Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Readings for SUNDAY, February 26, 2017 - Quinquagesima Sunday

The Transfiguration by Giovanni Bellini, c. 1490

The Old Testament Lesson

The Old Testament Lesson for today is taken from Exodus 24:12-18

The LORD said to Moses, "Come up to me on the mountain, and wait there; and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction." So Moses set out with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God. To the elders he had said, "Wait here for us, until we come to you again; for Aaron and Hur are with you; whoever has a dispute may go to them." Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the LORD settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the cloud. Now the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. Moses entered the cloud, and went up on the mountain. Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.

This is the Word of the Lord
Thanks be to God


Psalms

Psalm 2 Quare fremuerunt gentes?
1   Why are the nations in an uproar? Why do the peoples mutter empty threats?
2   Why do the kings of the earth rise up in revolt, and the princes plot together, against the LORD and against his Anointed?
3   Let us break their yoke, they say; let us cast off their bonds from us.
4   He whose throne is in heaven is laughing; the Lord has them in derision.
5   Then he speaks to them in his wrath, and his rage fills them with terror.
6   I myself have set my king . upon my holy hill of Zion
7   Let me announce the decree of the LORD: he said to me, "You are my Son; this day have I begotten you.
8   Ask of me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance and the ends of the earth for your possession.
9   You shall crush them with an iron rod and shatter them like a piece of pottery."
10   And now, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth.
11   Submit to the LORD with fear, and with trembling bow before him;
12   Lest he be angry and you perish; for his wrath is quickly kindled.
13   Happy are they all who take refuge in him!


The Epistle Lesson

The Epistle Lesson for today is taken from 2 Peter 1:16-21

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, "This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased." We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain. So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

This is the Word of the Lord
Thanks be to God


The Holy Gospel Lesson

The Holy Gospel is written in Matthew 17:1-9
Glory be to Thee, O Lord


Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, "This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!" When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, "Get up and do not be afraid." And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, "Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead."

Here ends the Gospel lesson for today.
Glory be to Thee ,O Christ!


The Apostle's Creed

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried.
He descended into hell.
On the third day He rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.


New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The New Revised Standard Version Bible may be quoted and/or reprinted up to and inclusive of five hundred (500) verses without express written permission of the publisher, provided the verses quoted do not amount to a complete book of the Bible or account for fifty percent (50%) of the total work in which they are quoted.

“The Transfiguration of Our Lord” - The Sermon for SUNDAY, February 26, 2017 - Quinquagesima Sunday

Transfiguration by Alexandr Ivanov - 1824
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, "This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!" When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, "Get up and do not be afraid." And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, "Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead." (Matthew 17:1-9)

 “The Transfiguration of Our Lord”
by Dr. Jerry Morrissey

Jesus takes Peter, James and John up onto a mountain where he is transfigured before them.

The Transfiguration scene is yet another step or stop along the way of revealing just who Jesus is. Besides being the Messiah, the Savior, he is also God’s Son. This is a major theme in Matthew. In 1:20 the angel told Joseph that Jesus would be God’s Son. In 2:15 he is so identified by quoting from Scripture, specifically the prophet Hosea. In 3:17 God himself so designates him. In 14:33 the disciples recognize and confess him as such. In 16:16 Peter does so. Here, once again, God himself repeats what he said at Jesus’ baptism.

Though we are not told so, the numinous enveloping of Jesus in the divine environment, must have happened to Jesus more than just this once in his lifetime. In fact, his baptism has all the markings of just such an experience. When Jesus prayed in a focused way, for he was always in conscious contact with his Father, he most likely experienced God’s presence in such an overwhelming way that it had an effect on his surroundings; as well as himself. Perhaps, that is why he would withdraw from his disciples to pray alone. But, this time, this one time was different. He let them observe. Jesus seemed rather unaffected by the whole experience. Once it was over, he returned to “normal,” without much fuss or notice. It was the disciples and their reaction to this numinous event that Matthew concentrates on. He is teaching something here about prayer and about perseverance.

Perseverance first. The disciples needed this experience to both teach them about Jesus’ goal and to confirm them in their own resolve to stick to the program until they themselves arrived at the goal, eternity. That would mean a lot of suffering in the meantime. This glimpse of glory, a solitary glimpse indeed, for no other similar experience is recorded, this glimpse of glory was to be revisited in their minds when things got rough and tough to remind and strengthen them to persevere until the end. It was a great gift and explains why, despite their lapses into confusion, into a this-worldly perspective, such as arguments over who is the greatest, fleeing at the arrest of Jesus, etc. , they did recoup, recover, and remain faithful after all.

