Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Use All God’s Blessings to Serve Him

These are the readings for the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

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

Traditional First Lesson – Amos 8:4-7

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

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

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

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

Supplemental First Lesson – Genesis 14:8-24

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

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

What did Abram give to Melchizedek?

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

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

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

Traditional Second Lesson – 1Timothy 2:1-8

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

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

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

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

Supplemental Second Lesson – 1Timothy 6:6-16

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

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

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

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

Gospel – Luke 16:1-13

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

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

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

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

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Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

The Amazingly Patient God Saves Us

These are the readings for the Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

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

Traditional First Lesson – Exodus 32:7-14

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

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

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

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

Supplemental First Lesson – Hosea 3:1-5

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

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

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

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

Traditional Second Lesson – 1Timothy 1:12-17

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

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

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

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

Supplemental Second Lesson – 2 Corinthians 2:5-11

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gospel – Luke 15:1-10

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

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

What do these two parables spoken by Jesus emphasize?

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

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Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Our Wisdom Is Found in the Lord

These are the readings for the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

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

Traditional First Lesson – Proverbs 9:8-12

What is the source of true wisdom and knowledge?

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

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

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

What is the punishment for not fearing the Lord?

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

Supplemental First Lesson – Genesis 12:1-8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On what basis would Philemon show any mercy to Onesimus?

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

Supplemental Second Lesson – Philippians 3:4b-11

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

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

How did Paul see his former goodness and good efforts?

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

Gospel – Luke 14:25-33

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

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

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

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

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Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Our Eternal King Comes for Us

These are the readings for the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

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

First Lesson – Proverbs 25:6,7

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

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

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

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

Traditional Second Lesson – Hebrews 13:1-8

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

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

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

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

Supplemental Second Lesson – James 2:1-13

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

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

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

God insists, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

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

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

Gospel – Luke 14:1,7-14

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

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

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

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

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Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Faith-Life Leads Us Through the Narrow Door

These are the readings for the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

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

Traditional First Lesson – Isaiah 66:18-24

What is being described in these verses?

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

What important point is the Lord making through Isaiah?

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

Supplemental First Lesson – Judges 7:1-8

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

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

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

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

Traditional Second Lesson – Hebrews 12:18-24

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

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

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

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

Supplemental Second Lesson – Romans 9:1-9

What could Paul have wished if it were possible?

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

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

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

Gospel – Luke 13:22-30

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

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

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

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

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Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Faith-Life Brings Division in This World of Falsehood

These are the readings for the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

“Can’t we all just get along?” Many people feel that way, especially in religious matters. That sentiment usually pairs up with the idea that “no one has a monopoly on the truth.” People claim (absolutely—see the irony?) that truth is relative. Jesus says otherwise: No truth conflicts with him and his Word. As followers of Jesus, we stand firmly with him, though such a stance will certainly divide us from all who follow lies.

Traditional First Lesson – Jeremiah 23:23-29

To whom is the Lord disgusted in these verses?

The Lord is disgusted with the false prophets who are teaching falsehoods in his name. He doesn’t put up with any error whatsoever, but he is especially angry when people use his name to promote and defend their errors.

How does the Lord describe his Word in verse 29? Why does he describe it this way?

The Lord says that his Word is like a fire and a hammer. It stands in total opposition to falsehood and ultimately destroys it. God does not permit a mixing of the truth of his Word with human lies; neither should we.

Supplemental First Lesson – 2 Kings 11:1-3, 12-18

How bad did things get in Judah after Ahaziah died and his mother Athaliah reigned?

Things got so bad that Athaliah tried to murder the whole royal family. Jehosheba, the aunt of the future king, managed to hide baby Joash and his nurse in a bedroom. For six years, they stayed hidden at the temple in Jerusalem.

Could people on God’s side compromise with Athaliah? No way! What resulted, therefore?

Athaliah was killed, and seven-year-old Joash became king.

Traditional Second Lesson – Hebrews 12:1-13

What can we expect in this world if we stand on the truth of God’s Word?

Just like Jesus, we can expect to face persecution and hatred. Jesus said, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first” (John 15:18).

How does the writer to Hebrews explain the hardship that we will endure for standing on the truth of God’s Word in this world?

He says that such hardship is loving “discipline” by our heavenly Father. While such discipline might at first seem painful, it has eternal benefits as we submit to the Lord’s loving guidance. (See 12:11.)

Supplemental Second Lesson – Ephesians 6:10-20

We are at war but not against ourselves or other people. To whom are we at war?

We are at war against the devil and his well-organized army of demons.

How do we arm ourselves for this war?

We arm ourselves for this war by putting on the full armor of God so we can take our stand against Satan and his schemes. We also pray in the Spirit for ourselves and all God’s saints on earth.

Gospel – Luke 12:49-53

What misperception do many people have about Jesus and his work?

Many people think that Jesus came to bring world peace and social justice. Instead, Jesus points out in these verses that he and his teachings divide people into those who trust and worship him and those who don’t.

Jesus is called the “Prince of Peace” in Isaiah 9. Why would he say that he did not come to bring peace?

Jesus is the Prince of Peace, and he did come to bring peace—but not worldly peace. Instead, Jesus came to bring peace between sinful human beings and his holy, heavenly Father; and through his life, death, and resurrection he has done just that. (See Romans 5:1.)

Why are Jesus and his teaching so divisive in our world?

Jesus and his teaching are divisive since he proclaims absolute truth. In fact, he is the absolute truth. (See John 14:6.) In a world filled with false ideas about “relative truth,” Jesus boldly states that we must either be for him or against him. (See Luke 11:23.) Either he is our Lord, or he is not. Neutrality is impossible. So there are two kinds of people worldwide. Families divide over Jesus too, as Christians find themselves needing to speak the truth in love and reject all falsehood. (On the impossibility of compromise: see 2 Corinthians 6:12–7:1.)

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Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

Faith-Life Keeps Watching for the Lord

These are the readings for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

A 2011 Australian study found that after the age of 25, every hour of television reduced the viewer’s life expectancy by 21.8 minutes. (Yikes!) God’s warning for us all is far more dire than the old “slouch on the couch.” He says that by frittering time away, we could slide away from him and into eternal death. Conversely, how good it will be for those whom Jesus finds busy and watching for him when he reappears.

Traditional First Lesson – Genesis 15:1-6

What promise had the Lord made to Abram?

The Lord had promised that Abram would have a son in his old age, and that through his offspring he would become the father of many nations. Jesus was the offspring or seed to whom this promise ultimately referred. (See Galatians 3:16.) Abraham is the father of many nations because he is the father of all those who believe in Jesus, both Jew and Gentile. (See Romans 4:16-17.)

At this point in his life, how did Abram feel about the promise God had made him?

Abram was beginning to wonder whether God would keep his promise or whether he had himself misunderstood. His faith was being exercised!

What did the Lord do, and how did Abram respond?

The Lord reiterated his promise to Abram. He told him that a son from his own body would be his heir, and Abram believed the Lord. He waited patiently upon him.

Supplemental First Lesson – Haggai 1:2-14

How were the Jews of Haggai’s day doing financially? How can you tell? (See 1:6 and 1:10,11.)

The Jews of Haggai’s day were not doing well financially. They had planted much but harvested little. God had sent a drought because they had been busy with their houses, not with his house (the temple).

What did God want his people to do? (See 1:8.)

God wanted them to a) give careful thought to their ways and b) go get timber and finish building his house.

What attitude do we also need? (See 1:12.)

If we are going to be properly industrious while waiting for the Lord, it will stem from revering the Lord. Such fear of God comes from the Word of God.

Traditional Second Lesson – Hebrews 11:1-3,8-16

What is the scriptural definition of faith?

“Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” In other words, seeing is not believing. Instead, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). Faith-life is exercised by waiting patiently upon the Lord.

How is Abraham such a wonderful example of faith?

The writer to the Hebrews points out the many times that Abraham trusted the Lord “even though” the visible evidence suggested he should not. (See 11:8,11)

Supplemental Second Lesson – Revelation 3:1-6

What reputation did the church in Sardis have? By contrast, what did Jesus think? (See 3:1.)

The church in Sardis had the reputation of being alive, but Jesus says they were dead.

In what way will Jesus come like a thief? (See 3:3.)

Like a thief, Jesus will come not only on a day we cannot predict, but at a time when we do not expect him. (See also Luke 12:40.)

Gospel – Luke 12:32-40

What attitude does Jesus encourage Christians to have about this world and the things of this world?

Christians should not be engrossed with the things of this world. Jesus goes so far as to suggest that we should sell our worldly possessions and give to the poor. The reason for Jesus’ encouragement is simple: the things of this world have no lasting worth. In time worldly things will all be exhausted, stolen, or destroyed. Why waste time on the constant pursuit of such things?

Instead of worldly things, with what should we concern ourselves?

Jesus repeatedly encourages us to set our hearts on the kingdom of God, on the eternal things that are in store for us in our heavenly home. He wants us to be ready when he comes again because he will only take those who have been waiting for him to be with him forever. They are like servants waiting by the door for their master to knock after a long journey.

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Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

Faith-Life’s Riches Are Hidden With God

These are the readings for the Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

Did you know that you are the richest person in the world? Are you saying to yourself: “I didn’t get that memo?” No, you didn’t win the lottery last night. Bill Gates didn’t die and leave you all his money. But the fact still remains that you are the richest person in the world, along with all others who have put their faith in Jesus as Savior. So where are our riches? They’re being stored in heaven for us, “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade” (1 Peter 1:4). They may be hidden with God at this very moment, but that doesn’t mean they’re not ours at this very moment. God has promised them to us, and he will deliver!

