God So Loved the World

Posted by on May 28, 2021 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on God So Loved the World

This Sunday is the first Sunday after Pentecost. From this Sunday, until the first Sunday in Advent, we are going to be looking at what Jesus does in our lives. We are going to be looking again at the lessons Jesus was telling his disciples as they were preparing for their mission, that begins the day after Pentecost. The gospel lesson for Trinity Sunday is from John 3:1-17. The Trinity is not an easy thing to explain, but in my preparation for this Sunday, I realized that we have been considering the three persons in the Trinity in the last several weeks. Let me explain. We have acknowledged that God created the world. We know that God was responsible for all of creation. God was also the one who spoke to the Old Testament prophets and were given the words to prepare those who read the scriptures for the appearance of Jesus. Remember that last week, Luke reported that Peter was speaking to the eleven disciples and quoted the section from the prophet Joel, who told of the coming of the Lord and the coming of the Holy Spirit. Another striking example of this inspiration from God comes in Psalm 22, when it is recorded that Jesus garments will be divided among those who crucified him, as they cast lots for his clothing. In many instances, the New Testament writers also include the verses and sentences in the Old Testament and equate them to occurrences in the New Testament.We have experienced, through our worship, the birth, teachings, death and resurrection of God’s Son, Jesus. We have experienced his baptism by John the Baptist, that began his mission to gather disciples who would proclaim the word of God as well as to proclaim God’s promises to them. We have rejoiced with Jesus when people turned to God after they had heard the promises and experienced healing. Then, as Jesus was with the disciples in His last days on earth, he proclaimed that there would be an Advocate, a helper, coming to them. This helper couldn’t come until Jesus had ascended to His Father. This Advocate would help the disciples move through their mission as they had been prepared for by Jesus. This Advocate would protect them, teach them, speak to them and guide them in the paths they were to take to continue the mission of bringing the gospel to the whole world.These many examples really spoke to me that we have seen the Trinity in operation not only through this past year in our studies, but also in our lives as we live our life committed to God and His promises. It became fairly clear to me that God loves the world he created. He loves this world so much that He knew he had to send His son, as a human, to shed His blood for the forgiveness of the sins of those who accepted Jesus as Son of God. God also knew that there needed to be another avenue for those who accepted His Son and accepted the challenges of living and moving through the world to be strengthened, taught, and protected. So, he sent the Holy Spirit to us all. In our gospel reading from John 3, we see Nicodemus approaching Jesus in the darkness of night. He acknowledges that Jesus was sent from God because of the signs Jesus performs. However, Nicodemus cannot acknowledge that those who follow God and who study the word of God must accept what God has done. It appears that Nicodemus, even though he is a scholar and a teacher...

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A Way of Life

Posted by on May 22, 2021 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on A Way of Life

On this 8th Sunday of Easter, we are celebrating Pentecost. We will also be considering two selections from the Bible, namely John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15 and Acts 2:1-21. In the selection from Acts we will be reading about the actual day of Pentecost as Luke wrote about and in the text from John, we will be finding what Jesus was saying to his disciples when they receive the Advocate, or the Holy Spirit.In the text from Acts, we see several very interesting things. At least they were interesting to me and expanded my understanding of what the disciples and all the people around experienced that day.Pentecost is actually the theological basis for God’s promises to Israel to be fulfilled. This day occurs 50 days after the Passover celebration, which in Jesus’ time was harvest time. Luke states that in addition to the disciples, there were about 120 people in the temple court. Some people would have equated this group to those who had experienced God’s appearance on Mount Sinai.While these people were celebrating, they experienced a couple of very interesting things. Tongues of fire reigned down on them and landed on each of those attending. This was a physical indication of the presence of God among them…as well as reminding them of when God gave the law to Moses in the wilderness. The believers there received the Holy Spirit with the tongues of fire…as well as the gift of being able to speak to all the people around them. You ask…”what?” Yes…not all of the people in attendance spoke the same language. Some were from different countries and all of a sudden they could understand what the followers were saying. The people were not speaking foolish things that no one could understand, they were speaking in known, earthly languages that would be used to spread the word to all people.Residents of Jerusalem heard all of this and some felt those people were drunk at 9:30 in the morning. Luke names all of the various nationalities that were in attendance, which indicated that the word of those who would be speaking God’s word would be moving from the east to the west…with Jerusalem at the center with 15 nations represented. Then, Peter began speaking the words of the prophet Joel that described how God would give His Spirit. This was given to the people by God as an internal power for all believers, not laws that are mostly external restraints. The wind that arose indicated the power of God. The fire showed the people that God was present and that it rested on everyone…no one was excluded. The speaking of languages also indicated that this was a gift to go to everyone. The purpose of these gifts was the start of a new era showing God’s redemption to all and indicated the beginning of the growth of the church. Luke meant for this act to indicate that the gospel would be taken and available to all people.In the section from the gospel of John, Jesus is telling his disciples he will not always be with them. He says he will be going back to God…who sent him to begin his ministry to the people. But, he also tells the disciples that the Advocate will be sent to them who will protect them, as he know they will experience hatred. The disciples will be persecuted…much as Jesus was hated and persecuted. Jesus also says that the Advocate will come to bring the words the disciples and followers are to speak as well as the direction where to go. He will guide them...

