"Pray for me, . . . that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains," is the earnest request of Paul to the community in Ephesus (Ephesians 6:20). Typically an ambassador lives in an embassy. When you enter a U.S. embassy anywhere in the world you are on U.S. soil. American citizens can seek asylum there.
Ambassador Paul, who represented the Kingdom of God, was not living in an embassy however. In fact, he was living in a prison under Roman guard. Still he knew that he was an ambassador for Christ. You might say he carried his "embassy" with him. Wherever he was, there was Christ, there was the Kingdom of God.
It is the same for us as Christian ambassadors. Wherever we are, there is Christ, there is the Kingdom of God. Wherever we live is the embassy of the Kingdom of God. Whenever people enter our home, they are on the soil of the Kingdom of God.
For Reflection: Do I realize that I carry Christ and the Kingdom wherever I go? Do I always act like I carry Christ with me? What kind of shape is my embassy in? If the King were to visit, would I be proud to welcome him in?
Let us pray. Jesus, we pray for all those who are serving as your ambassadors where it is dangerous to do so. We ask that they confidently proclaim your name even though they may be serving you in chains. We trust that they will still be able to share your message of reconciliation and peace.
When Jesus sent out the apostles and disciples to follow his example (Luke 9 and 10 as we discussed in our last post), he gave them the power and authority to do what he did. Luke 9:1 says, "he gave them power and authority." In Luke 10:1, it says, "the Lord appointed seventy-two others." Those who were with Jesus were appointed with the power and authority of Jesus. In Luke's gospel, we don't have the same ending as in Matthew 28. Instead Jesus opened their minds to understand what was written about him in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms (Luke 24:44-45) and he told them to wait for the Holy Spirit to clothe them with power.
Since he would no longer be present with them in the flesh, they needed the power of the Holy Spirit to be with them. They receive that empowerment of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2. Peter, the presumably uneducated fisherman, begins to preach from the Prophet Joel and from Psalms. And so the next chapter, the chapter of the church, the believers, our chapter begins.
Believers receive this power from on high, the Holy Spirit, in baptism. Sacramental churches also have Chrismation or Confirmation. Some add the "baptism of the Holy Spirit". Whatever we want to call it, we need the empowering of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, to enable us to live the normal Christian life.
For Reflection: Have I been baptized? Am I clothed with power from on high? If not, today is the day. If I have been baptized, do I act like it?
Let us pray. Jesus, I have been baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit. Help me to live up to it today and every day with the power of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus is in the house! As we saw in yesterday's post, in Luke's Gospel, Jesus' standing up and reading from Isaiah in the synagogue is the beginning of Jesus' public ministry. He then goes out to start fulfilling Isaiah's prophecy, as he said he would do. He teaches with authority (Luke 4:31-32, 36); he frees a man possessed by a demon (4:33-35); he heals many people (4:38-41); he preaches the good news to all who would listen (4:42-44).
Jesus does not ask us to do anything for which he did not give us an example. And just as he did not do things in his own strength, he does not want us to do things on our own strength. He had the authority of the Father and the power of the Spirit to preach, to free, to heal. He prayed before he began his ministry, he prayed all during his ministry, he continues to intercede for us before the Father (Romans 8:34).
For Reflection: If Jesus needed to pray, how much more so do I need to pray?
Let us pray. Jesus, you set the example. You laid out the mission. You showed us how to accomplish it - through our prayer, with the authority of the Father, empowered by the Holy Spirit and your own intercession. It is in partnership with you that we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). You are the source, the holy one.
"I brought you into this world and I can take you out," we sometimes hear as a threat from a father to a wayward son. I think there is an application for that thought in the spiritual world.
As we continue to pray for persecuted Christians around the world, I have still been reflecting on the fact that the Christian enemy is not flesh and blood but the powers and spirits of darkness in this realm and in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12). And our weapon against these spiritual forces is the word (the sword of the Spirit, the word of God).
