let us remember to pray to God that they, too, might be filled with the knowledge of the love of God in Christ Jesus.

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