Saints Triumphant

Jesus Calls Out to Us Through His Word

These are the readings for the third Sunday of End Time—Saints Triumphant.

God’s Word for This Week

Like children playing hide and seek, Jesus calls out to us through his Word, “Ready or not here I come!” Thanks be to God that through Jesus’ saving work on the cross, we have been made ready! May his Spirit keep us in saving faith in him.

First Lesson – Daniel 12:1-3

A man dressed in linen, with a belt of finest gold around his waist (therefore, someone holy and royal (see 10:5) told Daniel about a book God has (12:1b). What did he mean?

By that book, the man dressed in linen (who may have been the Son of God himself), meant God’s list of his chosen children. God does not need a book to keep him from forgetting things. He wants to comfort us. What joy that God knows by name all whom he will save forever.

Describe the events of the Last Day. (See 12:2.)

On the Last Day, those who sleep in the dust will awake. That is, the dead will be raised. Some will receive eternal life and others eternal condemnation from God, the judge.

What is the key difference between those whom God will save and those he will condemn?

Those whom God saves are “those who are wise.” They have received true wisdom: trust in Jesus as Savior (not trust in themselves). That faith God credits to them as righteousness, so they are right in his sight. That faith shows itself in the way they lead others to trust in God and live for him.

Traditional Second Lesson – Hebrews 10:11-18

The book of Hebrews demonstrates how Jesus is superior to every aspect of the Jewish religion. How is Jesus’ sacrifice superior to the numerous sacrifices commanded in the Old Testament? (See 10:18.)

The Old Testament sacrifices were repeated “endlessly year after year” (10:1). They pointed to the seriousness of sin but didn’t actually take away sin (10:4,11). But Jesus, by one sacrifice of himself never to be repeated, has taken away the sins of the world. Confidence in the perfect forgiveness won by his sacrifice makes us ready for his return and gives us stamina for our daily struggles.

Supplemental Second Lesson – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Why does Paul call the death of believers to “fall asleep?”

Paul calls death for believers “falling asleep” for it is nothing to fear. Our bodies will rest. On the Last Day God will wake us up to his glorious, eternal dawn.

How can we be sure about what will happen? (See 4:15a.)

We can be sure about what will happen on the Last Day because we have the Lord Jesus’ own word on it. Paul, Jesus’ inspired apostle, has confirmed what Jesus said.

Will we float with Jesus in clouds forever? (See 4:17.)

Paul does not say that we will float with Jesus forever. He says that Jesus will snatch us up from the earth after the judgment. Jesus will destroy this world, then make a new heaven and new earth (2 Peter 3:10-13), so Jesus may snatch us up from this earth to keep us from being burned up with it, then put us back down on it. The main point is our relation to God, not our exact location with God.

Traditional Gospel – John 5:25-29

Describe the events of the Last Day according to verses 28 and 29?

All who are in their graves, i.e., the dead, will hear Jesus’ voice and come out. Then he will judge all people in righteousness.

Agree or disagree. Verse 29 tells us that we will be judged by our works and not our faith.

At first glance these verses, as well as other sections in Scripture (e.g., Matthew 25:31-46), teach that we are saved by what we do. To understand these verses, one must understand the relationship between faith and good works. Good works are the result and evidence of faith in Christ Jesus. No work can be good without faith. Faith in Jesus is what saves, but it can rightly be said that we are judged by our works. Our works are now holy and pure in God’s sight through faith in Jesus. Our works are the external evidence of our saving faith.

Supplemental Gospel – Mark 13:24-27

Right before Jesus reappears, should we expect things to be getting better and better or worse and worse?

We should expect things to get worse and worse. The sun will be darkened “following that distress.”

How will we all be able to appear before Jesus?

All believers will stand before Jesus, since his angels will gather God’s chosen children from all around the world.

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Last Judgement

Jesus Will Come Back in Glory

These are the readings for the Second Sunday of End Time—Last Judgment.

God’s Word for This Week

At the end of the world, Jesus will come back in glory to judge both the living and the dead. Those who believe in him receive a verdict of “not-guilty.” Those who do not believe stand condemned to the eternal suffering of hell.

Traditional First Lesson – Malachi 4:1,2a

What will happen to every “evildoer” on judgment day?

Every evildoer, i.e., every sinner, will be punished with the eternal flames of hell. Eternal condemnation is often pictured in the Bible as fire and burning—a fitting picture for the eternal torments of hell.

