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“What’s In a Name?”

Isaiah 62: 4b, 12: “You will be called, ‘Hephzibah,’ and your land, ‘Beulah’ … and they will call them, ‘The holy people, the redeemed of the Lord’; and you will be called, ‘sought out, a city not forsaken.’” In the Bible, whenever someone experiences a major change in character, it is often accompanied by a change of name. That is why Isaiah says that these names are being changed, because Hephzibah means ‘My delight is in her,’, and Beulah means ‘married.’ After a time of rejection, the message is, “The character of the relationship between God and His people is changing, so a change of name is in order.” It’s something to remember on this Feast of the Holy Name.

"Pure Devotion"

The message last Christmas Eve mass was very powerful because it was God's message of love to us. "Through His love God sent His only begotten Son Jesus. Jesus became human and joined us, so that He could redeem us." God to become man! It seems totally impossible for an Omnipotent God to make such a decision. It was an unacceptable concept according to human standards. It was like a demotion from the highest to lowest position, which requires extreme devotion. God humbled Himself, He became like His created being to dwell in us, be with us, feel like us: "Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:14).The angel Gabriel was sent by God to confirm the coming of the Savior to a virgin, whose firstborn son would be c

“For What Reason?”

1 Kings 17: 18: “So she said to Elijah, ‘What do I have to do with you, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my iniquity to remembrance, and to put my son to death!’” This was not the reason Elijah came to the widow of Zarephath, and, contrary to the belief of some, it was not the reason Christ came to mankind. He reminds us of our sins only to offer forgiveness of them, and he desires the death only of our sorrow, poverty, and hopelessness. That’s why He came, and that’s why we celebrate His coming so vigorously every year at this time!

“Man Overboard!”

Psalm 18: 16: “The Lord sent from on high, He took me; He drew me out of many waters.” We don’t have to assume that David had a narrow escape from drowning, as Jonah did. There is no such incident mentioned in either his writings or Samuel’s or Nathan’s. Sometimes we are threatened by the waters of man’s philosophy, humanism, and hedonism. We need deliverance from these waters just as much, or more, than from natural floodwaters. This is what is really happening in Revelation 12: 15-16. And such deliverance God is always faithful to give, to those who ask.

“Won’t Always Be Like This”

Revelation 21: 4: “And He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes.” This is my favorite part of the Feast of the Holy Innocents: This reading where we are reminded that, even though today children are still exploited, made to beg on bridges and in the streets, mistreated, malnourished, and abused, and that far too many children die far too young - it’s not forever. The time is coming, people, the time is coming - when all will understand that all life, especially young life, is sacred.

“Sissy Disciple?”

John 13: 23: “There was reclining on Jesus’ breast one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.” If we base our image of St. John, whose feast we celebrate today, solely on this passage, we might get the idea that he was a bit … soft. Probably not. Jesus nicknamed him and his brother ‘Sons of Thunder.’ No indication of weakness there! Then consider some of the words he wrote: words like “The one who does not believe God has made Him a liar”; and “the one who does not love does not know God.” Still think he’s soft?

“The Big Payback”

2 Chronicles 24: 22: “Thus Joash did not remember the kindness which his father Jehoiada had shown him, but he murdered his son. And as he died he said, ‘May the Lord see and avenge!’” What does this passage have to do with St. Stephen, who, as the Church’s first martyr, has the honor of having His feast next to that of the Nativity of the Lord? Compare the attitude of Zechariah as he was being martyred to that of St. Stephen(Acts 7: 60). Which is right? Well, have you ever heard of anyone celebrating the feast of St. Zechariah?

“How Well He Grew Up!”

John 3: 31: “He Who comes from above is above all, he who is of the earth is from the earth and speaks of the earth. He Who comes from heaven is above all.” As we take time to meditate on the awesome mystery of the babe in the manger this Christmas Day, let us remember just Who we’re dealing with here. He comes from above. This is God in a feeding trough. God in a barn. God in the flesh. Yet, He’s above all. All things are in His hand. Obviously, not your ordinary baby!

"Pure Submission"

Mary answered, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word.” A meaning of “bondslave” is a person in slavery. Such a person has no right to complain, she is not her own, but she is the property of and totally in submission to her master. But having a good heart is one thing, you can obey your master in whatever he wants, but if there is an unhappy feeling it produces results that are not good. Mary, having a good heart, obeyed in pure submission, having in her body the Son of God. She may have had apprehension, but in her total confidence in God she knew that all things would be all right. During her time it was very difficult to be pregnant if you didn’t ha

“From a Distance?”

Psalm 139: 1-2: “O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar.” Several years ago someone made a lot of money singing “God is watching us from a distance”, but I don’t know if they made God very happy. It’s just not true! God is personally interested in and involved with each one of us; He’s not some celestial stalker “somewhere out there.” No, the nearness of God is our good (Psalm 73: 28). That’s what the Incarnation, which we celebrate next week, is all about – the Word in our midst.

