Tag Archives: deliverance

Nativity of St. John the Baptist

The Path of Peace

When John the Baptist was eight days old he was brought to the temple to be circumcised as was the Jewish custom. His father the priest then prophesied over him:

And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1:75-79)
The path of peace theme is also echoed in the prophecy of Isaiah:

Comfort, O comfort my people,
    says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
    and cry to her
that she has served her term,
    that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
    double for all her sins.   (Isaiah 40:1-2)

There is only one way to peace and Jesus is that way. He is the Prince of Peace. Today, we are hearing about another peace. It is said that a peace will be provided by a new world order and a one world government and a one world religion. How much should we trust this peace? Paul writes to the Church in Thessalonica:

For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.   (1 Thessalonians 5:2-4)

When John grew into his ministry he preached that we must repent of our sins and seek the real Messiah. John prepared the way for Him. Jesus has prepared the way for us to approach God the Father.

Thomas, the disciple of Jesus was confused about the identity of Jesus:

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.   (John 14:5-6)

There are no alternative ways of peace? John the Baptist’s message was very simple. Repent and seek Jesus. His whole ministry was to point us to Jesus. Nonetheless, in the world today there are many distracting voices. These distractions lead to dead ends, literally. Jesus said:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.   (John 14:27)

The world promises peace but delivers persecution. Again Jesus said:

I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”   (John 16:33)

Peace will only come to the world during the millennial reign of Jesus. The message of John the Baptist was quite simple. He was not the Messiah. Jesus is the Messiah and true path of peace. All we need to do is repent and believe.

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Second Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 7

Track 1: I Alone Am Left

1 Kings 19:1-4, (5-7), 8-15a
Psalm 42 and 43
Galatians 3:23-29
Luke 8:26-39

Have we ever read the news headlines and felt despair? Everything seems to be going in the wrong direction. Not only that, but there seems little we can do about it. That was the Prophet Elijah. He was running for his life, looking for a place to hide. He had read the Jezebel news report. She had promised to kill him.

Elijah was hiding in a cave on Mount Horeb when God spoke to him:

Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”   (1 Kings 19:9-10)

The problem for many of us, as it was for Elijah, is that we have been reading the wrong news report.

The Prophet Habakkuk, in dire times, was seeking a word from God about what God was going to do. He had grown tires of waiting, not knowing what God was doing. Reading from Habakkuk:

Then the Lord answered me and said:

“Write the vision
And make it plain on tablets,
That he may run who reads it.
For the vision is yet for an appointed time;
But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
Because it will surely come,
It will not tarry.

“Behold the proud,
His soul is not upright in him;
But the just shall live by his faith.   (Habakkuk 2:2-4)

When our plans fail we must remember that God has a plan. God’s plan is executed on his perfect timing and not on ours. We must live by faith and continue to put our trust in God.

God told Elijah that he wa not the only one left:

Then the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel, and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill, and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”   (1 Kings 1915-18)

Today, we are not alone. The psalmist wrote:

Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul?
and why are you so disquieted within me?

Put your trust in God;
for I will yet give thanks to him,
who is the help of my countenance, and my God.   (Psalm 42:14-15)

God is our help. His word is our good news. All the other news may seem bad. God’s plan does not depend on what we may think. He will do what we cannot do. God will do what only he can do.

Today, in whom do we place our trust? No one could do what Jesus did for us. To his disciples, Jesus seemed defeated when he hung on a cruel cross. But good news from God was that Hell and death were defeated. O the cross Jesus bore all of our sin. He is our salvation, He is our good report. He is our future. Everything else will ultimately fail. God’s love for us will never fail.

 

Track 2: Under the Authority of Jesus

Isaiah 65:1-9
Psalm 22:18-27
Galatians 3:23-29
Luke 8:26-39

In the Book of James we read:

You believe there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that. And they tremble!   (James 2:19-20)

James was teaching that the Christian faith must go deeper than just believing in the existence of God. If we stop there our faith is no greater than that of demons.

In today’s Gospel reading we have an example of how demons believe and tremble:

Jesus and his disciples arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me” — for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss.   (Luke 8:26-31)

Why did the demons fear Jesus? He had authority over them. They knew who he was and that he could order them to go back into the abyss. Demons are on assignment from Satan to torture their subjects. If they fail, they just return to the abyss and be tortured themselves. But that is for another time.

We want to examine the authority of Jesus over demons. We remember the time when Jesus sent out 72 disciples into the country side on minister in his name. Reading from the Gospel of Luke:

The 72 returned with joy. They said, “Lord, even the demons obey us when we speak in your name.”