First Lesson – Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:18-26

What attitude does Kings Solomon (assuming he is the author here) have about the things of this world?

Solomon calls the things of this world meaningless under the sun. We might also translate “vapor.” They go away quickly. Though Solomon was very rich, he knew how fleeting the things of this world really are.

Whom did Solomon recognize as the giver of all blessings, both worldly and eternal?

Solomon realized that everything was “from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?” By Spirit-given faith in the risen Savior, a Christian comes to see that all of our riches are hidden with God.

Traditional Second Lesson – Colossians 3:1-11

Upon what does Paul encourage us to set our hearts and minds?

The apostle encourages us to set our hearts and minds on things above, not on earthly things. Christians look forward to the day when Jesus will return, and the extent of our richness in him will be revealed. Until that time, our riches are hidden with him.

What attitude does Paul tell Christians to take toward things belonging to our “earthly nature”?

While the things and behaviors of this world might be tempting to our sinful flesh, Paul tells us to put them to death and to put on our new self, “which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” When Jesus returns, the new self will be fully restored.

Supplemental Second Lesson – James 5:1-11

Evidently, rich landowners in James’ day were cheating poor believers who worked in their fields. The owners paid low wages. What should we then think today?

We should remember James’ words. God has heard the cries of people being cheated. God will make oppressive unbelievers miserable when he takes away their wealth on the Last Day. Already, practically all their valuable things are corroded and ruined. They cannot last.

What main words of comfort does James offer to people going through financial troubles? (See especially 5:8 and 5:11.)

James reminds us that the Lord’s coming is near (5:8) and that even now the Lord is compassionate and merciful (5:11). Let us keep persevering, like Job and the prophets of old. Let us “keep on keeping on.”

Gospel – Luke 12:13-21

Jesus states that “a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” In what does it consist?

Real-life—a Christian’s faith-life—consists of being “rich toward God” (12:21). Earthly possessions are fleeting and transient, but the heavenly riches that the Lord has stored up for us will last forever. (See 2 Timothy 4:8.) For now, those riches are hidden with God.

How does Jesus illustrate the truth of this principle?

Jesus illustrates his point by telling the parable of the rich fool. The rich fool believes that after attaining earthly wealth, he has nothing more to worry about or gain. Jesus calls him a fool because one day, he will face death, and all his worldly riches will become meaningless.

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Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

Faith-Life Expresses Itself in Fervent Faith-Filled Prayer

These are the readings for the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

God has given most people the wonderful gift of speech. Through words we communicate our thoughts, ideas, and feelings. Without words it would be much harder to express ourselves, a frustrating prospect! Our thoughts, ideas, and feelings need an outlet, and so does our faith-life! Faith looks for ways to express itself, and one way Christian faith does that is in fervent faith-filled prayer.

First Lesson – Genesis 18:20-32

When Abraham found out that the Lord was planning destruction for Sodom and Gomorrah, what did he do?

Abraham prayed to the Lord, asking him to spare the cities for the sake of righteous people who may have been living there. Abraham was especially concerned about his nephew Lot (whom God would, in fact, spare from the fiery destruction that fell on Sodom).

What does this story teach us about our life of Christian prayer?

Abraham shows us how bold and fervent we can and should be in our faith-filled prayers to the Lord because of his great mercy. Abraham “persuaded” the Lord to spare Sodom and Gomorrah if he found only ten righteous people in them. Therefore, when you pray, do not quit. Keep appealing to God’s mercy in Christ.

Traditional Second Lesson – Colossians 2:6-15

What encouragements does the apostle Paul give all Christians in verses 6-7?

Paul encourages us to continue to live in Christ Jesus as we are rooted and built up in him, strengthened in our faith and overflowing with thankfulness. Our faith and thankfulness can be especially expressed in a life of fervent, faith-filled prayer.

Why can we confidently put our trust in Christ for salvation and in our life of fervent prayer?

Paul tells us that we can be so confident in Christ because he is the “fullness of the Deity” living in bodily form. In other words, when we put our faith in Jesus, we are putting our faith in the only true God. When we address Jesus in prayer, we are addressing the only true God. The fervent, faith-filled prayer of the Christian is powerful indeed!

Supplemental Second Lesson – James 5:13-18

What does James say the people to whom he was first writing should do if they are sick?

He says they should ask church elders to come and pray over them and put olive oil on them. (Olive oil may have been soothing/medicinal and probably also brought with it a symbol of God’s blessing. That may be one reason elders were to bring it, rather than family or friends.)

What proof does James give that the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well?

To prove that God can and does answer prayer (sometimes dramatically), James gives the example of Elijah. He prayed, and God withheld rain for three years. He prayed again; God brought an end to the drought.

Gospel – Luke 11:1-13

With his illustration in verses 11:5-8, what is Jesus teaching us about our life of prayer? How should we pray?

With his illustration, Jesus is teaching us to be persistent in prayer. In the same way that the man in Jesus’ illustration continued to knock on his neighbor’s door until the neighbor got up to help him, we also should continue to approach the throne of God’s mercy with faith-filled prayers. Thankfully, our loving heavenly Father is much more ready to help us in our need than a grouchy, groggy neighbor!

What encouragement is Jesus giving us about our life of prayer in verses 9-13?

Jesus asserts that if most earthly fathers give their children good things (even though they are sinners), our perfectly loving heavenly Father will be much more likely take care of our every physical and spiritual need abundantly. God promises to work all things together for the eternal good of those who love him. (See Romans 8:28.)

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Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

Faith-Life is Nourished Only Through God’s Gospel Promises

These are the readings for the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

Doctors sometimes tell sick, weak people to put on some weight. Their body needs proper nourishment. That is true, also, for our souls. Even after we become Christians through the powerful working of the Holy Spirit, our faith-life needs daily nourishment to fight against the power of sin inside us and around us. And how is our faith-life nourished? Only through God’s gospel promises in Word and sacrament.

Traditional First Lesson – Genesis 18:1-14

What gospel promise does the Lord once again give to Abraham and Sarah?

The Lord assured this elderly couple that they would have a son within the year.

How did Sarah react, and why? How did Abraham react?

Sarah laughed because she couldn’t believe that such old people would be granted the blessing of a child. However, Abraham believed God, and his faith-life was nourished through the gospel promises. (See Romans 4:18-22.)

Supplemental First Lesson – 1 Samuel 3:1-10

When young Samuel woke up and heard someone calling his name, who did he think was calling him?

Samuel thought Eli, the high priest, was calling to him at night.

What did Samuel say to the LORD when he realized who was calling to him?

Samuel said, “Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.”

Traditional Second Lesson – Colossians 1:21-29

What kind of relationship did the Colossians once have with God? How did that relationship change?

Paul says that the Colossians (yes, the entire sinful world) were once alienated from God because of sin. But we have been reconciled to God through the blood of Christ. Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. (See 1 John 2:2.)

What impact does the revelation of God’s gospel promises have on sinful people?

When the “mystery [a hidden reality] of God,” namely that in Christ God loves and has forgiven all people unconditionally, is revealed to us through the powerful working of the Holy Spirit in Word and sacrament, our faith-life is nourished by God’s gospel promises.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Colossians 3:12-17

First Paul tells us to love others, be thankful, etc. Then he tells us to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly. What is the connection, probably?

The connection between us loving others, being thankful, etc., and the word of Christ dwelling in us richly is that we will only do the actions in the first group if the word of Christ dwells in us richly. God’s good news in Christ is the power plant for energy to love God and others.

Paul does not picture a group of people sitting passively as one person reads and applies God’s Word to them. What does Paul picture, instead?

Paul is not telling us it is wrong for a pastor to preach to a congregation of Christians, but Paul also envisions Christians teaching and warning each other with all wisdom as we sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to each other—all in connection with God’s grace.

Gospel – Luke 10:38-42

When Jesus came to visit their home, with what did Mary and Martha busy themselves, respectively?

Martha busied herself with preparing a meal for Jesus, while Mary busied herself with sitting at Jesus’ feet for the nourishment of her faith-life.

According to Jesus, which sister made better use of her time?

When Martha became upset at Mary, Jesus told Martha that her sister had chosen the more necessary thing.

True or false: Jesus is suggesting that work is a waste of our time.

False. Jesus is simply pointing out that the nourishment of our faith-life through the gospel is far more necessary than worrying about earthly needs. (See Matthew 6:25-34.) Work is a blessing from God as we are given the opportunity to serve him and one another in unselfish love. Martha showed her selfishness when she became angry at Mary. Instead she should have graciously accepted the task of preparing the meal by herself without any thought of what Mary was doing! Instead of being angry at Mary, she should have rejoiced that Mary was being granted such a wonderful opportunity to be nourished through the gospel.

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Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

Faith-Life Reveals Itself in Love for Others

These are the readings for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

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

Traditional First Lesson – Deuteronomy 30:9-14

What summary of God’s law does Moses give the children of Israel in these verses?

Moses summarizes the law as obedience to God and his commandments. All of God’s commandments can be summarized in one word: love. (See Mark 12:28-34; Romans 13:8-10.)

In light of verses 11-14, what do many people seem to think they have to do in order to please the Lord God?

These verses suggest that many people have thought the Lord is “too difficult” to please, that he requires all kinds of heroic acts on our part. But Moses argues with that false idea: “The word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so that you may obey it.” Simply put, God wants us to love him and one another.

Supplemental First Lesson – Deuteronomy 24:17-22

In general, how did God command the children of Israel to treat foreigners, orphans, and widows?

God commanded the Israelites to treat foreigners, orphans, and widows with kindness and generosity.

Twice God gives a simple reason for such commands. What is that reason?

