• B3: Prepare for Worship
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B3: Preparing for Worship

Thursday, September 21, and Sunday, September 24
Service theme: Continue in what you have learned


Worship Thought:  One of the deadliest dangers that Christians face is the temptations to “spiritually coast through life”, taking their faith and faithfulness to the Lord for granted.  In our sermon text for this week Paul encourages Timothy and all of us to continue in what we have learned.  The devil is after us constantly; this sinful world threatens to weaken us at every turn.  And our sinful nature certainly does us no favors.  It takes effort to remain faithful to the Lord!  As we remain in His Word, pray for strength, and receive encouragement from Christian friends, the Lord keeps our faith strong and our commitment high.


1 Samuel 3:1-21
The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.

One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the house of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called Samuel.

Samuel answered, “Here I am.” And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”

But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down.

Again the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”

“My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.”

Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.

A third time the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”

Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”

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

And the Lord said to Samuel: “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears about it tingle. At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family - from beginning to end. For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons blasphemed God, and he failed to restrain them. Therefore I swore to the house of Eli, ‘The guilt of Eli’s house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering.’”

Samuel lay down until morning and then opened the doors of the house of the Lord. He was afraid to tell Eli the vision, but Eli called him and said, “Samuel, my son.”

Samuel answered, “Here I am.”

“What was it he said to you?” Eli asked. “Do not hide it from me. May God deal with you, be it ever so severely, if you hide from me anything he told you.” So Samuel told him everything, hiding nothing from him. Then Eli said, “He is the Lord; let him do what is good in his eyes.”

The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the Lord. The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word.


•  Verse 19 is striking.  As Samuel grew “he let none of his words fall to the ground.”  That’s a great way of describing the theme of our worship service this weekend: “Continue in what you have learned”.  We want to treasure God’s Word, firmly believing it and put it into practice in our lives.


2 Timothy 3:14-15
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

•  What a blessing Timothy had!  From infancy he had known the holy Scriptures.  His mother and grandmother had made it part of his life (2 Timothy 1:5).  A good start to our spiritual life is incredibly important, but it’s not enough.  We need to continue in what we have learned!


John 8:31-32
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

•  Jesus told His disciples that if they held to His teachings they would know the truth and the truth would set them free.  Jesus says the exact same thing to us today.  What are you doing to hold to Jesus’ teachings?


Prayer:  Dear Heavenly Father, from the bottom of my heart I thank You for working faith in my heart.  I pray that You will continue to keep my faith strong.  Make me faithful in my Bible study, my worship attendance, and my appreciation and reception of the Sacraments.  I pray this in the name of Jesus; Amen.




Thursday, September 14, and Sunday, September 17
Service theme: Endure persecution


Worship Thought:  Paul’s words to Timothy are as striking as they are sobering: ... everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.  If we blend in with the sinful world we don’t risk being persecuted.  But the Lord calls us to shine like stars in a warped and crooked generation!  As we stand out in this sinful world we’ll be persecuted by those who hate our Lord.


Jeremiah 15:15-21
Lord, you understand;
    remember me and care for me.
    Avenge me on my persecutors.
You are long-suffering - do not take me away;
    think of how I suffer reproach for your sake.
When your words came, I ate them;
    they were my joy and my heart’s delight,
for I bear your name,
    Lord God Almighty.
I never sat in the company of revelers,
    never made merry with them;
I sat alone because your hand was on me
    and you had filled me with indignation.
Why is my pain unending
    and my wound grievous and incurable?
You are to me like a deceptive brook,
    like a spring that fails.

Therefore this is what the Lord says:

“If you repent, I will restore you
    that you may serve me;
if you utter worthy, not worthless, words,
    you will be my spokesman.
Let this people turn to you,
    but you must not turn to them.
I will make you a wall to this people,
    a fortified wall of bronze;
they will fight against you
    but will not overcome you,
for I am with you
    to rescue and save you,”
declares the Lord.
“I will save you from the hands of the wicked
    and deliver you from the grasp of the cruel.”


•  Jeremiah had a tough ministry!  He was mocked, ridiculed and even thrown in a pit.  In our reading Jeremiah explains his plight to the Lord.  The Lord must have seen something wrong in Jeremiah’s heart because He confronted His prophet.  He told Jeremiah to repent instead of uttering worthless words!  God doesn’t want us to feel sorry for ourselves when we suffer for His name.  Instead He wants us to commend ourselves to Him.


2 Timothy 3:12-13
In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

•  The end of verse 13 says that evil people will deceive others and also be deceived themselves.  That’s the end result of evil.  People become so godless that in the end they sincerely think that they are doing what is right even though they are dead wrong.  Unfortunately, we see that in many churches today.  They have departed so far from God’s Word that they feel self-righteous in their error.


John 15:18-23
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father as well.

•  Jesus reminds us why we are persecuted.  Jesus said, If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.  The next time you suffer for your faith remember that you are in good company.  In fact, count it a privilege that you can suffer for the one who suffered so much for you.


Prayer:  Dear Heavenly Father, this week in our worship service we’ll be exploring a difficult subject: persecution.  Use the worship service to strengthen me as I live my life in this sinful, spiritually dangerous world.  I pray this in the name of Jesus; Amen.


