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.

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.”

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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.

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.

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First Sunday of End Time—Reformation

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, showing clearly 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.

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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 him or her. (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.

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Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Worldly Wealth is Fleeting and God is Just

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 have to hire (at least now and then, like at a repair shop) to fix them 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.

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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.

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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, then 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 huge cost to him, but at 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 Pharisee’s and teachers of the law muttered?

The Pharisees and the 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 which God places on each individual soul. May we be led to value people’s souls just as much and share with all sinners the soul-saving news of the free forgiveness found in Christ!

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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 is 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, 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.

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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 overall 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 that need your help and comfort, even though they cannot help you in this life, you will reap a hundredfold reward in heaven.

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Third Sunday after Pentecost

Your Dread Enemy, the Devil, Won’t Win

These are the readings for the Third Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

Adam and Eve ruined everything for everyone. They destined themselves for death. They took the perfect world that God created for everyone and put it under constant attack from all the demons. But God made a promise almost immediately. God said he would send a descendant of Eve to crush Satan’s power. Jesus, that descendant, demonstrated his authority over Satan even before he rose from the dead.

First Lesson – Genesis 3:8-15

Why were Adam and Eve hiding from God?

Adam and Eve hid from God because his nearness exposed their guilt. Satan had promised Eve that she would be like God; instead, Adam and Eve became fools, thinking they could hide from the One who sees all. And Adam and Eve ran away from their best friend, rather than turning to him and repenting. How tragic when we do the same!

How did Adam and Eve respond to being “found out?”

Adam blamed Eve. Eve blamed the snake. Adam, in effect, blamed God for the situation he was in that supposedly made him fall (“the woman you put here with me…she gave me…”) Look at your own response to being found out for your sin. Real repentance owns up to the full guilt of your reactions, as well as your previous actions.

How did God respond to Adam and Eve’s deadly fall?

God responded in amazing love by providing a way of escape. He set up the only plan to undo the damage of sin. He promised that a “seed” of the woman (Jesus) would crush Satan’s head, even when his own heel was struck. That promise came true when Jesus died for us and rose again.

Traditional Second Lesson – 2 Corinthians 4:13-18

What gave Paul and the apostles boldness to speak?

What you have in your heart and mind will show itself in what you say. Their “spirit of faith” was based on the assurance that since Jesus was raised from the dead, all believers will follow suit.

How did this affect them in their daily pains and troubles?

They didn’t “lose heart” even though their health was deteriorating, and circumstances were hitting them hard. They saw those as “momentary” in comparison with what they were going to experience in eternity with Jesus. Instead those things helped them keep focus on what is eternal rather than the common short-sightedness connected with the material world.

Supplemental Second Lesson (Revelation 20:1-6)

In Revelation 1:18, Jesus said he holds the keys of death and Hades. Who, then, is the angel?

This angel seems to be Jesus himself.

Will Jesus reign on earth for 1000 years before judgment day?

No, Jesus will not reign visibly on earth for 1000 years before judgment day. He is reigning right now in heaven for 1000 years (a picture of the New Testament era). Those beheaded for their faith reign with him. They are winners, though when they died, they seemed losers to the world.

Gospel – Mark 3:20-35

What accusation did the religious leaders level against Jesus?

The leaders said that Jesus was demon-possessed (possessed by Beelzebub, “Lord of the Flies”). They claimed Jesus must be one of them if he could drive demons out.

How did he counter their argument?

Jesus said Satan could not survive if he worked against himself. “A house divided against itself will not stand.”

Is there any sin for which people will not be forgiven?

Those who turn against the Holy Spirit’s workings in their life through the gospel and fall away from Christ shut him out. They persistently wall themselves off from the only thing that could save them—God’s forgiveness.

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Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

Jesus is Revealed by His Tireless Compulsion to Preach the Gospel

These are the readings for the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.