God created everything in this world and in the spiritual realm by his word. His words, "let there be . . . ", took effect and accomplished what they were sent to do, including the creation of the angels. So the spiritual powers of darkness (fallen angels) were created by God - not for evil, of course, but for good. After creation, God continued to speak words to his people, but they didn't listen all that well. So he sent The Word, his Son. The Son spoke his words, but the people didn't listen all that well, until the Son shed his blood and said, "It is finished."
Those who did listen wrote down the word of God which we have with us today. And this written word, which came from the flesh-and-blood Word, to the people created by the spoken word, we learn so that we can overcome the spiritual forces in the world and in the heavenly places by the blood of the lamb and by the word of our testimony (Revelation 12:11). The lamb's work is done (it is finished!) and our work is to speak the word of our testimony.
The word of our testimony is the Word of God (Jesus), the word of God (Scripture) and the words that tell what God has done for us personally. What was created by a word of God we have been empowered to overcome (or take out) by a word from us. In our war on the spirits and powers of darkness, our weapon is the word. The evil spirits don't have the Word on their side, we do. Let us speak to the evil spirits, the powers of darkness, and overcome them with the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.
Let us declare. Spirits of war, hatred, murder, genocide, you were defeated by the blood of the Lamb. That same blood was shed for me so that I might be washed clean and set free from my sins. Furthermore, Jesus is my Lord. He has given me abundant life. He has justified me and made me righteous in his sight. By God's Word and by my word you are cast down. You have no more power in this world. You are defeated. The captives are set free.
As we pray and fast today for persecuted Christians around the world, the song "O Holy Night" was going around in my mind. I thought that was really strange - a Christmas carol playing in my head while praying against persecution. So I looked up the words. The third verse and chorus, which I don't ever recall hearing, are as follows (according to Wikipedia).
Truly He taught us to love one another;
Today let us remember that our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the powers of evil and the ruling spirits of murder, hatred, slavery, persecution and oppression (Ephesians 6:12-13). We do not seek revenge or retribution.
Let us pray. Jesus, we place ourselves within your hedge of protection as a surrounding barrier and we put ourselves under your wing. We stand today with those who are too weak to stand, in too much pain or fear to utter a prayer. And we command the powers of darkness to be dispelled by the light of Christ. We tear down the strongholds of murder, hatred, slavery, and persecution. We break the chains of those who are enslaved. We declare for all the world to hear that "Jesus Christ is Lord."
The disciples continued to heal people as they preached the Gospel after Jesus ascended into heaven. Healing and working miracles were quite common and are well documented in the Acts of the Apostles. In Acts 3 Peter and John healed a man who had been lame all of his life. The man was not asking for healing, he was begging for food or money. So there doesn't seem to be any faith present on his part. Yet Peter and John healed him anyway. This was a very public miracle because the man begged every day at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple.
Acts 5 is even more dramatic. Beginning with verse 14 we read, "More and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter's shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed."
As with Jesus, all of them were healed. None were turned away. We could continue to heap up citations from Acts as from the Gospels. The clear fact is that the disciples continued to heal and work miracles in support of preaching the Gospel. They didn't heal people just for the sake of healing people; they healed people to show the truth of the Gospel message. And the basic Gospel message is this: Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God who became a human being, who suffered, died and rose from the dead for the forgiveness of our sins. Repent of your sins and believe this good news. Be baptized and spread the kingdom of God further.
Let us pray and meditate today on Peter's words to the High Priest and the Jewish Council: "We must obey God, not men. The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from death, after you had killed him by nailing him to a cross. God raised him to his side as Leader and Savior, to give the people of Israel the opportunity to repent and have their sins forgiven. We are witnesses to these things - we and the Holy Spirit, who is God's gift to those who obey him." (Acts 5:29-32)
Following God is seldom easy. We can look to the record of the prophets in the Old Testament and Jesus' closest disciples in the New Testament. Only John seems to have died of old age. Following God's directives, doing what Jesus told them to do, got them killed. It is the same today in many places in the world.
