December 23, 2017
Names are an important clue to destiny in the Bible. we need to begin by examining the name Jesus and understanding our personal need for both human and divine forgiveness. The name Jesus is a combination of Je or Yeh a shortened form of Yahweh; and “sus” the Aramaic verb to save. Many people in our secular culture are not aware of the danger of un-forgiveness as separating ourselves from both other people and God. I went through 30 years of silence and emotional darkness before experiencing the joy of forgiveness and reconciliation with my ex-wife. In our healing ministry Lucille and I have seen the joy on many faces as people come to forgiveness with others or accept forgiveness from Jesus. Un-forgiveness leads to destructive emotions of bitterness that pollute our personal spirit and separate us from God. The Good news of Jesus is that He was born to die for the sins of all people so they could be freed from what Isaiah called the "rod of the oppressor", Satan, who deceives us into rebellion against God and spiritual death. The Readings explain how this gift of forgiveness works.
1. Luke (2.1-20) Gives Us the Good News of the Forgiveness of Sins by Jesus
December 16, 2017
In the Gospel Reading (
John 1.6-8, 19-28) we
see a situation that is happening in our own lifetime. We have representatives
of a corrupted religion investigating a genuine prophet. He tells them God is
about to fulfill the Isaiah Prophecy. He tells them that the one “…you do not
know.” (v. 26) is in their midst. This was a stinging rebuke to the religious
leadership and a wake-up call to the Jews. It is also a wake-up call to us now.
The question is what should we do to "make the way straight" or get
into a right relationship with God and "make
righteousness and praise spring up" (v. 11) in our time?
1. The Baptist proclaimed the fulfillment of the Isaiah Prophecy
This was a prophecy that God would intervene in human affairs once again to "... make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations" (Isaiah 61.11). Water baptism is the first step in spiritual life.
November 18, 2017
The Collect is a prayer that focuses us on the general theme of the readings for each Sunday in liturgical churches. Proper 33 is the last Sunday in the Church year before the "Reign of Christ" (next week) which marks the end of Year A. This is important as a final message generally sums up all that has gone before. The readings begin with a contrast between the disasters that fell on the Hebrew people when they abandoned God, and the military victories and good times when they returned to faith and kept the Covenants of Abraham and Moses. Paul's letter to the people in Thessalonica (1 Thess. 5.1-11) describes this contrast as between people of light and people of darkness. The parable of the Talents (75 lbs. of silver) is a reminder that Jesus will come back to judge us based on what we have done with the gifts we have been given in life. This is not about good works but about faith, hope and the development of spiritual life.
1. What was the darkness ensnared the "wicked servant"?
Notice that he was not accused of the usual sins we think of as preventing inclusion in the Kingdom of God:
October 13, 2017
During the Management Training Course at Western, the question we learned to ask was: "What business are we in?" Many businesses and organizations fail because management is confused about what business they are really in. I tell the story of the Addison Adding Machine company (never heard of it?) which discovered it was not in the business of making and selling mechanical adding machines. Computers were a new thing. They were in the business of making international business machines - IBM. The dramatic moment when Jesus claims the mission of the Messiah prophesied by Isaiah reminds us of what business we are in. We are not in the business of saving people or planting and developing healthy churches. We are in the business of healing the relationship between God and His people. The prophecy tells us exactly and in depth how we are to do this.
1. We are anointed by the Holy Spirit for this mission
September 23, 2017
The readings (Exodus 16.2-5, Philippians 1.21-30 and Matthew 20.1-16) are examples of the kindness and generosity of God reaching out - of and the contrast with our human focus on entitlement, fairness and justice. This is the same kindness and generosity Lucille and I recently experiences in visiting John Sandford and his son Mark in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.
1. God is generous and kind to the Hebrew people
When the Hebrew people are grumbling about the lack of food in the desert, God is generous kind.
- · God kindly overlooks their rebellious grumbling
- · Generously rains down bread in the form of manna, and meat in the form of quail.
- · Not just basic rations but a generous display of Gods' kindness and generosity
2. Paul is generous and kind to the Philippians
August 19, 2017
Love by itself is a vague word that can mean many different things from sexual attraction to self-sacrificial mercy. The readings teach us that God wants more than a formal relationship with us. God wants a passionate, powerful risk-taking love that is passionate, intimate and forgives. Mercy, when God or we forgive, and give the other another chance, is the highest form of love. This is why God pushes us so hard in life that we often rebel, run away, get into trouble and then have to humble ourselves and depend on God's mercy. This is how our love and spiritual life grows.
1. Jesus shows us how God’s love and mercy never gives up
July 28, 2017
The readings for the past few weeks (Matthew 13) have been teaching us about the Kingdom of God. In the Parable of the Sower Jesus focuses on how people respond to the Word of God. In the Parable of the Weeds Jesus teaches us how to deal with evil. In the three parables for today Jesus is teaching us that not everyone is included and how important it is to be included in the Kingdom. Those who are included should be able to bring out our treasures from our own experience of the Kingdom to share with others. Let me model this for you by bringing out three treasures from my study and experience of the Kingdom.
