Acts 2:22-36 – From Flake to Fearless

Statue of St. Peter in Rome

“Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.David said about him:

“‘I saw the Lord always before me.
    Because he is at my right hand,
    I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
    my body also will rest in hope,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
    you will not let your holy one see decay.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence.’

“Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord:
    “Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
    a footstool for your feet.”’

“Therefore, let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” (New International Version)

Throughout my ministerial life, there have been individuals who have come to me a bit discouraged because they have not experienced a changed life. After trying, time and again, to be different, they say to me, “Nobody ever really changes. We’re basically the same people throughout our whole lives.”

I couldn’t disagree more.

In the New Testament Gospels, the Apostle Peter was a flake. He sometimes was discerning and got it, and sometimes didn’t. 

Peter could understand Jesus was Messiah, but then turn around and refuse that Christ had to die on a cross. He would get bold and walk on water, but then also end up afraid, needing help from drowning. Peter stood tall for Jesus, ready to take on the world, and then turn around and deny the Lord three successive times.

However, when we come to biblical book of Acts, Peter is a completely changed man. Peter gets it. He is brave and fearless. He boldly confesses Christ. And all the while he does not falter, flinch, or back down. 

So, what in heaven’s name, happened and made the difference for Peter between the Gospels and Acts? 

The Holy Spirit, that’s what, or rather, who.

God’s Spirit comes upon Peter, and he is never the same again. He is a changed man. Peter goes from flake, to fearless.

Everything falls into place for Peter, who preaches with such boldness and effectiveness that thousands turn from their previous ways of thinking and living and turn to Jesus as the hope of the world. They changed, too.

Peter was all-in with a simple and straightforward message of good news, that God raised Jesus from death. He went on to insist, without wavering and with firm conviction, that this was so, because it was not possible for the Son of God to be held by anything, even death. The proof being the resurrection.

If it was impossible for death to keep a grip on Jesus, then there is absolutely nothing that can deter Jesus or hold him back from accomplishing what he wants to accomplish. 

Flaky believers are not going to frustrate Jesus or upset his plans; he’ll just send the Holy Spirit. 

We may too often imprison ourselves in self-made spiritual jail cells. Like the pre-Pentecostal Peter, we flake and flip-flop in the Christian life. Once-in-a-while we are spot-on, but cannot really explain why, like a golfer who hits an amazing shot but can’t reproduce it no matter how hard he tries. 

The truth is that Jesus has conquered sin, death, and hell. By faith, we have forgiveness of sins in him, and have the way opened to a new life in the Spirit. It isn’t a secret; it’s a new reality.

At the front end of the Christian season of Ordinary Time, we are reminded that God’s Holy Spirit is with us. We remember what good old Peter said so long ago, which is still relevant for us today:

We have everything we need to live a life that pleases God. It was all given to us by God’s own power, when we learned he had invited us to share in his wonderful goodness. God made great and marvelous promises, so his nature would become part of us. Then we could escape our evil desires and the corrupt influences of this world. (2 Peter 1:3-4, CEV)

The message Peter proclaimed was powerful, not only because it was inherently potent, but also that the gospel dwelled mightily in Peter and inhabited a central place within him.

We, too, have that same opportunity and privilege.

Loving Lord Jesus, I confess my faults, shortcomings, sins, and rebellious acts, and ask you to forgive me. I embrace you as my Savior and Lord. Thank you for your atoning death on the cross in obedience to your Father’s will to put away my sins. Be in charge of every part of my life. Indwell and empower me with your Holy Spirit, so that I may live as your faithful follower, now and forever. Amen.

2 Kings 4:32-37 – But That Is Not the End of the Story

Elisha and the Shunammite woman by Dutch painter Gerbrand van den Eeckhout (1621-1674)

Elisha entered the house and found the boy stretched out on the bed dead. He went into the room and locked the door—just the two of them in the room—and prayed to God. He then got into bed with the boy and covered him with his body, mouth on mouth, eyes on eyes, hands on hands. As he was stretched out over him like that, the boy’s body became warm. Elisha got up and paced back and forth in the room. Then he went back and stretched himself upon the boy again. The boy started sneezing—seven times he sneezed!—and opened his eyes.

He called Gehazi and said, “Get the Shunammite woman in here!” He called her and she came in.

Elisha said, “Embrace your son!”

