Palm Sunday

Hail the King Who Humbly Comes to Save Us

These are the readings for Palm Sunday.
(This Worship Help aligns with the lectionary readings from Christian Worship 1993 and Christian Worship: Supplement.)

God’s Word for This Week

Hail the King who humbly comes to save us! For 1700 years the Church has celebrated with hosannas and palm branches this festival that opens Holy Week. Jesus entered Jerusalem to the sounds of praise and adoration of the people there. Laying palm branches and their cloaks in the road, the people honored this prophet from Nazareth as their Savior. Some surely saw their Savior from sin; others likely saw their earthly savior from the Romans and foreign rule. But either way, the songs of exultation rose: “Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he that comes!”

First Lesson – Zechariah 9:9-10

How is Christ “your king”?

Though he was more than qualified, Jesus never claimed an earthly kingdom like we normally think with the word “king.” Instead, Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world. We often consider him ruling in three kingdoms: the kingdom of power (his power places him above all things in heaven and earth), the kingdom of grace (where he rules in the hearts of his believers), and the kingdom of glory (he rules in heaven and will continue there, into all eternity).

How would this king be different than other earthly kings?

This king is gentle and humble, not the ruthless, power-hungry despot of earthly kingdoms. He also extends peace, contrasting the bloody kingdoms of the worldly empires.

Second Lesson – Philippians 2:5-11

What quality of Christ is stressed as a model for us?

His humility which caused him willingly to lay aside the honor and majesty that were his as God.

Where was Christ’s humility most obvious?

In the death that he died, a form reserved for the worst of criminals—”death on a tree.”

What was the end result of Jesus’ humility?

Jesus is our King, but he came humbly to save us. Though true God, he became man. Though all-powerful, he became a servant. Though immortal and eternal, he died. He not only laid aside his glory, but he took our shame upon him. He not only humbled himself, but he died as one who was cursed. Yet, in this great humility, he won the peace of forgiveness for us. The King came humbly, because he wasn’t on the way to a throne in Jerusalem but to a hill called Golgotha, where he would fulfill God’s mission and save his people. Therefore, God would give him glory greater than his humiliation—every creature will bow the knee and hail him: Jesus Christ is Lord!

Gospel – Matthew 21:1-11

Of what significance is the fact that Jesus is the Son of David?

The Messiah was foretold to be of David’s family (2 Samuel 7:16), and Jesus could trace his line back to King David through both his mother and his earthly father. The Jewish people knew well that the Messiah must have these credentials.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Fifth Sunday in Lent

Through Faith, We Are Raised from Death to Life

These are the readings for the Fifth Sunday in Lent.
(This Worship Help aligns with the lectionary readings from Christian Worship 1993 and Christian Worship: Supplement.)

God’s Word for This Week

We are drawing ever closer to Holy Week when Jesus undergoes the incredible events of his Passion. Now, one week before that begins, we hear about our progress from death to life. Through faith in Jesus, we are raised from our spiritual death to a new life in Christ, and we are nurtured in this new life through the Word and sacraments.

Traditional First Lesson – Ezekiel 37:1-14

How does the vision of the dry bones characterize God’s people in Ezekiel’s time?

The bones were many and very dry. This indicates the widespread condition of God’s people as they were exiled in Babylon. Their unfaithfulness had brought about God’s judgment, and they seemed beyond the point of resuscitation. Yet God’s grace is apparent.

What tool was used in restoring life to the dead bones?

The same tool we use today—the Word of God. “Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.”

Supplemental First Lesson – 2 Kings 4:18-37

How does this story give comfort to us when tragedy strikes?

The story is heartbreaking: a barren woman gives birth to a promised child. All her hopes and love wrapped themselves up in this little boy until the day his head hurt. He died in his mother’s lap while she rocked him. Can you imagine the tears? Death is the bitter lot we inherited from Adam. But God wants us to know that even in the face of a death as heartrending as this, he promises that whoever believes in him will live, even though he dies. So he lets Elisha pay an advance on the inheritance waiting for the coheirs of Christ so that we might know and believe that Jesus one day will raise us from death to life.

Second Lesson – Romans 8:11-19

Through his Spirit, Paul says, God has breathed new life into our mortal bodies. What changes does that bring about?

Paul previously said that those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. (See Romans 8:5-8.) We now seek to put to death the misdeeds of the body (8:13) and willingly share in Christ’s suffering with a view also to sharing in his glory (8:17).

Though life in Christ Jesus means sharing his suffering, what other observation is made?

Paul suggests a wise perspective: our present sufferings are “not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” As a runner endures the pain of the exertion by keeping his eyes focused on the finish line, so the Christian’s perspective will always be goal-oriented. What waits for us at the end far outshines the clouds that we encounter along the way.

Gospel – John 11:17-27,38-45

What does Jesus mean by saying that he is life?

More than saying that he is the source of life or the giver of life, Jesus for the first time (see also John 14:6) claims to be life itself. There is no life apart from him. Like life itself, final death is impossible for him. The events surrounding the raising of Lazarus occurred just days before the Passion events in Jerusalem. What a comfort to know that Jesus was confidently assured of the outcome of his upcoming battle with evil—he would be victorious!

How would Mary and Martha see the glory of God in the raising of Lazarus?

Jesus performed the greatest miracle of his ministry to prove to us the certainty of his greatest promise. When Christ saw the effects of death on his loved ones, he wept with them but also promised them that one day even this last enemy would be defeated. Martha often remembered for her busyness, should be remembered for her confession of faith—so complete, so noble—that encompassed everything Jesus had preached. She believed in Jesus’ promise of a future resurrection, and so Jesus gave proof to her and to us that his promise is true.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Fourth Sunday in Lent

Faith Strengthened Through Daily Repentance and Renewal

These are the readings for the Fourth Sunday in Lent.
(This Worship Help aligns with the lectionary readings from Christian Worship 1993 and Christian Worship: Supplement.)

God’s Word for This Week

As Christians, we have nothing to fear! The condemnation of the Law was removed by Christ’s life and death on our behalf. Reassured of God’s forgiveness on a daily basis, we can live our lives to his glory by serving others.

Traditional First Lesson – Hosea 5:15–6:3

How had God threatened his people?

God threatened to turn away from his people because of their sin. Our sins separate us from our God, and separation from God is described as “misery” (5:15).

What did Hosea plead? What was his confidence?

Hosea pleaded that his people “return to the Lord.” (See 6:1.) Repentance has connected to it the idea of turning away from our sin back to the Lord. Hosea stated confidently that God will “bind up our wounds…revive us…restore us…as surely as the sun rises.” (See 6:2,3.)

Supplemental First Lesson – Genesis 37:1-11

What do we learn about the choice between selfishness or selflessness from Joseph?

The life of Joseph illustrates Jesus’ message that whoever wants to be first must be your slave. Selfishness led to Jacob’s favoritism and his sons’ jealousy. Selfishness led Jacob and his sons to such pride that they could not imagine God’s prophecy about Joseph coming true. Their selfishness forced Joseph into the role of slave and servant, yet God, in his grace, would save many people in spite of their sin. Sold into slavery and jailed unjustly, Joseph would trust in God and selflessly serve his fellow man. Ultimately, God brought the prideful low and raised up humble Joseph. In doing so, he both fulfilled his prophecy and also saved the family of God and countless others.

Second Lesson – Romans 8:1-10

Why are the opening words so triumphant? (See 8:1.)

Paul has already discoursed at length on the reality of sin and its consequences as well as on God’s faithfulness and his gracious forgiveness in Christ. As Christians, he acknowledged that we are still struggling daily with the sinful nature that is part of us, but that we are being rescued by Jesus Christ. (See 7:21-25.) Now the triumphant confidence naturally follows: THERE IS NO CONDEMNATION FOR THOSE FOUND IN CHRIST! What a comfort. What a relief for sin-challenged Christians!

While the Law no longer condemns us, it still has a function. What is the Law’s purpose for us now? (See 8:4.)

The “righteous requirements of the law” speak not of achieving God’s demanded perfection. Remember that there is no condemnation in Christ! This use of the Law is referred to as the “guide” or “rule,” which we obey out of love for God through the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Gospel – Matthew 20:17-28

What was the “cup” of which Jesus spoke?

The cup was Jesus’ suffering and death, which he was headed to Jerusalem to drink.

Why is pride such a dangerous sin?

It is incorrect to consider one sin more punishable than another, but pride causes a person to ignore his need for spiritual help, and that can be a damning mistake.

How do Jesus’ life and ministry provide a model for us?

Jesus gave the ultimate model: Serve others!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Third Sunday in Lent

Faith Gives Us Spiritual Sight

These are the readings for the Third Sunday in Lent.
(This Worship Help aligns with the lectionary readings from Christian Worship 1993 and Christian Worship: Supplement.)

God’s Word for This Week

The difference between walking in faith and walking in unbelief is like the difference between light and darkness. We were born in spiritual darkness, in our blindness, unable to guide ourselves on the way to heaven. But Christ has shined his light into our lives, and our faith makes us sighted spiritually. Now we can clearly see the path we are to follow, and we can be agents to guide others to the true light that gives life to every man.

First Lesson – Isaiah 42:14-21

Who is the servant of the Lord? (See 42:19.)

The people of Israel.

In what ways was this “servant” blind?

Israel’s history shows a distinct ignorance of the obvious. Consider how often Israel complained while wandering in the wilderness, many times just shortly after God’s amazing display of providence and protection. Most sadly, many of God’s chosen people disregarded his promise of a spiritual Savior and would miss seeing Jesus, the fulfillment of that promise.

What promises does God give regarding these blind servants?

He says, “I will lead the blind…turn the darkness into light…I will not forsake them” (42:16). What patience! What grace!

Second Lesson – Ephesians 5:8-14

How has our life changed now that we are found in the light?

No longer is our life filled with the “fruitless deeds of darkness” (compare Galatians 5:19-21); rather, we are now concerned with doing that “which pleases the Lord.” (compare Galatians 5:22,23).

What is our role to be regarding those still in darkness?

We are to be the law-bearers and expose those fruitless deeds of darkness in those around us, not dwelling on those evils. We must also be gospel-bearers, offering full and free forgiveness to those who hear our message!

Gospel – John 9:1-7,11-17,27-39

Restoring this man’s physical sight is a metaphor for what other change that occurred?

This man had more importantly received spiritual sight, that is, faith in Christ.

How is our reception of spiritual sight seen in this man’s experience?

This man’s understanding of Jesus progressed from seeing him as a man (9:11) to a prophet (9:17) to one worthy of being followed (9:27) to one who was “from God” (9:33) to worship (9:38). So our understanding of Jesus also grows as we learn more of what he has said and done through the study of his Word. Our faith is strengthened; our spiritual sight is made more acute.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Second Sunday in Lent

Saving Faith Trusts in Christ Alone

These are the readings for the Second Sunday in Lent.
(This Worship Help aligns with the lectionary readings from Christian Worship 1993 and Christian Worship: Supplement.)

God’s Word for This Week

We cannot see into other people’s hearts, but we can discern Christian faith by its fruits in words and actions. God tells us that love, joy, peace, patience, and more make up the fruit of faith. (See Galatians 5:22,23.) If we truly have crossed over from death to life, it will show in love for others, as James has written: “I will show you my faith by what I do” (James 2:18).

