12th Sunday after Pentecost
Take Courage. It is Jesus.
Text: Matthew 14:22-33
It was a special day, about 15 months ago. We knew it was coming, but the kids didn’t. They had been asking and asking. Now was finally the time. We surprised them and went to Disney World. The looks on their faces were priceless. They were so excited and all day long they were acting like, well, like kids at Disney World.
They had been asking for more than a year. They would even find pennies on the ground and give them to us telling us to save up for Disney. Finally we went and it was a blast. By the time we went home though, they were passed out and asleep. Within a few days the Buzz Lightyear and Minnie talk had died down. Now, 15 months later, we hardly ever hear anything about it. It’s almost like it never happened.
How could that be? They had wanted to do this for the longest time. They finally got to see one of the coolest, most amazing things they could ever imagine. But now it’s like it never happened. They don’t thank us for taking them to Disney anymore (that stopped pretty much the next day). They don’t talk about Disney anymore. I know they were there. Did they forget it happened? How could that be? Read the rest of this entry
Text: Mark 13:5-11
It’s one of the signs of the End Times that Jesus gave. People will be persecuted because of their faith. The walls will continue to feel like they are closing in on Christians. It won’t be easy.
Lest we fear or fret about our current situations in this country, we first must remember and give thanks for those who have endured such persecutions in the past. On this day, October 31st or Reformation Day, we take time to remember Martin Luther and the others who pioneered the Reformation of the Church.
We cannot fathom how difficult it was to face all the power and pressure of both the Roman Catholic Church and the Holy Roman Emperor. Jesus surely fulfilled his words with them:
Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.
So on this day we can give thanks for those who boldly stood for the truth of God’s Word. Even facing death and disaster, Martin Luther and others proclaimed: Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.
As much as we might face persecution and pressure these days, it certainly is not as bad as it was in days past. However, it still is difficult and challenging today. Though the persecution is slightly more subtle, it is every bit as public with media and social media today. It can quickly feel like we are surrounded with nowhere to turn.
So our prayer on this day and every day is that God continues to send us his Holy Spirit to give us strength to speak and words to share that his good news and his truth might be clearly proclaimed to all!
Prayer: Holy Spirit, Comforter and Guide, continue to fill us with strength and courage to boldly proclaim the truth of your word. Give us the words to speak when we are sharing our faith. Help us to preserve the truth of your word for ages to come. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Text: Acts 2:1-21
Could this be the same person?
What happened to the man who walked on water but sank because he doubted? Didn’t he try to stop Jesus from dying? Wasn’t he the one who swore and called down curses upon himself while denying that he knew Jesus?
Could this be the same person?
How could it be that Peter suddenly understood everything Jesus had done? How could it be that Peter suddenly had courage? How could it be that Peter had risen from the depths of denier to the peak of preachers in only 53 days?
How could this be? It was the Holy Spirit!
Jesus promised that he would send the third person of the Holy Trinity, God the Holy Spirit, to fill the disciples with power and courage to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth. On the day of Pentecost, we see just that happening. Peter stood up and delivered a powerful and courageous sermon to the Jews about who Jesus is and what he did. Such great understanding and such fearless witnessing was made possible by the work of the Holy Spirit.
So now today we quiver and quake when we consider the mission Jesus has sent us on: Go and make disciples of all nations! Yet we need not fear because the Holy Spirit has been promised to us as well. He is the one that gives us the powerful words to speak and fills us with courage and boldness to proclaim to others what Jesus has done.
Could you be like Peter? Could you be so bold? Could you witness like that?
You can . . . and you will! God the Holy Spirit is with you and and will bless you!
Prayer: Holy Spirit, Light Divine, shine upon this heart of mine! Fill me with courage to be your faithful witness to all the ends of the earth. Bless the words that I share with others, that they too might know the great things you, O God, have done. I pray in your name, O Comforter and Guide. Amen.
