God Is With Us Always: II. Presence, Power, Purpose

“But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:16–20; all Scripture quotations from the New American Standard Version).

Stained glass window of the Great Commission, at the Cathedral Parish of St. Patrick in El Paso, via Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

The Great Commission seems to be a timely passage for several reasons. First, this article is appearing online on Trinity Sunday, the day that many churches celebrate God’s eternal existence as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Second, it fits well with a series about how “God Is With Us Always.” Third, it guides us during a time of chaos and conflict.

The disciples had endured extreme ups and downs in the weeks before the ascension. Less than seven weeks earlier, they entered Jerusalem with Jesus while crowds shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9). Some probably thought Jesus would cast out the Romans, sit on an earthly throne, and assign them prominent offices in His new kingdom. Four days later, those hopes were shattered as Jesus was arrested. The next day, He was crucified; of all the disciples, only John dared to stay nearby until the painful end. Their grief soon gave way to joy, and perhaps a lot of confusion, when Jesus rose from the grave. Over the next 40 days, He paid them periodic unexpected visits. While they were thrilled that He was alive, were they confused that He just showed up for a quick visit and then left? Life was not the same for them. It was obvious that they could not go back to their old life, but it was not yet obvious what their “new normal” would be.

Shortly before His ascension, the last time His disciples would see Him on earth, Jesus described the new normal for them: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

For three years, they had spent a lot of time with Jesus. His presence was real: they could feel it; they could expect it; they probably always knew where He was. But, during those three years, His presence was limited to a particular location. He could not be in Nazareth and Jerusalem at the same time. To be with Jesus, they had to stay in one place.

However, Jesus is no longer limited by place. “I am with you always.” No matter where we are, Jesus is with us. He can be in Nazareth, Jerusalem, Long Island, or any place on earth at the same time. Wherever God’s people dwell, Jesus is with them.

Jesus is not limited by time. “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” His death, resurrection, and ascension occurred nearly 2000 years ago, but He is still present among His people. We can still teach people to obey all that He commanded His disciples because He is still with us. Times have changed, technologies have developed, and societies have risen and fallen, but Jesus is still with us.

The Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—is with us wherever we go. We may not see Him now, but we can be certain that He is with us because He has sent us His Spirit:

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you” (John 14:16–20).

The disciples had seen Jesus exercising divine power for three years because the Holy Spirit was upon Him. Whether they realized it or not, they knew the other “Helper” (some translations say “counselor,” “advocate,” or another term; the Greek word “parakletos” does not have a specific English translation). Although Jesus would no longer be with them physically, His Spirit would be in them. The Spirit who, like Jesus, is God, would abide within each of His disciples, and this promise lasts to this day. Therefore, we can know that Jesus is in the Father, we are in Him, and He is in us because His Spirit dwells within us.

He dwells in us in power. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him. Therefore, He sends us as His delegates to minister in His name. The Holy Spirit within us gives all the power that we need to His work.

Jesus sends us with a purpose: To preach the Gospel. He sends us forth to make disciples and baptize them in His name. His message of salvation should be our core message.

We live in troubled times. Over the last few months, we have been ordered to take drastic action to slow the spread of a deadly virus. Just as local communities were beginning to reopen businesses and loosen restrictions, protests and riots in response to a case of police brutality unleashed new chaos and confusion in our lives. Many no longer wonder “When will it end?” Instead, they ask, “Will it ever end? Will life ever return to normal?”

God has not given His people a spirit of fear or timidity, but one of power, love, and discipline or a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). If the world around us is all we have, we should be afraid. If we place our faith in our political leaders, we should be really afraid. If we rely on our efforts to solve society’s problems, we will be powerless. If we hear the messages that are being shouted from 24-hour cable news channels, we will be driven to hatred. The news can drive us to despair, defeat, depression, discouragement, and so on.

The world needs to hear the Gospel now! Jesus sends us with a message. We must repent of the idolatry of exalting our political heroes and media pundits as if they have the answer. People need the power of God to do what is right. We need the love of God to love our neighbors as ourselves, including the following neighbors: those who are not like us, those who may find it hard to like us, and even those whom we may never meet face to face.