Traditional First Lesson – Deuteronomy 30:9-14

For most of us who have been acquainted with Christian teachings for many years, it’s an easy question. How are we saved? Answer: Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. But for thousands of years, people didn’t have the knowledge of Jesus Christ. They knew only of a Messiah to come. Nonetheless, their faith was placed in the promise of God to send a Savior, and that faith—a forward-looking faith—was credited to them as the righteousness that God demands to enter heaven.

First Lesson – Genesis 12:1-8

Hebrews 11:1 defines faith. How is Abram (Abraham) a good example of a faith-filled man? (Compare Hebrews 11:8-19.)

If faith is “being certain of what we do not see,” then Abraham is a prime example. He left home at God’s command to go to a destination he didn’t know; he believed without question in the incredible promise of a child in his old age through whom the Savior would come; he proceeded unwaveringly when God asked him to sacrifice that very child. Oh, for the faith of Abraham!

How did God “appear to Abram”? (See 12:7) Why does he not appear visibly to us today?

We’re not sure of the exact appearance, but it seems to be visible. Today God reveals himself to us in his Word, though he could at any time reveal himself to us in another way.

Second Lesson – Romans 4:1-5,13-17

According to Paul, how was Abraham justified? (Compare Galatians 3:6-9.)

The Jews taught that Abraham was a model of good works and was justified through them. But Paul is clear that Abraham was justified in God’s sight by faith in God’s promises.

The promised Seed was intended for the children of Abraham. Are we included?

While we may not be “blood” descendants of Abraham (ethnic Jews), Scripture says we are all Abraham’s children through faith. The promises given to him are ensured for us.

Gospel – John 4:5-26

How was Samaritan woman a recipient of God’s grace?

As for all of us, she received God’s grace by faith in the Savior. Her background was as part of a people opposed to Jewish customs, especially those concerning worship, but Jesus tells her that ethnic background nor worship practices make any real difference. It is faith alone in the promised Savior, and Jesus declares, “I am he.”

Explain how “salvation is from the Jews”? (See 4:22.)

The Jews were God’s chosen people in the Old Testament to be the physical ancestors of the Messiah. It was from their line that the Savior would come.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

First Sunday in Lent

Jesus Defeated the Devil for Us

These are the readings for the First Sunday in Lent.
(This Worship Help aligns with the lectionary readings from Christian Worship 1993 and Christian Worship: Supplement.)

God’s Word for This Week

The season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday. Historically, it was a period of time during which the Christian would deny themselves certain luxuries or behaviors to focus more clearly on the tremendous sacrifice that Christ made for us on the cross. Technically, the Sundays during Lent are not considered part of the forty-day season. Therefore, the passion history itself is not generally part of the Scripture lessons appointed for these days. Today’s lessons remind us of the stark contrast between God’s perfection and our sin-stained imperfection, but also of the victory Christ has won on our behalf and has credited to us.

Traditional First Lesson – Genesis 2:7-9,15-17; 3:1-7

Why did God issue the command that Adam and Eve not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?

Many asked why the Lord would make such a demand when he already knew that his creatures would not be able to keep it. God created us to worship and serve him in gratitude; he does not desire mechanical, robotic worship. Rather he wants hearts that willingly do as he asks. Adam and Eve had everything in the Garden without restriction. This was their one opportunity to refrain in order to show thanksgiving and love to their Creator. Remember, too, that God also already had a solution in mind for the sinful state that would result.

What did God mean when he said that “they would surely die”?

Adam and Eve did not die on that dreadful day, as we normally understand death. But death is really a separation, whether body from soul (physical death), man living apart from God on earth (spiritual death), or man separated from God forever (eternal death). While Adam and Eve did not undergo physical death, they certainly experienced spiritual death as they hid from God in shame.

Supplemental First Lesson – Genesis 3:1-15

The supplemental reading omits the context of Creation before the Fall but provides an expanded treatment of the results of sin. Most importantly it includes God’s promise to send the Seed of Woman as the champion of mankind in the battle against Satan. Inherent in the promise was the cost—though the victory was certain, so was the sacrifice!

Second Lesson – Romans 5:12-19

How was Adam a “pattern of the one to come”—Christ?

As by Adam’s sin, death entered the world and affected all people, so by the sacrifice of the one God-man Christ, all people have been redeemed.

How does the grace of God in Christ compare to the evil brought on by the sin of Adam?

Several times Paul uses the phrase “how much more.” God’s grace is infinitely more effective for good than is Adam’s sin for evil. Through his flesh he passed his failure on to all of his children, condemning us to sin and death. So God sent another Son in human flesh to be the Son that Adam had not been. He obeyed where Adam did not. The obedience of the second Adam had as wide an effect as the disobedience of the first: he gives his victory to us, declares us righteous, and brings life for all.

Gospel – Matthew 4:1-11

What did Jesus use to defeat the temptations of Satan?

Always the Word of God, a tool God graciously places, also at our disposal!

What parallels can be seen to God’s people as Jesus is tempted? (Compare Deuteronomy 8:1-5.)

As the Israelites were led into the desert to be tested, so Jesus was tested. But our Savior passed each test perfectly, depending on the power of God found in the Word.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Transfiguration of our Lord

Jesus Reveals His Future Glory

These are the readings for Transfiguration Sunday.
(This Worship Help aligns with the lectionary readings from Christian Worship 1993 and Christian Worship: Supplement.)

God’s Word for This Week

There was only one time recorded in Scripture when Jesus revealed his future glory before his resurrection. That one time was on the Mount of Transfiguration, where Peter, James, and John had a firsthand (and terrifying) look at Jesus’ perfect glory. Why did Jesus do this? He did it to give his disciples a glimpse at what the future holds for all believers. They were about to enter a difficult time as disciples. They would see their Messiah crucified. But future glory would follow!

First Lesson – Exodus 24:12,15-18

Why was Moses called up to the top of Mount Sinai?

Moses went up the mountain to meet God “face to face” and to receive the Old Testament Law.

What covered the mountain for six days?

A cloud enveloped the mountain, and the glory of the Lord rested on it.

What did the glory of the Lord appear to be to the Israelites?

The glory of the Lord seemed to look like fire to the Israelites. They were terrified by the Lord’s glory.

Second Lesson – 2 Peter 1:16-21

What event does Peter recall in these verses?

The Transfiguration of our Lord.

What did some people apparently think of Peter’s account of this event?

Some apparently thought Peter, James, and John made this story up. Peter tells us the origin of the Bible is not “the will of man (man’s ideas), but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

What is the source of everything in Scripture?

God is the source of Scripture. The Bible is God’s Word.

Gospel – Matthew 17:1-9

Who met Jesus and his three disciples when they climbed this high mountain?

They met Moses and Elijah, who were generally considered by the Jews to be the two greatest prophets in the Old Testament.

Why did Peter make the suggestion he did in verse 4?

Peter wanted to build shelters on the mountain for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah in order to keep the glory of God all to themselves. Jesus, though, needed to head for Jerusalem, where he would suffer death on a cross. (See 17:9.)

Transfiguration is a distinctly Lutheran addition to the Christian calendar. In the 16th century, Johannes Bugenhagen and Veit Dietrich placed the celebration at the end of Epiphany before Lent, remembering that Jesus descended the Mount of Glory and set his face toward Jerusalem. (See Luke 9:51.)

On Transfiguration, the Church says “farewell” to alleluias. The Church refrains from using her most jubilant words of praise during the muted celebration of Lent. The alleluias will return with the risen Lord at the celebration of Easter.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Sixth Sunday after Epiphany

Jesus Reveals His Perfect Word and Will

These are the readings for the Sixth Sunday after Epiphany.
(This Worship Help aligns with the lectionary readings from Christian Worship 1993 and Christian Worship: Supplement.)

God’s Word for This Week

People love to judge themselves—especially when it comes to moral issues—because they naturally come out looking rather good. They might be willing to admit that they’re not perfect, but they quickly add: “Nobody’s perfect!” Of course, that’s not true. Our God is perfect, holy, and just. He never sins, and in his holy Word, God makes it clear that he holds us to the same perfect standard, even as his perfect will also saves us from our sin through the gospel of his “secret wisdom.” In the gospel and lessons, we see how Jesus reveals his perfect Word and will.

Traditional First Lesson – Deuteronomy 30:15-20

What “offer” does the Lord give to his Old Testament people through Moses?

He offers them the choice between obeying or disobeying his perfect Word and will.

What promise does he make if they choose to obey him? What promise does he make if they disobey him?

The Lord promises great blessing to his people if they follow the dictates of his Word, and he promises ultimate destruction if they disregard his Word and will.

True or false: God’s blessings are something we earn.

False. We can’t earn blessings that God naturally, willingly, and graciously grants in Christ. His point in these verses is to show us the natural consequences of either obeying or disobeying his Word. When we obey God’s Word, we can’t help but be blessed. When we disobey God’s Word, it naturally results in destruction.

Supplemental First Lesson – 2 Samuel 11:1-17, 26-27

What lessons can we learn about the power and progressive nature of sin from the example of King David?

Our Savior’s call to holy living leads us to have a healthy fear of sin. What a warning God provides us in David! When the king was at the height of his power and full of God’s blessing, his great fall began. Why? Because he toyed with sin. He let lust fester and morph into adultery. He spoke lies until deception ruled his heart. He let selfishness metastasize into a godless disregard for any life but his own. He thought he could toy with sin, but in the end, it was sin and Satan that toyed with him. Jesus’ call to live a holy life is like a mother warning her child to beware of a hot stove. It is a call motivated by love and meant for our safety.

Traditional Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 2:6-13

What has Paul previously called the message of the cross (1 Corinthians 1:18), and what does he call it here?

Paul called the message of the cross “foolishness” because we and the people of this world don’t naturally understand the truth of the gospel. In these verses, Paul also explains that the gospel is God’s “secret wisdom,” since the message of God’s gracious salvation in Christ is perfectly and divinely wise.

What’s the only way someone can come to know and understand the “secret wisdom” of the gospel?

Someone can only come to understand and believe the truth of the gospel through the working of the Holy Spirit, who miraculously reveals these hidden truths. (See 2:10.)

Supplemental Second Lesson – 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12

How do you think you are similar to the Thessalonian Christians when it comes to your life of sanctification, that is, living the holy life Christ commands?

Paul’s encouragement to live a holy life serves as a great model for preaching sanctification to a congregation. He does not speak to them as heathens, but as people who are in fact living in order to please God. Paul’s words, then, instruct and admonish them to do this more and more. The authority behind his preaching of sanctification did not come from Paul’s life but from the authority of Christ himself. This is what Christ wants! The Thessalonians faced the same problem we do: we know what God wants; we understand it; we just don’t do it consistently. Paul applies the warning of God’s law and the calling of God’s gospel. Paul repeatedly emphasizes this: You know it, so now we urge you to do it more and more.

Gospel – Matthew 5:21-37

What is Jesus doing with the law that the Lord had given to his Old Testament people through Moses?

Jesus is taking the divine law into his hands and explaining it spiritually. Sinful human beings naturally have a shallow and corrupted understanding of what God created us to be and what he now demands of sinners. Jesus teaches us that the fulfillment of the law is more difficult than simple, outward actions.

What is the ultimate purpose of God’s law for sinners like us?