Those who revere God’s name will not suffer the punishment mentioned in verse one. Instead, they will receive healing from the “sun of righteousness.” What is that “sun of righteousness?”

God and his glory are compared with the sun in Isaiah 60:1,19. Jesus is referred to as the “rising sun” from heaven in Luke 1:78,79. This “rising sun” that grants healing is none other than our Savior God.

Supplemental First Lesson – Malachi 4:1-3

What will happen to every “evildoer” on judgment day?

Every evildoer will be punished in fire forever. Eternal separation from God is often pictured in the Bible as fire and burning—a fitting picture for hell’s unending torments.

Those who revere God’s name will not suffer the punishment mentioned in verse one. Instead, they will receive healing from the “sun of righteousness.” What is that “sun of righteousness?”

John the Baptist’s father Zechariah calls Jesus the “rising sun” from heaven in Luke 1:78,79. This “rising sun”whose wings (rays) grant healing is our Savior and Lord, Jesus.

Second Lesson – Hebrews 9:24-28

The letter to the Hebrews demonstrates how Jesus is superior to every aspect of the Jewish religion. How is Jesus superior to the Old Testament priests and sacrifices?

Jesus is superior, since he did not enter an earthly tabernacle (or temple), but rather heaven itself. He did not need to offer sacrifices over and over again like the priests of the Old Testament. The sacrifice Jesus offered on the cross paid for sin once and for all. No other sacrifice needs to be made.

What happens to a person when he or she dies? (See Hebrews 9:27.)

When a person dies, his body goes back to the ground and that person faces God’s judgment.

Traditional Gospel – John 5:19-24

According to these verses, what kind of relationship exists between God the Father and God the Son?

God the Father loves his Son and shows him all he does. God the Son honors and obeys his Father in everything.

According to verse 22, what right has God the Father entrusted to his Son?

God the Father entrusts his Son with the job of judging the world in righteousness. In the end Jesus will come back with his holy angels to judge the living and the dead. As verse 24 says, whoever believes in Jesus and the one who sent him (God the Father) will be found innocent and given eternal life.

Supplemental Gospel – John 5:19-30

What right has God the Father entrusted to his Son?

God the Father entrusts his Son with the job of judging the world in righteousness. In the end, Jesus will come back with his holy angels to judge the living and the dead. As verse 24 says, whoever believes in Jesus and the one who sent him (God the Father) will be found innocent and given eternal life.

What if someone says he or she believes in God, but thinks Jesus is only a man or a god less than God, is that person still okay?

No, that person is not okay. Whoever does not honor the Son as much as he or she honors the Father does not honor the Father who sent the Son.

Already in Jesus’ day, sinners were coming to life, spiritually. What other day does Jesus predict?

Jesus says a day is coming when he will raise all the dead. Then will come the judgment, with only two sentences—eternal innocence or eternal condemnation. (Don’t be confused by 5:29. Trials and sentencing hearings need evidence. Good works are the evidence for faith in Jesus. Evil works are the evidence of unbelief. Your good works cannot save you. But that does not mean they are unimportant, either to God or to your neighbor.)

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Reformation Sunday

Give Thanks to God for His Grace, Faith, and Word

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

God’s Word for This Week

On Reformation Sunday we give thanks to God for his rescue from hell, rescue that comes by his grace alone. We thank him for the faith he gives us to trust his promise. We thank God for his errorless Word, the Bible, which gives and strengthens that faith. At the same time, we understand that we can fall away from that grace by unbelief. We recognize that Satan, society, and our sinful self—will daily challenge our faith. Therefore, let us never stray from God’s life-giving Word.

Traditional First Lesson – Jeremiah 18:1-11

To whom did God send the prophet Jeremiah?

God sent Jeremiah to watch a potter form his objects out of clay.

What was the point of God’s comparison?

Just as a potter controls what he forms with the clay, so the Lord would decide what he would do with the people of Judah. If they did evil, he would form their future accordingly with his righteous judgment. If they repented he would form their future differently, making them into a vessel of his grace.

Supplemental First Lesson – Daniel 3:16-28

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were not sure God would save them from the fiery furnace. Still, what did they say to the king just before he threw them in? (See Daniel 3:18.)

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego said that even if their God did not rescue them from the flames, they would not serve Nebuchadnezzar’s gods or bow down to the image he had set up.

What three things did Nebuchadnezzar say that he concluded? (See Daniel 3:28-29.)

Nebuchadnezzar concluded a) that the God of the three men had sent his messenger/angel to save them, b) that the three had done the right thing, and c) that no other god could save in such a way.

