November 22, 2020, Festival of Christ the King
Today’s gospel lesson, Matthew 25:31-46, is the parable of the sheep and the goats. It says that in the end the King, Jesus Christ, will judge the nations, dividing between sheep and goats.
Who are the nations? It is not nation states because nations in the New Testament does not refer to political entities but to non-Jewish people, often translated Gentiles. In other words, the Lord is establishing a rule by which he will judge everyone in the world, Jew and non-Jew, not government policy. That is why verse 32 says that he will separate the people “one from another”. Each individual person will be judged by their action toward the needy.
Who are the sheep and goats?
The sheep are those that show love and compassion to needy persons, whom Christ calls the least of these, his brothers. He identifies with the needy and will judge us on the last day by how we respond to them.
When we show compassion in a personal and direct way with our own resources, meaning time and money, we are creating a relationship, investing in a person that God loves.
The goats are those with hard hearts, who either do not care for the needy or want to pay someone else to do it for them.
November 18, 2020
Psalm 119: Sadhe Justus es, Domine
137 You are righteous, O LORD, *
and upright are your judgments.
138 You have issued your decrees *
with justice and in perfect faithfulness.
139 My indignation has consumed me, *
because my enemies forget your words.
140 Your word has been tested to the uttermost, *
and your servant holds it dear.
141 I am small and of little account, *
yet I do not forget your commandments.
142 Your justice is an everlasting justice *
and your law is the truth.
143 Trouble and distress have come upon me, *
yet your commandments are my delight.
144 The righteousness of your decrees is everlasting; *
grant me understanding, that I may live.
May 27, 2020
The demons that possessed the Gadarene, Matthew 8:28-34, knew that Jesus was the Son of God and what would happen to them in the end. They were so desperate to get away from him that they sought the lowest of the low, which took them even lower.
Everything that happens in the world has a knowledge base that can be accessed by spiritual discernment. Let us ask the Lord to show us.
May 8, 2020
The veracity of the Judeo-Christian perspective depends on Moses and Jesus.
Scripture says that Moses spoke with God face to face like friends. Jesus claimed to hear and repeat what the Father said to him, and do what he saw the Father doing.
The so-called higher critical scholars say the Bible was all made up by men. They say this to clear the ground for the Social Gospel, which is a heresy.
We have to choose which one we believe.
May 5, 2020
When confronted about the golden calf the horrible priest, Aaron, blamed the people and told another outrageous lie, that the calf jumped out of the fire!
He lost his priesthood at that point.
Moses called for people to choose. “Who is on the Lord’s side?” he called out.
The sons of Levi came forth. Were they going to be true priests or people-pleasers like Aaron?
Moses commanded them to take their swords and kill some of those closest to them, relatives and neighbors. And so they did.
Clergy are to represent God not live in fear of the people. Paul wrote, “If I were still pleasing men I should not be a minister of Christ.”
May 4, 2020
Aaron was a weak priest. He yielded to the people, helping them to fall away. He told an outrageous lie, saying that the golden calf led them out of Egypt.
God wanted to destroy them.
But Moses begged him not to do so.
The Lord changed his mind.
The people were restored when Moses destroyed the golden calf, ground it to a powder, threw the powder into their pool of water, and made the people drink it.
The greatest sin ever committed was the murder of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.
When the sun was darkened, the earth shook, and the curtain in the temple was torn in two it was a sign that God was angry, and could easily destroy us all.
But the Lord prayed from the cross, “Father, forgive them.”
When we partake of the body and blood of the Lord, given in sacrifice for our sins that day, we consume as a reminder the price paid for our sins. In that action we undo what we have done and are reconciled to God. A moral and spiritual healing takes place.
Good Shepherd, 2020
In John 10 Jesus describes himself as the Good Shepherd. Others, he said, were scoundrels and thieves, who came to kill, steal, and destroy.
Who were these false shepherds?
Originally, Christianity competed with Judaism. Paul, who was apostle to the Gentiles, said that people are justified by the Faith of Jesus Christ and no longer by Judaism or Jewish proselytism. God vindicated Paul’s message in 70 AD when Titus destroyed the Jewish nation and thus its influence over the ancient Near East.
Being the only apostle that lived to old age, even out-living Paul, John was able to see historical developments and remembered what Jesus said about false shepherds coming into the sheepfold to lead some of the sheep astray. These were not the Judaizing teachers that persecuted Paul but Docetists and Gnostics.
Docetists denied that Jesus came in the flesh. We have Docetists today. Liberal clergy of the Higher Critical School deny that the Lord is God Incarnate, born of the Virgin Mary. They outright deny the historical Christ, saying that he is a compilation of ideas floating around at the time. They deny heaven and hell; so, their goal is to “make the world a better place.” Their faith is called the Social Gospel, which has devastated the Mainline Protestant denominations and we should avoid it like the plague.
Contrary to the false analysis of Adolph von Harnack, Gnosticism is not of Greek philosophical origin. It is from the East and is a form of pantheism, which says that everything emanates from God. There is no real right and wrong, according to Gnostics, only knowledge (gnosis) vs. ignorance. Gnostics today are as varied as Gnostics in the 1st Century (there is so much to know! where to begin?). Free Masonry and the New Age Movement are Gnostic because they depend on people learning secret knowledge. It is the haunt of demons and it, too, should be avoided.
Real sheep hear the voice of the Good Shepherd and follow him. He leads them to good pasture beside the still water. He restores their soul. They fear no evil because he is with them.
Good Friday, 2020
On Palm Sunday earlier this week we saw that Jesus fulfilled all prophecy about the Jewish Messiah, descendant of David, entering Jerusalem to ascend the throne as promised and predicted. But there was no throne because the Jews had not prepared one for him through repentance. From the beginning he and John the Baptist had proclaimed, “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand!”
But they did not obey the word. They did not repent; so, there was no kingdom for them.
When they brought Jesus to Pontius Pilate the issue of an earthly kingdom arose again. Pilate inquired several times about him being king of the Jews. When asked, the Jews said they had no king but Caesar, ultimately rejecting Gods rule before the whole world. They had fallen away. They had become secular, worldly. The Lord said that his kingdom was not of this world.
So, where does Jesus reign?
He reigns spiritually in the hearts of his believers …
If we let him, if we obey him as Lord.
Maundy Thursday, 2020
In Exodus 12:1-14 the Lord established the Passover of the Jews, which Jesus fulfilled for all mankind by own death on the cross as the Lamb of God. Christ is the propitiation that God put forth to be received by faith (Romans 3:25).
Passover remembers the judgments against Pharaoh and Egypt that delivered Israel from bondage. Christ judges sin by his own death on the cross as our example of self-denial, mortification of the flesh, and walking in the way of the cross (Romans 7:21-8:17).
Passover introduces us also to spiritual warfare. In the narrative God says, “On all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments.” Previously, when Moses and Aaron first approached Pharaoh with signs and wonders the priests of Egypt were able to imitate some of them by their “magic”.
From where did that pagan magic come?
Many people are not aware of what Scripture calls the “spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). But if we look around it is easy to see that some evil acts and behaviors are beyond what a normal human being might do. This is a sign of demonic influence if not possession.
It is time for Christians in the West to catch up with the wisdom and spiritual insight of our ancient fathers in the faith. Our God is greater than the other “gods” (called demons in the New Testament). We can call on God in the name of Jesus Christ, by his holy life, by his body and blood given, to execute his judgments on evil spirits.
Tuesday f Holy Week, 2020
In John 12:20-36 we read that some Greeks wanted to see Jesus. Jesus replied by saying it was tie for him to be glorified and, specifically, when he was lifted up in crucifixion he would draw all kinds of people to himself.
In the cross God took away from the Jews their exclusive right to his grace and favor. They rejected his Son and so God rejected them.
John’s gospel contains no reference to Gentiles or nations. But the Lord’s death will be like a seed that bears fruit among *all* people.
We Christians now must not be like the Jews of Jesus’ day, who thought that their elect status allowed them to get away with sinful things.
Palm Sunday, 2020
Being hailed as king was a triumph for Christ because it fulfilled all prophecy about Israel. The promised descendant of victorious David, long-awaited heir to the throne in Jerusalem, had come to take his rightful place.
Since the call of Abraham, the Almighty had a chosen people to proclaim his glory and a special place in which to make his name known. For thousands of years, through slavery and deliverance, exile and return, judgment and redemption, finally, the greatest place on earth and the greatest of its people, the Messiah, were brought together one fateful day, which we celebrate as Palm Sunday. The people sang a song when Christ entered the city, one that is sung to this day every Sunday everywhere in the world during the Eucharist, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the Highest.”
This put the city in turmoil, according to our gospel lesson this morning.
One reads in dismay that the bulk of the population didn’t recognize what was happening or know about Jesus.
He had been among them for years, teaching them, proclaiming the kingdom, healing them, casting out demons, and doing signs and wonders. But there was not a throne prepared for him to ascend.
His next action tells us why. The religion of the people was so corrupt that he went into the temple, drove out the money changers, and turned over their tables.
The situation in apostate American society today is much the same. When our beliefs and behaviors are wrong, everything goes wrong. Our faithlessness, carnality, and secularism makes us vulnerable to ravages of disease: sin (diseases of the soul) and morbidity (diseases of the body).
Yes, we Christians today enter the true praise of God, who rules in our hearts, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, heaven and earth are full of your glory.” As believers we have the Spirit; we are by the Spirit his new and better temple.
But are there money tables in our lives, short changing God and others? Let us spend the Holy Week ahead overturning them, saying with the Lord, “Zeal for my Father’s house has consumed me.”
April 2, 2020
The epistle lesson today, 2 Corinthians 3:7-18, highlights the goal of spiritual formation. It is to be transformed into the image of Christ.
Paul wrote of the freedom and boldness we have in the Spirit. It is put into contrast with the Law of Moses, which he calls the ministry of death. The Law of Moses is set aside in favor of the Law of Christ (Galatians 6:2 and 1 Corinthians 9:21). The glory of Judaism fades as the glory of Christianity shines forth, he says. Paul expresses here what has been called the salvation historical perspective, that in the march of time, with God’s unfolding plan of redemption, he did a new thing in Christ, giving a new covenant by which we are saved; it includes Gentiles now.
This salvation historical perspective helps with spiritual formation because it delivers us from the false narrative of the Catholic/Protestant split. With unveiled face, for instance, we can set aside the legalism by which people are ruled by fear of the “works righteousness” canard.
That same Spirit of freedom and boldness that Paul experienced against Jewish opposition gave him the ministry of justification, life, and glory that he saw in the face of Christ.
March 29, 2020
The gospel lesson this morning tells us about the raising of Lazarus, one the Lord’s dearest friends.
The Lord’s greatest challenge was, and still is, getting people to think differently. Nicodemus, who visited him at night, didn’t understand being born again, since he was fixated on the physical process of childbirth. The Woman at the Well wanted living water so that she would not have to go to haul water every day! The Pharisees didn’t think the Man Born Blind could be, or should be, healed on the Sabbath.
Jesus said that Lazarus was asleep and they practically scoffed at him, saying he was very much dead and in the process of decomposition.
They knew he could have healed Lazarus before he died. But it was too late now, they thought. It’s all over when one dies, they thought. That’s the end, they thought.
So often what’s wrong is the way we are thinking about things. Any given thing can be thought of either in a conventional way with its limits and ultimate futility or in the way of Christ, which is full of possibilities and wonderful blessings.
As we work our way through the Coronavirus plague let us ask the Lord to help us think about it in his way, giving us knowledge, wisdom, and understanding by his Holy Spirit that indwells us.
March 27, 2020
The Old Testament lesson today, Exodus 2:1-22, informs us that Moses was a Levite. He married the daughter of a priest. Moses had a keen sense of right and wrong, tribal loyalty, and a protective instinct. Later, when Aaron failed as a priest, Moses selected his own tribe for service.
Previously, according to Genesis 14:18-20, Abraham offered a tithe to Melchizedek, priest of Salem, who brought out to him bread and wine.
God asked Moses to convey a message to the whole Israelite people, that they are a nation of priests, Exodus 19:6. Yet, God also ordained the priests within the priesthood of believers.
Isaiah 66:18-21 predicted that the Lord will make the Jews brothers from among the Gentiles and some of those Gentiles he will make priests and Levites. That is a prophecy about the Christian Church.
Jesus is our High Priest after the order of Melchizedek, according to Hebrews 7:1-25. If there is a high priest then there are lower priests.
In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul calls the Christians to celebrate the Pascal feast. Feasting follows the sacrifice and sacrifice requires a priest.
Lastly, Paul referred to his “priestly service of the Gospel” in Romans 15:16.
Feast of the Annunciation, 2020
A crucial part of the dualistic perspective of the Bible, which is essential to spiritual formation, is the difference between old and new, abolished and obsolete vs. instituted and currently established. Christianity supersedes Judaism as the only way of salvation. The Faith of Jesus Christ is superior to the Law of Moses. This is seen in the epistle lesson today, Hebrews 10:4-10, where Paul explains that God is not pleased by the old sacrificial system but he is satisfied by the offering of the body of Christ, who obeyed God’s will. In the old way the animals, who have no will, have no efficacy. But Christ, out of his great love, willingly gave up his life for us who believe, setting us Christians apart for God by the new covenant in his blood.
Fifth Sunday of Lent, 2020
The gospel reading today, John 9, tells about the healing of Blind Bartimaeus. Like the stories of Nicodemus and the Woman at the Well we see that Jesus took time with individuals. He cares about each one of us. He wants us to be healthy and happy. This personal encounter involves a miracle of healing.
Restoring sight is one of the most common and amazing miracles that Jesus performed, and along with it is a lesson: he came as the light of the world but how can we see the light if we are blind?
Jesus was sent to enlighten us in every way.
Enlightenment is a word stolen from Christianity and re-used to mean, in many cases, the opposite. Late Enlightenment philosophy, for instance, often denies God’s role in granting knowledge, as if science does not come from God. Science and faith are not opposed to each other; so, do not believe the secularists who want to kick God out of the world.
More recently being woke often comes across as anti-God, as if God does not care about justice! Of course, he does, and what he thinks about it is found in Scripture, not Karl Marx.
The truth is that those who believe in Christ and follow his holy word are the most wokely enlightened folk on the planet.
March 11, 2020
The epistle lesson today says, among other things, “not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother or sister who is sexually immoral or greedy, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber. Do not even eat with such a one. ”
The early church expected converts to accept the whole counsel of God, especially the moral commandments of God. We are not in fact truly and fully converted to Christ if we live in sin. It is shameful for a Christian to take God for granted like that.
March 5, 2020
In the epistle lesson today, 1 Corinthians 2:14-3:15, Paul distinguishes between spiritual and carnal Christians, saying that carnal Christians have a difficult time understanding the things of God or receiving the charismatic gifts.
How might anyone move from being carnal, a babe in Christ, to a spiritual believer in tune with God?
The first step is to acknowledge the difference and ask the Lord to reveal our spiritual state, whether we are immature or spiritual.
The second step would be to find a church that preaches, teaches, and practices spiritual formation — a church that serves meat instead of milk.
February 28, 2020
Ezekiel 18 explains personal responsibility in a way that absolves the individual of social, corporate, or group guilt, or guilt by association. “Only the soul that sins shall die,” says the Lord, in verse 20.
February 27, 2020
Before he died on the cross for our propitiation, Jesus prayed to the Father, “I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do.” He spoke that in the past tense, speaking of his ministry of preaching, teaching, healing, and casting out demons. He was full of compassion and moved in the power and Spirit of God to meet the needs of all he encountered.
Do we use Jesus for his blood or do we listen to what he says and take him as our example?
If we really care what the Lord thought and want to emulate him then we, too, will glorify God by finishing the work he gives us to do in this life.
Do we know what that is? What is our calling? What is our ministry?
Ash Wednesday, 2020
In the epistle lesson today, 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10, Paul wrote, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
This verse refers to two things; 1) the Lord’s atoning work on the cross, who died for us, the just for the unjust, and then 2) our response expressed in God’s purpose and process of redemption. Notice that the second part, our response to the Lord’s sacrifice for us, is written in the subjunctive mood. That means it is not a settled matter but something we must work with him to accomplish.
February 20, 2020
1 John 2:22-23 says who are the liars and the anti-Christ — those that deny Christian orthodoxy about Jesus. He is the Christ, the Son of the living God.
In this John agrees with Peter. Paul also says that Jesus is the Christ and Son of God.
Who does not affirm true Christian doctrine?
Liberal clergy do not.
February 19, 2020
Two elements of Christian dualism, which contribute to spiritual formation, are found in the epistle lesson today, 1 John 2:12-17. They have to do with time and place.
First, the world is depicted as an evil place with all kinds of pursuits and temptations that might destroy us. Therefore, we must love the Father, who wants to save us, and not the world.
Second, this world is passing away because of God’s judgment. Therefore, our true hope is the life of the world to come, which we will inherit if we do the will of the Father.
February 18, 2020
In the epistle lesson today, 1 John 2:1-11, we read, “I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.”
The possibility of not sinning hardly ever occurs to us. Catholics are told, wrongly, that they will suffer for their sins in purgatory. Protestants are told, wrongly, that the blood of Jesus covers all our sins, past, present, and future. Yes, Romans 3: 24-25 says, we “are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.” It says former sins, sins of the past; there is no provision for present or future sins in that passage or in any passage. In fact, Hebrews 10:26-27, “If we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.”
The truth is that Christians should not sin and we can live victoriously over sin.
February 16, 2020
The epistle lesson today, 1 Timothy 3:14-4:10, speaks of “deceitful spirits and teachings of demons”. We can rightly assume that would be bad if it were true.
It is true!
In a secular, humanist, and sacreligious society we might easily be tempted to believe demons do not exist.
They exist and they are working madly to keep us from knowing God and his holy ways that lead to eternal life.
February 14, 2020
Today’s epistle lesson, Romans 13, speaks to three subjects that especially apply today in our secular, humanist, and sacreligious society.
First, small government is the Biblical norm, not the welfare state or regulatory excesses that favor one enterprise over another. The government, according to the lesson, is ordained of God for law enforcement. Everything else can be left to individuals and the free market forces that naturally work to mutual benefit.
Second, love is defined by the law of God, not by Hollywood or the Sexual Revolution.
Third, we cannot make the world a better place. We are called to make ourselves better persons. The Lord will return to judge the living and the dead by his word. So, we are not to sin but dedicate ourselves to spiritual formation.
February 12, 2020
The Apostle Paul was not a Reformed theologian. Nothing he wrote from Romans 1:18 to 11:36 can be cherry picked to ensure the salvation of any individual. These chapters belong to a kind of literature called polemic. For almost 11 chapters in Romans Paul is arguing with religious Jews, at points including himself, who asw a former Pharisee. He tells how Gentiles are now part of the new covenant in Christ’s blood, how Gentiles might live righteous lives, and the implication for Jews in salvation history. It is not until the epistle lesson today, Romans 12:1-8, that Paul tells people how to be saved.
To be clear, what is true of Gentiles in general is true of any particular Gentile. Must we receive by faith propitiation by the blood of Christ that God put forth for our past sins? Yes. Must we be baptized into his death and delivered from sin? Yes. Must we by the Spirit put to death the deeds of the body so that we might live? Yes. Must we be careful not to fall away as Israel did? Yes. In these things Paul is describing to any religious Jew how Gentile Christians have a well-developed faith that is pleasing to God and yields eternal life.
But whether any particular Gentile conforms to this way of salvation is the subject Paul addresses beginning with “therefore” in Romans 12:1. The chief rival to this Christian way of life is the Gentile world itself, which had shaped the Gentile soul in a way that needs to be changed by “renewal of the mind.” Participating in this transforming grace is the spiritual worship that God seeks.
In this Paul agrees with Christ, who said, “Go, make disciples of all nations (another word for Gentiles), baptizing them … and teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
February 11, 2020
Today’s old testament and gospel lessons say the same thing.
In Genesis 26:4-5 the Lord blessed Isaac because Abraham, his father, “obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.”
Confronted with a woman taken in adultery, whose accusers faded away, John 8:11, Jesus told the woman, “Go and sin no more.”
We can never escape the moral commandments of God. Any man-made doctrine that says we can be saved without the law is a heresy called antinomianism.
February 10, 2020
The epistle lesson today, Hebrews 13:1-15, contains two thoughts in three verses that aid in spiritual formation.
One speaks of the Christian ritual of the Holy Eucharist that replaces temple worship. It says, “We [Christians] have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat.”
The other thought is Christian dualism, the spiritual perspective of the New Testament, which distinguishes between being in the body that suffers and not in the body that presumably does not suffer, verse 2, and having no lasting home here but a city to come, verse 14.
February 9, 2020
Today’s gospel lesson, Mark 10:13-22, tells of a rich man who came to Jesus with an honest question and got an honest answer. He asked the Lord what he must do to inherit eternal life. The Lord answered in terms of the Second Table of the Law, our moral obligation.
The man answered, again honestly (we have no reason to doubt it), that he had kept those commandments his whole life. It says at that point that the Lord loved him.
February 7, 2020
The lessons today have a common theme, which is often the case with the Daily Office Lectionary. Psalm 69 is an imprecatory, meaning that David asks God to deliver him from and judge his enemies. Jesus once quoted this psalm when describing his detractors, saying, “They hated me without a cause.” Hebrews 12:3-4 speaks of sinners being hostile toward Christ. And in John 7:7 the Lord says that the world hates him because he testifies that its deeds are evil.
Hebrews 12:4 says that Christians should resist sin and struggle against sin until our own blood is shed.
February 6, 2020
Today’s epistle lesson ends readings from Hebrews 11, the chapter about faith. It gives many examples of faith and they are all about people that did or experienced things. The chapter is full of action verbs and especially twice mentioned Abraham’s obedience.
There is not a theologian or seminary professor in the list! There are no clergy, though a couple of prophets are named, and in ancient times patriarchs were priests of their own households; making offerings is mentioned twice in the chapter.
The unifying theme is in the definition of faith and the way of faith at the beginning of the chapter. Actions were taken and experiences had because of a choice made by the faithful. They served the God they could not physically see and they longed for a future reward.
They were strangers and sojourners on the earth because the looked up and looked ahead, not settling for the transitory comforts and pleasures of this world.
February 5, 2020
In order fully to understand Holy Communion these words in today’s gospel lesson must be read with the reasonable question in mind, “How does bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ?”
Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” -John 6:53-56
February 4, 2020
The story of Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Ishmael, and Isaac, demonstrate God’s mercy in dealing with those outside his formal covenant, found in today’s OT lesson, Genesis 21:1-21.
His covenant was established with Abraham through Isaac and he commanded Abraham to honor the wishes of his wife, Sarah.
But, though left in a dire situation, the Lord appeared to Hagar and gave her assurance of his watch care over her.
Everyone has grace and everyone should be treated fairly because the Lord treats them fairly.
February 3, 2020
The Old Testament reading today is Genesis 19, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, which the Lord destroyed because of homosexuality. One might be tempted to say that is the Old Testament. The New Testament is different. Actually, Jude in the New Testament, the Lord’s brother, warns of the same judgment, saying, “Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.”
Lot fled to Zoar, which is a type safety in Christ and his Church.
January 31, 2020
In the epistle lesson today we find this verse, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” –Hebrews 10:14
Who has the Lord perfected by his “finished work” on the cross?
The answer is “those who are being sanctified.”
“Being sanctified” is an on-going process for the Christian, a work of the Holy Spirit that we can refuse or frustrate, putting our ultimate perfection in doubt and jeopardy.
January 30, 2020
Assurance of salvation based on doctrine alone does not work because it is a non-sequitur: I believe that I am saved; therefore, I am saved. Believing something does not make it so. That is make-believe. Christianity is not make-believe but rather a changed life. Jesus said, “You shall know them by their fruits.”
One of the chief fruits of real faith in Christ is a clear conscience, the assurance that a person feels when he has not sinned against God but is following his will. There can be no assurance without this, as the epistle lesson says today in Hebrews 10:1-10. It speaks about being made “perfect” and “consciousness of sin” and “taking away of sin” and of our being “sanctified” by the “body of Christ”. Remember the “body” of Christ.
That is not a juridical proposition but a practical benefit of the new covenant.
How do we know it is practical and not speculative in this context?
Because first, the immediate context draws a contrast between the Old Testament (it did not “perfect those that drew near”) and what happened when Christ came.
Because second, the new and living way says, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” The body is what does God’s will. Assurance is based on doing, which can cleanse the conscience. “Love covers a multitude of sins,” for instance, as in 1 Peter 4:8, and “faith is completed by works” in James 2:22. Mere believing does not have the desired effect, regardless of how many times we’ve heard it. To have real assurance we must have victory over sin and a record of real righteousness.
January 29, 2020
In the gospel lesson today, John 5:19-29, we find another place where faith = works. See verses 24-29 where Jesus says that we will be judged both by our faith and by our works.
There are other places where this occurs, namely John 3:36, Hebrews 3:18-19, and James 2:14-26.
There is no daylight between saving faith and good works.
January 28, 2020
Spiritual formation depends on adopting the dualistic perspective of the New Testament. An example of that perspective is found in today’s epistle lesson, Hebrews 9:1-14. Here we find that the earthly tabernacle was a prophetic symbol: the outer court is this present age, which is “still standing” (meaning some day it will no longer stand) vs. the inner court, the Most Holy Place, the age to come, which will remain forever.
According to this perspective, we who hope to enter the “greater and more perfect” Sanctuary in the age to come must be holy just as the old high priests were holy when they entered the inner part. We need therefore a way to perfect conscience. The old rituals must be replaced by the blood of Christ, who through the Spirit purified himself in order to enter. His blood will purify us from dead works, allowing us to serve the living God. In this context perfection and purification means no twinge of conscience concerning any sin that we have committed.