The ultimate purpose of God’s law for sinners is to make us conscious of our sin and desperate need for a perfect Savior from sin. The message of the gospel then graciously and perfectly supplies our need by proclaiming that Jesus has done everything to save us from our wickedness.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

The Savior’s Sermon: Let Your Light Shine

These are the readings for the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany.
(This Worship Help aligns with the lectionary readings from Christian Worship 1993 and Christian Worship: Supplement.)

God’s Word for This Week

On a crystal-clear winter evening, it’s easy to believe that the full moon is producing the wonderful light that allows you to take a brisk walk through the woods without a flashlight. In reality, the moon is producing no light at all; instead, it is simply reflecting the light of the sun. When people notice Christians producing godly lives, it would be easy to pat them on the back and to give them the credit for the good things they do. In reality, God’s people are simply reflecting the good work of God’s Son, Jesus. Jesus is the Light of the World (John 8:12), and he is revealed through his people, so let your light shine! Jesus tells us: You are…so be. You are the light of the world, so be light for the earth. You are the salt of the earth, so be salt for it. Our calling as sons of God means our lives will reflect our new status, and the world around us will be blessed by us.

Traditional First Lesson – Isaiah 58:5-9a

Why was the Lord upset with his Old Testament people?

The Lord was upset with his people because they were going through the motions, spiritually speaking. They thought they could please God through outward actions.

What kind of “fasting” is the Lord more interested in?

God calls his people to engage in works that reflect his love and mercy to others instead of engaging in mere religious ceremony.

What is the Lord’s fundamental concern?

The Lord calls us to serve him with hearts of faith (with the proper attitude), not with mere words and actions (Isaiah 29:13).

Supplemental First Lesson – Joshua 24:14-24

To what does Joshua point the people when he encourages them to live faithful lives? (See 24:11-13)

Faith responds to God’s grace by promising to live as salt and light. Joshua pointed the people of Israel back to the gracious acts of God who had delivered them from every enemy. Now in possession of the Promised Land, God’s people could reflect on God’s great acts of grace and power in their lives. Seeing all God had done, the people vowed to Joshua to live as salt and light: “We will serve the LORD our God and obey him.”

To what does the Bible point you when it gives you a similar command to live as salt and light?

As the children of God today, we see that God has defeated enemies far fiercer than the Amorites, Perizzites, and Canaanites. Sin, death, and the devil are vanquished. The gates to the heavenly promised land stand open. Looking at God’s great acts of grace and power, we cannot help but join in vowing our obedience to God. We will put away the gods of self and sin, and through the Spirit, we will yield our hearts and join with Joshua in his life of salt and light: As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

Traditional Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

How did Paul first come to the Corinthians?

Paul came to Corinth as a trembling apostle of Jesus, without worldly eloquence, armed with a message (Christ-crucified) that lacked worldly wisdom and charm.

Why is the choice of Paul to be an apostle a surprise?

Though Paul’s writings are strongly worded, he seems to have lacked personal charisma (2 Corinthians 10:10). He describes himself elsewhere as a humble “jar of clay” (2 Corinthians 4:7).

According to Paul, why was he chosen?

The Lord purposefully chooses “unimpressive” people like Paul to be his ambassadors so that people will put their faith in the message proclaimed (the gospel) rather than in the messenger.

Supplemental Second Lesson – 1 Peter 2:9-12

What reasons does Peter give us to live like salt and light?

The call of God made us part of a new people in order that we might declare his praises. Peter tells us to live lives that are different from the world around us—as different as light is to darkness. Called out of the darkness, we live in this world like foreigners who know that this is not our home. Strangers to the world, we abstain from sin and live such good lives that even the pagans will have to give God glory for his work in our lives. Called into the wonderful light, we let that shine on everyone around us.

Gospel – Matthew 5:13-20

How does Jesus describe Christians in this world and why?

They are the salt of the earth and the light of the world because they reflect the “salt” and “light” of Jesus. Jesus reveals himself to the world through his people.

According to Jesus, why did he come into the world?

Jesus came not to abolish or overturn God’s order and will, revealed in his holy law. He came instead to fulfill it as God intended. Jesus has fulfilled his Father’s will perfectly as our substitute in order to save us from sin.

What warning does Jesus offer to people who believe that they lead God-pleasing lives apart from Jesus?

Holiness apart from faith in Jesus, requires us to keep God’s law perfectly, which is impossible for sinners like us. Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing (John 15:5).

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

The Savior’s Sermon: Trust in God’s Strength

These are the readings for the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany.
(This Worship Help aligns with the lectionary readings from Christian Worship 1993 and Christian Worship: Supplement.)

God’s Word for This Week

The Savior’s Sermon: Trust in God’s strength! The Beatitudes are hard for us to swallow. Jesus seems to be espousing a Christianity imbued with fatalism, at best, or defeatism, at worst. Look closer, however, and see what he says. The weaker you are, the stronger God is in your life. The weaker you are now, the readier you are to trust in a future reward. Look at the past acts of God’s grace, and you will find many reasons to trust his strength in the face of adversity, persecution, or sorrow.

Traditional Lesson One – Micah 6:1-8

In this courtroom scene, who are the witnesses? For what reasons does the Lord call them as witnesses?

The witnesses are the mountains, the hills, and the foundations of the earth. The Lord calls them because they have been around so long, have witnessed so much, and are so firm and reliable.

What is the Lord’s charge against his people?

“Why do you think I have burdened you? I have been so gracious to you!”

What three things does the Lord require of us above all?

To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

Supplemental First Lesson – Daniel 3:13-27

How does the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego help you understand the promises of Jesus in the Beatitudes?

Rejoice and be glad, Jesus said, because great is your reward in heaven. He does not promise to keep us from a martyr’s death or Christian persecution on earth. He promises to reward us in spite of them. That we might trust his promises of future reward, however, he shows us his righteous acts of the past. The God of the three men in the fiery furnace can be trusted! As they stood before great Nebuchadnezzar, these men looked weak. When they chose the path of righteousness rather than accommodation, they seemed stupid. As they spoke about a powerful God, their words and actions seemed powerless. At the weakest moment of their lives—despised, condemned, bound hand and foot, and falling into an inferno—they trusted that God was their strength, and he did not fail them.

Traditional Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Why does God often choose the lowly and despised to be his children?

He chooses the seemingly foolish to shame those who think themselves wise. He chooses what seems weak to shame those who think of themselves strong. He wants no one to boast before him.

What three things does Paul call Jesus? What does he mean?

Paul calls Jesus “our righteousness, holiness, and redemption.” Without us doing anything, he makes us right with God by his blood, holy in God’s sight. He paid to set us free from Satan and hell.

Gospel – Matthew 5:1-12

Why are the Beatitudes of Jesus so striking?

The Beatitudes are striking because they go against the conventional wisdom of this world. Jesus reminds us that God plays by a different set of rules than this world.

What word does Jesus use to describe those who trust in him? What does he mean?

Jesus calls us “blessed.” He doesn’t mean we are happy, necessarily. He means we have it good, even if we do not feel good. All God’s blessings come to us by grace alone. Surely Jesus means what he says.

Where does Jesus promise to reward us?

Jesus promises to reward us greatly in heaven.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Third Sunday after Epiphany

Jesus Appears as Light Shining in Darkness

These are the readings for the Third Sunday after Epiphany.
(This Worship Help aligns with the lectionary readings from Christian Worship 1993 and Christian Worship: Supplement.)

God’s Word for This Week

Jesus appears as the light that shines in the darkness. Dark places remain covered in the shadow of sin and unbelief. However, now there are bright places, too, and there you find God’s children. Jesus shines his light by preaching repentance and the good news of the nearing kingdom, and he invites us to follow him to a life illumined by him. Following him means living in the joy of freedom (First Lesson) and walking in the light of love for God and brother (Second Lesson).

Traditional First Lesson – Isaiah 9:1-4

What kind of “darkness” were the people walking in?

These people were walking in the spiritual darkness of sin and death. St. Paul says that we were “dead in our transgressions and sins” and “objects of God’s wrath” (Ephesians 2:1,3).

What “great light” did they suddenly see?

Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12) that brings spiritual peace and joy.

The story of Zebulon and Naphtali was one of suffering. These northern tribes bore the brunt of foreign attacks, most notably by Assyria. Adding insult to injury, the land had become Galilee of the Gentiles—a melting pot of resettled peoples and a hotbed of crass syncretism. It was a land covered by the darkness of gloom and unbelief. Though the people’s punishment was well deserved, it was not an end to itself, but a means to God’s end. God’s plan broke upon them as suddenly as light shining into the darkness when Jesus appeared and began to preach and teach.

Supplemental First Lesson – Isaiah 8:19–9:2

What does Isaiah have to say to those people who try to find answers and guidance by talking to psychics, astrologers, or mediums? What is the only place to find answers, guidance, and light?

Man cannot find his way through the darkness of the world except by the inquiring of God. No spirit, no man, no other message brings light to those living in darkness. To the law and the testimony! There you find the Word, the great light for those living in darkness.

Traditional Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 1:10-17

What difficulty was Paul dealing with in the Corinthian congregation? (See 1:10,11.)

There were divisions and quarrels within the congregation.

How does Paul address this problem? (See 1:13.)

He asks the Corinthians to consider whether Christ is divided. Either you’re a Christian, or you’re not. The members of Christ can’t be divided.

What specific job had Paul been sent to do?

Paul had been sent specially to preach the gospel. Apparently, he often left the job of baptizing to others.

Supplemental Second Lesson – 1 John 2:3-11

How can we be certain that we know God? How do John’s words apply to people today who think they know God?

John says, “Obey his commands.” The gnostic heretics that John combatted had little regard for laws, sin, and the commands of God. They felt they knew God well enough without worrying about acts of obedience. How similar to modern unbelievers and even too many Christians today! They think they know God but have little time for talk of sin, guilt, and obedience. John tells us that contrary to their opinion, they do not know God. Jesus—our Morning Star—has already come, the light of his dawn is beginning to break over the world, and the time for deeds of darkness is fading fast. There are still places of deep darkness, but that is not the place to find God’s children. They will be found walking in the light and shedding their own light on the darkness around them by living in love for God and brother.

Gospel – Matthew 4:12-23

What did Jesus do when he heard that John the Baptist had been arrested?

He returned to Galilee to preach the gospel, fulfilling the words of Isaiah in the First Lesson.

What did Jesus do to help him in his job of preaching the good news of the kingdom?

He began to call his disciples. What faith they showed by dropping everything and following Jesus!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Second Sunday after Epiphany

The Lamb of God Who Takes Away the Sin of the World

These are the readings for the Second Sunday after Epiphany.
(This Worship Help aligns with the lectionary readings from Christian Worship 1993 and Christian Worship: Supplement.)

God’s Word for This Week

This Lamb would take away the sin of the world and bring both Israel and the Gentile nations into the kingdom of God. The hearts that see this Savior in faith cannot help but take the news of this salvation to the ends of the earth.

Traditional First Lesson – Isaiah 49:1-6

Which person of the Trinity is speaking through the prophet Isaiah in these verses?


What job was given to this “servant”? (See 49:5.)

To “bring Jacob back to (God) and gather Israel.” In other words, Jesus was sent specifically to win the Jews to faith (Matthew 15:24).

What additional job was mentioned? (See 49:6.)

