Spiritual Blessings for the New Year!

December 31, 2010 § Leave a comment

The beginning of Ephesians takes the form of a blessing rather than the more usual thanksgiving of the first verses of
these types of letters in the New Testament.  Ephesians 1:3-14 is all one sentence in the original Greek text.  The one sentence gives emphasis to the bountiful blessings that are made possible in Christ.  It is as if the author could not stop once he started talking about “every spiritual blessing in Christ” (1:3).  The blessing of these first verses gets at the heart of what it means that God became human in Jesus.  The grace that God shows in the birth of Jesus is only the beginning of what is made available to us in Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension.  The Holy Spirit is the “guarantee” that God’s blessing in Jesus has the purpose to draw us all into the richness of God’s life in abundance (1:13-14).  I usually don’t wish people a “happy and prosperous” new year, because there is something much more important than that to pray for, namely “a blessed new year” during which you will be able to live into the fullness of the abundance of spiritual blessings that God will give you during the next year.  May God take you out of any mentality of scarcity into His life of abundance in 2011!!!

Living Among Us

December 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us (John 1:14).  This well-known description of John that captures the meaning of Christmas literally means in the original Greek text of the New Testament that, in Jesus, God “spread His tent” to live among us.  That is why, in the verses just before verse 14, John emphasized the fact that some will recognize God living among them, and some will not (John 1:10-13).  Later in His life, before His ascension to heaven, Jesus was adamant that nothing will change this fact, because He will remain among us through the presence of his Spirit.  During Christmas, we have again being blessed by the glimpses of God’s glory in Jesus (1:14).  God has made himself fully known to us in Him (1:18).  Now the challenge of 2011 remains the same as always, namely to discern the shapes and forms of His presence among us.  Where will we find Him in our community in 2011?  And if we recognize Him, how will we be able to join Him and participate in His work of love, grace, peace, and healing among people?

The Morning After…

December 29, 2010 § Leave a comment

There is always a morning after the party when everything returns back to normal.  The Christmas party is no exception.  Even though we have just celebrated the birth of Immanuel – God with us – seemingly nothing has changed in the everyday living circumstances determined by still the same political problems, troubling economy, and other desperations of life.  In fact, for the baby Jesus it became worse after His birth.  He basically became a refugee to escape the consequences of Herod’s intention to kill all baby boys (Matthew 2:13-23).  Jesus’ parents fled with him from Bethlehem to Egypt to eventually settling down in Nazareth.  And we know that was only the beginning of a road to Golgotha where He had to die on a cross as rejected by His own people.

And yet… everything has changed!!!  Because we also know the necessity of this road for the sake of His resurrection and God’s gift of life to all of us.  You would not be able to tell from the evidence, but history changed forever.  God was busy working through all of this (almost “behind the scenes”) despite the fact that seemingly nothing has changed or that things actually became worse.  Christmas does not guarantee changing circumstances, but it does promise that God will continue to surprise with gifts of new life in the midst of these circumstances.  That brings hope, gives peace and joy, and inspires love among us.  Because the Son of God became flesh among us, the sun always rise again the morning after to shine on whatever circumstances the new day bring!

God’s Complete Revelation

December 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

The author of Hebrews wastes no time in getting to the point.  And it all happens in Hebrews 1:1-4.  Those four verses are a single sentence in the original Greek text.  And it summarizes what the rest of the book is all about.  The most basic and most profound understanding of Biblical faith is expressed in these verses.  Even though God has revealed himself “through the prophets at many times and in various ways” (1:1), He has done so in Christ in supreme fashion (1:4).  “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being…” (1:3).  That means, in Christ, God has spoken for the last time with total clarity.  Christ is God’s complete revelation of Himself.  Biblical faith is not about people’s ideas about God.  In that sense, Biblical faith is not a religion but rather a revelation from God.  Biblical people never assume that they sacrifice, pray, or do other religious actions because such actions will please God; rather they believe God spoke to them and made it clear that they were to do such actions in obedience to the message they received from God.  How do you and I react to God’s revelation of Himself in Jesus?

God’s Presence in Times of Distress

December 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

It is common knowledge in the medical community that the holidays bring about a sharp increase in cases of depression, primarily due to people’s unmet expectations during this season.  Today’s reading from Isaiah 63:7-9 is a word from God to those facing disappointment.  At the beginning of verse 7 the words gracious deeds, and at the end of verse 7 the words steadfast love appear.  They both are a translation of the Hebrew word hasadim, which means the loyalty of the Lord.  In a time when nothing good can be said of a situation, God’s people can at least acknowledge the basic and undeniable fact that God has been good to them in the past and will continue to be loyal to them in the future.  Verse 9 follow that up with the assurance that it is the presence of the Lord that saves us.  The promise that God is loyal to us and will never abandon us take us into the new year with all the distress it will bring.

Christmas Praises

December 26, 2010 § Leave a comment

This morning’s sermon in 7 slides:

Christmas Praises

Christmas Classics #1

December 24, 2010 § Leave a comment

The Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah epitomizes for me the climax of our Christmas celebrations.  Here is a fun recording of it from Quinhagak, Alaska

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