Prayer. The disciples had a religious experience, a mystical experience, an experience of wonder. The scene and its aftermath teach that moments of ecstatic union with the Lord are meant to be just that, moments, not abiding experiences. Jesus, his Spirit, remains with us, but sacramentally, especially through his word. We do not yet have the sustained, felt vision and comprehension of the divine presence. We cannot live here in a state of ecstasy. We must learn to pray as Jesus did. Yes, high points of consciousness, but also low points of awareness minus emotion. We must constantly remind ourselves of the invisible presence of God, when we do not feel his presence or any of the effects of his presence, such as we feel in contemplative prayer. Many people who do not feel God’s presence in a particular church use that lack of feeling, as an excuse not to go to church. But, we always have his word. He remains in his word and we are to listen even when we are not on the mountain. That will sustain us, cause us to persevere. God’s presence and power do not depend on our “feeling,” it, only recalling it and listening to it. That form of presence does not require any mountain, setting scene, appearances of Old Testament stars or New Testament saints.

In verse one, after six days: After six days God called Moses into a cloud of glory (Ex 24:16) that covered Mt. Sinai. The story here is recalling the Sinai theophany to Moses. Whether six actual days had passed is immaterial. The Transfiguration scene is to be understood against the backdrop of Sinai. Also, in the festivals of Israel, the first day of the seven-day long feast of Tabernacles, alluded to in verse four, began six days after the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. A Jewish reader would pick up both these references, rather removed from a non-Jewish reader.

Peter, James and John: These three, among the first called, form an inner circle among the Twelve, especially close to Jesus. In the new covenant they will function much as Moses and Elijah, did in the old one.

Mountain: While the storyteller makes clear that this is a real mountain, a metaphor for a place of revelation, yes, but a real place also, he does not identify it. Tradition assigns Mt. Tabor the honor, but it is too far from Caesarea Philippi (16:13) and had a Roman fort on it, full of soldiers, and thus, not private enough, to fit the bill. Mt Hermon, about fourteen miles away, and Mt. Carmel are two other possible candidates. Exactly what mountain is involved here is immaterial, however. It is a real mountain, but has metaphorical significance as a place of revelation, a kind of Galilean Sinai.

In verse two, he was transfigured: “Transfigured,” actually translates the Latin Vulgate , transfiguratus est, and it has stuck as the translation of the Greek metemorphothe, which means “transformed.” The word is used in English, “metamorphosis,” a change of form. What is described does not exactly conform to the Greek idea of metamorphosis, a change in earthly form, and so we can understand the Latin translator trying to get at that difference by coining a new word, “transfiguration.” Neither does what is described conform to other uses of the Greek word elsewhere in the New Testament. In the only other two places where it is used Romans 12:2 and 2 Cor. 3:18, it means an interior transformation. What is described here is a physical and physically visible change in outward appearance, but only a glimpse of a heavenly form. This transformation is not to continue on earth. Jesus was not forever changed in outward appearance. The change went back to “normal,” before he descended the mountain. The Jews by now were familiar with an apocalyptic notion that the righteous would take on a glorious heavenly “form,” in the Eschaton, the second coming of Christ. We can presume that Peter and the others had heard of this and had some inkling that they were witnessing an example or fulfillment of that notion.

His face shone like the sun: Moses’ face is so described when he came down from Mt. Sinai, Ex 34: 29-35.

His clothes became white as light: This emphasizes that this was a physical change, not merely an interior vision or experience. Jesus becomes a being of light, shining through the “clouds,” of clothing, transparent to his disciples in the fullest sense of the word.

In verse three, Moses and Elijah appeared to them: Both had conversed with and received revelation from God on Mt. Sinai. Both had been taken up into heaven, transported and transformed, in a mysterious way. Both were expected to return at the Eschaton. Moses represented the Law and Elijah the Prophets, that is, the Old Testament. As they fade from the scene, “pale by comparison,” Jesus fulfills law and Prophets by surpassing them. He remains. In conversing with them, Jesus shows he is conversant with the Old Testament, came not to abolish but to fulfill or surpass, the Law and Prophets, Matthew 5: 17-20.

In verse four, three tents: So far, no one has been able to explain what this remark means. Mark 9:6 comments that “He hardly knew what to say” and Luke 9:33 states, “But he did not know what he was saying.” Since Matthew likes to smooth over any confusion of the disciples’ part, he glosses over the matter by continuing with “While he was still speaking…” Virtually every commentator observes how these proposed tents are a reference to the Feast of Tabernacles during which people would live in temporary tents as a reminder of Israel’s desert wanderings. While this might shed some light on the context of the remark, it does little to elucidate the remark itself. The larger context does offer a possible interpretation, however. Peter confessed Jesus as Messiah and Son of God in 16:16. Right after that Jesus told him and the disciples that his mission would involve suffering and death. Peter objected to such a thing and Jesus reprimands him for it. Clearly, Peter did not like to even think of suffering or “crosses.” His statement here might well mean something like, ”Let’s stay here, in this moment of awe and ecstasy, but if we cannot, let’s at least erect a memorial, a shrine, a monument for our memory so we can return to it in the hopes of repeating it.” Peter did not want to go down the mountain and return to the molehill of ordinary experience where suffering and cross take place. We should keep in mind, however, that this is reading into the text something it does not clearly say. A further point. There were Jewish Christians in Mattew’s circle who wanted to keep the Old Testament, Moses and Elijah, on the same footing as the New Testament, Jesus. Peter’s wish would put them on an equal footing and that would not do. Thus, his wishes did not come to fruition and the text makes clear that “they saw no one else, but Jesus alone in verse eight.”