God’s Word for This Week

In all three lessons we read today, people are hurting. Jesus reveals himself as God by healing the people of Capernaum. Why doesn’t he take all hurts and troubles away from us now? We do not know, but his Word promises that he has power over sickness and the devil, and his Word gives many examples of God using evil for our good. Jesus himself did not stay in Capernaum to be their miracle man. He traveled throughout Galilee. First he prayed—perhaps that his popularity would not go to his head and keep him from going to the cross for us.

First Lesson – Job 7:1–7

How was Job feeling about his life?

Job was frustrated with his lot in life. Tired and depressed, Job figured that he would never be happy again. Job had lost his desire to proclaim good news about his Savior God.

Why did Job feel the way he did?

Job had lost his fortune, his children, and his reputation. Then he lost his health, too. His friends figured that he had done something terrible to deserve such treatment from God. Job resented them and their accusations. God seemed distant and unfair. Job’s suffering led him to discouragement and despair.

Job had not lost his faith in God. How can you tell?

Though frustrated, tired, and depressed due to all the calamity touching his life, Job still addressed God in prayer (verse 7).

Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 9:16-23

How much was Paul being paid to preach?

Paul was preaching to the Corinthians free of charge, not using his right as a minister of the gospel to be paid for his work among them (cf. 1 Co 9:15). Normally this would bring disappointment, but Paul boasted of the situation. He was motivated to preach by the gospel, not by payment.

What does Paul mean: “I have become all things to all men”? (Verse 22)

Paul is referring to the servant attitude he had taken toward his listeners. Although as a Christian Paul had been given complete freedom in Christ in matters of conscience, he surrendered his Christian freedom in order “to please everybody in every way” (1 Co 10:33). He did this so that he might have an opportunity to preach the gospel.

What was Paul’s motivation to preach?

Paul was motivated by the freedom that Jesus gives through the gospel of forgiveness. He couldn’t help but proclaim that message of forgiveness to others. He had a tireless compulsion to preach the gospel.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Romans 8:28–30

Earlier Paul has said that we know that the whole world is groaning as in pains of
childbirth. What else do we know?

We also know that all things work together for good to those who love God, whom God has called to faith.

God’s purpose is not necessarily to make us happy now. What is his eternal purpose?

God’s purpose now and forever is to conform us to the likeness of his Son. This is why he chose us to be believers before he made the world. (What grace!)

What unbroken chain does Paul want us to picture?

The unbroken chain of God’s grace is that those God predestined in eternity to be his children, he also called to faith in Jesus here in time. Those he called he also declared innocent in his courtroom for Jesus’ sake, and those he justified, he also glorified. We are not on the new earth yet, shining like the sun, but because of God’s grace it is as good as done. (What amazing grace!)

Gospel – Mark 1:29–39

How did Jesus feel after a long day of ministry?

Jesus was worn out and looking for solitude. People were demanding an audience with him. Sadly, it seems that they were more interested in earthly blessings (miracles of physical healing) rather than the heavenly blessings that Jesus had to offer: the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

How did Jesus respond to the demands of the people?

Jesus left and went to other villages, realizing that his primary mission from the Father was to preach the gospel and bring eternal healing to souls. He had a tireless compulsion to preach the gospel.

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Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost – August 28, 2017

The Church is Meant for all People

These are the readings for the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

The Church is meant for all people. The Prayer of the Day reminds us that it is only by God’s gift of grace that we come into his presence to offer true and faithful service. Today’s lessons teach that the gift of grace given to Israel, God also intended to give through Israel to the world. The Church is meant for all people: a display of God’s mercy and a result of the living and active Word of God.

Prayer of the Day

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift of grace that we come into your presence and offer true and faithful service. Grant that our worship on earth may always be pleasing to you, and in the life to come give us the fulfillment of what you have promised; through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

First Lesson – Isaiah 56:1, 6-8

Agree or disagree. In the Old Testament, God intended the promises of salvation only for the Israelites, his chosen people.