 

Thursday, September 7, and Sunday, September 10
Service theme: Learn from St. Paul


Worship Thought:  Who are your Christian role models?  Your parents?  A Christian friend?  The pastor of your youth?  A grandparent?  All can be good choices!  Don’t forget to also look to the Scriptures for role models.  This weekend we can use St. Paul as a role model.  Paul suffered greatly for the name of Christ... and His Savior never let him down.  


2 Timothy 3:10-11
You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings - what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them.

•  Young Pastor Timothy knew Paul well: his teaching, way of life, persecutions, and suffering. Certainly we want to know Christ first and foremost but it’s also worthwhile to use our fellow Christians as role models as well.  We can learn from them because they have learned from the Savior.

•  Notice that Paul said that the Lord rescued him from the persecutions he had experienced.  Yet Paul was stoned, shipwrecked, and imprisoned.  How had the Lord rescued him?  First, Paul had not lost his life.  But, more significantly, Paul had not lost his faith.


Acts 14:1-20
At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Greeks believed. But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the other Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders. The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles. There was a plot afoot among both Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to mistreat them and stone them. But they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding country, where they continued to preach the gospel.

In Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.

When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them.

But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: “Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them. In the past, he let all nations go their own way. Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them.

Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.


•  Perhaps the most impressive thing about St. Paul was his drive to keep going.  After Paul was stoned outside of Lystra he got up and went back into the city!

•  When Paul finally figured out that the people of Lystra thought he was a god he did everything he could to dissuade them, even going so far as tearing his clothes and shouting.  Paul wanted to point people to their Savior, not to himself.  May the Lord fill us with that same zeal.


John 13:12-17
When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

•  Jesus told the disciples to use Him as an example.  As Jesus had served them they were supposed to serve one another.  Having Christian role models is important but they dare never take the place of the ultimate model: Jesus our Savior.


Prayer:  Dear Heavenly Father, bless me and everyone in our church family as we begin our sermon series on the end of 2 Timothy.  Let us grow in our faith as we study Your Word.  I pray this in the name of Jesus; Amen.


 

Thursday, August 24, and Sunday, August 27
Service theme: Christian Marriage


The Life of Luther
On June 13, 1525, Martin Luther married a former nun by the name of Katharine Von Bora. The story of her escape from the monastery among fish barrels is certainly intriguing, but the bigger news was a turning back to God’s Word concerning marriage. Marriage was forbidden among priests and nuns in the Catholic church. They vowed a life of celibacy in order to be more Christ-like and to dedicate their time to church work. Luther’s marriage was a testimony that God’s Word contains no such celibacy law - and a beautiful picture of Christ and his church.


Genesis 2:18-25
The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.

But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

The man said,

“This is now bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
    for she was taken out of man.”

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.


•  Here is where it all started - the institution of marriage. In this lesson we find the very definition of marriage as God defines it: A life-long commitment between one man and one woman.


Ephesians 5:21-23
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.  Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.

•  In this popular lesson for Christian marriages, the comparison is made between a Godly marriage of a husband and wife and the marriage between Christ and the Church.


Matthew 19:1-12
When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”

Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others - and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”


•  The Pharisees were known for being cavalier when it came to divorcing their wives for no good reason and marrying another woman. Here Jesus reminds them of God’s definition of marriage, and convicts them of their sinful actions. Jesus also gives the reminder that there are those who remain single for various reasons - but for those who live under constant temptation to break the 6th commandment - it would be better for them to be married, to avoid falling into sin.


Prayer:  Dear Jesus, Remind me today of your never-failing, self-sacrificing love for me.  Help me to love others with that same selfless love every day. Amen.


 

Thursday, July 20, and Sunday, July 23
Service theme: The 95 Theses


The Life of Luther
Luther’s nailing of the 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg church is viewed as the beginning of the Reformation.  This coming weekend we will take a brief look at a few of the theses and at the purpose and history of this important document.  To help prepare for the service you’ll find the theses we’ll look at as well as the Bible readings we’ll use as the basis for devotions.


Part One:  Luther wrote what?

Thesis 9:  Therefore the Holy Spirit through the pope is kind to us insofar as the pope in his decrees always makes exception of the article of death and of necessity.

Thesis 26:  The pope does very well when he grants remission to souls in purgatory, not by the power of the keys, which he does not have, but by way of intercession for them.

Thesis 29:  Who knows whether all souls in purgatory wish to be redeemed, since we have exceptions in St. Severinus and St. Paschal, as related in a legend.

Devotion:  Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.  (2 Peter 3:17-18)


Part Two:  Repentance is critical

Thesis 1:  When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, "Repent" ( Matthew 4:17 ), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.

Devotion:  From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”  (Matthew 4:17)


Part Three:  The Church’s treasure

Thesis 62:  The true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God.

Devotion:  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:19-20)


Part Four:  Follow Christ!

Thesis 94:  Christians should be exhorted to be diligent in following Christ, their Head, through penalties, death and hell.

Devotion:  When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  (John 8:12)


 

Thursday, July 13, and Sunday, July 16
Service theme: No spiritual “Pay for Play”


The Life of Luther
Martin Luther was a pastor first and foremost.  He reacted sharply when the people under his care had the opportunity to purchase indulgences. The pope authorized the sale of pieces of paper that reduced the number of years people spent in purgatory, a middle realm that the Catholic church said existed between heaven and hell.  John Tetzel was a famous seller of indulgences.  Luther taught that people should rely on God’s grace, not on pieces of paper.