To be a light to the Gentiles. While Jesus was sent specifically to the Jews, he also realized that the Gentiles were meant to be brought to faith as well. (See John 10:16.)

Supplemental First Lesson – Isaiah 49:1-7

What added dimension does this reading have when it is extended by one verse?

The addition of one verse features the Lord himself speaking and ratifying the servant’s words. He promises that though his Servant will suffer and be despised, the Lord will not forget him, but will ensure his glory and honor. To that promise, he adds a pledge on his name as the Redeemer and the Holy One of Israel. Though Christ would be the Lamb of God who would suffer and die to bear our sins, though he would be rejected and despised, God promised to glorify him again. He promised that every eye will see him—even those who pierced him—and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Traditional Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 1:1-9

Who wrote this letter to the Corinthians?


To whom is this letter written? (See 1:2.)

Not only the Christians at Corinth (who were mostly Gentile), but to “all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (including us)!

Why does the author thank God? (See 1:4-9.)

Because the Lord has blessed these Christians with “every spiritual gift.” Later in this letter, Paul instructs these Corinthians in the proper use of their God-given gifts (ch. 12-14).

Supplemental Second Lesson – Acts 13:38-49

How was Jesus, both the fulfillment and replacement of the sacrificial system given by God through Moses?

Paul preached the message of the Lamb of God—the sacrifices in the Law of Moses could not justify; only the Lamb sacrificed for sin could. The Gospel resulted in faith in some Jewish hearts and rejection in others. In the face of opposition, Paul and Barnabas fulfilled the promises of God in Isaiah, made Christ a light to Gentiles, and brought salvation to the ends of the earth.

Gospel – John 1:29-41

For whose sin did Jesus die, according to John the Baptist?

Jesus died for the sins of the world.

How did John know that Jesus was who he said he was?

He had seen the Holy Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him.

What was the first thing Andrew did after he realized that Jesus was the Messiah? (See 1:41.)

He went and told his brother, Peter, a wonderful model of the joy Christians feel when their spiritual eyes are opened to the truth of God’s Word. That joy automatically leads to action: go and tell others!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Baptism of Our Lord Sunday

Jesus is Revealed as Our Perfect Substitute

These are the readings for the Baptism of Our Lord Sunday.
(This Worship Help aligns with the lectionary readings from Christian Worship 1993 and Christian Worship: Supplement.)

God’s Word for This Week

“Why did Jesus need to be baptized? I thought baptism was for sinners?” That’s a common question among Christians. It doesn’t make sense that our Savior, who was perfectly sinless, would need to be baptized, and yet he was. Why? Because Jesus had come to be our perfect substitute, and he is revealed as such in his baptism. God laid on him the sin of the world (Jn 1:29). Even from birth he endured the effects of our sin. Jesus wasn’t a sinner himself, but he was carrying our sin, pain, and sorrow (Is 53:4). He needed the assurance of God’s love and forgiveness, just as if he were a sinner himself. Jesus received those promises in baptism, just like we do.

First Lesson – Isaiah 42:1-7

Who is the “servant of the Lord” being spoken about in these verses?


What kind of person would he be?

Through the prophet we hear that this servant would be quiet (verse 2), gentle (verse 3), faithful, and just (verses 3,4).

What job would the Lord give to him?

Isaiah says that Jesus would be a “light for the Gentiles” (verse 6) in words that are similar to Simeon’s (Luke 2:29-32).

Second Lesson – Acts 10:34-38

What realization did Peter finally have about God?

Peter now realized that God didn’t show favoritism toward his Old Testament people, the Jews. Jesus was the Savior of all people. God wants that truth shared with all nations.

What did Jesus receive in his baptism? (See 10:38)

Peter says that he received a special measure of the Holy Spirit and power. In Jesus’ baptism, God the Father was preparing his Son for the tough road ahead. He assured him of his faithful love and guidance.

Gospel – Matthew 3:13-17

How did John react when Jesus came to be baptized?

He refused because he knew that Jesus was not a sinner himself.

What answer did Jesus give?

He insisted that John baptize him “to fulfill all righteousness” (v 15). Jesus is pointing out to John that, while he didn’t have any personal sin, he was carrying the sins of the world. He had come to be our perfect substitute. He needed the promises of God that baptism gives us.

What three persons were present at Jesus’ baptism?

The three persons of the Holy Trinity (God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) were present at Jesus’ baptism. In the same way, the Holy Trinity was present at our baptisms, as we are baptized “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

First Sunday after Christmas

God Cares for His Sons

These are the readings for the First Sunday after Christmas.
(This Worship Help aligns with the lectionary readings from Christian Worship 1993 and Christian Worship: Supplement.)

God’s Word for This Week

God’s grace, or undeserved love, is mighty and accomplishes his will. Despite the opposition of wicked people or human barriers, God’s grace accomplishes his desire—the eternal salvation of immortal souls. Even after all the gifts have been opened and used, we stand in awe of God’s gift to us, his grace in Christ, Bethlehem’s baby.

Traditional First Lesson – Isaiah 63:7-9

Why is the phrase “he became their Savior” a clear example of God’s grace? (See 7:8.)

Notice that God is taking the initiative. We don’t make the first move to get ourselves right with God; he takes the first step, becomes our Savior, and does everything to make us his children. And amazingly, we don’t even deserve it. That’s grace!

What do you think the phrase “he redeemed them” meant to the Old Testament Israelites? (See 7:9.)

It meant exactly what it means for us today—God paid a price to buy us back. We certainly belong to our God because Jesus’ life purchased us to be God’s prized possession.

Supplemental First Lesson – Hosea 11:1-7

How did God care for his son, the nation of Israel? How did he use his Son to restore them to sonship?

God had made a son for himself in the nation of Israel, but they turned away from God again and again. God had cared for his son by healing, teaching, and feeding him, but Israel failed to recognize his care. The Father kept calling, but the son turned further and further away. To his rebellious son, Israel, God said, “I love you, but I will judge you.” That judgment on Israel certainly came. But God had not stopped caring for his sons. God sent his Son to be the son Israel should have been so that his repentant children might be his sons again.

Second Lesson – Galatians 4:4-7

How do you know the birth of Jesus was not a random or chance event?

The apostle Paul makes it clear in verse 4 that God sent Jesus at just the right time. The time was right for God to fulfill every prophetic promise to care for his children.

Why is the word “adoption” or “full rights of sons” a fitting comparison to our status in God’s family? (See 4:5.)

Because of sin, we were not born into God’s family. And we were powerless to do anything to change the situation. So God’s grace took over—he sent his Son to be our Savior, he sent his Holy Spirit to bring us to faith, he did the “adopting” and we simply receive all the benefits. That’s grace!

Gospel – Matthew 2:13-15,19-23

What is the sad irony of Herod trying to kill the baby Jesus?

The baby Jesus, whom Herod viewed as a rival and enemy, was Herod’s Savior, his only way to eternal life.

What comfort do you find for your life in the account of God leading Joseph and Mary to Egypt and then to Nazareth?

The malice of Herod could not rob the world of the peace God intended to bring through his Son. God cared for his Son and all the sons of God by using Joseph to keep him safe in the land of Egypt. Certainly, the God of grace knows your needs, understands what threatens your safety and can act in a way that accomplishes his purpose for you. We can trust him; he will lead and guide us with his grace.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Christmas Day

God’s Communication to Us

These are the readings for Christmas Day.
(This Worship Help aligns with the lectionary readings from Christian Worship 1993 and Christian Worship: Supplement.)

God’s Word for This Week

Many people long for God to talk to them. How often we miss his message when we don’t listen to his Son, Jesus. Jesus is God’s communication to us today. Too many run after other “voices” that pretend to offer solutions to life. But those who carry the message of Jesus to others are highly honored and share the exciting reaction from those who are led to real peace.

First Lesson – Isaiah 52:7-10

What makes feet beautiful?

Feet become very beautiful when they are vehicles carrying the greatest message of all times to others—the gospel of Jesus.

What is that great message?

It is a message of the victory and peace that God has established for us. It is the message of good tidings of great joy announced by the angels at Christ’s birth. That birth indicates a greater proof that our God reigns over everything.

Second Lesson – Hebrews 1:1-9

How did God communicate to the world before Christ?

God spoke to the people of the Old Testament times through prophets who carried that message in different formats in differing situations.

Why is it so much greater that he speaks to us through Jesus today?

Jesus is the final word for us because, as God himself, he exactly and directly represents the mind of God to us. As the one who purified us with his life, death, and resurrection he speaks utmost concern for us. And as the one who rules over all things, he knows what great things he has in the future for us.

Gospel – John 1:1-14

What title is immediately given to Jesus and why?

Jesus is called the Word (“Logos” in Greek). He is the one who clearly communicates to us the mind and plans of God. Without Christ you cannot really know God. That “Word” has power seen at the creating of the world. It also made his presence felt when he “became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” (Do you constantly listen to him?)

What is the shame in this section?

Jesus, the Word of God, opens people’s eyes to see the love and eternal life that he came to give us. Unfortunately, many don’t recognize him and lose out on the right to be called God’s children and receive “one blessing after another.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Fourth Sunday in Advent

God Will Come to Save His People, Just as He Promised

These are the readings for the Fourth Sunday in Advent.
(This Worship Help aligns with the lectionary readings from Christian Worship 1993 and Christian Worship: Supplement.)

God’s Word for This Week

God will come to save his people, just as he promised. He saves them through the virgin-born Son of David, who is also the Son of God, Immanuel. Today the Church prays for God to come in power to take away the burden of our sins. Since the Garden of Eden, there has been only one promised plan to do that: God would take on flesh and blood. Immanuel comes—God in the flesh—exactly as promised to save his people.

Traditional First Lesson – Isaiah 7:10-14

What is the significance of the name Immanuel?

Immanuel is two words in Hebrew (the language of the Old Testament) put together. It literally means “with us…God.” So Isaiah tells King Ahaz that when that virgin has a child, it will be God himself coming to his people. God will be with us—in the flesh.

Why is this child born a “sign” to King Ahaz and to us?

Such grace that God would even speak to a wicked king like Ahaz! What God said is even more surprising. He didn’t just promise deliverance and ask that Ahaz blindly trust him. God offered a sign to an unbelieving king to prove that he would keep his promise and save his people. How foolish of Ahaz to refuse! How sinful to make a pretense of piety! However, God would not let a sinful king stand in the way of deliverance for his people. So God chose the sign that would prophesy the deliverance of the whole world from sin and death. A virgin would give birth to God in the flesh for the salvation of his people. In Christ Jesus, God kept every promise made.

Supplemental First Lesson – Isaiah 7:1-17

How do the verses added to this supplemental lesson broaden your understanding of this familiar prophecy?

This supplemental lesson expands the first lesson to include both the geopolitical scene and the intermediate fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. Both highlight the day’s theme that God will save his people just as he promised. When the people of Judah heard that Aram and Ephraim had allied against them, they were shaken. No wonder! Under King Ahaz, Judah had already lost in battle to Aram—with many prisoners carried away. And now, Aram and Ephraim had joined forces to attack Judah; Judah had no chance whatsoever! Until God spoke and said, “It will not take place, it will not happen.” God will save his people, just as he promised. The enemies stacked against the people of God have proven impossible for us to withstand. The devil, the world, and our sinful flesh have defeated us again and again. We stand no chance in the battle; we must be lost. Until God speaks and says, “It will not take place, it will not happen.” Immanuel has come, just as God promised—the Savior of his people.