Disagree. While God generally spoke his promises to his chosen people, he did not abandon those of other nationalities. In the Old Testament, God extended his forgiving love to the Ninevites through the prophet Jonah, blessed a Syrian officer through the testimony of a young Israelite servant girl, and inspired King David to write: “Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all people,” to name but a few.

The words of this lesson came to the mind and mouth of our Savior when he confronted the gross perversion of temple worship in Mark 11. Through Isaiah God told the world that God-fearing Gentiles would always have a place within his temple. Yet in his temple on earth, the religious leadership turned the court of Gentiles into a marketplace that robbed both man and God. Jesus cleansed it of both the commerce and corruption and quoted this lesson. The godly Gentiles described are the exact opposite of the Jews in Matthew 15. God in his grace calls the Gentiles into his presence and makes his Church a house of prayer for all nations.

Second Lesson – Romans 11:13-15, 28-32

How was Israel’s rejection of the Gospel a blessing for the world?

The rejection by the people of Israel finally caused the apostles to direct their preaching instead to the Gentiles. While we do not rejoice in the loss of souls among the Jews, this new focus did bring unprecedented numbers of Gentiles into the family of God.

What hope still exists for the Jewish people?

It is still God’s desire that all should be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. The amazing condition is that their very life of disobedience is an opportunity for God to extend his mercy. The same call God gave them in the Old Testament he gives them today—God’s promises are irrevocable.

This is the twelfth in a series of sixteen lessons that run through Pentecost 17. On this day celebrating faith for the Gentiles, St. Paul warns his Gentile readers against any pride on their part or prejudice against the Jews. Note the point of this Apostle to the Gentiles: he reaches out to the Gentile with the hopes of also winning the Jew. Verse 15 makes the point of our Gospel lesson. Rejection by the people of Israel meant Christ would be preached to the Gentiles. How personal this statement is for Paul! How many synagogues had he preached in, only to be cast out and make his way to the Gentiles? But yet Israel retains its dual status: enemies that are beloved. When the nation of Israel turned from its Savior God and his Messiah, God set his face against them as enemies of the Gospel. But yet God’s call and his Word of promise remain. Such is grace, that God does not love the lovable, but makes the unlovable his dear possession. Just look at what he did with the disobedient Gentiles! Both Jew and Gentile apart from Christ languish in the fearful prison called “Disobedience.” God shut them up together that locked thus, all hope and all self-help were gone. Disobedience was all they had and all they could bring forth. Only one door permits one to leave this prison, and it is inscribed: “God’s Mercy.” (R.C.H. Lenski)

Supplemental First Lesson – Joshua 2:8-21

It is reasonable that spies would hide themselves in a house of prostitution. It is reasonable, too, that this prostitute Rahab tried to cut a deal to preserve her life in the face of the Israelite onslaught that the whole city knew was coming. But what reason is there that she did it out of faith in the LORD? What reason did she find to have faith in the God of free and faithful love?

There is no reason for that but the unreasonable gift of God worked in her heart by the living and active Word of God. Clearly, God meant his Church to be for all people. But he didn’t stop there! What reason could there be that this foreign woman, this prostitute from a godless country, that hers would be the womb through which line of the Blessed Seed would descend? There is no reason for that at all. That can only be grace. Grace meant for all people.

