Worship Helps

Third Sunday after Epiphany

Jesus Appears as Light Shining in Darkness

These are the readings for the Third Sunday after Epiphany.

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 they 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, and 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!

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Second Sunday after Epiphany

Jesus Appears as the Lamb of God Who Takes Away the Sin of the World

These are the readings for the Second Sunday after Epiphany.

God’s Word for This Week

This Lamb would take away the sins 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?

Jesus

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?

Paul

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 and 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!

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Baptism of Our Lord

Jesus is Revealed as Our Perfect Substitute

These are the readings for the Baptism of Our Lord Sunday.

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?

Jesus.

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).

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Second Sunday after Christmas

The Incarnation Reveals the Unseen God to the Eyes of the Faithful

These are the readings for the Second Sunday after Christmas.

God’s Word for This Week

God’s grace has been bestowed on us through the coming of the promised Savior. Righteousness, peace and eternal salvation are ours. We marvel at these great gifts and take time to praise him for the wonderful things that he has done for us.

Traditional First Lesson – Isaiah 61:10–62:3

What is the picture drawn by “garments of salvation” and “robes of righteousness”?

Our salvation is such that it completely covers up our sinful nature so that we are seen as holy by our God. What’s more, we do not put on the garments ourselves; we do not have the power. “He has clothed us,” making us recipients of salvation.

How are the redeemed a “crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand”?

Through his redemptive work, Christ presents us as sparkling jewels to God, perfect and flawless. His amazing grace has transformed us from sin-ridden creatures to beautiful adornments for our God, our very lives proclaiming his praises.

Supplemental First Lesson – Genesis 16:1-16

When you see “the angel of the LORD” in the Old Testament, who is the Bible talking about?

The pre-incarnate Christ—the second person of the Trinity, before he became a man through his birth by the Virgin Mary.

How did the angel of the LORD reveal the characteristics of God to Hagar and to us?

Abram and Sarai believed in the promise of God, but ten years of waiting caused doubts to surface in their minds. Though their intentions might have been good, they did not act according to God’s wisdom and revelation. Hagar conceived, but was mistreated by Sarai and fled into the desert—pregnant, alone, helpless. Then the angel of the LORD, the pre-incarnate Messiah, appears for the first time in the Old Testament and makes the unseen God known by loving the unloved, caring for the abandoned, and helping the helpless. The angel of the LORD spoke words of prophecy and revelation to Hagar that revealed what God is like. He is a God who hears, sees, and cares for us. Like Hagar, in Christ, we now have seen the One who sees us.

Traditional Second Lesson – Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-18

If “he predestined us to be adopted as his sons,” does that mean he predestined others to hell?

This is a message of comfort and assurance to believers. Before we were even born—before we existed—God had his plan for us to be his. It was by no decision or action of ours. However, we must not blame God for those who choose to reject him. Salvation was won for all; those who choose to reject him bring upon their own damnation.

Does the word hope imply some uncertainty in our salvation?

“Hope” is used in the sense that we are looking forward to having the salvation God has made ours through his Son. The nature of God’s perfection makes his promises an absolute surety even as we await their fulfillment.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Ephesians 1:3-14

What is the mystery of God’s will that Paul mentions here?

With the blood of Christ God bought us back, forgave our sins, and lavished on us wisdom and understanding. True wisdom is understanding the mystery of God’s will. That could not be discovered or uncovered; God’s will had to be revealed. This is the gospel message which God purposed in Christ: we would be redeemed by the Son of God made flesh and be presented blameless in his sight.

Gospel – John 1:14-18

What is the “grace and truth” that the one and only, Jesus brings?

God’s message of grace and truth is the message of the Gospel. The law has condemned all to hell, and all need a savior. Jesus has been sent by God out of grace—nothing is deserved or earned. Jesus is the truth that leads people to heaven.

How has Christ made God known?

Christ IS God. To know Christ is to know God. Christ is the direct contact we have with the Father, for the only path to heaven is through Christ.

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First Sunday after Christmas

God Cares for His Sons

These are the readings for the First Sunday after Christmas.

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.

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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.

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?

God is not following the laws of nature in the case of this birth. This birth would not be ordinary. God would intervene with a child born in a miraculous way. But he would also be showing us humans something: he is coming to our world so that he might save us from our sins.

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! God, however, would let no sinful king stand in the way of deliverance for his people. So God chose the sign. Not merely a sign of Judah’s physical safety, God chose a 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 7:1-14,15-17

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. They had also lost to the Northern Kingdom under Pekah. Consider the scope of their defeat in 2 Chronicles 28: in a single day Pekah killed 120,000 soldiers—including the prince, the officer of the palace, and the second-in-command of the kingdom. He also captured 200,000 wives, sons, and daughters. The magnitude of this defeat must have weighed heavily on the national consciousness. 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 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.

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Third Sunday in Advent

In the Messiah’s Kingdom, Things are Not Always What They Seem

These are the readings for the Third Sunday in Advent.

God’s Word for This Week

In the Messiah’s kingdom, things are not always what they seem. Appearances can be deceiving and lead to doubt. Today the Church asks Christ to drive the darkness of doubt from our hearts and fill us with the light of the knowledge of Christ. Faith in Christ leads us to patiently hope in the Lord’s caring plan despite any appearances to the contrary.

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, maybe we don’t 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. Jesus then points to John and shows greatness hiding behind the cross and persecution. Though John did not seem it, he was the second Elijah and a prophet without peer.

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Second Sunday in Advent

Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is Near

These are the readings for the Second Sunday in Advent.

God’s Word for This Week

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near! The forerunner prepares for the coming Christ by preaching repentance that brings renewal of life. The Root of Jesse will come in swift judgment on the unrepentant but in mercy and grace for God’s people. His coming will end the wickedness of the world and usher in a new age restored to the perfection with which God made it.

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 was 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; he failed 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, 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.

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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.