Prayer for the Week

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Paradise?

Reign of Christ Sunday | November 24

What do you think of when you hear the word Paradise?

Jeremiah 23:1-6 • Luke 1:68-79 • Colossians 1:11-20 • Luke 23:33-43

33 When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left.

34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.

35 The crowd watched and the leaders scoffed. “He saved others,” they said, “let him save himself if he is really God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” 36 The soldiers mocked him, too, by offering him a drink of sour wine. 37 They called out to him, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 A sign was fastened above him with these words: “This is the King of the Jews.”

39 One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!”

40 But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? 41 We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”

43 And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Luke 23:33-43 New Living Translation (NLT)


What do you think of when you hear the word “paradise.” If you put the word into Google’s search engine, you see beautiful sunsets, beaches, island paradises, and other things that we consider to be earthly paradise.

This Sunday ends the church year. We call it “Reign of Christ Sunday” or “Christ the King Sunday.” I’m reminded of the Gaither song “Get all excited!” This Sunday reminds us that Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Jesus is the one who has the authority to grant access to paradise.

I love the scripture from Colossians 1:

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
    He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation,
16 for through him God created everything
    in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see
    and the things we can’t see—
such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.
    Everything was created through him and for him.
17 He existed before anything else,
    and he holds all creation together.
18 Christ is also the head of the church,
    which is his body.
He is the beginning,
    supreme over all who rise from the dead.
    So he is first in everything.
19 For God in all his fullness
    was pleased to live in Christ,
20 and through him God reconciled
    everything to himself.
He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth
    by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.

Colossians 1:15-20

Jesus is the ultimate ruler – Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lord – Jesus is above all and in all. One day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.

To those who surrender their life to Jesus, to those he gives the keys to paradise, or what we call heaven. The Apostle John writes what this paradise will look like: (Revelation 21)

21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” 

Revelation 21

In the last chapter we hear these words:

Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations.

No longer will there be a curse upon anything. For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants will worship him. And they will see his face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. And there will be no night there—no need for lamps or sun—for the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever.

Revelation 22

Paradise is available to all who place their trust in Jesus.

  • Admit that you have sinned
  • Believe Jesus died for your sins and rose from the dead
  • Confess your faith in Jesus Christ and make him the Lord of your life

If you do, you can join Jesus in paradise.

Above All

alpha-889309_640.pngReign of Christ –  (November 26, 2017)


Ephesians 1:15-23 | New Living Translation (NLT)

Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people everywhere, I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.

I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.


This Sunday brings to a close the Christian calendar for another year.  The following Sunday will will begin Advent – which in some ways is like a New Year’s Day.  This year we have been in the cycle A readings and it will complete 11 years of doing this weekly devotional based on the Revised Common Lectionary.  I like the challenge.

Reign of Christ Sunday

This week’s passage takes us to Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus.  After his greeting to the church, he turns to a prayer for the church.  In it he prays for three things. The first thing Paul prays for the church at Ephesus is this:

  1. He prays that God would give the believers spiritual wisdom and insight. Paul wants the believers to grow in their knowledge of God.  I think all of us who are pastors, pray this for our congregations.  I know that I pray that the congregation that I serve would grow in their knowledge of God.  Back when I was in FLAME, we always talked about being lifelong learners.  This doesn’t just apply to pastors or teachers, or those tasked with leading congregations or educational institutions.  It is important for us to continue to grow in knowledge.  I think that it is amazing that every time that I read through the Bible I learn something new.  Something pops out that I had never seen before.  This is a good thing.  This really leads us to the importance of continuing discipleship.  There are times in our spiritual walk that we get caught in a rut.  I’ve heard the simple illustration that a rut is simply a grave with both ends knocked out.  When we are growing, we don’t get caught in that rut – when we have spiritual wisdom and insight, we can tell what is right and what is wrong.  This is important, especially when it comes to the knowledge of God.  Our family was talking about the Wesleyan Quadrilateral this week.  For those of you unfamiliar, it is a way of interpreting scripture. Scripture is at the base, but let’s be honest – as you can see by the illustration – reason, tradition, and experience come into play.  So often we think of tradition as a bad thing, but it doesn’t have to be that way.  Tradition in this case says, what has the church for the last 2,000 years said about this scripture? If we come up with something completely new, we might need to check it – does it fit with the church’s teaching for the last 2,000 years – does it fit with logic or reason, does it match with Christian’s experience?  Scripture is the primary way that we grow in knowledge of who God is.  My prayer is that each person would constantly be growing in the knowledge of God.
  2. Paul then prays that the believers hearts will be flooded with light – so that we can understand the confident hope he has give to his called out people – holy people – set apart people  – a rich and glorious inheritance.  At this moment, I want you to think of a powerful floodlight – so powerful that it cuts through the darkness – it cuts through the fog. This is what Paul is praying for the believers in Ephesus.  He is praying that their hearts would be flooded with a floodlight that cuts through the darkness of our human nature…When we talk about this human nature, we are talking about the nature that goes against God.  A word that you may have heard before is the carnal nature.  It’s an adjective that means pertaining to or characterized by the flesh or the body, its passions and appetites; not spiritual but merely human; temporal; worldly.  This is the darkness – the darkness of our human nature and it really is bad news, but contrast that to the light – God’s light.  Christ followers – we were not called out of darkness to live just like everyone else, no we called out of darkness, into his glorious light.  Peter (one of Jesus’ disciples writes:) “But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.” If we are Christ followers – if we have placed our trust in Christ – we are called out of the darkness and we should follow it no more.  We are a people who are set apart – we have been called into His glorious light – and because of that – we have a glorious hope – a rich and glorious inheritance.  That my friends is the hope of eternal life – an eternity in the presence of God.
  3. Finally Paul prays that the believers would understand the greatness of the power that God has given to believers.  Do you realize that if you are in Christ, you have great power?  I really don’t believe that many who call themselves Christ-followers really believe that.  The power that God has given us is literally dynamite.  There is a word that is used in the Greek – dunamis – it is used 120 times in the New Testament. The word refers to “strength, power, or ability.” We know it in our English words dynamite, dynamo and dynamic. Paul wants us to know that we have great power available to us.  He goes on to say that it is the same power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.  Did you catch that?  Let’s go back to our human nature for a moment.  So many times we think that we don’t have the power to overcome our human nature, our carnal desires, But we – if we are trusting in Christ and are filled with the Holy Spirit – have the same power – the dunamis – the dynamite – that raise Jesus Christ from the dead – and now he is sitting in heaven – waiting for us to use what he has given us.  We don’t have to live in our human nature because God has given us the power not to.

Wow! what a great prayer for believers that we would be filled with spiritual wisdom and insight, flooded with light, and understand the incredible greatness of God’s power.

Not only did that power raise Jesus from the grave, but it gave him ultimate authority.  Paul tells us this authority is present in the current world.  Christ has ultimate authority over any ruler – any authority – any power – any leader – and just so that you get the point – Paul says that Jesus has authority over anything else – talk about your glorious hope.  In a world where it seems that everything is going crazy – Christ is the ultimate authority and he has the final say.  I don’t know about you, but it appears to me that the world has gone insane.  I know that I wonder, “What in the world is going to happen?”  But because of my faith in Christ – because of my trust in him that he came to die for my sins – that he was raised from the dead through God’s power – and that he is sitting on the throne in a place of authority given to him by God. God has place Jesus in authority over everything – over this current world and the one to come.  This is the glorious hope – in that world to come there will be no more evil – no more tears – no more pain.

John writes in the book of Revelation:

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!”

This is the glorious hope that Paul was talking about – that if we place our lives in the Savior’s hands – if we live for him – if we obey his commands – if we love God with all of our heart and we love our neighbors as ourselves, we have a glorious hope – we have a glorious inheritance in heaven.

Jesus is the King of kings – Jesus is the Lord of lords – Jesus is the God of gods and his reign is eternal.

