Easter is coming up. The last Sunday in March (there are five this year) is Palm Sunday and the first Sunday in April is Easter. The dates are March 29th and April 5th. Those of you that observed Ash Wednesday and/or the season of Lent are aware of these dates already, as well as anyone planning church activities and worship services. And it is those individuals – pastors, preachers, minsters and directors of music, all worship leaders – that I wish to address.
I spent several years in a ministry that included a daily chapel service. Not only did we observe Palm Sunday and Easter but we had the opportunity to celebrate each day of Holy Week. We could talk about the Triumphal Entry on Sunday and focus on the different aspects of Jesus’ final teachings with the Apostles each day that week. We could give a full day to the Last Supper, another to the arrest and false trial, and spend Good Friday detailing the events of the crucifixion. With all of that said and done the focus of Easter Sunday was entirely on celebrating the resurrection. Continue reading →
Last week I tried to answer the question Why Do We Pray in Jesus’ Name? Paul Wilkinson combined that post with another from the All About Prayer blog for this 2-for-1 special at Christianity 201. When I preached this sermon on Sunday morning I expounded on the name of Jesus by including two other scripture references: Acts 4:12 (And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved) and Philippians 2:9-11 (Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,so that at thename of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father). emphasis added Continue reading →
In the company I keep (Baptist churches in the Southeastern United States) it is a common feature of every pray to end with the words “in Jesus’ name we pray, amen.” Whether you invoke the name of Jesus at the beginning or the end of prayer, it’s probably something you do or have heard done even if you are not fully aware of the reasons behind it. We should address our prayers to the heavenly Father in the name of Jesus, but it is important to understand why and not just keep repeating words because we’re supposed to. Continue reading →
The full title is We Will Be Landing Shortly: Now What? The front cover plainly identifies it as “the spiritual musings of Mike Hamel.” The author is working through some things and is very transparent about that. His thought process is done on paper and at times he offers more questions than answers.
Mike Hamel has been through a lot, and the effects of tragedy have shaken his faith. He hasn’t lost it but after a lifetime of religious faith and pastoral vocation it doesn’t come as easy as it used to. After surviving three bouts with cancer, cancer treatments, a major car accident and seven surgeries, he was prepared to deal with his own mortality. Then suddenly and without warning his wife of 37 years died of a heart attack… on Thanksgiving Day. One section of the book is a collection of journal entries beginning that day and continuing over the next 12 months. Hamel is a writer’s writer and works through his thought process on paper. I sometimes do the same thing but then he publishes his for the world to read! Continue reading →
If you’ve ever heard someone say they’ve had an epiphany, what they mean is that they have discovered something unexpected. It happens suddenly, not over a period of time, and the revelation must of be something of great worth. The January 6th Epiphany on the Christian calendar commemorates the day the wise men discovered Jesus. Epiphany is the celebration of finding something worth finding.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
One of the many titles the Son is known by is Prince of Peace, peace being the focus of the fourth Sunday of Advent. Isaiah 9:7 specifically says Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end and it goes to describe him sitting on the throne of David. Part of the Isaiah prophesy has been fulfilled in the first Advent of Jesus Christ; the child was born, the son was given. He was born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) to a virgin mother (Isaiah 7:14). But he has not yet sat on the throne of David, and during his earthly ministry he even said “I have not come to bring peace but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34) There is prophecy yet to be fulfilled in the second appearing (advent) of Jesus as the King of kings and Lord of Lords. Continue reading →
It’s quite a few verses but to get the full context we need read John 8:31-59.
In an oft quoted verse of scripture Jesus tells his followers “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Many of us are familiar with these words even those who have not read the Gospels. But the audience that day asks how they can be set free, claiming they have never been enslaved to anyone. Let’s think about that claim. The defining moment of Jewish history is the Exodus from Egypt and the way they encountered God at Mount Sinai. They had served as slaves for hundreds of years in Egypt. The nation of Israel was taken into Babylonian captivity and later by the Assyrians. In Jesus’ day their land was a province of the Roman Empire. To claim they had never been enslaved to anyone was an exaggeration at best, but what Jesus really meant was that anyone who sins is a slave to sin. He really riles them up by telling them their father is not Abraham but the devil, and they do what their father does which is try to kill him. They will then claim they have only one father and that is God! Jesus says if that were so they would love him for he came from God, but instead they are the offspring of murdering Satan who is a liar and the father of lies. They accuse him of being a Samaritan and possessed by a demon, and it all comes to a head when Jesus tells them Abraham rejoiced to see them in his day. Continue reading →