Many Blessings to you in the New Year!

Happy New Year to all my friends around the globe. I am deeply grateful for the time you have taken out of your busy schedule to view my blog. I am amazed that different readers from over 40 countries log on to read my posts! For the new year, I would like to do something different. I have ben thinking of what I can do differently this year to be able to serve my audience better. So I decided to ask everyone of you to help me by providing guidance on what subjects you that you would best benefit from. So write to me either via my personal email or leave a comment on the blog page on what topics you want me to explore. And for those of you that have not joined, please do, so that you will receive notification each time I publish a new post.

Thank you all

Yours for the sake of the Risen King!

Blessing Jacobs+

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What does Love and Jealousy have in common?

As I was reviewing some of my morning devotion notes late this evening, the morning Office for Friday 14th Sunday after Trinity in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer caught my attention. The text in question is found in 1 Samuel 19:1-10.  I always try to read the entire chapter as ambitious as I am when it comes to reading God’s holy writ. This passage is replete with perplexing and intriguing phrases: The evil spirit from Yahweh; The Spirit of Yahweh; David’s spouse Michal’s betrayal of her husband; King Saul’s schizophrenia; the notion of this same king being ranked among the prophets, prophesying all day; and his servants also prophesying, and the lists go on.

I have spent a considerable part of my adult life trying to study God’s word. But the more I study, the more I realize how little I know. It keeps me humble just knowing that the human mind cannot articulate this Being called God. This passage is troubling because it contains things that are extremely difficult to explain. How can a good God have evil spirit? How can Saul, with such malicious intent to kill God’s anointed prophesy? And Oh by the way, he laid naked the entire day, and also prophesied before Samuel the prophet of Yahweh. He then swears an oath in God’s name not to put David to death, but as soon as the evil spirit from Yahweh comes upon him, he strikes with his javelin but missed David by few inches.

It seems to me that Saul was really possessed by this evil spirit, to the extent that he was bent on killing David. There are so many things to explore in this passage, but I want to talk about vs 9., the evil spirit from Yahweh coming upon Saul. Commentators avoid this passage. I have not come across one Commentary that dealt with this passage. I am sure that there are commentaries on this passage out there, but I am unaware of any.

I have looked at this passage in other languages to find out what is really going here, but always disappointed. I know someone who knows a little bit of Hebrew, and Spanish. And I figured maybe finding out how this passage reads in both languages might proffer some insight to this passage, but that made it even more interesting.

I tried to exonerate Yahweh by trying to prove that the preposition “from” is employed in an “instrumental” sense and not in “possessive” sense. But unfortunately, the Hebrew has it as possessive (the Hebrew Construct). The word (ruach) Spirit is in the construct tense denoting possession. I figured maybe Spanish will help, but again it reads: “Y el espíritu malo de parte de Jehová fué sobre Saul.” This spirit indeed was from God. This is impossible. The Biblical writers must have made a very huge mistake. But we have to face the fact. So what is going in this passage? Well, stay tuned! I will explore this in my next post. Please share your thoughts on this passage. All comments are valuable and are welcome!

God’s Best Wishes!

Blessing+

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Pentecost: God’s Act of remaking His creation!

One of the things that I find intriguing about the Christian Church is the emphasis we often place on denominational labels. Many Christians belong to different denominations. Interestingly enough, there are also those who claim to be non-denominational. I am not quite sure if this means that they don’t belong to any denomination, but it would seem a possible suggestion.

There are also some among the Christians that make disparaging remarks about those from denominations other than theirs. Sadly, also are some, who have already determined the fate of those who belong to one specific denomination. I have heard many Christians pass final judgment on Roman Catholics. These Christians insinuate that the Roman Catholics will all go to hell (whatever hell is). This ungodly pronouncement is not only playing God, but also an affront to the men and women who gave their lives to preserve the Christian faith we enjoy today.

The idea that Roman Catholics are all hell bound would infer that one of the great heroes of our faith Jerome, who translated the NT Scripture as we received it; Saint Augustine, whose theology was predominant for over 1000 years of Church history; Athanasius, the Father of the Church; Thomas Aquinas; our own Zwingli; Martin Luther- the great Reformer; Mother Teresa; and Saint Perpetua, who died in jail for failing to recant her confession in the risen Lord, who also gave birth to a child while being held in prison for her faith are all in hell right now as I write.
This post is not about denominations, or this unfortunate misconception by some among our ranks. The intent of this post is to help Christians examine what we believe and how we perceive those who might be different from us.