She fell at Elisha’s feet, face to the ground in reverent awe. Then she embraced her son and went out with him. (The Message)

Life sometimes feels like a roller coaster. Our emotions go up and down alongside the circumstances which bring them forth.

Elisha was one of the all-time great prophets in ancient Israel. He developed an ongoing friendship with a woman from the town of Shunem. It was her simple hospitality to a stranger that brought about the enduring relationship.

Whenever Elisha passed through on his prophetic business, he would stop in and have a meal or spend the night in a special room set aside just for him.

But that is not the end of the story….

The woman was about to have a big change of life, a life she could not have ever seen coming and only dreamed of.

The Shunammite woman had no children and was not able to conceive. Yet, on one of his visits, Elisha promised her she would hold her very own infant child… which she eventually did. A year after Elisha’s pronouncement, the woman and her husband had a son.

The woman went from discouraged to elated. The child grew. The Shunammite and her family were content and living well.

But that is not the end of the story….

In today’s Old Testament lesson, we pick up the narrative as the child is a small boy, the family happy and healthy… until they weren’t.

One day the boy was playing, as he did every day. Whatever happened, he developed such a terrible headache that his dear mother rocked him for hours, trying to comfort him. The worst case scenario happened. The boy died.

The woman went from joy to despair in a matter of hours.

But that is not the end of the story….

The grieving mother refused to let death have the last word on her son. She saddled her donkey and went directly to Elisha. The Shunammite lamented to him about her son, and in her grief, cried out how Elisha had gotten her hopes up, only to be dashed by that dark enemy of death.

The prophet responded to the woman’s plea and set off  post haste to her home, which had now become a sort of funeral parlor. Elisha went into the room by himself with the dead boy. In an odd process similar to what Jesus would do centuries later, Elisha did some physical actions in bringing about a miraculous resurrection.

The boy sneezed, got up, and was given back to his mother. Her lowest of the low grinding sadness of distress and despair now turned to the highest of the high elation of joy and gratitude.

But that is not the end of the story….

The story continues because the larger overarching story of God’s gracious intervention into this world to bring about the redemption of all creation.

Along the way, across the millennia, the Lord continues to use faithful people to bring about renewal, restoration, and redemption. In the Christian tradition, the apex of this merciful work is fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ.

God himself was pleased
    to live fully in his Son.
And God was pleased
    for him to make peace
by sacrificing his blood
    on the cross,
so that all beings in heaven
    and on earth
would be brought back to God. (Colossians 1:19-20, CEV)

The resurrection of the boy, and all risings from death before Jesus, prefigured and foretold the ultimate resurrection of Christ. And because Christ is risen, we too, shall rise from death – both spiritually and bodily.

Therefore, we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new life. For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be united in the likeness of his resurrection. (Romans 6:4-5, NET)

The end of the grand narrative story is moving to a climax. Jesus is coming again to judge the living and the dead. All things shall be restored. All will be made right. We may sorrow in the night, but joy comes in the morning.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them and be their God;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”

And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also, he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. (Revelation 21:1-6, NRSV)

Our past grief and our present troubles will give way to a future hope – an ending to the story we can barely imagine, a glorious existence with our God which will have no end.

May the Lord come soon.

I pray the Lord Jesus will be kind to you.

May faith, hope, and love surround everyone who belongs to Christ Jesus. Amen.

1 Corinthians 5:6b-8 – Easter Is More Than a Day

All Creation Sings His Praise by Jen Norton

Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast affects the whole batch of dough? Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch of dough—you are, in fact, without yeast. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. So then, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of vice and evil, but with the bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth. (New English Translation)

Easter is more than one day. It’s as if a massive spiritual 10.0 earthquake occurred on that day with a great tsunami of life powerfully overwhelming all of history.

Today begins the Christian season of Eastertide. It is a time of realizing we are without yeast, that is, without any old unhealthy ingredients which may work through the whole batch of dough. We are to live into the new reality given to us by means of Christ’s resurrection from death.

Eastertide spans the next fifty days until the Day of Pentecost. That’s a hefty seven weeks of bringing the new life we enjoy to the forefront. Eastertide’s intentional focus is to acknowledge and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, exulting in our own new life in him.

Now, you might say to yourself, “Why do we need to have some liturgical season about Christ’s resurrection? Shouldn’t we be living like we recognize this every day?” Yes, of course we should. 