January 27, 2020
Spiritual formation depends on the Christian dualistic perspective found throughout the New Testament. The epistle lesson today, Hebrews 8:1-17, provides a prime example. In it an old faulty covenant is replaced by a new perfect one. The old was a copy and shadow of the true one we have now as Christians. Jesus is the High Priest in heaven; he would not be a priest at all had he remained on earth because he was not of the Levitical line. Christ serves in the true tabernacle of heaven not the man-made one of earth. The old is obsolete while the new is permanent and delivers better promises.
But most importantly the earthly priests of the old covenant offered sacrifices brought to them by others. Jesus offered the sacrifice of his own body and blood.
January 24, 2020
In the gospel lesson today, John 4:16-26, Jesus gently and tactfully confronted the woman at the well about her sexual sins. She immediately got religiously self-righteous!
Without shaming her Jesus refuted her claims and laid out the higher principles of the new spiritual perspective that he brought to the world.
It solved both her problems. First, her sexual history was carnal; so, the Lord spoke to her about God being spirit, which is opposed to carnality. Second, she needed true religion; so, the Lord assured her that the Father is seeking those who will worship him in spirit and truth.
January 23, 2020
In John’s gospel we find that Jesus took time to talk personally with people, Nicodemus, for instance, and in today’s lesson the woman at the well. In both those cases the Lord encountered a wooden, materialistic literalism in their thinking. Nicodemus wanted to know how he could enter his mother’s womb a second time to be born again; and the woman wondered how Jesus would draw living water since he was sitting there empty-handed.
The spiritual perspective of the New Testament sees everything in life in parallels. For every phenomenon on earth there is a corresponding reality in heaven. In fact, the things of heaven are more real, solid, and lasting than the things of earth. This spiritual perspective is found right on through Paul, who wrote (Colossians 3:1-4), “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
January 22, 2020
There are two places in Scripture where faith = obedience. One of them is in the gospel lesson today, John 3:36, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”
The other one is Hebrews 3:18-19, describing apostasy among those who were saved from Egypt as a warning to Christians, it says, “To whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.”
The epistle lesson today also warns against falling away with these words, Hebrews 6:4-6, “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.”
Beware of man-made doctrines that give false assurance of salvation. Saving faith is completed by works says James 2:20-24.
January 21, 2020
The gospel lesson today, John 3:1-15, contains the words of Christ, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
Being born again of water and the Spirit refers to baptism and receiving the Holy Spirit much as Peter said in Acts 2:28.
Then Jesus gave us the Christian dualism of flesh vs. spirit, which is the key to spiritual formation after we have been born again, much as Paul explained in Romans 8:1-18.
January 19, 2020
The gospel lesson today contains the heart of Christianity, John the Baptist’s declaration, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
Each one of us must come to know ourselves as sinners in need of grace. Grace begins with the propitiation that God put forward in the blood of Christ, to be received by faith.
January 17, 2020
Hebrews 3:12 says, “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.” It continues by saying we must exhort each other every day in order to hold firm to the end. An example of apostasy are those that were saved from Egypt but fell in the desert. Those who fell away did not enter the promised land. In verses 18-19 faith is equated with obedience.
January 16, 2020
In the gospel lesson today, John 1:43-51, we find in the comments of Nathaniel the need to overcome place prejudice. Nathaniel was honest and outspoken about his bias and it might have had some validity because Jesus commended him for speaking his mind. Neither Jesus or Nathaniel were people pleasers.
But in fact Jesus and his first disciples came from Galilee, known as Galilee of the Gentiles because it had been corrupted in the view of many Jews by the settlement of Greeks and Romans.
Nevertheless, Nathaniel became a disciple because Jesus demonstrated miraculous personal knowledge about him and promised more signs to come.
The point is, though it may be a minor one, references to places in this reading make them irrelevant because the call of God is so much greater.
January 15, 2020
One of the harshest indictments of mankind is that our wills are so bound by sin that we cannot do good even if we want to do so.
Yet, the Bible is full of commandments. Psalm 119 is an example of love for the law.
How does one come to love the law and do it?
Jesus Christ sets us free to do his will and love doing it.
In spiritual formation, the goal of which is to be conformed to the image of Christ, we must love what God loves and hate what God hates. The psalm this morning says:
4 For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;
evil may not dwell with you.
5 The boastful shall not stand before your eyes;
you hate all evildoers.
6 You destroy those who speak lies;
the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.
Elective abortion is the shedding of innocent blood, which God hates. God also hates homosexuality, which is wickedness. What he hates the most are those clergy who deceive the people by saying good is evil and evil is good.
January 13, 2020
In the Old Testament wisdom was personified as a woman and the Greeks called her Sophia. In Greek Gnostic literature knowledge was also attributed feminine characteristics, since gnosis is a feminine noun. Gnosticism was specifically rejected by the Church.
But in the Prologue to his gospel, which is our lesson today, John (1:1-18) chose the masculine Logos to describe the begotten/not made and eternal Son of God, who became a man.
January 10, 2020
Jeremiah 23:1-4 pronounces a woe on false shepherds, who scatter the sheep, driving them away. That means pastors and priests that promote false doctrine and bad behavior. It says God will take care of them!
But also it says that God will set true shepherds over the flock, men who truly love them.
A true shepherd cares about the people if they are hurting or sick, preaches sound doctrine based on the Bible, is a good model and example of Christian living, manages church business effectively, and leads worship in a devout and holy way.
January 9, 2020
In John 8:15 Jesus criticizes the Pharisees, saying, “You judge according to the flesh.”
What does it mean to judge according to the flesh?
It means to judge according to outward and physical standards like looks, wealth, credentials, and power rather than moral and spiritual things like love, devotion to God, and humility.
We can tell what a society values by how much we invest in a person. The wealthiest ones among us are actors and football players rather than educators, for instance. This is not to say the government should do central planning for us to disrupt the free market. It is a call for each of us to test ourselves for carnality.
January 8, 2020
In John 7:48 the chief priests and Pharisees argue against Christ, saying, “Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him?” This is a logical fallacy called appeal to authority.
Now when Christians or Jews appeal to Scripture that is not the logical fallacy to which the logicians refer. Scripture is the ultimate authority on any matter. The fallacy is to appeal to persons that hold office, even if it is a high office like judge or priest or bishop or rabbi. Persons are fallible and their credentials alone do not guarantee that they are correct. There must always be an objective standard like the Bible or the law by which to compare the statements, actions, and decisions of any person.
However, if all we ever do is quote Scripture it might fall on deaf ears. What is needed are people that both know and live what Scripture says! Then it is not merely verbiage but a living, authentic witness to the goodness and truth of God.
January 7, 2020
The Eucharistic Discourse, John 6:30 and following, begins with the Jews asking for a sign. They pointed to Moses giving bread from heaven, even though they had just witnessed the feeding of the multitude, a miracle that Jesus performed. In their minds, score-keepers that they were, Jesus had done nothing greater than Moses! They needed more in order to believe in him!
Jesus answered their claim about bread from heaven with true bread from heaven. What is the difference between bread and true bread?
Normal, everyday bread does not last. After a while we get hungry and must eat again. The Lord wants us to understand a spiritual bread that gives life. Regular bread keeps us from dying of starvation. The bread that the Lord Jesus gives makes us live forever!
Then the Lord begins to use sacramental language to describe this bread by saying it is his flesh, that is, we must eat his flesh.
January 6, 2020
The gospel lesson today, Matthew 12:14-21, begins with the Pharisees plotting to destroy Jesus and ends by saying in him shall the Gentiles shall hope.
There are two great divides in Scripture, one between sinner and saint, and the other between Gentile and Jew. These are related to each other in the doctrine of salvation. Paul wrote that the Gentiles are justified by faith in Christ. This refers to the prophecy that in him shall the Gentiles hope. That is the full scope of his argument, which resolves the division between Gentile and Jew.
How anyone becomes a saint belongs to the other divide, that is, between sinner and saint. Into the mix then is added obedience, sanctification, and the way of the cross, to which all should submit, for faith without works is dead.
Every human being on the face of the earth at any given moment is either a sinner or living in a state of grace.
January 3, 2020
The greatest hindrance to spiritual formation is self delusion, believing something about oneself that is not observably true. Paul speaks to this in Ephesians 4:22-24, writing, “Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” Putting off the old and putting on the new is a conscious effort on our part. It has not been done and no one can do it for us. In fact, the greatest delusion is to believe that imperatives addressed to us are indicatives of work already done by another.
Putting off the “body of sin” as Paul calls it elsewhere is the work of the Holy Spirit with us and in us as we choose to deny self, take up our cross daily, and follow Jesus. This work is called cruciformity or mortification of the flesh. It is the “way” we were supposed to have “learned Christ” (verse 20). The way of the cross will save us from pretending and show us how to walk in “true” righteousness and holiness.
January 2, 2020
Ephesians 4:1-16 says that God gave us clergy (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers) to help the church achieve the “unity of the faith and knowledge of the Son of God”.
“So that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” Instead, we are to “grow up in every way”.
The greatest scam on the face of the earth is people pleasing clergy that preach easy believe-ism.
January 1. 2020
Isaiah 62:1 says,
For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,
and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet,
until her righteousness goes forth as brightness,
and her salvation as a burning torch.
Christian people have a duty to speak the truth in love, to bear witness to what we know of God, his commandments, and his desire to redeem us from our sins.
Any hard truth we might have to speak should always be accompanied by the word of salvation. God is not cruel; he wants us to wake up and live in his light.
Christmas Day, 2019
The Lord began to bear our sins and experience our suffering from the moment he was conceived, for flesh is the problem that we have and he took it upon himself. He had pain in the womb, pain at his birth, and pain when he was crucified. Every moment of his existence here where he “dwelt among us” was an atoning and redemptive work.
That is why he was worshiped and glorified from the beginning. John the Baptist rejoiced in him while both were still in their mothers’ wombs. The shepherds worshiped him the night he was born. The wise men came a little while later.
He has not gone one minute of his incarnate deity without being worshiped and adored. There is no one like him, never was, and never will be — Christ the Savior is born, Christ the Savior is born.
November 7, 2019
Believing in Christ is a commandment of God (1 John 3:23).
If we do that it does not mean we are trying to be saved by works but that we are simply obeying God’s commandment.
John also wrote that loving God means we will keep his commandments, which are not burdensome (1 John 5:3).
In the sanctification process, which takes us step by step toward perfection in love, we must pass through the legal stage, being disciplined, shaped, and inwardly formed by obedience. There is no such thing as spirituality that is not obedient to God’s word.
In the Great Commission disciples are made when we are taught “all that [Christ] commanded”. Any view of salvation that cuts us off from sanctification is invalid because it cuts us off from becoming real disciples.
November 5, 2019
Believing in Christ is a commandment of God (1 John 3:23).
If we do that it does not mean we are trying to be saved by works but that we are simply obeying God’s commandment.
October 9, 2019
The epistle today, 1 Corinthians 11:23-34, contains this verse, “But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplinedso that we may not be condemned along with the world.” Elsewhere Scripture says, “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?”
The judgement upon us is the rise of progressives, feminists, and homosexuals. They are being used by God to destroy those things of which we made idols so that we might return to our Father in heaven and obey him once again because faith without works is dead and cannot save us.
October 1, 2019
In the Old Testament lesson today, 2 Chronicles 30:1-27, the good king Hezekiah calls the people to Jerusalem to keep the Passover feast in the restored temple precincts. They had not done so for a very long time and everyone was out of practice in the worship of God. The priesthood was in poor shape, and some of the people laughed at the messengers and did not come to the service.
But many came because God laid it on their hearts to do so and it was the greatest feast since the time of Solomon.
Many things went wrong, however. The priests and the people had forgotten how to consecrate themselves. They otherwise broke many rules. But it was none-the-less a great feast because Hezekiah had prayed for them, “May the good Lord pardon everyone who sets his heart to seek God, the Lord, the God of his fathers, even though not according to the sanctuary’s rules of cleanness.” And the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people. And the people of Israel who were present at Jerusalem kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with great gladness, and the Levites and the priests praised the Lord day by day, singing with all their might to the Lord. And Hezekiah spoke encouragingly to all the Levites who showed good skill in the service of the Lord. So they ate the food of the festival for seven days, sacrificing peace offerings and giving thanks to the Lord, the God of their fathers.
We have the same situation in many churches today. People worship in many different ways and break a lot of worship rules. Yes, there are rules for the worship of God.
But Hezekiah’s prayer applies to all that seek the Lord from a sincere heart. May the people be healed and let them encourage the clergy that do a good job.
September 30, 2019
Spiritual formation depends on the dualistic perspective of the New Testament. In the gospel lesson today, for instance, Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus admonishes us to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” These things mean food and clothes, temporal things.
In 1 Corinthians 7:25-31 Paul wrote that the form of “this world” is passing away. That means we should conduct our life in view of the world to come.
September 23, 2019
In 1 Corinthians 4:20 Paul wrote, “For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.”
This is what we mean when we say in our vision statement, “We define grace as an experience that can be seen in changed and empowered lives (1 Cor. 1:4-9, 2 Cor. 1:15 and Acts 11:23 ).”
September 22, 2019
In Luke 3:16-17 John the Baptist summarizes the ministry of Christ, saying, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
The primary work of the Holy Spirit is to gather in those who will be saved and then the Lord will punish those that refuse to repent.
Luke calls this good news. It is good news that many will be saved.
It is also good news that justice will be done in the end because evil people seem to get away with doing so much harm.
September 20, 2019
Two lessons today, 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 and Matthew 5:11-16, speak to the nature and mission of the Church. The Church is God’s temple, salt of the earth, and light of the world. The Church produces prophets.
Those that destroy the Church with heresies such as the Social Gospel will be destroyed by God.
Those that compromise with heretics will be cast out and trodden underfoot by men.
The light that God gives us should be set on a lamp stand so that the whole house may be lit.
September 19, 2019
In today’s epistle, 1 Corinthians 2:14-3:15, Paul makes an important distinction between the natural/carnal Christian and one that is spiritual. This is found in other places where he speaks of those caught in sin vs. the spiritual ones (Galatians 6:1) and babes in Christ vs. the mature/perfect ones (1 Corinthians 14:20 and Ephesians 4:13, for instance).
The goal is maturity and it is achieved by spiritual formation. Spiritual formation, also known as faith development, is defined in terms of 1) its basis in Biblical theology, 2) its goals, and 3) its methods of achieving those goals. Spiritual formation is rooted in these Biblical concepts:
• To be fully informed of the truth of Jesus (Luke 1:1-4, Ephesians 4:11-21, and Jude 3-5)
• To be transformed from sinners to saints (Romans 12:1-2 and 2 Corinthians 3:18)
• To be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29, Galatians 4:19, and I Peter
The working definition of spiritual formation, therefore, is this: In order to be conformed to the
image of Christ, one must be transformed by grace (grace is defined as divine activity with which we
cooperate by our own free will and consent) through the renewal of the mind as we are inwardly
formed by word and sacrament, which yields good doctrine and morals, and the application thereof
to everyday life and situations in such a way that we are benefited and God is glorified. In linear
fashion it may be expressed this way: informed → transformed → conformed.
September 18, 2019
In 1 Corinthians 2:1-13, our epistle lesson today, Paul mentions again Christ and him crucified. Immediately, he recalls his state of mind when he first visited the Corinthians, that he came to them with weakness, fear, and trembling. Thus we see that the cross is not a distant speculative thing but was active in Paul’s personality and presence with the people then and there. Paul practiced cruciformity, that is, walking in the way of the cross, following in the Lord’s footsteps of death to self.
That is the reason Paul was able to demonstrate the Spirit and power of God, which converted the Corinthians.
September 17, 2019
In 1 Corinthians 1:20-31 Paul rejects the signs that Jews seek and wisdom that Greeks pursue. What is the least common denominator between the two things he rejects?
The answer to that lies in what he embraces.
Signs and wisdom are easy. Christ crucified is difficult.
Paul assumes, as all should assume, that to hear about the Savior and believe in him means we must follow him.
Where did he go?
He went to heaven through the cross.
September 16, 2019
When Paul describes grace in 1 Corinthians 1:4-9, part of the epistle lesson for today, he talks about it in terms of riches of speech and no lack of spiritual gifts.
Grace is an experience that can be seen in changed and empowered lives (2 Corinthians 1:15 and Acts 11:23 ).
September 13, 2019
Cruciformity is essential to salvation, according to the epistle lesson for today. Paul wrote that he believes in Christ “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” That is Philippians 3:10.
Notice the conditional and subjunctive mood. Twice he refers to the resurrection — his own resurrection to eternal life. One cannot be raised unless he shares in the suffering of Christ, becoming like him in his death. That is cruciformity.
September 12, 2019
In Philippians 2:12-30 Paul tells us to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling”.
There are two theories of how we are saved. One says that God alone act/works to save us (monergism), picking and choosing who will and who will not be saved. The other says that we work along with God in cooperation with him for our salvation (synergism).
In this passage Paul indicates that synergism is the correct view.
The passage in question is an admonition. Admonitions and commandments in the Bible, of which there are many, do not make sense if we are not responsible for obeying them.
September 11, 2019
In today’s epistle lesson, Philippians 2:1-11, Paul writes that we should think about things the same way that Jesus did, “have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” It is ours in Christ Jesus if we accept it, right?
What is that frame of mind that Paul identifies? It is the willingness to empty oneself of all divine prerogatives in radical obedience to the Lord’s leading, specifically the way of the cross, obedience to the point of death.
This is the only way to experience spiritual formation. If we let go of anything and everything, even those things we have the right to hold to ourselves, then we come to the point of truly trusting God to make us what he sees fit.
That is the only way, also, to be justified (made righteous) by faith (dying and trusting God to raise us up) as the Lord demonstrated.
May 16, 2019
In today’s gospel lesson, Luke 6:39-49, Jesus says that whoever is fully trained will be like his master.
Yet most Christians in America today seem to be barely saved because of the cheap grace and easy believe-ism that is taught from the pulpits.
How does one go from barely saved to becoming like the Master?
It is through spiritual formation, which we preach and teach at Christ Church Lubbock.
May 9, 2019
Today’s gospel lesson, Luke 5:1-11, speaks about the worldly consequences of obeying the Lord: breaking nets and sinking boats!
Peter and his crew followed the Lord’s instructions about fishing, even though they were fishermen and he was a carpenter.
They caught such a big bunch of fish that there was trouble at sea. They had to call for help!
Catching fish at the Lord’s command seems very difficult. How much more difficult will it be to catch men?
Hudson Taylor, the great missionary to China, said that this is the divine process, “What’s impossible becomes difficult, and then it is done.”
Come, help us do the impossible?
April 11, 2019
In today’s gospel lesson, John 10:19-42, the Lord says that people are gods, who have received the word of God, meaning his Jewish detractors, who were about to stone him for making himself equal to God. He did not deny saying that he was the Son of God.
There are two ways to make someone distant and thus outside the realm of a positive relationship: one is to criticize or demean them in order to make them beneath you, unworthy of you; the other is to raise them too high in order to make them unapproachable. True love can exist only on the same moral plain of existence.
Jesus came to be with us. He invites us to love him as he has loved us. He became a man in order to associate with us and have a positive relationship with us. That is the whole point of the Incarnation.
Many people suffer low self-esteem, especially because of guilt and shame. But God loves us, everyone of us, and sent the Lord Jesus to draw us to himself.
March 28, 2019
In today’s gospel lesson, John 8:21-32, Jesus could not be more clear that he is God incarnate. Twice he said, “I am he,” meaning “I am God”.
This answers the question of where he came from and where he is now. He came from above and that is where he is now, after being crucified and raised from the dead.
He warned the Jews, as he warns us, not to die in our sins. Scripture says that it is appointed for a man once to die and after that the judgment. To escape judgment we must believe in Jesus.
But more specifically, we must believe that he is God, as he said.
March 24, 2019
Today’s gospel lesson for church was Luke 13:1-9. It is about divine earthly retribution, which some deny.
But that is not the answer that Jesus gave.
He pointed out that those who Pilate killed while worshiping were not worse sinners than anyone else and a tower fell on people in Jerusalem that were not identified as either good or evil. In fact, all humanity suffers both natural and man-made disasters. It is God’s judgment against the general rebellion of mankind against his word and holy ways. Divine earthly retribution is all around us. We have all experienced it.
What should be our response?
The Lord said that we should repent while we have time to do so in order to be fit for the next life. He told a parable about that. A fig tree that failed to produce fruit was deemed expendable. “Why should it use up the ground?”
But a Merciful One, signifying Christ, pleaded with the Owner said to give it more time and loving attention.
The time was limited to one year, though.
What if there is a limit to God’s mercy? What if he tires of our sins and fruitlessness?
March 22, 2019
In the gospel lesson today, John 5:30-47, Jesus said, “My judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.”
Justice is to give another what is his due. There are two branches of justice: what we owe God (our religion) and what we owe man (our politics).
Our duty to God is summed up in the First Commandment, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. It mean obedience to all his commandments and includes utilizing the means of grace for our spiritual benefit.
Our duty to man is summed up in the Second Commandment, to love our neighbor as yourself. In the Bible neighbor means those with whom we share the New Covenant in Christ’s blood. It is a special duty to fellow Christians, to help with their temporal needs when necessary. It does not extend as a duty or right to those outside the Faith.
People outside the Faith deserve respect because they are made in God’s image and Christ died for them, too, though they have not yet received it by faith.
In America we have the duty of citizenship; we owe the guarantee of cardinal and enumerated rights under the Constitution. That’s it! We do not owe anyone a guaranteed income or economic outcome. That is an atheist Marxist idea that does not fit the Biblical view of justice. That is why Jesus, led by the Spirit, did not submit to the people when they wanted to make him king. Then he told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world … I came to bear witness to the truth.”
March 21, 2019
In today’s gospel lesson, John 5:19-29, Jesus tells us that he is the one who will execute judgment and that the basis for his decision will be what we do in this life, to quote, “those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment”.
It is important to consider this because of the false doctrine of easy-believe-ism that is so popular these days.
March 20, 2019
One of the worst heretics in history was Adolf von Harnack, who believed Greek Philosophy corrupted the Early Church. So, he rejected the Gospel which provides our lesson for today, John 5:1-18, because of its consistent High Christology, like saying that Jesus is equal to God.
He rejected the Creeds of the Church for the same reason. In fact, almost every doctrine of the Church concerning the person of Christ, including the doctrine of the Trinity and the Dual Nature of Christ, Hanack rejected.
But sadly, even evangelical scholars today accept Harnack’s view that Greek Philosophy is a corrupting influence. They may not reject John’s Gospel, the Creeds, the Trinity, or Dual Nature but they have followed Harnack in putting the Jewishness of Christ above his universal appeal based on Philosophy. There has arisen, therefore, a strange new form of Judaizing teaching that is extremely weak in Christian theology. It makes people spell G_d like this without vowels, and tries to predict events based on Jewish feasts, blood moons, and such non-sense.
The problem is that Jesus specifically put his work (and the Father’s) above Jewish things like the Sabbath, as our lesson today illustrates. He broke Jewish tradition in favor of actually helping people by the power of God’s healing grace. He is the author of a New Covenant in his blood.
Plus, if the Jews were wrong about his claim to divinity wouldn’t the Lord have corrected them rather than submit to persecution and death based on a misunderstanding? The fact is that Jesus and the Jews both understood what he said about being God Incarnate.
Either the Gospel of John is historically true or the whole Church has been wrong for putting it in the canon of Scripture, and believing and preaching it all these years.
March 18, 2019
A person can become characterized by one thing they do, which takes over their lives and personality. The woman at the well was such a person, whose story appears in John 4.
She described Jesus as a man that told her everything she ever did. It was only one thing! Yet her life was consumed by it.
We may be tempted to believe that we can compartmentalize a besetting sin, keeping it away from everything else we do. “I have this [name the sin] but can be trusted in everything else.”
It just does not work that way.
We are whole persons and when one part is dysfunctional it affects everything else about us. One of the synonyms for salvation is wholeness, being made whole, so that all the whole person is healthy.
We can ask the Lord to reveal to us, as he did to the woman at the well, the one thing that may be holding us back in our spiritual formation. The Lord wants us to be free of that and live free of it for the rest of our lives.
March 17, 2019
In Mark 3:31-4:9, today’s gospel lesson, the Lord establishes the family of heaven by saying we are mothers, brothers, and sisters who do the will of the Father.
Nothing underlines the spiritual perspective of the New Testament more than this principle because a surrogate family can be salvation to those who have suffered family betrayal. That is why we pray, for instance, “Our Father …”
The spirit of family betrayal can be inherited through the generations, as can family idolatry. Both are extremes solved by the Lord, who gave us a new family.
March 15, 2019
The gospel lesson today contains a verse that solves the Protestant vs. Catholic split — if we would let it. It is John 3:36, which says, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”
In this verse it says that believing in the Son and obeying the Son are the same thing.
The Anglican Church has actually tried to live with this tension between faith and works. It is difficult to be the middle way, living between opposing views. We catch it from both sides!
But Jesus prayed for the unity of the Church. That unity can be found only in him and in his holy word.
March 14, 2019
The gospel lesson today, John 3:16-21, contains such a wonderful verse, the gospel in one sentence, that we might be tempted to quit reading at that point. “For God so loved the world …” What a wonderful verse!
But reading on we find something very interesting. John returns to the theme of Christ being the light that has come into the world. Shortly after saying “that whosoever believes in him shall not perish” he explains how we might manage to perish anyway!
Some come to the light but others do not.
Some are photophobes, who hate the light because their deeds are evil. They do not want to be exposed for the evil things they do.
But others are photophiles, who love the light. They come to he light because they love to do good things anyway and giving their hearts to Jesus is the next good thing for them to do. They figure, based on his word, that he will give them more wonderful things to do!
March 13, 2018
The gospel lesson today, John 2:23-3:15, contains the Lord’s assessment of mankind, “He did not entrust himself to them for he knew all people … what was in man.”
The Lord was not a people pleaser but experienced what the Psalmist wrote (119), “Hot indignation seizes me because of the wicked, who forsake your law.” That is why he was not afraid to cleanse the temple, which was yesterday’s lesson.
We must not worry about our image among people but worry what God thinks of us. We must be allies of God and not of sinful people.