Sometimes those who follow Jesus do, or want to do, the wrong thing. When Peter cut off the ear of the servant of one of the men who had come to arrest Jesus, Jesus healed the man's ear. Even in a time of high stress, Jesus showed compassion and offered healing.
Another time Jesus had to rebuke James and John. When they had been refused hospitality in a Samaritan village (another case of no room in the inn?), they asked Jesus, "Do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?" (Luke 9:54) Calling down fire from heaven seems like an extreme response to a small rejection, and certainly Jesus tells them they are out of order.
But what else does that question indicate to us? That they believed they had the power to call down fire from heaven.
For reflection: Jesus never called down fire from heaven, as far as we know. What made James and John think this was possible and appropriate? Is there a time when this might be appropriate?
Let us pray. Lord of Justice, Lord of Mercy. You who want all people to be saved and none to be lost, help us to curb our baser instincts and listen to your guiding wisdom. Help us to know how to use the power that you give us to increase your Kingdom on earth.
"What Would Jesus Do?" was a catchphrase a while back. It got a lot of people thinking and, sometimes, a lot of people arguing. They argued because they did not agree on what Jesus would do. In certain moral situations it is often difficult to determine what Jesus would do. And in our brief reflections here we can't go into those morally ambiguous debates.
But we can look at what Jesus did. Matthew sums it up nicely when he says, "Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness." (Matthew 9:35) Then Jesus gave his followers the authority to do the same. (Matthew 10, Mark 6, Luke 10) And they did. They did it while he was alive and they did it after he returned to his Father and sent the Holy Spirit. Sometimes they too disagreed over how to go about preaching the kingdom and healing the sick even though they had been with Jesus day after day.
I suspect the disagreements among Christians about how to go about things may not end, but what cannot end is our going out to preach the good news and heal the sick. It's what Jesus did.
For reflection: Am I doing what Jesus did?
Let us pray. Jesus, you set an example it is not always easy to follow. Help me to keep asking myself through the day, "Am I doing what Jesus did?"
It is no small thing to be a son of God. Paul says, repeatedly, that we are sons of God through faith in Jesus as the Son of God and our Savior. What does being a son mean? Sons inherit from their father. And we are not minor children. We are old enough to not only inherit but also to manage the estate. As Paul says, we have the full rights of sons. Because we are sons, we have clothed ourselves with Christ and received his Spirit into our hearts. Now we can call God "Daddy." (Galatians 3:26-4:7)
So, we are sons, clothed in Christ, having the Spirit in our hearts, our Dad created the heavens and the earth, and He put us in charge of managing the estate, the kingdom of God on earth.
For reflection: Daddy, thank you for making us your sons. You have given us great rewards and great responsibility. I'm glad that you have other sons and I am not in this alone. Help me to clothe myself with Christ, to put on Christ every day and to walk in your Spirit as I go about the work of the Kingdom.
In the Kingdom of God on earth, we are all citizens of the same Kingdom. We all believe in and work for the same King. We all have the same purpose. We live for him.
Until the fulfillment of that comes, Christians serve as ambassadors for the Kingdom of God. As with other ambassadors, wherever we are in residence, is the land of the Kingdom. When someone enters our home, they are entering the Kingdom. Wherever we go, we represent the King. In a real sense, the King and the Kingdom go with us. When we walk in a room, the King walks in the room because we are his designated representative. As St. Paul says, "We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us" (2 Corinthians 5:20). Ambassadors have the full faith of the King behind them.
For reflection: Do I carry the presence of the King and the Kingdom with me?
Let us pray. King of all creation, I bow before you. I acknowledge your kingship. You only want the best for your creation. With the saints and angels in heaven, I praise you. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
I started this website and blog on May 1, 2012. I am a Catholic who has been in ministry for many years. I first developed what I would call a close relationship with Jesus in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have been praying with people for healing and other needs. It is because I have seen so many of these prayers answered that I am so bold as to offer to pray for you individually through this website and phone line.