Isaiah 55:1-3
“Come, all you who are thirsty,
    come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
    and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
    and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
    listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
    my faithful love promised to David.


•  Wouldn’t it be great to go to the grocery store or restaurant and get all the fine food that you wanted without having to pay for it?  That’s the picture God paints in our first reading.  God gives us His love and forgiveness without our having to pay for it!  God has made a promise to us, a promise of His faithful love.


Galatians 3:1-14
You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? Have you experienced so much in vain - if it really was in vain? So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.


•  Paul was worked up when he wrote to the Galatian Christians!  They were in danger of forsaking the grace of God in favor of trying to earn God’s love.  No wonder Paul called the Galatians “foolish”.  How are you tempted to do the same thing the Galatians did?


John 8:31-41
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.”

“Abraham is our father,” they answered.

“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did. As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. You are doing the works of your own father.”

“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”


•  Jesus declared, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!”  That’s music to our ears.  Our Savior has set us free from sin, death and the power of the devil.


Prayer:  Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for using Martin Luther to rediscover the major truth in Your Word: salvation by God’s grace through faith.  Let that always be the cornerstone of my life.  I pray this in the name of Jesus; Amen.


 

Thursday, June 22, and Sunday, June 25
Service theme: Fear God!


The Life of Luther
One of the central events in the life of Luther was his “thunder storm promise” to join a monastery.  In the summer of 1505 Luther was returning to Erfurt, where he had studied and successfully passed his law exam.  The storm that he encountered was so powerful and frightening that he feared for his life.  He uttered a hasty vow: “Help, dear Saint Anna!  I will become a monk.”  Luther survived the storm and kept his promise.  He viewed God as a judge to be bargained with.


Psalm 34:8-14
Taste and see that the Lord is good;
    blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Fear the Lord, you his holy people,
    for those who fear him lack nothing.
The lions may grow weak and hungry,
    but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
Come, my children, listen to me;
    I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Whoever of you loves life
    and desires to see many good days,
keep your tongue from evil
    and your lips from telling lies.
Turn from evil and do good;
    seek peace and pursue it.


•  Even a quick reading of these verses shows us that the fear of the Lord does not mean being afraid of God as we might be afraid of a person with a gun or a ferocious lion that’s escaped from its cage.  The Psalmist invites us to taste and see that the Lord is good as we take refuge in the Lord.


Hebrews 10:26-31
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

•  Some people think of God as a chummy pal or a happy go lucky grandfather figure.  He is the Lord of the universe!  He is the Judge of heaven and earth.  The lesson from Hebrews 10 teaches us to have a healthy respect for God.  God’s hatred of sin is enough to keep us away from sin!


Luke 12:4-7
“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

•  This is another reading that calls on us to have a healthy respect for God as the Judge of the world.


Prayer:  Dear Heavenly Father, use this weekend’s worship service to cause me to respect You as my dear Father.  I pray this in the name of Jesus; Amen.


 

Thursday, June 15, and Sunday, June 18

Service theme: Luther’s History is still HIS story

The Life of Luther
Martin Luther was born to Hans and Margarete Luther (sometimes spelled Luder) in 1483. He was the second oldest of the Luther Children. His father moved the Luther family from a rural communal living to a mining town, in order to improve their quality of living. Luther lived away from home for much of his schooling - including living with other relatives and a rather wealthy family for a time. He often had to sing for his supper - literally while in school. Music became a large passion of his at this time. He also grew up in a time when the plague was ravaging Europe, where the renaissance was taking over, and where the church had fallen into disarray. All of these are things God used - to build the reformer into his instrument for the church.


Genesis 45:4-13
Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.

“So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt. Now hurry back to my father and say to him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; don’t delay. You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me - you, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all you have. I will provide for you there, because five years of famine are still to come. Otherwise you and your household and all who belong to you will become destitute.’

“You can see for yourselves, and so can my brother Benjamin, that it is really I who am speaking to you. Tell my father about all the honor accorded me in Egypt and about everything you have seen. And bring my father down here quickly.”


•  From his father’s favorite to a slave to head of Potiphar’s house to a prisoner to 2nd in command of Egypt - God used many experiences to make Joseph into who he was - and through Joseph, he preserved the promise of the Savior.


Romans 8:28-32
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all - how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?


•  When you look back on your life - can you see how God has used the people, places, and events in your life to shape you into his servant for his kingdom? Even if you can’t - God’s promise remains true - that he will use every event in this world - good or bad - sinful or not - for the good of believers.


Luke 18:31-34
Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.”

The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.

•  Joseph, Martin Luther, and we ourselves, can’t look into the future to know how things will work out or what God’s ultimate plan is. God has given us the ability to trust that he knows and will carry out that plan however. Jesus was different though. He did know exactly what was going to happen to him, how he would suffer and die for sins he didn’t commit. And yet he went through with it anyways - because he loved the world that much!


Prayer:  Heavenly Father, help me today to remember your sovereignty over all things. Use every event in my life to draw me closer to you and your word, and use me to bring others to you your saving Gospel. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.


 

Thursday, June 1, and Sunday, June 4
Service theme: Come, Holy Spirit, kindle in us the fire of Your love!