Second Lesson – Romans 1:1-7

How does Paul the apostle clearly show here that Jesus has a human nature?

Jesus was a descendent of David. Mary, who gave birth to the Savior, was a descendant of Israel’s great king.

How does Paul the apostle see the promises of God kept in Christ?

After thousands of years of God’s promises, Paul looks back and sees every one of them kept in Christ. All of Scripture promised the gospel message summarized in the name: Jesus Christ our Lord. Jesus, the man born of Mary, is also our Lord, God himself. This God-man was anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power to be the Christ who would save God’s people from their sins. Any doubts about Jesus of Nazareth evaporated with the Easter morning dew: the resurrection declared to the world he was Immanuel, God with us. God kept every promise in Christ to give us what we so desperately needed—Grace and peace to you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Gospel – Matthew 1:18-25

What is the significance of the name “Jesus”?

The name Jesus literally means “The Lord saves” or “Savior.” The name God chose for his Son aptly describes his work: to save his people from their sins. (See 1:21.)

How is Joseph’s willing obedience an example for us?

Joseph found himself in the middle of an unwelcome nightmare—his bride to be was pregnant, and he was not the father. As a righteous man, he could not go forward with the marriage; as a merciful man, he could not expose Mary to public disgrace. How long did it take for him to fall asleep with broken betrothal promises on his mind? During the night, Joseph sees an angel who calls him “the son of David.” Joseph’s father was Jacob, but the angel reminded Joseph that he was a descendant of kings. Starting this night, he would act as one of David’s line again: he would care for the promised Son who would reign on David’s throne. God had come to save his people, just as he promised. He would do it through the child in Mary’s womb. Joseph believed the promises of God kept in Christ and named the child, “The LORD saves,” knowing full well he was Immanuel.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Third Sunday in Advent

Christ’s Coming Brings God’s Deliverance

These are the readings for the Third Sunday in Advent.
(This Worship Help aligns with the lectionary readings from Christian Worship 1993 and Christian Worship: Supplement.)

God’s Word for This Week

The coming of Christ in history and his return at the end of time proclaim the good news of God’s mighty deliverance. Our hearts rejoice as we hear Isaiah describe our deliverance. James tempers our joyful anticipation of our Lord’s return with patience as we undergo daily trials. We take comfort in Jesus’ words of consolation to John the Baptist. Jesus is God’s chosen deliverer.

Traditional First Lesson – Isaiah 35:1-10

Where had the Israelites seen the “glory of the Lord” years before?

When the Lord led his chosen people out of Egypt, the “glory of the Lord” appeared as a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. God was delivering his people from the captivity they faced in Egypt. Here Isaiah says that people will see the glory of the Lord when he comes to deliver his people from their sins.

How does God’s deliverance affect his children’s attitude? (See 35:10.)

Isaiah says that God’s children will enter Jerusalem with singing. Joy and gladness follow. For us who live in a sad world because of sin and its effects, we have an attitude change—thanks to our gracious God’s deliverance.

Supplemental First Lesson – Job 1:6-22

How does the account of Job show us that things in God’s kingdom are not always what they seem?

In the second lesson, James points to Job as an example of perseverance in the face of suffering and God’s resulting blessing. To Satan, it appeared that Job served God because he was blessed. That was not so. After great suffering and tremendous loss, it appeared to everyone else that Job had absolutely no reason to praise God. That was not so either. Job knew that for the children of God, things are not always what they seem. He had the patience to wait for the rain—to wait for God to make fruitful again the fallow parts of his life.

Second Lesson – James 5:7-11

In what way is a believer waiting for Jesus’ coming like a farmer?

James says the Lord’s coming is near. Yet we wait for him to come. The farmer knows every spring that fall is near, but he still has to wait for it to arrive.

How does the account of Job remind us of the Lord’s compassion and mercy?

While most of us recognize the name Job and remember the hard times he faced, we may not remember how that account ended. Read Job 42:12-17 for an example of God’s compassion and mercy.

Gospel – Matthew 11:2-11

How could John the Baptist have doubts or be confused about the identity of the Messiah?

Things were not what they seemed. John languished in prison for preaching righteousness. When he saw the works of Jesus, questions arose in his mind and doubt filled the hearts of his followers. John knew that Jesus was the Christ, but where were the acts of judgment promised? Why did John look like a failure and the wicked look like they were winning? John sends his disciples to the right place—to Jesus. When we take our doubts and questions to Jesus, he drives the darkness from our hearts and fills us with light. Jesus pointed to his works as signs from God fulfilling the words of the prophet and marking him as the coming one. Jesus was far more than he appeared to be—he was the Messiah who makes the blind see, the dead live, and the poor evangelized.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Second Sunday in Advent

Prepare Your Heart for the Lord’s Coming

These are the readings for the Second Sunday in Advent.
(This Worship Help aligns with the lectionary readings from Christian Worship 1993 and Christian Worship: Supplement.)

God’s Word for This Week

John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, fixes our attention on the need for true preparation for the Lord’s coming. Such preparation means repenting—recognizing how our sins have offended God and trusting him for the forgiveness he gives us in Christ. Jesus, the only Savior, brings peace to a troubled heart.

Traditional First Lesson – Isaiah 11:1-10

List examples of how Jesus fulfilled the description in verses 1-5.

Jesus descended from David, whose father was Jesse. The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in the form of a dove at his baptism. Jesus’ earthly ministry was marked by wisdom, understanding, power, etc. Jesus knew people’s thoughts and attitudes (see John 2:25). Other answers will vary.

How does the description of peace in verses 6-8; give us comfort?

The animals paired in Isaiah’s description are natural enemies. Because of sin, we have all been born natural enemies of God. But because of the Savior’s work on our behalf, we are now at peace with God. While the peace between these animals is symbolic, it’s comforting to know that the peace between God and us is real and lasting.

Supplemental First Lesson – Daniel 4:19-37

What was the point of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream?

God had used Nebuchadnezzar as his ax to chop down the unrepentant tree of David. But the king of Babylon failed to heed Daniel’s warning that the ax now sat at the root of his own tree. The prophet told him to repent, for God’s coming judgment was near. Nebuchadnezzar failed to acknowledge God’s sovereign power, and to repent and live in newness of life. So God fulfilled the dream: the tree of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign was chopped down. God struck his glory and power and left him with neither civility nor sanity.

What lesson does it teach us about repentance?

How true it is: God is able to humble those who walk in pride. The world’s greatest sovereign became like an animal. Yet look at the mercy of God! When Nebuchadnezzar repented and acknowledged and glorified God, the Lord forgave him, renewed him, and restored him.

Traditional Second Lesson – Romans 15:4–13

When Paul wrote this letter, what “Scriptures” did the Christians in Rome have?

Roman believers had only the Old Testament. Think about how much more we have today with the entire Bible!

What is the connection between the peace that Jesus gives and accepting one another? (See 15:7.)

Since Christ has accepted us and made us part of his family through faith, we have peace with God. How could we not accept one another when our God has been so accepting of us?

Supplemental Second Lesson – Acts 3:19-26

When God calls on all people to repent, what does he mean?

Repentance is God’s work that results in a change of heart, a change of direction, and a change of attitude. First, the Law makes us feel contrition over our sin and guilt. Second, the Gospel’s message of forgiveness in Jesus leads us to trust in God’s grace.

How do you see that in these verses?

God used the miracle of the beggar’s healing to capture the attention of the crowd so that Peter and John could preach a message of repentance to the people. They preached the harsh accusations of the law: “You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead,” to prepare the hearts of the people to repent. Then they offered the sweetest gospel message that repentance brings renewal by wiping away sins and bringing God’s refreshment through Christ.

Gospel – Matthew 3:1-12

How do you know John the Baptist’s message is aimed at our hearts?

Just as in John’s day, we too need to “repent” (3:2), “confess” our sins (3:6), and “produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (3:8). Our heart’s attitude, not our family tree, is what matters before God.

What is John describing with the “ax… at the root of the trees; and burning up of the chaff?”

Jesus calls everyone to repent of his or her sins and promises forgiveness and peace to those who trust in him. However, to those who reject Christ, he threatens eternal punishment; and he means it. These words serve as a loving warning even to the believer. We are truly prepared for Christ’s coming at Christmas when we repent of our sins and look to him for forgiveness.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

First Sunday in Advent

Be Ready for Christ’s Second Coming

These are the readings for the First Sunday in Advent.
(This Worship Help aligns with the lectionary readings from Christian Worship 1993 and Christian Worship: Supplement.)

God’s Word for This Week

With Advent, God’s people enter a new year of grace. The word “Advent” means “coming.” While we generally think of Advent as preparing us for our Savior’s first coming to this earth, the first Sunday in Advent highlights Christ’s second coming on judgment day. God urges us to be ready for him with a life of ongoing repentance, watchfulness, and spiritual renewal.

Traditional First Lesson – Isaiah 2:1-5

What is the “mountain of the Lord’s temple”?

The “mountain of the Lord’s temple” was an expression also used by Micah in his book (Micah 4:1). It refers to us, to God’s New Testament church. Isaiah is prophesying the coming Savior whose work would bring the most important time in the history of Israel or Jerusalem. That means, do not focus on the mountain on which the temple was built. Focus on God’s undeserved love for sinners, which will draw people to him, just like the Israelites were drawn to the temple in Jerusalem.

How do we know that the peace referred to in verse 4 is a spiritual peace, not an earthly peace?

Since the fall into sin, there has been no promise from God of peace on earth. Through the coming Savior’s forgiveness, we have peace with God. (See also Luke 1:77-79 and Romans 5:1.)

Supplemental First Lesson – Genesis 6:9-22, 7:11-23

How would you compare the world of Noah’s time to our world today, and how are we like Noah as we wait for Christ’s return?

Jesus told the story of the flood to explain the unexpected coming of God in judgment and grace. Noah was a man who worked and walked in the light. But he lived in a world darkened by sin. The lost around him were deaf to his preaching and blind to the signs. The coming of God’s judgment was as unexpected as it was terrifying for them. But in the middle of all that judgment, God came in unexpected grace to rescue Noah and his family.

As Noah worked and walked in the light, he heeded God’s warnings and trusted God’s promises. He watched; he waited; he prepared. And God made good on his promise: the same flood that judged the world also safely carried Noah and his family until they came to rest on a world washed clean. We live in a world that is still darkened by sin. As believers, we follow Noah’s example as we watch, wait, and prepare for Christ’s coming. We do not fear his return since we know he’s coming to take us to heaven.

Second Lesson – Romans 13:11-14

In what way is our salvation “nearer now than when we first believed”? (See 13:11.)

Each day of our life brings us that much closer to the goal of our faith, eternity with our God.

How do you “clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ”? (See 13:14.)

You clothe yourself with Christ through faith in him. While an unbeliever has no natural ability to believe in Jesus or come to him, a believer in Christ, a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17), chooses to read Scripture, attend worship, study the Bible with others, and apply the Bible to their life. To “clothe yourself with Christ” practically means to immerse yourself in God’s Word.

Gospel – Matthew 24:37-44

In what way is the great flood similar to Jesus’ return on judgment day?