Jesus has given us a message that provides answers to society’s problems now as it did 2000 years ago. Let us go forth and change the world for His glory. He is with us always, He gives us the power to do His work, and He has sent us in His name.

How have you personally answered Jesus’ call to share His Gospel? Share your thoughts by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

[If you do not have a place to worship, you may visit Cathedral Church of the Intercessor at http://live.intercessorchurch.com; services stream at 9:30 and 11:30 AM on Sundays, 12:00 noon on weekdays, and 6:00 PM Saturday evening (all times ET).]

Categories: Bible meditations, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons, God's Majestic Attributes, Omnipresence | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chaos and Pentecost: A Christian Response to George Floyd’s Murder and the Public Outcry

Yesterday afternoon, two astronauts lifted off in a SpaceX rocket, the world’s first commercially-operated spacecraft, for a trip to the International Space Station. Today, I continue to quote the words of an old Randy Stonehill song: “Stop the world, I want to get off.”

The last few weeks have been an emotional whirlwind. On a personal level, my family has mourned the death of my uncle, who succumbed to cancer about two weeks ago, about 25 years after he was first diagnosed. We have also celebrated the birth of my fourth grandchild. There have been other ups-and-downs in our lives recently. It has been a bit of an emotional roller coaster.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.

But then, there is the global scene. Probably most Americans are riding through a cultural house of horrors. Our lives have been upended for about two months by the COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to slow the disease’s spread. Now, as things are settling down and communities are starting to return to normal, we hear of an all-too-familiar tragedy: an unarmed African American man named George Floyd died while being arrested by a white police officer, who restrained him by forcing his knee on the back of Floyd’s neck. For a few days, the vast majority of Americans spoke out against Derek Chauvin’s actions, mourning Floyd, who was being arrested for allegedly buying merchandise with a counterfeit $20 bill. (Take note of the charge: Floyd died over a small amount of money, and we may never know if he even knew the bill was counterfeit.)

The news over the last few days has shown horrific footage of riots, including people setting fire to police vehicles and buildings, looting stores, etc. What started as protests to demand justice for Floyd’s murderer has been overtaken by rioting, thuggery, and insurrection. On the third day of rioting, an African American federal security officer was murdered in a riot-related shooting. Apparently some people think “Black Lives Matter,” “Blue Lives Matter,” and “All Lives Matter” cannot all be true. This is no longer about justice or the value of human life.

This travesty occurs while Christians should be celebrating Pentecost. On the fiftieth day since we celebrated Jesus’ resurrection, we commemorate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It should be a time to remember the fact that Jesus sent His disciples to preach salvation to all nations:

“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age'” (Matthew 28:18-20; all Scripture quotations from the New American Standard Bible).

This Gospel should create unity, removing cultural and ethnic boundaries of hostility. For Jesus’ first disciples, the clash between Jews and Gentiles was huge, perhaps as serious as the conflicts between Americans of different racial backgrounds. One outgrowth of the Gospel was to tear down those boundaries:

“For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. AND HE CAME AND PREACHED PEACE TO YOU WHO WERE FAR AWAY, AND PEACE TO THOSE WHO WERE NEAR; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household…” (Ephesians 2:14-19).

Christians need to recognize that the horrific images splattering across our television scenes are visible reflections of the spiritual state of our society. When we look at the news reports, what do we see? Racism; hatred; vengeance; greed (nobody sincerely makes a statement about police brutality by stealing a flat-screen TV from a ransacked electronics store). Much of what we see in the media reports should remind us of those sinful attitudes which St. Paul referred to as “deeds of the flesh”:

“Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21).