I have been pondering on the term Pentecostal. I am not quite sure I understand what it means. I would think that this word is employed in reference to those whose form of liturgy is boisterous, exuberant, emotionally charged, and expressive in nature. I belonged to this sect about a decade ago and performed ministry under this platform, but I am not really aware that there is such word coinage in the Scripture.
Could they be referring to the giving of the Ruach that occurred at the end of the “Passover” referred to as the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot)? The Hellenistic Jews gave it the name Pentecost because it fell on the fiftieth day after Passover (Exod 34:22; Deut 16:10). Or maybe this term is referential to the followers of a former fellow Anglican Priest, John Wesley, the brainchild of the Comeouter’s Movement, and the Holiness Movement; or maybe the more recent phenomenon in the United States that attracted many people from around the world- the famous Azusa Street Rival.

If the Pentecostal movement derives its name and form from this Jewish Feast, then I think it is a misnomer to be so named. The Torah was given to God’s people at Mount Sinai or Horeb (depending on which name you choose for the venue). God’s people was comprised of both Jews and Gentile, assuming that the multitude that followed Israel out of Egypt were made up of people from other nations. I personally hold this position.

This giving of the Torah marked the beginning of the nation of Israel. But Israel geographically does not account for all of God’s creation. As time went by, God began to speak through His messengers of a time when this Torah will not only be outwardly kept, but would also be internalized. This promise of Yahweh materialized on the Feast of Pentecost, and continues to this day.

It is the given of the Ruach (Spirit) of Yahweh, that happens when one becomes born again. It is the given of the Holy Spirit of Yahweh to empower folks like you and I that have received the good news of God’s sovereign rule into our hearts to do kingdom business. The Holy Spirit and His/Her indwelling and empowering for service activity was not a foreign concept in the Old Testament. In Gen 1:2, the Spirit is God’s presence and power within creation. The same Spirit entered the Prophets and enabled them to speak and act on God’s behalf.

We also see this at Jesus’ baptism by the Immerser, as He was equipped with the Spirit, which resulted in notable public ministry (Acts 10:38). Following Jesus’ resurrection, His helper friends were themselves filled by the same Holy Spirit (Acts 2). In the same way that the giving of the Torah at Sinai marked the beginning of the nation of Israel, the giving of the Spirit at Pentecost was also God’s fresh act of remaking the world and Jesus’ helper friends, and those of us who will later accept the good news.

This to me is what Pentecost is all about. The essence of the giving of the Spirit is to enable Jesus’ followers and Israel as a nation to live out a holiness which the Torah was incapable of producing. This same Spirit enabled them to live out a life of holiness, producing fruits in their lives, giving them gifts with which to serve God, the world, and the Church at large; and is also an earnest of future resurrection (Romans 8; Gal 4,5; 1 Corinthians 12, 13, 14). It is this indwelling Spirit of God, that works in us to produce righteousness, makes us part of God’s family comprising of both Jews and Gentiles, Roman Catholics, and non-Roman Catholics alike; making us mobile temples, and making us citizens of heaven (whatever that means).

In my next post I will discuss heaven and hell. Is heaven a place? Is Heaven God’s dimension of the created order? Does heaven reverentially stand for God? Is heaven really a place where God’s people go after they die? Fasten your seat belts as we explore these in my next post. But I need at least 10 thoughtful comments on today’s post for me to blog on heaven and hell.
I have hundreds of people who read my blog around the world, but only handful have registered to follow me. Please follow my blog by clicking on the “follow blog” icon, and please share my blog page with your friends if you like my posts. In that way you could also chat with me on other religious, ethical, and personal issues that you might have.
God’s Best wishes!
Jacobs+

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Which God Do you believe in?

This was a sermon that I preached two weeks ago at Saint Michael’s Anglican Church in New Haven, where I happen to be the Vicar. The parishioners expressed their affinity for this sermon and I felt I should share it with you. I pray God’s blessing on you as you read.

Text:Luke 6:36-42 “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. 37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. 38 “Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure– pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” 39 And He also spoke a parable to them: “A blind man cannot guide a blind man, can he? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 “A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher. 41 “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 42 “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.

Subject: Why did Jesus tell His audience to be like He has described in Luke Chapter 6?

Compliment: Because it is how God their Father is like.

