Tag Archives: false prophets

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 15

Track 1: My Beloved Had a Vineyard

Isaiah 5:1-7
Psalm 80:1-2, 8-18
Hebrews 11:29-12:2
Luke 12:49-56

Many times in the scriptures we see God using a vineyard as a metaphor for Israel. We have an example in today’s reading from Isaiah:

I will sing for my beloved
    my love song concerning his vineyard:
My beloved had a vineyard
    on a very fertile hill.
He dug it and cleared it of stones
    and planted it with choice vines;
he built a watchtower in the midst of it
    and hewed out a wine vat in it;
he expected it to yield grapes,
    but it yielded rotten grapes.  (Isaiah 5:1-2)

God has provided so much love and caee to his vineyard. The psalmist wrote:

You brought a vine out of Egypt;
you drove out the nations and planted it.
You cleared the ground for it;
it took deep root and filled the land.
The mountains were covered with its shade,
the mighty cedars with its branches;
it sent out its branches to the sea
and its shoots to the River.
Why then have you broken down its walls,
so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit?   (Psalm:8-12)

Again, from Isaiah:

For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts
is the house of Israel,

and the people of Judah
are his pleasant planting;

he expected justice,
but saw bloodshed;

righteousness,
but heard a cry!   (Isaiah 5:7)

Israel had failed to produce the fruit that God required. What about us? Has God cared for us as well? Has he nurtured us? Has he provided all we need to grow and produce fruit for his kingdom on Earth?

When Israel failed, God provided a new approach to tending his vineyard:

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the LordBut this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord, for I will forgive their iniquity and remember their sin no more.   (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

He has done this through his Son Jesus. At the beginning of his earthly ministry. when preaching in his home town of Nazareth, Jesus quoted this scripture:

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me
    because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
    to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and release to the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
    to comfort all who mourn,
to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
    to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
    the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.   (Isaiah 61:1-3)

God would remove from his people the weight of their sin and plant the living Word within their heart. He would then water them by the power of his Holy Spirit.

What was true for Israel and is also true for us, the ingrafted branches of Israel. Not all of Israel received its nurturing. In the prelude to the Gospel of John we read:

Jesus was in the world, and the world came into being through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.   (John 1:10-13)

We need God’s forgiveness through the blood of his Son. We need his Word. It is a seed for our growth. And we need to be watered the the Holy Spirit to become children of God. Are we allowing ourselves to be nurtured by God?

In Hebrews we read:

Ground that drinks up the rain falling on it repeatedly and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is cultivated receives a blessing from God. But if it produces thorns and thistles, it is worthless and on the verge of being cursed; its end is to be burned over.   (Hebrews 6:?-8)

 

Track 2: I Came to Bring Fire

Jeremiah 23:23-29
Psalm 82
Hebrews 11:29-12:2
Luke 12:49-56

Through the Prophet Jeremiah God said:

Is not my word like fire, says the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?   (Jeremiah 23:29)

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus said:

I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!   (Luke 12:49-50)

Little, it seems, has changed. The Word of God brings fire. This should not be a surprise. John the Baptist said:

I baptize you with water for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is more powerful than I, and I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.   (Matthew 3:11)

How does this fire that Jesus brings manifest itself? Jesus asked:

Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided:

father against son
and son against father,

mother against daughter
and daughter against mother,

mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”   (Luke 12:51-53)

Does this not seem like a strange thing coming from the Prince of Peace? I am reminded of the poem of William Alexander Percy, now published as a hymn:

They cast their nets in Galilee
Just off the hills of brown
Such happy simple fisherfolk
Before the Lord came down

Contented peaceful fishermen
Before they ever knew
The peace of God That fill’d their hearts
Brimful and broke them too.

Young John who trimmed the flapping sail,
Homeless, in Patmos died.
Peter, who hauled the teeming net,
Head-down was crucified.

The peace of God, it is no peace,
But strife closed in the sod,
Yet, brothers, pray for but one thing–
The marvelous peace of God.

Are we sugarcoating the Gospel to offend as fewest people as possible to get the the message out? Offense is the message!  This was the message God gave Jeremiah:

Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the Lord. I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, “I have dreamed, I have dreamed!” How long? Will the hearts of the prophets ever turn back– those who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart? They plan to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, just as their ancestors forgot my name for Baal. Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let the one who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? says the Lord.   (Jeremiah 23:23-29)

We do not need a watered down word from God. In Hebrews we read:

The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.   (Hebrews 4:12-13)

The Christian faith is an endurance run. We are going to receive opposition. We have to expect a cross to bear. We need the word of God to perfect our faith. Jesus bore his cross for our sakes, disregarding shame and torment. Again, from Hebrews:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.   (Hebrews 12d:1-2)

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The Transfiguration

Changed into His Likeness

There was a moment when Jesus manifested His glory on the earth. We long for that moment to happen again. In today’s Gospel we read:

About eight days after Jesus had foretold his death and resurrection, Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. (Luke 9:28-29)

God also called Moses to come up His holy mountain:

Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the LORD settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the cloud. Now the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. Moses entered the cloud, and went up on the mountain. Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights. (Exodus 24:15-18)

Something happens on the mount of God. His presence and His glory are there. God’s glory is like a “devouring fire.” It changes the participant. When Moses returned to the people his face reflected the glory of God.