Gospel – Matthew 15:21-28

Note the context of chapter 15. The children of Israel—and especially their religious leaders—found nothing but fault in Jesus of Nazareth. The chosen people of God to whom belonged the patriarchs, the promises, the covenant and the temple, could see nothing in Christ but a breaker of man-made traditions. Jesus’ words to them could not be harsher. They were the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophesy: their outward rites and rituals belied an inward spiritual emptiness. The very people who should have been closest to Christ were most distant. So Jesus distances himself from them and goes to the Gentile land of ancient paganism, Tyre and Sidon. There he finds a most inexplicable thing: the Greek text notes it as both surprising and extraordinary: ἰδοὺ γυνὴ Χαναναία (Look! A woman, a Canaanite woman). After leaving the land of God’s chosen people, Jesus finds a woman—a Canaanite woman—who received the Word of God and trusted in God’s promises in a way that shamed every one of the religious teachers. The male leaders of God’s people failed to recognize him, but behold! Look carefully! A woman, a Canaanite woman, cries out, “Kyrie eleison!” (Lord, have mercy!) And to whom does she cry? She called him “Lord, Son of David,” with all of its messianic implications. How amazing is the grace of God that chooses the weak and lowly things of the world to shame the wise and proud. Only twice are we told that Jesus called someone’s faith great. Both were Gentiles, and both exhibited a God-given trust in the Word and promises of God made man.

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Tenth Sunday after Pentecost – August 7, 2017

The Christian Seeks Spiritual Wealth

These are the readings for the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

The Christian seeks spiritual wealth. This Sunday’s readings are centered on the very ancient Prayer of the Day. For nearly 1600 years God’s people on this day have prayed that God might give them true spiritual wealth. “Teach us always to ask according to your will that we may never fail to obtain the blessings you have promised.” What a magnificent prayer for the materialist world in which we live! Our lessons today show people who have come into great wealth, but yet this earthly wealth only serves to illustrate where true treasure lies. Today we see that true, spiritual wealth can only be found in God and his eternal blessings for us in Christ.

Prayer of the Day

O Lord, your ears are always open to the prayers of your humble servants, who come to you in Jesus’ name. Teach us always to ask according to your will that we may never fail to obtain the blessings you have promised; through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

First Lesson – 1 Kings 3:5-12

What would you have asked for? If anything in the world could be yours, what would be your request? God only gave one man the choice between unlimited riches and spiritual wealth. Can you imagine facing his dilemma? What should I pick, temporal blessings or eternal ones? What should I value, the things of this world or the things of God? How well Solomon expressed the words of our prayer for today, to ask according to God’s will. We marvel at his faith in choosing great wisdom over great riches—especially since we so often fail in the pitifully small choices we make! It’s not for all the riches in the world that we turn down spiritual wealth, but for paltry over-time hours, or a little extra in the check book that we shaved off our offering. For such small things we are willing to trade away opportunities for true spiritual wealth. Look at Solomon and see an example of what God means by spiritual wealth. He doesn’t mean we need to live as mendicant monks; he doesn’t ask us to forgo all earthly treasure. He just doesn’t want us to value them more than the pearl of great price. After choosing spiritual treasure, God blessed Solomon in unbelievable ways. (Do the math on the twenty-five tons worth of gold that was part of Solomon’s annual income.) Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given you as well.

Second Lesson – Romans 8:28-30

This is the ninth in a series of sixteen lessons that run through Pentecost 17. Paul explains the spiritual wealth that belongs to every Christian. Like the man who found treasure buried in the field, we brought no merit or worth to our calling. Rather, we were chosen. The surprising grace of God found us and gave us the ultimate treasure: predestined, called, justified, and glorified.

Supplemental Second Lesson – 1 Timothy 6:17-21

Could Paul’s words be more timely or appropriate for this generation? He instructs preachers everywhere to warn the rich about the two pet sins of the wealthy: arrogance and false hope. Mankind so easily falls in the error of thinking that earthly treasures can provide security or a sense of worth. In our affluent society both of those sins run rampant in many a Christian heart. God commands us not to trust in earthly treasure because he wants us to have a firm foundation on which to stand, a certainty on which to place our hope. That can only be found in spiritual wealth. God richly provides for us, and then we give thanks by being rich in good deeds. Spiritual wealth is certain and secure, for it is treasure laid up in heaven. How can we possibly carry out this command? Teach us to ask according to your will that we may never fail to obtain the
blessings you have promised.