Exegetical Idea: Jesus told his audience to be like He has described in Luke chapter 6 because that is how God their Father is.

Homiletical Idea: Which God do you believe in?

Purpose: As a result of preaching this sermon, I want my audience to understand that our duty as Christians is to reflect God. I want my audience to know that how they live their lives will determine if people around them will embrace their God or not.

I want them to know that living the Christian life is living a counter cultural conventional life style. It is living a life of the kingdom. It is living a new and refreshing life.

Introduction: I have spent a good part of my adult life in schools and training of some sort to the chagrin of my close friends, who cannot hang out and do fun things with me because I am always either studying or commuting over two hours to attend classes. However, at school, we have professors that we like and the ones we don’t care much about except to complete our course work and submit them on time. But there is also this rivalry among professors. In fact some of them will give you a low grade if they find out that you are associated with a professor that they don’t think much of. It could be because these professors that are not liked much are faithful to their biblical conviction or because they disagree on social issues of our day. But there was this professor, who happens to be a Jewish scholar that wasn’t liked by many professors. A former student of his went to study in a different school and happened to take a course taught by a professor who does not like this Jewish professor. This professor gave the former student of the Jewish professor a low grade because of this student’s association with the Jewish professor. But one day, one of the former students of this other professor came to study under the Jewish professor. Although this student’s grades were not that great, but the Jewish professor gave him an “A” grade on that course. The Jewish professor’s teaching assistant protested, and even reminded the Jewish professor how his former student was given a low grade by this student’s former professor, but he insisted on giving him “A”. This Jewish professor said I gave him “A” because that is what Jesus will do. Which God do you believe in?

Transition: Be merciful Because God your Father is merciful

I. Your Mental Model of God will result in how you live your Christian life

1. God is not a stingy penny pinching gloomy God, who likes making us suffer.

2. God is a liberal God, who gives us everything even when we don’t deserve it

3. God is God who gives us a refreshing and abundant life even in the face of adversity.

4. God is not a God who wants to make our salvation impossible by prescribing the things that we should or not do.

5. God is a God of love, who loves both the sinner and the saint alike.

Transition: What image of God have you created?

II: The type of God you believe in will determine the way of life that will follow

1. Is your God merciful?

2. Is your God concerned with the injustice and poverty in our world?

3. Is your God loving and forgiving?

4. Do people around you see the type of God you worship in your behavior

5. Does your neighbor see the God you worship reflect in how you raise your children treat your spouse, cater to the need of the poor?

Transition: You will reflect whom you worship for ruin or for restoration

III: Only when people discover the type of God you worship will they make Him their

1. Jesus was speaking about the extravagant exuberant life that His father gives.

2. The crowd were following Jesus because of the power that was flowing from Jesus.

3. His disciples won many souls for the kingdom because of what they saw in them

4. People were amazed at the type of life that Jesus lived.

5. It was counter cultural lifestyle

Transition: It is only when people discover your God that they can embrace Him

Conclusion: How do we respond to this sermon? What should our response be?

There are two things about Jesus’ instructions in this passage.

1. This instruction is simple, clear, memorable, and direct

2. What Jesus was telling them to do was very scarce, and almost impossible. It was not their cultural convention. But so is the Christian life.

-How many communities have you seen or heard that live the way Jesus has instructed his audience?

-Think about what would happen if Christians in New Haven live like this.

-Think about what will happen if Christians all over the world use these guidelines that Jesus has given.

-What has gone wrong in our Christian faith?

-Has God changed?

-Have we forgotten who He really is?

Which God do you believe in? What image of God have you created? It is only when people discover your God that they can embrace Him. Be merciful because you Father is merciful. Whom you worship, you reflect for ruin or for restoration.

May God help us as we ponder on these words: in the name of the Father, the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen!

