Author Archives: Michael E. Lynch

About Michael E. Lynch

A Bible teacher, writer, editor, and former pastor, with a B.A. in Psychology and Journalism from Syracuse University (1987) and an M.Div. in Pastoral Counseling from the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary (1991).

Christ’s Ascension: Eternal Hope in a Chaotic World

So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:6-11, New American Standard Bible).

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

He ascended into heaven,
       and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead (The Apostle’s Creed).

As I am writing this post for the Feast of the Ascension, tragedy fills the news. For the last three months, many of us have been horrified by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We weep over the continual suffering of the Ukrainian people. Our economy has suffered: skyrocketing gas prices, food shortages (particularly infant formula), a nosediving stock market, etc. Now, reports and images of a new flurry of mass shootings flood the media, including one on May 24 at an elementary school in Texas. Nineteen fourth-graders and two teachers are dead. I have a grandson who is graduating elementary school this week; his little sister, my only granddaughter, is entering the fourth grade in the fall. This massacre hits close to home.

Where is our hope? Politicians offer false hope: some think we can eradicate mass killings with increased gun control; others say schools need better security. You can read my thoughts about the political and social aspects of mass shootings and gun control here and here.

The Feast of the Ascension reminds us that Christians serve a risen Lord. Jesus has conquered death, is now seated in glory at the right hand of His (and our) heavenly Father, and will come again in power and glory. He will judge the living and dead. His kingdom will have no end.

This is our hope. No matter how chaotic our world becomes, God is still in control. This world is not fair, but God is just. In the end, His justice will prevail.

In the meantime, we mourn for those who suffer. We cry out for change. Christians must be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16). We do not use the weapons of this world or fight the forces of this world; our enemies are the spiritual enemies of God. Our weapons are those that Jesus has given to His church (2 Corinthians 10:4; Ephesians 6:11-13). He has given us a mission to change the world one soul at a time: Preach His gospel; make disciples of all nations; bring good news to the afflicted; bind up the brokenhearted; proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; proclaim the favorable year of the Lord and the day of His vengeance; comfort all who mourn; etc.

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
Because the LORD has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to captives
And freedom to prisoners;
To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn…” (Isaiah 61:1-2, New American Standard Bible).

Reach out to somebody today with the love and forgiveness of Jesus.

“Grant, we pray, Almighty God, that as we believe your only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into heaven, so we may also in heart and mind there ascend, and with him continually dwell; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen” (Book of Common Prayer).

What does Jesus’ exalted status, having ascended to heaven, mean to you? Does His promise that He will come again comfort and encourage you? Share your thoughts, experiences, or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2022 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christians and Culture, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons, deity of Christ, divine sovereignty | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn (Matthew 5:4)

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Photo from PxHere.

My last article looked at mourning in the context of Easter. While all experience grief and mourning at times, Christians are reminded that bodily death is not the final word. Jesus is the first fruits of those who have and will be raised from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:20). We also will live again.

Nevertheless, the pain of bereavement is real. We mourn when our lives have been drastically changed. Despite our mourning, grief, pain, and sorrow, the Lord offers us a promise. We shall be comforted.

Grief takes many forms. The most obvious form is when a loved one dies. We shed tears at the wake, sob at the funeral, and perhaps even wail during the graveside service. When a family member or close friend dies, we can be overwhelmed by unexpected waves of sorrow, perhaps for no obvious reason, for months—maybe even years.

However, other life-changing events can bring on feelings of grief. One can lose their job and have no idea how they will pay their bills. Maybe their entire sense of self-identity was tied to that job, and now they not only need to learn how to do something else: they feel like they have to learn how to be somebody else. A person can suffer a debilitating illness and mourn the loss of mobility, strength, and the ability to do the things they loved. A couple may divorce; they may mourn “what could have been” in their relationship. Likewise, their children mourn the loss of a level of relationship with one or both parents.

Some other kinds of mourning are related to our relationship with God and His creation. Christians can and should grieve over the presence of evil. Over the last few months, the world has watched in shock and dismay as Russia invaded Ukraine. People have fled their home country to seek safety elsewhere. Civilians, including women and small children, have been killed. A nation is being destroyed. Its people are suffering. A tyrant seems hell-bent on killing people until he gets what he wants. I grieve for the Ukrainian people. Sorrow and anger fill our hearts when we see evil destroying people’s lives.

We may also grieve over our own sin. True confession and repentance have an element of grief to them. We mourn over how we have squandered our time and energy. We grieve over those whom we have harmed. We regret that we have not loved others according to God’s will. Even as we rejoice in the promise of God’s forgiveness, we mourn that we have sinned against Him.