Gospel – Matthew 13:44-52

Jesus’ parables teach us to seek spiritual wealth. Both of the men in the parables found great treasure. For one it was a complete surprise, as unexpected as it was valuable. For the other it came from an expert search by a discerning man. Before they found these new treasures, both men no doubt valued what they previously owned. But once they saw this new treasure, see how little they valued all else they had! The spiritual wealth of Christ and his Gospel puts everything else into perspective; in fact it marginalizes all else. The importance of this truth comes to light in the parable of the net. All people, rich and poor, will be caught up. Only those who found true spiritual wealth are spared the furnace. Jesus concludes with an encouragement for the preacher of the Gospel: you have found true wealth in Christ; you have been given a storeroom full of treasures new and old. Bring them out to God’s people with joy and delight.

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Fifth Sunday of Lent – March 7, 2016

Jesus Is the Cornerstone of Our Faith

These are the readings for the Fifth Sunday of Lent.

God’s Word for This Week

Jesus makes clear that he is the cornerstone of our faith. Those who believe in him will receive the blessings of which St. Paul speaks in the second lesson, telling us to put away the “former things” of this world. Sadly, those who continue to cling tightly to the rubbish of their own righteousness will be broken into pieces or have this “stone of Christ” fall on them and crush them. Let us instead look to the “new thing” of God, the deliverance won by our Savior Jesus, the cornerstone of our faith.

First Lesson – Isaiah 43:16-21

What famous event is God talking about when he says he made a way through the sea, drew out the chariots and army, and extinguished them?

God is referring to Israel’s miraculous escape through the sea from slavery in Egypt. God’s rescue through Moses was ancient history by Isaiah’s day, yet was the most vivid example to that point in history that the LORD saves!

What “new thing” is God foretelling that will make the people forget what their favorite story of rescue, the Exodus was?

God says he will make a way in the desert, leading his people back from their coming captivity in Babylon. Then God will trump that rescue. He will send the Messiah, who will bring the water of life. Today as we tell people how great a deliverer God is, we tell the story of Jesus delivering from sin, death, and the devil. The once-famous Exodus goes to the “back burner.”

People talk about finding purpose for their lives. For what purpose(s) does the LORD say he formed us? (v. 21)

The LORD formed his chosen people for himself. Our nature rebels at the thought that we do not exist to seek our own goals and interests. Also, we were formed to proclaim the LORD’s praise. Since we have pardon in Christ, our new self gladly adores God and tells others how marvelous he is.

Traditional Second Lesson – Philippians 3:8-14

How many great things did Paul gain in Christ that made him ready to consider his past honors as a Pharisee rubbish?

He gained righteousness from God by faith, knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection, and fellowship with Christ through suffering. Paul gained his own resurrection from the dead on the Last Day and the prize of eternal life!

Compare Lot’s wife as she left Sodom with Paul leaving behind his comforts and status to follow God’s call.

Both were called to leave behind earthly things that had filled their lives. Lot’s wife kept thinking about what was behind and looked back, to her loss. Paul made a point to forget what he gave up and focused on his heavenly goal.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Romans 11:11-21

Paul’s main analogy here is of an olive tree. Jewish people formed the root of the tree. Jewish unbelievers are like branches broken off from the tree. How do Gentile believers, wild olive shoots, become part of tree?

Gentile believers become part of the tree by being grafted into it. (Note: Wild olive shoots don’t graft themselves into trees.) Paul warns Gentile believers not to be arrogant. We might expect him to tell us, therefore, to be humble. What does he say, instead? (See 11:20‒21.)

Paul tells Gentile believers to be “afraid.” Why?

Because we could repeat the stupidity of Jews before us who lost their place in God’s olive tree. Like dead branches, they got broken off from the tree, due to their unbelief. We get grafted in by faith. But if God didn’t spare them, God will not spare us, either, if we follow their foolish example.