Jesus spoke to Nicodemus about being born again, distinguishing between flesh and Spirit. Being born of the Spirit is to be born to a higher level of perception and perspective.
March 8, 2019
The critical scholars like to point out “discrepancies” in the Bible, like two different calls of Peter, the subject of today’s gospel lesson, John 1:35-42. Luke tells about Jesus in Peter’s boat; John tells about the place where Jesus was staying. Those are two very different circumstances.
But John does not record the call of Peter here. This is the story of how they met. Peter was introduced by his brother, Andrew. Peter may have agreed with Andrew, after meeting Jesus, that he was the Messiah … and then went back to his job of fishing.
It is one thing to know the Lord. It is another entirely to know what he wants us to do.
Nothing in the Bible says it is enough to check the salvation box and then do as you please. We are not to meet the Lord and then carry on as if nothing happened.
Peter would discover that later when the Lord called him and his brother to become fishers of men.
Every baptized Christian, even the children, have a service or ministry to perform, gifts to exercise, which we have by virtue of the Holy Spirit.
March 7, 2019
What does it mean that Jesus is the Lamb of God, as John proclaimed in today’s gospel lesson, John 1:29-34?
It means he became by his suffering and death on the cross our sacrifice for sins. Technically, it is called penal substitutionary atonement.
Penal means the penalty or just punishment for sins. What happened to Jesus, a miserable death, is what mankind, and each party thereof, deserves.
But the Lord’s death was substituted for the punishment we deserve, a sacrifice to be received by faith, wrote Paul in Romans 3:25.
Atonement means that through this sacrifice, for those who believe, we are made again at-one with God, thus at-one-ment, a reconciliation between the two parties is achieved. God, who was previously offended, is now satisfied that justice has been served in the death of the sacrificial victim, Christ, the Lamb, and that we have accepted it with love for God for his extraordinary gift of salvation.
But Scripture also says that if we continue to sin after hearing the truth there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins (Hebrews 10:26).
That is why John also proclaimed the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is our helper so that sin is reduced and overcome in our lives to the glory of him who died for us.
Ash Wednesday, 2019
For those that like cloudy days Lent, which now begins, is our favorite season!
But the gospel lesson today, Luke 18:9-14, warns us not to take ourselves too seriously, like the Pharisee, but to delve deeply into the true meaning of the observation, like the penitent tax collector.
Jesus clearly teaches in the Sermon on the Mount that our piety is for God alone and not for show or self-aggrandizement.
In other words, our comparisons should not be to other people but to the holy and righteous God. To recognize his love, mercy, and grace toward us sinners is the heart of the season.
February 27, 2019
Matthew 5:21-26, the gospel lesson today, is part of the Sermon on the Mount in which the Lord lays out the basic principles of his religion.
Today’s lesson is about the inner life of the believer. The Law of Moses focused on outward acts. The Spirit of Christ wants to help us with our inner thoughts and feelings.
February 22, 2019
In the gospel lesson this morning, Mark 12:28-34, Jesus and a scribe almost agree. They come so close that the Lord tells him he is not far from the kingdom!
This is what happened. In answering the scribe’s question about the greatest commandment Jesus almost quotes Moses exactly. When the scribe repeats the Lord’s answer back to him he quotes Moses exactly but in an affirming way.
This is the point at which the scribe had a little way yet to go. It is not enough to affirm the Lord or to generally agree with what he says.
We must listen to exactly what he says and do it, for in that way we enter the kingdom.
February 21, 2019
In Mark 12:24 Jesus is quoted as saying to the Sadducees, “You know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.”
Sadducees were the secular Jews of the day, not very religious. Like liberal mainline clergy or a socialist pope they were more concerned about their image than the truth.
Secular means worldly. Jesus, religious Jews, and traditionalist Christians are not worldly in that sense (though we can be carnal or immature) but believe the Bible concerning God’s moral judgments and his way of salvation. Traditionalists also believe in God’s power to act and save, invading time and space to do his will.
Jesus himself was the saving act of God: he was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, died, and by the power of God was raised.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead. If anyone wants to be on “the right side of history” we must repent and turn to him.
February 20, 2019
The gospel lesson today, Mark 11:27-12:12, tells us that the opposite of authority is fearing the people.
Institutional health and welfare requires numbers of people and their money! So, how many times do clergy compromise the truth or sacrifice it altogether out of fear of the people? When that happens the institution has become an idol.
Paul wrote that if he were still pleasing men he should not be a servant of Christ.
Let us speak the truth in love and trust God for the outcome.
February 19, 2019
Why did Jesus get violent with people in the temple?
The gospel lesson today, Mark 11:12-25, raises that and other interesting questions.
Why did the Lord curse an innocent fig tree for not having fruit when it was not time to have fruit?
And why did he say we could throw a mountain into the sea if we had enough faith?
The fig tree was probably a symbol of disappointing Israel, who never lived up to the covenant. Whoever breaks covenant can never be sure when the Lord might get irritated, and cause them to wither and die.
Some say the temple incident was intended to provoke the crucifixion. It was certainly a factor, as the text indicates, whether or not it was intended to do that.
The easiest thing to understand is driving the merchants and money-changers from the temple. They were exploiting religious sentiment for money. When have we ever seen that?
Correcting such an abuse would in some cases seem like moving mountains!
But Jesus said it could be done.
He said it could be done.
February 18, 2019
The Old Testament lesson today, Isaiah 63:1-6, is about the Day of the Lord, a day of vengeance against unrepentant sinners.
We should not be tempted to think that the picture of such a bloody judgment is old and passe because it is reflected in the New Testament in the Apocalypse, also called the Book of Revelation.
It is very clear from Scripture that the Day of the Lord serves one purpose in two ways.
The singular purpose is to vindicate God’s honor.
This is done by wrath against those who rebel against his word and salvation for those who obey him in righteousness.
February 17, 2019
In his gospel John presents what the scholars call High Christology. In 8:12-19 we see why.
The Pharisees were scrupulous about the law — as it pertained to others! They were deficient in applying to themselves.
But the Lord met them on them own ground and added up the numbers for them. They needed two witnesses so he named them: himself and the Father.
That is two persons of the Trinity, the two witnesses that the Pharisees needed.
But there is another reason two distinct persons of the Trinity is needed. The classic theory of atonement is under attack by nouveau-unitarians today, who say that God did not punish the Son for our sins.
That God sent his only-begotten Son to be our sacrifice is the act of the First Person. That the Son willingly accepted that role as the Lamb of God is an act of the Second Person.
February 11, 2019
Everything contained in the gospel lesson today, Mark 9:30-41, depends on the resurrection.
Any discussion, for instance, about who will be in charge when he is gone is meaningless because he is risen and still with us! He is Lord of all!
He is, as the risen Lord, guarantor of the death to self which is servitude because that is what he did when he died for us.
Because he lives he will reward everyone that obeys his word.
February 10, 2019
The gospel lesson today is John 7:37-46, in which Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit. He said, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'”
The Spirit is the key to Christian discipleship. The Spirit enlightens us to the truth of God.
The Spirit gives us victory over sin.
The Spirit empowers us for effective witness and service in the world.
The Spirit is the life of Christ within us, our connection to him, for as the Lord said, “Apart from me you can do nothing.”
February 8, 2019
In today’s gospel lesson, Mark 9:2-13, Peter blurts out something that sounds dumb because he and the others were terrified by what they saw on the Mount of Transfiguration.
I think that we all have said things out of nervousness or fear that we wish we had not said.
Sometimes we say things out of passion for a cause or to get beyond an awkward situation. We may have made excuses, or blamed others, or deflected, or told a white lie.
It’s comforting to know that the Lord knows our frame, that we are but dust. He did not scold or belittle Peter for what he said.
Perhaps, we’ll spend a good deal of time in heaven laughing at ourselves!
Now would be a good time to start practicing for that.
February 7, 2019
In Mark 8:27-9:1 Jesus draws a distinction between God’s thinking and man’s thinking.
Man’s thinking is focused on the world and it’s goods while God’s thinking is focused on Christ and his call upon our lives for the sake of eternity.
Every generation has a challenge in this regard. Ours now is to oppose elective abortion and homosexuality. Great social and political pressure is brought to bear on those that follow Christ; the advocates for evil are trying to make us ashamed.
We must never be ashamed of God and his holy ways. Let us take up the cross and follow Christ, the Son of God.
February 6, 2019
In Mark 8:11-26 Jesus chastises the disciples because they did not understand his miracles with bread, feeding thousands of people with a few loaves twice.
He will take care of those that follow him, for he is God incarnate.
Sometimes we must make difficult decisions for his sake.
February 5, 2019
In today’s gospel lesson, Mark 8:1-10, Jesus again miraculously feeds a multitude.
The critical scholars, who tend to think too much, say this cannot possibly be a second multiplication of bread and fish. It must certainly be two traditions, both in error concerning the details, proving the Bible is a confused work that contradicts itself and cannot be trusted.
But there are too many details that differ between the two events: the number of people, the number of loaves, the number of fish, the number of baskets of left-overs, and a desolate vs. grassy spot.
What also makes both accounts true is the genuine cluelessness of the disciples, who did not learn their lesson from the last time!
Plus, it is one thing in the first instance to be confounded in utilitarian calculations about how much something might cost vs. the Lord’s explanation of his motives in the second incident, teaching his disciples compassion by describing exactly what happens when people do not have what they need.
February 4, 2019
Mark’s gospel, as seen in today’s lesson, 7:24-37, is full of what Jesus did for individuals in need, the woman whose daughter needed deliverance, and a man that needed to hear and speak.
While theology, sound doctrine, and teaching are extremely important, God loves us, and seeks those through whom he can meet our needs by his grace and power.
February 3, 2019
In John 7:14-31 we find Jesus teaching in the temple. He had become controversial by this point in his ministry and so he gave the people ways to discern things for themselves.
First, one must be willing to learn. If we are willing to change our views in the light of new information that makes it easier to know the truth.
We should note that willingness does not mean gullibility but testing it by what one is asked to do. It is a willingness to obey God that opens the door to truth.
Second, one must judge the motive of the speaker. Is it self-serving or does it give glory to God? Is it full of ego-speak and self-righteousness or does it give all the credit to God and others who might have helped?
Third, it must conform with right judgment not mere appearances, which speaks to the previous rule. Ego-speak is all about appearances not what is right. Many politicians do this, and clergy, who worry about their image more than what God thinks.
Fourth, we must look for signs. The Lord performed miracles to help people understand that he was the Christ to come. This is missing in the Church today. Lord, help us to recover your miracle-working grace!
January 31, 2019
In Mark 6:30-46, the gospel lesson today, we find the disciples being practical in their utilitarian calculations. There was a large crowd and it was getting late; so, the disciples told Jesus to send the people away to get some food.
First, we should never tell the Lord what to do!
But second, we can depend on the Lord’s provision when Christian ministry is taking place.
Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and perform your vows to the Most High,
and call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.
January 30, 2019
The gospel lesson this morning, Mark 6:13-29, is the story of corruption at the highest levels of society.
The Herod family were not really Jews but Arabs that converted out of convenience. Herod the Great, who was declared king by the Romans, killed two of his sons so that Herod Antipas of our story ascended to the throne. His wife, Herodias, who had previously been married to her half uncle, divorced him and married Antipas. This was too much for John the Baptist, who confronted them about it. Herodias hated John.
King Herod threw a party, which included his nobles, military commanders, and leading men of Galilee, probably Jews. His daughter-in-law came in to dance, pleasing Herod and the crowd. Silly man that he was, Antipas swore an oath to give the girl anything she wanted! She did not have any sense herself so asked her mother, who wanted the prophet’s head.
In the meantime, the real King of Kings went about in the power of the Spirit, for God was with him, doing good and healing all those who were oppressed by the devil.
January 29, 2019
In the gospel lesson today, Mark 6:1-13, Jesus sent out the 12 apostles two-by-two to carry out the ministry that he had begun.
They cast out demons, healed the sick by anointing them with oil, and preached repentance.
Repentance is not widely understood today. Forgiveness is predicated on repentance.
Repentance is not a one-time emotional conversion experience. It means to quit doing sins. It means to turn your back on sinning. It means to live an entirely different way than before. It means to walk in his holy ways.
When we hear, learn, and embrace repentance then the healing power of God and deliverance from evil will again be manifest among his people.
January 28, 2019
Mark 5:21-43, the gospel lesson today, tells us that Jesus was a faith healer.
That means that those who experienced healing had faith.
In one instance the woman had so much faith that Jesus was not even aware of her need or plan to touch the hem of his garment. He did not know her faith until power went out from him.
In the other case he told Jairus not to fear but only believe. The healing was more complicated because the Lord had to surround the sick girl with people of faith, while asking the others to leave, who were not helping.
Lord, give us faith to believe in all that you can do for us.
January 27, 2019
In our gospel lesson today, John 5:2-18, Jesus asked a man if he wanted to be healed.
The man gave an answer indicating his belief that his fate in life depended on what others did.
In one month our Methodist friends will meet in St. Louis to determine whether or not they will be healed.
Some may have to decide that their spiritual health depends on Christ alone, who wants them to take up their beds and walk.
January 26, 2019
In Mark 5:1-20 Jesus encounters 2000 demons …
Twice in this story the Lord hears about the place in which this occurs. The demons do not want to be sent out of the country and the people ask Jesus to depart the region.
But the Spirit of God moves everywhere at will. No one can escape the judgment of God, his power, his truth, or his offer of salvation.
Commemoration of the Conversion of Saint Paul, 2019
In the epistle today, Philippians 3:4-11, Paul contrasts a righteousness of his own based on the Law with the knowledge of Christ and the faith of Jesus Christ (KJV).
If anyone interprets these verses to mean cheap grace and easy believe-ism … check the salvation box and do what you please …
Well, that is not at all what it says.
Paul said that he counted all things as loss compared to knowing Christ. But he did more than reckon it in his mind. He did lose everything he had under the Law in actual fact. He was beaten, stoned, arrested, shipwrecked …
What he had under the Law he called carnal, of the flesh.
But in his service to Christ he mortified the flesh and died a martyr to the cause of Christ.
Finally, he wrote that to believe in Christ means to share the Lord’s suffering and becoming like him in a death like his. Believing in Christ means living a cycle of death and resurrection, day by day, moment by moment.
January 24, 2019
The gospel lesson today, Mark 4:21-34, contains a rhetorical question. Christ asks, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand?”
All Christians are lights in the darkness but especially clergy should be bold to speak the truth.
Last week the state of New York signed a law granting the right to elective abortion until birth. Elective abortion is murder in God’s eyes at any point but this bill is absolutely barbaric.
Why have morals collapsed so precipitously in this country?
The clergy have not done our job.
January 23, 2019
In Mark 4:1-20 Jesus explains by way of a parable what happens to the sown word, saying it depends on the kind of soil that receives it.
Hard folk don’t stand a chance, since they fall easy prey to the devil, who takes away the word, for instance.
But some who receive the word let weeds grow in their garden, which chokes out the good seed of the Gospel.
One of the weeds is desires for other things.
Any thing other than the word of God.
It is the nature of God to want us all to himself. He yearns jealously over the spirit he has caused to dwell in us, according to James 4:5.
And if we truly love him and find our life in him what else do we need?
January 22, 2019
In the third chapter of Mark we find that opposition to the Lord’s ministry begins to develop. There is brief mention of Judas in 19-35, the gospel lesson today, but sadly, it is his family that first doubt him. They didn’t even speak to him privately but made a show in front of others.
The lesson ends with the Lord telling us that our true family are those that do God’s will.
Ideally, that means the Church that was forming under the Lord’s leadership, beginning with the twelve apostles. Many join a church in the hope of finding the love and support that family should provide.
What happens when the church, too, does not accept you? Where else can a person go?
That is why each congregation needs to be a safe place, a sanctuary, for those that are spiritually orphaned. Plus, if anyone lacks such a place to land because a bunch of Judas priests have ruined it, leave. Find those that do God’s will and fold in with them.
January 20, 2019
In John 4:27-42 Jesus, the evangelist, told his disciples that winning lost souls was better than eating!
He had just finished a conversation with the woman at the well, who was religiously astute but lived a sinful life. How many times have we seen that?
But the Lord, in his patience and kindness, broke through to her. He miraculously gained insight and confronted her about her sins.
He told his disciples that there are many people like that in the world — just waiting to hear the truth, fields white unto harvest.
January 17, 2019
Mark 2:1-12 tells us of four men with faith (and love, obviously), who brought a paralytic man to Jesus. Their faith worked through love, as Paul wrote in Galatians 5:6, because it took some effort to dig a hole in the roof of Jesus’ house to get the Lord.
The man was healed. Faith can be exercised on behalf of another, which is why we pray for friends and relatives and any other person in need.
But the healing became controversial. Some scribes, overlooking the great miracle that the Lord performed and the healing that the man received (the scribes did not love him), they nit-picked at the Lord’s words.
The Lord explained that it was just as easy to forgive the man as to tell him to walk. Mankind suffers, generally speaking, because we are in rebellion against God. Our physical state mirrors and reflects our moral condition.
Jesus came to heal, redeem, and restore the whole of us, our entire selves and being.
January 16, 2019
Mark continues the story of Christ with more miracles that he performs, adding healing to exorcism, 1:29-45. It is the life-changing miracles that attract the crowds: the power of God being manifest through the Lord’s work and activities. There is actually very little preaching and teaching so far or throughout the Gospel of Mark.
The crowds got so big that he could no longer enter the synagogues in town but went out into the countryside. The people kept coming to him in large numbers.
Everything the Bible says bout Christ should be true of his body, the Church. If his Spirit is truly with us then we will do the same things that he did.
People need to know that God is real and we Christians are the ones to prove it. Let us ask the Lord for his power and grace to meet the needs that people have. We should prepare ourselves to receive this power by repentance, rejecting bad doctrine, mortifying carnality, and forsaking sinful compromise with the world.
January 15, 2019
In Mark 1:14-28 we have the first miracle that Jesus performed. He cast out a demon.
We might be surprised to know how much demons are involved in our lives and things that happen in society. Demons crave power, for instance, and so gravitate toward those with money, office, and responsibility.
Can Christians have demons?
This first exorcism that Jesus performed was in the synagogue among God’s chosen people, the Jews. It was on the Sabbath!
The devils like to hide. Where better to hide than in religion and in religious people?
January 14, 2019
The Gospel of Mark is the shortest and with 1:1-13 gets right to the story: John the Baptist prepares the way by calling people to repentance, and then Jesus is baptized and tested in the wilderness for 40 days.
The Bible condenses events so that we might be tempted to believe things happen as fast as we read about them. It doesn’t take 40 days to read about 40 days, for instance. It takes less than a second to read about it.
We are not above our Master; so, if he was tempted shall we escape?
Being the Son of God he was tempted directly by the devil while we contend with lesser demons.
He had a short time to live so 40 days of intense pressure was a long time. It takes our entire lives to prove our love for God.
January 10, 2019
John 6:1-14 tells us that it was the Passover, the feast of the Jews, meaning the most important one. But the people were not in Jerusalem offering sacrifices as commanded; they were following Jesus.
The Lord wanted them to have a feast before God. He wanted their faith in him to be rewarded with worthy observance.
So, he took a few loaves and some fish, and divided it among them. Five thousand ate their fill.
John does not record the Last Supper with the words of institution. But he gives us this fourth sign to commemorate the perpetual offering of the Lord’s sacrifice for us, our Christian Pascal Feast, the Holy Eucharist.
January 9, 2019
The gospel lesson today, John 5:1-15, is about man-made rules and religious superstition.
At the Pool of Bethesda were many disabled folk. One had suffered for 38 years and we assume from what he said the people believed they could be healed when the waters of the pool were stirred. But the text gives us no indication that that really happened. It was probably a man-made superstition.
We can hang on to our superstitions or we can let the Lord heal us!
Jesus told the man to take up his bed and walk home. Some Jews criticized him for working on the Sabbath. But that was a man-made rule. To work means to engage in your livelihood, trade, or business. It does not mean incidental activity.
To counter unhelpful man-made traditions Anglicans believe in the sufficiency of Scripture. Article VI says, “Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.”
January 8, 2019
The Lord’s second sign, recorded in John 4:46-54, is about authority. An official comes to him about his sick son.
Officials have temporal power and authority. But they cannot do the things that really matter.
The official saw the Lord’s spiritual power and authority when from a distance at a mere word this son was healed.
O Lord Jesus, speak from heaven and heal us!
January 7, 2019
John 2:1-11, the gospel lesson for today, tells us about a wedding in Cana of Galilee, where Jesus performed his first sign of turning water into wine.
There is an interesting dynamic concerning his mother, which is a sub-plot to the story.
Patriarchy is God’s natural order. It is rooted in theology: God is all-knowing and all-powerful. These are masculine traits reflected in men not because of social conditioning but because of physical endowments. Patriarchy means that men are in charge of things. According to Scripture, men are the rightful heads of households, and rulers of church and society.
Mary came to understand this, saying to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
The Epiphany of the Lord, 2019
Today is the Epiphany of the Lord, his being revealed to the Gentiles.
In the early days of the Church Christianity was a Jewish religion. The Lord was fulfilling prophecy about the promised Messiah. They gave little thought to the Gentiles until Acts 14. Paul had a lot of converts among the Gentiles and some of the Jewish Christians thought they needed to become Jews. That dilemma was solved by a council, recorded in Acts 15.
Then they remembered all the times that Jesus came in contact with Gentiles and the prophecies that would be fulfilled, as noted in our gospel lesson today, “In him shall the Gentiles hope.”
In the world today there are still Gentile groups that have not heard of the Lord. How can they hope and believe in whom they have not heard? It is so important that we pray for and financially support Christian missionaries.
Eleventh Day of Christmas, 2019
The standard by which we judge all things is Scripture.
In John 14:6-14 the Lord promises two things, answered prayer and miracles.
There is no indication anywhere in Scripture that miracles have ceased or that the Lord has quit answering prayers.
The problem is on our end for the lack of sound teaching and faith.
Sound teaching begins with describing the nature of God. He is holy. We must not think that his promises apply to carnal or sinful persons.
Tenth Day of Christmas, 2019
In John 10:7-17 the Lord places in contrast two kinds of shepherds (pastors, priests, ministers): the hireling and the owner/good shepherd.
When dangers like false doctrine or sin threaten the flock the hireling will flee his responsibility, wanting to avoid conflict. He will wink at sins and adopt strange ideas; to get along he will go along; he just wants the money.
The good shepherd will lay down his life for the sheep, fighting heresy and apostasy with his whole being. He does this because he cares for the flock; he owns them in the sense that they have a place in his heart and he takes responsibility for their souls.
Ninth Day of Christmas, 2019
There are two places in Scripture where faith is identified by obedience. One of them is the epistle lesson this evening, Hebrews 11:1-12, which says that by faith Abraham obeyed God, and the other is James 2:21, where it says Abraham was justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar (he did this in obedience to God).
Faith alone is a misunderstanding of Scripture. Faith always leads to good works and obedience.
Feast of the Holy Innocents, 2018
In Matthew 18:1-14 the Lord tells us about children.
Children are innocent, honest, spontaneous, and willing to learn. Unless we become like children, he says, we will not enter the kingdom of God.
Children have special protection, angels that intercede for them before God. But man has free will, therefore, children are sometimes harmed against God’s will. Whoever hurts a child, though, will pay a high price of condemnation.
Whoever tempts a child to do wrong or whoever leads them astray (by teaching false doctrine in a church, for instance) will also be punished severely.
Feast of John the Beloved, 2018
Today is the feast of Saint John, the Beloved Disciple, who at the Last Supper asked Jesus who the traitor might be (John 13:20-35). Jesus indicated Judas, who left the room.
It is interesting to note the assumptions that the disciples made about Judas leaving, who was treasurer for the group. They had been following Jesus for a while, learning his values in life. Their thinking helps us to know what to do with our money. In the minds of the disciples Judas was doing one of two things: religiously preparing for the sacred feast or helping the poor.
Carnal Christians check the salvation box through faith in Christ and then do what they want with their time and money.
Spiritual Christians know that believing in the Lord means to obey him every minute of every day, for those who are led by the Spirit are the true children of God (Romans 8:14).
Feast of Stephen, 2018
Acts 6:1-7 tells us about the call of Stephen. This is his feast day.
He is described first in the list of new deacons as full of faith and the Holy Spirit. Verse 8 says that Stephen was also full of grace and power so that signs and wonders were done through him. Grace is an experience (2 Corinthians 1:15) that can be seen (Acts 11:23). The whole chapter is about him because he was the first martyr of the Church.
Chapter 7 of Acts tells us how that happened. It is devoted to the speech Stephen made before the council when the Jews turned against him.
Stephen recounted the history of the Jews but concluded with a scathing criticism, “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit.” Enraged, they stoned him to death.
Thus, Scripture says that we can resist the Holy Spirit to our own destruction.
First Day of Christmas, 2018
In our gospel lesson today, John 3:31-36, Christmas Day, 2018, we find the following statement, which draws the parallel between faith and obedience, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”
If we say that we believe in the Lord then we must obey him every day, all day, for the rest of our lives.
Christmas Eve, 2018
Philippians 2:5-11 commends to us the mind of Christ, saying that we should think about things the way he did.
He was born a man, who should be servants of God, and was obedient.
December 23, 2018
In John 3:16-21, our gospel lesson today, we find the motive and intent of God in sending Jesus.
It is not to condemn the world but to save us, whosoever believes.
The question immediately arises concerning those that are not saved. John explains that, too.
Those not saved love their sins more than their own life!
They refuse to come to the light because their deeds are evil. They do not want to be exposed.
But whoever comes to the light is not ashamed or afraid because their deeds are wrought in God. They have the same motive and intention of peace and good will that they see in God.
December 21, 2018
If grace is unmerited favor then what does gift mean in the following verses?
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; Ephesians 2
7 of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power. Ephesians 3
And what is mercy when the Bible talks about God’s mercy toward sinners?
Grace is not a theology or doctrine. It is an experience that can be seen (Acts 11:23 and 2 Corinthians 1:15).