Text: Acts 8:26-40
For the followers of Jesus, one of the truly remarkable symptoms of Jesus’ resurrection was boldness. Before that triumphant morning the portrait of the Apostles is anything but flattering. Always confused by Jesus’ words they seemed incapable of understanding why Jesus was on this earth. They argued about who would be greatest in the coming kingdom of God. They couldn’t stay awake with Jesus even when it was clear he was struggling in Gethsemane. Impetuous Peter was quick to draw his sword in the garden but slow to claim Jesus as his king in the courtyard. All the disciples fled for fear that they too would be arrested, one of them leaving his clothes behind. Days after Jesus’ death, even with rumors floating around that he was alive again there they were, huddled in a room behind locked doors full of fear and doubt.
Then Jesus appeared. They watched him eat, they put their fingers in the holes in his hands and side, they heard him speak and their lives would never be the same. The timid, terrified followers of Christ were transformed into fearless, faithful missionaries. Once afraid of being arrested and associated with Jesus all of them but one would boldly preach until they were murdered for their faith. Once incapable of understanding who Jesus was and why he was here all of them were changed into missionaries bringing the clear message of Jesus as Savior to the world.
I suppose we could have expected this to happen. We saw Jesus this week claim to be the vine which causes its branches to bear much fruit. We could have expected that Jesus would inspire these fruits in his disciples.
I suppose we should expect these fruits to be seen in us too. The resurrection that gave those early followers of Jesus hope, peace and boldness can and does give us hope, peace and boldness. Jesus is alive! Because of him you too will live for all eternity. Don’t keep this message to yourselves. Don’t pretend that this fact doesn’t drastically change your current life, it does. We are now connected to Jesus our vine, let the world see your fruit and praise your Father in heaven.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, grant that the truth of your word may embolden us to live for you on this earth. Forgive us when we fail to let your light shine through our lives. Help us to always find inspiration and motivation in the love that Jesus has shown us. Give us opportunities to share the message of Jesus, like Philip, with boldness and clarity. In your Son’s name we pray, Amen.
Do you ever feel like God wrote down a certain passage of Scripture just for you?
When I read, “Be still and know that I am God,” I stop and look around. Could it be that this verse was just for me? Too often I am too busy in my own little world. I think that if I were to stop for one moment, everything would come crashing down. I see the terror of the world around me and wonder who is in control?!
Then, I am still and I know that my father in heaven is God. He loves me and he will not let harm befall me.
Yet, while I treasure this verse and the entire Psalm, I also know that it is not just for me. No, this psalm has been used as comfort by countless believers throughout history. Remnants of this psalm found their way into daily use by God’s Old Testament people, and still appear in some of the most beautiful Jewish prayers. In recent times, this prayer has been read by congressmen and presidents in the aftermath of national tragedies.
As we prepare for the celebration of God’s Reformation of his church, we should focus in on one more time this psalm was used to comfort God’s people.
In 1530, Lutheran princes walked toward Augsburg, Germany to present a confession of faith to the Holy Roman Emperor. As they reached the city, they sung hymns to comfort them. One such hymn was “A Mighty Fortress,” still sung by Lutherans everywhere and penned by Martin Luther as a paraphrase of Psalm 46.
When the princes arrived, they read the Augsburg Confession in the middle of an assembly of Catholic princes and the Emperor himself. They read the Confession in plain, everyday German so that all could understand it. They read it so boldly and confidently that every word could be heard in the town square–words like, “salvation is by faith alone.” The Christian church was shattered that day, but God protected the truth of his word, just as he does today.
The wonderful fact about God’s Word is that, although it was written for his Old Testament people, for Martin Luther and for those Lutheran princes, it was written for you as well! God’s Word is living and active. It was meant to comfort you in your distress in the same way it comforted those who first heard it.
Be still. Your God is in control.
Prayer: God, my refuge and strength, my ever-present help in trouble. Be with me as I walk through this life. Guard me with your power against sin and every evil. Uphold me with your strength against the weight of this world. Keep me steadfast against temptation as I boldly walk toward heaven to be with you forever. Amen.