In verse five, bright cloud: There is really no such thing as a bright cloud. This is clearly religious, symbolic language, expressing the revealing “bright” yet veiling or hidden, “cloud,” presence of God, which descends and envelops the scene. God is perceived not directly by sight but only through his word. The “word,” here is an exact repeat of what God spoke at Jesus’ baptism, except “Listen to him,” is added. There will be no shrines, no memorials, no monuments of magnificence, only memories and one mandate: Listen to Jesus. Listening to his word is listening to God and he will interpret the meaning of the eternal experience in the midst of life, down the mountain, on the molehill.

In verse six, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid: Prostration was a sign of humility and worship. Fear, both being scared and awed simultaneously, was an appropriate reaction and response to the divine felt presence. The disciples knew who was there. They were having a religious, even mystical, experience.

In verse seven, Jesus came and touched them: The disciples had been on the frontier of eternity, in contact with a dimension of reality hitherto unknown to them. Humans are not equipped physically or emotionally to stay there; at least, not in our present physical form. The human touch of Jesus, like a gentle waking them up, bringing them back to ordinary reality, must have been very comforting. They knew now, firsthand, why God does not show himself in all his glory all the time. Humans could not survive it. It is just too intense. Yet, they will bring the truth of that world back with them and learn from Jesus how to live in the light of that truth all the while living at the foot of that mountain, in ordinary daily life. They had something similar to what those who have had “near-death” experiences describe.

In verse eight, Jesus alone: Jesus eclipses the two greatest Old Testament figures. He embodies God, but in human form. They should never look on Jesus again in the same old earthly way. He is the window to eternity and the mouthpiece of God.

In verse nine, do not tell the vision to anyone until.” The disciples are not told to forget the vision, only to keep it to themselves, until after the resurrection. Then, no political interpretation of Jesus’ Messiahship will be possible. Having seen a glimpse of what the resurrection means, they can now accept suffering, Jesus’ and theirs, in that light. Jesus is God-man, not Super-man.

Sermon

In eternity the glory or presence of God will be both transparent, we will not have to look for it or look into reality to see it, and constant, it will never go away, be hidden or seem absent. The “glory,” is reality as it really is, as God sees it. And we will see it. Certainly, not “all of God,” or God as he is in himself, but as much of God, as God has deemed to reveal and we are capable of experiencing. In other words, a whole lot more than now, even though “now,” is quite a lot itself, a whole lot better than “nothing.”

God is always present. We are not always aware of his presence. Yet, sometimes, amidst the clouds of daily life, there is a break and the sun or light shines through and we see him, as much as we are capable, not his “face” or “body,” for he has neither as we would define the terms. We, like the disciples at the Transfiguration, glimpse his glory and feel his presence.

We are not yet on the other side of that cloudy curtain, like Moses and Elijah, but we do get to peek in, like a sort of holy voyeur. And we do get to listen in, even though we do not understand the language of heaven yet. Jesus knows this language and can translate it, so can the indwelling residence Holy Spirit, into human words and he can point out to us the eternal dimension in human experiences. These special experiences have been given names like “oceanic experience,” by Freud, “religious experience,” by Dewey, “mystical experience,” by saints, “aesthetic experience,” by poets and artists, “experiences of wonder,” by Sam Keen, or just wonderful experiences, by most of us.

Even when the clouds return, however, the presence, the real presence, remains. Though it cannot be seen with physical eyes, it can still be heard. The clouds, results of sin, can block out our vision of God, but not our hearing of his voice. Clouds cannot do that. The voice, the Word of God, penetrates the clouds of human, one-eyed perceptions and speaks through them, in spite of them, giving us verbally a vision we cannot see optically. Praying, thinking, reflecting, meditating, contemplating in the “presence,” of the word of God can evoke a felt awareness of God, but even more importantly, it communicates God, with or without the feelings of numinosity.

Who has not said downright silly things to God in prayer? Who cannot identify with Peter, saying something to God because we think we should? Promising to do something -- like building not one but three monuments to the moment? God graciously ignores or maybe laughs at, such inept overreach. Yet, it is in prayer, that we receive the strength to do what is consistent with that vision.

Sometimes we can misunderstand what that vision means, like Peter did, but we trust the Lord’s Spirit will bring us back into line. In this case, it was the Lord himself who told Peter and the others to rise above their fear and the Father himself who said that listening to Jesus would do the same thing for them as seeing him transfigured before their eyes. It may not feel as numinous, but it will be as luminous. It is an experience available always and everywhere, no mountain needed. The glory of God is invisibly present and growing within us (2 Cor. 3:18).

It does sometimes break through to our consciousness and can even become visible to others. When we see the glory of God shining through others we call them “saints,” whether canonized or not. For the most part, however, we reflect and repeat the experience of Jesus who lived with his disciples in normal guise and ways, even though the resurrected Jesus lives within us under cover of “cloud.”