People testify to grace because it has changed their lives. It is the presence, power, and activity of God that makes good things happen by the Spirit, bringing redemption and joy.
But we must cooperate with grace, learning to move with God, obey God, and walk in the Spirit. “For those who are led by the Spirit are the children of God” (Romans 8:14).
December 20, 2018
John the Baptist prepared the way for Christ to come, yes (Matthew 3:1-12), but also for the Holy Spirit, with which Christ will baptize those who earnestly seek him.
Spiritual baptism comes with fire, says John. In the Bible fire denotes both cleansing and sacrificial offerings.
If baptism with water cleanses us from past sins then why do we need the baptism of the Spirit?
So that we don’t do those things again but rather devote ourselves to serving God for the rest of our lives.
December 19, 2018
In preparation for the advent of Jesus God sent John the Baptist, Mark 1:1-8, who offered a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. The people came to John confessing their sins.
This moral preparation is necessary because the Spirit cannot touch or move upon anything that is unholy. We must always take a step of obedience toward God, however small, faltering, and imperfect it might be. “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you,” says the Lord (James 4:8).
December 18, 2018
The gospel lesson today, Luke 22:54-69, reminds us of our fallibility when we identify with Peter who denied the Lord three times after promising he would not.
We often do things in the heat of the moment, emotionally and selfishly, that we should have subjected to long-term thinking. Peter forgot himself under pressure, who earlier that night had defended his friend by whacking off Malcus’s ear with a sword!
But all it took to bring him back to himself was a glance from the Lord. Then he broke down and wept because he realized how wrong he was to deny his friend. Because he was still under grace (he did not betray the Lord for money like Judas) he was able to repent.
During this Advent season in preparation for Christmas we should ask the Lord where we have failed him personally.
December 17, 2018
The gospel lesson today, Luke 22:39-53, contains an odd scene, Judas betraying Jesus. It must have seemed bizarre to those standing there. Jesus himself seemed taken aback, “You’re betraying me with a kiss?”
Grace had been removed from Judas so he exhibited what is called dissociative disorder, an episode of psychosis in which one disconnects from memories, surroundings, thoughts, people, and feelings.
Too often we think that faith is make-believe and we engage in magical thinking, believing that everything will be okay regardless of what we do.
But we do not find that kind of faith in the Bible. In the Bible our actions always have consequences. That is why twice Jesus prayed that his disciples would not be tempted.
Third Sunday of Advent, 2018
In John 3:22-30 John the Baptist provides a good lesson for us all. He had completed the mission God gave him, that is, to prepare for Jesus’s arrival. When Jesus came John facilitated a smooth transition.
In the Christian walk there is no self to consider but only God. Our biggest job, which is sometimes hard work, is to make our own will conform to the Lord’s.
December 15, 2018
In the gospel lesson today, Luke 22:31-38, Jesus outlines the principles for Christian preparation, which Christ Church Lubbock will address with a special event TBA.
December 14, 2018
In Luke 22:14-30, when Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, he mentioned the kingdom three times.
Each time he looks forward to the future when he will share the Great Marriage Supper of the Lamb with his disciples once again.
December 13, 2018
In Luke 22:1-13 it says that Satan entered Judas in order to betray Jesus.
Of course, from other sources we know that Judas was predisposed to villainy. He liked to steal money from Jesus, for instance, and was cheap about the worship of God when he saw Mary Magdalene anoint the Lord’s feet with costly ointment.
Even though wickedness is easily laid at the feet of human sinners, who often go from bad to worse, we might be tempted to underestimate, or deny altogether, the role of Satan in our lives and our world.
Two things: keep yourself pure and the devil cannot have you; pray that good will triumph over evil in every situation where you think a spiritual battle might be happening.
December 12, 2018
Today’s gospel lesson is about the woman taken in adultery, John 7:53-8:11, whom Jesus forgave.
He said to her, “Go and sin no more.”
In this day of cheap grace and easy-believe-ism we do not often hear that the Bible does not envision a sinful Christian.
The witness of Scripture is that when we turn *to* Christ we are turning *away from* sin.
This should be explained from the beginning as an essential part of the Gospel.
In Romans 6, for instance, Paul’s chapter on baptism, he refers to the “form of teaching” to which we are committed when we are baptized. The chapter concludes with the order of salvation:
“Now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.”
Faith leads to obedience; obedience leads to sanctification; sanctification leads to eternal life.
December 11, 2018
In today’s gospel lesson, Luke 21:29-38, Jesus tells us that heaven and earth will pass away. That is a reference to the Day of the Lord, which, he says, will come upon the whole earth.
The Day of the Lord will be two things: judgment upon the wicked, who do not repent (there will be warning signs before the great and terrible Day), and it will be vindication and salvation for the Christians.
December 10, 2018
Advent is the time of year when Anglicans consider prophecy. Today’s gospel lesson, Luke 21:20-28, is in two paragraphs but contains three parts of prophecy, past, present, and future.
One might ask how past and present are prophecy.
They are prophecy because when the word was given they had not yet come to pass.
The first part speaks of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish nation by the Romans under Titus in 70 AD. Jesus said this was to fulfill all prophecy, meaning all prophecy concerning the elect nation of Israel. It’s simple, really; they had rejected their promised Messiah and only a remnant were faithful to accept him, who founded the Church, which replaces Judaism as the favored people of God.
The Church is comprised mostly of Gentiles, so the second part of the prophecy pertains to the times of the Gentiles. Christ said to go into all the world, making disciples of all nations. Nations and Gentile are the same. This is the prophecy we are living now. Our work as Christians is to bring all kinds of people to Christ.
The third part is a prophecy about the future conclusion of God’s plans for this world. When it is time, according to God’s sovereign will, the world will see signs of the end.
Notice that these signs do not point to events in the Middle East. They point to sun, moon, and stars, the heavens being shaken. When astronomers and seismologists get worried it will be time to look up for our redemption.
In the meantime, let your light shine.
December 7, 2018
In 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12 Paul encourages the church to live a life pleasing to God. Some have said that is not possible, that even our good works have the taint of sin. But we do not find that idea in Paul’s letters. He wants them to keep doing what they are doing, which is loving each other.
He also encourages them in sanctification, which is the will of God for them, forsaking especially sexual immorality. Christianity is more than being saved at some point in the future. For Paul the true Christian is one that lives in holiness.
December 6, 2018
In 1 Thessalonians 3 Paul expresses great anxiety about the church. He worries that they had been tempted and that hiss work had been in vain. He can hardly stand the thought of it!
If the Thessalonians were predestined to be saved or if they could not lose their salvation why would Paul be so troubled?
December 5, 2018
By grace through faith is Paul’s argument against Jews and Judaizing teachers that did not readily accept his Gentile converts.
He explains the problem in 1 Thessalonians 2:13-20. The Jews killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets before him. They persecuted the early Christians and drove the Christians ministers out of the Jewish community. They displeased God and became enemies of all mankind by hindering the spread of the Gospel to Gentiles.
Because of that anti-Christian activity he wrath of God came upon them, wrote Paul. That is probably a reference to the Romano-Jewish Wars that ended in 70 AD when Titus sacked Jerusalem.
The wrath of God always comes upon those that oppose the word of God.
December 4, 2018
Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, commending them for their work of faith and labor of love (yesterday’s lesson, 1 Thess. 1:3).
The Bible does not promote cheap grace or easy-believe-ism. That is a construct of man-made doctrine to commercialize religion, to make it consumer friendly for numbers and money. Many fall for it because they do not have the Spirit, which God gives to those who obey him (Acts 5:32).
In today’s lesson, 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12, Paul wrote that he does not speak so as to curry favor with man but as one who must answer some day to God.
It did not seem to hurt his efforts at starting church all over the ancient world. There are apparently those prepared in advance to embrace a serious message when they hear it.
Paul said that he and his fellow ministers were like mother and father to the church. As mothers they were gentle and nurturing. As fathers they exhorted the people to walk in a manner worthy of God.
Feast of Saint Andrew, 2018
Church growth experts like Donald McGavran, Peter Wagner, and Ralph Winter, those associated with the Fuller Institute, have noted that 75% of people go to a particular church because of family or friends.
In John 1:35-42 we see that sociological phenomenon at work. Andrew brought his brother, Peter, to meet Jesus.
In fact, four of the first disciples were two pairs of brothers, Peter and Andrew, James and John.
Those that study the early Christian movement closely find many family ties among the followers of the Lord, such as Mary, Martha, and their brother Lazarus, who was raised from the dead. Many are related to each other through the Virgin Mary, including John the Baptist.
Therefore, while avoiding the narcissistic family syndrome, we should always maintain as much as possible our deep emotional bonds with family and friends because they are natural pathways for grace.
November 29, 2018
In Luke 19:11-27 we find a special version of the Parable of the Talents. Luke attaches it, as the Lord intended, to the unfolding plan of salvation history.
The people thought that when Jesus went up to Jerusalem for the last time that the kingdom might immediately come.
But the Lord deferred that expectation to a future time and told them what to do in the interim, that is, during the Church Age in which we now live.
This is a parable about Christian responsibility, being faithful, while the Lord is away in heaven, to faithfully use the gifts that he has given us.
Some day he will return to reckon all accounts. Those that rejected him will be condemned and those that are part of his body will also be judged according to what we did with the minas/talents he left for us to use as good stewards of his grace.
November 28, 2018
We cannot know anything but the truth. That is, the certainty of knowing is a gift of the Holy Spirit, who is sometimes called the Spirit of truth and who leads us into all the truth. The Spirit does not confirm what is not true.
Therefore, if we are uncertain in what we believe it may be a sign that it is wrong. Uncertainty manifests in anxiety and irritability when we hear differing opinions because we are not certain of what we believe.
Likewise, if we must be told the same thing over and over in order to believe it then it might not be true. That is a sign of the flesh trying to convince itself that what we believe is true when it is not.
There is only one objective source of truth, which the Holy Spirit confirms to us every time: Holy Scripture.
The readings this morning include passages of Psalm 119. The structure of 119 is that the objective standard of the word of God informs our walk with God and how we feel about things. Only the word of God can give us the confidence we need in life because the Holy Spirit convinces us of it deep in the heart.
Christ the King, 2018
Matthew 21:1-13 is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies about the King of Israel, who was to come.
But the people, though they hailed him as king, did not fully grasp what was happening. They wondered who it was on the donkey and the answer fell short of Messianic expectation. “It’s the prophet, Jesus of Nazareth.”
Jesus then cleansed the temple, another fulfillment of prophecy about the reckoning that will occur when the promised King arises.
Again, the people did not take it to heart. The Lord was crucified.
So, upon his resurrection, the Lord sought another kingdom made up now mostly of Gentiles, the Church, the body of Christ, his bride, his holy nation of priests, filled with the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, we say every Sunday for the Eucharist in which Christ reigns, “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. † Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.”
November 23, 2018
In Luke 18:1-8 the Lord defines faith as being persistent in prayer. By way of analogy he assigns to God cantankerous qualities, which we tend to believe about God. He says that even if God were like that we should keep praying!
In John 6:26-35 Jesus contrasts bread that perishes vs. eternal bread and the Lord tells us to work for the eternal bread.
How much time, energy, and resources do we apply to spiritual pursuits?
In spiritual formation what we invest will determine what will be returned to us.
November 21, 2018
Several times Jesus said to people, as he did to the leper in Luke 17:11-19, “Your faith has saved you/made you well/whole.”
This underscores the role and active participation required of us if we are gong to receive blessings from God.
But the faith that the Lord commends is no made up or make-believe. It is not mere sincerity.
The faith that God requires is based on true knowledge of God. The 10 lepers that called for Jesus to heal them knew that is the kind of thing he did.
The one who is a good example for us is the one that knew he deserved praise and thanks for doing it,
November 20, 2018
The Lord said many things that confront pop culture, as we find in Luke 17:1-10, our gospel lesson for today.
Pop culture for instance is full of temptations to sin, especially for young people. Parents must be very diligent about what their children watch on TV, what kind of music they hear, the games they play, and the friends they make.
Because of pop culture many adults are drawn into activities that are not morally or spiritually healthy. Scripture says to guard our hearts. Popular does not mean good; in fact, it may mean corrosive.
Jesus said that we either have faith or not. There are no shades of gray in the Kingdom. Pop culture thinks it is fun to push boundaries, shock, create fads, and question long-held beliefs and morals.
Pop culture makes demanding things, asserting rights, and rebellion cool. The Lord calls us to simple notions of obedience and duty.
Pop culture promises fleeting pleasures that can never satisfy our souls. Only God can fill us with the good things that we truly need.
November 19, 2018
Luke 16:19-31 records Jesus’ parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.
The Bible tells us about two things that always need to be kept in mind: God’s willingness to heal, free, and forgive us, give us a second chance; and judgment upon those that do not repent and walk henceforth in his holy ways, telling them it’s too late.
Neglecting the poor and needy is one of those things that reveal a hard heart. The parable today tells us that we cannot get away with it. How many times did the rich man go in and out of his gate, hearing Lazarus cry out for basic food and water?
Scripture teaches us that all moral equations will in the end be balanced.
November 18, 2018
In Matthew 23:13-24 Jesus describes the scribes and Pharisees of his day as hypocrites. It’s the same as being two-faced or a phony.
In those days the Greeks and Romans loved the theater much like we enjoy movies today. The hypocrite was a mask that the actors wore on stage to represent the character they were playing. One actor might have two or three roles; they would change masks when each character appeared. They were all men so they would play the female parts, too. The Jews were appalled by this and by the themes of the plays because they involved pagan gods and lifestyles. That means Jesus was deeply insulting towards the scribes and Pharisees when he called them hypocrites: when they practice their religion they were acting like pagans that loved the gold on the altar more than the God who saved them.
Hypocrisy really is the worse thing we can do, pretending to be a Christian but not really obeying God. Almost everyone can see through it.
It is so unnecessary, too, because God is warm, loving, generous, and forgiving. He understands us and wants to work with the real us.
November 9, 2018
In Luke 13:31-35 Jesus utters the most terrifying words imaginable, “Your house is forsaken.”
After hundreds of years of sending prophets to warn Israelites and Jews of God’s righteous judgment, in the end they rejected even his only-begotten Son.
We cannot test and try God forever.
Every once in a while he runs out of patience.
November 7, 2018
What a dumb rule! No divine healing on the Sabbath?
One of the things that Jesus did was to expose bad religion, as recounted in Luke 13:10-17. Judaism was not bad of itself but in what it had become.
Jesus came to set people free of oppression but the religious hierarchy wanted to be in control.
It is very difficult to control freedom.
Were there inherent weaknesses and contradictions in Judaism? Yes, and this was one of them: what does it mean to rest on the Sabbath? There were and have been endless arguments about that.
But who can argue about the transcendent power of God, who loves us and gave his Son to us?
Good religion is full of love, wisdom, and the power of the Holy Spirit.
November 6, 2018
A little historical context helps us to understand Luke 13:1-9.
Galileans were a group of Hebrews distinct from Judeans. They had a different accent and customs and understanding of the law. But they were very religious, trekking regularly to Jerusalem for feasts and often in large groups together. Because Judeans looked down upon them they tried harder to be religious. They were famous for their zeal.
The pool of Siloam was very large and everyone that offered sacrifices on Mt. Moriah (Zion) had to pass through it to purify themselves. A tower fell on some of them!
In both cases it appeared that the worship of God was futile. God had not protected his most devoted servants. Those that questioned Jesus about this were anti-religionists, detractors and skeptics, like atheists today, to whom Jesus said they must repent or a worse fate would befall them.
November 5, 2018
The Lord had no trouble saying unpleasant things, as seen in Luke 12:49-59, our lesson for today.
He said that he came to cast fire upon the earth, for instance, and expressed a desire that it already burn. This is the fire of judgement that he preached on more than one occasion.
He explained the division that would occur when his word went out into the world. Even families would be divided over him. He didn’t seem to mind saying that. It was the truth.
Why do we think that we always must soft pedal our witness or sugar coat the truth or avoid parts of the Christian message?
The Lord had no problem attracting large crowds even though he said unpleasant things. Perhaps he said what they needed to hear; they knew deep in their hearts that he was telling the truth.
November 4, 2018
We know that we cannot be saved unless Gd forgives our sins.
But we may not realize that forgiveness is conditioned upon our willingness to forgive others, as sated in Matthew 18:21-35, the Parable of the Wicked Servant.
It tells of a servant that w forgiven by his master but did not forgive a fellow servant.
No one is special in God’s eyes. All are equal in our need for grace.
November 3, 2018
Where is the fear of God in our lives and society today?
In Luke 12:32-48, our gospel lesson today, the Lord warns us of his return and coming judgment.
How might our behavior and commitments change if we truly believed that he will come to judge the living and the dead?
According to this passage, the basis of judgement will be the performance of our duties as outlined when he went away to leave us in charge of things.
He uses the analogy of a master servant in the household left in charge of the other servants, to give them their food at the proper time.
Each one of us has a specific duty or calling from the Lord. We may not know exactly what it is at any given moment but it can be discerned if we learn through spiritual formation to listen to God’s voice and direction.
November 2, 2018
For what do we trust God?
We are tempted to assume that we trust God to save us but we must work for a living in this world.
But in Luke 12:13-31 the Lord tells of a foolish rich man who thought only about how much he made but neglected the question of his eternal soul. He goes on to say that we can trust God for the temporal things we need.
In spiritual formation, if we are serious about it, we learn by experience what Paul wrote, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling because it is God at work in you both to will and to do his good pleasure.”
October 30, 2018
Jesus often re-directed thoughts toward a spiritual understanding rather than letting people get stuck in conventional thinking based on carnal things, as in Luke 11:27-36.
Of course, any mother would be proud of a son like Jesus. But Jesus himself was not about mom and apple pie. He came to represent God’s claim upon us.
He did this with the temple, whose stones would tumble when he returned, and even when the disciples cast out demons, always encouraging people to higher thoughts and more important things, the bigger picture.
Why worry about a bunch of little signs when one big one, the resurrection, would say it all?
And if you want to know someone, look them in the eye.
October 29, 2018
We are largely ignorant of spiritual things today, even the Churches, for we’ve been sated with easy-believe-ism and distracted by the new religion of politics.
Many who profess to be “spiritual but not religious” simply don’t know they are talking about.
According to Christian teaching spirituality does not mean to be at peace with nature or “it is what it is” or anything that is Eastern.
Western religion, philosophy, theology, science, art, and culture is based on strong dualism: good vs. evil, right vs. wrong, true vs. false, carnal vs. spiritual, light vs. darkness, heaven vs. hell, demons vs. angels, God vs. the devil, as discussed in Luke 11:14-26.
Spirituality is measured by engagement in the battle between good and evil. It is conflictual and victorious. Knowledge of the enemy is an important tool in this form of warfare, along with prayer and personal righteousness.
October 28, 2018
The two great promises of Christ are eternal life or those that believe in him and the Holy Spirit for those that obey him, as we see in John 14:15-31.
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”
“If” introduces the condition of obedience on our part.
Then the Father will give the Spirit. Never has anyone obeyed God and not received the Spirit. As Peter said, God gives the Spirit to those that obey him (Acts 5:32).
October 26, 2018
The story of Mary and Martha, Luke 10:38-42, is a tremendous message for us today, who are distracted by all sorts of busy things. We do good things as Christians, working hard at our jobs and serving others. We take it to heart that laziness is a mortal sin, so we work, work, work. We work at being good parents and keeping up a nice home. We work at our marriages and friendships. We work at being decent and kind people.
But in all that busy-ness we find it difficult to sit at the Lord’s feet to listen to his teaching.
One very good way to do that is carve out a time to read Scripture and pray every day. This is a great resource based on the Daily Office from the Book of Common Prayer, an essential part of Anglican spirituality: https://www.biblegateway.com/reading-plans/bcp-daily-office/2018/10/26?version=ESV
Or one might read through the gospels, one chapter a day, for the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, are the teachings of Jesus that Mary found so interesting.
October 25, 2018
The Parable of the good Samaritan, Luke 10:25-37, is about mercy. It recommends the personal, direct, and voluntary act of mercy that makes a man, woman, or child your neighbor.
No one can do mercy for us. Government cannot do it. Even if we give to missions at church we must truly care, being touched in our hearts with empathy for those that suffer.
Nevertheless, there are people all around us struggling with one thing or another, in pain, and needing a friend that cares. We see them every day if we go out at all. They are the walking wounded in the moral battle waged against humanity by the devil.
It is a huge investment to take someone into your life to show them mercy. But these are those for whom Christ died and one-by-one, even if it is only one, we can demonstrate the divine, sacrificial love that the Lord has demonstrated toward each of us.
October 24, 2018
In our gospel lesson today, Luke 10:17-24, it says that Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit over the success of his disciples against evil spirits.
Let us ask God to give us authority today over serpents and scorpions and all the power of the enemy that he might rejoice in our victories, too.
Feast of James of Jerusalem, 2018
In Matthew 10:16-22 Jesus predicts persecution for the Christians.
It occurs on two levels. The first is public: in courts and synagogues, and before rulers.
The other is private: even within families! Jesus uses the strong term “hate” to describe this kind of personal persecution.
It is one thing to hate an idea and let the person go free as being merely wrong.
But the most vicious persecution is by those that make it personal.
That is what happened to Jesus. They were not content to say he was wrong. They killed *him*.
That is why we cannot be merely Christian in our belief system as if it is an intellectual exercise. We must worship and love him as the One who came to save us.
James would understand that. Jesus was his brother, who grew up with him in the home of Mary and Joseph.
October 22, 2018
Luke 9:51-62, our gospel lesson for the day, tells us about the last days of the Lord’s itinerant ministry. He had traveled around Galilee and Judea preaching an teaching, healing, and casting out demons. Now he was going to Jerusalem to challenge Stan to the death.
People along the way sensed the crisis. Some rejected him outright and others wanted to follow him on their own terms. Neither of those are good options.
A man that is all in wants followers with the same commitment.
Too often we are presented with watered down gospels or even anti-gospels that seek to save us from the fate of Christ.
We cannot listen to them. If we would enjoy the salvation that he gives we must pay the price that he bore.
October 21, 2018
There is no doubt that Jesus meant to personify the faith in the man, Peter, according to Matthew 16:13-20.
But what did Peter personify? Another Peter generations later?
In come cases the so-called successors of Peter have not been Petrine in the least.
But in the record of the New Testament we find the fulfillment of what Jesus said:
1) Jesus is the Christ, Son of the living God.
2) On the Day of Pentecost Peter told the people what to do: repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of the Lord, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
3) At Cornelius’s house he opened the door of the Gospel to the Gentiles, justifying the ministry and apostleship of Paul (see Act 15).
Those are the keys that shaped the Church forever and can never be taken away.
October 19, 2018
Luke 9:28-36 tells about the Mount of Transfiguration. Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him to meet Moses and Elijah.
Moses, Jesus, and Elijah had a specific topic of conversation, the meaning of which may not be apparent in most English translations.
In the original Greek it says that they talked about his exodus, which he would accomplish at Jerusalem.
Exodus means the departure of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt, their deliverance.
In this context it means two things, as it did in the Old Testament: Jesus would die for our salvation, yes, but it also means that he would be delivered from life in the flesh in this world, which was quite unpleasant for him owing to the fact that he was a spiritual man.
The only way he could get back to heaven was through the cross. It was his glory to die there in Jerusalem and be raised on the third day.
Feast of Saint Luke the Physician, 2018
Today we remember Luke the Physician, who wrote the gospel by his name. He claims in the introduction (1:1-4) to have written an orderly account of Christ’s life and work based on eye-witnesses and ministers of the word.
It is a big step in life, and one that is necessary to understand the Lord, that we accept the Bible at face value as telling us the truth about what God is like and what he has done. Otherwise, with no objective standard of truth, we are left with competing sentiments, perceptions, and speculation.
October 17, 2018
Luke 9:1-17 tells us that Jesus sent out his 12 apostles with power and authority.
Usually. there is no authority without power. Policemen, for instance, have the badge as a symbol of their authority but it is meaningless unless they can also subdue and detain a person by force.
The people saw the Lord’s divine authority by the miracles he performed, especially casting out demons and healing diseases. He desired to share that work with his disciples so he gave them authority and power.
Where do we see that today?
Traditional Churches say that bishops have apostolic authority. But do they have the charismatic power exhibited through the 12?
Non-traditional Churches might say any pastor or minister or Christian believer has the Lord’s authority and power. Do we see it?
The truth is that the Church is in a sorry state today for the lack of authority and power, which Christ alone can give.
It is because we are canal and not spiritual, we compromise the faith for numbers of members and offerings, we would rather entertain the people than confront them, so wink at sins, and we make excuses for all of the above, none of which pleases the Lord.
October 16, 2018
Cessationism is a false doctrine that says the mighty works of Christ ceased when the apostles died.
If cessationism is not true then why do we not experience many miracles today? If we are the body of Christ in the world today, filled with the Spirit, why are we not doing the signs and wonders that Jesus did, which he said that we would do, as in Luke 8:40-56?
The woman was healed because of her faith, as Jesus said. and Jairus’ daughter was raised because he sent for Jesus, believing he could help.
We do not experience many miracles today because of the lack of faith, generally speaking, in the Church, and because we are carnal and not Spiritual, and because of sins and lack of righteousness.
But we can ask the Lord to help us with all those things so that we can be more like him and have powerful ministries in his name.
October 15, 2018
Luke 8:26-39 tells of the Gadarene demoniac, who had thousands of demons in him!
He had deteriorated over time. People cared for him but to no avail. He would run away.
Jesus went out of his normal territory in order to see this man. The Decapolis was a group of villages founded by the Greeks, who ate pork and otherwise were not kosher.
Jesus also respected their feelings. They were frightened by what happened (the demons left the man and went into pigs, who ran into the lake) and so Jesus left them.
Sometimes the most difficult and uncomfortable situations we’ve ever experienced are the times when God shows up.