Worship Thought:  Happy birthday!  On Pentecost we celebrate the birth of the Christian Church.  The Holy Spirit was busy that first Pentecost as He worked in the hearts of the disciples, giving them the boldness and wisdom needed to preach and teach that day.  The Holy Spirit also worked powerfully in the hearts of those who heard the apostles’ message, bringing 3,000 people to faith in a single day!  On Pentecost we pray that the Holy Spirit will be just as active in our lives today.


Joel 2:28-29
“And afterward,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your old men will dream dreams,
    your young men will see visions.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days.


•  Centuries before the first Pentecost God prophesied that the Holy Spirit would come upon His people enabling them to prophesy.  The promise was fulfilled when the Spirit came upon the disciples that first Pentecost.

•  God continues to keep that promise as He fills us with the Spirit, enabling us to do His will today.


Acts 2:1-21
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”

Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

“‘In the last days, God says,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your young men will see visions,
    your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
    and they will prophesy.
I will show wonders in the heavens above
    and signs on the earth below,
    blood and fire and billows of smoke.
The sun will be turned to darkness
    and the moon to blood
    before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
And everyone who calls
    on the name of the Lord will be saved.’


•  What a day the first Pentecost must have been.  Imagine, three thousand people came to faith in just one day.  We need to remember why these people came to faith: the Holy Spirit worked in their hearts.  Are you praying that the Holy Spirit will work in human hearts yet today?  It’s vitally important.


John 16:5-11
... but now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

•  Jesus told the disciples that it would be good for them that He go away because He would then send them the Holy Spirit.  Think about that.  Jesus said that it would be better to have the Spirit at work than for Him to still be here visibly.  The Holy Spirit is powerful indeed.

•  The Holy Spirit doesn’t only work in the hearts of unbelievers to bring them to faith.  Jesus said that the Spirit would lead the disciples into all truth.  The Holy Spirit still leads us into all truth today.


Prayer:  Dear Heavenly Father, my prayer is a very simple one: send the Holy Spirit into my heart in greater measure through Your Word and sacraments.  I pray this in the name of Jesus; Amen.


 

Thursday, May 18, and Sunday, May 21
Service theme: Loved to obey


Worship Thought:  John 3:16 has been called the gospel in a nutshell.  It states, 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.  The main purpose God sent His Son into the world was to save us so we could have eternal life.  But there is a second purpose for God’s love.  In the book of Titus St. Paul wrote: [Jesus] gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.  It’s this second purpose of God’s love that we are talking about today.  In our Gospel lesson Jesus tells us that if we love Him we will do what He commands.


Genesis 4:1-16
Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man.” Later she gave birth to his brother Abel.

Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering - fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”

“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”

Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”

But the Lord said to him, “Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.


•  What a profoundly sad reading this is.  The very first person born in this world killed the second person born.  This episode certainly was a precursor to all the hatred and evil that would happen in human history.

•  Cain’s greatest problem was not his hatred for Abel; it was his lack of faith in the Lord.  When Cain brought his offering, the Lord could look into his heart.  The Lord did not look on Cain with favor (v 5).


1 John 3:13-18
Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.


•  John didn’t pull any punches!  He tells us that our love for the Lord will find an outlet in our love for others.  If we have no love for others we have no love for the Lord.


John 14:15-21
“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever - the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

•  “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”  Jesus’ words are still powerful today, thousands of years after He spoke them.  Jesus calls on us to examine our hearts and lives.

•  Jesus promised to send us the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit works in our heart to move us to do what God commands!


Prayer:  Dear Heavenly Father, work in the hearts of everyone in my church family so that we faithfully love others and, in that way, show our love for You.  I pray this in the name of Jesus; Amen.


 

Thursday, May 11, and Sunday, May 14
Service theme: Thank God for Family


Joshua 24:14-15
“Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

•  Joshua called on the Israelites to commit themselves to the Lord just as he committed his family to the Lord.  God instituted the family for many reasons.  But the most important function of the family is to be a place where people can hear God’s Word and put it into practice.  Is that something that you pray for your family and the families of our congregation?

•  Joshua was a fearless leader.  He wasn’t afraid to take a stand about important matters.  We need grandparents, parents, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles who are willing to say what needs to be said in a loving but firm way to other family members.

•  What does your family stand for?  Joshua’s family stood for the Lord.  And yours?


Ephesians 5:22-6:4
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church - for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery - but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” - which is the first commandment with a promise - “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.


•  Paul gives specific instructions to various family members.  It’s tempting to focus on others in the family and say, “See, that’s what you are supposed to be doing!”  Our first priority is to look at ourselves.  Are we doing God’s will in our own life?


Luke 14:25-27
Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters - yes, even their own life - such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

•  Today our culture often (not always) does a good job of telling us to put family first.  Family is certainly important!  But family isn’t first.  The Lord wants to be first in our lives; He’s even more important than our families.  How will that truth play out in your life?

Prayer:  Dear Heavenly Father, this weekend we’ll celebrate Mother’s Day.  For many Mother’s Day is a bittersweet day.  For those whose hearts are hurting please fill them with the peace that only You can give.  I pray this in the name of Jesus; Amen.


