Category Archives: Advent

Saint Thomas, Apostle

jesusthomasdoubt1The Righteous Will Live by Faith

Saint Thomas the Apostle is remembered as “Doubting Thomas.” That may be a little unfair to him. To be sure, he was a skeptic concerning the resurrection of Jesus:

Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with the other disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”   (John 20:24-25)

No one had ever been raised from the dead before. Thomas was confused about the mission of Jesus. On the other hand, Thomas was a faithful disciple. He was willing to sacrifice for what he believed was the cause of Christ. As Jesus was speaking about going to Jerusalem, which proved to be his last trip there, Thomas was aware of the danger involved:

Then Thomas said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”   (John 11:16)

Following Jesus is not easy. Many churches preach a Gospel that is without cost on the part of believers. Jesus was sacrificed on the cross, but there is little talk about the cross which we must take up daily. Jesus said:

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”   (Luke 9:23)

We must be prepared to make sacrifices if we are to live out the faith in our day. This is especially true in our nation today. Are we willing to go the distance?

Thomas was willing to go the distance. From today’s reading from Hebrews:

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.For,

“In just a little while,
he who is coming will come
and will not delay.”

And,

“But my righteous one will live by faith.
And I take no pleasure
in the one who shrinks back.”   (Hebrews 10:35-38)

During times of test and trials, are we willing to stand our ground for the Lord? We will if we have a vision that God has given us to embrace. If we do not have a vision then we must ask God for one. It is in the difficult times that our vision is most clarified, provided that we seek God and His Word, and provided that we are willing to wait on His response.

From today’s Old Testament reading:

I will stand at my watchpost and station myself on the rampart; I will keep watch to see what he will say to me, and what he will answer concerning my complaint. Then the LORD answered me and said: Write the vision; make it plain on tablets , so that a runner may read it. For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay. Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith.   (Habakkuk 2:1-4)

Living by faith is trusting in God without seeing around the next corner. Jesus has gone ahead of us and He is leading us. Are we willing to follow? Thomas was willing. When he realized that Jesus had risen from the dead he said: “My Lord and my God!”

According to Eusebius’ record, Thomas and Bartholomew were assigned to Parthia and India. Saint Thomas was allegedly martyred at St.Thomas Mount, in Chennai, in 72 A.D July 3rd, and his body was interred in Mylapore. It was said that his ministry led to numerous conversions to Christ. He had been transformed from doubt to great faith and works of the Gospel. The challenge is to live by faith regardless of the circumstances.

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Fourth Sunday of Advent

Blessed Is the Fruit of Your Womb.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, visited her cousin Elizabeth who was also with child. When the child in Elizabeth’s womb hears Mary’s voice he leaps for joy. This child is John the Baptist. This moment of celebration brings joy to Mary and she prophesies:

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
    and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
    Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
    and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and sent the rich away empty.   (Luke 1:47-55)

What is remarkable about Mary and Elizabeth also is that they believed in the promise of God, even though great miracles of God were required. Mary, a virgin, had conceived a child and Elizabeth, who was well beyond any child bearing age, had also conceived. Nevertheless, these chosen instruments of God were able to believe God as did Abraham before them.

Are we able to believe in the miraculous today? Mary and Elizabeth understood that the promises God made to them were not just about them. Jesus and John the Baptist are children of the promise which God made to Abraham. Their births extended and expanded this promise down through the ages. Today, we are recipients of the promise. Micah prophesied:

You, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
who are one of the little clans of Judah,

from you shall come forth for me
one who is to rule in Israel,

whose origin is from of old,
from ancient days.

Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labor has brought forth;

then the rest of his kindred shall return
to the people of Israel.

And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.

And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth;

and he shall be the one of peace.   (Micah 5:2-5)

God has made promises to us as well. His plans for us may not be as dramatic as that of Mary or Elizabeth, but they are important to God’s plan. Are we willing to believe in those promises and hold on to them? We are fast approaching the time when Jesus Christ, born in little Bethlehem, will truly be great to the ends of the earth.

God will do great things through us. We are called to help usher in the Millennial Reign. He requires that we exercise our faith. Are we willing to hear, believe, and stand on this great promise that Jesus will be Lord of All?