October 11, 2018
One of the cruelest things we can do is freeze another person in place. Luke 7:36-50 tells of a woman that was frozen in place as a sinner. Everyone knew that she was a sinner. She is introduced as a sinner. She was famous for it, apparently. Jesus did not dispute that she was a sinner.
Once a sinner always a sinner, right?
The Lord came to change things.
The Lord came to change people, to un-stick us so that we can move forward with moral improvement.
It begins with forgiveness.
And then out of that forgiveness flows love for the Lord and a changed life.
October 10, 2018
In Luke 7:18-35 Jesus describes a watershed event in the ministry of John the Baptist.
When Jesus explained it many of the people were glad that their instincts were correct — they had gone out to be baptized, confessing their sins. Therefore, they were indeed ready when the Lord visited them.
Others, the Pharisees and lawyers, did not agree with the prophet; and so, the die was cast. They were against the Lord before he even appeared because they were un-repentant and self-satisfied.
Every generation is presented with moral choices. We are in such a time now. As the Lord said, “Wisdom is vindicated by her children.”
October 9, 2018
Luke’s gospel often tells us of sayings and miracles that correct the order of thinking of his day and social environment.
First, in Luke 7:1-17, even Jewish elders were able to recognize good in a Gentile, a Roman Centurion no less. They begged Jesus to come help this man, who had shown kindness to the Jews. It was a lesson about authority: the Centurion somehow knew that Jesus had authority over spiritual forces of wickedness in high places.
He absolutely does! So, we too should call out to him for help in prayer for anything wrong that needs to be corrected.
He even has authority over death, as the widow of Nain experienced when he raised her “only-begotten” son.
The Lord identifies with every human infirmity and will help us when we pray.
October 8, 2018
Christian can mean a couple of things at its core: a follower of Christ or one who is like Christ. Luke 6:39-49 tells us it is the same thing. Note especially what the Lord said, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.”
We love to think of Jesus as our Savior. It is the basis of our worship that he gave himself in sacrifice for our sins, to be received by faith.
But is he our Lord? Do we truly learn of him as the master teacher?
If we truly learned of him, and fully learned of him, then we would be more like him. It’s a practical thing that people can see, not all in our heads.
October 5, 2018
As the story of Christ unfolds in Luke 6:12-26 we see a shift or change of tactics.
Previously, the Lord spoke in the synagogues but now he is in the open country and prayed for a new leadership of his new community of faith, the Church.
He was filled with the power of the Spirit and healed the people and cast out demons.
Then he began to teach them how to be Christians. “Blessed are the poor,” he said, “and those who are hungry and mourn, and blessed are those persecuted for following Christ …” as in the Sermon on the Mount.
But Luke recounts another thing, that he also pronounced curses on the basis of those same precepts, especially those that are popular with the crowd like the false prophets of old.
We must always be careful not to follow the crowd simply because it is the crowd. We should seek the truth even if we are the only one.
October 4, 2018
In Luke 6:1-11 we see that Jesus puts human well-being above religious observance.
He does not reject observing the Sabbath but puts people before it. It’s a matter of priorities.
October 3, 2018
In Luke 5:27-39 we find a parable and a comment by the Lord, both of which are instructive.
The parable about new wine skins for new wine is about the need for a new social structure: the Church, which can accept new Gentile converts to the faith, since they could not fit in with the “Pharisees and their scribes” in Judaism.
But then the Lord made an interesting comment about the new wine eventually maturing so that it tastes good.
Christianity brought with it out of its Jewish roots many good things from the old ways: the faith of Abraham, the meaning of the Lord’s sacrifice and the priesthood of the people of God, love of Scripture, the moral law, prayer, fasting and alms, a day of rest and remembrance, and holidays like Christmas and Easter to name a few.
October 2, 2018
Luke 5:12-26, our gospel lesson today, tells of two miracles of Christ. All his miracles have a theological truth to help us understand.
The first was the healing of a leper, which Jews were not to touch. This is based on a false steady state theory — once a leper always a leper. But when the Lord touched him he was cured; he was no longer a leper. So, the Lord approaches things from a transformational perspective — anything and everything can get better!
Mercy is greater than law.
The second miracle was about holistic healing — the Lord heals in every way. The rabbis and Pharisees did not like the spiritual healing that the Lord did; they called it blasphemy.
Again, operation out of the steady state perspective they thought that his paralyzed man had offended God and could never change.
In Christ the whole universe has received a mid-course correction due to the power of the Spirit that was upon Christ (who was with him and the Father in the creation of the world). That same power is upon the Church if we will not resist, quench, or grieve the Spirit.
October 1, 2018
When Jesus called his first disciples (Luke 5:1-11) he demonstrated how they would accomplish their work.
They were fishermen and the Lord told them to let down their nets into which he miraculously gave a large catch of fish.
One can reasonably conclude that is how as apostles and evangelists they would catch people for the kingdom.
September 28, 2018
Luke 4:31-37 underlines the authority of Christ both by his words and deeds.
The people first recognized the power of his words, his clear testimony to the glory of God and his call to righteousness.
Those kinds of words provoked a spirit, who cried out in recognition of the Holy One of God.
After casting out the demon the people were even more astonished and spread the word about him far and wide. They saw that he had both authority and power.
If the Church is truly the body of Christ in the world today, filled with the Spirit of Christ, then the people will see it and the spiritual forces of wickedness will be vanquished.
September 27, 2018
Luke 4:14-30 tells about the Lord’s first sermon in the synagogue of his home town.
After he spoke they wanted to kill him!
He said that they did not have the faith that God expected of them as Jews while it was sometimes the case that Gentiles believed in God. In other words he chastised them for their hypocrisy and pride.
We Christians are meant to take a lesson from this. Do we believe in God and obey him and pray to him and serve him as we should?
September 26, 2018
Luke 4:1-13, our gospel lesson for today, speaks of the temptations of Christ. It’s interesting to note that the Holy Spirit led him into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
We often think of the Spirit as helping us feel better about things. But nothing makes us feel better than overcoming temptations! It shows that Christ is being formed within us!
September 25, 2018
In Luke 3:15-22 we are introduced to the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Luke tells us earlier that the Lord was conceived by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary. But when he was baptized with water the Holy Spirit came upon him “in the from of a dove,” it says.
In order to redeem us the unseen God, who is spirit, came into the world in various physical forms, especially in the person of Christ, who though he was in the form of God became a man and dwelt among us. And here we see the Holy Spirit manifested in the world in the form of a dove, signifying that the Spirit has business here along with Christ in the redemptive purpose of God.
Therefore, we must be open to the Spirit, learning how to recognize his work and learning how to be led by him as was the Lord.
September 24, 2018
The gospel lesson today demonstrates the difference between Christianity and the world. In Luke 1:1-4 the author explains how he got the information that he wants to share. He talked to eyewitnesses and ministers of the word.
In the second part of the reading, 3:1-14, Luke begins the gospel with John the Baptist’s call to moral purity, making the way for Christ to come.
It seems that the world is full of lies and corruption, pride, ego, and self-indulgence.
Sounds like people might need an option in the true word of God and loving Christian fellowship.
September 20, 2018
John 12:27-36 tells us the last thing Jesus said to close out his public ministry.
Yes, he spoke during the last supper and into the night with his disciples; and he spoke during his arrest, trial, and passion. But these are the last words he said to the crowd in the form of preaching and teaching.
It must have broken his heart that after all that he did (signs and miracles) and all that he said (such wisdom and grace) that they still questioned him according to old ways of thinking.
He said they had a little longer to see the light. They could see how he suffered and died, and perhaps take a lesson from that. One can only hope, right?
But in these last words to the crowd he summed it all up: his glory was to fulfill the purpose for which the Father sent him, to be lifted up on the cross for all to see. His crucifixion was then, and has been for 2000 years, the way that all kinds of people come to know God through his Son, the Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
September 19, 2018
In John 12:20-26 the Lord draws a contrast between two lives: life in this world and eternal life.
He says that we must choose!
His exact words are, “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”
This is the spiritual perspective of the New Testament, essential to forming Christ in us.
September 18, 2018
John 12:9-19, our gospel lesson for today, tells of the triumphal entry of Christ when he went up to Jerusalem for the last time.
It is the fulfillment of all prophecy about the earthly reign of Christ, the promised king.
The New Testament presents Jesus as Lord of Lords and King of Kings in the world to come, where righteousness dwells, according to Peter and John.
That is why John links the triumphal entry to the resurrection of Lazarus, who the Jews also wanted to kill.
See, this wicked world will always seek to destroy what is good. That is why it is under judgment and will be destroyed in lieu of the world to come, which the believer shall inherit with Jesus and Lazarus and all the saints.
September 17, 2018
John 11:55-12:8 presents a stark contrast between two people: Mary Magdalene and Judas.
Judas pretended to care for the poor. He wanted to see money coming in because he’d take some for himself! Sounds like a lot of politicians!
Mary gave the best she had out of personal love for and devotion to Christ. She did not care what others thought.
There could not be two people more opposite.
September 16, 2018
In Matthew 5:21-26 it is clear that the Lord teaches us not to be angry and bitter toward one another but to seek reconciliation any time there is conflict.
Of course, with some it is difficult to impossible because they do not have the Spirit of God. But with our brothers and sisters in Christ we must always have an open heart of love.
Exaltation of the Cross, 2018
1 Peter 3:17-22 teaches us the grace and victory of the Cross. It puts forth the penal substitutionary atonement that Christ made for us.
Penal mean that God had declared, “The soul that sins shall die.”
The system of atonement that we find in the Bible means that another died in our place (“for” means in our place, as a substitute). Previously those were sacrificial animals at the temple in Jerusalem and other altar-spots.
The only way that sacrificial system worked for the Hebrews in the Old Testament is because God had foreknowledge of the sacrifice that his Son would make for us, the perfect sacrifice for all time and for anyone that believes in him.
By his obedience, his faithfulness unto death, he has won for us a place in heaven, “provided we suffer with him in order that we might be glorified with him” (Romans 8:17).
Eve of the Triumph of the Cross, 2018
On the Eve of the Triumph we consider Ephesians 2:11-22 in which Paul rejoices that in the Cross the hostility between Jew and Gentile has ended, since both now have through faith in Christ access to the Father through the Holy Spirit.
The victory of the cross is the one body in Christ of those that believe.
September 12, 2018
In John 11:1-16 we find that Jesus changes the terms of our existence.
Death, which sounds so final, becomes falling asleep.
Because if we believe in him, though we die, we shall awake when the Morning breaks at the end of time and we inherit eternal life in the new world to come.
September 11, 2018
In John 10:31-42 the conflict between Jesus and the Jews continues. They are about to stone him … again!
From this reading we learn two interesting things. The first is that the Jews operated that day out of low self-esteem. They were offended that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. Jesus sought to lift them up, make them special in their own eyes by quoting a passage of Scripture, “They are like gods to whom the word of God was delivered,” probably referring to their divine election and the Law of Moses — there was no nation on earth to which the word was given, says the psalm. So, why did they feel so bad about themselves?
The second lesson is that the best defense is the truth. They were offended that Jesus claimed to be God. It sounded sacrilegious. But what if it were true? They did not consider that but only how it sounded.
There are many truisms in religion like that. We hear them so often we assume that they are true — and not only true but pious. But are they?
It’s much easier to pick up stones than to study something and pray about it.
September 10, 2018
We find Jesus’ method of operating in John 10:19-30. It is similar to what Psalm 37:1 says, “Fret not yourself because of evildoers.”
Jesus trusts the Father to give him the sheep that will hear his voice and come to him.
Previously, he spoke of being the good shepherd. He criticized false shepherds that came only to steal, kill, and destroy. The good shepherd, he said, does not exploit the people but sacrifices for them.
The sheep hear his voice and follow him — true sheep for a true shepherd.
September 9, 2018
A few passages of Scripture are written for clergy, though they are available to everyone so we can see if clergy are doing their job correctly!
But most of the Bible is for everyone. It tells us what our job might be as witnesses to the glory of God. That is especially true of Matthew 5:13-20, our Gospel lesson today.
It says that we are the salt of the earth, unless we have lost our saltiness; and we are the light of the world, unless we hide the light.
Jesus said to let our light shine!
It is through our good works. That is the way we reveal the glory of God.
The next question, which is what good works?, is answered by the next thing that Jesus said. “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets.”
The Bible tells us what to do to glorify the Father as obedient children.
September 7, 2018
In John 9:18-41 we read about one of the lowest things anyone has ever said about another. The Jews didn’t like what the once blind man said, to whom Jesus had given sight, so they said to him, “You were born in utter sin.”
Locking someone in place like that, as if he were in a static state with no hope of change, healing, or improvement, keeping him in his place, casting him out of the synagogue, is the epitome of oppression.
It is exactly the prison from which the Lord came to set us free.
To God, our history does not determine our destiny. God is full of love, mercy, and grace. He will in Jesus’ name give to any that ask the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.
September 6, 2018
The healing of blindness, such as recorded in John 9:1-17 of today’s readings, is the most common of the Lord’s healing miracles.
The lesson for spiritual formation is that our eyes have to be opened to it. Being enlightened by the Gospel is a major theme of the New Testament.
What’s interesting about the healing of blindness is that it often happens in stages, just like faith development.
Most of the Lord’s miracles were instantaneous. But the healing of blindness can take time and is accompanied by strange things like mixing spittle with mud or washing in a pool. How the Lord does things often remains a mystery but one thing is clear …
He doesn’t want us walking around in the dark.
September 5, 2018
In John 8:47-59 the argument continues between Jesus and the Jews, who call him names!
During this argument Jesus claims to be God incarnate. He said, “Before Abraham was, I am.” The verbs do not agree but the theological truth is established that the Lord is equal to God, who is his Father. It was God who spoke to Moses from the burning bush, who said, “I AM WHO I AM.”
CS Lewis famously wrote that the Jews had a point about his outlandish claims. There are three possibilities: Jesus is crazy or a liar …
Or he’s telling the truth!
September 4, 2018
Today’s lesson, John 8:33-47, records one of the most intensely personal verbal exchanges in the history of the world.
The Jews talked about Jesus’ mother and the Lord said they were of their father the devil!
Jesus claimed that his truth would set them free.
It’s interesting that anyone would forget their own history but the Jews replied that they had never been slaves of anyone.
But Jesus did not speak of any of those temporal indignities to the chosen people.
Jesus said that whoever sins is a slave of sin.
This is the good news that they did not accept, freedom from sin.
September 3, 2018
In today’s lesson, John 8:21-32, the Lord sets new standards for religion.
Under the old system the Jews were the chosen people. Under the new testament he warns them that they might die in their sins.
Under the old system holiness was defined by being set apart. Under Christ holiness is being cleansed from sin.
From previous chapters we learned that Jesus lost followers because of what he said about eating his body and drinking his blood.
Now his group is growing again because of explaining his method: he is led by God. He teaches what he has heard from God and does what is pleasing to God.
That is the goal of spiritual formation, to be conformed to the image of Christ, who was led by God in every detail of life and ministry.
As Paul wrote, “All who are led by God are the children of God.”
September 2, 2018
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”
As we enter the political season, leading up to November 6, let us remember to do all in our power to live in peace, defuse conflict with kindness, and refuse to rise to the bait of controversy. Let us be content to vote for Christian values and our families.
August 31, 2018
In John 7:37-52, our lesson today, the Lord’s enemies continue to focus on carnal things, like the Lord’s home town in Galilee. Plus, anyone that spoke up in his defense, like Nicodemus, was accused of a place bias.
Such stubborn opposition to the good is a sign of mental illness, specifically focusing on and having one’s life determined by people, places, and things.
What is the proper perspective?
Nicodemus rightly referred to the law. The law applies equally to everyone, regardless of their background or place of origin.
Jesus spoke spiritually, also referring to Scripture. He cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
Two things make a real New Testament Christian: Scripture and the Holy Spirit.
August 30, 2018
In John 7:14-36 we find Jesus teaching in the temple where he is confronted by the Jews who ask many questions.
But they are the wrong questions.
Jesus says that they should judge not by appearances but with right judgment.
Right judgment is an important concept. How should we think about things?
The crowd in the temple that day judged by carnal standards: education, where he was from, where he is going, who likes him and who doesn’t. Some might have judged him by the company he kept. Sometimes we judge people by their looks or the money they have. Sometimes we judge people by the color of their skin or the clothes they wear.
What is the right way to think about things?
For Jesus that day in the temple it was faithfulness to God. He told the crowd, “None of you keeps the law.” That is in verse 19.
The only thing that ever matters is the spiritual health and well-being of individuals. Seeking the spiritual benefit of others is the very definition of love.
August 29, 2018
Each of the Gospels tells us about a tipping point in the Lord’s ministry when his popularity among the people becomes opposition by the religious elites, leading to his death. In John 7:1-13, for instance, we hear for the first time that the Jews wanted to kill him and people were afraid because of him. In the previous chapter he lost many of his disciples because of what he said about the Eucharist and even his brothers questioned him. They wanted to ride the Galilean high all the way to Jerusalem.
But Jesus became cautious because he understood the opposition. He told his brothers that the world loves its own but hates him because he testified that their works were evil.
This is the great divide that exists in the universe — the divide between the goodness of God and the wickedness of nearly everything else.
Our spiritual formation depends on adopting this perspective on things: as Jesus once said, “Only God is good.” So, if we want to experience good and have the peace of God in our hearts we should draw close to him and walk in step with him as Jesus did.
August 28, 2018
In John 6:60-71 we see that Jesus does not chase after people by temporizing his remarks to please us or himself with many followers or big offerings.
The Scriptures tell us he had thousands of followers at one point. He miraculously fed a multitude the day before. They wanted to make him king after that!
But to the Lord it was more important to bear faithful witness to the truth. His words about eating his body and drinking his blood, a reference to the Eucharist, caused many to turn back from following him. It seems that he was left then with only his original 12 disciples.
We ought not to judge success by numbers alone but by faithfulness to the Word become flesh, his words of eternal life, which is the bread of heaven.
August 27, 2018
In John 6:52-59 Jesus explains that we must be in communion with God through his body and blood in order to be saved, all else being equal. That means the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, the Eucharist.
If we want his life in us then we must feed on him, he says.
Churches with a low view of the Sacrament or those without true priests are putting their people at risk and missing a great blessing.
Feast of Bartholomew, 2018
Bartholomew, commemorated today, is probably Nathaniel, associated with Philip in John’s gospel but called Bartholomew in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
The most persistent tradition about him is that he died a martyr’s death by being skinned alive and beheaded.
The story fits his character as revealed in John 1:43-51, where Jesus said he was an Isrealite indeed in whom is no guile.
That means he spoke his mind and did not hid behind a false front of any sort.
He also lost his head over Jesus, proclaiming immediately that he was the Son of God.
August 23, 2018
In John 6:16-27, the Gospel lesson for today, God in Christ tells the people not to work for the bread that perishes but for the bread that endures to eternal life.
What a strange thing to say.
The Lord came with a profound paradigm shift that is very important to appropriate: life is not about success in this world but in the next. It is a religious and spiritual perspective that would change everything if we truly believed it and lived it.
After he fed the multitude they went to a lot of trouble tracking him down. He confronted their carnality, saying, “You don’t care about the metaphysical aspects of what you experienced yesterday; you just want more to eat!”
Then he told them, “Work for eternal life.”
Here are his exact words.
“Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”
August 22, 2018
In John 6:1-15 we find an interesting turn of events. It was the Passover but instead of going to the temple in Jerusalem great crowds of people were going to Jesus in the countryside of Galilee.
Passover is a feast of the Jews. Yes, sacrifices were made but then the people ate the slain lambs, roasting them over fires.
They were missing a feast to be with the Lord so he gave them one!
This was John’s way of describing the transition from the sacrificial system of Judaism to the Christian Holy Eucharist.
August 21, 2018
In John 5:30-47, today’s Gospel lesson, the Lord speaks of those that bear witness to him.
He speaks of John the Baptist, who God sent.
He said that Moses wrote of him and if they believed Moses they would believe him.
But the greatest witness is that of the Father in heaven, who gave him works, meaning the signs and wonders that he performed.
Where are the miracles today?
August 20, 2018
In John 5:19-29 Jesus says at the end, “An hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.”
We’ve heard over and over that salvation is by faith but if we do some reverse engineering, looking at the end and working backward to the cause, we often find that what we do is determinative.
August 17, 2018
Before Christ people used and believed in magic. We still do when the ways of Christ are not followed. Magical thinking is quite common. It was the substance of the Lord’s conversation with the official in John 4:43-54.
Jesus tested the man by saying, “You will not believe without signs and wonders.”
The man replied correctly, that is, in a way proving that he was not superstitious but filled with love for his little son, who was deathly ill. If the Lord did not help him we get the sense that he would have done the next thing that came to his mind out of his love for the child. In other words, he did not care about signs and wonders.
Jesus had skillfully gotten to the heart of the man’s request, as if he were expert in psycho-dynamic theory.
What is the most important thing to you? That is what the Lord wants to know, apart from religion, politics, finances, or any other thing.
The miracles of Christ are not a matter of technique or proximity to the subject. They are a work of his sovereign grace and power. We are meant to believe in him.
August 16, 2018
In John 4:27-42, the Gospel lesson today, Jesus explains that he and his disciples are entering into labor begun by others that went before them.
Christ Church Lubbock is a traditional church because we appreciate the believers, singers, saints, song writers, elders, bishops, missionaries, preachers, teachers, theologians, and ministers upon whose shoulders we stand.
Being faithful to God means being faithful to those he used in the past to spread his word to others.
When Jesus spoke to the woman at the well he set us an example of giving our witness to everyone we meet. The fields are white unto harvest. There are hundreds and thousands of people we see every day that need our word of love, hope, and prayer.
Dormition of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, 2018
Jesus’ first sign was at a wedding in Cana of Galilee (John 2:1-12). The social interactions seem to be confused. Mary, the mother of Jesus, wanted to be in charge, even though there was a master of the feast. She went into crisis mode because the wine was running out and complained to Jesus, who rebuffed her. So, she told the servants to do what Jesus said!
He turned the water into wine and told the servants to take it to the master of the feast, thereby setting things in proper order.
We tend to focus on the miracle of turning water into wine but miss other lessons.
The law of Christ is better than the law of Moses. God saved his best for last in Christian discipleship.
A good part of his saving power is putting boundaries back where they belong so that each of us knows his or her role in kingdom work.
In order to do that work we must often tear ourselves away from the past.
And in order to do that work we might also need to give up otherwise wonderful life prospects for the future. That is, Jesus is the best husband that woman never had because he spared her the grief of his dying at an early age. And he gave up a wonderful thing that he himself had created as the Word of God.
Imagine his pain as he stood watching the joy of the marriage feast, knowing he would never have that comfort and happiness in the flesh.
August 14, 2018
In the Gospel lesson today is an explanation of what it means to have saving faith in Christ. We must obey. Believing in him means to obey him.
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” John 3:36
August 13 2018
Nicodemus, a Pharisee, a ruler of the Jews, and the teacher of Israel, came to Jesus, saying that he knew Jesus was from God because of the miracles that Christ performed (John 3:1-21).
What a great opportunity for the Lord to influence the entire Jewish nation!
What was the first thing Jesus said?
“You must be born again.”
This is the evangelical message of the Lord, starting over as if a baby in the crib, ready to do it right this time around.
Yes, the good news is the Lord’s offer to let us have a do-over, a second chance.
Nicodemus understood proselyte baptism to mean a new birth. Being born of water was not new to him. The Jews preached that and provided it to those that converted to Judaism.
What Nicodemus did not understand was rebirth in the Spirit. This was new. So Jesus explained it by the flesh vs. spirit dualism, a key point of the spiritual perspective of the New Testament.
The Lord introduced other dualistic categories, too: heavenly things vs. earthly things and light vs. dark.
Jesus teaches a radical departure from the way we usually think about things. That is why we need to start again as babies, to learn everything new.
August 12, 2018
In Mark 4:35-41, the gospel lesson this morning, we read about Jesus calming a storm at sea.
In this we see the dual nature of Christ, fully God and fully a man.
He fell asleep in the stern of the boat because like any man he got tired after a long day of work.
But because he was God he calmed the storm, answering the cry of his people. who were afraid of sinking and drowning, and then instructed them to have more faith.
August 10, 2018
In John 2:1-12 Jesus went to a wedding and at the reception did his first sign.
Signs are miracles with a meaning related to his being the Messiah.
The significance of the sign is heard in the comment of the master of ceremonies:
God is saved the best, Jesus himself, for last.
August 9, 2018
In the process of spiritual formation we must be willing to change our opinion 180 degrees like Nathaniel in John 1:43-51.
He did not think much of anyone from Galilee. But then he met Jesus and did a complete turn-around, confessing him as the best person he could ever imagine.
Jesus told him something that went right to his heart. It was a word of knowledge, wisdom, or insight that Jesus had and then shared with Nathaniel. It obviously meant a lot to Nathaniel. It was the answer he needed, the word he needed to hear. It changed his life.
August 8, 2018
In John 1:29-42 John the Baptist identified Jesus as the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.
God had previously commanded the sacrifice of animals, especially lambs without spot or blemish, to atone for the sins of the Hebrews, beginning with their exodus from Egypt.
But John introduces the spiritual perspective of the New Testament by saying there is a new sacrifice ordained by God and it is not for the Jews only but for all kinds of people in the world, whoever will receive the good news of salvation in Christ.
John’s baptism, though, was limited to the conversion experience, getting people ready to receive the Messiah.
He went on to say that the Lord would baptize in the Holy Spirit.
It is one thing to have past sins forgiven. It is a glorious and wonderful thing!
But how do we keep from sinning again?
That is what Jesus provides by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Feast of the Transfiguration, 2018
In traditionalist Churches today is the celebration of the Transfiguration, when Moses and Elijah visited Jesus.
They did not argue!
In Christ we see the work of God continuing from Old Testament times but taken to a new and higher level.
Some think that Christ might have been gentler than the old prophets but, no, his conflict with evil was greater than that of Elijah. Elijah was taken up by a chariot from God. Christ was lifted up by a cruel cross.