God told the Israelites to be kind and generous to those in need because the Israelites had been slaves in Egypt.

Traditional Second Lesson – Colossians 1:1-14

Why did Paul have reason to thank God for the Colossians?

Paul thanked God for the Colossians because he had heard of their wonderful faith-life, which revealed itself in love.

What prayer did Paul continuously pray on behalf of the Colossians?

Paul’s prayer was that the Colossians might be built up even more in their faith, that they “may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way” (verse 10). Paul teaches that love is a natural consequence of faith.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Romans 12:9-21

When others mistreat us, what should we not do? Why not? (See 12:19.)

We should not take revenge. If someone harms us, revenge is God’s job. He will repay.

What should we do then, according to Paul? (See 12:20,21.)

We should overcome evil with good. Specifically, if our enemy is hungry, we should feed him. If our enemy is thirsty, we should give him something to drink. By doing this, Paul says, we will heap burning coals on our enemy’s head. (This picture seems to mean causing one’s enemy to feel ashamed of his or her conduct in comparison to the kindness shown to him or her.)

Gospel – Luke 10:25-37

What is the first reason why Jesus told this story? (See Luke 10:29a.)

Jesus told this story first to counteract the way we all want to justify ourselves. We have not kept God’s law!

Why were the priest and Levite in Jesus’ parable unwilling to help the man victimized by robbers?

The priest and Levite seem to have been more concerned about their service in the temple, which would bring them honor, than they were concerned about the fulfillment of God’s will, that we love our neighbor as ourselves. Self-love trumped love of others. True God-given faith-life reveals itself in sacrificing for others.

What is surprising about the Samaritan’s willingness to help this Jewish man, and what do his actions teach us about true Christian love?

The Samaritan’s willingness to help would have been a surprising twist to Jesus’ listeners and a slap in the face to many Jews of Jesus’ day. Most Jews looked down on their Samaritan cousins, thinking of them as unreligious half-breeds. But the Samaritan’s actions model Christ’s own love, which selflessly serves others—even an enemy. (See Matthew 5:43-48.)

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Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

Jesus Sends Out Seventy-Two Men to Proclaim Peace

These are the readings for the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

“Peace” or “shalom” (Hebrew) is more than the absence of hostility between God and us. It is wholeness in every way, bought by the blood of Christ. Today’s lessons show the part we all have in proclaiming God’s peace near and far.

Traditional First Lesson – Isaiah 66:10-14

By picturing Jerusalem as our mother, what does Isaiah say Jerusalem will do for us? (See 66:12.)

Jerusalem, that is, God’s church of all believers in Jesus everywhere, will give us continuous, overflowing comfort and peace through the good news of our Lord Jesus.

When we see God’s comfort, what will we do? (See 66:14.)

When we see God’s comfort in Christ, we will rejoice and flourish as we see God’s power at work. Still, he will show his fury to his foes.

Supplemental First Lesson – 1 Kings 17:1-16

When many Israelites turned to Baal, the storm god, in what two ways did God punish them? (See 17:1-3.)

God judged and punished his Israelite people by a) sending no rain (not even any dew) for several years and by taking his spokesman Elijah away from them so that they received no messages from the Lord.

A Canaanite woman helped Elijah, though, and saw a miracle. List several surprises in this part of the story.

It is surprising that a Canaanite woman, not an Israelite, helped Elijah. And how she helped! “It is difficult to know which to wonder most at: Elijah’s calmness, consistency, and readiness of faith; or the widow’s almost incredible simplicity of trustfulness” (Alfred Edersheim).

Traditional Second Lesson – Galatians 6:1-10,14-16

In what practical way would we fulfill the law of Christ? (See 6:2.)

By carrying each other’s burdens, we will fulfill the law of Christ.

When Paul says, “a man reaps what he sows,” what does he mean? (See 6:8.)

Paul means that certain actions naturally lead to corresponding results. “The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit will reap eternal life.”

In what alone will we boast? (See 6:14.)

We pray that we may never boast of anything except for the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to us, and we to the world.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Philippians 4:10-20

What secret had Paul learned? (See 4:12 especially.)

Paul had learned the secret of being content in any and every circumstance.

In 4:13, Paul does not mean that all of us can be world-class violinists or swimmers. What does he mean?

Paul means, as a Greek expert has put it, “As to every circumstance, I am strong in him who strengthens me.” Paul is strong in the Lord Jesus, not in himself.

What promise did Paul give to those who had helped him? (See 4:19.)

Paul promised the generous Philippians (and us), “My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

Gospel – Luke 10:1–12,16–20

How did Jesus make the seventy-two men whom he sent out the answer to their own prayer? (See 10:1-4.)

Jesus made the seventy-two the answer to their own prayer for more workers in the Lord’s harvest by sending them out on a tour of the towns ahead of him in Judea. (In line with our individual gifts, Jesus also will make us the answer to our own prayers for more workers.)

When we listen to our pastor or someone similar announce the forgiveness of all our sins—or, God forbid the opposite—to whom are we listening? (See 10:6.)

When we listen to our pastor or someone else announce that our sins have been forgiven or are retained, we are listening to Jesus himself. Those words are “as valid and certain,” Luther says in our catechism, “in heaven also, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us himself.”

In what did Jesus say not to rejoice? In what did he say to rejoice? (See 10:20.)

Jesus said not to rejoice that evil spirits submit to us as we share the gospel but to rejoice that our own names are written in heaven.

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Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Jesus Sets His Face for the Place He will Die

These are the readings for the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

Following seems easy. We just go behind the person in front of us. But following Jesus daily for our whole lives requires endurance. It is a struggle between our old and new selves.

Traditional First Lesson – 1 Kings 19:14-21

Why did Elijah despair? (See 19:14.)

Elijah despaired because he felt he had been very zealous for the Lord Almighty, but the Israelites had totally rejected God. He thought he was the only prophet left, and now the Israelites were trying to kill him too.

Besides giving him vital work to do in commissioning others to serve the Lord, how else did the Lord comfort Elijah? (See 19:18.)

The other way the Lord comforted Elijah was by assuring him that he had reserved 7,000 other believers in Israel.

Supplemental First Lesson – Jonah 3:3–4:4

When Jonah finally got to the city where God had sent him and preached there, the people of Nineveh believed God. When he saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, what did God do? (See 3:10.)

When God saw how the Ninevites repented and turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.

How angry was Jonah as a result?

Jonah was so angry at God’s patience and mercy—which Jonah knew by heart from God’s description of himself in Exodus 34:6,7—that Jonah got irate. He told God he wanted to die. He refused to answer God when God asked him if he had a right to be so upset. (How similar we can be to Jonah! How opposite Jesus was!)

Traditional Second Lesson – Galatians 5:1,13-25

For what did Jesus set us free? (See 5:1.)

Jesus set us free for freedom—freedom from guilt and the oppression of having to keep God’s whole law; freedom from the demands of the law given just to the Jews of old on Mount Sinai.

How will we want to use our freedom? (See 5:13.)

We will want to use our blood-bought freedom not to indulge our flesh but to serve one another in love.

What happened when we were baptized and brought to faith in Christ? (See verse 24.)

When we were baptized and brought to faith in Christ, we crucified our sinful flesh with its passions and desires.

Supplemental Second Lesson – 2 Corinthians 11:21b-30

When Paul compared himself to the “super-apostles” in Corinth, he did not list all his success. What did he list?

Paul listed as his credentials all the trials he had gone through, including imprisonment, frequent floggings, and many dangers. He had often been near death.

What other constant pressure did Paul feel? (See 11:28.)

Paul also felt daily pressure of his concern for all the Christians in the churches he had helped start and had visited. When the people were weak, he felt weak. When believers fell into sin, it tore Paul up inside.

About what, then, did Paul boast? (See 11:30-32.)

Paul boasted about his weakness, not his strengths. Final case in point: Paul began his ministry by narrowly escaping death in Damascus.

Gospel – Luke 9:51-62

As the time approached for Jesus to be taken up to heaven, what did he do? (See 9:51.)

As the time approached for Jesus to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. Literally, he “fixed his face for Jerusalem.” He was determined to die for us.

Why didn’t one Samaritan village welcome Jesus? (See 9:53.)

The people of the Samaritan village did not welcome Jesus because he was heading for Jerusalem. Jews and Samaritans in Jesus’ day usually had a strong dislike for each other. (Yet Jesus had mercy on these people.)

What is the main point for us, as Jesus talks with three men separately about following him? (See 9:57–62.)

The main point for us, as Jesus talks with three men about following him, is full dedication to Jesus and his kingdom. Halfway? No way.

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Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Jesus Had to Suffer; He Had to Be Killed

These are the readings for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

Jesus, crucified for us, calls us to pick up our crosses and follow him. What love that he wanted to die for us while being cruelly abused by men and abandoned by his Father.

Traditional First Lesson – Zechariah 13:7-9

What did the LORD of hosts declare? (See verse 7.)

The LORD declared, “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is close to me! Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered, and I will turn my hand against the little ones” (Zechariah 13:7).

What does the Lord’s declaration mean? (See 13:7.)

The Lord’s declaration means that even though one man would be close to him, other men would brutally attack that man (Jesus) and scatter his dear followers.

The Lord does not say here that he will let his people be severely tested. What does he say? (See 13:20.)

The Lord says here that he himself will bring the remnant of his people into fire. He will refine them like silver and test them like gold. (That requires a very hot fire.)

Supplemental First Lesson – Genesis 39:6b-12,16-23

What did Potiphar’s wife try to get Joseph, her husband’s trusted employee, to do?

Potiphar’s wife tried to get Joseph to have sexual intercourse with her.

