Today we woke up to -15 degrees. This is easily the coldest temps that we have experienced since we left New York, which is before I ever started blogging. It has been that kind of week. Not only did we experience that extreme low and some extreme wind chills over the last couple of days, we have yet to experience a day over 20 degrees this year. That changes tomorrow as we see a high in the low 30’s and then it looks like we are going to start on a temperature roller coaster. There are 40s and 50’s for highs and mid twenties for highs over the long term. This week we will enjoy a change of pace from the brutal cold, we even may see the 50’s this week.
The weather was big news this week, but we also had our kids here. Our beautiful grandchildren were here along with their mom and dad. We got to celebrate Christmas which was appropriate being that season of Christmas didn’t end until Friday night. It was a good, but weather shortened week.
This week, I’m working a new sermon series on the Parables of Jesus. I don’t think I’ve ever done a series on that so I am looking forward to preaching this series. It’s going to be a busy week this week – board meeting, prayer meeting, missions meeting and our local pastor’s meeting that got canceled last week, because several of us are bus drivers and couldn’t be there at the meeting time because of a rare two hour delay. We also had a rare canceled day this week because of the cold.
Finally, we had a good service this morning, despite the -15 start to the day. We did a Covenant Renewal Service, which is much more formal than our normal service. I often compare it to renewing our marriage vows. I think it’s important to begin the new year this way. I think there was a good response to the service.
That’s about it for this week. I am hoping to get some more run/walks in this week. Blessings…
Acts 19:1-7 |New Living Translation (NLT)
While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior regions until he reached Ephesus, on the coast, where he found several believers. “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” he asked them.
“No,” they replied, “we haven’t even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
“Then what baptism did you experience?” he asked.
And they replied, “The baptism of John.”
Paul said, “John’s baptism called for repentance from sin. But John himself told the people to believe in the one who would come later, meaning Jesus.”
As soon as they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in other tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all.
Today is the Baptism of our Lord or we could say the Baptism of Jesus. The gospel reading for today highlights Jesus being baptized. As Jesus is being baptized a dove signifying the Holy Spirit descends from heaven and the voice of God the Father speaks. John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus and he was preparing the way. In many ways, I see his Jesus baptism as a way of passing on the mantle. John the Baptists’ message was “repent for the Kingdom of God is near.” Jesus now picks up the mantle and begins to proclaim “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!”
The baptism of Jesus is the beginning of his ministry. Following his baptism, Jesus is led the the wilderness and is tempted for forty days and forty nights.
As we move to the passage in Acts, we see that Paul has come upon a group of believers, but they lack the powers. Paul asks them if they have received the Holy Spirit and they say “No.” Paul is intrigued and follows up more. It’s apparent, at least in the early church that baptism happened early in the believer’s life. They had been baptized but they had received John’s baptism which called for the repentance from sin, but nothing about being filled with the Holy Spirit’s power. They were lacking the dunamis – the dynamite of the Holy Spirit’s power. So Paul baptizes them again, this time in the three fold name of the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This time the Holy Spirit falls upon them.
Here is an interesting thought. So many times people only want to be saved from their sins. To put it another way they want to be saved from the terrors of hell, but they don’t want the accompanying power of the Holy Spirit live a life that is pleasing to God. There is more to the Christian life than simply being saved from sin. There is more to the Christian life than simply going to heaven. There is more to the Kingdom of God than heaven. Jesus said “the Kingdom of God is near, repent and believe the Gospel or the Good News.” Believing the Gospel is so much more than being saved from our sins and going to heaven. Believing the Gospel means to be incarnational like Jesus is. Jesus came to dwell (to make his home) among us. Jesus lived the Good News among the people. If we are Jesus’ followers and we are by the name we wear, then we are to live the Good News among the people.