1. Let me share my treasure of knowing the Bible as True truth
July 13, 2017
A “birthright” is something you are entitled to because of who your parents are. Esau is the first-born son who foolishly gives up his birthright of inheriting his fathers’ land and spiritual blessings. Our birthright as “Christians, “born again” in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit, is eternal spiritual life. The Romans reading explains that while we live physically in a mortal body, we have a new spiritual life because the Spirit of Jesus lives in us and guides our life. As we live more and more fully in this spiritual life as we depend on the Holy Spirit to help us understand and overcome the temptations of our ‘natural self’ which can cause us to lose our spiritual birthright. Esau is a warning.
1. We get our spiritual birthright from the seed of the Word
June 16, 2017
This is a strange statement coming from Jesus in a country where religion was supposed to be central in everyone’s life. Something is terribly wrong. Something needs fixing. This is important to us now as we live in a similar time. We too are supposed to be Christians in a Christian Church - yet many people are sensing that something is very wrong. Do we to have lots of religion but little real Faith? We need to ask the same question as Jesus - why are the church workers few?”.
1. The workers are few because we have lost our mission
In Jesus time most people went to the synagogues and Temple - but for many, it was only an outward form. Their country was occupied by Roman soldiers. They were harassed and confused. They felt defeated. Instead of giving them hope, their ancient faith had not helped them against the Romans.
- It was a time like our own, when many people feel our own church is drifting without real spiritual direction or leadership.
- We feel like the people in the Gospel who were “...harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd...” (Matthew 9.36).
2. Jesus had a clear mission of radical new teaching and healing
May 19, 2017
Many people have read Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life and reflected on the purpose of their lives. The readings for today begin with the Apostle Paul telling the people in Athens that the God he speaks of is the one who created the world. Paul goes on to explain that the purpose of creation is “...so that men would seek Him...”(Acts 17.27). In the very next verse he explains that God wants to live inside us and through us. This is how the spiritual dimension intervenes in the physical world as the Holy Spirit. It happens when we “...live and move and have our being in Him...”.
1. The God of Christians is behind creation
We do not want to get sidetracked into an argument of how God created the world. This would distract us from the key fact that creation cannot be random or an accident. There had to be something behind it, creating it. We believe this is the God that revealed Himself to the Hebrew people and us through revelations in history, and particularly in the form of Jesus.
- The readings also tell us God also created a spiritual dimension which seems to inhabit the same space.
- 1 Peter 3.22 adds to our understanding of creation by mentioning heaven, angels, principalities and powers
- Bad news is some of the angles, principalities and powers rebelled against God and have engaged in spiritual warfare for human souls since the time of creation.
- Paul warns us that creation is going somewhere. There will be a final judgement. Each individual will have to give an account of their response to God’s reaching out to them.
- Test will be how well you lived this life as a sign of God’s love.
2. Good news “... Christ died to bring you to God...”. (1 Peter 3.18)
April 14, 2017
The Easter story is about being sure of the Resurrection and meeting the risen Jesus. This is the point where Jesus becomes a real person to a believer. This is the point where each of us goes from being what we might call a “cultural Christian” to a 'serious believer'. Everyone who meets the risen Jesus is changed - even transformed. Their faith goes from being a philosophy of life to being a daily personal relationship with the risen Jesus. They go from a set of intellectual beliefs to “my Faith” and my hope for the future. For many people this is a dramatic encounter like that of Mary. For others it may be more gradual. The important thing is to personally meet the risen Jesus.
1. The Risen Jesus gives us resurrection life
March 18, 2017
The readings for today have a common theme of water and life. In the Exodus story the Hebrew people are ready to stone Moses because he can not find water and they are in a desert. The Apostle Paul describes the love of God being poured out into the hearts of believers like life-giving water. Finally Jesus has this amazing conversation with a Samaritan woman. It is the same conversation he had in the Reading for last week with Nicodemus. This is the model for how to do one on one personal evangelism:
- Ask a question to begin a conversation
- Give a reply to their response that turns the conversation into how to have a right relationship / spiritual life with God
- Give a reply to whatever is said that raises a spiritual question in their mind
- Respond to their next question with how to have spiritual life - be born again / receive the living water of the Holy Spirit
1. Jesus describes the Holy Spirit as like "a spring of water welling up to eternal life."(John 4.14)
February 17, 2017
The Ten Commandments are spiritual laws that define holiness or wholeness in Christ. I am quite frankly tired of vague liberal sermons on love that seem to suggest that law is judgemental and unloving - and can sometimes be set aside for pastoral reasons. It was an Epiphany moment for me to realize that Law defines holy love. Not vague romantic or sexual love but holy love. The Readings help us understand the importance of holiness in our lives. As Men and Women "of Jesus" we have died to the unholy things of this world and been reborn into a new spiritual life of holy sacrificial love, joy and peace.
1. Holy Love Is Self-sacrificial
In the Gospel Reading (Mt. 6.38-48) Jesus is defining self-sacrificial holy love as the opposite of "getting even". This is the opposite of our human sense of justice as
January 13, 2017
John the Baptist had an Epiphany moment. He saw something very important about his Cousin Jesus. This revelation was perhaps even more important than Jesus being the Messiah, the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. John saw that repentance, water baptism and the taking away of personal sin was not the end but the means to an even greater end. Jesus sacrificial death created a new way for everyone to enter God's spiritual kingdom through belief in Jesus and baptism in the Holy Spirit.
1. Water baptism prepares us for Holy Spirit Baptism