How did Potiphar, Joseph’s master respond?

Potiphar got angry when his wife accused Joseph of trying to make fun of her (and worse). We do not read with whom he was angry, so we should not assume he was angry with Joseph; he may have been angry with his wife. In any case, Joseph was thrown in prison.

Things went well for Joseph in prison. The lesson for us?

The way things went well for Joseph in prison—part of the whole story of how God turned bad into good with Joseph and his family—teaches us to do the right thing always, for God’s sake. Following what God says may make us enemies and cause us many troubles, but God’s way is the best way. In the end, we will see it.

Traditional Second Lesson – Galatians 3:23-29

Why did God put his Old Testament law in charge of his Old Testament people, the Jews? (See 3:24.)

God put his Old Testament law in charge of the Jews before Jesus to lead them to Christ by showing them how much they needed a Savior. He wanted the burden of keeping the law to lead people to hunger for relief. His goal: declare all believers righteous through faith in Jesus.

Now that faith in Christ crucified has come, we are no longer under the tutoring and supervision of the law like young children. What are we? (See 3:26.)

Now that faith has come, instead of being like little children who need supervision, we are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Hebrews 11:24-26

When Moses refused to be known any more as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, what result was he choosing?

By letting everyone know he was an Israelite, Moses deliberately chose to be mistreated.

Why did Moses think of disgrace for Christ’s sake as more valuable than the treasures of Egypt?

Moses thought of disgrace, for Christ’s sake, as more valuable than the treasures of Egypt because he did not intend to get a reward right away. He was looking ahead to a reward. (Think of what Moses turned his back on. The remains of a minor young pharaoh from that era, Tutankhamun, were found inside a coffin of gold.)

Gospel – Luke 9:18-24

How did Jesus react when Peter confessed him as God’s Anointed One? (See 9:20,21.)

When Peter confessed Jesus as God’s Anointed One, Jesus strictly warned the Twelve not to tell anyone.

Why did Jesus say he must suffer many things and must be killed? (See 9:22.)

Jesus had to suffer and die for us a) because there was no other way for us to be rescued than for a perfect substitute to offer himself willingly in our place under God’s judgment and b) because his great love for us compelled him to go through with it.

What will happen to you if you want to save your life? If you lose your life for Jesus? (See 9:24.)

If you want to save your life, you will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Jesus will save it.

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Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Forgiven Much by Jesus, We Love Much

These are the readings for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

When we sense how much we need God’s forgiveness, his mercy becomes the most powerful reality in our lives. It transforms us. To ignore our need brings ruin, but to hang on tightly to God’s gift of mercy brings peace, joy, and purpose.

Traditional First Lesson – 2 Samuel 11:26–12:10,13-15

How did David respond to Nathan’s story about the rich man and the poor man? (See 12:5.)

David responded to Nathan’s story by burning with anger at the rich man and swearing that he deserved to die.

What conditions did Nathan set for David to be forgiven? (See 12:13.)

Nathan set no conditions at all for David to be forgiven. His sin had bitter consequences, but the Lord totally took away all of David’s guilt. Nathan said so right away.

Supplemental First Lesson – 2 Chronicles 33:1-6,10-18

What kinds of evil things did King Manasseh do?

Manasseh, king of Judah (the southern part of Israel), worshiped idols and helped other Jews to be idolaters too. He sacrificed his sons in the fire to an idol. He tried to contact the dead and find out about the future.

What changed after the king of Assyria put a hook in Manasseh’s nose and took him to Babylon in handcuffs?

In his old age, Manasseh sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. Manasseh got rid of altars to idols and tried to re-establish worship of the true God.

Traditional Second Lesson – Galatians 2:11-21

Did Peter eat with Gentiles when he came to Antioch in Syria? (See 2:11,12.)

Peter ate with the Gentiles when he first came to Antioch. Then some men came from James in Jerusalem, and Peter began to draw back and separate from the Gentiles. He led other Jews astray too.

If we rebuild what we destroyed, it doesn’t prove that what we just destroyed was bad. What does it prove? (See 2:18.)

If we rebuild what we destroyed, it only proves that we are lawbreakers. We are sinners sorely in need of grace.

What would be the result if we could get right with God by obeying his law? (See 2:21.)

If we could get right with God by obeying God’s law, then Christ would have died for nothing.

Supplemental Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

What kind of people will not inherit God’s kingdom?

People who do not repent but keep practicing homosexuality and other things that change God’s holy plan for marriage, as well as idolaters, thieves, greedy people, drunkards, slanders, and swindlers will not inherit God’s kingdom.

What is remarkable about the Christians in Corinth to whom Paul wrote this letter? (See the first part of 6:11.)

Some of the Christians in Corinth were former thieves. Some were former homosexuals, etc. (Today, people often claim that, with certain sins, they are born that way and cannot change.)

What happened to the Christians to change them?

Paul says they were baptized. Its results were amazing. They were made holy and declared innocent in God’s courtroom through their trust in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Gospel – Luke 7:36-50

When the Pharisee said something snide to himself, what did Jesus do? (See 7:39-40.) What did this show?

Jesus “answered” the Pharisee, even though Simon had said nothing out loud. This shows that Jesus knows all things. He knows the thoughts we may think are secret.

In terms of a day’s wage, how much did the two men owe? (See footnote on 7:41.)

One man owed 500 days’ wages, the other 50 days’ wages. If an unskilled working man in our day might make about $50 a day, these two men would have owed $25,000 and $2,500, respectively.

Have you been forgiven much or little? How are you responding to this forgiveness? (See 7:47.)

This question is for you to ponder, not to find a definitive answer.

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Third Sunday after Pentecost

Jesus Halts a Funeral and Raises a Dead Man

These are the readings for the Third Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

The Son of God shows his great compassion and power in the face of death. On the Last Day, he will raise us all and give to all who trust in him eternal life.

First Lesson – 1 Kings 17:17-24

Who did the widow think had caused her son’s death? (See 17:18.)

In bitter grief the widow blamed Elijah for causing her son’s death.

Who did Elijah know had caused the boy’s death?

Elijah knew the truth—the Lord had caused the son’s death. Note this well. From God’s perspective, no one ever dies accidentally. The Lord sets the day of our death.

What two things did the widow learn? (See 17:24.)

The widow learned a) Elijah truly was a man of God, and b) the word of the Lord from his mouth was all true. When Jesus raises the dead, we learn that he is God’s Son and cannot lie to us.

Traditional Second Lesson – Galatians 1:11-24

What is Paul’s main point as he explains his itinerary after God brought him to faith in Jesus? (See 11:12.)

Paul’s main point is that he is not making up anything he is teaching. He did not plot with anyone to make things up or learn Christianity from other authorities. No! Jesus revealed the truths of the gospel to him directly.

Paul had vehemently persecuted believers. Then he became a believer. What conviction did this leave him with, even years later? (See 11:15.)

Paul was left with the conviction that God called him by grace alone.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Philippians 1:18b-26

Paul cherished the Philippians’ prayers for him. Did Paul expect deliverance from his imprisonment in Rome?

Paul was imprisoned in Rome and hoped to get out (see 1:27), but the kind of deliverance Paul joyfully anticipated most of all was deliverance from this sinful world—deliverance through death to life.

How did Paul summarize the way he and all Christians think of life and death? (See 1:18.)

Paul said, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (What a wonder—dying is not losing but gaining. Specifically, living now is Christ. Dying? More Christ! We will get to see him face to face.)

Gospel – Luke 7:11-17

What made the funeral that Jesus and his disciples happened upon especially sad? (See 17:12.)

The funeral was especially sad because the young man who died was the only son of his mother, a widow. She had no one to take care of her anymore. It’s no wonder a large crowd from the town was following the body.

What did Jesus say after he touched the funeral bier? (Picture probably a stretcher of some kind rather than an elaborate American coffin.)

Jesus said, “Young man, I say to you, get up.”

What main things did Jesus show by these words for us to trust in?

By these words, Jesus showed a) his compassion, b) his own personal power—he doesn’t need to call on someone else for power, and c) his power to raise all the dead on the Last Day.

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Second Sunday after Pentecost

Jesus Marvels at a Foreigner’s Faith

These are the readings for the Second Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

In our first and third lessons, God shows joy in welcoming sinners of all nations to him. In the second lesson, we begin a series of readings from Paul’s letter to the saints in Galatia (an area today we would call central Turkey).

Traditional First Lesson – 1 Kings 8:22,23,41-43

When Solomon prayed at the temple’s dedication, with what two names did he address God? (See 8:22,23.)

Solomon called God “LORD” (his personal name) and “the God of Israel” (a name showing God’s faithfulness to his promises to his undeserving chosen people).

Could the God of Israel accept foreigners in those days? (See 8:41-43.)

Yes, the God of Israel accepted non-Jews, even under the old covenant, by grace alone through faith in the Messiah. Remember: the sacrifices in the temple, and the building itself, pictured the coming Savior.

What would God do for non-Jews? (See 8:43.)

Solomon asked God to hear the prayers of foreigners who came from distant lands to the temple. He asked him to do whatever those non-Jews asked, so that all peoples would know his name, fear him, and know that the temple truly bore his holy name.

Supplemental First Lesson – Joshua 5:13–6:5,20

Whom did Joshua meet before the massive walls of Jericho? (See 5:13-15 and 6:2.)

Joshua met the commander of the Lord’s army. He met God the Son, before whom Joshua fell down. (An angel would have forbidden Joshua to do this.)

The commander of the Lord’s army gave Joshua a plan that might have seemed silly. How did Joshua respond?

Joshua trusted what the Lord told him. He told all Israel to believe too: March around the walls of Jericho, men!