 

Thursday, April 20 and Sunday, April 23

Service theme:  After all the pieces of Easter candy, remember the real peace of Easter.
Worship thought    So how many pieces of candy did you have over the Easter holiday?  Chocolate bunnies, snack size candy bars, and “peeps” can be found in most homes this time of year.  While the commercialization of Easter isn’t nearly as prominent as that of Christmas, our culture focuses more on candy, bunnies, and eggs than it does on the empty tomb.  This weekend’s Scripture readings tell us that Easter gives us a peace that’s sweeter than any piece of chocolate.  


Acts 2:14a, 22-32
Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd:

“Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. David said about him:

“‘I saw the Lord always before me.
    Because he is at my right hand,
    I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
    my body also will rest in hope,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
    you will not let your holy one see decay.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence.’

“Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it.


•  The disciples were agents of peace because they were witnesses of everything that Jesus did and said.  They were witnesses of His suffering, death and resurrection.  It was the message of these events that would bring peace to those who listened and believed.

•  You are an agent of peace too!  So many people today don’t have anything resembling peace.  They are worried about work, worked up about their spending, and spending to feel better about themselves.  Talk about a mess!  You have the message that can bring peace to troubled souls.  We have a Savior!


1 Peter 1:3-9
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

•  Peter points us to the inheritance that waits for us in heaven.  When you think about your forgiveness, the promise of heaven, and what heaven is going to be like, you have the peace that only God can give.  His peace goes deeper than a mere emotion; it’s also a fact.  Remember that the next time you feel that you have no peace.


John 20:19-31
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.


•  The disciples had no peace when they met in the upper room that first Easter evening. Instead they were worried, afraid, and anxious.  Jesus appeared to them and brought them the peace that passes all understanding.  That’s one of the hallmarks of Easter.


Prayer:  Dear Heavenly Father, help me to celebrate Easter every day.  Because Jesus lives I am forgiven.  Because Jesus lives I will live eternally in heaven someday.  Because Jesus lives I can have peace.  I pray in the name of Jesus; Amen.


 

Thursday, March 30 and Sunday, April 2

Service theme: Life from death

Worship thought:  Death has always been the great enemy of human beings throughout history.  We Christians know that death is just one of the henchmen of our real enemy: the devil.  Still, death can strike fear into our hearts for quite a few reasons.  We will miss those we leave behind.  We don’t know what death will be like exactly.  We weren’t designed by God to die; death is unnatural and therefore scary.  This weekend’s worship service highlights the greatest promise that Jesus made: we will not die but live!


Ezekiel 37:1-14
The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet - a vast army.

Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’”


•  When the nation of Judah was carried off to Babylon it was as good as dead.  When the best and brightest of other countries went to Babylon they were typically absorbed into the Babylonian nature and culture.  In the case of His people, God would cause something else to happen.  God would give them life just as he gave life to a valley full of dry bones!  God would lead His people back to Jerusalem and then fulfill the greatest of all prophecies; the coming of the Messiah.


Romans 8:11-19
And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation — but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.


•  The first verse of the reading states: And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.  The Holy Spirit has worked in our hearts and is a guarantee that we will live forever with the Lord.


John 11:17-27,38-45
On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.


•  Jesus told Mary that whoever believes will live forever, even though he dies.  What a promise!  We won’t really die; we will live forever.  Talk about a life changing (and life giving) promise.  We don’t have to fear death; it’s simply a doorway to heaven.  Simply amazing!


Prayer:  Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for giving me new life through the death of Your Son.  That new life is eternal life with You.  Let my life be a living “thank You” to You.  I pray in the name of Jesus; Amen.


 

Thursday, March 23 and Sunday, March 26

Service theme: Selfish or selfless?

Worship thought:  Would you rather serve someone or be served?  Would you rather be the waiter or waitress at a high end restaurant or the person eating the delicious meal?  Would you rather be the person vacuuming the living room floor or the one watching TV in a clean room?  Would you rather be the janitor at the new Vikings stadium or the fan sitting on the 50-yard line?  Certainly it’s not a sin to eat at a nice restaurant, watch TV or sit on the 50-yard line.  Jesus had the heart of a servant.  He had come into the world not to vacuum, serve food or clean a stadium but to do something so much more difficult and humiliating: to suffer and die on a cross.  He did that so selfish people like us could be forgiven!


Hosea 5:15–6:6
Then I will return to my lair
    until they have borne their guilt
    and seek my face —
in their misery
    they will earnestly seek me.”
“Come, let us return to the Lord.
He has torn us to pieces
    but he will heal us;
he has injured us
    but he will bind up our wounds.
After two days he will revive us;
    on the third day he will restore us,
    that we may live in his presence.
Let us acknowledge the Lord;
    let us press on to acknowledge him.
As surely as the sun rises,
    he will appear;
he will come to us like the winter rains,
    like the spring rains that water the earth.”

“What can I do with you, Ephraim?
    What can I do with you, Judah?
Your love is like the morning mist,
    like the early dew that disappears.
Therefore I cut you in pieces with my prophets,
    I killed you with the words of my mouth -
    then my judgments go forth like the sun.
For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
    and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.


•  This is a fascinating reading.  The Israelites seemed to repent of their sins but God could see that they had repented selfishly.  They were saying the right words but only so that God would bring them relief from their troubles.  God told them that true repentance involves bearing fruits of repentance (producing good works).  Note that, strictly speaking, doing good works is not part of repentance; it’s a fruit of repentance.  That is, our good works don’t make our repentance complete.  Our good works show that we truly have repented.