Being saved from sin is only one part of the life of a believer. If we are only saved from sin, we will fall over and over and over again back into sin. Jesus wants us to live a life free and above sin. He gave us the power of the Holy Spirit to do that. We are called to be holy as God is holy. If God commanded us to do that, don’t you think he would give us the power to do that? I really do believe that if he commands it, he gives us the power as well.
The Holy Spirit in our lives helps us do two things:
- Through the power of the Holy Spirit we have the power to live the victorious Christian life – one that is free from the power of sin. We are called to live in the holiness of God and the Holy Spirit helps us to love God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength. This power also helps us obey the commandments of God that we are called to do as his disciples.
- The second thing the power of the Holy Spirit does is help us live lives of service. Jesus also said that we should love our neighbors as ourselves. There is more to this Christian life than sitting around waiting for heaven. There is a world that needs Jesus. There is a world that needs to see the love of Jesus – that he came to save us from our sins. We should be willing to help our neighbor and get involved in our communities. This is what it means to have an incarnational ministry. A ministry that dwells among the people – a ministry that makes its home among the people.
I challenge you today to live in the power of the Holy Spirit that came upon Jesus during his baptism. God desires that we change the world and it is only the Holy Spirit that can make that happen.
First Sunday after the Epiphany: The Baptism of our Lord
Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the Peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Epiphany of the Lord (January 6, 2018)
- First reading
- Second reading
Ephesians 3:1-12 | New Living Translation (NLT)
When I think of all this, I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus for the benefit of you Gentiles . . . assuming, by the way, that you know God gave me the special responsibility of extending his grace to you Gentiles. As I briefly wrote earlier, God himself revealed his mysterious plan to me. As you read what I have written, you will understand my insight into this plan regarding Christ. God did not reveal it to previous generations, but now by his Spirit he has revealed it to his holy apostles and prophets.
And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus. By God’s grace and mighty power, I have been given the privilege of serving him by spreading this Good News.
Though I am the least deserving of all God’s people, he graciously gave me the privilege of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ. I was chosen to explain to everyone this mysterious plan that God, the Creator of all things, had kept secret from the beginning.
God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.
Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.
Today is January 6th. That means today is Epiphany. Some may wonderful what Epiphany is all about. Today we see that the wisemen come and reveal Jesus to the world. In many cultures this day is celebrated in various different ways. In years past, we have made a king’s cake. The season that follows in the church is about Jesus’ mission – bringing light to the world. It’s about Jesus revealing God’s plan to the nations.
That’s what Paul is writing about today in Ephesians. Paul reminds us, as God reminded us by sending the Wisemen (who were Gentiles) that the birth of Jesus was for all people – Jew and Gentile, man and woman, free and slave. Those who trust in Christ and believe in him and obey his commandments are part of the inheritance that came because Jesus Christ came to earth. We belong to Christ. It’s not something we earn but is part of God’s amazing grace. This is the Good News that we share to all people – without prejudice.
Paul, because of how he treated God’s people, thought he was the least deserving of all the people to spread the news of God’s beautiful love and his treasures. But God’s grace was upon him. Each one of us who trust in Christ are meant to reveal the beautiful treasures and grand inheritance we have in Christ to those who are around us. This is what Epiphany is all about – it is about revealing Christ to those who around us. Just as the wisemen revealed Christ to the world.
Up until Christ was born, the plan had remained a mystery, but now with Jesus Christ’s birth into the world and his manifestation by the wisemen, the plan was now laid open. The plan was carried out through Jesus.
Why is this so important? Because of Christ, because of his incarnation (his coming to dwell – to make his home in our hearts,) his death, and resurrection, Jesus has made a way for Jews and Gentiles to have a relationship with God. The relationship that was planned for us so very long ago – the very beginning of time. Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, we – as Paul writes – can come boldly to the throne – we can come confidently to the throne and be in God’s presence.
Even that, remains a mystery to me at times. Why would God do that? Why would He come? Why would he extend his grace? It’s all because of his amazing love that He has revealed himself to the world.