I highlighted a few terms that seem especially apparent in this case. As I mentioned in an earlier post, “idolatry” can refer to greed, covetousness, or putting things before God. Some of the other highlighted sins can be seen on both sides of the cultural debate. While most Americans agreed a few days ago that Officer Chauvin committed a crime and should be published, Americans are now arguing: Some blame Democrats who govern in the riot-riddled cities and states; others blame President Trump and his policies; others blame institutional racism by white people; others blame African American leaders. Many Christians are tempted to rationalize their political stance even when it conflicts with Scripture.

The blame, violence, and hostility will not bring healing to our nation or justice for Floyd’s death. The only true antidotes are the fruit of the Spirit:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).

Christians must remember Pentecost as we see tongues of fire engulfing our cities. The earliest Christians shook the world with the power of the Gospel and the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Having come through their own whirlwind (the Triumphal Entry, Last Supper, Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension), they received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and immediately began preaching the Gospel. The Church has always had its greatest impact when it relied on spiritual weapons to fight spiritual battles.

The Holy Spirit has torn down the barriers which divide us. As Christians, it is our responsibility to step across the demolished barriers and share the love, mercy, and righteousness of God with a sin-sick world. We have the weapons to conquer hate and bigotry. Let us use them while we share the good news of salvation with people of all nations.

Please share your thoughts about the recent events by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below and letting me know what you think.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

[If you do not have a place to worship, you may visit Cathedral Church of the Intercessor at http://live.intercessorchurch.com; services stream at 9:30 and 11:30 AM on Sundays, 12:00 noon on weekdays, and 6:00 PM Saturday evening (all times ET).]

Categories: Christians and Culture, Current events, Holidays, Spiritual Warfare | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God Is With Us Always. I.

“Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me” (Psalm 139:7–10; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

“‘Am I a God who is near,’ declares the LORD, ‘And not a God far off? Can a man hide himself in hiding places so I do not see him?’ declares the LORD. ‘Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?’ declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:23–24).

Matthew 28-20 P8100007
A marker with Matthew 28:20 engraved on it, outside the Valparaiso University Chapel of the Resurrection, Valparaiso, IN. Photo by Chris Light via Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons 4.0 license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0).

In the next few posts, I would like to look at the last of God’s “omni” attributes. God is omnipresent—always present—just as He is also omnipotent (all-powerful) and omniscient (all-knowing).

The Bible usually mentions God’s omnipresence in the context of His relationship with His people. It is intricately tied to His nature as the Creator of all things, but His Word usually mentions it when He speaks to His people.

Psalm 139, which we also quoted in our discussion of God’s omniscience, speaks also of His presence everywhere. There is no place where we can escape from God’s presence. Of course, He is in heaven. The Psalmist tells us that God is also in Sheol, the grave or, as some translations put it, hell. You cannot go so high or so low that God is not there with you.

You cannot flee across the ocean to escape from God. Many of Israel’s neighbors believed their gods were tied to a particular location. Thus, YHWH—the Lord, the God of Israel—would supposedly be limited to the land where His people dwelt. He would be especially connected to His temple in Jerusalem. As the prophet Jonah discovered, God was not bound by location: If he tried to escape, God would follow him across the Mediterranean Sea, then into the sea, and into the belly of a whale, before leading him to the pagan land of Assyria. God was everywhere; there was no way to escape. That is still the case today.

We can always trust God to fulfill His promises because He is always present. He never changes. He will not go back on His Word, and He will always be available to do what He said He would.

We may be tempted to lose sight of God’s promises during difficult times. Many are becoming discouraged or distracted. All we hear about on the news these days is covid-19. One would think that this virus is omnipotent and omnipresent, but it is not. God is all-powerful. God is everywhere. The virus may be in many places, but it does not have the whole world in its hands, and it can and will be defeated.

Do you think you have wandered too far from God’s will? You cannot wander too far from His presence.

Does God seem distant when the world’s crises surround you? He is with you in whatever storm, flood, or valley you find yourself in.

God is with you. Reach out to Him. Trust that He is with you. Jesus said, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). You are not alone. God is always present.