Romans 8:1-10
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.  The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness.


•  We typically focus on the first part of this grand part of God’s Word... and for good reason.  But don’t lose sight of the second half.  The mind controlled by the Spirit desires what the Spirit does.  Put another way, as we repent of our sins and see that Jesus has forgiven us we want to please Him with a life that glorifies Him.


Matthew 20:17-28
Now Jesus was going up to Jerusalem. On the way, he took the Twelve aside and said to them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!”

Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.

“What is it you want?” he asked.

She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”

“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”

“We can,” they answered.

Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.”

When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave - just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”


•  There is quite a contrast between the selfishness of the disciples and the selflessness of Jesus!


Prayer:  Dear Heavenly Father, I can’t wait to get to church this weekend because I’ll again see the amazing love that Your Son has for me.  Bring many to worship this weekend, Lord.  I pray in the name of Jesus; Amen.


 

Thursday, March 16 and Sunday, March 19

Service theme: Enlightened to shine brightly

Worship thought:  Blindness is a terrible disability to endure.  Spiritual blindness is even worse.  When God worked faith in our hearts He brought us out of the darkness of the devil’s kingdom into the light of His Son’s glorious kingdom.  God’s light of love shines so brightly in our hearts that we naturally reflect that love to other people.  We have been enlightened to shine brightly!


Isaiah 42:14-21
“For a long time I have kept silent,
    I have been quiet and held myself back.
But now, like a woman in childbirth,
    I cry out, I gasp and pant.
I will lay waste the mountains and hills
    and dry up all their vegetation;
I will turn rivers into islands
    and dry up the pools.
I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,
    along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;
I will turn the darkness into light before them
    and make the rough places smooth.
These are the things I will do;
    I will not forsake them.
But those who trust in idols,
    who say to images, ‘You are our gods,’
    will be turned back in utter shame.
 
“Hear, you deaf;
    look, you blind, and see!
Who is blind but my servant,
    and deaf like the messenger I send?
Who is blind like the one in covenant with me,
    blind like the servant of the Lord?
You have seen many things, but you pay no attention;
    your ears are open, but you do not listen.”
It pleased the Lord
    for the sake of his righteousness
    to make his law great and glorious.


•  God has a way of turning things upside down.  He gives sight to the spiritually blind but blinds those who think they have sight.  Those who reject the Lord think they are brighter (pardon the pun) than the Lord.  In reality, they are floundering around in the dark.  God wants us to admit our blindness (our sin) and bask in the light of His Son.


Ephesians 5:8-14
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said:

“Wake up, sleeper,
    rise from the dead,
    and Christ will shine on you.”


•  Notice that Paul doesn’t say that we were in the darkness and have now come into the light.  He says that we were darkness and now are light.  Our conversion meant a total transformation of what we are, and therefore, it will lead to a total transformation of what we do.  Paul tells us to live as children of light.


John 9:1-7,13-17,34-39
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.”

Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”

But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided.

Then they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.”

The man replied, “He is a prophet.”

To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.
Spiritual Blindness

Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

“Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”

Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”

Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”


•  Jesus gave this man much more than physical sight.  He led him out of the darkness of sin and gave him spiritual sight.

•  Notice that this man grows in his faith right before our eyes.  That’s just what Paul was talking about in our Ephesians reading.  This blind man was transformed by the Light of the world and then shone brightly to Jesus’ enemies.  We can’t wait to meet this man when we get to heaven!


Prayer:  Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for shining the light of Your love into my heart.  As I come to church this weekend continue to enlighten me so that I can faithfully reflect Your love to others in my life.  I pray in the name of Jesus; Amen.


 

Thursday, March 9 and Sunday, March 12

Service theme: Saved by grace through faith

Worship thought:  No, it’s not Reformation Sunday yet.  Our service theme for this week is the hallmark of the Reformation but it’s also the central teaching of God’s Word.  The season of Lent gives us a front row seat to see what our faith is rooted in: the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God’s Son.

Genesis 12:1-8
The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

“I will make you into a great nation,
    and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
    and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
    and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
    will be blessed through you.”

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.

Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.

From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.


•  Jewish people’s very existence was built on faith.  God made a magnificent and far-reaching promise to Abraham ... and he believed it!  The entire Old Testament is the account of God guiding and guarding the line of the Savior as God tried to keep His people close to Him spiritually.

•  The existence of God’s people today is built on faith as well.  It’s only by faith that we grasp all of God’s promises.


Romans 4:1-5,13-17
What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.

It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless, because the law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.

Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed - the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.


•  Paul was a master teacher.  He taught the Christians in Rome about faith by telling them about Abraham.  Abraham didn’t contribute to the promises God made.  Abraham didn’t work hard to bring God’s promises to fulfillment.  God’s power brought His promises to fulfillment.  Abraham simply believed them.

•  Abraham was a hero to the Jews.  If Abraham was saved by faith, then that was certainly the only way into God’s family.


John 4:5-26
So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

“I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you - I am he.”


•  If salvation came through good works this woman would not have had a chance.  Jesus pointed her in a different direction by pointing her to Himself.  He was the One who could give living water.  He was the One who could give her salvation.


Prayer:  Dear Heavenly Father, bring many people to church this week to hear the best news in the world: salvation comes by grace through faith in Jesus.  I pray in the name of Jesus; Amen.