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Unity

Posted by on May 16, 2021 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Unity

UnityOn this 7th Sunday of Easter, we are considering the words of John 17:6-19. In this section, Jesus is specifically praying for His disciples and His followers when He will be arrested and crucified. He’s also looking ahead to when he will ascend to His Father and leaving the followers to do the work he has commissioned them to do.Jesus tells His Father that he has revealed God to this group of people. He has taught them the scripture, specifically the words that deal with being chosen and not being a part of the world. Rather, they are separated in ways from the world, but are being taught to not reject the world as this is where they will be doing God’s work.Jesus is praying for the protection of the disciples as He is aware that they are not popular in the world. He knows they will be hated. He knows that after His death and ascension, the unity of the disciples will be under attack. Jesus views the followers as a gift to Him from God…and that they are taken out of the world. He states that he knows the disciples are from God and they belong to both God and Jesus. He prays that the disciples will stay in God’s name, study God’s word and proclaim God’s word to all the communities they will be part of. Jesus states that he knows that He has been given God’s name….he is the I AM. He also states that he knows that Judas’ actions fulfilled three Old Testament prophecies. With that statement, he asks God to protect his disciples (followers) from the evil one. He asks God to sanctify his followers that they may be set apart for God’s use, which is mission to the world. It is interesting that he asks that God help the disciples replace lies with the truth, knowing that God’s word is truth and is the source of truth. He knows that being a follower of God encourages the followers to be part of the world, not isolated from the world. There is a very strong statement that really spoke to me…Jesus acknowledges that His disciples are sent into the world, just as Jesus was. In other words, nothing is asked of Christians that Christ has not first experienced and modeled.This entire section in John speaks to us in a very powerful way. Jesus is praying, not only for his disciples at that time, but also for those of us who have accepted God, accepted Jesus as our Savior, have been baptized and promised to follow Him. Jesus knows that we are not going to be very popular as we carry out the commissioning, we have been given to be apostles to the world in our words and our actions. He promises us that we can experience unity when we pray, read God’s word and are kept under the protection of God. This is being sanctified to be His disciples. What does “unity” mean in our day and age? It’s difficult to consider this word, isn’t it? I’m not sure we really experience much in the way of unity right now. But, that is what is being asked of us as followers of Jesus and his apostles. Jesus is praying that all of us would be as Jesus and the Father are…”as one”. Jesus wants us to be close to each other…much as Jesus and God are. We are different in many ways, but also parts of the whole to accomplish the work on earth, that is community. Yes, we are individuals, but our...

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Abide and Grow

Posted by on May 9, 2021 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Abide and Grow

The gospel lesson for this 6th Sunday of Easter is from John 15:9-17. These verses come right after John had recorded the parable Jesus was telling the followers about the vine and branches as we considered last week.The words Jesus spoke in verse 9 are: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love.” Jesus is telling us of how deep the love is for all those who God has created and for whom Jesus gave up His life. Do we really realize how deep God’s love for us is? This isn’t an emotional type of love…this is a “giving” love”. This is a choice God has made….and chose to give His Son up for those he loves.Jesus goes a little farther in the verses to say that if his followers keep his commandments, as he has kept his Father’s commandments, they, too will abide in God’s love. In some of my reading, one of the authors suggested that the word “if” should be interpreted as “when”. When the followers keep the commandments Jesus has given them, they will abide in God’s love. In other words, there is no question that if the disciples of Jesus follow his commandments, they will continue to be loved and cared for by God.I looked up what commandments Jesus gave to the people who were listening to him during his life and well as to his disciples. There are seven commandments Jesus gives to us all. They are all named in the New Testament, but here they are for our consideration today. The first and greatest commandment was to Love one another…as God has loved us. Jesus also asked his followers to pray for our enemies, to repent of our sins, to believe that Jesus and the Father are one and the same, to take up our Cross, deny themselves and follow him. He also asked his disciples to go into the world and make disciples and ultimately to pray always.It is also interesting to see that Jesus states that he looks on his followers as friends, not servants. He states this plainly in verse 13 when he says, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down his life for one’s friends.” Jesus is saying to us that he offered his life as a slave, but that the disciples and we are considered not slaves, but friends. In comparison to the Jewish laws that the people of Israel had been following for years, the commandments of Jesus are VERY different and carry the assurance that when the commandments are followed, the people will always be living in God’s love. As we can see from the statements about the commandments, they really consist of a sacrificial love for other people. Like Jesus gave up his life for us, we are to live and love sacrificially…not in concern for our own personal things and well-being, but for the people God has made. This command to love others as God has loved us is a choice we make. In the rest of the section from John, we see Jesus saying to us that He has not hidden anything from us. We are friends, not servants. He has told us all that we need to know to be His disciples here on earth. The ultimate statement is that now, the listeners to Jesus at this time were then not called disciples, but apostles. They were, after these statements, given the appointment to go and tell the world about Jesus. We, too, are apostles now. We have been appointed to...

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