Gospel – Luke 20:9-19

What does this parable teach us about Christ?

Jesus is the son sent as the last opportunity for the evil tenants. He is the heir and holds a unique place as the son. The other messengers came as servants. Christ identifies himself in this parable as the unique Son of God.

What does this parable teach us about men?

God’s chosen people were given a good land, but they mistreated his messengers (prophets) and were about to kill his own Son! God rightfully expects “fruit” from the people he puts in his vineyard, also today!

What does this parable teach us about God?

God is patient and merciful, like the owner giving the tenants many chances. But God’s patience can be exhausted; in his wrath, God treats hard-hearted rebels severely.

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Pentecost 22 – October 19, 2015

Jesus Shows Us True Greatness

These are the readings for the Twenty Second Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

“I am the greatest,” shouted Muhammad Ali after one of his more famous boxing victories. “I am,” he later added, “the greatest heavy weight of all time.” How would you define greatness? Is it power? Wealth? Fame? In our readings for this Lord’s Day, the Greatest who ever lived, he who died for us all and rose again, shows us that true greatness comes through humble service.

Traditional First Lesson – Isaiah 53:10-12

In the verses preceding this reading, Isaiah describes in detail Jesus’ suffering on the cross some 700 years before he was even born. Why does this suffering servant deserve a portion among the great?

Because he gave his life for the world. Jesus willingly allowed himself to suffer the punishment of all the sins of all people of all time. He paid the price with his humble service and won the victory for all people.

What does it mean that this suffering servant has justified many?

“Justify” is a courtroom term. It means, “to declare innocent.” Jesus, the righteous or innocent servant, suffered the punishment of the guilty in order that they might be declared innocent of all charges. Through Jesus the suffering servant, we have been justified, i.e., declared innocent of all sin. We are now free to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Supplemental First Lesson – 2 Chronicles 26:16-23

What did King Uzziah do wrong that caused God to afflict him with leprosy?

In his pride, Uzziah went into the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the golden incense altar inside the holy place. Only priests were allowed there.

Therefore, what couldn’t Uzziah do for the rest of his life? (See 26:21.)

For the rest of his life, due to his skin disease, Uzziah could not enter even the outdoor courts of the LORD’S temple where other Jewish people could go.

Traditional Second Lesson – Hebrews 4:9-16

The Book of Hebrews demonstrates how Jesus is superior to every aspect of the Jewish religion. In the Old Testament, what was the “Sabbath”?

The word “Sabbath” literally means, “rest.” Just as God rested on the seventh day of creation, he commanded his Old Testament believers to rest on the seventh day and dedicate it to him and his Word.

What superior “rest” does Jesus give?

The Sabbath Day symbolized the eternal rest that God would give his people in heaven—the perfect rest that comes only through faith in Jesus. Even today through the double-edged sword of his Word, God gives us the spiritual rest that we need to make it through this sinful world and prepare ourselves for the one to come. May we never despise preaching and his Word!

How is Jesus a superior High Priest?

Part of the High Priest’s job in the Old Testament was as intercessor, i.e., he was to offer up prayers on behalf of the people. Jesus is our perfect intercessor who understands our trials because he has faced them. Yet he did not sin. He won for us the right to approach God with confidence.

Supplemental Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 9:7-12, 19-23

Did Paul and Barnabas have a right to be paid for the labors among the Corinthians?

Yes, Paul and Barnabas had a right to be paid for their gospel work. Both logic (Paul cites soldiers, vineyard owners and shepherds in 9:7, and plowmen and threshers in 9:10) and the Old Testament (Paul cites Deuteronomy 25:4 in 9:9) show that Paul and Barnabas had a right to be paid. Pastors and other hard-working servants of the gospel today have the same right.

Why didn’t Paul and Barnabas make use of this right? (See 9:12.)

Paul and Barnabas did not make use of their right, so as not to hinder the gospel of Christ when they were in Corinth.