Some think that Jesus did away with the law of Moses but, no, he said our righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. The law of love is extremely difficult.
That means the light and glory of God shines brighter in Christ than it did in the others.
Eve of the Transformation, 2018
On the Eve of the Transfiguration, which reveals the glory of Christ, let us consider this verse from II Corinthians 3, “For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory.”
This refers to the two covenants that we find in the Bible, the Law of Moses and the New Testament in Christ’s blood.
Both are accompanied with glory because they came from God. But why was the former a ministry of condemnation?
Because the people did not keep it, which is why they were condemned.
The second has glory because it, too, came from God. But it has greater glory because its recipients can keep it, which is why it is called the ministry of righteousness.
The immediate context tells us why they can keep it, why we can be righteous, It is kept from the heart, God’s law written on our heart by the Holy Spirit.
” Will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory?”
August 3, 2018
The Gospel lesson today is Matthew 28:1-10. The two Marys go to see the tomb of the Lord. But what they find is quite different!
There was an earthquake and an angel appears. The soldiers go catatonic and the women hasten away with a message from the angel.
But then the Lord appears to them!
Why did God send the angel? Why didn’t the Lord appear to them first?
Angels are like the Lord’s advance team.
Throughout Scripture we find that angels appear before both saving acts and acts of judgment wrought by God.
They prove the divine involvement in things that happen.
On that first Easter morning they proved it not only to the Christian brothers and sisters but also to the soldiers …
Who went to tell the public officials who had him killed.
Try as they may, the world will never be rid of the Lord Jesus!
August 2, 2018
Everything about Jesus made people want to take sides, even at his burial, described in Matthew 27:55-66.
Some were there in support of him, mostly women but one man, Joseph of Arimathea.
Others wanted to make sure he was dead-as-dead-can-be because they feared his message, the most important part of which was that he would be raised. (See, they knew what he meant all along.)
None of us can afford to be indecisive about the Lord. Either we are for him or against him.
August 1, 2018
There are many strange things in the Bible. One of them is found in Matthew 27:45-54, which says that when Jesus was raised from the dead others were, too, who went into the city and appeared to many.
That is all it says about that. It leaves us with questions.
What happened to those saints? Did they die again later? Were they taken up to heaven after they appeared to people?
One possibility is that on the Day of Pentecost there were 120 people meeting together, up from 12; so, maybe those that rose from the tombs helped to keep the baby church together until the Spirit came?
July 31, 2018
Ken Medema had a song that describes how morally backward society can get; he called it loving things and using people.
In the Gospel lesson this morning, Matthew 27:32-44, we find that the Lord Jesus, a religious leader, was crucified between two thieves. The death penalty for stealing things and preaching?
Yet we do the same sort of thing today in elective abortion.
July 30, 2018
What is gained by cruelty?
In Matthew 27:24-31 we read about the treatment that Jesus received when he was condemned to death.
But for some killing him was not enough. They had to humiliate him in every conceivable way.
Of course, some are simply unaware of what they are doing. They do not have much decency in their background or experience, so act out of emotional poverty.
That is why the Lord wants us, his children and disciples, as much as it lies with us, to live in peace with everyone and demonstrate the love, patience, joy, and forgiveness that we have in the Spirit.
Only by seeing love in action can rough people have a standard by which to compare. It may not be comfortable for them and they may lash out as they are accustomed to do.
But we love them anyway, as much as possible, as much as they will let us.
Remember, Jesus said from the cross, after all that cruel treatment, “Father, forgive them because they don’t know what they are doing.”
July 29, 2018
One of the things Jesus brought can be called the divine perspective.
We often hear the law as our duty, and it is, but as the Lord said in Mark 2:23-28 the laws of God are also for our good.
Everything God says serves a dual purpose:
July 27, 2018
When the chief priests and elders of the Jews detained the Lord and turned him over to Pilate (Matthew 27:1-10) it was a treacherous, illegal, and prejudicial act.
But they got away with it because of politics. They put Pilate on the spot, extorting him. “We’ll tell Caesar,” they threatened.
Jesus told Pilate to his face that his kingdom was not of this world, his men were not seditious, and thus he was not a threat to Caesar.
But they stirred up a mob against the Lord and Pilate caved.
That kind of injustice occurs every day because self-serving and small minded people with power feel entitled. They are personally very weak individuals, blown about by winds of perceived expediency.
Jesus endured it, trusting God to vindicate him. Amen?
July 26, 2018
What is the difference between Judas betraying the Lord and Peter denying him three times (Matthew 26:69-75)? Both men regretted what they did but the outcomes were vastly opposite. Judas hanged himself and Peter was restored.
The difference lies in the nature of the offence.
Peter was an impetuous and spontaneous man. He spoke out of turn, said the wrong things, and whacked a man’s ear off with a sword!
Judas was sneaky, pre-meditated, and conniving. He did it for money.
Peter’s sins took him by surprise.
All sin is hurtful. All sins should be renounced and behavior improved.
But a people-pleasing sin of the flesh is more easily corrected than character flaws that reach to the soul. It can all be sorted out with proper pastoral counsel. Priests of the Church hold confessions in confidence and a good one will spend time talking through your problems.
Feast of Saint James the Great, 2018
Yes, the Bible says that all Christians are saints because we are supposed to be moral examples to each other and the world through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. But because some grieve the Spirit we identify individuals, like James (Mark 1:14-20) to emulate.
He was one of the Lord’s first disciples and we can assume from the story that he and John were called to become fishers of men like Peter and Andrew in the same passage.
James was one of the first martyrs of the Church, early, in Jerusalem, while his brother, John, was the only original disciple to die of natural causes at an old age in Ephesus.
But the point of the passage is that these first four men knew the Lord’s message of repentance and were willing to be part of the movement that Jesus represented. In the case of James and John they left their family business to do it.
What sacrifices are we ready to make to be part of God’s call upon our lives?
July 25, 2018
In Matthew 26:47-56, today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus is betrayed with a kiss.
The hypocrisy of evil is seen in this: the evil man knows what is right but does the opposite. Judas knew that a kiss is an act of love, endearment, and friendship, as Jesus stated. But the wicked one used it to murder him.
Jesus pointed out the hypocrisy of the temple guard sent to arrest him. They had seen him every day for the last week in the temple, teaching the people, but did not arrest him.
Beware of superficial kisses in the dark of night! Watch out for subtleties and pseudo-sophistication, those that are too polished, too refined.
All that is good exists openly and honestly, and can stand the the full light of day. “Come to the light,” Jesus said.
July 23, 2018
Never was a man more alone, feeling lonely, than Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46). Mark tells us that he chose his disciples to be “with” him (3:14), yet in his darkest hour they were not there.
There are many lonely people in our society today. Even with the explosion of social media many sit alone with no human contact in the real world. Many are elderly, whose children never call or visit — or it seems that way.
Married people can feel very alone. Even living in the same house with someone day in and day out the communication may not be there, the affection lost, the connection broken.
The way of the Lord is to be present. God came in the flesh and dwelt among us. He visited us personally in the flesh. It takes time and effort to get to know someone and share life with them on a deep level. The Lord did that for us. He knows everything about us, including the loneliness that we might feel.
But he wants to be “with” us forever in his holy family for eternity.
Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene, 2018
Today we remember Mary Magdalene, who went to the tomb with Jesus’ mother and who was the first to encounter the risen Lord. In Mark 15:47-16:7 we find them at the tomb and there was a young man who gave them a message for the disciples.
Why didn’t the young man appear directly to the disciples?
Well, they were off someplace else.
The two women were the ones that drew close to the last known presence of the Lord.
It is always those closest to him that get the word.
When and where was the last place that we knew the Lord’s presence with us?
Let us continually remember and return to that place!
One of the reasons the Holy Eucharist is so meaningful to us is that we are called to remember that we once were terrible sinners but now we have his sacrifice for our redemption. In the Pascal Feast we return to the cross where we were saved.
July 20, 2018
In the stages of spiritual formation we find that things take on different meanings. The form of it may be the same but the essence or content of it changes as we change. We can grow into better understandings along the way.
An example of that is how the idea of the religious feast changed for the Hebrew people.
In Exodus the Lord briefed the people about the various feasts they would observe. But their first feast, proclaimed by the failed clergyman Aaron, was actually a pagan feast after he made for them a golden calf idol. That is in Exodus 32. He called it a feast of the Lord but it was far from what the Lord ordained. They sacrificed then lounged around and rose to play. It was the natural man trying to be religious, which happens quite a bit these days.
The first time they actually kept the Passover that the Lord commanded was after crossing the Jordan with Joshua, They had an established, valid priesthood at that time. They were obedient in all that the Lord told them to do. And Joshua himself had a divine visitation to clarify who was really in charge of the battles ahead (see today’s OT lesson). This is life under the law, with rule and rubric, and a necessary stage because it disciplines both the people and their leaders.
At the end of that era the Lord gave us a different feast, the Holy Eucharist, which he instituted at the Last Supper. This is the true and greatest of the Feasts of the Lord (see today’s New Testament lesson). In it we worship in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him, according to Christ.
July 19, 2018
The journey of the Hebrews from Egypt to the Promised Land provides an excellent analogy for spiritual formation, for it tells of three distinct stages through which the people passed, and two crossings on dry land through bodies of water, two baptisms as it were.
God parted the waters of the Red Sea in their salvation experience, delivering them from slavery, which Jesus called sin.
Then they received the law while wandering in the wilderness, which might be called carnal Christianity. It is a necessary stage because it shook out those that could not be faithful, that old man which must die in the way of the cross, “for I through the law died,” wrote Paul. The new re-generate man is the one qualified to continue the journey to the next phase.
In the Old Testament lesson today, Joshua 3:14-4:7, we read that when they came to the Jordan River they had two things lacking before, the Ark of the Covenant and Priesthood had been established. The Lord commanded that the priests lead the way, carrying the testimony with them into the midst of the river, so that the people could enter the Land, which is the Spirit-filled life.
They crossed opposite Jericho. The battle against the kingdom of darkness was to begin there.
July 18, 2018
Jesus’ parable about the sheep and the goats, Matthew 25:31-46, is not about government policy.
It is about our personal, direct, and voluntary assistance to those in need.
Nations in this passage does not refer to nation-states but to non-Jewish types of people or Gentiles. Each of us will stand before the Lord on judgment day to give an account of our deeds done in the flesh.
The government cannot do our good works for us.
July 17, 2018
In Matthew 25:14-30 the Lord tells the parable of the talents.
Faith can be defined as taking a risk in the light of God’s word. It is confidence and boldness in stark contrast with the attitude of fear.
In the parable the Master acknowledges that he is hard and worthy to be feared. The weak servant was correct in his estimate of the Master but took it the wrong way.
The Lord does not want us to be paralyzed by our reverential fear of him. He wants us to lean on his divine nature, counting on it to work for us.
The two that produced a profit from the talents drew upon the nature of the Master to boldly enter the market.
The Holy Spirit can inform us of two things: 1) that we are loved by God and 2) that God is mighty/powerful in his love for us. We are going to make mistakes. That is a given. But it is a wicked servant that does not even try.
Lord, help us to step out in faith for you.
July 16, 2018
We are tempted to think the Bible is only concerned with our moral state or condition, sin vs. righteousness.
But in Matthew 25:1-13 Jesus gives us a parable about wise vs. foolish behavior.
Wise people act in rational self-interest in light of the Lord’s return to judge the living and the dead.
Foolish people live for the moment, indulging themselves with carnal pleasures. The wise think ahead, pay the price up front, sacrifice fleeting pleasures, and defer gratification for the good things to come.
July 13, 2018
Biblical prophecy is often difficult to comprehend. It is important to notice details, such as the reference to Judea in Matthew 24:15-31. What happens in Judea may not happen everywhere because the holy place existed only in Judea.
Some prophecies have already been fulfilled. The desolating abomination in Judea, for instance, is in the past because there is no such place today. It was wiped out by Titus in 70 ad.
“Then” often means “next;” so, we have described tribulation upon tribulation, which is pretty much the nature and history of the world: vultures are attracted to the stench of death. Historians tell us that the world has been in a perpetual state of war for a very long time.
In the midst of trouble people look for a powerful, charismatic leader that will save them.
But there is only one that can save us, the Lord Jesus Christ.
His return will not be a secret but will will be with cosmic signs and wonders.
July 12, 2018
In Matthew 24:1-14 Jesus tells us when the end is not yet and when the end might be.
Wars, rumors of wars, famines, and earthquakes do not signal the end but tell us enough about the nature of the world that we ca be prepared: it’s like a woman with child — it becomes more and more difficult as the time approaches.
But it isn’t the time because the end does not depend on natural occurrences. There is a spiritual time-table based on the spread of the Gospel.
Jesus warns that Christians, as bearers of light in a dark world, will be persecuted. We’ll discuss that on Sunday morning during church.
There is only one thing for us to do before the end: preach the Gospel to all kinds of people everywhere. When everyone has heard then the end will come.
July 11, 2018
Spiritual formation depends on the “want to,” that is, what do we want.
The desire is internal, coming form within, and cannot be faked. The Lord confronted the scribes and Pharisees abut their desires. They looked good on the outside but inside they were full of rotten things (Matthew 23:27-39).
They rejected those that called them to repentance because they didn’t “want to” repent!
We may not understand why people lack the willingness to turn to God. It is a “mystery of iniquity,” as Jesus said, “They hated me without a cause.”
But we can pray that God will give us the desire or improve the strength of the desire to be conformed more and more to the image of Christ.
July 10, 2018
In Matthew 23:13-26 Jesus mentions weightier matters of the law that should occupy our attention rather than small, insignificant things. The difference is how difficult they are: we tend to do the easy things for show and neglect the hard things.
One hard thing to do is justice.
We live in a country in which there is no real justice if we go by Scripture. The Bible prescribes the death penalty for cold-blooded killers, first degree murder, but often they get 25-life and in some places they do not have the death penalty at all.
See, even talking about it is difficult.
But let’s courageously go on. Consider a verse of the Old Testament lesson this morning, Numbers 35:33, which says, “You shall not pollute the land in which you live, for blood pollutes the land, and no atonement can be made for the land for the blood that is shed in it, except by the blood of the one who shed it.”
July 9, 2018
Jesus’ criticism of the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 23:1-12) was not that they followed the law but that they did not!
They pretended to be righteous but were hypocrites.
Hypocrisy is the bane of religion because we often know more than we actually practice.
In sincere folk this causes us to feel guilty a lot.
So, we are tempted to give up by accepting a doctrine that says we do not have to obey God yet can still be saved. This is presented as a way to manage guilt by denying it.
But that does not work because the Holy Spirit reminds us and urges us to change.
The only way not to be a hypocrite or not to feel guilty is to actually do by grace what the Lord requires.
July 8, 2018
In Mark 1:14-20 we see the primary mission and purpose of the Lord as he began his earthly ministry — the care and cure of souls — he called his first disciples to be fishers of men.
People, and each individual person, are the heart of Christian ministry.
By calling people to repent so that they can inherit the kingdom of God with all its benefits, both temporal and eternal.
July 6, 2018
The first to preach separation of church and state was Jesus, who said render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s (Matthew 22:15-22).
He expects us to know the difference between the sacred and profane.
But it was up to the priests to teach that (Leviticus 10:10). Ezekiel criticized the clergy of his day for failing to teach the people the difference between the common and the holy (Ezekiel 44:23).
We have the same problem today with admixing (adulterating) the holy with the profane. Some use Bible passages meant to teach personal acts of charity to promote political goals.
The government cannot do our good works for us and it is not the state’s job to do get us to heaven.
July 5, 2018
The Parable of the Wedding Feast (Matthew 22:1-14) teaches us a lot about the order of salvation.
First, we are free either to reject or accept the invitation.
But second, if we accept the invitation and show up at the feast we must meet the conditions of a guest in the Lord’s house. We must be clothed with righteousness or they will throw us out! Yikes!
Independence Day, 2018
Beware false prophets of the Social Gospel, who try to guilt tender-hearted souls into voting for liberal policies that do not work (see Detroit, California, and Venezuela).
Do not be deceived by their twisting of words. Bridges and fire stations are not socialism. Those kind of things things existed legitimately for the common good with low taxes long before Karl Marx. Socialism is using the government to re-distribute wealth and power, taking from one individual to give it to another. A thief is a thief whether he serves in Congress or breaks into your house at night.
Do not be deceived by their misuse of religious language or passages of Scripture taken out of context. The Social Gospel is heresy because of its materialistic presupposition and idolatry of the state. Paul wrote that the kingdom of God is not meat and drink but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Jesus said to seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these [temporal] things will be added unto you. We must trust God and God alone for all our benefits.
Any charity, mercy, or compassion that a Christian shows must be entirely voluntary and not forced upon us by the government. True love cannot be coerced.
July 3, 2018
The concept of authority is very important in the Bible. It occurs 96 times in the New Testament. In Matthew 21:23-32 Jesus demonstrates why he has authority and his detractors did not: no one has authority that cares what mere men think!
Authority comes from God and the man with authority answers to God alone.
The men questioning Jesus, in other words, would not have understood the answer because they had no frame of reference in their own souls.
Jesus also describes the basis of authority. It is not in the talk but in the doing what is right, regardless of past history.
June 10, 2018
Luke 12:32-40 gives us two dimensions of the spiritual perspective of the New Testament. One is vertical and the other longitudinal.
First, Jesus distinguishes between earthly and heavenly treasure, saying earthly treasure is meaningless; so, he says, sell your possessions and give to the needy so that you will have treasure in heaven.
Second, he tells us about the end of this world and the kingdom to come. We do not know the hour of his second coming but he wants us to be ready when it happens.
Dressed for action and lamps burning in the darkness means that we should be clothed with righteousness (dong good deeds) and faithful in our witness to Christ, ready to tell anyone the wonderful things he has done for us.
June 6, 2018
The most dangerous people on earth are carnal souls with power, like Herod in Matthew 14:1-12.
His story is one of lust and rash decisions made on the basis of fear and vanity. Plus, he was a killer.
The ancient Greek philosophers wrote about the best leaders. They were virtuous and reasonable, called philosopher kings.
There really have not been that many in the history of the world.
But Christ is one of them, the only one who is consistently and constantly wise and good.
That is why the Bible says not to put our trust in human princes but to believe in Jesus, the Son of God.
June 5, 2018
One of the controversies in the Church is the perpetual virginity of Mary.
How does one answer a perpetual controversy?
Anglicans are guided by the Articles of Religion, which says that in all things Scripture is superior to man-made doctrine and traditions.
Matthew 13:53-58 and Galatians 1:19 indicate that Mary and Joseph enjoyed a normal marriage and family life, and that Jesus enjoyed having younger brothers and sisters.
The normality of their life in Nazareth where Jesus grew up in his father’s business of carpentry caused the people to be astonished that he had such wisdom and power later in life.
God anointed him for ministry in the Holy Spirit.
We, the Christians, the Church people, are Christ’s body in the world today. Our background is as normal and ordinary as his in his hometown, sharing the same kind of families and need to make a living …
Until God calls us to do his will in a special way.
Most will not leave their work and families like ordained ministers do. But if the Lord gives us a task it will make a huge difference in our lives. It will take time and energy away from the ordinary and people might not understand.
But God will understand and love us for answering his call.
June 4, 2018
In Matthew 13:52 the Lord says that every scribe trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a wise man that has treasures both old and new in his house.
Jesus usually criticized the scribes but here takes their basic purpose in life as a positive contribution. They were the ultra-conservatives that wanted to preserve the Scriptures and ensure that Jews lived by the word of God.
What was the new treasure to which Christ alluded?
It was the idea of a heavenly kingdom that Jesus uniquely brought to the people, exemplified by the parables that precede this saying.
To the traditional Jew in the school of the scribes the object was Jewish identity, the prosperity of the nation, and being delivered from Roman oppression. They thought of the messiah as a conquering military leader like King David of old.
But Jesus spoke of a heavenly rather than an earthly kingdom and predicted his own death and resurrection.
June 3, 2018
Prayer means to ask God for what we need.
In Luke 11:1-13 Jesus gives us a model prayer, called the Lord’s Prayer. Among valid petitions are daily bread and forgiveness. Forgiveness is conditioned upon our willingness to forgive those that offend us.
Then the Lord teaches us other lessons about prayer, mostly encouraging us based on the Father’s desire to take care of his children.
Then brilliantly he concludes with a surprise — he will give us the Spirit!
The Spirit is what we need more than bread, fish, or an egg.
June 1, 2018
Matthew 13:31-35 fairly describes Christ Church, Lubbock, a new church plant, because like a small mustard seed we are few in number, like the leaven we are hidden in a county of 300,000 souls, and like the parables of Christ we have a message that some may have never heard before.
The Visitation 2018
Salvation is a gift free to all who will call upon the Lord and follow his holy ways. But the gifts and calling for ministry are distributed by the Spirit as the Spirit wills. John the Baptist understood this, as we see in John 3:25-30.
It’s alright to be loyal to your own church and your own pastor. But often things change and so we must be flexible, always discerning that the Lord’s mercies are new every morning.
John was content to decrease because his ministry was very specific — to prepare the way for Christ.
We ought not to underestimate the importance of John’s ministry of preparation. His call for the people to repent opened the door for the Lord’s powerful witness in word, sacrament, and lots of miracles. He had an audience that was morally prepared through repentance and confession to receive the grace of God that was at work in him by the Spirit.
Eve of the Visitation 2018
This is the Eve of the Visitation, which refers to Mary going to see her kinswoman, Elizabeth. It is fulfillment of prophecy about David having a son (descendant) to reign over God’s people forever.
The commemoration of events in the Gospel story, as the incarnation of God in the person of Jesus himself, tells us that the Almighty has form haven invaded tie and space to set things right.
The first thing he must set aright is the hearts and minds of those who want to live with him forever in his eternal family.
The model of the family is woven throughout the Gospel story, as in this case, the two women sharing the joy of their expectancy.
Summer is a wonderful time to have to share experiences with friends and family. Let’s keep it holy as was the family of Christ.
May 29, 2018
Matthew 12:33-42 is about judgment, the judgment on the Day of the Lord when God decides who will inherit eternal life and who will not.
Christ speaks of “making” a tree good or making it bad.
How does one “make” a tree good or bad?
The answer is in the immediate context.
He tells about cities and persons that repented when they heard God’s word.
Repentance puts a bad person on the path to being better. The more we repent the better we get.
May 28, 2018
We usually think of demons making people sin and that is true, or else sometimes we see demon-assisted sins.
But in Matthew 12:22-32 we find physical infirmities cause by demon possession, blindness and the inability to speak.
In this case having the demon expelled was called a healing. Peter once said that Jesus went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil.
However, some saw an obviously good thing that happened and because they so opposed the Lord himself they attributed the good to the devil, thus blaspheming the Holy Spirit.
Years ago an atheist talk show host offered money to young people that would call in to blaspheme the Holy Spirit.
That does not count! That was an evil thing the radio host did.
One must see the kinds of things Jesus did and call it devilish out of malice to blaspheme the Holy Spirit.
If anyone is worried about whether he or she committed an unforgivable sin, reach out to a kind and understanding pastor and have a talk with him.
Trinity Sunday, 2018
For Trinity Sunday today we consider John 1:29-34 where we find the intersection of the three persons of the Godhead: the Father sent John the Baptist, who bears witness to the Son of God, upon whom the Spirit descended.
Then John tells us something else. He said that Jesus will baptize people with the Holy Spirit.
Though the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a much greater experience than being baptized with water, there is a lesson to be drawn from the parallel.
Scripture says that when John baptized with water the people came to him confessing their sins. Likewise, if we want the Lord to baptize us with the Spirit there needs to be a moral reckoning, asking ourselves if we really want to yield our lives completely to God to be used by him as holy vessels.
May 25, 2018
One of the things Jesus did was to bring perspective. That means the ability to step back and look at things from different angles, using thought experiments to gain wisdom and insight. It is a cognitive ability, a way of thinking that is not rigid, brittle, and fearful.
An example of this found in Matthew 12:1-14, two teachings about the Sabbath. By pointing out the weaknesses of Pharisaical thinking about the Sabbath the Lord exposed the root cause of legalistic thinking — hard-heartedness.
The Pharisees were so offended by a different way of thinking that they sought to destroy Jesus! That is how we know pea-brainery results from heart-stonery.
Now, we ought not to use perspective to make excuses for ourselves but do what Jesus did. He put a rule of mercy above other rules. Apply the hard rules to yourself and do the best you may. But apply the soft rules to others.
May 24, 2018
Scripture is full of warnings and commandments but sometimes we have tender and comforting words from our Lord such as Matthew 11:25-30. In these verses Jesus gives thanks that we understand the things of God as those with child-like faith and curiosity.
Then in one of the most popular verses of the Bible we hear the Lord say, “Come to me, ye that labor and are heavy laden.” He explains that we are not alone in the work and struggles we undertake and endure in this world.
May 23, 2018
Matthew 11:16-24 tells two sad stories. The first describes the peril of conformity to social expectation, which is arbitrary and unstable, detached from any real standard. The vacuous trend-setters complained because John fasted and then complained that Jesus didn’t!
The second tale of woe is apathy, the inability to be moved, even by wonderful things that happened, the Lord’s miracles in several towns. Mediocrity is easy! Having a lively faith and relationship with God is hard work!
May 22, 2018
In Matthew 11:7-15, the gospel lesson for today, Jesus explains the phenomenon of John the Baptist. In modern parlance we would say he led a great revival or people movement. Large numbers went to to him as he preached repentance in the wilderness, hearing confessions, and baptizing those who wanted to be cleansed of their sins.
America has experienced three Great Awakenings (some say four) that are parallels to the ministry of John the Baptist. During the Second Great Awakening of the early 1800s, for instance, church membership and attendance exploded among the Methodists and Baptists in America.
When that happens there are always those on the periphery that want to exploit the movement, turning it into a political cause. In the Lord’s day the party of the Zealots wanted to use the ministry of John to get fighters who would rise up against Roman occupation. The Second Great Awakening led to the Civil War, which freed the slaves in America.