 

Thursday, March 2 and Sunday, March 5

Service theme: Rejoice at our Savior’s victory!

Worship thought:  What a strange worship theme for the first Sunday in Lent!  Aren’t we supposed to be sad, meditative, and somber?  Yes, we are.  At the same time, the season of Lent isn’t supposed to be a six-week funeral dirge.  During the season of Lent, we certainly think about our sins as the reason for all of Jesus’ suffering and His death.  But we must remember that Lent prepares us for Easter, not only Good Friday.  During the weekends in Lent we reflect on the victories that Jesus won for us.

Genesis 3:1-15
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

The man said, “The woman you put here with me - she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,

“Cursed are you above all livestock
    and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
    and you will eat dust
    all the days of your life.
And I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
    and you will strike his heel.”


•  What’s the worst day you’ve ever had?  No matter how bad your worst day was you’ve never had a day as bad as Adam and Eve.  On the day described in this reading Adam and Eve fell into sin and plunged the whole world into sin and damnation.  How about that for something to put on your resume?

•  What a beautiful promise God gave to Adam and Eve.  Do you understand the promise?  How would the devil strike the heel of Jesus?  How would Jesus crush his head?


Romans 5:12-19
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned - To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.

But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!

Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.


•  Paul tells us that the events of our first lesson had ramifications for the entire world.  What were those ramifications?

•  How is Jesus the “second Adam”?


Matthew 4:1-11
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    and they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.


•  Jesus defeated the devil by relying on God’s Word.  Imagine, Jesus - the very Word of God - relied on the written Word to defeat the devil.  How can you prepare to fight the devil and his temptations with God’s Word?  Be specific.

•  Recall the words of Luther’s famous hymn: “... one little word can fell him.”  One Word from God can (and does) defeat the devil!


Prayer:  Dear Heavenly Father, as I prepare for the season of Lent fill my heart with a greater appreciation of what Jesus did for me.  Remind me that His great victory is my victory!  I pray in the name of Jesus; Amen.


 

Thursday, February 16 and Sunday, February 19

Service theme: Love your enemies

Worship thought:  We have enough of a problem showing love to the people closest to us sometimes.  How in the world will we be able to show love to our enemies?  Only with the Lord to be sure.   Martin Luther once said, “Christi sumus in nominativo et genitive.”  A free Latin translation is: “We are Christs - with and without the apostrophe.”  First, we belong to Christ because He forgave our sins on the cross and sent the Holy Spirit into our hearts.  He lives in us!  Second, because we are God’s children we are “little Christs” to those around us.  That is, we can show others the same kind of love Jesus showed to us.  In other words, we can even love our enemies!

1 Samuel 26:1-25
The Ziphites went to Saul at Gibeah and said, “Is not David hiding on the hill of Hakilah, which faces Jeshimon?”

So Saul went down to the Desert of Ziph, with his three thousand select Israelite troops, to search there for David. Saul made his camp beside the road on the hill of Hakilah facing Jeshimon, but David stayed in the wilderness. When he saw that Saul had followed him there, he sent out scouts and learned that Saul had definitely arrived.

Then David set out and went to the place where Saul had camped. He saw where Saul and Abner son of Ner, the commander of the army, had lain down. Saul was lying inside the camp, with the army encamped around him.

David then asked Ahimelek the Hittite and Abishai son of Zeruiah, Joab’s brother, “Who will go down into the camp with me to Saul?”

“I’ll go with you,” said Abishai.

So David and Abishai went to the army by night, and there was Saul, lying asleep inside the camp with his spear stuck in the ground near his head. Abner and the soldiers were lying around him.

Abishai said to David, “Today God has delivered your enemy into your hands. Now let me pin him to the ground with one thrust of the spear; I won’t strike him twice.”

But David said to Abishai, “Don’t destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed and be guiltless? As surely as the Lord lives,” he said, “the Lord himself will strike him, or his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. But the Lord forbid that I should lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed. Now get the spear and water jug that are near his head, and let’s go.”

So David took the spear and water jug near Saul’s head, and they left. No one saw or knew about it, nor did anyone wake up. They were all sleeping, because the Lord had put them into a deep sleep.

Then David crossed over to the other side and stood on top of the hill some distance away; there was a wide space between them. He called out to the army and to Abner son of Ner, “Aren’t you going to answer me, Abner?”

Abner replied, “Who are you who calls to the king?”

David said, “You’re a man, aren’t you? And who is like you in Israel? Why didn’t you guard your lord the king? Someone came to destroy your lord the king. What you have done is not good. As surely as the Lord lives, you and your men must die, because you did not guard your master, the Lord’s anointed. Look around you. Where are the king’s spear and water jug that were near his head?”

Saul recognized David’s voice and said, “Is that your voice, David my son?”

David replied, “Yes it is, my lord the king.” And he added, “Why is my lord pursuing his servant? What have I done, and what wrong am I guilty of? Now let my lord the king listen to his servant’s words. If the Lord has incited you against me, then may he accept an offering. If, however, people have done it, may they be cursed before the Lord! They have driven me today from my share in the Lord’s inheritance and have said, ‘Go, serve other gods.’ Now do not let my blood fall to the ground far from the presence of the Lord. The king of Israel has come out to look for a flea — as one hunts a partridge in the mountains.”

