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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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Seventh Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 12

Track 1: Playing the Harlot

Hosea 1:2-10
Psalm 85
Colossians 2:6-15, (16-19)
Luke 11:1-13

God commands Hosea to marry a “wife of whoredom [zenunim],” . This Hebrew term indicates illicit sexual behavior. Reading from Hosea:

When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, “Go, take for yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.” So he went and took Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.   (Hosea 1:2-3)

This is the first of a series of expressions in Hosea where God puts himself in the place of a forsaken human lover. Israel had forsaken God by worshipping the false gods of their neighboring nations. Baal worship was one of them whereby the Israelites had to sacrifice their children for a prosperous harvest.

In our nation we may not actually worship Baal, though it has been reported that some of  our leaders do. Unwittingly, we may have been worshipping Baal by the horrendous number of abortions committed each year.

But let us discuss another from of worship. Do we get excited about big league sports and popular celebrities and entertainment that our church services? These are not necessarily bad, but can be major distractions. Who is in control of some these events? It should be easy to tell by some of the Super Bowl halftime shows. Then there is the ideology of some of the big time players of sports which is certainly not Godly or even patriotic.Are they being paid  to speak this nonsense?

How exiting and uplifting are our church services? Possibly not so much if God is locked out of our buttoned downed worship. God wants real worship. Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well:

The hour is coming and is now here when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.   (John 4:23-24)

The psalmist wrote:

I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with my whole heart;
before the gods I will sing your praise.

I will bow down toward your holy temple
and praise your Name,
because of your love and faithfulness;

For you have glorified your Name
and your word above all things.   (Psalm 85:1-3)

Are we being seduced by “lovers” other than God and his Son Jesus Christ? Through Hosea God had to tell Israel:

You are not my people and I am not your God.   (Hosea 1:10)

The psalmist wrote:

Happy is the nation whose God is the Lord,
    the people whom he has chosen as his heritage.   (Psalm 33:12)

God is now speaking to our nation, as he is to every nation around the world. We use to be the moral compass for the world. Is the world now becoming our moral compass. We are living in an extended time for repentance and God is waiting on us. Hr wants to bless us. God we want to bless him? The psalmist wrote:

Will you not give us life again,
that your people may rejoice in you?

Show us your mercy, O Lord,
and grant us your salvation.

I will listen to what the Lord God is saying,
for he is speaking peace to his faithful people
and to those who turn their hearts to him.

Truly, his salvation is very near to those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.

Mercy and truth have met together;
righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

Truth shall spring up from the earth,
and righteousness shall look down from heaven.

The Lord will indeed grant prosperity,
and our land will yield its increase.

Righteousness shall go before him,
and peace shall be a pathway for his feet.

 

Track 2: Abraham’s Intercession

Genesis 18:20-32
Psalm 138
Colossians 2:6-15, (16-19)
Luke 11:1-13

Abraham had a relationship with God the Father. He had access to him. He spoke to God face to face. He believed the promises of God more than the circumstances that he saw around him, not matter how unlikely they might seem to the human mind. He believed God’s Word and trusted that God would act upon his Word. God saw this in Abraham. He tested Abraham’s faith and Abraham passed all tests, no matter how severe they might be. Because of this, God counted Abraham’s faith as righteousness.

In today’s Old Testament reading we see Abraham interceding for the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. God was prepared to destroy the cities because of their wickedness:

The Lord said to Abraham, “How great is the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah and how very grave their sin! I must go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me; and if not, I will know.”

So the men turned from there, and went toward Sodom, while Abraham remained standing before the Lord. Then Abraham came near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will you then sweep away the place and not forgive it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” And the Lord said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will forgive the whole place for their sake.”   (Genesis 18:20-26)

There are many remarkable things about the prayers of Abraham. God listens to Abraham and takes into account what Abraham is saying. God allowed Abraham to reason with him, the Almighty God and creator of the universe and all like within it. What we view is a partnership of love and concern for all peoples, even exceptionally evil people.

Can we pray like Abraham? We should be able to do so. God calls us to such prayer. But we must have access to God. He must be able to look at us and see righteousness. In the Book of James ew read:

The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.   (James 5:16)

Jesus is our access. He is our righteousness by faith:

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast.   (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Are we now ready to pray like Abraham? In order to pray like Abraham we must also see like Abraham. Abraham had compassion for the entire human race, even for citizens of Sodom and G. In other words, Abraham was able to look through the eyes of God. Each person has the potential to become like God. He did not want to interfere with that divine call of God. Rather, he wanted to intercede for that call.

Are we able to pray for the people we judge? Are we able to pray for our enemies? Jesus said:

But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.   (Luke 6:28)

A true intercessor before God has no human enemies. The Apostle Paul wrote:

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.   (Ephesians 6:12)

Because of his faith, Abraham looked forward forward with optimism for the kingdom of God to be established:

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance, and he set out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.   (Hebrews 11:8-10)

We are in partnership with God. God needs prayers. We need his wisdom and direction. Let us follow the example of the Father of faith and pray for the lost. For in our day we see many Sodom’s and Gomorrah’s.