The process- cross first, then resurrection- is not a rigid one or a once in a lifetime one. It is lived, lived out, repeated, reflected in virtually every experience. At the end, it will stop happening and there will be no more “cross.” For now, “cross,” cannot be ignored or avoided. It is to be embraced as part of God’s plan to have his glory shine all the more. Because we get glimpses of fulfillment along the way we are confirmed that his way is the only way to get where we are going.

The mountain experience was for the disciples just such a moment. They were ecstatic and wanted never to come down, until Jesus reminded them that the only way they got there was to “climb,” to suffer what was necessary to arrive at the top.

The vision was pure grace, but the journey to it required their cooperation with that grace. Thus, their suffering, like his, is redemptive, of redeeming value, helping not only them to arrive at the goal, but others to follow in their imprints.

Although God is completely present always and everywhere, humans experience his presence in varying degrees of intensity.

Although the degree of intensity is completely a gift from God, a daily diet of sustained prayer increases the chances of having profoundly felt experiences of God being present.

Even such intense experiences do not remove the “cloud,” surrounding God’s presence, for the cloud not only “hides,” God but protects the person having the experience.

Listening to Jesus, the God-man who lives in the divine presence, will do the same thing for human beings as being in the intense awareness of God’s presence themselves.

The way to glory is through suffering.

Transfigured: This very interesting word, a word used only in this context, has a lot to recommend it. True, “transfigured,” is a Latin neologism, and not an exact translation of the original Greek (metemorphothe), meaning “transformed,” but it has stuck as an appropriate translation of what the inspired author intended to say. It does not really describe what actually happened. The author had to use comparisons- his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light, metaphors for transcendence. Like the appearances of the risen Lord who “transcended,” earth but appeared to his disciples “in glory,” in a “transformed,” body, the vision the disciples experienced and Matthew is the only evangelist to use the term “vision,” for what happened, was not that of a ghost, but of an interactive person through whose earthly body the glory of God became transparent. So, “transfigured,” is a good word because it includes both the heavenly and earthly simultaneously, as did the earthly body of Jesus. Normally, indeed except for this singular event, the transparency of glory did not shine through in a way that others could actually see it with their physical eyes, though they might sense it with their spiritual acumen. 

“Transfigured,” expresses the truth contained in the Church’s understanding of the creedal term “resurrection of the body.” The disciples did not see a ghost or an angel but a human being, that is, Jesus, as he would look when he along with Moses and Elijah, “appeared in glory,” (Luke 9: 31). Thus, all of matter, all of God’s creation, will share in this glorified state at some point in the future and can share in it now, though “under a cloud.” This scene shows us not only a “glorified,” human body but clothes as well, representing all the matter in the universe. This matter, indeed, all matter, is positively affected, “saved,” if you will, because of its having been touched by the saving grace of Jesus. It reveals to us that the goal of all creation is glory and the means to that glory is through the disciples of Jesus who now contain within themselves the glorified body, that is personal presence,” of Jesus the Lord.

Transcendence: If the transfiguration was a singular, once-in-a-lifetime, event, transcendence, which is represents, is not. We have many experiences of transcendence, of being lifted up or going beyond our ordinary perception of reality. Listening and entering into the spirit of music is a prime example. We listen to music a lot because it raises us up out of the doldrums of routine and tedium, out of the otherwise drab and dreary world we live in and transports us to an alternative “vision, ” of reality. We see the ordinary world “transfigured,” into a place we would really like to live. The dirt, dust, grit, grime and gray, the molehill, of daily life can be left and we can go up the mountain. We can listen to what the music, both the tune and the words, says and enjoy, if only briefly, the exuberance of life that ordinariness can hide. And, unhappily, we must come down from the mountain, turn off the music, and return. But, we return having been positively affected by the experience. For most people, transcendence, is but one song away. Like Peter, we want to erect a monument so that we can return to the experience. So, we memorize the song and sing it even when the music is not playing. That is what we Christians do. We memorize the word(s) of God and practice them in daily life and in our mind we are singing the Lord’s tunes, behaving as he would.

This “transfiguration “experience was meant to fortify the disciples for suffering and music does the same for us. So does love. Others may not be able to hear the music but they can certainly see us dancing to it. Amen.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The New Revised Standard Version Bible may be quoted and/or reprinted up to and inclusive of five hundred (500) verses without express written permission of the publisher, provided the verses quoted do not amount to a complete book of the Bible or account for fifty percent (50%) of the total work in which they are quoted. Sermon shared by Dr. Jerry Morrissey, Feb 21, 2002.

Verse of the Day - February 26, 2017


1 John 4:9 (NIV) This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.

Read all of 1 John 4

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Un Dia a la Vez - Oración por misericordia


Confíen en el Señor para siempre, porque el Señor es una Roca eterna. Isaías 26:4 (NVI)

Señor: He leído y escuchado que tus misericordias son nuevas cada día para nosotros y eso me da la esperanza de que no estoy sola, de que te preocupas por lo que estoy viviendo y que con la prueba me darás también la salida.