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God Gave us Physicians: a Tribute to my son Blessing Dinnaya Jacobs on his 10th birthday

 

My call to the Christian vocation did not come until I was thirty years of age. Maybe because I was one of those people who did not think much of ministry, or among those who had set their minds on what they wanted to do in life. My journey to finding God or God finding me took me to more than one avenue and also led me to try a religion other than Christianity. When I finally accepted the call, I wanted to do things differently. I was not impressed with the ostentatious lifestyle of the ministers particularly the televangelists, who make it seem like prosperity is the litmus test of one’s faith. I wanted to be a good student of the word with the view to rightly diving the word but with humility and impeccable cadence-a task that I have done a poor job accomplishing. But I also understood the grace of God and His relentless availability to me in times of distress, when all human options lie outside the realm of possibility. I had this bold assurance that no matter whatever situation I faced, I will pray my way through it. Maybe this was because this ministry thing was God’s idea and not mine. Maybe because I saw myself as the worst candidate for the job but God insisted that I am the man for the job. However, for whatever reason I had this arrogance (in a good way) that when I pray that things would change. The most amazing thing that was people close to me knew this. Ten years ago, my former spouse (bless her heart) was pregnant with our first child. As she progressed in her pregnancy, she was told by the doctors that our child would have birth defect, and advised her to abort the baby. She was troubled but she did not accept the doctors’ recommendation. Some Christian ministers and believers alike have the tendency to make disparaging statements about the doctors when they make recommendations based on their expertise and their wealth of experience relative to health issues especially if they report a poor prognosis. They make it seem as if the physicians are not part of God’s healing source. I hear things like “the doctors said I have two days to live, but that is a deception from hell, they are not God,” and many more negative things alike; almost making it seem as if there are no Christian doctors. In my case, I knew that the doctors were honest about their finding; and meant well by asking us to abort the baby because of the difficulty raising a child with such health challenge as they have reported about our son, but I also know that there is a God, who is still in the business of healing, restoration, and recreation. One morning, while I was in the shower thinking about this report about our baby’s health and the aftermath effect it would have on us, the Spirit of the Lord said to me, “he would be fine, do not be afraid! Nothing would happen to him. I don’t remember if I told my former spouse about this experience or not, but on June 25, 2004, one hour past my birthday, I was called into the OR of the Rhode Island hospital to see my son for the first time.

He was the best looking baby I had ever seen! He is ten years old today. Blessing is one of the smartest and kindhearted young man there is. Everything about Blessing is so special. He started walking before he was nine months, and did not crawl. He stopped using diapers on his own, had all his teeth almost at the same time, and the lists go on. Blessing is always willing to help, and has a calming presence. He also has analytical mind, and his grandmother thinks that he makes facial expressions similar to mine. Blessing is very caring, and loving. Join me today as we celebrate his 10th birthday!  

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June 25, 2014 · 9:28 pm

Trinity Sunday

Welcome to Saint Michael’s Anglican Church! Today is Trinity Sunday!

WHAT IS TRINITY SUNDAY?
The first Sunday after Pentecost is the Festival of the Holy Trinity. On this day, the church rejoices in the impenetrable mystery that God is triune (three-in-one) — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. How the Lord can be one God in three distinct persons is completely beyond the ability of any human to understand. By the power of the Holy Spirit, Christians accept this incomprehensible mystery as a fundamental article of faith.
WHAT IS THE ATHANASIAN CREED?
The Athanasian Creed is the Christian church’s wonderful and profound confession of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. This creed takes its name from the influential North African (Egyptian) bishop and theologian, Athanasius (293-373 AD), who was once thought to be its author. Athanasius creed was a response to Arius’ claim that Jesus is not co equal with God the Father. He claims that Jesus was created and cannot be coequal with the Father. This sparked a controversy that a church council had to be called. It was at the council in Constance that the Lord bishop Athanasius presented this creed. Because of its length, it is not recited in church on a regular basis. However, many congregations including Saint Michael’s use it on Trinity Sunday. This creed, along with the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed, is one of the three ecumenical creeds that have been universally accepted and confessed by the Christian church since ancient times. It is very interesting that this feast comes after the giving of the Spirit of God (The Pentecost), when God’s indwelling presence came to take abode in human kind, making them temples. No longer would people to go Jerusalem to experience God’s presence. The Spirit of God now lives in them.
WHY IS TRINITY CELEBRATED ON THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST?
How God can be one God in three Persons is a mystery. Although it is clearly taught in the Bible (for example, in Matthew 28:18-20 and 2 Corinthians 13:14), it can never be understood or rationalized — it can only be accepted by faith. Since faith comes only through the Holy Spirit working through the means of grace, it is appropriate that this glorious mystery is celebrated on the first Sunday after Pentecost, the great festival of the coming of the Holy Spirit.
We at Saint Michael’s Anglican Church order our worship life around a liturgical calendar that has its roots in the practice and ritual of the ancient church. We follow a liturgical calendar because it is a guide that helps us remember God’s marvelous plan of salvation accomplished for the world through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. While nothing in the Bible commands us to do this, we find that annually retracing the story of our salvation serves to make us well grounded in our faith. It also helps to connect us to the church catholic, the community of believers in Christ of all times, ancient and modern.