Yet, consider this: If we only sing songs of resurrection on Easter Sunday and only occasionally think of Christ’s resurrection outside of Easter Sunday, then perhaps, its sage to bring a highlighted focus to the resurrection in a special season. 

Just as it is necessary to take more than one vacation day in the year for renewal, so it is essential to observe more than one day to enjoy Easter. If nothing else, Eastertide gives believers an opportunity to let Christ’s resurrection percolate in our hearts so that we experience new life, as people who exhibit an alive-spirit. And, God knows, we could use much more of that in our congregations and our world!

If eternal life and being fully alive are needed for us, then it only makes sense that we take advantage of what Eastertide has to offer: A deliberate look at Christ’s resurrection, exploring its implications and impact for us. 

Simply assuming we all know about resurrection simply will not do, any more than my wife assuming I love her without looking her straight in the eye and telling her so. 

If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile (1 Corinthians 15:17). Being people of sincerity and truth comes with a purposeful eye on a new resurrected life. Without an Eastertide, there’s a sin-as-usual kind of approach to life with a shoulder shrug that says, “Meh, what’s a guy to do?” 

Methinks that unhelpful boasting and sinful pride are directly related to moving on from Easter Sunday and backsliding to the old life. Like a dog returning to its vomit, so is a church who puts away sin on a Sunday, then goes back to pre-resurrection living – which is no life, at all.

Instead, with Eastertide’s full focus, we have the hope of life everlasting because Christ has risen from death.  We have the hope of individual renewal, corporate revitalization, and worldwide revival because there is a risen Savior.

Therefore, this is the perfect time of year to engage in some renewal practices, or even make a few simple changes that show signs of life. Here are just a few ideas for lifting Christ’s resurrection into the next few months:

Pray for a revival of spirituality. Christ brings life, so praying to God for revival is a deliberate way of connecting with God.

Squarely address the leaven of harmful and unhelpful bread. Gossip, back-biting, slander, injustice, oppression, gaslighting, and hate are all poisonous yeast that kills those who are hungry. Casually sluffing-off someone’s acerbic speech and actions as “That’s just the way they are,” will not do, unless you want to exist in a pro-death culture.

Serve unleavened bread. Promote healthy practices of living. If guilty acts and shameful actions bring death, using our words and deeds for encouragement, love, mercy, forgiveness, and building up one another promotes growth, health, and life.

Proclaim resurrection.  I believe the church is meant to be the hope of the world because Christ is the risen Lord. Graciously proclaim the resurrected Christ and how the spiritual life makes a difference in daily existence.

Start a new ministry you always believed would make a difference. It is the appropriate season to take a risk. After all, if you have eternal life, can you really fail? Host a new in-person or virtual small group. Take initiative to up your knowledge of technology. Read some significant books and start a book club. I’m willing to bet you have some idea(s) rolling around inside you about blessing the world. Now, during Eastertide, is the time to turn that idea into reality.

Eat spiritually nutritious bread. If you would not think of skipping meals for days at a time, then consider the erosion to your soul and your church which can occur when folks don’t read their Bibles on a regular basis or pray with any kind of consistency. Stick to a plan. It will not only bring growth to your own life but will impact those around you.

Just keeping the word “Eastertide” in front of you for the next few months can be a simple yet powerful way of reminding us that God has called us to new life. Let the reality of Christ’s resurrection strengthen your heart so that new life informs all your thinking, speaking, feeling, and acting.

Holy and righteous God, you raised Christ from the dead and glorified him at your right hand. Let the words of Scripture, fulfilled in Jesus your Son, burn within our hearts and open our minds to recognize him in the breaking of bread. Amen.

The Wonder of Christ’s Resurrection

Welcome, friends! In the New Testament Gospel of Luke 24:1-12, we find an account of women approaching the grave of Jesus, only to find an empty tomb. Today, people search for reality in all kinds of empty places. There is, however, hope, because Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Click the videos below and let us enjoy and be in awe that Jesus is alive!

Pastor Tim Ehrhardt, Luke 24:1-12

May the glory and the promise of this joyous time of year bring peace and happiness to you and those you hold most dear.

And may Christ, Our Risen Savior, always be there by your side to bless you most abundantly and be your loving guide. Amen.