Prayer for the Week

cross-crownAlmighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Reign of Christ Sunday


Reign of Christ – Proper 29 (34) (November 22, 2015)

 


 

Psalm 132:1-18 New Living Translation

A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem.

Lord, remember David
    and all that he suffered.
He made a solemn promise to the Lord.
    He vowed to the Mighty One of Israel,
“I will not go home;
    I will not let myself rest.
I will not let my eyes sleep
    nor close my eyelids in slumber
until I find a place to build a house for the Lord,
    a sanctuary for the Mighty One of Israel.”

We heard that the Ark was in Ephrathah;
    then we found it in the distant countryside of Jaar.
Let us go to the sanctuary of the Lord;
    let us worship at the footstool of his throne.
Arise, O Lord, and enter your resting place,
    along with the Ark, the symbol of your power.
May your priests be clothed in godliness;
    may your loyal servants sing for joy.
For the sake of your servant David,
    do not reject the king you have anointed.
The Lord swore an oath to David
    with a promise he will never take back:
“I will place one of your descendants
    on your throne.
If your descendants obey the terms of my covenant
    and the laws that I teach them,
then your royal line
    will continue forever and ever.”

For the Lord has chosen Jerusalem;
    he has desired it for his home.
“This is my resting place forever,” he said.
    “I will live here, for this is the home I desired.
I will bless this city and make it prosperous;
    I will satisfy its poor with food.
I will clothe its priests with godliness;
    its faithful servants will sing for joy.
Here I will increase the power of David;
    my anointed one will be a light for my people.
I will clothe his enemies with shame,
    but he will be a glorious king.”


So this post brings to a close the third cycle of 3’s.  Nine years ago, we looked at these readings as a whole and tried to find the connections.  Six years ago, I only put up the Old Testament readings. For the last three years we have looked at the Psalms and complete that this Sunday – “Reign of Christ” Sunday.  This coming Sunday completes the Christian Year.  Our readings have changed on year C, which throws a wrench into the works, but beginning on the first Sunday of Advent (November 29, 2015) we will look at the Epistles beginning again with Year C.


I think it is appropriate that the Christian year ends with Reign of Christ Sunday.  After all, Jesus will someday reign forever – even as He reigns now.  Over the last few weeks we have been studying in Sunday School, the book of Revelation.  I like the emphasis that our curriculum has put on the victory of the Lamb.  The Lamb represents Jesus.  On this Sunday we remember that Jesus is in control – that He is the victor – even as he rose again from the grave and then reminded His disciples on the Mount of Olives that he would return to establish his kingdom forever.

We have an eternal King who reigns forever.  This Sunday completes our year – before we start all over again.

Here is a contemporary version of the Isaac Watt’s hymn “Jesus Shall Reign.”


Here is a video that I created several years ago for Reign of Christ Sunday.  It is based on an old audio recording called “That’s My King.”

Reign of Christ

reignofchrist1Reign of Christ Sunday

November 23

Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth!
    Worship the Lord with gladness.
    Come before him, singing with joy.
Acknowledge that the Lord is God!
    He made us, and we are his.
    We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
    go into his courts with praise.
    Give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good.
    His unfailing love continues forever,
    and his faithfulness continues to each generation.

This Sunday finishes our annual journey through the church calendar.  This week is Reign of Christ Sunday.  While here in the US, many will celebrate it at Thanksgiving Sunday.  It was interesting as I put the worship set together.  It is a combination of themes, both of the reign of Christ (All Hail the Power of Jesus Name; God, You Reign) and Thanksgiving songs (Great Is Thy Faithfulness and 10,000 Reasons)

This is a capstone Sunday of sorts.  In some traditions, Reign of Christ Sunday reviews the church year and the incarnation, life, and reign of Christ.  Some year I would like to try a service like that.  I do think it falls quite in line with thanksgiving.  One of the verses we looked at last night in Bible study was this.  Thanks be to God for this indescribable gift.  Christ has an amazing love for his children.  So this week as you prepare for worship, remember Jesus – his incarnation, his life, his death, his resurrection and his forever reign and be thankful.