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Third Sunday of Advent

He Will Baptize You with the Holy Spirit and Fire

Baptism can be a controversial subjection. Whole denominations are separated over their understanding of baptism. This is no5 something new. The baptism of John the Baptist was quite controversial. Reading from the Gospel of Luke:

John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”   (Luke 3:7-9)

Baptism was required only for Gentile converts to Judaism. Circumcised “children of Abraham were already members of the faith. They were born into Judaism. John the Baptist command was: “Bear fruits worthy of repentance.”

John said that there was more to come. Repentance was just the first step. He spoke of the coming one more powerful than he:

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.   (Luke 3:15-16)

This baptism is our controversial one in the church today. What is this baptism? The prophet Isaiah eluded to it:

Surely, it is God who saves me;
I will trust in him and not be afraid.

For the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense,
and he will be my Savior.

Therefore you shall draw water with rejoicing
from the springs of salvation.   (Isaiah 12:2-3)

In his conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well Jesus also talked about a a spring of living water:

The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”   (John 4:9-14)

Jesus, on the day of the Festival of Booths, further explained this living water:

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.   (John 7:37-39)

Jesus was glorified on the cross. He purchased for us forgiveness for our sins and salvation. He also purchased the right to baptize us in the Holy Spirit with fire. Do we have the fire of the Holy Spirit inside us today?

Is the baptism of the Holy Spirit merely a theological subject to be debated? Isaiah wrote that we shall draw water with rejoicing from the springs of salvation. This baptism is to be experienced. Jesus said that it would be like a spring of water gushing up within us.

Is that our experience? Maybe not if we believe that we were born into it. The Christian faith has to do with a new birth. The Apostle Paul wrote:

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!   (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Are we thirsty for more of God? Do we desire to experience the refreshment of the Holy Spirit flowing within us?

Jesus said to the Samaritan woman:

If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 

How many of us need this living water today? Jesus is the baptizer with the Holy Spirit.and fire. Do we know him? Do we know the gift? And are we willing to ask for this gift? Jesus Said:

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit[a] to those who ask him!”   (Luke 11:13)

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Second Sunday of Advent

Repentance and the Gospel

Israel was under bondage to Rome. They had not heard from a prophet of God for four years. They were longing for a message of deliverance. Where was the God of the Covenant?

As prophesied by Malachi, suddenly, God’s messenger would appear:

See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?

For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness.   (Malachi 3:1-3)

God’s messenger was John the Baptist. Reading from the Gospel of Luke:

The word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,

“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:

‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.

Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,

and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;

and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'”   (Luke 3:2-6)

God was fulfilling his covenant promise, but Israel was not ready for how he would do it. He would require them to repent, for they had not kept their end of the Abrahamic Covenant. They had not been faithful in following the Commandments of Moses. A correction was required by God. How would he do it?

Reading the prophecy of Zechariah from the first chapter of Luke:

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a mighty savior for us
in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and has remembered his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness
before him all our days.   (Luke 1: 68-75)

A savior was raised up from the house of David. He would be able to fulfill the righteous requirements of the Abrahamic Covenant that no one else could fulfill. John the Baptist would prepare the people to receive the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Continuing with prophecy of Zechariah:

And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
by the forgiveness of their sins.
By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.”   (Luke 1: 76-79)

Notice that the forgiveness of sin was central to the message of John. John reached:

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.   (Mark 1:4)

What Jesus began his earthly ministry, he preached the same message:

Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”   (Mark 1:14)

Sadly, much of today’s Gospel message leaves out the requirement for repentance. For this reason it has no power. Because of certain “mandates” many people are afraid to openly worship God. Has not God delivered us from fear?

He has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and has remembered his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness
before him all our days.   (Luke 1: 72-75)

There is little boldness in those who have not totally surrendered to Jesus. All of us need the light of Christ to survive the times we are in.

By the tender mercy of our God,
    the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
    to guide our feet into the way of peace.”   (Luke 1:78-79)

God is with us. Are we with him?

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.   (Psalm 23:4)

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