What should we conclude from this story?

Among many things, we should conclude that God will bless those who fear him—those who put his Word and command above any other word and command.

Second Lesson – Revelation 14:6,7

The book of Revelation offers a number of symbols and pictures of how the world is and will be until the end of the world. What did the apostle John see in these verses?

John saw an angel who went out urging all people to honor and worship God, for the time of his judging had come.

What connection does this have with the Reformation?

In previous visions, John had seen that believers would suffer many trials and that the enemies of God and false teachers would attack them. Today’s two verses offer the comfort that even in the midst of persecution and false teachers, God’s Word will be proclaimed to the nations. Martin Luther was one messenger who did just that. The Greek word for angel means, “messenger.” May we, like Luther, be messengers of the truth in this wicked world.

Gospel – Mark 13:5-11

What kinds of things does Jesus warn us will continue to happen until the end of the world?

Jesus warns us that many people claiming to be Jesus or the Messiah will come. There will be wars and rumors of wars.

Why should we not be afraid of such things?

Why shouldn’t we fear? God promises to be with us and give us strength. He promises his Holy Spirit, who will help us defend our faith without fear. We have God’s promise of eternal life. We know that all trials are “birth pains,” that is, signs of the new and perfect life that is coming soon.

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Twenty Third Sunday after Pentecost

Jesus Delights in the Faith He Creates

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

God’s Word for This Week

On his way to Jerusalem to die for all our sins, Jesus pauses for something remarkable. When a blind beggar yells, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me,” Jesus accepts that title and heals the man. But “Son of David” means Jesus is the Jewish king. Doesn’t Jesus know such titles will shortly get him killed? He knows that well. He knows about the crown of thorns he will soon wear. He restores Bartimaeus’ sight anyway—mercifully and fearlessly. Then he praises the man’s God-given faith. Again, how astonishing!

Traditional First Lesson – Jeremiah 31:7-9

Jeremiah had the difficult task of telling his own people that because of their sin they would be sent into exile. When faced with such strict discipline, what comfort did God give them?

That he would bring a remnant back from exile. He would restore them and dry their tears.

In what way do Jeremiah’s words describe our situation today?

Because of our sins we are lost in darkness, wandering on the road to an eternal exile in hell. Through Jesus, however, we can shout for joy, because he has saved us and brought us back. He has dried our tears and will take us to our eternal home in heaven.

Supplemental First Lesson – Exodus 4:1-17

Was Moses confident in the Lord’s help as he, an 80-year-old man, returned to Egypt to lead his people out?

No, Moses was not confident. He assured the worst, said he wasn’t up to the job, and begged God to send someone else. May we repent when, like Moses, we shirk, distrust, and anger God.

Who makes people blind? (See Exodus 4:11)

The LORD makes people blind, just as he makes people see. He makes people unable to talk or able to talk. Our physical disabilities are never an accident.

Traditional Second Lesson – Hebrews 5:1-10

The book of Hebrews demonstrates how Jesus is superior to every aspect of the Jewish religion. How is Jesus comparable to the Old Testament high priest?

A high priest did not take the position for himself but was rather chosen. In the same way, God chose Jesus to be our High Priest.

How is he superior?

The high priest in the Old Testament was a sinful human being. He had to offer up sacrifices for himself as well as for the people. Jesus did not need to offer up sacrifices for himself. Instead, through his perfect obedience, he offered up the sacrifice that paid for sin and won salvation for all mankind.

Who was Melchizedek?

Melchizedek was a king and priest. His name means “king of righteousness.” In the same way, Jesus is our King and Priest. He is the King of righteousness. The writer to the Hebrews, compares Jesus and Melchizedek in depth in Hebrews chapter seven. (See Genesis 14:18-20.)

Supplemental Second Lesson – Acts 2:22-32

How should all Israel have known that Jesus was truly the Son of God in the flesh, their promised Savior?

All Jewish people of Jesus’ day should have known that Jesus was the Son of God, their Savior, through the miracles, wonders, and signs God did through Jesus.

Though no one saw it happen, what greatest miracle of all did Psalm 16 predict and did the apostles become convinced of?

Psalm 16 predicted that Jesus would not stay dead, but would come back alive bodily, and that when he was dead his body would not decay. No human saw Jesus come back to life and leave the tomb, but the Holy Spirit convinced Peter and the other apostles that they had seen what the Scriptures predicted—Jesus in resurrected glory.

Gospel – Mark 10:46-52

What miracle did Jesus perform?