Did part of Jericho’s wall collapse from an earthquake?

No, no ordinary earthquake hit Jericho. It must have been a miracle. All the walls collapsed. The men all rushed straight in. (Upshot: Trust all God tells you.)

Traditional Second Lesson – Galatians 1:1-10

Why shouldn’t any reader of this letter doubt Paul’s credentials to speak for God? (See 1:1.)

No one should doubt that Paul is speaking directly for God in this letter because a) Jesus had personally appeared to Paul and commissioned him as his spokesman, his apostle, and b) no man had called Paul.

What should happen to anyone who preaches any other gospel? (See 1:8,9.)

Anyone preaching a gospel other than the true good news should be damned forever. Paul says so twice!

Supplemental Second Lesson – James 1:2-12

Often, we wonder why trials come to us. In short, what is God’s purpose for trials?

God tests our faith in him and his Word to develop perseverance in us. God wants us to become mature in our faith. He uses trials as one of his tools for this.

Whether we have lots of money or little, who is truly blessed, according to God? (See 1:12.)

The person is truly blessed who keeps persevering under trial. Once that person has passed God’s test, James says, he or she will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

Gospel – Luke 7:1-10

For what reasons did the elders of the Jews in Capernaum figure that the centurion deserved to have Jesus come and heal his servant? (See 7:4,5.)

The elders of the Jews figured that the centurion deserved to have Jesus come and heal his servant because a) he loved the Jewish nation, and b) he had built the synagogue in their town. (Visitors to Capernaum today can still see the foundation of that synagogue.)

How did the centurion feel by contrast? (See 7:6,7.)

The centurion did not feel he deserved to have Jesus come under his roof or was worthy to approach Jesus. “But say the word,” he said, “and my servant will be healed.”

How could Jesus be amazed at faith that he himself had created? Even if the centurion’s faith was greater than other faith in Israel, can the One who knows all things really be amazed? (See 7:9.)

Jesus could be amazed at faith he himself had created because a) as true man, purposely limiting his divine knowledge of all things, he could feel true surprise, and b) as true God, he delights in what he creates. He loves to see us sinners come to him in humble faith.

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Holy Trinity Sunday

All Praise to the Holy Trinity for All Eternity

These are the readings for Holy Trinity Sunday.

God’s Word for This Week

The mystery of the Trinity, of the Most High being eternally three and indivisibly one, is meant to both dumbfound and comfort us.

First Lesson – Numbers 6:22-27

How is the Holy Trinity evident in the blessing Aaron was to put on God’s people? (See 6:24-26.)

The Trinity is evident to eyes of faith in this way: The blessing is three-fold, in three lines, yet each line starts with “the LORD.” This hints that there are three persons, yet only one LORD.

How does the LORD describe his blessing? (See 6:27.)

The LORD describes his blessing as putting his name on his people.

What does this mean? (See 6:27.)

To put one’s name on someone or something generally means to show that it belongs to you. So when the LORD blesses us, he—the Holy One—promises that he owns us sinners. We belong to him in the most personal, merciful way.

Traditional Second Lesson – Romans 5:1-5

How do we have peace with God? (See 5:1)

We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, who laid down his life for us. The war is over, not because of anything we have done, but because God has declared peace.

In what two things do we rejoice because of Jesus? (See 5:2.)

We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, and we rejoice in our sufferings.

Why doesn’t hope disappoint us? (See 5:5.)

Hope does not disappoint us because God the Father has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

Supplemental Second Lesson – 1 John 5:5-12

Who is the only one who overcomes the world?

The only one that overcomes the world is the person who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

Who is the only one who has eternal life?

The only one who has eternal life (not just will have it… has it) is the person who has the Son. That person trusts in Jesus and his merits. He or she does not trust in himself or herself to be good enough for God.

How can anyone really believe in something as difficult to understand as the Trinity? (See 5:9.)

We believe in something no one can understand—the Trinity—because God has testified about it himself. God says it; that settles it.

Gospel – John 16:12-15

What things did Jesus promise the Spirit would do when he would come?

Jesus promised that when the Spirit would come, a) he would guide the disciples into all truth, b) he would tell the things to come, and c) he would bring glory to Jesus by taking what belonged to him and making it known to the disciples.

The Spirit’s goal isn’t to bring attention to himself. What is his goal?

The goal of the Holy Spirit is to bring glory to Jesus by bringing us to faith in Jesus and strengthening that faith.

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Pentecost

Jesus Pours Out His Holy Spirit

These are the readings for Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

Once God made people speak many languages because of their disobedience. When the Spirit came on the great day of Pentecost in Jerusalem, God filled people with the ability to speak languages to spread the amazing good news of Jesus’ resurrection.

First Lesson – Genesis 11:1-9

How was the world after the flood very different from the world today? (See 11:1.)

The world after the flood had only one language.

For what two sinful reasons did people decide to build a very tall tower? (See 11:4.)

The people decided to build a tall tower a) to make a name for themselves (in pride) and b) to keep themselves from being scattered far and wide (in stubborn disobedience of God’s command).

Why did God say, “Come, let us confuse their language?” (See 11:7.)

God said, “Let us confuse their language” because he is Three-in-One—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—yet one God.

Second Lesson – Acts 2:1-21

What two dramatic signs came from heaven and showed the presence and power of the Holy Spirit? (See 2:2,3.)

The two signs were a) a sound of a rushing wind that came from heaven and filled the whole house, and b) tongues of fire that appeared on the heads of each in the house.

How do those signs display and fit the work of the Spirit?

Like the wind, the Holy Spirit works invisibly but powerfully. (In Greek and Hebrew, “wind” and “spirit” are the same word.) Like fire, the Holy Spirit warms and energizes us with the good news of all Jesus has done in our place.

Why did God promise to pour out his Spirit on all people? (See 2:17-21.)

God promised to pour out his Spirit on all people so that they would call on Jesus’ name and be saved.

Gospel – John 15:26,27

What name does Jesus first give the Holy Spirit? (See 15:26.) What does this name mean?

Jesus calls the Holy Spirit “the Counselor.” That name means he is the one who helps us by talking to us.

What second name does Jesus give the Holy Spirit? (See 15:26.) What does this name mean?

Secondly, Jesus calls the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of truth.” All he speaks is truth. God’s Word is total truth!

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Seventh Sunday of Easter

The Ascended Lord Rules His Church

These are the readings for the Seventh Sunday of Easter.

God’s Word for This Week

What is Christ doing for his church? The readings this Sunday answer that question. As the church awaits his return, Jesus continues to rule. Not only does he pray for us above, but here below, he also guides and directs the preaching of the gospel. He wants the entire world to know and believe in him as their Savior. He uses us to make his name known throughout the world.

First Lesson – Acts 16:6-10

Paul was traveling throughout the region but was kept from the province of Asia and Bithynia. What kept him from traveling to those regions?

The Holy Spirit kept Paul from traveling to Asia and Bithynia. Scripture is silent as to how he was kept away or why. God guided his missionaries to take the gospel where it needed to go.

What help was needed for the man of Macedonia?

The man from Macedonia needed spiritual help. This help can only come through the gospel. Everyone needs this same help. Everyone needs to hear the good news that Jesus has come to save sinners from the eternal death away from God, which we deserve.

Traditional Second Lesson – Revelation 22:12-17,20

One of the titles Jesus gives himself is “Alpha and Omega.” What does this name for Jesus mean?

The Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Jesus uses these letters to say he is the eternal and changeless God. This name assures us Jesus will keep his promises.

In the closing verses of Revelation, Jesus gives us a wonderful promise. What is that promise?

Jesus promises to return soon. We are able to view our struggles on earth as only temporary and momentary in comparison to the eternal glory that awaits us.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Romans 15:14-20

How did Paul become an answer to the prayer which Jesus prayed in today’s gospel?

In today’s gospel from John 17, Jesus prays for those who will believe in him in the future. Paul was just such a man. In today’s gospel Jesus prays for true unity among his followers, for his followers to grow in number, and for them to see him in his glory. Likewise, Jesus had given Paul a priestly duty to preach God’s good news to non-Jews.

How did Paul feel about his priestly service?

Paul gloried in Christ Jesus in his service to God. That is, he took no personal credit, but he was thrilled for Jesus’ sake in how he had been able to serve God by bringing the good news to people that had not heard it before.

Gospel – John 17:20-26

This prayer has been called Jesus’ high priestly prayer. Jesus acts as our High Priest by interceding to the Father on our behalf. In this prayer, for whom is Jesus praying?

Jesus is praying for the disciples who are with him. But he is also praying for those who continue to come to faith in Jesus. It is a prayer that is answered as the church on earth continues to grow. What a great model for our prayers! We ought to not only pray for ourselves, but also to remember and pray for the spiritual well-being of others. Pray for true unity. Pray for more to believe. God will hear, for Jesus’ sake.

Jesus said that he would continue to make God known to the world. How is Jesus making God known to the world today?

Jesus sends out his disciples: pastors, teachers, men, women, and children—all who believe the truth and speak up to tell others the truth. Once we become disciples of Christ, we then make disciples for Christ by spreading the good news of the crucified, risen, and ascended Lord.

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Sixth Sunday of Easter

The Risen One Promises Us Unique Peace

These are the readings for the Sixth Sunday of Easter.

God’s Word for This Week

In today’s lessons we hear about peace between us and God. How can rebels find peace with their holy Lord and judge? Not at all by their deserving it, but by his declaring it. God’s peace is so profound and his willingness to receive us as his children so sincere that Jesus even assures us that he and his Father will come to us and make their home within us.

