• B3: Prepare for Worship
    Weekly Devotions
B3: Preparing for Worship

Sunday, November 26
Service theme: Worship the King!

Worship thought:  This coming week we will sing “Crown Him with many Crowns”.  Jesus is the King of the universe and the King of our heart.  We know that fact.  This weekend we want to make sure we appreciate that fact and draw comfort from it.

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 23, 24
For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice. I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the Lord have spoken.

•  In the Old Testament, the kings of Israel were often called “shepherds”.  Many of these shepherds were not faithful; they led God’s people farther from their Lord instead of ruling in God pleasing ways.  Notice in this reading that God says that He will step in and guide and guard His people Himself.

1 Corinthians 15:20-28
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.
25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.

•  One of the results of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is that He now rules the world from heaven.  Verse 25 says that Christ will rule until He has put all His enemies under His feat.  All the enemies of God and His people that seem to have the upper hand now?  They will come under the control and judgment of Jesus.

Matthew 27:27-31
Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

•  A Bible scholar once wrote this about this reading: “Joyful? How can this make us rejoice? The scene would seem like bad satire if not for its sad reality. Petty little men in a tiny little fortress bully the One who created light from darkness and divided land from sea.  He deserved the finest crown, but look what Man gave! He deserved the noblest scepter, but look what Man handed him! He deserved the sincerest devotion, but look what man offered! He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. The King of heaven came to earth, and look at what Man gave him! He could have swept them all away; he could have condemned us like he had the fallen angels. Man deserved nothing more - but look at what He gave! He gave his holiness for our sin and his death for our life. This scene is joyful because we know how it ends. The picture of our King wearing a crown of thorns is not tragic, but rather it is full of grace. We have a King in Christ who left his heavenly throne and regnavit a ligno crucis (“reigned from the wood of the cross”, Justin Martyr; Augustine). Rejoice in Christ the King who came as our sacrifice!”

Prayer:  Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for leading me to the beginning of another church year.  As I prepare for Christmas help me to also prepare for the Last Day.  I pray the same for everyone in my church family.  I pray this in the name of Jesus; Amen.


Thursday, November 16, and Sunday, November 19
Service theme: Don’t grieve the wrong way

Worship thought:  There’s a right way and a wrong way to do most everything … including grieving.  In our second lesson God tells us not to grieve like unbelievers who have no hope.  In this week’s service, we’ll talk about how Christians grieve.

Isaiah 52:1-6
Awake, awake, Zion,
    clothe yourself with strength!
Put on your garments of splendor,
    Jerusalem, the holy city.
The uncircumcised and defiled
    will not enter you again.
Shake off your dust;
    rise up, sit enthroned, Jerusalem.
Free yourself from the chains on your neck,
    Daughter Zion, now a captive.

For this is what the Lord says:

“You were sold for nothing,
    and without money you will be redeemed.”

For this is what the Sovereign Lord says:

“At first my people went down to Egypt to live;
    lately, Assyria has oppressed them.

“And now what do I have here?” declares the Lord.

“For my people have been taken away for nothing,
    and those who rule them mock,”
declares the Lord.
“And all day long
    my name is constantly blasphemed.
Therefore my people will know my name;
    therefore in that day they will know
that it is I who foretold it.
    Yes, it is I.”

•  By inspiration Isaiah looked forward to a time when the Israelites would return to Jerusalem from their captivity in Babylon.  During the 70 years of captivity that promise meant everything to God’s people.  We are living in a time of captivity of sorts.  We are living in a foreign country; heaven is our home.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.
14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

•  Verse 14 is a pretty good summary of what we believe as Christians.

•  This reading gives us quite a bit of information about what will happen on Judgment Day.  What a loud, dramatic, glorious day it will be!

•  In the last verse of the reading Paul directs us to encourage each other with the words of this reading.  How often don’t we struggle with what to say to someone who is grieving.  There is certainly a time to say nothing, simply being present with someone who is grieving.  There is also a time to clearly proclaim God’s promises.

Matthew 25:1-13
“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’

“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’

“‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

“Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’

“But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

•  How are you preparing for Judgment Day?  How are you “keeping watch”?

•  Why is preparing for Judgment Day so important?