We need to mourn over our sins if we want to experience deliverance and freedom from our sins. To truly overcome an addiction, bad habit, or other life-controlling sinful behavior, we need to reach a point where we hate it in our souls. Drug addicts and alcoholics may struggle their entire lives against the craving for their substance of choice: it made them feel good or brought some kind of pleasure. To live drug- or alcohol-free, they need to grieve the harm it caused them and others. When that grief outweighs the good feelings, repentance is possible. But, they have to come to that point of realizing the harm their choices have caused. They have to confess. They have to mourn. Only then can they be comforted with freedom and sobriety. The same is true for any addiction, habit, or pet sin.

A Christian lifestyle of mourning will clash with the values of the world. The world tells us to seek happiness at any cost. It encourages us to pursue pleasure. It says, “If it feels good, do it.” Basically, it tells us to ignore “bad” feelings.

Image from YouVersion Bible app.

Feelings are not necessarily good or bad. Sorrow, grief, and mourning are not wrong or evil. God has given us our emotional side to help us make sense of what is happening to and around us. Sorrow, grief, and mourning remind us that there is something painful that we have to confront. When mourning the loss of a loved one, it may hurt, but it is our opportunity to emotionally say goodbye to the one we loved and learn to live in a “new normal” where that person is no longer with us.

Likewise, Christians cannot ignore the existence of pain, sorrow, and evil in the world. When we weep over the world’s evil, it is as if God weeps through us. He hates to see people who He made in His image suffer. We should share that indignation.

We cannot ignore the twinges of sorrow when we acknowledge our sin. We should mourn it. It is okay to have sorrowful feelings over our sins. It is the first step toward deliverance.

In a few upcoming posts, we will look more at the second half of this beatitude: that they shall be comforted. The Greek word here is “paraklethesontai.” It is a verb form of the word “parakletos” (comforter, helper, counselor, advocate), which is one of the titles Jesus gave for the Holy Spirit. When we mourn, the Holy Spirit is there to help us. We do not have to wallow in pity. We admit the pain that we feel, and we can wait on God to heal us.

God may also use other people to comfort us. This is an important reason to faithfully fellowship with a church of believers (Hebrews 10:24-25). Eventually, after receiving God’s comfort and healing, we may be the people He uses to comfort others.

O merciful Father, who has taught us in Your holy Word that You do not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men: Look with pity upon the sorrows of all who suffer and mourn. Remember them, O Lord, in mercy, nourish their souls with patience, comfort them with a sense of Your goodness, lift up Your countenance upon them, and give them peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Adapted from the Book of Common Prayer.)

What circumstances or experiences have led you into mourning and grief? Has God given you comfort? Share your thoughts, experiences, or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2022 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Sermon on the Mount | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Easter: From Mourning to Joy and Hope

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).
“{F}or the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:17).
“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
“After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also” (John 14:19).

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.

The Bible tells us that several women, including Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of our Lord, went to Jesus’ tomb on the Sunday following His resurrection. They were grieving. Shock and sadness filled their hearts as they went to complete the preparation of His body that began two days earlier.

Shock gave way to confusion as they found the tomb empty and two angels saying that Jesus had risen from the dead. For Mary Magdalene, confusion gave way to joy when she came face-to-face with her beloved rabbi, whom she had watched die just a few days earlier (Matthew 28:1-10; John 20:1-18).

Easter celebrates the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ on the third day following His crucifixion. In His death, He triumphed over our sins. Because of His atonement on the cross, we can freely receive forgiveness and everlasting life. By His resurrection, He triumphed over death. Death does not have dominion over Him. It also does not rule over us. Death is not the end of our existence.

Christ’s resurrection offers hope for all Christians. Because He lives, we also will live. His resurrection is the assurance that we will also rise again. We shall live forever!

Jesus’ resurrection also offers us comfort when we mourn those who have died in the faith. Those we love who placed their trust in Him will also live forever. Perhaps you have lost a loved one in the past year. He or she will live forever. If he or she knew the Lord, you will meet them again in heaven.

Let Easter be our special annual reminder to comfort one another with the assurance of resurrection and everlasting life.

“Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen” (Book of Common Prayer).

As we celebrate Christ’s resurrection and the assurance of eternal life for believers, I would like to share the song “Grave Robber” by Christian rock band Petra, released in 1983. I hope it blesses you as it has touched my soul on many occasions.