But Jesus said, “Until now.”
The kingdom that Jesus preached is not political and does not come through violence. The Lord preached about the “hope of the world to come” as we say on Sundays in the Nicene Creed. It is a spiritual kingdom. It comes by faith in Christ and being filled with the Holy Spirit.
May 21, 2018
There is an interesting phrase at the beginning of Matthew 11:1-6. “When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples,” it says.
That means Christ left us a finite body of doctrine and entrusted it to the apostles. Presumably we have that teaching in what Matthew wrote from the Sermon on the Mount through the Parables of the Kingdom.
We can also assume that he intended the apostles to pass it on to those that would succeed them.
That means there should be no endless and groundless new teaching or even interpretation that contradicts what is already known and believed. Paul called it the “standard of teaching” to which we are committed at baptism/confirmation (Romans 6:17)
Finally, once given and established in the body of the Church the remaining task is to spread the word as Jesus did.
We often make things complicated to avoid the simple truth.
In John 4:19-26 Jesus told the woman at the well that the Father is seeking a certain kind of person to worship him.
He is seeking those for whom the truth is very important and who are able to be led by the Spirit, spiritually inclined people.
If we go to church to have our prejudices reinforced or to be entertained …
Not sure the Father is looking for that.
May 18, 2018
In Matthew 9:9-17 we encounter the rigid and uncharitable religion of the Pharisees, who failed to see that salvation is not a state of being but a process with beginning, middle, and end.
Jesus used the analogy of wine that matures in the wine skin. It starts as a kind of mash or slurry, called must, and is transformed over time into something that graces meals and makes the heart glad.
Jesus called Matthew and at with tax collectors and sinners because everyone has to start somewhere.
But people need an environment in which spiritual formation might take place. Churches should be like fresh wine skins: flexible, loving, and forgiving.
May 17, 2018
There are 43 references to authority in the Gospels, 81 times in the entire New Testament. It is a major Biblical theme and the point is the Lord’s authority over all things, which he earned by his righteousness sustained even through extreme suffering and death. It is the reason that the cross is the symbol of Christianity.
The greatest authority that he has is to forgive sins, as we see in the Gospel lesson today, Matthew 9:1-8.
The paralytic man is a case study in the social, physical, moral, and theological inter-connection of all things.
The paralytic man, before the Lord came, lived in an environment where glorious, wonderful, and miraculous things did not happen, and any departure from misery and mediocrity was highly suspect.
Theologically, Jesus accepted the subject that only God can forgive sins but changed the predicate by doing what only God can do! He thus established by an action his divinity.
We know that sins, doubts, fears, anxieties, and bad habits affect our health. Jesus wants to break that bondage and free us, physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. It is because he loves us!
Morally, he had the power and authority to do that because he was always obedient to the Father. There is no indication that the paralytic himself did not deserve it. It’s possible that the same friends and family who brought him to Jesus had taken him to be baptized by John. Plus, the Lord saw their faith. They honestly believed that he could do it.
The only doubters were the self-appointed religious establishment. The miracle and the things Jesus said about it helped the people transfer their allegiance to the new authority revealed in Christ.
May 16, 2018
In Matthew 8:28-34 we see the special knowledge that demons have, who called Jesus the Son of God.
If we ever wonder why temptations are so strong it is because the spirits know more about us than we know about ourselves, consciously that is. Exactly, they play us.
But the Lord knows us better.
The Lord knows we could never be happy with that other lot. We were made for him and he wants us to live with him forever. So, his word is stronger than any suggestion that the devil makes. We just need to abide in his word, which calls and beckons us to get closer to the Father.
May 15, 2018
Following Christ is a radical way of life. Radical means cutting at the root. In Matthew 8:18-27 the Lord rebuffs two men that were not able to make the cut. They valued home and family more than following him.
But immediately we see why it’s worth the sacrifice. The Lord Jesus is a man that can take care of his own. They were in a tiny boat, probably over loaded with 13 guys, and a storm threatened to sink them. The Lord of All merely spoke the word of peace; the wind and waves were calmed; and they were saved.
May 14, 2018
In Matthew 8:5-17, the gospel lesson for today, we encounter the concept of authority again. Previously, in reading of the Great Commission, we saw that our mandate as the Church flows from the authority of Christ. The centurion understood this.
Over what does Christ have authority?
So, that means all our business is with him. Nothing depends on other people. Nothing depends on our situation or circumstances. He is Lord of all.
Sunday after the Ascenscion
In Luke 10:17-24 Jesus speaks of child-like faith on the part of his disciples, namely the seventy-two that he sent out.
Like children they marveled at the power they had over demons.
Jesus joined in their excitement with a prayer full of victorious joy!
Then he told them that the grown-ups of the world, kings and prophets, don’t get to experience God like they do.
O Lord, give us the simple faith of children.
May 11, 2018
In Matthew 7:22-27 Jesus explains what it takes to be a true Christian.
First he says it is not to profess him as Lord or even to work miracles in his name.
These verses come at the end of the Sermon in the Mount. That word is what he wants his people universally to obey. It is the Christian law.
If we do not obey the Sermon then he might reject us as “lawless” ones.
Ascension Day, 2018
The Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20), after saving our own souls through faith in Christ, is the next thing we do: share with others the grace of the Lord Jesus.
Disciples are made through baptism and teaching.
We are not to teach part of the truth but all of it. In the words of the Lord, teaching them to observe “all” that I have commanded.
We might be tempted to think there is only one thing to do, believe.
Eve of the Ascension, 2018
On the Eve of the Ascension of Christ we are reminded of Elijah and Elisha before Elijah was taken up (2 Kings 2:1-15).
Elisha wanted a double portion of the Spirit that Elijah had!
Lord Jesus, as we approach Pentecost, pour out on your Church a double portion of your Spirit, that sinners be converted and thy name glorified.
May 8, 2018
The parable of the sower (Matthew 13:18-23) provides a diagnostic tool.
Devils of this age, who fly in to snatch away the word, are secularists and humanists that do not believe the Bible and denigrate conservative Christians as knuckle-dragging rubes.
Shallow soil belongs to those that want to have a good time and do no work.
Similar to shallow faith is a faith that allows the people to come and go as they please, especially if there is a business trip involved. If we have company or travel do we still set aside time to study God’s word and pray?
Jesus said, “Do not work for the bread that perishes but that which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give him, for on him has the Father set his seal.”
Every brand has a seal or logo or little picture that represents the product. The seal of Christ is the cross and he wants us to follow him in the way of the cross.
If we go the way of the cross then we develop depth of soul, character, and commitment in which the seed of the word flourishes and produces fruit.
May 7, 2018
In Matthew 13:1-16 The Lord explains his use of parables. It’s confusing because we think parables are meant to reveal the truth but Jesus seems to say it is to hide it.
But he is not really saying that.
By quoting Isaiah’s prophecy he merely acknowledges that the Jewish people as a whole had already become hard of hearing.
If anyone really wants to understand God then the time has come to work a little harder at it. The harder we work at understanding the more we understand and the more truth we will receive.
May 6, 2018
In Luke 12:13-21 Jesus teaches us not to be covetous, that is, wanting things.
He told of a man that had everything he needed …
Except he was not ready to die.
The rich man provided for himself but neglected his eternal destiny.
Now, you might be tempted to think, “Oh, I took care of that already. I’m saved.”
May 4, 2018
The Sermon on the Mount is transforming, infusing critical information about Christian character and morals.
Matthew 7:1-12, for instance, is brilliant in the way it first tells us to be hypocritical our judgment of others but then depends on judgment to protect what is holy and good.
May 3, 2018
In Matthew 6:25-34 the Lord tells us not to be anxious about our life. If God takes care of the birds of the air and flowers of the field he will take care of his own children.
Tis a gift to be simple, ’tis a gift to be free
‘Tis a gift to come down where I ought to be
And when I am in the place just right
I will be in the valley of love and delight
When true simplicity is gained
To bow and to bend I will not be ashamed
To turn, to turn will be my delight
‘Til by turning, turning, I come ’round right
May 2, 2018
Jesus was a dualistic, black and white thinker. In Matthew 6:19-24, for instance, he said not to lay up treasure on earth but in heaven, as if there was a difference between heaven and earth!
He also said that we cannot serve God and money at the same time. This is prophetic for our church life today. Clergy are often afraid to preach the truth or confront sin because people might quit giving or go to another church.
May 1, 2018
On the Feast of Philip we see his role in making the faith of Jesus Christ a religion that everyone in the world can enjoy.
In the New Testament the Jew vs. Gentile problem plays out before our very eyes. The back story is that Jews are the special people of God and everyone else, known as Gentiles, are not.
But Jesus called Paul to take good news to the Gentiles. The Jewish Christians objected. Paul fought for his converts and in Acts 15 the Gentiles were accepted.
John’s gospel, however, treats the problem differently. He never mentions Gentiles but a smaller group of non-Jews, the Greeks that Philip introduced to Jesus (John 12:20-26).
Several times in John’s Gospel it was said that the Lord’s time had not come, meaning it was not time for him to die. But when the Greeks expressed interest our Lord exclaimed, “Now is the Son of Man glorified!”
Why would he say that then?
He knew that the Greeks had the intellectual categories and social influence adequately to explain who the Lord is and what he did for us. The Gospel spread rapidly throughout the ancient world because everyone spoke Greek and thought like Greeks. The New Testament was written in Greek, using Greek words with Greek meanings.
We never know what kind of doors might open when we introduce people to Christ.
April 30, 2018
In Matthew 6:1-6 the Lord tells us not to make our personal piety a show for others. If we practice our piety privately the Father will reward us openly.
But notice that the Lord does not say “if” we fast, pray, or give alms. He says “when” we do it, assuming that we we will practice these basic spiritual disciplines.
April 29, 2018
In Luke 4:16-30 Jesus disrupted church and nearly got himself thrown off a cliff because he told the whole truth.
When he told part of the truth the people liked it.
But in his first sermon in the synagogue he told them they were not good enough! Yikes!
Preacher boys are safe. Prophets are not safe.
April 27, 2018
If God says something, like Matthew 5:27-37, does he really mean it? Or is he merely setting us up for failure?
April 26, 2018
The personal ethics of Christ are the highest ever articulated by God or man. This is illustrated by the Lord’s teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. Anger, for instance, is given no quarter (Matthew 5:21-26).
Anger, lust, revenge, and greed are a few of the psycho-social dis-eases that the Lord addresses in the Sermon.
It would be really nice if Christian people took these maladies seriously and sought help. Some believe that every Christian should have a spiritual director or mentor with whom to talk about things. And every pastor should be able to counsel their members with wisdom, understanding, and compassion.
In the liturgical traditions the clergy are trained to hear confession.
Feast of Mark the Evangelist, 2018
Today is the Feast of Mark the Evangelist, who wrote the Gospel of Mark. Early sources agree that Mark wrote down what Peter preached.
All Biblical literature reflects the personality of the author. In the case of Mark’s Gospel that means Peter.
Mark’s Gospel is a book of action, describing in great detail and with feeling the miracles that Jesus performed in Galilee. There are no long speeches of Christ and only four parables.
Mark’s Gospel reminds us of what Paul wrote, who was also closely associated with Mark, “The kingdom of God is not in word but power.”
O Lord, give us this power, that we might be healed and our lives transformed in the name of Jesus Christ.
April 24, 2018
The first beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount are about Christian character. The last two are about our work in the world. Matthew 5:11-16 says that we might be persecuted for our witness to Christ.
In America today that means opposition surrounding social issues and politics like homosexuality, elective abortion, recreational drug use, and who is the best candidate in elections. There is a Christian position on each of these things.
The blessing of which the passage speaks comes only if we stand up for Jesus, as a light on the lamp stand.
We don’t have to be mad or obnoxious about it. Just don’t hide.
April 23, 2018
The Beatitudes, Matthew 5:1-10, describe Christian character.
Each beatitudes says, “Blessed are …”
Blessed means happy, as in how happy are they with the qualities described.
The world tries to sell us fake happiness in the form of possessions, experiences, and relationships. But those are all things outside of us. Nothing outside of us can make us happy.
We can only be happy within our own thoughts and tempers, rightly ordered by God, which is why it says we are blessed if we hunger and thirst after righteousness.
Fourth Sunday of Easter, 2018
When Jesus miraculously fed the five thousand (Mark 6:30-44) it says he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd.
So, he started working as a shepherd to them.
He taught them many things so that they could order their lives around the will of God.
He organized them into groups of hundreds and fifties.
And he fed them, which is analogous to the Eucharist.
Those three things are what a true pastor does, the ministries of word, order, and sacrament.
April 20, 2018
Matthew 4:12-17 tells about the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.
The first word out of his mouth was “repent”.
We will have a difficult time getting along with God if we do not take sin seriously. That means our actual sins at the moment. Repent means to give them up, to quit.
When we sin we incur a moral debt to God that must be paid. See Colossians 2:14. We cannot pay it ourselves. We must depend on the sacrifice of Christ for that.
But we must stop sinning or else we might crucify the Lord all over again, holding him up to public shame. In other words, people might see how we live and say that being a Christian does no good. See Hebrews 6:4-6.
April 19, 2018
The temptation of Christ (Matthew 4:1-11) illustrates how the devil attacks us at each level of the hierarchy of needs.
Jesus was hungry so the devil tempted him with bread. It wasn’t that the devil had any bread to give but wanted the Lord to get it in a way that would compromise his mission and message.
The Gospel is a spiritual way of seeing things: we don’t need physical bread; we need the word of God to live. Many with plenty to eat have no clue of God’s will for their lives. How will we know without God’s word?
The devil then attacked the Lord at his sense of self and belonging to God. Jesus knew the boundaries between himself and the Father, and did not want to presume upon his grace.
So, we see that the Lord does not use his power and privilege to serve himself. The devil wants him to serve himself, in other words, to become like the devil! But we can only know ourselves by giving up our prerogatives, by standing alone, without any props. Do we really need others to tell us we are wonderful?
That Jesus resisted this temptation tells us that he loves us out of his authentic self with a powerful love that does not depend on us for anything.
Lastly, Satan attacked the Lord at the level of actualized being. Actualization means what one does consistent with who he or she might be. What we do has an effect in the world. In some cases what we do is a drain on others. In other cases we contribute to the well-being and happiness of others.
Think of all Christ could accomplish if he had all that worldly power!
But there was a condition that he was not willing to meet. We often compromise spiritual values to accomplish worldly things. Some become very rich and powerful but give no thought to God and his holy ways.
By resisting this last temptation the Lord said it is better to be poor and have God than to gain the world through compromise.
April 18, 2018
In Matthew 3:13-17 we see that Jesus submitted to baptism because it was the command of God through his anointed prophet, John the Baptist. Jesus said he must fulfill all righteousness.
Getting the way of salvation right is extremely important.
Consider, for instance, the Epistle lesson this morning, Colossians 1:15-23. It proclaims the identity of Christ and tells us what he did on the cross in dying for our sins so that we might draw close to God through his body and blood. But then it puts a condition on it, using a little word that is easy to miss — if.
“if indeed you continue in the faith …”
April 17, 2018
The Gospel begins with a warning about the coming wrath of God (Matthew 3:7-12).
The way to escape it is through repentance and the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
That means to forsake past sins, washing them away in baptism, and then yielding to the transforming power of the Spirit every day for the rest of our lives.
Bringing in the Old Testament lesson we see the nature of being God’s elect (Exodus 19:1-6). Elect means God’s special people that he will bless, hence the reference to all the earth belonging to God. He is assuring them that he has resources!
But their elect status is conditional. They must obey him.
April 16, 2018
Being the most truthful book on the planet, the Bible contains some R-rated material, because nothing is beyond God’s redemptive purposes.
The genealogy of Christ, for instance, found in Matthew 1:1-17, mentions four women before getting to Mary: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba (though not by name).
In every case there was an embarrassing element to the story. The Jews knew about Mary and once attacked Jesus, saying, “We were not born of fornication,” implying that he was (John 8:41). That is the classy yo mamma argument!
What do we do when our reputation is questioned? Whether true or not it is a terrible betrayal and hurts deeply. Only those with no character can so easily attack the character of others.
We should all have a rule that we think of people on the basis of our own experience with them and not what others say.
Third Sunday of Easter, 2018
Why did Jesus appear only to his disciples after he was raised? By disciples here we mean a larger circle than the eleven (Mark 16:9-20) but not to what Jesus called the world.
Why don’t angels routinely appear or signs in the sky?
The Lord wants us Christians to be part of his mission. The Lord want to work in and through us. We are his body and should count it a blessing to be entrusted with the work and message of Christ. By this role we experience what the Lord experienced in the world, both the painful and pleasant responses we get, which draws us closer to him.
Sharing the mission and experience of Christ is an essential part of our spiritual formation, which prepares us for entering eternity as true Christian souls.
April 13, 2018
We might be tempted to think that the success of the Gospel depends on our own winsomeness and effectiveness as witnesses. We may look around at declining church membership/attendance and kick ourselves because we are not setting a good example or testifying enough.
But Jesus explains in John 16:1-15 that it is not entirely up to us. The Holy Spirit is the chief evangelist!
The Holy Spirit can take our feeblest efforts and turn them into powerful words of conviction.
People have to decide for themselves if they want Jesus. And we can trust the Holy Spirit to work with them. We are not alone in our work of making disciples.
April 12, 2018
In John 15:12-27 the Lord Jesus put forth a simple proposition:
Out of his great love for us he lays down his life for his friends.
We are his friends if we obey his commandments.
April 11, 2018
John 15:1-11 is the analogy of the true vine. The lesson is fruitfulness that glorifies the Father, which is the purpose and goal of the Christian life and all things, the glory of God.
It answers the question how?
The answer is abiding in Christ, for apart from him we can’t do it!
That means two things. First we must know his word. It can be called a working knowledge of the things of God, and requires constant refreshing and training and instruction.
Second, as James wrote, we should not be hearers of the word only but doers also. Jesus said that we must keep his commandments.
In this passage Jesus repeats what he said before about the interaction between himself, us, and the Father. It is a fellowship of love that can be seen by what we do in obedience to God’s word:
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.
April 10, 2018
Jesus doesn’t ask us to do anything that he doesn’t do himself. He said, for instance (John 14:18-31), that if we love him we will keep his commandments and then he said that he must do as the Father commanded him so that the world will know how much he loves the Father.
This faithful interaction between us, the Lord Jesus, and the Father is how the world will see Christ in us.
April 9, 2018
In John 14:1-17 we have a discussion of Trinitarian relationships and how we experience it.
First, the disciples saw the Father because they saw Jesus, who was in the Father and the Father was in him. They could see the Father in him because Jesus was a material being, God incarnate, a real man.
Second, they could believe it either because he told them that or they could believe because of the works he did, which he attributes to the Father.
Third, reference to the works brings up the subject of the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit and answered prayer. In other words, the Lord is inviting us into the dynamics of the relationship between himself and the Father. This occurs by the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Fourth, it glorifies the Father that the Son answers our prayers. Let that sink in!
Fifth, there is a condition: we must keep the commandments.
Second Sunday of Easter, 2018
Thomas, sometimes known as doubting Thomas, it the theme today, both for the daily office and in church.
Thomas was probably an Epicurean, meaning that he required physical proof and details about any belief or course of action.
The Lord did not scold him for this but, behold, answered his questions (John 14:1-7) and gave him proof.
If we have honest struggles with anything about faith in Christ or how to live the Christian life we can ask the Lord to help us because he is merciful and compassionate. He was himself a man, tempted and tested in every way as we are.
Friday of Easter Week, 2018
Christianity is about things that happen (Luke 24:1-12).
The Lord is risen and sinners are transformed!
This is not theory only or doctrine or theology, though it does take some explaining!
There are whole libraries of explanation, no end of books and commentary and debate.
But the thing that speaks most eloquently and most powerfully about the grace of God in Christ is changed lives.
Thursday of Easter Week, 2018
In the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) Jesus tells his disciples, who are the first apostles and bishops of the Church, to teach the people all that he commanded.
Wednesday of Easter Week, 2018
In Matthew 28:1-16 it is told that four Roman soldiers went to the Jewish priests to tell them what they saw when Jesus was raised, an angel that moved the stone.
Why did they go to the Jews rather than their own officer?
Would the Jews be more likely to believe such a thing?
Of course, they would. And they did! Otherwise, they would not have made up a story, which they knew to be a lie, paid off the guards, and promised to keep them out of trouble. Such is the depth and cynicism of willful unbelief.
Tuesday of Easter Week, 2018
In Mark 16:9-20 Jesus rebukes the official disciples because they did not believe the personal witness, testimony, and experience of the unofficial disciples.
The Lord appeared to four people before the eleven, perhaps to make this point: All of us must believe and share the good news regardless of who may or may not believe what we say.
Monday of Easter Week, 2018
In the Church of the living God, read Risen Savior, we should always listen to the women because in the new covenant in his blood the Spirit falls on menservants and maidservants alike. Each baptized Christian has the Spirit and gifts that accompany.
God gave a message to Mary and Mary to relay to Peter and the disciples (Mark 16:1-8) in a private, informal setting. There was no reason not to believe them.
Easter Sunday, 2018
The Lord appeared first to those most emotionally affected by his death, Mary Magdalene, Mary his mother, and Peter. This occurred before he appeared to all the disciples in the evening of that glorious day.
We might have missed his appearance to Peter because it is not in the Gospels. It is told by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:5.
Why would he appear to Peter alone, apart from the others?
Jesus cares about our feelings! Peter was extremely upset about denying the Lord. His feelings for his friend were very deep. Peter cut of poor Malchus’ ear in order to protect his friend, right?
The Lord wanted to tell him that everything was okay.
Good Friday, 2018
The suffering and death of Christ, which we commemorate today for Good Friday, is normative.
It means pain and disappointment is what happens in this world, it is to be expected, and it is even commanded. Jesus said, for instance, “If anyone would be my disciple, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.”
As the late and beloved Billy Graham said, “The whole world is under a sentence of death because of sin.”
The Christian’s hope and glory is the life of the world to come in which, as Peter wrote, “righteous dwells.” The Lord leads us there through the cross.
Maundy Thursday, 2018
We might be tempted to think that the Last Supper is based on the Jewish Passover Feast (Mark 14:12-25) and, yes, that was the occasion of the Holy Eucharist being instituted. But the order of things is actually the other way around. The deliverance of God’s people from slavery in Egypt, Passover, temple sacrifices, and the Jewish Seder are all based on Christ and what he would do on the night that he was betrayed. He was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
The book of Hebrews explains in some detail that the old ways were a type of the One to come, based on a pattern that already existed in heaven. The Seder is a shadow but Christian Holy Communion is the reality. So, on Maundy Thursday or any time that we celebrate the Eucharist we are participating in the eternal and pre-existent way of the Lord.
In other words, there is no reason to find our Jewish roots. We might be better served to find our Biblical and theological ones.
Wednesday of Holy Week, 2018
Mark 12:1-11 tells us fairly clearly, though it is a parable, why God called the Apostle Paul and offered covenant relationship to Gentiles: the Jews killed their own Messiah, who was God’s Son.
Mark’s gospel does not have the Christmas story and rarely mentions Mary.
But Jesus as the Son of God is a major theme in Mark.
During Lent we have an opportunity to contemplate the righteous judgments of God. When Christ is proclaimed as the Son of God and Savior, the only-begotten of the Father, the redemption clock begins to click and count down to judgment because such a claim cannot be taken lightly.
Tuesday of Holy Week, 2018
The question of authority is extremely important in religion. The Jewish officials were right to ask about it (Mark 11:27-33).
The blood covering and priesthood of believers was never intended to foment rebellion against ordained clergy of the Church or it would not be written that we should obey our pastors (Hebrews 13:17).
So, the Jews were asking the Lord why anyone should listen to him. Their tone of voice probably gave it away that they were not sincere …
Which is why the Lord asked them a question that revealed their double-mindedness.
If we acknowledge the authority of Christ it means we have to commit 100%. They were not willing or able yet to do that.
Monday of Holy Week, 2018
In Mark 11:12-25 we see a side of Jesus that makes us uncomfortable: he cursed a fig tree and drove people out of the temple.
Every human being has the capacity for wrath. Just as we are attracted to some things and repulsed by others, so we have an emotional dualistic ability to show either tenderness or anger.
We are ambivalent about anger because it might cause anger back at us! When they heard about Jesus in the temple the chief priests and scribes determined to kill him.
Sometimes we do not show righteous indignation because we are afraid of the blow back.
Jesus was not afraid. Or if he was he did it anyway because it was the right thing to do.
Palm Sunday, 2018
Both science and faith are predictive but science depends on the observation of past experience and phenomenon with an assumption that things will go on as they did before.
Faith does not make that assumption but sees history unfold in a series of acts undertaken by God, who exercises his sovereign free will and power to make things happen in mysterious ways to surprise us from time to time.
The pattern we find in God is righteousness. So, when Jesus approached Jerusalem for the last time (Luke 19:41-48) he predicted judgment because the people had largely rejected him.
No one escapes the righteous judgment of God. The certainty of it calls us to repentance, and apparently, there is a time limit. The Lord grieved that Jerusalem did not recognize the time of their being visited by God in the person of Jesus Christ.
So, whenever we feel the need to repent and change our ways we should get right on it. Let’s not delay or put it off. It might be the last chance we have!
March 23, 2018
We often think of John, the beloved disciple, as the laid back one, sensitive, unassuming, quiet perhaps, maybe the youngest of the disciples. After all Jesus asked him to take care of his own mother, Mary.
But in Mark 10:32-45 we see that John is very ambitious, asking to sit on one side of Jesus in the glory of his eternal kingdom!
The two traits are not mutually exclusive; love and ambition can run together. Think of the father that works hard to provide for his wife and children. He is not going to turn down a raise or promotion or refuse a contract or client or customer or better seed to plant.
So, Jesus did not scold them for their dreams of glory, their desire to succeed, or their aspirations to greatness.
Rather, he told them how to do it.