Jesus gave sight to blind Bartimaeus.

What do we learn about Jesus from this miracle?

This miracle teaches us many truths: 1) Our Lord is merciful. 2) Jesus has all power, power unlike any man. 3) Jesus is the LORD himself. Psalm 146: says, “The LORD gives sight to the blind.” No man in the Old Testament ever gave back sight to a blind person. 4) Jesus is willing to die for all people in Jerusalem shortly after this miracle. He knowingly accepts a title “Son of David” that will infuriate his enemies.

After the miracle, Bartimaeus followed Jesus down the road. What lessons might this teach us?

Bartimaeus wanted to follow Jesus, out of gratitude. Did his newly restored eyes allow him to see Jesus’ crucifixion for him? Did he become a witness of the resurrected Son of David, too? We do not know. We only know that following Jesus, even if it leads to sorrows of many kinds, is the way to thank him for all his mercies. It gives evidence of our faith in him.

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Twenty Second Sunday after Pentecost

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. He later added, “I am 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 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 2 Chronicles 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 their 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 1 Corinthians 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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Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost

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 proper priorities in the repentant believer’s heart. 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 worshipping 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 2 Kings 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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Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

Jesus Shows Us God’s Plan for Marriage

These are the readings for the Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

God’s plan for man was perfect. He created woman for man. They were to “become one flesh.” Sin entered the world and separation replaced union—separation from God and from one another. Bitter marriages and divorces are two examples. But thanks be to God, Jesus even suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone and create new life and new promise of union.

First Lesson – Genesis 2:18-24

What lesson did God teach Adam by having him name the animals?

By having Adam name the animals, God taught Adam that he was incomplete and needed companionship as well as someone to partner with him for reproduction.

What does the expression “one flesh” mean?

The phrase “one flesh” expresses the depth of unity in marriage—physically, emotionally and spiritually. Since the woman was created from man, the two originally were one, and when they come together, they again are one.

Traditional Second Lesson – Hebrews 2:9-11

Does the word “perfect” mean Jesus wasn’t perfect?

Jesus, being God from eternity and without sin, already was perfect. However, through his incarnation, life, suffering, and death, he acquired the experience and knowledge of what it is like to be human.

What was Jesus’ goal in life?

Jesus’ goal was to “redeem those under law.” He accomplished that goal through suffering. He did this by submitting himself to the law.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Ephesians 5:21-6:4

What are wives to do?

Wives are to yield lovingly to their husbands as the leader of the home, the same way we all yield to Jesus as our leader and Lord.

What are husbands to do?

Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies.

What are children to do?

Children are to obey their parents “in the Lord,” that is, for Jesus’ sake.

What are fathers, in particular, to do?

Fathers are to bring up their children in the training and instruction of the Lord Jesus. Note that Paul never tells husbands to make their wives submit, etc., or wives to make their husbands be responsible for eternal matters in the home. How wise Martin Luther was, when he wrote: Let each his lesson learn with care, and all the household well shall fare.

Gospel – Mark 10:2-16

If marriage is to be for life, why did Moses hand down some conditions that made divorce possible?

Moses handed down some conditions for divorce only because the people had totally disregarded God’s will for sex and marriage. Their hearts were hard. Government had to deal with it and regulate.

What remains God’s standard for marriage?

God’s standard for marriage is the union of a man and a woman for life. “Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”

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Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Jesus Calls Us to Abandon Worldly Ambition

These are the readings for the Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

Sinners sin. We all sin. But we cannot excuse our sin because we act like others. Sin requires radical surgery. Jesus says: “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off” (Mark 9:43). The good news is that Jesus was “cut off” from his own Father through his death on the cross, in order to reunite us with God and with one another. As his servants we are the “salt” of the earth, standing out as we show allegiance to Jesus and the gospel.

First Lesson – Numbers 11:16, 24-29

When Moses, exasperated, turned to God because the Israelites were complaining about having to eat manna all the time, how did God first respond? (See Numbers 11:16.)

Moses receives mercy in the leadership department: Now 70 men will help him lead the nation. But the people get their wish for meat and a plague with it for grumbling against the LORD.

Why did a young man run and tell Moses about Eldad and Medad, who were still in the camp?

A young man ran and told Moses about Eldad and Medad because they were prophesying in the camp, instead of around the tent like the other elders. Joshua told Moses to have them stop.

Why didn’t Moses want Eldad and Medad to stop?

Moses didn’t want them to stop because he wished that all God’s people were prophets with the Spirit on them.

