The Baptism of Our Lord
The Father is So Pleased
Text: Mark 1:9-11
What does it take to make someone happy? It depends on the person I suppose. It used to be that you could give almost anyone on our staff a Big Mac and a Large Fry and a Diet Coke, and we would all be pleased as Punch. A new year and a few resolutions later, now most of us would be pleased with something that A) we are allowed to eat that B) actually tastes good, too.
Ladies, what does it take to make a husband happy? Probably not much. Fill his belly and let him be a scrubby bum on the couch watching the NFL playoffs maybe? Then he would be pleased.
Guys, what does it take to make a wife happy? Oh boy, where do we start? (No, we won’t say that!) This is a little more challenging though. Don’t forget her birthday . . . or an anniversary . . . or Valentine’s Day . . . or any other possible day you could give flowers and a card. Help with the wash and the dishes. Listen without watching TV at the same time. Let her hold the remote control. Communicate. Maybe (hopefully!) then she would be pleased.
But what would it take to make God happy? How could you please God? Jesus had a conversation with a man about this one time. A suitable answer was given: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself. Read the rest of this entry
In the Beginning . . . Was the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
Text: Genesis 1:1-2:3
There are a lot of conspiracy theories out there in the world. There are especially a lot of conspiracy theories when it comes to Christianity. Do a little googling and you will find endless amounts of information about supposed conspiracies and controversies. The problem is that anyone can post anything on the internet these days, and most of these alleged Christian conspiracies aren’t true.
There are many of these conspiracy theories that attack the very core of our belief—who our God is. One in particular is very popular. This conspiracy theory states that the emperor Constantine, who lived in the 200s and 300s A.D., invented the concept of the Trinity. Some say that Constantine wanted to end religious rift in his empire and so he forced and coerced his own beliefs onto the church and crushed those who stood for the truth. They say that since Constantine imposed the teaching of the Trinity, the Church has never been the same.
Please don’t even waste your time googling that. You will only be reading information from unbelievers who only know a few historical facts. The reality is that the story starts with a man named Arius. Arius was a priest in Alexandria, Egypt. Arius staunchly denied the Trinity—that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equal. Why would he deny it? Because it had been around and taught for ages already before him but it didn’t make sense to him. Constantine finally called a council of church leaders in 325 A.D. at the city of Nicea. There those church leaders wrote a summary of the true Christian faith. That short statement of faith is called the Nicene Creed. For almost 1,700 years now Christians around the globe have continued to speak the words of the Nicene Creed and to confess their faith as they battle against Arianism (the denial of the Trinity) still today.
Of course, people will always debate about the facts of history. They’ll interpret historical events in different ways. Spin doctors will continue to spew countless conspiracy theories to attack the truth. So when we aren’t sure about something and need to rediscover the truth, there is only one thing for Christians to do and one place for Christians to go. We must go back to the Bible and see what it says. Today we not only go back to Scripture, but we even go all the way back to the beginning. There we see that even In the Beginning . . . Was the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Read the rest of this entry
2nd Sunday after Pentecost
A Triune Blessing from Our Triune God
Text: Numbers 6:22-27
It was the last day of sightseeing and the last sight to see. Thursday morning we woke the seventh and eight graders early to rush back into Washington D.C. to visit the final locations on our itinerary. We stopped first at the National Archives, but upon finding a line that wrapped around the building and that it opened an hour later in the spring and summer, we moved on to the next destination—the Holocaust Museum.
There we found a line even longer, nearly wrapped around the block. The tickets were going quickly. But by the time we got to the front of the line, we found that they had 13 tickets available for the last tour of the day at 4:30pm. We grabbed the tickets, rushed off to Annapolis for an amazing tour of the Naval Academy, and then hurried back to the Holocaust Museum for our final sight to see on our Discover America trip. And what a sight it was!
Put it down as a “must see” on your bucket list. Words can hardly describe how masterfully they have designed that museum to immerse you in those horrible times of world history.
The museum walks you through the formation and rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime. It describes the hunger for power and sickening racism that drove the Third Reich. Then suddenly the exhibits begin depicting how the Jews became the focal object of their horrific hatred.