March 22, 2018
In Mark 10:17-31 we read about a wealthy man that asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life. The Lord did not say only believe. He referred him to the moral commandments.
March 21, 2018
Jesus not only kept the law but improved upon it by his own teaching. He never made it easier but more difficult and explained the reasoning behind any rule that he put forth.
Thus he did with marriage in Mark 10:1-16.
Under the old law a woman could be easily exploited. Jesus said that was due to hardness of heart.
In Christ, though, a married couple would be so close and intimate that divorce would seem impossible, like tearing apart one’s own body.
March 20, 2018
The radical discipleship that Jesus requires calls us to loathe sin and take extreme measures to avoid it (Mark 9:42-50).
March 19, 2018
On this his feast day we learn a lot about St. Joseph.
He had a terrible dilemma, thinking Mary might have sinned. Yet he cared about her and so wanted to protect her by keeping it quiet.
The Lord in his great mercy intervened, explaining things to Joseph, who believed.
The gospel begins with both Mary and Joseph trusting God and yielding to his plan for their lives.
March 18, 2018
In the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) Jesus is proclaimed as the Christ.
In John’s Gospel he claims to be God!
When the Lord told the Jews, “Before Abraham was I AM,” he was not using poor grammar. He claimed to be the One that appeared to Moses from the burning bush when God said, “I AM WHO I AM.” That is why the Jews took up stones to kill him.
Some today do not believe that Jesus is God. We will discuss that in church this morning, among other things.
It’s very important that we become very clear about who the Lord might be. We have brothers and sisters in other parts of the world who are persecuted for serving the Lord Jesus. Would they do that if he were not God?
March 16, 2017
The mountain-top experience is an important part of our spiritual formation (Mark 9:2-13); otherwise, we have a downer religion for those that are depressed and want to sing only woe-is-me songs.
The Lord wants to reveal his glory to each and every one of us who believe so that God can say to us from the cloud, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”
March 15, 2018
Immediately after the Good Confession, when Peter answered correctly that Jesus was the Christ, the Lord began to teach the disciples about the way of the cross (Mark 8:27-9:1).
This is the greatest clue we have as to the true nature of Christianity.
Peter didn’t want to hear that part! The Lord shut him down.
Then he explained how God thinks.
We must accept and participate in the sentence of death that God has pronounced on all flesh. He sent the Son to show us how to do it.
If we follow the Lord in the way of the cross then we will gain our true selves in this life and eternal life in the world to come.
March 14, 2018
Christopher Lasch is a social psychologist/cultural anthropologist who wrote THE CULTURE OF NARCISSISM, published in 1979, perfectly predicting the 80s.
As a society America has moved on to a culture of hysteria. Everyone is upset, outraged, and a victim of some sort. Rational discourse is replace by the need for a sign: proof of Russian collusion or a booming economy, depending on the confirmation of bias that one might need, desperately, of course.
The Pharisees demanded a sign. Jesus refused because he did not want to feed into a false expectation system.
The disciples lost their peace in the boat, having only one loaf of bread. Jesus, who had provided bread for thousands, wondered why they did not understand. They would rather have had the drama?
They brought him a man in need. Everyone was standing around. The city fathers would love to have a miracle performed in their town. Jesus led him out of that village, healed him by a slower process than usually; he gained his sight in stages and then Jesus told him not to go back to those seeking sensationalism.
March 13, 2018
The basis of great things, like feeding 4000 people from a few loaves and fish (Mark 8:1-10), is compassion.
Jesus had compassion on the crowd that followed him. He had worked it out in his mind just how difficult it would be for them to go hungry any longer. He did not want them to suffer.
It’s easy to see all the evil in the world and want to withdraw emotionally from people, to preserve ourselves and our own happy spaces. Yes, we should be wise as serpents that way, especially if we take care of elderly people or children.
But our general outlook on life should be that the world is full of unhappy and desperate people. They act out sinfully because they are hurting or in need some way. They really don’t know that they need Jesus. They do not know him and that should make us sad.
The crowd that followed Jesus into the wilderness far from home were spiritually hungry. The Lord fed them with his word.
March 12, 2018
In Mark 7:24-37 we have two healing miracles in which third parties begged Jesus on behalf of another.
These are lessons of intercession: one person asking the Lord to help another person.
Notice the humble position that they took. It says that they begged and one endured an insult in order to secure the blessing for someone they loved.
Love and humility are excellent qualities to bring to prayer.
March 11, 2018
The difference between a worldly person and a spiritual one is what we work for, as the Lord said in John 6:27-40.
Over and over we may have heard that we can’t work for our salvation; so, we are offered easy believe-ism that saves us and then turns us loose to work for whatever else we want.
But Jesus reverses that dis-order, saying we should not work for the bread that perishes but for eternal life.
Having lived longer than the other disciples John remembers that grace, faith, and works are all bound together in Christ. That means whatever work we do should be done from a Christian world-view, the spiritual perspective of the New Testament.
March 9, 2018
The miracles of Christ like walking on water and healing the sick in Mark 6:47-56 demonstrate the superiority of spirit over matter.
The laws that govern matter, called physics, are superseded by metaphysics, which the disciples did not understand about the loaves. Plus, they were terrified in the boat when they saw the Lord walking on the water because they were bound to a materialistic way of seeing things. Only ghosts can walk on water they thought.
Throughout the New Testament we see the Christian dualistic view of things, carnal vs. spiritual. Carnal has to do with physical things and meeting the temporal needs of the body, which so easily become sinful desires of excess.
In Christ the Spirit of God invaded our world, doing things that had never before been seen. The Lord gained a reputation for healing so people literally lined the streets to be near him so that they might receive a blessing.
Some thought that if they touched even the fringe of his robe they might be healed. That is a reference to tassels that Jewish men wore on the hems of their robes.
What was the significance of the tassels? They were reminders of the Law of Moses, which set the Jewish people apart as God’s own. The people knew that Jesus was able to channel divine power because he was holy.
There is no blessing without our accepting the moral requirements of God. These were people prepared by the forerunner, John the Baptist, who preached repentance. That is why the Gospels begin with the ministry of the Baptist.
March 8, 2018
Too often in religion clergy expect the people to take care of them but what do the people get in return?
Bishops of the United Methodist Church this week, for instance, rejected a plan to hold people accountable who break the rules of the Church.
In Mark 6:30-46 the disciples recognized a need, sharing the Lord’s compassion, but worried about how much it would cost them to meet that need.
That is when the Lord took over and reversed the flow from receiving to giving.
The Church is supposed to supply the benefit to the people.
In contrast to what the Methodists did our diocese, CANA West of the Anglican Church, passed resolutions this week to enforce the doctrine and discipline of the Church. If a Church does not provide moral leadership it might as well not exist.
March 7, 2018
Mark 6:13-29 describes a pagan feast with a dancing girl, a silly old man and his bitter wife, vanity, pride, murder, and the gruesome presentation of a man’s head on a platter.
No, it was not the Oscars.
But there really is nothing new under the sun.
When we look around at the sin, evil, and carnality of the world it should make us flee to Jesus. In him there is goodness, beauty, truth, comfort, love, and peace.
March 6, 2018
What can we expect of people?
Can God use someone we know, who seems familiar to us?
In Nazareth it says (Mark 6:1-13) that Jesus could not do many mighty works because the people knew him as a carpenter and knew his family.
What can we expect of ordinary people like the Lord’s disciples, none of whom were rabbis but fishermen and a tax collector and such?
Yet, the Lord gave them authority to teach and cast out demons.
If we offer ourselves to the Lord he can do great things through us. It does not matter what other people think.
March 5, 2018
Mark 5:21-43 contains one of the most fascinating stories in the whole Bible — a woman healed by her faith in the Lord when he didn’t even know it until it happened.
It says that Jesus felt power go out of him when the woman touched his clothes.
Jesus credited her faith.
But of course, her faith was based on reports that he was healing people.
Heavenly Father give the Church this power and reputation for healing. Amen.
March 4, 2018
In John 5:25-29 Jesus refers to himself by two titles, Son of God and Son of Man. Son of God refers to his birth by the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Virgin Mary.
But judgment of the world is given to him by the Father because he is the Son of Man. Jesus referred to himself as the Son of Man more than any other appellation.
We might be tempted to think that means he will be a sympathetic judge because he knows what it’s like to be human. There is probably an element of truth in that. But that is not what he means here.
Son of Man refers to his role in salvation history, which was predicted by Daniel in the Old Testament. “The hour is coming and now is” is John’s way of saying “This was to fulfill the Scripture” in the other gospels.
This is what Daniel wrote in chapter 7:
13 “I saw in the night visions,
and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.
14 And to him was given dominion
that all peoples, nations, and languages
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
that shall not be destroyed.
March 2, 2018
Long ago when I was a Methodist pastor one of my colleagues asked, “If Jesus is God and was down here, who was up there running the universe?”
Mark 4:35-41 answers that question.
The disciples in the boat with him that day knew what they were asking, “Who then is this that even the wind and waves obey him?”
March 1, 2018
In Mark 4:21-34 we have three parables of Jesus that tell us how the kingdom works. Parables are analogies, depending on a co-natural principle. Co-natural means many spiritual lessons are understandable because they are found in nature. After all, God created the natural world out of his own rational mind. It operates according to the laws of nature that God wrote into the universe. So, when Jesus calls God his father we understand that because we have a father or deep within us we have an idea of what a father might be.
One of the ways we can discern false doctrine is that it doesn’t sound right. It sounds odd or funny because it is not co-natural, we cannot find a correspondence to any law of nature or a moral law in what is being said. It’s a good rule of thumb that if anything sounds bad or feels bad, pay attention, as Jesus said in verse 24a. Children especially should be taught to trust their feelings if anything feels bad.
It doesn’t work the other way around, though. If something feels good or is pleasant to hear, tickling our ears, it may not be the truth. That is when we need to put our thinking cap on! The devil uses good sensations to deceive us. If it is too easy it is probably not the truth. If it sounds like cheap grace it probably is not the truth. If it uses one passages too much and ignores all the others it is probably not the truth. If it excuses a sin it is definitely not the truth.
Sin is not co-natural but is contrary to nature because it violates a known law. Anything that violates a law of God, physically or spiritually, is a sin and not true.
February 28, 2018
In Mark 4:1-20 Jesus first distinguishes between those in the Church who know the mysteries of the kingdom and those outside the Church who do not.
Then he provides an important tool in diagnosing spiritual illness, explaining what happens when the word of God comes to us. In three out of four cases it fails to bear fruit unto eternal life.
In the first case the word never takes root because the devil carries the seed of truth away. Why? Because the path is worn by numbers of people that have walked over it. Sometimes people don’t trust anything they hear because they’ve been lied to and disappointed so many times. Their souls are beaten down.
In the second case the seed falls on shallow soil. This is a faith based on feelings, emotions. But such a faith is notoriously unstable. It is easily shaken by hardship and people fall away. Church membership and attendance in America has declined dramatically in recent decades because the true faith was never adequately explained. People have been told that it is easy to be saved. Then when it was not easy they gave up.
In the third case, which happens quite a lot in affluent Western countries, the temptations to carnality and sin choke out the word. There are millions of Christians in America today, for instance, that look at porn, smoke pot, and live together without benefit of clergy, following the way of the world.
In all of these cases above where things go wrong it is not hopeless. Even the soil itself can be reconditioned and amended to receive the word and have a better result.
The serious Christian, in the fourth case, does not fall away but begins with deep soil for the word because he or she knows the need for our Savior. And then the true believer will keep her or his soul conditioned for bearing fruit by going to church, praying, confessing sin, reading God’s word, and doing the good works for which we were created in Christ Jesus.
February 27, 2018
One of the greatest pains in the world is family pain, that we do to those closest to us and what they might do to us. Family betrayal has plagued mankind from the beginning when Cain killed his bother Abel.
Jesus experienced that when his family, Mary, Joseph, and his brothers and sisters, said that he was crazy (Mark 3:21).
Jesus had come home to Capernaum perhaps expecting a celebration, and genuine interest in his life and ministry, all the exciting things that God was doing through him.
Instead he was humiliated and opposed.
For some people personal relationships are extremely important. We work really hard to love people and do good so that they will like us and be proud of us. When the ones we love and serve then reject us it is devastating.
Sometimes the divisions in a family are so deep and hurtful that we need to find another family, a family of choice. Jesus said, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”
The Father is creating a new family full of love and joy and peace to live with him forever.
February 26, 2018
In Mark 3:7-19 we see what missiologists (those that study Christian missions and the spread of Christianity) call a people movement. Sometimes they are called revivals or awakenings.
Jesus came preaching and teaching, healing diseases, and casting out demons. So, people flocked to him in great numbers. The Lord needed help so he called disciples to continue and expand his ministry. Revival had broken out in the land! But the Jewish leaders rejected the Lord and murdered him so Christianity was born on the Day of Pentecost.
America has had two great awakenings that the historians recognize. The First Great Awakening led to the founding of the country. Not many know that the Second Great Awakening was a holiness movement led mostly by Methodists. It resulted in a great Civil War that eliminated the social evil of chattel slavery in the South, though there were other great social reforms like the end of child labor, and creation of American public schools and the Land Grant College Act.
With the death of Billy Graham last week we might consider his role in what many call the Third Great Awakening. Graham’s televised crusades reached millions of Americans, who heard the Gospel in a time when the mainline churches were going liberal. There was also an outpouring of the Holy Spirit expressed through the Charismatic Movement, again within the mainline denominations.
Though the battle rages in American politics today the effect of the Third Great Awakening is to challenge if not stop entirely a creeping socialist agenda. The rise of the Religious Right is a direct result of God’s intervention through ministries such as Billy Graham’s excellent preaching.
This great awakening is not over.
February 25, 2018
John 5:19-24 reveals the source of Jesus’ authority. It is from the Father. Jesus did what he saw the Father doing.
That is the model and example for the Church. Our authority as Christians comes from our dependency on Christ. If we move away from the Lord people see through us; they see that we are acting according to the flesh with selfish motives. If we emulate Christ then we gain moral authority for what we say and do in the world.
February 23, 2018
In Mark 2:13-22 we see that Jesus came to do something very different.
Under the old covenant the goal was to separate from those that are unworthy in order to prove that you were chosen.
But when the Lord came with his new covenant he drew close to engage people in order to redeem us.
Under the old covenant being a member of the elect was accomplished by mere birth, being ethnically a Jew.
In Christ anyone can be born again of the Spirit and become a child of God.
An organization that takes in sinners and tax collectors in order to redeem them must be flexible like a new wine skin.
February 22, 2018
The connection between body and soul is illustrated in Mark 2:1-12 by the Lord’s healing of the paralytic.
We may be paralyzed by the guilt and grief and fear that accompanies sin. The paralysis might be emotional or social. It might spiritual in that we find it difficult to pray. Perhaps we cannot think trough a problem or moie forward in life.
God limits the spread of sin by limiting us! He cut Adam and Eve off from the tree of life after they sinned, for instance.
But what if our souls are clean, and our hearts are full of good things like love and truth and compassion?
Wouldn’t the Lord set us free from infirmities in order to spread that around?
February 21, 2018
In Mark 1:29-45 we see that Jesus is for everyone.
Peter and the guys were fishermen; Peter’s mother-in-law was sick, so Jesus healed her. He healed all that came to him, including casting out demons.
He healed a leper and sent him to the priests because he wanted the priests to join him, too.
The Lord cares for us body and soul. That is why he heals diseases and chases demons away.
If we let him the Lord will bring grace to every area of everyone’s life.
February 20, 2018
In Mark 1:14-28, as Jesus began his ministry, we see the kind of authority he possessed.
He boldly began to make pronouncements that could easily be questioned, such as saying the time is fulfilled and the kingdom is at hand.
He called the people to repentance and gathered a small group of followers, who recognized something in him that made them leave the life they knew.
As he taught in the synagogues the people were not bored with quotes from past rabbis but he was authentic, not in his head but speaking from the heart things they had not heard before.
And he had spiritual authority, casting out demons.
All of those things taken together caused his fame to spread throughout the whole region.
O Lord, give your people today such power, authority, authenticity, and boldness. Amen.
February 19, 2018
Scripture tells us (Mark 1:1-13) that Jesus was driven into the wilderness where he was tempted by the devil. And so the cosmic battle between good and evil escalated.
That war continues today. It is going on all around us, good vs. evil.
Jesus and Satan are fighting over us. God loves us and the devil hates us. The devil hates us because we have a chance through faith in Christ to enjoy eternal life with God.
We get to decide who wins this battle for our souls. Like Jesus in the wilderness we must resist temptation.
February 17, 2018
In John 17:20-26 we hear Jesus pray for the unity of the Church and for the ultimate goal of his redemptive work:
That whoever believes in him will share the love and glory that he has with the Father.
February 16, 2018
In John 17:9-19 Jesus prays for us, who are in the world but not of the world. Just as the Father sent the Son into the world so the Son sends us into the world.
It is the truth of Christ which sets us apart from the world.
If any church or religious body looks and acts too much like the world then we must question whether they have truly appropriated the truth.
And those who profess to know the truth must be in constant study and prayer to be sure that we are truly sanctified.
February 15, 2018
John 17:1-8 provides an overview of the divine mission in Christ.
Jesus shared the glory of the Father before the world existed.
The Father sent the Son into the world with a message.
By that message people were called out of the world, those of us who believe that God sent the Lord.
The Lord gave us the words that the Father gave him.
The clear implication is that we Christians are now the divine mission as we keep and spread God’s word.
Ash Wednesday 2018
Two men in the synagogue, of which Jesus spoke in Luke 18:9-14, illustrate the different uses of religion. In one case the Pharisee compared himself to others and it made him proud. He missed the grace of God.
The other man compared himself to God’s holiness and realized that he was a sinner. He was saved by grace.
February 13, 2018
The intersection of Church and State is a very interesting subject. It’s uncomfortable for many because they are not particularly religious. Only about 40% of Americans today even belong to a church.
But the issue is forced upon us for several reasons. The Middle East is all about religion. As long as Israel endures it makes Muhammad a false prophet because he said the Muslims shall replace the Jews in Zion. In the United States the Social Gospel preaches big government while Evangelicals and others align themselves with the more conservative parties.
So, it is critical to see how Jesus interacts with Pontius Pilate when the former was brought before the later, as told in John 18:28-38.
First, it seems that Jesus needles him about being a politician rather than a leader. The Jews won’t go into his house to see him so he goes out to see them. Why would he even listen to those that show so little respect? And Pilate never answered the question about who told him Jesus was a threat. Can’t he see how he was being manipulated?
Apparently not, so second, the Lord became proactive about the nature of leadership. Both he and Pilate were familiar with Plato’s theory of the philosopher king. Such a a leader seeks truth and justice, and is not easily swayed by expediency.
Jesus asserted that he was a different kind of king, one not of this world. He is Lord of the Church. And he is more a philosopher than a king because his purpose in life was to bear witness to the truth.
Pilate had no use for the truth. The truth gets in the way, does it not? It takes time and effort to suss out the truth. Many would rather react in the moment than understand what is truly going on.
Pilate ran away from the truth. As Christians we must embrace it. When we embrace the truth we are cleansed of our sins, sanctified by the grace of God in Christ, our King.
February 12, 2018
For those of us that are conservative Christians it is easy to look around and see things that are wrong. We are the Lord’s people and we are close to him. We should not let anyone take that away from us.
The Gospel lesson this morning, though (John 18:15-18 and 25-27), is a warning that however close we are to the Lord we are capable of denying him as Peter did three times.
The Lord graciously gives us a season of self-criticism called Lent, which begins this week, in order to keep us in reality.
The problems of the world will not go away but after self-examination and repentance we’ll approach them with more humility and authenticity.
February 9, 2018
Jesus has a funny way of winning friends and influencing people!
In John 8:33-47, the Gospel lesson today, we have one of the most intense personal conflicts ever recorded. We can imagine the parties standing within arms length of one another, right in each other’s faces, so to speak.
Jesus told his opponents that they were not of God and the spawn of Satan. They are liars and killers like the devil!
When we are deluded it may take a very strong light to get us to see.
February 8, 2018
The goal of Christian discipleship is what Jesus describes in John 8:21-32. It has been called a personal relationship with God: hearing from the Father, feeling his presence with us, saying only what the Father gives us to say, and always doing what is pleasing to him.
This does not happen in an instant. It is something that develops in us over time as we pursue spiritual formation through the disciplines that God has ordained such as Bible study and prayer, going to church, and Christian conversation, meaning discussing it with our friends. The sacraments are extremely important in this walk.
February 7, 2018
In John 8:12-20 we see one of the most common logical fallacies played out, just as we might see on TV every day in the news: ad hominem attack, that is, attacking the man that is speaking instead of listening to what he says and judging what he says on it merits.
Jesus called this judging according to the flesh.
The flesh wants to distract us from the truth of God because we know instinctively that serving God requires pain, trouble, and sacrifice; the flesh wants comfort, ease, and convenience.
So, back to what the Lord actually said, “I am the light of the world.”
We are in that season of the year when the days grow longer and we are looking for spring and warmer weather. Lent starts next week!
Let us step fully into the light so that the Lord can show us those parts of our soul that need his transforming grace.
February 6, 2018
In John 7:53-8:11 we have the story of the women taken in adultery. They were ready to stone her but Jesus let her go, telling her not to sin any more.
We might be tempted to take a story like this and generalize it, extending it to any and all sinful behavior. Generalization is a logical fallacy to be avoided in favor of what’s called specific exegesis. That is, how is each commandment from the Old Testament treated in the New Testament?
They didn’t, for instance, bring a killer or thief to Jesus because Rome took care of those crimes and without apparent objection from the Lord.
With Christ we have the development of two realms of influence for the Church. Jesus did not give the Church police power in the city-state or instructions to raise an army. The scope of the Church’s influence is limited to personal and private matters, and the use of moral suasion. So, throughout the Christian Era bishops and priests have advised princes and kings, hoping to make society more just; but the Church has a lot to say about how its own members live our lives.
At that level of our personal, private, voluntary, and domestic existence forgiveness is essential.
February 5, 2018
John 7:43 says that among the people there was division over who Jesus might be.
Normally, division in a religious body is not desirable. It usually occurs over insignificant things. If people do not tolerate petty differences of opinion then it is a sign that they do not truly love one another. People expect church to be a place where they can find love, grace, and forgiveness. So, schism over little things is not a good witness.
But in the case of Christ coming into the world division is bound to occur because who he is and what he does is not a little thing at all. He is the most important question of all!
It’s okay to divide if people don’t get Jesus right.
In the last 50 years whole denominations have fallen away. The Higher Critical Method and Social Gospel that is taught in many seminaries have devastated whole Churches.
Those two ideas work together to destroy the Faith. The Higher Critical Method takes away the Bible as the word of God; into that vacuum flows the false Social Gospel.
We should find clergy and congregations that are faithful to the Lord. People with a solid understanding of Jesus can learn to love one another. “In essentials unity; in opinion freedom.”
February 3, 2018
Jesus said, “Do not judge by appearances but judge with right judgment.”
Of course, some try not to judge at all because they have no taste for it. Staying out of the moral fray is a valid alternative!
But most of us judge and we do it often.
What Jesus said here is similar to Matthew 7:1-3, “Do not judge unless you would be judged …”
In other words, we should be careful in passing judgment or even expressing an opinion because the same will be applied to us.
In the field of logic judging by appearances has been called shallow analysis, which is quite common and a fallacy. The goal and definition of right judgment is to apply objective standards of truth and behavior rather than worry about or be deceived by appearances, image, or what people think.
Where do we get those objective standards?
Officially, Scripture contains everything necessary to salvation and we are not to require of anyone things that are not in Scripture.
February 2, 2018
It’s amazing that the Jews in John 8:31-36 said that they had never been slaves to anyone. Their cultural identity was determined by the exodus from slavery in Egypt and their land was currently occupied by the Romans, who were notorious for high taxes.
The Lord might have pointed out those obvious things but he wanted them to see something even more oppressive: sin.
Whatever socio-economic condition we experience, life is not about comparing ourselves to others in this world, what we’ve achieved or not achieved, or who done me wrong.
The most important thing is the condition of our souls.
Christian freedom, which is the result of embracing the truth, is not getting to do what we want but wanting to do only what is holy, loving, right, and good.
February 1, 2018
The Eve of the Presentation, which is today, commemorates the infant Jesus going to the temple for the first time, 40 days after he was born.
Some observe a little Christmas eve-type service called Candlemas because the people bring candles to be blessed. Candles remind us of the Light of Christ shining forth in the dark world, the Good News of God’s love.
January 31, 2018
The Last Supper is not described the same way in John’s gospel as it is in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Instead we have the Eucharistic Discourse in John 6:52-59 , which is just as powerful and mysterious.
In the other gospels Jesus said to partake as often as you do.
John answers the question why do it at all?
The answer is that if we do not partake of the body and blood of the Lord then we will starve to death spiritually …
And may not be raised on the Last Day.
January 30, 2018
In John 6:41-51 the people think they know Jesus because they know his family. They may have seen the Lord grow up from childhood.
But we are not to judge people according to the flesh.
The faith perspective of the New Testament is spiritual, that is, it looks to see what God is doing in and through his chosen vessels.
The Jews thought that they were the chosen ones. So, their difficulty in understanding Jesus was a chance for the Lord to call them to repentance.
By saying that the Father draws people to the truth and teaches the people what the truth might be.
This is not about predestination. It is about the Lord pointing to the Father. It is an invitation for the people to worry enough about their salvation that they kneel in prayer to ask the Father, “Am I one of yours? Are you drawing me to yourself? Please, help me understand?”
January 29, 2018
In Mark 8:22-30 a man’s eyes are opened by stages and Peter confesses that Jesus is the Christ.
Giving sight to the blind is one of the Lord’s greatest works of power. When a story such as that immediately precedes a theological truth we can’t help but make the connection. The miracles are signs that shed light on who this man might be!
But we don’t know the whole truth at once.
Dear Lord, give me your healing power as many times as I need it because I long to see you face to face.