Prayer:  Dear Heavenly Father, this weekend will be a bittersweet one for our church family.  We rejoice to know that our believing loved ones are safely home in heaven.  Yet we miss them, yearning to see them again.  Guide us to grieve in a way that pleases You: feeling sorrow but also trusting in Your promises.  I pray this in the name of Jesus; Amen.


Thursday, October 26, and Sunday, October 29
Service theme: Love Jesus? Expect Hate.

Daniel 6:10-12, 16-23
Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. So they went to the king and spoke to him about his royal decree: “Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or human being except to you, Your Majesty, would be thrown into the lions’ den?”

The king answered, “The decree stands - in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.”

So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”

A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed. Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep.

At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”

Daniel answered, “May the king live forever! My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.”

The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.

Galatians 5:1-6

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

Matthew 10:16-23
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.



Thursday, October 19, and Sunday, October 22
Service theme: Discharge all your duties!

Worship Thought:  We wrap up our sermon series on the last part of 2 Timothy with these words from Paul: “Discharge all the duties of your ministry.”  Paul urged young Timothy to be faithful in his work at a minister of Christ.  God has called each one of us to be faithful in the roles that He has given to us.  He doesn’t tell us to work ourselves to death; he tells us to be faithful.  As you prepare for worship this week think through the roles and responsibilities that God has given to you.  What does faithfulness in those areas look like in your life?

1 John 4:7-21
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

•  It’s true that God has given you many responsibilities in your life.  Besides that, there are Ten Commandments!  In our first reading John reminds us that everything God wants us to do can be boiled down to one word: love.  God wants us to love Him and to love others.  

2 Timothy 4:5
But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

•  In our worship service, we’ll be focusing on the last part of this verse.  But the first part of the verse is interesting too!  Timothy was to “keep his head in all situations”.  Do you lose your head every now and again?  Why does losing your temper cause such grief?

•  Paul also tells Timothy to endure hardship.  Today so many in our culture only complain about hardship.  How can you endure hardship instead of complaining about it?

Luke 3:7-14
John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

“What should we do then?” the crowd asked.

John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”

Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”

“Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.

Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”

He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely - be content with your pay.”

•  Various groups came to John the Baptist and asked him what they should do as they repented of their sins.  John told each group to do good works related to their station in life.  What would John say to you if you asked him what you should do?  [What are the major responsibilities in your life and what does each responsibilities demand in regard to God’s will?]

Prayer:  Dear Heavenly Father, make me faithful in the tasks and responsibilities that You have given me, just as Jesus was faithful in His responsibility to give His life to forgive all my sins.  I pray this in the name of Jesus; Amen.


Thursday, October 12, and Sunday, October 15
Service theme: Don’t catch “itching ear” disease

Worship Thought:  There are many preachers and churches out there that are telling people what they want to hear instead of telling them the truth of God’s Word.  It’s like people’s ears are itching to hear what they want to hear and that some pastors are scratching that itch for them.  “Itching ear” disease is extremely contagious!  There’s part of us that rebels against the truth and looks for “comfortable” teachings.

Jeremiah 23:16-21
This is what the Lord Almighty says:
“Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you;
    they fill you with false hopes.
They speak visions from their own minds,
    not from the mouth of the Lord.
They keep saying to those who despise me,
    ‘The Lord says: You will have peace.’
And to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts
    they say, ‘No harm will come to you.’
But which of them has stood in the council of the Lord
    to see or to hear his word?
    Who has listened and heard his word?
See, the storm of the Lord
    will burst out in wrath,
a whirlwind swirling down
    on the heads of the wicked.
The anger of the Lord will not turn back
    until he fully accomplishes
    the purposes of his heart.
In days to come
    you will understand it clearly.
I did not send these prophets,
    yet they have run with their message;
I did not speak to them,
    yet they have prophesied.

•  The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah lived at a time when God was going to chastise His people for their sins.  Jeremiah was to warn the people against God’s coming judgement.  False prophets rose up to tell God’s people, “Don’t worry.  God wants to give you peace and security.  Don’t listen to Jeremiah.  He doesn’t know what he’s talking about!”  God warned His people not to listen to these preachers.