“Quick Start”

Matthew 25: 16: “Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents.” Notice that immediately the slave went to work and gained an increase of five talents. Then the master was gone for a “long time” – but when he returned the profit was still the same. During the long time, the slave had just broken even. But see his reward is the same, and there was no verbal correction from the master. The point? Those whose ministries start with a bang, then level out, need not fear judgment at the Last Day – “they shall not lose their reward” (Matthew 10: 42).

“Glad Eyes”

Zechariah 4: 10: “Who has despised the day of small things? But these seven will be glad when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel – these are the eyes of the Lord which range to and fro throughout the earth.” Did I read that right? The seven eyes of the Lord (cf the seven-fold Spirit of God, Isaiah 11) will be glad to see one of His servants fulfilling His calling and destiny? Wow! Have you made the Lord glad today?

“Good Sense”

Matthew 24: 45: “Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time?” We don’t think about it much, but part of being a Christian is having good sense. We focus a lot on faithfulness, but how often do we emphasize good, sensible decisions on things like avoiding temptation, having a good diet, and other such choices? God loves and cares for the feeble-minded, but on the other hand, He places no premium on ignorance.

“Train of Thought”

Psalm 48: 9: “We have thought on Your lovingkindness, O God, in the midst of Your temple.” What do you think about when you’re in Church? How much traffic you passed through on the way there? What you’ll have for lunch? How long the sermon will be? Supposedly, our thoughts should be trained on the Lord. As 2 Corinthians 10: 5 says, we need to take captive every thought, which is actually a part of our spiritual warfare. Focus more, defeat the devil!

“Bring in the Goodies!”

Revelation 3: 8: “I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My Name.” Why did God give the Philadelphians an open door? Because they were doing things for Him, they had a little power, and they were faithful. The open door was for ministry opportunities, not for blessings to pass through, just because … just because. Like the parable of the talents, when we prove ourselves faithful over little, the Lord will put us over much – but this refers to our responsibilities, not our blessings.

From Grief to Gladness

Grief and pain are not unnecessary elements in human life. Expressing pain is necessary. The prophet Joel once cried out, "Thus says the Lord. 'Right now, return to me with your very hearts, fast and weep with sorrow. Do not rend your clothes, but rend your hearts.'," (Joel 2:12-13). Furthermore, James also wrote as follows: "O sinners, purify your hands. Be sorrowful, grieve, weep. Change your laughter to mourning, change your joy to grief," (James 4:8-9). Above all, we need to recall the words spoken by our Lord Jesus. "Those who are in sorrow are blessed, they will be comforted," (Matthew 5:4). Actually, could we really call it blessedness or happiness when we don't mourn or feel the pain

“False Separation”

Haggai 2: 2: “Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people, saying …” Should the civil government stay away from anything ‘religious’? Here the prophet Haggai is commanded to speak not only to the high priest, but also to the provincial governor (whose name, by the way, means ‘son of Babel.’ How secular can you get?) For centuries the church has been given a false line on the issue of Church and state; they should keep their nose out of our business, but the Church always has a right, and a mission, to let the state know what God is saying.

“Remember Last Sunday?”

Matthew 23: 38, 39: “Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you shall not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord.’” You have to realize that this was spoken by Jesus the day after Palm Sunday, when the children were crying out in the temple those very words (Matthew 21: 15). As He did then, He did the next day, as well – He validated the words of the children, prescribed by the psalmist (Psalm 118: 26) which proclaimed Him King. And to ensure the Lord will be home when we come to see Him at His table, we proclaim them at the beginning of Eucharist as a part of the Sanctus.

“Goodbye to Evil”

Psalm 37: 27: “Depart from evil, and do good, so you will abide forever.” If the same fate awaits the sinner and the saint, go ahead, knock yourself out. Sin away! But there is a God – a God Who sees, a God Who cares. And He promises: Doing good will be rewarded with long life, eternal life. So not out of fear, but out of love for an all-seeing God, we depart from evil, and receive His promise.

“What’s in a Name?”

Matthew 23: 3, 8: “… they say things, and do not do them … But do not be called Rabbi … Father … Leader” Why does Jesus suddenly seem to have an issue with titles? Is He banning them altogether? No, but the Pharisees had gotten to the place where they loved playing Church more than serving people. They had seated themselves in Moses’ chair, and grew to like it so much they never got up from it – except to be served by others. Jesus says here, “What are they actually doing? Are they truly teaching? Fathering? Leading? Serving? If not, forget the titles.” He sees through the titles, straight to the heart, and discerns: self-serving, or God-serving? That’s His real issue.

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