We remember a time when Moses was on the Mount that he asked God to show him his glory:.

For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people, unless you go with us? In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people, from every people on the face of the earth.”

The Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing that you have asked; for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” Moses said, “Show me your glory, I pray.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, ‘The Lord’; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.   (Exodus 33:16-19)

God calls us up to His holy mount for a purpose – His purpose! There are those who are merely looking for spiritual thrills. False churches and false revivals have been birthed by misunderstandings and misinterpretations of the Holy. Many have been led astray by lying spirits and false angels because they were seeking signs and wonders rather than the Lord Jesus Christ, not realizing that Satan himself can disguise himself as an angel of light. The Apostle Paul reminds us:

Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.   (Colossians 2:18-19)

The Prophet Elijah climbed the Holy Mount of God. He was running for his life. He had given up on his ministry. He was being oppressed by an evil world and thought that he was all alone. On the Mount God set him strait and renewed his spiritual life. There is an impartation of strength and purpose on  the Holy Mount of God.

Peter was on the mount of transfiguration. This was not just a metaphorical experience. It was an actual event. We have this testimony in his own words:

We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” (2 Peter 1″16-17)

Peter was told to focus on Jesus only. We are not to get distracted by anything, even by signs and wonders.

Is God calling us to come to His mount of transfiguration today? Yes, he is! Are we ready? We are not to seek spiritual experiences per se. Rather, let us seek Jesus and His glory. The Apostle Paul writes:

Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Cor. 3:17-18)

We are transformed by whom or what we worship. Let our worship be the Lord Jesus Christ and Him only. He is the culmination of all the Law and the Prophets. Let us focus on Him and listen to His words. Let us look into His face and be transformed from glory to glory.

On the mount of transfiguration, Peter was overcome and lost focus:

Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” —not knowing what he said.

God had a word for Peter:

While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”

Moses and Elijah were on the Mount of Transfiguration, . They represented the Law and Prophets. Jesus, however, is the culmination and fulfillment of the Law and Prophets. The whole of the Old Testament pointed to him.

Do we want to listen to the One who can help us overcome the chaos we see today? We are living in a time of radical transformation. How are we being transformed? By the world or by Jesus Christ? Disfigured or transfigured?Who do we reflect today?

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Third Sunday of Advent

He Came to Testify to the Light

John the Baptist seemed to spring up out of nowhere. The religious leaders in Jerusalem were not prepared from him. Reading from today’s Gospel of John:

This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’” as the prophet Isaiah said.   (John 1:19-23)

The Pharisees wanted to know why John was baptizing Jews. Baptism was required for Gentiles who were converting to Judaism. Jews were the rightful children of Abraham. They were the people of the Covenant. For the Pharisees the ministry of John the Baptist seemed irrelevant. Why was the ministry of John the Baptist needed? Again, reading from John’s Gospel:

Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.”   (John 1:24-27)

John the Baptist’s ministry was preliminary. His purpose was to testify to the light of Christ that was coming into the world. From John’s Gospel:

He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.   ()

John the Baptist’s was twofold: He came to reveal the darkness and then to point to the One who would dispel the darkness and illuminate the world. But before the people were able to see the light, they would first have to see the darkness.

Today, are we not surrounded by darkness? The darkness seems to be advancing, not retreating. Chaos has been planned by the Prince of Darkness. What must we do? Do we look for a leader that will lead us out of all this? God does lead through his anointed ones. King David was a good example. But even David fell for short of the glory of God. He was a man after God’s own heart. But he was also an adulterer and murderer. John the Baptist was a leader sent from God, but he could not deliver the people out of darkness on his own. He pointed to Jesus.

Unfortunately, we have false prophets and false teachers in our churches today who are not pointing to Jesus. In fact, many of them are not addressing the darkness in their sermons. We have self-help, happy sermons. Before we can understand, appreciate, and fully embrace the light of Christ, we must see clearly the darkness. We must see the darkness that is within ourselves.

The Apostle Paul gives us a prescription:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.   (1 Thessalonians 5:16-22)

Rather than despair, we must seek the truth of God’s Word. We must seek the Word made flesh. All true prophecy points to Jesus. We must shut out the falsehood of this world. We have false prophets and we have false journalists. Everyone who does not give glory to the Lord is not of him.

Mary, the mother of Jesus proclaimed:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,

my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.   (Luke 1:46-53)

Jesus is our savior. Do we fear him? Have we humbled ourselves before hm? Do we hunger and thirst for his righteousness?c

The Apostle Paul blessed the Church of Thessaloniki:

May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.   (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)

Advent is a season of not only preparing for the coming of the Christ child, it is also a time of preparation for the return of the Lion of Judah. The Lamb of God who was slain for us to take away our sins, is the sovereign ruler of the age to come. Does he rule our hearts today? Are we allowing his light to deliver us from darkness? Let us take our eyes off of this fallen world for a moment and reflect upon the light of Christ that is coming into the world today. Many people are opening their eyes and hearts to One who is the true light of this world.

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