2 Timothy 4:3-4
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

•  Paul had a way with words!  He said that a time was coming when people wouldn’t put up with correct teaching; instead they would listen to those who said what their “itching ears” wanted to hear.

•  Paul said that there would be a “great number” of false teachers.  That’s almost an understatement today!

Matthew 24:4-8
Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.

•  Jesus told His disciples that one of the signs of the end of the world will be false prophets.  Can you name a few false prophets around today?

•  How do you identify a false prophet?

•  What exactly does God wants you to do when you identify a false prophet?

Prayer:  Dear Heavenly Father, keep me safe from anyone who wants to lead me away from the truth of Your Word.  There are so many spiritual messages and voices out there today.  Help me to hear Your voice clearly and to reject every other voice.  I pray this in the name of Jesus; Amen.


Thursday, October 5, and Sunday, October 8
Service theme: Preach the gospel

Worship Thought:  Every day when students attend the morning chapel service at our Synod’s Seminary they see the words “Preach the Gospel” (in Greek).  It’s a daily reminder of what they are preparing to do: to proclaim the love of God.  But “preach the gospel” is not just a command for pastors; God wants all of us to “preach the gospel”.  This weekend we’ll find strength and direction for this most important task the Lord has given to each of us.

Isaiah 61:1-3
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion -
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.

•  This reading is about Jesus, the Messiah.  God the Father commissioned His Son to preach good news to the poor.  Over and over again Jesus told people that the Father was taking away their spiritual poverty (their sin) and replacing it with spiritual riches (forgiveness).  When you tell people of God’s love you are standing in a long line of gospel preachers.  A line that starts with Jesus Himself.

2 Timothy 4:1-2
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge:
2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage - with great patience and careful instruction.

•  Paul was just about as serious as he could be in giving Timothy the command to preach the gospel.  Paul said that he was giving this command in the presence of God, the Judge of the living and dead. God wants us to take this seriously as well.

•  Study verse 2 carefully.  What does Paul tells us about our proclamation of the gospel?

Matthew 11:1-6
After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee.

When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”

Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”

•  Jesus sent His disciples out to preach in the towns of Galilee.  Note that they were instructed before they were sent out.  How have you been instructed in God’s Word for your proclamation?

•  Jesus told John’s disciples to tell John that the good news was being preached to the poor.  This was proof that Jesus was the Messiah (see our first reading).

Prayer:  Dear Heavenly Father, You could have sent the angels to proclaim Your love to this world.  Instead You chose me!  Use this weekend’s worship service to equip me for this critically important task.  I pray this in the name of Jesus; Amen.


Thursday, September 28, and Sunday, October 1
Service theme: Be thoroughly equipped

Worship Thought:  God has sent us out into the world to serve Him and to proclaim His name so that all may hear.  He doesn’t send us out ill-prepared for this great task.  Through His Word He equips us for what He has given us to do.  He gives us courage, wisdom, humility, and spiritual stamina, among many other things.  More than that, He keeps us focused on our Heavenly Father.

Ephesians 4:11-16
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

•  What is a pastor’s job?  There are many answers to that question ... but perhaps the simplest is the answer Paul gives.  God has given us pastors and teachers to prepare God’s people for works of service.  What exactly goes into “preparing God’s people for works of service”?

2 Timothy 3:16-17
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

•  God’s Word certainly does it all!  It preaches God’s law and gospel to us. It directs our lives.  It keeps our faith strong.  It equips us for every good work.  We have every reason to faithfully study it every day.

Matthew 4:18-22
As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.

Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

•  Jesus spent three years equipping the disciples for their life’s work.  And what was their work?  Jesus told them that He would make them fishers of people.  Their entire time with Jesus prepared them for that all important task.  How is Jesus making you a “fisher of people”?

•  When the disciples left their former lives, they were beginning a great adventure.  You are on a great adventure right now: serving your Lord in His Kingdom.  Your life is not ordinary or mundane; you are serving the King!

Prayer:  Dear Heavenly Father, I want to serve You as faithfully as possible.  I boldly ask You to fully equip me for the work that You have for me.  Use Your Word powerfully in my life.  I pray this in the name of Jesus; Amen.


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.