What do Easter and Christ’s resurrection mean to you? How can you find comfort and strength in the assurance of resurrection? Share your thoughts, experiences, or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2022 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons, Sermon on the Mount | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Disciples During Jesus’ Passion (Revisited)

IMG_20160304_173852827Photo taken by Michael E. Lynch, at Graymoor Retreat Center, Garrison, NY, March 2016

The following post appeared on Good Friday in 2016. I invite you to reflect anew on the disciples and ask yourself where you would fit in. Are you a Judas, a Peter, a John…?

“Simon Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, where are You going?’ Jesus answered, ‘Where I go, you cannot follow Me now; but you will follow later.’ Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, why can I not follow You right now? I will lay down my life for You.’ Jesus answered, ‘Will you lay down your life for Me? Truly, truly, I say to you, a rooster will not crow until you deny Me three times.'” (John 13:36-38, NASB).

My church has an interesting service every year on Good Friday. It is a lengthy service (scheduled to last about three hours). Four people share their personal testimonies, focusing on the theme, “What the cross means to me.”

Church is probably the easiest place to take our stand for Christ. (If it is not, you need to find another church.) But, when the temptations of everyday life strike, we find out how strong we really are.

As I reflect on the cross this year, I wonder which disciple am I most like. Which disciple do you imitate most?

  • Judas Iscariot: He followed Jesus, and was even chosen as one of the twelve disciples. All of them had their issues to deal with. For Judas, a big one was greed: John 12:4-6 tells us that, as the treasurer of Jesus’ ministry team, he would frequently help himself to some of their money. His greed eventually drove him to sell Jesus out for 30 silver pieces.
    By the time he realized the error of his ways, the grief was greater than he could handle. When he could not correct his mistake, he committed suicide.
    I often wonder what would have happened if he had not killed himself: I am sure that, despite his horrible sin, Jesus would have forgiven him and restored him to ministry.
    Do I, like Judas, love the things of this world more than Jesus. Am I willing to sell Him out, to compromise—to risk losing my fellowship with Him—for the things of this world?
  • Peter: Here is a man who could always talk like a spiritual giant. Even until the end, he promised that he would be the last man standing with Jesus, even if it meant dying with him. Anyone with a Sunday school education knows how that story played out. Within a few hours, while Jesus was standing trial before a court that had already rendered its verdict before his arrest, Peter pretended he did not know who Jesus was. He would not testify in His defense. He would not even present himself as a friend offering moral or emotional support during Jesus’ darkest hour.
    Am I like Peter? Can I talk like a holy spiritual giant when I am around other Christians, but then clam up and shy away when surrounded by those who are hostile to the things of God?
  • John and Mary: Only a small handful of Jesus’ disciples stood by Him until the end. John 19:25-27 gives us a brief list. Jesus’ mother was there; so were a few other women who had travelled with His entourage. Only one man remained: “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Peter may have been the strongest leader amongst the disciples, but John may very well have been Jesus’ closest friend. When everybody else fled, John stayed with Him.
    The photo at the top of this page depicts a famous image from Christian art. Mary holding the dead body of Jesus immediately after it was removed from the cross. The woman who 33 years earlier held a baby, who she knew would be the Saviour of the world, now grieved as all of her hopes, dreams, and expectations seemed to have been destroyed.
    Jesus’ dying request was that His buddy, John, take care of his widowed mother now. Not only was he to become one of the people assigned to proclaim the Gospel to all the world; John was also entrusted with a task that truly marked him as part of Jesus’ family.
    Am I like Mary and John, willing to follow Jesus, even when it gets hard? Am I willing to stay with Him when my expectations are nailed to the cross? Can Jesus trust me, like He trusted John, with those ministries that lie closest to His heart?

In the midst of the physical sufferings of His scourging and the cross, Jesus must have faced the unbearable pain of emotional and relational turmoil: The friend who betrayed Him; the friend who denied Him; those who abandoned Him. Even the pain of seeing His mother and closest friend grieve must have broken His heart. For the joy set before Him, though, He endured the cross and despised the shame (Hebrews 12:1-2), so that we can be forgiven for those times that we betray, deny, and abandon God.

This post copyright © 2016 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Palm Sunday and Expectations

“The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them, and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them; and He sat on the coats. Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees spreading them in the road. The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!’” (Matthew 21:6-9).