Dios mío, te pido perdón si te he culpado de lo que me pasa, pero te confieso que no puedo más. Estoy muy cansado de tomar mis decisiones y de no tenerte en cuenta.

Hoy te pido una nueva oportunidad. He comprendido que deseas ayudarme, regalarme días felices y enseñarme cosas que ahora no puedo entender.

Así que no quiero cuestionarte. Solo quiero aprender a descansar en ti y a confiar en todo tiempo en ti.

Te entrego en este día mis cargas y recibo tu misericordia nueva de hoy.

Amén y amén

Un Día a la Vez Copyright © by Claudia Pinzón. La Santa Biblia, Nueva Versión Internacional® NVI® Copyright © 1986, 1999, 2015 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Standing Strong Through the Storm - SUFFERING CAN CONTRIBUTE TO THE SPIRITUAL STENGTH OF OTHERS

Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly. Philippians 1:14 (NIV)

A pastor imprisoned for his faith in Eritrea recently wrote to his wife:

God, by His holy will, has prolonged my prison sentence to five years and four month. I very much long for the day that I will be reunited with you my dear wife, our children and God's people in the church.

My dear, listen to me—not only as a wife, but also as a Christian woman who has come to understand who God is and how deep and mysterious His ways are. Yes! I love you, I love the children, and I would love to be free in order to serve God. But, in here, God has made me not only a sufferer for His Name’s sake in a prison of this world over which Christ has won victory, but also a prisoner of His indescribable love and grace. I am testing and experiencing the love and care of our Lord every day.

When they first brought me to this prison, I had thoughts which were contrary to what the Bible says. I thought the devil had prevailed over the church and over me. I thought the work of the gospel in Eritrea was over. But it did not take one day for the Lord to show me that He is a sovereign God and that He is in control of all things—even here in prison.

The moment I entered my cell, one of the prisoners called me and said, “Pastor, come over here. Everyone in this cell is [unsaved]. You are very much needed here.” So, on the same day I was put in prison, I carried on my spiritual work.

My dear, the longer I stay in here, the more I love my Saviour and tell the people here about His goodness. His grace is enabling me to overcome the coldness and the longing that I feel for you and for our children. Sometimes I ask myself, Am I out of my mind? Am I a fool? Well, isn’t that what the Apostle Paul said, “Whether I am of sound mind or out of my mind, I am Christ’s!”

My most respected wife, I love you more than I can say. Please help the children understand that I am here as a prisoner of Christ for the greater cause of the gospel.

RESPONSE: Today I will live in the awareness that God is in control of all that happens in my life. My suffering can contribute to the spiritual strength of others.

PRAYER: Please pray for the wives and families of pastors imprisoned for their faith. Pray that they will be strengthened and an encouragement to others, despite their own pain.

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

LHM Daily Devotion - "God at Work through Us"

 February 26, 2017

How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the Good News!" But they have not all obeyed the Gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?" So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ. - Romans 10:14-17 (ESV)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

The salvation story of Jesus Christ reaches around the world. So that the readers of our Daily Devotion may see the power of the Savior on a global scale, we have asked the volunteers of our international ministry centers to write our Sunday devotions. We pray that the Spirit may touch your day through their words.

In Christ, I remain, His servant and yours,
Kenneth R. Klaus
Speaker Emeritus of The Lutheran Hour


Billions of people around the world are living in the dark.

They are seeking some kind of light, but where should they search and for what should they look? These things they do not know.

In contrast to what they do not know, we believers are fully aware that these people are in urgent spiritual need. We also know we have a responsibility to them that comes from God. He has told us the Holy Spirit will save lives when we preach the Word and bring the risen Christ to all nations.

In Vietnam we are not afraid of hard work, unforeseen inconveniences, and many difficulties. The Savior warned us these things would come. Still, no matter what may be ahead, we rejoice in the opportunity to share the Savior through our lives as well as through our words. In the office or not, we try not to sound like bosses who bark out orders to underlings. No, our words about the Savior ought to be underlined by our sanctified lives in which we offer help and care, love and sympathy.

Some examples taken from our holistic ministry may help you see this point more clearly. Over the years, we have given milk to children at nursery schools and eyeglasses to the impoverished elderly of our country. We do that because we want them to see and feel God's love through our sharing.

We do it because not only the children, but also their teachers, their parents, and their neighbors then see God's Word is being underlined by our actions. And the result? Hundreds of people from our holistic projects have been saved by the power of God's Spirit.

Truly, we have seen many, many people come to know Christ and trust in Him as their Lord and Savior because they have heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which has been preached to them. We know Paul was right when He was inspired to write that faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word of Christ.

THE PRAYER: Dear Jesus, please help us understand the real importance of evangelism so that we may want to share Your Word and love with the lost. Please help us make our witness in both word and works so the Holy Spirit may move them out of darkness and into the light of Jesus. In His Name I pray. Amen.