Jesus replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to walk all over snakes and scorpions. You will be able to destroy all the power of the enemy. Nothing will harm you. But do not be glad when the evil spirits obey you. Instead, be glad that your names are written in heaven.”   (Luke 10:18-20)

Jesus is able to grant us his authority over demons to others. On the Day of Pentecost, the Church received the power of the Holy Spirit. Just before his ascension, Jesus commissioned his disciples:

“Go into all the world and proclaim the good news[d] to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved, but the one who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes,[e] and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”   (Mark 16:15-18)

Casting out demons in the Early Church occurred on a regular basis, using the name and authority of Jesus. But this was not some foolproof  formula. We read in the Book of Acts:

Some Jews went around driving out evil spirits. They tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus to set free those who were controlled by demons. They said, “In Jesus’ name I command you to come out. He is the Jesus that Paul is preaching about.” Seven sons of Sceva were doing this. Sceva was a Jewish chief priest. One day the evil spirit answered them, “I know Jesus. And I know about Paul. But who are you?” Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on Sceva’s sons. He overpowered them all. He gave them a terrible beating. They ran out of the house naked and bleeding.   (Acts 19:13-16)

The demons were under the authority of Jesus. To cast them out, we must also be under the authority of Jesus. We have no power on our own to do so.

Today, do we understand that much of the opposition to the ministry of the Church comes from demons? We cannot be naive about the demonic. We are in open spiritual warfare. The Apostle Paul wrote:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power; put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil, for our struggle is not against blood and flesh but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on the evil day and, having prevailed against everything, to stand firm. Stand, therefore, and belt your waist with truth and put on the breastplate of righteousness and lace up your sandals in preparation for the gospel of peace. With all of these,[take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.   (Ephesians 6:10-18)

Are we under the authority of Jesus Christ today? His name must mean something to us. It must mean everything. Therefore, we must give him our everything. He is calling us to give him our all.

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Third Sunday in Lent

The Heart of God

Moses encountered God at the burning bush that would not consume. There he was given an assignment by God, a very big assignment: Reading from Exodus:

The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” He said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.”   (Exodus 3:9-12)

Moses was reluctant. Then he became impatient with God’s plan due to the way the children of Israel were responding. We remember the numerous plagues God brought against Pharaoh and Egypt, the many signs and wonders he performed through Moses.

Moses learned to trust and be patient. God’s timing is not always our timing. But his timing is perfect. He brought a great victory. He delivered his people from bondage in Egypt and brought everyone out safely while their enemy was destroyed.

How did they respond. The Apostle Paul writes:

I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness.   (1 Corinthians 10:1-5)

Israel had seen more signs and wonders of God than anyoney. How could so many of them rebel against God? They misjudged the character and heart of God. For them, God had become the cause of all their problems. How do we relate to the Israel in the wilderness?

At times we find ourselves in our own wilderness? When things do not go the way we wanted, we may grow impatient with God. God’s timing is perfect. His plans for us may be better than our plans.

Let us look a little deeper. What might be the first words out of our mouths when, suddenly, an unanticipated attack or offense comes our way?  Do we blame God? We may say “no” but our initial words may have sounded life a “yes.” The enemy wants to make us believe that the evil deeds he is doing is God’s evil.

Reading from Today’s Gospel:

At that very time there were some present who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them–do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”   (Luke 13:1-5)

The question must have grieved Jesus. He responded by going directly to the heart of the matter: repentance. Imagine how God fells when we blame him for all the tragedies in this world. That may far surpass taking God’s name in vain.

The psalmist wrote:

You are good and do good;
    teach me your statutes.   (Psalm 119:68)

Is it loving God’s desire to destroy the ones he has made in his own image for eternal companionship? Do we really think that?

God does allow our faith to be tested:

No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.   ( 1 Corinthians 10:13)

And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you.   (1 Peter 5:10)

If we misunderstand God and become angry at him, then it is a good indication that we need emotional healing. We may have been wounded in our souls. God wants to heal us, and he will if we allow him.

There is a limit on how many times one rejects God. Jesus told this parable about a fig tree:

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'”   (Luke 13:6-9)

The fig tree stood for Israel. It also stands for us. Do we wish God’s tender care in order that we may bear fruit?

God wants to heal us and forgive us. Repentance is the key. When we find ourselves hating God and blaming him for every tragedy and atrocity that we see, we need his healing and deliverance from the lies of the enemy. Here is the good news:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.   (John 3:16-17)

This should establish our love relationship with God. He loves us enough to give of his all.

Today, Jesus i9s calling us to his altar:

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.   (Matthew 11:28-29)

He wants to make us whole in him.

See Healing the Soul.

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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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