The pictures and videos turn your stomach upside down. Walking into scale models of train cars and concentration camps leave you utterly speechless. Then you turn into one of the last exhibits of the museum—a room that has two massive piles of shoes worn by actual concentration camp captives. It’s enough to make the manliest men break down in tears.
We left the museum at closing time to return to our home for the last night. The normally bubbly and goofy seventh and eight graders were silent. Several had tears in their eyes. Others had blank stares of disbelief. One was literally trembling.
Every night on this trip we had an evening devotion with the students before bed. I don’t think they will forget Thursday’s evening devotion for a long time. I focused our thoughts that night on being thankful to God. Here these students are, traveling across the country for next to nothing, visiting some of the most incredible monuments, memorials, and museums in the world. Eight of the ten students had their own cell phone (one lost hers in D.C.!). The other two had iPods. Most of the cell phones were iPhones. They all have gigabytes worth of pictures and videos to keep forever. They had McDonalds and Burger King and pizza and soda any time they wanted. They wore “cool” and comfortable clothes and they slept in warm and comfortable beds at night.
In our devotion I compared that to the similarly aged children they saw at the museum who had absolutely nothing. They slept on the ground in freezing temperatures wearing prisoner clothing while many were separated from their families. They were herded into gas chambers only to have piles of them plowed into a pit by a bulldozer (That actually happened!).
For our last devotion we humbly discussed together that we have much to be thankful for. We would not have one blessing in life without the good and gracious will of our loving and compassionate God. Hopefully it was an experience that those ten students and we three adults will never forget.
Some three thousand years ago, God had the same intentions for his people. Those same Jewish people, the Israelites, also had horrific experiences in Egypt. They were used, abused, and driven to death as slaves to the Egyptians. Thus, when God brought them out of slavery and was leading them on to the Promised Land, they had much to be thankful for. Hopefully they would never forget how blessed they were by the good and gracious will of their loving and compassionate God.
So God gave to Moses and his brother Aaron the high priest a special blessing. This special blessing was to be a reminder for the people of who God is and what God does. This special blessing would remind them that the Lord—Yahweh, Jehovah, the loving and compassionate God—would always be with his people. This special blessing would remind them that the Lord is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit actively at work in their lives. This special blessing is A Triune Blessing from Our Triune God. Read the rest of this entry
Text: John 3:1-17
Who is Jesus and why is he here? What is God up to? These were the questions that led Nicodemus to rendezvous with Jesus for a late night, behind the scenes interview. It was obvious to Nicodemus that Jesus had come from God because Jesus was doing miracles that only a prophet of God could do. So who was Jesus, was he a prophet or something more? And if he was a prophet what message from God did he have for the Israelites?
Jesus’ beautiful response was just what Nicodemus needed to hear. Jesus’ response is also exactly what we need to hear.
Important point #1: Yes I am from God. I come from God with a heavenly message
Important point #2: Unless you receive the Holy Spirit you cannot go to heaven (the Holy Spirit comes through the waters of baptism)
Important point #3: The Son of Man (a title for Jesus the Son of God) will be lifted up. If you believe in him you will have eternal life.
Important point #4: God the Father orchestrated all of this because he did not wish to condemn the whole world.
I don’t know what Nicodemus expected to hear from Jesus. I don’t know what he wanted to hear from Jesus, but I do know that what he heard was exactly what he needed to hear. “Nicodemus, your triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is offering you the only way to get to heaven. Believe and heaven is yours.”
It’s the gospel, it is the message that every human desperately needs to know. It is the story of our loving God that you desperately need to know. I don’t know what first led you to Jesus. I don’t know what you expect Jesus to do for you, but I do know that he already is offering you everything you need. Heaven is yours, Jesus is offering it to you.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for setting into motion a plan to bring your lost, sinful world back into your loving embrace.
Jesus the Son of God, thank you for offering your life as the ransom which buys our souls a mansion in heaven.
Holy Spirit, thank you for creating in our hearts faith that clings to the promise of Jesus, thank you for bringing about our second birth as children of God.