Biography of Author: Mr. Dinh Hai Au is the director of Lutheran Hour Ministries-Vietnam, which is located in Ho Chi Minh City. "I was born into a Christian family but did not really understand who God is," Hai Au relates. Some personal crises led him to the Lord who answered his prayers in powerful ways. "Since then I have experienced countless blessings in my life and work," he says.

Hai Au majored in English and worked as an English teacher for 12 years after his graduation. From 2003 to 2007 he worked for LHM organizing shows that shared the Gospel to non-Christian children and youth. Hai Au began work as the center's director at the end of 2011. Under his leadership, LHM-Vietnam has experienced overwhelming responses and new or revitalized evangelism strategies.

Known in-country as Globalinks, LHM-Vietnam makes use of holistic ministry, sporting events, Internet radio, and musical performances to create opportunities for Gospel presentations. In this country of more than 90 million people, staff and volunteers from LHM-Vietnam's ministry center conduct eyeglass clinics and children's nutritional programs to help foster community relationships. God's Words is shared through print media, puppet productions, films, drama and rallies too. Both Bible Correspondence Courses (BCC) and lay Christian training provided through Equipping the Saints (ETS) workshops are effective in strengthening believers' faith and giving them instruction of witnessing and personal faith-sharing.

See how LHM-Vietnam is engaging in sports-related ministry and making a difference in the lives of players, their parents, and their friends. You can read this story by, clicking here.

To learn more about our International Ministries, visit www.lhm.org/international

Use these devotions in your newsletter and bulletin!  Used by permission; all rights reserved by the Int'l LLL (LHM). The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

Our Daily Bread - Complete Access

Read: Ephesians 3:7–13 | Bible in a Year: Numbers 15–16; Mark 6:1–29

Through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. Ephesians 3:12

A few years ago, a friend invited me to join him as a spectator at a pro golf tournament. Being a first-timer, I had no idea what to expect. When we arrived, I was surprised to receive gifts, information, and maps of the golf course. But what topped it all was that we gained access to a VIP tent behind the 18th green, where we had free food and a place to sit. I couldn’t have gained entry to the hospitality tent on my own though. The key was my friend; it was only through him that I had complete access.

Left to ourselves, we would all be hopelessly separated from God. But Jesus, who took our penalty, offers us His life and access to God. The apostle Paul wrote, “[God’s] intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known” (Eph. 3:10). This wisdom has brought Jew and Gentile together in Christ, who has made a way for us to come to God the Father. “Through faith in [Christ] we may approach God with freedom and confidence” (v. 12).

When we put our trust in Jesus, we receive the greatest access of all—access to the God who loves us and desires relationship with us.

Father! Just being able to call You Father is an incredible gift. Thank You for Your Son, Jesus, who has made it possible for me to come into Your presence, to know You personally, and, yes, to call You my Father.

Because of the cross of Christ, we can become friends of God.

Lời Sống Hằng Ngày - Được Toàn Quyền Bước Vào

Đọc: Ê-phê-sô 3:7-13 | Đọc Kinh Thánh suốt năm: Dân số ký 15-16; Mác 6:1-29

Trong Ngài và nhờ đức tin nơi Ngài, chúng ta dạn dĩ và tự tin mà đến gần Đức Chúa Trời. (Ê-phê-sô 3:12)

Cách đây vài năm, một người bạn mời tôi cùng anh làm khán giả cho một trận đấu golf nhà nghề. Là người lần đầu được tham dự, tôi không biết mình phải mong đợi điều gì. Khi chúng tôi đến, tôi ngạc nhiên vì nhận được quà, thông tin và bản đồ sân golf. Nhưng trên hết là chúng tôi được vào trại VIP phía sau thảm cỏ số 18, nơi chúng tôi có thức ăn miễn phí và có chỗ để ngồi. Dù vậy, nếu tự thân thì tôi sẽ không được tiếp đón vào trong trại. Chìa khóa chính là người bạn của tôi; chỉ qua anh ấy mà tôi được toàn quyền bước vào.

Nếu chỉ bằng sức mình, chúng ta đều vô vọng, xa cách Đức Chúa Trời. Nhưng Chúa Jêsus, Đấng nhận lấy hình phạt của chúng ta, đã ban sự sống Ngài cho chúng ta và cho chúng ta cơ hội được đến gần Đức Chúa Trời. Sứ đồ Phao-lô viết: “Bây giờ, qua Hội Thánh, sự khôn ngoan vô hạn của Đức Chúa Trời được bày tỏ” (Ê-phê-sô 3:10). Sự khôn ngoan này đã đem người Do Thái và người ngoại lại với nhau trong Đấng Christ, Đấng mở ra một con đường cho chúng ta đến với Đức Chúa Cha. “Trong Ngài và nhờ đức tin nơi Ngài, chúng ta dạn dĩ và tự tin mà đến gần Đức Chúa Trời” (c.12).

Khi đặt đức tin của mình nơi Chúa Jêsus, chúng ta nhận được đặc quyền lớn lao nhất – đó là được đến với Đức Chúa Trời, Đấng yêu thương và ao ước có mối liên hệ với chúng ta.