Just as Noah warned the people of his day, our God has warned his world about Jesus’ second coming. Yet, it will take many by surprise; then, as in the days of Noah, it will be too late.

Why do you think Jesus didn’t reveal to us the exact time of his second coming?

Certainly, Jesus knows what we are like. He knows that we procrastinate, are often spiritually lazy, and can succumb to false security. If we knew the date of his return, no doubt many would succumb to these. In his love, he doesn’t tell us when he will return.

What point did Jesus make by saying that not even the Son knows the day of his coming?

The second coming of Christ will be totally unexpected. No one will predict it; everyone must be ready for it to come at any time.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Fourth Sunday of End Time—Christ the King

Jesus Will Reign Forever and Ever

These are the readings for the Fourth Sunday of End Time—Christ the King.
(This Worship Help aligns with the lectionary readings from Christian Worship 1993 and Christian Worship: Supplement.)

God’s Word for This Week

Murderous criminals usually do not relax in lush gardens with kings. But King Jesus told the suddenly repentant man on the cross next to him: “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” What royalty! What grace!

Traditional First Lesson – Jeremiah 23:2-6

In verses 2 to 4, what three promises does the Lord make us?

In 23:2-4, the LORD promises that he personally will gather his people together. He also promises that he will give us good shepherds (spiritual leaders, such as pastors). Through them he will tend us, so that none of us will be terrified or missing.

What kind of king should we expect Jesus to be? (See 5-6.)

We should not expect Jesus to be a king like any other king. He is no self-aggrandizing political ruler. He is a Branch, a weak-looking descendant of King David, who sprouted from the stump of David’s tree. He lived and died in our place as true man and true God to be the LORD Our Righteousness.

Supplemental First Lesson – Genesis 49:8-12

What two things will not depart from the Judah and his tribe until the promised Savior comes? (See 49:10.)

Jacob prophesies that the royal scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff. (That is, the situation will not be like the modern British monarchy, which has royal honors but does not have the power that the Prime Minister has. Real royal rule will remain.)

Judah will not have to chase here and there. The tribe will settle down in peace, Jacob prophesies. How prosperous will the tribe be? (See 49:11-12.)

The tribe will be so prosperous that it will do something staggering: wash its garments in wine, not water. Think: Even greater riches, eternal riches of God’s grace, are ours in Christ.

Second Lesson – Colossians 1:13-20

To which kingdom did we once belong?

We used to be under the dominion of darkness. Satan and his forces dominated our hearts. Hell and its pitch-dark fires were our only destination.

What kind of kingdom are we in now? (See 1:14-16.)

Then God rescued us and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. He forgave all our sins in Christ by bringing us to trust in him.

In what two areas is Jesus clearly, totally supreme? (See verses 15-17, and verses 18-20.)

Jesus is supreme in creating and supreme in redeeming. The Father made all things through him, and in him all things still hold together. (All things!) Through Jesus and his blood God also made peace with all his rebellious creatures.

Gospel – Luke 23:35-43

One criminal hurled insults at Jesus. How were his words horribly ironic? (See 23:39.)

Ironically, that criminal recognized Jesus as God’s anointed King, the Christ. He did not trust in Jesus to be his substitute under God’s judgment though. He railed at Christ for not saving him. Yet Jesus was suffering and dying to save him at that very moment.

How long will it take for you to get to paradise when you die? (See 23:43.)

The moment you die, you will be in paradise due to Jesus’ death in your place. Even better: you will be with King Jesus in paradise. Trust his promise totally!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Third Sunday of End Time—Saints Triumphant

All Who Die in Christ Are Alive

These are the readings for the Third Sunday of End Time—Saints Triumphant.
(This Worship Help aligns with the lectionary readings from Christian Worship 1993 and Christian Worship: Supplement.)

God’s Word for This Week

“Sweet is the calm of paradise the blest,” a favorite hymn assures us. Everything is peace right now for the saints above.
“But then there breaks a yet more glorious day:
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of glory passes on his way. Alleluia! Alleluia!”

First Lesson – Isaiah 65:17-25

When will the saints be triumphant according to God’s first promise? (See 65:17.)

The saints will be especially triumphant on judgment day when God makes new heavens and a new earth.

What will the new heavens and the new earth be like? (See 65:18-25.)

In summary, God’s pictures seem to say that the new heavens and new earth will be full of joy and life. No work will end up worthless. God will be close at hand to each of us. Perfect peace will reign in Christ.

Traditional Second Lesson – 2 Thessalonians 2:13–3:5

Can you be sure God chose you in eternity to be his child? (See 2:13.) Why or why not?

You CAN be sure that God chose you in eternity to be his child. That certainty is not because of anything in you but because the Holy Spirit baptized you with water for the forgiveness of all your sins. He brought you to trust in Christ’s merits rather than your own.

What prayer priorities does Paul give us? (See 3:1-2.)

Paul urges us to pray that many others may hear about Jesus’ death in their place and honor what they hear in their hearts. He tells us to pray that missionaries and other church leaders stay safe from evil men.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Revelation 22:1-5

We cannot see life as a concept, but God showed John life itself. What two things did it look like to John? (See 22:1-2.)

John saw a) the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb, and b) the tree of life, bearing fruit monthly, with even its leaves giving healing to the nations. In other words, God’s gift of life, like a river, flows constantly. It is beautiful and pure. It is refreshing. Like fruit, it is bright and good-looking, sweet and sustaining.

We will see God. We will serve God. We will belong to God. What thing will we not go through in eternity?

In eternal life, we will no longer live under the curse that is the result of our sin. There will be no more night. We will not need any light, not even the sun. God himself will be our light. And all of this will never end.

Gospel – Luke 20:27-38

Since the Sadducees of Jesus’ day rejected all but the first five books of the Bible, why was the source of Jesus’ answer to them very fitting?

Jesus’ answer to the Sadducees comes from Exodus 3, the account of Moses hearing the Lord speak from the burning bush. Sadducees officially accepted Exodus as God’s Word, so they ought to have agreed with Jesus.

Jesus quotes a verse from Exodus 3. How does that verse show that believers live on with God after death, and that believers will rise from death with new bodies?

Jesus proves his point that believers live on now and will rise on the Last Day by quoting himself. God, the Angel of the Lord and the second person of the Holy Trinity did not say to Moses, hundreds of years after his three servants died, “I was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” He says, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Second Sunday of End Time—Last Judgment

Jesus’ Judgment Is Always Right

These are the readings for the Second Sunday of End Time—Last Judgment.
(This Worship Help aligns with the lectionary readings from Christian Worship 1993 and Christian Worship: Supplement.)

God’s Word for This Week

The Lord wants you to take his judgment of all people seriously. He also wants to encourage you: Hanging on to his cross until the Last Day is worth all the difficulties that will come your way, for Jesus will call all people to account on the Last Day. Believers in Jesus will keep the eternal life they already have. Unbelievers will go away from Jesus to eternal death.

Traditional First Lesson – Jeremiah 26:1-6

List the ways Jeremiah and the people would know how serious God is about judgment.

God instructs Jeremiah not to omit a word. God also tells the people to listen to him and his word and to his messengers which he sent.

What would it mean “to be made like Shiloh”? (See 26:6.)

Shiloh was the location of the sanctuary after Canaan was conquered. Jeremiah warns that if the people do not repent their beloved temple of Solomon will suffer total destruction as the sanctuary at Shiloh.

Supplemental First Lesson – Ezekiel 9:1-11

After a vision of vile pagan practices in God’s temple in Jerusalem, Ezekiel saw judgment fall. Whom did God’s servants spare? (See 9:4.)

In the second part of the vision, Ezekiel saw God’s servants spare those who grieved and lamented over all the detestable things done in Jerusalem. (Do you grieve over this wicked world or take it for granted?)

Why did God say he would show no pity? (See 9:9.)

God said that he would show no pity because a) people were filling the land of Judah with bloodshed and b) people claimed that God did not see all the injustice.

Second Lesson – 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10

What are the two sides of God’s judgment? (See 1:5,6.)

God’s judgment means; a) he judges the wicked worthy of eternal suffering, b) and he also counts those who trust in Christ worthy of living with him in his eternal kingdom.

How does the threat of “everlasting destruction” encourage us? (See 1:9.)

Everlasting destruction may seem a contradiction in terms. But for those who do not believe in Jesus as their Savior, God’s judgment is a process of destruction that will never end. Though we believers suffer persecution, we know a day is coming when persecutors of the gospel will pay the severest price.

How we might become complacent? (See 1:10.)

We must not gloat about our trust in the Word of God which promises that Jesus will come again to take us to heaven. We must also not let down our guard as we struggle to fight the good fight of faith until Christ comes.

Gospel – Luke 19:11-27

What happened immediately upon the king’s return? (See 9:15.)

The newly appointed king called each to account as soon as he returned. The servants who made more minas for their master were given credit, each in proportion to what they had earned.

What should the last servant have done, instead of burying his talent? (See 19:22.)

He should have put it on deposit, to increase its value. The king did not accept his flimsy excuses.

How does the unfaithfulness of the last servant show in our time?

The last servant shows up when people entrusted with the Word of God claim to be too busy to do the work of God. They neglect it. They say it will not profit them.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Grace Alone, Faith Alone, Scripture Alone

These are the readings for the First Sunday of End Time—Reformation.

God’s Word for This Week

By grace alone, by faith alone, by Scripture alone—these are the three “watchwords” of God reforming his church.

First Lesson – Jeremiah 31:31-34 – Grace Alone

God says to Israel that he will make a new covenant with them. Where will he write that covenant? (See 31:33.)

God promised to write his covenant in believers’ hearts and minds. (His main concern is our insides—our attitudes, beliefs, etc.—not merely our appearance.)

The heart of God’s new covenant is found in 31:34. What does God graciously do for you and me?

God forgives our sins and remembers them no more.

Second Lesson – Romans 3:19-28 – Faith Alone

Paul first points out the main purposes of God’s law. What are those purposes? (See 3:19‒20.)

God did not give us his law to work our way to heaven. He means it to remove all our rationalizations and excuses. (“What do you have to say for yourself?” Silence.) God’s law is a mirror clearly showing our ugly sin, showing that we cannot save ourselves.

There is righteousness. Whose is it? From where does it come? (See 3:21‒22.)

Perfect righteousness before God is God’s: It comes from God. It is not from us.

We have fallen woefully short, but we are also justified, innocent in God’s courtroom. Why? How? (See 3:24.)

Our justification is free, by God’s grace, through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God piles up descriptives to say, “This is my work, my work, my work, not your work.”

Gospel – John 8:31-36 – Scripture alone

What does Jesus say is the mark of his disciples? (See 8:31.)

One of the marks of Jesus’ disciples is that they hold on tightly to God’s Word.

What blessing does God give as we hold on tightly to the Word? (See 8:32.)

We will know the truth, and the truth sets us free.

God has blessed you with full freedom in Christ. How does knowing that it comes from his Word lead us to reprioritize our lives?

What joy! God’s Word brings us freedom. Knowing that freedom from sin and death comes from God’s Holy Word motivates me to keep focused on the Word. I want to keep hearing it, reading it, and studying it. God brings me great blessings through it.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

The Foundation of Faith

These are the readings for the Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

Faith is the very foundation of the Christian life. Faith, worked by the Holy Spirit through the gospel, allows us to do great things for the Lord and see eternal life as our ultimate goal.