Traditional First Lesson – Acts 14:8-18

Two miracles occurred in Lystra. One was clear to all, and the other was observable to Paul. What were the two miracles?

The obvious miracle was the physical healing of the crippled man. At the command of Paul, he jumped up and began to walk. The other miracle was what occurred first. The Holy Spirit worked a profound change in this man’s heart. Paul shared the gospel and then saw this man had faith to be healed.

What was the crowd’s response to the apostles’ message?

The crowds wanted to sacrifice to them. Paul and Barnabas told the people listening they were mere men. They pointed the people to Christ. Yet, the people of Lystra had difficulty accepting the apostles’ explanation. They had convinced themselves that Paul and Barnabas were gods.

Supplemental First Lesson – 2 Kings 6:15-17

Why didn’t Elisha’s servant have peace?

Elisha’s servant had no peace one morning when he awoke to discover the city of Dothan, where he and Elisha had spent the night, surrounded by an army of horses and chariots sent to capture Elisha.

The army had come to capture Elisha. What was ironic about the way Elisha’s servant reacted compared to the way Elisha reacted?

The irony was that Elisha was the one the army wanted; he was not afraid. The army was not after Elisha’s servant, yet he was afraid. (How often we are like that servant, fearfully lacking peace for the wrong reasons.)

According to this story, what is one reason God’s servants can have true peace?

God’s servants can have his true peace because no matter what army threatens and surrounds us, many more holy angels surround us. The fast, fiery angels on our side far outnumber our enemies.

Traditional Second Lesson – Revelation 21:10-14, 22, 23

Some people are waiting for the New Jerusalem to be built on earth. Is John describing this when he gives such exact details of the Holy City?

Although the details are exact, John is not describing an earthly city. He is describing heaven which God the Father is preparing for us. The detailed description with the beautiful symmetry is highly figurative. It is meant to paint a picture of the safety, beauty, and perfection of heaven.

How does John describe being in God’s presence?

When we join the saints in heaven, we will bask in the never-ending light of God’s glory. The glorious love God showed sinners by sending his Son will illumine us forever. What we receive now intermittently through Word and Sacrament we will enjoy eternally in heaven.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Revelation 3:14-22

As he wrote to a lukewarm, self-satisfied congregation and their pastor, how did Jesus describe himself?

Jesus described himself as “the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.” What peace we can have, knowing that he will keep his word and that he rules over all things! How we should fear to disregard his Word!

Does our peace consist in knowing that Jesus is harmless and cuddly?

Our peace does not consist in Jesus being harmless and cuddly. Jesus is our best friend. Since he is, he rebukes and disciplines all he loves. He insists we get serious and repent.

Gospel – John 14:23-29

How will the triune God make his home with believers?

The triune God makes his home with believers through the Word. The Spirit, sent from God, works through the Word. Believers demonstrate that God is dwelling in them by being faithful to God’s Word and putting that Word into practice in their lives.

What is the “peace” that Jesus gives?

The peace Jesus gives differs from what the world gives. The world’s peace consists of words and feelings with no eternal value. Jesus gives us the peace he won for all mankind. This peace makes us at one with God. It calms a troubled heart and a guilty conscience. Jesus gives us a peace where we can find true rest, now and forever, for we have no more war with our Maker.

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Fifth Sunday of Easter

The Risen One Inspires Us

These are the readings for the Fifth Sunday of Easter.

God’s Word for This Week

Music from the Masters . . . motivational speakers . . . Chicken Soup for the Soul—people look for a boost from many sources. But one need only look to the risen Savior. He inspires us not through soothing songs or moving stories but through his perfect life and sacrificial death. Our risen Lord energizes us to live lives of love.

Traditional First Lesson – Acts 13:44-52

Why were the Jews filled with jealousy?

The Jews saw the large crowds gathered to hear the word of the Lord. They saw the crowd’s devotion to the gospel of salvation through Jesus rather than through the Law of Moses.

How does this event fulfill the Lord’s command to bring salvation to the ends of the earth?

Paul and Barnabas preached the gospel first to the Jews. When the Jews rejected the message, Paul and Barnabas preached to the Gentiles. The gospel is too wonderful to be confined to one nation. The Risen One inspires us also to take the gospel of salvation to the ends of the earth.

Supplemental First Lesson – 1 Samuel 20:12-17

In this account, which two friends were knit together in a tight bond of love?

Jonathan and David were knit together in a tight bond of love (as dear friends, not in a sexual way).

In this account, what name does Jonathan say in each verse in which he speaks? Why is this notable?

Jonathan keeps talking about “the LORD,” the God of free and faithful grace. Due to the Lord, Jonathan has such care for David, whom the LORD had picked to take over Israel’s throne after the death of Jonathan’s father, Saul. Instead of envying David—as most men in line for a throne would have—Jonathan loved David for the Lord’s sake.

What did Jonathan ask David to show toward him when David took over Saul’s throne in years to come?

Jonathan asked David to show the mercy of the Lord toward him and his family.

Traditional Second Lesson – Revelation 21:1-6

In his vision, John saw a new heaven and a new earth. When will this new heaven and earth appear?

John was given a preview of the new home God the Father is preparing for his people in heaven. This new home will appear on the Last Day. How comforting it is to know the glories of heaven that await us.

What will our new life be like when we live with God eternally in heaven?

Since it is impossible to describe the perfection of heaven in human terms, John tells us what we will not see in heaven. There will be no death, mourning, crying, or pain.

Supplemental Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

Is love more emotion or action, according to God?

Love is more action than emotion, Paul shows. Love is being patient and kind to others. The Corinthian Christians seem to have been hung up on having the most excellent gifts from God, but love is the most excellent way to use whatever gifts God has given. (See 12:31.)

How can you tell whether love is real love? (See 13:8a.)

Love is real love if it does not quit during hard days. “Love never fails,” Paul says. Shakespeare similarly says, “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds.”

In what way is love greater than faith or hope?

Faith and hope will cease in eternity, but love lasts forever.

Gospel – John 13:31-35

Jesus spoke these words shortly after Judas left the upper room on the night he was betrayed. How then would Jesus be glorified?

Judas’ betrayal began the chain of events that led to Jesus glorification. Jesus glorification included his crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. Through these actions of Christ, we can see God’s glory and give God glory. Through these same actions, God gives all glory to his Son.

Why is Jesus command to “love one another” a new command?

Jesus’ command to love is not new. What is new is our motive for loving one another. The disciples will love because they know Jesus and what he has done for them. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and the forgiveness it brings changes believers’ hearts. In Christ we want to love, to sacrifice for others.

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Fourth Sunday of Easter

The Risen One Shepherds Us

These are the readings for the Fourth Sunday of Easter.

God’s Word for This Week

Imagine if everyone on earth were a needle: there are well over six billion needles in a huge pile. How can God keep them all straight? How can God keep his eye on you in particular and hear your prayers? He has no trouble at all—and not only because he is Almighty. Jesus is your Good Shepherd. He knows you as well as he knows the Father, and as the Father knows you. That’s why he laid down his life for you.

Traditional First Lesson – Acts 13:15,16a,26-33

Just as with a good pastor’s sermons today, how do the synagogue rulers describe what they hope Paul and Barnabas will share with them?

“Brothers,” they say, “if you have a message of encouragement for the people, please speak.”

From what Psalm do Paul and Barnabas quote?

They quote from Psalm 2, showing that God has eternally been Father and Son. Jesus is that Son, born in time to Mary, yet also having no beginning. He has always been.

What do Paul and Barnabas say that God promised in the Old Testament?

Paul and Barnabas say that God promised clearly that his Son would rise from the dead.

Supplemental First Lesson – Ezekiel 34:25-31

In Ezekiel 34:23,24, God promises to have his eternal Son, Jesus, a direct descendant of King David, tend his flock and be their shepherd. Describe some of the wondrous results. (See 34:25-29.)

Some of the results: God’s people will not have to fear “wild beasts” (they will dwell in safety). They will have lots of fruit to eat. God will rescue them from slave masters. They will not suffer famine or the scorn of other nations.

What will God’s people know then? (See 34:30, 31.)

When all these blessings come, God’s people will know that he, the LORD their God, is with them and that they are his people.

Why does God repeat this? (Why is this so important?)

God reemphasizes that he will be our God and we will be his people, his flock, because our sin separates us from God and keeps us from being his sheep, his people. What grace that God would bring us back to him, all on his own! What eternal praise he deserves for his saving grace!

Second Lesson – Revelation 7:9-17

To whom do the people in heaven give the credit for the fact that they are there?

Heaven’s residents give all credit to God the Father and God the Son, the Lamb who laid down his life in our place.

Why, in John’s vision, do the people in heaven who are coming out of the great tribulation wear white robes?

The people in heaven had washed their robes and had miraculously made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

How many descriptions of life with Jesus before his throne does John give?

John gives ten descriptions of life before Jesus’ throne. Just as when we say, for example, “That was ten times better than I ever hoped,” ten is Revelation’s number for a large quantity. In other words, life before the throne couldn’t be more beautiful for all who follow the Lamb.

Gospel – John 10:22-30

What two testimonies should have convinced Jews of Jesus’ day that he really is the Son of God?

a) Jesus’ repeated statements about his relationship with the Father and b) his miracles both testify that Jesus is the Son of God.

What great comfort does Jesus give to people who, like sheep, are prone to wander?

Jesus assures us that no one can snatch us out of his hand. He will keep us trusting in him as we keep hearing his voice—the voice of our Shepherd.

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Third Sunday of Easter

The Risen One Reinvigorates Us

These are the readings for the Third Sunday of Easter.