Cha ơi, được gọi Ngài là Cha đã là một món quà mà chúng con không thể tin mình được nhận. Cảm ơn Con Ngài, là Chúa Jêsus đã cho chúng con được bước vào sự hiện diện của Ngài, được biết Ngài cách cá nhân và được gọi Ngài là Cha.

Nhờ thập tự giá của Đấng Christ, chúng ta được trở thành bạn hữu của Đức Chúa Trời.


© 2017 Lời Sống Hằng Ngày

Nuestro Pan Diario - Acceso total

Leer: Efesios 3:7-13 | La Biblia en un año: Marcos 6:1-29

En quien tenemos seguridad y acceso con confianza por medio de la fe en él (Efesios 3:12).

Hace unos años, un amigo me invitó a acompañarlo a ver un torneo profesional de golf. Como era la primera vez que yo iba, no tenía idea de qué esperar. Cuando llegamos, me sorprendió que me dieran regalos, información y mapas del campo de juego. Pero lo que superó todo fue que pudimos entrar en la tienda VIP, detrás del hoyo 18, donde había comida gratuita y lugar para sentarse. Sin duda, no podría haber disfrutado de toda esa hospitalidad por mi cuenta. La clave fue mi amigo; solo por él, tuve acceso total.

Si fuera por nosotros, estaríamos irremediablemente separados de Dios. Pero Jesús, quien cargó con nuestro castigo, nos ofrece vida y acceso a Dios. El apóstol Pablo escribió: «la multiforme sabiduría de Dios sea ahora dada a conocer por medio de la iglesia» (Efesios 3:10). Esta sabiduría unió a judíos y gentiles en Cristo, quien nos abrió el camino para llegar al Padre: «en quien tenemos seguridad y acceso con confianza por medio de la fe en él» (v. 12).

Cuando ponemos nuestra fe en Cristo, recibimos el mayor acceso de todos: al Dios que nos ama y desea relacionarse con nosotros.

Padre, gracias porque puedo llamarte así y entrar en tu presencia al haber puesto mi fe en tu Hijo Jesús, quien abrió el camino al morir en la cruz por mí. ¡Qué regalo tan maravilloso!

Gracias a la cruz de Cristo, podemos hacernos amigos de Dios.


Unser Täglich Brot - Freier Zugang

Lesen: Epheser 3,7-13 | Die Bibel In Einem Jahr: 4.Mose 15-16; Markus 6,1-29

Durch Christus und unseren Glauben an ihn können wir nun ohne Furcht und voller Zuversicht zu Gott kommen. Epheser 3,12 NLB

Vor ein paar Jahren lud mich ein Freund ein, mit ihm zusammen zu einem Profi-Golfturnier zu gehen. Es war für mich das erste Mal, und so hatte ich keine Ahnung, was mich erwartete. Als wir ankamen, bekam ich zu meiner Überraschung Geschenke, Informationen und Karten des Golfplatzes. Am tollsten aber war, dass wir Zutritt zu einem Zelt hinter dem 18. Loch bekamen, in dem wir kostenlos sitzen und essen konnten. Allein wäre ich nicht in den Genuss dieser Gastfreundschaft gekommen; ich verdankte sie meinem Freund. Nur seinetwegen bekam ich Zugang.

Auf uns allein gestellt, wären wir alle hoffnungslos getrennt von Gott. Aber Jesus, der unsere Strafe auf sich nahm, schenkt uns Leben und Zugang zu Gott. Der Apostel Paulus schrieb: „Gottes Absicht war es, dass Mächte und Gewalten im Himmel durch seine Gemeinde den Reichtum seiner Weisheit erkennen“ (Eph. 3,10 NLB). Diese Weisheit hat Juden und Heiden in Christus zusammengeführt, der für uns den Weg bereitet hat, damit wir zum Vater kommen können. „Durch Christus und unseren Glauben an ihn können wir nun ohne Furcht und voller Zuversicht zu Gott kommen“ (V.12 NLB).

Wenn wir unser Vertrauen auf Jesus setzen, bekommen wir den besten Zutritt, den es gibt—Zutritt zu dem Gott, der uns liebt und in Beziehung zu uns treten will.

Vater! Allein die Tatsache, dass wir dich Vater nennen dürfen, ist ein unglaubliches Geschenk. Danke für deinen Sohn, Jesus, der es möglich gemacht hat, dass ich zu dir kommen, dich persönlich kennen und ja, dich Vater nennen darf.

Durch das Kreuz Jesu können wir Gottes Freunde werden.


© 2017 Unser Täglich Brot

Notre Pain Quotidien - Un libre accès


[En] qui nous avons, par la foi en lui, la liberté de nous approcher de Dieu avec confiance. (Éphésiens 3.12)

Il y a quelques années, un ami m’a invité à venir assister à un tournoi de golf professionnel avec lui. Comme c’était une première pour moi, j’ignorais complètement à quoi m’attendre. À notre arrivée, j’ai été surpris de recevoir des cadeaux, des renseignements et des plans du parcours de golf. Le plus merveilleux, c’est toutefois l’accès que l’on nous a donné à la tente des VIP plantée derrière le 18e trou, où nous avons eu droit gratuitement à des victuailles et à un siège. Or, je n’aurais pu obtenir le droit d’y entrer par moi‑même. C’est mon ami qui me l’a fourni ; c’est uniquement par son entremise que j’ai pu y avoir libre accès.