Then Saul said, “I have sinned. Come back, David my son. Because you considered my life precious today, I will not try to harm you again. Surely I have acted like a fool and have been terribly wrong.”

“Here is the king’s spear,” David answered. “Let one of your young men come over and get it. The Lord rewards everyone for their righteousness and faithfulness. The Lord delivered you into my hands today, but I would not lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed. As surely as I valued your life today, so may the Lord value my life and deliver me from all trouble.”

Then Saul said to David, “May you be blessed, David my son; you will do great things and surely triumph.”

So David went on his way, and Saul returned home.


•  King Saul tried to hunt down David to kill him because he was jealous of David’s popularity.  God had told David that he would be king after Saul.  In this reading we find David standing over the helpless, sleeping Saul.  Had God delivered Saul and the kingship of Israel into David’s hands?  David knew that Saul was the king and, as such, deserved his respect.  In a very real way, David loved his enemy.

•  What an exciting account this is!  The Navy seals and Army rangers didn’t invent stealth incursions into enemy territory!


Romans 12:9-21
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.


•  Paul repeats Jesus’ words about loving our enemies but adds one interesting detail.  We don’t have to worry about God’s enemies getting what they deserve.  God will take care of that.  Our job is to continue to show love to them.


Matthew 5:38-48
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.


•  Jesus says that the world tells us to hate our enemies.  Isn’t that the truth!
 
•  When we show love to our enemies we are simply mirroring what our Heavenly Father does.  He sends rain on the wicked and the righteous alike.


Prayer:  Dear Heavenly Father, You have some serious work to do!  By nature, I’m selfish and proud.  Work in my heart a genuine love for all people, even my enemies.  I pray in the name of Jesus; Amen.


 

Thursday, February 9 and Sunday, February 12

Service theme: Let your light shine!

Isaiah 58:5-9a
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
    only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
    and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
    a day acceptable to the Lord?

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.


•  The Israelites had lost their way when it came to letting their light shine and obeying God.  They became so focused on following the ceremonial (church) laws like fasting that they forgot about God’s moral law (being kind, treating people with loving fairness, helping people in need).  Letting our light shine frequently involves helping those who are in some kind of need.  Pray that the Lord will open your eyes to all the opportunities that surround us to help those in need.  We probably won’t be sidetracked by any ceremonial laws about fasting, but we can very well be sidetracked by selfishness, busyness, and heartlessness.

•  Verse 8 tells us that some pretty exciting things will happen as we help others!


1 Peter 2:9-12
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.


•  You are a chosen person!  You have been chosen to be the recipient of God’s love.  You have been chosen to receive the gift of faith.  You have been chosen to trust in all of God’s promises!

•  You have also been chosen to live such a good life that the unbelievers around you will see that You are one of God’s people!


Matthew 5:13-20
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.


•  If something tastes salty you notice it, right?  When people see that we Christians live differently than the rest of the world they will notice.  Our kindness, love, and helpfulness will stand out in a world that’s becoming more self-centered and hateful by the day.

•  Have you ever thrown old salt away?  After a while salt loses its saltiness and isn’t of much use (maybe it still melts ice but that’s about it!).  The more you are in God’s Word and around Christians who encourage you spiritually the more salty you will remain.


Prayer:  Dear Heavenly Father, use this weekend’s worship services to strengthen my faith.  I want to let my light shine.  Lead me to live the way You want me to so that the world can take note that I am Your child.  Give me many opportunities to tell them about Your Son.  I pray in the name of Jesus; Amen.


 

Thursday, January 26 and Sunday, January 29

Service theme: Overwhelming Generosity and Faithfulness

Proverbs 3:1-10
My son, do not forget my teaching,
    but keep my commands in your heart,
for they will prolong your life many years
    and bring you peace and prosperity.

Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
    bind them around your neck,
    write them on the tablet of your heart.
Then you will win favor and a good name
    in the sight of God and man.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

Do not be wise in your own eyes;
    fear the Lord and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body
    and nourishment to your bones.


9 Honor the Lord with your wealth,
    with the firstfruits of all your crops;

10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
    and your vats will brim over with new wine.


•  The NIV’s heading for this section is perfect: “Further Benefits of Wisdom”.  We Christians know that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10).  Trusting the Lord and obeying His commands make a person truly wise.

•  Verses 9 and 10 tell us that as we honor God with our wealth we’ll be blessed.  Honoring God with our wealth includes using our wealth the way God wants us to.  As God sees that someone can be faithful with little He often rewards that faithfulness with further blessings.


2 Corinthians 9:6-15

6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written:

“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;
    their righteousness endures forever.”

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!


•  Verse 6 is a restatement of Proverbs 3:9-10.  Have you put God’s promise to the test?  Whoever sows sparingly with also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.  Pastor Kom’s mom used to say, “You can’t out give God.”

•  The second part of this reading reminds us that as we give to help other people are showing our love for the Lord.  


Matthew 25:14-30
“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

“After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

“‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’


•  God wants us to be faithful with what He’s given us.  Often we get hung up on how much or how little someone has rather than focusing on how we can be faithful with what God has given to us.


Prayer:  Dear Heavenly Father, work in my heart so that I can become more generous with the gifts that You have given me.  Remind me that as I sow generously I’ll also reap generously.  Bless me as I come to worship You this weekend.  I pray in the name of Jesus; Amen.