God’s Word for This Week

It’s usually not that we don’t know what to do. It’s that we lack the oomph, the energy to do it. Jesus rose from the dead in part to re-energize us for service to God and to each other. “The LORD, the LORD is my strength and my song. He has become my salvation.”

First Lesson – Acts 9:1-19a

Whom did Jesus say that Paul was persecuting?

Jesus said that Paul was persecuting Jesus himself. What comfort this gives! Jesus so dearly loves those who trust in him that if someone attacks us, he is attacking our Lord.

What was God’s means to convert Paul?

Paul was converted the same way we all came to faith: through the power of God’s Holy Word. The Word came to Paul in two ways—words in his ears and words connected with water in the gift of Holy Baptism.

What kind of future did God promise to Paul?

God did not promise Paul an easy road, any more than he promises any of us a downhill “coast” into God’s eternal kingdom. He told Ananias, “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Second Lesson – Revelation 5:11-14

What great irony does John hear as innumerable angels sing Jesus’ praise?

John hears the angels sing, “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain …” But Jesus did not die for the angels, he died for us sinners.

How many things do the angels say that Jesus, the Lamb, is worthy to receive?

The Lamb, the angels sing, is worthy to receive seven things: “Power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise.” Seven, significantly, is the number for completeness in Revelation and many other places in the Bible. That is, Jesus is worthy to receive complete worship from all creation.

Gospel – John 21:1-14

How many times had Jesus appeared to his disciples before this blessed incident along the shore?

John says this was now Jesus’ third appearance. The previous two times were in Jerusalem: Easter evening and the following Sunday evening. (See John 20.)

How many fish did Peter and the others catch?

Peter and the others caught 153 fish. This is not trivia but the mark of an eyewitness account.

What is ironic about Jesus fixing fish over a fire?

The last time Jesus and Peter were involved with an outdoor fire, Peter denied that he even knew Jesus. (See John 18:18.) Now Jesus will officially reinstate Peter.

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Second Sunday of Easter

The Risen One Sends Us

These are the readings for the Second Sunday of Easter.

God’s Word for This Week

Imagine someone discovering the cure for cancer yet keeping it private. Impossible! The need is too great; the news is too good. So it is with our Lord’s resurrection from the dead. “We cannot help speaking of what we have seen and heard.”

Traditional First Lesson – Acts 5:12,17-32

What did the angel who brought the apostles out of the public jail tell them to do?

The angel told the apostles, “Go, stand in the temple courts, and tell the people the full message of this new life.”

Why will we never stop testifying to others that Jesus has been raised from the dead, even if we face strong opposition?

We will never give up telling others that God’s crucified Son has been raised from the dead because a) it is such good news, b) it creates the faith that alone saves us from hell, and c) Jesus himself has told us to spread the good news of who he is and what he has done. Jesus is God! “We must obey God, rather than men.”

What two main things does God the Father want to give all people by raising his Son from the dead?

The two main things God the Father wants to give us is forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

Supplemental First Lesson – Genesis 15:1-6

When God appeared to Abram to comfort and reassure him, how did Abram respond? (See 15:2,3.)

Though God came to Abram in some kind of vision, Abram responded by complaining at first. Abram had no children. All he could foresee was one of his servants becoming his heir.

What did Abram see when God took him outside his tent?

Abram saw far more stars than he could count.

When Abram believed what he could not see, what happened?

“Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” Picture God putting a credit in his ledger, not a debit, despite what Abram deserved. (The same happens for us, through faith in the risen Christ.)

Traditional Second Lesson – Revelation 1:4-18

What does the last apostle left on earth call himself as he begins writing the Bible’s last book?

The last apostle on earth simply calls himself, John. This shows a) that he was well-known, and b) that he wouldn’t dream of using any titles that would exalt himself.

How does John describe Jesus before he sees him?

Despite appearances, John calls Jesus a) “the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth”; b) the One who “loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood”; c) “the Alpha and the Omega, who was and is and is to come, the Almighty.”

Supplemental Second Lesson – 2 Peter 1:16-21

On a hilltop, what did Peter, James, and John eyewitness?

Peter, James, and John were eyewitnesses of Jesus’ majesty. They saw him gleaming with glory only God has.

What does this sight mean for all of us, who have not seen Jesus in his glory?

Peter says what he witnessed proves that we do not believe myths about Jesus. He really rose from the dead, bodily. He really reigns at the Father’s right. He really will reappear soon to judge all people when the day finally dawns “and the morning star rises in your hearts.” We can trust every word of God’s inspired Word totally.

Gospel – John 20:19-31

Each of the four Gospels has a commission near its end to share the good news. What is that commission in John’s Gospel?

“Peace be with you,” Jesus said. “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” With that he breathed on the disciples and gave them and us amazing authority: “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

If with your own eyes you have not seen your Lord, now raised from the dead, is that a problem?

With Job and believers through the ages, we long to see our Lord—yet Jesus told Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

What is the ultimate purpose of all that John wrote down about Jesus?

The Spirit did not inspire John to write down every miraculous sign Jesus performed. Whatever John shares with us in print has one main purpose: that we may believe that Jesus is God’s Anointed One, his only Son, and that by believing we may have life in his name.

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Easter Sunday

The Crucified One Has Risen

These are the readings for Easter Sunday.

God’s Word for This Week

Today is Easter. Easter is everything. If the Son of God had not come out of his borrowed tomb, Satan would have won, our faith would be worthless, and we would still be in our sin. But Jesus lives! To the Lamb who stands triumphant upon God’s throne, all heaven sings a new song.

First Lesson – Exodus 15:1-11

Why did Moses and the Israelites praise the Lord?

With a colossal miracle, God had just rescued them from the most powerful nation on earth. God had drowned all of Pharaoh’s army in the Sea of Reeds, hurling the foot soldiers, chariots, horses, and horse-riders into the sea.

Since Jesus has risen from the dead, what has he, the Lord, become for us? (See verses 2, 3,11.)

He has become our Strength, our Song, and our Salvation—he has rescued us from our guilt and our graves and given us eternal life through faith in his blood. Every day, he strengthens us by his Word and gives us reason to sing. He is also our Warrior against the forces of darkness. No one else compares. No one even comes close.

Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

The good news that Jesus has risen is not just what Paul preached. What else is it?

The good news that Jesus has risen is what we have received deep in our hearts by the gift of the Holy Spirit. We have taken our stand on it.

What will happen if we stop trusting in Jesus and start trusting in ourselves?

If we do not hold to the gospel firmly to our dying day but end up trusting in ourselves instead of Jesus, our current faith in the Risen One will have been worthless. We will be damned, as we deserve.

How does Paul prove that Jesus really died?

Paul proves that Jesus really died by adding that Jesus was buried. Friends who couldn’t have been fooled laid Jesus in a tomb near the place where he was crucified.

How does Paul prove that Jesus really rose from the dead?

Paul gives many proofs that Jesus really rose from the dead: Jesus appeared to Peter on Easter Day and to all the apostles on Easter evening. Then he appeared to more than 500 Christians at the same time—no mass hypnosis—many of whom were still alive and could testify to seeing the Risen One. Then he appeared to his brother James and all the apostles again. Lastly, he appeared to Paul on his way to Damascus.

Gospel – Luke 24:1-12

What, besides the heavy stone, had the women who went to the tomb forgotten?

The women had forgotten that Jesus said he would rise on the third day.

Why didn’t the Eleven believe the women?

The Eleven didn’t believe the women because in their grief the women’s words seemed like nonsense to them.

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Palm Sunday

Jesus Is Our King and Lord of All

These are the readings for Palm Sunday.

God’s Word for This Week

Palm Sunday gets its name from the palm branches that people spread to make a path of victory for Jesus as he entered Jerusalem. There he would gain a victory they did not expect. The victory over sin and death, won for us by his own suffering and death. On Palm Sunday, the crowd hailed Jesus as king. Yet Jesus cried on his way down the Mount of Olives on the donkey, because Jerusalem did not recognize God’s coming to them. Bottom line: Jesus is more than the crowds knew. He is Lord of all. He is King of the world. He wore a crown of thorns for us and for all people. Praise his name forever!

Traditional First Lesson – Zechariah 9:9-10

What does Zechariah mean by “Daughter of Zion” and “Daughter of Jerusalem”?

Zechariah means the people of Jerusalem (Zion—the temple hill in Jerusalem) and then by inference, all of God’s people. Both Old and New Testament believers can “rejoice greatly” because that King whom Zechariah describes here WOULD come and DID come in the person of Jesus Christ.

What New Testament scene did Zechariah see by inspiration?

By inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the prophet Zechariah “saw” Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem as King. He even mentions the details of that humble but stirring (significant) event. This is a Messianic passage pinpointing this event in the life of Christ our Savior, the righteous King, who will come again in glory as our King on the Last Day.

What peace would this King bring to the world?

Jesus Christ brings a true and lasting peace to those who acclaim him as King. The battle against sin and Satan has been won by Christ and we are at peace; at peace with God. The peace Christ won is a universal peace. It is for all people; for “the nations,” extending “from sea to sea” (v. 10).

Supplemental First Lesson – Isaiah 45:22-25

Whom does God want to turn to him? Why?

God tells all the earth to turn to him and be saved from eternal death apart from him. He is God. There is no other God. In him alone are righteousness and strength.

Will people who raged against God get a second chance to repent after death/judgment day? Explain.

No. People who raged against God will not get a second chance to repent after death/judgment day. It will be too late, and they will not want to. They will come to him and be put to shame.

On the other hand, what will all who have descended from Israel do?

Isaiah says, “In the LORD all the descendants of Israel will be found righteous and will exult” (45:25).

Traditional Second Lesson – Philippians 2:5-11

What is the Christ-like attitude that St. Paul encourages in us here?

