Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

The Baptism of Our Lord

The Holy Spirit and Fire

Baptism can be a controversial subject. Whole denominations are separated over their understanding of baptism. This is not something new. The baptism of John the Baptist was quite controversial. Baptism was required only for Gentile converts to Judaism. Circumcised “children of Abraham were already members of the faith. They were born into Judaism. John the Baptist command was: “Bear fruits worthy of repentance.” Only then could Jews say that they were children Abraham.

John said that there was more to come. Repentance was just the first step. He spoke of the coming one more powerful than he:

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.   (Luke 3:15-16)

Holy Spirit baptism is the controversial one in the church today. What is this baptism?

In his conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well Jesus also talked about a a spring of living water:

The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”   (John 4:9-14)

Jesus, on the day of the Festival of Booths in Jerusalem, further explained this living water:

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.   (John 7:37-39)

Jesus was glorified on the cross. He purchased for us forgiveness for our sins and salvation. He also purchased the right to baptize us in the Holy Spirit with fire. Do we have the fire of the Holy Spirit inside us today?

Is the baptism of the Holy Spirit merely a theological subject to be debated? Isaiah wrote:

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.   (Isaiah 12:3)

This baptism is to be experienced. Jesus said that it would be like a spring of water gushing up within us.

Is that our experience? Maybe not if we believe that we were born into it. The Christian faith has to do with a new birth. The Apostle Paul wrote:

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!   (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Are we thirsty for more of God? Do we desire to experience the refreshment of the Holy Spirit flowing within us?

Jesus said to the Samaritan woman:

If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 

How many of us need this living water today? Jesus is the baptizer with the Holy Spirit.and fire. Do we know him? Do we know the gift? And are we willing to ask for this gift?

The gift of the Spirit comes when we fully embrace Jesus as our Savior. He took our place on the cross so that we might take our place in him.

After Jesus was baptized by John, we have this remarkable account in Luke:

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”   (Luke 3:21-22)

What God the Father said to his Son he also says us: “You are my beloved son and daughter, with you I am well pleased. He is pleased with us because when he sees us he sees Jesus.

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Second Sunday after Christmas

 

Homily 1: A Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation

Today, more than ever, we need a spirit of wisdom and revelation in this world, even in the church. This has always been needed. It is a special privilege to know the glorious presence and power of Almighty God. The human mind, alone, cannot conceive or understand the riches of God. Paul wrote to the Church in Corinth::

But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the human heart conceived,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—

these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God,   (1 Corinthians 2:7-10)

God has destined us to know him, to understand his character, to seek his presence in our lives, not just his favor. Satan does not want that to happen. He clouds our minds. He seeks to destroy any understanding of God. The last thing he wants is Immanuel, God with us. He wants us to believe that God is not with us and that he we never be with us. When King Herod learned of the Christ child he realized there was a threat to the darkness in which he exercised his power. He did not really know who this new born was, but quickly joined links with Satan.

From the Gospel of Matthew we read:

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

`And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;

for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.'”   (Matthew 2:1-6)

The wise men from the East were seeking wisdom. They were not Jews, but they had read the prophets. They desired to know God. God led them to seek his wisdom. God led them to seek Jesus. Jesus is God’s wisdom. From John’s Gospel:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.   (John 1:1-5)

Are we living in darkness or are we seeking the light of God? Are we seeking the wisdom of God? Are we seeking to know God? God has come in the flesh. But to fully know him we still need to diligently seek him. In the Book of Hebrews we read:

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.   (Hebrews 11:6)i

We must approach God with faith. And we must seek him above everything else:

When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart,   (Jeremiah 29:13)

The Apostle Paul prayed for the Church in Ephesus:

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe.   (Ephesians 1:17-18)

Let us take the time and energy to seek God as did the wise men. The travelled a great distance to do so. Are we willing and prepared to go the distance in our day?

 

 

Homily 2: How Dear to Me Is Your Dwelling

The  psalmist wrote:

How dear to me is your dwelling, O Lord of hosts!
My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.

The sparrow has found her a house
and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young;
by the side of your altars, O Lord of hosts,
my King and my God.

Happy are they who dwell in your house!
they will always be praising you.   (Psalm 84:1-3)

It should not have been surprising that the young boy Jesus would seek out the House of God the Father. The Temple in Jerusalem was that place for the Jewish people. It was a place of pilgrimage, the high altar of God, where people received atonement for their sins. From Luke we read:

Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”  (Luke 2:41-49)

Mary, the mother of Jesus would later understand. For the moment, both parents were surprised and confused:

But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart.   (Luke 2:50-51)

The Temple in Jerusalem was the House of God. That was ordained and established by God. But that was about to change. At the end of his earthly ministry, Jesus spoke there words:

“Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”

They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.   (John 2:19-22)

After the the resurrection of of Jesus a transference occurred. Jesus was now the Temple of God. This was known at the moment of Jesus’ death on the cross:

Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised.   (Matthew 27:50-52)

Jesus is the House of God now. How desirous are we to enter this House? Again, the psalmist wrote:

For one day in your courts is better than a thousand in my own room,
and to stand at the threshold of the house of my God
than to dwell in the tents of the wicked.