Traditional Second Lesson – James 4:7-12

What does James mean to “submit to God”?

It simply means arrange yourself under God’s authority. That will include the resolve to resist the devil, the world and our own sinful nature—all of which are God’s and Christians’ mortal enemies.

What promise is given to those disciples who humble themselves?

God promises to “lift up” those who humble themselves and submit to his will. Christian humility includes submitting to God, resisting the devil, coming near to God, forsaking sinful deeds and thoughts, and acknowledging one’s sinfulness.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Philippians 1:12-18a

What had happened to Paul, which surprisingly turned out to advance the gospel’s spread?

Paul was under house arrest in Rome for a long time.

How did Paul react when others preached Christ out of envy and rivalry?

Paul said, “The important thing is that in every way Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.”

Gospel – Mark 9:38-50

What prompted John to tattle to Jesus about a miracle worker that was not one of the Twelve?

Perhaps John was jealous. John said the disciples stopped the man because he “was not one of us.” Do we look down on one other Christians who are not part of our church body? Jesus said, “Do not stop him … whoever is not against us is for us.” Likewise, we confess in the Nicene Creed that we believe in one, holy Christian apostolic church.

Summarize the obligations of disciples for one another according to Mark 9:42-50.

A disciple will do everything possible to save the life of the soul. Participation in Christ’s kingdom is worth any sacrifice. The hand will not grasp what God forbids. The foot will not go where God’s “No Trespassing” sign stands. The eye will not gaze on that which God hates. Keep your “saltiness” by living for the gospel and Christ Jesus.

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Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Greatness in God’s Kingdom Means Humility

These are the readings for the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

True greatness is a paradox. It grows out of seeing ourselves as small and God as great. Such greatness has its center in love—both God’s great love for us in Christ and our love for our neighbor. Such love leads to genuine, humble service.

Traditional First Lesson – Jeremiah 11:18-20

Why is Jeremiah a good example of one that trusted in the Lord?

Even after the Lord reveals a plot against Jeremiah by the men of his own village, Jeremiah did not change his plans or his message. He put himself entirely in the Lord’s hands. He faithfully followed the Word of the Lord. He did it out of love for his people and to save them from destruction.

What can we learn from Jeremiah’s example?

The Lord taught Jeremiah that he could count on the Lord no matter what the situation. That is true for us also. We will be persecuted for following Jesus (2 Timothy 3:12). If we want to live a godly life in Christ and hold to the truth of God’s Word, confess it and witness to it, we too will find opposition. But even with opposition we know the Lord is with us (2 Timothy 1:12; 2 Timothy 4:18).

Supplemental First Lesson – Numbers 12:1-15

Why did Miriam and Aaron oppose their brother Moses?

Miriam and Aaron opposed Moses because he had married a lady from Cush (the southern part of Egypt, in modern terms).

When God punished Miriam with leprosy, a skin disease, how did Moses show his humility?

Moses showed his humility by crying out to the Lord to heal Miriam, instead of telling her that she had gotten what she had coming to her.

Second Lesson – James 3:13-18

Who are the truly wise whom James mentions?

The truly wise people are the humble. When one is truly wise, it shows in good deeds and in humility. A truly wise person is pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, merciful, impartial, and sincere. These virtues are the ones that imitate Christ’s own perfect gentleness and unselfish service to us.

What does James mean when he says that “peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness?”

James speaks of people who are humble and try to keep peace, instead of starting quarrels and perpetuating grudges. They do things that lead to all sorts of good and right results. He compares being lowly to putting a seed low into the ground, later the seed of humility will bring many beautiful results, though at first planting the seed may seem fruitless.

Gospel – Mark 9:30-37

Why were the disciples afraid to ask Jesus about his impending death?

Jesus had told his disciples about the Son of Man (himself). “They will kill him.” The thoughts of the Twelve seemed to stop with those words and not even hear Jesus say, “after three days he will rise.” Betrayal and death did not fit their idea of a Messianic rule.

How are we today like those disciples?

Many Christians today imagine that the chief mark of the church is worldly success and glory, and that the chief purpose of the Christian church relates to activities which put the message of a Savior crucified for sin into the background. They don’t want to hear repeated references to the ugliness of personal sin and the divine necessity of a sacrificial cross to atone for that sin.

What was Jesus’ answer to the disciples’ desire to be first in the kingdom of God?

Jesus, through words and an impressive object lesson, shows that the way to true greatness in his kingdom lies in humble service. (See also Mark 10:43-44 and Luke 22:24-47.)

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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.