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Last Sunday after the Epiphany

From Glory to Glory

During this Season of Epiphany, we have been observing the many ways that God has supernaturally manifested himself . On this last Sunday after the Epiphany, perhaps it is fitting that we observe one the most meteoric manifestations of God’s glory. It is recorded in our reading from Luke:

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. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.   (Luke 9:28-31)

Jesus led Peter, James, and John up the holy mountain. They had positioned themselves. They were the disciples closest to Jesus of the twelve disciples. Jesus wants to do the same for us today when we position ourselves.

But first let us examine what the three disciples experienced. They were not prepared for what they saw:

Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, 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. 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!”    (Luke 9:32-35)

Peter was confused as any one of us might have been. The voice of God the Father tells us Jesus must be heard over all the rest. Moses represented the Law and Elijah represented the Prophets, but Jesus represented more than these two. The Apostle Paul wrote

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.   (1 Corinthians 13:1-2)

Following the Law of God by faith and holding on to the hope of fulfilled prophecy means little without one more ingredient:

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end.   (1 Corinthians 13:8)

And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.   (1 Corinthians 13:13)

Jesus was facing the cross on which her would purchase the redemption for who would believe. This would be the greatest manifestation of God’s unconditional love for humankind.

Jesus wants to lead us up the mountain of transfiguration. He wants us to experience the transforming power of God, the light of Christ and his glory. Are we ready?.

We remember that when Moses spent time with God on the mountain, his face would shine. He had to wear a veil over his face when he came down because the people were afraid to look upon him. Moses was veiled because the understanding of the Israelites was vailed.

Our understanding should not be veiled. Jesus has given us the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth. The Apostle Paul wrote:

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.   (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)

We should not dwell on our spiritual experiences. Rather, we should exhibit the changes in our lives. Paul wrote:

For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.   (2 Corinthians 4:3-6)

How have we positioned ourselves? Upon whom to we gaze? Whom or what do we worship? We become whatever we worship. Does entertainment crowd our time to spend in prayer, worship, and meditating on God’s Word?

In our lives now Jesus wants to lead us from one degree of glory to another. As we look upon his glory we become more like him. We are filled with his perfect love which casts our all fear. We shine with the light of his glory for all the world to see.

The Apostle Paul prayed:

I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.   (Ephesian 3:16-19)

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Third Sunday after the Epiphany

The Hearing of the Word

When the remnant people, in Persia, returned from exile to rebuild Jerusalem, the book of the law of Moses was read publicly to encourage them. Reading rom Nehemiah:

All the people of Israel gathered together into the square before the Water Gate. They told the scribe Ezra to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had given to Israel. Accordingly, the priest Ezra brought the law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could hear with understanding. This was on the first day of the seventh month. He read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the book of the law.

The public reading often invokes a response from the listeners. It has a powerful effect on those who were returning to Jerusalem. They were receiving a blessing from God through Ezra and were in an attitude of worship. This helped open their hearts to the message. Again from Nehemiah:

Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. Then Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. Then they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.   (Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6)

In many liturgical churches it is customary to read the appointed scriptures of the lectionary during the worship service. This was an ancient tradition in Judaism. It was true in the time of Jesus. From today’s Gospel reading::

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.   (Luke 4:14-20)

How did these two public readings of God’s word compare? Let us see. It is clear that the listeners in the synagogue were attentive to what Jesus read. From Nehemiah we read that “the ears of all the people were attentive to the book of the law.” But how did the response of the listeners compare between the two Group? Again, reading from Nehemiah:

Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”   (Nehemiah 8:9-10)

The people wept when they heard the law. They understood that they had forsaken the law of Moses and they were grieved. The power of the word of God is beautifully addressed in the Book of Hebrews:

Indeed, the word of God is living and active, 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)

God’s Word is truth. God reveals our innermost being. He is a just God. But he is also loving and forgiving. The psalmist wrote:

The statutes of the Lord are just
and rejoice the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is clear
and gives light to the eyes.

The fear of the Lord is clean
and endures for ever;
the judgments of the Lord are true
and righteous altogether.   (Psalm 19:8-9)

How we respond to the Word is all important.

After Jesus read the appointed scripture from Isaiah, He made this bold statement to his hometown people of Nazareth who knew him as the carpenter’s son:

Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”   (Luke 4:21)

The word “today‘ jolted the listeners. It is one thing to hear scripture with piety and feigned reverence, but it is quite another to understand the scripture is always now. To be sure, Jesus proclaimed a powerful fulfillment of prophecy. His listeners were not prepared for this, but neither were they in worship as the exiles. We remember that they wanted to throw Jesus off a cliff and kill him.

How do we respond to the reading of scripture? Or how do we respond to the sermon? This may make us feel uncomfortable. It often leads to sorrow, but also joy when we repent. Without repentance the Word of God cannot be fully active in our lives.

With an attitude of worship and humility before God great things can transpire. The returning exiles rebuilt the walls around Jerusalem and the new temple. Equally as important, if not more so, their faith in God was restored.

Reading from the Book of Acts, The Apostle Paul spoke to the Ephesian elders:

And now I commend you to God and to the message of his grace, a message that is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all who are sanctified.   (Acts 20:32)

What is our destiny?  What is our inheritance? It is dependent upon our hearing of the word. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans:

As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” But not all have obeyed the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.   (Romans 10:15-17)

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