As you worship with us today, may the peace of God keep your hearts and mind in the knowledge and the love of God, and of His dear Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.

Yours for the sake of Christ!

The Reverend Blessing U. Jacobs

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The New Creation!

Today is the first Sunday after Easter. For the Anglicans and other churches that follow the liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer, today’s assigned Gospel is from the twentieth chapter of the Holy Gospel according to Saint John beginning from the 23rd verse. This passage records Jesus’ first post resurrection appearance to His terrified and grieving disciples. As I was preparing to preach from this text, I recalled that the Lord Bishop on the day I was ordained to the Sacred order of Priesthood, uttered the same exact words that Jesus said to His disciples (words in italics): “Receive ye the holy Ghost” for the office and the work of a Priest in the church of God, now committed unto thee by the imposition of our hands. “Whose sins you for forgive, they are forgiven, and whose sins thou does retain, they are retained.”

I can only imagine how the disciples felt upon hearing these words from their master. Probably just the same way I felt when I heard these words from the Lord Bishop. “Me Blessing Jacobs, a chief sinner saved by God‘s grace, forgiving and retaining sins? But this is not the only problem in this narrative. The disciples were behind locked doors for the fear of the Jewish religious leaders that have just killed their master. The author also intimates that Jesus appeared in their midst on the first day of the week and to prove to them that He is the same Jesus that they witnessed His crucifixion and burial couple of days prior, showed them His hands and pierced side. He then proceeded to breathe on them the breath of life and gave them the Holy Spirit.

In the Ancient world, the world shared by Israel and other surrounding nations, death is a one way street. No one has ever gone there and returned to life. All of the ancient world dreaded death because dead people don’t resurrect. There were instances of resuscitations, where people were raised from the dead, but died at later time. For example, Lazarus, Jairus’ daughter, and only son of the widow of Nain. Isaiah speaks of death as shroud that covers all people.

Jesus’ disciples were Jewish. As Jews, their principal sacred text was the Torah. It is arguable that these men were very knowledgeable of the Torah given that they were with Jesus for couple of years or more, and also from what we know of the place of Torah in every Jewish home. To say that they were astonished at the sight of Jesus would be understatement. This is because there is no where in the Torah (OT scriptures) that talks about the resurrection of an individual. Israel as nation was the one that was said to be resurrected on the third day not an individual as we learn in Hosea 6:1-2. (I was first made aware of the information by one of my favorite professors in college by the name of Andrew Sargent). Not only is this an enigma to the disciples, they could also recall God’s act of creation recorded in Genesis as the Spirit of God moved upon the surface of the waters, and God breathing upon the nostrils of Adam, and making them living beings. And by the way, they are also probably familiar with the Hebrew language and being aware that the word that was used for God in the first chapter of the book Genesis wasn’t the usual designation for Yahweh (Lord, though it could be used interchangeably for God the father and the God the son). What is going on here? Is this a new creation? For Jesus to be resurrected from the dead, He must be Israel because only Israel as a nation will resurrect on the third day. So when Jesus was raised from the dead, He was raised as Israel. To Jesus’ disciples, Yahweh has remembered His promise to Israel. They see Jesus, the only true Israelite that has been tried and tested and yet proven innocent, nothing in this world will stop them from preaching the Gospel even if it means at the cost of their lives. What is this business of forgiving sin and retaining sins? God is still the One who forgives sins. But He will forgive sins through His followers. Jesus’ death and Resurrection is the beginning of the new creation. The new creation will produce disciples, who will speak up against sinful activities in our world, rebuke and warn people of the consequences of sin. The new creation will now be defined by the activity of the Holy Spirit and will collaborate in establishing God’s sovereign rule over His people. The essence of the receiving the Holy Spirit is not to give Jesus’ disciples or the Christians a new form of spirituality. It is not to set them apart as some sort of holier than thou group of folks. It is for the disciples to live the rich full life of devotion, humility and dedication that is modeled after Jesus’ own life. The essence of the giving of the Holy Spirit is so that those who are called to be followers of Christ can do for the whole world what Jesus did for Israel. The charge to forgive and retain sins is a call to humility because we are called to do that which only God can do! He is risen!

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