Laissés à nous‑mêmes, nous serions tous désespérément séparés de Dieu. Cependant, Jésus, qui a pris sur lui notre châtiment, nous offre sa vie et l’accès auprès de Dieu. L’apôtre Paul a écrit à ce sujet : « [Afin] que les dominations et les autorités dans les lieux célestes connaissent aujourd’hui par l’Église la sagesse infiniment variée de Dieu » (ÉP 3.10). Cette sagesse a eu pour effet de faire entrer Juifs et non‑Juifs ensemble en Christ, qui nous procure le chemin menant à Dieu le Père : « [En] qui nous avons, par la foi en lui [Christ], la liberté de nous approcher de Dieu avec confiance » (V. 12).

En mettant notre foi en Jésus, nous recevons le plus grand accès de tous – l’accès auprès du Dieu qui nous aime et qui désire jouir d’une relation avec nous.

La crucifixion de Christ nous permet de devenir les amis de Dieu.


Хліб Наш Насущній - Цілковитий доступ

Читати: Ефесян 3:7-13 | Біблія за рік: Числа 15–16 ; Марка 6:1-29

В Якім маємо відвагу та доступ у надії через віру в Нього. — Ефесян 3:12

Кілька років тому один мій друг запросив мене піти з ним подивитись турнір з професійного гольфу. Я вперше був на такому заході, тому навіть гадки не мав, чого очікувати. Але коли ми прибули туди, я був дуже здивований – бо отримав дарунки, корисну інформацію та мапи для гольфу. Але найбільше мене вразив вільний доступ до VIP-палатки на галявині. Там було вдосталь безкоштовної їжі й місця для сидіння. Однак я не зміг би скористатися такою гостинністю, якби прийшов сам по собі. Справа була в моєму другові. Лише через нього я отримав вільний доступ до всього того сервісу.

Самі по собі ми були б навічно відчужені від Бога. Але Ісус Христос, взявши на Себе наше покарання, пропонує нам тепер нове життя й вільний доступ до Бога. Апостол Павло писав: “Щоб тепер через Церкву була оголошена початкам та владам на небі найрізніша мудрість Божа” (Еф. 3:10). Ця мудрість привела до єдності в Христі євреїв та поган і зробила для нас можливим доступ до Бога й Отця. В Ісусі Христі ми “маємо відвагу та доступ у надії через віру” (Еф. 3:12).

Коли ми складаємо на Христа свою надію, то отримуємо доступ до найвеличнішого місця – до Самого Бога, Хто любить нас і прагне мати з нами близькі стосунки.

Отче! Дякую Тобі за Твого Сина Ісуса, Хто зробив для нас можливим входити у Твою присутність, знати Тебе особисто і називати Тебе своїм Батьком.

Через хрест Христовий ми стали друзями Богу.


© 2017 Хліб Наш Насущній

Хлеб наш насущный - Полный доступ

 Читать сейчас: Ефесянам 3:7-13 | Библия за год: Числа 15-16; Марка 6:1-29

Мы имеем дерзновение и надежный доступ [к Богу] через веру в Него. — Ефесянам 3:12

Несколько лет назад друг пригласил меня посмотреть турнир по профессиональному гольфу. Идя с ним впервые, я не знал, чего ожидать. Когда мы приехали, меня ждал сюрприз – сувениры, разные информационные бюллетени и карты. Но все это померкло в сравнении с последующим: нас провели в VIP-зону, где были кресла и бесплатное угощение. Сам я в эту роскошь ни за что не пробился бы. Заслуга принадлежала моему другу: только благодаря ему я получил такой привилегированный доступ.

Сами по себе мы были бы навсегда разделены с Богом. Но Иисус Христос, взявший на Себя наш грех, открыл нам путь к вечной жизни и доступ к Богу. Апостол Павел написал, что Бог совершил это, «чтобы ныне соделалась известной... многоразличная премудрость Божья» (Еф. 3:10). Эта премудрость соединила иудеев и язычников во Христе. Он привел и тех, и других к Богу Отцу, к Которому «мы имеем дерзновение и надежный доступ через веру в Него» (Еф. 3:12).

Обращаясь с верой к Иисусу Христу мы получаем самое лучшее – доступ к Богу, Который любит нас и желает общения с нами.

Небесный Отец! Даже то, что я называю Тебя Отцом, – величайший дар. Благодарю за Твоего Сына Иисуса Христа, Который открыл мне вход в Твое присутствие, чтобы знать Тебя лично и называть Своим Отцом.

Благодаря кресту мы стали друзьями Бога.


© 2017 Хлеб Наш Насущный