Why was Paul so adaptable and flexible in his ministry methods? What was his goal?

Paul was so adaptable and flexible in his ministry methods so that all in all, he might save some people (9:22) and that he might share in the gospel’s benefits himself (9:23).

Gospel – Mark 10:35-45

How did the disciples define greatness?

Jesus’ disciples considered greatness to be a position of honor among themselves. They considered greatness to be having a seat right next to Jesus when he came into his glory.

According to Jesus, how should we define greatness?

Jesus, the Great One, gave us the greatest example of greatness. He humbly offered his life to pay for the freedom of all mankind from eternal death. True greatness comes through humble service. May we follow Christ’s example of humble service, not out of selfish ambition, but out of thanks and love to him who loved us first.

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Pentecost 21 – October 12, 2015

Jesus Warns Us to Guard against Greed

These are the readings for the Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

“I’m a little envious,” we claim. It is far worse. Envy is wishing God were not so good to someone else while ignoring how good God is to us. And our greed? “Greed is idolatry,” God says (Colossians 3:5). Still, God in Christ provides for all our needs, including the greatest–forgiveness of sin. He places in the repentant believer’s heart proper priorities. God even promises everlasting treasure in his holy presence, all by his grace.

Traditional First Lesson – Amos 5:6, 7, 11-15

Amos addresses people who had lost their priorities. What does seeking the Lord involve?

Seeking the Lord involved giving up the worship of false gods in Bethel, Gilgal and Beersheba. For us it means the same—to give up worshiping the false gods of our society. Those gods include sexual immorality, consumerism, selfishness, etc.

Amos states that we are to “hate evil.” When is hate appropriate?

There is a place among Christians for righteous anger. Following Christ Jesus means loving what God loves and hating what God hates. God gives us his word to guide us in our thought life. When you think about it, hell is God’s righteous wrath that burns forever on those who reject his gospel of salvation.

Supplemental First Lesson – 2 Kings 5:14-27

How did Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, lie to Naaman? What did Gehazi request?

Gehazi lied to Naaman by asking him for clothes and money for two young men from the company of the prophets (perhaps seminary students, in our terms–future pastors). Naaman gave Gehazi about 150 pounds of silver and two sets of clothes– tens of thousands of dollars.

How much did Elisha know about what Gehazi had done? (See 5:26.)

Elisha not only knew about Gehazi’s deceit, he knew that Naaman had stepped down out of his chariot to speak with Gehazi. He knew that Gehazi had started thinking about the olive groves, vineyards, flocks, herds and servants he would soon acquire. In other words, Elisha knew everything. Today, too, God knows everything about our greedy thoughts, words and actions. We must never try to conceal them, but confess them and find mercy in Christ.

Traditional Second Lesson – Hebrews 3:1-6

Compare Jesus to Moses. In what way is Jesus superior to Moses?

Moses was God’s servant and mediator of the old covenant. The Israelites got their identity and status from Moses. Christians get their identity and status from Jesus. Jesus is the mediator of the new covenant. In every way Jesus is superior to Moses.

What determines if “we are in his house”? What is the “courage and the hope of which we boast?”

Though Moses was part of the house in which he served, Christ is the builder of the house. Though Moses was a servant in the house, Christ is the head of the house.

Supplemental Second Reading – Hebrews 13:1-6

As the writer to the Hebrews (Jewish Christians) wrapped up his letter with specific encouragements, which of them had to do with money?

Many of the writer’s encouragements had to do with money: a) being hospitable, b) keeping our lives free from the love of money, c) being content with what God has given us, and d) confidently trusting in the Lord instead of people.

In Deuteronomy 31:6, aged Moses told his successor, Joshua, something that the writer to the Hebrews says God promises all of us. What was Joshua to trust, according to Hebrews 13:5? And what are we to trust, as well?

God told Joshua, and God tells us, “Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you.”