Traditional First Lesson – Habakkuk 1:1-3; 2:1-4

What is the complaint that Habakkuk makes to the Lord through prayer?

The Lord was slow in keeping his promises, God’s will in the law was being mocked, and the believers were forgotten.

What promise does the Lord offer that calms the believer’s fears?

At the appointed time (Galatians 4:4,5), God fulfilled his promise of the Messiah. He is faithful to his promises of love and care for his children. Though to our perspective, the fulfillment seems slow in coming, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.

Supplemental First Lesson – 1 Chronicles 29:1-2, 10-18

When today do we regularly pray just like David did in 29:11?

Today when we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we usually end in one of two ways: a) “For thine is the kingdom and the power and glory, forever and ever. Amen.” Or b) “For the kingdom and the power and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen.” Either way, those words seem very similar to David’s.

When we give offerings to God or charitable help to someone in need, are we giving what used to be ours to someone else? (See the second part of 29:14.)

No, gifts to the Lord or contributions to the needy are only giving what belonged to God in the first place. All things are God’s.

Traditional Second Lesson – 2 Timothy 1:3-14

How would the sincere faith have passed from grandmother to mother to son? What can we learn from this family relationship?

Lois and Eunice daily shared God’s Word and promises with Timothy as he grew up in their home. Parents and grandparents are an important part of God’s plan in feeding the faith of his little lambs.

Why did Paul refuse to feel shame over repeated imprisonment and mistreatment?

He was suffering for the sake of the Gospel message. He knew that his Savior was guarding what was truly valuable, his salvation.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Romans 6:15-23

There might be thousands of businesses that could employ you. But Paul says there are only two powers for whom we can work. Which are they? (See 6:16-18.)

We are either slaves to sin or slaves to obedience/righteousness.

Which one do you work for if you are a believer in Jesus? (Again, see 6:18.)

All believers in Jesus are former slaves to sin. Now we are slaves to righteousness.

Why not go back to working for sin and let sin be the boss in our lives once again? (See 6:23.)

We must not go back to sin as the boss in our lives, “for the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Gospel – Luke 17:1-10

Jesus says to rebuke other sinners, but if a fellow believer repents, to forgive them. (See 17:3.) Why are both of these commands hard?

You rarely are popular when you tell people they are wrong in what they are doing. It also goes against the wisdom of this world to forgive and not exact punishment from someone who has wronged us.

Jesus’ disciples seemed to think he was asking a lot. They needed more faith (17:5). How can faith do such great things?

Living new lives of love is not automatic, but through trusting Jesus, we remember that we are just as bad as everybody else. We are redeemed sinners, bought back by Christ’s blood. In love, then, we look out for the spiritual welfare of our brothers and sisters, and we are eager to share the message of forgiveness and peace in Jesus.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Worldly Wealth Is Fleeting

These are the readings for the Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

Complacency and contentment may be near each other in the English dictionary, but Scripture sees them as worlds apart. One the Lord detests; the other, he says, is great gain. Our lessons this Sunday show God’s justice and mercy. God’s justice should terrify us. (How frightening to hear Jesus’ description of the rich man in hell!) But through his gospel, God comforts terrified sinners.

Traditional First Lesson – Amos 6:1-7

What had the children of Israel become uncaring and complacent about?

By laying around in comfort and celebration, the children of Israel showed that they were comfortable in their sins. They felt no need to turn to the Lord in repentance and plead for mercy. They also showed no concern for the “ruin of Joseph” —the fact that the nation had turned away from the Lord.

How does this serve as a lesson and warning for 21st-century believers?

Like Paul (1Cor. 10:12), it reminds us that if we think we stand firm on our own, we are a candidate for falling. Believers show love by calling one another to repentance and sharing the promise of forgiveness in Jesus.

Supplemental First Lesson – Ecclesiastes 5:8-20

What is one of the problems with loving money? (See 5:10.)

One problem with loving money is that it never satisfies. “Whoever loves money never has money enough. Whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income” (5:10).

What is another problem? (See 5:11.)

Another problem with loving money is that the more things you have, the more people you need to hire (at least now and then, like at a repair shop) to fix and take care of them.

Is God’s main plan that we be as poor as possible in this life since we cannot take anything with us to heaven or hell? (See 5:18-20.)

No, God’s main plan is not to keep us as poor as possible. One of his best gifts is to keep us from the frustrations of focusing on finances instead of allowing us to enjoy whatever good things he gives us in this life.

Traditional Second Lesson – 1Timothy 6:6-16

What does Paul say that the love of money has done to many? How?

The love of money and the desire to get more leads people into many harmful activities and away from trust in the Lord. By making wealth the object of their desire, they replaced the Lord. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (See Luke 12:34.)

What do believers want to long after instead? Why is this godly contentment a great gain?

Like Jesus, Paul urges us to long after God’s kingdom and righteousness. We can be content in this gift from our God because its value is beyond all the wealth of this world.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Revelation 2:8-11

Were the Christians in Smyrna to whom Jesus wanted John to write this letter rich or poor?

In human terms, they were poor, but Jesus said the Christians in Smyrna were rich. How? Other places in the Bible tell us: Like us, they had all of God’s grace in Christ and the down payment of the Spirit of Christ, guaranteeing glory with God to come. (See 2 Corinthians 1:22.)

What does the example of these Christians teach us about our finances?

The Christians in Smyrna teach us not to worry whether we have a little or a lot of money. What matters is being faithful, even to the point of death, so we may receive the crown of life from Jesus—the victory wreath he won for us by dying in our place and rising again.

Gospel – Luke 16:19-31

How had the rich man in Jesus’ account become complacent?

The rich man was secure in all the temporary luxury that this world has to offer. He was unconcerned about his own sin and guilt and where that would lead him in the future. He did not care about helping Lazarus—the beggar at his gate.

Why might Lazarus take issue with many people labeling him as poor? How does this show contentment in Christ?

The gift of eternal life with the Lord meant that Lazarus was wealthy beyond measure. Although he may have liked to have more comforts in this life, he could be content when he realized that, in eternity, he would lack nothing.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Use All God’s Blessings to Serve Him

These are the readings for the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

Money rules in our materialistic society. We also must admit that God has richly blessed each of us with many physical blessings—far more than we deserve. How we handle those blessings, whether they be dollars or possessions, reflects on our relationship with our God. May God move us to use all of his blessings in a way that pleases him, serves his purposes, and helps others eternally.

Traditional First Lesson – Amos 8:4-7

How does practicing honesty when we buy and sell demonstrate our Christian faith?

Practicing honesty when we buy and sell items serves as a way that we honor and worship the Lord. We worship our God not only by hearing his Word and singing his praises but also by living our faith with our actions, with our words, and with our thoughts.

What is so terrifying about that statement of the Lord that “I will never forget anything they have done?”

It reminds us that those people who willfully reject the Lord and his commandments have given up the forgiveness of their sins. Since God never forgets their guilt, they will bear the full heat of his anger eternally. As believers, we can thank and praise God that he has forgotten our sins and guilt through Christ’s work.

Supplemental First Lesson – Genesis 14:8-24

Instead of sitting tight to make sure he stayed safe and prosperous, what did Abram do?

Abram went on a long, difficult journey to overtake and fight the kings who had defeated and plundered the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. He saved his nephew Lot, Lot’s family, and Lot’s possessions in the process.

What did Abram give to Melchizedek?

Abram gave God’s priest, Melchizedek, a tenth of everything. (Giving a tenth of our income to God today is not a requirement, nor do we know that it was in Abram’s day. But what a stellar sign of gratitude to God, trust in God, and generosity!)

Why would Abram not take anything that belonged to the king of Sodom?

Abram would not take anything because he did not want the king of Sodom to be able to claim that he had made Abram rich. (God had made Abram rich. Today too: All wealth comes from God.)

Traditional Second Lesson – 1Timothy 2:1-8

Who does God want to be saved? Who does that include then?

God wants all men to be saved which includes you and me. Thanks be to God!

How does considering the price Jesus paid to save us help us determine our true worth?

God loves us dearly, so much so that he gave up his Son, Jesus Christ, for us. Our worth is found in the precious blood of Jesus that he poured out for us.

Supplemental Second Lesson – 1Timothy 6:6-16

Why is godliness with contentment great gain? (See 6:7.)

Godliness with contentment is great gain, Paul says, because we brought nothing into this world, and we can take nothing out.

Is money itself evil? (See 6:10.)

Money is not evil. The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. In Paul’s picture, running after money will lead, now and forever, to similar results as running headlong into a drawn sword.

Gospel – Luke 16:1-13

What is the main point of this parable of Jesus? (See 16:9-12.)

Jesus tells this parable to encourage us to make good use of our money. How we use the money and possessions that God has given is a fruit of faith and will reflect our relationship with him. By keeping an eternal perspective on the blessings God has given, we will use them to serve his purposes and to support his kingdom here on earth, knowing God will reward us forever.

How does Jesus further his point by saying “You cannot serve both God and money?”

Worldly wealth and possessions are given by God to be used in his service. The God who gives the money must always be more important than the money that he gives.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

The Amazingly Patient God Saves Us

These are the readings for the Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

“Patience is a virtue, possess it if you can, found seldom in a woman, never in a man.” That is a wry saying often true. Even those of us who claim to be patient people reach a point where we can be patient no more. What a blessing that God—for the sake of his Son—is always patient with us, forgiving our many sins, rejoicing in our repentance, and promising to take us to be with him in glory.

Traditional First Lesson – Exodus 32:7-14

How did the Israelites sin against God and test his patience?

As Moses is on top of Mt. Sinai with God, the Israelites sin against God and test his patience by building a golden calf. They then begin to worship it and offer sacrifices to the idol.

Summarize Moses’ prayer to God on behalf of the Israelites.

In asking for God’s patience, Moses reminds God of the promises he made to deliver his people from the Egyptians. If God were to destroy the Israelites, the Egyptians would be able to see that God didn’t keep his promises to his chosen people.

Supplemental First Lesson – Hosea 3:1-5

How much did Hosea have to pay to get his cheating, promiscuous wife back?

Hosea had to pay 15 little lumps (shekels) of silver (about 6 ounces of silver in our terms) and a homer and a lethek of barley. The barley seems to have been about 10 bushels, weighing perhaps 500 pounds. Possibly Hosea did not have enough silver, so he had to bring the barley too—an embarrassing, difficult task.

Why would Hosea do this? (See 3:1.)

Hosea did this because God had told him to do it and to love his wife the way the Lord loved the Israelites, despite the shameful unfaithfulness to him. Think of it: For Jesus’ sake, God loves you passionately, like a husband, and persistently. God loves you truly, as opposed to the way Israelites loved those raisin cakes. God loves you unconditionally, embarrassingly, detrimentally, expensively but freely (at a huge cost to him, but no cost to you). Do you believe that?

Traditional Second Lesson – 1Timothy 1:12-17

How did God demonstrate his patience in Paul’s life?

Paul’s early life was spent trying to destroy the early Christian church. Paul describes himself as a “blasphemer,” a “persecutor,” and a “violent man.” God showed his patience in turning Paul into a great missionary.

How has the Son of God demonstrated his unlimited patience in our lives?