How has the assurance that God is always present helped you in your life? Share your thoughts by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below and sharing your ideas or experiences.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

[If you do not have a place to worship, you may visit Cathedral Church of the Intercessor at http://live.intercessorchurch.com; services stream at 9:30 and 11:30 AM on Sundays, 12:00 noon on weekdays, and 6:00 PM Saturday evening (all times ET).]

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Majestic Attributes, Omnipotence, Omnipresence | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Feast of the Ascension: Jesus Reigns over All

“For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:15-23, NASB).

“Ascension” by John Singleton Copley. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Today the church celebrates the Feast of the Ascension. We remember that Jesus ascended into heaven 40 days after His resurrection from the dead and 10 days before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

Since several posts in recent months on this blog have considered some of God’s majestic qualities (including the fact that He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and sovereign over all things), it is worth remembering what the Ascension is really about. Jesus, who died and rose again for our sins, is now seated at the right hand of the Father, ruling over all creation. He is in control. In the age of COVID-19, Jesus rules and reigns. Let us trust Him at all times.

Take some time to read the passage from Ephesians 1 above and reflect on what Jesus’ glory and power mean in your life.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

[If you do not have a place to worship, please visit my church at http://live.intercessorchurch.com; services stream at 9:30 and 11:30 AM on Sundays, 12:00 noon on weekdays, and 6:00 PM Saturday evening (all times ET).]

Categories: Bible meditations, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons, divine sovereignty, God's Majestic Attributes | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Omniscience: God Understands and Loves You

When we say that God is omniscient (all-knowing), many of us think of lofty notions. We think of how God knows how the world will end. We think of how He knows the future, how He knows how many stars are in the universe, the names and social security numbers of every person who ever lived. However, He also knows some things that hit close to home for all of us. God knows our hearts. We can keep no secrets from Him because He knows all about us:

“We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things” (1 John 3:19–20; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Version).

The bad news is that He knows all our darkest secrets. He knows the most horrible thoughts we have ever had, the most shameful secrets, our most selfish motives, and our most self-centered excuses. The good news is that, despite all this, He loves us anyway.

Many Christians are afraid to confess their sins, to take a searching and fearless moral inventory of their lives—even if they are confessing these things to God alone and not to another person. There is no reason to fear: He already knows our sins—our worst thoughts, words, and deeds—before we acknowledge them. We will never be able to shock Him:

Image created with the YouVersion Bible app.

“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.
You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
Even before there is a word on my tongue,
Behold, O LORD, You know it all.
You have enclosed me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is too high, I cannot attain to it” (Psalms 139:1–6).

He knows our sins. He knows what we have said, done, and thought. He knows our motives. He knows the deep inner hurts that may have lured us into wrong or unhealthy choices. Because He became a man in the form of Jesus Christ and experiences the full weight of temptation, He also understands:

“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15–16).

“Christ in the Wilderness” by Ivan Kramskoi. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Because Jesus triumphantly faced temptation, we can approach Him in trust and comfort. We can come to Him with confession and repentance because He has been there. He has experienced temptation. He has been threatened, insulted, ridiculed, falsely accused, disrespected, and so on. You name it, He has been through it.

Perhaps, while you think about your past or even a recent situation, you hear a voice in your head saying, “You should be ashamed of yourself! How could you do that? What were you thinking? You are a horrible person.” This voice may convince you that you need to punish yourself or beat yourself up inwardly before God will forgive you. That voice is not God; it is not Jesus; it is not the conviction of the Holy Spirit. That voice is the devil himself. Do not believe the lies. God does not want you to live in shame, fear, discouragement, or despair. He wants you to know that you are forgiven because Jesus walked in our shoes and died in our place.

Yes, God knows all about you: the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the ugly. He loves you all the same. His omniscience is a reason to trust Him and take comfort, knowing that He will never stop loving you no matter what.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

[If you do not have a place to worship, please visit my church at http://live.intercessorchurch.com; services stream at 9:30 and 11:30 AM on Sundays, 12:00 noon on weekdays, and 6:00 PM Saturday evening (all times ET).]

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Majestic Attributes, Omnipotence | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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