Scene from a Passion Play in Trafalgar Square, London, UK, on Good Friday in 2010, re-enacting the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. cc-by-sa/2.0 – © Stephen Craven – geograph.org.uk/p/1782823

Today begins Holy Week. Between now and next Sunday, churches of most denominations will commemorate Jesus’ final entry into Jerusalem, last Passover meal with His disciples, betrayal, arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection. Some churches will have extra worship services on Holy Thursday and Good Friday to emphasize each part of the biblical account of Jesus’ final days. Other churches will squeeze the entire passion narrative into the Palm Sunday service, hoping to accommodate church members who will not be able or willing to attend Holy Thursday and Good Friday services.

The entire passion narrative—the biblical account of the events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection—matters. It is all part of the Gospel message and, thus, is part of every Christian’s salvation testimony. We should not ignore Palm Sunday or the Last Supper to get to the crucifixion.

The sudden change of events between Palm Sunday and Good Friday is a lesson for all Christians. People can be fickle, easily tossed by the winds of popular opinion, current events, or personal circumstances. Our very faith can be shaken when we build it on a weak foundation, and we see this in the Gospels. Although some people think the biblical account describes an unrealistic change of circumstances in Jesus’ life, recent current events remind us that one’s public image can change in the twinkling of an eye.

Recently, actor/rapper Will Smith’s public image took a drastic turn. For decades, he has been a popular entertainer. He came across as a likable person. However, within a few seconds, his popularity disappeared. During the Oscar Awards show, comedian Chris Rock made a joke about Smith’s wife’s appearance. The “Fresh Prince” became enraged, ran onstage, slapped Rock, and angrily shouted and cursed at him. Since then, people who admired him lost all respect for him. I doubt Will Smith changed; it is more likely that the public saw a side of him that he had cleverly hidden from audiences. Nevertheless, within days he went from superstar to pop-culture pariah.

On Palm Sunday, the Jewish people who were in Jerusalem preparing for the Passover feast welcomed Jesus, celebrating Him as the Messiah with shouts of “Hosanna!” “Save us, Lord!” They recognized Jesus as Savior and hailed Him as their King. But five days later, they screamed “Crucify Him!” Many of the same people were in both crowds. People welcomed Him as a hero and savior on Sunday but demanded His execution on Friday morning.

Jesus had not changed. People’s perspectives did, though. Many Jewish people at the time expected a political Messiah. They thought Jesus would march into Jerusalem, cast out the oppressive Roman overlords, and establish a new Israelite empire far more glorious than the kingdoms of His ancestors, David and Solomon. Instead, Jesus chased the money-changers out of the Temple, reminded the religious leaders that the Temple was supposed to be a house of prayer for all nations (even Romans!?!), and did absolutely nothing about the political situation.

Palm Sunday Church Palms Cross. Photo courtesy of MaxPixel.net under a CCO Creative Commons license.

Jesus did not fulfill their expectations. So, they decided that He must not be the Messiah they expected.

Do we make the same mistake? Do we accept Jesus on His terms, or do we set our own terms and demand that He meets them? He is the Savior, but is He the Savior that we expect and want?

Which Jesus do we worship? Do we come to a Jesus who is supposed to make us feel good about ourselves and help us to accept ourselves just as we are with no need to change? Do we honor a Jesus who winks at our own sins but is ready to pour His wrath out upon those horrible people who sin differently than we do? Do we worship a Jesus who is going to make us rich? Maybe we have an image of Jesus who will give us whiter teeth and fresh breath, making us irresistible to the opposite sex. Perhaps we want a Jesus who will adopt our socio-political agenda, get with our program, and help us establish our ideals for social change. Maybe we want Jesus to help us with the addictions that we are really ashamed about while accepting the sins that we really enjoy. Perhaps we expect Jesus to make us feel good about who we are, soothing our consciences but not expecting us to surrender our worst character defects.

Many people worship a distorted image of Jesus. It is usually a projection of our own ideals, values, and desires. We want Him to get with our program, but that will not work. The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ is Lord. That means we need to yield to His will, not the other way around. A distorted Jesus, based on our own wishes, will eventually disappoint us.

The true Jesus did not come to grant us three wishes. Instead, He came to do the will of His Father (John 6:38). He came to bring light to the world (John 12:46). He came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). He came to give His life as a ransom (Mark 10:45) and give us eternal, abundant life (John 10:10). The list goes on. He will not fail to do the things He promised in His Word. However, if we bend His Word to suit our desires, we will be disappointed. You might twist God’s Word, but you will never twist His arm.

Who is Jesus to you? Why do you worship Him? Will you continue to trust Him even when the world does not yield to your expectations and wishes?

What do you expect Jesus to do in your life? How does it line up with Scripture? Have you ever been disappointed by Him? Share your thoughts, experiences, or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2022 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons, Current events | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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