God demonstrates his great patience for us in that despite our many sins, he still sent his one and only Son to die on the cross and take those sins away. He still calls us his own dear children!

Supplemental Second Lesson – 2 Corinthians 2:5-11

Here Paul tells Christians in Corinth to welcome back a man whom they had “handed over to Satan” because of his previous incest. Now the man is repentant. What should the Christians do, therefore? (See 2:7‒8.)

The Christians should reaffirm their love for the repentant man. They should forgive and comfort him. They should welcome him back as a fellow Christian.

What is the first reason Paul gives for doing so? (See 2:7.)

The Christians in Corinth were to do this, Paul says, to keep the man from being overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.

Why did Paul forgive him too, and why else should the Corinthian Christians forgive the man? (See 2:11.)

Paul and the Corinthians (and we today, under similar circumstances) needed to forgive and comfort the man so that Satan would not outwit them. Satan loves discord and despair!

Gospel – Luke 15:1-10

What was ironic about the statement that the Pharisees and teachers of the law muttered?

The Pharisees and teachers of the law were amazed that Jesus would eat with “sinners” like prostitutes and tax collectors. What they failed to see was that they were just as guilty of sinning against God as the other “sinners” were.

What do these two parables spoken by Jesus emphasize?

These two parables emphasize God’s patience, his seeking heart, and the value God places on each individual soul. May we be led to value people’s souls just as much and share the soul-saving news of the free forgiveness found in Christ!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Our Wisdom Is Found in the Lord

These are the readings for the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

The mind is a powerful tool, capable of reasoning its way too much success and many great things. The human mind knows how to guard the bottom line. The mind knows what is most cost-effective. The mind can quickly determine the most reasonable course of action. But our brains, despite all their vaunted wisdom, cannot find their way to the cross. The cross is incomprehensible to human wisdom. One man, the God-man, dies for the sins of all men! It is only when our fear and trust are in the Lord that we can know his great mercy and understand how that mercy affects us now and forever.

Traditional First Lesson – Proverbs 9:8-12

What is the source of true wisdom and knowledge?

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One (Jesus) is true understanding.

What is the benefit of putting all our trust in the Lord, of leaning on his wisdom?

Eternal life is the benefit. The writer says, “For through me your days will be many…years will be added to your life…your wisdom will reward you.”

What is the punishment for not fearing the Lord?

If you refuse to fear and trust in God, “you alone will suffer.”

Supplemental First Lesson – Genesis 12:1-8

When God called Abram to go to the land, God would show him; God gave Abram seven blessings. What was the last one?

God promised Abram, “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” This was a promise that the Savior of the world, God in the flesh, would come from Abram’s descendants. (And that the Savior would die in place of all people.)

Abram was a childless man 75 years old when God called him to go to an unknown land and promised to make a great nation out of him. What other problem did Abram have? (See the end of 12:6.)

Abram’s other problem was that plenty of Canaanites filled the land to which God sent him. How could his descendants take over such a land when he had no son, either? God asked Abram, like he asks us, to keep trusting him in the face of much opposition and circumstances that often seem to make no sense.

Traditional Second Lesson – Philemon 1:1, 10-21

What is so incredible about Paul’s request that Philemon take back Onesimus?

Onesimus was a runaway slave. Most masters would severely punish such a slave—perhaps even have him killed. But Paul asks Philemon to have mercy on Onesimus out of Christian love.

On what basis would Philemon show any mercy to Onesimus?

On the same basis by which Philemon was shown mercy. Philemon was shown mercy by God, who brought Philemon to faith through the good news of Christ preached by Paul. Now Philemon has an opportunity to show the same mercy which he was shown to his servant Onesimus. “We love because he [God] first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

Supplemental Second Lesson – Philippians 3:4b-11

What reasons could Paul give for trusting in who he was before God? (See 4:5-6.)

Paul could have trusted in who he was because he was not just a Jew, he was the most Jewish man possible. He kept the law that God had given the Jews almost faultlessly. He had even persecuted Christians in his zeal to be a good Jew.

How did Paul see his former goodness and good efforts?

Paul learned to see his former goodness as a loss (in accounting terms) not a profit. He even considered it garbage (literally, “dung”). Jesus had become his righteousness.

Gospel – Luke 14:25-33

Does Jesus really want us to hate our parents, our brothers and sisters, our children?

We do not hate our parents in the sinful and wicked sense that Scripture condemns. We “hate” them in the sense that we make Christ the first priority in our lives. Our Lord and Savior is to be the number one in all things. No matter what the wisdom of the world says, we always follow Christ.

What motivates us to “hate” our families, to give up everything we have for Jesus?

“We love because he first loved us.” God showed us incredible mercy and love by sending his one and only Son into the world. He chose us before creation (Eph. 1:4). He adopted us as sons (Eph. 1:5). He “made us alive” (Eph. 2:5). He “raised us up with Christ” (Eph. 2:6), all by his undeserved love, by grace. As children of our heavenly Father, we take up the cross appointed for us and follow our Savior, Jesus, even if we don’t always understand it, even if the world mocks us, spits upon us, and hates us.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Our Eternal King Comes for Us

These are the readings for the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

“Hey, that’s my seat!” School children bicker over their special place. Adults look and laugh, yet we do the same when we take pains to assure that we get what’s coming to us—at work, at home, among friends and family—and that everybody sees and knows how important we are. But in today’s lessons, God tells us that our King is coming—the Almighty Ruler of the universe, Jesus Christ. Next to him, due to our sin, we are nothing. We deserve the lowest place. But in love for us, Jesus invites us to the place of honor.

First Lesson – Proverbs 25:6,7

Why does the author tell us to be careful about exalting ourselves before the King?

It is possible that there is someone of higher standing who will take the place of honor we have presumed for ourselves.

What could be the result of humbly taking a lower seat before the King?

The King may ask us to come near to him rather than sit in such a lowly seat.

Traditional Second Lesson – Hebrews 13:1-8

Why are we told to entertain strangers, to love prisoners, to be free from the love of money, to remember our leaders?

We are reminded to be humble in all things: to entertain strangers, for we might be entertaining angels; to take care of prisoners, for one day we might be prisoners; to be content, because God provides; to remember our leaders because theirs is a way of life worth imitating. And over all this is our eternal King, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, Jesus Christ,the source of our salvation, the motivator of our humble living.

What is the comfort of the fact that Jesus Christ is the same “yesterday, today, and forever”?

He was in the beginning, creating the world. He became flesh to save the world. He remains near us now and always, ruling over the world, watching over all things, and providing for all we need. He is our loving, Provider-King.

Supplemental Second Lesson – James 2:1-13

What must we not show, especially as we gather together as Christians? (See 2:1.)

We must now show favoritism to people who have more earthly wealth than others.

What is God’s law when it comes to others? (See 2:8.)

God insists, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

What problem do we have if we ever show favoritism to someone with wealth, even once? Or if we do not commit adultery, but we do commit murder? (See 2:10.)

If we break even one or part of God’s law, we are guilty of breaking all of it. (Picture a broken window. You can’t just replace the part that the baseball crashed through.)

Gospel – Luke 14:1,7-14

Why did Jesus tell the guests at this Pharisee’s house the parable of the wedding feast?

Jesus told the guests this parable to remind them of the need for humility. Those who think they have earned a high seat at the wedding feast of the Lamb in heaven by their own good deeds will have all hopes dashed when they are turned away. It is those who humbly stand at the lowest seats saying, “I only belong here because of what Jesus Christ did for me,” who will be elevated to the places of honor.

Why does Jesus tell the host to invite “the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind” to a dinner?

The Pharisee looks only to his own public image, “Who can I impress with my guest list? Who can help me out in life?” If you invite only the rich and the wealthy, what good does that do? You perhaps earn favors in this life. You pad your own sinful pride. But if from faith you understand that it is the poor and needy who need your help and comfort, even though they cannot help you in this life, you will reap a hundredfold reward in heaven.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Faith-Life Leads Us Through the Narrow Door

These are the readings for the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

Many think numerous roads lead to eternal glory. “It doesn’t matter what religion you practice—or whether you have none,” they say. “All that matters is that you try to treat others well and do the best you can.” Yet while religions may espouse some noble goals for earthly living, all these goals lead people away from Christ. All fall far short of what God demands for entrance into heaven: perfection. (See Matthew 5:48.) The good news is Jesus came to be perfect in our place. He has given us his perfection in God’s sight. (See 2 Corinthians 5:21.) Through faith in him we have eternal life. Jesus is the only way, the narrow door.

Traditional First Lesson – Isaiah 66:18-24

What is being described in these verses?

The Lord is describing the gathering of the Christian Church from all nations. In particular, he is describing that gathering as it will take place on the day of judgment.

What important point is the Lord making through Isaiah?

The Church will be gathered into heaven from all nations, both Jew and Gentile. Faith in Jesus is the determining factor. Those who reject the salvation God provides through his Son “will be loathsome to all mankind.”

Supplemental First Lesson – Judges 7:1-8

At first, Gideon had 32,000 men to fight against the Midianites. To how many did the Lord reduce his troops?

The Lord reduced Gideon’s troops first to 10,000, then to 300 men.

Why did the Lord do such a strange thing? (See 7:2.)

The Lord did not want anyone in Israel to boast against the Lord that their own strength had saved them from their enemy. All people today, even those who are on God’s side, are prone to the same temptation.

Traditional Second Lesson – Hebrews 12:18-24

What does the scene described in verses 18-21 represent?

It represents the approach to God by means of the law (symbolized by Mt. Sinai). Attempting to approach God by means of obeying the law apart from faith in Jesus will only bring gloom, trembling, and ultimately death.

What does Mount Zion represent, and by what means can we approach this “mountain”?

Mount Zion represents the holy Christian Church in heaven and on earth. We approach this mountain through faith in Jesus, who has made us perfect in God’s sight by the sprinkling of his blood. He’s the narrow door.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Romans 9:1-9

What could Paul have wished if it were possible?

Paul could have wished he were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of other Jewish people.

Why did so many Jews in Paul’s day reject the gospel of Christ Jesus? Was it God’s fault in some way?

Many Jews of Paul’s day rejected the gospel, but it was not God’s fault. God had given them every advantage. God’s Word did not fail either: Paul says that just because a person has Abraham’s blood in his or her veins does not mean that person is a true heir of Abraham. All who trust in Jesus are sons of Abraham. (See Galatians 3:7.)

Gospel – Luke 13:22-30

Why does Jesus describe the entrance into heaven as being a “narrow door,” and how does one enter through this narrow door?

The door into heaven is “narrow” because there is only one way into heaven, not many ways. Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Apart from trusting in Jesus as your Savior, you will not be saved. (See Mark 16:16 and Acts 4:12.) In another respect, however, the door into heaven is “wide” because Jesus has paid for the sins of all people (1 John 2:2), and because of his sacrifice, God has declared all people “not guilty” in his courtroom (Romans 3:24). Only those who trust in Jesus for salvation receive the benefit of his sacrifice. Those who do not enter into glory cannot blame God. The fault will be entirely their own.

True or false: Many people will be surprised, come the day of judgment, that they stand condemned.

True. Sadly, many will be surprised at the final judgment. Both here and in Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus shows that many will be shocked at being shut out of heaven. Such will be the destiny for those who rely on anything or anyone but Jesus to be rescued from the fire of hell, which we all deserve.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email