Gospel – Mark 10:17-27

What is Jesus trying to accomplish with the request he makes of the rich young ruler?

The rich young ruler thought he was good enough to get eternal life on his own, so Jesus served the rich young ruler a big helping of law–telling him to go and sell everything he had, give to the poor, then follow his Lord. Jesus wanted the man to see that his possessions had become his god. In doing so, Jesus wanted the young man to despair of being good enough for God on his own, and trust in him.

What does Jesus want the disciples to realize when he contrasts the camel with the eye of a needle?

Jewish people in Jesus’ day were familiar with the camel as the largest beast of burden they used. They were also aware of just how small the eye of a needle was. When Jesus compared the largest with the smallest, he quickly conveyed the idea that it was impossible by human means to save oneself from sin and enter God’s kingdom.

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Pentecost 9 – July 19, 2015

Jesus Gives the Bread of Life by his Faithful Word

These are the readings for the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost.

 

God’s Word for This Week

Last week we saw how Jesus gives the Bread of Life through faithful public ministers. This week we focus more on their message. Public ministers must faithfully proclaim God’s Word. When pastors do not preach the whole truth of God, they destroy faith and turn people away from Jesus, for “faith comes from hearing the message” (Romans 10:17).  Nothing else will do.

Traditional First Lesson – Jeremiah 23:1-6

Who were these “shepherds” (prophets) who were destroying and scattering the Lord’s flock (his people)?

The shepherds to whom God refers are the false prophets in Judah during the days of Jeremiah.

Since others were not faithfully proclaiming his Word, what did the Lord plan to do?

The Lord would come himself, in the person of Jesus Christ, to shepherd his flock by his faithful Word.

Supplemental First Lesson – Numbers 27:12-23

Why did Moses ask that God appoint a man to replace him as leader of God’s people? (See 27:17.)

Moses asked God to appoint a replacement for him so that the LORD’s people would not be like sheep without a shepherd. (Isn’t Moses’ love for the Israelite people amazing, considering how often they complained about his leadership over the years?)

How did God describe Joshua, Moses’ replacement?

God described Joshua, Moses’ replacement, as a man in who was in the spirit.  This may mean a bold spirit of leadership or the Holy Spirit who gives such boldness.

Traditional Second Lesson – Ephesians 2:13-22

How did Jesus bring together the Jews and the Gentiles into one Christian Church? (vv 15-16)

Jesus brought these two groups together by fulfilling and abolishing the Old Testament law, which separated the Jews and Gentiles. Salvation and membership in the Church is not to be based on following certain rules and regulations, as so many still preach today. Instead, Jesus won forgiveness, salvation and entry into eternal life for all people through his death on the cross and powerful Easter resurrection from the dead.

Upon what does Paul say this Christian Church is built?

The Church is founded upon the faithful word of the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles. Jesus, who is himself the Word of God, is the chief cornerstone. (John 1:1)

Supplemental Second Lesson – Hebrews 13:7-8, 17-21

What is the one reason why believers should obey faithful pastors and submit to their authority? (See 13:20.)

Christians have good reason to obey faithful pastors and submit to their authority because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever: Jesus’ words do not change. The grace we receive from him does not change.

How does the writer to the Hebrews describe Jesus, now that the Father has raised him from the dead? (See 13:20.)

The writer to the Hebrews (we are not certain who he was) describes Jesus as “the great Shepherd of the sheep.”

Gospel – Mark 6:30-34

What did Jesus want his disciples to have? What stopped them?

After they returned from a preaching trip, Jesus wanted his disciples to have a vacation. They didn’t get it, for large crowds followed them when they tried to get away.

How did Jesus feel about the crowds that followed him? Why did he feel that way?

Mark says that he had compassion on them because, spiritually-speaking, they were wandering aimlessly like lost sheep with no shepherd.

How did Jesus respond to the people’s needs?

He began to give them the Bread of Life by his faithful Word, teaching them the truths of God.