We Christians are to have the humility, self-sacrificing spirit, and attitude of our Savior. He “made himself nothing” to redeem us, though he is very God. We are already nothing except damnable sinners. How could we not live in humility before our God and serve him and others?

Describe the contrast that we see here as Paul sketches the life and mission of Christ.

God became man. Jesus took on himself the humble nature of a human being, although he is the holy, almighty God. But God the Father exalted him again as Jesus returned to honor and glory as God in heaven.

Who will acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and King? When? Why?

All people will have to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and King on the Last Day, whether they want to or not, for his power and glory will be so evident to all. That acknowledgment will be too late for the unbeliever but an eternal joy for the believers in heaven.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Hebrews 12:1-3

What two things are we to throw off so we can run the race with perseverance?

We need to throw off 1) “everything that hinders” and 2) “the sin that so easily entangles.” (Many things that are not sinful still can keep us from following Jesus and running the race of faith with perseverance if we get too busy with them. Picture trying to run a race with a refrigerator on your back.)

Runners focus on the finish line. On whom do we fix our gaze?

In the same way a runner aims at the finish line; we fix our gaze on Jesus, the author, and perfecter of our faith.

What kept Jesus going, despite the shame of the cross?

For the joy that would be his and ours after he accomplished the work the Father gave him, Jesus endured the cross and scorned its shame. Now he is seated in the position of all power and majesty in the universe. He is the Father’s equal in every way.

Gospel – Luke 19:28-40

How did Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem resemble that of an earthly king?

Jesus rode into Jerusalem like a king who had been victorious in battle with a crowd shouting his praise. Any people in the crowd who considered Jesus an earthly king was wrong, but Jesus was and is King—the almighty, eternal Savior-King of all people.

How was Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem different from that of an earthly king?

Jesus rode on a donkey, not a proud war stallion. He entered Jerusalem on a borrowed, lowly donkey, not a horse decked out with the finery and jewels of an earthly kingdom; in lowliness and humility although he is the Son of God. But this humility he bore as one of us. He bore even death on a cross for us and for our salvation.

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Fifth Sunday in Lent

Jesus Is the Cornerstone of Our Faith

These are the readings for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost.

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 in 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 a 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 shoot—become part of the 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 Romans 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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Fourth Sunday in Lent

God’s Amazing Grace is Received by Faith

These are the readings for the Fourth Sunday in Lent.

God’s Word for This Week

Today we see the sincerity of our Savior’s love. God keeps waiting to show his children mercy. God is ready, even anxious to forgive us. He pleads that we come to him and be saved. Such constant and free forgiveness doesn’t make sense to human logic. But God’s ways are greater than our ways. If his grace were not so great, it could not cover all of our sins. We rejoice in God’s amazing grace which always gives forgiveness for all sins.

Traditional First Lesson – Isaiah 12:1-6

Who alone can save us from God’s anger?

“The LORD, the LORD himself, is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation” (v 2). It is the LORD himself who saves us from his own fierce anger over our sins. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). This is God’s grace that he has turned away from us his anger (which we deserve because of our sins) and shows us, instead, his love (which we have not deserved) by sending his own Son to provide salvation for us through his suffering and death on the cross.

What does God’s saving grace do for us?

God’s saving grace drives away all our fears (v 2) and fills us with an eternal joy in Christ (v 3).

What does God’s saving grace lead us to do?

God’s saving grace leads us to express our joy in heartfelt worship. “Give thanks to the LORD…. Sing to the LORD…. Shout aloud and sing for joy” (vv 4,5,6). It also leads us to share the Good News of salvation in Jesus with others—our family, our friends, our neighbors, and people all around the world—so that they too may know the glorious things that our God has done for us!

Supplemental First Lesson – Judges 10:6-16

In this preamble to the story of Jephthah the judge, what do the Jews do again? (See Judges 10:6.)

The Jews again served many other gods besides the LORD. They did not worship the LORD or serve him.

What did God do in his anger to cause the Israelites finally to call out to God for help?

God let the Philistines (on their west) and Ammonites (to their east) oppress them, even crush them, for 18 years. Then they finally admitted their sin as a group.

At first, God said he would no longer save his people. They surely didn’t deserve it. How did he feel in the end, though? (See the second half of Judges 10:16.)

In the end, the LORD could bear Israel’s misery no longer.

Traditional Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

In what way is the message of the cross “foolishness”?

With this bit of sarcasm, Paul describes how the world foolishly views God’s amazing grace revealed in the cross of Christ.

For whom has the “foolishness” of the cross now become the wisdom and power of God?

Those whom God has called to faith, who believe the “foolish” message of the gospel, are saved through faith in Christ (v 21). They see Christ for who and what he really is, “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (v 24).

Supplemental Second Lesson – James 4:7-10

Submitting to God does not come naturally. List a few other commands God gives here that we would never obey on our own.

On our own, we would never resist the devil. We would just give in. On our own, we would not come near God; we would try to avoid him and try to create personal pleasure apart from him. On our own, we might apologize for sin, but we would never grieve, mourn, and wail over our sin. Lastly, humility does not come naturally to any of us.

Why would any sinner humble himself or herself before God?

James says that if we humble ourselves before the Lord, he will lift us up. (Note that James doesn’t say when or how; part of our humility is not dictating any terms to God, just trusting God’s promises.)

Gospel – Luke 15:1-3,12-32

What do we learn about God’s grace from the wasteful younger son?

From the younger son in the story, we learn, amazingly, that our sins do not nullify God’s grace. “Where sin increased, grace increased all the more” (Romans 5:20). God gladly receives and forgives every penitent sinner, no matter how many or how terrible our sins.

What do we learn about God’s grace from the “faithful” son?

From the older son in the story, we learn that we cannot earn God’s grace by our steady service. God gives us grace freely in Christ. God’s grace is always ours through faith. (See Luke 15:31.) Therefore, we should not be offended when God gives his grace freely also to another, no matter how notorious a sinner we might consider them to be.

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Third Sunday in Lent

God Offers Deliverance to Sinners

These are the readings for the Third Sunday in Lent.

God’s Word for This Week

Today’s lessons encourage us to take heart and trust in the Lord. We also view numerous examples of people who lost their hold on eternal life because they gave in to their fears and doubts. However, in his grace, God promises deliverance from whatever difficulty he may lovingly allow to come our way. Thank God!

Traditional First Lesson – Exodus 3:1-8b, 10-15

How old is Moses when God calls him to deliver Israel? In light of this, react to the statement, “I’ve done my time; it’s the younger generation’s turn to take the lead.”

Moses was 80 years old (40 years in Egypt and 40 years as a shepherd) when God called him to deliver his people—Israel—from Egypt. Initially, Moses heavily resisted God’s call. He was comfortable where he was in Midian and was very willing to live out the rest of his days in relative peace and quietness. Yet, God had other plans for him. He had been training Moses all his life for this monumental task to which he was being called. Very few (if any) others would have been ready for such a task as this. May each of us also realize about ourselves, “I am God’s work in progress—a clay pot of my God who is constantly molding me for works of service now and in the future.”

What is a more accurate translation of “I Am Who I Am,” and what’s the significance?

“I Is Who I Is.” Though grammatically terrible, it is accurate. There is no God besides the Triune God because “God just IS” and “IS” forever. And he is our promised deliverer.

Supplemental First Lesson – Numbers 16:23-40

When Korah, Dathan, and Abiram rebelled against Moses’ authority, what did Moses say would be the proof that the Lord had truly sent him and put him in charge? (See Numbers 16:30.)

The proof would be the Lord doing something totally new and making the earth swallow up Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and their families.

Why did God tell Moses to tell Eleazer the priest to hammer a bronze cover over the altar? (See Numbers 16:35-40.)

Not only had the earth swallowed the rebels and their families, but fire had come out from God and eaten up the 250 men allied with Korah who had been offering incense from bronze censers. The bronze overlay was to remind the Israelites that no one except a descendant of Aaron was to act as a priest before the Lord and offer him incense, or they would suffer the same fate as Korah and his followers.

Isn’t God full of mercy and patience? How could he do something like this?

God is full of mercy and patience. He is also full of wrath against sin. (See Numbers 16:46.) We must not test God’s patience. In the Bible God gives us many examples of his judgments to warn us about taking him and his commandments lightly.

Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 10:1-13

What are the main dangers in being spiritually lazy or careless?

Some of the main dangers of spiritual lethargy are: a) going through the motions in worship; b) losing focus on God-given goals (heaven, living to thank God, encouraging fellow believers in their faith, sharing Christ with unbelievers); c) main goals turning into “being comfortable” and “getting ahead.”

What is wrong with this statement? “I can handle anything because I have a strong faith” (see 1 Corinthians 10:12).

Thinking we can handle anything due to our strong faith is dangerous, for one, because we are focusing on ourselves, not on our faithful and powerful Lord. (see 1 Corinthians 10:13). Only through a watchful, childlike trust in him, his promises, and his protection can we live and die securely.

Gospel – Luke 13:1-9

What kind of judgmental words are we tempted to say when bad things happen to people?

When bad things happen to others, it is tempting to say, “They must have done something bad to deserve this.” In pride we assume that we have not experienced something similar because somehow, we are better.

How is Jesus’ answer different from what his disciples thought?

Jesus visualizes every situation within the spectrum of pure grace. As God in the flesh, he reveals horrible situations, not as punishments for specific sins, but rather as God’s tools (real-life illustrations) to call people to repentance. Jesus wants all people to turn away from sin and to place their trust for forgiveness and salvation in him. He is the one who has promised to deliver them. They can’t do it.

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