For the Lord God is both sun and shield;
he will give grace and glory;

No good thing will the Lord withhold
from those who walk with integrity.

O Lord of hosts,
happy are they who put their trust in you!   (Psalm 84:9-12)

We live in very troubling times. Our only refuge is the Lord Jesus Christ. But there are keys to entering the House of God. Everyone one is invited, but not everyone is accepted. Scripture tells us:

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.   (100:4-5)

We are not good. Only God is good. We may only enter with a grateful heart. God is also looking for a contrite heart. Isaiah wrote:

For thus says the high and exalted One
Who lives forever, whose name is Holy,
“I dwell on a high and holy place,
And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit
In order to revive the spirit of the lowly
And to revive the heart of the contrite.   (Isaiah 57:15)

We read from the Book of Revelation:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them,   (Revelation 21:3)

Jesus will soon be setting up his millennial kingdom on the earth. We must not wait. Now is the time that we should join ourselves to God. Reading from the Prophet Zechariah:

Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion! For lo, I will come and dwell in your midst, says the LordMany nations shall join themselves to the Lord on that day, and shall be my people; and I will dwell in your midst. And you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. The Lord will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land, and will again choose Jerusalem.   (Zechariah 2:10-12)

Amen.

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Holy Name

Yeshua (ישוע) – Deliverer

In Judaism names have meanings. A name does more than merely identify someone. It speaks to their character, to their calling, and to the blessing that God has placed upon them. Abram was renamed by God so that he became Abraham, the father of many nations. Jacob became Israel because he had wrestled with God and had prevailed. Simon became Peter, the rock upon whom God would build His church.

The Son of God was named Jesus or, in Hebrew, “Yeshua” – which means God saves. In today’s Gospel we read:

An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  (Matthew:18-21)

It was customary in Judaism to dedicate each male child to God on the eighth day after his birth. This was the time that the child was circumcised and was also given his name. This was true for Jesus. From Luke we read:

After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.  (Luke 2:21)

God the Father wants to place us on the same footing as Jesus. Jesus received his name on the eighth day and the blessing of the Father. We are to receive that same blessing as well if we come under the name of Jesus. God does this through an adoption which occurs when we embrace Jesus as our Savior and Lord. Paul wrote in today’s Epistle:

When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.   (Galatians 4:4-7)

God has always desired to bless His people and place His name on them. During the time of Moses He instructed His priests how to do this:

The LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:

“The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”

“So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”  (Numbers 6:27-28)

We are so blessed to have the name of our Lord placed upon us. We are called Christian because Jesus is making us into His image. When we receive the name of our Lord with humility and thanksgiving, God the Father places upon us the character and nature of Jesus. Have we been adopted by God? If not, now is the day of salvation.

There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”   (Acts 4:12)

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Saint Stephen, Deacon and Martyr

First Martyr for the Faith

For those who refuse to change, the truth of God is unbearable. This has always been true and is still true today. Let us look at some examples. God sent Jeremiah to King Jehoiakim to warn the nation of impending doom if the people did not repent. This is how the people in authority responded to his prophecy:

The priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the LORD. And when Jeremiah had finished speaking all that the LORD had commanded him to speak to all the people, then the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold of him, saying, “You shall die! Why have you prophesied in the name of the LORD, saying, `This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate, without inhabitant’?” And all the people gathered around Jeremiah in the house of the LORD.   (Jeremiah 26:7-9)

The messenger of God is rejected because the message of God is rejected.

Jesus lamented over Jerusalem:

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you, desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, `Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.'”   (Matthew 23:37-39)

Jesus was crucified because the Jewish leaders could not bear his message. They rejected him because they also rejected God the Father. They rejected his plan for their nation and the whole world. They wanted a different message and a different Messiah.

In today’s Epistle lesson we have the example of Stephen:

Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and others of those from Cilicia and Asia, stood up and argued with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke.   (Acts 6:8-11)

Stephen was not only a servant of the Church as a deacon, he was a powerful purveyor of the Gospel. The leaders could not tolerate the message of Stephen which was by the Holy Spirit. Thus they rejected Stephen. Stephen became the first martyr for the Faith. He was an innocent man full of God’s grace and power, yet he was stoned to death in the name of religion.

People have a certain concept of God. When challenged by God’s truth they often will do anything , including destroying the messenger of God, to keep from hearing and complying with his Word. How far are we willing to go today to reject the Word of God?

The Word was made flesh for us and died on the cross as payment for our sins. Are we to reject such a great salvation? Are we to reject healings? Are we to reject prophecy in our day? Some of our churches and denominations do not allow for certain manifestation of God’s power and presence because they do not allow for God’s truth. Church doctrine does not take the place of the truth in God’s Word.

Where do we stand today? Are we open to God? Are we seeking his revelation in our lives? Is his Word all important to us? If so, then we will surely be persecuted, even within the Church. When that occurs, will we still hold on to the truth at all costs?

Stephen was a man whom the Word of God was all important to him. He was willing to die for it so that the truth might be told. Not only that, he was able to forgive the very people who were stoning him to death.

We would not have the Church today without the testimony of Stephen and many faithful martyrs for the cause of the Gospel. As in the days of Stephen, we are living in an age hostile to the Gospel, even in America. Will we step up and step out for the Gospel in our day?

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